For the third consecutive year, the Cal Poly Wheelmen placed first overall at the Western Collegiate Cycling Conference Championships held Nov. 20 and Nov. 21 in San Diego, Calif.

Courtesy photo.

The conference was divided into four different disciplines — Cross Country and Short Track (endurance races), Downhill (a gravity race) and Super D (a combined endurance and gravity race), where 20 Wheelmen, 15 men and five women, competed against 15 other schools.

Cal Poly won gold in all races except Short Track, in which they fell short to UC Berkeley.

Cal Poly Wheelmen have made a tradition of placing first at the Conference Championships. They held the championship title from 1998 to 2005, until UC Berkeley interrupted their eight-year winning streak in 2006. Cal Poly gained it back in 2008 and plans to keep it that way.

Wheelmen President and biomedical engineering junior Josh Marcum thought the conference was a success, in part because of Berkeley’s defeat.

“They ruined our streak,” Marcum said. “We were going for 10-in-a-row. But it’s OK, we’re starting over now, seven more to go. I felt Berkeley was closer to us than they were in the past.  It came down to the last race on the last day of the entire season — we beat them by 56 points out of 1200. Basically one race.”

The Cal Poly Wheelmen were able to pull through despite the rain and 45 degree weather.

Aerospace engineering senior Sally Hermansen placed third overall in the women’s ‘A’ category, included first in the Women’s A Downhill. The weather made the race a “completely different ball game,” Hermansen said.

“It was miserable, raining and freezing cold,” she said. “It made the riding pretty intense. You had to worry about slipping and sliding rather than just getting through the trail.”

Not only did the conditions make it harder to race, but the weather took a physical toll on the bikes. The Wheelmen were having mechanical issues all weekend since wet sand and bikes don’t mix well together.

Mechanical engineering senior Jacob Publicover placed second in the men’s ‘C’ category despite the elements.

“It was really wet and freezing while we were there so I think that commitment to go and stick it out is what really did it,” Publicover said.

After his first race, Publicover’s bike chain broke in part due to the poor conditions of the trail. He didn’t think he would be able to race the next day.

Publicover wasn’t the only one dealing with mechanical problems.

Mechanical engineering senior Nik Goodell, who placed third overall in men’s ‘B’ did not think he would race Short Track on Sunday because of the state his bike was in at the end of the first day. He was already racing without brake pads because the gritty water wore them away.

And had it not been Larry Werner (father of  Wheelman and general engineering Matthew Werner), Publicover, Goodell and other Wheelmen would not have been able to.

Werner offered all 20 riders a chance to stay the night at his house near the course. He provided them with a warm place to sleep and a dry place for them to fix their bikes.

“Basically he (Werner) saved us,” Publicover said. “Without him we probably wouldn’t have done nearly as well because he had a bunch of bike tools and stuff like that and we were able to fix our bikes. I was able to fix my chain and get everything working again.  When you ride your bike when it’s wet and muddy, it’s really bad for it so you have to do a lot of maintenance to keep it up to speed.”

Werner even loaned his own helmet to a rider who forgot to bring one. Another wheelman’s bike was so badly damaged by the sand, Werner loaned him his own personal mountain bike for the Sunday morning race.

“It’s my pleasure; they’re a great group of people,” Werner said. “I’m a mountain biker and bike racer myself so I’m happy to do that. If you were to see the race course they rode on, it was very challenging, and to add to it the cold weather, the rain and the sand — they performed incredibly well.”

Horticulture senior Patrick Edziak of the men’s ‘B’ category came in first overall and accredits having a dry garage and a warm place to sleep in helping him place high in the conference.

“Racing happens whether it’s raining or shining,” Edziak said. “Unless I’m stuck in a part of the course where it could mean me surviving or not — generally that’s the only thing that would stop me from racing as hard as I could regardless of conditions. It makes it harder to get up in the morning and get ready for a race when it’s 45 degrees outside; it can be miserable but it’s going to happen no matter what.”

Edziak puts in 15 to 20 hours a week when he is properly training. But since race season takes place during the academic year, he’s lucky if he gets to ride for 10 hours, Edziak said.

“We have to balance school and riding,” Edziak said. “In the prime time I would spend training, I’m racing. That’s why we spend the whole summer training, so you can waste away during the winter and hope you have enough left to make it through the season.”

But he’s glad to ride as a wheelman.

“In my opinion, we have the best club and team dynamic than any team in the country, safe to say.”

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