All you need is love – a love for cycling that is, and that is something the UCSB cycling team has a lot of. Love coupled with hard work has brought the team a long way this year.

The Gauchos started out the season with a team of predominantly first year riders, but that did not deter them.

“It was a bit of a challenge to learn how to race a bike and train,” physics graduate student Philip Chang said.

Looking to student leadership as well as the expertise of Coach Carlos Soto, the team has been training all year. “Carlos has helped out us a lot,” sophomore team captain Karl Nielsen said. “Also, the success wouldn’t be possible without the sponsors.”

The sponsors help cover the high costs of cycling. Expenses include race registration, transportation, lodging, equipment and more.

The cycling team has been competing in races all year, learning from each one. Santa Barbara put on its first race in close to four years, and though it was a great deal of work, it proved to be the turning point in the Gauchos’ season.

“Our race was our turning point; everyone raced really well,” Chang said. “It was really satisfying to have that weekend, and after that we’ve just been riding a lot better.”

The Gauchos have had a lot of great finishes this season on both the men’s and women’s sides. Nielsen and fellow member Aaron Patterson won two races last weekend at Stanford. Lana Eriksson got two first place finishes at Sea Otter, one of the biggest events in the nation. Kristiana Kocis placed third behind Eriksson in the under 23 category circuit race.

The UCSB cycling team will compete in its last race of the year this weekend in the Western Collegiate Cycling Conference Championships. The Championship, hosted by Cal Poly, will consist of a road race, a criterium and a team time trial.

In the 11-mile team trial, the teams will start with four riders and have to finish with at least three. The members have practiced working together to get the rotation right, being as close as possible and working as a cohesive team to achieve the best results.

“It is very competitive. There was a 32-second difference between our seventh place finish and the first place team at Stanford last weekend,” Nielsen said. “The flatter the course is, the faster we go relative to the other teams.”

The road race will take place Saturday and is 60 miles long. The criterium, or crit, is a series of loops around a one-mile course. This weekend’s racers in the crit will go around 25 times. Sophomore Barrett Ausman is looking to end his second year on the team on a high note.

“My main focus is on the road race and the crits; that’s my strongest event and what I’m used to,” Ausman said. “Hopefully we’ll kick some butt and get a lot of points.”

In collegiate races points are awarded to the winners, and this weekend all points will be doubled, making for a heated competition as teams look to finish strong.

“Teams will be scrambling for position as things get down to the wire,” Ausman said. “It’s very intense.”

The Gauchos will be no exception and look to end their season on a positive note.

“We should be finishing pretty well, aiming for ninth place out of 23 teams,” Nielsen said. “For us, being such a small and young team, that’s not bad at all.”

Looking back on the year, the team can attest to a feeling of pure satisfaction.

“We’re pretty proud of everyone and the huge effort that everyone has put out to make the season the most successful in 10 years,” Chang said.

Although this weekend’s event brings the 2003-04 racing season to a close, the Gauchos will continue to race in the summer while relaxing a little under the sun as well.

“We’ll take a big sigh of relief,” Nielsen said.