Category Archives: Race Reports

Day 7: crit grit from the pit

Dear MIT Cycling,

If you’ve been following along, you’ll remember that today was the criterium in downtown Fort Collins.  The race was set up to make nearly a figure 8-shape, which meant more corners than a picture frame shop.  The women’s race was quiet: they kept a blistering pace, with Martha and Laura both contributing to the pain and nabbing a few prime points.  The group stayed together for the most part, allowing our own mini-godzilla clone, Yuri, to snag fourth place in the field sprint.  The rest of the women’s team also finished in the pack.

The men’s race maintained their own high intensity, with attacks being launched at various points.  Most of those got reeled in after a few laps, with our own men either covering, bridging, or leading the charge to chase down those measly pipsqueaks who thought they could get away.  In the end, a pair of riders did get away, and the rest of the field put in an incredible sprint — with Pretty Boy Sears nabbing 9th.  The rest of the gents pulled into field spots in the top 30.

One key result, from the team’s perspective, is that everyone who went to Nats was able to hang with the big dogs.  In the crit, everyone who rode stayed with the pack in both the men’s and women’s races.  It makes me proud to see that many amazing racers pushing pedals hard for MIT.

The remainder of the day involved lounging in the hallway, setting up TTT bikes, and dealing with Michael walking around shirtless again.  Makeshift test “jigs” were constructed from race flyers and dental floss, hacksaws were employed (sorry, Chewie), and Tim learned how to wrap bar tape.  I said something a little too loudly about the “crack pipe”, the angled valve extender used to inflate disc wheels, just as a three year old and her mother walked past; the look I got was a mix of “you said what in front of my kid?” and “thank goodness my kid doesn’t even know what that means.”  (Michael explained it to me on Day 2, so I at least knew what it meant.)

The team omnium is still up for contention, at least in my opinion, with MIT’s strongest event early tomorrow morning.  Whitman is currently leading the team points race, and we’re not helped by the fact that there are limited numbers of teams registered for tomorrow’s race.  Everyone around here is taking it seriously and are ready to ride a great Nats TTT… then leave for a triumphant return to the coast.

Oh, and Michael thinks he might be allergic to shellfish.  He found that out last night.  It probably wasn’t the steak, salmon, shrimp, baked potato, or beer that he also ingested during dinner.  Sally Struthers was in the back of the restaurant crying at how many African villages that could have fed.  (Answer: four villages for twelve days.)

Tomorrow: TTT, awards, then Tim and I start our epic return to The Right Coast.

Monkeys and cogs,


National women’s [updated – and men’s] D-II criterium results

Are up here thanks to USA Cycling. Yuri 4th, Martha 8th, Laura 10th, Zuzka 21st. Unconfirmed reports indicate that Pretty Boy Sears snuck into 9th in the men’s criterium.

Whitman College’s women took first, sixth, and sixteenth—which, although somebody should check my math, means they eked out an overall victory in that race.

It’ll all come down to tomorrow’s time trial—the D2 men go off at 8 a.m., followed by the D1 men and then the D2 women. Remember, you can watch it live here:

Also, VeloNews has good Day 1 (road race) coverage and photos, including of the spectacular solo win by Princeton’s Nick Frey.

Day 6: Road race and Bob’s feedzone

Dear MIT Cycling,

Today was the road race.  As the automatic doors of the hotel lobby slowly buzzed upon at 7AM this morning, we were greeted with slightly colder temps than expected, and much higher winds.  The weather, and particularly the strong, gusty winds (which lasted all day) made it much more critical to ride with a pack.  The women stayed in their little group until the end, with all four of MIT’s ladies heading into the sprint and finishing in the top 12.  In the men’s race, the wind blew apart the field into smaller groups.  Tim and Jose managed to stay in the largest group, while John decided to strike out on his own to bridge (and pass) smaller groups later in the race.

Semi-official results: Laura, 5th; Martha, 9th; Yuri, 11th; Zuzka, 12th, Tim, 23rd; Jose, 29th; John, 54th

But that’s all boring race stuff.  (The kids can give you updates at some point.)  What you’re here for are the enthralling details of the race atmosphere, in which I give you four of my favorite moments from the day:

1. Race announcer, just at the start of the D2 Men’s race, referring to the gusting winds: “Gentlemen, prepare to get guttered!”

