Thursday, December 31, 2009

Good Riddance 2009

2009 was pretty much bullshit. Lackluster performance throughout my road and cyclocross seasons, two bad crashes (one that I'm still suffering from as I try and type with my hand in a cast), and several mechanical issues with my road bike (none that I can afford to remedy) and you have all the ingredients for a shit cocktail. Here's what I decided to do about it: stop the pity party and move on.

2010 is going to be the year of the new attitude. Focus is going to be shifted from pressure to perform to just having fun. Seems like all of 2009 I felt like I was unable to relax and let go. I think a lot of that had to do with the pressure I put on myself. So for 2010, no more pressure. It's going to be all about the fun and enjoying the fitness that comes from riding a bicycle.

So with that: Piss off 2009, I'm over you. Here's to a pressure-free, fun and prosperous 2010!

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Where is Thumbkin?

If you look hard enough, he's in there, all wrapped up in bandages. According to my surgeon, the procedure was a success and the torn ligament in my thumb has been sutured back together. Now for the recovery: 5-6 weeks in a cast/splint followed by several weeks of rehab to get strength and range of motion back.

The craziest thing about the whole ordeal was the nerve blocking agent that the anesthesiologist injected into my arm. It made my entire right arm numb and rendered it totally useless for about 12-13 hours. At one point, I was a little concerned that they screwed something up and I had lost use of my arm indefinitely, the effect lasted so long. But, little by little, starting with a slight movement in my fingers, the feeling came back and the pain set in...

So now I'm riding the Vicodin Express, and feeling a bit loopy, with only a dull ache in my thumb. On the road to recovery, it's going to be a frustrating trip...

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Year in Review

The Michigan State Cyclocross Championship was my last race of the season. Even if I planned on more races, due to an unfortunate crash on the first lap, it still would have closed out my season. I ended up with a severely sprained thumb, and, after a couple weeks, it just hasn't been healing. Turns out the reason my thumb hasn't been healing, is that I have a torn ligament. Torn ligament = surgery... So, on Tuesday I go under the knife. After the ligament is repaired, it's 5 weeks in a cast followed by several weeks of PT. So, no riding outside for me until the cast is off and I have some strength/mobility back in my hand. My trainer and I are going to be intimate friends.

I've just been taking it easy these last couple weeks. I started a new gig at my company and there's been a lot to learn. So that's kept me busy (busy would actually be an understatement...) So, now that I've got some down time, it's a great opportunity for some reflection on the season past.

  • Road Season: After an 8 year hiatus from road racing, I was finally giving it another shot. I got my license and I was starting out as a Cat 4. I can pretty much sum it up in one word: Disappointment. After a series of mid-pack finishes, a bad crash in June that I never quite recovered from, and a stalled out season-end, I was glad to say goodbye. This put me in a really bad spot coming into my "real" season, cyclocross. I was kinda depressed, over-trained, and just not enjoying myself. This taught me something. First, I had set some unrealistic expectations. And second and probably most important - Fun first

  • Cyclocross Season: With an upgrade to B this year, I knew there would be some challenges. My crappy road season didn't help matters any and my first few 'cross races definitely reflected that. I started to find my rhythm near the end of October and I kinda stalled out. It seemed like everybody was improving except me. Even guys I was beating a couple races before were kicking my butt. That's when I remembered my new mantra - fun first. If you focus on having fun, everything else will come around. An even if it doesn't, you at least had a good time. This isn't my job, and God knows, I don't need it to feel like one.

That's why I have mixed feelings about the 'cross season coming to an end.  On one hand (my good one...) I had a lot of fun, and hanging out with all my fellow 'crossers is a good time, but on the other, I was wore out. Well, now I've got all the R&R I could ever want, as I rehabilitate my thumb over these next several weeks. Expect to see lots of blog entries and I'll update on how the surgery went (and the good drugs I'm prescribed...) when it's over.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Not the way I wanted it to end...

My last cyclocross race of the season.  So far, it had been kind of lack luster and I just decided that this whole season was going to be one giant learning experience. Cue the Michigan State Cyclocross Championship.

This was it, the one last hurrah - now, I had no delusions of winning the State Championship or anything but I wanted to put in a decent effort, cheer on my mates and have a few barley pops with my friends at the after party. None of this was meant to be.

Let's start at the beginning. It was cold... High 20s and I got to the venue really early. So early, I was actually able to get two warm up laps before the first race started.  I completed my warm up triumvirate with one more lap before my race.

I lined up in the second row behind a pretty fast guy so I figured I would get a decent start. And... We were off. A Christmas miracle! The moment I placed my right foot on the pedal it clipped right in!  I was sitting nicely in the top ten as we entered the first turn. After a little meandering, we found ourselves coming up to the biggest obstacle of the coarse; a muddy, severely off-camber section that was impossible to maintain traction on. As we came to it, I figured it would result in quite the bottle-neck (and it did) so I got off and ran the entire thing! I passed at least 3 guys. I remounted and continued on. That's when disaster struck. 

A short descent - nothing tricky and BAM!!! I'm on the ground. Everything kinda went in slow motion as I landed on the ground and saw my bike in the air coming towards me. I rolled out of the way just in time and heard the squealing of brakes and a couple obscenities as the racers behind me tried to avoid my one-man pile-up... I got up, dusted myself off and took inventory. Bike's ok, my hand hurts a bit but I seem fine, I remounted and I couldn't grip my handle bars.... My right hand, no matter how hard I tried, couldn't wrap around my bar or my brake hood. I figured my thumb was broken. My race was done... 5 minutes in and I'm DNF'ing. Sucks.

After visiting the doctor, it seems it's not broken just a bad sprain and some possible ligament damage. I will need to see a specialist to find out...

Not the way I wanted to end my 'cross season - that's for sure.

Saturday, November 28, 2009


Cyclist are a misunderstood breed. More often than not, the misunderstanding stems from ignorance. Ignorance is such an ugly word, and in this regard, I'm merely referring to the general populace's lack of knowledge about the sport. This lack of knowledge manifests itself in many ways, whether it be a shout from a passing car to "ride on the sidewalk!" an odd look from a co-worker when you head out in your spandex for a lunch-time workout, or a family member commenting that "you look a little gaunt", these are all par for the course.

There's one kernel of cycling knowledge that if conveyed to the masses, would help clear up the misunderstandings and improve cyclist/non-cyclist relations everywhere. That nugget of insight? To truly know how difficult this sport really is. I would want them to experience the suffering and sacrifices that we go through just to be pack fodder in our local race series. They should know what it feels like to physically go above anything you thought you were capable of, just to secure a top ten spot in a cyclocross race. I would like them to know that fifth place is pretty damn good and doesn't even come close to reflecting the time and effort or the sacrifices made for said achievement.

