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Fairbanks overcomes crash to win
Apr 17, 2007 12:00 am
AUBURN, Ala. — Cumberland's cycling team recently posted a victory and a second-place finish at races hosted by Auburn University.
The Bulldogs competed in three events against teams from Auburn, Clemson, Lees-McRae, Florida and Florida State.
The weekend began on a Saturday morning with a 78-mile road race as the teams pedaled three times around a 26-mile loop along the Horseshoe Bend National Military Park.
Cumberland's Ben Bevans, Peter Fairbanks and Whitney Stanbrough were active in attacking or countering moves by other teams. The decisive breakaway formed during the second lap with four riders, including Fairbanks, Lees-McRae's Scott Stewart, Florida's Phil Gaimon and Clemson's Ben Zawacki.
Zawacki fell off the pace on the third lap, leaving three to deal with a short hill in the final half mile of the course.
Stewart picked the right moment to sprint and accelerate ahead of Fairbanks and Gaimon. Fairbanks countered quickly but was unable to close the gap as he crossed the finish line in second place just a few bike lengths behind.
Stanbrough and Bevans finished 11th and 17th, respectively.
"Peter closed a big gap between himself and Scott at the end," Cumberland team director Tim Hall said. "But his mistimed sprint left him with too little distance to overcome Scott's advantagge. Picking the right moment to sprint for victory is the hardest thing to judge in the heat of the moment. Timing is everything in bike racing. Despite the disappointment it was a great result for Peter and our team, which earned us valuable team points."
Saturday afternoon offered a 21-mile team time trial along most of the same roads covered in the morning road race. Racing 78 miles in the morning took its toll on Cumberland, which finished sixth, well behind first-place Clemson.
"One of our riders bonked halfway into the race and the boys literally had to stop to regain their composure," Hall said.
With only three riders competing, it meant nobody could be left behind since the final time is taken once the third rider crosses the line. The typicall college team time trial consists of four riders, but Cumberland was without Shawn Mullican for the weekend.
The team's attention turned to the Sunday criterium, which comprised of a .7-mile loop around Jordan-Hare Stadium. Weather played a critical role in the early-morning event as rain fell on the area shortly before the race began. The roads dried shortly before the race started, but another brief shower late in the race played a role in the outcome. What was supposed to be a 70-minute-plus-three-lap race turned into a 60-minute event due to the dangerous conditions.
Despite the sketchy conditions, Fairbanks attacked the course and split away from the field along with Gaimon, Stewart and Luke Winger of Lees-McRae. The quartet lapped the field midway through the race. They stayed with the main pack for several laps before surging ahead once again.
That was when the rain returned to create slippery conditions on the course. A big crash sent several riders from the lead breakaway group to the pavement. Fairbanks and Winger crashed in Turn 1 with 20 minutes to go. Neither were seriously injured as they suffered only minor road rash. Riders who crash can take advantage of the "free-lap" rule and re-enter the race within their previous spot in the pack of riders.
"One lap I see Peter pushing the pace along with Scott Stewart, but the next time around Peter was missing," Hall said. "I immediately knew he had crashed somewhere on the course and only hoped it wasn't serious."
Winger didn't re-enter. But Fairbanks returned alongside the remaining two breakaway partners and the trio continued to build its advantage over the field.
Despite the crash, Fairbanks timed his attack perfectly, jumping ahead of Stewart and Gaimon with less than 500 meters to go. He held his lead for the last 100 meters and crossed the finish line by a bike length over Stewart for his second win of the season.
"What more can you say about Peter?," Hall said. "He was determined to not repeat his second-place finish and demonstrated why he's one of the toughest riders in our conference. We are very fortunate to have a rider of his ability within our program. Not only that, but his influence on everyone else helps to raise their abilities as well."
Cumberland's next event will be at Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk, N.C., before the regular season-ending conference championships in Nashville April 21-22.
"These last two race weekends are critical for our team," Hall said. "Both are great preparation for collegiate road nationals in early May, which is our biggest target for the season."
The nationals will be May 11-13 in Lawrence, Kans.