We’ve heard a lot about the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference in the past few weeks from coordinators Joe Kopena, Tim Manzella and Steven Hopengarten, but what about the other conferences out there? We’ve been reaching out all around the country to find out how collegiate teams are making cyclocross season count. Wilson Hale, cyclocross coordinator for the Atlantic Collegiate Cycling Conference, was kind enough to give us a sneak peek into the makings of a stellar season when schools are situated south of the ECCC. Unlike the ECCC, the ACCC has a shorter season and chooses to host their own races, rather than racing collegiate within standard cyclocross races.
Cyclocross Magazine: First of all, give me a bit of background: how did you find yourself doing the planning for the ACCC?
Wilson Hale: So I came to William and Mary having already been racing road, mountain bike and cyclocross for a few years. The collegiate racing scene was a boon, because I suddenly had a ton of opportunities to race and teammates as fast or faster than me to push me harder. After road season my freshman year (2010), my predecessor announced at the road meeting that he needed someone to volunteer, and I was it. That was initially just road season though. The following mountain bike season, the non-student conference director, Kevin Long, and I had a conversation about cyclocross season, and just like that I was running the results and standings for last season. This past road season, I began taking the helm of the conference from Ben Warren of Virginia Tech, and over the past year or so Kevin, Ben and I, along with James McCabe of Wake Forest, have been working on growing the conference and preparing for 2011 mountain bike and cyclocross.
CXM: What’s new and exciting for the ACCC this year?
WH: We’ve got an action-packed calendar. Both the mountain bike and cyclocross calendars are full of races that should bring a lot of action. With Nationals pushed back to January, we were able to add a cyclocross weekend to the end of the semester. We’re also much better organized this year. I’m going to be more involved with each promoting school to make sure the race is awesome, whereas last season I was more along for the ride, learning as I went, and crunching out a really ugly spreadsheet of results and standings. This year we’ll have some fancy-looking results and standings postings.
CXM: Is your calendar all figured out?
WH: We hash out the MTB and cyclocross calendars at the conference meeting at the end of road season. Some things will change over the summer, and who knows what might happen as we get closer, but yes, the calendar is set. We’ve got four weekends of cyclocross with two weekends split between two schools. Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Virginia are splitting November fifth and sixth, Appalachian State gets the second full weekend, Wake Forest and North Carolina State are splitting November 19th and 20th, then we take off the weekend after Thanksgiving, and Virginia Tech hosts Conference Champs, which is the weekend after classes end for most schools. Then all the racers twiddle their thumbs for a month until Nationals.
CXM: Are there any particular challenges of planning a cyclocross season where you are, geographically or climate-wise?
WH: The biggest problem we face is that the season is too short. Because Collegiate MTB Nationals is the last weekend in October, we don’t start cyclocross until November, and then only have four or five weekends to race before we get into finals and have to stop. November is early enough that the weather in most of the conference is cold but not brutal. Last year Virginia Tech’s race was buried in snow, and I couldn’t be there, but for those that showed up, it was epic.
CXM: What are the big cyclocross series’ around you?
WH: VA Cyclocross has a 14 race schedule from the beginning of October through mid-December. Occasionally, our schedule and theirs will coincide at the same race, like the Richmond Festival of ‘Cross last year, and the Virginia Commonwealth and the University of Virginia races this year are during an open weekend in the VA Cyclocross schedule, so if those schools chose to open their races to the public, they would be able to have a much bigger event. I’m definitely more involved in the Virginia area, but I know North Carolina has a pretty extensive cyclocross calendar as well, though there doesn’t seem to be any overlap with our calendar. Of course there