Category Archives: Mountain

We won!! MTB D2 Omnium

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2014-10-12 17.15.21 We won!!!  Yes, the MIT Cycling team has done it again – we’ve brought home a trophy. But this time, we’ve won in a discipline we haven’t done well in historically – Mountain Biking! Our team was awarded Division II Team Omnium at the Regional Championships at Highland, meaning our team earned more points in total this season than any other Division II team.

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One big happy team

But what’s so impressive about this win is really HOW we won, and WHO raced this season. In following good MIT tradition, results demand analysis:

  • Total MIT student racers this season: 21
  • Average number of participants per race weekend: 6.7
  • Average number of race weekends per participant: 1.95
  • Percentage Female: 33%

To put these numbers in perspective, last season 10 students raced mountain bikes in total, and races averaged around 3-4 people per race.

And now for an analysis of our newbie population:

  • Percentage students whose first race was this season: 67%
  • Percentage students who raced on a borrowed bike: 57%
  • Percentage students who raced on a borrowed MITOC bike: 48%
  • Percentage students whose first time on a MTB was in their race: 33%
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Ben Eck – who’s been a dedicated MIT mountain bike racer for 4 years and advocated to purchase the MITOC bikes

What do these numbers indicate? That the MIT Mountain Biking team strongly encourages new members to try out the sport. We facilitate this by renting out MITOC bikes (mountain bikes owned by our outdoors’s club). A few years ago Ben Eck (former team captain) advocated to purchase 4 MITOC bikes, and they were certainly well used this season. We hope that the students who tried mountain bike racing for the first time this season will continue racing in future seasons, especially given our tremendous achievement.

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After racing Sunday, we headed to the trails to enjoy riding together and learning from our Coach

Now you may still be wondering how is it that we managed to win team omnium? Well, every point matters and we had many participants. But we also had many, many strong finishes throughout the season. I’ll leave that list to another blog post…coming soon. But finally, our team won because we function as one cohesive unit. We enjoy spending time together, sharing advice with eachother, and cheering for eachother. We race because that’s what we enjoy doing, and we are an excellent example to other teams in our division because of it.

As captain, my proudest moment was not standing on the podium or winning team omnium. It was being able to watch so many MIT racers cross the finish line with a smile on their face. I am proud of the joy I have brought to each and every student who raced this season, because Mountain Biking is truly a unique sport and one that I’m so happy to be able to share with so many of my teammates.

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It was a very happy day for all. Thank you team. ~Beth

 

MIT MTB Race – A Smashing Success!

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Just a handful of the 25+ MIT racers, volunteers, friends, and family who joined us this weekend

 

This blog post brought to you by, yet again, a first-time MIT racer, Lucy Archer:

The Bruises Mean I’m Doing it Right… Right?

