October 31, 2013

A Classic Juxtaposition

I'm a sorta sentimental guy, always have been. I like a meaningful remembrance of time well spent.

A classic example is my poster signed by Tommie Smith and John Carlos from the 35th Anniversary dinner and fund raiser for their statue on the campus of San Jose State University. Unless your daft (no, not Zef) you probably know at least a passable amount about their Black Power protest at the 1968 Olympics. It is considered among the most symbolic acts of the Civil Rights Movement and a bold move that had long term repercussions for each athlete. They were both from San Jose State University, and the Associated Students, where wass the Fitness & Adventures Director, threw a blow out party to honor these fine gentlemen.
It was a great night capped by a personally signed poster from Tommie and John. Awesome! Check it out...

Fast Forward

In November of 2011 I was asked by a friend to come and help out with Team Garmin's 2012 team building day at their winter camp in Boulder, CO. I flew out, ran a couple of stations on group problem solving, and even did a bit of drinking with the team after their media launch (well, maybe more than a bit). It was pretty cool so I took the initiative and had a slew of them sign a team poster knowing that I'd want to mount it as a way to remember the event.

This one sits on the wall opposite Tommie and John. So here's my dilema...I am vehemently opposed to DOPERS and their impact on cycling in the last 20 years, and unfortunately Team Garmin has shown time and again (3 for 1 on that one!), and again, and again that they embrace the dopers even while claiming to be a clean team in opposition to doping. It sickens me that these guys continued to race and draw salaries even after admitting their past. It cheapens the sport and forces me to question every result of every race...and I'm a naive 'believer' in what I'm watching, in the racing...or at least I was..


Do I keep it or sell it?

October 07, 2013

Latest Pez CyclingNews Article!

Cyclocross has started to sneak its way onto the pages of Pez. This annual changing of the guard is often looked at by road racers as the down season or winter break, but nothing will serve your road cycling training better in the run towards 2014 than a stint of cross racing this season.

Cyclocross has become all the rage over the past few years. Everywhere you look companies are coming out with cross bikes, now disc equipped cross bikes, espousing the fun and camaraderie of the sport, and pulling riders across the spectrum into its tangled web of mud, crud, and barriers. As the season begins in earnest, let’s consider what it is about cross that makes it a nearly perfect winter sport.

Cyclocross. It’s just plain, dirty fun.

Short on Duration, Long On Intensity
“Sixty minutes of suffering” is a common refrain, and a truism at that. Then again at most race sites only the elite men and women are doing the full sixty, for the rest it likely ranges between thirty and forty five minutes, a completely reasonable duration for head to toe suffering! 

We’ve assuaged your fear of the duration, so let’s talk about intensity! Yep, it starts hard and fast. I like to tell first timers and those questioning their fitness to start at the back and see how many people you can pass. A similar strategy is to take the first lap at a reasonable pace and then light it up. Of course this may eliminate you from contention, but in that first race of the season results are a bonus anyway.

Here’s the thing about cross. It is VERY easy to go too deep at the start and spend the rest of the race playing catch up of the aerobically destroyed kind. If you aren’t carrying some decent road fitness, or have trained specifically for ‘cross season, then avoid those 9 and 10 level efforts right off the line. You simply cannot dig a huge aerobic hole in the first lap and expect to recover and get back on a rhythm because you are riding at the frayed edge of composure anyway just trying to negotiate the various obstacles and try to retain some semblance of your placing. 

Embrace The Technical 
Perhaps the greatest addition that CX brings to your game is in the realm of bike handling skills. I’m sorry to say it, but too often riders upgrade without the proper skills set to manage the faster categories. CX can cut that learning curve dramatically. You’ll learn how to handle your bike out of problems quick, how to anticipate and avoid problems to begin with, and how to navigate varied terrain surfaces ranging from pavement to grass, gravel to mud, and everywhere in between. 

It is the skills component, in the end, that outweighs fitness. Give me two riders of nearly matching fitness and I’ll take the one with the skills for the win almost every time.

Certainly riders can get by on fitness. Three time Olympian Eric Wohlberg rode for my team for a few years and was pretty dreadful in the skills department, but his fitness level was so high that he pulled top 10s out of nearly every race despite his technical limitations. Of course over several seasons he developed a repertoire of skills that took him onto the podium regularly as well. 

You will be amazed how easy and ‘sticky’ the road feels after a season sliding around on dirt, grass and mud!

Equipment Lovers Rejoice
The common refrain is that cyclocross requires a big equipment investment, and it’s true, but not to the level you might think (or indeed wish for?!). While two bikes are often deemed a necessity, the truth is that you can race a full and complete campaign on just one bike if necessary. Now, should you opt to have a second bike most people will tell you to set them up exactly the same, but I don’t necessarily see it that way. I have run a single speed as my second bike the past couple of years and it works just great on 90% of the courses we use. In addition it opens up a whole new field of racing. 

