Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Riding in AZ

I just returned from a short trip to Tucson, AZ where I had a business conference. Fortunately, there was enough extra time for me to get a ride in each day (as long as I was up by 5:00 am). After the terrible experience I had flying my bike to CX Nationals last year, I decided I'd just rent a bike this time. The rental was a Trek Madone 5.2. It was a nice bike, but definitely not a SISU. It felt pretty strange to be on another brand of bike while wearing my SISU kit, and it took a little getting used to the Shimano shifting, but I managed.

The scenery was delightful and it was pretty cool to watch the sun poke its face up and over the Catalinas as I rode north on Oracle.

I decided to do the Mt. Lemmon Time Trial on Sunday, hosted by the Saguaro Velo Club. I hadn't had a chance to get on Lemmon before then, so I had no prior knowledge of the route, except that it went uphill. Without a rental car, I had to arrange for a van to pick me up at the hotel at 4:45 am and drop me at the race start 45 minutes away. Upon arrival, I registered and then rode the 30 minutes to the domicile of the Brothers Chase. After the bib-pinning ritual, Topher and I spun back to the start.

Topher started about 10 minutes ahead of me. I knew that it would be very hard for me to catch him on the way up the 12.5 mile course, but I stayed positive, hoping he'd have a few flats along the way or something.

At about 5 minutes into the race, I got passed by the guy :30 behind me. That was frustrating, but not as frustrating as when I looked at the results and found out the guy was a cat 5! Oh well, I guess I'm not a climber. I just held my power slightly below threshold and kept going. I felt pretty good, but not 100%. In the end, my average power was about 2% below threshold, which is about what I would expect given the altitude. I finished in 58:15, a little better than my arbitrary 1:00:00 goal.

Here's the man, the myth, the legend getting ready to go:

And here's me struggling to keep moving (the picture is deceiving, I'm going uphill here):

Topher beat me by about 7 minutes (nice job dude!). After the race we continued up for a couple miles and then descended for about half an hour to the base of the mountain and another half hour to his house. Topher was like my personal taxi driver. He shuttled me all over Tucson to get my bike, return my bike, feed me etc. It was really kind of him, and no matter how hard you all hate on him, I still think he's a good guy. Thanks Topher!

I ended up not finishing DFL, which is a victory in my book. I was 12th of 13 cat 3 racers and 60th of 170 overall.

'Twas a good trip.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Classic finish at a classic race...

On my schedule this weekend was the West Branch Classic presented by Michelob Ultra, in West Branch, MI as the name implies. This year, race organizers added a criterium to the weekend's events in addition to the road race that had been a tradition for years. The road race was over the same 22-mile lap course as years past and the criterium was downtown near their school.

The road course was more challenging than I seem to remember from last year. For the most part it is through rolling farm roads with some good power climbs, a really long downhill and the Mur de Huy finish at the top of a 11-12% grade hill. Needless to say, after 3 laps (66 miles) the third time up the hill for the finish was a challenge. I had done some work to catch breaks, launch breaks, and to hopefully weaken/string out the field. I was pretty toasted when it came time for the final climb. I gave it my all, got passed by a few people, but finished 19th out of 42 starters. Not bad after a long day, I still wasn't happy.

I had a rough weekend last weekend, finishing 16th out of about 25 at LaRue-Denzer-LaRue and 12th at the Wheels on Willy criterium the next day. It was a great weekend of hard workouts, I was slightly demoralized and I knew I had to turn things around this weekend. I was hungry for a good sprint.

Today was the brand new criterium at the West Branch Classic. The course was pretty flat, had 6 corners, potholes and rough pavement but Priority Health was sure to make things interesting right from the get-go. Two of their riders broke away just 3 laps into the race. One of them stayed away for the entire race while the other drifted back to the pack and sat in and continued to fade with about 5 laps to go. At that point we had the gap down to 10/15 seconds and we were working hard, we got it down to just seven seconds but with only two or 3 laps to go organization crumbled and the gap enlarged. I however didn't know how many laps were left.

