Category Archives: Training

Winter Training Camp: Tucson edition!

At the end of January, our racing team traveled to sunny Tucson AZ for a week of training and spending time together as a team. Tucson is a new destination for our team, but renowned in the cycling world for smooth roads, good weather, and of course Mount Lemmon, a >7,000 foot climb only a couple of miles from downtown Tucson.

the team rocks the hi-vis jackets at Sabino Canyon

We were excited to have a number of new teammates join us for the week! Nick Arango tells us about his experience on Day 1:

“How many snacks can I stuff into a jersey? Nothing about the day one winter training camp route should have been daunting, but my newness to the team, the terrain, and the the large increase in total time on the bike of the week ahead amplified the first day’s modest mileage and elevation gain. Full jersey pockets, filled nervously not practically, prepared a little too early gave extra time for apprehension.

serene view over Saguaro West

The appeal of cycling for me is bound up in the gestalt experience of riding in a bunch; the melding of persons into a rolling mass. And so, with the conversational spin of many bodies attempting to warm, riding through the city and the U of A campus to Gates Pass, it was easy to leave the individual apprehension behind and ride as the group. Houses gave way hills, conversation thinned, and a snap broke the collective as a hard effort up the first short, ten minute climb of the trip stretched the bunch into hard working individuals. Regrouping at the Gates Pass overlook gave us all a view of the week ahead: desert shrubs, cacti, and mountains all around. Feeling good both working as an individual and in giving myself over as a group, the morning anxiety fell away.

A quick, steep descent down the other side of the pass gave a portent of what the reverse of this section would feel like, but that actual experience was reserved for a later day. The descent led us into the heart of Saguaro National Park. It was hard to not imitate their poses, and so a stop at the park’s west visitors center after an hour and a half of riding gave good opportunity to stretch out the arms like the cacti all around us.

One more gradual rise proved to be a vehicle for working out the group’s first day energy as Berk and Dustin took the front and slowly lifted the pace. With eagerness covering my morning’s nerves, the slowly lifting pace slid by me unnoticed until it was over. The relaxed return gave good opportunity to consider what would be a sustainable effort for the week on the whole, but without the anxiety of uncertainty. Back at the house, after unpacking the extra uneaten snacks from still overfull jersey pockets, the new environment and high volume of the upcoming week looked achievable.”

Riding towards Mt Lemmon
The start of the Lemmon climb!
made it to the Cookie Cabin!

On Day 5, we “recovered” from the Mount Lemmon experience with some team time trial practice rolling along the east portion of the beautiful Saguaro National Park. Julie tells us more about discovering the joys of the TTT:

“The morning after our Mt. Lemmon ride, I woke up sore and nervous for the 60 mile ride and team time trial practice that awaited me. I had very little experience doing a TTT, but the idea of going all out for 12 miles on fatigued legs seemed grueling. Halfway through our ride we gathered in groups for the TTT practice. The 6 women at WTC decided to break the course into 3 segments of 4 miles. For the first segment, we would all ride together, and for the remaining sections we would split up into two groups. I expressed my concerns of being a weaker cyclist and how I did not want to hold back the team, but I was assured that each person has an important role in getting the group to the finish line whether they spend most of the ride pulling or drafting. Joanna and Sarah described the TTT as a seamless, consistent effort and gave us helpful tips before we started. Soon after, we clipped in and assembled into our pace line. As we accelerated, I concentrated on maintaining the recommended half wheel’s distance between me and the rider in front. A couple minutes into riding, our group got into a rhythm and we were all moving in-sync rotating in and out of the paceline. When I hit the front of the pack, I felt the wind resistance push against me. I glanced at my Garmin and focused on maintaining my speed for thirty seconds before I flicked my elbow, moved to the side, and merged back into the pace line. I could hear my breathing ease as I received the draft from the wheel in front of me. After a couple hard efforts, Joanna told us that we were almost done and needed to do our last pull. Even though I felt drained, I knew I could give a final push. I was surprised by how much I learned from the 12 mile stretch and found the TTT practice enjoyable and helpful.

Berk, Miles and Lee demonstrating perfect TTT form

After the TTT practice, we continued up to Colossal Cave where we met up with the rest of the team who also seemed wiped out from the hard effort. We got a chance to eat some snacks and enjoy the beautiful dessert scenery before continuing on a chill ride back home. For me, the TTT was one of the highlights of WTC because I loved coming together with my teammates and putting together a collective effort. I am even more excited to translate this practice into race season.”

taking a break post-TTT practice at Colossal Cave

Finally, Berk regales us with some tales from the last day of training camp:

“Everyone knows that best things come in threes. The three course meal. The primary colors. Lord of the Rings. Harry, Ron and Hermione. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…

But most importantly, WTC Day 8. One ride to rule them all, to offer a trifecta of adventure of the like few of us had experienced before. We would have a last hurrah in Arizona where we would rub elbows with fellow racers at the super fast Shootout Ride, then climb to the top of Madera Canyon, and then ride the mellow gravel path through Box Canyon.

The Shootout ride meets near University of Arizona campus, which was only a few miles from the house. About half of us decided to participate in the group ride, and another half to follow soon after. The temperatures were low enough that most of us were bundled in every warm item of kit we had brought as we waited for a small group to form (many others had chosen a local race instead). We rolled out on time at 7:30AM, and started getting out of the city. After a while, I got over my initial fear and started getting somewhat excited to be riding in a large pack again. So much so that once I got to the front, one of the locals had to tell me to cool my jets until the official start, at the intersection with Valencia Rd.

After that things got hot pretty quick. Literally. We had dressed for a cold winter morning cruise, whereas more clever folks had put on lighter layers in anticipation of what was to come. A few minutes from the start it was clear that people were eager to rip each others’ legs off. I suddenly found myself in the unpleasant situation of trying to pull my gloves and legwarmers off while riding in the red, cruising in excess of 24mph with a 1-2% grade.

