Category Archives: Race Reports

Kate Wymbs’ Army Circuit Race Win

One of the only redeeming part of Army’s weekend last year amidst the hill-climb ITT and the hilly-though scenic road race, was the Stadium Crit – a venue where spectators could view all the action and where I had a blast, despite finishing dead last (check out the recap here). This year, due to an event in the stadium, that crit was to be replaced with a circuit race. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go –academically I was in between two hell-weeks, an awful lot of hills haunted the weekend, and as week 5 of 8, I thought it would be a good weekend to skip so I wouldn’t get burnt out on bikes. The road captains saw my hesitation and encouraged me to take the time off if I thought I needed it.  As fate would have it, however my best friend Becca Greene, who I had been encouraging to come out and race all season decided that Army would be her first weekend. I had no choice, friendship prevailed and I signed up for the weekend.

Boy am I glad I did!

(It turns out I also had an unwarranted prejudice against circuit races – this one was essentially a crit, with crit scoring and only one stretch of road with the yellow-line rule, earning its title as a circuit race. I also had to realize that since I wasn’t contesting green, the race was really more of a scratch race with primes for chamois butter than a points race.)

Alright, enough preamble, time for the actual race report:

Just before the race, Coach Nicole gathered Corey, Jen, Shaena and me in the Barge for a race strategy meeting. We had a critical mass of women in this race that we had a very real opportunity to employ some good team tactics. After debating strengths and different potential strategies, we finally decided on one, knowing that if it failed we would have to be flexible. The goal was to wait for the third prime. I would go for it, ideally get it with Shaena on my wheel and then she would attack and then hopefully get a break if she was alone or Michelle or Leslie went with her.  Then I would get to block and she would duke it out for the finish. If her break failed then Jen and Corey would try to be there and trade attacks. Once Shaena and I recovered, we would join in trading attacks until someone got away. It was a good plan and it let me practice patients since I have this tendency to jump at things early and waste a bunch of energy trying to be involved in controlling the early parts of the race.

The first half of the race went pretty much as planned. Shaena went for a prime or two, securing her green jersey and I tried to rest as other riders attacked and were brought back by a responsive pack. Aside from kicking a hay bale onto the course on turn one of one of the laps, fish-tailing and staying up, the first half of the race was rather uneventful for me.

The laps went by and suddenly the bell rang for the third prime. I tried to play it cool and worked my way up to the front of the back by the backstretch of highway road. At turn 3, I was in the front with Shaena close by, and at 200m to go, I attacked with Shaena on my wheel. Immediately after I got the prime, Shaena went. Unfortunately, Rose was the one who went with her and then refused to work, sitting up and letting the pack catch. Shaena’s attack was so sudden that Jen and Corey were not in position to trade counter attacks as planned. I was gassed from the sprint so it took me a minute to recover. When I got up to the front again, I attacked and Shaena traded a counter attack trying to split the field. The field, however, was very responsive. Other riders also launched attacks after that but the pack always chased and caught.

Well so much for that strategy. With two or three laps to go, I got to the front to see if Shaena wanted to try to get away one last time and if I could help by giving her an attack to counter. She did not and indicated that we should just try to rest for the bunch sprint instead.

And so we decided to wait for the end, where the last 10 seconds define an hour of tactical racing. As other riders went for the double-points final prime, I chilled in the pack. One lap to go. I took the last lap to position myself to the left of Shaena’s wheel. At 400m Shaena went and Gabby from Army and I were on her wheel (I was to left, she to the right.) With about 175m, I went and didn’t look back.

The finish line came and I did a bike throw out of habit. I didn’t know who was around me or how the field was responding. It was only after that I realized that Rose and this Kutztown trackie had finished with the same time as me but a bike length behind!! What a good lead out! My first Women’s A mass start win!  A rider came up to us after the race and expressed how thrilling it was to actually get to see people utilizing team tactics well.

And so, despite getting dropped on the hill in the following day’s road race, I am so so thankful that friendship persuaded me to race this weekend! (It didn’t even matter that that particular friend got in quite late the night before and actually missed my win, sleeping in the car.) I got to prove to myself that I could be patient and that I could be competitive in a sprint against this field. As Coach Nicole reminded me after the race: it’s one thing to say or think that you could do well in a sprint given the right circumstances and another thing to prove it. 

