Thursday, April 26, 2007
Had a short training ride yesterday with just a couple of hard efforts. I continue to dial in the cockpit, but I think it’s about right. The handlebars caught my attention today. These FSA’s are amazing! I feel like I’m piloting a Formula 1 racer. In essence, I guess I am., because this bike screams. The jury is still out as to whether to tape the top of the bars. They are a little slick. Pack riding may make the decision yay or nay. But for now, they are a great resting place with the ergonomic contours.
I’m realizing too this is going to be a great bike to climb on. It’s so light, I notice anytime my pedaling gets uneven and lunges forward with an odd stroke.
I rode through campus and the bike is living up to its potential as an attention grabber. Everyone I passed made a comment! The most memorable of the day was: “Is that really your bike?” I’m going to grow some thick skin!
I took advantage of an off day on Monday and brought the King Zing to Kennebec Bike & Ski and had Steve finish the assembly on the bike. It arrived very well put together by the race shop and simply needed the cables run.
Today’s workout put the bike to the test right away as it was a sprint session. Turns out, that’s defintiely an area where this bike shines. First impression is its feathery weight. OK, you got me, it’s the color! This will be a topic for the lifespan of this bike. I think it’s accurate to simply say the bike is “pretty,” pretty freakin’ fast! I asked Kona owner Jake Heilbron what the story was behind the color because I know I’ll be asked. He says it’s “a tip of the hat to the classic Giro d’Italia” (the frame’s roots are in Italy where it’s fabricated) because the leader’s jersey is pink and also “to get noticed.” That’s an understatement! Competing on this bike gives me extra incentive to dig deeper as I need to “man up” and prove it’s not about the bike’s color, but its soul: the frame and rider. I pledge to do everything I can to put this bike out front and show it off.
OK, back to the “soul” of the bike. It feels like it could be broken any moment. This lightweight also contributes to a sense of twitchiness in the steering because it takes very little input from me to point the bike in the right direction. Next it lets you know right away it’s a racer. I have some fine tuning to do on my positioning in the cockpit, but the geometry leaves nothing slack for a jaunt to the store. I also noticed the road feedback right away. Now, I’ll experiment with another wheelset to see if it’s the stiffness of the Mavic Ksyrium ES that are transferring the slightest road undulation up to me. It wasn’t uncomfortable, instead it was comforting to know that every ounce of energy I put into the pedal was going right to the rear wheel because it’s stiff. As apprehensive as I was about sprinting on the bike, I rode away confident it could handle it. There was no sense of fishtailing in the rear end and the front rocked solidly with me rather than wishy-washy. I’m a little unsure of the gearing as this is the first 39/53 crankset I’ve had. I’ve only run compact 34/50’s. But I didn’t feel like I needed another bailout gear around here, so maybe I can handle it. At least it may help me “man up!”
Cat. 3: 29th/80
Note everyone else is in shorts and shortsleeves. I'm the ass in tights and longsleeves!
This race popped onto the schedule as a result of a lacrosse game cancellation. It dawned on me a week ago when some guys on the PVC SMR were talking about it. They had an ambitious plan of entering the Cat. 3 race and breaking away together. I was hooked on the idea and made plans to attend. After refreshing the weather.com forecast for Loudon several times on Friday, I pre-packed that night and set the alarm for 4:45am Saturday. I mention the weather because it has obviously been quite unpredictable lately! It called for sun and 50 at 9am (race start) and 60 by 11am. Now, there’s a rule of thumb out there that if the air temperature is going to be below 60 degrees, a cyclist should wear some kind of clothing layer over one’s knees as the tendons are easily susceptible to the cold air. My knees are bad enough without any additional aches and pains, so I heed this suggestion religiously. Unfortunately, I don’t own knee warmers so I have to either wear full tights or full leg warmers. So, having accepted the forecast for 50’s during the race as law, I packed tights (my lightest pair) and didn’t shave my legs. Doh! Big mistake!
