Nittany Cycling Classic: Pitt cyclist edges Lion for title

Cyclers compete in Men's B during the Nittany Cycling Classic on Sunday in downtown State College.
Cyclers compete in Men's B during the Nittany Cycling Classic on Sunday in downtown State College. CDT photo

Penn State’s top men’s club cyclists had a plan going into Sunday’s Nittany Cycling Classic — and they looked to be executing it well.

Junior Brett Wachtendorf was in charge of setting a quick pace down the stretch to give defending race champion Wes Kline the distance he needed to close out a strong final lap and win again. When Wachtendorf saw the pace slow with four laps to go, he pushed to the front.

“I knew that couldn’t happen,” he said of the pace slowdown. “I just went for everything I had left in the tank and, you know, went for it,” he said.

But University of Pittsburgh cyclist Michael Oltman had a plan of his own.

Drafting Wachtendorf as long as he could, Oltman knew the Penn State pacesetter would lose steam at some point, giving him a brief opportunity to jump out in front and put as much distance between himself and Kline as possible.

And when Oltman made his move, he wasn’t caught, taking the win with Kline coming across in second place.

The key to the victory, Oltman said, was going as hard as possible into all the turns to put enough distance between Kline that the Nittany Lion couldn’t close the gap on the final straightaway. He said he went into the s-shaped turn, known as a chicane, so fast he almost fell.

“Coming into that last corner, I was just putting it all out there,” Oltman said.

That men’s A race was one of seven races Sunday closing out a weekend that included road races Saturday in Black Moshannon State Park, race director Alicia Cruz-Uribe said. The Sunday races started and ended at the corner of Locust Lane and East Fairmount Avenue in State College, taking approximately one kilometer loops around many of the fraternity houses.

The event was part of a nine-week season of the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference season. Penn State has held one race per year on-and-off dating back to the 1980s, Cruz-Uribe said. The championships are scheduled to be held next week in Providence, R.I.

She said it’s also a good opportunity to promote women’s collegiate cycling, which gets less exposure, because people usually come out to watch the high-speed races throughout the day.

“Generally, it’s a very well-attended and popular event because it’s so exciting to watch,” she said.

Cruz-Uribe said the general strategy for those types of races is to ride directly behind someone as long as possible. If one cyclist is drafting another, the one in the back has to do up to 30 percent less work, she said.

Kline, a junior, still has one more Nittany Cycling Classic left and he will be pushing hard to get back in the winner’s circle. He said that Wachtendorf, who won his road race Saturday, did his job well, but Kline let Oltman get too much of a lead on the final lap.

He said it’s an event he looks forward to every year.

“It’s probably my favorite race,” he said. “With all the frats and all the people, it’s just awesome.”