28 December, 2008

2009, here I come

The holiday lifestyle that has set in over the past 2 weeks has taken quite a toll on my body.  I feel tight, sore and generally lazy.  Tomorrow is the beginning of my 2009 season plan.  We'll see how far I make it before real life gets in the way of a couple workouts and I have to break the plan.  Tonight I will try an easy spin on the trainer and some stretching to try to loosen up a bit.  I'll need to work off the holiday dinners and then some to hit the weight goal for this season, but as I already found during '08 the whole W/kg thing makes a difference when the parcours turns vertical.

On an unrelated note, Chris King hubs are really a dream to work on mechanically.  I did an overhaul on mine last night and it was so nice to follow the simple instructions and end up with a hub that works better than new.  I will be making a point to pick up the new BB sometime in the future, since its bearings are serviced the same way and the length of the warranty suggests that it should be much better than the OEM crap from Shimano, FSA, et al.

03 December, 2008

2008 CX Finale, conclusions

After not touching my bike since provincials, I decided mid-week that I'd attend the final race of the Southern Ontario CX series.  The conditions were looking alright, and I could not resist another cross race before the season came to an end.  That didn't mean I was going to train or even spin my legs beforehand... I just made sure the bike was in working order, did some extra stretching, and packed up to race.

The final race colloquially dubbed the Subway Cross was held in King's Mill Park below the subway station of the same name in Toronto.  After some confusion about where to park and where the course was, we registered and set about putting on lots of clothes and previewing the course.  The first thing that stood out about the course was tape.  Lots of it.  Like those mazes with cheese at the end for mice that you see in cartoons.  I was not sure if I'd made a mistake and doubled back or if it all just looked the same.  After that, a short section through tall grass and a bit of a muddy rise, there was a bit of paved road.  The road led to gravel road, which turned to rutted mud, and then to a gravelly climb.  After descending, there was more tape maze, a short grassy power section and a bit more pavement for the start/finish straight.  All in all, a pretty fun course with no forced dismounts, and one significant climb to speak of.

The 10 am start saw a pretty large group, with maybe a little less than usual in the S3/4 field including some non-series regulars.  I was happy to line up beside nspace (Tom) who I've had the pleasure of racing with/against this year in both mtb and cross.  Off the start there were 4 of us up front into the tape section, and I worked to move up to 3rd wheel.  A small crash split the group and I found myself sitting 2nd wheel and watching the leader slowly gap me.  I wasn't going to be able to hang, so I worked as hard as I could not to get passed.  On the first road section some cat and mouse led to one more getting away from me, leaving only Tom chasing me and no real progress to be made in front.  This is how things would remain for the subsequent 3.5 laps, and I'd finish 3rd after a long hard effort to hold him off.  By a quick calculation that was enough to take 3rd in the series too.  Full series results can be found at the Ontario Cycling Association website.

With the final race behind me, I can reflect upon my cross season and say that it was certainly successful both in learning the sport and finding out that I enjoy it more than mtb or road racing.  Next year will see a more focussed training plan, a healthy (but reduced and more focussed) amount of mtb racing, and will conclude with a full cross season.  As of right now I think I will start in S3/4 again next year, and hopefully can grab some top finishes before upgrading mid-season to the 1/2/3 race.  If they do not enforce upgrades, I will loosely follow the road point system and thus upgrade at 10 points.  On the mtb front I'll be trying my hand at the Senior Sport category in the Ontario Cups - a very competitive, but probably appropriate level for me to race at.  You'll see to the right a preview of what my '09 season will look like, but that is subject to much change at this point.  For now, much R&R and some non-structured cross training is in order.  Full-on base training begins after Christmas!

23 November, 2008

FOR SALE: Kona Major Jake


11 November, 2008

More CX race reports

Seems I don't have much time for blogging these days, so these come in the way of multi-race posts. I'll try to keep them brief.

Speed River Halloween Stage Race Day 2 - October 26, 2008

I had non-cycling commitments for Day 1, which is really unfortunate because SRCC puts on some great races and I would have liked to come with a costume.  That said, not having to come up with a CX friendly costume did suit my lazy tendencies.

The Sunday course proved to be much dryer than what I had seen in reports from Saturday, which made for some fast racing.  As we pulled up for the day, I noticed a run-up and some switchback turns down the same slope - very nice.  This would prove to be my favourite part of the course by far.  I hit this runup with increasing speed each time, and actually ran, unlike the "hike" up from the beach on the other side of the course.  Yeah, beach.  The sand was fun.  I rode it every lap in warmup and race, except my last when I decided I had better legs for running at that point.

My race started really well, opening up a gap with Nick and Peter off the start and actually holding their wheel.  That felt good because they're normally a lot faster than me.  About halfway through the lap I slid out in an off camber corner and lost their wheel, but nobody passed me.  Over the next lap or two I let a couple people go hoping to reel them in later.  Unfortunately I tripped on the barriers Sven Nys style lap 3 and went down hard.  I got back up alright, and finished without losing any more spots, in 5th.  My crash was apparently more spectacular from a spectating POV - some folks thought I'd have broken my collarbone.  Luckily all I took from it was a scrape below my eye.

Barrie Cyclocross - November 2, 2008

This year the Barrie race was held at Hardwood Hills due to being unable to secure last year's venue.  This was fine by me, as I knew that the terrain at Hardwood should provide ample features for a good course.  I was not disappointed - lots of fast grass and doubletrack was offset by some tight sandy switchbacks, a ridable but tough sandy hill, a cruel run-up (or ride, if you're Mike Garrigan) and some quick but tight hairpins on flat ground.  This was the first course of the year other than bits of the Kingston race where I could hammer in the big ring and not kill myself doing so.  If I had any complaints it would be the slow approach to the barriers.

The race was off to a quick start, strung out and I was sitting about 5th wheel.  Strung out up the sandy climb, I lost some ground but was riding well.  In subsequent laps I found running the hill better due to traffic with the M3s, but in hindsight riding would have been a bit faster.  As the race progressed, a battle developed between myself and Jamie who is usually a little quicker than me.  We went back and forth, and unfortunately it was a mechanical (a rolled tire) that took him out of contention.  I would go on to finish 7th, with Brusso riding strong for the win over Peter and Dave.  Hm, when are those guys going to upgrade...

Toronto UCI C1 weekend, Day 1 - November 8, 2008

This was a weekend I looked forward to as much for spectating as for racing.  Tim Johnson and Jeremy Powers among others were confirmed for the Elite race which was sure to be a good one to watch.

Sticking to my own race for the purpose of this blog, however... I had a pretty bad race on Saturday.  Finished for enough points to put me in 4th for the S3/4 standings, but I just didn't feel good.  The course was nicely laid out with plenty of tech, but the long power sections between did not suit me and the field just rode away.  A quick consultation with the coaching staff after my race, and yup, lots of TT workouts will be in the plan for next year.

