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Easterns – A Promoter’s Perspective

Eastern Championships are over. Dang, it feels good to type those words.  

We’ve been home for a while now; the brooms, the marking paint, and the course signs have been packed away for next year, the recovery beer has been consumed, the bills have been paid (thanks to the awesome work of treasurers Quinn, Wade and Youyang), and the panic and stress dreams have been left behind. Maybe it’s some variant of Stockholm syndrome, but I think this was the most fun I’ve had at a race weekend to date.  

Preparations

Starting in January Dustin Weigl, James deMelo, Lucy Archer, and myself held weekly conference calls to discuss the race planning and prep, Lucy often calling in while riding the rollers at ungodly early hours of the morning in CA where she now resides.  In January, the idea of putting on a race seemed doable, by February we (or at least I) had doubts, by March I was in a full out panic. It wasn’t that we weren’t prepared, it was simply that so much of running a bike race depends on others. You can make plans, contingency plans, contingency plans for the contingency plans, but at the end of the day it takes a dedicated group of people all working well to pull it off.

About a week out from the race, everything was set.  I figured this would make the last week a little easier, but it didn’t – with everything set there was nothing left for me to do but pace my office coming up with increasingly absurd possible disaster scenarios.     

Friday (the day before the race)

Early Friday morning saw Lucy (having arrived from CA on a red-eye), James and myself driving out to the road race course in Warwick MA to start sweeping corners, putting up signs, and marking potholes.  This work was made easier by the efforts of the town – they sent the street sweeper out Wednesday, which left the roads in really great shape. Enough good things cannot be said about the town and the people of Warwick, they have embraced this race with excitement for the two years we’ve been holding it, and have showed up to support, cheer, and heckle.  During the course of the day we were given lemonade, asked if we were crazy for doing a race that went up Old Winchester Road (a rather steep and long dirt climb) several times, and played a golden retriever full of boundless energy (kinda reminiscent of Berk we all agreed) at the fire chief’s house.

After the course work was done we headed up to the hotel our awesome logistic officers Amy and Cosmo had reserved in Brattleboro VT. Here is where I need to give the biggest of shout outs to Amy – who together with James – managed to get 40 odd people and bikes (who seemingly all needed to arrive and leave at different times) to and from Western MA.

Once at the hotel, James and I sat down to run through details for the next day, this mostly consisted of me asking him a series of questions regarding increasingly unlikely things that might go wrong, and him having answers and contingency plans ready for even my most fantastical of crises.

It was great that James was so incredibly prepared, but it also meant that it was 6pm and I had nothing to do but pace the hallway and wait.  Friend of the team (and future winner of the men’s A road race) Erik Levinsohn pointed out that racers tend to judge the quality of a race by the weather, and that Saturday was forecast to be beautiful.  This managed to put me at ease for at least a little while. After pretty much driving every single one of my teammates insane running through possible crisis scenarios for the next day, they finally convinced me to go to bed.  

Saturday

Saturday morning James and I were up bright and early at 4:30 to head over to the Warwick Community School, where we would be staging the team time trial and road race.  I was very glad to see him in the parking lot in the morning, as one of the more vivid promoter stress dreams I had been having involved him forgetting the date of the race and instead going backpacking in the Canadian Rockies.  We arrived at the Warwick Community School that served as staging, and started setting up while Dustin and Tori drove the course marking more potholes (yay! Bike racing in the spring in New England), making sure the signage was still in place and touching up the sweeping we had done the day before.        

Team Time Trial

I was bullish about this – I was going to do everything I could to make sure I got to race this event.  Assuming nothing was actively on fire at the start line I was going to race. Luckily James and Lucy had everything under control so I suited up and lined up with Tobi, Biswaroop, and Cosmo and we set off.   The first part of the course was a little rough, I’d spent a few hours the day before with cold patch getting the worst of the potholes, but the road was still rough enough for at least one rider from another school to refer to it as “that bombed out crater field you call a TTT course”.  Once we got through the “crater field” the course smoothed out a lot, but then the hills began. And here we began to encounter the fractured remnants of the teams that had gone out before us, we single riders as well of groups of two or three. It was chaos. We paced ourselves well and managed to pull out a 1st place finish by almost a minute.

Road Race

I pretty much knew from the beginning that I wasn’t going to be able to race this, there was too much going on, still it was sad to stand to the side as my field rolled out for the championship race. James was a beast – he had a schedule, and a binder, and packets for each of the volunteers, with him running things I was able to move around and check in with the officials and the ECCC staff and deal with small problems as they came up.  I also was able to be at the finish line to watch Miles, Liam, and Berk win their respective fields (when did we start having a real men’s team?).

Banquet

This was a bit of a blur, the location that we ended up renting sight unseen at the last minute ended up being awesome.  A huge room, exposed beams, and a ton of natural light. It was a great night of hanging out with friends and teammates, swapping war stories, and eating everything we could get our hands on.

Sunday

This was another early start, James and I again met at Dunkin Donuts at 4:30 (thank god for 24 hr Dunkin).  We got to Unity Park in Turner Falls and began setup with the help of Tori, Sara, Berk and Quinn (Tori insisting on helping despite a crash in the TTT the day before).  We were set up quickly with only a few hiccups (including two cars parked on the course). As compared to the day before, the Crit went smoothly, controlling a 1 km stretch of road that is completely closed to traffic is much easier than sending riders out on a 16 mi loop and just hoping everything goes alright. Things were going well enough that I was able to hop into the crit and race.  Running on pure adrenaline and a serious case of #promoterLegs I still managed to pull out a podium, mostly thanks to the awesome work of a bunch of teammates. The rest of the day ran smoothly and I was able to move around the course checking in with marshals, police officers, and officials (all of whom had things in such good shape I felt next to useless). The day ended with the podiums, both for the day, and for the season long omniums, both of which saw MIT heavily represented.

And like that it was done – we had pulled it off.  The race weekend was over. James, Lucy, Dustin and myself had made it through.  

A note about our sponsors

Needless to say, without the support of our sponsors much of what we do would not be possible.  More than anything, hosting a race of this scale certainly wouldn’t be doable without them. We have an awesome group of product sponsors—Wheelworks, BMC, Giro/Stages, Mavic, O2 Rainwear, Rudy Project, and Supacaz.  This year we were also delighted to work with Sidehill Farms Yogurt, a small dairy in the Berkshires who provided yogurt cups to all our volunteers as well as pints of maple yogurt for primes #yogurtprimes.

