We love training crits, especially weeknight training crits. Getting to race your bike on a weeknight feels like you’re cheating, like you’ve tricked the universe into letting you have fun when you weren’t allowed. What could be better than getting to see all of your misfit bike racing friends (and making new ones) on a Tuesday night? The week suddenly feels shorter, your stress levels temporarily subside, and you get a fantastic training day without resorting to more mind-numbing intervals.
On top of all of this, weeknight training races are a cornerstone of every local cycling community. For experienced racers, they perform any number of the aforementioned tasks, but more importantly they’re a critical stepping-stone for beginning bike racers to get out there and try their hand at the sport in a much more forgiving venue than a standard USAC race. Every time someone asks me how they should get into bike racing, I tell them the same thing: do some group rides, then once you feel comfortable at those, do to a training crit.
However, we find that there’s an inherent knowledge gap between the die-hard racers who have been going to the same training races for 10 years, and those that are brand new to the sport. Weeknight training crits in particular provide unique logistical and timing challenges to fit them into your busy weekday schedule. That’s why, as self-proclaimed training crit aficionados, we’ll be providing Long Live the Training Crit, a series of all-you-need-to-know guides to our favorite weeknight training crits throughout the season, starting with one only a stone’s throw* from Boston:
The Wompatuck Training Crit (a.k.a. Wompy)
A Brief History
The inaugural Wompatuck was held in 1892 as a chariot race to settle a dispute between between Atticus T. Goguen and Bernard Lucas Keough. Goguen claimed that Keough had stolen his prized race horse, Marcus McCormack, and challenged him to a race through the hallowed woods of Wompatuck, haunted by the ghosts of a thousand enduro racers from centuries past. The circle around which they raced was later immortalized when pavement was laid in 1949, and over a century later Goguen and Keough descendants return to the site weekly to remind everyone of the pain their ancestors experienced. *(CITATION NEEDED)
The Wompatuck Training Crit runs most Tuesday evenings from April – August at 6:15pm. It takes place, as the name would suggest, in the Wompatuck State Forest in Scituate (I think?), MA. Wompy only happens thanks to the generous efforts and support from the Mass Bay Road Club and The Bicycle Link. It is a USAC-licensed race, so you will need a license to race, and it does cost $15 to race (cash or check), but it is well worth it. Here is the 2019 race flyer:
Why You Should Go to Wompy
In all seriousness, Wompy is fantastic and just about everything a training race should be: safe, fun, a great workout, and casual yet can be extremely fast.
Worried about cars? Nope, none of those at Wompy. It’s on a closed 1.2 mile loop in the middle of a state park. Skiddish about cornering in a pack? No need to worry, no pesky corners to slow you down means a nice and smooth race no matter where you find yourself in the pack. In my 8+ years attending to Wompatuck, I’ve only ever seen 1 or 2 crashes, none of them severe. That’s a pretty remarkable safety record.
You can jump into a breakaway and smash the pedals to your heart’s content, or you can hang out in the field and surf wheels fairly easily. I’ve gone to Wompy on days when I felt absolutely wrecked and didn’t have much trouble hanging on.
But if the pace is too high, no worries, it’s a training crit, just take a lap off and jump back in! There are no race numbers and no official results posted, the only thing you can win is bragging rights.
There is only one (1) race run, no separate A or B fields. But this usually doesn’t matter too much, and you’ll find it’s relatively easy to sit in even when the pack is moving at a fast clip.
Finally, if you live in or around Boston and have the scheduling flexibility to ride to Wompy and then ride home, it’s just about the best day of mid-season training you could possibly ask for. More on this below.
The Wompy course is essentially the perfect training crit course. Nestled deep in the forest, the only traffic you have to worry about is the occasional mountain biker that finds their way onto the course. There’s some very modest elevation gain every lap with a little rise right after the finish line, and a slight rise up to the finish line itself which makes for a slightly uphill sprint at the end.
The road is decently wide the whole time, I’ve personally never felt pinched on either side even when there were 60-70 people there. There’s no curb nor any paint lines — cars very rarely come back here. The only thing to watch out for is general forest debris & pollen which can pile up on the pavement in the spring and/or after a significant rain storm.
Getting There & Getting Home
BOSTONITES: LISTEN UP. The only pseudo-downside to Wompatuck is its location, specifically how friggin’ far it is from Boston. There is a strong contingent of bike racers on the South Shore that make up the bulk of the weekly Wompy peloton, but its distance from the city (~20 miles, we’ll get to that in a minute) is a hindrance to participation.
