On September 15th, eleven of us took part in an annual MIT cycling tradition – volunteering at Harbor to the Bay! Harbor to the Bay is a charity ride in which participants ride 125 miles from Boston to Provincetown to raise money for local HIV/AIDS organizations. As marshals, we stand at intersections along the route to direct and cheer on riders. This means that we wake up extra early to ride out to our marshaling spots (between 62 and 114 miles into the route) before the participants arrive. Once all the participants pass us, we continue on our way to Provincetown, picking up the other MIT marshals as we go. We really enjoy volunteering at this ride, as it allows us to participate in a well-supported ride along beautiful roads and paths on Cape Cod, while also supporting a great cause.
Guillaume describes his experience:
“I was very excited about this ride: Harbor To the Bay was my first long ride with the MIT team, but also my first experience volunteering for the cycling community. One can easily imagine how frustrated I was when, 10 meters before the start I got a flat after rolling on a tiny shard of glass. Since my rim+tire combination makes it *extremely* hard to change a tube, I really thought I woke up so early (3:50 am) for nothing. But thanks to our road captain and his unprecedented dexterity with tire-levers and 30 minutes of hard work, we were on our way (~1h ahead before the regular riders).
The first part of the ride was very dark and misty but when the sun rose we enjoyed very nice weather. We stopped near Sagamore Bridge for lunch. I was genuinely amazed by the work done by the organizers. The volunteers were very enthusiastic and helpful and the amount of food, drinks and snacks was way beyond my expectations. Our stomachs and back pockets full of food, we resumed our journey towards the Cape, gradually leaving some of us at their marshaling points. Around 12:15pm, Berk and I reached our intersection located at the top of a hill only 8 miles from the finish line. We spent more than 4 hours cheering and directing the exhausted, yet smiling participants (We even got our hands on a cow bell at some point !). We regrouped with the rest of the team after the sag wagon passed us.
Sadly the last miles did not go as smoothly as we expected. Since we were approaching the Ptown town line the pace increased and Aditya touched the wheel of Daniel after a car slowed down in front of us. Fortunately, even though the crash was impressive and I barely dodged it, he seemed to be fine and the only mechanical issue was the rear wheel popped out. At the finish line we got a lot of pizza and a nice group picture. However it was not enough to compensate for all the calories we lost, so we ended up having a second dinner while we were waiting for the ferry. As soon as we boarded almost everyone fell asleep, probably dreaming about the next edition.”
This summer, a group of MIT cyclists headed to Vermont to tackle the ‘Six Gaps’, a 130-mile ride with 12,500 ft of climbing that travels over six passes in the Green Mountains. The ride includes Lincoln Gap, which has been crowned the steepest mile in America and features a sustained grade of 24% near the top.
Read below for some pictures and accounts of the ride!
Enjoying the Vermont scenery on a beautiful, sunny day.
Cosmo said: “Six Gaps was the hardest ride I’ve done by far: longest distance, highest elevation, most time in the saddle, and the first time I’ve had to eat a Pop-Tart. It was too much for my Garmin, which gave out after 98 miles and 8000 ft, with two gaps still to come. Going up Lincoln, the steepest of the six, I felt good, apart from the odd unsettling moment when my front wheel reared up on the steepest sections; by the time we hit the penultimate gap, Rochester, I was having as much Type 2 fun as I could manage, cursing my way up the climb. Suffering purifies the soul. I’ll be back next summer.”
Taking in the view at the top of Appalachian gap, our third gap of the day.
Andrew said: “All in all, Six Gaps was the epitome of type 2 fun: pushing ourselves to the limit, going through thoughts of regret throughout the ride, but feeling the sense of accomplishment in the aftermath. This ride made me realize that cycling climbs are an eating contest, in that for myself to produce consistent power I need to be at a replenished state. Endurance, the key to these long rides, is a function of not only training but also consistently eating throughout the ride to feel strong. I learned this lesson the hard way while climbing Roxbury gap (the 4th gap) and hitting my proverbial wall. After descending the gap, at the next general store I bought my Arizona, Gatorade, and Swedish fish, and quickly fed myself with 1000 calories. I felt a lot better afterwards. After all, in a way cycling is a way to mask my desire to eat as much as I please :P”
All smiles on the flats!
Jack said: “Six gaps was definitely one of the hardest rides I’ve ever done. Though I borrowed a 11-28 in place of my 11-25 cassette right before the ride, apparently it was still not big enough. I unfortunately got a cramp in my leg on the third gap. Due to the cramp, I wasn’t able to use my leg muscle to pull the pedal up, as I’d usually do on a climb, but I still managed to finish the last three gaps by simply pushing down on pedals, which was extremely slow but worked out well. Anyway, I’m glad that I finished it and got another cross on the riding checklist!”
Recharging at the top of Rochester gap, our fifth gap of the day.
Miles said: “The first part of the ride was mostly downhill or flat and with a large group we averaged 39km/hr over the first 25km. A week before Jacob had advised me that “six gaps is really not that bad” and for the first hour I believed him. Then, reality hit, as we encountered Middlebury gap and I started to realize what I had signed up for. Middlebury was OK and had an amazing descent, but then came the Lincoln gap, which was brutal. Seriously, had the people who built this road never heard of switchbacks? During the last kilometer of the climb, I was constantly on the brink of falling over and averaged about 7km/hr, all while putting out threshold power. But, we made it up! The rest of the ride followed a repeatable pattern: struggle up the climbs cursing when the grade hit >10%, become furious when the grade subsequently hit >15%, force down some food at the top, and then feel absolutely amazing and that it was all worth it on the descents. All in all, it was an amazing ride that I would definitely do again!”
Read Emma, Amy, and Tori’s account of the week, during which our qualifying athletes won the Club/DII Omnium, got 3rd place in the Team Time Trial, and won a National Criterium Championship.
This year, we sent four riders to Collegiate Nationals in Grand Junction, CO, where the races were held for the second year in a row. For Amy and Sarah, this was their first trip to nats, while Emma and I (Tori) had gone once before. Accompanying us on the trip was our coach Nicole, and Youyang, who had just graduated from MIT, and conveniently for us, moved out to Denver for his new job. The first day was dedicated to traveling. With a flight and a 4 hour drive through the mountains in CO ahead of us, we got an early start. But Amy and I made sure to practice our TTT technique with this dinosaur we found at a rest stop along the drive.
