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Road Nationals 2015 Recap

Road Nationals Recap

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The team after TTT awards on Sunday. Back left: Ben Eck, Phil Kreycik, Andrea Tacchetti, Emerson Glassey, Corey Tucker, Julie van der Hoop. Front left: Zack Ulissi, Jen Wilson, Anne Raymond.

On May 6th, the MIT Cycling Team traveled down to North Carolina for three days of epic racing in the hills of Asheville. This year’s squad included: Zack Ulissi, Emerson Glassey, Corey Tucker, Anne Raymond, Julie van der Hoop, Jen Wilson, Ben Eck (mechanic), and later, Andrea Tacchetti and Phil Kreycik. The team rented a home to make prepping for race day easier (e.g. cooking lots of good food and sitting in the hot tub).

 

Day 1 involved a flight, wrangling of bikes and equipment at the airport (they did manage to get the doubles stuck in the conveyor belt!), and a ~2 hr drive to get to our place in Asheville. Kudos to Corey for an epic spreadsheet (it was color-coded and included our menu!) and kudos to Zack for finding the “deli” with fried chicken and pulled pork! Arrival at the house saw bike assembly, a grocery run, and a short spin down to route 52 to scope out the territory. Dinner #1 TACOS.

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Jalapeno egg salad from Zack’s lunch selection.
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A view from the deck of our house and the future location of the post-Nationals party

 

Day 2 was the day of recon. It was the chance to check out the courses and get a sense how the races would play out. Because of looming weather, the team headed out to the road course first. The team jumped out of the car to test the 25 mile loop at varying paces (Corey and Emerson dropped the group going into the first climb). It proved to be a beautiful course though, and now we were prepared for the race that was ahead. That afternoon, some of the team explored the lovely downtown area, while others rested and prepared for racing. Dinner that night: stir-fry.

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Pre-riding the road course. If anything, there was going to be great scenery!
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Grocery shopping – making decisions about which M&Ms to buy.
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Emerson at the stove making team rice crispies

Day 3 was our first race day. The women left the house around 6:30 am to get down to the race course, and Ben joined us for feeds and moral support (but really, when you’re nervous and trying to race, having a rational mechanic on hand is priceless!). The women took off around 8:30 am after call-ups into a foggy mist. The neutral start was a little rough as people crashed and bumped into each other. There was a lot of shouting and calling out to riders (flashbacks of CX-Nats had us all anxiously looking out for Corey). All of the women made it through to the climb though, and we were off! The sun came out and the day got hot quickly. By the end of the women’s race and the start of the men’s, it was hot enough that feeds could make or break the race. Ben Eck did a stellar job feeding the women all by himself (Ben, that bottle made my race!), and by the time that the men went off, Julie had effectively coordinated feeds for the entire ECCC. I think MIT riders may have posed for at least 4 different teams that day (North Eastern, Tufts, RISD, BU at least), but we were lucky to have that conference community to rely upon (thank you ECCC for being such an awesome and collegial environment).

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The misty fog pre-race. top-right: the D2 women of the ECCC bonding for a pre-race photo.
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The feedzone and the first climb. note: that MIT rider seems to be wearing extra jerseys! But really, it’s just a representation of how the conference really worked to help each other out).

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Day 4 was the day of the hill-attack crit. For many, this was by far the hardest crit course we had seen. With 100ft of climbing per lap, the course was more a process of constant hill repeats than the preferred technical corners and pack dynamics of a more traditional crit. Yet, the team threw themselves out there and fought on nonetheless. The women’s field splintered quickly as CMU set a blazing pace for the first few laps and set up the race to be one of attrition. Though even despite the heat and unrelenting climbs, the ECCC was out in full force to support us, and while in the pain cave, the cheers of Alan and the like were reminders of the strong preparation and community we receive racing in our conference. Also, a special thanks to Alan for advocating on MIT and Dartmouth’s behalf when the officials accidentally posted us as down a lap (it was just further proof of the chaos that ensued during this crit). As the other events went off, the course only became more brutal with the heat, and again, the ECCC bonded together to create an ice-water feed and splash zone (the women were not so lucky in the ability to feed or get splashed). At the end of the day, Zack received a victory ice-water bath from Anne, the team celebrated with some excellent donuts from Vortex (thanks for the freebies!), and then went home to recover for the last day of racing.

 

Day 5 was TTT! MIT traditionally does really well with the TTT, and this year was no exception. The Men set out first in their matching Venges, placing 4th overall. The women’s event followed, and ultimately placed 5th. Both teams made the podium! Zack Ulissi would go on to compete in the ITT in the burning heat (and after competing in all three events!) and end up 8th overall. We want to wish him luck in his future racing endeavors, but we are fearful of the future where he will no longer be scoring points for us :-)

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Anne, Corey and Julie in the river for a post-race cool down.
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Women’s TTT on the podium.
Men's TTT on the podium.
Men’s TTT on the podium.