2. The pizza place where we went to dinner, where after parking the car I couldn’t find the other guys.  I saw a table where two guys were sitting with their back to me, talking to a cute girl, and walked right on past… “Our guys wouldn’t talk to a girl, they must be sitting on the other side,” I’m thinking.  It turns out I’ve never seen Coach Nicole without a hat or helmet, even in my dreams.  (Amy, it’s nothing weird, those dreams are always about ice cream.)

3. The feedzone was just a few yards down from The Mercantile, where Bob has reserved parking for himself and his truck.  Steve H from Union asked him if he owned the shop.  Bob’s response: “Son, I *own* this town.”  Yes, we quite possibly fed from Bob’s feedzone.  If we stayed too long, he would have run us out of His Town with an authentic gatling gun.  Even though I’m in the hotel right now, I still fear Bob.

4. The award for the best feed goes to the Air Force Academy (and yes, I saw some great feeds, all of them from MIT except this one).  Imagine if you will: a 3 inch diameter by 12 inch long summer sausage, wrapped in a porno magazine, stuffed down a Gatorade bottle.  “How’s he going to use that feed?” asks a teammate.  “Well, he can find a nice place along the side of the road and just enjoy life.”  John reports that the feed did get “picked up.”

Tomorrow: early morning crit-on-crit action, finalizing the TTT gear, running the final computational fluid dynamics codes to chose the appropriate height for gluing numbers for optimal aero advantage given the TT course and our measured wind patterns (after extrapolating using the National Weather Service’s 22:GMT predictions), and more cookies.  For other teams: we recommend using Javascript for TT-CFD simulation code for easier integration into the NWS server system.  You can then get results pushed to your iPhone without too much work.

Monkeys and cogs, and rambling because I’m tired,


UPDATED Women’s national DII road race results

Emma Bast from Mount Holyoke College won in a mass sprint out of the leading group, which included all of the MIT riders. Laura Ralston got 5th, Martha Buckley 9th, and Yuri Matsumoto came in someplace around 12th 11th, right in front of 12th-placed Zuzka Trnovcova (unlike Loomis, I can spell her name without the MIT people search). Zuzka had to off-road to avoid a crash right before the sprint—not bad bike handling, for a sometime triathlete. Thanks to ZacH Attack, Seth Behrends, and Alex Chaleff for watching and keeping yours truly posted.

Brotherhood of the Traveling Chamois, Day 3: Lincoln to Boulder (by Nick)

Dear MIT Cycling,

Today, Michael and I saw the extremes. It was like camping: it was “intense”. (Yeah, a bad pun if you sound it out.) Nebraska proved to be much flatter than all of Iowa, and slightly less interesting unless
you happen to be from the state and are entertained by large pieces of farm equipment in distant fields. The short is that it was flat straight, and a nice 70-27-3 split between I-80, I-76, and “everything else”. That last category includes playing Ferris Bueller with the van’s odometer. Movie buffs, you’ll be glad to know that the movie is accurate, up until the point where Cameron’s dad’s car careened into the valley behind his house. We had no valley and had to settle for a corn field.

Side note: corn is literally knee-high to a grasshopper right now. You should wait until July for it to be knee-high to me.

The stretch between Nebraska and Denver was one of the more dull areas, like watching Book TV with the sound turned off. There were sand hills, cows, crummy road surfaces, grasslands, and traffic more patchy than Eric’s beard. As endurance athletes, we endured, and eventually rolled into glorious Boulder somewhere around sunset.

Our gracious host for the night, the astrophysicist Amy B, in addition to explaining galaxy clusters, would like us to beat Baylor, kick Stanford’s ass, and “try not to bleed on our roads too much.” I believe that last comment was directed at Michael, mostly. Dinner at The Sink, what I thought was a reasonable Boulder landmark (Robert Redford worked there, and the ceiling is literally covered with graffiti), one too many Fat Tires for me, and The Onion in street side news paper stands rounded out the evening.

Tomorrow is more Boulder, getting work done, and venturing North to Fort Collins.

Monkeys and cogs,


Brotherhood of the Traveling Chamois, Day 2: Pittsburgh to Lincoln (by Nick)

Dear MIT Cycling Team,

I’m trying desperately to remember what we did today… right, drove.  All the way from Pittsburgh to Lincoln, traveling through six giant Midwest states.  Michael’s GPS failed miserably in its entertainment value: instructions were “Follow this interstate to I-80; Keep right onto I-80, Keep left onto I-80, Stay on I-80, Keep left onto I-80, sleep”.  (A note for the other ECCC teams driving out: if you get lost, you’re doing something seriously wrong.)

