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My last race weekend: “I have the cheapest bike you can buy”

By Joe Near

I’ve been using an extreme version of the “Joe Near Training Plan” this year. The normal version calls for 3-4 hours of riding per week  at the highest intensity you can manage (i.e. zones 3 or 4) in an  attempt to keep your fitness through the winter while spending as  little time on the trainer as possible.

This year, I managed 1-2 hours per week.

At Beanpot, I got dropped hard in both the road race and the crit. At  Army, I held on in the crit but failed to score points; in the road race, I got dropped again. So my expectations for this week were low.

But my legs must be coming around, because I scored points in every race (that I finished) this weekend. In the ITT, I averaged over 300 watts and got 15th. That’s pretty great for me — even at my best fitness, my threshold is barely 300 watts.

The Dartmouth crit was very difficult for me, both physically and mentally, because of the rain — I’ve always been bad at cornering hard in the rain, and it was hard to force myself while the water and grit being sprayed in my face made it hard to see anything. The faster guys knew it would be hard in the back and went pretty hard in the  beginning.

But I stuck with it and as the rain stopped, things got easier. I still couldn’t see anything in the final lap, and the two guys who had lapped the field started pushing people around in an effort to beat each other in the final sprint, so my primary goal was to avoid crashing rather than place as well as possible. I was therefore very proud to get 10th.

Joe after the Frat Row crit at Dartmouth, his signature Dr. Pepper in hand.

The TTT is typically very tough at UNH because I have to do it with  Zack Ulissi and it’s hilly. I was very fortunate that he took it easy on me this time. It was extra fun because we started last, behind the only two other Men’s A teams. This meant that once we caught the other teams, we knew we were leading in terms of time. I think this encouraged Zack to go easy on the hills, because he was certain we could win. I appreciated that.

But there was no camera for the finish of the TTT. This was a bummer. I wanted to be in one last finish-line photo before I graduate, and the TTT is typically the only place I get to do it! I was going to make such a great face.

In the road race, I felt much better than I expected. Unfortunately the roads were terrible. I have raced this course in the past and remember them being pretty reasonable, so this winter must have really been tough on the road conditions.

Anyway, I flatted around mile 15 and fortunately the leak was slow enough that I was able to ride it back to the parking lot. Some of the downhills were a little bit scary on a tire with 20 psi, though. I was sad to have flatted but it’s tough to complain: I have pretty good luck with flats, generally, and I didn’t end up having to walk home.

I had a great time this weekend, and while I’m sad that I won’t get to do another ECCC race, I’m happy to see that the team is as strong as ever. I’ve been around long enough to see several “generations” of riders, and it’s great to see that the welcoming attitude and cohesiveness of the team has remained.

Some of our newer riders — the women, especially — are getting great results and obviously learning a ton about bike racing every single weekend. Many of the newer riders already act like veterans: I sometimes forget that they have never raced bikes before this year.

Veterans on the team have historically sprung for expensive equipment. My bike is the oldest (and probably the least valuable) in most of the races I enter. So during a discussion about bikes on Saturday, I said, “I have the cheapest bike you can buy!” It was quickly pointed out to me that my bike had fancier stuff on it than many of the bikes sitting around it. Many of the newer team members are so good that I just forgot they hadn’t yet been bitten by the upgrade bug!

So I’d say good luck to everyone, but I don’t think you’ll need it. Being a part of the team has been an honor and a privilege, and I’m both happy to see that future members will have access to the same
great experience I had, and excited to see that the new generation of riders seems poised to continue achieving great results.

Ben Woolston’s Philly Phlyer 2013 race report

Despite the brutal weather Saturday, this weekend was one of the most fun I’ve had so far in collegiate racing.

Team Time Trial
I got called up to do the Men’s A TTT with Zach, Cameron and Joe. To say I was nervous going into this was an understatement—all these three are much stronger than I am—and I was expecting to get dropped pretty early on. But somehow I managed to stay with the group and take (short) pulls throughout most of the the 14-mile course. Coming into the final hill, I was completely spent, and dropped off the back as the other three finished (the time for the team is taken from the third rider to cross the line). We came first by a margin of ~25 seconds, averaging 27 mph for the whole course. It was amazing (and painful) to be part of that group.

