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Spotlight Iowa City: Cyclists make nationals

BY ADAM B SULLIVAN | MAY 10, 2010 7:30 AM

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They didn’t have plane tickets, an entourage of hundreds, or $2 million budget.

For the University of Iowa Cycling Club, luxury travel entails a recently borrowed Suburban attached to a trailer equipped with bike hitches.

Five members of the squad went to Madison, Wis., this past weekend to compete in the Collegiate Road National Championships — a USA Cycling-sponsored event that acts as the ultimate destination for college cycling teams.

None of the men finished in the top of the pack in either of the events they competed in, but they said just qualifying for the event is a great accomplishment for a program that has not had much of a presence in recent years.

“We got a lot of young guys, so it’ll be a good experience,” team member Joe Nellis said before the race. “It’ll give us a feel for what nationals is all about so in future years we can push the envelope instead of just reacting to what’s going on.”

The athletes qualified for the championship events by accumulating points throughout the spring cycling season.

The cyclists rode indoors or bundled up to put on miles outside during the winter. Then, starting in March, 10 to 15 Hawkeye cyclists loaded equipment onto vehicles — including as many as four bikes on top of club President Chris Moore’s Honda Civic — and took trips to various cycling competitions around the Midwest each weekend.

“Everyone would go around and say who’s going, who can drive, and who can take bikes,” Moore said. “It’s really just a big group of friends going to races every weekend.”

Instead of splurging on ritzy accommodations, the road-bound bikers rely on camaraderie among collegiate cyclists.

“We never pay for a hotel,” Moore said. “You go to Nebraska, you hang out with some kid from Nebraska and sleep on his floor.”

For a bid to this past weekend’s Collegiate Road National Championships, a rider must earn an “A” classification. Last year, the highest Iowa cycling team member received a “C”; this year, five riders were deemed “As.”

One of the team’s top riders is UI junior Andy Buntz, a proud but modest team spokesman.

“This year we have some pretty strong riders. We’ve had one rider win a criterium this year,” Buntz said, neglecting to mention that “one rider” was him.

Buntz said he’ll dedicate much of this summer to training. To be competitive after his college career is over, he will need to put in at least six hours a day.

“It’s every rider’s dream to be on TV over in Europe,” he said. “At this point in the game, I don’t really know what my potential is.”

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