Beanpot Race Weekend - Tufts Crit - Men's 4/5

Tufts is located on a rather large hill. Rumor has it this is so that the cannon that adorns the academic quad can be strategically located and aimed towards Harvard. Bike racers who have had the chance to race the Beanpot Criterium might argue that the placement of the campus on a hill is strategically designed to maximally shred legs.

For me, returning to the hill for a day of bike racing was beyond exciting. I had graduated from Tufts in 2010, along with fellow GLVer and Tufts alum Cole Archambault, who actually began his racing career while at Tufts. Due to the usual existential crises that one undergoes during a liberal arts education, I graduated with a degree in one hand and a fixed gear bicycle in the other. It wasn't until a year later that I realized bikes with gears made sense, and it wasn't until 2014 that I first lined up for a bike race after some gentle encouragement from friends (and strong discouragement from my mom).

Despite a rather inauspicious start to my solo bicycle racing campaign at Hilltowns and GMSR, I had the great pleasure of being invited by Cole to join GLV (or as I knew it #NewEnglandsPremierCritSquad) for the 2015 season. Since I wasn't expecting this offer, I had already committed to racing for Harvard in some ECCC races (e.g. where grad students get shelled out the back by high school kids driving the pace). This meant that my first race in GLV colors would be less than two hours after finishing a Collegiate B crit.

Jay-Jose train

Photo credit: María Ordovás-Montañés

The Tufts crit course is not designed for people scared of turning left as it has 5 of them, including an on-camber downhill/uphill Turn 2 and an off-camber downhill/uphill Turn 5. Despite having studied there, my only pre-ride of the course had been at walking pace, so my first lap in anger was during the Collegiate crit when I lined up with 3 other teammates from Harvard. The B race went something like this: sprint to the start line, get stuck in second row, watch people in front fail to clip in, end up 25 positions down before rolling gingerly through Turn 2, and spend too much energy working through traffic. This seemed more like cyclocross again than a road race, except without the mud and barriers!

By the time I worked my way through the traffic, I could see that a break of two had gone well up the road. The rest of the race was rather frustrating for me as I had been isolated from my teammates and nobody was terribly interested in pulling the break back. The hardest part of the course wasn't the steep 12% gradient, but rather the gentle slope with a headwind out of Turn 6 and the long finishing straight taunting you to accelerate. Despite Cole’s coaching from the sidelines, I spent way too much time on the front and when I tried to make a gap stick out of Turn 6 on the penultimate lap, I found myself swept up by the field by Turn 1. I went deep into my reserves to make sure I didn't get passed by anyone else and came across the line in 7th and completely spent.

This left me with a pair of rather dead feeling legs. I immediately found a trainer to “warm-down” on before migrating to the GLV tent to start my “warm-back-up.” As I was chatting with Gerry, Adam, Eric, and Daniel before the race, I let them know I'd try to do as much as I could before I completely cracked, but that they shouldn't expect much from me. I forgot to re-caffeinate with a gel, but instead found some real food that my mom had brought (home races have their distinct advantages) and ate that before the race.

I knew staging would once again be critical, and that someone would try to push the pace early. Despite this, I found myself in the same place as a few hours before: second row. This time expecting the clip-in debacle, I brought my ‘cross mentality and was able to squeeze through two riders and found myself 7th wheel going into Turn 2. I noticed that everyone took Turn 2 way too easily again and knew this would be the case for the Turn 3 and 4 combo as well. I realized then that my tiredness would actually be advantageous: having done the prior race meant that I had confidence going into the corners….most of the field didn’t, except for motorcycle racer Gerry.

Coming out of Turn 5 into the uphill, I had worked myself up to 4th wheel and saw that Gerry had a slight gap from the two riders that separated us. Even though it was the first lap, I pushed hard as if it were the bell lap. I heard Cole yelling again, “GET ON THAT WHEEL, THAT'S THE WINNING MOVE!” I managed to bridge onto Gerry’s wheel going around Turn 2 for the second time but was afraid that I brought the whole field with me. I snuck a look back and there was only a rider from Blue Hills that I could see suffering so I kept pushing to gap the field with Gerry. We then went into “Fiesta Island” mode, re-creating a successful breakaway drill from #GLVcamp2015 (thanks Sam for sending us up the road). The rest of the race involved Gerry and I taking half-lap or full-lap turns. Even though we clocked faster laps than during my B race, being in the break with a teammate made for quite a relaxing race.

Gerry graciously gifted the win to me on home turf. It was great to take my first victory in a bike race rolling down Professor’s Row, in front of my new teammates, friends, and my family. I can't promise similar results in crits that don't have hills, but I'm thrilled to be part of an organization like GLV and glad I can contribute to the team motto of #peakingearly.