Closing out the blogs for this road season with a few notes and photos from the ECCC Championships at Dartmouth two weeks ago. For updates on 2023 Road Nationals, check out our instagram.
When Derek and I (Hannah) were planning for this road season, we budgeted for an average 8 people joining per race. We didn’t know who the 8 would be, but we were being optimistic! By just halfway through the season we had entirely blown the budget: 12 racers at URI, 18 at our home race, 9 at UVM and 17 at Easterns. For 14 of the folks joining, it was their first season road racing with the team (and for 10, their first time road racing at all). I am in awe of the enthusiasm and momentum we were able to build throughout this season, and how much fun we all had along the way. There were Life Hacks by Bianca, passionate discussions about the best pop tart flavors, hype playlists, and chaotic lunch runs mid race-days.
Thank you to all the parents, siblings, friends and partners who showed up along the way to cheer us on, volunteer, and provide snacks. “Go MIT” is one of my favorite things to hear when I’m out racing because I know that the person cheering came out for someone else, but is still showing up to support us all as a team. And thanks also to our team sponsors (Thoughtforms and Exponent) for their generosity that allowed Derek and I to horribly miscalculate our team size, but still be able to support every person who wanted to join this year.
In these blogs it is easy to list off placements and stats, but these are only a small part of every weekend we spend together as a team. In case it wasn’t clear, I am the resident “team mom” (what I get for returning to a PhD after working for a bit, I guess). I’ll fully embrace that now to close by saying how proud I am of every single racer who came out this season. I admire everyone who talked to me about being nervous before their race, and came away at the end with a huge smile, because regardless of where you finished, you gave it your all and enjoyed the process. I applaud everyone who tried a new category, improved their placement, or simply showed up when sleep/work/life wasn’t in your favor. Well done conquering brutal courses, bad weather, early mornings, and tough competition.
I can’t wait to do this with you all again next year!
– Team mom (and women’s road captain) Hannah
Photo credits: our very own Aaron V. and Williams College alum Peter Burghardt
After the fourth weekend of the season the team is still delivering great results and good times, but sanity is waning. This post was co-written by Bianca, Mason, and Hannah on the rainy car ride home from the race. Enjoy!
The team made our way up to Burlington, VT this weekend for the Catamount Cycling Classic hosted by UVM. We made it into 3rd in the weekend and overall omnium this weekend with Westpoint choosing to go “Beat Navy” (from a quick look at the results, they seemed to have mostly failed at the goal).
The Airbnb that Mason picked for us this weekend aligned well with Hannah’s dream home (creepy doll in the closet included). Hannah wants to clarify that creepy dolls, peeling wallpaper and doors that don’t close are not part of her dream home, but the absolutely ADORABLE farmhouse in rural Vermont, next to a pond, minutes to Lake Champlain, with peepers at night, for less than the cost of her current two bedroom apartment in Cambridge is dream home material.
Saturday was the standard team time trial followed by the Mt. Philo Road Race. William, Lee, Mason, and Guillaume put in a great time trial performance (3rd on the day) in preparation for nationals. They also avoided the fate of an opponent they passed mid-ride whose insides were turned out on the side of the road (unclear if it was food poisoning or try hard…). Bianca did a great job spinning her flag as a marshal in front of beautiful Mt. Philo state park and Hannah marshaled in front of the cutest covered bridge in all of Vermont.
Zak completed his first ever race weekend (woo!). During the road race, he spent the first two laps off the front with another rider. Unfortunately, they got caught before the line, and the final hill grew a little too tall. Great start to a promising career. We can’t wait to see what he does next weekend.
Adam came back from a 6 year racing retirement! He did a team time trial with Andrew during which he forgot to remove his tool bag from his seat post. He also failed to correctly install his chain the night before. He was just dusting off the cobwebs in preparation for next weekend. His water bottle hand off skills are still impeccable.
William crushed it again with a third place in the road race after making the 3-man break away.
Guillaume put on a valiant effort despite getting COVID at the first race weekend of the year. He completed four strong laps of the road race before deciding that his lungs needed a break from coughing. Smart decision, save it for L’Enfer du Nord.
Hannah took the W during the women’s A/B road race, but the victory was not as sweet as the maple creemee she had after the race.
On Sunday, we had the return (after about a decade hiatus) of the UVM ‘on campus crit’ course (unfortunately raced in the pouring rain and described as cyclocross practice given the potholes).
Hannah’s carbon rim rim brakes were of no use during the rainy critérium. She would have been better off taking them off to save a couple of grams. For the first three laps, she forgot how to ride her bike. At lap three, Mason shouted “use your drops” (Bianca asked “what does that mean?”). Hannah gave a thumbs up and made it back to the front of the pack. Clearly, she likes road racing much more than cyclocross.
