Tag Archives: MTB

Just look at all those smiles! TL - John Romanishin, TR - Jen Wilson, BL - Emma Edwards, BR - Alexis Fischer

Roots and rocks and bikes – oh my! A recap of the mountain bike season

Well folks, we were having so much fun riding our bikes this fall that we didn’t keep you updated on our race season. Our apologies.

The season was one of (mostly) great weather, a mix of veterans and newcomers, and tons of fun. The two weekends which really stood out this season were MIT’s own Sliderule Shredfest and the Eastern Championships at Highland.

Just look at all those Shredfest smiles! TL – John Romanishin, TR – Jen Wilson, BL – Emma Edwards, BR – Alexis Fischer

‘The Sliderule Shredfest XC was again fast and flowy, or rather, I think it was meant to be. As a still-novice MTB rider, I can’t say my ride was graceful, but it was still a lot of fun. It was also great to see the MIT women’s team rivaling UVM for entries. We had three new ladies come out – Emma, Alexis, and Laura, and saw 3 podium finishes! Alexis (1st, WB), Laura (2nd, WB), and Lucy Archer (3rd, WA).’     – Jen Wilson

‘The atmosphere the whole weekend was fantastic, especially Saturday evening with everyone hanging out by the campfire eating delicious grilled sausages, burgers, and burritos. I definitely want to go out to more race weekends in the future and want to compete next year.’     – Przemyslaw Krol

MIT's Sean Daigle tearing it up in the Men's A Downhill on Thunder Mountain Bike Park's trail 'The Schist'
MIT’s Sean Daigle tearing it up in the Men’s A Downhill on Thunder Mountain Bike Park’s trail ‘The Schist’

Northeastern University hosted the ECCC Championships on October 10/11th at the Highland Bike Park. MIT had another great showing, with eleven racers making the trip out to New Hampshire!

It was a crisp, beautiful weekend for the Eastern Champs at the Highland Bike Park
It was a brisk, beautiful weekend for the Eastern Champs at the Highland Bike Park

Some notable results from MIT racers at the Eastern Champs:

Julie van der Hoop – 1st in Women’s B Cross Country

Lucy Archer – 1st in Women’s B Dual Slalom

Sean Daigle – 8th in Men’s A Dual Slalom

Megan O’Brien – 1st in Women’s A Downhill

Matt Schram – 4th in Men’s C Cross Country

Edgar Gridello – 7th in Men’s C Short Track

Congrats to all of the riders who raced with us this season! We had 17 riders come out to race this year and clinched 3rd in the season overall D2 omnium standings.

Sadly, mountain season is winding down… BUT three riders are preparing to represent MIT at the USAC Collegiate Mountain Bike Nationals in Snowshoe, West Virginia next week. Get ready to cheer on Lucy Archer (cross country and short track), Sean Daigle (downhill and dual slalom) and Megan O’Brien (downhill and dual slalom)! We’ll be sending updates throughout the week, but for up-to-date race info and results, check out #CollNats on twitter and follow @MITCyclingTeam!

Now go ride yer bike!

Jeff_fig1

Flashback Friday: Jeff Duval’s reflections on a season with MIT

One year of collegiate racing

I have always loved riding bicycles. When people ask me how I got started I always tell the same story. As a young kid, my mom would put me in a bicycle seat and go riding in the evening. When she felt my helmet hitting her back she knew that I was asleep and that she could go home and put me to bed. I have no way to test if this is the reason why I love it so much, but I like to think it is part of it!

As a grown-up, my reasons to ride are different. Of course, there are all the usual reasons (extremely efficient way of transportation, eco-friendly, cheap*, etc.), but this is also how I develop my personality. To ride long distances you need to train, to overcome obstacles, to adapt to various situations. It is a great way to become more perseverant, grounded and organized. Combine that with the health benefits of cardio-vascular activities and you can become a better person on all aspects!

Before joining the MIT Cycling Team I did a few cycling events (off-road triathlon with kayaking, mountain biking and trail running, Eastern Sierra Double Century, a few centuries) but I was always competing against myself, not directly against a pack. I didn’t think that I was fast enough, or talented enough, to do true races.

