Fort Collins, Colo.: The Lees-McRae Bobcats pedaled their way to the top of the competition this past weekend in the USA Cycling Collegiate Road National Championships in Fort Collins, Colorado claiming their second national championship title in a single calendar year. The Bobcats, in an unprecedented manner, not only took their first ever Division I Team Championship in Road Nationals, but saw Carla Swart (Buford, Ga.) and Andrew Talansky (Key Biscayne, Fla.) take home not only the Road Race Individual Championships but the Women's and Men's Individual Overall Championships as well.
The Bobcats opened up the first day of Road Nationals by taking an early, commanding lead in the Division I Men's Team Time Trials, a lead which they held until the University of California-Davis pushed their way into first place, finishing with a time of 23:18.490. The University of Colorado-Boulder came in a mere nine seconds behind, pushing the Bobcats, who finished at of 24:00.980 for the 20 kilometer race, to third place.
"With four freshmen in the contest, we're very pleased with our result," said Lees-McRae Head Coach Doug Owen. "Brian (Sheedy), our assistant coach, got them together as a team and had them mentally prepared."
The women, racing the same 20 kilometer course as the men, completed the race in 29:18.470 to finish in fifth place. At the end of the day the Bobcats stood in fourth place overall with 129 points, well within striking distance of first place University of California - Davis (158), Fort Lewis College (139), and Stanford University (132).
On Saturday the Bobcats continued their quest for a national title with the road race segment of the competition on a windy, 51 mile lollipop course through the foothills of western Colorado. The women took to the course first with Lees-McRae's Carla Swart among the strong front seven setting the pace for the race. The group stayed together through the flats, steep climbs and descents until the final stretch when the sprint to the finish line saw the sophomore Swart overpower Chloe Foresman of the University of Arizona to claim the Women's Division I Road Race Individual National Title. Also placing for the Bobcats were junior Ally Starcher of Etna, California (14th) who rode with a strong chase group and senior Kacey Manderfield of Davisburg, Michigan (26th) who was among the peloton.
The men, with more than 100 riders competing, also saw a group of seven cyclists separate themselves early in the race. Freshman rider Andrew Talansky found himself in the lead group and hung on until the end, when he too broke away in the sprint to claim the Bobcats' second individual title of the day.
"I didn't know I was going to win until the last 300-meters," said Talansky. "I was hoping to be able to stay with the Davis rider when he attacked on the final climb. Once I did, I knew I had a shot."
Teammate Scott Jackson (Chatham, N.J.) road a strong race to finish 16th while classmate Mike Anderson (Alpena, Mich.), recovering from an early wreck, finished 47th in the demanding race to accrue more points for the Bobcats.
At the end of the second day the Bobcats, with 285 points, had moved to third place in the team omnium standings, a mere ten points behind Fort Lewis College and the University of California-Davis who had 295 points each. The stage was set for a shootout between these three tough competitors in the final day of the championships.
On the third and final day of competition the cyclists headed to Old Town Fort Collins for the criterium races. The women once again started the day, providing an exciting sixty minute race as top contenders from leading schools and two surprise riders battled for points in their final event of the championships. In the end it was Michigan's Julie Bellerose and Harvard's Anna McLoon who broke away to claim the gold and silver while Lees-McRae's Swart and Manderfield won the field sprint to take third and fourth respectively, adding valuable points to the Bobcats' tally in the process.
In the eight-turn, technical sixty minute race the Division I Men's riders hung together for the duration with the race finally determined by the field sprint at the end which saw Colorado State University's Phil Mann claim his second consecutive Road Race Criterium Title while Steve Scholzen (University of Wisconsin - Madison) went home with the silver for the event. Talansky was the top finisher for the Bobcats, pedaling to a respectable ninth place finish and securing the Bobcats' first-ever USA Cycling Collegiate Road Race Team Overall National Title.
The Bobcats finished the three day event with 473 total points, 41 points ahead of the second place finisher, rival Fort Lewis College (432). Colorado State University claimed the third spot on the podium with 362 points. The Bobcats also claimed both the men's and women's individual overall titles with Carla Swart amassing 281 points to outscore silver medalist Anna McLoon (Harvard University) by 55 points in a decisive victory. In a much closer race, Andrew Talansky put together 244 points, enough to place himself ahead of Phil Mann's (Colorado State University) 223 points.
Lees-McRae's rise to prominence in the collegiate cycling world is evidenced by two national championship titles (cyclocross and road), a second place finish in the mountain bike nationals and a fifth place finish in track in a single year. The Bobcats have also claimed seven individual titles as they have pushed themselves to be top contenders in every genre of the sport.
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