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Interview with the MIT National Champion Road Team

Hi there!

On 4-6th May the MIT cycling team sent 10 riders (Katie Quinn, Yuri Matsumoto, Chris Birch, Laura Ralston (myself), Adam Bry, Spencer Schaber, Zack Ulissi, Andrew Lysaght, Sebastien Gauthier and Joe Near) and one support staff (Nate Dixon, also club president) to Ogden, Utah to compete in the National Collegiate Road Championships, and I’m proud to say that they won the team omnium for division 2 schools. We also filled the podium in all the women’s events: Katie Quinn took 1st in the road race (RR), 2nd in the criterium (crit) and 1st in the team time trial (TTT), Laura Ralston took 1st in the crit and 1st in the TTT, Chris Birch got 1st in the TTT, 3rd in the crit and 4th in the RR, and Yuri Matsumoto got 1st in the TTT, 4th in the crit and 5th in the RR. And the men did pretty well too with 2nd in the TTT and several respectable (mid-teens to early 20s) finishes in their RR and crit.

To enable you to re-live some of our Nationals moments I asked the riders to respond to a couple of questions about their experiences at the event and as team leaders over this wondrous season!

Laura Ralston: Katie, how does it feel to have captained such a strong women’s team for the last 2 years? What are your secrets to success?

Katie Quinn: The MIT women’s cycling team had a fantastic record of success long before I joined the team! It’s been an honor and loads of fun to captain and race with and learn from a team of the women who encouraged me to race in the first place! I think the ultimate achievement in cycling is having a team race their heart out to execute a thoroughly planned race strategy. I think the MIT women’s team does this at almost every race we do. Sometimes it doesn’t pay off … but sometimes it does and that’s an incredibly fun experience!

LR: Individually you had a fantastic set of results at Nationals – what were your best moments?

KQ: Hmmm.. I want to use the same idea as above but I guess you won’t use both answers anyway so..(LR: typical Katie – being as humble as ever!!!) I think the ultimate achievement in cycling is having a team race their heart out to execute a thoroughly planned race strategy. The best moments of Nationals were points of each race where I realized that we’d done exactly that…Crossing the finish line of the TTT together, knowing that our skill and discipline had got us over the course as efficiently as we could. The few laps of the crit where Laura and I pulled away together off the front of the race, knowing that we were both fully committed to stayed in the lead, and that Yuri would be strong and skilled enough to stop anyone chasing. That and then seeing Chris win the bunch sprint to take 3rd meant that we’d ticked off every goal that we had for the race!

The entire men’s team lifted in the road race. They started this last race of the weekend knowing that they had to beat our biggest competitor, Mars Hill College, to win the team omnium. Even though they were almost all caught behind a huge crash (more on this later) and had to waste energy chasing back to the race, they dug really deep and worked together really cleverly to each overtake one of Mars Hill’s strongest riders before the finish, securing our team win!

LR: Yuri, you were the most senior member of the team this year, and the only one who had been part of the 2008 Nationals Championship Road Team. How do the two experiences compare?

Yuri Matsumoto: When the team won in 2008, it was my first nationals and I had no idea that we were going to win the team omnium or women’s TTT, so, I was quite surprised and super excited about the win. As for this year, I think the team was stronger and we had higher expectations than we did in the past, so it was less of a surprise but I was equally thrilled to win again.

LR: What has collegiate cycling meant to you? Do you think you’ll try to stay involved after you graduate? (Sadly (for us) Yuri is planning to graduate in the next 12 months – she’s been in the team for over 5 years.)

YM: When I started cycling at the beginning of grad school, I had no idea how much fun I was going to have with collegiate cycling. Now I cannot imagine being in grad school and not racing bikes. It kept me happy whenever research was not going well which is like 99% of the time. If I live in Boston area after I graduate, I would like to stay in touch with the team.

LR: Chris, how did it feel winning the field sprint in the criterium? Did everything go to plan?

Chris Birch: I was unsure of where I would be this year because in late December, right before Cyclocross Nationals, I rolled my ankle and snapped a ligament in half. My road-specific training started late, and of all things, my sprinting was something I hadn’t trained up because of the injury. I knew I could outsprint most of our conference by the end of the season, but Nationals is a different beast. The criterium was definitely the race I was most looking forward to, and I knew my best chances were in a field sprint. With 3 laps to go, I never allowed myself to move farther back than 3rd wheel. With 1 to go, another ECCC woman (Jasmine from West Point) drove the pace, stringing the field out a bit, and I sat right on her wheel. I came around her after the penultimate corner and started a long sprint, passing Mariske (Mars Hill College — our biggest competition) in the final corner and coming through the finish first (3rd overall) with a sizable gap. I was so happy that I got to be a good teammate by helping make the MIT break successful and that I also got to achieve my personal goal of winning the sprint. Ultimately, I got 2nd in the individual omnium, just behind Katie, which was such a happy ending to my ankle-injury-missing- cyclocross-nationals story.