After some savage attacks and chases, the front group came back together, and I was happy to see Jeremy, Guillaume and Dustin still in the group as we approached the final hill sprint. Frankly, I was pretty shot from my efforts in/near the front and pulled the plug when I realized I would not be contesting for the win, but I was proud of all of us for making it until the end. The Shootout definitely met expectations. It was hard and fast, but also safe and friendly, a difficult combination to achieve during group rides. Also, a shout-out to Davis and Gerard, whom we met at the Shootout and rode with during different parts of the rest of the ride.

After a nice cruise to shake out the legs and a very long coffee stop to regroup, we started the Madera Canyon Climb. The beginning was scenic with a surprising amount of green. Some folks were braver than I, and tested their legs one last time while I cruised at a steady pace with Jeremy, chatting and snacking along the way. That is until the last few pitches, which were in excess of 15%, but hey, we had enough energy to stare at our stems for a little while longer.

My favorite part was the Box Canyon gravel climb. My legs were feeling a bit like pool noodles after the Madera Canyon climb and descent, but they soon regained feeling as I got excited to go off the asphalt onto gravel. The unmaintained winding road through the canyon was smooth at parts, and a gnarly washboard at others, but beautiful views and the thrill of dirt were constant. This time Dustin was happy to cruise with me while enjoying the sights. We stopped to take some pictures along the way. There were moments of hilarity when we realized we had no traction standing still and could not get back on our bikes afterwards. But eventually the pitch would relent ever-so-slightly, allowing us to continue to spin our way up.

gravel crew!

We regrouped once gravel turned to pavement, said goodbye to the ATVers and the cows, and started the 35+ miles of descent back to the house. It was ripping fast and mostly easy, with a nice gas station stop to stock up on water and Sour Patch Kids, but of course, I flatted once again 25mi from home (a torn sidewall fixed with the ever useful dollar bill). Dustin and I let the rest of our group go, and cruised back in a two-man paceline.

The last day of WTC is always an epic, and this tres leches of adventure definitely was the highlight of my week. I want to give a special shoutout to our road captains Jeremy and Sarah, who took MIT Cycling to Arizona for the first time, planned everything from scratch, made every ride a blast, and kept everyone happy and safe.  Our alumni also deserve a special mention, taking time out of their busy schedules to share some special memories with us and contribute to the team spirit. Catching up with now-alumni friends is a really amazing part of WTC, and it was special to ride with Dustin, Amy and Stan again.”

Joanna and Amy rockin’ the stars and stripes!!

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We are so grateful to have had a wonderful (and safe!) training camp experience,  growing individually in strength and riding ability, as well as growing together as a team. Next up – race season in just a few weeks!

go team!

Fall Training Camp 2019

On November 2nd and 3rd the MIT Cycling team held our annual Fall Training Camp. The destination this year was Pittsfield, MA, an excellent staging point for rides throughout the Berkshires and Western Massachusetts. We had an amazing weekend of riding and team socializing under deep blue skies and crisp New England fall temperatures. We also happily welcomed several new riders onto the MIT cycling scene.

First up, Djuna gives her recap of the weekend:

“When the moment came around to get on our bikes and head out on Saturday morning from our house in Pittsfield for the first day of fall training camp, I had no idea what was awaiting me – I hadn’t properly been introduced to Strava yet and don’t own a Garmin so while the rest of the team was studiously pouring over the routes, I was nervously biting my lip – Hoping my excellent drafting skills would save me. I joined Sarah, Ethan, Julie, and Bola, opting for the shortest route. The first few miles were smooth enough (apart from a short break to hunt for an eyeglass lens that had popped out of Bola’s glasses on the first hill) – until we reached the climb everyone had been talking about: Mount Greylock. Having not reviewed the route, I had no idea that we were about to climb the highest point in MA. The first few minutes uphill were the worst – it suddenly became painfully clear how little I had trained this past month. My legs ached as I struggled to get to the top of the climb. Being from the north of Germany (where climbs of this caliber are non-existent), I had never experienced an extended period uphill on the bike and I was sure the worst would soon be over. However, taking a turn, just as the incline steepened to an almost unbearable grade, I was faced with the horrible realization that the climb had not yet ended! Very much to the contrary, the pavement snaked its way uphill around the mountain and disappeared into the trees. It was too late to turn around and my teammates were far ahead of me. Determined to not fall behind, I tried to keep the pace even and settle into the rhythm of (slowly) turning the crank. As I climbed higher, beautiful views of the valley emerged towards my left and icicles decorated the steep incline of trees to my right, and, as the sun emerged near the end of the climb, I began to truly treasure and enjoy the monumental task of getting up this mountain. Reunited with my group at the summit, the pain felt rewarding – and suddenly I understood why cyclists are so obsessed with climbs!

Erik, Jeremy, Jack, Nic and Guillaume take in the views from the summit of Mount Greylock, the highest point in Massachusetts

Little did I know that my least favorite part of this endeavor would be the 20 minute descent, where icy winds made it painfully clear that I should have packed an extra windbreaker. At the very least, my desire to get down as quickly as possible helped me overcome my fear of taking curves fast! Much to my delight, we spent the next hour following the cold descent huddled around coffee mugs in a cafe at the base of the mountain. Feeling horribly cold and absolutely dreading the way back home, I had an idea. In the cafe restroom, I removed my thermal base layers and sat huddled under the hand dryer, enjoying the warmth and drying my clothes one-by-one. Feeling very smug and smart (but also slightly too ashamed to tell my teammates why I had taken so long – I figured; only weak cyclists sit under hand dryers), I exited the cafe ready to brave the way back home.

