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Road 2014: Week 7, Nittany Cycling Classic

Black Moshannon Road Race. Fraternity Row Criterium. Pennsylvania State University. These are the legendary landmarks of the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference, and the popular races that draw riders from all over to test their mettle in the Nittany Cycling Classic hosted by Penn State. With finals starting for some schools and Easter Sunday, there was a noticeable drop in rider participation- nevertheless, teams still made the trek to hunt for more points for the season.

Saturday opened up to wispy blue skies and temperatures rising into short-sleeve weather. Race headquarters and trainers for set up for the day for a team time trial and road race at Black Moshannon State Park in the rolling heart of Pennsylvania. For the first morning race, there was a 9.5 mile team time trial with power climbs and descents that promised fast times for seasoned riders. Interestingly enough, some of the more veteran teams were absent from the races. The hosting Penn State did not submit a men’s A team, and Northeastern ended up seven miles off course. The winners of the A fields were incredibly unique- Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) set the bar with a time of 22:48.50, with the regulated four-man team size comprised of two men’s A riders, a men’s B and a women’s A racer. On the women’s side, Columbia University was the sole entrant and default winner of the morning race.

The afternoon road race was the real fixture of the day, if not the entire weekend. A 21-mile loop of 50mph descents and three major climbs, the last of which is a grinding five miler that overlooks the valley. In the men’s A race, it was a constant game of hard solo attacks, the pack reeling in riders off the front and dropping even more off the back. Nearly half the field dropped out or was pulled from the three-lap struggle of a race. The final major surge was by Brett Wachtendorf (Penn State), who made his move at the base of the final climb and managed to stay away to win his home race. Wachtendorf passed Zachary Ulissi (MIT), Daniel Holmdahl (Dartmouth College) and Alan Royek (Shippensburg University), a group that unsuccessfully tried to pull away beforehand. The three however would stay away from the rest of the diminished field to hold on for the finish. With Ulissi and Holmdahl- respectively one and two in the men’s overall standings- so focused on watching the other’s moves, it was an easy thing for Royek to collect himself and put out an unstoppable sprint to take second for the day.  The final podium spot was taken by Holmdahl, as he managed to nip Ulissi at the line at the end of a very long race.

Rose Long of Icahn School of Medicine, Shaena Berlin of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Monica Volk of Penn State Lehigh Valley- all of them mere mortals at the top of Saturday's final climb in the road race (Photo by Andrew Black)
Rose Long of Icahn School of Medicine, Shaena Berlin of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Monica Volk of Penn State Lehigh Valley- all of them mere mortals at the top of Saturday’s final climb in the road race (Photo by Andrew Black)

In the women’s A race, there was a bit more of wait involved before the solo acts began. Making her move up the first time up the major climb was Cecilia Davis-Hayes (Columbia)- whose wheel decided to flat at that moment. The move however encouraged the rest, and emerging over the top was Monica Volk (Penn State Lehigh Valley), Rose Long (Icahn School of Medicine) and Shaena Berlin (MIT). The three would work together to for most of the second of two laps. At the final climb however, Volk would peel off first Berlin and then Long to take the victory: no small feat for a freshman rider in her first collegiate season. For Long and Berlin, it was ‘just’ a matter of coming across the line to take second and third respectively in the conference’s toughest road race of the year. In an impressive display of fitness, Davis-Hayes managed to get another wheel from a support vehicle and rode hard to bridge back up to the pack to finish fifth for the day.