I heard the announcer say something so I asked the guy next to me how many laps were left, he said "one, this is the last..." I guess you could say I got a little adrenaline rush, I had fallen back in the group around 25th wheel or so and I had ground to make up if I wanted some good results. That little rush put me into 10th/15th on the second to last straight. I shot the inside of the last corner, knowing that the right side of the road would be the clear part out of the wind. My move in the corner got me into 8th place and I sprinted my heart out behind two guys for about 50 meters allowing me to spin up real nice. I flew around them on the right shoulder about 250 meters from the finish, it was a long straight. It looked like a long ways to go still and I was afraid I had gone to early with the head/cross-wind. I felt good and just kept pedaling while my confidence built to the finish. I crossed the line, sat up, looked back and just caught the rest of the field crossing the line. I had won the field sprint! I was extremely happy, I had broken my dry spell and gotten a podium finish.

As usual, results took forever to get posted. Today's results were posted with me in second because of the one-person break and after the omnium points were scored, it was time for awards. One of my fraternity brothers took 5th today, followed by a couple guys from the Wolverine squad, then myself in 2nd, and Lex Vermeulen in 1st. I was very pleased with my results and much to my surprise I got called right back to the podium for 3rd overall for the weekend. All in all I walked away with a 100 dollar check, a 6-pack of beer, a Michelob Ultra hat, and most important was that I have my confidence back.

Time for a week off from racing, some solid training days and then some of my most important days of the summer, Tour of America's Dairyland and Superior Bike Fest.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Floyd Landis. . . An American Hero?

Well, the dust has settled after Floyd has admitted to using PEDs for most of his career and accused others of doing the same. I find myself sick to my stomach not because of the continued allegations made toward my most beloved sport of cycling, but because of the thought that there are people like Floyd Landis out there in the world taking advantage of good people who are trying to help those in need.

The page to the above is from the OUCH Team site and http://www.floydlandis.com/. I took a screen shot because I would bet dollars to donuts that it won't be up for long. They call Floyd Landis an American Hero and go on to say that many consider his 2006 TDF stage 17 victory to be the greatest athletic comeback of all time. Well, I would say that not many people would consider it any longer.

If you haven't already, please listen to the video (above) setup by Floyd to help raise money to fund his legal case. There are a few seconds of nothing at the beginning. Warning: If you have a weak stomach you may not want to listen to this. . . it caused me to vomit a little (like when you think you are going to burp but then surprise, and a little food comes up) when I saw it.

Here is a guy who cheated the sport to win the most coveted race in the world, denied he cheated, set up a fund to support his legal actions to fight the UCI, accepted between 1 and 2 million dollars of honest people's money, continued the legal fight for years, and then after everything played out . . . he says "oh and by the way, I doped and took PEDs for most of my career."

I can see doping and taking PEDs. Ok, so he felt like he couldn't do it on his own so he called the doping doc and sold his soul to the cycling devil. If he stopped there, served his two years, then attempted a comeback (like everyone else) it would be as shameful as all the cyclists who served a ban. But taking people's hard earned cash is going to far. Who does that? He must have no conscious . . . AT ALL!! What was he thinking to himself the day money started rolling in to help him fight his case? I can't even imagine someone being able to accept the money and then set up the "Floyd Fairness Fund"!!!!!!

He clearly has issues.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Victory at Brighton!!!!

This weekend was my first ever stage race and what a blast! I won the XC event on Sunday and got 2nd place missing Adam Sulkowski by 28 seconds over 3 hours of racing!

The weekend was a battle from the get-go! The time trial was Saturday morning - Stage 1 and it was pretty short and technical! I had a good loop but ended up 40 seconds back from Adam after two chain slips and running three hills as a result of not knowing the trail, slippery gravel and just nerves! I found that it is tough to settle in on a 30 minute sprint and relax to focus on technique!

In the afternoon there was a 5 lap short track race! Most of the guys in the front for sport were on cross bikes! The course was all grass and a short pavement section. I crossed the finish line 3rd and picked up 10 seconds on Adam -- NOT TOO SHABBY!

