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ECCC Road Season 2015-2016 Wrap-up

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

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With the trophy!

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

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

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

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

Layered up at the start
Layered up at the start

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MIT women lead the way
MIT women lead the way

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

Charles

Safety First!
Safety First!

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

Seven go to Shippensburg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom

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

Alumni Feature: Oliver Seikel returns to Solvang for cycling

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

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

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

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

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

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Day 4 of Training Camp: Palomar

By Sumit Dutta

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

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Youyang, Phil, and Tom atop Palomar
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A #cxnats perspective

I’ve written this blog post about five different times. Sometimes I wrote the post to focus on the race or the course (or its features). Other times, I focused on the food (hello, it’s Asheville).

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Biscuit head jam bar. Yes, jam bar.

Go to Biscuit Head. You’ll thank me.

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.

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Leslie during the Collegiate Relay. Photo: AJ Moran

It was fantastic to travel together, cook together, hang out together, and support each other from the sidelines and at home.

It was Colin's first time at Nationals!
It was Colin’s first time at Nationals!

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.

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Team dog – always a good idea.

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.

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First lap in. Photo: USA Cycling via Twitter

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.

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Corey finished 22nd – with no broken wrists this time! Photo: Weldon Weaver
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After the D2 Collegiate Women’s Race. Thanks, mom.

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 like these). The charity donut race for the iDream Athletes Foundation was a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the end of the season.

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AJ Moran has been training all season for this.

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?

xxujc

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.

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Nearing the end: Mid-season CX recap

This ‘cross season, we’ve had it all: dust and heat at GP Gloucester, flurries at Pumpkin Cross, mud at Supercross, and frost in Fitchburg. The last ECCC weekend is upon us – Dec 5 and 6 will be the Conference Championship held at the NBX Gran Prix of Cyclocross in Warwick, RI.

MIT currently sits in 3rd place in Division II in the conference, head-to-head with Dartmouth but well behind Army’s solid lead. Heading into Easterns, MIT racers Tobias Ehrenberger and Alex Springer are in 4th and 5th in Men’s C and B divisions, respectively. Corey Tucker could crack the top 5 in Women’s B. Emma Edwards and Anne Raymond had great performances at the Cycle-Smart International weekend, putting them in first and second for Women’s C. And, here’s hoping Julie van der Hoop can take home the top spot in Women’s A.

Here are some great photos of the team throughout the season.

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Jen on a descent at Hanover
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Alex through the mud at Supercross
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Julie hits the run-up at Keene Pumpkin Cross
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Anne over the barriers at Hanover
More barrier action
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More mud at Supercross. There was a LOT.
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Switchbacks on the beach at Hanover
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Julie on the run-up at Cycle-Smart International
Some great fall colours at Supercross
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Tobi at Hanover
We could watch these for days.

Wish us luck at Easterns, and as we prepare for Nationals in Asheville in January!

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Biognosys will join us as Elite sponsor

The MIT Cycling Team is excited to announce the addition of Biognosys as an elite sponsor for the 2015-2016 racing season.

Biognosys is a leading company in next generation proteomics based out of Switzerland. The company specializes in precision measurements of proteins within the cell, and their measurement technology aids researchers, pharma, and agricultural industries. The privately-held company is a spin-off from Ruedi Aebersold’s lab from ETH Zurich.

Biognosys, like members of the MIT Cycling team, is committed to cutting-edge technology development, and believes that great science and competitive sports programs are best run together. Biognosys supports its own racing team, and encourages its employees to balance their work life with sportive exercises.

Thank you to Biognosys; we’re happy to have the support of a company who is eager to promote both science and cycling.

