• A Look Into the Life of a Collegiate Cyclist

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2011 Collegiate Road Season: One for the Books!

I apologize for the lack of updates throughout the 2011 season so far, but it was nothing short of amazing! From beginning to end, Mars Hill Cycling truly showed the competition what it had to offer.

The first few races together in the Mens A field were a bit shaky, but once we had a few races under our belt things became much more fluid. As the season progressed, we became more and more confident in each other and had consistent top place finishes.

Overall, the team ended up with the SECCC Div. II Conference Champs title, both Div. II mens and womens individual titles (myself and Stephanie Bunnett), a National Collegiate Criterium title (Kyle Knott), and the overall title for Div. II National Road Race Championships! This season was something truly out of a dream for me and I’m sure for others on the team.


Though we will be losing several key players from the team next year because of graduations, we will also have several new recruits coming for the 2011 fall and 2012 spring seasons. I’m definitely excited to get back to training and racing with members from last years’ squad, as well as begin with the new recruits!

Check out some of the pictures from the 2011 season and collegiate nationals!

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SECCC Race Weekend #1: University of FL (Gainesville)

Day 1: Collegiate A Circuit Race – 60min, 1.1mi Loop

Ah, the first race of the 2011 collegiate season, and thankfully it was far away from the wintery weather up here in North Carolina. After a solid 9-hour trek down from Mars Hill to Gainesville, and getting into bed around 1:00am, I was a little bit worried about getting so little sleep before the race.

Arriving at the race site the following morning, situated in a small business park, I had enough pre-race nerves setting in that any lack of sleep I may have had was not an issue! Only three of us from the team attended the race: Stephanie Bunnett in the women’s A’s, and myself and Maitland Jones in the mens A’s. Though it was no surprise because I had been checking the weather so frequently, both of our races were on wet roads in the rain. Luckily, the course only had one sharp turn so the rain really wasn’t an issue.

After a good 30min warmup, I was ready to get the race going! Heading into the staging area Maitland and I both scoped out the competition and made note of who to watch out for. Because there was only two of us in the field, we had to pick which breakaways to go with carefully, and do as little work as possible. Some schools such as University of FL and Cumberland had a good number of guys in the field, so we could be almost certain that they’d have at least one person in the breaks.

The attacks started from the blow of the whistle, and the pace stayed pretty high in the first few laps. I was able to get myself situated towards the front of the pack, so I felt comfortable in the beginning of the race. Attack after attack people kept trying to start the breaks. Maitland and I both went up with some of the hopeful breaks, but none of them lasted much more than a lap. Finally about halfway through the race, a group of about five riders went off the front and the pace suddenly dropped in the main field. With several notable riders in the break, I took my chances and attacked to bridge up to the break. After successfully catching them after a good hard effort, I looked back to see that the field was still sitting up! At this point I had a good feeling that this break would stick, but I tried to stay calm about it. Lap after lap with the break we actually began to gain time! By the time it was three laps to go, I knew that we had it! At two laps to go I started trying to conserve as much energy as I could for the sprint, but kept alert in case anybody tried to make a solo break.

Going into the final turn I took my chances and attacked going into it, leaving myself out in front going into the sprint. When it was happening I was sure that I had just ruined the race! Coming out of the turn I lead out the sprint and somehow held it to take first!

Collegiate A (Postlogue) ITT – 2.2mi

Admittedly, I wasn’t too thrilled at having to do a time trial starting at around 5:30pm the same day, but with it being so short and after some success earlier I was up for it! The time trial was actually on the same course as the circuit race, and was simply two laps. In case you were wondering, yes, there were a lot of people on the course at the same time. During my time trial I had to do a lot of people dodging, but luckily not into the turns.

One new rule this year for all collegiate riders is that the use of aero equipment (disc, TT bike, aerobars, etc.) is not permitted. I am definitely not opposed to this because I don’t have a time trial bike!

From the start, I went out way to hard, and I found it really difficult to pace myself on such a short distance. After finding a decent rhythm, I felt pretty good about my performance, but as always I thought that I could’ve gone harder (doesn’t everybody?). Once the results came out after everybody had finished and it was well after dark outside and getting cold (for FL), I was happy to learn that I had won the time trial as well!

Day 2: Collegiate A Criterium – 70min

Going into the Sunday’s race, I could feel yesterday’s efforts in my legs, but was still excited to get racing! Like the day before, the roads were wet from the rain, but it had stopped raining by the time my race went off. After arriving a little bit late, neither Maitland nor I was able to get much of a warmup in, but there was no point in worrying about it.

