Photos courtesy of Tim Hall
AUGUSTA, Ga. - The Lees-McRae College cycling team finished seventh place overall at Collegiate Road Nationals over the weekend (May 10-12), highlighted by a fourth-place finish in the criterium by Nolan VanderZwaag and fourth-place finish by the men in the team time trial.
Marian University took the overall varsity team title for the 10th consecutive year, followed by Milligan College in second and Colorado Mesa University in third. Fort Lewis College finished in fourth, while Lindenwood University took fifth. Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) Atlanta finished sixth followed by Lees-McRae.
Day one (Friday, May 10) consisted of the 22-mile team time trial event at Fort Gordon Military Base.
Men on Day One – The four-man team of Matthew Armstrong, Liam Flanagan, VanderZwaag and Caleb Smith finished fourth with a time of 46:35, just 53 seconds off the winner Colorado Mesa, and 27 seconds ahead of fifth place Fort Lewis College.
Women on Day One - The quartet of Erin Sferrazza, Sveltana Mack, Dagny Palmer and Marla Cline finished eighth in the team trial event with a time of 58:22, which was 5:11 behind repeat champions Marian University.
"Our goal was to get back on the podium this year," said head coach Tim Hall. "We've been working on this discipline for three months, and their practice time together paid off."
Day two (Saturday May 11) consisted of the road races, also at Fort Gordon Military Base. Both men and women raced a total of 60 miles as the men race was shortened 15 miles due to severe thunderstorms.
Men on Day Two - Liam Flanagan paced the Bobcats with an 11th-place finish, while VanderZwaag finished right behind him in 12th. Flanagan, VanderZwaag, and Armstrong were the remaining Bobcats with the leaders as they began the last 15 mile lap. Flanagan and Armstrong were involved in the sprint finish, but were just off the pace of the winner from Marian University. Armstrong and Smith finished back-to-back in 50th and 51st, while Brendan Bengtson also finished in 65th. Daniel Jeske would cross the line in 69th, with Will Hardin right behind him in 70th.
Women on Day Two - Palmer led the Bobcats in the road race finishing in 24th, just 24 seconds down from the winner from SCAD-Atlanta, while Sferraza crossed the line close behind in 30th. Palmer and Sferrazza had maintained pace with the lead group leading up to the final 1-kilometer climb before the finish. Mack would finish in 32nd, while Cline also crossed the line in 41st.
"The men raced our plan effectively and put Nolan and Liam where we wanted them for the finish," said Hall. "Both guys were part of the final climb at the front, but just missed out on the final split before the finish line. Our women put in their best road race performance all season. They showed true grit to be with the leaders after 59 miles of the 60 mile race. Now they know the amount of work it'll take to finish off that final mile of a very hard race."
Day three (Sunday May 12) was the criterium events in downtown Augusta. Both races were affected by crashes due to rain and slick road conditions, some involving Lees-McRae riders. In the men's race, only 25 of the 80 starting riders completed the entire race on lead lap, while only 21 of 48 women were on the lead lap at the finish.
Men on Day Three - VanderZwaag led the men in the criterium event finishing in fourth, while Flanagan crossed the line in 10th. Bengtson finished in 29th, while Hardin also finished in 40th due to being caught up in the wreckage. Armstrong also finished in 59th in the event. Caleb Smith was poised to finish on the lead lap, but his third and final crash of the day resulted in a broken fork, causing his DNF.
Women on Day Three - Mack led the Bobcats with a 24th-place finish in the criterium event, while Palmer finished 32nd and Sferrazza took 35th. The women race was stopped once and neutralized another time to attend to crash injuries, but fortunately all three riders avoided the crashes that plagued the race.
Nolan VanderZwaag took fifth in the individual omnium in his final collegiate racing weekend.
"I'm excited to have finished my collegiate career by accomplishing my goal of standing on the podium at Nationals," said VanderZwaag. "I couldn't have done it without my team and coach who have supported me the last four years."
"Nolan has been making it happen all season long, and at nationals he kicked it up a notch to go out on a high note," said Hall. "His level of focus and determination are what put him on the podium. His leadership the past couple of seasons has made a big positive impact on the program. Seeing him stand on the podium for the criterium and omnium was icing on the cake."
This concludes the collegiate cycling road season.