Cycling in a Toque

Cycling in a Toque: November 2010

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

How did this Happen? Part 2

Good Morning!

WOW! It's cold outside! -6 degrees Celsius here in Portland! As promised, Part II of "How did this Happen?" is coming hot off the press. Another item hot of the press is this musical assortment of beats brought to you by my good friends at the Wetblog. I'm downloading it right now so I can listen to it on my way to the gym this morning.

Part I finished up just as the Whitman '13 class was just starting to get the hang of group riding and I was getting pretty amped for a cyclocross race. The first event in Portland at Alpenrose was huge as usual. Twelve hundred competitors plus, with over 10 categories. Coined by commentator Dave Towle in 2007, the Whitman Dictionaries busted out the year with some strong results despite our relatively small team. To our surprise, the spirit of cyclocross brought out some of Whitman Cycling's Portland alumni. Although our racing schedule was not nearly as intense as our 2007 campaign, (which saw Duncan McGovern'10, Ian Delaney'10, John Spring'10 and I race every weekend in either Portland or Seattle in preparation for the 2007 Collegiate Cyclocross Nationals in Kansas City - see Whitman Post & Sammy Jay's Post for more details [Am I Nuts?][Kingdom of my Camera), we raced again the nutso Halloween event in Walla Walla at Charles Stanger's farm. That course include a fire pit, an over'n under bridge, two freezingg river crossing. It didn't feel much like regular cyclocross, more a throw back to old school racing! Any way, before we knew it, it was December and I was heading to Bend for Cyclocross nationals. I finished 7th so I was super stoked to have raced a clean race although I was out of shape, it was -10 degrees and the frozen ground made for many a dangerous obstacle. Northwest props went out to the 19 year old cyclocross superstar Steve Fisher who took 2nd place behind some turd burgular 35 year old racer who was apparently taking some classes somewhere. The jersey was Steve's in my mind. Steve has continued to tear it up all over the nation this season with the Seattle-based Rad Racing team. Way to kill it Steve!

Brian Kearns '10 had a good start to his cyclocross year, seen here starting the runup
Zac Strode '08 stressing it to the max at Alpenrose
Whitman's only 2010 CX womens rider, Zephyr Sylvester'13,
took a podium finish in every race she started!
Old man and general tough guy Dave Radler'08, raced despite a hectic,
yet eventually successful schedule of med school interviews.
Duncan McGovern'10 made it count at Stanger Farm's Halloween event
The Whitman support crew making the loud noises
Video Montage of the Team @ 2009 Alpenrose
Video Montage of Bend Nationals

Many a long drive back to Walla Walla made for interesting shots
We always knew we were within 80 miles of WW
when we could see the prison glow
Into November, the team started a whole bunch of fitness testing. Fortunately, the recently formed Wetbandits made sure that we had loud music for those last few very painful moments. We recorded flexibility and vertical jump measurements for ten riders, holding Conconi power test for each of the them. Later in February, with the rediscovery of the team's Computrainer supplied by Walla Walla local physiotherapist and long time supporter Dave Tupper, we set up a nice area at the school medical center. In that building, Claudia Ness helped us set up the long unused club sports physiotherapy room. After scoring an old ice bath and a brand new ultrasound machine, the team's training resources expanded ten fold! Thanks Dave and Claudia!

Living with two dj's has many benefits
Pre-season testing with freshman Alex Emrie '13
Whitman legend Timbah Bell'10 came back to finish in 2010
and graced the cycling team with his presence
Colin Gibson'10 made sure to keep the big guy motivated
Timbah Testing Montage in the Pain Cave

Claudia, Alex, Michael, Whitney and I at the Welty Health Centre Club Sports Training Room
ICE BATH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I came back from winter break early. At Whitman, they give you a month off which is way too long if you ask me. Besides, it was an el nino year and I needed to TRAIN!! Since the fall semester was way hectic, I hadn't really started any real training yet so I was very happy when I returned to Walla Walla to find no snow on the ground. In fact, all last year, I only rode indoors 3 times, 2 of those in December! Duncan McGovern also came back early to get some skiing and mixing practice, we got bored one day on the roads and took a wheat field short cut. It was rad.

