Monday, April 30, 2012

Riding Dirty: Morgan Retro Trike For Sale

Riding dirty’s got a new name and it’s the Morgan Retro Tricycle, now available for a cool $50, or 40 packs of Bubblicious gum.  Why should you buy it?  Cuz I told you so!  That’s why.  

They call it the curfew breaker.  Once your kid rolls down the driveway on this, no doubt they’re gonna be late for dinner.  So, give your daughter a jump start on hurting the feelings of every other little girl in the neighborhood and get her the prettiest damn bike on the block.  Why?  Cuz!  Nothing says I’m the pavement princess like this silver-pedaled super-aero powder pink Morgan Retro Tricycle.  All you skinny jean hipsters hang your head in shame, cuz this pink bitch ain’t got no chain.  It's the orginal fixie.  Fenders?  It’s got three!  Brakes?  It’s time she started to learn how to put her foot down!  Rumor has it Kim Kardashian once rode one of these and look how successful she turned out.  Sassy pink Channel sunglasses not included, but there's some kick ass bling on the rear fenders.  If your 2 year old hasn’t quite developed her 17 year old attitude yet, get this and she’ll be dressing like Nicki Minaj and flipping the bird to all your neighbors in no time.  It’s so damn adorable, you’ll never need money for the ice cream man again. 

(Joe Biker Note: Seriously, my buddy is selling this.  Visit the entry for this post on our Facebook page and leave a comment if you’re interested.)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

#STRAVA Making Monuments-Killing KOMs

The automatic door shooshed opened and the peloton raced in backward through the checkout.  Paper and plastic bags were tossed in the air and fell like confetti.  A shopping cart crashed into an end-of-aisle display.  They flew around a 99 cent bin of Easter Candy and screamed down aisle five in search of STRAVA Glory, the segment between the pickles and paper towels. 

The Madonna is Always Watching
Redonkulous you say?  Click here and check out this STRAVA segment on a 33 foot rise over two-tenths of a mile on a sliver of neighborhood bike path by a Church in the Cincinnati suburb of Fairfax, which sees more than its fair share of shopping carts and strollers.  If only for safety, but not excluding stupidity, it’s obvious some STRAVA segments shouldn’t be segments.  Before STRAVA existed, I’ve seen guys go up in front lawns on group ride sprints…glory that lasted less than hours.  Madonna del Ghisallo only knows what will happen with eternal STRAVA glory at stake. 

The Original KOM
It’s also obvious, like the well worn Galbraith Road climb on Cincinnati’s east side and the Cleves Time Trial Route on the West side, some segments should be upgraded to Monumental status.  You see before STRAVA existed, there were KOM's.  Yes.  They in fact were wood, wooden monuments of eternal achievement.  I’m pretty certain Ned Overend’s times are still posted on painted wooden signs along the trail up to Sandia Peak outside of Albuquerque, NM.  Now, that’s a monument.  Every locality should have a few and they should be much more spectacular than a neighborhood bike path.

If you’re not in the know, STRAVA is the Lemon Poppy Seed Clif Bar of cycling applications for smart phones and GPS.  It's that addicting.  STRAVA allows users to compete over certain stretches of road and trail for virtual kudos.  It also provides mapping and useable training tools.  If you are a user, don’t be gun-shy about visiting the page for a segment, clicking the “Flag” button and marking it as dangerous or plain ol' goofy.

I’ve had GPS and STRAVA for maybe a month and already I’m exhausted with the amount of segments, segments on neighborhood bike paths, segments in parks, segments with multiple stoplights, segments on the rises of bridges over the Ohio River.  For GPS’s sake, there are even segments within segments.  What we need is a STRAVA Grand Poobah, a King of the KOM’s.  But this is the age of the social network, where peer groups rule the sway.  If I sat down at the STRAVA board room, say as part of their cycling marketing team, here are a few ideas I’d toss out before clipping in for the noon lunch ride in San Francisco. 

When creating a cycling segment, a user should be prompted with a note:
Segments should be uninterrupted without stop signs, stop lights or unmarked intersections.  Unless it is a King of Skid (KOS) contest, segments should not end with a stop light, stop sign or intersection, but rather fall short with enough distance for safe stopping.  Segments should have a 0% chance of having a stroller, a child on a tricycle, somebody using a walker, or a stoned creepy dude walking in its path. 

