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Fairbanks gets CU's first '07 victory
Mar 21, 2007 12:00 am
NEWNAN, Ga. — Cumberland's cycling team faced Lees-McRae, Auburn, Furman, Georgia, Clemson, Emory and host Georgia Tech in three separate events last weekend.
Riders began with a 7.7-mile individual time trial Saturday morning, then a 62-mile road race.
Cumberland's Peter Fairbanks narrowly missed victory in the time trial, finishing in 17:24, good for second place to Furman's Spencer Beamer, who crossed the finish line in 17:04. Beamer, a Knoxville native, is also a member of the Under-23 U.S. National Team.
McMinnville-native Shawn Mullican finished fifth and CU teammate Whitney Stanbrough was seventh, 48 and 64 seconds off the pace, respectively. Ben Bevans of Hermitage rolled across the finish line in 18:27, good for 12th place.
"Peter demonstrated he's one of the strongest riders in our conference with his time," Cumberland team director Tim Hall said. "Once he gets into a rhythm on a bike he's got the power to ride faster without fatigue, so his result today is not surprising. Spencer has always been an outstanding time-trial competitor, so for Peter to nip at the wheels of a U.S. National Team member says a lot about his fitness. Shawn, Whitney and Ben also showed worthiness near the top of our conference, making a strong foursome."
The Saturday-afternoon road race saw the cooler morning temperatures rise into the low 70s under sunny skies. The course followed the same 7.7-mile morning loop times eight for 62 miles.
Cumberland proved to be the antagonists throughout as attacks off the main pack of riders was fierce. Fairbanks and Stanbrough formed a five-man breakaway during the second lap with riders from Clemson, Georgia and Lees-McRae, building an advantage of over four minutes over nearly 30 miles of effort. But lack of cooperation between them proved to be its demise.
Stanbrough attacked the breakaway during lap 5 and was finally reeled back by only two riders remaining in the breakaway. The trio worked together for a lap before getting caught by the peloton, and with two laps to go it was a flurry of attacks taking place with none able to get away. Leading into the gradual uphill finish the entire peloton was still together as the pack spring began splitting to pieces. All of the energy expended in the breakaways and attacks took its toll on Cumberland, but Mullican poured his legs into a strong sprint finish for eighth place.
Bevans suffered scrapes and cuts during a last-lap crash. A rider in his vicinity lost control and rammed into Bevans, throwing him down to the pavement, effectively ending his race for the day. His bike took a serious beating as its carbon fiber fork was completely shattered from the frame. He didn't suffer serious injury, but the damage to his bike kept him out of Sunday's road race.
"First, we are very fortunate and thankful that Ben's injuries are minor," Hall said. "He's a strong resilient kid and will bounce back quickly. Second, our early breakaway efforts took its toll later in the race, but when you're aggressively racing, that's the race you take. It's never been our strategy to sit back and watch others animate the event, so while I'm disappointed in our results, I am very proud of our effort."
Sunday's road race was six laps of an 11-mile loop totaling 66 miles under ideal conditions of 70 degrees and sunny skies.
Despite the loss of Bevans, Cumberland was still able to be the difference in the race. One lap had yet to be finished with the entire peloton split in half, but the front half did contain Fairbanks and Stanbrough. This pack of riders stayed together ahead of the second group for a couple of laps before it too began shattering from attacks.
Fairbanks ended up in a breakaway with two other riders, Lees-McRae's Luke Winger and Furman's Beamer. Stanbrough stayed back in the second group to ensure nobody from his group would bridge up to the leaders containing Fairbanks. Mullican was in the third big group of riders several more minutes behind. Fairbanks and his two companions worked together for several laps, building their advantage to over five minutes before the decisive final turn.
As the three front-runners began climbing the day's final ascent, it was Fairbanks who launched a vicious attack for which Winger and Beamer had no response. Racing uphill, Fairbanks blazed by all team support and quickly built an insurmountable lead for the final four miles to Cumberland's first victory of the year.
"Peter chose the perfect moment to attack," Hall said. "We were fortunate to witness his effort and were incredibly excited, cheering him on and watching him leave his competitors behind. When the loop is 11 miles long you miss a lot of action, so it is pure joy to essentially see the winning move take place in cycling. What's more impressive is Peter won this same race last year. Winning a bike race is hard enough, but to repeat at the same event says a lot about his ability."
For the weekend, Fairbanks posted a win and second-place finish while Mullican and Stanbrough both wrapped up two separate top-10 finishes for a total of six top 10s.
After two straight weekends of meets, the team is enjoying spring break before returning to action March 31-April 1 at Auburn.