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Albuquerque Road Nationals 2024

What do you get when you combine a rose, bud, and thorn? Apparently Albuquerque, New Mexico for the 2024 Collegiate Road National Championships. Who knew?

Eight members of the road team traveled down south to go up in elevation, competing in four national events over three days – the team time trial, individual time trial, road race, and criterium. Let this blog serve as proof that we figured out how to breathe without oxygen, and let’s walk through what our week of races looked like! Of course, since we’re in Albuquerque, and because it’s Seamus’ favorite activity, each day will be presented in rose/bud/thorn fashion. Don’t know what that is? You’ll figure it out (no one ever explained it to me so idk either).

Team and Individual Time Trial day

Rose

Womens TTT. Craig Huffman Photographyabq ttt start

Hannah, Melissa, Chen, and Bianca (left to right on the start) set off for the team time trial to the sweet sounds of the commentator trying to recruit us for jobs. Apparently Los Alamos, NM has the highest number of PhDs per capita or something, little did they know that none of our riders have a degree yet. Regardless, they had a blast in their first team time trial and finished 7th in the nation and Melissa finished the individual time trial with a top 10!

Lee's defense

During the individual time trials, Hannah and Mason zoomed every rider into Lee Lopez’s thesis defense, continuing our time honored tradition of embarrassing one another when they’re hyper-focused on becoming a doctor. (We have only found his masters thesis online so far but will update this once the doctoral thesis is up too). Rumor (heard here first) has it Los Alamos is in his future.

Bud

M TTTM TTT

On the men’s team, Derek (pictured here in a totally legal aero position), Felix, Seamus, and Mason spent most of the warmup worried that Seamus wasn’t feeling that great and then spent the second half of the race worried about him dropping the other three. A faster time than last year was a great result, and with three of the four returning for next year we’re looking forward to the future. Inspired by the marginal gains acquired by the TT helmets and skinsuits (both new experiences for some of the team!), the whole team is looking forward to a future of aero gains. Gains are gains.

Thorn

petroglyphs hike

After the races the real adventure began, as the team headed to the Petroglyph National Monument so that Seamus could stamp his national parks Passport. A rather thorny adventure awaited us, with lots of sharp scrub greeting the hikers. The worst part of the day was definitely Derek and Melissa going an extra walk at Petroglyph and lording it over everyone else at dinner. After dinner, it turned out the shower’s hot water wasn’t working. Since the nearby volcanoes weren’t very appealing (editorial comment: what volcanoes? Clearly this post is not being written by a geologist), team mom and most senior mechanical engineer Hannah disassembled and reassembled the shower to make hot water!

shower fixing

 

Road Race Day

Rose

feedersracer

Only Mason and Hannah competed in the road race, which was more or less a forgettable experience for Mason. Hannah, on the other hand, won her small group’s sprint and was probably top-5 among the sea-level folks. Meanwhile… the rest of the team was on the essential duty of shuttling around the two of them, handing up bottles and food, and huddling around Hannah at the end of her race to keep her warm. This was hard work, and required at least three trips to Sprouts (Melissa’s favorite place on earth), beans, cuties (the citrus, not Derek) a few extra USAC water bottles, and more than one trip down the musical highway to the tune of “America the Beautiful.”

Bud

Dinner this evening was, well, challenging. We’re still waiting on the cornbread to finish cooking… In the interim, everyone has now made it their goal to match Hannah’s t-shirt choice without her knowing, as Mason managed to accomplish at least once on this trip.

twinning

In addition to this admirable goal, some, more, intrepid (?) members of the team proposed the aero-enhancing camelbak skinsuit as a startup idea. Their slogan? Hydraero 3000! Or maybe Watersuit! Bianca is workshopping still but regardless, catch us on Shark Tank next week!

Thorn

sandia! sandia crest view

The team really needed dinner that night, since most of the riders ended up doing longer rides than Hannah or Mason between shepherding us around the course and concluding their rides with a big climb up Sandia Peak (which gets above 10k feet at the top). This was particularly accentuated by the fake truce Seamus tried to make with Felix near the top, as the two of them slowly ramped up the pace on the way up the climb. Melissa, Bianca, and Chen followed at a more reasonable pace and it became almost everyone’s biggest climb ever! Opinions differed on how enjoyable the descent was: Melissa tore down like a slalom ski champ, Chen honed their apexing skills thanks to WTC cornering day, Bianca got in her arm day pulling brakes.

