All posts by schaber

Cross Nationals 2013 Report (by Christina Birch)

Cross nats for me was more than just 45 minutes of mud. It was a year of waiting, of hard work & wavering confidence, …and immense support from friends and family. I rolled my ankle and snapped a ligament in half just two weeks before Nationals in 2012. I couldn’t walk, let alone race my bike. It was devastating, and “next time” was a whole year away. I trained and raced to keep busy, almost not caring about cross in the middle of road and track seasons (which in themselves were so fun and rewarding, how could I care about cross nats?) But when the week of nationals finally rolled around again, I don’t think my resting HR dropped below 100.

I’d done my homework: the training, all the races that were “just practice” for nationals, stalking my competitors’ performance on… And I was more nervous for the collegiate race than any race I’ve ever done. My competitors were all Cat 1s (I’m a “New England 2”) and lots of talent was predicted to finish in front of me. The course conditions were ugly: sloppy slippery mud with no grass or traction to be found. It was also just starting to fall below freezing, so the mud was coagulating, and quickly. Within a few pedal strokes, derailleurs, cassettes, and pedals/cleats were saturated with gunk and unusable. There was nothing for tires to hold on to. I ran 18 psi… effectively flat, bottoming out… to try to get any traction at all.

The whistle blew for the starting sprint (a sprint on 18psi soft casing tubulars is… sketchy) and we launched ourselves into the mud pit. Two women in front of me immediately exploded in the mud, lost all traction, and found themselves going perpendicular to the course (yet opposite to each other). I vaguely remember one girl in blue kit staying upright and passing me on my right. This would have been Erica Zaveta, who won the race. The D1 women were given >1 min head start, but we still caught them by the 3rd turn in the course. I pitted immediately, having raced less than half a lap, and took a fresh bike for the hill. In the traffic of the back end of the D1 field, I lost sight of Erica, had to run the hill, and occasionally put a foot down because of other riders. The gap to 1st was probably established on this lap, when traffic was highest, and it grew. She had a great day. I tried to focus on my immediate task: This line, pedal here, slip-and-slide here, tri-pod this corner on the descent, attack up the stairs, sprint on the pavement, passing riders where I could. I was surprised to find myself never having crashed.

Birch in the Collegiate CX Nationals Race
Birch in the Collegiate CX Nationals Race

Pitting was essential, both in the Collegiate race on Saturday and in the elite race on Sunday. I can’t emphasize enough how my good races both days were a DIRECT result of Andrew, Joe, and Zach’s help in the pit and along the course. The mud was SO bad, you HAD to pit every half lap for a new bike to be competitive. I’d come barreling into the pit with frozen hands and no coordination, clumsily pass off a dysfunctional bike, grab a new one, and in 7-8 minutes, I’d be back on the other side of the pit for the bike. In the meantime, the guys’ jobs were to pressure wash the bike and make sure it was rideable, AND get information to me that the bike was ready and I could come to the pit (there are penalties for just riding through the pit)… and they had to do this in under 8 minutes while competing with other riders’ pit crews.

The mud made the lap times LONG: 15 minutes or so. It also meant you had to fight for every foot of progress you made on course. And it meant that you needed a GOOD, attentive pit crew. I had all those things and I finished 2nd… passing every other D1 rider except Kaitlin Antonneau (a pro rider for Cannondale who was on the USA team for Worlds). I’m supremely happy with my performance, since the race was both a real test of fitness and of handling. Though I wish I could have brought home the stars and bars, it gives me something to fight for “next time”.

Sunday was the elite race, and after Saturday, I had absolutely ZERO leftover anxiety. I was starting waaaaay, way back, 6th row: the last UCI ranked rider, 41st, in a field of 80 or so. It was wonderful to see so many New England Cyclocrossers in the rows in front of me: women I’ve been racing all season and beating or losing to, but friendly faces nonetheless. The temp had warmed up to 10-15*F by now, but I had a secret weapon…. BATTERY HEATED GLOVES! They’re almost embarassingly cozy, and maybe the red LEDs say too loudly “I’m not really here to race.” I hoped I proved those thinkers wrong!

