After the fourth weekend of the season the team is still delivering great results and good times, but sanity is waning. This post was co-written by Bianca, Mason, and Hannah on the rainy car ride home from the race. Enjoy!
The team made our way up to Burlington, VT this weekend for the Catamount Cycling Classic hosted by UVM. We made it into 3rd in the weekend and overall omnium this weekend with Westpoint choosing to go “Beat Navy” (from a quick look at the results, they seemed to have mostly failed at the goal).
The Airbnb that Mason picked for us this weekend aligned well with Hannah’s dream home (creepy doll in the closet included). Hannah wants to clarify that creepy dolls, peeling wallpaper and doors that don’t close are not part of her dream home, but the absolutely ADORABLE farmhouse in rural Vermont, next to a pond, minutes to Lake Champlain, with peepers at night, for less than the cost of her current two bedroom apartment in Cambridge is dream home material.
Saturday was the standard team time trial followed by the Mt. Philo Road Race. William, Lee, Mason, and Guillaume put in a great time trial performance (3rd on the day) in preparation for nationals. They also avoided the fate of an opponent they passed mid-ride whose insides were turned out on the side of the road (unclear if it was food poisoning or try hard…). Bianca did a great job spinning her flag as a marshal in front of beautiful Mt. Philo state park and Hannah marshaled in front of the cutest covered bridge in all of Vermont.
Zak completed his first ever race weekend (woo!). During the road race, he spent the first two laps off the front with another rider. Unfortunately, they got caught before the line, and the final hill grew a little too tall. Great start to a promising career. We can’t wait to see what he does next weekend.
Adam came back from a 6 year racing retirement! He did a team time trial with Andrew during which he forgot to remove his tool bag from his seat post. He also failed to correctly install his chain the night before. He was just dusting off the cobwebs in preparation for next weekend. His water bottle hand off skills are still impeccable.
William crushed it again with a third place in the road race after making the 3-man break away.
Guillaume put on a valiant effort despite getting COVID at the first race weekend of the year. He completed four strong laps of the road race before deciding that his lungs needed a break from coughing. Smart decision, save it for L’Enfer du Nord.
Hannah took the W during the women’s A/B road race, but the victory was not as sweet as the maple creemee she had after the race.
On Sunday, we had the return (after about a decade hiatus) of the UVM ‘on campus crit’ course (unfortunately raced in the pouring rain and described as cyclocross practice given the potholes).
Hannah’s carbon rim rim brakes were of no use during the rainy critérium. She would have been better off taking them off to save a couple of grams. For the first three laps, she forgot how to ride her bike. At lap three, Mason shouted “use your drops” (Bianca asked “what does that mean?”). Hannah gave a thumbs up and made it back to the front of the pack. Clearly, she likes road racing much more than cyclocross.
Adam “the fair weather cyclist” toughed it out in his race only to be pulled part way through. Luckily, by this point in the weekend his saddle bag was off and his chain was on.
Andrew was accused of sandbagging during the intro crit race. What the marshals didn’t know is that Andrew slept through the team vote that would decide which field he would race with. The team decided for him that he would do the intro race so that we could all sleep in. Bianca appreciated having him in the intro race because he cheered her on all three times that he lapped her (the women’s intro field was so small that they combined it with the men’s). On lap one, Andrew saw his life flash before his eyes when someone fell in the chicane. On lap two, it happened again. By lap three, he was safe and sound in front of everyone.
Bianca achieved her weekend goal of riding in the drops and drafting, which does in fact help with going fast (yay fluid dynamics!). She only had one rock hit her glasses and one bug stuck in her helmet during the C/D road race. It was only after the race that she realized one of her spokes was broken causing her back wheel to be extremely out of true. She thought she wouldn’t be able to participate in the crit, but she was lucky to get a loaner bike from Sam (Thanks UVM!). At that point, she only had a few minutes to get ready before the start of the race, but her jersey and cleats AND phone were locked up in Hannah’s car! A lot of running around and confused phone calls later, she used her free lap and jumped into the race. Not even a loose seat post nor a fully unzipped jersey could slow her down. Brute squad wins again!
The crit was so muddy that Mason was still finding dirt inside his ear at Five Guys. He used a fry to q-tip it out. The adhesive hot hands that he stuck to his toes were not enough to keep from shivering for hours after the race. The worst moment of Mason’s race was when he was isolated between the two main groups and was suddenly faced with a flock of seagulls during one of the course’s more challenging turns. He took a leap of faith and kept up his 30mph descent. The birds flew away in fear. Apparently Mason is more intimidating than Bauke Mollema.
Lee threw away any hope at an omnium win because he didn’t want to get wet at the crit. There is nothing more to say here.
Glossary of words that Bianca learned this weekend
Thanks to @UVMcycling for the nicer photos in this post. Bianca and Hannah were the photographers for the more chaotic shots. We’re ready to have Aaron and Maxwell back next weekend to actually curate our team image.
The whole team is riding a major high coming off of the first two races of the season.
Weekend 1 was hosted down at Bucknell in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. Derek, Seamus and Guillaume raced the first race of the season (Men’s TTT) in a horrible rain but powered their way to 2nd in the Men’s B/C field. Weather and spirits improved by the road races later in the day. The infamous “Sunrise Climb” combined with 20 mph winds blew apart (literally and figuratively) both Hannah’s Women’s A/B race and the Men’s B/C race. Seamus, Guillaume and Hannah all hung on to varying degrees to finish their races mid pack, while Derek hit a hidden patch of gravel and had an unfortunate slide that took him out of the race.
Coming back the next day with watts that can only be generated by the need for revenge, Derek got himself into a two-man break during the crit. The break eventually became three and Derek came away with a strong 3rd on the day. Hannah ended up 2nd in her crit after also making the break and lapping the (albeit very small) field. Being the first race of the season and a small group and mostly racing at the same time means we were out of practice taking photos and don’t have majestic shots to show for the weekend. Thankfully, Aaron fixed this for us for Weekend 2 at the University of RI so keep scrolling for those!
Eleven of us made the trip to Southern RI for the second race weekend of the year hosted by URI. This was the first road race with MIT for more than half of the crew. Nothing says ECCC season quite like 5:30 wake ups and watching the sunrise, but at least for this weekend we started our day overlooking the beautiful Misquamicut Beach.
The first race of the day let us break out the MIT TT helmets (we remain the only team in ECCC who race in them, #science). Early in the day, there was some confusion about the ITT course, resulting in annulment of the results for the entire Men’s C/D field. But official results aren’t necessary because of the riders who followed the correct course, Felix and William went 1-2 in the Men’s C/D field so we won in spirit. Meanwhile, Josh and Derek did the same for the Men’s B/C field with times a full minute faster than anyone else in their field and the 5th and 6th fastest of anyone on the day. This placed them just after 4 riders who were all on the 1st or 2nd place team time trial squads at last year’s collegiate nationals.
And then started our weekend of breakaways. Being on the beach meant views, but it also meant wind. The road race course was an 8 mile extended dog-bone loop that ran parallel to the shore for ~6 miles. What started out as a cross wind turned into a headwind / tailwind for the last few races of the day that made the finishing stretch exceptionally fast and caused splits in all the fields. Andrew, Vinh, Aaron, Seamus and Felix raced in the Men’s C/D field of over 70 starters(!!). With some excellent team tactics and road captaining by Seamus, they managed to send Felix off the front in the last 2 miles of the race. He came in 20 seconds ahead of the field in his first ever road race.
Hannah also went full send in the Women’s A/B field with a 2 woman break that finished almost 7 minutes up on the rest of the field. After working together all race, Hannah took second to the UVM rider with the hope that someday soon more riders in the field will have A licenses and be eligible to join for Nationals at the end of the season.
