Saturday, May 10, 2014

2014 Collegiate Road Nationals!

2014 Road Nationals

Braving treacherous weather, Erik and Travis made their way from New Haven to Richmond, VA for the 2014 Collegiate Road Nationals, with amplification of pre-race excitement provided by the legendary Brett Houser (cape included).
Who wouldn’t want this guy on their team? In the absence of a Yale jersey, Brett borrows the stars and stripes for feedzone duty during the road race. We couldn't have done it without him! 

The cobbles! Dangerous? Nah... Scary? Nah... Pro? Yes.
Arriving late Wednesday, the crew got busy with preparing for what was sure to be an epic race weekend. After several jars of Peanut Butter & Co. peanut butter, Travis' Marky Mark Pandora mix station, and multiple hours of Cartoon Network, they were ready for anything. After spinning the legs out on the scenic and shockingly warm roads of Glen Allen Virginia with the MIT team on Thursday and braving the lines and ego-strutting of racer check-in and packet pickup, they steadied themselves for the first event of the weekend: a 31-kilometer time trial on Friday.

“Can you overdose on caffeine? Are you sure?”

The course for the time trial was mostly flat, very much exposed to wind, and significantly longer than any solo effort of the year. Additionally, the course had several “cobble-light” sections, two 180 degree turnarounds (on cobbles!), and sharp turns that would require both technical skills and raw power.

First to race the ITT was Erik. After several weeks of nervously anticipating the event, Erik decided that the best way to approach the race was to consume about three coffee cups worth of caffeine before the race, thereby totally disregarding all reasonable nutritional advice (sorry, Molly!) and listen to Eminem on full volume and repeat. Several trips to the bathroom later, it was go time.
Why the hell do people sign up to do this? Success!

The setup for the ITT was super legit (starting ramp + bike hold = PRO). Rolling down the start ramp, Erik somehow managed to appear composed, gaining speed quickly, and flying into the first corner and out of sight. Because this would be his last time trial for several years, he decided that the best strategy for the race was to ride hard enough so that bike racing would cease to be enjoyable for several years.

He doesn't remember asking if he should smile for this photo.

Erik managed to post what would turn out to be the fastest time of the day, 41:47, single-handedly beating nearly all of the men's team time trial times. He wishes he could elaborate on the race, but has blocked it out of his memory and really doesn’t want to think about it any more. The quote we will remember of this epic effort is, "I have never felt so terrible before in my life". 

Calm and composed. 
Gears make road standing starts far easier than on the track!

Travis was up next. Although overly pessimistic of his chances, given minor foot surgery on Monday of that week, antibiotics and time off the bike, Travis would take to heart the invaluable advice he received from his teammate (“Pedal really hard. Be aero.”) and go on to ride a very impressive 52:48 despite a mishap with an errant pedestrian, good enough for 9th place, and acquiring a new taste for long ITT efforts. 

To cap the day off, the team went to the award banquet that night with two goals: load up on carbs (ziti = delicious) and express as much support as possible for the ECCC. Both goals were well achieved, and Erik returned with a medal and sporting the stars and stripes of a newly crowned national champion.

Should’ve gotten a haircut

Saturday featured Travis racing a technical rolling criterium in downtown Richmond. Erik, still convinced that criteriums are an exercise in self-loathing, decided to skip the event in favor of Sunday’s road race. 
When life gives you lemons, you ignore it and bike harder

Unfortunately, as is often the case in bike racing, luck was not with the Bulldogs today. After getting stuck behind a rider having problems clipping in at the start, Travis then found himself coming to a dead stop behind two crashes and having to chase back on to the pack, giving everything in an attempt to counteract his misfortune and burning many matches. Unfortunately, upon catching the pack after a one and a half lap chase the second time, the prime bell was rung. Without reprieve from his hard chase effort, Travis found himself behind the split as the field fractured. By sheer grit and determination, Travis eeked out a strong 28th place finish, solo-ing away from his chase group for the final two laps of the race.
A glance down the Libbie Hill cobble climb. No big deal, right?
 Hoping that Sunday would go more smoothly, the team aligned their focus with the final event, a road race circuit intended to serve as a preview for the UCI World Championships in 2015. Naturally, this race would need to feature multiple cobblestone sections, including a downhill portion that is more suited for a mountain bike and capable of ejecting not only bottles but also the contents of jersey pockets.
Travis rode first, using his technical skills (why everyone should ride all the bikes: track, mountain, cross) to navigate the challenging rough cobblestone Libby Hill climb and rougher cobble descent, jumping two ejected bottles on the first lap cobble descent. The front half of the D2 women's road race remained largely cohesive for the first two criterium-fast, sub-25 minute, ten mile laps, before finally shattering with an attack on the third climb. 

Was this a downtown criterium or a road race? We aren't quite sure...
 it was FAST! Finishing with MIT friends.
After regrouping in the chase group along with some fellow ECCC racers from MIT and Mt Sinai, Travis fought hard in an effort to close the gap, putting in more work than he knew was sensible on his way to a 29th place finish, wrapping up a solid all-around performance for the weekend in each event. His advice to Erik regarding the Libby Hill cobbles was, "Avoid the fight for the gutter. Take the worst line, nobody wants it and it's all ridable". 

Erik started strong, but two mechanicals, a mid-race bike switch, and crippling leg cramps served as a reminder that things can go from perfect to disastrous in a matter of minutes. After two successful attempts of bridging the gap to the field, the third would prove too far, and Erik was pulled with a lap to go. Deciding that he wanted to finish his racing career on a high note, he proceeded to give high fives to spectators and pose for the camera.

Going out in style!

All in all, the weekend was a positive one, with Yale bringing home the stars and stripes!

1 comment:

  1. Good work on Nationals Everyone!