LEBANON, Tenn. – Cumberland’s seventh-ranked cycling team kicked off the 2013 road season at Georgia Southern in Statesboro, Ga., on February 16-17, with Ryan Sullivan posting a pair of Top 5 finishes and Morganne Endicott placing sixth in two races.
The middle February for most bicyclists means training in harsh weather and performing workouts on an indoor training but it included intense competition in the Southeastern Collegiate Cycling Conference (SECCC) for the Bulldogs. The field included SECCC foes Lees-McRae, Florida, Georgia, King College, Georgia Tech, South Florida, Central Florida, Clemson, Mercer and the US Naval Academy.
Day One of the weekend began with a morning 6.4-mile team time trial followed by a longer afternoon road race. Day Two included a criterium on the Georgia Southern campus of GSU.
CU fielded one Men’s A and one Women’s A team in the four person team time trial (TTT). The squad included 2012 national champion Ryan Sullivan, Tommy Schubert, Tanner Hurst and Logan Luker. The men’s team finished second behind the University of Florida with a time of 12:56, only 10 seconds slower than the Gators. The US Naval Academy was third at 13:45.
The women’s team included Morganne Endicott, Kyrstin Bluhm, CaSarah Gilliam and Cathy Hamilton. The women finished fourth with a time of 17:51, a race won by King College with a time of 15:59. The Gators’ women placed second while Lees-McRae College was third, 48 seconds ahead of the Bulldogs.
The afternoon of Day One saw both men’s and women’s squads competing in a longer road race, doing multiple laps on a 13.4-mile loop. The men raced for 54 miles while the women raced for 27 miles.
The women’s race stayed together during the first lap, but Florida’s Holly Beard broke away from the lead group on the second lap to take the victory solo. Endicott and Bluhm were both safely tucked into the main chasing pack and sprinted to the line, finishing sixth and eighth, respectively.
“This was a good start to the season by both Morganne and Kyrstin. They were aggressive during the race and attacked a few times unsuccessfully, but they’ll continue to get stronger during the season to finish off the sprints in a higher place,” head coach Tim Hall said.
The men’s road race was animated with aggressive attacks by riders from Cumberland, Florida and the University of South Florida. The pack of 40 riders stayed together for the first two laps, but Florida’s Daniel Mosquera and South Florida’s Adam Skindel broke away from the field on the third lap with a 30-second gap. CU’s Britton Kinnard put up a solo chase on the two leaders and was followed by the remaining pack another 30 seconds back after lap three.
On the final lap Sullivan attacked away from the field along with 10 other riders who eventually caught Kinnard, but the two leaders stayed away. Sullivan rode in solo for third place while Mosquera won the sprint for victory just ahead of Skindel. The small chase group behind Sullivan contained Kinnard, who finished eighth on the day. The finishing pack arrived a couple of minutes later, racing for 11th place, and Hurst was near the front to end up 13th overall.
Day Two included a criterium on a tight, one-kilometer closed course located on campus. The Women’s A race lasted 40 minutes and included Endicott and Bluhm. The race separated quickly, with Endicott making the front leaders of seven women, and Bluhm was not far behind in a four-woman chase group.
Florida was the aggressors since the break contained three Gators among the seven, which allowed them to dictate tactics in the lead group. Endicott attacked once herself with six laps to go, but was reeled in by the Gators. The race came down to a sprint, as Endicott came across the line in sixth and Bluhm was 11th.
The Men’s A race lasted for 60 minutes and included six Bulldog riders – all four men from the morning TTT as well as Michael Palevo and Kinnard. The fast speed and tight course immediately split the field, as riders were getting dropped off the back each lap in the first 10 minutes.
Schubert was the first to launch a successful attack. He stayed off the front solo for several laps before Lees-McRae’s Spencer Oswald countered to eventually catch Schubert, who then dropped back to the main field.
Hurst responded with his own attack to bridge to Oswald and brought a Florida rider with him. Those two worked together to eventually catch Oswald, and those three stayed away the remainder of the race. Sullivan attacked late with another Florida rider to create a second breakaway. Both breakaways were successful, as Hurst sprinted for second place behind Oswald, and Sullivan came in fourth, close behind. Schubert came in fourth in the field sprint to take home ninth overall.
Coach Hall was pleased with the successful tactics and results.
“Our men were on the offensive and putting other teams in a position to chase. Tanner did a great job to be in the winning breakaway, which took pressure off Ryan and Tommy. Ryan’s move late was perfectly timed to success, too. Everyone raced extraordinarily well for this to be our first weekend of race intensity. We’ll continue to get stronger the more racing we do, but it was good to kick things off with this much success.”
After the first weekend of racing Cumberland is second in the team omnium standings for nationals. Florida is first with 120 points, Cumberland second with 87 and Lees-McRae is third with 78. Georgia (32) and Central Florida (23) round out the Top 5. The team’s second race weekend of the season is at Florida State. The road team then gets a weekend off before traveling to Georgia Tech on March 9-10.