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Bringing an army to Army

I (Emma) have missed the Army Spring Classic the last two years, so I was super excited to do it this year! It’s a relatively close race and famously well-run, so we had TWENTY-SEVEN people come out to race!!! It was the largest crowd we’ve seen all year!

We had the “usual” three events this weekend (Team Time Trial, Road Race, and Crit). We were super excited about the TTT’s because we had teams for every category except one! And we were even more excited when 6 teams got 1st and the other 2 teams got 2nd in their categories!! It was an awesome way to start out the weekend; we were feeling optimistic about the rest of the races.

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Women’s A TTT squad after the TTT, with all of our aero helmets! Photo: Charlie Nodus

We have three race reports from this weekend: one from me, one from Charles Wu (2nd year grad) and one from Laura Treers (3rd year undergrad).

First, Charles comments on all three of his events:

On the TTT:

Simple course, downhill then uphill along the same road, this was a real pacing test.  Go too hard on the downhill, and you have no energy for the climb back up.  We had two C teams, Charles/Charlie/Wade and Brian/Daniel/Ethan.  Our first priority was to beat the rest of the schools, and our second priority was to beat the other MIT C team J We went out hard into the headwind and started slowly reeling in the team in front on the downhill portion.  After we made the U-turn, we hammered uphill and eventually passed at least 2 or 3 teams before the finish (which means we gained 30-90 seconds on each of them).  After the finish, one of the Pitt riders said something to the effect of “Nice job, you made us look silly”.  We won the race!

 

On the RR:

This was a really fast course, huge downhill followed by ~12-13min uphill, a rolling middle section, and an uphill finish.  We were hitting almost 50mph on the descent (very scary).  The C field was, like last weekend, oddly calm, and almost nothing happened the first two laps except for Berk dropping his chain and chasing back on. On the last lap, Quinn and Brian set a searing pace uphill which dropped me off the back. I rode for a bit in no-man’s land until Wade caught up to me (he had dropped his chain earlier too) and we had some TTT practice, eventually rolling in 25th and 26th.  Up the road, the race ended in a bunch sprint, where Charlie got 4th, Berk 7th, and Quinn 9th.

 

On the crit:

The Army crit course is a weird triangle shape, with a little big-ring hill right after the finish line, a >90 degree corner leading into a back straight, and a fast sweeping right into a short (100m) finish straight.  Luckily, I had experience racing it last year and already knew the passing points (no one wants to push up the bumpy af right side on the back straight, so you can make up positions easily).  The race started and almost immediately, Berk was away on the attack.  He stayed away for most of the race and at one point had almost 20 seconds on the field, winning 2 primes.  But he was eventually reeled in (through some miscommunication, MIT chased too much, d’oh). The field started to yo-yo in pace and this caused some minor crashes.  I tried to move up as best I could, and after some recovery time, Berk hit the front with me second wheel.  We rode at a high pace for a few laps, and no one had time to attack due to Berk’s crushing sprint leadout.  Finally, on the last lap Army tried to launch a two-man attack, but their leadout guy crashed at the top of the hill, flipping over the curb right in front of me and almost taking me out.  I lost a bunch of places immediately, but held on the back straight and final sprint for 5th, rueing what might have been.  Quinn (7th), Berk (11th), Brian(13th), and Wade(14th) all finished top 20 in a great MIT showing.

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Berk during his ~15 minute solo breakaway, Photo: PK

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Charles in the pack. Photo: PK

 

On the rest of the weekend:

What a turnout! 27 riders and a lot of hanging out/banter/eating snacks in the sunshine. We all but swept the TTT categories, and Kate and Emma won a race each, both in sprint finishes!

