Sunday, March 26, 2006

Charge Pond Training Series Road Race #2 Report

Same course, different weather. Temperature was around 40, but skies were cloudy and the air was damp with a rain shower that had just passed. It was a raw one and the warm-up was crucial. There were more racers in general today which made the pack faster. There were also some faster guys who drove the pace up at the front of the pack. There was a fellow-former teammate in attendance as well. It would have been nice to work with him, but it was difficult to generate any team tactics. There were only a couple of attempts at a break this time, all getting reeled back in, once by yours truly, my only stint out front on the day. There was a carbon-copy single-rider crash on a 35 degree turn. Same thing happened last week, right in front of me. Luckily no one else got tangled up. I once again had an off-road experience getting pinched to the side and had to wade through a sandy shoulder, but made it out OK. I was well on my way to finishing strong with the lead group when on the 2-to-go lap I flatted. Hard to say how it happened, whether it was the off-road incident or debris. At least 2 others also flatted. So, I had to walk it to the finish instead of sprint.
Despite the disappointment in not being able to finish, the race was another great opportunity getting to know the bike. It is truly stiff on standing/out-of-the-corner sprints yet comfortable on the straights. It inspires confidence in handling, although in a pack 5-wide, anything can seem sketchy! I think the set-up is close to perfect at this point. Fitness-wise, I feel I’m riding within my ability and am competitive. The first true road-race is less than a month away, so it’s back to the training table.
Soon, I’ll start commenting on some of the components and their performance. The Garmin 305 is first on the list. It’s awesome!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Charge Pond Training Series Road Race Report

Pack finish

The race season unofficially began Saturday with a road “scrimmage” in Plymouth, MA. The course was a 1.5 mile rolling loop. I raced in the “B” group (Cat. 4-5) 25 miles. My expectations were high, yet tempered by the fact that I had no idea where my fitness stacked up against other competitors. Conditions were fair. It was breezy and cold (35 degrees) and the road was semi-rough with a few potholes, one I had to bunnyhop over when it caught me by surprise! We all stuck together for the most part, feeling each other out. A few would go off the front, but never threatened to run away with it. I had a few pulls out front, spiking the heart rate, then settling back at the end of the pack before cycling back towards the front. With 2 to go, things got unsettled and I think some guys got away out front. I wanted to pull away too, but could never distinguish who was a serious threat and who to go with (life in the pack with no teammates). Not being a sprinter, I put myself ahead of the pack the last ½ lap thinking I could get away with 1 or 2 other guys. I took a turn out front and wasted myself with ¼ mile to go. Lesson learned: if the pack is together, don’t go off that early! I slowed and the pack swooped by me. I just held on to the back and finished with the main field, probably top-20 out of 30. I came away with some lessons learned, and satisfied with my fitness. I had no trouble riding up front and didn’t feel like I was suffering as much as others. The way some of the guys were breathing, I couldn’t believe they weren’t in cardiac arrest! The bike was set up perfectly by Steve at the shop and it rode with flawless shifting. I'm just getting familiar with the bike, so I'll post more about it down the road. I’m looking forward to returning to the same race next weekend and hope to apply new strategies to a higher finish.

Monday, March 13, 2006

First Victory Ride

The weather was decent enough to spin outside yesterday. However, the roads definitely aren't ideal! The frost heaves really make for a rolling ride, literally. Don't even get me started on the cracks!
Anyway, this was my first distance ride on the Victory other than cruising around campus. Keep some things in mind:
1. This is my first real road bike (previous ride was a 1997 Litespeed Appalachian 'cross/tourer).
2. This is my first full carbon bike (mostly rode titanium or steel).
With that said, here are my impressions:
It was a little windy, and I noticed it affected the bike more than I've been accustomed to. This could be for 2 reasons: the bike is so damn light and/or the shape of the tubing catches cross winds a bit more. The bike felt twitchy when I first headed out. I attribute this to my having to get used to such a light and laterally stiff bike. I expect this to translate into a very predictable handling bike, especially in the corners of crits.
The bike rode smoothly over good pavement. Most everyone talks about the vibration damping qualities of carbon fiber. In my uneducated opinion, I would strongly support that. The secondary roads are awful out here and I think I would have had a vibration feeling in my body the whole rest of the day. I had no problem with the rougher roads and dodged only the deepest cracks/crevices/canyons! I think I would have enjoyed the ride a lot less had the bike not absorbed the roughness of the road.
I didn't test its bottom bracket rigidity by hammering as it's still early in the season. I have a training race this Saturday and this will be an excellent testing ground I hope.
Overall, it was great to be out riding and the bike performed flawlessly.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Bike/NASCAR Racing

Here's an odd observation I thought I would share. I've been riding my trainer indoors. To help pass the time, I watch tapes of bike races and even NASCAR races (it's a sickness, I know!) I've recently been watching the Tour of California and couldn't help draw a comparison between bike and NASCAR pack racing. The peleton riding was impressive in California and it made me think about how crucial drafting was in NASCAR races like Daytona and Talladega. No exception on bikes. No single rider/driver can defeat the masses on the flats. Other similarities are the dangers that exist in these frenzied, fast packs where 1 mistake can collect a number of riders/drivers.
So, perhaps there's more to this strange combination of my interest in NASCAR and bike racing! Hell, what's a crit but a bunch of left turns?!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Lance Photo

I thought I would share this with you fellow bikers. I took this photo at the NORBA National at Mt. Snow back in 1999 after Lance won his first Tour. Here he is leading Tinker Juarez early in the race. Lance was quoted as saying the race was the toughest 2 hours he'd ever spent on a bike. I've kept the photo for years and through a connection here at school, had it sent for Lance to sign. It now hangs proudly in a trophy case here in the Alfond, dedicated to KHS mountain bike racers!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Road to "Victory"

My Aegis Victory is built and ready to ride! I've been just rolling around the garage and campus getting acclimated to the cockpit and making fit adjustments. First impressions are obviously clouded by excitement. Qualities such as nimbleness, comfort, and lightweight are already surfacing. She'll be put to the test in a couple of weeks in my first training race.