Friday, December 17, 2010

Just got my new phone case in the mail. This is the coolest thing ever. If you are looking for a hard plastic case for your iPhone and were looking for something with a little cycling flair, check out case-mate.com - You can upload any image you want, and in about a week you'll have you're own custom phone case.

Enjoy!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Top 50 Cycling Books

I picked up an issue of Cycle Sport the other day. In it is an article highlighting the top 50 cycling books. It's in the December issue along with some other good articles on the Ghent Six track races, Thor and his WC win and the 2011 Tour de France route.

I looked around online to see if I could find the list anywhere and I couldn't, so I decided to recreate it here.  Absent from my list is the clever commentary, especially since I've only read three of the books on the list. If you want to know more about the book, you can buy the December issue of Cycle Sport or look up the book on Amazon.

  1. Wide-Eyed and Legless, Jeff Connor
  2. A Rough Ride, Paul Kimmage
  3. Kings of the Road, Robin Magowan
  4. Lance Armstrong's War, Dan Coyle
  5. Kelly - A Biography of Sean Kelly, David Walsh
  6. The Rider, Tim Krabbe
  7. The Death of Marco Pantani, Matt Rendell
  8. The Escape Artist, Matt Seaton
  9. French Revolutions, Tim Moore
  10. Flying Scotsman, Graeme Obree
  11. The Hour, Michael Hutchinson
  12. We Were Young and Carefree, Laurent Fignon
  13. In Search of Robert Millar, Richard Moore
  14. Breaking the Chain, Willy Voet
  15. The Great Bike Race, Geoffrey Nicholson
  16. From Lance to Landis, David Walsh
  17. Boy Racer, Mark Cavendish
  18. Put Me Back On My Bike - In Search of Tom Simpson, William Fotheringham
  19. Bad Blood, Jeremy Whittle
  20. The Fabulous World of Cycling, Winning Magazine
  21. The Giro d'Italia - Coppi vs. Bartali at the 1949 Tour of Italy, Dino Buzzati
  22. Visions of Cycling, Graham Watson
  23. Tour de France - The History, The Legends, The Riders, Graeme Fife
  24. Fallen Angel - The Passion of Fausto Coppi, William Fotheringham
  25. Kings of the Mountains, Matt Rendell
  26. World of Cycling, John Wilcockson
  27. Cycling is My Life, Tommy Simpson
  28. It's Not About the Bike - My Journey Back to Life, Lance Armstrong
  29. The Foreign Legion, Rupert Guinness
  30. A Dog in a Hat, Joe Parkin
  31. A Peiper's Tale, Allan Peiper with Chris Sidwells
  32. Watching the Wheels Going Round, Barry Hoban with John Wilcockson
  33. Le M├ętier, Michael Barry
  34. Push Yourself Just A Little Bit More, Johnny Green
  35. European Cycling - The 20 Greatest Races, Noel Henderson
  36. Tomorrow We Ride, Jean Bobet
  37. Greg LeMond - The Incredible Comeback, Samuel Abt
  38. The Tour de France 1903-2003 - A Century of Sporting Structures, Meanings and Values, Hugh Dauncey and Geoff Hare
  39. A Significant Other, Matt Rendell
  40. Inside the Peloton - Riding, Winning and Losing the Tour de France, Graeme Fife
  41. The Agony and the Ecstasy, Stephen Roche with David Walsh
  42. Great Road Climbs of the Pyrenees, Graeme Fife
  43. Roule Britannia, William Fotheringham
  44. Tour de Lance, Bill Strickland
  45. Le Tour, Geoffrey Wheatcroft
  46. In Pursuit of Glory, Bradley Wiggins
  47. The Unknown Tour de France, Les Woodland
  48. A Century of Paris-Roubaix, Pascal Sergent
  49. Inside the Postal Bus, Michael Barry
  50. Sex, Lies and Handlebar Tape, Paul Howard
That's it. Print it off, take it with you next time your at a bookstore or a library. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Assos Winter LL Bib Tights - First Ride

The Assos Winter LL Bib Tights (no pad) are the best winter tights I have ever used and I wish I hadn't waited this long to try them.

There, I said it.

As a bit of a curmudgeon when it comes to cycling clothing, this was a hard thing for me to admit. If you looked through my cycling wardrobe, this is abundantly clear. I tend to take good care of my gear and hold on to it for a LONG time. For example, my old tights were almost a decade old and my winter jacket is a series of neon pink and purple panels as if it was ripped right off the back of some 80's pop singer. I found myself shopping around for some new tights since my old ones were finally starting to show their age (ripped seams, the pad was in bad shape, all the zippers were busted), it was time to lay them to rest.