And here is Laura’s race report from her crit:

Sunday lived up to the legends of the glorious Army Crit course.  Featuring a long straightaway right next to the Hudson River, a punchy climb, and two quite technical corners, it might just be the funnest crit course I’ve ever done.  I was super excited to have two other MIT women racing with me in the Women’s D field.  For Amy and Amanda, it was both of their first crits, so we were all a little nervous going into it, but did some initial strategizing in hopes of all staying at the front of the pack.  Right off the gun Amanda sprinted to the front and started hammering, stringing out the field from the very beginning.  Amy stayed within the front 5 riders the entire time, while Amanda moved around in the pack quite a bit, staging some attacks up the punchy hill to keep things interesting.  I ended up “yoyo-ing” off the back more than I wanted, so with ~10 minutes to go I used the straightaway to pass most of the field and grab onto Amanda’s wheel for the rest of the race.  Because we were going soo hard the whole time, the field had really broken up, leaving only around 8 riders in the main field by the end.  The last lap was especially fast, and ended in a sprint to the finish, with Amy in 2nd, and Amanda and I in 4th and 5th, respectively.  I couldn’t have been happier with how the race went, and also soo proud of my teammates for totally crushing it in their first crits.  This was sadly my last collegiate race on the road this year, and I think a perfect ending. Already getting stoked for next season 🙂

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Women’s D squad ready for the RR to start! Photo: PK

Here is mine from my victory (!) at the women’s A crit on Sunday:

I never thought I would be writing about winning a women’s A crit because I am not a great sprinter, especially in large packs (I get pretty nervous!). But this year two of the three crits we’ve done have included small breakaways. I must say that I’ve enjoyed crits MUCH more when it’s just 2 or 3 other girls cornering with me! 🙂

This time, the break went about halfway into the race, with Dani (conference leader, Brown), and Liz (Army). After 5-10 minutes of pushing, I asked people from MIT who were spectating for the gap, and the next time around they said it was only 15 seconds. So we kept the pace high, and seemingly magically the gap grew and grew. I found out afterwards that this was not magic– this was teamwork!! Tori and Anne did an AMAZING job blocking the rest of the pack. I really don’t think we would have been able to stay away if they hadn’t been there, and I appreciate their help SO much.

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Tori and Anne controlling the women’s A/B pack to enable my breakaway to stay away! Photo: Wade Wang

Unfortunately, with about 6 laps to go Liz took one of the corners too wide and hit a guard rail (it was padded and she was okay other than some road rash), so it was then just Dani and me. We worked together until the last lap.  In a head-to-head sprint, Dani would beat me every time. She has an incredible sprint! So knowing that, I stayed on her wheel for the last lap to try to tire her out. Coming out of the last corner she was close to the left hand side of the road, so I went to her right. I put my head down and sprinted as hard as I could and I barely edged her out! It was an amazing feeling, and it meant so much more when I found out how much Anne and Tori had done to help me!

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Hardest I have ever sprinted! Photo: Wade Wang

This coming weekend is ECCC championships hosted by RISD and Brown. We have another large group coming since it’s so close!

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Shippensburg Scurry 2017

The Shippensburg Scurry is one of the farthest races we will go to this year, but it was well worth the seven hour drive! The weekend started with the campus criterium on Saturday, followed by the only hill climb of the season in the afternoon and was rounded out by the Horse Killer Road Race on Sunday. Ten racers came out this weekend to represent MIT, which is great considering the driving distance to get to Shippensburg! And this was our first weekend with good weather this season, which made all of us very happy.

 

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Men’s C squad!

Out of the ten that made it, five (including me) were in the Men’s C category. We were all very excited to try out some team tactics and see what we could do to our field! The criterium’s main features consisted of two wide and fast corners and a kicker of a climb leading into the finish, so it was a past-paced race. Most of the pack stuck together up until the second to last lap, which made this crit totally different than the last at Penn State. As a team we did great! I was able to snag 1st in the first two primes and Berk got 2nd in the third prime. Throughout the race, Berk was very aggressive and was testing the field with attacks throughout. Coming into the last lap, Quinn was able to secure his spot in a break of 4 while the rest of us were near the front of the pack. In the end, Quinn held on to come in at 4th, Charles came 8th, I came 9th, Wade came 10th, and Berk came in at 15th.

The mass-start hill climb turned out to be a very interesting race. We had time to drive the course before the race and we took that opportunity to check it out and come up with a plan. Charles volunteered to put in a hard effort at the beginning and keep the pace high to catch the other teams off guard. All five of us started in the first line, and thus Charles was able to attack with an 1000W sprint right as the race started. This kept the pace fast and some people were getting shelled off the back before the real climb had even started. It was a tough 23 minute climb for me, but about halfway through, Wade caught up to me and gave me the inspiration I needed to keep pushing hard to the end(Thanks, Wade!!). Berk secured 2nd place and Quinn came close behind at 6th while Wade and I came in at 14th and 15th. After his valiant effort at the beginning, Charles decided to enjoy the scenery at an endurance pace and still managed to come in at 33rd out of 40, which just goes to show how much pain he caused everyone at the beginning (woo, go Charles!).

