Policies Are For Progress

Very recently, months after it was published to no doubt much impact, some friends finally noticed Ellen Samuels‘ column article Cycles of Gender Testing, published by the NYU Press blog. It attempts to critique the new-ish transgender athlete policies in the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference (ECCC). The crux of Samuels’ argument is that the policy represents a throwback to medieval policies of yore, developed with a biocentric focus and no understanding of gender or sexuality.

Hilariously were it not so frustrating, the post is actually a great exemplar of exactly the type of mindset at which it hopes to throw much snark and scorn: One crippled by assumptions and an inability to have a serious discussion on gender and sports. Further, it’s just poor scholarship and writing: No attempt to contact anyone involved for clarification or discussion was made beforehand, no chance for response given afterward—regrettably, the comments are closed—and it’s very clear that no independent effort was made to understand how that policy might have emerged, or its very nuanced components.

It’s just a short blog post that doesn’t particularly matter, but the piece is worth some commentary from the conference leadership. This is a good point from which to discuss and archive some of the design intent and background of this ECCC policy. More generally the post is also worth looking at as an example of how even people very informed and aware on this kind of topic can hinder their understanding and the debate through their own flawed assumptions.


The ECCC’s transgender athlete policy is incredibly permissive:

The ECCC particularly recognizes the challenges facing transgender athletes. Such members of the community should compete in the gender category most appropriate to their unique personal situation. They are invited and encouraged to discuss this with the Conference Director(s) and other ECCC leadership.

Competitors may be asked by the Conference Director(s) and/or their designee(s) to furnish two pieces of documentation from relevant legal, medical, or academic authorities documenting personal sex, gender, or gender dysphoria supporting their selected competition gender category.

Particularly for college sports that’s an extremely open position. A very good read here is the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network‘s report On The Team: Including Transgender Students. Though we only found it afterward, the ECCC transgender policy tracks very closely with the report’s recommendations for high school sports, notably much more so than its collegiate suggestions. Similar goes for other reports and existing policies. Compared to typical approaches for college and beyond, the ECCC formally embraces much more of an attitude of “Do whatever makes you happy, everything else be damned.”

That shift in attitude comes in large part precisely from not being biocentric, completely counter to Samuels’ utterly flawed understanding. She writes:

Such [documentation] requirements show how assumptions about the necessity for biocertification can both underpin and undermine even the most well-meaning of policies directed toward people who do not fit neatly into gender binaries. It is likely that, just as in international female athletics, the cyclists most likely to be asked to provide documentation are those who appear suspiciously “masculine,” yet identify as female.

The last sentence is unfortunately probably true, but not in the sense it was written. Samuels fails to envision all of the many likely circumstances that might prompt such a request. More critically, she completely misses the fundamental fact that the “requirement” is there for the exact opposite reason: To protect transgender athletes, and to enable their self-determination and choices.


One of our primary motivations for that provision is some regrettable cretin trying to make either an actual socio-political point or merely negative comedy by competing in the “wrong” category. Particularly in some regions of the country, given a completely wide open policy all of us could easily envision, based on previous actual incidents, some cis-male jackass ostentatiously opting to race in and disrupt the women’s fields, either to underline how supposedly ridiculous is the concept of transgender athletes, or simply to be the class clown.

Without the documentation request or some other requirement, there’s little the conference could do about that. If athletes could truly simply elect which gender category to compete in with no restrictive formal policy, then there’s no basis upon which to stop that clown. That would be highly unfortunate, as such a show would be deeply hurtful to actual transgender athletes and broadly supressive of their participation and open welcome, as well as being very disruptive to the competition and disrespectful to all of the athletes. So, in one direction, the requirement is there to protect trans athletes by creating a tool to help shut down very conceivable, very negative demonstrative actions against them.


On the opposite end of the spectrum, it is unfortunately just as conceivable that at some point opposition will be raised to a “legitimate” transgender athlete. Any open or suspected transgender athlete is going to face a wide variety of challenges in competing, irrespective of how accepting their community may be. They don’t need to also continually face questions about why they’re racing in their chosen gender category, quiet doubts and whispers about the validity of that selection, and so on. The documentation proviso gives conference leadership a tool with which to also shut down all of that negative atmosphere: Community members start raising concerns or complaints about someone, conference leadership privately asks that person for some documentation to show they’re not just some clown or a cheater, they show it, conference leadership affirms to the community that everything is on the up & up and ends those questions and whispers. So, in another direction, the “requirement” is there precisely to provide a formal basis for validating and supporting a transgender athlete’s selection of gender category for competition.


In doing so, one of the obvious key points Samuels misses is just how slim and broad is that documentation requirement. To repeat:

Competitors may be asked by the Conference Director(s) and/or their designee(s) to furnish two pieces of documentation from relevant legal, medical, or academic authorities documenting personal sex, gender, or gender dysphoria supporting their selected competition gender category.

There’s a lot of nuance packed in there alongside practical understanding of the challenges facing transgender people in our college and high school demographic, enabling a great deal of personal freedom and privacy.

On the one hand, presumably no clown and nearly all cheaters at our level would be unwilling to or have a hard time actually producing any such documentation. On the other hand, nearly all transgender people could meet that criteria, and with minimal intrusion on their privacy. By explicit design it is essentially as close as you can get to a formal version of “Please just give us anything, anything, which we can use to justify your category selection.”

