On Sunday, we awoke to another 60 degree day and made the early morning trek to the circuit race on the Rutgers campus to preride the course. However, when we arrived, the Rutgers team had a surprise for everyone: while the 3 mile loop was unchanged from previous years, it would be run backwards this year. This meant that instead of a long, straight, uphill finish, the finish was on a slight downhill about 250 meters after a left hand turn. As a result, many of the races finished in a relatively large (and high speed) bunch sprint, without the stringing out that typically occurred on the uphill finish. It also led to a number of crashes, as some MIT riders experienced firsthand.
However, we also had another surprise that morning when the tabulated team results were posted: we were in 2nd place, not in Division II but overall, and only slightly behind the juggernaut UVM team (they brought 53 riders to the races). On that note, the races began with the D Men, Kenny and David, who both rode smart races in the lead pack and ended the day in 5th and 6th, respectively. The intro racers were up next. All of them were experiencing their first weekend of collegiate racing, and in the men’s race, Yao, Matt, and Spencer all rode smart races and finished well. Spencer began what was to be another common occurrence among MIT racers, crashing during the race. Although Spencer was fine and finished the race, his jersey didn’t fare as well.
The C men were up next, with only one MIT rider represented in the peloton. Isaac Bleicher rode a tactical race to improve upon the previous day’s performance and finish in the lead pack of the race. Then, the B women were off, with Melissa and Lindsey both riding together with the leaders of the race and coming to the finish in the points. Next, the B men started their 60 minute race, and about 15 minutes into the race, Jose was off the front again. He led for the majority of the race, with myself and Chewie doing our best to block for him, but the UVM team (all 8 of them in the B race) had learned from the previous day when Jose beat two UVM riders in a three man break to the line. This time, UVM burned almost their entire team leading the chase to keep Jose within sight, finally managing to catch him with just over a lap to go. In the future, the B men will be keeping UVM’s plans in mind whenever tactics are concerned.
Fortunately, the A women were able to resume the successful weekend from MIT racers. Yuri and Zuzka both raced in a rather sedate peloton which, according to Yuri, didn’t start racing until the sprint at the last corner. This didn’t seem to bother the MIT racers, who brought home a pair of top 10 finishes. Capping off the day were the A men, who were scheduled for an 80 minute showdown. Tim, again the lone MIT rider, had the misfortune of starting at the very back of the pack, and this proved costly for him. The course is run on narrow roads with the yellow line rule enforced, so it is difficult to move up in the pack. A few laps into his race, Tim fell off the back of the peloton, and decided to pack it in and save it for the next weekend shortly afterwards.
In all, MIT ended the first weekend extremely successfully. We took home multiple wins, introduced a lot of new riders to collegiate cycling, and came away in 2nd place overall, again leading our nearest Division II opponent Army by a wide margin. We’ll be looking to build on our lead next weekend at the Columbia and Stevens races in New York City.