Tuesday, April 26, 2016

ECCC Championships!

by Brian Drollette with pictures from the team






Oh how time flies by. It seems like just yesterday that we were lining up for our first races down south, trying to escape the northeast winter. Here we are now, in the middle of spring, with the 2016 collegiate road season behind us.

Five weekends of competition all over the northeast led up to these final three races to decide the champions of the conference. The two-day event opened with a team time trial followed by a road race in Warwick, MA on Saturday and ended with a criterium in Turner Falls, MA on Sunday.

Team Time Trial

The 11 mile out-and-back course was fairly standard for what we've seen so far this season, though with a few more hills. The women's C team of Molly Oakley and Liz Eldridge had a few hiccups along the way as Liz had a wheel malfunction, but they recovered and finished the course in just over 40 minutes. The men's C team of Jordan Bravin and Will Botta took a bit longer to get their game together after a few mishaps on the hills, but finished strong as they crossed the line in 31 minutes. The men's A team of Michael Grome, Michael Landry, Matt Ampleman, and Brian Drollette worked an efficient paceline through the first half of the course until Brian dropped off. From there, Grome and Landry pulled most of the way and allowed Matt to hang on as they crossed the line in 4th overall out of 10 teams. Thanks to the points doubling for the championships, that was good for 136 team points!

Road Race

Last weekend at West Point, the Bulldogs were faced with the toughest road race course of the year. That all changed this weekend thanks to MIT and UMass. Racers were challenged with multiple 12 mile loops of nearly 1,500ft of climbing, hairpin turns, and dirt roads. The course was so challenging that the officials delayed the second wave of races due to the first wave taking so long to finish.

Up first was Molly in her final race of her collegiate career. She navigated the 34 mile women's C race using her mountain biking skills on the dirt sections, but unfortunately was pulled after she lost contact with the lead group. In the men's C race, Will and Brian took control on the front for the first 5 miles and tried to stay with the peloton through the first dirt climb. They were both dropped and finished minutes behind the lead group in a completely shredded field. The difference between the first place rider and last place was over 30 minutes.

In the men's B race, Landry took control of the field while Matt tried to hang on through the second lap in his first ever B race. Landry took off the front with 2 other riders on the second dirt climb and held off the field long enough to create minutes of separation. He dropped the other two riders by the last dirt climb and cruised his way to yet another victory, over 90 seconds up on the second place rider. Matt rode with the peloton as long as possible until he dropped and pedaled his way to the finish.

Michael Grome, in the men's A race, was in his prime for this "fantastic monster" of a course. He and 7 other racers organized a breakaway on lap 2 of 6, and then soloed 2 laps to bridge and catch the second place rider up the road on lap 4. The two of them worked together to hold off the field with Mike doing most of the work, ultimately finding themselves in a sprint finish. He finished 3rd on the day in a great race.

Criterium

The final race of the season took place around beautiful Unity Park in Turner Falls. The course was 3/4 mile loop with three turns and one punchy and decisive climb on smooth, wide roads. Crit Monster Jordan took the first race of the day in the men's D field. On the climb, he was caught behind a crash that knocked his rear wheel out of place and caused it to rub against his bike frame, costing him precious watts. Still maintaining his sleek aero profile, Jordan finished the race looking as good as ever.

Next on the course were Brian and Will in the C race. Their legs felt trashed from the day before, and the hill only made it worse. Brian hung on to the front group, staying to the back and doing little work. He made up a few positions at the top of the climb due to an NYU crash, and sprinted to a 9th place finish. Will wasn't able to keep in contact with the front group and was pulled with over half of the field.



Matt and Landry in the B race looked strong the entire time. They both worked the front of the pack,
trying to catch a Brown rider that had kept a breakaway for over half of the race. Landry punched it on the final climb and took a rider from UVM with him down the hill, who eventually passed him on the final sprint. Landry squeaked out a 2nd place finish, beating a rider from UMass by mere inches at the line. Matt had some mechanical issues on the final climb but was able to recover and sprint to a solid mid pack finish!

Grome, in the last race of the season, felt good after his mighty efforts the day before. He worked hard to catch breaks and bridge gaps throughout the race. He lost an opportunity to create a gap on the final hill but still managed a great finish with the peloton.


