Monday, March 29, 2010

Racing - 2010 Bethel CDP Gold Race

So... where to begin?

I suppose the most significant development, literally, in the last two years has been the building at the four way intersection at Francis J Clarke Circle in Bethel.

It gave us two things, a good and a bad.

The good: Navone Studios. The first tenant, a cycling-centric one, a great supporter of the Series.

I have a new pre-race ritual now, and it takes place on Saturday.

It's called "getting registration ready".

Instead of scrambling desperately on Sunday morning, I take a leisurely hour or two to set up registration, laptops, printers, plug in the radios, unpack my gear, drop off my bike, everything. I set up my helmet cam to avoid the last minute scrambles of previous weeks. I even signed my release form (after checking my wallet for my USAC license - seriously - because everyone has to have a license, even me), took my numbers, and pinned them to my jersey.


Not that I had my license, but that I could do all this the night before the race.

So, that's the good. The not-as-good (I won't say it's bad because it really isn't - it's not malicious or anything, it's more an inconvenience for everyone involved): the volleyball folks. The problem isn't with the volleyball folks, nor the volleyball place's owner. It's just that the traffic with all the cars are getting unmanageable. A huge problem is the racers milling around in the parking lot, ignoring the cars. I suppose part of the problem is we need to get more vocal about keeping the lot clear.

Note to self: Need to yell a lot to keep parking lot clear of bikes.

And the cut-through driveway will become off-limits as of right now, so the volleyball customers will need to drive around the whole circuit.

I had made a number of calls during the week to try and appease the folks involved with the different properties. It's stressful and unpleasant but I had to do it to try and keep the race alive. We went into the day's racing on probation, if you will.

Any misbehavior and things would get ugly.

On a better note I had made a visit to the Shack earlier in the week to get some radios. If nothing else, I can honestly say that I decided to buy radios there and not at the company rumored to be buying them. Our radios, originals from about ten years ago, and less originals from about two years ago, were starting to fall apart. The Motorolas were more reliable so I went with them, and I made some clerk's day when I cleared them out of their nicest radios, even buying a pair of their second level radios.

All the regulars were rightly impressed with the new radios and they happily transmitted rider and car positions all day. We just have to remember to pause after pushing the "talk" button, but that's a "nut the holds the radio" problem, not a "radio" problem.

During the day I stressed about the visits from the various less-than-happy non-racing folks. I couldn't do anything about them so I just did whatever I needed to do.

I finally got to meet with one of the complainants, but not the one I expected. He was polite, friendly, and firm. We'd lose the cut-through we were using for the volleyball folks. Today was the last day. After today, no more.

My heart sank.

So, with all the above on my mind, I didn't do very much about the actual race. Every time I sat down my already-pinned-with-its-number jersey comforted me with its presence. I tried to eat a bit too, but most of a muffin, two servings of egg frittata, a pair of Fig Newtons, that doesn't count for 6 waking hours (and 12 hours since "last food").

I did take a welcome break from the whole race promotion scene to help out a good guy - Stephen Gray. I first met him at UCONN, and raced with him (or, more accurately, watched him race in the faster races) collegiately. He had a broken rear derailleur cable so I just blocked his derailleur down to a 14T, removed the offending cable (and its housing), and called it fixed. He'd run a 39x14 on easy sections, a 53x14 on the hard ones.

And would you believe it, he'd go on to power a two man break to the win. The gall.

Me, I wasn't feeling as peppy. I hadn't eaten much during the day, nor the day before, and the stress was overshadowing any appetite. I wasn't feeling very warm, even when I jogged over to the portapotties.

My warm up, counted at 16 and 13 seconds on prior weeks, was even less because I had to walk my bike most of the way to the line (I was trying to keep the driveway clear). Not ideal on such a bitter day.

I had seven teammates waiting for me at the start though, a huge comfort in the 80-odd rider field.

I went back to the curb to leave off a bottle, lined up on my own, and went off when the start whistle blew.

I made a bit of an effort to move up, monitored the front for a bit, and when things looked kind of status quo, decided to drift back.

The big boys, Lance, Paul, and Drew, drifted forward, all of them monitoring moves and such. SOC, Mike, Steve, and Dennis all helped out, taking pulls. All of them "visited" me in the field, and I felt reassured when I'd look up and see three teammates riding along in front of me. This happened more than a few times during the race.


With about five laps to go, and no real moves reaching out very far, I started thinking that it could come down to a field sprint. Paul came up to me, Lance on his wheel, and asked what the plan was.


Well, ideally, with 2 to go, we go 25 mph into the wind, 35 mph with the wind, 40 mph on the backstretch, line things out, and someone pops me off the front at 100 meters to go.

The reality is that to pull of something like that in a Cat 3-4 race would take ten pretty fresh guys. I wasn't sure about wiggling through a field with a four man leadout train, so I gave the best, short answer I could give.

"Meet me at the front at the bell."

Then the pace hit the roof.

I had to make some moves up the hill to maintain position, using the natural tendency of the field to open holes to move up. In the last two laps the IRSMedic team, including the aforementioned Stephen Gray, really tightened the screws, stringing out the field, opening gaps. I started getting worried that a group with two of them would actually stay away, and started making some desperate moves to get up towards the front of the field.

I knew I was feeling desperate when I started making contingency plans. If I had to I'd jump across the gap. I even started picturing the move, a jump to bridge the gap, sit in just a touch, then jump again for the sprint.

On the last lap things seemed to coagulate and suddenly we had ourselves a field sprint. I followed wheels on the backstretch, but I was too far back. With the tailwind on the backstretch I knew I could move up if I had to, and, trust me, I had to.

I went up the left for a bit, a little mini-jump just before the sprint. Checked my five o'clock, got back in line, maybe five or six guys back. Got around the right curve, and as the hill started to go left, I realized I absolutely had to jump.

Like right NOW!

So I did.

As the IRSMedic leadout finally peaked, I was accelerating up to them, and as Bryan, their main man, started his sprint, I was already up to speed and closing fast, honing in on them like a guided missile.

He and his teammate went straight up the hill, meaning towards the left, and his other leadout went right. I decided to shoot the gap between the right guy and Bryan.

For a brief moment I thought I'd made the wrong decision when the right guy followed the road left also, the gap closing a bit, but I made myself narrow and blew through the gap.

My legs felt great, I wasn't conscious of breathing, and I just went, went went. The line came up quickly and although I could see both riders to the right and left, I did a little throw at the line.

For insurance purposes.

But I didn't need to. It was a clear win.

I did my cool down lap. Familiar faces asked me how I did, teammates, devastated by their race-time efforts and barely clinging onto the field, asked me how I did. They're questioning faces would break out in broad grins when I told them I won.

Lance, who'd pulled out at the bell, said it for them.

"When I saw you going up that hill I thought 'Man, I'm glad it's him and not me!' "

I had enough time to unpin my 3-4 number, lining up legitimately with my P123 number. I tried to drink a bit of Gatorade but I simply didn't feel like it. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do, so I didn't do anything.

One of the officials came up to me. A P123 racer was peeing across the street, next to the building where the owner was so understanding.

How the eff do you explain to a total idiot the absolutely stupid and careless and greedy and everything else that epitomizes "selfish idiots that don't deserve to pedal a bike" of their actions?

Through my stress haze I listened to the official, the haze thickening. Nodded gravely. And lined up for the race.

Note to self: I have to look up the name that belongs to that number. He's one selfish mo-fo that doesn't deserve to race at Bethel. As if I didn't have enough to worry about, he's peeing on the property of one of the guys who gave us a break for the day.

Anyway, after I received this totally unnecessary report, we started the P123s.

My legs felt reasonable, a bit crampy, a bit stiff, but okay. I did a couple gap-closing efforts, nothing major, and my legs responded whenever I asked them to do something.

I got a bit antsy for no particular reason, someone actually asking half-jokingly what I was doing. Now that I think of it, maybe it was stress. I dunno though. I ended up near the front and, on a lark, decided to attack.

Now, when someone like me attacks early in a crit, especially a P123 crit, it's kind of like watching a Boonen attacking at kilometer one of a mountain stage in the Tour. It's kind of a joke, a funny, a "ha-ha".

And so when everyone realized who it was that just launched, they all sat up, took sips from their bottles, and watched me try and detonate myself.

I'll boast that after my initial attack I managed to hold a very respectable 400+ watts for the first stretch. I started dipping into the high 300s by Turn 2.

By the backstretch I was trying to stay above 310 watts. I thought of a Bike Forums post where someone incredulously asked if I couldn't hold 25 mph for a few minutes. I responded that I could for a minute, but more than that... I decided I'd keep my effort going so I'd have a number to give him next week.

