Sunday, December 31, 2006

Cycle-Ops Fluid Trainer How to - screeching sound fix

So for a while my Cycle-Ops fluid trainer has been emitting a horrendous screeching sound. I occasionally tighten the end nut holding on the flywheel:
and it seems to help but today I decided to take a closer look at the situation.

Armed with my trusty LED headlight as a flashlight (it's in that picture just under my hand), I took the flywheel off and actually studied it, instead of just wiping it off and putting it back on.

What I found is that there was probably a spacer missing from the trainer, one that would sit between the flywheel and the plastic stuff holding the roller bearing in place. Since that plastic was made with the "harder than aluminum" Campy Ergo cable housing stuff, it actually ground away at the flywheel:
(note the inside of the flywheel - the dark bits on the thin reinforcing walls coming out from the center are where the matte silver finish was ground off).

I checked the flywheel and the damage wasn't bad. I checked the plastic bits and they were untouched. I walked around my cluttered bike room with the flywheel, trying to find a washer or spacer that would sit properly against the cartridge bearing center but not rub the dustcap. I found that the roller shaft was the same diameter as a rear axle. So I grabbed a rear axle spacer (painted yellow from back in the day of having too much time to fiddle with my bike) and put it on:

slipped the flywheel back on, and tightened everything up.

Presto! Smooth flywheel! And quietness.

I celebrated by riding for an hour and a half while watching Floyd in all sorts of trouble that day in the mountains.

Friday, December 29, 2006

WADA ya want Dick Pound

heh just finished the Wired article.

I didn't know he was a swimmer (and a decent one it seems).

Also I didn't know he was Canadian.

And I didn't know he was Ben Johnson's lawyer in the '88 Olympics.

At the same time, I did learn more about him.

Primarily he seems to be a conflicted individual. The article makes it sound like he's trying to make up for the Ben Johnson thing - that a lot of athletes dope and when asked they lie. This makes it just impossible for him to hold his tongue.

Okay, sometimes I have that problem too, but I might murmur something to a confidant, not blurt it out to a news crew or a journalist.

One surprising thing - he doesn't blame doping for his team's 4th place at the Olympics.

Anyway I thought it was good reading. For those of you (like me) who didn't want to churn through all the articles about Dick Pound, debating his goodness or badness endlessly, this is a good one.

Interview with Citizen Dick; Rants and Awards

A couple of interesting posts before the long weekend that I found while bouncing around the bike blogging world and internet this morning:

From the sidebar over at Rant Your Head Off:
If you’re old enough to remember the 1980s, perhaps you remember the song The Politics of Dancing by Reflex. Change the word “dancing” to “doping” in the song, and it takes on a whole new meaning.

Magazine has an interview with Dick Pound of WADA in their January 2007 issue and on their website entitled, "The Righteous Fury of Dick Pound". Living up to his reputation, Mr. Pound provides some choice quotes - especially at the the very end of the article. RYHF from above has an interesting post on the article and someone posted an equally interesting comment to the post/article. (Scroll down to "Irony, Thy Name is Dick")


VeloNews has been announcing the winners of their annual awards and they have a story about their 2006 International Cyclist of the Year, Alessandro Valverde. Two things caught my eye in the story: the first is how they [correctly] describe him as a "climber/sprinter" - two terms that are not usually used to describe the same rider [Right, Aki?]. The second is that they label his new home a "Euro-style McMansion" I guess I shouldn't be surprised to hear that Europe has upscale cookie-cutter housing tracts like we do, but I am. I wonder if theirs are beige stucco, too, and have bloated euphemistic names like "Kensington Estates" and "The Manor at Horizon Crest Meadows" (For an interesting (and funny) read on this non-sequiteur topic, check this blog out). I can only imagine how the Spanish versions of these would read. Anyone like to take a stab?

Happy New Year!

Sprinting - Throwing your bike

Throwing your bike

This is not where you toss your bike in disgust after a poor performance. For bike tosses, please refer to Greg Lemond (tossing his road bike in the Tour but I don't have a link yet) or Bjarne Riis (tossing a time trial bike in the Tour). If you insist on throwing your bike, be very careful as it is hard on your back. Lemond's story is amusing now although it was probably pretty frustrating back then. He hurt his finger in a crash and could barely pull the front brake lever. This caused him to brake more with the rear wheel. Eventually, with aggressive braking locking up the rear wheel, the tire blew. With no teammates nearby, he actually tried to fix the tire, or so it seems in photos (he's holding a tool of some sort and the tire is partially off the rim), and in disgust threw either the wheel or the bike off to the side of the road. This hurt his back and he had to nurse that for a bit. I believe he still won the Tour - and I'm pretty sure it was 1990 since he was in the World Championship jersey.

Anyway, back in the present...

I love sprinting. One of the things that amazes me is the number of racers strong enough to get to the line at the front but not knowledgeable enough to throw their bike. It's common to see someone lose 2-3-4 places because of a dismal or missing bike throw. In one particular Tour de Michigan sprint (in Lansing), the field was lined up curb to curb and the front row was going dog slow due to a head wind. But due to the width of the road, no one could pass the front ten riders. As one of about 10 racers stuck in the second row, I alternately pedaled, coasted, braked, and then pedaled again. We were totally stuck behind the front row of racers. At the line I agressively threw my bike forward in between two racers in the front row. My front wheel ended up by their cranks, pedals, and downtubes. My place? 11th. Someone in the same row as me probably got 20th. Big difference.

You may say, "Well I'm not a pro", or "It isn't really important". Okay that's fine. But if you're at the front, you've put in a good race to end up there. It would be good to finish off that effort.

In sprinting, throwing your bike is completely different from a "bike toss". It refers to pushing your bike forward relative to your body. Remember, the rules of cycling state that you finish when the front tire breaks the finish line's vertical plane (Rule 1N1). If you can push the bike forward a bit, you'll finish a little quicker.

The reason why throwing your bike forward works is you weigh a lot more than your bike. For example, if you have a 20 lbs bike and you weigh 160lbs, you weigh eight times the bike. Any movement you make with the bike will be resisted by your body. For example, if you shove the bike forward 8 inches, your body will move back 1 inch. This nets you a 7 inch forward movement. If you're side by side with someone and fighting for every inch, a good bike throw could net you 12-18 inches. This is more than half a wheel, and if you're scrabbling for an inch or two, you really have to take advantage of that 12-18 inches.

Throwing the bike is simple. You start by holding the drops and sprinting out of the saddle. When you are very close to the line (about 10 feet or whenever your feet are parallel to the ground), extend your arms and legs forward. This forces your butt to go behind the seat, almost to the point where you are sitting on your rear tire. Your stomach/chest will almost be on the seat.

You can practice this in slow motion. Use your cycling shoes, your bike - it might on on a easy training ride or while you wait for people to catch up to you after a stoplight or pee-stop. You should be standing up, rocking the bike back and forth like your sprinting. Pick a line (shadow, crack in road, whatever) and make that your goal. As you approach it, extend your arms forward. Your legs will naturally level with one foot forward. If you don't slide your butt off the back of the seat, you won't be able to extend all the way. So slide your butt off the seat till the front wheel is barely weighted. Your forward leg should be virtually straight and your arms should be totally straight. Your stomach/chest will end up on the seat. If you aren't careful, you'll just fall off the back of the bike.

The wrong way to throw your bike is to simply extend your arms without moving your butt off the saddle. All this does is hunch your back. Your bike can't move forward because you're still sitting on it. A similar mistake is to simply stand up without sliding the seat forward. If you simply stand up, you're not pushing your bike forward, you're simply moving your body up.

