Cycling team overcomes odds to win at Shippensburg

The MIT cycling team placed first overall at the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference (ECCC) Shippensburg Scurry race with contributions from each of its seven team members.

Apart from the steep climbs and sharp turns, the Engineers had to combat gusty winds throughout the weekend of racing. The numbers were not in their favor either, as the seven-strong team was up against teams that fielded over fifteen cyclists, and yet they found a way to outscore their opponents. At times it was strategic teamwork, at other times it was sheer heart-and-hustle, and at yet other times it was about playing to one’s strength. Last but not the least, valuable contributions from the battle-tested veterans helped MIT pull off its best performance so far this season.

The weekend did not go as planned for rookie Paul Cohen ’17 who crashed into the very first corner of his first competitive race. But not only did he pick himself up to complete that race, he finished third in the subsequent race.

Reflecting on an eventful outing Cohen said, “The crash definitely put a damper on my spirits for the day. I was pretty excited and hopeful about my chances going into the race, so crashing on the first corner sucked.”

The second race was a different story as Cohen got ahead and pressed home his advantage to push himself to a podium finish.

“I was surprised halfway through the race when I looked behind and saw a gap opening between me and the group behind. This was a massive confidence boost. I think the adrenaline from this helped a lot in carrying me to the finish line and clinch third place,” he said.

MIT got its biggest contribution from Justin Bandoro G. Having trained hard this past winter, Bandoro was primed to perform under challenging conditions and he came through in the clutch in a big way, bagging two individual victories in the men’s B category.

Following his victories, he underscored the importance of knowing one’s strengths and how those compared with the strengths of one’s opponents: “I am a relatively better climber than most of the racers in my field,” Bandoro said. “Going into the race I had a plan to attack on one of the laps after that decisive corner to get separation from the other racers. With just a little bit more than 20 minutes of racing left, the pack turned that corner and decided to put in an attack up the climb. At the top I looked back saw that I had around a 10 [second] gap on the group, then got as aerodynamic as possible on the bike and put in a strong effort for the next 20 minutes to stay away.”

Even in a largely individual sport like cycling, the importance of teamwork cannot be neglected.

As Bandoro explained, “I have to give huge kudos and appreciation to my teammate, Tom [Tom O’Grady G], who was with the pack of chasers. Without him I am not sure I would have been able to stay ahead of the pack for the win. He used a bike racing technique known as ‘blocking,’ whereby he interfered with the chasing group’s organization to reel me back in.”

Among other notable contributions was a maiden victory for Kathryn Olesnavage G who crossed the line first in the women’s C category amidst powerful winds. Jennifer Wilson G notched a third- and a fifth-place finish in the women’s A category to round off a successful weekend for MIT cycling.