MIT’s women cyclers asserted their dominance at the 2011 Collegiate Road Nationals in Madison, Wis., on May 6-8, winning all three races in Division II. Their outstanding results, combined with strong performances by the up-and-coming men’s team, placed MIT third out of 46 teams in the DII Team Omnium competition for best overall performance by both men and women.
The championships began Friday morning with the men’s 72-mile road race, featuring more than 6,000 feet of climbing and a field of 80 cyclists. In his nationals debut, graduate student Adam Bry used both strength and strategy to break away from the leading pack of 10 on the climb of the penultimate lap. His fifth-place finish is MIT’s best-ever result in the men’s national road race.
The MIT women followed up with their own best-ever nationals result. Graduate student Martha Buckley attacked the field on the second of four laps and rode solo to claim her first national road title — incidentally, just two days after turning in her PhD thesis. Other graduate students Laura Ralston, Katie Quinn and Yuri Matsumoto worked together to whittle the chase group down to just four, before isolating their remaining competitor on the final lap to place second, third and fifth, respectively.
The racing continued on Saturday with an 18-mile team time trial. MIT has a history of good results in team time trials thanks to plenty of practice at efficiently riding in each other’s slipstream. The women again asserted their dominance with a win by more than three and a half minutes, and the men’s team executed a solid race to place fifth in a field of nine strong teams.
The first two days’ performances ranked MIT in the lead for the overall Team Omnium prize prior to the final criterium race on Sunday. In the women’s race, the entire pack stayed together, despite MIT relentlessly attacking the field with the hope of getting a rider away solo. Buckley executed a perfect lead-out for Ralston in the last lap, who won the sprint to the finish line, thereby completing the hat trick of three wins and maximum possible team points for the women. Ralston’s first and second placings also earned her the DII Women’s Individual Omnium title, with Buckley and Quinn taking third and fourth, respectively. In their criterium, the men again raced admirably in an aggressive pack of over 70 riders, each contributing to reel in a strong breakaway group. Men’s team captain and graduate student Spencer Schaber was MIT’s first finisher, placing 17th in a hotly contested pack sprint.
At the weekend’s conclusion, MIT placed a close third in the DII National Omnium with 413 points, behind Mars Hill (428) and Mesa State (416). With four of the 10 team members competing at their first-ever national event and several other strong athletes emerging throughout the season, this nationals performance heralds an exciting future for the MIT cycling team.