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Penn State race report (by Katie Maass)

Penn State Race Report (by Katie Maass)

What a wonderful way to end the ECCC season! This weekend’s races hosted by Penn State were both fun and hard. The weekend started off with a 9-mile TTT that I raced with Georgia LaGoudas and Jen Wilson. These two are great to race with because they are both very positive and supportive. We were all pretty equally strong, so we rotated smoothly through, working well together, and communicating the whole way. After going back and forth with a Women’s A team, we ended up finishing strong with a 2nd place in Women’s B.

After a brief delay waiting for the fire police to show up, the road race began. The distinguishing feature of this course is the long climb up Black Mo’ near the end of the course. Almost all fields were finishing one-by-one or in tiny groups. Luckily, Women’s C only had to do one brutal climb up the mountain. I hung in the middle of the pack during the initial descent, leaving plenty of space between the rider in front of me just in case. After the first few rolling hills, the group had split and I found myself with Georgia at the back of the front group of nine with a small gap from the rest. As we continued to climb, I was in a group of three girls steadily climbing the mountain. We never were quite sure if the top had come because every time we thought it was the top, we would descend a little bit and then see another climb ahead. These rolling sections near the top continued for a while. Penn State and I had dropped the other girl in our group of three and slowly caught up to another girl who was by herself. I ended up finishing sixth overall, not realizing that I was that far up until after the end of the race. I’m sure the climbs up Montezuma during training camp paid off this weekend.

The weekend ended with the Frat Row Criterium. I woke up Sunday morning feeling well-rested, waking up on my own five minutes before my alarm was supposed to go off. I enjoyed breakfast with the team getting waffles with strawberries at the Waffle House. Georgia and I decided early on that the positioning at the beginning of the race would be crucial. We were the first to arrive to staging and claimed great start line positioning. Only two laps into the race, we established a small gap with a group of five off the front. And for the first time in a Women’s C race this season, we organized well (thanks to Georgia’s encouragement) and worked together to keep the pace up in the front. Pretty soon, we had a large gap from the rest of the pack and settled into a steady pace as we rotated through. I sprinted hard for all three prime laps getting the win on two of them. The last prime happened with three laps to go and I think none of the other girls knew it was a prime lap. I started second wheel going into the straightaway and when the girl in front wiggled her elbow, I sprinted by to take the prime. I looked back after the finish line and saw that I had a short gap, but I decided that I wouldn’t be able to hold the gap for the remaining laps. I went easy and hopped on the back of the line. Going into the beginning of the last lap, I was pulling and I wanted to stay near the front, but not pull the rest of the lap. I flicked my elbow and let Georgia pull through. I stuck close to her, but the girl behind her didn’t want to give up Georgia’s wheel. Going into a corner, I told Georgia to push ahead a bit so that I could fit in behind her wheel and it worked. I fit into 2nd wheel and let Georgia pull the last three-quarters of the lap to lead me out. I swung around her after the last corner and gave it all I had for the last straightaway. I held on long enough to get the win for MIT by inches.

Katie winning the crit by inches (courtesy Velocityresults.com)

This was such an excellent way to end my first cycling race season. I first mounted a road bike almost exactly 7 months ago. I knew nothing about clipping in, cornering, or gu’s. I can’t thank the team enough for welcoming me to the group and teaching me so much about bikes and bike racing. I especially want to thank a few people:
– Ben Woolston for making bike racing sound too irresistible to not try and for always being willing to help me with bike stuff
– Shaena Berlin for being extremely supportive—from lending me her old road bike before I had one, talking me through race strategies, to being a great cheerleader
– Jen Wilson for always being there when I needed a hug or a laugh and keeping bike racing fun
– Georgia LaGoudas for being a great teammate, a joy to ride and race with, and for helping me shake my nerves when needed

Congratulations to the team for a wonderful season and I can’t wait for next year! In the meantime, I hope to see you out on the roads again soon, especially for some summer ice cream rides.

