Rutgers: Shaena Berlin’s race report

This was my first weekend of bike racing, and I was pretty nervous. Sure, I train a lot and have a few years of endurance sports in my background, but cycling is different; the results aren’t based just on who trains the most, but on strategy, and awareness, and being at the right place at the right time. So, I entered the Intro Women category, hoping to find other riders like myself – fit, but inexperienced and terrified of making a tight corner in a big pack.

ITT: The ITT was the portion I was least worried about, since it’s basically the same idea as the bike portion of a triathlon – ride hard and don’t worry about other people. The course was quite short, though, roughly 2.8 miles. As an endurance type of person, I don’t think I’ve even done a running race that short in quite some time, much less a ride! Anyway, the race was fine. After they taught some of the intro women how to clip into their pedals and downshift, we went off at 15 second intervals. I started first, so I didn’t see anyone else until after the finish. In the end, I got 4th/35 in 7:52, about as good as I could expect for such a short race.

Criterium: The crit was the section I was most scared for. The course seemed fine, with one tight corner at the end of a downhill and some potholes, but nothing as terrifying as I expected. We did two coached laps, where we basically rode in a double paceline and were told when to switch off leading (I didn’t lead at all during this section). Then, our race began, only 4 laps long. During the first lap, I didn’t start out in the front, and while I worked on moving up the pack, a girl from McGill attacked. I tried to follow her, thinking that I could catch her, wasting a lot of energy and basically just pulling for the next lap and a half; this was a good learning experience, as I should have actually attacked and sprinted to her instead of going virtually the same pace as her 100 yards behind her. By the third lap, I had pulled for quite a while in my futile attempt to reach McGill, so I sat in behind another suffering newbie the rest of the way. I’m a terrible sprinter (the type who can get passed by 10+ runners in the last 100 yards of a cross-country race), but managed to hold my own and come in 4th overall. I was happy with the race, though if I had strategized better I could have been with the girl in front. (As a side note, she switched into women’s C the next day and placed 3rd overall there, so perhaps she didn’t belong in Intro to begin with).

Circuit Race: Sunday, we got to sleep in until 6:30 and arose to another beautiful sunny day. The circuit course was not very technical, with no major hills or treacherous turns, although there was definitely a headwind coming into the finish/lap area. After a coaching clinic for the Intro riders, we took two coached laps of the 2.5 mile course. This time, I was smart and made sure to be in the first line at the start. We only had 2 race laps, so it was quite short, again. After the start, I drafted in the front group, pedaling easily through the first lap and never pulling. Then came the final lap, which was surprisingly action-packed for an Intro race. There were 5 Yale girls with a coach and master strategy; unfortunately for them, they actually discussed their strategy out loud while racing. I heard snippets of “Let’s wait until that turn” and “attack then”. Since that was where I was planning to attack, I decided it would be a better idea to attack before them, so I sprinted up ahead. After a bit, a few of them caught me, so I slowed down drastically and rested, assuming someone would pass me to speed up the pace again. No one did, but I still got to rest, so it was ok. A Yale girl attacked, but I stayed on her – she said to her teammate “Don’t let anyone else get my wheel”, but I was on it already . I took the corner right before a slight uphill tighter than most of them, and then sped up again. At this point, only one girl came with me. Riding into the headwind towards the finish, I was pretty exhausted so drafted behind her. I didn’t sprint into the finish quite as well as she did so came in second. Overall, though, I was thrilled, because I finally got to put into action a lot of the drills from our clinics, and managed to get second in a 5-on-1 pack. Afterwards, I spun on the trainer and watched the Men’s B and then the Women’s A/B/C races, which were quite exciting and a fair bit harder-looking than mine had been.

All in all, it was a great weekend. We had perfect weather, some amazing results, and good exercise. I had really missed traveling to races on weekends and am really happy to be doing it again in a new sport. Also, I think I have finally found people who are more intense than me, go to bed earlier than I do, and drink more water than me – an excellent combination that I’ve been searching for my whole life. Great racing, everyone!

–Shaena Berlin
MIT Class of 2013