Skyhawks’ cycling future has arrived

Steve Lewis/Durango Herald

Fort Lewis College freshman Dean Haas was dominant in his first-ever Squawker Road Classic criterium. He and teammate Renan Maia led an early breakaway, lapped the field, then emerged from the pack to finish 1-2 in Saturday’s race in downtown Durango. “I attacked off the start, attacked again, attacked again,” Haas said.

By Jim Sojourner Herald staff writer

The future of Fort Lewis College cycling wasted little time getting ahead of the competition.

They even lapped it.

Freshmen Dean Haas and Renan Maia pushed a five-man breakaway further and further away from the main peloton in the Squawker Road Classic criterium – so far away, they got closer. By the final 10 minutes of the race, the peloton got closer and closer because the breakaway group caught them from behind.

Then after rejoining the pack a lap ahead, Haas and Maia led one more breakaway and sprinted to a 1-2 finish Saturday in downtown Durango.

“When tough gets tough, Fort Lewis cycling gets tougher,” former FLC cyclist and now Skyhawks’ road coach Rotem Ishay said. “And I told them before the race: ‘Make this race hard.’”

Haas didn’t waste any time following the directive.

“I attacked off the start, attacked again, attacked again,” Haas said.

On the first few attempts the peloton reeled him back in, but Haas and Maia finally broke away about halfway through the 50-minute race, joined by Michael Burleigh and Matt Lyons of the University of Denver and Jackson Long of the University of Colorado.

Burleigh finished third, Long fourth and Lyons fifth in the crowded sprint to end.

“We knew it was a difficult course, a technical course, so we knew we had to stay at the front,” said Maia, who’s from Brazil.And the sting of a near miss at first place in the morning time trial kept the energy from ebbing.“That’s why this happened,” said Haas, who gestured at the crit course when asked about the Skyhawks’ second-place finish in the time trial. “I was out for vengeance.”But Haas didn’t nab his first collegiate win alone, even after the work to lap the peloton. Once the breakaway group caught the main pack from behind, the rest of the Skyhawks kicked it into high gear, pushing to the front of the mob and pulling it along as fast as possible to open up the sprint finish and give Haas and Maia room to draft with three laps to go.“Beautiful display of teamwork, more than ever,” Ishay said. “And its just incredible the kind of teamwork (the freshmen) can build in one semester.”

The women’s criterium was much shorter on drama until the final lap.

After 44 minutes of breakaways and reel-ins, first-time women’s A rider Tanelle Berard of Northern Colorado made her move just before the narrow hill beginning at the intersection of 9th Street and 6th Avenue.

Berard, a triathlete who won junior nationals twice and once qualified for junior worlds in that sport, beat the peloton’s fastest group just in time for the 90-degree incline.

“Going into the hill, I just heard behind me, “Pop! Crash!” said Berard, who raced without the benefit of teammates Saturday. “I didn’t look back; I just pushed up the hill.”

Had she looked back, she would’ve seen the beginnings of the Squawker’s first medical transport in nine years.

At the front of the tightly bunched peloton, Colorado Mines’ Kristin Tippey’s back wheel quit spinning.

“Her back wheel exploded, and she hit the hay bale and did a full front flip,” said Abby Mickey of CU, who held Tippey’s hand as she lay sprawled out on the pavement waiting for an ambulance.

Two other riders skidded out to avoid her bike and body and escaped mostly unscathed.

“It was literally the worst crash I’ve seen,” said FLC’s Lauren Catlin, who’d managed to draft in third place and “suck wheel,” waiting for the final sprint before the crash rattled her plans.

“I screamed,” Catlin said. “I thought she was going to land on top of me.”

Tippey was taken off the course on a backboard, but paramedics on scene said she was in stable condition – that the neck brace and board were just a precaution for the head-first fall she’d taken.“It was beautiful,” Tippey said of her friend’s fall. “I give her a 10. But she get’s a minus 10 for crashing, so she still gets a zero.”Berard, meanwhile, got her first collegiate Class A win, beating out Justine Boddy of CSU and Christa Ghent of CU in a sprint for the win. A short ways back, Catlin finished fifth and FLC teammate Sofia Gomez Villafane sixth after the bottleneck resulting from the crash forced them out of sprint position.“It was good until that last lap, when there was that gnarly crash,” Catlin said. “But I guess I’d rather be safe. ... I’ll take that over road rash.”The Squawker Road Classic will wrap with the road race, which will start with the women’s A cyclists at 8 a.m. today from the FLC Education and Business Hall parking lot. The men’s A cyclists will start at 10 a.m.

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