Week 5: Army Spring Classic

Widely considered the best race of the season by Penn State cyclists, the Army Spring Classic was the most anticipated race of the 2016 lineup.  The courses at Army have been the spot of many Penn State victories over the years, and consistently push riders to their limits.  This year, the tradition of Penn State wins, warm weather, and post-race burritos continued.

Saturday 4/16, Team Time Trial

Brisk morning temperatures receded as the sun came up, and arm warmers were shed before 9 a.m.  The TTT course began in the parking lot of Lake Welch, and took riders for a 7 mile loop.  The first half of the race was downhill, but a turnaround at the halfway point brought them back up for a challenging ascent.  Potholes on the final straightaway were large enough to swallow a 700c wheel, 
and required alertness and caution.

Women’s A:  Kirsten Pearsons, Monica Volk, Jess Bunchek

A racers Monica and Jess teamed up with B racer Kirsten to compete in the TTT.  They easily powered through the straightaways and downhill segments, but differences in riding skills separated them on the final climb.  A late revision in TTT rules required all three riders to cross the line before the clock was stopped.    As a result, the team placed 5th, but scored points nonetheless.

Penn State D riders compete in the TTT

Men’s D:  Jake Brown, Noah Stauffer, Sam Banks, Will Gowen

The TTT was an optimal warm up for Men’s D riders, and prepared them for road race.  The team 
placed 7th after some directional difficulties.

Saturday 4/16:  Harriman Road Race

The road race began in a mass start in the Lake Welch parking lot.  Laps were 14 miles long, and took the contestants through the scenic Hudson River Valley countryside.  Riders were warned that the first downhill could facilitate speeds up to 60 mph, which caused a stir of anxiety and excitement in the peloton.  A hairpin turn at the bottom of the hill stunk of burning brake rotors and carbon wheels.  Riders who misjudged the turn found themselves on the grass, rubber side up, or both.  The course then featured a series of challenging hills, some broken up by straight sections.  When the course finally flattened out again, riders were rewarded with the scenic view of Lake Tiorati, before a final upward slog to the finish line.  Category A riders were allowed a feed zone, which required teamwork and participation.

James takes a corner in the road race (image courtesy of Jan Polk)

Men’s A:  James Read

The A’s faced a brutal 70 miles on the already challenging road race course.  By the second lap, two riders broke away, and created a gap that expanded to six minutes by the end of the race.  James stayed locked in with the group, but the series of ascents divided the riders into two groups.  Although James rode hard in the second pack, he decided to pull himself on the fifth lap.   

Monica leads the peloton in the road race (image courtesy of Jan Polk)

Women’s A/B:  Monica Volk, Kirsten Pearsons, Jess Bunchek

Monica and another pro rider broke away on lap 1, and eventually created an impressive 18 minute gap between themselves and the peloton.  They took 30 second pulls throughout the 56 mile race, but then split up for final showdown to the finish.  Monica took 1st in a close race.  Jess stayed with the peloton, but laid down too many watts and busted her power meter cranks on lap 3.  Kirsten pulled over to help, and they decided it was in Jess’s best interest to pull herself from the race.  Kirsten finished strong on lap 3. 

Cobie, Lucas, and Dan get ready for the road race

Men’s C:  Cobie Arnold, Lucas Buseck, Dan Kozar

The steep first descent led to a massive pileup in the men’s C field.  The accident took down Lucas, but he managed to avoid serious injury.  The crash broke his derailleur hanger, and he was unable to finish the race.  After a wildly successful career in D’s, Cobie upgraded to C’s to roll with a faster crowd.  He kept up with his new racing companions until halfway through the final lap, where he got caught by a nasty bonk.  He finished 47th in the massive C field, an excellent result for his first race in a difficult category.  Dan finished right behind at 63rd.   

Women’s C:  Sarah Rutledge
The women’s C field put in 42 miles on the course.  The peloton became divided as the race progressed, which led to a 2 minute gap between groups.  Sarah stayed with the second pack, and 
finished 16th.

Bill sprints for the finish in the road race

Men’s D:  Jose Aguilar, Sam Banks, Jake Brown, Will Gowen, Noah Stauffer, Bill Wahl
The speedy descents were unsettling for the D riders, but they managed to avoid crashes on the intense course.  Will stayed with the front of the pack throughout, and passed 3 riders on the final sprint, which earned him 4th.  Bill also finished with the front pack, and locked down 21st.  Sam stayed up towards the front until lap 2, where he eased off and got 35th.  Though he had optimal positioning, Noah Stauffer threw his chain on lap 2, an unfortunate end to a promising race.  Likewise, Jose nailed a pothole and flatted his rear tire. 

Sunday 4/16:  Shea Stadium Criterium

The rolling geography and gothic architecture of West Point’s campus made for an exciting criterium.  The course took place next to Shea Stadium, and featured short laps of .7 miles.  The course began downhill past the bleachers, and then a sharp turn guided riders alongside the railroad tracks.  The straightaway section featured many bumps and potholes in the right lane, and riders congregated to the left side.  Only the most determined riders sprinted through the right lane to get to the front.  After the finish line, laps began with a brief climb, which allowed climbers to gain ground on a course otherwise dominated by sprinters.    

Men’s A:  Kevin Bernstein, James Read

Kevin chased down a breakaway on the final lap of the A race.  Although he seemingly had a solid finish locked down, a rider in front of him went into the final turn too hot, resulting in a crash.  Kevin grabbed the brake, but was unable to avoid the accident.  James stayed in the peloton for the entirety of the race, and finished 27th.   

Women’s A/B:  Monica Volk, Jess Bunchek, Kirsten Pearsons

Monica secured the first two prime sprints, and Jess took the 4th for good measure.  Monica kept up her lead at the front of the pack, and finished 2nd after the 19 mile crit.  Kirsten finished 6th in her category, earning points in both the prime sprint and her finish.  Jess crossed the line in the center of 
the pack for 16th.

Cobie leads the pack in the crit

Men’s C:  Lucas Buseck, Cobie Arnold, Dan Kozar

Thanks to the downtown bike shop, Lucas scored a new derailleur hanger in time for the crit.  He stayed in the pack throughout the entirety of the race, and finished 25th.  Dan and Cobie lost the peloton halfway through the race, and formed pacelines with other riders to catch back up.  Unfortunately, they were pulled before they could regain ground.

Jose races the men's D crit

Men’s D:  Will Gowen, Bill Wahl, Sam Banks, Jose Aguilar, Noah Stauffer

Noah Stauffer attacked from the back of the peloton, and made his way to the very front.  In the process, he picked up Will, and together they attempted to hold a breakaway.  Although Noah burned his matchsticks getting to the front, he helped Will secure an ideal position for the remainder of the race.  Will kept up with the precarious peloton, and finished 11th.  Bill stayed up at the front with Will until the 2nd to last lap, where a crash on the sharp turn forced him off his bike.  He defied all odds by jumping back on and catching up again.  Bill and Sam finished 22nd and 27th, respectively.  Jose raced hard through 8 laps before becoming disconnected from the group.  

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