Wheel and Tire Choices
Wheels, or more specifically tires, on the other hand, are a necessary and vital accommodation. The first question is tubes, tubeless, or tubular. Tubeless has come a long way in the past few years, but I still defer to tubulars for durability, reliability and performance. They have the distinct advantage of permitting much lower tire pressures. In addition, tubulars permit much more supple movement of the casing, resulting in much better grip and traction.

Generally tires are broken into three different styles:
• All conditions – characterized by tires like the Challenge Grifo, Clement PDX, and the Dugast Typhoon, are good for most any race year round and should be your primary set of race wheels, or only set if that’s what you can afford. 

• Mud tires like the Dugast Rhino or the Challenge Limus offer spectacular performance in muddy conditions, so if you race in mud regularly, get a set or two. 

• Lastly there are file treads, the closest thing to a road tire on offer, they have a very fast tread pattern and usually a mediocre set of knobs on the edge of the tire to help with cornering. File treads are fast if you can corral them!

You Have to Stop Sometimes
The second most important component on your CX bike are the brakes. In this case, cyclocross is a harbinger of things to come, namely disc brakes. Legal on UCI cross courses for a few years now, it is a sure bet that they will UCI legal for road races within two or three years. When Shimano and SRAM get behind a technology it’s a near sure bet that it will be race legal and each has a full hydraulic disc offering. In addition there are two new systems from TRP Brakes, including a hydraulic caliper that is cable actuated, that easily installs on all existing disc bikes using traditional cables. 

V-brakes (or linear pull as they are called) and cantilevers are the other two brake options. Cantilevers are classic “old school” and generally perform well enough to slow you down, but a step or two below your road bike calipers. Into that void stepped linear pull brakes a few years back. They offer impressive stopping in an easy to use system. Once you’ve ridden linear pull it is difficult to go back to cantilevers, spoken from personal experience!

Plan It Out
If you are going to jump into the fray, you should consider a couple of training adjustments. First, if cross is merely a weekend distraction then there isn’t much need to train for it. The racing will act as your weekly intensity in the off-season if you are hardcore about road, so don’t fret that. 

If you find a gnawing desire to be competitive, or if you want your weekend distraction to be a lot smoother and more fun, then you’ll want to throw down a couple days of skills practice. Make one of them an interval workout. Recall that cyclocross is sort of like a time trial except that it has 10-20-30 little sprints every lap, so easy! 

If you are doing intervals then I have my riders focus on Neuromuscular type efforts mixed with VO2 intervals of appropriate duration. Typically that’s a 3-10 minute block of 15 seconds on/off with lots of corners acting as the starting point for the “on” portions. That type of workout can alternate with a more VO2 type effort of 3-5 minutes duration. It’s a very time-efficient workout and you only have to do it a few times to get the payoff! 

Whatever your level of fanaticism and focus, cross can make the winter fly by and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the retention of top end acceleration and snap as your road season commences. Give it a try this “off” season!

October 05, 2013

Lombardia - Quick Hit

The last classic and in many ways the least well known, the Giro Di Lombardia is coming up in a few hours and I wanted to bolt down a post because it struck me that I know very little about the race. Certainly the Ghisallo climb and the fallen leaves mystic is there, and I can pull winners names from memory at least a little, and there was an amazing video about it that I saw a few years back, but I dont' really know the race.
Here is another -  Coppi and other greats on thru Saroni, Moser, LeMond, and Kelly...73 minutes long!

I won't go into details on this years race...lots of others cover that better than I (great looking race though)! The thing that caught my eye was the climb of the Muro di Sormano. This little brute was introduced in 2010 and though often referred to as the Colma di Sormano, a pedestrian 1.2km at only ~7% or so that is nearby, this is the Muro di Sormano - 1.9Km averaging 15%:
The full route is twisting and in a gorgeous setting near Como Lake:
It's not the Angliru, and coming as it does before the Ghisallo, some 82 kilometers from the finish, it's not the traditional game changer either...but those pitches and the road caught my attention. Running from 15 - 27%, averaging 15.8%. That's steep. It looks spectacular in videos. Here is the video from last year (listen at about 4:15 for confirmation of the two Sormano's, which I found after I posted this intially, I promise!)

A good approximation around here (NorCal) is the Blackberry Climb in Los Gatos - 1.6 miles at 12% gaining just over 1000 feet, but really it's the last 1/2 mile or so that is the approximation, averaging around 15% with max gradients of 26.6% on strava (yea, I know).

Of course there are other climbs on the route, and the real drama of the race will likely play out a bit later -  but I hope TV coverage picks up early enough that I can see the Muro di Sormano and learn a little bit more about this race...