Day 24: Vernal to Orem, UT

The ride to Orem was beautiful today, especially the second part of the ride and the arrival into town. The morning seemed warm when we started, but as we descended 2,000 feet, the temperature dropped nearly 20 degrees. The mountains in Utah are simply spectacular and many of them are still snow-capped.

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The special part today’s ride was biking up to Sundance Mountain Resort, founded by Robert Redford in 1969 as a community to preserve nature and promote art. At one point the ride was extraordinarily steep—an 11% grade. The scenery was bold and steep, and water was rushing through a deep crevasse that ran parallel to the road. It was a terrific ending to an already beautiful day.

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Today I thought a lot about two club sports teams at Notre Dame that have dedicated themselves to our NPC research efforts—the cycling team and the rugby team.

The past year brought a lot of growth to the Notre Dame Cycling team. For the last four years, the team has joined our cause and supported the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation with their proceeds from their fundraisers. Last year I became the team’s faculty adviser and Tom Frederick stepped up to become the new club president. Over a dozen new members joined, and the fall group rides saw their largest attendance in recent history. Many of those new riders improved vastly and would eventually compete with the team in the spring road season.

The team had another successful pedal cab fundraiser, shuttling around hundreds of Notre Dame fans and visitors during home football games. The annual cycling apparel sale saw record numbers with more than 200 jerseys sold to loyal supporters. The club also prepared snacks for hungry cyclists at the Bike Michiana for Hospice, led a weekly bike ride to teach local middle school students about cycling safety, hosted a public lecture by a renowned exercise scientist, and fixed campus bikes at the RecSports Outdoor Sports Festival.

After a long winter of cold outdoor rides and intense intervals on indoor trainers, the team traveled to the mountains of northern Georgia for spring training camp. Forty thousand feet of climbing, 20-plus hours in the saddle, and countless jars of peanut butter later, they were prepared to start the Midwest Collegiate Cycling Conference (MWCCC) road season. This year, the team competed at Clemson, Lindsey Wilson, Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, and Lindenwood before hosting the regional championships in South Bend.
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Seven women, the most ever on the team, raced on the women’s B squad and dominated races all season long. On the men’s side, all four categories, D, C, B, and A, performed consistently each weekend to bring in valuable points towards the season-long team omnium. After the regional championships, the team finished second overall in the conference, behind only the national champion Marian team, and first amongst Division II teams. It was our fifth consecutive DII title. In the DII individual omnium, Jim Snitzer and John Pratt finished 1-2. The two seniors represented the team at the USA Cycling Collegiate National Championships and amassed five Top 20 finishes among the road race, criterium, and individual time trial events. While it was arguably one of the most successful years in our history, the team is looking forward to continuing to grow as both a campus club and nationally competitive team.

cycling team
The Notre Dame Rugby team has been holding fundraisers for NPC for many years. Since Cindy and Mike Parseghian are from Tucson and knew the University of Arizona rugby coach well, the match between Notre Dame and Arizona has been named the Parseghian Cup and is designated as the game to raise awareness and research funds for NPC.

Arizona won the first match in Tucson, 17-5. Last year in South Bend, the teams raised $30,000, which included a fundraising dinner and reception. Notre Dame lost the game, 32-14, but more than 1,200 people attended the match. That earned the maximum $25,000 from an anonymous donor who pledged to donate $25 to the foundation for every person in attendance at the game. During spring break this past March, the Parseghian Cup returned to Tuscon. It was a hard-fought match, tied 7-7 at the half, and Arizona finished with a 21-19 win. As Cindy Parseghian told them, “It’s much bigger than a rugby match. This is the coming together of two teams and communities, who mean so much to our family, to find a cure for Niemann-Pick Type C Disease.”

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