Sunday morning came and I was feeling great! I knew that we had a 23 mile ride ahead and that all I had to do was gap Adam by 30 seconds and first place was mine! Well, Adam knew that too and he raced that strategy!

I went out hard and settled in having a solid first two laps! The third loop took it's toll and I fell off my pace a bit. I finished strong and beat Adam to the finish line winning my class that day but Adam grabbed the stage victory!

I had a blast! I have gone from 7th in my age group in Sport 30-34 in the first race of the year to 4th at Yankee, 2nd at Custer and a win here with a three minute gap in the XC race to the 3rd place guy behind Adam and I!

I am making a ton of progress and am looking forward to jumping up to expert class soon!

Next weekend I may be racing at Bloomer Park! We will see what happens! Looking forward to the bike fest!

Friday, May 14, 2010

2010 Race Calendar

Barry-Roubaix Killer Gravel Road Race
* * Josh 57th Overall, 15th Age (35 mile)
* * Justin 17th Sport 30-34
Ronde Van Skandia April
* * Jesse 7th Place
Yankee Springs Time Trial
* * Josh 3rd Place Expert 30-39
* *Justin 7th Place Sport 30-34
Pontiac Lake
* * Justin 4th Place Sport 30-34
Circuit of Sauk
* * Jesse DNF
WORS Off-Road Series
* * Iola - Jesse 53rd Overall, 15th age group
LaCrosse Criterium
* * Chris - 5th Cat 3
Ft. Custer
* * Justin 3rd Place Sport 30-34
* * Chris - 16th Cat 3
* * Jesse - DFL Cat 3
Wheels on Willy Crit
* * Chris - 12th Cat 3
* * Jesse - 31st Cat 3
Brighton Stage Race
* * Justin 1st Place 23 mile XC Sport 30-34
* * Justin 2nd overall in 3-stage race Sport 30-34
Bloomer Park XC May 29
Hanson Hills MMBA CPS June 6
Ruby Campground MTB June 13
Tour of America's Dairyland June 17-27
Lumberjack 100-June 19
* * Josh 29th Overall
Keweenaw Chain Drive June 19th
* *Jesse 11th Overall
Superior Bike Fest June 25-27
* *Chris 2nd in criterium, 19th in road race, 4th in circuit, 4th omnium (Cat 3)
Stony Creek Endurance July 3
Pontiac Lake MTB XC
Superweek July 9-25
* * Willow Springs - Chris 14th Cat 3
* * Lake Geneva - Chris 5th Cat 3
Stony Creek XC TT July 25th
Ore to Shore August 14th
Ft. Custer MTB TT August 22
Cherry Roubaix August 28 & 29
Stony Creek MTB XC August 29
Keweenaw Fat Tire Festival, September 5th
Iceman-November 6
UPCROSS Series September-November
USAC Cyclocross Nationals, December 9-12

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Fixing a Fox RL lock-out pod

This is a great read if you are having problems with your lock-out sticking, jamming or malfunctioning.... No need to call Fox - Just read this blog!

So I figured I would just share this bit of information with the web world out there. It sounds like Fox has got a ton of calls on this pod locking up and they do not sell a new unit -- You have to buy a whole new fork!

Don't do it! It is unnecessary! Also, do not attempt to pull, itslef on the handlebars apart -- the issue is most likely in the mechanism mounted to the fork itself at the other end of the cable. The black plastic housing that attaches to the fork comes off with 3 easy allen head screws - 1.5 mm I believe...

Anyway, there is a spring and a couple of spring-loaded washers in there so be careful when you pull it and make sure that you mentally note the orientation of the beveled piece in there because if you put it back together the wrong way it will not work and you could snap the cable so be careful!

What happens - since that housing is not sealed - as you can imagine is it builds dirt, rust, etc. When you get it off, pull the spring, clean it, and dry-lube everything before re-assembling.

What I do now, after a ride and after I wash my bike I use compressed air to blow out the housing and I have been pulling it and lubricating it monthly as well to prevent the same problem in the future!

