This time, I’ll focus on my top three things about the trip:
I was among friends and family: we spend a lot of time on our bikes together, and I’m happy to love the people that I race with (and oftentimes against). We stayed in a house with other ECCC racers from Dartmouth, Harvard, and Wentworth, many of whom were also teammates on Green Line Velo.
It was fantastic to travel together, cook together, hang out together, and support each other from the sidelines and at home.
My parents also came to watch; right after seeing their first cyclocross races at Canadian Nationals in October, they asked “so… when’s Asheville?” I also loved seeing so many friendly and familiar faces – the NECX has an amazing community.
Also, team dog.
I accomplished some goals. Nationals marked the culmination of my season where I’d set big goals and accomplished them. I’d set out to go race at Canadian Nationals, finish the ECCC season as the series leader, and finish top 5 at Collegiate Nationals.
Though I didn’t think I could do it at times during the race (even Richard Fries announced “Julie van der Hoop – today might not be her day”), I came back from having dropped from 4th to 9th in the second lap. With one lap to go, I was on the wheel of 5th place. I passed her over the barriers and went hard. The gap just opened from there. I crossed the finish line smiling. I saw Corey at the finish line waiting for me, gave her a hug, and cried.
I had fun. With all the goals I set this season, it was easy to forget why we do this in the first place – it’s challenging, it’s strange, and it’s just plain fun. It’s nice to be able to laugh at yourself (especially in situations likethese). The charity donut race for the iDream Athletes Foundation was a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the end of the season.
I haven’t eaten five donuts in a week in my life, let alone in 17 minutes while racing four laps of a shortened course. Corey and I, along with our Green Line Velo teammate AJ Moran, had an absolute blast. We did it for the kids, you know?
Since nationals I’ve biked zero hours and eaten zero doughnuts. I’ve had two weeks to reflect on the trip, to retire that skinsuit (thank god for new kit) and to start thinking about the upcoming ECCC road season. What goals will I set? Who will we travel with? How much fun will we have? And of course, where will we eat in Asheville at Road Nats in May? #priorities.
MIT currently sits in 3rd place in Division II in the conference, head-to-head with Dartmouth but well behind Army’s solid lead. Heading into Easterns, MIT racers Tobias Ehrenberger and Alex Springer are in 4th and 5th in Men’s C and B divisions, respectively. Corey Tucker could crack the top 5 in Women’s B. Emma Edwards and Anne Raymond had great performances at the Cycle-Smart Internationalweekend, putting them in first and second for Women’s C. And, here’s hoping Julie van der Hoop can take home the top spot in Women’s A.
Here are some great photos of the team throughout the season.
Wish us luck at Easterns, and as we prepare for Nationals in Asheville in January!
One week separated from Cycle-Smart International, and I’m already nostalgic. This was my second year racing at NoHo (Northampton for the uninitiated), and for the second year, it was my favorite CX weekend of the season. Why? Let me tell you…and maybe next year you’ll go race it and see for yourselves…
The second collegiate race weekend, and one relatively close to Boston means we usually have a pretty good racer turnout. This year, there were six of us (five women and Tobi), and we witnessed the reemergence of our resident doctor (almost) doctor Morgan for her first race weekend in about a year. We had a broad range of racing categories represented which meant lots of racing to watch and lots of racers to cheer on throughout the day. This is mostly attributable to Julie racing her first UCI race ever and admirably making the most of a mechanical filled day 1 by taking a maple syrup hand up and getting her neutral bike really, really sticky. There were some awesome finishes too: Anne and Emma both taking top 10s in the women’s cat 4 race over the course of the two race days.