Following on a theme, Beth managed to convince me to come out and race the event MIT hosted this year, the Sliderule Shredfest, last weekend.  Honestly I didn’t need that much convincing, mostly encouragement, but I got what I needed and with about 45 minutes of practice along the Charles I headed out to Charlemont on Friday evening.  I had been promised rain, bbq, beer, fun, mud, and bruises (not necessarily in that order, of course), and the weekend definitely did deliver!
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First-time MTB racers Jen, Lucy, and Gabriel hang out before their race
Provided we don’t count the weekend with my parents in Tahoe when I was 12, or the 45 minutes along the Charles last Thursday, my first time on a mountain on a mountain bike was Saturday morning’s cross country race, the second time was for short track, and the third was for the team relay.  I’m not quite sure what I was expecting, though I don’t think it involved quite as much climbing as the XC course started with!  Luckily I was behind most of the other Women’s B racers and, following their lead, I walked (I’d rather say I sprinted, but it wouldn’t be true) up the mountain with my bike in the hope that it would get better.  It definitely got better, and I managed to almost fall off the mountain only a few times!  The second lap went better and faster (I think…), though apparently once a little too fast, as I learned my first lesson of non-road riding: the endo.  No harm done to either me or the bike though, and apparently I came in third!  Not too bad for my first time on a mountain on a mountain bike.
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Check out those MITOC bikes! These MIT racers were able to race thanks to the bikes they could rent from MIT’s outdoors club.
After three hours standing in the rain watching the A and B racers race, and a brief visit to the six inch deep mud puddle that was the bottom of the Dual Slalom course, it was back to the lodge (yes, there was real shelter for the weekend, it was nice and dry), we made the discovery that there was both a washing machine and a dryer, which meant that I’d have clean, dry kit forSunday!  The hot showers were also a wonderful, glorious thing.  The evening was beer and lots of bbq, including burgers, chicken, brats, and ribs.  There was a reasonable amount of social time, until I realized that I was curled up in a corner falling asleep and retreated upstairs to sleep.
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Yup, we tired Lucy out [see far left]
Sunday dawned wonderfully clear and sunny (though a little cold), and we all headed out for short track.  The course was fun, though it did involve me learning the meaning of ‘off camber.’  I made it through nearly all of the course at least once (out of four laps) reasonably successfully, and didn’t walk the bike once on the last two laps!  I’m quite proud that only three of the Women’s A riders (including Beth) lapped me twice (women’s A and B were combined because there were only 3 B riders).  I also had a lovely moment when a root shoved my bike out from under me and dumped me off the trail at exactly the right time for Beth to get past me, which was quite convenient.  MIT ran both A and B teams for the relay, since we had enough people to do so, and MIT won the B race!  I’m not especially responsible for that, since I did 1 lap out of 8, but I think I can still share in the awesome.
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Katie lookin’ legit in her first ever mtb race!
I’m not sure when it happened, but over the course of the weekend I decided that this mtb thing was far too much fun to not do again, and I’ll be heading out to race next weekend too!  That said, I’ve figured out why the Club level memberships come with one race weekend: it’s a devious plot to get us hooked so that we can’t do anything other than go back for more.  Don’t fall for it!  Wait, what am I saying.  Fall for it, really, it’s a ton of fun.
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So many smiling faces post-race!

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Message from Beth: I’d like to specifically recognize and thank Ben Eck and Luke Plummer for organizing this race weekend. They demonstrated tremendous initiative to propose the race months ago and worked all summer long to prepare the courses and ensure the race run smoothly. We are very proud of Ben and Luke and the entire MIT team of volunteers and racers who helped make such a great weekend possible.

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~Beth (plus my new horsey friend I found on the race course)

Drexel – A Wicked Good Time

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Start of Women’s A race

This past weekend we fearlessly headed down to Pennsylvania to race probably the most technically challenging courses of all season. Beth, Meg, and Alex were our courageous MIT racers, and we were joined by Simon who races for Harvard. This weekend proved to be quite an adventure for each of us, making the weekend one we’ll be talking about for many months to come!

The following blog post brought to you by Alex Springer, who raced his first collegiate race this past weekend at Drexel! Congrats Alex for a great first race weekend!

MTB Racing; A Rekindled Passion for an Abusive Relationship

I completed my first (of many, hopefully) cycling races with the MIT Cycling team this weekend at the Drexel MTB race. Without a bike or any excuse to say “No”, I accepted MTB Captain Beth’s (frantic) request to come out and race with the team in Drexel, PA. Despite the course being 5.5 hrs away, it turns out that the old adage; “Good things take time” is true, because I had an absolutely epic time mountain bike racing this past weekend.

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Alex looking strong during short track

I had raced MTB a few times while in high school, but since coming to college I had not touched a mountain bike in just over 3.5 years. Nevertheless, that didn’t seem like a good enough reason not to race so I hopped on a borrowed bike (Thanks Ben Woolston!) and set off for the races. I started with the XC course and I was riding pretty strong sitting in 3rd or 4th place until I hit the downhill section and thought my technique was much better than I actually was. I completed the endo and fell down the hill twenty feet with my bike. Luckily, I was fine…the bike was not. I snapped the rear derailleur hangar and had to DNF the race. However, I found a local bike shop with the correct derailleur hangar and was back in business by the afternoon for the Clusterhuck which was a team relay with me and Beth. I did the hill climb and she rode the downhill portion. The race was less than seven minutes, but I started to feel the excitement of racing that I recalled from high school bubbling up inside.

