Training, racing, gear, facial hair styles and thoughts from my push to become an elite cyclist.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Conrad Stoltz & Mixed Training

4x Xterra World Champion Conrad Stoltz has a great blog, and his recent post about Christmas Day Training got me thinking.


Although I'm not a triathlete I have been doing a fair bit of mixed discipline workouts to keep things interesting and also to stay warm. Considering Conrad is home in South Africa he's really not too worried about that.

The plan for me for tomorrow is to do a double Wednesday, or Mittwoch Arbeite as I like to call it. The basic idea is that I go for a run during my lunch break then ride the rollers after I get home from work. It's more to juggle logistically than a single workout but it keeps me from grinding away on the rollers for hours on end. I also have delusions of doing a winter triathlon or two this winter and this is good prep for it.

So why call it out in German? I don't know, but it sounds cool and I got in the habit of referring to winter activities by their German names. I suppose I like the eccentricity of it, but the real reason is that several winters ago I worked with a ski tuner who had spent time with the US Ski Team and on the World Cup circuit. Since Alpine skiing is dominated by the Austrians, many skiing and winter-related words are taken from German, much like peloton, tour, musette and derailleur are taken from French.

I'll post some pics and detail for the Mittwoch Arbeite (literally translated as Wednesday Work) and the weekend workouts as well. The weather forecast is for a high in the 30's, and if the roads aren't super wet and sloppy I'll try to ride outside.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

KMC X10 SL Ti Review

Last month I posted a review for the KMC X9SL Ti chain, and now after getting some time on the 10 speed version I have to say I'm just as excited about the X10SL Ti.

I won't completely restate the X9 review, but in a nutshell I bought that chain because it looked cool, not because I thought it would necessarily perform well. The performance far exceeded my expectations and the durability was far and away better than any other chain I'd ever used.

With that very positive experience I opted for an X10SL Ti on my road bike. So far I've got 500 miles on the road chain and the shifting performance is palpably smoother than its predecessor, a Sram PC1091. The KMC has been quieter, smoother and more predictable in every situation all while showing just slightest signs of wear. The gold titanium nitride finish is still intact if not slightly dirty and the stretch/elongation/wear is barely measurable with my Park chain gauge.

Perhaps the most tangible improvement is the smooth shifting action as the chain moves much more predictably up and down the cassette. It never seems get hung up between gears or bind the way the 1091 did.

All of my road miles were on Sram cassettes- an 11-26 Red Powerdome cassette and an 11-23 OG 1070. The chain performed flawlessly on both. Up front I've been running a 50/34 compact which can be problematic because of the large 16 tooth difference between chainrings. Here again the X10 has proven to be a reliable performer and has handled both up and down shifts with aplomb. With previous chains I had some shifting issues and even some chainsuck (yes, chainsuck on a road bike).

I decided to take it a step further and also put an X10SL Ti on my YBB as part of my 2 x 10 upgrade. I've been very glad I did. After ten rides in frozen, muddy and occasionally wet conditions I haven't had a single mis-shift or other cause for alarm. In addition to adding to the aesthetics of the bike the chain also has sheds dirt and grime much like it's X9 predecessor. I still don't have a ton of time on this setup, but the performance so far has been spot-on and nothing short of amazing. Anyone worried about durability with a 10 speed setup is being unnecessarily cautious and should strongly consider an X10SL Ti when they do decide to get in the game.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Moots RSL 'Cross Prototype

There have been some very cool pics of the new Moots RSL Cyclocross bike over at Bike Rumor (which is where this pic is from).

The Cyclo-X RSL includes several of the same design elements of the other RSL bikes- butted tubing, larger diameter downtube, BB30 bottom bracket, oversized & manipulated chain stays, micro diameter seat stays and 30.9 seat post.

Maybe I'll be adding another Moots to the stable in 2011, bringing my total to 4.

Check it out at http://www.bikerumor.com/2010/12/20/moots-psychlo-x-rsl-prototype/#more-25839

Thursday, December 16, 2010

2011 Team Announcement- MOOTS!

For 2011 I will be part of the Grass Moots Racing Team. I've been a Moots fan since I first saw the YBB in Mountain Bike Action in 1997, and I've always wanted to be on a grassroots factory race squad, so being able to race for Moots is really a dream come true. With opportunity comes responsibility...and I better be in shape when the season starts so I don't embarass myself.

