Cycling in a Toque

Cycling in a Toque: March 2012

Thursday, 22 March 2012

In Heat

Manual For Speed @Tumblr: The guys asked me to write something about racing in extreme heat, like last year's Tulsa Tough. Also, be sure to go to the above link as there is a whole host of content there on the tumblr account that resides outside the ideals of the Manual For Speed = cool stuff projected in different ways. Enjoy.
Morning Spin
Manual For Speed Tumblr
Oppressive Dew, Defy
Lethargic Mope, Hydrate
Sleepy Eyelids, Coffee
Tired Legs, Back to Bed

Full Throttle
Fired Eyes, Blinding UVs
Easy Breathing, Open Capillaries
Swollen Feet, Aching Toe Nails
Grippy Gloves, Protecting Palms
Skin Tightens, Veins Surface
Heart Beat Hastens, Fuel-Injection
Exhale Shortens, I NEED MORE AIR!
Tongue Parched, Where is my soigneur?
Recollect, Evaluate
Find Teammates, Discuss
Move Forward, Control
Match Opponents, Then Attack

Apr├Ęs Victory
Sticky Chamois, Wet Wipes
Sunscreen Slime, Shower
Blood Sugar Crash, Iced Coke
Ninety Minute Sauna; Drained.


Thursday, 8 March 2012

Bricks = House...right?

Music: La Maitresse Aux Yeux D'Or
It's long been said that building fitness is like constructing a house. So whether you are just gearing up for a summer of Gran Fondos or washing the bike for this weekend's opening race, take a moment to consider just what it is that you're building. What materials are you going to use? How fast do you intend to build? It is made to last your family 80 years or just serve as a toolshed? Are you responsible for every nail and board or do you have someone helping with the tricky bits? If so, do you understand why those tricky bits are tricky and could you complete those bits yourself is required? But perhaps most important is who are you building the house for? You, your parents, your spouse and family, or the local guys at the bar just to show them you really could follow through and get 'er done all this time that you've been shooting your mouth off.

The first race of the season is over. The roof is on, the plumbing is in and the electrical circuits haven't burnt anything down yet. But there are still some very important parts to be finalized, like all the pieces of the house that make it a home. That make living on a daily basis more comfortable, that make it easier to go out into the real world and earn that paycheck. March racing is like the first two weeks. You find out the little details...are the pots, pan and cooking utensils in the wrong spot? Did you totally blow the wall colors and will eventually need to repaint? Is it a relaxing space that also accommodates a stress-free commute to work?  These opening races can be used productively to fine tune your routine and form if gone about in the right manner, or you can let them run you into the ground. They are an opportunity to craft your home from that of a sturdy, rain-repelling structure to a functional and productive living space, a sanctuary for the many unforeseen stresses of the months ahead.

This week I am staying with my good friend Ysbrand in Palo Alto, California to complete my final preparations before the NRC season kicks off in earnest next weekend at San Dimas and Redlands. The weather is gorgeous and the roads pristine, just what I need to fine tune my racing nutrition and interval training after picking up some good insights at Merco. Fortunately the reactions have been very positive and I lend that entirely to the clean burning fuels I've been providing my mind, body and spirit with since early November under the tutelage of my coach @Generic Nutrition. And since a lot of these changes have moved against the grain of traditional sports nutrition, I guess you could say I haven't been building with brick at all!

Speaking of unconventional nutritional, my friend from Jessie shares the latest from Minneapolis' fight for small urban gardens. More info here.


Tuesday, 6 March 2012

B.I.K.E.S #4: Team Work

Music: DjJade with Sunday Morning Disco
Over the past two weeks, my Team Exergy teammates and I have ridden many miles along the ocean, climbed large mountains and have learned the language basics of Spanish, Russian, Italian and English..why? Well because 6 of the 16 riders are foreign riders! Do you know where Columbia is? How about Moldova? Switzerland? I hope you know where Canada is!

We have to learn the basics of one other's language to communicate during the races.  We even have a set of twins...but they are telepathic so they don't need to talk! Just kidding.

This past weekend we raced as a team and after four days of riding, came away with a victory! We raced for a total of 10 hours over four days, over 240 miles. Everyone's hard work paid off but it took an entire team of 8 riders and 5 staff members to deliver 1 rider to the podium.

That's cycling; all for one, one for all!

"It's my teammates, classmates and friends that make the victory memorable, not the victory itself"
Team Exergy Pro Cycling

Dream Big Edison Elementary!


