Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Seven Stages of Road Racing

The holidays gave me a few minutes to browse other cycling blogs, something I haven't done in a while. I saw this post on Stuart Lynne's blog and found it amusing:



http://tt-training.blogspot.com/2008/03/seven-stages-of-road-racing.html



Sounds just like my 2006 season.

CTL and FTP History

One of the useful things about power data is that a watt in 2006 is the same as a watt in 2009. So chronic training load (CTL) and functional threshold power (FTP) are reliable in comparing training and fitness across multiple years. If your power meter is giving you good numbers (close your eyes and accept it, Hoppa, it won't hurt), then CTL and FTP are 100% valid indicators of how hard you've worked in any year and what FTP benefit you developed from the work. The comparison works best in the winter FTP-build phase.

The comparison is a good test of your training program's effectiveness. There are important contributors to, and indicators of, fitness and succes other than CTL and FTP (genetics, luck, nutrition, weight, confidence, stress level, sleep quality, team strenth, equipment weight and quality, spousal support, tactics, strategy, motivation, sprint power, crank torque, 5-min power, cadence, CdA), but for me they are the ones that matter the most.


Sunday, December 28, 2008

LeMond, Armstrong, and the SRM Dope Dog

I’ve been studying cycling from every angle for the last few years. It’s increasingly rare that I encounter a truly new idea or perspective that “opens a new door” or provides me a completely original line of thinking about cycling performance or culture. But I stumbled upon one on Friday.

A little background: In preparing for a 3-hour drive to Ringgold to see the inlaws (a visit which was enhanced by a 40-mile ride over new Tennessee roads with my Lovely Wife), I downloaded onto my Shuffle several cycling-related podcasts: a couple Fredcasts and a couple from The Spokesman. One of them contained stuff from Interbike 2008. That’s where Lance gave a press conference this fall to discuss his return to competitive cycling. A sort-of-hard-to-hear recording of his press conference was included in the podcast.

I already knew that Greg LeMond had attended Lance’s press conference and, based on what I’d heard, had made an ass of himself with all of his repeated questions about Lance’s new doping controls. Lance has, in lieu of a salary, requested that Astana hire a dope testing specialist to set up and carry out a continuous testing program for Lance for the 2009 season. All of his data will be published on the web in real time.

Well, Greg repeatedly attempted to grill Lance and his consultant about it. In the recording you couldn’t hear the questions very well, but you could tell that Lance and pretty much everyone else in the room wished he would just shut up and go back to selling bikes.

Greg and Lance in '94 - before they had much to argue about.

But that’s not the interesting part. Greg’s been doing that for years and everyone’s used to it. The guy who runs the Fredcast hung around to work on some technical stuff after the press conference. A little while later, Greg LeMond and Lance’s drug testing consultant entered the room and continued in private their heated discussion. As Greg turned to leave, he held a brief interview with three or four journalists. That’s the part that got me thinking.

One last caveat before I finally get to my point: Although I’m an admirer of Greg LeMond for his accomplishments and for what he’s contributed to American cycling, I’m not particularly fond of his constant Lance attacks (airing of American cycling’s dirty laundry in public goes against my grain and hints at a character flaw in LeMond – although Lance has his share of those as well).

In the interview after the press conference, which can be heard at http://www.thefredcast.com/?p=406, Greg made his point. Essentially, he said that no matter how the doping labs test professional riders, and no matter how sophisticated their testing methods get, the riders and some of their teams will always be a step ahead and be able to evade some of the testing. Maybe that’s true. I have very little doubt that Lance will race clean in 2009, but will everyone in the peloton be clean – no. CERA stays in your system for about 60 hours. Blood doping with your own blood is virtually undetectable.

LeMond proposed that there is one ironclad way to catch dopers: use an SRM. Measure their race power output.

He argues that through chemistry, physics, and physiology, we’ve established very accurately the relationships governing the energy systems of cycling. A calorie is a calorie is a calorie. And a watt is a watt is a watt. VO2max, or the amount of oxygen that your body can process per minute, limits and controls how much energy your body can produce. Everyone's career-best FTP (and other power outputs) has a set ceiling.

Your VO2max is largely determined by genetics. Training level and age can also play roles. For a 25-year-old, very highly trained cyclist it’s virtually a constant number. It will drop slightly with age, but not much until you reach your upper thirties or forties. And even then it changes pretty slowly if you remain highly trained. {And for Causey and Ron I think it’s a universal constant.}

Improvements in racing tactics, training methods, teammates, nutrition, and your mental approach can all make you a more successful cyclist. But if you are a very highly trained professional cyclist (alreadying eating and training at the highest level possible) your maximum power output won’t change much after a young age even though your endurance can be greatly improved with additional years.

LeMond argues (and he has physiologists to back up his argument) that there should be a baseline VO2max established for every professional rider. Based on that VO2max, assuming the highest mechanical and metabolic efficiency that’s possible for humans, there would be a maximum functional threshold power (FTP) calculated for every rider in the peloton. Competitors (randomly or all of them – he doesn’t say) would have their bikes fitted with SRM power meters during race stages. Any rider who demonstrated long-term power output exceeding the theoretical maximum would be considered a doper and immediately removed from the sport for life – end of rule. LeMond says riders like Merckx and Anquetil never produced a FTP of 8 watts per kilo and doesn’t think modern riders are doing it honestly. (Van de Velde reportedly stayed with the front Tour group in the mountains in 2008 with 5.85 watts/kilo – something he’d not been able to do in the past with the same power output).

While this approach would be a very radical idea - I’m certainly not sold on it -- it’s a fascinating one. It would also be terrible for cycling and cycling fans.

Would the SRM dope dog weed out dopers of all types – I don’t see why not. But it would turn professional cycling into more of a video game than it already has become. It would be like having Johan Bruneel, Bjarne Riis, and Jonathan Vaughters sitting across the table from each other with monitors and joysticks. Dopers would shift their focus from max power output to maximum recovery ability, and the dope race would continue.

Knowing the exact FTP of every rider in the peloton and having race radios to completely control all of them would remove from cycling what magic that remains in the sport. The echoes of Anquetil and Merckx would finally and completely be dampened by technology and the modern era. Let's find another way.


Jaques Anquetil


Eddie Merckx

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Bike Food

It's obvious that if you do long rides you have to eat and drink or you will endure much suffering.

When my wife's legs stopped working at mile 48 of our 76-mile group ride yesterday, I asked her what was wrong. She said, "I don't know, but I can barely turn the pedals." After she'd struggled to the finish, I asked her what she'd had to eat and drink, and it became obvious that she'd staged her own littel hunger strike in the Peach Peloton.

My rule of thumb is that for rides over about 30 miles, I make sure to consume at least 200 calories per hour even if I have to choke it down. That's usually in the form of a Hammer gel or half a Hammer bar along with one bottle of Heed per hour. I noticed one rider in our group yesterday drank two large bottles of energy drink every hour. Everybody's different, and I guess he prefers liquid calories. If I tried that I'd be chasing back on from lots of one-man nature breaks.

If you're so inclined, enter your preferenced in the poll to the right.

