So there are two, diametrically opposed trains of thought within cycling, these days. These are the stealthy fitness and the showy fitness. The first has been around for a while, and the second, a more recent event linked to our modern, mobile, social media age.
For as long as there has been competitive cycling, there has been stealth fitness. This is best illustrated by an e-mail that was circulated about a decade ago, and attributed to one of Chris Carmichael’s CTS coaches. The old e-mail stated that cyclists were the biggest fitness liars and stealth trainers. We say one thing, but it quickly becomes evident that we mean something completely opposite.
We say “This is a no-drop ride.”
We mean “As soon as the first hill comes, I will grind you into dust. I will attack every hill, I will contest every town-limit sign until you are left in a weeping heap on the side of the road.”
We say “I’m not in race-shape.”
We mean “I’ve been spending every waking moment on the trainer/rollers. I have more miles in my legs than the Interstate System.”
We say “I’m not feeling it, today.”
We mean “Hope you have your race wheels on, cause this is going down.”
My personal favorite, “This is my beater bike.”
We mean “This bike was made of Unobtainium. The frame was blessed by the Pope. It is lighter than a fart and more expensive than a divorce.”
This has been the prevailing attitude for generations of cyclists. Everything is very secret. Every play is close to the chest. Sunglasses on cyclists were not to protect one’s eyes, there were to hide any tells, hide anything that might indicate fatigue. Or, possibly, hide just the opposite. Exhibit A: Lance fakes being tired during the ’01 TdF stage of Alpe D’Huez. Lance and the Posties pretend The Boss is suffering, prompting Jan Ulrich’s Team Telecom to drive the pace to the base of the storied climb, basically tricking the German team into doing all the heavy lifting for the day, before the Texan’s famous “Look” and the trademark attack to grind Ulrich down and eventually win that Tour.
But these days, there is another cycling saying. It makes secret training much more difficult. “If it didn’t happen on Strava, it didn’t happen.”
I want to keep track of my miles and my workouts, but now there is no hiding from my sea-level buddies who will join me on Ride the Rockies this year. My California friends ride every chance they get. One commutes through Orange County, while the other trains for marathon rides, like the Breck Epic and Leadville 100. Our friend from Texas is an Ironman. I’m a giant track sprinter who happens to live at 7,500 feet.
I can’t let these guys embarrass me in my home state, in spite of the fact that I out weigh each of them, some by significant margins. I’m Altitude Man. But I can’t hide the training, either.
I suppose it will keep me honest. They can see what I’m doing, and I see the miles they are putting in. It’s more positive, even inspiring. We can cheer each other on. Give each other kudos. We can recognize the efforts and the KOMs. We can act like teammates.
Of course, there are still the rollers . . .
Have fun. Be safe. I’m going riding!
Saturday, February 6, was the day of the Ride the Rockies Route Announcement Party. For the second time in five years, Ride the Rockies will traverse the highest paved highway pass road in North America, Trail Ridge Road. I’m excited because, of course, the “Big Road” is in my back yard, almost literally. It’s a relatively short route, at 403 miles over six days, but it’s also going to be beautiful!
The route will closely resemble the one I first rode, five years ago. This one begins in beautiful Carbondale on Sunday, June 12. Day one rolls from Carbondale to the famous ski town of Aspen. Chandler and the crew are easing us into the race as the two towns are only 50 miles apart. Mile for mile, however, it is a stunning ride.
The ride rolls down the Roaring Fork River along a trail that runs from Glenwood Springs to Aspen past the Maroon Bells. Of course, one would need to take a side trip to get the beautiful view.
Day two, Monday, June 13, might be the Queen Stage, beginning in Aspen, riders nearly immediately start the 85-mile day climbing. And this is not just any climb. This is 19 miles and 4,000 feet of climbing. It averages somewhere in the neighborhood of 5%. The last three miles are the worst at around 7% to the top of Independence Pass. After that, it’s a fast dive down to Twin Lakes.
From the lakes, riders take a left and head to the highest incorporated town in North America, Leadville, at 10,152 feet. This year, the ride passes through on to Fremont Pass, 12 miles averaging 1.5%, maxing out at 7% and 11,318 feet. Riders bomb down the north side of the pass into Copper Mountain Resort.
For the past two RTRs, the ride has taken an extra day in one of the towns. Two years ago, we stayed an extra day in Steamboat Springs. Last year, we rode from Grand Junction, through the Colorado National Monument and back. This season, Day 3, June 14, the route takes an extra day in Copper Mountain Resort to tackle the Copper Triangle. The 78-mile route takes riders back over Fremont Pass, past Leadville, over Battle Mountain and Tennessee Pass, over the Red Cliff Bridge, through Minturn and Vail and finally over Vail Pass before returning to Copper.
On Day 4, June 15, riders descend a snaking bike trail from Copper to Frisco, past Dillon Lake, through Silverthorn and north to Ute Pass. Four years ago, Chandler and the gang took riders over gravel roads into Kremmling. The route is now part of RTR lore. This time around, riders will see some of those same roads, eventually taking riders into the remote resort town of Grand Lake. This is tied with Day Two as the longest-milage day at 85 miles.
This takes us to Day 5, June 16, and the whole reason that I can’t possibly miss this ride. It’s a short day at only 49 miles, but it’s over the famous Trail Ridge Road; more than 20 miles of climbing at around 4.5% to over 12,100 feet above sea level. The climb takes riders from the shore of Grand Lake, through arid pine meadows, through aspen stands, past the habitat of moose, elk and big horn sheep, eventually out onto the alpine tundra. Riders enjoy views of the Never Summer Range, the Continental Divide, Forest Canyon, Rock Cut, as well as the Alpine Visitor Center, Rainbow Curve and the fast, winding descent into my town, Estes Park.
Home of the world-famous, and slightly creepy Stanley Hotel, Estes Park made a big deal out of hosting the 2012 RTR. My town had a big party with local musicians and great food. My town knows how to entertain.
As luck would have it, the ride comes through Estes Park on a Thursday, which is Farmers’ Market Day, so be sure to swing by Bond Park as you arrive to get some refueling goodies.
Come see our town, our fun and my favorite bike shop, the Via Bicycle Cafe! Come get coffee, pie, BBQ, all great in Estes Park. Yes, I’m biased, but I love this town and you will, too.
Riders enjoy Friday, June 17, Day 6’s mostly-downhill ride out Devils Gulch and the Switchbacks, through Glen Haven, through local rider-favorite Masonville, around Horsetooth Reservoir and finally, into Fort Collins.
The six-day ride will reward any rider fit enough to make the journey, with vistas, new friends and great stories. I love this ride and would urge any rider to register the lottery before February 28. The organizers, Chandler Smith, Renee Wheelock, Liz Brown and an army (that’s no exaggeration) of volunteers, work hard to put on a great ride and I have never been disappointed. It will be the most challenging, most enjoyable week of your riding season.
Have fun, be safe. I’m going training!
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.
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.
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.
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.