Category Archives: Race Reports

Nats Podium

2016 Cyclocross Season Recap

The Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference’s Cyclocross (ECCC:CX) season spans close to two months in the fall of every year: from mid-October until early December. This year’s collegiate CX calendar was very similar to the previous one: It started with two races in New Hampshire (Hanover CX and Pumpkincross), followed by HPCX in New Jersey (hasn’t been a collegiate race in a few years); then NohoCX (formerly CSI); then the Supercross Cup in Suffern, New York (with a new venue); then the Thanksgiving weekend race in Fitchburg, MA; and, finally, the Eastern Collegiate Cyclocross Championships at NBX in Warwick, RI. The only thing after that was Nationals, which took place in convenient driving distance at Riverside Park in Hartford, CT.

MIT Cycling was represented at every single one of these races; mostly with only two riders (Julie and myself), but peaking with six eager souls on the final weekend of the season. Here is a short breakdown of the highlights of the season, which was dominated by warm and dry conditions (with a few exceptions).

Late September, we welcomed some special visitors: Oliver and Claudia from Biognosys, one of our amazing sponsors, stopped by and Oliver joined me in participating in a Wednesday Night Super Prestige (WNSP) training race.

Biognosys' visiting

While some individual riders’ training plans may have started earlier in the year, the official kickoff for our team happened late September with two 3-hour long CX skills clinics lead by CX legend Adam Myerson (Cycle-Smart). Cyclocross newcomers and veteran riders alike learned, unlearned, relearned, and tweaked skills ranging from dis- and remounts, to efficient carrying and shouldering, to choosing lines through corners, and cleanly riding off-camber turns.

Cyclocross skills clinics with Adam Myerson.

These clinics sent us well-prepared into the races: Julie, participating in the UCI/Elite races, raced herself to the top of the collegiate “Women’s A” podium in almost every single race; I competed in the collegiate “Men’s A” field for the first time and also consistently gathered points for the team (however, at a much smaller scale). Dmitro and Emma earned points on two race weekends. And Kate and Laura celebrated their CX debut with great results in the final two races.

Out of the 11 individual race days across 5.5 race weekends (Fitchburg was only a single-day event), I want to highlight two races that stood out to me:

  •  Supercross Cup in Suffern, NY: This race took place at a new venue this year (Rockland Community College). First impression: Very wide and hilly course, with some very fast descents, a lot of off-camber sections, and lots and lots of climbing. What made this race particularly special was the weather: On Saturday we raced in dry conditions with temperatures around 70 degrees. The course, which was mostly on grass, was fast and best suited to good climbers. Sunday’s race on the other hand was on the same course, but mostly reversed – this includes the weather. The conditions couldn’t have been more different to Saturday’s: temperatures had dropped to around freezing over night and it had rained and snowed (and kept snowing lightly on and off during the day), the course very quickly turned into a crazy mud-fest. It was cold, muddy, windy, and wet – simply put: just beautiful! Due to setup of the course, completely new challenges emerged: long sections of off-camber were not rideable due to the slippery mud; lines kept disappearing in he mud from one lap to the next; lines weren’t accessible due to course tape blowing into the course; long run-ups and deep muddy straights turned into a fitness challenge. Great race! Let’s hope the venue allows the race to come back next year! Julie was able to heroically take the Collegiate Women’s A podium on both days. I ended up 15th (Sat.) and 16th (Sun.) in the Men’s A field.
  • NBX / ECCC:CX Easterns: As mentioned earlier, we had six racers participating in this final race weekend. In addition to the usual CX-squad, this included two CX-newcomers (but experienced MTBers), Laura and Kate, as well as two racers who attended the NohoCX race as well, Dmitro and Emma. Laura (first CX race!) and Dmitro shredded the course on their mountainbikes, passing other riders on many rooty technical sections of the course. Kate, starting from the very back (first CX race!), rode to the top of the Collegiate Women’s B podium on day one; a mechanical in the final lap of Sunday’s race moved her back to place four in Collegiate Women’s B of the day. Emma raced herself to the top of the podium in both her races. And finally, Julie earned 1st (Sat.) and 2nd (Sun.) of the Collegiate Women’s A podium.