For example, in an amazing and amusing display of massive, pompous self-absorption, Samuels misreads the policy point about “academic authorities” as a reference to the scholarly work of herself and other academic gender theorists. Skipped in that interpretation are important adjectives like “personal” and, most especially, “relevant.” Any less egotistical reader with experience competing in scholastic sports or enforcing gender regulations should immediately understand what that’s actually saying: Any kind of note from school is fine.

In particular, as discussed in previous blog posts, in our demographic of young adults and even juniors starting out on life outside their parents’ homes and shadows, many people are just beginning to think about and potentially recognize an affinity within themselves for non-traditional, non-biological ideas on gender and identity. Many of our transgender athletes won’t have government ID or medical records verifying or tracking their newly formed self images. They could quite likely though come up with something between all three options, especially given the wide latitude granted as to what kind of document is required. School and medical authorities in particular are generally likely to be flexible and swift, with few lifelong effects.

Regarding government, even setting aside universal bureaucratic hurdles and significant consequences of changing identification, many students will have a tough time or be unable to do so simply by advent of living at school, far from home. ECCC policy says that’s fine, get some documentation from the much easier and less consequential avenues of your school or doctor. This is a particularly relevant point because previous national policy in competitive cycling until we forced a change was to compete in the gender given by government ID. We in fact know that to be too rigid, from concrete cases of actual people.

Unusually for the current conference leadership’s typical inclinations to extremely formal and highly delineated rules, this policy is also very specific about not being specific as to what kinds of documentation might suffice. This is an intentional bit of vagueness to enable maximal privacy and options, particularly regarding medical authorities. For example, unlike policies frequently applied at higher levels of sport, the ECCC does not want to see a transgender athlete’s recorded testosterone level history. It also does not care if a rider is undergoing or has undergone a biological transition. Any documentation from a medical authority saying that the athlete’s chosen gender category is appropriate will suffice.


Of course, the question there of what category is “appropriate” is also intentionally unspecified. For example: Suppose an athlete was born and remains biologically female, but presents formally and socially as a man. What gender category should they compete in? If they race as a man they’ll be socially most comfortable but competitively most disadvantaged. Racing as a woman they’ll compete on level ground but be personally uncomfortable as well as potentially facing any number of doubts and misunderstandings about the fairness of them doing so based on the community’s inevitable assumptions.

On this question the ECCC takes the decidedly not biocentric approach of not taking any stance at all. Either direction they take that athlete is facing a hard decision, and we hope they talk to us about it, but we purposefully ultimately leave that selection where it should be: With the athlete.

Notable here is the explicit reference in the policy to sex, gender, or gender dysphoria. Any but the laziest reader should immediately be disinclined to believe that this policy is backed by simplistic notions equating sex with gender. We specifically recognize the differences between but don’t care about, in a positive sense, anybody’s sex or gender, or how the two may or may not match traditional assumptions and norms. The inclusion of gender dysphoria is a particularly subtle point. We are unaware of any other policy making such an allowance, rather than being based solely on sex and/or gender. Again, the intent is to afford maximal options and privacy. Can’t or don’t want to show documentation of a history supporting a particular gender or sex for competition category? Then any selection could be supported by any medical authority, including a physician, psychologist, or even a counselor, based on dysphoria.


Again amusingly but disappointingly, Samuels’ piece explicitly attacks the ECCC for its assumptions and entrenching bad ones, even while it is she who is actually trucking a great many of them into the discussion, fatally wounding her understanding.

On the surface, no one who actually read and thought about the ECCC policy rather than applying rote assumptions about the treatment of transgender athletes in sports could have possibly viewed it as advocating draconion or even mild biocertification regimes. Further, as discussed above, even setting aside its incredibly unrestricted and wide open criteria, the documentation “requirement” is actually there to protect and enable transgender athletes, providing a basis for them to do whatever makes them happiest.


More fundamentally, Samuels’ post is founded on the insulting and grossly prejudiced assumption that the people writing such a policy and involved in the governance of our sport could not be familiar with and understanding of gender theory and associated topics, let alone sympathetic to transgender athletes, nor could they themselves be following non-heteronormative lives.

On the one hand, as conference director and the lead face of policy creation and enforcement, it’s pretty much true that I personally am a cis-male whitebread honkie, and by actual profession an engineer to boot. I absolutely reject though that this necessarily means I don’t have some familiarity with or understanding of gender theory, nor that I can neither emphathize with nor understand and actively support our transgender athletes. In general it patently cannot and should not be the case that only transgender people and gender theorists may participate in this discussion. As Samuels’ post ably demonstrates, formal training in gender theory is clearly neither necessary nor sufficient to make actual contributions to this topic.

On the other hand, Samuels unfortunately and quite incorrectly implicitly assumes that this policy has been neither informed nor crafted by gender theory, let alone actual transgender athlete experience. That is again insulting on several levels, in assuming both that such people are not actively engaged in the sport as well as that their advice and input would not be sought out. It’s also impressively wrong. My understanding is that more than half our committee involved in drafting this policy have non-heteronormative sexualities. More than a quarter are either working on or already have PhDs in gender or queer theory and related topics. Several live everyday, in one way or another, with all the consequences and challenges associated with being transgender, in sport and otherwise.

Despite Samuels’ assumptions that people in sport could not be familiar with gender theory and that transgender athletes could not be engaged in developing the policies affecting them, in the ECCC at least nothing could be further from the truth.


