Sally Hermansen, one of four "Wheelwomen," racers other bikers at the Collegiate Mountain Bike Nationals in Truckee, Calif. Courtesy Photo.

Even though construction management senior Kyle Wideman injured his foot, the biker continued competing in the Collegiate Mountain Bike Nationals for the rest of the weekend.
This and other efforts led the Cal Poly Wheelmen Club to fourth place overall at the Collegiate Mountain Bike Nationals this past weekend in Truckee, Calif. Out of an estimated 50-60 members, twelve people, four women and eight men competed.

Around 30 schools competed for Division-I during the three-day event at the Northstar Resort in four disciplines: Cross Country, Short Track, Downhill and Four Cross. The teams came from mainly the West Coast, but some East Coast teams also joined the ranks.

Riders typically specialize for the Downhill and Four Cross races (gravity riding) or the Cross Country and Short Track races (endurance riding), said Josef Duller, a Wheelmen member and mechanical engineering senior. Some members specialize in both areas, he said.

Wideman specializes in gravity riding. Four Cross is “kind of like snow cross but with mountain bikes,” he said. The race typically lasts 20-40 seconds.

“Four Cross is four guys with four bikes and a gate that latches down and you just have a bunch of turns down a mountain; a bunch of big jumps,” Wideman said. “The easiest way to describe it is mesh BMX and snow cross.”

The four Wheelwomen at the competition (Catherine Cresalia, Kathleen Kramer, Sally Hermansen and Bridget Zapata) rode for every single race using a variety of skills, including transitioning from high speed to low speed, jumping, swift turns and more.

Downhill races last three to five minutes and contain high and low speed sections, 10 to 30 foot jumps, rocky terrain and trees, Wideman said. The Short Track and Cross Country tracks contain difficult terrain that require more endurance.

Endurance rider Menso De Jong of the men’s Wheelmen came in fourth place on the first day of the competition in the Cross Country race and fourth place in the Short Track race on the second day. De Jong got second place in omnium for the men’s team.

Earth sciences senior Nate Lewis, mechanical engineering senior Owen Raybould, as well as Duller and Wideman experienced difficulty in the second race of the second day, Four Cross.

The team dealt with faulty start gates and “dumb moves” that led to falls during the race, Duller said.

Although the men had difficulty in the Four Cross race, they received the most points total during the Downhill Race. Duller, Wideman, Lewis, Raybould and De Jong got 7th, 6th, 2nd, 11th and 53rd place respectively.

This puts the men among the best downhill riders in the nation, Duller said.

Lewis recalls the announcers comments as he crossed the finish line.

“’Nate Lewis, coming in with a time of 5:04’ and everyone (got) silent and then the announcer (said) ‘Oh, there’s been a mistake,’” Lewis said. “‘Nate Lewis has a time of 4:04 — your new leader in the hot seat.’”

Then all the women from the team erupted in “high-pitched screams,” Lewis said.

Although Lewis ultimately didn’t place first in the race; next year, Lewis hopes to beat Joey Schustler, the first place rider from the University of Colorado, Boulder.

One of the advantages riders like Schustler and the Wheelmen see is the terrain near their universities.

“We have some of the hardest terrain (in San Luis Obispo) which gives us an advantage when we go to Nationals,” Raybould said. Many of the trails the team practice on tend to be steeper than the ones at Northstar.

The team will race at the Stanford Mountain Bike Race at 6 p.m. on Oct. 23.

Join the Conversation


  1. It’s nice to read Cal Poly finished in 4th place but the fact that the article doesn’t mention other teams in the competition or their quality leaves the reader wanting. Did Cal Poly finish 4th out of the top 50 university teams in the US or were the Mustangs riding against a collection of community colleges?

    As is often stated in marketing classes, facts aren’t relevant unless information is provided allowing readers to compare and contrast.

    1. Cal Poly placed 4th in the nation in division 1 ahead of schools like: Stanford, Berkley, University of Nevada-Reno, University of Vermont, Texas A&M, San Diego State, Colorado State, University of Arizona, etc… The only teams Cal Poly lost to were University of Colrado Boulder, Ft. Lewis College, and Lees-McRae College. Pretty dang good! They didn’t lose to a bunch of community colleges. They faced the highest level of collegiate competition in this race and did extremely well. What makes it even better is that cycling is a varsity sport for some schools, with scholarships awarded to their best riders. The Cal Poly Wheelmen is a sports club run by the students.

    2. I am a Wheelmen member myself. Only top collegiate teams of the nation are invited to attend nationals based on their performance within their individual conferences. Each conference contains a collection of schools varying from community colleges to many top universities. Just because a racer is from a commmunity college or a top university doesn’t mean they are better racers, however larger universities are often more likely to have a larger team which can help make it easier to qualify. Cal Poly races in the West Coast Collegiate Conference which pretty much comprises the Cal State System, the UC system, University of Nevada at Reno, and a handful of private schools and community colleges. Cal Poly has been consistently ranked at the top of its conference that last 10-12 years. Also, FYI, we are a club sport at Cal Poly, not actually competitive in NCAA or with Cal Poly Athletics.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.