All posts by tobieh

L’Enfer Du Nord, The Day of the Breakaway


After the Shippensburg race weekend got cancelled due to inclement weather, the second day of the Hell of the North was cancelled as well. But regardless, MIT cyclists were eager to attack the ITT and criterium of April 14th, and had dominant performances in both events.

Liam demonstrating proper sprint technique in his criterium win!
Liam demonstrating proper sprint technique in his criterium win!

Read Dustin’s account of the weekend and Men’s B Crit below:

Going into this weekend, I was pretty apprehensive about what it might bring. The forecast continued to look grimmer as the weekend drew closer and by Friday, the weather gods were calling for temperatures in the mid-thirties and some mixed precipitation. Sweet. Awesome. Great for cornering hard in a crit with a new bike.

The ITT in the morning went well with MIT sweeping many of the top spots in all categories and pulling in a huge number of Omnium points. Go Tech! And as we transitioned over to Dartmouth’s Frat Row to get ready for the crit, things dried up and it actually began to look like we could have some good conditions for racing. We had a blast watching the early races with Coach Nicole providing commentary on strategy and suggestions on critical points in the course. She turned to me, Berk, and Quinn (aka the Killa Beeeees aka MIT Men’s B riders) and asked, “So what’s your strategy? Do you guys know what you’re going to do?” I replied, “Yeah we have a detailed agenda. Many planning. Much strategy.” We of course hadn’t discussed anything.

The race kicked with a fast few laps and then things settled in until the bell rang for the first prime lap. Berk attacked like a bat out of hell and 4 riders chased. As soon I saw them hit the finish line, I sprinted out of the group to draw up next to the 5 riders yelling “Let’s go, let’s go we have a gap, time to work!” in classic Liam fashion. Everyone gave me a quick glance and sat up, ready to head back to the pack. Except, of course, Berk who is always down for getting #rekt.

Now, Coach Nicole might say it’s stupid to attack 10 minutes into a 50-minute race in a two-man break with a teammate since the pack would almost certainly work hard to shut it down. But when in bike racing, YOLO as bike racers do (or maybe YGDS as some might say). So anyway, lap after lap we steadily grew the gap 2 seconds here, 5 seconds there. Until finally with 2 laps to go we turned the corner and there was the pack. We had lapped the field and, we were absolutely thrilled to find, the Quinn Bee was sitting at the front – totally wiped after a long day of blocking and shutting down attacks.

As it turned out, we had executed team strategy perfectly, with Berk and I working together very well at the front and Quinn doing everything he could to keep the rest of the race from catching us. I’d never had the opportunity to cruise casually across a crit finish line shoulder to shoulder with a great teammate and I don’t expect it’ll happen again soon- it’s definitely something I’d recommend giving a try if you ever have a chance. Sometimes you just need to decide to go for it in a race and once in a blue moon it works out exactly the way you’d hoped.

Read Tori’s account of the Women’s A/B crit below:

Repping MIT in the break!
Repping MIT in the break!

This weekend marked the first time this season that we had 3 women in the A/B race, since Amy just upgraded to the B’s! With no Sunday races, we stepped up to the crit ready to empty the tank with whatever we had left. In our race, and early attack split the field and resulted in a break of 5 riders, including myself and Emma. We rode a majority of the race with just the 5 of us. Despite getting caught near the end, an RPI rider attacked again and we re-formed the break with a substantial gap. Getting into the break (twice!) and riding there for most of the race had taken quite a bit out of my legs, and so I used what I had left to lead out Emma into and out of the final corner, and get her in position for the sprint. Her bike skipped a gear near the very end of the sprint, and she took a close second to the RPI rider. I rode in for 3rd in the Women’s A category and 5th overall. Coach Nicole was there, and provided great strategy and insights (and much-needed hot water) all day. The team had an incredible showing today, and I’m really excited to see what we can do in the final weekend of the conference season!

Mansfield Madness – track racing without track racing



The second road race weekend featured some dominant performances from our women in the A field. Emma not only won the road race, she also placed 2nd in the Women’s A criterium, with Tori picking off primes to get a huge lead in the points competition. In the men’s D criterium, we saw a great display of teamwork where our riders launched attacks throughout the race. The kept this up until Dmitro attacked for a 2nd time, and stayed away until just before the finish line on the last lap. Miles, Andre, and Dmitro ultimately nailed 3 of 5 top spots in the race.

