Kira Payer didn’t let a mechanical issue on her road bike stop her from dominating the field en route to winning the collegiate women’s road race in the Squawker Road Classic on Sunday at Fort Lewis College, which was hosted by FLC’s cycling team. The issue prevented her from finishing Saturday’s neighborhood criterium, but would not be denied on Sunday, as she won the race in one hour, 29 minutes and 37 seconds.
“Today, I also had mechanical issues, and my bike stopped shifting between chain rings, so I was stuck on my big ring,” Payer said. “Unless I reached down to press a button near my crank, I was almost stuck there. During the first lap, I was worried about the hill being stuck in my big gear, but I just stood up, went hard and had a gap and just rolled with it.”
Fort Lewis’ Savilia Blunk, took second in the women’s road race after she crossed the finish line in 1:30.04. Margot Clyne from the University of Colorado at Boulder rounded out the top three finishers with a time of 1:32.40.
“The rest of the ladies did their part to help Kira win, and we got great performances out of them,” said FLC cycling director Dave Hagen. “I think everybody did great and it’s always tough when you race at 8 a.m. when you race the previous afternoon. Savilia had a great day, same with (Tristen Musselman), and that was a big race from them moving forward.”
Other top finishes for the Skyhawks included Musselman, who was fifth in a time of 1:32.52 and Charlotte Backus was eighth in 1:33.49.
“My teammates did a wonderful job blocking, it was definitely a team effort,” said Payer. “Without them, I wouldn’t have stayed off the front. I felt really strong the whole time, and the teammates holding the other racers off was huge for me. On the last lap, I heard that I had about a minute lead, and I eased up a bit and enjoyed it. A home win is really special.”
The circuit was 5-mile laps around Rim Drive, and up the hill on 8th Avenue, a 10% grade.
While it positively impacted Payer, other Skyhawk cyclists weren’t so lucky. The men’s race was nine laps, or 45 miles, while the women’s was six laps, or 30 miles. After Saturday’s criterium and time trials, FLC’s top riders in the men’s race did not have enough gas in the tank to catch the top-two finishers, Alexander Marr of Colorado Mesa University, and Ross Ellwood of CU-Boulder. Marr took first, while Ellwood was second. As of press time, official times were not made available.
The highest finisher for Fort Lewis was Nicholas McKey crossed the line in sixth, while James Hilyer, who finished in second in the neighborhood criterium on Saturday.
“It was really punchy, it was not a consistent effort all day and even on the hill, it would be stop-and-go, and we didn’t have a guy making the early moves, so that put us on the back foot, so we had to be the ones working to chase it,” McKey said. “All of the other teams, it not their problem at that point, and it put us behind the eight ball a little bit. It just started to implode the last few laps, attacks left and right, and eventually, it started breaking down from 15 in the group to 10 to then groups of twos and threes just scattered all over the road shelled out.”
McKey said it was the right time for the groups to break up during lap No. 7, but Ellwood and Marr had already took their largest lead of the day, with over a 2-minute, 20 second lead over the rest of the pack.
“We were comfortable with it, but the gap had grown just a little too much for us to be contending for the win at that point,” McKey said. “At one point, the lead shrunk from 1:20 to around 40 seconds, but that was the lap where we just couldn’t work together and the pace was just not staying hot, and then it ballooned up to 2:20, which was when we started playing for third.”
Hilyer said that part of the reason why the Skyhawks couldn’t catch the front two was because of a combination of injuries and illness.
“The real move from our group came from with one to go on the climb up,” Hilyer said. “I just didn’t have the legs at that point and we all fought for as long as we could through the finish. We’re kind of frustrated just because of how yesterday went with the crashes and a few kids sick, but, still, there’s one month to go before nationals, and we’ve been winning races all season and have been doing really well, so I’m way more confident moving forward. Today just wasn’t our day.”
After a weekend of home racing, Hagen believes it will help FLC in the long run.
“I think we can take away a lot and we can learn our lessons from this weekend and take that to nationals with us,” he said. “A lot of things happened that we want to build on, and there are some things that we should be able to fix for next month, and so all-in-all, it was a good weekend.”