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.
It is clearly cycling season, even at altitude. At the middle of May, one grand tour is snaking across Italy, one smaller tour is heading up the state of California and we are four weeks from the start of Ride the Rockies. But wait . . . there’s more.
The town of Estes Park is gearing up for its moment in the international cycling spotlight. With riders like Cadel Evans from Australia, Peter Sagan from Slovakia, Andy Schleck from Luxembourg and the Garmin-Sharp team from just down the hill in Boulder, it is very much an international event. Fans and reporters from around the world will likely show up, as well. Estes Park, as a whole, needs to get involved to show the world that we are a place to visit.
Bo Winslow, the town’s Community Services Director, has put out a call for volunteers. The town needs course marshals, idea people to help with related events in town the day of the race, as well as vendors to keep the visitors in Estes with food, gifts and the like. If you think you want to help, contact Bo at 586-6104 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have heard there are detractors who point to flopping rock shows as a reason that we should not care. To that I say, the bands who have come for those shows have not been top acts since I was in elementary school in the ’70s. The guys who will be blowing through town on August 24 will be the very best riders on earth right now. These are the best of the best. These guys are faster and fitter than anyone you personally know. These guys competed for medals in the Olympics and will be here preparing for the World Road and Time Trial Championships. In cycling, if you’re not in France in July, it really does not get any better than this.
To get an idea of what we are in for, tune in to the Amgen Tour of California, going on this week. Folks are lining the race route, especially on the climbs and in towns, two things we have going for us. We will see the end of a race within the race as the last King of the Mountains points will be collected at the top of the Glen Haven switchbacks.
The one thing we will have that the California race doesn’t is that many people will still be on summer vacation when the Pro Cycling Challenge comes through. And, because it will be a Saturday, and with our proximity to our major population centers, we could see a crowd matched only by the Scot Fest, except they will all funnel into downtown. This is a chance to show a global audience all of what Estes Park has to offer.
There will be another, slower but no less enthusiastic group pedaling through Estes Park 19 days ahead of the pros. I will be riding the Colorado Rocky Mountain Bike Tour through here on August 4-5. It is the opening day of the ride that loops beginning in Fort Collins and visits EP, Golden, Fraser, Steamboat Springs, Walden and back to Fort Collins. This makes a whole summer of fun for me.
The CRMBT is like Ride the Rockies, only smaller and tougher. While RTR allows 2,000, or so, riders, CRMBT allows only 500. The rout tends to be more challenging, as well. While the toughest day in the saddle for RTR will be Day 4, when we ride over 10,850 foot Wolf Creek Pass, the third day of the CRMBT starts in Golden, climbs Lookout Mountain, ride to Evergreen to climb Juniper Pass, plunges into Idaho Springs, slogs to the base , then climbs Berthoud Pass before finishing in Fraser. Three big climbs over 85 miles. Riders are even invited to ride the Mount Evans Road, if they feel so motivated.
Tour director Peter Duffy explains that it is a tour for a more dedicated crowd.
“I don’t want to bad mouth the Ride The Rockies,” he hastens to say. “I’ve ridden it, it’s fun. The CRMBT is smaller and tougher. We want to appeal to a more dedicated cyclist. The people who ride CRMBT will be a little fitter and a little more enthusiastic.”
I start my organized riding season this Saturday with the First Ascent Ride, a fund raiser for Livestrong. It is a metric century, starting and ending in Golden, starting with a climb of the Golden Gate Canyon, a road that pitched up to 14 percent in sections, then follows the Peak to Peak highway before descending Coal Creek Canyon and returning to Golden.
The ride features several members of the 7-Eleven cycling team, as well. It should be a great morning of riding. If you find your Saturday morning open, check the First Ascent Ride website and head down to Golden early. The ride begins at 7:30.
Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.
This image is from the USAPCC web site.
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
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