Adventures in life and photography out West

Posts tagged “bicycling

The rest of the story

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When we left our heroes, they were being buffeted and blown all over Trail Ridge Road’s highest points by gale-force winds . . .

We were never so happy to get down and back into trees. And while the wind persisted all the way into Estes Park, it was never so bad as on the alpine tundra.

Riders arrived just in time to see one of my favorite weekly events, the Estes Valley Farmers Market, as the market was closing for the day. The town wanted to make room for the riders events later in the evening.

Local bands, including Amplified Soul, performed for the riders as local venders offered their wares. It was fun but it was a brief night, as most riders were tired from the short but challenging day through the park.

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Donald at the Estes Valley Farmers Market.

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Amplified Soul plays at the RTR event in Estes Park.

This particular stop was the whole reason I could not resist the pull of RTR this year. This was the chance to show off my little town. I have lived in Estes Park for 16 years and love promoting it. I also got to sleep in my own bed, and offer Donald a spare bed. It made for a wonderful night’s sleep ahead of the Grand Arrival, the final day of riding.

The last day of RTR2016 was a relatively short 51 miles. Starting in Estes Park, we rolled down the Big Thompson Canyon. The long line of riders snaked and plunged through the canyon, tracing the Big Thompson River until the famous and popular Masonville ride. Riders ambled through the countryside west of Loveland toward Horsetooth Reservoir. Then, the final climbs.

Horsetooth consists of four hard, steep, short climbs. All of them between 6-10 percent. A bit of a sting in the legs. After the last descent around the north end of the reservoir, riders enjoyed a sort of precession through the beautiful neighborhood on Mountain Avenue, eastward into Old Town Fort Collins. We rolled into O’Dell Brewery for food, entertainment and closing festivities.

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Donald Lewis and the author pose at the finish in Fort Collins.

After a week of riding and more than 400 miles, we had arrived; tired, short on sleep and as happy as we could be. The arrival is always bitter-sweet.

We see each other for one week, once a year. We share stories, we catch up on lives outside of the tour, and for a week, we are a large, rolling family reunion. When we roll into the final stop, we have to say our good-byes.

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Betsy, the Tour Assistant.

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Renee, Community Relations Manager.

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Liz, the Event Coordinator.

One good-bye was going to be a bit more permanent. Tour Director Chandler Smith was stepping down after eight years. Chandler challenged riders and adapted to last-minute challenges, himself. Just in my five additions, Chandler had to change two tour routes due to wildfires, and had to sag riders all along the Berthoud Pass climb on the first day of the 2014 RTR. He has served us well and advanced the RTR, improving the event and, hopefully, improving relations with the beautiful little towns in this amazing state.

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Ride the Rockies has been a great tour for a long time. Each rout, even when closely paralleling previous routs, offer a new adventure. Chandler, Renee, Liz, Betsy and the army of volunteers, once again, gave riders a week to remember, about which to reminisce, and stories to retell.What more could we want. Thanks for the memories, and may luck smile on you, Chandler.

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Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.


Loving it

I’m running behind, but having fun. At’s been several weeks since the USA Pro Challenge but I have several images still. Some don’t have Jens Voigt in them. Can you get this close to pros in any other sport? Not likely. We, the adoring fans, can also enjoy riding on more or less the same course as the heroes. I don’t get to play hockey in the Pepsi Center. My tennis fan friends don’t get to play center court at Wimbledon. I have actually touched these guys, as well as having ridden some of the same roads.

So, without further delay. . .

Alex Howes Fan of France Jens Tejay Tommy D Sweeping Through Phinney rolls Lil Champ King of Pain


JensJensJens!

27EPLPht JensJensJens

 

German and man of the world, Jens Voigt, receives a send-off worthy of a king from fans before the start of Sunday’s final stage of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Boulder, Colorado. After 18 professional racing seasons, 17 Tours de France and countless souls crushed, Voigt hung up his race wheels for the last time after Sunday’s race finish.


