Cyclists race to second place finish at nationals
At one point during the 2001 Collegiate Road Cycling season, the Dartmouth cycling team feared that they would not even qualify for the National Championships. Aside from weekly top-five finishes of senior Kate Sherwin, winner of the Eastern Conference Division II overall woman's title, top finishes were few and far between.
To add to the problems, Todd Yezefski '04, who won his initial collegiate race in March, crashed during a training ride and broke his collarbone, sidelining him for the season. Those problems have now been forgotten, however, as the team fought its way to a second place finish in Division II at the 2001 Collegiate National Championships, held this past weekend in Colorado Springs, Co.
Dartmouth competed in a field of 28 schools, falling only to the U.S. Air Force Academy. The division in which a school competes is dependent upon both the size of the school and the team.
The weekend was comprised of three types of races: a criterium, a fast, aggressive race contested on a .9 mile course in downtown Colorado Springs; a road race, held on a hilly, nine mile loop on the grounds of the Air Force Academy and a team time trial, a timed event in which team members ride together against the clock, the winner being the team with the fastest time.
After days of beautiful, sunny weather, rain arrived for the start of the criterium on Saturday. The women's race was run first, pitting the top collegiate racers in the country against each other on a fast, slippery, eight corner course. Sherwin and Amy Wallace '04 represented Dartmouth in the race, which would last 50 minutes and five extra laps.
It didn't take long for the race to get exciting, as Sarah Konrad, a graduate student from the University of Wyoming and former Dartmouth undergrad, broke away after just two laps and increased her lead throughout the entire race, soloing her way to victory.
The field sprint followed nearly two minutes later, with Sherwin mustering fourth. Wallace, who has been riding for just over a month, was pulled when she was lapped, but was placed ninth.
Unfortunately, bad luck struck the men once again in the criterium. While riding the wet course for warm-up, James Mathews '01 crashed in a turn, chipping his front teeth and cutting his chin as a result. Needing medical attention, Mathews was transported to the hospital and could not race.
This left the hope of the team on Yezefski, a five-time Junior National track champion. Helping to reel in breakaways, Yezefski rode at the front of the pack the entire 70-minute race, hoping that the race would end in a sprint, in which he was almost certain to get a top finish. While the race did end in a sprint and Yezefski was positioned fourth coming out of the final turn with 200 meters to go, he crashed and eventually crossed the line in 24th.
Sunday brought much better weather and results for the Dartmouth team. The women raced for 54 miles on the hilly course, which had a max altitude of 7200 feet and nearly 950 feet of climbing per lap. A bit disappointed with her finish the day before, Sherwin was determined to improve, as the course was much more to her liking.
Once again, Konrad stole the show, putting nearly 10 minutes on the field and easily grabbing the win. Sherwin, however, had a very impressive sprint as she crossed the line in front of her other Division II competitors for second. That finish also gave her enough points to finish as the second overall woman for the weekend. Wallace finished in an impressive tenth in the road race.
Standing fourth in the overall team category after the criterium, the men knew that they needed to post good results if the wanted to remain competitive for the weekend.
The Air Force Academy had a solid grip on the lead, partly due to Yezefski's and Mathews' mishaps. Racing 63 miles on the same road as the women, the men's race saw a USAFA senior take an early lead of two minutes on the field before the field began to chase with three laps remaining.
An attack on the main climb by Princeton's Tyler Wren splintered the pack, and neither Yezefski, riding a borrowed bike, nor Mathews could match the pace of the eventual winner. They finished 9th and 14th, respectively.
Weather turned foul once again for Monday's 10.7 mile team time trial. A cold front had quickly moved in after the road race and the temperature plummeted 40 degrees, bringing snow with it. The teams faced high winds and uncomfortably cold temperatures as they exhausted themselves on the rolling road.
Dartmouth was in second overall, 81 points behind USAFA, a nearly insurmountable lead. Dartmouth still put up a fight, though, as Sherwin led herself and Wallace to second, only fourteen seconds behind winner Yale.
The men's team of Yezefski, Mathews, and Tom Temple '03, more known for his cross-country skiing, also clocked in the second fastest time, this time being bested by Air Force.
When the final results were tallied, the Air Force remained ahead of Dartmouth, who held on to second for the competition. Army followed in third.
As the last race for seniors Mathews and Sherwin, Nationals provided a satisfying conclusion to four years of ups and downs. For Yezefski, Wallace, and Temple, all of whom will be back next year, the weekend will surely serve as fuel for the fire for 2002.