I arrived at the race and all seemed according to plan. I needed a jacket on while out of the car and I felt the tights were the way to go. It wasn’t until I was riding around warming up that I realized the tights were going to be overkill. At the top of the course’s only significant climb I actually felt some heat in the air and I knew I was in trouble. To make matters worse, I had a long-sleeved jersey on AND I was carrying only 1 water bottle. What a buffoon! These were rookie mistakes.
Well, it was a case of “run what you brung” and I wasn’t going to let it bother me. I rationed my drink and unzipped my jersey and took off my gloves mid race just to make me think it would help. Having just upgraded to Cat. 3 this summer, this was my first race in the new category. Normally I race in the Masters 35+ class which is open to any rider Cat 1-4 and age 35 or higher. It’s a typically competitive field and generally safe because most everyone has kids and a job. The PVC guys wanted to hit the Cat. 3 race which is open to any rider age 18 and up, but must be a Cat. 3, as it was early in the morning. The prospect of working with a team out in front of the pack was exciting and I was looking forward to helping out. The best laid plans go to waste pretty much summed up the day. The race consisted of 5 laps on a 11+ mile course. It was rolling, save for a long and semi-steep climb to the finish. The field was large and the roads were narrow making it extremely difficult to advance any positions except for on the climb. Trouble there was everyone went hard on the climb so unless you had way more power than everyone else and you launched yourself to the front, you were resigned to continue to ride in the pack. There was 1 crash that occurred just ahead of me which I was lucky enough to avoid by braking and veering to the left. I like the comfort of riding in the middle of the road along the yellow for just such a reason. However, this puts me in some of the headwind so I have to work a little harder than those mid-pack. Plus, if the roads aren’t closed to traffic, there are oncoming cars and such evasive action could make me a hood ornament instead! As I mentioned, the team strategy never really came into play because we could never get to the front as a group. At 1 point 4 of us were together, but we were mid-pack and there was no moving up without violating the yellow line rule. Fred stuck to his hugging the white line which unfortunately got him involved in the aforementioned crash. Apparently he rode into a ditch to avoid the melee, got back on the road and bridged back to the group. Stu and Tim enjoyed the view up front while Graydon and I dealt with the constant annoying changes in speed as it rippled through the pack. With some 2-3 miles to go, I glimpsed Fred fly off the front on a solo mission. This was a bold and brave move, but a necessary one as no one seemed committed to making a move. This effort was just what the pack needed as after a mile + it realized Fred may actually get away. The pace picked up and the chase was on. It was difficult for me to see whether we were gaining on Fred as at this point I simply wanted to finish safely, take off all my stupid clothes, and drink a keg of water! We rounded the final turn and after a speedy descent it was to the climb we went. It seemed longer than the previous 4 times we surmounted it, my legs were pretty unresponsive and guys were passing me, but I was passing some guys too. One of them was poor Fred who was laboring up after his hard solo effort. Graydon came by me towards the top and that motivated me to get out of the saddle and make a final push and we finished together. To sum it up, we rode more than 50 miles at a variety of speeds to basically see who was fastest on the hill. We could have avoided all of the nonsense and just had a hillclimb event!
Oh well, it was a great training day at least. I rode for an hour after the race and had the chance to see New Hampshire International Speedway totally empty instead of with 100,000 NASCAR fans milling about. It was good to meet some of the other PVC guys and look forward to racing with them again.
Next up is a double-header weekend, 2 road races in MA.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
I installed the tires last night without incident. They were no more difficult than putting on a tight clincher. The key was getting the bead in the rim channel, seat the bead as far as you can, breathe for a couple minutes and let the tire know who’s boss, then pinch and roll and squeeze as best you can and she rolls on. I thought this was only the first battle as I had difficulty with Mavic’s MTB tubeless wheels catching air when first pumping. The bead didn’t want to seal right off. However, these Hutchinson’s were smooth and the bead sealed instantly and without assistance. They didn’t even pop which made me think they weren’t on. They got up to 100psi quickly and I spun them in the air and there were no wobbles. I checked the wheels this morning and they held the air overnight so I’m good to go! I plan to train with them tomorrow and if all goes well, race them Saturday.
So, thanks to John at KB&S, I have a bike to compete with. The funny thing is, John is on vacation so Stephen didn’t hesitate to volunteer the bike for my use! I’ll try not to break it John!