That evening concluded with a new Nationals tradition – BBQing with friends. In the past, the last race day has always seen an epic amount of dining (fried chicken has been the longest standing tradition). Though this year we mixed it up some and opted for salmon, sausages and steak instead (thanks a bunch to Emerson and Zack for getting groceries and starting the grill). The group eventually expanded to include Dartmouth, UCSD, NorthEastern and BU riders. Having the large porch afforded us the opportunity to bond with other cyclists and extend the cross-team camaraderie started at Saturday’s feed zone.

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The group hanging out on the porch.
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More socializing on the porch.

Day 6 was the return to reality. We had booked later flights to try and stave off the return to work and life, and did our best to squeeze the last bit of fun out of our time in Asheville. The group agreed that BBQ was essential to this mission and the team returned to 12 bones for one last fix. Emerson, Zack, and Ben apparently won lunch that day as they also secured ribs for the flight back. The other food-newbies on the team merely ordered lunch and were ultimately sad on the return flight when the pros opened feasted on their dinner ribs mid-plane ride.

 

The team was greeted at Boston with enthusiastic high fives from our resident expert, Ethan, and were much appreciated at the end of a long day. Kristine Fong also supplied Tatte pastries to give the team a little boost as we returned to the prospect of working and being students again (thank you both!).

 

The team, riders and equipment all made it safely back to Cambridge. Though, at the moment, it’s unclear as to who has unpacked and started riding. Six Gaps is looming on the weekend horizon and it seems that training-in-bed may be the best strategy.

 

Road Nationals 2015

Eight of our team members will be racing at the USA Collegiate National Championships this week. They are on their way today to Asheville, NC for the races. Good luck to our team of:
 
Anne Raymond
Corey Tucker
Jen Wilson
Julie van der Hoop
Andrea Tacchetti
Emerson Glassey
Phillip Kreycik
Zachary Ulissi
 
There is a road race on Friday, criterium on Saturday and team+individual time trials on Sunday.
 
To follow the team, you can get news and results at the USA Cycling website: https://www.usacycling.org/2015/collegiate-road-nationals or through their twitter feed @USACcollegiate, and of course via our own twitter, @mitcyclingteam (warning: the latter may be filled mainly with pictures of people eating barbecue…)
 
Congratulations to the team members, good luck, and thanks to all of our sponsors who have made this trip (and season) possible!

 

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First Track Weekend Race Recap!

By Rajesh Sridhar
Fast on the heels of the road season, the first race of the joint ECCC/ACCC track season took place last week at the Valley Preferred Cycling Center in Allentown, PA. The event kicked off with an intermediate level track clinic on Saturday with Marty Nothstein, a former Olympic gold medalist and the executive director of the Valley Preferred Cycling Center. While the initial parts of the clinic dealt with talking about the various track rules and etiquette, we soon got an opportunity to practice some of the track-specific race skills such as pace lining, standing starts, wall starts as well getting comfortable with the bankings in the track. Having previously raced only on the comparatively flat Kissena track, I personally found the 28 degree banked turns to be a lot more technical and equivalently, a lot fun.
Probably due to the close proximity to the Road Nats, the race had a reasonably small attendance, with a grand total of 22 racers across all categories, collegiate and non-collegiate, women and men. MIT was represented by two Men’s C/D racers, Christian and Rajesh, making it the third largest collegiate group at the competition, after Westpoint and Yale.
Thanks to the dearth of racers in the Men’s B/C category – Christian was the only one present on the day- Men’s B/C and D categories were clubbed together and the races modified to adjust for the small number of racers. A 5-lap scratch race around the 333m track was followed by kilo (the track version of ITT over 1km) and a chariot race (a short 500m race, from a standing start).
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Even though Christian missed out on winning the scratch race by a fraction of a second, he won the overall competition in the B/C/D category, after setting the fastest time in the kilo and finishing first in the chariot race. I finished 3rd in all the three races, and managed to secure the final podium position for MIT. After the main ECCC races were over, the 22 racers were grouped together into 4 teams for a fun Italian team pursuit.
We rounded off the hot sunny weekend with some delicious burritos for lunch at a nearby California themed Mexican restaurant, before starting on the dreadful 7-hour journey back home.

And they laughed at my Gatorskins… also, where’s my wind tunnel?

By Daniel Grier

This past weekend featured the great state of New Hampshire with races at both Dartmouth and UNH. Sadly, it was to be my last collegiate race of the year. Not sadly, the weekend was predictably great. Well, okay. As a first-time racer, I actually spent much of the year in denial about my love for cycling, but after four race weekends I can safely say that “predictably” is the right word.

So what about the races? Well, there were four of them. Saturday kicked off with a 3-mile(!) ITT. Fortunately, they compensated for the short distance with some pretty hefty climbs. In particular, when there’s a dude cheering you on with a sign that says “400m to go!”, this does not mean “time to sprint” because a rather formidable hill will appear to crush your spirits. Despite demoralization via hill, I ended up getting 2nd out of 35; my best ratio to date (w00t).

