Category Archives: Race Reports

Grilling, Chilling, and Racing @ UVM

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Our UVM Team, including two new racers! (Ben, Emele, Dirk, Beth)
This post brought to you by new MIT racer, Dirk Stahlecker.
This past weekend I got to experience something I’ve been looking to do for years now: race something with wheels! I’ve mountain biked for years, but never had the opportunity to race before, and it was so much fun! There’s nothing like feeling the competitors at your back to motivate you to pedal harder and go faster.

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Ben Eck clearly enjoying his race!

I will say, however, that I really had no idea what any of it would be like when I signed up. I knew I enjoyed mountain biking, especially the going downhill aspect, so I signed up for three events: cross country, short course, and dual slalom, figuring since I was there I might as well try everything out. Cross country was first. As we lined up at the starting line and raced toward the first corner, I found myself on the outside about 4 or 5 wide going into a downhill grassy turn. Next thing I knew, the person on the inside had clipped my handlebars and both of us were sent flying into the ground, collecting probably 6 or 8 others behind us in the wreck. The rest of the race was uneventful (other than a few wrong turns on the poorly marked course), but definitely a good ride. Nice and flat and fun.

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Emele and Dirk just before their race!
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Beth – smiling, because racing is fun!

I couldn’t wait to check out the dual slalom course next. It’s a side-by-side track downhill, with jumps, whoops, step ups, step downs, and tabletops, and it’s so much fun to ride! I loved the technical element – you had to set up perfectly going into each element to make sure you cleared the double or held enough speed through the corner. It was a full adrenaline rush down, and very technical, which was really fun. I crashed pretty hard a few times (and unfortunately in my seeding race as well), but it was definitely my favorite event!

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Proof of Ben’s tasty and much needed cheeseburgers. Ben – kudos to you for some serious grilling skills.

Beth and I were the only two competing in the slalom. One of the highlights of the day was when Ben showed up at the top holding hamburgers for us that he’d just grilled! It was a precursor to a fantastic dinner at the campsite that evening after the race was over. I’d forgotten just how much better food tastes when eaten while camping.

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Dirk and Ben just chillin at the top of Dual Slalom
The next day was the final event, short course. I didn’t really know much about this event going in, all I knew was that it was shorter than cross country, which I was happy about. Turns out that the course was only about two and a half minutes long, and we raced it for 20 minutes. It was fast and fun, but there were a ton of rocks and roots to contend with. It made me really wish I had pedal clips, as I had trouble keeping my feet on the pedals on the downhill.
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Emele tackles the sketchy descent

The race was a lot of fun though. The starting line was set back in a very rocky, rough area, and it was a short sprint to the essentially singletrack first corner. There was a mix of pedaling and just running off the start. I decided to pedal, and actually managed to get the holeshot, as I was the first one to the corner! I actually held the lead for most of the lap! That was definitely the highlight of the weekend for me. I still don’t quite know how I managed it, but it was super cool.

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Dirk leading the pack!

Overall, the entire weekend was a great experience. It was awesome to get out racing mountain biking again, and especially be able to be around others who enjoy it as much as I do. I’m definitely looking forward to my next race!

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Yup – that’s Emele just chillin with a beer and ear of corn. #mtbracesaresochill

Great turnout for Northeastern MTB Race!

Don't be fooled by the 'cross bike - we're the MIT Mountain Bike Team!
Don’t be fooled by the ‘cross bike – we’re mountain bikers [Zeb, Ben, Marcos, Jeff, Beth, Coach Psi & Spiro, Simon]
We had a fabulous turnout for our second mountain bike race of the season hosted by Northeastern in Western Massachusetts. MIT racers included Ben Eck, Jeff Duval, Beth Hadley, Zeb Hanley, Anna Cheimets, Marcos Esparza, Corey Tucker. We were also joined by Simon Chaput, Harvard’s MTB captain and Matjaz Humar, who raced in the open category. Our mountain bike coach, Coach Psi, also joined us Sunday. He was a great motivator during races (especially as he stood on the uphill section and urged us to pedal faster), and we thoroughly appreciated his presence. He brought his son, Spiro, who loved to explore the woods!

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Coach Psi and his son, Spiro! Thanks for coming out to cheer us on, Coach!!

One of the highlights of the weekend (other than the 10+ hours of sleep we enjoyed Saturday night and the ample consumption of s’mores Friday night) was the dinner location we found on Saturday night – Ben Eck found a quaint rustic restaurant with hearty food and delicious hot chocolate. Dessert was irresistible – two cinnamon donuts and pumpkin ice cream drizzled with caramel. The first bite was like having Fall in your mouth. Overall, a great weekend had by all!