The sprint was chaos and I held back a bit to stay out of trouble, since the U23 field before us had had a big crash on ice in the starting chute. What was a mudbog just 24 hours before was now deep frozen ruts. Stubborn, insistent, immobile ruts. If you put your wheel(s) in one, your bike was goign to follow, no matter what speed you were carrying. There were two pseudo-good-lines in the course from races prior, about 6″ across, but during the first few minutes of racing, they were saturated with riders– and those riders weren’t staying on their alloted 6″ trail. People and bikes were everywhere. I rode light on the front wheel and powered at a near sprint in the middle of the lane, right over all the ruts people were avoiding, dodging left and right when crashes happened on the sides. This strategy seemed to work. The mud on the hillsides was frozen now too, so I could actually sprint up on the bike, not run. But again, lots of rider traffic. I’m a terrible descender, but today, I felt light, unworried, veteran after yesterday, so I went down the mediocre lines at high speed, passing rider upon rider. It was an AWESOME feeling. My legs felt great (or numb?) and I sprinted up the stairs (I had two Toastie-Toes in each shoe, AND duct tape over the vents) passing more people there. I attacked at all the right places, rode technical sections well enough most of the time. My second or third lap I endoed HARD in a rut (oof), bent my rear derailleur, twisted my saddle and my shifter out of line, and dislodged my rear brake’s saddle cable… Just before the descents. Initially I crashed a fair bit (that kind of crashing where your front wheel washes out and you sort of “run” over your bike and down the course without falling over but have to run back up to retrieve your bike…) but then discovered you don’t really need any brakes on the descent. Holding your breath helps some… I pitted again, THANKS SUPER AWESOME MIT SUPPORT CREW, got a fresh bike and continued on. When my pulleys froze and my chain skipped over ice in the casstte, I also pitted.

I crossed the line, feeling AWESOME. Regardless of the result, I knew I’d raced to the best of my technical ability, and I felt fresh compared to the day before. I did not expect to have finished… 20th! My lap times decreased continuously and my last lap was two minutes faster than my first. Maybe the best feeling of all, however, was passing Erica (the D2 champ from the day before) at the start of the last lap, and putting 30 seconds into her by the end. Ultimately, the elite race was THE FUNNEST CROSS RACE I HAVE EVER DONE. And that’s over ones I’ve won. Because it was technical, mental, physical, and required a team.

Things I learned from CX nats:
1. My MIT teammates enabled me to have great races. Without them, there would be no story to tell.
2. The support of our MIT team sponsors that enabled us to race at nationals are part of the reason I have two great new race memories!
3. Pitting is CRITICAL
4. A “New England 2” is really a 1 everywhere else.
5. The worse the conditions, the better I race!

(Do I need to emphasize my teammates again?)

Training Camp Overview (by the Road Captains: Shaena Berlin and Zack Ulissi)

The Group at Training Camp
The Group at Training Camp

Collegiate road racing season begins in early spring. Collegiate road training thus takes place in winter, which isn’t always the most pleasant time to ride outside in the northeast. Luckily, MIT has a January term called Independent Activities Period (IAP), during which students can perform research, take mini-classes, or go on bike vacations. Each year, a group of racing members travels somewhere warm for the last week of IAP for a ‘training camp’, with the goal to ride like professionals for a week and spend time with teammates. Four years ago, a handful of serious racers attended training camp. Last year, 16 went. This year, 30 athletes signed up, including alumni, veteran racers, and new riders.

The captains chose the same location as last year: Borrego Springs, CA, a tiny town 78 miles inland from San Diego with no stoplights and few cars. Average January weather is sunny with a high temperature of 69F—perfect for cycling. We rented two houses, one of which became the hangout spot for team dinners and post-ride ice baths in the pool.

