Closing out the blogs for this road season with a few notes and photos from the ECCC Championships at Dartmouth two weeks ago. For updates on 2023 Road Nationals, check out our instagram.
When Derek and I (Hannah) were planning for this road season, we budgeted for an average 8 people joining per race. We didn’t know who the 8 would be, but we were being optimistic! By just halfway through the season we had entirely blown the budget: 12 racers at URI, 18 at our home race, 9 at UVM and 17 at Easterns. For 14 of the folks joining, it was their first season road racing with the team (and for 10, their first time road racing at all). I am in awe of the enthusiasm and momentum we were able to build throughout this season, and how much fun we all had along the way. There were Life Hacks by Bianca, passionate discussions about the best pop tart flavors, hype playlists, and chaotic lunch runs mid race-days.
Thank you to all the parents, siblings, friends and partners who showed up along the way to cheer us on, volunteer, and provide snacks. “Go MIT” is one of my favorite things to hear when I’m out racing because I know that the person cheering came out for someone else, but is still showing up to support us all as a team. And thanks also to our team sponsors (Thoughtforms and Exponent) for their generosity that allowed Derek and I to horribly miscalculate our team size, but still be able to support every person who wanted to join this year.
In these blogs it is easy to list off placements and stats, but these are only a small part of every weekend we spend together as a team. In case it wasn’t clear, I am the resident “team mom” (what I get for returning to a PhD after working for a bit, I guess). I’ll fully embrace that now to close by saying how proud I am of every single racer who came out this season. I admire everyone who talked to me about being nervous before their race, and came away at the end with a huge smile, because regardless of where you finished, you gave it your all and enjoyed the process. I applaud everyone who tried a new category, improved their placement, or simply showed up when sleep/work/life wasn’t in your favor. Well done conquering brutal courses, bad weather, early mornings, and tough competition.
I can’t wait to do this with you all again next year!
– Team mom (and women’s road captain) Hannah
Photo credits: our very own Aaron V. and Williams College alum Peter Burghardt
After the fourth weekend of the season the team is still delivering great results and good times, but sanity is waning. This post was co-written by Bianca, Mason, and Hannah on the rainy car ride home from the race. Enjoy!
The team made our way up to Burlington, VT this weekend for the Catamount Cycling Classic hosted by UVM. We made it into 3rd in the weekend and overall omnium this weekend with Westpoint choosing to go “Beat Navy” (from a quick look at the results, they seemed to have mostly failed at the goal).
The Airbnb that Mason picked for us this weekend aligned well with Hannah’s dream home (creepy doll in the closet included). Hannah wants to clarify that creepy dolls, peeling wallpaper and doors that don’t close are not part of her dream home, but the absolutely ADORABLE farmhouse in rural Vermont, next to a pond, minutes to Lake Champlain, with peepers at night, for less than the cost of her current two bedroom apartment in Cambridge is dream home material.
Saturday was the standard team time trial followed by the Mt. Philo Road Race. William, Lee, Mason, and Guillaume put in a great time trial performance (3rd on the day) in preparation for nationals. They also avoided the fate of an opponent they passed mid-ride whose insides were turned out on the side of the road (unclear if it was food poisoning or try hard…). Bianca did a great job spinning her flag as a marshal in front of beautiful Mt. Philo state park and Hannah marshaled in front of the cutest covered bridge in all of Vermont.
Zak completed his first ever race weekend (woo!). During the road race, he spent the first two laps off the front with another rider. Unfortunately, they got caught before the line, and the final hill grew a little too tall. Great start to a promising career. We can’t wait to see what he does next weekend.
Adam came back from a 6 year racing retirement! He did a team time trial with Andrew during which he forgot to remove his tool bag from his seat post. He also failed to correctly install his chain the night before. He was just dusting off the cobwebs in preparation for next weekend. His water bottle hand off skills are still impeccable.
William crushed it again with a third place in the road race after making the 3-man break away.
