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MIT Cycling Team Blog

Justin’s Columbia/Rutgers and Philly Reports

This is my first season racing with the cycling team, and I have been assiduously following the team’s training plan since November so I was really excited to get my first race weekend in.

 

The first weekend was a circuit race on Saturday hosted by Columbia, and a Sunday criterium on Rutgers’ campus. The second weekend was at Philadelphia with a TTT and circuit race on Saturday and a criterium on Sunday at Temple University.

Columbia Circuit Race: [1/39] Strava File

The circuit race was a relatively flat 3.7 mile loop around Rockland Lake. The weather was cold and raining and the forecast for the rest of the day was the same. Luckily there was a large sheltered area outside where we could set up our trainers and keep dry. Before the race started I overheard racers from other teams talking about how there would be no chance for a break to get away on this course and that it would be ridiculous to try it. About 40mins before the race I hopped on a trainer to get warmed up. The temperature was in the mid 30s, so I had shoe covers, arm warmers and knee warmers, and long fingered gloves which turned out to be perfect since at no point in the race was I cold.

When my category (Men’s C) was called to the start line, I went to the front so I could get a good starting position. With no teammates in the race, my strategy was to stay at the front in the top 7 wheels. The race started out slow, where I could easily be in Z2 while drafting. When we hit the first little hill someone tried to attack, I knew that with the hill being only 50ft I shouldn’t kill myself to try and follow him. I kept my pace constant and a few minutes later the pack caught the rider on the flat. There is a small uphill again before a downhill that leads to a flat finishing straight (similar to the Hascom sprint). The rest of the race was similar as people would attack and then get reeled in no time, the only panic for me was that my sunglasses got covered in dirt at one point and I had to take them off and stuff them in my jersey. It was annoying having backspray and dirt coming into my eyes for the rest of the race but at least I could see. Doing this pushed me 15 riders back in the field but I was able use Coach Nicole’s lessons for moving in a pack to get back up to the front in half a lap.

 

On the final lap the pace picked up quite a bit, and there was lots of jockeying for position. I wanted to be at the front coming into the first hill so I could hop on the wheel of riders who would be going hard up it. Sure enough 2 lines formed going up the hill and I hopped on the one that seemed to be going faster. Coming into the little uphill I was second wheel, and around the last corner to the downhill I was first wheel. At this moment I thought I made a huge mistake as surely someone was on my wheel. I heard a crash of bikes behind me, so I decided to do what I did a couple weekends back with Nic Tham on Hascom where I lead out and decided to crush it hoping the rider behind me would have trouble hanging on. 200 m before the finish line I looked back and I had 2 bike length lead, so I put my head down and started sprinting hoping I wouldn’t see a someone coming up my left in the last few meters. As I crossed the line I won my first race!!!

 

 

Rutgers Crit: [DNF] Strava File

This crit was also flat and had only 3 corners that were really wide. The race organizers did a great job patching up all the potholes. I liked my chances in this race and was feeling good after yesterday’s finish. Talking with Andrea and Jeff before I had 3 goals: 1) finish without crashing, 2) win a prime and 3) win the race. I was able to check off 2) and half of 1). Again I started near the front, and the speed was much faster from the get go compared to the day before. I didn’t do as good of a job as I was leading the race for most of the first few laps, but I enjoyed being able to pick my line into the corners. On the first prime lap, I drifted to 5th wheel so that I could watch what everyone else was doing. Going into the straight before the final corner I was 2nd wheel but decided to go hard so that I could be first coming into the final corner. It was about 300m from the turn to the finish line, so I knew it was going to be a longer sprint. I won easily but other riders behind me were confused as to why we were sprinting so I explained to them the concept of intermediate sprints for points which also allowed me to recover a bit. On the second prime lap, I was second wheel coming into the final corner but this is where things didn’t go well. The rider infront of me seemed to sit up and went way to the outside around it. I was slightly to his outside coming into the corner, which I now realize was a mistake as I forced off into the dirt. I thought I could continue and try to catch back up but my tire was ripped off the rim and flatted. Since there was 9 laps to go, the official said I couldn’t get another wheel and free lap. Talking to the rider who was infront of me after the race, he was very apologetic as he said his foot came unclipped from his pedal and also DNF later on in the race when it happened again.

The rest of the day was loads of fun being able to cheer on everyone else on our team who was racing. By the time Anne was going around in the Women’s A race, I had almost lost my cheering voice.

Philly TTT: [1/8] Strava File

Driving down the Friday before, there was a pretty nasty snow storm in the Northeast so we were all hoping the races on Saturday wouldn’t be canceled. The race crew did a great job and the races went as planned. The TTT course was 13 miles and had a few 180 degree turns. Since a few of the Men’s A riders did not arrive until early morning, the teams were switched and I was with Christian and Daniel in Men’s C.

We were rotating as planned for the first 5mins, then near the first turn around Daniel dropped off, so Christian and I had to stick together for the remainder of the course. Christian did a great job, he pulled when I was really tired up front, and we finished 1 minute ahead of the next fastest team. We were also only 0.5mph slower than the Men’s A team from MIT!

