For the second year in a row, Luke Plummer and I headed down to Collegiate Mountain Bike Nationals, this time in Beech Mountain, NC. Instead of making the trip alone, we joined up with Northeastern, BU and RIT in a single 12-passenger van for the 17ish-hour car ride.
When I packed for Nationals (the night before, of course) I neglected to check the weather. It being North Carolina (that’s pretty far south right?) I assumed it would be pretty warm, but somewhere around Pennsylvania it started snowing. Apparently at Beech Mountain, they were supposed to get a few inches overnight, with race day highs in the 20s. So much for that, I guess. Sure enough, we arrived many hours later at our condo with a solid couple inches of snow on the ground. Figuring there wasn’t much to do about it, we hit the hay and hoped for the best for the short track in the morning.
Waking up, we found the snow situation pretty much unchanged.
Fortunately, we weren’t first to race so there was some time for it to warm up, but it was still pretty cold. The short track course was basically a ‘cross course, just where you didn’t have to get off your bike. It had a grassy climb, with some turns in a field, and the last couple berms of the dual slalom course. The thing about short track at Nationals is that you get pulled when you’re within 80% of the leader, so for me that means that I’ll be racing about 10-15 minutes, making the whole race basically a sprint. This year, I was happy to get to ride one more lap than the year before – I definitely felt stronger and a lot more competitive thanks to Constantine’s coaching.
After watching some ECCC comrades in the women’s race and a regain-feeling-in-everything break, we headed back out to preride the XC course for the following day. The course begins with ~500′ of climbing up a snowy fireroad, at which point it heads into the woods after several hundred yards of tarmac (ewww). When we prerode, the course was still snowy from the night before, but the cold temperatures had rendered it pretty crunchy, and remarkably smooth with pretty good traction. Despite living in New England all my life, I’d never really mountain biked in the snow before so it was a pretty cool experience, and the trails were pretty fun. For the sake of everyone, we actually hoped the snow stayed for the race the following day, else we’d have to slog through the inevitable mud. The descent was also pretty excellent, with some nice and icy berms to boot.
The following day, we started our XC race bright and early. I had a pretty good start up near the front of the pack, but was almost immediately caught behind what seemed like a road-style crash, with people and bikes all piling on. Unfortunately, this meant I started at what felt like basically the back of the pack. Fortunately, the holeshot was the entire climb away, and feeling strong I passed a bunch of people up the still-snowy ad slick climb. All these long climbs in races made me glad I put my 2×9 rings back on, and after the race, Luke actually admitted he could have used more gears. Anyhow, after working pretty hard on the climb and the road section, I finally got into the woods. It would seem that the snow had melted a bit and refroze, so the riding was a lot more slippery than our preride the previous day, and I just felt all over the place in terms of handling. Still, it was pretty fun to get loose in the snow, and I caught a few more people. Coming down the descent the second time, however, I crashed pretty hard and had to straighten out my bars. Unscathed, I continued down to the finish, ready to ride one more lap, but a marshal waved me through the finish and off the course. Confused, I learned that I had been pulled because I had been lapped by the DI leader, not by the leader of my field. I was a little bummed, since I had saved some energy for the last climb and think I could have caught some more people, but happy enough to get out of the cold.
During the day, it warmed up and we headed back out to the course to spectate the women’s race and downhill. We found a great corner by the top of the descent
Joined by UVM, NU, and RIT, we got a pretty excellent ECCC heckling crowd going as we watched the women slog up the now-muddy climb. After a bit more heckling, grilling and American flag-waving, we headed over to the downhill course to watch people rip through the rock garden. This time though, somebody actually took one of our hotdog handups! A UVM rider had qualified in 1st in D1, while a couple Wentworth guys were up there in D2, and even though they didn’t manage to keep the win, they made it to the podium and it was pretty cool to watch them represent the ECCC.
I had a great time representing MIT and the ECCC at Nationals this year, and my only disappointment was not being able to find the legendary nationals crit (I brought my skinsuit ). What really made it special was to be able to hang out with all the other folks from the conference from NU, RIT, UMass, UVM, and BU – racing’s a whole lot more fun when you’re doing it with a bunch of friends.
Thanks for the opportunity, and see you out on the bike!
