Category Archives: Random

Welcome to the Zen Zone

Close your eyes and imagine it. The raw cold that bites the exposed skin, causing you to squirm. The nervous energy, focused as two points of force pressed and drawn back under your cheeks. Feel it first with your skin, then let it thrum deep in your chest. Your field of vision is narrowed to just your handlebars, the matte finish line tape and water in your eyes. Make that deep breath count, for it will be your last before the plunge. As the race official puffs up for the whistle blow, you ask yourself: why am I doing this again?

Let’s take a real good look at what we do here. Tomorrow, ECCC riders will have driven at least two tanks of gas worth just so they can exercise at the crack of dawn on dangerous pieces of equipment at death-defying speeds, ready and willing to risk neck and limb to move up a slot on the results sheet because complicated points system, that’s why. Most people can usually find at least one thing about that last sentence that sounds unappealing. Chances are after hearing your explain your sport while riding rollers at the gym, they feel the need to point it out to you— as if this was some new perspective you had never considered before. And this whole time, you thought everyone was comfortable sitting on a bike seat. You tell them the long hours getting massive leg muscles and a hunched posture is a worthwhile price to pay for bike racing. Then they say, what for?

The circular nature of this all-too-familiar conversation is probably like your workout: mind-numbing and getting you both nowhere. There might be a vague reason or two that got you hooked on bike racing, and a dozen more that justify its place as a good activity. Turning this article into a listicle of “Why We Bike” is at best lazy writing and at worst pedantic to a fault. Will enumerating five or ten reasons be enough to get people off your case and accept your pastime? Is there a minimal level of appeal or pragmatism that we need to achieve to choose how we use our time? This sport is not my first love. It’s probably my seventh when I think of things I would rather spend my time and money doing.  If you are getting a bit too much existential dread explaining bike racing to others- or to yourself while cranking mile three out of five of a hill climb- why this sport is worthy of so much pain and emotion, use mine:

Because. That’s why.

Never mind that bike racing is just the literal and metaphoric vehicle for basically all of my social and fitness time for the next seven months. Or with all the stress of long-term projects, saddling up on weekends is how I deal. I do not do this to feel better about myself. Indeed, anyone that has actually ridden hard before can tell you this sport makes you feel the opposite of fresh, pretty and accomplished. Racing bikes might make you feel miserable or fantastic; it does not really matter which. Heck, the reason why you come every weekend might not be just for the bikes. Hands up if you are here to meet cute people in spandex, and keep them there if you think these venues are the best and worst places to meet said people.

For the rest of the world that will not be getting up at ungodly weekend hours the next couple of months, they may never get this sport. It’s too easy, too hard, or not just right. Great, that’s like half of humanity’s problems right there: miscommunication, or not conveying what we really mean to say to people. Now more than ever is it easy to sit comfortable, anonymous and critical of what others do. Not everyone is going to understand exactly what you say or do: too bad for them. It’s not their problem, and their issue with it is not yours. To those however, meditating instead on your race strategy/survival plan— I salute you. For your upcoming season, race as hard as you want.  Why?

Because. That’s why.

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. )

Monday through Friday: Race to the Races

By Lydia Hausle – BU

Just one of many ECCC "team vehicles"
Just one of many ECCC “team vehicles”

When we finally park the van, empty the bikes, dispose of the half eaten sandwiches, and depart to our separate dwellings every Sunday night, we all let out a little sigh of relief. There’s no denying that the exciting weekends of the ECCC are exhausting. However, each week, the anticipation built up for the following weekend of racing manifests in a number of highly unproductive ways. I like to think of this as the ultimate race to the race.

The whole process involves a complete preoccupation with all things collegiate cycling. It’s taxing on your work. Your friends become strangers. Your professors think you’ve suddenly become very ADD. It’s what gets us through the week, and it generally goes something like this:

Monday: Recovery ride. Your spaghetti legs reaffirm your concern that you in fact did not train hard enough. First stop, coffee (espresso preferred in order to boost your euro swag). Second stop, Internet. You begin to obsessively search Twitter, Facebook, and road-results.com for pictures. You relive the races, seeing yourself with all the glory that never existed (unless you’re Robin Carpenter or Lenore Pipes).

Tuesday: Two to three hours with a couple of zone four intervals. Legs are still tired, but you’re hopeful that you can finally make your solo break stick this weekend. Do laundry, but only the things necessary for next weekend (not even the bank has enough quarters to get through the whole pile of laundry).

Wednesday: Feeling the building excitement for the upcoming weekend, you do some sprint drills. You begin to wonder, albeit halfheartedly, how you are going to manage to produce all this research before the end of the semester. The lab that should have taken you 2 hours has now kept you awake until two in the morning because Ryan T. Kelly won’t stop tweeting about how he wishes he were in grad school.

Thursday: Time to get serious. Race is in two days, gotta loosen up the legs. 2 hours, easy pace. Get home, take careful time to plan out each day’s kit. You make it to class, but only end up looking over the race flyer and studying the weekend’s courses. You plan your strategy, and begin recruiting your teammates for a lead out. A massive pasta dinner ensues, complete with reruns of last years Giro.