The big tease

It’s February on the Front Range side of the Rockies. Lots of snow this year and lots of cold, keeping the snow in place. It’s so cold, I don’t really want to even go to the garage for my trainer. The positive side is that I continue to recover and heal from last season. I also have plenty of time to read. Which is good.

I have three new books I’m working through: two fitness and mobility and one history. I received and started reading Becoming a Supple Leopard, by Dr. Kelly Starrett and Glen Cordoza as well as Power, Speed, Endurance, by Brian Mackenzie. For you Crossfitters, you will recognize the names. Both believe form and technique are all-important. The pair also host a web-show called “Genetic Potential” (http://www.geneticpotentialtv.com). The two books have already been helpful in my weight lifting. I look forward to better weather so I can put some of the “Skill-based approach to endurance training” into action.

Both of these books are pretty big. They are also relatively pricy, $60 for Starrett’s book and $40 for Mackenzie’s, but both are worth their weights in gold.

The history, or perhaps exposé, is Wheelmen by Reed Albergotti and Vanessa O’Connell. It takes a close look at the Armstrong/EPO era of cycling and the USPS domination of the Tour de France due at least in part to their massive doping conspiracy. I have not gotten too far in it so far, but it has been pretty good.

I picked up a new pair of Specialized Expert road shoes this week; part of the reason I am impatient for warmer weather. Specialized shoes have always fit my feet better. I have tried any number of shoes, both in-store and out on the road and trail. Pearl Izumi shoes are fine, but like many, don’t fit my forefoot very well. Sidi are spectacular, but expensive. Specialized fit well, have plenty of stiffness and are a great bargain. The Expert level is, for me, the best bang for the buck. At $200, they are not cheap. They are, however, noticeably stiffer than the Comp level shoe, which is $40 cheaper. They are not as stiff as the Pro or S-Works level, but $75 less than the Pro and half the price of the S-Works.

As most of my road riding is recreational, I don’t need a Pro or S-Works shoe. I do, however, like a good, stiff shoe when climbing the Rockies, which is just part of living in this part of the world. While I got a cool white shoe last time, I quickly realized why we mere mortals don’t usually get white cycling shoes: schmutz. They got dirty in a big hurry. I got black this time around. This is not the only difference between the two, either. Like so many things, these days, the trickle-down from the top models of years past has made today’s Expert shoe better than even the Pro or S-Works of years ago.

This year’s Expert has the Colorado-made Boa closure, making a very exact and custom fit. The shoes tighten with a sort of microfiliment, like a fishing line, wound around a small spool. Twist the little knob to tighten and pull up to loosen. It’s the technology that was only on the top-of-the-line shoe a few years back. I’m looking forward to riding with them . . . some day.

Still snowing. Makes me wish for warmer climates . . . like perhaps Jamaica. Okay, kind of a clumsy transition, but it works. A high school buddy of mine lost his job at the worst of the economic down-turn a few years back. He had been smart with his money up to that point, so he had a chance to start a charity, along with his Jamaican-born wife. Randy and Sonia Duncan-Boba founded the EAASY Foundation to bring “Empowerment through Athletic and Academic Support of Youth.” While the foundation funds local programs throughout the world, their hearts are clearly in Jamaica. Check out their fundraiser jersey. You may have to hit “Download” after you connect with the Dropbox page. It’s a bit expensive, but without a doubt, it’s for a great cause. They go for $150, on par with many top-of-the-line jerseys, and this one is put together by Fast Freddie, the new cycling clothing brand by current US road champion, Fast Freddie Rodriguez. $25 dollars from each sale goes to the foundation.

