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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.

2017 DII Club Omnium National Champs!

This year we were able to take 8 students (plus Coach Kolie) to the Collegiate Road National Championships in Grand Junction, CO. We had 4 A women: Katy Olesnavage, Anne Raymond, Tori Wuthrich, and myself (Emma Edwards), 2 A men: Justin Bandoro and Emerson Glassey, and Berk Ozturk and Youyang Zhao joined them for the Team Time Trial (TTT). All of the A-level riders did the TTT the first day (Friday), the Road Race the second day (Saturday), and the Criterium the third day (Sunday).

Most of us traveled on Wednesday, arriving at our house—a house on a farm which we booked through Airbnb—around midnight. Since we couldn’t see any of the surrounding scenery when we arrived, we were surprised with wonderful views when we woke up. We spent the morning putting our bikes together and meeting some of the animals on the farm, including two dogs and a baby goat!

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Assembling our bikes with quite the view!

That afternoon, we pre-rode the TTT course, and we were unpleasantly surprised with two obstacles: (1) the altitude, and (2) the wind! Of course, the altitude was something we had considered a little bit, but we didn’t expect it to affect it as much as it did. We really noticed a difficulty in breathing and much lower power numbers to what we were used to. We had to rely on to how we were feeling to dictate our efforts (instead of power numbers) much more than usual. We really hadn’t thought about the wind at all! It was extremely gusty, so we were being blown all over the road. This made it very difficult to pace-line efficiently but forming echelons was also difficult because of the gusty nature of the wind.

Luckily, it wasn’t quite as windy Friday morning. The gusts weren’t as strong, so we felt a little safer, but it still played a significant role, since benefits from drafting were still decreased. The TTT was about 20 miles, which is longer than any other TTT we do all year. It was an out-and-back: downhill with a head-wind on the way out and slightly uphill with a tail-wind on the way back. This combination made it very tricky to pace, and both the men and the women shed a rider soon after the turn-around. After that, it was a fight against our lungs and the wind. The men finished top-10 and the women finished second! A particularly special moment for me was standing on the podium with my teammates, next to Jen Wilson, an alumni of the MIT team who rode with the Stanford team this year as a postdoc.

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The boys TTT getting ready to start
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Women about to start the TTT!
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Starting the TTT!
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Second step of the podium! With our good friend Jen Wilson on the top step!
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The ladies with our silver medals!

We didn’t have a chance to pre-ride the road race course, but we drove it quickly on Friday afternoon. The course was absolutely stunning, with mountains surrounding us and a great mix of windy descents, hairpin steep accents, and many miles of false-flats.

Unfortunately, I didn’t actually get to ride more than 3.5 miles of the course, though, because I went down! I think what happened is that someone got nervous going around a corner on the descent and pulled on her brakes, losing traction in their tires. It results in 10 girls going down, including me. I was able to slow down a lot before I crashed into her (she went flying across the road, hence why she took out so many other girls), so I wasn’t badly hurt (just a cut on my elbow) and my bike was fine, but it was the end of my day of racing. Tori also had bad luck, with her derailleur breaking on a cattle-guard, a couple miles after my crash. She ended up on a neutral-support bike, 5 minutes behind the rest of the field by the time everything was set up and she was ready to roll. She fought hard, though, and ITT-ed the rest of the race, passing quite a few (13!!) girls on her way to the finish line, finishing 36th. Anne and Katy both did wonderfully, finishing 29th and 25th respectively, out of 61 starters (which is probably 3 x larger than our largest women’s-A race this year during the regular season). In the men’s race Emerson and Justin both did great. Emerson finished 50th out of ~120 starters! Possibly the most successful part of the day, though, was the skill shown in this picture:

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Tori giving a very skillful feed to Emerson

Sunday was the crit in downtown Grand Junction. It was a 6 corner crit around a couple of blocks downtown. It was a really good location for a crit, and it seemed tame except for one corner, which went from quite a wide road to a narrow road, and the corner was smooth and slippery, with a manhole cover in the middle. Tori and Anne both went down on this corner throughout the race (along with many other people!) but were okay! I tried to use the fact that I had only raced 3 miles the day before to my advantage by attacking with 5 laps to go. I held a ~10 second gap for the rest of the race until the second-to-last corner (~200 meters from the end) when I was caught and passed by the group. Katy also finished with the group! Justin and Emerson had a very fast race, with the peloton (of more than 100 people!!) strung out almost the entire race.