Poll results:
Calories per hour on the bike:
Random - 16%
100 - 0%
200 - 8%
300 - 16%
>300 - 58%

Type of food:
Energy Drink - 66%
Energy Bars - 75%
Gels - 66%
Fruit - 25%
Store stop food - 50%
Salty foods - 33%

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

6789 SST

I 'invented' a new trainer FTP-build workout last night (boredom is the mother of many new workouts). I’ll call it 6789 STT. (SST is sweet spot training – 90% of FTP - not a new idea, but probably a pretty good one). It goes like this:

Begin riding at L2 effort. At 14 min, do 6 min of SST. At 23 min, do 7 minutes of SST. At 32 min, do 8 min of SST. And at 41min, do 9 min of SST. L2 effort between sets and for the last 10 minutes to make an hour-long workout.

Figure by Andy Coggan, PhD

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Suffering

Last night I finished the hardest workout I've ever done. Honestly. It wasn't complicated - just get on the computrainer and go as hard as I could for 45 minutes.

The cave result was a good one for me - 290 watts (4.34 w/kg), only about 22 watts lower than the number that big 'Hoppa stamped out down there a couple of weeks ago.

But the new level of suffering started me wondering - are the higher numbers due more to adaptive physiology or psycology? Have I become a stronger cyclist or a better sufferer? I guess in the end it doesn't matter how much of each has contributed, because racing requires plenty of both.

It's been plenty cold this week, at least by Georgia standards. So I'm throwing in a couple of zaps from the BBQ ride - when it was a little warmer. One of the reasons why we suffer on the trainer in the winter:




Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Upgrading the Tarmac

I did a 2-hr ride on the Tarmac yesterday and was pleased with it. My first impressions compared with the Orca:

  • Tarmac has slightly more responsive steering, which means slightly less stable (a little more twitchy), and seemed to be a little more responsive to accelerations.
  • Tarmac is about 1.5 lbs lighter than the Orbea (around 15.3 with pedals) and I think I did notice some difference.
  • Tarmac seems to dampen road vibration a little bit more, but it might be the Roval Fusee wheels as much as the frame.
  • The S-Works Toupe saddle is nice and very light, but I like my slightly heavier and more boring Fizik Arione better.
  • I don't care for the S-Works stem, so I'll replace it with a Thomson X2.
  • The reach was about a centimeter too long, so I'll install a shorter stem.
  • I like the Roval Fusee wheels very much. They are very light (1500g/pair), stiff, and more aero than my Ksyrium SLs that I have been using for training.
  • 2008 Dura-Ace shifting was smooth for the most part. I'd say rear derailleur works as well or a little better than my 4-year-old Campagnolo Record, but the front derailleur is slightly inferior to Record (not quite as smooth when upshifting under power).
  • I don't the like Dura-Ace hood shape, but I'm sure I'll get used to it. The cockpit isn't as clean looking due to the Dura Ace non-internal cables, but I'll get used to that, too. The Campy hoods provide a much flatter top-of-bars platform, which I like. I think the 2009 Dura Ace has copied Campy (and SRAM) and have a flatter top and routed cables.
  • The only component that I really did not like was the S-Works carbon bars. First, they have the flattened, ergo oval shape to the top horizontals - I don't care for those. But the biggist issue is the vertical slant to the bars as you move from the top horizontals and begin to curve around to the hoods. I like bars that stay horizontal in that top curve before turning down to the hood locations.

I could have roatated the S-Works bars clockwise and moved the brake hoods downward on the bars, but then the oval top tube would be sloping back at a weird angle and the drops would have been sloping toward the ground more than I like.

So last night I gave the Tarmac a litte makeover. I made (or will make) the following changes:

  • Swapped the stock 100mm stem for a 90mm Thompson X2.
  • Swapped the white and blue S-Works Toupe saddle for a black Fizik Arione.
  • Swapped the S-Works carbon seatpost with a Thompson Masterpiece seatpost.
  • Swapped the Michelin Pro Race 3 tires for Maxxis Cormets.
  • Swapped the threaded-stem tubes with smooth-stemmed Specialized tubes (easier on the pump gasket).
  • Swapped the heavy, bulky-looking Profile design bottle cages with carbon Bontragers.
  • Swapped the carbon ergo bars for FSA Energy aluminum bars (which are lighter, by the way - which surprised me).
  • Will remove the blue bar tape and replace with black for winter. I'll likely go to white in April.

Now I'm good to go. Anybody want to buy a bunch of Campy shop tools?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Adiós Orca, Nga'aiho Tarmac

I can't say enough good things about my 2005 Orbea Orca. It's been a great bike. But I have a new one now, so I guess the Orca will be eBay fodder soon.


2008 Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL


In a couple of weeks I'll give a comparison between the bikes.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

FTP Paradigm Shift

Three weeks ago I had a very poor time trial result in Ringgold. I felt mentally with it and well-motivated during the race, but in reflection I realized that I never exhibited the 'symptoms' that I normally do in an all-out TT effort. In a good TT, a couple of strange things normally happen to me:


1-At least once or twice during the effort, I convince myself that I've ramped up the power too hard, totally screwed up my pacing, and honestly question if I'll be able to finish the course. I can remember sorting through false excuses in my mind to explain to my teammates why I didn't show up at the finish line ("I got tired" doesn't sound too hot). It's never happened, and I know it sounds ridiculous, but it's absolutely true. Your mind can play tricks on you in a hard TT.


2 - At least a couple of times during the effort, I involuntarily cuss, shout, talk, or whatever. It's like I've contracted Tourettes Syndrome and have no control of my speech. It's really very strange. I've startled a few volunteers by doing it.


Neither of those things happened in Ringgold. I think that means I didn't leave it all out there. I'm not sure why that happened - end of a long, hard season, I guess. Come to think of it, neither of those things has happened in my TTTs, either. I wonder if that's because I'm not giving it everything or because I have rest intervals?


The day after the Ringgold TT, I did a FTP test on the Computrainer. Near the beginning of the test, my computer monitor went out. It got so fuzzy that I couldn't read the wattage on the screen. I continued working hard and completed the test. I was expecting a good result, but when I downloaded the data I found that my FTP was only 264 watts. I had expected it to be around 280, at least. I was disappointed in the result, but in a way I was relieved. I figured it had been a long year and it was normal for me not to be able to maintain my FTP from January to October, and that's why I performed poorly in Ringgold. It all seemed to fit, and it gave me an easy out. I looked forward to starting a new FTP ramp in November.


But yesterday, November 3rd, I performed another FTP test. This time I had a new monitor and could use the average wattage number as a carrott during the test. Guess what? My FTP is 286 watts!


All of this shifts my training paradigm and convinces me of three things. First, the Ringgold thing was a failure of my mind, not my legs. Second, I have to get an Ergomo BB for my TT bike before February to give me a carrott and maximize my power output. And third, I'm starting my FTP ramp for 2009 about 2 watts higher than the end of my 2008 FTP ramp.


Can I gain 20 watts in 14 weeks this winter like I did last winter? I have no idea. Either I'll have lots of work with no improvement this winter, or I'll move to a 300-watt FTP, 4.6 watts/kg. Most likely it'll be something in between.




Monday, November 03, 2008

2008's a Wrap

The season is officially over. My 2008 was very successful both individually and from a team perspective. We have a great group of sponsors for 2009 and I look forward to the difficult task of topping this year's results in 2009 with Security Bank Cycling Team.

Here's a look at my yearlong Performance Manager Chart. The most notable parts of the graph are the long, slow CTL buildup over the winter (the long Peach Peloton rides make it look like a regular heartbeat). I began peaking much too early, in February. As a result I was forced to put my CTL into a dive in late March and early April in order to have time to rebuild a peak for the Tour of Atlanta in late May - my most important target. The strategy worked and I had a very successful ToA.

