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.