The first race weekend of the ECCC Road season has now quickly come and gone (and we are already filling our competition with fear by getting some awesome results!). Our team had a great showing, with 15 riders coming out, 6 of whom were racing road for the first time! Even though it was a bit cold and rainy, everyone was excited and eager to get out on the roads and race the TTT and Circuit Race! Without further ado, here are recaps from Berk and Liam:
“This is Berk writing! I am a first-year graduate student in the MIT AeroAstro department, and it is my first year racing with MIT Cycling. The Philly Phlyer was my first bike race ever, so I felt it would be a shame if I didn’t document the experience with a blog post!
It was finally time for all of the winter training to pay off. I had no idea what was coming for me in the road race, so I kept focused on doing well in the TTT, the first event of Saturday morning, and hoped that the road race afterwards would take care of itself. The conditions were rather gnarly that morning; there was a decent amount of snow cover, and there were snowploughs clearing the course less than 30 minutes before the first race. This meant wet and cold conditions, conditions that would usually mean being on the trainer at home. The crit the next morning had already been cancelled the night before, which was unfortunate, but not the worst news for a green rider like me.
I was nervous racing in the Men’s A TTT for my first race ever, but also really excited. Justin, Wade, Quinn and I had not had any decent weather in Boston to practice beforehand, so we did a short run of the course to feel it out. I definitely felt a little better after we pushed the pace for a few minutes and practiced our pulls.
I was amped when we pulled up to the line. It was great to have Justin, the most experienced rider in the bunch and an awesome TTer, set the pace from the beginning. I was perhaps a little too excited, because I was finding that my pulls were a little too hard, and my turns a little ambitious right off the bat. Unfortunately, we couldn’t keep Wade with us, but Justin, Quinn and I maintained a strong pace until the finish. We missed second place by 2 seconds, which was frustrating considering that any one of the easily-avoidable time losses we had could have secured us the better spot. But you live and learn, and I think we were all satisfied with the effort we put into the pedals.
Unfortunately, there was only about an hour of respite between the Men’s A TTT and the Men’s C RR, so I had to use my recovery time very efficiently. That is exactly when things starting going downhill. After a short cooldown on the trainer and some food, about 20 mins before the race, I realized that I had taken a little piece of metal in the rear tire. Oh no.
Suddenly my mind was on overdrive. I quickly swapped an inner tube, put some more food down, attached my number on my jersey, filled my bottles, and rushed to the line. I was the very last rider to pull up, shivering, wet, and definitely not in the best place mentally. Not a good way to start my first road race.
For the road race, my goal was to stick near the front, no matter what. I didn’t want to miss out on the action, and wanted to gauge the strength of the field. Since the MIT C field is deep (there was Charles, Quinn, PK, Ethan, Wade and I that morning), I figured we could make something happen in the front.
It was fast. I didn’t mind, since I was cold and could use some warming up. Far from being efficient, I decided that I would chase every single breakaway down. I found being aggressive in the front to be thrilling; Quinn and I even tried to break away towards the beginning of the second of four laps, but we were absorbed quickly. On the same lap, on a 180-degree turn, I narrowly avoided a crash after some (MIT) rider in front of me (who know who you are 😉 I love you very much anyways) lost their line and I took evasive action by sliding into a snow bank. I watched the entire pack blow by me, and had to put in a big uphill chase to get back up to the front. I soon realized I was burning through my matches very quickly, and to break away from this pack would be almost impossible anyways.
The race alternated between tons of freewheeling on the flats, and the occasional furious chase. The pack stayed together until the last lap, where the first of two small climbs ripped the group apart. Charles and I managed to stick in the front, and hoped for a final attack on the second climb. But unfortunately, neither of us had saved enough energy, and we started to fall through the front group on the final climb. It all ended in a bunch sprint, where Charles and I placed 11th and 10th respectively. (Observe the very happy but cold-and-grimy post-race picture below!) I was proud to have gotten my first points for MIT Cycling, and was happy to survive the horrible conditions with no more than a trainer flat and a runny nose.
