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Winter Training Camp: Tucson edition!

At the end of January, our racing team traveled to sunny Tucson AZ for a week of training and spending time together as a team. Tucson is a new destination for our team, but renowned in the cycling world for smooth roads, good weather, and of course Mount Lemmon, a >7,000 foot climb only a couple of miles from downtown Tucson.

the team rocks the hi-vis jackets at Sabino Canyon

We were excited to have a number of new teammates join us for the week! Nick Arango tells us about his experience on Day 1:

“How many snacks can I stuff into a jersey? Nothing about the day one winter training camp route should have been daunting, but my newness to the team, the terrain, and the the large increase in total time on the bike of the week ahead amplified the first day’s modest mileage and elevation gain. Full jersey pockets, filled nervously not practically, prepared a little too early gave extra time for apprehension.

serene view over Saguaro West

The appeal of cycling for me is bound up in the gestalt experience of riding in a bunch; the melding of persons into a rolling mass. And so, with the conversational spin of many bodies attempting to warm, riding through the city and the U of A campus to Gates Pass, it was easy to leave the individual apprehension behind and ride as the group. Houses gave way hills, conversation thinned, and a snap broke the collective as a hard effort up the first short, ten minute climb of the trip stretched the bunch into hard working individuals. Regrouping at the Gates Pass overlook gave us all a view of the week ahead: desert shrubs, cacti, and mountains all around. Feeling good both working as an individual and in giving myself over as a group, the morning anxiety fell away.

A quick, steep descent down the other side of the pass gave a portent of what the reverse of this section would feel like, but that actual experience was reserved for a later day. The descent led us into the heart of Saguaro National Park. It was hard to not imitate their poses, and so a stop at the park’s west visitors center after an hour and a half of riding gave good opportunity to stretch out the arms like the cacti all around us.

One more gradual rise proved to be a vehicle for working out the group’s first day energy as Berk and Dustin took the front and slowly lifted the pace. With eagerness covering my morning’s nerves, the slowly lifting pace slid by me unnoticed until it was over. The relaxed return gave good opportunity to consider what would be a sustainable effort for the week on the whole, but without the anxiety of uncertainty. Back at the house, after unpacking the extra uneaten snacks from still overfull jersey pockets, the new environment and high volume of the upcoming week looked achievable.”

Riding towards Mt Lemmon
The start of the Lemmon climb!
made it to the Cookie Cabin!

On Day 5, we “recovered” from the Mount Lemmon experience with some team time trial practice rolling along the east portion of the beautiful Saguaro National Park. Julie tells us more about discovering the joys of the TTT:

“The morning after our Mt. Lemmon ride, I woke up sore and nervous for the 60 mile ride and team time trial practice that awaited me. I had very little experience doing a TTT, but the idea of going all out for 12 miles on fatigued legs seemed grueling. Halfway through our ride we gathered in groups for the TTT practice. The 6 women at WTC decided to break the course into 3 segments of 4 miles. For the first segment, we would all ride together, and for the remaining sections we would split up into two groups. I expressed my concerns of being a weaker cyclist and how I did not want to hold back the team, but I was assured that each person has an important role in getting the group to the finish line whether they spend most of the ride pulling or drafting. Joanna and Sarah described the TTT as a seamless, consistent effort and gave us helpful tips before we started. Soon after, we clipped in and assembled into our pace line. As we accelerated, I concentrated on maintaining the recommended half wheel’s distance between me and the rider in front. A couple minutes into riding, our group got into a rhythm and we were all moving in-sync rotating in and out of the paceline. When I hit the front of the pack, I felt the wind resistance push against me. I glanced at my Garmin and focused on maintaining my speed for thirty seconds before I flicked my elbow, moved to the side, and merged back into the pace line. I could hear my breathing ease as I received the draft from the wheel in front of me. After a couple hard efforts, Joanna told us that we were almost done and needed to do our last pull. Even though I felt drained, I knew I could give a final push. I was surprised by how much I learned from the 12 mile stretch and found the TTT practice enjoyable and helpful.

Berk, Miles and Lee demonstrating perfect TTT form

After the TTT practice, we continued up to Colossal Cave where we met up with the rest of the team who also seemed wiped out from the hard effort. We got a chance to eat some snacks and enjoy the beautiful dessert scenery before continuing on a chill ride back home. For me, the TTT was one of the highlights of WTC because I loved coming together with my teammates and putting together a collective effort. I am even more excited to translate this practice into race season.”

taking a break post-TTT practice at Colossal Cave

Finally, Berk regales us with some tales from the last day of training camp:

“Everyone knows that best things come in threes. The three course meal. The primary colors. Lord of the Rings. Harry, Ron and Hermione. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…

But most importantly, WTC Day 8. One ride to rule them all, to offer a trifecta of adventure of the like few of us had experienced before. We would have a last hurrah in Arizona where we would rub elbows with fellow racers at the super fast Shootout Ride, then climb to the top of Madera Canyon, and then ride the mellow gravel path through Box Canyon.

The Shootout ride meets near University of Arizona campus, which was only a few miles from the house. About half of us decided to participate in the group ride, and another half to follow soon after. The temperatures were low enough that most of us were bundled in every warm item of kit we had brought as we waited for a small group to form (many others had chosen a local race instead). We rolled out on time at 7:30AM, and started getting out of the city. After a while, I got over my initial fear and started getting somewhat excited to be riding in a large pack again. So much so that once I got to the front, one of the locals had to tell me to cool my jets until the official start, at the intersection with Valencia Rd.

After that things got hot pretty quick. Literally. We had dressed for a cold winter morning cruise, whereas more clever folks had put on lighter layers in anticipation of what was to come. A few minutes from the start it was clear that people were eager to rip each others’ legs off. I suddenly found myself in the unpleasant situation of trying to pull my gloves and legwarmers off while riding in the red, cruising in excess of 24mph with a 1-2% grade.

After some savage attacks and chases, the front group came back together, and I was happy to see Jeremy, Guillaume and Dustin still in the group as we approached the final hill sprint. Frankly, I was pretty shot from my efforts in/near the front and pulled the plug when I realized I would not be contesting for the win, but I was proud of all of us for making it until the end. The Shootout definitely met expectations. It was hard and fast, but also safe and friendly, a difficult combination to achieve during group rides. Also, a shout-out to Davis and Gerard, whom we met at the Shootout and rode with during different parts of the rest of the ride.

After a nice cruise to shake out the legs and a very long coffee stop to regroup, we started the Madera Canyon Climb. The beginning was scenic with a surprising amount of green. Some folks were braver than I, and tested their legs one last time while I cruised at a steady pace with Jeremy, chatting and snacking along the way. That is until the last few pitches, which were in excess of 15%, but hey, we had enough energy to stare at our stems for a little while longer.

My favorite part was the Box Canyon gravel climb. My legs were feeling a bit like pool noodles after the Madera Canyon climb and descent, but they soon regained feeling as I got excited to go off the asphalt onto gravel. The unmaintained winding road through the canyon was smooth at parts, and a gnarly washboard at others, but beautiful views and the thrill of dirt were constant. This time Dustin was happy to cruise with me while enjoying the sights. We stopped to take some pictures along the way. There were moments of hilarity when we realized we had no traction standing still and could not get back on our bikes afterwards. But eventually the pitch would relent ever-so-slightly, allowing us to continue to spin our way up.

gravel crew!

We regrouped once gravel turned to pavement, said goodbye to the ATVers and the cows, and started the 35+ miles of descent back to the house. It was ripping fast and mostly easy, with a nice gas station stop to stock up on water and Sour Patch Kids, but of course, I flatted once again 25mi from home (a torn sidewall fixed with the ever useful dollar bill). Dustin and I let the rest of our group go, and cruised back in a two-man paceline.

The last day of WTC is always an epic, and this tres leches of adventure definitely was the highlight of my week. I want to give a special shoutout to our road captains Jeremy and Sarah, who took MIT Cycling to Arizona for the first time, planned everything from scratch, made every ride a blast, and kept everyone happy and safe.  Our alumni also deserve a special mention, taking time out of their busy schedules to share some special memories with us and contribute to the team spirit. Catching up with now-alumni friends is a really amazing part of WTC, and it was special to ride with Dustin, Amy and Stan again.”

Joanna and Amy rockin’ the stars and stripes!!

_____________________________________________________________

We are so grateful to have had a wonderful (and safe!) training camp experience,  growing individually in strength and riding ability, as well as growing together as a team. Next up – race season in just a few weeks!

go team!

