Saturday, October 31, 2009

Chagrin River Cyclocross Day 1

During the practice session on the 21st, when the course was dry, it was fast and a lot of fun to ride. I had my fingers crossed during the week leading up to Halloween that the rain blowing up from the south would miss us. But, this morning, I woke up to rain and water running down the driveway, so I knew the Chagrin River Cyclocross Challenge was going to be challenging.

The grass section of the course was pretty firm, but the woods and the singletrack section of the course were muddy and slick. Mud is not my element, so I was going to be happy with just finishing, and hopefully racing at least one or two people during the day.

Chris and I lined up in the second row, and I had a pretty good start. I was firmly in the field from the start through the pine trees. That's where the carnage started. Someone got loose through the mulch pile, and fishtailed into a tree. Ouch! But he made a great recovery and continued on. I moved up a little bit up through the driveway section. I pushed it hard around the corner to the muddy uphill when my rear wheel washed out, and I went down. No damage to me or the bike. I was back up to speed in a few seconds, but managed to lose it again on an off camber muddy turn. That one hurt a little, and I dropped the chain.

I had been looking forward to the woods section, with the whoop-de-doos and the ditch crossing, but wasn't getting a whole lot of traction, so I wasn't flying through. But it was still challenging, just to stay upright and keep moving ahead. I planned to ride the ditch crossing, but it was total chaos when I got there. Three riders had crashed, so I ran past the bodies, then did the old-man-running-with a walker routine through the mud until I could hop on the bike and pedal.

The singletrack section was pretty tough. If I cranked too hard, the back wheel broke away and I'd get turned sideways, so I had to go slow enough to just keep moving. You'd think that would be a good time to rest and recover, but that section kept me in the red just like all the others.

Finally, I was out of the woods and on the grass and ready for another lap.

I kept it up for the remainder of the race. I was hoping not to get lapped, but Robert flew past through the woods. He looked to be having a great day. I expected to be passed by some more riders at any moment, but it was a long time until the next rider caught me. That's not because I was going fast, but because Robert had a really good gap on the next rider in the field.

I was relieved to finish. It had been a tough day for everyone. I'd hoped to do a little better in the technical sections, but I'm lacking the mud riding skills. Hopefully, with the wind kicking up tonight and the humidity dropping, the course will be a little firmer tomorrow. I hope one of the remaining races is either dry, or all ice.

Brett and his crew did a great job with the course and made it a fun day with a really great holiday atmosphere.  Thanks!

Here is a link to some snapshots I took during the A Race. A few of them came out pretty well. Feel free to copy and use them as you like.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Road Rage Trial Closing Arguments

VeloNews has the latest.

The defense tried to portray the collision as an accident. The prosecution tried to remind jurors that a car can be a deadly weapon by acting out the incident with a baseball bat instead of a car:

First, she goes to a Trader Joe’s. Goes to the aisle where they have granola she wants. Someone is in the way, preventing her from getting her granola, so she swings a bat at the person, but doesn't hit him. With that, Stone held up a baseball bat, swinging in an abrupt arc.

Weeks go by. She returns to the Trader Joe’s and again there’s someone in the way, someone preventing her from getting her granola. This time she swings the bat at them and they duck just out of the way.

A few more weeks go by and she’s back at Trader Joe’s. Someone, she said, “is in my aisle, blocking me from my granola. So I blast his nose with my bat.”

“But of course, I get arrested.”

Then, donning a white doctor’s coat, she said, “But I shroud myself in this because I want to deflect what I did.”

So that's the heart of it. If a driver gets annoyed at a perceived delay caused by a cyclist, then uses the car as a weapon to get revenge, that's a crime. I think the Doc could have got away with it if he had simply said he got mad and slammed on the brakes, but didn't think it would cause an injury. That's probably more or less what happened. Instead, he made up what sounds like pure fiction to avoid all culpability and to paint himself as a saint. I'm hoping the jury sees through that.

The verdict should come back next week.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Codicus Bad Roadicus

I'm compiling a list of bad roads. Roads that are a specific kind of bad. They're northeast Ohio's version of the cobblestone roads of northern France. The surface should be good enough to support high speed riding on a road bike, but rattles the bones, and forces you to pay constant attention and choose a good line and make the occasional bunny hop to avoid disaster. On the other hand, the surface can't be so bad that a puncture or smashed rim is guaranteed.

There are some different road types that would qualify. One example is the brick roads around Chagrin Falls. Another example is the totally deteriorated pavement of Hart Road near Clay Street in northern Geauga County. Almost any chip and seal road would make the list, like Winchell Road in Hiram Rapids.

