Category Archives: Race/Season Previews

2014 Road Season Arrives!

After a long, hard winter, the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference 2014 Road Season has finally arrived! There’s a lot going on this season, so here’s a quick recap of what to look forward to.

2014 Road

On deck are 8 full weekends of collegiate racing, featuring:

March 8/9 Stevens Duck Country Classic Mountainside, NJ
March 15/16 Philly Phlyer Philadelphia, PA
March 22/23 Bard Campus Criterium and RPI Uncle Sam Road Race Annandale-on-Hudson and Pittstown, NY
March 29/30 MIT X-Pot Sutton, MA
April 5/6 US Military Academy Spring Classic West Point, NY
April 12/13 Dartmouth L’Enfer du Nord and UVM Mt Philo Road Race Hanover, NH and Charlotte, VT
April 19/20 PennState Nittany Cycling Classic State College, PA
April 26/27 RISD/Brown/Providence Eastern Conference Championships Providence, RI

Racing kicks off this weekend with the season-opening Stevens Duck Country Apocalypse. For the first time in 15 years, if not ever, the opening event will be a team time trial, with five more to follow throughout the season. Stevens will follow that up with both a road and circuit race for an uncommonly high-mileage season opening weekend.

Immediately after that is the now-classic Philly Phlyer, now in its 9th year and featuring its gorgeous riverside TTT, circuit race, and Temple University campus criterium. The Bard campus criterium then returns for its 2nd year, now paired up with a brand new RPI TTT and road race.  MIT will then wrap up March with its challenging X-Pot weekend, featuring the insanely hilly GLV Purgatory road race.

April will kick off with the USMA Spring Classic, once again headlined by the majestic Harriman road race. Dartmouth follows that up with its frenetic Frat Row criterium, paired up this year with UVM and its newly restored Mt Philo road race, featuring a brutal finishing climb. Penn State will echo that action in the south, with its Nittany weekend including both the technical, spectator-friendly Frat Row crit, and the mountainous Black Moshannon road race.

Finally, the season will conclude with the Eastern Championship weekend, hosted this year by RISD, Brown, and Providence College. With a spectacular debut in 2013, this weekend will again feature a rolling, long road course replete with significant dirt sections, and an amazing, flat, hyper-short downtown Providence criterium to end 2014 road racing on a super exciting note.

Colby Samstag and The Men's A field in the 2013 Columbia criterium. Photo by Jan Valerie Polk.
Colby Samstag and The Men’s A field in the 2013 Columbia criterium. Photo by Jan Valerie Polk.

Go Big or Go Home

Behind the scenes, the ECCC has embarked on a significant program of raising its operations to a new level. The Road Coordinator role has been expanded, with Alan Atwood working closely with all the promoters to ensure even higher quality events as well as helping to control the ever rising costs of bicycle race promotion. Forrest Parsons, recent UVM alumni, will also be following up on his performance as part of the season-long officiating crew in the 2013 MTB season by overseeing all registration throughout the 2014 road schedule. Though mostly invisible to racers, these and other changes are taking the conference to a new level of consistency and stellar execution as part of a multi-year agenda to push one of the best race series in the country even farther ahead of the field.

Women

Another development for 2014 is the exciting addition of a Women’s D category. Roughly half the season will feature 4 fields of women’s racing, from the pros and experts in Women’s A to the beginners in Women’s D and Intro. The remaining smaller weekends will fold Women’s C and D into the same field on course. This makes each ECCC race one of extremely few events to feature category parity between men’s and women’s racing.

The conference is of course also continuing its very successful Women’s Intro program, featuring off course clinics and its innovative coached format in every race. This category continues to be open to all new women’s racers, not just collegiate racers, with many women coming out over the past few years for their first foray into competitive cycling.

Laura Ralston and Shaena Berlin TTT away from the field in the 2013 Providence crit. Photo by Jan Valerie Polk.
Laura Ralston and Shaena Berlin TTT away from the field in the 2013 Providence crit. Photo by Jan Valerie Polk.

Juniors

Last but by no means least, in 2014 the ECCC is also expanding its fields to encompass all high school juniors. Many young riders from organized high school clubs have participated in the ECCC over the past several years, with great success. This year the conference’s full schedule of great racing is open to all high school age juniors, irrespective of having a formal club at their school. Excitement and interest are high, and many racers are expected to come out over the season for what is now one of the largest, highest quality juniors series in the nation, presenting excellent racing opportunities for young riders at all levels of ability and experience.

