Category Archives: Road

Cg2Z9FwW4AIsCK8

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!

Cg2Z9FwW4AIsCK8
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!

Follow us on Twitter for more frequent updates!

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
Oliver with his bike Friday in Solvang

Alumni Feature: Oliver Seikel returns to Solvang for cycling

Oliver Seikel (MIT ’59) has been bicycling for 30 years and even biked from Cleveland to Cambridge for his 50th reunion in 2009. Oliver first joined the team for its 2013 Spring Training Camp in Borrego Springs and visited training camps in 2014, and 2015, but was unable to attend in 2016. Why skip training camp? To visit San Luis Obispo and return to Solvang where he still brought his bike.

Oliver wrote to the team on January 29th and shared the following:
“Tomorrow we say goodbye to the mermaid and head back to Los Angeles where we will spend the night before returning to Cleveland on a morning flight on Sunday.   This has been a great way to break up the winter and I thank the team for getting me started with midwinter training.  I have biked everyday except for a rain day in St Luis Obispo, the transfer day to Solvang, and a day when my Friday was waiting for a new tire to be shipped in.”

He credits cycling with keeping him younger than his age.  His doctor recently told him to keep up his cycling as he leaves his teenager years behind.

Oliver with his bike Friday in Solvang
Oliver with his bike in Solvang, CA

For many of us, MIT Cycling is our first contact with the sport of cycling. It’s awesome to see the “team” expanding beyond campus to bring alumni and community members alike to the sport of cycling.

2016-01-25 12.45.11

Day 4 of Training Camp: Palomar

By Sumit Dutta

Well-rested from Day 3, team members had two ride options for Day 4: go for an intense climb up Palomar Mountain or take a lighter ride to Oceanside. The clear, sunny day with winds around 5 mph allowed the climbing cyclists to enjoy the mountainside vistas, seeing as far as 50 miles away and 5,000 feet below. All climbers made it up and down safely, including a Double Palomar by Zack Ulissi. Some of us had a great respite eating quesadillas at Mother’s Kitchen at the top of Palomar Mountain. A few went farther down the road and toured the Palomar Observatory, an incredible research facility with an enormous 200-inch telescope. We also took a few minutes to enjoy the view from the top and took photos like the one below. All in all, everyone had a great time.

2016-01-25 12.45.11
Youyang, Phil, and Tom atop Palomar

Safe Cycling in the City

We get it! You want to ride your bike, but heavy traffic and seemingly careless drivers make you choose to use dreadfully crowded and slow public transit, pay for a cab, or even drive a car yourself.

Riding a bike in a city can feel like a daunting task and, yes, it can be dangerous — but keep in mind: No driver has the  intention to harm you. Out there, it sometimes may feel like your fate is determined by drivers of motorized vehicles, but for the most part it is in your control to minimize any potential hazards. A first step to do so is to read and follow these tips:

  • Be aware! Pay attention to vehicles, pedestrians, and other cyclists around you. Make it a habit to think about what drivers around you may want to do, anticipate their decisions, and react accordingly:
    • Turns and stops. Does a driver want to turn or stop? Are their indicators on? Is he/she checking her mirrors? Is there someone in the passenger (or other) seat who wants to get out of the car?
    • Parked cars.  Many times,  bike lanes are aligned right next to parking spots on the side of the road. Unfortunately, this area is also the so-called door zone where extra caution is key. After all, a parked car may pull out on the road or a driver or passenger may open a door unexpectedly. In doubt, reduce your speed or give these cars extra space by moving to the center of the road — but, before you do so, make sure that nobody is about to pass you! It is also a good idea to pay attention to whether the car’s engine is running, its lights or indicators are on; whether the driver seat is occupied, and whether the  front wheels are turned into road. You don’t necessarily have to focus on all these details all the time, but it is a good idea to train yourself to notice these things as they can help you evaluate how likely it is that a car will pull out or someone will open a door.
    • Traffic lights. Are traffic lights about to turn? Some people may want to catch the last moment of an orange light. Check before you cross an intersection, especially if your light just turned green. Clearly, do NOT run red lights!
    • Speed. Learn to judge the speed of all kinds of vehicles. Is a car too fast to stop before a light? Chances are, they will cross it. Will a runner or pedestrian try to cross the road? Is someone about to run a red light?
  • Communicate! As in many other aspects of life, communication is an important factor on the road. Knowing others’ intentions helps us adjust and react accordingly. Sometimes you will have to  decipher drivers’ and pedestrians’ next steps before they happen based on their behavior; other times you are lucky and they will let you know what they are about to do. Keep in mind, it is your responsibility (and in your best interest!) to communicate your intentions to others! This not only applies to turning and stopping, but also to making others aware of dangers.
    • Use hand signals.  It is easy and takes minimal effort: Signal before you turn or move to the center of the road, to show what you will do. Point to the ground to make other cyclists aware of dangers such as potholes. Signal if you are about to stop. Also,  let hesitant drivers behind you know when it is safe to pass you.
    • Make eye contact. A simple eye contact is often all it takes for another person to know what you want to do and vice versa. This applies to anyone you might encounter on a road: Drivers, pedestrians, other cyclists, etc.
    • Make yourself visible. Keep in mind that drivers might actually not be able to see you. Avoid the dead space of mirrors, the sides and backs of large vehicles such as buses and trucks, and make sure you and/or your bike wear lights in the dark.
  • Be courteous! Say thank you with a gentle nod of your head, or a (friendly) hand signal! Out on the road, you are an ambassador for cyclists and want to leave a good impression to encourage a friendly co-existence!
  • Be assertive! Sometimes you will have to be assertive and just claim your space on the road (e.g. changing lanes in busy city traffic). When you do so, (1) make sure you communicate your intention, (2) confirm that other traffic participants have enough space to react to what you are about to do (right speed? enough distance?), and (3) only then do your thing. As mentioned above, drivers are not out there to harm you. They want to protect your life and your bike as much as they want to protect their lives and their car.
  • Be Prepared! Regularly maintain your equipment. Having a working bicycle can prevent accidents as well. Lend special attention to your brakes, tires, and chain. Here’s a good example for a  maintenance schedule.
  • Abide the law! This should be an obvious one. Don’t run lights, etc. You know the rules (if not, read this); you expect drivers to follow the rules. Follow them too! Again, when you are out on the road on your bike you represent all cyclists. Make sure to leave a good impression!

Josh Zisson, a Cambridge-based lawyer, created Bike Safe Boston, a great blog with many good resources about cycling in the city. Amongst other posts, we recommend you read the MA cyclist’s bill of rights and the 10 commandments of city cycling.  These posts will give you some general pointers (as the above) as well as information about what to do when you are unlucky enough to be involved in an accident (spoiler alert: Don’t forget to get the driver’s information!).

If you are riding in a group, some additional rules apply. We have compiled a safety policy document that we encourage everyone to read who leads or joins a ride with us.

Screenshot 2015-11-02 08.50.00

A club ride narrative with Strava Labs

Want to know what one of our weekend club rides can look like? Alex Klotz, a new member of the MIT Cycling Club, put together a cool video using some of Strava Labs‘ features.

We started out on a no-drop ride with about 25 people, headed towards Concord. After the first big set of hills, we were pretty spread out and waited for everyone to catch up. One of the riders, Parrish, was going to go on to an apple picking trip after Concord, and wanted to get going at a faster pace, so she, Paul and Felix set off; I wanted to push myself so I joined the faster sub-group. We stopped at the Ride Studio Cafe so Parrish could fix her shoe, and were behind schedule so we booked it to Concord as fast as we could to try to meet up with the main group, covering about 11 km at 30 km/h. We got there and the main group was nowhere to be seen, but a guy was there waiting for them who said he’d been there for half an hour, so we figured they were behind rather than ahead of us. We were surprised, because we were stopped at the cafe for ~20 minutes.  Parrish went off to go pick apples, and Paul, Felix and I decided to do the CBTT loop and then head back. We did that, headed towards Cambridge, hoping to overtake the main group from behind, and pretty quickly Felix got a flat tire, which we spent a few minutes fixing. Then we continued, went down Mill St, and got to the far end and had to turn back to the main road. After that we continued home without event.

Looking at the Strava flybys afterwards, I saw that we were tantalizingly close to the main group on two occasions. They were delayed because they had tried to go up Mill St and were blocked by the same downed power line that we were, and got within a few hundred meters of us near Marrett St. But the closest we got was at the Concord visitor’s centre. We left when they were within 200 metres, and they arrived two minutes after we left. There’s no way we could have caught them on the way back, even without the flat and the dead-end.

 

Jeff_fig1

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.

Jeff_fig1

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.

Jeff_fig2

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

DSC01797

Road Nationals 2015 Recap

Road Nationals Recap

DSC01797
The team after TTT awards on Sunday. Back left: Ben Eck, Phil Kreycik, Andrea Tacchetti, Emerson Glassey, Corey Tucker, Julie van der Hoop. Front left: Zack Ulissi, Jen Wilson, Anne Raymond.