In recent years, driven by various mass calamities, there has been occasional general debate about the limited impact the liberal arts have on daily life. History, political science, economics, etc., all have important things to say about critical issues of government and society that are routinely ignored. This is a major driver of movements toward open access scholarship and increasing respect within academia for blogging and other popular writing. Quite obviously, gender theorists, queer theorists, and others might have useful things to say to the general population on topics like transgender athletes. In line with the better points of traditional academics’ suspicions of pop-academia movements though, drive-by hits with lazy blog posts not only don’t accomplish that, they actively retard progress. Nothing will be accomplished if the gender theorists are the ones coming in with crippling assumptions and a failure to recognize and put the effort into addressing their own limited understanding. If Samuels’ post is indicative of what the NYU Press means by “curated content” and “original scholarship” then that particular academia outreach blog effort actually does not have much to contribute and is little different from any number of scrawling-screed sites out there.

Complexity and Progress

Returning to the actual substantive point at hand, this whole topic of transgender athletes in sport is incredibly complex, both broad and deep. Most discussed are of course the top level concepts of biology, policies, and fairness—in multiple competing directions, and with much still developing and even more poorly recognized science.

For the people actually going through these experiences though, and the sports authorities trying to enable and support them, it’s mind-bogglingly pervasive. An eye-opening realization from our experiences this past spring was that a nuts-and-bolts but nonetheless consequential task the conference needs to do to help transgender athletes is to start identifying in race flyers whether restrooms at races will be gender neutral portajohns or gendered built facilities, and if the latter whether they’ll be on private, local, state, or federal ground because of the varying laws associated with each. That’s a whole new level of detail and area of concern we’ve never considered before, and the sort of detail never addressed in high level debate.

Even with very progressive leadership and an overwhelmingly supportive community, these participants face a whole constellation of obstacles. A significant part of overcoming those is policy. As Samuels focuses on and briefly recaps, transgender policy in sports has a long and largely iniquitous history, rife with dubious biocertification programs and unacceptable tests. It doesn’t have to be that way though. Policy can also be a tool to enable these athletes, as we hope it is in the ECCC.

None of this is to say that current ECCC policy is perfect or optimal, though it’s unlikely any policy could be either. There is much room for clarification, formalization, and multiple strong tradeoffs have been made that warrant ongoing debate. For an example on the process side, a tradeoff has been made between the freedom afforded by ambiguity versus potentially unfortunate future decisions under other leadership stemming from such subjective policies. On the more substantive side, the policy implicitly prioritizes the pursuit of happiness for transgender riders over the biological fairness concerns of other competitors. This is a strong stance on the particularly potentially explosive issues surrounding female-to-male biologically transitioned and male-to-female non-transitioned transgender athletes. Our group has also been very clear that we don’t feel this policy should necessarily be applied at all levels. For example, even to us it is not clear that professional, Olympic, and similar elite sport should be as completely biology agnostic as this policy strives to be.

However, all told, the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference’s current policies represent a decidedly progressive stance on sports participation by transgender athletes, and one that we hope other organizations adopt. We hope that everyone looking at them will do so without being burdened by their baggage of assumptions, in addition to recognizing all the many possible live circumstances and the need to have formal policies directing the actual conduct of those sports.


Ride your bike: maybe it can cure what ails us?

As the entire Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference girds itself for the last epic weekend of road racing for the 2014 season, and looks to the start of the first full track racing season, there will be plenty of emotions abound— as there should be. Let’s set aside the nostalgia of those with college in the rearview mirror as they drive into adulthood and the real world. ECCC ‘14 has been incredible in the sense that the conference made strides towards improving itself, from an open women’s forum to improve the state of bike racing to official steps to include riders all across the board to race bikes on the weekend. Let’s not forget the ECCC declaration of  “2015: go big or go home-” the long term mission to solve some of the problems that plague the state of bike racing.

The state of bike racing. For the week after the Eastern Championships, getting on your bike for more pain and pleasure might be the furthest thing on your mind. Giving your body a rest after eight straight weekends of travel and competing notwithstanding, a lot of people will not think about racing bikes until next season. Then, starting at the November 2014 meeting, it will start all over again; the excitement at the upcoming season, the endless plans and preparation, the head scratching on how to improve the bike racing experience in the Northeast.

It is an incredibly hard thing to streamline and troubleshoot hosting major events for twenty schools with twenty different schedules in the Northeast during one of the most troublesome weather periods of the year- I can count the number of times I did not have to lather on layers or Embrocation for a race and weekends my team did not have some racing-related incident for this season on one hand. Despite all of the discomfort or frustration, I would not trade those experiences for anything. Invaluable bonding aside, those experiences are important lessons we all learn from to better ourselves for the future. Heck, call it ‘stretching things’  a bit, but arguably the skills you learned on and off the bike will be useful down the road. Probably the most valuable lesson I have ever on a bike is struggling during a race and telling myself, “Suck it up- everyone here is dealing with the exact same problems you are.” Talk about epiphanies of a shared humanity while deep in the pain cave.

We can learn a lot from bikes, in and out of the race. Eight weekends is only so much time to take it all in and absorb as much as you can. Shame there’s no other period of the year that has organized bike racing to participate in.

So, sarcasm aside.  As a daring and relatively unfounded statement, here’s a suggestion to everyone that wants to improve the biking experience in the saddle or behind the racing scene: get involved this summer. Go to Bikereg.com and sign up for some summer racing. Get involved with some biking community and see how they do things. Volunteer at a biking event, and appreciate just how much work race organizers do and more for us. Organize group rides, bring along someone new to biking and show them how great the sport can be. Have some amazing bike epiphany and write about it on the ECCC blogosphere. You put in this much time invested into collegiate bike racing, you certainly can afford a bit more to go hang out with other people on bikes.