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Best part about racing downhill? The helmet. Molly [left] from Yale (and adopted by our team) and Beth get ready to tackle the clusterhuck.
On Saturday night the team took a jaunt over to the Tiki Bar which was an eclectic bar situated at the base of the ski mountain and bike race course. The bar certainly played up the island theme which was an odd feeling being in the middle of a ski resort. After many games of rummy (the card game, not the drink), we decided to turn in for an early night with racing the next morning.

Having had the DNF the day before, I approached the short track race on Sundaymorning with fresh legs and a goal of completing the race. I ended up exceeding my goal and took first place which was quite surprising for me. I raced pretty conservatively having taken the lead during lap two of four and rode steady throughout the race in order not to break myself or the bike. The weekend concluded with the team relay which I raced with Beth which we won by default because no other teams had a girl. Despite a few cuts and bruises gained over the weekend, and a ripped jersey from a too-close encounter with a tree, I was happy to be in one piece and end with the team win in the relay to cap off a great weekend!

Simon looking good in short track!
Simon looking good in short track!

As I write this, I’m already looking forward to the upcoming Sliderule Shredfest hosted by MIT. Having not touched a mountain bike in over three years to winning the Men’s B Short Track certainly instilled my love of mountain biking once more, and I can’t get wait to get out into the mud once more.

– Alex Springer, MIT

One of the highlights of the weekend for me was dinner Saturday night – we found this historic and adorable italian place that was clearly the “place to be” on a Saturday evening in Schwenksville (yes that IS the name of the town). The portions were enormous and delicious, and we really enjoyed just hanging out, resting our legs, and chatting.

Meg, Molly, Alex, Simon enjoying the beautiful sunshine
Meg, Molly, Alex, Simon enjoying the sunshine

And the dessert…oh, yes, the dessert….

Dessert heals all wounds
Dessert heals all wounds

Grilling, Chilling, and Racing @ UVM

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Our UVM Team, including two new racers! (Ben, Emele, Dirk, Beth)
This post brought to you by new MIT racer, Dirk Stahlecker.
This past weekend I got to experience something I’ve been looking to do for years now: race something with wheels! I’ve mountain biked for years, but never had the opportunity to race before, and it was so much fun! There’s nothing like feeling the competitors at your back to motivate you to pedal harder and go faster.

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Ben Eck clearly enjoying his race!

I will say, however, that I really had no idea what any of it would be like when I signed up. I knew I enjoyed mountain biking, especially the going downhill aspect, so I signed up for three events: cross country, short course, and dual slalom, figuring since I was there I might as well try everything out. Cross country was first. As we lined up at the starting line and raced toward the first corner, I found myself on the outside about 4 or 5 wide going into a downhill grassy turn. Next thing I knew, the person on the inside had clipped my handlebars and both of us were sent flying into the ground, collecting probably 6 or 8 others behind us in the wreck. The rest of the race was uneventful (other than a few wrong turns on the poorly marked course), but definitely a good ride. Nice and flat and fun.

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Emele and Dirk just before their race!
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Beth – smiling, because racing is fun!

I couldn’t wait to check out the dual slalom course next. It’s a side-by-side track downhill, with jumps, whoops, step ups, step downs, and tabletops, and it’s so much fun to ride! I loved the technical element – you had to set up perfectly going into each element to make sure you cleared the double or held enough speed through the corner. It was a full adrenaline rush down, and very technical, which was really fun. I crashed pretty hard a few times (and unfortunately in my seeding race as well), but it was definitely my favorite event!

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Proof of Ben’s tasty and much needed cheeseburgers. Ben – kudos to you for some serious grilling skills.

Beth and I were the only two competing in the slalom. One of the highlights of the day was when Ben showed up at the top holding hamburgers for us that he’d just grilled! It was a precursor to a fantastic dinner at the campsite that evening after the race was over. I’d forgotten just how much better food tastes when eaten while camping.

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Dirk and Ben just chillin at the top of Dual Slalom
The next day was the final event, short course. I didn’t really know much about this event going in, all I knew was that it was shorter than cross country, which I was happy about. Turns out that the course was only about two and a half minutes long, and we raced it for 20 minutes. It was fast and fun, but there were a ton of rocks and roots to contend with. It made me really wish I had pedal clips, as I had trouble keeping my feet on the pedals on the downhill.
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Emele tackles the sketchy descent

The race was a lot of fun though. The starting line was set back in a very rocky, rough area, and it was a short sprint to the essentially singletrack first corner. There was a mix of pedaling and just running off the start. I decided to pedal, and actually managed to get the holeshot, as I was the first one to the corner! I actually held the lead for most of the lap! That was definitely the highlight of the weekend for me. I still don’t quite know how I managed it, but it was super cool.

