I am busily staring at my computer, trying to find a muse. I’ve just cleared off a spot on a shelf above my desk, just to change things up a bit and stand while I type. Ultra-marathon hero Dean Karnazes explained in a recent interview that he stands at his desk, just to be that much more active. He explained he also does push ups, squats and stretches every so often to keep moving. I got all this from a web show called Genetic Potential TV, a collaboration between physical therapist and former world-class paddler Kelly Starrett and CrossFit Endurance guru Brian MacKenzie. Make some time for it and check it out.
This week marked the end of the Spring Classics. From what I can tell, the riders to watch going into the Grand Tour season are Fabian Cancellara, sprinter Peter Sagan and last year’s Tour champion, Brad Wiggins. Look for them all to be in Italy next week for the start of the Giro d’Italia. More on the Corsa Rosa next week.
I’m a bit of a tech weenie. I love new gadgets and fun stuff. I loved getting the iPhone from the office, initially, as it gave me the chance to make video while I rode. That didn’t work out quite as planned, so I have my eye on the GoPro Hero3. I’m now awaiting the new Dura Ace group set and Shimano’s light DA C24 carbon/aluminum tubeless wheels. I’ve gone on and on about the technology in the new DA 9000 group set, but haven’t hit on the wheels so much, because tubeless rode wheels are new enough, as a concept, that I have not dealt with them before. The idea, as always with high-end wheels, is to be stiffer and lighter. Another in a long line of evolutionary steps with wheels.
Long ago, rims were made from wood. They have gone through incarnations of steel, aluminum, carbon fiber, sew-up tubular, clincher and now tubeless. This is all on the road bike side, mind you. The last 25 years have been amazing in the leaps in tech improvements.
I sent a note to Wayne Stetina asking about the biggest improvements in bike technology that he has seen. He responded with the wheels, but named a bunch of other upgrades, as well.
Stetina rode the Coors Classic and Red Zinger on steel frames with friction shift levers on the down tube, the tube running from the stem to the pedals. He has seen the move from those old shifters, in which the rider had to feel around for the right gear, to index shifters, which were set up to click when dropping into a gear, to the integrated shifter-break lever system introduced to road cycling by Shimano in 1990. Now, of course, we also have electronic shifting, as well.
Stetina also mentioned the move from the relatively heavy steel frames to aluminum, titanium and now carbon fiber. Some bike manufacturers have assembled bikes that weigh close to 12 pounds, a far cry from the 20-plus pound bikes ridden in the Tour de France as recently as 1999. Funny thing is, if you have the motivation and the money, you can ride a lighter bike than the pros. The Union Cycliste Internationale has set a weight limit of 15 pounds for pro bikes.
Imagine riding in wool shorts. With a real lamb-skin chamios. The modern bib shorts with man-made chamios are a huge leap forward in comfort. I own a number of wool jerseys and even a beloved wool trainer. They are soft and warm and don’t hang on to oder. However, I still wear something under them. I can’t imagine wearing wool against my sensitive areas.
Bike evolution, at least within the pro peloton, will continue without one of my favorite riders. Italian sprinter Alessandro Petacchi announced his retirement this week. The big Italian started racing in 1998, but started making a name for himself in 2003 when, in his first Tour de France, he won four sprint stages. That same year, Ale-Jet also took six Giro d’Italia stages and another five at the Vuelta a Espana. Petacchi holds the record for most stage wins in a single Giro, winning nine sprints in his home tour in 2004. He has the Points jersey from all three grand tours, but his 2007 Giro sprinters jersey was stripped after a blood test revealed he had too much asthma medication in his system. Petacchi actually had a medical exception for it, but officials felt he was’t monitoring his intake well enough and suspended him for most of the ’07 season.
Petacchi was cut from the same cloth as fellow Italian sprinter Mario Cipollini; tall, good looking, brash, flamboyant, though not nearly as much as Cippo, and not much of a climber. It came as a surprise when, in 2010, Ale-jet made the climbs of the Alps and Pyrenees and road into Paris for the first and only time, to claim the green sprinters jersey of the Tour, something Cipollini never accomplished.
Ride the Rockies is beginning to loom large in the near future. I am forced to obtain a bike box to get my bike from where I will park in Colorado Springs, out to Telluride. This will be my first experience with disassembling my bike for transport. The up side is that I don’t have to spend $400 on a bike case. I will head over to the Estes Park Mountain Shop and pick up a box that was used to ship bikes to them. This also eliminates the need to schlep the box all the way back to my car in the Springs. I will arrive in Telluride, assemble my bike and find a recycle bin for the box.