Pool at Hacienda La Verbena
Pool at Hacienda La Verbena

Every day contained either an epic ride through the mountains or a day for recovery. We split into groups to go different paces and distances, such that every rider could challenge him/herself without getting injured or lonely. We incorporated intervals and base miles, so that when racing begins in a month everyone should be fit and excited for the season! Below are some trip highlights:
Defeat and Redemption on the Road to Julian (by Nate Dixon)
The Battle of Di Georgio Road (by David Koppstein)
800,000 Calories at Costco (by Jennifer Wilson)
TTT Practice (by Katie Maass)
Matt’s Highlights of the Trip (by Matt Redmond)
Comments From Alumni On Training Camp

Comments from Alumni on Training Camp

“As a young alumnus, it was great to be able to spend time with current team members. It felt no different than when I had been actually enrolled at MIT, and the spirit of excitement about cycling and the camaraderie all reminded me why MIT Cycling is such a great cause.” -Steven Ji ‘11

“It was a great experience and Meredith and I greatly enjoyed the opportunity to interact with the present generation of students and talk about what they are doing. When the invitation to join the team for winter training in Southern California came, I was intrigued to say the least. Besides, Meredith and I wanted to get away from the winter weather in Cleveland for a couple of weeks. We did not know what to expect and I had no illusions about being able to keep up with the team. However, it offered the opportunity to get in some good cycling on my own—which turned out to be the case. First we spent five days in Coronado (San Diego) where I got in several days of flat, calm riding on the Silver Strand to shake off the winter doldrums. We also attended the MIT IAP toast heard around the world with the San Diego Alumni/ae Club. Then it was on to Borrego Springs for four days of riding “with” the MIT team. The first day I made it almost half way up the mountain (four miles) behind the team before turning around. The next three days I stayed on the flat. Borrego Springs is a great place for cycling in January with its sun and cooler temperatures and intriguing landscapes and panorama. However, the winds could be challenging at times. I am in the process of organizing my photos and will post some shortly. I picked up some good tips for cycling and now have modified my routine to develop better performance. Thanks for inviting us to come along. If we are invited again next year, we will be there. Then, I will do the entire ten miles of the Montezuma Road.” -Oliver Seikel ‘59

Defeat and Redemption on the Road to Julian (by Nate Dixon)

On Sunday morning, as our first full day in California began, the team suited up in the main house and anxiously prepared to roll out to the road. For many of us, the New England fall and early winter meant scattered rides alone and in varied groups. For the veterans, there had been hints at who had been putting in massive training hours and would be ready to take the upcoming racing season by storm. Now, at training camp, the progress of each rider would be laid bare. In a few months, the MIT team would be dishing out pain to conference rivals, but it would be teammates that got the first taste.

In the mountains, there is no hiding. Drafting and tactical tricks offer minimal protection, and you’re alone with only your fitness and tolerance for suffering. The first day’s loop would head up the long, steady, 5% grade of Yaqui Pass, continuing upwards towards the town of Julian, a backcountry gem lined with old-western storefronts, famous for apple pie—75 miles in total. Sunlight saturated the flat, dusty desert from which we rose. As the team started the Yaqui Pass slope en masse, a compact pod of veterans floated to the front, and began the first subtle game of “mercy”. As we climbed, so did the pace, and conversation became sparse as power meters and heart rate monitors were warily watched, breathing stifled to hide distress.

By our arrival at the top of the first grade, the unanimous peace offering to “start easy” had been entirely forgotten. It didn’t get any easier from there. As we wound briskly up the mountains towards Julian, the group thinned, some riders deciding to save their strength for the remaining 50 miles in the day. I was not so wise. As I clung to the back of the barreling paceline, my heart rate rose and my power fell. Finally, a gap opened, I sat up, and was on my own. I was quickly caught by Kamal Ndousse and David Koppstein, who mercifully slowed their pace and dragged me up the mountain as I struggled to recover.

By the time the road leveled into Julian, the sun was engulfed in dark clouds, and the temperature had dropped into the low 40s—a nasty surprise after a week of pristine, bright weather had lulled us the previous year. We caught up with the lead group at a coffee house and put on what little extra clothing we had for the long, fast descent down from Julian. Still staggered from the climb, my warm-weather kit was quickly saturated by rain, and after just a few miles of high-speed descending, my muscles were locked and my teeth were chattering. With no reprieve in sight, there was little to choose from but hypothermia or shelter. David and I stopped at another local shop and huddled by a fire while a gracious alumnus, Martin, borrowed a car to trek from Borrego Springs to our rescue. We drove back along the remainder of the route, returning home safely, but not before picking up another shivering refugee along the way.

By the following Sunday morning, I had made a full recovery, logging 420 miles and 32,000 feet of climbing for the week. The day before, I had my revenge on the Julian loop, this time with 3 slices of apple pie on a stop along the way. Now, with just a day remaining, I was prepared to wrap up training camp with an easy spin and a few hours by the pool. Our captains, however, were not interested in wasting hours of California sun on relaxation. My legs protesting, we started up the signature climb of our camp; the spectacular, winding, 4000 foot Montezuma Valley Road overlooking our house. I started the climb gingerly, but soon felt better and better, and spun up around the switchbacks with ease. At the top, we regrouped, and I made an alliance with Stephen Shum and David Koppstein to tackle the Julian loop again, this time in the opposite direction. Heading down from the summit on the opposite side of Montezuma with Zack, Shaena, and Scott (all bound for Mt. Palomar), we traded a round of attacks and then blasted across the rolling farmland before splitting up by destination. Our remaining trio clawed our way briskly up to Julian, devouring another round of pie before slaloming down the same slopes that had brutalized me a week earlier. The final upward kick was Yaqui pass, which we blasted over full bore, and rolled downhill towards the house. For the day, it would be 75 Miles, 6200 feet, but I still had an hour of sun and a Super Bowl to avoid. Another trip up Montezuma would get me two nice, round numbers: 100 miles, 10,000 feet of climbing. Racing the sun, I crested the summit with only a few minutes to spare, and even fewer calories­—a final day well-spent.

Back at the house, we feasted on a spectacular pork dinner, and for me, a bottle of maple syrup: one final bad decision in a week of mostly good ones.

Powertap Computer After Long Ride
Powertap Computer After Long Ride

Average Rider Statistics:
Distance ridden (8 days): 450 miles
Vertical distance climbed: 35,000 ft
Work expended: 16,000 kJ

800,000 Calories at Costco (by Jennifer Wilson)

Cycling Training Camp = Eat, Ride, Eat, (maybe eat some more) and then rinse and repeat. So when it comes to feeding 25+ hungry cyclists, it requires a little more than the usual trip to the grocery store. Both last year and this year we collected recipes weeks in advance, corrected portion sizes to match those of a rider, and collated a rather large spreadsheet of ingredients which later became the master shopping list.

As one can imagine, a small town like Borrego Springs (without any traffic lights, malls or dense population) might not be the ideal place to buy groceries for the aforementioned group of riders—they just didn’t have the capacity, especially in the banana department. Instead, we took a rental car over to Costco and proceeded to purchase the equivalent of ~$1500 worth of groceries including 10 quarts of Greek Yogurt, 15 dozen eggs, about 65 pounds of bananas, and over 50 pounds of meat (including tenderloin, bacon, whole roasting chickens and ground turkey). Throughout the shopping process, Shaena and I skillfully navigated 2 carts and a flat-bed through the store, packing and piling as we moved through each section of the store. More than once we were approached and asked for assistance shopping—apparently it was just too much food for anyone to believe we would purchase. In the end, we made it through checkout (with the help of no less than 6 different Costco employees), loaded up the van and headed to Borrego.

The meals really round off the trip. Not only are they delicious and cost effective for a group of our size, but they give us the chance to cook and eat together and build team camaraderie. Each night we’d have a head chef and a handful of support staff (can you imagine chopping 12 onions on your own?) putting together dinner, and then another 5 or so people on clean up (I think we used every dish for every meal!). In the end, the food is a small logistical piece of the whole puzzle that ends up adding another layer of decadence to an already amazing trip.