Finally, here are the ECCC:CX omnium results of our team — after a full season of racing. First, the highlights:
1) Julie van der Hoop took the women’s A collegiate podium in the season overall; AND
2) MIT Cycling ended up 3rd in the combined omnium of this season. This is a particularly great result considering that (a) the team was represented by only two racers for most of the race calendar (with Julie accumulating the majority of the points) and (b) the top spots on the podium being taken by much larger teams with high attendance throughout the season.

Here are the overall season results for all participating riders:

  • Julie van der Hoop: 1st of 14 in Women’s A (11 races)
  • Tobias Ehrenberger: 14th of 32 in Men’s A (10 races)
  • Emma Edwards: 12th of 28 in Women’s B (3 races)
  • Dmitro Martynowych: 25th of 45 in Men’s C (3 races)
  • Kathryn Lawrence: 13th of 28 in Women’s B (2 races)
  • Laura Treers: 27th of 28 in Women’s B (2 races)

What about Nationals?“, I hear you ask. “Incredible” is my one-word answer.

With Nationals taking place in New England’s Winter (first week of January), it was to be expected that the weather has the potential to make the races interesting. And that’s exactly what happened. Nationals took place over the course of almost a week, starting on Tuesday with open races, collegiate races on Wednesday and Thursday, some other races on Friday and Saturday, and ending on Sunday with the Elite races. While the overall course layout stayed largely the same over these six days (some sections were taken out, depending on conditions), the course surface was completely different every single day:

  • Heavy rain all of Tuesday quickly turned all grass on the course into slushy and wet mud. A steep downhill section became a spectator-friendly slip-and-slide extravaganza.
  • Wednesday morning (our race day!), the rain had stopped and temperatures had risen to close to 50 degrees; Tuesday’s wet mud had turned into deep and sticky mud that clung to every part on your bike, especially parts that you didn’t want it to stick to: pedals, rim brakes, and drive trains. Many sections became unrideable for mortals like me; yet carrying a bike weighing three times its normal weight didn’t make these sections much easier. For obvious reasons, riders having the luxury of a pit-bike switched bikes twice a lap, thereby avoiding two long muddy sections of the course by riding through the double-entrance pitand collecting a clean bike as reward for this smart choice. Due to these challenges the race organizers cut a few sections of the course during the day to avoid short 2-lap races in the later part of the day.
  • On Thursday, things were different again: Temperatures had dropped well below freezing and all the ruts in the muddy ground had frozen overnight. These ruts made for a bumpy ride and riders had to be careful to keep their front wheels out of trouble. Needless to say, many riders flatted, and many more were sent to the ground. On the bright side, lap times were much faster again; so previously removed sections of the course were added back in.
  • Friday’s conditions were similar to Thursday’s, but a bit colder.
  • On Saturday, snow built up on the course over the course of the day.
  • And Sunday, the elite riders had to battle a generally abused and frozen course, topped with ice, snow, and a bit of mud here and there.

Again, pretty much everyone had expected challenging conditions, but nobody expected that the challenges would be different ones every single day. Kudos to the organizers!

Julie’s and my race took place on Wednesday in the muddiest of conditions. After my race (43rd – mud mud mud, and challenges as described above — what more can I say?), I had my first experience being part of a pit-crew. Julie had a great start and stayed in the top 5 for the entire race. We made sure she could switch to a shiny mud-free bike every half lap and she was able to round out her career as an MIT Cycling racer by finishing fourth in her race. In the Nationals Omnium, MIT Cycling took place 14 out of 38 schools attending (bear in mind we only had two racers attending).

Nats Podium

Finally, I want to direct you to all the pictures I (and others) took at races this season: Google Photos. For some races I even mounted my GoPro — here’s my playlist:

What now? MIT Cycl(ocross)ing will be training until the leaves start falling and the days get shorter again. Hope to see you at some races in the fall!

Stay muddy!