My CTL held pretty steady throughout the summer. I saw a late-season bump around Six Gap Century and my training for the State TT Championship, then a tail-off as I took it easy in late October. The CTL ramp for the State TT was too steep and I'd lost too much FTP by late summer, resulting in a poor performance in Ringgold.

It's interesting to note that many of my power records were set in late June and early July following a slight dip in CTL after the ToA - just as would be expected.





Most of my racing will be March through June next year. That will make a two-peak season pretty much impossible. So I plan to push more of my intensity training into January or February and ramp it up more slowly.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Apocalypse Bike

If the bomb hits and I have to flee civilization, then I'm takin' this one with me. It can go anywhere.



2008 Redline Conquest Pro

I should have bought one of these a long time ago.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Georgia State TT Championship

First, a lot of credit where credit is due: Congratulations to Steve Murray of Columbus Bicycle Racing on an incredible ride and win in Ringgold. Steve finished in 50:16 with an average speed of 24.94 mph. That doesn't sound incredibly fast, but on that course it was smokin'. The course was H-shaped, with three very tight u-turns. It was very hilly -- it didn't have many real climbs, but the rollers were constant. It was twisty and technical. But most of all there was what seemed like a constant very blustery head wind for the last half of the ride. Steve's time was good enough to win the Cat 4 division by over a minute and a half over the 2nd placed rider. He would have also won the overall in the masters division by a minute and 15 seconds.

I had what felt like a pretty good day on the bike. I thought I'd paced myself pretty well and was feeling confident and passing other riders. But at the 35-minute point when I was passed by Shannon Wredge of Fulton Flyers, who had started a minute behind me, I knew I was toast. I can't say I had a bad day, bad luck, or didn't ride well (I averaged 23.3 mph). There were simply 8 riders in my category who rode faster. There's always next year.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Cross Bike Turkey Hunting

When I was in high school in the mid 1980s, wild turkeys were very rare in middle Georgia. My friend, Mike, was the closest thing I knew to an expert turkey hunter, so I bought a 10-guage, single-shot cannon and tagged along in a gilly suit listening to him make squeaking noises with his various turkey calls. In two years of effort we got within sight of a turkey maybe twice.

Yesterday I was hauling down a grassy road on my new cross bike, which I've found is great fun. I rounded a tight corner and rode directly into a flock of about 25 wild turkeys. They flew and ran in all
directions, one of them hitting me in the shoulder on the way by. I'm sure they're still wondering what the hell I was. Mike's never going to believe me.







Monday, September 29, 2008

Six Cramp


2008 Six Gap Century: I felt pretty good early on. The Black Mountain rollers and the Neels climb went fine. I caught up with some Macon riders somewhere near the Apple store. I stayed within sight of them up Jacks even though they pulled away a little bit. I started to feel an unusual twinge in my hamstrings at the bottom of the climb, but it went away pretty quickly so I forgot about it.

I was out of water already at the top of Jack's (unusual for me), so I stopped quickly to fill up both bottles. I jumped in a fast little group and caught the Macon group on the long, gradual descent. As we turned the corner and started climbing Unicoi, I got sudden painful cramps in both hamstrings. I’ve never had cramps, so I didn’t know how to handle the situation. I mentioned it to Drew and he just said "wine" (I had done a bike tour of wineries on Saturday).

I stayed on the bike, standing and sitting until the pain eased a little. The Macon guys pulled away up the climb. Once I worked out the cramps and got back into my rhythm I felt fine. I passed a few folks on the climb and felt good by the time I reached the top. I caught Drew at the bottom of the Unicoi descent and we rode in a group of 6 or 8 to the Hogpen turn. As I approached the right turn to Hogpen my hammies locked up completely. It was both strange and intense. I've had cramps off the bike sitting on the sofa, but not on the bike. I couldn’t turn the pedals - now I know what people mean when they say "my legs locked up." If we’d been on a climb I guess I’d have fallen off the bike. I worked it out again and caught back to Drew’s group just as they crossed the timing wire to start Hogpen.

I had very little power climbing Hogpen - on a few sections I was climbing just fast enough to stay upright and was kicking myself for not putting on the 12-29 pansy cassette (I rode a 12-26). Just after the first ‘false downhill’ on Hogpen, my hamstrings locked up again. It hit me fast and I yelled so loud that I scared the crap out of two guys riding beside me who had entered a silent Zen state. This time I couldn’t coast, so I laid down in the grass on my back and massaged the knots out. The pain stopped after a minute or two. The rest of the climb hurt some, but the cramps did not come back. At the top of Hogpen I took an Advil, two race caps, drank about a gallon of water, refilled my bottles, and scarfed down a bunch of PB&Js and apples. I cramped some on the descent, but they gradually went away by the time I reached the base of the Wolfpen climb. I climbed it pretty slowly but faster then Hogpen. I felt better by the time I got to Woody, and then limped home solo on rollers that felt much bigger than they really were; finishing time 6:07.

Next year I’ll chase every glass of wine on Saturday with a glass of water. It had to be the dehydration. I ate and drank everything in sight for the next 12 hours and still only weighed 147 pounds the next morning (after weighing about 150 on Friday). I’d bet I weighed just barely over 140 at the top of Hogpen. I drank 8 bottles on my bike plus several cupfuls of Gatorade at the Hogpen stop and didn’t stop for a single nature break. Live and learn.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Dahlonega Race Report

"KOM Championship"
This was an interesting idea, but it didn't work. We mass-started (combined Competitive 34- and 35+) in Suches and raced 7 miles to the top of Wolfpen. It was a 7-mile road race. Our race was slow until the bottom of the climb. I felt terrible that morning and was at the back as we approached the bottom. I popped immediately and finished 8th in Competitive 35+. I think Stoney attacked early and was caught on the climb, finishing about 12th in Elite. Christian said he had bad tactics - I think he finished 5th in Pro12. If this had been a time trial, it would have been a fun course and good stage, but as it was, Jay shouldn't repeat it next year.

Circuit Race
2-loop, 9-mile rolling circuit. I still wasn't feeling 100%, so I sat at the back of a very small Competitive 35+ field (maybe 20?). The race wasn't all that hard in the back and I felt better as it progressed. I was sitting about 10th as we made the last right turn to a 3 or 4% uphill finish. I passed a few guys and finished 8th in the sprint. Steve Murray was at the very back talking to the official about whether they were planning to open both lanes for the finish. When he realized we were there, he got a late start on the sprint but ended up winning it. I guess everyone else went way too early. Jeff took 5th in a good sprint. I think Christian took 4th or 5th also.

Road Race
I thought the new road race course was great and I felt much better on Sunday. The start was interesting: a 2- or 3-mile twisting descent right from the gun. At 3 miles in, I found myself in a group of 5 about a minute back from the front. There were other groups behind us. A little early work was required to bring it all back together. We caught and passed the under 34 peloton about 15 miles into the course after giving them a 10-minute head start. I guess they were taking it easy while we were chasing guys off the front.

At Skeena Gap, about half way through the 45-mile course, our group split into two packs of about 20 each. I was in the front group, but could tell that the rear group was gradually coming back, so I sat in and waited. Some of the front group was trying to organize a rotation to stay away from the rear group, but I figured even if they caught us they wouldn't be climbing competition on Wolfpen, so why work to stay away from them.