Army Spring Classic Race Weekend, by Morgan Hennessy

Our journey to West Point started slowly, crawling along in Boston rush hour traffic on our way westward. We arrived exhausted and slept well, waking up to devour the complimentary hotel breakfast. Our car decided to pre-drive the road race course, and were taken aback by the beauty of the course—scenic vistas at every turn, perfectly paved roads, beautiful babbling brooks and natural wildlife—this course had it all, including miles and miles of climbing.

My group, Women’s Intro, took off with Men’s Intro for a few neutral miles down the gigantic descent and into the first large hill, as I adjusted to wearing a fellow rider’s GoPro video camera strapped goofily to my helmet. After stopping briefly on the hill, the coaches sent our small field off racing. It became clear after a few minutes that the Women’s Intro race would be a race between me and one Bard racer, as the third Women’s Intro rider fell off the back early. With Coach Nicole’s wise words echoing in my mind, I let Bard pull me for several miles of rolling hills after the first big climb. I glued myself to her wheel until finally she rolled to the side, and asked me to pull…
I was reluctant but relented, remembering my sportsmanship, and agreed to pull at an extremely slow pace along one of the many beautiful lakes on the course. We rotated a bit, but I realized she was tiring while I had rested. I took my opportunity to attack with 5 miles to go – I pointed out some of the local wildlife (a few birds feasting on a roadkill carcass) to distract her and sprinted towards the yellow line. It felt awesome. I finished with my first-ever win. I have never been more honored than when that night, back at the hotel, I was awarded the Most Aggressive Rider jersey for my deceptive tactics. After completing our races that day, Katie Maass and I successfully fed all MIT riders wanting bottles from the feed zone—no small feat for anyone acquainted with a road race feed zone. And, it was my first time doing it! Passing off bottles to bikers going ~20mph is a full-impact sport.

The next day brought the ridiculous Stony Lonesome hill climb—major pain—and the criterium. The hill climb yielded yet another first place finish for me, but by default—no other riders entered my category! Due to the tiny size of the Intro field, the directors had us race with the Women’s C field in the Shea Stadium criterium—an exhilarating and exhausting 35 minutes. Amazingly, I was able to stick with the peloton for the entire race, and watch my teammate Katie M. hold fantastic position for the majority of the laps. I ended the weekend with 3/3 wins in my category.

Highlights of the criterium included Men’s A rider Zach Ulissi’s unrelenting solo attacks off the front of the field, holding off the rest of the riders for basically all laps, gathering many prime points, until the very end. I don’t think I’ve seen such grit and pure strength displayed in an athletic event in a long time (the Aggressive jersey needs to go to Zach now, for that performance). The Women’s A/B crit proved an exciting one, with an amazing attack by Kate Wymbs to lead off (see her race report), followed by multiple solo attacks by Katie Quinn and an amazing sprint by Shaena Berlin to the finish, while teammate Jennifer Wilson kept amazingly consistent position in the pack for the entire race and placed well among the B’s.
I guess I’ve been told if you sweep the field, it’s rude to sandbag for another weekend, so off to C’s it is for me (wait, look over there! It’s an eagle!! Don’t miss it! Just keep looking over there while I keep racing Intros….). Congratulations to all my fellow riders for their fantastic performances in all fields – you are all so inspirational and amazing. See you at RISD – I’ll bring the Cocoa Roasted Almonds, you BRING THE PAIN!

TTT Practice (by Katie Maass)

Finding the right group of riders can make a huge difference in how fun a ride ends up being. Throughout the week, I really enjoyed the group of riders that I rode with because we were all of similar ability. No one was holding the group back or pulling it too fast ahead. Once it came to TTT practice, we already knew we would be a good fit together. I did the TTT practice with Georgia and Kate. With miles of straight road with no stop signs, we could really get the pace going. We practiced rotating smoothly and learning how long to take pulls. When we first started, there was a cross-wind, so the rider pulling wasn’t working that much more than the other riders. Once we turned the corner, this cross-wind turned into a head wind, which made it much more important to be following a good line behind the rider in front of you. After finishing the practice and talking with my TTT group, we figured out that we could have been going harder in the last section, since we had time to catch our breath out of the wind behind the other riders. Now we know a little better how to pace in an actually TTT race. I’m sure the 25 hours that I spent riding with these girls this week will help us be a more cohesive team.