If they could only walk a kilometer or two in our Sidis...

And, as if the physical challenges weren't enough, cycling exists in the U.S. (and, especially here in Michigan) as a fringe sport. If I were playing for a local
(American style) football team and needed some additional time to train for the "Big Game", hell, my boss would be tripping over himself to give me the day off. But, since it's cycling, I have to sneak out the back door to ride on my lunch hour to meet my weekly training goal. This may go beyond misunderstanding and into the realm of cycling being an accepted form of sport here in the U.S., but if people understood the sport, that next step of acceptance isn't that far off.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Bloomer Park CX - My Streak Continues

Photo courtesy of Curt Potocki

This was going to be the race. The one where it all starts to come together and I'd see some improvement in my standings. So it was with high hopes but low expectations that I toed the line on this foggy Sunday.

This course is pretty flat overall. There's a downhill section of single track with a sharp little climb after it and another climb on a grassy hill followed by a two off-camber turns, just to make it suspenseful. Throw in two barrier sections with 90 degree approaches and you've got the course highlights. In other words, it's pretty much up my alley.

From the start, I knew it wasn't in the cards. My start was terrible. I tried to clip in not once, not twice, but THREE TIMES before my feeble muscle memory allowed my cleat to find the pedal. That put me at the back of the group by the time we hit the first grass section. Now I had some serious work to do. As everyone started to string out single file, I started passing. I managed to bridge a gap near the middle of lap one and settled in with a group of three. We didn't really work together, I just moved to the front and rode at a tempo just on edge of my threshold. I was feeling great! My legs were there today, no shortage of power and my lungs felt better than they had in about a month. That shitty start must have killed it for me. Our grupetto stuck together until lap 4 or 5 and then I started to pull away.

And that was all she wrote - 11th place. In the last 4 races, I have finished in either 11th or 12th place. Now, I finally feel like my form is coming around, and there's only one race left on the calendar, the State Championship. I've run out of runway...

Photo courtesy of Curt Potocki

Props go out to:
  • Dan G. - another second place! Nice work. Clint better be shaking in his compression socks...
  • Mark C. - for running Bloomer with no brakes (essentially). You are one crazy sonofabitch!!
  • Curt P. - for the nice photo work, making us B racers look better than we actually are...
  • Dude riding the velodrome (I believe your name was Bruce)- you sold me. Next summer, I'm gonna give track riding a shot. Maybe it will be good for the CX...
  • Anne S. - Welcome back, and first place nonetheless!
  • Zdenek Stybar - nope, he wasn't at the race... but just wanted to give him props for his back to back victories this weekend!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Storming the Beaches at Stony Creek CX

Me, soaking up the rays on the beach.

Stony Creek is one of my favorite courses. Last Sunday lived up to my expectations. Sand? Check. Mud? Check. Hairpin turns? Check. Suffering and pain? Absolutely.

Here's how it went down:
Start on a nice, wide paved area (read: lots of speed) followed by a funnel-like procession onto a 6 ft. wide bike path. Then grass, then sand, then mud, then grass and lots of turns, two barriers, then tons o' turns, then two more barriers then the finish. Wash, rinse, repeat - 5 more times. Had a nice little battle for 11th with a fellow teammate, but alas, a mis-handled corner on the second to last lap and I came in 12th. I love that in 'cross there are gut-wrenching battles for 11th place. Awesome.

Some observations/learnings from the race:
  • I'm kinda stagnant right now - 11th or 12th in the last 3 races. Some of the guys I was beating a few races ago are now on the podium. What gives?
  • I actually felt pretty good on the bike for a change. Lungs weren't there though.
  • I'm FINALLY getting used to the "new" pedals - didn't have any issues clipping in (Yee Haw!)
  • The steed is going to need a serious overhaul at the end of the season.
  • I've never thought of myself as a "big guy" but looking at race pictures, I look like a freaking umber-hulk out there. At least, compared to the other more svelte racers.
  • This was confirmed when, at the race conclusion, I was told, "You'd be a lot faster if you could loose 10 - 15 lbs." Time to go on a diet?

The face says it all... Thanks Curt for taking the photos!

In order to keep my fragile ego from totally coming apart, I have also generated a short list of reasons (excuses?) for my stagnant performance:
  • I was in Florida for 6 days. All I did fitness-wise was run for 30 minutes every morning and swim a little. This is comparable to walking around the mall for 20 minutes/day to prepare for the Boston Marathon.
  • Sinusitis - I've got it and it makes it a real bitch to breathe.
  • I got a horrible start.
  • I forgot my lucky cycling cap.
Enough reflection, now we look forward. Bloomer Park CX next weekend. That was the location of my first, and only, podium finish (3rd place C-race, last season). A repeat may not be likely but, who knows?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Few More of My Favorite Things

Sidi Dominator MTB Shoes

I've owned three pairs of Sidi's over the course of my cycling career. My first pair, a pair of road cycling shoes, I purchased in 1996 and had to be retired in 2000 because I had to walk 8 miles back to my apartment when I double flatted in the foothills of the Rockies. This absolutely trashed the soles. The pair I purchased to replace them are still going strong almost a decade later (I've also since learned to carry a patch kit along with a spare tube).

My Sidi Dominators I got right before this 'cross season. They are awesome! Granted I was coming off an old pair of Shimano MTB shoes circa 1994 so you have to consider the basis for comparison...

Smart Wool Socks

These are great for keeping the tootsies warm during those late season cyclocross races. They are soft and cozy, I even wear them off the bike. And they are machine washable. Bonus.

Dumonde Tech Chain Lube

I've tried the gamut of bike lubes and this one is my all-time favorite. It's really long-lasting and it holds up remarkably well in all kinds of conditions. The only thing is, you have to wipe your chain an awful lot after application.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Time Off

A nice week of R&R in sunny Florida. It really couldn't have come at a better time; no races scheduled for me this weekend, just coming off a bad sinus infection and bronchitis, and getting the crap kicked out of me last weekend in Ann Arbor.

So here I am, enjoying a nice family vacation complete with sunny, 75 degree weather and a Mickey Mouse-crazed two year old. I gotta say, it's nice. The odd thing is, as a cyclist, it's really hard to let go of that feeling that, if you aren't constantly training, your fitness will totally fade away. Experience has taught me otherwise, but there's still that nagging in the back of my mind. Last year, I went on a similar trip and my first two races after coming back from vacation were my best of the season. I think the problem is, it's hard to accept that doing nothing may actually help and lead to better fitness. Rest is important too.

