Nobody else had a chance at RPI (race reports and video)

There’s so much good stuff to report from the weekend at RPI. First, the result: MIT won the weekend with 267. Franklin & Marshall came in second with 155, and Bucknell was third with 153. Penn State, the previous overall leader, was seventh, with 114.

Overall standings after RPI

There are so many race reports to post! [Apologies for the formatting issues, working on that.] First, Joe Near and his helmet cam:

This was my first weekend racing in the Bs, and since Spencer had told me that the Bs were a lot faster than the Cs, I was worried! Fortunately I had other things on my mind — like the fact that it was 16F when we got up on Saturday morning. I put on all the clothes I had, but I was still cold. Like everyone else, I spent a lot of time sitting in the car this weekend!
Up first on Saturday was the cold, cold ITT. I really wanted to do better this time than I did at Rutgers, so I spent a lot of time warming up and I even pinched a pointy helmet from Spencer (thanks!). I caught two people during my ride, and felt good about my pacing, but I was still surprised to see, when the results were posted, that I had gotten second! This meant that I had stronger legs than most of the B field, and so I figured I should do fine in the circuit race.
By the time the circuit race started, it was much warmer, and I regretted wearing my heavy gloves. An early break formed just after we completed out first lap, and Adam managed to bridge up to it. About a lap later, Spencer spent a whole lap by himself in no-man’s land trying to get to the break; unfortunately he was not successful. Once he was back in the pack, we both tried blocking, but nobody seemed interested in chasing anyway, so we didn’t have much to do. Early in the last lap, Anna Mcloon broke free with a guy from Northeastern and Spencer jumped on quickly. Once there was a little gap I tested the waters by jumping a little bit — and the pack let me ride off the front. I guess they were tired! Our group of four dropped Anna about halfway through the final lap, and going into the climb before the start/finish the Northeastern rider ramped up the pace to try to leave us behind. Spencer was tired from his earlier attempt at bridging, but I sat on Northeastern’s wheel all the way up the climb, let him lead me out, and sprinted around him for 4th.
With Adam winning and Spencer 6th, it was a good day for MIT in the Bs.
Sunday was the 7-corner (down from 9) crit in downtown Troy. I feel like I’m becoming a decent sprinter, so I hoped to contest a few of the primes and the finish. I soon found that the technical nature of the course and the higher speed of the B field made it harder to move around and improve my position than I had hoped; several times, I had to move into the wind in order to get to the front. Additionally, the sprints were sketchier than I expected — in the first prime, another rider swerved towards me and I had to move left so much that I touched bars with Mike. After that scary moment in the first prime, I was less aggressive; I only contested one other prime and was too timid in the finishing sprint, but I held on for 9th. With Adam just ahead of me in 8th, it was still a good result for the team.

RPI Tour de Troy 2011 Men B Crit from Joseph Near on Vimeo.