LR: To myself – tell us about your experience in the crit!
LR: Winning the collegiate criterium at 2012 USA Cycling Collegiate Road National Championships for the second year in a row was a fantastic moment. The day before the race my team mates and I had talked in length about the race and we had decided that if we could make a break happen with at least two Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) riders in it that would be the safest way to guarantee podium spots.

We sat tight for the first two primes letting other riders do more work, and threw in some attacks immediately after the start/finish line. After about the third prime the maneuver started to break things up and with a bit of hesitation from the pack we were able to form a break of three – myself, my team mate Katie Quinn, and Mariske Strauss (the current South African cross country mountain bike champion and rider for Mars Hill College). We knew Mariske could be a strong rider, so we tried to be careful not to let have an easy ride in our break.

After a lap or so, she opened a gap on Katie’s wheel, so I let her suffer to see how tired she really was, and after another lap she was still not back on Katie’s wheel so I jumped past Mariske towards Katie. Katie managed to get my wheel and we dropped Mariske, and time trialed the rest the race.

When it came down to the last lap Katie agreed we should both start our sprints coming out the last corner but she was generous and gave me a lead-out coming into this corner, and I think she knew how much I really wanted the win – thanks Katie!!

LR: Adam and Spencer – as the current and previous men’s captains – you seem to have revolutionized the men’s side of the team, and shown that it’s not only MIT women that can win races in the ECCC! How did you manage this!? Is it sustainable – and what wisdom would you want to pass on to the next generation of MIT male cyclists?

Adam Bry: The club had an outstanding foundation thanks to the dedication of previous members and officers, but I think a lot of the credit for the success the men have had belongs to the current group of superstar women. They set an amazing example for how to train and prepare. A lot of what I tried to do as men’s captain was make sure that there were opportunities for the faster guys on the team to ride together and push each other. At this year’s training camp especially, we got in some great training together and it really paid off during the season.

Across all categories, I tried to make sure that we started races with a plan and intention to win. While it’s possible to win without that, bike racing is a sport that rewards those who go for it, and having the intention to win goes a long way towards actually doing it. For me this was a key piece of breaking through the mystique of the A field. It can be really intimidating to line up against pros and others that have been racing at a high level for most of the their lives, but once we all started to believe we could work together to win the races (even if we didn’t have the single strongest guy in the field) we got some great results.

Spencer Schaber: It wasn’t until I became captain that I started to believe that MIT men could actually win A or B category collegiate road bike races. I think training camp last year in Tucson, AZ and this year in Borrego Springs, CA with ~15 MIT riders each year really helped the men’s team get in a huge week of training at a near-ideal 4-5 weeks before racing season. Before these years, it was common for a smaller group (~5 riders?) to go and get that amount of training. On top of the clear effects on physical endurance, training camp brought in a new crop of riders and really got them hooked on the MIT Cycling community, so that they came to more races and became still stronger and smarter racers. With so many strong team members and great friendships, the next step was to get us working as a team for a team win.

When we had 5 men in the top 10 of the Tufts crit at Beanpot 2011 but no team win, we knew we had the strength to do better, and Alex Chaleff encouraged me to mobilize the team towards a team win. I sent out an e-mail to the A and B men trying to motivate them towards team wins for the rest of the season. This year Adam did a really great job proposing specific plans towards team wins (proposing roles in races to different people, and encouraging us all to work towards a team win if any MIT man got in a break), and he proposed strategies for riders in all categories to win, which led to better results for them and will continue to benefit them as they rise to higher categories knowing that they can win a bicycle race.

Finally, this year the training plan worked in more intensity than in past years, so that we were more ready for the races when they hit, rather than spending so much time “racing into shape”. I found the hard efforts at training camp over IAP to be especially helpful, including the “hammer rides”: ~5 mile stretches of targeted attacks with a defined finish line to try and reach first. Adam typically won these rides, but I remember one time when Zack U and I teamed up against Adam, and I gained a visceral experience for how well counter-attacking can work, because the two of us working together led to Adam not winning, for once! (Unfortunately, we still gave the win to Joe, if I remember correctly).

LR: Boys – what happened in that crash? What thoughts were running through your head at the time? Tell us about the climb and the descent!

Sebastien Gauthier: Since I was at the front of the race, I did not see the crash, and did not even realize it had happened until a long time into the race when I heard someone talk about it. I was surprised to hear that at least 20 riders went down. I think we should be very thankful that none of our riders were seriously injured in that big crash.