Walla Walla off to the right, Blue mountains to the left.
Late January marked the beginning of the second semester and the return of a lot of anxious riders. Kendi Thomas '10 (Kenda Pro Cycling Team kit) was looking forward to getting some good training in and seen below, she gets ready to lead the team out for a cold but fun ride.

Emrie, Molnar, Chelsea, Roxy, Kendi and Molly
It was in January that I also started a new type of training, focusing entirely around developing the power I could generate at my lactate threshold. I was very hesitant at first but my coach David said that they would be very hard, but also very effective. Besides, these workouts were the entire reason why I invested in a power meter back in October. A regular training week was simplified down to how many minutes I would spend 'working'. For example, a day in saddle would equate to a total work set of 12 minutes over a 90-120 minute ride, which would be broken down further into 3 sets of 4 minutes, with two minutes of rest in between. Two minutes is the ideal time to recover from a lactate effort. Every day included a set of intervals! It was hard but the goal was to ride at a stress level that I could recover fully within 24 hrs, then slowly increase the stress load. The longest interval I did was a 10km TT. Fortunately a 4 lane highway just outside of Walla Walla that was complete but closed to traffic through June served as the ideal testing grounds. From January to April I saddled up the Time Trial Bike (a retro-fitted Trek 2300 road bike) every 14 days for a test ride and it was really cool to see the improvements.

In February, the team took off for the Cherry Pie road race in Corvallis [Post]. This wondrous occasioned marked the debut of the NEWLY designed Whitman Trailer. After picking up a new 2yr wine sponsor in Stephenson Cellars, with financial assistance from Valley Physical Therapy and Wilson Design, Colin and I cleaned up the Whitman trailer (originally designed by Dave Radler'08) so John Sasser of Integrity Design could dish out the latest in graphic design. See the progression below!

The team @ Seward Park in 2007

Top Row: Colin, Dave, Kendall, RJ, Mara, Fiona, Kendi, Elliot, Ian, John, Ian, Nick, ?, me, Glenn Silver
Bottom Row: Rachel, Didi, ?, Seth, Zac, Nathan, Matt, Andrew
Cherry Pie 2010!! BAM!! GREEN EGGS & HAM!!!
Necessitates a close up! Bike designed by RJ'07
February was also the month of cycling week. During last week of the month, before the stress of mid terms hit in March, the team goes nuts for a week with biking and bike racing awareness on campus. Included in these events are bike polo, seen below, daily rides in which students can borrow a bike and try riding with the team, and a series of mock races introducing racing tactics to the new racers while providing an important benchmark for establishing team time trial teams during the opening set of Spring Break races.

Colin, Sara and Emrie playing Bike Polo

Of course, Cycling week also means the arrival of our new Orbea Bicycles, new Voler team kit and the annual team photo. This year we went big and invited everyone we could think of that helped us win the National Championship in 2009 and had helped us prepare even better for our 2010 campaign. On the far left, Malcolm Dunn, the varsity running coach, worked with me throughout the spring semester as we co-taught the first ever "conditioning for cycling" class which, available to all students, focussed on all the things a rider needs to learn before the race season starts. This included bumping grass practice, cornering and pace lines, group rides, power testing, setting up a structured training program and goal setting/training logs. It was a great success! Thanks Malcolm and Dean for helping set this up! Also on the left is Team Advisory council member Walter who helped the team get our sponsorship and finances set up, thanks Walter! Justin, our team chaparone from Allegro Cyclery, is a pivotal member of our support team. He is a pro mechanic but also has +30 years of racing experience, lending a helping hand to the new AND experienced riders. Dave Stephenson (black) was our new wine sponsor and we were very stoked to offer a bottle to each of our homestay families through out the spring. Also, super cool for 2011, there is now a Whitman Cycling Stephenson Vintage! Dave Tupper (red) helped me throughout the entire year as I had an injury from shoveling the summer before, he also came out to Wisconsin for Nationals. This man is too awesome! George Bridges on the right is Whitman College's president and a big supporter of the team. It is always cool to get George involved. And last but definitely not least is Glenn Silver who is pretty much the reason why I started to pursue cycling in the first place. After guiding the 2005 and 2006 teams to victory, Glenn saw me race my 2nd criterium at Seward Park in 2007 as a collegiate B. Two weeks later at our home race in Walla Walla, he sat me down at told me that I could win a national championship if I wanted. I said I did. So after progressing the rest of the season, I went home that summer and dropped another 15lbs to 155 (ski racing makes you big!) and trained my socks off for three seasons. Thanks Glenn!