No virtual KOM crowns or medals should be awarded on segments.  
Ba bam!  While there is a leaderboard for segments and personal bests awarded, KOM crowns and medals will be reserved for a new type of segment called Monuments.  Insert sound of heavenly choir music here.  Positions on basic segment leaderboards last for 1 year and then disappear. 

Beyond Segments, there should be Monuments.  
These are the hardest climbs, hottest contested sprint segments and well known time trial routes.  Based on population, geography or square mileage, maybe each county is allowed a limited number of Monuments of STRAVA.  I think Cincinnati’s Hamilton county could get by with 4, 2 Climbs and 2 Time Trial Monuments.  This is where KOM and podiums are awarded and they are forever.  Imagine vising a city, renting a bike and hitting the local STRAVA Monuments.  That’s pure STRAVA genius.  My resume is on Linked-In.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Cinti Artist/Cyclist Designs Poster for Colorado's USA Pro Cycling Challenge

Another Cincinnatian is going to the big pro show.  My BioWheels/Reece-Campbell Racing teamate James Biliter's poster was selected by the organizers of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge for Stage 5.  Not only is he a talented cyclist, he's also a gifted graphic designer.  The leg of the race from Breckenridge to Colorado Springs takes place August 24th.  I think a Breckenridge/Colorado Springs vacation is in the making to see the posters plastered in person, see the race, maybe meet a few of you that live in Colorado and of course shred some Springs singletrack.
James Always has an Eye for Art
In an article about the poster James says, “With family in Colorado, I am fortunate enough to visit every couple of years.  The poster was inspired by one of my first visits in 2002. We hiked in Garden of the Gods and I was awestruck by the magnificence of Pikes Peak in the distance.”
While he's not designing packaging for some of your favorite products at the agency he works at, James has also designed the posters and flyers for many Ohio Valley Races as well as the BioWheels and other local team kits.  For more on James and to see how his art and cycling worlds collide read his blog, Jimmy Road Rash.  Here's a link to his Colorado Springs trip blog post in particular.  Leave a comment and tell him congratulations!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Never Let Em See You Crumble: The Art of Checking Out of a Group Ride

Twice it’s happened this year.   “We going right?” I asked over the hum of coasting hubs.  “No.  Straight.  Straight.  We’ll take Tanner,” was the response.  I knew fully well, straight wasn’t the fastest way to Tanner.   All the bridges back across the Ohio River were east of us, and we were headed back west.  It would surely tack on 8 extra miles to what should’ve been a 70ish mile ride from Cincinnati to Rabbit Hash with some of the fastest dudes in town.  To complicate things, Tanner wasn’t the fastest way home.  Tack on another 6 miles.  At that moment, you’ve mentally checked out.  It’s like being on a club century when your computer hits 100 miles and you’re still a few untold miles from the finish. 

It happened again yesterday on Cincinnati’s Hyde Park Ride, a ride that’s been going on every Sunday since Neanderthals rode wooden bikes with Flintstone brakes.  Normally the ride has a predictable flow over its 60 miles out and back from Cincinnati to Morrow.  A soft rollout from Hyde Park to the top of the first hill in Madeira transitions into a hard tempo into Loveland.  Between Loveland and the sprint in Morrow, it’s race pace.  On the return, it’s relatively tame until the last few miles before the sprint back into Loveland.  After that, guys peel off to respective suburban areas, you pick the train with the most neighbors and ride the steady easier tempo home.  My train is usually the one that takes the bike path.  Only, they didn’t take the bike path back and the switch flipped back to the “game on” position. 

Say Goodbye To Noodling
It wasn’t extra miles, but extra hurt.  I mentally checked out at Loveland.  The bunch that should’ve continued chatting about how the sprint unfolded, their cool new spring kits or how much yard work they had to do at home, strung out and shut up.  On the five mile climb back into Madeira, the pedal was slowly squished to the floor.  I suspect Strava glory is messing with tradition.  Like drowning as the ship pulls away, I slowly slid to the back.  The tank, filled with only a waffle and an Odwalla bar, emptied.  Pop!  Bye bye time.  At least the last time anyone saw me I was setting tempo with my bud Tracy on the front.  (We're on the border of the north and south.  Guys have names like Tracy, Kerry and Kelby.)  I went out on a high note.