We waited around for a while, the suspense building more and more, until they announced that we had won the D2 club omnium! Unfortunately, Justin and Berk missed the podium and the picture:

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2017 Club DII National Champions: Top row from left: Tori Wuthrich, Katy Olesnavage, Emma Edwards, Anne Raymond, Bottom row: Youyang Zhao, Emerson Glassey. Not pictured: Berk Ozturk and Justin Bandoro

This was, without a doubt, a great team effort. We would not have been able to get this national title without every single person that went! Special thanks to Kolie for helping us get ready for races and going over strategies and things to think about for each race. I’m very sad that three of the people who went this year (Katy, Anne, and Justin) are graduating this year, but I’m already looking forward to next year so that I can make it more than 3.5 miles into the road race!

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Nationals was a great team-bonding time, too!

 

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Trophy!

 

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And just for good measure: one final pinning picture!

Bringing Home the Trophy!

And thus it was the last ECCC race weekend of the season, a bit too quickly if you ask me. Easterns this year was hosted by RISD and Brown and was only an hour drive away, so we had 27 racers come out, including a few first timers! On the agenda was the usual TTT and road race on Saturday and the crit on Sunday. Two dirt sections on a chilly and rainy day made the road race course very interesting!

It was a fantastic end to the collegiate racing season. We brought home the ECCC Championship weekend trophy for the 2nd year in a row, beating Army by a mere 8 points, and won the D2 Omnium as well!! To summarize some of the results: We got 1st in the Women’s A, Men’s C, Women’s D, and Men’s E TTTs, and 2nd in the Men’s A and Men’s D TTT. Emma came in 4th and Tori in 6th at the Women’s A road race, Quinn and Berk secured 4th and 5th in the Men’s C road race, Kate Lawrence got 2nd in the Women’s C race, Liam came in 4th in the Men’s D race, Emy got 2nd in the Women’s D race, and Josu and Tony came in 2nd and 9th in the Men’s E race. Tori secured 6th place in the women’s a crit, while Berk, Quinn, and Charles came in 4, 5, and 9 in the men’s C crit, Liam came 9th in the Men’s D, Amy ended 2nd in the Women’s D, and Josu and Tony came in 1st and 7th in the Men’s E crit!

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Emma and PK with the Championship weekend Trophy!

Here is a recap of the weekend from Amanda:

 “TTT: This was Kate H’s first ever race, and we had a 4-person Women D team! Despite there being no other Women’s D teams in the line-up, we pushed hard and put in a solid effort. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to keep our team of 4 together for the whole course. We dropped Kate within the first mile, and then I dropped off around mile 5 of 13 on an incline. Amy and Em pulled strong to the finish, and we ended up beating the 2nd place Women C TTT time.

RR: Sometimes being in cold rain triggers unhappy memories of this course. Previously unable to climb at a respectable speed, I surprised myself during this race by managing to move up in positions on some climbs! However, I still solo’d most of the race because I slowed down too much in the hole-y mud segments around mile 8 and wasn’t able to chase back onto the pack. In the end, Amy took 3rd, while Em and I came in 16th and 14th, respectively, in a field of 23.

Crit: *Turns* (ha) out that I’m too scared to corner in packs, and my Army crit strategy to string out the pack by hammering at the front & up the punchy climb doesn’t work quite as well on a flat course. The headwind we had witnessed in the morning races flipped, turning the sprint finish segment into a tailwind, and a straight segment after two quick turns into a fierce headwind. I spent most of this race yo-yo’ing off the back in those turns and trying to push through the headwind to catch the pack. The main pack raced together toward a huge 17-member sprint finish, with Amy earning 2nd place and some prime points!

As a highlight from the Women D field, Amy also got 1st overall for the season, beating out a girl from UVM by 6 points. As a team we also won the season and weekend omniums! It continually baffles me that I originally came to MIT to do science and joined the cycling team just to exercise, but instead happened upon a very inspiring group of top-notch cyclist-scientists that make me want to race at a more competitive level. Suffice it to say, I have a long way to go, especially since I’d just started cycling (outside of commuting) this past November on a trainer, with most of my outside miles actually at these ECCC-sanctioned races. I’m looking forward to a summer full of training to build fitness and drop some of those pack riding fears in preparation for next year! “

And the report from Tori:

“At the start line of the Women’s A/B road race, the conditions weren’t looking too promising – it was cold and raining, and no one was sure what to expect from the course’s two dirt sections, especially given the wet conditions. But the team went into the race with the idea that we’d make the best of it, and it turned out to be one of my favorite road races this season. As expected, the dirt sections were tough, but more manageable than I had originally anticipated. For most of the race, I was in a group with 10 or so other riders, including Anne. Emma was up the road in a breakaway that had gone during the second lap. Anne and I were riding next to each other in the pack, which gave us a chance to strategize and organize a leadout for the final sprint. Anne executed the leadout perfectly, and I came around her just before the final corner, and managed to win the group sprint. And Emma had hung on for 4th! Then it was back to the hotel to give our bikes (and us, of course) a good washing before Sunday’s crit.  “

Team Photo with the Trophy and D2 Winner's Plaque
Team Photo with the Trophy and D2 Winner’s Plaque

This weekend was a fantastic way to end our season. I could not have asked for a better season and enjoyed every minute of it with all of my amazing teammates. Thanks for an awesome season, everyone!!

