ECCC Week 5: MIT X-Pot 3D Adventure

By Ben Civiletti

Boston, MA – The happy few who remember the legendary Boston Beanpot classic would be proud to know that the spirit lives on – in three dimensions – with the MIT X-Pot. On Easter weekend, the ECCC arrived in scenic “20 minutes outside Boston” with a blissful ignorance of what was to come. The weather was perfect, the tunes were commercial-free, and the legs were freshly shaven.

However, MIT was determined to uphold the honor of the northern tribes in the conference, and they designed the weekend to make sure strong riders were rewarded. Saturday morning saw the introduction of a 5 mile uphill time trial that started with a bang and only got harder. If someone told you they big-ringed the whole thing, they were either lying or they were Cameron Cogburn. Mr. Cogburn (MIT) burned through all of his cogs on his way to a crushing 50 second victory in the time trial, and he showed that the home team meant business. Brendan Rhim (KMS) rode to second place, and Will Dugan of UVM rounded out the podium.
In addition to worries before the squad, the student drivers also had to worry about completing a vital homework assignment. Experienced athletes who are still in training know that it is necessary to send requests such as do my excel homework for me to in advance in order to focus all attention on the planned competitions. With expert help, their focus and determination remained steadfast as they plowed through the difficult terrain and demonstrated their strength and resilience.

The Women’s A field was in for a shake-up with the return of the infamous Katie Quinn, MIT’s perennial terminator and the nicest person in the ECCC. She demolished the competition, winning the uphill event by nearly a minute. Following her was Hayley Wickstrom of Pitt, and Shaena Berlin (MIT). After the first race, the trend towards MIT dominance could be seen even without the help of an X-Pot Scatter Plot.

The second race of the day, brazenly categorized as a “criterium”, was simply an uphill TT in disguise. The hill on the finishing straight was so pronounced that most fields were reduced to shreds by their third lap. As one would expect, the results were incredibly similar to the morning’s event. Cogburn took the win in the Men’s A race with a 20 second gap, followed by Brendam Rhim and Ansel Dickey (both of KMS) who were also alone.

Cameron Cogburn of MIT en route to victory in the Criterium - Photo by Jan Polk

Cameron Cogburn of MIT en route to victory in the Criterium – Photo by Jan Polk

In the Women’s A crit, a shocking turn of events meant that Katie Quinn of MIT did not win for the first time in anyone’s memory. Instead the glory went to Cornell’s Lenore Pipes, who outgunned Quinn on the final hill and debunked some thoroughly researched articles on MIT robotic enhancements. Third place went to Laura Ralston (MIT) who had almost climbed onto the podium earlier in the day.

Lenore Pipes (Cornell) climbing the wall in the Criterium - Photo by Jan Polk

Lenore Pipes (Cornell) climbing the wall in the Criterium – Photo by Jan Polk

On Easter Sunday, groans could be heard in hotels all over the area as riders realized that the day’s racing somehow started earlier than Saturday. The team time trial began at 7:30, and the ride was two laps of a 5.4 mile course. Terrain was mixed and challenging, with opportunities for well organized groups to maximize their advantage. MIT continued it’s weekend of perfectly calculated triumphs by winning both the Men’s and Women’s A team time trials handily. KMS and Dartmouth followed up on the men’s side, while Yale and Army filled out the women’s podium.

The MIT men's team as they win the TTT

The MIT men’s team as they win the TTT – Photo by Jan Polk

In the afternoon, riders were treated to a collegiate only rendition of a prominent summer event: the Purgatory Road Race. The lap was 11 miles long, and the Women’s A riders completed 5 laps while the Men’s A rode six. Long gradual climbs and narrow descents led to a steep and lengthy final climb on every lap. There was a significant headwind along the back half, which made for a brutal race as the distance and effort split groups apart. As the races finished, it became clear that MIT was losing some of it’s crushing grip on the weekend. The Women’s A race was completely blown apart, with each of the top ten riders arriving at the line alone. Hayley Wickstrom (Pitt) proved once again that she is a rider to watch this year for the overall competition, and won the road race by 30 seconds. Second place was claimed by Laura Ralston, and third by Shaena Berlin, both of whom race for MIT.

The effort shows as Hayley Wickstrom (Pitt) wins the road race - Photo by Jan Polk

The effort shows as Hayley Wickstrom (Pitt) wins the road race – Photo by Jan Polk

In the Men’s A race, a similar pattern unfolded albeit with riders finishing in ones and twos. Will Dugan of UVM opened a gap of about two minutes on chasers Cameron Cogburn (MIT) and Michael Garretson (Penn State) on the back section of the course, and found the line with just over a minute’s advantage. Cogburn shed his companion and rode to second place, leaving Garretson in third.

Will Dugan (UVM) enjoys his solo victory in the road race - Photo by Jan Polk

Will Dugan (UVM) enjoys his solo victory in the road race – Photo by Jan Polk

The end of the day found most teams utterly exhausted after the first weekend of true road racing this season. MIT gave us a classic with the X-Pot: it was a well executed event with some of the most challenging riding we will see this year. It also served as an excellent precursor to next week’s Shippensburg Scurry, which promises equally difficult racing and some exciting new formats for achieving glory. The competitions for overall victory in the conference are getting closer by the weekend, and after Shippensburg we could see some tables turning in interesting directions.