OGDEN -- The Weber State University cycling team is looking forward to a little home-road advantage this weekend, as the Top of Utah hosts the biggest event of the year in collegiate road biking.
About 400 cyclists from more than 100 schools across the nation have descended upon Ogden for the USA Cycling Collegiate Road National Championships, which begin today with a team time trial race at Antelope Island.
Saturday features a criterium championship race starting at noon in downtown Ogden, in which racers make multiple laps around a course encompassing several blocks in the heart of the city.
The events conclude Sunday with a road race that starts in Ogden Valley, loops around Pineview Reservoir, heads down Ogden Canyon, then goes up and over the North Ogden Divide and back to the original starting point at Valley Elementary School in Eden. The women will start at 8 a.m., while the men's race begins at 12:30 p.m.
Winners of the men's and women's races will be crowned national champions for 2012 among Division I and Division II schools.
Weber State, which competes as a Division II school, has high hopes of taking the top spots. WSU is on track for its third consecutive championship in the Inter-Mountain Collegiate Cycling Conference, and three cyclists from the school -- two men and one woman -- are all in the running this weekend.
Team leader Dustin Bashaw, who will participate in today's time trial but not in the weekend events, said all three are legitimate threats to win both the criterium and road races. The team placed second earlier this year in races at the University of Utah, Utah Valley University, and most recently in Morgan.
"We've gone up against some really good competition this year, and I think they (all three team members) have a good chance to win," Bashaw said.
IMCCC Director Kimberly Garvie said Weber State's Toby Nishikawa is the hometown favorite among the Division II women.
"She has time management down to a science," Garvie said. "She works full time, goes to school full time, and is a mom -- and she somehow still finds the time to train, because she's pretty fast on her bike."
Bashaw agrees that Nishikawa has an excellent chance of winning, especially in the criterium race.
"She just rides away from everybody else," he said. "We're looking for her to do some really good things this weekend."
Weber State's hopes don't end there, however. Racer Clint Mortley was the conference champion in both the criterium and road race categories this year, and figures to be at or near the head of the pack Saturday and Sunday.
Mortley, a native of Rexburg, Idaho, will get a special call-out Saturday to join the other conference champions at the front of the line at the start of the criterium race. Bashaw likes Mortley's chances in Sunday's road race as well.
"As long as he can stay with the group up the climb, Clint should do really well in this race," Bashaw said.
Rounding out the Weber State team is Tyler Matson, a local rider who finished fourth out of 38 racers in last year's Tour of Depot in Tooele.
Weber State didn't travel to last year's championships in Wisconsin because of cost constraints, but Bashaw said competing against Division I schools and strong Division II teams from Salt Lake Community College and Southern Utah University this season has helped prepare the team for this weekend.
Spectators are welcome at all of the events, but the courses will be closed to vehicle traffic to accommodate the racers. The downtown section of Ogden between 25th and 27th streets, and from Grant to Ogden avenues, will be closed from 8 a.m. until about 6:30 Saturday. On Sunday, there will be rolling closures along the road course throughout the day. Traffic will be allowed to cross the course during the race under the direction of race marshals at intersections.
Anyone with additional questions about the race or road closures should call 801-778-6254.