If there is a ‘cure-all’ solution to improving the state of bike racing, it would be a pretty impressive one to tackle all of the usual problems; race organizers not going broke, creating a better pipeline to teach riders racing skills, addressing how latent sexism in a male-dominated culture hurts the state of bike racing.  Yes, whether you like it or want to argue the semantics, these are problems that hinder the process of bike racing that we as a conference are trying to solve. Eight weekends is not enough time to observe and test new solutions. Strong racing ability and a better spring racing experience is something everyone can work on and realize during the summer. You can learn something new to use in your next ECCC or USAC bike race. Who knows, maybe from your summer experience you will realize the ‘cure-all’ solution to ECCC’s “2015: go big or go home” challenge.

America! Photo by Jan Valerie Polk.
America! Photo by Jan Valerie Polk.

At the very least, enjoy camaraderie of  being on the bike with others while not freezing in the March rain.


Road 2014: Week 7, Nittany Cycling Classic

Black Moshannon Road Race. Fraternity Row Criterium. Pennsylvania State University. These are the legendary landmarks of the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference, and the popular races that draw riders from all over to test their mettle in the Nittany Cycling Classic hosted by Penn State. With finals starting for some schools and Easter Sunday, there was a noticeable drop in rider participation- nevertheless, teams still made the trek to hunt for more points for the season.

Saturday opened up to wispy blue skies and temperatures rising into short-sleeve weather. Race headquarters and trainers for set up for the day for a team time trial and road race at Black Moshannon State Park in the rolling heart of Pennsylvania. For the first morning race, there was a 9.5 mile team time trial with power climbs and descents that promised fast times for seasoned riders. Interestingly enough, some of the more veteran teams were absent from the races. The hosting Penn State did not submit a men’s A team, and Northeastern ended up seven miles off course. The winners of the A fields were incredibly unique- Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) set the bar with a time of 22:48.50, with the regulated four-man team size comprised of two men’s A riders, a men’s B and a women’s A racer. On the women’s side, Columbia University was the sole entrant and default winner of the morning race.

The afternoon road race was the real fixture of the day, if not the entire weekend. A 21-mile loop of 50mph descents and three major climbs, the last of which is a grinding five miler that overlooks the valley. In the men’s A race, it was a constant game of hard solo attacks, the pack reeling in riders off the front and dropping even more off the back. Nearly half the field dropped out or was pulled from the three-lap struggle of a race. The final major surge was by Brett Wachtendorf (Penn State), who made his move at the base of the final climb and managed to stay away to win his home race. Wachtendorf passed Zachary Ulissi (MIT), Daniel Holmdahl (Dartmouth College) and Alan Royek (Shippensburg University), a group that unsuccessfully tried to pull away beforehand. The three however would stay away from the rest of the diminished field to hold on for the finish. With Ulissi and Holmdahl- respectively one and two in the men’s overall standings- so focused on watching the other’s moves, it was an easy thing for Royek to collect himself and put out an unstoppable sprint to take second for the day.  The final podium spot was taken by Holmdahl, as he managed to nip Ulissi at the line at the end of a very long race.

Rose Long of Icahn School of Medicine, Shaena Berlin of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Monica Volk of Penn State Lehigh Valley- all of them mere mortals at the top of Saturday's final climb in the road race (Photo by Andrew Black)
Rose Long of Icahn School of Medicine, Shaena Berlin of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Monica Volk of Penn State Lehigh Valley- all of them mere mortals at the top of Saturday’s final climb in the road race (Photo by Andrew Black)

In the women’s A race, there was a bit more of wait involved before the solo acts began. Making her move up the first time up the major climb was Cecilia Davis-Hayes (Columbia)- whose wheel decided to flat at that moment. The move however encouraged the rest, and emerging over the top was Monica Volk (Penn State Lehigh Valley), Rose Long (Icahn School of Medicine) and Shaena Berlin (MIT). The three would work together to for most of the second of two laps. At the final climb however, Volk would peel off first Berlin and then Long to take the victory: no small feat for a freshman rider in her first collegiate season. For Long and Berlin, it was ‘just’ a matter of coming across the line to take second and third respectively in the conference’s toughest road race of the year. In an impressive display of fitness, Davis-Hayes managed to get another wheel from a support vehicle and rode hard to bridge back up to the pack to finish fifth for the day.

Brett Wachtendorf of Penn State ripping through the corners during the men's A race (Photo by Andrew Black)
Brett Wachtendorf of Penn State ripping through the corners during the men’s A criterium  (Photo by Andrew Black)

Teams setting up early Easter Sunday at Penn State’s Frat Row Criterium were greeted by cheery church goers and hung-over university students. The race was a flat six corner screamer of a race, changing from a narrow chicane to wide pavement turns for a great drag finishing stretch. In familiar fashion, Cecilia Davis-Hayes attacked on the first sprint lap and never looked back. Davis-Hayes would eventually lap and rejoin the main field- a move that all but locked up the win for the day and the lion’s share of sprint points to keep the green jersey. The pack however was not content to just sit idle, and a three lady chase group went off the field front: Shaena Berlin, Monica Volk and Elspeth Huyett (Kutztown University). The chase group roared around the course, but was unable to lap the field to catch up to Davis-Hayes. The three racers however managed to stay away from the rest of the field to take the rest of the sprint points. In the finishing sprint, it was Huyett that managed to outgun and outstrip to take victory in the pack sprint. Volk would managed to edge out Berlin for the final podium spot; Berlin however, had the last laugh, as she picked enough points to maintain the overall leader’s jersey over Davis-Hayes.

