Tag Archives: Road

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Nittany Classic 2017 Race Reports

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

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

 

From Dustin:

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

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

 

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Dustin winning the aggressive rider’s jersey!

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

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

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

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

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

From Laura:

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

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

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Laura in the crit! Photo: Aaron Huang

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

-Emma and PK

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Winter training camp: Days 5 – 8

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

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The women relaxing (recovering) at the top of Palomar

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

 

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

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Photos from the top before descending the mountain

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The road we went up and down!

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

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Rest day winery for lunch

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

 

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

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

Wade said:

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

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

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

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

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View from Charles and Laura’s epic adventure ride

 

Tori wrote about the other ride:

 

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

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

 

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

 

-Emma

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Fall training camp 2016: Lake Sunapee, NH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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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.

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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.

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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

Joe after the Frat Row crit at Dartmouth, his signature Dr. Pepper in hand.

My last race weekend: “I have the cheapest bike you can buy”

By Joe Near

I’ve been using an extreme version of the “Joe Near Training Plan” this year. The normal version calls for 3-4 hours of riding per week  at the highest intensity you can manage (i.e. zones 3 or 4) in an  attempt to keep your fitness through the winter while spending as  little time on the trainer as possible.

This year, I managed 1-2 hours per week.

At Beanpot, I got dropped hard in both the road race and the crit. At  Army, I held on in the crit but failed to score points; in the road race, I got dropped again. So my expectations for this week were low.

But my legs must be coming around, because I scored points in every race (that I finished) this weekend. In the ITT, I averaged over 300 watts and got 15th. That’s pretty great for me — even at my best fitness, my threshold is barely 300 watts.

The Dartmouth crit was very difficult for me, both physically and mentally, because of the rain — I’ve always been bad at cornering hard in the rain, and it was hard to force myself while the water and grit being sprayed in my face made it hard to see anything. The faster guys knew it would be hard in the back and went pretty hard in the  beginning.

But I stuck with it and as the rain stopped, things got easier. I still couldn’t see anything in the final lap, and the two guys who had lapped the field started pushing people around in an effort to beat each other in the final sprint, so my primary goal was to avoid crashing rather than place as well as possible. I was therefore very proud to get 10th.

Joe after the Frat Row crit at Dartmouth, his signature Dr. Pepper in hand.

The TTT is typically very tough at UNH because I have to do it with  Zack Ulissi and it’s hilly. I was very fortunate that he took it easy on me this time. It was extra fun because we started last, behind the only two other Men’s A teams. This meant that once we caught the other teams, we knew we were leading in terms of time. I think this encouraged Zack to go easy on the hills, because he was certain we could win. I appreciated that.

But there was no camera for the finish of the TTT. This was a bummer. I wanted to be in one last finish-line photo before I graduate, and the TTT is typically the only place I get to do it! I was going to make such a great face.

In the road race, I felt much better than I expected. Unfortunately the roads were terrible. I have raced this course in the past and remember them being pretty reasonable, so this winter must have really been tough on the road conditions.

Anyway, I flatted around mile 15 and fortunately the leak was slow enough that I was able to ride it back to the parking lot. Some of the downhills were a little bit scary on a tire with 20 psi, though. I was sad to have flatted but it’s tough to complain: I have pretty good luck with flats, generally, and I didn’t end up having to walk home.

I had a great time this weekend, and while I’m sad that I won’t get to do another ECCC race, I’m happy to see that the team is as strong as ever. I’ve been around long enough to see several “generations” of riders, and it’s great to see that the welcoming attitude and cohesiveness of the team has remained.

Some of our newer riders — the women, especially — are getting great results and obviously learning a ton about bike racing every single weekend. Many of the newer riders already act like veterans: I sometimes forget that they have never raced bikes before this year.

Veterans on the team have historically sprung for expensive equipment. My bike is the oldest (and probably the least valuable) in most of the races I enter. So during a discussion about bikes on Saturday, I said, “I have the cheapest bike you can buy!” It was quickly pointed out to me that my bike had fancier stuff on it than many of the bikes sitting around it. Many of the newer team members are so good that I just forgot they hadn’t yet been bitten by the upgrade bug!

So I’d say good luck to everyone, but I don’t think you’ll need it. Being a part of the team has been an honor and a privilege, and I’m both happy to see that future members will have access to the same
great experience I had, and excited to see that the new generation of riders seems poised to continue achieving great results.

Team Time Trials Set Pace as Cycling Wins Div. II National Title

The MIT Cycling Team won the 2008 Division II National Championship at the USA Cycling Collegiate Championships help in Fort Collins, Colo. on May 11. The MIT team seized an early lead in the opening event, the team time trial, and built their advantage throughout the weekend to take a surprise victory.

The MIT women’s team time trial (TTT) team of Martha W. Buckley G, Yuri Matsumoto G, Zuzana Trnovcova ‘09, and Sonya J. Cates G entered the competition solidly positioned as the best team in the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference, having won four of five team time trial events during the season, including the ECCC championships.
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