Adam “the fair weather cyclist” toughed it out in his race only to be pulled part way through. Luckily, by this point in the weekend his saddle bag was off and his chain was on.
Andrew was accused of sandbagging during the intro crit race. What the marshals didn’t know is that Andrew slept through the team vote that would decide which field he would race with. The team decided for him that he would do the intro race so that we could all sleep in. Bianca appreciated having him in the intro race because he cheered her on all three times that he lapped her (the women’s intro field was so small that they combined it with the men’s). On lap one, Andrew saw his life flash before his eyes when someone fell in the chicane. On lap two, it happened again. By lap three, he was safe and sound in front of everyone.
Bianca achieved her weekend goal of riding in the drops and drafting, which does in fact help with going fast (yay fluid dynamics!). She only had one rock hit her glasses and one bug stuck in her helmet during the C/D road race. It was only after the race that she realized one of her spokes was broken causing her back wheel to be extremely out of true. She thought she wouldn’t be able to participate in the crit, but she was lucky to get a loaner bike from Sam (Thanks UVM!). At that point, she only had a few minutes to get ready before the start of the race, but her jersey and cleats AND phone were locked up in Hannah’s car! A lot of running around and confused phone calls later, she used her free lap and jumped into the race. Not even a loose seat post nor a fully unzipped jersey could slow her down. Brute squad wins again!
The crit was so muddy that Mason was still finding dirt inside his ear at Five Guys. He used a fry to q-tip it out. The adhesive hot hands that he stuck to his toes were not enough to keep from shivering for hours after the race. The worst moment of Mason’s race was when he was isolated between the two main groups and was suddenly faced with a flock of seagulls during one of the course’s more challenging turns. He took a leap of faith and kept up his 30mph descent. The birds flew away in fear. Apparently Mason is more intimidating than Bauke Mollema.
Lee threw away any hope at an omnium win because he didn’t want to get wet at the crit. There is nothing more to say here.
Glossary of words that Bianca learned this weekend
Thanks to @UVMcycling for the nicer photos in this post. Bianca and Hannah were the photographers for the more chaotic shots. We’re ready to have Aaron and Maxwell back next weekend to actually curate our team image.
This past weekend was marked by beautiful weather, more results for the team, immaculate vibes, and the best community of volunteers and supporters we could possibly imagine. We’ll start this week by getting some results out of the way, and then we’ll be turning this blog over to first time racer Bianca, for her take on the weekend! Photos this week by Aaron Vliet, Maxwell Yun and Bianca Champenois.
A whopping 18 racers (including 3 first time road racers!) headed out to Western Mass for our co-hosted “home” race with UMass: the Pioneer Valley Showdown. The courses were both similar to those used in years of yore (2016 and the 2018 easterns), slightly modified to avoid a gravel section during the road race but still with punishing hills for the road race, crit, and time trial. A huge shout out to all the team members, racers from other teams, and friends, who stepped up to marshal, drive pace cars, or simply join the fun this weekend as USAC registered racers. The weekend would not have been possible without the community enthusiasm.
Saturday started out with some dominant ITT results including a 1-2-3-4 for William, Felix, Nick, and Derek in the Men’s B/C, 1-2 for Jon and Aaron in Men’s C/D and a win for Hannah in Women’s A/B.
New road racers Chen, Bianca and Maxwell all braved the hardest road race course of the season so far, finishing solidly in the mix and excited for more races in the future!
Aaron, Jon and Devin finished top 20 in their 83(!!!) person C/D field and Vinh and Andrew hung together to come in within 1 minute of each other. Josh improved one spot on his finish from last week for a win this time around in the B/C field after an early-race attack by William followed by some solid pace control of the field by the rest of the team (shout out to Derek, Felix, Nick, and Seamus!).
In proper ECCC fashion, there was a bit of chaos as well with Hannah having a mechanical early in her race and Mason setting a 5 minute power PR while being dropped from the combined Men’s A/B USAC 123 field (being pushed on by a break away from Coach Robbie).
Sunday’s crit course was spicy (19% grade hill each lap…) and races were all challenging. The hero of the day was Coach Robbie, who rode as on-course marshal for the Men and Women’s intro races. Unfortunately he came in last for both of the races, better luck next time 😉 (THANK YOU ROBBIE).
For the Men’s B/C race, to quote Derek’s Strava: “William went thermonuclear with 1 to go and let me be a lazy sprinter. Maybe it was impolite to take the win from him with the bike throw. We take MIT 1/2 tho”.