On Columbus Day weekend, we wrapped up an awesome season of racing with Easterns Championships at Highland mountain bike park! We had an excellent turnout with a bunch of new-to-MTB racers, and some great results, including a win in the D2 Weekend Omnium! Here are some words from Beth Hadley, who swept the Women’s B Endurance races:
A little coaching goes a long way. I’ll leave it as an exercise to the reader to deduce what a lot of coaching can do. I realized this in a profound way this past weekend at the ECCC Eastern Mountain Biking Championships. As a novice to all things cycling, I enjoyed a warm welcome this season which ultimately culminated in a memorable championships race weekend. We were delighted to be joined by Coach Constantine Psimopoulos, our newly adopted Mountain Bike Team Coach. He contributes years of experience, both coaching and racing, to our team, and his academic and research interests allow him to relate well with us as MIT students. We enjoyed a clinic session with him in the Fells a few weeks earlier, and it was during that session that I really began to think more critically about my racing technique, especially focusing on a powerful start and competitive finish. During championships, to prepare us for our races, Coach Psi led us through regimented warm-ups, stretching sessions, and strategy discussions. For the first time, I learned to engage both my brain and my body in the race before the ‘go’ was announced. Although I got my first taste of victory this past weekend by winning both of my races, the real victory lies in the knowledge I gained this season from our coach and my fellow riders. Now as the season wraps up I look to the future, I eagerly await many more great rides with this wonderfully welcoming and helpful team.
- Beth Hadley ’15
While I can’t say I won anything, I had a couple great days of racing too. The XC course was pretty flat, but really challenging technically. The Men’s A did 6 laps, which turned into a 2.5+ hour race for me (normally XC races are ~2 hrs). At the the end of it, I had to lie down for a few minutes before walking back to the cars, but I’m happy to say I finished all 6 laps without getting pulled while surviving a brutal double-bonk. What really made the racing special though, was being able to race with a bunch of teammates and seeing all the new faces out on the course.
After a smores/wood run, we set up camp in the Highland parking lot. Camping’s always been one of my favorite parts of mountain bike racing, and this night was no exception with a good fire, great friends, and plenty of Joe’s bad ideas.
After the XC race, I always look forward to short track, with its considerably shorter length and much higher concentration of hecklers. Coach Psi was great at getting everybody warmed up and in good position on the start line, and I think he really helped me have a good start off the line. As we were waiting for the start, however, Joe Kopena and his minions were up to some mischief, and as the pack came around the first turn of the race we discovered the wall of boulders they had constructed as a surprise for the Men’s A riders.
I made the poor decision of trying to ride this 6 abreast with everyone and ended up having to make up a lot of time throughout the race. When we prerode, there was also a section with a steep, uphill rock roll that was taped off and labeled ‘Men’s A only’. I thought it was a joke, but on the first lap of our race we found the tape had been shifted over and we were indeed supposed to ride the rock. And of course, the obligatory improvised jump also appeared on the course.
This sort of thing is what really makes the mountain bike season so fun for me – its so laid back, even the officials joke around from time to time to make for a fun time. In the end, I finished 8-9-10 with Joe and Luke, which was a great result for all of us. In a bid for more points in the weekend omnium, we made two team relay teams, and all-MIT and an MIT-Yale collaboration. Joe had hinted that he’d give us points for it, so Spencer and Lluis stepped up to ride with Kristen from Yale in the Bs. It was a close race the entire time, but on my last lap I caught up to a Northeastern B rider. Coming around a corner I asked him to move over to pass, but he moved the wrong way and boxed me out to allow his teammate Kenny (in the A’s) to come around me. In a stroke of luck, the first rider endo’d straight into the rock roll, holding Kenny up and allowing me just enough time to run around both of them. I managed to hold the lead through the descent and to the end of the lap, putting us in 2nd for team relay and getting us the perhaps the 2 critical extra points that put us in front of Clarkson for the weekend, despite the points from the MIT-Yale team only counting ‘in Joe Kopena’s heart’.
While Matt and Carlos represented us racing downhill, we spent the rest of the afternoon fooling around on Highland’s sweet dirt jumps.
With only a little bit of skin lost and a great bit of fun had, we stuck around for some grilling, the awards, and of course obligatory podium pics.
A big thanks to everyone, especially Coach Psi, who came out and made this weekend so special!
See y’all next year,
The true virtue of studying at a place like MIT is the ability to develop new passions and pursue them rapidly. Although I am generalizing from my three years experience as an undergrad, I can certainly say this holds true for the MIT Cycling Team. I joined the team for the first time this past weekend at Kingdom Trails in Vermont, and my first race weekend absolutely exceeded all my expectations.
In total seven of us raced, and our mix of riding experience and ability brought an exciting new dynamic to the weekend. I benefitted from the expertise and insight of the more seasoned riders, Luke, Lluis, Carlos, Marcos, and Matt, and especially from the leadership of our team captain, Ben. As for me, this was literally my first serious time on a bike* since middle school, and I was really just excited to get away from Boston for a weekend and bike in the mountains!