This was my first race on the new tubulars (which are actually some grungy old Grifos) and the impression was good.  I will get used to them more in the coming races, but the ride quality and traction at low pressures was great.  I rode the nasty hill at least once in the race, but other times did not find the traction.  More on this in the Day 2 report.

Toronto UCI C1 weekend, Day 2 - November 9, 2008

Heading back to Centennial Park for day 2, some drier weather greeted us on course and the pre-ride left me optimistic that maybe this was a better course for me.  They really used the ski hill well, and it made for some nasty climbs and fun off camber descents.  I was able to ride all of it in pre-ride, but this fell apart quickly as the course got torn up.  By race time I could not ride either big climb, and was reduced to running (or walking, as would be the case by lap 4).

I started strong, letting Peter by in the first corner as he had a crappy 2nd row callup (hmm, UCI Commissaires doing callups at a 3/4 race... yeah...).  He chopped my lines through the wet section going into the barriers, but I held his wheel until we started going up.  Right off the first punchy climb I dropped a couple spots.  More on the big hill.  Still, I was riding well, and started to gain some momentum through the technical section at the base of the hill.

I continued to let riders go on the subsequent ascent, but come lap 3 I found myself with Mark Brusso coming into the start/finish and he was right on my wheel.  He wanted around, so I let him and quickly hopped on to take advantage of the draft on the fast straight, and held it right until the hill again... off he went.  He did come by and say that I was riding strong afterward, which made me feel good.  I would finish in 11th, largely due to the bigger than usual field (some US riders from Rochester and many 1-day racers came out).  This would however maintain my spot in 4th overall, and I hear Peter is moving up leaving me in 3rd going into Provincials... I'll write about that another day.

21 October, 2008

Race Reports: ZM Turkey Cross & Southern/Eastern CX Challenge

Time to catch up on my race reports from the last couple cross races.

ZM Turkey Cross - October 12, 2008

Over the Thanksgiving weekend I was home in Niagara, so I headed up to this race at Cedarvale Park in Toronto with Shawn from the SCCC.  We rolled in nice and early and checked in.  Getting changed to head out for the preride I realize something is not right - I don't have my shoes.  They're definitely at home in NF.  The feeling that followed was just terrible.  I was so upset with myself.

I asked around, and the best I could come up with for shoes were some that fit great, but belonged to someone who races at the same time.  I asked the organizers if I could race the 11:30 race, but they were not going to let me - the only option would be to race the 1/2/3 at 1:00.  Some more asking about, and I came up with an offer of some shoes from our singlespeeding M2 friend Jason, but in size 44.  I tried them on, and though I just about tore them apart it worked.  Well, if I was going to race, this is how I would have to do it.

To keep the racing part brief, it went alright settling in mid-pack off the start and fading to an eventual 15th place.  Not great, but it was a lot of fun as usual, and I got an interesting story out of it.

Southern and Eastern Cross Series Challenge - October 19, 2008

This past weekend, I headed to Kingston for the big showdown between Southern and Eastern Ontario.  The numbers lived up to the name - it was a big event by Ontario standards, which was great.  Accommodations for the weekend were care of the Bishops in Bath, ON as I was traveling with Nick and Mel for the weekend.  I must say, their hospitality was fantastic.

Upon arriving at the park on Sunday, we took our time getting changed and registered since we had plenty of time and it was rather cold.  Out for a pre-ride in many layers, we explored the course.  Very technical, but with enough speed sections to satisfy the roadies too.  I loved the runups and off camber bits.  I did not love the somewhat sketchy concrete dismount (at least it was after a corner) or the awful right hand downhill barrier approach.  I definitely never did that cleanly and whacked my knee on it somewhere around lap 2 ("hmm, where is that blood coming from").

The race had only two start times with most of the categories in the morning, and just Elite Men, Master A/1 men and Elite Women in the afternoon.  This was my chance to race Brandon for the season, and his first cross race.  We got set up for the mass start, as all the categories went off together rather than in 1 minute intervals as in the Southern series.  I thought this was nuts, but with a right hand second row position it was actually quite good.  All categories did 60 minutes too, which was not nearly as bad as I thought.  In fact, I think I preferred it.

The pace was quick off the line, and I think I did 90% of the first lap in my 46t ring, though I did have to back it off after that.  I found I was quick over the double and single barriers with straight approaches, and good on the plateau/switchback section that forced some people to run and many others to fall.  I did have a bit of a slip myself on lap 1 mostly due to eagerness and speed, but it was not bad at all.

The downside to the mass field was not having any clue who you were racing against.  It didn't help that it wasn't the same guys you line up against every other week, so it was pretty much a mystery until the results came in.  On the topic of results - the timing system was great with lap cards that you could actually see and prompt results after the race.  It turns out I finished 3rd in the Novice category, or so I thought!  They had me up on the podium and everything (next to Nick, who rode very strong for the win) but when the results were posted on the OCA site I was 5th, as apparently they must have missed a couple riders.  Southerners too - so I got 4th place points for the Southern series.

All told, it was a very good race for me, and an enjoyable weekend.

20 October, 2008

Some evening thoughts

I was feeling inspired to post a few thoughts here..

List A: things that add to my happiness
- coffee
- cyclocross
- tasty food

List B: things that detract from my happiness
- sleep deprivation
- studying for midterms
- studying for midterms in subjects that will never be used again

Right now I'm using things from List A to make me feel better about the inevitability of those in List B.  It's sort of working...

19 October, 2008

U-Cup 2008 Report

Yes, I'm way behind on race reports and really posts of any sort on this blog.  It's a busy term, but I'll recap the U-Cups for now.

So, University Cup racing is always fun.  For those who are not familiar, they are basically O-Cup style XC races designed to allow some inter-school competition for College and University students, with a big focus on introducing people to racing and just having fun.

The A division spans a wide ability range from top Expert and sometimes Elite racers down to about the top of Sport class (in O-Cup terms).  The B division, which I raced in this year has a bit of overlap including some top Sport class riders down to folks who have never raced before and who may have just started mountain biking.  It's all great fun, and there's a place for everyone.

My goal was to do well in B this year, hoping for a top-5 finish.  Though I think it was within reach, it did not happen.  I'll get that out of the way now.  I was competitive though, and was able to finish 9th and 10th at my better races (Mansfield and Boler).   At Ganaraska I had a bad start and blew up a bit after hitting traffic and trying to make up time.  Hardwood, I was expecting a good race, but ended up not lining up after an injury from Paul's Dirty Enduro the day before.  That was a good race though - I got 5th in my age group for the 30k.  I felt unsure of my knee for Hardwood, and though the pre-ride went pretty well I did not feel confident about racing.