Bringing an army to Army

I (Emma) have missed the Army Spring Classic the last two years, so I was super excited to do it this year! It’s a relatively close race and famously well-run, so we had TWENTY-SEVEN people come out to race!!! It was the largest crowd we’ve seen all year!

We had the “usual” three events this weekend (Team Time Trial, Road Race, and Crit). We were super excited about the TTT’s because we had teams for every category except one! And we were even more excited when 6 teams got 1st and the other 2 teams got 2nd in their categories!! It was an awesome way to start out the weekend; we were feeling optimistic about the rest of the races.

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Women’s A TTT squad after the TTT, with all of our aero helmets! Photo: Charlie Nodus

We have three race reports from this weekend: one from me, one from Charles Wu (2nd year grad) and one from Laura Treers (3rd year undergrad).

First, Charles comments on all three of his events:

On the TTT:

Simple course, downhill then uphill along the same road, this was a real pacing test.  Go too hard on the downhill, and you have no energy for the climb back up.  We had two C teams, Charles/Charlie/Wade and Brian/Daniel/Ethan.  Our first priority was to beat the rest of the schools, and our second priority was to beat the other MIT C team J We went out hard into the headwind and started slowly reeling in the team in front on the downhill portion.  After we made the U-turn, we hammered uphill and eventually passed at least 2 or 3 teams before the finish (which means we gained 30-90 seconds on each of them).  After the finish, one of the Pitt riders said something to the effect of “Nice job, you made us look silly”.  We won the race!

 

On the RR:

This was a really fast course, huge downhill followed by ~12-13min uphill, a rolling middle section, and an uphill finish.  We were hitting almost 50mph on the descent (very scary).  The C field was, like last weekend, oddly calm, and almost nothing happened the first two laps except for Berk dropping his chain and chasing back on. On the last lap, Quinn and Brian set a searing pace uphill which dropped me off the back. I rode for a bit in no-man’s land until Wade caught up to me (he had dropped his chain earlier too) and we had some TTT practice, eventually rolling in 25th and 26th.  Up the road, the race ended in a bunch sprint, where Charlie got 4th, Berk 7th, and Quinn 9th.

 

On the crit:

The Army crit course is a weird triangle shape, with a little big-ring hill right after the finish line, a >90 degree corner leading into a back straight, and a fast sweeping right into a short (100m) finish straight.  Luckily, I had experience racing it last year and already knew the passing points (no one wants to push up the bumpy af right side on the back straight, so you can make up positions easily).  The race started and almost immediately, Berk was away on the attack.  He stayed away for most of the race and at one point had almost 20 seconds on the field, winning 2 primes.  But he was eventually reeled in (through some miscommunication, MIT chased too much, d’oh). The field started to yo-yo in pace and this caused some minor crashes.  I tried to move up as best I could, and after some recovery time, Berk hit the front with me second wheel.  We rode at a high pace for a few laps, and no one had time to attack due to Berk’s crushing sprint leadout.  Finally, on the last lap Army tried to launch a two-man attack, but their leadout guy crashed at the top of the hill, flipping over the curb right in front of me and almost taking me out.  I lost a bunch of places immediately, but held on the back straight and final sprint for 5th, rueing what might have been.  Quinn (7th), Berk (11th), Brian(13th), and Wade(14th) all finished top 20 in a great MIT showing.

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Berk during his ~15 minute solo breakaway, Photo: PK

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Charles in the pack. Photo: PK

 

On the rest of the weekend:

What a turnout! 27 riders and a lot of hanging out/banter/eating snacks in the sunshine. We all but swept the TTT categories, and Kate and Emma won a race each, both in sprint finishes!

