Category Archives: Road

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Winter training camp: Days 5 – 8

Day 5 we tackled Palomar (for the first time)! Palomar is an HC (hors categorie) climb, the toughest category of climb out there. It is 11.6 miles at 7%, about 4200 ft of elevation gain. It was the biggest climb many of us had done yet (including me!) so we had to make sure to pace ourselves. The climb itself took me 82 minutes, so I was so glad to have a Stages power meter to help pace me! We regrouped at the top and took a break, drinking cokes and replenishing salt and electrolytes we lost on the long climb.

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The women relaxing (recovering) at the top of Palomar

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Liam, Charles, PK, Quinn (and a tired Tori) happy after crushing Palomar

 

We put all of our layers on to descend the mountain, stopping a couple times to take pictures:

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Photos from the top before descending the mountain

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The road we went up and down!

Day 6 was another (much needed) rest day. Everyone enjoyed the route for the first rest day (and there were very few other “flat” options in the area), so we did that same route again. Afterwards we walked to a winery nearby our house to have lunch:

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Rest day winery for lunch

Later that night, Quinn White crafted a cycling-related trivia for us to play! The categories were “General Cycling Knowledge,” “History,” “Current events,” and “Quotes,” with ~10 questions in each category. We split up into the teams we were going to be in the following day for mock races to get pumped up and have some team bonding. Charles Wu of team “Katy’s Angels” was the clear MVP, but the game spiced up when he got a phone call in round 3 and the other teams—“The Lord of the Chain Rings” and “No Quinn, No Win”—tried to claw back. In the end it was in vain and Katy’s Angels won in a landslide victory.

 

Day 7 was mock races! We rode for ~25miles as a warmup (and to see a different area, Diamond Valley, which was pretty stunning) and then got to the 1.5-mile “race course.” We rode the course once all together and then did 3 races: the first was a normal race; for the second the top-3 finishers of the first race were not allowed to place (but could help teammates); and for the third and final race only the women could place. Charles won the first race, Wade the second, and I won the third. Charles said:

“For the first race the winners were unrestricted, which made Youyang, the strongest TTer of the group, the clear favorite. Our team devised a strategy where Dustin or Wade would mark any Youyang attacks and I would try to hang on for the sprint in the field if it came back together.  In the race, when Youyang attacked, Dustin marked and I was in the right position to sit on Dustin’s wheel and follow.  We never quite caught Youyang, but I was rested enough that I opened the sprint early and came around everyone in the last 100m to take the win!”

Wade said:

“To me, one of the most comforting things about having teammates is that the burden is not entirely on you to win. I figured that I would give these races whatever I had, and if I didn’t win, Dustin or Charles would win. It turned out that Charles and Dustin tag teamed the first mock race in spectacular fashion, placing 1st and 3rd respectively. While that was an awesome result, the rule for this race was that the top 3 of the previous race were not in contention to win. Furthermore, our team’s plan was to keep Katy fresh for the last race. Thus, I was the only one of Katy’s Angels that was in contention to win the second race. Being the team’s designated finisher made me very nervous, but knowing I still had help from my teammates was comforting. Our plan was to launch midway through the course, leading me out to the finish. The mix of adrenaline and nerves blur my memory, but I do know that the first 1/3 of the race was excruciatingly slow. I managed to maintain my position behind Charles’s wheel until the pace picked up halfway through the course. The leadout was going as planned until I saw Youyang attack. He was not in contention to win, but I made a split second decision to jump on his wheel hoping that no one else would. After quite a hard effort, Youyang sat up and it was just Berk and me 400m from the finish. I went all out and had just enough left to secure the win for Katy’s Angels by a wheel length!”

For the third race our team had a plan: I would attack, Youyang Zhao would bridge and pull me for as hard as I could go. If another team caught us, we would have Tori Wuthrich fresh in the pack, shielded by Constantine Weisser and Quinn White, to sprint for the line. Youyang and I talked before the race about what power he should put out to pull me so that I would be going all-out for a couple minutes but not get dropped. It went pretty perfectly for Youyang and me, and Tori had a great lead out and sprinted from the pack for second!

