Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Somewhere under the rainbow

Rainbows mean different things to different people - pots of gold, fortune in health, better weather - in Australia the aborigines of many clans believe the rainbow is one of two totemic spirits under which you are born, maybe for Aussie pro cyclist Cadel Evans 2010 under the rainbow jersey will be his attitudinal and personal rebirth.

Honestly, I can't say he is my favorite cyclists, in fact, he is one of my least favorite; every time I see that whiny face I want to heave my GU. On a ride yesterday with a couple of friends I mentioned the Worlds and they didn't even want to talk about it they were so disappointed Evans won; I think that is a fairly universal feeling.

Evans won the Worlds last Sunday by doing the very thing that everyone has so long complained about him lacking - how to attack with intelligence. Watching him over the past few years I could never fault the man from downunder for not giving it his all when he attacked, it's just that his attacks ended up about as pathetic as an attack could be timed, launched, and/or executed. After the inevitable failure they were usually followed by a post-race whining session or tirade.

The other miracle this rainbow might help create is happiness. One can only pray this rainbow casts its spell on Mr. Evan
. He is notorious for being the biggest whiner in the peloton - hell, it's rumor that even many of his own Silence Lotto teammates this year didn't like riding with him; and something was certainly amiss in the Vuelta when he needed team support; maybe he was lucky even to be there, as it was Evans himself that said he was on the chopping block the last day of the Tour de France after a milk toast 30th place - but maybe it was his 'oh woe is me' attitude, when he wasn't berating and assaulting the media.

Somewhere under this new rainbow, earned with an intelligent attack we have not previously seen, maybe the saddest little boy in the peloton will find some happiness in 2010. Maybe next time he wins he will feel enough happiness to salute the fans. Let's pray on the miracle of rainbows.

Monday, September 28, 2009

George Handicap-ie

I was following the local blog postings this afternoon and I spotted this over on Pat Malach's Oregon Cycling Action (worth checking his site and photos anytime, especially for the local Portland/NW cycling scene), from a Bob Roll Tweet he posted the below. I couldn't believe my eyes - so I checked Bobke's twitter - yip, it was there.

I respect Bob for some things: his early pioneering of the largely unsupported American pro cycling effort in Europe back in the 1980's and the early 90's with 7 Eleven, his willingness to take the "mickey" out of himself, and his writings on cycling when he has time to be reflective -- Tweets are obviously not reflective enough. Bob what the F@#% are you babbling on about?!

Just a few Tweets below it you say "levi's SOLD OUT gran fondo right around the corner, don't let me see you on that ride without your Road I.D.!!! :)" I bet Levi would say, don't let me see you on that ride without a helmet - even IF you name is George Hincapie. Better yet, from your own Tweet of Aug 25th - "does anybody ride without a helmet at this point? i feel the same way about my Road I.D. Don't leave home without it!

Give me a frigg'n break, Bob, I guess you think it's a grand idea to have yourself I.D.'d when they scrape your brain off the pavement. Didn't Saul Raisin's crash teach us anything?
Didn't the tragic death of 29 year old Kazakh climber Andrei Kivilev, who died as a result of head injuries sustained during a crash in the second stage of 2003's Paris-Nice (NO HELMET!) teach the entire Pro Peloton something? Why do you think we have a UCI rule to wear the bloody things? George Hincapie on a bike sets an example for every little kid (big and small) in America - WEAR THE HELMET!

Sorry Bobke, put a helmet on that bobble-head of yours.

Cycling Tweet of the Week ...

"do NOT and i mean NEVER tell george hincapie how to ride a bike."

--Bob Roll (@bobkeroll), noon, Monday, Sept. 28. Responding to critics of the veteran Euro pro and current national champ after he posted a pic of himself with his wife and son at a coffee shop. Hincapie was astride his city bike with no helmet. His infant was behind in a seat wearing a pretty slick looking mini Giro.

Finally! A Baguette worth writing home about

It's Monday morning, and I have just returned from a walk to the corner bakery - required - before I can get fully into rehashing Sunday's men's road race final in the Worlds, I need a baguette (and tea). There is a saying in cycling - "We eat to ride, we ride to eat more." and of all the things we eat, a lovely fresh baguette is the KOM in my gastronomic Tour de France.

It may be a stretch for a... let's call them non-baguphiles, to understand how someone could have such love for the French version and such loathing for the crap baked up in America, but if you haven't been there (France) and especially if you haven't cycled there, you have no merit weighing in on this one.

So let's review the facts...


  • 1 cup water
  • 2 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon water

That parts simple enough?