Revisiting that picture at the beginning of the blog, you'll see that my competitor, Morgan, has moved his body up more than back. This caused his bike to maintain its position relative to his bike/body unit. In contrast, I've move my butt completely off the seat and came close to sitting on the rear wheel. My legs aren't level because I was desperately pedaling as I threw the bike. My arms were so extended I briefly lost my grip on the right side of the bar and careened to the left curb just after the line.

The kicker with that particular sprint is that I was going slower than Morgan right before the line. I was in the process of losing the race when I started my bike throw. I simply threw my bike quickly and used up what momentum I had to shove it forward. I was passed about a foot after the line, but it was okay. The throw was enough to win the sprint, the race, and the Series.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Bethel Spring Series, 2007, the start

Each year for the last I-don't-know-how-many-years, I have promoted the Bethel Spring Series. The Series requires pretty much the same thing be done annually. We figure out the dates for the upcoming year (and find Easter Sunday which we skip), call the Town, fax them a letter requesting permission for holding a race, get permission, then start filing various paperwork. One big thing is making sure Diane Fortini at the New England Bicycle Racing Association knows about the dates. NE-BRA has a nice policy of avoiding scheduling conflicts as much as possible so that races don't compete for the same small number of racers. New England, for reference sake, has about 1500 racers from Maine to Connecticut. When 20-30% of them show up at the Series, it doesn't leave a lot of racers who want to race that weekend.

The co-promoter Gene does the paperwork filing (all done online, thank you USACycling). He orders the numbers. After a few shady characters tried to race multiple times on one number (which exposes potentially significant liability issues to the promoters and town), we decided to get new numbers for every race. So we order about 1500 numbers, printed with our sponsor Bethel Cycle as well as the Series name, the Bethel Spring Series.

A couple teams have already signed up to help with the race. The aforementioned Bethel Cycle is giving away a bunch of gift certificates and helps marshal the race. They've been heavily involved in helping out since the ownership change a number of years ago. Another team is Connecticut Coast Cycling. A team without a shop (at least for now), they supplied a significant portion of the marshals we needed in 2006. They also have a significant women's team and a very enthusiastic entry-level men's team (Cat 5's and 4's). This year I expect their strong 4's to be categorized as 3's.

One hinderance in our planning is the NE-BRA's promoter meeting and banquet was postponed till January. We don't want to step on other promoter's toes (after all, how would we feel if someone stepped on ours) and we've always been conscious of other races in that time frame. So we weren't really sure of when certain races are, especially the early road races in April promoted by Cyclenaut's Mike Norton, Sturbridge and Palmer. We saw he's already posted dates on BikeReg (our preferred online registration site) so we're sitting pretty with the dates we thought we'd do - all Sundays in March and the first two non-Easter Sundays in April.

The person I normally speak with at Bethel is out till Jan 2nd so we'll have to wait for confirmation for our race dates.

One good thing is that Champion System, supplier for our race team Carpe Diem Racing (whose sole purpose in existing is to promoter the Bethel Spring Series for the rest of the year), has agreed to sponsor the leader's jerseys. I'd show you a proof but a pdf file of a fragmented jersey doesn't look really good. So you'll have to wait till the jerseys come in. In addition, we are getting a podium jersey, the ones where the back is "hook and loop" (I used vel-cro incorrectly one year and actually got a letter in the mail explaining the trademark, requirements for legal usage, etc... so I don't want to use that word). Anyway, the overall winners will get to stick their arms through the sleeves and have someone "hook and loop" up the back, just like the pros do. And unlike last year, I promise not to tug the back of the jersey too hard, practically strangling the winner of the Cat 4's.

In the meantime, because it's not legal to update the site with race information before we have our permit "in the works", the site will lay untouched.


They say things go in cycles. And with bicycling, well, heh, the word cycle is in bicycle.

In the mid 80's, when Look came out with its "Look Safety Bindings" (also known as the Look clipless pedal), another clipless pedal existed - the Aerolite pedal.

Nowadays, Aerolites are used only on the super light bikes at trade shows, you know, the ones that weigh 8 or 9 lbs and are "fully functional road bikes"? I suspect the builders would not probably bomb down a descent or mix it up in a field sprint on their own super light bikes. Those show bikes may be light and the pedals fine, but some of the other parts are a just a touch sketchy.

Aerolites are simple affairs - a sleeve rotated on bearings around an axle, and the cleat actually grabbed the sleeve. If you picture a drill bit holder, the pedal was the drill bit and the cleat the case. If you push a drill bit into the case, it pops right in. But to pull it out straight is virtually impossible. If you pull it on one end though it comes out easily. Likewise, you stepped into Aerolites (it took about 150-200 pounds of force to so so) and rolled out of them. A strong rider cannot lift 200 lbs with their hamstrings so accidental "pull-outs" didn't happen. Well as long as the rider kept their cleats tight.

They were odd though. It looked like you had just an axle sticking out of the crank. It was virtually impossible to ride them without Aerolite cleated shoes - your foot simply rolled off. I forgot this in my excitement in test riding a new stem or something. I coasted down my driveway, accelerated a little, and, imagining I was sprinting for the line, threw the bike forward. Well, with slippers and roly-poly pedals, my feet slipped right off. My crotch landed on my rear wheel, the momentum rolled me into the rear brake, and my shorts got jammed in between the brake and the tire. And yes, my privates were in there somewhere. Very painful, in case it wasn't obvious.

Anyway, the inability to ride them in slippers aside, the pedals did have some redeeming features. They weighed about 145 grams for the steel set (76 grams for the Ti set). Mind you, that's the PAIR of pedals WITH cleats and hardware. They offered pretty good cornering clearance (37 or more degrees cornering clearance) and even if you dug a pedal, it was the soft plastic cleat you dug and so you didn't have the wheel-lifting shock like a normal pedal dig when metal hit the pavement. They were non-sided so you never worried about up or down - you just stepped down into the pedal.

At my office, where we write financial-type software, we say that the final testing environment is production. And it's true - because until you test things with paying end-users in a real environment, it's not "real". And like software, Aerolite released a pedal for final testing. And it was apparent that the product had severe technical flaws.

There were some doozy's - like the screw holding the pedal together was plastic, and sometimes it just broke in half, releasing the pedal (the sleeve) from the axle. Your foot went flying off the pedal. Actually, your foot was fine. The *pedal* went flying off the axle with your foot still attached to it. If you were lucky you landed your thigh on your top tube. Unlucky... well suffice it to say that my slippered bike throw was worse by just a bit.

A few revisions later the pedal actually stayed together. There was an adapter plate for Look mountings (the plate cracked after a year or so and it mounted your cleats 1 cm too far back, but still, better than nothing), a rethink on how the pedal held together (Turcite, a plastic bearing material, became the pedal body, and there were no more bearings), then cleats adapted to the SPD two bolt pattern. A round of legal problems (the company was Zerolite for a while, but then reverted to Aerolite) and you have the current pedal.

I have a new set which is now 2 years old, won by a pro friend's pro friend out west somewhere. It has titanium axles, the SPD holed cleats, and no Look adapters.

I was looking for places to buy parts and stuff and stumbled across a great bike shop site up in Maine - But I realized that the best fix would be to actually make new cleat adapters.

So I went to the best website for inventors who need construction materials - Last night I ordered two polycarbonate plates. $8 shipped. They arrived this afternoon. They will become my Look or whatever other bolt hole adapters which exist on my new Sidis (I'll probably use the 4 widest spaced inserts as the basis for the adapter plate).

The next step is to use my Dremel with its "routing kit" to replicate the cracked Look adapter plates I have on my 10 year old shoes. And if things go well, I'll have a nice set of shoes that will work with my nice set of new Aerolites.