Guillaume put on a valiant effort despite getting COVID at the first race weekend of the year. He completed four strong laps of the road race before deciding that his lungs needed a break from coughing. Smart decision, save it for L’Enfer du Nord.
Hannah took the W during the women’s A/B road race, but the victory was not as sweet as the maple creemee she had after the race.
On Sunday, we had the return (after about a decade hiatus) of the UVM ‘on campus crit’ course (unfortunately raced in the pouring rain and described as cyclocross practice given the potholes).
Hannah’s carbon rim rim brakes were of no use during the rainy critérium. She would have been better off taking them off to save a couple of grams. For the first three laps, she forgot how to ride her bike. At lap three, Mason shouted “use your drops” (Bianca asked “what does that mean?”). Hannah gave a thumbs up and made it back to the front of the pack. Clearly, she likes road racing much more than cyclocross.
Adam “the fair weather cyclist” toughed it out in his race only to be pulled part way through. Luckily, by this point in the weekend his saddle bag was off and his chain was on.
Andrew was accused of sandbagging during the intro crit race. What the marshals didn’t know is that Andrew slept through the team vote that would decide which field he would race with. The team decided for him that he would do the intro race so that we could all sleep in. Bianca appreciated having him in the intro race because he cheered her on all three times that he lapped her (the women’s intro field was so small that they combined it with the men’s). On lap one, Andrew saw his life flash before his eyes when someone fell in the chicane. On lap two, it happened again. By lap three, he was safe and sound in front of everyone.
Bianca achieved her weekend goal of riding in the drops and drafting, which does in fact help with going fast (yay fluid dynamics!). She only had one rock hit her glasses and one bug stuck in her helmet during the C/D road race. It was only after the race that she realized one of her spokes was broken causing her back wheel to be extremely out of true. She thought she wouldn’t be able to participate in the crit, but she was lucky to get a loaner bike from Sam (Thanks UVM!). At that point, she only had a few minutes to get ready before the start of the race, but her jersey and cleats AND phone were locked up in Hannah’s car! A lot of running around and confused phone calls later, she used her free lap and jumped into the race. Not even a loose seat post nor a fully unzipped jersey could slow her down. Brute squad wins again!
The crit was so muddy that Mason was still finding dirt inside his ear at Five Guys. He used a fry to q-tip it out. The adhesive hot hands that he stuck to his toes were not enough to keep from shivering for hours after the race. The worst moment of Mason’s race was when he was isolated between the two main groups and was suddenly faced with a flock of seagulls during one of the course’s more challenging turns. He took a leap of faith and kept up his 30mph descent. The birds flew away in fear. Apparently Mason is more intimidating than Bauke Mollema.
Lee threw away any hope at an omnium win because he didn’t want to get wet at the crit. There is nothing more to say here.
Glossary of words that Bianca learned this weekend
Thanks to @UVMcycling for the nicer photos in this post. Bianca and Hannah were the photographers for the more chaotic shots. We’re ready to have Aaron and Maxwell back next weekend to actually curate our team image.
This past weekend was marked by beautiful weather, more results for the team, immaculate vibes, and the best community of volunteers and supporters we could possibly imagine. We’ll start this week by getting some results out of the way, and then we’ll be turning this blog over to first time racer Bianca, for her take on the weekend! Photos this week by Aaron Vliet, Maxwell Yun and Bianca Champenois.
A whopping 18 racers (including 3 first time road racers!) headed out to Western Mass for our co-hosted “home” race with UMass: the Pioneer Valley Showdown. The courses were both similar to those used in years of yore (2016 and the 2018 easterns), slightly modified to avoid a gravel section during the road race but still with punishing hills for the road race, crit, and time trial. A huge shout out to all the team members, racers from other teams, and friends, who stepped up to marshal, drive pace cars, or simply join the fun this weekend as USAC registered racers. The weekend would not have been possible without the community enthusiasm.