  1. Place 1 cup water, bread flour, sugar, salt and yeast into bread machine pan in the order recommended by manufacturer. Select Dough cycle, and press Start.
  2. When the cycle has completed, place dough in a greased bowl, turning to coat all sides. Cover, and let rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes, or until doubled in bulk. Dough is ready if indentation remains when touched.
See there - right in the directions part deux - "When the cycle has been completed", that means picking a lovely route, a few rollers, a hill or two, and a meander along a farm field or forest river, then back home to your corner cafe and... well, I'm afraid that's where the dough goes flat. Despite the recipe and directions, breads in America generally stink, at least the long kind, with slightly pointed tips and a crusty golden outer and airy butter (real butter) begging inner. Why? Why do we suck so badly at this wonderful, but simple act? I'd like to blame it on a variety of things - an obsession with tailgate parties, Xbox, SUVs, Britany and Paris (not France), 'reality' anything, Wal-mart, Crispy creams, etc... but it happened long before those collapses in our culture.

So why? Why no great baguettes?

There is a wonderful scene in the movie (also wonderful) Diva, where Jules, the young protagonist, is shepherded through the art of slicing open a beautiful crusty baguette, pure art without piercing its spine, then it's leafed open with a gorgeous gentle crunch to reveal the delicate interior, one anticipating a lush bed of creamy beurre. The French director Jean-Jacques Beineix
spends several minutes on the scene, because it's that important - its a baguette!

So why so hard? I mean why can a gazillion French cafes roll up their tin doors, push out a half dozen wrought iron tables and chairs and proceed to serve perfect baguettes on demand, morning after morning after morning - how can the tiniest village in the high Pyrenees greet a cyclist at the local boulangerie with one of these perfect creations - this isn't rocket science. And after sitting at a few of those cafes and watching the average Frenchman enjoy their perfect baguette avec un cafe, in a cloud of cigarette smoke, but somewhere beneath their nicotine veneered taste buds they know it is a real baguette. I needed to know why American bakers can't get it right? Is it really that hard?

Or is it? I decided to ask, bakers. The answers seemed to vary as much as the lovely loafs - "the oven", "the flour", "they must be baked early - before the humidity changes", "you must 'wash' them to create the right crust", it's endless. I sense a return to France in order to sort this out.

Finally, just maybe, the mystère du pain
may be solved, I think my corner bakery, Di Prima Dolce, might have done it. I'm cautious, there was one day when things slipped, although they bounced right back. But wouldn't it be perfect - a wonderful French baguette from an Italian bakery - think about it, cycling's great siblings - Coppi and Anquetil, just down the street!

This morning begins my fourth week, and seventh lovely loaf, but so far,... let's just say the KOM points are starting to add up.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The X's and Y's of Armstrongs

LA, Lance, Mellow Johnny, what ever the moniker you know it's Armstrong; pro cyclist, seven time Tour de France winner, former UCI World Elite Road Champion, cancer survivor, comeback story of 2009, blah, blah, blah. Heck, even the yellow jersey or yellow wristband means Lance Armstrong to most Americans.

There is another Armstrong - whoa, hold the presses! Yes, it's true. Also a former triathlon, a pro cyclist, world champion. She is often confused with Lance Armstrong's ex-wife, whose name is also Kristin. Kristin Armstrong the cyclist and Lance Armstrong are not related. NOT RELATED. Complete different chromosomes. But hopefully, someday, equally remembered.

Kristin Armstrong just won the UCI World Time Trial Championship (for Elite Women) a great moment, she clearly distanced her nearest competitors, and so has her career.

Kristin's palmares is an extraordinary list of successes that every little girl in America should know about in school. She's the most decorated American woman cyclist in history and yet, walk down the street, ask ANY ONE, even fellow club cyclists, and the most common response (besides a shrug) is "Armstrong's wife?" And that really wicks me off. This is more than just X and Y chromosome stuff. This is about the bullshit way we treat women and women athletes in this country. It's about a male-centric sports culture that can't get its frigg'n head out of a football helmet long enough to recognize great athletes. Maybe I'm lucky, I've gotten to ride with a few women that race or have raced, and once you cinch of the Sidis it's all about discovering your watts not what Watson discovered.

This year we (the US) are putting a Worlds U23 mens team in the Road Race that could very well win it, and could honestly win it with a couple of the cast. Young guys that already have UCI Pro Team homes for 2010. Most of them are nameless to the guys at ESPN and the rest of America, but they are set to lead US cycling into the next decade. Why? Because an Armstrong and the media put cycling on the tube and in the eyes of a bunch of little 10-12 year old boys back in 1999, and kept the vision and dream growing over this past decade. Imagine over that same time if the other Armstrong had been trumpeted?