Soon after they rejoined us, the steeper short hills started. Over the next 15 miles the hills (particularly on Owltown road) whittled the front group down to about 13 or 14 riders as we began the climb onto Wolfpen. As we passed Vogel, I went into time trial mode for the climb. The group broke up and I passed a few guys, finishing somewhere around 10 or 12th, I'd guess. Probably good enough for a top 5 GC, but not what I had hoped for the Dahlonega weekend.

Stoney was in a break that was caught late and he finished about 10th or 12th, I think. At Moe's after the race, the guy behind me got a text saying that Parrett was in a break off the front of the P12. I don't know how he finished.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Tour Average Speeds


Scientific American, August 2008
There are lots of ways to interpret this graph - throw out your two cents to the right. (The consensus was that there are too many variables for the chart to show a meaningful trend.)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Maxxis Cormet

In general, I try to stay away from doing product reviews. I think to be legitimate, I'd have to try lots of similar products (lots of time and cost) and do some kind of structured testing and comparison to provide any useful information. And even then there might not be clear results.


I put a big skid mark on my rear tire in Saturday's crash, so I installed new Maxxis Cormet tires on my Zip 303s yesterday. I've ridden Michelin Pro Race, Contenental somethingoranothers, and Maxxis Courcheval tires in the past few years. For the past two years it's been the Courchevals. I've been happy with them.


But compared to the Courchevals, the Cormets feel like butter. That's the only way I know to describe them. They feel smoother and more supple than the Courchevals. Maybe it's the 170 threads per inch instead of the 120 TPI?


I dont' know how they corner, how long they last, or how puncture resistant they are. But they feel much faster and smoother - more like the Veloflex Record tubulars on my TT bike. The specs are below - I suggest you give them a try.


Their marketing text:

Stepping it up a notch-and-a-half, Maxxis introduces the Cormet with ONE70 Technology. ONE70 utilizes special high thread count fabric in the casing,reducing rolling resistance even further than our other racing tires. ONE70 Technology also provides better road feel and weight savings over other racing tires. From the most aggressive crit to the most epic climb, the new Maxxis Cormet with ONE70 technology is destined for racing greatness.

ONE70 technology.
Pro road competition tire.
2-ply nylon breaker for increased puncture resistance.

170 TPI
0.474 lbs

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Damn Crashes (and Dog Days Race Report)

If you're going to race, crashes are unavoidable, I realize that -- but they still suck. I've had more than my share of crashes this year, three. I figure one per year is inevitable, but three is more than I bargained for. If I was a sprinter mixing it up to every line, I'd expect it more. If I raced the under 35 division, or in cat 5, they say I should expect it more. If I raced crits a lot, I should expect it more. But my crashes have been in training rides, 35+ road races, and straight 4 road races. So much for those theories.

In March, I think it was (I'm sure Trey can tell you the exact date), Trey and I both went down at probably 15 mph on a gravelly turn on a training ride. I got road rash, an involuntary goatee from my inability to shave my chin, and soreness for a week - he got a fractured trochanter and an unfortunate end to a season that had barely begun.

On June 22nd in the LaGrange RR -- about 300 m from the finish -- we were winding up for the sprint on an uphill grade. The guy in front of me touched a wheel, I guess, went down and I went over the top of him at 23.5 mph. I think it was my hardest crash ever, but luckily I escaped with lots of road rash, a black eye, a week-long limp from a swollen hip joint, broken handlebars, and a snapped brake lever. I think I broke my finger, too - it's still swollen almost 60 days later - but it still works.

Yesterday at the Dog Days Road Race in Canton we were approaching the finish line (200m?). I was accelerating steadily, moving up the right side, and looking for a top 10 sprint finish (that would have been a good result for me because I can't sprint at all). Just as I stood up to begin my last kick, the two guys in front of me decided to zig/zag different directions at the same time. As I remember it, the guy on the right swerved hard left and the guy on the left swerved hard right. They hit each other hard and went down hard. I had probably a full second to anticipate going over the top of them. At the crash I was at 121 rpm, 442 watts, and 42.2 mph (see graph).



Oddly enough, I only got relatively minor road rash in all the normal places -- elbow, knee, and hip - and no bike damage, although I did total my helmet. You'd think the faster the crash, the more injured you'd get. But so far there's not much correlation. Maybe there's really something to the skidding hypothesis.

I've had three crashes (so far) this year. If you 'believe' in statistics, that means 2009 will be completely crash-free. Maybe I'll only order two kits for next year.

One last crash note: On Jake's advice (and he should know), I bought some Nexcare Tegaderm transparent 'fake skin', I guess you'd call it. It works like a charm - good call - highly recommended. And it even has picture of a cyclist on the front:

Dog Days Road Race

The Cat 4 division rode three 16-mile laps of a rolling, somewhat technical loop. I had no teammates -- Iron Data, Reality Bikes, Cycleworks/HDR, and Aarons seemed to have the biggest numbers. I thought the race was a little harder than our typical GA Cup 4/5 races. I jumped off the front and bridged to other jumpers a few times, trying to get a successful break going, but was having no luck making anything stick. About a quarter of the way into the last lap, I ended up off the front with riders from Iron Data, Reality Bikes, and Aarons. I thought we had the right combination to stay away, but we were reeled in - by Cycleworks, I guess. Everything stayed together until the finish. I moved to the front without too much difficulty with a couple of miles to go. I think I was in a pretty tired field. There was a little two-tiered climb up to a right turn with about a mile to go till the finish. I figured if there was any way I could gather enough juice to jump at that point, I might get away. But the climb took so much out of me (and everyone else, I guess) that I could not make a jump. I was sitting about 10th in the field as we started the long downhill sprint. We had a headwind, so I planned to wait as long as possible to make my final jump (there was actually a pay-0ut to 6th place - wow). Then there was the crash.

A rider in front of Bill went down and Bill went over him in the Cat 5 race. He didn't have too much road rash, but he injured his hip that was broken a couple of years ago. He was hobbling around, but hopefully will just be sore for a few days.

I understand that Doug and Jeff did lots of good work for Jake in the Cat 3 race. Doug was sick and didn't contest the finish. Jake made a very last second, very fast punch to the line and took 2nd in the Cat 3 race. From where I stood, it looked like he passed 20 guys in the last 20 meters and would have won it if he'd had 25 more meters to the line. Congratulations.

I'm not sure how Eduardo fared other than he finished with the pack.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Elberton Race Report

State Championship TTT
Bill pulled the 5-man train out of town very quickly. We caught our first 2-minute team at about 10 minutes into the 19.5-mile course. We were rolling very fast at mile 9 when Chad flatted (the 2nd TTT flat he's had this year - very disappointing). We didn't miss a beat and four of us kept rolling. At about mile 9.3 I noticed that the back end of my bike felt 'loose.' When I realized I had a slow leak, I chanced one more pull downhill, then faded to the back and told my teammates that I'd flatted also - extremely disappointing. Todd hung in and powered for a while with his recently-installed disc wheel, then handed it over to Bill and Ron, who finished the ride alone and won the event for us by over 2 minutes over the 2nd placed team. A great ride by the elderly contingent.