We are six weeks short of Ride the Rockies, by the way. Milage totals are heading up. According to the RTR training chart, we should be up to 60 miles over three rides during the week and another 40 miles in one ride on the weekend. Like many weekend warriors, I have to rejigger this a bit. I can justify counting my morning classes as 15 miles each. That only counts as 45 miles during the week. I have to try to add some of that back in on the weekend. Finally, the weekend weather is supposed to cooperate.
This week, I plan to spend some time on our local climbs, a nearly endless resource. On Saturday, I have time to warm up around Lake Estes, then head up Fall River Road to the steep Fall River Court. I will ride back into town and over Moccasin to the steep streets on the east side of the Estes Park Medical Center. None of these climbs are very long, but what they lack in duration they more than compensate with intensity.
On Sunday, I hope to head down to Boulder and catch one of their shop rides. The shops that are sponsoring and supporting the RTR have organized group rides on most weekends. This Sunday, the Sports Garage has a three-hour ride beginning at their shop just about half a block north and west of Pearl and 28th street. They list the start time at 9 a.m. and offer a discount for purchases in their shop for participants.
If you want a ride down to Boulder on Sunday or interested in the Saturday climbing, shoot me an e-mail or call.
A nice shot by Sundance Images Event Photography of me in my Ale-Jet replica 2007 Giro sprinters kit! obviously, it is early in this climb. I’m still smiling!
Our sport is supposed to be about the fun. Yes, there is suffering. Yes, plenty of cycling involves challenging oneself and being uncomfortable. In the end, however, it is supposed to be about the fu, the pleasure of riding.
I am reading the autobiography of Manx sprinter Mark Cavendish and found a similar conclusion. He describes the suffering of the mountain stages in the grand tours, about the exhaustion of riding for three weeks. He also writes about the disappointment of leaving the Tour early in 2008 and not getting to Paris for the last sprint.
He also had harsh words for the riders ejected from the ’08 Tour for doping. It made me think, why would someone risk health, career and standing for a win. My conclusion was they put something else ahead of the fun.
I don’t mean to judge. Cycling in Europe is akin to prize fighting in the US, or a lot of pro sports. They often attract athletes who feel it the only shot at rise out of dire economic circumstances. If that’s the case, I could see how someone might be lured into doping to get as far from poverty as possible. Some don’t have the luxury that most of us leisure riders have.
I’m not condoning this behavior, either. The reason Cavendish was so animate about the dopers, in this case Riccardo Ricco, Leonardo Piepoli and Stefan Schumacher, When the dopers set there enhanced paces, they threatened guys like Cav’ who is clean and not a climber. The major Tours set a time limit based of the stage winner’s time. Come in after the cut off and you go home. Ricco broke away and won stage nine that year, putting pressure on the sprinters, then Piepoli put in an inhuman ride the next day.
You may have heard of the Autobus, or Grupetto. These are the groups of big men at the back of these climbing stages, generally sprinters working together to make the cutoff. They are not lollygagging. They are suffering just to suffer all over again the next day. When the cheaters put in the crazy-fast rides up the high mountains, they not only take away the chances of the clean climbers, they endanger a great many sprinters. This same sort of event also reenforces the notion that a rider has to dope to win. Luckily, the ’08 Tour also showcased the advances in the doping tests, resulting in the aforementioned ejections.
Fear is a big motivator. Fear motivates a kid from a broken home in a Dallas suburb to cheat, cheat to an unprecedented level, and deny cheating to protect all that was gained by cheating. Fear, in turn, causes corporate sponsors to flee the sport. It causes coverups and improvements in catching the cheaters. I have to count myself as lucky that I never got to ride at a level in which any of this was a consideration. I’m lucky that I can just ride for fun.
Last weekend was a great example of fun and suffering. The Paris-Roubaix, possibly the monument of Monuments, was won, for the third time, by Swiss RadioShack rider Fabian Cancellara. While everyone predicted his triumph, it was not as predicted. Spartacus did not simply ride away from everyone as he did in the 2011 Paris-Roubaix, or even as he did the weekend before in the Tour of Flanders. He found himself working hard to catch a break in the last half of the race, then dragging a formidable group with him to nearly the end. Bad luck derailed a few, then Cancellara had to out-sprint Belgian hopeful Sep Vanmarcke of the Blanco Pro Racing team on the track in Roubaix.
Cancellara was clearly happy to win his third cobblestone trophy, but he was also clearly spent. The cobbles of the road took a toll on big Fabian, who now looks forward to a break before the summer grand tours start in May.