Having all those friends cheering you on are what can make a race weekend fun…but what makes it great are the courses. The NoHo courses are impeccable. They are a perfect mix of challenging while not being terrifying. The courses at Providence are arguably the most intimidating, Hanover maybe the most technical, and the courses at NoHo are a terrific middle ground. Everything is rideable, unless they really intended for you not to ride it (still working on those barrier hopping skillz…), but parts definitely require some skill. There’s a rough run up, a deep sand pit, some tricky off-cambers, and a pretty steep downhill pitch. There’s also lots of power riding. If you listed CX course requirements, NoHo’s got it…except for mud. Thank god.
And finally, the intangibles. Those little things that can put a weekend over the top…things that you only get at special races and special venues. Awesome food trucks? Giant podium cookies? A really cool town to hang out in after the race? (I will refrain from an ode to Northampton, but it’s cool there, alright?) Microbrewery with a CX film festival? Check, check, check, and check. NoHo has it all.
So, for all of you CX racers, or maybe future CX racers out there…I’m sorry you missed such a good time this year…but take it from me, NoHo is the best race weekend of the year, go see for yourself…
Well folks, we were having so much fun riding our bikes this fall that we didn’t keep you updated on our race season. Our apologies.
The season was one of (mostly) great weather, a mix of veterans and newcomers, and tons of fun. The two weekends which really stood out this season were MIT’s own Sliderule Shredfest and the Eastern Championships at Highland.
‘The Sliderule Shredfest XC was again fast and flowy, or rather, I think it was meant to be. As a still-novice MTB rider, I can’t say my ride was graceful, but it was still a lot of fun. It was also great to see the MIT women’s team rivaling UVM for entries. We had three new ladies come out – Emma, Alexis, and Laura, and saw 3 podium finishes! Alexis (1st, WB), Laura (2nd, WB), and Lucy Archer (3rd, WA).’ – Jen Wilson
‘The atmosphere the whole weekend was fantastic, especially Saturday evening with everyone hanging out by the campfire eating delicious grilled sausages, burgers, and burritos. I definitely want to go out to more race weekends in the future and want to compete next year.’ – Przemyslaw Krol
Northeastern University hosted the ECCC Championships on October 10/11th at the Highland Bike Park. MIT had another great showing, with eleven racers making the trip out to New Hampshire!
Some notable results from MIT racers at the Eastern Champs:
Julie van der Hoop – 1st in Women’s B Cross Country
Lucy Archer – 1st in Women’s B Dual Slalom
Sean Daigle – 8th in Men’s A Dual Slalom
Megan O’Brien – 1st in Women’s A Downhill
Matt Schram – 4th in Men’s C Cross Country
Edgar Gridello – 7th in Men’s C Short Track
Congrats to all of the riders who raced with us this season! We had 17 riders come out to race this year and clinched 3rd in the season overall D2 omnium standings.
Sadly, mountain season is winding down… BUT three riders are preparing to represent MIT at the USAC Collegiate Mountain Bike Nationals in Snowshoe, West Virginia next week. Get ready to cheer on Lucy Archer (cross country and short track), Sean Daigle (downhill and dual slalom) and Megan O’Brien (downhill and dual slalom)! We’ll be sending updates throughout the week, but for up-to-date race info and results, check out #CollNats on twitter and follow @MITCyclingTeam!
I have always loved riding bicycles. When people ask me how I got started I always tell the same story. As a young kid, my mom would put me in a bicycle seat and go riding in the evening. When she felt my helmet hitting her back she knew that I was asleep and that she could go home and put me to bed. I have no way to test if this is the reason why I love it so much, but I like to think it is part of it!
As a grown-up, my reasons to ride are different. Of course, there are all the usual reasons (extremely efficient way of transportation, eco-friendly, cheap*, etc.), but this is also how I develop my personality. To ride long distances you need to train, to overcome obstacles, to adapt to various situations. It is a great way to become more perseverant, grounded and organized. Combine that with the health benefits of cardio-vascular activities and you can become a better person on all aspects!
Before joining the MIT Cycling Team I did a few cycling events (off-road triathlon with kayaking, mountain biking and trail running, Eastern Sierra Double Century, a few centuries) but I was always competing against myself, not directly against a pack. I didn’t think that I was fast enough, or talented enough, to do true races.
