After two weeks of grueling training in the mountains of the Carolinas, the Cycling team shifted and began to crank out a string of impressive individual and team finishes. Both at Dartmouth and Brown last week, and at Williams and Cornell this weekend, the team established themselves as one of the premier clubs in the Eastern Conference.
The freezing conditions at Dartmouth served as a painful reminder that the team was no longer able to enjoy the South Carolina sun and near-ideal road conditions. Despite the weather and rough course, the Ephs quickly earned points in the D and C men’s races due to the efforts of John Wiedower ’00 and Andrew Gow ’00 who finished fifth and sixth respectively. Carrie Ryan ’00 placed tenth and junior Erryn Leinbaugh eighth in the women’s and men’s B races, while Megan Lawson ’98 continued her impressive victory streak by strongly outsprinting the field in the women’s A race. Captain Jed White ’98 also gained points in the exciting men’s A race while competing against some of the best cyclists in the nation.
The next criterium became a staging ground for the best Williams performance in four years, as the Ephs placed second at the Brown Criterium. Wiedower began the point-scoring frenzy with a dominating victory in the D race. In the C race, Gow, Aaron Applebaum ’01, and Steve Hibbard ’00 pooled their efforts to wrap up seventh through ninth, while Leinbaugh and senior Jim Rowe sprinted to sixth and thirteenth. Lawson broke away decisively to claim another victory in the women’s A race. In the men’s A race, Ben Stafford ’98 was mooed to a season best sixth place finish to conclude the weekend.
The Ephs weren’t satisfied with placing eight cyclists, and improved to place eleventh on Saturday in the Williams Criterium. Under the leadership of Hibbard and great support from fellow Ephs, the Williams Criterium easily became the best-designed, most well planned race this year. The beautiful racing weather reinforced the Ephs’ determination to use the home field advantage to its utmost, and it became clear after the first race that the Williams cyclists were having their way with the rest of the field.
At 10:00 a.m. the D cyclists sprinted off behind Mission Park and up the Park Street hill. As the pack separated, the Ephs used strategy and sheer power to break away and begin lapping the field. Wiedower complemented his medal winning performance at Brown by winning every prime lap and sprinting to victory while his fellow Ephs mopped up the competition, eventually winning four out of the seven places. Along with Wiedower’s victory, Matt Walton ’98 took a strong third, Brian Werner ’01 grabbed fifth, and seventh place was taken by Reed Wiedower ’00. Ryan Hayman ’01 and Nat White ’99 also completed terrific races.
The technically challenging Williams course proved to help the Ephs maintain their points lead in the C race, as Gow, Applebaum, Hibbard and Tom LaRocca ’00 used the tight corners extremely effectively. The C cyclists stayed near the front of the pack, and so were able to finish strongly on the uphill sprint. Gow finished only half a wheel behind second, while Applebaum continued claiming points by taking eighth. LaRocca and Hibbard completed the Eph places with tenth and eleventh.
Ryan was the sole Eph in the women’s B race, but attacked the course fiercely. Like the other Williams cyclists, she combined both quick thinking and mountain trained muscles and completed her 15 laps in a strong fifth.
The laps increased to 25 for those riding men’s Bs to match the increased pace. Rowe, Leinbaugh, and Will Ronco ’01 kept the pack streaking past the harrowing Dodd corner and up the windy back stretch. While the Ephs faced some of the deepest teams in the conference including UNH and UMass, the Williams cyclists intimidated the more numerous outsiders with their sprinting skills and excellent cornering abilities. Though a mid-race crash forced Rowe and Leinbaugh to a dead stop, they placed eleventh and thirteenth respectively after making up considerable ground.
Megan Lawson’s victories in the past weeks were both impressive and outstanding, but none came close to the exhilarating performance put on by the senior on Saturday. Lawson began pulling the race for the first few laps, with a few stragglers drafting off her wheel, but by the first prime lap she had dropped them all and began to lap the pack. It would be difficult to top her trophy-earning victory at Brown without both willpower and strength, but Lawson had an excess of both in addition to fine decision making skills, and used all of them to lap rider after rider. By the time the women’s A race was over, Lawson had lapped all but three of the field, some multiple times, and was only meters away from lapping the eventual third place cyclist. Her closest competition was more than half a lap away, but the true testament to the Eph’s finish was the fact that the other riders were some of the strongest in both the region and the conference.
The men’s A race proved to be as thrilling as the women’s, with spectacular turns, incredible breakaways and an exciting finish. Stafford began the excitement with a break only four laps into the 35 lap race, and soon built up a 15 second lead. By the time the pack realized what the Eph was doing, it was too late and Stafford had won both the first prime and placed in the second. White stayed in the pack during Stafford’s break, and afterwards began to slowly move up position by position until he was able to compete for the final sprint. As the A riders rounded the final corner, the tightest and closest sprint of the day began up Park Street. The best riders hurled their bikes back and forth as they rocked their way up towards the officials, and White placed well among them in eighteenth. After all the points had been totaled, Williams emerged with a third place team standing and a gutsy effort at home.
On Sunday the Ephs traveled to Cornell for their first road race of the season, determined to place well even with a slightly smaller number of riders. As could be expected, the Ephs didn’t disappoint as they traversed the mountainous 22-mile loop and final kilometer wall sprint. In the C race Hibbard took a strong eleventh while Applebaum also placed well. LaRocca and Wiedower had mechanical difficulty in the Cs, but in the D race Walton took points in fifth place. Ryan also finished in fifth up the extremely steep final sprint, as did Lawson in the A race. In the men’s B race, Leinbaugh’s bike stayed healthy as he pushed it during the pack sprint to grab seventeenth. However, all these finishes served as mere preludes to the men’s A race, in which, despite two breakaway riders, ended in a huge pack sprint up the wall. Both Stafford and White thoroughly enjoyed their first road race this year as shown by their position and strength coming into the final sprint. All the Carolina training paid off as the two screamed upwards past other riders across the finish. White took eleventh while Stafford nailed eighth place, completing both an incredible day of road racing and a wonderful weekend of near perfection by the Williams Cycling Team. As the team approaches the Army race weekend and Easterns in two weeks, their commitment and determination is both clear and contagious.