29 December, 2009

2009: year of the crash

It's a little early, but I'm going to do my year end summary now. Click here for last year's. I'll start by addressing the subject matter of the title - I don't think I've had a year or even known someone else who had a year with so many crashes. Not just laying the bike down in a corner but full-on nasty incidents that break skin and equipment.

Most painful crash: definitely the one on Pelham road in the summer. Put a spirited club ride, triathletes and recreational riders on a twisty descent at the same time, and you get a mess. A mess that left a couple people pretty badly injured (broken collarbones, etc.) I left some skin on the road, ruined a saddle and a rim and generally felt banged up from that.

Most irritating crash: this is almost a tie - 1st place is the final km of the Good Friday road race. I'd hidden myself in the pack all day and was fresh coming over the last drumlin. I made the selection of a group of maybe 10-12 that would contest the sprint, and we were ramping it up on the last section of road. Strung out single file, I was maybe 5th wheel and somehow the 2nd or 3rd guy manages to go down taking a few of us out. I couldn't be more angry, and still am that I didn't get to see how I'd do. 2nd place is the piece of tape taking me out at the Riverdale cyclocross on lap 2. Again, I was having a good race and got taken out. This one I was not so angry about though, because it wasn't caused by someone else's incompetence.

Other notable crashes:
  1. Bike the Bruce ended with a crash in the pack about 2 km from the finish. I was only mildly involved with a broken spoke and no injury, but Jef Perry was in the ditch with a broken collarbone and Rob Visser's bike ended up hanging in a tree like it was posed. Not a fun way to end a good race.
  2. Just today, I was riding a pretty sketchy snow covered descent in Shorthills PP, on my cross bike thinking it was no worse than on my mtb. The front wheel hit an icy root and went sideways, and my head and hip hit a tree. Also no fun.
  3. 100k Hamilton area mtb ride - an MTBR tradition, turned into a 5ok ride for Brandon and I after I overcooked a gravel corner on a quasi-road section in Dundas Valley. I left Jeff with only minor scrapes, but Brandon took himself out good trying to avoid me (we never made contact, as far as I know) ending with some road rash, and I tacoed my rear wheel. Much smashing and turning of nipples later, I had a wheel that at least wasn't rubbing the frame as it spun, but it was super wobbly. Brandon and I spun back to the car mostly via roads leaving the others to finish the ride properly.
With the crashes out of the way, we can move on to better topics.

Best bike I raced on in '09: I think the True North Ti/carbon cyclocross bike takes it. It made it through 20 cross races with no issues, and performed as well as I could expect a bike to.

Best new component purchased: FMB tubulars - I rode a set of the SSC for many of the season's cross races and they were really fantastic. I liked them so much, I'm importing a bunch of them for some friends and local racers as well as myself. Runner up goes to the Vittoria Open Pave CG tire, my new favourite and go-to for almost all paved (and not so paved when I feel like it) riding. Not the lightest but very comfy, fast and reasonably durable. I'd really like to try the new 320 tpi version next year, or possibly the tubular version of the Pave.

Best race performance: although I have some good results, the best race was not necessarily the best result on paper - not even the most memorable, my best performance objectively speaking was probably at the Good Friday road races. Having more early season fitness than other guys in my category, I rode a really good conservative race and had more to give at the end than I should have. Runner up in this category is probably the Oktoberfest CX where I was back and forth with Noah all race, both of us hitting the ground a few times but me just once too many to go for the win. I am really happy I was able to drive that race and chase back after each crash.

Best overall ride: again, it's one memorable enough that I wrote a blog post for it. Club rides are almost always enjoyable, but riding in a 5 man break for an hour where I am clearly the greenest is a great experience, and being able to pull through and hang until the leadout for the sign sprint was a great feeling.

That's all. Not as many categories as other year end summaries, but I've tried to capture content in each that was significant to me. Here's to another great year in 2010.

27 December, 2009

Christmas cycling stuff

So it's the time of year where most people in North America obsess over gift giving, etc. and thus I have a few goodies worth mentioning, care of my family.