On May 6th, the MIT Cycling Team traveled down to North Carolina for three days of epic racing in the hills of Asheville. This year’s squad included: Zack Ulissi, Emerson Glassey, Corey Tucker, Anne Raymond, Julie van der Hoop, Jen Wilson, Ben Eck (mechanic), and later, Andrea Tacchetti and Phil Kreycik. The team rented a home to make prepping for race day easier (e.g. cooking lots of good food and sitting in the hot tub).

 

Day 1 involved a flight, wrangling of bikes and equipment at the airport (they did manage to get the doubles stuck in the conveyor belt!), and a ~2 hr drive to get to our place in Asheville. Kudos to Corey for an epic spreadsheet (it was color-coded and included our menu!) and kudos to Zack for finding the “deli” with fried chicken and pulled pork! Arrival at the house saw bike assembly, a grocery run, and a short spin down to route 52 to scope out the territory. Dinner #1 TACOS.

IMG_1401
Jalapeno egg salad from Zack’s lunch selection.
IMG_1408
A view from the deck of our house and the future location of the post-Nationals party

 

Day 2 was the day of recon. It was the chance to check out the courses and get a sense how the races would play out. Because of looming weather, the team headed out to the road course first. The team jumped out of the car to test the 25 mile loop at varying paces (Corey and Emerson dropped the group going into the first climb). It proved to be a beautiful course though, and now we were prepared for the race that was ahead. That afternoon, some of the team explored the lovely downtown area, while others rested and prepared for racing. Dinner that night: stir-fry.

IMG_8247
Pre-riding the road course. If anything, there was going to be great scenery!
IMG_8250
Grocery shopping – making decisions about which M&Ms to buy.
IMG_8259
Emerson at the stove making team rice crispies

Day 3 was our first race day. The women left the house around 6:30 am to get down to the race course, and Ben joined us for feeds and moral support (but really, when you’re nervous and trying to race, having a rational mechanic on hand is priceless!). The women took off around 8:30 am after call-ups into a foggy mist. The neutral start was a little rough as people crashed and bumped into each other. There was a lot of shouting and calling out to riders (flashbacks of CX-Nats had us all anxiously looking out for Corey). All of the women made it through to the climb though, and we were off! The sun came out and the day got hot quickly. By the end of the women’s race and the start of the men’s, it was hot enough that feeds could make or break the race. Ben Eck did a stellar job feeding the women all by himself (Ben, that bottle made my race!), and by the time that the men went off, Julie had effectively coordinated feeds for the entire ECCC. I think MIT riders may have posed for at least 4 different teams that day (North Eastern, Tufts, RISD, BU at least), but we were lucky to have that conference community to rely upon (thank you ECCC for being such an awesome and collegial environment).

IMG_8263
The misty fog pre-race. top-right: the D2 women of the ECCC bonding for a pre-race photo.
IMG_8278
The feedzone and the first climb. note: that MIT rider seems to be wearing extra jerseys! But really, it’s just a representation of how the conference really worked to help each other out).

IMG_8273

Day 4 was the day of the hill-attack crit. For many, this was by far the hardest crit course we had seen. With 100ft of climbing per lap, the course was more a process of constant hill repeats than the preferred technical corners and pack dynamics of a more traditional crit. Yet, the team threw themselves out there and fought on nonetheless. The women’s field splintered quickly as CMU set a blazing pace for the first few laps and set up the race to be one of attrition. Though even despite the heat and unrelenting climbs, the ECCC was out in full force to support us, and while in the pain cave, the cheers of Alan and the like were reminders of the strong preparation and community we receive racing in our conference. Also, a special thanks to Alan for advocating on MIT and Dartmouth’s behalf when the officials accidentally posted us as down a lap (it was just further proof of the chaos that ensued during this crit). As the other events went off, the course only became more brutal with the heat, and again, the ECCC bonded together to create an ice-water feed and splash zone (the women were not so lucky in the ability to feed or get splashed). At the end of the day, Zack received a victory ice-water bath from Anne, the team celebrated with some excellent donuts from Vortex (thanks for the freebies!), and then went home to recover for the last day of racing.

