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!