Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Quick thoughts on the leading teams.

Two weeks are already down in a what promises to be a very very exciting year of racing in the ECCC.  I love competition, doesn't really matter who wins or loses.  So long as the competition is closer and kinda fiery, I get rediciously excited about it.

Before the season started, I put down a few thoughts on where the teams were going.  I was wrong about a few of them and missed a few others.  I think it is time to reassess where the top teams are at, and what there prospects are like for the remainder of the year.

I just want to note that I like everybody, and don't want to hurt people's feelings.

The Main Show:

  • MIT:  Last year's winners.  They have certainly come out of the gates very very strongly.  As a team they are deeply reliant on their Women's squad.  This is what I call smart team composition.  If you start a women's A race with 3-4 racers, it is going to be very very hard for other teams to beat you in the women's point tally.  As A result of this we have seen the MIT women take maximum points in a lot of the races this year.  Their men have been good enough to help them stay at the top of the points scoring.
  • UVM:  Last year's second place team.  I hold out a soft place in my heart for my travel companion's and my Alma Mater.  You never know, they might be able to vie for a high overall finish this year.  At this point it is definitely an uphill battle.  As a team they employ a totally opposite approach to scoring points.  They have a multitude of Men's racers but very, very few women's racers.  The first weekend they scored no women's point's while they maxed out on men's points.  The trick with men's points is that they are very very volatile.  Even with a lot of very good racers, if things go south in the closing 300 meters of a group sprint you end up empty handed (See MA UVM results from Steven's Circ).  They are bringing in women, the question is really if it will be enough.  
  • BU:  These guys are gals are a hot commodity at this point in the year.  At the beginning of the year I didn't think that this team had the firepower to put up big team scores.  Boy was I wrong.  They won there first team event in the men's Steven's Circuit race.  Placing 3 racers in the top 10.  It is also really important to note that they have the potential to score a really solid number of women's points as well.  They currently have two really strong Women's B racers.  Either of these girls could certainly make a good A racer.  In the right situation I think Anna Einstein could even win a race.  As I have hinted at in my assessment of the other two teams, it is all about having a strong women's team.  It is the most surefire way to the top of a season overall.
  • U Penn:  These guys are pretty solid as well.  They are a fairly small team.  In years past their attendence has tapered off as the year has progressed.  With a few Men's A racers well placed in the overall and a top 5 current standing, maybe the ECCC will hold their interest this year.
  • Dartmouth:  Another moderately sized team.  They pack a big wallop in the A categories.  Elle Anderson in the Women's A and a plethora of MA racers generate a ton of points for the team.  Teams with smaller numbers like this are a little more prone to swings in point scoring.  One or two racers staying home to do a term paper can really affect things.   
Outside Wonders:
  • Harvard:  Anna McLoon.  Enough said right?  If the team can scrounge up some high test male racers they could be really serious contenders.  On the other hand, if Anna skips a weekend, the team will precipitously drop in the team standings.
  • Bucknell:  These guys and gals have been coming on wicked strong this year.  Their men are in the heat of the action in almost all of the races.  They haven't quite landed any huge trophies yet, but it is just a matter of time.  They also have a fairly substantial women's side. While they haven't put up huge points yet, I think this team as a lot of potential
  • Yale:  Another team that has a lot of potential, but hasn't yet put up enormous team points.  If all of the stars align they could win a weekend.  Rudy and Anna can both win A races and their are a lot of supporting riders in lower categories.
  • Columbia:  While they graduated a lot of their big hitters.  There is still a lot of spirit an potential.  We just haven't seen any of it going full throttle just yet.
  • Penn State:  Spring break did a number on their attendance this last weekend.  They will have to show up really big for the rest of the season.  Which hasn't happened for a while.  Hopefully these guys and gals can make it to more races this year than last.
  • Rugters:  With Molly Hurford nailing it in the Bs (soon to be As if I was a betting man) and a decent contingent of men racers, they are certainly a force.  If they bring out a few more key players and up their game.  They could definitely finish the season in the top 10.
  • Northeastern:  With Maggie S and Katy A racing they substantially upped the team's point scoring ability.  Notice the difference in point totals for the team from weak 1 to week 2.  This team will certainly finish in the top 10.  