The next day was dedicated to preparing for the races and pre-riding. The six of us drove out to the TTT course, which was in a different (and thankfully, less windy) location from last year. After practicing a few rotations, and doing some openers, we felt ready to race! Emma, Nicole, and I proceeded to drive around the RR course, which was the same as last year, but gave us a great chance to refresh our memories, and strategize.
Here’s a recap of the road race by Emma:
I was both excited and nervous to take on this road race course. The nerves came partially from not wanting to crash out again (last year I crashed 3.5 miles into the race…) and partially from knowing the competition would be incredibly strong. The excitement came because it’s a beautiful course, we had a rolling enclosure, and I felt on good form!
The course was the same this year as last year, but the start/finish line had moved to the top of a short, steep hill in the middle of a longer, mostly false-flat section. I knew that that short, steep hill, as well as another slightly longer and steeper hill on the back section of the course, would be the main difficulties. We would go around the course 3 times in total. We started out at a reasonable pace, and when I made it down the first descent (where I had crashed last year) without incident I started to calm down a little bit. The first time up each hill was steady, not crazy, and the pack mostly stayed all together. The next lap, the hill on the back stretch lit things up and a ~10-woman break formed. The paceline was actually pretty disorganized (maybe partially due to the fact that for the most part we had never raced with each other before), and a few riders were shelled from the break. I was feeling really tired as soon as we hit the false-flat section. So when someone put in another effort up the short climb to the finish, on the second lap, I was shelled from the break. I tried my hardest to catch back on, but I couldn’t do it. At that time there were 6 girls still in the break ahead of me. I knew we had put some time into the field but wasn’t sure I could hold them off for an entire lap. Another rider that had been dropped from the break caught up to me and we worked well together for half a lap. Going into the climb on the back stretch for the last time, the moto told us the break was 2 minutes up the road and the pack was 1 minute behind. Though I later found out that “pack” meant about 10 people! Anyways, the girl I had been working with showed some signs of struggle and I knew I couldn’t afford to wait for her. I pushed on and TT-ed my way to the finish line. I just kept thinking that if I had been caught all of the work I had done would be for nothing! Every time I looked behind I could see the group of girls inching closer, but I put my head down and worked as hard as I could, and thank goodness didn’t get caught! I ended up in 7th.
I was disappointed to have been dropped from the winning break, but I knew I had tried my hardest. It also made me feel better that, of the 6 women that finished ahead of me, 5 were from schools at altitude. Of course I’m not trying to diminish their achievements… and winners/ podium finishers from other fields were from schools not at altitude! But it’s always good to have an excuse, right? ☺
Tori had a nightmare for the second year in a row at this nationals road race and ended up on a neutral bike (again, for the second year in a row) after her chain dropped hitting a big bump in a corner, and subsequently getting tangled and stuck. She really deserves some good bike karma soon! But she finished the race like a champion!
The course was really beautiful, and I was extremely glad that there were no bad crashes this year. I’m so glad to have completed my first nationals road race!
The second day of racing featured the TTT. Having ridden together as much as possible over the course of the season, and even before it started, we felt confident that we could work really well together as a team, and coach Nicole had prepared us extremely well by talking through every part of the race beforehand, and helping us decide what to do in case of various unexpected situations.
Here’s Amy’s race report from the TTT:
Saturday was the team time trial. The course was a 19-mile relatively-flat out-and-back, with a headwind on the way out, and a steady climb for the last mile. We suffered a few minor mishaps near the start of the race: the “holders” who keep your bike balanced for you so that you can start the race already clipped into your pedals did not inspire a lot of confidence, leaving some of us uneasy and me not clipped in when our time trial started; and, a few minutes later, Sarah dropped her chain, but was able to salvage the situation by quickly shifting back up again.
The rest of the first half passed relatively uneventfully, and we were relieved to complete the U-turn and have the wind at our backs. Even so, the race was above 5,000 feet elevation, and we could feel the effects of the altitude. By the time we started the final climb, we had dropped a rider. During the climb we suffered an amusing miscommunication in which I, going about as fast as I could, said “no faster,” which Emma misheard as “faster!” Emma, who was leading and also didn’t feel that she could go faster, then told me to lead, and was quite bemused when I got to the front huffing and puffing and going no faster than she was! Nevertheless, we soon reached the finish line, coming in third, 21 seconds behind first place and three minutes ahead of fourth place.
The third and final day was the criterium – a fast, flat, 6-corner course around downtown Grand Junction. Once again, Nicole had made sure we were ready for basically any scenario we could hope to see in the race, and so now we just had to go an execute it.
My assigned starting position was unfortunately near the back of the group, but I worked hard in the first few laps to make up positions. The riders at the front kept the pace really high, and people were starting to drop off the back. After a rider crashed in the corner in front of me, I temporarily lost the group but put in a big effort and caught back on to what was now a narrowed down group. Unfortunately, a similar situation happened again a few laps later, and this time, I wasn’t able to get back to the group. I ended up in a chase group of about 10 riders with several fellow ECCC riders. We were not far behind the break of 8, which included Emma, and the strongest women of the Rocky Mountain cycling conference. Knowing Emma was up the road, I sat in on the chase group and let the other riders take pulls. It was a motivated group, and we were within sight of the break, but they were able to stay away. I sprinted from this group for 14th overall. I was satisfied with my race, but was even more excited after I finished my race, and realized how Emma’s race had gone!
Here is the race from Emma’s perspective:
Well, writing this race report more than a month after the fact, I think everything may have finally just sunk in. This was by far the best result I’ve ever had, and it was honestly one of the best days of my life!
To be honest, I wasn’t as excited about the crit as the road race and team time trial going into Nationals. Last year the crit had a bunch of crashes, and it came down to a group sprint. But possibly this lack of pressure is what enabled me to do so well!
The night before the crit, Coach Nicole went through the entire race with Tori and me, talking through different possibilities and what we would do in different scenarios. The plan was for me to try to get in any break (especially with CU Boulder girls, since they had gone 1-2 in the RR and TT and had 3 very strong women, as well as CU Denver girls, who had been 3 and 6 in the RR and both top 5 in the TT), and if that failed I would lead Tori out in the group sprint. She walked us through where we should be with 5 laps to go, 2, 1, and at the last corner. The next morning, we measured where 200 meters was on the course.
