Week 2: NYC Metro Showdown

Rutgers University Criterium, 3/19

Spring arrived in full force on Saturday. To celebrate the weather at the second race of the season, the ECCC riders broke out their finest jorts.  The generous 10 am start time allowed the lower category riders to sleep in and prepare for their races.  The criterium course featured 3 turns, with one rounded, sloping side which led into a tight turn and a small hill climb.  Stereotypes about NJ infrastructure were confirmed, and the roads on the course were precarious.  Pocked with potholes, the sharp second turn became a highway to the Danger Zone for riders in all categories.

James whips around a corner (image courtesy of NYU Cycling)

Men’s A:  James Read, Kevin Bernstein

A two man breakaway launched halfway into the race, and the peloton was unable to close the gap.  James and Kevin worked together to draft off of each other, and swapped positions throughout the course of the race.  Kevin finished in the center of the peloton at 20th, with James only seconds behind at 29th.  Monica stretched her legs with the men’s field, and completed 5 laps before pulling the plug.

Women’s A/B: Monica Volk, Jess Bunchek, Kirsten Pearsons

The peloton held together on the first several laps, but Monica “Breakaway” Volk rocketed ahead with five other riders.  The peloton never saw the breakaway, and only heard rumors of Monica’s dominant win in the final sprint.  Jess sat in the peloton and sprinted hard on the final lap, earning 8th place.  Kirsten, a B racer, fought hard alongside the women in A’s, and locked down the first prime in her category.  Overall, Kirsten was 16th in the pack. 

Men’s C: Dan Kozar

Dan asserted himself at the front of the speedy C peloton, a position he held for the first two laps.  Wild cheers of “Damn Daniel” could be heard across the Rutgers campus.  Unfortunately, a pothole in the road sent him sailing over the handlebars.  Although he was uninjured by the accident, his rim was damaged beyond repair, and he was unable to continue with the race.

Will sprints to catch a draft (image courtesy of NYU Cycling)

Men’s D:  Noah Smith, Will Gowen, Jose Aguilar

The men’s D race raised the bar for criterium carnage with a whopping five crashes.  All crashes occurred on the precarious 2nd turn of the course; from a combination of riders slowing down on the uphill and other riders sprinting through potholes on the turn.  Will hung with the pack until the fifth lap, when a catastrophic pileup resulted in a bicycle being thrown 5 ft. into the air.  Will avoided the crash, but grabbing a handful of brake cost him the race.  Noah navigated through the disaster, but flatted on the final straightaway, in a hiss of broken dreams.  Jose raced defensively, and finished 54th.    

Rebecca gears up for the women's D crit

Women’s D:  Rebecca Storch

Rebecca advanced through the peloton during the first several laps.  Unfortunately, a crash KO’d Rebecca’s derailleur hangar and front brake lever, shearing them both in half.  She rushed to the on-staff mechanic, who managed to replace the hanger (with some convincing) in under a 1 lap.  Ignoring her own scrapes from the accident, she hopped back on the bike to chase down the peloton, and nailed down 20th.    

Rockland Lake Circuit Race, 3/20

Temperatures on Sunday took a dive into the low forties, and the overcast weather threatened rain.  The 3.4 mile course led riders on a scenic loop around Rockland Lake, and over serene country roads.  Halfway through the course, a series of small, rolling hills provided a 200 ft. elevation gain, which gently challenged the cyclists.  The final descent allowed riders to gather speed for a straight shot to the finish line.  Similar to Saturday’s criterium, the course on Sunday also featured unfavorable infrastructure, and the potholes once again plagued riders.  To further complicate matters, the race was conducted on open roads, which meant racers were only allotted one lane to attack and maneuver.

Men’s A:  James Read, Kevin Bernstein

The men’s A riders kept up a breakneck pace for the 44 mile race.  James stayed locked in with the pack throughout, and crossed the line 18th.  Kevin started out strong, but a pesky pothole released the air from his tire, which caused him to lose serious ground and left him unable to finish the race.    

Women’s A/B:  Jess Bunchek, Kirsten Pearsons

The race started out calmly, as riders wanted to save energy and wait to see who would attack first.  A number of surges occurred on the first hillclimb, but all were reabsorbed back into the peloton.  Kirsten propelled herself to the front on the climb, and led the peloton for an entire lap before dropping back to catch a draft. Jess worked her way to the front, bombing down the final hill and sprinting for 4th place.  Kirsten sat in close behind at 13th

Men’s C: Dan Kozar

A serious crash on lap 2 resulted in a rider being medevacked out, a process which spooked the remaining racers.  The peloton became divided, and Dan found himself in the 2nd pack for a 58th place finish.

Men’s D:  Noah Smith, Will Gowen, Jose Aguilar

The first three laps of the Men’s D race bordered on a leisurely ride, complete with brake checks and casual banter.  Nonetheless, two accidents occurred as a result of braking and potholes.  Having only 1 lane for a 48 man field made avoiding crashes and moving up in the peloton difficult.  The congestion caused Noah and Will to end up stuck behind riders who were too tired to sprint for the finish line, causing them to lose ground and place 27th and 17th.  Jose faced similar adversity, and hung on at 42nd

Women’s D:  Rebecca Storch

Some last-minute starting line derailleur repair was required to get Rebecca’s bike race ready.  Rebecca laid down so much power at the criterium that the replacement hanger screws were knocked loose.  She secured an excellent position during the first mile of the race, but the inability to shift gears on the hill cost her the position.  The involuntary single speed left her muscling her way to a 19th place finish.

The Penn State Cycling Team maintained their vice grip on the ECCC leaderboards, holding down 4th place overall in the conference.  As temperatures and experience levels increase throughout the spring season, the Team is set up for a promising month of racing.



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