Derek, although he didn’t race or do the big climb and only eventually got cornbread, was still left out to dry. Hannah went to “””lay down””” in his bed to get away from the hullabaloo and woke up there the next morning, Derek banished to the couch and woken up at 5am by the rest of the team. Her only excuse? Sorry, it was very comfortable! (editorial comment: Hannah had also set a best 20 minute power during the road race… at 7,200’… tiredness was justified.)

Criterium Day

Rose

The crit was a hard day out for everyone with the only rose-worthy race mention being Hannah winning her second mini sprint of the weekend (albeit for 12th overall/top 5 of the sea-level schools after crashing earlier in the race but a sprint win is still a win!). Jealous of the Sandia Crest outing by the group the day before, Derek motivated Mason and Hannah to go peak bagging in the afternoon. We missed out on the glorious sun and instead were treated to 30+mph wind gusts and temperatures on the top to match the remaining winter snow. Despite the cold, the views were still stunning and the group photo ended up way cuter than expected!

sprintsandia

Bud

With the rotation of the Nationals venue every two years, it might actually be at sea level next year! #bringontheoxygen!

Thorn

For the second year in a row, the Rio Grande Celtic Festival was happening inside the crit course throughout the race (to be clear, this is not the thorn, keep reading). This led to a constant soundtrack of bagpipes throughout the day and to some stellar intermingling between the cycling fans and the Celtic fans. A thorn for some was a rose for others when Hannah quickly abandoned Mason to explain to someone’s grandma how bikes haven’t changed much in 70 years. Mason had just been pulled from his crit, was not amused, and Hannah, of course, documented the occasion with glee from afar.

Travel Day

Rose

Half the team headed back on Sunday morning, leaving Derek, Hannah, and Mason to fend for themselves at the criterium. It’s hard to find a rose on a travel day, but Seamus convincing all four of his NUMTOTs to take public transport home, bike bags and all, was by far the highlight.

train

Bud

One way to travel, and that we’re looking forward to seeing more of in the future, is Dartmouth’s chosen method. Helmets in the airport (easily identifiable), paceline walking at all times (drafting is important at 2.5mph), and extra compact use of porta-potties (don’t ask) are all admirable travel methods we expect to see more of from them at the next ECCC race. Teams from other conferences at nationals did not understand but Dartmouth, we see you and appreciate you.

Thorn

Unfortunately, travel day 1 ended up hanging out in the great city of Houston for six extra hours on Sunday. Bianca chose to pass the time alternating between her newly acquired USAC water bottle and napping, while Felix returned to the working world. Seamus, Melissa, and Chen were nowhere to be found (probably joyriding on the airport tram if we were to guess though).

airpirt ugh

Final Thoughts

Rose

Overall, nationals was a huge success. MIT was one of 5 Club teams to send both full men and women’s teams and have racers in every event of the weekend. We had fun, we challenged ourselves, and we looked pro while doing it with nail polish to match our kit. What more could you ask for? (editorial comment: the Gatorade Guy is what more. Mason’s favorite volunteer from last year was back again this year, enthusiastically forcing ice cold hydration on us at every turn. We needed him, and he delivered. Thank you, Gatorade Guy.)

nailsnailsnails

Thorn

Marking the end of the season is bittersweet as friends graduate and we wait a whole year to do this all again. On the bright side, the best riding months in Boston are just arriving and some might say #crossiscoming or maybe even track season?!

(Fancy) photos credit: Craig Huffman Photography

Text primarily by Mason

2024 Easterns

2024 UVM Race – Easterns!

Things started off slow in beautiful Vermont. Some cleats were forgotten at the hotel, some shifters needed adjusting, some porta potty lines were long. All signs of just another classic race weekend. Did we warm up? Who’s to say… 

ITT Highlights

Max got last place in the ITT but first place in the bike mechanic competition. In just under 39 minutes, he was able to 1) start the ITT 2) return to the start line to fix his front derailleur and 3) finish the ITT. We don’t think anyone else could have completed the repair as quickly as he did.

UPDATE: We managed to convince the one and only Alan Atwood to give Max the time from his second go at the ITT, netting him a respectable midpack finish. Maybe Alan’s gone soft in retirement…

Michael got 2nd place in the men’s C/D ITT rocking the sweet TT helmet. He only had access to the big gear in the front, but we think that made him faster.

