Tag Archives: shaena berlin

Attitash! First Race of 2013 ECCC MTB Season

My first mountain bike race consisted of long climbs up alpine meadows followed by switchbacks down an 18% root-filled trail. This was Attitash, in NH, and I enjoyed it more than expected. Even the top A men had to walk up the steepest sections! The climbs were long but non-technical, which suited my road-riding fitness and terrible bike-handling skills. I raced women’s A, which required 3 laps; the first lap, I tried to ride the downhill switchbacks, and face-planted once then inched my way down so slowly and scaredly that it seemed like I’d be better off walking! The next 2 laps, I got off the bike and ran down, which was shameful but actually faster…Anyway, great workout, beautiful scenery, and it was fun seeing all the other MIT racers from the other fields either lapping me or cheering. We watched the downhill races in the afternoon, which looked insane — I imagine there must be a lot of crashing before riders reach the skill level of some of those racers!
Mandatory bridge-to-nowhere
The next day, I went for a lovely ride (mostly pavement, some dirt) over one of NH’s “gaps” since I wasn’t racing Enduro
then participated in the short track XC race and team relay in the afternoon; this was a completely different atmosphere from the XC race; it consisted of many laps of a short, twisty, flat course, with hecklers building jumps and cheering from the sidelines in the trees.
"Hit the jump!". Brought to you proudly by PBR.
It was an agility test, and I couldn’t get away with using fitness to overcome skill deficits there! The team relay was really fast and exciting — with laps only around 2-3min, it was all-out from the start. Overall, I liked the chill atmosphere of the MTB scene, getting out on dirt, and camping with the team. It wasn’t as intimidating as I imagined just starting out, and other than a few bruises we all emerged unscathed 🙂

-Shaena Berlin

Shaena’s highly successful RISD weekend (by Shaena Berlin)

After last week’s horrifying events in Boston, it was a relief to get out to Rhode Island for a relaxing weekend of bike racing, home-cooked meals, and border collies (the latter 2 courtesy of Nate Dixon’s parents, who hosted us at their sheep farm nearby the road race course). This was my most successful weekend of racing yet, thanks to teamwork and helpful instructions from our coach Nicole. I took the week almost entirely off on Nicole’s advice; I usually convince myself that resting is bad for me. My legs felt tired the last few weeks, and I’d followed the training plan pretty diligently since November, so decided I should probably continue following it a few more weeks. It seems to have worked; all you other racers, try the resting thing before Easterns!!

Team time trial: (1st Women’s A)
Great practice with the TTT team that will race at Nationals! Not much exciting to say—we rode 4 hilly miles, and it was kind of hard.

Road race: (2nd Women’s A)
We tried to figure out how we could not only get in breaks, but also win them; the past few weekends, we’ve made the selection but not had the sprint abilities or coherent tactics to actually win. Rose (Mt. Sinai) made the race hard from the beginning, which was good for us. Coming into one of the dirt sections on the second (final) lap, we were a group of 6, including Chris and me. Rose tried to motivate the others to work against us, by attacking then waiting for me to chase. Chris is a better sprinter than me, so we decided to try to conserve her strength a bit for the finish; thus, I got to respond to attacks, which hurt. Rose’s strategy worked, in that one of her attacker ‘teammates’ got away (Hayley, Pitt, yellow jersey holder), but I got on her wheel. She pulled for a long time, since I put on a blasé attitude of “eh, if they catch us, that’s fine since Chris is there and they’ll be working”. Eventually it seemed like they weren’t pulling us back, so I traded pulls with Hayley for the last ~10 miles. Making the final turn, I downshifted into my little ring, then started sprinting and realized I was spinning out, so tried to shift into my big ring mid-sprint, during which time Hayley gapped me. In this race, I learned a lot about strategy and also that if you’ve been smart for 47 miles, you shouldn’t be stupid during the last 200m.

