Friday, July 31, 2009

Completed Trek Rebuild

Here's what it looks like now.

The gearing is a little tougher than I'd thought.

46x16 (or is it 15) freewheel makes it a bit tough to get over the hills to campus from town. The fixed cog is one smaller than the freewheel. I haven't dared to go to down on that yet. I don't think I'd make it back up. The small hills are pretty tough on that ratio.

I like the build though. The single speed is a blast to ride around.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Adding to the Stable

In the fall of '07 I bought a 'beater' bike.

It turns out that this 84 trek 760 was their second best frame for the year. A beautifully made, lugged 531P Steel frame. It's actually pretty light, and it rode beautifully. Not quite the beater I was hoping for. So I set off to work.

That resulted in this.

Not bad for a restoration project.

Turns out that the bike fit me really well. So it was back to the drawing board.

The background is the bike room at wesleyan. I spend countless hours wrenching in there with a band of misfits that comprise the bike co-op.

This particular wrenching session resulted in the first bike I ever raced.

Ironically, it was also the first bike I ever broke my face on. But, no matter.

In any event, I just traded all the campy parts on the trek for a handmade steel cyclocross frameset and some parts. They should be getting here next week.

In addition, I dipped into my savings (aka splurged) and bought a used dura ace 7800 groupset for the parts I needed. This includes the shifters, FD, RD, and brakes. I also bought a single speed slash fixed gear conversion setup, which includes cranks, cogs, a fixed wheelset, and other goodies.

Needless to say, I'll be eating ramen for a good bit.

Now here's the confusing part...

My CAAD9 race bike is outfit with shimano 105 parts. I have to strip all those parts off, and rebuild the bike with Dura ace.

The Cross bike is getting the 105 goodies.

The trek 760 will be reborn yet again as a single speed/fixed gear getting around bike. Awesome.

Tomorrow, I'll play hookey from work and build up the fixed gear. Hopefully, I'll clock in a few hours.

I'll be home (philly) this weekend, and I don't want to mess with the race bike yet.
Next monday, I'll probably play hookey again and strip the CAAD9 and replace the 105 with dura ace.

Just in time for Tokeneke. Awesome!

Maybe I'll try a training crit on a fixed gear. I'll have to spin 140ish rpm to keep up with the pack, but I think it'd be hilarious.

I might just try it for the hell of it. Sounds like a blast!

Build pictures to come!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Tour of the Hilltowns (TOTH) Report!

I did two intervals before I left my house in the morning. I had frozen my water bottles, which turned out to be an awesome idea.

2x nutella, peanut butter, strawberry jam, and raisin sandwich making intervals.

I drove to a teammates house and we carpooled to the race. His car was full of paraphernalia that his two daughters (3 and 4) have put everywhere. I saw land before time stickers and was instantly reminded of my little sister when she was that age. I'm 7 years older than her, so I watched her grow up through everything. Though I do need to call out my teammate on not watching the disney classics with his kids.

Dude, not going to call you out by name (Dennis), but the Lion King rocks!

The drive down to the race was good. It was a lot of fun talking to Dennis, and the time just flew by. I had remembered to write down the important landmarks of the race on my leg, so we talked about those a little bit.

We got to the race, registered, took care of business and started riding around a little bit.

Here's a course profile:

Here's when I made my biggest mistake. I lined up at the back and not at the front.

The race started, and I moved up a little bit. The first 20 miles were all downhill, but I had to work a lot harder than I would have had to if I had moved up earlier. A teammate at the back yelled at me to get up there, and I burnt a few matches to push my way up. It still wasnt enough.

Though the scarier part of the first 20 miles were the incessant flats and incessant loose bottles that kept flying everywhere. I ran over a couple. I'm glad to say that everyone handled themselves very well, and that there were no crashes.

When we hit the first little 'bump' at mile 20, the fabled Hawley Road climb, I couldn't see the leaders. My chances of catching them were over right then. The rest of the race was a test of survival and trying to catch the imaginary carrot that was always just a little too far away.