Last September I decided that I would start following the road training plan in November to get in a better shape before a long touring trip this summer. I was thinking about racing once or twice, just to see how it was. Then Beth convinced me to try a mountain bike race… and I was hooked after the first weekend. Don’t get me wrong, it was painful (my heart wanted to escape my chest, I felt disoriented, my glasses were all fogged up…), but I knew I would try again and again. I raced three weekends, and I got so much better in such a short period! Being passed really helps bike faster.
Figure 1 Cross-country MTB Race
In November I started the road training plan. This was the first time that I was doing structured training and I made a point of following the plan as closely as possible. Initially, the hardest part was to stay in Zone 2. Completing a 2h training ride without heavy sweat was new to me. My training volume was higher than in the past, but my legs didn’t feel heavy like before; the plan had some benefits! The threshold intervals were really intense; I had no idea that I could keep such a high heart rate for up to 50 minutes.
The real test was to race. Before my first road race I was anxious (Will I get injured in a crash? Will I bonk after 5 minutes? Strategy?). Then the same thing as for mountain bike racing happened: I loved it! It is so intense, you need 100% of your body and 100% of your mind. You get in a zone where you have a strange mix of tunnel vision and complete awareness of your surroundings. Looking at the shadow of a fellow racer to know when to start your sprint is an awesome feeling. None of that would have been possible without the training plan and all the great advice I received from team members.
Figure 2 Sprinting for the prime points at the Tufts Crit
Only 9 months after I started collegiate racing I’m forced to retire, as I’m getting my Master’s degree in a few weeks. Joining the MIT Cycling Team was a great idea; I learned a lot about bicycles, about racing, and I met wonderful people.
On May 6th, the MIT Cycling Team traveled down to North Carolina for three days of epic racing in the hills of Asheville. This year’s squad included: Zack Ulissi, Emerson Glassey, Corey Tucker, Anne Raymond, Julie van der Hoop, Jen Wilson, Ben Eck (mechanic), and later, Andrea Tacchetti and Phil Kreycik. The team rented a home to make prepping for race day easier (e.g. cooking lots of good food and sitting in the hot tub).
Day 1 involved a flight, wrangling of bikes and equipment at the airport (they did manage to get the doubles stuck in the conveyor belt!), and a ~2 hr drive to get to our place in Asheville. Kudos to Corey for an epic spreadsheet (it was color-coded and included our menu!) and kudos to Zack for finding the “deli” with fried chicken and pulled pork! Arrival at the house saw bike assembly, a grocery run, and a short spin down to route 52 to scope out the territory. Dinner #1 TACOS.
Day 2 was the day of recon. It was the chance to check out the courses and get a sense how the races would play out. Because of looming weather, the team headed out to the road course first. The team jumped out of the car to test the 25 mile loop at varying paces (Corey and Emerson dropped the group going into the first climb). It proved to be a beautiful course though, and now we were prepared for the race that was ahead. That afternoon, some of the team explored the lovely downtown area, while others rested and prepared for racing. Dinner that night: stir-fry.
Day 3 was our first race day. The women left the house around 6:30 am to get down to the race course, and Ben joined us for feeds and moral support (but really, when you’re nervous and trying to race, having a rational mechanic on hand is priceless!). The women took off around 8:30 am after call-ups into a foggy mist. The neutral start was a little rough as people crashed and bumped into each other. There was a lot of shouting and calling out to riders (flashbacks of CX-Nats had us all anxiously looking out for Corey). All of the women made it through to the climb though, and we were off! The sun came out and the day got hot quickly. By the end of the women’s race and the start of the men’s, it was hot enough that feeds could make or break the race. Ben Eck did a stellar job feeding the women all by himself (Ben, that bottle made my race!), and by the time that the men went off, Julie had effectively coordinated feeds for the entire ECCC. I think MIT riders may have posed for at least 4 different teams that day (North Eastern, Tufts, RISD, BU at least), but we were lucky to have that conference community to rely upon (thank you ECCC for being such an awesome and collegial environment).
