In a nice break from the perma-cloud and frigid temperatures of South Bend, the men’s cycling team traveled to Murray, Kentucky this past weekend for the first races of the collegiate season. Saturday’s completion kicked off with the 36 mile Men’s C road race featuring two ND riders, sophomore Ethan Ferguson and law student Josh Johnson. No attacks were launched during the first 18 miles of the race but the pace rocketed up at the beginning of the second lap as a multitude of accelerations rocked the front of the field. In the final 500 meters of the race, a sudden swerve by a rider in the center of the peloton caused a chain reaction crash which took out Johnson. Ferguson managed to avoid the accident and notched a 13th place finish.
The last race of the afternoon, Men’s B, also contained two ND riders, PhD student Douglas Ansel and freshman Joe Magro. This 48 mile event over the rolling Kentucky hills started in much the same fashion of the Men’s C race with few serious attacks. Around mile 20 a breakaway formed with 4 riders and quickly gained over a minute’s advantage over the main field. Attempting to bridge to the break, Ansel attacked the peloton on the largest hill of the course but the 12mph cross winds on the plateau above proved impossible to ride alone and he was soon reeled back to the pack. At this point, Lindsey Wilson College began to block for the breakaway, which contained one of their riders. When the advantage reached over 1:30, Magro moved to the front of the field and set a 27mph tempo for the next 20 minutes drastically cutting into the deficit and reducing the main field to 15 riders. Unfortunately, at mile 30, a rider swerved into Ansel and jammed his quick release into Ansel’s rear wheel. After stopping to assess the damage, Ansel was unable to continue. After the break was swallowed by the 15 man chase group, the pace drastically slowed until the final mile when Indiana and Lindsey Wilson College began to set up their sprinters for the finish. Magro was boxed into the center of the field during the final dash to the line but was still able to salvage a 9th position.
Sunday’s racing was held on a fast sweeping 1 mile course in suburban Murray. Ferguson and Johnson again competed in the Men’s C race and were. The field largely stayed together throughout the race and Ethan spent time pulling at the front keeping the tempo high. Johnson largely stayed protected in the field as the winds were in excess of 10mph on the largely exposed course. Johnson put in a strong sprint and finished 10th while Ferguson also was towards the front and came home 15th.
Attacking began from the gun in Sunday’s Men’s B race as the field averaged around 30mph for the first 3 laps. Magro and Ansel both rode at the front of the field and largely controlled the speed to discourage any early breakaways from forming. Knowing if a Lindsey Wilson rider managed to escape the field their team would begin to block, Magro covered all Lindsey Wilson riders who attacked off the front of the pack. Unfortunately, the one rider that wasn’t covered established the break of 3 which lasted until the end of the race. The main field was largely uncooperative in working to pull the break back so Ansel and Magro both cruised in the top 15 and prepared for the sprint at the end of the race. A decision was made to set the sprint up for Magro, so Ansel hit the front of the main field with about 800 meters to the finish and threw down a massive attack to string the group out into a line. His acceleration was so great Ansel actually established a 50 meter gap on the field. Seeing this, Magro got off the front and Ansel time trialed alone to the finish. While he was overtaken by the winner of the field sprint, Ansel still came home in 6th position. Magro finished a few riders back from Ansel in 11th.