We also have a group of direct sponsors about whom not enough good can be said, without these organizations support this race truly couldn’t have happened:

Thoughtforms

Thoughtforms has been a long-time sponsor of the club, first at the Championship Level, and now three years as Title Sponsor. Established in 1972, Thoughtforms collaborates with clients, architects, and designers to build some of the most unique custom homes and community spaces in the Boston area. Their work has received numerous awards — in 2003 Thoughtforms was nationally recognized by Custom Home Magazine as the Custom Builder of the Year, and in 2017 they were selected for the New England Design Hall of Fame. Thoughtforms has a strong connection to MIT, with four alums working in leadership roles, as well as a number of avid cyclists, including their President, Mark Doughty, who raced professionally in Europe.

The Branta Group LLC

The Branta Group LLC has been a Championship-level sponsor of the MIT cycling team for over 7 years. As a hub of healthcare entrepreneurship, the Branta Group has founded many biotech companies, and provided capital and expertise to promote growth and business sustainability. In the community, The Branta Group is committed to encouraging students to pursue STEM education as well as endurance sports, a passion that MIT cyclists share. During the summer in 2017, The Branta Group coached a group of motivated high-school students to foster entrepreneurial growth, and MIT Cycling was proud to help. The Branta Group provided business mentoring, while MIT Cycling helped the students design experiments to quantitatively demonstrate the value of their product. You can read more about the program here.

Exponent

This year was Exponent’s 14th year as an Elite-level sponsor of the MIT cycling team. Exponent is an international consulting firm that specializes in the investigation and prevention of engineering failures and has been involved in cases from airplane crashes to the design of consumer electronics. With many MIT alumni and cyclists, members of the Exponent team can often be found riding in The Greater Boston Area.

Biognosys

Biognosys has been an Elite-level sponsor of the MIT cycling team for three years. Specializing in proteomics data acquisition and analysis, Biognosys has pioneered many techniques that give more comprehensive coverage for proteomics, allowing new drug targets to be discovered and validated. They recently had two product launches, including their newest reference peptide kit, which enables proteomic researchers to quantify over 500 human plasma proteins. You can read more about it here. A company with a strong sports culture, Biognosys employees compete in the annual alumni SOLA relay run and local cycling races.

ECCC Championships – It’s good to be on top!

It was a great privilege to finish the road season at our home race near Warwick, MA. The race was an incredible success thanks to Dmitro, James, Dustin and Lucy, our race organizers! We also thank alumni, sponsors, current club and racing members, and members of other teams for lending a hand!

Now to the racing! There were some dominant performances across the board, and the MIT men deserve special mention for taking the wins in the B, C, and D road races, as well as the C criterium, for double points! Although several of our women suffered a crash during the TTT that prevented them from racing, Emma held down the fort, taking 3rd in the road race and 2nd in the criterium.

MIT took the ECCC omnium win and was 3rd in points at the ECCC Championship. We are looking forward to sending four women to represent us at Nationals at Grand Junction, CO this year.

Here’s Sarah’s account of the weekend:

This last weekend was the ECCC Championships, hosted by the one and only MIT team (us!). As opposed to every other weekend of the ECCC season, the weather was perfect – both days featured blue skies, sun, and warm temperatures. On top of that, our coordinators-extraordinaires (the team of Dmitro, James, Dustin, and Lucy) coordinated an incredibly smooth and fun weekend for all of the racers and spectators. One of the really special things was the number of teammates who turned out for this event – both racing and volunteering. I loved both getting to see teammates I hadn’t seen for a while (woo Amanda Chen!) and meet some others for the first time (hi, Andrew Xia!).

The weekend started off on Saturday with the team time trial. The course featured one incredibly terrifying pot-holey section near the beginning, but after that rolled through the central MA countryside taking advantage of the beautiful farmland and fun hills. Having crashed during the crit the previous weekend, I was pretty nervous to be racing again, but my TTT teammates were calming, supportive, and positive. We made it through the pot-holed section without any issues, and were really getting into our groove, before ending prematurely when two of us went down in a crash. Although it was crazy and stressful in the moment, both Tori and Amy got great care at the local hospital and were able to come back and cheer for the team that afternoon! [Berk chiming in! Our Men’s B, C, D TTT teams took the top podium spots, but the mood was somewhat deflated due to the crash. We were extremely happy to hear positive news about our ladies as we prepared for the afternoon!]

Saturday late morning and afternoon was the road race – a crazy loop including two challenges climbs (one of them dirt!). Miles Couchman started off the day with a dominant win in the Men’s D field, and Liam Fenlon followed his lead, snagging a win in the Men’s C category as well! The A and B fields raced in the afternoon, and Berk Ozturk was able to complete the trifecta by winning the Men’s B field for the team. Emma Edwards represented the women’s team all by herself, and had a strong second place finish in the women’s A field.

That evening, all of the teams met at a local YMCA to share some delicious Italian food and cookies, and celebrate the season and races of the day! Although the venue had been arranged somewhat (very) last minute, it was perfect for the occasion – homey and light-filled (especially appreciated after a long dark winter). All in all, it was really wonderful to come together as a team and as a larger ECCC family to appreciate the adventure that this road season has been.

Sunday featured a criterium through downtown Turner Falls, and my day began bright and early with course set-up duty with Quinn and Berk. Despite the massive performances that they had put out the previous day, both of them were cheery and positive as we lugged hay bales around the streets (and then swept up after ourselves!). Although there was still one car left on the course when the races began at 8 AM, everything went smoothly! The course featured a super steep uphill section following by a gentle (but lengthy) downhill ending in a sharp corner – but all of the riders managed it safely throughout the day.

The day was capped off by an awards ceremony, in which our team took home the “ECCC Omnium” prize for most points throughout the season (woot!) and a third place award for the ECCC Championships itself. More importantly, the men’s and women’s teams exchanged small but thoughtful (and delicious!) gifts including flowers and cake!

All in all, the ECCC Championships was an awesome time to come together as a team, to support our race organizers and to race as hard as we could. I, for one, am already looking forward to next season!

 

Here is Berk’s account of the Men’s B road race:

After a great performance in the TTT in the morning; Dustin, Quinn and I were ready for the biggest climbs of the season. I was particularly spooked by the dirt climb which was the longest and the steepest on the course.