I kept my effort steady on the climb, always just around my threshold but trying not to go too far over it because there was a lot of racing left to go. I caught and passed a few people who got gassed on the climbs, and kept up my pace.

The pain was enormous, but I loved every second of it. I kept chugging along thinking of the awesome sandwiches that were waiting for me back at the car.

After the climb, I started cramping up a bit on my left leg. I unclipped my left foot on a little downhill and shook it out for all it was worth. Clipped back in, downed the rest of my drink, and swapped bottles to the bottle of water that was frozen to my back. Took a sip: Ice cold. I dumped some on my head: Utter bliss.

Half the race over. Chugging along, chugging along.

I pushed on ahead and ran into a few people spread out over the road. I yelled at them to grab my wheel and tried to start a paceline. This included me yelling at everyone to be smooth so we could keep going forward fast. This one guy I've raced with before always tried to show how strong he was by taking long hard pulls, blowing up, and completely ruining the paceline. Others would skip pulls at the front instead of skipping them by hanging on the back.

As disorganized as the group was, this was my group for the lead in to the finish.

At mile 44 or so, we got passed by a lone master's racer. I believe he won. He had a few minutes on the first chase group. Domination.

A few times someone would speed up a lot and rip apart the paceline and I had to close the gap. That started to hurt after a while. Keep thinking good thoughts. The harder you push, the faster you'll get those sandwiches.

OHH SANDWICHES! Must. Push. Harder!

I think our group of 10 fragmented with around 8 miles to go. I kept trying to ride at tempo and pushing at threshold for the hills.

Before I knew it, I saw the 1 KM to go sign. I was way out of contention for anything, but I decided to ramp it up. Coming around the final bend, I sprinted for all I was worth. I wanted to see what I could do after such a hard race. I could do nothing.

My back was killing me after the race. I couldn't really bend it for a few hours after the race. That was a little ridiculous.

All in all, a good day.

I'm looking forward to next weekend's circuit race, and tokeneke the following weekend.

I have a feeling that my calling is more towards crits and track racing (soon to try hopefully), but I've learned that I love road races and will continue to try to enjoy them. I need to work on my threshold a lot.

I think that's what this winter is going to be dedicated to. Lots and lots of threshold work. Hopefully I can do a few early season road races. Maybe this is a good reason to do more early season collegiate stuff. Just to rack on the road races.

As this season starts to 'wind down' a little, there are only a few races left and most of them aren't crits. It's a nice time to be changing gears a little bit and doing some road races for a change.

I'm really looking forward to trying a stage race later in the fall, and trying my hand at some cross racing around the same time to just do something not really related to road biking. I think getting off road every now and then will prove to be a good change of pace and allow me to be mentally fresher in the future. The same thing applies with track racing. Instead of sprint workouts, a day at the track every couple of weeks would be awesome.

This season isn't even over and I'm already dreaming about the next one!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Week Recap.

As I try to prepare for the beatdown my legs are bound to receive at the Tour of the Hilltowns on saturday, I sit at work reflecting on the last few races I've done.

I've come to realize that I peaked for about 3 weeks in june and did really well. Since then, no matter what I try doing, I can't get to the front of a race. That's ironic since the earlier season races were most people's target races, and my form was there. I wish I just had someone tell me what I was doing wrong with positioning. Some tactical blunders were made, and I rode with my nose in the wind a bunch, but no matter what I seem to have lost my uncanny ability to just find myself at the front. Ironically, that was around the same time that I swapped saddles and stopped using the old school flite saddles. As much as I might want to blame the saddle swap, I don't think that can be the issue. In any event, I certainly wouldn't go back to the flite. Even after 1k miles of riding it, I still had issues that would pop up more often than they should. I'll leave you and your imagination to figure out what those could have been.

I think I need some visual training, and I know just where to find it. There really is no substitute for good helmet cam footage as pre-race prep.
Thanks to Sprinterdellacasa (aka carpediemracing) for all his footage that is just awesome to watch.

In any event, I raced at Naugatuck this past sunday. I hadn't really been feeling well for the past few days with a bit of a fever, and hadn't ridden in the 2 days leading up to the race so my expectations weren't terribly high.

