Sinead Miller of Marian University and Matt Brandt of Lindenwood University swept the Men’s and Women’s A categories in the Midwest Conference season opener hosted at Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky. Lindsey Wilson College established a considerable lead in the conference championship, amassing 807 points on the weekend compared to second-place Marian’s 701 points.
Sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-40s offered a welcome relief to many schools that travelled from the colder and snowier Midwest states. Two hundred thirty two riders — varying from first-time racers to seasoned professionals — competed in the weekend’s road race and criterium.
Saturday’s 16-mile road race circuit featured several unprotected windy sections paired with stretches of quick rolling hills. Strong headwinds and crosswinds kept fields strung out and forced many riders to abandon.
In the women’s three-lap road race, Miller, a sophomore at Marian who recently returned from the Ladies Tour of Qatar (where she finished 66th overall riding for the U.S. national team), showcased her early season form by riding solo away from a stacked women’s field. Meanwhile, Miller’s teammates neutralized the attacks, letting only Ashley James of Lindsey Wilson slip past their guard to finish in a solo second place.
The men’s four-lap road race quickly split apart in the rolling hills, allowing a break of six, including Lindenwood freshman Brandt, to escape at the beginning of the second lap. With the major varsity schools of the conference represented in the breakaway — Marian, Lindsey Wilson, and Lindenwood — the field slowed considerably as the teammates of the breakaway riders neutralized attacks.
The break eventually built up a four-minute lead with Brandt edging Will Nowak of Northwestern University by a wheel length in the final sprint.
The Men’s B road race saw a small breakaway escape in the first out of three laps, only to be caught at the beginning of the final lap. The race came down to a field sprint with Baxter Burnworth of Indiana University coming out ahead of Michael Palevo of Lindsey Wilson.
Courtney O’Neill of Northwestern won the first Women’s B/C/Intro road race of the season, with Summer Ohlendorf of University of Wisconsin-Madison and Rachel Stark of Indiana taking 2nd and 3rd respectively.
The University of Kentucky came out with a strong showing in the Men’s C field of 31 riders. Drew Lavey of Kentucky took the win, followed by Stephen Quay of Indiana and Ian Murray of Northwestern.
Fifty-eight riders lined up for the Men’s D road race making it the second largest field of the day. Vincent Tichenor and teammate Matthew Hackett took first and third place respectively, with Garrett Weiler of Ball State in second.
Sunday’s criterium course showcased blistering speeds with smooth pavement and sweeping turns. An open line of sight of the course gave spectators a thorough perspective on the racing, but made breakaways struggle to escape from the peloton’s sight and mind.
In the women’s field, Miller, the 2009 National Collegiate Criterium Champion, continued her dominance in Sunday’s criterium with another daring solo breakaway in the early laps. The field, tired from Saturday’s windy road race, attempted to give chase, but Miller eventually lapped the field to ensure her second victory of the weekend. Marian controlled the final sprint, slotting their own Jacqueline Knuth in second place, ahead of Lindsey Wilson’s Brooke Crum.
The men’s A racers took full advantage of the course’s smooth, sweeping turns to set a blistering 26.5mph average speed. Constant attacking kept the field strung out, but breakaway attempts survived no more than a lap.
With three laps remaining, and no successful moves off the front, Marian sent riders to the head of the peloton to keep the field strung out in preparation for the sprint. Brandt, still strong despite the breakaway effort the previous day, moved up through the leadout train to edge out Lindsey Wilson’s Alder Martz and Danny Estevez at the line.
The men’s B criterium saw David Richardson-Rossbach of Indiana University make his breakaway intentions clear from the start with a solo move in the early laps. The charging field reeled back his solo move after ten minutes of chasing, at which point Richardson-Rossbach attacked once again to form another breakaway with himself, teammate Baxter Burnworth, and a Lindsey Wilson rider, Bryan Underwood.
The trio eventually built up an insurmountable lead on the field, but as they approached the finish, Underwood out-foxed his Indiana breakaway companions to take the win.
In the women’s B/C/Intro criterium, racers set a steady pace which prevented attacks from escaping. The finale came down to a field sprint where Courtney O’Neill of Northwestern out-powered Hannah Calvert of Indiana.
The University of Kentucky continued to dominate the Men’s C race, placing Luke Avery and Drew Lavey ahead of Indiana’s Stephen Quay.
The Men’s D criterium saw the University of Missouri team president, Brent Davidson, take the win in front of James Smith of Lindsey Wilson and Daniel Twaddell of Ohio State.
Next week’s events bring riders to Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia, Kentucky, for a three-event weekend featuring a 20km time trial, a road race, and a criterium. The hilly nature of the course will give riders a challenge uncharacteristic to the Midwest’s typical pancake-flat racing. Conference rivalry between Lindsey Wilson and Marian will be strong as LWC attempts to solidify its points lead on its home course.
Brendan Benson is a senior business major at the University of Michigan and races in the Mens A category.