Cyclocross Season Recap

Berk and alum Tobi show off their dirt at Quad ‘Cross season opener!

This past fall the team competed in a handful of cyclocross races around New England for both ECCC triumphs and team camaraderie. The cyclocross season introduced dozens of MIT riders to the joys of riding on dirt, the concept of a hand-up, and really showcased the weather extremes of fall in New England. 

First up, Lee recounts his introduction to cyclocross:

“My first season of cyclocross with the MIT cycling team was, first and foremost, totally unexpected. Before this past fall, I had only a vague idea of what cyclocross even was, and hardly any interest in trying it out. All I knew about cyclocross was that it involved racing bikes off the road, and having only ever owned and ridden a road bike, that little bit of information was enough to keep me away. I couldn’t understand why anyone would go out of their way to ride on the unpaved roads and trails that I tried to avoid at all costs with my road bike. To me, riding anything but smooth asphalt meant a guarantee of a bumpy, uncomfortable ride and the constant threat of a mechanical.

But once fall came around, I began to think differently. Shorter days and cooler temperatures made long rides out on the road seem less practical and enjoyable than they did over the summer. So, in late September, I showed up with my road bike to the cx clinic. With help from Adam Myerson, a cyclocross pro, I learned how to dismount and remount my bike on the move, and got a lot more comfortable riding on dirt and grass (at least as comfortable as I could get riding my skinny road tires). A couple of weeks later, I jumped into my first race.

Adam Myerson briefs the team on the history of cyclocross!

Ghosts of Gloucester was not only my first off-road race, but also my first real off-road ride. It did not go well for me. I crashed so many times during the race that I ended up having to cross the finish line on foot, carrying a non-functioning bike. Fortunately I improved just enough after the first race to not completely embarrass myself at two ECCC races, Orchard Cross and Northampton CX. Orchard featured a pleasant, winding course through an apple orchard in New Hampshire, and was the first race (road or cyclocross) where I genuinely felt like I was having fun from beginning to end. NoHo—where the course twisted through a grassy field, entered a wooded area, and remerged again out onto the field—was a lot more challenging for me. A layer of frost had formed on the grass over night and was just beginning to melt as the sun rose over the course for my race that morning. Consequently, I had to deal with quite a bit of slipping and sliding around while trying to maneuver in a field of over 130 racers. My efforts were well worth it though, as I got to relax afterwards while watching the day’s remaining races and hanging out with my teammates that weekend.

Racing cyclocross this fall taught me something that I never would have learned racing road, and it is that bike racing can be so much more fun when you take it a little bit less seriously. This point was underlined for me in the extreme at Ice Weasels, which was my fourth and final race of the season. The single speed race at Ice Weasels is something that should be experienced rather than described, but it involves riding around the grounds of an abandoned state hospital outside Boston without being allowed to shift gears. For most of us, it also involved dressing in some crazy outfit or costume, and deciding just how many handups we could take during the race. I could not imagine a more fitting end to my first cx season than the combination of outright silliness and unbridled joy that I experienced at Ice Weasels.

A huge thanks to all the teammates who came out this fall and made cyclocross so much fun, and to our cx captain Joanna for making it all happen! It’s back to the grind of the road season for me now, but you can bet I’ll be back racing on the dirt next fall.”

Emma, Joanna, and alum Anne take on the mud at OrchardCX!

Next, Kate reflects on her season of dirt:

Seeing as I had never raced bikes before, I got asked many times this season a) why I started doing stuff with MIT Cycling and b) how in the world I ended up doing cyclocross. Well, Joanna is cool, and I went on a women’s dirt ride she led at the Fells. I struggled on some of the rocky parts on my clunky sort of a cyclocross bike that I had from Spokes. “When you think you’re going to fall, just give it one hard pedal stroke and keep going!” she coached, or something along those lines. I was a little too on the verge of falling on rocks at the time to remember exactly what she said, but I liked it. Later, watching her demonstrate the funny cyclocross mount and dismount and describe the weird sport, I was intrigued. When she said that the technical components would be easier in a cyclocross race than what we had just ridden, I figured I should just give it a shot!

I went to Adam Myerson’s CX skills clinic, and that helped me feel way more prepared and excited – and like I actually knew the basic components of the sport. I definitely tripped on a barrier or two, and I enjoyed the look of confusion on nearby track kids’ faces as we ran along the side of the hill with bikes on our shoulders. I’m super glad I decided to go for it and sign up for a race after that. Orchard Cross was a cold, rainy, and muddy affair, but I loved navigating through the apple trees and wiggling around on the pump track – also chasing Devin around to try to give him a wheel after his epic flat in his race. The race was tiring and a bit scary and also super fun! It’s  been a blast getting to meet the cast of characters that make up the MIT Cycling team. I traveled there with Berk, who had lots of cycling insights to share, and it was fun dragging some adventurous friends along (Devin to the first race, Alejandro to the second).

After that first race, I practiced some CX skills with Joanna, Carolyn, Alejandro, and Sarah in a park. While I only got to two races this season, the second one (NoHo) was also super fun. It was great driving up with Emma and Alejandro, and it was exciting to see so many enthusiastic CX people at the race. I definitely lost some ground by being afraid to bike through the banked hairpin around a tree, opting for running straight through that and the run-up instead. I still maybe regret declining the cookie offered to me by heckling teammates on the run-up during the race, but at least I ate a cookie right before my race to “fuel up.” So far, I seem to be more confident running with my bike than actually biking in cross races, so that’s maybe something to work on for next year 🙂 Thanks to everyone for the fun, tips, and encouragement in my first CX season! What a weird and awesome sport!

Dylan delivers a heartfelt acceptance speech for his most-aggressive rider jersey win (see beige garment) with adoring teammates Nic and Lee by his side.

Thanks for an awesome season to all our riders! Now the fun is over and it’s back to the trainer until spring arrives!

Fall Training Camp 2019

On November 2nd and 3rd the MIT Cycling team held our annual Fall Training Camp. The destination this year was Pittsfield, MA, an excellent staging point for rides throughout the Berkshires and Western Massachusetts. We had an amazing weekend of riding and team socializing under deep blue skies and crisp New England fall temperatures. We also happily welcomed several new riders onto the MIT cycling scene.

First up, Djuna gives her recap of the weekend:

“When the moment came around to get on our bikes and head out on Saturday morning from our house in Pittsfield for the first day of fall training camp, I had no idea what was awaiting me – I hadn’t properly been introduced to Strava yet and don’t own a Garmin so while the rest of the team was studiously pouring over the routes, I was nervously biting my lip – Hoping my excellent drafting skills would save me. I joined Sarah, Ethan, Julie, and Bola, opting for the shortest route. The first few miles were smooth enough (apart from a short break to hunt for an eyeglass lens that had popped out of Bola’s glasses on the first hill) – until we reached the climb everyone had been talking about: Mount Greylock. Having not reviewed the route, I had no idea that we were about to climb the highest point in MA. The first few minutes uphill were the worst – it suddenly became painfully clear how little I had trained this past month. My legs ached as I struggled to get to the top of the climb. Being from the north of Germany (where climbs of this caliber are non-existent), I had never experienced an extended period uphill on the bike and I was sure the worst would soon be over. However, taking a turn, just as the incline steepened to an almost unbearable grade, I was faced with the horrible realization that the climb had not yet ended! Very much to the contrary, the pavement snaked its way uphill around the mountain and disappeared into the trees. It was too late to turn around and my teammates were far ahead of me. Determined to not fall behind, I tried to keep the pace even and settle into the rhythm of (slowly) turning the crank. As I climbed higher, beautiful views of the valley emerged towards my left and icicles decorated the steep incline of trees to my right, and, as the sun emerged near the end of the climb, I began to truly treasure and enjoy the monumental task of getting up this mountain. Reunited with my group at the summit, the pain felt rewarding – and suddenly I understood why cyclists are so obsessed with climbs!

Erik, Jeremy, Jack, Nic and Guillaume take in the views from the summit of Mount Greylock, the highest point in Massachusetts

Little did I know that my least favorite part of this endeavor would be the 20 minute descent, where icy winds made it painfully clear that I should have packed an extra windbreaker. At the very least, my desire to get down as quickly as possible helped me overcome my fear of taking curves fast! Much to my delight, we spent the next hour following the cold descent huddled around coffee mugs in a cafe at the base of the mountain. Feeling horribly cold and absolutely dreading the way back home, I had an idea. In the cafe restroom, I removed my thermal base layers and sat huddled under the hand dryer, enjoying the warmth and drying my clothes one-by-one. Feeling very smug and smart (but also slightly too ashamed to tell my teammates why I had taken so long – I figured; only weak cyclists sit under hand dryers), I exited the cafe ready to brave the way back home.