Three Carts at Costco
Three Carts at Costco

TTT Practice (by Katie Maass)

Finding the right group of riders can make a huge difference in how fun a ride ends up being. Throughout the week, I really enjoyed the group of riders that I rode with because we were all of similar ability. No one was holding the group back or pulling it too fast ahead. Once it came to TTT practice, we already knew we would be a good fit together. I did the TTT practice with Georgia and Kate. With miles of straight road with no stop signs, we could really get the pace going. We practiced rotating smoothly and learning how long to take pulls. When we first started, there was a cross-wind, so the rider pulling wasn’t working that much more than the other riders. Once we turned the corner, this cross-wind turned into a head wind, which made it much more important to be following a good line behind the rider in front of you. After finishing the practice and talking with my TTT group, we figured out that we could have been going harder in the last section, since we had time to catch our breath out of the wind behind the other riders. Now we know a little better how to pace in an actually TTT race. I’m sure the 25 hours that I spent riding with these girls this week will help us be a more cohesive team.

The Battle of Di Georgio Road (by David Koppstein)

Perhaps the most eagerly anticipated event of training camp was the hammer ride. In contrast to most of the training camp, which was focused on climbing and general fitness, this exercise was conducted on the desert flats, where the equalizing influence of the slipstream came into play. Drafting behind another rider allows you to do 30-40% less work. Under these circumstances, pure strength is not always enough to carry a victory. A rider must know when to attack and when to sit up, whose wheel to follow, and must have the reflexes and quick acceleration to react to changing circumstances. Cooperation is essential for victory, but riders have to be aware of the inevitable backstab at the finish line as well.

We spent the night before forming (sometimes conflicting) alliances and planning leadout trains. Everyone agreed that Zack Ulissi couldn’t be allowed to get away, but the C riders formed their own plan to let the B riders do most of the work covering him. When the ride began, though, all plans disintegrated as Zack attacked, fracturing the peloton and dropping a third of the riders before the race even began. Ben Woolston managed to jump on Zack’s wheel, and he was eventually forced to sit up. The strongest riders—Zack, Ben, and Kuat Yessenov—played cat and mouse while several attacks went off the front. Suddenly, with Ben and Kuat on the other side of the road, Zack accelerated and got away, cruising past the other would-be attackers with effortless grace. Ben and Kuat immediately hit the front and tried to organize a chase group, but when Kuat flicked his elbow I refused to come through, disrupting the pace line. Ben, frustrated with the unwilling peloton, launched his own attack and easily cleared the pack. As the finish line neared, Kuat and Scott Burdick attacked together, but I latched onto Kuat’s wheel and sprinted around them at the last moment. 1st: Zack, 2nd: Ben, 3rd: Koppstein.

After a few moments to catch our breath, we rolled back along the same flat stretch of desert to begin the second round of the fight. Kamal Ndousse launched a courageous attack from the get-go, but Nate Dixon hollered to let him go, figuring that time trialing wasn’t his forte. Zack attacked repeatedly in a desperate attempt to get free, but the peloton was watching closely this time and nullified his accelerations. As we caught Kamal, Nate launched an attack on the far left of the road, which only a few members of the peloton were able to follow. Zack led the chase, held Nate’s wheel for a few seconds, and counterattacked. I anticipated the move, and dug deep to hold his wheel. I glanced back: we were free, it was just me and him! Zack knew it too, and tried to drop me with his awesome power, holding over 600 watts in the last thirty seconds. I gritted my teeth as my world kaleidoscoped into his rear wheel, my breath ragged and my legs burning. As the line neared, Zack sat up, knowing that I could out-sprint him. “Go ahead, it’s yours.” I kicked just enough to clear him, then sat back in the saddle, gasping. As I looked back, I was flabbergasted to see a sprightly Ernesto Jimenez accelerating past me — he crossed the finish line, grinned widely, and threw his hands into the air. Lesson learned: It ain’t over ‘til it’s over. 1st: Ernesto, 2nd: Koppstein, 3rd: Zack.

