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Stars and Stripes at Track Nats 2010

Chalk it up: MIT Cycling has another set of Stars and Stripes jerseys to add to the collection after an intense weekend of racing at Collegiate Track Nationals in Indianapolis. Big props to our other DII podium teams, DePauw and Army.

The full story goes something like this, and by “something”, I mean “stick with me, it’s been nearly two weeks and I might be forgetting details”:

Day N-2

The car gets loaded with bikes, rollers, and Mike’s enormous bag of race gear. It’s unclear how many small children are being smuggled across multiple state borders inside that bag, but it is clear the minimum number is two. Everything arrives in Ohio eleven hours later without incident. Connecticut wins for best highway patrol cars. Nothing is said about how the car got to Ohio in the off-chance that Nick’s advisor finds this blog.

Day N-1

After a breakfast involving a patented mix of ciabatta, avocados, cheese, and fried eggs, the gear arrives at the Major Taylor velodrome in Indianapolis after another couple hours of driving. The first Josh Schwartz sighting is made. The rest of the team arrives at the airport amidst Nick’s confusion about which garage level the car is parked and gets a subsequent tour of the facility. (Cake would have been dismayed to find their lyrics misused.) Laura is concerned that the boys in the backseat are eating all “her” food.

Day 1

Pursuits and pursuits! The morning session was the (long-for-the-track but the roadies are going to make fun of us) Women’s 3K and Men’s 4K pursuits. Laura wound it up and used her well-practiced bob-and-weave technique to push through to the finish in a solid 10th place finish. Zach stomped Nick’s time in the 4K, then both watched as they subsequently had their time squished like June bugs under a tractor by the pros — including Mike, who made all the early competitors look like they were out for a Sunday cruise, pulling in laps that were several seconds faster than the majority despite the high winds buffeting the oval. We also learned that it’s illegal to overtake someone who previously passed you during a pursuit, which could lead to some dastardly tactics. For fans of numbers, Mike was 1.54-sigma faster than the mean (assuming Gaussianity) with his 4th place finish, while Nick was 1.60-sigma slower; the event winner was 2.38-sigma faster (Figure 1). Zach conveniently defined the mean time.

Kilos in the afternoon followed a similar trend, this time with Nick edging out Zach (who decided to ride the first quarter lap with one foot unclipped to demonstrate what a false start should have looked like) before the pros stomped down some amazingly fast spins. Mike, of course, had enough speed to get into the top 20. Laura’s 500m pursuit, loaded with more aero than Chewie at a Zipp convention, was just a fraction of a second out of the points. Oh, and for those who are curious, the density estimate of kilo times is plotted below, showing a much stronger skew to the low times than seen in the pursuit times. Interesting. Since it was Laura’s birthday, we made a run for the high-quality craft beverages to go with a pizza dinner — and came across the “Angry Beaver” bar in downtown Indianapolis. Judging by smoke and music, it was not run by an ex-MIT student, though possibly an ex-hipster-lumberjack.

Day 2

The morning session was straight-forward: sprint qualifiers for Attack and the Loominator. The short end of the story is that we both had loads of extra time after the qualifiers to go get bagels and coffee in downtown Indianapolis. Yep, stomped. Severely. Including a stomping by Josh Schwartz, one of the top qualifiers. The bagels were good, though, including a cinnamon sugar that emulsified itself to the top of the bagel.

Back at the hotel, Laura was wingeing that “Mike should really put on some trousers,” and had taken to working down in the lobby while waiting for Mike to figure out what trousers translated to in real English.

The afternoon session was the team sprint and women’s points race. The team sprint featured Laura leading off the first two laps (because no other women from MIT were brave enough to ride track and help her out, ahem ahem), followed by some quick laps from Nick and Zach before Mike ITT’d the final two laps to finish just a touch faster than our other DII competition. Laura then turned right around and rode a 20K points race, going out a couple times on flyers and chasing intelligently. The field stayed together for the most part, so that Laura’s finishing sprint paid off.

