Cycling clinches conference championship

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Members of the cycling team hold the trophy after winning the Easter Collegiate Cycling Conference Championship.
Courtesy of MIT Cycling Team

The MIT cycling club capped off its road regular season by clinching the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference Championships (Easterns) held on the weekend of April 23-24 at Warwick and Turners Falls, MA. Despite having been agonizingly close on previous occasions, the encomium (top spot overall at the end of the season) had eluded the Engineers until now. What made the victory even sweeter was that the top spot was clinched in its home race.

Corey Tucker G, who finished third in the women’s A category over the season summarized the team’s sentiments aptly: “I’ve been racing here at MIT for three years, and every year we go into the final weekend of the season with the goal of walking away with the trophy, and until this year, hadn’t pulled it off.  The fact that it’s my (and several other’s) final season here at MIT made it even more special.”

But even before the first race of the Easterns was run, there was the non-trivial task of finalizing the course for the championships. Lucy Archer G, who competes in the women’s B category, headed the Boston Beanpot Committee that was tasked with locating, scouting, and implementing new courses for the championship.

Archer explained, “There’s a lot of paperwork and people work that goes into just getting approval for the courses, let alone getting the manpower to put the race on.  It’s hard to find volunteers to come marshal when our race is an hour and a half away from MIT!  That said, it was also amazing to be at the head of an awesome group of people who were willing to do so much work to make the race happen.  I had a lot of help from many people, and that is the reason the race was so successful.”

It is a long season with three different types of races: the road race, time trial, and the criterium. To seal the encomium the team needs contributions from its sizeable roster, with different racers stepping up in different races to put points on the board. Emerson Glassey G, one of two men’s A category racers played his part by finishing 8th in the road race and racking up 70 points for the team.

Glassey used to race for UCSC as an undergrad but preparing for the road season in the New England winter is a whole new ball game.

“The most challenging part has been training and racing through the winter and while living in a city. In Santa Cruz the mountains were literally right outside my door and now it’s 40 minutes to get to good riding roads,” remarked Glassey. He went on to add, “My lobster gloves stop being effective below 20 °F and water bottles freeze even with salty drink mix added.”

No doubt there were severe adversities that the team had to overcome to reach the summit. But the season had some memorable moments along the way. For example, Katy Olesnavage G won her first competitive race at Shippensburg.

Following the race, she was almost in disbelief:  “It was simultaneously really awesome and a bit surreal. I spent most of the race off the front of the main group, so I was just riding by myself expecting to see other racers coming up behind me at any minute. When I finally crossed the finish line, I remember thinking to myself, ‘I won!’ and then immediately thinking, ‘Wait, did I actually win?’ I was pretty sure I did, but a part of me was wondering how that was possible. I didn’t really let myself celebrate until they posted the official results.”

One of the biggest contributions came from veteran racer Jennifer Wilson G, who finished second overall in the women’s A category. While victory in her final season was immensely satisfying, cycling for her was not just about the competition and winning.

“I ended up second overall in the conference and am really proud and excited that I was able to race while writing and completing my thesis. The team is like family, and it would have been a shame to miss out on race weekend travel and competition with this group of people,” said Wilson.

Through a combination of hard work, mental toughness, teamwork, and strategy, the MIT cycling club clinched a well-deserved championship. The national championships for the road season will be held at Marshall, NC later this month where the team will be fighting for honors, with some donning the specifically engineered Engineers’ jersey for the final time.