So this also leads into my own fundraising endeavor; The Courage Classic! This is the 25th year of the ride that raises money for Children’s Hospital Colorado. The last few editions have featured route changes, due to sink holes and carcinogenic insulation removal. Who knows what this year’s route will be, other than great fun. The ride is the icing on the cake. The whole point, and the competitive side, is the raising of money for the hospital foundation. They require a $300 minimum of donations to ride, but that really is not much. Get involved, or at least donate. I will have a link to my team’s page in two weeks.

One last bit of business. My intervals between posts have gotten kinda long. I apologise. I am taking on some more challenges. I’m still part-time with the newspaper up here, as well as full-time with my new gig, Harmony Foundation, leading two Spinning classes a week and photographing the occasional wedding, I am also taking classes to become a Certified Addiction Counsellor. If you’ve known me for a while, you already know I have the background for this. As a result, these posts will be shorter for a little while. I still have plenty of fun lined up for this, so please don’t go away.

Have fun, be safe. I’m going studying . . . then riding!

Jersey by Pactimo . . . more on them next time.

Jersey by Pactimo . . . more on them next time.


So close

Jens Vougt spent all but 8.5 miles out in front of Wednesday’s 106-mile stage from Breckenridge to Steamboat Springs. Unfortunately for the 41-year-old German, he was not in the lead for the last 1.5 miles. Cannondale’s Peter Sagan, once again, flashed across the line saluting the crowd for his second stage win of the week.

 

I was dissapointed and said ‘dammit’”, said Voigt, a fan favorite rider for RadioShack. “I was just a little bit mad with the world in general, but it could have been worse – it’s better than being in a crash.”

 

The attacks began early, though none stuck until the fan-lined Swan Mountain climb, about seven miles in. Cannondale’s Ted King managed to escape the pack, followed by Matt Cook of Jamis-Hagens Berman and RadioShack’s Voigt. Joshua Edmond (Sky Pro Cycling), Tyler Wren (Jamis) and Serghei Tvetcov (Jelly Belly) joined the first threesome as they charged through the Silverthorn sprint point.

 

On the long road to Rabbit Ears Pass, the escape group, Voigt, Edmond, Tvetcov, Wren and Cannaondale’s Davide Villella gained a gap of up to five minutes before the peloton started reeling them back in. At that point, with 32.6 miles left and the start of the last climb just ahead, the race’s oldest athlete, Voigt, took off, leaving his younger rivals to be swallowed up by the pack.

 

Voigt went over the KOM point alone and started down the west side of the Rabbit Ears Pass with a 2:40 lead over the peloton, but Sagan put his squad on the front, and got a little help from Argos-Shimano to chase the solo break. It took the pack a 40-mph effort to catch Voigt, nearly within sight of the finish line.

 

Shortly after the pack overtook Voigt, a touch of wheels resulted on a pile-up, sending several riders to the hospital. As a result, those who were effected, but still finished, were given the same time as Sagan.

 

Within the last 100 yards, Sagan again catapulted around his rivals to claim his second stage. He was followed by Luka Mezgec of Argos Shimano, and Ryan Anderson of Optum.

 

I’m very happy about my stage win today and I want to thank all my teammates because they did great work,” Sagan said after the win. “For now I feel good and think I can do well on these climbs.”

 

With the win, Sagan added to his lead in the Cliff Bar Points competition, allowing the charismatic Slovac to keep the green jersey. Matt Cook’s efforts over Swan Mountain and Rabbit Ears Pass allowed him to keep the red Nissan King of the Mountains jersey.

 

Lachlan Morton (Garmin-Sharp) retains the SmashBurger leader’s jersey, as well as the CSU Best Young Rider jersey. Voigt’s long, hard effort was rewarded with the FirstBank Most Courageous Rider jersey.

 

Sky Pro Cycling rider Joe Dombrowsky had problems with nose bleeds during stage two and did not start stage three.

 

Thursday will see the race head back south on a 103-mile stage from Steamboat Springs to Beaver Creek. Riders will face the new climb of Bachelor Gulch, nearly 18 miles with ramps of up to 18 percent, before facing the short, difficult climb into Beaver Creek. 