With the new year comes a new bike, and I'll be adding a Mooto X RSL 29er to the stable when they start shipping in March. I'll be holding onto the YBB and will keep riding that too, but it will be great to have different bike options to suit different courses.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Updated- Rudy Project Gozen Sunglasses

This week the new Rudy Project Gozen sunglasses arrived. I've been looking forward to their arrival with giddy anticipation. Fortunately I wasn't disappointed.

These glasses (or polycarbonate plastics to be more precise) are different from other sport models in that they are more understated than a single wrap-around lens but still offer technical features like interchangeable lenses and adjustable temples. After all, it's not every day that we want to look like Andy Hampsten.

My initial impression is very positive. The fit, lens quality and signature Rudy Project adjustable temples make these a good option if you're looking for sport eyewear.

Just how good are they? Check back later for a more detailed report after I spend some more time riding, running and skiing with them.

For more information check out www.e-rudy.com.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Rudy Project Sterling Helmet- Update

There's a great special on the Rudy Project Sterling helmet on the Rudy Project e-commerce site, www.e-rudy.com. As I mentioned in my review this is an awesome helmet at any price, and on sale for $109 (down from a list of $225) is hard to beat.


My review of the Sterling is posted here.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Pine Hill Park- Rutland's Hidden Gem

Over the weekend I made the trek to Rutland to ride in Pine Hill Park. If you're ever in the neighborhood I highly recommend checking it out. There are 16 miles of interconnected and well-marked trails that roll and flow over 300 acres of terrain.

Bridges like the one pictured above are commonplace on the trails, and the man-made centerpiece is the 100 ft long suspension bridge.

I make it a point to make the trip to ride these trails at least a couple times a year. They're fairly close to home and the combination of well-built trails and fast-draining soil means that it's accessible later into the fall and earlier in the spring. It's also town land so there's no hunting allowed.

For more information visit www.pinehillpark.org.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Julien Absalon, Part 2

I ran across this video whilst geeking out.


What strikes me is what his mechanic says about his tires- there are 10 different sets to choose from with varying widths and compounds. That's quite a tire quiver.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Shoulder Season Riding, or How to Avoid the Dreaded Muffin Top

The end of the cycling season is always an interesting time. Most recreational riders pick the end of their season based on when they decide that the weather has gotten too cold for them to ride comfortably outdoors. By November, you’re pretty likely to only see pretty serious riders out and about in New England.

Riding this time of year can be fun- it’s unstructured, flexible and entirely determined by what the most enjoyable option is. In my current mindset that’s mountain biking, and fortunately we’ve had a pretty snow-free November and I’ve been able to sneak in a few more rides.

For me (and this blog is after all, about me) this can be a tough time as it’s hard to find a groove or establish a routine when the weather is in transition. The shoulder seasons are brutal in Vermont because there’s often nothing to do outside since the conditions are often shitty for both riding and skiing. I’m also not very good at changing gears.

Somewhere in the bike-to-ski transition I always pick some extra ballast, usually because of my Grandmother’s excellent Christmas cookies or my mother-in-law's pecan pie. My rides this time of year are best described as obesity resistance intervals. There is no specific focus for each workout other than making sure I can button my pants throughout the holiday binge eating season.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Moots YBB X0 10 Speed

Here it is after I got the 10 speed kit installed. I went for the all black version of the X0 kit with the exception of the XX crank which I chose for its narrower 155 q factor. I also went for a KMC X10SL-Ti chain which has performed amazingly well in my brief tests.

The ti frame is very subtle, and the black gruppo adds to the understated nature of the bike. The two things that pop are the white Ergon GX1 grips and my gold KMC chain. I've also gone with some alt placement for my pro-35 stickers which hopefully doesn't make it look hokey or overdone.

My initial impressions of the group are very good. I went for a couple short rides over the weekend and had to relearn the gear spacing. The 2x is great for racing, but I'm still figuring out which gears to use when I would have normally been in the 32t middle ring up front but have to choose a 26 or 39 up front.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Moots YBB Post VT 50, Pre 10 Speed

For several weeks I've threatened to get my YBB cleaned up and rolling again so I can get some time on it before the snow flies. In true obsessive fashion it wasn't just cleaning and lubing the bike since that would have taken about ten minutes, but rather cleaning, lubing and installing a new 10 speed Sram X0 drivetrain.