Day 8 was our final day, so we had to make it count. Laura Treers and Charles went for a 70 mile mixed-terrain adventure ride, and the rest of us set out on a 113mi ride which included another trip up Palomar. Laura wrote about their ride:

“After some very creative route planning Friday night, Charles and I had the exciting idea of an all-day backroads “adventure ride” to cap off the week.  Rolling out at 7AM on Saturday, instead of heading down towards our usual routes, we headed upwards, towards a maze of neighborhood dirt roads.  After hot air balloon encounters and navigating some pretty washed out sections, we hit a small bit of pavement and then veered onto Stanley road, a dirt path which climbed steadily through the Cahuilla Mountain wilderness. Despite the occasional deeper sand and some grueling climbs, this was probably the highlight of the ride for me.  Being so far from the beaten path, in the wake of the huge snow-capped mountains of San Jacinto was truly breathtaking, the kind of wilderness experience I’d never really had before on a bike.  After a fun technical descent of Red Mtn Road and through some neighborhoods into Hemet, we stopped for a taco lunch break and then made a detour to Diamond Valley Lake.  This part of the ride was ~10 miles of sandy & gravel bike path, filled with these awesome panoramic vistas of the lake and surrounding peaks.  We then made our way back south, making some more alternative road choices and finishing by climbing to the uppermost point in our neighborhood as the sun was coming down. Sitting there just taking in the view for a while, I was getting pretty sad that I would have to leave this amazing place the next day.  All in all, it was a pretty epic last day, the kind of ride that forces you to slow down and take it all in, and really made me appreciate just how beautiful this little piece of California is.  I think it was probably the best way I could’ve possibly ended this week that I wished would never end.”

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View from Charles and Laura’s epic adventure ride

 

Tori wrote about the other ride:

 

“On the 8th and final day of training camp, a group of us decided to end the week with a bang- a 112 mile ride with 10,000+ feet of climbing. The route featured our second time up Palomar that week. We got an early start, rolling out around 7:30, and headed towards the mountain. This time climbing Palomar, we took another road which offered different, but equally spectacular views over the long climb. When we reached the top, we were actually above the clouds! After taking a rest at the top, we began the 11 mile descent, which had lots of switchbacks- great for cornering practice. The ride back home featured more beautiful scenery with several other, smaller climbs. Despite somehow getting more flats and mechanicals than our teammates who rode 70 miles on the dirt, it was a great ride. For several people on the team, including myself, it was our first ever century, and longest ride yet by 20 miles!”

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We were above the clouds climbing up Palomar the last day!

 

And then it was back to the house to pack our bikes :(. We are all home safe and sound, and after a few rest days were ready to get back on the saddle! Of course, then a snow storm hit Boston and we haven’t been able to go outside, but it gives us motivation for our racing season which is rapidly approaching!

 

-Emma

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Winter training camp 2017: Days 1- 4

Day 1 was a bit of a shock to the system for two reasons: heat and climbing. We rode 67 miles with 7000 ft of elevation gain around the De Luz area to the west of Temecula. The scenery was stunning and it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere with very challenging, steep sections and even some “river” crossings (due to flooding from the rain):

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Tori crossing the river that formed due to rain in the area before we got there. Great shouldering!

So we were all really enjoying the ride until we realized that we were in the middle of nowhere, so there were no stores or gas stations anywhere around for water. We met a very friendly woman who let us use her hose to fill up our water bottles so that we could all make it home! Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers.

Day 2 was 73 miles, but this time “only” 5000ft of climbing. We went down south around Lilac for more stunning scenery with really beautiful descents and scenic flower farms.

Day 3 was a recovery route near the house, touring around horse tracks and wineries:

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Rest day spin

On Day 4 we went to Oceanside for TTTT (Taco Team Time Trial). We broke up into a couple different groups and practiced pace-lining and TTT commands on a wonderful, flat, straight bike path that led us in and out of Oceanside. Wade Wang wrote about the day:

“Day 4 was unique from the other days in training camp as it was predominantly downhill all the way to Oceanside and uphill all the way back. After pleasantly coasting most of the way there, we arrived at a flat rail trail, which was the perfect opportunity to get in some team time trial (TTT) practice. We further split into two groups to keep the average group size representative of a real TTT. I joined Dustin and Youyang, and the three of us managed to maintain ~40 km/h (25 mph) when in a paceline to Oceanside. It was quite refreshing to go fast on a flat after all the climbing over the last few days. Upon arriving, we treated ourselves to some delicious fish tacos on a pier overlooking the ocean. Berk took the day off to avoid injury, but drove over to Oceanside to join us at the pier. He also provided us with much needed ride food and electrolytes in addition to taking our jackets back to the house. The warm sun and refreshing breeze made it hard to leave, but having eaten our fill and taken some pictures it was time to go back home. The way back consisted of more TTT practice followed by climbing. Dustin and Youyang provided me with great company and encouragement, making the 74 km (46 mi) return trip pass quickly. Our self-control to not overeat fish tacos at Oceanside paid off on the climbs back, rewarding us with first dibs on the food in the house. It was a long but satisfying day to mark the halfway point of training camp.”

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Women’s TTT into Oceanside

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Wade and Youyang chow down on tacos in Oceanside! Nom nom nom

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The team in Oceanside

Tomorrow we’ll go through the rest of the trip (Days 5-8) and wrap it up.

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Winter training camp 2017!

Written by Emma Edwards (women’s road captain), with help from other training camp attendees. Stay tuned for more recaps in the next couple days!