This box just oozes cachet 
I did a ton of investigating and reading reviews and it seemed like a majority of folks gave the Assos Winter LL bib tight high marks. I shopped around and found a good deal, and, with a bit of trepidation, I parted with the $230 smacks to acquire these Gucci-esque cycling tights.

And boy, these things are fancy. Why, just look at the box they came in. No loose garment thrown into a plastic ziplock bag, Assos wants to give you the whole experience when you buy their stuff and that comes through with the packaging, the tissue wrapped article of clothing, and even this neat little plastic tag that doubles as an information card/credit card/cash holder to take with you on rides.



Maybe I'll model them next time. If you're lucky...
Pulling the tights out of the box, I was immediately surprised by their lightness. For winter tights, these certainly aren't very heavy. I gotta admit, I was a bit concerned. That is, until I slipped my hand inside them and my fingers were engulfed in a fleecy wonderland. Some sections actually have double the fabric for additional protection. Awesome. I was excited to give these things a run.

A bit about their insulation and protection. This is Assos warmest tight and they use some sort of Roubaix-type fleece, with a no doubt aero-space inspired fabric that is both stretchy, windproof and breathable.

I know what you're thinking. Every damn bib tight uses similar fabrics, well, here's a few things that set these apart. They've got bib straps with a nice mesh back to keep you from getting too sweaty, a zipper on the waist which is great when a fella has to heed the call of nature, stirrups (you can't see 'em in this photo, but they're there) to help keep the ankle areas warm and, my biggest reason for purchasing, NO PAD.

In my opinion, winter cycling tights should never have a pad. If the weather is cold enough that you need to use tights, then you can stand to put on cycling shorts under your tights. It makes them sooo much more versatile. Your layering options are endless. And, the best reason, LESS WASHING...

OK, so the tights are out of the box, and I've finished my verbal giz-fest about the materials - now the big question - How do they fit??

DISCLAIMER: I've not ridden a whole lot since last December. I've put on some weight. Hell, who am I kidding? I've put on a lot. Twenty pounds in fact. The svelte folks reading this may have a different experience.

With that off my chest (wish it was off my belly...), the fit is very tight. I tried them on with a pair of cycling bib shorts on underneath to get an accurate fit and they fit really snug around my quads, butt and gut. According to the Assos size chart, I am a Large. I actually bought a Large and an XL just to make sure I got the right size. I tried both on and  the only discernable difference that I could tell between the LG and the XL was the length. The XL was a little bunched up around the knees and calves, while the Large was nice and smooth everywhere. The snugness still had me a bit worried. That's when I remembered all the reviews saying you need to ride in them to truly appreciate their fit.

That's what I did.

Holy shit. I have never ridden in a pair of tights where there was no perceptible drag or inefficiency felt from all that extra fabric. That is, until now. These things felt like I was only wearing cycling shorts. It was amazing. For some reason, once you get on the bike, your position just makes all the snugness and pulling go away and you are left feeling very... uh... natural.

As far as warmth, it was about 32 - 34 F, and they provided just the right amount of warmth. If it was colder, like teens, I would probably throw on some leg warmers underneath and be just fine. The wind panels did a great job, although my posterior did get a little cold by the time my hour ride was completed.

Bottom line: It's obvious from these tights that Assos is obsessed with the details. From the packaging, and tags, to the fit on bike, it's all about the details. It obviously pays off, I'm sold on these tights after only one ride. I would love to try some of their other clothing as well.

Going forward I will be very interested to see how these tights hold up over time, to me that's the true test. I'll try to update everyone as the winter progresses to see if they've lived up to their hype.

Additional images below:
Assos logo sown to right butt cheek

Laundry care tags are on the outside so they don't irritate 
Label sown right at the zipper junction to add reinforcement




Friday, December 10, 2010

The Leg Quiz - Answers

Here are the answers to yesterday's big quiz. See the captions below the photos.
A. - Track

B. - Cyclocross

C. - Flahute
D. - MTB
E. - Sprinter
F. - Climber


Thursday, December 9, 2010

You'll know them by their legs...