Racers to the Line!

With these and many other developments rolling out, the 2014 season is expected to take Eastern Conference racing to all new levels. With a large number of TTTs, challenging road races, and dramatic downtown criteriums on the docket, there is plenty of miles and exciting racing ahead for all our riders!

The full season schedule and nearly all race flyers are already available on the ECCC calendar. Pre-registration for all events is on BikeReg. Much general information is available on the ECCC website, and feel free to contact Road Coordinator Alan Atwood or Conference Director Joe Kopena with questions.

See you out there!

PennState riders Wes Kline, Wyatt Stoup, and Jeremy Shirock, after claiming the 2013 yellow jersey (season omnium winner), the championship criterium, and the championship weekend at the home race in State College, PA.
PennState riders Wes Kline, Wyatt Stoup, and Jeremy Shirock, after claiming the 2013 yellow jersey (season omnium winner), the championship criterium, and the championship weekend at the home race in State College, PA.

Headline photo above by Tianle Chen.

Season Preview 2014 Road

Turkish Coffee
Turkish Coffee, Istanbul  (photo by Author)

Preface:
I have come to the realization that it is not possible to dislike yourself at all while riding rollers in front of a mirror. Feeling self-conscious? Look up and there you are in all your sweaty, bibbed and heart rate monitor strapped glory. I’m not saying it is a confidence building exercise, just that it is not for the weak of heart. And so this winter has gone. Thank goodness for the Olympics and for the beginning of the season this weekend.

Body:
I am here to give you a quick rundown of what to expect this road season. Stay tuned for more in the series including: “Who to watch”, “ECCC alumni–where are they now?” and “How close are rice cakes to supporting a doper?”

Unless you are cheating on lovely lady ECCC by going down south, yes I’m looking at you Drexel, the season debuts with the Stevens road race, expanded this year to a full weekend, complete with miniaturized road races and gratuitous amounts of host housing. The traditional opening ITT which is always been an interesting if not informative predictor of success has been replaced with a TTT. It is the first of six TTTs with only three ITTs on the calendar counting the Army Hill Climb. We had  four ITTs last year and four TTTs. We can expect to see MIT continue to dominate because they practice like banshees but also look to other teams like what about Penn State who shut down the men’s Ship race last year after one of their guys went off.

The following weekend, the Philly Phlyer, will be the first of the marquee weekends with separate A, B, C and D fields for the women. This is an unprecedented amount of time devoted to the women and a staggering 24 races in one day. Truely, the conference organizers deserve a preemptive standing ovation. Maybe the ECCC will develop some olympians. Also, it’s pronounced Skooo-kel, not She-uhl-kill. Last year this race was (in)famous for providing every type of precipitation during the race: rain, sleet, and snow.

Okay patience and order have never been my strong suit so lets skip ahead three weeks to Xpot. In it’s glory days, the Beanpot rivaled the Eastern Cup for prestigiousness and razor giveaways. Okay there was no rivalry for the latter, just dominance by Tufts. With the first ITT of the season on Saturday, I wonder if Cameron Cogburn and Katie Quinn will return to defend their dominant wins. I am pretty sure Cogburn will not. Shaena Berlin will also be one to watch on her home course; I’ve checked her strava. Racers can expect to race up to 44 miles the next day without feeding so pack your pockets.

Speaking of MIT though, I wonder who the power couples of the ECCC will be this year.

The Hell of the North is two weeks later, after Army. Everyone who’s anyone knows that Dartmouth shamelessly stole that name from UVM. Or was it vice versa? The Frat Row Crit is the site of the legendary notwincrash from 2010 and the dirt roads of the Philo road race are sure to please. Don’t forget to toss your cleat-covers in your jersey pocket for running the last couple churn and burn soul crushing miles up Mt Philo.

After traveling to PA for some Black Mo’ treatment at the Nittany Classic, we will return to Providence for Easterns. Hopefully the road is patched so we can have a brutal crit this year.

Conclusion:
Okay thats all I have for now. See you next week! Please be safe.

Turkish Coffee photo by Author
Turkish Coffee (photo by Author)

 

Race Jitters in Fevered Prose

          Frankly, or whatever that means as a method of setting a specific tone which I’m no longer sure is applicable to the duration of this article (perhaps insinuating that another point of attack might have been more appropriate,) the unorthodox training plan I have adopted over the course of this idiotic winter, primarily consisting of staring at my rollers while riding my Netflix account or dainty donut-ridden cruises while I fantasize about the ramifications of my bicycle spontaneously transforming into a woman, has been remarkable both in its ability to rabidly undershoot any vague hope at hitting an effective volume of bike-related work and in its prodigious talent for keeping any likelihood for success in the upcoming season on par with the probability that one might find a lone Flintstone’s Vitamin in the Ural Mountains or that some other specific item will be juxtaposed with a setting or condition that is either absurd or irrational (i.e. A Cornish Game Hen spontaneously combusting at Niagara Falls, Ruth Bader Ginsburg shaving her head and joining Barnum and Bailey’s as a trapeze artist, every Cat 1 Racer in the ECCC being diagnosed with polio and being confined to blanketed wheelchairs.) Needless to say, while I could blame the winter, the cold (snot-freezing and laziness-enabling) the snow (piled high as a night out with Boonen) and the ice (slick as a Vaseline-coated Fonzie) for the nightmares I’m getting of Robin Carpenter breaking away backwards at the front of the race while he chucks forks at my legs and calls me a “little nancy boy” (recently, the forks have been exchanged for bowie knives, his bicycle has become a unicycle and Robin Carpenter has become a faceless Intro Rider coddling my strenuous efforts with a patronizing “d’aw, it’s like you’re really trying”) the fact of the matter is that I have somehow, by my own deludingly fatigue-justified volition, introduced a great degree of uncertainty into my life that’ll probably result in a great deal of asthmatic wheezing, tunnel vision, and an inability to walk more than 10 feet. There are all sorts of terrors orchestrated by monsters on bikes, those sick lizards who can stomp on pedals and produce some sort of effort that is apocalyptic to both my immediate ambitions of not getting shelled out the back and to any sense of pride I’ve had in my ability as a cyclist, those 6’10” behemoths riding 25 cm saddle-to-bar drops and shaving their legs with old steak knives who scream through the wind at six hundred watts for a half hour, jetpack-wearing ethereal mountain goats capable of descending uphill at paces that can only be described as stupid all with smiles on their faces, midget juniors spinning 200 reps a minute with hummingbird hearts that shift from a resting rate of 12 beats a minute up to 400 at a moments notice before careening back down again to enable another attack just 3 seconds later, sadistic 30 year old veterans who’ve delayed their PhDs some five extra years so that they can look back into my contorted face to see honest fear and flowering pain before jumping off the front of a 60Km/hr train, thick and lean germanic sprinter-types with horse legs that look like eight of mine who need new crank arms after every race because they keep bending them as they approach the sound barrier, and I’ve cast myself right smack down in the middle of it – a mouse in a snakepit.

          With that last bit acting as a set of excuses for my inevitable failure (and not mentioned my proposed ban on any training at all for everyone except myself) I have constructed a pre-race training plan, tentative strategy, and speculative and pseudo-prognosticative race report for our the first weekend’s road race (I won’t get into the hill-repeat tragedy that is the unwinnable 90 minute circuit race that will only result in the demise of every participant) that begins at the moment I finish writing this unreadable and non-informative article: Tonight, after drinking another pot of coffee, I will ride my bicycle on the rollers for a scant thirty minutes that will stop if I break a sweat, get tired, or get bored of whatever movie I have on my computer that I cannot hear because of the heavy oscillating of my uneven pedalling. Tomorrow, I will wake up and make myself a french press and go to they gym with my team to do a workout that is probably not as good for me as I like to pretend it is (I am determined not to do any more arm workouts because you don’t need arms to pedal and I’ve been wasting valuable time trying to make the upper half of my body look properly nourished.) Saturday, cup of drip in hand, I will look outside and see that it is snowing and decide that it’d be better if I got ahead on my homework then got sick from riding, and instead do neither. On Sunday, after smelling a 12 oz. bag of Stumptown French Roast for fifteen minutes, I will try to coax someone into taking me XC skiing – I have never done it before so I will probably crash and die, rendering my cycling season dead in the water (which should be really good for my anxiety.) Monday, I’ll be dead – no need to train. On Tuesday, I will lead an indoor workout in a spin room through a process too ridiculous to describe without further debasing myself. Wednesday, I’ll try to ride rollers for a bit and end up refreshing the comments section of this article waiting for someone to respond positively. Thursday, with shaking hands from spending too much of the day in a cafe, perhaps I try to ride outdoors, perhaps I see if a couple extra hours of sleep will make me faster. Friday – taper. Then Saturday is Race Day, where I’ll probably have to be up moving and full of 12 servings of mud, around 5 O’clock if not earlier so that we can make it to Stevens in time for the team time trial, after which I will elevate my legs, eat cereal, and do a mix of napping and cheering on my teammates until I need to start getting ready for my race around 1.