Finish photo from the men’s A TTT
Finish photo from the men’s A TTT (courtesy velocityresults.net)

Men’s B Crit
The collegiate crit on Sunday started pretty fast, and strung out quickly around the corners. After a couple of laps, I put in an early attack to try to get away, and got into a group of 4 that immediately began working together. We got caught pretty quickly though, and I sat toward the back of the pack for a little while to recover. While I was doing that, another attack went, and another strong group of 3 got off the front and started to grow a significant gap on the field. I wanted to be part of that break, but because I was toward the back of the pack, it took me a couple of laps to get into a position from which I could attack and attempt to bridge. By this time, the gap had grown to about 25 seconds, and though I bridged as hard as I possibly could, after a lap-and-a-half I realized I wasn’t going to catch them by myself. I eased up and got back into the pack as it came past, then after a lap of resting I got Kuat (MIT B rider) to come with me up to the front to try to organize a solid chase. Unfortunately, one of the guys in the breakaway (Queens University) had strong teammates in the field, and they successfully blocked our best attempts to chase. Exhausted again, I realized our best chance in this race was to try to get our sprinter (David Koppstein) into a good position to sprint for 4th place. I dropped back through the pack to find him, but having already won two prime laps (his goal for the race), he had dropped off the back a little while before. With a couple of laps left to go, two other riders individually got off the front to try to avoid the field sprint. On the last lap, I knew we had to catch them, so I went to the front to lead the chase to catch them. Right before the last corner we caught them (one of them swore quite violently at having been caught so close to the end). Having been first wheel for basically the whole last lap, I was expecting to get swarmed as we rounded the corner into the final stretch, so I took the hardest line I could through it and opened up my sprint coming out of it. I’ve no idea how this worked, but no one came around me and I won the field sprint, for 4th overall.

Men’s ¾ Crit
Having not had enough racing up to that point, and desperate to get some USAC upgrade points, I entered the Men’s ¾ USAC crit (about 90 minutes after the B crit ended). This race got started quite similarly to the B crit. There were a few early attempts at breaks (some of which Joe Near or I got into), but none of which stuck. Several laps from the end (I can’t remember how many), two guys got off the front and started to open up a gap. Having learned my lesson from bridging too late in the last race, I attacked and chased all out. It took me three quarters of a lap and a lot of suffering, but I eventually crossed the gap, and then there were three of us trying to stave off the pack for the remaining 3-4 laps. By the time I got there, one of the guys in the break (by build, very much a sprinter type) was basically exhausted so the other two of us did most of the work to stay away. As I took my pull on the straight before the last corner, I heard one of them yell “Here they come” and knew the pack was close. I didn’t want to take the last pull into the corner with a sprinter in the group, but didn’t think I had a choice with the pack closing so quickly. I came through the corner first, and sure enough the sprinter came around me before the line to take first. I took second, and third place went to the last guy in our break. The pack was right behind us, crossing the line at the ‘same time’ on the official results.

I left Philadelphia feeling exhausted but really happy. Partly because of the racing, but probably most because of the delicious Cheeseteak we stopped for before leaving!

Finish photo from the men’s 3/4 crit (courtesy velocityresults.net)
Finish photo from the men’s 3/4 crit (courtesy velocityresults.net)

Finish Photo from the Men’s ¾ Crit

Zack’s Philly Report

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.

Training Camp 2012 (Adam’s report)