The B field this year was very strong, with some consistent folks from both UofT and Guelph.  I think I really wasn't fit enough to hang with the top 3 or 4, but I should have been able to do a little better.  I did take notes from those races though, and gained more useful experience, which is a lot of what this year has been about for me.  Next year there's a good chance I'll line up in A and get stomped, but all in the spirit of getting faster and suffering more.

So just a bit more on that note - this year has been all about experimenting for me: racing short events, long events, different courses, etc. to try to get a feel for my ability.  All the while I've been training, and I definitely have seen the results of that.  Going into next year I should be more focussed, and far wiser, and that alone will help me to be more successful.  I will pick some reasonable challenges, and work hard to train for a proper season.  More on that later in the fall.  For now, I've been racing cyclocross (more useful experience) and having a blast.  I'll post some reports on that when I get a chance.

As always, thanks for reading.

16 September, 2008

Welcome to the pain cave

AKA, my much delayed race report from the We Need More Cowbells Cyclocross race, which took place on 13 September.  Actually, Nathan does a great job covering how the race went down at the above link, so I'll stick to impressions on my day, and my intro to CX racing.

I started this year off thinking I'd like to give cross racing a try, so I sold my road bike and bought the Major Jake, and then spent all year upgrading and swapping components... yes, I'm a junkie.  I think it's nearly done :P  Cross bike in hand, I tried the Paris-Ancaster, but mechanical issues would have me not finishing.  Too bad, as I was really enjoying myself.  So a summer goes by with much road riding, a good helping of mountain biking and lots of mtb races.  Around the beginning of August I thought I'd best start thinking about cross skills, so I swapped the 50T for the 46T, removed the bottle cages and headed off to a local park.  Not so good at first, but in a week or so I could get on and off the bike at a moderate pace.  A couple interval sessions with the St. Catharines guys, and off I went to Waterloo for the Fall.  One quick barrier session, and I was as ready to race as I'd ever be... time for more COWBELL

Nathan sent me on an allen key errand right before my race, which had me riding up to the line frantically, but luckily he staged me up front and as an added bonus my HR was halfway to race level already.  Off the start I was sitting about 3rd or 4th wheel into the corner.  Knowing the course, I gained a couple spots in the bend and was sitting second wheel, but slid out in a corner.  Over the barriers with the group, HR is pegged.  This is going to be fun.

As the first lap went on, I continued to go backwards through the pack until I settled in with a fellow from D'Ornellas.  We would continue to race each other for about 2 laps before he pulled away in the power section after the mud pit, after which I wouldn't see him again.  My pace continued to drop as my back was giving complaints and the HR was still at threshold.  I was loving every bit of it.  I would cross the line 6th in my category.  Not DFL, and not lapped, so what can I say.  Good enough for a first attempt, especially considering the competition.  A couple of the guys on the podium probably should have raced Elite, but it's not like it would have changed my race much anyway.

Cross is hard.  Cross hurts.  Cross is also the most fun I've had on a bike ever.  I will be training, and racing mtb, and training some more, and come October I will hit the CX circuit again to see how I fare.

31 August, 2008

The perfect ride

Today's was definitely one of the better mountain bike rides I've ever done.  It wasn't the longest, fastest nor hardest.  The conditions were not "epic" and no new areas were explored. It was simply a great ride - equipment functioned well, the pace was just right, the route was as good as any around this area and the company was good and well matched.

We hit all my favourite spots through Decew, Shorthills and the 12 mile creek trail system.  I was back on the Racing Ralph 2.4/2.25" setup, which is super fast and light for how big and grippy those tires are.  Tons of fun bombing descents, launching off of roots and grunting up the hills.  It was a true mountain bike ride, unlike many this summer which have lacked one thing or another that would have made it more ideal.  Today definitely has me feeling positive about the upcoming University Cup races, and about riding general.

Having covered much of the Squeezer course today, I am rather undecided whether I will skip a U-Cup to race it or not.  That will likely be covered in another post soon...

Here is the route and profile for the day (click for full size versions):

22 August, 2008

on junk miles and cyclocross

This post was inspired by the latest over at BKW, which I will say is prerequisite reading for what I am about to write. Here is the paragraph which is especially relevant:

“[T]here comes a point in the season when you’ve accomplished what you set out to do. Wins, upgrade points, epic rides, by late summer only the most dedicated riders still have unfinished business. The resulting mix is a once-a-year bouillabaisse of sustained fitness, great weather and waning motivation. So what is there to do?”

That sounds all too relatable right now. I have struggled a lot in the late season accomplishing the proper contrast between hard and easy, and all my rides are just sort of... medium.

So what to do about this? Well, I'm pretty excited for cyclocross season, so cross workouts should help motivate me to train again. On that note, I'm struggling with learning some of the technique - especially dismounts. My mounts are not especially clean, but at least I can do them; shouldering the bike is no problem; dismounts, though, just aren't clicking for me. It's getting the right leg around and through while maintaining balance that I can't seem to do. I know, however, that I just need to practice lots, but it's very discouraging when something that seems so simple holds you up. It's a mental thing for sure - once I get past this I will at least be able to passably navigate a cross course.

Here's what the agenda holds for the rest of 2008:
  • lots of junk miles on dirt/country roads
  • university cup mtb racing: hopefully CX intervals keep me in shape enough that these don't turn into more junk miles
  • cyclocross racing: we'll see how it goes, but it is sure to be fun anyway
After that, it's all about base training and maintenance for 2009. That will consist of sloppy road rides on the cross bike, winter mtb rides when the snow is appropriate and of course the dreaded hours on the trainer in a dark basement.

28 July, 2008

Race Report: Duke’s Cycle Summer Epic 8h

My weekend in point form:

  • Friday preride – great conditions despite the rain all week, indicating how well it would deal with the rain that was to come. The course was fun and gave me the impression that it would be easy and fast at first, but would become tougher as fatigue set in.
  • Camping overnight – I forgot a sleeping bag, so it was a cold and fairly restless night. One would have thought the end of July would be warmer, but it was really a silly mistake.
  • Race morning – it had rained a bit early in the morning, and the skys were very uncertain looking. For me the worst part of riding in the rain is the havoc it plays on the bike – Eva’s comment about wet sand and my non-singlespeed drivetrain would return to mind later on in the day when I had a dropped chain and some chain suck.
  • The race – overall it was good, putting out a very average 12 laps in the duo category. I’d hoped to ride 7, but 6 was fine with me, especially after a little encounter with a tree on my last lap.
  • Post race – a trip to the highly recommended (by Evan) Barrie Burger. I will say it lived up to the hype, and was indeed a great post race stop. Too bad they’re closed on Sundays (i.e. most race days).
I’ll likely be taking a bit of a break from racing now, and look forward to seeing everyone at the U-Cups in September.

29 June, 2008

Just another Sunday club ride

Out to Smithville with the club today, via a slightly non-typical route due to road work, etc.

