31 December, 2010

2010 Season Recap

I've finally given in and admitted I'm never going to write all the race reports for the 2010 cross campaign. Given that, rather than letting this blog die I'll recap 2010 in this post and start again with 2011.

I didn't realize it until toward the end of the year, but 2010 seemed to be the year of the DNF for me:
- First with Good Friday which was unseasonably hot - combine that with racing poorly and having to chase on within the first lap and it didn't take long to pop. Rode lap 2 in a small chase group, then we collectively pulled the plug.
- Next DNF was Albion, where I was having a good race until a crash in a muddy ditch. I have crashed many times and not DNF'd, so I guess this one was hard enough? My front shifting was also gone after this and doing another 2 laps in the small chainring didn't seem like a great option at the time.
- The Hardwood Canada Cup was another hot day. Very hot. I was not the only one suffering, and maybe it wasn't that bad but by lap 3 I was riding so sloppy on account of fatigue that I nearly washed out in every corner and had a few too many close encounters with trees. I was really concerned I was going to hurt myself if I continued.
- I drove 750 km to Vermont for the Green Mountain Cyclocross weekend, and managed to DNF Day 1. It was also unseasonably warm (noticing a trend?) but I was theoretically already accustomed to that after a good race in hotter weather the week before. This time, however I went out too hard on a hilly course, then managed to get crashed out by someone on the descent, at which point I basically stopped racing despite wanting to continue. At least Day 2 was better.
- At Ontario cross Provincials it was another case of going out way too hard. I started hard, attacked my group to get to the next one, then attacked again but when I got to the top of the climb I pulled over and dry heaved for a bit. Rode another lap and decided to cut my losses. Good training, maybe? Probably not.
- Kissing Bridge cross: out of shape and just couldn't bring myself to keep climbing that hill every lap. Definitely a low point in the season.
- Riverdale cross was going really well for a couple laps, and then I crashed hard on the descent, bouncing off of my shin hard enough that I couldn't pedal for awhile after. It was just bruised, but enough to get me off the bike.

That sounds like a lot of excuses. I can't say I regret too many of these, but it gave me some ideas of things to work on.

Aside from that it was a fairly successful season overall. Mechanicals were few and never very serious. I didn't have any huge results, but there were definitely some highlights to my cross season. Gloucester Day 1 felt like the ride of my life, and I think there's room to do better (not just with training/fitness, but how I raced it too). Nationals went about as well as I could have hoped and I also managed to have a good race in Buffalo the next day as well. Cross season was successful enough that I can say I want to do it again very similarly next year, just harder, better, faster, stronger (that's right, I found a way to slip in a DAFT PUNK REFERENCE).

I don't have too much more to say about 2010 before moving on to the present, but I have to thank everyone who helped me along the way this season. Sponsors, coaching, friends, training partners. It all plays a huge role in making this kind of progress. THANK YOU.

10 November, 2010

Super Race Report Catch Up Time!

Alright, after being questioned multiple times online and at races about my fantastically out of date blog, let's get this done so I can write a semi-current post about Nationals, etc. Apparently 15 races in 9 weeks is a lot, and I suck at finding time for blogging. At some point I may write a more detailed account for memorable races such as Gloucester, but for now I'll resort to point form and blurry memories.

When I left off I had done the Ellison Park race in Rochester, the first of the Full Moon Vista series. The next day I was back in Ontario for:

Speed River CC Guelph Cross
- first Southern Cup of the year
- good size elite field
- craploads of off-camber and one really steep climb

I had one of my usual amazing starts and found myself on Box's wheel at the back of the front group with Mogg leading the charge and I think Derek H in there as well as a couple others.

I was promptly spit out the back the first time up the climb and dropped back first to Marco, then back to a group with Isaac. Still not a bad place to be by any means.

Of course I continued to drop back until I was solidly in the bottom half and trying to hold off as many as possible. Brusso kept having issues like dropping his chain and then proceeded to ride back up to me and make me work to hang on for a lap. Finally his issues stopped and he dropped me.

Good enough for 13/21 with the majority of the guys I am normally battling DNF'ing. Too bad I could not have a better showdown with Mark R, but such is life.


Grand Prix Of Gloucester!
DAY 1:
- holy crap it's Gloucester
- there is way less grass here than I imagined; lots of rocks
- are they seriously sending us down this sketchy chute off of a paved
downhill start?!?

I got on course early for a recon lap and mostly I liked what I saw. Sand pit was good, lots of turning, not too much climbing... my kind of course.

I watched Pete battle it out with Hines and JOHNNY BOLD and take an impressive 3rd in the 35+ while riding the trainer. Got to staging JUST in time not to miss my 1st row callup (www.crossresults.com FTW!) and got the worst possible lane on the left. Ok maybe the second worst lane... but anyway, used my hole shot power to avoid the sketchiness (for that,
see here) and held 5th wheel or so for half of lap 1.

Lots of the usual pack surfing and a multiple lap battle with Geekhouse rider Josh Wright, but overall one of my best races ever led to a respectable 18/114.

DAY 2:
- this is the "traditional" Gloucester course
- uphill start is less sketchy, but also less favourable to me
- long headwind sections
- awesome runup

Day 2 I was staged 2nd row, and was kindly reminded by a fellow racer as I rolled into the start pen that I was not wearing a helmet. Really? Shit! Race back to the tent at the top of the hill and put it on and got back in time not to miss my callup, but just barely - how's that for a warmup you ask? Well, my heart rate was pretty close to where it would lie the majority of the race, but it sure didn't make me feel any better.

Off the gun it was the usual elbows out, try-not-to-go-backwards-because-it's-uphill start. Yeah I suck at going uphill. I hit the grass maybe top 20, which I guess means I more or less held my own off the start.

Basically the race went like this: suck wheels across the field and the sea wall, make up 3 spots on the runup, make up 2-3 more in the twisty bits up to the barriers, lose 5 spots in the long windy headwind section, lose 5 more on the paved climb to the finish. So... do the math, I was sliding backward at a comfortable rate of 5-6 spots per lap. Starting with around 15-20th and you get can predict my finish with amazing precision: 46/119.

Definitely not the great ride I had on day 1, but it was a great race for learning experience nonetheless. I got to race man-to-man for the full duration, and I had some exciting battles which is really what cross racing is about anyway.

Also notable is the dinner we had Saturday night. We found a nice little restaurant and a bunch of us had this shrimp scampi type dish with feta cheese and spinach. Local seafood rocks!

17 October, 2010

Full Moon Vista Ellison Park Cyclocross

Alright, blogging in bed from the iPhone so as you can imagine I'll want to keep this brief (but of course I always say that).

So for my first foray into the upstate NY cross scene I decided to head to Rochester for the Ellison Park Cyclocross. Unfortunately I couldn't do the UCI race they were hosting on Sunday as I wanted to race in Guelph, a great stop on the Ontario calendar and the first race in the new Southern Cup series this year.

I carpooled to Rochester with Shawn who would be racing the 35+ after my race, the cat 3/4. The drive was much smoother than the usual GTA trek and I can see racing in this area more often out of convenience.

