Monday, June 29, 2009

Tour Stage Overviews

The route is going to make a thrilling race. The race might actually be decided in a drag race on the Champs between the survivors.

This year the race jumps right into it with a short ITT for the first stage in Monaco. That should be a great backdrop. The favorites will emerge right away.

Back by popular demand, I think, is a TTT on stage 4. That should knock several riders from weaker teams out of contention. If you're a rider with a bright orange jersey, my guess is you weren't happy about the TTT.

Stage 20 has a mountain top finish on Mount Ventoux.

I'll be rooting for Carlos Sastre and Vande Velde this year. It's going to be interesting to see how Astana plays its cards, and of course, to see how Armstrong does after a long break from competition.

Most of all, I'll keep my fingers crossed that there are no doping scandals. Last year came pretty close to snuffing out my interest in pro cycling.

Here's a link about the Marked Men of this year's tour.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

That Not So Fresh Feeling

I've been piling on lots of miles and intensity lately. My plan has been to keep thrashing it until this week, take a rest week, and hope to be fresh for the July races.

It's going to be nice to take a break. I'll skip the drive to Westlake this week and actually get some things done around the house. Also, the exertion has been catching up with me. My back is sore most of the time, and for the past week, some rides have been a real struggle. The fatigue is most noticable when I'm just riding tempo; it's a real effort just to cruise along at 20 mph on the flat.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Scary Stuff

Driving while texting/emailing is pretty common. I've seen people texting while making their way around dead man's curve in Cleveland.

Here's an article that should make cyclists nervous: link

2,600 deaths and 330,000 injuries caused by in-car cell phone use.

Cyclists and pedestrians, I would guess, are particularly threatened by driving while texting. Since you can't read with your peripheral vision (go ahead and try it), you need to look directly at the puny screen, and rely on your peripheral vision to drive. That works in a static driving condition, but will fail if something suddenly changes, like a pedestrian crossing the street, or a cyclist on the side of the road.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Beat the Rain, But not the Heat

I went up to Leroy a couple of hours early today to take a shot at the TT course before any of the big thunderstorms that were popping up around Cleveland hit the course.

I was hoping to beat my time from last week by a few seconds, but hopes for that faded as I rode around the course for my warm up. Though the wind was predominately from the west, so there was a big tailwind on the outbound leg, it was also whipping around in different directions on the course, probably a sign that a storm was coming. Also, it was hot touching about 90 degrees, like riding in an EZ bake oven, with the same disgusting results.

My HR was popping even when I was poking along at 15 mph during the warmup, but I decided to give it a shot anyway. I doused myself with water and took off on the course. Ouch. No power but the HR was climbing into the 170s. I kept it up to the turn around, and saw I was way off my pace from last week, and was really struggling in the heat.

I made it to about 2 miles to go and started to try to push hard, but couldn't muster any force, so I decided to shut it down and just roll home. Hopefully the weather will cooperate a little more next week.

July Cycling Fest!

Starting the first week in July, my calendar is packed with races to ride and watch. The Twin Sizzler is on the 4th, Westlake is the 7th, the first of the Chapel Crit series is the 9th, then the Tour of the Valley starts on the 10th--I'll skip the RR stage, but do the rest. Of course, the Tour de France will be running at the same time, and in the morning I'll be planted on the couch watching all the stages live.

At the end of the month, it will be time for a break, and to mix things up I'll start running to prepare for CX season.

I'll keep my fingers crossed that I stay healthy throughout, and should be in position to finish the season strong.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Westlake #7

It was hot, but at least it wasn't humid, at start time. The race was scheduled for 25 freakin' laps! That's getting pretty far out of my comfort zone. 40 miles at Westlake is nearly perfect for me. Over that, I start to wear out during the last few laps.

Hydration was a major issue, so I spent most of the day drinking juice and water. Last week, I had gatorade. When it's hot like that, I have a hard time absorbing it, and get more and more ill as a race progresses. I found mineral water, Gerolsteiner, doesn't cause that problem, so I brought a few bottles of that along and filled my bottles to the brim, and drank about 16 ounces before the start.