Berk and Lee pose with their new friend, the Golden Elk, at Whitcomb Summit

On Day 2 on Sunday, a thin layer of fog hung over the valley, making everything feel fall-like and cozy and all-around perfect for another ride. Jeremy, who had completed the monumental 100 mile ride with Erik, and co. the day before, led us on a 50 mile group ride, and, impressively, stuck it out at the front for the majority of the ride. I, on the other hand, desperately clung to his wheel and later to Carolyn’s, as I tried to keep up. It was a stunning ride that took us up another beautiful climb – more cyclocross than road, through a forest and along a stream that snaked its way up the mountain. The descent was perfect, as if the street had been paved over just for fall training camp! After a little extended cyclocross adventure as we left the main road to find the town of Lee, we reached asphalt again and made it to another well-deserved coffee stop. Having not learnt from the previous day to bring an extra base layer, I sat with my teammates, shivering, and dreading the cold outside, wondering ‘why do we this again?’ It’s an easy-enough question to answer: Pushing my limits with a group of people as cool and diverse as this team, makes every tough moment on the bike entirely worth it. Thanks guys, for welcoming me into the family – It’s been a blast already and I look forward to many more hard rides!”

Carolyn works her way up the Beartown Mountain climb on Day 2 of FTC

Next, Miles relives the high and lows of two intense days of riding:

“On Saturday morning, I found myself with Erik, Guillaume, Jack, Jeremy and Nic about to embark on a 170km ride with 3100m of climbing. Despite having topped up my glycogen supplies the night before with a Halloween candy binge, I was still apprehensive. With Erik having recently won the Mount Washington hill climb, Guillaume adamantly sticking to a strict regimen of 3+ hour trainer rides and Nic crowned GrubHub’s best bike courier, I felt slightly out of my depth. But, being a beautiful sunny day and my last FTC before graduation, I had to give it a go!

Ten kilometers in, we hit our first and biggest climb of the day: Mount Greylock. As became the routine for the multiple climbs through the day, Guillaume and Erik would shoot off ahead, seemingly filled with helium, while the rest of us, more evenly matched, duked it out for third place. It was unspoken knowledge that every climb was, of course, a race. Being treated to some amazing views throughout the climb, spirits were high at the top of Greylock despite the ensuing descent in sub-zero temperatures that quickly turned us into ice cubes.

Nic, Miles, Guillaume, Erik, Jeremy and Jack on the summit of Greylock on Day 1

The remainder of the ride was a mixture of incredible descents and long upward slogs. A highlight was the descent of Petersburg pass, which was perhaps was the most fun I have ever had descending in the Northeast. The low point of my ride was encountering the aptly named “Berlin Wall”. Halfway up, my mind decided that enough was enough and the 80km and 1500m of climbing that remained in the ride did not bear thinking about. Luckily, a second wind, spurred by the rapid consumption of a bottle of Mountain Dew, soon hit and the rest of the ride was quite enjoyable. After flatting with 8km to go, we all made it home thoroughly exhausted (at least I was) just as the sun was setting.

On Sunday, a group of us set out to do the long ride for the day, which Jeremy promised might have some “secret dirt”. I was hoping for a slightly more relaxing day but that hope soon evaporated with attacks flying at the base of the first climb. Following a cheerful discussion about the differences between professional and amateur bike racers, the majority of the group decided to opt for a shorter route home, leaving me, Guillaume, Sarah and Nic to press onwards along the long route.

Nic, Sarah, and Guillaume explore some secret dirt in October Mountain State Forest on Day 2

One hundred kilometers in, rather cold and tired, we found ourselves in the heart of the October Mountain State Forest. We were on a rough “track” which, in my exhausted mind, was certainly not the fun secret dirt we had been promised. Instead, for kilometers we were dodging massive holes, chunky rocks, and even active logging machinery. Finally, we reached a junction where the route instructed us to go straight. However, a foreboding rickety sign warned of “Rough road ahead for 8 miles”. As we were stopped to plan an alternate escape route, a massive 4×4 off-roading truck bumped its way up the track. The man driving, laughing at our pathetically skinny tires, confirmed our suspicions that continuing straight would not be advisable. Instead, he gave us directions to the nearest paved road which we eventually found but not before passing a camp of dirt bikers, howling in laughter at the sight of lycra-clad road cyclists traveling through this wilderness.

Miles, still with enough energy to force a smile, takes a selfie with the adventure ride gang

By the time we reached pavement I was done, with no second wind on the horizon. For the remaining hour, I desperately clung to Sarah, Guillaume and Nic’s wheels, progressively sinking into a deeper bonk. Thankfully Guillaume, who appeared more rested than at the start of the ride, had the energy to pull us all home. Upon finally reaching the car, I spent the next 15 minutes silently eating handfuls upon handfuls of M&Ms until I finally had enough energy to drive us to a recovery meal at Five Guys.

Thanks to Jeremy and Sarah for organizing a fantastic training camp and to everyone for being such great riding buddies. I’m looking forward to doing it all over again at Winter Training Camp!”

Six Gaps 2019

On the final weekend of July, an incredible 14 riders packed up for two nights and one crazy day of riding in Vermont. The Six Gaps ride, a route going up and over Middlebury, Lincoln, Appalachian, Roxbury, Rochester and Brandon Gaps in the Green Mountains has become something of an annual MIT masochist tradition. Nothing brings a group together quite like a marathon day in the saddle covering over 130 miles and climbing more than 11,000 feet. Even with a few inevitable mechanicals, everyone completed the ride! Many thanks to Dmitro for organizing this year’s trip! We hope to be back next year (after most of us have had plenty of time to forget about the suffering).