Below is a video from the first 6 miles of the course. Sorry about the water droplets on the lens!

Philly Circuit Race: [38/63] Strava File

 

Since the TTT races started a bit late, we had less than an hour after we finished to get ready for the road race. It was a really nice course with a couple hills to break up the field. Philip was racing with us, and I knew he had a good chance at winning if he was able to keep up with the main group. I was dumb and decided to pull the field from the start for the first 5mins, my legs still felt good from the TTT but after the pull I could feel them starting to burn with my heart rate not recovering as it should. The field stuck together for the first two laps, judging how my legs felt climbing the hills I realized today wouldn’t be my day. On the third lap, after the descent to the flat straight along the river, I saw Philip near the rear of the field. I came by and told him to hop on and pulled him to the front, I looked back and saw that the field was now strung out in a single line and was starting to break up. Here I decided to push the pace and hope that Philip would be first coming into the next hill. At this point we were doing ~29mph. As we came to the 180 degree turn to a hill I pulled off and watched as the broken up pack went up the hill. I joined a bunch of other guys who were struggling up the climb and formed a pick-up pace line on the last lap. Philip ended up finishing 6th and took home some points for our team. 

  

Philly Crit: [8/49] Strava File

This race was the most fun I’ve had riding my bike because the Men’s C worked really well as a team to win it. We had two strategies going into it: either Christian and I go for the final sprint in a bunch with a leadout from Philip, or Philip breaks off and tries to go solo for the victory. The course was almost a perfect square with a nasty headwind in the penultimate straightaway. I tried to stick near the front half for the first few laps, and when the bell rang for the first prime I made my way closer to the front. Being hit by a car just before the race started, while pre-riding, I wanted to use the prime to see how I was feeling. On the gusty straight I came to the front to take the final corner first, there was a rider to my left also contesting the sprint. I put down the hammer and was able to get first for the sprint. Philip got second, and as I looked back the rest of the field was a good 30-40 yards behind the both of us. I was dead from the sprint and wanted to recover so shouted “Go Philip go!!” as this was a great chance for him to break off and being the beast he is, he could probably win off the front even with 25mins left. I was swallowed up by the field and saw Philip ahead with a 15s lead. As we came around again, I heard Ethan and Tom shouting at me and Christian to get to the front and block for Philip. This is where the fun for me started: I would lead the pack into a corner but not take it aggressively letting the seconds tick up on Philip’s lead. Every few minutes someone would drive to the front trying to pick up the pace, so I would hop on their wheel. A few times I would let the rider go by himself, and they would look back and see they were in no man’s land and drop back to the pack. Christian also helped out with blocking and won some points in the primes. came second With around 3 laps to go someone shouted that Philip had a one minute lead. I continued to lead the pack but knew that Philip would win. It actually took a lot of energy to be out on the front blocking, and found myself a bit zapped for the final sprint. I was able to pass 2-3 guys infront of me on the sprint to get 8th.

This was super fun and was great to cheer on the rest of the team after! I thoroughly enjoyed both weekends, and the time spent traveling, eating, and laughing with the whole team :)

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I can’t believe I met Jens Voigt!!

16542521401_b21b68d558_kJens Voigt is my favorite pro bike racer. He’s famous for his “shut up legs” attitude — he always gives 110% in every race. His style is to attack again and again until he makes the break, even if that means riding 6 hours alone with little chance of winning. It doesn’t work very often, but it’s very entertaining.

I love Jens because he and I seem to love bike racing in the same way. For Jens, it’s not about money, fame, or even winning. As Jens put it, “You have to have passion inside of you. Passion in me feels like a high, full burning flame—it’s not a tiny spark in the dark. It’s still burning and I still love it.”

I’m the same way — I don’t really like training, I don’t care about fancy bikes, and I don’t even really care about winning. I just love bike racing. I enjoy the competitive nature of it, and I love the community that surrounds it, but mostly I just enjoy being in the bike race. Most of the time, I’m pack fill — and that’s fine.

No other pro talks this way. It’s always about getting better and winning big races. I identify with Jens because he and I share a passion for the racing itself.

Last month, Landry’s hosted an “evening with Jens.” Richard Fries (famous in his own right) led the discussion, asking Jens questions about why his career has lasted so long compared to other pros, how he came back after a number of gruesome crashes, and why he’s made himself so accessible to the press and to his fans.

I was impressed by Jens’s ability as a speaker. He was just like on TV — he answered all the questions with sincerity and a little bit of humor. He told a great story about turning his antenna toward the west during his childhood in East Germany so that he could watch western TV. When an audience member gave him a hard time about the doping scandals so prevalent in the past, Jens gave a pretty reasonable answer: he admitted that the previous generation had made mistakes and asked the fans to give the new generation a chance.

