Road nationals was held in Richmond on May 2-4 and was a test event for the 2015 UCI World Road Championships. Riders competed on the same courses that will be used for that event, which required shutting down the majority of downtown Richmond for three days. This road nats was the most professionally organized and executed collegiate event we’ve ever attended.
The individual and team time trials were on Friday. The course was two laps of a 9.6 mile downtown circuit that included 40 corners, roundabouts, and turnarounds, as well as a long section of brick pavers. Each individual racer and team had its own police escort. Strong winds, technical corners, and a short but sharp climb were the main obstacles. Our men’s TTT team (Tim, Jake, Chad, and Mauro) went off at 10:13am and after the first lap they were in 2nd place to Colorado Mesa University by 19 seconds. Unfortunately, we lost one rider in the first lap and would have to finish the race with only three riders, but the goal was a negative split for the second lap, hoping that CMU had perhaps started too fast and that we would make up the time needed to win. Our second lap was one second faster, but CMU managed to hold on to their 19 second lead for the win. Our time for the 19.2 mile course was 42:09 with CMU posting a 41:49. In the individual races, Hunter Resek and Catherine Harnden represented the team. Hunter finished in 24th and Catherine in 19th, both solid rides.
Saturday’s criterium was held on a 1 mile circuit that included 6 corners and a big hill on the back side, which came immediately after 4 tight turns in a row. The goal was to get up to the front and stay there since we anticipated that only a third of the starters would make it to the end. In the women’s race, Catherine did her best to negotiate a crash through the tight corners and finished 35th.
In the men’s race, all four riders made it to the front within the first 5 laps, but the effort to get there made it tough to stay there. Half way through, we only had Tim and Chad left in the front and rapidly dwindling group. Tim had the ride of a lifetime, using his cornering ability to create gaps and attack the field on consecutive laps up the hill. Eventually, he got away solo with Charlie Hough of Furman quickly joining him. Working together, they built up a lead of up to 22 seconds, which they maintained to the finish. Tim tried to ditch Charlie in the corners, but he caught back on at the top of the hill. He tried again in the last corner but was caught and passed in the final 200 meters and took home a hard-earned silver medal. Chad finished in the front group in 26th place. Only 28 riders out of 90 starters finished on the lead lap. Due to winning a number of points prime sprints, Tim was tied on points with Charlie for the individual omnium, a competition that the road race would decide.
As we’ve come to expect at nationals, Sunday’s road race was fraught with mechanicals and crashes. With a course similar to the time trials but with the addition of two cobbled sections–one a downhill screamer at 35+ mph, the other a 10% climb up Libby Hill–it was imperative to stay at the front. In the women’s race, Catherine had a good first lap, and her downhill mountain biking skills made the cobbles an easy obstacle, but the hills took their toll and she eventually finished a respectable 32nd. In the men’s race, the battle for position in the first lap brought us some bad luck: Chad had a mechanical that required service, Mauro fell in a crash near the front, John broke a carbon wheel on the cobbled descent, and Hunter couldn’t get back on the group after being held up by the crash. Only Tim came around that first lap in the front group, and we thought the race was effectively over for the rest of the team. However, Chad and Mauro found each other and started working with a group to chase back on. Starting nearly two minutes down on the front group, they put in an amazing effort to catch the lead group on lap three after two laps of all out chasing. Meanwhile, Tim was off the front in a two man break on lap two. The matches we were burning early would leave us with little firepower in the closing laps.
With two laps to go Mauro had a rear flat and couldn’t regain the front group. With one lap to go, Tim was off the back by a couple of minutes, leaving only Chad in a position to race for the top spots. As the race exploded into several small groups, Chad hung on for a very solid 20th place. Tim finished 36th and managed to hold on to a individual omnium podium spot in 5th. Overall, the team finished in 9th place at road nats and finished the year as the 3rd ranked DII team in the nation, the fourth year in a row that we’ve finished in the top three.
It was a great event with huge support from the city of Richmond and the 2015 World’s organizers. We’re already looking forward to next year’s road nationals, which will be near Mars Hill in Asheville, NC, with courses in Marshall and downtown Asheville only 10-20min from campus. For now, we’ll take a short break, focus on our graduating seniors (Tim and Catherine) and then start planning for next fall and the first big event of the year in Indianapolis, track nationals.
Thanks to all of our sponsors, supporters, and friends of Mars Hill Cycling. We couldn’t do it without you!
Beer City Bicycles
Kolo Bike Park
The Gear Attic
Asheville Pizza Co.