Nothing says Davis like a bicycle, and no one in Davis rides their bicycles better than the UC Davis cycling team.
The California Aggie Cycling Club has a proud tradition of success, one which includes the 2009 National Championship.
This season promised to be another strong campaign.
“We wanted to carry over our momentum from the national title last year,” said team-president Anthony Santamaria. “We had a strong foundation to build on.”
UC Davis picked up right where they left off. They won several events throughout the year including the Western Collegiate Cycling Conference Championships in Santa Cruz, Calif.
From there, it was on to the Collegiate Road National Championships in Madison, Wis. The Aggies wanted to make sure they remembered what was at stake.
“We carried the trophy to the airport with us on the way there,” said rider Larissa Fitchett. “We knew there was a lot of pressure on us.”
The National Championships began on May 7 with the road race. Fitchett led the Aggie women with a fifth place finish, improving from 13th last year.
“It was very exciting to see myself improve,” Fitchett said. “I used the big hills to my advantage and it paid off.”
Fitchett’s teammate Amy Chandos finished close behind at eighth.
On the men’s side Adam Switters was first on the team, finishing 16th. Behind him was Nils Johnson, who finished 29th.
Three Aggie men failed to finish the race.
One of them was Jonathan Teeter who was not able to complete the race due to a flat tire.
“It was a miserable day,” Teeter said. “It just felt like I went all the way there for nothing.”
Teeter knows how to bounce back, however.
Earlier in the season the Guerneville, Calif. native crashed while traveling at a speed of 40 miles per hour with just two miles left in a race, and was still able to come away with a victory.
“I knew I had to forget about the road race fast,” said Teeter. “My team needed me to be prepared for the time trials in a few days.”
However, before the time trials was the criterium.
Switters again was the best of the Aggie men, finishing eighth in the men’s criterium. Behind him were Johnson in 32nd, Riley Oneal in 35th and Sam Bassetti in 38th.
For the women, Danielle Haulman led UC Davis with a 13th place finish. Chandos and Fitchett finished 32nd and 35th, respectively.
The final day was the Aggies’ time to shine.
The team time trials would be the last event in Madison, and it was UC Davis’ specialty.
“We definitely focus a lot on the team time trials,” Fitchett said. “It’s the way we practice for the TTT that sets UC Davis apart from other teams.”
The men’s time trial team, which was composed of Switters, Teeter, Frank Marrs and Will Riffelmacher, finished the race with a bit of confusion.
“When the race ended we thought we’d won,” Teeter said.
In reality the Aggies had come in second, 35 seconds behind winner Marian College which contains several professional cyclists. The electronic timer at the finish-line had malfunctioned, and incorrectly showed that UC Davis had won.
What followed was a myriad of emotions.
“After hearing that we didn’t win our team was really disappointed,” Teeter said, “but later on that night I think we all came to the realization that second place in the entire nation was pretty good.”
The women’s time trials did not feature a confused finish, but it did offer the same winner.
The Aggie squad, which consisted of Fitchett, Chandos, Haulman and Lisa Auchincloss, took third. They finished 36 seconds behind Marian College, again racing against multiple professionals.
Overall the Aggies posted a team omnium score (which includes both men’s and women’s time trials, criterium and road race) of 362, placing them in third. They were 97 points short of national champion Marian College.
Despite the impressive finish, some UC Davis riders were not completely satisfied.
“After winning last year,” said Fitchett, “taking third was a little disappointing, but we faced some really tough competition and we worked hard.”
Hard work is a theme that permeates throughout the team.
“We take this very seriously,” Santamaria said. “It dictates how you eat, sleep – every aspect of your life. Some of our team members practice over 20 hours per-week.”
To the UC Davis cycling team, it has all been worth it though.
“I saw all the hard work pay off,” Teeter said. “It was fulfilling to see it wasn’t all for nothing.”
TREVOR CRAMER can be reached at email@example.com.