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

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Spring Cleaning

My favorite color handlebar tape for the last eight years has been white.  I like white tape for a variety of reasons, but it takes a lot of work to keep it clean.

If you're going to run white you need to be ready to take dutiful care of your equipment, and if you're not up for the challenge then stick with something lower maintenance like standard, boring black.  If you do go for white then there are a few tips and tricks that help keep it clean without going crazy.

Sram offers hoods to match many of their bar tapes, and I'd be lying if I said that wasn't one of the reasons I opted for Sram groupsets on my road and 'cross rigs.  And of course, when I run white tape I have to run white hoods to match.

The downside of the white hoods is that they can be harder to clean than the tape.  One of the best ways to clean the hoods is to remove them completely and then scrub them with hot, soapy water and a clean soft-bristled brush.  I use an empty GU Brew container to soak the hoods for a few minutes before I give them a good scrubbing.  The advantage of removing the hoods is that you don't get any water or cleaning solvents into the shifter internals, but I have a different method for cleaning them on the bike.

Here's a shot of the cleaning apparatus.  Riveting, right?  And yes, I have three sets- enough to cover each drop bar-equipped bike simultaneously.  

This is what I'm doing now because it's supposed to snow again tonight into tomorrow.  Sigh.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Pro-35 T-Shirts

I'm going to get a small run of Pro-35 t-shirts made with the artwork pictured here and printed on the chest and left sleeve.
Local screen printer extraordinaire Cris Jones of Factotum Designs will be printing the shirts.  If you've done any events like the Bike 29 Gravel Grinder or gotten a shirt from the VT Mountain Bike Festival in Waterbury then you've seen Cris' work. 

If you're interested in one please email me or leave a comment and I'll be in touch before they arrive in roughly 4 weeks. They will probably run around $12-15 and a dollar or two for shipping- just to cover the cost of getting them printed and out the door. 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Mistral, The Wisdom of an Old Adage and a Case for a Power Meter

There are several tenets of old school, Euro-centric cycling culture, one of which is to start your rides into the the wind.  The reasoning for doing that is pretty simple- you work harder going into the wind, then when you turn around you've got it at your back for your trip home. 

The concept is by no means absolute, but it is something I keep in mind when planning routes.  It's not always possible, but there's nothing more soul crushing than fighting a nasty headwind at the end of a long ride.  

Today was one of the windiest rides I've done in recent memory, and the Powertap really earned its keep by
keeping my self esteem intact while pushing into a brutal headwind.  At my normal 220 watt pace, I cruise along at 18-20 on flat-to-rolling terrain when the wind isn't a factor, but today I was grinding along the flats in the small ring struggling to go 14.  Fortunately I knew how hard I was working relative to my miserable forward progress, and I was able to visualize how blazing fast I'd be once I turned around.

You can see on this graph the power output is pretty consistent, but the speed is very low for the first half.  While there are some rolling hills the first 16 miles are basically flat so that's all due to wind resistance.  The section within the green lines is a little more rolling but also more sheltered and ran across the prevailing wind rather than straight into it.  The last section between the yellow lines is the last part where the wind was directly behind me.

The trade winds that blow through Toulon are called the Mistral.  I don't think there's a formal name for the "Duxbury Breeze" that I battled today, so in the spirit of misappropriating other cultures I'm going to call the westerly winds from Williston through the Route 2 corridor the Mistral.

Nobody here will know the difference.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


In my basement are two pristine Mavic GL 330 rims that I bought last fall to be built into a set of race wheels.  For a variety of reasons I couldn't find a good set of hubs to build them up and I ended up getting some carbon tubulars instead.

When I first got into cycling in the mid-90's, this Mavic logo was commonplace.  At that time most wheels were still hand built and used Mavic rims almost exclusively.

This weekend I rediscovered these rims, and with them some motivation for a new project.

More to follow...

Saturday, March 26, 2011

And it Begins...

These Crank Brothers Cobalt 11 carbon riser bars are the first part to arrive for my new Moots Mooto X RSL.  I was pretty happy with the Iodine bars on my YBB, so I decided to go with this slightly lighter and lower rise version for the RSL.  Weight is always a concern, and it can undermine many of the advantages of using bigger wheels on a race bike.  The YBB is under 23 lbs and I'm hoping to get this to be about the same with a similar light but durable build that can survive 6-8 hour endurance events.     