Brett Wachtendorf of Penn State ripping through the corners during the men's A race (Photo by Andrew Black)
Brett Wachtendorf of Penn State ripping through the corners during the men’s A criterium  (Photo by Andrew Black)

Teams setting up early Easter Sunday at Penn State’s Frat Row Criterium were greeted by cheery church goers and hung-over university students. The race was a flat six corner screamer of a race, changing from a narrow chicane to wide pavement turns for a great drag finishing stretch. In familiar fashion, Cecilia Davis-Hayes attacked on the first sprint lap and never looked back. Davis-Hayes would eventually lap and rejoin the main field- a move that all but locked up the win for the day and the lion’s share of sprint points to keep the green jersey. The pack however was not content to just sit idle, and a three lady chase group went off the field front: Shaena Berlin, Monica Volk and Elspeth Huyett (Kutztown University). The chase group roared around the course, but was unable to lap the field to catch up to Davis-Hayes. The three racers however managed to stay away from the rest of the field to take the rest of the sprint points. In the finishing sprint, it was Huyett that managed to outgun and outstrip to take victory in the pack sprint. Volk would managed to edge out Berlin for the final podium spot; Berlin however, had the last laugh, as she picked enough points to maintain the overall leader’s jersey over Davis-Hayes.

Penn State- lacking a rider in the women’s A/B race- was determined to show their worth as a fast cycling and hosting school on their home turf. From the gun their riders attacked and set up high speeds, stripping a full third of the field in the first five laps. In similar fashion to yesterday’s road race, no rider successfully managed to get away- even Brett Wachtendorf, the home road race winner, strung out the field towards the end but could not get away. Wachtendorf’s real plan however was to turn up the heat and draw attention away from his teammate Wes Kline for a field sprint win. University of Pittsburgh racer Michael Oltman however saw through the ruse and marked Wachtendorf’s wheel throughout the final laps of the race. Oltman’s hunch paid off, and he came into the finish with a head of steam Kline could not match to take the duel and the day. Kline- who flatted, crashed and rejoined the race on a free mechanical lap- did Penn State proud to take second, with Jules Goguely (Rhode Island School of Design) taking third. Daniel Holmdahl (Dartmouth College) picked up an impressive 20 sprint points to further his hold on the sprinter’s jersey- and a final position in the finishing sprint to finally overtake Zachary Ulissi for first in the overall men’s standing

The weekend omnium was won by MIT with 210 points. Hosting team Penn Sate finished second (197 points) by a scant point over Columbia University (196 points). With only one more weekend left in the books before the season’s and double points on the line for the championship weekend, riders everywhere look with baited breath to see who will take it all- the season leader’s jerseys for sprints and overall, the divisional victories for their school and the championship races.

Full results are available from the ECCC calendar.

 

Zachary Ulissi of MIT leads the field through the course. Just look at how breathtaking the man is. He and Shaena Berlin still managed to find time to e-mail the blogosphere for race details. Next you will tell me the man has a doctorate as well. Don't actually tell me- I could not stand that much awe (Photo by Andrew Black)
Zachary Ulissi of MIT leads the field through the criterium. Just look at how breathtaking the man is. On top of being fast, he and Shaena Berlin still managed to find time to e-mail the blogosphere for race details. Next you will tell me the man has a doctorate as well. Don’t actually tell me- I could not stand that much awe (Photo by Andrew Black)

*Reporting for this recap was made possible by a very detailed e-mail and generous help from MIT’s powerhouses Shaena Berlin and Zachary Ulissi. Still, ECCC writer Benjamin Kramer is prone to slip-ups and lacking enough pictures (there can never be enough). Feel free to e-mail him to help make past and future race reports accurate and awesome.*

Road 2014: Week 6, New England Sufferfest

Another springtime weekend, another set of bike races. The Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference headed to the far northern New England for bike for a time trial, criterium and road race. The sixth weekend of racing hosted by Dartmouth College and the University of Vermont (UVM), looked to be an exciting episode of fastest bike racer in the Northeast.

Sunny skies and fair temperatures greeted racers as they assembled for the day in Hanover, New Hampshire at Dartmouth campus. The 2.7 mile time trial was the first event of the day, featuring power climbs, fast flats and a wall of a finishing hill. Taking the fastest time of the day was Dartmouth’s top male rider and race coordinator Daniel Holmdahl, powering through the course in 7:38.42. Rounding out the podium was Zachary Ulissi of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and David Ziehr of Harvard College, finishing the course with times of 7:42.86 and 7:50.50 respectively.

