On Saturday the Williams Cycling Team put on the annual Williams Criterium, hosting over twenty teams from the Northeast. Despite sharing a race date with the University of Pittsburgh, Williams still managed to draw hundreds of cyclists to one of the most technical and challenging courses ever run in the Eastern Conference.
The Williams Criterium course begins at the back of Mission Park, turns left and proceeds uphill along Park Street and then turns left on Mission Park Drive. It then winds down Mission Park Drive towards the infamous Dodd corner, and then abruptly turns again onto Southworth Street, where it straightens out until the left turn back onto Lynde Lane and along the back side of the Park.
The finish line lies halfway up the Park Street stretch, which places it atop a short but steep hill. This hill combines with the perilous Dodd and Southworth corners over the .9 mile course to both break up fields of riders as well as cause the occasional accident.
Saturday proved to be especially hazardous for most riders, as the day began with rain and it continued to shower off and on throughout the day’s proceedings, even interrupting sunshine with a hailstorm during the Men’s A race. The Williams Cycling team knew the hazards of the course better than the other riders, and began to prove it in the very first race of the day, Men’s Ds.
With five riders entered, including four new additions to the team, Williams initially seemed to have the numbers, if not the experience.
The pack quickly disintegrated by the second lap of the fifteen lap race into a break group consisting of Mark Walrod ’01 and Reed Wiedower ’00 and a larger pack of nine riders including sophomores Jason Lemieux and Noel Johnson and junior Jason Frink. Every four laps of the race a prime lap was held with the top four finishers earning team points and the occasional prize from the Williams Cycling Team.
By the first prime, it was clear that Walrod and Wiedower were going to take first and second not only in every prime, but in the entire race itself. As the duo racked up team points, Lemieux left the other riders behind and began to pull away as well. By the end of the race, Williams was out to an impressive lead with a 1-2-3 finish consisting of Walrod, R. Wiedower, and Lemieux.
As the rain began to fall, the Men’s Cs started navigating the tricky course. Though riding the same distance, the larger field had more trouble with the tight corners and soon the sounds of twisting, scraping metal and shouts were all too familiar to the field.
John Wiedower ’00 stayed near the front of the pack, and was able to both avoid the wrecks as well as sprint to claim first place in two of the three primes, and second in the other prime.
The somewhat slower pace of the C race, due mainly to the dangerous conditions, resulted in an all out pack sprint for the finish, in which J. Wiedower and an Army cyclist battled to a photo finish. J. Wiedower was revealed to have placed second, only inches behind his opponent.
By the Men’s B race, it was clear that Williams needed to repeat its earlier success to have a shot of finishing among the top teams, mainly due to the withdrawal of two Williams A cyclists because of injury and illness. Aaron Applebaum ’01 rose to the occasion, claiming team points in multiple primes as he battled for position during the longer and faster B race.
Like the C race, the B race unfortunately included multiple crashes, including one on Southworth Street that littered one lawn with twisted bicycles. As the ambulance rushed to treat various injuries, Applebaum fought his way through a pack sprint into second place, thus claiming even more points for the Williams Cycling Team.
The Men’s A race was equally hazardous, as Erryn Leinbaugh ’99, after battling with the pack for many laps, fell off the back only to collide into a Tufts rider walking across the course.
Despite the tragic conclusion to the day, Williams still managed to grab fourth place overall firmly and make a strong points gain towards Nationals. The well-organized race ensured that the Williams Criterium would continue to be run in future years, due to the effort of Race Organizer Will Ronco ’01.
On Sunday the cycling team traveled to Hartford for the University of Massachusetts Road Race. Unlike the technical and dangerous Williams Criterium, the UMass Road Race featured a five-mile loop with large corners and no significant hills.
The cyclists’ day began with the Women’s B race, totaling five laps and twenty-five miles. Courtney Bennigson ’01, in her first collegiate race, used her triathletically honed skills to pace herself well and also chased down breaks on the unusually flat circuit. Bennigson finished in the pack, and showed that she would be a valuable asset in future races.
The Men’s C cyclists seemed decidedly uninterested in following the screaming pace set the day before at Williams, and instead traveled leisurely through much of the thirty-five mile