Much like the start to yesterday’s races, the attacks went off almost instantly! With the course being a little bit more technical with a fast “snaking” section, the field was pretty strung out at times. I stayed up towards the front as much as possible and tried to go with the breaks that I thought looked strong, but nothing was sticking. Around halfway through I slipped towards the back to recovery a little bit, and right as I did so an attack went of that had both David Guttenplan and Andy Baker in it who were the two strongest riders in the field. With only a moment to respond I jumped along the outside going into the snaking section and started an hopeless bridge attempt. For almost 4 laps I buried myself to catch up to the break, and got so close several times, but just couldn’t make it all the way up. Once I realized they were gone and I basically blew up, I sat up for the main field and tried to regain myself for the upcoming final sprint. Hurting pretty bad, it was hard to try to stay towards the front, but in the last few laps riders were getting dropped left and right. I held a decent position going into the final stretch and managed to squeeze out one last effort to finish ninth.

Overall, this weekend was definitely a success for the team and we managed to place ourselves into first place in the SECCC Div. II standings with just three people! All three of us had some great finishes and Stephanie got a win for herself in Sunday’s criterium!

Team Results:

Stephanie B. : 2nd, 3rd, 1st

Michael R. : 1st, 1st, 9th

Maitland J : 11th, 4th, 8th

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Treasure Coast Cycling Classic Race Weekend – Stuart, FL

Day 1: Pro,1,2 Circuit Race – 80min, 2.2mi Loop

Before I start off with any of the actual race details, let me just say that this was by far the hottest weather that I have ever ridden in, around 102 degrees. Making things worse, neither me or my dad brought sunscreen, so I’m totally cooked.

Now for the race. I was able to get a nice 35min warm-up around the race site while making sure to keep hydrated in the heat. Pulling up to the line, I have to admit that I was pretty nervous. I was able to start up at the front of a field containing about 40-50 riders on the line. I got a few last leg stretches in, choked down a Gu gel, took a couple of SportsLegs capsules, and we were off.

The first lap was absolutely horrible. Heading into the first turn, I was pushed off the road and into the gutter, which unfortunately caused me to move pretty far back in the pace-line. For the next 60 minutes, it was a mix of suffering, heatstroke, and more suffering. Throughout the race, there were many break attempts, but none that stayed away until two that went off in the final 20min. At this point I was in no position to hop on the attack or bridge up to either break, so I just had to hope for the best. At 3 laps to go, the breaks were still off the front by around 1min, and it was clear that the main field wasn’t willing to bring them back.

With time running out, I had to try to pull something off, and do it pretty quick. At the end of 3 laps to go, 2 guys attacked the field and I hopped on the back of them. We made a little gap on the field, but it seemed as soon as the attack started, both guys decided they didn’t want to work. Once they both started to slow down, I attacked them and quickly made a nice size gap. Now going into the last lap, I had a nice gap and could only pray that if I buried myself I could hold the field off. The next 10min were painful. I’d look back every so often and the main field would always be a tad bit closer, but I was just hoping that it wasn’t enough to bridge up to me by the end of the race.

Going into the last lap, I could start to see the second break in front of me, so it helped to motivate me that little bit that I needed. I honestly thought my lungs and legs were ready to explode, but all I could do was put my head down and keep motoring. Now heading down the final stretch, the group was getting close behind, but I now knew that I had enough of a gap to stay away. Crossing the line alone (and dead), the group was now coming on me FAST for their final sprint, but I could relax knowing that I had made it. Overall, I ended up finishing 10th place, which I was very happy with! Now to get ready and recover for tomorrow’s criterium in downtown Stuart.

Day 2: Pro,1,2 Criterium – 80min, 9/10mi Loop

To no suprise, it was another scorcher today, but nothing compared to yesterday. I was smart enough to remember to bring sunscreen lotion today!

Before the race, I got a nice 45min warm-up, but I could definitely feel the effects of yesterdays race in my legs. Regardless, I was ready and excited to race!

From the start, people were already attacking into the first turn which was a sketchy near 180 degree turn. With around 60+ Pro,1,2 guys screaming into that turn, it made things pretty interesting. Much like yesterday, break attempts were pretty constant, but none could seem to stick. One thing I was fortunate for was the several people around the loop throwing cold water on us.

After one fairly large break went up the road towards the middle if the race, I made a move and attacked along the outside on one of the straightaways. I caught up to 3 guys a little bit up the road, but none of them were willing to work and I was too dead at that point to pull myself up to the lead group. We were forced to slow down and wait for the main field, but the break got caught shortly after anyways.

The downfall of the race came towards the end where the field split in half and I was caught sleeping in the back. After several laps of painfully watching the front half of the field race away, I took my chances and, like yesterday, ended up soloing in between the 2 groups for several laps. I was lucky to avoid the sprint behind and ended up finishing in 23rd place. Overall, I’m not too disappointed after yesterdays effort and looking forward to the next race!

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