Road trip! Collegiate cycling 'Nats' here
May means it’s time for the Giro d’Italia and Amgen Tour of California.
And “Collegiate Nats.” That’s the moniker for the great grassroots cycling gathering officially called the USA Cycling Collegiate Road National Championships, which this year runs Friday through Sunday in Ogden, Utah. The event brings together 500 male and female student-athletes representing nearly 100 colleges and universities for hotly contested team time trials, criteriums and road races.
Zipp is a proud sponsor of the two-time defending Division I team omnium champ Marian University Cycling Team. Located next to the Major Taylor Velodrome in Zipp’s hometown of Indianapolis, Marian University has made an impressive commitment to build a national-caliber cycling program.
We tracked down Marian cycling coach Dean Peterson for a chat ahead of this year’s “Nats” to learn a bit more:
Zipp: Marian built its cycling reputation as a track team, yet you've had great success on the road over the past couple of years. How did Marian go about making that transition?
Dean: This is really a matter of commitment. We, the school and team, intentionally broadened our scope of what we could be by creating a mission and goals over 5 years. The overall collegiate rankings also pushed us to be stronger in all disciplines and created a target for the program over a 5-10 year plan. With a clear mission and goals, everything else began to unfold.
The recruitment of student athletes who have the desire to work hard in an intellectually challenging environment while racing bikes to achieve personal and team goals with a clear target to finish school essentially became the mission. Recruiting, facilities, and school/community support have then been developed to support it.
Zipp: Marian is two-time defending road champ. It's tough to sneak up on anyone. What do you expect the tactics to be among the top teams? Heavy attacks on the climbs since you're from the low-lying Midwest?
Dean: Yes, I think there will be tremendous strategy being played out in the criterium and in the road race. I believe there are at least 4 teams that are very prepared to challenge the overall -- all of them will have done the work it takes to control every factor possible prior to racing in hopes for clean racing and a little luck. I am not a big believer in the “target” mentality. Some racers say that they can't go anywhere because they have such a big target on their backs -- I think you just have to be prepared to race wisely and intelligently as a team, and things will fall into place. This is what competition is all about.
I expect the mountain schools to be relentless on the final climb of the road race, but I expect it to be equally challenging in the rolling loops prior to that pass. The teams who have 5-6 women/men in the road race will most likely push the pace with the numbers to reduce the field to those truly prepared for the final big climb in the last 15 miles or so.
Zipp: What Zipp gear is in your equipment arsenal? What specific products do you plan to use for the TTT, road race and crit, considering the type of courses you'll be racing on?
Dean: We will start the competition with the team time trial -- an event in which wheels can have a significant impact. Although we direct our attention to the details of riding efficient team time trials and proper training, we believe the equipment is extremely important. The men will use Zipp 808 Firecrest Carbon Clinchers (front and rear) while the women will use an 808 Firecrest Carbon Clincher in the back and either an 808 Firecrest, 404 Firecrest or 303 Firecrest Carbon Clincher for the front depending on the wind. Collegiate has moved to mass-start legal equipment only, so the 808 Firecrest (with its 81 mm depth) is as deep as we can go.
We will have riders on Zipp 101, 303 Firecrest and 404 Firecrest setups for the criterium the next day and probably the same for the road race on the final day, although some will use Zipp 202 Tubulars as a lighter setup. We are extremely fortunate to have choices and feel well informed and how to decide what Zipp Speed Weaponry we will use based on the battlefield conditions!