The event was almost canceled because it was scheduled during a blizzard. The T wasn’t running, the temperature was barely above zero, and the winds were gusting to 40mph. So of course I rode my bike there. I don’t think I have ever been so close to being blown off the BU bridge. I couldn’t help but feel just a little bit like Jens during that ride. I recorded it for Strava to prove I had ridden.

At the end of the discussion, I stood in line to take a picture with Jens and get his autograph. I plan to frame it and give it a place of honor in my “trophy case” (which unfortunately is not as full as Jens’s!).

 

MIT Cycling Team
Solvang Training Camp 2015

Solvang Training Camp 2015

MIT Cycling Team Solvang Training Camp 2015
MIT Cycling Team
Solvang Training Camp 2015

Nine full cycling days in Solvang, California made for THE venue for a great team training camp experience. The weather was exceptionally warm, mostly the 60s to 70s. As you can see, we were also fortunate it was beautifully green due to recent rains in the area, more so than the previous year’s  camps  further south and closer to San Diego.  What a great escape it was from the record snowfall and cold back in Cambridge.

We had a great attendance with about 24  team members in the main house and another dozen alumni riders in a second house.  Each morning we fixed ourselves a good breakfast and gathered at the main house to depart for the day’s cycling adventure about mid morning.

Day 1 –  Buellton West

Click here for the Strava route

This was our first day out intended to be an easy “stretch you legs” day after a long day of travel, but the pace got alittle higher than that on the way out (what did you expect from a pack of overachievers?)  Mostly rollers on this route, though each day we needed to head out from the main house to Solvang, a picturesque  9 mile route that included about a mile 6% climb on the way back.

First thing back each day FOOD was generally on everyone’s mind, and it tended to be every man and woman for themselves.  This was rather necessary as these are drop training rides and we were not all returning at the same time, nor necessarily doing the same rides.

Dinner, on the other hand was carefully planned by Jenn in advance to be not only great fare but a true team event in it’s preparation. Everyone was assigned responsibilities that varied from night to night – you might be the helper, the clean up crew or the head chef. I think we all had a turn at each. The diversity of the cuisine prepared reflected the diversity of the group. I think we all came away with an appreciation of the challenges involved in cooking for a large group.

CAMP RECIPES TEAM MEMBERS SHARED ARE HERE

We gathered each evening  for a lively team meeting
We gathered each evening for a lively team meeting

Following dinner the evening organized activities always concluded with the team meeting. These were just fun – at times very educational, at others very entertaining, and at times somewhat competitive.  No dull moments.

Day 2 –  Figueroa Mtn or Tour of California ITT Course and wineries

Click here for the Strava route Mt. Figuero

Click here for the Tour of California ITT  / Foxen Canyon wineries

Today you had the choice of two great routes. Half the group climbed the epic Mt. Figueroa (this was a bonus climb as we did it again later in week) and the other half rode the Solvang ITT loop used several times in the Tour of California (15 miles) followed by a second longer loop through wine country.

Winding thru wine country
Winding thru wine country

A few stopped and checked out the grapes afterwards – worth the stop I am told.

Solvang country side video on the ITT route

Day 3 – Rest Day

click here for mountain bike route Solvang to com towers

Rest day meant something different to everyone. Rest was more about selecting a lighter self-directed ride.  There is some interesting mountain biking in the area. Just a few miles from Solvang you can climb up a dirt road to the crest of the Santa Barbara coastal mountains and then ride the mountain tops to the highest peaks in the area, as demonstrated by the high density of communications towers shown below.

Communication Tower Mountain
Communication Tower Mountain

 

Looking out from the top of Com Tower Mountain at 4400' the Pacific to your left and the Santa Ynez valley to your right
Looking out from the top of Com Tower Mountain at 4400′
the Pacific to your left and the Santa Ynez valley to your right

 

Day 4 – Drum and Foxen Canyons

click here for Strava route

This was a northern Santa Ynez valley route with several significant  climbs. Quite a  bit more mileage – close to 90 today. Very rural and bicycling friendly.

A traditional danish plate lunch in Solvang
A traditional danish plate lunch in Solvang

 

Day 5 – Jalama Beach out and back

click here for Strava route

This was our longest day so far, over 90 miles from the main house south of Solvang west to Jalama Beach on the Pacific.  Some fun climbing on the way out crossing over the coastal mountains and then descending to sea level and the beach.  Great burgers on the beach awaited all!

Pacific Ocean beach front
Pacific Ocean beach front

 

Day 6 – Rest Day

This time most of us really scaled back on the riding to take a true rest. Good day to check out the very authentic Danish town of Solvang. Not a bad place to live – save your money, though – new starter homes begin around three quarters of a mil…..

Picturesque Solvang. The entire downtown maintains this architecture.
Picturesque Solvang. The entire downtown maintains this architecture.

 

Day 7 – Mount Figueroa

click here for the Strava route

This was an epic day of riding – long and hard with the signature climb of the Santa Ynez valley.  As you might expect, the lighter riders shined on a day like today.