Berk and Lee pose with their new friend, the Golden Elk, at Whitcomb Summit

On Day 2 on Sunday, a thin layer of fog hung over the valley, making everything feel fall-like and cozy and all-around perfect for another ride. Jeremy, who had completed the monumental 100 mile ride with Erik, and co. the day before, led us on a 50 mile group ride, and, impressively, stuck it out at the front for the majority of the ride. I, on the other hand, desperately clung to his wheel and later to Carolyn’s, as I tried to keep up. It was a stunning ride that took us up another beautiful climb – more cyclocross than road, through a forest and along a stream that snaked its way up the mountain. The descent was perfect, as if the street had been paved over just for fall training camp! After a little extended cyclocross adventure as we left the main road to find the town of Lee, we reached asphalt again and made it to another well-deserved coffee stop. Having not learnt from the previous day to bring an extra base layer, I sat with my teammates, shivering, and dreading the cold outside, wondering ‘why do we this again?’ It’s an easy-enough question to answer: Pushing my limits with a group of people as cool and diverse as this team, makes every tough moment on the bike entirely worth it. Thanks guys, for welcoming me into the family – It’s been a blast already and I look forward to many more hard rides!”

Carolyn works her way up the Beartown Mountain climb on Day 2 of FTC

Next, Miles relives the high and lows of two intense days of riding:

“On Saturday morning, I found myself with Erik, Guillaume, Jack, Jeremy and Nic about to embark on a 170km ride with 3100m of climbing. Despite having topped up my glycogen supplies the night before with a Halloween candy binge, I was still apprehensive. With Erik having recently won the Mount Washington hill climb, Guillaume adamantly sticking to a strict regimen of 3+ hour trainer rides and Nic crowned GrubHub’s best bike courier, I felt slightly out of my depth. But, being a beautiful sunny day and my last FTC before graduation, I had to give it a go!

Ten kilometers in, we hit our first and biggest climb of the day: Mount Greylock. As became the routine for the multiple climbs through the day, Guillaume and Erik would shoot off ahead, seemingly filled with helium, while the rest of us, more evenly matched, duked it out for third place. It was unspoken knowledge that every climb was, of course, a race. Being treated to some amazing views throughout the climb, spirits were high at the top of Greylock despite the ensuing descent in sub-zero temperatures that quickly turned us into ice cubes.

Nic, Miles, Guillaume, Erik, Jeremy and Jack on the summit of Greylock on Day 1

The remainder of the ride was a mixture of incredible descents and long upward slogs. A highlight was the descent of Petersburg pass, which was perhaps was the most fun I have ever had descending in the Northeast. The low point of my ride was encountering the aptly named “Berlin Wall”. Halfway up, my mind decided that enough was enough and the 80km and 1500m of climbing that remained in the ride did not bear thinking about. Luckily, a second wind, spurred by the rapid consumption of a bottle of Mountain Dew, soon hit and the rest of the ride was quite enjoyable. After flatting with 8km to go, we all made it home thoroughly exhausted (at least I was) just as the sun was setting.

On Sunday, a group of us set out to do the long ride for the day, which Jeremy promised might have some “secret dirt”. I was hoping for a slightly more relaxing day but that hope soon evaporated with attacks flying at the base of the first climb. Following a cheerful discussion about the differences between professional and amateur bike racers, the majority of the group decided to opt for a shorter route home, leaving me, Guillaume, Sarah and Nic to press onwards along the long route.

Nic, Sarah, and Guillaume explore some secret dirt in October Mountain State Forest on Day 2

One hundred kilometers in, rather cold and tired, we found ourselves in the heart of the October Mountain State Forest. We were on a rough “track” which, in my exhausted mind, was certainly not the fun secret dirt we had been promised. Instead, for kilometers we were dodging massive holes, chunky rocks, and even active logging machinery. Finally, we reached a junction where the route instructed us to go straight. However, a foreboding rickety sign warned of “Rough road ahead for 8 miles”. As we were stopped to plan an alternate escape route, a massive 4×4 off-roading truck bumped its way up the track. The man driving, laughing at our pathetically skinny tires, confirmed our suspicions that continuing straight would not be advisable. Instead, he gave us directions to the nearest paved road which we eventually found but not before passing a camp of dirt bikers, howling in laughter at the sight of lycra-clad road cyclists traveling through this wilderness.

Miles, still with enough energy to force a smile, takes a selfie with the adventure ride gang

By the time we reached pavement I was done, with no second wind on the horizon. For the remaining hour, I desperately clung to Sarah, Guillaume and Nic’s wheels, progressively sinking into a deeper bonk. Thankfully Guillaume, who appeared more rested than at the start of the ride, had the energy to pull us all home. Upon finally reaching the car, I spent the next 15 minutes silently eating handfuls upon handfuls of M&Ms until I finally had enough energy to drive us to a recovery meal at Five Guys.

Thanks to Jeremy and Sarah for organizing a fantastic training camp and to everyone for being such great riding buddies. I’m looking forward to doing it all over again at Winter Training Camp!”

Volunteer Weekend: Harbor to the Bay and Hub on Wheels

On September 14th and 15th, the team volunteered at two different events to support our local cycling community and help raise money for two great causes. These rides have become an annual fall tradition for us and we’re honored that we continue to be invited back. Harbor to the Bay (H2B)  is a 125 mile ride from Boston to Provincetown to raise money for HIV/AIDS clinical research and care organizations. The event just completed its 17th year and has raised $6 million over that time! We left at pre-dawn hours to marshal at different points along the route; providing safety, guidance, and support for the riders as they complete their journey. Hub on Wheels is an event promoted by Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and EF Education First to increase cycling participation in the city and raise money for Boston Children’s Hospital and pediatric cancer research. Our volunteers helped riders fix flats and other mechanicals and shepherd them through dangerous intersections. Now in its 15th year, approximately 5,000 cyclists participate! These events also offer new riders to the team a great way to get involved and make new friends!

Harbor to the Bay riders receive their briefing before departing Sagamore to ride up Cape Cod all the way to Provincetown

George recaps his long day in the saddle:

If you asked me to wake up at 4:00am on any other Saturday morning than the one for Harbor to the Bay, I would have given you an unenthused response. This Saturday morning was different, though. I hopped out of bed with a pep in my step and I was ready for the day. I had some coffee, breakfast, and then headed out the door. 4:22am. I was excited. Excited not only to complete my longest ride to date, but also excited to meet new people while supporting a cause greater than any single rider. Ever since arriving in Cambridge in early June, I have either been on the saddle by myself or with another Navy buddy completing some of the rides posted on the cycling team’s website. Besides one of the casual Wednesday morning RSC coffee rides, I had never really ridden with the cycling team, or any cycling team for that matter. I did not know what to expect.

After biking the three and a half minutes from my apartment to the meeting spot outside of the student center, all I could see were a few flashing bike lights and the silhouettes of other riders waiting in a circle for everyone to arrive. Once all 15 of us arrived, we started introducing ourselves *in the dark* by name and department we are associated with; immediately, I was at a loss. Luckily, everyone on the cycling team was so friendly and inclusive that once the sun crept above the horizon, I was able to place names to faces.

MIT kit is well represented at our lunch stop in Sagamore before splitting up into pairs for our marshaling stations on the Cape

Halfway through the ride from Boston, we stopped for lunch near the Sagamore Bridge. At this point in the day, more volunteers were out setting up the pit stops and more riders were out prepping to start their trek to Provincetown. I was able to converse with some of the volunteers and riders and during these conversations, I felt what this ride meant to these individuals; yet another admirable aspect of the Harbor to the Bay event.

After our stomachs were refueled and our bottles refilled, we resumed our journey up the Cape,  pairs of people gradually peeling off at our marshaling positions. Around mile 82.5, Sarah, the women’s road captain, and I pulled off the course, changed into our neon yellow mesh marshaling getup, and started directing and cheering on all the riders for the next few hours. Once the final H2B rider passed, we changed back into our cycling kits and waited for the rest of the team to ride through the course to pick us up. After a few hours without moving much, it was quite difficult to get the legs warmed back up to ride the last, grueling 40-some-odd miles left to P-town.

It takes more than a couple group mechanicals to get Dylan down!

