CU Cycling Wraps Up Conference, Bound for Nationals
Thursday, May 10, 2007
The Cumberland University Cycling Team recently wrapped up their conference season with a successful weekend of racing during the SECCC Championships in Nashville. The races were hosted by Cumberland and Vanderbilt and attracted collegiate racers from across the Southeast -- all vying for points to qualify for the national championship. Teams competing during the conference were Florida, Auburn, Georgia, Furman, Lees-McRae, Clemson and Tennessee.

Cumberland's success during the weekend not only qualified them to participate in the Collegiate Road National Championship, but CU's Peter Fairbanks wrapped up the overall individual male conference title with his results. Fairbanks became the third straight Cumberland rider to win the individual title, following Jason Chatham in 2006 and Bennett van der Genugten in 2005.

The SECCC Championships saw the teams compete in a 75-mile road race and an 11-mile team time-trial in Leipers Fork, which was followed the next day by a criterium at LP Field in Downtown Nashville. The road race course took the riders on a 21-mile loop around the rolling hills of Williamson County and up the grueling Fernvale Hill climb four times. The demanding short climb is slightly less than one mile, but it proved to be a deciding point in the race.

Early into the race, it was Ben Bevans of Hermitage involved in a four-man breakaway that built up an advantage of over five minutes on the main field. After several laps, Ben fell off the pace of the leaders, but Peter Fairbanks of Minneapolis, Minn. bridged the gap to the leaders. Fairbanks shrunk the lead of all but one rider from Florida, Bobby Sweeting, and took home second place ahead of Georgia rider Mick Stukes, who finished third. Bevans was able to hold off the field and rode in solo for one of his best finishes of the season in eighth place. Whitney Stanbrough of Welsh, La. was in the main field and sprinted home for the 17th spot.

"As we saw the riders approaching the finish line, I could make out that it was a Cumberland rider coming in, but I assumed it was Ben who was arriving and fighting for second. When we noticed it was Peter, our jaws dropped because it meant he erased over a five-minute gap within 20 miles. Not only that, but he didn't have the help of any other riders. It was another unbelievable finish for Peter. As for Ben, he executed our strategy to perfection and raced his heart out. It's the proudest I've been of him on the bike. With Ben in the early breakaway, it mean all our other riders could sit in the pack and let other teams chase," Tim Hall, CU Cycling Team Director, said.

Later in the afternoon, the four riders competed in a team time-trial on a course that simulated what they will expect at the national championship. It was a rolling course with one long, gradual uphill on Garrison Creek and finished on a long, gradual downhill on Pinewood. With their legs a little tired from the morning road race and the rising heat of late afternoon, it made for a tough and intense 11-mile race against the clock. Cumberland finished in third with a time of 24:11, only six seconds behind Florida at 24:05 but 42 seconds behind Clemson's winning time of 23:29.

"When you race hard for 75 miles in the morning, playing the role of main antagonists -- well, it's only natural that you aren't going to be as rested later that afternoon," Hall noted. "Clemson was nowhere near as active in the morning road race and saved their energy for the time-trial. To their credit, they rode a very strong time-trial. However, Florida was as active as we were earlier in the day, so to finish within six seconds of them is highly encouraging. Add that to Furman finishing 15 seconds behind us, and it puts a big smile on all our faces."

The conference championship wrapped up with a criterium in Downtown Nashville. Located on the premises of LP Field, it included six turns and a total of seven-tenths of a mile long. Very early into the 65-minute event, it was Fairbanks getting involved in a three-man breakaway with two Florida riders, Bobby Sweeting and David Guttenplan. The threesome ended up lapping the main field half-way into the race before breaking to the front again. However, the two Florida riders began alternating attacks against Fairbanks.

After countering many of their moves, the intense efforts took their toll, and the two Florida riders managed to ride away from Fairbanks. Bobby Sweeting made it two victories in a row as he took the win with Guttenplan right on his wheel for second place. Peter Fairbanks wrapped up the conference title with his third-place finish. In the main field, it was McMinnville's Shawn Mullican taking 11th. Bevans took 17th, and Stanbrough raced in at 19th.

"When you're outnumbered 2-to-1 in a breakaway, this is usually the result, but Peter's effort still highlights his remarkable ability to always be in the position to win. Peter has demonstrated throughout the entire season that he's the best rider in our conference. All eyes have been on him in each and every race. To be a marked man in the peloton and still come out on top should say it all. Cumberland University is fortunate to have him, on and off the bike, and we're all proud of his achievements," Hall said.

With the team's success, they have qualified for the national championship in Lawrence, Kansas, May 11-13. Cumberland will be competing in Division II and will not face most of their usual conference foes who are classified as Division I. During the conference, everyone races against one another, but during the national championship, the divisions are split. The team traveled out early to Kansas in order to prepare and train on the courses.

On Friday morning, May 11, there will be a 20-kilometer team time-trial. The team time-trial is one of the most prestigious awards for any team to win and, according to Hall, the team's goal all season long has been to bring home national championship jerseys from this event.

"We've focused on this event, practiced it, discussed it, prepared for it, and now it's time to go after our target," Hall said.

Saturday, May 12 will offer up an 84-mile road race around Lake Perry near Lawrence. The riders will race three laps of a 28-mile loop filled with rolling hills and very little flat roads.

"When you think of Kansas, you think flat ground, but the organizers found the section with the most hills around. It's a good course for our abilities," Hall said, adding Sunday, May 13 would offer up a 65-minute criterium along the streets of Downtown Lawrence. "The collegiate national championship is a professionally run event that attracts all the best riders from across the United States. Everyone here has hopes and dreams of riding away with a National Champion jersey. We've been dreaming big all year long, so after this weekend, we want to wake up and give everyone in Lebanon something to talk about."

Stay abreast of race reports and results throughout the national championship weekend by visiting