The race was a great learning experience for me, a veritable trial-by-fire. I learned a lot about teamwork, the value of preparation, and the importance of efficient racing. I am no stranger to putting my head down and suffering (I did break my FTP record in the TTT, which was awesome), but the tactics of road racing are still new to me. I’m glad to have had such an awesome team around me, teaching me the ropes, being the reassuring voices while we are redlining in the TTT, sharing their warm ramen post-race, pigging out on infinite salad during the team dinner, getting pulled over by irritated police with too much time in NJ, and nearly avoiding a horrible car crash on the Mass Pike. (Yeah, those didn’t make it into the blog post.) I am looking forward to many awesome in and out of the saddle adventures with y’all! I also want to give a shoutout to the MIT Women’s teams for crushing it in great style (picture below), and schooling aspiring riders like me on racing. You are an inspiration to us all!
But for now, Berk out. See y’all in l’Enfer du Nord! [So wait, if you win, are you the King in the North? 😉 ]”
“Road racing season is finally here! It’s hard to believe that training camp was nearly two months ago, and the excitement was palpable among the team as the Philly Phlyer – our first race weekend — approached. At long last, after months of conversations about watts and kilos, leg hair and Zwift, and Pop-Tarts and gear ratios, we would get to defend the ECCC road championship title.
Despite an ominous forecast and the cancellation of Sunday’s crit due to weather, fifteen of us made the drive to Philadelphia on Friday afternoon. I drove with Ethan, and quickly learned the first of the weekend’s many lessons: it’s really important to leave early! The drive was long, and our 11 pm arrival was certainly not ideal for the 5:30 AM wake-up the next morning.
Saturday kicked off with the TTT, which – despite the cold, wet, and muddy course – went excellently for the team. First up was the Men’s C team, featuring PK, Charles, and Ethan, who put in a terrific effort to come in second place. Dmitro and I followed as the Men’s D team. Enduring a steady stream of muddy, salty water kicking up from our wheels, we drafted our way into a fourth place finish. I absolutely loved every second of it – all of our time spent TTT’ing on Mystic Lake Parkway and in California had paid off! Behind us were Amanda and Georgia, the Women’s C TTT, who won their race. Not a bad first race for Amanda!
The Men’s A TTT, with Berk, Justin, Wade, and Quinn, powered its way to a third place finish, just two seconds off of the second place team. Meanwhile, the Women’s A TTT – Katy, Kate, Anne, and Tori – won their race to bring home over 100 points for the team.
After a quick bite to eat and warm-up session, the Men’s C and D racers headed down to the line for the start of our races. The C racers – Quinn, PK, Charles, Ethan, Wade, and Berk – comprised nearly 1/7th of the field, which they used to their advantage in a thrilling race. Berk and Quinn chased attack after attack, bridging between groups to keep MIT in the lead pack. Charles, meanwhile, shrewdly limited his watts by hopping from wheel to wheel, drafting our opponents to stick with the leaders. With PK and Quinn blocking, Berk and Charles sprinted their ways to 10th and 11th place finishes, respectively.
Dmitro and I started after the C racers in what would prove to be a crash-filled Schuykill Scramble. Unfortunately, my race ended just seven minutes in after an accidental crossing of wheels, but Dmitro stuck it out for a solid finish.
After a quick trip to the EMS with Justin to get cleaned up (thanks again, Justin!), we headed to the line to watch the Women’s A/B and C races. They were both truly thrilling from start to finish. The A/B race split into three groups almost immediately: a three-person break, followed by a chase group containing Tori and Katy, and a larger pack behind, controlled by Anne. About two laps in, the second group split further when a rider attacked. With Katy blocking, Tori managed to bridge the attack with another rider, forming a three-person group that worked together for the remainder of the race. Thanks to Katy and Anne’s deft control of their groups, Tori’s chase group stuck together for the remainder of the race, bringing her to a fifth place sprint finish in her first ever A’s race. Both Anne and Katy finished in the top 10, too, capping a very successful weekend for the women’s A squad.
Meanwhile, in the C’s, Kate stuck with the five-person lead group the entire time, which steadily grew a sizeable lead over the main pack. On the climb to the finish, she attacked and completely smoked her competitors, winning her first ever road race.
All in all, a great first weekend of racing for the team! I can’t wait for L’Enfer du Nord – until next time!”
For those on the team that have not yet raced, we are excited to see you out there in the coming weeks!
-Emma and PK