ECCC Conference Championships - Nittany Cycling Classic

ECCC Conference Championships - Nittany Cycling Classic

The Penn State Cycling Club gathers for a photo after the Frat Row Crit. Photo from Wes Kline

Nestled high above the town of Julian, hidden from State College by a small ridge lies Lake Black Moshannon. “Black Mo” is known to every Penn State rider as one of the toughest routes in town.  Getting into the park is a long 5 mile climb along rattlesnake pike. And just when you think you are done the monstrous rollers come snapping at your heels.  It is a deceiving route, you think you are done working early, you eek out the last bit of energy from your legs to crest the hill, but the effort never ends.  At the end of all of this riding, you’ve earned your descent.  Beaver road tilts downhill sharply for multiple miles over rough pavement.  Penn State racers have grown to know and love this descent, hugging every turn and navigating every imperfection. 

Many of the races were paced by Kia Sorrento on loan from our sponsor, Lion Country Kia. Our pace car driver, Andrew Artz (junior-recreation and tourism management), loved its quiet and roomy interior. Additional sponsors included food provided by Subway and Honey Baked Ham and our championship race t-shirts printed by The Family Clothesline.

Team Time Trial: The TTT consisted of a triangular course along Lake Black Moshannon totally 9.5 miles.

No Penn Staters competed in the TTT.

Black Mo Road Race:  The road race starts at Lake Black Moshannon. The racers take off down the fast decent to the bottom of Black Mo where they then have to take the long grinding climb back to the top of the mountain. One loop of the full course totaled 21 miles.

A lone Women's C rider on the Black Mo Road Race. Photo by: Ginny Tory
Men’s D (1 lap):
Unfortunately many of our volunteers ended up sick, forcing some riders to become marshals guiding their teammates through.  Paul Girgis placed 5th on the day while Marc Geiller placed 23rd.

Women’s C (2 lap):
Kasinee Gehring set out with the women ready to do two laps of the course. However, she fell off the pace and finished one lap, placing 15th.
Mitch Ernst waves as the Men's C field reaches the bottom of the Black Mo Road Race course. Photo by: Ginny Tory
            It is easy to forget that the love for this mountain comes from the respect it demands.  Racers were warned at the beginning of the race, to keep the first descent slow and that they won’t win the race down the initial descent.  Unfortunately, the aggressiveness of cyclists took its toll during the day’s second wave of races.  Two separate crashes landed riders in the hospital.  One rider lost control of his bike, found himself on the other side of the road and collided with a stopped car.  The rider was Life Flighted to a hospital in Altoona where he received stitches, treatment for two broken cheek bones and other resulting injuries.  Fortunately there was no permanent damage done and he was able to return home with his team on Sunday.  In the second crash, riders flew over a guard rail on the descent and piled up on down bikes.  Riders were taken by Ambulance to the local hospital and were released the same day.

             Because of the serious nature of these crashes, the road was closed and all following races canceled.


Sunday morning, the sun greeted the races with a warm morning in downtown state college.  Shortly after fraternity row was closed off and cars towed to make way for the race.

Frat Row Criterium: The course is short, with 6 sharp turns including a chicane.  It rewards the riders in front who are skilled at cornering but those stuck in the back will find themselves sprinting out of the turns to fight the accordion effect.

Andrew Artz comes through the chicane of the Frat Row Crit. Photo by: Ginny Tory
Men’s D (30 mins):
Penn State made up 8 out of 25 of the racers in the D1 field today.  Half of them would find the accordion effect of the 20+ mph pace too much and eventually off the back.  Connor, Jose, Kevin and Ryan were pulled and placed.  Marc stayed with the pack through a face of pain, but missed the split driven by Paul and Andrew.  Paul, Andrew and Billy made up 3 out of 8 riders in the breakaway.  Feeling fast, Paul broke away from the breakaway and was joined by a rider from UNH.  Knowing Penn State rider Andrew could win a sprint, Paul was able to force his companion to work.  Paul casually jumped around the rider from UNH and took the win.  The first breakaway was 20 seconds behind and Andrew cruised in for 3rd taking the field sprint.  Billy and Marc rounded out the Team placing 7th and 16th respectively.  Primes were also scored by riders Paul and Andrew.