Friday: You’ve strategically structured your class and work schedule to be completely open on Fridays. You head out for a ride with a couple of short hard efforts to open up the legs. Head to the grocery store and buy a week’s worth of bread and peanut butter, knowing that it’s not enough. Lube the bike, grab your bibs numbers, and head out to get in the van. Finally, the weekend is here and you are reunited with the only people who understand how long the week has been. You pull out some homework, but never glance down at it. The Katy Perry tunes are cranked up way too loud for that, and besides, it’s almost race time. You’re race to the race is really just beginning.

The Weekend Hangover

By John Herrick

Trying to spin 4am Dunkin' Donuts out of the legs....
Trying to spin 4am Dunkin’ Donuts out of the legs….

Monday I woke up, listened to my alarm for a couple minutes, shut it
off, then listened to my roommates get ready for work, rolled over,
and woke up again to my second alarm. I got out of bed and it felt as
though house was tilted, maybe swinging back and forth, and my heart
was slamming against my chest. Light headed and hazy-eyed I made it to
the bathroom, drank some water and washed my face.

My mind struggled to put together the pieces from the night before.
That is because I was not doing keg stands all night. It is not Sunday
afternoon. Instead, we were racing bikes for the first time in months.
It is Monday morning. This is the Rutgers Hangover.

Let’s back up to 4:00 AM on Saturday in a moonlit parking lot. To one
side, headlamps light up a Box O’ Joe and to the other side a halogen
lamp lights up a box of numbers – our collegiate identity for the next
nine race weekends. Vans idle with the heat blasted and stuffed with
anxious bike racers deprived of their sleep and continental
breakfasts.

The moon finally sets, the sun rises, the blasted heat turns to music,
and we hear the first call to staging. The party begins.

It’s 70 degrees in the van and 38 degrees out side. Throughout the
morning, we hop in and out. For some of us, our head becomes congested
and our noses start to run before noon. We could geek out about the
effects that this temperature inconsistency has on our body’s
defenses. We won’t.

Lets just say you are now two beers deep.

We could also evaluate the effects of riding six to eight hours on six
to eight hours of sleep over the course of a weekend. Again, we will
not.

It’s kind of like four beers deep.

In addition to our current buzz, a 48-hour diet of stolen snacks from
the hotel, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and fast food must
equate to a couple of beers.

It’s not that race weekends are miserable. Just as every beer adds to
the experience of a night, so does every incremental slap to your
body’s face. If we didn’t like this sort of stuff, we would not race
our bikes.

After six hours of travel time and logistical decision-making from
Jamesburg, N.J. to Burlington, Vt., you are greeted with euphoria at
your first step out of the van. You drag your luggage home, it begins
to snow again, you walk into your apartment and everyone is fast
asleep. It’s now approaching the early hours of Monday morning. You’re
exhausted. You open a beer and just sit down.

You are now eight beers deep. The hangover begins

Wonder Women of the ECCC

Women's A/B Crit, Rutgers
Women’s A/B Crit, Rutgers.

By Molly Bulger

The Wonder Women of the ECCC are already strutting their stuff and we’ll only get stronger and faster from here! The beginning of the season is distinctly interesting in women’s racing because there are always women racing Intros that will end up winning the B category by the end of the spring. We see beloved old faces and new excited faces. We see beloved old bikes and new sparkly Six Series Madones that you look at and you’re like “mmm what’s cookin’ good lookin’?” There’s talk about spring break training trips and the elevation profile of Shippensburg; everyone exchanges knowing looks about the hill climbs of the following two months. Speaking of hill climbs… maybe we’ll overtake the Men’s B field, like we did in the Dartmouth road race last year, again this year. (I hope so…watch out men’s B racers.)
 

Although ALL the ladies in the place with style and grace deserve a shout out because we came, we saw, we conquered, and we’re gonna do it again next week, there are some gals that are consistently leading our packs. For the A women, MIT’s Shaena Berlin, Cornell’s Lenore Pipes, and Kutztown’s Bailey Semian are raking in mamajama points, not to mention Rose Long; who knows what else Rose Long will have up her sleeve upon her return to the ECCC? The big winner B women this weekend include Emily Paxson from UVM, Marina Brown from Yale, and Adriane Hairston from Temple. I bet upgrade is a word on their minds… Lucie Vagnerova of Columbia, Lisa Fawcett of Cornell, Fitchburg High Schooler Victoria Gates, and Georgia Lagoudas and Katherine Wymbs of MIT among others are bringing home the bacon for the women’s C field. Hanna Lauterbach coming from RPI, Katie Maass from MIT, and Julia Schlesinger from Yale have got it goin’ on in the Intro women’s field. Rock on and keep it up, girls!! Also a big shout out to Betsey Pettitt, our female coordinator! If you haven’t met her yet, you will — she’s the smiley girl with the long blond braids in the UNH kit 🙂

 
No matter what our finishing positions were this weekend, or whether or not you’re satisfied with your results yet, I think every Wonder Woman of the ECCC should be should be proud that we’re growing in force (in number and watts) and that we’re all racing our hearts out. There’s communication within the pack and we’re accomplishing things we couldn’t do on our own. Three cheers to that! 