Team Shoot 2010
The team wouldn't be the team without some funny picture
Racing season was only 12 days away after the Sunday Mock road races and we planned to launch 2010 at BSU's Boise event with a BAM!

But that's Part III.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

How did this happen?? Part 1

Since my last blog post, over a month ago now, I have been working hard both on and off the bike in preparation for Exergy's February training camp and the start of the NRC season in late March. So other than training, which I think is an absolute waste of time to talk about (unless you are a coaching client of mine), there hasn't been much to write about. Yes I have done the occasional cyclocross race, but between various mechanicals and four weeks away from racing due to a warrantied fork, there hasn't been much to talk about. However on those long training rides and days in the gym, I've had the chance to remember where I was just a year ago and reflect on how I got to this point. Since I only starting blogging after I graduated, a few of you may be wondering where I came from. Looking back at the four years since I stopped ski racing, sometimes it just blows my mine when I think about how quickly I have improved, but on the other hand Whitman has been the perfect place to develop as a cyclist and it is no wonder that the program has produced more than few good riders despite the team's short history.

McInroe Road on an early September morning
Nothing beats gravel
Last autumn I started my final year at Whitman College. Where is Whitman you ask and why on Earth did I go there? Unknown to many, Whitman is a small private liberal arts college in eastern Washington's small town of Walla Walla. Known for its prison, great onions and booming wine industry, Walla Walla also has a three great universities and tons of roads for riding your favourite two wheeled iron horse. Since it was not a Division 1 alpine skiing school like Denver or Reno, it was originally off my 'skiing-in-college' radar. But after one of my ski coaches, a Whitman alumni of '00 and a few of my old skiing teammates tried out Whitman (graduating in '06 & '07 respectively), I decided to apply. Since I knew I was close to moving away from alpine racing completely, Whitman's division 3 status (which disallows any athletic scholarships), its provocative mix of antiquity and modernity classes (which I didn't have access to in the Canadian public system) and that fact that the admissions team liked my accent, made for an easy decision once I found out I got accepted. I also found out later that they had a sweet biking team! After balancing school and a hectic travel schedule my freshman year, I knew that at the conclusion of the collegiate skiing calendar in February I was ready to hang up the boards for good. Within two days I was riding with Whitman's 11 strongest riders on a five hour adventure touring the Kellogg Hollow road race course which featured as the opening stage of that year's Tour of Walla Walla. Good thing unbeknownst to my coach, I had been training for cycling since December!

Over the next two seasons I progressed from Category 4 to 3 (Collegiate B to A) and attended collegiate Nationals my sophmore year. Wow did I get stomped! I got dropped from the road race, was in contention for a strong feild sprint finish in the criterium before my chain looped itself with 200 metres to go and Colin, Zac and I showed up late for our team time trial start! Later that spring, I earned my Cat 2 upgrade after claiming the Washington State Omnium Championship, which included a road race with 2 laps of a 50minute, 12 mile climb! Back in Canada over the summer I trained hard despite working full-time for the Resort Municipality of Whistler as a painter (the Fire Hall still looks pretty good to me!) and got to start the Yaletown Grand Prix and the Canadian Super Week alongside the likes of Canada's best riders, including all the Symmetric riders and American superstar Chris Horner. (Led the RR for a second)