But, honestly, I wasn't paying attention to speed, just wattage and my form. I tried to go fast but I was using wattage to pace myself. Or, more accurately, to surprise myself at what I could maintain.

When I looked back I had a huge gap. I mean it was HUGE, like 200 meters, maybe more. Apparently the field had stopped for lunch at Turn 2 because they were just rounding the bend onto the backstretch when I was at the other end.

If I were a good Cat 2, this could be a race-transforming move. Heck, I know guys that could take this gap and transform it into a huge win.

But I'm a horrible time trialer so I had more modest goals. And, frankly, the field knew it too.

I thought I could climb at about 400-500 watts and pull off a full lap solo, but when I hit the hill, holding about 450 watts, the field had woken up with a temper.

They just crush me on the hill, blew by me before I could finish my lap.

I realized that I have some more form than I thought because normally such a severe effort would leave me gasping for air for, oh, the next 20 minutes or so.

But, instead, after about 10 meters of lung-searing soft pedaling, I suddenly felt better. As the tail end of the field came past I punched the pedals a few times, got back on, and got on with the race.


With the cold, the slight mist, I decided today wasn't the day to push for an official P123 finish. I started stressing about the traffic thing, stressing about cleaning up, about things in general. I started losing race focus.

So no finish for me today. Instead I'd do some big efforts and then call it done. I felt like a kid in a candy store with some money to burn. I knew I wanted some candy, I just didn't know where to spend it.

That's when a big group of riders went up the road. I suppose it could have been a split, but whatever, suddenly about 15 riders were 50 meters off the front.

I figured we'd bring them back on the hill at the end of the lap, but the 10 or 20 meters gap on the hill would stretch back out to the 50 by the very fast backstretch.

A few guys, notably the Target Training boys, tried to close the gap for a couple laps. But, as Eddy B said during the Tour du Pont, "Someone working hard at the front". They were, too, because on some laps we were going close to 40 mph on the wind-assisted backstretch.

I decided that this was where I wanted to spend my candy money. So I got ready, my hands holding my precious quarters.

I spent two laps moving up through the field, trying to position myself for a good move. And as the couple guys in front of me peeled off the front, I put it in a big gear and started turning the pedals hard. I never got out of the saddle, I just started going faster.

I was out of gears right away, with only a 53x12T available, but I turned it over as quick as possible without going into sprint mode. An IRSMedic rider was on my wheel, and when I realized it was Bryan, I decided to empty my pockets.

I tried to avoid all the bumps and such and pulled hard until the wind hit me at the bottom of the hill. My legs done, I pulled off, and Bryan launched after the break, now only 10 meters ahead of us.

This time I didn't recover miraculously. I'd put it all down and that was it.

When I got to the line I turned left. I crawled into the parking lot, to registration, and sat on the floor a bit. I called the missus to let her know I won, got changed, and started working on packing up.

The driveway challenge weighed heavily on my mind. After we got all squared away, and the last of the people who help left, I turned back around and walked back into Navone Studios. Frank and I sat in a couple of those red director's chairs and talked for over an hour about the situation. He's a huge fan of the race, of the Series, of racing in general. But the challenges presented today make it hard to imagine the Series happening without some major wholesale changes.

It made for a long drive home. Yeah, I won a race. But this is the first time I ever felt the Series to be seriously, legitimately threatened.

It made the win a little dim in comparison.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

2010 Bethel Spring Series - Bethel CDP Gold Race Results

Results here. Updating as the day goes on.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

2010 Bethel Spring Series - Tour de Kirche

Ah, yes, Week Three.

By now we'd started to get accustomed to the beautiful studio where we have registration. Everyone started getting into their routines.

And riders forgot to bring their licenses.

I wasn't necessarily angry about the license thing, even though it may have come across like that. I realized, on the way home, that I'd pointedly ignored people standing in line in order to help others who weren't prepared.

That, I decided, wasn't fair to the folks that had their act together.

Therefore it only makes sense to treat those who have their act together "a bit more fairly". If you don't have your license, you wait. If you do have your license (or authorization to ride or copy of an annual renewal) we take care of you.


In the first two weeks I've scrambled to get onto the bike before the race, really scrambled. This week I swore I'd get ready earlier than 60 seconds before the scheduled start time.

I had help from one corner - JT, or slowroadie on YouTube, came top the desk early on and pretty much forced me to give up my CountourHD cam, helmet, mount, and whatever else and left to set it up properly. He returned with a nice, snug, secure setup.

In the meantime, with decent temps, not much wind, and some sun, I kitted out in a SoCal sourced baselayer (Ride On... you guys in SoCal know which one it is), shorts, and a short sleeve jersey.

I also used my new long finger gloves, bought through team sponsor Manchester Cycle. My last long finger gloves got holes in the finger tips after my August fall; this leads me to believe that I avoided some finger tip abrasions. Since I've had such abrasions before, and they are painful and inconvenient, I try to wear long finger gloves in crits.

I also put on my Bell Volt helmet for the first time while riding a bike. It fits really well and happened to work well with the CoutourHD cam mount thing.

Finally, as the trio of redheads helping out with the race pointed out, I wore some vintage Jelly Belly gear - socks and a cap.

In the meantime I had three teammates in the race - SOC, the captain of the team; Drew, a great guy who has collegiate cycling experience and therefore understands teamwork; and Dennis, a Cat 4 who was dipping his foot into the "faster" races to help me out.

Our goal was pretty straightforward. Like anyone who does better in a field sprint than not, I needed the race to finish in a field sprint. The guys helping out would try and keep the field together.


But hard.

It meant that the boys had a long, hard day in front of them. They'd chase down any threats to keep the group together. If we had more guys, like we did on the second week, we could use some of our gas money to keep the pace going as well. But with just a few guys to help, we had to meter our efforts properly.

Now, one of the reasons I waited to post this was to pull data off the helmet cam footage. I checked and saw that I had about 7 GB of data, an hour chunk and a hour-twenty chunk. That kinda sorta lined up with the times for the 3-4 race and the P123 race so I figured I had good footage.


Instead of wonderful bike racing, I got a lot of footage of... the official's desk. Apparently I turned it on when I put it down, and it recorded all day until I went to put the helmet on my head. By then it was used up.


So no verification of what I thought happened.

And, I have to admit, the camera tells stories my brain didn't see or register. But we'll have to go with my recollections and wait for JT's helmet cam footage.

Before the race the Cat 3-4 Leader came up to the desk. He was proudly wearing his Leader's Jersey but it was getting warm and he was wondering if we had a short sleeve version.

We didn't but I thought of something.

I had a stack of past year jerseys sitting around. I grabbed a spare 2009 Leader's Jersey, and, after the Leader tried it on, I set about snipping the sleeves off the jersey.

Presto, one short sleeve Leader's Jersey and one happy Leader. He left with a big grin on his face.

Incidentally, the guy is fit. He's not a little guy but the size Small fits him. Holy smokes.

On to the race. We started off reasonable, no weird first lap attacks on my part. Much of the race I felt a bit off, kind of weak, a bit sloggy. I hadn't ridden the day before, a busier day than expected, and my legs didn't like it.

I saw one big separation that had a lot of promise. I'd been trying to stay closer to the front, but this move had happened while I was still buried in the field.

The front group had daylight behind it for sure. They had a gap.

Then I saw the Leader's Jersey go up the road, a huge effort, with only one rider able to respond.

He bridged okay and suddenly that "promise" had a lot of "threat" strewn around in it.

I started moving up a bit more aggressively. I wasn't sure how the Expo legs were and I didn't want to see the group ride away from the field.

Then, up front, I saw SOC moving up. He'd seen the threat too. He moved up towards the front, efficiency forgotten, sliding up the outside, and hit the front.

And he drilled it.

The whole front end of the field stretched out, single file. SOC's back did its thing, his "tell" when he's working hard.

And after a frantic lap of chasing, the front group slid back.

I'd moved up a bit so I could counter if I had to follow a move, but the move seemed to have tweaked everyone's legs for just a bit. The pace eased.

I made some decent efforts to stay up closer to the front and found myself up around where it counts going into the last five laps of the race. This gave me some false hope because I'd spent a lot of the Ronde finale at the front and I won the sprint, even though I felt tired and exposed in the wind. I'd spent a lot less time at the front in the Ris and faltered, cold and tired, unable to pull the effort from my legs.

So, now, in Kirche, I nosed myself forward. I realized I was bluffing myself, trying to trick myself into feeling better than I thought I felt.

With two laps to go the Williams team seemed prematurely well organized, with four guys at the front. I say prematurely because it takes four guys to lead out for a lap, and having three guys (plus the sprinter) with two to go... that's asking a lot of the leadout guys.

