Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how much you know or how hard you train. Mistakes happen. Mistakes happen with the experts, the people at the very spearhead of their professions. It takes just a split second or one bad decision or just dumb luck. We are lucky if we get to learn from this.
In 1967, on stage 13 of the Tour de France, the rider who was then the very best ever to come out of Great Britain, Tom Simpson, collapsed and died during an ascent of Mont Ventoux. He was 29. He had made the decision to take an amphetamine and alcohol, with or without the knowledge of the combinations diuretic effect. In the heat of the climb, Simpson began cramping, but by the time he stopped, it was too late.
Fabio Casartelli was an Italian cyclist riding for Motorola in 1995. He was the defending Olympic road race champion. He had won stages in several major and minor stage races. On July 18, stage 15 of the Tour, Casartelli and several other riders crashed on the descent of the Col de Portet d’Aspet in the Pyrenees. Casartelli’s head hit a rock on the side of the road the serves as a guard rail and died. He was just shy of 25. The next day, the entire peloton road behind Motorola, as they led the stage start to finish. Lance Armstrong won the following stage in a long breakaway, dedicating the win to his fallen friend. Every time the Tour passed the memorial for the rest of the Texan’s career, he payed homage.
Wouter Weylandt was young and improving. The Belgian was riding for the premier team from his country, Quick Step, with several stage wins and some impressive placings within the stage races. In 2011, Weylandt was riding for Trek/Leopard on the descent of the Passo Bocco during stage 3 of that year’s Giro d’Italia. He was near the end of the stage, but trailing off the back of the main peloton, as sprinters often do on climbing stages. He was trying to bridge up while on a switchback section. While checking behind him, over his right shoulder, to see who might join him, he clipped the guard rail on his left. He was thrown over and landed on the road below. Weylandt was 26 when he died. His girlfriend, An-Sophie, was pregnant with the couple’s daughter, born September 1, named Alizee.
Why am I going on about this? It’s more than the recent climbing tragedy in the national park. Things happen. We enjoy a different sort of inherently dangerous sport. Things can go horribly wrong in a fraction of a second. That is the nature of cycling. The best way we can ensure maximum survivability is to wear a helmet.
Pay attention. Don’t take silly risks. Most of us do not get payed for our cycling results. We have families who want to see us come home. Know the traffic. Assume that the driver either doesn’t see you or doesn’t care. And again, wear a helmet.
Carry some kind of ID. I carry my drivers license, my insurance card and my Road ID. If you crash and can’t communicate, you want whoever finds you to be able to tell your loved-ones whats going on.
Don’t let love of the sport interfere with family. No one ever gets to the end of this life and says, “I wish I’d spent less time with my family.”
Next time you head out, be sure to kiss your spouse. Hug your kids. Make sure everyone you care for knows how you feel. Things happen and you don’t want to leave something like that hanging.
For training, we are now 11 weeks away from the Ride the Rockies. Our total miles should be up to 70 with three rides equalling 50 miles during the week and one more of 20 mile on the weekend. Keep it up. As we are expecting snow and cold all the way through the weekend, the typical spring pattern, I’ll be inside again. It may also be an opportunity to do some maintenance on the bike, or maybe just stay home and watch movies with my wife and daughter.
I’m not just saying this. I mean it. Have fun, be safe. I’m going to hang out with my family.
Years ago, a friend of mine laid some wisdom on me that I hold dear
to this day; little ring until spring. No matter how enthusiastic we
are, no matter what early events we have, we need to give our
connective tissue some time to adjust from indoor rides to longer,
harder outdoor training. Diving head-long into the big gears can lead
to the dreaded “Spring Knee,” which forces one back to little
Spring Knee is the name given to a specific tendinitis
that strikes the tendons across the front of the knee. It’s usually a
result of overusage and too much strain on the tissue that might be
relatively weak after the winter hibernation. As the name implies, it
tends to occur in the early part of the riding season. While it is an
indictor that the tissue could use some TLC, it’s also typical of
those of us who can’t wait to get out and hammer.
