This fall, at the yearly Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference Regional Championships, the MIT Mountain Bike team won the Division II Team Omnium trophy. The Team Omnium award is earned by winning the most points overall and demonstrates the combined strength of all members on the team. While the MIT Cycling Team has a long history of winning team omniums in each of the other three cycling disciplines (road, cyclocross, and track), this fall the team made history by winning in its traditionally weakest discipline — mountain biking
“Our team philosophy purports to the fact that we strive to have fun, learn, engage in physical activity and enjoy life while riding our mountain bikes,” said Coach Constantine Psimopoulos. “If the outcome of this joyful behavior and activity happens to be winning 1st place in the Collegiate Team Omnium Eastern Conference, then that is even better!”
This philosophy of having fun while still pushing limits is what makes the MIT Mountain Bike team so attractive to a variety of people. This year the team achieved their team goal of doubling in size; of the 21 students who raced this season, 67 percent had never raced mountain bikes before, and many didn’t own bikes of their own — nearly half rented from the MIT Outing Club.
As new member Dirk G. Stahlecker ’16 said, “I felt welcome even though I’d never done anything like this before, and everyone was so encouraging. It felt like a great community of passionate people doing something they love!
The mountain bike team might be one of MIT’s hidden gems, but to its 20-plus members, it is more like a lifestyle. During six weekends this fall, the team embarked on cycling adventures to remote locations of New England to race in the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference.
“I love endurance sports of all types, but I particularly enjoy mountain biking because it combines elements of cardiovascular fitness with technical bike-handling,” said Zeb Hanley G, a racer for over 6 years.
The season began with tremendous momentum over the summer during a weekend training camp. Over 25 MIT students, affiliates, and friends headed up to the beautiful trails of Vermont to train with their coach, also known as “Coach Psi”. New members were encouraged to attend this training weekend, in addition to a training clinic held on campus in September. From beginners to seasoned veterans, all learned new skills and techniques that served them well in the upcoming season.
One of the pinnacles of the season was another first in a long time for the team: hosting MIT’s very own mountain bike race weekend. Much is required to host a race, including building the race courses and arranging logistics to ensure that over 300 collegiate racers from all over New England race safely and fairly, all while having fun. Thanks to the tremendous efforts of veteran members Michael B. Eck ’15 and Luke C. Plummer ’14, the team was able to pull off a very successful weekend.
“My favorite weekend was definitely the race weekend we hosted, where the team came together to put on our first mountain bike race in at least six years,” said Eck. “It was really fun to hear rave reviews of the courses, but it was even better to have the whole team of over 25 people crammed into a tiny house for two nights of great hanging out.”
Although the mountain biking season has ended, team members are already looking forward to next season. They hope to continue their streak of success, not only in winning trophies but also in spreading their love of mountain biking. As team member Jennifer L. Wilson G put it, “Mountain biking seems to be about big kids behaving like little kids. You’re out in the woods, getting dirty and being completely carefree.”