Tobi after Supercross Day 2.
Tobi after Supercross Day 2.
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Sliderule Shredfest 2016

Hey it’s Laura here, newbie MIT cycling member (I’m pretty new to the road team and especially new to mountain biking), checking in. This is my first blog post for the team where I’m going to talk about MIT’s recent ECCC mountain bike race: Sliderule Shredfest!

Back in the beginning of the summer I got an email from our captain Lucy with the subject line hey, want to run Shredfest? My initial response was something along the lines of UMMM I just bought a mountain bike like 2 weeks ago that I’m pretty terrible at riding, let alone racing, and you want me to organize MIT’s mountain bike race? But some crazy part of me ended up agreeing to take this on along with the help of Ben Eck and Lucy, and I’m so glad I did.

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[PS if you want to see more photos from the race weekend (hundreds!), head to Dropbox]

After lots of organizing, paperwork, and some trail work, fast forward to race weekend—driving out Friday, walking the courses at sunset while leafblowing and taping, returning back to Zoar outdoor to set up camp and start grilling (with Ben Eck as grill master extraordinaire)!  I was so grateful to have more than 20 racers and volunteers come out to support – I can’t give enough thanks.  Saturday morning we packed up and headed up the mountain for the XC.  This year’s course was a relatively long loop of 4.2 miles of mostly smooth singletrack, but with some pretty difficult technical sections thrown in the mix, most notably a descent on the Silver Doe trail and parts of Estranged Moose (the trail name we are still trying to decipher).  Our team had a great showing, scoring tons of points in lots of different categories.  Our two women’s A’s both finished strong with new freshman member Kate Lawrence in 2nd and Lucy coming in in 8th.  The women’s B’s included former captain Beth Hadley, and first time racers Laura (me!) and Grace Copplestone (who ended up winning!).  In the men’s Cs Carson Teale and John Rom both picked up top 10 finishes, and in the men’s Bs, PK and Matt Carney both ran into major mechanical problems, but still finished the race and picked up some points!

New Freshman Kate finished second in the Women’s A XC
PK in the Men’s B race

In the afternoon we drove back down the mountain to start the dual slalom, which consisted of a steep grassy start with a drop, some gravel/ grassy turns, followed by a long series of berms and pump track.  Because it was rideable on pretty much all types of mountain bikes, lots of people decided to try it out and it made for a super fun race and great atmosphere for spectators.  We had many MIT racers make it to the final rounds, and was really exciting to watch all the close finishes. After the dual slalom, the team decided to head over to the Shunpike to go sunset swimming in the Deerfield River (who needs to shower anyways?), and then headed back to Thunder Mountain parking lot for grilling, round 2 (this time, with a multi-team bonfire, music, and s’mores!).

Sunday started off with some pretty strong thunderstorms, delaying the short track an hour and making the trails really loamy and slimy.  MIT women continued to kick butt, with Kate taking the win and Lucy in 5th in the women’s A’s, and Grace, Beth, and I getting 1st, 3rd, and 5th respectively in the B’s. Ben decided to don his fells loop racer jersey and give the men’s B race a go, coming in 2nd while PK also crushed it on the MITOC fatbike.  Afterwards was the team relay, where a team of 3 racers took one lap of the short track course each.  We were able to put together a team for both the A and B categories, and I think this race ended up being one of the best moments of the weekend. Afterwards many of us decided to ride down some of the more mellow downhill trails instead of driving down the mountain, which was a blast, and I got to experience my first “flow trail.”

Hanging out

Because the trails were so wet, the downhill course was changed from to a less challenging (but still pretty terrifying-looking) trail from the top of the lift.  We hiked up the mountain and spread out marshals throughout the course, and watched as the riders blazed down one after another.  Both Lucy and Grace did amazing trying out downhill for the first time, while Sean had a top ten finish in the men’s As.  Afterwards, Ben Eck broke out the grill again and we hung out on one of the ski slopes for a while with Sully and his dog.  Then it was time to head home, and I realized how kinda sad it was to leave Charlemont—the woods there are so remote and beautiful, snaking with miles and miles of amazing singletrack— and I can’t wait to get back there for Shredfest 2017!

This weekend was not only my first time racing mountain bikes, but also my first time organizing a race, my first experience with the crazy awesome mountain bike culture & race atmosphere, and for sure my funnest weekend with the team so far.  And it also confirmed that I’m admittedly quite addicted to mountain biking.  I won’t lie—especially as a beginner, mountain biking can be really scary, like you’re learning how to ride a bike all over again.  But that’s part of what makes it an incredible sport- you try things that scare you a little bit (or a lot), and sometimes you fall and get banged up, but many times you ride things you thought were unrideable and it’s a super amazing and rewarding feeling.  I’d REALLY encourage everybody to give it a shot this fall. Mountain bike season is upon us!

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ECCC Road Season 2015-2016 Wrap-up

TL;DR: We had a great season, and we won the ECCC road championship! Look at that trophy!

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With the trophy!

The last three race weekends of our season were at Dartmouth/UVM, West Point, and our very own Beanpot, the ECCC championship weekend.  As it happens, these were also the first three races of my collegiate racing career, which is a little funny considering I graduated from undergrad 6 years ago now.  But cycling doesn’t follow NCAA eligibility, so old fogies like me can line up next to 19 year old kids and get dropped repeatedly.  But enough of the excuses, on to the races.

First, L’Enfer du Nord.  The defining characteristic of this weekend was COLD.  Finger-numbing, muscle-tightening, wind-blown cold.  I’ve never been so cold on a bike before.  It started snowing on the start line of my road race.  All weekend, there was a competition between teammates to get on the trainers, because it was the only way to stay warm.

We had 21 racers show up to compete in 4 events, an individual TT and criterium at Dartmouth, and a team time trial and road race at UVM.  The ITT (only 3.7 mi!) was my first race ever, and I had no idea how to pace myself.  The course started climbing, flattened out, then had a nasty uphill kick at the end to the finish.  I went too easy on the flats and too hard on the finishing climb, pretty ugly overall.  But other team members had good results: Phil was 2nd in Men’s B, the Jen/Julie/Corey took 3rd through 5th in Women’s A.

In the crit, I really shot myself in the foot.  I missed the first few calls to the start line, so I started waaaaaayyyy at the back, and I never recovered. Lesson learned.  The women’s A team spent the whole crit rotating attacks to thin out the opposition, and it paid off with Corey on the podium in 3rd.  Lucy won Women’s C with a solid sprint (this is going to become familiar).

Layered up at the start
Layered up at the start

We had an overnight transfer to UVM, then the morning TTT as a warmup/course recon for the later road race.  Men’s A was 3rd in the TTT, Women’s A won!  The whole TTT/road race course was incredibly exposed to the wind, and as I mentioned, absolutely freezing.  Oh, and did I mentioned, it started snowing?  Everyone lined up wearing about 5 layers, and right before the races kicked off, there was a shower of lycra, fleece, and down jackets to the roadside as everyone shed their outerwear.  The course ended in two back-to-back steep climbs with the finish line at the top.  In the Men’s D race, I stayed with the pack until our very own Charlie Barton decided he was bored off the pace, and put in a series of uphill attacks.  I got dropped, and floundered in no-man’s land until PK came up from behind.  We rode together to the line, picking off a few stragglers along the way.  Charlie ended up 3rd, the best result of the day for MIT.

Next up was the race at West Point.  They have the best lead/follow vehicles: enormous Humvees.  We had another big turnout for MIT, and great results.  There were three events: TTT, road race, and criterium.

As always, MIT dominated the TTT (a down-and-up course), with almost every team on their category’s podium, and Women’s A winning.  The road race featured a series of nasty climbs and one extremely fast downhill.  I was the only MIT rider in Men’s D that weekend, so I decided to start my own early break up the first climb.  Bad idea; I stayed away for half of the first lap but eventually got swallowed up and dropped.  After working with a few other riders, I recovered enough to finish mid-pack.  Everyone else on the team had much better results.  Youyang won Men’s C in a exhilarating uphill sprint (I got to watch from the finish line), Quinn won Men’s E solo in this first ever road race, and Katy was second in her first Women’s B race.

MIT women controlling the race
MIT women controlling the A/B race

The crit was a bit of a funny race on a triangular course next to West Point’s stadium.  The back straight had a clean line on smooth pacement and a dirty line on bumpy pavement and loose sand.  The pack never wanted to ride on the dirty line, so it was easy to make up positions up the inside if you were brave/stupid enough and didn’t mind the jarring ride.  I stayed near the front until the penultimate lap, when the leader crashed by himself on a innocuous part of the course.  The crash caused a bit of a traffic jam, which I managed to navigate without incident.  As a result, I found myself in a good position for the sprint, and I managed 5th for my first points.  Other results were mixed: Lucy won Women’s C (no surprise), Corey was 3rd in Women’s A, Quinn was 2nd in Men’s E, and poor Youyang busted his collarbone (glad to say he’s back to 100% now).

Last race of the ECCC season was our very own Beanpot, held this year in Turner’s Fall, MA.  We had a season-high 23 signups for racing, and even more volunteers who helped set up/tear down the course, wave flags, and drive lead/follow cars.  Points counted double, and the weekend omnium winner got a huge shiny trophy, so everyone was super motivated.

As usual, we monstered the TTT categories, with a flood of podiums and wins:  Women’s A and Men’s D (woohoo) won; Men’s B and Men’s A were 3rd.  This might be my only win ever, so I really savored it.

For some reason, we let Lucy design the road race course, which meant that it featured a monstrously steep (max gradient ~20%) dirt/gravel climb at the end of each lap.  BU named the Strava segment “s*** my pants” which pretty much sums it up.  Thanks Lucy!  We had a big group of MIT riders (6)  in Men’s D, so we could actually use some tactics.  Charlie went up the road early while Paul, Quinn, and I eased up at the front until everyone around us figured out what was going on.  Once we hit the dirt climb, all bets were off and the group totally shattered.  I caught back on to Tobi and Adam and a small chasing group the next lap with some heart-stopping descending (max speed ~50mph), and rode in mid-pack again.  Up the road, Paul finished 3rd and Charlie 5th.  In the other races, Phil had a great result in Men’s B, breaking away with a Yalie and finishing 2nd.

How did that feel Tobi?
How did that feel Tobi?

Finally, the last race of the season was our criterium, which featured a punchy climb every lap that really wore out the legs.  The packs thinned out quickly, and every race featured a large number of P&P.  I made it to the last lap, put in an attack on the hill, and barely managed to stay away from an UNH rider for 9th and the final points.  Paul/Quinn/Tobi finished 4/5/6 in Men’s D.  Everyone else finished respectably in their categories, but you could tell that everyone was exhausted from the long season.

MIT women lead the way
MIT women lead the way

Finally, it was time to announce the winners! Of the impromptu ECCC peep eating contest.  Gotta say, peeps aren’t something that you should try to speed eat, it’s too easy to choke.  I think UVM or Dartmouth won, but I was too busy trying to clear my airway.  And then, the drumroll for the championship weekend and the trophy presentation!  As you know already, we won!  It was a deserved reward for a tough season, and I’m proud to have played a part in it.  I’m already looking forward to next year!

Charles

Safety First!
Safety First!

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Justin solo-ing to his epic win the B circuit race

Seven go to Shippensburg

Justin solo-ing to his epic win the B circuit race
Justin solo-ing to his epic win the B circuit race

Seven racers – Emerson, Jen, Justin, Katy, Lucy, Paul and myself – took a long eight-hour drive into the unknown this weekend to race at Shippensburg. None of us really knew where Shippensburg was, what it looked like, or what the races would be like. For the first time in living memory, no-one on the team had raced there before. It turned out to be a fantastic weekend of racing, as well as the team’s best performance yet this season.

Saturday’s main feature was a circuit race, where the winds blew very fiercely over the open farmland. The course was about 2 miles long with some rolling hills and three corners, two of which kicked quickly into punchy, steep climbs, with the finish line just over the crest of the final hill. The wind and the terrain made the races very tactical, and positioning in the pack was everything. Most fields quickly broke up into a lead group, with many groups of stragglers limping along behind.

Paul started things off in the men’s D race with a valiant effort to finish after a crash in the very first corner of his very first collegiate race. Kudos to him for picking himself up and finishing strong. Katy and Lucy then had a fantastic time in the women’s C race, rolling with a pack that was rapidly reduced to only a few contenders. They timed their attacks at the end well, taking second and third in the bunch sprint.

The men’s B race was Justin’s chance to finally show off his great time-trialling skills into the wind. The field was reduced to about a dozen contenders by halfway through the race, when Justin attacked out of a corner up a steep climb to escape the pack. He rode solo for around twenty minutes, while I had fun in the pack, getting in everyone’s way, disrupting the chase and causing several other racers to shout at me, a sure sign that it was working. Every now and then he appeared in our sights up the road, but the wind made bridging difficult, and none of the other teams organized a chase. He rolled in ten seconds ahead of the pack for a famous victory, while I came in 9th. The circuit race ended in bright sunshine and 60 degree temperatures, with Jen earning 5th place in a women’s A race that splintered quickly, and Emerson hanging on to the men’s A pack and winning a sprint in his small group to come in 14th.

Late in the afternoon, the second race of the weekend was a highly unusual mass-start hill climb. Was it a race? Was it a time trial? No-one was really sure. The first mile and half was flat and gentle, before the road picked up to some rolling hills, ascending gradually to a flat finishing stretch. Most fields disintegrated quickly on the climb, but there was still an advantage to be had from drafting for those who could stick together. Most of the team recorded top ten finishes, including 3rd for Paul in the D field and 2nd for Katy in the C race. Several of us set 20-minute power records, a testament to how hard the fields were pushing it.

On Sunday we awoke to much colder temperatures, and even higher winds, with gusts up to 50 mph. The main feature of the original road race course, Horse Killer Road (an incredibly steep climb) was out of action due to downed power lines. The ECCC and Shippensburg organizers did an incredible job throwing together a different course at the last minute. It featured some steep climbs, forested descents, but most importantly fierce cross and head winds on the back stretch. Most fields very quickly fell apart into smaller groups, and even gaps of two or three meters felt impossible to close. Breakaways were remarkably difficult to shut down, with tactics, positioning and awareness of the wind  once again crucial.

The winds were especially bad for the early races. As the A and B riders sheltered indoors, C and D racers gradually returned as if from a war zone, with riders being literally blown across the roads and into ditches. Paul came in 9th in the D field, while Katy truly shone in the women’s C /D race, breaking away in the first couple of miles with a D racer and never looking back. At the end of the race it took her a long time to be convinced that she’d actually won the C race! In the men’s B race, meanwhile, a break at the end of the first lap quickly split the pack, and Justin made it into a lead group that was whittled down to four, with one rider out front. The lone attacker was eventually reeled in, and Justin kept his powder dry until the end, where he followed an attack up the final climb, and eventually powered past his opponent on the last downhill for a tremendous victory. I came in 6th behind the first pack, while Jen won a bunch sprint for a brilliant 3rd place in the women’s A field.

By the end of the weekend, we were all tired but happy, and thrilled to win the weekend omnium with only seven racers, all of whom contributed points. We celebrated in style with ice creams (or were they custards? I have no idea) at Rita’s before hitting the road. All in all this was one of the best collegiate race weekends I’ve done. Terrific courses, testing conditions and a beautiful location. Congratulations to Shippensburg for putting together such a great set of races, and for rolling with the punches on Sunday to produce a plan B that worked out nicely.

Next up, the team is off to Dartmouth and UVM for L’enfer du Nord (the hell of the north!). We’re bringing over 20 racers including several first-timers. It’s going to be epic.

Tom

Celebrating at Rita's
Celebrating at Rita’s
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A #cxnats perspective

I’ve written this blog post about five different times. Sometimes I wrote the post to focus on the race or the course (or its features). Other times, I focused on the food (hello, it’s Asheville).