Sitting around the campfire Friday night listening to Ben, Luke, and Carlos’ stories of strenuous mountain bike races, I was quite nervous for my first race. But in reality I was relieved to enjoy a lovely Saturday morning cross-country race, thanks especially to the tremendous support of my fellow competitors. The beautiful 9-mile race wound throughout the hills and forests of Burke Mountain, including a fun and fast track through a sunbathed mountain field and down a thrillingly technical downhill.
By the end of the race, I was wishing for more! Surprised and pleased to learn of my 3rd place finish (it’s women’s B after all ), I spent the remainder of the morning cheering on Ben and Luke, and chatting with the other racers.
I was impressed to learn many were just as new to racing as I was, although I also enjoyed meeting the veteran racers. Regardless of our ability or experience level, we all agreed mountain bike racing is a great way to enjoy the great outdoors, ride bikes, and meet new friends.
Following the Super D afternoon race,
we enjoyed much-deserved maple syrup “creamies” (soft serve ice cream) and made plans for our afternoon fun ride. Despite our hard morning of racing, all seven of us couldn’t help but hit the incredible Kingdom Trails. What we lacked in stamina we made up for in zeal for the trails – by the time we returned back to our campsite that evening we were all ready for a hearty campfire dinner and s’mores.
The night’s heavy rain introduced an entirely new challenge to Sunday’s short track and downhill races – mud. It was nevertheless thrilling to race the short track, and cheer on my fellow teammates and the other riders. Although I was pleased with my 2nd place finish, the race certainly inspired me to devote lots more time biking in the future, both mountain biking and road riding.
As we drove back to Boston Sunday evening, I felt emboldened by the successful completion of my first mountain bike race. Thanks to a friendly welcome from my fellow racers, and especially the MIT team, I had an inspiringly positive introductory experience and I can’t wait to get out on the trails again sometime soon!
* I would like to give special thanks to Kate Wymbs who graciously loaned me her mountain bike which kept me safe and happy all weekend long.
– Beth Hadley, September 20-21 2013, UVM Kingdom Trails Race Weekend
After Attitash, the MTB team headed out to Clarkson University in Potsdam, NY (aka ‘So Far It’s Basically Canada’) to defend our lead in the DII Team Omnium. Only Luke Chellis and I were brave enough to undertake the 6+ hr drive to the Northlands, which quickly became a 8 h0ur odyssey as we got lost driving in the rain without directions or a cell phone with any juice left on the battery. Tired, and not super excited about the cold rain, we checked into a motel 20 miles past the race (though only after sadly inquiring about the possibility of camping on the lawn of other establishments) sometime after 2 am, several hours later than we expected.
After some sleep, however, the motel breakfast somehow made it all seem worth it. Having eaten a lion’s share of pastries, bacon, and waffles, we headed over to Clarkson for the XC races. The XC race was actually held on Clarkson’s Campus – they had an awesome, fast, and flowy 4.5-mile singletrack just off into the woods that they had built themselves. While according to strava, the race only had 25 ft of elevation gain per lap, I found it strangely challenging – I’m not really used to pedaling all the time on a mountain bike, and the many bermed required really good handling skills. Luke and I had an awesome time taking fast laps around this course (it was refreshing to not have to get off my bike in a race after Attitah),and afterwards we headed over to Seven Springs for the Dual Slalom. Apparently, Seven Springs used to be a ski area, but now has the lifts removed and is owned by CU. The students there built a bunch of sweet downhill and jump trails, as well as the dual slalom track. I can’t say I did too great at DS, but hey, MIT has to represent in gravity sometime right?
After we finished up, Luke and I went on a bit of a local food odyssey. Our first stop was at a sweet corn stand we had been seeing signs for all day, where we scored 12 ears for $3. We also went by an orchard and picked up a bag of apples before returning to Seven Springs to set up camp. We camped at the base of the mountain with some folks from Dartmouth and Shippensburg, and enjoyed an excellent bonfire with wood supplied by Clarkson from the scraps of a local Mennonite sawmill.
The following day’s short track was no less excellent than the XC race, plus it had a few small kickers thrown in to mix it up. Flat races like this have made me realize that I definitely still have a lot that I can learn in terms of handling skills! After such an excellent weekend of crisp fall weather and racing, the long drive both ways was definitely worth it. I hope they’ll host a race again next year!
Hello Friends of MIT Cycling!