Penn State- lacking a rider in the women’s A/B race- was determined to show their worth as a fast cycling and hosting school on their home turf. From the gun their riders attacked and set up high speeds, stripping a full third of the field in the first five laps. In similar fashion to yesterday’s road race, no rider successfully managed to get away- even Brett Wachtendorf, the home road race winner, strung out the field towards the end but could not get away. Wachtendorf’s real plan however was to turn up the heat and draw attention away from his teammate Wes Kline for a field sprint win. University of Pittsburgh racer Michael Oltman however saw through the ruse and marked Wachtendorf’s wheel throughout the final laps of the race. Oltman’s hunch paid off, and he came into the finish with a head of steam Kline could not match to take the duel and the day. Kline- who flatted, crashed and rejoined the race on a free mechanical lap- did Penn State proud to take second, with Jules Goguely (Rhode Island School of Design) taking third. Daniel Holmdahl (Dartmouth College) picked up an impressive 20 sprint points to further his hold on the sprinter’s jersey- and a final position in the finishing sprint to finally overtake Zachary Ulissi for first in the overall men’s standing

The weekend omnium was won by MIT with 210 points. Hosting team Penn Sate finished second (197 points) by a scant point over Columbia University (196 points). With only one more weekend left in the books before the season’s and double points on the line for the championship weekend, riders everywhere look with baited breath to see who will take it all- the season leader’s jerseys for sprints and overall, the divisional victories for their school and the championship races.

Full results are available from the ECCC calendar.


Zachary Ulissi of MIT leads the field through the course. Just look at how breathtaking the man is. He and Shaena Berlin still managed to find time to e-mail the blogosphere for race details. Next you will tell me the man has a doctorate as well. Don't actually tell me- I could not stand that much awe (Photo by Andrew Black)
Zachary Ulissi of MIT leads the field through the criterium. Just look at how breathtaking the man is. On top of being fast, he and Shaena Berlin still managed to find time to e-mail the blogosphere for race details. Next you will tell me the man has a doctorate as well. Don’t actually tell me- I could not stand that much awe (Photo by Andrew Black)

*Reporting for this recap was made possible by a very detailed e-mail and generous help from MIT’s powerhouses Shaena Berlin and Zachary Ulissi. Still, ECCC writer  is prone to slip-ups and lacking enough pictures (there can never be enough). Feel free to e-mail him to help make past and future race reports accurate and awesome.*

Quick info on this weekend awards banquet

Hi everyone. Just posted a 1-page quick info page on this weekend’s awards banquet on Saturday night.


Thanks to RISD for setting this up for us. Looking forward to a great weekend.


Road 2014: Week 6, New England Sufferfest

Another springtime weekend, another set of bike races. The Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference headed to the far northern New England for bike for a time trial, criterium and road race. The sixth weekend of racing hosted by Dartmouth College and the University of Vermont (UVM), looked to be an exciting episode of fastest bike racer in the Northeast.

Sunny skies and fair temperatures greeted racers as they assembled for the day in Hanover, New Hampshire at Dartmouth campus. The 2.7 mile time trial was the first event of the day, featuring power climbs, fast flats and a wall of a finishing hill. Taking the fastest time of the day was Dartmouth’s top male rider and race coordinator Daniel Holmdahl, powering through the course in 7:38.42. Rounding out the podium was Zachary Ulissi of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and David Ziehr of Harvard College, finishing the course with times of 7:42.86 and 7:50.50 respectively.

On the women’s side, it was Columbia University’s Cecilia Davis-Hayes that beat all the collegiate ladies- and a lot of collegiate gentlemen too-, taking the morning’s race in 8:52.29. Behind her was Michelle Khare of Dartmouth and Shaena Berlin (MIT), in 9:04.26 and 9:09.06- the former defending her home race, the latter the conference points leader’s jersey.

Teams packed up and moved camp to the other side of campus for the infamous Frat Row Criterium race, where wide roads and smooth corners let racers try all tactics to win on their terms. Terms, that Elizabeth White of UVM, decided would be of her choosing. White jumped at the gun and built up to a fifty-second lead on the women’s A field for most of the race to collect three easy sprint victories for herself. The field seemed content to let White think she had the race. Halfway through, they decided to put pedal to the metal, catch a tired White and eventually drop her. In an exciting show of dueling racers and finishing finesse, the wily veteran Rose Long (Icahn School of Medicine) surged forward to win the bunch sprint, ahead of Khare (Dartmouth) and Davis-Hayes (Columbia). Davis-Hayes had- surreptitiously, with most of the focus on White’s breakaway- won all pack sprints and points to claim the green sprinter’s jersey, taking back the lead from Berlin.

The field in the men’s A however would not let any rider imitate White’s breakaway performance. Several riders put out strong moves, and every time the pack would let them wear their legs out for a lap before bringing them back into the field. The sprint points was a battle of Dartmouth’s lone wolf Holmdahl versus the MIT men getting their man and conference sprint leader Ulissi- not to mention the rest of the bloodthirsty men’s field, in the hunt for glory and points. Holmdahl would take an impressive 25 points for the day over Ulissi’s 9- enough break Ulissi’s six-week stranglehold on the sprinter’s jersey. The final few laps saw solo riders still making attacks in attempts to break the field, but to no avail. In the end and coming out ahead of the pack was Jules Goguely of Rhode Island School of Design. Strung out behind him was Mathieu Boudier-Revéret  of the University of Montreal, and Cory Small of UVM.