There are also the uniquely bad semi-private roads. One gem is the road that connects Hale Road to route 608. However, that road is too bad for high speed riding. There are several Amish farm roads that meet that qualification down by Middlefield.

Currently, I'm on the hunt for farm field roads, or utility roads that aren't just dead ends, but aren't total mud pits.

Road Rage Doctor Testimony

From the LA Times:
He [Doctor Road Rage] said he stopped to take a photograph for members of his homeowners association in the hopes they could contact cyclist groups to warn about riding dangerously.

"We've been dealing with this ongoing problem for years and it's impossible to do anything without being able to identify anyone," he told the court.

If that's the best version of events he can come up with, I think he's screwed.

The cyclists were traveling about 30 mph at the time of the collision--the speed limit of the road. The doctor could easily snap a picture from behind the cyclists to achieve his claimed objectives. If the doctor planned to snap a picture from the side of the road, he would have to drive several hundred feet ahead of them, get out of his car, and prepare the camera. Instead, he apparently pulled ahead of them, and slammed on the brakes.

If you combine his crazy story of altruism run amok with the testimony of the officer at the scene, his taped 911 call, the data from the cyclists bike computers, and the testimony of prior attacks, I think even the most jaded cyclist hater on the jury would convict him. I guess we'll find out soon.


Doctor Cross Examined from VeloNews.

Monday, October 26, 2009

More Road Rage Doctor Stuff from VN

Here's the VeloNews link covering the wrap up of the prosecution's case. The defense should present its case this week, and the trial will probably be done.

Here's a highlight:

Watson, in the March incident, and Stoehr, in the July 4 incident, each used GPS devices on their bikes. Accident reconstruction specialist Gerald Bretting said the devices showed Stoehr was going 28.1 mph and Watson was going 29.2 mph just prior to Thompson passing them in their respective incidents.

The speed of the bikes in the July incident will probably be an important point for the jury to consider. Since the cyclists were probably going around 30 mph, the speed-limit on the road, the Doctor had to accelerate to pass them, then slam on the brakes, so he was the one looking for trouble, not the cyclists.

So far, the evidence against the doctor seems pretty compelling. He admitted he was out to "teach a lesson" to the cyclists to the officer who arrived at the scene, then is on tape apparently trying to hide his guilt during the 911 call. The other attacks he allegedly made on cyclists show that he had intent to injure or menace the cyclists with his car. If this was Law & Order, the jury would come back with a verdict of Guilty. But, who knows what the real world jury will do.


More info on bike speed and rights to use the lane from the Biking in LA blog.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Back to the Weight Room

I've had some good rides over the past couple of weeks. I guess I owe it to the cold/flu thing I had earlier in the month that forced me to take a break from the bike, and to getting back into the gym.

Through the winter and the early spring, I'm diligent about lifting, and my leg strength hits its peak. I basically run out of plates on the weight machine. But once the weather relents enough to ride several times a week, I find it's difficult to do both. A strenuous session in the weight room turns the next ride into a joke, likewise a challenging ride or race shreds my legs and makes lifting almost impossible.

The past couple of weeks, I've been riding less, and started lifting again in preparation for the big winter push. I haven't been killing it in the gym, just one set with moderate weights, but it seems like it woke my legs up again. I've been cranking a lot of power on training rides lately.

The acid test will be to do a TT up on the Leroy course, or hit Kirtland Chardon Road sometime, although, not any time soon, since it's October! 

Road Cyclists from The Douchebag's Perspective

Just like O.J., the Road Rage Doctor has his supporters. From USA Today:
In the aftermath and as their numbers have increased, bikers have become emboldened to take over the road. That is, instead of riding to the right or on the shoulder, some are now riding in the center of the lane. Two incidents underscore how the they are putting themselves in danger
Although the premise of the article is ridiculous, and I doubt many people share the author's view, I think it outlines the 1% asshole driver's ideas about cyclists.

The author Chris Woodyard appears to believe that all cyclists know each other and are acting in concert to take the road away from "drivers". That notion is based on the premise that cyclists are a group that's completely apart from the rest of society, rather than tax-paying citizens and sometime drivers.

I'd guess one of the more effective things that cyclists can do to counter this brand of idiocy is to take any available opportunity to point out that we work, pay taxes, and drive just like anyone.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

RR Dr. Defense Cross Examination Article

The defense cross-examined the cyclists. Here's the Velonews article.

It looks like the defense is trying to portray the incident as an accident. The doctor slammed on his brakes directly in front of the cyclists "who were looking for trouble", and since bikes are "inherently unstable" they crashed. That is, the doctor had no intent of injuring the cyclists.