The fields were huge. The B field was about 20 people, the A field was over 50, I think. Prior to the start, everyone took time to sign Scott's Get Well Soon card.

We started at a leisurely pace. Only a few people were willing to jump right into the 50 mile race, and a small group TTed off the front. Apparently none of the big guns went, so we rode a leisurely tempo while the group pulled away.

I wanted to follow one of the riders who always gets in the break, so I looked around for Brian Batke, Rudy, or Chris and made it my goal to latch on to their wheel no matter what. I rode with Brian for a while, but in the shuffle of the field, I ended up on his teammate's (Tris Hopkins) wheel as he made his way forward to launch an attack. Perfect! He launched just before the turn off Ranney Parkway through the sweeper before the straightaway.

The attack was powerful, even though I was just following a wheel at around 30 mph for a minute, I was pumping out as much power as I do over the last mile at Leroy. In spite of the big effort, the field managed to latch on. I retreated back into the field and kept my eyes open for Chris or Brian, but was still a little tired from following the attack and missed the next move.

In the A race, the breaks gel quickly, and it takes a while for a successful one to get away. I don't think I have quite enough mojo to attack again and again at that speed, but I'm actually pretty close.

Once the break went clear, the field settled into a manageable pace. Nobody seemed able to organize a chase. I helped pull for a while, way, way too late to actually close the gap, but we only managed one rotation before teammates of the attackers broke it up.

The last lap finally rolled around. I made a point of getting the hell out of the way of the melee. I decided to just cruise the last lap without getting involved in the sprint for Nth place.

Now that we're past the solstice, the races will be getting shorter. I'm looking forward to the 20 lap races. Even more, I can't wait to ride with my peers to test out my legs.

Total Distance: 50 miles
Time: about 2 hours
Energy: 1347 kJoules
Avg. Power: 191 Watts

Monday, June 22, 2009

An Instant Classic?

This spring, Max recommended Punderson State Park as a venue for a Road Race. Chris and I finally took a ride down there today to recon possible routes through the park. It's really close to perfect for a circuit race. The terrain is rolling, there's probably a couple hundred feet of elevation gain per lap, there are sweeping turns, different views of the lake, high speed straightaways, and technical turns. Each lap would probably be 3-4 miles. Like the Covered Bridge course, it would be challenging, but the climbs are short and not too steep, so any rider can compete. There are plenty of opportunities for a break to get away, and the out and back sections of the course would give chasers a good view of their prey. There are a hundred potential stumbling blocks, but with some luck, we'll get this race off the ground in the fall or next spring.

Shout out to Scott C!

I heard through the grapevine that there was a serious accident this weekend with a member of the Cleveland cycling community resulting in a helicopter trip to MetroHealth. Since the info is third hand, I'll keep this short and leave out any details. Best wishes for a speedy recovery!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Two of the Four Sisters

Saturday, I climbed Mullberry and Kirtland Chardon Road. Two of the four steep stair step climbs out of the East Branch of the Chagrin River valley.

Mullberry, Thwing, Route 6, and Kirtland Chardon are some of the bigger climbs in our area. They all ascend the steep valley cut by the East Branch of the Chagrin River toward the south west corner of Chardon and gain about 400 feet. Since KCR is the farthest downstream, it gains the most elevation from 874 feet at the bridge in the valley to 1,300 feet at the corner of Route 6 (426 feet) in about 1.5 miles.

I was very fatigued from Westlake and the Leroy TT. It took me about 45 minutes to warm up. Like last week, I noticed the fatigue most when I was just riding tempo, when I was pushing it on the climbs, I felt fine, but between the climbs, I felt like I was in slow motion.

Mullberry ascends in stair steps with short descents between the steps through stream crossings. I haven't tackled Mullberry since last season, but it's a pretty convenient way to add some more climbing to my traditional route up KCR. I usually take Heath Road north to Wisner, but it's easy to hit Mullberry then drop back down via Thwing before heading to KCR. Even though sections of Heath Road are a dirt and tar trail, the surface is actually pretty smooth and there is no traffic, so you can choose your line through the holes. (I'd avoid that in the rain, though, it's probably like ice.)

