Category Archives: News

CX Nats 2015: “Everything will change. Everything has changed.” (The Patriot)

Almost exactly a year ago, I watched CX Nats in Boulder, sitting on my trainer. I cheered on MIT’s Chris Birch racing for JAM Fund in the women’s elite race. It looked frigid.

Even though I only had two ‘cross races under my belt, I had been bitten by the bug. Sitting on that trainer, I made a goal: Cyclocross Nationals 2015, in Austin TX. Because it would be warmer.

#Tweetsfromthetrainer: Watching 2014 Nationals on the trainer got me stoked for this season.

Ha. As we packed our bikes for Austin, our race-day forecast read “ice pellets.”

My goal for cross nationals was to qualify, go, and finish. Once I’d made the nationals team, my expectations didn’t change: I knew I’d be starting in the third or fourth row, I knew it was going to be a technical course, and I knew that this was my first national-level cycling event.

When we arrived in Austin, I expected to be blasting some good pump up music (read: 1989) in our minivan as we traveled to and from Zikler Park. Joe Near had other plans: our hosts, teammate Katie Maass and her parents, owned a copy of the Patriot. This played on loop (with some worthy scenes replayed for effect).

Forget Taylor Swift, The Patriot was our pump up soundtrack. Joe Near approved.

Our races included the collegiate relay (no, we don’t all ride the same bike), and the men’s and women’s D2 collegiate fields. Friday evening’s relay was on hard-packed, near-frozen dirt. The course was so fast. There was minimal mud, next to the pits, to be avoided.

Matt Li on the relay lap, too fast for Tim Myers’s shutter speed.

After a night of rain, we arrived for Saturday morning’s pre-ride, to the sound of a military marching band on the DVD player. Matt wanted to do “at least one lap to see what had changed.” Everything had changed.

Oily. Tacky. Slick. Heavy. Slippery. Mud. This called for major changes in equipment (“get me the horse blanket”), but also strategy. While Friday’s race involved two or three dismounts for barriers and stairs, Saturday’s conditions favoured running.

I thought this was a biking race (Photo: Ali Engin)

The conditions led me to change my expectations: it was going to be a gong show, and it was going to be fun. Whatever happened, happened. And what ended up happening was fantastic, for me.

Our trip to Austin involved change and surprise for all of our teammates: Corey could not have expected her race to finish in the emergency ward, where she had a broken wrist re-set. Joe got a USA Cycling neck tattoo (ok, temporary). Chris had a surprise visitor, walked away with a fancy new necklace, and didn’t expect to be racing the elites on Monday (postponed from Sunday).

Chris Birch with the bronze in Women’s D2
Corey’s wrist… enough said.
Joe Near on one of the slickest and steepest elements of the course. Zoom in for the neck tattoo… (Photo: Andrew Davidhazy)

What else did we do in Austin? We hit the off-season hard, with the flagship Whole Foods, brownie sundaes, breakfast tacos, lunch tacos and dinner tacos, and of course some brisket (“dog is a fine meal”). We went bowling in a bar (Corey won, single-handedly). We watched the Patriot, twice.

But that didn’t stop her in beating us at bowling.

Now, we’re back, our bikes and kits finally clean. We finished 7th in the relay, and 7th in the omnium. Lucky numbers for next year. And for me, everything has changed. I placed ninth in my first cyclocross nationals, when all I wanted to do was qualify, go, and finish. Who knows what next year will bring. See you in Asheville, where I’ll be praying for mud.

Concerned face, loose brakes, and lab gloves. (Photo: Andrew Davidhazy)

PSYCHLOCROSS 2014

(courtesy of Joel Hawksley)
(courtesy of Joel Hawksley)

With the 2014 cyclocross season over, we can all finally take a breather from the relentless string of races and reflect on the past four months. For those of you unfamiliar with cyclocross, think of it as offroad criterium racing on a knobby tired road bike with obstacles (logs, barriers, stairs, flyovers, run-ups, sand, endless turns, yadda yadda).

