Friday, January 15, 2010

Am I spoiled?

View from one of my morning commutes

Before too long my time here in Aotearoa will be complete - our visas will expire, and we will move on to wherever I am able to land a position. I only took up road cycling since I've been here, and I'm wondering if the quality of the amateur racing will be able to compare to what is available here. I was thinking about it the other day, and if I was really gung-ho, I am able to race in local organized races (races, not just rides) five days a week! Six if you include track! And these are all generally inexpensive events, usually no more than $15-25 entry fees. Now, this is probably the norm in France and Belgium, but I'm wondering what I should expect if I end up moving stateside. I've done a bit of internet searching (alright, a lot of internet searching) into local bike clubs in any potential job locations. Yes, it actually plays a big part in where I decide to take a job. Anyway, it seems like in the states, there are only a handful of local crits each season in any location, with a couple of road events sprinkled in. Unless there are more local events that aren't easily found on the internet, it seems that it's going to be a major shift in the culture. I wonder if it has anything to do with traffic management and general liability issues... Regardless, I think that these little weekly local races are really what constitute the lifeblood of cycle racing, as it really permits people of all levels to participate and challenge themselves, and probably does more for getting people involved in cycling than any infrastructure projects or law changes ever could.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

After New Years

Note: This is an older entry and is part of my transitioning over from wordpress to blogger, so the timing may seem strange. -'holic

Finally got out for a decent ride today – that’s the nice thing about the southern hemisphere. I can use the holiday season to get some decent time on the bike. The wonderful thing is that by the time winter rolls around here, I’ll be moving back up to the top half of the globe, hopefully with all of my fitness. I just have to worry about finishing that pesky doctorate and lining up a post-doc, and I’ll be all set!

Anyway, got out to do just under 100k of mostly hilly stuff – a local favorite (long bays) with an added excursion over to the other side of the harbor. It was brutally hot out (for my location) and on every climb I told myself I was going to cut the trip short for fear of heat exhaustion. Of course, by the last climb there were no more places to bail from, and I was practically home already, so I just finished it off. According to mapmyride it was about 600m total climbing, but it felt like alot more. It’s nice that website is nice for something though. I used to use their workout logs, but just got fed up with them after a while. Still, it’s one of the best places to share and find routes.

Anyway, off on vacation for a few days, sans bike. When I get back I’ll try to rethink my training strategy, and make sure I don’t peak too early and miss my target races in March. I’m feeling strong now, but want to make sure it lasts. I’m currently reading Chris Charmichael’s latest book, and although I generally have more training time than his target audience, it’s got some good stuff in it that I’ll try to take away. More to follow…

Monday, January 4, 2010


Note: This is an older entry and is part of my transitioning over from wordpress to blogger, so the timing may seem strange. -'holic

This weekend wrapped up my first foray into the local club racing scene. It consisted of a five-event series that included a time-trial, a graded road race, a hill climb event, a handicapped road race, and a kermese, with points awarded for placings in each event. They were all relatively short races – great for getting my feet wet. I ended up in E grade (for which I’ve been called a burglar a few times now) because when I got to the first event, I only knew one other person on the roster, and he was faster than me so I told the handicapper to put me in with him. As it turns out, he moved up to C grade, and I stuck back in E. Oh well – first event, I’ll start out low and work my way up.

I learned a ton in these races, and ended up winning my grade and coming out second in the overall points race (which even had a cash prize!). The last race was the most interesting – by then, it was just me and one other guy, #77, left in the running, and everyone knew it. I was one point down on 77, and I’m pretty sure he would be able to beat me flat out, so I’d have to race smart. It seemed that most of the others were content to sit back and let us duke it out. As a result, nobody wanted to work on the front, so it was a pretty slow race, but a rare occasion where I could concentrate on the overall series win and not worry too much about that particular race. The best part was that a few guys I race with during the week came up to me during the race and offered to help me out!

I spent most of the race making sure that I covered 77. He made a few breaks, but I was always in a position to cover them. He spent a lot of time up front – probably to his detriment, but I wasn’t going to tell him to peel off. I took a few turns on the front, but for long periods nobody would roll through, so I’d just drop down to a comfortable pace to make sure I didn’t blow myself. Before too long though one of the guys I knew would come up to relieve me and make sure I didn’t waste myself.