 

 

Michael, Alex, Felix, and Bianca all looking pro during the ITT. 

Michael went full Roglič Monte Lussari for the mountain TT, while his fellow men’s C/D riders opted out of the extraterrestrial look…

Melissa and Chen put in strong efforts in the ITT, getting 4th and 5th respectively. 

Max, Seamus, Felix, and Bianca hung around at the top of Mt. Philo for some scenic photos. Disc brakes got hot and ears popped on the way down.

RR Highlights

Melissa and Chen rode in a peloton of ten or so riders throughout the women’s C/D race, after two smaller breakaways took off early on. This pack worked together and had great energy. At one point, a UVM rider even commented on the mountains in the distance and there was some oohing and ahhing in the group. Chen and Melissa, along with two Army riders, pulled the group for a good chunk of the time. Chen made the mistake of pulling through the final windy sections with less than five miles to go, leaving very little gas in the tank for the final sprint. Melissa, the smarter one of the two, had a strong sprint to the finish. 

Chen and Melissa upping the pace in the women’s C/D field

Bianca, Melisa, Vinh, and Chen practiced feeding Seamus during the road race. While waiting at the feed zone, Chen was hit by a USAC P/1/2 rider’s bottle flying at 50 mph and ended up with a bruise on their forearm that did not go away for a week (cycling is a dangerous sport!). On the third try, Seamus was able to hold on to the bottle, but he forgot to make space in his bottle cage, so the effort was in vain. We should practice holding bottles with our teeth. Bianca is glad she got shoulder surgery last summer to withstand the impact of the bottle pass. We are feeling ready for feeding at nationals next week! 

Felix gracefully parted the peloton like the Red Sea when his chain snapped. A friendly stranger donated a spare chain link so he could wander around Vermont. Seamus pushed through crosswind chaos in the last lap to finish 7th.

Vinh took the feed zone seriously, even post-race

Chen practicing feeding technique (under Coach Berk’s step-by-step instructions during Nationals pre-race meeting), moments before being hit by an almost-full flying water bottle

Women’s C/D racers on the start line

CRIT highlights 

Max “aero be damned” Katz-Christy channeled his MTB bike handling skills into grabbing third place in his first crit (men’s Intro), bringing home MIT’s best result on the day. Indefatigable, he then went on to take some cool pictures and video of the rest of the team’s races (see below).

Melissa got 4th in the women’s C/D Criterium after realizing on the final sprint that she did not in fact know how to sprint. Melissa later joined the women’s Intro race with Chen and friend of the team Tatum Brown from Yale, turning this race into a fun TTT and cornering practice. This podium may not reflect who crossed the finish line first in the intro crit, but we’re all friends, so who cares?

Seamus notched his highest power for the men’s B/C race off the start line in true cyclocross fashion—the holeshot was essential for the extremely technical sequence of downhill corners on the first half of the course. From there it was simply a “keep the rubber side down” kind of race: always an achievement in its own right.

Sun’s out tongue’s out

Michael and Alex were not impressed with the ability of the 50+ rider men’s C/D field to navigate the corner sequence and got caught behind splits. The course was so short that they weren’t given much of an opportunity to chase back on before the officials began pulling riders. Nevertheless, they both got some valuable experience with cornering and handling in the pack.

Day 2 squad prom photo 

Easterns also means double omnium points! After some frantic and flawed tabulations, the ECCC team announced that we got third place as a team in both the championship weekend and season omnium standings! In the individual standings, Seamus won the men’s B field this season (“podium” picture notwithstanding)!

Michael’s second place in the ITT was recognized by getting to stand atop a metaphorical representation of Mt. Philo

We found out later that Seamus had actually earned first place, but then he wouldn’t have gotten to stand in the shame bucket 🙂

Alex’s Belgian instincts kicked in as he zipped up his jersey for the sponsors

To recap the weekend (and as an assignment for his documentary-making class), Max made this really cool video

MISC

Photo credits: Max Katz-Christy, Tatum Brown, Felix Knollmann, Nolan Rogers, Bianca Champenois

2024 Garden State Stage Race!

We kicked off our first day of GSSR with team time trials! The boys (Derek, Mason, and Seamus) went out first, sporting their fancy Imperial Trooper helmets. It was a wet and wonderful TTT, with Seamus dropping just before the top of the climb and Derek accidentally selecting the blindfold setting on his Remco helmet visor. They couldn’t quite keep up with the New England Devo kids 😬 but snagged possibly 3rd place (out of 3 teams, 😉). One theme of the weekend was unknown/incorrect race results.