MIT sent a group of 16 riders to the warm deserts of southern California to prepare for the upcoming road cycling season. No one on the team had been to Borrego Springs before, but flights to San Diego were cheap and google revealed Borrego (2 hours NE of San Diego) as a cycling hot spot. The locale more than delivered. A tiny town of 2500, Borrego is surrounded on three sides by mountains but is pancake flat on the fourth side.
A five minute ride from our rental house, Montezuma climb formed the backbone of many of our training rides. With 3600 vertical feet over 10 miles, it’s known as the “glass elevator” because when descending you can see the desert floor, thousands of feet below, all the way down. To the south, Yaqui pass provided 1500 ft of climbing with a slightly shallower grade which proved perfect for shorter (painful) intervals. When it came time to practice the team time trial or sprints we used the flat and empty stretches of road around town, and for variable paced “hammer rides” (i.e., make each other hurt as much as possible) we rode east towards the Salton Sea. To top if off, it’s against town policy to install stop lights and the entire week we never saw one. I don’t think you could design a town or terrain more perfect for cycling training, not to mention the weather was almost perfectly reliable at 70 degrees and clear skies all but one day.
The Group
In-line with coach Nicole’s training plan, many of us put in 30 hours over the 8 days with upwards of 30,000 ft of climbing and 500+ miles. The group also highlighted another trend for MIT cycling: PowerTaps! Eight people started camp with PowerTaps and two more actually placed orders while in Borrego. FXDD indicated an interest in displaying team power data. We’re still crunching the numbers for them, but the gist of it is individuals did close to 20,000 kJ of work over the week (equates roughly to calories burned) while averaging about 200 watts (while pedaling). The max instantaneous wattage for the week was 1342 by Sebastian GP (look out men’s B field).
Riding Past Palm Trees
Perhaps the most beautiful part about training camp is the simplicity of it – to maximize on-the-bike gains, time spent not riding should be spent resting, recovering, and eating. Joe Near led the way in in this department, firing up the house’s hot tub immediately after a ride and mixing up some chocolate milk. By the end of the week he had most of the group following suit and I’m sure it showed in the quantity of milk and chocolate syrup we went through.
If an army fights on it’s stomach, a cycling team certainly trains on it. Thanks to alumnus John Detore, we arrived in Borrego with a Jeep full (literally, FULL) of food. Katie Q and Jen W went above and beyond in planning and organizing meals, and everyone else chipped in as chefs, sous chefs, and bus boys. The result of the effort is that we ate like kings every night. From chicken tikka masala, to buffalo stew, to homemade pizza, to apple crisp desserts, everything tasted good and there was a lot of it (remember that bit about burning 20,000 calories?).
Overall the experience was incredible and the training was excellent. MIT is ready to race; look out ECCC.

Adam’s report from Rutgers

On the third of five laps of the 65 mile road race the strong guys got very active on the narrow, rolling stretch of road on the backside of the course. In a couple of attacks, a group of ~7 had been established off the front featuring three of the biggest names in the field. I was disappointed to have missed the moves, but happy that Spencer had made the selection. The peleton strung out and splintered as riders tried to attack and bridge up. With Spencer up the road I was in position to do zero work in chase groups and I ended up getting a nearly free ride up to the breakaway.

With two laps to go a group of ~12 came to the bottom of the biggest hill on the course. Robin Carpenter (Swarthmore) went to the front and hit the gas. I wasn’t comfortable, but I knew I could hold his wheel. With Stuart McManus (Harvard) on my wheel we reached the top of the hill with a substantial gap. Robin pulled off and I took a long hard pull to show that I was ready to work and make the break happen. Stuart looked and sounded pretty toasted and Robin and I split the work ~60/40. He was clearly the strongest rider and wasn’t afraid to take punchy pulls up the rollers to remind us of it.

When we started the hill on the last lap my legs were starting to feel lactic-acid-deep-fried. Robin again led the entire way up the hill and this time I had to dig pretty deep to stick it. As we cruised over the rollers, Stuart seemed to be coming on and doing more work while I was fading. At one point I got gapped while digging for a gel in my pocket and had to go fully into the redzone to catch back on over a steep bit. After a very painful stretch we reached the predominantly flat/downhill part of the course and it seemed our lead was safe.

I knew we were getting close to the finish, but I didn’t have good landmarks for 5k to go, 2k to go, etc, and unfortunately I ended up taking the last pull downhill into the finishing kicker. I knew there was trouble when I flicked my elbow and for the first time all day no one came around. I sat up, flicked again, and still nothing. Turning over my left shoulder I saw Stuart and Robin jump simultaneously. Robin exploded up the road for the win and I couldn’t close Stuart down before the line. It was still an amazingly fun race and a result I was thrilled with… afterwards Zack informed me I might be interested to see the ITT results and I was almost speechless* to see my name on top. Robin hadn’t done the ITT and Stuart was down a bit which meant I was leading the points competition…

Getting the yellow jersey had been a “pie in the sky” training goal for the year, but going into the crit the possibility was a stressful reality. Robin was 2nd in the points competition and I knew in a flat sprint he could easily finish 1st with me in 21st and that wouldn’t cut it. If it came to a sprint I would need help, and if I could get into a smaller break to lockup a high finish, I needed to do it. Spencer and Joe offered to setup a lead out if it came to a sprint which calmed the nerves a lot and let me focus on riding smart and trying to get away. Luckily the course had a serious hill on it which I knew would suit me compared to a normal flat crit, even though the finish line was at the end of the flat stretch.