Sunday morning’s weather was at odds with riders’ experience from the previous day. Cold, rainy and blustery winds- all the elements New Englanders have come to expect with the unpredictable spring weather. Racers had little choice but to bundled up on rain gear and lathered on warming cream to for UVM’s road race up near Burlington, VT. The uncooperative weather was not enough to have the planned finishing climb up Mount Philo, instead forcing race organizers to pick one of the many climbs and false flats for the finish. Cecilia Davis-Hayes (Columbia) was up to her usual tricks, and went out hard to put an eleven minute gap on the women’s A pack. The only one to go with her and match her pedal-for-pedal was Shaena Berlin (MIT). Davis-Hayes however would burn Berlin on the final climb and win the race in 2:39:04. Berlin- in no less of an impressive show of fitness- would finish second, only thirty-four seconds back. Coming in third and ahead of a very splintered women’s combined A/B field in a time of 2:47:26 was Michelle Khare (Dartmouth), putting out three for three in podium appearances for the weekend.

Midway through the day, and second wave of races, the sun broke out and temperatures rose from mid-thirties to high fifties. In the men’s A race, the weather change and race course did little to break up the bulk of the field. Thomas Barnett (Providence), David Ziehr (Harvard) and Samuel O’Keefe (Middlebury) would turn on the after burners and take the race for themselves. The three would finish in order, in minute gaps, ahead of the field a commanding show of race ability and grit.

Thomas Barnett of Providence (left) and Jules Goguely of Rhode Island School of Design posing together Sunday. Both had victories in races, and are hosting the ECCC Championships on 4/26-27/14
Thomas Barnett of Providence College (left) and Jules Goguely of Rhode Island School of Design posing together Sunday. Barnett won Sunday’s road race, and Goguely won the criterium Saturday.  Their schools, along with Brown University, are hosting the ECCC Championships on 4/26-27/14 (Photo by Thomas Barnett)

The weekend omniun was won by Dartmouth College (255 points), breaking MIT’s winning streak of six weeks for overall points. MIT was second with 235 points, followed by UVM with 174 points.

Full results are available from the ECCC calendar.

*feel free to e-mail ECCC writer   pictures for race reports, corrections or for bike rides- All things everyone could do more with*

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Road 2014: Week 5, Army Spring Classic

The Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference got a reprieve of foul weather with a treat of sunshine and above freezing temperatures for the Army Spring Classic. The fifth weekend of racing, hosted by and held at West Point College, featured four races: a hill climb, a criterium, team time trial and road race.

Dawn broke clear over the exposed slope of West Point’s campus, where a 2.6 mile individual time trial would present a fairly challenging climb. Going for the consecutive time trial win was Erik Levinsohn (Yale), taking the fastest time of the day with 10:37.12. Taking second was Craig Richey (Bentley University) in 11:21.11, followed by Dominic Caiazzo (Northeastern) in 11:25.77.

Back on top and in form was Shaena Berlin (MIT), fastest woman of the day in a time of 13:56.4. Right behind her was Michelle Khare (Dartmouth), back only by 5.13 seconds. In third was Monica Volk of Penn State Lehigh Valley, with a time of 14:14.44.

The day grew overcast but the weather held out for the afternoon criterium. Held at Campground Buckner, the course featured a windy highway stretch, gradual slopes and curves- perfect for a fast showdown. Levinsohn however decided to turn the screws on partway through the Men’s A race and gap the main field for the win by 40 seconds. The only racer to successfully follow Levinsohn was Daniel Lazier of Bucknell University, who was nipped at the line by two seconds. Winning the pack sprint was Julian Georg (Syracuse). While pulled early from the race, Daniel Holmdahl (Dartmouth) managed to pick up five sprint points, putting him two points behind taking the green jersey.

There would be no breaking away in the Women’s A race however; the group stayed fast and tight from the bell to the line. Taking the field win in a fast face-off was Katherine Wymbs (MIT), followed by Rose Long (Icahn School of Medicine) and Elspeth Huyett of Kutztown University. The four different sprints and four placings were split between six women- no doubt a sign of calculated determination to bridge the gap on Berlin’s pacing from the rest of the field. With three weekends of criteriums and sprint points left, there is still plenty of ground to be made up.

Sunday’s races- the team time trial and road race- were staged and held at Lake Harriman and Lake Welch Parkway. The morning time trial was fraught with some typical misfortunes; flats, crashes, lost riders. A particularly unfortunate example among them was MIT Men’s A team- with one rider getting a flat at the start and the rest of the team later crashing out on a sandy turn. Taking the victory for the day was Northeastern University, in a time of 17:54.75, followed by Dartmouth College (18:28.1) and the University of Delaware (19:19.22). On the women’s side, MIT went three-for-three in team time trials for another victory, in a time of 21:26.63. Trailing was was Columbia University (22:51.98), and Yale University (23:22.15).

The afternoon sun and temperatures rose for the road race- the first one successfully held this season due to bad weather shortening the other planned races earlier in the season. Showing his trademark strategy- make a break and make it stick-, Levinsohn once again turned on the engine and won a third straight individual race in dominating fashion, finishing the 70 mile race in 3:13:54. Levinsohn’s flawless, albeit time trial-esque, weekend was enough to move him ahead into first overall in season points. Second in the road race was Brett Wachtendorf (Pennsylvania State) in 3:15:01 and Holmdahl (Dartmouth) in 3:15:06. Holmdahl’s work put him into third overall in the men’s standing, putting him in the precarious position to take both the sprinter’s and leader’s jersey by season’s end.