Criterium
I almost arrived late to the start line after warming up away from the course and lined up at the back. When the race started, a little lane opened up, so I shot through it and kept on the gas. By the first turn I had a little gap, so I kept pedalling. I was joined by two others and we stayed a short distance off the front for about the first 8 or 10 minutes. It was our plan to make other teams work early so Bill could attack later, but we initiated the plan a little quicker than I expected. When my group was caught, Bill attacked. At first he was hanging by himself about 10 seconds off the front. When Randall Roland from Antarus bridged up, I knew they had a good chance to stay away. They had 45 seconds on the field with 2 laps to go and Bill flatted in corner 4. A missed victory opportunity for Bill and more terrible luck with flats for Security Bank.

Road Race
We traversed a 30-mile loop twice. It was a little technical with some rollers, but not much climbing. It was very hot. Bill was tied for 2nd in the GC with Ron not far behind, so Chad and I planned to work for them by attacking early and chasing breaks. At about 7 miles into the race, Outspokin, who had a guy tied with Bill in GC, were sitting 3-abrest at the front and controlling the pace. Then their GC guy flatted. All three of them pulled off to help and to try and pace him back (they never did). Bill attacked immediately, about 2 miles from the first of two KOMs. He stayed away over the KOM and picked up 7 KOM points. He sat up and we regouped. A mile or two later, at about mile 10, all four of us were on the front. I increased my speed a little and noticed that I had a 20-yd gap on the field, so I kept on the gas. I glanced back again and saw that I had 200m and they weren't chasing. I decided it was too early for a break to stick, but that I'd just keep it on 300 watts and not look back until I was caught. At least the other teams would have to do some work.

After about 5 minutes, I heard someone shift behind me. I figured it was the peloton. It was a welcome sight to see only two guys - Star Bridges from UCBI and Andrew Stephenson from ATS, a great pair - they both had teammates behind us. We worked together well, increasing the gap from 30 seconds to two minutes pretty quickly. Eventually we stretched the gap to 4 minutes at the 2nd KOM - mile 40 of 60. Andrew cramped badly with about 5 miles to go, but stayed ahead of the pack to take 3rd.

I was positioned perfectly behind Star for the sprint, but every time I 'found another gear' on the sprint, so did he. I could not come around him on the downhill sprint. He took first with me sitting on his wheel. It's great when a break sticks, and even better when you're in it!

Jake had a similar day in Elite - he finshed 2nd in a four-man, 52-mile break. I think Bill took 2nd in GC and Ron likely had a high GC finish as well. Elberton brought lots of racing success and was a great venue.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Good Racing Names

Part of the fun of watching Phil, Paul, and Bob comment of the Tour is the rider names. Each of them seem to pronounce the riders’ names differently – and there are some very interesting names in the tour. Those that have watched for a few years have become so familiar with some of the international names that they don’t sound strange anymore -- Hushovd, Ciolek, Zabel, Cancellara, Pozzato, Efimkin, Freire, Siutsou.

You’d think that the Georgia Cup race series, located in the southeastern US, would be full of Anglo-American names like Todd Wilson, Jake Andrews, and Ron Hill. There are a few of those, but many of the guys riding beside us in those rural pelotons have names that sound like they could have come right out of the Tour roster. Here’s a sampling of some I’ve noticed:

Andrew Schluck (Andy Schleck)
Carlos Saavedra (Carlos Sastra)

Olbap Rojas
Wael Amara
Jan Kolar
Eduardo Avila
Victor Karm
Julio Quinpana
Jordy Wetzel
Predrag Prokic
LaFayette Brazil
Keir Plaice
Sven Eisenhour
Nello Teer
Nicholas Savadelis
Xavier Cortez
Javier Rozo
Vincent Maggioni
Faizal Glen
Enrique DeAgostini
Ernesto Lua
Leigh Valletti
Karel Sumbal

I wonder if a Belgian guy playing baseball would feel more powerful at the plate if his opponents had names like Todd Wilson, Jake Andrews, and Ron Hill? I wonder if any Belgian guys play baseball?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

2008 Racing MMP

Jtheskier from New England suggested I compare mean maximal power from race to race. I thought it was a good idea, so here are MMP charts for some crits and road races. These are cat 4 races, mostly in the Georgia Cup series - all in 2008.

I found it interesting that in crits and road races, I come nearest my season-best power in the 2-4 minute range. For those wanting to convert to w/kg, I weigh 66.8 kg (147 lbs).



Category 4 Racing and Training Normalized Power

Back in 2004 and 2005 I was racing exclusively triathlons. At that time I didn't know what a watt was, but I wondered how difficult a Cat 5 road race or crit would be. When I started dabbling in Cat 5 races, I wondered how difficult Cat 4 races would be, etc.

I don't have a straight answer, but the following graph provides more data than I ever found back when I was looking for information.

As you can see, I was dropped from three races this year. The first Gainesville crit was very hard, a hard effort and a dirt road dropped me in Perry, and the huge effort on the climbs in Rome was more than I could do. Most of the crits were 30 minutes, the road races were mostly about 45-65 miles, and the Worlds numbers reflect 90-min to 2-hr Tuesday training rides ignoring the first 15 minutes. Ignore the x-axis. I couldn't get it to work right.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

"Just shut up and do it."

I liked the way Jens Voigt described the mental side of time trialing, which is often overlooked. It went something like: "Your mind tells your body to work. If your body complains, your mind says 'Just shut up and do it.'" I guess that's the German version of the Nike slogan.

Another interesting comment during yesterday's Tour coverage came from the guy sitting behind Jonathan Vaughters in the Garmin Chipotle team car. He said David Miller could hold 430 watts for more than an hour and a half. That seems like a hell of a lot of power for 90 minutes, even for a pro TT specialist. But assuming Miller weights 170 or so, it lines up with the Coggan power profile.

Below is an interesting clip of Voigt behind the scenes that I found while looking unsuccessfully for the clip above. It looks like Jens takes his breakfast as seriously as Jake does.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Rome Race Report

We started the TTT with five riders. Four minutes into the ride Chad flatted, which was a disappointing loss for us. We reorganized without any trouble and had a pretty strong ride. I ended the ride with a bone-headed decision: I did one last hard pull about 300 m from the finish, and since I suck at the u-turns, I figured Bill and Todd should sprint it out to the finish without me (time was taken on the 2nd rider). I sat up and rolled in about 15 seconds behind them. Due to the gap I didn't get any omnium points. My personal finish time was 32:50. The biggest disappointment came when the results showed us riding the course in about 34 and a half minutes. The timing official added 2 minutes to our time. I pointed out the error, but he basically said "tough luck." Maybe they added 2 minutes to all the other teams' times also -- I don't know. All I know is that we had at least two clocks that showed Bill and Todd finishing in a time no worse than 32:35 (around 28 mph).

The second night a big fight broke out just outside our hotel room door. It sounded damn serious. Jake looked out and saw two different guys fly out of a door, then run back in for more. It turns out we were rooming next to some of the competitors in the Rome cage fights or ultimate fights or whatever they call it. I guess they were getting in a little training.

