Jens Voigt is my favorite pro bike racer. He’s famous for his “shut up legs” attitude — he always gives 110% in every race. His style is to attack again and again until he makes the break, even if that means riding 6 hours alone with little chance of winning. It doesn’t work very often, but it’s very entertaining.
I love Jens because he and I seem to love bike racing in the same way. For Jens, it’s not about money, fame, or even winning. As Jens put it, “You have to have passion inside of you. Passion in me feels like a high, full burning flame—it’s not a tiny spark in the dark. It’s still burning and I still love it.”
I’m the same way — I don’t really like training, I don’t care about fancy bikes, and I don’t even really care about winning. I just love bike racing. I enjoy the competitive nature of it, and I love the community that surrounds it, but mostly I just enjoy being in the bike race. Most of the time, I’m pack fill — and that’s fine.
No other pro talks this way. It’s always about getting better and winning big races. I identify with Jens because he and I share a passion for the racing itself.
Last month, Landry’s hosted an “evening with Jens.” Richard Fries (famous in his own right) led the discussion, asking Jens questions about why his career has lasted so long compared to other pros, how he came back after a number of gruesome crashes, and why he’s made himself so accessible to the press and to his fans.
I was impressed by Jens’s ability as a speaker. He was just like on TV — he answered all the questions with sincerity and a little bit of humor. He told a great story about turning his antenna toward the west during his childhood in East Germany so that he could watch western TV. When an audience member gave him a hard time about the doping scandals so prevalent in the past, Jens gave a pretty reasonable answer: he admitted that the previous generation had made mistakes and asked the fans to give the new generation a chance.
The event was almost canceled because it was scheduled during a blizzard. The T wasn’t running, the temperature was barely above zero, and the winds were gusting to 40mph. So of course I rode my bike there. I don’t think I have ever been so close to being blown off the BU bridge. I couldn’t help but feel just a little bit like Jens during that ride. I recorded it for Strava to prove I had ridden.
At the end of the discussion, I stood in line to take a picture with Jens and get his autograph. I plan to frame it and give it a place of honor in my “trophy case” (which unfortunately is not as full as Jens’s!).
Nine full cycling days in Solvang, California made for THE venue for a great team training camp experience. The weather was exceptionally warm, mostly the 60s to 70s. As you can see, we were also fortunate it was beautifully green due to recent rains in the area, more so than the previous year’s camps further south and closer to San Diego. What a great escape it was from the record snowfall and cold back in Cambridge.
We had a great attendance with about 24 team members in the main house and another dozen alumni riders in a second house. Each morning we fixed ourselves a good breakfast and gathered at the main house to depart for the day’s cycling adventure about mid morning.
This was our first day out intended to be an easy “stretch you legs” day after a long day of travel, but the pace got alittle higher than that on the way out (what did you expect from a pack of overachievers?) Mostly rollers on this route, though each day we needed to head out from the main house to Solvang, a picturesque 9 mile route that included about a mile 6% climb on the way back.
First thing back each day FOOD was generally on everyone’s mind, and it tended to be every man and woman for themselves. This was rather necessary as these are drop training rides and we were not all returning at the same time, nor necessarily doing the same rides.
Dinner, on the other hand was carefully planned by Jenn in advance to be not only great fare but a true team event in it’s preparation. Everyone was assigned responsibilities that varied from night to night – you might be the helper, the clean up crew or the head chef. I think we all had a turn at each. The diversity of the cuisine prepared reflected the diversity of the group. I think we all came away with an appreciation of the challenges involved in cooking for a large group.
Following dinner the evening organized activities always concluded with the team meeting. These were just fun – at times very educational, at others very entertaining, and at times somewhat competitive. No dull moments.
Day 2 – Figueroa Mtn or Tour of California ITT Course and wineries
Today you had the choice of two great routes. Half the group climbed the epic Mt. Figueroa (this was a bonus climb as we did it again later in week) and the other half rode the Solvang ITT loop used several times in the Tour of California (15 miles) followed by a second longer loop through wine country.
A few stopped and checked out the grapes afterwards – worth the stop I am told.
Rest day meant something different to everyone. Rest was more about selecting a lighter self-directed ride. There is some interesting mountain biking in the area. Just a few miles from Solvang you can climb up a dirt road to the crest of the Santa Barbara coastal mountains and then ride the mountain tops to the highest peaks in the area, as demonstrated by the high density of communications towers shown below.
This was our longest day so far, over 90 miles from the main house south of Solvang west to Jalama Beach on the Pacific. Some fun climbing on the way out crossing over the coastal mountains and then descending to sea level and the beach. Great burgers on the beach awaited all!