The crit was a pan flat, 6 corner crit in downtown Grand Junction. It was a great atmosphere, with cafes and shops all around the course and tons of people watching. The biggest difficulty was turn 4, which went from a large road to a much smaller one, with potholes and, mostly notably, a bunch of car grease on the ground. This is where Anne and Tori both crashed last year, so we were understandably very cautious about this corner.
I lined up in the second row and so was immediately at the front in a great position. There were a few early attacks, and two separate breaks formed but I let some of the bigger schools chase them down. The pack whittled down in the first half but I stayed comfortably in the front. About halfway through the race, I saw an opportunity (I think after a prime if I remember correctly…) and attacked. I only stayed away for about half a lap, but when I looked at the group when they caught me there were only ~9 of us, including the 3 Boulder girls and 2 Denver girls. I knew that, if a break was going to stick, it would be this one.
We worked together really well together, but at 7 laps to go I heard a crash behind me (at that evil corner), and all of a sudden there were only 3 left. I had no idea what to do because I wasn’t sure if free laps were still available, and I also didn’t know how far behind the pack was. It turned out that it was the last lap where free laps were a thing, so most of those girls got back on. The pace in the break eased up in the last couple laps, and I was nervous that the group would catch us. But there were a few last-minute attacks that really picked the pace up. With ~1.5 laps to go, the girl from CU Boulder who had won the RR and TT attacked, and I think took some of the other girls by surprise. A girl from CSU (who was the same girl I had worked with the in the RR!) jumped on her wheel and I got on the CSU girl’s wheel. The pace was super high, so that order stayed the same until the last corner. The CSU girl jumped right at the corner. I had come in 2nd quite a few times this year thanks to jumping and sprinting too early, so I forced myself to be as patient as I could, and came around her with ~150 (or less!) meters to go. I couldn’t believe it when I crossed the finish line and no one had come around me! I screamed (my friend later described it as primal) in disbelief!
I ran over and found Nicole, Youyang, and Amy and screamed a bit more and hugged them all a lot. I couldn’t believe it or really make any coherent sentences because I was just smiling and laughing. Tori came around in the second group and when she saw me she came rushing at me and hugged me. It was a pretty special moment to share with someone who has been my teammate for a couple years now. Throughout the season, Tori has on countless times helped to control the chase when I was in the break, lead me out for a sprint, and just in general been an awesome teammate. And in addition to this we’ve spent many hours training together.
Tori finishing up: So all in all, we walked away from nationals with Emma’s National Criterium Championship, her 2nd overall in the individual omnium, a 3rd place the the TTT, and a win in the team omnium. It was a truly incredible weekend for the team. Before I sign off on this post, I want to send special thanks to our Coach Nicole, who helped with many things throughout the trip, but especially helped us make strategies for the races that were undoubtedly a big factor in the team’s success. Also to Youyang – who lent his equipment, mechanical expertise, and curry-making skills throughout the weekend. It was awesome to have him around. And lastly to Berk! Unfortunately we couldn’t field a men’s team this year, but Berk was instrumental in planning and supporting, and even brought us carrot bread when he picked us up at 5 am to take us to the airport. We couldn’t have done it without help from so many people!
Eastern Championships are over. Dang, it feels good to type those words.
We’ve been home for a while now; the brooms, the marking paint, and the course signs have been packed away for next year, the recovery beer has been consumed, the bills have been paid (thanks to the awesome work of treasurers Quinn, Wade and Youyang), and the panic and stress dreams have been left behind. Maybe it’s some variant of Stockholm syndrome, but I think this was the most fun I’ve had at a race weekend to date.
Starting in January Dustin Weigl, James deMelo, Lucy Archer, and myself held weekly conference calls to discuss the race planning and prep, Lucy often calling in while riding the rollers at ungodly early hours of the morning in CA where she now resides. In January, the idea of putting on a race seemed doable, by February we (or at least I) had doubts, by March I was in a full out panic. It wasn’t that we weren’t prepared, it was simply that so much of running a bike race depends on others. You can make plans, contingency plans, contingency plans for the contingency plans, but at the end of the day it takes a dedicated group of people all working well to pull it off.
About a week out from the race, everything was set. I figured this would make the last week a little easier, but it didn’t – with everything set there was nothing left for me to do but pace my office coming up with increasingly absurd possible disaster scenarios.
Friday (the day before the race)
Early Friday morning saw Lucy (having arrived from CA on a red-eye), James and myself driving out to the road race course in Warwick MA to start sweeping corners, putting up signs, and marking potholes. This work was made easier by the efforts of the town – they sent the street sweeper out Wednesday, which left the roads in really great shape. Enough good things cannot be said about the town and the people of Warwick, they have embraced this race with excitement for the two years we’ve been holding it, and have showed up to support, cheer, and heckle. During the course of the day we were given lemonade, asked if we were crazy for doing a race that went up Old Winchester Road (a rather steep and long dirt climb) several times, and played a golden retriever full of boundless energy (kinda reminiscent of Berk we all agreed) at the fire chief’s house.
After the course work was done we headed up to the hotel our awesome logistic officers Amy and Cosmo had reserved in Brattleboro VT. Here is where I need to give the biggest of shout outs to Amy – who together with James – managed to get 40 odd people and bikes (who seemingly all needed to arrive and leave at different times) to and from Western MA.
Once at the hotel, James and I sat down to run through details for the next day, this mostly consisted of me asking him a series of questions regarding increasingly unlikely things that might go wrong, and him having answers and contingency plans ready for even my most fantastical of crises.
It was great that James was so incredibly prepared, but it also meant that it was 6pm and I had nothing to do but pace the hallway and wait. Friend of the team (and future winner of the men’s A road race) Erik Levinsohn pointed out that racers tend to judge the quality of a race by the weather, and that Saturday was forecast to be beautiful. This managed to put me at ease for at least a little while. After pretty much driving every single one of my teammates insane running through possible crisis scenarios for the next day, they finally convinced me to go to bed.
Saturday morning James and I were up bright and early at 4:30 to head over to the Warwick Community School, where we would be staging the team time trial and road race. I was very glad to see him in the parking lot in the morning, as one of the more vivid promoter stress dreams I had been having involved him forgetting the date of the race and instead going backpacking in the Canadian Rockies. We arrived at the Warwick Community School that served as staging, and started setting up while Dustin and Tori drove the course marking more potholes (yay! Bike racing in the spring in New England), making sure the signage was still in place and touching up the sweeping we had done the day before.
