Students often refer to their fifth year of college as their "Super Senior" year.
When Grant Ellwood (University of Colorado Boulder) headed east to Louisville, he was hoping he would have a super Senior year Collegiate Club race. Ellwood finished second in the race last year and has also come up just short of a Collegiate title on the road as well.
Standing in Ellwood's way was Cooper Willsey (Furman University)—also in his Senior year—who had some unfinished business trying to repeat his 2016 Collegiate title.
Not surprisingly, Ellwood and Willsey got off the front right away in Friday's Collegiate Club race. With the afternoon rain turning large stretches of the course unrideable, the two tried to stay upright while spending a good amount of time on foot.
For the first three and a half laps, Ellwood and Willsey traded leads. Then in the bowl in Lap 4, Ellwood used the climbs and descents to open up a 22-second lead at the bell.
Ellwood pressed his advantage and took home a gritty victory that eluded him for far too many years.
"It started raining, I was ready for it," Ellwood said. "It just all turned into running. It was a war of attrition, just stay on the gas, hopefully people will fade and I can come out with a win, and it worked out."
Chasing a Coveted Win
In recent years, the Collegiate Club race has been filled with impressive talent and firepower, and the 2018 v2 edition was no different. Two of those talented riders in Ellwood and Willsey quickly went to the front and carried a 10-second advantage down the chicane descent. Behind them, Sam Noel (University of Vermont) and Garrett Gerchar (University of Colorado Boulder) led the chase.
After one lap, Willsey and Ellwood were off the front, with Gerchar leading the chase 16 seconds behind.
The next two laps, the two riders who will be racing again on Sunday traded time on the front. Ellwood led the second lap, and then Willsey took over lead duties in the third. With two to go, the two were still muddy wheel to muddy wheel.
At the start of the fourth lap, Ellwood made his move. Ellwood opened up a gap on the top part of the course and extended it heading back up to the limestone steps. As the two riders hit the climb, Willsey seemingly had no response to Ellwood's strong Lap 4. When it was done, Ellwood's advantage was 22 seconds.
"That descent, I was risking it more," Ellwood said. "I was pretty comfortable on it, so I opened just a little bit of a gap and on this course once you realize you have to close something, it's like the end of the world. It's so hard."
There would be no miracle comeback for Willsey. Ellwood extended his lead in the last lap, playing things safe where necessary. "I was taking it easier on some of the corners and downhills and trying to make it up on any flat sections or more pedaling sections so I wasn't having to risk much," Ellwood said.
As Ellwood crossed the line, he celebrated the super finish to his collegiate cycling career.
"I've been gunning for a national championship for a while now. Last year I was second, I've been second in Road Nationals and third, so finally to get it, I'm really excited."
Willsey wrapped up a solid second to finish his collegiate career.
Behind the two leaders, Nicholas Lando (University of Vermont) moved up into third in the fourth lap. He held his spot to wrap up the bronze medal.
For more from the Collegiate Club race, see the winner interview, photo gallery and results below.
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Grant Ellwood: Winner Interview