In cross-examining the witness, Swarth suggested that “bicycles are inherently unstable,” a point Peterson vigorously disputed. Most of the cross-examination focused on Thompson’s proximity to Peterson and the known statement, “Ride single file.”
So it will probably come down to the question, is a car a weapon? From a cyclist's point-of-view, it is. But from an average driver's point of view, it's a tool that's easy to wield, and so probably perceived as harmless.

The next bit of news will be the cross examination of the police officer who arrived at the scene that Dr. Thompson confessed to.
Investigating officer Robert Rodriguez testified that when he arrived at the accident, Thompson told him, “I live up the road. There were bikes in front of me, three across the road. They flipped me off. I stopped in front of them. I wanted to teach them a lesson. I’m tired of them.”

Updates (as google barfs them up into my feed reader):

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Bad Driver Olympics

I'm pretty sure some sort of bad driver contest is going on in Geauga county right now.

On Monday, I rode down to Burton on country roads. On Aquilla Road, I was riding along on the white line when I heard the rumble of a pickup truck coming up from behind. I instinctively hugged the shoulder, expecting a blow-by. Instead the driver gave me plenty of room, and eased off the throttle on the way past. Nice! I gave a little nod and a wave. Then a few seconds later, a Geauga Sheriff blew past me with about 1 foot of clearance. My instinct was to fly the bird. But, of course, I'm not that stupid.

On the return trip, I cut over to Route 6 on Grant Street to head to the north. I rolled up toward the stop sign. A Porsche Cayenne is heading squarely for me. I start swerving toward the curb to bunny hop to safety and see the woman driver with a cell phone in one hand and a cigarette poking out the open window in the other. She cuts the apex when making a left hand turn. She finally hears me shout out some nice driving advice, and swerves. Interesting. She could hear me, but couldn't see me.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Willoughby CX Video

Here's a video of the "B" race from Kelly Mikolajczyk. I made a couple Patterson-Gimlin film style appearances right at the beginning and then at 9:04. As you can see at the 9:04 mark, I'm not really cut out for riding in the mud!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Road Rager Update

LA Times Story on the trial: Link

Thompson has pleaded not guilty. His attorney, Peter Swarth, has characterized the incident as an "unfortunate accident."
There are a couple strikes against the doctor:

In last year's preliminary hearing, a police officer testified that Thompson, who complained that cyclists frequently travel down the residential Brentwood street, said he had stopped his car in front of the cyclists to "teach them a lesson."
Also, apparently the doctor had attempted the same type of attack against another pair of cyclists. I don't know if that will be included in the trial or not.

It's going to be interesting to see how it plays out. Unfortunately, I'm guessing the average American would probably have more sympathy with the doctor than the cyclists. Maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised.

Lots of detail: here
Velonews Update: here

Another strike against Doctor Brakenstein:
After one cyclist slammed into the rear of his car and vaulted over it into oncoming traffic, and another crashed through his rear window, Dr. Christopher Thomas Thomps on called 911 and told the operator, “They’ll tell you they are seriously injured, but they’re not.”

In fact, one of the cyclists required 90 stitches to reattach his nose. I think that's pretty serious.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

There Will Be Mud: Willoughby CX

Any hopes I had for Todd Field drying out dissolved overnight with a steady cold drizzle. I knew the conditions would be nasty, so I spent a few minutes torquing down every bolt on the bike, cleaned the chain, and hosed it down with plenty of lube.

Thankfully, the rain stopped this morning. I packed up the race bag, loaded the bike, and drove out to Willoughby with a nice hot mocha from Center Perk in Chardon.

It was about 40F when I took a spin around the course. I wore a jacket, knee warmers, bibs, a long sleeve jersey, undershirt, full gloves, and a cycling cap under my helmet.

The course wound around the ball fields and the parking area of Todd Field, down by the Chagrin River in Willoughby. The main features this year were: the steep wall descent from the parking lot to the field, an abyss on the baseball infield, and the hill run-up.

On the warmup lap, I knew the race was going to be brutal. Wet muddy grass is the worst surface for me to ride on. I can't maintain any momentum, literally. If I stopped pedaling, I would just stop. I went back to the car and stripped off the base layer, the knee warmers, and the cycling cap. I was overheating.

We started immediately after the "C" race. I followed the field around to the dismount and run up and was probably the last, or second to last one around the turn and down. The fast guys in the "B" field flew down the hill and were gone by the time I was pushing my bike up the second hill climb.