For the race, my job was to be at the front of the main group and control it during the first 3 laps of the flat loop. Specifically, I needed to pay more attention to any attacks or breakaway attempts by the Mars Hill racers and a few other key people. Mars Hill were important to watch because they were in second place for the team omnium, not too far behind us. With me being on the front and marking most attacks, the other MIT racers could hopefully stay in the pack and conserve as much energy as possible for the final climb.

Once we got to the bottom of the final climb, I was pretty much exhausted from the first part of the race. Since my job was done, I let the main pack climb away from me, hoping our guys would do well. It took me everything to make it to the top, but then the descent and the last 10km to the finish were just really fun. I was pleased to meet the other guys at the finish line and to hear them say that they had beaten all the Mars Hill guys at the finish, which probably meant we had successfully secured the first place for the team omnium.

AB: About 5 minutes into what figured to be a 3.5 hour race, flying along at 36 mph, I heard the unmistakable sound of brakes screeching and carbon splintering. At the last second as the riders in front of me slid into the pile I was confronted with a seething mass of people and
bikes piled 4 feet high, spread from one edge of the road to the other. In a split second I was part of the mess along with (I’m guessing) half the field. I’ve never seen anything like it and I hope
I never do again. There were clearly a lot of people in bad shape on the bottom of the pile, but luckily EMTs from the ambulance were there almost immediately. I got the attention of one of the neutral support guys, he fixed my stem which had torqued around by almost 90 degrees, everything else on my bike looked more or less okay, and off I went. The crash was so big and so early that I expected the pack would either get neutralized or slow down and wait, but as I chased solo with the pack no where in sight and only a few stragglers visible up ahead this seemed to not be the case, and I had the wrenching feeling that my race might be over before it had really started. After 10 minutes of catching and being caught I was in a group of 5 with two
other ECCC strong guys. We pushed it really hard and after 20 minutes we had the pack in sight as a carrot, and after 40 we’d caught back on.

Maybe from the chase and maybe just from a bad day, I started the major climb with dead legs. I felt a bit better as it went on, and by the top I had joined Spencer who was 20-30 seconds in front for most of the ascent. He’s a much better handler/descender than me, so following him down the nasty descent was a huge help. When we got to the bottom we could see a small group of riders up the road by maybe 30-40 seconds, and our job was pretty clear. We knew at least one Mars Hill guy was in front of us and we knew we needed to beat them to win the team omnium and earn our stars and stripes. With the goal so clear there was almost no verbal communication as we settled into an incredibly hard effort, taking turns drafting in the strong crosswind. We were definitely making progress on the riders in front of us – enough that we could see them as a group of two – but as we came across the 2 mile to go mark, we weren’t sure if we could get them before the line, so deeper into the paincave we went.

Finally at 1 mile to go they were just a few meters in front of us. While they were still just out of ear shot we made a quick plan: catch, sit on for a minute or so, one person attacks and the other
either counters or tries to win the sprint. After catching them we saw one was the Mars Hill guys (yes!). After drafting for a bit I felt I had some spring in my legs so I put in a hard attack with maybe 600 meters to the line which neither of them caught and Spencer came around Mars Hill in the sprint (yes!).

SS: We were going 36 mph down a flat, non-technical section of road, and the next thing I knew people were crashing all the way across the road. From ditch to ditch, there was a pile of carbon fiber and people skidding along the ground. I grabbed for brake but wasn’t able to avoid going down into the pile myself. I looked forward and saw a peloton of ~25 riders continuing on, looked around and saw no teammates, and hopped back on my bike, handlebars slightly askew, to chase. I worked with a couple other riders, and after maybe ten minutes we caught four more riders including Andrew, then we seven worked together—poorly—and finally caught the peloton just after the headwind turned to a tailwind after the dam. I was surprised the lower loop was not more restful considering how flat it was. Something about the winds made it require some effort at times even to sit in. Still, it was clear most people were just trying to sit in and save for the final ~10 miles including the main climb.

Sebastien worked very hard for us to shut down attacks, putting in one 15-second effort of 1 kW to chase down Robin Carpenter and many other efforts that surely tired him out, but allowed Adam, Zack, Andrew, and me to conserve energy. For the week leading up to the road race, I had been thinking to myself that the entire race would come down to a single ~20-minute effort, and it essentially did (apart from the 20-minutes spent chasing after the initial big crash). We caught the rider from his solo breakaway effort at the base of the climb, and for the first few minutes after the grade picked up I stayed with the leaders, including Carpenter and Grystar. I wanted to stay with them, at least for a while, in order to demoralize the competition behind me into reducing their efforts further. I was able to do that, but eventually I allowed a gap to open up from the leaders. A handful of riders passed me after I slowed down, and when I reached Katie, Laura, Yuri, and Chris, who told me that it was about 2 minutes to the leaders and 1 minute to the top. Most memorable was Laura yelling something like “THE OMNIUM IS UP THE ROAD! YOU NEED TO BE THERE!” (meaning the Mars Hill guy who passed me). That motivated me further to go at just below the limit where my legs would completely cramp and I would fall off my bike. I could feel myself grimacing—I was not smiling like I often do even under moderately hard efforts.

