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Collegiate MTB nationals XC race: Munro and Orschel take Varsity wins

Students from Colorado Mesa University and Fort Lewis College take near sweeps of the men and women's podiums.

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PURGATORY, Colorado (VN) — Ice and mud were the theme of the day at the USA Cycling Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championships, where four student-athletes earned stars and stripes jerseys during the cross-country races Friday. Madigan Munro (Colorado Mesa University) and Tyler Orschel (Brevard College) won Varsity, and McKenzie Steiner (U.S. Air Force Academy) and Keegan Pelton (Colorado School of Mines) won Club. The two designations refer to the level of the schools’ programs, not the riders’ abilities.

A winter storm dropped at least six inches of snow on the mountain earlier this week, leaving event organizers and volunteers scrambling to clear the trails for the racers. The conditions were a mix of slick ice and mud, challenging riders’ abilities to find traction on the steep climbs and fast descents.

The first racers to head out on course were the Varsity women, who were led by Fort Lewis College’s Michaela Thompson into the first singletrack section during the two-lap, ten-mile race.

“I went on the start and then just went my own pace as long as I could,” Thompson said after finishing the race in second place.

Munro rides for the Trek Factory Racing ‘cross team, as well. (Photo: Ryan Simonovich)

Madigan Munro of Colorado Mesa University won the women’s cross-country event. The 20-year-old made her way up to the front after missing out on a front-row starting position.

“Once I saw how far I got, I figured I’d just take it on the downhill and just ride as smooth as I can and I just happened to end up in the front,” Munro told VeloNews at the finish.

Natalie Quinn, also of Fort Lewis, placed third behind her teammate. In fact, eight of the top-10 finishers were from either Fort Lewis or Colorado Mesa, highlighting the depth of collegiate cycling talent in the state.

“We always have a good competition with them so it does feel good to take them on their home turf,” Munro said after besting FLC just 30 minutes away from their campus in Durango.

Fort Lewis College and Colorado Mesa University nearly swept both men’s and women’s podiums. (Photo: Ryan Simonovich)

In the women’s Club division, another Colorado rider was victorious. Winner McKenzie Steiner from the U.S. Air Force Academy team said that her other athletic pursuit, rugby, actually helped her in the hardtrack conditions. During rugby practice, Steiner’s team pushes a heavy sled, and pushing her bike up the muddy trail reminded her of that.

“It was honestly accidental perfect cross-training for this,” she said.

For second-place finisher Anna Yamauchi, a senior on the California Polytechnic-San Luis Obisbo team, collegiate nationals is only her second-ever mountain bike race since beginning college. The first was last week at the Sea Otter Classic.

“I just kind of came in not sure what to expect,” she said. “Stoked how it ended up.”

Gabriella Dube from the Colorado School of Mines crossed the line in third place.

The men started their three-lap race about two hours after the women and got decidedly worse trail conditions as the morning sun melted snow and ice, creating a muddy, slippery mess. On at least one section of the climb, many riders had to get off and run, cyclocross style.

Tyler Orschel of Brevard College sprinted to the hole-shot in the Varsity men’s race and said that he was able to find a good rhythm on the climb. He rode near the front of the race along with riders like second-place finisher Torbjorn Roed of CMU, but Orschel was able to hold his competitors off for the win.

Brevard’s Orschel battled distinctly Colorado conditions to take his collegiate XC title. (Photo: Ryan Simonovich)

“It’s a lot of fun,” Roed said about racing nationals in Colorado, about three hours from the CMU’s Grand Junction campus. “Definitely nice to have nationals so close and I do love the dirt, the mud, and the snow and the cold because I’m from Norway.”

CMU’s Scott Funston rode in for third in Varsity.

In the men’s Club division, the Colorado School of Mines rode to a one-two finish. Keegan Pelton was victorious and credits his Mines teammates for helping the Californian succeed.

“My Mines teammates have been so awesome and welcomed me to Colorado, which makes the win here really special,” he said. “Riding with, learning from, and spending time with this team was such a huge part of my success today in such tough conditions.”

Mines’ Aidan Duffy was second and said that he was able to make passes by riding smoothly in the muddy conditions. Pelton, riding off the front, served as a carrot for Duffy as well.

“I was definitely trying to catch up with him even though he was aways ahead,” he said.

The collegiate teams still have dual slalom, downhill, short track cross country, and team relay events to decide who will be named the team and individual omnium champions on Sunday.

Results

Women’s XC Varsity

  1. Madigan Munro, 58:29
  2. Michaela Thompson, 1:01:02
  3. Natalie Quinn, 1:01:28
  4. Ruby Ryan, 1:01:28
  5. Lauren Lackman, 1:01:33

Women’s XC Club

  1. McKenzie Steiner, 1:08:49
  2. Anna Yamauchi, 1:09:46
  3. Gabriella Dube, 1:10:03
  4. Gwen Sepp, 1:15:03
  5. Darcie Bushee, 1:16:21

Men’s XC Varsity

  1. Tyler Orschel, 1:19:44
  2. Torbjorn Roed, 1:21:56
  3. Scott Funston, 1:24:28
  4. Guy Leshem, 1:24:30
  5. Cobe Freeburn, 1:26:06

Men’s XC Club

  1. Keegan Pelton, 1:29:00
  2. Aidan Duffy, 1:31:42
  3. Calder Wood, 1:32:02
  4. Justin Peck, 1:32:02
  5. John Weiler, 1:35:55