Berk, Quinn, and Dustin, i.e. the “Killa B’s” also employed some effective team tactics, which involved a heroic effort from Dustin to initiate the winning 3-man breakaway, and stay away from the field to ultimately take 2nd. In a true ECCC fashion, it was yet another cold weekend, which featured some snow flurries on Sunday, but everyone raced hard nonetheless. It was great to see some of the strategy we’d learned from Nicole get implemented (and work!) in races.

Read Miles’ recap of the weekend below:

The UConn race weekend was my first time racing, so my main goal was to stay upright and get a sense of how strong everyone else was. It was pretty chilly on Saturday morning and I made full use of Quinn’s luxurious heated seats on the drive to the TTT. There were two Men’s D teams: myself, Dmitro and Tobi on one and Felix, Biswaroop and André on the other. I was expecting the TTT to be an unpleasant suffer-fest, but I had an absolute blast! There’s not much that can beat riding fast outside with your teammates after being holed up inside on the trainer all winter. Our Men’s D teams ended up coming in 1st and 2nd place, even beating the times of the two Men’s C teams, and the Women’s A and Men’s B teams also got 1st, making for a great start to the weekend.

Next was the road race, which was a 21 mile, two lap course for the Men’s D field. Our race had 60 riders, so I decided to try and stay with the front ten riders and see what happened. I’m glad I was near the front, as there were two crashes in the first lap that I was totally oblivious to. The pace during the first lap was tame, and I could sense a lot of the others growing impatient, but I was happy to save my energy and just cruise along. The second lap was where things got interesting. About 4 miles from the finish, there was a crash going up a hill (go figure…) which Dmitro and Biswaroop unfortunately got caught up in but Felix and I narrowly avoided. Someone yelled, “There’s been a crash, this our chance!” and suddenly there was complete mayhem with everyone trying to break away. Felix and I managed to pair up and we worked together to try and slowly pick off the approximately 10 riders in front of us. The end of the course featured two short hills before a downhill finish. Felix was a champion and put in a huge effort to pull me up the first hill allowing me to hurtle down the other side and catch a few more riders. By that point, there were only three people ahead of me, but I was suffering and to my dismay, there was still one more hill. I convinced myself that I was being a total wimp since this hill was nothing compared to Mount Palomar (which we had ridden up twice during winter training camp), and I went all out up the final hill and managed to pass two of the remaining three riders. I was gaining on the final rider, who turned out to be from my hometown of Toronto, but didn’t have quite enough time to catch him. Kudos to him for staying away from everybody! I came 2nd (all thanks to Felix!), Felix 5th, Tobi 12th, André 13th and Dmitro even managed to finish mid-pack despite crashing.

The criterium on Sunday was held at the Stafford Springs Motor Speedway meaning that there were no sharp corners like in a more conventional crit course. While most people were disappointed about the lack of technical corners on the course, I was secretly happy to have an easy course for my first crit. Dmitro attacked in the second lap which caused everyone at the front to panic. The pack caught him within a lap or two but he had definitely tired a bunch of people out, allowing André to win both prime laps. Then, with about fifteen minutes to go, Dmitro attacked again off the front.

This time, with a superhuman effort, he managed to stay away and the rest of the MIT riders got to practice some blocking, to the frustration of the other teams. Remarkably, the pack only caught him in the final turn of the last lap. Coming into this last corner, I was sitting in a good position, about three wheels back from the leader, but of course, had completely forgotten all of the useful tips that Coach Nicole had taught us during the sprinting clinic. I started my sprint too late, after someone else had already sprinted past me, but I managed to hang on for a second place finish, with André coming 3rd and Dmitro coming 5th. I had a fantastic first race weekend thanks to the support and encouragement of all of my teammates! I learned a lot and hope to put it to good use in the coming races.

Finally, here is a playlist of footage from the Men’s D races:

Keep pedaling!