 
Among the glorious and notorious Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference as a whole, we hear Yale talking about overcoming cognitive dissonance while racing, MIT talking about testing bike aerodynamics in subsonic tunnels, UVM talking about Fox forks (wait what season is it?), and UNH talking about… who knows… well they’re probably just farting in the vans. But we’re all talking about how much we’re looking forward to the next couple months of bike racing! See y’all next week in the Big Apple! 

 

Winter Riding: The Lesser Evil

By John Herrick

The state of Monkton Road in Vermont on February 20, 2013
The state of Monkton Road in Vermont on February 20, 2013

Today, some of us woke up to sound of the plow scraping down the
street. Instantly, the plan for a five-hour day reduces to a two-hour
day. Then you look out the window and see that the trees hang heavy
with snow, the roads are flooded with a dark salty slush and cars spit
what mess is left on the roads onto the shoulder. Now you think rest
day.

For us northernmost collegiate cyclists, this sequence is an
unpredictable routine. During the winter, we have three options: the
gym, rollers, or coffee and riding outside before more coffee.

Because staring at the wall or freezing is not always fun, some of us
hit the grunt box. During my limited time in the gym, I got to see a
unique component of testosterone-laden athleticism foreign to many
cyclists. I learned that the mirror is not used for checking posture
or technique, one rep is not a weakness but rather the bravery to lift
more than you know you can, girls do cardio and others do their
homework, people can get really big, and people can get really hurt.
Actually though, these people have a better understanding of what they
are doing with that equipment than I do.

The rollers are not bad if you have a 10,000-watt stereo system and 20
years of cobbled classics on your hard drive. Matt Buckley, UVM
Cycling alumnus, is currently testing a new interval training
philosophy coined “Paris-Roubaix Intervals.” You ride your hardest
gear on the secteur pavé and play with your phone on the pavement.
Five minutes full gas across Touée d’Arenberg, ten kilometers of
texting, and then hammer from Hornaing to Wandignies. You get the
point.

Derek Harnden, UVM Cyling Alumnus, showing off his new bike this winter.
Derek Harnden, UVM Cyling Alumnus, showing off his new
bike this winter.

However, some of us put on a base layer, and another, a jacket, a
vest, a coat and another vest to brave the outdoors. Winter riding
means that you are tired of Roubaix. It means that when your
derailleur freezes, you stop to pee all over it, you desperately chew
on your salt and grit-covered ice bottles, you do not eat because you
fear your teeth will shatter against your frozen candy bar and you
ride an extra hour because you know that thawing hurts more than being
cold. Basically, it means that you believe you are tough until you stand
crying in the shower.

Winter can be hard. However, we keep our eyes on the prize: the
Rutgers Prologue – the most prestigious five minutes of early morning,
cross-eyed, and practically UCI-prohibited caffeine-induced collegiate
glory.  With this in mind, winter is easy.

Guess Who’s Back.

By Ben Civiletti

Get Ready.
Get Ready.

Back again. In December, the season is never coming. In January, there’s no point in thinking that far ahead. In February, it’s too late to do anything because the season is here. Ready or not, bike racing is three weeks away and it has been waiting for you since May. Time to get out those rollers, play some music you will soon hate, and pretend you’ve been doing this for months… Well that’s if you’re like me and you haven’t turned a pedal since October.

If you have, congratulations! You’ll be excited to know that you will be faster than me this season. Much, much faster. However, there are aspects of collegiate racing that do not involve fitness, and it is those areas that I devote my attention to in the long Winter months. My training has included: Short-short design, testing, and fabrication, caffeine tolerance building, techno brain-washing, thinking about bike riding, ignoring Lance Armstrong, looking at bicycles I can’t afford, and eating like I’m riding 5 hours a day. It’s been fantastic, but enough about me. This is about the ECCC.

Welcome to the Blogosphere. This is the place for race news, school blues, and strange views. We will feature blogs from all over the East Coast, present bootleg tech updates, write full race recaps, and have conversations with real pros who got their start in our little conference. It’s going to be a killer season, and an entity as glorious as the ECCC deserves a glorious home on the internet.

Stay with us as we follow the best circuit in cycling: collegiate competition in the East. Tired of the doping scandals? Care less about the UCI and more about looking fly? Want shorter shorts and tighter shirts? Your search is over. Prepare for the day of reckoning: 3/2/1(3). It begins.

ECCC’r on the Web

The racers of the ECCC are dynamic people who embody the ideal of the student athlete. Several of these people have created websites that further the awesomeness of the ECCC.

Ryan Kelly (Unh Alum) has developed www.therollercam.com. This site is a video chat room designed to enable cyclists to ride their trainers together. The site is free of charge. Misery loves company and cyclists love to heckle each other. This site weds the two beautifully.

Macky Franklin (Middlebury) has developed www.bicycle2bicyle.com as a social networking site centered around cycling.

Check it out!