Miles uses his wingspan to capture all the smiles before we headed out in the morning

Carolyn explains how she found herself joining the ride:

“This insane adventure began in a now-familiar fashion: with a gentle nudge from Amy: 

I had heard legends of six gaps rides from years past, and was appropriately intimidated. I had done Eastern Ave reps and swapped out my cassette for an 11-34, but I still wasn’t sure it was enough. Even though I had done rides that were this long before, I knew that the elevation was the real challenge. 
The ride certainly delivered. We hit the famed Lincoln Gap second, and morale was high even as I struggled with every ounce of strength to turn my pedals over as the grade hit 20+%. However, gaps three and four were not much easier, and I felt my spirit starting to break. I cheered myself up by purchasing a toothbrush and toothpaste at the next gas station along with the requisite soda and candy bar (I don’t think I’d ever consumed this much sugar in a single day, and my teeth felt awful). From there, we had just two more gaps to go, and suddenly the end felt within reach. All in all, this was a crazy adventure with an amazing group of teammates. Thanks for the push Amy!”
One of many, many country store refueling pit stops
Trevor reflects on the countless highs and lows of the day:

“I’ve never really ridden bikes much; at least, nothing that wasn’t a beach cruiser or a mountain bike. Even since joining the team 9 months ago I wouldn’t exactly nominate myself as “proficient” in any aspect of riding a bike. So when the call for the 6-gaps ride came out–135 miles and 12000 ft of climbing—I of course decided it would be well-measured decision. To prepare, I followed a rigorous regiment of 2-3 rides per week, totaling around 90 miles each week and amassed a total of approximately 2000ft of climbing in my last 3 months of riding. The picture of health, thoroughly trained, and stubborn as a stick in the mud I entered the week with full faith that these mountains would be but speed bumps in my path.

Regrouping at the top of Middlebury Gap, our first of the day when most of us still felt fresh

On 6:30am Saturday, we set off and beaming with confidence, I rattled my way with the rest of the crew down the second half of the Brandon descent. One hour and one Middlebury Gap later, I was inclined to believe my training program was more than enough; my legs only throbbed with 7/10 intensity, and I had managed to keep in touch with the group all the way up the hill. This feeling of success however was shattered, along with most of my will, on the second half of Lincoln Gap which I attacked with full intensity simply to avoid a prolonged track-stand practice or a nature hike up the hill. Gasping for air at the top, jersey open, sweat pouring out, water bottles empty I boldly declared to myself that I was ⅓ down, ⅓ to go. The rest of the day (another 8 hours) laid ahead and to make a long story short, over the rest of the ride I:

  • Ate at least 12 bars of the Clif or Nature Valley variety
  • Drank about 3 gallons ( I think) of poorly mixed Gatorade
  • Fell hard into some rocks on Baby gap
  • Bonked on App gap
  • Made full use of my disk brakes on descents
  • Ate 80% of a loaf of bread generously donated by Amy
  • Sat on the group’s wheel for about 20 miles
  • Got aggressively saddle-sore at mile 90
  • Bonked on Rochester
  • Bonked, recovered, then Bonked again on Brandon
  • Stood up all the way down Brandon because my ass and my legs hurt 
Joanna and Amy power their way up App Gap

All in all, 6 gaps was an incredibly awesome, tiring, and humbling experience. It certainly cemented my love for (type 2 and 3) fun and also my appreciation for being able to be part of an awesome team of people that make even the most painful experiences fun. Looking forward to some more extended “#coffee rides” with the team for the foreseeable future”.

Recuperating at the top of Roxbury Gap, a tough climb on our fourth pass of the day with two more to go
Meia describes her day:

“Six Gaps was a wonderful mix of Type 1 and Type II fun – although mostly Type 1 thanks to the amazing group of people I had the pleasure to complete it with (see https://www.rei.com/blog/climb/fun-scale for a great explanation)! Climbing gaps sucked – and by that I mean I wheel-sucked Tobi up all of them, who wins the award for the most consistent rider. Lincoln really put me to the test – it was by far the steepest road I’ve ever been on. I zigzagged my way up so slowly my Garmin auto-paused on me (sad reacts only). I really thought I was going to puke coming to the end of the climb; but I’m happy to have made it up in one piece, and without walking! For better or for worse, I am now much more comfortable biking on the left side of the road. On other Type 1 fun notes, our group made uncountable country store stops, zoomed down the descents, pacelined the flat sections as a big family, cooked an amazing dinner with real food (not straight sugar!), stargazed in the evening, and some of us even hopped in the pond adjacent our Airbnb for a refreshing cool-off! Despite intense suffering (or perhaps because of it), this is definitely a highlight of my summer”.

 

Nic cheers on Lee as he rips up the final climb of Rochester Gap

Michael offers his take:

“From the moment I learned of the *experience* that is Six Gaps, I was all in. Some people need to have the latest iPhone or watch the latest Marvel movie. I needed to ride Six Gaps. And boy, it did not fail to live up to the hype. I must have experienced the full spectrum of human emotions on that ride, from the despair of climbing up the 24% grade on the Lincoln Gap to the exhilarating chase to catch the fast group on Brandon Gap. At some point along the Roxbury Gap when the road shot up towards the heavens, the morale got so bad that I considered hopping (or rather, falling) off my bike and calling an Uber back to the house…but then realized how expensive that ride would cost (and the logistical nightmare that would entail) and resigned myself to finish the ride. It had been a long time since I’ve had to dig this deep and I feel as if some dormant part of me was awakened by this experience. Looking back, I’m glad I didn’t call that Uber (or was it because I had no signal? I forget…) because the sense of accomplishment, the endless stories and friendships built from that ordeal are things I will cherish for a lifetime”.

Swapping stories from the day over a delicious and well-earned home cooked dinner

 

Winter Training Camp: Days 5-8

After tackling Palomar on day 4, there was little rest for the weary! Dmitro writes about day 5:

“On day 5 of training camp it was time for the TTT practice, and the much anticipated mock race (the Kool Katz were itching to redeem ourselves after our dismal performance during trivia night, and I was waiting to break out my skinsuit – because “aero is everything”). We started the day riding some beautiful roads that we had enjoyed early in the week during a recovery ride. The road rolled through farmland, affording some spectacular views – we then dropped down off of the mountain and into the valley where the “flat” road we would practice TTTing on was located.