One guy pulled off right away, then the next two fought tooth and nail to keep the pace high, but as we hit the bell riders shot by on either side of the riders. The Williams sprinter, to his credit, knew exactly what was happening and steeled himself for the surges. When they came, he went too.

We hit the hill going into the bell lap and the field shuffled itself nicely. I felt okay, probably sat about fifth wheel, and felt reasonably comfortable.

Then, for whatever reason, after the first turn, when the pace slowed up front, I started balking. Guys started moving past me.

And I let them.

By the time we got around to the backstretch, I was probably 15 riders back and losing ground.

Mentally I was done, off. I watched the Leader make two somewhat desperate moves to keep his position. I guess I'd have done the same thing years back, and now, honestly, I think that certain guys would let me in without too much of a fight. The Leader, though, was new to everyone, and no one gave an inch. He had to earn every single move.

And he did.

When the field packed left, a surge went right, and I tried to ride the wave. I sat about sixth going into the hill, with both the Leader and Bryan in front of me. They both jumped, and, in the shuffle in front of me, I lost sight of them.

Then, driving hard for the line, I knew I was done.

That's what "well done" looks like. Courtesy Corey Lynn Tucker.

The Leader took a strong win, Bryan took second, and I took third.

Leader, left, winning. Bryan, middle, taking second. Me, right, a distant third. Note short sleeved Leader's Jersey. Photo from here.

A mirror image of the overall standings.

But, for me, although our positions remained the same, the relationship between us didn't. Just like the ever expanding universe, the gaps grew between us.

The gap from the Leader to Bryan is a large one, five points. That's a missed week of racing right there.

The gap to me?

Eight points.

That's huge.

Having been just one place, two points, out of the win last year, I understand how close races can be when competing against riders who don't necessarily sprint well.

But to have an eight point deficit in half the race, to a guy that can win out of breaks (definitely not my specialty) and in massive field sprints (the only way I can win)?

Yeah, that's what I said too.

If I were playing chess I'd be thinking about flicking over my king.

But unlike chess, my race is a team effort. Guys are sacrificing their own ambitions to help me try and win the race.

And, just like in games, the unexpected can happen.

So, for now, I keep fighting. I know that from a pure racing point of view, I've managed to get into yet another situation where guys flying up the category ladder are stepping past me. And, like so often happens at Bethel, I just can't beat them.

As penance for my third place finish, I lined up for the P123s. I wasn't sure how I'd feel, but since it wasn't as cold as it was the prior week, it couldn't be that bad. Secretly I hoped that my legs would come around and let me fly a little.

We set off, not too hard, and I made efforts to work my legs, to punish myself. I chased down a little move that joined another little move, and, suddenly, I was in a break. I took a very short, hopefully not too slow pull, tucked back in.

We came around to the hill.


I almost came off, the guys drilled it so hard up the hill. My legs screaming, I figured I'd just go until my legs stopped working.

Miraculously the guys driving eased and I regained the tail of the break, swearing at myself to kick my butt back up to the break.

I could barely move my legs and declined to join the rotation.

Since a few of the guys in the break knew me, and, more specifically, knew my weaknesses, everyone glanced at me and rotated in line in front of me.

I suffered alone, at the back, chin dragging, wondering just how long I could hang on.

Then, in quick succession, about four riders bridged, and then, half a lap later, the field sat on my wheel.

No counters, thankfully, so I got to recover and poke my head back out of the pain cave.

Man, if that's a failed break, what's a good break feel like?


I played it smart for the rest of the race, enjoying the efforts in the single file bunch. I was within myself, not totally extended, and things felt... possible.

I used the outside of the hill to move up. Sheltered from the wind, it seemed a safe and better alternative than fighting it out in the trenches along the left curb.

I rued tossing my bottle in the 3-4 race because it broke the cap - I couldn't drink from it. So about 20 laps in I started getting some crampy twinges.

Note to self: slide bottles, don't eject them.

I hoped that the racers would stay upright for the finale because I really wanted to play around in a P123 sprint - I've only placed once ever in a 123 sprint at Bethel and it was for sixth.

I started to move up just a bit, using my legs a bit more aggressively than usual, testing them. I thought things would be possible as we hit the backstretch for the last time. Not a win, no, but maybe a 10th or a 15th. My legs didn't feel that fresh but they had a jump in them, maybe.

We rounded the bottom of the hill. The right side started getting really tight, like really tight. I think a lot of guys were thinking that was the good, sheltered side. I started to move left.

And that's when, again, I saw two bikes from the side, a few feet up in the air. When you see rim and frame sides you know it's bad news.

This time Matt went down, the captain of the Bubbles team, Stage 1/FusionTHINK.

I didn't know it was him, I just knew that one of the Bubbles guys ate it hard, and I soft pedaled up the hill.

My legs started to cramp up and I was afraid that I'd fall over. I reached out to some friends and eased myself off the bike and onto the curb.

I watched as various vehicles went to Matt's aid.

Then, a long while later, I realized something.

I never crossed the finish line.

I hadn't finished the race.

I mean, I had, but I hadn't.


I got up, went inside, and started working on the post-race stuff. My brain a bit bleary, I couldn't focus well. Then, finally, we were done. I said my good-byes and got in my car. Long drive home.

Next week I'll finish the P123s, in the sprint. And I'll do my best to win the 3-4 race. Because, you know.

I owe it to my teammates.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Promoting Races - BRING YOUR LICENSE!

So one of the most frustrating things today, all day, for almost every single race, is that people were consistently showing up at registration without a license.

For more rant, I'll reproduce what I just posed on

**Beginning of Post**

March 21, 2010: Going forward, PLEASE HAVE YOUR LICENSE WHEN YOU COME TO REGISTRATION. If you do NOT have your license (or Authorization to Race - AtR), we will be glad to help you - AFTER we help all the responsible folks that have their license.

Although we have an internet connection on site, and we have for a few years, we pay $600 for the internet connection annually. Therefore I am going to charge $10 to look up a license going forward. This charge will be applied to the internet connection charges we pay.

Note: Promoters are not required to have an internet connection at a race. Racers are required to have a racing license.

If anyone with a license or AtR comes up to the counter, they get priority over the unprepared racers. It is simply not fair to make other people wait because someone can't get their license. Don't be a greedy, selfish, unprepared racer that has no license. No one, especially not me, likes them.

I don't think I can make this more clear. As a racer it's your responsibility to bring your license or Authorization to Race to the race.

Many of you may think I'm picking on you individually. I am not. There were so many people who didn't have their license it was mind boggling.

So do me a favor if you want to race the Bethel Spring Series. Bring your license. Please.

Also, Cat 5 registration closes at 7:50 AM. We have two races because there is a rule limiting Cat 5s to 50 racer field limits. We do NOT have a second race so that people can show up later.

If you show up late for your race, you are late. Late racers don't race, they watch the race they just missed.

I gave attitude to a Cat 5 that showed up well into the first race. He was pre-registered and had his license (yay!). He was also in the first race, which, at that point, was probably half over (boo!). I let him in the second race. I was bad but I let the whole pity thing get to me. (This was an individual picking-on thing - I think he was the one that asked me, "Are you the promoter??")


Other than having a certain race promoter get extremely frustrated with all sorts of unprepared racers begging and pleading to race when they had no legal right to race, and other than one bad crash in the P123 race, the day went well.

So thanks for coming out to race, thanks to everyone who showed up with a license or AtR, and thanks to the folks that helped out and made it all possible.

I should be all friendly by next week :)

**End of Post**

So in case it's not clear, bring your license to the race. Any race you do, for that matter. It makes life a lot easier on everyone.

2010 Bethel Spring Series - Tour de Kirche Results

Results are here.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Review - 2004 Paris Nice or How To Descend

From here.

A while back I bought a whole slew of race DVDs. I've worked my way through most of them, with just a couple monuments left. One monument actually, the 12 hour 2007 Tour set.

But in the meantime I watched all the other DVDs.

And, like any time you have a batch of things, there's one or two that pop out.

The 2004 Paris Nice DVD pops out.

Jorge Jaksche (yes, of doping fame) wins for CSC. CSC, a new-ish team at the time, blows the race apart in the crosswinds at the beginning of the race. It's an impressive demonstration of the collective strength of CSC.

Later, Jaksche defends the jersey, but he does it a bit differently, almost like a Cat 3. Instead of the cold, calculated march of, say, a Bruyneel team, where the team motors along at the front and gobbles up everything in sight, Jaksche actually responds personally to attacks. Not just one attack, a few. And not just dinky ones, real, serious, in the mountains attacks.

