From the Track with ASU Cycling

Heading to Collegiate Track Nationals

On the eve of Collegiate Track Nationals we were able to sit down with ASU Cycling Coach Constantin Schreiber and ASU's sole participant Sarah Muench to talk shop.
At the onset of a new season they are looking to build on last years successes while they elevate their game.

How has everything been going this year?  Does the team have a theme song?
CS:  For us the year really just started up again with the new school year. We had a great season last year, winning the SWCCC Road Team Omnium and Women's Individual Omnium for the first time in years. The club is continuing to grow and looking to establish itself as an emerging varsity team with USA Cycling. Being represented at track nationals is part of the our long-term plan of sustainable continued development. As for a track season, there isn't really one in the SWCCC (see below for more on that). Sarah did compete in a few track races, however.
SM:  We actually do have a team theme song - it is the ASU Fight Song. We also get pretty pumped when we hear Britney Spears' "Work B*tch."

How is the team looking as you head to Nationals?
CS:  Very easy: Sarah Muench is our only competitor. Competing on the track in Arizona is quite difficult as there is no track in Arizona. Our state championships are held in California and although there are efforts by a very committed Arizona cycling community to build a track in Tucson, this will remain the status quo for a few more years at least. This makes it very hard to get people on the track - we do not lack the talent or interest - as track essentially means spending your summer time and money driving for 5+ hours to California. A hard undertaking for students. That being said, we are sad that Dominic Suozzi, a multiple junior national champion and current freshman at ASU cannot compete for us at Nationals due to not being a full-time student this semester, but we hope to see him race in our colors soon!
SM:  I'm feeling pretty stoked at having the opportunity represent ASU by competing in my final collegiate nationals. It's bitter sweet because I have spent three successful seasons racing as a Sun Devil, and although I'm sad to go, in my mind track nationals opens another door for me in cycling. I just started racing track for the first time this summer. It's a whole different ball game, and it allows me to focus on what I enjoy most - sprinting!

How does the team aspect of Collegiate Track play into team strategy and goal setting when training?

SM:  Although I'll be a one-Sun Devil show at collegiate track nationals, the team aspect is a huge factor in collegiate racing. As this year's Southwest conference champion, I know I wouldn't have been able to do it without the help of my teammate, Reiley Pankratz and the encouragement from my fellow Sun Devils. It truly was a team effort. Both the women's championship and the overall team championship never would have come together without teamwork, determination and perseverance.

What other teams have pushed you to be better?  Biggest Rival?
  There is no official SWCCC track calendar due to the absence of a track in our conference (Arizona, New Mexico, and West Texas). UA is the eternal rival for us and by sending Sarah to Nationals we are happy to one-up them. More generally speaking, this rivalry and the excellent work done by both ASU and UA in terms of growth and development has lead to collegiate cycling in Arizona being on its way to become a force beyond the SWCCC again.
SM:  I would echo Constantin's comments regarding that school in southern Arizona - some people call it the University of Arizona. Regardless of cycling discipline, this intense, yet friendly, rivalry always helps us push each other, and because of that, we had one of the closest championships in recent history with the women's omnium I described above. There's nothing like collegiate racing - riders fighting it out harder than I've ever seen for points, not cash. It's the most fun I've had on a bike, and I am so happy I've had the opportunity to do this as a Sun Devil for ASU.

Any special thanks you want to issue?  Sponsors?  Friends?  Support Groups?  Let's here it!
  I'll leave that to Sarah, who we as the club thank for her dedication to us and collegiate cycling in general (She just became the SWCCC Assistant Conference Director for Road Cycling). More than anybody she embodies the passion and spirit that collegiate cycling is about.
SM:  I'd like to thank our ASU Cycling Team for being supportive and awesome win or lose, especially Constantin, who has successfully grown our program over the last year, and the university for supporting our team; Joey Iuliano, our conference director, who has grown our collegiate program in Arizona over the last few years; Stefanie Sichler, my friend, teammate and fellow conference champion for ASU, my coach Marilyn Chychota, who has pushed me to be a better bike racer both in fitness and strategy; Allison Alterman from UA for being the best rival ever; Gea Johnson (track world champion) and Lionel Space for sharing their immense track knowledge and gears for nats; and my partner, Regina Jefferies.