Good luck and go Sisu!!

Monday, May 3, 2010

The time my nerves didn't get the best of me...

So this weekend marked the beginning of my 2010 racing season, nearly a whole month earlier than I started last year. I'll admit, I've had a much more solid training plan early on in the season this year when compared to last year, however I've was plagued with illness less than a month ago. The cold/flu-ish symptoms were similar to the only kind of sickness that I really ever develop which ended up lasting a week and lingered for yet another week after. A lot of this came from what I believe was a nutritional problem which has been fixed since the sickness. With that on top of the end of the year, I was extremely busy with school. Somehow I managed to sneak in rides after class, before meetings and what-not.

The race was a criterium in La Crosse, WI, a seven and a half hour drive from Houghton, where I was since I hadn't moved back home to Negaunee yet after school finished. I drove to Green Bay on Saturday (a four hour drive) and stayed FO-FREE with my aunt that lives there and left that morning for La Crosse which was almost another four hour drive. There's no good east/west route across southern WI so it was two lane highways almost all of the way. My nerves were on me already, I wanted to be early and being caught behind slow cars in farm country I saw time slipping away. Luckily we got to La Cross only about 20 minutes after I had wanted to. We were a whole hour and a half early, thankfully. I quickly registered, cleaned up the bike, got dressed, quickly ate some bread with Nutella (a pre-race ritual I have), and started my warm-up. I forgot my GU at the truck and had to go fetch that only 15 min. before the start. After doing the whole list of things above, not much time was left so I did what I could and lined up for the start of my first race. I was a nervous wreck.

There were a few hazards on the course, a tight first corner, bumpy and windy backstretch, bumpy third corner and an extremely sketchy final corner. There was a sunken man-hole, about two inches below the road surface, cracked and broken pavement on the inside of the corner and a patch job leading into the corner that was anything but smooth that created a very technical entry into the corner. If a picture could have done any justice I would have taken one. There were two teams that were constantly lauching flyers, one break-away after the other while their team always jumped on the front to be sure to block. The group would always get their brains in order and attack to catch up but it created a lot of up and downs in speed, always sitting back then accellerating, then back to sitting back. I played things smart since I was alone and did my best to stay within the top ten at all times. There were a few times I found myself at the back, trying to catch my breath but would find my way back to the front.

Going into the final lap, we were attempting to catch a break. In the middle of that lap we caught it and the guy that lead that chase simply kept going, creating a small gap and it looked like he might get the victory. The group accelerated quickly and I found myself falling back slightly at the beginning of the backstretch. I stomped on the gas, moving to the front, and shooting the inside of the second to last corner. That move put me into about 6th or 7th and I shot the inside of the last corner and sprinted up the left side of the road. Four people had broken off the front, just about a second ahead of me and I found myself in fifth, leading the entire group out for the sprint. Somehow I managed to hold my spot, letting no one past me just flying up the edge of the road. I could see the shadows and hear the shifting gears behind me, expecting someone to come flying by me. My legs were strong and I held off everyone for a solid fifth place finish.

I must say, I am very pleased with the outcome. I was extremely pleased with the new bike which was one of the reasons I was most nervous. I had faith in it, and my legs but it's still new and it was my first race of the season. It railed the corners and kept my brain from rattling out of my skull on the rough roads. I'm extremely pleased with the results of the weekend and with the bike, happy to shake out the nerves for the season and get off to a great start. Now I'm back to the grindstone, hopefully getting in some hill intervals in preparation for the next race which will be the first one with some teammates. Very excited for that weekend in Madison, May 15,16.

I'd like to thank Matt from SISU Cycles for getting my bike ready before the first race and my girlfriend Sarah for being my support crew for the weekend.

STAMPEDE is a great name...

Well, the first real race is officially completed. I was a little confused during the race but learned a lot. They started us in waves one minute apart by age so I was in the third wave.

I was the first out of the sprint field start to the single track and setting the pace for my wave for the first two miles or so. The race was going very well until we started catching the guys from the wave in front of us! The two guys on my wheel started calling passes for me so I quickly got schooled in calling passes and being aggressive...

