Matt Willing has been waiting all season long for the road to turn uphill and it finally did in a dramatic fashion at the end of University of Alabama-Huntsville’s road race last Saturday. The 73-mile men’s road race finished up a 1.5 mile climb that averaged 11.5% with a few sections over 20%. While it was a very tactical race for the first 71.5 miles, the final miles were rider vs. hill, a matter of power-to-weight ratios and pure climbing ability. Willing was able to save his energy all day due to the strong work of his teammates helping to bring back a two man break that hammered out a 3 minute advantage at the halfway point. Willing arrived at the final climb fresh and followed an attack at the base of the climb by Lees-McRae’s Eric Thompson and then powered by him to claim his first collegiate victory in convincing fashion by 38 seconds over Thompson who finished 2nd. Peter Haile (LMC) was 3rd, Corey Meyer (Brevard) 4th, and MHC’s Paul Webb finished a strong 5th. Kyle Knott, our designated sprinter, had a very strong ride to finish 11th.
Other strong results over the weekend include Klara Rossouw’s 1st place in the individual time trial, Paul Webb’s 2nd in the time trial, and Webb’s 3rd in the criterium. Our plan to set up Knott for another criterium win came apart on the last lap when he was unable to find Webb’s wheel for the planned lead-out, leaving Webb alone at the front of the field through the last corner. Other results include Knott’s 7th in the criterium, Rossouw and Yolanda Colon’s consistent top tens in both the road race and criterium, and Yonatan Arnold’s 7th in the road race and 5th in the time trial. Both the men and the women won their respective team classifications for the event as well.
Heading into this weekend’s Conference Championships (hosted by Mars Hill), the team has already earned enough points to clinch the overall Division II team title. Rossouw continues to lead all women in the individual rankings, and Paul Webb once again leads all men in the individual rankings. The team also leads the rankings for nationals qualification. But with double points on the line at Conference Championship, the team will have its work cut out to defend those leads.
We look forward to some exciting racing at Conference Championships this weekend.
Big thanks to our hosts in Hunstville, Clinton and Vida Mann, who really went out of their way to make our trip to Alabama stress free. And thanks as always to the team’s sponsors and supporters.