Cycling finishes dominant ECCC conference season

Racers now prepare for national championships

At the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference (ECCC) championship weekend, held in State College, Pa., the MIT Cycling team completed a fantastic road racing season, winning the season points series by a commanding 1957 to 1431 margin over second place Penn State.

The Saturday road race was held on a 21-mile loop with two hills and a major climb totaling over 2000 feet of elevation gain per lap — by far the most challenging course of the year. The women’s A/B field did three laps of the course, but Katie J. Quinn G left little doubt of the outcome after the first time over the climb, where she launched an attack that no one else in the field had the legs to follow. Quinn rode the rest of the race alone off the front, winning by almost 10 minutes with a time of 3 hours, 52 minutes, putting a fitting exclamation point on her overall individual conference win. Yuri Matsumoto G hung with the closest chase group for a third-place finish, and Diana Siegel G finished sixth in her first B race.

The men’s A race was four laps of the course for a leg-popping 8000 ft of elevation gain over 85 miles. The field started with 66 riders, but a blistering pace on the first climb cut the pack in half, with John J. Rhoden G, Spencer D. Schaber G, and Adam P. Bry G all managing to stick with the front group. On the third lap, a lead group of 10 riders escaped on the climb, with all three MIT riders narrowly missing the break and working in smaller chase groups for the final lap. Rhoden was the top MIT finisher at 12th, followed by Bry at 13th and Schaber in 17th. MIT was the only team to have three riders in the top 20.

Sunday’s criterium course was held on Penn State’s “frat row” and featured six corners, including a technical chicane. Under the best of circumstances, it would have been an extremely challenging course, but a light drizzle during the men’s and women’s A races slicked the roads and turned the race into a nightmarish slip-and-slide survival test. In the women’s race, Quinn, Matsumoto and Christina M. Birch G executed multiple attacks, setting up a three-person breakaway with Birch and Quinn, but unfortunately crashes took out both MIT riders. Isolated in the pack, Matsumoto put in a gutsy move with three laps remaining and held off the pack for a solo victory. In the men’s D race, Samuel M. Nicaise G rode with poise and tenacity to stick with the front selection and pull out an eighth-place finish in the pack sprint.

From a team perspective, the weekend showed the incredible progress made by newer riders during the year with 10 of the 15 MIT riders competing in the A category. MIT has long enjoyed a stranglehold on the women’s A field, and Quinn and Birch, both racing As for the first time this year, surely dashed the hopes of other schools hoping that MIT’s dominance might fade. On the men’s side, first-year riders Andrew C. Lysaght G and Joseph P. Near G dominated in D, C, and B races over the course of the season, with both riders finishing the year As, proving they could hang with a field that often features professional-caliber riders who compete in some of the biggest races in the country. The up-and-coming talent will be on display at the road national championships in Madison, Wis., May 6–8, where MIT will send a team of 10 riders, including four first-time participants.