On the women’s side, it was Columbia University’s Cecilia Davis-Hayes that beat all the collegiate ladies- and a lot of collegiate gentlemen too-, taking the morning’s race in 8:52.29. Behind her was Michelle Khare of Dartmouth and Shaena Berlin (MIT), in 9:04.26 and 9:09.06- the former defending her home race, the latter the conference points leader’s jersey.

Teams packed up and moved camp to the other side of campus for the infamous Frat Row Criterium race, where wide roads and smooth corners let racers try all tactics to win on their terms. Terms, that Elizabeth White of UVM, decided would be of her choosing. White jumped at the gun and built up to a fifty-second lead on the women’s A field for most of the race to collect three easy sprint victories for herself. The field seemed content to let White think she had the race. Halfway through, they decided to put pedal to the metal, catch a tired White and eventually drop her. In an exciting show of dueling racers and finishing finesse, the wily veteran Rose Long (Icahn School of Medicine) surged forward to win the bunch sprint, ahead of Khare (Dartmouth) and Davis-Hayes (Columbia). Davis-Hayes had- surreptitiously, with most of the focus on White’s breakaway- won all pack sprints and points to claim the green sprinter’s jersey, taking back the lead from Berlin.

The field in the men’s A however would not let any rider imitate White’s breakaway performance. Several riders put out strong moves, and every time the pack would let them wear their legs out for a lap before bringing them back into the field. The sprint points was a battle of Dartmouth’s lone wolf Holmdahl versus the MIT men getting their man and conference sprint leader Ulissi- not to mention the rest of the bloodthirsty men’s field, in the hunt for glory and points. Holmdahl would take an impressive 25 points for the day over Ulissi’s 9- enough break Ulissi’s six-week stranglehold on the sprinter’s jersey. The final few laps saw solo riders still making attacks in attempts to break the field, but to no avail. In the end and coming out ahead of the pack was Jules Goguely of Rhode Island School of Design. Strung out behind him was Mathieu Boudier-Revéret  of the University of Montreal, and Cory Small of UVM.

Sunday morning’s weather was at odds with riders’ experience from the previous day. Cold, rainy and blustery winds- all the elements New Englanders have come to expect with the unpredictable spring weather. Racers had little choice but to bundled up on rain gear and lathered on warming cream to for UVM’s road race up near Burlington, VT. The uncooperative weather was not enough to have the planned finishing climb up Mount Philo, instead forcing race organizers to pick one of the many climbs and false flats for the finish. Cecilia Davis-Hayes (Columbia) was up to her usual tricks, and went out hard to put an eleven minute gap on the women’s A pack. The only one to go with her and match her pedal-for-pedal was Shaena Berlin (MIT). Davis-Hayes however would burn Berlin on the final climb and win the race in 2:39:04. Berlin- in no less of an impressive show of fitness- would finish second, only thirty-four seconds back. Coming in third and ahead of a very splintered women’s combined A/B field in a time of 2:47:26 was Michelle Khare (Dartmouth), putting out three for three in podium appearances for the weekend.

Midway through the day, and second wave of races, the sun broke out and temperatures rose from mid-thirties to high fifties. In the men’s A race, the weather change and race course did little to break up the bulk of the field. Thomas Barnett (Providence), David Ziehr (Harvard) and Samuel O’Keefe (Middlebury) would turn on the after burners and take the race for themselves. The three would finish in order, in minute gaps, ahead of the field a commanding show of race ability and grit.

Thomas Barnett of Providence (left) and Jules Goguely of Rhode Island School of Design posing together Sunday. Both had victories in races, and are hosting the ECCC Championships on 4/26-27/14
Thomas Barnett of Providence College (left) and Jules Goguely of Rhode Island School of Design posing together Sunday. Barnett won Sunday’s road race, and Goguely won the criterium Saturday.  Their schools, along with Brown University, are hosting the ECCC Championships on 4/26-27/14 (Photo by Thomas Barnett)

The weekend omniun was won by Dartmouth College (255 points), breaking MIT’s winning streak of six weeks for overall points. MIT was second with 235 points, followed by UVM with 174 points.