On the way up Mount Figueroa
On the way up Mount Figueroa
Looking out from the top
Looking out from the top

Day 8 – TTT Practice

 click here for Strava route on TTT practice

click here for mountain bike route Solvang to Pacific coast beach

Lots of variety this day, each was left to chose his own cycling.  There were those who practiced the TTT, others who rested and some who chose mountain biking.  The selection rather depended on how much climbing and mileage one was looking for at this point in the camp.

A little tree climbing toward the end of my mountain bike adventure
A little tree climbing toward the end of my mountain bike adventure

Day 9 – The longest day plus the epic Gibralter Road Climb

97 miles and 9200 feet of climbing

click here for Strava route

This route took us from Solvang to Santa Barbara and back. We did all the epic climbs in the Santa Ynez valley so it was decided we would end the camp with this serious climbers route.

When we got to the top of Gibralter Road looking out over the Pacific we were treated with a too cool drone session and group video  sponsored by one of the alums. A great demonstration of how far the technology has come at a reasonable price point of $1500.

 Video from the top

Gibralter Road switchbacks
Gibralter Road switchbacks
More than 4000' of climbing to the top
More than 4000′ of climbing to the top
Cold Springs Tavern - a most unusual food pit stop
Cold Springs Tavern – a most unusual food pit stop

We wrapped up the day with a stop at the Cold Springs Tavern which had been highly recommended. Serious roast beef sandwiches. A very eclectic clientele. Beautiful setting. Obviously very popular with the locals. Worth checking out.

Summary:

An epic week of cycling. While everyone was free to chose their own level of riding, several of us exceeded 550 miles and 40,000′ of climbing over the 9 days. Try to get that in Cambridge!

The miles, the warmth, the food and fellowship are rewards on top of the long term health benefits gained when you choose to make a commitment toward a balanced life style through cycling. Sign up for the next episode IAP 2016.

 

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CX Nats 2015: “Everything will change. Everything has changed.” (The Patriot)

Almost exactly a year ago, I watched CX Nats in Boulder, sitting on my trainer. I cheered on MIT’s Chris Birch racing for JAM Fund in the women’s elite race. It looked frigid.

Even though I only had two ‘cross races under my belt, I had been bitten by the bug. Sitting on that trainer, I made a goal: Cyclocross Nationals 2015, in Austin TX. Because it would be warmer.

#Tweetsfromthetrainer: Watching 2014 Nationals on the trainer got me stoked for this season.

Ha. As we packed our bikes for Austin, our race-day forecast read “ice pellets.”

My goal for cross nationals was to qualify, go, and finish. Once I’d made the nationals team, my expectations didn’t change: I knew I’d be starting in the third or fourth row, I knew it was going to be a technical course, and I knew that this was my first national-level cycling event.

When we arrived in Austin, I expected to be blasting some good pump up music (read: 1989) in our minivan as we traveled to and from Zikler Park. Joe Near had other plans: our hosts, teammate Katie Maass and her parents, owned a copy of the Patriot. This played on loop (with some worthy scenes replayed for effect).

Forget Taylor Swift, The Patriot was our pump up soundtrack. Joe Near approved.

Our races included the collegiate relay (no, we don’t all ride the same bike), and the men’s and women’s D2 collegiate fields. Friday evening’s relay was on hard-packed, near-frozen dirt. The course was so fast. There was minimal mud, next to the pits, to be avoided.

Matt Li on the relay lap, too fast for Tim Myers’s shutter speed.

After a night of rain, we arrived for Saturday morning’s pre-ride, to the sound of a military marching band on the DVD player. Matt wanted to do “at least one lap to see what had changed.” Everything had changed.

Oily. Tacky. Slick. Heavy. Slippery. Mud. This called for major changes in equipment (“get me the horse blanket”), but also strategy. While Friday’s race involved two or three dismounts for barriers and stairs, Saturday’s conditions favoured running.

I thought this was a biking race (Photo: Ali Engin)

The conditions led me to change my expectations: it was going to be a gong show, and it was going to be fun. Whatever happened, happened. And what ended up happening was fantastic, for me.

Our trip to Austin involved change and surprise for all of our teammates: Corey could not have expected her race to finish in the emergency ward, where she had a broken wrist re-set. Joe got a USA Cycling neck tattoo (ok, temporary). Chris had a surprise visitor, walked away with a fancy new necklace, and didn’t expect to be racing the elites on Monday (postponed from Sunday).

Chris Birch with the bronze in Women’s D2
Corey’s wrist… enough said.
Joe Near on one of the slickest and steepest elements of the course. Zoom in for the neck tattoo… (Photo: Andrew Davidhazy)

What else did we do in Austin? We hit the off-season hard, with the flagship Whole Foods, brownie sundaes, breakfast tacos, lunch tacos and dinner tacos, and of course some brisket (“dog is a fine meal”). We went bowling in a bar (Corey won, single-handedly). We watched the Patriot, twice.

But that didn’t stop her in beating us at bowling.

Now, we’re back, our bikes and kits finally clean. We finished 7th in the relay, and 7th in the omnium. Lucky numbers for next year. And for me, everything has changed. I placed ninth in my first cyclocross nationals, when all I wanted to do was qualify, go, and finish. Who knows what next year will bring. See you in Asheville, where I’ll be praying for mud.