Sound ridiculous? It is.

Fun? Most definitely.

Julie van der Hoop demonstrating a perfect bike remount.
Julie van der Hoop demonstrating a perfect bike remount on a bike that’s not even hers. (courtesy of Chris Trabulsie)

I’m obviously biased, but I feel that the cross season is arguably the most challenging discipline to train and race. As the season progresses, the temperature begins to plummet, the sun starts to avoid us, and the skies have a tendency to spitefully open up. Throw in a healthy mixture of fitness and high technical skills, this sport is not for the faint of heart or for those watt factories terrified of turning.

Colin Kennedy slaying the finish of a race (Shedd Park).
Colin Kennedy slaying the finish of a race (Shedd Park).

To put it another way, it’s not a matter of “will I crash?”….it’s more akin to “when will I crash?”. The unpredictability of the terrain, obstacles, and the riders around you makes this statement more true than other sports and in doing so, adds an intense hyper-vigilant mental aspect.

Don’t follow that dude’s wheel, he crashed you out last race.

Use that rut to the right of roots before the third turn after the second run up.

Yet even with all these potential deterrents, this season has been one of the most well attended in recent memory. Not only has this season had returning vets, but more substantially, newcomers. I stand by my statement that it only takes one race to get hooked, and if you ask anyone that first tried it out this year, I think they’ll agree – even if they mechanicaled out of their first race.

The MIT team participated in a circuit of races in the New England ranging from Hanover, NH down to Stony Point, NY. While you can practice in a field with cones and barriers all day long, the best way to really hone your skills is during a race. We raced in both ECCC and regional USAC races to get as much of this battle hardened experience as possible.

Morgan Hennessy gettin' up and over a steep section (Canton, courtesy of Geoff Martin)
Morgan Hennessy gettin’ up and over a steep section (Canton, courtesy of Geoff Martin)

The culmination of the regular season happened in Warwick, RI at the ECCC Easterns. In true spirit of the season, we had a strong showing at all skills levels and it was fantastic being able to heckle so many people throughout the day. Some of the notable results of the day and season included:

Easterns
MIT – 2nd
Men A – 6th, Joe Near
Men B – 8th, Ben Eck
Men C – 2nd, Matt Li
Women B – 2nd, Julie van der Hoop
Women C – 3rd, Katie Maass

Overall
MIT – 3rd (2nd Division II)
Men A – 6th, Joe Near
Men B – 7th, Ben Eck
Men C – 2nd, Matt Li
Women A – 4th, Chris Birch
Women B – 2nd, Julie van der Hoop
Women C – 6th, Katie Maass; 8th, Morgan Hennessy

Turns upon turns at Rapha Supercross, Gloucester (courtesy of C.Mcintosh)
Turns upon turns at Rapha Supercross, Gloucester (courtesy of C.Mcintosh)

While the regular season is over, the new year still holds one more capstone race, nationals. We’ll be sending 5 riders: Christina Birch, Julie van der Hoop, Corey Tucker, Joseph Near, and Matthew Li. Nationals will be held in Austin, TX this year and based on preliminary course previews, it will prove to be a fast race. Stay tuned for a report in the new year.

It’s been been a fantastic season. There have been enumerable good times with early morning drives and stinging heckles that have really brought the CX family close together. Although there’s still one more race coming up, I’m already eager to fast forward to next season!

Photo 5 MIT Cycling - Milstone

End of Summer Club Newsletter

Hello Friends of MIT Cycling!

With another academic year completed, MIT Cycling members have been out riding in force and the officer duties have passed into the hands of a new set of students. I’d like to introduce you to our newest student officers.  I’ll be taking over as Alumni Officer and I’ll do my best to keep you as up to date as Laura did!

This summer, MIT Cycling members have been extremely active in local, regional, and national communities:

You may remember from Laura’s last newsletter that in May, the Road team successfully defended their Collegiate Road National Championship title in Ogden, UT.

