Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, you ask? You might imagine a charming port city full of comings and goings and all manner of colorful characters, but you’d imagine wrong. This weekend’s destination instead lay in the rolling country of southern Pennsylvania not 20 miles from the Mason-Dixon line. The, ahem, rich smells and sight of horse-drawn buggies made it abundantly clear that the Bulldogs had come far from rough-hewn New England indeed.
Saturday’s schedule featured a criterium on the campus of Shippensburg University, followed in the late afternoon by a 7-mile mass-start hill climb on the outskirts of town. The criterium featured two 90-degree and one sweeping 180-degree left hand turn with a sharp uphill kick before the finish line. The final left hand turn proved to be a source of difficulty in the lower categories, but the Yalies kept the rubber side down during the a.m. races. In Men’s DII, John Wen held on to finish 12th as the bulk of the field as P&P’ed. In the C race, a group of four riders broke clear of a disorganized field to win by over a minute. Jimmy Martenson finished safely mid-pack in 30th place. In Men’s B, Adam worked hard to stay with the group as NYU and UVM battled back and forth for control of the race. He finished safely in the group.
In a change from the usual schedule, the A men took to the road ahead of the women next. Penn State, Pittsburg, and local riders from Shippensburg and Kutztown came ready to put the hammer down, and from the gun it was on like Donkey Kong. Matt and Nick worked for the first half of the race to keep Spencer near the pointy end of the peloton and shut down several attempts by riders to get clear. When a mid-race consultation revealed Spencer’s lack of sensations, however, Nick and Matt began riding for their own chances. Matt fought his way into a promising but unsuccessful group of five, and Nick got away in a three-man break several laps later.
Misfortune struck as Nick clipped a pedal in the turn, sending him to the deck and out of the race. With several laps to go, the field was back together and the race wound up for the final sprint. Going into the final turn, a rider tried to move up on the inside and forced Spencer into the outer curb. The crash forced Matt to slam on the brakes, costing him his position in the final sprint. (Public Service Announcement: DON’T PASS ON THE INSIDE OF A CORNER)
In the absence of the formidable MIT women's squad, the women's A/B crit maintained a comfortable pace for most of the race, keeping almost the entire group together until the sprint finish. As in the previous races, the final corner proved too much for a couple of riders, but the Yale team managed to skirt the carnage and finished 3rd (Krysten), 9th (Marina) and 10th (Erica), with Krysten grabbing some prime points as well.
After some misadventures searching for emergency medical care, the Bulldogs reconvened for the afternoon’s mass start hill climb—a 7-mile race featuring a flat but windy 2 mile prologue and a subsequent ascent to the ridgeline south of Shippensburg.
First out the gate for Yale was John in Men’s DII, who put his hill training to work in an impressive 5th place. Great work John! Jimmy quickly followed in the Men’s C field, which quickly disintegrated on the slopes of the climb. Jimmy kept calm and carried on on for a solid finish in the top-20. Yale’s strong showing continued in the B race as Adam “T-Rex” Trexler put in a massive effort to finish inside the top-10. Awesome racing boys!
The A men rolled out bruised in body but ready for battle at heart. On the lower slopes of the climb, Nick went to the front and drilled the pace for as long as he could before dropping himself and leaving the race to Matt and Spencer. Matt turned a pedal in anger to finish fourth with Spencer close on his heels in seventh place. Nick rolled across the line in 25th.
Last to leave were Yale’s A and B women. Marina and returning rider Hannah Arem made the coveted selection on the climb and worked together to stay in contact with the leaders. As the sun declined on the racers in the final meters, Marina displayed some perhaps unjustified kindness by leading out a Dartmouth rider but nonetheless finished in a fantastic 6th place. Hannah rode to first place in B’s a few seconds later while Erica rode a steady tempo to finish 12th. Great job, ladies!
Sunday featured the Horse Killer Road Race—a brutal course featuring an ascent of the eponymous Horse Killer Road (“In these parts, they name these roads for a reason”), a technical descent featuring a blind, off-camber left hand turn, vicious winds and rough pavement in many stretches.
The Men’s D race covered a shortened course that omitted the climb but none of the wind. John kept out of trouble and out of the breeze amid a sketchy field. As a man who prefers his feet and inches over meters, John took the “1K to go” sign as an interesting piece of advice rather than a finish line indicator and calmly rolled across the line in 15th place.
Jimmy was the first Yale rider to take on the full course. Unfortunately, a dropped chain early in the race meant that he chased heroically for forty miles, nevertheless passing many riders on the climb and managing to finish mid-pack in the C field.
Adam set out with a plan to mark UVM’s mountain goats and fight hard for a top-10 finish in Men’s B. Unfortunately, an ill-timed puncture on the first lap spelled the end of his Shippensburg campaign with no follow car to supply a new wheel.
Last out were the Men’s A and Women’s A/B fields. With temperatures in the low-60s, riders could at least look forward to warmer weather than past weekends. The Men’s A race, however, would prove to be a wash. Nick flatted on the first lap and chased for the remainder of the race until he was pulled and placed, while Spencer’s elected to withdraw after two laps in light of the previous day’s injuries. An errant touch of wheels in the last 400 meters brought Matt down and dashed his chance for another top-10 finish.
The women proved to be the bright spot in an otherwise average day of road races. The A/B race began at a leisurely pace as riders took stock of the course and each other. The climb produced the anticipated separation, but cautious descending allowed riders to catch back on. The first ascent popped Erica and Krysten, who each chased for the remaining of the race. Erica finished 13th in A’s, while Krysten, ever the opportunist, decided to slink back and draft the Men’s A field for the remainder of the race. She would finish 3rd in B’s. The second climb sent both Marina and Hannah out the back, but they both managed to rejoin the leaders amid the blustery winds on the back-half of the course. By the third lap the lead group had been reduced to about 10 women. The predicted acceleration by the leaders on the final hill-climb, though slight, was hard to match and shattered the group of 10 into a break of 3 riders, followed by 3 individual riders, followed by a chase of 4 including Marina and Hannah. Marina would finish 8th in A’s, while Hannah would finish 2nd in B’s.
The Bulldogs will take their fishnet gauze next week to West Point, New York—home of the storied Army Hill Climb Time Trial, campus criterium, and a new road race. Enjoy the weather everyone!