Here's the starting point- dirty but well-functioning and still covered with a mix of dust, dirt and dried energy drink spatter. Regardless of what parts selection I run I've always been happy with this bike. It is the smoothest and most predictable mountain bike I've ever owned, and that group includes top-flight race machines from Specialized, Trek and Gary Fisher.

Since I was seventeen I've wanted a Moots YBB, and in 2007 I got one. It's been my number one mountain bike ever since, and I liked the brand enough to sell my Serotta Legend Ti and get a custom Vamoots CR built to replace it.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Julien Absalon

I took this picture of Julien Absalon at the Windham round of the World Cup. 4x World Champion, 2x Olympic Champion, 17 World Cup Wins and countless other cross country victories make him a living legend. In Windham he had a string of mechanicals and dropped out of contention, but he made a huge effort to climb back from the middle of the pack to the top 10 by the end of the day. He was in full flight and rode this short technical section with the remarkable skill you'd expect from a rider of his stature.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

2010 Season Analysis: Power Output Part 2

The downside of ending your season on a low point is the lingering aftertaste of a poor performance. I won't race my mountain bike again until May, and that's six months away, so I have six months to let the memories of a poor last race rattle around in my head.

I've defined mountain bike racing as my primary goal, and my mountain bike results this year were pretty good. When I look at my season like that I feel like Al Franken's Stuart Smalley character from Saturday Night Live with his empty self-important affirmations like "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like me!"

In previous posts I've mentioned my Powertap and there's no question that it's been a huge asset for me and has helped me improve over the last two seasons. The downside of having it on the road bike is that I get an incomplete picture of my summer fitness because 40-60% of my rides, most of my hard efforts and all of my races are on the mountain bike.

Looking back, I think my ride on September 11, ironically enough, was one of my best of the season. I stormed up the climb to Trapps and felt like I was flying. My plan was to race that weekend, but a mild concussion and a severely bruised nose earlier in the week derailed my plans. If I had made it out to the race I would have had incredible form, but that's still not a guarantee of performance since any number of external factors can keep an athlete from performing up to their potential on a given day.

Here's a look at my power graph for that day. You can see that I set a new record for 10 minute power which was recorded on the ascent of Trapp Hill Road.

When I compare those numbers to my earlier post you can see that my short term power output was way lower in November than it was in September. Considering that 'cross is all about short term power it's really no surprise that my results started to slide as well. This is only a piece of the puzzle, but it's interesting to note the difference in some fitness indicators before two very different performances. The 10 minute power output from that ride is also from the ascent of Trapp Hill Road and it's pretty far from my best.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Best Part....

The best part of Saturday's race at the Harpoon Brewery was this after the finish.

Now I'm starting the beginning of a much needed rest period. One week of no exercise and completely off the dietary wagon. When bike geeks go off the wagon, look out- it's a blitzkrieg on whatever was off-limits during the season. The non-cyclists in our lives are always taken by surprise because we've conditioned them to expect salads, light beer and no desert, so when it's pizza, burritos, sundaes and pitchers (often at the same sitting) they don't know how to handle it. In the five years I've known my wife she's still surprised when I suggest pizza as a dinner option. To be fair there's Christmas, Thanksgiving, and a week of full-on binge eating, so 9 days out of 365 still makes salads and seltzer 97.5% of the time, so I can understand her thought process.

The week after I finished the Hampshire 100 I had a large cookie everyday for lunch for three days in a row. I didn't have it with my lunch, it was my lunch.

Anyone want to race to the bottom of a bag of Doritos? I've been doing sodium tolerance intervals and my MSG threshold is up 400 calories over last season.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Pulling the Plug

My vision for this weekend's races was this: Francis Mourey in full flight.

Instead I promptly made my way to the back of the field on the first lap and stayed there the whole race. I went flat out and was able to hold same consistent miserable gap the whole race.