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Dirk leading the pack!

Overall, the entire weekend was a great experience. It was awesome to get out racing mountain biking again, and especially be able to be around others who enjoy it as much as I do. I’m definitely looking forward to my next race!

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Yup – that’s Emele just chillin with a beer and ear of corn. #mtbracesaresochill

Great turnout for Northeastern MTB Race!

Don't be fooled by the 'cross bike - we're the MIT Mountain Bike Team!
Don’t be fooled by the ‘cross bike – we’re mountain bikers [Zeb, Ben, Marcos, Jeff, Beth, Coach Psi & Spiro, Simon]
We had a fabulous turnout for our second mountain bike race of the season hosted by Northeastern in Western Massachusetts. MIT racers included Ben Eck, Jeff Duval, Beth Hadley, Zeb Hanley, Anna Cheimets, Marcos Esparza, Corey Tucker. We were also joined by Simon Chaput, Harvard’s MTB captain and Matjaz Humar, who raced in the open category. Our mountain bike coach, Coach Psi, also joined us Sunday. He was a great motivator during races (especially as he stood on the uphill section and urged us to pedal faster), and we thoroughly appreciated his presence. He brought his son, Spiro, who loved to explore the woods!

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Coach Psi and his son, Spiro! Thanks for coming out to cheer us on, Coach!!

One of the highlights of the weekend (other than the 10+ hours of sleep we enjoyed Saturday night and the ample consumption of s’mores Friday night) was the dinner location we found on Saturday night – Ben Eck found a quaint rustic restaurant with hearty food and delicious hot chocolate. Dessert was irresistible – two cinnamon donuts and pumpkin ice cream drizzled with caramel. The first bite was like having Fall in your mouth. Overall, a great weekend had by all!

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Beth Hadley tackling the mud during dual slalom

The following entry is written by Anna Cheimets, who talks about her experience during her first ECCC Mountain bike race. She and Corey had a rather unexpected bee encounter during their first race, and both were quite courageous to drive home with smiles.

“I’ve done enough casual mountain biking to know that you haven’t had a successful day of riding unless you are bleeding, bruised or both. This weekend turned out to be exceptionally successful for me by that standard and also quite a bit of fun.

On Friday night we drove out to Dalton MA and pitched our tents in a field right next to the cross country racing course. The Northeastern riders had built a bonfire which we gleefully took advantage of to make s’mores- delectable fuel for the day ahead. Thanks to Beth for bringing the most important ingredient for camping. As I hunkered down in my cozy tent that night, I thought about my race the next day with nervous and excited anticipation.

The whole camp awoke at 7 a.m. sharp, initially roused by an errant car alarm and then coaxed outside by blaring music that set the mood for a weekend of racing and chilling with mountain biker bros. There wasn’t much time to do more than register, eat a quick breakfast and get on the starting line for the Women’s B cross country race. Corey and I sized up the racers on the starting line and then we were off!

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Our courageous racers, Anna [left] and Corey [right].
I was immediately winded as the course turned sharply uphill and stayed a bit hilly for much of the first part of the loop. Then all of a sudden, we were all attacked by a swarm of angry wasps who were incensed about being trampled on. Boy did that get me moving! Soon after I had sped away from their reach, I started to get more into the rhythm of racing. The swooping downhill sections were flow-y and fun and as I got towards the end of my second and final lap I was closing in on the second place rider in front of me, hoping I had enough steam to overtake her at the end.

On the final turn onto the gravel road, I decided to make my move into second place. Unfortunately, I didn’t heed Corey’s wise advice about how bumping into other riders frequently bumps you off your own bike as well. I squeezed too close to my rival and wiped out in the gravel. Covered with dirt and sand, and hazily aware of my thoroughly skinned knee, I grabbed my bike and ran it past my startled opponent and across the finish line!

Bleeding, bruised, stung, winded and feeling fully accomplished, I cheered Beth, Zeb, Ben and Marcos on in their cross country races.