More team tactics came into play for the Men’s B/C race where Derek, William and Josh worked together for Josh to come away with a 2nd place. Meanwhile, Mason and Lee were on course at the same time for the Men’s A race. After a brief slow down to watch the B finishers come in as their field passed, the pace picked back up. There was a USAC rider off the front but they still came away with 4th and 5th in the collegiate rankings during the bunch sprint.
After a night of watching the Paris Roubaix Femmes together in the hotel, it was Crit Day at everyone’s favorite Southern RI course: Ninigret! The day was complete with tailgating on the sidelines made possible by another new MIT team member, Adam. He was MVP of the day for driving down to spectate, cheer, and most importantly feed us all breakfast burritos throughout the day.
Before the Men’s C/D race, we asked William, Seamus and Felix what the plan was for handling such a large field. Their answer: “make it smaller”. Sure enough, within 2 laps the three of them had a break away off the front. They TTTed together to the finish as planned. The ECCC conference director made a rare appearance on the microphone mid race to jokingly say that we’ve “been spending too much time in the wind tunnel.” Not entirely true since no one on the team was around for the last time the Club went into the wind tunnel. That said, we wouldn’t object to trying it out if anyone has a connection for us these days! There’s always room to improve, even when you’re off the front.
After starting the trend during the first race of the day, Derek and Josh couldn’t resist the temptation of a breakaway in their Men’s B/C race as well. Switching up the order from the ITT the day before, Derek took second and Josh third out of a four man group. Aaron followed up with a win in the Men’s Intro race by riding away from a group of 3 as Vinh controlled the pace in the main group behind. Andrew had an unfortunate encounter with a bush on the sidelines early in the race, but recovered for a respectable 12th in the group.
The Men’s A and Women’s A/B races in the day remained fun but success was more elusive. Hannah was nicked on the line in the final sprint (repeating almost every race in last year’s ECCC season…). With prime sprint points though, Hannah will still be wearing yellow numbers next week as the series leader in the A field for the season so far. A strong break went early in the Men’s A race and despite a valiant chase effort by Lee and Coach Robbie (riding in his USAC team colors for Community Bike Racing), they were unable to bridge. After a lead out from Mason, Lee took 3rd in the field sprint.
All in all, the team is psyched. We missed out on team omnium victory for the weekend by a single point. But we’ll be coming back next week for revenge! Closing out with a few thoughts from Vinh about his first road race weekend with the team:
“These first road races were phenomenal! I had so much fun drafting behind people and sticking into their wheels. I think I did better the second day with the experience I got from getting dropped hard in the first day. Glad that me being an annoyance in the peloton helped Aaron get a big gap in the break out and win the race!! Still, I have a lot to improve with my power and sprinting. Very excited! Being with the team was so much fun too, cheering, getting cheered, and learning from everyone was awesome!! 10 out of 10 would do it again!”
Next up, our home race, co-hosted with UMass Amherst. Will new MIT stars shine as we head to the rolling hills of Western Mass? Stay tuned to find out!
Photo credits: Mostly @aaron_v_photography, with supplements from Seamus, Hannah, Felix, and a stranger in the parking lot who was nice enough to take our group shot
At the end of January, our racing team traveled to sunny Tucson AZ for a week of training and spending time together as a team. Tucson is a new destination for our team, but renowned in the cycling world for smooth roads, good weather, and of course Mount Lemmon, a >7,000 foot climb only a couple of miles from downtown Tucson.
We were excited to have a number of new teammates join us for the week! Nick Arango tells us about his experience on Day 1:
“How many snacks can I stuff into a jersey? Nothing about the day one winter training camp route should have been daunting, but my newness to the team, the terrain, and the the large increase in total time on the bike of the week ahead amplified the first day’s modest mileage and elevation gain. Full jersey pockets, filled nervously not practically, prepared a little too early gave extra time for apprehension.
The appeal of cycling for me is bound up in the gestalt experience of riding in a bunch; the melding of persons into a rolling mass. And so, with the conversational spin of many bodies attempting to warm, riding through the city and the U of A campus to Gates Pass, it was easy to leave the individual apprehension behind and ride as the group. Houses gave way hills, conversation thinned, and a snap broke the collective as a hard effort up the first short, ten minute climb of the trip stretched the bunch into hard working individuals. Regrouping at the Gates Pass overlook gave us all a view of the week ahead: desert shrubs, cacti, and mountains all around. Feeling good both working as an individual and in giving myself over as a group, the morning anxiety fell away.
A quick, steep descent down the other side of the pass gave a portent of what the reverse of this section would feel like, but that actual experience was reserved for a later day. The descent led us into the heart of Saguaro National Park. It was hard to not imitate their poses, and so a stop at the park’s west visitors center after an hour and a half of riding gave good opportunity to stretch out the arms like the cacti all around us.
One more gradual rise proved to be a vehicle for working out the group’s first day energy as Berk and Dustin took the front and slowly lifted the pace. With eagerness covering my morning’s nerves, the slowly lifting pace slid by me unnoticed until it was over. The relaxed return gave good opportunity to consider what would be a sustainable effort for the week on the whole, but without the anxiety of uncertainty. Back at the house, after unpacking the extra uneaten snacks from still overfull jersey pockets, the new environment and high volume of the upcoming week looked achievable.”
On Day 5, we “recovered” from the Mount Lemmon experience with some team time trial practice rolling along the east portion of the beautiful Saguaro National Park. Julie tells us more about discovering the joys of the TTT:
“The morning after our Mt. Lemmon ride, I woke up sore and nervous for the 60 mile ride and team time trial practice that awaited me. I had very little experience doing a TTT, but the idea of going all out for 12 miles on fatigued legs seemed grueling. Halfway through our ride we gathered in groups for the TTT practice. The 6 women at WTC decided to break the course into 3 segments of 4 miles. For the first segment, we would all ride together, and for the remaining sections we would split up into two groups. I expressed my concerns of being a weaker cyclist and how I did not want to hold back the team, but I was assured that each person has an important role in getting the group to the finish line whether they spend most of the ride pulling or drafting. Joanna and Sarah described the TTT as a seamless, consistent effort and gave us helpful tips before we started. Soon after, we clipped in and assembled into our pace line. As we accelerated, I concentrated on maintaining the recommended half wheel’s distance between me and the rider in front. A couple minutes into riding, our group got into a rhythm and we were all moving in-sync rotating in and out of the paceline. When I hit the front of the pack, I felt the wind resistance push against me. I glanced at my Garmin and focused on maintaining my speed for thirty seconds before I flicked my elbow, moved to the side, and merged back into the pace line. I could hear my breathing ease as I received the draft from the wheel in front of me. After a couple hard efforts, Joanna told us that we were almost done and needed to do our last pull. Even though I felt drained, I knew I could give a final push. I was surprised by how much I learned from the 12 mile stretch and found the TTT practice enjoyable and helpful.
After the TTT practice, we continued up to Colossal Cave where we met up with the rest of the team who also seemed wiped out from the hard effort. We got a chance to eat some snacks and enjoy the beautiful dessert scenery before continuing on a chill ride back home. For me, the TTT was one of the highlights of WTC because I loved coming together with my teammates and putting together a collective effort. I am even more excited to translate this practice into race season.”
Finally, Berk regales us with some tales from the last day of training camp:
“Everyone knows that best things come in threes. The three course meal. The primary colors. Lord of the Rings. Harry, Ron and Hermione. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…
But most importantly, WTC Day 8. One ride to rule them all, to offer a trifecta of adventure of the like few of us had experienced before. We would have a last hurrah in Arizona where we would rub elbows with fellow racers at the super fast Shootout Ride, then climb to the top of Madera Canyon, and then ride the mellow gravel path through Box Canyon.