24 June, 2008

Solstice Race Report 2008

With the 36 Hours of Hope cancelled, my summer racing plans opened up considerably, and since a team who had asked me earlier in the year if I wanted to race Solstice with them was still looking with less than a week to go I figured I’d do it. We were to be a casual 7-8 person team where the main goal was to keep going and put out personal best times regardless of what these were. A fun group to race with.

Ryan started us off but had an encounter with a tree that would leave him a bit shaken up, his front wheel wrecked and what would have been a very fast lap a bit slower than planned. We’re very glad he is ok and not concussed – he was able to keep turning out decent laps in fact. Sitting 4th in the order, my first lap would be my fastest though also the toughest since not knowing the course meant I was not riding efficiently. All of my four laps sat between 60 and 70 minutes, which I am pleased with considering I didn’t put too much focus on this event in the weeks prior.

My second lap which began around 11 pm started slightly damp but the rain turned heavy about 5 minutes in and would continue for the duration of the lap. Traction and visibility became scarce, but I managed to keep the bike upright in the slick bits unlike many others on course at the time. When I returned I was soaked, and the bike was pretty trashed with mud. I used the bike-wash knowing I may need to do some bearing overhaul at the end of the weekend, and this worked out alright since my sprayed down and freshly lubed drivetrain was fine on subsequent laps. I’ve yet to deal with the aftermath but it doesn’t look too bad – that’s tonight’s job.

The bike handled extremely well through all the conditions the course had to offer. Some new bits were on test, and others I’ve now used enough to make judgements on:

  • New wheels: ZTR Arch 29er rims on Chris King Pretty and Strong ISO hubs built up by Bike29 - absolutely the best wheels I could imagine for my use. These are my first King hubs and they are meeting and exceeding all of my expectations. The bearing drag during wear in is diminishing as the manual says it will, and the engagement is fantastic in the technical sections. The ZTR rims are not new to me, and these work as nicely as the Flows with a slightly lower weight and narrower size. Tires sealed up very well as expected, and I can’t burp them as much as I might try.
  • Tires: I ran a Kenda Karma 1.9 out back which was new to me, with the familiar Schwalbe Racing Ralph up front in 2.25. I previously had the Ralphs on front and rear (2.4/2.25 respectively) and they are definitely grippy, fast racing tires. The Karma out back being a bit narrower rolled even faster at the expense of some grip, but worked well even in the greasy course at night. The frame clearance in the rear is much more comforting than the 5mm or so the 2.25 RR had.
  • Formula ORO brakes – I am really impressed with these, and with the Goodridge hoses I feel they will be a very serviceable component for a long time. Bleeding was very easy, power is good for 160mm rotors and the modulation is fantastic with the organic pads. The only trouble is I've gone through my first set of those, and I'm not sure whether to replace them with more organics or the sintered version - I've got both as I'm interested in comparing.
  • XTR/Dura-Ace chain - it's perhaps the best compromise of light weight and shifting performance for my use. It will probably wear out faster than my Wipperman 908, but the quiet, smooth operation is nice while it lasts.

23 June, 2008

Mistakes at the Gear Grinder

As those of you who I’ve talked to will know, my Gear Grinder result was a near repeat of the Icebreaker (stopped after 1 lap of the long course) though for completely unrelated reasons. While the Icebreaker offered a snowy, muddy slog that I did not want to see for a second time, the Grinder was a very nice course through the very large network of trails in the Ganaraska forest. More singletrack than your average XC race in Ontario, and lots of twisty loamy turns mixed with some fast descents and a couple long fire-road climbs.

Two laps of 27 km each should not have been a problem for me, but it was and with much analysis I have speculated what the causes could be. One I am sure of, and the one that probably caused the need to stop completely was nutrition. I was dehydrated and bonking after 1 lap, when I can usually ride many times this without nutrition being a problem. I can only guess it was not enough food the morning of the race (real whole food, that is) and a stomach that did not want to let me drink, on a hot day that resulted in serious hydration requirements. All of my concerns about certain products not working for me (namely eLoad and Clif Shot Bloks) have been ruled out as I have tested these enough to know that they are not a problem when I am having a normal day.

My other mistake was pacing, which is entirely one of those experiences you only gain from racing. I come away from this experience much wiser with respect to this topic. Given that I didn’t have my HRM (the Garmin Edge was off to be replaced for the second time under warranty) I should have paid a little closer attention to my body, but instead I had my eyes on the other racers who were largely a speedy bunch. I went hard off the start and got a good position about 10-12 racers from the front. Instead of settling into a good pace, I tried to hold my spot and this would combine with the nutrition issue to put me in bad shape by halfway through lap 1.

The climbs became unreasonably hard, and my stomach only got worse. I finished with an avg. speed of over 14 km/h, which considering how much time I spent struggling and even leaned over my bike feeling like I would throw up, means if I’d not gone so hard at first I might have done a reasonable time in addition to finishing both laps.

Since this was not a priority race for me, I can say it was not disappointing and I learned a lot from it. The course was good and would have been a blast to ride had I been feeling better.

03 June, 2008

Transitioning into Summer

With some of the early season events behind me I am finding myself in a period of transition. The weather is allowing more time on the mountain bike and handling is coming along - that said I am looking forward to more time working on base and climbing on the road. Many of the events recently have been about intensity - the Life$tyle$ 24h, Duke's 8h and local bi-weekly series have all been hard efforts due to short lap times and low overall demand on endurance. My priority event for the mid-season being the 36 HOURS OF HOPE means I need to seriously build endurance at this point, and for me it is specifically muscular endurance that is needed. The base aerobic fitness I developed over the winter and spring has served me well and I rarely find it limiting at this point, but I often find myself with "heavy" legs partway into my sub-threshold endurance rides. As best I can tell the way to work on this will be more long steady distance at this power output with a focus on recovery between sessions.

This past Sunday I'd decided to skip the club ride in favour of a more reasonable paced century, but the wind and some extra enthusiasm soon had me pushing it too hard and I decided to shorten my ride to 100k and add some hills. With no particular route in mind I headed out through Virgil then St. Catharines to get to the usual riding grounds around the Pelham/Lincoln area. It was a good feeling to ride and only sort of know where I was going. The ride looked something like this:

(click for full size)
Note the sharp peak at 45 km - that would be Saylor's hill, familiar to the locals here but also to anyone who has raced the Niagara Classic. I dragged myself up for the first time, but it will take many more before I can hang with the club on that grade. Yesterday was recovery with the youth mtb ride, and today will be a day off to clean the bikes and rest. Unfortunately getting much training in at all this week does not look good:

Hopefully the weather does indeed clear by next weekend and I can get some more saddle time in. Sunday I am supposed to be joining a century ride that will take us over the Canada-USA border for a trip along the Niagara River and lake Ontario and a good climb up the escarpment.