My bike isn't like one of those super light show bikes, even if it will share the same pedals. It has too much aluminum and not enough carbon. But there's a big difference between those show bikes and my bike.

My bike will bomb down descents and partake in some furious field sprinting.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Big Tex

So on, there was a link to a pdf of a translation of LA Confidential. Interesting link as it was a site that basically exists to promote doping and gives doping information - what to take, how much, and testing issues (i.e. whether you'd test positive). It's main function is to sell Chinese EPO, or so it seems.

Anyway, I downloaded the section you can download without being a member. After I started reading it I joined the site and downloaded the other three sections. The pdf was like a Willy Voet book on steroids. Voet's book addresses some of the author's personal issues, but the pdf has no such baggage. The book appears to be about 195 English pages long and it's broken into 4 sections of 50 pages (the last section is 45 pages). As a service to those of us curious about racing and doping, I've summarized some of the book below. I, of course, fall under the category of "curious about racing and doping".

Some of its premises:
1. Armstrong's cancer could have been caught much earlier as one symptom of testicular cancer is an elevated level of a hormone, beta-hCG. That hormone is used by athletes to illicitly stimulate testosterone production. Normal levels are 1-2 nanograms per milliliter. Armstrong was at 52,000, 92,380, and 109,000 (according to Armstrong). Such high levels of beta-hCG should have been caught in anti-doping controls since it is a banned product. Either he worked around the tests (using a masking agent) or the tests were ineffective - after all, he was at over 100,000 times the legal limit. The hormone was specifically prohibited in 1988 so it was prohibited long before Armstrong didn't test positive for it.

2. The book interviews the USPS doctor, Dr Prentice Steffan, that was allegedly asked about doping by Hamilton and Jemison. His story seems particularly depressing because he just wanted to look after the racers, and his statement about doping at USPS, then hasty retraction, just leads me to believe that he used to believe the system worked but he no longer does.

3. The book points out that the 1995 ONCE team, with its doctor Aramendi, was known for its doping practices. Journalists even discovered 28 used syringes, used EPO vials, and a few other things in a room used by the good doctor. An infamous member of the team was its long time director, Manolo Saiz, known for his ability to carry both doping agents and cash at the same time. Another member of that team - Johan Bruyneel. Later, that same Bruyneel would direct USPS. The doctor he hired for USPS? Aramendi. Zulle, who would be caught up in the Festina incident, had recently transferred to the ill-fated team from ONCE. At ONCE, he took EPO under the supervision of the team doctor (Terrados) and "Jose". The only doctor at ONCE named Jose? Aramendi. Nothing explicit there but it just doesn't smell right.

3. The book points out that Armstrong's VO2 max increased substantially from pre-cancer to post-cancer. With a nominal weight drop (9-13 lbs, not 20 or more as some, including me, thought), it would be virtually impossible to increase one's VO2 max as much.

4. It includes a comment on how a trainer presents the original "Armstrong is stronger because he spins more" theory. Afterwards, in private, he is challenged by Lemond on the possibility of this being true. Lemond himself tested out this theory in search of more performance during his heyday. As Lemond (or anyone else) points out, it is logically not true. When you are climbing, when you want to go faster, you cannot just spin faster. If you do, what happens? You blow up! Although you may be demanding less oxygen per revolution, you have more revolutions demanding oxygen. There is no magic "lever" or multiplier. If you are burning through 90 milliliters of oxygen per kilo of body weight and you are a relatively efficient pro, there is nothing you can do to significantly increase power without increasing the amount of oxygen you burn. There is no free power! Yet this "rpms instead of power" is what USPS passed as the reason for Armstrong's spectacular climbing prowess. The only way this works is if the rider can carry more oxygen in his blood.

5. There is some detail on the Cofidis side of the whole "they abandoned Armstrong" story. I don't know who to believe here. But having seen Armstrong lie while looking straight at the camera (about him and Simeoni, after Armstrong chased him down during the Tour, allegedly to punish him for testifying against Michele Ferrari), I'd give Cofidis's side a chance of being partially or mostly true.

There is more to the book. The bullet points above represent to me some of the more interesting foundations of the book's allegations.

More on teammates, Actovegin, Lance's positive...

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

wattage and pros

One thing I didn't make clear in my "it's tactics, stupid" post is my thought on pro cyclist's wattage outputs.

I'm definitely NOT a pro. When I first got a wattage trainer, I found myself in difficulty trying to sustain a 190 watt average for an hour. I wasn't really sure what that meant in the realm of things but during a group ride I mentioned the wattage stats (190w average) to a very enthusiastic Cat 4 (he had a PowerTap wheel) and got the kind of pitiful look you give a sorry racer. To top it off, I got dropped shortly thereafter.

Anyway, my threshold is pretty low.

Pros, on the other hand, can sustain some incredible averages. I've read a few quotes where pros sustain a 300 watt average for 6 hours (!). Hincapie was one, another was a lesser known pro who said that the "300w x 6 hr" ride was a record for him. So they can do something like that.

Now the Flandis wattage stats, if they can be believed, seem reasonable. They don't break 425 watts by too much. In fact, they seem to sit below 400.

To put that in perspective to what I do, one of the standard "out of the box" workouts described in the little pamphlet that came with the trainer is doing all out one minute efforts. I set a countdown timer to 60 seconds, start rolling (since I get massive tire slip when I jump from a standstill), hit the start button, and go. I start moderately aggressively, typically at 450 watts or so, start to blow, drop into the 300's, then do a final sprint which might consist of a sustained 450-475 watts. The end result? 402 watts. For a minute. Multiply that enormous effort by, say, 50, and you get a nice climb in the Tour. Oh, and I'd have to be something like 30 lbs lighter.

Pros are just a different kind of creature.

It reminds me of a poster I had when I was a kid. National Geographic, one of the solar system and its place in the galaxy. Anyway, there is a little thumbnail of Earth, with an arrow pointing to where it belongs in a little sketch of the solar system. There is another arrow pointing from the solar system to it's place in a small cluster of "local" stars. There is yet another arrow, placing the star cluster into a larger star cluster. There are even more arrows placing the various exponentially larger bodies of matter until there is an arrow pointing to a spot in the middle of a bunch of galaxies with the note "known universe". It's mind boggling, and I struggle to get past the local star cluster arrow.

Pros are like that to us Cat 3's. At least to me. After all, you get some really good Cat 3 and he will get eaten alive in a regional 1/2/3 race (unless he's destined to be a pro, in which case he'll actually win the thing or something). The regional winners, when they get dunked into big national races, say, Philly, or Tour of Georgia, well, they are not even good enough to be pack fodder. They might make an impression at something "minor" like Superweek. The winners of those domestic pro events, they go to the Classics or the small European stage races and they are nowhere. I mean no where. Minutes and minutes down on GC or crossing the finish line when the Classics winner is already interviewing on TV. Those winners? They're the ones who are not favored in the "big" races, the Tour, the Giro, hence they aim for the dinky pro races like the Dauphine or Paris Nice. Or they'd show up "for training". Sort of like Bugno and Fignon showing up at Tour Du Pont to do some training miles. And chasing down some poor unsuspecting amateurs like Chann McRae when he tried to go off the front.

Anyway, at the peak of the sport is the Tour. Guys who are used to annihilating the top pros get annihilated. Or reduced to that of "get me some bottles". When you watch world champions drop out or drop back to the team car for bottles, you know the guys they're helping are pretty strong.
Makes me think about those galaxy arrows.

And how far away that Tour galaxy is from the Cat 3 solar system.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

MTB's and the Land Speed Record

yep I made it out again. Same layers, shorter ride, and no drafting school buses this time.