Last September I decided that I would start following the road training plan in November to get in a better shape before a long touring trip this summer. I was thinking about racing once or twice, just to see how it was. Then Beth convinced me to try a mountain bike race… and I was hooked after the first weekend. Don’t get me wrong, it was painful (my heart wanted to escape my chest, I felt disoriented, my glasses were all fogged up…), but I knew I would try again and again. I raced three weekends, and I got so much better in such a short period! Being passed really helps bike faster.

Jeff_fig1

Figure 1 Cross-country MTB Race

In November I started the road training plan. This was the first time that I was doing structured training and I made a point of following the plan as closely as possible. Initially, the hardest part was to stay in Zone 2. Completing a 2h training ride without heavy sweat was new to me. My training volume was higher than in the past, but my legs didn’t feel heavy like before; the plan had some benefits! The threshold intervals were really intense; I had no idea that I could keep such a high heart rate for up to 50 minutes.

The real test was to race. Before my first road race I was anxious (Will I get injured in a crash? Will I bonk after 5 minutes? Strategy?). Then the same thing as for mountain bike racing happened: I loved it! It is so intense, you need 100% of your body and 100% of your mind. You get in a zone where you have a strange mix of tunnel vision and complete awareness of your surroundings. Looking at the shadow of a fellow racer to know when to start your sprint is an awesome feeling. None of that would have been possible without the training plan and all the great advice I received from team members.

Jeff_fig2

Figure 2 Sprinting for the prime points at the Tufts Crit

Only 9 months after I started collegiate racing I’m forced to retire, as I’m getting my Master’s degree in a few weeks. Joining the MIT Cycling Team was a great idea; I learned a lot about bicycles, about racing, and I met wonderful people.

*Big lie

photo (6)

Mountain Bike Nationals at Beech

For the second year in a row, Luke Plummer and I headed down to Collegiate Mountain Bike Nationals, this time in Beech Mountain, NC. Instead of making the trip  alone, we joined up with Northeastern, BU and RIT in a single 12-passenger van for the 17ish-hour car ride.

When I packed for Nationals (the night before, of course) I neglected to check the weather. It being North Carolina (that’s pretty far south right?) I assumed it would be pretty warm, but somewhere around Pennsylvania it started snowing. Apparently at Beech Mountain, they were supposed to get a few inches overnight, with race day highs in the 20s. So much for that, I guess. Sure enough, we arrived many hours later at our condo with a solid couple inches of snow on the ground. Figuring there wasn’t much to do about it, we hit the hay and hoped for the best for the short track in the morning.

Waking up, we found the snow situation pretty much unchanged.

Fortunately, we weren’t first to race so there was some time for it to warm up, but it was still pretty cold. The short track course was basically a ‘cross course, just where you didn’t have to get off your bike. It had a grassy climb, with some turns in a field, and the last couple berms of the dual slalom course. The thing about short track at Nationals is that you get pulled when you’re within 80% of the leader, so for me that means that I’ll be racing about 10-15 minutes, making the whole race basically a sprint. This year, I was happy to get to ride one more lap than the year before – I definitely felt stronger and a lot more competitive thanks to Constantine’s coaching.

After watching some ECCC comrades in the women’s race and a regain-feeling-in-everything break, we headed back out to preride the XC course for the following day. The course begins with ~500’ of climbing up a snowy fireroad, at which point it heads into the woods after several hundred yards of tarmac (ewww). When we prerode, the course was still snowy from the night before, but the cold temperatures had rendered it pretty crunchy, and remarkably smooth with pretty good traction. Despite living in New England all my life, I’d never really mountain biked in the snow before so it was a pretty cool experience, and the trails were pretty fun. For the sake of everyone, we actually hoped the snow stayed for the race the following day, else we’d have to slog through the inevitable mud. The descent was also pretty excellent, with some nice and icy berms to boot.