Over the next month I'll start posting more details about the build with pictures of new parts as they trickle in.  It won't make the bike arrive any quicker, but at least I can share my anticipation.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Slow Progress and Some Upgrades

March is progressing deliberately, and the snow is retreating a barely perceptible pace.  The roads are reasonably dry, but the temperature has been below freezing.

New motivation arrived today in the form of some new Kendas- Small Block 8s and Karmas for my upcoming Moots RSL 29er, and a fresh set of Kalientes for my road bike.  I've posted a review of the Kaliente here.

For now I'll buff out my road bike a little bit with new tires and some white tape.  The RSL isn't due to arrive until next month, so this is going to be my aperitif until then.   

Monday, March 21, 2011

Winter, My Old Adversary Returns

I can't help but think that the weather has a sense of irony.  It's probably crazy to assign some sort of consciousness or an agenda to it, but there is really no other way for me to comprehend today's snow after the weekend's clear and sunny skies.

After a very damp and gritty ride on Thursday I was treated to remarkably dry pavement and clear skies yesterday.  Somehow the temperature was even cooperative as it somehow felt warmer than the 43 degrees reported by my home thermometer.

Out on the road things fell into place for me and all of the internal struggles about how and where to train were swiftly and emphatically decided: ride outside, on your road bike and enjoy it.  After getting back in sync with a normal work schedule on EDT I felt the strength of my European mileage in my legs.  For the first time in many months I felt strong and purposeful on the bike.  It was amazing. 

I didn't set any land speed records, but I was able to ride along comfortably by myself at 18-20 mph.  Usually I can't pull that off until May.

And then this morning I was presented with another go around with my old adversary, Vermont winter.   I know it's not forever, and I know I'll be riding outside again soon.  It's just one more week or two of creative workouts before I'm back on the bike again full bore for the season.  I can do that.  I've made it this far.

It won't be much longer.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Addicted to Euro Sheen

Since I've been back I haven't been motivated to do much of anything.  The weather has been March-like, which means it's erratic with temperatures bouncing around, snow melting and gritty roads.  It's also accompanied by a general sense of malaise.

The saving grace of spring is embrocation.  It's really a simple trick to pretend you're warm in otherwise miserable conditions, a sort of artificial performance enhancer like Red Bull for your skin.  Embro is one of the things that skiing doesn't have, and it's one of the semi-secret things that Europhiles use a mark of pseudo-pro distinction.  We can't all be fast, but we can feel fast.

I wouldn't really say I'm still motivated to ride until the temperature warms up a little more, but I do really like applying a generous coat of embrocation before I head out the door.  Its performance effect is imperceptible, but its motivational impact is immeasurable.  It's one thing I can look forward to about this time of year.

For now I'll enjoy the little things that come with riding this time of year, like euro sheen and just being outside on my bike.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The French Needle

One of the coolest things I saw in France was this pastry.  I have no idea what it's called or what it's made of,  but it's awesome.  John and I had these for breakfast one day, and fortunately we didn't have to pass any pesky blood tests for a few days.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Marseille Cyclosportif/Baconator Pictures, Part 1

We'd gotten out of the car, then promptly started on the first Col.  I had no idea I was riding on the Ocean- I was too worried about not getting drilled by oncoming motorists.

Climbing.  Slowly.

Slowly.  Climbing.

You can almost read the screen on the Powertap- "PEDAL FASTER."

Still climbing.

 Wait, how much further is it?

Summit.  Amazingly there was another pro-35 blogger who put a sticker on the sign. 

 This was the descent that awaited us. 

Starting the descent.  

Partway down, wondering why John isn't right behind me.

Baguette & Coke stop at the bottom of the best descent I've ever ridden.  Notice the box of baked goods I'm inhaling.  I was fortunate enough to find some amazing home made muffins at this little store.  As I stood at the register I debated about buying them, and the store owner sold me with the fact that they were "tres bon."  They were indeed tres bon, and I had 2 of the 6 before we started again.

More to follow...

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Col de la Madone Photos

Monaco, before we started the climb.

On the Col, less than halfway up.

One of John's self-portraits from the non-helmet cam side.

There were many turns.

John stopped to take this one.  I didn't actually drop him. 

