Monday, March 21, 2016

ECCC Week 1: Philly Phlyer

by Brian Drollette with pictures from the team

This past weekend, the Bulldogs attacked the first ECCC road race of the season in Philadelphia, PA. We went into the weekend with confidence in our abilities after dusting off our rusty gears in two early preseason races. Its now time to start scoring points in our own conference with eyes on the championships next month. The Bulldogs landed multiple podium finishes and scored plenty of points in this conference race.

The Philly Phlyer consisted of a team time trial and a circuit road race along the Schkuykill River, and a criterium on through the streets of Temple University's campus.

Mike and Jordan, thankful for our sponsors
Castelli Cycling, UCAN nutrition, and DeFeet!

Day 1: Team Time Trial and Schuykill Scramble Circuit Race


The team time trial began bright and early at 8am on Saturday. The course started at the children's museum before descending down to the river, where racers would complete a few laps back and forth along the road before climbing up to the finish. All in all it should have been just a hair over 11 miles.

The Bulldogs entered three separate teams into the race: a Women's C featuring Captain Molly Oakley and Sam Andrade, a Men's C with Jordan Bravin and Alex Bruch, and a Men's A team with Mike Grome, Michael Landry, Michael Moore-Jones, and Brian Drollette.

Jordan and Alex getting ready for their TTT. Can you
guess who had the best drafting advantage?
The Jordan-Alex duo took off for their race aiming to catch as many teams as possible. Each team rolls out in 30 second intervals, and seeing the next team up the road is a huge motivator to keep pushing. The two faired well in the heavy competition, placing a respectable 9th out of 15 teams and clocking in an average pace of 21 mph.

Up next was Molly and Sam in a smaller 5-team field. The two raced smart, saving energy where they could and pushing where it helped. They crossed the line in just a touch over 41 minutes and scored 14 points for the Bulldogs in the Women's Team Omnium!

Capping off the early morning sufferfest was the Michaels (+Brian) A team. The group started behind the UNH team and ahead of Harvard. The goal? Catch UNH and keep Harvard off our tails. We rolled out and got into formation swiftly, working smoothly together in a rotating paceline and communicating effectively (though three Michaels on a four-man team got a bit confusing). After mile 8 or so, catching two teams and averaging a quick 25 mph, a race marshall motioned for us to turn right up the hill towards the finish line. The team crossed the line, 3 miles short of the true course distance, and wound up disqualified. Unfortunately it could not be undone. If anything, it was a lesson in pre-race logistics and a warm up for the road race later in the day.

Schuykill Scramble Circuit Race (with the Humiliation Helmet!)

The course for the circuit race traversed a similar route to the TTT. The 6.5 mile loop included flat sections along the river, a few moderate climbs, and technical descents and corners that thinned out the field.

Captain Grome sporting the Humiliation Helmet before his
very serious A field circuit race.

The Humiliation Helmet was displayed loud and proud during the races. Awarded to a rider that does something humiliating, either to our team or to themselves, the Humiliation Helmet must be worn in that rider's next race to honor their blunder. This week it was donned by Michael Landry (for his water bottle hand-up last week relegating him from 2nd to 3rd) and Captain Michael Grome (for his unjustified self-belief that the earlier TTT disqualification was his fault).

Michael Landry (yellow Humiliation Helmet) and Brian Drollette finishing the Men's C race in 1-2 fashion.
The Men's C field kicked off the race with 85 starters for 4 laps. Representing the Bulldogs were Michael Landry, Michael Moore-Jones, Alex Bruch, and Brian Drollette. Through much of the race, the two Michaels and Brian stayed towards the front half of the pack, navigating around crashes and pileups that plagued the large field. With a few miles to go, the pace picked up on the final climb. Michael Landry found himself in perfect position near the front while Brian worked his way up through the pack as they passed by the final turns and roundabout. They both popped out to the right with the finish line in sight, sprinting to a 1-2 finish and scoring a combined 56 points for the team omnium. Michael Moore-Jones finished mid-pack while Alex used his first race of the season as a warm up for big things to come!