Paul Girgis comes through the chicane of the Frat Row Crit. Photo by: Ginny Tory
Men’s C (40 mins):
Three Penn Staters joined the 45 starters.  Sam took an early lead, the hole shot, but red-lined to get there and couldn't find a spot near the front.  Hurting, Sam was unable to keep pace.  Lucas and Mitch were all that was left of the Penn State team.  Both were in the top 10 in the final lap, but a crash in the chicane forced them to slow and ripped the chances of victory from their hands.

Men’s B (50 mins):
James was the sole starter today, and sick.  His sickness caught up with him so he pulled early to heal up to fight again.

Monica Volk celebrates her win at the Frat Row Crit. Photo by: Zach Wilczynski

Women’s A (50 mins):
Monica Volk of Penn State Lehigh Valley continued her domination of the ECCC.  She was sitting confident after winning all but one intermediate sprint.  Having wrapped up the leader’s and the sprinter’s jerseys, she wanted to make one final statement.  The last lap, she came screaming out of the last corner and dusted her competition!  Monica will be joining Penn State University Park next year.  We are looking forward to having her on the team!

Greg Ratzell breaks off the front of the Men's A Frat Row Crit race. Photo by: Zach Wilczynski

Men’s A (60 mins):
A salute to the graduating riders - Joe, Brett and Wes - this being their final collegiate race.  Joining them at the start line were Greg (sophomore) and Kevin (1st year Masters).  The race started fast and 10 minutes in Greg crashed.  Kevin was behind the crash and never caught back on.  Greg rejoined the field and shot straight through, stuck in the big ring.  He was chased by a rider from Brown University who got close but unable to join.  Greg’s gap grew large and right before he was closing down on the pack a chase group started with Brett.  The chase group never got near Greg who kept his pace up.  With one lap to go, Greg lapped the field!  He cruised in his last lap knowing he had won the race, allowing the field some room.  Wes won the field sprint (10th) followed by Joe (16th).  Brett finished towards the back of the chase group at 8th.  Because of Greg’s gut wrenching 50 minutes solo, he ended up as the de facto leader in all but one of the Primes.

Greg Ratzell is handed his gold medal. Photo by: Sam Carroll
Monica Volk walks away with her new gold medal. Photo by: Sam Carroll
The Penn State Cycling Club members celebrate. Photo by: Sam Carroll
THANK YOU to our team of race directors and race volunteers for ensuring this event went smoothly.  We would also like to thank our sponsors: Moshannon Valley Radio Club, The Bicycle Shop Inc., University Health Services, and of course LION COUNTRY KIA!!!

The Penn State Cycling Club sponsor, The Bicycle Shop Inc., ran the pit for the races Courtesy art from: The Bicycle Shop Inc.

The Penn State Cycling Club sponsor, Lion Country Kia, provided pace vehicles for the races. Photo by: Sam Carroll
Race report written by: Kevin Bertstein


Week 6 & 7 recaps

Week six and seven of the ECCC road season took the conference to its northern limits with races being held in Vermont and New Hampshire. Although these races were not well attended by Penn State cyclists, the club was anything but idle with almost daily Black Mo rides leaving from Rec Hall. The Wednesday night speed ride has also started back up in earnest with a huge showing on April 15th of both past and current members laying down serious wattage.

Training rides haven't been the only thing our club has been up to over the last two weeks.  On Monday Men's B rider and USA Cycling Level II coach Cody Moore led a bicycle skills clinic focused on bike handling.  Using and cones provided by the Boalsburg Middle School he taught the basics of high speed cornering and braking for a group of 25 highly motivated triathletes and cyclists.  Additional instruction was given on how to maintain balance after contact with another rider and how to take pull off during a team time trial.