Saturday started out with some dominant ITT results including a 1-2-3-4 for William, Felix, Nick, and Derek in the Men’s B/C, 1-2 for Jon and Aaron in Men’s C/D and a win for Hannah in Women’s A/B.
New road racers Chen, Bianca and Maxwell all braved the hardest road race course of the season so far, finishing solidly in the mix and excited for more races in the future!
Aaron, Jon and Devin finished top 20 in their 83(!!!) person C/D field and Vinh and Andrew hung together to come in within 1 minute of each other. Josh improved one spot on his finish from last week for a win this time around in the B/C field after an early-race attack by William followed by some solid pace control of the field by the rest of the team (shout out to Derek, Felix, Nick, and Seamus!).
In proper ECCC fashion, there was a bit of chaos as well with Hannah having a mechanical early in her race and Mason setting a 5 minute power PR while being dropped from the combined Men’s A/B USAC 123 field (being pushed on by a break away from Coach Robbie).
Sunday’s crit course was spicy (19% grade hill each lap…) and races were all challenging. The hero of the day was Coach Robbie, who rode as on-course marshal for the Men and Women’s intro races. Unfortunately he came in last for both of the races, better luck next time 😉 (THANK YOU ROBBIE).
For the Men’s B/C race, to quote Derek’s Strava: “William went thermonuclear with 1 to go and let me be a lazy sprinter. Maybe it was impolite to take the win from him with the bike throw. We take MIT 1/2 tho”.
Hannah also nabbed a win in the Women’s A/B and Bianca got 2nd in Women’s Intro.
Vinh and Andrew practiced drafting and teamwork in the Men’s Intro race, improving on their placements from last week and welcoming Maxwell into the crew also. Aaron moved up to the Men’s C/D race where he raced with Jon and Devin.
Ok, enough about the results. Turning this over to Bianca for what it’s really like to be a first time racer!
A little backstory about me: I usually spend my weekends playing ultimate frisbee, but I hurt my shoulder, so I am out for the season. Hannah convinced me to ride bikes instead (with the secret goal of getting more points for omnium?), and this conveniently doesn’t require a functional shoulder labrum, so… here I am! I was halfway to the 5am departure meeting spot when my head started feeling a little cold and I realized I had forgotten my helmet… Luckily this was my only faux pas of the weekend (I think). We got to the parking lot and I counted the number of minutes it would take before members of the men’s cycling team would introduce themselves to me. The answer is too many. Nick asked me why my cleats (from the balcony free bin) didn’t have any insoles, but he doesn’t understand that every gram matters when you’re trying to win. I was jealous of Hannah who wore a dress to easily change into and out of cycling shorts. I treated the TT as a warmup (and an opportunity to make sure I knew how to use my shifters) and laughed when I misread the “200m” sign as “ZOOM”. After the race, Hannah and I posed for a photo in the TT helmets. I couldn’t decide if I felt more like a member of Daft Punk or Darth Vader. Either way, the helmets make a great medium for a mirror selfie.
The road race was the event I was most excited for. Unfortunately, I had a problem with my derailleur on the first hill and had to abandon the group that I was in (so much for having the lightest derailleur in the world lol). I rode the rest of the 25 miles alone through the beautiful woods which turned out to be super peaceful and enjoyable. The flag waver at the bottom of the steepest hill gave me an incredible dancing performance which lifted my spirits. The last sandy downhill made me wish I had thicker tires and disc brakes (I finally understand the appeal of disc brakes), but I finished the road race feeling really strong and was able to catch up to most of the people from the group I had been dropped from in the first few miles. After the race I went back to Moores Pond, the lake along the course, for a refreshing swim! From there, I watched the A/B races go by. I was entertained by one of the UVM riders who spent the whole race yelling and gesticulating, and I later learned that this was the animated flag waver from earlier (makes sense). I don’t think Mason liked his company very much. I was hoping to cheer Hannah on, but was sad to see her pass by in the race van her quick link succumbed to her new chain waxing regimen (or something like that?)