The boys in their Fancy TTT helmets

Tatem and Hannah followed, with Hannah insisting on a coffee ride pace to save energy for the road race later. Tatem struggled with the slow pace and later quipped, “I now know what it feels like to be a dog on a leash.” They placed 2nd! (Out of two teams… but who needs to know that detail?)

Hannah and Tatem going on their coffee ride

Next up, the road race! Tatem kicked off the Women’s C/D race and finished 4th, stoked by the result on the hilly course. Seamus got a flat tire 15 minutes before his race but, with lightning speed, fixed it just in time to start. He placed 4th in the Men’s B/C race and, of course, we got a notorious photo of him sticking his tongue out at the photographer.

Seamus showing off his tongue as per usual

Derek and Mason raced in the Men’s A field. One rode at a coffee pace enjoying the beautiful New Jersey (I know, right?) scenery, while the other decided the race wasn’t worth the struggle. Ask them for details!

Tatem couldn’t miss the opportunity to BeReal iykyk

Hannah had a fun photo op at the start of the Women’s A/B race but planned for a short ride due to feeling under the weather. She achieved that goal, but not in the way she intended, possibly overcooking a corner (who let her cook??).

Hannah at the start with friends

The evening ended with us eating Indian-Mexican fusion for dinner, the boys convincing Tatem that shaving legs makes you more aero, and Tatem receiving the “most aggressive rider” jersey for the weekend (which was actually Hannah’s jacket).

Most aggressive rider of the weekend. You know the drill.

Sunday morning, we headed to Rutgers for the criterium race. The course had one technical corner, which was mostly technical because of the giant potholes on the racing line.

Seamus kicked off the Men’s B/C race, with an audience from the intro clinic watching to learn crit racing technique. Confusion surrounding the breakaway catching the peloton on the last lap ended up netting him 5th place, despite more ineptitude with the results.

Seamus ready to take off at the start

Tatem’s goal in the Women’s C/D race was not to get dropped immediately, and she succeeded, aided by Seamus’s sideline yelling. She even stuck her tongue out at the photographer in true Seamus fashion, finishing 4th.

Tatem learned a thing or two from Seamus

Lastly, Derek and Mason in the Men’s A race placed 6th and 10th respectively. Mason even got a sick start line photo, now his Strava profile pic.

Derek riding in the peloton
Masons new Strava profile pic

We wrapped things up with a long drive back to Cambridge, stopping for dinner at Five Guys, and finally taking a team photo while Tatem wrote a logistics email for next weekend’s race. #Candid

Five Guys group photo! #classy

Race photo credits: Luis Bastardo

Fall training camp 2023 – wring out your socks edition

We’ve heard that the New England apple picking businesses are suffering this fall thanks to a remarkable pattern of rainy weekends. So too were the poor souls of MIT cycling who failed to consult the Farmer’s Almanac and settled on the weekend of October 21-22 for fall training camp. Or maybe not so poor. Just wet. Despite the dire forecast, we fielded a huge crowd of old and new faces (enough to fill a second Airbnb) and made our annual pilgrimage to the leaf-peeping territory of western Massachusetts.

When Mt. Greylock is calling, we must go. The medium- and fast-paced elected a route around and up and over the cloud-shrouded massif, with many folks making their first trip to the top of Massachusetts.

greylock lakeside
A+ rail trail miles

On the medium ride, the crew kept in high spirits along the beautifully paved Ashuwillticook Rail Trail, with Andrew providing some excellent steady-cam footage. Even Gohar, contrary to his all-black-everything outfit and bike, was cracking grins. The mountain climb brought the challenging side of the ride, but kept us warm as we ascended into the clouds, climbing through misty roads lined with waterfalls and colored trees.