I drove down to the race with teammate Paul in his fly new car. We listened to some good tunes to pump ourselves up pre race. I need some heavy music to get me a little angry before a race, else I don't ride aggressively enough. Go figure.

We get down to the race, register, and start to warm up. I bump into a racer named Benjamin, whom I've raced with a few times. He's the one who heckled me before the Keith Burger crit and tried to psyche me out for the race. I haven't placed since. Go figure.

The race was delayed due to some cars on the course, so we kept on warming up. I was riding next to Ben when he sped ahead for a second. From the left another racer came flying onto his wheel, and I was behind him. A few moments later, I was on the ground. It turns out that Ben had bunny hopped a pothole and the guy behind him freaked and locked up his brakes.
My choices were:
a) Run into his cassette
b) Try gunning for the back of his tire and try moving left away from him

I went for b, and ended up on the ground. Some road rash on my knee, and the bike's bar tape was a little torn. Live and learn, no big deal. What really sucked was that the race officials didn't have a first aid kit on hand. I had to get paper towels, throw water on them and then use those to clean the dirt out of my wounds. I had wet wipes in the car, maybe I should have just gone and used those instead, but I wasn't really that concerned. The blood dried up soon enough, and I found myself lining up to race.

The course layout is interesting. The first turn is a sharp left turn into a downhill riddled with potholes. The second turn is another left where the apex is lined with potholes. This leads to a 2 hill ascent into another sharp left before the start finish line. That's a lap at Naugatuck. The course is a triangle littered with potholes.

As usual, Paul got bored with the race early and went on a few attacks. He picked up a prime and stayed away for another lap or two before he was caught.

My strategy was pretty stupid. I couldn't move up well, so I hit the gas on the uphill and tried to move up the windy stretch every few laps. I guess I was bored as well, and since I wasn't well, I didn't really have any illusions of grandeur. Needless to say, my legs started complaining towards the end of the race.

Somewhere with about 10 to go, a CCNS guy attacked and got away for a little bit. No one wanted to work together, so he was reeled in rather quickly.

With 2 to go, he attacked again, right next to me. I jumped on his wheel hoping that we could stay away for a bit. We gapped the field a bit and he sat up.

Wait. What?

Why he sat up is beyond me, maybe he wanted to thin the herd down for a cleaner sprint?

I kept at it, with 2 'blue' teammates in front of me. Coming around the hills, one of them sat up to give his 'leader' a gap. That was a dumb idea. He would have been better served working. I shot around them both only to be by myself, where I quickly faded and got gobbled up by the pack.

I had barely reintegrated myself when Paul shot another attack. It was a well timed catch and release, and he had a good gap going till he blew up with about half a lap to go, his early attacks and prime hunting being his undoing.

As the pack caught him, I tried to move up on the hills once more. No dice. I blew up and sat up. I was too far back to do anything noteworthy, and there's never any point sprinting for a place out of the top 10.

I tried a real attack for the first time in a race. It was awesome. I went too early, but I think I can do well with a better timed attack. Lets see what the future holds.

I came home after that race feeling pretty exhausted and wiped out, which is unusual for me since I normally do 2 of these back to back without issue. Riding while sick, heh.

I'm hoping I can hang out with the lead group on saturday, but skinny climber I am no longer. I guess I might have to settle for the gruppetto.

That's bike racing.

It'll be the first real road race I've ever done, and I'm excited for it, hills and all.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Quote Check

I haven't written about this much, but I figure it's fitting.

At the end of last april, I had a bad bike wreck that forced me to leave Wesleyan for the semester. Like, 'falling off the bike face first at 45 mph coming downhill resulting in multiple broken bones in my face and 4 broken teeth and still have more surgeries a year after' bad. I was off the bike till september, aside from a few stints on the trainer and a couple of late evening easy spins outside. I managed to finish all but one of my classes, and actually raised my grade point average. I had a lot of time on my hands with no riding to do.