Final Thoughts


There are several key components to a successful racing season that often go unnoticed. Clipping in and beginning to pedal is the final step in preparing for a race. The entire team is especially grateful to those who work their tails off to give us these opportunities. Our captains, Molly Oakley and Michael Grome, are the heartbeat of this team. Their dedication and long hours paid off this year, as we not only finished the season strong, but also welcomed new members to the team and got first time racers out on the course. Without them, this road season would not have been such a complete success.

Another key component to the success of our team is Thomas Kempner. Mr. Kempner's generous contributions to the team allow us the opportunity to attend several races throughout the year and keep the Bulldogs as a top team to beat in the conference. We thank him for his continued support and look forward to our development with his help in future seasons.

As always, we need to give some big shoutouts to our coaches at CCNS, and our sponsors, The Devil's Gear Bike ShopCollege Street Cycles, UCANPeanut Butter & Co.Rudy ProjectCamelbackIamsMinouraDeFeetCastelliBiketag, and many more!

Thank you all for a great season!

Bulldogs can't fly.


Thursday, April 21, 2016

ECCC Week 5: Army Spring Classic

by Brian Drollette with pictures from the team and Jan Valerie Polk

The Yale Bulldogs took on the Army Spring Classic this past weekend in West Point, NY. The penultimate ECCC race weekend was unlike most of our races so far this season....it was warm! We were graced with 60 degrees and sunshine for both days. The weekend consisted of a team time trial and a road race on Saturday, followed by a criterium on Sunday.



TTT

The course was a 7 mile out-and-back on a rolling stretch of road, with some uphills on the way back. The Bulldogs entered two men's teams to the time trial, an A team and a D team. The D team of Jordan Bravin, Rafi Bildner, Jackson Salovaara, and Will Botta rolled out first and cruised their way to a first place finish, covering the course in 20:21.54 and finishing over 46 seconds ahead of the second place team! The men's A team of Michael Grome, Michael Landry, Michael Moore-Jones, and Brian Drollette pacelined effectively after a bit of an unorganized start. They covered the course in 18:22.96, good for 6th out of 10 teams.

Harriman Road Race

The road race covered a 14 mile loop and was arguably the most technical and challenging course so far this year. Immediately after the start/finish line, racers were faced with a 2 mile descent into a sharp left hairpin turn into a 3 mile climb. Several pileups occurred on the turn as many riders found it more challenging than expected.

To open the day, the men's and women's D races rolled out for 2 laps. Jackson and Rafi navigated the course effectively, working with others to cross the line with a few minutes back from the lead group. Liz "enjoyed a lovely scenic ride around Lake Welch and successfully kept the rubber side down after an effective warm-up of killer dance moves." Need she say more?

MJ and Brian started the 3-lap C race in good form with 86 other racers. The pack stayed mostly compact for the first lap until the carnage on the start of lap 2. MJ, in the middle of the peloton, was caught up in an 18 rider crash on the
descent at 40 mph. He suffered a concussion with road rash and bruising, but considers himself lucky compared to some of the other riders in the accident. Brian was ahead of the crash, but found himself caught up in another pileup on the climb of lap 2. He got back on his bike but was unable to regain contact with the lead group. He worked with 15 other riders off the back to cross the line nearly 7 minutes behind the leaders.

The final races of the day were none other than Captain Grome's 70-mile A race and Landry's 55-mile B race. Grome, finally feeling back in form after his crash in Philly, took charge of the A race as the primary aggressor with bridging and breaking. He pulled the field for a majority of the race and attacked at the 1km to go mark, only to be caught in the final 200m and crossing the line with the peloton. Landry attacked earlier in his race, immediately after the hairpin turn on lap
3 of 4. Three racers bridged the gap and the four of them agreed to work together for the remainder of the race. One racer went down on that same turn on the last lap, so the lead break was down to 3. With 2km to go Landry attacked and was able to hold off the others as he crossed the line in first, 15 seconds up on the chase group and over 4 minutes ahead of the peloton!

Shea Stadium Criterium

To wrap up the weekend, the Bulldogs raced on West Point's campus for the criterium on Sunday. The course was short with 3 turns and great for spectating.

Jordan and Jackson dominated the D race, or as Jordan likes to call it "taking out the kids on a training ride." His aerodynamic obsession and Jackson's natural talent worked to their benefit as they crossed the line for 3rd and 4th! Will, coming off of an injury, raced to a solid mid-pack finish in the C race.