Hannah also nabbed a win in the Women’s A/B and Bianca got 2nd in Women’s Intro.
Vinh and Andrew practiced drafting and teamwork in the Men’s Intro race, improving on their placements from last week and welcoming Maxwell into the crew also. Aaron moved up to the Men’s C/D race where he raced with Jon and Devin.
Ok, enough about the results. Turning this over to Bianca for what it’s really like to be a first time racer!
A little backstory about me: I usually spend my weekends playing ultimate frisbee, but I hurt my shoulder, so I am out for the season. Hannah convinced me to ride bikes instead (with the secret goal of getting more points for omnium?), and this conveniently doesn’t require a functional shoulder labrum, so… here I am! I was halfway to the 5am departure meeting spot when my head started feeling a little cold and I realized I had forgotten my helmet… Luckily this was my only faux pas of the weekend (I think). We got to the parking lot and I counted the number of minutes it would take before members of the men’s cycling team would introduce themselves to me. The answer is too many. Nick asked me why my cleats (from the balcony free bin) didn’t have any insoles, but he doesn’t understand that every gram matters when you’re trying to win. I was jealous of Hannah who wore a dress to easily change into and out of cycling shorts. I treated the TT as a warmup (and an opportunity to make sure I knew how to use my shifters) and laughed when I misread the “200m” sign as “ZOOM”. After the race, Hannah and I posed for a photo in the TT helmets. I couldn’t decide if I felt more like a member of Daft Punk or Darth Vader. Either way, the helmets make a great medium for a mirror selfie.
The road race was the event I was most excited for. Unfortunately, I had a problem with my derailleur on the first hill and had to abandon the group that I was in (so much for having the lightest derailleur in the world lol). I rode the rest of the 25 miles alone through the beautiful woods which turned out to be super peaceful and enjoyable. The flag waver at the bottom of the steepest hill gave me an incredible dancing performance which lifted my spirits. The last sandy downhill made me wish I had thicker tires and disc brakes (I finally understand the appeal of disc brakes), but I finished the road race feeling really strong and was able to catch up to most of the people from the group I had been dropped from in the first few miles. After the race I went back to Moores Pond, the lake along the course, for a refreshing swim! From there, I watched the A/B races go by. I was entertained by one of the UVM riders who spent the whole race yelling and gesticulating, and I later learned that this was the animated flag waver from earlier (makes sense). I don’t think Mason liked his company very much. I was hoping to cheer Hannah on, but was sad to see her pass by in the race van her quick link succumbed to her new chain waxing regimen (or something like that?)
I went back to the finish line to watch the end of the A/B races before going to set up a four square court with my friend Bryce (who did the road race on a gravel bike lol). Nick and Maxwell joined us for a few rounds. Nick’s agility was affected by his cleats and determination to play with his bike in one hand. Maxwell impressed us with a fancy around the world foot serve. Some UVM riders joined in on the fun, too. I ended the day with a nice cyclist tan.
Hannah left me alone with the boys for dinner. We ordered every item on the menu that had the highest number of calories: the key is to get the sauces. The boys spent most of dinner recapping the race using language I couldn’t understand. FTP this, pull that, break, chase, watts, attack… too many words to keep track of. FTP stands for file transfer protocol right? I taught Nick about BeReal (MIT cycling is oldddd). We debated about the most efficient way to drink water, and we collectively swallowed a slice of key lime pie in 10 seconds. I drove home with my new roommates for the night: Matthew and Felix. Thankfully, neither one of them snored.
Last came the Sunday critérium! The course was right by beautiful Turners Falls. I did the intro clinic and intro race. The intro clinic made me grateful for all the experience I have gotten from biking around horrible drivers in cities. The course didn’t have any hard turns which reduced my fears, and the main challenge was a hill that I really enjoyed (turns out I like hills). The downhill had a 25mph speed limit sign and a flashing speedometer which made each lap more exciting as I tried to reach max speed. The only thing I had to eat before the race was a pop tart (ew, never again) and a banana, but we made it happen! I will come more prepared next time.
I made it back to Cambridge in time for the Boston marathon midnight ride which I did on my tried and true single speed (no more derailleurs to deal with!). My friends and I intended to bike 13 miles in and turn around at the halfway mark. We made one wrong turn and ended up in Framingham. Luckily, the commuter rail train came through and we made it home. That concluded an incredible weekend. To anyone reading this: if you’re unsure about doing a race, DO IT!!! I had so much fun, learned so much, and met so many great people. ROLL TECH
The whole team is riding a major high coming off of the first two races of the season.