Before I go on
much more, let me suggest the book Andy Pruitt’s Complete Medical
Guide for Cyclists. Pruitt holds a doctorate in education and is the
Director of the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine. This is the first
resource I consult when I have some new, weird pain after riding. It
is full of descriptions and, more importantly, treatments for ailments
typical of cyclists.
So Spring Knee is marked by a sharp pain
along the top of the kneecap. It’s usually on one of the top corners
of the kneecap. Occasionally, the pain shows up where the tendon and
muscles come together, about two or three inches above the
Treatment of this looks a lot like prevention. Go easy on
gearing. Spin light gears for a few weeks. If the pain persists after
a week, consider taking some time off. I know this is difficult just
as the thermometer begins its upward journey, but it is better to take
care of it now them have to see a doctor in June.
I’m not an
advocate of either ice or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for
reasons I will explain, but I have no medical background beyond my own
collection of injuries. Ice and ibuprofen are exactly what Pruitt
Again, I am not a doctor and if you have knee pain
that persists, talk to a real doctor. That said, recent studies have
shown that even moderate use of NSAID can cause liver damage. They are
real drugs and should be respected as such. Again, talk to a real
doctor, which I am not.
Second, inflammation is part of your
body’s healing process. When we apply ice, we interrupt our ownhealing. Two recent articles in medical journals address this. Go find “The Use of Cryotherapy in Sports Injury” found in Sports Medicine Vol.3, pages 398-414. Another place to look is the Journal of EmergencyMedicine, Feb. 25, 2008. “Is Ice Right? Does Cryotherapy Improve
Outcome for Acute Soft Tissue Injury?”
The first article states
that ice can actually cause our lymphatic system to work in the wrong
direction, adding to swelling. The second article states that they
found no evidence that ice helps in recovery. This flies in the face
of everything we have been told for years, but it is something worth
The alternative to these is compression. Some sort of
compression sleeve over the injured area can help control swelling
and, hopefully, speed recovery.
Spring is also a time for new
equipment. A new bike is possibly as sure an indicator of spring, and
in my opinion, more beautiful than new blooms. The things to remember
are fit and form. Make sure your fit is spot-on. Again, let me guide
you toward the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine. They perform a
variety of professional bike fits that will assure that you are in the
best position to power that new steed.
Second comes form. No
matter how long you have ridden, you can always work on for. The most
common problem is in back position. We should have a pretty straight
and flat back when on the bike. The forward lean should come from the
hip joints, not the back. We should be supported by core muscles and
the forward lean should be supported by the muscles of the gluteuls.
We should feel tension on the high, outside muscles, like we would in
a deadlift. They are, after all, the same big muscles. The more you
are able to flatten your back and drive with the glutes, the more
efficient your efforts. You will be using not just the muscles across
the front of the leg, the quads, but the high hamstrings and glutes as
well. Spreding the same effort across three muscle groups, instead of
just one, results in more power for longer periods.
Keep it all
in mind next time you get out.
By the way, We are now 12 weeks out from Ride the Rockies. According to their own training chart, this coming week, which they start on Saturday, March 16, we should do 20 miles in a single ride this weekend, and another 40 miles split up over three rides over next week. As the above blog points out, we should still be spinning small gears. If you have even a hint of Spring Knee, wear knee warmers or embrocation (a warming oil or IcieHot sort of thing).
Have fun, be safe. I’m going
Like a lot of life, cycling is not always predictable. Anything can happen, not just during the ride, itself, but even well before hand. Last season it was a crash that changed my training. A sink hole near Leadville changed the Courage Classic route while wildfire smoke forced a modification in the Ride the Rockies. These are things we can’t control. So what can be done? What can you do to prepare? Practice a good attitude.
I received an e-mail this morning telling me that there would be a change in the Courage Classic route again this year. Lake County High School is removing asbestos, so the usual day 1 start and day 3 finish had to be scrapped. The up side, for me, is the chance to ride the 80-mile Copper Triangle.