- Ben Eck (’15) and Luke Plummer (’14) raced a 2-man team at the 12 Hours of Millstone mountain bike race in Millstone, VT, finishing in 6th place! (Luke even rode an “extra large” 36”-wheel rigid bike!) [Photo 5 – Millstone
- Yours truly Chris Birch (G) and Andrew Lysaght (G) headed to the State College, PA, area for the National Ultra Endurance series race Wilderness 101—a century MTB race consisting of 30 minute gravel climbs and 8 minute fall-line descents!
How to use your Garmin Edge 500 for a dynamic cue sheet on the bike (even from a route you draw on Google Maps)
Part I. Acquire a *.tcx file
Option A. Get one from ridewithgps.com (e.g. http://ridewithgps.com/routes/1671655 -> Export -> TCX Course)
Option B. Generate one from a route that you draw on maps.google.com using the GoogleMap CueSheet bookmarklet.
a. Get the bookmarklet from http://winthefight.org/cuegle/googlemap_cuesheet.html
b. Draw a route on http://maps.google.com (you can drag to change route until it tickles your fancy). Be sure to use the “classic” Google maps, not the new one now available for public beta (mid 2013). Click the bookmarklet which you should have installed on your bookmark bar.
c. On the resulting screen in your browser, look under the “Garmin file parameters” section. Choose a name for the file. This will show up as the name of the course on your Edge 500, so choose something memorable. Only the first 12 characters will show up on your Edge 500 screen.
d. Click “Generate Garmin Output”.
e. Paste the output that appears into a file with the extension .tcx.
Part II. Plug Edge 500 into computer and place *.tcx file in GARMIN/Garmin/NewFiles. Then eject (unmount) GARMIN from your computer.
Part III. Make sure it worked.
a. Power on your Edge 500, then hold Page/Menu -> Training -> Courses.
b. Scoll to the course, push enter, then Do Course.
c. Press Page/Menu to click through the pages until you get to a cue-sheet-looking screen. Once you start riding, this screen should automatically update so the next turn is at the top. It *will* show street names for most turns if you use the GoogleMap cuesheet bookmarklet. Some .tcx files may not include street names, rendering the cue sheet page on the Edge 500 fairly difficult to use.
Written by Spencer Schaber. If this doesn’t work for you or you have an idea for improving this, please send comments to schaber at gmail dot com.
MIT Cycling was recently featured in an article in Boston Magazine and The Tech. The Boston Magazine article is part of a feature of Boston-area sports teams. The Tech article focuses on the National Championships and Eastern Conference Championships. Click the images below to see the articles!
(by David Koppstein) Although our primary focus is racing, the MIT Cycling Club’s mission statement is “…to encourag[e] the enjoyment of all types of cycling in the MIT community.” In the spirit of giving back to this community, we decided to host an Urban Cycling Skills Clinic to foster safe cycling practices for newer riders who primarily use bicycles as a mode of transportation. On May 12th, 30 bicyclists from the MIT community descended on the N10 Parking Lot, where Nicole Freedman and Amy McGuire introduced the basics of commuting by bike, demonstrated key skills, and organized the students into four groups.
The first group, taught by Amy McGuire and Kamal Ndousse, emphasized beginning riding skills, such as hand signals, riding close with a partner (to simulate tight conditions with cars and other riders on the street), looking behind while riding in a straight line, and coming to a sudden stop. The second group, taught by veterans Zach LaBry and Spencer Schaber, built on these skills by having the riders weave through cones, practice bunny hopping obstacles, and keeping their weight low by picking up water bottles on the ground. David Koppstein, Elizabeth Mayne, and Matt Redmond led a crash course in bike mechanics, helping students practice changing a flat on their own bicycle, and demonstrating routine drivetrain maintenance. Finally, Nicole held a clinic on commuting tips. She emphasized fundamentals like wearing a helmet, the rules of the road, and being bright and visible. Additionally, her students practiced cycling outside of the “door zone” and avoiding right hooks and left crosses at intersections.
We concluded by recapitulating key points from the clinic, and distributed informational pamphlets from MassBike and free front lights, which were supplied by an ODGE Graduate Student Life Grant and a generous subsidy from Cateye. Furthermore, we invited these cyclists to participate in no-drop social rides to Lexington and Concord, and encouraged them to subscribe to our e-mail lists.
The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and we hope to hold more of these clinics in the future, especially during the fall when new students matriculate.
Writes M. Giron:
“I just wanted to thank you and the Cycling Club for putting on this awesome clinic. I had much more fun than I thought I would, and I think you guys are doing MIT a great service!”