The next week is the Ganaraska Gear Grinder which I am really looking forward to.  Two 26km laps on the great singletrack there will be a nice alternative to the more local Lake to Lake Classic which features mainly gravel road and rutted, muddy ATV trails. Following this race will be some more base building toward the endurance required for the 36h. It seems to be shaping up for a good summer :)

20 May, 2008

Life$tyle$ of the Rich and Famou$ 24h

As mountain bike events go in Ontario, this would be just about as different as one could be from the usual sort put on by Chico Racing. W.O.W puts on smaller scale events that focus on a more relaxed atmosphere, but still attract some very fast riders and are able to satisfy both those who come to race and those who come to drink beer and put a lap or two in while they’re at it. Participants in this race are encouraged to come back each year, having about a month to decide before the remaining few spots are opened up to the public. I was lucky to get one of about 4 teams that opened up this year, and I’m very glad I did.

The field was a very comfortable size: 23 teams (of 5 officially, though a few were running only 4) and 19 solos. Taking advantage of the accommodations at the Mansfield Outdoor Centre, about half of us were housed in the Field Centre with each team in a room with 6 bunks, and a large common room with a wood stove, couches, kitchen, etc. The rest of the teams were in individual cabins near the chalet, and solos shared space in the Chalet again with their own wood stove, etc. Needless to say, everyone was comfortable. Meals were provided, and for the most part were delicious except for the sausages at breakfast. Eating those 1h before heading out for my morning lap was a big mistake and I nearly lost them before I even got going. Lunch after the race was especially good with some very tasty chicken, potatoes, vegetables and salad.

In the end, our team (which included a few UWCC members) finished 4th of the mens teams, a result we were quite pleased with. Some friendly rivalries developed around midnight when the teams set to contend for 4th-6th place began to switch around with every lap or so. By morning we’d secured our place and were able to finish our last few laps at an easy pace, which was good considering they turned out to be the only ones in the rain. 1st and 2nd place were just flying on every lap, but 3rd does not seem an unreasonable goal for next year.

One last notable part of the race was the solo rider who was only 8 years old – he completed 4 laps! I love seeing kids off to such a great start in our sport at that age.

24 April, 2008

Twin ponds ride report

Last night's ride was my first at the Twin Ponds trail system in Cambridge, as well as my first twisty singletrack of the year, first twisty singletrack on my new bike... you see where I'm going with that.

What a great early season ride. The unfamiliar bike and dull handling skills from the winter had me over the bars a couple times, and I have a few hefty bruises to show for it, but I had a blast anyway. The bike was great and will only get better as my skills come back and familiarity with the handling grows. If you're in the market for a new bike (or even if you're not) I highly recommend you check out what's going on at True North Cycles. A bunch of us were on our TN 29ers last night and it became immediately apparent to me why these bikes are so appropriate for the type of terrain we ride here in Ontario.

The trails at Twin Ponds were very enjoyable. There is a nice variety of terrain, but primarily it is extremely tight twisty turns which makes for a fun test of cornering skills. In the pines section the trail is very buff and there were not many notable climbs - just swoopy flowing lines great for practicing skills in the trees. A few of the riders I was with are racing the O-Cup this Sunday so we did just that and looped a few sections to practice some things. In the other section of this trail system the track is mainly rooty and rocky with some steep climbs up and down the fall line. It's a great test of skills and it was here that I felt the 29" wheels were most different for me - they love to hook up and roll over this stuff with ease. Aside from these two main types of trail, there is some connecting doubletrack which though extremely fast, is just rocky enough to make you think about handling the bike over it.

If I had any complaint about these trails it's that they're busy, and not designated as directional. While it seemed there was a de facto convention of clockwise being chosen for that night, it was not universally adapted and made for a few tight encounters. This is fine though, and it's great to see everyone out enjoying the trails.

Overall I highly recommend these trails if you haven't been.

20 April, 2008

Race report: Paris-Ancaster 2008

The day began as well as any race day could; after a week of mixed weather forecasts showing anything from 24° and clear to 5° with rain or snow, it was very nice to see that it would be a warm sunny day. After some confusion in getting to the registration at Ancaster (I was not driving!) we arrived with plenty of time. I picked up my race kit, and my technical fibre shirt one size smaller than requested as they were out of XL. For a wicking layer the L is probably the ideal size for me anyway. Off we went to the start in Paris still with plenty of time to check the bike, get changed and warm up. Over the course of my warm up I went from being a bit cool in a baselayer + jersey and shorts + knee warmers to warm in just shorts and a jersey. The sun was out and it was shaping up to be a hot one.

I pulled in the parking lot just in time to get out of the way of the 1st wave start. The warm up felt good and I was ready to go, but I was standing about 500 riders back in the 2nd wave and our start would not go off for another 15 minutes. A slight annoyance, but no big deal.

As the second wave was released, I was able to pass a few people even before we left the gates. The slight uphill road off the start was a good place to work my way up 50-100 places, and this would continue on the dirt road leading to the first rail-trail. As we funneled into the rail-trail the track was smooth in 2 places, so people were generally riding 2 wide making passing a tricky ordeal. Much like driving on the 401, it was possible, and I settled into a steady pace with a couple others who were also clearly among the few in the 2nd wave who were serious about racing that day. We were doing well at working our way up through the field, and as I checked the Garmin my avg. pace to that point was well over 31 km/h - hmm, good! HR was up, around 180bpm, but I felt this was a pace I could sustain at least until I got out of the crowds. Ahead I see riders dismounting and hiking slowly up a hill to the right - "maybe I can ride this one", then I hear a characteristic noise, that of a deflating bicycle tube. Yes, it was mine. I could see the puncture in the sidewall of my tire, so it must have been a pretty large sharp object. Alright, time to fix the flat. I used my spare tube and CO2 cartridge making for about a 5 minute change. I heard talk from the marshalls about a broken collar bone - hopefully that rider was ok!

With the flat fixed, I treated the hill as a quick run up, re-mounting half way up where the grade lessened even though most people were still walking. Crap, now I'm back with the slow bunch agian. Up the dirt road I worked my way through the field again, but soon we came to some singletrack and everyone was barely moving. I guess this is typical when I'm this far back in the field due to the 2nd wave start and a flat. I was still able to pass people, and was making the loose climbs that people riding mtb were not. Nick L was trying to convince me that CX is too sketchy for this race due to frequent flats, but in spite of my flat I still felt at this point it was ideal for the course on a dry year such as this.

We got held up at a major road crossing where they were waiting to release a bunch of riders at once. This caused the field to bunch up which I feel was detrimental for everybody. Through the next singletrack section people were going TOO SLOW - around 10 km/h. Oh well, it is my own flat that put me here so I'll take what I can get and pass on the road sections.

