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Cycling Team Concludes Successful Racing Season

By Rachel Brown
Team Member

The MIT Cycling Team, fueled by Powerbar, enjoyed a successful 1997 road racing season. The season started strongly with three individual upgrades after the first race (Criterium) at Columbia University.

Rookies Nirav Bhakta '98 and Jay Liston '99 dominated the men's D event, and didn't delay in upgrading to C level races. Rachel Brown G made her road racing debut with a convincing win over the women's B field and upgraded to women's A for the rest of the season.

In his first year, James Mattis G, also proved himself on the road by earning several top 5 placings in C's (Columbia, Rutgers University, and the University of Pennsylvania) and upgraded to race men's B alongside fellow MIT racers Kyle Becker G and Jeff Roth G.

MIT competes in the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference of the National Collegiate Cycling Association (NCCA). The ECCC includes all the teams from schools in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and New England. Cyclists from each team can race in whichever category (men's A-D and women's A-B) they choose, as long as they can keep up with the grueling pace of the race.

Men's and women's A's are the national level races and are worth the most points for overall team standings. Team MIT was in top form as the racing season drew to a climax at the Eastern Championships hosted by the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.

MIT does well at Championships

Each team from the ECCC was present at championships, ready to do battle. The first event of the weekend was the Individual Time Trial, which is also referred to as "The Race of Truth". Using high-tech aerodynamic wheels, handlebars, and helmets, riders are sent from the start line at 30 second intervals to bullet through a smooth 5.6 mile course, with no idea how fast others are speeding through the course.

MIT's best performance was from men's A rider Jeremy Hackney G who thundered through in just 13 minutes 7 seconds to earn seventh place and lots of points for MIT. Other fine performances came from smooth pedaling John Konz G, who snagged a 10th place finish and some points in men's C, and Rachel Brown, who placed 12th in women's A for a few points.

Mattis placed 12th in men's B with 14:11 adding to the total. Captain Keith Szolusha '97 scored no points in men's A with his 25th place 13:44 effort, second only to Hackney on the MIT team.

The afternoon's road race deterred all but a hardy few as fierce storms brought the temperature crashing down. There were no points earned here, but Bhakta, Liston and Brown braved the treacherous weather and hill-climbs to complete their respective 39 mile races.

The rest of the team, along with over 50% of the other riders, ducked out for shelter and heat from the 43 degree temperatures and downpours to regain feeling before their 39, 52, and 65 mile races were complete.

MIT gets fifth at Team Time Trial

Sunday dawned fair and mild, a perfect day for the Team Time Trial. The TTT is similar to the ITT but faster because of the drafting and echelon techniques of an experienced team.

In the TTT up to six members of a team begin at the same time, quickly forming a small pack. The team's overall performance is gauged by the time that the back wheel of the third rider that crosses the line. MIT fielded a men's C team which rode very smoothly. Konz, Bhakta, Liston, Talid Sinno G, and Mark Spilker G returned with a fifth place finish in the 12 mile trial.

Sunday afternoon was spent racing multiple laps around a 1.2 mile loop of the West Point campus. The loop twisted downhill into a 120 degree turn where it met a flat stretch which lead to a short 9% upgrade followed by a winding uphill to the line.

In the men's B, Mattis rode a perfect race only to have victory snatched from his grasp by a crash close to the final sprint on the 21st lap. Jay Liston placed sixth in men's C.

Szolusha roared out of the final sprint on the 26th lap to earn points and a 14th place finish in men's A. In his first season as an A, Szolusha's riding had been steadily improving, and he placed accordingly throughout the latter half of the season.

Hackney's effort in the men's A race should not pass unnoticed. Hackney was prominent in several breaks, and managed to score first place in a prime lap (sprint lap in the middle of the race for points), though unfortunately his strategy wasn't quite enough to place in the final sprint. The MIT cycling team agreed that this had been a great season, rich in improvement and achievement.