Snapping The Elastic

The sometimes meaningful but often ridiculous postings and musings on the training and tribulations of a competive cyclist in the Southeastern US.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


Well the best part of the cycling season is here, at least in my opinion. The early season "training races" are over for all levels of racing - from the local/regional racers here in the Southeast to the Pro Tour guys who have been hitting it hard in the Spring Classics. The season has begin and there are no excuses. The real racing is here now and if you are finally just getting into a little training with the warm weather having arrived - you had better plan on a bunch of races getting your a$$ kicked. There are no excuses at this point, you are either in form or approaching form...or you have missed the boat this year.

On the other side of the pond, as a fan, the one thing that always amazes me is the speed at which the professional ride the cobbles. Anyone who has watched the races realize the absolute grit of these races...hard men in hard weather riding across ancient roads made of stones the size of small hams embedded in dirt that uis great for farming, but horrid for building roads out of. Grueling to ride even 1 km of them, incomprehensible to ride across 30 km or more inside a total 250+ km race. To ride on these surfaces is one thing, to race on them is jaw dropping. Below you will find a video from Team Sky, filmed by Canadian rider Michael Barry of their recon of several sections of the Tour of Flanders course a few days prior. Check out the speed of their riding, cobbles or not. And also check out the speed of their approach onto the Holleweg (1:25 or so) - a long section of cobbles across the flatter sections of the course. That is Mr. Flecha who puts the hammer down across that section at such a speed it looks freakin' ridiculous.

Locally, not much here, other than some faulty weeks of getting a little behind on the training. This weekend is scheduled to be the Southeast's version of Milan - San Remo. Though we won't race the nearly 300km that the Pro Tour monsters race, we will race 160km, which will definitely be the longest race in the Southeast that I am aware of and by far the longest race I will throw my cash in for.

Details at 11....

Stay safe y'all,

Da Bug

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Well...that sucked...

First race of the year was this past weekend, "Blythewood - Roubaix" Road Race in South Carolina. Before I even get into my pathetic excuses (and there are many) as to my poor results I need to get something off my chest. First pet peeve to all promoters, would you please stop naming races with Roubaix in the title!? If you aren't promoting a race in France that ends or starts in the sleepy little industrial town of Roubaix in the north of France, you should not be using that as a point of reference - EVER! There have been other similar poor naming issues in the past (Tour de Trump, Tour de Georgia, Ronde Von Manor, Ronde Von Evergreen) but this Roubaix thing has really gotten to me this year. I know its the new thing, especially due to the success of Tour of Battenkill, to have road races in the spring, to mimic the big boy races on dirt roads and rough surfaces...and I applaud their efforts to make some races different, allowing those with different skills to potentially take advantage of them. But if you notice, the Tour of Battenkill doesn't have Roubaix in the title, nor thank goodness any French prepositions. So someone please stop the glut of races headed to Roubaix this year; Fawn Grove - Roubaix, Boone - Roubaix, Rouge - Roubaix, Hillsboro - Roubaix, Boulder - Roubaix. I do have to give it to the Georgia Race..."Perry-Roubaix", that was just screaming to have a race named that and for a promoter to find dirt roads suitable around Perry, GA to race on.

On to the race report. My teammate, who I'll call "skinny climbing guy" (since he would probably be offended by the name Kate Moss) and I, headed out at a relatively sane mid morning departure time as our race wouldn't start 'til nearly 1:30 with a 2.5 hour drive to Blythewood, SC. Upon arrival we noticed a surprisingly low turnout for the afternoon races which would include the P/1/2, Cat 3 and Cat 4 races (though that Cat 4 field was fairly large comparatively). Having arrived nearly an hour before the start, I ridiculously commented on how I wish all races were like this with plenty of time to relax before the start, have a thorough warm up before hand as well as preride of at least parts of the course. Jinxed myself I did, plum out hexed my damned self. After getting registered and upon setting up my bike, I proceeded to pullout my kit and select what would be appropriate as the skies were threatening with dark clouds, very light intermittent rain and increasing wind gusts with the temperature dropping several degrees since we had arrived. Not that I forgot my shoes, helmet or jersey...nope, shorts was the error today. Chamois cream - check! Shorts - nada! It seems I had left them on the dryer the night before, allowing them to dry there overnight after handwashing them for that squeaking clean pro look just before a road race that includes dirt roads in the rain. Panic...that was the emotion...panic...especially after dropping $30 for the race fee and what would end up being greater than 5 hours in the car in travel time. "SCG" immediately set off looking for someone wit a spare set of shorts...and I did the same in the opposite direction with no luck. "SCG" eventually found the kind souls at MOB Racing who actually had a pair of plain gray bibs in my size. To those guys I am they have a great team and are some of the best competitors you'll ever find...being mean with their legs, but friendly in all other communications.

