By Jared Eborn
Racing for a national championship is typically the stuff you only dream about. Racing for a national championship in your back yard, though, is almost too much to pass up.
And for Cortlan Brown, a student at Salt Lake Community College, it was an opportunity he simply had to take advantage of – capturing the USA Cycling Collegiate Division II Championship on May 7.
Brown, who races for the Ski Utah-MarketStar team locally, actually considering skipping the collegiate nationals in order to race the Tour of the Gila but couldn’t have been happier he decided to race locally instead of hitting the roads of New Mexico.
With many of the heavy hitters from the national cycling scene in Ogden for the three days of racing, Brown’s victory was the highlight of the weekend for Utah schools. Brown had a respectable 16th place finish in the criterium the day before, but saved his best for the road race in the scenic Ogden Valley.
“We had a half mile roll out that was mellow but as soon as the officials car pulled away it was like a cannon went off and we were at 32 miles per hour right from the gun,” he said. “The field of 92 was blaring down the road at this pace for a few miles, I was about 10 wheels back or so and watched a guy a couple riders to my left cross wheels with the guys in front of him and he went down, sliding sideways, taking out a row of people all the way across the road. When I looked back to see what had happened all that I could see was a wall of bikes and people on the ground.”
That created an unexpected breakaway of about 20 riders and Brown was in the thick of it with a national championship on the line. The break motored along for a few miles before letting up and allowing the peloton to regroup as they closed in on what would be the decisive climb up the North Ogden Divide. It was there that Brown’s familiarity with the road – and altitude acclimatization – came in handy.
“The pace slowed as we approached the Divide, everyone getting ready for the pain to come,” Brown said. “As we started up the climb I was on the front just setting a good tempo, I looked back and could see that the field was stringing out but there were still a lot of us on the lead group. I stood up and put in a good two or three pedal stroke kick, looked back and we lost about 10 more people. As we kept going I was worried that we had not dropped more people.”
As the climb continued, Brown’s chances for winning increased.
“I started paying close attention to every one around me and everyone was breathing super heavy and I could tell everyone was hurting, including me,” he said. “I knew I had more so I gave it another hard 10 second kick, sat back down looked back and saw that except for one other guy every one else was moving backwards it was time to focus and just punch the pace out till we got to the tope of the climb.”
Brown crested the summit with only one other rider and descended with victory in sight. Edward Gryster (Brown University) and Brown flew down the mountain and put some time into the field.
When the 200 meters to go mark came, Brown attacked around a corner and didn’t let up, crossing the line in first place and giving Utah a national champion.
Weber State’s Tyler Matson finished 11th and Michael Trussell (SLCC) was 42nd.
Marian University triumphed in the Division 1 Team Competition over University of Colorado – Boulder and Ft. Lewis College. Massachusetts Institute of Technology won the Division II Team title.
Collegiate Nationals will return to Ogden in 2013.