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):
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:
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.”
Women’s TTT into Oceanside
Wade and Youyang chow down on tacos in Oceanside! Nom nom nom
The team in Oceanside
Tomorrow we’ll go through the rest of the trip (Days 5-8) and wrap it up.
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:
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.
The Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference’s Cyclocross (ECCC:CX) season spans close to two months in the fall of every year: from mid-October until early December. This year’s collegiate CX calendar was very similar to the previous one: It started with two races in New Hampshire (Hanover CX and Pumpkincross), followed by HPCX in New Jersey (hasn’t been a collegiate race in a few years); then NohoCX (formerly CSI); then the Supercross Cup in Suffern, New York (with a new venue); then the Thanksgiving weekend race in Fitchburg, MA; and, finally, the Eastern Collegiate Cyclocross Championships at NBX in Warwick, RI. The only thing after that was Nationals, which took place in convenient driving distance at Riverside Park in Hartford, CT.
MIT Cycling was represented at every single one of these races; mostly with only two riders (Julie and myself), but peaking with six eager souls on the final weekend of the season. Here is a short breakdown of the highlights of the season, which was dominated by warm and dry conditions (with a few exceptions).
Late September, we welcomed some special visitors: Oliver and Claudia from Biognosys, one of our amazing sponsors, stopped by and Oliver joined me in participating in a Wednesday Night Super Prestige (WNSP) training race.
While some individual riders’ training plans may have started earlier in the year, the official kickoff for our team happened late September with two 3-hour long CX skills clinics lead by CX legend Adam Myerson (Cycle-Smart). Cyclocross newcomers and veteran riders alike learned, unlearned, relearned, and tweaked skills ranging from dis- and remounts, to efficient carrying and shouldering, to choosing lines through corners, and cleanly riding off-camber turns.
These clinics sent us well-prepared into the races: Julie, participating in the UCI/Elite races, raced herself to the top of the collegiate “Women’s A” podium in almost every single race; I competed in the collegiate “Men’s A” field for the first time and also consistently gathered points for the team (however, at a much smaller scale). Dmitro and Emma earned points on two race weekends. And Kate and Laura celebrated their CX debut with great results in the final two races.
Out of the 11 individual race days across 5.5 race weekends (Fitchburg was only a single-day event), I want to highlight two races that stood out to me:
Supercross Cup in Suffern, NY: This race took place at a new venue this year (Rockland Community College). First impression: Very wide and hilly course, with some very fast descents, a lot of off-camber sections, and lots and lots of climbing. What made this race particularly special was the weather: On Saturday we raced in dry conditions with temperatures around 70 degrees. The course, which was mostly on grass, was fast and best suited to good climbers. Sunday’s race on the other hand was on the same course, but mostly reversed – this includes the weather. The conditions couldn’t have been more different to Saturday’s: temperatures had dropped to around freezing over night and it had rained and snowed (and kept snowing lightly on and off during the day), the course very quickly turned into a crazy mud-fest. It was cold, muddy, windy, and wet – simply put: just beautiful! Due to setup of the course, completely new challenges emerged: long sections of off-camber were not rideable due to the slippery mud; lines kept disappearing in he mud from one lap to the next; lines weren’t accessible due to course tape blowing into the course; long run-ups and deep muddy straights turned into a fitness challenge. Great race! Let’s hope the venue allows the race to come back next year! Julie was able to heroically take the Collegiate Women’s A podium on both days. I ended up 15th (Sat.) and 16th (Sun.) in the Men’s A field.
NBX / ECCC:CX Easterns: As mentioned earlier, we had six racers participating in this final race weekend. In addition to the usual CX-squad, this included two CX-newcomers (but experienced MTBers), Laura and Kate, as well as two racers who attended the NohoCX race as well, Dmitro and Emma. Laura (first CX race!) and Dmitro shredded the course on their mountainbikes, passing other riders on many rooty technical sections of the course. Kate, starting from the very back (first CX race!), rode to the top of the Collegiate Women’s B podium on day one; a mechanical in the final lap of Sunday’s race moved her back to place four in Collegiate Women’s B of the day. Emma raced herself to the top of the podium in both her races. And finally, Julie earned 1st (Sat.) and 2nd (Sun.) of the Collegiate Women’s A podium.
Finally, here are the ECCC:CX omnium results of our team — after a full season of racing. First, the highlights:
1) Julie van der Hoop took the women’s A collegiate podium in the season overall; AND
2) MIT Cycling ended up 3rd in the combined omnium of this season. This is a particularly great result considering that (a) the team was represented by only two racers for most of the race calendar (with Julie accumulating the majority of the points) and (b) the top spots on the podium being taken by much larger teams with high attendance throughout the season.