Climbing into the clouds on greylock

The summit lodge provided a much-needed lunch for some and a much-needed gallon of boiling water for others (Melissa). All things that go up must come down. For some like Andrea, this meant gleefully bombing down the road, despite the slippery surface. Others found the descent more exciting. To quote Vinh: “Tip-toeing down the mountain soaking wet and brakes squeaking was more painful than missing a pset deadline! And as if not enough, my rear brake decided to say “auf wiedersehen”, leaving my cold wet southeast asian ass rolling down bared before nature’s will.”

greylock group
Vinh survived the decent and had to document the success

The FTC veterans were shown just how soft they have become by the spirit of the newcombers like Jody who toughed this whole thing out in shorts. While not the longest ride, the damp chills and elevation left everyone convinced it was plenty for the day, but that didn’t prevent us from taking a short cider donut stop (via car… no one wanted to put wet bike shoes back on).

greylock leaves
Nothing beats the leaves of western mass

The faster group nominally planned an extra loop after Greylock, but the rain ensured this was cut short. Ex-president Lee encountered a recurring issue of glasses fogging and bailed only a few miles in. On the “flatter” shorter ride, Chen, Varsha, David, and Robert tackled a remarkable >3k feet of climbing in only 34 miles. Perhaps a bit more challenging than expected but hey, there were crepes!

Part way between Cambridge and Pittsfield, yet another group cut FTC short by one day to race the Ghosts cyclocross race hosted by UMass. More on that in a future post but needless to say, it was an absolute mud fest. Tatem and Nili embraced the true spirit of cross for both of their first cx races, Hannah couldn’t come up with a time she had ever raced in worse conditions, and Berk was monotone with brown mud by the end of his race. Everyone had a great time, but by the end of the day all four were very ready to join FTC for some ‘cleaner’ road riding on Sunday.

Tatem’s first cross race! (and Hannah in BikeReg Share Coffee kit)
Coach Berk finished in the money, and the mud

The houses split for dinner, but the crowds reconvened to take in the words of our wise old coach Berk, who shared his hot tips for Building Your Glutes In Just 5 Minutes A Day With This ONE Trick They Don’t Want You To Know! A birthday celebration for Tatem capped off the night.

On Sunday, the groups heading towards Williamstown were lied to by the weather gods and were rained on yet again. Luckily, a well-placed coffee shop let us dry out (i.e. wring out our socks in the parking lot), and provided much needed lattes and temporary relief before we turned into icicles again soon after!

coffee stop
Thawing out with coffee

While several groups settled into their own paces, everyone managed the full circumnavigation of Mt. Greylock, with a few tackling the optional Petersburg Pass to sneak into New York. Hannah, Matthew and Berk chose this as a way to avoid immediately becoming icicles again, while Chen and Varsha embraced the season and were Chilled to the bone but with smiles for miles

Cold to the bone

Meanwhile, the fast bois Nic, Lee, Felix, William ventured out on a century, knocking off a classic tri-state route and even dabbling in a little light gravel. Along the way, they had the pleasure of picking up a couple Williams College friends as Felix rolled through his old haunts. As rated by Felix: “FTC as it ought to be.”

tri state century
A bit of gravel on the tri state century
Blue sky made an appearance

The three musketeers who made the daunting decision to bike all the way back to Boston managed to avoid the rain and had an “11/10 perfect ride” for the start of their day. The cracks started to form later in the day, with Aaron bailing halfway through (and spending some quality time with Hannah’s parents) and with Derek and Mason being utterly and entirely cracked by the Harvard general store. Even the pumpkin bread couldn’t bring them back to life.

Smiles at 65 miles in
And despair (and a slow leaking tube) at 35 miles left

It may not have been the beautifully dry fall training camp that everyone was dreaming of, but it sure was a lot of fun!

 

Contributions and photos from Jody M, Gohar I, Matthew G, Hannah V, Vinh T, Chen L

Melissa crushing the short track.

Mountain bike racing returns for 2023!

I (Matthew) may have forgotten to write up a season recap for 2022, but now we’re back again for 2023! MIT cycling returned to the slopes this fall, with a couple of adventurous weekends of racing in western MA full of new faces, shredding, bonfires, and a bit of mud.

Our first weekend led us to an old favorite: Holiday Brook Farm in Dalton, MA. The XC course is an ECCC classic, with lovely winding trails through the woods, and a small drop in the first hundred yards that never fails to cause total chaos in the Men’s C field. Our team for the weekend consisted of relative old-timers Matthew and Josephine, newcomers Max, Amine, Omar, and Tim, and new-to-MTB-racing-but-old-timer-with-respect-to-MIT-cycling Nick.

