Every year around February is becomes a challenge in CO for training. Earlier in the winter it is easy to do something else other than ride because you still have a long time before race season. So if it is cold or windy, you just run or hike or snowshoe or ski or whatever. But as the season draws closer the demand of having to ride becomes more important. Additionally, there is the realization that you will likely be racing in these awful conditions at some point in March, April or May. Boulder is notorious for having a steady 40 mph wind, gusting to 80, during this part of the year. The Chinook winds are knocking down fences and somehow you are supposed to train or race. Going back to my football and rugby days, I loved poor weather. Rain, snow, sleet…it all just made the game more hardcore. I have taken that same approach to the weather in cycling. You can’t control it, so just embrace it. Nothing toughens a cyclist up more than fighting 20+ mph winds for 3 hours solo. That mental game of embracing the wind or the freezing cold can pay dividends on race day. So many riders don’t show up and if they do they are already out of the race before it starts. Racing is all about confidence and having that experience of riding in those conditions make it easier to race for sure. In fact, I now get excited to race in horrible conditions. It just adds to the suffering and isn’t that what cyclists are all about. So get out there and embrace the wind, the cold…the suffering.
Archive for February, 2012
One of my favorite YouTube movies out recently “Shit Cyclists Say” has many a classic line. One of my favorites is the “I’m not a sprinter” and “I’m not a climber” exchange. From day one, racers seem to put themselves in one category or another. When I raced in TX, I did not consider myself a sprinter necessarily, but more of an all around bike racer. I even led the KOM season points for ½ a season as a 3 once. But that was before I moved to Boulder and met the “Real” climbers. I was used to the short power climbs of TX and never had to try and stay with a 140 lb. guy going up a 30+ minute climb. So after getting introduced to Drop City on the longer climbs, I became a sprinter. I had always had a good sprint, but I had to really work to learn what kind of sprinter I am, how to take advantage of my strengths, and how to work as a team to win.
A good cycling coach should be wary of these challenges and make sure to understand how to best position you for the win. In most races, even hill climbs, having a jump in your arsenal is important. So I believe in sprint training year round for all my athletes, no matter what level of rider or type of rider. Accelerating your bike quickly is simply a critical component of all bike racing, save time trials. Additionally, the strength added in the winter is easily built on as you move through the season. Sprint training isn’t always hopping into your 53×11 for 30 seconds, but should include high speed efforts, form sprints, 80% efforts, leg strength, etc. Working this in year round can have huge benefits come spring and summer racing. Plus you will never lose that edge that helps you beat your buddy on that random city line sprint mid Feb.
Started painting the bike this weekend. Of course, I didn’t realize painting the bike would take as long as it took to build it. The kids helped with the fingerprintes on the frame to add that special Mother’s Day feel. Only thing left is logos and clear coat.
As you move up in categories it becomes more difficult to be a generalist. People at the P12 level are just too good at climbing, sprinting, attacking, time trialing, etc. It is very difficult to be able to do them all well enough to win. So many riders get to the Category 2 level and flounder because they don’t have something they are very good at, they are just pretty good at everything. This is a really tough place to be in if your goals are to move up to 1 or go Pro.
One thing a good coach should be doing is working with their riders to figure out what they need in the tool box to succeed. Plenty of coaches can get you fit, but the good ones will understand who you are and what you need to do to give yourself the best chance at winning. You should be having discussions about how you are going to win in different situations and then training to be in the best position to take advantage of the efforts needed in each situation.
Knowing what to do and that you have the fitness to do it can be what makes the difference in a race.
After protecting the lead in the RR and all of us finishing safe, we set out to get another W in the criterium. The race was only 55 minutes, which is a relief for most of us used to racing 75-90 minutes. 55 was much more palatable for the first crit in Feb. The course was a wide open, down town dumbbell type with great roads. There were a few spots of cracks or sunken pot holes that could pose a challenge and they were not marked.
All the races that day had that we had seen finished in a pack sprint, so I was fully expecting the same and was preparing to get in position to be in the front for the finish. I started out 3rd or 2nd wheel for the first few laps and then settled into a comfortable 10th wheel. After about 20 minutes and a few half hearted attacks by the other teams, I flatted. I hit a huge crack in the road full speed. I tried to jump it too late and instead wheelied into it and smacked my rear wheel so hard I thought I might have broke my carbon rim. No prob. Ill just get back in. After chasing back after the official wouldn’t release me until the 28 mph peloton came screaming by, started to move up again. Two laps later, as I was coming through the finishing stretch I hit some metal object and flatted again. This time it was easy to get a wheel and I jumped in much better, however still at the back of the 90 person group. I began to work my way up again to realize my new wheel felt about 20 psi under pressure. So I had to start thinking about the risks of hitting corners as hard as I was and I ended up making the rare decision to be smart and back off.
Colby and Mahting from the team put in some great moves at the end and the team raced great. We didn’t get the win, but it was a super fun race.
We ended up keeping Jim out of trouble again and claiming the top spot on GC for the race. Winning a big race like this was a cool deal to be a part of and it felt like a real team effort.
This was my first stage race in years and I really enjoyed it. Additionally, our host housing with my wife’s aunt and uncle was fantastic. We felt very fortunate to be treated so well and to really feel like we were at a resort on vacation with a bit of bike racing mixed in.