The six-woman team includes Armstrong and Amber Neben, who have collectively claimed the world TT title for three of the past four years.

Hellooooooo???? Is anyone out there awake in American sportsland??? LET ME REPEAT - they
have collectively claimed the world TT title for three of the past four years.

Those are WORLD titles.

And the rest of the no-name women? Meredith Miller, the U.S. national road champion and Kimberly Anderson, overall winner at La Route de France, Mara Abbott rode to second-place overall at the Giro Donne,
and newest twinkling star Evelyn Stevens, coming off two major stage wins in the US. Collectively these ladies roll out the strongest womens elite Worlds team the US has ever seen, but where is ESPN on that one?

Sadly, this is the final chapter in a great career. Kristin Armstrong, the pro cyclist, is retiring after Saturday's race in Mendrisio, her palmares cast, it will be up to newcomers like Stevens to inspire a new generation of little girls with the hope of velowings. I just think it's sad that we all missed the opportunity to see this Armstrong fly when she was soaring right before our eyes.

If you do want to catch Kristin Armstrong for the last time -
Universal Sports online Saturday, September 26: Elite Women's Road Race (124.2km): 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. EST.

Photo: Casey B. Gibson

Channeling Cancellara

There are those days when you feel fast - your legs feel fast, your reactions are fast, your brain feels fast, your bike feels fast, and the guys you ride with just roll their eyes and go "oh no - it's not going to be pretty today". You love being on the bike and want to ride forever. I like to think of those days as "Channeling Cancellara". Not just because Fabian Cancellara is fast, but because he loves being fast and is a REALLY nice guy. That makes fast fun.

I've been lucky enough to be around him twice at the Tour of California, hang while he was warming up on the trainer for the Prologue once in San Francisco and last year in Sacramento. And even when the guy was cooking up a 103 degree temp with the flu, and would have to drop out the next day in the monsoon, he was still kind, gentle and accommodating - and bloody fast!

Today he scorched the field in Mendrisio, on home turf, in the UCI World TT Championships; if scorched can aptly describe that kinda fast. At the first check point of the 48.7km, three circuit course, Cancellara was already 38 secs up on the nearest rival Tony Martin and flying away. At the 25.7km mark he was 1:17 faster, and moments later he "humiliated Wiggins and Sebastien Rosseler, who had started two and four minutes ahead of him respectively, by overtaking the pair.", as VeloNews put it.

Again from the Velonews article, “I don’t know if it was the best time trial of my life, but I knew that I would be very fast today,” Cancellara said. “My legs were strong, but my head was even stronger today.”

Britain’s David Millar tagged it when he said he’d “rather race for the win in the road race than second in the time trial" - that's coming from the guy that just won the final TT in the Vuelta. And really that's the point, Cancellara defines fast. To paraphrase a line from the movie Bull Durham, it's as if the gods looked down and turned your legs into thunderbolts, you've been given a gift. The really great thing is, Fabian knows it, appreciates it, and is respectfully humble about it - how the hell can you NOT want to channel THAT?

Today, even Cancellara was channeling Cancellara, and that made fast fun, very fun!

Photo: Casey B. Gibson

Monday, September 21, 2009

DART: Diva And Rest of Team

Once upon a time, in a far away land - let's call it France - an idea was struck upon, they called it velocipede. Not long there after young women took up the fancy machine and soon proclaimed themselves "Divas of the Velo". But to ride far and wide these Divas needed a team, and thus was born the DART, or Diva And Rest of Team; DART could have just as easily been called RAWD, or Ride Along With Diva. But since Dart was a tiny arrow, or un petit Fleche in French, and the Fleche was already the rage, and our tale does originate in that far off land, DART it will be.

Today, or last Saturday, I found that little has changed in the past 125ish years. Velos are now called bicycles in most places, with a few refinements like derailleurs, pneumatic tube tires, brakes, but still a velo is a velo, and as for a Diva, well... absolutely no changes there.

Before I get into Saturday's details let me bring the randonneuring neophytes out there up to speed, DARTs have rules, after all they are French:

Article 1
The Dart is a 12-hour event whereby teams of cyclists all ride to a common destination from various starting points. The minimum distance required for the 12-hour period is 180 KM. A Dart is administered by Randonneurs USA (RUSA) and its Regional Brevet Administrators (RBA). It is patterned after the 24-hour Flèches-USA and Arrow team rides.

