Former University of Georgia diver Ansley Long began cycling less than a year ago, using the sport as a competitive outlet after her collegiate athletic career came to a close. In less than six months, she started racing, and this weekend, she claimed her first multi-day event win at Chattanooga's River Gorge Omnium.
Long, a doctoral student and Category 4 racer from Athens, Georgia, was one of several new racers to find success during the weekend as inexperienced riders had podium finishes across the lower levels of the weekend races.
"I really just wanted to go out and have fun and do as well as I could," she said. "I don't take it too seriously, but I train really hard. Athens is a really good place to ride bikes, so that has helped tremendously."
The Athens-based racer won Friday's time trial, Saturday's criterium and placed second in Sunday's road race.
In the men's Category 4 race, Kennesaw resident David Anderson, a first-year racer, followed an attack from Colombian racers with team Boyaca Raza de Campeones to place third in the road race.
"The race was a little chaotic. The pace surged quite a bit," he said. "They're good climbers, and when they went, I didn't quite have it. I guess it shows that they're used to riding in altitude."
The Colombians race for a state-sponsored team backed by cycling legend Nairo Quintana. The team of elite teen-aged riders targeted a road race win before the start of the event.
Libardo Mancipe, 16, and Santiago Umba, 15, finished arm-in-arm for the second day in a row. Umba was officially given the win in the criterium after finishing inches ahead of his teammate, so in a pre-planned move, the young riders allowed Mancipe to finish just ahead of Umba to win the day.
The race featured attacks throughout, with other riders putting pressure on the young Colombians. Mancipe and Umba used their teammates to pace the field back together before the final climb.
"Over there [in Colombia] we have high altitudes, and the hills are a benefit to us," Santiago said.
However, after the two pulled ahead of other racers, they nearly experienced disaster at the finish as they joined arms.
"We almost fell," Santiago said in Spanish, laughing.