Day 6 – Rest Day
This time most of us really scaled back on the riding to take a true rest. Good day to check out the very authentic Danish town of Solvang. Not a bad place to live – save your money, though – new starter homes begin around three quarters of a mil…..
Lots of variety this day, each was left to chose his own cycling. There were those who practiced the TTT, others who rested and some who chose mountain biking. The selection rather depended on how much climbing and mileage one was looking for at this point in the camp.
Day 9 – The longest day plus the epic Gibralter Road Climb
This route took us from Solvang to Santa Barbara and back. We did all the epic climbs in the Santa Ynez valley so it was decided we would end the camp with this serious climbers route.
When we got to the top of Gibralter Road looking out over the Pacific we were treated with a too cool drone session and group video sponsored by one of the alums. A great demonstration of how far the technology has come at a reasonable price point of $1500.
We wrapped up the day with a stop at the Cold Springs Tavern which had been highly recommended. Serious roast beef sandwiches. A very eclectic clientele. Beautiful setting. Obviously very popular with the locals. Worth checking out.
An epic week of cycling. While everyone was free to chose their own level of riding, several of us exceeded 550 miles and 40,000′ of climbing over the 9 days. Try to get that in Cambridge!
The miles, the warmth, the food and fellowship are rewards on top of the long term health benefits gained when you choose to make a commitment toward a balanced life style through cycling. Sign up for the next episode IAP 2016.
Almost exactly a year ago, I watched CX Nats in Boulder, sitting on my trainer. I cheered on MIT’s Chris Birch racing for JAM Fund in the women’s elite race. It looked frigid.
Even though I only had two ‘cross races under my belt, I had been bitten by the bug. Sitting on that trainer, I made a goal: Cyclocross Nationals 2015, in Austin TX. Because it would be warmer.
Ha. As we packed our bikes for Austin, our race-day forecast read “ice pellets.”
My goal for cross nationals was to qualify, go, and finish. Once I’d made the nationals team, my expectations didn’t change: I knew I’d be starting in the third or fourth row, I knew it was going to be a technical course, and I knew that this was my first national-level cycling event.
When we arrived in Austin, I expected to be blasting some good pump up music (read: 1989) in our minivan as we traveled to and from Zikler Park. Joe Near had other plans: our hosts, teammate Katie Maass and her parents, owned a copy of the Patriot. This played on loop (with some worthy scenes replayed for effect).
Our races included the collegiate relay (no, we don’t all ride the same bike), and the men’s and women’s D2 collegiate fields. Friday evening’s relay was on hard-packed, near-frozen dirt. The course was so fast. There was minimal mud, next to the pits, to be avoided.
After a night of rain, we arrived for Saturday morning’s pre-ride, to the sound of a military marching band on the DVD player. Matt wanted to do “at least one lap to see what had changed.” Everything had changed.
Oily. Tacky. Slick. Heavy. Slippery. Mud. This called for major changes in equipment (“get me the horse blanket”), but also strategy. While Friday’s race involved two or three dismounts for barriers and stairs, Saturday’s conditions favoured running.
The conditions led me to change my expectations: it was going to be a gong show, and it was going to be fun. Whatever happened, happened. And what ended up happening was fantastic, for me.
Our trip to Austin involved change and surprise for all of our teammates: Corey could not have expected her race to finish in the emergency ward, where she had a broken wrist re-set. Joe got a USA Cycling neck tattoo (ok, temporary). Chris had a surprise visitor, walked away with a fancy new necklace, and didn’t expect to be racing the elites on Monday (postponed from Sunday).
What else did we do in Austin? We hit the off-season hard, with the flagship Whole Foods, brownie sundaes, breakfast tacos, lunch tacos and dinner tacos, and of course some brisket (“dog is a fine meal”). We went bowling in a bar (Corey won, single-handedly). We watched the Patriot, twice.
Now, we’re back, our bikes and kits finally clean. We finished 7th in the relay, and 7th in the omnium. Lucky numbers for next year. And for me, everything has changed. I placed ninth in my first cyclocross nationals, when all I wanted to do was qualify, go, and finish. Who knows what next year will bring. See you in Asheville, where I’ll be praying for mud.
Last Saturday, 10 MIT riders went to Provincetown. Not the way most people go (a quick and easy ferry from seaport), but the long way – a 126-mile scenic bike route that took us down the coast through Sagamore and Hyannis, and then up through the Cape on a combination of wind-swept highways and gorgeous rail trails. As if the long route wasn’t punishment enough, we also started in the cold and darkness of 4:30am. Why? For the last three years, MIT Cycling has been proud to volunteer with Harbor to the Bay, an annual AIDS charity ride. Our role is to serve as course marshals at various points along the route, guiding and cheering the 300-some charity riders as they make their way along the journey.
