When John Borstelmann recounts his victory at the USA Cycling Collegiate Road National Championships, he pauses for a moment, reaching for the right words to fully explain his emotions.
“I just felt proud, I felt elated, I felt like it was all worth it,” he said, not quite satisfied with his response. “I don’t know what the word I’m trying to find is.”
The 26-year-old, who is from Lincoln and currently a junior chemistry major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, fought mountainous altitude in a field of 101 competitors to win the men’s Club Division championship May 6 in Grand Junction, Colorado.
He is the first student from the UNL Cycling Club to win the men’s national title.
The event consists of a 66-mile road race, 80-minute criterium and intermediate sprints during the criterium.
Borstelmann placed fifth in the road race, second in the criterium and won five of the six intermediate sprints. He muscled through the flat criterium course and took the field by storm, making up at least 60 points to take the title.
“I was in fifth place (before the criterium) and no one was expecting me,” he said.
The road race was more of a struggle, he said. The course presented daunting hills and a net elevation gain of 6,000 feet. He also had to compete as the only UNL athlete, making it harder to execute group strategies.
“I ended up doing a lot of work myself and trying to rally and organize these guys around me to work with me,” he said.
Helping more UNL cyclists qualify for next year’s competition is one of Borstelmann’s main goals for next year, his last season at the collegiate level. Only six cyclists raced on the UNL team this year, and he believes at least two more UNL cyclists can qualify for nationals next year.
He hopes to recruit athletes from other UNL club teams and raise interest in the cycling club through yearly road races the club hosts. Road racing is unique from other cycling sports in that it emphasizes teamwork, he said.
Borstelmann is also part of a few cycling clubs in eastern Nebraska — Team Kaos and Harvest Racing. While the college cycling season runs from March to April, these groups compete through the summer, giving him more race opportunities.
After next season, Borstelmann hopes to continue competing as part of a professional team that competes nationally.