A.
B.
I found a crazy picture of Sean Kelly's legs today and it kinda inspired this post. Look at the pictures on the right and match them with the type of cycling discipline they are associated with. Answers to come tomorrow...
  1. Cyclocross
  2. MTB
  3. Road - Sprinter
  4. Track
  5. Road - Climber
  6. Road - Flahute (Hardman)

C.
D.
E.
F.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Progress?

Like a bad drug...?
It's kinda crazy. I've really been focusing on my diet this week and I actually feel like shit. I think I'm experiencing sugar/fat/excessive calorie  withdrawal or something. I'm getting bad headaches, I'm tired, etc. Weird... Haven't been on the bike yet, but I'm planning on a couple of short rides this weekend.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Fitness Lost and Fitness Regained

How long does it take for a total loss of fitness? Judging from experience, I'd say about 8 months.

It's been almost eight months since I gave up on my road racing goals, and, consequently, any sort of physical activity.

How did it start? Well, it's a slippery slope. For me, it all started with an increase in my responsibilities at work. This amounted to an additional 12-15 hours a week spent on my day job and those additional hours had to come from some where. Something had to give, and cycling, or even more broadly, working out, was the victim. Priorities...

What happens next? For a few weeks, I tried my damnedest to squeeze in my planned workouts where I could. This amounted to one hour trainer rides at the less than ideal times of 5 AM or 9-10 PM. In my opinion, this was not enough volume to establish the necessary fitness for racing. I got discouraged. Very, very discouraged. So I decided I wouldn't do any road races for the spring or summer and instead, turn my focus to cyclocross racing. After all, my workload would probably lighten up by then.

It didn't. In fact, it got worse. So, I stopped doing anything. And I mean anything. In fact, for the last seven months the only real exercise I've had is walking up the two flights of stairs to my cubicle. I gave up on my goal to race cyclocross, because I had already lost so much fitness - in my mind, trying to regain what I had lost in a short period of time was unrealistic.

All this inactivity had it's consequences (other than the obvious fitness loss). I put on weight. I started drinking a lot of beer, and eating a lot of really crappy food. I put on more weight. That didn't feel so good.

That's when the depression set in. It was a real nasty funk, the basic ingredients being exhaustion, lethargy and a heaping helping of hopelessness. I couldn't even imaging racing, I didn't want to train, I didn't even want to ride my bike. In fact, I didn't want to do a damn thing. Except eat more shitty food and drink more beer. Dark days indeed. This lasted from July to October. Yeah, it was quite a ride.

Don't call it a comeback.
Then, slowly, my workload started lightening up and I could actually breathe again. I just got back from a nice family vacation at Disney World. I feel like I'm getting a bit of the fight back in my soul, or, at least, I'm starting to feel like I have some control over my situation.

I actually rode my trainer a few times, for 30 minutes a pop and it felt kinda good. Thinking about riding my bike actually makes me happy and doesn't feel like a huge chore as it did in the past.

So here I am, roughly 30 lbs overweight, with the only miles in my legs being walking to and from the office. I've got a really long way to go, I know, but I'm putting a stake in the ground to get into shape so I can race cyclocross next year. And I'm starting now.

Starting off slow, with 30 minutes of activity (running, cycling, swimming, cross country skiing, etc), an improved diet, and I'm going to document it all for posterity sake on this here blog. If you've been here before, you may have noticed the new look. I added some "Belgian" cobbley flair because I've always gotten a tremendous amount of inspiration from the Spring Classics. The flahute or hardmen of the cobbles always motivated me when the going gets tough and given the state I'm in, I've got a pretty rough stretch ahead of me.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Rollers

I got an awesome gift from my wife last Christmas. A set of Kreitler Rollers. To those not in the know, Kreitler makes some of the most amazing rollers on the market. They are smooth, durable and you can tell they were made with pride.

I've been riding them pretty consistently for the last seven months (past three months excluded) and I can honestly say, no indoor training aid has helped my cycling as much as these rollers.

Getting started on them was a bit of a challenge but once I got used to it, they really aren't that difficult. It does take a great deal of concentration though. If you let that concentration wane, you'll know it. Why, just yesterday morning I was reminded of that lesson as my front tire slid off the roller and onto the ground. I didn't fall, but it certainly shook the morning sleepies out of me...

Once you get out on the road, that's when you really notice the benefits. Things like a quiet upper body, a smoother spin, better balance and, probably the biggest thing for me, better and more confident bike handling skills all become apparent once you hit the tarmac.

Anyone who hasn't tried them, I encourage you to, it will make you a better cyclist.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Momentum


If there's one thing you learn from cycling, it's the value of momentum. This lesson doesn't take long to learn: the first time you stop on a hill and try to start up again, it's plainly apparent. Then, as you become more seasoned and more familiar with the depths of the "pain cave", you realize it's easier to maintain a  a steady pace than it is to slow way down and speed up again.