I was making some good speed at the beginning of the ride but started to falter as the route I picked goes uphill till my turnaround point. Then on the way back the bike was undergeared and I didn't feel like spinning like a madman so I didn't go that fast - in fact, my time for going out was the same as coming back in.

The position on the MTB is one that optimizes control over the bike. It sacrifices aerodynamics but retains the hunched over stance necessary to recruit the glutes (your butt). The aero sacrifice is never as obvious as when you're trying descend quickly on an MTB.

It's something else too.

It's the same position that John Howard used in setting the current Land Speed Record back in the 80's - 152 mph. He was drafting a modified 337 mph LSR car so aerodynamics was not a concern. His concern was controlling the bike at 150 mph.

And as a rider more able to do short efforts, say, under a couple minutes long, the LSR would be an interesting proposition for moi. When JH broke the record, the previous speed, 138 mph, was held for a while. And it's been 20 years since JH broke the record and no one has even attempted it. It takes a while for a challenger to step forward and say "I'm going to break the LSR".


I'm not sure of the physics of doing a sustained sprint behind the equivalent of a 200 mph semi, but I know from personal experience that drafting trucks is limiting by gearing and how far you want to go. (And by cops who pull you over, but that's a different story.)

From a gearing point of view, the only way to break the record would be to have a "reduction" gearing system. This means the primary cranks (which the rider pedals) would be turning a gear which in turn would turn another crank. The gearing is increased exponentially.

To calculate relative gear ratios, take your standard 53x12. 53/12 x wheel diameter (27" for simplicity) equals 119". At 100 rpms, such a gear would go about 35 mph. Fast, but not that impressive. But, if that 12T was in turn driving another 53T chainring, and that was turning a 12T, you'd have ((53/12)*53/12)*27" or 526". This gear would travel 137 feet for every revolution, or, at 100 revolutions, go 156 mph.

That is fast.

And it is what JH did, albeit with a slightly smaller gear and smaller tires. Such a setup, with two sets of cranks, is called a "double reduction gear".

Based on calculations with Z rated (149+ mph) motorcycle tires which are much smaller than a bicycle tire, a triple reduction gear would work only if using 59T chainrings and 11 or 12T cogs.

Since 11's are not optimal (they aren't round), I started thinking of quad and whatever five would be. Quad reduction gearing would allow for a mix of 56T and 59T chainrings. The 56T chainrings would allow the different "bottom bracket" axles to be situated closer together. The caveat - it would work only if using 11T cogs. 12T cogs would limit the top speed to 131 mph or so (160 rpm).

The Fiver would allow use of a standard 55T chainring with 14T cogs. The initial drive would be a "normal" setup with a crankset driving a multiple gear cassette. Using a 12-19T setup on the Fiver, top speed would be an optimistic 225mph at 160 rpm or a more reasonable 197 mph at 140 rpm.

To put the goal out of reach of most people (and give the record another 20 years to rest), the record would have to be pushed up to 200 mph. Otherwise everyone will come out with a faired turbo Supra and go 160 or 161 or whatever it takes to beat the "new" record.

My thought is that once up to speed, rolling resistance will be the primary limiting factor. Aerodynamics should be negligible or even negative, if a properly designed draft fairing is built. A taller tire would be preferable as would be one that is narrower than the four inches I managed to find. But finding tires rated over 150 mph which aren't 300mm wide isn't that easy.

The parts I don't understand are related to going 200mph, since I've never gone that fast in a car. Like effect of tire diameter on balance, frame geometry needs, control issues (steering damper needed?), and what sort of vehicle (and power) would be required to go 200 mph while hindered by a drafting box. And who has one that would be willing to put a box on it.

The rest of it would be pretty straight forward, like the bike itself. High performance motorcycle wheels, disc brakes for the same, a possible fairing in case I drop out of the draft, triple clamp forks, and a very stiff aluminum or carbon frame set. A lot of body armor for the rider, a full face helmet, some communication gear, and a whole lotta speed.

Anyone has a CAD program for simulating air flow around an object?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

24 degree Mountain Bike Ride

On the way to work the other day I passed a bundled up cyclist toodling down the road by the office. I hadn't really thought about riding outside this winter but this guy changed my mind. Last night I pumped up the tires on my mountain bike, made sure the skewers were tight, and fiddled with the stem, all in preparation for going out for a spin this morning.

Begrudgingly I trundled out of the house at about 7:30 AM. It wasn't as cold as I thought it would be ( was saying 24 degrees F, feels like 18 degrees F). I chugged over to the beaches in Westport, drafted a school bus for 75 yards between two stops, then practiced trackstands for about 8 more stops over the next half mile. I only started to regret riding outdoors about 45 minutes into the ride when I started to tire, my shifter froze up, and I started to feel a bit of a chill.

It was all good though. I forgot how smooth the ride is with two inch tires - sort of like getting out of a sports car and into an SUV. Got back in one piece and started a mental checklist for things to mod for the next ride - tape the bar ends (the bare metal is really cold!), lube the shifter with something that doesn't freeze so I have more than one gear after 45 minutes, and if really, really ambitious, cut down all the cables about 4 inches. As I write this I know that I will do none of the above before tomorrow's ride.

For reference sake, I wore one lower layer, two upper layers. Details: a pair of Nalini windstopper tights, a thicker base layer by Cannondale, the team issue Champion Systems winter jacket, SideTrak booties, slim Specialized winter gloves, a Jamoka headsock as a neckwarmer, and a Castelli knit hat under my helmet. Oh and some regular cycling socks and shoes. And I was fine in the mid 20's.

Now to bed so I can do this tomorrow.

Slim and Fast

I know I want to be slimmer.

And I know I want to be faster.

Hey SlimFast!

I took a SlimFast shake I found and tried it. Not bad. And whether it was in my head or not, it did suppress my appetite for a few hours, which certainly beats what I normally do, which is munch on something every hour or so.

So this morning, on the way to work, I stopped by Stop and Shop and picked up a bunch of shakes, some bars (bought Breakfast Bars by accident), and salad materials.

We'll see what happens.

Maybe I'll be rockin' the climbs next year.

Yeah right.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

harleys rock n roll

Earlier this year I was riding along in the San Diego area. I was on the tail end of a multiple hour ride and had climbed many thousands of feet. I was feeling wiped out. To top it off, my phone had just died and so my music (I was listening through the hands free kit) was gone.

But was it?

I could hear some tinny music, sort of like an old fashioned recording. With almost no wind and me just crawling along at about 12 or 15 mph, it was virtually silent. Except for this eerie music. I could hear the cars on the freeway about a half mile to my right and about 100 yards above me, but unless someone was blaring music out of a stopped car, it couldn't be from there. And to my left was just some undeveloped brush and other desert type stuff and so nothing there.

When I get stressed about work I hear my work cell phone ringing all the time. So maybe this was a manifestation of that?

I focused and decided this wasn't an auditory hallucination. The last time I really, truly thought I was hallucinating I'd just driven to Chicago to pick up my brother from school. I eventually got to Chicago after driving through the night, and after about 36 hours with 2 of sleep, I was just a bit tired. Without any recovery (I had the state Time Trial to do on Sunday), we set back for the NYC area, 15 hours away. I insisted on driving since my brother had gotten two hours less sleep than me (he had to take finals).

At some point I saw the dancing yellow BIC razors. They were off to the right, about 30 feet tall, a bunch of them, dancing in some field. I tried to erase them from my mind but they insisted on being there. Since 30 foot BIC razors don't dance around next to a highway, I knew it had to be me hallucinating. After all, lack of sleep causes hallucinations, right? I took some peeks to see if it was part of a parade but I could only see the dancing razors. I guess it would have been okay if there were dancing shaving creams, soaps, and shampoos. But there weren't.

