Week 1: The Philly Phlyer

2016’s ECCC racing season was kicked off in Philadelphia with the traditional two-day Philly Phlyer race series.  The Penn State Club Cycling Team had a massive turnout, with twenty riders racing for the Blue and White.  Penn State partook in the TTT and road race on Saturday, and the criterium on Sunday.

3/19, Team Time Trial

The Philly Phlyer TTT course was 11 miles.  The highlight of the course were the multiple hairpin turns which demanded excellent teamwork and handling to preserve valuable seconds.  The final lap of the course finished up a hill, which put the riders deep into the pain cave.

Men’s A:  James Read, Drew Chidester, Greg Ratzell, Kevin Bernstein
The Penn State men’s A team witnessed a catastrophic crash from the Queen’s collegiate team.  As Drew described it; “it looked like they ran over a landmine.”  Carbon fiber and aero gear everywhere.  Our boys nailed down 3rd place despite the surrounding carnage.

Women’s A:  Monica Volk, Jess Bunchek, Rebecca Storch, Kirsten Pearsons
The women’s A team finished 3rd overall.  First time A racers Kirsten and Rebecca put on a stellar performance in the early morning race.

Men’s C:  Dan Kozar, Sam Carroll, Lucas Buseck
The men’s C team successfully wound it up for a 12th place finish.

Men’s D: Noah Smith, Cobie Arnold Jose Aguilar, Will Gowen, Jacob Brown, Charlie Akerblom, Bill Wahl
The team of Cobie, Jose, Jacob, and Bill misjudged the speed of entry on the first hairpin turn, which resulted in a minor crash.  Despite this, they pulled together and finished 3rd in the TTT, with a final time of 34:52.  A very impressive recovery and a valuable learning opportunity.  Noah, Will, and Charlie started out strong, but were accidentally led off course.

3/19, Schuylkill Scramble Road Race

The road race course was similar to the TTT course, but nixed one of the hairpin turns in favor of an additional 1 mile climb for the riders to navigate.  Riders began next to Memorial Hall, and then followed the course down a scenic route beside the river.  

Men’s A:  Drew Chidester, James Read, Greg Ratzell, Kevin Bernstein
At 39 miles long, the men’s A race was the most difficult of the events at the Philly Phlyer.  Three riders broke away on the first lap of the race, leaving the rest of the riders in the peloton to duke it out for the remaining positions.  Kevin broke away and jockeyed himself towards the center of the peloton, a position he would hold until the end of the race, with a 14th place finish.  Greg playfully attacked early in the race, pushing the other riders to catch up with him before he was swallowed once again by the peloton.  The final two laps of the course saw a sharp uptick in pace, and the exhausted riders struggled to cement good finishing positions.  The final climb, while a formidable obstacle for the majority of the riders, was taken advantage of by Kevin and Greg, who attacked and passed multiple cyclists.  Greg finished 13th, and Drew and James cranked their way to a 22nd and 23rd place finish, respectively.    

                                                                            Monica Volk sprints for the finish line 

Women’s A/B:  Monica Volk, Jess Bunchek, Kirsten Pearsons
Monica Volk and two non-collegiate professional riders executed a speedy breakaway on the first lap, and remained in the front for the remainder of the 32 mile race.  The three of them held an impressive one minute and thirty second lead off the front.  First place in collegiate already secured, Monica played amongst the pros and crossed the line second.  Jess duked it out in the center of the peloton for ideal positioning, and finished 11th, with Kirsten right behind at 19th.

Jess Bunchek scales the final climb while Noah Smith, Noah Stauffer, and Will Gowen provide moral support

Men’s C:  Dan Kozar, Sam Carroll 
A crash on the final turn of the course made for a difficult push towards the finish line.  Sam finished 59th out of the pack.  Dan ambitiously upgraded to category C for his first collegiate road race, and although he put out a good effort, he couldn’t quite keep up with the peloton.  Technique comes with experience.

Women’s C:  Sarah Rutledge
Sarah was reunited with a former Penn Stater, Kasinee.  Rivalries die hard and Sarah beat Kasinee to the line, 12th place over her 15th.  A great result for both, but only Sarah scored points.

Men’s D:  Noah Smith, Cobie Arnold, Will Gowen, Jacob Brown, Jose Aguilar, Charlie Akerblom, Bill Wahl
A pothole on the first descent caused a minor crash, thankfully with minimal injury.  Cobie powered his way to a 9th place finish, a solid performance for his first collegiate road race.  Bill finished 26th, while Noah, Charlie, Will, Jacob, and Jose lost contact with the peloton but nonetheless put out a good effort.

Women’s D:  Rebecca Storch
Rebecca finished 37th, successfully scorching her way past 30 other riders in her first ever road race.

3/20, Criterium at Temple University

As temperatures dipped under 40 degrees and wind ripped down the streets, the weather was a major hurdle for the criterium racers to overcome.  The final straightaway of the course barreled into a headwind, which added another challenge to primes and finishing sprints.  The railroad tracks which passed through the course added bones to the otherwise bare-bones circuit.

Greg Ratzell (left) and Kevin Bernstein (right) rip around a corner at the Men’s A Criterium

Men’s A:  Greg Ratzell, James Read, Kevin Bernstein
Kevin found a good opening for the final sprint, and secured a 10th place finish.  Greg attacked ferociously throughout the race, but couldn’t quite make the breakaway stick against the tough competition.  Greg and James received 18th and 19th, respectively.

Women’s A:  Monica Volk
Monica initiated another breakaway.  This time she was joined by three other collegiate racers.  On the final lap, Monica launched her sprint and created a massive gap, notching herself another 1st place finish for the weekend.

Women’s B:  Kirsten Pearsons
The women’s B field was combined with the women’s A field, forcing Kirsten to race with the fastest girls in the east.  The pace was a bit too fast for Kirsten to hold on to but she never quit, notching herself a 6th place finish.

Esteemed President and Maverick Sam Carroll begins a sprint (Image courtesy of Boston University Cycling)

Men’s C:  Sam Carroll, Dan Kozar, Charlie Li
The competition was tough in men’s C’s, and the Penn State riders were eventually pulled after holding on for the first half of the race.

Men’s D:  Noah Smith, Cobie Arnold, Jose Aguilar, Will Gowen, Jacob Brown, Charlie Akerblom
The men’s D field sported 66 contestants total.  The railroad tracks knocked a bottle out of its cage, leading to a minor crash on the first lap.  The field split up into two large groups by lap 5, which spread out the riders.  Cobie held on to the first group, and landed a 17th place finish.  Charlie led the 2nd pack throughout the latter part of the race, and finished 30th with Will in pursuit at 34th.  Will didn’t realize the pack had split up, and began celebrating after crossing the finish line.  There’s always next week.  Jose, Jacob, and Noah held on strongly for the majority of the race, but fell off the pace of the peloton.

The Philly Phlyer was a huge success for the Penn State Club Cycling Team.  Thus far, Penn State riders have racked up a total of 177 points, placing 4th in the ECCC.  With five more weekends remaining, the opportunity for new riders to improve and seasoned riders to dominate is all ahead.