Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Easterns Race Report: Penn State!

This week the squad of bulldogs that set out to State College, PA this weekend for the Eastern Championships favored quality over quantity. While many riders bowed out citing "final exams" and "work", a stoic few made the six-hour journey in an effort to reclaim the Ivy League trophy. It was a trip well worth making, with halcyon weather, glorious scenery, and spectacular displays of cycling flair (we're looking at you, UVM and Penn State) and equally prestigious peep-eating contests.
Saturday's events kicked off with the team time trial, a 10-mile course that was the reverse of last year's. Despite Adam's description of the course as "rolling", the second half actually featured a sustained climb of about 200 ft, reducing many teams to a methodical pace. Danny made a nicely timed sprint for the line to finish strong for the men's B squad---he, Travis, and Adam placed 6th. Meanwhile, our men's D team (John & Matt) took fifth and women's A (Erica, Hannah A, Colleen, & Julia) narrowly missed the podium, finishing 4th.
Black Mo' Road Race
Possibly the most infamous road course on the ECCC circuit, Black Mo' is a 21-mile lap featuring a series of hills optimistically described as rollers, several screaming descents, and a formidable 1800 foot climb. After a short moment of panic during which the absence of fire police threatened to replace with the course with an ITT up the steep side of Black Mo', the races were off.
photo credit Alyssa M. Wentz of Shippensburg
In the first wave, men's C set off for two laps. The pack remained cohesive until the climb. With the fox in the henhouse, Danny got the bit between his teeth, excercised his climbing legs, and dropped multiple riders on the long uphill segment of each lap to finish midpack. Travis worked with the group of self professed "nonclimbers" further back, and then decided it would be nice to go ride the course backwards after the race. In men's D, a start line crash threatened to derail several riders, but the Yalies remained upright for the entire lap. The peloton overcommitted on the rollers, shredding themselves and allowing a patient John to make his move on the bigger climb. Climbing like an angel, he easily passed the majority of field, placing himself in a lead group of three riders where he "soft peddled to the top". He sprinted to third overall and second in division 2, finishing his first season with a bronze medal. He'll be a rider to watch next year: look out, ECCC! New rider Matt S dug deep to finish in the pack, sweeping up many of those who surged in the beginning, after wisely heading advice about race nutrition and pacing on the climbs.
Last in wave 1 was the women's C field.  Plucky rider Julia had far too much fun on the hills, reportedly wishing for a second lap and then riding the steeper backside of the major climb after the race. While struggling on the descents, she found the climb "meditative" and comfortably passed several riders to finish well in the points, proving that she's both a formidable hill climber as well as a great sprinter.
As the sun reached its peak, wave 2 readied itself to tackle the course. With no men's A riders this week, Yale's first rider to set off was Adam in the two-lap men's B race. A group of 4 riders or so went off in the opening miles. Some superb blocking on the part of PSU and NYU led to a tranquil pace into the lower reaches of the first ascent of Black Mo. Not content to soft-pedal the entire climb, Adam rode the limits of the yellow line around the blockade at the front and soloed away from the peloton, to shouts of "It's okay his legs aren't shaved!" He spent the most of that climb alone on Black Mo, and sat up towards the top to join a group of 10 or so that had broken away from the field. The next lap was much faster, as a PSU rider inexplicably worked very hard to catch his own guy in the break, with UVM and Columbia lending riders to the effort as well. On the second ascent of Black Mo, the reduced group caught several members of the break and fractured further. Adam was fifth over the top of the climb, worked with a group of three or four on the rollers atop Black Mo, and ended up finishing 8th overall, less than a minute behind the winner.
Last to leave were the women's A/B riders. The women rode like scalded cats. As if a bomb went off in the field, the field shattered on the first rollers. Hannah A, in her second road race of the season, astounded the ECCC with what Joe Kopena singled out at the awards banquet as "a very impressive performance." Forming a four-woman lead group that included maillot jaune Hayley Wickstrom for most of the race, Hannah thoroughly enjoyed ripping the legs off the rest of the women. She dominated the B field, beating the second-place rider by nearly twenty minutes, and taking third place overall. Erica found herself at the back of the pack after the rollers but once in the intestines of Black Mo', took advantage of the long climb to slowly pick riders off, eventually finding herself on the wheel of sprint leader Leslie Lupien. Although she ultimately couldn't maintain Leslie's pace the second time up the mountain, she eventually finished 7th in As. Meanwhile, Colleen made the difficult but wise decision to listen to the warnings of an achy tendon and pull out after one lap, choosing instead to save her performance for nationals.
Frat Row Crit
photo credit Alyssa M. Wentz of Shippensburg
After stuffing our faces with barbecue at the awards banquet, the team got a good night's sleep before the leisurely 8:30 start time of Sunday's crit. The six-corner course featured a narrow chicane, a long finishing straight, and fewer drunk frat boys than previous years' editions.
John & Matt heeded advice to win the race before the race, staging early and maintaining positions in the front of the race for the first few laps. Unfortunately, a dropped chain in combination with misdirection from the race officials took John out of contention, but not without some important lessons learned about position at the start line and which mechanicals qualify for free laps. Matt finished strong in 15th position. Great work, Matt!

photo credit Alyssa M. Wentz of Shippensburg
Next up was Danny in a dangerously large C field. Not unexpectedly, several riders overcooked the chicane, and the ensuing crashes shattered the field into several groups. Danny rode a smart race, and fought his way into the second chase group, putting out several impressive accelerations and ultimately finishing a fantastic 25th in a field of 63.
With new confidence in cornering after an on-course warmup, Julia set off to tackle her cornery-est crit yet. Despite beautiful form through the chicane, a flat after the start-finish line necessitated a trip to the pit. Unfortunately, in the following lap, the peloton split into two groups, and Julia was put back in the race in the second of these. Nevertheless, she dug deep into her suitcase of courage, rode away from the field, and soloed the remainder of the race to finish right behind the leaders in 5th. Amazing season, Julia! We look forward to seeing you in the B field next year!
In men's B, Adam lost the race before the race, staging at the very back of the field. However, each lap saw him moving steadily toward the front of the field---no small feat considering the pace and the narrow streets. He ultimately finished an impressive 19th in the field sprint, thus concluding his ECCC career.
Last to set off was Erica in the A/B race. A a poor start position in conjunction with the discovery that she had left everything on Black Mo' the previous day meant that she quickly found herself at the back of the pack, but with a newlyacquired, loudly cheering frat-boy fan until she was pulled and placed.
While Yale ultimately conceded the Ivy League trophy to Dartmouth, we finished fifth in the conference and third in our division. Awesome work this season, everyone! We've all got a lot to be proud of and have had a season to remember. 
While the 2013 ECCC season has thus concluded, we are thrilled to announce that we are once again sending a full team of riders to collegiate road nationals in Ogden, Utah again this year. Best of luck to Spencer, Nick, Matt, Adam, Marina, Krysten, Colleen, and Erica! Ride on, Bulldogs!

PS - Did you catch those misused and overlayed Liggettisms? We have set up surveillance and are watching for Nick's reaction. We just hope he doesn't hurt himself in his anticipated state of acute mental anguish.

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