I finally gave in and looked to the right. And kept looking. The BIC razors were real - they were on a drive-in movie screen a few hundred yards off the highway.

So here I am, many years later, exhausted, the sun starting to set, fighting the auditory hallucinations. But like the razors, the music just would not stop.

Then I looked back.

And almost jumped out of my skin.

A completely silent Harley, complete with some leather jacket and mustachioed rider, was sitting a couple feet off my wheel. The thing was enormous, black and shiny chrome, the whole thing dwarfing my little road bike. The fork blades were as thick as my arms! The guy looked like the Terminator with his sunglasses and silent, expressionless face. And the music? It came from some speakers somewhere on his motorcycle.

But other than the music, it was silent. It was totally and completely silent. I could hear the pebbles crunching under his tires.

Since he was coasting a bit faster than me, I pulled out a bit to let him pass. He swerved at me, then away. "Outta gas," he mumbled, and hit the starter. It cranked. Nothing happened. He swerved again. I heard fuel swishing in his tank.


He was trying to get a couple ounces of that precious refined sweet light crude to get into the raucous V Twin. With a gas station about a mostly-flat mile away, I started thinking about offering to get him a can of gas and riding back to him. I was contemplating this as his weaving slowed him down. He'd have to stop soon. I rolled past him inadvertently.

Then a couple loud explosions pierced the air, the familiar open piped Harley noise decimated the silence, and the guy rocketed past me. I could feel the exhaust pressure waves against my legs as he passed. I figured he had to get as much momentum as possible so he could coast into the gas station.

I also needed to refuel and stopped at the gas station. Mr. Terminator was inside, sunglasses up, paying the girl behind the register. He gave me a sheepish grin. Apparently he made it to the station under power. I told him I was about to offer him a gallon-gas retrieval when he rocketed past me. He laughed and said that he had almost stopped when the engine finally caught and that he would have taken me up on my offer if he'd stopped.

Then he pulled his sunglasses down and walked out. I could hear the V Twin long after he was out of sight.

I got my two bottles, energy bar, slipped on a vest, and climbed back on my bike. And slowly, silently, rode away from the gas station.

Another hour or so to go.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Basso and Discovery

Discovery signs Basso.

At first, I felt pretty upset. After all, Basso is a cheat, right? He didn't submit to DNA tests, in fact his lawyer said that the procedure was invasive. Invasive? If I knew for a fact that my blood was not in Dr Fuentes' lab, I would have been hollering to give my DNA to prove it!

But when it comes down to it, the Operation Puerto info can't be used against the riders, according to the Spanish Court. Now I don't know how everything works in Spain but I can tell you some things from personal experience. Although bribery is not as open as it is in, say, Belgium, some weird things happen. There is a lot of shoddy workmanship (in some 4 star hotels, you can put your hand through the gaps between the door and the door frame), sketchy rule following (for example, after a light turns red, the next 4 or 5 cars go through), and I know that a really large multinational company had a senior manager taking cruises on the Mediterranean on a conflict-of-interest person's yacht.

Anyway, I don't trust the Spanish courts.

But Basso hasn't done anything wrong. He never admitted to using dope. He hasn't been found guilty of any prohibited substances. No one has alleged faxes with his doping schedule faxed to his wife's maiden name. And he hasn't even tried to race while under suspicion, nevermind win some hill climb.

Now Discovery isn't the cleanest team around, at least not in its USPS colors. For example, one of their mainstays Joachim Benoit was unceremoniously kicked off their team in 2000 for steroid use (he tested positive for nandrolone after winning the Luxembourg National Championships in 2000). Apparently it didn't keep them from having on the team as he served them well from 2001 till 2006.

So, in the end, I have to accept Basso's signing by Discovery.

It just smells so wrong.

Monday, October 30, 2006

some new wheels

Last night, Sunday, I was exhausted. I had weeded a part of my yard I hadn't weeded since I moved in about 14 years ago. As you might imagine, the weeds had suffocated bushes and small trees. Clearing it all up was an all day affair. I was bushed.

Then work called - in my real life I support financial type software. So when there are problems, people lose money. And when people lose money, they get pretty anxious. Makes my job a bit stressful sometimes. Of course they called right when I was about to get on the bike. Two hours later, at about 10 PM, done with work, it was time to ride. I was kind of tired by then.

I popped in a tape of the Tour (it happened to be the last day of the 2006 Tour) and watched the pros amble around the Paris suburbs for a bit. But I rarely pedaled hard enough to even pant and the mirrors around me were uninspiring to say the least. When I had to turn off the fan because it got me cold, I knew I wasn't doing anything productive, so I got off the bike.

I did some collarbone protecting shoulder lifts (military presses mostly). Then a couple curls because whenever you have dumbells in your hand, you gotta do curls. Skipped the deadlifts as ripping out dozens of decade old vines was worth a good 50 deadlifts. But I thought about it and bent over to pick up the bar.

When I did, I saw a couple Campy hubs that I bought a while ago. I knew I had the spokes in a box, the rims behind the stereo speakers, and the tools in my "wheel building supply box". It was too late to ride more and I was in that "too tired to do anything including going to sleep" mode. So I wasn't ready to call it a night.

The only thing holding me back from doing the wheels was that I didn't know the spoke lengths. But presto, I had my work phone, a Treo 650, downstairs. Normally I don't haul it downstairs with me, but with the recent call in mind, I had carried the phone around, "just in case".

The phone is cool and I especially like the part where you can save notes in the Notes section (go figure, right?). I save things like HR stats from workouts, gas purchase costs and mileage, car mod budgets, bike budgets, and, would you believe it, spoke lengths for some of the wheels I want to build. Including the wheels whose parts were sitting right there.

So I sat down on the floor in my dry bib shorts and started putting together a wheel. It'd been a while since I built wheels regularly but after a few fumbles and a bunch of "oh yeah, that's how you do that", I was off and lacing.

Wheelbuilding is both an art and a science. It's sort of unnecessary, like classic Aston Martins. You can get cheaper ones (wheels or cars), faster ones, lighter ones, whatever. But a good hand built wheelset is a joy to ride, just like a classic Aston Martin. Handbuilt wheels have the advantage of easier service since the builder probably used a black Park spoke key and some normal hub. Of course, if you're the builder, then you know the wheel intimately, the quirks in tension, the rim's unique character, etc.

A good wheelbuilder puts personal touches on a wheelset - they demonstrate the knowledge necessary to put those touches on the wheels. They also exhibit, for discerning experts, the builder's workmanship. Here are several of those touches:

1. Both rims should "read" the same direction, i.e. the letters on rim, on the bottom, should be readable from one side or another. Usually I choose the right side, i.e. the wheels read from the drivetrain side of the bike.

2. This means both hubs have to be oriented in a certain way. Many hubs are "left-right" unique, even though a front hub really doesn't have sides. The Centaur hubs in my hands had a locking dustcap on one side. In the rear, it was on the left side. That made the front hub's locking dustcap the "left" side.

3. The lacing should be such that the spokes next to the valve hole are parallel. This lets you pump up your tires without slicing your hands on the spokes when you pop the pump head off.

3a. The exception is on heavy-duty 24 and 32 hole wheels - in that case, if the rim seam is opposite the valve stem, you should cross over the valve hole. This will put the rim seam in the middle of four crossing spokes. This makes the seam a little more stable.

4. Use thin center-section spokes. The elbows are the weakest point of a wheel (when using standard spokes). The spoke midsections rarely break. So I try and use 14-17-14 spokes (2.0mm-1.7mm-2.0mm I think). Meat where you need it, light where you don't.

