Yale – Shaena Berlin

Yale always seems to be a great weekend; the weather always cooperates, the courses all start in the same central location, and the drive is (relatively) short. I last raced here two years ago as a C rider, and it was the last race I won before upgrading (and never winning again), so it brought back fond memories. Overall, it was an amazing weekend for a good number of MIT riders; we took home KOM/QOM jerseys for Women’s A, Men’s A, Women’s B, and Men’s C!

ITT: The ITT was as expected; I went hard, paced myself well, and thankfully improved from two years ago…not much else to say, pretty boring (I do love ITT’s though).

Circuit: I was pretty worried for this circuit race, since it basically involved laps up and down a not-huge-but-definitely-there hill, and with the exception of last weekend at Penn State, I have never NOT been dropped from the main A/B pack on a hill race. However, just before the start, Andrew told me that I won the ITT (which went up the same hill), so I felt much more confident; if I got dropped from the main B pack, it could only be because I wasn’t pushing myself hard enough and not because of a strength differential. Also, knowing my ITT placing put the prospect of winning a QOM jersey in my mind, which motivated my greedy self into really not wanting to be dropped 😉

The first time up the hill, the front group of A’s went hard and gapped most of us. I stayed with the first group behind them, though, and was pretty content to be sitting near the front of the B women on an uphill. It felt great knowing that Katie, Yuri, and Christina were all up in the very first pack; we haven’t had many women come out to races yet this season, so this weekend’s strong showing reminded me a lot about team strategy. Anyway, my usual flaw in road/circuit races is going too hard – either TT-ing off the back or pulling too hard on the front of some group. In this race, for some reason I never seemed to have to pull; there was a pretty big group, and I always stayed in the top 5, but every time it would be my turn to pull we would reach a corner or a new uphill or someone would ride around me, which was great! I did not have any trouble staying near the front on the uphill, probably because it wasn’t super steep, and on the somewhat-sketchy descent everyone communicated well and took the turns cautiously enough that it didn’t feel too bad.

The final time up the hill, no one really attacked, but someone started riding harder out of a corner and we dropped most of the pack. Then, one turn before the finish, two pedestrians walking on the inside of a sharp turn startled a girl, and she and two others fell right behind me (they did get up and finish, luckily). At that point, I was third in my group behind Leslie (who just upgraded to A’s) and one strong B woman from Colby. I got a bit startled by one of the girls hitting my rear wheel when she fell down, which isn’t a real excuse but threw me off enough let a gap open behind the B woman. Coming into the finish, I nearly caught up, but not quite, so took second and my best mass-start B race ever.

Crit: With the arrival of Laura for the crit, MIT now had 5 women in the A/B race, with the potential for some serious domination. Our strategy was to practice a lead-out after the first prime, then if successful do it again at the end, unless some of us got away in a break. As the weakest member of this group, my only task was to try to drive the pace up very high on the straightway on the backside of the course; unfortunately, though I moved almost to position, a Temple girl started going hard, and I didn’t feel snappy enough to make the break. It worked out for the other 4 MIT women, though, who got away with just one other rider off the front. I was by then at the front of the pack and slowed up the pace a bit, then tried out blocking (although they almost certainly didn’t need my help, with such a strong group!) That was really fun, basically sitting in third wheel and letting two women rotate through pulling without me doing any work, then every once in a while getting prime points. Eventually we came down to a pack finish, and I came through the last lap in bad position then didn’t do well on the downhill sprint, but overall it was still a fun race and MIT took 1st through 4th place!

I’ve been doing well in ITT’s for a while now (*coughtriathloncough*) but not in mass start races, but after a few decent weekends I think it’s finally time to try to upgrade to A’s/Cat 3. Can’t wait for next weekend!