BOONE — Lees-McRae cyclist Ashlyn Woods is turning the High Country Cycling Classic into her own showcase.

Woods, a senior, won the women’s ‘A’ division, the top division of the Mountaineer Criterium April 28. Woods was in the top pack of the 2019 event for most of the race and finished in front of Meredith College’s Gillian Bennett. Katie Lobeda of Virginia Polytechnic Institute.

Woods also won a Cove Creek road race event in the 2018 High Country Cycling Classic.

“It’s my final collegiate race, so I’m excited to come away with a win,” Woods said.

Four riders separated from the pack of 13 riders, which included Appalachian State’s Maryann Riley early in the race. That small pack stayed together for most of the race until Woods and Bennett pulled away for the final laps.

“When we started playing games the last lap, it was who was going to make the first sprint on the last lap,” Woods said.

Bennett made the first move, but Woods quickly answered and took the lead and the victory. Lees-McRae, a member of the Southeastern Collegiate Cycling Conference, moves on to the national race, which is May 10-12 at Augusta, Ga.

One day earlier at the Cove Creek ‘A’ race, Woods finished second to Lobeda. Lees-McRae’s Dagny Palmer was third.

“Sunday was (Woods’) last career race for us, so we all had high hopes for a good day,” Lees-McRae coach Tim Hall said. “I was confident she would put herself in position to win, but it all boiled down to positioning for the final sprint. She nailed it perfectly. Her win was a fitting final moment as a Bobcat.”

Appalachian State got a fifth-place finish from Marcel Gutierrez in the men’s ‘A’ race, which was won by Lance Abshire of Belmont Abbey College. Lees-McRae’s Nolan VanderZwaag was second and fellow Bobcat Liam Flanagan was third.

Gutierrez got off to a slow start, but managed to work his way to the lead pack. He even held the lead for a few laps, but settled for fifth place down the stretch.

“When I started, my foot kind of missed the pedal, so I wasn’t able to get a fast start like everybody else,” Gutierrez said. “So I figured that instead of fighting at the (Rivers Street) U-turn at the bottom of the hill, I left a big amount of space so I could catch up to the group through the turn so I could have more momentum through it. I kept doing that every lap until I realized the move ahead of the group was going to stick. I saw the guys in the group and I was like, those are the guys who are going to be winning this.”

A Lees-McRae rider set a fast pace for the first half of the race and at one point, held a 20-second lead, but eventually fell back into the pack.

“In the Men’s ‘A’ race, our strategy was to be aggressive and force other teams to chase as much as possible throughout the race,” Hall said. “When one is attacking, the rest of the guys can sit in and relax until it’s their turn to attack.”

“I had a feeling that he wasn’t going to be able to stay away by himself the whole time, because we had an hour of racing and it was right at the beginning,” Gutierrez said. “Basically, I let the group catch up, so everybody else was doing the work and I was sitting in the back resting.”

Gutierrez saw the lead group slow down midway through the race and saw his chance to join them.

“On the downhill (on Rivers Street) I attacked and got close of them in the U-turn and took the U-turn a little too fast probably,” he said. “And then I sprinted as hard as I could up the top of the hill until I caught them at the top of the hill.”

Eventually, fatigue started to set in on Gutierrez and he could not maintain his momentum toward the end of the race.

“I was pulling on our break-away group and everybody saw we were getting close to lapping the field,” he said. “The guys behind me attacked and I didn’t have the legs to match the acceleration.”

Gutierrez also finished fifth in the Cove Creek ‘A’ road race. James Snitzer won the event, while Lees-McRae’s Nolan VanderZwaag was second and teammate Caleb Smith was third.

In other races in the criterium, Ben Herbertz won the men’s ‘B’ race. Lees-McRae Joseph Penley was second and Appalachian State’s Kyle Kimball was third.

In the women’s ‘B’ race, Belmont-Abbey riders grabbed the top three spots, led by Isabella Nguy. Stephanie Mlujeak was second and Siobhan Mahoney was third. Mahoney won the Cove Creek ‘B’ race, while Emma Hutchinson from the Naval Academy was second and Mlujeak was third.

Appalachian State’s Kyle Kimball won the Cover Creek ‘B’ race. Virginia Polytechnic’s Kevin Picard was second and Kent Ayers of Lees-McRae was third.

“We had a great day on Saturday,” said Appalachian State team member and co-event director Matt Jones. “Just like on Sunday, Marcel came in fifth place in the Men’s A race after the entire field got spread apart due to the unrelenting nature of the course. Kyle Kimball also won the Men’s B race with an incredible sprint to the finish against a Virginia Tech rider. Kyle managed to take home the win by mere inches.”

Navy’s Anna Saucedo of Navy won the women’s ‘C’ race, while Wake Forest’s Kristen Hayes was second and Belmont Abbey’s Stephanie Byrd was third. Carrie Leigh Mitran of N.C. State was fourth in the four-woman race. Saucedo won the Cove Creek race, while Kristen Haynes was second and Mitran third.

Liberty’s Gianni Bianco won the men’s ‘C’ criterium race. Bryce Jones of the Naval Academy was second and Wake Forest’s Esteban Murillo Burford was third. Lees-McRae’s James Kreuzburg was fourth.

Bianco also won the Cove Creek road ‘C’ race, while Jones was second and Navy’s Joshua Greear third.

In the men’s ‘D’ race, James Madison’s Daniel Montoya won and his teammate, Reed Kattmann was second. Navy’s Tyler Anderson was third and Appalachian State’s Evan Malinchock was fourth.

In the 50-over Cove Creek race, Boone’s Andy Shanely finished second and Patricki Weddell was third. Dirk Pohlmann of Knoxville won.

In the men’s pro/cat 1/2/3, Blowing Rock’s Brian Sain finished eighth. Michael Bissett of Belmont won the event, while Burlington’s Max Bein was second. Ava Sykes won the women’s pro/cat 1/2/3 and Melody McLeord was second.

In the men’s masters over-40 category, Andrew Le Beau was third and Clinton Marsh finished fifth. Carlos Zamarripa of Cary won and Mark McClay of Whispering Pines was second.

In the masters over-50 category, Boone’s Sean Weddell finished second and Boone’s Gene Fowler was third. Lee Reavis of Winston-Salem won the race.

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