After arriving in Provincetown at the end of the ride, everyone was cheering each other on and all of the volunteers were thanking us for our support of the event. Little did they know that without them, we would not have been able to complete the ride. In my honest opinion, after seeing the reaction on everyone’s faces after each of us devoured one (or four in my case) of the homemade chocolate chip brownies at one of the final pit stops is what carried us through to the end. Thank you again to all the other volunteers and SAG wagon drivers that supported H2B.

Finally, after arriving in Provincetown, we all gathered around a few picnic tables on a wooden balcony overlooking the beach at sunset. We all celebrated by either buying a local beer from one of the nearby outdoor bars or indulging in some freshly caught seafood from a local joint right on the pier. This was a perfect ending to one of my most memorable, valuable days yet. Around 7:20pm, we all made our way to the 7:30pm Bay State Cruise fast ferry to Boston. We each filed into the ferry after racking our bikes on the back deck and gathered around tables and other guests. While some were able to hold conversations for the hour and a half back to Boston, some (*cough* me *cough*) almost hit REM sleep. Wow, what a day. I cannot thank MIT Cycling enough for the opportunity and friendship they provided!

The whole crew celebrates at the end of the day in Provincetown

Shreyas describes his experience marshaling at Hub on Wheels:

When I heard that there was an opportunity to ride with thousands of other cyclists, I couldn’t wait to get involved! Having started biking only this summer, I wasn’t quick enough to join the Harbor to the Bay ride out to Cape Cod just yet, but the prospect of major streets in Boston being closed off to motor vehicles to make way for cyclists as part of the ~50mi Hub on Wheels ride was still very exciting. Having set off at 6:30 AM for the ride, I really appreciated the breakfast burrito we were given at registration to help us fuel a bit.

Thousands of Hub on Wheels riders line up at the start at City Hall Plaza in downtown Boston

Although it felt strange to be a “marshal” on the course while being a rider with so little experience myself, riding with the club for a few months gave me a bit of confidence, enough to be able to help other riders with basic mechanical issues. I stopped along with a couple of other cyclists riding with the club, to help direct cyclists at a couple of intersections on the route, but overall, marshaling turned out to be pretty chill. The whole event was extremely well-organized, and we got to eat and refuel at multiple stops along the route. We even got to meet a pro cyclist (Tom Scully) who rode at the Tour de France for Education First this year! My favorite part of the ride, however, was the paceline that we got going immediately after our long stops to fulfill our marshaling duties – thanks to the long pulls by some of the faster riders, I think it’s safe to say I won’t be going any faster on any of those roads in Boston, until next year.

A once a year opportunity: pedaling along Storrow Drive under the Mass Ave Bridge!

 

Six Gaps 2019

On the final weekend of July, an incredible 14 riders packed up for two nights and one crazy day of riding in Vermont. The Six Gaps ride, a route going up and over Middlebury, Lincoln, Appalachian, Roxbury, Rochester and Brandon Gaps in the Green Mountains has become something of an annual MIT masochist tradition. Nothing brings a group together quite like a marathon day in the saddle covering over 130 miles and climbing more than 11,000 feet. Even with a few inevitable mechanicals, everyone completed the ride! Many thanks to Dmitro for organizing this year’s trip! We hope to be back next year (after most of us have had plenty of time to forget about the suffering).

Miles uses his wingspan to capture all the smiles before we headed out in the morning

Carolyn explains how she found herself joining the ride:

“This insane adventure began in a now-familiar fashion: with a gentle nudge from Amy: 

I had heard legends of six gaps rides from years past, and was appropriately intimidated. I had done Eastern Ave reps and swapped out my cassette for an 11-34, but I still wasn’t sure it was enough. Even though I had done rides that were this long before, I knew that the elevation was the real challenge. 
The ride certainly delivered. We hit the famed Lincoln Gap second, and morale was high even as I struggled with every ounce of strength to turn my pedals over as the grade hit 20+%. However, gaps three and four were not much easier, and I felt my spirit starting to break. I cheered myself up by purchasing a toothbrush and toothpaste at the next gas station along with the requisite soda and candy bar (I don’t think I’d ever consumed this much sugar in a single day, and my teeth felt awful). From there, we had just two more gaps to go, and suddenly the end felt within reach. All in all, this was a crazy adventure with an amazing group of teammates. Thanks for the push Amy!”
One of many, many country store refueling pit stops
Trevor reflects on the countless highs and lows of the day:

“I’ve never really ridden bikes much; at least, nothing that wasn’t a beach cruiser or a mountain bike. Even since joining the team 9 months ago I wouldn’t exactly nominate myself as “proficient” in any aspect of riding a bike. So when the call for the 6-gaps ride came out–135 miles and 12000 ft of climbing—I of course decided it would be well-measured decision. To prepare, I followed a rigorous regiment of 2-3 rides per week, totaling around 90 miles each week and amassed a total of approximately 2000ft of climbing in my last 3 months of riding. The picture of health, thoroughly trained, and stubborn as a stick in the mud I entered the week with full faith that these mountains would be but speed bumps in my path.

Regrouping at the top of Middlebury Gap, our first of the day when most of us still felt fresh

On 6:30am Saturday, we set off and beaming with confidence, I rattled my way with the rest of the crew down the second half of the Brandon descent. One hour and one Middlebury Gap later, I was inclined to believe my training program was more than enough; my legs only throbbed with 7/10 intensity, and I had managed to keep in touch with the group all the way up the hill. This feeling of success however was shattered, along with most of my will, on the second half of Lincoln Gap which I attacked with full intensity simply to avoid a prolonged track-stand practice or a nature hike up the hill. Gasping for air at the top, jersey open, sweat pouring out, water bottles empty I boldly declared to myself that I was ⅓ down, ⅓ to go. The rest of the day (another 8 hours) laid ahead and to make a long story short, over the rest of the ride I:

  • Ate at least 12 bars of the Clif or Nature Valley variety
  • Drank about 3 gallons ( I think) of poorly mixed Gatorade
  • Fell hard into some rocks on Baby gap
  • Bonked on App gap
  • Made full use of my disk brakes on descents
  • Ate 80% of a loaf of bread generously donated by Amy
  • Sat on the group’s wheel for about 20 miles
  • Got aggressively saddle-sore at mile 90
  • Bonked on Rochester
  • Bonked, recovered, then Bonked again on Brandon
  • Stood up all the way down Brandon because my ass and my legs hurt 
Joanna and Amy power their way up App Gap

All in all, 6 gaps was an incredibly awesome, tiring, and humbling experience. It certainly cemented my love for (type 2 and 3) fun and also my appreciation for being able to be part of an awesome team of people that make even the most painful experiences fun. Looking forward to some more extended “#coffee rides” with the team for the foreseeable future”.

Recuperating at the top of Roxbury Gap, a tough climb on our fourth pass of the day with two more to go
Meia describes her day:

“Six Gaps was a wonderful mix of Type 1 and Type II fun – although mostly Type 1 thanks to the amazing group of people I had the pleasure to complete it with (see https://www.rei.com/blog/climb/fun-scale for a great explanation)! Climbing gaps sucked – and by that I mean I wheel-sucked Tobi up all of them, who wins the award for the most consistent rider. Lincoln really put me to the test – it was by far the steepest road I’ve ever been on. I zigzagged my way up so slowly my Garmin auto-paused on me (sad reacts only). I really thought I was going to puke coming to the end of the climb; but I’m happy to have made it up in one piece, and without walking! For better or for worse, I am now much more comfortable biking on the left side of the road. On other Type 1 fun notes, our group made uncountable country store stops, zoomed down the descents, pacelined the flat sections as a big family, cooked an amazing dinner with real food (not straight sugar!), stargazed in the evening, and some of us even hopped in the pond adjacent our Airbnb for a refreshing cool-off! Despite intense suffering (or perhaps because of it), this is definitely a highlight of my summer”.

 

Nic cheers on Lee as he rips up the final climb of Rochester Gap

Michael offers his take:

“From the moment I learned of the *experience* that is Six Gaps, I was all in. Some people need to have the latest iPhone or watch the latest Marvel movie. I needed to ride Six Gaps. And boy, it did not fail to live up to the hype. I must have experienced the full spectrum of human emotions on that ride, from the despair of climbing up the 24% grade on the Lincoln Gap to the exhilarating chase to catch the fast group on Brandon Gap. At some point along the Roxbury Gap when the road shot up towards the heavens, the morale got so bad that I considered hopping (or rather, falling) off my bike and calling an Uber back to the house…but then realized how expensive that ride would cost (and the logistical nightmare that would entail) and resigned myself to finish the ride. It had been a long time since I’ve had to dig this deep and I feel as if some dormant part of me was awakened by this experience. Looking back, I’m glad I didn’t call that Uber (or was it because I had no signal? I forget…) because the sense of accomplishment, the endless stories and friendships built from that ordeal are things I will cherish for a lifetime”.