Of course, I'm not totally doing nothing. I'm doing a bit of running (3o minutes or so in the AM, when I feel like it) and some swimming, but no bike time. I guess we'll see how the legs feel come Sunday at Stony Creek!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Vets Park Made My Lungs Bleed!

This was a pretty common occurrence for me last weekend. Running... Thanks for the photos Bruce!


That's all I can muster after a tough weekend of racing.

Saturday was a fantastically stereotypical cyclocross day with cold, biting wind and a nice on/off drizzle. Perfect for the embrocation. I laid it on so thick my legs looked like Magda from There's Something About Mary.

The course was set up so there were two pretty decent climbs as the major elements. One was a forced run-up with a set of double barriers at the base of it. The other was steep and a bit soggy so you (or perhaps I should say, "I") had to run it. That made for a lot of running. I hate to run. On about lap 3, I noticed that my lungs weren't really cooperating, in fact, I actually walked one of the run-ups that lap. Not even a slight jog to make it look good, I WALKED. That's humbling, when guys are passing you and you're having troubles putting one foot in front of the other. Oh well, suffering is a good character builder. All that suffering and not even a top ten, I ended the day in 11th place.

The course was basically a reverse of the previous day which meant those hills we were running yesterday, we were bombing today. That also meant a fast course. It had dried out a bit so you could sustain your momentum and the wind had died down. All in all, it was a great day to race. Except I woke up feeling a bit crappy. Regardless, I figured I'd give it the ol' college try. I told myself to focus on one thing, getting a good start. I certain achieved that! I was sitting nicely in 3rd place when I began to fade about 3/4 of a lap in. This trend continued until I got into a group of 4 and we spent the remaining laps battling for 9th-13th place. I ended up in 12th. That's when things got ugly. I had a couple coughing spasms (seemed like your typical CX cough) at the race and on the drive home. No biggie. Later that night, the coughing really hadn't stopped and, not to be gross, but I noticed some blood... Well, long story short, I went to the doc's and I have a nasty bout of bronchitis. Sucks. I'm going to take a bit of a break here and rest up, then it's off to Florida for a little R&R. The humid air will do the battle-scarred lungs some good! Hopefully I will be recovered enough for Stony Creek, cuz I love the sand!

Thanks to the usual cast of photogs for capturing the fun:

Friday, October 30, 2009

Maybury Lungbuster CX

Last Sunday, if you weren't in Kentucky, the action around these parts was at Maybury State Park. There was a certain amount of menace and eerie anticipation for this race. For starters, it was called "Lungbuster". This was, I assumed, both a nod toward the park's past (It was a tuberculosis sanatorium back in the day) and a warning of the impending lung scorching that awaited the participants. The course proved that the name was true to its word.

Me on the run-up (I'm the guy in purple and yellow right behind the guy in black) Thanks Bruce for the photos!

The race definitely wasn't my cup of tea, too much single track and a technical descent, but that's partly what made it fun. The race started off well enough, I was probably in about 8th or 9thth place at the start. Then my lack of technical skills became apparent and, 8 laps and a couple crashes later, 14th place. Not a great result for me but it definitely put me out of my comfort zone, terrain-wise, so hopefully I picked up something there (other than the scrape along my left shin).

Props go out to the following:
  • Steve: your amazing technical skills and your Spicy Mango-powered cardiovascular system saw you to a top ten spot. Nice work!
  • Jan: thanks for sharing in my pre-race fear of the muddy, boulder strewn, off-camber descent - I felt your pain, brother.
  • Bruce and Andy: your kind sentiments on the run-up were nothing less than inspiring. I love you guys.
  • The dude holding the can of Zima (or some other alcoholic beverage): thank you for ensuring all the racers were properly hydrated - your selflessness is exemplary. If you are taking orders, I enjoy Bells Double Cream Stout - especially when I'm at the point of anaerobic exhaustion...
Here's a nice little video Bruce took of the run-up. Steve and I are in the purple and yellow.

Next weekend is a double in Ann Arbor. This race is one of my favorites. We'll see how she goes!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Mad Anthony and The Grinder

Considering it's almost the weekend, I feel kinda foolish finally posting something about last weekend's racing. Given the caliber of these events, I figured I should at least give them their due.

Better late than never.

Let's start with last Saturday's Race:

The race took place on the grounds of historic Fort Wayne, a fort constructed in the 1800's to defend against the British invading from Canada. Last Saturday saw an invasion of another kind, when scores of cyclocrossers stormed the steep run-ups of this twisted race course.

Twisted, it definitely was. The start consisted of a 100 meter straight followed by a sweeping left turn into what can best be described as a grass wall. This thing was steep, I had a bit of trouble riding up it during my practice laps. Once at the summit of the grass wall, it was a 180 degree turn right back down... What followed was a series of chicanes, 180 degree bends and straight-aways that offered absolutely no quarter whatsoever. Then there was a two-track "road" around the outside walls of the fort. This dirt was packed down really well so you could really get some speed, the only problem being the razor sharp pieces of brick and foundation sticking up from the ground. Hit one of these and your tire was toast. I think a lot of racers learned this the hard way. The course then took a turn and it was into a really dark tunnel through the actual fort walls. Really cool. A lot of the photogs were lurking in the shadows to get a unique shot or two of the action. Exit the tunnel and it was up a cobblestone street to the top of a steep embankment and then right down it. This descent was a bit steep, I'm a bit embarrassed to say, on my first practice lap, I went right through the tape trying to negotiate the drop off... Next, a turn into a set of barriers and right back up the same hill we just went down. A few twists and turns later and it was back to the start/finish.

The course was great fun and the venue was very unique. The start even featured a guy dressed in civil war garb that signaled the start by firing a musket. I also managed to get 7th place, which happened to be my first top ten of the year!

Saturday took a lot out of me but I had another race to do on Sunday.

Sunday's Race:
This was the Lower Huron course in Belleville, MI. This is a local favorite due to the variety of terrain and a nasty run-up affectionately referred to as "The Grinder". This was your more typical Michigan 'cross race, with a sand pit, 3 sets of barriers, and the aforementioned run-up, all taking place in a Metro Park. The race went ok, even though my legs didn't feel quite 100%, I ended up coming in 9th.

I'm not complaining. I'm making progress, and my goal this year was to finish the majority of my races in the top 10 in the "B" category. Well, that's 2 out of 5 so far. I had a bit of a bumpy start, but I think I'm finally back on track and riding where I want to be.