In all, the hammer ride was one of the best introductions for new racers to the beautiful chaos that is bike racing. Even the experienced riders learned a few lessons about teamwork, game theory, and blocking (and how lazy sprinters can be). After the games, we slowly rolled back to Hacienda la Verbena to assuage our crit coughs and down lots of CHOCOLATE MILK!

Kamal Attacks (by Peter Vanderwarker)
Kamal Attacks (by Peter Vanderwarker)

Matt’s Wins(!) at Army

by Matt Smith
Army was my third race weekend of the season (or ever, for that matter) and I came home very happy with the results! I raced in the D category and won the circuit race, placed first in the uphill ITT, and finished third in the crit. I also joined the C riders for the TTT (shout out to Sam and Kuat) and we came in second to a group from Army.

The circuit course at Army was a ~2 mile loop with the start/finish line at the top of a hill. After the start, riders went down a relatively long, winding, technical (although not super steep) descent over some pretty beat up asphalt. After flattening out about a mile after the start, the course turned sharply right onto a straight stretch of highway that had a slight uphill grade. The course then made another sharp right turn into a short but steep hill that would, in the words of the race flyer, “test the warrior within”. This final hill had four(ish) sections: a steep incline after the turn, a false flat, another steep section, and then another false flat. After the climb and a quick left turn, riders were back at the start/finish.

A huge part of my win was that particular hill and Adam’s expert advice on how to deal with it. Adam and I spoke before the race and he suggested that I start the hill near the front of the pack, then “sag climb” during the ascent so that I would be near the back at the top. He explained that by allowing the other riders to take the hill harder, I could conserve energy until the last climb of the race when I would be relatively fresh and could attack into the finish.

After the start we began down the first descent and by the bottom I had worked my way to third or fourth wheel for the highway stretch where the pace was pretty calm. I was in a good position going into the first hill climb and gladly allowed most of the riders to pass as they pushed hard up the incline. On the descent I worked my way to the front and was back at third wheel by the time we hit the highway again. The short course didn’t give a ton of time to make my way up to the front and I often found myself in the wind on the downhill part. I started worrying that I was using too much energy to make the final climb effective. Fortunately, the group seemed to take the straight highway section at a more relaxed pace and I could normally collect myself (physically and mentally) there.

I managed to repeat this pattern of sag climbing and getting back to the front over the first four laps of the five lap race. Each time I got to the hill I was grateful to hear Adam and Katie yelling feedback on how I was doing. As I approached the crest and start/finish area, the shouts of encouragement from the other MIT folks were also a huge boost!

On the final descent I made it to third or fourth wheel again and used the highway stretch to pump myself up for the final climb. As we got within 500 m of the climb I started thinking “this is going to suck” but I didn’t have time to think for long, since a Millersville rider came up fast on my left and started going for it. I stuck on his wheel and went hard through the right turn into the first steep section. He began to fall away and I pressed past him into the first false flat. A Hamilton rider then came up on my left, so I followed him into the second steep part of the climb, pushing past him as hard as I could while he started slowing. Cranking through the last bit of the climb and into the left turn I knew there was a chance that I had held off the other riders. But I didn’t want to risk turning around to look so I kept pushing as hard as I could through the finish line. I heard the announcer call the race for MIT and almost couldn’t believe that it had happened! The combination of exhaustion, tunnel vision, and happiness made the whole thing seem a bit surreal.

Winning was a fantastic feeling and I am incredibly grateful to Adam for his advice not only in the circuit, but also in the crit (“Be aggressive.”). In retrospect, having a plan really helped me navigate a smart, efficient circuit race, especially compared to my earlier efforts where I didn’t have anything particular in mind. I have to say that riding with MIT has been a tremendous learning experience and my success last weekend was due in no small part to the support and positive attitudes of the other riders on the team. It’s rare to find a group that is so talented and accomplished, yet so welcoming of newcomers. I’m looking forward to stepping up the fun (and pain?) next week as a C rider!

Another MIT Men’s A Win! My first collegiate win ever.

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!