Columbia, KY — With 2 miles to go in the 75 mile race through south central Kentucky, the ND A-team of Joe Magro (Sr) and John Pratt (So) sat comfortably in an elite group composed of most of defending national champion Marian University’s team, as well as six riders from varsity program Lindenwood. A race which had started with a pedestrian tempo throughout the first hour was now completely shattered after 50 more miles of attack after attack through the wooded hills. Hitting the base of the final climb with 1 mile remaining, Pratt launched for the finish but was quickly overtaken by a charging field and faded to 18th by the line. Biding his time, Magro accelerated on the steepest portion of the climb and rode away from what remained of the group, finishing 9th on the day, 2 minutes behind the winning breakaway.
A promising start to a 2nd straight conference title defense, hundreds of hours of preparation were finally put to the test this weekend as ND Cycling traveled to Columbia, KY for the first stop on the 2013 road calendar. Leaving heavy jackets in South Bend, Notre Dame raced in 60’s and sun most of the weekend, starting with the team time trial on Saturday morning. Averaging near 27mph on the 12km course, the Men’s A team of Magro, Luke Tilmans (Jr), Jim Snitzer (So), and Pratt finished 4th in the event, narrowly missing a podium placing by 6 seconds.
Making their Irish debut in the road races Saturday afternoon, Jason Koncsol (Jr), Brennan Lanier (Fr), and Domenic Canonico (Fr) all rode well in the D category with Lanier sticking onto the leaders for most of the 25 mile event. Also racing for the first time in ND colors was freshman Emmy Kunce, who joined senior Carolyn McCann in the women’s B racing. Riding at the front the entire race, McCann started 2013 with an impressive 5th place finish, netting many important women’s team points for the Irish squad. Phil Palmon (Sr) and Samuel Melgar (Fr) represented ND in the C races on Saturday, with Palmon continuing his upward trajectory from men’s D with a strong performance in the season opener. Rounding out ND’s competition team on Saturday was the B musketeers of Mike Chifala (So), Tilmans, and Snitzer. Staying patient while a rider from Miami University led the pack for most of the afternoon, all 3 ND riders had the legs to race aggressively over the final hill at mile 50, with Snitzer coming home 3rd, Tilmans 5th, and Chifala 8th in a field of over 40.
Saturday’s results placed ND 4th in the conference (1st in DII) at the beginning of Sunday’s criterium ,where the efforts of the B musketeers served to reinforce that position. Following the pre-race plan perfectly, Chifala shot off the front and held off the field for a number of laps early in the 45 minute sprint. Once he was overtaken, Snitzer immediately accelerated, dropping all but one from a tiring peloton. Never seen by the field again, Snitzer’s breakaway lasted to the finish while Tilmans and Chifala toyed with the main field and disrupted any chase from behind. Narrowly beaten at the line, Snitzer’s second was still a career best result, while Tilmans also crossed the line with a top 10 placing. Also scoring a top 10 Sunday was Carolyn McCann in women’s B, while Lanier and Koncsol looked dangerous in Men’s D until Lanier crashed out with 4 laps remaining. An unexpected first lap attack by Sam Melgar in C was exciting albeit short lived, but Palmon’s mid pack finish was a consistent result for the Irish. Finally, in the last event of the weekend, Pratt and Magro were active in Men’s A, with both attempting to work their way into the winning conversation of a fast race. Ultimately both missed the winning move, but finishes of 15th and 16th have confirmed ND as a contender in Men’s A for 2013. Next weekend the Irish travel to Greencastle, IN for the second weekend of racing at Depauw.