Jens Voigt is my favorite pro bike racer. He’s famous for his “shut up legs” attitude — he always gives 110% in every race. His style is to attack again and again until he makes the break, even if that means riding 6 hours alone with little chance of winning. It doesn’t work very often, but it’s very entertaining.
I love Jens because he and I seem to love bike racing in the same way. For Jens, it’s not about money, fame, or even winning. As Jens put it, “You have to have passion inside of you. Passion in me feels like a high, full burning flame—it’s not a tiny spark in the dark. It’s still burning and I still love it.”
I’m the same way — I don’t really like training, I don’t care about fancy bikes, and I don’t even really care about winning. I just love bike racing. I enjoy the competitive nature of it, and I love the community that surrounds it, but mostly I just enjoy being in the bike race. Most of the time, I’m pack fill — and that’s fine.
No other pro talks this way. It’s always about getting better and winning big races. I identify with Jens because he and I share a passion for the racing itself.
Last month, Landry’s hosted an “evening with Jens.” Richard Fries (famous in his own right) led the discussion, asking Jens questions about why his career has lasted so long compared to other pros, how he came back after a number of gruesome crashes, and why he’s made himself so accessible to the press and to his fans.
I was impressed by Jens’s ability as a speaker. He was just like on TV — he answered all the questions with sincerity and a little bit of humor. He told a great story about turning his antenna toward the west during his childhood in East Germany so that he could watch western TV. When an audience member gave him a hard time about the doping scandals so prevalent in the past, Jens gave a pretty reasonable answer: he admitted that the previous generation had made mistakes and asked the fans to give the new generation a chance.
The event was almost canceled because it was scheduled during a blizzard. The T wasn’t running, the temperature was barely above zero, and the winds were gusting to 40mph. So of course I rode my bike there. I don’t think I have ever been so close to being blown off the BU bridge. I couldn’t help but feel just a little bit like Jens during that ride. I recorded it for Strava to prove I had ridden.
At the end of the discussion, I stood in line to take a picture with Jens and get his autograph. I plan to frame it and give it a place of honor in my “trophy case” (which unfortunately is not as full as Jens’s!).
Nine full cycling days in Solvang, California made for THE venue for a great team training camp experience. The weather was exceptionally warm, mostly the 60s to 70s. As you can see, we were also fortunate it was beautifully green due to recent rains in the area, more so than the previous year’s camps further south and closer to San Diego. What a great escape it was from the record snowfall and cold back in Cambridge.
We had a great attendance with about 24 team members in the main house and another dozen alumni riders in a second house. Each morning we fixed ourselves a good breakfast and gathered at the main house to depart for the day’s cycling adventure about mid morning.
This was our first day out intended to be an easy “stretch you legs” day after a long day of travel, but the pace got alittle higher than that on the way out (what did you expect from a pack of overachievers?) Mostly rollers on this route, though each day we needed to head out from the main house to Solvang, a picturesque 9 mile route that included about a mile 6% climb on the way back.
First thing back each day FOOD was generally on everyone’s mind, and it tended to be every man and woman for themselves. This was rather necessary as these are drop training rides and we were not all returning at the same time, nor necessarily doing the same rides.
Dinner, on the other hand was carefully planned by Jenn in advance to be not only great fare but a true team event in it’s preparation. Everyone was assigned responsibilities that varied from night to night – you might be the helper, the clean up crew or the head chef. I think we all had a turn at each. The diversity of the cuisine prepared reflected the diversity of the group. I think we all came away with an appreciation of the challenges involved in cooking for a large group.
Following dinner the evening organized activities always concluded with the team meeting. These were just fun – at times very educational, at others very entertaining, and at times somewhat competitive. No dull moments.
Day 2 – Figueroa Mtn or Tour of California ITT Course and wineries
Today you had the choice of two great routes. Half the group climbed the epic Mt. Figueroa (this was a bonus climb as we did it again later in week) and the other half rode the Solvang ITT loop used several times in the Tour of California (15 miles) followed by a second longer loop through wine country.
A few stopped and checked out the grapes afterwards – worth the stop I am told.
Rest day meant something different to everyone. Rest was more about selecting a lighter self-directed ride. There is some interesting mountain biking in the area. Just a few miles from Solvang you can climb up a dirt road to the crest of the Santa Barbara coastal mountains and then ride the mountain tops to the highest peaks in the area, as demonstrated by the high density of communications towers shown below.
This was our longest day so far, over 90 miles from the main house south of Solvang west to Jalama Beach on the Pacific. Some fun climbing on the way out crossing over the coastal mountains and then descending to sea level and the beach. Great burgers on the beach awaited all!
Day 6 – Rest Day
This time most of us really scaled back on the riding to take a true rest. Good day to check out the very authentic Danish town of Solvang. Not a bad place to live – save your money, though – new starter homes begin around three quarters of a mil…..
Lots of variety this day, each was left to chose his own cycling. There were those who practiced the TTT, others who rested and some who chose mountain biking. The selection rather depended on how much climbing and mileage one was looking for at this point in the camp.
Day 9 – The longest day plus the epic Gibralter Road Climb
This route took us from Solvang to Santa Barbara and back. We did all the epic climbs in the Santa Ynez valley so it was decided we would end the camp with this serious climbers route.