The USAC 4/5 race later in the afternoon was the fun race for me — it was a smaller field, the collegiate racers were tired, and the non-collegiate racers weren’t that fast. I got into a break with a Yale rider with 9 to go, but the pack pulled us back with around 5 to go. Two Penn riders who seemed both tired and unaware of what was going on brought Andrew to the front as they caught me, and then let a gap open between them and Andrew. I don’t know if they expected me to close it or what, but I wasn’t about to! I sat up and watched while the pack let Andrew open up a 20-second gap in just a couple of laps. Steven and I did some blocking at the front, but once the gap opened up, only the Penn guys seemed interested in chasing — and they were obviously very tired. Andrew won in style with something like a 40-second gap to the field — and promptly went up to Joe Kopena to request his B upgrade! [Which was granted! —ed]
So it was a super great weekend of racing! Congrats to everyone that raced, and thanks to everyone that helped me out! I hope to see you all at the Beanpot for another great weekend!
My photos from the weekend are here (thanks to Cim for taking a lot of these!):
Here’s Adam Bry’s report from his amazing three-minute-plus solo victory in the road race:
The circuit race on Saturday afternoon was 6 laps of a 7 mile loop with a short but steep hill to the finish line. After one lap there was a small breakaway dangling a few seconds off the front. Mike had just bridged up and I figured that having two MIT riders could give us some options later on. I put in a sprint just hard enough to stop anyone from grabbing my wheel and then tucked in for a hard effort.
After about two minutes I caught the group and got some much needed recovery at the back of the pace line. At 7 riders (I think) the breakaway was not riding particularly efficiently. It was clear there were some passengers in the group, and the pace changed significantly depending on who was on the front, but I felt very comfortable slotted in behind Mike who was riding smooth and strong. Having spent the effort to catch the group, I wanted to do what I could to make it succeed. I tried to match my effort and time pulling to the maximum of what other riders were doing. I also tried to organize things a bit, encouraging riders who were doing good work, and throwing a bit of public shame at riders who pulled off or sat in without doing their part.
By the time we reached the top of the hill with four laps to go, we had dropped a couple of riders, and unfortunately Mike fell off shortly after. At that point there were four of us left: Dartmouth, RIT, McGill, and myself. We all knew this was it — for better or worse — and everyone was communicating well and working hard at the front. We did two laps as a group of four, and my guess is that this is when the bulk of the lead was built. The wind and rolling hills were significantly affecting the pacing, but we seemed to be cruising on flats around 24 mph, and I knew that should put us in good shape relative to the pack.
When we started the climb that would take us to two laps to go, RIT went hard to the front. I came up on his wheel, and by the time we were over the top, a gap had built to McGill and Dartmouth, both of whom appeared to be really suffering for most of the last lap. RIT and I exchanged a few words and decided that they probably couldn’t help us anymore. With 14 miles left in the race, it was too early to worry about anything besides getting as far away from the pack as possible (especially since we had no idea what the gap was) and both of us gave it our all, pulling the other along when it was our turn. I’m not sure we spoke for the rest of the race, but we developed a good rhythm and rode a solid lap together.
When we came to the bottom of the hill that would take us to the final lap, RIT again began climbing with a surge. I didn’t think he would try to drop me with a full lap left, so I assumed he was just feeling strong and a bit too excited. Half way up, he backed off the pace and I came around him keeping the same effort. When we reached the top and I signaled him to take a pull he didn’t come around me. When I turned around I was shocked to see him 20 or 30 yards back still fighting his way up the climb. I almost considered waiting, but looking at the way he was moving I knew he had popped, and at that point the race got very simple for me.
As I came across the finish line for the bell lap, I put my head down and went for it. I had no idea what the race looked like behind me, but the thought of riding alone for 7 miles against a 50 person pack didn’t give me a warm and fuzzy feeling. I had images of hapless solo riders getting reeled in by ruthless leadout teams flashing in my head, and I decided that if I was going to get caught it would only be because my tank was completely empty. Achieving a perfectly empty tank became my sole focus for the next 20 minutes. My legs were really starting to hurt, but the feeling of being chased kept me motivated. Around every turn I looked behind me to see if I could catch a glimpse of what I had to work with, but every time I looked the road was empty. Figuring that the group was just out of sight, I kept pushing as hard as a I could. The climb was my last opportunity to go for complete exhaustion, and as I struggled up it with my legs nearly locking on every pedal stroke, it was clear I had nothing left. I have a vague recollection of riding past the faithful MIT cheering section midway up the hill and hearing laughter at what I can only imagine was a very contorted pain face.
It wasn’t until I looked behind me with 100 yards to go and saw the empty road that it really sunk in. After having spent most of the last two hours on the nose of the saddle in the drops, sitting up and coasting over the finish line all by myself was an amazing feeling.
It's hard to win more impressively than this.
When I saw the final results I realized the maximum effort on the last lap might not have been necessary (although it was really fun) as there was a 3:40 gap back to the 2nd place F&M rider who had just caught RIT at the line. It was great to see that Spencer and Joe had gotten away from the pack giving MIT 3 of the top 6 spots, and I was also glad to see that McGill and Dartmouth held off the main field for 7th and 8th.
Overall (and as always!) it was a really fun weekend of bike racing with a lot of strong team results. It seems like the harder the race, the better MIT does, and that has to bode well for Beanpot…
Christina Birch, from Women’s A/B:
Laura and Katie win the RR

