ECCC Conference Championships - Nittany Cycling Classic

ECCC Conference Championships - Nittany Cycling Classic

The Penn State Cycling Club gathers for a photo after the Frat Row Crit. Photo from Wes Kline

Nestled high above the town of Julian, hidden from State College by a small ridge lies Lake Black Moshannon. “Black Mo” is known to every Penn State rider as one of the toughest routes in town.  Getting into the park is a long 5 mile climb along rattlesnake pike. And just when you think you are done the monstrous rollers come snapping at your heels.  It is a deceiving route, you think you are done working early, you eek out the last bit of energy from your legs to crest the hill, but the effort never ends.  At the end of all of this riding, you’ve earned your descent.  Beaver road tilts downhill sharply for multiple miles over rough pavement.  Penn State racers have grown to know and love this descent, hugging every turn and navigating every imperfection. 

Many of the races were paced by Kia Sorrento on loan from our sponsor, Lion Country Kia. Our pace car driver, Andrew Artz (junior-recreation and tourism management), loved its quiet and roomy interior. Additional sponsors included food provided by Subway and Honey Baked Ham and our championship race t-shirts printed by The Family Clothesline.

Team Time Trial: The TTT consisted of a triangular course along Lake Black Moshannon totally 9.5 miles.

No Penn Staters competed in the TTT.

Black Mo Road Race:  The road race starts at Lake Black Moshannon. The racers take off down the fast decent to the bottom of Black Mo where they then have to take the long grinding climb back to the top of the mountain. One loop of the full course totaled 21 miles.

A lone Women's C rider on the Black Mo Road Race. Photo by: Ginny Tory
Men’s D (1 lap):
Unfortunately many of our volunteers ended up sick, forcing some riders to become marshals guiding their teammates through.  Paul Girgis placed 5th on the day while Marc Geiller placed 23rd.

Women’s C (2 lap):
Kasinee Gehring set out with the women ready to do two laps of the course. However, she fell off the pace and finished one lap, placing 15th.
Mitch Ernst waves as the Men's C field reaches the bottom of the Black Mo Road Race course. Photo by: Ginny Tory
            It is easy to forget that the love for this mountain comes from the respect it demands.  Racers were warned at the beginning of the race, to keep the first descent slow and that they won’t win the race down the initial descent.  Unfortunately, the aggressiveness of cyclists took its toll during the day’s second wave of races.  Two separate crashes landed riders in the hospital.  One rider lost control of his bike, found himself on the other side of the road and collided with a stopped car.  The rider was Life Flighted to a hospital in Altoona where he received stitches, treatment for two broken cheek bones and other resulting injuries.  Fortunately there was no permanent damage done and he was able to return home with his team on Sunday.  In the second crash, riders flew over a guard rail on the descent and piled up on down bikes.  Riders were taken by Ambulance to the local hospital and were released the same day.

             Because of the serious nature of these crashes, the road was closed and all following races canceled.


Sunday morning, the sun greeted the races with a warm morning in downtown state college.  Shortly after fraternity row was closed off and cars towed to make way for the race.

Frat Row Criterium: The course is short, with 6 sharp turns including a chicane.  It rewards the riders in front who are skilled at cornering but those stuck in the back will find themselves sprinting out of the turns to fight the accordion effect.

Andrew Artz comes through the chicane of the Frat Row Crit. Photo by: Ginny Tory
Men’s D (30 mins):
Penn State made up 8 out of 25 of the racers in the D1 field today.  Half of them would find the accordion effect of the 20+ mph pace too much and eventually off the back.  Connor, Jose, Kevin and Ryan were pulled and placed.  Marc stayed with the pack through a face of pain, but missed the split driven by Paul and Andrew.  Paul, Andrew and Billy made up 3 out of 8 riders in the breakaway.  Feeling fast, Paul broke away from the breakaway and was joined by a rider from UNH.  Knowing Penn State rider Andrew could win a sprint, Paul was able to force his companion to work.  Paul casually jumped around the rider from UNH and took the win.  The first breakaway was 20 seconds behind and Andrew cruised in for 3rd taking the field sprint.  Billy and Marc rounded out the Team placing 7th and 16th respectively.  Primes were also scored by riders Paul and Andrew.

Paul Girgis comes through the chicane of the Frat Row Crit. Photo by: Ginny Tory
Men’s C (40 mins):
Three Penn Staters joined the 45 starters.  Sam took an early lead, the hole shot, but red-lined to get there and couldn't find a spot near the front.  Hurting, Sam was unable to keep pace.  Lucas and Mitch were all that was left of the Penn State team.  Both were in the top 10 in the final lap, but a crash in the chicane forced them to slow and ripped the chances of victory from their hands.

Men’s B (50 mins):
James was the sole starter today, and sick.  His sickness caught up with him so he pulled early to heal up to fight again.

Monica Volk celebrates her win at the Frat Row Crit. Photo by: Zach Wilczynski

Women’s A (50 mins):
Monica Volk of Penn State Lehigh Valley continued her domination of the ECCC.  She was sitting confident after winning all but one intermediate sprint.  Having wrapped up the leader’s and the sprinter’s jerseys, she wanted to make one final statement.  The last lap, she came screaming out of the last corner and dusted her competition!  Monica will be joining Penn State University Park next year.  We are looking forward to having her on the team!

Greg Ratzell breaks off the front of the Men's A Frat Row Crit race. Photo by: Zach Wilczynski

Men’s A (60 mins):
A salute to the graduating riders - Joe, Brett and Wes - this being their final collegiate race.  Joining them at the start line were Greg (sophomore) and Kevin (1st year Masters).  The race started fast and 10 minutes in Greg crashed.  Kevin was behind the crash and never caught back on.  Greg rejoined the field and shot straight through, stuck in the big ring.  He was chased by a rider from Brown University who got close but unable to join.  Greg’s gap grew large and right before he was closing down on the pack a chase group started with Brett.  The chase group never got near Greg who kept his pace up.  With one lap to go, Greg lapped the field!  He cruised in his last lap knowing he had won the race, allowing the field some room.  Wes won the field sprint (10th) followed by Joe (16th).  Brett finished towards the back of the chase group at 8th.  Because of Greg’s gut wrenching 50 minutes solo, he ended up as the de facto leader in all but one of the Primes.

Greg Ratzell is handed his gold medal. Photo by: Sam Carroll
Monica Volk walks away with her new gold medal. Photo by: Sam Carroll
The Penn State Cycling Club members celebrate. Photo by: Sam Carroll
THANK YOU to our team of race directors and race volunteers for ensuring this event went smoothly.  We would also like to thank our sponsors: Moshannon Valley Radio Club, The Bicycle Shop Inc., University Health Services, and of course LION COUNTRY KIA!!!

The Penn State Cycling Club sponsor, The Bicycle Shop Inc., ran the pit for the races Courtesy art from: The Bicycle Shop Inc.

The Penn State Cycling Club sponsor, Lion Country Kia, provided pace vehicles for the races. Photo by: Sam Carroll
Race report written by: Kevin Bertstein

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