 

Day 5 was TTT! MIT traditionally does really well with the TTT, and this year was no exception. The Men set out first in their matching Venges, placing 4th overall. The women’s event followed, and ultimately placed 5th. Both teams made the podium! Zack Ulissi would go on to compete in the ITT in the burning heat (and after competing in all three events!) and end up 8th overall. We want to wish him luck in his future racing endeavors, but we are fearful of the future where he will no longer be scoring points for us 🙂

IMG_8338
Anne, Corey and Julie in the river for a post-race cool down.
IMG_8401
Women’s TTT on the podium.
Men's TTT on the podium.
Men’s TTT on the podium.

That evening concluded with a new Nationals tradition – BBQing with friends. In the past, the last race day has always seen an epic amount of dining (fried chicken has been the longest standing tradition). Though this year we mixed it up some and opted for salmon, sausages and steak instead (thanks a bunch to Emerson and Zack for getting groceries and starting the grill). The group eventually expanded to include Dartmouth, UCSD, NorthEastern and BU riders. Having the large porch afforded us the opportunity to bond with other cyclists and extend the cross-team camaraderie started at Saturday’s feed zone.

2015-05-10 19.51.15
The group hanging out on the porch.
2015-05-10 19.33.20
More socializing on the porch.

Day 6 was the return to reality. We had booked later flights to try and stave off the return to work and life, and did our best to squeeze the last bit of fun out of our time in Asheville. The group agreed that BBQ was essential to this mission and the team returned to 12 bones for one last fix. Emerson, Zack, and Ben apparently won lunch that day as they also secured ribs for the flight back. The other food-newbies on the team merely ordered lunch and were ultimately sad on the return flight when the pros opened feasted on their dinner ribs mid-plane ride.

 

The team was greeted at Boston with enthusiastic high fives from our resident expert, Ethan, and were much appreciated at the end of a long day. Kristine Fong also supplied Tatte pastries to give the team a little boost as we returned to the prospect of working and being students again (thank you both!).

 

The team, riders and equipment all made it safely back to Cambridge. Though, at the moment, it’s unclear as to who has unpacked and started riding. Six Gaps is looming on the weekend horizon and it seems that training-in-bed may be the best strategy.

 

And they laughed at my Gatorskins… also, where’s my wind tunnel?

By Daniel Grier

This past weekend featured the great state of New Hampshire with races at both Dartmouth and UNH. Sadly, it was to be my last collegiate race of the year. Not sadly, the weekend was predictably great. Well, okay. As a first-time racer, I actually spent much of the year in denial about my love for cycling, but after four race weekends I can safely say that “predictably” is the right word.

So what about the races? Well, there were four of them. Saturday kicked off with a 3-mile(!) ITT. Fortunately, they compensated for the short distance with some pretty hefty climbs. In particular, when there’s a dude cheering you on with a sign that says “400m to go!”, this does not mean “time to sprint” because a rather formidable hill will appear to crush your spirits. Despite demoralization via hill, I ended up getting 2nd out of 35; my best ratio to date (w00t).

Later in the day was the famous(?) frat-row criterium on Dartmouth’s campus. The crit was pretty typical for me–I tried to win, and I didn’t. On the other hand, the women’s A/B squad totally killed it. With a commanding presence of five riders in a field of slightly more than that (blame velocityresults.com for the lack of precision there), the women’s team repeatedly sent riders on solo-attacks until one stuck. It didn’t take very long. It’s fun to be associated with greatness at least…

On Sunday, we moved over to UNH for the TTT and the road race. Surprisingly, we actually had enough D racers to field a full TTT team. After having been dropped from my last two TTT’s about 20 milliseconds into the race (I’ve since learned that I was riding with a teammate nicknamed “the hammer”, so you can’t blame me too much, right?), it was nice to finally get to finish one of these things. Among other things, the course featured a number of “last hills” since one of my teammates had been slightly misinformed about the time we should take to finish. Anyways, the real last hill eventually came, and we ended up getting first (don’t ask out of how many), so I guess I can’t complain too much.

So onto the event I’d been waiting for–the road race! The course was 40 miles long, which is 20 miles longer than I’d ever raced before, so I was looking forward to a new level of pain. The pace started out pretty leisurely, perhaps because everybody else hadn’t raced 40 miles before either. Unfortunately, winter was not kind to the roads this year, and the potholes were out in force. Anyways, riding in the peloton doesn’t exactly give you the best view of the road, so pinch flats became an immediate concern. I saw at least two people in front of me flat out of the race. At some point somebody joked that we should all be riding Gatorskins. Hah. Little did he know that I race on my commuter bike… I did not flat.

