The Williams Cycling Team entered the Eastern Conference Collegiate Championships at Penn State with a battered squad desperate for points, but it used the hardest race weekend of the year to display their dominance of Division II rivals. Taking only four riders because of injury and other mishaps, the Williams Cyclists banded together with freshman Mark Lenou from Middlebury to travel to Reading and Trexeltown in Pennsylvania. The ECCC featured a grueling road race on Saturday, a team time trial on Sunday morning, and a fast points race Sunday afternoon.
The road race on Saturday consisted merely of a three-mile loop, with the different fields racing distances between twenty and forty miles. While the distances were much shorter than most collegiate road races, the cause became apparent as soon as the Men’s D field began to struggle up the mile-long ascent to the top. The mountain the cyclists faced was one of the toughest and steepest many had ever encountered, and the fields had to sprint up it between six and thirteen times.
In the C race, Reed Wiedower ’00 began the day strongly in the pack on the first two climbs up the “wall.” However, a small gap on the next climb eventually left him well behind the pack by lap three, after which he pulled out of the race. Only then did he discover that he had been riding a rear flat tire for the three laps, which both sapped his strength and made his ability to stay with the pack all the more impressive.
Following the C field was the Men’s B race, which consisted of ten laps over the grueling course. John Wiedower ’00 and Aaron Applebaum ’01 wisely stayed within the pack through the harrowing descents, and sprinted hard to remain in contention during the climbs.
After several laps, J. Wiedower fell off the pace and eventually pulled out on lap six. Applebaum, however, continued to display the fine form and strength he has all year in the B field, and remained with the leaders throughout the race. While a break of two got away from the pack and won, Applebaum still touched out a Penn State rider at the line to take fifth in the pack sprint and seventh overall.
The A race featured more glimpses of weary riders struggling mightily to defeat the huge hill. Will Ronco ’01 fought hard to remain with the pack through many of the laps, but eventually fell off the pace.
While gapped, Ronco kept at the intimidating course instead of quitting, and finished in thirtieth place. Another bright spot emerged in the A’s final sprint, as Mark Lenou, strong throughout the race, impressed everyone by outsprinting two former National champions en route to his first A win.
Not content to merely concentrate on the points race, the Williams Cyclists patched together a makeshift A time trial team for the TTT on Sunday morning. Though they had never practiced a TTT this year, all four cyclists immediately fell into a comfortable rhythm and paced each other well along the four mile course, finishing strongly enough to take ninth place and lots of points.
The points race followed the TTT and was located next to the Lehigh County Valodrome in Trexeltown. The course itself was designed for cycling races and was both quite flat as well as rather harrowing with its twisty turns and level finish. The points race format meant that every five laps, the riders sprint for the top four places, each of which would earn points. At the end of the race, the points are totaled and the winner is the individual with the most points, with final place in the field determining places of those who had not scored on the prime laps.
In the C race, R. Wiedower continued his strong performance from the morning as he concentrated on good position throughout the race. While occasionally pulling, Wiedower tended to stay in the fourth or fifth slot, letting him reel in attacks or participate in the sprints. While never able to capture points on a prime lap, Wiedower finished strongly among the pack.
R. Wiedower warned the B riders about the tough wind during the race, but nothing could prepare them for the amount of dangerous cycling they would encounter. While the course seemed safe, the quick turns and general obstinance of the B field resulted in many a rider being forced out or cursed as the teams jostled each other.
In the first prime, Applebaum sprinted hard with the front cyclists to take fourth place. The success continued in the second prime, as J. Wiedower’s nimble Litespeed Vortex snatched the wheel of an attacking cyclist and burst through the peleton for second place. Wiedower added a fourth place on the third prime, and both he and Applebaum finished with the pack. Their points earned Applebaum tenth and Wiedower seventh, which added more team points to the already impressive total.
Ronco knew how dangerous the course was by the time of the A race, and wisely decided to see how the race played out before making his move. The A group showcased the best talent in the Eastern Conference, as attack after attack was reeled in by the mighty pace of the pack. Though Ronco was never able to take points in a prime lap, he finished twentieth in the field sprint and capped a wonderful day and weekend for the Williams team.
After the A race, the officials handed out individual awards for the season as they tabulated the team results. Williams soon found itself holding much hardware, as it took advantage of its Division II status to destroy the competition. R. Wiedower first earned a medal for the most points in the D category this year.
The honor was made more impressive by the fact that he raced the last three weekends as a C rider, which meant that the points he earned before he moved up were enough to hold off any challengers. J. Wiedower grabbed a second place medal for the ECCC B omnium, and a third place medal for the C class, which also was impressive as Wiedower has raced Bs for the last two weekends. Applebaum racked up even more medals, with fourth in the ECCC B omnium and third in the Bs for the year.
All these individual honors seemed paltry in comparison to the team effort shown this weekend, which was rewarded as Williams won the Division II ECCC trophy for earning the most points over the weekend. By destroying their competition this weekend, Williams was then able to secure another team trophy for taking third place among all the Division II schools over the year. Though the invitations for Nationals have not been finalized, no matter who is invited, it is clear that the Williams Cycling Team has once again proved that it is one of the toughest and most skilled teams in the Eastern Conference. Though Williams will lose A cyclist and senior captain Erryn Leinbaugh, the skills and experience gained this year as well as the large number of returning veterans should serve them well through the tough season and eventual push to Nationals next year.