Up the next road climb I felt the rear was a little soft, and since my race was not going to be competitive at this point anyway I thought I'd stop to top it up. With my second CO2 cartridge I brought it up to what I thought was good, and began to roll. About 5m later I heard a couple ticking sounds, then BOOM! The tire had blown off the rim and of course the tube was done as well. It was startling to everyone; the police marshalling this spot said "I thought I was going to have to get my gun out and start shooting." My race was over at this point, so I set about trying to find out how I get back to the finish. I was told that there was a sweep vehicle that would be along eventually. I'm not loving the cross bike so much at this point knowing that I likely wouldn't have had these problems on the mtb, especially with my tubeless setup. At least I got to go fast while it lasted.

The place where I stopped turned out to be where the St. George - Ancaster race joined up, so I watched that field go by and then stood around some more. After standing around for about 30 minutes, a race volunteer came up from the valley below - I had no idea there was a marshall so close. He got on a radio to try to find out what would be done for me, and came back saying that the sweep would be a long time yet, and if I wanted to walk the Harrisburg aid station was only a couple km down the course and the Norco guys were there fixing mechanicals. "Sure, I can walk 2k" so off I went. A couple of sweep riders caught up with me and called ahead on the radio to notify the station I was coming. About 3km of walking later, an SUV came down the lane and offered to pick me up. Apparently that 2km walk was more like 5km, but at least someone from the aid station figured this out and came to get me. The Norco guys were just packing up, but offered to help anyway. The only thing was the only tubes available had tiny valvestems which had no chance of attaching to a pump on my slightly deep section rims. They dug around but found nothing that would be of help in their toolbox. That was it; I could not even ride in with the sweep so rides were arranged for my bike and I, along with 2 other riders with similarly catastrophic mechanicals.

At the finish I met up with many of the people I knew, and it sounds like they all had a good race. Congrats to Mel B for 1st and Jasmin 4th in Women 20-29, Jennie for her 1st place finish in Women Single Speed, and for the men Drew's 3rd and Nick L in 5th for Men Single Speed, and Nick B and Jon M for great top 20 finishes in Men 20-29.

I'm disappointed for sure that the race was going so well for me in terms of fitness and bike handling to be ended by mechanicals. I can't seem to get through a race and test the fitness I've worked on over the winter and spring this year. Hopefully that will change soon, but it's also disappointing that while over the summer there are many mtb races of all different formats, there is only one P-A each year and it's a unique race in this area. I loved the course (what I saw of it) and feel that it suits me very well. I was not passed at all except when stopped for mechanical issues, and passed many people with ease when I was riding. Next year I will have a UCI license and hopefully that means a 1st wave start. Even if I finish last out of the 1st wave starters I will at least not be dealing with so much traffic and can focus on my race a bit more.

In spite of the above happenings, I feel I took many things away from my day:
  • a wikked sunburn
  • a nice preview of the P-A course for next year
  • confirmation that my fitness is where I expect it to be right now
  • a nice tech-T that fits about as tight as any shirt I own
  • 1 700c tube with an impossibly short valvestem (anyone have some box section rims? you can have it...)
  • a good time, as is always the case at a bicycle race whether I'm racing, spectating or volunteering
That's my race report, as positive as I can make it (it also ran a bit long, so thanks for reading this far). I hope everyone else had a great day, and look forward to seeing you all at various races this summer. The season is well underway, as the weather is indicating. Time to put in some recovery rides and relax a bit before ramping the training up again since I have a few weeks before my next event.

14 April, 2008

New bike! True North custom 29er

Thanks to the folks at True North Cycles, my new bike has come together and in fine form. Hugh's frames are spectacular, and everyone involved has been excellent to work with. The initial test rides indicate it is a super quick race machine, but remains very comfortable thanks to the steel frame & fork, Ti seatpost and big tires setup tubeless. Definitely the most fun I've had on a bicycle in a long time.



Credit for the pics goes to Dave; taken at the shop before I left. Click for larger versions.

The specs:
Headset: Chris King Nothreadset
Stem: Rotor S1 (not pictured)
Bar: FSA K-Force XC Riser
Grips: Ergon GR2 Mag
Seatpost: Eriksen Ti
Saddle: fi'zi:k Arione Ti
Pedals: Crank Brothers Egg Beater SL

Crankset/BB: FSA Afterburner MegaExo
Front Derailleur: Shimano XT (M-771)
Rear Derailleur: Shimano XT Shadow (M-772) short (GS) cage
Shifters: Shimano XTR (M-970)
Cassette: Shimano XT (M-770) 11-34
Chain: Wipperman Connex 908
Shift cable housing: Jagwire Ripcord

Brakes: Formula ORO K18

Hubs: Shimano XTR (M-975)
Rims: Stan's notubes FLOW 29er
Spokes: DT Swiss Competition
Front Tire: Schwalbe Racing Ralph 29x2.4
Rear Tire: Schwalbe Racing Ralph 29x2.25

It comes in at 11.0 kg as configured, with bottle cages. Still lots of room to go weight weenie on it, but I'm happy with it for now. Maybe one day I'll feel ambitious and go for under 20 lbs just to do it. Now if only the trails would dry out...

Race Report: Uxbridge Icebreaker 2008

DNF - a result I'm not ashamed of; 1 lap was all I cared to do on that course. This race, which usually consists of a whole lot of mud and an often cool and rainy day instead gave us deep snow, ice, ruts and an otherwise beautiful and sunny day. The course was shortened from its usual 25 km to around 18.5 due to poor trail conditions after a long winter. Even so, there was a significant portion of the course that was unridable - even the most skilled riders had to dismount and hike. These weren't short CX style runups either, but lengthy sections of unridable snow that made even walking difficult (especially with a bike on your shoulder). The rest of the course was rolling concession roads, with a healthy amount of climbing. The road climbs and descents had to be my favourite part of the course where I'd hammer to the top and then get a rest as I spun out (I raced the Trek 8000 set up singlespeed). I'll get the GPS track posted later today.

I can't say my bike choice was ideal, but I don't know what I would have preferred either. I suppose a cross bike would be nice for some speed on the ridable sections, and less to carry through the rest. The fastest guys were on cross bikes, one even riding fixie. You know conditions are bad when it takes the hammerheads an hour to ride 18km on a course that usually has these guys averaging 24-26 km/h.

Here is what went through my head at the various stages in my race:
- start: "so far so good; this snow is a bit rough"
- first logging road section: "still ridable, but rough going"
- long semi-ridable section, on and off the bike: "I really hate carrying my bike"
- road section, some climbing: "at least this is smooth, but there go all the geared riders"
- more off road, not so ridable: "there's no way I'm doing 2 laps of this"
- more road, lots of climbing: "hey, this actually feels good; I'm passing others on the climbs; maybe a second lap won't be so bad"
- off road, not so ridable: "scratch that, this is terrible"
- 1km to go sign: "hey, almost there" so I thought. That was the longest kilometre of walking, falling and riding 25m here and there. It certainly didn't help convince me to go out for my second lap.