The Extremely Cold Cycling Conference (ECCC) and the Philly Phlyer


After a seemingly never-ending winter, MIT Cycling was well prepared for the frigid opening race in Philadelphia. We fielded 9 members with 3 of them being newly minted MIT racers. Although the conditions were adversarial, MIT Cycling had plenty to be happy about, with some strong performances all around, and even a smashing 1-2 victory by Jack and Biswaroop in their first collegiate race weekend.

Here is a recap of the weekend from Amy:

The first race weekend of the Extremely Cold Cycling Conference (the better-known name for the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference) began as expected – my Garmin reported that it was 25 degrees as we warmed up for the first event, the Team Time Trial. This was my first TTT with the women’s A team, so I was a bit nervous, but my nerves diminished somewhat once we discovered that we were racing unopposed. Despite being unopposed, we did not take it easy, and I quickly confirmed just how much stronger Emma and Tori are than I am! After taking a couple of turns pulling in the usual rotation, I was tiring at an unsustainable rate (and the cold air in my lungs didn’t make things any easier). So, I transitioned to “sitting in”, yelling “in” every time that Tori or Emma pulled off the front so that they would pull in front of me, and I could sit on the back and avoid the considerable extra effort of pulling. The TTT course runs along the Schuylkill river and is very flat, with only a small downhill at the beginning and uphill at the end, so there were few distractions, and I began to appreciate just how hard a TTT can be. Nonetheless, we did finally make it to that small uphill at the end, sprinted for the finish line, and, took first place! And also last place.

Our next race was the Circuit Race, which also ran along the Schuylkill river, but included an additional small hill. Turnout in my field (women’s C) was… underwhelming… to say the least. We began the race with 7 riders, but by the time we descended the small hill after 15 minutes, only 3 of us remained in the front “pack”. So, we spent the next hour TTT-ing around the course as I tried to figure out how I could beat the other two women. Because the course doubled back on itself, we could also see the other fields that were racing concurrently, so I watched Emma and Tori ride by several times. Unfortunately, my scheming was largely unfruitful. I decided to try to escape the other women on the final hill, but apparently they had the same plan! We all accelerated up the hill and around the final loop together, turned into the headwind on the finishing stretch and sprinted. Alas my legs had had just about enough at this point, and I watched sadly as the other two accelerated away from me across the finish line to take 1st and 2nd. I guess I’ll need to practice my sprinting more!

Among the other MIT racers, Tori was notable as having neither started nor finished her circuit race officially. The races had been running behind schedule but suddenly began running on time again without warning, so she raced to the start line and chased up to the group as they rounded the first corner; apparently in all of the rush the officials didn’t successfully record her as starting the race. Unfortunately she got a flat tire and so was unable to finish the race either. In his first road race, Cosmo crashed in the first corner, significantly damaging his wheel, but thankfully not himself. Other riders fared better – Emma took 4th in women’s A, and Berk took 7th in men’s B.

The criterium on Sunday was a traditional 4-corner crit around city blocks at Temple University. However, the course was made more interesting by the fact that it narrowed to a single lane for a block due to construction. This meant that riders were unable to ride three or four abreast as they would normally in a crit, and instead all of the races strung out into long single file or two-by-two lines. Of course, this was extremely important in women’s C, which had dwindled to only six riders. After riding most of the race with the same two women as on Saturday, I lost the final sprint to take second. In the men’s E race, Jack and Biswaroop raced off the front from very early on, to take 1st and 2nd by a considerable margin. In women’s A, Tori and Emma took 3rd and 4th, and Tori racked up tons of sprint points to claim the green jersey. Overall the day turned out to be much warmer and more pleasant than Saturday, and we were even briefly serenaded by a marching band whose path, unluckily for them yet amusingly for us, ran perpendicular to the crit course! As we packed into the cars and began our 6-hour drive back to Cambridge, I was already looking forward to UConn the following weekend, and hoping that more than five other C women were too!

As a team, we are looking forward to build on our successes as the top team in the ECCC in the omnium.