Swapping stories from the day over a delicious and well-earned home cooked dinner

 

Nationals – Braving the Heat

This year we sent 8 riders and Coach Nicole to the Collegiate Road National Championships in Augusta, Georgia. We arrived on Wednesday and spent Thursday assembling our bikes and checking out the courses for the team time trial, individual time trial, and road race at Fort Gordon. We also got a taste of riding in heat and humidity – Augusta’s weather was quite different from the 45 degrees and raining that we were accustomed to racing in!

Preriding the time trial courses and remembering what it’s like to ride without jackets.

The first race of the weekend was the team time trial, which Joanna describes:

“The team time trial was the women’s team primary goal for the 2019 road nationals. I felt like the four of us were on the same wavelength regarding the event, and I think our communication as a group gave us the extra push to victory. It was so special to win the event with this amazing team, and as we were gasping for air in Augusta I couldn’t help but think about how happy I am to have found such a great team at MIT. I’ll outline a short recap, but it’s so important to know that for the past few years the MIT women have been just seconds shy of the win. With Amy, Emma, and Tori all graduating before the 2020 road nationals, it was our last shot to go for gold with this group. We had a successful ECCC season with our TTTs, regularly winning by significant margins over the other women’s A teams, and practiced a few times to dial our communication and buzzwords (‘up’ for faster and ‘off’ for get off perhaps the most used words) prior to nationals. We also made sure that we looked as cool as possible, with matching skin suits, shoe covers, helmets, and even similar bikes to create that sleek and scary look we were going for.

Matching socks (and some matching kit) for the team time trial!

The hours and evening prior to the event were fairly nerve wracking as all four of us were visibly nervous. We spent a while on Thursday pre-riding the course and scoping out each turn and hill to make a cohesive plan. Importantly, we made sure to take into account the notion that these plans will likely change during the race, so we formulated a ton of backups for our backups. Lining up at the start, we took off steadily and quickly built up a very hard pace. Emma checked in with us at mile 7 to see how we felt, and we adjusted lengths of pulls and our overall efforts to make for a more sustained pace. At mile 18 I became so overwhelmed with excitement and all of us were hanging on for dear life once Tori took her final big pull, for almost a full mile, with < 3km to the finish. After Tori pulled us to the base of the hill, Emma went full gas on the front and pulled me and Amy up the final hill where we sprinted for the finish. Since we were the first team to cross the line, we all went for an anxious cool-down to await other teams coming in. Back at the vans, I was filling up my water bottles when Tori, Emma, and Amy ran over screaming, ‘WE WON! WE WON!’ And we all fell into a sweaty puddle of a hug. It was one of the most joyful moments in my cycling life, and it was so special to win with such a killer team. I am so sad that it was our final TTT with this group of 4, but I’ll always be able to look at my stars and stripes jersey (hah!) and think of a great season with even better teammates.”

So happy after WINNING the team time trial!

Our men’s team finished strong in 8th out of a competitive field of 15 teams. After the TTT in the morning, most of us retreated back to the air conditioned house to rest up for the road race and criterium, but a few brave souls stuck around Fort Gordon to tackle the individual time trial! Berk describes his race:

“The ITT was in the afternoon after the TTT, and came with nervous anticipation. Miles, Liam and I knew it was going to a tough ride after the morning’s effort. To make it worse, the temperatures had elevated into the high 80s, the wind had picked up and the sun was peeking through the clouds. I knew moments into my warm-up that I did not have the power I was hoping for. But I had my strategy and gear all worked out, so I still had some confidence that I could do well. 

Many folks say that TTs are where fun goes to die. I disagree. The ITT especially is a kind of experiment, where all of the ingredients of speed (power, pacing, weight and aerodynamics) can be truly tested. With 15 seconds to go at the start, it is nigh impossible to know how good your recipe is, and I was uncertain about my prospects of doing well. 

The course was relatively non-technical, an out-and-back with two major changes in elevation. I was already sopping wet from sweat from my short warm-up, which combined with the bad asphalt made it hard to stay in an aero tuck. But I kept my head down, and I knew I was doing alright when I overtook one rider with 1/3 of the course to go. 

Sprinting over the top of the last climb was about all I could manage by the end. I threw myself in a folding chair, threw some ice down my skinsuit and drank from a gallon jug of milk as Miles, Liam and I shared stories of suffering and listened to the announcer. I was sitting in 3rd for the longest time, and although I knew that I would likely not hold on for a podium the suspense was eating at me. Too bad that the five last riders were the only ones seeded and actually faster, but I was happy to be 8th, getting mediocre amounts of glory for MIT!”

In addition to Berk’s 8th, Miles finished 35th and Liam 46th in the ITT.

Post-ITT recovery: Berk chugs milk and Miles cries, ostensibly due to sunscreen in his eyes.

On Saturday we returned to Fort Gordon for the road race, which Emma recounts:

“I was really looking forward to the road race. Mostly because I was still buzzing after our TTT win, which was the highlight of the weekend for me by far! We drove the road race course the day before the TTT. We all thought it would come down to a race of attrition, with many short, punchy climbs, and I was excited because that suited my racing style. Tori, Amy, and Joanna all offered their help to support me and I was excited and nervous lining up. It was already pretty hot at 9am (but nothing compared to what the guys had to deal with later in the day!) but we had great support in the feed zone with Nicole, Miles, my dad and stepmom, and Tori’s parents, so I knew I would be able to get enough water in. As we started the 60 mile race, I was patient and tried to be vigilant about keeping near the front of the race for what I thought were the inevitable attacks and splits in the group. But as the race progressed, I just kept waiting, but nothing was happening or sticking. The race was very (surprisingly) uneventful and with 5k to go there were still 25 (out of 45) women still in the pack. This wasn’t at all what we thought would happen in the race, but I tried to stay confident. There was a short hill finishing about 500m before the finish, so I knew that it wouldn’t finish in a complete bunch sprint.

Joanna and Emma in the road race.

At 5k to go, Amy rolled up next to me and asked if I needed anything. I asked if she could get Tori to lead me into the final downhill (which was right before the last hill to the finish). In a previous lap I had been in a bad position on that downhill and knew it would be really bad to not be up near the front at the base of the climb. Tori came up and did an AMAZING job leading me into the perfect position and going fast enough so that no one could come around me to take the position. I was second wheel at the base of the climb, and when the rider from Arizona (Cara) attacked I tried to catch her wheel. She was incredibly strong, though, and pushed on and I couldn’t respond. I saw the two girls from CU Boulder coming up behind me and I got on their wheel. At 170 meters to go I tried to sprint around them but chose the wrong side and when Margot (in front) pulled off to the right I found myself boxed in, so had to brake and try to get around Anna on the left, but the initial wrong move cost me and I couldn’t get around before the finish, but still managed to come in 3rd. Cara had held on from her attack on the climb and finished a second or two in front of us. I was happy to get on the podium and was SO incredibly grateful for my teammates and their help, especially to Tori, without whom I don’t know if I would have been able to do as well!”

In addition to Emma finishing 3rd, Amy finished 15th, Joanna 16th, and Tori 23rd in the women’s club road race. Unfortunately the men’s club road race was plagued by crashes and flats, and Quinn and Berk finished 64th and 74th respectively as a result.

Sunday featured our final race, the criterium, which Tori describes:

“On Sunday morning, Amy, Joanna, Emma, and I geared up to race the crit. The course, located in downtown Augusta, was technical, with 6 corners in 0.8 miles. Pre-riding was especially important since it had rained all night, and there serval slippery manhole covers (and even a small stream!) on course. I was looking forward to racing this technical course with a really fast group of women, especially since we’d had only a few opportunities to race crits so far this season. But with that said, all four of us were nervous, and this was not helped by the wet roads and the fact that for three of us, it was sadly our last race as collegiate cyclists!

The pack still all together in the women’s crit.