I sometimes wonder what my life would have been like if that wouldn't have happened, and sometimes I've wondered if it would have been better off/or worse. Then I realized that it just 'is'. That being said, I wouldn't wish it upon anyone else.

I learned a lot about myself in those months and continue to do so, I think I'm much more dedicated in all avenues of my life since then. I remember watching the olympics and tearing up every.single.time. that commercial came up that featured the African runner who got cramps in an event and had to limp to the finish. His father came out of the stands and helped him cross.

With all that out of the way, here's to the quotes.

There are a few that I've found just hit me in the past year;

1) Here we are, (Mr.Pilgrim), trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why.

For a few moments, there was inevitably a time when I wondered 'Why me', only to realize that you're dealt a hand and you can either play it well or play it poorly. I tried pretty hard to make the most of the hand that I was dealt. I'm still trying to do that.

We often waste time wondering about the what if's and the what if nots, and questioning our decision making. While questioning yourself is generally a good thing, delving too much into the 'why' of times past can sometimes hinder the process of moving forward. At certain times, we shouldn't wonder why we're placed in the position we're in, we just need to make the most of it or risk losing out.

I've been trying hard.

2) So it goes.

Someone pointed out that Vonnegut uses this phrase to talk about death as a play on the human minds inability to comprehend mass numbers. We know what a thousand is, but when we hear that a thousand people died, we can't process the number. Statistics aren't natural, I suppose.

At the risk of sounding naive, I think he also intended readers to think about the fact that things sometimes just happen and you can't really control everything.

3) We will never be here again.

If you know about Svein Tuft, you know about his unorthodox rise to the pro ranks. This phrase is something he has tattoo'ed on his arm.

I believe in moments, and making the most of the ones you have so you don't regret anything. At the end of the day, if you can tell yourself that you did everything you could, then you'll sleep a little easier. I do anyway.

I think about this everytime I race. As I'm dying dying dying in a race, I think of the fact that I'm in a moment I chose to be in (and paid for!) so I should be making the most of it. I don't gain anything by giving up so I might as well do everything I can and give it more than I've got.

I suppose this doesn't stand if I feel I have no chance. I'll sit up in a race if I have a position that's not worth fighting for. Then again, I think I'm going to stop doing this if I'm not endangering myself or others because learning to move up when the pace is tough will team me a lot. I owe that to myself.

That's all I've got for today.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Races and a little sprinting thought

No grocery money today.

The most eventful thing in my race was a bit of yelling that occurred on the back stretch leading up the the start/finish line early in the race. Since I was bored, I yelled out, "Why can't we be friends." And started singing that song. One of my teammates joined in from across the bunch and joined in.

Alas, no one else did. Though I'm pretty sure that I heard a few snickers.

That's about it for the races.

Felt good, but didn't have a shot to go for anything so I sat up. I'm going to play my hand differently from now on. I know how I work, and I'm going to stick to it. That's that.

Now for the sprinting thought:

I've had a few guys ask me what and how to sprint train so I figured I'd just shoot you all an email.

First, if you don't have a great sprint, don't waste your time trying to improve it too much as you'll make your other abilities suffer. Someone like Sebastian will be the first to tell you that he barely does any training for it. If he did, he'd interconvert some type 2 muscle fibers and end up losing some of his threshold and TT ability. Aka NOT worth it.


That being said I like doing 3 things.
1) Find a slight downhill that leads to a flat section or a slight uphill. Use this to get up to speed, lets say about 20 mph, or even 30ish mph depending on what you're going for. Sit in a gear you can spin at about 110-120 when you're seated and when the road starts to level up and you feel more resistance, then stand and gun it.
This helps with your leg speed and simulates what it's like to be sprinting at the end of a fast crit since speeds are often in the 35ish mph zone.

2) Find a slight uphill, and sprint up it in a gear or two harder than you would. Pull up on your bars and try to rip them off your stem.
This will train leg strength and utilizing your arms. You can add 100 watts to your sprint if you use your arms right, more if you're not as scrawny as I am.
Also, make sure everything is tight when you do this ;)

3) On the road, start from around 5 mph in your little ring in the middle of the cassette. Jump as hard as you can and spin as fast as you can without shifting. Try hitting 200 rpm. You're basically spinning like mad and feeling almost no resistance at the end. Stop after about 20-30 seconds.
This helps train leg speed and your 'jump'.


