VCU cyclists open hometown event with signature win

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Virginia Commonwealth University student Chris Jones won the Division I men's individual time trial Friday in the 2014 USA Cycling Collegiate Road National Championships in Richmond, marking a formidable start for the VCU contingent competing in the races featuring roughly 400 athletes from 115 colleges and universities.

"It was awesome," said Jones, a senior general health and physical education major from Richmond. "I mean, it was hard. I knew my time was good after I finished, but I didn't know it was that good. The waiting game was awful, waiting around to see if I'd won. But I can't complain!"

Jones said he never imagined that he might win Friday's race, which he finished with a time of 43:24.64. "Honestly," he said, "it was unbelievable."

Jones is one of three VCU students competing in the weekend's cycling races. Along with Jones are Evan Lang, a senior environmental studies major from Charlottesville, and Alena Pugacheva, a senior biology major who moved to the United States from Russia in 2008.

"I am blown away that I am taking part in this race, that it is even happening in the City of Richmond," Lang said. "This is an excellent opportunity to show off the city and VCU to the country."

All three of the VCU cyclists are members of the Cycling Club at VCU.

"I am very lucky to be able to participate at the Collegiate Cycling National championships here in Richmond," Pugacheva said. "We are also fortunate to race on some of the Richmond 2015 courses. I hope this event will help to promote cycling in Richmond."

Jones, who was the first of the VCU cyclists to race on Friday, got into cycling the summer before his freshman year at VCU.

"I bought a bike as a kind of commuter and form of exercise going into my freshman year of college," he said. "And then started racing my freshman year of college."

Jones said he most enjoys the camaraderie of cycling. "Richmond offers an incredible cycling community," he said. "That's what I like most about cycling – the community."

The individual time trial, which Jones won, is his favorite event, he said. In that race, a lone cyclist races against the clock.

"It's the kind of event where the strongest person wins," he said. "A lot of times in races, it can come down to luck or it can come down to position. With an individual time trial, it's just the fastest rider. If you lose it's because you didn't go fast enough not because something happened in the race."

Lang said the VCU team feels it may have a bit of an advantage, being familiar with Richmond's streets.

"All of the roads in the races are those that I have ridden since I have been riding in Richmond, so I feel that I have a home course advantage, on some level," he said.

Lang did not get into cycling until coming to VCU, but quickly fell in love with the sport, he said.

"In high school I got my first bike, rode it five or six times and then let it collect dust in the shed. Then I came to college and during the summer between my freshman and sophomore years I met the Cycling Club at VCU at the Watermelon Festival in Carytown. They were out doing a fundraiser and I decided that I should start riding with this club since I remembered how great it was riding in high school. It was then that I really became serious about cycling."

Since then, he said, cycling has brought "so much satisfaction" to his life.

"It has helped change my life for the better, gets me up in the morning and keeps me going," Lang said. "I look forward to cycling every day."


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