Nats Podium

2016 Cyclocross Season Recap

The Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference’s Cyclocross (ECCC:CX) season spans close to two months in the fall of every year: from mid-October until early December. This year’s collegiate CX calendar was very similar to the previous one: It started with two races in New Hampshire (Hanover CX and Pumpkincross), followed by HPCX in New Jersey (hasn’t been a collegiate race in a few years); then NohoCX (formerly CSI); then the Supercross Cup in Suffern, New York (with a new venue); then the Thanksgiving weekend race in Fitchburg, MA; and, finally, the Eastern Collegiate Cyclocross Championships at NBX in Warwick, RI. The only thing after that was Nationals, which took place in convenient driving distance at Riverside Park in Hartford, CT.

MIT Cycling was represented at every single one of these races; mostly with only two riders (Julie and myself), but peaking with six eager souls on the final weekend of the season. Here is a short breakdown of the highlights of the season, which was dominated by warm and dry conditions (with a few exceptions).

Late September, we welcomed some special visitors: Oliver and Claudia from Biognosys, one of our amazing sponsors, stopped by and Oliver joined me in participating in a Wednesday Night Super Prestige (WNSP) training race.

Biognosys' visiting

While some individual riders’ training plans may have started earlier in the year, the official kickoff for our team happened late September with two 3-hour long CX skills clinics lead by CX legend Adam Myerson (Cycle-Smart). Cyclocross newcomers and veteran riders alike learned, unlearned, relearned, and tweaked skills ranging from dis- and remounts, to efficient carrying and shouldering, to choosing lines through corners, and cleanly riding off-camber turns.

Cyclocross skills clinics with Adam Myerson.

These clinics sent us well-prepared into the races: Julie, participating in the UCI/Elite races, raced herself to the top of the collegiate “Women’s A” podium in almost every single race; I competed in the collegiate “Men’s A” field for the first time and also consistently gathered points for the team (however, at a much smaller scale). Dmitro and Emma earned points on two race weekends. And Kate and Laura celebrated their CX debut with great results in the final two races.

Out of the 11 individual race days across 5.5 race weekends (Fitchburg was only a single-day event), I want to highlight two races that stood out to me:

  •  Supercross Cup in Suffern, NY: This race took place at a new venue this year (Rockland Community College). First impression: Very wide and hilly course, with some very fast descents, a lot of off-camber sections, and lots and lots of climbing. What made this race particularly special was the weather: On Saturday we raced in dry conditions with temperatures around 70 degrees. The course, which was mostly on grass, was fast and best suited to good climbers. Sunday’s race on the other hand was on the same course, but mostly reversed – this includes the weather. The conditions couldn’t have been more different to Saturday’s: temperatures had dropped to around freezing over night and it had rained and snowed (and kept snowing lightly on and off during the day), the course very quickly turned into a crazy mud-fest. It was cold, muddy, windy, and wet – simply put: just beautiful! Due to setup of the course, completely new challenges emerged: long sections of off-camber were not rideable due to the slippery mud; lines kept disappearing in he mud from one lap to the next; lines weren’t accessible due to course tape blowing into the course; long run-ups and deep muddy straights turned into a fitness challenge. Great race! Let’s hope the venue allows the race to come back next year! Julie was able to heroically take the Collegiate Women’s A podium on both days. I ended up 15th (Sat.) and 16th (Sun.) in the Men’s A field.
  • NBX / ECCC:CX Easterns: As mentioned earlier, we had six racers participating in this final race weekend. In addition to the usual CX-squad, this included two CX-newcomers (but experienced MTBers), Laura and Kate, as well as two racers who attended the NohoCX race as well, Dmitro and Emma. Laura (first CX race!) and Dmitro shredded the course on their mountainbikes, passing other riders on many rooty technical sections of the course. Kate, starting from the very back (first CX race!), rode to the top of the Collegiate Women’s B podium on day one; a mechanical in the final lap of Sunday’s race moved her back to place four in Collegiate Women’s B of the day. Emma raced herself to the top of the podium in both her races. And finally, Julie earned 1st (Sat.) and 2nd (Sun.) of the Collegiate Women’s A podium.

Finally, here are the ECCC:CX omnium results of our team — after a full season of racing. First, the highlights:
1) Julie van der Hoop took the women’s A collegiate podium in the season overall; AND
2) MIT Cycling ended up 3rd in the combined omnium of this season. This is a particularly great result considering that (a) the team was represented by only two racers for most of the race calendar (with Julie accumulating the majority of the points) and (b) the top spots on the podium being taken by much larger teams with high attendance throughout the season.

