RaceMill Collegiate: USA Cycling Nationals - University of Arizona Wildcats

Team President Joey Iuliano tells us why Collegiate Cycling matters and what his team has done to prepare for Nationals

To kick off our coverage of the USA Cycling Collegiate Road National Championships this weekend in Asheville, North Carolina, we got the inside scoop from the 2014 Collegiate Club of the Year, University of Arizona.  Team President Joey Iuliano shared where Collegiate Cycling is heading and what his squad is looking forward to in Asheville.  

RM: Being one of the leading programs to make cycling a varsity sport, where do you see Collegiate Cycling heading?
JI: We have to be careful with the terminology when using varsity (traditionally a very NCAA word). We're not, nor is USA Cycling, advocating collegiate cycling be picked up by the NCAA or anything like that. A better way of looking at it is the varsity teams recognized by USAC are the most stable, organized and supported programs in the country. Historically, it has only been smaller private schools with these well supported teams because the schools realized they could make a small investment (when compared to other college sports like football) and receive significant media attention and some increase in enrollment. CU Boulder and UA have been the first big public university teams to be recognized as varsity programs. We did it because we're trying to show UA how much of an asset we are to the school in terms of recruiting out of state students and to attract more support from local businesses and alumni. Again, the varsity designation is only given to programs which demonstrate a high level of stability and organization. This looks really good when approaching donors because it gives them reassurance their support is going to be used in a smart, meaningful manner. 

Overall, collegiate cycling is one of the best (if not the best) way to grow cycling. It's the ultimate grassroots racing and it gets people hooked on the sport. The biggest hurdles we face is consistency in leadership. Leadership is very cyclical- clubs get great leaders for 3-4 years and then there is a lull after they graduate. In some cases the club disappears all together for a few years. Finding ways to smooth out those lulls and create stable programs means we'd see a bigger collegiate cycling scene and eventual more racers in the future.

RM: You were named the 2014 Collegiate Club of the year by USA Cycling; does that put added pressure on the team to perform at this year’s Nationals?
JI: Not really. Winning Collegiate Club of the year was more recognition for what we do in the community as well as giving back to the Arizona cycling scene by promoting events. Results factored into being selected, but they were a smaller part. 

RM: How does this squad compare to teams in the past? How many racers are going, what are your strengths?
JI: We're sending 7 riders (5 men, 2 women), in recent years this is on par with attendance. Historically, the team has sent between 8-9 riders. We experienced a big turnover in leadership 3 years ago (no one attended nationals that year) and it's taken us about two years to fully rebuild from it. Strength wise, we have a solid team time trial squad on the men's side and any time the road tilts up it favors us (thanks Mt. Lemmon!) Crits aren't our best event but we aren't terrible at them either. 

RM: Do you have a favorite place to take the team to train?  Do you do a team training camp in a special location?
JI: Tucson is one of the top destinations for training camps so we're lucky we don't have to go anywhere. It is hard to pick one favorite place to train in Tucson. Mt. Lemmon is great but so is Saguaro National Park (both east and west) and Madera Canyon. 

RM: Have there been any stand-out moments of the season that has helped inspire the team this year? 
JI: The beautiful thing about collegiate cycling is that success for the team is with the new riders. We have a dominating men's and women's A team, but the real reason we do so well and have had consistent success is our new riders. Nothing is better than watching someone progress throughout the season and getting excited about racing. So we've had a lot of stand-out moments (more than I can type here) with our B and C riders. We're super proud of every single rider on our team. 

RM: How does the team aspect of Collegiate Cycling play into your strategy and team goals?
JI: So the team is only as strong as the weakest link. We spend a lot of time training together. We identify weakness (like cornering for example) in each other and then work together to improve those weaknesses. We do a lot of non-collegiate races together as well and use those as a means to test tactics. We want to go into every event as the most organized and well drilled team there. 

RM: How do you think the venue in Asheville fits the team compared to your base in Tucson?
JI: [Training] in Tucson gives us a wide variety of terrain. We have several mountains for long sustain climbing and we have short punchy climbs as well. We've had no issue finding similar terrain to ride on. 

RM: Who do you expect to be the toughest teams and individuals racing in Asheville?
JI: Marian University, CU Boulder, and Lindenwood University are by far the favorites at any nationals. For the crit, Lindenwood has the 2014 winner, Brandon Feehery, who is a phenomenal crit racer. Marian and CU always have a lot of depth on their rosters so its hard to say who the best is on their teams. 

RM: Which events do your athletes most look forward to and why?  (Road Race, Team Time Trial, Crit, Time Trial)
JI: We're really looking to do well at the Team Time Trial. We were just a handful of seconds off of 5th place last year and we've put in a lot of work this year to get on the podium. We also have a rider, Stephen Pedone, who is a phenomenal time trialist, so he is really looking forward to the ITT. Almost all 5 guys are looking forward to the road race as well since we've had some great results throughout the season. For the women, Allison Alterman is excited for the crit and Shelby Hoglund is excited for the road race. They have different racing styles so the two events suit them well. 

RM: Do you have any sponsors or special people you would like to thank?
JI: We couldn't do what we do without the support from Dr. Keith Carlson at Claris Eye Care, Kevin Madden at Madden Media, Ralph Philips at Fair Wheel Bikes, Bookmans Sports Exchange, Bache and Lynch Law, Vantage West Credit Union, Steven Herzog, Beyond Bread, Fitworks, SRAM, Ritchey, and Velovie Bikes. 

RM: Good luck and Bear Down!

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