The following day, we started our XC race bright and early. I had a pretty good start up near the front of the pack, but was almost immediately caught behind what seemed like a road-style crash, with people and bikes all piling on. Unfortunately, this meant I started at what felt like basically the back of the pack. Fortunately, the holeshot was the entire climb away, and feeling strong I passed a bunch of people up the still-snowy ad slick climb. All these long climbs in races made me glad I put my 2×9 rings back on, and after the race, Luke actually admitted he could have used more gears. Anyhow, after working pretty hard on the climb and the road section, I finally got into the woods. It would seem that the snow had melted a bit and refroze, so the riding was a lot more slippery than our preride the previous day, and I just felt all over the place in terms of handling. Still, it was pretty fun to get loose in the snow, and I caught a few more people. Coming down the descent the second time, however, I crashed pretty hard and had to straighten out my bars. Unscathed, I continued down to the finish, ready to ride one more lap, but a marshal waved me through the finish and off the course. Confused, I learned that I had been pulled because I had been lapped by the DI leader, not by the leader of my field. I was a little bummed, since I had saved some energy for the last climb and think I could have caught some more people, but happy enough to get out of the cold.

During the day, it warmed up and we headed back out to the course to spectate the women’s race and downhill. We found a great corner by the top of the descent

Joined by UVM, NU, and RIT, we got a pretty excellent ECCC heckling crowd going as we watched the women slog up the now-muddy climb. After a bit more heckling, grilling and American flag-waving, we headed over to the downhill course to watch people rip through the rock garden. This time though, somebody actually took one of our hotdog handups! A UVM rider had qualified in 1st in D1, while a couple Wentworth guys were up there in D2, and even though they didn’t manage to keep the win, they made it to the podium and it was pretty cool to watch them represent the ECCC.

I had a great time representing MIT and the ECCC at Nationals this year, and my only disappointment was not being able to find the legendary nationals crit (I brought my skinsuit 😉 ). What really made it special was to be able to hang out with all the other folks from the conference from NU, RIT, UMass, UVM, and BU – racing’s a whole lot more fun when you’re doing it with a bunch of friends.

Thanks for the opportunity, and see you out on the bike!

-Ben Eck

Mountain Bike Easterns at Highland

On Columbus Day weekend, we wrapped up an awesome season of racing with Easterns Championships at Highland mountain bike park!  We had an excellent turnout with a bunch of new-to-MTB racers, and some great results, including a win in the D2 Weekend Omnium! Here are some words from Beth Hadley, who swept the Women’s B Endurance races:

A little coaching goes a long way. I’ll leave it as an exercise to the reader to deduce what a lot of coaching can do. I realized this in a profound way this past weekend at the ECCC Eastern Mountain Biking Championships. As a novice to all things cycling, I enjoyed a warm welcome this season which ultimately culminated in a memorable championships race weekend. We were delighted to be joined by Coach Constantine Psimopoulos, our newly adopted Mountain Bike Team Coach. He contributes years of experience, both coaching and racing, to our team, and his academic and research interests allow him to relate well with us as MIT students. We enjoyed a clinic session with him in the Fells a few weeks earlier, and it was during that session that I really began to think more critically about my racing technique, especially focusing on a powerful start and competitive finish. During championships, to prepare us for our races, Coach Psi led us through regimented warm-ups, stretching sessions, and strategy discussions. For the first time, I learned to engage both my brain and my body in the race before the ‘go’ was announced. Although I got my first taste of victory this past weekend by winning both of my races, the real victory lies in the knowledge I gained this season from our coach and my fellow riders. Now as the season wraps up I look to the future, I eagerly await many more great rides with this wonderfully welcoming and helpful team.

– Beth Hadley ’15

While I can’t say I won anything, I had a couple great days of racing too. The XC course was pretty flat, but really challenging technically. The Men’s A did 6 laps, which turned into a 2.5+ hour  race for me (normally XC races are ~2 hrs). At the the end of it, I had to lie down for a few minutes before walking back to the cars, but I’m happy to say  I finished all 6 laps without getting pulled while surviving a brutal double-bonk. What really made the racing special though, was being able to race with a bunch of teammates and seeing all the new faces  out on the course.

After a smores/wood run, we set up camp in the Highland parking lot. Camping’s always been one of my favorite parts of mountain bike racing, and this night was no exception with a good fire, great friends, and plenty of Joe’s bad ideas.

After the XC race, I always look forward to short track, with its considerably shorter length and much higher concentration of hecklers. Coach Psi was great at getting everybody warmed up and in good position on the start line, and I think he really helped me have a good start off the line. As we were waiting for the start, however, Joe Kopena and his minions were up to some mischief, and as the pack came around the first turn of the race we discovered the wall of boulders they had constructed as a surprise for the Men’s A riders.