Monday, 5 March 2012

Escalera-ing (Merco S.3 + S.4)

Saturday's afternoon criterium had a great festival atmosphere, better even than say half of the races at USA SPEEDWEEK in May. It was very apparent that this race has a 25 year history, is incredibly important for the struggling farming community of Merced, marks the beginning of the NorCal cycling season and is prestigiously regarded as one of the top three stage races of the year. Making it all too obvious why Logan, a Santa Cruz native, has had this race marked in red ink for months.  Yesterday he proved that he is on great form so today we were excited to get out there and keep the ball rolling. 

The course was shaped like the letter I, or more like a P and b placed on top of one another. This left a combination of 300 meter straightaways, short 70 meter bursts between corners, a lot of high-speed carving and some crafty bike handling as the roadway was well decorated with reflective turtles. The pace stayed high throughout the 80 minute event with California Giant riding extremely well on the front in defense of Huffman's yellow jersey.  But with 14 laps to go (14 miles to go), Bissell took over and the pace increased. We waited in the corner quietly for our moment and with Bissell's train breaking down, Conor Mullervy took over with 1 lap remaining. The rest of the team peeled off over the course of the next 1500 metres and Freddie delivered Logan out of the final corner for the 350 meter drag to the line. Looking strong in the sprint, the nature of urban racing caught up with Exergy and Logan was pinched by the cement parking curbs in the final 100 metres, placing 3rd on the stage but moving up with time bonuses = another solid day! The team rode extremely well together, the best team ride I have ever been a part of and we protected Logan from the many new Cat.1/2 riders who were looking for attention but not necessarily in the most constructive of manners.

VeloImages: Beauty Day
Starting Sunday's 192km stage, Bissell's Bevin led by 22 seconds over Optum's Zirbel, with Serge and Logan tied for 3rd at 23 seconds back, only 1 second behind Zirbel. With time bonuses at the intermediate sprints and 10 seconds in the finale, we had to be aggressive, stack the break and win the stage. Maybe send Serge up the road late with Zirbel, who we knew would try a late sneak after Optum had softened up Bissell's train.

VeloImages: Conor Mullervy Breaks
After 70 minutes of attacks, a small four man breakaway established a gap with Team Exergy's Conor Mullervy. They reached a maximum advantage of 5 minutes but after 80 miles out front, were caught with one lap remaining (25 miles). At this point both Quinn and I were caught out with mechanical problems that weren't helped with stiff officiating and were dropped from the field as Zirbel attacked hard and Freddie followed, the field chasing behind. Despite his own mechanical problem during those tense moments, Logan was able to stay in the group with the help of Tino and Kevin while Serge waited patiently for the serious doodoo to hit the fan.  

With 4km remaining, Serge got his wish and snuck up the road with Zirbel, placing extreme pressure on Bissell's diminished train and leading Bevin to cover those moves himself.  Serge and Zirbel only needed 12 seconds to win the GC with the help of time bonuses. However at the red kite, it was gruppo compacto and Freddie dropped Logan off at 500 meters (essentially the base of the final 200 meter hill that led into the 300 meter downhill sprint finish). Logan cruised onto Optum's leadout despite the inherent chaos of the rapidly changing terrain and jumped past Ken Hanson (Optum) early at 250 metres with the help of a 54 tooth big ring, taking no chances today and sealing the victory in a stylish victory salute.

VeloImages: Stage 4 Podium
Veloimages: Stage Win!


Friday, 2 March 2012

Into the Void (Merco S.2)

Music: Soma by Deadmau5. Inspired by Brave New World, Aldous Huxley? What is Soma?
Do you enjoy the feeling of working out? Or perhaps it's the feeling that comes afterwards? The calm high, the 30 minute flying-endorphin-carpet; it's all good, feel content, feel fresh and alive, feel no pain. Today was stage 2 of the first stage race of the season, the Merco Cycling Classic. For half of us: Conor, Kevin and I, it was an easy day; ride tempo and finish within the time cut. For Tino and Quinn who are dangerous riders in 200km breakaway road races (there is one coming up in just 2 days time!), they toed the line with a few aero pieces each and looked to limit their loses and ride as strong as possible. But for Freddie, Logan and Serghei, all running full aero specifications, the pressure was on.

The atmosphere in and around a team trailer before any race is usually a mixed bowl of stress. As the mechanic perfects the equipment, our soigneur caters to our picky requests for caffeinated gels and warmup massages. To combat this nervous energy, energy that can quickly spark discontent, we all play around with quick jokes, funny gestures and shadow games to keep the environment positive; a relaxed and tight-knit team is critical. We are all friends off the bike, and friends on the bike; but some days are more for leisure, while others purely business.