The crit had a lot of climbing. I thought it would suit me, but I found out differently. I held onto the main group for a few laps, then slowly slipped off the back with a group of three or four and was pulled 20 minutes into the race. Bill and Todd hung tough and finished with a final group of about 15 riders. I figured I'd just had a bad day, but my numbers show that I rode OK but was just outridden on a tough course. My NP for the first 15 minutes of the race was about 315 watts. So my expected power was there, I just needed more of it for that field.
Rome Crit Video

The first lap of the road race was pretty uneventful for me. I got into a pretty good rhythm on the first climb and was less than a minute behind the leader at the top (AP 315W, NP 317W for about 10:45, 7.5% average grade with a 39-26). I chased back on with others. Bill got a rotation going up front and I jumped in. Only a few folks wanted to work in our group of 19, and eventually everyone decided to take it easy and wait for climb two. I didn't want to be caught by the other 25 riders behind us, and most of the 19 riders in our group had outclimbed me the first time over -- I didn't expect a great finishing result. So I went to the front and did tempo to the base of the 2nd climb just to set a decent pace. I finished the RR in 16th. Bill climbed very well and finished 14th, almost a minute ahead of me.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Come-Back Shot

Those of you who weren't asleep in math class might remember what an asymptotic curve looks like. Like it or not, my cycling ability is beginning to asymptotically approach the level that I can reach while keeping a job and a wife. It's getting harder to see improvement. That just makes it sweeter when I do set a new power record or accomplish a goal. In the KOM on Sunday, I decapitated my previous 1-minute power record, as shown below. When I was addicted to golf, I'd call that a come-back shot - the one shot of 80 or howevermany that makes you want to come back and tee it up again next weekend.


LaGrange Race Report

Congratulations to Bill on a well-deserved road race podium (2nd). He surged off the front after the 2nd KOM and gelled with a group of four to stay away for the remaining 10 or so miles. I was very glad to finally see a breakaway stick in one of our races, and even happier that it included a teammate.

I didn't race Saturday, but I know Drew took 2nd in the prologue and Todd took 4th. Jake had about the same time in Elite, taking 10th, I think. Jake took 4th GC.

As we approached the KOM on the 1st lap, I didn't intend to contest it. But I looked around at about 3/4 way up and there were fewer than 10 guys in front of me, so I hit the gas and took 2nd with a wheel throw at the top. The 2nd time around we were more spread out and I took 3rd.

About 3 miles from the finish I tried an attack, but didn't have the legs to stay away for very long.

With 300 meters to the finish I was positioned exactly where I wanted to be (Bill and 3 others were up the road), about 3rd or 4th man back in the left center of the right lane. I felt great and was winding it up to catch a sprinter's wheel and open it up in the left lane and have a good finish. Then someone decided to try and shoot through a very narrow gap up front. He took down the guy in front of me and I went over the top of him. It felt like I flipped end over end a couple of times. I felt a few bodies and bikes go over me. I remember two things: hearing my helmet hit the asphalt and thinking, "wow, that's loud!" and thinking "damn, there goes the Rome weekend." Ron can probably give you a much better description of what happened; he was right behind me. Luckily, I got away with some fairly minor elbow, knee, and hip road rash, a black eye, and a sore hip. My bike fared a little worse: a broken handlebar (carbon), a broken right brake lever (carbon), and some other scrapes (carbon). Amazingly, my helmet seems to be OK. Looks like Nate will have a little extra work to do before Rome.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Rider -Tim Krabbe'

I just read this again for the first time in a couple of years (probably my 5th time reading it). Do yourself a favor and do the same.


Here are a few good lines from just the first 32 pages of a 148 page book that describes a single 150k amateur bike race in 1970s Europe. Even out of context it's good stuff:
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"Tourists and locals are watching from sidewalk cafes. Non-racers. The emptiness of those lives shocks me.
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"... a rider in a light blue Cycles Goff jersey is sitting on the curb, deep in thought. Before him on the street lies a back wheel, beside him a wooden box full of sprockets. His gears: he still has to decide which ones to use. There are four cols today, no one knows exactly how steep. I do: I've been over the course."
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"I forgot my figs... should I make it four? Or five? Ballast... I never eat more than two during a race, the others will just end up glistening brown with sweat."
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the "mind has recourse to two instruments, a body and a bicycle..."
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"Good legs?"
"We'll see. And you?"
"He shrugs and starts telling me how little time he has to train. All riders say that, always. As if they're afraid to be judged by the part of their ability they can actually take credit for."
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"I started on this sport fifteen years too late."
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"The first climb won't be for another 30 kilometers, at Les Vignes. I'm longing for it, just like when I'm doing it I'll long for it to be over."
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"What never happens will happen today. This is the decisive breakaway."
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"Always attack as late as you can, but before the others do."
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"I have an aversion to the expression 'allowed to escape', because it usually comes from people who have no notion of the tremendous power needed for that 'being allowed to'."
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"A man shouts 'Faster!' Probably thinks bicycle racing is about going fast."
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"Climbing is a rhythm, a trance; you have to rock your organs' protests back to sleep."
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"The group was sliding away from me. How sad."
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"Why'd you let them go?"
"I couldn't do it"
"Just one more kick, couldn't you have managed that?"
"Yeah, God, one kick, yeah."
"So why didn't you?"
"I couldn't"
"... the forest was quiet again"
"... at a certain point you just can't do it any more, you get dropped. Too bad. Nothing to make a fuss about."
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"It's so incredibly pitiful that I ever wanted to do this, but now I'm stuck with it." "My legs feel black. On a bike, your consciousness is small"
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And toward the end:
"Because after the finish all the suffering turns to memories of pleasure, and the greater the suffering, the greater the pleasure."

Monday, June 09, 2008

BBQ Bass

A few pics from the 2008 BBQ Bass Ride:



At Hog Wild in Hillsboro


Our soigneur, John Henderson








More pictures at Doug's Zaps and Betty Jean's Zaps

Friday, June 06, 2008

Cycling is Cyclical

Anyone who rides bikes or listens to Phil and Paul knows that good form comes and goes. That applies whether you ride for Slipstream Chipotle or Security Bank. But the length and depth of the peaks and valleys is probably quite different from rider to rider. I started my 2008 training plan on November 1, 2007. Through mid-December, I did 40-min FTP tests on Tuesdays, a few sprints on Thursdays, and long Peach Peloton rides on Saturdays (with L2 on other days). I added some L4 (threshold) intervals on Thursdays to take me through December. I saw very good FTP improvement for the first 8 weeks.

Throughout January and early February, I added an L5 (VO2max) interval session once a week. February would be my L6 (anaerobic) interval month. My plan was to have my first peak of 2008 occur in early March. Then I'd ease up on the gas a little in late April and early May and get form back for the Tour of Atlanta in late May. A final peak late summer would round out my year.

Things don't always go according to plan. I peaked far too early. Most of my 2008 power records occurred on training rides in late January. I saw it happening at the time, but by the time you see it, it's too late - you can't tell your legs to chill out for 6 weeks while your schedule catches up. So I basically peaked for training camp, four to six weeks earlier than planned. I'll have to give some thought as to how to avoid that in 2009, but maybe extending the FTP training block into January and more gradually starting the L5 stuff in February would work.

I held decent form until mid March. My threshold stayed up for Perry (I took 2nd in the TT), but by then I'd lost all my top end power (was dropped in the road race). I started getting dropped in training rides and generally felt terrible every time on the road. I knew that in order to be ready for ToA in late May, I'd better hit the reset button pronto.

So over the next two weeks I cut my training load in half, lowering my CTL from the mid 80s back to about 70 (my early November level). I maintained some intensity but gave myself much more recovery time between hard rides. In early April I started a new CTL ramp. I brought CTL back up to about 78, then did a short taper for the ToA. The 'restart' worked and I had good threshold form and decent anaerobic form for the ToA.

