BC cyclists anxious to get rolling again

BREVARD, N.C. - It is increasingly obvious that Brevard College has the premier cycling program in America. In the cycling world, the phrase “Brevard is coming” strikes fear in the hearts of the members of other teams.

And that’s the problem. In an odd way, the BC team has become a victim of its own success.

“The team has won four out of the last five U.S. collegiate mountain biking championships and two consecutive cyclo-cross national championships,” head coach Brad Perley said. “So, when we went to the Road Nationals for the first time ever last May, and only finished second, everyone wanted to know what had happened.”

Expectations are much the same as Perley and the reigning national champion Tornados prepare for the fall mountain biking season. It’s a position that many a cycling coach across the country would like to be in.

The 2013-14 season was huge for BC. Then head coach Brian Sheedy’s charges began the year with strong showings at races hosted by Georgia Tech and East Tennessee State. BC then hosted, and won, the Southeastern Collegiate Cycling Conference Championships in Brevard in October.

Still in October, the Tornados traveled to snow-covered Beech Mountain, North Carolina, where they competed in, and won, the Mountain Biking National Championship yet again. In January, the team journeyed to Boulder, Colorado and took home its second straight Cyclo-cross National Championship.

Later in January, Sheedy turned the head coaching chores over to two year assistant, and Maine native, Perley, as the Tornados began preparations for Road Nationals in Richmond, Virginia. The second-place national road race showing featured strong performances from several BC riders.

Tornado junior Allison Arensman, a North Carolina native, went into the record books as the first rider in Brevard College history to win an individual national championship at Road Nationals. Her performance was supported by strong showings from Sarah Hill, Nicole Miranda, Nick Jowsey, Brandon Milit, Caleb Welborn and Lewis Gaffney.

New York native Milet graduated from BC in May and was quickly named Perley’s assistant coach. Hill is a South African, Jowsey from New Zealand and Miranda from Ohio. Welborn, a Texan, and Gaffney, a New Mexican, also graduated in May and are working and racing in the Brevard area.

In addition to Milet, Perley is supported by veteran volunteer assistants Sheedy and Neko Mulally. Sheedy’s national and international cycling experience is long and deep; Mulally, a recent addition, is considered one of the top downhill mountain bikers in the world.

So, what will this fall’s mountain bike season bring for the Tornados? Coach Perley’s eyes light up when he replays his impressive roster in his head. “On the women’s side, Sarah Hill is one of the strongest mountain bikers in the conference, and Zac Valdez and Cypress Gorry are the men’s leaders,” Perley said.

Valdez, a sophomore from California, has two national titles under his belt from last year; Gorry, a junior from Arizona, was injured most of the 2013-14 season, but was a member of two national title-winning teams the year before.

The Tornados open the fall cycling season August 30-31 as they host the Brevard Home Mountain Bike Race. Some 20 teams from across the southeastern U.S. will compete here.

“I’m excited about this year,” Coach Perley said. “We feel good about our prospects, but we’re well aware of the strengths of the schools that we compete with.”

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