I crested the climb at about the same time as Adam and was pleased because we could work together on the final stretch to the finish line. I bombed down the descent as fast as I safely could, hitting 55 mph at one point, and met up with Adam again at the bottom. In the extreme crosswinds, the optimal arrangement for drag reduction sometimes put my front wheel even with the crank of his bike. I felt so “pro” trying to chase down the Mars Hill guy, perfectly working together with Adam at an all-out effort, still with my legs cramping and threatening to completely lock up. After the penultimate corner, we caught the Mars Hill rider and one other, sat on for a moment to rest, then Adam attacked and stayed ahead of him, and I sat on slightly longer then sprinted around Mars Hill at the end. At that point, I was pretty sure we had the team win!

LR: Joe, you perhaps had the worst luck at nationals this year, with 4 crashes in 2 days, and one broken bike – did you still manage to have fun out in Ogden – and if so, how? (Joe unfortunately was caught up in the big crash in the RR and had to retire as neutral support ran out of bikes, and he got caught up in 3 tumbles in the crit.)

Joe Near: I was surprised that there were so many crashes, and of course disappointed to be involved in so many of them (especially since I really haven’t crashed in my couple years of road racing). Worse than that was the feeling that I wasn’t able to do my job in the races because I kept crashing. But I always enjoy spending time with the team, and in the context of competing at nationals it was even more exciting. Watching everyone else race so well — in the women’s crit,
especially — was really satisfying, and standing on the podium with the team made all the crashes worth it.

LR: The men’s 2nd place in the TTT really helped nail down the team’s omnium win – how do you feel that race went, and what has helped you improve so much from last year?

AB: When we prerode the course we knew it would be good for us since there was a lot of wide open flat where we could use our strength and efficiency (our specialty) as opposed to some of the more technical courses we had during the season. We had 4 of the top 10 individual time trialists from the ECCC (our conference) on the team so we knew we had the strength. To give us the extra edge for Nationals, our title sponsor FXDD was extremely generous in providing rental ZIPP wheels which are more aerodynamic than standard wheels – especially in
the extremely windy conditions on the nationals course.

The ride itself was brutal. With a strong tail wind headed out it was very difficult to get any recovery while drafting. We reached the turnaround having averaged around 35 mph but everyone was pretty deep in the pain cave by that point. Coming back the headwind made for much better rest at the back of the paceline, but the efforts on the front were all the more sharp and painful. Fighting through the last 5 miles with everyone killing themselves on the front was draining but incredibly fun.

SS: A big change since last year was that three of the four men on the TTT squad went to training camp for a 32 hour week, and went to 7 or more of the 9 race weekends. We had more experience racing together, we (especially Zack U) considered pull lengths based on threshold power and frontal area of the members of the squad, we knew through and through that we should go harder on the upwind section based on journal articles analyzing optimal pacing for time trials as well as conventional cycling wisdom, we all four had deep-section aerodynamic wheels (vs. only two of the squad members last year), we had better aero helmets, and we communicated more frequently during the race, and switched our echelon formation as much as once every mile as the crosswind shifted. Thanks to FXDD for sponsoring our wheel rental—they must have been good for at least 12 seconds, so we probably would have gotten third or worse without those wheel rentals!

Another MIT Men’s A Win! My first collegiate win ever.

by Spencer Schaber
Last year Yale was my first race in men’s A and I was really happy with my results: 7th in the road race (2nd in field sprint), and decent enough in the ITT and crit to feel like I belonged in the A’s. This year was even better, because Joe and I made delicious food on a camp stove! Joe brought supplies for grilled cheese sandwiches, pancakes, and bacon, and I brought my camp stove. I also really liked how others readily shared bananas (Adam, Christina), nutella (Ernesto), and peanut butter (Adam) for the pancakes…yum!

Beyond the food, the racing was a huge thrill for me too. This week I skipped openers on Friday morning and instead opted to sleep in later. That seemed to work because I felt great on Saturday morning, and I got 10th in the uphill ITT, whereas at the Princeton uphill ITT a couple weeks ago I got 15th. I actually used my Powertap data during the race this time, whereas usually I just look at it afterward, and I think that helped a bit. I targeted my 11-minute power record set on Black Mo last week, but ended up about 20 W below that. I also rested a bit and tucked more on the descent sections, and went harder than average on the steeper sections.

