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The ladies of MIT Cyclocross celebrate their finish at Quadcross!

When in doubt, just race! Quadcross 2014

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.

Powering through a flat section of the course at Quadcross
Powering through a flat section of the course at Quadcross

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.

The ladies of MIT Cyclocross celebrate their finish at Quadcross!
The ladies of MIT Cyclocross celebrate their finish at Quadcross!

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!

Army Spring Classic Race Weekend, by Morgan Hennessy

WHAT AN AMAZING WEEKEND!
Our journey to West Point started slowly, crawling along in Boston rush hour traffic on our way westward. We arrived exhausted and slept well, waking up to devour the complimentary hotel breakfast. Our car decided to pre-drive the road race course, and were taken aback by the beauty of the course—scenic vistas at every turn, perfectly paved roads, beautiful babbling brooks and natural wildlife—this course had it all, including miles and miles of climbing.

My group, Women’s Intro, took off with Men’s Intro for a few neutral miles down the gigantic descent and into the first large hill, as I adjusted to wearing a fellow rider’s GoPro video camera strapped goofily to my helmet. After stopping briefly on the hill, the coaches sent our small field off racing. It became clear after a few minutes that the Women’s Intro race would be a race between me and one Bard racer, as the third Women’s Intro rider fell off the back early. With Coach Nicole’s wise words echoing in my mind, I let Bard pull me for several miles of rolling hills after the first big climb. I glued myself to her wheel until finally she rolled to the side, and asked me to pull…
I was reluctant but relented, remembering my sportsmanship, and agreed to pull at an extremely slow pace along one of the many beautiful lakes on the course. We rotated a bit, but I realized she was tiring while I had rested. I took my opportunity to attack with 5 miles to go – I pointed out some of the local wildlife (a few birds feasting on a roadkill carcass) to distract her and sprinted towards the yellow line. It felt awesome. I finished with my first-ever win. I have never been more honored than when that night, back at the hotel, I was awarded the Most Aggressive Rider jersey for my deceptive tactics. After completing our races that day, Katie Maass and I successfully fed all MIT riders wanting bottles from the feed zone—no small feat for anyone acquainted with a road race feed zone. And, it was my first time doing it! Passing off bottles to bikers going ~20mph is a full-impact sport.

The next day brought the ridiculous Stony Lonesome hill climb—major pain—and the criterium. The hill climb yielded yet another first place finish for me, but by default—no other riders entered my category! Due to the tiny size of the Intro field, the directors had us race with the Women’s C field in the Shea Stadium criterium—an exhilarating and exhausting 35 minutes. Amazingly, I was able to stick with the peloton for the entire race, and watch my teammate Katie M. hold fantastic position for the majority of the laps. I ended the weekend with 3/3 wins in my category.

Highlights of the criterium included Men’s A rider Zach Ulissi’s unrelenting solo attacks off the front of the field, holding off the rest of the riders for basically all laps, gathering many prime points, until the very end. I don’t think I’ve seen such grit and pure strength displayed in an athletic event in a long time (the Aggressive jersey needs to go to Zach now, for that performance). The Women’s A/B crit proved an exciting one, with an amazing attack by Kate Wymbs to lead off (see her race report), followed by multiple solo attacks by Katie Quinn and an amazing sprint by Shaena Berlin to the finish, while teammate Jennifer Wilson kept amazingly consistent position in the pack for the entire race and placed well among the B’s.
I guess I’ve been told if you sweep the field, it’s rude to sandbag for another weekend, so off to C’s it is for me (wait, look over there! It’s an eagle!! Don’t miss it! Just keep looking over there while I keep racing Intros….). Congratulations to all my fellow riders for their fantastic performances in all fields – you are all so inspirational and amazing. See you at RISD – I’ll bring the Cocoa Roasted Almonds, you BRING THE PAIN!