NOTE: To those of you keeping tabs, I rode the Challenge Latex tubes both days and have a few observations to report:
  1. They are light and seem to allow for much quicker spin-up
  2. Watch the tire pressure - they have a harder "feel" than what the actual pressure is. I recommend having a good pressure gauge to double check
  3. There was a few times during the races this weekend where it almost felt like I had a flat. I didn't, but it felt a little wishy-washy
  4. My friend Steve was running the same tubes, he pinched a bit of the tube between his rim and sidewall. The tube failed pretty catastrophically on his first lap. The latex is really flexible, it's very easy for it to get trapped between the tire and the rim when your mounting them.
  5. Make sure you use powder in your tires when you mount them, it keeps the latex from sticking to the inside of your tire.
  6. I'm a fan (at least until I flat during a race), they have some drawbacks but I think the light weight and the better acceleration make up for it.

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Few of My Favorite Things...

As I ease into my second season of cyclocross racing, I'm accumulating a mental list of some things that seem to work well for me, or, things that I just think are pretty damn cool. So from time to time, when creativity fails me, I'll post a few of them and the reasons I think they are top-shelf (this just so happens to be one of those times).

Challenge Fango Open Tubulars

Challenge Fango, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways:
  1. They grip in the corners like a sonuvabitch
  2. Supple as all get out
  3. They look cool
  4. They corner like they are on rails
  5. They are as close as I'll get to tubulars this season
  6. Did I mention how well they corner?

Mad Alchemy Medium Embrocation

Ahhh... Just cracking the jar and getting a whiff of this potent elixir conjures up images of run-ups, barriers and cow bells. It is to cyclocross what Vicks is to chest congestion. In the middle of the summer, my wife has caught me huffing this stuff in my basement, hoping for some sort of 'cross hallucination.

  • 20-30 minutes pre-race: Rub on legs for 5 minutes or so, really massage it in - it's also good for feet, lower back, hands (just watch it when you go for the pre-lineup pee...)
  • Enjoy the blissful warmth!
  • Remove with a dry towel and baby wipes
  • Enjoy the after-burn...

Challenge Latex Cyclocross Tubes

Before you go thinking I'm sponsored by Challenge or something, I'm not. I bought and tried all this stuff on my own. Took a chance. And, in this case, it paid off. These tubes are really light and supple. The best part is, they are available in 'cross tire sizes. You can shave about 100g off each wheel over regular butyl tubes. The ride quality seems improved, but where I noticed it most was accelerations.
This is probably the next best thing to actually having tubulars.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Saturday, October 10, 2009

It's all starting to come back to me...

No racing for me this weekend. All the action is down in Ohio and we're having a birthday party for my daughter, Jane on Sunday so I wanted to stay local. Over the coarse of the last few days, I've done a couple 'cross workouts and things are starting to click. My strength is coming back and my bike handling skills are improving. More importantly, my confidence is improving. My shitty performance over the spring and summer road racing really did a number on me - especially the crash.

Not sure if it was over-training or what but, I'm starting to feel like my old self again.


On a side note: Current World Champ Niels Albert is really kicking some cyclocross ass over in Europe. He just nabbed his 5th consecutive victory, with a 40 second lead over Sven Nys, who came in second...


Sunday, October 4, 2009

Working on Our Night Moves...

Thought a borrowed line from a great Seger tune would be a fitting title to recap my first night cyclocross race.

The PRO sheen...

A night race involves a whole different preparatory mindset than the usual day races. Racing in B, races usually start around 11 AM. So race day morning is usually spent packing the car and driving to the race. Well, when you're start time isn't until 7 PM, that leaves a lot of time thinking about the race. It's kinda like a mosquito bite, you may forget about it for a bit, but that nagging itch is never totally out of mind.

That "itch" was there all day (and the nerves to go with it) so I was definitely relieved to car-pool with my buddy Steve to race. The drive was a little over an hour so the conversation provided a great distraction.

If I had to think of stereotypical cyclocross conditions, Saturday would have been it. Overcast and rainy with temps in the 50s. I love that kind of weather. I get overheated pretty easily and those conditions just suit me. Plus, any good excuse to pull out the Mad Alchemy and embrocate up is just fine by me... I love that stuff so much I could eat it.

Back to the race - The course was set up in a city park in Monroe. It's pretty damn flat, with a solitary mound on one end of the course. This hill featured the typical run up and a short climb. This course definitely favored the power rider with lots of straights and not a lot of technical stuff.

For a warm up, me, Steve and Brian Love (gotta say Brian's full name cuz I dig it) did a short ride around a neighborhood near the park. I headed back to the car and laid the embro on extra thick (my legs looked like George Hamilton with jaundice), then it was onto the course to check it out. I did about 1 1/2 laps when I noticed that the starting line was already full of riders. I hustled over there and had to line up in back.

The race went decently for me. I felt better than I have in a long time, like my strength is finally coming back. I crashed once in the last lap (a remount mishap) but held on to my position, which ended up being 12th place. Not bad. The form is coming around.

After cooling down, Steve and I grabbed the cowbells and set up camp on the mound to cheer on our fellow crossers doing the single speed, masters and elite races. Here's what I learned - it is an amazing amount of fun cheering on your com padres as they put themselves through hell. I'm so hoarse today I can barely speak. Amazingly fun - I gotta stick around more often.

A huge thanks to Tailwind and Jack's Bicycle for putting on the race and to Andrea Tucker and Hans Nyberg for capturing our suffering for posterity.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Victory is Mine!

Grappling with the elements and a field of 100+ riders, today, I was finally able to claim that elusive top podium spot. As this is my first win ever, I'd like to give a more detailed account then I typically provide of the circumstances that led to this amazing victory.

The weather was damp and in the mid 50's as I gathered up my clothing and gear for today's ensuing ride. I had to choose wisely, since the temp was supposed to get into the low 70s and I didn't want to overheat. I decided to go with a short sleeved base and jersey, bib shorts, arm and leg warmers, a cycling cap under my helmet and "Belgian Booties". With weather more befitting a Spring Classic in April than a late September ride, I mounted my trusty road bike and headed out. Little did I know what I was in for.

My plan was to ride to the start for a warm up and just see where my legs took me from there. As I arrived at the start, I noticed two things immediately. First was the overwhelming size of the field. There must have been at least 100+ riders. Second, that I must have missed the start since some riders were already well on their way.