Later in May, we hosted an Urban Cycling Clinic spearheaded by David Koppstein (G) with our road coach Nicole Freedman, teaching the MIT community about urban cycling safety and skills.

In June, we taught the Boston community at thing or two about aerodynamics (we hope our collegiate conference competitors missed this issue of Boston Magazine!)

A large group of MIT riders headed down to the Trexlertown Valley Preferred velodrome for a Try-the-Track weekend, led by our new Track Captain Kate Wymbs (’14). [Photo 1- Track]

At the end of June, Cameron Cogburn (G) won the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic, an epic and prestigious stage race in Oregon. You can read about his awesome victory here.

Over the July 4th weekend, we took a team trip up to Kingdom Trails in VT as part of an Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference (ECCC) mountain biking weekend. [Photo 2 -MTB]

We had a great time camping, “shredding the gnar” on the awesome singletrack, and even deep frying some Pop Tarts in bacon grease (the ultimate recovery food?!)  [Photo 3 – BaconTarts]

Many Club members took advantage of the mountain bike rental program provided by the MIT Outing Club (MITOC) and sponsored by the MIT Cycling Club.

Mid-July, MIT alum John DeTore hosted a viewing party of Stage 18 of the Tour de France—the epic double-summiting of Alpe d’Huez. (We sat and ate chips while commentating, “Oh we could totally do that…”)

On July 28th, TWO DOZEN club members dared the Climb to the Clouds, an epic local century ride that includes a summit of Mt. Wachusett! [Photo 4 – Clouds]

After a successful mountain biking weekend in VT, several Club members took on some ENDURANCE MOUNTAIN BIKE races!

  • Ben Eck (’15) and Luke Plummer (’14) raced a 2-man team at the 12 Hours of Millstone mountain bike race in Millstone, VT, finishing in 6th place! (Luke even rode an “extra large” 36”-wheel rigid bike!) [Photo 5 – Millstone
  • Yours truly Chris Birch (G) and Andrew Lysaght (G) headed to the State College, PA, area for the National Ultra Endurance series race Wilderness 101—a century MTB race consisting of 30 minute gravel climbs and 8 minute fall-line descents!

What’s next for the collegiate team?

Mountain bike season is about to begin, followed closely by the collegiate track! The conference calendar is here, showing upcoming races.

From those of us here in Cambridge and our club members abroad for the summer, we hope you’re enjoying some good riding wherever this update finds you.

See you on the road/dirt/track!
–Chris


Want to be included in the Friends of MIT Cycling newsletter?
Send an email update (photos encouraged!) to alumni officer Chris Birch at birch@mit.edu.
Looking for a way to support the MIT Cycling Club?

Help fund our cycling outreach, riding, and racing goals by making a donation today. Go to this page to submit a donation of any size. Your donations are tax deductible and go directly toward sustaining our student-run club. Thank you!

Articles in Boston Magazine and The Tech

MIT Cycling was recently featured in an article in Boston Magazine and The Tech. The Boston Magazine article is part of a feature of Boston-area sports teams. The Tech article focuses on the National Championships and Eastern Conference Championships. Click the images below to see the articles!

Boston Magazine (click to go to article)

MIT Tech (click to go to article)

MIT News (click to go to article)

Boston.com (click to go to article)

Stars and Stripes at Track Nats 2010

Chalk it up: MIT Cycling has another set of Stars and Stripes jerseys to add to the collection after an intense weekend of racing at Collegiate Track Nationals in Indianapolis. Big props to our other DII podium teams, DePauw and Army.

The full story goes something like this, and by “something”, I mean “stick with me, it’s been nearly two weeks and I might be forgetting details”:

Day N-2

The car gets loaded with bikes, rollers, and Mike’s enormous bag of race gear. It’s unclear how many small children are being smuggled across multiple state borders inside that bag, but it is clear the minimum number is two. Everything arrives in Ohio eleven hours later without incident. Connecticut wins for best highway patrol cars. Nothing is said about how the car got to Ohio in the off-chance that Nick’s advisor finds this blog.