Later in the day was the famous(?) frat-row criterium on Dartmouth’s campus. The crit was pretty typical for me–I tried to win, and I didn’t. On the other hand, the women’s A/B squad totally killed it. With a commanding presence of five riders in a field of slightly more than that (blame velocityresults.com for the lack of precision there), the women’s team repeatedly sent riders on solo-attacks until one stuck. It didn’t take very long. It’s fun to be associated with greatness at least…

On Sunday, we moved over to UNH for the TTT and the road race. Surprisingly, we actually had enough D racers to field a full TTT team. After having been dropped from my last two TTT’s about 20 milliseconds into the race (I’ve since learned that I was riding with a teammate nicknamed “the hammer”, so you can’t blame me too much, right?), it was nice to finally get to finish one of these things. Among other things, the course featured a number of “last hills” since one of my teammates had been slightly misinformed about the time we should take to finish. Anyways, the real last hill eventually came, and we ended up getting first (don’t ask out of how many), so I guess I can’t complain too much.

So onto the event I’d been waiting for–the road race! The course was 40 miles long, which is 20 miles longer than I’d ever raced before, so I was looking forward to a new level of pain. The pace started out pretty leisurely, perhaps because everybody else hadn’t raced 40 miles before either. Unfortunately, winter was not kind to the roads this year, and the potholes were out in force. Anyways, riding in the peloton doesn’t exactly give you the best view of the road, so pinch flats became an immediate concern. I saw at least two people in front of me flat out of the race. At some point somebody joked that we should all be riding Gatorskins. Hah. Little did he know that I race on my commuter bike… I did not flat.

The race continued in that way until we had done one 20 mile lap. When we realized we were about to pass a bunch of spectators, I think the group consensus was that we should bike faster (cyclists are all about appearances, I’ve come to realize). Anyways, we hit the first big hill on the second lap, and people started turning on the jets. I just barely made the break (a rider literally came up and pushed me to help me along). There were six of us together. We go and go, but I’m pretty gassed at this point, and rotate off the front pretty much as soon as I get there. The second hill was not quite as kind to me… I got dropped and ended up doing the last 8 miles of the race by myself. I managed to hold off the field to take 6th. Pain was redefined for me on that day.

At the beginning of the race, somebody yelled out that MIT would do poorly in the race because the course had turns in it, which didn’t match the conditions of the wind tunnel that we practiced in. Despite being a rather long and slightly convoluted joke, it made me wonder about the more pressing issue at hand. This is not the first time I’ve heard MIT being heckled about its wind tunnel. So? Where’s my wind tunnel, guys? Is it heated? I need to train.

Joe after the Frat Row crit at Dartmouth, his signature Dr. Pepper in hand.

My last race weekend: “I have the cheapest bike you can buy”

By Joe Near

I’ve been using an extreme version of the “Joe Near Training Plan” this year. The normal version calls for 3-4 hours of riding per week  at the highest intensity you can manage (i.e. zones 3 or 4) in an  attempt to keep your fitness through the winter while spending as  little time on the trainer as possible.

This year, I managed 1-2 hours per week.

At Beanpot, I got dropped hard in both the road race and the crit. At  Army, I held on in the crit but failed to score points; in the road race, I got dropped again. So my expectations for this week were low.

But my legs must be coming around, because I scored points in every race (that I finished) this weekend. In the ITT, I averaged over 300 watts and got 15th. That’s pretty great for me — even at my best fitness, my threshold is barely 300 watts.

The Dartmouth crit was very difficult for me, both physically and mentally, because of the rain — I’ve always been bad at cornering hard in the rain, and it was hard to force myself while the water and grit being sprayed in my face made it hard to see anything. The faster guys knew it would be hard in the back and went pretty hard in the  beginning.

But I stuck with it and as the rain stopped, things got easier. I still couldn’t see anything in the final lap, and the two guys who had lapped the field started pushing people around in an effort to beat each other in the final sprint, so my primary goal was to avoid crashing rather than place as well as possible. I was therefore very proud to get 10th.

Joe after the Frat Row crit at Dartmouth, his signature Dr. Pepper in hand.

The TTT is typically very tough at UNH because I have to do it with  Zack Ulissi and it’s hilly. I was very fortunate that he took it easy on me this time. It was extra fun because we started last, behind the only two other Men’s A teams. This meant that once we caught the other teams, we knew we were leading in terms of time. I think this encouraged Zack to go easy on the hills, because he was certain we could win. I appreciated that.

But there was no camera for the finish of the TTT. This was a bummer. I wanted to be in one last finish-line photo before I graduate, and the TTT is typically the only place I get to do it! I was going to make such a great face.

In the road race, I felt much better than I expected. Unfortunately the roads were terrible. I have raced this course in the past and remember them being pretty reasonable, so this winter must have really been tough on the road conditions.

