Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Army Weekend Recap! (& Lee's first race weekend!)

Though it’s been a while, don’t let the elapsed time fool you: the Yale racers who went to race at Army had a fantastic weekend! Four Yalies drove out to Highland Falls on Friday night for the race hosted by the United States Military Academy.

Saturday morning rolled around early, cold, and windy - so windy! The team bundled up, set up Trainerville, and started warming up to the playlist of our parking-lot neighbors, Boston University. The D2 men, Alex and Will, took off bravely into the wind for the team time trial, for Will’s first bike race ever. 

Will's First Bike Race! Photo cred to Jan Polk.
They had a great ride — except for that one time when the home team’s support vehicles, a caravan of Humvees, ran Will off the road! He recovered quickly … and then another Humvee roared by just as Alex pulled out to take his turn pulling. They made it back in one piece, carefully timing their final sprint for a 7.75mi race — and then realized the line they’d passed at the 7.19mi mark! Quote of the Day: “Dude, if we knew where the finish line was, we woulda won!” Watch out, ECCC. They’re gonna KILL IT next time.

Army chase vehicles. Yes, really.
The wind picked up across beautiful Harriman park, with bikes occasionally clattering to the pavement and random wheels flying across the parking lot. Mike and Lee hung out on the trainers in Minoura-trainerville to keep warm and awake - and teammate Matt Ampleman appeared as the Saturday-morning arrival for the Men’s C Road Race. He went out and had a great race, finishing 12th of 40! The D2 men also conquered the hills of Harriman State Park with gusto, Alex in 11th and Will in 22nd overall - all three bringing home points for the team!. Just after they left, I headed out for the women’s intro clinic. We headed out along the TTT course, and all had a very nice time riding with the coaches and our fellow intro folks, and had a very pleasant race back to the finish line. And then a well-intentioned but misinformed observer/marshall/random person

on the sidelines sent me off to the left instead of home to the right … and I was in for a surprise lap of the course! Besides the initial overwhelming fear of the first downhill drop — mostly because “I’m not supposed to be going this way! I can’t turn around! What am I doing?!” — and secondary fear of the subsequent climb back up to the top of that hill, it was a great lap. Harriman’s beautiful, with patches of sun shining through, some lovely hills, and even waterfalls along the roadside. Matt, Will and Alex all reported back to the parking lot, and we all collapsed into a car, where there was no wind. No wind! So quiet! We all decided we’d never leave the car again, and then descended upon a bag of Cafe Romeo sandwiches, and a variety of Peanut Butter + Co flavors spread on apples. That bag of food was the most beautiful thing we’d seen all day. We love our sponsors.

Meanwhile, Mike prepared for the Men’s B race in Trainerville. We supported him wholeheartedly from the car (“Mike's using the portapotty. GET IT, GROME.”) and then saw him off at the line. Almost three hours later, he returned, exhausted and hungry, immediately eating as much food as we could feed him. If you’d ever like to see a human being consume an incredible amount of food in seconds flat, find Mike after a race. All that FAST takes an awful lot of energy! We packed up and headed back to the hotel, exhausted & happy & pretty pleased with the day’s racing. Mike summed up the day nicely: "I know exactly why I ride bikes. 1. I like riding bikes. 2. It's like playing a video game where you can level up."

Hungry, hungry bike racer!

Sunday was another early morning - we were actually the first to the course, having hit up the hotel breakfast before MIT’s racers. As it turns out, West Point is a military base as well as a good old college campus, so we’d left extra time for the checkpoint process. The criterium course at Army is beautiful - a three-cornered loop around Shea stadium, next to the Hudson river, with one short hill at one of the corners. From the parking lot at the top of the hill, it’s possible to see almost the entire race play out. We pre-rode the course early, figuring out smart ways to take the corners and how to avoid potholes and sewer grates, and watched the Men’s D1 race before sending Alex and Will, our D2 men, to the starting line, to the tune of Alan’s “D2 Men to the line! Party time!” They raced well, with Will winning a sprint and both finishing strong. Will has fallen in love with riding crits - they include all the parts of racing he loved in Track + Field — the sport in which he competed until this spring.

Party time!
We watched the Women’s D and Men’s C races from the tricky corner, eavesdropping and analyzing and learning from the racers who’d done this before, watching race strategy from the top of the hill. I trundled off to the women’s intro clinic, where we practiced pack-riding tactics on the grass in the infield. It was a nice refresher of Mike’s skills clinic earlier in the year, practicing bumping and high-fiving to improve our bike handling. We rode three practice laps with our coach, and then she sent us off on our own. The corners were fun, the course was fun, and even that little hill was fun. I worked hard to tuck myself behind a racer from Team Mineola until the final lap and had a nice sprint to the line. Winning is fun, too. (And I made some new friends with the UNH team, who adopted me in their cheering squad!)
My first spokes-from-space photo!

By the time I was off the bike, Mike was off for the Mens B race, putting in good efforts at good moments. His family had driven in to cheer for him from the sidelines. Travis had arrived, having struggled with a dead car battery in the morning, and was watching Mike’s race from a trainer on the hill. We hooted and hollered and cheered Mike on. Shortly after were the A women, including a special appeared by our very own Easter Rabbit, recovering from a hip dislocation at the Tufts crit the weekend before. The field was fast and recovery was hard; Travis rode a good race — in aero rabbit ears! We all have a fantastic time, got a couple new addicts to crits (:D! ), had some interesting adventures, and can’t wait to do it again.

Vroom! That's Grome on the left in the hi-viz.

Da boyz.
Easter Rabbit!
Also, West Point is beautiful & bike racing is fun.

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