Tom O’Grady’s X-Pot Report

My first couple of race weekends were frustrating. I felt I had under-performed, and so I went into the x-pot weekend  thinking I had something to prove, at least to myself. And I knew it would suit me, given the amount of climbing. It was time to make things happen.

Saturday began with a mercifully warm ITT.  Having looked at last year’s results, I thought that around 18.00-18.15 would be close to a winning time for the C field, and I pushed hard to achieve it. I tried to restrain myself on the early hills to keep something for the flatter top section, and was pleased to come home in 18:16 after an enormous effort, passing 6 riders along the way. Actually, it’s a mark of my high hopes for this event that I was initially dissappointed that this “only” netted me fifth place, but I was reassured by the fact that this was due to the C field being stronger at the top than last year (the winning time was 17:30, mid-pack in men’s A!)

We then moved on to a mercifully warm and dry crit, complete with a steep and brutal hill. The first couple of laps were predictably chaotic, with about half the field attacking up the hill, and some “interesting” descending and cornering. I worked hard to stay near the front and look out for attacks. After a  couple more laps it came down to a race of attrition, as we kept the pace up on the hill and people gradually dropped off. The end result was a break of five, which stayed together for the rest of the race, eventually joined by Ethan in a superb solo bridging effort. The race was a fantastic, if exhausting, experience. My boyfriend and various friends were on the climb to cheer me on, and teammates including Cory, Shaena and David were great at screaming encouragement (“get on that wheel!!”). I had to constantly fight to keep with the group after the top of the hill; the attacks were relentless, and the short loops gave very little time for recovery. I was more or less dropped on a couple of occasions, but fought my way back onto the group in the straight section. These sorts of short, punchy efforts don’t usually suit me, so I was happy to cling on until the final climb turned into a sprint finish and I came in fifth. In retrospect I think this may be the hardest I’ve ever worked in any sporting event in my life. I was constantly red-lining, fighting myself to stay in contention; I could hardly stand up at the end.

We arrived for a rain-soaked Sunday to find plans A, B, and C out of the window due to flooded roads. The organizers deserve enormous credit for putting together a great last-minute circuit race that provided plenty of excitement in the men’s C field. With seven strong riders in a field of fifty, we made lengthy team plans that were executed really well. Our idea was to drive the race at a fast pace to discourage attacks, and then constantly launch our own attacks in the hope that one would stick. Ethan and Matt made an early break with an RPI rider, and I had fun blocking at the front, enjoying the frustration of other teams. Despite some other attempted breaks, everyone came together again by the start of the second of three loops, as we approached the circuit’s steep climb. I was planning to attack here but found myself boxed in, in the middle of the pack, unable to pass anybody. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as we reached the top of the climb all together but at a fast pace, and I eventually wormed my way to near the front.

Acting almost on instinct, I quickly attacked hard and found myself in front of the pack with a sizeable gap. I was so shocked at this point that I hardly knew what to do, having assumed that someone would follow me. I decided there was nothing for it but to push onwards, and so I began a solo ride off the front that lasted almost a whole lap. I was pushing myself as hard as I could, shouting at myself for encouragement.  I tried to look back as little as possible, but when I did, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I realized I could hardly see the pack.

I now realize why – notwithstanding my efforts, my teammates were by all accounts doing some incredible blocking, with Andrea, Adam and Anton at one point simply filling the road so that no-one could get past. Andrea, in particular, was apparently working his socks off to stay in second wheel and keep me in front.

Eventually an RPI rider bridged up to me on his own, which was actually a huge relief as I was rapidly tiring in the strong headwinds. We quickly agreed to work together, and kept the pace up for another couple of miles until a UNH rider also reached us, and we spent the rest of the final lap in a reasonably-organized TTT, with another bridger from Brown making it a break of four at the very end. As the finish line approached I was amazed to see that we were still away, but nervous about the final sprint. I tried to launch myself away on the front to no avail, eventually coming in a very tired fourth behind three better sprinters.