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Biscuit head jam bar. Yes, jam bar.

Go to Biscuit Head. You’ll thank me.

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.

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Leslie during the Collegiate Relay. Photo: AJ Moran

It was fantastic to travel together, cook together, hang out together, and support each other from the sidelines and at home.

It was Colin's first time at Nationals!
It was Colin’s first time at Nationals!

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.

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Team dog – always a good idea.

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.

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First lap in. Photo: USA Cycling via Twitter

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.

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Corey finished 22nd – with no broken wrists this time! Photo: Weldon Weaver
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After the D2 Collegiate Women’s Race. Thanks, mom.

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 like these). The charity donut race for the iDream Athletes Foundation was a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the end of the season.

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AJ Moran has been training all season for this.

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?

xxujc

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.

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Nearing the end: Mid-season CX recap

This ‘cross season, we’ve had it all: dust and heat at GP Gloucester, flurries at Pumpkin Cross, mud at Supercross, and frost in Fitchburg. The last ECCC weekend is upon us – Dec 5 and 6 will be the Conference Championship held at the NBX Gran Prix of Cyclocross in Warwick, RI.

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 International weekend, 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.

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Jen on a descent at Hanover
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Alex through the mud at Supercross
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Julie hits the run-up at Keene Pumpkin Cross
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Anne over the barriers at Hanover
More barrier action
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More mud at Supercross. There was a LOT.
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Switchbacks on the beach at Hanover
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Julie on the run-up at Cycle-Smart International
Some great fall colours at Supercross
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Tobi at Hanover
We could watch these for days.

Wish us luck at Easterns, and as we prepare for Nationals in Asheville in January!

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An Ode to CSI: Cycle-Smart International, NOT Crime Scene Investigation

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…

Remounting like a doctor
Remounting like a doctor

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.

Julie coming in for some maple syrup
Julie coming in for some maple syrup (special appearance by Smith Anderson)

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.

Sometimes sand hurts
Sometimes sand hurts

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.

Too much fun!
We were having too much fun eating cake and drinking beer to take pictures of our night out…

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…

Just look at all those smiles! TL - John Romanishin, TR - Jen Wilson, BL - Emma Edwards, BR - Alexis Fischer

Roots and rocks and bikes – oh my! A recap of the mountain bike season

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.

Just look at all those Shredfest smiles! TL – John Romanishin, TR – Jen Wilson, BL – Emma Edwards, BR – Alexis Fischer

‘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

MIT's Sean Daigle tearing it up in the Men's A Downhill on Thunder Mountain Bike Park's trail 'The Schist'
MIT’s Sean Daigle tearing it up in the Men’s A Downhill on Thunder Mountain Bike Park’s trail ‘The Schist’

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!

It was a crisp, beautiful weekend for the Eastern Champs at the Highland Bike Park
It was a brisk, beautiful weekend for the Eastern Champs at the Highland Bike Park

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!

Now go ride yer bike!

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Early-Season Cyclocross

To get primed for the upcoming ECCC Cyclocross season, MIT racers hit up some of the biggest events in the National CX calendar over the last few weeks: the Grand Prix of Gloucester and the KMC Festival of Cyclocross in Providence, RI. A mix of veterans (and alum!) and first-time racers hit the difficult courses and with fantastic results.

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Matt Li comes through the paved section on Day 1 of GP Gloucester. Photo by Ernest Gagnon.
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Anne Raymond faces the infamous GP Gloucester run up fresh with new skills from our clinics with Adam Myerson. Photo by Ernest Gagnon.
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Julie remounts after the barriers.
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Corey Tucker rides one of the many KMC flyovers.
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Emma Edwards’ first CX race was on one of the toughest courses that we’ll see this season. Congrats!
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MIT Women after Providence

 

The ECCC Season is now upon us, and we couldn’t be more excited for what it’ll bring. If you’re in the area, stop by to cheer and spectate! See the ECCC Cyclocross Calendar for more details.

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Flashback Friday: Jeff Duval’s reflections on a season with MIT

One year of collegiate racing

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.

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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.

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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.

*Big lie