For us the Horse Killer Road Race was 46 miles long and consisted of a short loop followed by two loops that included the climb up Horse Killer Road, which has a 0.9 mile long climb at an average 8% grade ( within this 0.9miles is a 0.4 mile segment at an average 13% grade). This race was oddly calm for the C field, with only one attempted break away in the first lap, one or two attacks in the second lap, and a very slow pace for the first half of the 3rd lap, right up until Horse Killer Road. Quinn had his third strong finish of the weekend, coming in 5th. Berk was close behind in 8th and I managed to get 13th. The highlight of this race for me definitely has to be during the 2nd lap. Berk, Quinn, and I found ourselves shoulder-to-shoulder at the very front of the pack. Wade was right behind us and decided to attack by finding space to the right of Quinn and just as he passed, Charles slotted in next to Quinn. I wish someone could have taken a picture of this blockade we set up. Sadly Wade’s attack only lasted for about 2 miles because the frustrated riders behind us dangerously crossed over the double yellow centerline to get around us and led the chase to catch Wade.

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Pinning pictures are consistently amazing.

Overall, it was an extremely fun weekend, with lots of shenanigans in the down time while watching our teammates race. As far as racing going, our team had a hugely successful weekend as Emma, Katy, and Tori crushed it in the Women’s A field and Constantin and Shikhar doing well in the Men’s E field. We are currently leading the overall standings and plan to keep our spot at the top this upcoming weekend at the Army Spring Classic, where we will have 27 riders representing MIT!! (No, that is not a typo, 27 people are coming to Army. It is going to be awesome!!)

-PK

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Nittany Classic 2017 Race Reports

Penn State (aka the Nittany Classic) is a favorite race each year for the MIT cyclists. The famous “Black Mo” climb is the biggest hill we face in the conference (putting our California training camp to good use!), and the crit is fast and fun, located around Frat Court. This year we had 11 people make the drive to State College, PA, including 3 new racers!

We have 3 race reports this week: one from Dustin Weigl (1st year grad), a joint one from Katy Olesnavage (5th year grad) and I (Emma Edwards, 3rd year grad), and one from Laura Treers (3rd year undergrad).

 

From Dustin:

This weekend was my first time racing with the team and I had the chance to start in my first road race with a great squad in Men’s C. With a huge 5 mile climb up Black Moshannon Mountain at the end of both laps I went in with an open mind hoping the team could find a way to work together to put some time into the field. When we got to the climb on the first lap I found myself at the front with nobody else willing to lead so I decided to just put in a consistent effort to see how things went. At the top, I found myself in a group with MIT teammate Charlie Nodus and 2 NYU riders with a sizeable gap on the next group. Unfortunately, one of the NYU riders crashed out on the descent into the second lap and we were left with a group of 3. We got organized and kept up a good pace back to the bottom of the climb and the moto let us know we had about 4 minutes on the next riders. About about a mile into the climb, the NYU rider surged and I went with him with Charlie holding a steady pace a little behind. About halfway up I felt some sharp pain in my back that I’ve struggled with in the past so I lightened up, and sadly watched the NYU rider ride away up the hill. Charlie had kept within shouting distance and cruised past me to secure 2nd place and a rider from UVM passed me with later with about half a mile to go.

I was of course disappointed to miss out on the podium after leading most of the race but I’m happy I played it safe and know what I have to work on looking towards the rest of the road season. I was also surprised and honored when the team awarded me the most aggressive rider jersey that night so not all was lost! It was incredible to watch MIT riders finishing high in the standings in every category this weekend and I’m excited to see what happens in the upcoming races!

 

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Dustin winning the aggressive rider’s jersey!

I also must add that Dustin went on to get 2nd in the crit the next day, despite his back issues, just barely losing in the sprint!

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Quinn, Dustin, and PK in the crit. Photo: Aaron Huang

In the women’s A road race, we had Katy, Tori Wuthrich (4th year undergrad), and myself. Here is a race report from Katy and I, who somehow managed to get 1st and 2nd in the road race in A’s (2nd and 3rd in A/B)!

