Cycling team finishes season as the Ivy League's best
Louden, N.H. -- Following the lead of men's captain Todd Yezefski '04, the Dartmouth Cycling team took home the Ivy Cup last weekend, marking the first time since 1981 that Dartmouth is the premier cycling team among its Ancient Eight competitors.
The Big Green cyclists put themselves in prime position to repeat as the nation's Division II champion by augmenting the lead they brought into the Eastern Cycling Championships this past weekend in eastern New Hampshire.
Entering the weekend, Dartmouth was third in the Ivy League, 14 points behind the Harvard Crimson and four behind Princeton -- deficits that set the stage for a dramatic finish to the Easter Collegiate Cycling Conference (ECCC) regular season.
The rain and cool temperatures during the road race on Saturday didn't deter men's A rider Michael Barton '03 from breaking from the pack and out-working the field to take first place.
Yezefski sprinted the legs off the chasing peleton to finish third, followed by Tim Clement '05 and Bing Knight '05, who finished 11th and 12th, respectively.
The duo of Kristina Eaton '04 and Amy Wallace '04 also pulled out 11th- and 12th-place finishes, respectively, in the women's A field despite mechanical trouble and a shortened race due to the inclement weather.
Breyton Osgood '03 couldn't fight off the lactic acid buildup in his legs to hold off the other riders in the final climb of the men's B field, finishing five seconds off the leader in sixth place. In the encore to his first race of the season last week at Dartmouth, John Welsh '04 finished 20 seconds out of first in the 11th spot.
Not to be outdone by his teammates, Cosmo Catalano '04 finished eighth out the of the field of 63 men's C riders, just an ill-timed sprint away from his first collegiate cycling victory.
A quiet contributor all season, Jonathan Shea '03 also finished eighth in the men's D field in the first of two top-10 finishes for him on the weekend. By the time the tallies were recorded, Dartmouth had gained on both of its Ivy counterparts, but saved the best for last.
On Sunday the cyclists headed to Louden for the team time trial and criterium. By noon, the Dartmouth teams posted one second-place finish and three fourth-place finishes in the time trials, highlighted by the three-man A-train of Barton, Yezefski and Tom Temple '03 and the gutsy two-person female squad of Eaton and Wallace, racing without fast Christina May, who remained in Hanover struck with illness.
Using the momentum from their Saturday finishes, Osgood and Catalano spearheaded the fourth-place finishes of the men's B and C teams, respectively, helping position the Big Green to capture the Ivy Cup in the afternoon's criterium races.
Before the men's A criterium started, Yezefski had wrapped up the Maillot Jeune as the individual points champion for the season, but that didn't prevent him breaking away from the field to capture first place, thus bringing a decisive close to collegiate cycling's regular season and clinching the Ivy Cup for the Big Green.
Barton followed suit with fourth place as an encore to his road victory the day before and Clement made it three Dartmouth finishers in the top 10 with a 10th-place finish. Barton's fourth-place finish secured second overall in the men's regular season, nestled comfortably behind Yezefski , followed by Clement, who finished the year 19th out of the 62 men's A riders.
Eaton, whose performance continues to surprise herself after moving up to the women's A field at Williams one weekend prior, put an impressive cap on her weekend, finishing sixth among the 24 starters. Shea improved upon his road performance, finishing fifth in the men's D race to add to the point tally.
When the sun set on the weekend and the regular season, Dartmouth rode away with the top two men's riders in ECCC, the fifth best women's rider (Wallace), the Ivy Crown and the top spot in Division II.
Yezefski finished the season donning the Maillot Jeune for five consecutive weekends, a testimony to consistent performance and his preparation for the year.
"It was one of my goals for the season," Yezefski said. "I knew I'd be in contention from the beginning, I just didn't realize I'd win by that big a margin."
The stakes for the weekend were large in terms of the regular season honors, but the Eastern Championships were also the litmus test for the Collegiate National Championships, nine days and a continent away the weekend of May 9 among the hills of Berkley, California.
Barton, commenting on his performance and preparation, said: "The race was also supposed to be a confidence booster going into nationals as well as a test of fitness and training plans."
The cyclists will need that confidence as they travel to California and the winner-take-all national championship featuring the best cyclists in the country, not just the best in the East against whom the Big Green faced all year.
Eaton's anticipation summarizes the sentiment of the seven Dartmouth riders headed for cycling's "big dance:" "We have an incredibly strong team going to nationals, with the first and second Men's Omnium winners and three ladies pulling top-10 finishes. I think we have exactly what we need to take the Division II national championship for the second year in a row now that we have the Division II Eastern Conference title and Ivy cup in the bag."