Just a few minutes after the start of the C race, Jordan Bravin clipped in for the Men's D race. He quickly found himself in the middle of another large field, this time of 86 starters. Multiple attacks split the field and Jordan finished the three lap race in the second group with a 21 mph average!

Up next was the Women's C and D fields. Molly Oakley geared up for the four laps in a field of strong riders from Princeton, Brown, and Queens Universities. Our fearless captain rode a strong race and ultimately finished 22nd, one lap down from the leaders. Not once did anyone see a smile leave her face! Sam Andrade wrapped up the circuit race for the women's team in the D race alongside 66 other racers. She finished the 3 lap race in great form, placing 28th in her first mass start race of the season.

Wrapping up Day 1 of the Phill Phlyer was arguably the most exciting race of the day. Captain Michael Grome tore up the Men's A field in true Bulldog fashion while wearing the Humiliation Helmet. Within a few miles of the opening lap, a racer from KMS broke off the front and Mike took chase. To make himself useful against a rider stronger than him, Mike said that he wouldn't contest the finish if they worked together.

The two of them had a 2+ minute gap on the rest of the field when the KMS rider's tire flatted with 30 miles to go. Mike knew he had to stay away long enough for another breakaway to catch him, since the peloton was a mass group. After another lap or so, a racer from NYU and another from KMS crossed the gap and Mike said "Finally, I've been waiting for you!" They all worked together to keep the breakaway going for the rest of the race. The three racers held off the main field by 30 seconds across the line, with 1-2-3 going to KMS-NYU-Yale. Good work, Mike!

Day 2: Temple University Criterium

On Sunday we found ourselves at the heart of Temple University's campus for the final race of the weekend. The crit was classic four-corner course with a slight downhill on the back stretch and uphill to the finish line.

The team was happy to welcome Coach Aidan Charles of CCNS to the race. Aidan provided insight into the course and warmup tips to get the team prepared for the day. We were grateful to have him there with us and proud to show him how all of our hard work is starting to pay dividends.
Jordan on the front of Sunday's crit.

Jordan started the day in the Men's D race. He found himself on the front in the first few laps of the 30 minute race, and narrowly missed a chain derailment on some uneven pavement. A hard fought battle resulted in 14th in the field of 66. Not bad for the first one of the season!

Next up was the Men's C race. This race included Michael Landry, Alex, and Matt Ampleman. Michael and Matt stayed with the front group for the majority of the 40 minute race while Alex worked with other racers off the back. With four laps to go, Matt pulled off to the pit with a mechanical, however he was unable to rejoin the race as there were less than 5 laps to go. Unfortunately it was only a minor brake rub! Michael remained in contention for the sprint, and as the field rounded the final corner he took off and secured the victory. Two wins in two days!

Molly and Sam raced the Women's C in great form. From the start, two racers took off and created a sizable gap. The main field became strung out, and both Molly and Sam had to find other racers in order to share the work. By the last few laps they found each other, crossing the finish line together in 20th and 21st. 

Molly doing work!

Sam pulling the three racer group.

The final race of the weekend was the Men's A. Mike Grome, coming of an impressive podium finish the day before, looked solid throughout the race. A few breaks tried to form without success until the last half. Riders from Delaware and Queens took off and managed a 1+ minute gap on the field, claiming the first two podium spots, while another in the gap took third. The rest of the omnium points were still up for grabs as the main field barreled down the final stretch in a bunch sprint. Unfortunately, Mike got tied up with another racer and the two of them went down across the line at full speed. Race coordinators and EMTs rushed over to find both racers pretty banged up, but thankfully with no serious injuries. Thank goodness for helmets!

All in all it was a successful weekend for the Bulldogs. We went home with several omnium points, a few podium spots, and a ton of good experiences. The rest of the ECCC season is looking good!

Five of the Bulldogs headed south following the race to Asheville, NC for a spring break training camp. Stay tuned for training camp reports as well as race reports from our next conference race at the NYC Metro Showdown.

Afternoon snoozin'.

No caption needed.

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