Sometimes sand hurts

An Ode to CSI: Cycle-Smart International, NOT Crime Scene Investigation

One week separated from Cycle-Smart International, and I’m already nostalgic. This was my second year racing at NoHo (Northampton for the uninitiated), and for the second year, it was my favorite CX weekend of the season. Why? Let me tell you…and maybe next year you’ll go race it and see for yourselves…

Remounting like a doctor
Remounting like a doctor

The second collegiate race weekend, and one relatively close to Boston means we usually have a pretty good racer turnout. This year, there were six of us (five women and Tobi), and we witnessed the reemergence of our resident doctor (almost) doctor Morgan for her first race weekend in about a year. We had a broad range of racing categories represented which meant lots of racing to watch and lots of racers to cheer on throughout the day. This is mostly attributable to Julie racing her first UCI race ever and admirably making the most of a mechanical filled day 1 by taking a maple syrup hand up and getting her neutral bike really, really sticky. There were some awesome finishes too: Anne and Emma both taking top 10s in the women’s cat 4 race over the course of the two race days.

Julie coming in for some maple syrup
Julie coming in for some maple syrup (special appearance by Smith Anderson)

Having all those friends cheering you on are what can make a race weekend fun…but what makes it great are the courses. The NoHo courses are impeccable. They are a perfect mix of challenging while not being terrifying. The courses at Providence are arguably the most intimidating, Hanover maybe the most technical, and the courses at NoHo are a terrific middle ground. Everything is rideable, unless they really intended for you not to ride it (still working on those barrier hopping skillz…), but parts definitely require some skill. There’s a rough run up, a deep sand pit, some tricky off-cambers, and a pretty steep downhill pitch. There’s also lots of power riding. If you listed CX course requirements, NoHo’s got it…except for mud. Thank god.

Sometimes sand hurts
Sometimes sand hurts

And finally, the intangibles. Those little things that can put a weekend over the top…things that you only get at special races and special venues. Awesome food trucks? Giant podium cookies? A really cool town to hang out in after the race? (I will refrain from an ode to Northampton, but it’s cool there, alright?) Microbrewery with a CX film festival? Check, check, check, and check. NoHo has it all.

Too much fun!
We were having too much fun eating cake and drinking beer to take pictures of our night out…

So, for all of you CX racers, or maybe future CX racers out there…I’m sorry you missed such a good time this year…but take it from me, NoHo is the best race weekend of the year, go see for yourself…

New Kit Mock Up

Kit Pre-order, through November 13th!

After months of work and planning, we’re finally revealing and taking pre-orders for the 2016 racing kit! We received many awesome kits and a lot of support from the team, alumni, and greater community, thank you all for contributing to this process.

The committee reviewed many submissions, much feedback, and a handful of clothing manufacturers. We will be moving forward with Vie13 as our clothing supplier and the ‘Charcoal Asymmetric’ design submitted by MIT alum Paul (Course 2 ‘08). Paul, along with another MIT alum Clayton (Sloan & ESD, ‘09) founded a company RIIND (riind.com), that designs, develops, and sells, everyday products designed to last.

New Kit Mock Up

At this time, we are taking pre-orders for 2016 kit. To pre-order items, please fill out this form for each item type (you have until Friday November 13th).

We will not guarantee kit availability if you do not place a pre-order and submit the deposit (read on for more info). Many specialty items like skinsuits and LS jerseys will only be ordered based on the pre-orders, so please plan accordingly.

A few features with this order:

  1. The pre-order period lasts two weeks.  Make decisions about what items you would buy and fill out the form. Once we’ve counted all items, we will determine what inventory we’re going to purchase. We will definitely be ordering jerseys, bibs, and skinsuits, though we may or may not order more specific items (wind vests, fleece items) if there isn’t enough interest.
  2. Treat this as a commitment to buy. Don’t pre-order something that you ultimately don’t want.
  3. Since we have no order minimums, kit prices will be set based on order cost. We will confirm exact prices when all pre-orders are submitted. Though, based on initial estimates, we can estimate prices for some popular items (Approximate_Pricing).
  4. For those of you who haven’t yet tried on Vie13 kit, check out the vie13_sizing_chart.
  5. You will be invoiced for the deposit Nov 13 (at $10/item), and for the remaining cost when the gear arrives.
  6. If you don’t order items now, you’ll have to wait until the next order (likely in June).
  7. Mountain jerseys aren’t included in this order, but will be included for the summer order in time for the Fall 2016 season.

If you have any questions about the order contact cycling-clothing@mit.edu.

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A club ride narrative with Strava Labs

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

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

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