Eastern Championships are over. Dang, it feels good to type those words.
We’ve been home for a while now; the brooms, the marking paint, and the course signs have been packed away for next year, the recovery beer has been consumed, the bills have been paid (thanks to the awesome work of treasurers Quinn, Wade and Youyang), and the panic and stress dreams have been left behind. Maybe it’s some variant of Stockholm syndrome, but I think this was the most fun I’ve had at a race weekend to date.
Starting in January Dustin Weigl, James deMelo, Lucy Archer, and myself held weekly conference calls to discuss the race planning and prep, Lucy often calling in while riding the rollers at ungodly early hours of the morning in CA where she now resides. In January, the idea of putting on a race seemed doable, by February we (or at least I) had doubts, by March I was in a full out panic. It wasn’t that we weren’t prepared, it was simply that so much of running a bike race depends on others. You can make plans, contingency plans, contingency plans for the contingency plans, but at the end of the day it takes a dedicated group of people all working well to pull it off.
About a week out from the race, everything was set. I figured this would make the last week a little easier, but it didn’t – with everything set there was nothing left for me to do but pace my office coming up with increasingly absurd possible disaster scenarios.
Friday (the day before the race)
Early Friday morning saw Lucy (having arrived from CA on a red-eye), James and myself driving out to the road race course in Warwick MA to start sweeping corners, putting up signs, and marking potholes. This work was made easier by the efforts of the town – they sent the street sweeper out Wednesday, which left the roads in really great shape. Enough good things cannot be said about the town and the people of Warwick, they have embraced this race with excitement for the two years we’ve been holding it, and have showed up to support, cheer, and heckle. During the course of the day we were given lemonade, asked if we were crazy for doing a race that went up Old Winchester Road (a rather steep and long dirt climb) several times, and played a golden retriever full of boundless energy (kinda reminiscent of Berk we all agreed) at the fire chief’s house.
After the course work was done we headed up to the hotel our awesome logistic officers Amy and Cosmo had reserved in Brattleboro VT. Here is where I need to give the biggest of shout outs to Amy – who together with James – managed to get 40 odd people and bikes (who seemingly all needed to arrive and leave at different times) to and from Western MA.
Once at the hotel, James and I sat down to run through details for the next day, this mostly consisted of me asking him a series of questions regarding increasingly unlikely things that might go wrong, and him having answers and contingency plans ready for even my most fantastical of crises.
It was great that James was so incredibly prepared, but it also meant that it was 6pm and I had nothing to do but pace the hallway and wait. Friend of the team (and future winner of the men’s A road race) Erik Levinsohn pointed out that racers tend to judge the quality of a race by the weather, and that Saturday was forecast to be beautiful. This managed to put me at ease for at least a little while. After pretty much driving every single one of my teammates insane running through possible crisis scenarios for the next day, they finally convinced me to go to bed.
Saturday morning James and I were up bright and early at 4:30 to head over to the Warwick Community School, where we would be staging the team time trial and road race. I was very glad to see him in the parking lot in the morning, as one of the more vivid promoter stress dreams I had been having involved him forgetting the date of the race and instead going backpacking in the Canadian Rockies. We arrived at the Warwick Community School that served as staging, and started setting up while Dustin and Tori drove the course marking more potholes (yay! Bike racing in the spring in New England), making sure the signage was still in place and touching up the sweeping we had done the day before.
Team Time Trial
I was bullish about this – I was going to do everything I could to make sure I got to race this event. Assuming nothing was actively on fire at the start line I was going to race. Luckily James and Lucy had everything under control so I suited up and lined up with Tobi, Biswaroop, and Cosmo and we set off. The first part of the course was a little rough, I’d spent a few hours the day before with cold patch getting the worst of the potholes, but the road was still rough enough for at least one rider from another school to refer to it as “that bombed out crater field you call a TTT course”. Once we got through the “crater field” the course smoothed out a lot, but then the hills began. And here we began to encounter the fractured remnants of the teams that had gone out before us, we single riders as well of groups of two or three. It was chaos. We paced ourselves well and managed to pull out a 1st place finish by almost a minute.
