Sunday, April 15, 2012

Furman Cycling made the short trip to Clemson, SC this weekend to race in the collegiate omnium race which the Clemson Cycling Team hosted. The races started on Saturday a few miles out from Pickens, SC. The team time trial (TTT) was our first event Saturday morning and Dylan DeGraw, Andrew Koch, and Samuel Douglas represented the team in this 9 mile out and back course. We felt good, however official results have not been posted yet so we are not yet sure of our standing. 
The road race came next on Saturday. We had a 4 hour layover time in between races where we met and and talked to many of the other collegiate riders. One of the really cool thing that sets collegiate racing apart from USA Cycling racing is how laid back and friendly all the other racers are. It is really hard to not get along with everyone and make lots of friends at these races because everyone has so much in common, such as being poor, constantly very hungry and tired, having busy school agendas where rides are fit in, and most importantly, sharing the understanding of how hard it is to shave your legs in a communal shower. 

The road race went two laps around a 22 mile course for a grand total of 44 miles. Dylan had an early solo break away in the road race and lasted a little short of an entire lap by himself off the front while Samuel chased every breakaway that tried to jump away. When Dylan was caught, a group of Lees Mcrae riders formed a break and Samuel went with them. They opened up a one minute lead and then were pulled back with 3 miles left to finish in the race. One they were caught, Furman decided to help with our "step-brother team" Dalton State, to help their high placed conference rider Ethan Zehr finish well and keep his mere 2 point lead in the conference standings. With four miles to go, Samuel and Dalton State were at the front, pounding away at the pack as to get Ethan in a good position for the final sprint. In the final few meters, Ethan found himself blocked inside a group Lees Mcrae riders, not an ideal sprint position. Ethan finished 6th place over all, but lost his lead in the conference standings to a Georgia Southern rider. Samuel got 8th place and Dylan finished in the top 20. 

That night, we enjoyed going out to eat and hanging out with our friends and kind-of teammates from Dalton State. We decided that we would again work for Ethan in the criterium race the following day in hopes of regaining his #1 conference position. In cycling, strong, selfless teams really do matter in doing well in races and the feeling that comes from successfully riding to help someone else do well is awesome. 

We arrived at the criterium the next morning in Anderson, Sc. The course was a one mile long with four 90 degree turns, a true cit course. We started off and Dylan immediately started attacking the field, trying drive the pace up to ween down the number of racers our lead group. Our goal was to get Ethan a good result, but also to stick close to the Georgia Southern rider to mark his attacks and moves for the win. In the last three laps, we were having trouble getting the lead out train organized. Beginning the last lap, Ethan was boxed in the middle of the pack with Dylan and other Dalton State riders and Samuel was towards the back of the pack. Lees Mcrae had already set their lead out train up, so it was imperative that we get to the front of the race. Starting from sitting 20 riders back, Samuel road up the outside of the pack going into the third corner and called for Ethan to get on his wheel, trying for a last minute save on the lead out train. With Ethan on his wheel, Samuel let the hammer down on the stretch going into the final 90 degree corner. The pair turned the final corner going 35 mph, the only two riders not hitting their brakes. This popped them out in the top 5, right at the end of the string of Lees Mcrae riders with 200m to go. The lead group of riders swerved all over the road, and Ethan started his long sprint to an impressive 3rd place finish, closing the gap in the overall points and placing him in a perfect position for the conference championships next weekend. Samuel got 6th place and the rest of our riders were in the top 15. 

This weekend was a great display of team work in bicycle racing. We really had fun working with our friends from Dalton State and can't wait to race with them again. 

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