Team Time Trial
I was bullish about this – I was going to do everything I could to make sure I got to race this event. Assuming nothing was actively on fire at the start line I was going to race. Luckily James and Lucy had everything under control so I suited up and lined up with Tobi, Biswaroop, and Cosmo and we set off. The first part of the course was a little rough, I’d spent a few hours the day before with cold patch getting the worst of the potholes, but the road was still rough enough for at least one rider from another school to refer to it as “that bombed out crater field you call a TTT course”. Once we got through the “crater field” the course smoothed out a lot, but then the hills began. And here we began to encounter the fractured remnants of the teams that had gone out before us, we single riders as well of groups of two or three. It was chaos. We paced ourselves well and managed to pull out a 1st place finish by almost a minute.
I pretty much knew from the beginning that I wasn’t going to be able to race this, there was too much going on, still it was sad to stand to the side as my field rolled out for the championship race. James was a beast – he had a schedule, and a binder, and packets for each of the volunteers, with him running things I was able to move around and check in with the officials and the ECCC staff and deal with small problems as they came up. I also was able to be at the finish line to watch Miles, Liam, and Berk win their respective fields (when did we start having a real men’s team?).
This was a bit of a blur, the location that we ended up renting sight unseen at the last minute ended up being awesome. A huge room, exposed beams, and a ton of natural light. It was a great night of hanging out with friends and teammates, swapping war stories, and eating everything we could get our hands on.
This was another early start, James and I again met at Dunkin Donuts at 4:30 (thank god for 24 hr Dunkin). We got to Unity Park in Turner Falls and began setup with the help of Tori, Sara, Berk and Quinn (Tori insisting on helping despite a crash in the TTT the day before). We were set up quickly with only a few hiccups (including two cars parked on the course). As compared to the day before, the Crit went smoothly, controlling a 1 km stretch of road that is completely closed to traffic is much easier than sending riders out on a 16 mi loop and just hoping everything goes alright. Things were going well enough that I was able to hop into the crit and race. Running on pure adrenaline and a serious case of #promoterLegs I still managed to pull out a podium, mostly thanks to the awesome work of a bunch of teammates. The rest of the day ran smoothly and I was able to move around the course checking in with marshals, police officers, and officials (all of whom had things in such good shape I felt next to useless). The day ended with the podiums, both for the day, and for the season long omniums, both of which saw MIT heavily represented.
And like that it was done – we had pulled it off. The race weekend was over. James, Lucy, Dustin and myself had made it through.
A note about our sponsors
Needless to say, without the support of our sponsors much of what we do would not be possible. More than anything, hosting a race of this scale certainly wouldn’t be doable without them. We have an awesome group of product sponsors—Wheelworks, BMC, Giro/Stages, Mavic, O2 Rainwear, Rudy Project, and Supacaz. This year we were also delighted to work with Sidehill Farms Yogurt, a small dairy in the Berkshires who provided yogurt cups to all our volunteers as well as pints of maple yogurt for primes #yogurtprimes.
We also have a group of direct sponsors about whom not enough good can be said, without these organizations support this race truly couldn’t have happened:
Thoughtforms has been a long-time sponsor of the club, first at the Championship Level, and now three years as Title Sponsor. Established in 1972, Thoughtforms collaborates with clients, architects, and designers to build some of the most unique custom homes and community spaces in the Boston area. Their work has received numerous awards — in 2003 Thoughtforms was nationally recognized by Custom Home Magazine as the Custom Builder of the Year, and in 2017 they were selected for the New England Design Hall of Fame. Thoughtforms has a strong connection to MIT, with four alums working in leadership roles, as well as a number of avid cyclists, including their President, Mark Doughty, who raced professionally in Europe.
The Branta Group LLC
The Branta Group LLC has been a Championship-level sponsor of the MIT cycling team for over 7 years. As a hub of healthcare entrepreneurship, the Branta Group has founded many biotech companies, and provided capital and expertise to promote growth and business sustainability. In the community, The Branta Group is committed to encouraging students to pursue STEM education as well as endurance sports, a passion that MIT cyclists share. During the summer in 2017, The Branta Group coached a group of motivated high-school students to foster entrepreneurial growth, and MIT Cycling was proud to help. The Branta Group provided business mentoring, while MIT Cycling helped the students design experiments to quantitatively demonstrate the value of their product. You can read more about the program here.
This year was Exponent’s 14th year as an Elite-level sponsor of the MIT cycling team. Exponent is an international consulting firm that specializes in the investigation and prevention of engineering failures and has been involved in cases from airplane crashes to the design of consumer electronics. With many MIT alumni and cyclists, members of the Exponent team can often be found riding in The Greater Boston Area.
Biognosys has been an Elite-level sponsor of the MIT cycling team for three years. Specializing in proteomics data acquisition and analysis, Biognosys has pioneered many techniques that give more comprehensive coverage for proteomics, allowing new drug targets to be discovered and validated. They recently had two product launches, including their newest reference peptide kit, which enables proteomic researchers to quantify over 500 human plasma proteins. You can read more about ithere. A company with a strong sports culture, Biognosys employees compete in the annual alumni SOLA relay run and local cycling races.
It was a great privilege to finish the road season at our home race near Warwick, MA. The race was an incredible success thanks to Dmitro, James, Dustin and Lucy, our race organizers! We also thank alumni, sponsors, current club and racing members, and members of other teams for lending a hand!
Now to the racing! There were some dominant performances across the board, and the MIT men deserve special mention for taking the wins in the B, C, and D road races, as well as the C criterium, for double points! Although several of our women suffered a crash during the TTT that prevented them from racing, Emma held down the fort, taking 3rd in the road race and 2nd in the criterium.
MIT took the ECCC omnium win and was 3rd in points at the ECCC Championship. We are looking forward to sending four women to represent us at Nationals at Grand Junction, CO this year.
Here’s Sarah’s account of the weekend:
This last weekend was the ECCC Championships, hosted by the one and only MIT team (us!). As opposed to every other weekend of the ECCC season, the weather was perfect – both days featured blue skies, sun, and warm temperatures. On top of that, our coordinators-extraordinaires (the team of Dmitro, James, Dustin, and Lucy) coordinated an incredibly smooth and fun weekend for all of the racers and spectators. One of the really special things was the number of teammates who turned out for this event – both racing and volunteering. I loved both getting to see teammates I hadn’t seen for a while (woo Amanda Chen!) and meet some others for the first time (hi, Andrew Xia!).