And here is Laura’s race report from her crit:

Sunday lived up to the legends of the glorious Army Crit course.  Featuring a long straightaway right next to the Hudson River, a punchy climb, and two quite technical corners, it might just be the funnest crit course I’ve ever done.  I was super excited to have two other MIT women racing with me in the Women’s D field.  For Amy and Amanda, it was both of their first crits, so we were all a little nervous going into it, but did some initial strategizing in hopes of all staying at the front of the pack.  Right off the gun Amanda sprinted to the front and started hammering, stringing out the field from the very beginning.  Amy stayed within the front 5 riders the entire time, while Amanda moved around in the pack quite a bit, staging some attacks up the punchy hill to keep things interesting.  I ended up “yoyo-ing” off the back more than I wanted, so with ~10 minutes to go I used the straightaway to pass most of the field and grab onto Amanda’s wheel for the rest of the race.  Because we were going soo hard the whole time, the field had really broken up, leaving only around 8 riders in the main field by the end.  The last lap was especially fast, and ended in a sprint to the finish, with Amy in 2nd, and Amanda and I in 4th and 5th, respectively.  I couldn’t have been happier with how the race went, and also soo proud of my teammates for totally crushing it in their first crits.  This was sadly my last collegiate race on the road this year, and I think a perfect ending. Already getting stoked for next season 🙂

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Women’s D squad ready for the RR to start! Photo: PK

Here is mine from my victory (!) at the women’s A crit on Sunday:

I never thought I would be writing about winning a women’s A crit because I am not a great sprinter, especially in large packs (I get pretty nervous!). But this year two of the three crits we’ve done have included small breakaways. I must say that I’ve enjoyed crits MUCH more when it’s just 2 or 3 other girls cornering with me! 🙂

This time, the break went about halfway into the race, with Dani (conference leader, Brown), and Liz (Army). After 5-10 minutes of pushing, I asked people from MIT who were spectating for the gap, and the next time around they said it was only 15 seconds. So we kept the pace high, and seemingly magically the gap grew and grew. I found out afterwards that this was not magic– this was teamwork!! Tori and Anne did an AMAZING job blocking the rest of the pack. I really don’t think we would have been able to stay away if they hadn’t been there, and I appreciate their help SO much.

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Tori and Anne controlling the women’s A/B pack to enable my breakaway to stay away! Photo: Wade Wang

Unfortunately, with about 6 laps to go Liz took one of the corners too wide and hit a guard rail (it was padded and she was okay other than some road rash), so it was then just Dani and me. We worked together until the last lap.  In a head-to-head sprint, Dani would beat me every time. She has an incredible sprint! So knowing that, I stayed on her wheel for the last lap to try to tire her out. Coming out of the last corner she was close to the left hand side of the road, so I went to her right. I put my head down and sprinted as hard as I could and I barely edged her out! It was an amazing feeling, and it meant so much more when I found out how much Anne and Tori had done to help me!

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Hardest I have ever sprinted! Photo: Wade Wang

This coming weekend is ECCC championships hosted by RISD and Brown. We have another large group coming since it’s so close!

Shippensburg Scurry 2017

The Shippensburg Scurry is one of the farthest races we will go to this year, but it was well worth the seven hour drive! The weekend started with the campus criterium on Saturday, followed by the only hill climb of the season in the afternoon and was rounded out by the Horse Killer Road Race on Sunday. Ten racers came out this weekend to represent MIT, which is great considering the driving distance to get to Shippensburg! And this was our first weekend with good weather this season, which made all of us very happy.

 

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Men’s C squad!

Out of the ten that made it, five (including me) were in the Men’s C category. We were all very excited to try out some team tactics and see what we could do to our field! The criterium’s main features consisted of two wide and fast corners and a kicker of a climb leading into the finish, so it was a past-paced race. Most of the pack stuck together up until the second to last lap, which made this crit totally different than the last at Penn State. As a team we did great! I was able to snag 1st in the first two primes and Berk got 2nd in the third prime. Throughout the race, Berk was very aggressive and was testing the field with attacks throughout. Coming into the last lap, Quinn was able to secure his spot in a break of 4 while the rest of us were near the front of the pack. In the end, Quinn held on to come in at 4th, Charles came 8th, I came 9th, Wade came 10th, and Berk came in at 15th.

The mass-start hill climb turned out to be a very interesting race. We had time to drive the course before the race and we took that opportunity to check it out and come up with a plan. Charles volunteered to put in a hard effort at the beginning and keep the pace high to catch the other teams off guard. All five of us started in the first line, and thus Charles was able to attack with an 1000W sprint right as the race started. This kept the pace fast and some people were getting shelled off the back before the real climb had even started. It was a tough 23 minute climb for me, but about halfway through, Wade caught up to me and gave me the inspiration I needed to keep pushing hard to the end(Thanks, Wade!!). Berk secured 2nd place and Quinn came close behind at 6th while Wade and I came in at 14th and 15th. After his valiant effort at the beginning, Charles decided to enjoy the scenery at an endurance pace and still managed to come in at 33rd out of 40, which just goes to show how much pain he caused everyone at the beginning (woo, go Charles!).

