Another trip down to sunny Florida last weekend, this time to defend our conference lead at Florida State University. The trip was long but worth it. We arrived in Tallahassee after 11:30pm on Friday and were happy to find our host house–offered up by longtime cycling friends Jason Snow and Will Thompson–and eat a snack and hit the air mattress. After a solid six hours of sleep, we were up, toasting bagels, and getting ramped up for the weekend’s first event, the TTT. It went well: both the women’s and men’s teams claimed first place in Div II. Then after a brief respite of sandwich-making and suntanning, we got ready for the “hilly” 16-mile loop along the Florida and Georgia border.
The first lap for the A men didn’t go so well. Actually, it was a complete disaster. Paul Webb crashed while attempting to follow what would be the winning breakaway and in the effort snapped his chain. He was fortunately rather uninjured, but the accident had caused a disruption in the field that the attacking riders made sure to take advantage of. At the end of the first lap, we only had one rider, Kyle Knott, in the field and no one in the seven man breakaway. Ouch. By the end of lap two, Matt Willing had gotten back on terms with the peloton despite having to stop twice to reseat his chain due to a malfunctioning derailler pulley. Francisco Fuster was also back in the group. Nikola Milanovic never made it back after the crash and settled into a nice, long training day in the sun.
As soon a Matt made contact with the field, he recognized the dire situation the team was in and threw down an attack to try to get a group to bridge to the break. But no one followed, and Matt rode the next 45 miles alone, distancing the field but never able to catch the breakaway. By the finish, Matt caught and passed two riders who had been dropped from the break and rode home for an impressive Jens Voigt style finish for 6th place. Kyle won the field sprint for 9th quite handily and Fuster earned enough points for the team in 15th to win the team overall for the road race. Not what we’d planned, but the end result was better than any hopes we’d had after that miserable first lap. Maitland Jones from Tallahassee Community College won the race by outsprinting his breakaway companions, making it look easy in the process.
In the Women’s A road race, the field stayed together despite a number of attacks. Klara Rossouw tried one last attack up the feed zone “hill” with about 2 miles to go but she was quickly covered and decided to wait for the group sprint. Coming down the last 200 meters to the line, it looked like Heather Davis from UF had the edge but Klara came back on her just in time and won by inches in an exciting photo finish, bike throws included.
At Saturday’s criterium, the A women raced before the A men and again the race ended in a group sprint, but this time up a small rise. Klara timed her sprint to perfection and once again came across the line first ahead of Heather Davis from UF. Emily Fancher from UGA was third. Klara’s dominant performance over the weekend catapulted her into the overall omnium lead, just a handful of points ahead of Davis.
The men’s race started fast and furious with lots of attacks, counter-attacks, and attempts to win the sprint primes. A little over halfway through a group of five escaped. Once again, MHC was not represented. Paul Webb attempted to bridge up to the front group with a couple of other riders but got stuck in no man’s land and settled for a strong 7th place finish. Kyle Knott once again, and with the help of a leadout from his teammates over the last three laps, won the field sprint in convincing fashion.
After all the points were tallied, Mars Hill now leads the Div II conference standings by a wider margin. MHC has 282 points in the team standings, King College is second with 84 points, University of Central Florida is third with 57 points, and Furman and College of Charleston are tied with 56 points each. In addition, Klara Rossouw leads the women’s division and Paul Webb is now in 3rd overall with Kyle Knott in 7th in the mens’ A overall category. Paul and Kyle are in 1st and 3rd in the Div II rankings.
Next stop is Georgia Southern University this weekend, where teams will continue to tackle the TTT, RR, and Crit format. We expect more competition this weekend as more teams seek to gain points for nationals qualification.
As always, we thank our sponsors and supporters for giving us the resources we need to race our bikes. Go Green Team!