The day started with an early breakfast in Copley square, after which we rolled out to head to our marshal positions, dotted between the 60-mile and 115-mile mark. There was no time for dawdling, as we had to reach these spots ahead of the charity riders, some of whom were starting in Hyannis, 60 miles ahead of us, but 4 hours later. Some simple maths told us we needed to average 15mph. That doesn’t sound so bad, with 10 riders in a good paceline. But, that doesn’t allow for stoppage time, and the rest stops other crew members had set up along the way were simply too good to pass up. Filled with delicious home-cooked treats, from brownies and muffins to carrot cake, we knew we wanted to stop at each one to sample the fine food. So, we hustled all the way to Hyannis, keeping a moving speed of about 18mph. We had some (brave) new riders with us, who did an awesome job keeping up and very quickly learned the benefits of drafting. It’ll be really excited to see some of these new riders racing on the road with us in the spring!
The group broke up as we dropped riders off at each marshal spot, where we were delivered lunch by the organizer and stood (or sat, depending on fatigue) directing riders and cheering them on until the last one had come through. It was incredible to see the determination and commitment of all of these charity riders, many of whom have never ridden these sorts of distances before. Perhaps even more impressive were the costumes some of them were wearing, ranging from various superhero-type capes to full-on glamorous drag.
After the sag car came through and dismissed us from our marshal spots, the group collected again and rode the final miles together, with one last town line sprint to bring us into PTown at around 5:30pm. With three hours to go before our ferry back (no, we weren’t going to re-trace our pedal strokes), we made a beeline toward food and the clean clothes we had packed to change back into. Two (or three) burgers later, we were all feeling much better, and the satisfaction of a good long ride and having helped a good cause began to sink in. The ferry ride home was pretty quiet (most of us passed out), and we all slept pretty soundly that night.
Overall, it was a fantastic day, and we’re looking forward to doing this ride again next year.
Somehow I got it into my head that I wanted to try cyclocross. I suppose all the stories about bacon and beer handups and ridiculous photos of people leaping onto bikes wearing cat leggings finally seeped into my brain. So I purchased a tiny black, red and blue Crux with sweet disc brakes and after a few frustrating and bruise-filled mornings in Danehy Park learned to mount and dismount the bike, and somehow stumble over the practice barriers. Naturally, after about two cumulative hours of ‘cross practice, I was already itching to race despite being woefully underprepared (the best training is racing! -JVDH). So off to Quadcross I went.
I arrived on race morning to pre-ride the course with our captain Matt Li, who explained the best way to approach each section of the most technical course I had ever ridden (uhhh, where’s the pavement??). I was in turn both exhilarated and completely terrified at what I was about to do.
We were the first race to go off, and I lined up at staging with my four other MIT Women teammates, feeling excited and mentally focusing on two goals – don’t get hurt, and have some fun! I am still nursing a shoulder injury from road season so I was especially concerned about the first one.
Before I knew it the gun went off and we were sprinting down the chute into the first turn. For anyone not familiar with ‘cross, the start is the most important for positioning yourself in the race, and is an all-out sprint and shoulder/elbow/hipcheck-fest. Since I was a n00b, I totally botched this part and managed to end up in last place because I dismounted on a hill and couldn’t clip back in. Meh. During the course of the race I was able to pass a few riders by motoring up the steepest parts of the course and staying upright in the tight, technical turns. The most difficult section by far was a sandpit containing 2 tight turns which I (VERY STUPIDLY and to the amusement of all watching) tried to ride, but which everyone else figured out was necessary to run through. I fell on the first two laps and then finally realized I had to dismount and run for the last two laps. I was able to complete the entire race without being lapped by the leaders and was incredibly proud to cross the finish line.
Cyclocross is a gut-wrenching, exhilarating, terrifying experience which pushes you to your limit both mentally and physically. I did things on my bike that I never thought I could do, and that was truly awesome. The spectators were incredible and the atmosphere friendly, plus there was ample food and adult beverages to enjoy. I learned more in that 40 minute race than I probably could have learned in hours of biking around in a park or on trails. CX is something you have to experience firsthand… you can’t train for all the obstacles you’ll find in a race.
Finally, perhaps my favorite part of the day was cheering on my teammates after my own race was finished – CX is a really, really fun spectator sport! If you can’t tell, I’m already hooked and signed up for my next race, Rapha SuperCross in Gloucester, MA! I definitely recommend checking out a ‘cross race – I guarantee you’ll have a fun time, whether you race or not!