The weekend started off on Saturday with the team time trial. The course featured one incredibly terrifying pot-holey section near the beginning, but after that rolled through the central MA countryside taking advantage of the beautiful farmland and fun hills. Having crashed during the crit the previous weekend, I was pretty nervous to be racing again, but my TTT teammates were calming, supportive, and positive. We made it through the pot-holed section without any issues, and were really getting into our groove, before ending prematurely when two of us went down in a crash. Although it was crazy and stressful in the moment, both Tori and Amy got great care at the local hospital and were able to come back and cheer for the team that afternoon! [Berk chiming in! Our Men’s B, C, D TTT teams took the top podium spots, but the mood was somewhat deflated due to the crash. We were extremely happy to hear positive news about our ladies as we prepared for the afternoon!]
Saturday late morning and afternoon was the road race – a crazy loop including two challenges climbs (one of them dirt!). Miles Couchman started off the day with a dominant win in the Men’s D field, and Liam Fenlon followed his lead, snagging a win in the Men’s C category as well! The A and B fields raced in the afternoon, and Berk Ozturk was able to complete the trifecta by winning the Men’s B field for the team. Emma Edwards represented the women’s team all by herself, and had a strong second place finish in the women’s A field.
That evening, all of the teams met at a local YMCA to share some delicious Italian food and cookies, and celebrate the season and races of the day! Although the venue had been arranged somewhat (very) last minute, it was perfect for the occasion – homey and light-filled (especially appreciated after a long dark winter). All in all, it was really wonderful to come together as a team and as a larger ECCC family to appreciate the adventure that this road season has been.
Sunday featured a criterium through downtown Turner Falls, and my day began bright and early with course set-up duty with Quinn and Berk. Despite the massive performances that they had put out the previous day, both of them were cheery and positive as we lugged hay bales around the streets (and then swept up after ourselves!). Although there was still one car left on the course when the races began at 8 AM, everything went smoothly! The course featured a super steep uphill section following by a gentle (but lengthy) downhill ending in a sharp corner – but all of the riders managed it safely throughout the day.
The day was capped off by an awards ceremony, in which our team took home the “ECCC Omnium” prize for most points throughout the season (woot!) and a third place award for the ECCC Championships itself. More importantly, the men’s and women’s teams exchanged small but thoughtful (and delicious!) gifts including flowers and cake!
All in all, the ECCC Championships was an awesome time to come together as a team, to support our race organizers and to race as hard as we could. I, for one, am already looking forward to next season!
Here is Berk’s account of the Men’s B road race:
After a great performance in the TTT in the morning; Dustin, Quinn and I were ready for the biggest climbs of the season. I was particularly spooked by the dirt climb which was the longest and the steepest on the course.
We knew from the beginning that this climb would shatter the field, and it did. Quinn and I managed to make the 8-man lead group as it separated towards the end of the first 16-mile lap, and we had a solid gap by the middle of the second lap. The group was strong, and we managed to stay together for the majority of the second lap. We were busy inflicting pain on each other up the dirt climb for a second time when I decided it was going to be my move. The gradient eased, I got around to the front, and started accelerating. Suddenly, I heard commotion behind me, and realized that at least 5 of the riders were on the ground, including Quinn, and although I was conflicted I decided to commit.
A WPI rider was the lone chaser, and he was breathing down my back, with at most 5 seconds of gap at the top of the climb. I decided that I wanted to go solo, and burned a lot of matches to make him lose sight of me. Thankfully this gambit paid off. I settled into a TT pace, hitting the climbs hard, and easing on the flats to try and keep the distance. The best part of the day was having Liam occasionally shout encouragements in his intense gravely voice from the lead car when he would lag back to tell me the gap, which came down to almost 15 seconds at some point!
I should have know that Quinn was the unsung hero of the day, because while I was alone TT’ing for the last 20 miles, he was busy staying in the chase pack of 6 riders, demotivating them by telling them that ‘they would never catch me’. The icing on the cake was that he joined me on the podium in 3rd! It was amazing to podium at Easterns, our home race!
Here’s Dmitro’s account of the Men’s D Criterium:
Averaging 5-6 hours of sleep for a week, no warm-up to speak of, and a fueling plan that consisted of some coffee and half a muffin hastily eaten on the drive down is not the most ideal crit prep – yet there I was, lined up and 30 seconds from the gun (whistle). Since it was our home race MIT riders got a call up. We had a whopping 6 riders in the field and basically took up the entire front row. At this point Miles leaned over and asked what my plan was for the race. Oh yeah, a race plan, I should probably have one of those. I hadn’t really thought about this at all, and went to my standard answer “rubber side down, and surviving, that’s all I’m shooting for”. Secretly I was thinking that I’d be lucky if it I managed to not get pulled, I was hoping that Miles would get into an early break (he’s been killing it this season), that way I could sit in the pack, hang on for dear life, and claim that I had done “hard work” blocking for him.
The whistle blew, and we were off. I’ve been racing a lot of CX this year and it has bled into my road riding, so I took off from the line, about 5 seconds in I looked back and saw that my fellow CX rider Tobi and I had maybe 15 meters on the rest of the field. I turned to him and said “wanna go for it” and boy did he! While I drifted back to the pack he shot forward and was off, he stayed away, alone and in the wind for 18 mins while Miles and I stayed near the front of the pack, blocking where we could, and shutting down attacks. During this time Tobi also managed to pick up both primes, winning the quart of maple flavored yogurt donated by our friends at Sidehill Farms.
With 8 laps left the pack eventually decided to organize and proceeded to catch Tobi. As we came around and saw 7 to go the pack caught Tobi, and we were all together again. As soon as Tobi was swallowed up by the group I attacked. I was away, I was alone, and I was flying – after one lap I had built a sizable gap — adrenaline is one hell of a drug. The issue is, I was running on adrenaline and nothing else. I came around the finish line, this time seeing 5 to go on the board, and entirely unsustainable numbers on my Garmin, and was mentally broken – I couldn’t keep up this pace, I had tried the solo break game early this season only to get caught meters from the line, this was it, I was done. Somewhere during this crisis of confidence I realized I had a rider on my wheel, a racer from BU had bridged up to me. With someone to work with my despair was, if not eliminate, at least mitigated. I worked with the BU rider and over the next few laps we managed to grow the gap on the pack even more.
