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MIT Cycling Team Blog

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

Great turnout for Northeastern MTB Race!

Don't be fooled by the 'cross bike - we're the MIT Mountain Bike Team!
Don’t be fooled by the ‘cross bike – we’re mountain bikers [Zeb, Ben, Marcos, Jeff, Beth, Coach Psi & Spiro, Simon]
We had a fabulous turnout for our second mountain bike race of the season hosted by Northeastern in Western Massachusetts. MIT racers included Ben Eck, Jeff Duval, Beth Hadley, Zeb Hanley, Anna Cheimets, Marcos Esparza, Corey Tucker. We were also joined by Simon Chaput, Harvard’s MTB captain and Matjaz Humar, who raced in the open category. Our mountain bike coach, Coach Psi, also joined us Sunday. He was a great motivator during races (especially as he stood on the uphill section and urged us to pedal faster), and we thoroughly appreciated his presence. He brought his son, Spiro, who loved to explore the woods!

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Coach Psi and his son, Spiro! Thanks for coming out to cheer us on, Coach!!

One of the highlights of the weekend (other than the 10+ hours of sleep we enjoyed Saturday night and the ample consumption of s’mores Friday night) was the dinner location we found on Saturday night – Ben Eck found a quaint rustic restaurant with hearty food and delicious hot chocolate. Dessert was irresistible – two cinnamon donuts and pumpkin ice cream drizzled with caramel. The first bite was like having Fall in your mouth. Overall, a great weekend had by all!

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Beth Hadley tackling the mud during dual slalom

The following entry is written by Anna Cheimets, who talks about her experience during her first ECCC Mountain bike race. She and Corey had a rather unexpected bee encounter during their first race, and both were quite courageous to drive home with smiles.

“I’ve done enough casual mountain biking to know that you haven’t had a successful day of riding unless you are bleeding, bruised or both. This weekend turned out to be exceptionally successful for me by that standard and also quite a bit of fun.

On Friday night we drove out to Dalton MA and pitched our tents in a field right next to the cross country racing course. The Northeastern riders had built a bonfire which we gleefully took advantage of to make s’mores- delectable fuel for the day ahead. Thanks to Beth for bringing the most important ingredient for camping. As I hunkered down in my cozy tent that night, I thought about my race the next day with nervous and excited anticipation.

The whole camp awoke at 7 a.m. sharp, initially roused by an errant car alarm and then coaxed outside by blaring music that set the mood for a weekend of racing and chilling with mountain biker bros. There wasn’t much time to do more than register, eat a quick breakfast and get on the starting line for the Women’s B cross country race. Corey and I sized up the racers on the starting line and then we were off!

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Our courageous racers, Anna [left] and Corey [right].
I was immediately winded as the course turned sharply uphill and stayed a bit hilly for much of the first part of the loop. Then all of a sudden, we were all attacked by a swarm of angry wasps who were incensed about being trampled on. Boy did that get me moving! Soon after I had sped away from their reach, I started to get more into the rhythm of racing. The swooping downhill sections were flow-y and fun and as I got towards the end of my second and final lap I was closing in on the second place rider in front of me, hoping I had enough steam to overtake her at the end.

On the final turn onto the gravel road, I decided to make my move into second place. Unfortunately, I didn’t heed Corey’s wise advice about how bumping into other riders frequently bumps you off your own bike as well. I squeezed too close to my rival and wiped out in the gravel. Covered with dirt and sand, and hazily aware of my thoroughly skinned knee, I grabbed my bike and ran it past my startled opponent and across the finish line!

Bleeding, bruised, stung, winded and feeling fully accomplished, I cheered Beth, Zeb, Ben and Marcos on in their cross country races.

 

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Simon, Jeff, Marcos, and Beth hanging out between races!

As soon as my knee heals up, I’ll be back on the bike and into the woods for more adventures in mountain biking. Great job to the MIT cyclists for riding hard this weekend!”

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Ben Eck showing off his serious pain face!

 

 

The ladies of MIT Cyclocross celebrate their finish at Quadcross!