In that 45 minutes of racing it all became clear: I'm burned out. I've been training seriously since June without more than 4 days off the bike in a row. This 'cross season I've been training well but I'm still going backwards with things progressively worse every race weekend.

The good news is I still love the sport, I'm just not into racing right now. I'll still ride until the snow flies, then throw myself into skiing with the myopic focus you'd expect from a true obsessive like myself.

A few weeks ago I had a conversation with my friend Jason about improving at endurance racing. His experience taught him that a break was critical to improving year over year. As I thought about the last few seasons I noticed a distinct pattern: that I get way into three sports (mtb, 'cross, and nordic) and end up not improving at any of them. There are guys that are good at mountain biking and 'cross, and there are guys that are mountain biking and skiing, but there aren't any guys that are good at mountain biking, 'cross and skiing. Winter here is way too long not to ski, so next year I'm going to do an abbreviated 'cross season like most normal people and hang it up in October before the weather goes completely pear shaped.

Endurance mountain bike racing is my primary goal, so I'm going to treat it that way and scale back everything else.

Maybe I should clean off my mountain bike and take it for a few rides before the snow flies. I've got that brand new 10 speed X0 group still sitting in a box just waiting for some attention...and I'm sorry to say that the YBB hasn't been ridden or even cleaned since the 50.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Home Race

This weekend is the race weekend that I’ve built my ‘cross season around- the Windsor & Putney double. Both races feature great courses in interesting venues and are within very reasonable driving distance from my house. In many ways this is my big race weekend, and I’ve been thinking about it for months.

Each spring I get a couple pairs of gloves, or more accurately a couple pairs of 661 Rajis. Last year I went with white, and one of the two pairs I got were reserved for race day. That pair only ended up seeing action twice as the other pair stayed remarkably clean all season, so I decided to keep them for this year’s big races.

While pouring over European Race photos earlier this year I noticed that Marc Madiot’s Francaise des Jeux ProTour team has two different varieties of shorts to go with their white jerseys. First, Madiot is a two-time winner of Paris-Roubaix (’85 and ’91) and since he retired from racing has been widely regarded for his skill in developing young cycling talent such as Bradley McGee and Phillipe Gilbert. He’s also been a consistent supporter of clean cycling (as opposed to simply being anti-doping) and his was the first team to prominently feature predominantly white kits not because they were cool or practical, but because of what the color represented. Before CSC/Saxo, AG2R and Quick Step, FDJ wore white.

From what I gather the FDJ squad wears navy colored shorts for events outside of their native France (or in bad weather for obvious reasons), but when they race in France they switch to white shorts. Different “home” and “away” uniforms are common in most sports but otherwise curiously absent in cycling. It’s a subtle way that they put their best foot forward and demonstrate the pride in what racing at home means to them.

So this weekend I’ll be featuring my version of the home kit- my white gloves. I know they won’t help my performance, but when I pull them on at the start line I’ll remember the time and effort I’ve made to prepare.

Like life, the little things in cycling are what I savor the most.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Snow- Just What I Needed...Not

Good thing I got that nice, long “wow I love cycling” ride in on Sunday. No sooner had I mentioned the variability of the weather then we get smacked with a fall snow storm. Good thing I got the driveway drainage fixed, too.

Of course this means that snow tires were not on my agenda either. The old Vermonters always make sure they’re on by mid-November, and if you live in the hinterlands or at any elevation you have them on by mid October. That’s right- if you subscribe to that school of thought then you’re buying Halloween candy and shopping for snow tires at the same time.

In my mind that isn’t being prepared, it’s being afraid. While I think it’s important to respect the weather it’s ridiculous to feel like loud and ugly snow tires are necessary from October to May. It's a small thing, but snow tires are one of those things that I want to run only when it's necessary. That means that the night of the first snowfall of the year I end up scrambling around an abandoned parking lot in the dark dropping wrenches in the slush and swearing at myself for not being better prepared.

Fortunately it will be in the 50’s later this week on the days that I’ll be riding outside. This weekend is the Paradise ‘Cross Frenzy and the West Hill Shop Cyclocross which is the race weekend I’ve been looking forward to for months. Both events feature the best that local racing has to offer- reasonable field sizes, good courses and short drive times.

Hopefully the snow will be gone by then, too.