We arrived and after the longest car to registration walk ever got signed in. The course featured one major climb and lots of deep sticky grass. Aside from the climb and descent, there was not much in the way of features but the long grass and seemingly endless false flat sections would be plenty to suck the legs out of anyone.

I got to the start corral early enough to secure the last spot on the front row and proceeded to get one of my now signature holeshots. By the top of the climb one guy came by, and I figured I'd get on his wheel and go from there. Turns out he was having none of that and promptly rode away and won the race. Awesome.

I figured I was solidly in line for a podium spot, or at least to place in the money which was 5 deep, but lap after lap guys would roll up to me and slowly, painful to watch slow, ride away from me on the many slogs through the grass.

That pattern repeated until 45 minutes (or near enough) had passed and I finished 6th. Damn. In any case all that climbing made for good training and fellow Ontarian and former teammate Mel Bunn was 2nd in the women's race, which was little more than a preride for the UCI race which would be using the same course.

All in all, the Full Moon Vista folks put on a good event and I will be attending more of their races.

Enough blog for now... Guelph RR soon.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

08 October, 2010

Race Report - Green Mountain Cyclocross Weekend

After starting the season with a fairly low-profile local race, I went straight to the other end of things racing a weekend of UCI C2 races in Williston VT, the first of the VERGE NECCS series. Of course I wasn't racing the UCI category there, because unlike at home there is a large Cat 3 field well suited to my abilities. It's challenging but I'm not at risk of getting lapped or pulled, as all the guys are +/- maybe 10% of my ability. Racing in a field of around 100 (since we raced with the Juniors too) is a really different experience from a field of 20 or 25 at home, and is great for working on group racing skills and getting used to passing.

Day 1

Started with a fairly early morning, beginning with coffee and breakfast. We soon headed over to see the cat 4 race in which one of the guys I was staying with was racing his first cross race. John had a good ride and ended up 3rd.

My first impression of the course, or what I could see of it from the start/finish area was something along the lines of "hmm, I bet there's a bit of climbing on this course." Little did I know...

The tech guide stated there was to be no practice on course aside from specified times which were two half hour slots, one of which was AFTER my race for the Elite Men and Women to take advantage of. Of course, I missed the other half hour that I was to use so thanks to some advice from Vicki I hopped on in the small gap between the masters 45+/55+ race and the 35+. I got in only half a lap, but it was enough to know that there was more than a little bit of climbing per lap - there was a lot. One never ending gradual climb off the start, a couple punchy little ones, and another long grinder halfway through the lap.

To add to the insult of a hilly course (with my lack of climbing ability) I started getting major GI distress during my warmup. I blame the HEED that I drank, since it was the only thing I had that was not totally proven in my pre-race nutrition routine.

So I lined up at the start, a little less warmed up than I'd like and full of cramps in my gut, and blasted up the hill. I think I was around 10th-12th wheel on the first descent - way too far up for me on a hilly course in this field. As a result I slowly drifted back the next time we hit a climb, then again on the start climb on lap 2. Somewhere around lap 3 I really blew up, and was quickly shot out the back.

So 10th or so on lap 1, maybe around 20th on lap 2 and then out the back to somewhere around 60th I'm guessing. I was cruising the flats and making up spots where I could, but still steadily loosing a few every time we went up. I figured that was sustainable until the end, but then on one of the sweeping descents I was maybe following a bit too close and the guy ahead went decided to have a yard sale on the off camber corner. Obviously the correct reaction was to lock up my rear brake and crash myself out trying to avoid him... yeah that is a much better idea than simply riding over him (note to self: next time, ride overtop of crashed riders).

I picked myself up, but the usual post crash lack of motivation was hitting hard, and I basically soft pedalled for the next half lap. I tried to get moving again next time up the start, but there was nothing there. I coasted the descent, pulled into the pits and saved myself the grief of finishing in 300th place by pulling out. Save it for tomorrow... yeah that's what I was doing. Tomorrow I would be out for blood. And maybe trying to recover some dignity.

Day 2

The morning was much the same routine, except the race times were shifted a bit earlier to allow an early escape for those driving from out of town (a great idea). Rolled in part way through the cat 4 race to see John finish up, not quite as strong as the first day but hey, it was his second cross race!

This time I was sure not to miss the dedicated course preview time, and headed out for a couple laps with a whack of cat 3s and M35+ guys. The first lap was a parade pace as we were letting the last cat 3/4 woman finish up, other than one dick from Svelte who felt the need to blast past everyone, including the poor woman who was still racing. Thankfully he got an earful from the rest of us and was not seen again.

The course was a lot better than the day before, although still full of climbing. Not all at once though, which was nice. There was still a few long false flats and at least one part I would definitely call a "climb" but also more turns and sections that actually required a bit of bike handling. The run/ride-up with logs embedded in the ground was nice - I rode it in pre-ride but knew that I would likely be running it most laps in the race, if not all of them, because getting the preferred line in traffic would be questionable and I am pretty sure I am just as fast off the bike on something like that anyway.

I should interject now that surrounding this weekend was a showdown between myself and a longtime friend Brandon. Brandon is a cat 2 on the road, and has historically been a much faster cyclist than me. When it comes to technical stuff however, he is your typical roadie - I can outride him most of the time on mountain bikes, but we haven't raced head to head in cross for a long time so this was our chance to see who would prevail. Unfortunately the Green Mountain courses favoured a rider with good power to weight and did not require much in the way of skills, so it looked like he was going to go 2 for 2 against me. Both days I took off much faster on the start, but steadily lost ground on the climbs with Brandon eventually passing me.

So back to my race - I got off to a nice start, and was riding in what was probably the 2nd group along with my teammate Nick. Nick is also much fitter than me, but it turns out he was just sitting in and would later move up (or I would drop back - same thing, right?). About 3 laps with that group, and then a few of them (including Nick) shelled the rest of us on the climb into the runup.

Not too long after, Brandon also rode away on a climb but I largely kept him in sight - allowing the gap to go out to maybe 20 seconds or so. A lap later and all of a sudden he was going backwards HARD. So hard I passed him on the climb... weird, but ok. I'd find out later he torqued his back and was hurting, but that sounds an awful lot like an excuse ;)

So a couple more laps go by and we're at the bell lap. I'm not having my best race, but I'm holding my own against the guys I'm with. I notice I can probably take most of them in the corners, and while I'm not comfortable I seem to be hurting less than those around me. Good news for the uphill grassy sprint finish that this might come down to. Little did I know, 10 seconds back on my group Brandon was closing fast. About 500 metres and maybe 4 corners left to go I was eyeing up my group and sorting out how I would drop them all in the second last straight and nail the finish. Right about that time, Brandon got on my group, and managed to do so without me noticing. I didn't realize until I exited the last corner (in front of the guys I was with, as planned) and heard someone shifting up to sprint. "hey, didn't I just drop everyon.. oh shit, it's Brandon!" Time to give'r, but he's a cat 2 roadie remember... so yeah, I lost that sprint, but only by a bike length, so I'm not totally upset by that one.

