The 29th Army Spring Classic
The ECCC gathered this weekend at West Point, NY for the 29th edition of the Army Spring Classic. The race is the conference’s oldest continuously running event, and each year the Army weekend heralds spring’s full and jubilant arrival. When combined with West Point’s natural elegance it’s a welcome event for race-weary cyclists. It’s also the only race weekend where you’ll have the privilege of a Humvee for a pace or follow car. Not only can they bulldoze cars pesky cars obstructing your path, they scare the bejesus out of you when they downshift, which means extra motivation to move up in the field on the climbs... Anyways...
Though steeped in tradition, the Army Spring Classic took a page from the New York amateur playbook for Saturday’s road race. While recent editions had featured team time trials and/or circuit races, riders would compete this year on the course of the famed Harriman Road Race. Its principal attraction: a 50-mph downhill run into a sharp 180-degree “Corner O’ Death,” followed by a nasty cat. 3 climb. Long, straight open roads for the remainder meant high speeds and breakaways would be the game of the day.
John Wen, David DeWitt, and Julia Schlesinger kicked things off for the Yale team in the Men’s DII and Women’s C fields. In the DII race, John used his superior power-to-weight ratio to make the race’s critical selection when an equally bird-like NYU rider attacked on the first long climb. He would finish 4th—the best finish for a Yale D rider all year!! David did not find the parcours quite so fulfilling and decided to conserve himself for Sunday’s races. In Women’s C, Julia persevered through her most demanding road race yet, but an astonishing act of violence upon her rear tire and front derailure brought a premature end to her day.
The A riders led off the second wave of races at 11:30, followed closely by the Women’s A/B, Men’s B, and Men’s C races. The Men’s A race began on a difficult note with Matt suffering a moderate head cold and Nick nearly running over all-star photographer Jan Polk. After several difficult laps, Matt withdrew to rest for Sunday’s races. With two laps to go, some hard chasing by Yale, Dartmouth, and MIT had reeled in the early break and riders were jumping at the bit to get away. Amid the parry and thrust of attack and counterattack, Nick broke away with a BU and Penn State rider on the back half of the course. The Penn State rider rode both his compatriots off his wheel and sauntered on to win the day, while peloton swallowed Nick and his fellow escapee at the top the climb on the final ascent. With Nick spent, it was Spencer’s turn to deliver his first top-10 finish since Stevens. Woohoo!
While the first lap was treated as a warm-up in women's A/B, the race slowly turned into a battle of attrition in the ensuing laps as the elite riders contented themselves to ride tempo and slowly turn the screws on the rest of the field. Out of the slow-motion wreckage emerged a select group including Army, MIT, Pittsburgh, and Dartmouth. Krysten, newly upgraded to Women’s A, and Erica joined small chase groups as the third lap shattered the remainder of the field. Erica finished in 11th place after a close sprint for 10th, while Krysten finished 15th. In Women’s B, Colleen and Hannah suffered but put together a great day of training for their future exploits. Colleen finished 9th, while Hannah decided to pre-empt the official and dictate her own terms. Keep it up ladies!
In men's B, a bad crash in the lead group at the finish line forced the officials to neutralize the race; only 12 riders were ultimately placed. In the C race, Jimmy Martenson finished just inside the top-10 after working his way into the chase group, with Dan Spakowicz arriving several minutes behind in 18th, maintaining his most-consistent-rider status. Danny Schlingman and Travis Rabbit were P&P’ed and finished 26th and 29th, respectively, persevering amidst many in the field around them dropping out of the race and a corner marshal misdirect incident.
After a hearty dinner and watching Yale Ice Hockey shut out Q-Pac to take Yale’s FIRST EVER NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP (!!!!!!), the Bulldogs rolled into West Point ready to check the rest of the ECCC into the Wattage Cottage for the day.
First up was the infamous Army Hill Climb Time Trial—an excruciating 2.6 mile course featuring several steep ramps of climbing punctuated by brief opportunities for recovery. The course concluded with a dastardly twisting false flat up an access road that kept the finish line out of view until the last few seconds of the race. Highlights included John Wen’s 5th place finish in DII, Erica’s 9th place finish in Women’s A, and Colleen’s 4th place in Women’s B. Shout-out to Adam for finishing seconds out of the points in men's B despite a dropped chain. Great work folks!
Army’s famous Shea Stadium Criterium concluded the weekend’s racing. Like the earlier races, the simple three-corner course map belied the race’s vicious nature. A volatile mixture of a beyond 90-degree corner, a miserable crosswind off the Hudson river, and a steep rise to the start-finish conspired to keep riders fighting to stay in contention from the gun.
Without the steep grades necessary to deploy his mountain-goat climbing skills, John Wen suffered in the criterium. Nevertheless, he and David DeWitt worked together to stay with the group as the DII brawlers duked it out at the front of the bike race. Nice work boys.
Dan, Jimmy, Danny, and Travis came to the CII race ready to brawl themselves, and after struggling to maintain position for the first third of the race Dan and Jimmy muscled their way into the business end of the office, keeping the pace high and demonstrating some excellent team strategy. Danny himself tried his hand in an early prime and showed good sprinting form to take third. The two Dans crossed the finish line side by side for 12th and 13th, with Jimmy not far behind and Travis rounding it out.
Julia took to the road next in women's C and deployed her race acumen to hold a consistent top-10 position. With yesterday’s mechanical mishaps a thing of the past, she finished 8th in the sprint.
The Men’s B race saw the first real tactical race of the day as riders repeatedly played their hands to upset a bunch sprint. However, the stiff wind put solo riders and small groups at a disadvantage relative to the field and the gaps stayed in the low-teens. Adam marked several attacks in an effort to put his signature Boyd 58s to work, but ultimately yet another finish-line crash put the kibosh on his sprint. He finished 31st.
Erica and Krysten set out for revenge after yesterday’s road race and rode a smart race in the Women’s A event. Krysten kept a watchful eye on the eager attackers as best she could while Erica rested behind. Several attacks kept the pace high and ultimately a small squadron of the usual suspects broke away. Nevertheless, Erica put in powerful sprint to take 10th with Krysten not far behind in 16th. Colleen and Hannah fell victim to the surging and placed 13th and 14th in the B field.
Last up were Men’s A. With Matt out due to illness, Spencer and Nick would try for the breaks. The field would have none of it, however, and set a blistering pace in the early laps to discourage attacking. Nick made several efforts to get clear but lacked the power to really put the cat amongst the pigeons. With Nick languishing after his early exuberance, Spencer put his legs to the test and bridged to several dangerous splits in the field. A touch of wheels in the first corner with 1 to go, however, derailed plans for a sprint finish and both riders rolled in well down in the standings.
All in all, despite illness, mechanicals, and some bad luck, the Bulldogs saw some great performances in D and C categories, women, and a top-10 in the A road race to finish 10th on the weekend. On Saturday, the Yalies ship up to Providence for the inaugural RISD/Brown cycling weekend, featuring the longest road race on the calendar, the shortest team trial, and a 6-corner criterium in downtown Providence.
Enjoy the weather! See you on the road.