Category Archives: Road

The group at PTown, tired but happy

Harbor to the Bay

Last Saturday, 10 MIT riders went to Provincetown. Not the way most people go (a quick and easy ferry from seaport), but the long way – a 126-mile scenic bike route that took us down the coast through Sagamore and Hyannis, and then up through the Cape on a combination of wind-swept highways and gorgeous rail trails. As if the long route wasn’t punishment enough, we also started in the cold and darkness of 4:30am. Why? For the last three years, MIT Cycling has been proud to volunteer with Harbor to the Bay, an annual AIDS charity ride. Our role is to serve as course marshals at various points along the route, guiding and cheering the 300-some charity riders as they make their way along the journey.

The day started with an early breakfast in Copley square, after which we rolled out to head to our marshal positions, dotted between the 60-mile and 115-mile mark. There was no time for dawdling, as we had to reach these spots ahead of the charity riders, some of whom were starting in Hyannis, 60 miles ahead of us, but 4 hours later. Some simple maths told us we needed to average 15mph. That doesn’t sound so bad, with 10 riders in a good paceline. But, that doesn’t allow for stoppage time, and the rest stops other crew members had set up along the way were simply too good to pass up. Filled with delicious home-cooked treats, from brownies and muffins to carrot cake, we knew we wanted to stop at each one to sample the fine food. So, we hustled all the way to Hyannis, keeping a moving speed of about 18mph. We had some (brave) new riders with us, who did an awesome job keeping up and very quickly learned the benefits of drafting. It’ll be really excited to see some of these new riders racing on the road with us in the spring!

The group broke up as we dropped riders off at each marshal spot, where we were delivered lunch by the organizer and stood (or sat, depending on fatigue) directing riders and cheering them on until the last one had come through. It was incredible to see the determination and commitment of all of these charity riders, many of whom have never ridden these sorts of distances before. Perhaps even more impressive were the costumes some of them were wearing, ranging from various superhero-type capes to full-on glamorous drag.

Andrea and a Drag Queen. It was unclear whose legs were better shaven.
Andrea and a Drag Queen. It was unclear whose legs were better shaven.

After the sag car came through and dismissed us from our marshal spots, the group collected again and rode the final miles together, with one last town line sprint to bring us into PTown at around 5:30pm. With three hours to go before our ferry back (no, we weren’t going to re-trace our pedal strokes), we made a beeline toward food and the clean clothes we had packed to change back into. Two (or three) burgers later, we were all feeling much better, and the satisfaction of a good long ride and having helped a good cause began to sink in. The ferry ride home was pretty quiet (most of us passed out), and we all slept pretty soundly that night.

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Jen and Corey “recovering” on the ferry

Overall, it was a fantastic day, and we’re looking forward to doing this ride again next year.

 

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 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
Photo 5 MIT Cycling - Milstone

End of Summer Club Newsletter

Hello Friends of MIT Cycling!

With another academic year completed, MIT Cycling members have been out riding in force and the officer duties have passed into the hands of a new set of students. I’d like to introduce you to our newest student officers.  I’ll be taking over as Alumni Officer and I’ll do my best to keep you as up to date as Laura did!

This summer, MIT Cycling members have been extremely active in local, regional, and national communities:

You may remember from Laura’s last newsletter that in May, the Road team successfully defended their Collegiate Road National Championship title in Ogden, UT.

Later in May, we hosted an Urban Cycling Clinic spearheaded by David Koppstein (G) with our road coach Nicole Freedman, teaching the MIT community about urban cycling safety and skills.

In June, we taught the Boston community at thing or two about aerodynamics (we hope our collegiate conference competitors missed this issue of Boston Magazine!)

A large group of MIT riders headed down to the Trexlertown Valley Preferred velodrome for a Try-the-Track weekend, led by our new Track Captain Kate Wymbs (’14). [Photo 1- Track]

At the end of June, Cameron Cogburn (G) won the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic, an epic and prestigious stage race in Oregon. You can read about his awesome victory here.

