Velo chasing national title in Kansas: Sports Shorts 5/12/06

By Abby Seiff

From the club’s inception nine years ago, until three years ago, no one from the University of Chicago’s velo team went to the Collegiate Nationals. And then something happened. One member made it to nationals. Then three did.

Now the team, which is still too small and underdeveloped to be able to compete in all three nationals races, is rapidly becoming a real contender in the sport.

Friday afternoon the three cyclists: third-year Megan Myrick and graduate students Todd Yezefski and Jonathan Tenney, will fly to Lawrence, Kansas, where they will be competing in Saturday’s 85-mile road race and Sunday’s criterium—an extremely fast, 55- or 65-minute-long run on a one-mile track where dropping out of the pack or simply crashing is de rigueur for new cyclists. It is a challenge that Tenney and Myrick, as relative newcomers to the sport, are well aware of.

Yezefski is a seasoned veteran (he has been cycling since the age of 14) who has come to a school not known for its athletic achievements, in a city where the wind and flatness make training especially difficult. Nevertheless, last year’s Collegiate Road Cycling National Champion stands in far better stead than his companions who have come out of virtually nowhere, and very quickly. Myrick is a cross-country runner who turned to cycling last year while rehabbing an injury. Tenney was a late-starting triathlete who hadn’t done any sports until well into his twenties. All three, however, managed to garner enough points not only to reach the nationals but to place them second in the Midwest Collegiate Cycling Conference amongst the Division II schools (defined for cycling as having less than 15,000 students).

The training has been grueling. The team has been preparing for this race since mid-December.

“I’ve probably been off my bike less than a week since December,” said Tenney, who will race with Yezefski as a team in both the road race and criterium.

“Basically I’ll do my best to put Todd in a winning position, chase down riders, put him in a position where he can save his energy for the burst at the end. They key is to make sure the best guy gets ahead,” Tenney explained. “Todd is very strong. He can single-handedly take a race like this into his hands and dictate.”

Myrick, meanwhile, will race alone. Although this marks her first appearance at nationals and she will ride solo, the rookie still expects to do well.

“Megan is new to riding, but a lot of the girls who race are as well,” said Yezefki. “She’s not afraid to mix it up and get aggressive, so I think she’ll fit right in, maybe even be one of the main instigators.

“I’ll be interested to see how Jon and Megan do.”