Larry Pandy and another rider were ascending Thwing while I was gliding down. As I zipped past, I wasn't able to ID the other rider. They were hauling, though.

I didn't push it too hard on KCR until I got near the top then I went all in. Toward the end of the season, I'll have to give it an all out effort to see if I can get under 7 minutes for the whole climb.

It was a good ride. Climbing on the weekends combined with Westlake and the Leroy TT seems to be working pretty well for building my fitness, so I'll probably stick with that for the rest of the season.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Good Times at Leroy

A big group turned up for the TT tonight. The weather, which looked like rain all day, finally cleared up. There was a light wind, and the temperatures were very comfortable.

This was my best run of the season so far, 19:58, knocking 24 seconds off my time last week. My average power was actually a little lower, 334 Watts, but I managed to get out of the saddle and punch it a few times on the outbound leg. I finished the last two miles strong.

It feels like there's a lot more left in the tank, so next week I'll aim for 19:30. I should be able to pick up time on the second half of the climb and the descent. I'm basically flat out over the last two miles. The only way I could gain time there is by tweaking my position to get a little more aero.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Westlake #6

The sky looked like a storm was on its way when I drove out 90 to Westlake on Tuesday night, but the weather radar was clear, and the forecast was for rain after midnight so I wasn't too worried. Though the race goes on rain or shine, I won't race in the rain.

The trip through Cleveland was unusually easy and I got out to the bus garage parking lot with plenty of time to get ready and warm up. I took a few easy laps to get a feel for the wind and weather. The wind was ripping out of the east northeast at about 10 mph, so there was a massive headwind/crosswind on the Ranney Parkway section of the course, and a strong tailwind on the finishing stretch. The wind stayed full strength for the duration of the race. It wasn't too hot, but it was uncomfortably humid.

In spite of the weather, a big group turned up for both the A and B race. I didn't count, but there were probably about 50 in the A race. 24 laps/48 miles were scheduled.

The race followed it's typical pattern. It was fast until a break went clear, then settled into a manageable pace. With the tailwind, we were flying through the start/finish straight. I hit 35 mph on one of the first few laps.

I felt pretty bad most of the time. The gatorade I drank before the start and during the race felt like a brick in my stomach, and I was steadily getting dehydrated. I'll have to switch to mineral water next time, that's easier on me.

For about the first half of the race, I had difficulty moving up through the field. I was stuck on the back, but was managing the turns with efficiency, so I was always in the draft, so I just relaxed and stayed there instead of taking chances to move forward.

The most difficult section of the course was Ranney Parkway. When the front of the field hammered out of the turn, the pack would string out in the gutter to escape the crosswind. On the upwind side, it was a tough slog at 27 mph. On the sheltered side, it wasn't too bad. On a particularly violent lap, I got popped off the back and thought I was done, but I guess it wore everyone out, because the field slowed to a crawl, and I was easily able to get back on.

Eventually I made an effort to move forward and managed to maintain my position near the front of the field for most of the race.

I was relieved when I saw the single digits on the lap cards. I was so bored of sitting in the field that I thought about making a pointless attack. Apparently, I wasn't the only one. Folks were jumping off the front into the void one by one and two by two. The field would chase them down, so the average speed popped up again.

Finally! Two laps to go. I made it. As we were heading up Ranney Parkway just before the "S" curves, I heard shouts, clatter, and the chirping of skidding tires to my immediate right. A group was going down like bowling pins. A rider got knocked down right in front of me at 25 mph. It was bunny hop, or swerve. Swerve! I was on the left, so I managed to squirt around. I got back in the group and went down the road a little before stopping and checking back to see if everyone in the crash was alright. A group was gathered at the spot helping out.

Nobody was seriously injured, but some skin was left on the road, and bikes were damaged. Bill Marut's frame looked like a formula one car that hit the wall at 200 mph. That totally sucks! Even though I was lucky enough to avoid the crash, I'll have that sound playing in my head for the next few races I do. I hope everyone who crashed recovers quickly and not too many dollars go flying out the window.