The bike is an Ultegra-equipped Schwinn Pro Fastback. It’s aluminum with carbon stays and fork. It’s still fair to say I don’t have a lot of experience with road bikes. I’ve only ridden a handful. This is my first experience on a compact and mostly aluminum frame.
I rode with it yesterday and felt comfortable right away. The cockpit didn’t feel odd and it the bike overall felt quite responsive. The ride was not harsh no doubt due to the carbon. I’ve made a slight handlebar adjustment to achieve a more aerodynamic position, but that’s it. I’m hoping it and I perform well Saturday.
I rode outside yesterday despite the wind and felt good. The weather looks like it’s finally turned and the weekend looks great for the Saturday race. Who knows, maybe I’ll get to shave the legs?!
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Babs and the boys made a killer cake from scratch. There were no bicycles available for decoration so they made do with a dirtbike with pink on it for reasons to be announced soon hopefully.
The day wouldn't be complete if it weren't snowing! A nor'easter has begun making its presence known. At least 6" of snow is expected plus high winds followed by serious rain tomorrow. I was lucky to enjoy a vigorous ride with PVC in Portland yesterday morning. I was slated to do 3hrs today but had no motivation to spend it on the trainer so I did my best to eek out 80mins worth.
Sunday, April 08, 2007
As an aside, let it be officialy known that this cold and snow has done nothing to temper my concerns over our environment and I hate hearing people say, "So much for that global warming theory."
This was my route instead. 45mins snowshoeing, then 30mins on the trainer indoors.
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
It was an inauspicious start to the race season. At this time last year, I had competed in at least a couple of road training races, which helped amp up my intensity, and worked on group riding. This pre-season has been spent more in the weight room and on a trainer, so I had no idea what to expect today. Of course deep down I was thinking I had a lot of pent up energy and was going to leave everyone in the dust! But, I was also realistic and knew the field had equal talent and aspirations so I should just be happy I was out riding! It was also my first outing as a Portland Velo Club racer and there were 2 other teammates attending. Finally, I have the luxury of having allies in the field.
It was a glorious day on the coast: sunny but chilly with a negligible wind. I met up with Fred Thomas (club president) and Mike Claus and got the layout of the course. Turns out it was a fairly challenging one in my opinion. It had a short and must stand climb towards the finish, a nasty downhill S-turn, and a 45 degree turn. Tough start to the season riding in a group of guys overexerting themselves and averaging 24mph!
The race got underway at a decent pace. I tried to stay up front as much as possible and keep with Fred whom I feel is a top-notch rider. I got cycled back into the pack at some point and the next thing I know 2 separate groups had gotten away up front. Fred was up in the mix so I got my first lesson in being a teammate and not pressing the issue to reel the breakaway back in. There were a number of teams represented up front so the pack as a whole was not eager to work together. So, it ended up being a 24 mile race to a sprint finish for 12th place. I planned to be up front to at least make a good run at it, but there were 60 other guys with the same intention and I couldn’t maintain position. We rounded the 45 degree turn and hit the hill. I went pretty hard and then ran out of gas on the long straight to the line. 35th was exactly mid-pack. Although my hope for a strong finish were dashed, I went away satisfied with the effort and felt like I was competitive.
I ended the day with a nice ride along the coast to Nahant where I used to visit as a kid. The scenery was great and overwhelmed the annoying traffic that surrounded me at all times.
Next race on the sked isn't until vicious doubleheader road races on 4/28-29.
I snapped this photo last week as the thawing on campus had begun and was revealing items that were missing for months! It was funny then because I thought winter was over. But, as I write this, it is snowing and we are on the brink of receiving 6-12" of new stuff. That's not funny!
Well, we had a phenomenal time to say the least. It’s difficult to summarize so I’ll just say this: the weather was decent, mid to high 70’s; the kids loved the variety of pools and lagoon and the captive sea life; dinner out was expensive, but worth it; frozen drinks are great!
That's Babs sliding down into a shute surrounded by sharks!
Drake loves sharks
The only sharks around here: Snow Sharks!