I let them go after a long flat section that I pushed really hard on. I stayed with them for three miles or so until we all went to pass a guy and they got by but I didn't! My handle bars hit his and that was it! Down we went, my shift pod was caked and not functioning. I fixed that on the fly but never caught those guys again. I saw them once on a hilly section on the second lap!

My lap 2 time was almost exactly the same as the first! I learned the trail! 2nd in my age and not sure what I was overall! Not bad for the first go!

I am looking forward to Brighton next week! The one guy that beat me was a guy named Jesse who won the Yankee race and he was running with "Custer Cycle" and we raced at Fort Custer! Probably knew the trail pretty well!

Bike was bad ass! I wrenched a lot the week of tuning and perfecting my new parts! I have new Stans No Tubes, rotors, new XTR cassette and a newly tuned lock-out pod on my Fox RL...

SIDE NOTE - If you have an issue with a remote lock out DO NOT take the pod apart! YOu will have a project on your hands! There are springs and parts and tiny things EVERYWHERE and the problem is more likely in the mechanism mounted to the top of the fork!

Anyway, Brighton stage race in two weeks! Talk soon!

Motivation through da feet

Last Monday I laid my road bike down at 30 mph on a sandy corner. Other than a suspected torn rotator cuff, my biggest concern was what the accident would do to me mentally. My brain has been doing some funny things since that crash. No matter how many times I tell myself that I'm not afraid to fall, that I tell myself to push it going into that corner, the brain still tells my hands to grab those brake levers. Some people may interpret this to mean that my frontal lobe has finally fully developed, but I'm not going to believe that nonsense. I needed a confidence boost and was really hoping to get it as I lined up for my first Cat 3 road race -- The Circuit of Sauk, a 3 lap 45 mile race.

The field was small and the wind was howling. As we hit the first monster of a hill, I was immediately redlined and knew I wouldn't be able ride that hill 3 times that fast. We dropped two or three guys by the top and the attacks started immediately. They were pretty half-hearted, but sufficient to sap my legs of 100% of their fuel. I was dropped at an acceleration up the next rise, about 12 minutes into the race. I battled the wind alone for a few miles staying about 30 seconds behind the field. I was eventually joined by a few other guys and we worked together to stay within sight of the main group, but never suffered the illusion that we would catch them. The wind was just too much and I was done. Myself and another guy did most of the work while two others just held on. They both abandoned after the first lap. I would have abandoned too, but I felt bad leaving the other guy alone, so we continued on for a second lap. Before long, I was unable to pull through at all. Sitting in was hard enough and I eventually lost his wheel near the end of the second lap. With a WORS race the next day and the prospect of riding another lap alone, I quit after just 30 miles. Nice confidence boost!

My shoulder wasn't bothering me much on the road bike, but I was afraid of how it would react to mountain bike racing on my rigid Hogsback. Michelle and I went out for a quick pre-ride of the Iola course and to reacquaint myself with the mountain bike. It had only been out of the barn two times this year. I was pleased with the noticeable lack of pain, but absolutely sickened with how little nerve I had in the turns. The second half of the course is tight, twisty singletrack, so that didn't bode well for the race.

The Elite WORS field was HUGE! My starting position at the back of the pack assured me a slower start as the racers strung out up the first hill (I like that), but also meant I had to stop a couple of times when guys in front of me had minor mishaps (I greatly dislike that). There's a video of the start on Youtube here. I was 40 seconds back from the leaders, and the 76th racer through the ski jump bowl at about 3 minutes into the race. Anyway, I rode hard, had very consistent lap times, got held back in the singletrack by other riders, but not by my shoulder or my brain. Once the race was on, my competitiveness overcame the tentativeness and I cruised the singletrack. I finished in the bottom half, and that's where I expect to fit in this time of year.

So, the road race thumped me and motivated me to train harder. The WORS race gave me confidence in both my legs and my technical skill. Although I'm not a big fan of DNFing, I think this was good start to the season and I'm looking forward to a lot more racing.