5. Use alloy spoke nipples in the front and on the left side on the rear. The right rear spokes see a lot of tension and alloy nipples are simply not as strong as brass nipples.

6. Spoke prep on the spoke threads. Lets you true a wheel but prevents the spokes from loosening.

7. Grease on the rim eyelets (where the spoke nipple sits). The spoke nipple should turn freely against the rim.

I started remembering all that stuff and started lacing up my wheels. About 30 minutes of relaxing, meditative work later, I had a pair of un-tensioned wheels. And I was ready for bed.

Tonight I'll tension them.

And maybe tomorrow I'll have an inspirational set of training wheels for my spring campaign.

So nice.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Refund?! Refund?! REFUND?!

Okay we are not trying to push the Corvette on you like Dave Stoller's dad in the classic movie "Breaking Away". But there is someone concerning refunds that should concern any racer out there.

Every year, rules are proposed, reviewed, and if accepted, adopted into the USCF rulebook. Some are fixes of muddy definitions - for example, specifying that an official has to be 18 years old versus "not a minor". They occasionally change the Junior age grouping, gear limits (that's on the table this year), and things of that nature.

But sometimes they come up with real doozies.

One of the proposed rule changes for 2007 is the guarantee that racers will get refunds for entry fees if requested. The person paying the refunds is the promoter.

This is how it breaks down:

1. Two weeks prior to the race, a racer can get 90% refund, guaranteed.
2. One week prior, 80% refund, guaranteed.
3. One day prior, 60% refund, guaranteed.
4. Day of race, no refund required by promoter unless promoter does not fulfill their promotion duties (i.e. have a course, officials, things like that).
5. Racers who are disqualified cannot get refunds.

If you're a racer, and most of the USCF members are racers, this sounds like a great idea. You can register for all races and use the following strategy. First, two weeks before the race, if you just don't feel like doing the race, just ask for your money back. Then, with 10 days to go, check for the 10 day outlook. If you want the latest weather hedges, wait till a week to go, and if the weather looks kinda iffy, just ask for your money back.

I mean we all talk about lactic acid and thresholds and stuff, but, rain? Forget it. Finally, if you decide you really don't want to race (maybe the 15 beers Friday night are still with you) then ask for your money back. Now you can be recovered, dry, and safe for next week's race. Oh, pending checking the weather first. And seeing if maybe you hang with the group on Thursday night, because otherwise racing Sunday wouldn't be a good idea. And on and on.

Gee, what a great idea, right?


The reason it's not a great idea is that this policy hurts the promoters, especially the smaller ones with fixed costs that have to be paid out. Promoters need to line up things like portapotties, police, finishline cameras, pay for permits, maybe a few "upgrades" in their online registration site of choice, course marshals, trophies, etc. I would never have become a promoter if this was a rule back when I started. The Series I promote struggled through making, on average, less than $30 a week at the beginning. If you consider all the volunteers, the time spent trying to convince the Town Selectmen that, no, we don't make a lot of noise (that seemed to be of great concern), sweeping the course with brooms, $30 would break down to about, what, like a dime an hour? Not worth it.

If you are a racer, think back a few years and list all the races that you had raced before that no longer exist. For me, I can name a lot, and some are national classics. Tour of Nutley (in 1983, it was the National Crit Championships - and my first race I ever watched). Oyster Bay Crit. The New London Crit. The Cheshire Crit (okay, it was more a circuit race). The different iterations of the Wallingford Crit. Putney RR (I think that's what it was called). The Barkhamstead Road Race. Heck, the Killington Stage Race. Salem Crit. Boston Downtown Crit. Mahwah. Peekskill. West Hartford. Bloomfield. Manchester (Great American Mall Crit). Andy Raymond's Firecracker in Middletown (my first race). The list goes on and on.

These races all disappeared for one reason or another. Money, time, energy, something. Putting on races is not easy. It requires a lot of time and commitment, and it's often done by only a couple people, with a few more people's help. I've been promoting a race series for about 15 or so years, and each year about 20 people actually help put on the race over six or seven weeks of races. This includes the guy that holds up a corner of the tent while we open it up and does nothing else to help for the rest of the series (but let me tell you that help is really appreciated!). A rule requiring refunds just makes the promoter's job harder.

A rule that requires promoters to refund entry fees is so ludicrous I can't even imagine who proposed it.

Perhaps if USA Cycling guarranteed refunds for all the expenses the promoter incurs, then the rule would be reasonable. For example, if a negative weather forecast persuades a lot of racers to ask for a refund and in turn causes the race to be cancelled, the promoter should be able to go to USA Cycling and ask for contingency funds to cover the expenses necessary to cover the promoter's commitments. So a promoter would be able to recoup the money already paid to do things like secure the course, the facilities, and the official stuff (permit fees, etc). I guess all the time, energy, and stress put in by the promoter would be a freebie.

Then next year the promoter can try once more with the race. Of course racers won't sign up since they'll say, "Well, last year the promoter cancelled for no good reason, so I'm not going to bother to register". And then the race will be cancelled again, this time for lack of funds, interest, etc., and the racers will say, "See? I told you this promoter is a loser!". Great. Another race down the tubes.

You know, we don't need doping to kill bike racing. This rule would undermine the foundation of all bike racing in the US - the grassroots promoter that feels that it's their mission to provide races for racers. No more Floyds, no more Danielsons, no more racers saying, "Yep, when I was doing that dinky crit in Nowheretown, USA, I was dreaming one day of racing here at the Tour/Roubaix/Flanders/Worlds/wherever. I can't believe I'm here, it's a dream just to compete against my heros."

You can do something about it though.

If you are a USCF member and you appreciate the various race promoter's efforts to put on a race, contact USA Cycling. You can get a list of the Trustees here. Email them, call them, write them, and tell them that you think refunds should be handled by the promoter, not the USCF.

Do it before this coming weekend, October 28th, because that's when the rules are accepted or rejected.

By the way, in case it wasn't clear before, I promote races. Our race welcomes pre-registrants. And if you email or call, up to the day before the race, and make up a good story, we'll gladly refund 100% of your money. If you want the (cheaper) pre-reg price applied to a later race, we'll do that too. 100% of it. We just don't do refunds after race day (we've been asked and said no).

All it takes is a reasonable promoter and a reasonable racer to work out these things.

You know what?

They're the ones we want to keep anyway.

mobile dope controls

I've been thinking about this doping thing. Obviously it's affecting cycling greatly - when the "best" cyclists don't show up for the Tour route unveiling, something is really wrong with the pro cycling scene.

It's really too bad too, because cycling is a fascinating sport. It combines a lot of elements - physical fitness, technology, and tactics, each subjects vast and limitless as far as discussion goes. In other words, I'll save those topics for another post :)

A friend of mine podiumed one year in the Elite (i.e. Pros and Amateurs). Incredibly, there was NO dope testing! Nothing! If a racer can win Nationals and not get tested, the system is broken.

In Europe apparently they have the "dope van", some yellow thing that drives around to pro's houses and takes samples. This led to a comedic episode where a racer, on his way home, saw the dope van sitting there. He took off, the dope van folks noted this, and, sort of like refusing to take a breathalyzer, he was found "positive".

Here in the US a dope van would be impractical. The distances too great, the chance of tracking it (via sightings, perhaps posted to a nice blog called "The Dope Van"), the mileage racked up substantial, etc., etc.

I propose a different solution. It would require some sponsorship as it would be a relatively costly thing (tests cost a lot of money). Maybe a nice benefactor, a rich cycling fan who also cares about the atheletes, not just winning. And an airline and a rental car company, maybe ones that are headed by people who need some nice, positive (pun intended) publicity. This is what would happen.