The Shootout ride meets near University of Arizona campus, which was only a few miles from the house. About half of us decided to participate in the group ride, and another half to follow soon after. The temperatures were low enough that most of us were bundled in every warm item of kit we had brought as we waited for a small group to form (many others had chosen a local race instead). We rolled out on time at 7:30AM, and started getting out of the city. After a while, I got over my initial fear and started getting somewhat excited to be riding in a large pack again. So much so that once I got to the front, one of the locals had to tell me to cool my jets until the official start, at the intersection with Valencia Rd.
After that things got hot pretty quick. Literally. We had dressed for a cold winter morning cruise, whereas more clever folks had put on lighter layers in anticipation of what was to come. A few minutes from the start it was clear that people were eager to rip each others’ legs off. I suddenly found myself in the unpleasant situation of trying to pull my gloves and legwarmers off while riding in the red, cruising in excess of 24mph with a 1-2% grade.
After some savage attacks and chases, the front group came back together, and I was happy to see Jeremy, Guillaume and Dustin still in the group as we approached the final hill sprint. Frankly, I was pretty shot from my efforts in/near the front and pulled the plug when I realized I would not be contesting for the win, but I was proud of all of us for making it until the end. The Shootout definitely met expectations. It was hard and fast, but also safe and friendly, a difficult combination to achieve during group rides. Also, a shout-out to Davis and Gerard, whom we met at the Shootout and rode with during different parts of the rest of the ride.
After a nice cruise to shake out the legs and a very long coffee stop to regroup, we started the Madera Canyon Climb. The beginning was scenic with a surprising amount of green. Some folks were braver than I, and tested their legs one last time while I cruised at a steady pace with Jeremy, chatting and snacking along the way. That is until the last few pitches, which were in excess of 15%, but hey, we had enough energy to stare at our stems for a little while longer.
My favorite part was the Box Canyon gravel climb. My legs were feeling a bit like pool noodles after the Madera Canyon climb and descent, but they soon regained feeling as I got excited to go off the asphalt onto gravel. The unmaintained winding road through the canyon was smooth at parts, and a gnarly washboard at others, but beautiful views and the thrill of dirt were constant. This time Dustin was happy to cruise with me while enjoying the sights. We stopped to take some pictures along the way. There were moments of hilarity when we realized we had no traction standing still and could not get back on our bikes afterwards. But eventually the pitch would relent ever-so-slightly, allowing us to continue to spin our way up.
We regrouped once gravel turned to pavement, said goodbye to the ATVers and the cows, and started the 35+ miles of descent back to the house. It was ripping fast and mostly easy, with a nice gas station stop to stock up on water and Sour Patch Kids, but of course, I flatted once again 25mi from home (a torn sidewall fixed with the ever useful dollar bill). Dustin and I let the rest of our group go, and cruised back in a two-man paceline.
The last day of WTC is always an epic, and this tres leches of adventure definitely was the highlight of my week. I want to give a special shoutout to our road captains Jeremy and Sarah, who took MIT Cycling to Arizona for the first time, planned everything from scratch, made every ride a blast, and kept everyone happy and safe. Our alumni also deserve a special mention, taking time out of their busy schedules to share some special memories with us and contribute to the team spirit. Catching up with now-alumni friends is a really amazing part of WTC, and it was special to ride with Dustin, Amy and Stan again.”
We are so grateful to have had a wonderful (and safe!) training camp experience, growing individually in strength and riding ability, as well as growing together as a team. Next up – race season in just a few weeks!
This year we sent 8 riders and Coach Nicole to the Collegiate Road National Championships in Augusta, Georgia. We arrived on Wednesday and spent Thursday assembling our bikes and checking out the courses for the team time trial, individual time trial, and road race at Fort Gordon. We also got a taste of riding in heat and humidity – Augusta’s weather was quite different from the 45 degrees and raining that we were accustomed to racing in!
The first race of the weekend was the team time trial, which Joanna describes:
“The team time trial was the women’s team primary goal for the 2019 road nationals. I felt like the four of us were on the same wavelength regarding the event, and I think our communication as a group gave us the extra push to victory. It was so special to win the event with this amazing team, and as we were gasping for air in Augusta I couldn’t help but think about how happy I am to have found such a great team at MIT. I’ll outline a short recap, but it’s so important to know that for the past few years the MIT women have been just seconds shy of the win. With Amy, Emma, and Tori all graduating before the 2020 road nationals, it was our last shot to go for gold with this group. We had a successful ECCC season with our TTTs, regularly winning by significant margins over the other women’s A teams, and practiced a few times to dial our communication and buzzwords (‘up’ for faster and ‘off’ for get off perhaps the most used words) prior to nationals. We also made sure that we looked as cool as possible, with matching skin suits, shoe covers, helmets, and even similar bikes to create that sleek and scary look we were going for.
The hours and evening prior to the event were fairly nerve wracking as all four of us were visibly nervous. We spent a while on Thursday pre-riding the course and scoping out each turn and hill to make a cohesive plan. Importantly, we made sure to take into account the notion that these plans will likely change during the race, so we formulated a ton of backups for our backups. Lining up at the start, we took off steadily and quickly built up a very hard pace. Emma checked in with us at mile 7 to see how we felt, and we adjusted lengths of pulls and our overall efforts to make for a more sustained pace. At mile 18 I became so overwhelmed with excitement and all of us were hanging on for dear life once Tori took her final big pull, for almost a full mile, with < 3km to the finish. After Tori pulled us to the base of the hill, Emma went full gas on the front and pulled me and Amy up the final hill where we sprinted for the finish. Since we were the first team to cross the line, we all went for an anxious cool-down to await other teams coming in. Back at the vans, I was filling up my water bottles when Tori, Emma, and Amy ran over screaming, ‘WE WON! WE WON!’ And we all fell into a sweaty puddle of a hug. It was one of the most joyful moments in my cycling life, and it was so special to win with such a killer team. I am so sad that it was our final TTT with this group of 4, but I’ll always be able to look at my stars and stripes jersey (hah!) and think of a great season with even better teammates.”
Our men’s team finished strong in 8th out of a competitive field of 15 teams. After the TTT in the morning, most of us retreated back to the air conditioned house to rest up for the road race and criterium, but a few brave souls stuck around Fort Gordon to tackle the individual time trial! Berk describes his race:
“The ITT was in the afternoon after the TTT, and came with nervous anticipation. Miles, Liam and I knew it was going to a tough ride after the morning’s effort. To make it worse, the temperatures had elevated into the high 80s, the wind had picked up and the sun was peeking through the clouds. I knew moments into my warm-up that I did not have the power I was hoping for. But I had my strategy and gear all worked out, so I still had some confidence that I could do well.
Many folks say that TTs are where fun goes to die. I disagree. The ITT especially is a kind of experiment, where all of the ingredients of speed (power, pacing, weight and aerodynamics) can be truly tested. With 15 seconds to go at the start, it is nigh impossible to know how good your recipe is, and I was uncertain about my prospects of doing well.
The course was relatively non-technical, an out-and-back with two major changes in elevation. I was already sopping wet from sweat from my short warm-up, which combined with the bad asphalt made it hard to stay in an aero tuck. But I kept my head down, and I knew I was doing alright when I overtook one rider with 1/3 of the course to go.
Sprinting over the top of the last climb was about all I could manage by the end. I threw myself in a folding chair, threw some ice down my skinsuit and drank from a gallon jug of milk as Miles, Liam and I shared stories of suffering and listened to the announcer. I was sitting in 3rd for the longest time, and although I knew that I would likely not hold on for a podium the suspense was eating at me. Too bad that the five last riders were the only ones seeded and actually faster, but I was happy to be 8th, getting mediocre amounts of glory for MIT!”
In addition to Berk’s 8th, Miles finished 35th and Liam 46th in the ITT.
