The Orion

Downhill to the championship

Lars Gustafson

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Anthony Tran will be riding this weekend to compete, but still have fun. Photo credit: Brandon Foster

The Chico State Cycling Team is stacked to make a full-speed run on 2014’s trail to the USA Cycling Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championships in Banner Elk, North Carolina. 200 semiprofessional competitors from all over the United States will be competing at the event.

Chico State’s team will be competing in events at places ranging from Reno, Nevada all the way down to San Luis Obispo on the road to the national championship.

Bobby Zidek, Matt Sleutjes, Ariana Altier and Will Rolewicz will be representing Chico State in the Class-A bracket, or the semiprofessional level, at nationals this year in Banner Elk. The four will be racing downhill at nationals this year and Zidek, the club’s president, will be competing for the omnium category. Here’s a look at the club’s top riders.

Bobby Zidek: Zidek has been hard at work this offseason to get ready for the national championship. The omnium category is for the riders who compete in every event at nationals and score the highest amount of points across the board. Zidek has consistently notched second and third place finishes as a semiprofessional across California. At last year’s national championship, Zidek was a runner-up for the omnium category and is pushing to do better this year.

Zidek said he is working to be one of the best all-around mountain bikers this year at the USA Cycling Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championships in Banner Elk.

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Matt Sleutjes zooms out of the woods ready for the contests this weekend. Photo credit: Brandon Foster

Matt Sleutjes: The vice president of the club has been competing in downhill, trail and cross-country mountain biking for six years and has been preparing all summer for nationals. Sleutjes went with multiple team members to practice in Whistler, Canada at the Whistler Mountain Bike Park to practice for this year’s championship run.

“The rush of adrenaline going down, that gnarly factor when you don’t know if your going to come out of it, it feels great,” Sleutjes said.

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Ariana Altier flying toward two first place finishes in Lakeshore at the Fresno State Mountain Bike Race Weekend. Photo credit Ariana Altier

Ariana Altier: Altier recently competed in the Fresno State Mountain Bike Race Weekend Sept. 20-21 at Lakeshore and took first place in both of the events she entered: Super D and downhill. Super D is a mixture of cross-country and downhill racing. In 2012, Altier took first place for downhill racing in Class-B at the USA Cycling Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championships in Angel Fire, New Mexico. She was bumped to the semiprofessional racing class.

Zidek said that Altier’s skill set makes it impressive to watch her ride.

Altier said she has been honing her skills in Santa Cruz all summer to win back-to-back women’s downhill national championships.

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Will Rolewicz zooming downhill at the Fresno State Mountain Bike Race Weekend. Photo courtesy Will Rolewicz

-Will Rolewicz, a sophomore transfer student and team rider, has only gotten better since his move from Woodland Community College. Rolewicz started in the lowest racing class, but during his first year as a Wildcat racer, he advanced to the semiprofessional level. Rolewicz has placed in the top 10 consistently since he advanced to the semiprofessional level.

In regard to preparation for nationals this offseason, he referenced the training he’s put in all summer.

“I’ve been training all summer at North Star,” Rolewicz said. “I have been focusing my goals towards nationals and am getting faster. I feel confident this year.”

Lars Gustafson can be reached at @[email protected] or @larsonsports on Twitter.

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Downhill to the championship