Weekend 1 was hosted down at Bucknell in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. Derek, Seamus and Guillaume raced the first race of the season (Men’s TTT) in a horrible rain but powered their way to 2nd in the Men’s B/C field. Weather and spirits improved by the road races later in the day. The infamous “Sunrise Climb” combined with 20 mph winds blew apart (literally and figuratively) both Hannah’s Women’s A/B race and the Men’s B/C race. Seamus, Guillaume and Hannah all hung on to varying degrees to finish their races mid pack, while Derek hit a hidden patch of gravel and had an unfortunate slide that took him out of the race.
Coming back the next day with watts that can only be generated by the need for revenge, Derek got himself into a two-man break during the crit. The break eventually became three and Derek came away with a strong 3rd on the day. Hannah ended up 2nd in her crit after also making the break and lapping the (albeit very small) field. Being the first race of the season and a small group and mostly racing at the same time means we were out of practice taking photos and don’t have majestic shots to show for the weekend. Thankfully, Aaron fixed this for us for Weekend 2 at the University of RI so keep scrolling for those!
Eleven of us made the trip to Southern RI for the second race weekend of the year hosted by URI. This was the first road race with MIT for more than half of the crew. Nothing says ECCC season quite like 5:30 wake ups and watching the sunrise, but at least for this weekend we started our day overlooking the beautiful Misquamicut Beach.
The first race of the day let us break out the MIT TT helmets (we remain the only team in ECCC who race in them, #science). Early in the day, there was some confusion about the ITT course, resulting in annulment of the results for the entire Men’s C/D field. But official results aren’t necessary because of the riders who followed the correct course, Felix and William went 1-2 in the Men’s C/D field so we won in spirit. Meanwhile, Josh and Derek did the same for the Men’s B/C field with times a full minute faster than anyone else in their field and the 5th and 6th fastest of anyone on the day. This placed them just after 4 riders who were all on the 1st or 2nd place team time trial squads at last year’s collegiate nationals.
And then started our weekend of breakaways. Being on the beach meant views, but it also meant wind. The road race course was an 8 mile extended dog-bone loop that ran parallel to the shore for ~6 miles. What started out as a cross wind turned into a headwind / tailwind for the last few races of the day that made the finishing stretch exceptionally fast and caused splits in all the fields. Andrew, Vinh, Aaron, Seamus and Felix raced in the Men’s C/D field of over 70 starters(!!). With some excellent team tactics and road captaining by Seamus, they managed to send Felix off the front in the last 2 miles of the race. He came in 20 seconds ahead of the field in his first ever road race.
Hannah also went full send in the Women’s A/B field with a 2 woman break that finished almost 7 minutes up on the rest of the field. After working together all race, Hannah took second to the UVM rider with the hope that someday soon more riders in the field will have A licenses and be eligible to join for Nationals at the end of the season.
More team tactics came into play for the Men’s B/C race where Derek, William and Josh worked together for Josh to come away with a 2nd place. Meanwhile, Mason and Lee were on course at the same time for the Men’s A race. After a brief slow down to watch the B finishers come in as their field passed, the pace picked back up. There was a USAC rider off the front but they still came away with 4th and 5th in the collegiate rankings during the bunch sprint.
After a night of watching the Paris Roubaix Femmes together in the hotel, it was Crit Day at everyone’s favorite Southern RI course: Ninigret! The day was complete with tailgating on the sidelines made possible by another new MIT team member, Adam. He was MVP of the day for driving down to spectate, cheer, and most importantly feed us all breakfast burritos throughout the day.
Before the Men’s C/D race, we asked William, Seamus and Felix what the plan was for handling such a large field. Their answer: “make it smaller”. Sure enough, within 2 laps the three of them had a break away off the front. They TTTed together to the finish as planned. The ECCC conference director made a rare appearance on the microphone mid race to jokingly say that we’ve “been spending too much time in the wind tunnel.” Not entirely true since no one on the team was around for the last time the Club went into the wind tunnel. That said, we wouldn’t object to trying it out if anyone has a connection for us these days! There’s always room to improve, even when you’re off the front.
After starting the trend during the first race of the day, Derek and Josh couldn’t resist the temptation of a breakaway in their Men’s B/C race as well. Switching up the order from the ITT the day before, Derek took second and Josh third out of a four man group. Aaron followed up with a win in the Men’s Intro race by riding away from a group of 3 as Vinh controlled the pace in the main group behind. Andrew had an unfortunate encounter with a bush on the sidelines early in the race, but recovered for a respectable 12th in the group.
