Photo courtesy of Tim Hall
BANNER ELK, N.C. - The Lees-McRae College cycling team is preparing for the Southeastern Collegiate Cycling Conference (SECCC) championship road event this weekend (Apr. 6-7), hosted by Milligan College.
Event Preview - The event begins on Saturday (Apr. 6) at 8 a.m. with the individual time trial, followed by the team time trials for all classifications. The men's A road race begins at 11:45 a.m., followed by the men's B, women's A, men's C/D and women's B/C races. The criterium events begin on Sunday (Apr. 7) with the women's B/C at 10:30 a.m., followed by the men's C/D, men's B, women's A and men's A events.
"This weekend at Milligan will be our most competitive race of the season, aside from the national championship itself," said head coach Tim Hall. "Everyone in the conference will be there to compete, so it will be a good measure of our strength and fitness as to how we perform."
Hall noted that this weekend along with the Appalachian State event later in April (Apr. 27-28) will help decide which riders will represent Lees-McRae at Nationals in May.
"The Milligan and Appalachian State weekends are going to be important for us as coaches to use those performances to make decisions on who will actually attend Nationals and start in any given race," said Hall. "For us, how our riders perform is going to directly impact our decision making process."
Hall touched on the momentum that the team is carrying into this weekend after last weekend's strong showing at King (Tenn.).
"We are going into this weekend with a lot of positive momentum and confidence based off our results last weekend at King (Tenn.)," said Hall. "We are familiar with the courses, we believe the courses are fair to everyone and gives everyone a chance to thrive and be successful. In the end, it will come down to which teams and riders use the smartest tactics and execute when it matters."
Hall then discussed the progress that both the men's and women's riders have made over the course of the season in gaining experience and upgrading their competition levels.
"Both our men's and women's squads have made tremendous progress through the season, and are going into this weekend with high expectations," said Hall. "While our A riders have been performing quite well lately, it's also exciting to see our B, C and D riders have success and grow as they continue to make progress. Riders like Marla Cline and Kent Ayers and others will soon be contributing on the A squad."
The team has competed in team time trails during most of its previous road events, but this is the first weekend that Lees-McRae will enter two team time trial foursomes into the men's race.
"The level of teamwork for both the men and the women in that event is at an all-time high, and the times they are posting in practice are the best we've seen," said Hall. "This gives us confidence going into this weekend, and with another four weeks of preparation, we think we might be able to get back on the podium in that event."
Hall noted that everyone is excited for the weekend based on the forecast, which makes for better quality racing.
"When the sun is shining and it's over 70 degrees, it raises the excitement level for everybody," said Hall. "It will be nice to not be wearing arm-warmers and knee-warmers, and not contending with participation."