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Beth Hadley tackling the mud during dual slalom

The following entry is written by Anna Cheimets, who talks about her experience during her first ECCC Mountain bike race. She and Corey had a rather unexpected bee encounter during their first race, and both were quite courageous to drive home with smiles.

“I’ve done enough casual mountain biking to know that you haven’t had a successful day of riding unless you are bleeding, bruised or both. This weekend turned out to be exceptionally successful for me by that standard and also quite a bit of fun.

On Friday night we drove out to Dalton MA and pitched our tents in a field right next to the cross country racing course. The Northeastern riders had built a bonfire which we gleefully took advantage of to make s’mores- delectable fuel for the day ahead. Thanks to Beth for bringing the most important ingredient for camping. As I hunkered down in my cozy tent that night, I thought about my race the next day with nervous and excited anticipation.

The whole camp awoke at 7 a.m. sharp, initially roused by an errant car alarm and then coaxed outside by blaring music that set the mood for a weekend of racing and chilling with mountain biker bros. There wasn’t much time to do more than register, eat a quick breakfast and get on the starting line for the Women’s B cross country race. Corey and I sized up the racers on the starting line and then we were off!

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Our courageous racers, Anna [left] and Corey [right].
I was immediately winded as the course turned sharply uphill and stayed a bit hilly for much of the first part of the loop. Then all of a sudden, we were all attacked by a swarm of angry wasps who were incensed about being trampled on. Boy did that get me moving! Soon after I had sped away from their reach, I started to get more into the rhythm of racing. The swooping downhill sections were flow-y and fun and as I got towards the end of my second and final lap I was closing in on the second place rider in front of me, hoping I had enough steam to overtake her at the end.

On the final turn onto the gravel road, I decided to make my move into second place. Unfortunately, I didn’t heed Corey’s wise advice about how bumping into other riders frequently bumps you off your own bike as well. I squeezed too close to my rival and wiped out in the gravel. Covered with dirt and sand, and hazily aware of my thoroughly skinned knee, I grabbed my bike and ran it past my startled opponent and across the finish line!

Bleeding, bruised, stung, winded and feeling fully accomplished, I cheered Beth, Zeb, Ben and Marcos on in their cross country races.

 

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Simon, Jeff, Marcos, and Beth hanging out between races!

As soon as my knee heals up, I’ll be back on the bike and into the woods for more adventures in mountain biking. Great job to the MIT cyclists for riding hard this weekend!”

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Ben Eck showing off his serious pain face!

 

 

The ladies of MIT Cyclocross celebrate their finish at Quadcross!

When in doubt, just race! Quadcross 2014

Somehow I got it into my head that I wanted to try cyclocross.  I suppose all the stories about bacon and beer handups and ridiculous photos of people leaping onto bikes wearing cat leggings finally seeped into my brain.  So I purchased a tiny black, red and blue Crux with sweet disc brakes and after a few frustrating and bruise-filled mornings in Danehy Park learned to mount and dismount the bike, and somehow stumble over the practice barriers.  Naturally, after about two cumulative hours of ‘cross practice, I was already itching to race despite being woefully underprepared (the best training is racing! -JVDH).  So off to Quadcross I went.

I arrived on race morning  to pre-ride the course with our captain Matt Li, who explained the best way to approach each section of the most technical course I had ever ridden (uhhh, where’s the pavement??). I was in turn both exhilarated and completely terrified at what I was about to do.

We were the first race to go off, and I lined up at staging with my four other MIT Women teammates, feeling excited and mentally focusing on two goals – don’t get hurt, and have some fun!  I am still nursing a shoulder injury from road season so I was especially concerned about the first one.

Powering through a flat section of the course at Quadcross
Powering through a flat section of the course at Quadcross

Before I knew it the gun went off and we were sprinting down the chute into the first turn.  For anyone not familiar with ‘cross, the start is the most important for positioning yourself in the race, and is an all-out sprint and shoulder/elbow/hipcheck-fest.  Since I was a n00b, I totally botched this part and managed to end up in last place because I dismounted on a hill and couldn’t clip back in.  Meh.  During the course of the race I was able to pass a few riders by motoring up the steepest parts of the course and staying upright in the tight, technical turns.  The most difficult section by far was a sandpit containing 2 tight turns which I (VERY STUPIDLY and to the amusement of all watching) tried to ride, but which everyone else figured out was necessary to run through.  I fell on the first two laps and then finally realized I had to dismount and run for the last two laps. I was able to complete the entire race without being lapped by the leaders and was incredibly proud to cross the finish line.