Many expected Spartacus to have his way with the race on Sunday. Gone was his chief rival, four-time Roubaix winner Tom Boonen. The big Belgian crashed out of the Tour of Flanders a week before. Boonen was hoping to add his name to the short and distinguished list of five-time Paris-Roubaix winners which includes, of course, Eddie Merckx. Tornado Tom now awaits the healing process and the grand tours of summer.
One last Belgian Monument note; On the podium of the Tour of Flanders, Slovak sprinter Peter Sagan was caught in photos grabbing the backside of a podium girl as she was presenting the winner with his trophies. This week, Sagan saw the young lady again. Maya Leye is a 25-year-old who works for Flanders Classics, the organization that promotes and stages the Tour of Flanders. Leye was on the podium with Sagan again on Wednesday, April 10, to present Sagan with his prize for winning the Brabant Arrow race. Sagan presented Leye with his winner’s bouquet and a public apology. Perhaps the swaggering Slovak learned a little tact out of the who incident.
I plan to continue having fun. It’s a challenge with the late-season snow. I have ridden outside perhaps three times this year, once on the course on which I race this Saturday. I have to remember that it’s about the fun. It does not really matter how well I place. It matters that I am able to push myself. It matters that I get to compete. This won’t determine a paycheck. It won’t change the course of my life. It’s just for the fun of it.
Have fun, be safe. I’m going racing.
BTW, the photo was taken by Tom de Waele for Omega Pharma/Quick Step
If last week’s Tour of Flanders is any indication, there are only two riders contending for cobbled wins this season: Fabian Cancellara and Peter Sagan.
The two have traded off winning the northern classics this season. Sagan won his first spring classic by just riding away from Tom Boonen and Mark Cavendish at Ghent-Wevelgem a few weeks back. He took a sprint at the Three Days of De Panne and wheelied across the finish line. The only rider able to tame the 23-year-old Slovak champion is Spartacus.
Fabian Cancellara beat Sagan and the rest of the field at the the E3 Harelbeke two weeks ago. Many cycling writers were excited about the showdown with Spartacus, Peter the Great and Belgium’s Tom Boonen. The showdown fizzled a bit.
Last year at the Tour of Flanders, Cancellara hit a wayward water bottle and crashed in the race’s feed zone, resulting in a broken collarbone. This season, Tornado Tom crashed out, leaving Fabulous Fabian to run free. Cancellara hit the Oude Kwaremont, a climb averaging 4 percent, but kicking up to 11 percent at 17 km from the finish, and rode away from all but Sagan. Cancellara hit the gas again on the last rise, the Paterberg, leaving Sagan gasping and all others far behind, taking the race by better than a minute.
With Sagan skipping Paris-Roubaix and Boonen on the mend, Cancellara is nearly a prohibitive favorite to win his third “Hell of the North”.
The bikes used on these Cobbled Classics have become a hot commodity. The Specialized Roubaix, with its Zerts inserts and comfortable geometry has been a favorite for casual riders for nearly a decade. My bike is the 2004 version, and the newer editions are quite common on organized rides around the state.
The tag line for this bike is a comfortable bike is a fast bike, and the Roubaix is the best, though not the only, example of this. The idea of a comfortable race bike, an endurance road bike, one that is light, nimble and still able to soak up road noise, has become so popular among recreational riders with a taste for speed that several manufacturers have jumped on the band wagon.
Trek made the bike that Cancellara powered to the Ronde win on Sunday. The Trek Domane is the Waterloo, Wisconsin manufacturer’s answer to it’s California rival. The Domain 4.0 can be had for just over $2,000, comes with the relatively inexpensive Shimano Tiagra compact (50-34) gearing. Like any of the bikes at the entry level, it will weigh between 17-19 pounds.
The Giant Defy Composite 3 weighs just a whisker over 18 pounds and sports the same components as the Trek. Giant is an Asian manufacturer with the reputation of building plenty of frames with different labels. They know what they are doing with carbon frames. They make a whole lot of them, so their entry-level Defy will set you back a mere $1,700.
Swiss manufacturer BMC took a different tack, returning to the nearly-forgotten material of aluminum for their Granfondo GF02 bike. The $1,899 bike comes with Shimano 105 compact components, one step up from the Tiagra group. The frame is based on the carbon version that American Tyler Phinney is riding around the cobbles this season. It tips the scale at 19.1 pounds and shares much of the vibration-eating geometry of its much pricier carbon iterations.
The entry level carbon Specialized Roubaix, the Sport Compact, comes with Shimano 105 compact components and weighs around 18 pounds. It comes with their four-position adjustable stem and, because it is the bike that started the trend, gobbles the cobbles. It tends to be smooth and fast, though if you have the means and tend to be a weight-weenie, you may want to shell out a bit more than the $2,100 MSRP of this model.