Anyway, I flatted around mile 15 and fortunately the leak was slow enough that I was able to ride it back to the parking lot. Some of the downhills were a little bit scary on a tire with 20 psi, though. I was sad to have flatted but it’s tough to complain: I have pretty good luck with flats, generally, and I didn’t end up having to walk home.

I had a great time this weekend, and while I’m sad that I won’t get to do another ECCC race, I’m happy to see that the team is as strong as ever. I’ve been around long enough to see several “generations” of riders, and it’s great to see that the welcoming attitude and cohesiveness of the team has remained.

Some of our newer riders — the women, especially — are getting great results and obviously learning a ton about bike racing every single weekend. Many of the newer riders already act like veterans: I sometimes forget that they have never raced bikes before this year.

Veterans on the team have historically sprung for expensive equipment. My bike is the oldest (and probably the least valuable) in most of the races I enter. So during a discussion about bikes on Saturday, I said, “I have the cheapest bike you can buy!” It was quickly pointed out to me that my bike had fancier stuff on it than many of the bikes sitting around it. Many of the newer team members are so good that I just forgot they hadn’t yet been bitten by the upgrade bug!

So I’d say good luck to everyone, but I don’t think you’ll need it. Being a part of the team has been an honor and a privilege, and I’m both happy to see that future members will have access to the same
great experience I had, and excited to see that the new generation of riders seems poised to continue achieving great results.

Zack U’s Beanpot RR Recap

Not an amazing result compared to the wins from others on the team this weekend, but I wanted to give a bit of insight into how the MA races play out.

Pre-race thoughts – the weather was awful, so I assumed there would be plenty of breaks like last year. I didn’t think anything would stick until the later laps, but there’s ~10 A racers who can usually make a break stick if it goes, so I was hoping to go with them when it happened. Last year there were 3-4 breaks, but it was a lot of the same people in the break each time. This is usually the case when breaks are made by selections on fitness like attacking over a sharp hill; the same people are selected repeatedly if they are consistently near the front at these selection points.

Strava’s new tools have made it really easy to show/annotate road races:

Strava Fly-by for the MA road race 

0:30 – race starts

0:33 – We hit the descent with Joe/Ben/me at the back of the field, Joe jokes about the MIT men being in usual formation at the back. Brakes aren’t working since everyone has carbon wheels and it’s really wet, so no choice but to just go straight and hope for the best. We hit the hill hard and Ben tells me he’s already in the red, but I think everyone was. I’m not too worried about a break going so soon into the race so stay near the back.

0:38 – A few people get off the front, but I see Brett (PSU), Alan (Ship), Glenn (Delaware), and Tom (Providence) in the field, so I’m not worried.

0:46 – I see Alan attack and a small group forms ~10sec up the road. I bridge to that, since I know Alan is strong. Brett also comes along, and we have a strong group of ~8 people.

0:54 – We hit the climb with a small lead over the field, but we’re not going that hard and it’s pretty clear we’re going to get caught. The pace is really hard in the field though and Ben/Emerson/others get dropped in the process. I don’t want to waste the gap I have (the hardest part for me breaking away is getting a gap), so I put in a small attack near the top and go it alone. I spend the next 10 minutes riding tempo off the front, hoping that someone else bridges to me so I can get another chance at a break.

1:02 – I’m tired and want either a new break or get some rest in the group. As I get caught, a group of three including Sam (Middlebury), Vince (Drexel), and Nick (Providence) put in a small attack and sort of roll off the front. I’m right behind them when it happens, so I jump on that. It’s not a hard attack but the field lets us go, probably because so many fast people (Tom/Glenn/Alan/Brett) aren’t in the move.

1:10 – We spend the next lap not far off the front, but eventually the field stops chasing. We rotate pretty well and stay together on the hills. I periodically yell at people to keep rotating, and the gap to the field goes up to ~3 minutes. I assume the Middlebury guys are blocking for us so I make sure Sam doesn’t get dropped even though it looks like he’s hurting on the hills. Maybe not a great idea in hindsight.

1:50 – Glenn and Kai (Middlebury) bridge to the break, so there’s 6 of us. We don’t work well together, but the field is nowhere in sight so that’s fine.

2:15 – Final lap. The Middlebury guys play it perfectly. Sam attacks into the downhill, Kai blocks, and Sam goes away solo to win the race. I try to bridge to Sam, but Kai blocks well and the others in the break don’t want to contribute to bringing him back. I’m guessing Glenn wanted the points for the yellow jersey so made some sort of deal to let Middlebury win when he bridged with Kai, and Vince/Nick seem to be suffering and get dropped near the end. With ~ 1k to go I’m exhausted and Kai goes clear as well, then Glenn sprints around me for third.

Justin’s Columbia/Rutgers and Philly Reports

This is my first season racing with the cycling team, and I have been assiduously following the team’s training plan since November so I was really excited to get my first race weekend in.

 

The first weekend was a circuit race on Saturday hosted by Columbia, and a Sunday criterium on Rutgers’ campus. The second weekend was at Philadelphia with a TTT and circuit race on Saturday and a criterium on Sunday at Temple University.