So that was it, I told the Commissaire I was DNF. Apparently I was to be the last rider on course if I hadn't, but looking at my time it's not the worst lap of the day. It's also far from competitive though, so I'm glad I called it when I did. Completion of one lap was enough accomplishment for me. Unfortunately I didn't get to see how my fitness from the winter is paying off, but Paris-Ancaster is looking much better for that.

Many thanks to BIKENXS for putting on a great event in spite of conditions. I look forward to the rest of the Enduro series this year. Props to Nick and Jas who had great podium finishes in their categories - it was nice meeting up before and after the race.

31 March, 2008

Tour of Pelham

Just a short post encouraging anyone within a reasonable distance to come check out a great race this Saturday in the Niagara area.  It's mostly dirt roads - a mtb race for roadies, if you will, but conditions may mean mountain bikes won't be such a bad idea, where cross bikes would usually be the choice.

Pre-reg closes tomorrow (Apr 1) at NOON - your last chance to get in on the free pancakes after.  Day of registration is available for those that miss the cutoff.  See laketolake.ca for more info, and register online at the OCA website.  This race is put on by some great folks and will be fun regardless of the conditions.  I'm not racing, but I'll be there guiding cars to parking spots in the morning then heading out on the course to help out.

28 February, 2008

Winter training progress, injury status

A long time has gone by without updates here. Things are busy, but also it hasn’t been the most eventful period as far as cycling goes. Mostly I’ve been making all the arrangements to have all the parts in place for the upcoming mtb build and new cross wheels. More to come on these as they take shape.

The calf injury is coming along nicely – we feel that this could be my last week for physiotherapy. I’m feeling some post-ride stress in the hamstrings now, which has me starting to wonder if now things are a bit unbalanced from all that calf workout. I’ll see if I can work on that over this week and the coming rest week. Speaking of rest week, the next post will be my (tentative, late to take shape, vague) training/race plan for the season.

With the injury coming along and relatively clear roads, I’m looking forward to transitioning from Base to Build mode and getting outdoors more. The trails will be a mess for sure, but time on the road is far better than the trainer by far. I got out for a 66km ride on Saturday, but really it was more like 2x 33km with a halfway stop at L!b then coffee with Brian before turning around for the rest of my ride. Things felt good, though I was definitely not sharp after about 50km. Still, with average speed just a few kph shy of 30 in what felt like a perpetual headwind, I think my spotty winter base has done some good. I’ve got a 50T chainring coming to replace the 46 (which came standard for “compact cyclocross” gearing) – this should allow me to keep up on the spirited SCCC club rides, at least technically.

That’s all for now… more on the training plan soon. Lots of tech stuff for the coming weeks as well as I get the bikes ready for the season to come.

23 February, 2008

Just a quick link for today

A humourous article regarding Shimano's acquisition of Pearl Izumi. For a serious report, see Cyclingnews' article.

I really like PI clothing, and apparently their last aquisition was not doing them much good, so it seems like a good thing to get with Shimano for much wider distribution and financial backing. It does not sound as though the product will be changed.

14 February, 2008

Registering for 2008 Events

As spring approaches quickly, event registrations are beginning to open and I am starting to decide which plans are firm so I can send in registration fees/info.

The definite list:

The 8x12 Series is a short time trial format, so I will use them as training and also a metric for my short distance speed as the season goes on. Any XC events such as O-Cups will be treated as training races. The following are possibilities:Aside from that, the Iron Cross VI on 12 Oct. in PA is a very strong possibility, as is the odd CX race this fall.

11 February, 2008

The ongoing saga of cyclist/motorist conflict

We're all familiar with the perils of cycling on our roads, but a couple items I've found really stand out as exemplary of just how bad things are.

Today's post on a the most recent blog I've subscribed to, Pinch Flat News, is entitled Do cars dehumanize people, or do dehumanized people drive cars? and highlights a local headline:

"Woman Strikes and Kills Bicyclist,
Moves Bicycle and Drives Away"

Here's a real winner of an editorial article found in a recent issue of the K/W record that begins

What's with the stupid, idiotic people who ride their bicycles on snowy roads?

and goes on to include quotes such as

If they fall they deserve what they get for being stupid...


...but how about the poor driver who runs over them? The driver is going to feel guilty when they shouldn't -- not to mention being made late...

Wow. That's all I can say.

08 February, 2008

Numbers: 24, 36, 7, 550, 15500

This would be the first post to this blog with a clever title.

First, 24: this is the 24th post I've made to this blog. 24 also being the number of hours in a day leads us to speak of 24 hour endurance races. As posted before, I will be riding with a team for an event in early may this year, the Life$tyle$ of the Rich & Famou$ 24 Hour.

That leads us to 36, the length in hours of a new race that is to take place in Ontario this summer. A summary from the OCA website:

36 Hours of Hope is a hardcore charity mountain bike relay race situated in some of Ontarios most pristine wilderness - Haliburton Forest. Race solo or an a team to conquer this amazing feat. Look no further for an epic and unique adventure that also whole heartedly supports an excellent cause.

Check out www.cyclingforhope.ca/36 for more info and updates. Team sizes will be 1, 3, 6 and 7-12 corporate/club. That means they've been increased proportionally from the traditional 24h sizes to keep ride time per rider consistent, other than for solo riders. To me it sounds like a great idea, and should be a very nice course. I will have to see how it fits into my schedule, and if I can find a team, but it's marked on my calendar just in case.

The last three numbers: 7, 550, 15500 are respectively the duration in days, the length in kilometres and the amount of climbing in metres for another event that I've just become aware of: the TransWales 2008 MTB challenge. I've wanted to visit Wales for some time due to my family's past there, and because I know how beautiful the countryside is for hiking, cycling, etc. Given the amazing riding in the area, what appears to be a very well planned event and my Welsh heritage, I'm trying to figure out if I can make a trip to the UK this August. It's a bit of a stretch, but I'm considering it nonetheless.

04 February, 2008

Injury, physiotherapy and conditioning

Since sometime in November I have had some pain in my right calf following activity, but I did little about it continuing to ride and go about other activities as normal. The good news is that I didn't lose any strength, but it wasn't getting any better either - after some rest it would feel good again, but with activity the pain returned.

I finally decided I needed to see someone about this, and went about getting an appointment with a physiotherapist. On my first visit he was quickly able to determine it was a strained muscle, and prescribed some stretches. On today's visit I met with the kinesiologist and set up a regime of movements in the gym that will help rehabilitate the muscle. In conjunction I am getting ultrasound therapy which as far as I can tell made some improvement with the first treatment. I'm looking forward to getting my leg back to normal and starting to build strength. The insight from these professionals as well as the information I was given in the University of Waterloo Cycling Club's strength and conditioning session back in the fall will be useful in setting up a conditioning regime off the bike that will surely help me ride both faster and more comfortably this season. Ultimately it was not enough stretching and conditioning of the type taught in the previously mentioned session that led to my injury.

