Last Saturday, I tried out my first MTB race and had so much fun! I splurged on a mountain bike last year, when I saw a deal on eBay, and played around on it a couple of times in the Fells last Spring, but after I kept falling off and bashing my knees, I decided to give it a break until the road season was over. Green Mountain was my last really important road race, over the Labor Day weekend, so I decided it was time to get down and dirty, and get the bike (+ recently purchased knee and shin guards) out of the closet and start riding it again.
I did a couple of rides in the Fells last week, attended the very helpful clinic by our new MTB coach Sara Bresnick, and tested myself at a local race (Wompatuck’s Landmine Classic) a week earlier, before deciding to show my face at collegiate race. The Wompatuck race had been quite a lot of fun, but I flatted, I was not really sure how to change a tube on a tubeless tire – luckily some very kind gentleman helped me – so that ended up being more of a ride than a race.
The collegiate XC race was an absolute blast. It was hosted at Holiday Brook Farm in Western Massachusetts and I loved the 4.5 mile loop. There was a lot of super smooth single track and the course was extremely undulating. I felt my advantage was pumping it up all the short steep climbs, while I simply tried to hold onto my nerve on all the downhills and ride as cleanly as possible. The race ended up coming down to a duel between me and another woman from UVM – I think I was a bit stronger on the climbing and I would sometimes manage to open up a gap, but she was so much more comfortable on all the descents and would make up ground in those sections. In the final lap I caught back up to her at the top of a 20 sec climb, and as we both tried to push out the last pedal stroke before cresting the hill, we somehow collided and I ended up a little worse off with twisted handlebars. I picked myself up and resigned myself to a solid second place, since I knew my skills with even straight handlebars wouldn’t match hers on the remaining descents, and safely completed the course, 25 seconds down on the winner, but 1 min 20 sec ahead of 3rd place!
For the remainder of the day, I enjoyed watching more gutsy riders tackle the dual slalom and I’ve attached some video of Ben and Lluis doing this!
Keith, our former MTB captain, had an interesting couple of weekends racing road, and has posted his thoughts to his blog.
Let’s digress a moment to understand my perspective on this road racing thing: I’m a guy who races with big spacing at average speeds of 14mph; on dirt, which is soft; dodging trees, which don’t move; on a bike that eats obstacles the size of baseballs for breakfast. Now take this same guy and put him on a bike that feels like a toy, speed him up to double the pace, replace dirt with concrete and add a couple dozen clean shaven 20-somethings as fit and aggressive as they are squirrely bike-handlers to swarm about while whipping around in circles until everyone is blind from oxygen-deprivation. They tiptoe on the brink of disaster where the minimum penalty for failure is ending up like a lemon skin after an evening in a french kitchen. This is pretty much the definition of scary.
I strongly suggest you read the whole thing.
After skipping the first weekend of racing in upstate NY (too far, too early in the school year), MIT sent its MTB team to its first race of the season. UNH put on a fun and well organized race as usual, with XC at the traditional Kingman Farm venue. STXC, Dual Slalom, and Downhill events were at Highland Mountain Bike Park. Veterans Keith Berkoben, John Romanishin, and Cimarron Wortham were joined by Luke Chellis in the endurance races (that’s XC and STXC), while freshman Romi Kadri may well be the first MIT racer to compete in the Downhill race.
Saturday began with the XC races. John started the day off in fine style, taking 5th in his first MTB race (mens C). Cim, apparently getting ready for cyclocross season, made sure to hit the only muddy part of the course at full speed every lap and was probably the dirtiest rider/bike by the end. While the benefits of taking the shortest path were probably offset by the extra weight and degraded shifting, he finished 4th in the mens B race. After the XC racing, the team made the hour drive to Highland to preview the DH course and watch the Dual Slalom action.
Sunday morning brought more endurance racing with the STXC. Again John took 5th and Cim 4th in their respective races. The afternoon was time for the downhillers to fly down the mountain without regard for rocks, roots, or drops. Romi’s 3rd in the Downhill (mens B) capped off a fine weekend.
My only disappointment with the weekend is the number of times I heard “MIT… I didn’t know you had a mountain bike team.” While we have a solid reputation as a powerhouse in cyclocross, road, and on the track, it seems that UVM is feeling pretty comfortable in its position as King of the Mountain(bike). The only way to change that is to get out and race.
On a related note, if you’re sorry you missed out on racing this weekend, don’t worry! There are races coming up on the next three weekends. Stay tuned for next weekend’s Lehigh race announcement later today, to be followed by the UVM race Oct. 2/3 and Easterns Oct. 9/10.
VeloNews decided to give Eric Edlund a 30th birthday present by posting a photo of him from the BC Bike Race.
And of course you can follow the Pedal and Wrench duo at their blog.
The word “epic” gets tossed around a lot these days. And it’s clear we should be careful when the word is used by event promoters (except X-Pot) or anybody hawking a product. But there is absolutely no question that the word “epic” applies to the BC Bike Race, in which riders haul themselves from Vancouver to Whistler over seven spectacular stages of singletrack. And two riders from MIT are about to embarrass the rest of the field.
Our very own strongmen Keith and Eric have been training for this for many moons. (But not at the expense of the latter’s thesis, of course, heavens no.) Anybody who’s tried to hold their draft in the last few months knows that they have tuned their engines to perfection.
In fact it’s possible you’ve already been following their build-up to the BC race. Since 2008 Keith and Eric have helpfully and exhaustively documented their training and thinking on the blog they jointly maintain as Team Pedal and Wrench. Only a blog by a pair of MIT students, and in fact only by this pair, could include both setting up wireless in Afghanistan and a 10-year statistical analysis of trends in MTB geometry.
The race starts on the 28th. Wish them luck, cheer them on, and follow their progress as Team Pedal and Wrench—on the race website, linked above, and on their blog, when they get a break from a week of unrelenting contact with nature.
Can you believe what we have accomplished in the last year? Let’s take a moment to celebrate our fantastic achievements. Below is a provisional list of our accomplishments that will constitute
an application for the USA Cycling Collegiate Club of the Year award.
Kate Harris (G), a member of the MIT Cycling team and a geobiology graduate student in the Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences department, won first place in the short track event and third in the cross-country event at the national collegiate mountain biking championship held last weekend at Lees-McRae College in North Carolina.
I’ve gotten a few requests for a race report from nationals, so in the name of procrastination, here goes!
After some panicked packing, two flights, and a long and winding car ride through the Appalachian mountains, I found myself a world away from MIT in Banner Elk, North Carolina, home to the 2008 national collegiate mountain biking championships. After leaving behind the frantic frazzled existence of a first-year grad student, I could finally yield to the perfect freedom of a single necessity: racing my bike.
UNH Kingman was the first MTB race for the MIT team this season. Beautiful sunny day, slightly on the chilly side in the morning. The cross country and short track courses were short and flat if you are hard to please, or “fast and furious” if you look at things from the bright side. MIT team had a great turn-out of nine racers.