Collegiate Cycling Nationals: Furman University race report

Craig McKinney came to grief during the TTT

The Furman Men’s team woke up the morning of the road race ready to win and show everyone we could still be a force without our former team captain Chris Butler, who was called on to bigger and better things with BMC. The road race course was at the Blue Mounds State Park, which would have hosted the 2012 Olympics road race, had Chicago won the bid. The course was a fifteen-mile loop that the men’s field contested five times and it included two punishing small hills at nearly 10 % before culminating at the end of each lap with a mile and a half hill that averaged 7 % and hit ramps up to 12%, as if this wasn’t enough the finish added another half a mile to the climb the group hit every lap making for a two mile 7% average climb to the finish.

Furman’s plan as dictated by our leader Spencer Beamer, was to ride for Andy Baker and try to save him for the climbs in the last lap, to accomplish this Furman sent Spencer Beamer and Jimmy Mitchell to cover the early breaks, which would allow Craig McKinney and Andy to conserve for the final laps where Craig would use his considerable horsepower and knowledge of collegiate racing to place Andy in good position going into the climb.

The morning of the road race we all came out to some serious Belgian weather, mid forties and rain/sleet mix that continued for the whole race. The racing started in earnest as soon as the neutral section ended with riders from, Mesa State, William and Mary, and Whitman college going off the front, these riders were soon joined by Jimmy Mitchell who sat on the move to bring it back. Due to the difficult nature of the course as well as the weather, the field was content to let this break go assuming the severity of both the weather and the course would contribute to the breakaway’s demise. However, this was not to be the case, Jimmy who at 6’6in is not what one would consider a climber, was dropped from the break going up the first climb putting Furman on the defensive as the breakaway’s gap grew to over five and a half minutes at one point.

Andy Baker - part of the Furman squad

Andy tried to rip groups off to catch the front group on all three of the hills each lap but no one was willing to commit and the nature of the course allowed for groups that got dropped on the climbs to catch back on after and recover before the next series of hills. Eventually succumbing to the cold and the effort of positioning Andy, Spencer and Craig, who had done their jobs to perfection bowed out, leaving Andy as the sole rider left in the race. Andy knowing it was now or never with little under two laps to go in the race, took a small flyer up a roller to catch the leaders, who at this point were now four minutes ahead of the peloton. Andy got a large gap instantly and chased solo for a lap and a half, catching the leaders at the base of the last climb, due to the length and effort of his chase, Baker was unable to catch the leader who attacked as soon Andy caught the group, but Baker managed to hold onto 4th beating one rider from the initial break after another rider from the decimated peloton bridged the gap to the leaders sprinted in for second, while another rider from the break held of Baker for third.

The criterium was held on a beautiful course in downtown Madison WI around the capitol building and included four wide turns and a small hill each lap. Due to the wind and the lack of technical nature of the course breakaways went but did not really get a large gap. Feeling the strain from their efforts the day before Spencer Beamer and Craig McKinney covered a few moves early but then bowed out of a very fast collegiate crit. Jimmy Mitchell was covering moves early but as the race wore on felt the previous days effort and drifted to the back of the strung out field where he met with some bad luck, flatting with 9 laps to go just after the free lap rule had expired. This left Andy Baker to try to advance and defend his 4th position in the omnium and to try to win the race. Andy took an individual points prime midway through the race and then sat in covering major moves. With 6 to go Andy jacked the Mesa State lead-out train of eventual winner Richard Geng, but due to the slow nature of their lead-out got pushed to the curb with under 2 laps left to race and rolled in for a disappointing 19th, but with enough points to clinch 5th place in the individual omnium for Men’s division two.

Team Time Trial:
The TTT was what Furman had been waiting for all year, as two time defending champions we were ready to etch our names into the history books with a 3 peat of the national championship. However, bad luck struck the team before we even started with Spencer Beamer suffering from a combination of a stomach bug and severe cold that left him unable to start the race. That meant it was down to the team of Craig McKinney, Jimmy Mitchell, and Andy Baker to get the job done on the rolling 19 mile TTT course.

Furman started last as the previous years champions and looked good going into the turn around, holding our time gap on the eventual winners Whitman College, however, disaster struck with three miles left to go as Jimmy Mitchell pegged from the enormous effort required in team time trialing, ran in to the back of Craig crashing at over 30 miles an hour. Since Furman had only 3 members and time stopped on the 3rd man, Craig and Andy were forced to wait up for Jimmy, who like a warrior remounted his bike and soloed back on. However, the team lost nearly two minutes from the actual crash and had to check their speed rolling into the finish so as not to pop an obviously hurting Mitchell. Furman stopped the clock with a time good enough for 6th place but only 2 minutes 15 sec off the eventual winners, leaving the team wondering what could have been without the crash.


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