2 for 2, he got me... but there's always Nationals. It's in November, so maybe there will be snow, or at least rain, and hopefully that will make it slippery enough that my technical skills prevail and I can take some revenge.

So that was my Green Mountain cyclocross weekend. Vermont is beautiful, but they have hills there (ok, so I should have known that). Good experience racing the large VERGE series cat 3 field, and a good warmup for Gloucester!

Only 2 weeks behind on race reports now - AWESOME!

24 September, 2010

Race Report - We Need More Cowbell: Jump the Cheeseburger edition

Skipping over the end of my mtb season (because who cares about mtb racing anyway, right? At least when you're a mediocre expert rider trying to crack the top 20...) I'll get to catching up on and hopefully keeping up with race reports for cross season.

The season opener for me is as usual for Southern Ontario, the local race (for me) at Burgoyne Woods in St. Catharines. Driving only 15 minutes to get to the venue is awesome. Pounding stakes until 8:30 the night before, not so much, but someone has to do it!

I got to the venue early enough to see the morning races go off and generally have a relaxing start to the day. Hopped on course for a couple laps between races and having helped design half the course found it much as expected - stupid fast, but with enough corners to require SOME skill to keep your speed.

Hopped on the trainer during the second race, situated perfectly for spectating and chatting to fellow racers as they came to sign in. After the course cleared I got on the backside to do some more practice while they ran the kids race on the other side. Lined up good and early but conceded front row spots to others who I thought deserved them - mistake #1.

Off the line I got a bit hung up with Andrew, but thankfully we just leaned on each other a bit and got going. I guess he missed his pedal, which explains it, and thankfully he's someone I can trust to lean on and get on with things. Unfortunately that put me pretty far back into the first corner so it was time to chase like hell through the technical section before it opened up as I knew gaps would open between groups as soon as things got straight and wide.

I managed to get in to a group wth Brusso, Nick, Andrew and myself which lasted about 1 lap. At that point Andrew and Nick rolled off the front while Brusso and I just kind of looked at each other, both of us not really able to get on it without digging a huge hole for this early in the race. Shortly after that we hooked up with one of the Masters, and so began our little train of 3. We rolled around for a few more laps everyone going smoothly and keeping Andrew and Nick in sight. Smoothly until I washed out in the sandy pine section that is, which sucks because I was otherwise cornering better than the others.

Train o' Wilby, Moote, Brusso

Same train, different order

That gave them their gap which was really only 5 or 10 seconds, which I planned to close down on the next time through the technical section because there was no way I'd make up ground on them in the straight bits. Unfortunately maybe they knew this, and I hear them talking and next thing I knew they'd taken off on the big finish stretch, quickly sending the gap out to 30 seconds or more. That was essentially the end of it, and I was left to go alone for the last 2 laps or so, holding off those behind with ease and making up a little ground on those in front but not enough to matter.

10th on the day... not bad for the first race and way better than last year. First Elite race I didn't get lapped in too, and not for lack of speedy guys at the front. Cheers to my teammate Pete for taking the sprint against Chown by about 5 cm, even if it was because the line was painted crooked on the grass (hmm, who painted that line again? oh yeah it was Chown... he took it well though and there was a photo to back it up). Oh yeah, the new bike rocks. And thanks to Jeff K for the photos I stole for this post (without permission!)

One race down... off to VT next for my VERGE NECCS debut.

01 August, 2010

Overdue race reports: Mountainview and Buckwallow O-Cups

Since these come many weeks after the events I will omit lots of details.


Carpooled up to Midland with Kerton and De Cal, straight to the venue on Saturday to preride. Some new singletrack was added compared to the 2009 course and this year I would be racing the full 1:30 course with "Glassford's Grind" included. A grind it was - this course has so much potential to be a good one for me save for all the climbing. With a couple large climbs per lap it really didn't suit me and I knew my race would be hard.

Hard it was, with no really good feelings at any point. My usual 3rd/4th lap gas/cramping made climbing pretty tough. Another one down... at least I finished this one.


Another Saturday preride, I found Buckwallow much as I remembered it from last year except I was riding a lot better. With the suspension fork on my bike this year the descents were very manageable and a lot of fun. A couple lines were giving me trouble. In the end I got all but one (in the 1:30 only section) figured out, and decided I would run that one in the race

Nice prime rib dinner in Carnarvon and a quiet evening at teammate Jarrod's parents' cabin.

Race day came and I started to observe the carnage that this course seems to cause for the racers. Broken bikes, broken bodies and broken spirits. It really is a race of attrition for all but the best bike handlers.

I got off to a good start but was surprised how fast I got swarmed. At the first small climb after the LONG FLAT doubletrack start I was in the bottom 25% but not too concerned. I found myself battling back and forth with Zoltan and he got by on the long rocky climb taking a cleaner line (forcing me off mine? no hard feelings though). Lap 2 I reeled him in and focussed on riding cleanly. By the end of the lap I had a small gap so I hit the gas HARD when I got on the start stretch of doubletrack and opened up a nice margin. Around this time i passed Shawn who usually doesn't hold me off this long, so he seemed to be having a good race. Spent the rest of the lap padding said margin so I could ride lap 4 at a more relaxed pace.

Lap 4 was going well, just finishing it up when Shawn caught back up to me with about 2 k to go. I was holding a pretty good pace until the large rock obstacle in the very last section of singletrack. I came over the top of it as I had probably 6 or 7 times prior that weekend but something happened and I was over the bars and sliding down some very abrasive Canadian shield rock. I let out a good shout of pain, enough to convince some spectators my leg was broken (it was also mighty tangled in my frame) but eventually collected myself and soft pedaled the last 500m or so to the line. While down Shawn who was right on my wheel at the time passed, as did one other from my category apparently. Damn, robbed of 22nd place ;)

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24 July, 2010

Blogging lapse

It's been quite busy in the past couple months and for whatever reason motivation to post has been low. I am hoping with the BlogPress app I am more likely to post regularly now.

I plan to catch up on the past couple months of race reports, but it hasn't been anything too exciting. The good news is that everything is falling into place for Cyclocross season - very exciting!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

02 June, 2010

Race Report: Hardwood Hills Canada Cup

A little delayed as usual. Going back to the last post (Albion O-Cup), training has been relatively solid - hard rides a couple times a week and last weekend I may or may not have raced a 24h event that may or may not have happened.

As such, I was going into the Canada Cup with less than fresh legs, but everything seemed relatively good otherwise. Everything except for the weather which had been dry and hot for 2 weeks. Race day would be no exception with temperatures around 30° in the afternoon and humidity adding to the feeling - it was going to be tough for everybody. I know most people were happy it was not 4° and snowing like 2009, but I will take that any day over the heat. Temperatures under 20° are where I am happy.

Anyhow, the trip to Barrie was long involving a detour to the shop to get a new damper for my fork. I got to the venue late afternoon Saturday and did a medium pace lap with Jarrod and Mac before heading out for dinner at East Side Marios and then to the Georgian Suites Hostel for the evening. Replaced my damper in the hostel, not without spilling fork oil all over the floor (and cleaning it up). Good thing it was tile...

