There was no doubt which team won Saturday morning’s women’s team time trial to open the Squawker Road Classic hosted by the Fort Lewis College cycling team. There was a brief question as to who won the men’s neighborhood criterium.
During the fifth weekend of racing in the Rocky Mountain Collegiate Cycling Conference schedule, FLC hosted the team time trial Saturday morning on La Posta Road before the afternoon downtown neighborhood criterium.
The FLC women’s time trial team of Ava Hachmann, Tristen Musselman, Kira Payer and Sophie Russenberger torched the competition in a time of 40 minutes, 57 seconds on the 20-mile course. That was 47 seconds ahead of second-place Colorado Mesa University, FLC’s main rival in conference events and a primary foe along with Indianapolis’ Marian University going into the collegiate national championships the first week of May in Augusta, Georgia.
“We were super smooth – no jumping, no nothing,” Musselman said. “It was kind of perfect, the smoothest we’ve done I think all year and probably the last couple of years. It was sweet to win by 45 seconds; that’s a pretty good gap on CMU.”
The University of Colorado at Boulder, which had riders win both varsity criterium races later in the afternoon, placed third in the women’s time trial in 44:42.
At last year’s nationals, the FLC women’s time trial team finished sixth, a disappointment from what the Skyhawks believed their potential to be. Musselman said the squad will go into this year’s race with a different mentality.
“Last year, we had so much confidence because we were breaking a bunch of hometown records, won here,” she said. “This year, we’re going in with cautious optimism. We gotta keep suffering. Last year, I’m sure coach (Sarah Sturm) said that it just didn’t look like we were suffering, so we’ve been practicing our suffering.”
In the men’s team time trial, Colorado Mesa’s unit of Henry Lutz, Alexander Marr, Caiden Plummer and Torbjorn Roed won in 34:55. CU-Boulder was second in 34:56, while the FLC team of Andre Bos, James Hilyer, Nikolas Johnson and Nicholas McKey was third in 35:19.
The men’s criterium came down to a photo finish, and CU-Boulder’s Grant Ellwood won by a wheel length ahead of FLC’s Hilyer after 60 minutes of racing through the grid.
There were two crashes in the race in the narrow first turn after the start/finish line, as multiple FLC and Colorado Mesa riders went down. After some finger-pointing, most riders resumed the race, though a couple Mesa riders had to be treated by paramedics with some pretty rough road rash. Hilyer was involved in the first crash but was able to finish the race while sporting grease all over his face and hands.
“Coming into the finish is just a full-on drag race,” Hilyer said. “That is fun to be in. Going to the line, throwing the bike forward, that’s what I do it for is stuff like that. It’s all focus for me, especially when you’re behind and you’re looking forward and keeping the head down. It’s all about aerodynamics and coming to the line to chuck your bike forward and make up anything you can.”
The men’s peloton stuck together much of the race. With double-digit Skyhawks in the field, Hilyer was confident his team would make the moves to get him in position to sprint. When he saw moves develop that featured key rivals, he knew it was time to make his move, too. He latched onto the wheel of his teammate McKey and made his move into the finishing sprint.
The women’s criterium saw 45 minutes of racing, and FLC’s Charlotte Backus helped push the pace along with CU-Boulder’s Margot Clyne. With one lap to go, Backus led out a group of five riders that included Musselman. With two CU-Boulder and two FLC riders in a group that included Colorado Mesa’s Dafne Theroux Izquierdo, the race would come down to team tactics. It was Clyne who came away with the victory, while Musselman placed third behind Theroux Izquierdo. Backus finished fifth.
“My teammate Sophie (Russenberger) actually attacked on the hill once we realized (Backus) was up there alone with Dafne,” Musselman said. “I just jumped on Sophie’s wheel and was able to bridge the gap, and then Sophie dropped back, which was perfect because it kind of pulled the whole group back. Another CU girl came with us in the group of five, which was a sweet selection.
“Charlotte was going to keep it fast, and then I was going to try to sprint. Going into the hill on the last lap, I kind of just got gapped out, and I could never get on the wheel of the girl who won going into the downhill.”
FLC’s Payer had a mechanical issue early in the criterium race Saturday afternoon, and it was serious enough to keep her from finishing the women’s race. So, the RMCCC omnium points leader decided to line up in the varsity men’s race. Though she didn’t finish, she showed the heart of a champion by lining up with the speedy group of men.
The road stars would race again in Sunday morning’s circuit race with 5-mile laps around Fort Lewis College and up the 10% grade hill up 8th Avenue. Hilyer said there’s no feeling like racing at home.
“It’s so much fun being the home team,” he said. “You don’t ever get to experience what you get here in the home race with people yelling your name up the hill. It’s motivation, and it really does make a difference.”