Article 2
The Dart is a team event; no individual entries are allowed. The start time(s) and finishing destination will be set by each RBA for his or her event.

If more than one team uses the same starting point, then starting times for individual teams shall be spaced at least one hour apart. Choice of routes and starting times is customarily assigned according to the order of receipt of registrations, but the RBA [and Diva] has the discretion to do otherwise if need be.

Article 3
Darts are randonnées, not races. Riders must be civil at all times, they must abide by all applicable traffic laws, and they must follow the directions of all law enforcement personnel. Riders are expected to observe local customs of decorum at all times. [this of course means Diva customs of decorum or face a "Diva slapdown"... Craig?]

and Article 4, and 5, and 6, and so on...

Of course my favorite rule is Article 11 (more on that later).

Our DART course was strategized, slaved over, and charted with the utmost of care using the latest digital MapMyRide technology. In addition, our Diva is an IT person, detailed and analytical. It was perfect, everything would be masterfully calculated and check points found and departed with Swiss-like accuracy; Fabian Cancellara would kill to be on this team. This is what randonneuring is all about!

Saturday morning, as a thick rain ( it hadn't rained in days, nor would it the next!) poured down out of the gloomy dawn, we gathered to pedal north. It was here I remembered my nautical hero (it was pouring after all) Capt. James Cook's family motto - "He left nothing unattempted". Our Diva was like that, and behind her like Cook's ships were the
Endeavor, the Resolution, and Discovery.. oh ya, and the Soloist (Andy on his Cervelo). Our course was clear, Diva led us out. BTW, who brought the map? Diva?

As we laughed jokingly at the rain, Alex mocking asked if this would count for a duathlon? Fortunately (for Diva), the rain was soon just a mist, and then a memory. As we rolled into our first check point at North Plains I flirted with the thought of retiring the rainjacket, but why tempt the cycling rain gods?

Off we rode, along the way Alex and I shared new roads with Diva and our teammates. We also shared the Saturday morning tradition of sprinting for stop sign warning signs, ya know, those yellow ones with the red hexagonal blob. Those are worth one point each, and the winner of the day shouldn't buy any post-ride beers. A fine cycling tradition. We also showed the team some fun "rollers".
About now Andy began to sense I liked hills far more than was healthy, at least for his health.

At 80 km into the ride was our second check, Vernonia, a town that has forfeited more than its fair share of Gatorade and Reeses peanutbutter cups to me as the halfway point of many a century training ride. This time it was randonneuring, screw the GU, this meant real food, so we ducked into the Black Bear Coffee shop - how the heck have I missed this place on those cold February training ride?! We settled in to oatmeal, tea, coffee and bagels. And outside, the sun was starting to shine on our little velos - Diva, this might just work -
This is what randonneuring is all about!

Our real major climb of the journey was just ahead. Dragging our bodies away from the cafe we continued north, winding along the Nehelam River on Hwy 47, really one of the most perfect cycling roads in the state (west from Vernonia that is). The pace was relaxed and Diva an I chatted about her early days on the bike, racing, maturing as a cyclist, what it was like to be a Diva and feel superior to all others (kidding :") and then it was right onto Apiary Rd and the climb over the coast range to the Columbia River.

The climb went well, a nice 4-5% beautifully paved road through the big leaf maple and Douglas fir forest. The kinda place you want to be alone, with your thoughts, and the outdoors. This is where Andy once again defined Cervelo's "Soloist" and preferred to immerse himself quietly and independently in the wilderness experience by dangling strategically off the back; Capt. Cook would have been proud.

Over the top we regrouped and continued in on Apiary (no bees were sighted). Near the junction of Old Rainier Rd and Hwy 30 above the Columbia River we refined the course and chose to descend 30 onto the Longview Bridge (also known as the Lewis & Clark Bridge - but then we start to mix our explorers and things could get messy). Of course Diva finally decides to take charge and flies downhill with all her team in tow. Little did we know that she wasn't pulling, but actually gunning for the Washington State sign posted in the bridge rafters - after which she claimed was worth a million points. Well, I know this will come as shock, but after a thorough investigation into the French Randonneuring archives I found little ditty, Code IV, Artcile 21a, which states, "The Societe du Randonneur has determined, in the United States of America only, due to the proliferation of state boundaries and numerous avenues of crossing, State signs and State Welcome signs are hereby declassified and may only be credited as 500,000 points. With this determination set, it thus leaves the sole remaining one million point sign to be the rare "Fire Truck" sign." (More on that later.)