Before I get to that, I'll provide the training update. 72km of salty wet roads this morning, 2 coffees, 1 baked good. Fenders are really necessary in this stuff. My chain sounds like a sandbox, but otherwise the bike takes it pretty well. So far I'm 1 week into the 2010 training plan and actually on schedule... that may be a record. Hoping to get out for a ride tomorrow, off road if things are frozen enough.

Now, on to the Christmas stuff:

- MSR Denali snowshoes. Humourously enough, we have no snow now, but last winter I did some winter hiking and would have done more if I had snowshoes for the day after fresh snowfall. These should be great for stomping around in the powder.

- Embrocation Team Issue non-warming embrocation by Mad Alchemy as well as the Embrocation Team socks by Swiftwick. I needn't say more. I haven't even done a ride in these socks and I want to get our team on board with some Swiftwick Four Ole socks (or maybe the Merino version?)

- not cycling specific, but I got a large Stanley socket driver/wrench kit, which is excellent. About 5 of the 211 tools can be used on bikes, and Stanley is a key sponsor of the US Gran Prix of Cyclocross so this makes the blog.

- a pair of Smartwool medium weight hiking socks. I love these, and they are my go-to sock for winter activity.

All in all, lots of good stuff.

24 December, 2009

Christmas Eve ride with some Hub folks

Before heading back to my parents' for Christmas I joined Mr. 5, John Stewart, Shaw and Mike from the Hub for a 2.5-3h spin around the Campbellville area. I have no idea where we were for most of the ride, but it was great nonetheless to be out.

I was falling off the pace on the rollers - maybe I could have stayed on with some effort but at this time of year it's not what I need to be doing, and everyone was good about waiting - basically doing their own thing to manage the effort. Base training is really hard to do in groups, especially with varied abilities but a good group of people makes it easier to adjust to suit everybody's needs as best as possible. In this case that meant leaving John Stewart on the front for most of the ride to pull us around.

We took a couple photos on a particularly nice road, but neither shows all 5 of us since someone had to man the camera:

20 December, 2009

Training update: winter riding begins for another year

It's been a good week for training, or at least a good weekend to cap off a week that started slow in the riding department:

Thursday was an easy 1 hour spin on the trainer while catching up with some cross footage from earlier in the season.

Friday I had a VO2max test at U of Guelph for a study I will be participating in there, which is conducted by Heather Logan. This is going to be an interesting experience, as I always learn a lot being a lab rat. Numbers are ok - way up from last time I did this test about 1.5 years ago. The downside is my weight is up from the beginning of cross season by about 4 kg, so I'll try to lose that as soon as possible and then gradually drop from there into the race season. 80 kg by the first O-cup maybe?

Saturday was my first SCCC club ride in awhile, and the turnout was low to match the temperatures. 6 of us rode the usual Saturday route to Smithville. I think my forehead froze. When I heard that there was a mtb ride option for Sunday I decided this would be less cold and more fun, and borrowed a set of cross wheels from Shawn since the only bike I had with me was a cross bike with road tires.

Sunday's ride was a good one. A few hours in the usual trails around St Catharines, trying to keep up with some quick mtb riders on my cross bike. The single 42t was a bit much, but I made it up everything I realistically could have expected to. Maybe a bit too much intensity for the legs at this point, but it was worth it. A couple hours of nap time with the compression tights after has my legs feeling ok. I may get a short core session in today before bed.

Monday is off, dictated by Tuesday's dry run for the study at Guelph. I may do some more core work if I get bored. Tuesday will be the first run of the protocol for the study: 90 minutes at a fixed intensity (70% of VO2max power), followed by a 6kJ/kg TT. I'll be doing this weekly for a month in January, which should be good for the sum of my intensity for the week leaving me to do easy rides and hiking to make up the rest of my base in that time.

13 December, 2009

Hespeler GP race report

Yesterday I headed down to the Hespeler Arena to help the other Hub folks set up for today's cross race. Cold and frozen, the ground was not too receptive to stakes. Once we got things figured out, and found the softer spots things started going a little better. We got about 2/3 of the course staked and about half taped before light started fading and we were all getting cold. The remaining work seemed manageable for the morning.