I found this pretty interesting for two reasons. First, now we know that he doped at certain parts of his career. I'm not sure if a leader chasing down unimportant riders is indicative of doping, but it's rare to see nowadays. On the other hand it's kind of nice to see the leader responding to attacks. And second, I found it interesting because, to me, when leaders respond to dinky attacks, it looks like a Cat 3 race, albeit in pro kits and at higher speeds.

These features don't necessarily justify buying a DVD though. I bought it because I wanted to watch CSC demolish a field and see how Jaksche rode in this particular Paris Nice. I remember reading how CSC really put the screws to the field, and how Jaksche was "impressive".

Watching a field get demolished in a crosswind isn't all that impressive, not any more so than watching a field splinter on a hill. But with them doing the whole echelon thing day after day, I got some good learning time in.

And Jaksche, to be frank, looks unnaturally strong. So watching him ride so dominantly reminded me of watching Basso in his "just before I got suspended" Giro. Always calm, always in control, never really stressed, and, honestly, not really entertaining.

So should you buy the DVDs for those reasons?

Not really.

But I did get one surprise. And boy was it a surprise.

On the penultimate stage Sammy Sanchez does a totally insane descent.

And when I say insane, I mean totally, like totally, insane.

I admit I like watching descents. In fact, I bought the Salvodelli Giro to watch his descent that "saved his Giro". Watched 4 hours or something just for the descent on the penultimate stage.

After I watched the DVD, I felt disappointed.

That descent is nothing. Although Salvodelli takes a minute back, a bunch of guys stay with him, like 6 or 10 or something, so it's not like it was impossible. For me it was totally boring. I expected him to go rocketing down the mountain, shedding others like a comet, and blasting down to the main GC contenders.


He won the Giro because he climbed better than the others on a few days, and time trialed really well. That last descent was not totally necessary. I mean it was, but it wasn't any show stopper.

Compared to Sanchez's descent in the 2004 Paris-Nice, Salvodelli's descent was an absolute yawner.

Sanchez is totally on the limit.


I've never seen a descent like that where the rider stays upright, never. Not Floyd on that stage in the 2006 Tour, not Hinault on any of his incredible Tour stages, not even Sean Kelly's descent off the Poggio (although Kelly at least dropped everyone with him).

Sanchez's descent was like Fangio's Nurburgring, where Fangio's Mercedes had marks on his wheels from hitting marker stones along the umpteen zillion turn course. Reading the description you feel like, "Hey, yeah, that's cool, but I think I could do that, or something close to that anyway."

Then you get into a period correct car from that era, like a nice Jag XK120, like I did on one very fortunate day. Things start dawning on you. Like you realize that, whoa, the brakes don't work.

"I think the brakes aren't working"

"Just push harder, I just had them done, they used to be really bad..."

"Really bad?! This is good?!"

You also realize, when you try and turn into a side street, that the car steers like it's on wooden tires. And that everything from your belt up is exposed to whatever you hit or whatever hits you.

Suddenly that despicable (name your favorite modern car you love to hate) isn't quite so bad. You feel vulnerable in this handmade car, a car made with almost no regard for modern engineering. You realize that from 35 mph it takes about 100 feet to slow to a walking pace.

Then you think about the Grand Prix drivers hurtling along at 100+ mph on roads with no safety barriers, no corner marshals, no radios, no nothing, just the driver, the car, and the road.

And Fangio's Nurburgring becomes legendary.

Sanchez's descent, it's legendary.

I'm surprised I've never read anything about it, because, frankly, after having watched whatever bike races on TV from the mid 80s, I've never, ever seen anything like Sanchez's descent.

In fact, when I watch most race descents, I think, "Oh, that would have been fun." I even went to Lake Wohlford this year with last year's Tour of California stage in mind, when that Lampre rider zoomed up to the camera bike on the descent. I watched him get into an aero tuck and ride right up to the camera lens. You could almost see the camera in his glasses, he got so close.

And I thought, "Oh, that would have been fun."

I usually think (but not in the Wohlford case), "Dag, he could have taken that corner a bit better. I'd have turned in a touch later."

Stuff like that.. It's easy to think those thoughts when you watch the poor descenders in the pack, like poor Rasmussen, or even, sorry to say it, Levi, who, in the DVDs I have, seems to take it easy on the descents.

But when I watched Sanchez, I realized something.

That wouldn't have been fun.

It would have been scary.

Instead of those "I could do better" thoughts, I had other ones in my mind.

"Holy carp, I'd have gone off right there!"
"OMG I'd have gone off there too!"
"Wow, I can't believe it! I'd have had a face full of rock wall right there!"
"I... Ooh... Aah... Yaaa.. I can't believe he saved that. Cannot believe it."

It got so distracting I would find myself soft pedaling on the trainer so I could focus more of my energy towards assimilating this insane descent.

If you ever have a chance to watch this DVD, do it. It's totally worth it. And it's a nice textbook way of handling rivals one by one.

But watch it for Sanchez's descent. You'll know what I mean when you get to it.

So what makes him able to descend like that?

First, he gets really low in front.

You have tons of spacers and a short stem? Not gonna to happen. You want a long stem to weight the front end. This set up makes you less stable at lower speeds (under 7-8 mph). It makes you really stable at higher speeds. If your frame doesn't allow you to do this, and you can make position adjustments, think about changing your position by going longer and lower. If you need to change the frame to use a longer stem, I'd do it.

It's that important.

I link to a blog post (not my blog, but I fit him to his bike) all the time. He was a Cat 4, wasn't quite there in crits, and I made wholesale changes to his position. He won the next three Tues crits he did, placed third in a Sunday crit, and, the next season, was staying with the A race breaks, breaks that I can't hang onto.

Quick summary of his position change? Longer and lower in front. Link here.

Second important thing: Drops.

You have to be in the drops. I can't believe how many people race a tight crit on the hoods. Descents are like crits. Fast, scary at times, and at the limit of control at times.

Drops, people, drops.

Whenever you're under pressure, think drops. You have to be in the drops. That's where you're most stable, most secure, have most control over your bike. If you don't feel that way, if you don't feel most safe on the drops, something is very wrong with your setup. The drops let you brake firmly, shift, sprint, swerve, bunny hop, bump, pretty much any severe maneuver you can think of you can do in the drops.

Scary fast descents are scary fast. Get on the drops on descents.

Third important thing - steer with your eyes.

Sanchez looks at where he's going, not what he is trying not to hit. He keeps his head parallel to the ground in turns, like a skier or motorcyclist.

Don't look down at the pavement.

Don't look off the edge of the road.

Look down the road, as far as you can see.

On hairpins you look at the point where the road disappears, i.e. around the corner. Practice this last bit by looking around exit/entrance ramps when you're driving your car. You shouldn't be looking at the white line delineating the shoulder from the road. You should be looking out the passenger window (for example) where the entrance ramp starts to merge with the highway. If you're on a curve like that, where it does a 180, you shouldn't really look out the windshield, at least not the center of it.

Fourth thing: Knee out.

This is Optional (with a capital O). It gives you something to think about. I like doing it but I don't think it does anything very functional. Probably pushes my center of gravity inward just a touch. Whatever, it makes me feel better. In crits I don't do it, so I think it's mental. Sticking your knee out slows you down a touch because you become a bit less aero.

In fact, when I sit up on a downhill straight and want to slow a bit, I stick both knees out.

Fifth thing: Inside pedal up in sharp turns.

Kinda goes without saying. But I'm saying it because otherwise you may not know. Just sayin'.

Sixth: Brake before the turn, but you can brake if you have to.

You brake before the turn, but if you are exiting an always-accelerating-due-to-the-downhill turn and are going a bit hot, you should be able to get more vertical (i.e. less turning) and grab some brake. Sanchez grabs big brakes on a couple exits where he's about to go flying off the road. He really grabs big time on one turn, I thought for sure he was going to lose it.

It seems like although Sanchez may be somewhat familiar with the descent, he doesn't know the turns. So, for example, I'm somewhat familiar with the descent off of Palomar, but I don't know the turns individually. So I kinda sorta know what to expect but I also get surprised by the most extreme of turns (sharpest, longest, not so sharp).

When you get surprised you'll be surprised at how much extra traction you really have. But don't slam on the brakes because you'll skid. Actually, this idea segways nicely into the next tip.

Seventh Thing: Don't chicken out.

If your line takes you to the edge, but not over it, it's a good line. Trust your line. You don't need a huge margin of safety. 1 cm from the edge and 1 meter from the edge are usually the same. Sanchez, on a few turns, gets to within 1-2 cm of the edge of the pavement without ever bobbling or reacting. You can see he was hesitating because he stopped pedaling, you could see him fighting the temptation to react, and he pulls it off. This happens at least 3 times that I can remember.

