Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Week 3: the deep freeze at Bard and RPI

Our hero for the day glowing after her first A TTT effort! 
The third weekend of the 2014 ECCC Road Season started with a practically cornerless criterium with a little hill that was just begging to be attacked on. To be specific, the Bard College Crit was shaped like a melted ice cube, with one semisquare downhill corner. The second side of the course had a gradual up slope ending with a short kicker up to the top of the square where racers faced a strong headwind before reaching the descent into the fourth (and only) corner, and a loose chicane into the finishing straight. Every field, including the Mens and Women's A fields, were shattered by the climb and the strong headwind.
An NYU-Yale alliance being coached at the start line.
Given the combined D1/D2 men's field for the criterium, Yale decided to join forces with our neighbors and friends at NYU with the intent to send our two former track stars off the front in a breakaway, at the first prime lap. While the breakaway did not succeed in getting away, Yale and NYU solidly stuck together, trading 3rd and 4th wheel for the entire body of the race. Many lessons about racing strategy were learned, new friends made, alliances formed, and big plans cooked up for the next days road race, where our D men would be bolstered by four more riders.
Michael Grome finished the Men's D race 13th, Danny Schlingman 26th and Kevin Durazo 28th. Congratulations to Kevin on schooling UConn in drafting and tactics in his first D criterium!
Erin showing off her cornering skills in the
women's intro race.
Siyuan raced the Men's Intro crit, where he fought hard to reel back in the shattered field, and placed a solid 6th. Similarly, the Women's Intro field shattered from the start with many riders strewn about the course. Erin raced her first Women's Intro race ever and crushed it on the hills, out of the saddle, to finish 4th. Erin's commitment to the climb (to quote, she "almost vomited") shall be a point of aspiration for all fellow team members.
Elif raced the Women's C field, where the weather decided to give her a lovely surprise in the form of a strategically timed 15-minute snow flurry. Despite getting caught in no-woman's land, Elif fought hard to catch the pack on the climbs, and finished a solid 9th
Travis, after coaching both Intro clinics, swapped "coach" for A numbers, and in an unusually pushy field with slamming handlebars, hip checks and pointed elbows, after coming out of the first prime lap, suddenly found that his rear brake caliper was locked onto his wheel and could not be opened no matter how hard he tried. For the next 15 minutes until being pulled, he fought the good fight pushing supra-threshold wattage and as he stated, "not going very far".
The day was concluded with an animated and raucous joint team dinner with NYU and Columbia. 
NYC area friends ECCC inter-team dinner.
ERMONT keeping the legs warm.
Party in the NYU team van.
The Bulldogs and Violets (NYU) rejoined for hotel breakfast in the morning before driving out to Pittstown where they were greeted by dangerously icy road conditions, 22-degree temperatures, a delayed TTT start time and word going around that the road race may be canceled.
While postponing facing a sub-freezing warm-up for as long as humanly possible, our ever-gregarious development coordinator found himself in a wager with NYU as to who could enter the most team vans in the conference, taking it up a notch with a wager on who could wear the most borrowed team clothing items. Starting this wager out strong, Travis acquired a pair of UVM leg warmers, which were sported throughout the day under his Yale kit.

By 9:00 am, road conditions were suitable for racing, and TTT's began embarking upon a 10-mile out-and-back course with safe but less than ideal road conditions. First up were the D men, made up of Siyuan (Intro), David DeWitt (D) and Daniel Schlingman (D), who placed 6th. Then the C s rode in a strong and cohesive squad made up of Jan (C), Michael Grome (D), John Wen (D), and Matthew Schulman (D). The Men's C TTT team, in overachieving Yale style, took smart pulls to share work appropriate to strength and afterwards debriefed to discuss points in which they could improve. Last but not least, was the Yale A women's team- Travis (A), Colleen (B), Elif (C), who also intelligently split work and placed 5th. In a sport where success is measured in suffering and personal bests, Elif is our hero for the weekend, for pushing a "you looked like you were going to combust" pace through her first women's A team time trial and helping reel in the team 58 points!
Bike racing is hard. The aftermath of the C TTT.
Women's A TTT cresting the finishing climb.
Pre-ITT flat fix by Jan.
Frozen fingers included.
The RPI road race was replaced by an out-and-back ITT, starting with a 2-mile descent down to be greeted by, yet again, gale force winds off of the reservoir, a hairpin turn, more gale force winds, and a finishing stepped, 2-mile climb. Our D men proved their well-matched strength, all finishing in the top half with a very narrow span between times. In the Men's C field, Jan reinforced our suspicions that he will be ready for an upgrade to Bs in the near future, finishing 11th. Siyuan crushed his first ITT ever, to finish second place- congrats on the upgrade to D's next week! Elif started the ITT strong until feeling the full aftershock of her TTT effort earlier in the day, yet pushed through the pain (taking Erik's advice that "pedaling less hard is a conscious decision") for a solid 7th place.
Serious business.
It was clear Erik meant business from the beginning of his warmup; he was systematic, focused and completely oblivious to all events going on outside of his headphones and wattage, such as the discussion among his teammates of "What is it like to be in Erik Levinsohn's head during a race?" Despite our team's lack of a TTT helmet for the weekend, Erik proved that the Yale Cycling Team's newly adopted motto "We do not fuck around" is appropriate, and finished his ITT second place. Colleen took a plunge into the invigorated and notably accelerated B field of 2014, put all of her triathlon training to use, got aero (or as she calls it, "tight with her bike") and finished a strong 12th.
Now, let's take a moment to talk about equipment maintenance and the utmost importance of cleat covers. The thing about Speedplay pedals and other high-end cycling gear is that if you don't do the maintenance, they don't work. Furthermore, when your cycling shoes are the same pair you were wearing since you began cycling - and that's been how many years since you replaced them? - the wise thing to do would be to anticipate a problem instead of waiting for it to happen. 
Making up for time lost.
#brokenshoe #cleatcrisis 
Travis learned this important lesson or as he termed it, "got spanked and publicly humiliated by the universe" when both of his cleats were unable to be clipped out of his pedals at the intersection prior to staging, causing him to turtle over while still attached to his bike. Unable to separate himself, he flailed his arms wildly and called for help, at which point an official helped him up and informed him that he had missed his Intro race. Said official then manually removed one of his shoes from the pedal, at which point Travis's shoe self-destructed; its buckle broken, the shoe was secured to his foot only by a flimsy Lycra shoe cover. Not to be forgiven for his equipment maintenance sins for the first 2 miles of his ITT, Travis was until then unable to clip in with said foot. To cap the whole day off, at the end of the ITT, Travis again found himself unable to remove either foot from his pedals and proceeded to light pedal until assistance arrived in the form of a kind Williams racer who helped Travis detach himself from his bike through a "prolonged hugging experience". Lesson: maintain your equipment or face the consequences - a Williams rider may not be there to catch you. 
To finish off the day and satisfy our post-race appetites, we joined RISD and Brown for a dinner stop at a diner. Plates of hash browns and home fries were passed around family-style; new friends, facebook friends, and instagram friends were made. Dinner was then followed by Yale scoring a point in the Yale-NYU Van Occupancy Wager by piling in the RISD van with their whole team, and donning a RISD team jacket for the obligatory photo evidence.
Stay tuned for the MIT X-Pot next weekend!

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