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Archive for May, 2012

Bike racing seems to be a great canvas for telling so many of the stories that encompass the human condition. Words we use around my house that are so important for our family values include: perseverance, courage, integrity, respect, value, hard work, team work, and fun. I have used a bike racing to discuss these so many times. Last Monday was the national championship road race. I was happy to learn it would be broadcast live via the internet and settled down to watch it. Of course, one of the great things about watching bike racing is that it can become background noise when I am playing with the kids and then when something happens I can refocus to the race and watch the drama unfold. This particular race was unfolding very similar to past races on the same course. A somewhat sizeable group split and then a smaller group attacked that group and created a 5 man break going up Paris Mountain the final time before a series of 3.8 mile circuits. As I watch Timmy Duggan attack the 5 man group and give it a go solo against 4 other super strong riders, I quickly gathered the kiddos together and talked about how brave a move it was. No way in his shoes am I going to try and beat the likes of Tom Danielson, Tejay van Garderen, Matt Bushe, and Ben Jacques-Maynes by myself. Those guys are all excellent time trialists and I can’t imagine how fast they can go together. Duggan didn’t attack them in the last mile. No, he went with 10+ miles to go. Guts. Now Timmy isn’t going to beat anyone in a sprint at that level so he had to try his luck. But 10+ miles out against that group seems just insane. I remember asking the kids, “Do you think his legs are hurting?” and them responding “YES!”. My 2 oldest both have raced bikes and done triathlons, so they know just how hard it is to push yourself when your legs are tired. Then I remember how Duggan had a really bad crash a few years back and received a major head injury. I talked to the kids about persevering even after such a traumatic injury and many years later how he was able to make this attack to try and win. We talked about going for it even though it was likely he would get caught and how sometimes in life you have to take chances. We talked about how even though the group was making up time on him that he still kept going and didn’t give up. And we talked about how winning as cool, but how he got there was even cooler. Thanks bike racing and Timmy Duggan for giving me a good story to tell to my kids.

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OK, so as an amateur racer I am not used to racing with too much support. One of the big differences between the Pros and the rest of us is the complete focus on racing that a team structure allows, including the support of a soigneur. Fortunately Sonic Boom has an amazing sponsor in Raining Faith Massage. Mr. Gibble is an amazing guy to have as a sponsor. He provides us motor pacing and physical therapy/massage. After crashing last week, I developed a series of small and growing problems. The biggest being a groin muscle and hamstring tear. I couldn’t really ride all week, but thanks to Gibble he was able to get it to the point I could race after ONE visit. It was amazing. I didn’t have a stellar race (no surprise under the circumstances), however I was able to race and finish 14th after having a hard time riding at all in the days before. We all have a certain amount of time and money we can dedicate to bike racing. After this experience, I was reminded that some of those resources can pay dividends when spent with a guy like Gibble.

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I don’t like to even discuss crashing, but it is a part of bike racing.  I have been very fortunate to avoid any serious crashes in the last few years. (I did break my arm 2 years ago and have been to the emergency room on bike related accidents about 5 times.)  However I was reminded of this important topic after I slid a bit in a turn this weekend and went off the road on a 40-50 mph descent.  I ended up doing a full flip and landing on my back amongst many jagged granite boulders.  I am OK, but it could have been a lot worse.  Here are some thoughts about crashing for road racing: (There are too many ways to crash in Mountain Biking to do a complete list.)