Flipping on the 'business' switch is important. It helps us maintain our friendship during our leisure time.  At a time trial, that nit-pickiness is often higher. But that is very important as we all realize that we are working towards helping our leaders produce the best performance possible.  This intensity is not only critical but is expected and anticipated. Again, the business switch is on.

Today Serge and Logan did amazing rides. Although half of the team finished with smiles, easy breathing and open legs after 30 minutes of tempo, the other half gutted themselves. Arriving at the trailer only after a 10 minute post-race spin  in order to make sure they didn't fall over while dismounting, or losing their breakfast in front of twittered iphones and facebooked cameras. Plunking down into one of the team's blue pop-up chairs, a quick serenity overcomes the drained body. From the fogginess in the eyes, the pain in the back of the neck, the grit on the face and legs and "feet-sinking-into-the-ground" sensation in the legs, the quiet calm, earned only through absolute suffering is an exotic and well-sought after feeling. Like soma?


Thursday, 1 March 2012

Exergy Podium! (Merco S.1)

Serge, myself and Logan sign-in while catching with Dave Towle. He'll be MC at the Team Exergy Team Presentation Party!
Off-season over. Pre-race meeting complete. Pre-race nutrition complete. Race food prepared. Race drinks prepared. Feed Zone Van filled. Team Caravan car roof stocked with bikes and stuffed with team staff. Fifteen minutes to start. Five minutes till sign-in closes. Jerseys pinned, shoes shined, wheels polished and frames shiny...we roll out.

Six laps of a 12 mile course featuring one of the most interesting courses on the calendar. Winding through rolling, windy roads up a 2% grade in the final 6km of each lap, led into a 7 minute, 182 metre climb at 5% gradient. Over the summit, wind-exposed, a long 10 minute rolling descent completed the 30 minute lap. Despite active attacking throughout the race, in which Kevin, Conor, Quinn and Tino represented Team Exergy without fail, no major splits occurred. One rider escaped solo from laps 1-4, amassing a total of 2 minutes, after which time small breaks of 3-4 riders hovered in the 10-45 second 'unestablished' zone. With 1 lap to go, Quinn snuck away in his second big break of the day with Bissell strongman Ben Jacques-Maynes and 3 others. But with Bissell, Optum Health and Team Exergy all looking for a sprint finish with the shallow 2% run-in, the breakaway was reeled back in with 5km remaining.

After sagging a bit on the first four of six climbs, Logan and I stayed together and at the front on the final two ascents. Freddie and Serge were both riding strong all day and stayed near the front all six times up the narrow, bumpy but short climb of Hule Road. In the final 5km, Optum Health looked to practice their leadout train by placing all 10 riders (no rider limited at Merco as it is a non-NRC event) on the front, working for Ken Hansen. Bissell jockeyed for a while but eventually sat in after controlling the race from 25km to go with their 11 man squad. With Optum Health shedding riders, Team Exergy awaited for the final kilometres due to our smaller numbers. We arrived at Merco with the traditional 8 riders and had 5 left in the final 3 km.

Kevin guarded us from 3km to 2km to go, at which point I took over and moved up past four of the six remaining Optum Health riders. Hitting max heart rate during the 800 metre pull, I whipped off to the right at 1200 metres to go and caught a glimpse of Serge driving by, eyes on fire and teeth gritted, I wanted to chuckle but I didn't have any air to spare. At this point, Serge was partnered up again Tom Zirbel (a beast of a bike racer) but he did an amazing pull and took Freddie to 600 metres. At this point, Optum was down to their sprinter, Ken Hansen, who starting matching Freddie's acceleration thinking that he was going for the win. At 250 metres to go, Logan popped out and lit the road on fire. No one was on his wheel. Freddie strategically faded right. Logan had a huge gap! He caught Bissell's Patrick Bevin and Eric Young off-guard by going 50 metres early, who'd been following the Team Exergy leadout in the final kilometres. With 150 metres to go Logan held an impressive gap, but just got pipped in the finale. So 3rd place for the day, an awesome result! The team did a great race as well with strong presence in the breaks, an almost-perfect leadout; I should have waited until 1500 metres to go to ramp it up since we only had 4 guys for the final surge.

Tomorrow is the Individual Time Trial and I think we will surprise some people!