Late comers to the event were treated to garbage ball, which is the greatest game you will ever play.  Using a collapsible hamper as the goal riders from two teams worked to score points in a game strangely reminiscent of bicycle polo.  By dividing teams based on whether or not cyclists were wearing a Penn State kit Cody inadvertently created a monster by placing both Wes Kline, Gregory Ratzel, and Madison Mathews on the same team.  Strategies were formed blocks were made and in the end the phrase, "Okay just one more game..." was repeated more times than anyone could count.

With races happening closer to home and promise of a good time at the Blue & White game some of our team decided to pass on the green mountains in favor of Greene county.  Drew David took 5th at the Greene County Road Race presented by West Virginia University and the ACCC.  Drew took 5th in the race and although he didn't score any points for the conference we're happy to see that even with the harsher winter and shortened road season our cyclists can still crush the south.  Additional club members and alumni rolled out to the 28th Annual Lower Providence Spring Classic Criterium.  Competing in the men's cat 1. Wes Kline put the hurting on a field of cyclists from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware even if he didn't make it to the podium.


Week 5 Army Cycling Weekend

Note: Due to the high number of racers (20+), only first names will be used.  Last names can be found in the full race results linked below.

A chilly calm morning at West Point.  It was not to last.  As the team drove up the canyon the bikes on the roof rack started to shake.  As we stepped out of our cars, the strong 35 mph winds chilled us to the bones.
Water bottles, helmets, and Wes Kline were all being blown across the parking lot:

Team Time Trial - 7 miles on a hilly course, exposed to the furious winds.

Men's D:
The windy day kept the racers in the car for too long, to their best efforts, the men's team missed their start.  They regrouped and prepared for the road race.  Connor joined in with the Men's B TTT start 10 minutes later.

Men's C:
While the D's missed their start, the C's were able to get to the line right before their name was called.  Nolan, Sam and Zach set out with no warmup and pushed through the winds to end in 6th place.

Women's C:
Sarah and Kasinee set out strong and took first!  Granted they were the only ones in their field, a win is a win!

Men's B:
As Connor (Men's D) missed his race, he joined in with Drew, James and Cody to lead them out.  Connor sprinted off the line and everyone tried to get on his wheel.  Just as they settled into the pace Connor pulled off, spent.  The rest of the team rode hard and picked up second place, setting a pace 15 seconds faster than the Men's A team.

Men's A:
Joe, Wes and Kevin scrambled up a team at the last minute, these three racers set out and pulled a sub 20 minute pace, only able to settle in for 8th place on the day.

Full Results: http://velocityresults.com/results/555/eccc-week-4-army-ttt-harriman-ny
A flurry of fall leaves fly around the Mens B racers as they take off from the start line.

Road Race - The 14 mile course tipped down a steep downhill where racers hit 50 miles per hour.  At the base a hairpin turn sent the racers climbing.  The climb averaged 4% but hid multiple kicks that made the legs scream.  Once at to the top, a tailwind section with another climb meant there was nowhere to hide.  Very few races had a pack bigger than 5 people cross the line.

Men's D (2 laps):
What a day, the initial descent was filled with chaos.  Ryan, Matt and Jose got caught in a crash at the bottom of the hill on the first lap.  All three were unable to continue but survived with very minor abrasions.  Billy and Kevin both were caught behind the crash but stayed upright and rode the full course fighting the wind all day.  Connor stayed near the front and rode in solo to an 8th place finish.

Men's C (3 laps):
The Men's D crash repeated itself in the C's field.  Fortunately our Nittany Lions all stayed upright.  However, Sam and Nolan got caught behind the pile up and found the chase ahead too daunting.  One of the bigger fields to stay together, Mitch, Zach and Lucas all stayed in with the field sprint, winning 3rd, 6th and 7th.