  1.  Avoid crashing.  Duh, right.  Well there are a number of reasons crashes happen in bike racing and they are often avoidable.
    1. Overlapping wheels.  This is the most common crash scenario.  Rider A’s front wheel is not behind, but parallel/next to Rider B’s wheel.  Rider B moves quickly to the side and sweeps Rider A’s wheel out.  Rider A can’t keep his bike upright.  If this is in a tight pack going fast, often Rider C-G wipe out into Rider A as he is laying on the ground.   The solution?  Don’t overlap wheels.  Either ride to the side of another racer or ride directly behind.  When you do move up, don’t spend much time in overlap mode.
    2. Sliding out.  This is the classic case of taking a corner too fast or at a bad angle.  In bike racing this happens a lot in the rain, for obvious reasons.  It also happens when an idiot try cutting a corner in a race to move up and doesn’t have it right.  These guys are the worse because it often results in several riders crashing.
    3. Endo.  The infamous way to crash on a bike.  I have seen folks land on their head and cause major damage and I have seen some of the best saves ever, landing on their feat totally fine.  In road biking, this is often caused by an overeating to a slow down and using too much front brake.  Anticipating speed changes is critical.  Look ahead more than one rider in the peloton.
    4. Locking Bars.  Most often caused by an overly aggressive racer trying to squeeze into a spot that isn’t there.  There are way too many people that watch the Tour de France sprints and think they can do the same stuff as they do in an amateur Cat 3 race.  If you do lock bars, it is salvageable.  Don’t overreact!  I had this happen on a downhill heading into the sprint.  Both of us stayed calm and I allowed the rider that had come from behind me to slow and release his bars.  We both then sprinted as if it never happened.  This is part luck and part skill and can cause some nasty crashes.   Best thing to do is try to stay together and slow down gradually.  If one of you grabs breaks or pulls apart suddenly, it is on the ground for both.

2.       Know how to fall.  I am sure this sounds silly, but there are many ways to fall and some are better than others.  I took Aikido in college and before that practiced falling all my life. (It’s called wiping out)  I learned a few things in both.

  1. Don’t fall with your arm out to catch you.  This will result in several opportunities for broken arms, clavicle, and the classic collar bone.
  2. Don’t fall on your face.  So many folks watch the fall and then eat pavement.  Pavement is hard and usually eating it results in several broken teeth.
  3. Don’t fall on pointy bike parts.  In a race there is often a pile up.  I usually look for the biggest/softest dude to break my landing.  There aren’t many in a P12 race, so this takes some skills.
  4. Do tuck and roll.  1st thing I did when I crashed this weekend was tuck my head in and flip.  This keeps me from crashing on my face or head and allows some energy to be dissipated by rolling when I land.  I didn’t roll due to the mountainside, but it helped some.
  5. Do keep your head from hitting the ground.  If you are falling backwards, press your chin to your chest with all you got.  Banging your head is bad and this will use your muscles to minimize the hit.
  6. Do land on your shoulder instead of catching yourself with your elbow or hand.  Ideally, using it as the first impact to begin rolling.  Most collarbone breaks come from sticking your hand out.  If you land on the outside of your shoulder, there is much more meat there to soften the impact and it places the force perpendicular to your bone.  Then it is easier to roll out the force of impact.
  7. Do relax.  Don’t stiffen up and create a force point.  If you are limber your body can contort and flow with the crash instead of forcing the impact into one spot.
  8. Do wear full fingered gloves.  This is just a personal thing, but crashing usually involves hands on pavement and skin missing from your hands is the worst.  It affects everything.  I always racing in full gloves and you would be surprised at the difference it makes.
  9. Do roll into a ball.  After crashing, remember you may be in a group of 100 riders and many behind you.  Turning yourself into a ball will help give them a smaller obstacle and protect you from pointy bike parts.

It is not likely that you can avoid crashing or avoid injury completely.  This is about minimizing the chances and then doing the best you can when it happens.  Good luck and I hope no one ever has to use this advice.

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As June approaches and we begin the dog days of summer racing, there are specific elements in training that I look for in my athletes.

First is the advance of overtraining as racing becomes a bigger part of the schedule. Most places in the US have plenty of races going on and it is easy to get in a weekly crit and two races on the weekends. If these efforts aren’t acknowledged within your training plan, it can get into overtraining territory quick. A key part of racing and training at the same time is to understand each race and how it fits within your plan. Having direction around each race is important. (I also include race pace training rides in this category.)

Second is that usually this is the time to fine tune your fitness. Trying to find that last 5% to peak and hit the heart of racing season. This usually involves a reduction in volume, coupled with a focus on high intensity efforts to bring the body up to top speed.