Over the July 4th weekend, we took a team trip up to Kingdom Trails in VT as part of an Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference (ECCC) mountain biking weekend. [Photo 2 -MTB]

We had a great time camping, “shredding the gnar” on the awesome singletrack, and even deep frying some Pop Tarts in bacon grease (the ultimate recovery food?!)  [Photo 3 - BaconTarts]

Many Club members took advantage of the mountain bike rental program provided by the MIT Outing Club (MITOC) and sponsored by the MIT Cycling Club.

Mid-July, MIT alum John DeTore hosted a viewing party of Stage 18 of the Tour de France—the epic double-summiting of Alpe d’Huez. (We sat and ate chips while commentating, “Oh we could totally do that…”)

On July 28th, TWO DOZEN club members dared the Climb to the Clouds, an epic local century ride that includes a summit of Mt. Wachusett! [Photo 4 – Clouds]

After a successful mountain biking weekend in VT, several Club members took on some ENDURANCE MOUNTAIN BIKE races!

  • Ben Eck (’15) and Luke Plummer (’14) raced a 2-man team at the 12 Hours of Millstone mountain bike race in Millstone, VT, finishing in 6th place! (Luke even rode an “extra large” 36”-wheel rigid bike!) [Photo 5 – Millstone
  • Yours truly Chris Birch (G) and Andrew Lysaght (G) headed to the State College, PA, area for the National Ultra Endurance series race Wilderness 101—a century MTB race consisting of 30 minute gravel climbs and 8 minute fall-line descents!

What’s next for the collegiate team?

Mountain bike season is about to begin, followed closely by the collegiate track! The conference calendar is here, showing upcoming races.

From those of us here in Cambridge and our club members abroad for the summer, we hope you’re enjoying some good riding wherever this update finds you.

See you on the road/dirt/track!
–Chris


Want to be included in the Friends of MIT Cycling newsletter?
Send an email update (photos encouraged!) to alumni officer Chris Birch at birch@mit.edu.
Looking for a way to support the MIT Cycling Club?

Help fund our cycling outreach, riding, and racing goals by making a donation today. Go to this page to submit a donation of any size. Your donations are tax deductible and go directly toward sustaining our student-run club. Thank you!

Road Nats – from the oldest member of the team….

What another great weekend for MIT Cycling! Not only did we come away with the D2 team omnium title, but we had a great set of individual results and so much fun defending our title together.

As a 5-time Road Nationals attendee (plus a couple of track nats, one cyclocross nats and one MTB nats), I am something of a seasoned veteran to collegiate racing and I have seen the team change over the years. While it has been sad to see my older teammates graduate and move away from Cambridge, I also feel very lucky to have be able to take part in so many years of collegiate racing and share the experience of national competitions with all so many different people. Every year the captains have done an amazing job of leading the team throughout the collegiate season and I am always impressed by how they exude enthusiasm despite the hefty time commitment that comes with the role. This year was no different and Shaena and Zack were wonderful team leaders. They did a stellar job coordinating logistics and were steadfast riders who could be relied upon to ensure the best team performance for each race.

Individually, I really enjoyed nationals this year. It was great to spend some time with my team mates after what has been a very busy semester for me. In the last few months I have been finishing up my PhD thesis and deciding what to do next in my life. I had my advisers sign off on my thesis 2 days before I left for Nationals and about a month ago I accepted a position with a development organization in DC, so getting to come to Nationals in my last year, really was the icing on the cake for me! The highlights for the weekend were seeing Chris on a solo break for almost all of the women’s criterium, seeing Shaena race so strongly despite a nasty crash at the end of the criterium, getting to share the experience of racing with Katie for one last time and watching Kate prowl the front of the pack to close down any moves for us during the road race. Of course, it was awesome to stand on the top step of the podium one last time, but I know I would not have gotten there without my team mates support, both on and off the bike, so getting to share the team omnium with them all was a very special moment.