One warning about the bridge, it has no bike lane, instead Washington/Oregon DOTs have graciously painted a fog-line down the outside of the traffic lane with about 3 feet of room in which logging trucks can pile their spare bark and wood. This is where randonneuring and cyclocross merge. And this of course is where you would think teammates Resolution (Alex) and Endeavor (Craig) would rise to their calling, instead Diva drops'em, bolting forward like Cavendish coming off of Renshaw's wheel on the Champs-Élysées
claiming the one million points (Diva, please see clarification above) for the state sign.

Into Longview we flew off the bridge deck, and into our finishing state, although the line awaited 70 plus kilometers away. More importantly it was hours away before we could finish at the pub. Ah yes, Article 1:
The Dart is a 12-hour event. Ergh. Well, time to get to know lovely Longview and invoke our hero's motto - nothing unattempted. Somewhere in this town was rumored a giant squirrel statue and better yet the "Nutty Narrow's Bridge"; first it was lunch, after all, it was only 30 miles since breakfast.

Without the aid of a map this was now a time for Discovery (me) to follow my nose and find us the "best food in the world", well at least according to one local. In search of that best food we navigated down a variety of streets always on the lookout for the squirrel and the Nutty Narrows. After a back alley detour to see the world's largest personal garbage cans, each like some prehistoric container-creature large enough to engulf a velo and rider in one raising of the lid gulp, we did stumble upon the world's largest chainsaw carved squirrel holding a nut (yes Craig, I agree the guy should stick to chainsaw bears). I was stunned! I have live so close to this monument of human endeavor (that wasn't a slight Capt. Cook) and never ventured to see it - once again, this is what randonneuring is all about!

Diva finally released us from detention in Longview and after numerous caffeine refreshments we and our bladders headed further north to Castle Rock. Now we were on familiar turf, maps, who needs maps? This is SW Washington ride territory - lovely rolling country roads, barns, fields, forests, camel, and check point #5 in Boistfort... yes, I said camel. Just 30 km to go, the team was smelling the barn (actually we could smell barns all around us) and the beer. Just one more little bump in the road, up and over Curtis Hill.

Ah yes, that brings us back to my favorite rule, Artcile 11. Our Diva was careful to pass us through all check points at the designated time, and to enforce requisite lolygagging when critical.

So with careful planning and adherence to our mapped course we flew down off of Curtis Hill Road, clocking 60kph, a swift right onto Hwy 6, through the if-you-blink-you-miss-it town of Adna, our gaze focused eastward towards the evening lights of the finish line. Our team was turning the pedals over, 35kph we flew, I knew we were close passing junk shops and liqueur stores, once again it was civilization, and then finally Chehalis... Wahooo!!! We made it, twenty minutes to spare!! Victory!! Who the heck needs a map when we have Diva.
This is what randonneuring is all about!

WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAIT!! Chehalis???? Nooooooo.... we're suppose to be in CENTRALIA - yikes!

How much time do we have? Only twenty minutes!!

Quick, what does Article 11 say:

Article 11
For a Dart team ride to be certified by RUSA, and any regional team awards to be earned:

  • At least 3 team members must have ridden the same distance and arrive at the finish together.
  • At least 25 KM must have been ridden between the end of the 10th hour and the end of the 12th hour of the ride.
With the 12th hour nipping at rear blinkies and having no map, a quick check with the nearest local, with a pick-up truck of course (usually we try and avoid those at all cost), found there was a fast way there, sorta. Just go over the railroad tracks, left, then right, then.... ah hell, channel Capt. Cook, just ride north and follow your navigational instincts! This is what randonneuring is all about!

With the alpinglow fading over distant Curtis Hill and our Diva's randonneur reputation riding on it, we rocketed down some street, past a corn mashing factory, over more railroad tracks, past a few derelict shopping malls, and over an overpass into downtown Centralia. WE DID IT - but wait! Diva, where is the finish line, ya know the pub? The one on the map?

As we strolled down main street, searching for the finish line, under brightening warmth of neon, there was Jenn, then Sally & Amy, our support teams, and the Olympia Club, with TWO MINUTES to spare Team Diva (actually Team Bicycling Northwest.com) had made it, all four of us and her royal Diva-ness!!
This is what randonneuring is all about! No map and cutting it to the wire!

Thanks Ann, for a brilliant day out. This DART was everything cycling should be. :"))

PS - and the map? In case you were wondering, there really was one:
View Interactive Map on MapMyRun.com

Photo slide show of Diva And Rest of Team (WARNING: Diva claims to not want her picture taken)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Oh new bike, "Oh, the temptation"

New bike, new bike, new bike.... ergh!