For us the Horse Killer Road Race was 46 miles long and consisted of a short loop followed by two loops that included the climb up Horse Killer Road, which has a 0.9 mile long climb at an average 8% grade ( within this 0.9miles is a 0.4 mile segment at an average 13% grade). This race was oddly calm for the C field, with only one attempted break away in the first lap, one or two attacks in the second lap, and a very slow pace for the first half of the 3rd lap, right up until Horse Killer Road. Quinn had his third strong finish of the weekend, coming in 5th. Berk was close behind in 8th and I managed to get 13th. The highlight of this race for me definitely has to be during the 2nd lap. Berk, Quinn, and I found ourselves shoulder-to-shoulder at the very front of the pack. Wade was right behind us and decided to attack by finding space to the right of Quinn and just as he passed, Charles slotted in next to Quinn. I wish someone could have taken a picture of this blockade we set up. Sadly Wade’s attack only lasted for about 2 miles because the frustrated riders behind us dangerously crossed over the double yellow centerline to get around us and led the chase to catch Wade.

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Pinning pictures are consistently amazing.

Overall, it was an extremely fun weekend, with lots of shenanigans in the down time while watching our teammates race. As far as racing going, our team had a hugely successful weekend as Emma, Katy, and Tori crushed it in the Women’s A field and Constantin and Shikhar doing well in the Men’s E field. We are currently leading the overall standings and plan to keep our spot at the top this upcoming weekend at the Army Spring Classic, where we will have 27 riders representing MIT!! (No, that is not a typo, 27 people are coming to Army. It is going to be awesome!!)

-PK

Nittany Classic 2017 Race Reports

Penn State (aka the Nittany Classic) is a favorite race each year for the MIT cyclists. The famous “Black Mo” climb is the biggest hill we face in the conference (putting our California training camp to good use!), and the crit is fast and fun, located around Frat Court. This year we had 11 people make the drive to State College, PA, including 3 new racers!

We have 3 race reports this week: one from Dustin Weigl (1st year grad), a joint one from Katy Olesnavage (5th year grad) and I (Emma Edwards, 3rd year grad), and one from Laura Treers (3rd year undergrad).

 

From Dustin:

This weekend was my first time racing with the team and I had the chance to start in my first road race with a great squad in Men’s C. With a huge 5 mile climb up Black Moshannon Mountain at the end of both laps I went in with an open mind hoping the team could find a way to work together to put some time into the field. When we got to the climb on the first lap I found myself at the front with nobody else willing to lead so I decided to just put in a consistent effort to see how things went. At the top, I found myself in a group with MIT teammate Charlie Nodus and 2 NYU riders with a sizeable gap on the next group. Unfortunately, one of the NYU riders crashed out on the descent into the second lap and we were left with a group of 3. We got organized and kept up a good pace back to the bottom of the climb and the moto let us know we had about 4 minutes on the next riders. About about a mile into the climb, the NYU rider surged and I went with him with Charlie holding a steady pace a little behind. About halfway up I felt some sharp pain in my back that I’ve struggled with in the past so I lightened up, and sadly watched the NYU rider ride away up the hill. Charlie had kept within shouting distance and cruised past me to secure 2nd place and a rider from UVM passed me with later with about half a mile to go.

I was of course disappointed to miss out on the podium after leading most of the race but I’m happy I played it safe and know what I have to work on looking towards the rest of the road season. I was also surprised and honored when the team awarded me the most aggressive rider jersey that night so not all was lost! It was incredible to watch MIT riders finishing high in the standings in every category this weekend and I’m excited to see what happens in the upcoming races!

 

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Dustin winning the aggressive rider’s jersey!

I also must add that Dustin went on to get 2nd in the crit the next day, despite his back issues, just barely losing in the sprint!

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Quinn, Dustin, and PK in the crit. Photo: Aaron Huang

In the women’s A road race, we had Katy, Tori Wuthrich (4th year undergrad), and myself. Here is a race report from Katy and I, who somehow managed to get 1st and 2nd in the road race in A’s (2nd and 3rd in A/B)!