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Katy, Emma, and Tori before the road race. Photo: Aaron Huang

We were nervous but excited going into the road race. We knew it was going to be very hard, but we were excited and anxious to see how our winter training would pay off. The race started with a big descent and a couple of punchy short climbs. After some pretty hard efforts and a minor crash in the field, suddenly we were in a group of only 10 girls going into the big climb on the first lap. The first climb up Black Mo really strung us out. At the top, Katy and I were in a strong group of five women, including conference leader and friend of the team Dani Morshead from Brown University chasing the two leaders, an A racer and an exceptionally strong B racer, who had managed to put a 1:30 gap between us and them. We tried to work together to reel them back in, but they held a steady lead on us. We still kept the pace high, popping riders off our group one by one. By the second climb up Black Mo, Katy and I were the last riders left chasing the two leaders.  As a Moto official passed, he pointed out a racer up the road and told us that she was the A racer who had been off the front, and that there was only a 30 second gap between us and her. Our hearts sank a bit because we knew we had to at least try to catch her. With our legs and lungs burning, we took turns getting second winds and encouraging the other to keep it up. We used the flat (well, rollers actually) at the top of Black Mo to work together and passed her 2k from the finish. We accelerated to make sure she didn’t catch our wheel and kept pushing until the line. Through the magic of Strava flybys, you can watch how it all played out below!

From Laura:

I have to say that the Penn State weekend was amazing, not just for me but for the team as a whole. Everyone did so well in their races, and overall just had a really fun time.  This was my first road race of the season, and I was pretty excited/nervous/unsure of how I would do within the Women’s D field.  The Saturday road race started with a big descent, where everyone stayed together, and then on the smaller climbs that followed the field started to break up a bit.  A few riders went off the front and I followed, pretty amazed to actually find myself in a breakaway group!  The race ended with a totally epic 5-mile climb up Black Moshannon, which was very challenging but tons of fun.  Everyone seemed to split up on the long climb, and I finished the race solo into 4th place, my first ever top-5 finish!

Since my legs were pretty fried after the road race, I didn’t think the crit on Sunday would go very well for me, but I managed to sprint out right at the start and maintained a good position at the front of the field.  Around the last 10 minutes of the race, two riders got away from the front of the pack who I wasn’t able to chase down, but I sat in for the last few laps and was able to sprint ahead at the very end to come in third!  Overall, I think I surprised myself this weekend with what I was capable of, and was also constantly impressed by the strength and skill of my teammates in all of their races.  I’ve definitely caught the bike racing bug, and I can’t wait until next weekend!

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Laura in the crit! Photo: Aaron Huang

And that’s it for this weekend! We just found out that the Dartmouth/ UVM weekend has been cancelled due to bad weather, so our next race will the the Shippensburg Scurry.

-Emma and PK

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Philly Phlyer – Starting the season off right!

The first race weekend of the ECCC Road season has now quickly come and gone (and we are already filling our competition with fear by getting some awesome results!). Our team had a great showing, with 15 riders coming out, 6 of whom were racing road for the first time! Even though it was a bit cold and rainy, everyone was excited and eager to get out on the roads and race the TTT and Circuit Race! Without further ado, here are recaps from Berk and Liam:

“This is Berk writing! I am a first-year graduate student in the MIT AeroAstro department, and it is my first year racing with MIT Cycling. The Philly Phlyer was my first bike race ever, so I felt it would be a shame if I didn’t document the experience with a blog post!

It was finally time for all of the winter training to pay off. I had no idea what was coming for me in the road race, so I kept focused on doing well in the TTT, the first event of Saturday morning, and hoped that the road race afterwards would take care of itself. The conditions were rather gnarly that morning; there was a decent amount of snow cover, and there were snowploughs clearing the course less than 30 minutes before the first race. This meant wet and cold conditions, conditions that would usually mean being on the trainer at home. The crit the next morning had already been cancelled the night before, which was unfortunate, but not the worst news for a green rider like me.

I was nervous racing in the Men’s A TTT for my first race ever, but also really excited. Justin, Wade, Quinn and I had not had any decent weather in Boston to practice beforehand, so we did a short run of the course to feel it out. I definitely felt a little better after we pushed the pace for a few minutes and practiced our pulls.

