All posts by schaber

Ethan Sokol’s Men’s Intro weekend at the Philly Phlyer

This was my first weekend out with the team, and I had a blast! I appreciate all the help that everyone gave me so that I could make it out to the weekend—from Zack helping me to find a bike from Back Bay to David K helping me get a team Jersey to Matt helping me set up my bike.

Saturday there were 2 races: the TTT and the CR. Although it was quite windy, it was fun to work with a teammate (David Rosen) in a TTT; as the race went on, we got more comfortable with coming off the pace line, and holding close to the wheel. The circuit race was also awesome: I followed David Koppstein’s advice the whole way: stay toward the front, follow the attacks, and sprint at the finish. After my races finished, I watched the rest of our team and also hung out in the warm car as the weather was terrible—sleet, snow, and hail—still a great first day of racing.

On Sunday, we went to Temple University for the Crit. Before the crit, there was a skills clinic where we learned how to safely go over obstacles (in our case it was a broom). After the skills clinic we did a few trained laps, and then began the race—5 laps. The beginning went well, I cornered OK with the pack and was having a lot of fun riding with a group. On the third corner of the first lap, I made a turn a bit tighter/faster than I should have. The rider to my right took a line more to the outside than I expected, essentially cutting me off. To avoid crashing I veered left and then right but began to slide out, leaving me to crash grazingly into the curb. The rider behind me proceeded to crash into me, getting his handlebars stuck in my spokes. David R, was 2 bikes back and avoided the crash by bunny hopping onto the curb (unfortunately this caused him to flat—sorry for causing problems David). After a bit of disentanglement, and a brief inspection of my bike, I was ready to hop back on the course.

At this point I knew that I had a bit of ground to make up, as I now was at the back of the field, so I hopped on the bike and took it strong. Over the next couple of laps I powered through it and passed several small groups of riders, however I did not pause to rest with these groups, as I wanted to push to the front. Finally I caught up with a group of four up front, and gladly took a rest on their wheels for a bit. After half a lap of chillin’, one rider made a sharp attack. I followed as did 2 others. The four of us pushed ahead into the last lap.

On the last lap, things really got exciting. On the uphill on the first leg of the last lap, a rider from the back made an attack up the hill. Excited to join in on an attack, I followed, catching him near the top of the hill. I chilled with him after the first corner, then as we went into the back section, I pushed out an attack, sprinting down the whole stretch. I created a gap and was able to keep it through the next two corners and win the race.

For the rest of the day I watched the races and had a lot of fun. It was great to see Cameron push out in front of the field in the Men’s A. It was great to see David push for 2 prime wins, and Shaena demolish the primes as well! It was amazing to see the effort and skill of some amazing athletes and friends—everyone did amazingly well. You will definitely see me at the MIT races March 30/31!

How the race was won: Scott Burdick’s Philly Phlyer crit in Men’s C

Going into the Philly Crit, I was a bit nervous. I was still a bit pooped from the road race on Saturday where I had attempted a solo breakaway and found myself unequal to the task of staying ahead of a very determined pack. We were also racing with a combined field with a couple of especially strong men’s C, division 1 riders, so the whole thing seemed foreboding.

A fellow from Penn State went off the front almost immediately. I wasn’t feeling terribly strong so I thought I’d just sit in and monitor the situation. A few laps in, another Penn State lad attacked off the front to help him out and I stuck on his wheel. Honestly, I’m not sure how we got away from the pack. Apathy? I figured that if these guys were smart, they’d easily shell me after we had a nice gap, so I didn’t work too hard and in a couple of laps we were resorbed. After that I sat second wheel for a bit, jumping on every would-be break until the final prime when one finally stuck. I latched on to the wheel of this RPI gent who surged past me after the line, and by the time we looked back there was a decent amount of space, so we decided to work together with 5 laps to go. On the final lap, unaware of the team’s wise suggestion that I attack, I let him pull through on the back side and he attacked instead. Thankfully I was able to catch his wheel quickly and beat him around the final corner and across the line. Thanks definitely go to my teammates for some good blocking as well, particularly Matt Li, who I understand did a lot of work on the front. Without them, I’m pretty sure the Penn State juggernaut could have chased us down and put together a counterattack.

Overall I felt like this race was a great lesson on the value of being lazy and sneaky, which is to say that I had a super fun time!

Philly Phlyer 2013 recap: 5 TTT wins; 3 mass start wins!