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Katy, Emma, and Tori before the road race. Photo: Aaron Huang

We were nervous but excited going into the road race. We knew it was going to be very hard, but we were excited and anxious to see how our winter training would pay off. The race started with a big descent and a couple of punchy short climbs. After some pretty hard efforts and a minor crash in the field, suddenly we were in a group of only 10 girls going into the big climb on the first lap. The first climb up Black Mo really strung us out. At the top, Katy and I were in a strong group of five women, including conference leader and friend of the team Dani Morshead from Brown University chasing the two leaders, an A racer and an exceptionally strong B racer, who had managed to put a 1:30 gap between us and them. We tried to work together to reel them back in, but they held a steady lead on us. We still kept the pace high, popping riders off our group one by one. By the second climb up Black Mo, Katy and I were the last riders left chasing the two leaders.  As a Moto official passed, he pointed out a racer up the road and told us that she was the A racer who had been off the front, and that there was only a 30 second gap between us and her. Our hearts sank a bit because we knew we had to at least try to catch her. With our legs and lungs burning, we took turns getting second winds and encouraging the other to keep it up. We used the flat (well, rollers actually) at the top of Black Mo to work together and passed her 2k from the finish. We accelerated to make sure she didn’t catch our wheel and kept pushing until the line. Through the magic of Strava flybys, you can watch how it all played out below!

From Laura:

I have to say that the Penn State weekend was amazing, not just for me but for the team as a whole. Everyone did so well in their races, and overall just had a really fun time.  This was my first road race of the season, and I was pretty excited/nervous/unsure of how I would do within the Women’s D field.  The Saturday road race started with a big descent, where everyone stayed together, and then on the smaller climbs that followed the field started to break up a bit.  A few riders went off the front and I followed, pretty amazed to actually find myself in a breakaway group!  The race ended with a totally epic 5-mile climb up Black Moshannon, which was very challenging but tons of fun.  Everyone seemed to split up on the long climb, and I finished the race solo into 4th place, my first ever top-5 finish!

Since my legs were pretty fried after the road race, I didn’t think the crit on Sunday would go very well for me, but I managed to sprint out right at the start and maintained a good position at the front of the field.  Around the last 10 minutes of the race, two riders got away from the front of the pack who I wasn’t able to chase down, but I sat in for the last few laps and was able to sprint ahead at the very end to come in third!  Overall, I think I surprised myself this weekend with what I was capable of, and was also constantly impressed by the strength and skill of my teammates in all of their races.  I’ve definitely caught the bike racing bug, and I can’t wait until next weekend!

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Laura in the crit! Photo: Aaron Huang

And that’s it for this weekend! We just found out that the Dartmouth/ UVM weekend has been cancelled due to bad weather, so our next race will the the Shippensburg Scurry.

-Emma and PK

Philly Phlyer – Starting the season off right!

The first race weekend of the ECCC Road season has now quickly come and gone (and we are already filling our competition with fear by getting some awesome results!). Our team had a great showing, with 15 riders coming out, 6 of whom were racing road for the first time! Even though it was a bit cold and rainy, everyone was excited and eager to get out on the roads and race the TTT and Circuit Race! Without further ado, here are recaps from Berk and Liam:

“This is Berk writing! I am a first-year graduate student in the MIT AeroAstro department, and it is my first year racing with MIT Cycling. The Philly Phlyer was my first bike race ever, so I felt it would be a shame if I didn’t document the experience with a blog post!

It was finally time for all of the winter training to pay off. I had no idea what was coming for me in the road race, so I kept focused on doing well in the TTT, the first event of Saturday morning, and hoped that the road race afterwards would take care of itself. The conditions were rather gnarly that morning; there was a decent amount of snow cover, and there were snowploughs clearing the course less than 30 minutes before the first race. This meant wet and cold conditions, conditions that would usually mean being on the trainer at home. The crit the next morning had already been cancelled the night before, which was unfortunate, but not the worst news for a green rider like me.

I was nervous racing in the Men’s A TTT for my first race ever, but also really excited. Justin, Wade, Quinn and I had not had any decent weather in Boston to practice beforehand, so we did a short run of the course to feel it out. I definitely felt a little better after we pushed the pace for a few minutes and practiced our pulls.

I was amped when we pulled up to the line. It was great to have Justin, the most experienced rider in the bunch and an awesome TTer, set the pace from the beginning. I was perhaps a little too excited, because I was finding that my pulls were a little too hard, and my turns a little ambitious right off the bat. Unfortunately, we couldn’t keep Wade with us, but Justin, Quinn and I maintained a strong pace until the finish. We missed second place by 2 seconds, which was frustrating considering that any one of the easily-avoidable time losses we had could have secured us the better spot. But you live and learn, and I think we were all satisfied with the effort we put into the pedals.