As we came onto the finishing straight in the final lap I was positioned perfectly, glued to the BU riders wheel and ready to launch my sprint. When we hit the 200 m to go mark my mind screamed “SPRINT”, unfortunately every single muscle in my legs scream “NO” just as loudly, and consequently I could only manage the most halfhearted of sprints – finishing a few bike lengths behind the BU rider. Still I was thrilled, I had managed to podium my own race. The rest of the day went great, and everything ran smoothly from a promoting standpoint (primarily due to the awesome planning done by Dustin and the great work of James).
After the Shippensburg race weekend got cancelled due to inclement weather, the second day of the Hell of the North was cancelled as well. But regardless, MIT cyclists were eager to attack the ITT and criterium of April 14th, and had dominant performances in both events.
Read Dustin’s account of the weekend and Men’s B Crit below:
Going into this weekend, I was pretty apprehensive about what it might bring. The forecast continued to look grimmer as the weekend drew closer and by Friday, the weather gods were calling for temperatures in the mid-thirties and some mixed precipitation. Sweet. Awesome. Great for cornering hard in a crit with a new bike.
The ITT in the morning went well with MIT sweeping many of the top spots in all categories and pulling in a huge number of Omnium points. Go Tech! And as we transitioned over to Dartmouth’s Frat Row to get ready for the crit, things dried up and it actually began to look like we could have some good conditions for racing. We had a blast watching the early races with Coach Nicole providing commentary on strategy and suggestions on critical points in the course. She turned to me, Berk, and Quinn (aka the Killa Beeeees aka MIT Men’s B riders) and asked, “So what’s your strategy? Do you guys know what you’re going to do?” I replied, “Yeah we have a detailed agenda. Many planning. Much strategy.” We of course hadn’t discussed anything.
The race kicked with a fast few laps and then things settled in until the bell rang for the first prime lap. Berk attacked like a bat out of hell and 4 riders chased. As soon I saw them hit the finish line, I sprinted out of the group to draw up next to the 5 riders yelling “Let’s go, let’s go we have a gap, time to work!” in classic Liam fashion. Everyone gave me a quick glance and sat up, ready to head back to the pack. Except, of course, Berk who is always down for getting #rekt.
Now, Coach Nicole might say it’s stupid to attack 10 minutes into a 50-minute race in a two-man break with a teammate since the pack would almost certainly work hard to shut it down. But when in bike racing, YOLO as bike racers do (or maybe YGDS as some might say). So anyway, lap after lap we steadily grew the gap 2 seconds here, 5 seconds there. Until finally with 2 laps to go we turned the corner and there was the pack. We had lapped the field and, we were absolutely thrilled to find, the Quinn Bee was sitting at the front – totally wiped after a long day of blocking and shutting down attacks.
As it turned out, we had executed team strategy perfectly, with Berk and I working together very well at the front and Quinn doing everything he could to keep the rest of the race from catching us. I’d never had the opportunity to cruise casually across a crit finish line shoulder to shoulder with a great teammate and I don’t expect it’ll happen again soon- it’s definitely something I’d recommend giving a try if you ever have a chance. Sometimes you just need to decide to go for it in a race and once in a blue moon it works out exactly the way you’d hoped.
Read Tori’s account of the Women’s A/B crit below:
This weekend marked the first time this season that we had 3 women in the A/B race, since Amy just upgraded to the B’s! With no Sunday races, we stepped up to the crit ready to empty the tank with whatever we had left. In our race, and early attack split the field and resulted in a break of 5 riders, including myself and Emma. We rode a majority of the race with just the 5 of us. Despite getting caught near the end, an RPI rider attacked again and we re-formed the break with a substantial gap. Getting into the break (twice!) and riding there for most of the race had taken quite a bit out of my legs, and so I used what I had left to lead out Emma into and out of the final corner, and get her in position for the sprint. Her bike skipped a gear near the very end of the sprint, and she took a close second to the RPI rider. I rode in for 3rd in the Women’s A category and 5th overall. Coach Nicole was there, and provided great strategy and insights (and much-needed hot water) all day. The team had an incredible showing today, and I’m really excited to see what we can do in the final weekend of the conference season!
This year, the team sent only two racers to the NYC Metro Showdown hosted by NYU, Columbia, Rutgers, and Army on 3/31-4/1. Sadly, the much anticipated West Point races had been cancelled, and the ECCC decided to bring back this race which had been held two years ago, in order to fill the open weekend. Our riders Wade and Tori held down the fort and raked in some valuable omnium points. Read Tori’s post about the weekend below:
Wade and I made the drive to Valley Cottage, NY for the circuit race, which featured numerous laps of a 3.7-mile course. The course had a slight climb, but it was quite short and so we were both prepared for a sprint finish. Given that there had been a significant number of crashes here two years ago, we carefully scouted out the course Friday evening to identify where we wanted to be positioned at various points on the course.
Wade was executing our game plan and riding a good race in the Men’s C field until an unfortunate mechanical which ended his race after a few laps. The Women’s A race played out more or less how I had expected. There were several attacks on the hilly section, but the pack largely stayed together. After 9 laps, the race indeed came down to a sprint. I was well positioned and was able to grab the wheel of the strongest sprinter in the field, which ended up being a perfect lead out, and I sprinted for 3rd place.
The next day featured a crit which was hosted by Rutgers on their campus. The course had 3 corners and one long, sweeping turn. Wade was ready to go for the crit, especially since his race had been cut short the day before. A lot of attacks and surging made for a challenging race. The rider off the front had been reeled back in before the finish and the race came down to a field sprint. Wade finished in the top 15, and also snagged 2nd in two primes to bring in some solid points for the team. In my race, there was an early solo breakaway that was ultimately able to stay away for the win in a very impressive performance.
In an effort to earn some points towards keeping the green jersey, I went for primes, taking 2nd in 3 of them, and 3rd in the other. The rest of the race came down to a group sprint for second. I started my sprint a little too late, but got across the line 2nd of that group to take another 3rd. Despite some nervousness on our part about the courses, the weekend went quite smoothly with minimal crashes across all fields. It was definitely out of the ordinary having only two people at a race weekend, but it was a success nonetheless!