Day 4 was the day of the hill-attack crit. For many, this was by far the hardest crit course we had seen. With 100ft of climbing per lap, the course was more a process of constant hill repeats than the preferred technical corners and pack dynamics of a more traditional crit. Yet, the team threw themselves out there and fought on nonetheless. The women’s field splintered quickly as CMU set a blazing pace for the first few laps and set up the race to be one of attrition. Though even despite the heat and unrelenting climbs, the ECCC was out in full force to support us, and while in the pain cave, the cheers of Alan and the like were reminders of the strong preparation and community we receive racing in our conference. Also, a special thanks to Alan for advocating on MIT and Dartmouth’s behalf when the officials accidentally posted us as down a lap (it was just further proof of the chaos that ensued during this crit). As the other events went off, the course only became more brutal with the heat, and again, the ECCC bonded together to create an ice-water feed and splash zone (the women were not so lucky in the ability to feed or get splashed). At the end of the day, Zack received a victory ice-water bath from Anne, the team celebrated with some excellent donuts from Vortex (thanks for the freebies!), and then went home to recover for the last day of racing.
Day 5 was TTT! MIT traditionally does really well with the TTT, and this year was no exception. The Men set out first in their matching Venges, placing 4th overall. The women’s event followed, and ultimately placed 5th. Both teams made the podium! Zack Ulissi would go on to compete in the ITT in the burning heat (and after competing in all three events!) and end up 8th overall. We want to wish him luck in his future racing endeavors, but we are fearful of the future where he will no longer be scoring points for us
That evening concluded with a new Nationals tradition – BBQing with friends. In the past, the last race day has always seen an epic amount of dining (fried chicken has been the longest standing tradition). Though this year we mixed it up some and opted for salmon, sausages and steak instead (thanks a bunch to Emerson and Zack for getting groceries and starting the grill). The group eventually expanded to include Dartmouth, UCSD, NorthEastern and BU riders. Having the large porch afforded us the opportunity to bond with other cyclists and extend the cross-team camaraderie started at Saturday’s feed zone.
Day 6 was the return to reality. We had booked later flights to try and stave off the return to work and life, and did our best to squeeze the last bit of fun out of our time in Asheville. The group agreed that BBQ was essential to this mission and the team returned to 12 bones for one last fix. Emerson, Zack, and Ben apparently won lunch that day as they also secured ribs for the flight back. The other food-newbies on the team merely ordered lunch and were ultimately sad on the return flight when the pros opened feasted on their dinner ribs mid-plane ride.
The team was greeted at Boston with enthusiastic high fives from our resident expert, Ethan, and were much appreciated at the end of a long day. Kristine Fong also supplied Tatte pastries to give the team a little boost as we returned to the prospect of working and being students again (thank you both!).
The team, riders and equipment all made it safely back to Cambridge. Though, at the moment, it’s unclear as to who has unpacked and started riding. Six Gaps is looming on the weekend horizon and it seems that training-in-bed may be the best strategy.
Fast on the heels of the road season, the first race of the joint ECCC/ACCC track season took place last week at the Valley Preferred Cycling Center in Allentown, PA. The event kicked off with an intermediate level track clinic on Saturday with Marty Nothstein, a former Olympic gold medalist and the executive director of the Valley Preferred Cycling Center. While the initial parts of the clinic dealt with talking about the various track rules and etiquette, we soon got an opportunity to practice some of the track-specific race skills such as pace lining, standing starts, wall starts as well getting comfortable with the bankings in the track. Having previously raced only on the comparatively flat Kissena track, I personally found the 28 degree banked turns to be a lot more technical and equivalently, a lot fun.