Side note: Ohio has just as many messed-up names as Massachusetts.  For example, Cayahoga Valley gets converted into Kiohga.  See, while Ohio-ans also don’t care about excess syllables, they chose to drop the ones in the middle so that you can’t tell there’s letters missing.  At least Mass is honest about retaining useless freebie letters.

The flat plains and farmlands stretching from Ohio through until tomorrow makes everything blur together.  We’re already confusing which day is which, and can’t remember what exactly we did this morning.  I also can’t remember who’s foot that is touching mine.  Given that there’s only two of us, and Michael is staying on his side of the car (now), I’m pretty sure it’s mine.  It may have fallen asleep somewhere around Des Moines.
Travel tip: look for pizza joints near state colleges.  Today we learned about Bob’s Your Uncle outside Iowa State: cajun chicken, roma tomatos, feta cheese, and approximately 100% cute waitresses.  Yes, please.
For the people whose bikes are in the back, just know that Chewie’s is the only one that we sold off for gas money.  Did you know that a single time trial bike can net enough to fill a 30 gallon tank?  It’s another reason to keep your rig shiny, it increases the resale value in Gary, Indiana.  (Hint.)
We also found The World’s Largest Truck Stop (TM) (sic) in Iowa.  It had its own food court, theater, clothier (they’ll customize anything you bring ’em, including tie-dyes), and dentist (not kidding).  The number of belt buckles for sale alone was pushing near the limit of what I’ve seen.  Imagine if we’d melted down all of Chewie’s bikes and made them into belt buckles, that’d only be 12% of what TWLTS offered.
Tomorrow is a shorter trip to one of my favorite cities in America, Boulder CO.  Be looking for stories of Runzas, Pearl Street and University Cycles, The Sink, CU astrophysicists, and true honest-to-not-Eastern-Ave mountains.  I’m getting tingly already in my other foot.

Monkeys and cogs,


Brotherhood of the Traveling Chamois, Day 1: Penn State to Pittsburgh (by Michael)

Dear MIT Cycling,

This was the beginning of what promises to be an epic journey to the end of the road and back again.  We won the overall conference championships edging out both Army and UVM in the final weeks.  After some beautiful podium shots with the team, we packed up the Nats van with help from teammates.  We ended up being the last to leave the Penn State crit course, but Nick and I decided to go ahead and leave even later by taking the first of many side detours to attend a tasting of ice cream at the Penn State Creamery.  I had a shake, and Nick had a cup, and we chatted with Joe Kopena and Caitlin Thompson about why USA Cycling sucks and how they need to improve.

Eventually we got on the road to Pittsburgh toward Nick’s sister Andrea’s place.  Most of the journey was through the mountains of Western Pennsylvania coal country, which provided some pristine views of several large coal power plants and billboards (as well as green mountains and rolling countrysides).  I noted to Nick that one natural-draft cooling towers (show a pic of one here) could cool up to about 1GW of coal generation, so the plant that had three in the distance was likely a massive 2-3GW net plant.  Ok, done with the electricity nerd aside.

One interesting sight on the way was this small red business off to the right labeled with big white letters spelling “CLIMAX”.  Of course this piqued our interest, both being 20-something males.  As we came closer, I noticed a smaller sign saying “DRIVE THRU PEEP SHOW”. Wow.  I was simultaneously disgusted and amazed at the existence of such an establishment, when the appropriateness of the name finally hit me.  ‘Nuff Said.  Hilarious.

We got dinner at a great Pittsburgh-original Mexican place called Mad Mex, where Nick and I chowed down on a trio of salsas: habenero-pineapple, avocado-tomatillo, and spicy cheese.  The wittiness of the menu can be summarized by their listing of one particular fake side item: “Item: A Little Honey on the Side | Price: Half of Everything”. After a big meal of fish tacos and beer for me and enchiladas for Nick, we rode on to Pittsburgh.

We arrived at Nick’s sister Andrea Loomis’ house and we had a grand ole time hanging out with her and her boyfriend Dan.  We spoke of Swine Flu, phallic (non) musculature,  instruction manual translation, and teaching science to school children.  After a solid three hours worth of driving, we were worn out and sweaty, so we took showers and went to bed ready for an epic day of driving to follow the next day.