Columbia Circuit Race: [1/39] Strava File

The circuit race was a relatively flat 3.7 mile loop around Rockland Lake. The weather was cold and raining and the forecast for the rest of the day was the same. Luckily there was a large sheltered area outside where we could set up our trainers and keep dry. Before the race started I overheard racers from other teams talking about how there would be no chance for a break to get away on this course and that it would be ridiculous to try it. About 40mins before the race I hopped on a trainer to get warmed up. The temperature was in the mid 30s, so I had shoe covers, arm warmers and knee warmers, and long fingered gloves which turned out to be perfect since at no point in the race was I cold.

When my category (Men’s C) was called to the start line, I went to the front so I could get a good starting position. With no teammates in the race, my strategy was to stay at the front in the top 7 wheels. The race started out slow, where I could easily be in Z2 while drafting. When we hit the first little hill someone tried to attack, I knew that with the hill being only 50ft I shouldn’t kill myself to try and follow him. I kept my pace constant and a few minutes later the pack caught the rider on the flat. There is a small uphill again before a downhill that leads to a flat finishing straight (similar to the Hascom sprint). The rest of the race was similar as people would attack and then get reeled in no time, the only panic for me was that my sunglasses got covered in dirt at one point and I had to take them off and stuff them in my jersey. It was annoying having backspray and dirt coming into my eyes for the rest of the race but at least I could see. Doing this pushed me 15 riders back in the field but I was able use Coach Nicole’s lessons for moving in a pack to get back up to the front in half a lap.

 

On the final lap the pace picked up quite a bit, and there was lots of jockeying for position. I wanted to be at the front coming into the first hill so I could hop on the wheel of riders who would be going hard up it. Sure enough 2 lines formed going up the hill and I hopped on the one that seemed to be going faster. Coming into the little uphill I was second wheel, and around the last corner to the downhill I was first wheel. At this moment I thought I made a huge mistake as surely someone was on my wheel. I heard a crash of bikes behind me, so I decided to do what I did a couple weekends back with Nic Tham on Hascom where I lead out and decided to crush it hoping the rider behind me would have trouble hanging on. 200 m before the finish line I looked back and I had 2 bike length lead, so I put my head down and started sprinting hoping I wouldn’t see a someone coming up my left in the last few meters. As I crossed the line I won my first race!!!

 

 

Rutgers Crit: [DNF] Strava File

This crit was also flat and had only 3 corners that were really wide. The race organizers did a great job patching up all the potholes. I liked my chances in this race and was feeling good after yesterday’s finish. Talking with Andrea and Jeff before I had 3 goals: 1) finish without crashing, 2) win a prime and 3) win the race. I was able to check off 2) and half of 1). Again I started near the front, and the speed was much faster from the get go compared to the day before. I didn’t do as good of a job as I was leading the race for most of the first few laps, but I enjoyed being able to pick my line into the corners. On the first prime lap, I drifted to 5th wheel so that I could watch what everyone else was doing. Going into the straight before the final corner I was 2nd wheel but decided to go hard so that I could be first coming into the final corner. It was about 300m from the turn to the finish line, so I knew it was going to be a longer sprint. I won easily but other riders behind me were confused as to why we were sprinting so I explained to them the concept of intermediate sprints for points which also allowed me to recover a bit. On the second prime lap, I was second wheel coming into the final corner but this is where things didn’t go well. The rider infront of me seemed to sit up and went way to the outside around it. I was slightly to his outside coming into the corner, which I now realize was a mistake as I forced off into the dirt. I thought I could continue and try to catch back up but my tire was ripped off the rim and flatted. Since there was 9 laps to go, the official said I couldn’t get another wheel and free lap. Talking to the rider who was infront of me after the race, he was very apologetic as he said his foot came unclipped from his pedal and also DNF later on in the race when it happened again.

The rest of the day was loads of fun being able to cheer on everyone else on our team who was racing. By the time Anne was going around in the Women’s A race, I had almost lost my cheering voice.

Philly TTT: [1/8] Strava File

Driving down the Friday before, there was a pretty nasty snow storm in the Northeast so we were all hoping the races on Saturday wouldn’t be canceled. The race crew did a great job and the races went as planned. The TTT course was 13 miles and had a few 180 degree turns. Since a few of the Men’s A riders did not arrive until early morning, the teams were switched and I was with Christian and Daniel in Men’s C.

We were rotating as planned for the first 5mins, then near the first turn around Daniel dropped off, so Christian and I had to stick together for the remainder of the course. Christian did a great job, he pulled when I was really tired up front, and we finished 1 minute ahead of the next fastest team. We were also only 0.5mph slower than the Men’s A team from MIT!

Below is a video from the first 6 miles of the course. Sorry about the water droplets on the lens!