We were eight on the day, four men and four women, so we split into a men’s team and women’s team and set off. I was riding with collegiate ITT national champion Erik, the incredibly strong and full of boundless energy Berk, and the massive diesel engine most call “Miles” – needless to say my legs were getting ripped off from the start. We did two practice 10 min TTs, and by the end I was absolutely toasted, I had used everything I had in the legs – but I wouldn’t have traded it for good legs for the rest of camp. There is something special that happens during a TTT; massive speeds, teammates working in harmony, and smooth and seamless conservation and economy of motion. When it all comes together it’s a beautiful thing. While we were far from having it come perfectly together, we still were able to tap into a little of that feel and that magic.

Taking a break between Team Time Trial (TTT) efforts to strategize.

After the TTT practice we decided to forgo the mock races; a number of mechanicals and people deciding to take rest days meant that our numbers were pretty limited and honestly I think we were all a little beat. We hammered one last climb and then rolled back to the house together chatting, laughing and generally having a good time.”

Day 6 was another much-needed recovery day! We went for a 15 mile ride in the morning to loosen up our legs, and then hunkered down inside for the rainy afternoon. Despite the weather, we did manage to dash outside for a team photo (see above!). Sarah describes day 7:

“Ever since I’d seen the 109-mile ride in the schedule for WTC, I’d been afraid. Not only was this a ride at the end of many days of hard riding, not only did it include 11000 ft of climbing, this would be the longest ride I had ever done. Making it through the previous rides at WTC boosted my confidence a bit, but the night before I also knew that my body was fatigued from the 300+ miles we’d ridden in the previous few days. A small part of me was tempted to take the “easy” option skipping part of the main climb and doing “only” 90 miles, but I wanted to take on the challenge and be a part of the entire team making it through this crazy ride.

Ready to roll out for the century!

After a filling breakfast, my group headed out, enjoying a lengthy ~35 mile downhill section with some fun speedy descents. There was a brief relatively flat section, then we started the 35 mile climb that would make up the middle chunk of the ride. After zipping along at 20+ mph, it was hard to not feel frustrated by the <10 mph slower pace climbing up the hills. The sun was beating down, and I quickly began to overheat. We were only 10 or so miles into the climb, and less than half way done with the ride – to feel so challenged at this point really started to get me down. However, a brief pause to de-layer, drink some water and eat some sugary food (PopTarts for the winning ride snack!) made all the difference, and the next 10 miles flew by. As we took a quick break at mile 66, the weather started to cool and clouds started to roll in. We rolled out, eager to attack the last part of this climb by summiting Mount Laguna, this time from the paved road side.

Lee and I were pacing ourselves and feeling pretty good about the smooth pavement, consistent grade, quiet road, and beautiful views, when I glanced down and noticed that my front tire was looking awful squished out at the bottom. We both pulled over and confirmed that I must have a small leak leading to the low tire pressure. We swapped out the tube, doing our best to both check the tire and rim but without finding the cause of the leak. Reinvigorated by the small break, we pushed the pace on the next part of the hill, but a few miles later I noticed my front tire was squished out again! A second stop, a second check of the tire and wheel, a second tube swap – and at a higher elevation, I was starting to get pretty cold. Amy and Dmitro came back down from the summit to keep me company, and we all hurried up to the top to meet the group and start the descent (and get back to the house before dark!).

I love descending, so was jamming on the way down drafting off of Dmitro, when I went over a bump and heard a “POP!” and knew my front tire had flatted again. At this point I was super cold and super frustrated, as I’m sure my group members were as well – but everyone was nothing but positive and helpful as we did a third swap of the tube (and my biceps were so thankful that Stan had a CO2 cartridge!). The last 20 miles were chilly, foggy, and dark, but it was such a high to make it to the house at the end and know that, with the physical and mental help of my MIT teammates, we had conquered an incredible ride. The ultimate cherry-on-top to the ride experience was definitely relaxing in the hot tub, and then eating delicious homemade pizza for dinner. All in all, even with the frustrating flats this was the perfect way to cap off an amazing Winter Training Camp!”

Faced with a suboptimal weather forecast on day 8, many of us opted to stay indoors, or to go for a hike. However, a few of us could not be deterred from riding on our last day in California! Tori recounts the day:

“On the last day of training camp, four of us (Stan, Amy, Miles, and I), packed up the minivan with our bikes, and drove into the desert in an effort to avoid the rain that was forecasted to hit Santa Ysabel and the surrounding area. We parked the van at Agua Caliente Park, and set out towards Ocotillo. In terms of the amount of climbing per distance traveled, this was by far the flattest ride of training camp, with only 2500 feet over 50 miles, and we pacelined the whole way to Ocotillo. The ride offered vast views of the desert and mountains, and it was fun to be in such a remote and beautiful area that had minimal car traffic.

Pacelining in the desert!

The turnaround featured an unexpected cyclocross adventure, where in an effort to make the route more “interesting”, Amy had planned a small square loop that turned out to contain a road that was made entirely of sand. Stan and Miles had conveniently missed this final turn, and enjoyed watching Amy and I pathetically struggle to ride through the sand. After a brief stop in the booming metropolis of Ocotillo*, we headed back the way we came, getting rained on only very briefly. Our final ride in California was a great way to cap off a very challenging and fun week of training.

* Ocotillo, with a population of 266, is technically not a town, and rather a “census-designated place””

Ocotillo!

Winter Training Camp 2019: Days 1-4

For this year’s winter training camp,  the team headed to Santa Ysabel, CA for 8 days of fabulous riding! This post has accounts and pictures from days 1-4 and the next post will cover days 5-8.

Remembering how to assemble our bikes upon arrival.

