Data Gathering

Now that my bike computer features an inclinometer, I can’t help but have a sick fascination with seeing it tick upwards. The miles I’ve put on my bike have been ridiculously low since the Copper Triangle, hovering around maybe 75 miles per week, but I finally headed out for a solid 50-miler on my favorite loop last Sunday. Of course, that loop includes a trip up Rist Canyon, prime territory for a rising inclinometer reading. Rist didn’t disappoint. The numbers:

Distance: 49.92 mi
Time: 3:38
Avg. speed: 13.6 mph
Max. speed: 46.6 mph
Total elevation gain: 3955 ft
Max incline: 21%

The last couple miles are super steep — my computer didn’t tick below 9% much preferring to stay in numbers like 9, 12, and 14. On the steepest section of all, I saw it hit 24% before settling on 21%. Fun times. I love that in the warped world of Rist, a 5% incline can be considered a “rest.” Hearing gunshots near the road was a nice kick in the pants to get up the last mile as quickly as possible. (Is it hunting season? What the hell?). Man, I do so love to climb.

There’s wasn’t much else of note the rest of the way home, other than getting honked at by an SUV somewhere near Horsetooth Park as I was kicking it around 20mph. I hereby apologize for delaying that car by 3 seconds in my attempt to save my own arse from a gravel-y meeting with the pavement.


Rock Racing: An Analysis

Aw, hell. The Garmin-Chipotle guys dominated the US Cycling Pro Championships road race all day last Sunday only to lose a 110-mile race by an amount easily countable in millimeters. I first felt disappointment that one of the G-C guys didn’t win, and, secondly, I thought “Why did it have to be a Rock Racing guy that won?”

If it isn’t obvious, I don’t like Rock Racing. Sure, it was Tyler Hamilton wearing the R/R kit crossing the line just ahead of Blake Caldwell. Tyler Hamilton, a guy who will forever carry a cloud of suspicion around him. But I really don’t know what I think about his deal, and as a reader letter to VeloNews put it “it’s so easy to be an armchair critic and forget that real people have to experience the impact of the statements of others.” Essentially, I’m not as bothered by the guy who won as much as the team he rides for. And, honestly, I’m not sure why Rock Racing annoys me so much. So, I’m doing an analysis — longbloghand style, in enumerated fashion.

1. Michael Ball – team owner. — He is obviously an intelligent, ambitious, and successful entrepreneur. And, I truly appreciate his support of cycling and various charitable causes. However, his “style” makes me bristle. In an interview with PezCycling he quips that “if you work for me you’ll cry, crack or get stronger!” Sounds peachy! Where do I apply? (Actually, Mr. Ball, you could use a web developer, but I’ll get to that.)

2. The kit is ugly. — Cycling team kits are no stranger to the awkward balance between acceptable and questionable, and often highly questionable, design. Such is life when trying to find each sponsor an acceptable location for a logo. However, in true Michael Ball fashion, the Rock Racing kit boldy leaps right into ugly territory. I will say that it’s nice that one can tell that the kit is actually designed, but that doesn’t keep it out of ugly territory. And remember, ugly design doesn’t come cheap, so be prepared to drop over $200 if you want a jersey of your own (god forbid).

3. The website is, um, not my favorite. — I’m a web developer, so, like it or not, this could get long. However, before I get all negative, I will say that it’s coded cleanly and has many nice design touches. But on to the laundry list:

  • A splash screen that serves no apparent purpose. Splash screens are rarely useful or necessary. Even less necessary is requiring website viewers to make an extra click through a page with no content save for a Rock Racing logo that is only slightly larger than the one displayed on every single page of the website.
  • A black background with low contrast header and link text. I accept that a dislike for black backgrounds on websites may be a girl thing, but at least make the text on the site be a high contrast color so it’s easily readable.
  • It has a marquee. Fine, I’ll acquiesce that’s it’s not as bad as circa 1995 marquees. However, at least have it scroll the correct way.
  • The repetition. As of shortly after the race, “redemption” was plastered no fewer than three places on the main page. (Aside: Is that really what they want to attach to Tyler’s win?)
  • The photos under Galleries on the main page aren’t linked to the larger version. One has to go to “more photos” then find the photo to view at a larger size. In that same vein, the Press & News headers aren’t linked to the full news item.

4. I’m very obviously not its target market. — The Rock Racing brand with its dark, skull and crossbones motif, dark website, and its ceaseless attempt at “edginess” is not one that appears to be targeted at the late 20s, female demographic. Honestly, I don’t think Rock Racing could brand itself in a way less appealing to me. I even ventured in to read the R/R forums and found none of my kind there either.