Philly Circuit Race: [38/63] Strava File

 

Since the TTT races started a bit late, we had less than an hour after we finished to get ready for the road race. It was a really nice course with a couple hills to break up the field. Philip was racing with us, and I knew he had a good chance at winning if he was able to keep up with the main group. I was dumb and decided to pull the field from the start for the first 5mins, my legs still felt good from the TTT but after the pull I could feel them starting to burn with my heart rate not recovering as it should. The field stuck together for the first two laps, judging how my legs felt climbing the hills I realized today wouldn’t be my day. On the third lap, after the descent to the flat straight along the river, I saw Philip near the rear of the field. I came by and told him to hop on and pulled him to the front, I looked back and saw that the field was now strung out in a single line and was starting to break up. Here I decided to push the pace and hope that Philip would be first coming into the next hill. At this point we were doing ~29mph. As we came to the 180 degree turn to a hill I pulled off and watched as the broken up pack went up the hill. I joined a bunch of other guys who were struggling up the climb and formed a pick-up pace line on the last lap. Philip ended up finishing 6th and took home some points for our team. 

  

Philly Crit: [8/49] Strava File

This race was the most fun I’ve had riding my bike because the Men’s C worked really well as a team to win it. We had two strategies going into it: either Christian and I go for the final sprint in a bunch with a leadout from Philip, or Philip breaks off and tries to go solo for the victory. The course was almost a perfect square with a nasty headwind in the penultimate straightaway. I tried to stick near the front half for the first few laps, and when the bell rang for the first prime I made my way closer to the front. Being hit by a car just before the race started, while pre-riding, I wanted to use the prime to see how I was feeling. On the gusty straight I came to the front to take the final corner first, there was a rider to my left also contesting the sprint. I put down the hammer and was able to get first for the sprint. Philip got second, and as I looked back the rest of the field was a good 30-40 yards behind the both of us. I was dead from the sprint and wanted to recover so shouted “Go Philip go!!” as this was a great chance for him to break off and being the beast he is, he could probably win off the front even with 25mins left. I was swallowed up by the field and saw Philip ahead with a 15s lead. As we came around again, I heard Ethan and Tom shouting at me and Christian to get to the front and block for Philip. This is where the fun for me started: I would lead the pack into a corner but not take it aggressively letting the seconds tick up on Philip’s lead. Every few minutes someone would drive to the front trying to pick up the pace, so I would hop on their wheel. A few times I would let the rider go by himself, and they would look back and see they were in no man’s land and drop back to the pack. Christian also helped out with blocking and won some points in the primes. came second With around 3 laps to go someone shouted that Philip had a one minute lead. I continued to lead the pack but knew that Philip would win. It actually took a lot of energy to be out on the front blocking, and found myself a bit zapped for the final sprint. I was able to pass 2-3 guys infront of me on the sprint to get 8th.

This was super fun and was great to cheer on the rest of the team after! I thoroughly enjoyed both weekends, and the time spent traveling, eating, and laughing with the whole team :)

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I can’t believe I met Jens Voigt!!

16542521401_b21b68d558_kJens Voigt is my favorite pro bike racer. He’s famous for his “shut up legs” attitude — he always gives 110% in every race. His style is to attack again and again until he makes the break, even if that means riding 6 hours alone with little chance of winning. It doesn’t work very often, but it’s very entertaining.

I love Jens because he and I seem to love bike racing in the same way. For Jens, it’s not about money, fame, or even winning. As Jens put it, “You have to have passion inside of you. Passion in me feels like a high, full burning flame—it’s not a tiny spark in the dark. It’s still burning and I still love it.”

I’m the same way — I don’t really like training, I don’t care about fancy bikes, and I don’t even really care about winning. I just love bike racing. I enjoy the competitive nature of it, and I love the community that surrounds it, but mostly I just enjoy being in the bike race. Most of the time, I’m pack fill — and that’s fine.

No other pro talks this way. It’s always about getting better and winning big races. I identify with Jens because he and I share a passion for the racing itself.

Last month, Landry’s hosted an “evening with Jens.” Richard Fries (famous in his own right) led the discussion, asking Jens questions about why his career has lasted so long compared to other pros, how he came back after a number of gruesome crashes, and why he’s made himself so accessible to the press and to his fans.

I was impressed by Jens’s ability as a speaker. He was just like on TV — he answered all the questions with sincerity and a little bit of humor. He told a great story about turning his antenna toward the west during his childhood in East Germany so that he could watch western TV. When an audience member gave him a hard time about the doping scandals so prevalent in the past, Jens gave a pretty reasonable answer: he admitted that the previous generation had made mistakes and asked the fans to give the new generation a chance.

The event was almost canceled because it was scheduled during a blizzard. The T wasn’t running, the temperature was barely above zero, and the winds were gusting to 40mph. So of course I rode my bike there. I don’t think I have ever been so close to being blown off the BU bridge. I couldn’t help but feel just a little bit like Jens during that ride. I recorded it for Strava to prove I had ridden.

At the end of the discussion, I stood in line to take a picture with Jens and get his autograph. I plan to frame it and give it a place of honor in my “trophy case” (which unfortunately is not as full as Jens’s!).