Here are the overall season results for all participating riders:

  • Julie van der Hoop: 1st of 14 in Women’s A (11 races)
  • Tobias Ehrenberger: 14th of 32 in Men’s A (10 races)
  • Emma Edwards: 12th of 28 in Women’s B (3 races)
  • Dmitro Martynowych: 25th of 45 in Men’s C (3 races)
  • Kathryn Lawrence: 13th of 28 in Women’s B (2 races)
  • Laura Treers: 27th of 28 in Women’s B (2 races)

What about Nationals?“, I hear you ask. “Incredible” is my one-word answer.

With Nationals taking place in New England’s Winter (first week of January), it was to be expected that the weather has the potential to make the races interesting. And that’s exactly what happened. Nationals took place over the course of almost a week, starting on Tuesday with open races, collegiate races on Wednesday and Thursday, some other races on Friday and Saturday, and ending on Sunday with the Elite races. While the overall course layout stayed largely the same over these six days (some sections were taken out, depending on conditions), the course surface was completely different every single day:

  • Heavy rain all of Tuesday quickly turned all grass on the course into slushy and wet mud. A steep downhill section became a spectator-friendly slip-and-slide extravaganza.
  • Wednesday morning (our race day!), the rain had stopped and temperatures had risen to close to 50 degrees; Tuesday’s wet mud had turned into deep and sticky mud that clung to every part on your bike, especially parts that you didn’t want it to stick to: pedals, rim brakes, and drive trains. Many sections became unrideable for mortals like me; yet carrying a bike weighing three times its normal weight didn’t make these sections much easier. For obvious reasons, riders having the luxury of a pit-bike switched bikes twice a lap, thereby avoiding two long muddy sections of the course by riding through the double-entrance pitand collecting a clean bike as reward for this smart choice. Due to these challenges the race organizers cut a few sections of the course during the day to avoid short 2-lap races in the later part of the day.
  • On Thursday, things were different again: Temperatures had dropped well below freezing and all the ruts in the muddy ground had frozen overnight. These ruts made for a bumpy ride and riders had to be careful to keep their front wheels out of trouble. Needless to say, many riders flatted, and many more were sent to the ground. On the bright side, lap times were much faster again; so previously removed sections of the course were added back in.
  • Friday’s conditions were similar to Thursday’s, but a bit colder.
  • On Saturday, snow built up on the course over the course of the day.
  • And Sunday, the elite riders had to battle a generally abused and frozen course, topped with ice, snow, and a bit of mud here and there.

Again, pretty much everyone had expected challenging conditions, but nobody expected that the challenges would be different ones every single day. Kudos to the organizers!

Julie’s and my race took place on Wednesday in the muddiest of conditions. After my race (43rd – mud mud mud, and challenges as described above — what more can I say?), I had my first experience being part of a pit-crew. Julie had a great start and stayed in the top 5 for the entire race. We made sure she could switch to a shiny mud-free bike every half lap and she was able to round out her career as an MIT Cycling racer by finishing fourth in her race. In the Nationals Omnium, MIT Cycling took place 14 out of 38 schools attending (bear in mind we only had two racers attending).

Nats Podium

Finally, I want to direct you to all the pictures I (and others) took at races this season: Google Photos. For some races I even mounted my GoPro — here’s my playlist:

What now? MIT Cycl(ocross)ing will be training until the leaves start falling and the days get shorter again. Hope to see you at some races in the fall!

Stay muddy!

Tobi after Supercross Day 2.
Tobi after Supercross Day 2.

Safe Cycling in the City

We get it! You want to ride your bike, but heavy traffic and seemingly careless drivers make you choose to use dreadfully crowded and slow public transit, pay for a cab, or even drive a car yourself.

