Sunday, December 24, 2006

My Favorite Bike

The Aegis Shaman

For whatever reason, I never posted a picture of my 'cross bike as I did with my road and mountain bikes. I snapped these a few days ago after converting it to my post-Nationals winter training ride.
The component group highlights are: Ultegra drivetrain with 12-27 cassette; FSA Energy 40/46 crankset; Salsa Bell Lap bar; Mavic Open Pro wheelset; Panaracer Cinder X tires.
This bike was a joy to ride. On the 'cross courses it accelerated off the line and out of corners quickly and absorbed the rough stuff to conserve valuable energy. I had a ton of confidence on it, railing the corners. My favorite riding position was on the top bar using the shorty brake levers as needed. I also enjoyed riding it on the road thanks to its comfortable cockpit and forgiving ride making it my winter training bike of choice.
Aegis is updating this model in 2007 naming it Pave and giving it a disc brake option.
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Monday, December 18, 2006

2006 Cyclocross National Championship

Elite Masters 40-44
Photo courtesy of Chris Milliman:

Well, I did it. I obviously ended up competing at Nationals and ended up with a respectable finish in my opinion. I got up early and began my 4 hour journey south in fog and dark. I was 10 minutes down the road when I suddenly realized I forgot to pack a pair of gloves. Doh! Babs gets a kick out of me and my gloves because I have almost as many pairs as she does shoes. The weather report was for cloudy skies and temps around 50 so I was probably going to need to wear a pair. Thinking I was on a tight schedule, I didn’t turn around and luckily spied a nice pair of $.99 cotton, orange, work gloves at the gas station where I filled up! I would definitely not look fashionable, but at least I could stop worrying about it! I arrived at the venue in plenty of time and had a chance to watch mountain bike legend Ned Overend demolish the 50-54 field. I walked around the course a bit and noticed it was virtually unchanged from last year. The biggest difference: no rain, sleet, snow, or gale force winds to contend with! The trip was already worth it! I registered and headed back to the car. I found a great parking place and was able to reserve a spot for my dad who showed up a short time later. I showed him the lay of the land, educated him on the race a bit, and tasked him with counting places for me as I rode by. I then proceeded to warm up on the trainer. Funny how easy it is to get the heart rate up in a hurry on race day! After working up a sweat I hopped onto the course for a couple of pre-ride laps and then headed to staging. The course was National caliber: challenging. There were long paved straightaways, short steep climbs, a tall set of barriers, 3 running stairs sections. Conditions were ripe for a fast race as only the turns displayed a little slippery mud. I lined up in the 2nd of 12 rows that consisted of riders 12-across. the gun went off and we sprinted up the road before hitting grass. Happily, the start was uneventful and all I had to do was find my groove and pin it. There was a slight bottleneck on a tight left hander, but I was surprised at how quickly the field stretched out. There was plenty of space to pass or be passed. As the order got jumbled about, I was passed by a few more guys than I had passed. The first time around, my dad estimated I was 37th. I settled into a small pack of 5 and drafted in the open sections and made passes in the turns, but this time more wisely! The next time around I heard I was 27th so that was good. I fell into a good rhythm, although I wasn’t what I would describe as comfortable! I was going as hard as I could, and that’s never “comfortable!” I think we ended up doing 5 laps within the 45minute window. I do know, that I wished we only did 3! As we came around the start/finish with 2 to go, I was beginning to feel the effects of the effort. For the first time all season I felt some twinges of cramping in the legs. The run ups were taking their toll and it hurt getting on and off the bike. The barriers were the most intimidating as you came up on them going pretty fast, they were tall, and I wasn’t sure if I could raise my legs high enough. On the final lap, I felt like I was doing a chicken dance because me legs seized for an instant and I couldn’t remount. It was at this point that I had to ride defensively. My dad said I was 32nd with 2 to go and I was satisfied with that, but didn’t want to lose any more positions. I lost touch with a few guys ahead of me, so I forced myself to hunker down in this no-man’s land and ride smoothly, and as strongly as I could to get me to the end. There was a pair of guys just behind me who could close at any moment. I suffered through the final run ups and my legs felt like lead weights on the climbs. I couldn’t push a very big gear on the straights so I set my sights on the last climb to hit hard and hope to maintain my distance from the chasers. Surprisingly, I actually gained a little ground on the guys ahead of me as they no-doubt were jockeying for position and decide who would face the headwinds. However, I certainly had no sprint in me so I wasn’t about to contest them. Some fortune was bestowed upon me as I saw my closest competitor wash out on a turn and slow another guy down so I was pretty much home free. Although it’s always good to finish strong, I just pedaled easily to the line and was very happy just to finish. My dad had it right and 32nd was my final placing, although unremarkable, totally satisfying. I was very glad I decided to compete as it gave me an opportunity to end the season on a positive note, and I got to spend some time with my dad who was intrumental with a helping hand as I got ready and giving me position updates. The post-race hot dog was like a banquet! I headed north 45 minutes after my race and arrived at the Christmas party just in time to get in line for food. I had the biggest piece of roast beast ever and washed it down with several beverages not specifically designed to increase endurance! Looking back at the time off, I would say it helped me mentally, but hurt me physically. My legs were definitely not as strong as they needed to be, but it didn’t effect my attitude so I have to say it was a trade-off. In the end, I’m happier with a fresh mind and sore legs than the reverse. Now it’s time to kick back, put the legs up, and get reacquainted with the family! Posted by Picasa