On day 1, we had intended to have a relatively easy ride to start off the trip, but vicious winds made it harder than most of us had bargained for. Here’s Lee’s account of the ride:

“It was still dark outside when I woke up the first morning in Santa Ysabel. This was my first WTC with the team, and today would be the first day of riding. The last couple of days I had been feeling a bit nervous. I knew I would be doing more riding in the next week than I had ever come close to doing in such a short space of time before, and my main hope going into training camp was just to last until the end of the week. But as the sun came up that morning, any lingering apprehension immediately gave way to excitement. After months of being stuck inside on the trainer, I’d finally be riding outside again. And with the forecast that day calling for temperatures in the 70s, I had none of the layering-related anxieties that are normally a fixture of my winter riding routine. All I would need were bib shorts and a short sleeve jersey, and I’d be ready to go.

Since nearly everyone’s sleep schedules were still stuck on East Coast time, we had no problem getting ready to roll out at 8 in the morning. The weather that morning was perfect, with hardly a cloud in the sky, and the first 35 miles of the ride flew by. We put in several intense efforts on the intermittent flats and hills, but we were mostly helped along by gravity on the first part of the ride, descending 3,500 ft over those first 35 miles and averaging 23 mph. When we stopped at mile 35, it was hard to believe we were already more than halfway through the ride. Realizing that I had not eaten yet, I went to work on the food that I had stuffed into my jersey pockets before leaving the house that morning. Unfortunately I made the mistake of eating based on the mileage we had ridden rather than on my actual level of exertion, and since coasting downhill doesn’t burn many calories, I ended up overeating by quite a bit. I’d later regret it. I knew we were being helped along by gravity on the first part of our loop, but I didn’t realize at the time that we were also being pushed on by a very generous tailwind. As we reached the outermost point of our loop and turned back toward Santa Ysabel, the tailwind that I failed to notice earlier turned into a nasty headwind, and the challenge of climbing 3,500 ft back to the house, which I was previously looking forward to, suddenly became a daunting task.

Miles and Liam cruising along one of the long downhill stretches.

The ride back to the house that day was the most difficult stretch of riding I’ve ever done on a bike. My most vivid memories from the ride back are struggling for the longest time to reach 6 mph up a 5% gradient due to the wind, feeling nauseous the whole way after having eaten way too much food at our mile 35 stop, and suffering a sudden leg cramp so severe that I had to get off the bike and stretch before I could even clip my right leg back into my bike, let alone pedal with the leg. The group had also split up in the second half of the ride, so I was riding on my own for most of that time. With about 10 miles to go I saw that Amy had stopped on the side of the road, and I pulled over too. Sarah joined us a short while later, and having gotten some much-needed rest and having found some much-needed company, the three of us rode the final 10 miles back to the house together.

When we finally arrived back at the house, I didn’t feel the relief I was expecting to feel the whole time I was struggling back. I felt even more nauseated after getting off the bike than I did on it, and my right leg was still killing me. (Thankfully both the nausea and the cramping were gone by the next morning, and neither returned at all that week.) But now when I reflect on that first day of WTC, I realize that it is just as inextricable from my overall WTC experience as every other day that week would become. Just as I would later in the week do my biggest climb ever, and on a different day that week do my longest ride ever, in the return trip on that first day I did the most difficult stretch of riding that I have ever done in my life. Even if my personal suffering was all I could think about during the ride, what I now remember most from that first day was having my teammates there with me when I needed them. Beginning with the last 10 miles of that first ride, which I’m certain I could not have done alone, my teammates were there for me throughout the week to help me get through the rough times, and to make the good times even better. Thanks to them, the week of WTC has been by far the best experience I’ve had in grad school, and I’m already looking forward to doing it again next year.”

On day 2, we tackled our first HC climb of the trip, ‘Kitchen Creek’. Here’s what Joanna had to say about the ride:

“After remembering how to corner and descend on Day 1 of WTC, we hit the hills hard on Day 2 with 82 miles and 8,400 feet of climbing. The route took us over two lengthy climbs: Engineers Road and Kitchen Creek Road. We all clipped in with ambitious goals for Kitchen Creek, our first HC of training camp, and it seemed like everyone was planning to take it easy until mile 45 of the ride when we would hit the base of the 11 mile Kitchen Creek climb. Those plans were shattered once we turned onto Pine Hills Rd in Julian, into a beautiful sweeping descent shaded by beautiful trees and vistas into the canyon below. Once we hit Engineers Road, Tori and I (along with most of the team, it seemed) decided to push the pace up the 25 minute climb. It felt great to climb in warm weather, on shaded roads, and without traffic but I burned a few too many matches keeping up with Tori. We rolled along into Pine Valley, where everyone scarfed down some calories and I inhaled a few snickers bars to prepare for Kitchen Creek.
Amy and Emma making their way up Kitchen Creek (which is car-free!).
The initial turn onto Kitchen Creek brought us into direct sunlight and intense heat. Adding insult to injury, we had the slightest tailwind which mimicked having no wind at all for our long slog up the 11 mile climb. I was determined not to ride all the way to the top of Laguna Mountain alone and hung onto Amy and Emma for the first few miles of the climb, realizing that my typical 60 min of Z2 wasn’t enough of a ’training plan’ to keep up with the MIT women. However, halfway up Kitchen Creek we had to dismount to cross a gate, sending us onto a section of the climb with a gorgeous unmaintained road and tons of turns. This section was amazing and totally brought me back into focus about why I came on training camp, and why I love to ride my bike. The second wind I had here helped me contribute to the team effort of Amy, Emma, and myself snaking our way up the mountain. At mile 8, we were met with another gate to lift our bikes up and over, along with Dustin and Liam who took a break to finish the climb with us (yes, MIT cycling has a lot of team camaraderie!). In this final section of the climb we ascended into pine forests and at this point I really perked up about reaching the top of Kitchen Creek and went full speed ahead to the Laguna Mountain Lodge and Store for more snickers bars. Regrouping as a team at the top of Laguna Mountain, everyone looked exhausted and sunburnt from an hour twisting our way up in the midday sun. Luckily the final 25 miles of the ride allowed for leisurely descents overlooking the desert to our East. I appreciated all the amazing geology on this section of the ride — taking in all the granite pegmatites and keeping an eye out for some faults in the road cuts — and took a break from using those climbing legs. Upon arriving back at the team HQ in Santa Ysabel, I devoured an absolute feast of a snack and agreed with everyone else that it was time for a rest day.
A well earned rest stop at the top of Kitchen Creek, the highest point on our trip at 6000ft.
Day 2 of WTC challenged my fitness and mental resilience, but really affirmed my decision to come to WTC and race with MIT cycling. Even at the most challenging sections of Kitchen Creek, Amy and Emma were there to help me out or amp me up. It doesn’t get much better than getting to ride your bike all day with friends who will pull you up mountains!”