I made the poor decision of trying to ride this 6 abreast with everyone and ended up having to make up a lot of time throughout the race. When we prerode, there was also a section with a steep, uphill rock roll that was taped off and labeled ‘Men’s A only’. I thought it was a joke, but on the first lap of our race we found the tape had been shifted over and we were indeed supposed to ride the rock. And of course, the obligatory improvised jump also appeared on the course.

This sort of thing is what really makes the mountain bike season so fun for me – its so laid back, even the officials joke around from time to time to make for a fun time. In the end, I finished 8-9-10 with Joe and Luke, which was a great result for all of us. In a bid for more points in the weekend omnium, we made two team relay teams, and all-MIT and an MIT-Yale collaboration. Joe had hinted that he’d give us points for it, so Spencer and Lluis stepped up to ride with Kristen from Yale in the Bs. It was a close race the entire time, but on my last lap I caught up to a Northeastern B rider. Coming around a corner I asked him to move over to pass, but  he moved the wrong way and boxed me out to allow his teammate Kenny (in the A’s) to come around me. In a stroke of luck, the first rider endo’d straight into the rock roll, holding Kenny up and allowing me  just enough time to run around both of them. I managed to hold the lead through the descent and to the end of the lap, putting us in 2nd for team relay and getting us the perhaps the 2 critical extra points that put us in front of Clarkson for the weekend, despite the points from the MIT-Yale team only counting ‘in Joe Kopena’s heart’.

While Matt and Carlos represented us racing downhill, we spent the rest of the afternoon fooling around on Highland’s sweet dirt jumps.

With only a little bit of skin lost and a great bit of fun had, we stuck around for some grilling, the awards, and of course obligatory podium pics.

A big thanks to everyone, especially Coach Psi, who came out and made this weekend so special!

See y’all next year,

-Ben Eck

UVM Kingdom Cup Race Report

The true virtue of studying at a place like MIT is the ability to develop new passions and pursue them rapidly. Although I am generalizing from my three years experience as an undergrad, I can certainly say this holds true for the MIT Cycling Team. I joined the team for the first time this past weekend at Kingdom Trails in Vermont, and my first race weekend absolutely exceeded all my expectations.

In total seven of us raced, and our mix of riding experience and ability brought an exciting new dynamic to the weekend. I benefitted from the expertise and insight of the more seasoned riders, Luke, Lluis, Carlos, Marcos, and Matt, and especially from the leadership of our team captain, Ben. As for me, this was literally my first serious time on a bike* since middle school, and I was really just excited to get away from Boston for a weekend and bike in the mountains!

Sitting around the campfire Friday night listening to Ben, Luke, and Carlos’ stories of strenuous mountain bike races, I was quite nervous for my first race. But in reality I was relieved to enjoy a lovely Saturday morning cross-country race, thanks especially to the tremendous support of my fellow competitors. The beautiful 9-mile race wound throughout the hills and forests of Burke Mountain, including a fun and fast track through a sunbathed mountain field and down a thrillingly technical downhill.

By the end of the race, I was wishing for more! Surprised and pleased to learn of my 3rd place finish (it’s women’s B after all :D), I spent the remainder of the morning cheering on Ben and Luke, and chatting with the other racers.

Luke coming through for another lap

I was impressed to learn many were just as new to racing as I was, although I also enjoyed meeting the veteran racers. Regardless of our ability or experience level, we all agreed mountain bike racing is a great way to enjoy the great outdoors, ride bikes, and meet new friends.

Following the Super D afternoon race,

Carlos crushin the Super D

we enjoyed much-deserved maple syrup “creamies” (soft serve ice cream) and made plans for our afternoon fun ride. Despite our hard morning of racing, all seven of us couldn’t help but hit the incredible Kingdom Trails. What we lacked in stamina we made up for in zeal for the trails – by the time we returned back to our campsite that evening we were all ready for a hearty campfire dinner and s’mores.

The night’s heavy rain introduced an entirely new challenge to Sunday’s short track and downhill races – mud. It was nevertheless thrilling to race the short track, and cheer on my fellow teammates and the other riders. Although I was pleased with my 2nd place finish, the race certainly inspired me to devote lots more time biking in the future, both mountain biking and road riding.