On Saturday we returned to Fort Gordon for the road race, which Emma recounts:
“I was really looking forward to the road race. Mostly because I was still buzzing after our TTT win, which was the highlight of the weekend for me by far! We drove the road race course the day before the TTT. We all thought it would come down to a race of attrition, with many short, punchy climbs, and I was excited because that suited my racing style. Tori, Amy, and Joanna all offered their help to support me and I was excited and nervous lining up. It was already pretty hot at 9am (but nothing compared to what the guys had to deal with later in the day!) but we had great support in the feed zone with Nicole, Miles, my dad and stepmom, and Tori’s parents, so I knew I would be able to get enough water in. As we started the 60 mile race, I was patient and tried to be vigilant about keeping near the front of the race for what I thought were the inevitable attacks and splits in the group. But as the race progressed, I just kept waiting, but nothing was happening or sticking. The race was very (surprisingly) uneventful and with 5k to go there were still 25 (out of 45) women still in the pack. This wasn’t at all what we thought would happen in the race, but I tried to stay confident. There was a short hill finishing about 500m before the finish, so I knew that it wouldn’t finish in a complete bunch sprint.
At 5k to go, Amy rolled up next to me and asked if I needed anything. I asked if she could get Tori to lead me into the final downhill (which was right before the last hill to the finish). In a previous lap I had been in a bad position on that downhill and knew it would be really bad to not be up near the front at the base of the climb. Tori came up and did an AMAZING job leading me into the perfect position and going fast enough so that no one could come around me to take the position. I was second wheel at the base of the climb, and when the rider from Arizona (Cara) attacked I tried to catch her wheel. She was incredibly strong, though, and pushed on and I couldn’t respond. I saw the two girls from CU Boulder coming up behind me and I got on their wheel. At 170 meters to go I tried to sprint around them but chose the wrong side and when Margot (in front) pulled off to the right I found myself boxed in, so had to brake and try to get around Anna on the left, but the initial wrong move cost me and I couldn’t get around before the finish, but still managed to come in 3rd. Cara had held on from her attack on the climb and finished a second or two in front of us. I was happy to get on the podium and was SO incredibly grateful for my teammates and their help, especially to Tori, without whom I don’t know if I would have been able to do as well!”
In addition to Emma finishing 3rd, Amy finished 15th, Joanna 16th, and Tori 23rd in the women’s club road race. Unfortunately the men’s club road race was plagued by crashes and flats, and Quinn and Berk finished 64th and 74th respectively as a result.
Sunday featured our final race, the criterium, which Tori describes:
“On Sunday morning, Amy, Joanna, Emma, and I geared up to race the crit. The course, located in downtown Augusta, was technical, with 6 corners in 0.8 miles. Pre-riding was especially important since it had rained all night, and there serval slippery manhole covers (and even a small stream!) on course. I was looking forward to racing this technical course with a really fast group of women, especially since we’d had only a few opportunities to race crits so far this season. But with that said, all four of us were nervous, and this was not helped by the wet roads and the fact that for three of us, it was sadly our last race as collegiate cyclists!
At 9 am we were off, for our 70-minute race. Having gotten caught behind several crashes last year, I made an effort to get from my 3rd row starting position to the front as quickly as possible, and was settled into the top 5-10 wheels within a lap or two. There were several attacks throughout the first part of the race, but the pack didn’t seem to want to let anything get away. Emma racked up some omnium points by sprinting for primes. Despite several efforts by various riders for a late breakaway, the pack was all together coming into the final laps, and it was going to be a field sprint. I had raced pretty conservatively in an effort to save as much energy as possible for the finish, and was feeling good. Knowing I had to be in good position for the last corner, I did a small sprint leading into it, which let me claim 3rd wheel through the turn. We took the last corner quite fast, with the rider in front of me pedal striking badly after trying to start pedaling too early after the turn. With about 300 meters to go until the line, I stayed in the draft for about another 100 meters, then made a move to come around. Though I couldn’t outsprint the women who had led through the corner, I managed to hold on for 4th!
Leading into the race, my “stretch goal” had been to get on the 5-deep podium, and I was extremely excited to have done it. It was also really exciting to see Joanna finish in the top 10. I’m sad to be done racing for MIT, but I’m very glad to be able to end on a high note, not only from this one race, but our team’s performance at nationals as a whole.”
In addition to Tori’s 4th and Joanna’s 10th, Emma and Amy finished with the lead pack in the crit. Unfortunately the weather deteriorated after that, and the rain, particularly one wet manhole cover, led to several crashes in the later races that day. As a result, in the men’s club crit about a third of the racers (including Berk) did not finish, and another third (including Quinn) were pulled from the race to prevent the lead group from lapping them. Despite being pulled, Quinn finished 31st.
After the crits, we hung around Augusta for the awards ceremony in which we took our podium photos and collected our medals and stars and stripes jerseys. MIT also won the D2 club omnium for the 3rd year in a row, rounding out a very successful weekend!
For our last race weekend of the season, 22 riders and coach Nicole drove to Burlington, Vermont, for the ECCC Championship! We had our sights set on winning the weekend (in order to reclaim the Easterns trophy!) and winning the conference (in order to win a small and unremarkable plaque).
Saturday started with the team time trial. The weather was 44 degrees and pouring rain and the course had been changed at the last minute to avoid a dirt section (thank goodness!), so our focus in this race was primarily to finish safely and get back to the cars and get warm. For most of us, the race passed in a disorganized blur of shivering, fogged-up sunglasses, and drinking mouthfuls of dirty water whenever we opened our mouths while drafting a teammate. Needless to say, no one dared take a camera out into these conditions to document this memorable experience, but I suspect we will not forget it soon. Despite the adverse conditions, MIT teams did well, taking 1st in men’s A, men’s B, women’s A, women’s C and women’s D!
Next we retraced the TTT course with the road race! Dmitro recounts his experience in men’s C:
“Hahahahahahaha. This was truly some of the most ridiculous racing conditions I have experienced. 45 degrees and raining aren’t the most welcoming conditions, but it was Eastern’s, so I wrung the water out of my kit (it had gotten soaked in the TTT an hour before), put on some completely soaked shoes, and toed the line. We started with about 30 people over a hilly rolling course (four 10 mi laps). The first two and a half laps were uneventful, or as uneventful as a bike race can be when no one can see or brake all that well.
By the end of 3rd lap the “pack” was down to nine riders, I decided I didn’t like my chances in a “field” sprint, so I took a corner a little faster than was likely advisable and attacked up the hill that followed and got away with two other riders. Now that I was away with a few other riders I started thinking about the finish – the other riders didn’t really want to do work in the break, and I have never really been much of a sprinter, I decided I would try to go solo from the last corner (about 2 mi to the line). When we hit that corner I attacked hard then put my head down and pedaled, I didn’t look back (I honestly probably couldn’t have seen anything if I had tried anyway), I just pedaled. The rain was pounding down, I was long since soaked, the cold was biting, I could hardly feel my fingers, all I could do was pedal. Finally a few meters from the line I lifted my head and looked back, no one was there; I had done it. I wanted to celebrate, I wanted to be excited, I wanted to jump up and down, but all of these emotions were outweighed by a desire to get back to the car and get into warm clothes. The rest of the afternoon was great – I got into warm (and dry!) clothes and got to watch and cheer on my teammates in the afternoon – including Emma’s win!”
Other notable finishes in the road race include Emma winning the women’s A with Tori in 5th!
That evening we attended the conference banquet, which featured the highlight of the weekend for me. Alas this was not the abundant lasagna (which was happily consumed), but rather the team surprising me with birthday hats and getting the whole conference to sing happy birthday to me!! Thanks guys for making this birthday so special!
On Sunday we participated in the circuit race. Julie describes her race:
“I woke up Sunday morning excited to compete in my first circuit race. My first cycling race was a couple weeks earlier at L’Enfur du Nord where I gained valuable lessons in the crit that I was eager to use for the circuit race. The course at ECCC was mostly flat with two turns and while the weather was a bit cold, there wasn’t any rain, for which I was incredibly grateful. Most of the morning was spent hanging out with the team, watching racers compete, and picking up valuable tips from teammates and coach Nicole before my race.