In the B race, Landry rode aggressively at the front and worked a couple of breakaways. The break was caught with 4 laps to go, so after regrouping he moved to the front and sprinted to a 4th place finish! Grome in the A race rode at the front, scoring a few points in the prime sprints, and attempted to bridge the gap from the peloton to the breakaway near the end of the 60 minute race. He was caught by NYU's team tactics and finished with the peloton.

All in all, it was a great weekend for Bulldog cycling. The weather kept everyone's sprits lively and we had fun (except for the hospital visit).

Next week the ECCC season wraps up in Warwick, MA. Only 1 race weekend to go!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

ECCC Week 4: L'Enfer du Nord

by Brian Drollette with pictures from the team



The Hell of the North

On Saturday, our friends at Dartmouth and UVM welcomed eleven Bulldogs and the rest of the ECCC to their campus for the start of the aptly named "Hell of the North" race. The four-race weekend took us through Dartmouth's campus for an individual time trial and a criterium, followed by a team time trial and a road race on Sunday just south of the UVM's campus in Charlotte, VT.

The team also had the pleasure of welcoming Coach Hunter Pronovost from CCNS to the Dartmouth races. Hunter was instrumental in our warmup and pacing efforts in the individual time trial and coached us through our crit races.

ITT

This 2.7 mile course started up a modest, yet tactically significant climb before rolling through the heart of campus. Racers made their way to a stretch of slightly downhill open road before a sharp right turn and a final climb over 8%. Matt Ampleman, Michael Moore-Jones, and Brian Drollette started the day in the Men's C field, covering the course in just over 9 minutes and good for 25th, 26th, and 12th, respectively.

Following the C's was the Men's D's, led by Jordan Bravin and first time racer Jackson Salovaara. Jordan's passion for the world's best aerodynamics paid off, as he won the race by over four second on the course. Jackson came through shortly after, placing 11th in his debut.

The Lady Bulldogs, represented by Liz Eldridge and Lexi Abel, were up next in the Women's D and C races. Liz got over her numbness from the cold and rode her way to a 12th place finish in the D field while Lexi placed 9th in the C's.

Michael Landry and Michael Grome wrapped up the ITT in the B and A fields. Landry, aero as ever on his steel-framed monster, absolutely crushed the course in 7:52.14, good for first in B and the fourth fastest time of the day. Grome made his way through the course good for 11th in the fast and furious A field.


Frat Row Criterium

The criterium consisted of a 0.75 mile course with three tight turns and one slight uphill before finishing on a wide and open straight along Dartmouth's "Frat Row".

Jordan and Jackson lining up for the start of their D crit.

Jordan and Jackson kicked off the festivities in the D race. Jordan took a few pulls on the front while Jackson sat in the pack and studied the course. Their efforts paid off at the end, as Jordan sprinted to a third place finish and Jackson crossed the line for a solid 8th! That's 9 more omnium points for the Bulldogs!

In the C field, Matt and Brian worked the front of the pack while MJ sat in the middle of the 73 person field. Brian took a mechanical pit stop with 10 laps to go due to a collision with another rider, but was able to jump back in the main pack for the remainder of the race. On the final lap, a Harvard racer on the front took the second to last turn a bit too fast and slid out. Brian, 5 spots back, was forced off the road to avoid colliding with the downed rider while the majority of the pack raced on. Matt stayed upright and crossed the line with the main group. Lesson learned: anything can happen in a crit!

Liz pulling the field in her Frat Row Crit.
Liz, in the Women's D field, had a solid race and even miraculously managed to not run over anyone with her bike. Lexi also rode a strong race, but was pulled with a few laps to go.

Landry took home yet another win in the B crit as he smashed the race to bits with his tactics. His plan was to stay at the front, take the turns hard, and string the field out. The strategy paid off as he rounded the final turn and sprinted to a narrow victory over fellow racers from UMass Amherst and Army. Way to go Michael!

The final race of Day 1 was Grome's A race. He found himself in great position near the front of the pack for the majority of the race. On the final lap, a gap opened up on the outside of the lane on the climb and he worked his way up the pack. His plan to jump on the wheel of a Syracuse and KMS rider as they rode on fell short, as the KMS rider's foot unclipped right in front of Grome and slowed things down. He crossed the line mid-pack in the fastest race of the day.

A big thanks to Coach Hunter for working with
us this weekend!