The Men’s A and Women’s A/B races in the day remained fun but success was more elusive. Hannah was nicked on the line in the final sprint (repeating almost every race in last year’s ECCC season…). With prime sprint points though, Hannah will still be wearing yellow numbers next week as the series leader in the A field for the season so far. A strong break went early in the Men’s A race and despite a valiant chase effort by Lee and Coach Robbie (riding in his USAC team colors for Community Bike Racing), they were unable to bridge. After a lead out from Mason, Lee took 3rd in the field sprint.
All in all, the team is psyched. We missed out on team omnium victory for the weekend by a single point. But we’ll be coming back next week for revenge! Closing out with a few thoughts from Vinh about his first road race weekend with the team:
“These first road races were phenomenal! I had so much fun drafting behind people and sticking into their wheels. I think I did better the second day with the experience I got from getting dropped hard in the first day. Glad that me being an annoyance in the peloton helped Aaron get a big gap in the break out and win the race!! Still, I have a lot to improve with my power and sprinting. Very excited! Being with the team was so much fun too, cheering, getting cheered, and learning from everyone was awesome!! 10 out of 10 would do it again!”
Next up, our home race, co-hosted with UMass Amherst. Will new MIT stars shine as we head to the rolling hills of Western Mass? Stay tuned to find out!
Photo credits: Mostly @aaron_v_photography, with supplements from Seamus, Hannah, Felix, and a stranger in the parking lot who was nice enough to take our group shot
Another successful training camp is in the books! 12 of us headed out to Escondido, CA for the annual team Winter Training Camp (WTC). The trip had three main themes: riding bikes in beautiful places, team bonding, and challenging ourselves, each other, and our equipment to try new things and achieve bigger goals. The community is settling back after a few years of COVID disruption and everyone came away psyched about this team!
Riding in beautiful places
The scenery of Southern California is nothing like home, and boy was it beautiful. On day one the group split into two rides (one longer, and one ease-in ride to accommodate those of us who were tired or missing key bike parts from traveling). Half the group made their way out to Oceanside for the beach, tacos, and palm trees. Devin, Vinh, Charlene, and Hannah set out early and made great time despite a brutal headwind thanks to Devin’s hero pulls. After a stop at the bike store in the morning, Derek, Felix and Zak caught up with the group later in the day for a leisurely ride home together.
Meanwhile, the “ambitious” group set off for 95 miles that included a spin up Mount Woodson. With the massive, granite boulders, it’s easy to see why its Kumeyaay name is Ewiiy Hellyaa, the ‘Mountain of the Moonlit Rocks.’ That said, taking in any of the scenery was a challenge at the 12.2% average grade for the climb.
The two groups switched it up on day two, which unfortunately turned out to be rather rainy. Needless to say, the beach wasn’t quite as scenic and the views were not nearly as majestic. We have some pictures but they are mostly of suffering and not worthy of a blog.
After letting things dry out for a rest day, the allure of Palomar was next up. Palomar is a MIT Cycling tradition so virtually the entire rest day was consumed by discussions of pacing strategy, MIT Strava records, and how to save a few watts. The climb did not disappoint: it was both hard (11.6 miles at 6.8%), and gorgeous, as promised.
The top of the mountain was still glistening in snow as we made it to the general store. This made for a serene soundtrack of melting ice and fairly terrifying black ice on the road. We all stayed safe and eventually warmed back up after the descent. Highlights from the rest of the ride included a camel farm, an escaped goat on the road, and pie.
In answering “what was your favorite part of WTC?” a common refrain was the team bonding. Zak said it was the “first time really feeling part of MIT cycling” and Derek hit the nail on the head with how the team dynamic had evolved: “I feel like we came together … and are more than people who occasionally see each other on rides and closer to teammates.” Along similar lines, Felix and Berk (in order) highlighted the collegial and supportive spirit over the week: “It was amazing to go on ride after ride with a posse of fast, considerate cyclists.” “Having my faith in humanity restored was my favorite part. WTC reminded me that there are people out there who just get along and have fun while getting cracked and help each other along the way.”
Out on the road, nothing brought folks together quite like the food stops. The Julian Pie Company had a profitable week, including stops there during the Palomar and Mount Woodson rides, as well as a few grocery store pies at the AirBnB too.
WTC also fostered camaraderie with team alumni to a degree that was unexpected to me as a new team member, but also very appreciated. On Friday, team alum Amy O met up with the group as we rode down to Mt Soledad in San Diego. She led us on a more scenic route than what we initially mapped out, pointed out the best coffee shop for Vinh (who was left wondering why he chose MIT and not a sunnier, prettier campus like UCSD), chatted about rebuilding the women’s team with Hannah, and made Lee feel like old times had returned as he was being dropped off the back while Amy pulled us all up a hill at blistering speeds.
