Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Week 2: Columbia/Stevens

First, my most sincere apologies for the delay in providing the titillating details of this past weekend's happenings. My immune system is clearly not strong enough for two consecutive weekends in New Jersey. Alas, I have exhausted the home remedies for the common cold and I have at least this brief reprieve to scribe. 

Not the country, but the university. In contrast to the last two years installments of the longest running race in the ECCC, this years Columbia criterium included more than two turns.  Set in Riverside Park/Grant's Tomb, the course consisted of 4 traditional turns and one fast, downhill, long sweeping turn leading into a very long false-flat uphill finish. First on course were our D Men.  Feeling the immense pressure of being the third "Dan" on the team and living up to the remarkable achievements of his namesakes, Mr. Spakowicz savagely attacked the unsuspecting D field and won the first prime sprint handily using a boss-like leadout from 
Danny Schlingman (the other Dan S. .....yes, this is getting confusing). Spakowicz, Nathan, and Schlingman hung tough on the remaining laps and finished 9th, 19th, and 22nd, respectively, in a field of nearly 40 racers. Next up was Elif, fresh off an upgrade into Women's C. In a race marked my rampant lapping by the leaders, Elif rode the tip of the spear for the first chase group, demonstrating to all that she was clearly fit enough to be in the lead group. Elif ended up 7th overall, finishing 2nd in a furious sit down sprint with her fellow chase group. Alex Hawke made his ECCC and cycling racing debut in Men's Intro's. In addition to looking super pro and physically imposing relative to the rest of his field, Alex rode a fast, crash free race and finished 9th. If nothing else, this edition of the Yale Cycling team could field a formidable basketball team. Building on the fitness and experience she gleaned from racing at Rutgers, Kristin finished 13th in Women's Intro, earning the team some points! In Men's B, Chris Miller rode a very smart race, sitting in the upper half of the peloton throughout.  Though worth no points and not documented anywhere in the results, Chris also finished 5th in a prime sprint--a dubious and glorious achievement. In the final sprint Chris was unable to unleash his notorious sprint as he was boxed in and undoubtedly scared to hammer on the Zipp wheels he has on loan from the Industrial Revolution exhibit at the Smithsonian.  Next up: Erica Blom in Women's A. In what was undoubtedly the most exciting and conventionally raced Women's A race in the last 2 years, the entire field stayed together the entire race. Pack racing at it's finest. Erica sat in comfortably with the pack and avoided the massive wreck that involved nearly half of the field...

despite photographic evidence that she may have ridden the entire race with her eyes closed. In the end, Erica finished 8th in Women's A and racked up HUGE points for the team!! 

Last up for the day was the 60+ man Men's A field. Armed with a tactical plan, Jelle and Dan B. decided to rely upon the larger teams to cover attacks and save energy for the final sprint.  In the first (but not last) divergence from the plan, Dan B. went mano a mano with the green jersey wearer in the first prime sprint, beating him and thankfully not burning all of his matches in the process. For the next 40 minutes of the race, Jelle and Dan jockeyed for position in the field and only covering accelerations that involved 8 or more riders. At about the 3/4 mark of the race, the winning move/break or 5 attacked and Jelle and Dan stupidly did not cover the break despite excellent positioning. After more bad last lap tactics, Dan and Jelle started the final sprint apart, and stuck in the middle of the peloton as others started their leadouts on the outside. Once the group fanned out across the road, Dan was able to open up the sprint and finished 13th overall at the line, and 8th in group followed by Jelle in 34th. All in all, it was a safe and fun day of racing.

Despite a plethora of other scenic, beautiful cycling routes in the Northeast, the ECCC made their second visit to Dirty Jerz this season on Sunday to race a 6.2 mile circuit.  The course was actually great, with 550ft climbing per lap with two fast and technical descents and a half mile uphill sprint finish.  Even though the weatherman predicted a 60 degree temp, our Men's D team started the day with temps in the 30's. Building off their performances the day before, Spakowicz, Nathan and Schlingman tore up 2 laps of the circuit finishing 5th, 6th, and 15th, respectively, and averaging 20mph! In Women's A/B, Erica, Hannah and Ashley dueled a big field for a scheduled 4 laps. Though our race radios were outlawed for this race, we received word that the large climb on the backside of the course detonated the field on the very first lap, leaving riders  scrambling to create chase groups of 2-4 fellow racers. Our ladies hammered out a steady pace and were gearing up for the final lap when the race directors prematurely ended the race for all but 10 racers in a decision reportedly based upon "safety". Though unable to support this claim with any kind of reasonable justification (as lapping was not eminent and the field was separated into 1-2 rider groups anyway), the decision was nonetheless final. Erica continued to polish her form, and finished 7th in A's! Ashley finished 12th followed by Hannah. In Women's C, Elif looked methodical, picking off riders lap by lap and finished 9th.  In Men's C, B-Tang got gapped early (and is now resolved to keep this from happening again), but rode consistently and time trialed the final lap to finish 14th.  In Men's B.....well I am not really sure what happened in this race. What I do know is that Chris defied all reason, tempting fate and his own mortality, and raced his relic wheelset again, railing high-speed downhill corners, cackling at his fellow racers that opted for more reasonable wheelset choices. Judging by the finishing times, I infer that the group stayed together until the final lap and likely blew apart on the steep climb on the backside of the course. The pack of 40 finished in 1-2 second intervals over a minute with Chris in 28th. Lastly, Jelle and Dan shook off the frustration of the previous day's criterium, and started the race dedicated to executing the race plan: Jelle rides at the front of the peloton and marks the top riders and Dan covers ALL attacks. Attacks started early and often. After a 2-man break (including former Yale Captain Eric Fischer) from the start was pulled back at the beginning of the 2nd lap, a dangerous break with representation from the top teams materialized and Dan jumped to join it.  Dan (possibly the weakest climber in the entire category) took ridiculously short pulls and did his best to hang in the break. After the break was caught at the end of the 2nd lap, a third attack materialized and Jelle ordered his domestique to join it. Dan hung in that break until it was caught by the peloton at the end of the lap. The counter attack to this break would prove to be the winning move. Jelle initially made the break, but got stuck behind a rider that was gapped and a group of 5 escaped. On the final lap, Jelle attacked on the steep climb and created a chase group with 5 fellow riders. This group stayed away and Jelle sprinted for a 10th place finish followed by Dan in 19th!

This coming weekend marks the first TTT of the season. Stay tuned....

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