When we got to the top of Gibralter Road looking out over the Pacific we were treated with a too cool drone session and group video sponsored by one of the alums. A great demonstration of how far the technology has come at a reasonable price point of $1500.
We wrapped up the day with a stop at the Cold Springs Tavern which had been highly recommended. Serious roast beef sandwiches. A very eclectic clientele. Beautiful setting. Obviously very popular with the locals. Worth checking out.
An epic week of cycling. While everyone was free to chose their own level of riding, several of us exceeded 550 miles and 40,000′ of climbing over the 9 days. Try to get that in Cambridge!
The miles, the warmth, the food and fellowship are rewards on top of the long term health benefits gained when you choose to make a commitment toward a balanced life style through cycling. Sign up for the next episode IAP 2016.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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 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).
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)
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:
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
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)
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!
On Columbus Day weekend, we wrapped up an awesome season of racing with Easterns Championships at Highland mountain bike park! We had an excellent turnout with a bunch of new-to-MTB racers, and some great results, including a win in the D2 Weekend Omnium! Here are some words from Beth Hadley, who swept the Women’s B Endurance races:
A little coaching goes a long way. I’ll leave it as an exercise to the reader to deduce what a lot of coaching can do. I realized this in a profound way this past weekend at the ECCC Eastern Mountain Biking Championships. As a novice to all things cycling, I enjoyed a warm welcome this season which ultimately culminated in a memorable championships race weekend. We were delighted to be joined by Coach Constantine Psimopoulos, our newly adopted Mountain Bike Team Coach. He contributes years of experience, both coaching and racing, to our team, and his academic and research interests allow him to relate well with us as MIT students. We enjoyed a clinic session with him in the Fells a few weeks earlier, and it was during that session that I really began to think more critically about my racing technique, especially focusing on a powerful start and competitive finish. During championships, to prepare us for our races, Coach Psi led us through regimented warm-ups, stretching sessions, and strategy discussions. For the first time, I learned to engage both my brain and my body in the race before the ‘go’ was announced. Although I got my first taste of victory this past weekend by winning both of my races, the real victory lies in the knowledge I gained this season from our coach and my fellow riders. Now as the season wraps up I look to the future, I eagerly await many more great rides with this wonderfully welcoming and helpful team.
– Beth Hadley ’15
While I can’t say I won anything, I had a couple great days of racing too. The XC course was pretty flat, but really challenging technically. The Men’s A did 6 laps, which turned into a 2.5+ hour race for me (normally XC races are ~2 hrs). At the the end of it, I had to lie down for a few minutes before walking back to the cars, but I’m happy to say I finished all 6 laps without getting pulled while surviving a brutal double-bonk. What really made the racing special though, was being able to race with a bunch of teammates and seeing all the new faces out on the course.
After a smores/wood run, we set up camp in the Highland parking lot. Camping’s always been one of my favorite parts of mountain bike racing, and this night was no exception with a good fire, great friends, and plenty of Joe’s bad ideas.
After the XC race, I always look forward to short track, with its considerably shorter length and much higher concentration of hecklers. Coach Psi was great at getting everybody warmed up and in good position on the start line, and I think he really helped me have a good start off the line. As we were waiting for the start, however, Joe Kopena and his minions were up to some mischief, and as the pack came around the first turn of the race we discovered the wall of boulders they had constructed as a surprise for the Men’s A riders.
I made the poor decision of trying to ride this 6 abreast with everyone and ended up having to make up a lot of time throughout the race. When we prerode, there was also a section with a steep, uphill rock roll that was taped off and labeled ‘Men’s A only’. I thought it was a joke, but on the first lap of our race we found the tape had been shifted over and we were indeed supposed to ride the rock. And of course, the obligatory improvised jump also appeared on the course.
This sort of thing is what really makes the mountain bike season so fun for me – its so laid back, even the officials joke around from time to time to make for a fun time. In the end, I finished 8-9-10 with Joe and Luke, which was a great result for all of us. In a bid for more points in the weekend omnium, we made two team relay teams, and all-MIT and an MIT-Yale collaboration. Joe had hinted that he’d give us points for it, so Spencer and Lluis stepped up to ride with Kristen from Yale in the Bs. It was a close race the entire time, but on my last lap I caught up to a Northeastern B rider. Coming around a corner I asked him to move over to pass, but he moved the wrong way and boxed me out to allow his teammate Kenny (in the A’s) to come around me. In a stroke of luck, the first rider endo’d straight into the rock roll, holding Kenny up and allowing me just enough time to run around both of them. I managed to hold the lead through the descent and to the end of the lap, putting us in 2nd for team relay and getting us the perhaps the 2 critical extra points that put us in front of Clarkson for the weekend, despite the points from the MIT-Yale team only counting ‘in Joe Kopena’s heart’.
While Matt and Carlos represented us racing downhill, we spent the rest of the afternoon fooling around on Highland’s sweet dirt jumps.
With only a little bit of skin lost and a great bit of fun had, we stuck around for some grilling, the awards, and of course obligatory podium pics.
A big thanks to everyone, especially Coach Psi, who came out and made this weekend so special!
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!
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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!
There’s so much good stuff to report from the weekend at RPI. First, the result: MIT won the weekend with 267. Franklin & Marshall came in second with 155, and Bucknell was third with 153. Penn State, the previous overall leader, was seventh, with 114.
There are so many race reports to post! [Apologies for the formatting issues, working on that.] Continue reading →