Before the road race, I was feeling excited and confident due to my 10th place finish in the ITT. Cooking food on the camp stove was relaxing and fun. The Pepe’s pizza from Friday night seemed to still be fueling me as well—I must have eaten roughly half of a large! I aimed to eat a lot of gels during the race, but I brought one bottle each of Cytomax and water—the water to avoid that syrupy feeling when drinking sugar water while exerting myself. That was a good idea, because I started to feel sick from too much sugar and switched to water, eating only a single gel during the race. The race felt hard most of the time, but never as hard as Black Mo (or at least the really hard parts never lasted more than ~2 minutes). In all of the races before mine that day, I had seen people pegged, single file crossing the start line after the descent, so I wanted to avoid that sort of effort for all of the times I would be crossing the line. After the first two laps of racing (out of ~11), I managed to consistently position myself in the top ~15 riders most of the time, and to move up on the descent if possible. I also looked for Samson McHugh and others who seem to be good descenders, and they tended to treat me well with good lines and minimal braking (subject to the constraint of not crashing).

With maybe 4 laps to go, after Ed Grystar (Brown #55) had gotten away solo, Brendan Siekman (Army #30) did a bit of an acceleration halfway up the main climb. I jumped on his wheel and we got a bit of a gap. Mathieu Boudier-Reveret (McGill #94) came with us as well. Evidently everyone else in the field either (a) thought it was a pointless attempt, or (b) was hurting too much to follow, because they let us get away. After maybe a lap, we caught up with Grystar, and I yelled “hop on!”. He’s an experienced racer with many good results, so I was happy to have him in our breakaway. Our gap slowly widened over the remaining laps, and I knew that the other MIT men’s A were blocking for me. We were going pretty fast, and had pretty good collaboration in the breakaway, but if the field was motivated (and not blocked), it seemed they could have caught us. I really enjoy TTT efforts, so this suited me and most of the ride was quite smooth. The four of us slowed down considerably in the last 500-1000 m, with some mini-attacks and some “cat-and-mouse”. At times we were four-wide, looking at each other, no one wanting to make the first move. The pace seemed a bit slow for my liking, as I think I do better sprinting out of a constant effort of threshold or higher, so that pure sprinters are less recovered, so I ramped it up a bit. As I recall, Mathieu gave the next hard acceleration, then Siekman a little harder, then Mathieu really went for it and I followed him. I heard Katie say “goooooooo Spennnnnnsaaaaaaaah” and then I sprinted harder and got lower, and sprinted past Mathieu, with enough of a gap to give a victory salute for the finish camera!

I am so thankful to so many people for this. The first who come to mind are my men’s A teammates (all 9 of you!) for blocking—working towards an MIT win, regardless of who it was. Just looking at the results for the road race and crit, you can see that most of the men’s A team completely used themselves up blocking to ensure the breakaways succeeded. Thanks to Adam and Katie for organizing a great training camp with more intensity and hammer rides than last year, and teaching me a lot about training and racing to win! Thanks to Zach LaBry, Alex Chaleff, John Rhoden, and Adam Bry for encouraging me to do summer USAC races to become a stronger and smarter racer. And thanks to all of MIT Cycling’s sponsors for making this financially possible!

This year at Yale was by far my best race weekend ever!

Zack’s Philly Report

by Zack Ulissi
Marten Beel’s (Lehigh) video of the circuit race; Spencer, Joe, Adam, Sebo and I all appear frequently.

Men’s A TTT: Our team was Adam, Spencer, Sebastian, and me, with 2 laps of a 6.3 mile course. We had practiced together a few times and felt pretty fast, but there was some discussion beforehand about how to distribute the work among the four of us: Spencer and Sebo were quite a bit taller (and more powerful), so they would be working harder than Adam or I when they were not pulling at the front, so we knew pull times shouldn’t be distributed equally. With a few assumptions about our relative drag coefficients and respective 30 minute power, I came up with an overly-simplistic model for how to distribute pulling times that suggested Adam pull for approximately half the time, or approximately 50 second pulls (his punishment for being so aero!). For the actual race, we got off to a rocky start, but soon settled into a rhythm and found that we could go much harder than we were initially expecting, with speeds of up to 32mph (!!!!) on the flat section of the course. By the end of the first lap Sebo was really starting to hurt after doing huge 500W pulls (more !!!!), and as we hit the flat section of the course for the second time I got excited and surged as I pulled through, popping him off when he tried to get back on; a huge mistake on my part (sorry Sebastien!). Spencer, Adam and I finished the race knowing that we had greatly exceeded our expectations, and ended up with a great time of 26:15, more than a minute faster than 2nd place and faster than all of the open teams with full-aero gear, and with considerable room for improvement with more practice. I think that effort was the closest I’ve ever felt to the TTT efforts you see in large stage races, probably because I spent most of the time sheltered by Sebo and was completely fresh whenever I reached the front.