In 2009, with the help of my buddy Colin Gibson, I took over the reins of the Whitman team. We worked hard to make a lot of good changes, like a new website that could be edited by every team member, installed shelving in the team trailer which made the whole conference jealous (nice design Andy!) and successfully pushed for extra funding from the school for a coach and flight expenses for Nationals (since some riders couldn't attend in 2008 due to missed exams). With the help of Walla Walla cycling community superstars MaryAnn Duffy and Kay Barga, we also put together a series of elementary bike safety rodeos; actually they did all the work, we just showed up and got the young riders amped.

Whitman's 2nd annual Edison Elementary Bike Safety Rode in 2010 was a great success
And at the end of it all, we regained the National title! The women's team crushed the team time trial once again (have only missed out on the top spot once since 2004!) and the men's team for the first time ever, matched our historically strong women's side when we claimed the men's omnium title with strong performances in all three events. That was a great moment for all of us as the 2005 & 2006 teams were legendary and to match their achievement was very exciting.

Paying homage to the team founders - a team shot from 2005
with 2011 Exergy teammate Sam Johson'07 on the far right on the top row
Later that year and again in 2006, the team took their first
Omnium National Collegiate Road Championships
Celebratory Gravel Ride May 2009
Later that summer I continued to race in Vancouver, BC with a local Cat 2 team managed by Scott Laliberte. It was my first experience racing on a team outside collegiate and although I learned a ton, it proved exceedingly difficult to perform as I was working many hours as an excavations labourer in Whistler. An early end to the season, right at Canadian Super Week in July in fact, provided a good rest before my preparations for the 2010 season. I realized that I was usually faster in the spring since I did not have to spend energy at physically demanding day jobs, so if I wanted to pursue cycling, I would have to take full advantage of my last year at Whitman by managing the mental strain of academia even better than years past and come out of the box in the spring flying. Training hard and resting harder would take on a whole new meaning.
Ballard Criterium (Seattle '09) courtesy of
When I showed up for classes in September, I was pretty motivated to say the least. But after meeting all the new riders, I was ecstatic! In 2010, my buddy Colin took over the team leadership so I could focus more on rider development and what better way to start those goals of mentoring the new crop of Whitman riders than to meet a whole ton of them! The unique thing about the arrival of the 2013 class wasn't that there were a lot of them, it was very common to get 30-50 people signing up for the listserve with 10-12 showing up for a team rides, but the 15 new for 2010 riders were all non-varsity! Which meant that instead of going through the regular rigamarole crash course of "how to ride a road bike and race it too!" from late February through mid March (as that is when varsity athletes are released to participate in club sport), we could groom and fine-tune these riders throughout the entire autumn semester. This is much different than the cycling team's history, who has always had to work extremely hard over multiple couple seasons to pry runners, swimmers, skiers and anyone else foolish enough away from their varsity sport, into the student-run, sleeping bag/peanut-butter & jelly troop that is the cycling club. Fortunately after the early success of the team, which brought home 2 National Omnium Championships in its first five years (started in '02, stars & bars '05 & '06), 1-2 riders have wheeled up to Reid Campus Center each year specifically in pursuit of cycling excellence at Whitman. To name a few: Duncan McGovern'10 took 3rd at the 2007 National Collegiate Road Race in his freshman year while Kendi Thomas'10 shared podium finishes between road and track every year of her collegiate career including a tie-on-points for the individual National Road Omnium Championship in 2008. So when fifteen riders showed up in 2010, it was really a dream come true!

First Whitman Cycling Team ride of 2009-10
Even bigger turnout on the first Friday ride!
The Cycling Team Milkshakes were better than those of Greek Row during Orientation Week
By November, the new recruits started to come around!
But that is a story for Part 2