Crit: (2nd Women’s A, teammate win)
We strategized and made lots of plans for this crit, which made me nervous; I didn’t want to let my teammates down, especially after not getting the win yesterday. Happily, we didn’t have to implement any of the plans, so it was fun (in a painful way). Leslie (Dartmouth) attacked from the gun; I was fortunate enough to be beside her so jumped on it. I looked back, and we had a gap, so we decided to TT it and see what happened. I wasn’t worried about using myself up, since we had 5 A women in the race, none of whom (presumably) would be working to catch us, so by the time the chaser caught back on, it would be a perfect time for another MIT teammate to launch an attack. We came through the lap, and someone rang a bell, so we thought the next lap was a prime lap. I went for it, but then they rang the bell again; the last one wasn’t actually a prime (oops). The pack was close behind, which I didn’t notice, so I kept going hard while Leslie sat up to conserve strength to hang on when the pack caught up. They didn’t catch me right away, and soon after Laura bridged to me. We alternated pulling each lap, and she taught me more efficient lines to take through the corners. The gap was small (down to 8 seconds with 20 laps to go—yikes, almost gave up hearing that!), but we kept going and other teammates Chris and Katie blocked for us. We kept the same time/speed for all the rest of the laps (though my heart rate rose steadily…). Finally, we sprinted it out for 1st and 2nd!

Shaena and Laura "co first place"

PNP: Teamwork and a Lesson in Attacking (by Kate Wymbs)

Army Criterium Race Report

It was a beautiful day for racing in West Point at Day 2 of Army’s Race Weekend. Everyone was shaking off the rust from their legs from the previous climb-intensive ITT and Road Race, getting ready for the final race of the weekend, the Army Criterium: my first A Crit. The course was generally flat and fast, with a strong wind off the Hudson River, trains passing by, a short hill to the finish, and a total view for spectators. Thoughts of the discussed team tactics filled my mind: be near the front, attack after primes, counter attack, start the sprint 200 m out, grab the attacking wheel, block.

Before I knew it, we were already past the first prime, and boy was this field fast! I was nowhere near contention and spent the rest of the following lap reclaiming my spot near the front of the field. When we passed the finish line again, I decided to attack. I dug in and sprinted hard up the hill and down the backstretch. Along the water, I noticed one rider had bridged to me. I tried to work with her but soon realized she was only trying to slow me down and bring me back to the pack. If I were wise, I probably would have let her do so. Instead, proud that I has seen through her tactics, I worked to drop her and soon had a bit of a gap on the field and passed the finish line again.

Then I paused and realized I hadn’t played this exactly right, because here I was, off the front with little hope of sustaining it for the 15-20 laps remaining. Oh well, maybe there would be a prime lap soon and I could use my lead to pick up some points for the team. With luck, the next lap was a prime! I picked up the pace, but felt my strength waning. The peloton caught me just before the finish line and ate up all the prime points. Disappointed, I sat up and tried to catch my breath, only to fall behind the pack, off the back. Shoot!

I spent the next three laps trying to work with 2-3 other riders who were off the back but alas, we were unable to bridge the gap to the pack. Finally, when I realized the pack was more than half way along the course to us, I recalled the words of the announcer right before the start of the race, “For you newer B-riders, if you get lapped by the field in this criterium, and you don’t get pulled, you can rejoin and work with the pack again”. If you can’t beat them, join them. I sat up, slowed down, and paid close attention to the gaining field behind me. Katie was in a break with Hayley! Maybe I could help! I waited for them and then attempted to lead them out. It took them a few minutes to realize that they could work with me and then I gave them approximately two good pulls before they took off and I dropped back toward the pack. I gave a feeble attempt at blocking at the front of the pack, but was soon passed up the hill by the field.

Kate Wymbs joins the breakaway
Kate Wymbs joins the breakaway

Exhausted, satisfied, and with two laps to go, I sat up and drifted back. When I passed the finish line the next time, the official whistled me off the pack and I was pulled from the race. I brought my bike over to our “camp site” near the finish line and collapsed into a fit of laughter as I watched my teammates sprint to the finish, Katie in a lead group of four, and Shaena to win a field sprint for fifth. Great stuff!

Lessons learned: If you attack to try to draw out the field and tire out the leaders, make sure people are chasing you. If they just let you go, knowing that you’ll tire out and fall off, return to the pack to fight another day, or try to make a more successful attack later.

I have two new goals: One, take these lessons to heart and attack more strategically next time. Two, be strong enough next year I won’t be dismissed as someone who can’t hold a break.

Comment by Katie Quinn
Great report about a really fun race! But Kate isn’t giving herself the credit due! So I’ll make a couple of clarifications:

– The reason the pack didn’t immediately jump on Kate’s attack to shut it down was that it was good! I was around 2nd wheel approaching the finish rise when suddenly Kate came flying past with such high relative speed that no one wanted to make the jump required to get on it!

– The chase kept the pace up and made the prime lap hard, which helped me get of the front!! Maybe the pack wasn’t urgently pursuing her, but several girls took solid turns to keep Kate within reach. Having Kate off the front before the prime made that lap extra fast because people wanted to catch her and take the points. Because the race got hard, it was after the next prime that I was able to get away 🙂

– Kate’s pulls with Hayley and I were super strong and absolutely helped us stay away! We caught up to her while we were both pretty tired from the initial effort to get away. Her pulls gave us extra recovery between turns and some serious horsepower at the crucial time where it seemed the pack was either going to catch us or resign to let us go free 🙂

In short, THANKS KATE! Really nice performance in your first crit as an A racer!!

Shaena Berlin’s Women’s A Crit Win at Columbia

Going into this crit, I held vague hopes of winning the green sprinter’s jersey but didn’t even consider that it might be possible to win the race; I’m a time-trialist, not a crit rider! I made the race hard from the start, trying to string out the field and learn the course. The group of A/B women felt a little sketchy at times, braking too much on the downhills and taking “interesting” lines through the corners. At the first prime lap, I moved up to the front and gave the current green jersey holder Rose a perfect leadout. Brilliant move, now the gap between my sprint points and hers was up to 10 points. She is a smart, tactical rider, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to make up for that, so I sat back for a while, making occasional half-hearted surges and saving energy on the rest of the primes.

With four laps to go, I felt disheartened; this race would amount to a mass sprint, and I would end up mid-pack at best. I decided to try another attack, just so I wouldn’t feel bad about myself for not trying everything I could to prevent that mass sprint. I came around the corner that turned onto the extended mild hill toward the finishing stretch around 6th wheel. Then, I up-shifted and moved far to the right-hand side of the road, riding pretty hard out of the saddle. Someone yelled to chase, but I was quite far away from the field laterally. Surprise, separation, speed, not attacking off the front – it worked! I looked back and was shocked to see no one there. I thought, “*expletive*, now I have to go really hard!!”, and I did. 3 laps to go, I rode across the line with a growing gap. Not having to worry about other riders, I could take the corners and downhills with my ideal lines. I wish I had heart rate data for those laps, because it would have probably been terrifying. ½ lap to go, and a strong Pitt rider Hayley Wickstrom flew past me. I thought, “Well, 2nd place in a crit is great for me!” and pushed hard enough to catch back on to her wheel. Around 100 meters to the finish line, I thought, “Actually, maybe I can sprint by her” and did. My first mass-start win since I raced Intro in 2010!

Shaena defeating the second place rider—with plenty of daylight in between
Shaena defeating the second place rider—with plenty of daylight in between (photo by Jan Valerie Polk)

Training Camp Overview (by the Road Captains: Shaena Berlin and Zack Ulissi)

The Group at Training Camp
The Group at Training Camp

Collegiate road racing season begins in early spring. Collegiate road training thus takes place in winter, which isn’t always the most pleasant time to ride outside in the northeast. Luckily, MIT has a January term called Independent Activities Period (IAP), during which students can perform research, take mini-classes, or go on bike vacations. Each year, a group of racing members travels somewhere warm for the last week of IAP for a ‘training camp’, with the goal to ride like professionals for a week and spend time with teammates. Four years ago, a handful of serious racers attended training camp. Last year, 16 went. This year, 30 athletes signed up, including alumni, veteran racers, and new riders.

