Also surprised by how strong SigEp B's pushers (on day 1, so not the A team subs) were, guess SigEp still have the pushers, but their mechanic squad seems to be dwindling fast since they could only field 2 buggies. Unfortunate as it was, I was in the chute to see the Fringe B buggy contact the SigEp B buggy twice while passing (which ultimately resulted in a DQ for Fringe).
What's crazier is that CIA's 1-2 are faster over the hill than SDC's near-record A team in the next heat. SDC's _entire_ 5 second lead comes between the stairs and the 4-5 exchange.
The final result looks like the SDC machine has returned to dominating form only to be derailed by an unfortunate error, and CIA gets a lucky repeat. But their 2:31 would've been the fastest women's 2nd place ever, and about the 6th fastest women's time in history, so win or lose, they've done an impressive job against much tougher competition than 2015. It seems like there's 10-12 elite women in the field, and SDC has 4, CIA 3, and Spirit, Fringe, PiKA have 1 or 2 each. Under this weekend's conditions, whoever collects 5 and puts them behind a decent buggy breaks the record.
Yes it does appear the SDC machine is back. That said for them to screw up on such a fundamental aspect of pushing for the women's finals is disappointing.
On the note of SDC gaining on other teams in the back hills, I have to ask, where did all the back hill pushers go???
SDC B Men's team was up and over the front hills (i.e. to the crosswalk) slower than or around the same time (within half a second or so) as all of the following teams this year:
Now of course sans SigEp A who DNF'd (and SigEp B with A team pushers on day 2 as well), SDC B beat all of those teams besides SDC A on the back hills. CIA A was the closest in back hill times (slower than SDC B by about half a second to a second, hard to tell with the cmuTV camerawork...).
The craziest thing is that this isn't a new thing either. Last year CIA A, PiKA A, Fringe A, and Spirit A were all ahead of SDC A at window zero of hill 3, but their back hills failed them and they lost something like 2+ seconds to SDC A's back hills (if I remember the last slide of Shafeeq's presentation during design comp correctly). Only SigEp actually gained on SDC A in the back hills, and only by very little.
Before anyone says "but SDC has lighter/better buggies", I'll say this: Hill 1 has a greater elevation change (read: it's steeper) than hills 4 or 5, so logically the weight of the buggy should matter less on the long back hills than on hill 1, where most teams top teams except for SDC A were basically in a dead heat this year.
I suppose stacking the front hills isn't a new thing, but when we have near 18 second hill 1 times from the likes of Spirit B and C, maybe it's time for teams to reevaluate where they put their fastest pushers. As a reminder, Hill 5 is longer than Hill 4 which is longer than Hill 1, the fastest Hill 1 times are usually in the mid 15s (sometimes dipping below 15 in exceptional years) whereas the fastest hill 4 times are usually about half a second slower than that even despite the "flying" starts/transitions. The fastest hill 5 times are in the 18s (and most years people struggle to break below 20). Longer distance to run = longer distance for the faster sprinters to separate themselves from the slower ones. Yes, I am ignoring the strength factor for pushing a 100+ lb buggy up a hill for now.
Lastly, it should go without question that hill 2 and especially hill 3 (with these roads, with these rollouts!) should not be where you stick any of your fastest pushers. I know a few teams that could have shaved off at least half a second or so if they said "f*ck it" to their crosswalk/stop sign time and put their hill 2 pusher on hill 4 or hill 5.
SDC A also botched the hill 3 pickup and the back hill transitions on day 2, easily could have been challenging a record if they were a little more buttoned up, odd to see that considering SDC basically won the men's races in 2015 on perfect transitions and pickups alone.
I think looking back at RD2016, Fringe's Boson is looking to be the fastest buggy since Bonsai, and thus Fringe has the most to gain from faster (back hill) pushers. They have the buggies, they have a strong (and new, so freshman?) hill 1 (3rd fastest in king of the hill times), now they just need another 2 fast pushers to fill out their hills 4 and 5 (and maybe an upgrade on hill 2 wouldn't hurt too). I hope to see them join SDC and CIA in the below 2:10 club next year.