This past Saturday marked the opening race of the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference (ECCC). The week leading up to the race consisted of sunshine and temperatures in the high 40s — beautiful. The only sign of the wretched winter the east coast endured was the pothole marred streets. The Brown University Cycling Team drove down to the southern tip of the Hudson Valley, NY for what was sure to be an exciting race. The course was a fast 3.7 mile counter-clockwise loop around a lake — generally flat with a few rollers on the backside of the course. The races proved to be even more exciting than anticipated as torrential rain flooded the roads, filled potholes and soaked riders to their bones before the first lap was even finished. Mud flew everywhere, fog reduced visibility to fifteen feet and snow banks turned roads into narrow, 5 foot wide bottlenecks. It reminded me of the classics. I watched as riders from the C and B categories finish so cold that team mates had to undress them because their hands were to numb to do anything useful. But, needless to say I was psyched as I thought I had been training in similar weather — I hadn’t.
The race kicked off. As expected, moves flew left and right and it soon became apparent who had done their off season homework. I tried to mark every move I could, but eventually a break slipped away and I wasn’t a part of it. I worked with other riders to real the break back in but to no avail — the break of two University of Delaware riders stayed away. The peloton successfully disoriented, trudged on with the race. Wary of attacks now, the peloton let nothing get away. Without team members, a successful chase was futile and the race culminated in a field sprint for third. I crossed the line with a top ten finish, happy that I didn’t crash and made it through the race in one piece. It was a great race and definitely got me stoked for the season. But at the same time I was bummed with my result, and the hunger in my belly for a better result only grew overnight. I went into Sunday’s criterium highly motivated and looking for a result.
After a good night of sleep sharing a pull-out futon with another race (not sarcastic!), I was feeling excited to race. The criterium was located on the Rutgers campus in New Jersey. The course consisted of a counter-clockwise loop with three corners and a finish that was uphill and into a strong headwind. I ended up riding to the criterium with another local category A racer who showed me some of the scenic back roads New Jersey has to offer. The ride was truly beautiful, even with a roaring headwind. It took us around 2.5 hours to reach the criterium. My legs really started to open up and feel loose about an hour into the ride. A few efforts later and I was feeling pretty good about the race to come. Aside from a flat tire I got riding to the criterium, everything seemed to be going well for me. It is impossible for me to have a bad day when I have my pre-criterium breakfast of a bagel with peanut butter and some coffee.
I analyzed the course before racing. I noted that the final corner coming into the finish was sharp and sketchy. Remembering a teammate’s previous win at another Criterium early this season in California, I made a mental note of the corner. The gun went off and I settled into the first third of the peloton. I was a factor in the race — never more than 7 riders from the front. I hopped on anyone’s wheel who put in a dig and broke away from the peloton. After the break getting away the day before, I wanted to make sure I was a part of whatever went, so I got in every break that formed. It hurt, but thirty minutes into the race one of these breaks got ten seconds on the peloton. The break went up to five riders and the gap slowly grew. Twenty, thirty, forty seconds we heard from the spectators. We worked well together sharing the work and making sure our move was the winning move — it was.
With one lap to go we lapped the main field. Remembering a chat I had with my teammate a week prior, I launched my attack 400 meters or more out from the finish. I made it to the sketchy corner with daylight between me and the rider behind, railed the corner and put in another dig to carry myself across the finish line in first place. I couldn’t believe it worked. I am so grateful for the advice I was given as well as all the support our wonderful sponsors have given us so far this season. Not only did I win the men’s A category, but Ferdi Mayer won the men’s C category in the criterium and got third the day prior. It was a solid opening weekend for Brown University.
Men’s Category A Cycling Race Report
For additional details on the races, see the following documents:
Full results for both race days: