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