Riders’ reports from Army: Tony, Cim, John, Yuri, and Laura

Tony Laidig — Men’s Intro
I started racing to work on some things that I’m not particularly good at– being aggressive and taking calculated risks when necessary. Having been raised by recovering hippies, these were not high on the list of qualities to pass on to your children. That being said, I’m getting better at this and this last weekend was the best yet. The intro field wasn’t large, but a formidable match for me. The circuit race was a great course for technique and strength, and I got to show off both. It was exhilarating to close a sizable gap on the straightaway, uphill and into the wind, then leave two guys behind on the following climb, and spin out down the descent. Scored my first top ten finish at 6th place. Sunday was a beautiful day, if a little bit cold in the morning. The hill climb was grueling and left me missing both training on the hills of the Bay Area and my touring bike’s granny gear; maybe next year I should bring it as my HCTT bike ;). Came in 5th and actually scored an omnium point! In the crit, I got a good start and kept with the front of the pack the whole way. One thing I can work on a little more is when to apply power after a corner– I always had to sprint to close a gap after crossing the line each lap, but now I know to work on this it won’t be hard to get it right. Next weekend I’m moving (back) to D’s, not to get slaughtered again like I did at Rutgers.

Cim Wortham — Men’s C
The men’s C team for army included Kenny Cheung, David Quinn, Ian Rousseau, David
Singerman, Cimarron Wortham.  The men’s C TTT was the  first event of the weekend, starting off at the unpleasant hour of  7:30.  Arriving to the course a little late, we (Kenny, David, Cim,  Zach Ybarra) didn’t get the warm up they would like, but we still charged through the windy, hilly course as fast as we could.   Unfortunately, 13th was not the finish we had hoped for.

Next up was the circuit race, with 7 laps on the 2+ mile course.  The  main features of the course were a long, gradual climb with a stiff  headwind along the highway, followed by a sharp right turn in to a  steep and twisting climb, and finally a exciting and pot-hole filled  descent that should make any Bostonian feel right at home.  The men’s  C field tended to take the slow windy climb along Hwy 293 pretty slow,  with nobody wanting to pull to hard, and then charge up the ascent/ descent.  Several of the MIT riders (or at least Cim) took the 293  section as an opportunity to move towards the front of the pack, and  then took a mellower approach to the steep hill in an attempt to save  energy for the end of the race.  This strategy appeared to work well  coming into the final laps, with Ian and Cim finding themselves in  good position within the pack. Unfortunately, neither was able to  stay at the front when the pack surged just before the final climb,  and the finished with the pack.  David Singerman’s stop to re-attach his frame number (zip ties!) probably kept him out of contention, and David Quinn’s cold kept him on the sideline, where he did a heroic job of cheering  on his teammates.  I should mention that  there were a few half-hearted  break attempts by other teams, but with the headwind they were all doomed to failure.

Sunday brought another early morning for the men’s C field, with the  ITT/hill climb kicking off at 7:45.  The 2.5 mile course wound up  through the West Point campus from the Hudson River.  We arrived early  enough that everybody got a good warm up and a chance to preview the  course.  Ian had a great ride, finishing 11th and scoring the only  points for men’s C this weekend, with Cim behind at 29th, David (still  sounding a little hoarse as he got over a cold) in 45th, and Kenny and  David at 53 and 54.

The final event of the weekend was the treacherous (see the men’s B  write-up) 3-corner crit.  The men’s C team, trying to use their aero  knowledge to their advantage, tied several small ribbons to trees  along the river where the wind was sure to be a factor, hoping this  would let them pick better positions within the pack.  Unfortunately, nobody ever wanted to pull through this windy section, and the pack  was always wide and slow without much room to maneuver.  Still, Ian,  Kenny and Cim managed to stay near the front for much of the race, and  Ian made a strong move to the front on the second-to-last lap,  thinking that it was the last.  But once again, none of the MIT riders  were able to stay on the front as the pack surged before the final  corner (which saw one small crash but no injuries) and sprinted for  the finish.  Results: Ian 21, Cim  36, David (sick and with 2 working  gears!) 48, David 56.

John Rhoden — Men’s B

The MIT men’s B squad fielded 5 riders at Army, which featured a circuit race on Saturday and a criterium on Sunday.  Saturday’s race was very strongly influenced by the sustained 25+ mph winds that were essentially a direct headwind during a long straightaway on the course.  As a result, the race was basically 3 parts: climb a short, steep hill (with the finish at the top), come screaming down a lengthy descent, and run into a wall of wind until turning onto the hill, repeated something like 10 times for our race.  The wind had the effect of shutting down all breakaway attempts, and the hill wasn’t long enough to really split things up, so the race stayed together for the most part.  MIT riders were aggressive throughout, with Mike Hamilton chasing down break attempts and a strong presence at the front of the field.  Unfortunately, the last lap was chaotic on the windy stretch and many riders risked life and limb to move up before the climb, catching most of us too far back to have a clean line up the hill.  Most our racers finished in the pack, and so we shifted our attention to Sunday’s crit.