The graph below shows my CTL since I started bike racing in April 2006. Next winter I'll modify my winter plan to work more toward two peaks, one in late Spring and one in late Summer. It's a learning process - by tracking CTL and using the rear-view-mirror effect maybe I'll eventually be able to time my peaks more accurately. But one thing's for sure - riding form will never be static if you're trying to push your physical limits.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Tour of Atlanta Race Report

Stage 1 - ITT - Buford
The 7-mile TT course was not technical on paper, but it felt very technical while riding. There were constant small rollers, gradual bends, changes in pavement, intersecting roadways, steady swirling winds, driveways, manhole covers, potholes, traffic, etc. I found it mentally exhausting. I never felt that I got into a rhythm, and when finished, I didn't feel that I'd ridden well. But after discussing the ride with others afterward, I realized everyone felt that way. It turns out that I rode well after all, and so did my teammates. Competitive 35+: Me - 1st; Chad Davies - 2nd; Todd Wilson - 16th (with a wrong turn). Elite 2/3: Doug Ott, 12th; Jake Andrews, 16th. In yellow for stage 2!

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Note added later: Please keep Tiago de Paula in your thoughts and prayers, and make a donation to help him out. He was severely injured warming up for the ToA TT yesterday. More at http://probikewrench.blogspot.com/2008/05/call-to-action-help-tiago-tiago-de.html
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Stage 2 - Sprints - Buford
The course was about 650 meters, slightly downhill with a gentle s-curve. The line was 200m from the end of the final bend. Todd rode in the 1st heat - I thought I saw him out front, but couldn't see well. Turns out he won going away! He used great tactics and had a strong sprint. In the 2nd heat, Chad was boxed in and didn't get into the top 3. I was in the 3rd heat (10 riders). We started slowly, jockeying for position. At 300m I was sitting 3rd wheel. I thought, "I'll jump at 250." At 275, 4 guys came around, two on either side, and I couldn't get out to even try to go with them. It was very disappointing - I wanted to go, but could not. After exceeding 1100 watts twice in warmup efforts, my max power output in a competitive sprint heat was only 748 watts - heartbreaking. I had no expectations to do well in the sprints; but in retrospect, I had the power to contend at least in the first heat if my tactics weren't so shitty. But that's obviously part of being a good sprinter - you have to have good instincts about how and when to use your power. I obviously do not have good instincts.

Todd took 3rd in the final round of the Competitive 35+ division.

Jake won his first round in Elite by half a bike length. He barely missed 3rd place on the 2nd round. Doug had a photo-finish sprint for 3rd/4th place in his 1st round, but ended up 4th and didn't get a chance to continue.

A very successful first two stages for Security Bank. I look forward to tomorrow.

Stage 3 - Circuit - John's Creek
Tough course - about 8 or 10 bends/turns with a couple of u-turns. My crit was hard (281W NP for first 15 min, 275W overall). I stayed near the front for the first 15 minutes, then started to fade more with each new surge. I was sort of dropped about twice, but chased back on. I finished 15th, in the back of the front group. Chad "Doc" Davies was right behind me in 16th, and Todd only lost a few seconds, I think. If the right folks picked up the time bonuses, I should still be in yellow tomorrow.

Jake fought hard and chased for a long time in no-man's land, but eventually lost some time in Elite. Doug was in a chase group that had closed to within 10 sec of the lead group when someone in front of him went down and took Doug with him. He broke his bars, got some road rash, DNFed, and had to get Bike Doctor to install new bars for tomorrow.

I think we can pick up a chunk of time tomorrow in the TTT. Ron and Bill will bring fresh legs and needed speed.

NP=275w (4.12 w/kg). Ave speed 24.9 mph.

Stage 4 - Team Time Trial - Monroe
The course was lengthened from 10 miles to 13 miles, which was good for us, I think. It was out and back with gentle rollers. Bill, me, Ron, Todd, and Chad ramped it up gradually and got to the turnaround in about 13 minutes, I think. Two cars were blocking the turnaround, which cost us maybe 5 or 10 seconds. Ron overshot the turnaround a little and had to hammer pretty hard for about 30 seconds to bridge back to us. We finished hard, with Bill doing a little more than his share of the work. Our time was 29:30, which puts us close to 28mph if the course was a little over 13 miles - I didn't measure it. We took 1st in the TTT by 61 seconds.

Jake, Doug, and Jeff formed a 3-man team in the Elite division, taking 11th, I think.

Stage 5 - Road Race - Monroe
Only about 2 hours after the TTT we started the 50-mile road race. There were no real climbs, just one decent hill for the KOM. I stayed in the front 20 riders all day to avoid crashes, etc. About 5 minutes into the race Bill reached down to adjust his speed sensor and lost about a pound of flesh from his hand in the front spokes. We all thought he would bleed to death, but he decided to surge and attack the group for the next 48 miles instead. He got away at about 6 or 7 miles to go and stayed away until about 5k to go. There was a crash at about mile 33 that took down about 15 riders from what I heard. The crash happened about 10 feet behind me. Todd and Chad just missed getting caught in it, I think. I raced very conservatively, finished safely in 12th place, and lost no time in GC.

Magnum Drew Slocum raced solo in the Competitive 35- division, and after freeing himself from the teammate baggage that had obviously been slowing him down, he broke away, stayed away for (17 miles maybe?) and took 1st! in a 2-man sprint. Congratulations Drew - job well done.

The Elite division of Security Bank had a tough road race. Doug and Jake got caught behind a railroad track crash in the rain and burnt all their matches on a long chase back to the main group. Doug took a KOM, but then his overworked, recently-crashed legs froze up on him with cramps. The broom wagons were all full with other elites, so he rode back to the start in the back of a sheriff's car like the common criminals he'll be prosecuting in a couple of years. Jake had better accommodations back to the start in Kristy's Tahoe. Jeff avoided the crash at the tracks, hung in there, and took, 25th.

Our Director Sportif, Eduardo Hudspeth, riding for Economy Honda, launched multiple attacks, but could not get them to stick in the Masters Road Race.

As far as we know at this point, Chad and I lead the GC by about a minute over the chasers. The scorers messed up Randall Roland's time and put him ahead of us, but he told me he rode a 32+ minute TTT solo. The results say he bettered us in the TTT by a minute. Todd moved up to 9th in GC, so that's 3 for Security Bank in the top 10. We have two difficult crits yet to go.

Stage 6 - Crit - Gainesville
I was a little concerned about the Gainesville crit. I raced the exact same course this spring(Gainesville Georgia Cup) and was hurt pretty badly early. My NP had been 310 or so in the first 10 minutes, I faded to the yo-yo back, and I couldn't hold the pack. I lost lots of time in that race.
This time was different. I started fast and absolutely would not let myself get more than about 10 riders from the front. If I felt 11th spot coming, I'd jump out of the saddle and do whatever it took to get back to about 5th. The strategy worked. I didn't have to hit my brakes on the turns and I could pick my own line most of the time - a much more efficient way to ride. About 20 minutes into the race, Ben from Cycleworks/HDR took a flyer off the front. He was sitting 3rd in GC. He's a big guy for a cyclist and if you didn't know him, you might not take his attack seriously, but I knew he could roll. Nobody seemed to want to chase, so I went to the front and worked hard for about a lap to prevent the small gap from growing. When I looked around for some help, I saw two of his teammates on my wheel. The only way to solve the problem was to completely turn off the gas. I did, and he was eventually chased down. It got pretty fast in the last two laps, I faded back a little and finished about 20th. Chad and Todd finished safely as well. Kudos to Todd for doing a lot to keep me out of the wind up front. Still in white with one crit to go. NP=275w (4.12 w/kg). Ave speed 24.8 mph.

