After last year’s domination by Liz Lieberman of Kappa Alpha Theta, Phoenix’s Tabitha Sherwood was expected to move up after her repeated second-place finishes in 2015 to take the place at the top of the leaderboard.
So far, she has. Sherwood was crowned the 2016 Individual Time Trials champion Wednesday night and the Miss N Out champion Saturday afternoon.
Sherwood has proved she is the best rider in the women’s field with repeated top performances this year and last, but Delta Gamma junior Kristen Bignal is right behind her.
During the championship heat of Miss N Out, once the pack is narrowed down, the riders bike in a non-elimination lap where riders try and move into the best position possible for the final lap.
“Boy, during that lap I was just thinking about getting in the best position I could,” Bignal said. “I was making sure I don’t get blocked in, that’s the biggest thing. As we were coming around toward the start line again I was thinking about when I was going to make my move.”
Bignal, who finished second behind Sherwood in ITTs, made her final sprint on the backstretch. Sherwood faced perhaps her biggest challenge Saturday when she came around turn three of the final lap and was behind Bignal.
It didn’t take long, though, for Sherwood to regain the lead she had kept throughout the day. She pulled slightly ahead to power down the final straightaway toward the finish line for the win.
When Bignal made her move, she was riding against the wind and fighting to move behind Sherwood’s wheel.
“Definitely in terms of positions, if you have a choice to be on a wheel, be on a wheel,” Bignal said. “A lot of situations I had to be in the front and pull and kind of go slow. This is another event where you have to pace and don’t try to kill yourself with the wind. Keep in mind on the first heat that you have potentially three more races.”
The top six finishers behind Sherwood and Bignal were Rachel Brown of Kappa Alpha Theta, Alexandra Kolar of Alpha Chi Omega, Ali Oppel of Alpha Omicron Pi and Megan Huibregtse of Ski.
Battling the 20 mph winds with occasional gusts of up to 40 mph, Bignal said she was pleased with her performance. The riders only had two days after riding in the pouring rain during ITTs to prepare for Miss N Out.
The next event in the Spring Series, Team Pursuit, will be at Bill Armstrong Stadium on Sunday.
For Bignal and DG, their mindset for Team Pursuit will be simple: go out and ride hard.
Moving forward, teams may have a different approach or strategy because this year Team Pursuit falls just five days before the women’s race day.
“We’re excited for Team Pursuit because it’s a really good indicator of who’s going to be a strong team in the race,” Bignal said. “Because in the end, Little 5 is a team sport. It’s not an individual day. There could be an amazing rider and a not-so-great team, and they won’t have as good as a shot. It’s all about having a team with depth.”
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