First, there would be a testing crew or two or more. Each would consist of at least one male, one female, and a third person (harder to corrupt three than two). These might be part time folks who have other jobs for most of the year (school teachers?). The number of crews is a highly variable thing and can be fluid, changing as demands require. For example, in the period building up to the early season races, there might be 3 or 4 or 5 crews. After many of the races are over, and it's, say, the holiday season, it might be just one crew.

Second, there would be an airline sponsor. Since the US is so big geographically, it would make no sense wasting time driving the equipment around. Instead, there would be a modular dope control station which breaks down into checkable luggage size components. As far as I can tell, since blood and urine samples are the primary things collected, it would be reasonable to have a compact kit. The biggest thing would probably be some kind of cooler type thing, mabye with it's own climate control.

Third, there would be a rental car company sponsor. The other day I rented a car from Hertz. Originally I asked for a Ford Taurus, seeing as it fit five and it was $41 a day. But when I got there, I couldn't resist the temptation of renting the Dodge Magnum wagon - 350 HP, all wheel drive, and fits five as well. The last feature was critical because it allowed me to justify renting the street legal rocket sled. All for less than five cups of really expensive coffee a day.

Back on track... The rental car company is key because the car would not be identifiable. One day, a (ahem!) Dodge Magnum would show up. Another, a Chevy Aveo. Maybe the aforementioned Taurus. No yellow dope van here, just a standard, plainclothes control center on wheels.

(On a side note, I hope local law enforcement doesn't take this idea in hand as it's hard enough to spot the undercover Camaros, SUVs, and the like on the way to work.)

Anyway, that's my proposal. Mobile units, self contained, kind of like little commando units. They can land anywhere, take samples, and within hours be somewhere else. Armed with a list of events, they can pick random ones and show up there, flash their "dope control" certificates, and test, say the top 3 as well as 5-10 randoms. Maybe some finger pricks at the start line for unusual hematocrit values.

One day it might be a big event with headline racers. Another day it might be a small local race. In between, maybe some rinky dink midweek training races. And for the racers who've already aroused the suspicions of the authorities with "abnormal but within limit" readings, some nice personal face time at their home or wherever they might be staying.

Part of the kit would have to be a video camera, to record the proceedings. The tape (or electronic file - it could be captured to a hard drive) would be handled like a sample so there would be evidence that the racers didn't tamper with the samples. Or, as the case may be, that they did. And, ideally, it wouldn't end up on YouTube after a day or two since it's considered "confidential". If such procedures were in place, there might be videographic evidence of racers, say, dropping some powder into their urine samples. It would be harder to pull the stunts that Willy Voet describes in his tell-all book, Breaking the Chain.

There would be some costs associated with this setup. Uniforms, sample taking equipment, maybe a banner or three, the video camera, a case of video tapes (or DVDs or a laptop), food, fuel, the aforementioned modular cases, a tent, etc. I'm sure at least one of the testers would have to be certified, if not all.

Once all that foundation stuff is in place, the system would incur costs for travel and testing. The cost per week may be something like the following for each team:
3 x $130 - one way tickets to some location
1 x $200 - one week rental of some vehicle
7 x $200 - one week of hotel or motel rooms
(n) x $300-$600 - cost of testing per test

The cost of catching an unsuspecting doper at a rinky dink local midweek race?


Monday, October 23, 2006

cornering lines

I read yesterday that Boonen was talked out of racing a Porsche 996 in a 10 hour race. It's a pity. First off, I think Boonen would have had a blast. The Porsche is a reliable race car, and many pure drivers (i.e. car racers) own one, regardless of whose car they race for work. Secondly, I think that driving a race car would be incredibly educational for a bicycle racer. The reason is that, from what I can tell, pro cyclists know not too much about cornering lines. And cornering is one of the keys to descending.

Descending doesn't take fitness. EPO won't help you descend. Neither, at a certain level, will testosterone, HGH, or any othe performance enhacing drugs. It's brains that help you descend quicker, knowledge and understanding about cornering, G-forces, and inertia. It seems that during that fateful stage in the Tour, Floyd gained much of his time on the descents. This was apparent watching the peloton's lackadaisical descents during the stage (heck, the whole Tour) as well as Floyd's downhill lateral-stress-test wheel descents where it looked like he was riding skiis, not a bike. He was visibly faster than his opponents.

I don't know who decided to take it easy on the descents but when someone sitting upright, coasting, braking, and basically going as slow as he can - Mick Rogers - can't help but pull away from the field on a descent, something is very, very wrong. Where did the flowing marbles look go, the one where you see various switchbacks full of racers zigzagging across the screen, led (in many cases) by a tucked and flying Lemond? I dunno but in general the Tour descenders this year looked pretty tame. Floyd excepted.

Why is that? Descending in a straight line is easy. It's the turns that count. If you watch the timid descending in the Tour, you'll see all sorts of elemental cornering errors. You'd think the pros would know how to corner - late apexes, double apexes for variable radius turns, things like that. A lot of the racers make the most basic, elementary error when cornering - the early turn in. It's the worst move for a motorsports racer unless you're protecting your line in a tight crit (and face it, most pros in the Tour are not too worried about protecting their spot on a descent). An early entry point puts you on the inside of the turn, going sort of straight, when the turn isn't even half done. You have no room to maneuver, no room for error.

On the other hand, a late apex is the racer's dream. Maybe a bit slower in but you can accelerate out, possibly even before the "apex" (since you're apexing a bit early), you are pointing down the next straight halfway through the turn, and you are not at your cornering limits at that time - so when people start bouncing off the outside wall of the turn because of their early apexes, you can dive to their inside.

On a bicycle, it's hard to press home these kind of concepts since you're going so slow that mistakes rarely result in more than some road rash. But in a car, finding yourself driving off the course at 100 mph because you turned in too early on that long sweeper could mean a really nasty crash. If you make it through your mistake, you'll be sure never to repeat it again.

It's as if the pro cyclists have forgotten the basics and focussed only on the engine (i.e. the whole doping thing). A thousand horsepower car is useless if you don't harness that power. Okay, fine, it goes really fast in a straight line. But not much else. Formula 1 cars peaked at 1300 HP in the mid 80's. Drivers said the way to drive them was point the car down the straight, floor it, brake, creep around the corner, and repeat. The cars were virtually undriveable due to the inherent imbalance between power and handling. The 750-800 HP cars today are faster than those untamed power monsters because the current cars are so much better balanced - they can corner as well as "go".

Unfortunately, the old F1 cars are like modern day bike racers, except the racers don't have that much wattage to spare. The pros seem to focus on only how fast they can climb, not how to actually race a bicycle. They hammer up the climbs, bank some time, and trade time for their lack of descending skills. You get these guys who are lean, strong, fit, but have no clue about "how to race". It might be the earpieces spewing commands or something but a certain intuitiveness is gone from the racing scene. The back markers, the ones that lose time on the climbs, they're the ones descending like mad. They have to learn because they don't have the engine to climb at, say, Floyd's pace. (Just so you don't misunderstand, please note that I mentioned earlier that Floyd knows how to descend as well as "go".)

Instead of dissuading Boonen from doing the 10 hour endurance race in a Porsche 996, his team should have brought all his teammates and made them all race. Or at the very least gotten them on some nice 70+ mph karts at Spa or some other reasonably famous outdoor course. Or failing that, do what Jelly Belly did a couple years ago - get a nice corporate discount and go karting, as a team, indoors at a serious indoor karting venue.