Nearly 20 minutes later, "SCG" and I hit the mandatory "Lil Jonnies" for some fluid emptying and then headed out onto the road for a brief warmup on a road that paralleled the race route. It was during this we knew staying in the group would be freakin' essential with estimated 15 mph steady winds and gusts above 25 felt. Being that I had delayed us somewhat, we headed to the start area after a 15 minute or so warmup with some high cadence and and some big ring digs, arriving just 3-4 minutes prior to our assigned start. We were told we needed to stay in the area as the start was imminent, with imminent evidently meaning "as soon as the officials had eaten lunch and taken a short break". Twenty-five minutes later, I excused myself from the paddock holding area to relieve myself behind one of the many pickup trucks scattered near the start area, two of which had dogs tied to the bumpers (I love racing in the south for the peculiarities I never would have expected until moving here several years ago). Five minutes later we rolled out, following the Pro/1/2 field by about 4 minutes. Yep...thirty minutes of standing around effectively making any warmup I may have had worthless...that's OK, we'll roll with 'dat. The course was a right handed 10k(ish) circuit with three short hills of varying gradients. The first hill was the longest, but probably no more than 6-7 percent near the top...for the most part, except for one lap, the group just rolled up this one. The second hill was the shortest, probably no more than 200 meters with a little kick up in the middle...just enough to make you hurt and for someone to put in a little dig everytime. The third hill was my nemesis, shallow at the bottom, kicking up at the top to about 13-15% or so, requiring nearly an all out effort for 30+ seconds with the requisite attacks that came every time up the damn slope. That third hill also had one other feature which made it the hill of selection throughout the race. At the very top, a 90 degree right hand turn put the group in a nearly flat 3k straightway all the way back to the start finish area directly into that stiff spring wind. It was here on the 4th lap that I caught myself gassed. Despite my every effort to regain the group that had dwindled from an initial 25 at the race start down to the 14-15 just 20 meters in front of me, I watched the lead bunch slowly accelerate away. "SCG" had found himself in the same predicament as I on nearly the same part of the course and as he passed me I let him know that I was coooked. I caught up to him at the Start/Finish area in time for he and I to make the quick desicion to pack it in as the wind on the course had already decided our fates as "Also Rans" at best, which we quickly converted to DNF to gain a head start for home. Most disappointing part of the weekend: poor use of power, worthless glycogen use and the ELIMINATED the dirt road portions of the course because they were of poor condition...huh?!??! Is the race supposed to emulate Paris Roubaix or not?

Post analysis of my power files for that hour showed some very interesting things. 1.) I had over 6 minutes of power above 500 watts (I cooked my self by responding overzealously to surges instead of waiting for the need to do that) 2.) Climbing the 3rd hill the second lap had probably cooked my legs beyond immediate recovery and written the ending to my race long before I knew it when I hit a peak power of over 1000 watts and held 600 watts for over 30 seconds during the surge/attack. 3.) My power on those climb was for me was impressive, poorly used, but impressive midrace considering these were attacks...not sprints and that i really haven't been working on any type of power application like this in training. A little more weight loss will make a world of difference on those short punchy, steeper climbs. 4.) Despite my DNF, I had shown some great fitness with average power of over 88% of FTP during the race despite riding in the pack and a NP of 103%. That fitness was also exemplified by my perceived exertion during the longer flattish parts of the race being fairly tolerable, even enjoyable (feeling like mid-tempo) during the race as I watched the evolution of the race and began seeing the traits of the stronger riders making their presence felt.

