Greencastle, IN — On a frigid Saturday afternoon, through the snow glazed fields and around the frozen lakes of western Indiana, Notre Dame’s Men’s A team broke through the varsity barrier this weekend and scored its first ever mass start A victory in school history. Raising his arms in triumph at the conclusion of the 73 mile event, sophomore John Pratt accomplished what few non-scholarship athletes achieve in a collegiate cycling career, besting professional riders, national champions, and Olympians alike.
Composed of 9 circuits around an 8 mile loop, the Men’s A race began with a flourish, as athlete after athlete tried to ride out of sight on winding, wooded roads. With an average pace of 27 mph over the first 3 laps, none succeeded until midway through the 4th, when senior Irish cyclist Joe Magro sprinted clear with two riders from Marian University, two riders from Lindenwood University, and one from Ohio State. Despite achieving a nearly two minute advantage over the field, Magro’s breakaway was undone by the efforts of the University of Wisconsin, and the race came back together with 3 laps remaining. Sensing opportunity to be gained from a tired pack, Pratt followed a second wave of riders up the road, and they soon left all chasers behind. Biding his time until the finish, Pratt moved to the far side of the street in the closing meters, keeping all rivals in sight. When the sprint began, Pratt was quick to respond and none could match his turn of speed to the line. Back in the field, Magro quickly recovered from his early efforts and followed another chase group after the leaders. First dropping two from Lindenwood, then a third from IU, Magro found himself alone, over a minute ahead of the peloton, but still well behind Pratt. Soloing the final 14 miles to the finish, Magro held of a charging field at the line, putting an exclamation on a great day in Men’s A. Other notable results from Saturday’s road race include seniors Pat Handy and Phil Palmon, 8th and 11th in Men’s C respectively and Paige Handy making her collegiate debut in Women’s C. Junior Jason Koncsol was in contention for a top 10 late into the Men’s D race, until becoming collected in a large crash at the finish. Thoughts go out to Jason as we hope for a speedy return to the team.
Criterium racing Sunday was delayed due to icy conditions, but Notre Dame wasted little time getting on the scoreboard with Phil Palmon’s career best 7th place in the second race of the morning, Men’s C. Not to be bested, the Fighting Irish “B Musketeers” provided an encore performance of their domination at Lindsey Wilson just one week earlier, controlling the race from start to finish. With junior Luke Tilmans and sophomore Mike Chifala blocking from the rear, Jim Snitzer (soph) rode into the distance and delivered ND’s second win of the weekend. Cleaning up the leftovers, Tilmans, 7th, and Chifala, 12th, also scored major points for Notre Dame.
With the seal finally broken, and hungry for more success, Notre Dame was active and at the front of the Men’s A criterium all afternoon. Magro bore the standard for the Irish early, chasing after potential breakaways almost constantly for the first 20 minutes of the event. Passing the baton to Pratt while resting, Magro was not disappointed by the speedy sophomore, who worked his way into the winning move with 30 minutes of the hour gone. Although Magro was forced to abandon the race late with a flat tire, Pratt again rode strongly for the Irish, and notched another top 5 for the team with his 4th place effort.
With the double victory and numerous top ten results, ND is firmly in control of the D2 conference, and individual, races. After a long spring break, the Irish will take the line again in St. Louis the weekend of March 23rd.