With no time to dilly-dally, I picked my way through the main pack and set my sights on the two break-away groups up the path. There was one group of five, and then, further up, another duo of riders. As I slowly reeled in the first group I was amazed at how great my legs felt. I was turning over my 39x20 like it was nothing! The speed was high as I looked down and saw the "30" flash on the screen of my cyclo-computer. Then I remembered it was set to kph not mph... Nevertheless, I was nearly on top of the group of five and, with the speed I was carrying, I knew I would just blow right by them. As I neared the last rider in the group, I thought about jumping in the rotation to recover from my effort, and just as I was almost on his wheel, he pulled off the side of the path!! Then the craziest thing happened, the remaining 4 riders did the same. I just chalked it up to them "answering the call of nature" but there was a woman in the group too...

Oh well, no time to dwell, I still had the 2 lone leaders to chase down. I would catch glimpses of them as the path twisted and wound among the foliage, and I could tell I was definitely gaining. I upshifted to my 39x14 and really put the hammer down. I'm not sure what got into me but I was gaining on them like they were standing still! As I approached, I slid the bike over to the left, seeking out the portion of the trail where the opposing traffic had worn a path and flew by them. The man in front looked at me with an inquisitive glance. As I looked back, I noticed he was about 70 years old, I must have caught up to the Masters group...

As I turned my gaze up the trail, I noticed the finish line. There was no one in front of me! I had a good 30-40 seconds on the group of two behind me so I adjusted my jersey and held my arms aloft in a victory salute as I coasted across the line. The promoters had a refreshment table set up at the finish but I by-passed that and instead opted for a cooled down. Victory has never tasted so sweet. I almost need to repeat it to believe it's real: I finished first in the Clinton River Trail Fall Classic 10 Mile Fun Ride. And it was all by accident that I happened upon these cyclists admiring the fall colors, but as a wise man once told me, every ride is a race. Victory is mine!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Welcome to the Killer B's...

Day 1 - in the belly of the beast...

So this is a bit late in coming but I really needed to let my first races of the season percolate before giving them their due. Also, I was hoping to include some pics courtesy of the local photogs.

To recap, last weekend was the Michigan Double Cross, a two day cyclocross extravaganza put on by Tailwind, Kinetic Systems and the Flying Rhinos Cycling Club. The course was set up at Waterford Hills Raceway and came complete with the usual suspects; undulations, two sets of barriers, 180 degree turns, sand, and bumpy terra firma. Oh, and let's not forget the "Orange Crush" - a flyover of monstrous proportions - huge, steep steps going up, a very short bridge section and a steep ramp going back down. The Orange Crush was my nemesis both days...

Day 1 - Here I am going down the ramp - looking like a pro. Good thing it's not a video, otherwise you would see how slow I really was...

First impression of the weekend: it was really refreshing to do some 'cross racing after a summer of road racing. It's such a different world. Fun seems to be a bigger priority in cyclocross. Don't get me wrong, cyclocross racing is an absolute bitch while you're out there, but in an odd way, it's fun at the same time. Maybe because the folks who race cyclocross don't take themselves as seriously... All I know is, I heard lots of folks throwing around the word "fun" at the weekend races. You rarely ever (never?) hear the term "fun" used in any context at a road race. Weird.

After chewing and digesting my races over the weekend, here's my thoughts and observations:
  • Racing in B is definitely tougher. 45+ minutes takes its toll.
  • I felt much better on Sunday than I did on Saturday, although my results didn't really show it (19th on Saturday, 17th on Sunday)
  • It was much easier for me to ride the sand on Sunday
  • Barrier work was decent - still jumping a bit high but at least it seemed smooth.
  • Need to work on my starts - getting good placement in that first turn is crucial.
  • My wife and little girl came out both days - it was great to have my own cheering section! Thanks to all the other Rhinos who offered encouragements, I heard 'em!
  • One other funny thing - every time my daughter hears a cowbell, she yells "Go Daddy!" - she's awesome!
Next up for me is a night race in Monroe, Michigan. Last year, I didn't do too shabby there so we'll see how it goes!

Thanks to Andrea Tucker, Hans Nyberg and Bruce LeBlanc for the photos!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Reality Check

My first cyclocross race of the season, the Michigan Double Cross Race 1, is officially in the record books.

Now I know where I stand, a stake has been struck into the hard, dry, Michigan ground. Now I have a point of reference from which to measure my progress.

Leading up to that first race, it's funny because there are all these expectations, preconceived notions and questions of how I would perform. How would I measure up now that I've moved up to the "B" group? Well, now all that has been answered. No more hiding behind a facade of 60 mile road rides, it's laid bare for all to see.

Maybe that's what cyclocross is about. Whether your state, national or world champion, there's no hiding. There's no team to tow you around the course, and, come the last lap, cut you loose to crush your competition There's no 100-man peloton to provide shelter.

Cyclocross is solitary, it's painful, and it's beautiful. There's a camaraderie despite the solitude, that exists in knowing that each and every racer out there is hurting too (some just go a hell of a lot faster amidst their suffering).

I consider racing "play by plays" a little stale. Is anyone really interested in hearing the minutia of every grueling minute of my race?? I've done them in the past and I kinda regret it. I'll keep that commentary to myself. Suffice to say, I was a bit underwhelmed with my performance, however, my expectations may have been too high. I felt smooth on the barriers, had big issues with the flyover, did ok cornering and felt ok power wise. I finished around 18th place (actually it was 19th place). I say "around" because I'm not positive since I didn't stick around to find out. I kept post-race lolly-gagging to a minimum since I had my family with me and I promised them a nice lunch afterward for serving as my cheering section.

FYI -My daughter (she's two) rang her first cowbell today. Yup, I'm a proud papa!

Got another race tomorrow and I can't wait. Oh yeah - congrats to fellow Rhino Mark for a strong showing in the B race - 5th place! I'll give a shout out to Jan and Steve too, you guys finished strong. Way to go!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Back From the Clinic

Nope, I'm not talking about where you go when you have The Clap, I'm talking about a cyclocross clinic. And what a doosy it was...

First off, there was this thing:

This is "The Orange Crush" and it's a bitch. If there was ever something that made you realize that you take too long to clip in, this is it. You've got roughly 6 feet up there before plummeting down the ramp...