At 9 am we were off, for our 70-minute race. Having gotten caught behind several crashes last year, I made an effort to get from my 3rd row starting position to the front as quickly as possible, and was settled into the top 5-10 wheels within a lap or two. There were several attacks throughout the first part of the race, but the pack didn’t seem to want to let anything get away. Emma racked up some omnium points by sprinting for primes. Despite several efforts by various riders for a late breakaway, the pack was all together coming into the final laps, and it was going to be a field sprint. I had raced pretty conservatively in an effort to save as much energy as possible for the finish, and was feeling good. Knowing I had to be in good position for the last corner, I did a small sprint leading into it, which let me claim 3rd wheel through the turn. We took the last corner quite fast, with the rider in front of me pedal striking badly after trying to start pedaling too early after the turn. With about 300 meters to go until the line, I stayed in the draft for about another 100 meters, then made a move to come around. Though I couldn’t outsprint the women who had led through the corner, I managed to hold on for 4th!

Leading into the race, my “stretch goal” had been to get on the 5-deep podium, and I was extremely excited to have done it. It was also really exciting to see Joanna finish in the top 10. I’m sad to be done racing for MIT, but I’m very glad to be able to end on a high note, not only from this one race, but our team’s performance at nationals as a whole.”

In addition to Tori’s 4th and Joanna’s 10th, Emma and Amy finished with the lead pack in the crit. Unfortunately the weather deteriorated after that, and the rain, particularly one wet manhole cover, led to several crashes in the later races that day. As a result, in the men’s club crit about a third of the racers (including Berk) did not finish, and another third (including Quinn) were pulled from the race to prevent the lead group from lapping them. Despite being pulled, Quinn finished 31st.

The women’s team dons the stars and stripes as national champions in the team time trial!

After the crits, we hung around Augusta for the awards ceremony in which we took our podium photos and collected our medals and stars and stripes jerseys. MIT also won the D2 club omnium for the 3rd year in a row, rounding out a very successful weekend!

MIT wins the D2 club omnium for the 3rd year in a row!

Easterns – Reclaiming the Trophy!

For our last race weekend of the season, 22 riders and coach Nicole drove to Burlington, Vermont, for the ECCC Championship! We had our sights set on winning the weekend (in order to reclaim the Easterns trophy!) and winning the conference (in order to win a small and unremarkable plaque).

Saturday started with the team time trial. The weather was 44 degrees and pouring rain and the course had been changed at the last minute to avoid a dirt section (thank goodness!), so our focus in this race was primarily to finish safely and get back to the cars and get warm. For most of us, the race passed in a disorganized blur of shivering, fogged-up sunglasses, and drinking mouthfuls of dirty water whenever we opened our mouths while drafting a teammate. Needless to say, no one dared take a camera out into these conditions to document this memorable experience, but I suspect we will not forget it soon. Despite the adverse conditions, MIT teams did well, taking 1st in men’s A, men’s B, women’s A, women’s C and women’s D!

Quinn and Berk in the men’s A road race. Thanks Andy Weigl for the photo!

Next we retraced the TTT course with the road race! Dmitro recounts his experience in men’s C:

“Hahahahahahaha. This was truly some of the most ridiculous racing conditions I have experienced. 45 degrees and raining aren’t the most welcoming conditions, but it was Eastern’s, so I wrung the water out of my kit (it had gotten soaked in the TTT an hour before), put on some completely soaked shoes, and toed the line. We started with about 30 people over a hilly rolling course (four 10 mi laps). The first two and a half laps were uneventful, or as uneventful as a bike race can be when no one can see or brake all that well.

By the end of 3rd lap the “pack” was down to nine riders, I decided I didn’t like my chances in a “field” sprint, so I took a corner a little faster than was likely advisable and attacked up the hill that followed and got away with two other riders. Now that I was away with a few other riders I started thinking about the finish – the other riders didn’t really want to do work in the break, and I have never really been much of a sprinter, I decided I would try to go solo from the last corner (about 2 mi to the line). When we hit that corner I attacked hard then put my head down and pedaled, I didn’t look back (I honestly probably couldn’t have seen anything if I had tried anyway), I just pedaled. The rain was pounding down, I was long since soaked, the cold was biting, I could hardly feel my fingers, all I could do was pedal. Finally a few meters from the line I lifted my head and looked back, no one was there; I had done it. I wanted to celebrate, I wanted to be excited, I wanted to jump up and down, but all of these emotions were outweighed by a desire to get back to the car and get into warm clothes. The rest of the afternoon was great – I got into warm (and dry!) clothes and got to watch and cheer on my teammates in the afternoon – including Emma’s win!”

Emma winning the women’s A road race! Thanks Andy Weigl for the photo!

Other notable finishes in the road race include Emma winning the women’s A with Tori in 5th!

The men’s squad, happy to be warm and dry! Thanks Andy Weigl for the photo!
The women’s squad – thanks for all the birthday fun! Thanks Andy Weigl for the photo!

That evening we attended the conference banquet, which featured the highlight of the weekend for me. Alas this was not the abundant lasagna (which was happily consumed), but rather the team surprising me with birthday hats and getting the whole conference to sing happy birthday to me!! Thanks guys for making this birthday so special!

On Sunday we participated in the circuit race. Julie describes her race:

“I woke up Sunday morning excited to compete in my first circuit race. My first cycling race was a couple weeks earlier at L’Enfur du Nord where I gained valuable lessons in the crit that I was eager to use for the circuit race. The course at ECCC was mostly flat with two turns and while the weather was a bit cold, there wasn’t any rain, for which I was incredibly grateful. Most of the morning was spent hanging out with the team, watching racers compete, and picking up valuable tips from teammates and coach Nicole before my race.

During my race, I positioned myself in the front of the pack and drafted off the leader. The race consisted of 4 laps of a 2.8 mile loop. For most of the race, I focused on keeping myself in a good position and avoiding a potential crash. I tried to make a couple surges to break from the pack on the third lap, but when there wasn’t a sizable gap, I tucked back into the pack and decided to save my energy for the final sprint. On the last lap, there was a right turn, and then a flat stretch until the finish line. I had a slow turn and saw the pack ahead of me, but focused on sprinting as hard as I could. I passed a couple of people and looked forward to see only two girls in front of me a short distance to the finish line. I tucked my head back down and kept pushing as I was gaining ground on one of the cyclists. Right before the finish line, I inched in front of her to get 2nd place! I was so excited as it was my first individual podium finish, which helped contribute points to the team.

Julie, Meia, and Delia in the Women’s D circuit race. Thanks Luke Knisley for the photo!

After my race was over, I was excited to cheer my teammates in the Men’s and Women’s A and B category. One of the highlight’s of the day was watching Berk win the Men’s A race! After all the races finished, we celebrated a team victory at the awards ceremony and ate delicious treats. I left the race proud to be part of such an amazing team and excited for more races in the future.”

Miles and Dustin in the men’s B circuit race. Thanks Andy Weigl for the photo!

And finally, without further ado, Berk describes the men’s A circuit race:

“Wow, what a great weekend for MIT! Right before we had secured victory however, was the 70min Men’s A circuit race. I was nervous, more so than usual, knowing that Quinn and I would have to have to have a good day to guarantee winning the weekend. As the potential icing on the cake, I had a good chance of grabbing the green jersey so long as I contested each prime, which were during laps 1-2-4-5-7-8, pretty much every lap. Quinn and I had discussed our strategy beforehand, which was contingent on me not missing any breaks going up the road. Easier said than done.

For the first two laps, I was defending my position among top 6 riders, following wheels and going full gas during high-speed downhill primes. After a mellow third lap and an intense fourth, I saw three riders around me, and a bit of daylight behind us. Seeing this as perhaps the only opportunity to get away from a strong pack, I attacked, and two followed. The three of us got in a speedy paceline, working well together. We were focused on getting away so the gang agreed to let me have the primes, and the gap grew. One of the two was clearly exhausted however, and ended up falling off. With two laps to go, I knew my partner was quite the sprinter (and the home favorite), so I tried to shake him off my wheel on a climb. He was clearly tired but hung on. We agreed to work together until the final stretch, since the time gaps showed the pack was getting organized and slowly reeling us back in.

After 45 minutes of teamwork, it was the final turn, where all bonds of breakaway-ship are broken. I was at a disadvantage going through it first, with about 400m to the line, so after the turn I eased up, only to see my break partner attack. I immediately got his wheel, stayed patient until I saw the line and sprinted around him for the win!

I was shook to take my first Men’s A win at Easterns, especially to help MIT get a smashing lead in the omnium and the weekend! I was joined by Quinn, who had been helping disrupt the chase with several of the UVM guys, and we celebrated victory over baked goods with the team. It has been an absolute blast to race with Quinn all season. We have had plenty of ups and downs, but knowing that I had a great teammate in the field was always a source of reassurance. I will miss him next year, and look forward to see some new MIT blood in the A’s next year!”