Saturday, December 16, 2006

What the ham sandwich went wrong?

Well, a month and almost a half passed without my competing in a race. I took a week off the bike entirely after the disappointing race weekend of October 4 & 5. Then, I got back on half-heartedly the week of Thanksgiving in an effort to prepare for the next NECCS event the Saturday after Thanksgiving. However, I had no real motivation to race as a series ranking was totally unattainable at this point and it was going to be a bit of a hassle to get to the event. As the week unfolded, my interest totally deteriorated. We all drove down to the Cape on Wednesday to spend Thanksgiving with my mom. I then had to drive back to Maine early Friday morning to run the rink for a high school tournament. The thought was I could hit the race on my way back down to the Cape on Saturday, but a 12-hour workday that didn’t include the 4-hour drive wore me out. I instead started Saturday leisurely and headed back to the Cape skipping the race, a first in a mighty long time for me.
So, what was going on with me? I tried to deny the burn-out excuse because I didn’t want to admit I was doing too much, that I could handle the load. However, as I thought more and more about why I had little interest in riding let alone training, burn out was the only reason. Race preparation actually began January 1st under the tutelage of my coach. In all my past, I usually was on my bike no earlier than April, and finished no later than October. This year I was on my trainer and lifting in January, doing a 3 hour ride on Easter, and racing more than I ever had. So yes, I admit, I was fried, especially given I still had the ‘cross Nationals to prepare for on December 15th. Even that race, the biggest of the year, was questionable.
So, I took time off the bike, skipped a race, and trained when I was motivated enough to give the effort, and didn’t worry if I missed a session. For the 2 weeks leading up to Nats I prepared as if I was going to do it, and decided a week before to compete based on an excellent starting position and decent weather.
There was a big question as to how the race would go. I didn’t want to be pack fodder and get run over and spit out the back. It was a tall order to do the race because I had to coach a game Thursday night which meant I couldn’t drive down until the day of the race, and the staff Christmas party was Friday night so I had to return home that dame day. But, I was undeterred. I had a good attitude going in and I was as ready as I could have been. So, did the time off help or hurt and where did I finish?
Tune in to the next installment!