  • Distance: 46.2 miles (I cut the last lap short)
  • Time: 1:49
  • Energy: 1272 kJoules
  • Average Speed: 25.3 mph
  • Average Power: 196 Watts
  • Max Power: 1347 Watts

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Saturday and Sunday in June

This was a good weekend of riding, even though I was battling fatigue. Saturday, I went out to do some 2 minute intervals. I rolled over to Rockhaven Road via Sherman.

By the time I got to Rockhaven, only about 20 minutes into the ride, I was already feeling pretty worn out. I did the first interval. It didn't feel too bad. When I turned around to head back to the start of the interval, I was struggling just to go just 15 mph. I felt like I was riding in glue. I decided to do another anyway. I did the interval with no problem, but was struggling to just ride an easy tempo. Weird. I decided to just ride home after that since I was going to the Sunday in June ride the next day.

Later that evening I had the strongest craving for Marachino cherries. Bizarre. Maybe I have some vitamin deficiency, or am coming down with a virus, or the constant negative calorie/weight loss regimine is starting to get to me. I snarfed down a few, but didn't feel any sudden relief. Do those have any nutritional value?

The Sunday in June ride was pretty good even though I had a headache the whole time. I slept with my arm at a weird angle and my neck just couldn't relax.

I drove down to Burton since I was a little late getting started. Parking was no problem. I got through the registration in only about 10 minutes. It's always fun to see hundreds of people of all shapes and sizes who love to ride bikes of all kinds.

I rode with Al, Bryan and Mike. I was planning on a pretty easy ride for the first half, Burton down to Parkman and back, but per usual, we whipped up the speed after only a quick warm up. We rode past one group, and they actually counter attacked, so we spent the rest of the first leg trying to drop eachother with some pretty vicous attacks. So much for a nice ride in the country!

Eventually we caught up with a big group from CTC and finished the rest of the ride with them. I was pretty fatigued with about five miles to go. I took a little breather to stretch my back, and just couldn't get my legs started again. I rode the rest of the ride on the little ring.

The only bad part of the ride was along Route 608 near the Lake County/Geauga border. That little section of our world is the black hole/bermuda triangle of cyclist hatred. I try to avoid 608 whenever possible.

It doesn't matter if you ride there by yourself, or in a group, or an organized ride like SIJ, some hillbilly in a jacked up Bronco is going to risk your life as they drive to pick up a case of beer and a pack of menthols. We had two consecutive hillbillie blast bys. The first one was relatively safe. The section of road was flat, so you could see a quarter mile. The second one was just a gamble on life or death of any number of people, the guy passed over a blind rise. It could have been a head on collision at over 55 mph.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Westlake #5

Always Be Moving Up, ABMU. That's not very catchy, but that's what my plan was for Westlake this week.

I was tired from the weekend ride to Hiram, so when I rolled around the course for my usual warmup and saw "23" to go (46 miles) on the lap cards, I had my doubts that I'd hang in for the finish.

Since the weather was nice, a big crowd turned out for both fields. Combined there were 63 riders. There were probably about 50 in the "A" field. That's a lot on that course, from head to tail, the group probably ends up being 30 bike lengths long.

The race followed a predictable pattern. There were lots of attacks at the beginning, and it was very fast for the first several laps until a breakaway group got away. Pretty much every time I looked down at my speed, I was going over 30 mph. I felt really comfortable, though.

I saw the break forming, but had minimal chance to try to get involved, since the pace of the field was blistering and I was far from the front. The window for jumping across the gap is really small. If you wait too long at 27 mph average speed, it's pretty difficult to bridge. At this point in the season, after transitioning from B to A, I'm not worried about getting in a break. I'm just trying to build the fitness to finish the race consistently.

Instead, I just focused on riding smoothly and trying to move forward in the field at every available opportunity (without burning extra energy). It worked pretty well. I was consistently at the front of the group and never felt in danger of getting popped off the back. The trick seems to be: watch the riders at the front, accelerate when they accelerate, and try to be a little faster than the riders immediately around you.

There was one nail biting moment for me during the race. Swinging onto the home stretch somebody bumped up against my knee while we were heeled over doing 28 mph. I was relaxed, so I absorbed the blow without any problem, but I thought the bumper was going to go down and take out a swath of people.