On to race day, I got to the venue pretty early to work the feed zone for Jeff in the 9:30 race. During the elite race I got out to warm up and came back to watch the finish. Watson was doubling the second Joyride jump pretty nicely each lap. Top style points, even if he was 3rd in the actual race.

Lining up for the race it was clear the heat was going to be a factor. We got off and as everyone else's race reports indicate, it was just a big dust cloud which made breathing and seeing anything tough. I got on Justin's wheel as usual but couldn't hold it up the little climb after the woodchips ended. Into the singletrack I was sitting ok, but there was a big bottleneck and I was waiting my turn. Got rolling, only to find people all over the trail off their bikes around the next corner. Got back on, but I am pretty sure I was last at this point.

I chased back up a few spots and was riding with Jay Menard, who was also suffering. I felt pretty terrible and was not getting up any of the singletrack climbs well at all. We caught Peter Mancini who was presumably also having trouble his first race back from an early season injury. He caught on and then started to pick up the pace a bit, which was good because it changed my mindset from just riding around back to racing a little. Jay didn't hang on to this pace so it was the two of us for the rest of the lap.

Lap 2 was pretty poor as well, but uneventful aside from a couple encounters with trees. Starting out lap 3 we got halfway up the woodchips and Pete pulled a U turn. I tried to convince him to keep going but he was done. Back to riding slow for me, but now I was more fatigued and I couldn't handle the bike at all. I did not have the strength to weight my front wheel to turn and was washing out all over the place in the loose sandy corners. As such I was starting to think I would only hurt myself by continuing, and after a sketchy 3rd time down coffee run I pulled the plug.

Reflecting on the race, aside from the heat which I could not change, I definitely went too long without an easy week. I will take this one very light on training and see how this weekend's race at Mountainview goes. After that it's a much needed few weeks off before the next race. Lots of club rides during that time should help get my fitness back on track and then I will start building toward my fall cross season (I already can't wait for cross and the nicer weather it will bring with it).

10 May, 2010

Albion Hills O-Cup Race Report

With the rain throughout the week prior, I was beginning to think that this would be a repeat of last year’s slog in the mud, and mentally prepared for that sort of race. Preriding on Saturday just as the last of the major rainstorms blew over, it was clear that while the course was wet, it had taken the rain quite well and would dry up quickly. By my 1:30 start on Sunday the weather was perfect and the course had recovered very well. So well they decided to re-add the green monster climb to our race. I’m not sure if anyone was really happy about that, but it’s certainly a good challenge for the legs.

Up the Green Monster (photo credit: Ryan Jakob)

After blowing up 3 laps into my race at Mansfield, I knew I needed to pace myself better and decided a heart rate monitor would help me do that. I lined up behind Justin Henri and off the gun followed him through the start loop and up into a mid-pack position.

Throughout the first lap holding his wheel was almost too easy, and I was perhaps reserving too much. I pulled ahead and away at some point and pushed my pace a bit, but it still seemed manageable. At some point he caught me, finding his legs and soon left me behind. Toward the end of the lap however, we were back together going into lap 2.

Lap 2 was much of the same, although Justin rode away from me up the green monster and it was all I could to to get over the top. For the most part however, this lap was uneventful and I felt like I was riding better and maybe speeding up a bit.

I was riding back and forth with Zoltan as we hit the feed zone on lap 3 where he grabbed his bottle and subsequently put in an attack just fierce enough to get away. I thought I might catch him once the ground leveled out a bit, but when I came around the top he was gone. I now had a carrot, but he was out of sight which makes it a bit harder.

Up the green monster my legs were starting to knot up and I decided to dismount, since it seemed to be common among those I was riding near and as such I wouldn’t lose any spots doing so. It was a good call to save my legs at this point.

Coming down goat path some elites were lapping through and I was doing my best to get down the switchbacks and on to the doubletrack as quickly as possible to let them by. This turned out to be too quick, and when I hit the muddy ditch at the bottom I lost my front wheel and ended up sliding into the bushes on my back. I was slow to get up, and though my bike seemed fine the front shifting was pretty much gone due to various things being full of mud and twigs. As such I did my best to ride it out, but I was simply not going fast at all. I was spinning around with my HR at 170 bpm, not racing. Since I couldn’t seem to get going again, I decided there was no point in doing a 4th lap in my little ring at this dreadfully slow pace, so I called it. I do not like to DNF but there was not even a training benefit from the pace I was doing after the crash.

Overall, I am happy with how my fitness was going and my handling through the singletrack. I just need to further dial in my nutrition and pacing and I think I’ll have a handle on how I need to ride in Expert. From there it is just a matter of not making these mistakes and trying to improve incrementally.

Next up is the Life$tyle$ of the Rich and Famou$ 24h race, and then the Canada Cup at Hardwood Hills. I’m looking forward to a couple solid weeks of training and then these races

26 April, 2010

Mansfield O-Cup #1 Race Report

Yesterday was my first race in Sr. Expert, and generally went better than expected. My result was better than expected (27/31) and I didn't bonk on lap 4 like I thought I might. I did manage to drop my chain 2 times that I had to get off and replace it, and wash out in a sandy corner on a doubletrack descent, surprisingly not hurting myself or my bike.

The race morning prep was quite a different routine of course, racing at 1:30 instead of 11:30. I couldn't just eat breakfast and race on that, so it meant preparing and eating a lunch type meal around 10:30-11:00. The in-race nutrition is also a little different - I knew drinking would be very important and I mixed myself a bottle per lap and arranged to have someone in the feed zone. Because I'd only drank a half bottle on the first lap I skipped my first feed but probably should have ditched my half bottle for a full one, as I may have paid for this later.

The start was not as furious as I had anticipated, and even from the back row I found myself solidly in the middle of the group on top of the climb and into the singletrack. I found a train of riders to go with for the first lap, though the faster ones were already riding away from me with no ability to respond.

On the tech climb I ran into traffic, catching a lot of the riders that had rode away from me - this provided a nice rest while waiting to walk up and put me in a good position for the rest of the lap. Lap 2 was similarly uneventful, losing a few positions still but riding well. When Justin came up to me I hopped on his wheel knowing he should generally be faster than I would pace myself alone. Overall that seemed like a pace I could hold, but he washed out on a couple loose sections and repeatedly had to chase back. The latter part of the lap he was riding smoothly and was great to pace behind. Up the start climb for lap 3 however, I could not hold his wheel any longer and let him go.

Lap 3 I found myself feeling the verge of cramping on the steep singletrack so I knew I would have to back off and count on riding smoothly and mostly in the saddle the rest of the race. I could climb all but the one rooty climb in the saddle, and did so choosing to run the last bit of that one to save my legs. The rest of lap 3 and 4 were spent trying to ride with good leg speed to keep the pace high enough, and simply trying not to cramp whenever things pointed up.

I managed to hold off Zoltan, my category-mate from Sport last year, by just over a minute which I was happy with.

There's definitely some lessons to be taken from this race, and overall I'm happy to be racing Expert. There was a brief consideration that if I went back to sport I could be quite competitive, but I am not really racing mtb for results, and these expert races will be far better training. Plus, should I get a little faster to stay in the mix, everyone I know seems to be in expert so I'll have some good folks to ride with as long as I can hold their wheels.