The Women’s A race, on the other hand, was a more familiar story with road races: a suffer march of last (wo)man standing takes all. That day, it was Khare (Dartmouth) that took the victory in a time of 3:00:44- more proof that the Big Green’s tough legs and tougher riders deserve to be ahead of the field. Back by one second for the next podium step was Volk (Penn State Lehigh Valley), followed by Semian Bailey (Kutztown) in 3:00:58. At the end of the weekend, Khare and Wymbs (MIT) were the ones to consistently to work the gap on Shaena Berlin’s double- and potentially insurmountable- hold on the sprinter’s and leader’s jersey.

The weekend omnium was won by MIT (327 points), followed by Dartmouth College (296) and Yale University (216) With the conference traveling north to a joint hosted event by Dartmouth and University of Vermont next weekend, racers look with baited breath to see who will snatch the coveted points for the season’s overall standings

Full results are available from the ECCC calendar.

*feel free to e-mail ECCC writer   pictures for future, timely race reports. Apparently waiting  long enough will convince other people to post just the pictures, but Kramer is more than willing to cooperate to compensate his camera-less-ness*


2014race reportresultsroad

Photo: Army Cycling Weekend 2014




Back in my day…

In an effort to test the collective ECCC alumni-held thought of ‘It was harder when I was there,’ the Army circuit race at Camp Buckner will feature past champions of the ECCC integrated into the present collegiate fields. By pairing the best of the past with the best of the present, all members of the conference will finally see if it really was harder back then.

In order to ensure the belief is tested for all fields, the returning riders will be incorporated into the fields they dominated.

The unprecedented effort to solve the age old problem is made possible by an increase in racing fees in 2014. Already, through increased ridership and the fee increase, the airfare of 10 returning riders have been provided. There are currently 6 spots open for this unique opportunity. If you have any suggestions, please leave them below.

Efforts are currently being coordinated to prevent the confouding effect of fitness lost or gained. If you are a 1) PhD student and 2) putting off some experiment please contact the author with your suggestions or comment below.

Currently, the list for consideration is below:

Erica Allar

Mike Friedman

Dan Cassidy

Megan Guarnier

Road 2014: Week 4, Monsoon Massachusetts

The last weekend of March racing in the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference was hosted by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the current conference team leader. With tour de force racers Zachary Ulissi and Shaena Berlin-both owning the sprints and leader’s jerseys- representing at their home races and imminent foul weather incoming, it looked like the stage was set for a memorable event.

Saturday morning broke to clear skies and warm- as warm as you could hope for chilly New England- temperatures for the time trial up Mount Wachusett. Taking the fastest time of the day was Erik Levinsohn (Yale), blazing along for a time of 15:17.58. Back 24.4 seconds was Ulissi, followed by David Ziehr of Harvard with a time of 15:47.10 to round out the first podium of the day.

In her debut individual time trial, Cecilia Davis-Hayes of Columbia University stormed up the mountain in 17:53.74, decisively beating the women’s field by nearly eighty seconds. Berlin was second with a time of 19:14.36, edging out Michelle Khare (Dartmouth) by 0.6 seconds.

The afternoon criterium- precisely engineered by MIT to break any rider’s spirit with two 120o turns and a wall of a finishing climb- looked to be another exciting episode of “Who Gets the Green Jersey?” to watch. It ended up being Lenore Pipes (Cornell) and Davis-Hayes making this week’s edition featuring just them, as they broke away early to take charge of the coveted sprint points. Davis-Hayes took three of four sprints to take away the green jersey, but it was Pipes that lead up the final climb and stayed in front to take the duel and the victory. The two’s move shattered the women’s A field into small rider packs. Shaena Berlin was in the first pack and she surged ahead in the end for the last podium spot, breaking ahead of Khare and Leslie Lupien (Dartmouth).

The weather had turned threatening mid-day, started drizzling mid-afternoon and became officially rain just in time for the Men’s A field for the final race of the day. Despite repeated best attempts, no group or rider was able to properly break away. Daniel Holmdahl (Dartmouth) however managed to secure four out of six sprint preems and second in a fifth to chip away at Zachary Ulissi’s seemingly large sprint leading. In the end, Northeastern riders Dominic Caiazzo and Ford Murphy managed to put the one-two punch on the field in a hard surge that kept them up front and away in the last laps for the win. Leading the charge of the field for the final podium spot was Jack Kissebereth (Tufts).

Sunday morning broke to cold, wet conditions. So wet unfortunately, that the planned road race course and the back-up course were flooded beyond levels safe enough to race. USAC officials however managed to put together a fast seven-mile loop for a circuit race with quality climbs and a fast downhill straightaway for a finish- perfect for a final showdown for racers. Cecilia Davis-Hayes however seemed determined to prove that bunch finishes are not her modus operandi. With legs bare and guns blazing, Davis-Hayes took off and never looked back as she put an eight minute lead on the field for a second and cold victory of the weekend. Taking the field contest was Lupien (Dartmouth) and Semian Bailey of Kutztown University of Pennsylvania. After this weekend, Davis-Hayes is the current sprint leader in the women’s field and is snapping at the heels of Shaena Berlin for being the overall points leader.