I went back to the finish line to watch the end of the A/B races before going to set up a four square court with my friend Bryce (who did the road race on a gravel bike lol). Nick and Maxwell joined us for a few rounds. Nick’s agility was affected by his cleats and determination to play with his bike in one hand. Maxwell impressed us with a fancy around the world foot serve. Some UVM riders joined in on the fun, too. I ended the day with a nice cyclist tan.
Hannah left me alone with the boys for dinner. We ordered every item on the menu that had the highest number of calories: the key is to get the sauces. The boys spent most of dinner recapping the race using language I couldn’t understand. FTP this, pull that, break, chase, watts, attack… too many words to keep track of. FTP stands for file transfer protocol right? I taught Nick about BeReal (MIT cycling is oldddd). We debated about the most efficient way to drink water, and we collectively swallowed a slice of key lime pie in 10 seconds. I drove home with my new roommates for the night: Matthew and Felix. Thankfully, neither one of them snored.
Last came the Sunday critérium! The course was right by beautiful Turners Falls. I did the intro clinic and intro race. The intro clinic made me grateful for all the experience I have gotten from biking around horrible drivers in cities. The course didn’t have any hard turns which reduced my fears, and the main challenge was a hill that I really enjoyed (turns out I like hills). The downhill had a 25mph speed limit sign and a flashing speedometer which made each lap more exciting as I tried to reach max speed. The only thing I had to eat before the race was a pop tart (ew, never again) and a banana, but we made it happen! I will come more prepared next time.
I made it back to Cambridge in time for the Boston marathon midnight ride which I did on my tried and true single speed (no more derailleurs to deal with!). My friends and I intended to bike 13 miles in and turn around at the halfway mark. We made one wrong turn and ended up in Framingham. Luckily, the commuter rail train came through and we made it home. That concluded an incredible weekend. To anyone reading this: if you’re unsure about doing a race, DO IT!!! I had so much fun, learned so much, and met so many great people. ROLL TECH
The whole team is riding a major high coming off of the first two races of the season.
Weekend 1 was hosted down at Bucknell in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. Derek, Seamus and Guillaume raced the first race of the season (Men’s TTT) in a horrible rain but powered their way to 2nd in the Men’s B/C field. Weather and spirits improved by the road races later in the day. The infamous “Sunrise Climb” combined with 20 mph winds blew apart (literally and figuratively) both Hannah’s Women’s A/B race and the Men’s B/C race. Seamus, Guillaume and Hannah all hung on to varying degrees to finish their races mid pack, while Derek hit a hidden patch of gravel and had an unfortunate slide that took him out of the race.
Coming back the next day with watts that can only be generated by the need for revenge, Derek got himself into a two-man break during the crit. The break eventually became three and Derek came away with a strong 3rd on the day. Hannah ended up 2nd in her crit after also making the break and lapping the (albeit very small) field. Being the first race of the season and a small group and mostly racing at the same time means we were out of practice taking photos and don’t have majestic shots to show for the weekend. Thankfully, Aaron fixed this for us for Weekend 2 at the University of RI so keep scrolling for those!
Eleven of us made the trip to Southern RI for the second race weekend of the year hosted by URI. This was the first road race with MIT for more than half of the crew. Nothing says ECCC season quite like 5:30 wake ups and watching the sunrise, but at least for this weekend we started our day overlooking the beautiful Misquamicut Beach.
The first race of the day let us break out the MIT TT helmets (we remain the only team in ECCC who race in them, #science). Early in the day, there was some confusion about the ITT course, resulting in annulment of the results for the entire Men’s C/D field. But official results aren’t necessary because of the riders who followed the correct course, Felix and William went 1-2 in the Men’s C/D field so we won in spirit. Meanwhile, Josh and Derek did the same for the Men’s B/C field with times a full minute faster than anyone else in their field and the 5th and 6th fastest of anyone on the day. This placed them just after 4 riders who were all on the 1st or 2nd place team time trial squads at last year’s collegiate nationals.