The most demanding part of the course--psychologically and physically--was the maze on the baseball field. The sand turned into a slurry of water sand and tiny pebbles that had been squeezed between dozens of bike tires. It provided no traction to torque against, or to turn against. I tried it on the smallest gear and slightly bigger gears, but it made no difference. I just crawled through it every lap. Every time through there, I half thought it would empty out straight into a cold, wet, muddy hell!

The parking lot section of the course was actually fun. It was a break from the monotony of grassy mud, and included a section of sidewalk, a telephone pole crossing, and the wall descent. The wall was actually pretty forgiving. On the first lap, I carefully setup for it so I dropped down directly, but by the last lap, I just blasted down on any angle.

I was way down in the pain cave by the time I crossed the finish line. My back had cramped in every possible way and I had been on the red line the whole time in spite of my glacial pace. I walked back to the car in a daze.

The bike suffered a little bit during this race. I think I need a new BB, which I'm actually happy about. I haven't liked the FSA mega-exo bottom bracket since I first installed it. I have an old Dura-Ace BB. I'll probably throw some old Ultegra cranks on and go with a 39 tooth conventional chainring instead of the 36T compact I've got now.

I'll probably get out for a nice easy recovery ride on the road tomorrow.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Todd Field Recon

I dropped by Todd Field on my way into Mentor today.

The ground seems pretty sticky, but not as sloppy as I thought it would be after the rain we've had recently. I'm sure the off-camber turns will break down throughout the day, but I don't think the track will turn into slop like Leroy.

The course is running the opposite direction from last season, so we'll ride down the steep wall between the parking lot and the fields instead of going up.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Road Rage Doctor

I've been following this story for a while. There weren't any new developments for quite a while, but it finally is going to trial. Here's a link to the October 12, 2009 velonews story: Link

A California emergency-room physician faces trial this week on multiple felony charges stemming from a 2008 road-rage case that left two cyclists seriously injured.

Dr. Christopher T. Thompson allegedly braked suddenly in front of Ron Peterson and Christian Stoehr after he and Peterson exchanged words as they descended Mandeville Canyon Road on July 4, 2008.

The trial should be taking place this week.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Playing Chicken with Swine Flu

Since the beginning of October, some virus has been rolling around in me. I felt some symptoms right after Leroy. I had a tight throat and my legs felt like spaghetti when I went out to ride a couple of times. Luckily, I noticed it before I completely ran myself into the ground and rested until I felt pretty healthy.

I thought I was back on track, and went back to my normal workout schedule over the weekend. First, I hit the weight room to get used to pumping iron again, then did a short, but intense road ride on Saturday, then a nice easy spin on Sunday, when I felt the symptoms start to creep back--tired, slightly scratchy throat.

So it looks like another week with no riding. Hopefully I'll feel better by the time the Willoughby CX race rolls around. That course is tough and I could easily shred my immune system if I'm not careful.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Units of Measure

I'm just old enough to remember the push in the 1970s to adopt the metric system in the US. I vaguely recall the Saturday morning PSA cartoons that made the kilometer a friendly character. But apparently he wasn't friendly enough. In fact, to most people, he was a frightening commie agent. So the US is one of the three countries in the world that don't mandate the metric system. Burma, and Liberia are the other two. So now you need two sets of sockets and wrenches. Here's a nice write up about the history.

As cyclists, we use a pidgin system of measures. When you're getting sized for a bike, you measure your inseam in inches, but spec out the frame in centimeters, unless it's a MTB. Your crankarm length is in millimeters, but gearing charts are in inches. 40 miles per hour is a really fast sprint! Is 50 km/hr? Your stem length is in millimeters, but the diameter of the steerer tube is 1 1/8". The length of race courses is given in miles. But when you're getting toward the end of a race, the signs are marked out at 400 meters, 200 meters, but if you win by throwing your bike, you beat someone by inches.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Leroy CX 2009 Wrap Up

Thanks to Leroy Township for letting us use the park, especially to Trustee Chuck Klco. Thanks to Mountain Road Cycles for sponsoring the event. Special thanks to Lynn Marut for officiating, to our volunteers for all their hard work, and to the riders who turned out to race in some pretty brutal muddy conditions! Also, thanks to Team Lake Effect and to Bike Authority for including us in the BACX series. We had 83 riders compete, compared to 75 last year.

It was a lot of fun to watch the race this year. Cyclocross is a spectacle from the battle to win the "A" race, all the way through the struggle to finish the "C" race. It was interesting to see what gearing people selected, and to see what strategy they used for navigating the singletrack or the ditches. Some people blazed over the bridge into the singletrack, others carefully selected their line and tapped the brakes to make sure they got over safely.

We're retiring the Leroy course for 2010. We've got a list of new venues to check out before next fall.