5. No personal attachments to any team riders. — I can’t say that I really follow any of the guys on the team and thus have no attachment to their success or non-success. Most of the names are familiar, yes, but I’m not invested.

6. Discretionary irrationalness. — It’s been established before that I have a tendency towards small amounts of irrationalness. I accept this.

Again, I’ll say that I appreciate anyone investing in cycling, and Michael Ball has certainly done that. I just think the “bad boy” image he has created for the team is not for me.

The obvious quandary, though, is what to do when a racer I really do like ends up on Rock Racing. As often as guys change teams, this is bound to happen not too far in the future. Crap. I’m not going to think about that right now.


Boulder Roubaix

What better way to spend a Saturday than at a bike race, right? In this case, Mother Nature decided to bless the day and the previous 36+ hours with a steady rain (and snow in the upper elevations of Colorado). The Boulder Roubaix course is 75% hard packed dirt so this made for some delightfully (I can say this because I wasn’t racing) muddy and slick conditions.

My friend Brian was racing in the men’s cat 4 race. Friend Tracy was a course marshal, while I manned the feed zone and served as one of an estimated 12 spectators. Rain poured steadily all morning. It was a true field test of my rain gear, which passed with flying colors by the way. Water was rolling off me, so you can imagine what this rain did for the roads.

Boulder Roubaix - Woman climbs up a hill on the course

Check out the dirt on this woman’s bike. She managed to keep her kit way cleaner than a lot of riders. I think this might be the women’s cat 4 winner, so perhaps it’s because she was always out in front. All the riders were ridiculously dirty.

Boulder Roubaix - Pro peloton

Luck was on the pros’ side as conditions vastly improved prior to their start. Look at all those clean kits.

Boulder Roubaix - Feed Zone

At one point, I was directed to establish a feed zone “somewhere near that white mailbox.” This is what I later figured out must have been “the feed zone.” Hmmm…

I had a lot of fun cheering for the riders, doing what I could to make them feel better about slogging through rain and mud. All the riders were amazingly polite — at least half said “thank you” while another quarter gave me a nod of appreciation every time.

All in all, a fun bike race.

Biking Olympics

Olympic men’s road race internal conflict

I’m just going to throw this out there: I’m fighting feelings of disappointment in the Olympic men’s road race. I’ve thought about this all day, had an email back and forth with a friend about it, ranted to a coworker, and continued to mull over it while I did some weights at the gym. What’s bothering me you may ask?

53 DNFs.

Contador, Freire, Hunter, O’Grady, Voigt, Zabriskie, Efimkin, Schumacher, Ciolek…what the hell?

Before you jump to the comments and tell me how stupid I am, here’s a few things I “get”:

  1. I get that this race was quite possibly the race from hell — long, hot, tough, smoggy, and lacking spectators.
  2. I get that some of the guys sacrificed themselves for other team members.
  3. I get that some guys are thinking about the ITT.
  4. I get that the race is only two weeks after the end of the Tour, which follows a long, hard season including Paris-Roubaix, the Giro, and spring classics.
  5. I get that most of these guys probably still have a couple major events left on their ’08 schedule.
  6. I get that the race is not the biggest world stage for cycling like it is for so many other sports. Most likely an elite cyclist grew up dreaming of winning the Tour de France while the elite swimmer grew up dreaming of gold at the Olympics.
  7. I get that it doesn’t pay the bills.

Here’s the thing: I don’t care. IT’S THE OLYMPICS. At least finish it, you know? That’s all I’m asking. And how many guys from domestic teams back home would have loved to be there?

And now for some positives:

  • Fabian Cancellara. Duh. This guy is bad@$$. He didn’t “save” himself, he frickin’ went for it. And I’ll have a hard time not cheering for him (at least a little) in the ITT.
  • I’m throwing out some props to Ryder Hesjedal. He did a lot of pace setting in a break group and still finished.
  • Props to Julian Dean. He’s a sprinter for Garmin-Chipotle, but he found his climbing legs and hung in there for 54th. Nice representation for New Zealand.
  • And, yes, I do appreciate Leipheimer’s and Vande Velde’s strong riding. Thanks Levi, Christian, and George.
  • The women’s race. Slogging through rain all day and only 4 DNFs. And it was fun to see the pure joy of Nicole Cooke when she won.

So am I irrationally annoyed with this race? Please do attempt to make feel better about it.

Update: Okay, I think I’ve officially worked through this internally. Official ruling?: Irrational annoyance. Carry on.

