During his career at Brevard College in North Carolina, Lewis Gaffney has been a part of eight national championship biking teams. His teams won NCAA Division II national omnium titles in mountain biking three times, twice in cyclocross and once in road biking. Gaffney was also a part of two national championship team relays.
After his performance in Boulder, Colo., Jan. 12, Gaffney can now add an individual national title to his resumé.
The Angel Fire local and Team FITaos rider won the Cyclocross collegiate DII National Champion stars-and-stripes jersey, finishing the race in 49 minutes, 37 seconds — 30 seconds faster than the national runner-up.
“It was an amazing feeling,” Gaffney said. “It felt so good to have a race with good luck, to feel good and have it actually work out.”
Lined up on the front row at the start, Gaffney was off hot and got the “hole shot” leading around the first turn. He battled with another rider for first on the first two laps, then took the lead when the competitor took an off-camber turn a little steep and broke his derailleur.
“If you took your focus off (the course) for a second it could end in disaster,” Gaffney said. “Boulder was one of the rare courses where it was almost more fun to ride than race.”
Gaffney attacked on the next four laps to build a healthy, 30-second gap on his chasers, and finished the eight-lap race without any mistakes while maintaining a hard pace. His win also clinched the collegiate DII cyclocross team omnium championship for Brevard College, their second in a row.
Gaffney also started the Team Relay for Brevard, which Brevard won, and then worked his way to finish 12th in the USA Cycling Pro U23 Championship on Saturday, racing for the American Classic Pro Team on a Raleigh bike.
Cyclocross is one of the four cycling disciplines, combining aspects of both road cycling and mountain biking. The bikes used are essentially road bikes with knobby, high-traction tires and mechanical components modified to handle mud, snow and ice — all part of the strictly-winter cycling sport. Riders compete by riding several laps on a spectator-friendly course that is designed to challenge every aspect of cycling, including speed, balance, handling and determination. There are mandatory sand traps, mud traps, stairs to climb while carrying the bicycle and twisty turns throughout the course.
Gaffney, who is currently a senior at Brevard College, started mountain biking at an early age, joining Team F.I.T. of Taos with his family in its beginning. He raced for years wearing the Team F.I.T. jersey, ascending through the ranks of mountain biking in the New Mexico Off Road Series and Mountain States Cup mountain bike races, which is mainly in Colorado. The Team F.I.T. cycling team, with founders and co-captains Suzie Fiore and Sean Cassily, supported and sponsored him from the beginning, giving him the instruction and chance to make it to the national level. In April of 2010, his senior year at Moreno Valley High School, Gaffney was en route to his first national USA Cycling race, the Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, Calif. The coach from the up-and-rising Brevard College Cycling Team then called him and offered him a cycling scholarship to come to North Carolina. Prior to that call, Gaffney had narrowed his college choices to Fort Lewis College and Colorado State University, both with top cycling teams, but chose Brevard as “something new.” In his four years at Brevard, graduating this spring with a Bachelor’s Degree in Math and Exercise Science, Gaffney and his teammates dominated the NCAA Division II cycling scene.
This spring, Gaffney and his teammates will go for their second road cycling national championship in a row.
It seems like he made a wise decision.
“The team omniums were really cool to be a part of,” Gaffney said. “It’s been a good run. I couldn’t have asked for a better team.”
After graduation, Gaffney plans on pursuing a professional bike racing career, looking to race at the national level working his way to the UCI World Cup level. “That’s the dream,” he said. He’ll continue training with the American Classic Pro Team, racing in both cyclocross and mountain biking, He’s also considering pursuing a graduate degree in Bio-Medical Engineering.
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