|MSU Texas grad student wins national cycling title in runaway|
Zach Gregg had a college career as an accomplished lacrosse player at Colorado Mesa where he earned a bachelor’s degree.
But he decided he needed more — more education and more competition. The fire for both still burned inside and Midwestern State University had exactly what the 26-year-old needed, offering a chance to compete in cycling and pursue his master’s degree in exercise physiology.
It’s safe to call that a winning decision. Gregg recently earned a championship at the 2019 USA Cycling Collegiate Road Nationals in the time trials event at Augusta, Georgia. The victory wasn’t a surprise to Gregg or MSU Texas Cycling Coach Charlie Zamastil.
“Zach had a great year,” Zamastil said. “He hasn’t lost a time trial all season. He’s been a machine.”
Both athlete and coach tried to be outwardly cautious though they were inwardly optimistic going to nationals. Gregg won a conference championship in his first season with MSU Cycling. But then the prep for nationals was slowed by a knee injury.
However, nothing slowed him in Augusta when it came to his signature event, the time trial. He won first place by a whopping two minutes and 40 seconds. “I was expecting it to be a whole bunch closer,” Gregg said. “It was definitely exciting with all that intensity for the time trial and being able to go that fast on a road bike. We put a lot of work in and it was great to be able to execute.”
Zamastil was at the finish line when Gregg came into view. The coach was anxious to hold up the MSU-themed national championship jersey with red, white and blue stars and stripes. It was the 40th title for the program and ninth individual title since 2013.
“When he crossed the finish line they were confused because they weren’t expecting him for two more minutes,” Zamastil said. “He was two minutes and 40 seconds faster than anyone else, which is insane.”
A decisive win just made things more fun, Gregg said. His parents, from Roanoke, Virginia, made the trip for a rare chance to see him race in person. His mission was to “put on a show for them.” Zamastil agreed the newest champion from MSU Texas did just that with an aggressive sixth-place finish in the criterium.
“He was all over the track and tried many times to form a break, but if you have a break it takes a group of collectively strong guys; he essentially pulled that group around,” Zamastil said.
The race officials noticed, Zamastil said with pride. “In the Tour de France they have a most aggressive rider who animates the race. We don’t have that designation in collegiate cycling but the announcer called (Gregg) over and said we’re going to call him our unofficial most aggressive rider.”
It was by design, Gregg said. “There are a lot of politics and strategy in cycling and you only have a couple of teammates. A couple of schools had us outnumbered, and I just wanted to be super aggressive. I wanted to keep the race super disorganized,” Gregg said with pride. “I’d attack and then two or three people would go with me. As soon as they get you back in the group they relax and I just kept making them chase.”
There was a sound that came when Gregg played disruptor and to him it was affirmation. “Every time I’d attack there would be this mutual groan,” Gregg said. “I had more fun in that race just mixing it up and upsetting the status quo. It was super fun. The time trial was the stressful thing and then the pressure was off.”
For the record, James Hilyer of Fort Lewis College took first in the criterium.
MSU CYCLING RESULTS
Gregg plans to be back with Team Arrow in 2019-20. Zamastil is pleased to have a championship building block as he hopes to see the team compete once again. MSU Cycling was in elite company once again this season, finishing second overall behind only Savannah College in the USA Cycling Division II varsity team rankings.
Pablo Cruz was eighth in the road race, which was shortened by race officials because of bad weather. Other MSU Texas men’s finishes in the time trials were Cruz, 18th, 1:18.48; Joshua Buchel, 30th, 1:20.13; Alan Barrows, 41st, 1:22.41; and Morgan Ballesteros, 53rd, 1:22.41. Brissia Montalvo of MSU was 34th in the women’s standings with a 1:16.35.
There were hills on the course used for nationals, and Gregg has experienced different conditions since joining the cycling world. He said riding around Wichita Falls has been great for preparation.
“If you can ride consistently in Wichita Falls you can ride anywhere,” Gregg said. “The more you pay attention to wind direction and heat and what’s coming up on the next turn, the more well prepared you are for races anywhere in the country. Coming from Wichita Falls you have an advantage. I know it was a steep learning curve for my first Hotter’N Hell Hundred.”
PAY IT FORWARD
It was quite a change going from the lacrosse field to cycling up hills in the heat. Gregg’s next goal is to help the next Team Arrow champion.
“The carryover from lacrosse was understanding the consistency of hard work in the gym and weight room,” Gregg said. “I’m looking forward to summer and elite nationals with the time trials. And next year I would like to repeat as conference champion or set up one of my incoming teammates for the same thing. I’d like to utilize the team tactics I’ve learned and pay that forward to help someone win. To grow in that respect would be huge for me.”