New wheels, new wheels, new wheels.... double ergh!!

C'mon, I really don't need anything new.

Okay, time for rationalization(s):

I'm an adult, I'm not married, I can (still) afford my mortgage, the car is paid off (old, actually referred to as an "antique" the other day by someone far older than me), I have no kids (at least that I know of), my World Cycling DVD collection is completely up-to-date... did I include I am an adult?

So there, what's the issue? And then a friend sent this.... triple ergh!!!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Racing Season One: Lessons Learned

Unceremoniously, with my getting sick and having to cancel the Everest Challenge, my official first season of road racing has concluded. Successful? Ya, I learned, that was the goal. And maybe I just can't stomach the idea of climbing on the rollers come December with an "L" on my forehead all winter.

As promised, I will share the lessons I have learned, think I've learned and should have learned with any and all who care to read this. My hope is that if you are sitting there reading this and keep trying to convince yourself that you are not going to race, and then watching all those World Cycling DVDs of the TdF over the winter, while spinning your brains out on the trainer, inspires you to give the race-thing a go, that some of the following will help jump start you past where I began.

First, you can't start too early in the season racing. Somewhere in about February there is a road race - called Chilly Willy, or Frozen Feet, or Crappy-Weather-Challenge, what ever it is, go do it. The sooner you start getting the feel for racing the better your experience come summer. As a friend said, "
your experience, or as we veteran racers say, your racing age" yes, your "racing age", (and that doesn't have a 'Cat' in front of it) is like any age, it only gets older with time. In this case more time means more fun - so get going as soon as you can.

Second, get a good base. This has never been a big issue for me because I always rode long winter miles, but I see now that it paid even greater dividends this year. That became especially clear when, for whatever reason, my training was truncated or halted all together; those schlogging through the rain and cold centuries of January and February gave the legs something to fall back on.

Third, commit to the core. Yes, I mean don't be half-ass about this, but I'm actually referring to your other core. Over last winter I started yoga, a style called Vinyasa, which focuses on the core and breathing. I'll admit despite how much I enjoyed the workouts and being in a class of a dozen or more sweating women once a week I wasn't committed enough. This winter, minimum three per week.

Fourth, diet. Gotta learn how and when to eat what the body/goal needs - and that changes through the season. What I did in February isn't what my body needs in June. More reading and asking questions about nutrition - I'll share what I learn here.

Fifth, learn to ride slow. My friends Scott and Hilary kept chirping at me on this one, and they were right, I need to learn how and when to back off the gas. Like so many club riders, when we get together we love to torture one another - every stop sign warning sign is a sprint point and every hill a KOM. Those are great, they are fun, but they are also pretty much a thing of the winter base miles - not the weeks leading up to a race. Learn to hammer hard AND rest day rolls. (see Sixth)

Sixth, fast and quick aren't the same. Sounds pretty "oh, duh" but it's harder to translate in to race reality than you think. My overall road speed increased significantly this year and I'm also a pretty strong climber, but I repeatedly found myself in Phil's words, "A bit of bother" when the boys up front would hit the gas. What I suffered from was burst quickness to respond and then recover. Next year I need to do more 'blocks' that concentrate on increasing my ability to hammer hard in short sustainable bursts, recover, and prepare for the next one. It will also stregthen my confidence in not getting dropped.

Seventh, shaving the legs. Just do it!

Ninth, buy a silly helmet. Regardless what your significant other says, if you are going to ride TTs, go buy the silly pointy helmet - it makes two differences, 1) you are faster, 2) you believe you are faster. In addition, removable arrows and a jersey that fits your body (race cut). Now, if you have some extra euros score deep-dish wheels or a rear disc-wheel to seal the deal. If you are low on euros check these out - my new purchase for next season arrow wheel covers from Wheelbuilder.com At $89.95 they are an inexpensive and functional solution for someone who only needs them 2-5 times a year.

Tenth, sign-in and take neutral wheels. After your first couple of races these will both seem such newbee oh duhs, but ya gotta get there first. Twice this year I forgot to sign-in at the start of races (thank you very kind and patient OBRA officials - you all deserve awards for what we put you through!), mostly because my mind was too freaked about the upcoming stage - especially my first crit...AHHHH!