The first half of the race I mostly sat in. When dangerous guys went to the front I made sure I was in position in case something went off, but I was still focused on conserving. With ~15 minutes to go a two person break was in the process of getting reeled in and I was starting to feel really good. I noticed a lot of huffing and puffing in the pack and decided it was time to try something.

I didn’t want to ride alone so on the next two climbs I rode off the front without fully “attacking” to try to invite a strong rider to join me and go for the win. The 2nd time around, with four laps to go, Erik Levinsohn from Williams came across and went past me like he meant business. I held his wheel until we were at the top and then took a hard pull down the hill and through the flat. He led up the hill again, and when I turned to look at the top, the pack was way back.

Having mismanaged the break the day before (largely because I was just so happy to be in it!) I was very focused on riding smart for the win. I started timing my pulls so Erik would have to share the work on the flat and I eased off on my efforts when I was at the front, especially down the hill. I knew he was a climber more than a sprinter and thought that he would try to get me on the hill. When we came through for the bell, I made sure he was on the front to start the climb. He took the bait and nailed it up the hill. When we got to the top he signaled for me to come through but I sat on.

As he led into the descent the goal of winning an A race was starting to come into focus: find the right gear for the sprint, jump at 200 meters, stay focused, stay low. We rolled into the flat, I found my landmark and jumped to his outside – as I came around him I knew it was over.

Two Yellow Jerseys!
Two Yellow Jerseys!


This weekend meant a lot to me personally, but the results are truly the team’s. I’d never set foot on a starting line before Rutgers two years ago and pretty much everything I know about bike racing I learned from people on the MIT Cycling Team. The incredible success of our women has been a huge motivator and positive example. Racing, training, being pushed by, and developing with our current crop of strong guys is what made this possible. In particular races last summer with John and Spencer stand out as when we all started to realize we could make good things happen in hard races. This weekend, Spencer’s presence in the break made it possible for me to get there with “fresh legs”. Spencer and Joe’s willingness to provide a leadout in the crit was enormously helpful, selfless, and appreciated.

Joe Near’s photos and video from Yale

I’ve posted photos taken with my camera at both the Beanpot and Yale
(thanks to everyone that took photos!):


And helmet-cam footage from the Men B crit is here:

Yale Lux et Velocitas 2011 Crit, Men B from Joseph Near on Vimeo.

I’ll try to post video from the USAC 3/4 crit this week, and if I have
time, video from the B circuit (it’s a lot of video to work through!).


“ATTACK NOW! DO YOU WANT TO WIN?” (Spencer’s report and Joe’s footage)

The Tufts men’s B crit was a great race for me—probably the most fun I’ve ever had in a crit.  It started with putting the skinsuit on—I had decided I meant business.  As Tim Humpton would say, “If you look like a pro, you’ll feel like a pro, and if you feel like a pro, you’ll ride like a pro”*.  The next thing was that we knew that race would string out quickly and people would get pulled, so we MIT men decided we would go hard from the whistle. Continue reading

Nobody else had a chance at RPI (race reports and video)

There’s so much good stuff to report from the weekend at RPI. First, the result: MIT won the weekend with 267. Franklin & Marshall came in second with 155, and Bucknell was third with 153. Penn State, the previous overall leader, was seventh, with 114.

Overall standings after RPI

There are so many race reports to post! [Apologies for the formatting issues, working on that.] Continue reading

Joe’s race report from Philly—with VIDEO!

First, the helmet cam footage:

Philly Phlyer 2011 Men C2 from Joseph Near on Vimeo.

Here’s what ECCC director Joe Kopena had to say about it:

If you dared think Men’s C races were not infused with tactics, strategy, teamwork, and drama, you would be wrong, my friends, as the video clearly documents!  More seriously, Joe has tagged the whole video with running commentary of what’s going on as he makes his way to a 2nd place finish (and edited the race down to a watchable 12 minutes).  I think it’s a great video to pass on to newer riders as he makes a lot of good observations and really covers what he’s thinking about throughout the race.  Great stuff.

Now, on to the race report! Continue reading