Day N-1

After a breakfast involving a patented mix of ciabatta, avocados, cheese, and fried eggs, the gear arrives at the Major Taylor velodrome in Indianapolis after another couple hours of driving. The first Josh Schwartz sighting is made. The rest of the team arrives at the airport amidst Nick’s confusion about which garage level the car is parked and gets a subsequent tour of the facility. (Cake would have been dismayed to find their lyrics misused.) Laura is concerned that the boys in the backseat are eating all “her” food.

Day 1

Pursuits and pursuits! The morning session was the (long-for-the-track but the roadies are going to make fun of us) Women’s 3K and Men’s 4K pursuits. Laura wound it up and used her well-practiced bob-and-weave technique to push through to the finish in a solid 10th place finish. Zach stomped Nick’s time in the 4K, then both watched as they subsequently had their time squished like June bugs under a tractor by the pros — including Mike, who made all the early competitors look like they were out for a Sunday cruise, pulling in laps that were several seconds faster than the majority despite the high winds buffeting the oval. We also learned that it’s illegal to overtake someone who previously passed you during a pursuit, which could lead to some dastardly tactics. For fans of numbers, Mike was 1.54-sigma faster than the mean (assuming Gaussianity) with his 4th place finish, while Nick was 1.60-sigma slower; the event winner was 2.38-sigma faster (Figure 1). Zach conveniently defined the mean time.

Kilos in the afternoon followed a similar trend, this time with Nick edging out Zach (who decided to ride the first quarter lap with one foot unclipped to demonstrate what a false start should have looked like) before the pros stomped down some amazingly fast spins. Mike, of course, had enough speed to get into the top 20. Laura’s 500m pursuit, loaded with more aero than Chewie at a Zipp convention, was just a fraction of a second out of the points. Oh, and for those who are curious, the density estimate of kilo times is plotted below, showing a much stronger skew to the low times than seen in the pursuit times. Interesting. Since it was Laura’s birthday, we made a run for the high-quality craft beverages to go with a pizza dinner — and came across the “Angry Beaver” bar in downtown Indianapolis. Judging by smoke and music, it was not run by an ex-MIT student, though possibly an ex-hipster-lumberjack.

Day 2

The morning session was straight-forward: sprint qualifiers for Attack and the Loominator. The short end of the story is that we both had loads of extra time after the qualifiers to go get bagels and coffee in downtown Indianapolis. Yep, stomped. Severely. Including a stomping by Josh Schwartz, one of the top qualifiers. The bagels were good, though, including a cinnamon sugar that emulsified itself to the top of the bagel.

Back at the hotel, Laura was wingeing that “Mike should really put on some trousers,” and had taken to working down in the lobby while waiting for Mike to figure out what trousers translated to in real English.

The afternoon session was the team sprint and women’s points race. The team sprint featured Laura leading off the first two laps (because no other women from MIT were brave enough to ride track and help her out, ahem ahem), followed by some quick laps from Nick and Zach before Mike ITT’d the final two laps to finish just a touch faster than our other DII competition. Laura then turned right around and rode a 20K points race, going out a couple times on flyers and chasing intelligently. The field stayed together for the most part, so that Laura’s finishing sprint paid off.

Day 3

More racing: the morning session featured the men’s team pursuit, where Nick and Zach basically held on for dear life behind the draft that is Mike Garrett. After attempting a set of rotations, Mike would start pulling away, then we’d regroup, and he would take another lap in the lead… so that the pursuit was actually a relaxed ITT for Mike with a couple additional wheelsuckers. Again, it was enough to gain some points on our DII competition, and was within just seconds of several other teams. (Third and eleventh place were separated by 4.55 seconds. That’s a tight distribution.) Jokes about Chewie’s infamous “JOSE! GAP! GAP!” remained rampant throughout the day.

