CU Cycling enjoys 'great' season opener at GSU
Tuesday, March 6, 2007
The Cumberland University Cycling Team began its season at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Ga. over the weekend of March 3. Saturday featured a 65-mile road race and a 17-mile team trial, while Sunday consisted of a 60-minute criterium. The competition mainly included teams from the University of Florida, Auburn University, University of Georgia, Vanderbilt University and Clemson. CU Cycling rode away with three podium finishes and five overall Top 10 finishes after the weekend was complete.

Saturday's road race saw Welsh, La. native Whitney Stanbrough drive an early breakaway with three other riders after just a few miles of racing. Stanbrough's breakaway companions were two riders from Florida and one from Clemson. The foursome worked together to build up a four-minute advantage before Peter Fairbanks and Shawn Mullican of CU Cycling helped form a second four-man breakaway group from the main pack of riders.

Stanbrough worked in his breakaway gaining time while Fairbanks and Mullican built their lead on the pack as well. With less than 10 miles to go, the Florida teammates began attacking Stanbrough and the Clemson rider, and eventually Phil Gaimon of Florida rode to the finish line for a solo victory. Gaimon's teammate beat Stanbrough to the finish line by just over a minute as CU Cycling took a well-deserved third place. The second breakaway began shattering toward the end as Fairbanks motored 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. 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," state CU Team Director Tim Hall.

A 17-mile team trial was in the cards for Saturday afternoon as Stanbrough, Fairbanks, Mullican and Ben Bevans raced against the clock. Each team could have either three or four riders in the event, but had to finish with at least three riders together. The Cumberland riders raced together in a paceline, each taking short pulls at the front, and lit up the roads well enough to finish third overall with a time of 38:30. Florida took the victory at 36:57, while Clemson's 38:09 outpaced Cumberland 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 one kilometer course. The riders had to battle a fierce headwind up a short incline at the start/finish line, and this proved to be a difference-maker early into the race. Early in, Peter Fairbanks of Minneapolis, Minn. attacked the pack and easily gained a huge gap on the field. Four riders began chasing Fairbanks for six laps before he was caught by only two of the remaining chasers -- both from Florida. Fairbanks and his two Florida breakaway companions began working together to build their advantage as the rest of the Cumberland riders chased down any other breakaway threats.

Shortly after the half-way mark, Fairbanks' breakaway lapped the main field, which ensured at least a Top Three finish for CU Cycling. 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 rider David Guttenplant powered to the front, side-by-side, but it was Guttenplant edging Fairbanks at the line by less than a bike wheel.

Hall finished off the weekend, commenting, "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. 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."

Next weekend, the Cumberland University Cycling Team travels to Georgia Tech for two road races and an individual time trial.