When in doubt, just race! Quadcross 2014

Somehow I got it into my head that I wanted to try cyclocross.  I suppose all the stories about bacon and beer handups and ridiculous photos of people leaping onto bikes wearing cat leggings finally seeped into my brain.  So I purchased a tiny black, red and blue Crux with sweet disc brakes and after a few frustrating and bruise-filled mornings in Danehy Park learned to mount and dismount the bike, and somehow stumble over the practice barriers.  Naturally, after about two cumulative hours of ‘cross practice, I was already itching to race despite being woefully underprepared (the best training is racing! -JVDH).  So off to Quadcross I went.

I arrived on race morning  to pre-ride the course with our captain Matt Li, who explained the best way to approach each section of the most technical course I had ever ridden (uhhh, where’s the pavement??). I was in turn both exhilarated and completely terrified at what I was about to do.

We were the first race to go off, and I lined up at staging with my four other MIT Women teammates, feeling excited and mentally focusing on two goals – don’t get hurt, and have some fun!  I am still nursing a shoulder injury from road season so I was especially concerned about the first one.

Powering through a flat section of the course at Quadcross
Powering through a flat section of the course at Quadcross

Before I knew it the gun went off and we were sprinting down the chute into the first turn.  For anyone not familiar with ‘cross, the start is the most important for positioning yourself in the race, and is an all-out sprint and shoulder/elbow/hipcheck-fest.  Since I was a n00b, I totally botched this part and managed to end up in last place because I dismounted on a hill and couldn’t clip back in.  Meh.  During the course of the race I was able to pass a few riders by motoring up the steepest parts of the course and staying upright in the tight, technical turns.  The most difficult section by far was a sandpit containing 2 tight turns which I (VERY STUPIDLY and to the amusement of all watching) tried to ride, but which everyone else figured out was necessary to run through.  I fell on the first two laps and then finally realized I had to dismount and run for the last two laps. I was able to complete the entire race without being lapped by the leaders and was incredibly proud to cross the finish line.

Cyclocross is a gut-wrenching, exhilarating, terrifying experience which pushes you to your limit both mentally and physically. I did things on my bike that I never thought I could do, and that was truly awesome.  The spectators were incredible and the atmosphere friendly, plus there was ample food and adult beverages to enjoy. I learned more in that 40 minute race than I probably could have learned in hours of biking around in a park or on trails.  CX is something you have to experience firsthand… you can’t train for all the obstacles you’ll find in a race.

The ladies of MIT Cyclocross celebrate their finish at Quadcross!
The ladies of MIT Cyclocross celebrate their finish at Quadcross!

Finally, perhaps my favorite part of the day was cheering on my teammates after my own race was finished – CX is a really, really fun spectator sport! If you can’t tell, I’m already hooked and signed up for my next race, Rapha SuperCross in Gloucester, MA!  I definitely recommend checking out a ‘cross race – I guarantee you’ll have a fun time, whether you race or not!

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Clarkson Season Opener – A Muddy Good Time!

This past weekend, Ben, Beth and I hit the road for the long trek up to Potsdam, New York for the first mountain bike race of the season. This would be my first experience racing in the ECCC, and luckily I had two seasoned vets to show me what these races are all about!

We arrived at the campsite around 1am, which gave us just enough time to set up camp and snuggle in for the night before the torrential downpour began. On Saturday, it rained… and it rained… and then it kept raining. After dropping Ben and Beth off at the Clarkson campus for their XC races in the morning, I headed back to the camping area with the uber-friendly team from Lehigh. After some deliberation, we decided that biking in the rain would be considerably more fun than freezing our butts off in the tent, so we saddled up and went to check out the dual slalom course. After two hours of churning through cake batter-like slop, the three of us looked like we had been in a girls-gone-wrong mud fight and lost. Miserably. We decided to take a break when we could no longer change gears due to the accumulation of nature in all of the used-to-be-moving parts of our bikes. Fortunately, there was a small lake (swamp?) nearby where we could bath ourselves and dunk our bikes. For future reference, I don’t recommend fully submerging your bottom bracket in the Seven Springs swamp.