Cyclocross is a gut-wrenching, exhilarating, terrifying experience which pushes you to your limit both mentally and physically. I did things on my bike that I never thought I could do, and that was truly awesome.  The spectators were incredible and the atmosphere friendly, plus there was ample food and adult beverages to enjoy. I learned more in that 40 minute race than I probably could have learned in hours of biking around in a park or on trails.  CX is something you have to experience firsthand… you can’t train for all the obstacles you’ll find in a race.

The ladies of MIT Cyclocross celebrate their finish at Quadcross!
The ladies of MIT Cyclocross celebrate their finish at Quadcross!

Finally, perhaps my favorite part of the day was cheering on my teammates after my own race was finished – CX is a really, really fun spectator sport! If you can’t tell, I’m already hooked and signed up for my next race, Rapha SuperCross in Gloucester, MA!  I definitely recommend checking out a ‘cross race – I guarantee you’ll have a fun time, whether you race or not!

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Clarkson Season Opener – A Muddy Good Time!

This past weekend, Ben, Beth and I hit the road for the long trek up to Potsdam, New York for the first mountain bike race of the season. This would be my first experience racing in the ECCC, and luckily I had two seasoned vets to show me what these races are all about!

We arrived at the campsite around 1am, which gave us just enough time to set up camp and snuggle in for the night before the torrential downpour began. On Saturday, it rained… and it rained… and then it kept raining. After dropping Ben and Beth off at the Clarkson campus for their XC races in the morning, I headed back to the camping area with the uber-friendly team from Lehigh. After some deliberation, we decided that biking in the rain would be considerably more fun than freezing our butts off in the tent, so we saddled up and went to check out the dual slalom course. After two hours of churning through cake batter-like slop, the three of us looked like we had been in a girls-gone-wrong mud fight and lost. Miserably. We decided to take a break when we could no longer change gears due to the accumulation of nature in all of the used-to-be-moving parts of our bikes. Fortunately, there was a small lake (swamp?) nearby where we could bath ourselves and dunk our bikes. For future reference, I don’t recommend fully submerging your bottom bracket in the Seven Springs swamp.

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Day 2 was gorgeous, Day 1 not so much :)

That afternoon, our comrades returned from the XC race looking mildly soggy but cheerful as ever. Beth finished a strong 4th in the women’s A and Ben kept up with a fast men’s A field. After much chocolate and a chance to recover our core temperatures, the three of us suited up for some dual slalom action. Ben kicked butt and finished 2nd in his race, and Beth and I claimed 1st and 2nd in the women’s B category! Okay, okay. We were the only two women racing in the B dual slalom. There may or may not have been some running with bike in-hand. It still counts. After the racing finished, the sun emerged in time to dry out our sorry butts and convince us to camp a second night instead of retreating to a motel.  The rest of the evening was filled with Ben’s amazingly delicious hamburgers, a few s’mores by the fire, and some entertaining shenanigans provided free of charge by a few rambunctious RIT riders.

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Megan getting ready to dominate at downhill!

We woke up to blue skies and sunshine on Sunday morning – a welcome treat! After stopping for the sweet caffeinated elixir of life at a local coffee shop, the endurance riders suited up for the short track XC. The Lehigh team adopted me once again, and we went back to get in a few practice runs on the downhill course. The downhill was super fun and fast, with the quickest men’s riders finishing in just over a minute. It had a good mix of flow and technical features, with a loose and precarious rock garden thrown in to keep things spicy. On my third run through the course, a small error in judgement resulted in the butt-end of my handlebars attempting to make a shish-kabob of my spleen, at which point I was gently reminded (a) why helmets were the best invention ever, and (b) why it’s important to plug the ends of your handlebars. Fortunately, a little adrenaline and some Hershey’s chocolate from Beth’s secret stash had me sorted out by the time the racing started. I lucked out with two relatively clean runs and managed to claim second in the women’s A race! Woohoo!

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Michelle (from Northeastern) grabbing a dozen ears of corn for $3 #becausewecan

On the drive home, we stopped for some sweet corn and zucchini at a roadside stand. It was a long trip, but time flies when you have good company and fresh veggies! Overall, I was incredibly impressed with the quality of riders out this weekend and am so pumped for the rest of the race season. Happy biking :)

– Megan O’Brien, MIT

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):

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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!