TTT

The team time trial course was a supposed-to-be-8-but-actually-10 mile course in a clockwise loop with nearly 1,000ft of elevation gain. The Men's C team of Jordan, MJ, Jackson, and Rafi Bildner took the first hill easy, making sure to not go into the red too deep early on. They played a game of cat and mouse with Dartmouth, as each team passed one another a few times on the course. Their finishing time was 30:14, good enough for 7th. Then the women took turns pulling one another in the D field. Lexi tackled the hills while Liz kept the pace on the flats and downhills and their efforts paid off for a second place finish! The Men's A team of Matt, Brian, Landry, and Grome started easy up the first hill before ripping into the paceline. At mile 2, Matt dropped and Brian began to die. Three racers need to cross the line for the clock to stop in the A race, so they had to keep chugging along. Grome and Landry were the heroes of the race as they took monster pulls in order to give Brian some rest. They crossed the line 6th in 27:12 and not without a few tears and gasps for air from the third, struggling finisher.

26 degrees for the start of Day 2? No problem!


Road Race

The fourth and final race of the weekend was a circuit road race on the same course as the team time trial. Rafi and Jackson stayed close, working together in the 20 mile D race. The field began to split on the final climbs and Jackson hung on while Rafi had to pull due to a flat tire. Jackson finished 22th of 72, wrapping up his first race weekend and arguably the toughest weekend to date. Great work, Jackson!

The Men's C race rolled out next. Matt, MJ, and Brian started the race tucked in the pack, trying to save energy for the hills. Halfway through the first lap, MJ's chain dropped right in front of Brian. They both stopped, fixed the bike, and tried to regroup with the main field. Unfortunately, they couldn't regain contact and pulled from the race. Matt, however, stayed strong and finished 18th in the race.

Lexi took on the women's D race impressively after she was momentarily dropped mid race. She worked successfully to get back to the main field over the remainder of the course. Lexi placed 20th in her final race of the weekend!

Landry, coming off a solid Day 1, tried to make his 50 mile B race difficult for everyone. He and a guy from MIT did most of the work over the length of the course, but it sapped his legs for the final climb and sprint. Still good enough for an 8th place finish!

Grome again ended the day with the A race. The 60 mile course saw a sizable breakaway in the first lap. Grome placed himself right in the middle of the break of 8 riders, but was unable to hold on to the swift pace. He dropped back to the peloton and rode a smart race with the rest of the riders. He crossed the line with the peloton.


Next week, the Bulldogs travel to West Point for the Army Spring Classic. This will be the last race weekend before the ECCC championships at MIT, so stay tuned for the highlights as we push towards the end of the season!


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

ECCC Week 3: Shippensburg Scurry

by Brian Drollette


The Yale Bulldogs were back at it this past weekend for the third ECCC race of the season. Three racers made the trek to Shippensburg, PA, looking to continue their strong season amongst other racers in the northeast. The weekend's races took us through rural farm roads, the Michaux state forest, and 1,000+ foot climbs.

The Shippensburg Scurry race weekend proved to be quite unique. Instead of the typical circuit race, criterium, and time trial that we've grown accustomed to so far this season, we were faced with a timed circuit race, a mass start hill climb, and a longer road race.

Circuit Race

The circuit race felt more like a criterium with more hills, due to the short laps and timed duration. The course was a 2.1 mile loop with three turns on farm roads. The back stretch was a slightly downhill, freshly paved road with a bit of a tailwind that allowed racers to push the pace well over 30 mph.

Less than half of a bike length secured the victory for Brian in the Men's C circuit race.

Up first for the Bulldogs were Matt Ampleman and Brian Drollette in the Men's C race that lasted 40 minutes. The short yet punchy hills kept the field on their toes and allowed for a bit of separation in the field. All attacks were eventually reeled back in and the last lap was a perfect setup for a sprint finish. The backstretch was speedy as everyone fought for the best position. Matt worked his way to the front 10 riders while Brian stayed tucked in behind the fifth wheel. Less than 1km from the finish, the course made a sharp left turn into a hill, with the finish line down on the backside. Brian began his sprint with 200m to go, passing all five racers before the crest, and held off a fellow racer from Princeton by a mere inches for the win. Matt passed ten racers on the last stretch and secure a solid 5th place, securing 8 more points for the Bulldogs!

