Riders were greeted with sunny weather for the first time in 2 race weekends this past Saturday as sunny skies and warm temperatures found the University of Illinois at Carbondale. Saturday’s road race course featured a seven mile “stem” leading from the start/ finish onto a 9 mile loop. The entire course would through a state park filled with lakes, forest, and rolling hills.
The first Notre Dame rider to compete was Jenn Perricone in the 42 mile Women’s A race. A third of the way through the competition, Jenn maneuvered herself into a breakaway of 4 riders who were clearly the class of the field. Being one of the strongest sprinters in the group, Perricone looked to be in excellent position for a win until, with less than 15 miles remaining; her chain was jarred loose at the base of a climb. Forced to dismount and fix the problem, Perricone lost a great deal of time to the leaders. This gap proved too large to close; however, the 4th place result was an excellent showing and bodes well for future races.
Josh Johnson followed Perricone in the 33 mile Men’s C category. Johnson rode in the center of the pack for most of the race to avoid the powerful crosswinds. In the final kilometers he moved towards the front of the pack and sprinted to a 12th place result.
Douglas Ansel and Joe Magro represented Notre Dame in the 42 mile Men’s B road race. The first 7 miles of the race were run at a pedestrian tempo but attacks began the instant the field began the first of three laps around the loop. A breakaway of 3 formed on the first major climb and quickly established a 25 second gap on the main field. Ansel hit the front of the peloton and began working to reel the break in, but a lack of cooperation from other schools paralyzed his efforts. The pace soon slowed again until, seeing an opportunity to attack coming around a turn into a headwind, Magro accelerated off the front and took off in pursuit of the breakaway. A rider from Marian University came along in Magro’s slipstream, but refused to help bridge the gap as Marian was already represented by two riders in the existing break. In an impressive display of strength, Magro caught up to the break and the group, now 5 riders, quickly established an insurmountable advantage over the rest of the race. By the end of the third and final loop, Magro’s break had put over 3 minutes on the main field and it was clear the winner would come out of this selection. The final miles of the competition were ridden at a lethargic pace, with no member of the breakaway wanting to expend unnecessary energy. When the finish came into view, the three Marian riders launched a final lunge to the line, but Magro was positioned perfectly to counter their effort. Coming out of the Marian slipstream with 100 meters to go, Magro powered past to take his second win in as many weeks. Back in the main field, Ansel was able to escape the group with 5 kilometers remaining but was swallowed by the peloton with barely a kilometer left to ride. Exhausted from the effort, he still sprinted to 4th place in the field, good for 9th overall.
The clear skies of Saturday were replaced with a cold rain Sunday morning as riders raced through the campus of Southern Illinois in the criterium event. Two short climbs and descents on the .6 mile course made speeds of over 35 miles-per-hour commonplace throughout the day. These speeds, coupled with rain, poor pavement, and sharp turns proved to be a recipe for crashes.
Josh Johnson was the first Notre Dame rider to discover the danger of the course in the 30 minute Men’s C race. All riders were on edge due to the conditions, but the cautious nature of the field was not enough to keep everyone upright as halfway through the event a number of riders slid out and skidded across the pavement coming through a turn. Johnson was able to avoid the other bikes, but was forced into the grass where he too crashed. Unfazed, after quickly checking his equipment Johnson rejoined the race and bettered his result of the day before with an 8th place finish,
Clearly not paying much attention to the conditions, the Men’s B race containing Magro and Ansel got off to a blistering start with Ansel setting the tempo for many of the early laps. The group was quickly weeded out to the 15 strongest with both Ansel and Magro present. 25 minutes into the 45 minute event, Magro ran over a piece of glass and shredded his rear tire. Feeling the loss in pressure, he was forced to pull off and eventually abandon the race. Ansel’s luck was not much better as, less than a mile after Magro’s abandonment, he took a hairpin turn at speeds over 26mph, crashed violently, and tore a huge gash in his left thigh.
Jenn Perricone closed the weekend’s action for Notre Dame in the Women’s A race. Early in the event, two Marian riders escaped off the front of the field with Perricone, a rider from Lindsey Wilson, and a rider from DePauw giving chase. These five riders eventually came together and left the weaker main field far behind. Perricone placed 5th in the final sprint, giving her two top fives for the weekend and her best showing yet of 2010.