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CU pedals to three podium finishes
Mar 08, 2007 12:00 am
STATESBORO, Ga. — Cumberland's cycling team began its season at Georgia Southern last weekend, riding away with three podium finishes and five overall top-10 placings.
A podium finish signifies top three.
The Bulldogs endured a 65-mile road race and a 17-mile team time trial Saturday before pedaling through a 60-minute criterium Sunday. They faced competition from Florida, Auburn, Georgia, Vanderbilt and Clemson.
Cumberland's Whitney Stanbrough drove an early breakaway with three other riders just a few miles into Saturday's road race. The foursome, which included a pair from Florida and one from Clemson, worked together to build a four-minute advantage before the Bulldogs' Peter Fairbanks and Shawn Mullican helped form a second four-man breakaway group from the main pack of riders.
With less than 10 miles to go, the Florida pair began attacking the Clemson rider and Stanbrough as the Gators' Phil Gaimon rode to a solo victory. The other Gator beat Stanbrough to the finish line by just over a minute as Cumberland collected third place.
The other breakaway began shattering toward the end as Fairbanks pedaled to the finish line for fifth place, several minutes ahead of the others. Mullican rolled in ahead of the main pack to take the eighth spot.
"I am very proud of Whitney and his performance in the road race," CU cycling director Tim Hall said. "To be able to hold his own in a breakaway of that caliber says a lot about his maturity and development as a bike racer. Now he knows he has the legs to race off the front."
In the 17-mile team time trial, Stanbrough, Fairbanks, Mullican and Ben Bevans raced against the clock. Each team could have three or four riders in the event, but had to finish with at least three together.
The Cumberland quartet raced together in a paceline, each taking short pulls at the front and lit up the roads well enough to finish third in 38:30. Florida took the victory in 36:57 while Clemson's 38:09 outpaced the Bulldogs by only 21 seconds.
"This time of year, Florida is always rolling faster than anyone else, so for us to be off the pace by only 93 seconds is acceptable," Hall said. "Our team time-trial goal isn't until mid-May at Collegiate Nationals, and that's when we plan to be at peak fitness."
Sunday's criterium was a 60-minute effort on a closed 1K course. The riders had to battle a fierce headwind up a short incline at the start/finish line. This proved to be the difference maker early in the race.
Fairbanks attacked the pack early on and easily gained a huge gap on the field. Four riders began chasing Fairbanks for six laps before he was caught by two of them, both from Florida. He and the two Gators began working together to build their advantage as the rest of the Bulldogs chased down any other breakaway threats.
Shortly after the halfwary mark, Fairbanks' breakaway lapped the main field which ensured at least a top-three finish for Cumberland.
Setting the pace at the front was Stanbrough doing the bulk of the work. But Mullican battled back to the front in the last two laps to help form a lead out for the finish.
Coming into the slight uphill finish, Fairbanks and Florida's David Guttenplant powered to the front side by side with the Gator edging the Bulldog at the line by less than a bike wheel.
"Peter's second place gave us our third top-three finish for the weekend and capped off what I consider a great way to begin the season," Hall said. "Teamwork was the key to our success. You never know how well your training is going until you actually compete, but this lets us know we are on the right track."
Cumberland will next travel to Georgia Tech for two road races and an individual time trail next weekend.