If you're a team director, next time you see your racer dive into a turn only to brake, desperately stick their knee inside, leaning over the bike to try and keep it on the road, think of this post. And if they go flying over a guardrail because of their erroneous cornering line, don't get mad. Buy them some driving lessons.

And email me.

I'll be glad to drive with them.

it's tactics, stupid

So today I get a feeder mail (those are emails that seed blog entries). Apparently Floyd gained most of his time on that infamous stage on the descents. The output on the climbs, while substantial, were not "phenomenal".

The Link

So Dr Allen Kim (Floyd's doctor and the one that loves to quote PowerTap numbers, PowerTap being one of Saris's products) says that at 390 watts Floyd gained time on the peloton. At 380, he'd stay even. At 370, he loses time. According to the article, he gained time on only two climbs. The intial one, the Col de Saises, where he attacked, and the third one, the Col de Columbiere. The other three climbs he rode under 380 watts and lost time.

He also poured about 55 bottles of cold water on his head during his break. It's something that improves everyone's performance on a hot day. I didn't know how till I read the article. Blood is used to cool the body as well as carry oxygen. I guess it's like coolant. So if you're overheating your blood is busy bringing heat energy to your skin surface and not as concerned about feeding those oxygen-deprived muscles. Pouring ice cold water on your body will keep your body cooler (the blood at the surface can dump a lot more heat energy per unit of blood) and free up some vital blood for oxygen carrying duties. Floyd had the luxury of doing this during his break since he was alone. His chasers couldn't and so lost some of those precious blood cells to heat-moving duty.

They don't say what wattage he gained but it would be a messy but simple experiment - ride a trainer at your threshold, note wattage and heart rate, and dump some cold water on your head. See what happens to power for a given heart rate. My reverse experiment is the "don't drink water and put the big fan just out of reach" type, where I overheat because I don't feel like climbing off my trainer. I typically saw a 50+ watt difference when I would turn the fan on and drink some cool liquids.

Okay, fine. It seems pretty scientific. Okay. Fine. Just one thing.

As I mentioned before, I have a Cyclops Electronic Trainer. It's the floor-anchored version of the PowerTap hub. And until it started smoking like mad, I really liked using it. Got it a couple years ago when I was desperately trying to get in shape. I figured relative wattage would be a good thing to know when training. And it worked. I compared some notes (threshold wattage, max wattage, etc) with a few sources - a few tests I did on a friend's MG Technogym (ha and you thought it was just a team!), old Velodyne info, a couple threshold tests done at a training center, and a friend of mine that has an SRM. My wattages seemed reasonable.

I used to do 1 minute, max power intervals on my trainer. I found that, with really loud music, a big fan, a lot of psyc-up deep breaths, I could just barely sustain 400 watts for a minute. My form nose-dived in the last 15 seconds - if I was on the road, I would have ended up in a ditch. They were so taxing mentally I rarely did them since it took me a while to recover from that. Like a month.

Floyd, on the other hand, sustains that 400-ish watt figure for 30 or 40 minutes at a time. With a few bottles of ice cold water, some electrolytes, and a whole lotta people yelling and screaming at him from the side of the road.


Maybe I'll put down a tarp tonight and see how that ice cold water thing works.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Doping, of course

So the original reason for this blog was to comment on some of the happenings in the cycling scene. Of course a lot of gossip surrounds the doping scandal. There are also discussions on some of the race tactics in the big Tours - but then again, doing a Monday review of a Sunday race has its advantages.

When the NY Times article with Frankie Andreu and the "anonymous" USPS rider came out, it was almost like one of those logic puzzles. The anonymous ex-Postie said he was still in the cycling game so had to stay anonymous. But they gave a couple hints - on the 1999 team, seems english, be somewhat outspoken about things, and must be in touch with Frankie (or at least get along with him) to be willing to be interviewed with him. In the interview, the anonymous rider is quite careful to state facts and not implicate any others - for example, they refused to name names.

This is how the logic puzzle worked out for me:

The Tour team from 1999 (courtesy

US Postal

Manager: Johan Bruyneel (BEL)

181. Lance Armstrong (USA)
182. Frankie Andreu (USA)
183. Pascal Deramé (Fra)
184. Tyler Hamilton (USA)
185. George Hincapie (USA)
186. Kevin Livingston (USA)
187. Peter Meinert-Nielsen (Den)
188. Christian Vandevelde (USA)
189. Jonathan Vaughters (USA)

So who is the anonymous ex-Postie?

Andreu is out (since he's already being interviewed), so is Tyler (he maintains his innocence), Pascal (not in the cycling world), and Peter Meinert-Neilsen (ditto). Leaves:

Hincapie - highly unlikely as he appears to be a Lance person, i.e. FOL (Friend of Lance)

Livingston - likely as he was put on the sh*t list and left the team. Not really involved in cycling though.

Vandevelde - likely as he was put on the sh*t list too. however, not sure if he would speak out as he is on CSC which appears to be a rather unclean team (purely speculative - based on the bleached needles/bags found a couple times as well as just the plain history of some of their racers/directors).

Vaughters - likely as he also was put on sh*t list. I vote for him as he's been critical of Lance in the past and he is the director of TIAA-CREF and they are strongly anti-doping. this would encourage him to stay anonymous.

After the "IM Gossip" came out, it only reinforced my belief that Vaughters was the anonymous ex-Postie. Vaughters is too vulnerable to a campaign by FOLs based on what he does for a living - i.e. direct a team that has to get a license from USA Cycling (run by FOLs), try and get entry into races promoted by people that are FOLs, etc. It would have been nice if he could have said something in such a way that you can tell he wants to tell, but that for legal reasons he just can't. But alas, he says his whole IM chat was simply gossip.

All this "he said" stuff is ridiculous. Without concrete details, names, schedules, things like this simply muddy the waters. It would be better at this point for Andreu to actually name names, methods, locations, maybe open up his training diary or something. Or maybe have Betsy (Andreu) do it. She seems to be good at that.

What is kind of funny is them talking about Moreau - and how Moreau never doped, his hematocrit was 39 (isn't that abnormally low? My hct is 46-49% and God knows I don't dope). If it's true, then it would reveal why he never broke into the top tier of the Tour. I watched a stage of the 2006 Tour last night while sitting on the trainer (first time in 3 weeks!) and saw the first 3 mountains annihilate the field. Moreau was in there, hanging on for dear life, and Bob Roll says "That's a good ride for Moreau". Next shot is one of Moreau coming off. Kind of like a Charlie Mottet who was also allegedly clean (as written by Willy Voets, the infamous Festina soigneur who got caught with a carload of dope). And Mottet, poor guy never had the edge to put him at the top. Okay, he was ranked #1 for a short time, but he never won Worlds, the Tour, or the season long cup (Pernod, Prestige, etc).

Another note on Credite Agricole - I wonder if that's (their cleanliness) one of the reasons Saul Raisin is racing for them? But then again, that was a little while ago that Moreau raced for CA. Moreau, if he is Mr Clean, is racing for A2GR, which is vocally anti doping (they don't want Mancebo back, for example). They seem pretty reasonable too as they keep blowing up here and there and they can't climb with the best of them. To me that's a sign of an honest team - blowups and only a few good days in the mountains. My fiancee brought home a couple French cycling magazines. Moreau and Dessel were prominently featured in one of the magazines. You don't see that here.

Whatever. I'm glad I don't have to worry about that stuff. I think training a little more or losing 20 (or more) pounds would be much more effective than bumping up my hematocrit a few points.

Monday, October 16, 2006

A tactical victory

Rule: always throw your bike at the finish. If you don't know how, learn and practice. It's the placings you lose when you don't throw your bike that will haunt you forever.

The Leadout Begins

Sitting at the end of the leadout train as the wind-up begins.