 

After two hard days of riding, it was time for a recovery day! We had milkshakes for breakfast…

and fit in plenty of stretching!

On day 4 we tackled Mount Palomar! Those of us who had done it before all wanted to beat our previous times and there was definitely some apprehension in the air as we set out. Here’s Guillaume’s account of the ride:

 

“For our fourth day, we aimed at tackling Mt Palomar. I’ve never heard about it but just by hearing everyone talking about it, I assumed it was a big deal. As usual we left at 8, and the first part of the ride was almost only descents (and some downhill climbing as we call it). It obviously felt very easy, so when Palomar’s gradients started kicking in I felt fresher than I actually was, and ended up burning matches too quickly. The ascent was gorgeous and partially shaded, which sadly, was not really enough to make this climb easy. At the top, we spent a decent amount of time hanging out around the general store to refill the batteries and enjoy the sun. The descent was probably the most spectacular and fun of the entire training camp (especially the view on the lake). Unfortunately, this is the moment when we faced our first derailleur cable snap of the trip, as a result, Sarah had to wait for for a car to pick her up at the bottom of the last climb.”
Our hard work paid off, as we were rewarded with spectacular views at the top of Palomar.
Looking forward to the way down!

Stay tuned for days 5-8!

FTC Day 2 – Escaping to Wachusett

On day 2 of fall training camp, we hoped that the snow would’ve melted so that we could ride around Killington, but it was not meant to be. In fact, the driveway was so slippery that we had to bust out the shovels to get the cars out of the driveway! Instead, we decided to drive to Mount Wachusett, where the riding weather was meant to be better.

Thanks Amy and Tori for shoveling!

Although it was still wet and pretty chilly, Wachusett was snow free and everyone was excited to ride outside (especially those who had elected to ride on the trainers the day before).

Bundling up before heading out.

Here are Carolyn and Nic’s accounts of Sunday’s ride.

Carolyn:

“The biggest takeaway from FTC weekend is that Mother Nature is no match for the logistical prowess of Amy and Miles. Wintery mix was still coming down on Sunday morning, but Miles had personally guaranteed nice riding on Sunday. Luckily the road captains had a plan B up their sleeves, so we piled into the cars and drove two hours south to western Mass.

The new plan was to ride up Mt Wachusett, and then continue on through the rolling hills of western Mass. My original thought was to ride the longer route (75 miles) but after being dropped by the speedy group just five miles in, I started to reevaluate. Irene and I ground our way up Wachusett solo. At the top, I ate an entire bag of sour peach gummies and felt immediately both better and worse. We were happy to see the medium group summit a few minutes later. I ate half a pop tart for good measure (thanks Jon!).

It was cold up at the top, so once we regrouped we quickly descended. The last 35 miles of riding were harder than I expected, as even the small rolling hills felt tough on my post-Wachusett legs. I really appreciated the veterans’ commitment to making sure none of the newer riders were left behind (thanks Miles and Daniel!) This has been a theme on every MIT ride I’ve been on. Overall, it was a fantastic weekend – huge thanks to everyone who helped make it happen.”

Fueling before tackling Wachusett.

Nic:

“As Google Maps swallowed my last crumb of data to announce the final mile of Sunday’s ride, I was struggling. Not for fitness, though there had been plenty of that when Jon wasn’t so charitably positioned into the wind ahead. Rather, I was struggling to control a brewing irritation; irritation with the road grit periodically thrown up in my eyes, irritation with the insurgency a chugged Coke was starting in my stomach and, most of all, irritation with the cheerily mechanical voice announcing I still had a mile left of all of it.

I’m sure the voice meant well. To be fair, it could hardly have known that so far during the weekend I’d enjoyed 1 ejection out of both Saturday’s pace line and my fitness fantasies, 2 surprise appointments with the tarmac and a combined 4 hours of sleep. And yet despite my drops, crashes and insomnia, and despite my growing unease (Coke-related and otherwise), writing now a week later I can confirm it wasn’t just dehydration talking when I concluded, fully swathed on Sunday night, that FTC 2018 was the single most enjoyable weekend of my time at MIT. 

Sunday’s ride alone provided fodder for months’ worth of nostalgic gazes out of windows; Neosha’s savage solo effort up Mt Wachusett; Tony’s self-described gladiatorial ITT to catch up after an ill-timed helmet adjustment; Daniel’s investigations into just how many watts can be dissipated through sound and Carolyn’s clinical recall of high school bio, to name but a few. But more than any single memory, what remains from the weekend for me is the feeling of camaraderie and congeniality that filled the house we stayed in, the cars we drove and any Dunkin we pulled up to. This was a feeling to melt the sharpest sleet, to warm even a hot-tub-less night and, hopefully, to numb the worst pain any ECCC course dare offer.”

Quiet roads and fall colors!

Despite the sub-optimal weather, everyone had a fun weekend of riding and bonding together and it was great to see so many new riders come out for the weekend!