We knew from the beginning that this climb would shatter the field, and it did. Quinn and I managed to make the 8-man lead group as it separated towards the end of the first 16-mile lap, and we had a solid gap by the middle of the second lap. The group was strong, and we managed to stay together for the majority of the second lap. We were busy inflicting pain on each other up the dirt climb for a second time when I decided it was going to be my move. The gradient eased, I got around to the front, and started accelerating. Suddenly, I heard commotion behind me, and realized that at least 5 of the riders were on the ground, including Quinn, and although I was conflicted I decided to commit.

A WPI rider was the lone chaser, and he was breathing down my back, with at most 5 seconds of gap at the top of the climb. I decided that I wanted to go solo, and burned a lot of matches to make him lose sight of me. Thankfully this gambit paid off. I settled into a TT pace, hitting the climbs hard, and easing on the flats to try and keep the distance. The best part of the day was having Liam occasionally shout encouragements in his intense gravely voice from the lead car when he would lag back to tell me the gap, which came down to almost 15 seconds at some point!

I should have know that Quinn was the unsung hero of the day, because while I was alone TT’ing for the last 20 miles, he was busy staying in the chase pack of 6 riders, demotivating them by telling them that ‘they would never catch me’. The icing on the cake was that he joined me on the podium in 3rd! It was amazing to podium at Easterns, our home race!

 

Here’s Dmitro’s account of the Men’s D Criterium:

Averaging 5-6 hours of sleep for a week, no warm-up to speak of, and a fueling plan that consisted of some coffee and half a muffin hastily eaten on the drive down is not the most ideal crit prep – yet there I was, lined up and 30 seconds from the gun (whistle). Since it was our home race MIT riders got a call up. We had a whopping 6 riders in the field and basically took up the entire front row. At this point Miles leaned over and asked what my plan was for the race. Oh yeah, a race plan, I should probably have one of those. I hadn’t really thought about this at all, and went to my standard answer “rubber side down, and surviving, that’s all I’m shooting for”. Secretly I was thinking that I’d be lucky if it I managed to not get pulled, I was hoping that Miles would get into an early break (he’s been killing it this season), that way I could sit in the pack, hang on for dear life, and claim that I had done “hard work” blocking for him.

The whistle blew, and we were off. I’ve been racing a lot of CX this year and it has bled into my road riding, so I took off from the line, about 5 seconds in I looked back and saw that my fellow CX rider Tobi and I had maybe 15 meters on the rest of the field. I turned to him and said “wanna go for it” and boy did he!  While I drifted back to the pack he shot forward and was off, he stayed away, alone and in the wind for 18 mins while Miles and I stayed near the front of the pack, blocking where we could, and shutting down attacks. During this time Tobi also managed to pick up both primes, winning the quart of maple flavored yogurt donated by our friends at Sidehill Farms.

With 8 laps left the pack eventually decided to organize and proceeded to catch Tobi. As we came around and saw 7 to go the pack caught Tobi, and we were all together again. As soon as Tobi was swallowed up by the group I attacked. I was away, I was alone, and I was flying – after one lap I had built a sizable gap — adrenaline is one hell of a drug. The issue is, I was running on adrenaline and nothing else. I came around the finish line, this time seeing 5 to go on the board, and entirely unsustainable numbers on my Garmin, and was mentally broken – I couldn’t keep up this pace, I had tried the solo break game early this season only to get caught meters from the line, this was it, I was done. Somewhere during this crisis of confidence I realized I had a rider on my wheel, a racer from BU had bridged up to me. With someone to work with my despair was, if not eliminate, at least mitigated. I worked with the BU rider and over the next few laps we managed to grow the gap on the pack even more.

As we came onto the finishing straight in the final lap I was positioned perfectly, glued to the BU riders wheel and ready to launch my sprint. When we hit the 200 m to go mark my mind screamed “SPRINT”, unfortunately every single muscle in my legs scream “NO” just as loudly, and consequently I could only manage the most halfhearted of sprints – finishing a few bike lengths behind the BU rider. Still I was thrilled, I had managed to podium my own race. The rest of the day went great, and everything ran smoothly from a promoting standpoint (primarily due to the awesome planning done by Dustin and the great work of James).

L’Enfer Du Nord, The Day of the Breakaway


After the Shippensburg race weekend got cancelled due to inclement weather, the second day of the Hell of the North was cancelled as well. But regardless, MIT cyclists were eager to attack the ITT and criterium of April 14th, and had dominant performances in both events.

Liam demonstrating proper sprint technique in his criterium win!
Liam demonstrating proper sprint technique in his criterium win!

Read Dustin’s account of the weekend and Men’s B Crit below:

Going into this weekend, I was pretty apprehensive about what it might bring. The forecast continued to look grimmer as the weekend drew closer and by Friday, the weather gods were calling for temperatures in the mid-thirties and some mixed precipitation. Sweet. Awesome. Great for cornering hard in a crit with a new bike.

The ITT in the morning went well with MIT sweeping many of the top spots in all categories and pulling in a huge number of Omnium points. Go Tech! And as we transitioned over to Dartmouth’s Frat Row to get ready for the crit, things dried up and it actually began to look like we could have some good conditions for racing. We had a blast watching the early races with Coach Nicole providing commentary on strategy and suggestions on critical points in the course. She turned to me, Berk, and Quinn (aka the Killa Beeeees aka MIT Men’s B riders) and asked, “So what’s your strategy? Do you guys know what you’re going to do?” I replied, “Yeah we have a detailed agenda. Many planning. Much strategy.” We of course hadn’t discussed anything.

The race kicked with a fast few laps and then things settled in until the bell rang for the first prime lap. Berk attacked like a bat out of hell and 4 riders chased. As soon I saw them hit the finish line, I sprinted out of the group to draw up next to the 5 riders yelling “Let’s go, let’s go we have a gap, time to work!” in classic Liam fashion. Everyone gave me a quick glance and sat up, ready to head back to the pack. Except, of course, Berk who is always down for getting #rekt.

Now, Coach Nicole might say it’s stupid to attack 10 minutes into a 50-minute race in a two-man break with a teammate since the pack would almost certainly work hard to shut it down. But when in bike racing, YOLO as bike racers do (or maybe YGDS as some might say). So anyway, lap after lap we steadily grew the gap 2 seconds here, 5 seconds there. Until finally with 2 laps to go we turned the corner and there was the pack. We had lapped the field and, we were absolutely thrilled to find, the Quinn Bee was sitting at the front – totally wiped after a long day of blocking and shutting down attacks.