The second road race weekend featured some dominant performances from our women in the A field. Emma not only won the road race, she also placed 2nd in the Women’s A criterium, with Tori picking off primes to get a huge lead in the points competition. In the men’s D criterium, we saw a great display of teamwork where our riders launched attacks throughout the race. The kept this up until Dmitro attacked for a 2nd time, and stayed away until just before the finish line on the last lap. Miles, Andre, and Dmitro ultimately nailed 3 of 5 top spots in the race.
Berk, Quinn, and Dustin, i.e. the “Killa B’s” also employed some effective team tactics, which involved a heroic effort from Dustin to initiate the winning 3-man breakaway, and stay away from the field to ultimately take 2nd. In a true ECCC fashion, it was yet another cold weekend, which featured some snow flurries on Sunday, but everyone raced hard nonetheless. It was great to see some of the strategy we’d learned from Nicole get implemented (and work!) in races.
Read Miles’ recap of the weekend below:
The UConn race weekend was my first time racing, so my main goal was to stay upright and get a sense of how strong everyone else was. It was pretty chilly on Saturday morning and I made full use of Quinn’s luxurious heated seats on the drive to the TTT. There were two Men’s D teams: myself, Dmitro and Tobi on one and Felix, Biswaroop and André on the other. I was expecting the TTT to be an unpleasant suffer-fest, but I had an absolute blast! There’s not much that can beat riding fast outside with your teammates after being holed up inside on the trainer all winter. Our Men’s D teams ended up coming in 1st and 2nd place, even beating the times of the two Men’s C teams, and the Women’s A and Men’s B teams also got 1st, making for a great start to the weekend.
Next was the road race, which was a 21 mile, two lap course for the Men’s D field. Our race had 60 riders, so I decided to try and stay with the front ten riders and see what happened. I’m glad I was near the front, as there were two crashes in the first lap that I was totally oblivious to. The pace during the first lap was tame, and I could sense a lot of the others growing impatient, but I was happy to save my energy and just cruise along. The second lap was where things got interesting. About 4 miles from the finish, there was a crash going up a hill (go figure…) which Dmitro and Biswaroop unfortunately got caught up in but Felix and I narrowly avoided. Someone yelled, “There’s been a crash, this our chance!” and suddenly there was complete mayhem with everyone trying to break away. Felix and I managed to pair up and we worked together to try and slowly pick off the approximately 10 riders in front of us. The end of the course featured two short hills before a downhill finish. Felix was a champion and put in a huge effort to pull me up the first hill allowing me to hurtle down the other side and catch a few more riders. By that point, there were only three people ahead of me, but I was suffering and to my dismay, there was still one more hill. I convinced myself that I was being a total wimp since this hill was nothing compared to Mount Palomar (which we had ridden up twice during winter training camp), and I went all out up the final hill and managed to pass two of the remaining three riders. I was gaining on the final rider, who turned out to be from my hometown of Toronto, but didn’t have quite enough time to catch him. Kudos to him for staying away from everybody! I came 2nd (all thanks to Felix!), Felix 5th, Tobi 12th, André 13th and Dmitro even managed to finish mid-pack despite crashing.
The criterium on Sunday was held at the Stafford Springs Motor Speedway meaning that there were no sharp corners like in a more conventional crit course. While most people were disappointed about the lack of technical corners on the course, I was secretly happy to have an easy course for my first crit. Dmitro attacked in the second lap which caused everyone at the front to panic. The pack caught him within a lap or two but he had definitely tired a bunch of people out, allowing André to win both prime laps. Then, with about fifteen minutes to go, Dmitro attacked again off the front.
This time, with a superhuman effort, he managed to stay away and the rest of the MIT riders got to practice some blocking, to the frustration of the other teams. Remarkably, the pack only caught him in the final turn of the last lap. Coming into this last corner, I was sitting in a good position, about three wheels back from the leader, but of course, had completely forgotten all of the useful tips that Coach Nicole had taught us during the sprinting clinic. I started my sprint too late, after someone else had already sprinted past me, but I managed to hang on for a second place finish, with André coming 3rd and Dmitro coming 5th. I had a fantastic first race weekend thanks to the support and encouragement of all of my teammates! I learned a lot and hope to put it to good use in the coming races.
Finally, here is a playlist of footage from the Men’s D races:
After a seemingly never-ending winter, MIT Cycling was well prepared for the frigid opening race in Philadelphia. We fielded 9 members with 3 of them being newly minted MIT racers. Although the conditions were adversarial, MIT Cycling had plenty to be happy about, with some strong performances all around, and even a smashing 1-2 victory by Jack and Biswaroop in their first collegiate race weekend.
Here is a recap of the weekend from Amy:
The first race weekend of the Extremely Cold Cycling Conference (the better-known name for the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference) began as expected – my Garmin reported that it was 25 degrees as we warmed up for the first event, the Team Time Trial. This was my first TTT with the women’s A team, so I was a bit nervous, but my nerves diminished somewhat once we discovered that we were racing unopposed. Despite being unopposed, we did not take it easy, and I quickly confirmed just how much stronger Emma and Tori are than I am! After taking a couple of turns pulling in the usual rotation, I was tiring at an unsustainable rate (and the cold air in my lungs didn’t make things any easier). So, I transitioned to “sitting in”, yelling “in” every time that Tori or Emma pulled off the front so that they would pull in front of me, and I could sit on the back and avoid the considerable extra effort of pulling. The TTT course runs along the Schuylkill river and is very flat, with only a small downhill at the beginning and uphill at the end, so there were few distractions, and I began to appreciate just how hard a TTT can be. Nonetheless, we did finally make it to that small uphill at the end, sprinted for the finish line, and, took first place! And also last place.
Our next race was the Circuit Race, which also ran along the Schuylkill river, but included an additional small hill. Turnout in my field (women’s C) was… underwhelming… to say the least. We began the race with 7 riders, but by the time we descended the small hill after 15 minutes, only 3 of us remained in the front “pack”. So, we spent the next hour TTT-ing around the course as I tried to figure out how I could beat the other two women. Because the course doubled back on itself, we could also see the other fields that were racing concurrently, so I watched Emma and Tori ride by several times. Unfortunately, my scheming was largely unfruitful. I decided to try to escape the other women on the final hill, but apparently they had the same plan! We all accelerated up the hill and around the final loop together, turned into the headwind on the finishing stretch and sprinted. Alas my legs had had just about enough at this point, and I watched sadly as the other two accelerated away from me across the finish line to take 1st and 2nd. I guess I’ll need to practice my sprinting more!
