The MHC cyclocross team (Matt Willing, Paul Webb, and Kyle Knott) showed their true grit and pulled off some impressive performances during yesterday’s NCCX races held at Jackson Park in Hendersonville, NC. The first race of the day was the first ever Southeastern Collegiate Men’s Cyclocross Championship, and nearly 30 riders from the conference started in cold but rather dry conditions. From the first lap, a group of four went clear, including MHC’s Matt willing, Lees McRae’s Eric Thompson and Brad Perley, and Savannah College of Art and Design’s Ryan Leech. About midway through the race, Eric had pulled into the lead by about ten seconds over Matt who had had gapped Ryan and Brad behind him. Matt was leading the Div II category and looked to be pulling away from his closest Div II rival, Ryan Leech. But when Matt came out of the forest in fourth place running with his bike downhill, it became apparent that Matt had flatted his front tire. With the pits at about their furthest point, Matt had no choice but to run for nearly a mile before getting a new wheel, his race for the championship effectively over. Still, the boys did good: Matt finished a solid 2nd; Paul recovered from an early crash to finish 3rd, and Kyle outfoxed three LMC riders during the last half lap to win his group and claim 4th in Div II. Without a doubt, MHC is the strongest cyclocross team in the Southeastern Conference, Div II, and the winners of the Div II team championship. With luck on our side, we may have won the individual title too, but we’re content to get our bad luck out of the way now and keep our eyes on the prize at the National Championships in Bend, Oregon, on December 13th
After the collegiate race, Kyle headed back to Virginia and Matt and Paul got prepared to race again later in the day. First Matt competed in the UCI Elite race against some of the country’s top talent, including two riders who represented the USA at last year’s World Championships. By the afternoon start, the rain had been steadily falling for a few hours and the course had turned to slippery mud. Matt started on the back row of a large field and worked his way up to a solid 19th by the end.
In the final event of the day, the men’s category 2/3 event, Paul Webb started strong and finished strong, riding in third place from the first lap until the end. The course by this time was totally destroyed by the rain and two full days of racing, but watching the racers negotiate the slick mud did make for a fun spectating event.