Unfortunately, there was only about an hour of respite between the Men’s A TTT and the Men’s C RR, so I had to use my recovery time very efficiently. That is exactly when things starting going downhill. After a short cooldown on the trainer and some food, about 20 mins before the race, I realized that I had taken a little piece of metal in the rear tire. Oh no.

Suddenly my mind was on overdrive. I quickly swapped an inner tube, put some more food down, attached my number on my jersey, filled my bottles, and rushed to the line. I was the very last rider to pull up, shivering, wet, and definitely not in the best place mentally. Not a good way to start my first road race.

For the road race, my goal was to stick near the front, no matter what. I didn’t want to miss out on the action, and wanted to gauge the strength of the field. Since the MIT C field is deep (there was Charles, Quinn, PK, Ethan, Wade and I that morning), I figured we could make something happen in the front.

It was fast. I didn’t mind, since I was cold and could use some warming up. Far from being efficient, I decided that I would chase every single breakaway down. I found being aggressive in the front to be thrilling; Quinn and I even tried to break away towards the beginning of the second of four laps, but we were absorbed quickly. On the same lap, on a 180-degree turn, I narrowly avoided a crash after some (MIT) rider in front of me (who know who you are 😉 I love you very much anyways) lost their line and I took evasive action by sliding into a snow bank. I watched the entire pack blow by me, and had to put in a big uphill chase to get back up to the front. I soon realized I was burning through my matches very quickly, and to break away from this pack would be almost impossible anyways.

The race alternated between tons of freewheeling on the flats, and the occasional furious chase. The pack stayed together until the last lap, where the first of two small climbs ripped the group apart. Charles and I managed to stick in the front, and hoped for a final attack on the second climb. But unfortunately, neither of us had saved enough energy, and we started to fall through the front group on the final climb. It all ended in a bunch sprint, where Charles and I placed 11th and 10th respectively. (Observe the very happy but cold-and-grimy post-race picture below!) I was proud to have gotten my first points for MIT Cycling, and was happy to survive the horrible conditions with no more than a trainer flat and a runny nose.

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The race was a great learning experience for me, a veritable trial-by-fire. I learned a lot about teamwork, the value of preparation, and the importance of efficient racing. I am no stranger to putting my head down and suffering (I did break my FTP record in the TTT, which was awesome), but the tactics of road racing are still new to me. I’m glad to have had such an awesome team around me, teaching me the ropes, being the reassuring voices while we are redlining in the TTT, sharing their warm ramen post-race, pigging out on infinite salad during the team dinner, getting pulled over by irritated police with too much time in NJ, and nearly avoiding a horrible car crash on the Mass Pike. (Yeah, those didn’t make it into the blog post.) I am looking forward to many awesome in and out of the saddle adventures with y’all! I also want to give a shoutout to the MIT Women’s teams for crushing it in great style (picture below), and schooling aspiring riders like me on racing. You are an inspiration to us all!

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But for now, Berk out. See y’all in l’Enfer du Nord! [So wait, if you win, are you the King in the North? 😉 ]”

Liam wrote:

“Road racing season is finally here! It’s hard to believe that training camp was nearly two months ago, and the excitement was palpable among the team as the Philly Phlyer – our first race weekend — approached. At long last, after months of conversations about watts and kilos, leg hair and Zwift, and Pop-Tarts and gear ratios, we would get to defend the ECCC road championship title.

Despite an ominous forecast and the cancellation of Sunday’s crit due to weather, fifteen of us made the drive to Philadelphia on Friday afternoon. I drove with Ethan, and quickly learned the first of the weekend’s many lessons: it’s really important to leave early! The drive was long, and our 11 pm arrival was certainly not ideal for the 5:30 AM wake-up the next morning.

Saturday kicked off with the TTT, which – despite the cold, wet, and muddy course – went excellently for the team. First up was the Men’s C team, featuring PK, Charles, and Ethan, who put in a terrific effort to come in second place. Dmitro and I followed as the Men’s D team. Enduring a steady stream of muddy, salty water kicking up from our wheels, we drafted our way into a fourth place finish. I absolutely loved every second of it – all of our time spent TTT’ing on Mystic Lake Parkway and in California had paid off! Behind us were Amanda and Georgia, the Women’s C TTT, who won their race. Not a bad first race for Amanda!

The Men’s A TTT, with Berk, Justin, Wade, and Quinn, powered its way to a third place finish, just two seconds off of the second place team. Meanwhile, the Women’s A TTT – Katy, Kate, Anne, and Tori – won their race to bring home over 100 points for the team.

