The rains held off long enough in West Lafayette Saturday for all the Midwestern Conference Championship road races and time trials to be run in relatively dry conditions. Notre Dame was very successful throughout the day with the team’s achievements highlighted by Jenn Perricone’s 3rd place in the Women’s A race and resulting D2 road race championship.
Action started early in the morning for the Irish in the Men’s B team time trial. Brian Boyle, Ethan Ferguson, and Nate Lee represented ND against the other teams of the Midwest. Each rider taking turns breaking the wind at the front of the paceline, Notre Dame navigated around the 6.5 mile course in 16 minutes 37 seconds. At the finish, ND came home in 3rd place in the conference, first among Division 2 teams.
Racing resumed in the afternoon with the road race event held on Purdue’s 8 mile course featuring two small climbs and moderate crosswinds. Nate Lee, Ethan Ferguson, Brian Boyle, Brendan Kiefer and Josh Johnson all started the 50 mile men’s B road race for the Irish. The race got off to a slow start with riders from all schools hesitant to make an attack. The slow tempo caused a bunching of the field which made for dangerous conditions. Three Notre Dame Riders, Lee, Boyle, and Ferguson were involved in a crash and while Lee and Boyle were able to chase and rejoin the main field, a damaged shifter on Ferguson’s bike made finishing the race impossible. As the competition entered its final stages, two riders were able to separate themselves from the main field and, as their advantage grew, the race became one for third. In the final dash to the line Kiefer was the best ND finisher in 11th followed by Johnson in 19th, Boyle in 25th, and Lee in 27th.
In the 50 mile Women’s A race, Jenn Perricone of Notre Dame was matched against an elite field of riders including Sinead Miller, a member of the United States National Team. Riding strongly at the front of the field, Perricone watched her rivals until Miller made her attack. Following right in Miller’s slipstream, Perricone and Ashley James of Lindsey Wilson College were the only riders strong enough to stay with Miller and, as their gap over the main field quickly grew, it was clear the winner would come from these three riders. All three worked together until the closing miles when jockeying for position for the final sprint began. Perricone led out the sprint and was passed in the closing moments by her two rivals. However, her 3rd place position was the best of her collegiate career and, because she was the first D2 rider to cross the line, made her the Division 2 Women’s Road Race champion. Each week of the 2010 season Perricone’s results have improved, a trend that bodes well for her goal to win the collegiate national championship to be held in Wisconsin two weekends from now.
Racing concluded on Saturday with the 70 mile men’s road race. Both Douglas Ansel and Joe Magro were on the start line for Notre Dame, along with over 70 other competitors in what shaped up to be the most competitive contest of the season. The first 18 miles were run at a high tempo with no one able to escape from an aggressive peloton. Finally, at the beginning of the third lap, a breakaway of 9 separated itself from the field. Their advantage peaked at a minute thirty, and while it dwindled in the closing miles, these riders were not seen by the main field again. Both Magro and Ansel fought for position towards the front of the peloton throughout the race as the difficult pace gradually shot riders off the back of the field. With 24 miles remaining, another group of around 10 distanced itself from the rest of the main field on the second of the courses two climbs. Still feeling strong and wanting the chance to sprint for a high overall place, Ansel and Magro moved to the front of the peloton and began pursuit of this second breakaway. Two miles later, the field was back together again and both Notre Dame riders slipped back into the draft to recover. On the final lap, speeds reached in excess of 46 miles per hour on the descent 2 miles before the finish. With less than a mile remaining, Ansel’s front derailleur broke making him incapable of shifting into his big front chain-ring. Unable to hold the high speed with only his small ring, Ansel was left behind by a charging main field. Magro shot wide around the final turn and quickly moved from the rear of the main field to the front for the final sprint. He crossed the line in 21st position, 4th among D2 riders, a strong result in a field containing many professional s. After 70 miles, the Men’s A race had averaged 25.5 miles per hour, making it one of the fastest and the longest of the entire season.
Cloudy skies gave way to torrential downpours on Sunday and rider’s tackled the challenging .6 mile criterium circuit around Purdue’s football stadium. Each lap included a short steep climb on the front stretch followed by a fast descent on the backstretch. Conditions were made especially dangerous by the narrow roads and soaking wet sharp left hand turns at the bottom of the steep hill.
Ferguson, Boyle, and Lee all took to the start line for the Irish in the Men’s B criterium. Attacks were fast and furious at the beginning of the event as riders looked to use the dangerous conditions to their advantage. On the first descent of the major hill, Lee’s brake pads, soaked by the rain, slipped on his wheels causing a highly dangerous scenario. Lee was able to stay upright on his bike, but lost contact with the back of the field and withdrew soon afterwards. Twenty minutes into the event, Boyle also pulled out citing the dangerous conditions. Ferguson, the last ND rider still in the race, continued and as the pace quickened he too was unhitched by the field. Fighting on regardless, Ferguson was gaining ground on his rivals but was forced to quit by the race official. As only 15 riders remained in the race at this point, Ethan was credited with a 16th place out of over 30 starters.
Perricone started the Women’s A criterium looking to build off her success of the day before. An early breakaway of three riders was established in the opening moments, but Perricone was close behind in the first chase group of only 6. Riding strongly in this group, Perricone was poised to drop her rivals and continue on after the breakaway alone when disaster struck. Screaming down the backstretch’s steep descent, Perricone slipped on the wet, glass like crosswalk paint in the intersection of the 3rd turn. Losing control of her bike, Perricone slammed into a pole at over 30 miles per hour, and then was thrown into a tree before finally sliding to a stop some 20 meters after the apex of the curve. As the ambulance came to take her to the hospital, Perricone was more concerned about her bike which now lay in pieces next to her. The front fork and headset had been ripped off the rest of her frame while the frame itself was cleaved in two in 3 other places. Evidently, the pole had cut through her bicycle as they collided. Amazingly, Perricone came through the accident without a scratch and after x-rays were taken it was determined she’d only suffered serious bruising to her hip, leg, and ribs.
With knowledge of Perricone’s crash fresh in his mind, Magro made an effort to ride safely in the Men’s A race. For the first two laps he was able to stay at the front of the field, but the ridiculous speeds in the corners proved too much and he soon fell to the rear and off the back. Magro was able to rejoin the main field, but 30 minutes into the event the pace quickened again and, not feeling his strongest and not wanting to risk injury with nationals two weeks away, he withdrew.
With conference championships behind them, Notre Dame now turns toward Madison, Wisconsin for the Collegiate National Cycling Championships. Perricone will race for a title in both the Women’s Road Race and Criterium while Joe Magro and Douglas Ansel will represent the team on the Men’s side. Action begins with the Road Race on May 7th and continues throughout the weekend.