If you act scared and do things like grab mad brake, bad things happen. If you let the bike do its thing, let it take care of you, it takes care of you.

Don't force things.

Eighth Thing: Run scared.

Sometimes you need motivation. A breakaway. A chasing group. Adrenaline, ever before you get going, works wonders.

But then let yourself bath in the adrenaline. Don't necessarily ride scared, but ride with that adrenaline edge. It keeps you alert and quick and helps you take some of those risks that you realize later weren't all that risky.

Phew. All that descending talk's made me thirsty.

(Take a sip of water, catch your breath.)

Alright, so where were we?

Oh, right. The 2004 Paris Nice DVD. Buy it. Watch it. And study Sanchez's descent. Be amazed.

Note: I don't get money for hawking the DVD, and I paid money for it, albeit a sale price.

Monday, March 15, 2010

2010 Bethel Spring Series - Ris Van Bethel

Ah, the second race. I had a lot of opening thoughts for this report, but, unfortunately, most of them escaped in the post-race haze.

I started the day without the splitting headache from the prior two days, but still with some chills, some weakness, acid buildup in my legs. Sick? I don't know. Stressed? Yeah, kind of, but not terribly so.

The weather, so cooperative the week prior, didn't help any. It was bad. Outside, people endured windy conditions, with some sudden downpours interrupting an otherwise gentle misty rain, and a bitter, biting cold. Inside it wasn't so bad.

Definitely a hard day for racing though, definitely.

But, with the team making a huge, huge appearance, I had to put on a brave face.

I had a lot of team support. Among the motors in support I knew pretty well SOC, Tarbox, MM, Drew, Lance (not that one, the other one - our Lance), TJ, plus a couple new to me guys... We even had our illustrious team founder in our presence too.

As a note, I should point out that I think I was the only one that drove in alone. Well, SOC also arrived kinda solo, with Mrs. SOC for company. Everyone else came in style in a huge land yacht of a hauler, a team vehicle, kinda sorta. I hope that sometime soon I can hitch a ride in the team boat, so to speak. Part of racing as a team is the whole hanging out before/after, talking smack, figuring out a plan for the race. I miss out on that with Bethel because I get there on my own and have my hands full throughout the day.

Anyway, as far as promoting, I kept bugging poor Arianna about the money - I realized that our fixed costs for the race are pretty high, and I didn't bring enough money to cover them. Meaning, without paying the town, the portapotties, and other "non-immediate" costs, the race costs a certain amount of money, and if the weather was so bad that only a few people showed up, I'd be short money. I mentally readied myself to make a trip to the ATM machine. I was pretty stressed about that but at the end of the day Arianna had everything under control.


With the huge worry sidelined a bit, with volunteer marshals relieving a huge mental weight off my head, I set about prepping for my race.

And, like last week, I fell miserably behind in my prep. My warm-up consisted of, once again, riding my bike from registration to the start line. Last week it wasn't a big deal. This week, in the wet, with almost no riding over the last six days, it hurt me a bit.

According to the SRM, it took 13 seconds of riding. So when I say I got a short warm up, that's about what it is - 13 seconds.

I lacked a lot of pre-race snacks, drank 1/3 as much coffee, had no electrolyte drink, no pizza, and pinned my numbers on my jersey instead of my rain jacket. Lots of dumb, unthinking mistakes, mistakes made while thinking of other things.

But, my mental greyness, about the same color as the sky, brightened up considerably when I saw the boys at the line. They looked fresh and eager, willing to work their hearts out for me.

I saw no Leader's jersey lined up. I was a bit surprised, but there is life outside of bike racing, even if we're talking about the fourth most important race in the world, the Bethel Spring Series (after the Tour, Giro, Worlds, and maybe PR).


Anyway, the official also asked if the leader was here, and when no one responded, the team guys all looked at each other. No Adler guy, who admittedly looked pretty strong last week. We didn't know the second place guy from last week so he got to hide in his anonymity if he was there.

But no Leader... that changed things. Today would be gravy - any points earned would be points gained. All we had to do was keep the field together and get points for the sprint. Our original plan had a lot of "If the Leader does this, we do that" kind of stuff. With no Leader, it was just a huge free for all, and we'd just get what points we could.

The first move went at the start, and from then till the finish it was game on. Over and over riders would launch off the front, and over and over the Expo boys went scampering after them.

Then, if the pace eased, the boys would hit the front, trying to stretch things out.

Our goal - to keep the field together, to leverage my sprint, gain whatever points possible.

The first lap gave me a shocker of a discovery - my brakes didn't work. I have my yellow pads somewhere but I figured I'd give the Koolstop regular pads a chance in the rain on wet carbon rims. On my other wheels regular pads worked fine, so I figured the same for these wheels and these pads. (Of course, I didn't really consider I was changing both variables at once, a bad move when experimenting with a two variable equation.)

Well, the first time I touched the brakes nothing happened. I grabbed a lot of lever, started veering to the side, and only when the riders in front started going again did I manage to not crash into someone.

I figured I'd be safe about five feet behind whoever I was following, but, over the course of the next hour, I had a few close calls. I started figuring out how hard I could reach out to keep from falling, or where I could jump a curb to get into the grass.

Note to self: Yellow Swiss Stops in the rain.

I started wondering how I'd fare in the tight riding in the last few laps of the race. Normally I'm fine in tight quarters but not today.

Well, there was only one way to find out.

I kept racing on.

The wind played funny with us, hitting us head on and hard on the hill, but disappearing everywhere else. This made all the flatter sections much faster and the hill much slower.

Yeah, accordion effect.

I'd promised to be up there at the beginning, then again towards the end. But I kinda sorta failed big time at marking anything, seeing as I was sitting near the back of the field, and I struggled through the race.

At some point SOC came up to me to see how I was feeling.

I told him I felt good, which was, at some level, true.

My heart rate seemed artificially low, so low that I checked my strap to make sure it was making good contact with my chest. 120s bpm during a Bethel? Not right.

But, how I felt?

I felt pretty bad.

I figured it would pass. My legs were loading up right away, I was getting cold (stupid rain jacket mistake), my fingers weren't comfy, and I wasn't feeling peppy.

I'd promised the boys to be up front by 5 to go, but when I saw 5 to go, I looked up at the front of the field, looked down at my legs, and the two didn't want to go together.

"Ah, heck, the boys are doing fine up there. I'll wait till 3 to go."

At three to go I glanced up. Glanced down.

"Maybe I'll move up at 2 to go."

Coming up on 2 to go I realized that I was leaving things a bit late. I saw the boys going backwards in the field, struggling to maintain position, wondering what happened to me. So, on the hill, I moved up kinda sorta aggressively. The boys were cooked from their efforts and the images of Expo riders started evaporating from the front.

Later someone said it was actually kind of comical on that lap - we were doing a reverse leadout up the hill. Me first, then my leadout guy, then his guy, and so on and so forth. A show of team alliance, but a little topsy turvy.

I was okay with that. They'd done their work. I needed to do mine. I felt the responsibility tilting my way. This is what we had planned on, this is what I asked of the team. It was my job now.

I figured I'd ease up to the front bit with half a lap to go, in the less windy sections. But, on the hill, instead of the impassable wall I expected, one side opened up beautifully. I took advantage, taking some wind, trading that little match burn willingly for 30 places.

I rolled up to the front and started moving laterally at whoever sat on the three man Bethel train at the front.

It was Bryan.

Not the Brian from last week, another one. And, yes, this Bryan is one of the good guys too. He started racing a while back, when he was probably barely in high school, and he's kept his passion for racing alive for many, many years. I watched him race away from me in one New England Crit Championships, the 1-2-3 race, which he won by a proverbial mile.

I yelled at him last year, but it was just a desperate thing, not because he was doing anything wrong.

Anyway, he's a good guy. And because he's a good guy, I reversed my lateral move, moving away from, trying to let him in. He moved the other way too. Then he eased up a bit, letting me in, winning this battle of politeness.

I forget exactly what he said, but it went something like this.

"Don't let them lose you. This is your sprint."

I tucked in, now one more responsibility on my shoulders. My teammates' hard work for the last hour, and Bryan's position. If I had problems now I'd cause him serious problems, and I didn't want to do that.

First problem: I had to get closer to the next wheel than my five foot comfort zone, so I closed it down to about a foot.

Uncomfortable. Uneasy. I automatically cataloged ways out if he braked suddenly.

I thought of my careful chiding of new riders who don't follow close enough. Here I was, nervous at a foot.


We rounded the first turn and I hoped that the leadout wouldn't falter. Two guys, a full lap to go, it seemed a bit iffy.

The sprinter guy, third in the train, looked down and around. I expected him to say something to his guys but he didn't say anything I could hear.