I could almost hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir as I ascended.

This could be Vermont, right?

At this point I'm asking myself how much longer this could possibly be.  Fortunately I was almost at the top.  

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Marseille Cyclosportif Route

There really isn't a formal name for the route that John, Honza and I did yesterday.  It's a variation on a cyclosportif ride/race John did outside of Marseille last summer.  Total distance was just over 70 miles, but with 6 major climbs and about 7000 vertical feet. 

I'm calling this ride the Baconator, because it's is to a climbing route what the Baconator is to hamburgers.  If you're going to be critical of my paltry power output keep in mind I did Col de la Madone the day before as part of a 50 mile loop. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Col de la Madone

Rising above the principality of Monaco is the climb up the Col de la Madone.  Most Americans will recognize it as the namesake of Trek's flagship road bike for the last ten years.  Madone has never been used in the Tour de France or Paris Nice and is only known because Lance used it as a training ride when he lived in Nice.

We climbed basically from sea level to about 900 vertical meters within a few short miles.  The grade is consistent and remarkably not terribly steep.  It's hard to compare the European climbs I've done to anything in Vermont- they're much less steep but far longer; there weren't any sections that were nearly as steep as Bolton or the summit of App Gap from the Bristol side.

I run a compact 34/50 up front, and normally I use an 11-23 for most riding and switch to a cassette with a 25 or 26 for steep sections.  I only had room in my bag for one cassette for this trip so I went for the do-it-all 11-26 Red Powerdome cassette and was really glad I did.  I spent a lot of time in the 26 today, but I never felt like I wanted anything lower (unlike Bolton).

John stumbled upon a blog from a French guy using the Moon Rider handle.  He's running a 34/28 low gear and I officially apologized today for ever giving him any shit for pushing such a low ratio.

Here's the power file from just the Col de la Madone.  Pictures to follow.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Paris Nice

Paris Nice has started and the stage racing season has officially begun.  Of course there's the Challenge Mallorca, Haut Var and Tour of the Mediterranean, but Paris Nice is where many Grand Tour contenders begin their campaigns in earnest.    

This year the race skipped the normal prologue start and got right into the action with a road stage.  The time trial is a real 27k and has been moved to be later in the race and is expected to have some more impact on the overall ranking.  Word on the street is that Tony Martin of HTC-Specialized-Columbia-High Road-Whatever is the man to watch. 

If all goes according to plan I should be able to check out the time trial in Aix-en-Provence on Friday. 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Mediterranean

Today was a 100 mile, 3 Col day around Toulon, Grimaud and St Tropez.  This picture was taken overlooking Grimaud.  French President Nicola Sarkozy's chateau on the Mediterranean is a small point that sticks out into the water outside the frame of the picture. 

I didn't notice it at the time, but the Grass Moots team jersey is pretty close to Mediterranean blue.  

Here I am with our Swedish friend Matthias.  We're debating whether it's better to pull in nose first versus backing into parking spots.

Here's my power profile.  I was pretty much pinned the whole time, and had to really turn myself inside out to make it all 100 miles.

Whole. Lot. Of Nothing.

We stopped around mile 80 for a baguette and a Coke.  I inhaled both.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Toulon, Ride #3

Today the plan was to do a short ride to preview the first climb in tomorrow's long ride.  Long and short are relative considering this is my fourth ride outside this season.

This is the view from John's balcony.  The RC Toulon Rugby stadium is in the center of the frame.  Note the stuffed tiger and Lay-oh-pard (that's for you, Andy Schleck) in the window on the right.  Not sure what's going on there.

We headed out with Matthias, a Swede who's working on a doctoral program in town.

Matthias on the left in the green kit, John on the right on the Hinacapie development kit.  John's asking Matthias what he prefers for his post-ride Aperitive.  

This was pretty much my day- riding behind two skinny guys trying not to get dropped.


Alright, I took a picture of it, too.

Somehow after feeling like I turned myself inside out for 5 hours I still have little to show for it on the power tap.

What's so interesting about that?  Nothing, other than almost 3,000 kilojoules of work, which for March is unheard of for me.  Normally this time of year I'm skiing, riding the rollers as much as I can stand and trying to avoid Carrie's chocolate chip cookie dough stashed in the fridge.  That's usually all on the same day.

