Nearly every Notre Dame rider competing this weekend was doing so in a new category as the team’s numerous successes throughout the season resulted in a number of upgrades. Both Nate Lee and Josh Johnson moved from the Men’s C to Men’s B races and Joe Magro made his debut in the Men’s A field. Also competing were Ethan Ferguson in the Men’s B and Jenn Perricone in Women’s A.
Perricone was the first to compete Saturday morning on Ohio State’s rolling 5.5 mile road race course through the fields outside Columbus, Ohio. After only 2 laps of racing, the race had splintered into 2 groups. Lodged in the lead group, Perricone was the only rider not from Lindsey Wilson or Marian University. Riding strong with little help from the others, Perricone had begun to separate herself from the group when, in a stroke of bad luck, her rear tire flatted. In an impressive display of determination, Perricone took a rear wheel from a teammate on the side of the road and continued on in pursuit of the pack. Her resourcefulness paid off as Perricone was still able to finish in the top 10.
Half an hour later Lee, Johnson, and Ferguson rolled off the start line in the Men’s B field. Attacking began within the first mile of the race as Marian University used their numbers advantage to send three rider’s clear down the road. Two chase groups formed with Lee in chase 1 and Ferguson and Johnson in chase 2. Lee rode intelligently in his chase and although he never came back in contact with the three leaders he won the sprint in his group for an impressive 4th overall in his first race in the B field. Johnson and Ferguson set the tempo of chase 2 and in the final mile Johnson accelerated out of the group, with Ferguson on his wheel, crossing the line in 12th and 13th place.
Notre Dame’s final competitor on Saturday was Magro in the 50 mile Men’s A race. The field was content to leisurely roll through the cornfields for the first few miles, but when the attacks started the place didn’t slow again for 30 miles. Magro stayed in the shelter of the main field as a breakaway and one chase group established solid leads between miles 10 and 15. Although everyone in the main field contributed to catching the leaders, Magro’s group was never able to get closer than 3 minutes. Due to the strong winds on the back of the course and the high pace of the race, the average for 50 miles was almost 25 mph, the Peloton shrunk to only 8 riders by the finish. Magro was 4th out of this group as they crossed the line, good for 17th place out of 40 in his first A race.
Sunday’s criterium course wound through the roads of Ohio State’s athletic complex as rider’s tackled a fast flat 6 corner track. Johnson, Lee and Ferguson began the day for Notre Dame in Men’s B. Marian launched an early attack and a 5 rider breakaway soon had an advantage of nearly 20 seconds over the main field. Organizing at the front of the field, Notre Dame was able to pull back the break, largely due to the long pulls of Lee. As soon as the first break was caught, two more Marian riders bolted off the front of the race and this proved to be the winning move. While the two leaders rode to nearly a minute’s advantage, Notre Dame rode conservatively in the pack and moved to set up a sprint for Lee. Lee notched an 11th on the day and both Johnson and Ferguson finished comfortably in 14th and 15th.
As the Women’s A riders lined up for their 45 minute race, it was clear that, due to their large numbers, Marian would again be the favorite. The opening laps of the race saw one Marian woman after another take a turn attacking the field. As the only competitive non-Marian rider in the race, Perricone was taxed with responding to each acceleration. Finally, two Marian and a Lindsey Wilson racer established a breakaway and exhausted from her previous efforts Perricone was unable to respond. From this point on the field settled into a steady rhythm until the finish where Perricone’s dominant sprinting ability showed with her 4th place result.
The final race of the weekend was the 60 minute Men’s A criterium. Magro started the race towards the rear of the main field as early fireworks erupted from both the Marian and Lindsey Wilson teams. Speeds in excess of 35 miles per hour kept any breakaways from getting away from the peloton and after 20 minutes of all out sprinting the pace began to settle. Around the 30 minute mark a rider from Indiana University drifted to close to the curb on the entrance to the chicane of the backstretch. When pedal struck concrete he was thrown over the front of his bike and into the grass. Luckily, he was the only rider to crash and was not seriously injured. With 10 minutes remaining, a group of 9 riders gained a small advantage over the pack and this 10 second gap help to the finish. Magro finished without difficulty in the main field and was content to have been competitive in his first A criterium. The average speed for the entire race approached 27 miles per hour.