This past weekend, Ben, Beth and I hit the road for the long trek up to Potsdam, New York for the first mountain bike race of the season. This would be my first experience racing in the ECCC, and luckily I had two seasoned vets to show me what these races are all about!
We arrived at the campsite around 1am, which gave us just enough time to set up camp and snuggle in for the night before the torrential downpour began. On Saturday, it rained… and it rained… and then it kept raining. After dropping Ben and Beth off at the Clarkson campus for their XC races in the morning, I headed back to the camping area with the uber-friendly team from Lehigh. After some deliberation, we decided that biking in the rain would be considerably more fun than freezing our butts off in the tent, so we saddled up and went to check out the dual slalom course. After two hours of churning through cake batter-like slop, the three of us looked like we had been in a girls-gone-wrong mud fight and lost. Miserably. We decided to take a break when we could no longer change gears due to the accumulation of nature in all of the used-to-be-moving parts of our bikes. Fortunately, there was a small lake (swamp?) nearby where we could bath ourselves and dunk our bikes. For future reference, I don’t recommend fully submerging your bottom bracket in the Seven Springs swamp.
That afternoon, our comrades returned from the XC race looking mildly soggy but cheerful as ever. Beth finished a strong 4th in the women’s A and Ben kept up with a fast men’s A field. After much chocolate and a chance to recover our core temperatures, the three of us suited up for some dual slalom action. Ben kicked butt and finished 2nd in his race, and Beth and I claimed 1st and 2nd in the women’s B category! Okay, okay. We were the only two women racing in the B dual slalom. There may or may not have been some running with bike in-hand. It still counts. After the racing finished, the sun emerged in time to dry out our sorry butts and convince us to camp a second night instead of retreating to a motel. The rest of the evening was filled with Ben’s amazingly delicious hamburgers, a few s’mores by the fire, and some entertaining shenanigans provided free of charge by a few rambunctious RIT riders.
We woke up to blue skies and sunshine on Sunday morning – a welcome treat! After stopping for the sweet caffeinated elixir of life at a local coffee shop, the endurance riders suited up for the short track XC. The Lehigh team adopted me once again, and we went back to get in a few practice runs on the downhill course. The downhill was super fun and fast, with the quickest men’s riders finishing in just over a minute. It had a good mix of flow and technical features, with a loose and precarious rock garden thrown in to keep things spicy. On my third run through the course, a small error in judgement resulted in the butt-end of my handlebars attempting to make a shish-kabob of my spleen, at which point I was gently reminded (a) why helmets were the best invention ever, and (b) why it’s important to plug the ends of your handlebars. Fortunately, a little adrenaline and some Hershey’s chocolate from Beth’s secret stash had me sorted out by the time the racing started. I lucked out with two relatively clean runs and managed to claim second in the women’s A race! Woohoo!
On the drive home, we stopped for some sweet corn and zucchini at a roadside stand. It was a long trip, but time flies when you have good company and fresh veggies! Overall, I was incredibly impressed with the quality of riders out this weekend and am so pumped for the rest of the race season. Happy biking 🙂
Now if that video doesn’t make you want to ride mountain bikes with MIT, I don’t know what does! Thanks to Matjaž Humar for filming and making that awesome video!
Recently about 20 of us headed up to Kingdom Trails in Northern Vermont for a weekend of riding and training in New England’s mountain bike mecca.
We welcomed riders of all skill levels – some practically grew up on a mountain bike, others had never ridden one! We were lucky enough to be joined by our amazing coaches, Coach Psi our mountain bike coach and Coach Nicole our road coach (plus Amy who also helps out coaching!).
Coach Psi held some great clinics with tips and advice for all skill levels.
Everyone seemed to enjoy the weekend, partially influenced by the copious amounts of ice cream consumed and beautiful sunny weather.
On Saturday evening after we had returned from a long and enjoyable day of riding, many of us headed to a nearby mountain lake for a refreshing swim.
Sitting around the campfire that night, we shared stories of our biking adventures, gorged ourselves on hearty burgers, and simply basked in the joy of spending time together.
After such a successful weekend, we’re looking forward to an awesome mountain bike race season this fall, including a race we’re hosting ourselves! Hope to see you there!
A big thanks to Ben Eck who organized the weekend and kept us very well fed and watered.
“This race will be good for you!” a phrase I had heard a few time recently but had yet to really believe. It was the Temple Crit, the first non-hill-repeat criterium of the season. Relatively flat, fast, four cornered, and a tad more frigid than the balmy 60*C road race of the previous day. According to my teammates, corner 4 was to be decisive: if you could brave the strong wind between corners 3 and 4 and get around the corner clean you would be well set up for a sprint prime.
