Cycling club defends conference title


Cody Kukulski sports his country’s colors on Sunday’s ride to Mount Eldon. (Photo by Matt Valley)

By Tatum Rochin

The NAU cycling team once again dominated the Mountain Southwest Conference tournament, defending its title from the previous year. The club out-shined schools such as UA and University of New Mexico (UNM) to win by over 1,000 points.

NAU participates in three different racing events: mountain, cyclo-cross and road. The fall is mountain bike season, and so far NAU has stayed at the top of the scoreboard.

Leading the team to success was Alex Winkler, a junior environmental engineering major. Winkler became the president of the club at the beginning of the semester, and has about four years of experience mountain biking.

When Winkler first joined the club as a freshman, the team finished in last place, behind UA and UNM. In the past two years, NAU has turned the program around, winning back-to-back conference titles.

Winkler has also made a serious effort to try and promote the club this year by posting flyers through resident life and the bigger buildings around campus.

“We’re always welcome to new members,” Winkler said. “It’s a good way to get connected if you’re a mountain biker and don’t have anyone to help you out with the mountain bike scene in Flagstaff.”

The club receives some funding, but does have to raise money for expenses not covered on its own. Sponsorships pay for some of the expense, and fundraisers help also. One of their fundraisers, called Flag Sprints, helped raise about $300 for the team. However, whatever expenses fundraisers and sponsors do not cover, members of the team pay for.

Despite how there are some costly things such as traveling and registration for races that the team must come up with individually, there are also many advantages that come with being a part of the club.

A great deal of teamwork comes with being in the group, and this is a huge reason why Erik Nelson, vice president and racing coordinator, enjoys the team so much.

Nelson, a junior mechanical engineering major, has an extensive background in bike racing. He started racing at age seven, and has focused specifically on mountain biking for the past eight years.

“My favore part about being on the team is the fact that it brings a bit of camaraderie and team effort to what is traditionally an individual sport,” Nelson said. “It’s a great balance, really. You can never be held back by teammates, but you also have the chance to accomplish really cool things that you can only do as a team, like a conference championship.”

David Rakestraw, a senior biology major, enjoys the team aspect of the club. Rakestraw is the treasurer for the team and is mainly a road cyclist. In the spring, he is usually in charge of the collegiate road races. He likes taking on mountain biking in the fall because training on the road can sometimes be monotonous.

“My favorite part of being on the team is getting to hang out and race with people who love bikes,” Rakestraw said. “Racing with teammates is always more fun than racing alone. Same goes with training. Long rides can really suck if you have to do them alone, so it’s nice to have friends to ride with.”

Another advantage to being a part of the team is the opportunity work on technique. One way Winkler does this is by organizing group rides with the team and skill rides. The latter is when the club president gives advice and tips from his own experience to help other members of the group.

The team members of the club have put a lot of hard work into their races so far this semester, and it showed when they took first place at the conference championship. Now, it’s time for bigger competition.

The Collegiate Mountain Bike Nationals will take place this weekend in Angel Fire, N.M. Roughly 300 students from more than 50 colleges and universities will be racing on the trails of the Angel Fire Bike Park.

At this tournament, there will be 18 national titles up for grabs in cross-country, short track cross-country, dual slalom, downhill, individual omnium and team omnium.

Representing NAU at this event will be Erik Nelson, Jacque Povilaitis, David Timmons, Riley Mueller, Lucas Cowan, Lindsay Dye, John Nichols and Scott Countryman.


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