Like other lessons learned in this amazing sport, the value of momentum is applicable to the "real world" as well. The only difference is, on a bike, you are either moving forward or you are not. In the "real world",  I will venture to say, there is no static state, it is either positive and negative movement. 

Life is a constant state of flux. We are either doing things that will make us better (better workers, better husbands/wives, better fathers/mothers) or we are doing the opposite. There is no pause, no stop.  

This is where I find myself now, trying to establish momentum. Momentum at work, definitely momentum on the bike, and momentum with my wife and daughter. It's not a bad thing to strive for, but here's the tricky part - I've got a limited amount of time and energy to "get the ball rolling" in all these aspects of life. 

It's a bit of a juggling act and my juggling skills are sorely lacking. In fact, I'm beginning to realize that, at best, I can maintain mediocrity in three areas of my life at the same time, but if I want to excel in any of them, my focus needs to narrow to two. 

Lately, the focus has been family and work. I can say that both are going really well. But... I miss cycling. It's my passion, and it calls to me every day like a friend who wants to help me get over an ugly break up. I'm not even going to talk about the toll my time away from the bike has taken on my physical shape... 

So, now I'm at a cross-road. Do I start riding again, with a goal to race, and accept finishing at the ass-end of the pack in order to keep the other areas in my life good? Or do I forget about racing and just ride occasionally when the mood strikes so as not to face the inevitable frustration and disappointment of getting whooped every race? 

I'm writing this at 6:00 AM as I wait for the sun to come up so I can head out for my first two hour ride in over three months. At least it's a step in a positive direction.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Bike Racing, Honor and Sacrifice

This topic has been talked about ad nauseam and I've read all the different opinions and perspectives on whether Contador should have or shouldn't have waited and I figured I'd put in my own two cents. I'm not going to say that Contador should have waited for Schleck or that he was justified in attacking while his opponent was fixing his bike, but I am going to look at the implications of what Contador did and how it will affect his victory.




First, let's put this into a different perspective: say it was a local race series, and week after week, you race against the same guys and you consistently finish in third place. Then, one week, the guys who were consistently finishing first and second don't show up and you win the race. Sure, it's a victory, but it's not as sweet as the one where you bested the same guys that were beating you week after week. I think this is the same type of thing with Contador.

Is "El Pistolero" going to chalk up another TDF win? Undoubtedly. But, given the way he achieved  victory, will it truly be as sweet? I have to say no. That attack was motivated by fear and doubt and not the attack of a champion. Lady Luck handed Contador a gift and, because he hadn't been able to drop Schleck in previous attacks, he took full advantage. I'm not saying this was wrong, I just think it detracts from the elegance, purity and honor of his efforts and it turns the focus from Contador's exceptional fitness and prowess on the bike to a unfortunate incident that befell his main rival.

In my mind, when I visualize great victories, they inevitably involve sacrifice and risk, and with that sacrifice comes a sense of honor and a deep respect for your competition. Then there's also the satisfaction of knowing you gave absolutely everything to beat your competitors, who, in turn, were giving their all to try and beat you.

I've participated as a Cat 5/Cat 4 racer in both road and cyclocross races, and you come across all types of personalities. The ones I have the hardest time dealing with are the "winning is the only thing that matters" types. To me, this is the mentality that encourages sand bagging and un-sportsman-like conduct.  I think this type of behavior results from insecurity or maybe even laziness. This is the easy way, a short cut, and the path of least resistance. And, as most true cyclists can attest, this isn't a sport for those that look for the easy way.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Has it really been two months?

W.
T.
F.
?

My last blog entry was over two months ago, what the hell happened? Well, If anyone still reads this, here's what's up:

I've given up on doing any road racing this season. That's right. no racing.  And I'm cool with that. In fact I've gotten reacquainted with a few old friends: beer and desserts. Not great for the midsection but a welcome deviation from the overly disciplined, spartan life of a bicycle racer.

Cyclocross season is quickly approaching and I'm nowhere near ready. In fact, if I were to toe the line with my current lack of fitness, I would likely get lapped, it's that bad. So, if I don't get may act together soon, I'm pulling the plug on the cyclocross season too. I guess what it all comes down to is I really don't want to compete if I can't be competitive (and by competitive, I mean finishing mid-pack).