And then started our weekend of breakaways. Being on the beach meant views, but it also meant wind. The road race course was an 8 mile extended dog-bone loop that ran parallel to the shore for ~6 miles. What started out as a cross wind turned into a headwind / tailwind for the last few races of the day that made the finishing stretch exceptionally fast and caused splits in all the fields. Andrew, Vinh, Aaron, Seamus and Felix raced in the Men’s C/D field of over 70 starters(!!). With some excellent team tactics and road captaining by Seamus, they managed to send Felix off the front in the last 2 miles of the race. He came in 20 seconds ahead of the field in his first ever road race.
Hannah also went full send in the Women’s A/B field with a 2 woman break that finished almost 7 minutes up on the rest of the field. After working together all race, Hannah took second to the UVM rider with the hope that someday soon more riders in the field will have A licenses and be eligible to join for Nationals at the end of the season.
More team tactics came into play for the Men’s B/C race where Derek, William and Josh worked together for Josh to come away with a 2nd place. Meanwhile, Mason and Lee were on course at the same time for the Men’s A race. After a brief slow down to watch the B finishers come in as their field passed, the pace picked back up. There was a USAC rider off the front but they still came away with 4th and 5th in the collegiate rankings during the bunch sprint.
After a night of watching the Paris Roubaix Femmes together in the hotel, it was Crit Day at everyone’s favorite Southern RI course: Ninigret! The day was complete with tailgating on the sidelines made possible by another new MIT team member, Adam. He was MVP of the day for driving down to spectate, cheer, and most importantly feed us all breakfast burritos throughout the day.
Before the Men’s C/D race, we asked William, Seamus and Felix what the plan was for handling such a large field. Their answer: “make it smaller”. Sure enough, within 2 laps the three of them had a break away off the front. They TTTed together to the finish as planned. The ECCC conference director made a rare appearance on the microphone mid race to jokingly say that we’ve “been spending too much time in the wind tunnel.” Not entirely true since no one on the team was around for the last time the Club went into the wind tunnel. That said, we wouldn’t object to trying it out if anyone has a connection for us these days! There’s always room to improve, even when you’re off the front.
After starting the trend during the first race of the day, Derek and Josh couldn’t resist the temptation of a breakaway in their Men’s B/C race as well. Switching up the order from the ITT the day before, Derek took second and Josh third out of a four man group. Aaron followed up with a win in the Men’s Intro race by riding away from a group of 3 as Vinh controlled the pace in the main group behind. Andrew had an unfortunate encounter with a bush on the sidelines early in the race, but recovered for a respectable 12th in the group.
The Men’s A and Women’s A/B races in the day remained fun but success was more elusive. Hannah was nicked on the line in the final sprint (repeating almost every race in last year’s ECCC season…). With prime sprint points though, Hannah will still be wearing yellow numbers next week as the series leader in the A field for the season so far. A strong break went early in the Men’s A race and despite a valiant chase effort by Lee and Coach Robbie (riding in his USAC team colors for Community Bike Racing), they were unable to bridge. After a lead out from Mason, Lee took 3rd in the field sprint.
All in all, the team is psyched. We missed out on team omnium victory for the weekend by a single point. But we’ll be coming back next week for revenge! Closing out with a few thoughts from Vinh about his first road race weekend with the team:
“These first road races were phenomenal! I had so much fun drafting behind people and sticking into their wheels. I think I did better the second day with the experience I got from getting dropped hard in the first day. Glad that me being an annoyance in the peloton helped Aaron get a big gap in the break out and win the race!! Still, I have a lot to improve with my power and sprinting. Very excited! Being with the team was so much fun too, cheering, getting cheered, and learning from everyone was awesome!! 10 out of 10 would do it again!”
Next up, our home race, co-hosted with UMass Amherst. Will new MIT stars shine as we head to the rolling hills of Western Mass? Stay tuned to find out!
