Katherine Harris G won first place in the short track event and third in the cross-country event at the national collegiate mountain biking championship held last weekend at Lees-McRae College in North Carolina. Harris is a member of the MIT Cycling team and a geobiology graduate student in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences.
The event opened on Friday with the cross-country race, which consisted of three grueling five-mile loops over rugged terrain. Harris described the course as “relentless climbing followed by contorted singletrack descending on a trail slick with rocks and roots and mud in the true North Carolina mountain biking tradition. The scenery was stunning despite the drizzle and cold—the mountains draped with fog, but all glowing and charged with autumn colors.”
Harris sprinted into first position before the course narrowed down to singletrack, and then hammered hard to get a small gap on the field of riders. Unfortunately, early in the race, Harris crashed off the side of a small bridge after picking a bad line over some slimy off-camber tree roots. Shaken but unscathed, she quickly got back on her bike and began to chase down the group of riders who had passed her. Improving her position on each subsequent lap, Harris finished the race in third place out of a starting field of thirty riders.
On Saturday, Harris competed in the short track event, a shorter, more technical race akin to the mountain biking version of a criterium. Once again, Harris sprinted off the start line and grabbed the early lead in this fast-paced race. During multiple laps around an increasingly muddy course, she battled the winner of the previous day’s cross-country race before securing a solid gap and taking the win.
This is Harris’ first season of mountain bike racing, a sport she became hooked on while studying at Oxford University last year. Although new to racing, Harris has many miles of riding rough terrain under her belt from long-distance bike touring trips across the U.S. and along China’s Silk Road.
“I love mountain biking because every ride, every race has the potential to turn into this epic adventure,” Harris said. “You can almost learn as much about yourself — your strengths, your weaknesses, your limits — in a two-hour race as you can on a two-month bike trip. And on top of that, it’s just a ton of fun.” Harris moved to Boston this summer.
Harris’ performance at nationals concludes a successful mountain bike season for the MIT Cycling team. The season included a number of podium finishes at local collegiate races by Harris and teammates Ilana L. Brito G, Eric E. Edlund G, and Cim J. Wortham G. The team finished the mountain biking season in fifth place for Division II and is currently competing in cyclocross races and training for the spring road biking season.
For more information on the MIT Cycling Team, contact the president, Nick C. Loomis G, at firstname.lastname@example.org.