F*** you wind!  I shouted it out loud, but was too far off the back for anyone to hear.  It reminded me of a girl we used to mountain bike with that cursed out loud to encourage herself to get up tough climbs.  "S***.  Crap!"  She'd stomp her way to the top.  I stopped at a convenience store for a Coke infusion and was on my way home solo, struggling on the Camargo downhill with this b**** of a headwind.  17mph.  I swear we went up this hill faster than I’m going down.  There were three ways home: up the hill on Erie Avenue, cutting the corner but driving into the full on headwind on the wide-open Columbia Parkway, or dropping into the industrial area along Wooster Pike.  Offering the most protection from the wind, the smallest hills, and the most stop signs, I took option 3.  I even took a neighborhood trail on my road bike across the railroad tracks in Linwood by Terry’s Turf Club to shave a few blocks.  Emergency mode.

The art of checking out of a group ride is to go out on a high note, never letting anyone see you crumble.  It’s like zipping up your jersey before your big finish.  “Good ride you guys.  I’m taking the bike path.”  “I’m going right.  I said I had to be home by 2.”  “I’ll see ya next week.  I’m gonna grab a few things at the store before I go home.”  Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

An Uber Local Reason To Follow This Weekend’s Tour of the #Battenkill

While he’s sort of adopted by way of Michigan and Purdue, and we’ve had quite a few locals race big pro races, another one of ours is racing the pro Tour of the Battenkill this weekend.  If there was an American Paris-Roubaix this is it, a one day 200k classic in New York featuring covered bridges and 25% dirt roads.  When you consider the pot holed mess of Binning Road and the Stonelick covered bridge, maybe our regular BioWheels Wednesday shop ride with Chris Uberti is good hard training to face the ranks of the pros at The Battenkill. 

Panther is Logistics Company
A few weeks back Cycling News revealed Team Panther/Competitive Cyclist was selected as an Elite Amateur team for the Tour of the Battenkill.  CIncinnati's Chris Uberti and the rest of Team Panther under the guidance of regional pro veterans Kirk Albers and Paul Martin will line up alongside the real big boys of United Health Care, Team Type 1, Bissell, Team Mountain Khaki’s and others.  If you’re wondering why he wasn’t on the Wednesday BioWheels group ride or Tuesday’s New Richmond Rampage this week, this is it.  I heard he joked that it was too hard before this big race.  In a twisted way, Chris is about to get a taste of the medicine he’s been dishing out to us over the past few months.  Or, will he be the one dishing?

“Who is that guy?”  People don’t notice him till after the ride.  He’s not a flashy rider or chest thumper.  Very approachable, he’ll roll up to the start of a local training ride, put his foot down like a kickstand and chat like he’s a local club rider.  You’re completely oblivious to the pro experience he hides behind that smile.  The same demeanor comes across in his riding.  He’s smooooth.  I guess that comes from competing in The Tour of the Gila, The Joe Martin Stage Race, Fitchburg-Longsjo and The International Cycling Classic (Superweek) the past few years. 

While I’ll usually sit-on and rearrange myself within a paceline to not have the wheel of the strongest guys on a ride, I don’t mind Chris’ wheel.  When he pulls to the left on the front of a rotating paceline, it’s not a shocking quick elbow throw and a jerk to the left.  Like he’s introducing you to the road ahead, he graciously lets you into the wind.  In a race, the smoothness translates.  Two weeks ago at the local OSRS race at Harrison’s Tomb, I saw him ride from back to front in the stretch of 2-3 miles, gracefully threading his way through the middle of the bunch.  After witnessing that, I’m convinced.  If you need to ride the yellow line to the front, you need to brush up on your skills.  He’s the type of rider that forces you to be a better rider.  At 44 years old and no stranger to a bike race, I’m learning from a guy 20 years younger than me.

With the way his black curls cascade out of the back of his helmet, you wonder why there’s not 10 women on this 24 year-old’s wheel or why he’s not out clubbing it downtown.  He’s a skinny kid with wide dark eyes and a magnetic smile.  At 28mph he churns the pedals with knees in and his toes pointed down.  His back is so low you have to emulate the posture and seemingly ridiculous high steady cadence to even get a whiff of a draft.  His Strava profile lists three full pages of KOM’s, usually a full mph faster than the next guy.  I’m ahead of him on only one, hanging on to the KOM purely for the fact that the Highwater climb in Kenton County, KY is under construction at the moment.

