For most Kansas University students, these last few weeks of semester are hectic, with essays and the need to study for the looming finals week.
But the KU club cycling team has another thing to focus on - the USA Cycling Collegiate Road National Championships returning to Lawrence this weekend, the last of three straight years for Lawrence to serve as host.
"To take a normal student workload and top it off with a 20-hour-a-week job of being an athlete - that's a lot to carry going into the final week of the semester," said David McLeod, the women's coach and a Ph.D. candidate in ecology and evolutionary biology who races for the men's team. "I suppose it's no different for a cyclist than it is for any other athlete, it's just that our event comes at the end of the semester. : It's not just a, 'Hey, lets hop on the bike and go for a ride.' It is a part-time, and in some cases a full-time, job to be a collegiate cyclist."
The KU cycling club finished second at the North Central Collegiate Cycling Conference championships in Manhattan the last weekend in April, with riders Jason Knight and Kristen High each finishing third in overall conference points.
"There was a tactical move that kind of cut Jason out, but he was in place for a podium finish in the criterium," McLeod said. "He was in place to win the conference criterium championship, and it was just one other person's move that bumped him out of the barriers and caused him to finish up where he did."
Knight - formerly was a graduate student in chemistry now a junior in mechanical engineering - McLeod and High, a senior in graphic design, are just three of seven Kansas cyclists scheduled to ride in the three-day championship.
Kathy Kalbac, the president of the cycling club and graduate student in architecture, is the only other woman to join High in the competition.
Christian Beer (junior in economics), Jeff Schroeder (grad student in geology) and John Giles (fourth-year senior in biological sciences) also will race over the weekend, with Beer and Schroeder joining Knight as the KU men's representatives in the criterium.
"Jeff and Jason, together, in the crit, especially, have a really excellent chance of doing well in nationals," McLeod said. "I think in the road races they could do well, but I think our hope is being put on the crit race on Sunday. : I think Christian is also in a really great position to do well in that crit race. It's just a matter of conditioning - how they've been preparing for this race and how have they been performing at other races?"