I just got back from an awesome vacation with the family - one of those vacations where thoughts and aspirations of training/working out are drowned out by an abundance of good food, good drink and good company. While I was on vacation I did fulfill a life-long dream to go surfing. I took a lesson, and even got to ride a handful of waves without wiping out. Great fun.

In short, it seems like I've been doing a lot of everything except riding my bike and, you know what? It's been kinda nice.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Long Live Junk Miles

I got out for an hour and a half on Thursday. Just me, the Look, 60 degree temps and some of Southeast Michigan's finest roads (well, to those of you who live in the area, that last one is kinda a joke). I haven't thrown a leg over the old steed in a little over two weeks, so this was a long time coming. There is nothing like a nice ride by yourself to clear your head. No agenda, no program, no plans, the only thing dictating my effort was my own mood. I even ended up chatting with another cyclist as we made our way west and, in the process, discovered a couple new routes. That doesn't happen if you're on a "plan" or are sticking to a training regime.

This ride, by it's very definition, is what a lot of cyclists call "junk miles." I agree that the racing benefits of these unregimented rides may be debatable, but I think they are exactly what I needed mentally. And, as we all know, if you aren't up to par mentally, you won't be competitive. So, if you're feeling a little stale, I strongly encourage a spontaneous spin, break free from the fetters of your training program - your brain will thank you.

Long Live Junk Miles!!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Road Racing? Probably not gonna happen.

My planned road racing "season" ("season" because I was planning on a shortened road season to allow for more focus on cyclocross) is quickly going the way of the dodo. With 55-60 hours of work per week, an aging home that constantly requires work (UGH!) and wanting to spend time with my wife and daughter, I guess something had to give. Riding one day a week for 2 hours doesn't exactly build the kind of fitness required for road racing. Over the last three weeks, my bike has gone from a finely tuned road racing machine to a high performance, carbon fiber clothes drying rack. Sad.

Well, technically I do have some availability, I could get up at 4:30 or 5:00 AM and ride the trainer for an hour every morning, but I HATE riding the trainer when the weather is nice. And, quite frankly, I'm pretty sick of it. I'm starting to think there's no such thing as balance, just fluctuations from one extreme to the other. Either I have lots of time to ride or absolutely none. Unfortunately, the most recent trend has been no time to ride and I don't see that changing any time soon.

Oh well, you know what they say, "there's always next season"!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

I Want a New Road Bike

Here's my criteria:
  1. Frame: Carbon. I got my first (and only) carbon frame back in 2000 (Look 261) and I really like how it feels on the road. Having ridden aluminum and steel previously, I think carbon suits me best.
  2. Geometry: Should be race-worthy. I plan to race it, (although this season may be a bust...) so it should have race-oriented geometry.
  3. Drivetrain: Campagnolo. This would be helpful because my current setup has Campy and I could use some of my old parts, if needed.
  4. Price: around $3,000
  5. Brand: I may get accused of being a snob here, but I would really like something a little different and not ubiquitous (i.e. Trek and Specialized). Maybe something French or Italian...
Here are a few of my current considerations: 












Any other recommendations??

Friday, April 23, 2010

Dirty Deeds

I finally made it up to ride with the club this past Thursday. A unique ride (unique as far as I know) of 35 miles almost entirely on the dirt roads around Clarkston. Cyclocross bikes are the order of the day, speeds are pretty fast, and the climbs can be leg-burning.

A few observations:

  1. When you hit washboard bumps at 30 mph, you gotta stay loose. If you stiffen up, the bike responds, and not in a good way.
  2. Riding rollers this winter has helped my sense of balance and stability. I felt a lot more sure of myself.
  3. It was great to ride with the group again - I really missed the camaraderie.

I'm going to make every attempt to do more of these rides. Dirt, washboard bumps, loose gravel and cyclocross bikes - a recipe for a great time and a helluva a good work out.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Sunday in Hell? Not for me!

I had quite a nice little Sunday today. Got up had breakfast with my daughter, and watched Cancellara trounce the field in Paris-Roubaix. Then I went out to the local Metro Park and cooked out 50 miles of my own. Felt GREAT. Maybe not quite the epic cobbles of Roubaix, but it was fun - Plus, I feel like I'm finally getting back on track. Feeling solid on the bike, with some strength in the legs. Maybe all the time spent on the rollers is starting to pay off... 

The LOOK was running good and the weather was perfect - arm warmers and knee warmers were the only order for the day.  

Great Day.


Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Cycling Brother/Sisterhood

This weekend I got in a couple of decent rides - one was sunny and cold and the other was rainy and cold.