Mike Grome in the A circuit race.
Captain Michael Grome, in his first race since a crash at the Temple Criterium, raced the 60 minute Men's A race. Mike put in a solid effort to get himself back into racing form. He crossed the line in 19th in good spirits, ready to go for the next two races!

Hill Climb

Typically, hill climbs are treated as individual time trials, where everyone races the clock and starts in 20-30 second intervals. Not this one. The folks at Shippensburg decided to mix things up a bit by turning it into a mass start race. At 6 miles long with 1,300 feet of elevation gain, this race was sure to thin out the field.

Matt and Brian, in a pack of 47 other racers, stayed with the main field until Brian dropped off at mile three. Matt fought hard, climbing much of the race out of the saddle, before dropping at mile 4. He was able to finish with the help of three other racers for a respectable 15th place in the extraordinarily fast field (the C winner had the fastest time of any category!). Brian crossed the line in 24th, just over a minute behind Matt. Mike spun his way up the hill in under 23 minutes, taking 17th in the 29 racer A field.

Road Race

After racing in mild, sunny weather on Saturday, Mother Nature had other plans for Sunday. We woke up to temperatures in the 30s with 25 mph sustained winds and gusts over 40 mph. Everyone packed into the community center at the park, trying to stay warm, while waiting for an update from the officials on the status of the races. Due to downed trees and power lines, as well as ice on parts of the course, the officials reduced the 11 mile loop to 8 miles and detoured around a significant climb.

Matt and Brian again started the day in the 4-lap C race. The first few miles of the course were modestly sheltered by trees, deceiving racers into thinking that the conditions weren't too bad. That all changed once the road opened up, cutting straight through flat farmland without an ounce of shelter from the wind. The field was quickly shredded, dropping riders left and right. The cross winds were so strong that Brian and a rider from Army were both blown off of the side of the road, though they both stayed upright. After the second lap, Brian pulled himself from the race due to the conditions while Matt toughed it out. He worked with a group of 10 on the front to pull in a small breakaway, and with less than two miles to go he lost contact with the group as the outside of the lane offered no protection from the wind. He rode the rest of the race solo, crossing the line 11th in arguably the toughest race of the season so far. Good work Matt!

Mike wrapped up the day in the A race. He quickly realized the strategy needed to shelter himself from the wind within the pack, saving precious watts when needed. A five-man breakaway formed while Mike and 8 other tried to bring them back in over the 66 mile course. The breakaway held off the field, and Mike sprinted to 11th.

In his first race weekend back from a crash, Mike shared a few lessons learned: 1) recovery from an injury takes a lot of time, 2) don't be too hard on yourself if you can't pick up where you left off, 3) positioning saves watts! A good wheel to follow, especially in heavy winds, can make all of the difference.

Next weekend the Bulldogs will head to a combined race hosted by Dartmouth and UVM in Hanover, NH and Charlotte, VT. Only 3 race weekends left in the ECCC!


Monday, March 21, 2016

ECCC Week 1: Philly Phlyer


by Brian Drollette with pictures from the team

This past weekend, the Bulldogs attacked the first ECCC road race of the season in Philadelphia, PA. We went into the weekend with confidence in our abilities after dusting off our rusty gears in two early preseason races. Its now time to start scoring points in our own conference with eyes on the championships next month. The Bulldogs landed multiple podium finishes and scored plenty of points in this conference race.

The Philly Phlyer consisted of a team time trial and a circuit road race along the Schkuykill River, and a criterium on through the streets of Temple University's campus.

Mike and Jordan, thankful for our sponsors
Castelli Cycling, UCAN nutrition, and DeFeet!

Day 1: Team Time Trial and Schuykill Scramble Circuit Race

TTT

The team time trial began bright and early at 8am on Saturday. The course started at the children's museum before descending down to the river, where racers would complete a few laps back and forth along the road before climbing up to the finish. All in all it should have been just a hair over 11 miles.

The Bulldogs entered three separate teams into the race: a Women's C featuring Captain Molly Oakley and Sam Andrade, a Men's C with Jordan Bravin and Alex Bruch, and a Men's A team with Mike Grome, Michael Landry, Michael Moore-Jones, and Brian Drollette.