HOWEVER, we have been going to Wompy from the city for years, and have this down to a fairly precise science. Boston folks, it is very possible to:
- Tell your boss you “have a thing”
- Leave your office in downtown Boston at 4:30pm
- Ride the 20-25 miles to Wompatuck
- Race Wompy
- Ride back home by 9:30pm for a total of 70-80 miles on a Tuesday night.
However, if a 4hr training ride on a Tuesday isn’t your jam, there are several alternatives to get to & from Wompy which we’ll go over below. (We exclude the obvious-but-terrible option of driving to the race from Boston — if you’re considering this, with South Shore traffic you would get there just as fast riding.)
This section is aimed at Boston-based racers. If you are already on the South Shore, consider yourself lucky, and get over to Wompy on Tuesday!
Option 1: Ride To and/or From Wompatuck
As anyone who rides in Boston knows, getting from Boston to anywhere on the South Shore via bike can be somewhat unpleasant. But if you’re gonna do it, you need to do it right, so without further ado, here is what I believe to be the ideal route from Boston-ish (Jamaica Plain in my case) to the start of Wompy:
This route avoids a lot of the major highway-ish roads that can make riding through Quincy/Braintree particularly annoying, but is also the most direct route I know of. You can make it more scenic & climby by routing through Blue Hills, but this adds a substantial amount of distance and climbing to the ride, forcing you to leave earlier to make the race. It’s about 20 miles on the dot from JP/Dorchester/Roxbury, 23-24 or so from downtown Boston, and 25-28 from Camb-erville-ton.
The route itself is quite flat and you can cover ground surprisingly quickly, especially with no headwind or a slight tailwind. I usually average 18-20mph on the way down if I’m alone, faster if I have company. If you know me, you know I do not usually ride that fast. Once you get past Mattapan, the roads are fairly straight and flat and you can cruise.
I’ve determined through rigorous experimentation that on a normal, non-headwind day, I can leave my house in Jamaica Plain by 4:55pm at the latest and make it to Wompy with time to breathe / get more water / take a nature break before jumping in. YMMV.
A note about this route or any route entering the park from the north entrance: It’s a very flat route with only a couple of short climbs, but if you feel like you’ve cruised and made it to the park entrance with 5-10 minutes to spare, it is still about 2 miles from the northern park entrance and not remotely flat. Once you get to the entrance, you still have anywhere from 10-15 minutes of riding left to get to the start.
Finally, this might go without saying, but if you are riding home this way, bring front and rear lights. You will invariably find yourself riding in the dark by the time you get to the edge of Milton, and while you’ll pick up city lights once you get to Mattapan you will definitely want both front and rear lights to stay safe.
Option 2: Ferry to Hingham from Boston; Ride from Hingham
If you work in downtown Boston, this option can be especially convenient and afford you a little bit more time to get stuff squared away at the office before jetting out. Plus, you get to take your bike ON A M*****F******* BOAT.
The ferry leaves from Rowe’s Wharf on Atlantic Ave. at 5:00pm, and takes about 40 minutes to get to Hingham. It will cost you $9.25. View the ferry schedule here.
Yes, you are allowed to bring your bike on ferry, at least as of writing. They usually let you store it against the outside railing thing (there is probably a boat term for this), but I’ve brought it inside the main cabin as well. It doesn’t really matter, if they yell at you then move the bike. Yes, you will look slightly silly. Embrace it. Luxuriate. Put out the vibe. This is one of the quintessential Boston bike racer experiences. If it’s warm enough, ride on the roof deck and work on your tanlines. It’s fantastic.
Once the ferry docks at Hingham, it’s game time. It’s a 7.7 mile ride, and you will need to not dilly dally to make the official start at 6:15. The ferry usually gets in around 5:40, but accounting for about 5 minutes of de-boarding time (it’s a bit of a mess getting off the ferry) and then a 25-30 minute ride puts you there right at the start. I usually ride 18-19mph from the ferry and get there with just enough time to sign in, pay, dump my saddlebag and hop into field, which is usually already assembled at the start.
If you miss the official start, it’s not a big deal, they will let you join the race late, but if you want to maximize the amount of racing you get in then try not to be late.