Next up, Albion...

19 April, 2010

Paris to Ancaster 2010

First, the week before the race: busy with final exams, and then I got a stomach flu monday night. This meant no food for ~24h and no energy until about Thursday. Wrote exams Wednesday and Thursday and generally just tried to get my body back to functioning. It wasn't clear until Friday that I would even start the race.

Rode my bike for about 10 minutes on Saturday to ensure it wouldn't fall apart, since I built it on Friday.

On to race morning, I did the usual milling about the start area, stand in the washroom line etc. Got a solid 10 minutes of warmup... not a big deal as I'd be stuck in traffic for the first 30 minutes of the race anyway.

I got a good start from about 4th row of the non-top 100 1st wave, and moved up quickly. Soon on the rail trail I realized I was seeing a lot of top 100 folk, so moving up nicely. The loose right hander was sketchy as usual... had to change lines a few times while running due to slower runners/bike pushers (come on, shoulder your bike! Dermont gets off on that one for riding a tandem, which I ran past on the hill).

I kind of missed the group that formed on top, so I chased and made contact right around the first section of "singletrack" and continued to pass in there when possible. On the next road section I again missed the train, so it was chase time again. Got a good group which I stayed with into the next off-road part beside hwy 24.

From here it was the usual bridging from group to group. I figure I made it somewhere near top 50-60 by the 40-50km mark on the rail trail. I mostly conserved energy at this point, sitting on until it was time to leave that group behind. I made sure to lead down the chutes and mostly left people behind there, although I did get caught in some traffic.

Finally, the climbs at the end - the first one didn't feel too good in the legs and I knew I had to be careful of cramping so I spun a pretty small gear, losing a couple spots, gaining maybe 1 or 2. Down the descent was good, then up the final climb on mineral springs. Things were going ok in damage control mode until it kicks up for the first time. I had to unclip really fast to avoid falling off my bike, and the cramping almost prevented me from walking. It flattens out after that so I spun the legs out and thought I might be ok... as things pointed up again I definitely was not. Off the bike and kneeling in the ditch, legs seized. Awesome. I finished the walk of shame around the corner and got back on the bike for the last few hundred metres, only to watch Pierre Perrin ride by and beat me by 9 seconds, just to put another nail in the coffin.

All things considered, I'll take it. 108th, so as long as a few people ahead don't do the race next year I should get to start in the front part of the 1st wave. Given who I was riding with around 40-50k and where they finished, I should be able to make a large improvement in next year's result.

12 April, 2010

Tour of Bronte

After my poor ride at Good Friday, I wanted to get back on track, but training these days is limited due to school commitments. As such it was some club rides with the SCCC and a couple tune-up rides the week before to get ready for the the Tour of Bronte the following Sunday.

Going into this race I was much more optimistic. Cooler temperatures with equally nice weather made for a comfortable body, and the course couldn't suit me better: nearly pancake flat with 70% on dirt/gravel roads. The plan was to drive the race from the front and see what happens - a break would be favourable since I don't feel I have much of a sprint these days.

The rollout was calm, and for a minute it seemed as if the pack would take things gently for awhile but before we hit dirt the first time Tyler Holtzman of SCCC attacked, feeling out the pack no doubt. It was quickly shut down, and hitting the gravel it was Speed River's duo of Tim and Bayden to the front. Bayden got off solo for a few km, but this move too was shut down. From there we had a more relaxed couple of laps with some hard accelerations to keep people on their toes. I maintained a position in the top 5-10 finding it safer to navigate the loose corners there, and allowing me to follow or chase attacks if needed.

Coming around the start/finish I saw that I'd lost my teammate Shaw, who was now riding off the back. I later found out he went in the ditch on the first gravel corner, as many others did throughout the day. Realizing I was alone I knew I had to watch for the decisive attack and follow it.

The intermediate laps saw pairs getting away occasionally, but they were quickly reeled in. The Speed River boys would put one off the front and counter when caught. Very smart - that's how you drive a race. Catching up with my buddy Tim (MBRC.org - Gears) I knew he was good for a hard effort so I followed him off the front a couple times but we never really got clear. Still too early.

With 2 to go Tyler and Max put in a big SCCC attack, and Tim (SRCC) was the only one to follow. I knew this was a good move so I gave it everything to bridge. This was probably the nail in my coffin for the day, but it was my only hope. I was able to pull through a couple times but was clearly the weak link in this break and we'd eventually be caught since Tim was also not working 100% given the 2 on 1 situation.

It was on the bell lap that Tyler made the decisive move and again Tim followed. All we could do was chase from there - first Mark Palma (Sweet Petes) and I, then lapdogs on the front. With Tim in the break, Bayden interrupted our rotation in the chase, so Mark tried to go for it. I couldn't follow but a Handlebars CC rider did go with him so it was 2 groups of 2 up the road and the rest of us chasing. We closed down the gap nicely but ran out of road as this was the final lap - Mark and the Hbars rider would be caught about 1k out and the Tyler/Tim move stayed clear by 3 seconds at the line. I got interrupted by a rider who sat up after their pull in the leadout, and thus rolled in at the back of the pack - such is life.

I was happy to take this race from the front and ultimately I didn't pick my moves well - too many too early, and I wasn't there when it mattered. If the composition of the second last break was a little different it might have stuck, but we really needed another strong rider in there and me to be taking stronger pulls. Good experience racing from the front of a strong pack, and learning when to follow and when to sit in.

Look for photos at www.cyclingphotos.ca in the next days, as I know Mr. Safka was out there shooting.

edit: here is one of a couple that he sent me

I'll probably be taking a break from the road for now, focussing on mtb for the summer, but I am going to work a few crits into the schedule later on.

For now, back to studying and punching out these last few projects so I can actually start training again in a week or so.

09 April, 2010

Good Friday

Time to take a short break from studying to catch up on the last couple weeks of racing here.

First, the season opener Good Friday RR. This year was unseasonably hot and sunny, and saw a huge number of participants. The day began with the huge S4/M3 field and a number of crashes - some more serious than others. One fellow was still in the hospital as of the last news article, and we're all hoping he comes out ok.

This, I think, set the tone for our S3/Junior field and everyone seemed to be racing safely. Unfortunately, with the delayed start and generally busy start area I was at the back of the staging area. I was in the wind and fighting my way up from the start as a result. The heat was also getting to my stomach, at 28° and humid. As such, when we hit the hills the first time I promptly went backwards, and by the 3rd one turing on to Safari road, I was losing contact.

From there, I looked for other dropped riders to chase with but nobody would cooperate. Finally, toward the beginning of lap 2 I worked with a junior to get up to Rob Wilson of SRS and Jay Menard. The 4 of us rotated nicely until the junior fell off, and we continued to paceline the rest of the lap, losing Rob somewhere near the end of Brock Rd. With just Jay and I coming through the start, cramping all around, we decided that was enough and pulled out. It was simply a bad day on the bike, and my stomach was the main factor.

Next up on my racing schedule is the Tour of Bronte.

