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Appalachian State, Wake Forest victorious in Atlantic Conference cyclocross championships

2010 Atlantic Conference cyclocross championships
The men's A race bunches up in the windy fields. Photo: Larry Jones

Appalachian State University (ASU) and Wake Forest University (WFU) took the Division 1 and Div. 2 titles respectively as the cyclocross season came to a close for the Atlantic Conference this past weekend in Boone, North Carolina.

Coming into the final weekend of racing, there was significant tension in the Div. 1 field. North Carolina State (NCSU) led the team points competition by a mere 30 points. Appalachian State knew that this weekend would be its last chance to claim the title, and what better than to claim it on home turf in Boone.

The course, which was the same on both days, was mostly flat with too many turns to count. The occasional gravel sections proved to slow down the riders, but speed was quickly regained in the windy, grass fields.

Saturday’s women’s A race started out with an Appalachain-stacked field. Ashley James (ASU) went from the gun and remained off the front for the entire race. In fact, she was so fast she managed to pull away from the men’s B field that started at the same time. Rachael VandenEnde (ASU) and Bridgette McLean (ASU) rode well on Saturday to wrap up the podium for the women.

Sunday provided a similar result for the women’s A field. James rode away from the bunch early in the race, with Allison Forkner (ASU) and VandenEnde chasing for podium spots. At the end of the conference, Ashley James won women’s A overall, closely followed by VandenEnde and Bridgette McLean. Appalachian State swept the women’s A podium for 2010.

The men’s A race on Saturday was fast from the start. Clayton Omer (ASU), Reid Beloni (ASU) and Alex Ryan (ASU) created an Appalachian State pain train, which helped build their lead through the race. James McCabe (WFU) attempted to chase the ASU train, but was almost caught by Zeb King (ASU) towards the final laps. McCabe managed to stay away for fourth place. For Saturday, NC State had only two riders in the top 10.

Sunday’s race created a six-person train early on, which eventually resulted in a three-person train of Omer, Beloni and McCabe. McCabe began to tire with three laps to go, which meant that Justin Crawford of Virginia Tech (VT) came close to snagging the podium spot. However, McCabe held off the attack from Crawford and held onto third place. Again, NC State only had two riders in the top 10.

After all the results were finished, Appalachian State and NC State were tied for first place in the conference. In the result of a conference tie, according to USAC Rule 7K3 (h), the winning team will be decided by the number of “A category” wins. NC State had nine wins, where Appalachian State had 11 wins. Appalachian State won the closest Div. 1 category race in the history of the conference. Wake Forest easily won the Division 2 category.

For men’s A, Clayton Omer took overall for the conference, followed by Reid Beloni in second, and James McCabe in third. Omer is the Div. 1 champion, while McCabe is the Div. 2 champion.

With the season over for the Atlantic Conference, the top teams are gearing up for USA Cycling cyclocross nationals in Bend, Oregon. Appalachian State, which won the Div. 2 title in 2008, hopes that their powerful, yet balanced, squad will be able to take the Div. 1 title. Wake Forest, in their first national appearance, will give everything they have to make the experience worthwhile.

Either way, the Atlantic Conference will be a force to reckon with come Cyclocross Nationals.

James McCabe is president of the Wake Forest University Cycling Club and the ACCC’s 2010 Div. 2 cyclocross champion.