 

MIT Cycling Team
Solvang Training Camp 2015

Solvang Training Camp 2015

MIT Cycling Team Solvang Training Camp 2015
MIT Cycling Team
Solvang Training Camp 2015

Nine full cycling days in Solvang, California made for THE venue for a great team training camp experience. The weather was exceptionally warm, mostly the 60s to 70s. As you can see, we were also fortunate it was beautifully green due to recent rains in the area, more so than the previous year’s  camps  further south and closer to San Diego.  What a great escape it was from the record snowfall and cold back in Cambridge.

We had a great attendance with about 24  team members in the main house and another dozen alumni riders in a second house.  Each morning we fixed ourselves a good breakfast and gathered at the main house to depart for the day’s cycling adventure about mid morning.

Day 1 –  Buellton West

Click here for the Strava route

This was our first day out intended to be an easy “stretch you legs” day after a long day of travel, but the pace got alittle higher than that on the way out (what did you expect from a pack of overachievers?)  Mostly rollers on this route, though each day we needed to head out from the main house to Solvang, a picturesque  9 mile route that included about a mile 6% climb on the way back.

First thing back each day FOOD was generally on everyone’s mind, and it tended to be every man and woman for themselves.  This was rather necessary as these are drop training rides and we were not all returning at the same time, nor necessarily doing the same rides.

Dinner, on the other hand was carefully planned by Jenn in advance to be not only great fare but a true team event in it’s preparation. Everyone was assigned responsibilities that varied from night to night – you might be the helper, the clean up crew or the head chef. I think we all had a turn at each. The diversity of the cuisine prepared reflected the diversity of the group. I think we all came away with an appreciation of the challenges involved in cooking for a large group.

CAMP RECIPES TEAM MEMBERS SHARED ARE HERE

We gathered each evening  for a lively team meeting
We gathered each evening for a lively team meeting

Following dinner the evening organized activities always concluded with the team meeting. These were just fun – at times very educational, at others very entertaining, and at times somewhat competitive.  No dull moments.

Day 2 –  Figueroa Mtn or Tour of California ITT Course and wineries

Click here for the Strava route Mt. Figuero

Click here for the Tour of California ITT  / Foxen Canyon wineries

Today you had the choice of two great routes. Half the group climbed the epic Mt. Figueroa (this was a bonus climb as we did it again later in week) and the other half rode the Solvang ITT loop used several times in the Tour of California (15 miles) followed by a second longer loop through wine country.

Winding thru wine country
Winding thru wine country

A few stopped and checked out the grapes afterwards – worth the stop I am told.

Solvang country side video on the ITT route

Day 3 – Rest Day

click here for mountain bike route Solvang to com towers

Rest day meant something different to everyone. Rest was more about selecting a lighter self-directed ride.  There is some interesting mountain biking in the area. Just a few miles from Solvang you can climb up a dirt road to the crest of the Santa Barbara coastal mountains and then ride the mountain tops to the highest peaks in the area, as demonstrated by the high density of communications towers shown below.

Communication Tower Mountain
Communication Tower Mountain

 

Looking out from the top of Com Tower Mountain at 4400' the Pacific to your left and the Santa Ynez valley to your right
Looking out from the top of Com Tower Mountain at 4400′
the Pacific to your left and the Santa Ynez valley to your right

 

Day 4 – Drum and Foxen Canyons

click here for Strava route

This was a northern Santa Ynez valley route with several significant  climbs. Quite a  bit more mileage – close to 90 today. Very rural and bicycling friendly.

A traditional danish plate lunch in Solvang
A traditional danish plate lunch in Solvang

 

Day 5 – Jalama Beach out and back

click here for Strava route

This was our longest day so far, over 90 miles from the main house south of Solvang west to Jalama Beach on the Pacific.  Some fun climbing on the way out crossing over the coastal mountains and then descending to sea level and the beach.  Great burgers on the beach awaited all!

Pacific Ocean beach front
Pacific Ocean beach front

 

Day 6 – Rest Day

This time most of us really scaled back on the riding to take a true rest. Good day to check out the very authentic Danish town of Solvang. Not a bad place to live – save your money, though – new starter homes begin around three quarters of a mil…..

Picturesque Solvang. The entire downtown maintains this architecture.
Picturesque Solvang. The entire downtown maintains this architecture.

 

Day 7 – Mount Figueroa

click here for the Strava route

This was an epic day of riding – long and hard with the signature climb of the Santa Ynez valley.  As you might expect, the lighter riders shined on a day like today.

On the way up Mount Figueroa
On the way up Mount Figueroa
Looking out from the top
Looking out from the top

Day 8 – TTT Practice

 click here for Strava route on TTT practice

click here for mountain bike route Solvang to Pacific coast beach

Lots of variety this day, each was left to chose his own cycling.  There were those who practiced the TTT, others who rested and some who chose mountain biking.  The selection rather depended on how much climbing and mileage one was looking for at this point in the camp.