Josephine in the zone

After rolling in after dark (and after Amine, Omar, and Matthew’s memorable first trip to Olive Garden), the team awoke from their tents to a glorious morning, and in an extremely unusual turn of events, decided to actually pre-ride the course. Nick showed that cyclocross prowess translates well to MTB, taking the win with Max not too far behind. All the other Men’s Cs conquered the course successfully, rolling through the finish line smiling. Josephine suffered the unlucky fate of an early puncture and got to take a more relaxing morning. The afternoon was enjoyed sessioning and spectating the dual-slalom course, and griping about bracket and timing errors. It’s not bike racing unless you have something to make excuses about. Proper ‘murican pub food and bonfire spectating sent us to bed with sweet dreams.

Max learned to do this stuff on a blue bike

Sunday featured some solid short-track XC racing, with Nick and Max taking W’s. After some relaxing suntanning and a cup-noodle lunch, the team packed up and headed home. One solid weekend down.

Nick leaving everyone in the dust as always

For our second weekend of racing, we returned to Western MA to check out a new race course at Thunder Mountain in Charlemont. Though the week was wet leading up to the event and rain loomed in the forecast, a fresh crop of new mountain bikers turned up. First-time mountain bike racers included Maaya, Andrew, Varsha, Melissa, Gabriel, and Julius, while Matthew, Tim, Max, and Felix returned for more time on dirt. This was the largest group that MIT has taken to a mountain bike race in at least the last four years!

Are your shoes wet?
Max wearing the correct uniform

Rain, rain go away, come again some other day that isn’t right before a mountain bike race. After a damp night of camping the team arose, expecting a relaxed bike ride down the hill and across the river to Thunder Mountain. We were surprised to see so many teams piling into cars for a distance that should take less than ten minutes on a bike… until we saw the bridge closed sign. A four-mile detour finally got us to the foot of the mountain, only a few minutes before the race was supposed to start from the top of the slope. Luckily ECCC does not run on time and we made it just fine.

Bridge detour caravan

Now I had promised some of the first-time riders that the ECCC race courses are generally rideable, even if you’ve never ridden a mountain bike before, but this was a new course and I couldn’t be sure. At the start line we received a dire message: “Sooo I rode the course, and it’s pretty techy… and everything is super wet and slippery which makes it harder. Also, there’s half a mile of bog.” To add to this, the course was 30% longer than it was supposed to be, and featured multiple opportunities to get lost. Needless to say, it was not the easiest introduction to mountain biking. Still everyone toughed it out through the mud, with a few folks smartly withdrawing after an hour-long lap. Kudos to Melissa, who was the only first-timer to complete both laps, and style points to Andrew who put his full MIT spandex kit through the mud!

Mud season

Post-race, the day turned around as the weather cleared, with the team spending the rest of the afternoon hitting the flow trails. I had a lot of fun seeing Varsha and Maaya build confidence throughout the afternoon, and seeing the grin on Gabriel’s face after our first lap. Tim and I had some good runs on techy stuff, though Tim managed to bend his second brake lever of the season. A great bonfire hangout with some clutch late-night grilling supplies from Julius capped off the day.

Smile for no lift lines

The sun came out for day two, and remarkably there was no mud to be found on the short track course. What was to be found: a tricky tight turn fifty feet after the start involving a sharp dip to avoid a rock garden, and a challenging uphill rock roll that made this perhaps the most technically challenging ECCC short track course I’ve ridden. Great for new mountain bikers…

Use protection, kids

While the race went off well for some, with an exciting sprint finish between Felix and Max to take first and second respectively in the B field, it also carried hazards, with Gabriel taking an unfortunate crash. The team rallied to field two mixed relay teams; we may have come in second-to-last and last, but I’m sure we had the most fun.

Good ol’ Western Massachusetts

While most folks headed home after the short track races, Felix, Max, and friend-of-the-team Emily hung around to ride a couple of the enduro trails, which featured gorgeous views across the valley. It was a memorable weekend for sure.

Riding enduro for the views

Thanks to all those who came out to the races this fall, and thanks as always for the hard work from the folks at ECCC who made it possible. We’ll be back next year.

– Matthew Goss

MIT Cycling MTB Captain

 

Photo credits: Team members Max KC, Matthew G, and Andrew D.