01 April, 2010

this time, really long time no blog!

The reason for this is school. School that is about to end (for the foreseeable future). Being that this is the eve of race season the reports will start to flow, and within a month I should be back to regular blogging when my life returns to normal.

So for now, some thoughts on tomorrow:
  • It's the first race of the season for me (minus Frostbike, which I think of as part of my '09 season, periodization wise)
  • It's the first race for most Ontarians
  • Legs feel ok, numbers are looking good for April
  • I'm racing in a new category - looking forward to that for many reasons
  • Time to see where things really stack up!
So with that, see many of you tomorrow. It should be a great day for racing.

28 February, 2010

A detailed analysis of tubeless tires for cyclocross

A topic that causes much contention on internet message boards, and is generally pretty interesting to a lot of people is that of tubeless tire setups for cyclocross. I would like to give a detailed look at where we are at with the technology, and where things might be headed.

Historically, tubulars have ruled the discipline, and for good reason. You can safely run them at pressures suitable for the amount of traction required, and even ride them flat to the pit if needed. Most importantly, good tubulars have extremely supple casings (on the order of 300+ tpi), so they conform to the ground extremely well aiding traction and comfort.

Clinchers on the other hand, offer anywhere from 60 tpi to 320 tpi casings, though somewhere around 120 is probably average. The ride of the nicer clinchers is better than the cheap ones, but still does not come close to the performance of tubulars. Also, running tubes (even latex) at the pressures required for cross almost invariably results in a pinch flat costing you the race. When this does happen, you can't really ride it to the pit because the tire is likely to peel off the rim.

The mtb world has been familiar with tubeless tires and rims for some time, and the technology is now quite mature. There are 2 camps, generally speaking:
  1. UST which is a certified system encompassing a spec for both tires and rims. The rim and tire have matching bead profiles, which are much more square than conventional folding beads to give a secure lock. The tire includes a butyl layer - essentially a tube - so that it will hold air. The system may be used with or without sealant as a preventative measure from punctures.
  2. Converted setups, which involve a rimstrip (originally Stan's Notubes, but now often simply a split innertube) and the use of sealant to seal both the tire/rim interface and the tire casing itself (if a non-UST tire is used).
Since sealant affords such good protection against punctures, almost everyone uses it in their tubeless tires and suddenly UST becomes a lot less attractive due to the extra weight of the UST-spec tires. This has led to the development of "tubeless-ready" tires, or those which have stronger/tighter beads but not an airtight butyl layer so they can be used tubeless with sealant at more competitive weights. Parallel to this, non-UST spec tubeless rims have been developed, most prominently by Stan's Notubes where the bead hook is designed specifically to hold on to non-UST beads in a much more secure way than option 2 above. In my mind, this is really the gold standard of tubeless setups, and thus 3 new distinctions are formed, each with loyal followers:
  1. Those who prefer tubeless ready tires and rims (eg. Bontrager TLR setup, Hutchinson tubeless ready tires) with sealant, sometimes on UST rims.
  2. Those who use Stan's Notubes rims, any clincher tire of their choice and sealant - with the rim being designed to fit standard tires tightly, a secure and reliable setup can be had without the weight penalties associated with UST and tubeless ready tires.
  3. Those still using converted rims and tires - definitely becoming a minority, and IMO this setup does not have the same level of reliability at the bead interface, since it depends on a rimstrip to make a tight fit, rather than a special bead hook or tighter beads on tubeless ready tires.

So getting back to cyclocross from all of this: there are very few tubeless ready tires available, and no UST spec exists. As such, the primary systems in use to date are either converted rims or Stan's Notubes rims, both with standard tires. Performance, including bead security at typical cross pressures, has been an issue especially with converted setups. Most people using Stan's rims and some of the tighter tires do not have this problem.

This takes me to my inspiration for this post - having installed cross tires on my 29er wheels before, I notice that they have a great profile: wide and high volume, which is sure to increase performance.

Indeed this is what many tubeless users have been enjoying, since the only Stan's Notubes rim appropriate for cross has been the ZTR 355 29er rim, which is 24.4 mm wide (19 mm internal). The problem with this is having a wider rim means setting your brakes up for said rim, so when a standard road wheel is used they are not in the right place (far beyond what can be accounted for with a barrel adjuster). Also, at 410g the 355 is not really as light as it could be for cyclocross use. In response to this demand, Stan's has released a road/cross rim called Alpha 340, which is 22.35 mm wide (17 mm internal) and approximately 340 g. It also has machined sidewalls, which will improve braking greatly over the non-machined 355. This is still wider than the average road rim, but narrow enough that with careful setup one might be able to get their brakes to work with both using only a barrel adjuster. Unfortunately, much of the advantage of the wider rim has been given up, and I think if you were to really commit to tubeless use (i.e. switching all your wheelsets) that having a ~24 mm rim but with machined sidewalls and low weight would be ideal.
Lets consider however, the Alpha 340 as the best available tubeless rim for cross at the moment. Building these up fairly light with American Classic hubs and DT Revolution spokes 28h/32h front/rear you get a wheelset that is 1274 g ready to mount tires (incl. rimtape and valves). If we consider a typical high end clincher is 380 g and use 75 g of sealant per wheel, that amounts to 2184 g for the whole setup.

Now for a "typical" tubular setup of about the same calibre we'll take some Velocity Escape rims laced to the same AC hubs with DT Revolutions 28/32h. This comes out at 1327 g. Add some FMB tubulars (370 g each) + Mastik One glue (75 g for the pair), for a total of 2142 g. This is 82 g less than the top of the line tubeless setup above, and probably costs about the same when all is said and done (cheaper rims balance out more expensive tires).

So how does this wash out?
  • for similar money to a mid-range tubular wheelset (+ good tires), you can have the best tubeless setup currently available
  • the Alpha 340 rim is marginally wider than your average road rim - this is good for users who want to be able to use their road wheels or perhaps a set of tubulars they already own on the same bike, but this is not ideal if the goal is the best tubeless performance possible.
  • the tubeless setup is still dependent on low tpi tires, so the grip and ride will not be as good as tubulars until this situation changes. Low pressure performance is unknown at this point, with the rims not yet on the market for significant testing.
  • tubulars still come out lighter (though not by much, if you put the money into light tubeless wheels) and have inherent advantages (being able to ride them flat, etc.)
This shows promise for the tubeless camp, but it does not yet appear to be a viable idea for serious racing, considering that it costs as much as a set of reasonable tubular wheels and the best tubs you can buy and the performance is still less.

If we can get wide enough tubeless rims (dedicated cross rims, i.e. machined brake track, lightweight) and good supple clincher tires, ideally with beads optimized for tubeless use (i.e. tighter) there may be a case for making the switch, but at that point you have to commit all of your wheels to ensure brake compatibility.

In other words, we're not there yet. Keep buying those tubular wheels when the road racers dump them at the end of the season, and keep gluing up your Dugast/FMB/Challenge/Tufo tires with care, because it's the best we've got for the foreseeable future.