I’m particularly delighted with how this race went. I chose to attack at the right time, at the top of a hill when people were tired, and from about ten riders back, so that people didn’t see me coming. For me, the lesson is that being aggressive and taking your chances really pays off, and that smart tactics matter just as much in bike races as being strong. But more than that, it was a reminder of what an amazing team spirit we have; my break would never have survived without fantastic blocking. I’m incredibly grateful to my teammates for their hard and selfless work.

Above all, I think this weekend taught me to be much happier with my lot as a cyclist; I proved to myself that I can perform as I wanted when the races got hilly, even though my short power and sprinting remain frustratingly weak. Whilst it would easy to be disappointed about losing two sprints from breakaways, fourth or fifth in a break is infinitely more satisfying than 20th in a mass pack sprint, and I don’t think I could have tried harder than I did, or done more to put myself into contention. I went home very happy indeed, and excited about even hillier races to come.

Last but definitely not least, I must add a big thank you to Stef and everyone else who put in so much work  to organize the weekend. I thought it was a huge success and showcase for the team, despite the weather Gods’ best efforts to make it otherwise. I’m already looking forward to next year, but can we order less rain please?

Kate looking focused and determined in the Women's A/B Crit

Kate Wymbs’ Race Report from Philly

Kate looking focused and determined in the Women's A/B Crit
Kate looking focused and determined in the Women’s A/B Crit

“This race will be good for you!” a phrase I had heard a few time recently but had yet to really believe. It was the Temple Crit, the first non-hill-repeat criterium of the season. Relatively flat, fast, four cornered, and a tad more frigid than the balmy 60*C road race of the previous day.  According to my teammates, corner 4 was to be decisive: if you could brave the strong wind between corners 3 and 4 and get around the corner clean you would be well set up for a sprint prime.

 With that in mind, I took my place at the start and as the gun went off, wormed my way near the front of the group. It stayed rather calm for the first few laps until the first prime bell rang. Everyone tensed up and began watching each other. I saw the fastest riders start to move around for position. Cecilia from Columbia was positioned third on the slight downhill between corners 1 and 2, directly behind Shaena. I quickly moved to her left forcing her to take a tempered inside line on the corner if she didn’t want to be boxed in. She saw what was happening and jumped after the turn. I jumped to follow with   Shaena on my wheel. Coming around turn 3, Shaena came around me and went in pursuit of Cecilia just as Lenore from Columbia also came around. I sprinted around turn 4 and was able to hold on to fourth position for double prime points.
Cooked, I drifted to the back of the pack and took a lap to recover, during which time Cecilia, Shaena and Lenore took off (as they seem to have a tendency to do this season). After another lap I worked my way up to second position. I asked around what had happened on the front with the break and once I learned who had gotten away, I settled in for a one of my favorite games: Blocking! (Who says you can only play games on the Track?)
“We can catch them if we work together!”shouts one of the other girls in the pack. Ha! Good luck with that. A deviant in their midst, I proceeded to sabotage their plans. The lead rider tried to pul off, I kept her wheel. Another rider came around to pull I jumped on her wheel. Anyone decided to attack, I jumped and hopped to second wheel. About a quarter into the race I also remembered that I knew how to corner and, constantly in second position, was able to swing wide and hit the apex every time without wasted effort.
When prime laps came, I jumped right after turn 4 and won the sprint, getting fourth overall each time. I swear, if anyone had attacked me right after the primes, I would have been in trouble. As it was, it seemed like the pack was happier to see me on the front immediately after the sprint for a change and let me pull until the downhill when I quickly forfeited first position and reclaimed second wheel.
Finally it came down to the last lap. Between turn 2 and 3 a hoard of B riders attacked. I followed but many of them braked the through the corners causing me to take an awkward position for the final sprint. I ended up somewhere in the middle of the bunch and it wasn’t until after that I realized I had actually gotten 6th overall in the A field!! In the whole bunch of well-rested B’s only two A’s who hadn’t been in Shaena’s break had beaten me! I also learned later that Shaena had fallen off the front two and was working very hard to keep her separation from the pack and secure her spot on third.
Effective blocking, 6th overall, and 6 prime points total, I’d say this was a pretty good race for me!!
Zach and Shaena