Championships and champions

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

 

Gwin, Bianca, Kira and Hannah rocking the first Women’s TTT team of the season! 3rd place brought us all home a medal.
Nick’s opinion of conditions during his time spent riding the breakaway in the Men’s BC race.
William, Alessandro, and Felix controlling the race while Nick was up the road.
Aaron, no evidence of a bonk in sight.
Hannah embracing the spirit of gravel (pocket bib snacks work well when your hands are numb) and Guillaume tagging along as a cheerleader.
The newest trend in facials, brought to you by the wet, gravel-filled “road” race, modeled by William.
Gwin, looking totally pro in her first ever crit!
Kira, also looking pro in her first ever crit!
Seamus. Try hard engaged.
Men’s A crit squad supported Lee to a 2nd place on the day.
Hannah – Women’s AB ECCC Season Omnium leader
William – Men’s BC ECCC Season Omnium leader (after starting in the Cs and upgrading mid season!)

 

Results and stats really don’t matter but here they are anyways. The team did pretty well at Eastern’s!

 

Photo credits: our very own Aaron V. and Williams College alum Peter Burghardt

Catamount Classic – Mid season mayhem

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

KOM/QOM

Shelled

Chase back

Bridging

 

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.

Home Race! + What is it really like to do your first race?

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.

Team! Practicing our squatting technique.

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.

Time trial gear was again out in full force for the weekend.

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.

Bianca, wearing her helmet.

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.

Better than the new iPhone 0.5x camera mode.

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?)

Moores Pond made the perfect post race ice bath.

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.

Four square world championships are in May.
William was awarded the most aggressive riders jersey for reaching 1000 watts during the road race. Or that’s what I was told. (editorial comment from Hannah: see above for the multiple reasons William deserved the MAR jersey this weekend, unrelated to 1000 watts)

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.

99 Restaurants was not ready for us.

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.

My new friends from the intro crit race.

Turner Falls: an excellent demonstration of Reynolds number in action.

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

Boston Marathon finish line.

2023 – Starting off the road season right

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

Winter Training Camp 2023

Another successful training camp is in the books! 12 of us headed out to Escondido, CA for the annual team Winter Training Camp (WTC). The trip had three main themes: riding bikes in beautiful places, team bonding, and challenging ourselves, each other, and our equipment to try new things and achieve bigger goals. The community is settling back after a few years of COVID disruption and everyone came away psyched about this team!

Riding in beautiful places

The scenery of Southern California is nothing like home, and boy was it beautiful. On day one the group split into two rides (one longer, and one ease-in ride to accommodate those of us who were tired or missing key bike parts from traveling). Half the group made their way out to Oceanside for the beach, tacos, and palm trees. Devin, Vinh, Charlene, and Hannah set out early and made great time despite a brutal headwind thanks to Devin’s hero pulls. After a stop at the bike store in the morning, Derek, Felix and Zak caught up with the group later in the day for a leisurely ride home together.

Cruising by the palm trees in Oceanside

Meanwhile, the “ambitious” group set off for 95 miles that included a spin up Mount Woodson. With the massive, granite boulders, it’s easy to see why its Kumeyaay name is Ewiiy Hellyaa, the ‘Mountain of the Moonlit Rocks.’ That said, taking in any of the scenery was a challenge at the 12.2% average grade for the climb.

The beautiful Mount Woodson climb

The two groups switched it up on day two, which unfortunately turned out to be rather rainy. Needless to say, the beach wasn’t quite as scenic and the views were not nearly as majestic. We have some pictures but they are mostly of suffering and not worthy of a blog.

After letting things dry out for a rest day, the allure of Palomar was next up. Palomar is a MIT Cycling tradition so virtually the entire rest day was consumed by discussions of pacing strategy, MIT Strava records, and how to save a few watts. The climb did not disappoint: it was both hard (11.6 miles at 6.8%), and gorgeous, as promised.

Seamus and Mason on Palomar later in the week, when it was quite a bit warmer than when we climbed it as a group

The top of the mountain was still glistening in snow as we made it to the general store. This made for a serene soundtrack of melting ice and fairly terrifying black ice on the road. We all stayed safe and eventually warmed back up after the descent. Highlights from the rest of the ride included a camel farm, an escaped goat on the road, and pie.

Scenic vista from partway down the descent. Also capturing quite a few of us at the coldest we were all week.
Tractor in a farm field. Apparently the site of a vehement disagreement about what qualifies as “zone 2” during a WTC of yore. All smiles for us though.