As it turned out, we had executed team strategy perfectly, with Berk and I working together very well at the front and Quinn doing everything he could to keep the rest of the race from catching us. I’d never had the opportunity to cruise casually across a crit finish line shoulder to shoulder with a great teammate and I don’t expect it’ll happen again soon- it’s definitely something I’d recommend giving a try if you ever have a chance. Sometimes you just need to decide to go for it in a race and once in a blue moon it works out exactly the way you’d hoped.

Read Tori’s account of the Women’s A/B crit below:

Repping MIT in the break!
Repping MIT in the break!

This weekend marked the first time this season that we had 3 women in the A/B race, since Amy just upgraded to the B’s! With no Sunday races, we stepped up to the crit ready to empty the tank with whatever we had left. In our race, and early attack split the field and resulted in a break of 5 riders, including myself and Emma. We rode a majority of the race with just the 5 of us. Despite getting caught near the end, an RPI rider attacked again and we re-formed the break with a substantial gap. Getting into the break (twice!) and riding there for most of the race had taken quite a bit out of my legs, and so I used what I had left to lead out Emma into and out of the final corner, and get her in position for the sprint. Her bike skipped a gear near the very end of the sprint, and she took a close second to the RPI rider. I rode in for 3rd in the Women’s A category and 5th overall. Coach Nicole was there, and provided great strategy and insights (and much-needed hot water) all day. The team had an incredible showing today, and I’m really excited to see what we can do in the final weekend of the conference season!

NYC Metro Showdown – an Army of Two

This year, the team sent only two racers to the NYC Metro Showdown hosted by NYU, Columbia, Rutgers, and Army on 3/31-4/1. Sadly, the much anticipated West Point races had been cancelled, and the ECCC decided to bring back this race which had been held two years ago, in order to fill the open weekend. Our riders Wade and Tori held down the fort and raked in some valuable omnium points.
Read Tori’s post about the weekend below:

Wade and I made the drive to Valley Cottage, NY for the circuit race, which featured numerous laps of a 3.7-mile course. The course had a slight climb, but it was quite short and so we were both prepared for a sprint finish. Given that there had been a significant number of crashes here two years ago, we carefully scouted out the course Friday evening to identify where we wanted to be positioned at various points on the course.

Wade was executing our game plan and riding a good race in the Men’s C field until an unfortunate mechanical which ended his race after a few laps. The Women’s A race played out more or less how I had expected. There were several attacks on the hilly section, but the pack largely stayed together. After 9 laps, the race indeed came down to a sprint. I was well positioned and was able to grab the wheel of the strongest sprinter in the field, which ended up being a perfect lead out, and I sprinted for 3rd place.

The next day featured a crit which was hosted by Rutgers on their campus. The course had 3 corners and one long, sweeping turn. Wade was ready to go for the crit, especially since his race had been cut short the day before. A lot of attacks and surging made for a challenging race. The rider off the front had been reeled back in before the finish and the race came down to a field sprint. Wade finished in the top 15, and also snagged 2nd in two primes to bring in some solid points for the team. In my race, there was an early solo breakaway that was ultimately able to stay away for the win in a very impressive performance.

In an effort to earn some points towards keeping the green jersey, I went for primes, taking 2nd in 3 of them, and 3rd in the other. The rest of the race came down to a group sprint for second. I started my sprint a little too late, but got across the line 2nd of that group to take another 3rd. Despite some nervousness on our part about the courses, the weekend went quite smoothly with minimal crashes across all fields. It was definitely out of the ordinary having only two people at a race weekend, but it was a success nonetheless!

Mansfield Madness – track racing without track racing



The second road race weekend featured some dominant performances from our women in the A field. Emma not only won the road race, she also placed 2nd in the Women’s A criterium, with Tori picking off primes to get a huge lead in the points competition. In the men’s D criterium, we saw a great display of teamwork where our riders launched attacks throughout the race. The kept this up until Dmitro attacked for a 2nd time, and stayed away until just before the finish line on the last lap. Miles, Andre, and Dmitro ultimately nailed 3 of 5 top spots in the race.

Berk, Quinn, and Dustin, i.e. the “Killa B’s” also employed some effective team tactics, which involved a heroic effort from Dustin to initiate the winning 3-man breakaway, and stay away from the field to ultimately take 2nd. In a true ECCC fashion, it was yet another cold weekend, which featured some snow flurries on Sunday, but everyone raced hard nonetheless. It was great to see some of the strategy we’d learned from Nicole get implemented (and work!) in races.

Read Miles’ recap of the weekend below:

The UConn race weekend was my first time racing, so my main goal was to stay upright and get a sense of how strong everyone else was. It was pretty chilly on Saturday morning and I made full use of Quinn’s luxurious heated seats on the drive to the TTT. There were two Men’s D teams: myself, Dmitro and Tobi on one and Felix, Biswaroop and André on the other. I was expecting the TTT to be an unpleasant suffer-fest, but I had an absolute blast! There’s not much that can beat riding fast outside with your teammates after being holed up inside on the trainer all winter. Our Men’s D teams ended up coming in 1st and 2nd place, even beating the times of the two Men’s C teams, and the Women’s A and Men’s B teams also got 1st, making for a great start to the weekend.

Next was the road race, which was a 21 mile, two lap course for the Men’s D field. Our race had 60 riders, so I decided to try and stay with the front ten riders and see what happened. I’m glad I was near the front, as there were two crashes in the first lap that I was totally oblivious to. The pace during the first lap was tame, and I could sense a lot of the others growing impatient, but I was happy to save my energy and just cruise along. The second lap was where things got interesting. About 4 miles from the finish, there was a crash going up a hill (go figure…) which Dmitro and Biswaroop unfortunately got caught up in but Felix and I narrowly avoided. Someone yelled, “There’s been a crash, this our chance!” and suddenly there was complete mayhem with everyone trying to break away. Felix and I managed to pair up and we worked together to try and slowly pick off the approximately 10 riders in front of us. The end of the course featured two short hills before a downhill finish. Felix was a champion and put in a huge effort to pull me up the first hill allowing me to hurtle down the other side and catch a few more riders. By that point, there were only three people ahead of me, but I was suffering and to my dismay, there was still one more hill. I convinced myself that I was being a total wimp since this hill was nothing compared to Mount Palomar (which we had ridden up twice during winter training camp), and I went all out up the final hill and managed to pass two of the remaining three riders. I was gaining on the final rider, who turned out to be from my hometown of Toronto, but didn’t have quite enough time to catch him. Kudos to him for staying away from everybody! I came 2nd (all thanks to Felix!), Felix 5th, Tobi 12th, André 13th and Dmitro even managed to finish mid-pack despite crashing.