The average speed was 26.3 mph for 46 miles. Average power was only 206 Watts! I took a couple flyers off the front of the second group for TT practice. The first effort was pretty solid, nearly a full lap. The second effort, I followed a group that jumped out into no man's land, we had a huge gap, but weren't able to work together. I was pretty happy with how I handled turn 2 onto Ranney Pkwy. I did a good sprint every lap, but was really efficient, so I was usually able to move forward in the field without digging too deep.

Monday, June 8, 2009

I'll take a burger with those fries

It was a good weekend of riding. Saturday, Chris and I rode down to Hiram via Burton. The town of Burton was hopping. We stopped for refueling on the trip home. The benches in front of the shops along the main drag through town were full of people enjoying the nice weather, and all the store fronts are occupied. It was a stark contrast with Chardon, where the square is a small business graveyard, and seems to be drifting toward a bad spot as the years go by.

The highlight of the trip was the ride up Derthick's Hill on Route 82, west of Hiram just before Route 44. It's a consistent grade to the top, about 8%. The climb was resurfaced, so the pavement was fresh, and baking in the sun, giving off that summer asphalt smell. I managed to keep up a good tempo for most of the climb, but wilted toward the top. The whole effort was only 2:41. I maintained solid power for about half that, then popped and limped to the turn.

The ride home was tiring due to the heat and wind. We kept up a good tempo on Rapids Road to Burton, but I was pretty cooked by the time we climbed to Burton Square. I was completely done by the time we rolled into Chardon via the bike path. It was a 51 mile trip. I stayed fresh for about 2 hours, which isn't surprising since that's a more typical duration for my training trips.

It seemed like we were riding a hard tempo the whole trip, every time I looked down at the bike computer, the speed was well over 20 mph. But by the time we got home, the average was only 18.4.

I did an easy ride on Sunday, out Sherman, then up to the Kirtland Chardon Road climb. I was pretty fatigued, so didn't try to get a good time up the climb, then I just rode easy tempo home. On the last little climb up to South Street, somebody threw stuff at me out their car window. Initially, I had no idea what it was.

Even though I was tired, the adrenaline got flowing. My brain went through a handful of plans. First, I thought I should get the license plate number and report it, but it was out of range too quickly for me to see. Then, I was pissed and wanted to throw something at the car, but only had a water bottle available. Finally, I got out of the saddle and sprinted since the light was red. I was looking forward to the sudden change on the passenger's face from hilarity to meek fear. Unfortunately the candy ass managed to turn right and flee before I could get near the car. I eventually figured out it was only some McDonald's fries that were thrown. Does that qualify as assault? Probably only if you eat them.

This kind of crap is pretty rare, thankfully. This season, I've had three redneck run-ins in spite of riding quite a bit at higher traffic hours. Last season, though, I only had one, and there have been years where I had zero.

The car was quite distinctive. It was a red Pontiac minivan with several stickers on the back, including a prominent #3 sticker in the center of the rear window. I am deciding between being a good citizen and filing a police report, or a very direct confrontation, or just letting it go. I've seen the car before, so finding it should be easy. I also like the idea of suddenly turning the tables on someone who is tough when they are in a metal box, but change their tune when they are confronted face to face.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Leory TT (or is it LeRoy?)

The wind was out of the east northeast at about 10 mph tonight, so I had a nasty headwind on the outbound leg of my warmup, and a good tailwind on the return leg. I barely had to pedal to go 20 mph over the last couple of miles. Those conditions seem to be much easier to deal with than a headwind toward the finish. However, the wind was gradually declining as the evening went on.

I've got my starting routine down cold. I hold off through the first quarter mile while my heart catches up with my legs, then start applying pressure toward the line of trees at the edge of the field, and try to accelerate all the way to the right hand turn. With the headwind, I only managed 21.5 mph average over the first two miles.

For my past several outings, I've been trying to squeeze a little more time out of the hill climb section of the course. I've tried to keep the power output consistent all the way to the top of the climb, but it drops significantly on the second leg of the climb, which is actually flat. My average power up through the first half of the climb was 359 Watts. On the second half of the climb, it dropped to about 330. My average speed from the turn to the turnaround was 18.8 mph.