Full results are available from the ECCC calendar.

*feel free to e-mail ECCC writer Benjamin Kramer  pictures for race reports, corrections or for bike rides- All things everyone could do more with*

Road 2014: Week 5, Army Spring Classic

The Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference got a reprieve of foul weather with a treat of sunshine and above freezing temperatures for the Army Spring Classic. The fifth weekend of racing, hosted by and held at West Point College, featured four races: a hill climb, a criterium, team time trial and road race.

Dawn broke clear over the exposed slope of West Point’s campus, where a 2.6 mile individual time trial would present a fairly challenging climb. Going for the consecutive time trial win was Erik Levinsohn (Yale), taking the fastest time of the day with 10:37.12. Taking second was Craig Richey (Bentley University) in 11:21.11, followed by Dominic Caiazzo (Northeastern) in 11:25.77.

Back on top and in form was Shaena Berlin (MIT), fastest woman of the day in a time of 13:56.4. Right behind her was Michelle Khare (Dartmouth), back only by 5.13 seconds. In third was Monica Volk of Penn State Lehigh Valley, with a time of 14:14.44.

The day grew overcast but the weather held out for the afternoon criterium. Held at Campground Buckner, the course featured a windy highway stretch, gradual slopes and curves- perfect for a fast showdown. Levinsohn however decided to turn the screws on partway through the Men’s A race and gap the main field for the win by 40 seconds. The only racer to successfully follow Levinsohn was Daniel Lazier of Bucknell University, who was nipped at the line by two seconds. Winning the pack sprint was Julian Georg (Syracuse). While pulled early from the race, Daniel Holmdahl (Dartmouth) managed to pick up five sprint points, putting him two points behind taking the green jersey.

There would be no breaking away in the Women’s A race however; the group stayed fast and tight from the bell to the line. Taking the field win in a fast face-off was Katherine Wymbs (MIT), followed by Rose Long (Icahn School of Medicine) and Elspeth Huyett of Kutztown University. The four different sprints and four placings were split between six women- no doubt a sign of calculated determination to bridge the gap on Berlin’s pacing from the rest of the field. With three weekends of criteriums and sprint points left, there is still plenty of ground to be made up.

Sunday’s races- the team time trial and road race- were staged and held at Lake Harriman and Lake Welch Parkway. The morning time trial was fraught with some typical misfortunes; flats, crashes, lost riders. A particularly unfortunate example among them was MIT Men’s A team- with one rider getting a flat at the start and the rest of the team later crashing out on a sandy turn. Taking the victory for the day was Northeastern University, in a time of 17:54.75, followed by Dartmouth College (18:28.1) and the University of Delaware (19:19.22). On the women’s side, MIT went three-for-three in team time trials for another victory, in a time of 21:26.63. Trailing was was Columbia University (22:51.98), and Yale University (23:22.15).

The afternoon sun and temperatures rose for the road race- the first one successfully held this season due to bad weather shortening the other planned races earlier in the season. Showing his trademark strategy- make a break and make it stick-, Levinsohn once again turned on the engine and won a third straight individual race in dominating fashion, finishing the 70 mile race in 3:13:54. Levinsohn’s flawless, albeit time trial-esque, weekend was enough to move him ahead into first overall in season points. Second in the road race was Brett Wachtendorf (Pennsylvania State) in 3:15:01 and Holmdahl (Dartmouth) in 3:15:06. Holmdahl’s work put him into third overall in the men’s standing, putting him in the precarious position to take both the sprinter’s and leader’s jersey by season’s end.