Riding a bike in a city can feel like a daunting task and, yes, it can be dangerous — but keep in mind: No driver has the  intention to harm you. Out there, it sometimes may feel like your fate is determined by drivers of motorized vehicles, but for the most part it is in your control to minimize any potential hazards. A first step to do so is to read and follow these tips:

  • Be aware! Pay attention to vehicles, pedestrians, and other cyclists around you. Make it a habit to think about what drivers around you may want to do, anticipate their decisions, and react accordingly:
    • Turns and stops. Does a driver want to turn or stop? Are their indicators on? Is he/she checking her mirrors? Is there someone in the passenger (or other) seat who wants to get out of the car?
    • Parked cars.  Many times,  bike lanes are aligned right next to parking spots on the side of the road. Unfortunately, this area is also the so-called door zone where extra caution is key. After all, a parked car may pull out on the road or a driver or passenger may open a door unexpectedly. In doubt, reduce your speed or give these cars extra space by moving to the center of the road — but, before you do so, make sure that nobody is about to pass you! It is also a good idea to pay attention to whether the car’s engine is running, its lights or indicators are on; whether the driver seat is occupied, and whether the  front wheels are turned into road. You don’t necessarily have to focus on all these details all the time, but it is a good idea to train yourself to notice these things as they can help you evaluate how likely it is that a car will pull out or someone will open a door.
    • Traffic lights. Are traffic lights about to turn? Some people may want to catch the last moment of an orange light. Check before you cross an intersection, especially if your light just turned green. Clearly, do NOT run red lights!
    • Speed. Learn to judge the speed of all kinds of vehicles. Is a car too fast to stop before a light? Chances are, they will cross it. Will a runner or pedestrian try to cross the road? Is someone about to run a red light?
  • Communicate! As in many other aspects of life, communication is an important factor on the road. Knowing others’ intentions helps us adjust and react accordingly. Sometimes you will have to  decipher drivers’ and pedestrians’ next steps before they happen based on their behavior; other times you are lucky and they will let you know what they are about to do. Keep in mind, it is your responsibility (and in your best interest!) to communicate your intentions to others! This not only applies to turning and stopping, but also to making others aware of dangers.
    • Use hand signals.  It is easy and takes minimal effort: Signal before you turn or move to the center of the road, to show what you will do. Point to the ground to make other cyclists aware of dangers such as potholes. Signal if you are about to stop. Also,  let hesitant drivers behind you know when it is safe to pass you.
    • Make eye contact. A simple eye contact is often all it takes for another person to know what you want to do and vice versa. This applies to anyone you might encounter on a road: Drivers, pedestrians, other cyclists, etc.
    • Make yourself visible. Keep in mind that drivers might actually not be able to see you. Avoid the dead space of mirrors, the sides and backs of large vehicles such as buses and trucks, and make sure you and/or your bike wear lights in the dark.
  • Be courteous! Say thank you with a gentle nod of your head, or a (friendly) hand signal! Out on the road, you are an ambassador for cyclists and want to leave a good impression to encourage a friendly co-existence!
  • Be assertive! Sometimes you will have to be assertive and just claim your space on the road (e.g. changing lanes in busy city traffic). When you do so, (1) make sure you communicate your intention, (2) confirm that other traffic participants have enough space to react to what you are about to do (right speed? enough distance?), and (3) only then do your thing. As mentioned above, drivers are not out there to harm you. They want to protect your life and your bike as much as they want to protect their lives and their car.
  • Be Prepared! Regularly maintain your equipment. Having a working bicycle can prevent accidents as well. Lend special attention to your brakes, tires, and chain. Here’s a good example for a  maintenance schedule.
  • Abide the law! This should be an obvious one. Don’t run lights, etc. You know the rules (if not, read this); you expect drivers to follow the rules. Follow them too! Again, when you are out on the road on your bike you represent all cyclists. Make sure to leave a good impression!

Josh Zisson, a Cambridge-based lawyer, created Bike Safe Boston, a great blog with many good resources about cycling in the city. Amongst other posts, we recommend you read the MA cyclist’s bill of rights and the 10 commandments of city cycling.  These posts will give you some general pointers (as the above) as well as information about what to do when you are unlucky enough to be involved in an accident (spoiler alert: Don’t forget to get the driver’s information!).

If you are riding in a group, some additional rules apply. We have compiled a safety policy document that we encourage everyone to read who leads or joins a ride with us.