I was looking forward to the second half of the course and the tailwind. Once I saw the two miles to go mark on the road, I started pushing as hard as I could stand to, and kept increasing the power output all the way through the finish. I averaged 25.4 mph and 417 Watts for 4:44.

My total time was 20:22, 15 seconds faster than last week. My average power was 369 Watts (3.69 W/kg), a little better than last week. This week, I also wore my HRM. My average heart rate was 172, with a max of 186. It looks like my LT heart rate is more like 175 bpm than 170. I felt pretty comfortable except when I got around 180 bpm.

Thanks Jim!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Westlake #4

The "A" group included somewhere between 30 and 50 riders. The "B" field had about 11. Rick Adams was in town from California with Ellsworth Bikes demo units. He had some nice looking machines, including a funky beach cruiser. I'll have to take a look at their web site sometime soon; He provided some extra primes for the fields to suffer for.

The police officer who normally marshalls one of the turns was a no-show, deer were browsing around the course, and the city placed a traffic barrel in the right gutter of the finishing straight, so it was important to pay attention to the road!

I felt pretty good and relaxed at the start of the neutral lap. We rolled around the course toward the start/finish and an attack went away almost immediately. I waited a too long before I decided to try to jump across, but managed to latch on anyway. However, the field gelled again. As usual, over the first several laps, several attacks went and the speed was pretty when the field tried to reel them in. The speed bounced into the 30s at least once a lap. (I think I need an 11 cog.) Eventually, a couple groups got up the road. A two man break, and a chase group.

I felt good, so I decided to try to bridge to the chase group, which was still only about 20 seconds up the road, and the speed of the field had dropped to about 25 mph. I didn't really attack, I just lifted my pace and moved up the left side of the field through the start finish hoping to get some help. I kept the pressure on through turn one, and saw a couple wheels behind me. As we rounded turn two, I was off with a group of three, but we didn't have much of a gap. After one rotation through, the field had caught us, but at least we chewed a pretty good divet out of the chase group's gap.

Once the field caught us, I eased up just a little, and found myself drifting toward the back rapidly. Someone was kind enough to shout out to me to latch on, so I accelerated a bit and was safely back in the draft. Whew!

I decided to just hang out in the field. I felt pretty good for the next 45 minutes or so. Finally, swinging onto Ranney Parkway with 7 laps to go, I really plowed into a pothole. It actually hurt my wrists. That broke my rhythm and I sat up briefly. A gap opened, and as in week 2, I didn't blow up, I just couldn't muster the will to close it. Ding! Race over just like that.

I rode another couple easy laps with another B-turned-A rider who had been dropped, but my lower back was seriously fatigued, so I just pulled over and watched the finish.

I stayed in for an hour and six minutes, 15 laps, about 30 miles at an average speed of 26.1 mph. The power average was just 237 Watts, since I was drafting most of the time. There were several high intensity efforts between 30 seconds and a minute, and the typical sprint out of turn two every lap.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Random Thoughts

My mind goes ends up in one of a few states when I'm out riding. During tough efforts it more or less switches off so time and space go by in a blur of breathing, sweating, and suffering, and occasionally doing something like counting pedal strokes. Sometimes, especially on longer rides through dull terrain, a song will pop into my head in full stereophonic fidelity like a biological iPod. Unfortunately, most of the time the music is annoying, like the free credit report dot com theme, or some 80s song like Uptown Girl. The least common state for my mind to occupy while I'm out on the bike is epiphany; where some previously opaque aspect of life turns crystal clear and obvious.

I was riding along Heath Road in Munson and a dude in a open-topped jeep drove by in the opposite lane. He had mirrored aviator shades, and had a cigarette dangling from his lip. I had one of those rare moments of clarity. People actually work at being cool. In just the few moments I saw the dude drive by, I could tell that he spent a considerable effort putting the whole bit together: attitude, car selection, smoking style, shades. When I was wondering if a varus wedge in my right shoe would help power transfer, he was deciding what shirt matches the interior of the jeep.

One of the things I probably like about cycling, but never really thought much about, is no matter how much effort goes into styling, that's forgotten once somebody makes you feel like you are going to asphyxiate and your heart is going to pop.