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Cyclists Compete in National Championships

By John Morrell
Team Member

MIT hosted the National Collegiate Cycling Championships May 22 and 23. The 250 cyclists from across the country came to Cambridge to compete in three events under ideal weather conditions for the coveted "Stars and Stripes" national championship jerseys.

The riders, representing 32 teams and 10 conferences, are the finalists from the conference qualification competitions, which began in February for those fortunate enough to live in warm climates. Kjirste Carlson PhD '93 led the MIT Cycling Team to its best-ever team finish of 9th place while she took third in the women's individual competition.

Saturday's road race event was held on a hilly 7.2 mile circuit in Arlington, Belmont, and Lexington. Each lap concluded with three short but very steep hills just before the finish line. Carlson, Jill Sherwood '95, Christine Sai-Halasz `95, and Karon Maclean G were among the 101 women lined up to start the seven-lap race.

Aggressive racing and an early crash took several riders, including Sherwood, out of the race on the first lap. With the University of Colorado working hard to force the pace on the climbs, the size of the field slowly decreased over the next few laps. The critical move came on the fifth lap, when a group of seven riders, including Carlson, broke away from the rest of the field. The move forced the field to split into three groups as riders tried to catch the group in front of them.

On the last lap, the 10 racers in the front group began jockeying for position for the final uphill sprint to the finish. Carlson began her sprint first and used her power to take third behind Janell Parks of the University of New Mexico and Sunne Pollart of the University of Colorado.

In the 72-mile men's race, early breakaway attempts kept the 140 riders on their toes, with some of the riders being dropped by the fast tempo. On the third lap, a breakaway led by Jeff Winkler of University of Califonia at San Diego quickly established a 40-second lead. On the fifth lap, Winkler dropped his breakaway companions and quickly built his lead over the field to three minutes despite numerous attempts to close the gap by riders in the field.

Winkler showed that his 7-minute margin of victory in the West Coast Collegiate Championships was no fluke by cruising to a 3-minute victory and a national championship jersey. Tylor Hamilton, a Massachusetts resident riding for the University of Colorado, attacked with two laps to go in the race and held on to claim second.

He was followed by a large bunch containing most of the 45 other riders left in the race, including Paul Nealey G, whose 36th place finish was MIT's highest. Garret Ito G and Rich Pawlowicz finished just behind the main pack. John Morrell G and Abe Stroock '95 failed to finish due to mechanical problems.

After a short night's rest, the riders were up early on Sunday morning for a team time trial which followed a difficult 15 mile course through Concord, Carlisle and Bedford.

Stanford dominated the women's event and thus finished the season with an undefeated record in team trial events. The University of California at Davis led the rest of the teams to take second, 1 minute and 12 seconds behind Stanford. Davis was followed closely by Cal Poly/San Luis Obispo, the University of Colorado, and MIT.

This 5th place finish was the best ever by the MIT women's team in the national championships. In the men's event, the University of California at Santa Barbara continued its season-long domination but was followed closely by the University of Colorado. MIT put together its best team race of the season, taking 10th, one second behind Cal Poly/San Luis Obispo and one second in front of the University of California at San Diego.

Sunday afternoon's criterium race in Harvard Square was the final event of the championships. Thousands of spectators lined the 1-kilometer course to watch the women's 30-mile race and the men's 40-mile race. Both races saw fast-paced action as riders continually attempted to break away from the pack and claim points (called premes) given to the race leader at the end of specified laps. Lying in 12th place, just 2 points behind rival University ofMassachusetts at Amherst going into this final event, the MIT racers rode aggressively in search of every possible point. In the women's race, Carlson scored twice in the premes and took 6th in the final sprint, which was won by Janell Parks. Abe Stroock, in only his second season of collegiate racing, scored once in the preme sprints and also took 6th in the final sprint of the men's race. The aggressive riding paid off as MIT moved to 9th in the team competition, edging out the University of Massachusetts by three points.

The newly crowned Dr. Kjirste Carlson (she defended her thesis on Friday, the day before the championships started) used her criterium performance to solidify her position and finish third overall in the women's individual competition, while Stroock's criterium performance moved him to 12th overall in the men's individual competition. Carlson's performance caps an outstanding collegiate cycling career that includes two Eastern Collegiate Conference individual championships and many victories throughout the last three seasons. The women's individual title went to Janelle Parks while Sunne Pollart took second. Tylor Hamilton used a victory in the criterium to overtake JeffWinkler and capture the men's individual title. The performances of Hamilton and Pollart led the University of Colorado to its 4th national team title, followed by the University of California at Davis in second and the University of California at Santa Barbara in third.