Stage 7 - crit - Buford
I arrived just in time to see Drew's crit and snap a picture of his road race podium - he took 1st in Monroe.

The Buford course was a long rectangle. Turns 1 and 2 were smooth and easy. The back stretch had a small roller, but was mostly downhill. Turn 3 was tight and a momentum killer as the little 75m, 6-7% climb started. Turn 4 was at the top of the climb 250 m from the finish. I used a different strategy for this course than in Gainesville. I was concerned that if I tried to kill the climb on every lap, I'd go too deep into the red and might get dropped if there was an attack or prime at the wrong time (concentrating on not getting dropped is a really bad strategy for winning races, but I wasn't trying to win this one); so I used the back straight to move to the front on almost every lap. It was easy to move up in that area because the wind was from the left and everyone would swing out to the left as they came around turn two. I took the inside line if possible, moved to the drops, and went pretty hard down the right side as the leaders recovered and got organized for the next climb.

I often entered the climb on 2nd or 3rd wheel, and without blowing myself up, could come out of it no worse than 10th or 15th. I'd move back to the front again and repeat - I did that roughly 15 times. The only times I didn't do it were on time bonus laps, when the pace was too high to move up.

There was a crash in front of me at about 15 minutes in - a clipped pedal, I think. I was lucky that the the guy fell straight down and allowed me about a 2-foot gap between him and the curb to get around. I knew turn three would be dicey on the last lap, and I had 90 seconds on everyone but my teammate, Chad Davies, who was 10 seconds back. So Chad and I moved to the back of the group on the last back stretch, sacrificed a few seconds, and stayed out of trouble. Sure enough, on the last time through turn 3, all the riders turned together but one, and the guy to his right went straight into him. Because we'd let a 1-second gap form in front of us, Chad and I had time to get around him without stopping. I shot left through the exact same 1-foot gap as I had 15 minutes earlier. Chad and I finished together a few seconds off the back. Mission accomplished - 1st and 2nd in the Tour of Atlanta for me and Chad. Todd took 9th to give us three in the top ten. NP=282w (4.22 w/kg). Ave Speed 24.5 mph.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A Good Omen

There's an effect that obvious to anyone who rides with a power meter, but it's a pure truth, so I'll describe it anyway.

Trey's mention of it on "The Other Woman" made me think of it again. I’ve read it elsewhere and I’ve noticed it many times myself: A surefire signal that your form is good is when you look down when warming up or riding and you are surprise by how high the power number is for a given effort. It seems basic and overly simplistic, but that relationship between your perceived exertion and your power output reading can provide tremendous insight regarding your form if you’ll pay attention to it. If you ride a lot with your meter, then you have probably developed a very good feel for the power/perceived exertion relationship. When that ratio goes up, it's a very good omen.

But I'm still surprised every time that it happens.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Progression

Aspiring Cat5

Cat4
Cat3




Thursday, May 15, 2008

Bullseyes Over and Over Again

Does this picture look familiar?



If so, you're probably one of the many that regularly visit the "Belgium Kneewarmers" blog http://www.belgiumkneewarmers.com/. I've read it on and off for a year or more, and I'm constantly surprised by the diversity of the topics and the quality of the writing on the site.

The posts that each of us likes the most will vary depending on our interests and our approach to life. But there's something over there for most everyone, I think. My lovely wife, also a cyclist and a baker, really enjoyed the recent "Baking" post. I thought the "Bike Room" post nailed perfectly my unarticulated feelings toward my bike room - if one can have feelings toward a room. And the finish of "The Balance" is about as close to a work of art as cycling blogs get (or as close as we'd want for them to get):

I’m slower for drinking wine, there’s no doubt. I’m also poorer for it. Nonetheless, my life has been enriched by it as much as it has been enriched by cycling. It has taught me to take my time with meals, the value of slow food, and in a world being inexorably homogenized by big box retailers, bringing home a bottle of wine from my travels can be a way to bring home a real reminder of a place, an actual taste of the place itself. Long after my memory of the roads begin to fade, I can open that bottle to bring out the sun of a perfect day.

Kudos again to Padraig and Radio Freddy - I hope you keep up the good work for years to come.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Cumming Race Report

Security Bank had a great showing in the Cumming TT on Saturday. The 7-mile out-and-back course was very hilly - there wasn't a flat spot on it. There was a 1/4-mile 6% hill right off the bat, and at the top I was concerned that I'd taken the first climb too hard and blown up. The back side of the first hill was the longest downhill section of the route. As I crested the hill and dumped the rear derailleur into the 11, I heard a clicking sound and realized that I couldn't use my 11 cog. I had changed lockrings, causing the chain not to engage fully on the 11. So a good portion of the ride involved either painful climbing (most climbing on a TT bike is painful) or 120-cadence spinning on the downhills in my 12. Who knows, maybe avoiding the 11 saved my legs for the hills.

Anyway, we had four riders in the top 11 of the Competitive 35+ division: Ron Hill, 11th (riding the Hill Classic and dominating the homemade bike category); Todd Wilson, 6th (ROLLing with his deep sections); Bill Causey, 2nd (powering his neuvo-waifish 6'3" frame over the hills); and I won it - my 1st ever win - finally.

Christian finished well (find out why). He was 6th in the Pro-Am, and was the top 'Am.'

I had fun in the Masters RR (had to leave early and couldn't race the Comp 35+). Sitting in the field was not too difficult - a little harder than a fast Competitive division race, but there was lots more activity up front. There was constantly one or two groups of two to four riders going off the front and others trying to bridge. That kept the field in a long single- or double-file line much of the time (unlike the Comp division). There was a 2- or 3-rider crash in front of me on the 1st lap, but I went around it. About 8 or 9 riders eventually got off the front (I didn't know it at the time). On the 2nd KOM I worked with a Jittery Joes rider to pull my way up to a small group (he did most of the work). I looked around soon after and I was in a group of about 7 riders - but because of all the carnage I didn't know if I was racing for 15th (accurate) or 55th. I guess we were in a chase group, but I never knew it - and I guess the others either didn't know it or had no more gas. I guess it was just what was left of the peloton. That was the biggest difference about the masters race - it became hard lots of times, but I never got the 'oh crap I'm about to be dropped' vibe from the group. It seemed to be more of a silent, controlled aggression, if that makes sense.

We weren't going fast in the small group, so I knew we would soon be joined by others behind us. I didn't have the legs, myself, to go off the front of the small group, but tried to go with every surge hoping to get separated from the small group, but nothing ever gelled. In retrospect, I should have made much more of an effort to get away when the group lulled - I think I could have done it. I didn't know at that time that there were only 8 or 9 riders in front of us. We were eventually caught by a few other riders from behind, swelling the group to about 16 riders. I finished last in the field sprint with toasted legs in 24th, but had a fun race. I'm sure I have more Masters field racing in my future.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Tailwind

It's unusual; almost unheard of: A 2.5-hour out-and-back constant tailwind. Betty Jean and I spent the weekend at George T. Bagby State Park in southwest Georgia. We rode to Eufaula and back on Saturday. The out section was toward Eufaula directly into a brewing thunderstorm, and the wind was being sucked up into the thunderhead, giving us a strong tailwind. We left Eufaula right as the storm came into town. It chased us all the way back to the park with a stiff tailwind. We rode at TT pace for over 50 miles and barely broke a sweat.