After all of the winter miles and cold weather, the Tufts Cycling Team was greeted by a great weekend of racing at the Rutgers Scarlet Scurry ECCC Opener. The team was lucky enough to have wonderful housing arrangements for the weekend at Evan's house, and we arrived Friday night we were greeted by a large feast. Evan's mother is known for her wonderful cooking, and she did not disappoint.
Even after an early bedtime, the 4:20 am wake up call on Saturday morning was pretty rough. Those who rode in Angel's car (Evan Cooper) were quickly woken up by blasting techno beats on the ride over to the time trial. The TT was a 2.2 mile dash on a smoothly paved, park road. Although short, this race was certainly painful. I was lucky enough to have my club team teammate start 20 seconds in front of me, so it gave me some motivation to ride fast. In the end the majority of the team had an impressive start to the ECCC season. While not racing, we were all entertained by Joe and Sully's heckling towards D racers with 80mm deep dish rims or other riders wearing TT helmets. Historically, aero gear in the Rutgers TT is discouraged, and those that break this gentleman's agreement are made fun of by the color commentary of the conference directors.
After the TT, we made the transfer over towards the Rutgers footbal stadium for the afternoon criterium. My race went out pretty fast, and it was nice to finally get some race speed in the legs. Unfortunately, Rock had another race full of mechanical failures and didn't finish, so halfway through the race Cole, Alex, and I were the only ones left in the race, and we got a little help from my CycleLoft Velo teammate, Conor. I stayed in the pack for most of the race and followed a couple of attacks just to get the legs moving. The sketchiest part of the race came on the turn onto the home straight about halfway through the race when a West Point racer cut me off and I ended up skidding a couple feet to the side and somehow stayed up. With 4 laps to go Alex made an attack. He was caught soon after and popped off the back, and with 2 laps to go Cole went off the front in a move that looked like it may stick, but with a lap to go, the field pulled him in and two of the chasers opened up a gap.
With all of our pre-race tactics going down the drain, I realized I had to do something, so I went to the front and caught the two guys hanging off the front. We hit the second to last straightaway (which was into a headwind) and when I looked back I had a few bike lengths on the rest of the field, so I put the gas on and headed towards the final corner. Right as we made it to the corner a Dartmouth racer and another guy passed me, and I hit the home straight in 3rd. When I started my sprint, I realized my legs weren't there after putting the gas on and I got nipped on the line and ended up 5th. Not a bad start to the season. Everyone else was extremely happy to get the first mass start race out of the way, and it was definitely a great learning experience for the new riders.
Sunday's points race was hectic and hard. The course went up a pretty substantial climb, down a 40mph downhill, through a flat, and up the hill again. Not exactly a points race on the track. Our field was the first field that was able to stay together all day, as most of the other races were splintered after the first couple of laps. Alex, Rock and I all got pulled at some point in the race, but Cole snuck in for two 3rd place finishes on prime laps and pulled away with an impressive 5th place finish. After his second 3rd place, he celebrated with a fist pump only to be immediately greeted with a massive calf cramp. Luckily, his work was done and he was able to limp home to the finish.
Audrey pulled out some fantastic results in the Women's C with a 3rd place in the ITT and a 9th place in the crit. Paul had a solid showing with a 16th place in the ITT, 14th in the points race, and a 13th in the crit. The Men's B racers filled up the top-10 with Cole striking a 3rd place finish, myself a 5th place finish, and Alex a 9th place finish. The downhill MTB transplant, Kip had a solid start to his cycling career with a 19th place in the crit, 15th in the points race, and 17th in the points race. Matt Erle came back from to the ECCC scene with a 11th place in the ITT. The new riders showed a lot of promise for the future.
Next weekend we are off to Grant's Tomb Crit promoted by Columbia, and Evan and I are sticking around for the Stevens RR. Also, Happy Birthday to our little angel, Evan. He just turned the big 21 on Monday!