24 February, 2010

Escarpment climbing in Stoney Creek/Grimsby

This past Saturday I headed out with a group of cyclists cobbled together via a series of emails Friday. There were riders of varied ability, and the goal was to head out at a social pace to Grimsby and climb the escarpment a few times, then head back at a similarly relaxed pace. Some folks are heading to South Carolina in a few weeks and wanted to prepare their legs. Myself, I just wanted to get the km in my legs and do some hard efforts on the hills. 3 of us headed out from Niagara Falls around 8:15 to meet the rest of the group in St. Catharines at 9.

After some discussion about what route to take, we departed and rolled through Jordan and Vineland, fighting the strong west wind the whole way. Our first ascent to the top of the escarpment came at Mountain Rd in Beamsville - a gentle climb for 3 km averaging 3.3%, with the steepest part at 12%. Manageable, and one of my favourites in the area. I pulled away from the group, not intentionally, but just wanting to climb the whole thing a bit above threshold. I expected Dan to give chase, but it was Shawn who started to close on me but never made it across. We spun easily at the top giving me a chance to eat while the rest caught up. From here it was along Ridge Rd toward Stoney Creek.

At our farthest point, we descended McNeely Rd, which was a very new experience to me. I've never done a descent with such steep and tight switchbacks, so needless to say it was a bit hairy. Then, we climbed back up. 3 of us did, anyway. The climb is 1.6km, avg grade of 7.1% with sections at 17.1%. Needless to say, tougher than any other climb in Southern Ontario. It didn't help that my winter bike has a single 42t, so I was climbing in 42x28 (approximately equivalent to the second last cog on my road bike, 39x23). That was fun. Down Fifty road, and into Tim Hortons we went as we were now quite hungry and ready for a break at this point.

Following the refueling stop, most of the group went back up Fifty Road (no easy climb but gentler than the others in the area) while the same 3 of us decided to climb Wolverton Rd. instead. Wolverton is 1.3 km, avg grade of 8% with sections at 17.2% - similar to McNeely but 300m shorter and thus a little steeper on average. Also, the steepest part is a long stretch at 16-17% about 3/4 of the way to the top that just about breaks your legs.

Once on top, we enjoyed a nice tail wind, the same wind we'd fought on the way out. This carried us home, which included one final climb up the shorter and gentler escarpment back home in Niagara. In total the ride was about 145 km door to door for me, with about 850m of climbing. Not bad for a "flat" area with no mountains or real hills to speak of.

Here is my ride data, as well as an elevation profile (with slightly different time/distance since it was from Shawn's GPS file - you can ignore the peak power, since that is some bogus thing calculated by the software - that file did not have any power data from either of us).

Sunday I did an easy 1h recovery ride on the trainer, and then it was a couple days off to tackle midterms and other school business.

Tonight, a few high(-ish) cadence intervals to work on form and to get the legs warmed up after a couple slow days:

17 February, 2010

Tonight's interval session

I figure I'll start putting some numbers and figures up here for the data junkies, and the rest of you can just ignore it if you find it as boring as it really is.

I got on the trainer tonight for 90 minutes, including 2x20 minute blocks of "Sweet-spot" aka sub-threshold effort. This is just hard enough that it requires concentration, to maintain but doesn't really inflict pain, at least not all at once. The cumulative effect is pretty significant though, and it's one of the best ways to squeeze high TSS workouts into small blocks of time.

Here's the ride:
I was able to hold the wattage pretty well, and was even considering a 3rd effort but a tight feeling in my left leg that wanted some stretching and R&R put a stop to that idea. I was getting the feeling that if I pushed through it I'd end up straining it.

Back tomorrow with another workout, hopefully.

14 February, 2010

Joyride150 report

This morning I headed off to Markham to meet up with a few friends at Joyride150, my first visit to the park. Upon arrival, I met with Brad and Jared and we set to work installing my old brakes on his new Gioda Espresso. Unfortunately his fork had IS tabs and I didn't have an adaptor for the front brake so we were only able to install the rear - but one brake is ok for a bike park, right? If you like skidding around corners it is. The bike looks beautiful and I'm sure Jared will be happy racing on it this summer.

I had my waivers signed at home so the membership card was a quick and painless experience. I paid my fees for the day and headed off to change. I put on arm warmers, but those came off after 1 quick warm-up lap. Throughout the day we would find the temperature quite comfortable when riding (even sweating a little when you get going on the pump tracks) but rather cold when you stop and are a little moist.

Overall the park was very fun and surprisingly XC friendly - the XC loop of course was good, with enough features to keep it interesting and a couple challenging features if you want to take the hardest line. Some relatively tame rock gardens (more like rock carpets?) but I still managed to crash trying to enter one parallel to the wood border, sliding along instead of rolling over it.

The pump tracks are a bit tight for the wheelbase of an XC bike, but are still fun and I found #2 to offer good enough flow to spend a fair bit of time on it. A few laps on the pump track are quite tiring and heavy on the upper body work. It's nice to mix them in with laps of the XC track.

The skinny lines are probably my biggest challenge, but I found I got significantly better over the course of the day. There's a nice progressive ground level line that goes right down to a 1.5" board in the front area. I was nailing that, so back to the sport skinnies I went - I can ride about half of them, half of the time. A few are completely beyond my reach right now, and the rest pose enough challenge to make it enjoyable and productive. I was happy to clean a few of them after a couple attempts, for sure.

Overall the park surprised me with what it had to offer for an XC rider, and also with how much space there was for a busy weekend day. While occasionally you'd get crowded or held up it was usually just a case of choosing another area for the moment and you'd have lots of space to yourself. I must say it was easy to log 4 hours of "training" and have it not feel laboured - I am tired, but since the load was distributed to my whole body my legs are not fried. That in itself is a great value to a racer who is doing base or the start of a build period. I will definitely return at least once this winter, and would be a regular visitor if I lived nearby.

13 February, 2010

Training update: winter singletrack, FTP testing, Joyride150

The title pretty much sums up what I've been up to lately. Trying to log the hours between some scattered trainer rides and getting on the mtb whenever possible. Singletrack conditions have been excellent lately with the relatively low amounts of snowfall and consistently cold temperatures to keep the base frozen. Today's snow was just a little moist which made the grip so good it was almost like summer, as long as you stay on the little stripe.

Last weekend was the Frostbike winter mtb race put on by the Shorthills Cycling Club in Port Colborne. They did a fantastic job and for a first time race it went off perfectly. Much effort was put in through the week prior to pack it down with club rides and trail work sessions. The weather cooperated and as a result racers were treated to great conditions. I managed 4th in the U30 category, since they separate out the overall M/F winners (so really I was the 5th fastest time in U30, and 10th overall for the men, if I have it correct). I wasn't too concerned with my performance so it was fun to go out and hammer for 3/4 of an hour and see what came out in the end. Lap 2 stood no chance of bettering my time but I went out anyway to get more riding in for the day. Fitness was definitely not my limiter here, but rather bike handling - these trails are relatively technical and with the winter conditions required my full attention to keep going where I wanted to.

