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Crystal Kalogris, right, won a mountain-bike national championship over the weekend.
Cycling - Sun, Oct. 30, 2011
Women have big weekend on the podium for resilient Blue Raiders

ANGEL FIRE, N.M. -- The Lindsey Wilson College cycling team made the 1,300-mile journey to Angel Fire, N.M., to compete against the best collegiate cycling teams in the nation last weekend.

Facing some incredible obstacles including weather (snow storm), altitude (8500-10,000 feet) and course conditions and equipment failures (the starting gate), it came away with a program-record tying third-place overall in the Division I omnium and another national championship for sophomore Crystal Kalogris.

 

"Before our riders arrived at the team house I had driven the bikes and equipment to New Mexico, but the night we arrived a snow storm dumped 6 inches of wet snow on the mountain and I knew we were in for a battle against not only the best riders in the nation, but also mother nature," said Blue Raider head coach David Grigsby. "As the snow began to slowly melt away over the weekend, the ground turned to mud soup transforming the climbs up the mountain to over 10,000 feet elevation into a death march."

The brutal cross-country races were to be a war of attrition with fields for the men of 81 riders and the women's field 39 strong.

All the Lindsey Wilson men finished in the points with James Brown as the top finisher at 26th, Taylor Ladd 32nd and Matt Dooley 34th.

The women's cross country saw Vhasti Schmidt in 32nd, Brooke Crum 33rd and Yesica Mendoza 35th.

The men's short-track race results were Ladd finishing 19th, Dooley 35th and Brown 41st.

Women's short-track results saw Schmidt tally an impressive 16th-place finish with Mendoza 31st and Crum 33rd.

Next up was Downhill and the longest, most dangerous ice-covered course in collegiate-racing history.

The mountain was covered in a layer of ice that actually meant dismounting and sliding like a playground slide in more than one section.

Run times down the mountain were averaging eight to 20 minutes, which gives an idea of how long the course really was.

The men's field saw Josh Patton turn in an incredible 16th-place finish, followed by Logan Collins in 32nd, Danny Caluag in 33rd and Brandon Hopkins finishing 34th, followed by Chase Hines in 41st place.

The women were the story of the day as Lindsey Wilson took second place in the downhill category on the backs of Pitts in fifth place, Bates ninth, Crum finishing 11th and Barragan tallying a 15th-place finish.

This performance would mean two things for the Blue Raiders. They would be catapulted up to sixth place in the overall standings going into the final day, but at a price.

During their runs, reigning national champion Brittany Bates would break her hand in a fall, and our conference champion Pitts would injure her ribs and ankle while flying down the mountain.

So heading into the final day and our strongest discipline, we would now be without our defending national champion, and Pitts would be racing on very limited power as she limped up to the start, pushing through the pain for each of her races.

The final day began with temperatures in the 20's and solid frozen mud on the dual-slalom course.

Qualifying began on solid earth as Lindsey Wilson showed its dominance with current world Champion Hines posting the best qualifying time by over a second with Caluag finishing second.

For the women it was the same story with Kalogris posting the fastest run followed by her teammate Barragan.

Before the qualifying was over the sun came out and the course turned from solid to swamp as inches of thawed mud now greeted every rider.

Suddenly the advantage went to downhill racers over true slalom contenders as power and speed gave way to basically who can stay upright on their bike riding through the soup.

But the challenges wouldn't end there.

Lindsey Wilson is famous for its amazing gate-starts as our riders rocket off the start line as the hydraulic gate slams down in front of them.

"Our gate starts are absolutely impressive as our team can time the power to the pedals to rocket off the start line leaving anyone racing against us two to three bike lengths behind in the first 2 seconds of a race," said Grigsby.

But a generator failure, followed by a compressor failure at the starting line made the starting gate inoperable, and so now each rider would have to start the race with one foot on the ground and a simple '3-2-1 go' from the officials.

Suddenly a year's worth of work on gate starts was negated and our competition was back in the hunt.

But the podium was still to be dominated by Lindsey Wilson as Caluag, Hines and Logan Collins would race to third, fourth and fifth place respectively.

Hopkins would finish 17th and Taylor Ladd 20th in the 45- rider field.

The women would prove to be the difference maker as Kalogris and Barragan would both reach the final round to race for the title.

In the first round it was a race decided by inches as Kalogris crossed the line only slighly ahead of Barragan.

In the second heat, another dead even race out of the gate until a slide-out by Barragan in the second straight meant Kalogris would win her second national championship in one month (her first came at the National Gravity Championships in this discipline in North Carolina).

Joining them on the podium would be Pitts who took fourth place racing with bruised ribs and an ankle swollen to the size of an orange. Crum would narrowly miss the podium with a sixth-place finish.

The power of our gravity finishes catapulted Lindsey Wilson from sixth place to third-place overall in Division I, in a field of 35 teams.

The third-place finish ties the program's best finishes at Mountain Bike Nationals and brings home another National Championship jersey to make it an absolutely incredible finish to the mountain-bike season.

"I could not be more proud of our team and how they faced the challenges and weather and injuries to battle for every point in every race," said Grigsby. "This is one team that will go down in our program's history as fearless and battle-hardened. They have done our college proud on and off the bike on the biggest stage in collegiate cycling."

 

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