To start off the racing season, the University of Notre Dame cycling team traveled to Clemson University in South Carolina for an out-of-conference race in the SECCC. The race weekend (March 8/9) began with a hilly road race consisting of 25 miles for Men’s C/D and Women’s B/C, 39 miles for Men’s B, and 77 miles for Men’s A. The course consisted of ~13 mile loops, including a decently sized 250ft climb. The morning had a cold start, but warmed up beautifully by the Men’s A race.
David Berno, Conner Williams, Ryan Green, and John Cerney represented the Men’s C squad in the road race. The pack mostly stayed together, yet on the back of the second loop breakaway and chase groups emerged. Williams managed to catch a spot in the chase group and pulled away with a 7th place finish. Berno finished top 15. Green, Williams, and Cerney all made their debut in collegiate cycling and performed strongly.
Sarah Cullen, Sarah Beuter, Kelly Valenzi, Emma-Kate Conlin, and Paige Handy represented the Women’s B/C in the road race. The pack managed to hold together until the second lap. Going up a steep ascent, the Men’s B group came up behind the women and jumbled the women’s pack. At that point, a group of 5 girls broke away and chase group began which included Handy. Handy placed 6th with Cullen finishing quickly after. It was the first road race for both Beuter and Valenzi, and they both showed promise for the rest of the season. Conlin also performed strongly throughout the course.
Andrew Koch and Tom Frederick represented the Men’s Bs in the road race. The pack held together throughout the race until the final ascent. Koch and Frederick both finished in the midst of the pack and show promise of upgrading to Men’s A’s by the end of the year.
Jim Snitzer and John Pratt raced for the Men’s A in a competition of endurance and high speeds. Both rode strong and gained some notable finishes (16th and 18th). A breakaway group appeared in the first lap of the course. Pratt gained a solid spot in a chase group while Snitzer rode solo and eventually bridged the gap to join Pratt in the chase group. Overall, all team members had a solid first race for the season.
Saturday afternoon the team competed in 3 individual time trials (5 miles) and 3 team time trials (10 miles). John Cerney (C/D), Jim Snitzer (A), and Sarah Cullen (B/C) all raced in the ITT. Cullen flew through the course and captured a 4th place finish, while even passing a few Women’s A riders. Snitzer’s legs were drained from the road race yet he managed to pull through strong and without injury.
Frederick, Berno, Green, and Williams joined together to race for the Men’s B TTT. Frederick and Williams pulled away and worked as a two-man team for the second lap of the TTT. All put out an impressive effort and earned a joint 4th place finish. Handy, Valenzi, Beuter, and Conlin joined forces to earn a first place finish for the Women’s B TTT. It was the first ever first 1st place finish for a Women’s TTT in Notre Dame history. All four members put out their best efforts despite some tired legs from the road race earlier in the morning.
Sunday, all members competed in the crit which lasted 30 min for Men’s C/D and Women’s B/C, 45 min for Men’s B, and 60 min for Men’s A.
The Men’s C/D proved for an eventful race for the team. In the first lap of the race, another rider came into contact with Green and he took a significant fall from his bike. The crash resulted in some bad road rash on both sides of the body and a cracked helmet, but Green emerged in good spirits. Berno as well got pushed of the course by another rider and took a fall into the grass. He had no injury to himself, but his bike tires needed replacement. After taking his free lap, he was able to rejoin the race. Williams conjured up yet another impressive 7th place finish. Williams will be upgrading to C’s in the near future.
The Women’s B race went great for both Cullen and Valenzi. Valenzi pulled a 7th place finish while Cullen as well pulled a top ten finish. All members finished strong and have gained some experience riding with fellow teammates. Frederick raced alone for the Men’s B crit and came through in the middle of the pack. He appeared strong and determined throughout the race.
The Men’s A race proved distressing for the team as beloved rider John Pratt took a nasty fall and gashed his thigh on the chain ring of another rider’s bike. A rider from another school had swiped across the field knocking over a few riders, including Pratt. Pratt was smiling and positive throughout the event, despite having to go straight to the hospital for stitches. Snitzer managed to avoid numerous crashes and ended up finishing in the main field.
Overall, the race weekend was a great opportunity to get outside on the road again to get a feel for the bikes after a long winter on trainers and spin bikes. The team is spending the rest of the week riding the hills of northern Georgia and building up team camaraderie. Although the race is just a starting point for the season, it revealed some promising results for a great season of racing ahead. The team will compete at Lindsey Wilson March 21/22 for the first race of the year in the MWCCC.