LEBANON, Tenn. – Cumberland University’s cycling team completed competition at the USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships in Madison, Wis., the squad’s first taste of competing at the Division I level at national championship events after participating in the Mountain Bike Championships in Angel Fire, N.M., in October and the Track National Championships in Frisco, Texas.
Six Cumberland riders, four men and two women, competed in Madison at Badger Prairie Park. Morganne Endicott and Cathy Hamilton raced in the women’s event on Day One while Logan Luker, Tommy Schubert, Britton Kinnard and William Greene raced for the men on Day Two.
Endicott earned a call-up to the front row as the Division I Southeastern Collegiate Cycling Conference (SECCC) champion, which saw her begin the race alongside defending national champion Kaitlin Antonneau of Marian University. Endicott won the Division II conference championship last year, which makes her CU’s first back-to-back conference champion in any discipline. Call-ups are awarded based on individual conference success and previous year’s team championship success.
“Morganne is a talented cyclist and tough-minded young woman. I am proud of her for this achievement,” said head coach Tim Hall.
The conditions in Madison were harsh with snow, ice and muddy conditions both days. Temperatures for the women were in the low 30s while the men raced the following day with highs in the upper teens.
“The conditions weren’t too bad for the women, but the day after for our men was harshly cold. Cyclocross is unique in that cold, snow, rain and mud play a huge role in performance and outcome. Bike handling becomes pretty tough when your fingers go numb,” Hall said.
Endicott finished 31st and Hamilton was 37th in the women, good enough to earn team points, but both struggled with the weight of bicycles loaded with frozen mud.
“The cold wasn’t too bad by itself, but the thick and sloppy mud stuck to their bikes to make them much heavier and difficult to ride. Neither of our riders have a second bike for the pit, so they did as well as possible given the conditions,” Hall said.
By rules, cyclocross racers can have spare bikes and equipment in the pit to swap out during the race if they suffer a mechanical or the bike becomes inoperable. Antonneau defended her championship successfully by a margin of over two minutes on second place.
Day Two saw the men have to contend not just with cold temperatures, but also the famous “frozen tundra” of Wisconsin. The ruts in the mud were frozen overnight due to lows in the single digits and by race time, the ground was still frozen solid. The men competed in similar conditions in the 2012 event, so they knew what to expect and were better prepared, especially mentally.
“Racing a bicycle at 100 percent effort over frozen ground with ice and slick mud is a huge mental battle. Those conditions are very intimidating, so to have experience doing it is important. Crashing on frozen ground is painful, almost as bad as when on pavement,” Hall said.
The men all started well, with Luker and Schubert both racing in the Top 15 during the first lap, but later succumbed to crashes and mechanicals to finish 26th and 41st, respectively. Kinnard finished 47th and Greene was 56th out of 63 starters. Lees-McRae College’s Kerry Werner won the men’s race by a margin of 43 seconds.
“Logan had a couple of time-consuming crashes while Tommy had trouble with his chain falling off. It takes a flawless day to be successful in cyclocross, but we had three guys in the Top 50 for points, which is critical to team standings,” Hall said.
The upside to the frozen conditions was the men were not in need of changing bikes throughout the race. Cumberland finished ninth overall in the Division I team omnium out of 23 teams competing, one point behind UNC-Greensboro but 20 points ahead of Penn State
Cumberland’s next championship event takes place March 2 at the BMX Collegiate National Championship in Phoenix, Ariz. The team begins its road season on February 16-17 at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Ga.