LEBANON, Tenn. – Cumberland earned points in four of five events and was the highest scoring Division II team in three races, as the Bulldogs finished third overall at the USA Cycling Track National Championships last weekend at Major Taylor Velodrome in Indianapolis, Ind.
Over 150 riders from more than 30 colleges competed in the three-day event hosted by Marian University. CU entered the championship with high expectations after 2010's surprise fourth-place finish. CU competed in five total events – 4K individual pursuit, 1K individual time trial, 200-meter flying time trial (sprint), points race and 3K team pursuit.
Cumberland earned a total of 365 team points in Division II, good enough to finish third overall in the team omnium ahead of Kutztown University of Pennsylvania. The US Military Academy won the D-II championship with 907 points and defending champion Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) earned 821 points to finish second. Points for each race are earned by the Top 30 places only, with CU scoring in four of the five events. In three of the races Cumberland was the highest scoring D-II team, ahead of both West Point and MIT.
In the 4k pursuit on Thursday, Tommy Schubert posted a time of 5:11.9 to place 12th and Ryan Sullivan placed 17th with a time of 5:14.2. The winning time was 4:58.5 by Charles Cassin of Colorado. Alex Parks and Britton Kinnard finished 52nd and 54th, respectively.
In the 1K time trial (also known as the kilo) later that day, Schubert led the Bulldogs with a 16th-place showing in a time of 1:13.2 Sullivan finished in 1:15.9, only 2.7 seconds slower, but in 45th place. In the kilo the time gaps are small but may place a rider well down in results. Kinnard, Aubrey Moore and Ryan Burns also raced the kilo and finished 71st, 73rd and 83rd, respectively. Mathew Baranoski from Penn State won the event in 1:08.
Day One included the flying 200-meter time trial followed by match sprints, the only event in which CU did not earn points. Schubert posted CU's fastest time at 12.47 seconds, placing 32nd but outside the Top 30 for points. Only the top 18 riders from the flying time trial advanced to the match sprints competition. Grant Boursaw from Washington posted the fastest qualifying time (11.443 seconds) but Baranoski won the match sprint event.
The Bulldogs made headway on the final day of competition in a 3K team pursuit followed by a 30K points race. The team started the day in fifth place in the team omnium and was in need of strong performances to rise in the standings.
CU's four-man pursuit team included Sullivan, Schubert, Kinnard and Parks, but only three riders have to finish to receive a result. The 3K race required the riders to complete nine full laps of the 333-meter velodrome.
“This is a prestigious race and very difficult to execute because it's tough to have four riders of equal strength,” head coach Tim Hall said. “In our case, we have Sullivan and Schubert with bigger engines than Kinnard and Parks, so our challenge was to develop a strategy to keep them all together for as long as possible.”
The plan was for Sullivan and Schubert to complete full laps, while Kinnard and Parks would do half-laps and in the end have Parks pull Sullivan and Schubert across the finish line. The finishing time is taken on the front wheel of the third rider.
The team executed the strategy successfully to post a time of 3:43.3, which placed them third with four more teams still to race. Three of those teams posted faster times and pushed the Bulldogs into sixth place in the event. Host Marian University won the race with a time of 3:32.5, two seconds ahead of Colorado. The team barely missed the podium, as MIT placed fifth by a mere .553 seconds ahead of CU.
“Last year we did a 3:47 to place fifth and this year our goal was 3:40. A four-second improvement may not sound like much, but in a 3K pursuit it's significant. A 3:47 this year would only have earned ninth place, which indicates every team stepped up their performances. I chalk that up to everyone being better prepared. When every rider understands his role and buys into the plan then good things happen,” Hall said.
“We were disappointed to not earn a team pursuit medal, but I am extremely proud of how well we performed. Nobody should hang their heads. We'll use it as motivation to come back in 2012 even more determined.”
Schubert and Sullivan competed in separate 16K qualifying heats to reach the finals of the final event of the championship, the points race, but Sullivan was the only one to qualify for the 90-lap/30K points race final. Every six laps there is a sprint with points awarded to the first four finishers of that sprint. If a rider laps the field they gain 20 points, but if a rider becomes lapped they lose 20 points. The rider with the most sprint points at the end is the winner.
After going for an early sprint Sullivan found himself in a seven-man breakaway that quickly lapped the field, earning himself 20 points in the process. Sullivan had to battle to continue earning points after lapping the field and ended up with 26 total and fourth place overall in the event. Lees-McRae College’s Iggy Silva won the race with 43 points.
An exhausted Sullivan was a bit surprised to find out about his fourth-place finish after the race.
"I thought that I was out of the points. I was adding them up in my head, but I didn't realize I was actually that close,” he said. “I think because we went so early as well, that caught everyone by surprise. We already got such a gap and then Iggy jumped across. That was it.”
Sullivan's effort earned CU enough points to jump into third overall in the team omnium.
“Ryan's points race was one of the most exciting races in CU's cycling history. It was exactly the kind of gutsy performance our team needed from him. He stepped up and rose to the occasion, so to see him on the podium for fourth is extra special," Hall said.
CU finished the event with two medals, matching their 2010 medal count, but improved one place to third overall in the team omnium. The D-I team omnium was won by host and defending champion Marian University, followed by Fort Lewis College and Midwestern State University.
To earn their points CU competed head-to-head with all the D-I schools in the event. The team's result in track will also put the Bulldogs in third place in the D-II national rankings when they are released in the coming weeks and with a strong mountain bike nationals, Cumberland could once again move into first place nationally at the end of the fall semester.
"I am very proud of this team. Last year opened our eyes to the opportunity of this year. We raised our expectations and lived up to it. This success is exciting and encouraging everyone to be even better prepared for 2012. Our goal is to win a national championship on the track one day and now we are one step closer,” Hall said.
Official USA Cycling news release may be found at https://www.usacycling.org/news/user/story.php?id=7058. Official USA Cycling race results may be found at https://www.usacycling.org/results/index.php?permit=2011-178. Team omnium results may be found at https://www.usacycling.org/events/2011/collegiatetrack/omnitrresults2011.php. Individual omnium results may be found at https://www.usacycling.org/events/2011/collegiatetrack/omnitrresultsIN2011.php. Race videos & interviews may be found at http://www.youtube.com/user/CUcyclingteam.