MHU Cycling exceeded expectations at mountain bike nationals by capturing six podiums over the three-day event last weekend. Held in nearby Beech Mountain this year, traveling and logistics were much easier than in year’s past when the event was held in New Mexico and California, helping the team to stay relaxed but focused.
Day one was the short track races and downhill qualifying. In snowy conditions, Mikey Keith and Tim Jenkinson had their best rides of the season to place 2nd and 3rd. Hunter Resek placed a strong 15th, which enabled the men to take top team points in the event. In the women’s race, student-coach-athlete Addy Albershardt showed that roadies can ride dirt by claiming a 5th place, while Sarah Felpel finished 29th. Later in the afternoon, Keith and Jenkinson prepared for downhill qualifying. Unfortunately Keith took a spill, separating his shoulder and taking him out of contention. Jenkinson easily qualified in 24th place to make the final of 35 to be raced Saturday afternoon.
Day two was cross country races and the downhill final. In the men’s race, Jenkinson took the lead after the first of three laps, eventually hanging on to a superb 2nd place despite having a crash/mechanical on the last descent and having to run his bike across the finish line. Keith wrapped up his dislocated shoulder to hold it in place and managed an excellent 9th place over a very rooty and technical course. Resek again rode strong to come in 18th. In the women’s race, Addy Albershardt, who has only been racing a mountain bike for a few weeks, also finished 9th after riding in 6th for most of the race. Sarah Felpel finished 31st. In the afternoon, Jenkinson crashed hard during downhill practice and needed some mending before finishing a solid 26th, taking him into the individual omnium lead over Southeastern Conference rivals Wes Lamberson (Union) and Cory Rimmer (Virginia Intermont).
Day three, the final day of racing, was the dual slalom qualifying and finals as well as a brand new event to collegiate nationals, the coed team relay. In downhill qualifying, Jenkinson and dual slalom favorite Alan Hudson both met with disaster after promising practice runs. Hudson narrowly hit the last gate of the course when his pedal hit the gate post and the flagging got caught in his pedal/derailleur and slowing him down, but the officials disqualified him from the rest of the race, saying he missed the gate entirely. The officials were gracious enough to consider our appeal based on USAC’s philosophy of focusing penalties on those who gained an unfair advantage, which Hudson certainly did not, but their ruling stood and Hudson was done racing after just one run. Jenkinson’s first run was equally harsh as his wheel slid out in the second turn, sending him to the ground on his already injured shoulder. By the time he was able to complete the run, his time was not good enough to qualify for the finals, thus putting him out of the running for the individual omnium national championship.
The coed team relay was the last event for the team. With Jenkinson too injured to race, Resek stepped in for him to join Keith and Albershardt. In the four lap race, each team was required to have men do two laps and women do two laps, and no rider was allowed to do consecutive laps so there had to be an exchange every lap. Teams could be as small as two riders (one man, one woman) or as large as four riders (two men, two women). Our team was made up of three riders, meaning that Albershardt would have to do two laps. Keith started for us and put us in 2nd place after lap one. Albershardt maintained 2nd place during lap two, and Resek maintained 2nd and increased our lead on 3rd place. Albershardt took the last lap with a good lead on 3rd but was caught on the last climb by a flying men’s rider from Colorado Mesa University. Albershardt held off all other chasers and brought home the bronze medal.
After all the points were tallied, MHU ended up the 5th team overall in division two. And Tim Jenkinson finished with the bronze medal in the individual omnium. Not bad considering the crashes, disqualification, and the fact that we were missing our most experienced female mountain biker, Catherine Harnden, who was injured during regular conference season. Nevertheless, Harnden joined the team, cheering from the sidelines, which gave riders the extra motivation they needed to surpass results from all previous mountain bike nationals.
Next up is cyclocross season with conference races at University of Georgia, Virginia Intermont/King University, and our home race on the campus of MHU on December 7-8. Cyclocross nationals will be in Boulder, Colorado, on January 8-12.
A huge thanks to our sponsors, supporters, families, and fans. We couldn’t perform at this level without your continuing strong support.