Third is a refinement of skills. By now your cadence should feel smooth and your sprint form should be there. With these high intensity efforts, these can sometimes become loss and they need to be kept up as the season progresses. I always lose my cadence at first and have to remind myself to maintain the focus on skills that I had in the off season as I get into racing.

The fourth item is finding that mental edge and confidence. By now there should be some success in the training/racing that can be built upon as the main season approaches. Racing with confidence and knowing what you are capable is easily as important as having fitness.

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I had a similar goal in the 35+ race as the P12.  Stay chill and hope it sticks together.  This race actually started out very hard and I was feeling the previous race.  The attacks on the hill every lap were violently hard.  I was nearly the last guy in the pack just hanging out and didn’t realize a break got away fairly early since a number of riders would get gaps and then get bought back.  The break of 6 guys were off the front when I flatted my front.  (3rd flat in 6 days, 2 in races.  I must be gaining weight?)  I flatted on the hill after the finish line, so I had a long ride back to the pits.  I calmly got back and swapped out my front wheel with about 6 laps to go in the race.  The pit ref got me upright and I just faced forward waiting for him to release me.  He told me to that the pack had split and to go.  I saw 6 riders roll by and he let me go mid way between the 6 riders and the pack that was about 5-10 seconds back.  I chased hard and caught the riders in front of me going into the hill.  After sitting on the group, a few racers told me that this was the break.   At this point I didn’t know what to do.  What is the etiquette or rules if the break just escaped on the lap you were out and the ref released you into the race in a position to chase onto the break?  I decided that I would just race the race and let the pins fall afterward.  So I pulled in the group and ended up sprinting to get 2nd in the race.  Afterward the racers in the break pointed out that I had been put back in the race in the wrong spot.  It was a bit of a debacle, but I told the ref to place me wherever it was appropriate and the pit ref was good about telling the head ref that he was the one who told me to go and that he thought the race was splitting as he released me.   I appreciated his honesty.  The head ref was pretty cool about it, but felt the need to place me off the break.  I think they eventually put me 20th or so, I am not sure why exactly, but I don’t care too much.   

I can’t find anything in the rule book for racers about what to do when you are put back in a race after a flat.  I did find something in the officials rules that state that the rider is to be placed in the back of the group he was last in.  It clearly states that it is the official’s responsibility and it even says the rider will race to the best position he can when released (duh).  I guess in retrospect, I should have drifted back to the pack.  In the heat of the moment I was just concentrating on racing the best race I could from the position I was in.  Official directions from the Officials Manual below:

How do you return the rider into the race?

o Valid mechanical

􀂉 Stand in front of the rider, step aside to let him go back in

􀂉 He goes into the back of the group that he was in prior to the incident.

􀂉 If you let the rider go in too soon, or too late, adjust your “timing”. If the field is moving slowly (all bunched tightly together) you will let him to go when 2/3 of the riders have passed. If the field is going very fast (a long line of riders), you may need to let the rider go in a bit sooner. If the rider was in a small group of riders, you will have to let him go before the riders reach you, to make sure he contacts the back of the group.

􀂉 Don’t expect the rider to go to the back of the field, he isn’t going to do it! (I guess this is correct based on my behavior!)

Thanks to Bob Dahl, Byron Nix and Aaron Bouplon for taking the time to talk to me after the race.  They were very cool about the mix up and raced a great race.

 

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Wheels of Thunder

Since I began racing in Colorado I have really enjoyed this race. It is perfect for a guy like me. 1 minute hill all out. Rest on the down hill. Crosswind section. Repeat.

I have been in the role of lead-out for the past few years, but had my own reign this weekend since I was solo from my team. I was racing twice, the P12 race first and the 35+ Cat1,2 next. They scheduled the races right in a row and it was perfect. I wish more races were like this, it makes total sense and I love doing two criteriums in a row. I often have better legs in the second race for some reason.

