Nestled deep in the foothills of Grandfather Mountain is a little utopia of athletic talent called Lees-MacRae College, which is to cycling as store-fronts are to the Mafia. And it was here where this past weekend’s bike race was held–as well as where the National Championships will be held in October. So this was a prelude of sorts, and it was the first time in a few weeks that all of the teams in the Southeastern Conference showed up–making for large, competitive fields and providing a more accurate simulation for Nationals.
The shorttrack course broke the season-long trend of flat, boring, grassy courses and provided the racers with some good climbs, fun descents–even a stream crossing. The men’s A team didn’t exactly have their best showing, but two riders in the top-twenty (Matt Williams in 17th and Linden Blaisus in 19th) in such a competitive field is certainly nothing at which to scoff.
The women’s field, impressively large at long last, saw three Wilson riders in the top ten: Hanna Waldman in 10th, Camille Prevost in 9th, and Kylie Krauss, finally beating her arch-nemesis, in 1st. The Wilson B riders were led by the little bundle of joy that is Maxx Cohen, who finished 10th in what was, again, one of the largest fields of the season.
A while later, the downhill race began, which was the only event that will not be the same at Nationals. No, this was just a souped-up version of the cross country course–but with a section that rode through a stream bed, a huge rock (boulder, actually) garden, a couple of bridge crossings, and several steep, loose, descents, this course was about as gnar as one can get.
Lexy Lewis finished 6th, which is darn good, especially considering he was riding a girl’s (i.e. Ashlee Robinson’s) bike. Ben West almost made a guest appearance in the downhill, finishing 23rd. Maxx and Scott represented the B’s well, finishing in 5th and 7th respectively.
In the women’s race, Kylie’s arch-nemesis took it out on Ashlee, who resigned to 2nd place, but still with a very respectable time. Camille Prevost stopped hating bikes long enough to finish 8th.
Later that day, an endless slew of dual slalom races began. Somewhere in the mix Lexy, who impresses just about everyone, finished 7th in one heck of a talented field. Scott Andersen finished 5th in the B’s. Ashlee Robinson duked it out again and again with something like a billion different Lees-MacRae women, who dominated the race (seeing as it’s their home course and all), but she finished strong in 4th.
The cross country course, which consisted of 5 or so miles of freshly built trails that were steep, technical, loose–everything that goes against sustainable trail-building techniques. It was about as grueling as a course could get, especially on bikes’ ever-stressed drive-trains. Matt Williams finished impressively well in such a large, competitive field, taking 9th, and first for Wilson men. Linden and Ben rounded it out with 16th and 22nd. The women’s race saw Kylie take 1st, and four other Wilson women finish in the top ten: Camille in 5th, Becca in 8th, Lauren Parker in 9th, and Tally Windquist in 10th. Vanessa Emery, racing her first A cross-country race on what was probably the toughest course of the season, finished strong in 11th.
The Wilson B men showed the rest of the field what’s up by having three in the top ten: Maxx in 5th, Aaron in 8th, and Eli in 9th.
Overall, the Cycling Owls had a very strong showing this past weekend, which suggests good things might be right around the corner (or up the hill towards Banner Elk, rather) at Nationals in October.
While Team Captain/Team All-Star Pat Hurley had to sit this race out after selling his soul (or at least, temporarily, his consciousness) to a BMX track the other day–the Wilson riders are showing impressive depth and individual strength in all four events. With a month left ‘til Nationals, and only a Conference Championships race between now and then, the bike team will be putting its finishing touches on their fitness, mechanical prowess, and East Coast Pride as they prepare to take on the rest of the country.