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.
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.