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With months of preparation and hundreds of hours of frosty training rides behind them, the MIT Cycling Team began its defense of the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference (ECCC) road championship with promising performances at the season-opening events at Rutgers and Philadelphia.

At the Rutgers season opener, men's captain Eric M. Edlund G displayed good early season form to place second of 61 riders in the Men's B individual time trial over a short, brutally fast course.

Edlund went on to consolidate this result with a fifth place in the criterium, a road race held over many laps of a small circuit. But the race was not without incident. Edlund was lucky to finish at all after being forced off the road at upwards of 30 mph by a rider from the University of Vermont during an aggressive sprint finish.

The Engineers also showed their depth, with a number of powerful performances from rookie riders. Yuri Matsumoto G placed an impressive fourth in the Women's C time trial, while Albert Cheung '08 won his debut criterium in the Men's D category, beating a Drexel rider to the line with a well-timed sprint.

Guo-Liang Chew '10 completed MIT's dominance of the lower categories by riding a smart race to second place in the Men's D road race.

The Philadelphia races included the first team time trial (TTT) of the year, an event in which squads of four riders from the same school compete to post the fastest time as a team on a nine mile course. The TTT is traditionally the Engineers' forte, as it places a premium on preparation, teamwork, technical skill and aerodynamic expertise.

In a tight Men's A field — first and last places were separated by just over a minute — the Tech TTT squad of Edlund, Mark B. Cote '07, Jason A. Sears G, and Christopher H. Tracy G produced a powerful but technically imperfect ride to come in eighth.

The Men's C team finished second to Army, the D team third, and the Women's A came in 11th after an unlucky puncture early on took Kristen Naegle G out of the race.

Edlund said, "We rode a good race and had the strength to take first, but lost it in the tactical game. We'll come back, stronger and smarter, at the Boston Beanpot races."

As the roads thaw out and winds die down, the Engineers look forward to a season of intense competition. This weekend, the team will be in action at Columbia and Princeton, before taking a two week break to prepare for the Boston Beanpot, MIT's home race and season highlight.