Team bonding

In answering “what was your favorite part of WTC?” a common refrain was the team bonding. Zak said it was the “first time really feeling part of MIT cycling” and Derek hit the nail on the head with how the team dynamic had evolved: “I feel like we came together … and are more than people who occasionally see each other on rides and closer to teammates.” Along similar lines, Felix and Berk (in order) highlighted the collegial and supportive spirit over the week: “It was amazing to go on ride after ride with a posse of fast, considerate cyclists.” “Having my faith in humanity restored was my favorite part. WTC reminded me that there are people out there who just get along and have fun while getting cracked and help each other along the way.”

Ice baths in the unheated jacuzzi turned into a daily ritual.
The sunset views were impeccable.   

Out on the road, nothing brought folks together quite like the food stops. The Julian Pie Company had a profitable week, including  stops there during the Palomar and Mount Woodson rides, as well as a few grocery store pies at the AirBnB too.

Pie, reused COVID test bags, and tired but happy MIT cyclists. Pies made WTC possible. (Julian Pie Co, if you read this: we are accepting sponsorships)

WTC also fostered camaraderie with team alumni to a degree that was unexpected to me as a new team member, but also very appreciated. On Friday, team alum Amy O met up with the group as we rode down to Mt Soledad in San Diego. She led us on a more scenic route than what we initially mapped out, pointed out the best coffee shop for Vinh (who was left wondering why he chose MIT and not a sunnier, prettier campus like UCSD), chatted about rebuilding the women’s team with Hannah, and made Lee feel like old times had returned as he was being dropped off the back while Amy pulled us all up a hill at blistering speeds.

Riding up Mt. Soledad in San Diego was made more fun when team alum Amy O joined us for the day.

Another team alumni shout out goes to Berk O. While each and every one of us on WTC made the trip what it was, Berk’s institutional knowledge of the Cycling Club and how to build the cycling community accelerated team bonding in a way that wouldn’t have been possible without him. Thank you for being our chief bike mechanic, polar plunge enthusiast, cheerleader, vision quest initiator, and grill master.

The gas firepit at our AirBnB was A+.

Challenging ourselves

When Derek and I asked Coach Robbie earlier this season if WTC was usually a good time for “base miles”, his response was an adamant “No, people usually wreck themselves at WTC.” He immediately followed it up with “but people also call it one of the highlights of their time on the team.” This year’s WTC lived up to the predictions, cracking almost all of us by the end of it, alongside the aforementioned team bonding.

The group enjoying a (virtually private) bike path cruise home.

At the same time, we had unexpectedly terrible roads too, where we hiked our bikes past a pick up truck stuck in the sand, or narrowly avoided traffic on a windy descent, or had to ride over snow in order to get to our destination.

That feeling when the road captain makes a route with a sand pit for some surprise cyclocross training. Pictured: road captains, also surprised by their route.
The winter storm couldn’t keep Vinh away from the Palomar observatory, the source of data for his undergrad research project. Alumnus, Stan was the hero of the ride: showing Vinh the ropes of riding on ice in order to make it all the way to the gate!

But through it all, spirits stayed high and we kept riding. Even if our bikes did not want to be ridden… Along the way we had a few flats (13 for 12 people…) all on GP5000s. This could have also been caused by the road full of broken glass on the way to our airbnb, but who’s counting.

   

GP5000s did us dirty this trip. (Though we would also accept a sponsorship here if anyone at Continental is reading!!)

As expected, someone did break a shifter cable this year too. With teamwork, we got Zak back on the road with everyone the next day.

Since Derek and I decided the bike stand was too obnoxious to back, I turned into a makeshift stand for an hour. Lesson learned.

The last day of WTC was intended (for some) to be an epic “Vision Quest” that had been concocted over the course of the week. The route was 127 miles over Palomar and out to the Montezuma climb in Borrego Springs. What started out as a group of 7 who were potentially interested on Friday morning the day before the ride, ended up dwindling to two humans left standing by mile 30 of Saturday’s Quest. While the rest of us stayed at home nursing overuse injuries, cracking on intended recovery rides then eating a gallon of ice cream, or just vibing on actual recovery rides, Seamus and Berk powered through the full route.

Only smiles and more beautiful views

Personally, WTC lived up to the hype. The week inspired and motivated me to try hard both while we were there, and for this upcoming season of riding and racing. We gelled as a team. We all stayed safe (!) despite rogue goats and tires that “turned into paper on the cali roads”. We pushed our limits and encouraged each other. And above all, we had fun.

To glory in the wind tunnel and beyond