Day 3

More racing: the morning session featured the men’s team pursuit, where Nick and Zach basically held on for dear life behind the draft that is Mike Garrett. After attempting a set of rotations, Mike would start pulling away, then we’d regroup, and he would take another lap in the lead… so that the pursuit was actually a relaxed ITT for Mike with a couple additional wheelsuckers. Again, it was enough to gain some points on our DII competition, and was within just seconds of several other teams. (Third and eleventh place were separated by 4.55 seconds. That’s a tight distribution.) Jokes about Chewie’s infamous “JOSE! GAP! GAP!” remained rampant throughout the day.

Mike easily qualified for the points race by looking so much like a pro during the cycling clothing fashion show, and also by lapping the field during the prelims. During the real points race, he went out with just the right groups, and after spending something like a third of the race hanging out half a lap ahead of the field finally managed to lap them and get his points. Other groups attempting to lap the field, with or without Mike, weren’t as successful. (Side note: I was reminded that my Track Theme Song is still appropriate.)

Before all the dust settled, MIT had enough points to win the Div II Team Omnium. Fortunately for us, our small team had just enough space to crowd on to the winners podium nestled between large amounts of yellow from De Pauw and Army. There was more craft beverages back in downtown Indianapolis (a Ram Assface for both myself and Zach, which seemed appropriate after our team pursuit) and all of us getting compared to the intelligent folk from Butler University. “Am I right?”

Day M+1:M+2

From here on out, everything is pretty uneventful: the guys got dropped at the airport, the car started its journey back towards Massachusetts, etc, etc. There’s a great bike path between Stow and Cleveland, OH, that passes right through the Cayahoga Forest. I found out my sister doesn’t like zombie movies or fluorescently-colored shirts. I rediscovered a love for Twizzlers. And all the equipment arrived back safe with only a few nominal road bumps — ready for dishing track pain again next year.

ECCC Track Dose Dos: Kissena

Kissena hosted the second set of ECCC track racces this year in conjunction with the NY State Championships this last weekend in August. MIT arrived with the brave and early crowd amidst the last bits of Tropical Storm Danny. Mike remembered why he disliked city driving, we got sandwhiches at a deli which offered cattering (sic), and told Alan Atwood to hold his line with the leaf blower he was using to dry the track surface. It was a smaller crowd, both collegiate and New Yorkers, by the time racing started. Props to the Columbia women and Nick B from Princeton for showing up despite the earlier storm.

Kilos were fairly standard, with all of us struggling to hold on despite the extreme bumpiness of the Kissena track. (I’m convinced it doubles as a BMX track.) Mike and Chewie each won their categories. Mike got some good racing against Nick B in the points race, stomping down enough sprints to take the win. The Collegiate B’s was an MIT internal affair, with Zach, Chewie, Tim and myself as the only competitors. Chewie accumulated enough points for the win, I think I took second with “ZS” points (apparently Alan Atwood’s slang for “nine”, according to the results sheet), and enduro Zach and Tim rounded it out with enough points of their own.

On Day 2, the weather was fantastic, mid seventies with sun, which was good enough for Army to be Army Strong and show their faces. The inital round of matched sprints pitted MIT and Army together: Zach versus three Armies, Nick versus two Armies, and Chewie and Tim versus at least one Army. The short of it was that MIT won each match up. Mike ladled out more sprint than his Army racer could handle and won his category of matched sprints right away. The second round saw MIT beating Army hands-down again, making the final a three-up MIT sprint. Enduro Zach attacked right from the start, forcing Chewie and I to sprint to catch him and hang on for dear life. Coming around the backside of the final lap, I asked Zach where Chewie was as I sprinted around. I confused his “gone” with “go on” and put in extra steam thinking Chewie was nipping my wheel… finding out later that Chewie was taking it easier after all his racing during the day.