The criterium on Sunday was held at the Stafford Springs Motor Speedway meaning that there were no sharp corners like in a more conventional crit course. While most people were disappointed about the lack of technical corners on the course, I was secretly happy to have an easy course for my first crit. Dmitro attacked in the second lap which caused everyone at the front to panic. The pack caught him within a lap or two but he had definitely tired a bunch of people out, allowing André to win both prime laps. Then, with about fifteen minutes to go, Dmitro attacked again off the front.

This time, with a superhuman effort, he managed to stay away and the rest of the MIT riders got to practice some blocking, to the frustration of the other teams. Remarkably, the pack only caught him in the final turn of the last lap. Coming into this last corner, I was sitting in a good position, about three wheels back from the leader, but of course, had completely forgotten all of the useful tips that Coach Nicole had taught us during the sprinting clinic. I started my sprint too late, after someone else had already sprinted past me, but I managed to hang on for a second place finish, with André coming 3rd and Dmitro coming 5th. I had a fantastic first race weekend thanks to the support and encouragement of all of my teammates! I learned a lot and hope to put it to good use in the coming races.

Finally, here is a playlist of footage from the Men’s D races:

Keep pedaling!

The Extremely Cold Cycling Conference (ECCC) and the Philly Phlyer


After a seemingly never-ending winter, MIT Cycling was well prepared for the frigid opening race in Philadelphia. We fielded 9 members with 3 of them being newly minted MIT racers. Although the conditions were adversarial, MIT Cycling had plenty to be happy about, with some strong performances all around, and even a smashing 1-2 victory by Jack and Biswaroop in their first collegiate race weekend.

Here is a recap of the weekend from Amy:

The first race weekend of the Extremely Cold Cycling Conference (the better-known name for the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference) began as expected – my Garmin reported that it was 25 degrees as we warmed up for the first event, the Team Time Trial. This was my first TTT with the women’s A team, so I was a bit nervous, but my nerves diminished somewhat once we discovered that we were racing unopposed. Despite being unopposed, we did not take it easy, and I quickly confirmed just how much stronger Emma and Tori are than I am! After taking a couple of turns pulling in the usual rotation, I was tiring at an unsustainable rate (and the cold air in my lungs didn’t make things any easier). So, I transitioned to “sitting in”, yelling “in” every time that Tori or Emma pulled off the front so that they would pull in front of me, and I could sit on the back and avoid the considerable extra effort of pulling. The TTT course runs along the Schuylkill river and is very flat, with only a small downhill at the beginning and uphill at the end, so there were few distractions, and I began to appreciate just how hard a TTT can be. Nonetheless, we did finally make it to that small uphill at the end, sprinted for the finish line, and, took first place! And also last place.

Our next race was the Circuit Race, which also ran along the Schuylkill river, but included an additional small hill. Turnout in my field (women’s C) was… underwhelming… to say the least. We began the race with 7 riders, but by the time we descended the small hill after 15 minutes, only 3 of us remained in the front “pack”. So, we spent the next hour TTT-ing around the course as I tried to figure out how I could beat the other two women. Because the course doubled back on itself, we could also see the other fields that were racing concurrently, so I watched Emma and Tori ride by several times. Unfortunately, my scheming was largely unfruitful. I decided to try to escape the other women on the final hill, but apparently they had the same plan! We all accelerated up the hill and around the final loop together, turned into the headwind on the finishing stretch and sprinted. Alas my legs had had just about enough at this point, and I watched sadly as the other two accelerated away from me across the finish line to take 1st and 2nd. I guess I’ll need to practice my sprinting more!

Among the other MIT racers, Tori was notable as having neither started nor finished her circuit race officially. The races had been running behind schedule but suddenly began running on time again without warning, so she raced to the start line and chased up to the group as they rounded the first corner; apparently in all of the rush the officials didn’t successfully record her as starting the race. Unfortunately she got a flat tire and so was unable to finish the race either. In his first road race, Cosmo crashed in the first corner, significantly damaging his wheel, but thankfully not himself. Other riders fared better – Emma took 4th in women’s A, and Berk took 7th in men’s B.

The criterium on Sunday was a traditional 4-corner crit around city blocks at Temple University. However, the course was made more interesting by the fact that it narrowed to a single lane for a block due to construction. This meant that riders were unable to ride three or four abreast as they would normally in a crit, and instead all of the races strung out into long single file or two-by-two lines. Of course, this was extremely important in women’s C, which had dwindled to only six riders. After riding most of the race with the same two women as on Saturday, I lost the final sprint to take second. In the men’s E race, Jack and Biswaroop raced off the front from very early on, to take 1st and 2nd by a considerable margin. In women’s A, Tori and Emma took 3rd and 4th, and Tori racked up tons of sprint points to claim the green jersey. Overall the day turned out to be much warmer and more pleasant than Saturday, and we were even briefly serenaded by a marching band whose path, unluckily for them yet amusingly for us, ran perpendicular to the crit course! As we packed into the cars and began our 6-hour drive back to Cambridge, I was already looking forward to UConn the following weekend, and hoping that more than five other C women were too!

As a team, we are looking forward to build on our successes as the top team in the ECCC in the omnium.

2017 DII Club Omnium National Champs!

This year we were able to take 8 students (plus Coach Kolie) to the Collegiate Road National Championships in Grand Junction, CO. We had 4 A women: Katy Olesnavage, Anne Raymond, Tori Wuthrich, and myself (Emma Edwards), 2 A men: Justin Bandoro and Emerson Glassey, and Berk Ozturk and Youyang Zhao joined them for the Team Time Trial (TTT). All of the A-level riders did the TTT the first day (Friday), the Road Race the second day (Saturday), and the Criterium the third day (Sunday).

Most of us traveled on Wednesday, arriving at our house—a house on a farm which we booked through Airbnb—around midnight. Since we couldn’t see any of the surrounding scenery when we arrived, we were surprised with wonderful views when we woke up. We spent the morning putting our bikes together and meeting some of the animals on the farm, including two dogs and a baby goat!