As we drove back to Boston Sunday evening, I felt emboldened by the successful completion of my first mountain bike race. Thanks to a friendly welcome from my fellow racers, and especially the MIT team, I had an inspiringly positive introductory experience and I can’t wait to get out on the trails again sometime soon!

* I would like to give special thanks to Kate Wymbs who graciously loaned me her mountain bike which kept me safe and happy all weekend long.

Beth Hadley, September 20-21 2013, UVM Kingdom Trails Race Weekend

Attitash! First Race of 2013 ECCC MTB Season

My first mountain bike race consisted of long climbs up alpine meadows followed by switchbacks down an 18% root-filled trail. This was Attitash, in NH, and I enjoyed it more than expected. Even the top A men had to walk up the steepest sections! The climbs were long but non-technical, which suited my road-riding fitness and terrible bike-handling skills. I raced women’s A, which required 3 laps; the first lap, I tried to ride the downhill switchbacks, and face-planted once then inched my way down so slowly and scaredly that it seemed like I’d be better off walking! The next 2 laps, I got off the bike and ran down, which was shameful but actually faster…Anyway, great workout, beautiful scenery, and it was fun seeing all the other MIT racers from the other fields either lapping me or cheering. We watched the downhill races in the afternoon, which looked insane — I imagine there must be a lot of crashing before riders reach the skill level of some of those racers!
Mandatory bridge-to-nowhere
The next day, I went for a lovely ride (mostly pavement, some dirt) over one of NH’s “gaps” since I wasn’t racing Enduro
then participated in the short track XC race and team relay in the afternoon; this was a completely different atmosphere from the XC race; it consisted of many laps of a short, twisty, flat course, with hecklers building jumps and cheering from the sidelines in the trees.
"Hit the jump!". Brought to you proudly by PBR.
It was an agility test, and I couldn’t get away with using fitness to overcome skill deficits there! The team relay was really fast and exciting — with laps only around 2-3min, it was all-out from the start. Overall, I liked the chill atmosphere of the MTB scene, getting out on dirt, and camping with the team. It wasn’t as intimidating as I imagined just starting out, and other than a few bruises we all emerged unscathed 🙂

-Shaena Berlin

MTB Nats


For the first time since Katie Harris’ dominant performance in 2008, MIT Cycling sent three riders to Angel Fire, New Mexico for the 2012 Collegiate Mountain Bike Nationals. Although MIT hasn’t been as dominant on the dirt as it has been on the roads for the past few years, these three riders sought to put MIT back on the national mountain bike map.

Since the beginning of the 2012 season, sending a team to Nationals was one my personal goals as captain. It was really awesome to feel excitement for the race building throughout the season, and especially watch my teammates share in this excitement in preparing. Laura Ralston, long a force-to-be-reckoned-with on the road, competed in her first-ever collegiate mountain bike race season and was competitive enough to secure podium spots and easily secure a spot at Nationals. Luke Plummer, dedicated from the beginning, struggled through persistent mechanicals to upgrade to the A category, but after a first-place short track finish managed to qualify by the skin of his teeth at the last race of the season. With a final team cemented, Luke, Laura and I packed our bags and headed out West.

After arriving in Denver and watching the plains gradually rise into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains on our six-hour drive south we finally arrived in Angel Fire, NM. With not much but a ski area and a few small restaurants, the whole town of Angel Fire buzzed with anticipation as the horde of mountain bikers descended. After hurriedly building our bikes in the parking lot and checking into our room, we headed out to the course to get our pre-ride in. The course, with a start elevation of 8,500’, began immediately with a lung-popping 1000’ climb up the ski resort. Talk about a warm-up. It being a pre-ride, we took it really easy, but knew just how exquisitely painful it would be the following morning. After a technical singletrack section through a volcanic rock garden, the climb finally turned downward for the gloriously buff, bermed and curvy descent. As I floated down that flowy singletrack that first day and even lap after lap during the XC race, I found it impossible to wipe that perma-grin off my face.