The other thing is neutral wheels. Leave the repair bag at home, by the time you repair a flat you might as well head home. Even your worst second hand wheels will do the job. So what to do with them? This was a total mystery to me. In my races there were two scenarios, 1) Your wheels in the neutral support vehical, and 2) Pooled group wheel support. The first is your own wheels - one front, one rear. Tagging them is critical so the volunteer can quickly grab them and get you going again. There are different methods for IDing them as your wheels, but the best I found was the little bulk food tags from the grocery store (see photo above). These are perfect to write on with a sharpie marker and actually stay clipped to the spoke, but are quick to remove. Next are your wheels donated to a neutral pool for that race to support anyone in need of them. This was done by lottery in my stage races - and really depends on you giving up your wheels for the stage. In that case your initials on the tire sidewall will ID them for retreval after the stage.

Eleventh, eating on the fly. This was a really hard one, and one that took a while to sort out. Even downing a simple GU in the pack is a trick. This is another reason to get in a few early season races, they usually aren't as crowded or intense, and give you ample opportunity to practice. In case you haven't seen this done, it's also a good trick to slip one or two GU-type packets under the seam of your shorts, just above the knee; easy to reach when crowded in a group. The other trick is to tear energy bar packages half open before the race, the fact that so many of these packages can be used to boot a tire tells you how tough they can be to open, especially in a crowded fast moving peloton.

Twelfth, there's a water bottle for everyone. Don't panic approaching a feed zone. Feed zones became my nemesis this past season. I could make a list of mistakes just there - mistakes that cost me good finishes and mistakes that just plain cost me finishing at all. Especially when it is hot the primal fear of not getting that water bottle does something very strange to people, especially amateur cyclists. My suggestion is two-fold, 1) Get a friend, a child, a partner, your dog, what ever, and go practice grabbing a bottle while you whiz by them at 25 mph. Oh ya, think it's a no brainer? Give it a go, ITS NOT EASY. Now imagine 50 other guys simultaneously trying to do the same and then someone up front hits the gas. Trust me, it's worth a few practice runs in the street in front of your house. 2) Have someone crew for you in those feed zones - it puts your mind at ease that you will indeed get your bottle, its YOUR bottle, your crew can stand after the chaos so you can pass the nut cases and get on with life; it's also really great to see a friendly face, especially if it's pouring rain, you have been snorting wet road grime for the past 20 miles trying to stay on the lead group, and then you see someone who cares you are doing this, they're standing in the rain WITH you and saying, go for it! Ya know what, you do!

And finally... Lucky Thirteenth, pick a goal a race. This was one of the best things I did this season. Regardless the race I targeted one thing I wanted to improve on, sometimes I got lucky and improved on two, but target one. One race I just practiced eating (review #11 above), another race I practiced "moving up", another chasing the break, or learning to find a steady front riding wheel you can trust to follow (remember you won't know most of these guys and how they ride), and one race I decided to push myself into the "red" and see where I might blow up. This final one is hardest to do, since none of us want to fail, but there is no other way to find what YOUR limit is unless you push it.

I'm sure there is a ton of crap I forgot - forgot to say and forgot to learn, but hopefully the above will help someone. Most of all, just go for it - Bon Chance, Bon Courage!

Friday, September 4, 2009

"Nothing sexier than a Schleck chest"

Those are not my sentiments, but the tongue-in-cheek comment by my friend Jenn, as we watched the flapping open jerseys of the "men" in the peloton in their vain attempts to adjust to the 37 C (100F in old money as Phil would say) temps in Spain. Just a plane ride and 24 hours earlier they were coursing through a typhoon of leftover Belgian Spring Classic weather and praying to remain upright in a stage that saw repeated crashes and one final catastrophe that made NASCAR look childish; and one fatal to poor Chris Horner's hope of simply finshing the bloody season upright - truly Chris, my heart and all the Curad Hold Tite I have go out to you. (Maybe it's just the Astana curse?)

(Speaking of crashing - if you want a nice look inside the pros-eye-view check out David Millar's recap of the crash stained run-in to Liege, over on CyclingNews The insider's guide to crashes

But back to those Schleck chests. For the brothers Andy and Frank, and many others in the peloton, those gaping jerseys revealed how long the season has been - you could nearly grate parmessean on those ribs they're so pronounced - for some of these guys the season has been a very long one. During a break in Universal Sports' coverage (mucho gracias) I departed to esponge a bit more of the flu breaking up in my chest, when I looked in the mirror and thought, yes, I am pretty skinny, how do those guys survive this late in the season?