This past week I did my first FTP test for the year at home, and the results were more or less as predicted. I still think I could do better for pacing, and push harder overall so I expect the numbers to go up as I get used to the protocol. Also, I think once the testing moves off the trainer and outside it will be a little easier. I've got a number in mind that I'd like to see by race season and with the next 8 weeks of build I think it is within reach.

Finally, tomorrow I am off to Joyride150 for the first time. I figure I need to check it out sometime, and meeting up with Jared to sell some brakes was the perfect excuse. It sounds as though I'll be meeting up with a few other friends throughout the day, so it should be nice to check out the park and socialize a bit in between as well. Hoping to get ~4 hours on the bike but we'll see how quickly I tire out. I do have pretty much no upper body strength... I will report back afterward with my thoughts on the park.

29 January, 2010

Good news!

I had a pleasant email arrive in my inbox today: the OCA High-Performance Committee approved my request to race Sr. Expert for MTB-XC and Senior 3 road this year. As I noted before, I chased that mtb upgrade last season and fell short with 258.4 of 260 required points. Based on my cyclocross results and desire to improve, the HP committee agreed that I was up to the challenge. Now I need to make sure my legs are too. Just 11 weeks until the first O-Cup!

28 January, 2010

Rebirth of my True North 29er

Going back to a post from 14 April 2008, I wrote about my True North mountain bike, a steel 29er that Hugh put together for me, and the beginning of my custom bicycle experience. The bike took me through my first couple race seasons and certainly helped me to advance my riding. The rigid fork brought the same kind of fun to mountain biking that one gets riding a cyclocross bike on mtb trails, but there was still the forgiving cushion of a fat tire below. It certainly helped me hone my skills from nonexistent to capable, but for 2010 I thought I might try a suspension fork - it will supposedly make me faster. So I picked up a Fox F29, with the G2 offset spec'ed for Gary Fisher to regain some of the quick handling that will be lost with the resulting slacker angle on the bike since it was built around a non-suspension corrected fork.

Now I'm getting ahead of myself... sometime in summer '09 I was riding at the Hydrocut and feeling like I was unusually off with the amount of toe-overlap issues I was having on switchback climbs. Then on the ride home I noticed a strange tightness in the headset. Upon inspection when I got home, I noticed I'd bent the steertube of my steel fork. How, I don't know, but I guess it was one too many hard whoops taken without unweighting the front enough. Off I went to visit Hugh, and sure enough he said he could fix it. I borrowed a fork in the meantime, keeping me on the bike to finish my race season - excellent!

Toward the end of the '09 season, I noticed what might be a crack developing at one of the chainstay/BB welds. This too proved to be true, so with these two issues plus the increasingly worn paintjob, it was time for some work.

The folks at True North had the frame stripped, Hugh then repaired the fork and chainstay, and while he was at it I had him add provision for a front derailleur pulley like you might find on a cross bike. Then it was time for new paint. The result, this:

As you can see in the second and third photo, I'm running a double crank (Middleburn Duo RS-8) with a Dura-Ace 7800 front derailleur. The 2x9 gearing suits my needs perfectly, and the combination of this crank and derailleur is super light. The shifts with the D-A derailleur seem way quicker than when I had an XT on there, too.

I'm going to save the detailed parts listing for a later date. The bike is currently built with the rigid fork and studded tires for winter riding. Once I get the suspension fork setup and summer tires on, I'll make another post complete with weight weenie spreadsheet. To tide the WWs over for now, as pictured it's pretty much right on 25 lbs. Swap out for race wheels and it's 21.8, or 23.3 with the suspension fork.

I am super excited to ride this bike again. The Frostbike is just over a week away, which should be a great way to bring the race legs back to life briefly :)

26 January, 2010

Plugging away

Another slow update, as not much has been happening lately. Training is moving along well, though a bit lean on the hours still. Finding time is not the problem, but finding time to ride outside is. Motivation to ride inside is hard to come by this time of year, and unfortunately there's not even snow to hike/snowshoe in. Just rain and a sloppy mess. Hopefully that is changing this week.

I'm now 3/4 of the way through the study at UofG and have had a chance to work on my timetrial pacing among other things, when completing these sessions. Once I am recovered from the last set of biopsies I will do my first (proper) FTP test for the year to get the power zones dialed in. I'm feeling strong, so as long as I can stay healthy and start to bring in the intensity I should have a good start to the season.

My mtb frame should be finished tomorrow. I visited it today and they had just put the first paint on it. The repairs went nicely and the bike should be better than new. I'm looking forward to getting it built back up, and hopefully doing some winter riding this weekend if conditions allow. Possibly preriding for the Frostbike which is coming up in a couple weeks. I really hope they get good conditions for the first edition of this race. This weekend should be a good preview of what it will be like if frozen, but without a good base of snow - I'm guessing icy and bumpy. Studded tires and possibly my new suspension fork should make those conditions no problem, I hope.

17 January, 2010

Long time no post...

Mostly because I haven't been doing much, especially to do with cycling. I've been doing a poor job of training, but haven't lost much fitness so as long as I get back on track now I should be ok.

While I'm writing, I might as well say a bit about the study I am doing at Guelph U. I am volunteering as a lab rat for a PhD student's study. She happens to be a notable racer on the Ontario Elite women's circuit, so of course there's lots of knowledge to be gained alongside my experience. In a nutshell, on 4 occasions (2 hydrated and 2 dehydrated) I ride for 90 minutes at a fixed proportion of my VO2max wattage, with 2 minute intervals every 20 minutes. Following this, I complete a TT equivalent to 6 kJ/kg which for me is 520-530 kJ, generally. The rest of the details are best left out until you can read the paper once published, but the above gives you an idea of what I am required to do.

So what have I gained so far? VO2max test was productive, as I now see my progress since I was last tested about a year and a half prior - this much was very good. Also, the TT portion of the trial is a good indicator for FTP, and the results so far have been surprisingly good (as far as I'm concerned). If I can get my shorter efforts up to the same calibre by race season, I stand to do quite a bit better than last year, I think... but of course numbers don't always translate directly to results.

That leads me to my next thought: I think I am now reaching the point where I could use a coach. Until now, I have felt that as a novice racer I can improve at a significant rate simply by riding lots, with a bit of structure and advice here and there. For beginners, there's no substitute for hours/km in the legs. I also had (and still have) some weight to lose, and this has had more bearing on performance than optimization of my training. Now that I've had a couple years to develop in this way, I am asking myself questions I no longer have the answer for. I see numbers that seem higher than my results would imply, so perhaps it will take a coach to direct my effort toward getting those results. We'll see.

As for the 2010 season, I'm still working on setting goals and finding it very difficult. The structure is more or less laid out and I know that I'll basically race the XC O-Cup series and a couple select events, ultimately building toward a strong cross season. I may aim to peak for Nationals, and I definitely hope to do more racing in the New England race scene where a strong B field offers a lot of close competition at my level, rather than the huge disparity of ability within the relatively small number of racers in Southern Ontario.

I will eventually get some concrete race schedule stuff up here, as well as more thoughts on my training plan/goals. Also, look for some posts containing the upcoming rebuild of my 29er and road bikes - both frames are in getting fixed up and repainted and will be put back together in a spiffy new way over the next month or so.

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