 

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Simon, Jeff, Marcos, and Beth hanging out between races!

As soon as my knee heals up, I’ll be back on the bike and into the woods for more adventures in mountain biking. Great job to the MIT cyclists for riding hard this weekend!”

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Ben Eck showing off his serious pain face!

 

 

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Clarkson Season Opener – A Muddy Good Time!

This past weekend, Ben, Beth and I hit the road for the long trek up to Potsdam, New York for the first mountain bike race of the season. This would be my first experience racing in the ECCC, and luckily I had two seasoned vets to show me what these races are all about!

We arrived at the campsite around 1am, which gave us just enough time to set up camp and snuggle in for the night before the torrential downpour began. On Saturday, it rained… and it rained… and then it kept raining. After dropping Ben and Beth off at the Clarkson campus for their XC races in the morning, I headed back to the camping area with the uber-friendly team from Lehigh. After some deliberation, we decided that biking in the rain would be considerably more fun than freezing our butts off in the tent, so we saddled up and went to check out the dual slalom course. After two hours of churning through cake batter-like slop, the three of us looked like we had been in a girls-gone-wrong mud fight and lost. Miserably. We decided to take a break when we could no longer change gears due to the accumulation of nature in all of the used-to-be-moving parts of our bikes. Fortunately, there was a small lake (swamp?) nearby where we could bath ourselves and dunk our bikes. For future reference, I don’t recommend fully submerging your bottom bracket in the Seven Springs swamp.

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Day 2 was gorgeous, Day 1 not so much :)

That afternoon, our comrades returned from the XC race looking mildly soggy but cheerful as ever. Beth finished a strong 4th in the women’s A and Ben kept up with a fast men’s A field. After much chocolate and a chance to recover our core temperatures, the three of us suited up for some dual slalom action. Ben kicked butt and finished 2nd in his race, and Beth and I claimed 1st and 2nd in the women’s B category! Okay, okay. We were the only two women racing in the B dual slalom. There may or may not have been some running with bike in-hand. It still counts. After the racing finished, the sun emerged in time to dry out our sorry butts and convince us to camp a second night instead of retreating to a motel.  The rest of the evening was filled with Ben’s amazingly delicious hamburgers, a few s’mores by the fire, and some entertaining shenanigans provided free of charge by a few rambunctious RIT riders.

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Megan getting ready to dominate at downhill!

We woke up to blue skies and sunshine on Sunday morning – a welcome treat! After stopping for the sweet caffeinated elixir of life at a local coffee shop, the endurance riders suited up for the short track XC. The Lehigh team adopted me once again, and we went back to get in a few practice runs on the downhill course. The downhill was super fun and fast, with the quickest men’s riders finishing in just over a minute. It had a good mix of flow and technical features, with a loose and precarious rock garden thrown in to keep things spicy. On my third run through the course, a small error in judgement resulted in the butt-end of my handlebars attempting to make a shish-kabob of my spleen, at which point I was gently reminded (a) why helmets were the best invention ever, and (b) why it’s important to plug the ends of your handlebars. Fortunately, a little adrenaline and some Hershey’s chocolate from Beth’s secret stash had me sorted out by the time the racing started. I lucked out with two relatively clean runs and managed to claim second in the women’s A race! Woohoo!

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Michelle (from Northeastern) grabbing a dozen ears of corn for $3 #becausewecan

On the drive home, we stopped for some sweet corn and zucchini at a roadside stand. It was a long trip, but time flies when you have good company and fresh veggies! Overall, I was incredibly impressed with the quality of riders out this weekend and am so pumped for the rest of the race season. Happy biking :)

– Megan O’Brien, MIT

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Mountain Bike Training Weekend

Now if that video doesn’t make you want to ride mountain bikes with MIT, I don’t know what does! Thanks to Matjaž Humar for filming and making that awesome video!

Recently about 20 of us headed up to Kingdom Trails in Northern Vermont for a weekend of riding and training in New England’s mountain bike mecca.

Now stop drooling over your computer screen, and go get out there and ride!
You wish you were here, I know.