Women's A (4 laps):
Penn State Lehigh racer Monica finished in second place.

The Men's B field enters the feed zone of the Road Race.

Men's B (4 laps):
Cody, James and Drew all set out from the line together.  The pace up the climb made it so that Drew would find himself sprinting alone.  James and Cody were unable to match the pace up the climb and so didn't finish.  Drew stayed with the field as he watched breaks go and get caught.   He was set up to sprint but his rear wheel flatted with 2 miles to go.  He rode it out for a 13th place finish.

Men's A (5 laps):
The pace started high up the climb and stayed high.  The course was made for Brett today.  After Wes was almost dropped he went on the offensive and pulled Brett into the winning break.  From there, Brett outsmarted his five-man breakaway and won the race!  Wes's efforts found him off the back later with Kevin and Joe.  Kevin and Wes finished a lap down while joe pulled out early.
Brett Wachtendorf sprints to the finish line.

Full results: http://velocityresults.com/results/556/eccc-week-4-army-rr-harriman-ny

Sunday: Criterium
The threat of rain loomed in the sky.  As the races went on the clouds became gray.  By the time the Men's A started a few drops fell, but the weather held off and the course stayed dry.  The course was comprised of three turns over 1km.  The racers were joined by the occasional freight train passing on their side.  A 120 degree corner meant the racers had to lean their bikes hard today.
Photo by: Ginny Tory
The Penn State Cycling team soaks in the midday sunshine while watching the criterium races atop a hill.
Men's D (30 minutes):
A smaller team than the road race, but Kevin, Ryan, Billy, Connor and Matt all put on their game face, only to be robbed of their race.  Kevin and Ryan found the pace just a bit too high.  Connor and Billy ended up in bad positions during the race and worked too hard, both fell off the pace towards the end.  Matt was set up strong at the end of the race, but with two laps to go a crash in front of him took him out of the race.

Men's C (40 minutes):
The field got whittled down from 49 to 31 finishers.  Nolan was one of those, but finished 33rd, one of the last to fall off the pace.  Lucas, Zach and Sam all finished within the field sprint.  Lucas sprinted his way into 6th on the day, an incredible finish!
Photo by: Ginny Tory
The Men's D and C riders had a fun time cheering on the Bs from 3 stories up on top of the Shea Stadium.

Women's C (40 minutes):
Sarah held onto the ripping pace laid down by the women today for almost the entire race.  However, she found herself getting gapped and eventually pulled soon before the finish.

Women's A (50 minutes):
Penn State Lehigh racer Monica snatched up another second place finish.
Photo by: Ginny Tory
Drew David takes advantage of the passing freight train blocking the harsh winds from the Hudson River.
 Men's B (50 minutes):
Having destroyed his legs in the road race, Drew was unable to match the pace on the day.  Cody and James found their fast legs today, making multiple attempts to get away, however they would be unsuccessful.  Cody slotted into 7th and James in the field.

Men's A (60 minutes):
A lesson in what not to do.  Kevin clipped a pedal on the uphill turn and slid out infront of Wes.  Wes was able to avoid the crash but found himself disconnected.  Kevin and Wes walked to the pit but Wes was told to chase. Both got back in safely.  When Wes won the field sprint, he was informed that he was actually a lap down and was moved to the back of the pack in the results.  Kevin slotted into 14th with a bleeding leg and Brett finished safely in the field.
Photo by: Ginny Tory
Wes Kline takes the inside line around the Army Criterium's third corner toward the finish line.
Photo by: Ginny Tory
Kevin Bernstein flies around the Army Criterium's second corner pushing to stay with the field despite his bleeding wound from his crash.
Full Results: http://velocityresults.com/results/557/eccc-week-4-army-crit-wet-point-ny

Written by: Kevin Bernstein

Photos and video: Ginny Tory