Mike easily qualified for the points race by looking so much like a pro during the cycling clothing fashion show, and also by lapping the field during the prelims. During the real points race, he went out with just the right groups, and after spending something like a third of the race hanging out half a lap ahead of the field finally managed to lap them and get his points. Other groups attempting to lap the field, with or without Mike, weren’t as successful. (Side note: I was reminded that my Track Theme Song is still appropriate.)

Before all the dust settled, MIT had enough points to win the Div II Team Omnium. Fortunately for us, our small team had just enough space to crowd on to the winners podium nestled between large amounts of yellow from De Pauw and Army. There was more craft beverages back in downtown Indianapolis (a Ram Assface for both myself and Zach, which seemed appropriate after our team pursuit) and all of us getting compared to the intelligent folk from Butler University. “Am I right?”

Day M+1:M+2

From here on out, everything is pretty uneventful: the guys got dropped at the airport, the car started its journey back towards Massachusetts, etc, etc. There’s a great bike path between Stow and Cleveland, OH, that passes right through the Cayahoga Forest. I found out my sister doesn’t like zombie movies or fluorescently-colored shirts. I rediscovered a love for Twizzlers. And all the equipment arrived back safe with only a few nominal road bumps — ready for dishing track pain again next year.

MIT Cycling wins the overall conference title!

Full report to follow. In the meantime here’s Spencer’s race report:

Following the Dartmouth race weekend, I would like to recognize a huge
number of people who helped me and my bike get to and succeed in my
races (all these just from one weekend!):
* Chris Carper, Sam Hickey, and Ian Rousseau for pushing me in the TTT
to experience my “pain cave” more than ever before
* Isaac Bleicher, for running to me when I crashed in the crit,
pointing out that I had a flat tire, and running my bike ahead of me
toward the pit
* Matt Talpe, to whom Isaac handed off my bike, and who fetched a
10-speed wheel from
* Zach LaBry
* Katie Quinn, who stood by me at the pit and reminded me to relax and
rest during my free lap
* Chewie, for giving me a push by the feed zone in the road race to
ensure I caught back on with the pack, taking care of the bike van,
and teaching me a few tricks for front derailleur adjustment
* Matt Blackburn, who let me use a brand new GP4000S that he had
brought (I busted my tire in the crit), and for providing music and
navigation as my co-pilot
* Nick Loomis, for two stellar bottle handoffs (despite his perception
of the nastiness of lime Accelerade) and taking care of the bike van
* David Singerman, for letting me use the file on his Swiss Army knife
to clean up the new dents/scrapes on my rim to avoid shredding a new
tire and my brake pads
* The people who I left off this list because there were two many
helpful acts to remember or who helped me without making themselves
known
* All of the officers and captains for their behind-the-scenes work
* Just about everyone on the team, for cheering at strategic spots on
the courses and being excited about bicycle racing

Bike rodeo

Last Saturday, five MIT cyclists (well, four cyclists + one alumna) headed to South Boston to volunteer at a kid’s bike rodeo. The event was designed to teach kids and parents about bike safety, handling, mechanical tips, proper helmet-wearing, and how to steal the wheel of a good lead-out train (joke).

It was organized by our fearless and incredibly hard-working coach, Nicole Freedman, who happens also to be the City of Boston’s bike tsarina. Everybody had a good time, and I am pretty sure I met one 5-year-old  named Benjamin who will win the national cyclocross championship in…2022. Stay tuned, I suppose.

Anyway, pictures of the event are up on our Flickr page (which you can also preview to your right).

Collegiate and amateur racing in the New York Times

This isn’t really about MIT directly, but a recent post from the New York Times’s City Room blog deserves a shout-out. It’s called “For Would-Be Armstrongs, Some Bike Racing Tips,” and it’s all about the transition from riding to racing in the amateur and collegiate circuits.

It also features advice from the coach and riders from my own undergraduate alma mater, the Columbia University Cycling Team. ECCC pride!

Columbia is a squad that has had an enormous amount of success in the past few years and has turned itself into one of the largest and most successful organizations in the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference. The Lions almost always place talented and skilled riders in every men’s and women’s category. So it’s well worth reading their advice in the Times post.