After a quick bite to eat and warm-up session, the Men’s C and D racers headed down to the line for the start of our races. The C racers – Quinn, PK, Charles, Ethan, Wade, and Berk – comprised nearly 1/7th of the field, which they used to their advantage in a thrilling race. Berk and Quinn chased attack after attack, bridging between groups to keep MIT in the lead pack. Charles, meanwhile, shrewdly limited his watts by hopping from wheel to wheel, drafting our opponents to stick with the leaders. With PK and Quinn blocking, Berk and Charles sprinted their ways to 10th and 11th place finishes, respectively.

Dmitro and I started after the C racers in what would prove to be a crash-filled Schuykill Scramble. Unfortunately, my race ended  just seven minutes in after an accidental crossing of wheels, but Dmitro stuck it out for a solid finish.

After a quick trip to the EMS with Justin to get cleaned up (thanks again, Justin!), we headed to the line to watch the Women’s A/B and C races. They were both truly thrilling from start to finish. The A/B race split into three groups almost immediately: a three-person break, followed by a chase group containing Tori and Katy, and a larger pack behind, controlled by Anne. About two laps in, the second group split further when a rider attacked. With Katy blocking, Tori managed to bridge the attack with another rider, forming a three-person group that worked together for the remainder of the race. Thanks to Katy and Anne’s deft control of their groups, Tori’s chase group stuck together for the remainder of the race, bringing her to a fifth place sprint finish in her first ever A’s race. Both Anne and Katy finished in the top 10, too, capping a very successful weekend for the women’s A squad.

Meanwhile, in the C’s, Kate stuck with the five-person lead group the entire time, which steadily grew a sizeable lead over the main pack. On the climb to the finish, she attacked and completely smoked her competitors, winning her first ever road race.

All in all, a great first weekend of racing for the team! I can’t wait for L’Enfer du Nord – until next time!”

For those on the team that have not yet raced, we are excited to see you out there in the coming weeks!

-Emma and PK

 

Winter training camp 2017: Days 1- 4

Day 1 was a bit of a shock to the system for two reasons: heat and climbing. We rode 67 miles with 7000 ft of elevation gain around the De Luz area to the west of Temecula. The scenery was stunning and it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere with very challenging, steep sections and even some “river” crossings (due to flooding from the rain):

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Tori crossing the river that formed due to rain in the area before we got there. Great shouldering!

So we were all really enjoying the ride until we realized that we were in the middle of nowhere, so there were no stores or gas stations anywhere around for water. We met a very friendly woman who let us use her hose to fill up our water bottles so that we could all make it home! Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers.

Day 2 was 73 miles, but this time “only” 5000ft of climbing. We went down south around Lilac for more stunning scenery with really beautiful descents and scenic flower farms.

Day 3 was a recovery route near the house, touring around horse tracks and wineries:

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Rest day spin

On Day 4 we went to Oceanside for TTTT (Taco Team Time Trial). We broke up into a couple different groups and practiced pace-lining and TTT commands on a wonderful, flat, straight bike path that led us in and out of Oceanside. Wade Wang wrote about the day:

“Day 4 was unique from the other days in training camp as it was predominantly downhill all the way to Oceanside and uphill all the way back. After pleasantly coasting most of the way there, we arrived at a flat rail trail, which was the perfect opportunity to get in some team time trial (TTT) practice. We further split into two groups to keep the average group size representative of a real TTT. I joined Dustin and Youyang, and the three of us managed to maintain ~40 km/h (25 mph) when in a paceline to Oceanside. It was quite refreshing to go fast on a flat after all the climbing over the last few days. Upon arriving, we treated ourselves to some delicious fish tacos on a pier overlooking the ocean. Berk took the day off to avoid injury, but drove over to Oceanside to join us at the pier. He also provided us with much needed ride food and electrolytes in addition to taking our jackets back to the house. The warm sun and refreshing breeze made it hard to leave, but having eaten our fill and taken some pictures it was time to go back home. The way back consisted of more TTT practice followed by climbing. Dustin and Youyang provided me with great company and encouragement, making the 74 km (46 mi) return trip pass quickly. Our self-control to not overeat fish tacos at Oceanside paid off on the climbs back, rewarding us with first dibs on the food in the house. It was a long but satisfying day to mark the halfway point of training camp.”

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Women’s TTT into Oceanside

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Wade and Youyang chow down on tacos in Oceanside! Nom nom nom

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The team in Oceanside

Tomorrow we’ll go through the rest of the trip (Days 5-8) and wrap it up.