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Assembling our bikes with quite the view!

That afternoon, we pre-rode the TTT course, and we were unpleasantly surprised with two obstacles: (1) the altitude, and (2) the wind! Of course, the altitude was something we had considered a little bit, but we didn’t expect it to affect it as much as it did. We really noticed a difficulty in breathing and much lower power numbers to what we were used to. We had to rely on to how we were feeling to dictate our efforts (instead of power numbers) much more than usual. We really hadn’t thought about the wind at all! It was extremely gusty, so we were being blown all over the road. This made it very difficult to pace-line efficiently but forming echelons was also difficult because of the gusty nature of the wind.

Luckily, it wasn’t quite as windy Friday morning. The gusts weren’t as strong, so we felt a little safer, but it still played a significant role, since benefits from drafting were still decreased. The TTT was about 20 miles, which is longer than any other TTT we do all year. It was an out-and-back: downhill with a head-wind on the way out and slightly uphill with a tail-wind on the way back. This combination made it very tricky to pace, and both the men and the women shed a rider soon after the turn-around. After that, it was a fight against our lungs and the wind. The men finished top-10 and the women finished second! A particularly special moment for me was standing on the podium with my teammates, next to Jen Wilson, an alumni of the MIT team who rode with the Stanford team this year as a postdoc.

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The boys TTT getting ready to start
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Women about to start the TTT!
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Starting the TTT!
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Second step of the podium! With our good friend Jen Wilson on the top step!
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The ladies with our silver medals!

We didn’t have a chance to pre-ride the road race course, but we drove it quickly on Friday afternoon. The course was absolutely stunning, with mountains surrounding us and a great mix of windy descents, hairpin steep accents, and many miles of false-flats.

Unfortunately, I didn’t actually get to ride more than 3.5 miles of the course, though, because I went down! I think what happened is that someone got nervous going around a corner on the descent and pulled on her brakes, losing traction in their tires. It results in 10 girls going down, including me. I was able to slow down a lot before I crashed into her (she went flying across the road, hence why she took out so many other girls), so I wasn’t badly hurt (just a cut on my elbow) and my bike was fine, but it was the end of my day of racing. Tori also had bad luck, with her derailleur breaking on a cattle-guard, a couple miles after my crash. She ended up on a neutral-support bike, 5 minutes behind the rest of the field by the time everything was set up and she was ready to roll. She fought hard, though, and ITT-ed the rest of the race, passing quite a few (13!!) girls on her way to the finish line, finishing 36th. Anne and Katy both did wonderfully, finishing 29th and 25th respectively, out of 61 starters (which is probably 3 x larger than our largest women’s-A race this year during the regular season). In the men’s race Emerson and Justin both did great. Emerson finished 50th out of ~120 starters! Possibly the most successful part of the day, though, was the skill shown in this picture:

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Tori giving a very skillful feed to Emerson

Sunday was the crit in downtown Grand Junction. It was a 6 corner crit around a couple of blocks downtown. It was a really good location for a crit, and it seemed tame except for one corner, which went from quite a wide road to a narrow road, and the corner was smooth and slippery, with a manhole cover in the middle. Tori and Anne both went down on this corner throughout the race (along with many other people!) but were okay! I tried to use the fact that I had only raced 3 miles the day before to my advantage by attacking with 5 laps to go. I held a ~10 second gap for the rest of the race until the second-to-last corner (~200 meters from the end) when I was caught and passed by the group. Katy also finished with the group! Justin and Emerson had a very fast race, with the peloton (of more than 100 people!!) strung out almost the entire race.

We waited around for a while, the suspense building more and more, until they announced that we had won the D2 club omnium! Unfortunately, Justin and Berk missed the podium and the picture:

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2017 Club DII National Champions: Top row from left: Tori Wuthrich, Katy Olesnavage, Emma Edwards, Anne Raymond, Bottom row: Youyang Zhao, Emerson Glassey. Not pictured: Berk Ozturk and Justin Bandoro

This was, without a doubt, a great team effort. We would not have been able to get this national title without every single person that went! Special thanks to Kolie for helping us get ready for races and going over strategies and things to think about for each race. I’m very sad that three of the people who went this year (Katy, Anne, and Justin) are graduating this year, but I’m already looking forward to next year so that I can make it more than 3.5 miles into the road race!

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Nationals was a great team-bonding time, too!

 

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Trophy!

 

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And just for good measure: one final pinning picture!

Bringing Home the Trophy!

And thus it was the last ECCC race weekend of the season, a bit too quickly if you ask me. Easterns this year was hosted by RISD and Brown and was only an hour drive away, so we had 27 racers come out, including a few first timers! On the agenda was the usual TTT and road race on Saturday and the crit on Sunday. Two dirt sections on a chilly and rainy day made the road race course very interesting!

It was a fantastic end to the collegiate racing season. We brought home the ECCC Championship weekend trophy for the 2nd year in a row, beating Army by a mere 8 points, and won the D2 Omnium as well!! To summarize some of the results: We got 1st in the Women’s A, Men’s C, Women’s D, and Men’s E TTTs, and 2nd in the Men’s A and Men’s D TTT. Emma came in 4th and Tori in 6th at the Women’s A road race, Quinn and Berk secured 4th and 5th in the Men’s C road race, Kate Lawrence got 2nd in the Women’s C race, Liam came in 4th in the Men’s D race, Emy got 2nd in the Women’s D race, and Josu and Tony came in 2nd and 9th in the Men’s E race. Tori secured 6th place in the women’s a crit, while Berk, Quinn, and Charles came in 4, 5, and 9 in the men’s C crit, Liam came 9th in the Men’s D, Amy ended 2nd in the Women’s D, and Josu and Tony came in 1st and 7th in the Men’s E crit!

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Emma and PK with the Championship weekend Trophy!

Here is a recap of the weekend from Amanda:

 “TTT: This was Kate H’s first ever race, and we had a 4-person Women D team! Despite there being no other Women’s D teams in the line-up, we pushed hard and put in a solid effort. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to keep our team of 4 together for the whole course. We dropped Kate within the first mile, and then I dropped off around mile 5 of 13 on an incline. Amy and Em pulled strong to the finish, and we ended up beating the 2nd place Women C TTT time.