Zack Ulissi’s Race Report from Stevens

Stevens Race Report

The race season got off to a start without the usual prologue and a TTT instead, composed of Ben, Spencer, and Ethan (the diesel engine C rider who got dragged up to help us out).  We got off to a rough start with Ethan not quite making the first turn 300m in, leaving Spencer, Ben and myself for most of the course. Spencer reminded us what it’s like to rotate smoothly with his years of TTT experience, Ben showed how much stronger he is over last year, and we finished a respectable 2nd place overall (the first Men’s A TTT we haven’t won in over two years).  Revenge will be swift the first weekend we bring a full contingent of A-men to race.

I was excited for the Saturday road race, having gotten 2nd out of the break last year.  I knew Erik Levinsohn was the man to beat, being one of the best climbers in New England at the moment (and having dropped me more times than I can count in the past three years).  On the first sharp hill he attacked and got clear, and went on to solo for the win, foreshadowing for every collegiate road race he enters this year.  I suffered a tire blow-out on the second lap, bringing my race to a quick and unfortunate end, but Ben went on to finish solidly in a reduced pack.  

I was eager to race on Sunday; the course was just about the best possible “crit” for me, very similar to the Rutgers circuit race that I had won solo in the B’s two years ago, and lapped the field in last year.  With fresh legs from my short road race, I was eager for a hard effort.  The neutral start was, as always, not actually neutral, and the heavy breathing I heard around me while riding tempo up the climb let me know how tired everyone was from the day before.  I spent the first two laps near the back of the field watching Penn State and others attack up the climb, and knew that I had to make a move or I’d miss the selection.  After the first prime, the pace was much slower, and Dominic (North Eastern University, and now a GLV teammate) was up the road.  I knew he was in good form having won a cat3/4 race solo the week before, so I attacked, got him in my draft, and pulled as long as I could over the climb to give us some more separation before rotating.  The next time up the climb I pushed hard as I could to get some more separation from the field and unfortunately popped Dom off.  I didn’t want to go it alone, but figured a small break would probably catch me soon.  I spent the next hour riding as steady as I could, getting some encouragement from Ben/Spencer, and finishing solo for my first A-race win, two years and one day after my first A-race.

Obligatory quantitative analysis (data scraped from Strava):