During my race, I positioned myself in the front of the pack and drafted off the leader. The race consisted of 4 laps of a 2.8 mile loop. For most of the race, I focused on keeping myself in a good position and avoiding a potential crash. I tried to make a couple surges to break from the pack on the third lap, but when there wasn’t a sizable gap, I tucked back into the pack and decided to save my energy for the final sprint. On the last lap, there was a right turn, and then a flat stretch until the finish line. I had a slow turn and saw the pack ahead of me, but focused on sprinting as hard as I could. I passed a couple of people and looked forward to see only two girls in front of me a short distance to the finish line. I tucked my head back down and kept pushing as I was gaining ground on one of the cyclists. Right before the finish line, I inched in front of her to get 2nd place! I was so excited as it was my first individual podium finish, which helped contribute points to the team.
After my race was over, I was excited to cheer my teammates in the Men’s and Women’s A and B category. One of the highlight’s of the day was watching Berk win the Men’s A race! After all the races finished, we celebrated a team victory at the awards ceremony and ate delicious treats. I left the race proud to be part of such an amazing team and excited for more races in the future.”
And finally, without further ado, Berk describes the men’s A circuit race:
“Wow, what a great weekend for MIT! Right before we had secured victory however, was the 70min Men’s A circuit race. I was nervous, more so than usual, knowing that Quinn and I would have to have to have a good day to guarantee winning the weekend. As the potential icing on the cake, I had a good chance of grabbing the green jersey so long as I contested each prime, which were during laps 1-2-4-5-7-8, pretty much every lap. Quinn and I had discussed our strategy beforehand, which was contingent on me not missing any breaks going up the road. Easier said than done.
For the first two laps, I was defending my position among top 6 riders, following wheels and going full gas during high-speed downhill primes. After a mellow third lap and an intense fourth, I saw three riders around me, and a bit of daylight behind us. Seeing this as perhaps the only opportunity to get away from a strong pack, I attacked, and two followed. The three of us got in a speedy paceline, working well together. We were focused on getting away so the gang agreed to let me have the primes, and the gap grew. One of the two was clearly exhausted however, and ended up falling off. With two laps to go, I knew my partner was quite the sprinter (and the home favorite), so I tried to shake him off my wheel on a climb. He was clearly tired but hung on. We agreed to work together until the final stretch, since the time gaps showed the pack was getting organized and slowly reeling us back in.
After 45 minutes of teamwork, it was the final turn, where all bonds of breakaway-ship are broken. I was at a disadvantage going through it first, with about 400m to the line, so after the turn I eased up, only to see my break partner attack. I immediately got his wheel, stayed patient until I saw the line and sprinted around him for the win!
I was shook to take my first Men’s A win at Easterns, especially to help MIT get a smashing lead in the omnium and the weekend! I was joined by Quinn, who had been helping disrupt the chase with several of the UVM guys, and we celebrated victory over baked goods with the team. It has been an absolute blast to race with Quinn all season. We have had plenty of ups and downs, but knowing that I had a great teammate in the field was always a source of reassurance. I will miss him next year, and look forward to see some new MIT blood in the A’s next year!”
In the women’s A circuit race, Emma, Joanna, and Tori took 3rd, 5th, and 6th, in women’s C Sarah took 2nd and in women’s D Meia and Delia both finished top 10. On the men’s side, Miles finished 4th in B, and Guillaume finished 2nd in in C.
The combined performance of all our MIT riders over the weekend sufficed to secure both Easterns and the conference for MIT! Several individuals also ranked highly in the omnium standings – Sarah, Miles, Tori, and Berk all finished on the omnium podium!
Last weekend, 8 of us undertook the long and rainy journey out to Cleversburg, Pennsylvania, for the Shippensburg Scurry! The weekend started out with a circuit race around a 2.2 mile loop with rolling hills. Jack describes his circuit race:
“Under encouragement from Miles, I upgraded from Men’s D to Men’s C before Shippensburg. I wasn’t really expecting anything from my first race in Men’s C, perhaps just to stay in the group. However, my unexpected WIN just showed how strategic a bike race can be and sometimes it is not the strongest who wins! Here is how it happened:
Three minutes into the race, an Army guy attacked and I happened to be in a good position to respond quickly. We formed a four man breakaway and, surprisingly, no one seemed to chase. We put in some hard efforts for the first few laps and realized we opened a ~20 second gap. I know I’m certainly not the strongest in the group, so I did everything I could to not get dropped from the break: pulling mostly on the hills, relaxing on the downhill, and being the first to take the corners to avoid a big acceleration, which overall saved me some legs for the sprint.
Finally it came down to the last lap, at that time we were down to three people, and we were all equally toasted. Despite a 30-second gap, the army guy seemed to be worried about being chased back by the group and was still doing some hard efforts pulling the two of us. I was barely holding his wheels and was really just aiming for third place (which honestly I would be super happy about for my first C’s race!). On the last uphill to the finish, the army guy went super hard and tried to get away. Fortunately I had some weight advantage and was able to close the gap, then suddenly it was down to him and me for the downhill sprint to finish. With the finish line in sight and the only enemy in the front, I could feel my heart beating faster and faster. I could tell that he gave everything on the climb and probably wouldn’t be able to contest the sprint, but I waited patiently until the last 100 m to start my sprint and quickly flew pass him to claim my first win in Men’s C!
Winning a race and the most aggressive rider’s jersey of the week are somethings I would never have dreamed of before. It was so unreal! I think it all came down to some good luck (no one wanted to chase), good positioning, and good strategy (for saving energy in the break). That’s why we all love bike racing—the strongest guy doesn’t always win!”
Other notable finishes for the circuit race include Guillaume getting 2nd in men’s D, Amy and Tori finishing 3rd and 5th in women’s A, and Berk finishing 6th in men’s A despite a flat late in the race!
The morning circuit race was followed by a 6-mile hill climb that afternoon. Here is Berk’s account of the men’s A hill climb:
“This year, Penn State pulled an MIT-Men’s-C’s-two-years-ago on all of us. Instead of having a friendly stroll up the initial false flat, they brought the pain train, stretching the entire Men’s A field into single file. Most of us were quite gassed from the circuit race that morning, so we were content to draft for dear life. Once the pitch increased, the train dissolved, only to be replaced with eager would-be attackers. The first few moves in the rolling uphill section were indecisive, but eventually a group of two attacked in one of the steeper sections and got away.
Those of us taking the slow and steady wins the race approach kept a steady clip, and some folks were already wheezing from the effort. My legs were starting to come back under me even as I was riding in the red, so I decided to try a move. With about a mile left on the climb and as the group eased up momentarily, I wove my way thorough the group and attacked. I was glad to see that nobody followed. After a minute of hard effort to solidify the gap, I saw one of the two leaders ahead, and knew that my best chance to beat him would be to reel him in before the final flat and sprint around him early. So I went as hard as I could, catching him right after the crest of the climb. As I bridged, I saw he was at the limit, so I sprinted into his draft and around him to chase the leader, knowing well that the group wouldn’t be far behind. It was unfortunate for all of us that the strongest climber won. But I was quite happy about 2nd place and to ride a climb that is longer than 5 minutes!”
On Sunday we faced the road race, which included a short but brutally steep climb up the infamous “Horse Killer Road”. Here’s how the women’s A/B race played out:
“As we lined up for the road race, the sky looked quite ominous, so I was hoping that this would be a quick race, rather than 59 miles of lollygagging (which is not uncommon in the women’s A/B races). Fortunately, others seemed to share my hopes, and the first two laps, which bypassed Horse Killer Road, passed uneventfully, but at a reasonable clip. However, our last two laps both included Horse Killer Road, so I knew the comfortable pace would come to an end.