Click Here for Tour of the Battenkill Website
You’d like to think he’s some sort of out of nowhere gifted rider, but when you look him up, he's just like you and I (had we started racing at 18.)  He was racing cat 4 in 2006.  Raise your hand.  Sure he’s young, but he trains his ass off, even riding 25 miles to local races, winning them and then riding home.  He won his first race as a Cat 3 in May of 2007.  In ’08 and ’09 he placed 9th at Collegiate Road Nationals, was on the podium of smaller 1-2 races and posted 70th and 80ths on bigger races like Joe Martin, Fitchburg and Superweek.  In ’10 and ’11 he started bagging the bigger races finishing 3rd in the Hyde Park Blast, a 4th on a Superweek Stage and a 2nd on a stage of the Gateway Cup.  All the while he continues to test himself, dipping his toes in the deeper waters of the 2011 Tour of the Gila, (won by Francisco Mancebo) finishing no better than 73rd on his best day.  There’s still more work to be done.  

Now here he is with a couple early spring wins, a short cyclocross season under his belt, and an invite to the dirt roads of the Tour of the Battenkill, a race on the Director Sportif radar of Pro Tour teams.  We wish Chris, Ryan Knapp, and the rest of their Panther teammates the best.  Surely it’s still ahead of them.

(Post Race Note:  Chirs Uberti finished in a group of riders placed 15th-49th 12 minutes down from winner Francisco Mancebo, officially 40th.  162 riders were on the start list.  59 finished.  For race results and recap click here.)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Cycling God Totem: De Vlaeminck Drops

In a previous post, Fabian Cancellara was moved down the The Best Bike Blog EVER's Cycling God Totem for post Flanders and Paris-Roubaix douchyness.  He is still not forgiven.  Like I said before, "...I don't care if my cycling gods win.  I prefer them to be heroic with a hint of humility."  Like Kramer said on Seinfeld once, "Poise Counts!"  Today, Roger De Vlaeminck moved a couple notches down the Cycling God Totem for comments he made about the rest of the peloton after Boonen's win at Paris Roubaix.  With that win, Boonen moved up.

Sure, Boonen was the man on Holy Sunday, deserving of the spot between Cancellera and Lance.  But to have De Vlaeminck label Boonen's competition at Paris-Roubaix as 3rd rate riders drips with douchyness.  Let's take note of the so called "3rd Rate" riders finishing behind Boonen: Thor Hushovd, George Hincapie, Flecha, Stuart O'Grady....while not competition for the win, even the 3rd rate Andre Greipel managed to get the bell on the velodrome with a group only 13 minutes down.  Of the 86 finishers, there's a lot of hard men on the list.

While Boonen has had his own personal problems (sniff) and as of yet has not posted wins at San Remo and the Giro Di Lombardia (which apparently is a measuring stick for De Vlaeminck,) we disagree with Roger and move Boonen ahead of De Vlaeminck on the Cycling God Totem.  Keep it up De Vlaeminck, the next totem notch is underground.  

Totem order: Eddy, Marco, Hinault, Lance, Boonen, Cancellara, De Vlaeminck.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Reasons I’m Not a Doc: Sponge Left in Body

If I were a doctor, I’d be world renowned as Dr. Oops.  Since I probably wouldn’t pass the exam, I’d be the guy injecting I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter into the lips of unsuspecting club-hopping duck-billers in a seedy office in a downtown Miami alley.  You can get away with anything in Florida.  Judging from what happened while installing a tire on Saturday, I’m convinced.  As a surgeon I’d break the tip of the scalpel off on the incision and mistakenly leave the piece in your brain right next to a sponge.  Oopsie.  Sorry ‘bout that.

I bought a new road tire on Saturday, a replacement Vittoria Open Corso EVO CX.  Three woots for this tire.  While pricey, costing five bucks more than the tried and true Continental GP 4000, I think the Vittoria’s have better cornering and descending grip and comparatively feel more supple on the road.  The trade off is they don’t last quite as long, but I still got well over a year of riding and racing out of it.  The red logo also matches my bike.  I probably could’ve got a few more weeks from them had I rotated the tires a 2nd time.  The rear was the first to thin out and expose the threads under the tread in a small area.  After a slight LMFAO wiggle-wiggle-wiggle in the rain slicked early laps of the Harrison’s Tomb OSRS race last Saturday saved by what I described to another racer as steering with my nutsack, I headed up to the shop to replace Mr. Baldy.