Jordan and Alex getting ready for their TTT. Can you
guess who had the best drafting advantage?
The Jordan-Alex duo took off for their race aiming to catch as many teams as possible. Each team rolls out in 30 second intervals, and seeing the next team up the road is a huge motivator to keep pushing. The two faired well in the heavy competition, placing a respectable 9th out of 15 teams and clocking in an average pace of 21 mph.

Up next was Molly and Sam in a smaller 5-team field. The two raced smart, saving energy where they could and pushing where it helped. They crossed the line in just a touch over 41 minutes and scored 14 points for the Bulldogs in the Women's Team Omnium!

Capping off the early morning sufferfest was the Michaels (+Brian) A team. The group started behind the UNH team and ahead of Harvard. The goal? Catch UNH and keep Harvard off our tails. We rolled out and got into formation swiftly, working smoothly together in a rotating paceline and communicating effectively (though three Michaels on a four-man team got a bit confusing). After mile 8 or so, catching two teams and averaging a quick 25 mph, a race marshall motioned for us to turn right up the hill towards the finish line. The team crossed the line, 3 miles short of the true course distance, and wound up disqualified. Unfortunately it could not be undone. If anything, it was a lesson in pre-race logistics and a warm up for the road race later in the day.


Schuykill Scramble Circuit Race (with the Humiliation Helmet!)

The course for the circuit race traversed a similar route to the TTT. The 6.5 mile loop included flat sections along the river, a few moderate climbs, and technical descents and corners that thinned out the field.

Captain Grome sporting the Humiliation Helmet before his
very serious A field circuit race.



The Humiliation Helmet was displayed loud and proud during the races. Awarded to a rider that does something humiliating, either to our team or to themselves, the Humiliation Helmet must be worn in that rider's next race to honor their blunder. This week it was donned by Michael Landry (for his water bottle hand-up last week relegating him from 2nd to 3rd) and Captain Michael Grome (for his unjustified self-belief that the earlier TTT disqualification was his fault).








Michael Landry (yellow Humiliation Helmet) and Brian Drollette finishing the Men's C race in 1-2 fashion.
The Men's C field kicked off the race with 85 starters for 4 laps. Representing the Bulldogs were Michael Landry, Michael Moore-Jones, Alex Bruch, and Brian Drollette. Through much of the race, the two Michaels and Brian stayed towards the front half of the pack, navigating around crashes and pileups that plagued the large field. With a few miles to go, the pace picked up on the final climb. Michael Landry found himself in perfect position near the front while Brian worked his way up through the pack as they passed by the final turns and roundabout. They both popped out to the right with the finish line in sight, sprinting to a 1-2 finish and scoring a combined 56 points for the team omnium. Michael Moore-Jones finished mid-pack while Alex used his first race of the season as a warm up for big things to come!

Just a few minutes after the start of the C race, Jordan Bravin clipped in for the Men's D race. He quickly found himself in the middle of another large field, this time of 86 starters. Multiple attacks split the field and Jordan finished the three lap race in the second group with a 21 mph average!

Up next was the Women's C and D fields. Molly Oakley geared up for the four laps in a field of strong riders from Princeton, Brown, and Queens Universities. Our fearless captain rode a strong race and ultimately finished 22nd, one lap down from the leaders. Not once did anyone see a smile leave her face! Sam Andrade wrapped up the circuit race for the women's team in the D race alongside 66 other racers. She finished the 3 lap race in great form, placing 28th in her first mass start race of the season.

Wrapping up Day 1 of the Phill Phlyer was arguably the most exciting race of the day. Captain Michael Grome tore up the Men's A field in true Bulldog fashion while wearing the Humiliation Helmet. Within a few miles of the opening lap, a racer from KMS broke off the front and Mike took chase. To make himself useful against a rider stronger than him, Mike said that he wouldn't contest the finish if they worked together.

The two of them had a 2+ minute gap on the rest of the field when the KMS rider's tire flatted with 30 miles to go. Mike knew he had to stay away long enough for another breakaway to catch him, since the peloton was a mass group. After another lap or so, a racer from NYU and another from KMS crossed the gap and Mike said "Finally, I've been waiting for you!" They all worked together to keep the breakaway going for the rest of the race. The three racers held off the main field by 30 seconds across the line, with 1-2-3 going to KMS-NYU-Yale. Good work, Mike!


Day 2: Temple University Criterium

On Sunday we found ourselves at the heart of Temple University's campus for the final race of the weekend. The crit was classic four-corner course with a slight downhill on the back stretch and uphill to the finish line.