Here are some of my thoughts, recollections and observations from the clinic:
  • Water is good, drink lots of it.
  • the sun is hot.
  • When you are being lapped by a really fast, elite level rider, they make very little noise.
  • I'm damn glad my bike has an aluminum steerer. There were a couple of my transitions coming off the ramp of "The Orange Crush" where, if my steerer had been carbon, I think it would have snapped and my face would have gotten intimate with the grassy substrate.
  • I love to hit myself in the head with my saddle when shouldering the bike. In fact, it's my favorite thing to do.
  • For those of us who are less than stellar bike-handlers, some sections are just easier to run
  • I hate running.
  • Barriers are fun.
  • I jump WAAYY too high on my remount - if not remedied, this may, one day, give me what I like to refer to as "the poor-man's vasectomy".
  • When I'm truly suffering (as I was during the last 3-4 laps of the 40 minute practice race), well wishes and words of encouragement only serve to further demoralize me.
  • Tuberculosis originated at a cyclocross race during the 1600's.
  • I love Challenge Fango tires.
  • I want a new bike.
  • I have what's know as "Monkey Arms".
  • PB&J is not a good pre-race food.
  • Fig Newtons are amazing.
  • After a long day of riding, I crave sweets and baked goods like a son-of-a-bitch (such as chocolate chip cookies and carrot cake).
  • I hate cyclocross.
  • I like things that make me suffer.
  • I love cyclocross.
Thanks to Kinetic Systems Bicycles, Tailwind Enterprises and The Flying Rhinos Cycling Club for a great time!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Kick Off Those 'Cross Webs - It's Here

It's officially cyclocross season! Actually, I've been focused on cross for the last month or so, but that was more due to a less-than-stellar road racing season (I was eager to put it behind me).

Did my first group ride with the club this past Tuesday. It was great! Perfect, stereotypical cyclocross weather (rainy and cool) and hanging out with some friends from the club, can't think of a better way to spend a Tuesday night. Although, I felt like I had gone through a thousand mini-doping controls with all the mosquitoes sampling some of my blood.

Looking forward to a great cyclocross clinic this Saturday and experiencing my first flyover... THE ORANGE CRUSH (duhn, dah, duhn...)

The Monster in the making...

Monday, September 7, 2009

New Pedals and Kicks for the 'Cross Bike

Hailing more from the financially destitute camp than the "I have 3 pit bikes and 8 sets of carbon wheels" camp, one of my friends has taken pity on me and given me a great deal on a slightly used set of Challenge Fango clinchers and a brand spanking new set of XTR mtb pedals.

Here's my impressions:

XTR Pedals
Oh my, my... Let me just start by saying, my old pedals were these old, gold Ritchey SPDs from 1996. If I dismounted in anything but dry sand and/or dry grass, I could pretty much guarantee that I would be riding unclipped the remainder of the race. These pedals just wouldn't engage unless it was a squeaky clean cleat/pedal interface. Not so with the XTR's. These have plenty of room to spare for things like mud or snow. And with those big, menacing clamps (the left one took a pretty nice "bite" of my calf on a botched dismount) when the cleat is pressed on them, they just open up and latch on. Done.

Challenge Fango Clinchers
I was running a set of Michelin Mud tires prior. The Muds are nothing to scoff at and they are an excellent tire, but I was really interested in trying something a bit more supple. Now, I don't have much to base my comparison on, nut these are the best cornering tire I have ever ridden. I'm not the best bike handler out there, but these things made me feel like I could corner twice as fast as on my Michelins. I was running them about 30 psi and they felt plenty supple and absorbed the bumps well enough to allow for steady powering. I guess the truth is in the races...

On other thing I "upgraded" - my seatpost. The bike came with some cheapo carbon post and the clamp broke. So I took my Thompson off my old road bike. The Thompson has no set back so my position is a bit different, but I'll live with it since it was free.

Friday, August 21, 2009

This is My Cross Bike

There are many like it, but this one is mine...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Burn Out

I'm burned out.

This is how I feel - or maybe like this

There's not a doubt in my mind. I'm tired, unmotivated, a general sense of malaise surrounds me, I feel like going to a Dunkin' Donuts and eating 24 double chocolate donuts, AND I have very little desire to ride.

Burn out is stealthy. It always starts off as an ever so slight sensation that things might be a little off-kilter. You chalk it up to lack of sleep, or needing to eat better but these only provide temporary relief. Then life starts to feel a bit... stale. When I finally started to take notice, I didn't feel like riding anymore - my motivation was pretty much gone. This is a telltale sign of burn out and, unfortunately, when recognized, it's already at an advanced stage.

Not sure what to do now. Here I am, at the beginning of my second cross season, I should be excited as hell. And, in some ways, I am. But at the same time, the thought of throwing my leg over a top-tube of any kind (cyclocross or otherwise) doesn't even register a blip on my anticipation meter. Doesn't seem like I'll feel like it in the foreseeable future.

Looking back, it's not that my riding volumes were exceptionally high or that intensity was too much. I think for me it was more a mental thing. Too many expectations in too many realms of life. Oh and I'm pretty sure it doesn't help that my work is basically a legalized form of torture. Something akin to Chinese water torture, where it gradually wears you down until you loose all will and leaves you a broken, battered husk of your former self. Good times.

Note to self: focus what little energy you have left into a possible job change.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Cyclocross Time!

Did my first real cyclocross workout of the season last week. There's this nice community park about 10 miles from my house that has all the components for a cross course. It's got a nice steep hill for run-ups and fast descents, lots of bumpy, grassy field, a section of dirt/wood chip trail through the woods, and even a sand volleyball court if you want to hit the beach. I've constructed a set of portable barriers from PVC tubes that fit into a backpack (a variation of the Greg Keller design, with longer sections making for fewer pieces). These work really well in a pinch, although not quite as formidable as a solid piece of plywood staked into the ground, it at least helps resurrect that buried muscle-memory.

I forgot how fun/hard cross is. It's one of those things that can't be mimicked on the road or trail. After about an hour, I noticed my lungs hurt, cross forces you to breathe a lot deeper, drawing breaths from the depths of your thorax. My aerobic capacity is up there from road racing all summer, but nothing can prepare you for the sheer oxygen debt that cyclocross brings with it.

My buddy Steve joined my at the park and he made me realize I need a lot of practice with the bike handling skills. He could literally turn circles around me, especially on the off-camber stuff. He's a mountain biker, so I can learn a lot from him in that department.

I'm so excited for the cross season that I almost want to just ditch my last couple of road races and immerse myself in the 'crossy goodness.