As we came within a few hundred meters of the last turn, one of the guys pulled up on my right alongside me and told me to hop on – time to make a break! As he pulled by, there was another guy on his wheel that I assumed was going to go with us, so I waited for him to pass. As he did, he kind of slowed down and moved in front of me to join the front of the group – apparently he wasn’t interested in making the break! I had already started to accelerate, and he slowed, and as he tried to cross in front of me and I tried to cross behind him, out tires met up and let out an awful zipping hiss sound! I tried to pull back to the left without over-correcting, and my front tire kind of bounced off his and jerked left. That sent a wobble through my body, and when it hit my right foot, my shoe nearly flew out of my pedal! I thought for sure I was going to eat some pavement, but somehow I let the bike buck and twitch underneath me while my body stayed on course. After a few seconds, the bike settled back underneath me, and I was clear of the path and just a few meters behind my leadout!

I accelerated, and paused briefly to apologize to the guy who’s wheel I hit. I had so much adrenaline at that point that making the jump to the break seemed almost effortless! I bridged up to his wheel and slowed to catch my breath. A quick look back confirmed that no one was able to follow, and we had a few meters on the group with not too far to go! 77 must have gotten closed in by the pack, or I’m sure he would’ve gone with us. I went around the other guy to take a pull and yelled ‘we’ve got a gap!’ as I passed by. We took turns taking pulls into that last turn, and when we rounded the corner the finish line came into view about 800m down the road.

I glanced back to make sure the pack wasn’t overtaking us, gritted my teeth, and started time trialing for the line. After a couple hundred meters I looked back again, only to see that I had dropped my leadout! But the group was still far behind that, and looked like they had given up. I turned back and continued sprinting with everything I had for that last few hundred meters – I kept looking back, expecting the bunch to come rumbling up, but they never did, and I crossed the finish line completely alone. Thinking back, I would’ve had plenty of time for a victory salute, but instead I finished like it was a neck and neck sprint – I’ll have to work on that salute so next time I can make for a good photo!

Armstrong Festival 2009

This year it's been mandated from above that I stick to a budget for my race entry fees. As I'm still a student, this probably isn't such a bad idea. The shit part is that this means I can't enter all the races I want. One of those is the Armstrong Festival of cycling, which involves a race around a local hill ride, and a crit the following day. Since I couldn't compete, I decided to stake out a good spot, cheer on some mates, and grab some pics. It was a bit of a learning experience - in particular I learned crits are alot easier to shoot compared to road races, because they come by you more than once.

From Armstrong2009

And as much as I hate to say it, seeing crashes is kind of exciting - I'm not sure how bad this one was, but he got up and continued on. I like the look on the faces in the crowd:

From Armstrong2009

It was pretty cool to see some big local names out - like Heath Blackgrove, who won the 2009 tour of Southland, and got married like the very next day. Not quite as lucky in Christchurch though:

From Armstrong2009

Also in attendance was local boy done good (in Belgium) Jack Bauer - his exploits are pretty well covered by Pez. He's recently signed to Endura, so over to GB, but not before winning the road race.

From Armstrong2009

There was also a great finish to the crit; sources tell me that the win had been negotiated, but apparently they forgot to tell Alex Ray of team Bici Vida - you can see him donning the pain face as he puts on a move at the last s-bend on the course, about 300m from the line - and he made it stick!

From Armstrong2009

All in all a great weekend of cycling - it took me forever to post the stuff, but I thought I'd better get it up before the national champs next weekend. Needless to say, I'm not competing, but I'd like to get some more good photos, and will post them soon!

I'm in.

Over the past two years I've gotten a little obsessive about cycling. I ride my bike as much as possible. I log every ride religiously on an online training diary. I no longer worry about being seen in spandex. I wear a cycling cap when I'm not on my bike. I keep my bike inside when it's not being ridden. I spend way too much time (at work and at home) looking at various cycling blogs and 'zines.

I race my bicycle.

But today, I surmounted the final hurdle.

Today, I shaved my legs.

Surprisingly, my wife didn't even ask me why I was doing it. I think she understands - as far as I'm concerned, cyclists do it because that's what they do. For the same reason cricketers wear sweaters (I think) or baseball players wear long pants. It isn't terribly conducive to theirathleticism, but you won't see the Yankees step out onto the field in shorts anytime soon. However, there are other reasons put forth as to why cyclists shave their legs, but I won't get into that now.

Also, it isn't the first time I've done it - as a swimmer in high school it was expected, although there you could actually argue a reduction in drag was the impetus. In a strange way it seemed almost familiar.

When I jumped on my bike to ride to work, I was surprised to find that I actually felt nothing. Having done the deed, all the little weather vanes that previously occupied my lower limbs ceased to register the wind direction. Instead of the constant feedback of stimuli, the wind simply slipped around my legs without causing so much as a neuron to fire. I feel it's worth mentioning this, because those that do it on a regular basis probably forget about the abrupt sensational change. Maybe now that I'm less aware of the wind it will make me faster?

Tomorrow is the last race in a five race series, and I find myself in contention for some prize money (a whole other strange concept). That'll be my proving grounds to see if it makes me faster.