Photo credits: Mostly @aaron_v_photography, with supplements from Seamus, Hannah, Felix, and a stranger in the parking lot who was nice enough to take our group shot
On November 2nd and 3rd the MIT Cycling team held our annual Fall Training Camp. The destination this year was Pittsfield, MA, an excellent staging point for rides throughout the Berkshires and Western Massachusetts. We had an amazing weekend of riding and team socializing under deep blue skies and crisp New England fall temperatures. We also happily welcomed several new riders onto the MIT cycling scene.
First up, Djuna gives her recap of the weekend:
“When the moment came around to get on our bikes and head out on Saturday morning from our house in Pittsfield for the first day of fall training camp, I had no idea what was awaiting me – I hadn’t properly been introduced to Strava yet and don’t own a Garmin so while the rest of the team was studiously pouring over the routes, I was nervously biting my lip – Hoping my excellent drafting skills would save me. I joined Sarah, Ethan, Julie, and Bola, opting for the shortest route. The first few miles were smooth enough (apart from a short break to hunt for an eyeglass lens that had popped out of Bola’s glasses on the first hill) – until we reached the climb everyone had been talking about: Mount Greylock. Having not reviewed the route, I had no idea that we were about to climb the highest point in MA. The first few minutes uphill were the worst – it suddenly became painfully clear how little I had trained this past month. My legs ached as I struggled to get to the top of the climb. Being from the north of Germany (where climbs of this caliber are non-existent), I had never experienced an extended period uphill on the bike and I was sure the worst would soon be over. However, taking a turn, just as the incline steepened to an almost unbearable grade, I was faced with the horrible realization that the climb had not yet ended! Very much to the contrary, the pavement snaked its way uphill around the mountain and disappeared into the trees. It was too late to turn around and my teammates were far ahead of me. Determined to not fall behind, I tried to keep the pace even and settle into the rhythm of (slowly) turning the crank. As I climbed higher, beautiful views of the valley emerged towards my left and icicles decorated the steep incline of trees to my right, and, as the sun emerged near the end of the climb, I began to truly treasure and enjoy the monumental task of getting up this mountain. Reunited with my group at the summit, the pain felt rewarding – and suddenly I understood why cyclists are so obsessed with climbs!
Little did I know that my least favorite part of this endeavor would be the 20 minute descent, where icy winds made it painfully clear that I should have packed an extra windbreaker. At the very least, my desire to get down as quickly as possible helped me overcome my fear of taking curves fast! Much to my delight, we spent the next hour following the cold descent huddled around coffee mugs in a cafe at the base of the mountain. Feeling horribly cold and absolutely dreading the way back home, I had an idea. In the cafe restroom, I removed my thermal base layers and sat huddled under the hand dryer, enjoying the warmth and drying my clothes one-by-one. Feeling very smug and smart (but also slightly too ashamed to tell my teammates why I had taken so long – I figured; only weak cyclists sit under hand dryers), I exited the cafe ready to brave the way back home.
On Day 2 on Sunday, a thin layer of fog hung over the valley, making everything feel fall-like and cozy and all-around perfect for another ride. Jeremy, who had completed the monumental 100 mile ride with Erik, and co. the day before, led us on a 50 mile group ride, and, impressively, stuck it out at the front for the majority of the ride. I, on the other hand, desperately clung to his wheel and later to Carolyn’s, as I tried to keep up. It was a stunning ride that took us up another beautiful climb – more cyclocross than road, through a forest and along a stream that snaked its way up the mountain. The descent was perfect, as if the street had been paved over just for fall training camp! After a little extended cyclocross adventure as we left the main road to find the town of Lee, we reached asphalt again and made it to another well-deserved coffee stop. Having not learnt from the previous day to bring an extra base layer, I sat with my teammates, shivering, and dreading the cold outside, wondering ‘why do we this again?’ It’s an easy-enough question to answer: Pushing my limits with a group of people as cool and diverse as this team, makes every tough moment on the bike entirely worth it. Thanks guys, for welcoming me into the family – It’s been a blast already and I look forward to many more hard rides!”