Men’s A Circuit Race: We started the 5-lap, 31-mile circuit race with 6 Men’s A riders (perhaps an MIT first?), and as usual hoped/planned for a break with at least one of us in it. The first lap was relatively slow, but attacks started to pick up on the 2nd lap, by Robin Carpenter (Swarthmore), Adam, and a few others, but nothing really stuck. On the third lap, Robin and Adam really started attacking on the flats and the field strung out a bit, and after a few moves without any results I thought I would join the fun and tried a hard attack up along the side of the peloton. The attacked worked well and I quickly had a large gap (maybe 10-30 seconds?), but no-one else came along and I assumed the effort was doomed. The pack slowed way down and I pedaled easily for a while, taking the hills at a slower pace and relaxing for the the inevitable catch by the peloton. I was caught at the end of the fourth lap, and Spencer attacked right away; I jumped on his wheel and we stayed away for about a couple minutes through the technical sections of the course before being caught by the pack. The final lap was quite reasonable, until we hit a hill with ~3 miles to go and the pace picked up. At the top, I asked someone how many laps were left and was surprised to hear that we were on the last one (cue jokes about MIT students being unable to count to 5), but I was still feeling pretty good and decided that I should roll the dice and try for a last-minute breakaway to avoid a field sprint. As we turned onto a small ramp/descent onto the final flat section of the course, I saw the pace was slow and noticed a gap along the right, so I jumped hard from the middle of the pack and got away, with Erik Levinsohn (Williams) joining me. Adam and Joe helped slow the pack by blocking on the front and Erik and I got a sizable lead, with Erik taking the win. I made it to within 100 meters of the finish line before being caught by Robin Carpenter, netting me third place and Adam 6th. A great result for me, but my antics probably cost Adam a few places and thus hurt his standing for the yellow jersey.

Men’s A Crit: To be honest, with all the pain and adrenaline I can’t remember much of the crit, and it was probably one of the hardest efforts I’ve done. Some bits and pieces that I can recall:
1) I started in the middle of the pack, dropped to the back of the back with bad cornering, then forced myself to fight my way to the front. I remember briefly seeing Joe, Spencer, and Andrew at various points, then just Joe and Spencer, then just Joe, but I didn’t know what was happening with the pack. (blank)
2) Somehow Robin got away (I think on the downhill) with Ed Grystar (Brown), opening a gap of about 10 seconds. Knowing this was bad for Adam, I went to the front and ramped up the pace, but did it too fast and my effort got me off the front without Adam (mistake). I bridged solo about 80% of the way to Robin and Ed before realizing that no-one was with me and I probably couldn’t make it, and dropped back into the pack (disappointing, but probably better for Adam). We took some long pulls together and got the gap down to about 5 seconds, but then a UVM rider bridged and the other blocking UVM riders stopped our efforts. After the bridging and chase efforts, I felt destroyed. (blank)
3) With a few laps to go, I was near Adam and near the front, and worked to chase down a few attacks. Halfway through the last lap Brendan (USMA) attacked hard, I caught him, then went hard to the final corner with Adam on my wheel. Adam launched out of the final corner into a group of lapped riders at the finish line, and won the sprint, taking fourth place overall. I know I slowed down and got swarmed by several people and took 7th out the pack sprint (10th overall), but I can’t even remember/picture the finishing stretch. (blank)
4) Katie gave me some of her birthday cake, and I started to feel better

The crit didn’t go as well as we hoped, but it showed me that I could survive in a pack in a classic 4-corner A crit and still be competitive and make things happen, something that I had convinced myself at the start of the season wasn’t going to happen. I also think it’s one of the first times that I’ve felt I’ve really been able to help out a teammate in a race. The previous best help was the C-crit in Philly last year, three teammates got off the front and TTT’d to the win; I helped block in the pack, but they were so strong together it probably wasn’t needed.

Philly Summary

by Spencer Schaber

For the team time trials Saturday morning, MIT men’s A came out and crushed it, defeating the second fastest collegiate team by 1 minute 23 seconds and handily beating even the fastest open USAC racers with TT bikes.  MIT’s second A squad took 7th place, and was within 30 seconds of the fastest non-MIT team.  The MIT women (Katie Quinn, Shaena Berlin, Jen Wilson, and Elizabeth Mayne) won by over 30 seconds as well, despite having a mixed squad consisting of one woman each from A, B, C, and intro.