I pretty much knew from the beginning that I wasn’t going to be able to race this, there was too much going on, still it was sad to stand to the side as my field rolled out for the championship race. James was a beast – he had a schedule, and a binder, and packets for each of the volunteers, with him running things I was able to move around and check in with the officials and the ECCC staff and deal with small problems as they came up. I also was able to be at the finish line to watch Miles, Liam, and Berk win their respective fields (when did we start having a real men’s team?).
This was a bit of a blur, the location that we ended up renting sight unseen at the last minute ended up being awesome. A huge room, exposed beams, and a ton of natural light. It was a great night of hanging out with friends and teammates, swapping war stories, and eating everything we could get our hands on.
This was another early start, James and I again met at Dunkin Donuts at 4:30 (thank god for 24 hr Dunkin). We got to Unity Park in Turner Falls and began setup with the help of Tori, Sara, Berk and Quinn (Tori insisting on helping despite a crash in the TTT the day before). We were set up quickly with only a few hiccups (including two cars parked on the course). As compared to the day before, the Crit went smoothly, controlling a 1 km stretch of road that is completely closed to traffic is much easier than sending riders out on a 16 mi loop and just hoping everything goes alright. Things were going well enough that I was able to hop into the crit and race. Running on pure adrenaline and a serious case of #promoterLegs I still managed to pull out a podium, mostly thanks to the awesome work of a bunch of teammates. The rest of the day ran smoothly and I was able to move around the course checking in with marshals, police officers, and officials (all of whom had things in such good shape I felt next to useless). The day ended with the podiums, both for the day, and for the season long omniums, both of which saw MIT heavily represented.
And like that it was done – we had pulled it off. The race weekend was over. James, Lucy, Dustin and myself had made it through.
A note about our sponsors
Needless to say, without the support of our sponsors much of what we do would not be possible. More than anything, hosting a race of this scale certainly wouldn’t be doable without them. We have an awesome group of product sponsors—Wheelworks, BMC, Giro/Stages, Mavic, O2 Rainwear, Rudy Project, and Supacaz. This year we were also delighted to work with Sidehill Farms Yogurt, a small dairy in the Berkshires who provided yogurt cups to all our volunteers as well as pints of maple yogurt for primes #yogurtprimes.
We also have a group of direct sponsors about whom not enough good can be said, without these organizations support this race truly couldn’t have happened:
Thoughtforms has been a long-time sponsor of the club, first at the Championship Level, and now three years as Title Sponsor. Established in 1972, Thoughtforms collaborates with clients, architects, and designers to build some of the most unique custom homes and community spaces in the Boston area. Their work has received numerous awards — in 2003 Thoughtforms was nationally recognized by Custom Home Magazine as the Custom Builder of the Year, and in 2017 they were selected for the New England Design Hall of Fame. Thoughtforms has a strong connection to MIT, with four alums working in leadership roles, as well as a number of avid cyclists, including their President, Mark Doughty, who raced professionally in Europe.
The Branta Group LLC
The Branta Group LLC has been a Championship-level sponsor of the MIT cycling team for over 7 years. As a hub of healthcare entrepreneurship, the Branta Group has founded many biotech companies, and provided capital and expertise to promote growth and business sustainability. In the community, The Branta Group is committed to encouraging students to pursue STEM education as well as endurance sports, a passion that MIT cyclists share. During the summer in 2017, The Branta Group coached a group of motivated high-school students to foster entrepreneurial growth, and MIT Cycling was proud to help. The Branta Group provided business mentoring, while MIT Cycling helped the students design experiments to quantitatively demonstrate the value of their product. You can read more about the program here.
This year was Exponent’s 14th year as an Elite-level sponsor of the MIT cycling team. Exponent is an international consulting firm that specializes in the investigation and prevention of engineering failures and has been involved in cases from airplane crashes to the design of consumer electronics. With many MIT alumni and cyclists, members of the Exponent team can often be found riding in The Greater Boston Area.
Biognosys has been an Elite-level sponsor of the MIT cycling team for three years. Specializing in proteomics data acquisition and analysis, Biognosys has pioneered many techniques that give more comprehensive coverage for proteomics, allowing new drug targets to be discovered and validated. They recently had two product launches, including their newest reference peptide kit, which enables proteomic researchers to quantify over 500 human plasma proteins. You can read more about it here. A company with a strong sports culture, Biognosys employees compete in the annual alumni SOLA relay run and local cycling races.