After Jim won the TT by a minute, I immediately entered my love/hate phase of leading a stage race. Ideally as a teammate, it is always best to take over the lead on the last stage so that I don’t have to do anything. (Insert sarcastic look) But since Jim decided to win from the start, the team was on the hook to protect that jersey and make sure it came home.
Sonic Boom is pretty darn organized and we all take it seriously as a job. No one was taking winning this race lightly. We met the night before a created a detailed plan and roles for each rider. Since I have the largest rear end, I was responsible for protecting Jim from the wind and keeping him safely positioned in the race. Other riders were getting into breaks or keeping the race pace high or chasing down breaks. Jim’s job was to sit in, do nothing, and tear it up at the finish. We created a secondary plan around the finish and another stage win, however this was secondary to winning the overall General Classification.
The road race is a 94 mile stage with a serious hill, nothing that drops all but the best climbers, but stiff enough that it stung pretty hard. The roads are pretty good, but the course was a bit unnerving as it went down a road that was fully parked on both sides for a long stretch. (more on this later) I started off at the front, which is pretty much what I do in most races. My legs felt super and I was really excited for the race. After the neutral roll out the attacks started instantly. I was a bit surprised since I couldn’t personally imagine being off the front for 90+ miles in 80 degree heat in Feb. But this race is the big race of the season for southern California and Arizona, so no surprise those guys were flying and feeling confident after racing for a few months. I jumped in the first break and it grew to 15-20 guys pretty fast. These guys were HAULING. So right away I blew up the plan of protecting Jim, but I knew if we didn’t have anyone in the break our team would have had to chase super hard to catch it. So I worked the break from the back and tried to subtly keep it from getting too organized. There was a rider in 10th place, about 1:30 down in the break, and I was taking it pretty seriously. Of course I was praying that it would get caught because I was totally not up for sitting in a break for 90 miles. I hadn’t even ridden 90 miles in 6 months.
We did get caught right before the climb and then the counter attacks came on the climb. I was a bit gassed and totally suffered up the climb. Then the real bad news came. The Pro race had a bad accident and we had to stop. Apparently, a car pulled out in front of the race and the riders ran into it at full speed. Pretty scary stuff. Of course this happened on the parked road. Horrible. Luckily there were no fatalities.
After getting going again, we had a bunch of attacks again and I was able to get in some short lived breaks. We hit the climb and I survived to the top only to drop my chain after my water bottle fell out through my bottle cage that I didn’t realize had broken until after the race. So I stopped, got it fixed and chased, chased hard. I did an 8 mile TT at a blazing pace and caught back on the group. I knew I had great legs, but this was a surprisingly good sign. I went to the front again to do a bit of work and then hit the climb. This time it was just too much after chasing and I fell off the pace. I topped the climb wayyyyyy back. But again set to chasing. This time the legs started to wonder what the heck I was doing and fought back. I kept it up and caught a few guys with flats and we worked together to catch back on. Again. Luckily the next time up the climb I was OK and we rolled pretty strong for the last lap. I moved Jim to the front a couple of times and then took him to 3rd wheel at the base of the final climb. He powered up and finished safely in the front pack to keep his lead.
I shut it down up the last climb to preserve some energy for the crit on Sunday. That was going to be my day and I wanted to do all I could to be ready.
Here is the finished frame. Next step is painting. I am going to paint it myself because I am not sure I can even find someone to do the complicated paint job I want to do, coupled with the interaction of my kids adding their finger prints to the design. In the future, I can see powder coating. Since this is a pretty special present, It is going to be all hand down through the entire build. (BTW I am reserving the right to modify the paint design once I start in a week or two)
The last pieces take some time. All the little braze-ons (water bottle, cable guides, etc.) They are pretty easy to put on, but boy it takes a ton of clean up.
The team’s first race of the year is always interesting. If your team has been racing together for years, it is all about seeing who is fit and shaking out the first race. Sonic Boom is a pretty new group of guys. So for us it is a lot about learning about each other and jelling as a team. Jim decided to target this race as his big race of the year. This is a daunting goal since the race is mid February and most CO cyclists are just now coming out of hybernation. It is even more daunting considering that the racers in Arizona consider this the biggest event of the year. So Jim decided to peak when most of us are still skiing and then come down and ruin someone else’s party. I think I like this guy.
The first day is a long, flat 14.2 TT. 3 of our better time trialists brought TT bikes and the other 3 brought road bikes. We simply only had room for so many bikes. I set up a set of borrowed clip ons and made due. The goal was for us worker bees to save energy for the 94 mile RR on Saturday and for the TT guys to win, especially Jim. The plan worked to perfection and Jim won by a full minute.
Next stop is defending the lead, it is a huge field of riders and there will be some very motivated racers. This will be a great test of how we race as a team.
By the way, I finished about 4 1/2 minutes behind Jim. I did a comfortable high tempo to stay more fresh for the RR. The legs felt surprisingly good.
After the front triangle came the rear triangle and the dreaded rear wheel alignment. This is supposedly the hardest part for the novice frame builder. It took about 3 hours to get it where I wanted. But when I was done, I was feeling pretty good about the bike working out.
After I had that done it was on to seat stays. The caps I ordered were way heavy (100 grams). So I shaped them a ton and tried to bring down their weight, as well as add some aesthetics. I am going to work on mitering so I can do without next time. The seat tube/seat stay miter is supposedly the most difficult to do. And I can see why with the tough compound angles.