The race continued in that way until we had done one 20 mile lap. When we realized we were about to pass a bunch of spectators, I think the group consensus was that we should bike faster (cyclists are all about appearances, I’ve come to realize). Anyways, we hit the first big hill on the second lap, and people started turning on the jets. I just barely made the break (a rider literally came up and pushed me to help me along). There were six of us together. We go and go, but I’m pretty gassed at this point, and rotate off the front pretty much as soon as I get there. The second hill was not quite as kind to me… I got dropped and ended up doing the last 8 miles of the race by myself. I managed to hold off the field to take 6th. Pain was redefined for me on that day.

At the beginning of the race, somebody yelled out that MIT would do poorly in the race because the course had turns in it, which didn’t match the conditions of the wind tunnel that we practiced in. Despite being a rather long and slightly convoluted joke, it made me wonder about the more pressing issue at hand. This is not the first time I’ve heard MIT being heckled about its wind tunnel. So? Where’s my wind tunnel, guys? Is it heated? I need to train.

Joe after the Frat Row crit at Dartmouth, his signature Dr. Pepper in hand.

My last race weekend: “I have the cheapest bike you can buy”

By Joe Near

I’ve been using an extreme version of the “Joe Near Training Plan” this year. The normal version calls for 3-4 hours of riding per week  at the highest intensity you can manage (i.e. zones 3 or 4) in an  attempt to keep your fitness through the winter while spending as  little time on the trainer as possible.

This year, I managed 1-2 hours per week.

At Beanpot, I got dropped hard in both the road race and the crit. At  Army, I held on in the crit but failed to score points; in the road race, I got dropped again. So my expectations for this week were low.

But my legs must be coming around, because I scored points in every race (that I finished) this weekend. In the ITT, I averaged over 300 watts and got 15th. That’s pretty great for me — even at my best fitness, my threshold is barely 300 watts.

The Dartmouth crit was very difficult for me, both physically and mentally, because of the rain — I’ve always been bad at cornering hard in the rain, and it was hard to force myself while the water and grit being sprayed in my face made it hard to see anything. The faster guys knew it would be hard in the back and went pretty hard in the  beginning.

But I stuck with it and as the rain stopped, things got easier. I still couldn’t see anything in the final lap, and the two guys who had lapped the field started pushing people around in an effort to beat each other in the final sprint, so my primary goal was to avoid crashing rather than place as well as possible. I was therefore very proud to get 10th.

Joe after the Frat Row crit at Dartmouth, his signature Dr. Pepper in hand.

The TTT is typically very tough at UNH because I have to do it with  Zack Ulissi and it’s hilly. I was very fortunate that he took it easy on me this time. It was extra fun because we started last, behind the only two other Men’s A teams. This meant that once we caught the other teams, we knew we were leading in terms of time. I think this encouraged Zack to go easy on the hills, because he was certain we could win. I appreciated that.

But there was no camera for the finish of the TTT. This was a bummer. I wanted to be in one last finish-line photo before I graduate, and the TTT is typically the only place I get to do it! I was going to make such a great face.

In the road race, I felt much better than I expected. Unfortunately the roads were terrible. I have raced this course in the past and remember them being pretty reasonable, so this winter must have really been tough on the road conditions.

Anyway, I flatted around mile 15 and fortunately the leak was slow enough that I was able to ride it back to the parking lot. Some of the downhills were a little bit scary on a tire with 20 psi, though. I was sad to have flatted but it’s tough to complain: I have pretty good luck with flats, generally, and I didn’t end up having to walk home.

I had a great time this weekend, and while I’m sad that I won’t get to do another ECCC race, I’m happy to see that the team is as strong as ever. I’ve been around long enough to see several “generations” of riders, and it’s great to see that the welcoming attitude and cohesiveness of the team has remained.

Some of our newer riders — the women, especially — are getting great results and obviously learning a ton about bike racing every single weekend. Many of the newer riders already act like veterans: I sometimes forget that they have never raced bikes before this year.

Veterans on the team have historically sprung for expensive equipment. My bike is the oldest (and probably the least valuable) in most of the races I enter. So during a discussion about bikes on Saturday, I said, “I have the cheapest bike you can buy!” It was quickly pointed out to me that my bike had fancier stuff on it than many of the bikes sitting around it. Many of the newer team members are so good that I just forgot they hadn’t yet been bitten by the upgrade bug!

So I’d say good luck to everyone, but I don’t think you’ll need it. Being a part of the team has been an honor and a privilege, and I’m both happy to see that future members will have access to the same
great experience I had, and excited to see that the new generation of riders seems poised to continue achieving great results.