Probably due to the close proximity to the Road Nats, the race had a reasonably small attendance, with a grand total of 22 racers across all categories, collegiate and non-collegiate, women and men. MIT was represented by two Men’s C/D racers, Christian and Rajesh, making it the third largest collegiate group at the competition, after Westpoint and Yale.
Thanks to the dearth of racers in the Men’s B/C category – Christian was the only one present on the day- Men’s B/C and D categories were clubbed together and the races modified to adjust for the small number of racers. A 5-lap scratch race around the 333m track was followed by kilo (the track version of ITT over 1km) and a chariot race (a short 500m race, from a standing start).
Even though Christian missed out on winning the scratch race by a fraction of a second, he won the overall competition in the B/C/D category, after setting the fastest time in the kilo and finishing first in the chariot race. I finished 3rd in all the three races, and managed to secure the final podium position for MIT. After the main ECCC races were over, the 22 racers were grouped together into 4 teams for a fun Italian team pursuit.
We rounded off the hot sunny weekend with some delicious burritos for lunch at a nearby California themed Mexican restaurant, before starting on the dreadful 7-hour journey back home.
This past weekend featured the great state of New Hampshire with races at both Dartmouth and UNH. Sadly, it was to be my last collegiate race of the year. Not sadly, the weekend was predictably great. Well, okay. As a first-time racer, I actually spent much of the year in denial about my love for cycling, but after four race weekends I can safely say that “predictably” is the right word.
So what about the races? Well, there were four of them. Saturday kicked off with a 3-mile(!) ITT. Fortunately, they compensated for the short distance with some pretty hefty climbs. In particular, when there’s a dude cheering you on with a sign that says “400m to go!”, this does not mean “time to sprint” because a rather formidable hill will appear to crush your spirits. Despite demoralization via hill, I ended up getting 2nd out of 35; my best ratio to date (w00t).
Later in the day was the famous(?) frat-row criterium on Dartmouth’s campus. The crit was pretty typical for me–I tried to win, and I didn’t. On the other hand, the women’s A/B squad totally killed it. With a commanding presence of five riders in a field of slightly more than that (blame velocityresults.com for the lack of precision there), the women’s team repeatedly sent riders on solo-attacks until one stuck. It didn’t take very long. It’s fun to be associated with greatness at least…
On Sunday, we moved over to UNH for the TTT and the road race. Surprisingly, we actually had enough D racers to field a full TTT team. After having been dropped from my last two TTT’s about 20 milliseconds into the race (I’ve since learned that I was riding with a teammate nicknamed “the hammer”, so you can’t blame me too much, right?), it was nice to finally get to finish one of these things. Among other things, the course featured a number of “last hills” since one of my teammates had been slightly misinformed about the time we should take to finish. Anyways, the real last hill eventually came, and we ended up getting first (don’t ask out of how many), so I guess I can’t complain too much.
So onto the event I’d been waiting for–the road race! The course was 40 miles long, which is 20 miles longer than I’d ever raced before, so I was looking forward to a new level of pain. The pace started out pretty leisurely, perhaps because everybody else hadn’t raced 40 miles before either. Unfortunately, winter was not kind to the roads this year, and the potholes were out in force. Anyways, riding in the peloton doesn’t exactly give you the best view of the road, so pinch flats became an immediate concern. I saw at least two people in front of me flat out of the race. At some point somebody joked that we should all be riding Gatorskins. Hah. Little did he know that I race on my commuter bike… I did not flat.
The race continued in that way until we had done one 20 mile lap. When we realized we were about to pass a bunch of spectators, I think the group consensus was that we should bike faster (cyclists are all about appearances, I’ve come to realize). Anyways, we hit the first big hill on the second lap, and people started turning on the jets. I just barely made the break (a rider literally came up and pushed me to help me along). There were six of us together. We go and go, but I’m pretty gassed at this point, and rotate off the front pretty much as soon as I get there. The second hill was not quite as kind to me… I got dropped and ended up doing the last 8 miles of the race by myself. I managed to hold off the field to take 6th. Pain was redefined for me on that day.
