19 MIT riders competed at the “Frozen Toed Season Opener” hosted by Rutgers University on March 3 and 4, the opening race weekend of the 2012 Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference (ECCC) road-cycling season. Led by captains Adam P. Bry G and Katie J. Quinn G, who emerged from their victorious weekends as conference individual points leaders, MIT took an early lead in the overall team standings with the most dominant performance by any team in recent ECCC memory.
The 2012 season opened with a 2.2-mile individual time trial (ITT) on the damp and chilly early Saturday morning. The flat roads and short distance provided the perfect first test for the months of winter training. In the men’s A category, Bry powered his way to the fastest ITT time of the day (4:30.34), winning by nearly five seconds on a course where ITT times are usually separated by mere tenths of seconds. Zack W. Ulissi G also won by an impressive margin in the men’s B category, more than six seconds ahead of second place and teammate Sébastien Gauthier-Perron G. Meanwhile, Ben M. Woolston G and Benoit Landry ’14 recorded the second and fourth best times in the C field. On the women’s side, Quinn won the ITT in a blistering time of 5:12.80. Laura Rosalind Ralston G took third place in A’s, while Shaena R. Berlin ’13 and Ariadne G. Smith G placed in the top five of the B and C fields, respectively.
The morning successes were repeated in the afternoon road races. The early morning fog dissipated, leaving blue skies over the undulating 13-mile loop in New Jersey’s tranquil countryside and warm temperatures over 60 degrees. In the women’s A race, Quinn quickly initiated the winning breakaway, working with two riders and ultimately finishing second in the final sprint. Berlin had another strong performance, coming in fourth place in the B field. Smith also scored points in the C field. Remarkably, nine MIT riders scored points in the men’s race. The 65-mile A race was very active with multiple attempts at pulling away from the main pack. Bry made the final breakaway selection and finished third with teammate Spencer D. Schaber G taking seventh. In the men’s B race, Ulissi won, crossing the finish line two minutes clear of second place after easily pulling away from the field at the halfway point of the 52-mile race, while teammate Gauthier-Perron sprinted his way to fourth place. Woolston won the C race thanks to a long effort with teammate Landry, who finished fifth, while Sam A. Nicaise G rounded out the top ten. Multiple crashes marred the MIT contingent in the men’s D race, but Kuat T. Yessenov G still managed an impressive fifth place in his first-ever race.
Another day of racing meant another day of implacable MIT domination. On Sunday’s schedule was the Rutgers criterium, a fast-paced race over a number of laps of a hilly, mile-long course. After imposing a hard pace within the first few minutes of the women’s A race, Quinn went on to a solo win, lapping the entire field along the way — except for teammate Ralston who finished second. Berlin powered her way through the second half of the race, picking off riders one by one to place sixth in the B race, and Smith placed fourth in women’s C race. The men’s B race unfolded similarly to Saturday’s road race: another powerful winning move by Ulissi shed the entire field on the course’s selective hill with Gauthier-Perron finishing third and winning the field sprint. Bry topped off his heroic weekend in style, garnering a win in a tactical men’s A race. His victory marked the first time an MIT male rider has won a mass-start (as opposed to time trials) men’s A race — an achievement usually reserved to an elite subset of collegiate cyclists who race professionally.
Bry and Quinn established themselves as the ECCC’s season leaders and now each hold the yellow points leaders jersey until racing resumes next weekend. With consistent top finishes in all three weekend races, MIT also won the maximum number of points ahead of all 44 ECCC schools racing in each of the six team categories (women’s and men’s ITT, road races, and criteriums). This feat has never before been accomplished in ECCC history and is a testament to the training of MIT cyclists. The regular club rides, tailored coaching plan provided by Nicole Freedman (2000 US Olympian), and a week-long team training camp in Borrego Springs, Calif. during IAP have already paid dividends.
All in all, another carb-fueled and endorphin-filled weekend for the MIT cycling team, which now turns its attention to the upcoming race weekend hosted by Columbia University and Stevens Institute of Technology on March 10 and 11.