circuit_analysis.png

nick-most-agressive

Nick Sondej’s Report from Stevens

Stevens Duck Country ’14 was my first ever bike racing weekend that didn’t also involve a swim and a run (I’ll leave it to the reader to figure out what I’ve been doing previously).  Cycling is my favorite part of that three-stage-sport-that-must-not-be-named so I was pretty pumped to race the weekend.
I came into the weekend feeling pretty strong – I’d taken it a bit easier on the bike the past week in anticipation of racing and Kendall and I (the Men’s Intro TTT team for the weekend) had run some pretty solid TTT practice runs on Friday.  We managed to get to our hotel in NJ at a decent time and were able to get a decent night’s sleep on Friday night, although I was a tad restless and had kept playing scenarios for the road race through my head during the day and as I was trying to fall asleep.
Saturday morning we woke up early, grabbed a quick breakfast from the hotel – which was extremely key, I felt well-fueled throughout both races – and headed out to the course.  I immediately discovered that all the wonderful prep work I had done the night before filling out the ECCC season waiver packet was doing an extremely useful job sitting on a desk back in the hotel so that added a bit of stress once we got to the race area as Kendall and I were scheduled to race the intro TTT first thing in the morning.  Nevertheless, managed to get everything squared away, and Kendall and I got the blood flowing with a nice quick TTT pre-ride with the men’s A team.
Kendall and I started out the TTT a bit too fast and had to drop the pace a bit after cresting the first hill climb.  I was feeling really strong still and took some long pulls through some of the harder parts of the course.  Great communication ensured we were pushing the pace as much as possible but without very many gaps.  We pushed hard through the last 1km climb and finished strong down the finish line straightaway.  As the only team in the entire TTT in the men’s intro division, we of course came through with a crushing TTT victory in our field of one.
The men’s intro RR started about an hour after our TTT ended.  I was totally refreshed by that point, having eaten some of a cliff bar.  The intro road race included one easy coached lap of the TTT course, where pacelining, attacking and other basic race concepts were safely introduced, and then one lap of the course at race pace.  I enjoyed meeting some of the other guys on the first lap, but was a bit concerned about safely drafting many of the riders at race pace due to some sinusoidal line holding and the prevalence of potholes.  When the race lap started, I took third wheel off the line and held it through the first couple turns and uphill.  I jumped to second wheel when an opening arose and kept aero behind the leader as the first downhill began.  An attack from behind occurred soon after and I hopped on, taking the rest of the first downhill in stride.  At the next hill the breakaway group that we created began to disintegrate and I broke away, gapping the group.  At this point my legs were beginning to feel a bit tired from attacking on the hills and with more than half the race left, I dropped the pace a bit to recover.  A rider from the New School caught me and we spent the next two miles trading pulls to keep away from what was left of the breakaway group from earlier.  As we approached the main climb however, he pulled ahead, my legs beginning to really feel the burn.  The leader probably would have really pulled away and took the win (he looked really strong going through the climb) but an unfortunate chain snap pulled him out halfway up the hill and the lead fell back to me.  After I crested the hill with ~1.5miles to go, I picked up the cadence again.  I wasn’t sure how far back the rest of the group was but I knew my legs were feeling pretty beat up and I wanted to push my lead while they were still on the climb.  The last mile of the course was a tricky downhill with an uphill 1km climb to the finish but I pushed through and sprinted to the end taking first – great way to end the first day of racing!
The rest of the day was spent cheering on the team – there were some really awesome efforts and finishes in both the men’s and women’s C races and of course the A/B showcased some incredibly powerful racing talent.  After a great dinner at Ruby “Steaks and Endless Salad Buffet” Tuesday we turned in for the night.
Sunday’s race was a 1.5mi circuit race.  I upgraded to men’s D2 in the morning, so we were the first race to go off.  After a couple pre-ride laps (and some initially slowly responsive legs) it was clear that the big downhill into a tight righthand turn near the finish line was very muddy and gravelly and was not very stable.  It was going to be a choke point in the race, although it wasn’t likely to see many attacks – the road narrowed and with the conditions it was not worth the risk.  The corner was bad enough that there was a 30 minute delay as the race hosts cleaned the corner as best they could.  Additionally the first lap was neutral to hopefully minimize crashes.  The race got off to a good start with some jockeying for position on the neutral lap that caught me off guard initially.  Coming into the second lap the sprint bell was rung and the pace spiked as a group attacked on the hill.  I was slow to respond and attempted to jump on but their speed and my less than energetic legs meant I broke away from the main pack but was stuck in a kind of no-man’s land behind the breakaway group.  Fortunately one of the Tufts’ guys caught up to me and we traded pulls for the next couple laps hoping to catch back up to the breakaway.  By the fourth or so lap, I was really feeling Saturday’s races and I dropped back at the beginning of the sixth and final lap, pulling two other guys up the hill.  I realized that unless they broke away on the top of the hill that I would maintain the lead going through the downhill and into the final sprint since passing wasn’t realistic through the narrow and sketchy corner section that had delayed the race start earlier.  Coming through the final corner I came out of the saddle and put everything I had into sprinting, attempting to stave off the inevitable attack the two guys on my wheel would make.  I managed to hold off one, but was outsprinted by another, for a solid 10th place finish and the conclusion to an awesome race weekend.
A couple conclusions – I need to ride longer with more bursty hill intervals, the men’s Ds are the right category (for now!) and I’m hooked on bike racing!
Also, “Your back wheel’s going forwards!” still works as well on really intelligent 20-somethings as it did when I was a kid.
Keep the wheels rollin,
-Nick
Beth in the Intro race

Beth Hadley’s Report from Stevens

TEAM. It’s a four-letter word that recently gained several new dimensions of meaning this past weekend at the Stevens Road Race. As this was my first road race, I enjoyed a very low-stress introduction to the various racing disciplines this weekend. The entire team supported me with discussions about strategy and positive encouragement throughout the weekend. My first race was a team time trial with Georgia and Becca, both experienced riders who coached me through the mechanics and shared their strategic wisdom. We finished strong to claim 2nd in our category.