Next, Miles relives the high and lows of two intense days of riding:
“On Saturday morning, I found myself with Erik, Guillaume, Jack, Jeremy and Nic about to embark on a 170km ride with 3100m of climbing. Despite having topped up my glycogen supplies the night before with a Halloween candy binge, I was still apprehensive. With Erik having recently won the Mount Washington hill climb, Guillaume adamantly sticking to a strict regimen of 3+ hour trainer rides and Nic crowned GrubHub’s best bike courier, I felt slightly out of my depth. But, being a beautiful sunny day and my last FTC before graduation, I had to give it a go!
Ten kilometers in, we hit our first and biggest climb of the day: Mount Greylock. As became the routine for the multiple climbs through the day, Guillaume and Erik would shoot off ahead, seemingly filled with helium, while the rest of us, more evenly matched, duked it out for third place. It was unspoken knowledge that every climb was, of course, a race. Being treated to some amazing views throughout the climb, spirits were high at the top of Greylock despite the ensuing descent in sub-zero temperatures that quickly turned us into ice cubes.
The remainder of the ride was a mixture of incredible descents and long upward slogs. A highlight was the descent of Petersburg pass, which was perhaps was the most fun I have ever had descending in the Northeast. The low point of my ride was encountering the aptly named “Berlin Wall”. Halfway up, my mind decided that enough was enough and the 80km and 1500m of climbing that remained in the ride did not bear thinking about. Luckily, a second wind, spurred by the rapid consumption of a bottle of Mountain Dew, soon hit and the rest of the ride was quite enjoyable. After flatting with 8km to go, we all made it home thoroughly exhausted (at least I was) just as the sun was setting.
On Sunday, a group of us set out to do the long ride for the day, which Jeremy promised might have some “secret dirt”. I was hoping for a slightly more relaxing day but that hope soon evaporated with attacks flying at the base of the first climb. Following a cheerful discussion about the differences between professional and amateur bike racers, the majority of the group decided to opt for a shorter route home, leaving me, Guillaume, Sarah and Nic to press onwards along the long route.
One hundred kilometers in, rather cold and tired, we found ourselves in the heart of the October Mountain State Forest. We were on a rough “track” which, in my exhausted mind, was certainly not the fun secret dirt we had been promised. Instead, for kilometers we were dodging massive holes, chunky rocks, and even active logging machinery. Finally, we reached a junction where the route instructed us to go straight. However, a foreboding rickety sign warned of “Rough road ahead for 8 miles”. As we were stopped to plan an alternate escape route, a massive 4×4 off-roading truck bumped its way up the track. The man driving, laughing at our pathetically skinny tires, confirmed our suspicions that continuing straight would not be advisable. Instead, he gave us directions to the nearest paved road which we eventually found but not before passing a camp of dirt bikers, howling in laughter at the sight of lycra-clad road cyclists traveling through this wilderness.
By the time we reached pavement I was done, with no second wind on the horizon. For the remaining hour, I desperately clung to Sarah, Guillaume and Nic’s wheels, progressively sinking into a deeper bonk. Thankfully Guillaume, who appeared more rested than at the start of the ride, had the energy to pull us all home. Upon finally reaching the car, I spent the next 15 minutes silently eating handfuls upon handfuls of M&Ms until I finally had enough energy to drive us to a recovery meal at Five Guys.
Thanks to Jeremy and Sarah for organizing a fantastic training camp and to everyone for being such great riding buddies. I’m looking forward to doing it all over again at Winter Training Camp!”
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).
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!
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!
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)!
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!
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!
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.
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.
The women relaxing (recovering) at the top of Palomar
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:
Photos from the top before descending the mountain
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:
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!”
“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.”
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!”
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!
Alex Klotz shared his experience of the fall training camp that 23 of us went on Nov 4-6, 2016 in Lake Sunapee, NH:
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.