Yours Truly,
Michael Hamilton

Race reports from Dartmouth weekend -Rachel, Martha, Spencer, and Mahalia

Rachel  Bainbridge – Women’s B

Dartmouth was another great weekend of racing. This was my second weekend racing Women’s   B, and my first weekend with a real road race. Saturday morning started out great.  Mahalia and I had a great time racing the Women’s B time trial. I feel like as we learn  more about ourselves as racers, we get better and better at this event. The Women’s A and  Men’s A teams did awesome, both winning the events (the Men’s A team by 80 ms. whoa.) The  crit course was pretty hard, with one difficult corner going up into the course’s one  climb. I fell off the back of the pack again, and the only thing that kept me going was  the promise that I would score points and all of the people cheering for me along the  way. Unfortunately, the announcers miscounted and I came in 16th, 1 place short of  scoring a point for the team. Mahalia overcame her fear and raced the Women’s Intro crit,  and even came in third! Watching the the Women’s A race was awesome. We got to cheer  Martha on as she got in a break and lapped the main pack. We also got to see Mike  Hamilton stick it out and finish his first Men’s A race and score some points. Good job  guys.

The course Sunday was really beautiful, we got to ride along a river and through a bunch  of farm land. My race started out kind of like a Sunday ride at first, with a pretty  moderate pace and people talking about the day, pointing out the pigs at the side of the  road etc. We got into a section with a few rolling hills, and I could really feel all the  work I put into the crit on Saturday.  On the second big climb, the pack split and I was  in the back. My group formed a double pace line and worked through the next lap together,  and I got to the finish totally exhausted. It’s really hard to remember to eat and drink  when you’re working hard to catch the pack! After my race was over, I got to go the feed  zone to hand out refills of water (and enthusiasm!) to the people in the longer races. At  first we had a little trouble handing out water to a few people, but their second time  through, everyone who wanted something got it. It was a nice day, so it was fun to hang  out on the side of the road and help out some teammates. Our Women’s A riders got in  another break, comprising more than half of the leading group. The feed zone car got to  see (and heckle) the Men’s A pack as they made the final climb. Tim broke away near the  top and our guys ended up finished 7th and 12th.  All together, I think we were successful, winning the weekend. I’m continuing to learn a  lot about racing, just as much this weekend as any other. I can’t wait to apply it Xpot  next weekend.

Martha Buckley – Women’s A

The Dartmouth weekend began with the TTT on Saturday morning with Yuri, Martha, and Laura racing in women’s A for MIT. The course was challenging, with two substantial uphills, two very fast descents, and even a traffic circle. The countless practices together helped the team race smoothly and efficiently.   The MIT women passed both of the women’s teams that started in front of them by the halfway mark of the course. Although a victory was almost certain, the MIT women did not let up the pace in the second half, and defeated the second place team by over two and a half minutes.

The second event of the weekend was a criterium through frat row on the Dartmouth campus.  The challenging aspects of the crit course included a chicane, a greater than 90 degree turn at the bottom of a hill, and a small hill.  The women’s A riders took to the course just as it was starting to rain, and it rained progressively harder as the race continued.  Despite the difficult conditions, the MIT women raced aggressively.  Yuri attacked up the hill, and as a Dartmouth rider tried to close the gap, Martha jumped on her wheel.  Unfortunately, Yuri was overexerted from her attack and couldn’t catch on to Martha’s wheel as she went by.  After Martha and the Dartmouth rider got away from the field, Martha hesitated hoping the Laura would be able to bridge.  Unfortunately, a Mount Holyoke rider bridged first, and the top group was now just one MIT rider and two others, but the group still worked together relatively effectively and succeeded in lapping the field.  Although she was narrowly out-sprinted at the line, Martha placed third and succeeded in getting more points than any other rider by winning all the primes except one.
Not discouraged by missing the break, Laura broke away from the field later, and impressively was able to gain almost half a lap on the field by herself. The success of the MIT riders off the front was certainly due to the work of Yuri, who successfully chased down attacks throughout the race.

The final event of the weekend was a 60 mile road race with an insane amount of climbing.  Fortunately, the rain and fog of the previous afternoon and evening had evaporated, and when the women’s A races started a bit before noon, it was sunny and almost 60 degrees, making for a beautiful day of racing.  The MIT women pushed the pace of the first hill, which was a very steep incline directly after a covered bridge, and successfully splintered the field.  The top group of 5 included all 3 MIT riders (Yuri, Laura, and Martha) and a rider from Army and a rider from Mt Holyoke.  The MIT women worked together to insure that all three riders remained on the break until the finishing climb.  Unfortunately, the MIT riders were overexerted from the weekend of racing and got edged out at the line by both the Mt Holyoke and Army riders, but placing 3, 4, 5 was still a quite impressive feat.