I was amped when we pulled up to the line. It was great to have Justin, the most experienced rider in the bunch and an awesome TTer, set the pace from the beginning. I was perhaps a little too excited, because I was finding that my pulls were a little too hard, and my turns a little ambitious right off the bat. Unfortunately, we couldn’t keep Wade with us, but Justin, Quinn and I maintained a strong pace until the finish. We missed second place by 2 seconds, which was frustrating considering that any one of the easily-avoidable time losses we had could have secured us the better spot. But you live and learn, and I think we were all satisfied with the effort we put into the pedals.

Unfortunately, there was only about an hour of respite between the Men’s A TTT and the Men’s C RR, so I had to use my recovery time very efficiently. That is exactly when things starting going downhill. After a short cooldown on the trainer and some food, about 20 mins before the race, I realized that I had taken a little piece of metal in the rear tire. Oh no.

Suddenly my mind was on overdrive. I quickly swapped an inner tube, put some more food down, attached my number on my jersey, filled my bottles, and rushed to the line. I was the very last rider to pull up, shivering, wet, and definitely not in the best place mentally. Not a good way to start my first road race.

For the road race, my goal was to stick near the front, no matter what. I didn’t want to miss out on the action, and wanted to gauge the strength of the field. Since the MIT C field is deep (there was Charles, Quinn, PK, Ethan, Wade and I that morning), I figured we could make something happen in the front.

It was fast. I didn’t mind, since I was cold and could use some warming up. Far from being efficient, I decided that I would chase every single breakaway down. I found being aggressive in the front to be thrilling; Quinn and I even tried to break away towards the beginning of the second of four laps, but we were absorbed quickly. On the same lap, on a 180-degree turn, I narrowly avoided a crash after some (MIT) rider in front of me (who know who you are 😉 I love you very much anyways) lost their line and I took evasive action by sliding into a snow bank. I watched the entire pack blow by me, and had to put in a big uphill chase to get back up to the front. I soon realized I was burning through my matches very quickly, and to break away from this pack would be almost impossible anyways.

The race alternated between tons of freewheeling on the flats, and the occasional furious chase. The pack stayed together until the last lap, where the first of two small climbs ripped the group apart. Charles and I managed to stick in the front, and hoped for a final attack on the second climb. But unfortunately, neither of us had saved enough energy, and we started to fall through the front group on the final climb. It all ended in a bunch sprint, where Charles and I placed 11th and 10th respectively. (Observe the very happy but cold-and-grimy post-race picture below!) I was proud to have gotten my first points for MIT Cycling, and was happy to survive the horrible conditions with no more than a trainer flat and a runny nose.

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The race was a great learning experience for me, a veritable trial-by-fire. I learned a lot about teamwork, the value of preparation, and the importance of efficient racing. I am no stranger to putting my head down and suffering (I did break my FTP record in the TTT, which was awesome), but the tactics of road racing are still new to me. I’m glad to have had such an awesome team around me, teaching me the ropes, being the reassuring voices while we are redlining in the TTT, sharing their warm ramen post-race, pigging out on infinite salad during the team dinner, getting pulled over by irritated police with too much time in NJ, and nearly avoiding a horrible car crash on the Mass Pike. (Yeah, those didn’t make it into the blog post.) I am looking forward to many awesome in and out of the saddle adventures with y’all! I also want to give a shoutout to the MIT Women’s teams for crushing it in great style (picture below), and schooling aspiring riders like me on racing. You are an inspiration to us all!

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But for now, Berk out. See y’all in l’Enfer du Nord! [So wait, if you win, are you the King in the North? 😉 ]”

Liam wrote:

“Road racing season is finally here! It’s hard to believe that training camp was nearly two months ago, and the excitement was palpable among the team as the Philly Phlyer – our first race weekend — approached. At long last, after months of conversations about watts and kilos, leg hair and Zwift, and Pop-Tarts and gear ratios, we would get to defend the ECCC road championship title.

Despite an ominous forecast and the cancellation of Sunday’s crit due to weather, fifteen of us made the drive to Philadelphia on Friday afternoon. I drove with Ethan, and quickly learned the first of the weekend’s many lessons: it’s really important to leave early! The drive was long, and our 11 pm arrival was certainly not ideal for the 5:30 AM wake-up the next morning.