Sunday’s race was also shaped by a strong headwind coming off the Hudson along the backstretch of the course.  We had decided before the race to conserve our energy in the pack until the last laps, then move up to be in a position to contend at the finish.  For the most part, we executed our plan well, but we didn’t count on an incredible string of bad luck to knock 4 of the 5 MIT racers out due to crashes.  Zach crashed while off the front bridging to a breakaway, after which he was unceremoniously run over by another rider.  Jon Dreher was taken down by a crash soon after, and in the last lap, Chewie and Mike were in excellent position until a huge crash took them both out.  The last crash led Mike to go the hospital for some stitches, and the crashes claimed 2 bike frames as well.  However, everyone walked away from the accidents and will live to fight again, hopefully with some better results and less road rash.

Yuri Matsumoto — Women’s A

This week, our A TTT was me, Laura and Zuzka. Although the course was really windy, hilly and long, we worked very well together to keep a good pace and beat our last year’s time by 1 min 16sec and beat the second place team by 3 min 16sec! Both Laura and Zuzka were amazingly strong and I was probably the weakest at the time and tried my best not to slow the pace. Since we didn’t get to preride the course, we had some difficulty deciding which way to echelon.  Women’s A races had again a very small field; about 10ish. Having such a small field tends to make a race boring because no one wants to pull because we all know that our series leader, Kim is going to make a winning move at some point and we all want to be with her. During the circuit race, after one lap of 13 mph riding, I was feeling cold. So, I decided to attack on the climb, not just because I was bored and cold but because I didn’t think I had a good sprint for the finish, so making the group smaller was my strategy to guarantee top placing. It was a pity that Zuzka didn’t make it to my group, but once I saw Kim in my group, I kept going and we had four riders in the break. Since the breakaway contained about half the size of the field, it was quite easy to maintain the gap. On the last lap, as I predicted my legs were tired for sprint and half way up the hill, I let others slip by and finished fourth. Zuzka was riding in the second group and finished 7th.

The next day, I had a lot of fun in the hill climb time trial and crit. The time trial course was slightly shorter than last year; nonetheless I was happy to beat my last year’s time by about 23 seconds and got second in my field. I caught up with 5 riders while I was climbing. Zuzka also improved her time by about 30 sec from last year and finished 6th in A.

The crit course was the same as two years ago except this time we had sunshine. After the second prime (we have in total 6), Eve from Dartmouth got a gap of about 20 meters from the group, and we were all looking at each other to see who wanted to chase her. For a while, she was just off the front and we were not so worried that she was gonna get away, especially because Kim was comfortably riding within the pack. I thought at some point Kim would attack the field to bridge to Eve, but she never did, or she was never successful. Also there was no organized chase to catch Eve and she ended up riding solo to the finish. After we decided we’re not gonna be able to catch Eve, the pace slowed down a lot. While everyone was being lazy, Zuzka sprinted to capture some prime points. Going into the final lap, I found myself on the front of the group and I wanted to pull off so that I can save energy in the windy back stretch. I stopped pedaling and coasted the downhill but I still found myself at the front when we turned into the windy section. So, I just soft pedaled and got ready for attacks. When everyone rides so slowly that usually means someone’s going to attack. But no one attacked! What a lazy group of riders! Earlier in the race I noticed that if I take the last corner hard, I could get a decent gap from the group, so I made a risky choice and decided to start my sprint before the corner. I started my sprint 20 meters before the corner and took the corner really hard. I looked back a little bit and saw a good separation from the rest, so I sprinted as hard as I can to the finish (~300meters) and managed to hold it to the finish. I was so surprised that I could sprint for so long. I was particularly happy because this was my first time to beat other sprinters like Kim and Courtney who would always beat me in a crit. Yay! Another thing I learned was that cornering skill is truly useful in a crit.

Laura Ralston — Women’s B

I think this weekend went pretty well for the team overall, and myself, although there were quite a few unfortunate crashes at the end of Sunday and I hope this doesn’t mean we’ve wiped out half of the men’s squad. It certainly made me remember how important it is to be wary of other teams’ riders!

My races were strategic and while I know I’m quite a strong rider in my field, I tried my best not to let any other rider get an advantage over me. This meant trying to shelter from the wind as much as possible but still stay within a group of the first 5-6 riders in my field. In my circuit race I made a break with about 6 other riders on the first hill and distanced the gap by descending fast over a somewhat precarious road. 6 soon became 3 as the others couldn’t keep our pace up the inclines, and then 3 became 2 when another rider dropped a chain. I lead the descent on the last lap so it would look like I was pulling quite a lot but hid out of the wind on the flat and then in the last 500m I attacked into the head wind after trying to tire out my opponent and then I sprinted the final hill to the finish. This worked and I won by 25 seconds! My hill time trial was paced evenly and I tried to build into the finish. I think I passed 7 riders and caught 2 on the finish line, which gave me another win by about 25 seconds.

The criterium was a pretty sketchy at times since with the windy conditions the pack stuck together for most of the race and I’m not that confident in some of the other B riders bike handling skills – there was a lot of braking mid-way through tight turns! Anyway, I managed to take 3 out of 4 preems, and I decided staying nearer the front was much safer even if it meant a bit more energy expenditure. I quickly learnt that positioning into the final bend was critical for a good run into the finish line, and so I took this turn really tight while the rest of my field went wide, allowing me to separate well and take off immediately for a long sprint to the finish – another win for the weekend! To be honest I feel kind of bad that I had such good races while other MIT riders ended up with broken bikes and bodies, so I think that if you guys can recover and get back to racing in the next few weeks that would be far more impressive!