Another team alumni shout out goes to Berk O. While each and every one of us on WTC made the trip what it was, Berk’s institutional knowledge of the Cycling Club and how to build the cycling community accelerated team bonding in a way that wouldn’t have been possible without him. Thank you for being our chief bike mechanic, polar plunge enthusiast, cheerleader, vision quest initiator, and grill master.
When Derek and I asked Coach Robbie earlier this season if WTC was usually a good time for “base miles”, his response was an adamant “No, people usually wreck themselves at WTC.” He immediately followed it up with “but people also call it one of the highlights of their time on the team.” This year’s WTC lived up to the predictions, cracking almost all of us by the end of it, alongside the aforementioned team bonding.
At the same time, we had unexpectedly terrible roads too, where we hiked our bikes past a pick up truck stuck in the sand, or narrowly avoided traffic on a windy descent, or had to ride over snow in order to get to our destination.
But through it all, spirits stayed high and we kept riding. Even if our bikes did not want to be ridden… Along the way we had a few flats (13 for 12 people…) all on GP5000s. This could have also been caused by the road full of broken glass on the way to our airbnb, but who’s counting.
As expected, someone did break a shifter cable this year too. With teamwork, we got Zak back on the road with everyone the next day.
The last day of WTC was intended (for some) to be an epic “Vision Quest” that had been concocted over the course of the week. The route was 127 miles over Palomar and out to the Montezuma climb in Borrego Springs. What started out as a group of 7 who were potentially interested on Friday morning the day before the ride, ended up dwindling to two humans left standing by mile 30 of Saturday’s Quest. While the rest of us stayed at home nursing overuse injuries, cracking on intended recovery rides then eating a gallon of ice cream, or just vibing on actual recovery rides, Seamus and Berk powered through the full route.
Personally, WTC lived up to the hype. The week inspired and motivated me to try hard both while we were there, and for this upcoming season of riding and racing. We gelled as a team. We all stayed safe (!) despite rogue goats and tires that “turned into paper on the cali roads”. We pushed our limits and encouraged each other. And above all, we had fun.
This August a crew of MIT cyclists headed up to the White Mountains of New Hampshire to take on Mount Washington, the highest peak in the northeast. The auto road that ascends its steep slopes is only open to bicycles one day of the year, and these cyclists couldn’t pass up an opportunity like that. Here is Hannah’s account of the weekend:
This year’s Mt Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hill Climb ended up being a wonderful MIT Cycling Club reunion full of hanging out, feasting, and on-the-bike suffering up one of the most intense and picturesque roads in the northeast.
On August 20, the Tin Mountain Conservation Center hosted their 49th ride up the 7.6 mile long, 12% climb to the top of the highest point in the white mountains. Full disclosure, I *did not ride* because this is way more suffering than I wanted to sign up for, but alumni Caitlin, Carolyn, Delia and Tori, current coach Robbie and former coach Erik all thought it was a good idea. For some, it was a farewell to New England, others had come back to ride “the rock pile”: a bucket list item that COVID had postponed. For everyone, it was a personal test of how hard they could push themselves. This post is to celebrate their perseverance, to share photos from the beautiful day on a peak that is known for its terrible weather, and to appreciate the past and present MIT Cycling community.
The “Auto Road” opened in 1861 and last year, Travis Pastrana averaged 80 mph on his record breaking drive to the summit. For the bicycle hill climb this year, former professional Philip Gaimon averaged 9 mph up the hill, demonstrating that cars are, in fact, faster than bicycles. The lanterne rouge rider (last rider to finish) finished in 3:20 hours at an average of 2.3 mph.
The cyclists are not allowed to ride down the mountain so a community of support drivers head to the top before the race to chauffeur the descent. After dropping off our riders, Joanna, Anne, puppy Rosie, and I headed up the 7 miles to the finish while the riders completed their final chaotic prep at the base. Even though you cross the line at less than five miles an hour, the riders were given 8 different number stickers to put on themself, their bike, their helmet and who knows what else. In addition to number placement, there was also the existential question of figuring out why in the world they had signed up for the race…
The scene on the top of the mountain felt like something you see on TV out of the Alps in the Tour de France. There was chalk all over the road with riders’ names and words of encouragement. Spectators lined the final few switchbacks where riders could hit a 40% grade if they picked the wrong line. Parents, partners, friends, and a few bewildered through-hikers made up the enthusiastic crowd cheering on the summiting riders summiting the mountain.