Since us women have been a little quiet about the racing weekends (hey, men, the results speak for themselves!) I thought I’d do a quick shout-out about the Women’s A/B crit at RPI.

The RPI crit was one of the best races I’ve had this year because it was the most tactical with a lot of teamwork.

Things I did well:

* shut down attacks. Laura and I WENT TO TOWN jumping on attack after attack one after another. Not nobody, not nohow was getting up to Katie. (Well, until Laura and Anna did.)

* blocked, like whoa:  When the other A ladies are yelling at each other to “Go around MIT, she won’t help us with a teammate up the road”, you know you’re doin’ it right.

* solo bridge to Anna and Laura! (Learning from Spencer’s recent experience with massive time spent in no-man’s-land, I pushed hard to bridge in half a lap and was glad their pace didn’t accelerate afterward.)

* I did not use the F-word in this crit (oops re: Philly)

Things I didn’t do as well:

* figuring out how close I really was to Katie/the very front of the race

* conserving too much fuel in the last few laps (I should have gone with Laura/Anna the last time when the got up to Katie)

* hitting all the big potholes  (my wrists are still mad at me)

* winning. oh wait. (Suckit, purple numbers, I get to wear white ones now!)

Things I can’t wait to do again:

* WIN SOME PRIIIIIIIIIIIIIIMES, cause winning an A crit is going to be impossible now. Ahem. Thanks ladies. 😛

* corner like a boss

* put the hurt on the other teams with some well timed attacks


Laura Ralston also fills us in on the crit:

Wow – another weekend of fun racing! The weekend highlights for me were watching so many savy and courageous moves pulled off by MIT riders: Adam’s superb effort in the men’s B road race, Katie’s strength in the crit and Christina’s great skills at covering moves and pack positioning. I’m sure you’ll hear more from others about their races, so I want to focus on the A/B women’s crit.

The start was pretty slow and I had plenty of time to clip in. Relatively quickly some of the other riders lifted the pace, but as Katie and Christina moved towards the front few wheels, I realized that I hadn’t seen Harvard powerhouse Anna Mcloon ahead of me. I really wanted to keep her in my sight, so I soft pedalled until she passed me and then jumped on her wheel. However, things were being shaken up at the front with a surprise attack from Maggie Sullivan of NE, which Katie immediately jumped on. I kept watching Anna letting her do all the work to move up the pack. Katie and Maggie managed to stay away for the first preme and then as Maggie sat up Katie stepped on it and went solo.

Anna hesitated waiting to see if someone else would initiate the chase giving Katie the chance to open up the gap. With me and Christina in the chase group of about 7 or 8 riders we were able to disrupt the chase a little and Katie quickly got a 15 second gap, which I think probably widened to about 30 seconds. I was having a very easy time doing very little work but watching Anna closely.

Anna attacked twice in the race, but I managed to cover them both times. The first time we didn’t stay away from the chase, but the second time we did, and Anna began to cut into Katie’s lead. Anna (with me in tow) reached Katie with just under 3 laps to go. I knew it was my job to attack, particularly since I had very fresh legs having done no work thus far in the race, so I as soon as we formed a group of 3 I attacked and got away. I glanced back and saw I had a reasonable gap with 2 laps to go so I just kept as much power on the pedals as I could and managed to take the win ahead of Anna and Katie.

However, this truly was a team effort. This win was probably more Katie’s than mine, and Christina really helped out too, by covering BU’s Kim Zubris’s moves. Great jobs guys – you made me really proud!