A little tree climbing toward the end of my mountain bike adventure
A little tree climbing toward the end of my mountain bike adventure

Day 9 – The longest day plus the epic Gibralter Road Climb

97 miles and 9200 feet of climbing

click here for Strava route

This route took us from Solvang to Santa Barbara and back. We did all the epic climbs in the Santa Ynez valley so it was decided we would end the camp with this serious climbers route.

When we got to the top of Gibralter Road looking out over the Pacific we were treated with a too cool drone session and group video  sponsored by one of the alums. A great demonstration of how far the technology has come at a reasonable price point of $1500.

 Video from the top

Gibralter Road switchbacks
Gibralter Road switchbacks
More than 4000' of climbing to the top
More than 4000′ of climbing to the top
Cold Springs Tavern - a most unusual food pit stop
Cold Springs Tavern – a most unusual food pit stop

We wrapped up the day with a stop at the Cold Springs Tavern which had been highly recommended. Serious roast beef sandwiches. A very eclectic clientele. Beautiful setting. Obviously very popular with the locals. Worth checking out.

Summary:

An epic week of cycling. While everyone was free to chose their own level of riding, several of us exceeded 550 miles and 40,000′ of climbing over the 9 days. Try to get that in Cambridge!

The miles, the warmth, the food and fellowship are rewards on top of the long term health benefits gained when you choose to make a commitment toward a balanced life style through cycling. Sign up for the next episode IAP 2016.

 

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CX Nats 2015: “Everything will change. Everything has changed.” (The Patriot)

Almost exactly a year ago, I watched CX Nats in Boulder, sitting on my trainer. I cheered on MIT’s Chris Birch racing for JAM Fund in the women’s elite race. It looked frigid.

Even though I only had two ‘cross races under my belt, I had been bitten by the bug. Sitting on that trainer, I made a goal: Cyclocross Nationals 2015, in Austin TX. Because it would be warmer.

#Tweetsfromthetrainer: Watching 2014 Nationals on the trainer got me stoked for this season.

Ha. As we packed our bikes for Austin, our race-day forecast read “ice pellets.”

My goal for cross nationals was to qualify, go, and finish. Once I’d made the nationals team, my expectations didn’t change: I knew I’d be starting in the third or fourth row, I knew it was going to be a technical course, and I knew that this was my first national-level cycling event.

When we arrived in Austin, I expected to be blasting some good pump up music (read: 1989) in our minivan as we traveled to and from Zikler Park. Joe Near had other plans: our hosts, teammate Katie Maass and her parents, owned a copy of the Patriot. This played on loop (with some worthy scenes replayed for effect).

Forget Taylor Swift, The Patriot was our pump up soundtrack. Joe Near approved.

Our races included the collegiate relay (no, we don’t all ride the same bike), and the men’s and women’s D2 collegiate fields. Friday evening’s relay was on hard-packed, near-frozen dirt. The course was so fast. There was minimal mud, next to the pits, to be avoided.

Matt Li on the relay lap, too fast for Tim Myers’s shutter speed.

After a night of rain, we arrived for Saturday morning’s pre-ride, to the sound of a military marching band on the DVD player. Matt wanted to do “at least one lap to see what had changed.” Everything had changed.

Oily. Tacky. Slick. Heavy. Slippery. Mud. This called for major changes in equipment (“get me the horse blanket”), but also strategy. While Friday’s race involved two or three dismounts for barriers and stairs, Saturday’s conditions favoured running.

I thought this was a biking race (Photo: Ali Engin)

The conditions led me to change my expectations: it was going to be a gong show, and it was going to be fun. Whatever happened, happened. And what ended up happening was fantastic, for me.

Our trip to Austin involved change and surprise for all of our teammates: Corey could not have expected her race to finish in the emergency ward, where she had a broken wrist re-set. Joe got a USA Cycling neck tattoo (ok, temporary). Chris had a surprise visitor, walked away with a fancy new necklace, and didn’t expect to be racing the elites on Monday (postponed from Sunday).

Chris Birch with the bronze in Women’s D2
Corey’s wrist… enough said.
Joe Near on one of the slickest and steepest elements of the course. Zoom in for the neck tattoo… (Photo: Andrew Davidhazy)

What else did we do in Austin? We hit the off-season hard, with the flagship Whole Foods, brownie sundaes, breakfast tacos, lunch tacos and dinner tacos, and of course some brisket (“dog is a fine meal”). We went bowling in a bar (Corey won, single-handedly). We watched the Patriot, twice.

But that didn’t stop her in beating us at bowling.

Now, we’re back, our bikes and kits finally clean. We finished 7th in the relay, and 7th in the omnium. Lucky numbers for next year. And for me, everything has changed. I placed ninth in my first cyclocross nationals, when all I wanted to do was qualify, go, and finish. Who knows what next year will bring. See you in Asheville, where I’ll be praying for mud.

Concerned face, loose brakes, and lab gloves. (Photo: Andrew Davidhazy)

To glory in the wind tunnel and beyond