RR: Sometimes being in cold rain triggers unhappy memories of this course. Previously unable to climb at a respectable speed, I surprised myself during this race by managing to move up in positions on some climbs! However, I still solo’d most of the race because I slowed down too much in the hole-y mud segments around mile 8 and wasn’t able to chase back onto the pack. In the end, Amy took 3rd, while Em and I came in 16th and 14th, respectively, in a field of 23.

Crit: *Turns* (ha) out that I’m too scared to corner in packs, and my Army crit strategy to string out the pack by hammering at the front & up the punchy climb doesn’t work quite as well on a flat course. The headwind we had witnessed in the morning races flipped, turning the sprint finish segment into a tailwind, and a straight segment after two quick turns into a fierce headwind. I spent most of this race yo-yo’ing off the back in those turns and trying to push through the headwind to catch the pack. The main pack raced together toward a huge 17-member sprint finish, with Amy earning 2nd place and some prime points!

As a highlight from the Women D field, Amy also got 1st overall for the season, beating out a girl from UVM by 6 points. As a team we also won the season and weekend omniums! It continually baffles me that I originally came to MIT to do science and joined the cycling team just to exercise, but instead happened upon a very inspiring group of top-notch cyclist-scientists that make me want to race at a more competitive level. Suffice it to say, I have a long way to go, especially since I’d just started cycling (outside of commuting) this past November on a trainer, with most of my outside miles actually at these ECCC-sanctioned races. I’m looking forward to a summer full of training to build fitness and drop some of those pack riding fears in preparation for next year! “

And the report from Tori:

“At the start line of the Women’s A/B road race, the conditions weren’t looking too promising – it was cold and raining, and no one was sure what to expect from the course’s two dirt sections, especially given the wet conditions. But the team went into the race with the idea that we’d make the best of it, and it turned out to be one of my favorite road races this season. As expected, the dirt sections were tough, but more manageable than I had originally anticipated. For most of the race, I was in a group with 10 or so other riders, including Anne. Emma was up the road in a breakaway that had gone during the second lap. Anne and I were riding next to each other in the pack, which gave us a chance to strategize and organize a leadout for the final sprint. Anne executed the leadout perfectly, and I came around her just before the final corner, and managed to win the group sprint. And Emma had hung on for 4th! Then it was back to the hotel to give our bikes (and us, of course) a good washing before Sunday’s crit.  “

Team Photo with the Trophy and D2 Winner's Plaque
Team Photo with the Trophy and D2 Winner’s Plaque

This weekend was a fantastic way to end our season. I could not have asked for a better season and enjoyed every minute of it with all of my amazing teammates. Thanks for an awesome season, everyone!!

Bringing an army to Army

I (Emma) have missed the Army Spring Classic the last two years, so I was super excited to do it this year! It’s a relatively close race and famously well-run, so we had TWENTY-SEVEN people come out to race!!! It was the largest crowd we’ve seen all year!

We had the “usual” three events this weekend (Team Time Trial, Road Race, and Crit). We were super excited about the TTT’s because we had teams for every category except one! And we were even more excited when 6 teams got 1st and the other 2 teams got 2nd in their categories!! It was an awesome way to start out the weekend; we were feeling optimistic about the rest of the races.

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Women’s A TTT squad after the TTT, with all of our aero helmets! Photo: Charlie Nodus

We have three race reports from this weekend: one from me, one from Charles Wu (2nd year grad) and one from Laura Treers (3rd year undergrad).

First, Charles comments on all three of his events:

On the TTT:

Simple course, downhill then uphill along the same road, this was a real pacing test.  Go too hard on the downhill, and you have no energy for the climb back up.  We had two C teams, Charles/Charlie/Wade and Brian/Daniel/Ethan.  Our first priority was to beat the rest of the schools, and our second priority was to beat the other MIT C team J We went out hard into the headwind and started slowly reeling in the team in front on the downhill portion.  After we made the U-turn, we hammered uphill and eventually passed at least 2 or 3 teams before the finish (which means we gained 30-90 seconds on each of them).  After the finish, one of the Pitt riders said something to the effect of “Nice job, you made us look silly”.  We won the race!

 

On the RR:

This was a really fast course, huge downhill followed by ~12-13min uphill, a rolling middle section, and an uphill finish.  We were hitting almost 50mph on the descent (very scary).  The C field was, like last weekend, oddly calm, and almost nothing happened the first two laps except for Berk dropping his chain and chasing back on. On the last lap, Quinn and Brian set a searing pace uphill which dropped me off the back. I rode for a bit in no-man’s land until Wade caught up to me (he had dropped his chain earlier too) and we had some TTT practice, eventually rolling in 25th and 26th.  Up the road, the race ended in a bunch sprint, where Charlie got 4th, Berk 7th, and Quinn 9th.

 

On the crit:

The Army crit course is a weird triangle shape, with a little big-ring hill right after the finish line, a >90 degree corner leading into a back straight, and a fast sweeping right into a short (100m) finish straight.  Luckily, I had experience racing it last year and already knew the passing points (no one wants to push up the bumpy af right side on the back straight, so you can make up positions easily).  The race started and almost immediately, Berk was away on the attack.  He stayed away for most of the race and at one point had almost 20 seconds on the field, winning 2 primes.  But he was eventually reeled in (through some miscommunication, MIT chased too much, d’oh). The field started to yo-yo in pace and this caused some minor crashes.  I tried to move up as best I could, and after some recovery time, Berk hit the front with me second wheel.  We rode at a high pace for a few laps, and no one had time to attack due to Berk’s crushing sprint leadout.  Finally, on the last lap Army tried to launch a two-man attack, but their leadout guy crashed at the top of the hill, flipping over the curb right in front of me and almost taking me out.  I lost a bunch of places immediately, but held on the back straight and final sprint for 5th, rueing what might have been.  Quinn (7th), Berk (11th), Brian(13th), and Wade(14th) all finished top 20 in a great MIT showing.

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Berk during his ~15 minute solo breakaway, Photo: PK

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Charles in the pack. Photo: PK

 

On the rest of the weekend:

What a turnout! 27 riders and a lot of hanging out/banter/eating snacks in the sunshine. We all but swept the TTT categories, and Kate and Emma won a race each, both in sprint finishes!

