Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Season Preview

The Red Hawks cycling program remains in its infancy, but I expect the team will take several big baby steps forward in just its second year.

We have two returning student-athletes who are now familiar with the college racing scene and know what to expect from the venues and the competition. For both of them, last year was their first year racing a bike of any kind. So that experience gives them a huge advantage over last year.

Plus, the Red Hawks add three new members who bring race experience to the fold.

Eric Smith, a first-year student from Charlottesville, Va., is a key acquisition for Ripon. Eric boasts three years of quality results in downhill and cross-country racing.

Eric is a student who will have an immediate impact on our program. He is certainly our first marquee recruit.

He is a versatile rider who has finished on the podium in both gravity and endurance events. He placed third in the 18 and under sport division of the 2009 USA Cycling Virginia State Downhill Championship at Massanutten Resort in McGaheysville, Va., in May. He finished second in two cross-country races this spring as well. He and a teammate finished in first place among beginner men in the sport duo category of the Paranormal 6-hour endurance race in Earlysville, Va., last November, and Eric finished second among racers 19 and under in the U.S. Junior Off-Road Duathlon (5k run/11k bike/3k run) National Championship in Richmond, Va., in April.

Andy Fehrenbach of Stevens Point, Wis., is another first-year recruit who brings experience to the table for Ripon. In June, Andy, who has been riding and racing for a number of years, placed second among 17- and 18-year-old males in the sport class at the Wisconsin Off Road Series (WORS) Big Ring Classic at 9-Mile County Forest near Wausau, Wis. It was his best placing of three WORS races thus far this summer. In July, Andy participated in the Bike Northwoods Tour, a six-day bicycle trip averaging 50 to 60 miles a day through Northwest Wisconsin.

Andy is a kid who just really enjoys being on a bike. His enthusiasm will serve us well, and I predict he will show some quick progress this fall.

Rounding out a trio of new first-year student-athletes for the Red Hawks is Paul Meuer from Kaneland High School in Elburn, Ill.

Also new to the cycling roster this fall will be Ripon juniors Andy Ayers and Zach Smith. Andy, a computer science major from Eagle River, Wis., was previously a member of the Red Hawks football team. This will be his first year racing a bike. Zach, a music and business management major from St. Louis, Mo., is also a member of the Ripon swim team. He brings several years of mountain bike racing experience to the cycling team. Zach is an athletic guy who has been on the bike in a race situation before, so he knows what he’s doing out there and should do well from the gun.

On the woman’s side, Ripon brings back Tiffany Seering, a junior from West Bend, Wis., and Christa Kussmann, a senior from Beaver Dam, Wis.

Tiffany provided us with the best individual results last year. Racing in the women’s B category, she posted two firsts and a second in the collegiate cross-country races. She added three second-places finishes in the short-track and brought home a first place from the downhill slalom event at Purdue University.

Tiffany is planning to make the jump to the women’s A category this year. In order to be competitive there, she is going to have to improve her speed and endurance. She’s a gutsy rider, and I’m confident that she will rise to the occasion.

I am expecting Christa, the sole senior on the team, to provide leadership. At the beginning of last year, Christa was content to simply finish the races she started. But as the season progressed, she showed significant improvement as she became more comfortable on the bike and her confidence grew. I expect that progress to continue this fall.

The Red Hawks add a third woman for 2009 with Charlotte Evans, a sophomore physics major from Berlin, Wis. An avid recreational cyclist, this will be Charlotte’s first year of competition.

I have no doubt that we will be an improved team compared to last year. We lost three great students to graduation, but we’ve added six new members who each promise to bring something special to the mix. I think we’ll be competitive as a team, and just maybe we’ll qualify one or two riders for nationals. That would be a very big step for our program.

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