The team was happy to welcome Coach Aidan Charles of CCNS to the race. Aidan provided insight into the course and warmup tips to get the team prepared for the day. We were grateful to have him there with us and proud to show him how all of our hard work is starting to pay dividends.
Jordan on the front of Sunday's crit.

Jordan started the day in the Men's D race. He found himself on the front in the first few laps of the 30 minute race, and narrowly missed a chain derailment on some uneven pavement. A hard fought battle resulted in 14th in the field of 66. Not bad for the first one of the season!

Next up was the Men's C race. This race included Michael Landry, Alex, and Matt Ampleman. Michael and Matt stayed with the front group for the majority of the 40 minute race while Alex worked with other racers off the back. With four laps to go, Matt pulled off to the pit with a mechanical, however he was unable to rejoin the race as there were less than 5 laps to go. Unfortunately it was only a minor brake rub! Michael remained in contention for the sprint, and as the field rounded the final corner he took off and secured the victory. Two wins in two days!

Molly and Sam raced the Women's C in great form. From the start, two racers took off and created a sizable gap. The main field became strung out, and both Molly and Sam had to find other racers in order to share the work. By the last few laps they found each other, crossing the finish line together in 20th and 21st. 

Molly doing work!


Sam pulling the three racer group.

The final race of the weekend was the Men's A. Mike Grome, coming of an impressive podium finish the day before, looked solid throughout the race. A few breaks tried to form without success until the last half. Riders from Delaware and Queens took off and managed a 1+ minute gap on the field, claiming the first two podium spots, while another in the gap took third. The rest of the omnium points were still up for grabs as the main field barreled down the final stretch in a bunch sprint. Unfortunately, Mike got tied up with another racer and the two of them went down across the line at full speed. Race coordinators and EMTs rushed over to find both racers pretty banged up, but thankfully with no serious injuries. Thank goodness for helmets!

All in all it was a successful weekend for the Bulldogs. We went home with several omnium points, a few podium spots, and a ton of good experiences. The rest of the ECCC season is looking good!

Five of the Bulldogs headed south following the race to Asheville, NC for a spring break training camp. Stay tuned for training camp reports as well as race reports from our next conference race at the NYC Metro Showdown.

Afternoon snoozin'.

No caption needed.


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Gateway Circuit Race 3/13/2016

by Michael Landry, with pictures by Andy Barentine and Michael Landry


As the sun rose behind heavy gray clouds over the eerily deserted corporate park that was to be the site of Sunday's races, Michael Moore-Jones and Andy Barentine rolled to the line to race with the Category D Men. Andy churned the pedals relentlessly at the front in the early going, carving grimaces into the faces of many in the strung-out field. Michael M-J was also an animator, attempting a couple breakaways that did not succeed. Both of them put in numerous turns at the front attempting to whittle down the field, but a group of 12 riders entered the final lap together.

Our D Men before their start.
Ultimately Andy paid for his early efforts and lost contact with the leaders on the final climb heading into the sprint, coming home with a mid-pack finish. Andy says his pre-race anxiety gave way to post-race excitement, and "can't wait to race again." Moore-Jones secured 3rd place in a fiercely contested sprint after leading the pack for the final half-lap, but thinks he could have improved on that placing by meting his efforts out more conservatively.

Next was Liz Eldridge in her first race ever with the Category C Women. Liz rode like a seasoned pro, and gapped her field with ease to snag a win for the Bulldogs, our third of the weekend.

Liz, preparing to decimate the field.
In the Category C Men race, Michael Landry stayed tucked in the 25-man peloton. He attacked the field with 500 meters to go on the final uphill, but was caught and passed by the eventual winner from Shippensburg on the level finishing straight. Landry was able to salvage second place with a bike throw, but ruefully tells us he "went too early." Unfortunately, he was later relegated to 3rd place for taking a water bottle hand-up from a spectating teammate. 

The final competitors of the day were the Category A Men, and our Captain, Mike Grome, had a tough race ahead of him. The field was stacked with several pros and semipros, and a deep Virginia Tech team was hoping to leverage their numbers to secure the win. Additionally the dark clouds, which had been threatening all day, finally opened up and proceeded to release their watery payload upon the riders starting around mile 5 and continuing through the finish. Combined with dropping temperatures and an average speed of 40+ kph, the meteorological misfortune reduced even the hardest in the field to shivering post-race wrecks.