In the men’s A race, it was Tom Barnett- the Red Friar of Providence himself- winning the exciting showdown of a race that splintered half of the field. Coming in hot right behind Barnett to round out the podium was Jonah Mead-Vancort (Killington Mountain School) and Zachary Ulissi. It is worth noting that Ulissi and Mead-Vancort are one-two in the overall points for the Men’s field, and currently are trended to stay that way if not stopped. It is also worth noting that Lenore Pipes- third in points for the women’s overall- seemed uninterested in wanting to time trial with Davis-Hayes and raced in the Men’s A race, where to no small relief, she did not win.

The weekend omnium was won by MIT with 236 points, followed by  Dartmouth College (193 points) and Northeastern University (173 points). With the season officially halfway over and only four weekends left, the rest of  2014 ECCC racing looks to be very exciting.

Full results are available from the ECCC calendar.


*feel free to e-mail ECCC writer   pictures for race reports, as he spends way too much money on his bike to buy his own camera*

2014race reportresultsroad
Leslie Lupien at Shippensburg. Photo by Jan Valerie Polk.

Hold Your Line

You know what’s hard to do on a trainer? Practice cornering at speed. But have you ever tried to get your team out for cornering practice in sub-20-degree weather? Even if lucky enough to find a plowed parking lot, your teammates will stand there shivering and miserable, dutifully slaloming through a course of water bottles but just waiting for someone to declare they’re going home. That may be why we show up for spring racing strong but rusty in some of the key speed skills.

So here are some links and tips about how to corner at speed. Obviously, no one is going to read this post and become an instant expert, nor I am making claims to expertise. Skill only comes with practice . But a few extra resources can give you a few things to think about next time you’re swooping around that empty parking lot.

Choosing your line.

Before you even enter a corner, you have to set up and plan where you’re going to go. To start with the simplest example, when you’re by yourself (hopefully breaking away off the front, but in my case, often huffing and puffing in a chase), look for the flattest possible curve through the corner.

To pick the flattest line, start at the outside, cut toward the inside corner, and finish at the outside.

Picking the turn with the largest possible radius allows  the maximum possible safe speed through the turn. First, look ahead for potholes and sand. Also notice how the turn is banked: a turn that slopes inward, like a track, allows you to take it corner faster than one that slopes away from the corner. The flattest possible turn starts at the outside, cuts close to the corner at its apex, and finishes at the outside (in a circuit or road race, of course, obey the yellow line rule!) The smaller the radius, the slower a rider needs to go to be able to turn her bike without overcoming the friction forces that are keeping her wheels from sliding out. That means that when cornering in a pack with riders on either side, you (1) need to leave space for riders on the inside, and (2) can’t go quite as fast because that safe line will be tighter.

When cornering in a pack, everyone has to take a slower, tighter turn. If behind the leaders, follow the line of the cyclist in front of you.

 As you can see in the figure above, the blue rider off the front was able to take her fastest line, but the pack behind her needs to take slightly tighter turns to leave space for each other to safely make the corner. The most important rule of cornering in a pack is to be predictable. If you need to slow down, do it before you start the turn so that you can coast through the corner without braking; putting on the brakes while in the turn itself will increase the chance of losing traction. Follow the line of the rider in front of you (usually what people mean when they say “hold your line”).  Avoid coming underneath, like the red rider in the diagram below:

Resist the impulse to dive-bomb on the inside of the turn.

 In this example, the red rider is trying to pass the blue rider on the inside of the corner. She risks cutting off Blue’s line, and she is also going to have to brake hard to make the tight turn. What a mess! Save attacking for the straightaways.

Getting through the turn

Okay we’ve figured out what the optimal line is through the turn, now how to actually do it. Check out elite junior Millie Tanner’s form as she takes this corner (also, because Milliegoat!):


To start with, her hands are in the drops. Getting low and forward isn’t just about being aero, it’s also about a lower center of gravity and maximum control. Eyes are up and looking past the turn. Outside pedal down with most of your bodyweight on it. (Okay, when you get really good you can start pedaling through the corners, but that’s ninja stuff after you have mastered the basics.) According to Joe Near of MIT,

“A big part of getting low is also getting very loose and forward so that 1) you have more weight over the front wheel, increasing traction there and 2) your body soaks up bumps during the corner — if you don’t do this, the tire has to do the whole job, and the tire’s elasticity will push you up in the air after the bump (and you don’t have any traction at all when you’re up in the air).”

This pic of Rose Long and Leslie Lupien at Shippensburg last year is a great one of getting long and low—their torsos are just about parallel to the road. (Though I kinda wish Rose had been down in the drops to make it a perfect textbook picture.) Check out that game face.

Photo credit Jan Valerie Polk

Putting it all together,  Brian Walton breaks it down to line, eyes, and legs. This video with Robbie McEwan agrees on the most important stuff: low center of gravity, eyes up ahead, and find your line. In the first pass, Robbie has his arms locked out and sitting up too high; the next time around, he’s bent at the hips, with elbows at an angle  and chin closer to the stem.  Then he demonstrates coming in too tight or starting the turn too early, versus starting way to the outside for a nice wide turn. And his final advice can be taken to heart: “never focus on where you are, but where you’re going.”

This race has a great example, when three guys take the corner at 2:55. To avoid hitting a flaky pedestrian (dude! there’s a bike race happening and it nearly squashed you!) they have to take the turn wide and miss the apex; but rather than get fazed, the guys in green have an exit strategy, riding up on the sidewalk. They wouldn’t have been able to pull that off if they’d only been looking at the asphalt in front of them.

Got any other good videos or Web sites about cornering technique? Share them in the comments! Thanks to Shaena Berlin and Jenn Wilson for the idea to put this together, and Joe Near for the tips!




Be Somebody