How do fitness analytics apps play into your training schedule?
We haven't employed those as a club yet as the focus for us is growth and development. Not being a varsity team, our top riders rely on their own coaches or their own knowledge.
SM:  This is incredibly important for me - I wouldn't know what workout to do if I didn't use TrainingPeaks via my coach Marylin Chychota.

What is the biggest motivator for your team?
  I believe Sarah would summarize that as "beating UA", but let's see what she says.
SM:  Beating UA is the ultimate motivator for our team! Even with a million other schools at collegiate nationals, we want to make sure we at least cross the line ahead of UA. :)

What is the teams familiarity with the Colorado Springs track?  How have you dialed in your training to best perform there?
  I have seen the Colorado Springs track, but I have not raced on it. I know that it is the same length as San Diego, a track I have raced on, but the banking is steeper. I'm looking forward to racing there because racing at altitude produces faster times, as counterintuitive as that is.

As Constantin said, unfortunately, we don't have a velodrome to train on in Arizona, which makes it difficult to dial in any track performance. I have only raced track three weekends this summer in Los Angeles and San Diego, and I don't have as much experience as I would like. I have been racing this summer at several national crit series - TOAD, IntelliCup and Gateway over the summer, and I have specifically been working on sprints and standing starts over the last couple of months. I have some tough challenges - determining the right gearing for various races, pulling off a good standing start for the 500m and outsmarting my competition in the match sprints without being able to practice it on banking. My goals are to have fun, do the best I can and sprint my ass off, because that's when I have the most fun!

I'll be competing in match sprints, 500m TT, scratch race and possibly the points race.

There have been a lot of technological improvements in the sport in the last few years.  How has the team adopted them and which do you see as the most important?
  One thing important to this sport is getting the word out about events and group rides, which ultimately helps grow cycling. It's amazing to me that race promoters still use fliers posted at bike shops as a main way of communicating to the public about a race. When I first wanted to race, there was no one online place for me to find this information, so I created one - It's currently serving as a way to get the word out about group rides and events to riders and potential riders in region. Our ASU Cycling Team has one of the most successful single-day crit races in the state because it markets the event via Clipped In and various other sources, and we heavily utilize our own social media group and page to keep our followers updated.

With all the development in the sport, what are some of the fundamental things that have remained constant and are still key to performing at the highest level?
I think this question only applies to/is geared toward top-tier/varsity teams - which granted are the ones usually showing up to track nationals. It's easy to look at collegiate nationals (whatever discipline) and assume every individual and team has the infrastructure and resources available to such top-tier schools. We are a student club, run by students, relying on hard-earned university allocations, fundraising, donations and sponsorship money (and that's not much), and our membership dues to fund a season in four separate cycling disciplines.

So, while I could talk about the development in the sport and performing at the highest level, our club and I are more concerned about getting students into the sport and developing beginning and intermediate riders while also bringing regional and national-level competitors to the start line. And doing both is tough, which we can see from many riders who could race collegiately choosing not to and instead focusing on local/regional category races, despite our best efforts. I went off-topic here, but it's our role as an aspiring cycling club to push back a bit, present a different point of view, and talk about the realities of collegiate cycling for the majority of teams in the country. We appreciate your coverage.

SM:  I'll add that key, fundamental things to performing at your own highest level are focus, determination, self-discipline and strategy. Most of all - have fun.

What do you see at the secret to the team's success?
  Our focus on getting people into the sports and developing them. We pride ourselves in being a development club working toward sustainable growth and becoming a different (emerging) varsity team with USA Cycling.

SM:  Being inclusive to everyone who wants to ride and race is extremely important, so that we can continue to develop interest in the sport and life-long riders and racers. Collegiate cycling is such a gateway into the sport, especially with the aspect of representing your school when you roll up to the line - once it's over, it's something you'll never forget.
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