While Chapel Hill experienced unseasonably warm temperatures last weekend, cycling team members found themselves in unfamiliar snow, ice, and cold temperatures in Verona, WI for Collegiate Cyclo-cross National Championships. This is the finale race of the year as cycling teams come from across the country to compete for the final prize: the top podium step and a stars and strip jersey.
Team members Mollie Brewer and Grace Chappell made history by being the first members to attend cyclocross nationals from UNC-Chapel Hill. The collegiate race was held on Saturday with temperatures in the upper 30s. The course had thick slick mud that forced riders to hop off and shoulder through technical sections and steep uphills. As the race progressed, the thick mud clumped to pedals and gears making the bike heavier and harder to maneuver through the obstacles. It became a true test of power and endurance for Mollie and Grace. In the end, Mollie finished 17th out of about 50 girls (which quite the achievement factoring that she has only raced cyclocross for about 2 months) and Grace finished closely behind, matching riders who hold professional cycling racing licenses. This was enough for UNC-Chapel Hill to finish a respectable 8th place for their first season of cyclo-cross.
“This was the best race experience of the year,” Mollie reports. “It was an absolute blast to try out conditions such as mud and ice that I am not familiar with coming from NC. The collegiate atmosphere is great and very welcoming, which made the race a lot of fun.”
Speaking of fun, another uniquely awesome component of cyclocross is the involvement of spectators (affectionately known as “hecklers”). It is not uncommon for spectators to ring cowbells and hold out Twizzlers or dollar bills for racers to try to grab as they ride by during the race. We were able to capture an awesome picture of team member Grace, taking a Twizzler by mouth in the middle of the course. Tar Heels have some serious skills!
Be sure to keep updated as we now move on and prepare for road season. Our first race is at NCSU on Feb. 8-9.