The captains chose the same location as last year: Borrego Springs, CA, a tiny town 78 miles inland from San Diego with no stoplights and few cars. Average January weather is sunny with a high temperature of 69F—perfect for cycling. We rented two houses, one of which became the hangout spot for team dinners and post-ride ice baths in the pool.

Pool at Hacienda La Verbena
Pool at Hacienda La Verbena

Every day contained either an epic ride through the mountains or a day for recovery. We split into groups to go different paces and distances, such that every rider could challenge him/herself without getting injured or lonely. We incorporated intervals and base miles, so that when racing begins in a month everyone should be fit and excited for the season! Below are some trip highlights:
Defeat and Redemption on the Road to Julian (by Nate Dixon)
The Battle of Di Georgio Road (by David Koppstein)
800,000 Calories at Costco (by Jennifer Wilson)
TTT Practice (by Katie Maass)
Matt’s Highlights of the Trip (by Matt Redmond)
Comments From Alumni On Training Camp

Yale – Shaena Berlin

Yale always seems to be a great weekend; the weather always cooperates, the courses all start in the same central location, and the drive is (relatively) short. I last raced here two years ago as a C rider, and it was the last race I won before upgrading (and never winning again), so it brought back fond memories. Overall, it was an amazing weekend for a good number of MIT riders; we took home KOM/QOM jerseys for Women’s A, Men’s A, Women’s B, and Men’s C!

ITT: The ITT was as expected; I went hard, paced myself well, and thankfully improved from two years ago…not much else to say, pretty boring (I do love ITT’s though).

Circuit: I was pretty worried for this circuit race, since it basically involved laps up and down a not-huge-but-definitely-there hill, and with the exception of last weekend at Penn State, I have never NOT been dropped from the main A/B pack on a hill race. However, just before the start, Andrew told me that I won the ITT (which went up the same hill), so I felt much more confident; if I got dropped from the main B pack, it could only be because I wasn’t pushing myself hard enough and not because of a strength differential. Also, knowing my ITT placing put the prospect of winning a QOM jersey in my mind, which motivated my greedy self into really not wanting to be dropped 😉

The first time up the hill, the front group of A’s went hard and gapped most of us. I stayed with the first group behind them, though, and was pretty content to be sitting near the front of the B women on an uphill. It felt great knowing that Katie, Yuri, and Christina were all up in the very first pack; we haven’t had many women come out to races yet this season, so this weekend’s strong showing reminded me a lot about team strategy. Anyway, my usual flaw in road/circuit races is going too hard – either TT-ing off the back or pulling too hard on the front of some group. In this race, for some reason I never seemed to have to pull; there was a pretty big group, and I always stayed in the top 5, but every time it would be my turn to pull we would reach a corner or a new uphill or someone would ride around me, which was great! I did not have any trouble staying near the front on the uphill, probably because it wasn’t super steep, and on the somewhat-sketchy descent everyone communicated well and took the turns cautiously enough that it didn’t feel too bad.

The final time up the hill, no one really attacked, but someone started riding harder out of a corner and we dropped most of the pack. Then, one turn before the finish, two pedestrians walking on the inside of a sharp turn startled a girl, and she and two others fell right behind me (they did get up and finish, luckily). At that point, I was third in my group behind Leslie (who just upgraded to A’s) and one strong B woman from Colby. I got a bit startled by one of the girls hitting my rear wheel when she fell down, which isn’t a real excuse but threw me off enough let a gap open behind the B woman. Coming into the finish, I nearly caught up, but not quite, so took second and my best mass-start B race ever.

Crit: With the arrival of Laura for the crit, MIT now had 5 women in the A/B race, with the potential for some serious domination. Our strategy was to practice a lead-out after the first prime, then if successful do it again at the end, unless some of us got away in a break. As the weakest member of this group, my only task was to try to drive the pace up very high on the straightway on the backside of the course; unfortunately, though I moved almost to position, a Temple girl started going hard, and I didn’t feel snappy enough to make the break. It worked out for the other 4 MIT women, though, who got away with just one other rider off the front. I was by then at the front of the pack and slowed up the pace a bit, then tried out blocking (although they almost certainly didn’t need my help, with such a strong group!) That was really fun, basically sitting in third wheel and letting two women rotate through pulling without me doing any work, then every once in a while getting prime points. Eventually we came down to a pack finish, and I came through the last lap in bad position then didn’t do well on the downhill sprint, but overall it was still a fun race and MIT took 1st through 4th place!