11/5 NECCS #4 Cycle-Smart International Northampton, MA

Elite Masters 35+

I spent the night in Boston again as it was closer to both venues than the Cape. However, I was planning to go to the Cape after today’s race for the night.
The day brought another fantastic weather scenario: sunny and chilly. Upon arrival I donned my uniform and did a couple of laps with BIKEMAN’s Big Al as he gave me some inside info on the good lines. This course was also in a park and had a wide open field with many turns, a sandpit, a couple of railroad crossings that you could actually get air and jump over, and some wooded riding with run-ups. More fun for sure!
The rest of the race prep went according to plan (I kept the race wheelset on this time!) and I lined up a few rows deep at the start which consisted of about 200 yards of flat pavement before turning onto the grass. I was in the 30’s as the lap got underway, but tried to stay cool and let the race evolve and hope I would be able to accelerate once I went around a couple of times and pick up positions. Although I was being patient, I still felt I needed to pick up positions whenever possible and this was my undoing. Only halfway into the 2nd lap I forced the issue in a totally inappropriate place. I was trailing another rider down a short steep descent that then lead us over the tracks and into a left handed turn. This was a fairly fast section and I allowed my momentum to get me alongside the other guy’s left as we jumped the tracks. From what I can speculate because it all happened so fast, I’m sure he didn’t know I was there and as we approached the left hander, I got pinched and made contact with the course marker which got me loose and turned me into the guy. I lost balance, fell into him and his bike and then hit the ground. I shook it off and tried to remount but my rear brake was sticking and the wheel wouldn’t turn so I was stopped dead in the middle of the course when a group of riders came tearing though and I made more contact with guys. I made it to the edge of the course and tried to free up the brake pad, but discovered they were both in the lock position. Then I noticed the right brake/shift lever was activated and stuck in the open position. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out what was keeping it like that. The chain had fallen off so I fiddled with that and then went back to the shifter. Now that my adrenaline was subsiding, I started to piece together what must have happened. In the process of falling, the right side of my handlebar must have come in contact with the other rider’s spokes and sheared the rubber covering on the top of the brake/shifter and broke some plastic inside causing it to hang up. After pulling out a broken piece and realigning the plastic, it closed and the brake released. But, by now it was race over. I was not confident in the shifter’s integrity and I was, for the 2nd day in a row, DFL. I humbly walked the bike back to the start/finish line and announced to the officials I was retiring from the race resulting in my first DNF (did not finish) of the season.
Although I felt pretty good physically, this was a major blow mentally and lead to a week totally off the bike and some serious soul searching. Next
up was supposed to be NECCS #5 in Sterling, MA.

11/4 NECCS #3 Chainbiter 8.0 @ Farmington, CT

Elite Masters 35+

This is a long overdue post, but I’m catching up as the season had drawn to a close.
After spending the night in Boston to help break up the long drive from Maine, I zipped down to CT for this race on a nice, sunny, albeit chilly day. The hope was again to crack the top-15 and register some points for the series. With 2 out of 7 races already complete, I needed to git ‘er done. The course was laid out in a park with sports fields so there were open-grassy sections as well as some rides in the woods. It was a fun and fast.
During my warm-up, I tried a maneuver many riders pull off: I rode the course with my extra wheelset I would be leaving in the pit area so as to keep the race set fresh and clean. All went well and I finished my warmup on the trainer with the race wheelset and was ready to go. As I was reinstalling the race wheelset, I told myself to be sure the skewers are tight as I had an instance once when they weren’t screwed in as they apparently should have been and after a hard pedal push, the rear wheel moved in the droputs and began rubbing the frame. Well, I again thought I cinched them down well enough and proceeded to the start line. I’d also like to mention I had to deal with a small crisis at the rink where my employee thought there was an ammonia leak. This was not helping me focus on the task at hand, however I had no one to blame but myself for not communicating better with the folks at school prior to my leaving for the weekend.
Anyway, the gun goes off and we tear up a paved incline and head towards the first section of woods. Guess what happened? The torque from my mashing the pedals to apply power to the rear wheel was greater than the torque I used to tighten the wheel and it loosened and was rubbing the frame. the friction was so great that I started burning the tire and it was slowing my down considerably. So, I had to pull off to the side not even 200 yards into the race and realign the wheel and tighten the skewer. By the time I finished, the entire field had passed my by and I was starting DFL (dead last)! I got going and immediately the quitter voice was saying to bag it because there was no hope from here, but I didn’t listen. It was a nice day, I drove all the way down, and I had nothing to lose. So I continued on and rode my typical race without concern for placing picking off guys 1 by 1. It was actually a great motivating factor constantly reeling guys in and passing them. I have to say I truly enjoyed the race. Although I missed my mark of top-15, I was satisfied in the fact that I passed 56 guys and felt good doing it.
This finish meant that the next day’s race was do or die for the series.