Regardless of the many excuses I have made, I raced the same race on the same course as everyone else there today, and I got dropped, gassed, skewered, toasted, stunned, snapped and beaten by those in better shape on this day for this particular course. Though I am still pretty miffed that Blythewood - Roubaix drew not a bit of similarity to the illustrious classic after they removed the dirt roads due to rain, I'll be back next year and hope that the promoters recognize that if you are going to compare yourselves to "The Hell Of The North" by using a portion of the name, you need to keep the crappy roads in the race, ESPECIALLY when they get worse due to the recent weather.

See ya at the races...this week, Out Like A Lion RR!
Da Bug

Weight has been coming down...I expect another 5kg in the next 6 weeks and the power has continue to climb, up almost 25% since December. Bring it!!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

So…I’ve got some explainin’ to do….

My intention was to have this last year be my diary of a season racing in the Southeastern US, racing as a Cat 3 racer in an attempt to do well, possibly upgrade, and have fun under interesting conditions in a pretty robust racing scene. Well, jobs happen, careers happen, school happens, life…happens. Last year (2009) was pretty much a wash, got a little into shape, then lost it, started to get into shape, and lost it, repeat ad infinitum. This year, things are very different. Things are already very different, very, very different.

In October of last year, after a ridiculously pathetic, social cycling trip to the mountains of North Carolina with team mates and friends, the obvious hit me square in the nugget – I was overweight (for a competitive cyclist anyway), out of shape in both endurance and power and needed to do something about it. I am far too much a competitive person to become a social cyclist. It’s in my personality, that’s not a option and due to a past that includes competitive swimming on a national level, and competitive cycling at an elite level as well as a attaining frequent Top 10 overall placings in regional in triathlons I really put some effort into planning “the comeback”, at least for me personally.

In November of 2009, I searched for a cycling coach, someone who could really direct me in my fitness planning and most importantly someone who I would have to answer to. I really need that motivation. It’s always been something I have responded to as an athlete and always been something I have had, especially as a swimmer who swam competitively from grade school through college (Div. I). I was pretty adamant on finding a coach who not only had the knowledge (and there are plenty out there who have that knowledge), but one who seemed to understand my needs as a cyclist. Primarily those needs are assisting me in coming back after a long layoff and most importantly allowing me to still enjoy the bike. Right now, cycling is my therapy from an occasionally very stressful job, and I love to ride. I looked for a coach whose training/planning included days to simply enjoy the bike, while still consisting of a lot of productivity towards increasing speed and fitness. I did not want a coach whose plan was quality only workouts – ie. 90 minutes per day making yourself bleed in training to prepare for racing exclusively. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that methodology, and I admire athletes who can do that day in and day out…it’s just not for me (though I will admit it was at one point in my swimming career). I need the long rides, I love being outside; and if training this way meant much longer hours or time on the bike – all the better for me. I wouldn’t/couldn’t trade my long rides for shorter quality workouts even if it meant a longer path to race fitness. I found that coach late last year and we began planning and putting in the early true training miles for this 2010 season.

Things have gone very well over the past three and a half months. I have seen over a 20% increase in threshold power along with a 30+lb weight loss (collectively significantly increasing my power to weight ration), which shows either great planning and supervision of the training process by my coach or how poor my fitness was initially. I think it was quite a bit of both. The plan was fairly typical in that the opening months were spent in a little bit of endurance and tempo work with a good helping of FTP intervals. Though these were certainly were not comfortable and I was not a fan of certain types of intervals and workouts, they were nothing compared to the most recent anaerobic workouts we have been doing lately. These workouts are built around the principals of raising my abilities to ride anaerobically, recover and repeat. In competitions these account for my ability to respond to several attacks or significant surges, teaching my muscles to use the glycogen more efficiently. These are not comfortable, but certainly can prepare me for aggressive road races, criteriums and for me - hilly road races in which I will have no choice but to ride above my FTP due to my still heavier than most cyclists weight (79 kg).