Spencer Schaber – Men’s D

For my TTT, I practiced with Tony for only about an hour the week before, and I haven’t done much TTT practice other than that, so it wasn’t too surprising that we didn’t get points. I still thought Tony and I worked pretty well together.  For my crit, I thought I would do decently well, since I like climbing hills, but it turns out that the rest of the men’s D field has also learned quite a bit and gotten stronger since the last race I did, and I finished 17th of 45 starters (at the end of the front pack).  Nonetheless, I was happy with that result because I finished close to the very end (47th/57) on my last crit with the D men at Philly.  I think I did better this time because I made a point to advance in position whenever I could, and in particular not letting the front person get far away in the first half lap.  I was happy I have SPDs because I beat some people off the line just by clipping in faster.  The road race course was absolutely beautiful (including the weather), and I had a ton of fun doing it.  I finished 33rd/67.  I made a point to not work too hard on the early hills and save some gas for the finish, but I still didn’t feel like I had saved that much when I was doing the final climb.  (I was hoping some of the people getting out of the saddle on the early hills would have used all of their energy up, but it seemed many of them were still able to beat me!)  One thing I would do differently in the future would be to try to move up on the flat sections so that I could drift back on hill climbs and still be among the first 20 riders.  I think my critical mistake in the race was letting the front pack get ahead of me in the second-to-last hill climb. After that, I had to work hard on the descent to catch them, while most of them were resting for the final climb.  All in all, a fantastically fun weekend (though I still didn’t get any points for the team).

Mahalia Miller -Women’s Intro

Dartmouth College’s L’Enfer Du Nord was my first racing weekend.  I raced the Women’s B Team Time Trial and the Women’s Intro Criterium.  I came into the weekend wanting to score points for MIT, have a competitive and smooth TTT with Rachel, and learn some technique from the veteran racers.  The TTT was particularly appealing, because Rachel needed another teammate and because the otherwise empty road meant I could focus on the race and not on avoiding other racers.

The women’s cycling group provided great technical and mental preparation for the TTT in the various Wednesday morning practices.  I knew that I had the tendency to pull off too far to the side and also to sprint for a few strides when beginning to pull.  Thus, I focused on an even pace.  Rachel was stronger than me and did most of the pulling on the flat.  However, on a few occasions when she was fatiguing, I took over.  We also coordinated well the hills, so that we would work together.  The first long hill was extremely strenuous physically and mentally, so the teamwork really helped.  We both worked hard up the final hill and were able to keep digging across the finish line, ending strong.  In hindsight, I would have worked on my hill climbing ability more and would have started my acceleration to the end a little bit earlier.  Cooling down, Rachel and I felt exhausted, but great.  TTT’s are fantastic!

I also did the crit, which was technically difficult in that there was a 90-degree turn right before a hill.  I decided beforehand that I’d just go as a learning experience and would be conservative on all corners.  After a helpful teaching session, the race began.  I consistently fell to near the back on each corner and then caught up on the straight-aways.  With two laps ago, I tried to gain more speed on some of the straightaways and hills.  Coming into the last lap, I accelerated more to get to the front of the pack.  Thus, I could control the speed on the corners of the last lap.  This plan worked mostly, except for the corner at the bottom of the hill, where two racers went in front of me and maintained their lead.  My last corner at the top of the hill was probably my best, since I focused particularly on the advice given to me–look past the corner to where you want to go (a pole or whatever) and never break while turning.  The speed was such that I could turn without breaking beforehand, which helped.  In the end, I had extra energy, so I probably should have gone harder on the hill each time or around the corners.

The Women’s and Men’s A and B races were particularly interesting and much different from my race.  One noted the competitiveness in the faces and their technique cornering.  It’s surprising how much technique makes a difference there.  Other racers have described these races in detail, but I enjoyed cheering for the racers and offer my congrats.  I also found it interesting how long the Men’s A race took and how the approach differed.  Jose, for example, was consistent in the first half and tended more towards spinning.  Mike Hamilton, in contrast, appeared to treat each lap as the final lap, as judged by his facial expressions.

Thanks to the team for a fun weekend.