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'Le Train de Mercer' looks dominant in Swamp Classic

( MU's Kevin Roberts had a fantastic opening weekend at the Swamp Classic alongside his four teammates.
( MU's Kevin Roberts had a fantastic opening weekend at the Swamp Classic alongside his four teammates.

( MU's Kevin Roberts had a fantastic opening weekend at the Swamp Classic alongside his four teammates.

After several months off, Mercer’s cycling team has returned to competition with the SECCC season officially beginning the first weekend of February. A middle of January time trial at the Middle Georgia Winter Time Trial yielded a fourth and fifth place finish, demonstrating consistency and improvement. Andrew Lockwood finished fourth on the board with a time of 9:25, just a second ahead of Kevin Roberts’ 9:26. Charles Weaving also performed well, giving the team depth.  

On Feb. 9, Mercer’s five man group headed to the University of Florida’s Swamp Classic.  Ironically, the weather turned nasty, with downpours of rain throughout most of the weekend. In the collegiate C category, Austin Sholly finished a disappointing 34th, but this can partially be attributed to the weather. In a particularly slick and dangerous turn, Sholly wiped out and with a bloodied self, battered bike and bruised ego, Sholly forged ahead to get some time back but not finish where he had aimed.

However, in the collegiate B category, the heart of Mercer’s squad performed well. “Le Train de Mercer” was lead by Andrew Lockwood, leading the race late but simply running out of steam in the sprint to the finish, grabbing fourth — barely missing the podium.  It was a very aggressive peloton to lead, and it got the better of Lockwood. South Florida’s Zorth Pilioneta was the winner of that event. In 11th was Gabe Denes, grabbing second in the field’s sprint. Roberts finished in the top half, grabbing 19th.  

In the women’s race, Elizabeth Lee could not overcome the weather and aggressive tactics, only finishing fifth. She would do well later on, grabbing several great results in the time trial and road race.

Things went a lot differently for the Bears in Saturday’s time trial, seeing two riders get on the podium and make it interesting. Because of the weather, the course was shortened and the time trial consisted only of two 1.1 mile laps. South Florida once again had the winning rider (Adam Skindel), but Lockwood and Roberts finished second and third respectively with times of 5:14 and 5:17. Denes finished seventh at 5:25, and in the Cs, Sholly also finished seventh. Lee grabbed fifth on the women’s side.  

The six-turn, 45-minute criterium on Sunday saw Kevin Roberts grab third place. Denes and Lockwood performed well, grabbing 14th and 8th, but their tactics helped Roberts grab that spot on the podium. In the final race, several crashes in the field set the team back, but Mercer did see Denes grab a third-place finish.  

After the impressive performance in Gainesville, the Mercer Bears cycling team was second in the Division II SECCC standings after one race.  Elizabeth Lee, Austin Sholly and Kevin Roberts headed to Statesboro for the “Battle of the Boro.” Since parts of “Le Train de Mercer” were absent, it would prove to be tough for Kevin Roberts, yet he still performed incredibly well. In a testament to not only his individual riding abilities but also his interpersonal skills, Roberts now has five top-ten finishes early in this 2011 SECCC season. He looks to add to that tally on Feb. 26 and 27 at Tallahassee. Elizabeth Lee and Austin Sholly also did incredibly well. Sholly continues to grow, finishing in the middle of the pack over and over. Lee was able to grab a third-place finish in the 44-mile road race. The Bears are demonstrating early season dominance and they will continue to train through a brief hiatus this season.

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