As a new racer, I entered the “Intro Category” for both the Road Race on Saturday and the Circuit Race on Sunday. Thanks to all the support and coaching from my teammates during training this year, I found myself extremely well prepared. To my delight, I won both races. I was glad to be joined by Becca in both races, whose presence gave me great confidence and support. It was thrilling to race against women also new to racing but just as excited as I was to be competing. In recognition of my performance, our lovely captains Jen and Ben awarded me the “most aggressive racer” jersey for the week (along with Nick). I personally don’t perceive myself as aggressive nor competitive, but perhaps bike racing is changing that…

I conclude my race report with the somber reminder that bike racing comes with risk, and crashes will happen despite years of riding experience. Unfortunately one of our MIT racers suffered a crash on the course. I thank the entire team for their swift response and support for this rider, who is very brave and already on the path to a speedy recovery.

Although I’ve only just begun to learn what bike racing is all about, I’m certainly looking forward to my next races. Thanks so much for all the support from the MIT Cycling TEAM!

Mountain Bike Easterns at Highland

On Columbus Day weekend, we wrapped up an awesome season of racing with Easterns Championships at Highland mountain bike park!  We had an excellent turnout with a bunch of new-to-MTB racers, and some great results, including a win in the D2 Weekend Omnium! Here are some words from Beth Hadley, who swept the Women’s B Endurance races:

A little coaching goes a long way. I’ll leave it as an exercise to the reader to deduce what a lot of coaching can do. I realized this in a profound way this past weekend at the ECCC Eastern Mountain Biking Championships. As a novice to all things cycling, I enjoyed a warm welcome this season which ultimately culminated in a memorable championships race weekend. We were delighted to be joined by Coach Constantine Psimopoulos, our newly adopted Mountain Bike Team Coach. He contributes years of experience, both coaching and racing, to our team, and his academic and research interests allow him to relate well with us as MIT students. We enjoyed a clinic session with him in the Fells a few weeks earlier, and it was during that session that I really began to think more critically about my racing technique, especially focusing on a powerful start and competitive finish. During championships, to prepare us for our races, Coach Psi led us through regimented warm-ups, stretching sessions, and strategy discussions. For the first time, I learned to engage both my brain and my body in the race before the ‘go’ was announced. Although I got my first taste of victory this past weekend by winning both of my races, the real victory lies in the knowledge I gained this season from our coach and my fellow riders. Now as the season wraps up I look to the future, I eagerly await many more great rides with this wonderfully welcoming and helpful team.

- Beth Hadley ’15

While I can’t say I won anything, I had a couple great days of racing too. The XC course was pretty flat, but really challenging technically. The Men’s A did 6 laps, which turned into a 2.5+ hour  race for me (normally XC races are ~2 hrs). At the the end of it, I had to lie down for a few minutes before walking back to the cars, but I’m happy to say  I finished all 6 laps without getting pulled while surviving a brutal double-bonk. What really made the racing special though, was being able to race with a bunch of teammates and seeing all the new faces  out on the course.

After a smores/wood run, we set up camp in the Highland parking lot. Camping’s always been one of my favorite parts of mountain bike racing, and this night was no exception with a good fire, great friends, and plenty of Joe’s bad ideas.

After the XC race, I always look forward to short track, with its considerably shorter length and much higher concentration of hecklers. Coach Psi was great at getting everybody warmed up and in good position on the start line, and I think he really helped me have a good start off the line. As we were waiting for the start, however, Joe Kopena and his minions were up to some mischief, and as the pack came around the first turn of the race we discovered the wall of boulders they had constructed as a surprise for the Men’s A riders.

I made the poor decision of trying to ride this 6 abreast with everyone and ended up having to make up a lot of time throughout the race. When we prerode, there was also a section with a steep, uphill rock roll that was taped off and labeled ‘Men’s A only’. I thought it was a joke, but on the first lap of our race we found the tape had been shifted over and we were indeed supposed to ride the rock. And of course, the obligatory improvised jump also appeared on the course.

This sort of thing is what really makes the mountain bike season so fun for me – its so laid back, even the officials joke around from time to time to make for a fun time. In the end, I finished 8-9-10 with Joe and Luke, which was a great result for all of us. In a bid for more points in the weekend omnium, we made two team relay teams, and all-MIT and an MIT-Yale collaboration. Joe had hinted that he’d give us points for it, so Spencer and Lluis stepped up to ride with Kristen from Yale in the Bs. It was a close race the entire time, but on my last lap I caught up to a Northeastern B rider. Coming around a corner I asked him to move over to pass, but  he moved the wrong way and boxed me out to allow his teammate Kenny (in the A’s) to come around me. In a stroke of luck, the first rider endo’d straight into the rock roll, holding Kenny up and allowing me  just enough time to run around both of them. I managed to hold the lead through the descent and to the end of the lap, putting us in 2nd for team relay and getting us the perhaps the 2 critical extra points that put us in front of Clarkson for the weekend, despite the points from the MIT-Yale team only counting ‘in Joe Kopena’s heart’.

While Matt and Carlos represented us racing downhill, we spent the rest of the afternoon fooling around on Highland’s sweet dirt jumps.

With only a little bit of skin lost and a great bit of fun had, we stuck around for some grilling, the awards, and of course obligatory podium pics.

A big thanks to everyone, especially Coach Psi, who came out and made this weekend so special!

See y’all next year,

-Ben Eck

UVM Kingdom Cup Race Report

The true virtue of studying at a place like MIT is the ability to develop new passions and pursue them rapidly. Although I am generalizing from my three years experience as an undergrad, I can certainly say this holds true for the MIT Cycling Team. I joined the team for the first time this past weekend at Kingdom Trails in Vermont, and my first race weekend absolutely exceeded all my expectations.

In total seven of us raced, and our mix of riding experience and ability brought an exciting new dynamic to the weekend. I benefitted from the expertise and insight of the more seasoned riders, Luke, Lluis, Carlos, Marcos, and Matt, and especially from the leadership of our team captain, Ben. As for me, this was literally my first serious time on a bike* since middle school, and I was really just excited to get away from Boston for a weekend and bike in the mountains!

Sitting around the campfire Friday night listening to Ben, Luke, and Carlos’ stories of strenuous mountain bike races, I was quite nervous for my first race. But in reality I was relieved to enjoy a lovely Saturday morning cross-country race, thanks especially to the tremendous support of my fellow competitors. The beautiful 9-mile race wound throughout the hills and forests of Burke Mountain, including a fun and fast track through a sunbathed mountain field and down a thrillingly technical downhill.

By the end of the race, I was wishing for more! Surprised and pleased to learn of my 3rd place finish (it’s women’s B after all :D), I spent the remainder of the morning cheering on Ben and Luke, and chatting with the other racers.

Luke coming through for another lap

I was impressed to learn many were just as new to racing as I was, although I also enjoyed meeting the veteran racers. Regardless of our ability or experience level, we all agreed mountain bike racing is a great way to enjoy the great outdoors, ride bikes, and meet new friends.

Following the Super D afternoon race,

Carlos crushin the Super D

we enjoyed much-deserved maple syrup “creamies” (soft serve ice cream) and made plans for our afternoon fun ride. Despite our hard morning of racing, all seven of us couldn’t help but hit the incredible Kingdom Trails. What we lacked in stamina we made up for in zeal for the trails – by the time we returned back to our campsite that evening we were all ready for a hearty campfire dinner and s’mores.

The night’s heavy rain introduced an entirely new challenge to Sunday’s short track and downhill races – mud. It was nevertheless thrilling to race the short track, and cheer on my fellow teammates and the other riders. Although I was pleased with my 2nd place finish, the race certainly inspired me to devote lots more time biking in the future, both mountain biking and road riding.

As we drove back to Boston Sunday evening, I felt emboldened by the successful completion of my first mountain bike race. Thanks to a friendly welcome from my fellow racers, and especially the MIT team, I had an inspiringly positive introductory experience and I can’t wait to get out on the trails again sometime soon!

* I would like to give special thanks to Kate Wymbs who graciously loaned me her mountain bike which kept me safe and happy all weekend long.