Concerned face, loose brakes, and lab gloves. (Photo: Andrew Davidhazy)

PSYCHLOCROSS 2014

(courtesy of Joel Hawksley)
(courtesy of Joel Hawksley)

With the 2014 cyclocross season over, we can all finally take a breather from the relentless string of races and reflect on the past four months. For those of you unfamiliar with cyclocross, think of it as offroad criterium racing on a knobby tired road bike with obstacles (logs, barriers, stairs, flyovers, run-ups, sand, endless turns, yadda yadda).

Sound ridiculous? It is.

Fun? Most definitely.

Julie van der Hoop demonstrating a perfect bike remount.
Julie van der Hoop demonstrating a perfect bike remount on a bike that’s not even hers. (courtesy of Chris Trabulsie)

I’m obviously biased, but I feel that the cross season is arguably the most challenging discipline to train and race. As the season progresses, the temperature begins to plummet, the sun starts to avoid us, and the skies have a tendency to spitefully open up. Throw in a healthy mixture of fitness and high technical skills, this sport is not for the faint of heart or for those watt factories terrified of turning.

Colin Kennedy slaying the finish of a race (Shedd Park).
Colin Kennedy slaying the finish of a race (Shedd Park).

To put it another way, it’s not a matter of “will I crash?”….it’s more akin to “when will I crash?”. The unpredictability of the terrain, obstacles, and the riders around you makes this statement more true than other sports and in doing so, adds an intense hyper-vigilant mental aspect.

Don’t follow that dude’s wheel, he crashed you out last race.

Use that rut to the right of roots before the third turn after the second run up.

Yet even with all these potential deterrents, this season has been one of the most well attended in recent memory. Not only has this season had returning vets, but more substantially, newcomers. I stand by my statement that it only takes one race to get hooked, and if you ask anyone that first tried it out this year, I think they’ll agree – even if they mechanicaled out of their first race.

The MIT team participated in a circuit of races in the New England ranging from Hanover, NH down to Stony Point, NY. While you can practice in a field with cones and barriers all day long, the best way to really hone your skills is during a race. We raced in both ECCC and regional USAC races to get as much of this battle hardened experience as possible.

Morgan Hennessy gettin' up and over a steep section (Canton, courtesy of Geoff Martin)
Morgan Hennessy gettin’ up and over a steep section (Canton, courtesy of Geoff Martin)

The culmination of the regular season happened in Warwick, RI at the ECCC Easterns. In true spirit of the season, we had a strong showing at all skills levels and it was fantastic being able to heckle so many people throughout the day. Some of the notable results of the day and season included:

Easterns
MIT – 2nd
Men A – 6th, Joe Near
Men B – 8th, Ben Eck
Men C – 2nd, Matt Li
Women B – 2nd, Julie van der Hoop
Women C – 3rd, Katie Maass

Overall
MIT – 3rd (2nd Division II)
Men A – 6th, Joe Near
Men B – 7th, Ben Eck
Men C – 2nd, Matt Li
Women A – 4th, Chris Birch
Women B – 2nd, Julie van der Hoop
Women C – 6th, Katie Maass; 8th, Morgan Hennessy

Turns upon turns at Rapha Supercross, Gloucester (courtesy of C.Mcintosh)
Turns upon turns at Rapha Supercross, Gloucester (courtesy of C.Mcintosh)

While the regular season is over, the new year still holds one more capstone race, nationals. We’ll be sending 5 riders: Christina Birch, Julie van der Hoop, Corey Tucker, Joseph Near, and Matthew Li. Nationals will be held in Austin, TX this year and based on preliminary course previews, it will prove to be a fast race. Stay tuned for a report in the new year.

It’s been been a fantastic season. There have been enumerable good times with early morning drives and stinging heckles that have really brought the CX family close together. Although there’s still one more race coming up, I’m already eager to fast forward to next season!

We won!! MTB D2 Omnium

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2014-10-12 17.15.21 We won!!!  Yes, the MIT Cycling team has done it again – we’ve brought home a trophy. But this time, we’ve won in a discipline we haven’t done well in historically – Mountain Biking! Our team was awarded Division II Team Omnium at the Regional Championships at Highland, meaning our team earned more points in total this season than any other Division II team.

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One big happy team

But what’s so impressive about this win is really HOW we won, and WHO raced this season. In following good MIT tradition, results demand analysis:

  • Total MIT student racers this season: 21
  • Average number of participants per race weekend: 6.7
  • Average number of race weekends per participant: 1.95
  • Percentage Female: 33%

To put these numbers in perspective, last season 10 students raced mountain bikes in total, and races averaged around 3-4 people per race.