And here is Laura’s race report from her crit:

Sunday lived up to the legends of the glorious Army Crit course.  Featuring a long straightaway right next to the Hudson River, a punchy climb, and two quite technical corners, it might just be the funnest crit course I’ve ever done.  I was super excited to have two other MIT women racing with me in the Women’s D field.  For Amy and Amanda, it was both of their first crits, so we were all a little nervous going into it, but did some initial strategizing in hopes of all staying at the front of the pack.  Right off the gun Amanda sprinted to the front and started hammering, stringing out the field from the very beginning.  Amy stayed within the front 5 riders the entire time, while Amanda moved around in the pack quite a bit, staging some attacks up the punchy hill to keep things interesting.  I ended up “yoyo-ing” off the back more than I wanted, so with ~10 minutes to go I used the straightaway to pass most of the field and grab onto Amanda’s wheel for the rest of the race.  Because we were going soo hard the whole time, the field had really broken up, leaving only around 8 riders in the main field by the end.  The last lap was especially fast, and ended in a sprint to the finish, with Amy in 2nd, and Amanda and I in 4th and 5th, respectively.  I couldn’t have been happier with how the race went, and also soo proud of my teammates for totally crushing it in their first crits.  This was sadly my last collegiate race on the road this year, and I think a perfect ending. Already getting stoked for next season 🙂

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Women’s D squad ready for the RR to start! Photo: PK

Here is mine from my victory (!) at the women’s A crit on Sunday:

I never thought I would be writing about winning a women’s A crit because I am not a great sprinter, especially in large packs (I get pretty nervous!). But this year two of the three crits we’ve done have included small breakaways. I must say that I’ve enjoyed crits MUCH more when it’s just 2 or 3 other girls cornering with me! 🙂

This time, the break went about halfway into the race, with Dani (conference leader, Brown), and Liz (Army). After 5-10 minutes of pushing, I asked people from MIT who were spectating for the gap, and the next time around they said it was only 15 seconds. So we kept the pace high, and seemingly magically the gap grew and grew. I found out afterwards that this was not magic– this was teamwork!! Tori and Anne did an AMAZING job blocking the rest of the pack. I really don’t think we would have been able to stay away if they hadn’t been there, and I appreciate their help SO much.

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Tori and Anne controlling the women’s A/B pack to enable my breakaway to stay away! Photo: Wade Wang

Unfortunately, with about 6 laps to go Liz took one of the corners too wide and hit a guard rail (it was padded and she was okay other than some road rash), so it was then just Dani and me. We worked together until the last lap.  In a head-to-head sprint, Dani would beat me every time. She has an incredible sprint! So knowing that, I stayed on her wheel for the last lap to try to tire her out. Coming out of the last corner she was close to the left hand side of the road, so I went to her right. I put my head down and sprinted as hard as I could and I barely edged her out! It was an amazing feeling, and it meant so much more when I found out how much Anne and Tori had done to help me!

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Hardest I have ever sprinted! Photo: Wade Wang

This coming weekend is ECCC championships hosted by RISD and Brown. We have another large group coming since it’s so close!

Shippensburg Scurry 2017

The Shippensburg Scurry is one of the farthest races we will go to this year, but it was well worth the seven hour drive! The weekend started with the campus criterium on Saturday, followed by the only hill climb of the season in the afternoon and was rounded out by the Horse Killer Road Race on Sunday. Ten racers came out this weekend to represent MIT, which is great considering the driving distance to get to Shippensburg! And this was our first weekend with good weather this season, which made all of us very happy.

 

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Men’s C squad!

Out of the ten that made it, five (including me) were in the Men’s C category. We were all very excited to try out some team tactics and see what we could do to our field! The criterium’s main features consisted of two wide and fast corners and a kicker of a climb leading into the finish, so it was a past-paced race. Most of the pack stuck together up until the second to last lap, which made this crit totally different than the last at Penn State. As a team we did great! I was able to snag 1st in the first two primes and Berk got 2nd in the third prime. Throughout the race, Berk was very aggressive and was testing the field with attacks throughout. Coming into the last lap, Quinn was able to secure his spot in a break of 4 while the rest of us were near the front of the pack. In the end, Quinn held on to come in at 4th, Charles came 8th, I came 9th, Wade came 10th, and Berk came in at 15th.

The mass-start hill climb turned out to be a very interesting race. We had time to drive the course before the race and we took that opportunity to check it out and come up with a plan. Charles volunteered to put in a hard effort at the beginning and keep the pace high to catch the other teams off guard. All five of us started in the first line, and thus Charles was able to attack with an 1000W sprint right as the race started. This kept the pace fast and some people were getting shelled off the back before the real climb had even started. It was a tough 23 minute climb for me, but about halfway through, Wade caught up to me and gave me the inspiration I needed to keep pushing hard to the end(Thanks, Wade!!). Berk secured 2nd place and Quinn came close behind at 6th while Wade and I came in at 14th and 15th. After his valiant effort at the beginning, Charles decided to enjoy the scenery at an endurance pace and still managed to come in at 33rd out of 40, which just goes to show how much pain he caused everyone at the beginning (woo, go Charles!).

For us the Horse Killer Road Race was 46 miles long and consisted of a short loop followed by two loops that included the climb up Horse Killer Road, which has a 0.9 mile long climb at an average 8% grade ( within this 0.9miles is a 0.4 mile segment at an average 13% grade). This race was oddly calm for the C field, with only one attempted break away in the first lap, one or two attacks in the second lap, and a very slow pace for the first half of the 3rd lap, right up until Horse Killer Road. Quinn had his third strong finish of the weekend, coming in 5th. Berk was close behind in 8th and I managed to get 13th. The highlight of this race for me definitely has to be during the 2nd lap. Berk, Quinn, and I found ourselves shoulder-to-shoulder at the very front of the pack. Wade was right behind us and decided to attack by finding space to the right of Quinn and just as he passed, Charles slotted in next to Quinn. I wish someone could have taken a picture of this blockade we set up. Sadly Wade’s attack only lasted for about 2 miles because the frustrated riders behind us dangerously crossed over the double yellow centerline to get around us and led the chase to catch Wade.

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Pinning pictures are consistently amazing.

Overall, it was an extremely fun weekend, with lots of shenanigans in the down time while watching our teammates race. As far as racing going, our team had a hugely successful weekend as Emma, Katy, and Tori crushed it in the Women’s A field and Constantin and Shikhar doing well in the Men’s E field. We are currently leading the overall standings and plan to keep our spot at the top this upcoming weekend at the Army Spring Classic, where we will have 27 riders representing MIT!! (No, that is not a typo, 27 people are coming to Army. It is going to be awesome!!)

-PK