The MIT Cycling Team's 2012 road racing season started with a week-long training camp in January in Borrego Springs, Calif., and ended in May on the top step of the podium at the USA Cycling Collegiate Road National Championships in Ogden, Utah. What came between was one of the most successful racing seasons in the history of the club.
The team, which is made up of undergraduate and graduate students from MIT, competes in Division II. This year's strong showings by both the men's and women's riders built on successes on and off the road over the past several years, including 2008, 2009 and 2010.
Adam Bry, the captain of the men's team, wrote this recap for MIT Student Life.
MIT competes in the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference (ECCC), which hosts races every weekend in March and April. Each weekend typically consists of several races, split by ability level from A through D:
- A "road race," which is a 2-4 hour race favoring endurance and strategy similar to stages in the Tour de France;
- A "criterium," which consists of multiple laps around a short course favoring the tactically savvy, skilled bike handlers and good sprinters;
- And an individual or team time trial, pure tests of efficiency and fitness in riding against the clock.
One of the things that makes collegiate racing special is the club status (as opposed to intercollegiate varsity) it holds at the vast majority of schools. While this does little to diminish the level of competition at the top — the A races often feature riders preparing to spend the summer racing professionally around the United States or Europe — it makes the sport accessible to a wide range of students. Often more than half of the 30 to 50 racers in C or D category events on any given weekend are participating in their first ever bike race.
MIT was well represented in all races and categories at each of the nine ECCC weekends. Thirty-seven individuals raced for the team from freshmen to grad students. Ten riders were selected to race in the National Championships event: Katie Quinn, Yuri Matsumoto, Chris Birch, Laura Ralston, Adam Bry, Spencer Schaber, Zack Ulissi, Andrew Lysaght, Sebastien Gauthier and Joe Near. The squad truly represented homegrown talent: while many had athletic backgrounds, none of those riders had ever competed in a bike race before coming to MIT.
MIT's women's team is a perennial powerhouse. Women's captain Katie Quinn, a third-year grad student in chemical engineering, continued the strong tradition as the ECCC series points winner, garnering the highest total points accumulated in all races over the season. At nationals, Laura Ralston, a fourth-year grad student in economics, defended her title in the criterium, while Quinn won the road race. The women also won the team time trial by a significant margin, completing the monopoly on the stars-and-stripes jerseys given to national champions.
While the men's team is consistently strong in lower category events, this year the team made the jump to a powerhouse in A-level events taking five wins over the course of the ECCC season. At nationals, the men's second-place finish in the team time trial and consistently strong results in the criterium and road race were enough to capture the team championship.
Cycling is a sport that rewards patience and dedication in preparation. The performance on a given day is a cumulative function of how the body has been trained, fed and rested over the days, months and years leading up to the event. For MIT this year, racing success was also reflective of the work and organization of the club and all its members over the years.
To read interviews with Cycling Club members about the national championship, visit the club's blog.