The MWCCC stopped by East Lansing, MI this Saturday for the last road race of the 2010 regular season. Michigan State’s course was only 4.5 miles long, but featured one section of dirt road which stretched for nearly a mile of the route. This lone stretch of dirt proved to be the defining factor of the days racing for Notre Dame.
Junior Brendan Kiefer and Josh Johnson were the first of the Irish to ride, both in the 30 mile Men’s B race. This race got off to a fast start as a Lindsey Wilson College rider attacked from the gun, but the pace soon slowed as he flatted his rear tire just seconds after turning on to the dirt section. Shortly thereafter, Kiefer also flatted and was forced to take a wheel out of the wheel van. After fixing the mechanical he attempted to rejoin the field, but the gusting winds made this task impossible. Farther forward in the main field, Johnson lost contact with the leaders after the second trip through the dirt section. Both Johnson and Kiefer finished the race, but not before Kiefer suffered another flat and was forced to ride with with one inflated tire, one not.
Making his debut in the Men’s A category, Doug Ansel didn’t find much more luck than Kiefer or Johnson. He started strongly, but the high tempo, hovering around 30 mph, carried through the dirt section, into a headwind, proved to be too much and he popped halfway through the third lap. Ansel rode the next 40 miles to the finish alone to cap off the day’s racing for Notre Dame.
Saturday night saw racers make the short commute from East Lansing to Ann Arbor, the site of Sunday’s criterium. The University of Michigan’s criterium course was a high speed, 4 corner track on freshly paved roads with a gradual hill on the backstretch the only obstacle riders faced besides the moderate crosswind.
With the frustrations of the day before still fresh in mind, Kiefer and Johnson looked for better luck in the Men’s B race. While Johnson rode comfortably in the main field, Kiefer was in the thick of the action at the front of the pack for most of the race. A small breakaway of three riders got free 30 minutes into the 45 minute race and were not seen again by the main field until the finish. With two laps to go, Kiefer tried to bridge from the peloton to a Purdue rider caught in the space between the break and the field, but he could not quite close the gap. Pulled back into the fray, Kiefer didn’t contest the sprint for 4th while Johnson finished in the middle of the pack.
Jenn Perricone, Women’s A, raced after Kiefer and Johnson. Before the race, Perricone planned to attack the field early and often to un-hitch the weaker girls and shrink the group. Trying to turn her plan into reality, Jenn led the field through the first turn and onto the backstretch, but the bunch stayed largely intact. Not wanting to waste any more energy, Perricone slipped to the back and waited for an opportunity to go on the attack again. Towards the middle of the 45 minute race, Jenn again jumped off the front, this time with 2 other riders. Her attack was short lived however, and an active main reeled the breakaway in. As soon as this break was swallowed, Rita Klofta (Depauw University) took a solo flier off the front and established a 15 second advantage. For the remaining 20 minutes of competition the peloton strained to bring Klofta back, but were unable to do so. Perricone rode strongly in the closing laps and finished second in the field sprint, or 3rd overall for her best result of the season.
Competition Sunday concluded with Magro and Ansel in the Men’s A race. A field of over 40 riders began the 60 minute race, but this number began to dwindle even in the opening laps. A stern tempo was established as rider after rider attempted to break free of the main field. Magro and Ansel both rode in the middle of the peloton in the initial minutes of the race, sheltered from the strengthening crosswind. 25 minutes into the race, a small gap formed in front of Ansel coming out of the second turn. Sprinting up the hill on the backstretch to regain contact with the field, Ansel was buffeted by the wind and could not make up any ground. Soon after he abandoned, no doubt still feeling the long solo ride of the day before and a lingering hip injury suffered at Southern Illinois. Magro continued on in a race which soon became dangerous. During the 40th minute, a rider took turn 3 much too quickly and drifted out of his line and into the rider to his outside. The collision started a chain reaction crash in the center of the field which ultimately eliminated over 8 riders from the race. Magro came through the crash unscathed and briefly found himself in a breakaway, but the main field was soon back together again. As rider’s crossed the start/ finish line with 4 laps to go, a racer attempted to pass Magro on the left. A hole that was there quickly closed and the two bikes became tangled. The other rider smashed into the asphalt at close to 30 miles per hour, but Magro was able to correct his leaning bike and continue on. On the final lap, Magro tried to move to the front, but the high speed made advancing position near impossible. He still crossed the line in the top 15 and ensured qualification in the Collegiate National Championships to be held May 7-9 in Madison, Wisconsin.
Next weekend, Notre Dame travels to Purdue for the Midwest conference championships. Much is on the line as Perricone looks for victory; Ansel attempts to qualify for Nationals, and Johnson, Kiefer, Magro, Ferguson, Lee, and Boyle all look to score good results at the conference championships.