Whew.  I think I covered a lot of the big players and a good number of the outside shots.  Again, I don't want anybody's feelings to be hurt.  Just for fun......


Thursday, March 11, 2010

How I learned to love women's cycling

I have a confession to make, I love women's cycling.  Why?  Good question.  I have lots of reasons, but it has really been an evolution.  When I got into cycling I was just as self-centered as anybody else.  I thought that the racing that I was doing was the most important racing that was going on.  I looked tot he fastest groups of guys as the pillars of the sport.  Anybody slower wasn't worthy of consideration.

Nice thinking, right.  In my defense I was 13-14 at the time.  At that point there weren't too many female mountain bike racers moving in the circle I was racing in.

Once I hit college things really started to change for me.  My little sister Maggie got into racing on the road and mountain bike scene for Northeastern.  At the point Maggie was the only girl on NU's team at that point.  Fortunately Maggie is wicked gregarious and didn't have too much a of problem with being the only girl.

After I left the UVM XC and Track teams I started racing the ECCC road season, needless to say it was great.  That year I was racing Cs and Bs and the following year Bs and As.  Anyhow, so much of the racing was crude.  It seemed like a lot of the movements within the group were conducted as though someone was conducting brain surgery with a club.  There was plenty of aggression and raw power.

My first year in the ECCC I watched a ton of Maggie's races (Women's B at the time).  We are a pretty tight and supportive family, so I spent a lot of time watching and cheering.  That year (2008) Magz was on the cusp, she was still finding her legs, even though she had the skill to corner and move within the pack amongst the best.  Given that was her skill set she was able to be pretty successful in crits, the road and circuit races were a little more of a struggle.

Around this time Emily (Super GF) started to get into mountain biking.  She pretty quickly got stronger and more skilled.  It was really great to watch.  One of my favorite memories of this time was a ride we did in the middle of summer at a local trail.  At this point Emily still only owned a chamois or two, and I think only one real bike jersey.  Her bike definitely didn't have clipless pedals yet.  Being a hot day she decided to ride just in her running shoes, chamois and sports bar (so she wouldn't have to wash the bike jersey before tomorrow's ride).  During the main climb on this trail we started to catch up with a masters sport racer, you know the type.  More testosterone and ego than skill or fitness.  As we got closer I made sure Emily was riding first and yelled, "riders back."  The gent moved to the side and let us roll through.  Evidently when he saw us pass him he didn't like what he saw (running shoes and a sports bra).  For the next 7-8 minutes of the climb I could hear the guy turning himself inside out to keep up with the pace Emily was setting.  I am sure that his opinion of women riders got knocked up a peg or too.  The assumption that he was operating under was that no matter how good this girl was, he must be able to match what she was doing.  Sad, but I think it is a pretty prevalent thought strain.  From my observations every woman racer deals with this sort of presumption just about every time she roll up to a race weekend.

The following Collegiate year (2008-2009) I had the great fortune and burden of being the President of UVM Cycling.  In this capacity I led some massive recruiting efforts, both for men and women.  Women were especially needed given the team's often dismal performances in the women's events (excluding Rose's of course).  At some mtb races we had around 10 women racing (Emily and a lot of her friends).  That was great.

During road season I got to watch a ton of my friends and loved ones (Emily and Maggie) rip around on the race courses of the ECCC.  I also had the great privilege of being around Rose as she tried to make a comeback to racing from the horrible collision that jeopardized not only her racing but her general health.  I spent a huge amount of time watching and cheering for Women's racing.  Their is a much more subtle structure and movement to women's racing in general.  A lot of the guys in the ECCC could learn a lot from watching the women's races and really paying attention.

This next weekend, watch, see what is going on. Respect the efforts that these ladies are putting out there, and make some noise for them.