Another great weekend for MIT cycling! 25 riders drove to Philadelphia for the season’s first team time trial and a circuit race on Saturday, followed by a crit on the Temple University campus on Sunday. MIT won the team omnium points competition for the weekend, won five of the seven team time trial competitions entered, and had three individual wins across the circuit race and criterium! Snow and hail added to the suffering the first day, but everyone returned excited to race again the next day! The team’s next major races are the 4 we are hosting: the MIT X-Pot 3.0, on 3/30-3/31.

Full Results:

Omnium: MIT first place out of 36 teams!

MA 1
WA 1

MB 3
MC 2
WC 1
MD 1
MIntro 1

MA: race stopped midway due to extremely slippery road conditions (road races in ECCC are extremely rarely called off!)
WA: Shaena 3, Katie Q 4
MB: Kuat 13, David K 29
WB: Kate W 4
MC: Matt L 20, Nate 22, Scott 25, Ernesto 26
WC: Georgia 8, Katie M 16
MD: Matt R 5, Tom 20, Anton 23
MIntro: Ethan 1, David R 7

MA: Cameron 19 +15pt primes, Joe 23 +1pt prime, Zack 29, Spencer 40
WA: Shaena 8 +30pt primes, Katie Q 14 +6pt primes
MB: Ben 4, Kuat 17, David K 10pt primes
WB: Kate 5 +8pt primes, Jen 8
MC: Scott 1 +3pt primes, Matt L 19, Nate 41, Ernesto 46, David S 58
WC: Georgia 2 +8pt primes
MD: Anton 10, Tom 12, Matt R 40
MIntro: Ethan 1
M 3/4: Ben 2, Kuat 9, Joe 29

Ben Woolston’s Philly Phlyer 2013 race report

Despite the brutal weather Saturday, this weekend was one of the most fun I’ve had so far in collegiate racing.

Team Time Trial
I got called up to do the Men’s A TTT with Zach, Cameron and Joe. To say I was nervous going into this was an understatement—all these three are much stronger than I am—and I was expecting to get dropped pretty early on. But somehow I managed to stay with the group and take (short) pulls throughout most of the the 14-mile course. Coming into the final hill, I was completely spent, and dropped off the back as the other three finished (the time for the team is taken from the third rider to cross the line). We came first by a margin of ~25 seconds, averaging 27 mph for the whole course. It was amazing (and painful) to be part of that group.

Finish photo from the men’s A TTT
Finish photo from the men’s A TTT (courtesy

Men’s B Crit
The collegiate crit on Sunday started pretty fast, and strung out quickly around the corners. After a couple of laps, I put in an early attack to try to get away, and got into a group of 4 that immediately began working together. We got caught pretty quickly though, and I sat toward the back of the pack for a little while to recover. While I was doing that, another attack went, and another strong group of 3 got off the front and started to grow a significant gap on the field. I wanted to be part of that break, but because I was toward the back of the pack, it took me a couple of laps to get into a position from which I could attack and attempt to bridge. By this time, the gap had grown to about 25 seconds, and though I bridged as hard as I possibly could, after a lap-and-a-half I realized I wasn’t going to catch them by myself. I eased up and got back into the pack as it came past, then after a lap of resting I got Kuat (MIT B rider) to come with me up to the front to try to organize a solid chase. Unfortunately, one of the guys in the breakaway (Queens University) had strong teammates in the field, and they successfully blocked our best attempts to chase. Exhausted again, I realized our best chance in this race was to try to get our sprinter (David Koppstein) into a good position to sprint for 4th place. I dropped back through the pack to find him, but having already won two prime laps (his goal for the race), he had dropped off the back a little while before. With a couple of laps left to go, two other riders individually got off the front to try to avoid the field sprint. On the last lap, I knew we had to catch them, so I went to the front to lead the chase to catch them. Right before the last corner we caught them (one of them swore quite violently at having been caught so close to the end). Having been first wheel for basically the whole last lap, I was expecting to get swarmed as we rounded the corner into the final stretch, so I took the hardest line I could through it and opened up my sprint coming out of it. I’ve no idea how this worked, but no one came around me and I won the field sprint, for 4th overall.