On Saturday, Kuat Yessenov won his men’s D circuit race, with a powerful attack up the final hill, earning him the coveted intra-team “most aggressive rider” jersey.  At the criterium on Sunday, as Sebastien and I walked backward around the course to get a feel for all of the different sections, we watched the men’s D crit, and Kuat showed he had what it takes to keep the red jersey by spending many laps in a solo breakaway.  I thoroughly enjoyed watching him stay away solo for much of the race.  His face got more red with each passing lap in order to match the jersey and show he meant business, and he took home a second win!  Matt Smith and David Koppstein also looked very comfortable in the pack.  After watching the division 1 men’s D race, they knew they needed to stay in the top ~10 places to finish the race, and they were among the ~50% of starters who hung on until the finish.

At the Temple University criterium, we saw many more successes after Kuat won the men’s D race.  Elizabeth took 1st among the collegiate women in women’s intro (there were two non-collegiate women in front of her), with a beautiful final sprint.  In the men’s C race, a breakaway of two won the race, and Ben Woolston took second in the field sprint for fourth overall.  After the finish, he did a very classy on-bike high-five with the winner of the field sprint and looked pretty satisfied with the result.  For the women’s A/B crit, Shaena Berlin looked remarkably good—she was in great position throughout the race, taking 1st in 3 of the four prime lap sprints and 2nd in the 4th sprint.  It was awesome to keep seeing her in such great position for such a hard course (typically top 5 in her group, but not doing too much work on the front).  Afterward she said it was one of her most enjoyable crits ever.  Katie Quinn won overall in style, doing most of the race off the front by herself, having ridden in the breakaway with Mary Costelloe (Kutztown) for a few laps and finally shelling her.

In the men’s A race, the last collegiate race of the day, the field strung out single-file almost immediately and remained that way for almost the entire 60 minutes.  I did some terrible cornering in the first half, which added to the yo-yo effect from being farther back in the pack and meant I had to sprint to catch back on at almost every corner.  Eventually, the “elastic” broke for me and I dropped back with the second pack.  I worked with them for a while, and finally we were lapped by the breakaway consisting of Robin Carpenter (Swarthmore), Matt Buckley (UVM), and Ed Grystar (Brown).  I hopped on the back of their train, after confirming it was allowed with some of the other racers, but I didn’t do any work.  It was much easier to stay with them since (i) they took great lines through the corners, (ii) I was 4th wheel, and (iii) I didn’t do any pulls.  Meanwhile, Adam Bry and Zack Ulissi were busy attacking and covering moves in the peloton, and Zack led Adam out for a field-sprint win, 4th overall.  Adam said that all of the credit goes to Zack for that.  Zack led out the final lap at a very high pace, and ramped it up coming into the final corner, delivering Adam to the finishing sprint in 1st wheel, which Adam maintained.  Le maillot jaune reste avec MIT.

Kuat Yessenov wins from a solo breakaway
Kuat Yessenov wins men's D crit from a solo breakaway

Adam’s report from Rutgers

On the third of five laps of the 65 mile road race the strong guys got very active on the narrow, rolling stretch of road on the backside of the course. In a couple of attacks, a group of ~7 had been established off the front featuring three of the biggest names in the field. I was disappointed to have missed the moves, but happy that Spencer had made the selection. The peleton strung out and splintered as riders tried to attack and bridge up. With Spencer up the road I was in position to do zero work in chase groups and I ended up getting a nearly free ride up to the breakaway.

With two laps to go a group of ~12 came to the bottom of the biggest hill on the course. Robin Carpenter (Swarthmore) went to the front and hit the gas. I wasn’t comfortable, but I knew I could hold his wheel. With Stuart McManus (Harvard) on my wheel we reached the top of the hill with a substantial gap. Robin pulled off and I took a long hard pull to show that I was ready to work and make the break happen. Stuart looked and sounded pretty toasted and Robin and I split the work ~60/40. He was clearly the strongest rider and wasn’t afraid to take punchy pulls up the rollers to remind us of it.

When we started the hill on the last lap my legs were starting to feel lactic-acid-deep-fried. Robin again led the entire way up the hill and this time I had to dig pretty deep to stick it. As we cruised over the rollers, Stuart seemed to be coming on and doing more work while I was fading. At one point I got gapped while digging for a gel in my pocket and had to go fully into the redzone to catch back on over a steep bit. After a very painful stretch we reached the predominantly flat/downhill part of the course and it seemed our lead was safe.

I knew we were getting close to the finish, but I didn’t have good landmarks for 5k to go, 2k to go, etc, and unfortunately I ended up taking the last pull downhill into the finishing kicker. I knew there was trouble when I flicked my elbow and for the first time all day no one came around. I sat up, flicked again, and still nothing. Turning over my left shoulder I saw Stuart and Robin jump simultaneously. Robin exploded up the road for the win and I couldn’t close Stuart down before the line. It was still an amazingly fun race and a result I was thrilled with… afterwards Zack informed me I might be interested to see the ITT results and I was almost speechless* to see my name on top. Robin hadn’t done the ITT and Stuart was down a bit which meant I was leading the points competition…

Getting the yellow jersey had been a “pie in the sky” training goal for the year, but going into the crit the possibility was a stressful reality. Robin was 2nd in the points competition and I knew in a flat sprint he could easily finish 1st with me in 21st and that wouldn’t cut it. If it came to a sprint I would need help, and if I could get into a smaller break to lockup a high finish, I needed to do it. Spencer and Joe offered to setup a lead out if it came to a sprint which calmed the nerves a lot and let me focus on riding smart and trying to get away. Luckily the course had a serious hill on it which I knew would suit me compared to a normal flat crit, even though the finish line was at the end of the flat stretch.