The Vittoria Open Corso CX is one of those tight clinchers.  While its good to know the tire’s going to stay on the rim if you flat, its takes some serious man-mitts to coax it on and off the rim.  Not a very “quick change” friendly tire on a group ride.  Even slower since I don’t have man mitts.  After rotating the front tire to the rear, I got most of the bead of the new tire on my front rim with my thumbs, save 8 inches.  So I pried the remainder with a tire lever.  Tink!

The tire lever broke.  I swear I heard the piece fly and hit my spoke.  I was at BioWheels bike shop where they gratefully give team members who supposedly know what they are doing stand privileges.  After Saturday, I may be relegated to the stand outside of customer view.  Thinking the piece flew a few feet, I jokingly asked Bob working next to me, “Did I get you with that?”  “Nope,” he said with a chuckle as he handed me a second lever to finish the job.  With two torques of the new lever, I hit my tire with air and I was on my way.

Tire Lever Shrapnel 
It was in the 70's and sunny, so I took the long way home, probably 10 miles.  Approaching the stoplight 2 blocks from my house, the new front tire went squishy.  “Eh…new tire, old tube.  That always happens,” I thought.  It went down slow as I coasted to the light.  I walked the last block and put the bike in the Man Cave stand at home. 

My suspicions were confirmed removing the tire.  Behold!  The broken tire lever nugget stayed in the tire.  File that under “do it right the first time.”

Friday, April 6, 2012

Filling Bottles with Holy Water

I could be going to hell.  If so, my wife and a bunch of racer type cyclists from Milwaukee are coming with me.  Woo hell!  The most extreme epic ride ever!  I’ll wear my helmet with the horns.  We’ll have a Papal Peloton!  I grew up Catholic, went to Sunday school, received a coupla sacraments, know the Lords Prayer and Hail Mary by heart and in all my worldly Theological studies I’m certain that drinking Holy Water at least gets you a few whacks from a Nun’s yardstick.  I’m almost positive that somewhere in the bible it says “Drinketh the wine and thou be seateth at the right hand of the Lord.  Guzzleth the Holy Water, and thou gets few jabiths in the keester with a hot rusty pitchith fork.”

This is a re-run from a year or so ago, but it feels fitting to repost on Easter weekend.  While on vacation in Wisconsin last year, we tagged on to the Holy Hill Ride, Milwaukee’s regular Sunday morning pilgrimage to a spectacular spired church perched on a scenic hill 35 miles or so out in the sticks from downtown.  Superweek, aka The International Cycling Classic, also features a stage through Holy Hill country.  This is the second time I’ve done the ride.  I grew up in Milwaukee, but my passion for road cycling didn’t arise till I moved to Cincinnati.  Therefore the only times I visited Holy Hill were on Christmas and at 1am with a six pack of Mickey’s big mouth beers during prom.  The Holy Hill ride ranks right up with Cincinnati’s covered bridge ride, skinny farm roads leading to a place that’s always better reached by bicycle.  Like most cities and their Sunday ride traditions, this ride has been going on for a long time.  From what the peloton of 30 or so said, the Holy Hill ride has been going on probably before the Green Bay Packers won their first Superbowl, but after Harley met Davidson.

Milwaukeeans will try to fool you to thinking that the topography is hilly, mainly by calling people from Illinois “flatlanders.”  Since I’ve moved away to a place that actually is quite hilly, Milwaukee for all practical purposes is as flat as a pancake with a few thick ripples of syrup on top and running down the side into Lake Michigan.  But.  But.  But, for some reason that only a geological genius can explain, there are a few areas that were not smooshed by glaciers.  Holy Hill sits on top of one of them.  The wooded hill probably rises 300ish feet above the farmland below.  Not quite Cincinnati high, but definitely tall enough for a 3-4 minute climb with a couple of soft switchbacks capped off by two steep stabs to the cornerstone of the church.  Of course, King of the Mountain points are in full effect every Sunday.  While, I did not win the surge to the top, I think I certainly made a few locals fear that the out of town guy may spank them on their own hill.