Among the other MIT racers, Tori was notable as having neither started nor finished her circuit race officially. The races had been running behind schedule but suddenly began running on time again without warning, so she raced to the start line and chased up to the group as they rounded the first corner; apparently in all of the rush the officials didn’t successfully record her as starting the race. Unfortunately she got a flat tire and so was unable to finish the race either. In his first road race, Cosmo crashed in the first corner, significantly damaging his wheel, but thankfully not himself. Other riders fared better – Emma took 4th in women’s A, and Berk took 7th in men’s B.
The criterium on Sunday was a traditional 4-corner crit around city blocks at Temple University. However, the course was made more interesting by the fact that it narrowed to a single lane for a block due to construction. This meant that riders were unable to ride three or four abreast as they would normally in a crit, and instead all of the races strung out into long single file or two-by-two lines. Of course, this was extremely important in women’s C, which had dwindled to only six riders. After riding most of the race with the same two women as on Saturday, I lost the final sprint to take second. In the men’s E race, Jack and Biswaroop raced off the front from very early on, to take 1st and 2nd by a considerable margin. In women’s A, Tori and Emma took 3rd and 4th, and Tori racked up tons of sprint points to claim the green jersey. Overall the day turned out to be much warmer and more pleasant than Saturday, and we were even briefly serenaded by a marching band whose path, unluckily for them yet amusingly for us, ran perpendicular to the crit course! As we packed into the cars and began our 6-hour drive back to Cambridge, I was already looking forward to UConn the following weekend, and hoping that more than five other C women were too!
As a team, we are looking forward to build on our successes as the top team in the ECCC in the omnium.
This year we were able to take 8 students (plus Coach Kolie) to the Collegiate Road National Championships in Grand Junction, CO. We had 4 A women: Katy Olesnavage, Anne Raymond, Tori Wuthrich, and myself (Emma Edwards), 2 A men: Justin Bandoro and Emerson Glassey, and Berk Ozturk and Youyang Zhao joined them for the Team Time Trial (TTT). All of the A-level riders did the TTT the first day (Friday), the Road Race the second day (Saturday), and the Criterium the third day (Sunday).
Most of us traveled on Wednesday, arriving at our house—a house on a farm which we booked through Airbnb—around midnight. Since we couldn’t see any of the surrounding scenery when we arrived, we were surprised with wonderful views when we woke up. We spent the morning putting our bikes together and meeting some of the animals on the farm, including two dogs and a baby goat!
That afternoon, we pre-rode the TTT course, and we were unpleasantly surprised with two obstacles: (1) the altitude, and (2) the wind! Of course, the altitude was something we had considered a little bit, but we didn’t expect it to affect it as much as it did. We really noticed a difficulty in breathing and much lower power numbers to what we were used to. We had to rely on to how we were feeling to dictate our efforts (instead of power numbers) much more than usual. We really hadn’t thought about the wind at all! It was extremely gusty, so we were being blown all over the road. This made it very difficult to pace-line efficiently but forming echelons was also difficult because of the gusty nature of the wind.
Luckily, it wasn’t quite as windy Friday morning. The gusts weren’t as strong, so we felt a little safer, but it still played a significant role, since benefits from drafting were still decreased. The TTT was about 20 miles, which is longer than any other TTT we do all year. It was an out-and-back: downhill with a head-wind on the way out and slightly uphill with a tail-wind on the way back. This combination made it very tricky to pace, and both the men and the women shed a rider soon after the turn-around. After that, it was a fight against our lungs and the wind. The men finished top-10 and the women finished second! A particularly special moment for me was standing on the podium with my teammates, next to Jen Wilson, an alumni of the MIT team who rode with the Stanford team this year as a postdoc.
We didn’t have a chance to pre-ride the road race course, but we drove it quickly on Friday afternoon. The course was absolutely stunning, with mountains surrounding us and a great mix of windy descents, hairpin steep accents, and many miles of false-flats.
Unfortunately, I didn’t actually get to ride more than 3.5 miles of the course, though, because I went down! I think what happened is that someone got nervous going around a corner on the descent and pulled on her brakes, losing traction in their tires. It results in 10 girls going down, including me. I was able to slow down a lot before I crashed into her (she went flying across the road, hence why she took out so many other girls), so I wasn’t badly hurt (just a cut on my elbow) and my bike was fine, but it was the end of my day of racing. Tori also had bad luck, with her derailleur breaking on a cattle-guard, a couple miles after my crash. She ended up on a neutral-support bike, 5 minutes behind the rest of the field by the time everything was set up and she was ready to roll. She fought hard, though, and ITT-ed the rest of the race, passing quite a few (13!!) girls on her way to the finish line, finishing 36th. Anne and Katy both did wonderfully, finishing 29th and 25th respectively, out of 61 starters (which is probably 3 x larger than our largest women’s-A race this year during the regular season). In the men’s race Emerson and Justin both did great. Emerson finished 50th out of ~120 starters! Possibly the most successful part of the day, though, was the skill shown in this picture:
Sunday was the crit in downtown Grand Junction. It was a 6 corner crit around a couple of blocks downtown. It was a really good location for a crit, and it seemed tame except for one corner, which went from quite a wide road to a narrow road, and the corner was smooth and slippery, with a manhole cover in the middle. Tori and Anne both went down on this corner throughout the race (along with many other people!) but were okay! I tried to use the fact that I had only raced 3 miles the day before to my advantage by attacking with 5 laps to go. I held a ~10 second gap for the rest of the race until the second-to-last corner (~200 meters from the end) when I was caught and passed by the group. Katy also finished with the group! Justin and Emerson had a very fast race, with the peloton (of more than 100 people!!) strung out almost the entire race.
We waited around for a while, the suspense building more and more, until they announced that we had won the D2 club omnium! Unfortunately, Justin and Berk missed the podium and the picture:
This was, without a doubt, a great team effort. We would not have been able to get this national title without every single person that went! Special thanks to Kolie for helping us get ready for races and going over strategies and things to think about for each race. I’m very sad that three of the people who went this year (Katy, Anne, and Justin) are graduating this year, but I’m already looking forward to next year so that I can make it more than 3.5 miles into the road race!