Horse Killer Road was as steep as advertised, featuring grades as high as 13%, but fortunately (or unfortunately for those who like climbing…), the steepest part only lasted a few minutes. Our pack split up on the hill, but within a few miles of the climb, a lead group of 6 had reassembled. We pacelined for the rest of the lap as the ominous clouds turned to drizzle and then to rain.
In the early part of our last lap, a Middlebury rider attacked. Though the remaining 5 of us tried to reel her in, we were unable to. To be honest I was quite tired by then and had little interest in catching her, as I doubted that I could beat her in a sprint anyway! Fortunately we took the Horse Killer climb more slowly this time, but unfortunately the steep and winding descent was more harrowing, due to significant rain and several of the men’s A riders passing us at high speed. I was quite thankful to have disc brakes! The climb had further split our group so that as I neared the finish line, I was with Tori and one other rider, with 3 riders ahead of us. With 1.5 miles to go, I attacked on an uphill. The other rider was not able to catch me, and Tori easily outsprinted her at the finish, so that we finished 4th and 5th. I was a bit disappointed that I hadn’t been able to keep up with the 2nd and 3rd place riders in the last half lap, but overall I was pretty satisfied with 4th place in a hard race!”
Guillaume also finished well in the road race, taking 4th in men’s D.
After the road race we all piled into the cars for the long and rainy drive back to Boston. We’re looking forward to a weekend off from racing to prepare our legs for the ECCC Championships in Vermont in two weeks!
For our third race weekend of the season, we headed north for L’Enfer du Nord. MIT was a force to be reckoned with, bringing 19 riders including 5 first-time racers! A huge thanks to @orionactionphotography for taking some of the pictures in this blog.
Saturday featured an individual time trial and criterium held on Dartmouth’s campus. Here is Carolyn’s account of the day:
“When I started out going on leisurely coffee rides with MIT cycling this fall, I thought to myself, ‘this is fun, but you’ll never catch me at a race.’ So then why was I helping load up cars at a Quality Inn in Quechee Vermont at 6am on a Saturday? I was asking myself the same question. But early doubts (and early wake-up calls) aside, it was one of the best weekends I’ve had in a long time.
The racing was split over two days, with Saturday being the individual time trial (ITT) and criterium. We arrived early enough on Saturday morning to preview the 3.5 mile ITT course, which featured a half mile climb out of the gate and some residual snow from the night before. Since I had never raced before, I figured this was my best opportunity. Unlike other events, this required little strategy: just go all out (I believe the technical term is ‘full gas’ – I learned a lot of new vocab this weekend) for 10-12 minutes. I think I more or less achieved that goal, based on how truly awful I felt afterward. I was able to pass two riders on the first climb, and ended up in 4th in the women’s Ds.
The crit was the event I was more concerned about, since the potential for catastrophe seemed high. In the end, it was really just a 30 minute blur. I was vaguely aware that three riders attacked at the start, but I kind of lost track of them halfway through (had we caught them? I wasn’t sure. My mental game needs some work). But a real highlight was working with two MIT teammates in the last two laps (Cat Romero and Julie Takagi) to collectively finish strong (5 for Cat, 6 for me, and 11 for Julie).
Plus, once this race was over, the real fun could begin. We set up snacks and camp chairs along frat row and watched the rest of the action unfold. MIT had some strong performances across several categories that made spectating and cheering a lot of fun (a highlight was watching Joanna nab second in the women’s A race on her home turf). It was really awesome to feel like part of a team. I’ll be back next year!”
MIT had many notable performances over the day:
Women’s A – Amy 3rd, Tori 4th, Joanna 6th
Men’s A – Berk 4th
Men’s B – Liam 2nd
Women’s C – Sarah 1st!!
Men’s C – Miles 3rd, Dmitro 5th
Women’s D – Carolyn 4th, Julie 6th, Catalina 9th
Men’s D – Jeremy 1st!!, Guillaume 2nd, Jack 4th
Women’s A – Joanna 2nd, Tori 3rd
Men’s B – Liam 9th
Men’s C – Miles 2nd
Women’s D – Catalina 5th, Carolyn 6th
Men’s D1 – Guillaume 2nd, Jeremy 8th
Men’s D2 – Jack 5th
On Sunday, we headed to Middlebury, VT for the road race. Here is Liam’s account of his race:
“I was super excited leading up to this weekend — I raced the Dartmouth crit last year for the first time and loved it, and the road race course got snowed out so it was great to finally have the opportunity to race it. All of my racing success last year came when I made it into a breakaway, and I was determined to make it into a break during the crit and road race. Unlike last week’s Men’s B races at Bucknell, both of our races started off pretty hot from the gun. In the crit, McGill cycling hit the front just a few seconds into the race, a sharp contrast with the relaxed and chatty first few laps of the Bucknell circuit race. I got in one move and was off the front for an entire lap, taking a prime, but ultimately nothing stuck and I finished in the middle of the bunch after losing my position for the sprint. I was a little frustrated because I knew that my legs were good, yet the cards just didn’t line up during the crit.
Sunday’s race was held in the beautiful Vermont countryside near Middlebury College — it was probably the most beautiful course that I’ve ever ridden, but unfortunately I didn’t have much time to take in the scenery during the road race. A lone rider from Columbia went up the road just after the neutral start, and the pack spent the first 15 miles of the race slowly pulling him in. Again, I knew that I wanted to make it into a break — I attacked once, and followed another move, but ultimately both were caught. Just after the second move was caught, however, another move went — and I could tell that this one would probably stick because of the riders in the move. I bridged up to the five-man move, and the next ten minutes were completely full gas as we tried to establish a gap from the group of riders behind. The next 30 miles were really tough riding, but thanks to some expert handups in the feedzone (thanks Nic and Dmitro!) I was able to stick with the break.
The finish was on a slight incline after a big hill. I just barely managed to hold the other riders’ wheels during the flurry of attacks on the hill as we got closer to the line, and timed my sprint just right to take my first win of the season! Having so many teammates at the finish line made it a truly special win. The real highlights of the weekend for me, though, were watching Tori nail her sprint and win the Women’s A race, and getting to know the many new racers who came out for their first ever race weekend with MIT Cycling. I can’t wait for ECCC champs!”
The women’s A riders also dominated the road race with Tori winning and Amy finishing close behind in 5th. In the Women’s C, Sarah came in 2nd and in the Men’s C, Miles placed 4th. In the Men’s D, Jeremy, Guillaume, and Jack took 9th, 10th and 11th places and in the Women’s D, Catalina snagged 9th.
This weekend, some of our riders are braving the long drive to Shippensburg, PA to tackle the “Horsekiller road race”, featuring the steepest climb of the season.
With a two week gap of not racing after the Philly Phlyer, we were all itching to attend our second race weekend of the season, the Bucknell Cycling Classic! Ten of us made the trek down to Lewisburg, PA, home to scenic country roads, horse-drawn buggies, and no shortage of hills.
Up first was the team time trial (TTT) on Saturday morning. With both Quinn and Berk having upgraded to the As, we were able to have both a women’s and men’s A TTT team, finishing 1st and 2nd respectively. Impressively, Dmitro and Guillaume achieved victory in the men’s C TTT, despite the majority of the other teams having a full four members!
Next up was the road race. Here’s what Joanna had to say about the women’s A/B race:
“I was really excited to race the Bucknell Cycling Classic: rolling hills, back roads, and racing with a significant number of teammates in my field. I moved up to the Women’s B category which meant I was able to mix in with Emma, Amy, and Tori in the Women’s A field. Four MIT jerseys in a usually small field meant that we had high hopes to strategize the race for an MIT win. We knew that my punchy climbing would be a useful way to send off an attack early on in the 50 mile race, that Emma and Tori would be able to push the pace, and that Amy could get up all the climbs after everyone else’s legs were shattered. Before lining up for the road race, we set off in our sleek TT helmets on a rolling and unforgiving TTT course. I was pretty quickly dropped from our TTT rotation, but the team managed to win by a margin of a minute over the second place team. The TTT truly requires skills that I have never developed in cycling, as it’s such a well-oiled and mechanical event. It will take a lot more practice to be able to stick onto the wheels of my teammates, but I’ve really enjoyed how much teamwork is involved in this dynamic event.