Men’s ¾ Crit
Having not had enough racing up to that point, and desperate to get some USAC upgrade points, I entered the Men’s ¾ USAC crit (about 90 minutes after the B crit ended). This race got started quite similarly to the B crit. There were a few early attempts at breaks (some of which Joe Near or I got into), but none of which stuck. Several laps from the end (I can’t remember how many), two guys got off the front and started to open up a gap. Having learned my lesson from bridging too late in the last race, I attacked and chased all out. It took me three quarters of a lap and a lot of suffering, but I eventually crossed the gap, and then there were three of us trying to stave off the pack for the remaining 3-4 laps. By the time I got there, one of the guys in the break (by build, very much a sprinter type) was basically exhausted so the other two of us did most of the work to stay away. As I took my pull on the straight before the last corner, I heard one of them yell “Here they come” and knew the pack was close. I didn’t want to take the last pull into the corner with a sprinter in the group, but didn’t think I had a choice with the pack closing so quickly. I came through the corner first, and sure enough the sprinter came around me before the line to take first. I took second, and third place went to the last guy in our break. The pack was right behind us, crossing the line at the ‘same time’ on the official results.

I left Philadelphia feeling exhausted but really happy. Partly because of the racing, but probably most because of the delicious Cheeseteak we stopped for before leaving!

Finish photo from the men’s 3/4 crit (courtesy
Finish photo from the men’s 3/4 crit (courtesy

Finish Photo from the Men’s ¾ Crit

Kamal’s Men’s C Crit at Columbia

I was pretty nervous going into this weekend because due to respiratory problems, I had been unable to finish my crit last weekend. My plan for the race was to contest the prime sprints*, with the intention of getting extra pack-sprint practice. Also, while C crits tend to be somewhat unpredictable, I wanted to try to work with David at the finish in case the race came down to a pack sprint.

The starting pace of the race was pretty high. As the pack strung out on the climbs and the turns, I had to make a few really hard bridging efforts. However, the pace dropped after a couple of laps and I managed to stay with the leading group. The pace surged occasionally due to attempted attacks, but they were sufficiently infrequent that the pace of the leading group was manageable. As the race progressed, I made a deliberate effort to figure out how to position myself for the last couple of laps — I had been hanging out mostly on the back of the front group, but I knew I would have enough energy to contest the sprint. The C field isn’t very good at cornering, so in order to maintain momentum, I wanted to make sure I could pick a line which would allow me to advance. The course features a little hill after a corner, and I knew I wanted to carry as much speed as possible into that particular corner, so that I could advance through the pack during the brief climb.

Fortunately, when the second-to-last lap rolled around, I was able to follow the plan I had made, and I was near the front of the pack for the last lap. I managed to make contact with David (who had responsibly stayed near the front of the lead group and thus didn’t realize I was still in that group). Together we worked up to the front for the sprint, and (in an awkward kind of switching leadout), we outpaced the rest of the pack. David took second and I took third, and we were first/second in the pack sprint (there was a rider off the front, which I managed not to realize despite yelling teammates on the sidelines).

*I never heard the bell for a prime lap.

David Koppstein and Kamal Ndousse contest the field sprint
David Koppstein and Kamal Ndousse contest the field sprint (photo by Jan Valerie Polk)

Shaena Berlin’s Women’s A Crit Win at Columbia

Going into this crit, I held vague hopes of winning the green sprinter’s jersey but didn’t even consider that it might be possible to win the race; I’m a time-trialist, not a crit rider! I made the race hard from the start, trying to string out the field and learn the course. The group of A/B women felt a little sketchy at times, braking too much on the downhills and taking “interesting” lines through the corners. At the first prime lap, I moved up to the front and gave the current green jersey holder Rose a perfect leadout. Brilliant move, now the gap between my sprint points and hers was up to 10 points. She is a smart, tactical rider, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to make up for that, so I sat back for a while, making occasional half-hearted surges and saving energy on the rest of the primes.

With four laps to go, I felt disheartened; this race would amount to a mass sprint, and I would end up mid-pack at best. I decided to try another attack, just so I wouldn’t feel bad about myself for not trying everything I could to prevent that mass sprint. I came around the corner that turned onto the extended mild hill toward the finishing stretch around 6th wheel. Then, I up-shifted and moved far to the right-hand side of the road, riding pretty hard out of the saddle. Someone yelled to chase, but I was quite far away from the field laterally. Surprise, separation, speed, not attacking off the front – it worked! I looked back and was shocked to see no one there. I thought, “*expletive*, now I have to go really hard!!”, and I did. 3 laps to go, I rode across the line with a growing gap. Not having to worry about other riders, I could take the corners and downhills with my ideal lines. I wish I had heart rate data for those laps, because it would have probably been terrifying. ½ lap to go, and a strong Pitt rider Hayley Wickstrom flew past me. I thought, “Well, 2nd place in a crit is great for me!” and pushed hard enough to catch back on to her wheel. Around 100 meters to the finish line, I thought, “Actually, maybe I can sprint by her” and did. My first mass-start win since I raced Intro in 2010!

Shaena defeating the second place rider—with plenty of daylight in between
Shaena defeating the second place rider—with plenty of daylight in between (photo by Jan Valerie Polk)

Recap of MIT’s Results at Columbia/Stevens ECCC Road Weekend

Full results:

Places in Crit:
Team omnium: MIT #1/29
MA: Joe Near 15, Zack Ulissi 37 +9pt primes
WA: Shaena Berlin 1 +4pt primes
MB: Kuat Yessenov 7, Ben Woolston 8, David Singerman 42
MC: David Koppstein 2, Kamal Ndousse 3, Ernesto Jiminez 39, Matt Li 45, Nate Dixon 54, Marcos Esparza 64
WC: Kate Wymbs 1 +11pt primes
MD: Matt Redmond 6 +5pt primes, Anton Hunt 7 + 2pt primes

Places in Circuit:
Team omnium: MIT #3/28
MA: Zack Ulissi 2, Joe Near 18, Spencer Schaber 35
WA: Shaena Berlin 3
MB: Ben Woolston 9, Kuat Yessenov 17, Oliver Schrang 37, David Singerman 40
MC: David Koppstein 19, Kamal Ndousse 20, Matt Li 21, Nate Dixon 29, Ernesto Jiminez 45, Marcos Esparza 52
WC: Kate Wymbs 3
MD: Anton Hunt 13, Matt Redmond 17

Kate Wymbs: Stevens Women’s C Circuit Race

The Stevens Circuit Race was my fourth mass start road race of my season and of my career but by far the longest: 25 miles in New Jersey’s Watchung Reservation in the form of four 6.2 mile laps featuring climbs, rolling hills and twisty descents. As someone who fancies herself more of a sprinter, I was a little more than anxious. Now for the race details: With no chance to pre-ride the course, the riders used the first lap to feel out the course. We learned the sketchy feeling of descending in a pack (the erratic lines, bustling, over-breaking and surprise pot-holes), where the big climbs were, and where the subtle but deadly shallow climbs that crept up when you least expected it.

Toward the end of the first lap, I decided to attack, to shake up the field a bit and see if I could get on a break with a few other riders. It failed—no one else wanted to pull and the pack caught us. The second lap, the Penn State girl started to break away from the pack after the major climb, the pack noticed this but was reluctant to chase her down. “She’ll fall back,” they were saying. But after another mile she appeared to be gaining ground and I decided to close the gap. I attacked and after another mile or two I managed to catch her. Looking behind me I saw the pack approaching up the final hill in close pursuit behind us and felt a wave of disappointment, and sat up. I looked forward again and to my further frustration, saw the Penn State girl spin out of reach reclaiming her lead and never to be seen again. I faded back into the pack and took the third lap to recover. On the final lap, I made the conscious decision that I wasn’t going to use my brakes at all descending the twisty hills. Instead, by pedaling through and counter-steering, I would use my Montezuma skills from Training Camp to get a break on the pack. It worked. With two miles to go, I had a substantial lead on the pack with one BU rider chasing. She caught me, and we traded off pulls until we came to the last descents, which I lead and later realized meant I was leading her out to the finish line sprint. Whoops. She took advantage of this and exhausted but pleased, I coasted into third place.

Kate in a break with Anne Raymond from BU
Kate in a break with Anne Raymond from BU

After sitting in at second wheel the entirety of the Columbia Criterium the day before and sprinting to first place on top of earning 11 points in the sprint premiums and making third place in this circuit race, I totaled 61 points for the team omnium and decided it was time to upgrade. Women’s B, here I come!

Rutgers Race Reports 2013

MIT dominated the first ECCC road weekend with smart tactics and strong legs in all race categories. 21 riders traveled to the Rutgers Frozen-Toed Opener to compete in a 2-mile ITT, a crit, and a hilly circuit race. MIT won the Team Omnium with 206 pts (Penn State #2, 167 pts).

Be warned: with all of the excitement about the races, this is a long post!