I had planned to help with setup today but was wiped out from Saturday and opted to sleep in. I rolled into the arena around 10 to talk to some of the morning racers and get suited up. I decided to get dressed in my cycling gear nice and early since it would be just as warm as jeans and a coat. Rolled around during the 11 o'clock race cheering and heckling.

The last couple laps were done in freezing rain/hail, causing me to retreat to the car. I got out after it let up a bit and started my preride in some drizzle. Lots of running sections, some nice fast ridable sections and lots of power stuff. As expected. I didn't really plan to take the race too seriously, but I was going to give it a shot and at least get a good training ride out of it.

A training ride it was indeed. On the first lap I gapped a couple folks and hoped to stay with Jarrod but he and Brusso were riding away from me. I kept Jay behind me for awhile before he found himself on my wheel and stayed there for a lap or so. We were pretty well matched but he was making far fewer mistakes than me. I think I was actually riding a hair faster, when I was riding but I would lose that advantage whenever I messed up. At some point he came around and I stayed on his wheel for another lap or so. Eventually, he rode me off the wheel again due to small mistakes, sliding out in corners and such. I had enough gas that I thought I'd be able to catch him, and just at that point I made a critical mistake on a running section and went down hard. I scraped my knee, and the pain made for a slow re-start to my chase. By the time I got up to speed again Jay was gone and the ride was now just to finish and get a good training ride in so I toned things back on the slippery corners and tried to ride as smoothly as possible.

Box and Chown came by during my 2nd last lap, making it my last as I'd hoped as I watched them catching me on sections where the course had looped back on itself. I rolled in for 6th, though there was some confusion about placings due to lapped riders. In the end, just one spot out of the podium and I would have liked to challenge Jay for that. If it was in the midst of cross season I would like to think I could have stuck with Jarrod longer, but then again he's probably in off-season mode too.

All in all a good training ride and fun day putting on a race with the Hub Race Team.

06 December, 2009

2010 training begins, and my thoughts on compact cranks

Today I woke up to an email from Joel who was to be my riding buddy for the day, saying that the roads looked pretty slick. Content to go back to bed, I believed him. I woke up around 11:30, and things were looking better so I started getting motivated to head out. I finally got dressed and out the door around 2pm, and hit the road on my cross bike complete with 24c Vittoria Open Paves and a 50/36 compact crank.

I ended up riding out to Bamberg and back, a rolling out and back that takes me a little over an hour in the summer, and about 1h20 today. It was a great day for a ride, with the temperature hanging around 0° and relatively clear roads. Only a couple times was I a little hesitant riding through some snow or icy looking patches. It felt good to get out for a road ride and in general to ride without going hard the whole time. Cross season really is a strange period for training - it has me so used to riding only at high intensity, or at a recovery pace. It was nice to ride some easy tempo for a bit.

It was also my first road ride all season on round chainrings. Overall I think it'll be good to move back to them for awhile. It felt a lot less stressful on the quads (because I was likely not pushing as large a gear, and the ratio is not effectively higher in the power stroke) and only took some minor thought into a good pedal stroke. I think the Q-rings have their place, but for me as a developing rider it's not the right time to switch over completely.

Now on to the compact gearing. I was riding 50/36 with my usual 11-26 road cassette out back. I really had no idea what to do with the front derailleur most of the time. The 50t was too much for the rolling hills at base efforts, and the 36 was a huge jump down. I eventually figured out that using the 50 for descents and tailwind sections and the 36 for everything else was the best compromise. Lots of 36x13, 14, 15 type gearing going on - something I'd normally avoid with a 39t on my road bike. I did enjoy the 36x26 for going easy on the hills at this time of year, but I also hit 120rpm or so in the 50x11 on some pretty tame descents. For the flat to rolling terrain we have in Ontario, I really don't see compact gearing as a viable option on a proper road bike. The common 50/34 is only worse in this respect.

The plan for this crank is to run a tight 36/42 combo for cross racing, and basically to stay in the 42 most of the time like a single ring. It came with 50/36 chainrings and I plan to leave the 50t on for some road riding over the winter and for Paris-Ancaster (if I even do P-A?)

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