After cheering on our other racers, we gathered up with the rest of the Women’s A/B field for 50 miles of awesome roads in central Pennsylvania. Our first lap moseyed along at a very conversational pace, with many riders catching up with one another and chatting. Hearing Emma’s laugh in the pack kept our plan of attack even more discrete and unassuming, as no one probably thought to keep an eye out for a break while talking with friends! As we rounded the corner to climb the ‘big hill’ for the first time, I made a break from the front and pushed the pace very hard. All of the MIT women followed me, along with 4 other riders in the field. This shattered the field into the main group, with my 3 teammates, a chase group, and the main pack. I was in the chase group, working to slow down the pace and block for my teammates. Making a break at 8 miles into a 50 mile race makes for a lonely 42 miles, but I was so thrilled to cross the finish line to find out that Emma had won the race, with Tori and Amy on her wheel for 5th and 7th. It was awesome to see our plan come to fruition, and for our team to use our numbers in the field to our advantage. The race illustrated how cycling is definitely a team sport, and I was so thrilled to contribute to an MIT win. My legs were toasted, but I was reinvigorated with the competitive spirit to race again the next day!”
In the men’s races, Guillaume finished 8th in a massive D field of 82 riders, Miles and Dmitro scored some points in the men’s C field, with respective 9th and 11th place finishes, and Liam (his first race in the Bs) and Berk and Quinn (their first races in the As) held their own and finished strong! At the end of day, everyone was pretty exhausted, having given it their all on the challenging course.
After a good night’s sleep, we were ready for the circuit race on Sunday.
Here is Guillaume’s account:
“On Sunday, the usual Criterium was replaced by a hilly circuit race. To avoid sketchy gravel descents, the course was reversed and the finish line was moved to the top of one of the steepest sections of the route. As usual in the D’s the pack completely shattered within the first half of lap 1. When the climb came, three people started hammering pretty hard. Since I thought they were going for the prime, I decided to save up some energy but maintained a reasonable pace to keep the gap close, assuming they would slow down after the sprint. Unfortunately, I was wrong and they kept going hard. Unhappy about that outcome, I started thinking about the chase. A quick look back made me realize that we were actually only two left to close the gap. We worked together the next two laps but, when the last lap came, it was clear that we would not catch them. As a result, I started saving some energy for the 4th place sprint, which I ended up winning.”
Again, in the circuit race, MIT had strong performances. For the men, Miles and Dmitro finished 3rd and 9th, respectively, in the Cs and Liam came 6th in the Bs. For the women, Emma, Amy and Tori finished 2nd, 5th, and 7th, respectively, in the As with Joanna getting 2nd in the Bs.
With two race weekends under our belts, we are currently 2nd in the overall omnium and are looking forward to another great weekend of racing coming up at L’Enfer du Nord!
Our first race weekend of the season, the Philly Phlyer, got off to an inauspicious start, as we encountered several mishaps in the first event, the Team Time Trial. First, as we rolled up to the start line, Nic discovered that one of his tires was flat, and without time to fix it, his teammates Jeremy and Guillaume proceeded with the men’s D TTT without him. To make matters worse, Guillaume’s seat post was not properly secured, causing his saddle to slip down during the race, and making pedaling rather difficult. The men’s B TTT was less eventful, though Miles described it as “pure torture”.
As for the women’s A TTT, our race was riddled with confusion. The Philly TTT course is a bit tricky as it covers parts of the course twice and includes 4 U-turns, but Tori and I had raced it before and had carefully described it to Joanna and Sarah, so we were feeling well prepared at the start. However, 30 seconds into our race, we encountered barriers across the course, and a marshal waiving us to turn left, off the course. Tori followed his instructions and the rest of us followed her around a roundabout, down a potholey descent, and eventually back onto the official course. Despite lingering concerns about whether we had navigated the course correctly, we settled into a rhythm on the flats and started picking off other teams.
However, as I led us into the third U-turn, around mile 7, confusion struck again — there was no gap in the cones indicating where to U-turn! Instead, the marshals emphatically waved us straight up the hill towards the finish line. I followed their instructions, but at this point had no idea where this course was taking us, or whether we were even following the correct course at all. We crossed the finish line a mile later, all of us still feeling energetic because we had paced ourselves for 3 more miles of racing! After finishing we quickly found our other MIT teammates, who confirmed that the course had been modified and shortened at the last minute due to flooding on the original course (“they didn’t tell you at the start line?!”). I was bummed that our race finished unexpectedly 3 miles early, because that meant it didn’t provide much feedback about how well we paced ourselves. Nevertheless, it was hard to be too upset about that because, despite the mishaps, all 3 of our TTT teams won their category!
Next up on Saturday was the circuit race, which Quinn recounts:
“I came to Philly with high hopes. After a lot of hemming and hawing, I decided to do one last race in the B category before making the leap to the A’s, where I know that results will be a much more distant possibility. So with one last weekend in which I had a shot at the win, I was hyped and eager to see what I could do! The only problem: every year that I’ve raced this course, my field has ended in a bunch sprint and I have a terrible sprint! The course features short climbs and long windy sections that give the bunch an advantage, but I knew I needed to break away if I was going to get a result. So I came in with a plan to take the first lap (out of five) to feel out the pack’s climbing and decide on a good place to try and make a move. I hoped to go with one or two people around half way through our 32 mi race.
Our first time up the climb, a really strong-looking rider started to get a bit of a gap. After a long pull in which I tried to keep the gap to a minimum, I turned around to ask for help from others in the bunch but got none. Instead, someone said “well, this is a long race to try and do solo” explaining he saw no need to come to the front to help pull the rider back. (Note that this is the shortest road race on the calendar.) Annoyed with the bunch, I figured I would join this guy and see if we could make them regret their complacency! With a quick attack, I was able to bridge up to the rider with one other last racer from the peloton.
The guy up front was incredibly strong; sitting in his draft, I was still working close to my limit. Soon, the third of number dropped off and it was just the two of us. We got a good rhythm going, with my companion taking pulls at least twice as long as I could manage. We had a quick chat, and he said he was happy to do more work as long as we continued working together; I told him I was in, and that if we made it, I wouldn’t contest the sprint. For about an hour we stuck together until, on the second to last time up the climb, he dropped me. He didn’t attack, I just couldn’t quite hold his wheel. After seeing I had dropped behind, he hesitated and then went on alone. We each raced the last 10 mi or so solo; he finished about a minute up on me and I had about another minute gap to the rest of the field. We gave each other a quick hug and he apologized (!) for dropping me. We properly introduced ourselves, and I learned he was a duathlete in his first road race ever! And he was from Canada, which explained the unnecessary apology. 🙂 It was a great end to a great race—here’s to many more this season!”
Our other MIT riders finished strong in the circuit race as well! In their first ever races, Jeremy and Guillaume finished in the top 10 and Nic in the top half. In the men’s C race, Miles took 2nd and Dmitro 16th. Joanna raced off the front of the women’s C race, finishing 4 minutes ahead of the next person, and Sarah took 3rd. The women’s A/B race came down to a bunch sprint, with Tori finishing 2nd and Amy 7th.
On Sunday we had the criterium, which Jeremy describes:
“Waiting at the start line of my first ever criterium in the heart of Temple University’s campus, I felt an interesting combination of excitement and caution. This was the event I felt most unprepared for, and futile thoughts about how I should have attended one of the team’s cornering clinics didn’t help. Even though the enormous field of 91 Men’s D riders had been split in two for this race, the idea of squeezing through narrow alleyways and tight corners in a jostling gaggle of inexperienced, adrenaline-fueled riders was reason enough for trepidation. Yet I was also still riding yesterday’s high of a great first ever day of racing. I wanted to attack this race in a way I hadn’t done during the road event. Unfortunately, my nervous energy did not immediately translate into performance. I struggled to clip in at the starting call, and after eliciting the vocal frustration of other riders trying to push past, I quickly found myself at the back of the pack.