The scratch race was pretty straight forward. Army tried attacking from the gun, but found themselves instantly covered by MIT. There was an initial group that got up the road a bit, then got reeled in. Zach, Chewie, Tim, and an Army rider formed a second group and I blocked (note to self: scratch races aren’t supposed to be team events, so I shouldn’t have been blocking, whoops) and they stayed away to take the win. Mike’s scratch race was more like an extremely long pursuit. He and two other riders went to bridge to a strong rider who had gotten away, but only Mike was able to maintain the blazing pace, leaving himself riding in no man’s land for the rest of the race and a well-earned 2nd in the Cat 123 field.

The MIT team sprint was a good pace, qualifying us for elite nationals. Huh. The team pursuit was a good chance for the men to practice technique. Amy went home early, so while it was a good time, the win was a default.

At the end of two days, MIT topped the collegiate competition again. More importantly, we all got great practice racing track, and both Tim and Chewie (the relative “newbies”) said they had fun… and wished they’d gotten track bikes sooner. Next up for MIT: Track Nationals at T-Town in three weeks. Given what I saw this weekend, it should be another great experience at Nats for the Engineers.

NEV Championship Weekend

MIT was up at the New England Velodrome this past weekend for the New Hampshire track championships and regional nationals qualifiers: two days of racing everything that could get you a medal at elite nationals. Tony Eberhart, the man behind the concrete oval curtain, even added in extra Cat 4 racing for us lowly non-elite riders. And, just to make it bike-crazy at the NEV park, the BMX track opened up this weekend with a full crowd of racers, spectators, and grill-for-hire.

El primer dia, the main set of races were all pursuits: 500m/3K or 1K/4K. The women all had good runs, with Yuri winning the 500m and everyone doing well in the 3K. Zach learned that he had too low of gearing on his rental track bike somewhere around the point that the tunnel vision started setting in during his 1K, which thankfully got corrected before his 4K run… which we’re guessing for times on, as the sun addled the brains of the officials. I remembered how much I didn’t like long pursuits. A points race closed out the day; Laura took off and lapped the field with teammates Martha and Yuri helping to control the pace and block the other riders. In the Cat 4’s, I took off on the second lap, hoping that the rest of the field (all pursuit guys) would realize it was a stupid move and wait to chase, giving me a small chance at getting a few points before being put out of contention. Nope. No such luck. Zach did a good job of staying on UVM Tristan’s wheel and followed him through the rest of the race.

Day two was sprints, mostly. Team sprints showcased the multi-age skill of the GOGUEN! family, forming two different teams which each tromped the other groups. Flying 200’s to seed the sprint tournament showed that we had several groupings that were, to within the clock’s uncertainty, equal competitors. (I turned white under my sunburn when I found out that Tristan, Manny GOGUEN! and I all had 200 times within 0.20 seconds of each other, and I was already scared of them from the previous day.) Unfortunatley, due to the smaller number of riders and the age-group divisions (ie, nationals qualifiers), most of the matched sprints were reduced to single shot, three-up races. In the women’s race, Laura tried going early to take advantage of her pursuit power, but sprinter Kim saw her winding up and grabbed the opportunity and took the win two laps later. My three-up with Tristan and Manny was a mixed bag of racing, starting with a fairly neutral lap and a second lap of meandering, with Manny going to a track stand at the top of the track during the fourth turn. (Tristan drifted just ahead of us, but I wasn’t about to give in to GOGUEN! on a track stand.) The kid finally took off, but he was “easy enough” to catch and tuck in, then match on the back stretch and just barely edge out at the line. The final race of the day was a scratch with combined Women’s and Cat 4 fields. I lead the first several laps, shutting Tristan out of the sprinter’s lane and picking up the pace each time I felt an attack coming from over the outside… except that it was teammate Laura doing the attacking. Oops. (Side note: human peripheral vision does not have color sensitivity.) The race finally blew apart with the pursuiters heading up the track and me failing to block in super-competitive Kim to help Laura. In the end, we all crossed the finish line safely, tired, and having learned something about track racing.

The next big race is two weeks from now, the second ECCC track weekend, hosted by the Kissena Velodrome in New York City. Now’s a good time to get your track bike in working order so that MIT can kick serious cogs down in Queens.

Nittany Cup: ECCC Track is back, baby!

This weekend marked the return of Track Season, and specifically, the second collegiate track season in the history of US cycling.  (Did I mention that the ECCC is the only conference with enough cogs to even consider a track season?)

Matt, Mike and I took a road trip down to T-Town for the opener, braving several hours of driving and traffic to get Mike there in time for the Pro races on Friday night. (Mike even sweet talked his way out of a toll.) It was pretty awesome to see a teammate competing with the likes of Giddeon Massie, Olympians, Worlds Champs, the New Zealand national team, and up-and-comers in the sport.  Our section of the bleachers held a special place in their heart for number 113, though, when they figured out who we were yelling obnoxiously for to lap the field.

Saturday was the collegiate competition, Matt’s first time on a track with a bank greater than 14 degrees, and my first time at T-Town since getting my nickname. It definitely did not fail to impress, especially for those of us Boston Hicks who quake at any hill greater than 2%.  Mike managed to pull out a flying-200 time a bit over 11 seconds, second only to the sprinter dude from Penn State whose name I just forgot.  The Kilo right afterwards was also a big win for Mike, who opted for the “fast and aero” approach, while Matt and I went for the “make it look painful and may Thor have mercy on our chains” approach.  (I managed to both cross the finish line and snag fifth.)  Matt and Mike, the endurance guys, both looked like they were having fun during the points race, with Matt using his new pursuit-ing skills to work with Greg Wasolowich (I swear, they must have had his name wrong on the sign-in, the announcer never got it right once) to maintain some ridiculous speed while Mike toyed with the scary fast guys for sprint points — accumulating enough to win the race.  I enjoyed watching from my vantage point somewhere just behind Sprinter Dude’s disheartened arse, which Mike graciously handed to him during the first points sprint. At the end, us three MIT’s rode a 4K team pursuit, which was a good show of teamwork and cottonmouth, and 2nd place points for the team.

Interspersed throughout the day, Mike also had to compete in the matched sprints, which the kid kept winning, thus ensuring that his legs would be completely toasted.  He made it to the final round against Sprinter Dude, who had competed the previous night against the Pros, and apparently had an infinite amount of pain he could sustain for exactly 2.01 laps.  I’m proud to say that Mike gave him a serious run for it, jumping fast and hanging on for a close second.

In all, the weekend in Pennsylvania was great: track, races, chilling, and Matt learning pretty much everything to know about track racing and riding rollers in less than 30 hours.

If you had come along, you could have also laughed at Matt’s ice cream headaches (all three), eaten Pepe’s white clam pizza with birch beer as recommended by Mike, and navigated better than Google.  Which means y’all should be doing a lot more track in the next couple weeks — and coming to Kissena for the next round of ECCC track.  Yes?  Yes.  Period.

Saturday Track Sprints at NEV

Thanks to help from Zach and Alex, who went on to race the Concord Crit, I managed to get up to the NEV to get some track back into my blood with their matched sprint tourney.  It was a small but highly determined (and speedy!) group of racers with some close rides and odd-ball three-ups in the early sessions.  In the final round, I went best-of-three with the US Hour Record holder (Men’s 50-54), Mike Pavlov, who was visiting NEV. In the first round, I took the obligation to lead the first lap, and attempted to slow Mike down to a reasonable speed by setting my bars in front of his and pushing him up to the wall… which Mike didn’t seem to notice. A true competitor, Mike held his line solidly and pushing back.  I got him at the end, though I’m not entirely sure how.  In the second round, Mike took the obligation and immediately took the speed up to his time trial spin. He dodged uptrack with 250m to go and I pulled under, with enough advantage to finish the race with a dodgy spin “around” the sprinter’s lane.  Either way, we were both tired, but hopefully managed to give the spectators a good finish to the day’s racing.  A big thanks to the New England Velodrome, Tony Eberhart, Mike Pavlov, and the rest of the Saturday racers.