Since I was racing two races and rolling solo, I decided to pretty much do as little work as possible in the P12 race and hope for a mass finish. Since this road is wide open, it is pretty easy to keep the race together. I rolled around and felt very good. I managed to keep position so that my legs didn’t have any stress for most of the race. The hill was the one exception where there were attacks most laps and everyone had to work to hold it together. After endless attacks a group did eventually escape the pack and had a small gap. As the lap counter dwindled down, I was feeling pretty good about catching the break. Unfortunately, for them , we did catch them in the run into the finish on the last lap. That has happened to me a few times and it is tough to lose a race in the last few seconds, I felt bad for them, but happy for me.

The finish is an uphill sprint into the wind and we have a long run in. Perfect for me. I was pretty excited as we hit the run in and positioned myself 10th wheel and planned to go early into the wind so that I could ensure an unimpeded sprint. However my plans went to ruin when a crash occurred to my left and the riders swung out to the right pinching my into the right hand curb and stopping my sprint. I had to break and restart, which is death in a sprint, and managed to salvage 10th place. Not too bad, but way below my expectation.

Next race: 35+ 1/2.  Report tomorrow.

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Deer Trail

 I came into this race hoping for a good result. I was feeling much better in the last week put in some solid rides against some fast dudes.

I rested pretty easy on Saturday, no big activities, except the usual running around with the kids and a morning session in the hills with my kids and one riding on the tag-a-long. (My 7 and 8 year olds wanted to get in shape for summer triathlons so they dragged me out.) The legs felt OK, a bit tired. Not sure if it was still from a couple of hard rides during the week or if it was the ride with my kiddos on Sat.

I still felt confident. I have usually done well at this race. The climbs are short and just long enough for me to power up them and the wind out on the plains is usually a friend to big boys like me. The race is short 50-60 miles and super aggressive. It has always ended in the break winning and everyone knows that. So there are attacks from the start trying to establish the winning break. I have been in the break in years past and I hoped to make it again. We rolled out with the usual aggression, but into a headwind it didn’t seem like anything was going to stick. I sat in the back/middle since I thought the most likely place for the break to go would be after our 180 degree turn since it usually does go there. We hit the turnaround a bit further back then I would have liked, mid pack. Big gaps formed and there was actually a pretty hard chase to the front guys. I ended up having to make up the gap by myself. The legs responded, but it was a bit of a hard effort and I needed a minute to recover. Unfortunately, the winning move attacked during this recovery and no one in front of me went with it. I was stuck out and the 6 guys up the road all had teammates in the smallish pack. I went to try and bridge with no success and then the group settled down fast. The teammates of the guys up the road pretty much sat on the front and controlled the pack. There were 3 of us that tried chasing, but we couldn’t get a rotation going between even the 3 of us since the there were more riders with teammates in the break than not. I knew the race was over at this point, but I felt like racing so I attacked a few times and got OK gaps. But too many folks in the pack had a vested interest in keeping us together. After a while of trying to get something going, we all settled into the race for best of the rest. As a sprinter I was pretty confident that I could win out of the group. I just had to make sure to stick on all the climbs. As we began our last 30 miles I started feeling some softness in my rear tire. I pretty much ignored it, attributing it to change in the road or something. I went another 10 miles thinking I was OK. Then I started realizing that I might actually have a real leak, but a pretty small one. So I hoped it would last till the end. As we rolled through the last 20 miles of the race, a few people tried to attack on the climbs, but most of us were able to close it down. We ended up approaching the last 4 miles in a group of 20 or so. And this is when I started hitting the rim on my rear. I decided to keep going and that I was just going to try and light it up on the last mile from a seated position and hold it as long as I could. But unfortunately with about 2 miles to go I was on the rim and my race was over. My wheel truck didn’t even stop and I got a wheel 3-4 minutes later from another groups car. I ended up rolling in 20 something and having a very anticlimactic race experience. But that is bike racing.

If you want to hear the same story from the perspective of riding in the break, check out Mr. Harding.

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