Race Report: ECCC Columbia/Stevens Weekend and Cat++

Columbia and Stevens delivered an action-packed weekend of racing this past weekend. With cool spring temperatures, and even some sun on Saturday, all three of my races this weekend offered plenty of learning opportunities.

Columbia hosted the Grant’s Tomb criterium, on the usual course near their campus. The course had a long enough downhill section that let the pack easily catch any attempts at making a break. Sure, you could get some distance on the three corners just after the start, but the real strategic component was the long rise to the finish line. I took the conservative approach in the Cat 4 race in the morning, staying with the pack of mostly local NYC racers and a few collegiate riders hoping to earn some quick upgrade points. I chased down a couple of attacks, and made sure to stay toward the front of the pack and away from the crashed, but tried to hide from the wind. The last lap was fast, but with a good line, I was able to come around the lead group on that long rise to the finish, taking a conclusive first place in my second-ever road victory.

The afternoon’s Collegiate B race featured a smaller, but more aggressive field. Averaging 2 MPH faster than the morning race, numerous attacks failed as the pack picked up speed on the descent. I pulled more than I should have, trying to stay ahead of the pack with too much success. UVM’s Lee Peters (315, won the Rutgers circuit) and Marshall Ambros (320, second at the Princeton crit) were the riders to watch. Stupidly, I let Lee and a few UVM buddies pull away in the last lap. I came around everyone but Lee, finishing second.

We thought the Stevens crit would be a disorganized mess; we were pleasantly disappointed! The race, new this year, was a dream for anyone whose strengths included time trials, cornering, and descending. An uphill start/finish led to a hard right, a winding 15% downgrade, a wide right, and a 15% upgrade to the finish. The winning tactic was to leave the pack and take the corners fast. I had a poor start, and worked for many laps to get ahead of the pack. By the time I got there, Marshall was way off the front, and Lee was right on my wheel. Taking the descent and corner harder than anyone, I managed to open a gap for second place, never catching Marshall.

Two first place and two second place finishes to date were just enough to net me an upgrade to Men’s A and Category 3, my first major upgrade since 2003. I’ll be mixing it up with the big boys next weekend in Delaware.

A special thanks to my mother, who graciously hosted me and two other riders, treated us to dinner, and endured an hour-long subway ride to cheer on Team MIT. She is pleased to see so many female racers, and wonders how bicycles can go so fast.