All Results (place):
MA: Zack 6, Joe 8
WA: Shaena 1
MB: Ben 2, Oliver 12, Kuat 21
MC: Scott 3, David K 4, Stephen 7, Kamal 13, Nate 16, Ernesto 22,
WC: Kate 1, Georgia 3, Edrie 22
MD: Matt R 2, Tom 5
WIntro: Katie 5, Marianna 8

MA: Joe 16, Zack 38 +1pt prime
WA: Shaena 10 +13pt prime
MB: Kuat 12, Ben 33
MC: Scott 3 +3pt prime, David K 8, Matt Li 11, Stephen 15 +5pt prime, Nate 27, Kamal 28 +3pt prime, Ernesto 29
WC: Georgia 6 +11pt prime, Kate 8 +7pt prime, Edrie 21
MD: Matt R 2, Tom 6 +3pt prime
WIntro: Katie 4, Marianna 7

MA: Zack 5 +1lap, Joe 18
WA: Shaena 7
MB: Kuat 14, Ben 19, Oliver 25, David S 41
MC: David K 1, Scott 4, Stephen 12, Kamal 13, Ernesto 21, Matt Li 28
WC: Georgia 4, Kate 6, Edrie 19
MD: Tom 5, Matt 8
WIntro: Katie 3, Marianna 10

Captain Zack U’s Men’s A Circuit Race
I had high hopes for the circuit race this year after winning the B’s last year in a solo breakaway, but with PSU, Pitt and UVM all showing good teamwork in the crit I was worried that they were going to manufacture an early break that I’d miss. I had a long warmup and made sure to get a spot on the front row of staging. The Tufts rider next to me attacked right at the start and I jumped on his wheel. Alan (Shippensburg) attacked right after on the hill and I followed that as well, Samson (Pitt) jokingly shouted “that’s the move” since the attack was way too early in the race, at the top a spectator shouted that Robin was present, and with that the break of the day got away (Robin, Wyatt (PSU), Alan, and myself). With Wyatt in the break the PSU guys were blocking in the field, and Wyatt took full advantage of this and refused to do any work in the break (smart racing). After a while working well together, we had a sizable gap on the field and Alan/Wyatt were dropped on a particularly hard pull from Robin. Robin and I continued until we had almost lapped the field, but I wasn’t able to hold his wheel when he made a final push and I spent the next ~10 laps solo until I also got to the back of the field. The officials didn’t neutralize the field and we weren’t allowed to work with it, so we spent a few laps a few bike lengths from the back until we were able to get around, and Robin dropped me again. Brendan appeared after his own solo-lapping and dropped me a lap later. Wyatt/Alan then made it up to me and we spent the last few laps together, with those two sprinting around me leaving me with 5th place.

I wish I could have finished a bit better, and maybe could have if the officials had neutralized the field and let Robin and I pass earlier in the race, but regardless I honestly feel that I gave it 100% and completely buried myself. Last years’ effort: 290W NP for 40 minutes, this year: 315W NP for 70 minutes.

The break of the day
The break of the day
Deep in the pain cave
Deep in the pain cave: great pain face Zack!

David Koppstein’s Men’s C Circuit Race
After failing to sprint on the final lap in Saturday’s criterium because I lost track of the laps to go, I decided to count the laps in the circuit race. This clever stratagem led to victory.

Seriously though, this race was the most fun I’ve ever had on a bike, and it was all because of the incredible MIT men’s C field. We had so many strong riders, and we worked really well together! As we rolled out from staging, Matt Li and Ernesto Jimenez led the pack and kept the pace high. Acting on Zack’s advice, I remembered to get to the front at the bottom of the hill, sag climbed to the middle of the pack, and then worked my way back up the peloton on the downhill through drafting. As the race progressed, MIT riders started to become aggressive at the front. Kamal Ndousse put in a strong, unexpected attack that forced Princeton and Army to chase, letting me, Scott Burdick, and Stephen Shum sit in. When Kamal was caught, Stephen attacked, again forcing the field to chase. When a four-man breakaway threatened to get off the front, Oliver Schrang shouted encouragement from the sideline to catch their wheel, so I forced myself up to them and it eventually petered out. Towards the final laps, Stephen talked me through setting up the sprint finish, telling me to stay on the inside of the course. With one lap to go, I got on Scott’s wheel and he gave it everything he had up the final climb, delivering me to the top in first wheel. It was too early to be first, though, and Princeton’s Jacob Lapenna was glued to my wheel. I didn’t want to lead him out, so I got in an aero tuck for the downhill, soft pedaled, and watched behind me.

In the heat of the moment, I forgot all about Nicole’s advice on finding the right gear, using my arms, and kicking up with my knees. All I could think about was 1) find the 200m line, and 2) jump hard enough to get separation. At ~250 meters to go, I decided it was time. I kicked in a frenzy, sprinting on instinct and adrenaline. I didn’t look back until the end, and was exhilarated to see that nobody had been able to catch my wheel — I had won the race! Watch out ECCC, the MIT men’s C field is strong, rides smart, and works together seamlessly. We’re here to stay. [Hopefully not in the C field to stay! —Ed.]

Finish photo of David's win
Finish photo of David's win
Group shot
Group shot

Katie Maass’s Weekend
This weekend was my first cycling race weekend and I had a blast. My favorite part was during the crit when I was sticking at second wheel and going through the corners quickly. I started to see in practice what I had only heard people talk about before about bike racing. I definitely have a lot to learn about how to implement race strategy, but it was really fun to go out there, bike fast, and try some things out. I can’t thank my teammates enough for all of their support – be it answering my numerous questions, cheering me on, or helping me get ready to race. I felt very prepared for my first race weekend and that made it really fun. I can’t wait to do it again soon!

Tom O’Grady’s Weekend
This was my first ever weekend bike racing with the team. What an experience. My main emotion from the weekend is “why did it take me so long to discover this sport?” I honestly can’t remember having so much fun in any sport before. I love endurance sports, and have a background in running, so what clinched it for me? Three things, I think. First, the tactical element: conserving energy, watching for breaks, going ahead at the right time; re-living the races in my head afterwards is already proving dangerously addictive. Second, the teamwork: the teammates cheering me along at every bend (Ben W sounds particularly menacing when shouting “attack! attack!”); the help, advice and sheer fun from everyone else on the team; the sense of working together for a common goal. I’ve never experienced this before as a runner. Third, the fact that everyone earns points. Sure, I didn’t win many. But we couldn’t have won the omnium this weekend without the points from C, D and intro riders. I love that everyone played their part, even the complete novices like me.

This is supposed to be a race report, so I should talk about the races, too. In the men’s D crit, Matt Redmond and I had a simple plan: stay at the front to avoid crashes, and get Matt to the line for a sprint finish. It worked perfectly. I knew where the 400 m mark was, knew Matt was on my wheel, and sprinted like mad. Matt shot past me with 200 m to go and finished 2nd by half a wheel length. Next time we’ll nail it. In the men’s D circuit race, I saw the big hill and smiled. I have a chance, here, I thought. I gave it everything I had: staying just back from the front, covering attacks, and attacking myself with 3 laps to go. I got out in front with a West Point rider for one lap but we couldn’t sustain it on such a short course. In the end I was happy with 5th after giving 110%. Next time, I would do it differently. Conserve my energy, let someone else chase the attacks, sit back and have something in the tank at the very end. But that’s why I want to get back out there: so many lessons learnt, so much more to do…next year I’ll train like a beast and be competing in the higher categories. I wish it would come sooner.

Kate Wymbs’s Women’s C ITT Win
5am: I woke up excited and turned on my pump-up music infecting my roommates with my excitement. Five hours of sleep – so what? After two and a half years at MIT, sleep deprivation doesn’t scare anymore. Let’s race.

5:30am: Big news! The night before on the drive up a hawk with a death wish and flying in the opposite direction as the car carrying my bike crashed into and taco-ed my new rear wheel with PowerTap hub. My reaction, ARE YOU JOKING?? But it was no joke, nor was it a joke that I still had my first road cycling race ever in two hours, wheel or no wheel. I had to get my head back on straight.

6am: We arrived at the site of the ITT with the pre-race rush. Between registering, signing forms 27 times, pinning numbers, and finding bathrooms, I was breathless before I even got on my bike. Zach and Shaena generously lent me a rear wheel to warm up and then to race on, and I was off to pre-ride the course. It was an out-and-back 2.2 mile loop with a sharp 180° turn and only very slight changes in elevation. I returned, changed wheels and listened to teammates talk ITT strategy

7:30am: I was about to set up some rollers to get the blood flowing before attempting to go as fast as I could for six minutes when I heard the call: “WOMEN’S C TO STAGING”. Crap. No warm up, but at least I got to pre-ride the course. Maybe fifth in line of the Women’s C, I listened to the other girls’ chatter as we all anxiously awaited our turn. Twenty seconds after the racer in front of me, I was off, or would be, as soon I as managed to clip in. Charged by that small delay, I revved up my legs and powered through my gears. Fifty seconds in I realized I would not be able to maintain that speed, 24-26.5 mph for much longer, so I dropped into a slightly easier gear. Half a minute later I saw my first target, the racer who had left 20 seconds a head of me, and I saw that I was gaining on her. I picked up the pace and passed her. Not long after I reached the 180° turn-around, and slowing down perhaps too much, I made a tight turn, rather than the faster, wider turn. To compensate and based on the knowledge that the second half was shorter than the first half, I accelerated rapidly to ~22 mph and tracked down and passed my second rider. My heart rate averaged 182 bpm and I began to feel the lactic acid building up in my legs. But there she was, another ride within my clutches. Forcing my legs to maintain their cadence, I passed the third and final racer just before seeing the road sign that was to signal my final sprint effort. I paused, took a deep breath and then gave it my all, coming into the finish line with a time of 5:46.73.