          My day-of preparation will go as follows: I will stop eating around 11 or Noon, thinking that if I eat any more, I will either cramp up or get fat; I will complain about how there’s not enough coffee at ECCC races. I will put on too many clothes and stuff some cookies in my pockets for quick fuel when I need to close a gap or bribe someone into slowing down a little bit (“I’ll give you a cookie if you take the foot off the gas pedal. Honestly, I have cookies in my pocket, and they’re pretty good too. I’ve had four already.”) I will drink any caffinated substance I can find; I will pour Five Hour Energy into my bottles while my coach is not looking. I will show up to the startline jittering and bloated like a balloon strapped to a Brookstone massage chair, and waste about 300 calories trying to be sociable to a bunch of grad students who will whip out their leg-destroying machines some hour later to suck my muscles clean off the bone. The race will begin and some people with a lot more ambition, talent, stupidity, gross distortion of their abilities, endurance, pride, or anything that would make someone want to exert a bunch of effort for a chance of winning in the low zeros than I have will go rocketing off the front, and we’ll spend the first 20 minutes huffing it to chase them down. After the first break has been caught, I will eat a cookie and drink some watered down energy drink. This will give me power and confidence for when I stupidly end up 50 meters up the road for ten minutes, burning every match that I’ve been collecting in glycogen stores since I started my non-training in November. At this point, the race will be a quarter done and will settle down for a bit. I will then ask, “Where are all the Cat 1s?” The answer will be that they have already finished the race without any of the rest of us knowing, in addition, all riders of my age will also have made the split, leaving me stranded amongst a slew of people who have no appreciation for my antics. I will cry and binge-eat three more cookies. After another hour, I will take part in the bunch sprint for eighth place and come in ninth (out of the sprinters, for a combined total of seventeenth place.) I will then realize that I was not actually sprinting for eighth place, but for twenty-third, and everyone who finished behind me had just come off a nine-month chemotherapy treatment.

          I will get off the bike, and try to gather myself, as my team is antsy to leave after being at the race for eleven hours straight. On the ride back, I will detect a tone in both my teammates’ and my Coach’s voices that lets me know that I ‘should have started in Bs.’ I will become indignant and write an article about how the ECCC is rigged in favor of people who care about the sport and/or train. I will delete it and post something far more nonsensical.

          The sport is masochistic and addictive – it’s a disease more than anything. The people who show up to the race aren’t some sort of a support group, they’re the decadent enablers for one of the primary reasons that I’m so lonely, the people who give back pats and accolades, sick props and depraved facilitation to the leg-shaving and the spandex, to the tan lines and the disproportionate bodies, to the hours spend on a leather crotch-hammer pelting road noise into the perineum, to the artful sock choice and tasteful cap addition, color coordination and bar-tape job, to the glossed up account of the top ten finish in a weekday criterium some six months ago, to all the stupid trivialities of a sport that, at our school, has less members and appeal than the Quiddich Team. There is no other option. There’s no methadone for the sport besides self-loathing, laziness, jealousy, contempt, and beyond-marginal weight-gain: we’re all stuck in this vicious cycle; staring at VeloNews instead of training, pretending that we’ll go out tomorrow and instead watching reruns of Flanders, or Roubaix: It has you even when it doesn’t. There are really two ways to go about it: you can chase a dragon named “W” who keeps getting bigger as you pull off his Gecko tail, or you can ride alongside those lightspeed lunatics deep into their binge, trying to hang on, maybe getting a kick out of some pictures thrown up on the Facebook, getting a little joy when a teammate can throw his hands in the air, getting a little pulled in when you sneak into a break, when you can smell the dragon’s sweet embers, when you go for it. There’s one way to race your bike. It hurts and fills your head with lunacy. But it’s a fun ride. It’s such a fun ride.

(At best, this piece is entirely constructed on lies in order to arrive at the one definitive proto-truth of the season (that winning anything is a pipe dream) – no one shaves their legs with steak knives, Juniors need at least 5 seconds to recover, and I drink at least twice as much coffee as reported. If you are interested, my bicycle is named Charlotte. )