And that’s the difference. I can’t do anything about asbestos removal. I am actually happy not to be around that stuff. I have to find the positive. I have not ridden the whole Copper Triangle route; Copper Mountain to Leadville to Minturn, over Vail Pass and back to Copper. This will be a great day. I’m kind of big, but I will enjoy dragging myself up to Leadville and back over the west side of Vail Pass. I look forward to encouraging other riders up and over. I even, or perhaps especially, look forward to dragging the light little climbers to the foot of that last climb outside of Vail.
Attitude is the most important part of this sport. Dreading a climb only makes the suffering worse. Look forward to the climbs. Look forward to the wind. Smile as much as you can. It makes a huge difference.
Of course, preparation is pretty important, as well. Get out and ride hills. Go stick your nose out in the wind. Practice the things you will need to know. I had an e-mail not too long ago concerning changing tires. The pros have mechanics who hop out of following cars to change the whole wheel. We, mere mortals, have to figure out how to change those tubes and re-inflate the tube to get back into the ride.
First, be patient. Delays happen. Try not to schedule the rest of your day too tightly around a ride. Second, as I have discovered, swearing and flailing arms doesn’t get the tube changed any faster. After much research, I make that statement with confidences.
Next, get off the road. Like most cycling things, you want to make sure you are being as safe as reasonably possible. Find a nice rock or tuft of grass. Think of this as a short recovery.
At this point I should mention, when training, you should have tire levers and a small repair kit with you. That said, find those levers. Stick the end that looks like a scoop in between the tire beed and the rim. Take the second one and do the same, fairly close to the first one, then lever those things to pull the beed off of the rim. This can require a bit of effort if it’s colder out. Again, be patient. Losing one’s mind now only leads to bleeding knuckles and lost levers.
The levers often come in threes, anymore. If that’s the case for you, take the third lever, stick it in between the beed and the tire, again, and not between the other two levers. Now, pull that third lever around the rim to get the tire beed loose.
Now remove the old tube. Next, carefully run your hands around the inside of the tire to find what might have caused the flat. Again, be careful, in case there is a hunk of glass or a nail in there. Once you have removed the offending piece, get back to the tube.
Blow a little air into the tube. Run your hand around the tube to find the hole. If you are sure this was not a pinch flat, caused by low air in the tube, then a bump, causing the rim to pinch a hole in the tube, rough up the area around the hole. If you have “speed patches”, apply the patch. If not, pull out the rubber cement from your flat kit. You do have a flat kit, right? Spread a little on the area you just roughed up. Let the cement cure or dry just a bit, then apply the patch. Rub the patch a bit to make sure it has adhered to the tube. Next, retrace your steps.
Recheck the tire to make sure you didn’t miss a thorn or anything. Blow a little air back into the tube, which makes replacing it on the rim a bit easier. Stick it back inside the tire, then let the air back out. Re-seat the tire beed on the rim. Check to make sure no part of the tube is pinched between the tire and the rim. This will ruin the whole process pretty quickly. Once you’re sure the tube is completely inside the tire, pump the tire back up and be on your way.
There is a lazier way, but I only recommend it for races and organized ride. Bring a CO2 cartridge and an extra tube. Put the bad tube in your jersey pocket. Never toss on old tube on the ground. It’s littering, as well as inviting bad karma. Much quicker but more expensive and a bit wasteful. Save it for big events.
One more thing really quickly; we are now approaching week three of training. We should be up to two rides equalling 30 mile during the week and one 20-mile ride on the weekend. If you know your normal average speed outside, apply that to an indoor class, if you need to. I rarely get to ride outside during the week, but I teach three classes a week, which evens out.
We are supposed to see snow all weekend. It must be nearly spring. Find a good, hard indoor class or find a video for riding your trainer. I will have an exciting announcement concerning such videos probably next week.