Mike Grome charging.
Virginia Tech sent their strongest man off the front early as the rest of their team ran interference, doing their best to stymie any attempt by the peloton to organize and chase the leader down. Mike was a part of numerous breakaways, all of which were reeled in by the boys in orange from VT.  The leader succeeded in staying away to the line and took a well-earned victory, while some 40 seconds in arrears Mike mustered a mid-pack finish in the field sprint. 

After the moist and hypothermic affair, the Columbia team treated our racers to pizza at the local Whole Paycheck. We all excitedly relived the weekend's races before starting the convoy back to New Haven. Next weekend the ECCC season starts up with the Philly Phlyer, and with our solid preseason results we will be entering the fray with confidence and know-how.

Storming Hyattsville: Route One Rampage Criterium 3/12/2016

by Matt Ampleman, with pictures by the team

The Bulldogs stormed through Maryland this weekend, landing multiple podium appearances for the team’s first criterium of the year. Despite its pleasant, arboreal residential setting, the “Route One Rampage” in Hyattsville, Maryland was not your granddad’s criterium. With a half-mile-long 80-foot hill, the course featured just enough climbing to make breakaways possible.

The Yale team used this pack-splitting ascent to its full potential. Michael Grome harnessed it to ride ahead for a premium lap win in the A race, and Michael Landry and Michael Moore-Jones attacked it to garner 1st place finishes in their C and D races, respectively. Biting at the heels of “the Michaels” were Andy Barentine, who finished 4th in the D race, and Matt Ampleman, who finished 12th in the C race.

Michael Grome pulled double duty, finishing in the pack of two high-speed races: the Pro/1/2/3 and Category A criteria. These 60-minute races clocked in at 24.7 and 24.9 mph: not too shabby for a relatively hilly crit. Seeking to gain early-season race experience, Matt Ampleman also got an early 4/5 race in before the collegiate field started.

Captain Mike Grome mixing it up in the Pro/1/2/3 field
These multiple looks at the course made it clear to Yale riders that the hill would dictate the victors and victims of each race. After climbing for half of this 4-turn course, racers stood up for a (purportedly) 14% grade at the top of the hill. The following downhill section and high-speed turn in the 4th corner made sure that any lead gained at the hill crest could be kept: riders merged single file, leaned-in for the turn, and then sprinted out on to the flat, stringing out the pack each time.

Coming back to the first turn, racers began the long ascent again, reshuffled, and with the tail end of the pack struggling to stay in the draft of more aggressive racers. “Stay on his wheel!” Michael Grome could be heard yelling near the alleyway to the famed Hyattsville Vigilante coffee.

Of course, uphill surges cannot be repeated indefinitely. The race director’s choice to throw in “premium” sprint laps meant that racers would have to forfeit some challenges and surge ahead for others. Michael Moore-Jones opted to forfeit a prime with two laps to go, a move that allowed him to power through for a win in his first race this season.

Teamwork and patience also paid dividends. Andy Barentine and Michael Moore-Jones worked efficiently throughout the weekend, teaming up with Johns Hopkins and Shippensburg riders to press the field in both races. Matt Ampleman and Michael Landry also worked together early in their race, nudging the C field to track down a breakaway and stay within striking range of other attacking riders. “Yale is getting this group organized!” the announcers exclaimed. 

Matt Ampleman looking tough

In the end, it was patience and power that won the race, as Michael Landry held back until less than 2 laps to go when he made his move, attacking the hill, bridging the gap to the first-place rider, and then surging ahead on the final climb to win.

Michael Landry hoping that guy from Liberty doesn't clip his pedal
Likewise, Michael Grome’s power led him to a few breakaways in his A race. They didn’t stick, but the race was still “super fun,” and the day was all-around very competitive including attacks by pro riders.

Fun was also had – as with all races – in idiosyncratic and gastronomic endeavors. One collegiate team raided the nearby yard sale of Hawaiian shirts and used the warm-up area as if a model shoot for retired high school science teachers. Uber-friendly neighborhood children sold lemonade and taunted riders with unrealistic promises that they “could still catch up and win!” Granted, such words were true for the Yale team: with two first places, cactus tacos, milkshakes, board games, skipper hats, premium wins, first crits, and a general domination of the Atlantic Conference riders, Yale can say with confidence that it won the weekend.