Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Rhode Race Report!

You wonder while around Rhode Island just how an area the size of a postage stamp got two US senators. And it’s not even an island!! Anyways, Saturday’s races basically required every single road in the state, so Yale got a full tour of all the fun Rhode Island has on offer.
The Elis arrived in the fair town of Scituate, RI at the crack of dawn, and the beat dropped at 8:30 with the shortest TTT of the year—a four mile straight shot with one turnaround. For what it’s worth, none of us has the faintest idea how to pronounce “Scituate.” While relatively non-technical, the damp roads required a little bit more care than normal from our racers.  The Men’s D squad was first out the gate. Matt Schullman, Amogh Sivarapatna, John Wen, and David DeWitt quickly made friends and worked together for a third place finish. Next to depart was the Men’s A team of Adam, Matt, Nick, and Spencer. The boys settled into a good rhythm in the second half of the course and finished strong but conceded second place to Dartmouth by a heartbreaking 1 second. 
In the second wave, the Men’s C contingent of Dan Spakowicz, Daniel Del Bosque, Danny Schlingman, and Travis Rabbit squeaked into the points for fifth, and the Women’s A cohort (Marina Wilding, Erica Blom, Kelsey Lynd, and Krysten Koehn) put the hammer down to finish third. Third place would also go to the Women’s B team of Hannah Garrett and Elif Erez.
The dark and dingy morning weather began to clear after the TTT and our racers girded their loins for the longest road race on the calendar—the “Tour of Scituate”—a rolling 23 mile circuit featuring some Battenkill-worthy dirt roads, stiff winds, and punchy rollers all of which would suit the hard men and women of the ECCC.
The Men’s D and Women’s C racers departed at 10:30 for a single lap of the course. John Wen struggled in the absence of any sustained climbing but maintained position as best he could throughout the day. He finished just behind the second group in 19th place. Our newest team member, Matt Schullman, also finished mid-field in his first mass start race, having skipped the intro category and jumped straight into D. Further back, Amogh, and David demonstrated solid teamwork and rode a race to be proud of. In Women’s C, Elif persisted despite the difficult course to finish with the field, still having the energy to continue on her own solo training ride afterwards. 
The A and B mens and womens, and C mens categories decamped at 12:30 for their races.
First to leave were the Men’s A racers. The Tour of Scituate would be the final ECCC road race for several of the A riders and the Yalies rolled out hungry for a result. Three riders including Spencer attacked from the gun and built a gap that reached a maximum of 10 minutes. Matt and Nick ably covered counterattacks from KMS and MIT, and in an unprecedented turn of events early break would survive. In the final kilometer, Spencer turned himself inside out to win the sprint out of the exhausted three-man group and give the Bulldogs their first Men’s A victory of the season!! Way to go Spencer!!!! Matt finished with the field in 18th, while Nick suffered a flat tire on the second lap and was unable to rejoin the field.
A large field showed up for the Women’s A/B race, and while the field split into two main packs early on, solid chasing on the part of the second group reunited most of the riders. On the final lap, a two-woman break including the yellow jersey got away, gaining two minutes on the rest of the riders, who finished in a field sprint. Krysten, Erica, and Marina finished 8th, 10th, and 11th respectively in As, while Kelsey finished first in the B race and Hannah grabbed 16th! Great work girls!!!

In the Men’s B race, Adam fell victim to the sharp rocks on one of the course’s dirt sections, and bad luck befell several of our C riders as well. Dan Spakowicz suffered two flats and dropped out of contention, but fortunately flatted a second time just as the Men’s A field passed and snagged a neutral wheel from the follow car. Del Bosque finished his first race since Rutgers after eating too little in the first miles of the race and bonking hard but worked with Travis, who had flatted at the start line and started the race with a brake rub from a wider than normal replacement wheel. Sometimes simpenjoying the ride and company of teammates is winning for the day.

Sunday’s criterium in downtown Providence had “MISERY” and “DANGER” written all over the course map. The 8-corner crit featured a steep power climb with gradients up to 15%, a bumpy descent into an off-camber left-hand corner, and a high-speed chicane. After consultation with the various heads of state in the ECCC, officials decided to cut out the climb and descent from the course, leaving in a safer but shorter 6-corner course. This was accomplished in mindbogglingly efficient fashion by the efforts of a few good Yale riders, the use of our trailer, and a hoard of West Point cyclists.

 The short course meant riders falling off the pace would be pulled more aggressively than a longer course, and position in the field became even more important to avoid splits in the field. In the early races, John Wen navigated a treacherous D pack to finish with the bunch. Danny Schlingman suffered after he found himself in a chase group at the back of the C race but soldiered on until he was pulled and placed in the closing laps. In the Bs, Adam similarly found himself in a disorganized chase group but mounted a brave solo bridge effort after remembering to ride in his drops.

Next up was the Women’s A/B race, which was one of the most exciting yet in the calendar. The pace was high from the get-go when several riders ignored the "neutral until the cones" instructions. A hungry field combined with several well-organized teams resulted in a flurry of earnest but unsuccessful attacks. After the early hubbub subsided, two MIT riders TT’ed off the front. Despite relentless chasing by the yellow jersey, the two stayed away to take the top spots on the podium. Amid the commotion, Erica dug deep to hold her position with the leaders, while Marina, Kelsey, Krysten and Hannah suffered after their mammoth efforts in yesterday’s road race. Kelsey and Marina worked together to bridge back up to the chasers, but the pace at the front was ultimately too high. Erica finished highest of the Bulldogs in 19th place.

The Men’s A riders rolled out last under sunny skies. With Spencer’s form uncertain after his Olympian efforts yesterday, the plan was for Matt and Nick to go for the breakaways. Unfortunately, a touch of wheels on the second lap sent Nick to the ground and ruled him out of contention for the rest of the hour. The aggressive pace and dominant tactics from KMS put a damper on the team’s ambitions, and Matt and Spencer would settle for 19th and 20th place respectively. Nick DNF’ed after dropping out to tend to his wounds.

In sum, then, a great weekend for Bulldog Cycling—Yale finished fourth overall and took their first A win in many seasons. Next week Yale travels to State College, PA for the ECCC Championships. See you on the road.

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