11:15am: I saw the scoreboard of the events earlier in the day and to my amazement, find my name at the top of the WC ITT list: 1 Katherine Wymbs Massachusetts Institute of Technology 32 points! I exploded into a smile and started hugging each teammate that I could find. Wow!

Scott Burdick’s Men’s C Road Race
The Rutgers Crit was a lovely race on a nice little course with an ugly, pot-holed downhill corner and a gentle climb to the finish. For the dozen or so laps, the pack tooted around, there was a bit of sketchy cornering (I helped with that) and Stephen took the first prime. As we came up on the second prime, Nate rolled over and suggested “go for it” to which I replied “ehyup.” Kamal contested the sprint and I followed up behind him and kept pedaling after the line. I flew through the dicey corner best I could and continued hard for about half a lap until I saw that only a fellow from Middlebury had followed me. I said to him “hey,” and he said “want to do this?” and I said “let’s give it a shot.” We were joined by a Princeton chap eventually, and after some confusion we fell into a nice paceline for what seemed like an hour or an hour and a half. The race was 30 minutes so I could be wrong. Meanwhile, my heroic, handsome teammates were doing some amazing blocking back in the pack. I heard after that the other riders were frustrated and pointedly wondering if there was MIT in the break, and I like to imagine our guys sheepishly grinning and professing not to know. With three laps to go, my hamstrings sadly exploded and I fell away from the other leaders. Anyway, I managed to stretch my legs out and recovered well enough to still finish ahead of the pack. It was pretty fun for my first road race, but not quite as fun as watching Koppstein blast ahead of everyone to win the circuit race on Sunday!

Georgia’s Race Report: Women’s C
This was my first race weekend with the MIT team, and it was AMAZING! I learned a few things during this weekend:
1. WARM UP. It’s very important to warm up on the trainer, especially when it’s 32 degrees outside. With an early morning start to the ITT (7am), I didn’t really give myself enough time to warm up properly, and could definitely feel it in the race. My head was saying “GO”, my legs were saying “NO!” But it still turned out great (3rd place finish), so next time I know!
2. GO FOR IT. The Criterium race was definitely the most exciting of the weekend. With Kate Wymbs also in Women’s C, we decided to work together and see if we could take away a few sprint laps and hold on for the finish. Our team strategy worked! At the start of the race, we played it easy and stayed in the pack to get a feel for the sharp corners and downhill section. On the first points lap, no one was making any moves, so I gave Kate the signal and we hit it on the last stretch. I gave her a lead 400 m out, and she sprinted to the finish, with me right behind her, a 1-2 sprint finish! We pretty much did the same for the second points lap, this time I took the lead with Kate right behind me. We stayed in the pack for the rest of the race, jostling at the front for who would pull the pack. It was great having another teammate with you, and we stayed together through the end. Teamwork goes a long way!
3. PAIN CAN BE AWESOME. The last race of the weekend was a circuit race with a steep hill, which basically meant pounding it up the hill 15 times in a row, with a few seconds to catch your breath on the downhill stretch. After my second time up, I was already feeling the pain in my legs, and I started to think, “I have to do this how many more times??” But never fear; adrenaline, cheering fans, and chasing down the rider ahead of you can make pain feel like fun! Epic race, epic effort, and epic riders. This makes you want to push yourself harder every time!

Matt’s Highlights of the Trip (by Matt Redmond)

As thirty travel-weary MIT cyclists tetris’d their bags into the bottom of the bus, they collectively smiled—tomorrow they would be mounting their saddles and pedalling off into the deserts and mountains surrounding Borrego Springs, CA. They loaded their luggage and settled into their seats for the 80 mile drive from the airport, preparing mentally for the arduous rides ahead. After a particularly hilarious showing of Mean Girls, the bus rolled into the dust-covered hamlet, and deposited the MIT Cycling Team into their new home for the next week.