On the sunny ride, I left my house without an agenda and awkwardly wound my way north and west, seeking the lower traffic areas of Southeastern Michigan (it certainly ain't easy...) Along my meanderings, I came across several cyclists, representing nearly all the disciplines of our great sport. There were cruisers, mountain bikers, triathletes, road cyclists and even a recumbent thrown in for good measure.

Now, if I had to lump myself into a classification, I would say I lean more road cyclist. As a road cyclist, I can honestly say, we are an elitist bunch. With all that training and sacrifice comes an attitude that's almost a defense mechanism. It's almost as if we have to believe we've crafted our bodies into models of efficiency and strength far eclipsing that of normal man (or woman) as justification for what we do. Maybe that's a bit of a broad generalization, but it does come from real world experience. Let me elaborate.

On my ride this Saturday, as I was saying, I came across cyclists from all disciplines and levels of ability. I typically wave at other cyclists I encounter, offer a friendly "hello" or some other salutation. As I continued my ride and greeted additional cyclists, I noticed that the likelihood of a return salutation was inversely proportionate to the amount of team kit they were adorned in. This decreased exponentially if the rider was on a road bike, especially a more expensive road bike. I came across this one guy at a light, he was heading right while I was going straight. As he stopped to let a car pass through the intersection, I offered up a friendly hello, and all he did was stare att me. Actually, he was sizing me up. What kind of bike did I have? Was I wearing any team apparel? If so, what team? Did I look fast? Was I going to chase him as my carrot? Now that I seemed to have his full attention and on the off chance that he didn't hear me, I offered up a "nice day for a ride." Nothing, wait. Was that a slight head nod?

What is it about road cyclists that they can't be friendly? Do they see it as a sign of weakness? Not sure what it is but I don't like it. I look at our community as one big brotherhood. Whatever your reason for throwing a leg over the bike, we are all in this together. Besides, we all had to start out somewhere, maybe a friendly hello is all the encouragement a new rider needs to form a life-long relationship with cycling.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Hiatus

It's been a while since I've put fingers to keyboard to update the old blog. I don't really have a valid excuse. Lack of inspiration? Maybe. Or maybe it's that I don't have much cycling related stuff to report.



Training's been hard to come by, with roughly 4-6 hours on the bike per week, with the majority of that volume coming from weekend riding. I really want to be more consistent during the week, but time is a precious commodity, and my riding time is limited to either early AM (before 6 AM) or after 8 PM. Both times are less than ideal. But, if I want to do any road racing this year, I really need to be more consistent.

I also want to start incorporating some longer easy rides (3-4 hours). I like these longer rides, and if you have a few friends with you, there's nothing better. Also, I really want to race in the Tour of Kensington Valley Road Race this year, at just under 60 miles, it's my longest race of the season. If I don't have some longer rides under my belt by then, I may as well not even do it. Last year, it just about killed me and I was way ahead of where I am now.

The good news is, with my limited training time, I've been focusing more on my diet and actually dropped about 5 lbs from my racing weight from last year. I hope to drop another 5-10 lbs by September (just in time for cyclocross season!)

One other thing I've been focusing on is flexibility and core strength - These things really do make a difference. The few times I've been out on the road it was quickly apparent. I felt less aches and pains and felt more stable on the bike.

Maybe it comes down to overall fitness and not just on-the-bike time. That's probably a better way to look at it.


Other news: got my racing license in the mail, so that's taken care of. Now I just need to renew my club membership and I will have the administrative stuff taken care of...

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad - The Spring Classic Opener!

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad live - watch it HERE.


You may need to paste the link into your browser for it to work: http://www.justin.tv/streampie#r=zT03oKI

Enjoy!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Mennonite Computer Hacker? Isn't that an Oxymoron?

Floyd, Floyd, Floyd... Trouble follows where ever you go. Now the French are after you for hacking into their computer network to steal info about your drug use during the Tour?!? What the hell!? Don't they realize you're a Mennonite? Unless the lab's firewall is the equivalent of wet toilet paper, I find it hard to believe that someone who's religious views force them to forgo technology would have the where-with-all to hack into a computer network. I know, Floyd's on Twitter. Well, my mom's on Facebook, but she still struggles with attaching a photo to an email. Hacking and tweeting are two totally different things - just sayin'...

Sunday, February 14, 2010

LIVESTRONG v. LAMBSTRONG?

