South Bend, IN — Senior Joe Magro led the way for Notre Dame in the 2013 MWCCC Conference Championship, crossing the finish line of Sunday’s downtown South Bend Criterium in 5th place after 15 kilometers in the lead. Magro attacked from a charging peloton with 20 minutes to go, bridging to a group of four, 5 seconds ahead of the field. With Magro doing huge turns on the front, the breakaway increased their lead to nearly 40 seconds over the chasing group and ND locked up a 3rd consecutive DII conference title at the finish.
How it happened
The weather may have been bleak in South Bend on Sunday morning, but the clouds burned away and the sun was shining for the Men’s A race at 1:15. By the first turn of the contest riders were already flying off the front of the field, but with a group of nearly 50 contesting the 4 corner, 1.1 km course, gaining separation from the peloton proved nearly impossible. Active at the front of the race for much of the first 20 minutes, Magro and Pratt took turns marking attackers and slipping into early moves while Tilmans, Snitzer, and Andrew O’Donnell all worked to shut down breakaways without ND riders. As the pack snaked through the heart of South Bend, Magro and Pratt took brief respite from the wind at the rear, reloading for another flurry of activity in the second third of the race. Despite countless attempts by some of the strongest cyclists in the Midwest, with 20 laps to go, the elastic still had not broken and the peloton remained intact. Then, with 15 laps remaining, a huge acceleration into the crosswinds on the backstretch brought 2 Lindenwood, 1 Marian, and 1 Lindsey Wilson rider clear of the field. With all 3 varsity teams represented ahead, and sensing growing fatigue in the field from 45 minutes of 28mph racing, Magro kicked out of line , making contact with what was the winning breakaway by the front stretch. Back in the main field, Sophomore John Pratt was 8th in the field sprint at the finish for 13th overall, while Junior Luke Tilmans, Sophomore Jim Snitzer, and grad student Douglas Ansel all finished safely in the field.
Freshmen Emmy Kunce and Paige Handy both raced early Sunday morning in the Women’s B/C category and were very careful not to expend unnecessary energy on the windy course. This common strategy led to a chess match of sorts between all the athletes, with the pace quickening by the final lap. At the finish, Handy and Kunce both scored a career best results of 5th, and 12th place respectively. Later in the afternoon, senior Carolyn McCann represented the Irish in the Women’s A race and continued gaining experience for what looks to be a promising summer of club women’s racing in the Midwest.
In the first event of the day, six ND riders contested the Men’s D race, with seniors Brian Hurley and Rob Piscatelli making the final starts of their collegiate careers. Attacking from the gun, a rider from Lindsey Wilson College led the race from start to finish, while ND’s armada sat patiently in the main field. Coming through the final turn towards the front, Brian Hurley raced for the line and scored a podium 3rd place for ND, with freshmen Brennan Lanier, Piscatelli and junior Jason Koncsol not far behind in 8th, 13th and 16th places.
Also making their final start for Notre Dame in the competitive C category were seniors Phil Palmon, Patrick Handy, and David Pratt. In a race that in many ways mirrored all others Sunday afternoon, it was difficult for anyone to get too far ahead of the main group before the wind proved an insurmountable obstacle. Riding intelligently towards the front, ND’s team of sprinters blazed across the last 200 meters, with Pratt, Handy, and Kunkel scoring major points for ND with finishes of 2nd, 3rd, and 4th respectively. Phil Palmon posted another consistent top 15 after a long season setting the standard for ND in the C category.
With strong performances in every category Sunday, Notre Dame cemented itself as a Midwestern Conference DII dynasty, winning its 3rd consecutive Conference Team Championship. Equally impressive however, was the school record third place finish in the conference at large, with ND beating one scholarship offering varsity cycling program in the final standings. On the individual side, John Pratt and Joe Magro finished in first and second place in the DII omnium, and will be joined by Luke Tilmans, Andrew O’Donnell, and Jim Snitzer and the Collegiate Cycling National Championships in Ogden Utah the weekend of May 4th.