Penn State race report (by Katie Maass)

Penn State Race Report (by Katie Maass)

What a wonderful way to end the ECCC season! This weekend’s races hosted by Penn State were both fun and hard. The weekend started off with a 9-mile TTT that I raced with Georgia LaGoudas and Jen Wilson. These two are great to race with because they are both very positive and supportive. We were all pretty equally strong, so we rotated smoothly through, working well together, and communicating the whole way. After going back and forth with a Women’s A team, we ended up finishing strong with a 2nd place in Women’s B.

After a brief delay waiting for the fire police to show up, the road race began. The distinguishing feature of this course is the long climb up Black Mo’ near the end of the course. Almost all fields were finishing one-by-one or in tiny groups. Luckily, Women’s C only had to do one brutal climb up the mountain. I hung in the middle of the pack during the initial descent, leaving plenty of space between the rider in front of me just in case. After the first few rolling hills, the group had split and I found myself with Georgia at the back of the front group of nine with a small gap from the rest. As we continued to climb, I was in a group of three girls steadily climbing the mountain. We never were quite sure if the top had come because every time we thought it was the top, we would descend a little bit and then see another climb ahead. These rolling sections near the top continued for a while. Penn State and I had dropped the other girl in our group of three and slowly caught up to another girl who was by herself. I ended up finishing sixth overall, not realizing that I was that far up until after the end of the race. I’m sure the climbs up Montezuma during training camp paid off this weekend.

The weekend ended with the Frat Row Criterium. I woke up Sunday morning feeling well-rested, waking up on my own five minutes before my alarm was supposed to go off. I enjoyed breakfast with the team getting waffles with strawberries at the Waffle House. Georgia and I decided early on that the positioning at the beginning of the race would be crucial. We were the first to arrive to staging and claimed great start line positioning. Only two laps into the race, we established a small gap with a group of five off the front. And for the first time in a Women’s C race this season, we organized well (thanks to Georgia’s encouragement) and worked together to keep the pace up in the front. Pretty soon, we had a large gap from the rest of the pack and settled into a steady pace as we rotated through. I sprinted hard for all three prime laps getting the win on two of them. The last prime happened with three laps to go and I think none of the other girls knew it was a prime lap. I started second wheel going into the straightaway and when the girl in front wiggled her elbow, I sprinted by to take the prime. I looked back after the finish line and saw that I had a short gap, but I decided that I wouldn’t be able to hold the gap for the remaining laps. I went easy and hopped on the back of the line. Going into the beginning of the last lap, I was pulling and I wanted to stay near the front, but not pull the rest of the lap. I flicked my elbow and let Georgia pull through. I stuck close to her, but the girl behind her didn’t want to give up Georgia’s wheel. Going into a corner, I told Georgia to push ahead a bit so that I could fit in behind her wheel and it worked. I fit into 2nd wheel and let Georgia pull the last three-quarters of the lap to lead me out. I swung around her after the last corner and gave it all I had for the last straightaway. I held on long enough to get the win for MIT by inches.

Katie winning the crit by inches (courtesy Velocityresults.com)

This was such an excellent way to end my first cycling race season. I first mounted a road bike almost exactly 7 months ago. I knew nothing about clipping in, cornering, or gu’s. I can’t thank the team enough for welcoming me to the group and teaching me so much about bikes and bike racing. I especially want to thank a few people:
– Ben Woolston for making bike racing sound too irresistible to not try and for always being willing to help me with bike stuff
– Shaena Berlin for being extremely supportive—from lending me her old road bike before I had one, talking me through race strategies, to being a great cheerleader
– Jen Wilson for always being there when I needed a hug or a laugh and keeping bike racing fun
– Georgia LaGoudas for being a great teammate, a joy to ride and race with, and for helping me shake my nerves when needed

Congratulations to the team for a wonderful season and I can’t wait for next year! In the meantime, I hope to see you out on the roads again soon, especially for some summer ice cream rides.