Ok, maybe not impossible. On the starting gun the following morning, I could feel the thin, dusty, and dry mountain air searing my lungs as I fought to stay with the pack on the steep doubletrack that started the course. Narrowly avoiding a crash on the dusty off-camber first corner, I stuck with the bunch and made a few passes until it began to string out and settle down. On the second lap, Luke joined me, and we continued to catch a few riders off the back. As the DI leaders zipped by, we figured we’d also soon be lapped by the DII leaders. Considering how tough that climb was, this wouldn’t have been the most terrible thing – it would have meant only three, not four laps. As we crossed the line of our third lap, the race director urged us on – we hadn’t been lapped! Proud of this accomplishment, yet somewhat apprehending of the riding the climb once more we pushed on – only to hear the DII leader cross the line 100 meters behind us. We enjoyed our final lap (especially the descent), even considering crossing the finish at the same time Lemond-Hinault style. Laura put in a great performance in the DII women’s race. Building on her road experience, she powered up the climb time after time to put in a 7th place finish.

The following day’s short track proved no less trying. Each lap included eighty feet of climbing, which doesn’t sound like too much but proved extraordinarily painful every time. That, in combination with a fast but dusty descent and an off-camber gravelly turn made for an interesting but short race. Luke improved on his performance, placing 39th, as did Laura, who made 5th!

After such a great racing experience, we couldn’t resist the urge to go for a fun victory ride. Turns out we were but miles from the best mountain bike trail in New Mexico – the South Boundary Trail – which connects Angel Fire to Taos, NM. Generally, it’s done as a one-way, mostly downhill ride, but we didn’t have quite enough time to arrange for a shuttle. Instead, we drove our rented minivan 7 miles up a rough dirt road to intersect the trail at the Heaven on Earth section. After some confused navigation and interesting interactions with the locals, we finally found the trail and got riding. The Heaven on Earth absolutely lived up to its name: gradual, smooth downhill through groves of quaking aspen led us up a gentle climb to the top of Osha Peak with beautiful vistas of the surrounding mountains around every corner. After a snack and a nature-appreciation break, we barreled back down Osha Peak, the flowing turns through the aspen like a dream. Eventually, the sun setting, we arrived back at the car just in time to drive back to Denver for our flight the following morning.

Thanks to everybody at MIT Cycling for the opportunity to race at Nats! I’m excited for an even better performance next year.

See y’all out on the dirt soon!
-Ben Eck

My first collegiate MTB race

DS_practice

Last Saturday, I tried out my first MTB race and had so much fun! I splurged on a mountain bike last year, when I saw a deal on eBay, and played around on it a couple of times in the Fells last Spring, but after I kept falling off and bashing my knees, I decided to give it a break until the road season was over. Green Mountain was my last really important road race, over the Labor Day weekend, so I decided it was time to get down and dirty, and get the bike (+ recently purchased knee and shin guards) out of the closet and start riding it again.

I did a couple of rides in the Fells last week, attended the very helpful clinic by our new MTB coach Sara Bresnick, and tested myself at a local race (Wompatuck’s Landmine Classic) a week earlier, before deciding to show my face at collegiate race. The Wompatuck race had been quite a lot of fun, but I flatted, I was not really sure how to change a tube on a tubeless tire – luckily some very kind gentleman helped me – so that ended up being more of a ride than a race.

The collegiate XC race was an absolute blast. It was hosted at Holiday Brook Farm in Western Massachusetts and I loved the 4.5 mile loop. There was a lot of super smooth single track and the course was extremely undulating. I felt my advantage was pumping it up all the short steep climbs, while I simply tried to hold onto my nerve on all the downhills and ride as cleanly as possible. The race ended up coming down to a duel between me and another woman from UVM – I think I was a bit stronger on the climbing and I would sometimes manage to open up a gap, but she was so much more comfortable on all the descents and would make up ground in those sections.  In the final lap I caught back up to her at the top of a 20 sec climb, and as we both tried to push out the last pedal stroke before cresting the hill, we somehow collided and I ended up a little worse off with twisted handlebars. I picked myself up and resigned myself to a solid second place, since I knew my skills with even straight handlebars wouldn’t match hers on the remaining descents, and safely completed the course, 25 seconds down on the winner, but 1 min 20 sec ahead of 3rd place!

For the remainder of the day, I enjoyed watching more gutsy riders tackle the dual slalom and I’ve attached some video of  Ben and Lluis doing this!