Here are the overall season results for all participating riders:
Julie van der Hoop: 1st of 14 in Women’s A (11 races)
Tobias Ehrenberger: 14th of 32 in Men’s A (10 races)
Emma Edwards: 12th of 28 in Women’s B (3 races)
Dmitro Martynowych: 25th of 45 in Men’s C (3 races)
Kathryn Lawrence: 13th of 28 in Women’s B (2 races)
Laura Treers: 27th of 28 in Women’s B (2 races)
“What about Nationals?“, I hear you ask. “Incredible” is my one-word answer.
With Nationals taking place in New England’s Winter (first week of January), it was to be expected that the weather has the potential to make the races interesting. And that’s exactly what happened. Nationals took place over the course of almost a week, starting on Tuesday with open races, collegiate races on Wednesday and Thursday, some other races on Friday and Saturday, and ending on Sunday with the Elite races. While the overall course layout stayed largely the same over these six days (some sections were taken out, depending on conditions), the course surface was completely different every single day:
Heavy rain all of Tuesday quickly turned all grass on the course into slushy and wet mud. A steep downhill section became a spectator-friendly slip-and-slide extravaganza.
Wednesday morning (our race day!), the rain had stopped and temperatures had risen to close to 50 degrees; Tuesday’s wet mud had turned into deep and sticky mud that clung to every part on your bike, especially parts that you didn’t want it to stick to: pedals, rim brakes, and drive trains. Many sections became unrideable for mortals like me; yet carrying a bike weighing three times its normal weight didn’t make these sections much easier. For obvious reasons, riders having the luxury of a pit-bike switched bikes twice a lap, thereby avoiding two long muddy sections of the course by riding through the double-entrance pitand collecting a clean bike as reward for this smart choice. Due to these challenges the race organizers cut a few sections of the course during the day to avoid short 2-lap races in the later part of the day.
On Thursday, things were different again: Temperatures had dropped well below freezing and all the ruts in the muddy ground had frozen overnight. These ruts made for a bumpy ride and riders had to be careful to keep their front wheels out of trouble. Needless to say, many riders flatted, and many more were sent to the ground. On the bright side, lap times were much faster again; so previously removed sections of the course were added back in.
Friday’s conditions were similar to Thursday’s, but a bit colder.
On Saturday, snow built up on the course over the course of the day.
And Sunday, the elite riders had to battle a generally abused and frozen course, topped with ice, snow, and a bit of mud here and there.
Again, pretty much everyone had expected challenging conditions, but nobody expected that the challenges would be different ones every single day. Kudos to the organizers!
Julie’s and my race took place on Wednesday in the muddiest of conditions. After my race (43rd – mud mud mud, and challenges as described above — what more can I say?), I had my first experience being part of a pit-crew. Julie had a great start and stayed in the top 5 for the entire race. We made sure she could switch to a shiny mud-free bike every half lap and she was able to round out her career as an MIT Cycling racer by finishing fourth in her race. In the Nationals Omnium, MIT Cycling took place 14 out of 38 schools attending (bear in mind we only had two racers attending).
Finally, I want to direct you to all the pictures I (and others) took at races this season: Google Photos. For some races I even mounted my GoPro — here’s my playlist:
What now? MIT Cycl(ocross)ing will be training until the leaves start falling and the days get shorter again. Hope to see you at some races in the fall!
Alex Klotz shared his experience of the fall training camp that 23 of us went on Nov 4-6, 2016 in Lake Sunapee, NH:
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
Hey it’s Laura here, newbie MIT cycling member (I’m pretty new to the road team and especially new to mountain biking), checking in. This is my first blog post for the team where I’m going to talk about MIT’s recent ECCC mountain bike race: Sliderule Shredfest!
Back in the beginning of the summer I got an email from our captain Lucy with the subject line hey, want to run Shredfest? My initial response was something along the lines of UMMMI just bought a mountain bike like 2 weeks ago that I’m pretty terrible at riding, let alone racing, and you want me to organize MIT’s mountain bike race? But some crazy part of me ended up agreeing to take this on along with the help of Ben Eck and Lucy, and I’m so glad I did.
[PS if you want to see more photos from the race weekend (hundreds!), head to Dropbox]
After lots of organizing, paperwork, and some trail work, fast forward to race weekend—driving out Friday, walking the courses at sunset while leafblowing and taping, returning back to Zoar outdoor to set up camp and start grilling (with Ben Eck as grill master extraordinaire)! I was so grateful to have more than 20 racers and volunteers come out to support – I can’t give enough thanks. Saturday morning we packed up and headed up the mountain for the XC. This year’s course was a relatively long loop of 4.2 miles of mostly smooth singletrack, but with some pretty difficult technical sections thrown in the mix, most notably a descent on the Silver Doe trail and parts of Estranged Moose (the trail name we are still trying to decipher). Our team had a great showing, scoring tons of points in lots of different categories. Our two women’s A’s both finished strong with new freshman member Kate Lawrence in 2nd and Lucy coming in in 8th. The women’s B’s included former captain Beth Hadley, and first time racers Laura (me!) and Grace Copplestone (who ended up winning!). In the men’s Cs Carson Teale and John Rom both picked up top 10 finishes, and in the men’s Bs, PK and Matt Carney both ran into major mechanical problems, but still finished the race and picked up some points!