We welcomed riders of all skill levels – some practically grew up on a mountain bike, others had never ridden one! We were lucky enough to be joined by our amazing coaches, Coach Psi our mountain bike coach and Coach Nicole our road coach (plus Amy who also helps out coaching!).

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Coach Psi super psyched for a day of training!
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Coach Nicole (clearly just as excited!)

Coach Psi held some great clinics with tips and advice for all skill levels.

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Coach Psi explains with scientific precision how he would tackle this turn

Everyone seemed to enjoy the weekend, partially influenced by the copious amounts of ice cream consumed and beautiful sunny weather.

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Every great ride starts with stretching, right?

On Saturday evening after we had returned from a long and enjoyable day of riding, many of us headed to a nearby mountain lake for a refreshing swim.

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Turns out MIT bikers float

Sitting around the campfire that night, we shared stories of our biking adventures, gorged ourselves on hearty burgers,  and simply basked in the joy of spending time together.

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Chillin’ around the campfire!

After such a successful weekend, we’re looking forward to an awesome mountain bike race season this fall, including a race we’re hosting ourselves! Hope to see you there!

A big thanks to Ben Eck who organized the weekend and kept us very well fed and watered.

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Mountain Bike Nationals at Beech

For the second year in a row, Luke Plummer and I headed down to Collegiate Mountain Bike Nationals, this time in Beech Mountain, NC. Instead of making the trip  alone, we joined up with Northeastern, BU and RIT in a single 12-passenger van for the 17ish-hour car ride.

When I packed for Nationals (the night before, of course) I neglected to check the weather. It being North Carolina (that’s pretty far south right?) I assumed it would be pretty warm, but somewhere around Pennsylvania it started snowing. Apparently at Beech Mountain, they were supposed to get a few inches overnight, with race day highs in the 20s. So much for that, I guess. Sure enough, we arrived many hours later at our condo with a solid couple inches of snow on the ground. Figuring there wasn’t much to do about it, we hit the hay and hoped for the best for the short track in the morning.

Waking up, we found the snow situation pretty much unchanged.

Fortunately, we weren’t first to race so there was some time for it to warm up, but it was still pretty cold. The short track course was basically a ‘cross course, just where you didn’t have to get off your bike. It had a grassy climb, with some turns in a field, and the last couple berms of the dual slalom course. The thing about short track at Nationals is that you get pulled when you’re within 80% of the leader, so for me that means that I’ll be racing about 10-15 minutes, making the whole race basically a sprint. This year, I was happy to get to ride one more lap than the year before – I definitely felt stronger and a lot more competitive thanks to Constantine’s coaching.

After watching some ECCC comrades in the women’s race and a regain-feeling-in-everything break, we headed back out to preride the XC course for the following day. The course begins with ~500′ of climbing up a snowy fireroad, at which point it heads into the woods after several hundred yards of tarmac (ewww). When we prerode, the course was still snowy from the night before, but the cold temperatures had rendered it pretty crunchy, and remarkably smooth with pretty good traction. Despite living in New England all my life, I’d never really mountain biked in the snow before so it was a pretty cool experience, and the trails were pretty fun. For the sake of everyone, we actually hoped the snow stayed for the race the following day, else we’d have to slog through the inevitable mud. The descent was also pretty excellent, with some nice and icy berms to boot.

The following day, we started our XC race bright and early. I had a pretty good start up near the front of the pack, but was almost immediately caught behind what seemed like a road-style crash, with people and bikes all piling on. Unfortunately, this meant I started at what felt like basically the back of the pack. Fortunately, the holeshot was the entire climb away, and feeling strong I passed a bunch of people up the still-snowy ad slick climb. All these long climbs in races made me glad I put my 2×9 rings back on, and after the race, Luke actually admitted he could have used more gears. Anyhow, after working pretty hard on the climb and the road section, I finally got into the woods. It would seem that the snow had melted a bit and refroze, so the riding was a lot more slippery than our preride the previous day, and I just felt all over the place in terms of handling. Still, it was pretty fun to get loose in the snow, and I caught a few more people. Coming down the descent the second time, however, I crashed pretty hard and had to straighten out my bars. Unscathed, I continued down to the finish, ready to ride one more lap, but a marshal waved me through the finish and off the course. Confused, I learned that I had been pulled because I had been lapped by the DI leader, not by the leader of my field. I was a little bummed, since I had saved some energy for the last climb and think I could have caught some more people, but happy enough to get out of the cold.