At the top, we stopped for a natural and to fill up the bottles.  The temp was tickling its way toward 85 degrees.  The group split up.  Some stopped at a small out-building with a restroom and bubbler (Wisconsin speak for “drinking fountain”).  The rest of us, stopped in front of this little grotto with what appeared to be a natural spring watched over by a statue of the Virgin Mary.  In plain English, the sign next to the spigot said, “Holy Water.”  Now, I’m no Theological expert, but I’m pretty sure this would lead most god fearing people to believe that this water was meant for blessing and quenching the thirst unfortunate souls and not for guzzling in 28 ounce quantities.  Despite Mary’s furrowed brow of disapproval, everyone filled their bottles from the tap and made holy water jokes in the shadow of the colossal cathedral.  H.  E.  Double toothpicks.

Regardless of our apparent sin, none of us were struck by a bolt of lightning from the cloudless sky.  However, someone did get a flat tire right there at the grotto.  Coincidence?  I dunno.  Regardless, no one wrecked on the way home.  Maybe it was blessed.  We went on to have a wonderful vacation in Wisconsin.  Who knows?  They say the body is 70% water.  For a few days, maybe ours was Holy Water.  Is that doping?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Missing The Story: Jones Outsprints #Lance...Daughter Annoyed

This video has been circulating of Lance Armstrong seemingly snubbing his daughter at the finish of the Memorial Hermann Ironman 70.3 in Texas.  As he crosses the finish line, some say Lance completely ignores his daughter's ear piercing “Dad” shouts while holding a finisher’s medal.  I say phooey.  You’re completely missing the story here.  Like golf headlines featuring Tiger when someone else won the tournament, you're the one ignoring the guy with bib #34 living every cyclist’s dream and sprinting past Lance Armstrong.  I looked him up.  That guy pippin’ Lance for an extra payout spot is Jordan Jones of Golden, CO.

If you want a real venue to criticize parenting, visit the crazy town known as the local Easter Egg Hunt this weekend.  The way Jones flies into the frame, it's obvious to me the finish line is no place to stop for a daddy moment.  Aside from being 150 pounds traveling at high speed, athletes heart rates are pegged higher than a temper tantrum, their tummies really ache, their bodies feel like one giant boo-boo and their minds are so clouded with lactic acid and mileage math that, yes, unless there's a complete family emergency at the finish, off the course is probably a better place for a kiss to make it all better.  In a post race interview on the IronMan website, Lance describes the race as a sufferfest, stomach problems slowing him to a walk on part of the run, “I had significant GI issues on the run and even on the bike. I have to figure that part out otherwise you always run into issues where you can’t get food and liquid into the body.”  If you want more proof of what it's like to be in that moment, read Jordan Jones’ recolection of the finish below.  He didn’t even know he passed Lance Armstrong, one of the most famous and recognizable athletes in the world, till after he passed him.  However, there’ll be no apologies at the dinner table.

From Going into the last lap with 4 miles to go I was in 9th and it was really game time.  It was hot and I was suffering but so was everyone else.  I got into 8th, the last prize money spot, and kept pressing.  At mile 12 I managed to catch Marino.
I surmised that I had 6 minutes to go and mentally chunked that into three two minute segments.  By the final two minutes, it hurt so bad that I had to start breaking it down into 100 meter sections in order to will myself to holding onto my pace all the way to the line.  With all of the work that I’ve put in and support I’ve gotten from others, I was going to fight for every possible second. Since it was a loop course, there were age group athletes completing their first loop around me but I didn’t perceive 6th place to be in sight.  Then, suddenly, where the course split between the finish line and more loops I saw an athlete just ahead take a left to the finish.  I instinctively started sprinting and expected the finish chute to be 100m long, giving me a shot at 6th.  I turned the corner and saw two things: where 6th place was and where the finish line was.  I realized that the finish was only 30 meters away, much closer than I had expected, but that I still had a shot at gaining one more spot.  I turned it up one more notch and absolutely went for it.  Right at the line I made the pass and realized it was Lance Armstrong.  (click here for the full story on

Monday, April 2, 2012

#NoOpportunityWasted: Peloton Drowning

Me in 1/2/3's courtesy Jeffrey B. Jakucyk
It reminded me of an Outside Magazine article about Free Diving, “Open Your Mouth and You’re Dead.”  On the cusp of death via drowning, free divers report a soft transition from swimming into an almost blissful dreamlike state (see inset).  I’m not going to romanticize death and it would be preposterous to think one could drift off into dreamland while riding a bicycle and stay upright, but with my heart rate pegged at 184bpm the third time up the Cliff Road climb in the OSRS Race #3 at Harrison's Tomb in Cleves, OH I didn’t feel panic but instead a letting go of sorts.  Someone at the front surged and I sunk through and below the surface of the peloton. 