Groceries arrived by the truckload—800,000 calories of bananas, bread, English muffins, Cytomax, apples, chocolate, and all sorts of delicious consumables were ferried in to Hacienda la Verbena by the advanced food recon team of Shaena Berlin and Jen Wilson. They had purchased so much food that other shoppers at Costco mistook their shopping cart for a store fixture, attempting to remove items for their own use.

After a night’s rest, the team woke up and cooked breakfast, then congregated in the garage where they were met by various alumni and affiliates for the day’s riding. For me, the first day consisted of a ride up through Yaqui Pass (a deceptively shallow climb to 1500’), followed by a wind-battered individual-time-trial along San Felipe road to 4200’, then a nerve-shatteringly terrifying descent down Montezuma Grade (10 miles downhill at 8% grade with sweeping views of the desert playa at nearly every corner). Video:

The ride terminated (as most rides ought to) in a hot tub. Once our muscles were soaked in the 102 degree water, many people opted to upload ride data to Strava and Golden Cheetah, comparing critical power curves and KOM/QOM attempts from the day’s assaults. After a particularly sumptuous dinner, I promptly fell asleep to visions of shaved legs and chainrings.

The next day was brutal—a brisk warmup paceline through town on the wheels of Zack Ulissi and Ben Woolston at 340 watts, followed by a series of intervals up Montezuma grade in a 40 mph headwind. As a sprinter, I thought there was nothing worse than a 80 minute climb through the mountains, but I revised my opinion on that: the wind proved to be more of an enemy than the gradient. Jen Wilson and I struggled mightily throughout the ascent, and at times it felt like we needed to maintain threshold power to simply stay upright in the face of the Aeolus’ blustery rage, but cresting the top of the pass to the silent smile of the Yeta at Ranchita Store kept us in good spirits. The descent was fraught with cross-winds, but after seeing the turns yesterday, I was able to punch it a little bit more on the downhills. Kamal Ndousse joined me in my quest for a downhill KOM, but we got stuck behind a semi-truck and had to abort our cannonball run.

Day three was a recovery day – more specifically, it was a day of “recoveracing” as the team captains led with a cornering clinic. Nate Dixon demonstrated the principle of countersteering, and Zack and Shaena showed us how to get our bodies out over the side of the bike to change the center of gravity and allow tighter cornering lines. After the cornering clinic, the team completed a loop around town and came back for hot cocoa and lunch.

The next day brought Team Time Trial (TTT) practice in the same loop as the recovery ride – Ben Woolston graciously coached the Men’s C/D TTT team (Matt Redmond, Ernesto Jimenez, Steven Ji, Kamal Ndousse, David Rosen) into good form, allowing us to blast down the highway at 25 mph. Flying past fruit orchards on perfectly coated pavement was the highlight of the trip for me, and I’m excited to get the TTT team back together in Boston this spring. After stopping over at the house to attempt to true my wheel (spoiler alert: I failed, and had Nate bail me out), I took off for Yaqui Pass to get some climbing miles in, but had to cut my ride short when my knee pain started to flare up.

The rest of the trip proceeded similarly – riding out in the morning for several hours, followed by after-ride snacks of nachos, guacamole, and/or hummus. Day #5 was the “hammer” ride, where the group treated a three mile section of road like a race, and wound up with a collective case of exercise-induced asthma. Or something. Read more about this in David Koppstein’s post here

On day six, Peter Vanderwarker was kind enough to take professional-grade pictures of the team – we lined up for paceline photos and individual shots, then went out for another recovery ride in the desert.

On the final day (day eight—my knees were telling me to skip day seven’s ride), riders decided to go for broke. Nate Dixon (displeased with the teams in the super bowl, apparently) decided that he was going to ride until dark, and managed to do more than 100 miles with 10,000 feet of climbing. Zack Ulissi even set the KOM up the mountain at 305 W! I climbed Montezuma again with Jen Wilson, and we met up with Kate Wymbs, Katie Maas, and Steven Ji for a nice long downhill ride, opting to skirt Yaqui pass in favor of a longer route to the south. Kate and I spent much of the ride hammering hard on the front for five minute intervals, and I managed to set a five-minute power record on the last day!

Cleanup that night was bittersweet, as we packed our bikes into cases and wept for the loss of our beloved 49ers (well, okay, Zack was rooting for the Ravens the whole time, but Stephen Shum and I were upset). When the bus was packed in the morning, we rolled out to the airport and said our final goodbyes to the sweeping vistas of Southern California. After hundreds of miles of riding, and thousands of kilojoules spent, we took off for the frozen environs of Cambridge, MA with new stories to tell and new friends to race.