But my fears on the leadout came to fruition. The first guy peeled off almost immediately. Then he tried to get back into second slot, obviously fatigued from some hard efforts. The guy in the lead pulled down the backstretch, but the scene seemed hauntingly familiar to last week's race, when SOC tried to do a 2 or 3 lap leadout.

We made it to the backstretch, to the end of it really. I started hearing some commotion behind me, a lot of yelling, "Right! Right! Right!".

I knew we were barely one lane away from the curb, leaving about 18 inches of pavement for the brave-hearted. I thought about closing the gap, sealing the hole, and leaving the "Right! Right! Right!" guys to their fate.

But then, looking at the slowing front, knowing I could hop on a train squeezing by my right, and knowing that anyone that would move such a train would be a good rider, I left the gap open.

I waited.

One, two, thr....

And sure enough, three guys blew by my right side, like the really blew by. Bryan was second wheel, so he'd figured on the "must be a good rider if he's squeezing by" bit too.

I checked my five, nothing, and I went right with them, squeezing through the hole on the right. Big effort. The Bethel sprinter in front of me went left, and the final act of the race started to unfold.

I hit the last curve sitting pretty, coasting, pedaling, whatever, staying on the wheel, looking for the jump. I'd totally forgotten about my five foot gap thing.

The sprint unfolded in slow motion. Bryan jumped first, going straight up the middle. The guy behind him went a bit left. I decided that Bryan went early and followed the left guy, the guy in white.

I realized I had a lot of gas left in my legs and I started going right, accelerating. And as I did I realized I was doing it wrong. Weight too far forward, too low a gear, no torque to the pedals, all bad, all wrong.

I realized that Bryan was out of range but I wanted the next place. The guy in white I could manage but the rider on the left wouldn't slow down.

I lunged at the line, threw my bike quick, but failed.

Third place.

The boys were happy, they'd kept the race together. They'd met their goal.

I hadn't met mine. And therefore I wasn't as happy. But third place in a race with the overall leader absent, that was acceptable. I'd take the pity prize. Bryan would actually lead me, but that was okay. I'd be just as proud of Bryan winning the Series.

But then someone told me that the overall leader had beat me at the line.


There was no Leader in the race. No Yellow Jersey. No acknowledgment at the line. But he was in the race? And he beat me in the sprint?

I felt my stomach sinking. All that work by the boys for what we thought were bonus points, all for naught?

Sure enough, the overall leader had been in the race. He had been the Bethel sprinter in the leadout.

If he'd been some guy from Maine or Virginia or some other far away place, I could understand him not knowing about the jersey, I could understand not wearing it. But racing for the home town shop, with their huge emphasis on doing well at the Series... no.

I told him (mistakenly, as I now verified) that it says on the site and the flyer that the leader has to wear the jersey. But it doesn't. Somewhere, somehow, I left it off. So that's my mistake.

I definitely thought about it at the beginning of the next race. I'd gotten pretty cold by then, and after a few laps I realized I didn't want to race. My hands were freezing cold, my heart rate low, so I started making repeated efforts to move up, to surge on the hill, to move to the front. After just a couple laps, a few efforts, I was feeling pretty cooked, but my hands were still so cold I could bare squeeze the useless brake levers.

I decided I'd pull out. I'd just moved up, we were going up the hill, and I looked, signaled, and moved to the left curb. Then, as we got to the finish, I signaled a left turn.

"Oh, come on man, stay in."

I turned left anyway. I was done.

Looking at the data, I raced pretty hard in the 3-4 race. I did two 1125 watt jumps from the bell to the sprint (one to move up, the other to respond to the surge), then a 1250 watt jump for the sprint. I was way slower in the sprint, 5 mph, but I suppose I could attribute that to the headwind. So I could be somewhat satisfied with my final lap efforts.

Whatever. I went inside and focused on my race tasks, updating the results page, tried to gather my thoughts for packing up.

To their credit the boys were happy. They'd executed their side of the plan really well. Lance, upgrading from Cat 5s, pointed out something after the race.

"It was harder than I thought. Cat 5s to Cat 3-4s, that's kind of a big jump."

Oh yeah, that's true. Essentially going up two categories in one race.

And pulling it off. Because he was out there hammering, stringing out the field, putting the hurt on a bunch of Cat 3s and 4s.

They all left after the race and with some post race pizza from Frank's, we didn't do the Sycamore jaunt. I finally got to get some of the pizza, and I sat with Frank talked a bit. We talked about how the day went, and then, tired, I headed home.

I thought about the race on the drive home. With my world stomping 92 horsepower car, I had plenty of time to think, especially on the long uphills.

The race went well. People showed up, regardless of the weather, regardless of the intraweb rumors. Most of the NY/NJ folks didn't show, but that was understandable, with all the downed trees, powerlines, and whatnot.

The races went pretty cleanly, no serious crashes, no stack ups.

Traffic seemed manageable, with no serious problems.

So the day was successful.

I got home, unpacked the car into the garage, then started moving stuff from the garage into the house.

When I opened the door to the house Bella was standing there, as usual. And as soon as I moved a bin into the doorway she bolted. As usual.

I looked at my dirty bike in the garage. It had done well, regardless of any faults belonging to the "nut that holds the seat down" as I like putting it (you know, the rider). I left it in the garage for now, I'd clean it later.

A couple trips later the missus came down the stairs.

"I gotta lighten up," I said to her.


"I gotta lighten up over this race thing. It's been bugging me, but, in the end, it's just a bike race."

I relayed to her some of what happened during the day.

She said the perfect thing.

"So you want to go out for dinner? Little City burgers?"

"Yeah, that sounds good."

We left, carefully closing the door so the cats wouldn't get out. I left the lights on so the garage and driveway would be lit when we got back. And we went out and had some burgers.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Bethel Spring Series - Pre-Reg.... Dredge?

I'm about to hit the sack before this next "should be epic" Bethel. Rain, wind, trees down, power outages, everything.

As a topper, daylight savings!

But before I call it a night, let me show you how much of a difference Frank's made with Navone Studios.

See, for the first time ever, I can set up registration the night before. And that's what I did late this afternoon.

I also wanted to share with the world just how cool Navone Studios is. Poor grammar, I know, but holy cow, it's a kick butt place.

When you walk in tomorrow, you'll see this.

Turn right when you walk in the front door...

Note the Vespa thing. Yes, it's new for this week. Yes, it's for motorpacing. Yes, it's for real. Yes, it runs. This area, at this time, is off limits to racers. Later it'll be open to folks in general.

To the left, release forms, annual and day of licenses, pins, pens.

This reminds me, I need to print out more release forms.

Then, to the right again, pre-reg peeks at you.

Awesome space, awesome pictures.

A bit closer to pre-reg, for the race or for the Series.

I spread them out when I walked up to the table.

Across from pre-reg, day-of-race reg. Note frames hanging from ceiling. Bikes in the back.

Day of race, closer look.

It's hard, having to deal with the environment here. Reminders everywhere of beautiful summer races. Rough, I know.

One side of the table. The other will have the money and the other computer.


Day of race has all the gear - computers (two, one for registration, one for internet access), radios, prizes, money, everything. You can see the coffee shop opening at the back of the picture.

Coffee and pre-packed goods available here.

The coffee is freshly ground (they start grinding in the morning of the race), delicious, hot, great. They have muffins, bananas, some bars and such. Eventually the idea is to have a cafe here, and the front part of the space, where we have all the registration stuff, would become the eating area.

Awesome, right?

The entrance to the place, from the inside.

This week I brought in some prime things to give away.

Some primes for Sunday - Action Wipes. I have a feeling people will want them.

I really like Action Wipes, bought all of the ones pictured here. They are full sized wipes, with all sorts of nice stuff in them to clean off sweat, grime, grit, whatever. You then leave the used wipes in the mesh bag and wash them. You can buy a bottle of the "nice stuff in them" and recharge your wipes. I got a lot of Wipes so have yet to wash them but I bought two mesh bags, a bottle of the "nice stuff in them" liquid, and a bottle of some muscle rub.

Good stuff.

I bought this as a prime too. Couldn't resist.

Frank put the bike stand behind the desk. He couldn't handle seeing my bike simply standing on the floor.

Spare wheels for yours truly. Alas, no stand for them. My favorite pump too.

Even the chairs are nice in this place. Beats our folding $5.99 picnic chairs.

Finally, lost and found. Some nice stuff here...

So, tomorrow, we'll be ready. I hope the weather cooperates and the wind dies down just a bit. Wet is okay. Gusty winds that take down trees, not okay.