FTC Day 1 – Braving the Snow

This year for fall training camp, we headed to Killington, Vermont. Miles and I had planned some challenging routes, including climbing up Mt. Ascutney and to the top of the Okemo Ski Resort! Unfortunately, snowy conditions presented a different set of challenges.

On Saturday, instead of riding the planned routes, we split into three groups. One group stayed at the house and used the outdoor porch to get in some quality trainer workouts. A second group headed for lower ground, hoping to escape the worst of the weather, while a third embraced the snow, tackling Vermont Overland, one of the hardest gravel rides in Vermont! Here are Jeremy and Pat’s accounts from their Saturday rides.

Jeremy:

“I was really excited for fall training camp. Zipping along winding country roads in rural Vermont past old farmhouses and rolling hills of autumn foliage on a crisp and clear morning? Nothing better. Then the Nor’easter came. Turns out Killington, a ski resort, is not the best place for road cycling when the first winter storm of the season rolls through. Everyone was frantically scanning the forecast in the days leading up to the weekend, but once every weather site stubbornly refused to budge away from 3-5 inches of mixed snow and freezing rain on Saturday, our road captains, Amy and Miles knew an alternate plan was needed. Their solution was to drive before dawn to a lower elevation where the temperature would still be near-freezing, but at least it would be raining and not snowing.

Determined to make the most of the trip, we found ourselves bundled up for a near-arctic adventure at just past 7am in the parking lot of the Price Chopper outlet grocery in West Rutland, Vermont. The weather, at least initially, proved more cooperative than expected. After a no-warmup, no-nonsense climb to start the ride we found ourselves hurriedly removing layers. I had an awesome time pushing an aggressive pace with Miles, Tori, and Jon, even as the wind picked up and the clouds grew darker. I couldn’t help but thinking that those who opted to stay behind for a day on the trainer had definitely made the wrong choice. After a 40 mile loop (complete with requisite bucolic Vermont countryside vistas), three of us decided to push our luck for another short time trial loop. That’s when the weather truly turned nasty and we returned to the car an hour later, thoroughly cold, wet, and definitely done for the day.

Enjoying the Vermont scenery before the precipitation begins in earnest.

Little did we know, the adventure was not over yet. A seemingly innocuous hot chocolate stop at Dunkin’ Donuts on the way back to the house proved to be our undoing. The small delay synchronized our drive back into the high country perfectly with the peak of the day’s snowstorm. We felt confident that Miles, a well-seasoned winter driver, would get us home safe, but the comical inadequacy of our two-wheel drive Nissan Sentra proved the dominant factor. After stalling on a steep incline less than a mile from home, Tori and I had to get out of the car (still in wet gear and cycling shoes) to push the car up and over the hump. We returned to the house smiling and laughing triumphantly, but thoroughly exhausted. It’s good to know I’ve found a group of friends just as crazy as me.”

Happy to have made it up the hill!

Pat:

“It all started with a friendly enough e-mail from Berk a week out from Fall Training Camp: “Vermont is famous for dirt. Yes, you heard right. Not craft beer, not maple syrup, and not skiing or outdoorsy things. Dirt.” Then something about tires, vertical feet, and shoes you can walk in. But for Berk’s two takers, he had us at “dirt”.

As the team arrived in Killington (along with the tail-end of hurricane Wilma), the talk was all about weather. Amy and Miles were huddled around 2 laptops and 5 different weather sites trying to find roads below the snow line. But, for Berk, Daniel, and Pat, we wanted to be in the snow and on the gravel. Who would choose pavement and 35 degree rain over Vermont gravel and snow. Plus we got to sleep in an extra hour, who cares about beating the storm? Bring it on.

Morning arrived, with at least one of us too excited to have slept all that well. It was perfect outside. We crammed down some calories and drove to the start of the Vermont Overland course. The drive was beautiful, classic Vermont. And just a few snow flurries. We turned onto our first gravel road, drove a few miles and debated where to park. We opted not to park in a pasture, deciding even the small chance of getting towed was too high. We found a spot out of the way on the shoulder, threw hand-warmers in our gloves and we were off.

The first two hours were quintessential Vermont gravel riding. Steep climbs. Rolling, swooping descents. Cows grazing and horses running in their pastures. Farm houses overlooking valleys that still held some golden colors. All of this maybe giving us energy to ride maybe harder than we should.

The MIT Overland crew.

And we were treated to what they call Vermont pave, with sections with names from the Tour of Flanders. The turn up the Vermont Koppenberg was one you’d never notice if you weren’t looking for it. It was barely an abandoned road, and covered in inches of loose leaves. Up we went on sections like this, again and again. And loving it. Some of these ATV roads seemed mostly used to keep the networks of maple taps up and running.

Vermont countryside!

Somewhere around hour three, the weather turned. The friendly flurries changed to excruciating ice pellets. And from then on, the weather alternated between sleet, snow, rain, and ice – often all four at once. Oh, that is why the other group got up so early. Now the roads were covered in an inch of slush. We let air out of our tires for grip, but our pace slowed to a crawl. Our shoes slowly filled with water, we hammered climbs to warm up.

Snow begins to accumulate.

By hour four, we were all cratering. We were dreading the pave sections with their round stones covered in wet leaves and snow. There were crashes. Brand new brake pads worn completely from the wet grit and steep descents. Berk grabbed his levers so hard that his cables pulled out of his canti-brake straddles – front AND rear.

Amazingly, spirits stayed high the entire ride, even as the misery and crashed energy levels piled on. Even when, at mile 40, our GPS told us to go straight but the sign said “Dead End 0.8 miles”. It was a great day of riding that I don’t think any of us will forget. The joy and beauty of those early miles, the suffering of the later miles, and the joy of reaching the end. Something all riders can relate to.

Stats: 42.5 miles, average temperature = 29F, low 27F, and 6,381′ of climbing.”

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

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.

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.