A few months ago, while on vacation in St. Maarten, the diving instructor at the reef pulled me aside and said, “You look like a good swimmer, confident and comfortable with the snorkel and fins.”  I nodded.  “If you want to see some of the better reef,” she added, “go to the other side of the peninsula and swim through the chop about 75 meters to where the buoys start the curve.”  She pointed.  “Just stay to the right of the buoys to avoid the red stinger coral.”  I hesitated at first.  Stinger coral?  My wife and I walked the dirt path and stood on the rocky beach as the waved thunderously crashed on the shallow reef.  Ka-whoosh!  It was intimidating as hell.  She wasn’t going.  I stood there for 10 minutes wondering where the stinger coral exactly was.  This is how tourists drown. 
Back on the climb with riders cresting the top, I got this, I thought.  I’ve been dropped before.  I’ve been dropped and clawed my way back to the surface before.  You gather your wits, tell yourself the group will let up, take a drink, hit a GU, put your head down and drive it smooth and steady until you make contact with the main group or a few others in a row boat.  You think of getting dropped as a violent abrupt end, but it’s really not.  It’s sort of like drowning.  The lights sort of dim in your mind with lack of oxygen and you never feel the water rush in.  Seeing the riders flood around me at the last little punch the third time up the climb, I was at ease.  I wasn’t dead.
Maybe the calm comes with knowing that you’re giving it your all.  Isn’t that what death is sort of like anyway?  As I look back, like we all do on races, and look for some blame, I realize I did do everything I could have to save myself.  I’ve done long and hilly training rides with the fastest guys in town.  I ate a good breakfast.  I arrived with fresh legs.  I was eating and drinking.  I never hit the wind and always had a wheel.  Judging from the size of the group cresting the climb in front of me, I wasn’t the first to let go.  At least a third of the original peloton was already below me.  I simply wasn’t strong enough to keep treading water and that’s okay with me.  I gave it my all as a 44 year old Cat 3 in his first 1/2/3 road race.  Like my decision on the beach in St. Maarten, I didn’t waste my opportunity.
I was in tropical paradise, a good swimmer, incredibly fit from racing the Cyclocross Masters World Championships, with good gear and the one and only chance I may every have in my life to see the coral reef in St. Maarten.  My thoughts turned positive to “No Opportunity Wasted,” the mantra of Phil Keoghan of the Amazing Race, his ride across America, the book and resulting NOW website.  I kicked off my shoes, geared up and waded in.  With waves crashing over head, I went under.  I held my breath and ducked my snorkel underwater and swam through a 4 foot gap between some red coral.  I surfaced, blew out my snorkel, ducked under the choppy 3-4 foot waves and kept swimming along the right of the buoys and out to an incredible little reef.  It was nearly euphoric.
Me At Masters Worlds CX Jan 2012
You see, I didn’t enter this hilly 1/2/3 race to do well.  I did it because I had the chance, an opportunity to better myself, to test myself.  I didn’t enter it blindly.  Like in St. Maarten, I considered my abilities and the risk.  My first 1/2/3 road race as a 44 year old Cat 3 rider, what am I stupid?  But, it’s that sort of thinking that holds people back.  Why pass up an opportunity to do well in a Cat 3 race for a chance only to hang in a 1/2/3 race?  For me, every cyclocross season I struggle staying in contact with the Cat 1 level masters aged racers.  Every year I feel like I’m just a pinch too slow.  So this year, I’m making a concerted effort to put on my big boy pants and ride with the fastest guys in town in hopes of being on par in the fall.  I didn’t want to waste the opportunity to learn that I can average 23.5 mph in a 1/2/3 road race and the guys who finished with what was left of "the pack" averaged 24 even.  It was worth the risk.  Getting dropped is nothing but riding alone.  It sure the hell isn’t drowning.