03 February, 2008

Cyclocross vids, new XC series for WNY

First, a simple link to a site with some great coverage (full races) of the '07/'08 CX season in Belgium. The commentary is in Flemmish, but this is the best we're going to see in North America from a much under appreciated sport (even within cycling).

Next is the announcement of a new XC race series being held in Western New York this season. It is a four race series to be held June through October, and appears to be similar to our Ontario Cup XC races in length and difficulty. All but the first are held on Saturdays which means even those with busy event schedules should be able to fit them in. The venues (Spraugebrook park, Allegheny State park and Holiday Valley/Ellicottville) should provide a nice change of scenery from the usual Ontario courses. There is to be a big party after the fourth race with awards, prizes and FREE BEER. Entry fees are a reasonable $25 (approx). More info to be found at wnymbro.com, wnymba.org and in this MTBR forum thread.

31 January, 2008

Ontario Cycling events Google Calendars

Yes, this information is widely available online, but in order to integrate it into my schedule I've entered the events into Google Calendar: one for MTB and one for Road/CX.

MTB: GCal link | RSS feed
Road/CX: GCal link | RSS feed

I've got most everything from the OCA website as well as some other events including some Western New York stuff. If there's anything I've missed or you think should be added (other than your weekly/local series), please let me know.

20 January, 2008

Landis to race NUE series

Taken from cyclingnews.com:

Floyd Landis has accepted an invitation from the National Ultra-Endurance (NUE) MTB Series to compete in their eight-race series in 2008. Heading into its third year, the National Ultra-Endurance MTB Series features a schedule of 100-mile races held across the United States.

"We are pleased that Floyd has accepted our invitation to come out and race at our events," said NUE Series Director Ryan O'Dell, "These are the kinds of events where everyone is welcome, all ages and abilities. Having Floyd means we can generate additional exposure and attract sponsors that will help us further build our unique brand of racing."

In 2007, Landis raced the Shenandoah Mountain 100, which was the NUE Series finale. Riding for Smith & Nephew - BHRhip.com, he finished third behind Jeff Schalk (Trek / Volkswagen East Factory) and Harlan Price (Independent Fabrication). He also finished second at the Leadville 100, which was not part of the NUE Series.

"The great experience I had last year was a big part of my decision to commit to the whole series," said Landis, "I had a great time and felt very comfortable. It really gets you connected with why we all chose to ride bikes. The races are fun, healthy and very competitive and the racers, staff and sponsors for these events are truly great people. I can't wait for the first race in April."

Landis won the Tour de France in July of 2006, but organizers later stripped him of his title following a positive doping test for testosterone. Original runner-up Oscar Pereiro was awarded the title in October of 2007. Landis' bid to overturn his positive doping test before a hearing involving the US Anti-doping Agency (USADA) was unsuccessful when an arbitration panel ruled to uphold his positive test results and subsequent two-year competition ban in September.

However, Landis is still awaiting the outcome of his final appeal before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), with a decision expected in March. In the meantime, he has been serving his suspension, which applies to sanctioned competition. The NUE series is sanctioned by neither the UCI nor USA Cycling.

A source close to Landis told Cyclingnews that Landis was fully committed to the NUE Series regardless of the outcome before CAS. "He's commited to his sponsors and the NUE Series will be his primary competitive forum for 2008. Whether CAS overturns the decision against Landis, it doesn't change his competitive focus for the year. The NUE series is an opportunity for Floyd to keep himself in race form and to continue to provide value to his sponsors who have stood by him."

In addition to attracting many local and regional grassroots racers, the NUE series' growing profile is drawing over time more elite level racers, many of whom are subjected to anti-doping testing out of competition and at other competitions.

When asked if there were any plans to add anti-doping testing for the NUE series, co-organizer, Garth Prosser said to Cyclingnews, "No, we don't have that kind of money. This is old school mountain biking. We could make more money by recycling the beer cans from after the race than from organizing the race." Before making his reputation in the professional road scene, Landis was one of those "old school" racers on the American mountain bike circuit.

The 2008 NUE Series will open April 19 in Tennessee with the Cohutta 100 and will wrap up on September 6 in California with the Tahoe-Sierra 100. See the full NUE series schedule here.

The 2007 series was won by Chris Eatough (Trek / VW), who is expected to defend his title in 2008 although he could not be reached for confirmation.

14 January, 2008

New bike: Kona Major Jake

If I haven't told you already but you've been observant and noticed that Kona Bikes showed up on the sidebar you may have guessed that a new bike was imminent. I've been wanting a 'cross bike for awhile, but I wanted to get something that would do duty as my road bike as well. Thanks to the folks at Liberty! Bicycles I ended up with a good deal on an '07 Major Jake.

A few of the more interesting specs:

  • '07 Kona Major Jake: Easton Ultralite tubing with carbon seatstays
  • Easton EC90X fork
  • Mavic Ksyrium Equipe wheelset
  • FSA Gossamer CX MegaExo crankset
  • 105 shifters & front derailleur; Ultegra rear derailleur
I put a King headset and my fi'zi:k saddle on and had a different stem & bar swapped in at the shop, but the rest is completely stock. So far it rides wonderfully. It's first voyage (off the trainer that is) was a 45km casual road ride with a couple friends. Of course the only part of its first ride worthy of a picture was the flat I got at about 37.5km. Luckily it was a nice quick change - I really like Mavic rims.

Hitting about 63kph on a fast downhill felt good even on the 'cross tires, giving me much confidence in this bike. With a swap to some 23c tires and maybe a 50t chainring, it will do the road gig just fine, since I'm not doing any road racing. I took it through some muddy fields just for fun at the end of my ride, and now I can't wait to get it dirty next fall in some CX races. It will likely see its first race in the Paris to Ancaster this year before it becomes my roadie for the summer.

09 January, 2008

More winter mtb, "moto" style brakes

Saturday saw another nice snowy ride, this time in my new current location of the Niagara region. St. Catharines and the surrounding area has some really great singletrack with Shorthills Provincial Park and a trail system that was built along 12 mile creek.

As you'll notice I've shortened my terribly long brake lines, and I've also swapped them so my right hand operates the front and the left my rear brake - the same as just about every two wheeled vehicle in the world except North American bicycles. I can't say if it was just my tune-up on the brakes or the lever/hand orientation, but I felt my control was better than ever. Certainly remembering not to grab a handful of front brake was easier than I thought, if perhaps only because of the inevitable outcome if I had. I'll keep trying this out for now on the Trek, but if I like it enough I'll switch on all my bikes. The thought of re-taping bars will hold me off that for the time being however...

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