Homecomings are a staple of the fall at college campuses across the country. The same is true at Marian University, but in its case football games and tailgates are replaced with bike races.
Marian’s 2019 Homecoming took place at last weekend’s Major Taylor Cross Cup, and Drew Dillman was there to celebrate the occasion.
I caught up with him on Sunday after his second straight win to ask about the race and his experience racing back at his college home in Indianapolis.
Interview: Drew Dillman, 2019 Major Taylor Cross Cup
Cyclocross Magazine: You said Day 2 could be a problem for you, but clearly it wasn’t. Tell me about that.
Drew Dillman: I played it a little bit more patient today. There was a group of five of us for the first two or three laps. There were a couple of digs, but I just sat in the middle of that group just to see what everyone was going to bring to the table. I think at the end of the third lap, I was feeling decent so I put in a dig and didn’t get that much of an initial gap. I stayed on the gas and 2 seconds tuned into 3 seconds turned into 4 seconds. I never really had a big enough gap that I was comfortable enough to sit up.
At some point yesterday (Day 1) I was like ok, I’ve got a pretty good gap. I can calm down. Today I felt like I couldn’t calm down. I didn’t have that much of a buffer. I had to stay on the gas for the rest of the race. I think I ended up going six laps by myself and I wasn’t comfortable until the last half lap. When I knew it was good. I could see them battling it out behind me, [Cody] Cupp and [Caleb] Swartz. Swartz really wanted it, I’ve raced him a lot and I know he’s strong. It was fun.
It’s definitely being really cool being here, at Marian, especially racing Swartz. He’s a current Marian student and I’m an alumnus. He’s got the whole Marian crew out here cheering but then I’ve got all the alumni out here cheering for me. It’s really a cool dynamic. It feels like a homecoming-type feel.
Especially this year on the velodrome. I’ve never raced the velodrome, today and yesterday are the closest I’ve come to getting on a velodrome. I really like that they added that in. I think that’s going to be a staple of this event that I think a lot of people are going to look at and say, “Darn, I wish I had gone.” They’re going to see the pictures of the velodrome and think, ”What a cool thing to add into a ’cross race.”
CXM: I’ve heard a lot of people say they really liked the changes that were made to the course. You were here last year, and you also won here last year. Could you compare the two?
DD: It’s hard to compare with the weather. I couldn’t imagine what the course this year would be like. Like the infield of the track and the run-up, what that would have been like if it was muddy. It would have been pretty gnarly.
This course and the weather this year I think is the best that it’s ever been. I usually kind of dread coming here, because it’s a foot of water, lightning storms, just terrible [conditions], so it was nice to have a break from that. This year there’s been a lot of mud. Trek was a bizarre muddy race, Cincy [Day 1]. It seems like every weekend there’s been at least one day that’s super muddy and every week I’m having to overhaul my bikes. It will be nice to get a break from that this week.
CXM: You mentioned earlier that you went to Marian, and you’ve obviously spent a lot of time literally here. What’s it like coming back here and racing now that you’re away from this area a lot of the time?
DD: It’s cool. Last night I got to stay with a buddy of mine I went to school with, Josh Johnson, who is actually a previous winner of this race. He beat me in a sprint one year. But he doesn’t race as serious now, he’s got two kids, so it’s cool to see old friends like that. It’s almost cooler than winning, you know? To see him and his two kids, and his wife, and to see him doing so well.
And to see Dean [Peterson], he’s in the process of taking a step away from the cycling team so it’s really cool to see him. It seems like he was a lot more relaxed. He’s the head coach of Marian Cycling, that’s a lot of pressure to have. It was cool to catch up with him.
I’ve got a bunch of friends that are still working at Marian. It’s really cool to catch up with all of them. We, me and my wife CJ, were able to go to church with some friends that live up here that support me really well through racing. It’s really cool because I’ve got a lot of friends that live here in Indy who support me and cheer for me.
CXM: The life that happens outside bike racing.
DD: Yeah, not just that one-hour time frame. I built a lot of relationships and friendships, yeah.
CXM: What’s next this season?
DD: I think there’s a lot of talk about people training this week. I’m training, this week will be a block, then Tulsa in two weeks, Ruts n’ Guts. I’m curious to see who all will be at that race. Then likely Carter Park, the last OVCX race, then Nats. That will be the end of my season.
CXM: How are you approaching Nationals after such a good showing last year?
DD: Well, I hear there’s a lot of running. So I’m feeling pretty good about it. Especially after having a good weekend here. I think things are shaping up exactly how we want them to be.
CXM: Was today’s run-up a run for you?
DD: Yeah, I ran it. I thought about riding it in the last lap but nobody was there, so that changed that.
CXM: You’ve said before that running is something that works well for you, so you’re looking to play on that again?
DD: Yeah! Oh yeah! Especially after Nats last year. I’m pretty sure a large reason why I got fouth was from running.
CXM: Good luck to you for the rest of your season. We’ll see you at Nationals.
DD: Thank you.