Can you spot all 4 MIT A women in this photo from the circuit race? Thanks Luke Knisley for the photo!

In the women’s A circuit race, Emma, Joanna, and Tori took 3rd, 5th, and 6th, in women’s C Sarah took 2nd and in women’s D Meia and Delia both finished top 10. On the men’s side, Miles finished 4th in B, and Guillaume finished 2nd in in C.

The combined performance of all our MIT riders over the weekend sufficed to secure both Easterns and the conference for MIT! Several individuals also ranked highly in the omnium standings – Sarah, Miles, Tori, and Berk all finished on the omnium podium!

Shippensburg Scurry

Last weekend, 8 of us undertook the long and rainy journey out to Cleversburg, Pennsylvania, for the Shippensburg Scurry! The weekend started out with a circuit race around a 2.2 mile loop with rolling hills. Jack describes his circuit race:

“Under encouragement from Miles, I upgraded from Men’s D to Men’s C before Shippensburg. I wasn’t really expecting anything from my first race in Men’s C, perhaps just to stay in the group. However, my unexpected WIN just showed how strategic a bike race can be and sometimes it is not the strongest who wins! Here is how it happened:

Three minutes into the race, an Army guy attacked and I happened to be in a good position to respond quickly. We formed a four man breakaway and, surprisingly, no one seemed to chase. We put in some hard efforts for the first few laps and realized we opened a ~20 second gap. I know I’m certainly not the strongest in the group, so I did everything I could to not get dropped from the break: pulling mostly on the hills, relaxing on the downhill, and being the first to take the corners to avoid a big acceleration, which overall saved me some legs for the sprint.

Finally it came down to the last lap, at that time we were down to three people, and we were all equally toasted. Despite a 30-second gap, the army guy seemed to be worried about being chased back by the group and was still doing some hard efforts pulling the two of us. I was barely holding his wheels and was really just aiming for third place (which honestly I would be super happy about for my first C’s race!). On the last uphill to the finish, the army guy went super hard and tried to get away. Fortunately I had some weight advantage and was able to close the gap, then suddenly it was down to him and me for the downhill sprint to finish. With the finish line in sight and the only enemy in the front, I could feel my heart beating faster and faster. I could tell that he gave everything on the climb and probably wouldn’t be able to contest the sprint, but I waited patiently until the last 100 m to start my sprint and quickly flew pass him to claim my first win in Men’s C!

Jack receiving the Most Aggressive Rider Jersey for winning his first C race!

Winning a race and the most aggressive rider’s jersey of the week are somethings I would never have dreamed of before. It was so unreal! I think it all came down to some good luck (no one wanted to chase), good positioning, and good strategy (for saving energy in the break). That’s why we all love bike racing—the strongest guy doesn’t always win!”

Other notable finishes for the circuit race include Guillaume getting 2nd in men’s D, Amy and Tori finishing 3rd and 5th in women’s A, and Berk finishing 6th in men’s A despite a flat late in the race!

Resting the legs (and enjoying some Harry Potter) in the few hours between the circuit race and hill climb.

The morning circuit race was followed by a 6-mile hill climb that afternoon. Here is Berk’s account of the men’s A hill climb:

“This year, Penn State pulled an MIT-Men’s-C’s-two-years-ago on all of us. Instead of having a friendly stroll up the initial false flat, they brought the pain train, stretching the entire Men’s A field into single file. Most of us were quite gassed from the circuit race that morning, so we were content to draft for dear life. Once the pitch increased, the train dissolved, only to be replaced with eager would-be attackers. The first few moves in the rolling uphill section were indecisive, but eventually a group of two attacked in one of the steeper sections and got away. 

Those of us taking the slow and steady wins the race approach kept a steady clip, and some folks were already wheezing from the effort. My legs were starting to come back under me even as I was riding in the red, so I decided to try a move. With about a mile left on the climb and as the group eased up momentarily, I wove my way thorough the group and attacked. I was glad to see that nobody followed. After a minute of hard effort to solidify the gap, I saw one of the two leaders ahead, and knew that my best chance to beat him would be to reel him in before the final flat and sprint around him early. So I went as hard as I could, catching him right after the crest of the climb. As I bridged, I saw he was at the limit, so I sprinted into his draft and around him to chase the leader, knowing well that the group wouldn’t be far behind. It was unfortunate for all of us that the strongest climber won. But I was quite happy about 2nd place and to ride a climb that is longer than 5 minutes!”

Nic and Guillaume lining up for the men’s D road race.

On Sunday we faced the road race, which included a short but brutally steep climb up the infamous “Horse Killer Road”. Here’s how the women’s A/B race played out:

“As we lined up for the road race, the sky looked quite ominous, so I was hoping that this would be a quick race, rather than 59 miles of lollygagging (which is not uncommon in the women’s A/B races). Fortunately, others seemed to share my hopes, and the first two laps, which bypassed Horse Killer Road, passed uneventfully, but at a reasonable clip. However, our last two laps both included Horse Killer Road, so I knew the comfortable pace would come to an end.

Horse Killer Road was as steep as advertised, featuring grades as high as 13%, but fortunately (or unfortunately for those who like climbing…), the steepest part only lasted a few minutes. Our pack split up on the hill, but within a few miles of the climb, a lead group of 6 had reassembled. We pacelined for the rest of the lap as the ominous clouds turned to drizzle and then to rain.

Tori and Amy passing through the feed zone in the women’s A/B road race.

In the early part of our last lap, a Middlebury rider attacked. Though the remaining 5 of us tried to reel her in, we were unable to. To be honest I was quite tired by then and had little interest in catching her, as I doubted that I could beat her in a sprint anyway! Fortunately we took the Horse Killer climb more slowly this time, but unfortunately the steep and winding descent was more harrowing, due to significant rain and several of the men’s A riders passing us at high speed. I was quite thankful to have disc brakes! The climb had further split our group so that as I neared the finish line, I was with Tori and one other rider, with 3 riders ahead of us. With 1.5 miles to go, I attacked on an uphill. The other rider was not able to catch me, and Tori easily outsprinted her at the finish, so that we finished 4th and 5th. I was a bit disappointed that I hadn’t been able to keep up with the 2nd and 3rd place riders in the last half lap, but overall I was pretty satisfied with 4th place in a hard race!”

Guillaume also finished well in the road race, taking 4th in men’s D.

After the road race we all piled into the cars for the long and rainy drive back to Boston. We’re looking forward to a weekend off from racing to prepare our legs for the ECCC Championships in Vermont in two weeks!

L’Enfer du Nord

For our third race weekend of the season, we headed north for L’Enfer du Nord. MIT was a force to be reckoned with, bringing 19 riders including 5 first-time racers! A huge thanks to @orionactionphotography for taking some of the pictures in this blog.

Saturday featured an individual time trial and criterium held on Dartmouth’s campus. Here is Carolyn’s account of the day:

“When I started out going on leisurely coffee rides with MIT cycling this fall, I thought to myself, ‘this is fun, but you’ll never catch me at a race.’ So then why was I helping load up cars at a Quality Inn in Quechee Vermont at 6am on a Saturday? I was asking myself the same question. But early doubts (and early wake-up calls) aside, it was one of the best weekends I’ve had in a long time.

The women’s D riders warming up and talking strategy with coach Nicole.

The racing was split over two days, with Saturday being the individual time trial (ITT) and criterium. We arrived early enough on Saturday morning to preview the 3.5 mile ITT course, which featured a half mile climb out of the gate and some residual snow from the night before. Since I had never raced before, I figured this was my best opportunity. Unlike other events, this required little strategy: just go all out (I believe the technical term is ‘full gas’ – I learned a lot of new vocab this weekend) for 10-12 minutes. I think I more or less achieved that goal, based on how truly awful I felt afterward. I was able to pass two riders on the first climb, and ended up in 4th in the women’s Ds.

The crit was the event I was more concerned about, since the potential for catastrophe seemed high. In the end, it was really just a 30 minute blur. I was vaguely aware that three riders attacked at the start, but I kind of lost track of them halfway through (had we caught them? I wasn’t sure. My mental game needs some work). But a real highlight was working with two MIT teammates in the last two laps (Cat Romero and Julie Takagi) to collectively finish strong (5 for Cat, 6 for me, and 11 for Julie).