I’ve been doing well in ITT’s for a while now (*coughtriathloncough*) but not in mass start races, but after a few decent weekends I think it’s finally time to try to upgrade to A’s/Cat 3. Can’t wait for next weekend!

Philly Summary

by Spencer Schaber

For the team time trials Saturday morning, MIT men’s A came out and crushed it, defeating the second fastest collegiate team by 1 minute 23 seconds and handily beating even the fastest open USAC racers with TT bikes.  MIT’s second A squad took 7th place, and was within 30 seconds of the fastest non-MIT team.  The MIT women (Katie Quinn, Shaena Berlin, Jen Wilson, and Elizabeth Mayne) won by over 30 seconds as well, despite having a mixed squad consisting of one woman each from A, B, C, and intro.

On Saturday, Kuat Yessenov won his men’s D circuit race, with a powerful attack up the final hill, earning him the coveted intra-team “most aggressive rider” jersey.  At the criterium on Sunday, as Sebastien and I walked backward around the course to get a feel for all of the different sections, we watched the men’s D crit, and Kuat showed he had what it takes to keep the red jersey by spending many laps in a solo breakaway.  I thoroughly enjoyed watching him stay away solo for much of the race.  His face got more red with each passing lap in order to match the jersey and show he meant business, and he took home a second win!  Matt Smith and David Koppstein also looked very comfortable in the pack.  After watching the division 1 men’s D race, they knew they needed to stay in the top ~10 places to finish the race, and they were among the ~50% of starters who hung on until the finish.

At the Temple University criterium, we saw many more successes after Kuat won the men’s D race.  Elizabeth took 1st among the collegiate women in women’s intro (there were two non-collegiate women in front of her), with a beautiful final sprint.  In the men’s C race, a breakaway of two won the race, and Ben Woolston took second in the field sprint for fourth overall.  After the finish, he did a very classy on-bike high-five with the winner of the field sprint and looked pretty satisfied with the result.  For the women’s A/B crit, Shaena Berlin looked remarkably good—she was in great position throughout the race, taking 1st in 3 of the four prime lap sprints and 2nd in the 4th sprint.  It was awesome to keep seeing her in such great position for such a hard course (typically top 5 in her group, but not doing too much work on the front).  Afterward she said it was one of her most enjoyable crits ever.  Katie Quinn won overall in style, doing most of the race off the front by herself, having ridden in the breakaway with Mary Costelloe (Kutztown) for a few laps and finally shelling her.

In the men’s A race, the last collegiate race of the day, the field strung out single-file almost immediately and remained that way for almost the entire 60 minutes.  I did some terrible cornering in the first half, which added to the yo-yo effect from being farther back in the pack and meant I had to sprint to catch back on at almost every corner.  Eventually, the “elastic” broke for me and I dropped back with the second pack.  I worked with them for a while, and finally we were lapped by the breakaway consisting of Robin Carpenter (Swarthmore), Matt Buckley (UVM), and Ed Grystar (Brown).  I hopped on the back of their train, after confirming it was allowed with some of the other racers, but I didn’t do any work.  It was much easier to stay with them since (i) they took great lines through the corners, (ii) I was 4th wheel, and (iii) I didn’t do any pulls.  Meanwhile, Adam Bry and Zack Ulissi were busy attacking and covering moves in the peloton, and Zack led Adam out for a field-sprint win, 4th overall.  Adam said that all of the credit goes to Zack for that.  Zack led out the final lap at a very high pace, and ramped it up coming into the final corner, delivering Adam to the finishing sprint in 1st wheel, which Adam maintained.  Le maillot jaune reste avec MIT.

Kuat Yessenov wins from a solo breakaway
Kuat Yessenov wins men's D crit from a solo breakaway