I've been sick for a week now, part of the slow fight and delayed recovery is I have no reserves, so I ask,
how do those guys survive this late in the season? Worst, today I had to admit there will be no Everest Challenge for me in 2009 - it really sucks! I was really psyched for this one - no race for a victory podium - just looking forward to a wonderful two days of suffering on high eastern Sierra mountain passes with a bunch of like-minded small gear pain junkies.

The long-season snaked its way through the peloton again today; we saw it in Tyler Farrar's legs, or lack of them, come the final 100 meters. Maybe you can say the Vacansoleil beast Bozic is just a fine sprinter, no doubt, but faster than Farrar? Okay, I'll admit I'm a touch of a homer here, the kid does come from just up the road in Wenatchee, WA, but still, c'mon? Columbia HTC has won 74 races this season and I'd venture to guess whether it was Cavendish, Greipel, Henderson or Renshaw, it was also Garmin's Farrar just behind one of them; sooner or later the body says uncle.

This week mine said uncle and I don't put it through a fraction of what these guys do (of course they could be my kids). It's time to embrace the coming fall, cooler mornings have arrived, and enjoy long lazy 100 mile rides with no finishlines, cut-off times, feedzone fights, or eating food you can't remember what it tatsted like. And finally time to gain back a couple pounds and think about cross season. Ah, pubs, cafes and baguettes! To Andy and Frank, enjoy the Vuelta and remember the Worlds are only a few weeks away, after wards you too will then be back to pubs, cafes and baguettes. And that brings me full circle - there's just "Nothing sexier than a Schleck chest"

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Of course you won!

Hey, if you can ask the question, then you won. From the Soundpony Street Sprints held in Tulsa, Oklahoma. 150 meter bicycle drag race

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Detroitasuaruses are rearing their heads


Wow! That did not take long. Apparently three lanes up Broadway aren't enough for some motorists - we need your positive reaction to the Cycle Tracks more than we thought

Please let the mayor's office know Cycle Tracks bike lanes are a positive addition to our city streets and lives:
emailing the Mayor's office

Ten Reasons to watch the Vuelta

  1. No LA
  2. No mention of LA (so far)
  3. No reference to how it was when Lance won this race (although he did finish 4th in 1998... see, he is not just a one-trick pony)
  4. No commercials for Lance (although after September 1st Radioshack, I mean The Shack, I mean... well what ever they call themselves, may have bought commercial spots since they are UCI compliant and the secret is out of the bag, oh btw, did you hear Levi also signed with RS.)
  5. You get to see Belgium in some other season but the cold and rain of the Spring Classics (it does look greener in the warm and rain of August)
  6. No soap opera stars to distract from bike racing* - Conti, LA and Levi are all missing
  7. Somebody will win a sprint besides Cavendish - even if they do ride for Columbia HTC
  8. You get an Aussie commentator (who does know a fair thing or two about pro cycling) which enables you to learn colourful bits like:
    • "looking fairly handy"
    • "all gone pear-shaped"
    • "tell mum he buggered that one up"
  9. We and the UCI finally get to see the "Teflon man", Alejandro Valverde, since they can't seem to stick him for any of the million and one doping connections they reportedly have tried to ban him for
  10. And finally, we hope, we get to see American Chris Horner, in the best shape of his life, at least finish, if not contest, a Grand Tour without a ... Ah crap! NO! results just in from Stage 4... and... Horner is out, a crash! Dang it!

* sorry, Vino is back

Seriously, Universal Sports (the guys who gratefully brought us the Giro d'Italia at the last minute) just penned a four-year deal for the Vuelta as well as Milan San Remo, the Worlds, and a handful of races we would never otherwise get to see, so it's worth tuning in - online or on the old technology, television.

Three feet closer to the most bike friendly city in America

Yesterday the City of Portland took not one step, but three, getting three feet closer to making cyclists of every ilk safer in the nation's most bike friendly city. And in reality we get five feet and a few tons of metal (parked cars) as an additional barricade to the rush of motorists.

Thanks to Mayor Adams, staff and the folks at Portland Bureau of Transportation, you will undoubtedly receive your share of "fan mail" from city motorists on this one, but stick to it, call on us for support and know that thousands of us now and many tens of thousands in the future applaud you for the effort and foresight.

I won't repeat all the details as Jonathan Maus and staff at BikePortland.org did a wonderful job covering in over on their site:

First look at Portland’s inaugural cycle track

In addition, we are going to need your support to keep the momentum (and courage of city officials) - please write them an email and offer your encouragement!

UPDATE - apparently we need your positive reaction more than we thought:
City reacts to the new cycle track
Please let the mayor's office know bike lanes are a positive:
emailing the Mayor's office