Mud, Snow, Rain, Embrocation, Frozen Toes, Oxygen Debt - Cyclocross Season is almost here!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Thursday Night Worlds and the Effectiveness of Team Tactics

Thursday Night Worlds this past Thursday was an outstanding success for our team. While I didn't entertain any personal results, my fellow team members secured 1st - 4th, which was amazing. How did we do this? We had a plan. Maybe even more importantly, we were all working toward that plan. The plan was to get several team mates in a break-away mid way through the race, whoever was left in the group would do some blocking to discourage any potential chasers. This tactic is probably the most rudimentary of cycling strategies, but it's simplicity is key to its effectiveness. Here's how it all played out:

For the first half of the race nothing really happened. A few attacks but nothing with any spunk. About 1/2 way through the race, a lap or two after a prime, 4 of our guys shot off the front with two others from another team. There was 5 of us left in the peloton as the break-away furthered the gap. What happened next is what made this tactic effective; all five of us took turns coming up to the front and slowing the pack down. Whether it was taking slower pulls at the front, blocking open lanes to thwart attacks or just chasing down any attempted break-aways, we managed to keep the gap at a comfortable level to give our quartet in front a chance at victory.

My team mates up front did everything they were supposed to do, and secured the top 4 podium spots, making our efforts worth it. Since this race has a purse, The top 4 split their winnings with the team, my first money made from a race!

So we had a plan and it paid off. But we've had plans before and they haven't worked in the past. What was different this time? I think, the most important thing I learned is, some team mates have to be willing to sacrifice personal ambitions for the greater good of the team. In the past, there's always been one or two team mates who insist on chasing the break-away. This can't happen. Everyone needs to be unified. Maybe next time, I'll be in the break and my mates will be blocking for me!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Mont Ventoux and the Shleck Bros

All I gotta say is the Tour de France sponsors and promoters should thank their lucky stars for the Schleck brothers. These two are just what professional cycling needs. They are interesting, and between the two of them, there's a certain dynamic that wouldn't exist if it was singular. I like their style and character - something that Contador seems devoid of. I especially liked when Andy was being interviewed and talk turned to Armstrong (of course) and he said, Armstrong should be more worried about him than he should be worried about Armstrong. Amen.

I have always found the brothers interesting to watch but what really sealed my membership in the Schleck fan club was the way Andy made every attempt to help brother Frank secure a podium spot on the slopes of Mont Ventoux. Even though, despite his best efforts, this wasn't to be, Andy still gave it his best. The brotherly bond helps to provide a bit more drama to the cycling scene.

What would happen if Andy and Frank were to ride for different teams? Now that would be some drama!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Maillot Jaune Road Race - Aftermath

Update: Here's a funny pic that Hans Nyberg at Ten Mile Media took of me finishing this race. That's the face of a very discouraged racer...

What a crappy race today. The legs were bad. Couldn't hold a wheel. I was plagued by bad mojo from the start. Flatted while warming up with 10 minutes to start. I can honestly say, I have never changed a flat that fast in my life. That was about the only thing I did fast today. My racing was anything but. To add insult to injury, once I got dropped by the main group, a corner volunteer indicated the wrong way on a turn and I ended up riding an extra 8th of a lap. Great day. I guess we all have them, but it makes me question why I invest so much time and $$ into this sport. I love it but, for 34th place? When's the form gonna come around? I guess there's always 'cross season.

On a lighter note, the LOOK is now back together and ready for the road. No more 'cross bike on the road! Yipee!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Maillot Jaune Road Race

The Maillot Jaune Road Race is one of my focus races of the year. It's a hilly race, with a couple of decent climbs (decent for SE Michigan) and for us Cat 4 racers will consist of 3 laps of a 13 mile loop. I had the pleasure of checking out the course yesterday with three of the fellas from the team. We rode a couple laps of the course to do some recon and put in another 40ish miles getting to and from the course.

I had to ride my cross bike, which was a drag. The LOOK is basically in pieces, it needs a new crankset and BB. If it's not fixed before Friday, I will be racing my cross bike, so maybe it wasn't such a bad thing. The gearing just takes some getting used to (46/36).

The course has the type of hills that sprinter-types have trouble with because they are too long to power up, yet are too short for pure climbers to gain an advantage. These are the type of hills I like.

The only problem is, the roads are shit. There are several stretches of "Michigan Pave" (chip seal and potholes). These occur all over the course, on uphills and descents, making for an interesting race. Maybe the 'cross bike is the best option...

I'm looking forward to this race next Saturday and it's one of my target races. I'm shooting to crack the top ten. I think my form is coming around, so we'll see if I have the fitness.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Race of Truth

Ahhh, the time trial. "The Race of Truth", as it's so often referred to. I haven't done one in about 6 years. Last night I had the opportunity to get reacquainted after the extended hiatus. It was just as tough as I remembered and definitely made me rethink my two-hot dog dinner. In the end, I had a finishing time of 17:49 with an average speed of 23.6 mph. This was good enough for an 8th place finish. Not too shabby considering I was using my LOOK sans aero bars, or any sort of deep dish or disk wheel. The form's coming around...

Friday, July 3, 2009

Back in the Saddle

Well, it's been a few weeks since my crash and bruises have faded to a nice yellow and scabs have fallen off to reveal the rosiness of freshly formed skin. Recovering from a crash is tough. It's tougher than doing 2 hour's worth of lactate threshold intervals - probably because it's all a mental thing. Your body needs time to recover but your mind has gotten awfully accustomed to time in the saddle and the intensities of racing. If your not careful, it's really easy to slip into a funk.

And that's exactly where I found myself. In a funk. It kinda sneaked up on me, creeping into my psyche over the last 2 weeks. I found my motivation waning, I was eating more, the quantity of food wasn't really the issue, it was the quality (junk food city). I probably put on 15 pounds over the course of 3 weeks... Feeling like a lazy fat ass was all the motivation I needed to start training again. So off I went, logging a good 2 hour ride last Saturday.

To help things out, my beloved LOOK came back with a clean bill of health (thank the bicycle gods, since I couldn't even think of affording a new one right now). It's back on!

Well, fate had other plans. The job got hectic, and I had to put in some serious hours at the mill (my pet name for my job in advertising). Long hours at work = no training.

Our Thursday Night Worlds was coming up and nothing gets you motivated like a little racing. I decided that would be my come back, and despite my dilapidated fitness and form, I would just hang on as long as I could and get in a good workout.

For me, the first race back after a hard crash is always fraught with self-doubt. Will my nerves overcome my ability to race? Will I be able to ride at the same intensity? It's a struggle for me to put faith in something that has yet to be tested. Even if that thing is myself.

The Thursday Night Worlds race takes place on a car racing track so the pavement is great and plenty wide. A great venue for someone to get their race-legs back. I got there early and did a few warm up laps. Well, the LOOK wasn't doing so well... It seems that, despite the "clean bill of health", my rear derailleur was coming dangerously close to my spokes when in the upper cogs of my cassette. This in itself wasn't that big of a deal. To make matters worse, my chain was slipping in the top 5 (17 - 25 tooth cogs) of my ten speed cassette. I tried fiddling with the barrel adjuster on the derailleur, I even tried bending the derailleur back, all to no avail.