During the day, it warmed up and we headed back out to the course to spectate the women’s race and downhill. We found a great corner by the top of the descent

Joined by UVM, NU, and RIT, we got a pretty excellent ECCC heckling crowd going as we watched the women slog up the now-muddy climb. After a bit more heckling, grilling and American flag-waving, we headed over to the downhill course to watch people rip through the rock garden. This time though, somebody actually took one of our hotdog handups! A UVM rider had qualified in 1st in D1, while a couple Wentworth guys were up there in D2, and even though they didn’t manage to keep the win, they made it to the podium and it was pretty cool to watch them represent the ECCC.

I had a great time representing MIT and the ECCC at Nationals this year, and my only disappointment was not being able to find the legendary nationals crit (I brought my skinsuit ;) ). What really made it special was to be able to hang out with all the other folks from the conference from NU, RIT, UMass, UVM, and BU – racing’s a whole lot more fun when you’re doing it with a bunch of friends.

Thanks for the opportunity, and see you out on the bike!

-Ben Eck

Mountain Bike Easterns at Highland

On Columbus Day weekend, we wrapped up an awesome season of racing with Easterns Championships at Highland mountain bike park!  We had an excellent turnout with a bunch of new-to-MTB racers, and some great results, including a win in the D2 Weekend Omnium! Here are some words from Beth Hadley, who swept the Women’s B Endurance races:

A little coaching goes a long way. I’ll leave it as an exercise to the reader to deduce what a lot of coaching can do. I realized this in a profound way this past weekend at the ECCC Eastern Mountain Biking Championships. As a novice to all things cycling, I enjoyed a warm welcome this season which ultimately culminated in a memorable championships race weekend. We were delighted to be joined by Coach Constantine Psimopoulos, our newly adopted Mountain Bike Team Coach. He contributes years of experience, both coaching and racing, to our team, and his academic and research interests allow him to relate well with us as MIT students. We enjoyed a clinic session with him in the Fells a few weeks earlier, and it was during that session that I really began to think more critically about my racing technique, especially focusing on a powerful start and competitive finish. During championships, to prepare us for our races, Coach Psi led us through regimented warm-ups, stretching sessions, and strategy discussions. For the first time, I learned to engage both my brain and my body in the race before the ‘go’ was announced. Although I got my first taste of victory this past weekend by winning both of my races, the real victory lies in the knowledge I gained this season from our coach and my fellow riders. Now as the season wraps up I look to the future, I eagerly await many more great rides with this wonderfully welcoming and helpful team.

– Beth Hadley ’15

While I can’t say I won anything, I had a couple great days of racing too. The XC course was pretty flat, but really challenging technically. The Men’s A did 6 laps, which turned into a 2.5+ hour  race for me (normally XC races are ~2 hrs). At the the end of it, I had to lie down for a few minutes before walking back to the cars, but I’m happy to say  I finished all 6 laps without getting pulled while surviving a brutal double-bonk. What really made the racing special though, was being able to race with a bunch of teammates and seeing all the new faces  out on the course.

After a smores/wood run, we set up camp in the Highland parking lot. Camping’s always been one of my favorite parts of mountain bike racing, and this night was no exception with a good fire, great friends, and plenty of Joe’s bad ideas.

After the XC race, I always look forward to short track, with its considerably shorter length and much higher concentration of hecklers. Coach Psi was great at getting everybody warmed up and in good position on the start line, and I think he really helped me have a good start off the line. As we were waiting for the start, however, Joe Kopena and his minions were up to some mischief, and as the pack came around the first turn of the race we discovered the wall of boulders they had constructed as a surprise for the Men’s A riders.

I made the poor decision of trying to ride this 6 abreast with everyone and ended up having to make up a lot of time throughout the race. When we prerode, there was also a section with a steep, uphill rock roll that was taped off and labeled ‘Men’s A only’. I thought it was a joke, but on the first lap of our race we found the tape had been shifted over and we were indeed supposed to ride the rock. And of course, the obligatory improvised jump also appeared on the course.