And now for an analysis of our newbie population:

  • Percentage students whose first race was this season: 67%
  • Percentage students who raced on a borrowed bike: 57%
  • Percentage students who raced on a borrowed MITOC bike: 48%
  • Percentage students whose first time on a MTB was in their race: 33%
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Ben Eck – who’s been a dedicated MIT mountain bike racer for 4 years and advocated to purchase the MITOC bikes

What do these numbers indicate? That the MIT Mountain Biking team strongly encourages new members to try out the sport. We facilitate this by renting out MITOC bikes (mountain bikes owned by our outdoors’s club). A few years ago Ben Eck (former team captain) advocated to purchase 4 MITOC bikes, and they were certainly well used this season. We hope that the students who tried mountain bike racing for the first time this season will continue racing in future seasons, especially given our tremendous achievement.

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After racing Sunday, we headed to the trails to enjoy riding together and learning from our Coach

Now you may still be wondering how is it that we managed to win team omnium? Well, every point matters and we had many participants. But we also had many, many strong finishes throughout the season. I’ll leave that list to another blog post…coming soon. But finally, our team won because we function as one cohesive unit. We enjoy spending time together, sharing advice with eachother, and cheering for eachother. We race because that’s what we enjoy doing, and we are an excellent example to other teams in our division because of it.

As captain, my proudest moment was not standing on the podium or winning team omnium. It was being able to watch so many MIT racers cross the finish line with a smile on their face. I am proud of the joy I have brought to each and every student who raced this season, because Mountain Biking is truly a unique sport and one that I’m so happy to be able to share with so many of my teammates.

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It was a very happy day for all. Thank you team. ~Beth

 

MIT MTB Race – A Smashing Success!

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Just a handful of the 25+ MIT racers, volunteers, friends, and family who joined us this weekend

 

This blog post brought to you by, yet again, a first-time MIT racer, Lucy Archer:

The Bruises Mean I’m Doing it Right… Right?

Following on a theme, Beth managed to convince me to come out and race the event MIT hosted this year, the Sliderule Shredfest, last weekend.  Honestly I didn’t need that much convincing, mostly encouragement, but I got what I needed and with about 45 minutes of practice along the Charles I headed out to Charlemont on Friday evening.  I had been promised rain, bbq, beer, fun, mud, and bruises (not necessarily in that order, of course), and the weekend definitely did deliver!
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First-time MTB racers Jen, Lucy, and Gabriel hang out before their race
Provided we don’t count the weekend with my parents in Tahoe when I was 12, or the 45 minutes along the Charles last Thursday, my first time on a mountain on a mountain bike was Saturday morning’s cross country race, the second time was for short track, and the third was for the team relay.  I’m not quite sure what I was expecting, though I don’t think it involved quite as much climbing as the XC course started with!  Luckily I was behind most of the other Women’s B racers and, following their lead, I walked (I’d rather say I sprinted, but it wouldn’t be true) up the mountain with my bike in the hope that it would get better.  It definitely got better, and I managed to almost fall off the mountain only a few times!  The second lap went better and faster (I think…), though apparently once a little too fast, as I learned my first lesson of non-road riding: the endo.  No harm done to either me or the bike though, and apparently I came in third!  Not too bad for my first time on a mountain on a mountain bike.
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Check out those MITOC bikes! These MIT racers were able to race thanks to the bikes they could rent from MIT’s outdoors club.
After three hours standing in the rain watching the A and B racers race, and a brief visit to the six inch deep mud puddle that was the bottom of the Dual Slalom course, it was back to the lodge (yes, there was real shelter for the weekend, it was nice and dry), we made the discovery that there was both a washing machine and a dryer, which meant that I’d have clean, dry kit forSunday!  The hot showers were also a wonderful, glorious thing.  The evening was beer and lots of bbq, including burgers, chicken, brats, and ribs.  There was a reasonable amount of social time, until I realized that I was curled up in a corner falling asleep and retreated upstairs to sleep.
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Yup, we tired Lucy out [see far left]
Sunday dawned wonderfully clear and sunny (though a little cold), and we all headed out for short track.  The course was fun, though it did involve me learning the meaning of ‘off camber.’  I made it through nearly all of the course at least once (out of four laps) reasonably successfully, and didn’t walk the bike once on the last two laps!  I’m quite proud that only three of the Women’s A riders (including Beth) lapped me twice (women’s A and B were combined because there were only 3 B riders).  I also had a lovely moment when a root shoved my bike out from under me and dumped me off the trail at exactly the right time for Beth to get past me, which was quite convenient.  MIT ran both A and B teams for the relay, since we had enough people to do so, and MIT won the B race!  I’m not especially responsible for that, since I did 1 lap out of 8, but I think I can still share in the awesome.
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Katie lookin’ legit in her first ever mtb race!
I’m not sure when it happened, but over the course of the weekend I decided that this mtb thing was far too much fun to not do again, and I’ll be heading out to race next weekend too!  That said, I’ve figured out why the Club level memberships come with one race weekend: it’s a devious plot to get us hooked so that we can’t do anything other than go back for more.  Don’t fall for it!  Wait, what am I saying.  Fall for it, really, it’s a ton of fun.
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So many smiling faces post-race!

