Jamestown Classic (October 8, 2012)

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By Heather McLaughlin on November 20th, 2012.
Jamestown Classic (October 8, 2012)

A sunny Monday in October brought the Harvard Cycling team down to Jamestown, RI for the Jamestown Classic, a beautiful looped road race course around the island. It served as both the end of summer racing season for the veterans, as well as a first race for many enthusiastic new racers. Ian and Jesse drove down earlier in the morning with new racers Nima and Alex, arriving for the start of the men’s Cat. 5 race.

The women had a slightly more stressful trip down. I was supposed to pick up the rental car as soon as Enterprise opened at 7:30 AM, unfortunately the car wasn’t there and I had to wait for it to arrive after 8 AM. After we got the bikes loaded, we arrived in Jamestown with just barely enough time to get our numbers pinned on and look furiously for an air pump for some last minute pumping of the tires before the start of the women’s Cat 3/4 race. As we sat at the starting line, Harvard women kept on filtering in, but everyone made it in time for the gun! We had a strong women’s contingent of new racers: Joya, Nicole, Becca, Juliana, and Erin.

Nima and Alex both had great first races in a large Cat 5 field! Nima wrote about his experience: “This was my first race ever, I was super nervous. If I weren’t part of the team, I would have never done it. Ian and Jesse answered all my questions on the drive up there, and escorted us around to registration, etc. so I didn't look like I didn't know what I was doing. I am at the medical school and this term can’t make any of the morning team rides. But having raced at Jamestown, got me excited about working for it towards spring. So the team and sponsors have helped enrich my learning experience at Harvard, and made me a new fan of racing. I even plan to pay more attention to details of team strategy during TV broadcasts of cycling events. Thank you.”

Alex had a great first pack finish and wrote, “Since stopping rowing as an undergraduate, I'd missed competitive sports as a part of my life as far back as I can remember. Medical school was no exception. But, when I got my bike shipped out from my home in MN this summer, I could see that all changing. Cycling was previously my cross-training for crew, but within a couple weeks of riding I became nearly obsessed with the sport. With YouTube as my coach and personal trainer, I did what I could to grow my skills and my fitness. A century I completed with two peers only motivated me further. When I finally began searching for a racing opportunity, I was disappointed to see that most racing happened in the spring, but then, Jamestown came around the listerv. I registered immediately. Seeing the Cat 5 times from past years led me into thinking I had a shot at placing competitively and I grew increasingly excited as the day approached. On race day, I found myself able to comfortably stay near the front of the pack, perhaps unnecessarily, in retrospect. Unfortunately, a couple miles from the end, I found myself squeezed outside of a paceline and grew fatigued, minimizing my ability to sprint the last few hundred. Still, I was happy with my result, and am motivated to improve however I can. Could I have breathed more efficiently? Kept my upper body more relaxed? Strategized better within the pack? Surely. If I get another chance during the hectic second year of medical school, I'll be out there again in a heartbeat.”

The women’s field was a combined Cat 3/4 and Master’s field. Becca, an undergraduate on the ski team, finished a strong 12th after the course preview from her coach and fellow talented cyclist, Tim Mitchell. Nicole, a first year graduate student from Canada, finished 14th in the combined 3/4 field.

Erin who overcame a sinus infection to still start the race and epically finish the first lap, wrote “I think I could write a pretty hilarious [race report]. Being sick, epic fail of a start, only doing one lap, but with a nice upbeat spin. Though I did get approached after the race by an alum from class of '89 who was psyched to see us out there.” After seeing how well Erin did out there while ill, we can’t wait to see her out there healthy!

Juliana, a strong new undergrad rider, and Joya, a tenacious new rider that has been out for many morning rides this fall, had great races and were able to finish together. Joya wrote this about the experience: “I finished my first race! (I'm a new cyclist -- I started riding with HUCA on a hybrid on August 31st, and just got a road bike 3 weeks ago, in time for Harvard-to-Harvard.) Our captain, Heather, graciously answered all of our questions during the carpool, and we rookies bonded over first-race nerves.

Racing at Jamestown was a great experience. It was a combined start: Cat 3/4 and Masters 35+. I started at the back (was waiting with a teammate and then bailed and rushed to the line with 30 seconds to spare, trying to yell loudly enough that my friend could still make it to the line in time). I worked my way up to the back-edge of the front cluster of the pack by mile 3. Then I got dropped -- the road narrowed, someone yelled, and everyone suddenly charged ahead. I couldn't close the gap, but I remembered what our coaches and captains had said: "Don't worry if you get dropped in the first lap -- you can catch people later.... I want you to learn that you can make up a 20% deficit.... It's a beautiful route -- you'll enjoy the ride even if you get dropped."

I hung in there and did ~6 miles by myself. Then I started catching people. I initiated a pace line with the 2 other ladies who I caught -- one was a masters rider who had probably trained alone, because she was really happy when I explained how to draft and pace-line. Heather later told me that the front pack got really catty, so it was great for a first-race experience to be in a group of 3 underdogs with such good sportsmanship.

We all pulled, cheered each other on, and used our strengths: the mother of 3 (whose youngest is 6 months old!) was a really good climber, the 49-yr old first-time racer put in some nice sprints, and I capitalized on the downhills and flats. Because of what we learned from Ed in pedal-stroke clinic, I was able to pass our masters rider/almost kept up with our best climber on the hills. Maybe 1 water bottle instead of 2 would have helped -- a rookie error :) Finally, we had to leave our masters rider behind at the hill before the lighthouse during the second lap. Mom-of-3's husband was monitoring our progress by car, and kept telling us by how much time we were trailing the next group of 2.

Overall, I averaged 16.9 mph. The second lap felt much better than the first. I overtook 2 racers 1 km before the finish line (including a teammate who made me feel awesome by saying, "You came out of nowhere.") My time says I crossed with the 2 ladies I passed, but I'm pretty sure I maintained at least some kind of lead ... anyway, it doesn't matter; that's just vanity :)

It felt amazing to be able to achieve something I never would have dreamed of 2 months ago. I'm psyched to keep working hard and improving. I'm happy I found HUCA -- very grateful for the opportunity to train with friendly and motivated new riders, and veterans and coaches who are so generous with their time and knowledge. Thank you!”

All in all, a beautiful and successful day for Harvard Cycling, laying the groundwork of inspiration for a winter of training to tear it up in the spring!

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