One benefit of having such a big community of MIT riders was that the action at the top (and the bottom!) started early for us. Sarah, Dmitro, Nic, and Sophie woke up at 4:30AM to hike Mt. Washington and catch former coach Erik cross the line.
Fortunately, they made it with 15 minutes to spare and we walked down the road slightly to be more recognizable in the crowd. Just as we were debating where to stand, Erik and Phil came around the corner and into view. Erik had hoped for his 3rd win at the race but unfortunately “the wall” at the end (a hundred foot long 25% grade section) got the best of him, and Phil finished just seconds ahead. That said, Erik was probably the real winner here since the finish line tape holders had a bit of a mishap and clotheslined Phil.
We reconvened with Anne, Joanna, and Rosie at the top, and a few minutes later got to cheer on Coach Robbie. He crossed the line slightly slower than he hoped but still way faster than I could have. Tori, Caitlin and Carolyn were next, all crossing within a minute of each other.
Joanna and I had discussed getting flags and noisemakers to run alongside the riders at the end but ended up just waving our hands enthusiastically. Delia finished off the day for our group, placing in the top 40% for the women in the race. She later titled her Strava ride “the worst thing I’ve ever done on a bicycle.” She stands by this title, claiming that gathering in a New England AirBnB with this grouping of people now triggers a fight-or-flight reaction due to the “hours of suffering she has experienced at Joanna’s encouragement.”
But regardless of how bad the time on the bike was, we all had a great time off the bike. Whether it was celebrating simply being at the top of the climb, laughing at the gearing choices made, or cooling off in a stream, the weekend certainly had more highs than lows.
So will MIT be back in future years? The answer is a resounding “yes”. Carolyn commented that part of the fun this year was going in with “zero expectations” and still being able to pull off a ride she felt proud of. Caitlin and Tori were both relieved after less-than-ideal-preparation was still able to carry them up the mountain, but also left curious how things could go under different circumstances. Delia is not sure if she will ever climb Mt. Washington again, but recognizes that she is incredibly susceptible to peer pressure and would probably do anything Carolyn, Tori, Caitlin, or Joanna ask her to do.
For the 2022 spectators, we still have the luxury of coming in blind. Dmitro and I are skeptical that the ride will ever be in our futures. After Nic recovers from his sunburn, he says he’ll consider it. Sarah was stoked after this year’s experience and inspired to ride “both from seeing our kickass women crush it, but also from seeing the diversity of riders making it up the road (age and fitness level)!”
I am a newer member of the cycling club (2022-??) and I am so glad I found this supportive and welcoming group of people. Hanging out with so many alumni over the weekend reaffirmed to me how supporting each other’s cycling goals (no matter how ridiculous) builds a community that endures during our time on campus and beyond.
Photo credits: Anne, Caitlin, Carolyn, Dmitro, Joanna, Hannah, Sarah
The blog returns! We’re back in action racing this fall, and there’s an entire season’s worth of recaps to read below. New friends, new racers, victories, dirty bikes… everything is here.
The first race of the season was simultaneously the first collegiate MTB race for all of our racers. Josephine, Kira, Sara, Devin, and Felix all arrived at some point between dusk and the morning’s race. There was plenty of confusion getting numbers and figuring out where and when the start was. However, our valiant captain, Devin, had everything under control despite never having raced a MTB. A seasoned high school racer, Josephine was astounded by the lackadaisical nature of ECCC MTB. Needless to say, we did not really pre-ride the course. XC began with bang when the 3 women’s A racers left the improvised start line. Josephine started behind, but, bemused by her competitors lack of pace, sprinted around one before entering the trails. Devin and Felix started equally cautiously at the back of a large Men’s C field and were caught in an absolute chaos. The start can best be described as a traffic jam. Devin followed Felix’s lead by running around droves of stranded cyclists floundering uphill. The MIT tag team efficiently worked their way up the field until Felix’s handlebars started to come loose and he fell off the pace. Devin pressed to claim 2nd, while Felix limped to the parking lot, tightened some bolts and finished with a strong second lap.
Meanwhile, Sarah and Kira started in Women’s B with very little prior experience on MTBs. It was only Sarah’s 8th time ever! Nevertheless, they both put the pedal to the metal on the uphills, when their fellow riders were often in their way. They took the downhills at an appropriately measured pace, getting more confident as they went. Sarah came flying out of the woods for 4th place and Kira followed not too far behind. The whole time, Josephine was quietly putting in a superb performance with no competitors in sight. Getting faster every lap, she cruised by the rest of the team cheering after lap three. This caused confusion as her race was originally supposed to be 3 laps. Due to a shortened course, it had been extended to 4, which let her build an incredible gap of 11 min on the 2nd place rider.