We traveled to Temecula, CA for our winter training camp (just like the team did last year) for 8 days of riding in warm, sunny southern CA. I didn’t get to go last year because of my PhD qualifying exams, but training camp was one of the highlights of my first year, so I was really excited about going again this year. We had a bunch of new people this year: only 7 of the 17 people that went had been to training camp before! Przemyslaw (PK) Krol (men’s road captain) made a great video that summed up a lot of the week:

 

PK said about the week:

“9 fantastic days filled with beautiful rides, friends, shared meals, and shenanigans; It doesn’t get much better than this. This was my first time at training camp and it’s one that I’m sure I’ll remember forever. Throughout the week we got to climb a mountain(twice!), see the ocean, and eat sooo much delicious food. It was so awesome to see people do their longest rides to date (and the most climbing, too!) and smiling at the end. I’m sad training camp went by so quickly, but I’m glad to have been a part of it.”

 

Dustin Weigl said about the week:

“I’m a first year masters student so this was my first time attending training camp and was also my introduction to most of the team outside of a couple club rides that I joined in the fall.  I came on the trip not knowing most of the group but was excited to meet my teammates while getting in some good ol’ fashioned miles on two wheels.  The week definitely didn’t disappoint and I can confirm that the case of FOMO you feel yourself coming down with might be worse after reading this blog.

The week had plenty of volume and coming out from Boston made the hours outside on the bike that much sweeter.  Day 1 brought more climbing per mile than I think I’ve ever done and unfortunately my back paid for it and forced me to take time off the bike on day 2.  Of course, starting a week-long training trip with injury made me pretty nervous but luckily I was able to build my way back through my day off and the following rest day.  And for the rest of the week, the team kept checking in on me which speaks to the camaraderie the group had during the trip.  We also had the pleasure of adding a few alumni to the group and it was great to hear about everything they’ve been doing both on and off their bikes in their time since leaving MIT.

Outside of riding, we had our fair share of shenanigans at the house playing some group games, eating absurd numbers of bananas, and seeing what kinds of weird noises people make when introduced to the foam roller.  Delicious family-style dinners, a beautiful location, and seamless organization.  A HUGE thank you to PK and Emma for their hard work in organizing such a successful trip!  Overall, the trip made me excited to see what kind of firepower MIT can bring to the ECCC this spring and to meet the rest of the group.  Just a few more weeks until the first race!”

I was getting pretty worried about the weather in the weeks leading up to the trip. California was having an unusually rainy period. This was great for California to help get out of their drought, but not great for our training! There were reports of ~40-50 degrees and rainy, which was barely warmer than Boston, where it was unseasonably warm. But we absolutely lucked out and had perfect weather the entire time we were there. Highs were between 65 and 75 every day and it didn’t rain on us the entire time! Each of us racked up 523 miles with 41,172 ft of elevation gain, riding for 35hr 21min over the 8 days of riding. So many times over the week I thanked myself for going to get a bike fitting before I left. Chris Duffy (Belmont Wheelworks) did an amazing job getting me into a position I could be in for hours and hours without discomfort. (Well, without too much discomfort!)

We rented a house outside of Temecula in wine country. I was immediately very popular for picking a house that was on top of a hill so that you had to climb 800ft up to the house at the end of each day. But it did make for a beautiful setting to spend a week and a half:

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Views from the house

 

We were particularly excited about our 3 alumni who could join us: Jen Wilson, Stan Prutz, and Chase Lambert. Jen and Stan were among the 7 who had been to training camp before, so it was great having them there for their experience and advice. Stan made the team very happy when he made chocolate-chip blueberry portables. Jen, along with Anne Raymond, were part of the silver-medal winning women’s TTT team last year at nationals, so her advice on TTT-ing was particularly useful!

Since so much happened in training camp, I’m breaking this up into a couple different blog posts: Days 1-4 and Days 5-8.

 

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Fall training camp 2016: Lake Sunapee, NH

Alex Klotz shared his experience of the fall training camp that 23 of us went on Nov 4-6, 2016 in Lake Sunapee, NH:

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Last weekend I joined the MIT Cycling Club for the fall training camp near Lake Sunapee, New Hampshire. Some see this weekend as the start of training for the spring road racing season, but since I am not a student and won’t be doing much collegiate racing, I saw it more as a coda to the extended “summer” of road biking that I had been enjoying, and was also hoping to push myself a bit.

I drove up Friday with Lucy and Emerson. The team had rented out an entire bed-and-breakfast, which overall was really nice. I went for a short ride with Wade to stretch my legs and get a sense of the area, while he tried to get cell reception so he could send some texts. The roads in the area were all of pretty good quality, without many potholes and the occasional longitudinal gash. There wasn’t that much traffic, and when cars passed us they were generally courteous and gave us lots of space. Nobody honked at us all weekend 🙂

It was around freezing when we started out each day. I’m more often too warm than too cold and my general philosophy for bike clothing is “dress for the weather you want” and hope that I work hard enough to keep myself warm. A ride a few weeks ago with Berk and Liam made me realize that this was unsustainable and I went out and bought some stuff to protect myself from the cold without being too flappy. The rides were cold at first but not unbearably so, getting a little warm towards the end of the day.