We now sit eight weeks from the start of Ride the Rockies. The total milage for next week should come to 80 miles, 30 for the weekend ride and three more rides during the week totaling 50 miles. If you haven’t started already, it’s about time to insert some climbing, some short sprints and most definitely a group ride into your training. I will actually have a taper this week as I have a real race, the Haystack Mountain Time Trial, on April 13. I might not get all of the miles in, but I will get some intensity in.
If you find yourself short on time, there is at least one thing I can suggest . . . intervals. On a relatively short ride, after a 15-20 minute warmup, take a few hard digs, close to your maximum effort, for no more than a minute. Take a good recovery interval and repeat at least four time. The toughest and most effective interval workout I know of is the dreaded Tabata Protocol. After a good 20-25 minute warmup, set a timer for four minutes. In those four short little minutes, go as hard as you can for 20 seconds and recover for just 10. This is as hard as it gets, but yields the most benefit in a very short period. Give it a try if you feel you need to train but only have half an hour. Better get a bucket . . .
Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.
I was sitting around the office, daydreaming about our upcoming
spring break trip, reading e-mails for upcoming rides, reading about
the Cannibal showing signs of his age, he’s had a pacemaker put in,
when a friend posted a video on Facebook that changed my day. The
video was entitled “The best coin ever spent” and start in Spain with
a little girl putting a coin into the hat of what seems to be an
extremely talented and well dressed classical base player. As the
video goes on, musicians stream out of a door in what I assume is the
bank sponsoring the video, along with some well-placed and
inconspicuous choral vocalists in the crowd. The all come together to
perform Beethoven’s final movement of the 9th Symphony, or “Ode to
The tone of the music and voices brings an exuberant
smile to faces in the video and to mine. I love this piece. I
regularly soften the suffering in my indoor training class with it. I
hum it to myself while climbing. It is the musical incarnation of my
Climbing is challenging. That’s just the nature of
it. If it were easy, everyone would do it. We’d have bike lanes on
Trail Ridge Road. Climbing shows us what we can be, what we are
capable of, how hard we can push ourselves. It is a psychological
exercise as much as physical. Sometimes I have to play games in my
head to get through.
I think I’m just used to TRR by now. The
climb from either side does not seem as difficult to me as
Independence Pass. I was certainly humming for that climb. I also pick
out land marks. This is an old trick. When really tired, or really
challenged by the terrain, pick out a landmark. In your head, imagine
throwing a rope around it like a pulley, and drag yourself to it. When
you reach it, pick out another and keep going.
Once on the Elephant Rock metric century, I had to help a buddy by telling him, “Okay, just ride to that tree. Okay, now ride to that big rock. Okay now just get over the top.” Painful and obvious, but effective.
Between the humming and the mind games, I can’t help
but smile. This is good. Smiling has a measurable positive effect on
performance. Smiling, whether you mean it or not, sets up a positive
cycle in the endocrine system. The positive feeling associated with
smile sends even more endorphins into the blood stream, taking a bit
more of the edge off of the pain. Even telling yourself that you enjoy
climbing, just another mind game, will start this virtuous cycle into
Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.
This weekend marks the start of the Spring Classics season. The Ronde van Vlaanderen, or Tour of Flanders, is Sunday and should be a showdown between Swiss superman Fabian Cancellara, Belgium’s favorite son, Tom Boonen, and Slovak up-start Peter Sagan. Boonen has had a rough go so far this season. He fell behind on training after narrowly catching an infection in his elbow before it got to the bone. This could have cost him the arm. Boonen bonked horribly while trying to chase down Cancellara in last week’s E3 Harelbeke semi-classic. Spartacus attacked exactly where everyone knew he would, but no one could do anything about it.
Relative youngster Sagan won last weekend’s
Ghent-Wevelgem with such a lead that he had time to pop a wheelie
while crossing the finish line. This sets up what could be the best
race that won’t be televised in the US this year.
NBC has shown no hint that they will broadcast this Monument, forcing guys like me to find a feed online. My suggestion is a web site called steephill.tv. They will find a feed, though it may require the scaling of a paywall. I think this year, it will be worth it. At this point, we will be adding another ten miles to the weekly total heading
toward Ride the Rockies. This is added to the weekend ride, which is
beginning to resemble a real spring ride. This week, as of Saturday,
we should ride 30 miles, then distribute another 50 miles over three
days. Nine weeks left, I’m getting excited.Again, if you feel the need
to ride, say Sunday, shoot me an e-mail.
Have fun, be safe. I’m