I burned through the first lap sprinting back to the front of the field, determined not to get trapped when the pace picked up. Happy that I was back where I needed to be, I worked with Guillaume to push an aggressive early pace. Too aggressive it turned out, as I soon felt gassed and needed to sit in while a separate pair of UVM riders was able to break away. Worse, Guillaume’s sinking saddle struck for a second time, retreating into his seat post like a spooked tortoise poked by an overzealous eight-year-old, and leaving him unable to hold the pace.
I remained determined though and worked with the chase group to narrow the gap. With one lap to go, a solo Northeastern rider made a break and bridged the gap, but I was caught in a bad position and was too slow to respond. I put on my own attack coming around the second to last turn, dropping my group and nearly catching the front group. It was good enough to earn a solid 4th place finish. After a cool-down loop, I returned to my teammates almost as giddy as Berk is whenever he encounters fresh banana bread. It was a ton of fun and I can’t wait to do it again!”
Other MIT riders finished well in the crit too! Notably Sarah and Joanna attacked early on and spent the rest of the race practicing their 2-person paceline skills, and lapping much of the rest of the field. Miles spent most of the men’s C race attacking and finished 8th, right behind Dmitro, who employed a less aggressive strategy that left him with more energy at the finish. In the strung-out men’s D race, Nic worked together with some UVM riders, placing in the middle of the field, and Guillaume pulled himself from the race due to his seatpost woes. In the men’s B race, Quinn worked hard for a friend from Tufts and finished with the pack. Tori spent the women’s A/B race in good position near the front of the pack but unfortunately suffered a mechanical with half a lap to go; Amy brought up the rear, finishing 7th.
Overall it was a great weekend of racing, and we’re looking forward to Bucknell in two weeks!
After tackling Palomar on day 4, there was little rest for the weary! Dmitro writes about day 5:
“On day 5 of training camp it was time for the TTT practice, and the much anticipated mock race (the Kool Katz were itching to redeem ourselves after our dismal performance during trivia night, and I was waiting to break out my skinsuit – because “aero is everything”). We started the day riding some beautiful roads that we had enjoyed early in the week during a recovery ride. The road rolled through farmland, affording some spectacular views – we then dropped down off of the mountain and into the valley where the “flat” road we would practice TTTing on was located.
We were eight on the day, four men and four women, so we split into a men’s team and women’s team and set off. I was riding with collegiate ITT national champion Erik, the incredibly strong and full of boundless energy Berk, and the massive diesel engine most call “Miles” – needless to say my legs were getting ripped off from the start. We did two practice 10 min TTs, and by the end I was absolutely toasted, I had used everything I had in the legs – but I wouldn’t have traded it for good legs for the rest of camp. There is something special that happens during a TTT; massive speeds, teammates working in harmony, and smooth and seamless conservation and economy of motion. When it all comes together it’s a beautiful thing. While we were far from having it come perfectly together, we still were able to tap into a little of that feel and that magic.
After the TTT practice we decided to forgo the mock races; a number of mechanicals and people deciding to take rest days meant that our numbers were pretty limited and honestly I think we were all a little beat. We hammered one last climb and then rolled back to the house together chatting, laughing and generally having a good time.”
Day 6 was another much-needed recovery day! We went for a 15 mile ride in the morning to loosen up our legs, and then hunkered down inside for the rainy afternoon. Despite the weather, we did manage to dash outside for a team photo (see above!). Sarah describes day 7:
“Ever since I’d seen the 109-mile ride in the schedule for WTC, I’d been afraid. Not only was this a ride at the end of many days of hard riding, not only did it include 11000 ft of climbing, this would be the longest ride I had ever done. Making it through the previous rides at WTC boosted my confidence a bit, but the night before I also knew that my body was fatigued from the 300+ miles we’d ridden in the previous few days. A small part of me was tempted to take the “easy” option skipping part of the main climb and doing “only” 90 miles, but I wanted to take on the challenge and be a part of the entire team making it through this crazy ride.
After a filling breakfast, my group headed out, enjoying a lengthy ~35 mile downhill section with some fun speedy descents. There was a brief relatively flat section, then we started the 35 mile climb that would make up the middle chunk of the ride. After zipping along at 20+ mph, it was hard to not feel frustrated by the <10 mph slower pace climbing up the hills. The sun was beating down, and I quickly began to overheat. We were only 10 or so miles into the climb, and less than half way done with the ride – to feel so challenged at this point really started to get me down. However, a brief pause to de-layer, drink some water and eat some sugary food (PopTarts for the winning ride snack!) made all the difference, and the next 10 miles flew by. As we took a quick break at mile 66, the weather started to cool and clouds started to roll in. We rolled out, eager to attack the last part of this climb by summiting Mount Laguna, this time from the paved road side.
Lee and I were pacing ourselves and feeling pretty good about the smooth pavement, consistent grade, quiet road, and beautiful views, when I glanced down and noticed that my front tire was looking awful squished out at the bottom. We both pulled over and confirmed that I must have a small leak leading to the low tire pressure. We swapped out the tube, doing our best to both check the tire and rim but without finding the cause of the leak. Reinvigorated by the small break, we pushed the pace on the next part of the hill, but a few miles later I noticed my front tire was squished out again! A second stop, a second check of the tire and wheel, a second tube swap – and at a higher elevation, I was starting to get pretty cold. Amy and Dmitro came back down from the summit to keep me company, and we all hurried up to the top to meet the group and start the descent (and get back to the house before dark!).
I love descending, so was jamming on the way down drafting off of Dmitro, when I went over a bump and heard a “POP!” and knew my front tire had flatted again. At this point I was super cold and super frustrated, as I’m sure my group members were as well – but everyone was nothing but positive and helpful as we did a third swap of the tube (and my biceps were so thankful that Stan had a CO2 cartridge!). The last 20 miles were chilly, foggy, and dark, but it was such a high to make it to the house at the end and know that, with the physical and mental help of my MIT teammates, we had conquered an incredible ride. The ultimate cherry-on-top to the ride experience was definitely relaxing in the hot tub, and then eating delicious homemade pizza for dinner. All in all, even with the frustrating flats this was the perfect way to cap off an amazing Winter Training Camp!”
Faced with a suboptimal weather forecast on day 8, many of us opted to stay indoors, or to go for a hike. However, a few of us could not be deterred from riding on our last day in California! Tori recounts the day:
“On the last day of training camp, four of us (Stan, Amy, Miles, and I), packed up the minivan with our bikes, and drove into the desert in an effort to avoid the rain that was forecasted to hit Santa Ysabel and the surrounding area. We parked the van at Agua Caliente Park, and set out towards Ocotillo. In terms of the amount of climbing per distance traveled, this was by far the flattest ride of training camp, with only 2500 feet over 50 miles, and we pacelined the whole way to Ocotillo. The ride offered vast views of the desert and mountains, and it was fun to be in such a remote and beautiful area that had minimal car traffic.
The turnaround featured an unexpected cyclocross adventure, where in an effort to make the route more “interesting”, Amy had planned a small square loop that turned out to contain a road that was made entirely of sand. Stan and Miles had conveniently missed this final turn, and enjoyed watching Amy and I pathetically struggle to ride through the sand. After a brief stop in the booming metropolis of Ocotillo*, we headed back the way we came, getting rained on only very briefly. Our final ride in California was a great way to cap off a very challenging and fun week of training.
* Ocotillo, with a population of 266, is technically not a town, and rather a “census-designated place””