I'm not terribly familiar with doing these or being a part of a successful one, but there are 2 ways I think a leadout should work.

1) Designated leadout person isn't feeling great and thinks they're going to blow before the sprint, so instead, they take their sprinter to the front and then promptly blow up.

2) Team masses at the front with 3-4 people with 2-3 laps to go. One person pulls as hard as they can for 1 lap stringing out the field while shielding teammates behind them.
They pull off when they blow.
This continues till the last corner before the finish, or a little after depending on the course, when the last guy in front pulls off and the sprinter is relatively fresh for the finish.

Blowing up during a leadout

If you're trying to lead someone out and you blow or can't do it for whatever reason. I think it's a good idea to either flick your elbow furiously and/or give a thumbs down behind you. That way, you did what you can and helped and it's up to the person behind you to figure the rest out for themselves.

I hope everyone had a great weekend!

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Tour Is in Full Force

Did anyone really see that coming?

Contador destroys the TT, yes he destroys it. Sure, he got beaten by good ole boy Fabian, but that's not a big deal. Fabian won't last on the climbs and he won't be able to make enough bank in the TT's to win. It'll be awesome if he gets on the podium, but it won't be in yellow.

Then it happens. The epic break in a flat stage where breaks weren't supposed to succeed. Columbia drills it in the crosswinds and the peloton is in shambles. A break of about 27 riders gets away. And who's in there but Lance...

Yes. Lance. Not Contador. Contador was supposedly hanging out in the back of the field when the break went. I.e. Not the place for a GC hopeful. Now, Lance is ahead of contador in the GC by almost 20 seconds. Sure it's not that much, but it brings a new twist to the Astana leadership debacle.

Lance just proved that he has some tactical know how that Contador seems to be missing. No doubt Contador is still better than Lance in the TT's and on the 'hills' but if the team is working for Lance, then all that goes out the window. Remember Lance playing super domestique to Levi in the Giro? That was a bit embarrasing for Levi, but Lance's form has been coming back.

Now with the TTT tomorrow, Lance and Contador will stay the same in the GC relative to each other, but others might move up and around. Doubtful though, since Astana can hold their own in the TTT. I think they might be my favorite for the win, but CSC will probably give them a good run for the money. You have to admit that having 4 guys in the top 10 after the prologue is pretty good. Astana came in with great form.

Now the question is, who will lead them?

With all that in mind, mad props to Cavendish. His form is disgusting at this point of time. I hope he makes it to Paris in Green. As a wanna-be sprinter, it boggles my mind to see how fast these guys are after a full day of racing. My favorite sprinter is and will always be McEwen, due to his knack for performing well with little or no team support. Cavendish needs a train to get up to speed, but hopefully with time his tactician sense will grow and he'll be able to do more damage on his own.

Something about McEwen's ego also strikes out. Perhaps I like him because I watched a fan made sprint video of his set to the song 'firestarter' by Prodigy again and again and again. I still love that video, too bad the song was taken out due to copy right issues. Bummer.

That's the thing about sprinters though, you HAVE to have a bit of an ego. If you don't think that you're good enough to be the guy to win, you will never have what it takes to be there when the pushing and shoving begins. That's what I've learnt from watching McEwen. He came/comes off as a bit of a jackass, but he is *just* that damn good.

Cavendish's performance (I.e. win) at Milan San-Remo this year has already shown that he has what it takes to be a good classics rider in addition to being 'just' a sprinter. I love the rivalry with Boonen. It makes things interesting.

Columbia's new sponsor HTC has already received their money's worth with the sponsorship. Here's why:

(Hint: HTC makes cell phones)

I can't believe he actually did that. So freaking badass!

Contador Vs. Lance for Astana Leadership.
Thor et al Vs. Cavendish for Green jersey and stage wins.

This is going to be an awesome tour.