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Message from Beth: I’d like to specifically recognize and thank Ben Eck and Luke Plummer for organizing this race weekend. They demonstrated tremendous initiative to propose the race months ago and worked all summer long to prepare the courses and ensure the race run smoothly. We are very proud of Ben and Luke and the entire MIT team of volunteers and racers who helped make such a great weekend possible.

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~Beth (plus my new horsey friend I found on the race course)

Drexel – A Wicked Good Time

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Start of Women’s A race

This past weekend we fearlessly headed down to Pennsylvania to race probably the most technically challenging courses of all season. Beth, Meg, and Alex were our courageous MIT racers, and we were joined by Simon who races for Harvard. This weekend proved to be quite an adventure for each of us, making the weekend one we’ll be talking about for many months to come!

The following blog post brought to you by Alex Springer, who raced his first collegiate race this past weekend at Drexel! Congrats Alex for a great first race weekend!

MTB Racing; A Rekindled Passion for an Abusive Relationship

I completed my first (of many, hopefully) cycling races with the MIT Cycling team this weekend at the Drexel MTB race. Without a bike or any excuse to say “No”, I accepted MTB Captain Beth’s (frantic) request to come out and race with the team in Drexel, PA. Despite the course being 5.5 hrs away, it turns out that the old adage; “Good things take time” is true, because I had an absolutely epic time mountain bike racing this past weekend.

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Alex looking strong during short track

I had raced MTB a few times while in high school, but since coming to college I had not touched a mountain bike in just over 3.5 years. Nevertheless, that didn’t seem like a good enough reason not to race so I hopped on a borrowed bike (Thanks Ben Woolston!) and set off for the races. I started with the XC course and I was riding pretty strong sitting in 3rd or 4th place until I hit the downhill section and thought my technique was much better than I actually was. I completed the endo and fell down the hill twenty feet with my bike. Luckily, I was fine…the bike was not. I snapped the rear derailleur hangar and had to DNF the race. However, I found a local bike shop with the correct derailleur hangar and was back in business by the afternoon for the Clusterhuck which was a team relay with me and Beth. I did the hill climb and she rode the downhill portion. The race was less than seven minutes, but I started to feel the excitement of racing that I recalled from high school bubbling up inside.

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Best part about racing downhill? The helmet. Molly [left] from Yale (and adopted by our team) and Beth get ready to tackle the clusterhuck.
On Saturday night the team took a jaunt over to the Tiki Bar which was an eclectic bar situated at the base of the ski mountain and bike race course. The bar certainly played up the island theme which was an odd feeling being in the middle of a ski resort. After many games of rummy (the card game, not the drink), we decided to turn in for an early night with racing the next morning.

Having had the DNF the day before, I approached the short track race on Sundaymorning with fresh legs and a goal of completing the race. I ended up exceeding my goal and took first place which was quite surprising for me. I raced pretty conservatively having taken the lead during lap two of four and rode steady throughout the race in order not to break myself or the bike. The weekend concluded with the team relay which I raced with Beth which we won by default because no other teams had a girl. Despite a few cuts and bruises gained over the weekend, and a ripped jersey from a too-close encounter with a tree, I was happy to be in one piece and end with the team win in the relay to cap off a great weekend!

Simon looking good in short track!
Simon looking good in short track!

As I write this, I’m already looking forward to the upcoming Sliderule Shredfest hosted by MIT. Having not touched a mountain bike in over three years to winning the Men’s B Short Track certainly instilled my love of mountain biking once more, and I can’t get wait to get out into the mud once more.

– Alex Springer, MIT

One of the highlights of the weekend for me was dinner Saturday night – we found this historic and adorable italian place that was clearly the “place to be” on a Saturday evening in Schwenksville (yes that IS the name of the town). The portions were enormous and delicious, and we really enjoyed just hanging out, resting our legs, and chatting.

Meg, Molly, Alex, Simon enjoying the beautiful sunshine
Meg, Molly, Alex, Simon enjoying the sunshine

And the dessert…oh, yes, the dessert….

Dessert heals all wounds
Dessert heals all wounds
The group at PTown, tired but happy

Harbor to the Bay

Last Saturday, 10 MIT riders went to Provincetown. Not the way most people go (a quick and easy ferry from seaport), but the long way – a 126-mile scenic bike route that took us down the coast through Sagamore and Hyannis, and then up through the Cape on a combination of wind-swept highways and gorgeous rail trails. As if the long route wasn’t punishment enough, we also started in the cold and darkness of 4:30am. Why? For the last three years, MIT Cycling has been proud to volunteer with Harbor to the Bay, an annual AIDS charity ride. Our role is to serve as course marshals at various points along the route, guiding and cheering the 300-some charity riders as they make their way along the journey.