The first half of the race I mostly sat in. When dangerous guys went to the front I made sure I was in position in case something went off, but I was still focused on conserving. With ~15 minutes to go a two person break was in the process of getting reeled in and I was starting to feel really good. I noticed a lot of huffing and puffing in the pack and decided it was time to try something.

I didn’t want to ride alone so on the next two climbs I rode off the front without fully “attacking” to try to invite a strong rider to join me and go for the win. The 2nd time around, with four laps to go, Erik Levinsohn from Williams came across and went past me like he meant business. I held his wheel until we were at the top and then took a hard pull down the hill and through the flat. He led up the hill again, and when I turned to look at the top, the pack was way back.

Having mismanaged the break the day before (largely because I was just so happy to be in it!) I was very focused on riding smart for the win. I started timing my pulls so Erik would have to share the work on the flat and I eased off on my efforts when I was at the front, especially down the hill. I knew he was a climber more than a sprinter and thought that he would try to get me on the hill. When we came through for the bell, I made sure he was on the front to start the climb. He took the bait and nailed it up the hill. When we got to the top he signaled for me to come through but I sat on.

As he led into the descent the goal of winning an A race was starting to come into focus: find the right gear for the sprint, jump at 200 meters, stay focused, stay low. We rolled into the flat, I found my landmark and jumped to his outside – as I came around him I knew it was over.

Two Yellow Jerseys!
Two Yellow Jerseys!


This weekend meant a lot to me personally, but the results are truly the team’s. I’d never set foot on a starting line before Rutgers two years ago and pretty much everything I know about bike racing I learned from people on the MIT Cycling Team. The incredible success of our women has been a huge motivator and positive example. Racing, training, being pushed by, and developing with our current crop of strong guys is what made this possible. In particular races last summer with John and Spencer stand out as when we all started to realize we could make good things happen in hard races. This weekend, Spencer’s presence in the break made it possible for me to get there with “fresh legs”. Spencer and Joe’s willingness to provide a leadout in the crit was enormously helpful, selfless, and appreciated.

“ATTACK NOW! DO YOU WANT TO WIN?” (Spencer’s report and Joe’s footage)

The Tufts men’s B crit was a great race for me—probably the most fun I’ve ever had in a crit.  It started with putting the skinsuit on—I had decided I meant business.  As Tim Humpton would say, “If you look like a pro, you’ll feel like a pro, and if you feel like a pro, you’ll ride like a pro”*.  The next thing was that we knew that race would string out quickly and people would get pulled, so we MIT men decided we would go hard from the whistle. Continue reading

MIT Cycling wins the overall conference title!

Full report to follow. In the meantime here’s Spencer’s race report:

Following the Dartmouth race weekend, I would like to recognize a huge
number of people who helped me and my bike get to and succeed in my
races (all these just from one weekend!):
* Chris Carper, Sam Hickey, and Ian Rousseau for pushing me in the TTT
to experience my “pain cave” more than ever before
* Isaac Bleicher, for running to me when I crashed in the crit,
pointing out that I had a flat tire, and running my bike ahead of me
toward the pit
* Matt Talpe, to whom Isaac handed off my bike, and who fetched a
10-speed wheel from
* Zach LaBry
* Katie Quinn, who stood by me at the pit and reminded me to relax and
rest during my free lap
* Chewie, for giving me a push by the feed zone in the road race to
ensure I caught back on with the pack, taking care of the bike van,
and teaching me a few tricks for front derailleur adjustment
* Matt Blackburn, who let me use a brand new GP4000S that he had
brought (I busted my tire in the crit), and for providing music and
navigation as my co-pilot
* Nick Loomis, for two stellar bottle handoffs (despite his perception
of the nastiness of lime Accelerade) and taking care of the bike van
* David Singerman, for letting me use the file on his Swiss Army knife
to clean up the new dents/scrapes on my rim to avoid shredding a new
tire and my brake pads
* The people who I left off this list because there were two many
helpful acts to remember or who helped me without making themselves
* All of the officers and captains for their behind-the-scenes work
* Just about everyone on the team, for cheering at strategic spots on
the courses and being excited about bicycle racing