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Day 2 was gorgeous, Day 1 not so much :)

That afternoon, our comrades returned from the XC race looking mildly soggy but cheerful as ever. Beth finished a strong 4th in the women’s A and Ben kept up with a fast men’s A field. After much chocolate and a chance to recover our core temperatures, the three of us suited up for some dual slalom action. Ben kicked butt and finished 2nd in his race, and Beth and I claimed 1st and 2nd in the women’s B category! Okay, okay. We were the only two women racing in the B dual slalom. There may or may not have been some running with bike in-hand. It still counts. After the racing finished, the sun emerged in time to dry out our sorry butts and convince us to camp a second night instead of retreating to a motel.  The rest of the evening was filled with Ben’s amazingly delicious hamburgers, a few s’mores by the fire, and some entertaining shenanigans provided free of charge by a few rambunctious RIT riders.

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Megan getting ready to dominate at downhill!

We woke up to blue skies and sunshine on Sunday morning – a welcome treat! After stopping for the sweet caffeinated elixir of life at a local coffee shop, the endurance riders suited up for the short track XC. The Lehigh team adopted me once again, and we went back to get in a few practice runs on the downhill course. The downhill was super fun and fast, with the quickest men’s riders finishing in just over a minute. It had a good mix of flow and technical features, with a loose and precarious rock garden thrown in to keep things spicy. On my third run through the course, a small error in judgement resulted in the butt-end of my handlebars attempting to make a shish-kabob of my spleen, at which point I was gently reminded (a) why helmets were the best invention ever, and (b) why it’s important to plug the ends of your handlebars. Fortunately, a little adrenaline and some Hershey’s chocolate from Beth’s secret stash had me sorted out by the time the racing started. I lucked out with two relatively clean runs and managed to claim second in the women’s A race! Woohoo!

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Michelle (from Northeastern) grabbing a dozen ears of corn for $3 #becausewecan

On the drive home, we stopped for some sweet corn and zucchini at a roadside stand. It was a long trip, but time flies when you have good company and fresh veggies! Overall, I was incredibly impressed with the quality of riders out this weekend and am so pumped for the rest of the race season. Happy biking :)

– Megan O’Brien, MIT

coachpsi

Mountain Bike Training Weekend

Now if that video doesn’t make you want to ride mountain bikes with MIT, I don’t know what does! Thanks to Matjaž Humar for filming and making that awesome video!

Recently about 20 of us headed up to Kingdom Trails in Northern Vermont for a weekend of riding and training in New England’s mountain bike mecca.

Now stop drooling over your computer screen, and go get out there and ride!
You wish you were here, I know.

We welcomed riders of all skill levels – some practically grew up on a mountain bike, others had never ridden one! We were lucky enough to be joined by our amazing coaches, Coach Psi our mountain bike coach and Coach Nicole our road coach (plus Amy who also helps out coaching!).

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Coach Psi super psyched for a day of training!
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Coach Nicole (clearly just as excited!)

Coach Psi held some great clinics with tips and advice for all skill levels.

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Coach Psi explains with scientific precision how he would tackle this turn

Everyone seemed to enjoy the weekend, partially influenced by the copious amounts of ice cream consumed and beautiful sunny weather.

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Every great ride starts with stretching, right?

On Saturday evening after we had returned from a long and enjoyable day of riding, many of us headed to a nearby mountain lake for a refreshing swim.

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Turns out MIT bikers float

Sitting around the campfire that night, we shared stories of our biking adventures, gorged ourselves on hearty burgers,  and simply basked in the joy of spending time together.

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Chillin’ around the campfire!

After such a successful weekend, we’re looking forward to an awesome mountain bike race season this fall, including a race we’re hosting ourselves! Hope to see you there!

A big thanks to Ben Eck who organized the weekend and kept us very well fed and watered.

Kate Wymbs’ Army Circuit Race Win

One of the only redeeming part of Army’s weekend last year amidst the hill-climb ITT and the hilly-though scenic road race, was the Stadium Crit – a venue where spectators could view all the action and where I had a blast, despite finishing dead last (check out the recap here). This year, due to an event in the stadium, that crit was to be replaced with a circuit race. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go –academically I was in between two hell-weeks, an awful lot of hills haunted the weekend, and as week 5 of 8, I thought it would be a good weekend to skip so I wouldn’t get burnt out on bikes. The road captains saw my hesitation and encouraged me to take the time off if I thought I needed it.  As fate would have it, however my best friend Becca Greene, who I had been encouraging to come out and race all season decided that Army would be her first weekend. I had no choice, friendship prevailed and I signed up for the weekend.

Boy am I glad I did!

(It turns out I also had an unwarranted prejudice against circuit races – this one was essentially a crit, with crit scoring and only one stretch of road with the yellow-line rule, earning its title as a circuit race. I also had to realize that since I wasn’t contesting green, the race was really more of a scratch race with primes for chamois butter than a points race.)

Alright, enough preamble, time for the actual race report:

Just before the race, Coach Nicole gathered Corey, Jen, Shaena and me in the Barge for a race strategy meeting. We had a critical mass of women in this race that we had a very real opportunity to employ some good team tactics. After debating strengths and different potential strategies, we finally decided on one, knowing that if it failed we would have to be flexible. The goal was to wait for the third prime. I would go for it, ideally get it with Shaena on my wheel and then she would attack and then hopefully get a break if she was alone or Michelle or Leslie went with her.  Then I would get to block and she would duke it out for the finish. If her break failed then Jen and Corey would try to be there and trade attacks. Once Shaena and I recovered, we would join in trading attacks until someone got away. It was a good plan and it let me practice patients since I have this tendency to jump at things early and waste a bunch of energy trying to be involved in controlling the early parts of the race.

The first half of the race went pretty much as planned. Shaena went for a prime or two, securing her green jersey and I tried to rest as other riders attacked and were brought back by a responsive pack. Aside from kicking a hay bale onto the course on turn one of one of the laps, fish-tailing and staying up, the first half of the race was rather uneventful for me.

The laps went by and suddenly the bell rang for the third prime. I tried to play it cool and worked my way up to the front of the back by the backstretch of highway road. At turn 3, I was in the front with Shaena close by, and at 200m to go, I attacked with Shaena on my wheel. Immediately after I got the prime, Shaena went. Unfortunately, Rose was the one who went with her and then refused to work, sitting up and letting the pack catch. Shaena’s attack was so sudden that Jen and Corey were not in position to trade counter attacks as planned. I was gassed from the sprint so it took me a minute to recover. When I got up to the front again, I attacked and Shaena traded a counter attack trying to split the field. The field, however, was very responsive. Other riders also launched attacks after that but the pack always chased and caught.

Well so much for that strategy. With two or three laps to go, I got to the front to see if Shaena wanted to try to get away one last time and if I could help by giving her an attack to counter. She did not and indicated that we should just try to rest for the bunch sprint instead.

And so we decided to wait for the end, where the last 10 seconds define an hour of tactical racing. As other riders went for the double-points final prime, I chilled in the pack. One lap to go. I took the last lap to position myself to the left of Shaena’s wheel. At 400m Shaena went and Gabby from Army and I were on her wheel (I was to left, she to the right.) With about 175m, I went and didn’t look back.

The finish line came and I did a bike throw out of habit. I didn’t know who was around me or how the field was responding. It was only after that I realized that Rose and this Kutztown trackie had finished with the same time as me but a bike length behind!! What a good lead out! My first Women’s A mass start win!  A rider came up to us after the race and expressed how thrilling it was to actually get to see people utilizing team tactics well.

And so, despite getting dropped on the hill in the following day’s road race, I am so so thankful that friendship persuaded me to race this weekend! (It didn’t even matter that that particular friend got in quite late the night before and actually missed my win, sleeping in the car.) I got to prove to myself that I could be patient and that I could be competitive in a sprint against this field. As Coach Nicole reminded me after the race: it’s one thing to say or think that you could do well in a sprint given the right circumstances and another thing to prove it. 

To glory in the wind tunnel and beyond