With that in mind, I took my place at the start and as the gun went off, wormed my way near the front of the group. It stayed rather calm for the first few laps until the first prime bell rang. Everyone tensed up and began watching each other. I saw the fastest riders start to move around for position. Cecilia from Columbia was positioned third on the slight downhill between corners 1 and 2, directly behind Shaena. I quickly moved to her left forcing her to take a tempered inside line on the corner if she didn’t want to be boxed in. She saw what was happening and jumped after the turn. I jumped to follow with Shaena on my wheel. Coming around turn 3, Shaena came around me and went in pursuit of Cecilia just as Lenore from Columbia also came around. I sprinted around turn 4 and was able to hold on to fourth position for double prime points.
Cooked, I drifted to the back of the pack and took a lap to recover, during which time Cecilia, Shaena and Lenore took off (as they seem to have a tendency to do this season). After another lap I worked my way up to second position. I asked around what had happened on the front with the break and once I learned who had gotten away, I settled in for a one of my favorite games: Blocking! (Who says you can only play games on the Track?)
“We can catch them if we work together!”shouts one of the other girls in the pack. Ha! Good luck with that. A deviant in their midst, I proceeded to sabotage their plans. The lead rider tried to pul off, I kept her wheel. Another rider came around to pull I jumped on her wheel. Anyone decided to attack, I jumped and hopped to second wheel. About a quarter into the race I also remembered that I knew how to corner and, constantly in second position, was able to swing wide and hit the apex every time without wasted effort.
When prime laps came, I jumped right after turn 4 and won the sprint, getting fourth overall each time. I swear, if anyone had attacked me right after the primes, I would have been in trouble. As it was, it seemed like the pack was happier to see me on the front immediately after the sprint for a change and let me pull until the downhill when I quickly forfeited first position and reclaimed second wheel.
Finally it came down to the last lap. Between turn 2 and 3 a hoard of B riders attacked. I followed but many of them braked the through the corners causing me to take an awkward position for the final sprint. I ended up somewhere in the middle of the bunch and it wasn’t until after that I realized I had actually gotten 6th overall in the A field!! In the whole bunch of well-rested B’s only two A’s who hadn’t been in Shaena’s break had beaten me! I also learned later that Shaena had fallen off the front two and was working very hard to keep her separation from the pack and secure her spot on third.
Effective blocking, 6th overall, and 6 prime points total, I’d say this was a pretty good race for me!!
The race season got off to a start without the usual prologue and a TTT instead, composed of Ben, Spencer, and Ethan (the diesel engine C rider who got dragged up to help us out). We got off to a rough start with Ethan not quite making the first turn 300m in, leaving Spencer, Ben and myself for most of the course. Spencer reminded us what it’s like to rotate smoothly with his years of TTT experience, Ben showed how much stronger he is over last year, and we finished a respectable 2nd place overall (the first Men’s A TTT we haven’t won in over two years). Revenge will be swift the first weekend we bring a full contingent of A-men to race.
I was excited for the Saturday road race, having gotten 2nd out of the break last year. I knew Erik Levinsohn was the man to beat, being one of the best climbers in New England at the moment (and having dropped me more times than I can count in the past three years). On the first sharp hill he attacked and got clear, and went on to solo for the win, foreshadowing for every collegiate road race he enters this year. I suffered a tire blow-out on the second lap, bringing my race to a quick and unfortunate end, but Ben went on to finish solidly in a reduced pack.
I was eager to race on Sunday; the course was just about the best possible “crit” for me, very similar to the Rutgers circuit race that I had won solo in the B’s two years ago, and lapped the field in last year. With fresh legs from my short road race, I was eager for a hard effort. The neutral start was, as always, not actually neutral, and the heavy breathing I heard around me while riding tempo up the climb let me know how tired everyone was from the day before. I spent the first two laps near the back of the field watching Penn State and others attack up the climb, and knew that I had to make a move or I’d miss the selection. After the first prime, the pace was much slower, and Dominic (North Eastern University, and now a GLV teammate) was up the road. I knew he was in good form having won a cat3/4 race solo the week before, so I attacked, got him in my draft, and pulled as long as I could over the climb to give us some more separation before rotating. The next time up the climb I pushed hard as I could to get some more separation from the field and unfortunately popped Dom off. I didn’t want to go it alone, but figured a small break would probably catch me soon. I spent the next hour riding as steady as I could, getting some encouragement from Ben/Spencer, and finishing solo for my first A-race win, two years and one day after my first A-race.
Obligatory quantitative analysis (data scraped from Strava):