The day started with an early breakfast in Copley square, after which we rolled out to head to our marshal positions, dotted between the 60-mile and 115-mile mark. There was no time for dawdling, as we had to reach these spots ahead of the charity riders, some of whom were starting in Hyannis, 60 miles ahead of us, but 4 hours later. Some simple maths told us we needed to average 15mph. That doesn’t sound so bad, with 10 riders in a good paceline. But, that doesn’t allow for stoppage time, and the rest stops other crew members had set up along the way were simply too good to pass up. Filled with delicious home-cooked treats, from brownies and muffins to carrot cake, we knew we wanted to stop at each one to sample the fine food. So, we hustled all the way to Hyannis, keeping a moving speed of about 18mph. We had some (brave) new riders with us, who did an awesome job keeping up and very quickly learned the benefits of drafting. It’ll be really excited to see some of these new riders racing on the road with us in the spring!

The group broke up as we dropped riders off at each marshal spot, where we were delivered lunch by the organizer and stood (or sat, depending on fatigue) directing riders and cheering them on until the last one had come through. It was incredible to see the determination and commitment of all of these charity riders, many of whom have never ridden these sorts of distances before. Perhaps even more impressive were the costumes some of them were wearing, ranging from various superhero-type capes to full-on glamorous drag.

Andrea and a Drag Queen. It was unclear whose legs were better shaven.
Andrea and a Drag Queen. It was unclear whose legs were better shaven.

After the sag car came through and dismissed us from our marshal spots, the group collected again and rode the final miles together, with one last town line sprint to bring us into PTown at around 5:30pm. With three hours to go before our ferry back (no, we weren’t going to re-trace our pedal strokes), we made a beeline toward food and the clean clothes we had packed to change back into. Two (or three) burgers later, we were all feeling much better, and the satisfaction of a good long ride and having helped a good cause began to sink in. The ferry ride home was pretty quiet (most of us passed out), and we all slept pretty soundly that night.

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Jen and Corey “recovering” on the ferry

Overall, it was a fantastic day, and we’re looking forward to doing this ride again next year.

 

Grilling, Chilling, and Racing @ UVM

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Our UVM Team, including two new racers! (Ben, Emele, Dirk, Beth)
This post brought to you by new MIT racer, Dirk Stahlecker.
This past weekend I got to experience something I’ve been looking to do for years now: race something with wheels! I’ve mountain biked for years, but never had the opportunity to race before, and it was so much fun! There’s nothing like feeling the competitors at your back to motivate you to pedal harder and go faster.

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Ben Eck clearly enjoying his race!

I will say, however, that I really had no idea what any of it would be like when I signed up. I knew I enjoyed mountain biking, especially the going downhill aspect, so I signed up for three events: cross country, short course, and dual slalom, figuring since I was there I might as well try everything out. Cross country was first. As we lined up at the starting line and raced toward the first corner, I found myself on the outside about 4 or 5 wide going into a downhill grassy turn. Next thing I knew, the person on the inside had clipped my handlebars and both of us were sent flying into the ground, collecting probably 6 or 8 others behind us in the wreck. The rest of the race was uneventful (other than a few wrong turns on the poorly marked course), but definitely a good ride. Nice and flat and fun.

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Emele and Dirk just before their race!
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Beth – smiling, because racing is fun!

I couldn’t wait to check out the dual slalom course next. It’s a side-by-side track downhill, with jumps, whoops, step ups, step downs, and tabletops, and it’s so much fun to ride! I loved the technical element – you had to set up perfectly going into each element to make sure you cleared the double or held enough speed through the corner. It was a full adrenaline rush down, and very technical, which was really fun. I crashed pretty hard a few times (and unfortunately in my seeding race as well), but it was definitely my favorite event!

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Proof of Ben’s tasty and much needed cheeseburgers. Ben – kudos to you for some serious grilling skills.

Beth and I were the only two competing in the slalom. One of the highlights of the day was when Ben showed up at the top holding hamburgers for us that he’d just grilled! It was a precursor to a fantastic dinner at the campsite that evening after the race was over. I’d forgotten just how much better food tastes when eaten while camping.

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Dirk and Ben just chillin at the top of Dual Slalom
The next day was the final event, short course. I didn’t really know much about this event going in, all I knew was that it was shorter than cross country, which I was happy about. Turns out that the course was only about two and a half minutes long, and we raced it for 20 minutes. It was fast and fun, but there were a ton of rocks and roots to contend with. It made me really wish I had pedal clips, as I had trouble keeping my feet on the pedals on the downhill.
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Emele tackles the sketchy descent

The race was a lot of fun though. The starting line was set back in a very rocky, rough area, and it was a short sprint to the essentially singletrack first corner. There was a mix of pedaling and just running off the start. I decided to pedal, and actually managed to get the holeshot, as I was the first one to the corner! I actually held the lead for most of the lap! That was definitely the highlight of the weekend for me. I still don’t quite know how I managed it, but it was super cool.

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Dirk leading the pack!

Overall, the entire weekend was a great experience. It was awesome to get out racing mountain biking again, and especially be able to be around others who enjoy it as much as I do. I’m definitely looking forward to my next race!

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Yup – that’s Emele just chillin with a beer and ear of corn. #mtbracesaresochill

To glory in the wind tunnel and beyond