Zach’s play-by-play of the Princeton circuit race

I missed the Saturday races this weekend, but I can comment on Sunday’s circuit race.  The team’s results were excellent.  Sam and Spencer were second and third in the Men’s C, Laura and Martha went on an attack with a Navy girl, which completely wrecked the Women’s A/B race.  I’m not sure there was much left of a “pack”, but if there was, they certainly lapped it (I believe they had a lead of eight minutes at the end, and the lap times were about eleven minutes).  Our Men’s D riders had some solid top tens.

The course started with a nice neutral rollout, followed immediately by a short(ish), nasty(ish), steep (no “ish”) climb, followed by a flat(ish) respite, and punctuated with another little steady climb.  In fairness, though, we went up fairly easily on the first lap, so it wasn’t so bad.  As we approached the hill for round two, however, I saw Jon Dreher roll to the front.  He led up the climb.  It hurt, for me and a lot of others, and the pace didn’t ease on any of the remaining four laps either.

Having spent far too much time working and far too little time riding or sleeping this week, I wasn’t particularly confident in strength, and did my best to follow Nicole’s advice of “ride like you’re the weakest rider” (it’s easy to do this when you are convinced that you are the weakest rider).  I did a little bit (but not a lot) to close down the attempted breaks, but with a fast downhill and nice long flat section, a successful break was unlikely.  Mostly, I spent time playing with my gears to figure out how to get up that steep section of the climb with a minimum of pain and a minimum of spaggling.

With one lap to go, I was right up at the front.  I was one of the first over the climb to make sure I’d be near the front on the descent and then, near the front for the finishing stretch.  I was almost perfectly placed with about two kilometers to go, and I had a plan for the finish.

I knew who I needed to watch.  Both Villanova and the Naval Academy had strong sprinters who had been riding well throughout the race, and I was fairly convinced that if I were betting on the race, they would have been safe to bet on.  The pace shot up in the last kilometer as we took the final right-hand turn onto the finishing straight.  There was clearly a battle on the left side of the road with Army, Princeton, Penn State and Dartmouth all battling each other for position.  Villanova and Navy, however, had slipped by on a slightly gravelly section on the right side of the road, and only a UVM rider and I had followed them on that path, giving us a clear shot at the finish line.  As it turned out, I was right: Villanova took first, followed by Navy, and I sprinted it out with UVM, eventually finding myself in the unfamiliar position of crossing the line with only two other riders in front of me.

All in all, another spectacular weekend, brought to you by MIT Cycling.