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    April 18, 2021 Lynchburg, Va. RSS |

    At this past weekend's inaugural Liberty Cycling Classic, Lady Flames graduate Bethany Matsick finished second in Saturday's Professional 1-2-3 road race in Concord, Va., and fifth in Sunday's Pro 1-2-3 criterium held on East Campus, where Gunnar Ingram won the men's Category 3 race and fellow Flames senior Freddie Shashaty placed third.

    "We had a great time hosting this weekend's race and are grateful for everyone who came out," Liberty cycling Head Coach Timo Budarz said. "Gunnar's race that he won was perfectly executed. He had perfect timing (on his attack) and perfect aerobody positioning."

    Liberty seniors Gunnar Ingram (center) and Freddie Shashaty (right) placed first and third, respectively, in Sunday's men's Cat 3 criterium on East Campus.

    Both Ingram and Shashaty joined Budarz in the men's Pro 1-2-3 criterium, held on a 0.5-mile loop course. Budarz placed fifth and Ingram and Shashaty both crossed the finish line in the top 20.

    "There was a strong field in the men's races all weekend, largely controlled by an elite development team," Budarz said, noting that elite squad from Kelly Benefit Strategies had close to 10 cyclists in the Pro 1-2-3 crit field, and they were continuously rotating on attack at the front of the pack.

    Budarz, who was the first criterium finisher not on the KBS team, credited Shashaty's domestique tactics for giving him a boost through the ranks.

    "Freddie got the assist on Gunnar's (Cat. 3 crit) win and my strong finish since he led out with two laps to go," Budarz said. "They both helped me move up late in the race, so we had command at the front of the field with two laps to go. Freddie put in a strong pull with one lap to go and dropped me off to finish the back stretch, climb the hill, and fight for the sprint finish. What a blast!" 

    Budarz said the race wouldn't have happened had he not had a very diligent group of enthusiastic racers doing the "heavy lifting" of getting things set up.

    "(Senior) Todd Yoder was a workhorse in this regard," Budarz said, noting that Matsick and Ingram assisted him. "This was the first time the team both raced and hosted an event, and it certainly added stress and fatigue on race day. It was very worthwhile, however, since it added visibility to our beautiful campus and cycling program." 

    Budarz prayed over the road course and the riders who would race on it as he painted around potholes and other road hazards on early Saturday morning. Cyclists completed between three and six laps on the 11.27-mile loop course, which set the stage for some heated competition.

    "As the day went on and crashes occurred, it felt to me like a bit of a spiritual battle," he said. "So many things went wrong. There was so much aggression and crashing going on that Gunnar and Freddie withdrew from the road race after getting caught behind riders who crashed out."

    He noted that USA Cycling issued warnings to aggressive riders after the events of the day, but Budarz chose to forgive and build relationships with them as he raced alongside them in Sunday's criterium. 

    "On Sunday, I realized that the riders who had been warned the previous day were also ones who made the racing so competitive for everyone," he said. "I was actually grateful to have strong competition from the elite squads present, so I decided to thank them, each one that I saw, for coming. I had a great conversation with their team director after the races and I really hope next year we can draw them to return, along with other regional and national elite teams."

    Liberty freshman Miranda Ankney turns en route to her ninth-place finish in Sunday's women's Cat 4-5 criterium.

    With gratitude in the air, Budarz said Sunday's criterium race went more smoothly, with only one early crash by a novice rider.

    Lady Flames freshman Miranda Ankney earned a ninth-place finish in her second-ever women's Cat 4/5 criterium race and Andrew Fields finished ninth and graduate Eric Turman 15th in the men's Cat 4/5 event.