Plus, once this race was over, the real fun could begin. We set up snacks and camp chairs along frat row and watched the rest of the action unfold. MIT had some strong performances across several categories that made spectating and cheering a lot of fun (a highlight was watching Joanna nab second in the women’s A race on her home turf). It was really awesome to feel like part of a team. I’ll be back next year!”

Berk attacking the men’s A field in the frat row criterium!

MIT had many notable performances over the day:

ITT:
Women’s A – Amy 3rd, Tori 4th, Joanna 6th
Men’s A – Berk 4th
Men’s B – Liam 2nd
Women’s C – Sarah 1st!!
Men’s C – Miles 3rd, Dmitro 5th
Women’s D – Carolyn 4th, Julie 6th, Catalina 9th
Men’s D – Jeremy 1st!!, Guillaume 2nd, Jack 4th

Crit:
Women’s A – Joanna 2nd, Tori 3rd
Men’s B – Liam 9th
Men’s C – Miles 2nd
Women’s D – Catalina 5th, Carolyn 6th
Men’s D1 – Guillaume 2nd, Jeremy 8th
Men’s D2 – Jack 5th

A lot of hungry riders at our team dinner on Saturday.

On Sunday, we headed to Middlebury, VT for the road race. Here is Liam’s account of his race:

“I was super excited leading up to this weekend — I raced the Dartmouth crit last year for the first time and loved it, and the road race course got snowed out so it was great to finally have the opportunity to race it. All of my racing success last year came when I made it into a breakaway, and I was determined to make it into a break during the crit and road race. Unlike last week’s Men’s B races at Bucknell, both of our races started off pretty hot from the gun. In the crit, McGill cycling hit the front just a few seconds into the race, a sharp contrast with the relaxed and chatty first few laps of the Bucknell circuit race. I got in one move and was off the front for an entire lap, taking a prime, but ultimately nothing stuck and I finished in the middle of the bunch after losing my position for the sprint. I was a little frustrated because I knew that my legs were good, yet the cards just didn’t line up during the crit.

Sunday’s race was held in the beautiful Vermont countryside near Middlebury College — it was probably the most beautiful course that I’ve ever ridden, but unfortunately I didn’t have much time to take in the scenery during the road race. A lone rider from Columbia went up the road just after the neutral start, and the pack spent the first 15 miles of the race slowly pulling him in. Again, I knew that I wanted to make it into a break — I attacked once, and followed another move, but ultimately both were caught. Just after the second move was caught, however, another move went — and I could tell that this one would probably stick because of the riders in the move. I bridged up to the five-man move, and the next ten minutes were completely full gas as we tried to establish a gap from the group of riders behind. The next 30 miles were really tough riding, but thanks to some expert handups in the feedzone (thanks Nic and Dmitro!) I was able to stick with the break.

The finish was on a slight incline after a big hill. I just barely managed to hold the other riders’ wheels during the flurry of attacks on the hill as we got closer to the line, and timed my sprint just right to take my first win of the season! Having so many teammates at the finish line made it a truly special win. The real highlights of the weekend for me, though, were watching Tori nail her sprint and win the Women’s A race, and getting to know the many new racers who came out for their first ever race weekend with MIT Cycling. I can’t wait for ECCC champs!”

Liam winning the sprint in the men’s B road race!

The women’s A riders also dominated the road race with Tori winning and Amy finishing close behind in 5th. In the Women’s C, Sarah came in 2nd and in the Men’s C, Miles placed 4th. In the Men’s D, Jeremy, Guillaume, and Jack took 9th, 10th and 11th places and in the Women’s D, Catalina snagged 9th.

This weekend, some of our riders are braving the long drive to Shippensburg, PA to tackle the “Horsekiller road race”, featuring the steepest climb of the season.

Bucknell Cycling Classic

With a two week gap of not racing after the Philly Phlyer,  we were all itching to attend our second race weekend of the season, the Bucknell Cycling Classic! Ten of us made the trek down to Lewisburg, PA, home to scenic country roads, horse-drawn buggies, and no shortage of hills.

Up first was the team time trial (TTT) on Saturday morning. With both Quinn and Berk having upgraded to the As, we were able to have both a women’s and men’s A TTT team, finishing 1st and 2nd respectively. Impressively, Dmitro and Guillaume achieved victory in the men’s C TTT, despite the majority of the other teams having a full four members!

The women’s A TTT team, with national champion Emma in her stars and stripes jersey!

Next up was the road race. Here’s what Joanna had to say about the women’s A/B race:

I was really excited to race the Bucknell Cycling Classic: rolling hills, back roads, and racing with a significant number of teammates in my field. I moved up to the Women’s B category which meant I was able to mix in with Emma, Amy, and Tori in the Women’s A field. Four MIT jerseys in a usually small field meant that we had high hopes to strategize the race for an MIT win. We knew that my punchy climbing would be a useful way to send off an attack early on in the 50 mile race, that Emma and Tori would be able to push the pace, and that Amy could get up all the climbs after everyone else’s legs were shattered. Before lining up for the road race, we set off in our sleek TT helmets on a rolling and unforgiving TTT course. I was pretty quickly dropped from our TTT rotation, but the team managed to win by a margin of a minute over the second place team. The TTT truly requires skills that I have never developed in cycling, as it’s such a well-oiled and mechanical event. It will take a lot more practice to be able to stick onto the wheels of my teammates, but I’ve really enjoyed how much teamwork is involved in this dynamic event.

Miles preparing for the road race by setting a new record for the most Clif Bloks stuck to a top tube.

After cheering on our other racers, we gathered up with the rest of the Women’s A/B field for 50 miles of awesome roads in central Pennsylvania. Our first lap moseyed along at a very conversational pace, with many riders catching up with one another and chatting. Hearing Emma’s laugh in the pack kept our plan of attack even more discrete and unassuming, as no one probably thought to keep an eye out for a break while talking with friends! As we rounded the corner to climb the ‘big hill’ for the first time, I made a break from the front and pushed the pace very hard. All of the MIT women followed me, along with 4 other riders in the field. This shattered the field into the main group, with my 3 teammates, a chase group, and the main pack. I was in the chase group, working to slow down the pace and block for my teammates. Making a break at 8 miles into a 50 mile race makes for a lonely 42 miles, but I was so thrilled to cross the finish line to find out that Emma had won the race, with Tori and Amy on her wheel for 5th and 7th. It was awesome to see our plan come to fruition, and for our team to use our numbers in the field to our advantage. The race illustrated how cycling is definitely a team sport, and I was so thrilled to contribute to an MIT win. My legs were toasted, but I was reinvigorated with the competitive spirit to race again the next day!

Joanna excited about how well she is blocking for Amy, Emma, and Tori in the break up the road.

In the men’s races, Guillaume finished 8th in a massive D field of 82 riders, Miles and Dmitro scored some points in the men’s C field, with respective 9th and 11th place finishes, and Liam (his first race in the Bs) and Berk and Quinn (their first races in the As) held their own and finished strong! At the end of day, everyone was pretty exhausted, having given it their all on the challenging course.

Liam crossing the finish line in style.

After a good night’s sleep, we were ready for the circuit race on Sunday.

A beautiful day for a circuit race!

Here is Guillaume’s account:

On Sunday, the usual Criterium was replaced by a hilly circuit race. To avoid sketchy gravel descents, the course was reversed and the finish line was moved to the top of one of the steepest sections of the route. As usual in the D’s the pack completely shattered within the first half of lap 1. When the climb came, three people started hammering pretty hard. Since I thought they were going for the prime, I decided to save up some energy but maintained a reasonable pace to keep the gap close, assuming they would slow down after the sprint. Unfortunately, I was wrong and they kept going hard. Unhappy about that outcome, I started thinking about the chase. A quick look back made me realize that we were actually only two left to close the gap. We worked together the next two laps but, when the last lap came, it was clear that we would not catch them. As a result, I started saving some energy for the 4th place sprint, which I ended up winning.

Guillaume powering his way up a climb in the circuit race…the rest of the field left in his dust!

Again, in the circuit race, MIT had strong performances. For the men, Miles and Dmitro finished 3rd and 9th, respectively, in the Cs and Liam came 6th in the Bs. For the women, Emma, Amy and Tori finished 2nd, 5th, and 7th, respectively, in the As with Joanna getting 2nd in the Bs.

With two race weekends under our belts, we are currently 2nd in the overall omnium and are looking forward to another great weekend of racing coming up at L’Enfer du Nord!

To glory in the wind tunnel and beyond