April 26, 2006

Bobcats Cycling Again Successful At Nationals

The Lees-McRae College cycling made their way to the Collegiate Cycling Nationals shortly after exams finished and did not disappoint. With Team Time Trial, Criterium and Omnium events scheduled, the Bobcats had a full weekend of racing.

The weekend of racing kicked off with the Team Time Trial event. As defending National Champions, the Bobcats had the benefit of being the last team to race. "The men rode extremely fast to win the event and bring home a National title in the team time trial for a second year in a row. Our women also raced over their heads and did an excellent job to bring home a second place medal in the event," commented Coach Doug Evans. Last year's overall champion Whitman College matched the Bobcats in the time trial placing second in the men's race and first in the women's.

The second day of racing brought the long 84-mile road race. With strong winds and multiple lake crossings, the Bobcats had their work cut out for them. On the second lap Scott Jackson got away on a break with Peter Fairbanks from Cumberland. It looked like their breakaway might stick in the last lap when they extended their lead to four minutes. A chase group formed with five riders including the Bobcats Brent Bookwalter. With a teammate up the road, Bookwalter carefully drafted the chase group to save something for the final sprint, letting the chase group carry him up the road. With less than one mile left in the race, the chase group caught up to Jackson and Fairbanks, with Jackson leading Brent in for the win. On the women' side, a horrible crash in the Division I race held up the Bobcats and the other Division II riders for over 40 minutes, however the women persevered and scored higher than the Whitman men allowing the Bobcats to take an eight point lead into the final day of racing.

The final day of racing brought the Criterium with the men racing first. Again Jackson and Cumberland's Fairbanks broke away from the pack, this time with three other riders. On this day, the early break away would stave off chase groups from behind with Jackson winning a sprint to the finish to take the Men's Criterium. Jackson's win put the Bobcats ahead fifteen points for the overall title going into the women's race. With the Lady Bobcats cyclists facing a strong Whitman team, the Lady Bobcats needed to finish in at least third place to clinch the title. All was going to plan until the final lap with a pair of Bobcat riders competing for second and third place. In the second turn of the final lap, an accident occurred involving Lees-McRae's Clara Beard. The accident forced Beard to withdraw from competition. Fortunately she was not seriously injured, however the loss of points Beard was sure to earn left the Bobcats short of the overall title, finishing in second place by nine points.

The unfortunate accident in the women's race may have cost the Bobcats the overall title, however the weekend can still be considered a success as the team returned home with four national titles. The Bobcats claimed the men's Team Time Trial for the second consecutive year, the men's road race, the men's Criterium race and also first and second in the men's individual Omnium. The women also faired well bring home a second place finish in the Team Time Trial and fifth in the women's Criterium.