The Women’s A race, on the other hand, was a more familiar story with road races: a suffer march of last (wo)man standing takes all. That day, it was Khare (Dartmouth) that took the victory in a time of 3:00:44- more proof that the Big Green’s tough legs and tougher riders deserve to be ahead of the field. Back by one second for the next podium step was Volk (Penn State Lehigh Valley), followed by Semian Bailey (Kutztown) in 3:00:58. At the end of the weekend, Khare and Wymbs (MIT) were the ones to consistently to work the gap on Shaena Berlin’s double- and potentially insurmountable- hold on the sprinter’s and leader’s jersey.

The weekend omnium was won by MIT (327 points), followed by Dartmouth College (296) and Yale University (216) With the conference traveling north to a joint hosted event by Dartmouth and University of Vermont next weekend, racers look with baited breath to see who will snatch the coveted points for the season’s overall standings

Full results are available from the ECCC calendar.

*feel free to e-mail ECCC writer Benjamin Kramer  pictures for future, timely race reports. Apparently waiting  long enough will convince other people to post just the pictures, but Kramer is more than willing to cooperate to compensate his camera-less-ness*

 

Back in my day…

In an effort to test the collective ECCC alumni-held thought of ‘It was harder when I was there,’ the Army circuit race at Camp Buckner will feature past champions of the ECCC integrated into the present collegiate fields. By pairing the best of the past with the best of the present, all members of the conference will finally see if it really was harder back then.

In order to ensure the belief is tested for all fields, the returning riders will be incorporated into the fields they dominated.

The unprecedented effort to solve the age old problem is made possible by an increase in racing fees in 2014. Already, through increased ridership and the fee increase, the airfare of 10 returning riders have been provided. There are currently 6 spots open for this unique opportunity. If you have any suggestions, please leave them below.

Efforts are currently being coordinated to prevent the confouding effect of fitness lost or gained. If you are a 1) PhD student and 2) putting off some experiment please contact the author with your suggestions or comment below.

Currently, the list for consideration is below:

Erica Allar

Mike Friedman

Dan Cassidy

Megan Guarnier

Road 2014: Week 4, Monsoon Massachusetts

The last weekend of March racing in the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference was hosted by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the current conference team leader. With tour de force racers Zachary Ulissi and Shaena Berlin-both owning the sprints and leader’s jerseys- representing at their home races and imminent foul weather incoming, it looked like the stage was set for a memorable event.

Saturday morning broke to clear skies and warm- as warm as you could hope for chilly New England- temperatures for the time trial up Mount Wachusett. Taking the fastest time of the day was Erik Levinsohn (Yale), blazing along for a time of 15:17.58. Back 24.4 seconds was Ulissi, followed by David Ziehr of Harvard with a time of 15:47.10 to round out the first podium of the day.

In her debut individual time trial, Cecilia Davis-Hayes of Columbia University stormed up the mountain in 17:53.74, decisively beating the women’s field by nearly eighty seconds. Berlin was second with a time of 19:14.36, edging out Michelle Khare (Dartmouth) by 0.6 seconds.

The afternoon criterium- precisely engineered by MIT to break any rider’s spirit with two 120o turns and a wall of a finishing climb- looked to be another exciting episode of “Who Gets the Green Jersey?” to watch. It ended up being Lenore Pipes (Cornell) and Davis-Hayes making this week’s edition featuring just them, as they broke away early to take charge of the coveted sprint points. Davis-Hayes took three of four sprints to take away the green jersey, but it was Pipes that lead up the final climb and stayed in front to take the duel and the victory. The two’s move shattered the women’s A field into small rider packs. Shaena Berlin was in the first pack and she surged ahead in the end for the last podium spot, breaking ahead of Khare and Leslie Lupien (Dartmouth).

The weather had turned threatening mid-day, started drizzling mid-afternoon and became officially rain just in time for the Men’s A field for the final race of the day. Despite repeated best attempts, no group or rider was able to properly break away. Daniel Holmdahl (Dartmouth) however managed to secure four out of six sprint preems and second in a fifth to chip away at Zachary Ulissi’s seemingly large sprint leading. In the end, Northeastern riders Dominic Caiazzo and Ford Murphy managed to put the one-two punch on the field in a hard surge that kept them up front and away in the last laps for the win. Leading the charge of the field for the final podium spot was Jack Kissebereth (Tufts).