As if my post-crash nerves weren't bad enough, now I had to deal with technical problems nagging at the back of my mind. Great.

The race went off with out a hitch and I got in an early 4 man break (very early, about 1/2 a lap in). I had one team mate with me and all four of us took even pulls as we made our way around. We had a good 1/2 lap lead when me and one other rider (John from the Wolverine Cycling Club) started to fade. My teammate and the other rider pulled away and there wasn't a damn thing I could do about it. It was John and I pulling each other around the track for the next 45-60 minutes, while the inevitability of the encroaching pack loomed a turn or two behind us.

Neither of us had the strength to keep them at bay, and, as we approached a long windy straight, we were swallowed up and spit out the back.

From then on, it was just a matter of survival and I managed to latch on to the back of a group of stragglers for a lap or two only to be shelled out the back as my calves cramped up. I was cooked. I threw it into the 39 and spun the remaining laps until I got lapped (and pulled) with two laps remaining. Welcome back.

Even though the outcome wasn't what I wanted, this race definitely served it's purpose. Consider the cobwebs blown off and my funk officially de-funked.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Happy Birthday Greg Lemond!

This is my favorite picture of the birthday boy - it's a far cry from the crotchety, bitter person he seems to be now...

In essence of his birthday, let's salute Lemond's 1989 World Championship victory!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Injury Update - A.K.A. Gary and His Technicolor Hip Bone

Road rash is healing up well. As for my hip... All that blood has to go somewhere, and it's just kinda pooling on my thigh. Here's a nice pic of my technicolor hematoma.

All the colors of the rainbow...

I went for a short ride outside on the cross bike this AM and it actually felt OK. Some pain going over really bumpy roads but not too bad.

The LOOK is getting a thorough check up at Kinetic so it's kinda out of commission for now. At a minimum I need to replace my wheels and probably the derailleur hanger (maybe the rear derailleur as well). We'll see.

Starting to think seriously about a new road bike.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Tour de Mont Unpleasant

It's been a few weeks since my last official race and my form really seemed to be coming around so I decided kinda at the last minute to add the Tour de Mont Pleasant road race to my calendar. Originally, I had omitted it because the race was almost 3 hours from my house, but with my fitness improvements over the last few weeks, I was eager to test myself.

The race took place in the quaint, villageque downtown of Mont Pleasant - The town went all out putting this race on! All the streets were blocked off and there were grandstands and tents everywhere. They even got retired pro, Frankie Andreau as the announcer, which was pretty cool. All in all, I give the promoters and volunteers some big props for a race well done!

My race (Cat 4) started at 10:24 AM and was one loop of 33 miles and pretty much flat as a pancake. Typical Cat 4 races are usually 45 - 60 miles long, so this was kind of on the short side. Oh well, shorter distance makes for faster racing.

The weather was sunny and high 60s, awesome weather for a bike race. The race started without much delay and the peloton quickly chewed up the miles. It was a pretty straight forward race with a few turns, but mostly long straight aways. I chased down a break and took a couple pulls, but I mostly stayed sheltered in the group. As we neared the final couple of K's, the group really started to ramp up the speed. That's when the Tour de Mont Pleasant quickly degraded to the Tour de Mont Unpleasant and finally, the Tour de Mont Painful.

Sizing up your competition involves not only noting who is strong and a threat so you can keep an eye on them; but also who is squirrely or lacking bike handling skills so that you know who to avoid. A team mate of mine warned me about a certain rider (we'll call him "Blue") about 1/2 way through the race and I noted that he was all over the place. I did a pretty good job of keeping away from him but there he was, about a 1/2 bike length in front of me to my right.

With each 100 meters or so, it seems like we are getting faster. I know we have one more turn to the final straightaway and that I need to hold my spot going into that final turn so I can shoot out of it. This is the only way I'll even get a top ten.

That's when I feel "Blue" bump into my handlebars with his knee/hip. I'm no awesome bike handler but I do know how to handle some bumping and I stay upright with only a slight waver to my front wheel. I gave "Blue" a little shout and I thought we were fine. Then he does it again, but it's much more forceful and I almost loose it. This time, I'm just yelling, "Woah, woah, woah!!" "Blue" veers away from me way too strongly and then overcompensates back towards me and ends up crossing right in front of me and knocking my front wheel to the left and taking it completely out from underneath me.

As my body hits the tarmac, I'm vaguely aware that there may be some riders directly behind me (there were) so I roll onto my right side so that my back is to the riders behind me. One racer slammed into my leg with such force that his tire left a "rug burn from the back of my hamstring all the way down to my calf.

Then it's quiet. I take an assessment. The first pain I notice is my right index finger nail. I'm almost afraid to look at it, it hurt that bad. Through wincing eyes I take a look and it's totally fine, just looks like the nail got bent back. I try to move, everything else seems ok. I get up and notice that my hip and elbow hurt and that my helmet is loosely flopping on my head.

Evidently, my head hit the ground with enough force to rip out all the retention straps in my helmet. Still not sure how it was still on my head. My straps did give me a nice little scrape on the back of my neck...

I locate my bike, which is tangled up in "Blue" (thanks Bob Dylan), and I carry it off the course. I grab another guy's bike and take it off the course as well. Meanwhile, the paramedics arrive and are attending to "Blue" and another guy who's face looked like Carrie after the pigs blood got dumped on her.

I take a quick look at my bike, my chain is off, each wheel is out of true and my handlebars are a good 5-10 degrees off center. I remount my chain and release the brakes so they don't rub on the rims. Then I try to straighten my handlebars but I can't so I just soft pedal the last kilometer across the finish and head to first aid.

My no DNF record still stands! Although I did finish dead last among the finishers in 33rd place.

A special thanks to my team mates Gino and Rodney for helping me out at first aid - you guys made an unpleasant experience just a bit more bearable. Thanks!

Gotta get Kinetic to look at the bike this week to make sure everything is fine... Keep your fingers crossed...

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Mavic R-SYS - Strike Two

I'm a big fan of Mavic. I'm also a big fan of carbon. But Mavic's idea of a carbon spoked wheel had me leery from the start. Evidently there was good reason. After Mavic recently recalled the first generation R-SYS due to spoke failure, the second generation was released and promised to be stronger and more durable.

Well, it's strike two for Mavic and the R-SYS. Read all about it at VeloNews.
I updated this link, it was a dead end yesterday. Sorry....