So all this training, planning, riding has ultimately led to test day…the first race of the year. This weekend, it seems very likely I will be racing the Blythewood Road Race in South Carolina. Weather at this point looks like damp would be an understatement and considering this race is one of those trendy “Roubaix” style races, it could get interesting. Very interesting... I’ll keep ya posted.

Stay Safe,
Da Bug

Sunday, January 24, 2010

I'm back...and so is Floyd?!??!

Yep...I'm back with my witty banter, sarcasm and self-deprecating indulgences. I promise to be a little more active here. I'll soon update my goings on, more local bike racing, riding and overall shenanigans in the this whole bike game thingy. But look who else is back...I guess....

What the hell is this? Confusion of all confusions. Yeah I know Floyd had long been rumored to be connected with the self annointed martyr of domestic pro cycling Michael Ball and his Rock Racing Team, but at this point, I didn't know the team continued to exist following its inability to gain a UCI license. With all those things going on, here is Floyd Landis, racing in an international UCI event (Tour of The Bahamas) this past weekend in a Rock Racing Kit. To top all of that off, he's racing on a Cervelo CSC Team bike. Cervelo hasn't sponsored Riis' team since 2007. Who's bike is that? An old Hamilton bike perhaps (which would make that bike at least 5 years old).

Oh yeah, one more parting shot to confirm he's on Rock Racing.....


Da Bug

Friday, April 17, 2009

Seriously George?

Jean clothing companies and designer jeans have had an intermittent role with cycling over the years, mostly in the form of title sponsors of events and teams. Memorable, though certainly not favorably, were the heinous kits of the Castorama team (overalls?) in the mid 90s and the Carrera team (sublimated with stitching and pockets to look like acid washed jeans) of the late 80s.
Over the past 2 years, like it or not, we have become accustomed to the actions of an egotistical, self described rebellious, bad-boy fashionista wanna-be. Good or bad for cycling, and the opinions run the gamut, Michael Ball's concept and direction has always left me viewing him as little more than the nerdy kid who tried too hard to be different; the kid who had the homemade Misfits tattoo and traded first pressing Effigies and Government Issue 7"s for a leather jacket and spiked dog collar before going home to listen to Spandau Ballet, Naked Eyes and Romeo Void cassettes. He tries too hard to be different that everything comes across as an act...and all of it simply to make himself look better in the small hope that someone will think he is cycling's saving grace even as a martyr. He always reminded me a little of a pro wrestling manager, all talk with little follow through except to let his international caliber team with several members with questionable pasts - an one now retired doped national pro champion) lay waste to fields in mostly regional Pro/1/2 events. But I digress...
Most of the folks (and I would actually estimate none) I race with on a regular basis are not club going, coke snorting, trust fund party hounds with a taste for fashion and female D-list celebrities and models with complex eating disorders. My limited marketing education would lead me to believe that the target demographic of team sponsors would be to glean some exposure with US cycling fans and participants who are generally the middle income folks with a moderate disposable income. I'm not talking European teams, simply the domestic US market which arguable is very different than the Euro one in which cycling is second only to soccer for numbers of fans, interest in the sport and the money that circulates through. The bottom line is, I know of no friends of mine who have enough dispoable income to currently afford a pair of Michael Ball's Rock and Republic jeans at $175 a pop. Personally, I cringe when I pay over $25 for a pair of Levi Strauss jeans that I know will last 5 or more years. Those Levi's will certainly be more comfortable in my opinion, than something meant to be worn so tight you can tell my religion in them. Shockingly, just as Ball's exit of cycling seems eminent along with his crumbling Rock and Republic empire and mess of a cycling team, George Hincapie appears poised to fill a gap, that as I mentioned above, doesn't seem to need to be filled. As most know, George and his brother Rich own Hincapie sportwear, makers of fine cycling clothing. I have worn their bibs and jerseys in past season, and found them as well made as any mid-level competitive cycling clothing company (Garneau, Pactimo, Champion, etc), but recently they have moved into something more removed from "sportwear". Yep, you knew it was coming.....designer jeans. Introducing Hincapie Premium Denim, where the jeans are priced at more than the cost of a Giro TT helmet. Seriously George? And to top the whole thing off, a quick internet search reveals that the most often sited retail location to buy these wonders of denim fashion - Competitive Cyclist! They are being advertised as "apres ride" garments. I have to admit though, the euro model poses of Rich and George on the website, make me smile. Is George the new Cipo, I bet there are several out there who would hope that is the case, but I'm not sure his wife would approve.

Friday, April 3, 2009

No one's talking....

Why is no one reporting this?! VeloNews - nope, - nope, heck...even the Frenchies, who luuuvv to assume doping in the professional peloton by Americans is morosely prevalent, aren't reporting it. Heck...the only one "reporting" it is a from a friggin' Twitter post by the management of the affected team, Rock Racing (check the tweet link at the end of this post). Rumors have been running of a positive test at the Tour of California of a certain American veteran of the European peloton (who has tested positive before, suspended and continues to be linked to Op Puerto) . Evidently organizers have been keeping mum about it until appeals and secondary tests (if necessary) are completed in an attempt to avoid a backlash similar to those encountered by Amaury Organization every time they announce a positive prematurely at the TdFrance. I'm guessing ToC organizers are also probably consulting with some lawyers to hold on to sponsor contracts (including two more years on the Amgen title sponsorship) and I would bet a PR firm or two.

You know, it's funny that there was such a heated dispute last year when they kept a certain someone from competing in their event for reasons that some would say were unsubstantiated. Of course the issue was made even more ridiculous by their "protest", which involved riding the route buried within the caravan behind the peloton before being pulled from the course under threats of arrest. AEG might prove to come out looking like prophets last year in hindsight.

Rock Racing Tweet

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I shouldn't complain, but...

I honestly live in one of the best places in the US to ride a bike. I have variable terrain that includes rolling stuff right where I live, really flat stuff within a one hour ride (or 20 minute drive) and some of the best big climbs within a 2 hour drive in the form of the Blue Ridge Mountains. To top it all off, the areas I ride in are so often used by cyclists, that motorists are aware and for the most part completely accepting of their presence. Other places I have lived have not been so friendly! Compared to where I have lived also in the past, we have some of the best cycling weather around. With the right clothing and gear, you can comfortably ride year round here with temperatures in the winter dropping into the 30s typically only for a couple weeks or so. But my complaint with the weather this winter has been the uncommon cold and precip that has existed. I can't remember a day where it was above 50 and not raining. All you Nor'Easterners are aghast I could complain about such things...and honestly its nice to complain about such a trivial item when it comes to cycling. I will also probably be complaining about the heat and humidity come August...almost definitely. To answer the question, "Yes", I have been using the eMotion rollers, but typically use those for days when I have no daylight to train in not for weather thing. I like to "harden" my body ala Euro-pro, and recognize this as mostly psychological, by riding in conditions others won't though I'll complain the whole time and fight with the reasons in my head to turn around. This has been a change this year, and I have definitely been savoring the "winter" rides. I also do very well when racing in those conditions. There is probably a link there, but its probably mostly my lack of reasoning and little dimness on my part.

My best 20" powers so far this year have been by doing these rides outside in the wind, headed straight into it. I hate it as much as the next guy, but have seen the results by accepting those stressors and using it as additional workload. Yeah, it stinks, frickin' ABSOLUTELY STINKS.

Headed to Mexico late this month for a well deserve, vacation. Its going to fit in right as I maximize my base. Trying to come up with ways to address the conservation of my cycling fitness there knowing I can't take my bike and not sure what the resort workout facilities are. I know I will end up putting in a lot of open water swimming as my swimming has been coming around nicely in the pool and swimming in the ocean for an hour or more (3 miles or so) is so relaxing to me...rhythmic and hypnotyzing.

Hope all is well, stay safe!