There is frequently a 5:20pm ferry as well, which you may be tempted to take. Just know that if you take this, you WILL be late to the race unless you can somehow average about 31mph to the start of the race. (If this is the case, please Contact Us, we have a sweet kit waiting for you.)
Option 3: Ride to Braintree, Take the T (Red Line)
Do you live on or near the Red Line? Do you dislike riding through Quincy and the surrounding area? Or did you start your ride home from Wompy, only to realize about 4 miles in that you are completely cracked and won’t make it home? This option is for you.
The Braintree T station is the last stop on the Red Line and is only about 10 miles from Wompy. It’s a great option for the way home if you a) are too tired to do the whole slog home or b) do not want to ride in the dark.
Note that this option only works for the ride home from Wompy. You cannot take your bike on the T during rush hour (4-7pm), which rules this option out as a way down to the race. But it’s a great alternative way home, especially if you live north of the river in Cambridge or Somerville and want to save 15 miles of mostly-city riding.
Or Some Combination Thereof
A very common thing Boston racers do is to combine Option 1 & Option 2 — Take the ferry down, ride from Hingham, then ride the whole way home. This means you get slightly fewer miles in, but you get to leave work slightly later. Also, you get to ride on a m***erf***in’ boat. All in, you’ll get about 3 hours of ride time, and 60-65 miles. Still not bad for a Tuesday.
The least ride-intensive option is to ferry down, T back. This is also the most expensive option, but afterwards you feel like you can give a TED talk on Boston public transit AND house a burrito. I’ve never done this personally but it would be about a 50 mile day, which is not too shabby either.
And then, of course, there’s the classic: ride all the way down & all the way back, my personal favorite. Usually it’s about 75 miles for me, coming to & from Jamaica Plain, but will be longer if you’re further north. I have it down to the point where I know almost to the street sign where I will inevitably bonk.
This might seem like a weird thing to call out but keep in mind the race is in a state forest — amenities are not bountiful. If you plan on riding to the race and you are not a camel, you will probably want to refill a bottle or two before and after the race, especially in the summer. It can be a while before you hit the closest town in Weymouth when you’re riding home.
About a quarter mile before you make the right turn to the race course, there’s a small parking lot with a little shed at the end that contains a few water taps. This water is straight from a natural spring! If you’re arriving close to race time, you should see bike racer-looking people parking & getting ready in here. You will want to fill your bottles here.
There’s almost nothing I enjoy more on spring & summer weeknights than consuming a burrito while lying on my living room floor, having just ridden 75 miles, 32 of which were racing and 20 at “oh sh*t I’m late to the race” tempo. You work a full day, then get to smash for 4 hours, maybe with a boat ride sandwiched in between, what could be better? (Note: Post-Wompy Wednesday’s can be rough.)
The race itself is always a great workout, and a great chance to hone your tactics & pack skills. On good nights, 30-45 people will show up ready to race. Some will fall off the pace of the main group but I’ll see them successfully re-integrating after having taken a few laps off, some will attack relentlessly until the field says “ENOUGH JUST GO”. Having breaks lap the field here is not uncommon, but field sprints are also just as common. Very much depends on the makeup of the field on any particular night.
Best of all, everyone is very friendly. I’ve never had a bad interaction with anyone at Wompy, and beginners are encouraged and helped along just as much as seasoned Cat 1’s. I’ve made plenty of friends at Wompy; to my knowledge I don’t think I’ve made any enemies.
There have been some incredible guest appearances at Wompy as well. I remember one night in 2012 when German pro Robert Forster showed up. That was a fast night. Generations of legendary MA racing families have honed their craft at Wompy — McCormack’s, Goguen’s, Keough’s, Morse’s. You never know who might show up.
- Follow WompyCrit on Facebook, where they will typically post updates about cancellations/etc.
- Follow @WhoWonWompy on Twitter for official results, and
- Subscribe to the official newsletter to receive updates.
For the record… I was in MBRC when we started the Wompatuck races…
Can’t place the year but it was early 70s. I remember going to meet the ranger and presenting him with the program. They were receptive and it has been a large contributor to bike racing in New England. Lot of stories about early races…
One funny one … half way through one of the races we notice a big box turtle on the edge of the road heading onto the road… so, next lap he is 4′ onto the road, next lap 8′, next lap almost across, next lap he changed his mind and was 4″ heading back across… so funny… finally he disappeared into the woods where he started.
And the nearby spring is a special treat!
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