On the first day I had the choice of the long, medium, and short rides, or some kind of crazy backroads adventure ride that didn’t really seem like my thing. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do medium or long, but they started on the same path so I set out with the group and resolved to choose the route when I had to. We set off towards Mt Kearsarge and the fastest few rides quickly took off ahead of us. The first part of the involved a rolling but generally upward freshly paved road for five miles towards the base of Mt Kearsarge. At this point we started to spread out, with PK and Wade getting ahead of me but remaining within eyeshot, while Liam and I passed each other a few times. I hadn’t done too much research besides glancing at the map and knowing there was a big hill, and I took it at a fairly high but sustainable effort, and then got to the gate of the mountain, at which point the slope roughly doubled, the road quality halved, and there was a sign saying it was four miles to the top. I cranked down to the lowest gear and started grinding up, as my speed fell to about 6 miles an hour (it was at this time that I decided I’d prefer the medium ride). After half an hour of alternating sitting and standing grinding, I made it to the top, which fortunately was half a mile before I was expecting it. I got a photo at the top and started to head down before I got too cold. The road was covered in leaves and cracks and was full of sharp turns, so I basically held my brakes the entire way down and hoped it would all be ok. It was. At the bottom the faster riders were about to head off and I was still recombobulating myself so I waited for everyone else to reach descend. When gravity was finished, our group consisted of Kolie, Lucy, Amy, Liam, Anne, Stan, and myself. The rest of the ride consisted of a lot of rolling hills, gradually gaining in altitude and circling Lake Sunapee. Eventually we got to cash in all our gravitational potential with a massive descent, at which point Lucy, Stan and I separated from the group and hightailed it home. I think I reached 42 mph on the final descent. bringing the total up to about 64 miles, the second longest ride of I’ve ever done. I felt a lot less dead than after my last ride of comparable length, so that’s an improvement.

On the second day, the bulk of the group went on Emma’s PRETTYDECENTRIDEIGUESS which involved climbing the main face of Kearsarge again. I went on the medium ride again, with the same group with the addition of Quinn and Oli and the subtraction of Stan. We started out going up a different face of Kearsarge, which wasn’t quite as much of a slog as the main climb the previous day. We regrouped for a snack at the top and rolled down. The road here was much better quality than the one on the other side, and also straighter, so going down wasn’t quite as terrifying and I let myself build up a bit more speed. The rest of the ride again was a lot of rolling hills and a few segments going in the opposite direction of the previous ride. There was one very large hill in the middle of it that took about 12 minutes to bike up, but annoyingly we stopped to regroup right before the end of the Strava segment so it looks like we did it super slow. This ride was about 50 miles total, and with about five or six left we had a false-alarm flat on Quinn’s bike. Lucy and Oli had gone ahead, and we started rolling again and immediately Kolie’s derailleur catastrophically removed itself from his bike and the world of functioning bike parts. I sprinted ahead to catch Loli and told them what happened. They decided to sprint home so Lucy could come pick up Kolie by car, while I turned back to tell the rest of the group. I climbed back up the hill that they had stopped on top of, to find out that a passing pickup truck had given Kolie a ride. Anne texted Lucy telling her not to get Kolie, and we headed back to the house.

Both rides were really nice and my body and bike were mostly functioning adequately. I’m a little regretful that I didn’t try to ride with the faster group, but I’m also glad I didn’t wreck myself going at 100% for six hours or get dropped in the middle of nowhere. All in all it was a really fun weekend and it was a really nice area for biking. I’m currently on a work trip to Singapore and when I get back it’ll be almost December and summer might be over, and this was a great way to end the season.

 

Edit: PK made a video compilation of Training Camp – check it out on Youtube: https://youtu.be/66mNAZaT31M

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ECCC Road Season 2015-2016 Wrap-up

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

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With the trophy!

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

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

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

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

Layered up at the start
Layered up at the start

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MIT women lead the way
MIT women lead the way

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

Charles

Safety First!
Safety First!

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

Seven go to Shippensburg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom

Celebrating at Rita's
Celebrating at Rita’s
Oliver with his bike Friday in Solvang

Alumni Feature: Oliver Seikel returns to Solvang for cycling

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

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

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

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

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

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Day 4 of Training Camp: Palomar

By Sumit Dutta

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

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Youyang, Phil, and Tom atop Palomar

Safe Cycling in the City

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

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

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

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

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

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A club ride narrative with Strava Labs

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

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

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