Time for sleep...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Promoting - Sweep Day 2010

Okay, so the race took a bit more out of me than I thought. I had a bunch of posts "framed", with ideas, themes, "needs" (like I needed pictures of sweep for this one), stuff like that.

And I got... two of them in. The results, which, if you look at the post, isn't very much. And the post-race report, another not-too-detailed thing. I started remembering all these different things after I put up the post, like riding exactly the same gear up the hill as a friendly rival at about 2 to go. Or... okay, I forgot what other things I forgot and then remembered because now I forgot them.

So, anyway, the first Bethel race in 2010 was a rousing success. A huge, huge part of it is the very cool Navone Studios, but I'll cover them in a separate post. Another huge part was the beautiful weather, easily seen in some pictures snapped by, who else, Navone Studios..

But the racing would have been unpleasant at best if we had to race on the sand that was there just a few days earlier.

Although we had the hand of a more powerful entity literally brush aside much of the sand, we still had some work to do to touch up the place.

Seriously, the course had been swept so well that we had nary a bit of sand to pick up. So, in order to proactively catch some future "sand on the course" days, I had the folks who showed up for sweep do two things.

(I described it to a few people as making everyone do "busy work", but that's not fair. I wanted to have people feel good about the work they did. For example, in addition to sweep, I also had folks help unload the van and set up registration. We never had this luxury of setting up registration the day before, so this was new to me. The ever enthusiastic "K" girls helped with that. They even checked over the trophies, organizing them and all the medals. Much better than me unwrapping them at the end of the Series and seeing "Girl's Overall" instead of "Women's Overall" and then trying to explain to some very strong racers why their trophy says "Girl" on it. To be honest they thought it was funny, but still, it was a huge typo.)

Anyway, back to the tasks...

One, do a lap around the course with blowers. This would get all the dried sand off the road. Each blower would have accompanying sweepers, kind of like a curler stone with the furiously scrubbing brush folks in front of the stone. A blower on the road works best when someone (or more than one someone) runs a broom over the sand on the road. The broom loosens, the blower blows.

Two, clear the sand off of the corner lot at the first turn. It's a place where the land owner has acted extremely patiently with the races over the years, enduring a lot of extremely impolite bike racers. You know, like those that pee on the side of your building.

As a thanks to him, I had the crew sweep sand off the lawn, onto the road (!), then off down the hill.

Finally, someone suggested picking up sand from the driveways since, at the first hint of rain, it would just drain into the road.

So, the third thing we did was to pick up all the stuff in the driveways, stuff that could wash out into the pristine road.

I totally forgot to take pictures. Luckily some others were not so forgetful. Thanks to my teammate Steven Yau, Sweep Day 2010 got immortalized.

Happy crew. And they didn't even know about the pizza coming up.
(Photo courtesy Steven Yau)

A bunch of hoodlums actually, or that's what they looked like. All teammates. Boisterous, carefully reckless, having fun. Talk about team building experiences. We didn't have a Navy SEAL run us through our paces, nor did we walk blindfolded in the snow, not even mountain bike through the snow.

Nope, we just did some course sweeping.

In fact, Expo Wheelmen had a bunch of folks down for the sweep. Seeing as the club is based up by Manchester (we're sponsored by Manchester Cycle and have our meetings in Manchester), it's a good 3+ hour round trip for most of these guys. I felt bad that they made the trip, but it was fun that they did.

Clearing the edges of a driveway.
(Photo courtesy Steven Yau)

The first stretch, getting detailed.
(Photo courtesy Steven Yau)

Wait, you say, I read pizza up there, by that first picture.

Yes, you did.

I've been discrete with the whole other part of Navone Studios, but it's not just a studio. It's a licensed coffee seller for now, and eventually will become a cafe-like place. Frank has a background in the food business and he wants to share that passion with everyone by cooking and selling various foods.

See, in our first meeting last fall, when I first sat down with him (or, more accurately, we walked around his studio), he made pasta.

I mean, he didn't just throw some Barilla into a pot, he made pasta.

He kneaded the dough, rolling it, squishing it, then flattening it out. He cranked it through a Play-Doh like machine. And he carefully wrapped up the resulting pasta (since I had to go he didn't have time to cook it).

And it was good.

On Sweep Day he promised me maybe 30 personal pizzas, maybe five or six inch pies. I got a bit worried when we had a good 30 people show up for sweep.

It was okay though. I held off on pizza, figured I could buy food elsewhere; I wanted the sweepers to get the pizza first. Well, if he got 25 on a big tray, I think he served up 125 pizzas that day, maybe 150.

And believe me, we all scarfed it down.

Afterwards the Expo boys got their bikes together and we set out to do a few laps around the pristine course. I got my first ride on my new wheels (and freshly glued tires), scampered up the hill a few times, then sat up as everyone's eagerness got the better of them.

A short time later we did a couple leadouts, talked about some teamwork for the next day. Ultimately, although the plan didn't work out, we all went in with a goal, and that was probably the most important part.

Ultimately it was a good day. After most everyone left I started entering the names into BikeReg, so I could print out pre-filled-in releases and such for Sunday.

And I noticed something interesting.

Folks who helped sweep would get credit for 3 weeks of racing, more if the day ended up horrible. If we hadn't had some divine intervention on the sand, it would have been a horrible day.

Instead it was really an easy day.

Since I didn't know everyone who showed up, I had them put their name, license number, and what race they wanted to do on what week on a sheet.

Most people put down their races and put down what they wanted to do.

But what got me were the few folks who put down just one or two races.

They turned down free races.

I don't know if they're simply not around, or if they're racing the collegiate circuit, whatever.

But I'd like to think that they were spreading the love of cycling around.

And, for them, they asked for just what they felt they deserved. They came, they helped, and they asked for just what they figured was fair.

If only everything else worked that way.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Bethel Spring Series - Ronde De Bethel - Tsunami + Samurai Swords

So yesterday was the first Bethel of the year.

Although I've been stressing about the race, ultimately things went pretty well. One tenant wasn't very happy but it seems that things went relatively smoothly (luckily we cleared the parking lot before he showed up!).

The course was in awesome shape due to a lot of hard work and some timely maintenance done by the town (they tested their sweeper on the course). This is not to belittle the efforts of the 30 or 40 people who showed up to help out on Sweep Day the day before.

And, the biggest, hugest, baddest upgrade to the race - Navone Studios. It's owned by a guy Frank who is a graphic design / photographer / creative something or another. You can visit his site here.

He's also a huge cycling enthusiast. As any racer that walked in could plainly see, Frank loves cycling. The frames hanging from the ceiling, the huge poster pictures of cyclists, the chainrings up there, the workshop and bikes in the back, he's a cycling enthusiast through and through.

Well, he's given the Bethel Spring Series a whole new look, a whole new feel - indoor registration.

Unbelievably I didn't take any pictures so it'll have to wait till next week, but suffice it to say that he frickin' rocks.

It made life so much easier. No numb fingers. No wind blowing papers around. No worrying about rain getting on the printouts. No sand on bagels. Just a nice, calm, soothing, relaxing studio.

I loved how we all looked like tourists in there. Everyone walked in and started looking up and around, just like a tourist in New York City. Even the hardened Cat 1s and 2s were amazed, and, frankly, that takes a lot.

So next week find Frank and thank him. Or buy a coffee (they were grinding the beans that morning) or some of the other things they sell for food. Awesome, awesome, awesome. All I can say.

The race.


Over the winter I made a bunch of wholesale changes. In fact I think the only thing I didn't change are my bars, pedals, shoes, and helmet (the last will change shortly). I have a frame that fits totally differently, new kit, new race wheels, and a new body.

You may laugh at the last bit but it's true. I'll go over the other stuff first though. The Tsunami is my first custom bike, basically a compact frame that is a 40 cm frame with a 56.5 effective top tube. It's long, low, lean, and mean. The thing fits me perfectly, handles great, and seems to race pretty well too.

I went to my old favorite saddle so am now on a non-current saddle. The Fizik Arione was okay, the long length helping disguise the forward position, but with a steeper seat tube angle I don't need it anymore. So I went to the old standby, the Titanio 2000.

The new kit is because I'm on a new team. I had a little discomfort yesterday because I rode with padded bib knickers as well as padded bib shorts, and the two pads weren't quite lined up. No team knickers but I wanted to fly the colors. Next week I'll figure out a better way of doing it. Otherwise it's been fine.

The wheels - I alluded to them in a prior post as samurai swords - are the new 2010 HED Stinger 6s. That's exactly what they are, swords, slicing through the air. They absolutely astounded me with their speed. I first rode them outside after we swept on Saturday and they positively flew.

They're also wide as heck, so wide I was worried I'd be dragging carbon in the turns.