Beth Hadley, September 20-21 2013, UVM Kingdom Trails Race Weekend

Clarkson Race Weekend

After Attitash, the MTB team headed out to Clarkson University in Potsdam, NY (aka ‘So Far It’s Basically Canada’) to defend our lead in the DII Team Omnium. Only Luke Chellis and I were brave enough to undertake the 6+ hr drive to the Northlands, which quickly became a 8 h0ur odyssey as we got lost driving in the rain without directions or a cell phone with any juice left on the battery. Tired, and not super excited about the cold rain, we checked into a motel 20 miles past the race (though only after sadly inquiring about the possibility of camping on the lawn of other establishments) sometime after 2 am, several hours later than we expected.

After some sleep, however, the motel breakfast somehow made it all seem worth it. Having eaten a lion’s share of pastries, bacon, and waffles, we headed over to Clarkson for the XC races. The XC race was actually held on Clarkson’s Campus – they had an awesome, fast, and flowy 4.5-mile singletrack just off into the woods that they had built themselves. While according to strava, the race only had 25 ft of elevation gain per lap, I found it strangely challenging – I’m not really used to pedaling all the time on a mountain bike, and the many bermed  required really good handling skills. Luke and I had an awesome time taking fast laps around this course (it was refreshing to not have to get off my bike in a race after Attitah),and afterwards we headed over to Seven Springs for the Dual Slalom. Apparently, Seven Springs used to be a ski area, but now has the lifts removed and is owned by CU. The students there built a bunch of sweet downhill and jump trails, as well as the dual slalom track. I can’t say I did too great at DS, but hey, MIT has to represent in gravity sometime right?

After we finished up, Luke and I went on a bit of a local food odyssey. Our first stop was at a sweet corn stand we had been seeing signs for all day, where we scored 12 ears for $3. We also went by an orchard and picked up a bag of apples before returning to Seven Springs to set up camp. We camped at the base of the mountain with some folks from Dartmouth and Shippensburg, and enjoyed an excellent bonfire with wood supplied by Clarkson from the scraps of a local Mennonite sawmill.

The following day’s short track was no less excellent than the XC race, plus it had a few small kickers thrown in to mix it up. Flat races like this have made me realize that I definitely still have a lot that I can learn in terms of handling skills! After such an excellent weekend of crisp fall weather and racing, the long drive both ways was definitely worth it. I hope they’ll host a race again next year!

Attitash! First Race of 2013 ECCC MTB Season

My first mountain bike race consisted of long climbs up alpine meadows followed by switchbacks down an 18% root-filled trail. This was Attitash, in NH, and I enjoyed it more than expected. Even the top A men had to walk up the steepest sections! The climbs were long but non-technical, which suited my road-riding fitness and terrible bike-handling skills. I raced women’s A, which required 3 laps; the first lap, I tried to ride the downhill switchbacks, and face-planted once then inched my way down so slowly and scaredly that it seemed like I’d be better off walking! The next 2 laps, I got off the bike and ran down, which was shameful but actually faster…Anyway, great workout, beautiful scenery, and it was fun seeing all the other MIT racers from the other fields either lapping me or cheering. We watched the downhill races in the afternoon, which looked insane — I imagine there must be a lot of crashing before riders reach the skill level of some of those racers!
Mandatory bridge-to-nowhere
The next day, I went for a lovely ride (mostly pavement, some dirt) over one of NH’s “gaps” since I wasn’t racing Enduro
then participated in the short track XC race and team relay in the afternoon; this was a completely different atmosphere from the XC race; it consisted of many laps of a short, twisty, flat course, with hecklers building jumps and cheering from the sidelines in the trees.
"Hit the jump!". Brought to you proudly by PBR.
It was an agility test, and I couldn’t get away with using fitness to overcome skill deficits there! The team relay was really fast and exciting — with laps only around 2-3min, it was all-out from the start. Overall, I liked the chill atmosphere of the MTB scene, getting out on dirt, and camping with the team. It wasn’t as intimidating as I imagined just starting out, and other than a few bruises we all emerged unscathed :)

-Shaena Berlin