Biking Olympics Rant

I didn’t really want to watch the men’s road race anyway

My non-Intel iBook is apparently not cool enough to watch the streaming video coverage of the Olympic cycling events.

No Streaming Video for me

Now this just ticks me off. Chances are good it would still work on my system, but I’m being specifically screened. That’s annoying. And that’s bad form NBC.

Update: A little research tells me that they require Silverlight 2 for the streaming video.  Unfortunately Silverlight 2 doesn’t support PPC Macs, and, thus, no video for me.  Jerks.


Important Rules of Bike Commuting

  1. Always carry rain gear.
  2. If you forget rain gear, you will get rained on.

Or so I’ve heard.

Biking Sports

Aches and Photos

I think my body is taking a hard line “no volleyball” stance. Biking is friendly to my joints, whereas volleyball gives me the gait of a 70 year old knee replacement candidate (ah, hello future). I currently must play volleyball with two ankle braces and a knee brace — all braced injuries are volleyball injuries, the most recent of which was a partially torn MCL in summer league outdoor volleyball in June. I also managed to tweak my back playing last week. That tweak has gotten consistently worse over the last week and now I can make no sudden movements.

I should really quit playing volleyball.

But I won’t.

Anyone know a good massage therapist/chiropractor/PT?

Also, the Copper Triangle photoset is up on flickr. You can thank my useless back for the quick photo turnaround.


The Copper Triangle Recap

Short version: It was awesome!

The longer version: It was a consensus among our group that we all felt awesome yesterday. And it’s true, I had a great day on the bike.

The mountain air was quite cool when we rolled out, but I quickly warmed up as the climb up to Fremont Pass began. The grade starts out easy at 3 or 4 percent then kicks up to an average of 7% for about 4 miles. Maybe I was distracted by all the people watching, but I was having a great climb. I soon found myself passing those people who had maybe started out a little too fast. I caught myself tapping my handlebars to an unknown beat and whistling a little tune. But I quickly stopped figuring that might be annoying to some. Among the people highlights was a guy in a ruffled skirt and a biker on some sort of modified recumbent contraption.

Rachel found me at the top of the steep part of the climb and we rode together to the first aid station at Fremont Pass. The other girls rolled in soon afterward.

Copper Triangle - The Girls at Fremont Pass
Catherine, Hilary, Keelin, Me, Rachel, Tracy, and Ali at Fremont Pass

After filling up on our share of the fantastic food offerings (fig newtons rock!), we started the descent. With mostly downhill and some easy flat, including 5 miles of hard-packed dirt in a construction zone, we were soon starting the climb up to Tennessee Pass. I would go so far as to call this pass “easy.” This is horrible, but I took a certain satisfaction in sitting in my middle chain ring for the entire climb while I passed people I could tell were at their limit. The event organizers surprised us with a small uphill jaunt to the aid station. Happily, that hill kept the station from being overly crowded. Soon the whole crew filtered in.

Next we headed toward Minturn. I apparently hadn’t studied the ride profile closely enough, because I was caught a little off guard by the climb right before Minturn. But the climb was relatively short and at a mild 5 or 6 percent grade. We then cruised through Minturn (thanks cheering spectators!) and down into Vail. We fueled up and filled up, then headed to the hardest climb of the day, Vail Pass, which we hit as my odometer read about 64 miles. I was feeling the heat as the temperature had reached 90 degrees and the sun was full on. Three of us climbed together for a while chatting with people. I found a great groove, especially after a cloud hid the sun, and soon was at “the wall,” a super steep section (14% incline) after the road turns into a bike path. Here it was dodgy for a stretch as many people were walking their bikes. The last few miles passed quickly, and I found myself at the top of Vail Pass with only 6 miles of downhill into Copper Mountain left.

Copper Triange - Me at Vail Pass
Me at Vail Pass

The girls rolled in shortly, we ate more food (of course), and most of us gathered to cruise to the finish together.

Someone asked me if I thought maybe I had trained too much for the ride. I could have done the ride with less training, it’s true, but, as it was, I did the whole ride never even flirting with my limit. I was well within myself the entire time. In fact, at the top of Vail Pass, I felt like I could have gone another twenty miles. Sure, I was happy to roll into Copper and enjoy the finish, but I felt my legs had more in them.

So what now? The Rist Canyon Road Ride and Hill Climb? A destination ride?