In the afternoon we drove back down the mountain to start the dual slalom, which consisted of a steep grassy start with a drop, some gravel/ grassy turns, followed by a long series of berms and pump track. Because it was rideable on pretty much all types of mountain bikes, lots of people decided to try it out and it made for a super fun race and great atmosphere for spectators. We had many MIT racers make it to the final rounds, and was really exciting to watch all the close finishes. After the dual slalom, the team decided to head over to the Shunpike to go sunset swimming in the Deerfield River (who needs to shower anyways?), and then headed back to Thunder Mountain parking lot for grilling, round 2 (this time, with a multi-team bonfire, music, and s’mores!).
Sunday started off with some pretty strong thunderstorms, delaying the short track an hour and making the trails really loamy and slimy. MIT women continued to kick butt, with Kate taking the win and Lucy in 5th in the women’s A’s, and Grace, Beth, and I getting 1st, 3rd, and 5th respectively in the B’s. Ben decided to don his fells loop racer jersey and give the men’s B race a go, coming in 2nd while PK also crushed it on the MITOC fatbike. Afterwards was the team relay, where a team of 3 racers took one lap of the short track course each. We were able to put together a team for both the A and B categories, and I think this race ended up being one of the best moments of the weekend. Afterwards many of us decided to ride down some of the more mellow downhill trails instead of driving down the mountain, which was a blast, and I got to experience my first “flow trail.”
Because the trails were so wet, the downhill course was changed from to a less challenging (but still pretty terrifying-looking) trail from the top of the lift. We hiked up the mountain and spread out marshals throughout the course, and watched as the riders blazed down one after another. Both Lucy and Grace did amazing trying out downhill for the first time, while Sean had a top ten finish in the men’s As. Afterwards, Ben Eck broke out the grill again and we hung out on one of the ski slopes for a while with Sully and his dog. Then it was time to head home, and I realized how kinda sad it was to leave Charlemont—the woods there are so remote and beautiful, snaking with miles and miles of amazing singletrack— and I can’t wait to get back there for Shredfest 2017!
This weekend was not only my first time racing mountain bikes, but also my first time organizing a race, my first experience with the crazy awesome mountain bike culture & race atmosphere, and for sure my funnest weekend with the team so far. And it also confirmed that I’m admittedly quite addicted to mountain biking. I won’t lie—especially as a beginner, mountain biking can be really scary, like you’re learning how to ride a bike all over again. But that’s part of what makes it an incredible sport- you try things that scare you a little bit (or a lot), and sometimes you fall and get banged up, but many times you ride things you thought were unrideable and it’s a super amazing and rewarding feeling. I’d REALLY encourage everybody to give it a shot this fall. Mountain bike season is upon us!
TL;DR: We had a great season, and we won the ECCC road championship! Look at that 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).
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
This time, I’ll focus on my top three things about the trip:
I was among friends and family: we spend a lot of time on our bikes together, and I’m happy to love the people that I race with (and oftentimes against). We stayed in a house with other ECCC racers from Dartmouth, Harvard, and Wentworth, many of whom were also teammates on Green Line Velo.
It was fantastic to travel together, cook together, hang out together, and support each other from the sidelines and at home.
My parents also came to watch; right after seeing their first cyclocross races at Canadian Nationals in October, they asked “so… when’s Asheville?” I also loved seeing so many friendly and familiar faces – the NECX has an amazing community.
Also, team dog.
I accomplished some goals. Nationals marked the culmination of my season where I’d set big goals and accomplished them. I’d set out to go race at Canadian Nationals, finish the ECCC season as the series leader, and finish top 5 at Collegiate Nationals.
Though I didn’t think I could do it at times during the race (even Richard Fries announced “Julie van der Hoop – today might not be her day”), I came back from having dropped from 4th to 9th in the second lap. With one lap to go, I was on the wheel of 5th place. I passed her over the barriers and went hard. The gap just opened from there. I crossed the finish line smiling. I saw Corey at the finish line waiting for me, gave her a hug, and cried.
I had fun. With all the goals I set this season, it was easy to forget why we do this in the first place – it’s challenging, it’s strange, and it’s just plain fun. It’s nice to be able to laugh at yourself (especially in situations likethese). The charity donut race for the iDream Athletes Foundation was a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the end of the season.
I haven’t eaten five donuts in a week in my life, let alone in 17 minutes while racing four laps of a shortened course. Corey and I, along with our Green Line Velo teammate AJ Moran, had an absolute blast. We did it for the kids, you know?
Since nationals I’ve biked zero hours and eaten zero doughnuts. I’ve had two weeks to reflect on the trip, to retire that skinsuit (thank god for new kit) and to start thinking about the upcoming ECCC road season. What goals will I set? Who will we travel with? How much fun will we have? And of course, where will we eat in Asheville at Road Nats in May? #priorities.