At the beginning of the race, somebody yelled out that MIT would do poorly in the race because the course had turns in it, which didn’t match the conditions of the wind tunnel that we practiced in. Despite being a rather long and slightly convoluted joke, it made me wonder about the more pressing issue at hand. This is not the first time I’ve heard MIT being heckled about its wind tunnel. So? Where’s my wind tunnel, guys? Is it heated? I need to train.
I’ve been using an extreme version of the “Joe Near Training Plan” this year. The normal version calls for 3-4 hours of riding per week at the highest intensity you can manage (i.e. zones 3 or 4) in an attempt to keep your fitness through the winter while spending as little time on the trainer as possible.
This year, I managed 1-2 hours per week.
At Beanpot, I got dropped hard in both the road race and the crit. At Army, I held on in the crit but failed to score points; in the road race, I got dropped again. So my expectations for this week were low.
But my legs must be coming around, because I scored points in every race (that I finished) this weekend. In the ITT, I averaged over 300 watts and got 15th. That’s pretty great for me — even at my best fitness, my threshold is barely 300 watts.
The Dartmouth crit was very difficult for me, both physically and mentally, because of the rain — I’ve always been bad at cornering hard in the rain, and it was hard to force myself while the water and grit being sprayed in my face made it hard to see anything. The faster guys knew it would be hard in the back and went pretty hard in the beginning.
But I stuck with it and as the rain stopped, things got easier. I still couldn’t see anything in the final lap, and the two guys who had lapped the field started pushing people around in an effort to beat each other in the final sprint, so my primary goal was to avoid crashing rather than place as well as possible. I was therefore very proud to get 10th.
The TTT is typically very tough at UNH because I have to do it with Zack Ulissi and it’s hilly. I was very fortunate that he took it easy on me this time. It was extra fun because we started last, behind the only two other Men’s A teams. This meant that once we caught the other teams, we knew we were leading in terms of time. I think this encouraged Zack to go easy on the hills, because he was certain we could win. I appreciated that.
But there was no camera for the finish of the TTT. This was a bummer. I wanted to be in one last finish-line photo before I graduate, and the TTT is typically the only place I get to do it! I was going to make such a great face.
In the road race, I felt much better than I expected. Unfortunately the roads were terrible. I have raced this course in the past and remember them being pretty reasonable, so this winter must have really been tough on the road conditions.
Anyway, I flatted around mile 15 and fortunately the leak was slow enough that I was able to ride it back to the parking lot. Some of the downhills were a little bit scary on a tire with 20 psi, though. I was sad to have flatted but it’s tough to complain: I have pretty good luck with flats, generally, and I didn’t end up having to walk home.
I had a great time this weekend, and while I’m sad that I won’t get to do another ECCC race, I’m happy to see that the team is as strong as ever. I’ve been around long enough to see several “generations” of riders, and it’s great to see that the welcoming attitude and cohesiveness of the team has remained.
Some of our newer riders — the women, especially — are getting great results and obviously learning a ton about bike racing every single weekend. Many of the newer riders already act like veterans: I sometimes forget that they have never raced bikes before this year.
Veterans on the team have historically sprung for expensive equipment. My bike is the oldest (and probably the least valuable) in most of the races I enter. So during a discussion about bikes on Saturday, I said, “I have the cheapest bike you can buy!” It was quickly pointed out to me that my bike had fancier stuff on it than many of the bikes sitting around it. Many of the newer team members are so good that I just forgot they hadn’t yet been bitten by the upgrade bug!
So I’d say good luck to everyone, but I don’t think you’ll need it. Being a part of the team has been an honor and a privilege, and I’m both happy to see that future members will have access to the same
great experience I had, and excited to see that the new generation of riders seems poised to continue achieving great results.