This sort of thing is what really makes the mountain bike season so fun for me – its so laid back, even the officials joke around from time to time to make for a fun time. In the end, I finished 8-9-10 with Joe and Luke, which was a great result for all of us. In a bid for more points in the weekend omnium, we made two team relay teams, and all-MIT and an MIT-Yale collaboration. Joe had hinted that he’d give us points for it, so Spencer and Lluis stepped up to ride with Kristen from Yale in the Bs. It was a close race the entire time, but on my last lap I caught up to a Northeastern B rider. Coming around a corner I asked him to move over to pass, but  he moved the wrong way and boxed me out to allow his teammate Kenny (in the A’s) to come around me. In a stroke of luck, the first rider endo’d straight into the rock roll, holding Kenny up and allowing me  just enough time to run around both of them. I managed to hold the lead through the descent and to the end of the lap, putting us in 2nd for team relay and getting us the perhaps the 2 critical extra points that put us in front of Clarkson for the weekend, despite the points from the MIT-Yale team only counting ‘in Joe Kopena’s heart’.

While Matt and Carlos represented us racing downhill, we spent the rest of the afternoon fooling around on Highland’s sweet dirt jumps.

With only a little bit of skin lost and a great bit of fun had, we stuck around for some grilling, the awards, and of course obligatory podium pics.

A big thanks to everyone, especially Coach Psi, who came out and made this weekend so special!

See y’all next year,

-Ben Eck

UVM Kingdom Cup Race Report

The true virtue of studying at a place like MIT is the ability to develop new passions and pursue them rapidly. Although I am generalizing from my three years experience as an undergrad, I can certainly say this holds true for the MIT Cycling Team. I joined the team for the first time this past weekend at Kingdom Trails in Vermont, and my first race weekend absolutely exceeded all my expectations.

In total seven of us raced, and our mix of riding experience and ability brought an exciting new dynamic to the weekend. I benefitted from the expertise and insight of the more seasoned riders, Luke, Lluis, Carlos, Marcos, and Matt, and especially from the leadership of our team captain, Ben. As for me, this was literally my first serious time on a bike* since middle school, and I was really just excited to get away from Boston for a weekend and bike in the mountains!

Sitting around the campfire Friday night listening to Ben, Luke, and Carlos’ stories of strenuous mountain bike races, I was quite nervous for my first race. But in reality I was relieved to enjoy a lovely Saturday morning cross-country race, thanks especially to the tremendous support of my fellow competitors. The beautiful 9-mile race wound throughout the hills and forests of Burke Mountain, including a fun and fast track through a sunbathed mountain field and down a thrillingly technical downhill.

By the end of the race, I was wishing for more! Surprised and pleased to learn of my 3rd place finish (it’s women’s B after all :D), I spent the remainder of the morning cheering on Ben and Luke, and chatting with the other racers.

Luke coming through for another lap

I was impressed to learn many were just as new to racing as I was, although I also enjoyed meeting the veteran racers. Regardless of our ability or experience level, we all agreed mountain bike racing is a great way to enjoy the great outdoors, ride bikes, and meet new friends.

Following the Super D afternoon race,

Carlos crushin the Super D

we enjoyed much-deserved maple syrup “creamies” (soft serve ice cream) and made plans for our afternoon fun ride. Despite our hard morning of racing, all seven of us couldn’t help but hit the incredible Kingdom Trails. What we lacked in stamina we made up for in zeal for the trails – by the time we returned back to our campsite that evening we were all ready for a hearty campfire dinner and s’mores.

The night’s heavy rain introduced an entirely new challenge to Sunday’s short track and downhill races – mud. It was nevertheless thrilling to race the short track, and cheer on my fellow teammates and the other riders. Although I was pleased with my 2nd place finish, the race certainly inspired me to devote lots more time biking in the future, both mountain biking and road riding.

As we drove back to Boston Sunday evening, I felt emboldened by the successful completion of my first mountain bike race. Thanks to a friendly welcome from my fellow racers, and especially the MIT team, I had an inspiringly positive introductory experience and I can’t wait to get out on the trails again sometime soon!

* I would like to give special thanks to Kate Wymbs who graciously loaned me her mountain bike which kept me safe and happy all weekend long.

Beth Hadley, September 20-21 2013, UVM Kingdom Trails Race Weekend