Sunday morning broke to cold, wet conditions. So wet unfortunately, that the planned road race course and the back-up course were flooded beyond levels safe enough to race. USAC officials however managed to put together a fast seven-mile loop for a circuit race with quality climbs and a fast downhill straightaway for a finish- perfect for a final showdown for racers. Cecilia Davis-Hayes however seemed determined to prove that bunch finishes are not her modus operandi. With legs bare and guns blazing, Davis-Hayes took off and never looked back as she put an eight minute lead on the field for a second and cold victory of the weekend. Taking the field contest was Lupien (Dartmouth) and Semian Bailey of Kutztown University of Pennsylvania. After this weekend, Davis-Hayes is the current sprint leader in the women’s field and is snapping at the heels of Shaena Berlin for being the overall points leader.

In the men’s A race, it was Tom Barnett- the Red Friar of Providence himself- winning the exciting showdown of a race that splintered half of the field. Coming in hot right behind Barnett to round out the podium was Jonah Mead-Vancort (Killington Mountain School) and Zachary Ulissi. It is worth noting that Ulissi and Mead-Vancort are one-two in the overall points for the Men’s field, and currently are trended to stay that way if not stopped. It is also worth noting that Lenore Pipes- third in points for the women’s overall- seemed uninterested in wanting to time trial with Davis-Hayes and raced in the Men’s A race, where to no small relief, she did not win.

The weekend omnium was won by MIT with 236 points, followed by  Dartmouth College (193 points) and Northeastern University (173 points). With the season officially halfway over and only four weekends left, the rest of  2014 ECCC racing looks to be very exciting.

Full results are available from the ECCC calendar.

 

*feel free to e-mail ECCC writer Benjamin Kramer  pictures for race reports, as he spends way too much money on his bike to buy his own camera*

Road 2014: Week 3, Cool Times in New York

The third week of racing for the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference headed last weekend to eastern New York, with Bard College and RPI hosting a joint weekend of racing. Chilly temperatures and threatening snow were at odds with the first ‘official’ weekend of spring, as collegiate riders bundled up for a criterium, team time trial and road race.

Saturday’s race was the Bard Campus Criterium, featuring a paved loop through the heart of Bard College that allowed spectators to view nearly the entire race from the finish. Sara Giopannetti took first blood in the Women’s A race, as she made a solo breakaway in the later laps after a small crash in the field. Giopannetti managed to hold off a charging field in the last hundred meters as Rose Long (Icahn School of Medicine) surged to the front for second. Leslie Lupien (Dartmouth) managed to nip her teammate Michelle Khare at the finish for the final podium spot. While removed from overall contention from the late race crash, Shaena Berlin (MIT) still managed to collect first in three out of four sprints and keep the green jersey.

Daniel Holmdahl (Dartmouth) leading the pain train
Daniel Holmdahl (Dartmouth) leading the pain train (photo by Tom Nguyen)

In the Men’s A race, it was a familiar story of “start fast, breakaway early,” as a four man team worked together and succeeded in lapping the main field. While another group managed to put more distance on the main pack, they never managed to come around to the leaders. Taking top honors was Cameron McPhaden (Queens), with Zachary Ulissi (MIT) and Max Rusch (RPI) beating out Dennis Cottreau (McGill) for the podium steps. Ulissi picked up points in five out of six sprints to further secure his hold on the green jersey, leaving the rest of the ECCC to wonder who will relieve MIT of their duo sprint standings.