And for the data-minded:

  • Avg. speed: 14.4 mph
  • Max speed: 44.9 mph
  • Total distance: 79.59 mi
  • Riding time: 5:31 (not including stops)
  • Elevation gain: 5912 ft
  • Max incline: 14%

Update: I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how great the support for this ride was. The aid stations were packed with excellent food and drinks. The entire ride was well-staffed and organized. We even had our own mini-lane on roundabouts. Thanks to the ride organizers and the volunteers.

Also, lots of props to my crew (Team She-nanigans). I’m lucky to have so many fun, supportive, adventurous friends. You all are bad@$$es.


Final Preparations

As I write this, the Copper Triangle start line is just over 24 hours away. This past weekend I did my last “big” training ride to keep the climbing legs nimble. In this area, “long” plus “climbing” usually means a trip up Rist Canyon. My route (similar to this) took me over Rist Canyon, through Stove Prairie, Buckhorn Canyon, and Masonville, and ended with a little extracurricular climbing on the dams and some bike path meandering for a grand total of about 60 miles.

Me at the top of Rist Canyon

I must stop at the “summit” every time. This time I captured the moment.

I don’t think Rist ever gets easy only easier, but, there’s a definite satisfaction in the grind of many miles of constant climbing. And, even though I think I may be taller and weigh more than the average euro pro cyclist, I climb decently. I think that’s one of the best things I’ve gotten from all of the Copper Triangle training — discovering the lure of climbing and knowing that my body can do it for longer and longer distances.

And then I went barrelling down this.

Shot down the west side of Rist.

Where did the road go?

Notice the sign: 12% grade. With significant use of my brakes, I still hit 42mph. Yikes. As you can imagine, climbing what I call the “backside” of Rist isn’t any easier than the “frontside.” It’s only about 1 mile, but it is steep. I would like an inclinometer to take an official reading of some sections.

Oddly, though I was out on a Saturday morning on a very popular route, I saw very few other cyclists. Usually there’s at least a couple cyclists I can engage in a race they don’t know they’re having.

There’s really not much to note for the rest of the ride. I flew through Buckhorn to Masonville, and, without a headwind, the climb to Horsetooth Park and then up to the dams was fairly easy. That first south dam wall is always jarring, though, and especially after 40+ miles.

So, am I ready? I guess. After being worked up about the ride for the last couple weeks, this week I’ve found a sense of calm. I’m sure I’ll be nervous the morning of, but right now I’m excited to get out and tackle it.

My legs don’t like to stop once they’re climbing, but I’m going to try my best to capture some of what I see.


Le Tour Withdrawals

I had settled into a nice routine during the Tour. Watch until I had to go to work. Ignore the Internet all day so as to remain ignorant of the result.* After work and after my ride, settle in to watch the TiVoed action. Fast forward through what I’d already seen. Stop on the interviews. Cheer for the Garmin-Chipotle boys.

It was a good routine. And now two days out, I still have acute withdrawal symptoms. So to assuage the withdrawal, here’s a list of Tour de France moments that have stuck with me.

  • Will Frischkorn in the break on Stage 3 (in which he finished 2nd). I may have been leaping around my apartment yelling, cheering, and willing him to the finish. It was awesome.
  • In the last 5k of Stage 9, Ricardo Ricco riding away from everyone like they weren’t moving. At the time I watched incredulously. A couple stages later he was thrown out for doping, but in that moment, without knowledge of his stupid, doping ways, it was an amazing thing to watch.
  • Marcus Burghardt is a bad@$$ (yes, this guy). How many times did he lead out Cavendish — going all out, head tipped to the side, cranking out the speed, stringing out the peloton behind? He was always there. It was nice that he got to pick up a stage win as well.
  • Danny Pate‘s post-Stage 15 interview. A tough mix of immediate post-race raw emotion — fatigue, disappointment, and attempt at perspective. To me his result was impressive, but for an elite cyclist, it can’t be easy to try to be happy with 3rd when 1st was so close.
  • That one dude who actually put the food wrapper back in his pocket. I like to think the left behind water bottles get picked up by spectators. But all of those wrappers that get tossed about? Egads. Can someone tell me that they have a team of cleaners for that? Anyway, so yes, I appreciated when I saw what I believe was the only shot caught of a rider safely storing his wrapper in his jersey pocket. Thanks Juan Jose Oroz. (And for helping me put a name with the action since I had forgotten it.)

What now? I’ve attempted to pick back up my usual NPR morning routine. But, I don’t know, the Marketplace Morning Report with Scott Jagow just isn’t as entertaining as Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen attempting to talk around a passing shot of a nature break.

* It’s not easy for a web geek who is a web developer by trade to avoid the Interweb.