by Zack Ulissi
Marten Beel’s (Lehigh) video of the circuit race; Spencer, Joe, Adam, Sebo and I all appear frequently.
Men’s A TTT: Our team was Adam, Spencer, Sebastian, and me, with 2 laps of a 6.3 mile course. We had practiced together a few times and felt pretty fast, but there was some discussion beforehand about how to distribute the work among the four of us: Spencer and Sebo were quite a bit taller (and more powerful), so they would be working harder than Adam or I when they were not pulling at the front, so we knew pull times shouldn’t be distributed equally. With a few assumptions about our relative drag coefficients and respective 30 minute power, I came up with an overly-simplistic model for how to distribute pulling times that suggested Adam pull for approximately half the time, or approximately 50 second pulls (his punishment for being so aero!). For the actual race, we got off to a rocky start, but soon settled into a rhythm and found that we could go much harder than we were initially expecting, with speeds of up to 32mph (!!!!) on the flat section of the course. By the end of the first lap Sebo was really starting to hurt after doing huge 500W pulls (more !!!!), and as we hit the flat section of the course for the second time I got excited and surged as I pulled through, popping him off when he tried to get back on; a huge mistake on my part (sorry Sebastien!). Spencer, Adam and I finished the race knowing that we had greatly exceeded our expectations, and ended up with a great time of 26:15, more than a minute faster than 2nd place and faster than all of the open teams with full-aero gear, and with considerable room for improvement with more practice. I think that effort was the closest I’ve ever felt to the TTT efforts you see in large stage races, probably because I spent most of the time sheltered by Sebo and was completely fresh whenever I reached the front.
Men’s A Circuit Race: We started the 5-lap, 31-mile circuit race with 6 Men’s A riders (perhaps an MIT first?), and as usual hoped/planned for a break with at least one of us in it. The first lap was relatively slow, but attacks started to pick up on the 2nd lap, by Robin Carpenter (Swarthmore), Adam, and a few others, but nothing really stuck. On the third lap, Robin and Adam really started attacking on the flats and the field strung out a bit, and after a few moves without any results I thought I would join the fun and tried a hard attack up along the side of the peloton. The attacked worked well and I quickly had a large gap (maybe 10-30 seconds?), but no-one else came along and I assumed the effort was doomed. The pack slowed way down and I pedaled easily for a while, taking the hills at a slower pace and relaxing for the the inevitable catch by the peloton. I was caught at the end of the fourth lap, and Spencer attacked right away; I jumped on his wheel and we stayed away for about a couple minutes through the technical sections of the course before being caught by the pack. The final lap was quite reasonable, until we hit a hill with ~3 miles to go and the pace picked up. At the top, I asked someone how many laps were left and was surprised to hear that we were on the last one (cue jokes about MIT students being unable to count to 5), but I was still feeling pretty good and decided that I should roll the dice and try for a last-minute breakaway to avoid a field sprint. As we turned onto a small ramp/descent onto the final flat section of the course, I saw the pace was slow and noticed a gap along the right, so I jumped hard from the middle of the pack and got away, with Erik Levinsohn (Williams) joining me. Adam and Joe helped slow the pack by blocking on the front and Erik and I got a sizable lead, with Erik taking the win. I made it to within 100 meters of the finish line before being caught by Robin Carpenter, netting me third place and Adam 6th. A great result for me, but my antics probably cost Adam a few places and thus hurt his standing for the yellow jersey.
Men’s A Crit: To be honest, with all the pain and adrenaline I can’t remember much of the crit, and it was probably one of the hardest efforts I’ve done. Some bits and pieces that I can recall:
1) I started in the middle of the pack, dropped to the back of the back with bad cornering, then forced myself to fight my way to the front. I remember briefly seeing Joe, Spencer, and Andrew at various points, then just Joe and Spencer, then just Joe, but I didn’t know what was happening with the pack. (blank)
2) Somehow Robin got away (I think on the downhill) with Ed Grystar (Brown), opening a gap of about 10 seconds. Knowing this was bad for Adam, I went to the front and ramped up the pace, but did it too fast and my effort got me off the front without Adam (mistake). I bridged solo about 80% of the way to Robin and Ed before realizing that no-one was with me and I probably couldn’t make it, and dropped back into the pack (disappointing, but probably better for Adam). We took some long pulls together and got the gap down to about 5 seconds, but then a UVM rider bridged and the other blocking UVM riders stopped our efforts. After the bridging and chase efforts, I felt destroyed. (blank)
3) With a few laps to go, I was near Adam and near the front, and worked to chase down a few attacks. Halfway through the last lap Brendan (USMA) attacked hard, I caught him, then went hard to the final corner with Adam on my wheel. Adam launched out of the final corner into a group of lapped riders at the finish line, and won the sprint, taking fourth place overall. I know I slowed down and got swarmed by several people and took 7th out the pack sprint (10th overall), but I can’t even remember/picture the finishing stretch. (blank)
4) Katie gave me some of her birthday cake, and I started to feel better
The crit didn’t go as well as we hoped, but it showed me that I could survive in a pack in a classic 4-corner A crit and still be competitive and make things happen, something that I had convinced myself at the start of the season wasn’t going to happen. I also think it’s one of the first times that I’ve felt I’ve really been able to help out a teammate in a race. The previous best help was the C-crit in Philly last year, three teammates got off the front and TTT’d to the win; I helped block in the pack, but they were so strong together it probably wasn’t needed.