Eat food, yum!

For much of my life, I’ve had an odd relationship with food. Some of it has to do with a history of addiction, some with having been an athlete of some variety since I was about seven. I can plow through a dozen chocolate-chip cookies in the blink of an eye, but I still see how certain foods work better in my system and in my training, than others. So, it has been a long, difficult road to where I find food that I enjoy and that will help my riding.

My diet changes from summer to autumn, winter to spring. I will adjust the proportion of each macro-nutrient, fat, carbohydrates and protein, as well as the sources of these. Right now, the height of summer, I eat 40-50 percent carbs, depending on if I am training or actually out competing or on a long tour. Fat tends to stay near 30 percent, sometimes a little lower when I’m out. Protein I like to keep pretty close to 30 percent, though it will dip a bit out riding. If you are familiar with recent trends, you may recognize the proportions of the “Zone Diet”. Yeah, I tend to do that.

I also lean more and more toward natural foods, or even the Paleo diet. The shorter the ingredients list, the better. The more processed a product, the more calories tend to be jammed into it. As much as I like them, chili and lime Doritos are just about as processed and unnatural as a food-like product can be. A handful of almonds and raisins are at the other end of the spectrum. This is the end I try to stay close to.

Now the whole rise of processed and pre-packaged foods is based on convenience. It’s easy to pick up a Twinkie at the gas station, though it is difficult to tell, even while eating it, how long that little yellow cream-tube has been around. Real food goes bad, eventually. It can be timer-consuming to pack a steak in a bike jersey, however.

So I have tried to find options. They have shifted and changed over the years. I have eaten my share of PowerBars and Fig Newtons. I have tried more “natural” options, like the Honey Stinger offerings. Now I have come across two or three options that I have not had until recently.

Allen Lim is a Boulder-based sports physiologist. He has worked for Team RadioShack and Garmin. He invented a hydration drink with less sugar that prompted other riders to dump their sponsor’s drinks and secretly fill their bottles with Lim’s “Secret Hydration Mix”, now just called Skratch Labs mix. No artificial colors, no artificial flavors. This approach I the basis for Lim’s new book, “Feed Zone Portables”.

I’ve written about this book before. Now that I’ve tried out the recipes, I’m convinced it’s the best riding food I’ve ever had, and it’s cheaper in the long run because it’s made at home. Little muffin-tin omelets, two-bite pies, pocket-sized sandwiches, all with whole, natural-food ingredients. My body handles the food better and I can perform better. The first fourth of the book explains from a physiological point of view why this works. It’s fantastic.

Now I am in no way perfect in my diet. It’s not all food that I can chase down or pick myself. When I’m out on a ride, I like a good treat. I still prefer when that treat has few artificial ingredients and a short list. With that in mind, let me tell you about the return of the Estes Park Pie Company.

Val and Patrick Thompson opened their little shop on Elkhorn Avenue a few years back and were surprised by the positive reaction. Their pies, muffins and cookies were, in my opinion, heavenly. After problems finding an industrial kitchen, questionable dealings with other retailers, a move to Longmont and Illinois, the couple are back and their shop has reopened, this time in Lower Stanley Village. They have added to their menu, now offering meals, as well as desserts. I look forward to beginning, as well as ending, a few rides at the Estes Park Pie Company.

This weekend marks the start of the 100th Tour de France. Due two a few wars, while the race began in 1903, this year is the 100th edition of Le Grande Boucle. American Tejay Van Garderen of Team BMC has the best shot of bring the yellow jersey back to the US, but he will have his hands full. While last year’s defending champ, Brad Wiggins, is not defending his championship do to injury, the only man who came close to him last season, teammate Chris Froome, will be leading Team Sky, widely regarded as the best team in the pro ranks this year. NBCSports and NBC will carry the US broadcast of the grandest of the grand tours beginning at 5:30 am on Saturday, and running through Sunday, July 21.

Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.Image


Colors of Spring

Back when the great Eddie Merckx won his legendary 525 races, cyclists often rode everything. They rode the Spring Classics, the Grand Tours, the World Championships and the “Tour of the Falling Leaves”. Starting in the late ’90s, this began to change. While Merckx won the Giro five times, the Tour five times, the Vuelta a Espana twice, he even won the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France in the same season more than once. This has not been done since 1998 and not attempted more than a handful of times in the last 15 years. This is not all bad, especially for American cycling fans.

 

While for nearly a century, pink has been the color of May on the international cycling calendar, yellow and grizzly bear graphics have made their way in. The three-week tour of Italy had been the natural lead-in for the Tour de France, in the era of specialization and growing prominence of France’s big tour, the Tour of California has become a big race for more than Americans. This was helped in no small part by the moving of the race from February to May in 2010 after two abysmal weather years. Since the move, the biggest teams and racers have made the move to the Golden State.

 

The Tour of California is “only” a one-week race, this year beginning near San Diego on Sunday, May 12, and heading north for the first time, finishing in Santa Rosa on May 19. The Giro d’Italia is a three-week Grand Tour. Three weeks on a bike takes a big physiological toll on a body. It not only trims any extra fat off a racer, it begins a catabolistic process. It breaks down muscle in an attempt to find more energy to move the body on the bike. This is a difficult from which a racer has only five weeks to recover. As the Giro d’Italia is the most important race for and in Italy, the Tour is the biggest prize in all of stage racing. As a result, a shorter stage race has tremendous advantages for teams and racers whose ultimate goals are Tour wins.

 

So the best sprinter in the world not from the Isle of Man, Peter Sagan, will be back in California this weekend. The Boulder-based Garmin-Sharp team has the honor of defending Giro champion, and some of the Americans are in Italy to help with that defense, Dave Zabriskie, Garmin’s time trial specialist, will lead a strong team in California. Even Belgian hero Tom Boonen had planned to hone his sprinting skills in California before his crash at the Tour of Flanders last month.

 

The rise in American cycling will feature prominently again this August here in Colorado. While most Spanish-speaking racers will head to the Vuelta a Espana, most racers with a shot at September’s World Road Championship will skip the Vuelta in favor of the shorter, though still challenging Pro Cycling Challenge. Bad for the Vuelta, already the Grand Tour’s redheaded step-child, good for American cycling fans.

 

Meanwhile at the Corsa Rosa, Katusha’s Italian rider, Luca Paolini, is ensconced in pink. Defending champ, Garmin’s Canadian rider, Ryder Hasjedal, is 34 seconds back, tied on time with Sky’s leader, Bradley Wiggins.

 

The Manx Missile, Mark Cavendish started the Giro with a sprint win in Naples.

 

Team Sky was the overwhelming winner in stage two’s team time trial on the island of Ischia. Surprisingly, it was Sky’s firt TTT win in a grand tour. The win put Sky’s Salvatore Puccio, who also happens to be Italy’s national time trial champion, in the pink leader’s jersey.

 

Hesjedal took off on an attack during stage three, only to be caught and passed by eventual stage winner Paolini.

Stage four saw former Giro champion Danilo DiLuca get swamped by the sprinters teams less than 400 yards short of the finish line of the 153-mile stage in Serra San Bruno. Sprinter Enrico Battaglin took the bunch sprint. Paolini kept the rain-soaked pink jersey.

 

Stage five, 126 mostly-flat miles from Cosenza to Matera, was marred by a crash inside the last 1000 meters. Sprinter John Degenkolb of Argo-Shimano avoided the crash and made up a huge gap in just about 100 meters to take his first career win in the Italian tour.

 

Look west this weekend. The Amgen Tour of California will be televised on NBCSports network beginning Sunday. To see the Giro d’Italia, visit Steephill.tv to find a live video feed.

 

Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.Image