The whole group migrated up to the DS course for some fun with jumps and berms. Although several of us had no idea what dual slalom is, we had some time to kill and jumped in line to give the courses a shot! I (Sarah) found it hilariously challenging and completely different from any MTBing I’d done before – but it was inspirational to see some of the other riders really rip it! So many were even kind enough to give us some tips/coaching (shout-out to the UVM women!). Unfortunately the process of bracketing took so long that several of us had to leave before the bracketed rounds began, and then the entire thing got called off because it started getting dark and the EMTs had to leave. Devin stayed around for STXC and braved mud to again clinch 2nd and secure his promotion to B’s.
The second weekend of our condensed season brought weather that only the hardiest souls dared venture out into. With sunny Boston in the rear view mirror, Kai, Devin, Josephine, Bill, Felix, and Matthew set out for soggy Vermont, steeled for the persistent deluge that awaited them. The team awoke to the promise of wet skies and muddy trails but nonetheless hopped on their bikes for a slippery XC course. Out on the trail, the fun began with Felix taking second in Men’s C, Josephine notching another W, solid races for Matthew, Devin, and Kai. Bill ended with worse luck, wrangling his MITOC fat bike through the first mile only to fall victim to a broken chain. Fixing that, he returned to the course only to end up with a broken derailleur in the same spot! Afternoon dual slaloming brought the energy up with speedy runs on the sloppy surface by Kai and Josephine and a very solid “not last” by Bill who railed the berms on Kai’s XC bike.
Saturday night proved eerily quiet for the ECCC, dampened by the drizzle, but provided our hearty competitors with a good night’s rest. Sunday morning at Bolton Valley Resort saw the start of the most technical of the season’s short track XC courses, with a challenging steep descent in the middle. After a harrowing race, Felix, on his enduro steed, managed to just outsprint some guy on a fully rigid rockhopper from like 1995 to take the win. Devin’s race ended a little sooner and less fortunately with an up-close-and-personal encounter with a tree. Next up, Josephine enjoyed a chill ride with the only other person in the Women’s A field, before dropping her after a few companionable laps. Kai finished out the weekend with a solid ride on a slippery downhill course and the team skedaddled back to the city. When the points were tallied, MIT had come in a respectable third overall!
The final weekend of ECCC came all too soon, hosted for the first time in Claremont, NH. In an unfortunate start to the weekend, the well-known-to-be-extremely-calm-and-quiet ECCC was remarkably silent on Friday night at Running Bear Campground yet still managed to be told not to return for Saturday night. Nevertheless, the four riders, Kai, Josephine, Devin, and Matthew, turned to racing. Saturday brought the flowiest XC course of the season with a no-brakes downhill full of berms and optional jumps bringing smiles to their faces. Following a successful morning, the team headed over to the enduro course, in search of another points haul. Josephine stunned the conference again, winning Women’s B on her XC hardtail, and putting down faster times than any of the Women’s A riders. Fresh off a day of racing, the team enjoyed an unusual night involving a crowd of hang gliding afficicianados, a professional pyrotechnics crew, and a colorful bonfire.
Sunday started off strong with an exciting win in the short track XC team relay! The day then shifted back to Arrowhead Recreation Area for the Downhill. Kai pulled out a solid 7th in Men’s A, which saw him off to Durango for Nationals. Meanwhile, Josephine turned heads with her flannel, full face helmet, and signature XC hardtail, charging down the hill before an unfortunate crash below a rocky chute but still managing to salvage a second place. When all the dust had settled, the team walked away with a stellar second place overall in the weekend points competition and the best place for the season of any team that skipped the Pennsylvania race.
With 10 inches of snow the week before, the Nationals downhill course was shifted to the muddy and pedally XC track descent. While his dual-crown downhill bike may not have been the ideal steed for the task, Kai finished off the season with a solid 30th in the country. Although USA Cycling listed him as a competitor from Michigan Technical University, we knew he was reppin’ the ECCC as he wished to ride the wet, snowy DH course.
Thanks for following along through the epic return to racing Fall 2021 had to offer. We’re so proud of our new racers, seasoned riders, and sponsors who helped make the racing come to life this fall. Next up: ECCC Cyclocross, Fall Training Camp, and a whole lot of Zwift & Trainer Road. Keep up the great work everyone!
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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!
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.
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.”
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!
Thanks for an awesome season to all our riders! Now the fun is over and it’s back to the trainer until spring arrives!
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!
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.
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!”
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.
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.
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.
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!”