Friday, March 4, 2011

More Mont Faron & Mont Caume

This is it- my France trip that I've being looking forward to all winter.  The weather has been in the low 50's and mostly sunny.  It feels downright balmy by Vermont standards.  There are 311 sunny days a year here in Provence, and yet we managed to get caught out in one of the 54 that isn't.  We were too busy swearing at ourselves and trying to get home to take any pictures of that.  

Provence?  Oui.  I'm staying with a college friend who's been towing me around the local Cols and showing me his normal routes.  I have to say that the riding here is simply incredible.  

John took about 650 pictures of me riding over the last two days, and I'm trying to post the ones that make me look the least out of shape.  Some of them are a little frightening.  I keep trying to tell myself that it's March and not to panic...

Still, any mileage for me this time of year is a godsend.  I have big plans for this year, and this trip is helping me to prepare for them.

To say this is just a training trip wouldn't be true- I've been looking forward to the food and experiencing Europe more than the riding.  The French are known for their cheese, red wine and bread, and those three items are offered in great abundance at the local grocery store.  Compared to the prices of other foods I'm pretty sure they're government subsidized.  A loaf of artisan bread in VT would be roughly $3.50-4, and here it's less than half of that.  Wine?  Cheap bottles start at about $3, and you can get a respectable one for about $4 (I'm using the $ and converting because I'm not sure how to make the Euro sign on my keyboard).  The cheese aisle is massive- about 50% larger than the cereal aisle in a US grocery store.  And you know how much Americans like their cereal. 

Americans tend to view Europe as a sort of cultural mecca, and I can see why they feel that way.  I think the pro-bike community tends to look at European non-motorized transport as some sort of ideal, but there's no real mass transit here in Toulon, and there aren't many bike lanes, either.  The roads are narrow and in the city there's a lot of traffic.  The difference is that the people are more patient with cyclists, partially because as a culture France appreciates cycling, but also because the fines for hitting a cyclist are very punitive, and you can even lose your license.  If we can learn from their model it's that we don't need to reinvent our transit system to make it safe for cyclists, but we could do a lot to protect people on bikes with stiffer penalties for aggressive driving and negligence.  

Mont Faron

Yesterday at about 1:00 PM local time I ascended Mount Faron.  It's an epic climb that overlooks the port city of Toulon, home of the French fleet. 

Road decorations.

More to follow...

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Trapp's Photos, Saturday

As you can see from my broken ski picture from Sunday I have been skiing.  HAD been skiing, more accurately.

Here are some shots I took over the weekend.  It wasn't all bad.  The skiing was actually quite good.  

The parking lot on a normal winter day.  Despite the cars more often than not most of those "skiers" are hanging out in the lodge.  If you know where to go you can quickly get away from the people who do make it out onto the trail.

My mobile service course, aka my trunk.  I brought both the Atomic World Cups and the Madshus Hypersonics  It was pretty soft, so I started on the X3's.  

The skate lane was groomed but soft, so a measured effort with a focus on gliding was the order of the day.

Looking back across Skater's Waltz where it crosses the road.  It was a pretty nice day. 

Every time I see this road I think it would be cool to ride on...perhaps as part of my Hampsten?

The same road, going up towards the lodge.  This is the back way that most GPS navigation systems send tourists.  This part is pretty tame, but it gets twisty and steep before too long.  With summer tires or god forbid in a rental car it can be a harrowing ride.

Ironically enough I had a semi-miserable classic ski day on Thursday.  During that time I mulled the idea of becoming a skate-only guy and skiing with the biathlon club on classic weeks.

So what's ironic about that?  While the skating was marginal and slow the tracks were absolutely pristine.  At the right of the frame you can see some classic skiers.  It looked to be a mother-daughter pair and they parked right next to me at the lodge.  The mother clearly didn't like me, perhaps because I was skating on a day that clearly better for classic.  She gave me the stink eye every chance she got. 

In the nordic world people who only skate can be treated like second-class citizens by the purists of the sport.  In cycling terms it's like a 50 year old ex-racer who rides a Nuovo Record equipped lugged steel bike and looks down his nose at everyone who rides a nefarious carbon bike. 

It was a pretty good day weather-wise.  Remarkably it was clearer at Trapp's than it was at home.  How often does that happen?