Cian Connolly '27 came in first place in his age category at the 2023 USA Cycling Gran Fondo National Championships on Sunday, September 17.
He rolled up to the start line a little before 8 a.m. along with almost 300 fellow racers, all of whom had qualified in prior events to race the Nationals event. Behind them were an additional 500 racers poised to race the non-championship event. A little before the whistle blew, the rain started and the temperature dipped to the low 50s. The rain, torrential for hours, continued for most of the race. Dense fog arrived a little later in the day. The grueling 98-mile loop started in Frederick, Maryland, and headed north to the relentlessly lumpy country roads in and around Gambrill State Park and the Catoctin Mountains. Riders would clear more than 10,000 feet of climbing, and an equal amount of technical, high speed, and on the day, wet and treacherous descending.
As Connolly headed out on course he knew he needed to be with the fast folks as they hit the first of four timed segments. This was a 4.8-mile effort featuring Hamburg Road, a three-mile brute with almost 1,200 feet of climbing. He held tight with fellow Kelly Benefits Strategies (KBS) racers, including ex-pro rider and former Gilman Latin teacher, Rick Norton, to clear the segment in a hair over 20 minutes. This effort split the group and he was now solidly with the fastest folks in the race. In the hours that followed, riding both road and gravel, Connolly cleared the three additional timed segments of the gran fondo, duking it out in the lead group with a handful of impressively strong juniors from around the country to finish with a solid win in his age category, just over a minute ahead of second place, and 17th in the overall category.
This is Connolly's second national title, having previously won the U17 eSport National Championships as eighth grader in February.
Connolly races Road and Mountain Bike with Kelly Benefits Strategies Cycling, and Cyclocross with Baltimore Youth Cycling. He is also a proud member of Gilman’s cross-country team.