A friend of mine who crafts the most excellent blog, La Gazzetta Della Bici (if you aren't a reader, you owe it to yourself to check it out) has recently been contacted by the legal representation of one Lance Armstrong... Why would that happen. you ask? Well, the author of the aforementioned blog's name is Simon Lamb and he and some of his friends coined the term "LAMBSTRONG" as a parody of the ubiquitous LIVESTRONG brand. Check out the story here.

This is a great reminder that, no matter how rich and famous you are, you shouldn't take yourself too seriously. It's not like people are getting confused about which ____Strong is the cancer foundation and which is a joke.

Now all we need are some LAMBSTRONG rubber bracelets....

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Sufferfest...



 Just finished up my first workout using The Sufferfest cycling training videos. It was tough and I'm definitely spent.  How tough? I'll get to that...

First a little background info. The Sufferfest is a series of download-able videos (well, currently they only have two that you can order, but a third is in the works) you can save to your computer, iPhone or iPod or replay from any other device you choose.  I purchased the video titled The Downward Spiral. It  consists of two sets of descending intervals with an equal recovery period after each effort. The video goes something like this 2 minutes at max effort, 2 minutes recovery, 1:45 max, 1:45 recovery, 1:30 max, 1:30 recovery, etc. all the way to :15. Then you get a 5 minute recovery, which trust me, you will need. Then it's back at it again.

What sets these apart from other work out videos? The most obvious thing is the race footage. The Downward Spiral incorporates footage from Paris-Roubaix and the Ronde van Vlaanderen as well as miscellaneous footage of some fast group ride. The coolest part is, a lot of the footage is filmed from first person view, which is awesome. The Spring Classics footage is highly motivating - nothing like trying to hold a wheel blasting through the Forest of Arenberg at 40 kilometers an hour... To anyone who's raced in a mass-start road race, just watching the break go up the road brings on a familiar feeling of anxiety and, in some instances, dread...

The music selection is suitable for the effort, and helps pump some adrenaline into an already maxed out effort.

Then there's the supers that flash on the screen. Sometimes offering encouragement, sometimes taunting, they always seem to eek out just a bit more effort out of burning quads and lungs.

The time went by very quickly (at least the recovery did...) Altogether, it was a great way to spend an hour on the trainer. I'm definitely going to get the other video that's available and I can't wait for future installments!

If you choose to get these videos (I recommend you do); I leave you with this one bit of advice: fear the horse whinny...



Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Where can I get one of these?


 A Colnago sweatband... This picture is awesome on so many levels. Not only is this guy sporting the coolest headband I've ever seen but he's mitering the tubes of the most beautiful carbon fiber bike out there - the Colnago EPS. God knows, you don't want sweat running in your eyes doing delicate work like that. Especially on a frame that retails for over $5 grand...

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Cycling: A Numbers Game?

Over the last several decades, with the introduction of heart rate monitors and power meters, cycling prowess is becoming more and more quantifiable. Nowadays, it seems a cyclist's capacity for performance boils down to data points and stats, all neatly displayed on their handlebars.

As much as these tools have done for the advancement of the sport, they've also killed some of the mysticism and romance. I don't see anything inspirational about recounting a rider's wattage output on an epic break-a-way or a hors categorie climb. To me, it robs something from the accomplishment.

Don't get me wrong, I can appreciate all this data as a testament to the professional cyclist's incredible athletic abilities. But it doesn't take everything into account. There's heart, there's passion, there's unyielding discipline and dedication - none of these things can be measured but they can just as easily determine who stands on the podium and who does not.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Everything I Know About Bike Racing I Learned From American Flyers


American Flyers, the quintessential 1980s cycling film, is a veritable tome of cycling knowledge. If you've seen it, watch it again and take notes. If you've never seen it (and you call yourself a cyclist?), go rent it right now, it will change your life.












Here's some of the lessons I've learned from this theatrical masterpiece:

  • You don't need to be outfitted in the latest Assos kit to ride. Jean jackets and cowboy hats are perfectly acceptable riding gear.
  • An awesome way to work on your bike handling skills is to ride your bike around your apartment complex.
  • If you've been riding 30 - 40 miles a day on relatively flat terrain and have never raced before, you are totally ready for a major stage race in the Rocky Mountains.
  • If you want to perfect your sprint, find a neighborhood with a lot of loose pit bulls. Rumor has it that's how Cavendish trains... 
  • "Shake and Break" is an excellent technique to get rid of a "wheel sucker"
  • When racing, be wary of the Costner-proclaimed "oldest trick in the book" - when a rider pretends that the race is over and then shifts to the big ring and drops the hammer. Those cowboys certainly fell for it... 
  • Also, beware the second oldest trick in the book - when a rider pulls down your shorts and leaves you fumbling to pull them back up as he rides down the road. That's why bib shorts were made.
  • It is totally acceptable to rip off the nickname of the all-time greatest cyclist if you are a mildly successful professional cyclist
  • If you want to be competitive, you've got to be an asshole to everyone, all the time. Exhibit A: Barry Muzzin.
  • It is acceptable to try and run someone off the road on a high speed descent if it means winning the bike race. Your competition will forget all about it at the end of the stage. Hell, they may even respect you for it.
  • ANYONE is capable of winning a bike race. Even if you are a first time racer and your competition consists of current and former national champs, olympians, and high ranking euro pros.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Bib Short Review

With all the European cyclocross racing I've been watching lately, I've noticed a proliferation of a certain Belgian brand of cycling clothing adorning several of my favorite racers. This piqued my curiosity (proof that sponsorship really works?), so I set about on my search to see where I could buy this fabled brand.

The brand I'm talking about is Vermarc (If you hadn't figured it out yet...) Vermarc is a sports clothing company based just out side of Brussels that specializes in cycling gear. They've been around since 1977 and, like a lot of cycling companies, was started by a retired pro. The brand definitely has some cachet with the name conjuring up images of Lion of Flanders flags, mud-soaked cobbles, and veldrijden. It also proved to be a bit elusive as my preliminary searches revealed little on where I could purchase said clothing.

Since I couldn't find any shops locally, or any online shops that sold Vermarc clothing, I ended up going to Vermarcusa.com to order a pair of bib shorts. I figured that was an excellent way to get acquainted with a clothing brand since the bib short is results in some intimate contact points... I decided on a fairly base level pair of shorts in classic black, with Vermarc's CP4 chamois. Their website looked a bit... unpolished... and I had a small amount of trepidation about ordering from them. But Vermarc USA was very helpful and responded quickly to the sizing questions I had. Ends up, for someone my size (32" waist, 170 lbs) I would be a large. My shorts ended up being $69.99 on sale from $125, so fairly middle of the road as far as bibs go. I placed my order and the bib shorts showed up on my doorstep a few days later.





Initial impressions:
Upon initial inspection, the shorts seemed pretty typical for this price range. The lycra wasn't anything "space-aged" or created by formula one engineers. It was normal everyday lycra. I would liken it to your typical club clothing. Something that I did notice, all the stitching was really well done and, just maybe, in some cases, over done. This stitching wasn't going any where. This would be a relief, given my last 3 pair of Castelli shorts had seams unravel or break a couple months into their lifespan.  The bib tops were light and perforated to allow air to flow through although the material wasn't as soft as some I've owned.


The CP4 chamois is Vermarc's base level chamois. That was readily apparent in some of the details. First off, it was branded "Giordana" so Vermac obviously farmed out their chamois manufacturing to save costs. As I only have one pair of their shorts, I'm not sure if this is the same situation on Vermarc's higher end stuff or just limited to their base model. The chamois has a large center piece of squishy material with a "fleecy" bit that is sown in and extends around the front and on either side of the squishy stuff. I gotta admit, the location of the seams had me worried. Seams = chaffing = saddles sores and those seams are located right in the danger zone... Although seemingly badly placed, the stitching is top notch and I have every confidence that this chamois is going to stay put for the life of these shorts. Other than the seams, it's not the worst chamois I've seen but my undercarriage has gotten quite spoiled with the plush one-piece offerings from Louis Garneau and Castelli.





After a few rides:
First and foremost, the fit of these shorts was dead-on. There wasn't any bunching or sagging and the lycra was supportive without being over worked. I was aware of some of the seams on the straps and around the mid section, but that faded as I mounted up and began riding. I'm confined to riding an indoor trainer right now, so that's the only mileage these shorts have seen. For me, trainer riding is inherently uncomfortable, even if I were riding on the chamois equivalent of a barkalounger, my bum and seat would still exchange some unpleasantries.

With that said, after a handful of rides in them, these shorts are pretty middle of the road. It's precisely what I would expect for $70. They did what they were supposed to do, nothing more, nothing less. The seams in the chamois did cause me some problems, but nothing a little chamois cream couldn't fix. I think I would have been much more disappointed had I shelled out the non-sale retail price of $125 for these, but at $70, they aren't too shabby. If I had a rating system, I would give them 3 out of 5 cowbells.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Friday, January 8, 2010