Road Nationals Recap
On May 6th, the MIT Cycling Team traveled down to North Carolina for three days of epic racing in the hills of Asheville. This year’s squad included: Zack Ulissi, Emerson Glassey, Corey Tucker, Anne Raymond, Julie van der Hoop, Jen Wilson, Ben Eck (mechanic), and later, Andrea Tacchetti and Phil Kreycik. The team rented a home to make prepping for race day easier (e.g. cooking lots of good food and sitting in the hot tub).
Day 1 involved a flight, wrangling of bikes and equipment at the airport (they did manage to get the doubles stuck in the conveyor belt!), and a ~2 hr drive to get to our place in Asheville. Kudos to Corey for an epic spreadsheet (it was color-coded and included our menu!) and kudos to Zack for finding the “deli” with fried chicken and pulled pork! Arrival at the house saw bike assembly, a grocery run, and a short spin down to route 52 to scope out the territory. Dinner #1 TACOS.
Day 2 was the day of recon. It was the chance to check out the courses and get a sense how the races would play out. Because of looming weather, the team headed out to the road course first. The team jumped out of the car to test the 25 mile loop at varying paces (Corey and Emerson dropped the group going into the first climb). It proved to be a beautiful course though, and now we were prepared for the race that was ahead. That afternoon, some of the team explored the lovely downtown area, while others rested and prepared for racing. Dinner that night: stir-fry.
Day 3 was our first race day. The women left the house around 6:30 am to get down to the race course, and Ben joined us for feeds and moral support (but really, when you’re nervous and trying to race, having a rational mechanic on hand is priceless!). The women took off around 8:30 am after call-ups into a foggy mist. The neutral start was a little rough as people crashed and bumped into each other. There was a lot of shouting and calling out to riders (flashbacks of CX-Nats had us all anxiously looking out for Corey). All of the women made it through to the climb though, and we were off! The sun came out and the day got hot quickly. By the end of the women’s race and the start of the men’s, it was hot enough that feeds could make or break the race. Ben Eck did a stellar job feeding the women all by himself (Ben, that bottle made my race!), and by the time that the men went off, Julie had effectively coordinated feeds for the entire ECCC. I think MIT riders may have posed for at least 4 different teams that day (North Eastern, Tufts, RISD, BU at least), but we were lucky to have that conference community to rely upon (thank you ECCC for being such an awesome and collegial environment).
Day 4 was the day of the hill-attack crit. For many, this was by far the hardest crit course we had seen. With 100ft of climbing per lap, the course was more a process of constant hill repeats than the preferred technical corners and pack dynamics of a more traditional crit. Yet, the team threw themselves out there and fought on nonetheless. The women’s field splintered quickly as CMU set a blazing pace for the first few laps and set up the race to be one of attrition. Though even despite the heat and unrelenting climbs, the ECCC was out in full force to support us, and while in the pain cave, the cheers of Alan and the like were reminders of the strong preparation and community we receive racing in our conference. Also, a special thanks to Alan for advocating on MIT and Dartmouth’s behalf when the officials accidentally posted us as down a lap (it was just further proof of the chaos that ensued during this crit). As the other events went off, the course only became more brutal with the heat, and again, the ECCC bonded together to create an ice-water feed and splash zone (the women were not so lucky in the ability to feed or get splashed). At the end of the day, Zack received a victory ice-water bath from Anne, the team celebrated with some excellent donuts from Vortex (thanks for the freebies!), and then went home to recover for the last day of racing.
Day 5 was TTT! MIT traditionally does really well with the TTT, and this year was no exception. The Men set out first in their matching Venges, placing 4th overall. The women’s event followed, and ultimately placed 5th. Both teams made the podium! Zack Ulissi would go on to compete in the ITT in the burning heat (and after competing in all three events!) and end up 8th overall. We want to wish him luck in his future racing endeavors, but we are fearful of the future where he will no longer be scoring points for us
That evening concluded with a new Nationals tradition – BBQing with friends. In the past, the last race day has always seen an epic amount of dining (fried chicken has been the longest standing tradition). Though this year we mixed it up some and opted for salmon, sausages and steak instead (thanks a bunch to Emerson and Zack for getting groceries and starting the grill). The group eventually expanded to include Dartmouth, UCSD, NorthEastern and BU riders. Having the large porch afforded us the opportunity to bond with other cyclists and extend the cross-team camaraderie started at Saturday’s feed zone.
Day 6 was the return to reality. We had booked later flights to try and stave off the return to work and life, and did our best to squeeze the last bit of fun out of our time in Asheville. The group agreed that BBQ was essential to this mission and the team returned to 12 bones for one last fix. Emerson, Zack, and Ben apparently won lunch that day as they also secured ribs for the flight back. The other food-newbies on the team merely ordered lunch and were ultimately sad on the return flight when the pros opened feasted on their dinner ribs mid-plane ride.
The team was greeted at Boston with enthusiastic high fives from our resident expert, Ethan, and were much appreciated at the end of a long day. Kristine Fong also supplied Tatte pastries to give the team a little boost as we returned to the prospect of working and being students again (thank you both!).
The team, riders and equipment all made it safely back to Cambridge. Though, at the moment, it’s unclear as to who has unpacked and started riding. Six Gaps is looming on the weekend horizon and it seems that training-in-bed may be the best strategy.