But no worries - when I did an Abdujaparov test sprint, trying to drag my knuckles on the ground, I realized I had plenty of clearance.

(Actually, the wheels are terrible. You should definitely not get them until after the Bethel Spring Series is over. For sure. Really. Take my word on this one.)

I raced the bike, sans wheels, at Red Trolley in SoCal earlier this year. But it wasn't really a great day for me, I never felt "in it", and I sat up before the last couple turns.

This was the first time I'd be racing the bike with the Swords.

With the whole "promoting a race" distracting me for the morning, I managed to get my standard warm up - I rode the 20 yards from the registration to the start line.

Actually, come to think of it, I got about 20 yards less warm up because registration is closer this year.

I was woefully unprepared with the helmet cam (I just assumed I'd make it work) and ditched riding with it for the first Bethel. Once I decided that I got on the bike and we went off.

I pulled a 1000+ watt effort off the line - it felt lower so it must have been nerves. I was close to the front on the first hill, and when I saw a teammate start rolling away, I figured I'd bridge quickly and go from there. I separated cleanly from the field and surged to my teammate.

Again, though, I surged a bit hard - 1240 watts, my peak reading for the whole race. I realized I'd have to slam my brakes on going up the hill if I wanted to avoid rear-ending my teammate and the two guys around him so I just bypassed all three riders.

I shifted up as I crested, rolling the 53x12 hard, and dove into the first turn. I ramped it up to 35+ mph, my max speed for the race. Then, for the next minute and change, I wondered what the frick I was doing off the front on the second lap.

Or, as Mrs SOC said to the missus, "Is this part of the plan?"

I soft-pedaled the backstretch well below threshold and prayed I'd get caught soon. The field complied, letting me reintegrate on the hill. I quickly reverted back to the plan and sat in. SOC came up to me and asked what I was doing off the front, then, looking at my face, added quickly not to get dropped.

Amazingly I recovered reasonably quickly. And, as the day went on, I realized that my legs felt pretty good.

See, I have to admit something. I've been trying to not get a cold that has been going around at work. Two of the three people had to go see a doctor and one didn't want to, all with fever, cough, and assorted "much worse than a cold" kind of things. So I've been dressing warmly, eating a lot, and praying that the tickle in my throat, the quick acid build up in my legs, the hot-cold flashes I've been having, that they've all been... um... allergies.

Yeah, allergies.

So, on Sunday, I hoped that I didn't get more "allergic". Apparently I didn't.

I realized I felt good at the top of the hill maybe halfway through the race. Guys would climb up the hill and sit down kind of hard, that "Oomph" as they turn off the gas. That used to be me, needing to turn off the power quickly, else I'd blow.

But Sunday I felt pretty good. I rolled over the top, through the top, pedaling up to and past the start/finish.

And I didn't go into the red to do it.

At some point I found myself with SOC, my designated last-leadout man, and we chatted a bit. I felt a bit impatient though, able to ride further forward than my normal back-of-the-pack. So I rolled to the front part of the field.

Again and again.

I realized there'd been some splits in the field, instigated by attacks, true, but caused by riders actually sitting up. You can tell when an attack actually breaks clear because the riders are strung out and can't stay on wheels. But when there's a clump of riders all looking at each other 20 feet behind a line of riders pedaling, you know that someone let a gap go and the next 6 or 8 guys didn't feel like closing it.

Well, three guys eventually got away, worked hard in the wind, and opened up a sizeable gap.

We wouldn't see them again until after they won the race. My teammates Jon and Drew constantly patrolled the front, but, thinking back on it, we should have been more attentive. We'd based the plan on my 2009 legs, not my 2010 ones.

In the meantime, 25 seconds down, with three laps to go, things looked a little grim. A committed chase could have closed the gap, but there were no committed chasers left. Just a tired Guido, the super strong German guy who freelances for friends (he races Unattached), and SOC. I sat inside the top 10 at about 4 or 5 to go and never really drifted back until just before the finish.

Guido was pulling hard, so hard that once I had to give SOC a little shove to keep him up close and personal with Guido's back wheel. I could sense the other sprinter-types salivating on my wheel, just waiting for me to explode into a bazillion pieces. I didn't want to look around, it would be too scary. All these burly sprinters, saliva dripping from their fangs, grinning, looking at me like the hors d'oeuvres before the finish line victory.

I grimly sat on SOC's wheel. Guido pulled, SOC pulled, a CVC guy pulled a bit.

2 to go. I sat third wheel, still behind SOC, he usually on Guido's wheel, with the CVC guy a bit in front, I think one more guy in front of him.

SOC was quickly using up his legs in the wind, really his first real ride outside in forever, and he was starting to suffer. The plan had been for him to see wind for 200 meters, not 2000.

I hate sitting in the front five or so, so totally exposed to the wind. Yeah, there's a draft, but it's nothing compared to sitting, say, tenth. But I didn't know what to do, my legs weren't blown yet, so I stubbornly stuck it out.

TJ, our beloved teammate, came blasting up to lend a hand. He'd been chasing a lot, making huge efforts, and he had nothing left in his tank. He pulled for a bit, peeled off. He'd spent his last penny from his riding account.

1 to go. Still sitting third wheel, and, when Guido finally sat up, second wheel behind SOC.

I coaxed him to keep going, then, as he started to flounder, told him to ease a bit. We were half a lap from the finish, way too far for him to go, and I had to get riders to come around me, just had to.

SOC started slowing a bit more noticeably. I didn't want him to start wobbling, and I knew the wind was killing him.

Finally someone got impatient behind, with maybe 500 meters to go. Four guys rolled by me kind of hard, I accelerated, and whoever it was let me in. I sat fifth wheel, give or take, and looked up to see who was up there. In his new kit I could see the distinct pedaling style of a friendly rival Ian two riders in front.

Crap. He's a good sprinter, a good jump, and he was looking really lean, really fit at registration.

I started doing the calculations. 5 guys back. Leadout less than fast - the guy was 8-10 feet from the right curb, not wanting to give away all his effort in this race.

Then, a slight surge to the right.

I heard my name.

Looked. BWolf.

I've known this guy for literally decades. He races in the classic sense - he pays his dues, helps other riders out, then, when he's paid tribute to the sport, he races for himself. Classic.

And he knew I was in a bit of trouble.

I moved over onto his wheel.

He checked I was there and steadily ramped it up.

I could hear the guys to the left yelling, screaming to go, that the move was going on the right. Belatedly they got out of the saddle, started accelerating, started moving right.

We rolled by them.

It was "the move", and I was the "movee". Wolf was bringing me to the line.

We went to my marker, where I'd have jumped if I'd went by the plan. But my legs were starting to go, starting to fade, and BWolf looked fine.

I waited 10 more meters, 20 more meters. And then I couldn't bear it. I had to jump before the others did.

And I went, hard. Not as hard as my first lap attack, but hard. I'd just done a big almost-1000 watt effort on the backstretch to hop onto the train, then two 800-900 watt efforts to get on BWolf's wheel and hold it when he ramped it up.

Now I needed another 1000+ watt surge from my legs. I managed about an 1100 watt jump (which means I never hit 1100) and held over 900 watts almost to the line.

I started dying a thousand deaths, slowing, slowing, slowing. I desperately threw my bike at the line, one guy to my left, another to my right.

Both were going significantly faster than me.

After reviewing the tape (I still haven't seen it), they told me that I'd won the field sprint.


I had already undone my 3-4 number, with my P123 number underneath. I lined up, we went, and I did the P123 race. I started thinking about helping out friends (all of my teammates had done the prior race and we were all kind of tired), then realized such efforts could be race-ending. No one seemed to desperately want help so I decided I'd play it conservative.

For the first time in umpteen years, maybe since the mid 90s, I made it to two laps to go in the P123 race. I felt totally fine, no pressure, and started thinking about the sprint.

Then, on the backstretch, some idiot swerved out to look up the road to check on the break's progress. With the field bunched up tightly, everyone had to swerve out too, and guys started tumbling.

I heard the distinct crack of helmet on pavement, smelled the burning tires and brake pads, and sat up.

It's just a bike race, right? And if someone got hurt... I turned around.

So, although I DNFed, I counted the second race as a "I would have finished fine."

A huge improvement from last year where I was dying from the start of any P123 race I entered and dropped out after 5 laps if I started.

After the race we packed up. I got my prize money which I promptly gave to the boys to divvy up - most of it came back my way somehow. We all chatted a bit and most of us set off for the Sycamore Diner.

A good day. Nice weather, nice race day, nice people, nice team, and some successful racing.

Next week I want to have the helmet cam, smoother running traffic and registration, and more timely results (we didn't bring the second laptop and we missed it sorely).

Bring it on!