Saturday kicked off with the TTT, which – despite the cold, wet, and muddy course – went excellently for the team. First up was the Men’s C team, featuring PK, Charles, and Ethan, who put in a terrific effort to come in second place. Dmitro and I followed as the Men’s D team. Enduring a steady stream of muddy, salty water kicking up from our wheels, we drafted our way into a fourth place finish. I absolutely loved every second of it – all of our time spent TTT’ing on Mystic Lake Parkway and in California had paid off! Behind us were Amanda and Georgia, the Women’s C TTT, who won their race. Not a bad first race for Amanda!

The Men’s A TTT, with Berk, Justin, Wade, and Quinn, powered its way to a third place finish, just two seconds off of the second place team. Meanwhile, the Women’s A TTT – Katy, Kate, Anne, and Tori – won their race to bring home over 100 points for the team.

After a quick bite to eat and warm-up session, the Men’s C and D racers headed down to the line for the start of our races. The C racers – Quinn, PK, Charles, Ethan, Wade, and Berk – comprised nearly 1/7th of the field, which they used to their advantage in a thrilling race. Berk and Quinn chased attack after attack, bridging between groups to keep MIT in the lead pack. Charles, meanwhile, shrewdly limited his watts by hopping from wheel to wheel, drafting our opponents to stick with the leaders. With PK and Quinn blocking, Berk and Charles sprinted their ways to 10th and 11th place finishes, respectively.

Dmitro and I started after the C racers in what would prove to be a crash-filled Schuykill Scramble. Unfortunately, my race ended  just seven minutes in after an accidental crossing of wheels, but Dmitro stuck it out for a solid finish.

After a quick trip to the EMS with Justin to get cleaned up (thanks again, Justin!), we headed to the line to watch the Women’s A/B and C races. They were both truly thrilling from start to finish. The A/B race split into three groups almost immediately: a three-person break, followed by a chase group containing Tori and Katy, and a larger pack behind, controlled by Anne. About two laps in, the second group split further when a rider attacked. With Katy blocking, Tori managed to bridge the attack with another rider, forming a three-person group that worked together for the remainder of the race. Thanks to Katy and Anne’s deft control of their groups, Tori’s chase group stuck together for the remainder of the race, bringing her to a fifth place sprint finish in her first ever A’s race. Both Anne and Katy finished in the top 10, too, capping a very successful weekend for the women’s A squad.

Meanwhile, in the C’s, Kate stuck with the five-person lead group the entire time, which steadily grew a sizeable lead over the main pack. On the climb to the finish, she attacked and completely smoked her competitors, winning her first ever road race.

All in all, a great first weekend of racing for the team! I can’t wait for L’Enfer du Nord – until next time!”

For those on the team that have not yet raced, we are excited to see you out there in the coming weeks!

-Emma and PK

 

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Winter training camp: Days 5 – 8

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

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The women relaxing (recovering) at the top of Palomar

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

 

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

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Photos from the top before descending the mountain

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The road we went up and down!

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

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Rest day winery for lunch

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

 

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

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

Wade said:

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

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

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

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

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View from Charles and Laura’s epic adventure ride

 

Tori wrote about the other ride:

 

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

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

 

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

 

-Emma

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Winter training camp 2017: Days 1- 4

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

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

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

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

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

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Rest day spin

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

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

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Women’s TTT into Oceanside

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

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The team in Oceanside

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

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Winter training camp 2017!

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

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

 

PK said about the week:

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

 

Dustin Weigl said about the week:

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

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

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

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

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

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Views from the house

 

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

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

 

Nats Podium

2016 Cyclocross Season Recap

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.

Biognosys' visiting

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.

Cyclocross skills clinics with Adam Myerson.

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).

Nats Podium

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!

Stay muddy!

Tobi after Supercross Day 2.
Tobi after Supercross Day 2.
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Fall training camp 2016: Lake Sunapee, NH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Sliderule Shredfest 2016

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 UMMM I 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.

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[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!

New Freshman Kate finished second in the Women’s A XC
PK in the Men’s B race

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.”

Hanging out

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!