Frigid spring temperatures were unhelpful in thawing ice on the roads, causing race officials to make a difficult decision to scrap the afternoon road race. Instead, Sunday consisted of two time trials through the rolling Rensselaer County. The morning team time trial was won by Queens University’s quick men and MIT’s fast females. In the afternoon, it was Ulissi and Berlin of MIT taking top honors and propelling their team to first for the weekend with 186 points. Queen’s University- for their final weekend of racing in the ECCC- took second with 173 points, followed by Dartmouth College with 142 points.

Full results are available from the ECCC calendar.

*feel free to keep e-mailing ECCC writer Benjamin Kramer  pictures for race reports, as his camera is currently nonexistent* 

Cycling Chow: Return of the Muffin

In case anyone was wondering, yes I did make a batch of rice cakes and muffins for the opening weekend- I will get to the muffins in a second-, and no, they did not propel me to victory. I think that is the sort of problem that can only be solved by adding more wattage to the cottage. If I’m going to keep playing the blame game, there are a few other things that I would blame for subpar racing: potholes, slush freezing on my cleats, a bike that is in need of a good trip to the repair shop, not enough sleep, too hard of a ride the day before, and other lame excuses*.

Oh well. Spit in the wind, and see if it comes back.

So about my muffins. I’m pretty happy that I decided to include those in my war chest of a nutrition bank, particularly for this venue. Stevens (Hoboken) Institute of Technology managed to not only find the one plot of land in New Jersey removed from traffic, but one not walking distance of a Subways or convenience store between races. Eating and drinking properly in between races is a vital part of dealing with multiple races in one day. Think about how your legs feel. “Hey legs, let’s wake you up with a minimal warm-up, pedal a time trial REAL FAST, then just sit in agony without refueling until our next race, which you then inexplicably give out and leave us off the back of the pack. Or, you know, stand in agony, as we want to watch the Intro riders suffer through their first bike race.” At least walking to buy a six inch meatball sub to stuff your face encourages loosening up your legs.

(Good side note, if you ever have down time in between races, elevating your feet helps with recovery. So legs up, ECCC, let them pale things tan a bit)

I got this muffin recipe from my mom’s circle of cooking friends. The big highlights of these muffins are they are very filling and simple to make. To the cooking club, this means “gluten-free”, “wholesome” and “healthy option for breakfast.” To me- the college student on a budget-, it means “cheap”, “cheap” and “maybe they will be easy enough to bake about fifty minutes before the team vans roll out for the weekend.” You can follow the recipe to a T, and they should be about as tasty as what I have eaten at home. Or, you can use the abbreviated version below that I whipped up. It is basically the same, but a bit more… improvised.

  • Eggs from last week
  • Applesauce
  • Honey
  • Chocolate soy milk
  • One really brown, ripe banana
  • Old fashioned rolled oats (Bob’s Red Mill)
  • Oatmeal (Quakers, because I forgot the flaxseed and felt obligated to throw something else in)
  • Baking powder (the magical component that prevents this from just being a massive bowl of hearty oatmeal)
  • Cinnamon and sugar (because oh snap, they can come together premixed! Plus, I ate all of the chocolate chips on my own- I mean, my friends ate them)

Mix your wet ingredients together, then your dry ingredients and plop them in cupcake liners. Frantically place the filled cupcake liners in a muffin tray. Bake them at a hot enough temperature, periodically stabbing them with a butter knife to check for readiness. Take the tray out of the oven while you finalize packing your overnight bag. Throw the muffins in a Tupperware, and then kick yourself for putting hot baked goods in a closed container where they can get condensation and might taste gross.

Proceed to eat them whenever hungry, because everything tastes good on a bike**

*By listing the usual silly explanations for failure that most riders use, I hope to highlight how ridiculous the whole blame game analyzing your performance post-race can be. I actually thought Stevens did a great job of hosting a weekend, and look forward to future races of the season held to similar standards.

**I did not actually eat my rice cakes or muffins during my bike races; I still have not engineered a foolproof system for unwrapping baked goods without the fear of getting dropped by the pack mid-race. I will get around to Joe’s suggestion of wax paper, but feel free to comment on what has worked for you.

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.