Archive for June, 2007

The big news in the cycling world is that Jaksche is going to spill the beans, drop dime, come clean, turn states evidence, on all he knows about doping in the peloton (VeloNews, cyclingnews.com). Up until now, Jörg has been in denial mode; he’s never doped, he’s not going to submit his DNA, his contact with Fuentes was innocent. You know, the typical stuff we’ve heard from Hamiton and Landis and a host of other dopers caught with their hands in the cookie jar. And remember before the Giro when Basso had appeared so eager to work with CONI until omertà got the best of him?

Let’s hope Jaksche doesn’t get a visit some the peloton mafia (or some Kazakh hoods) before he has a chance to tell his tale. I here Der Spiegle is paying him a cool quarter mil Euro for his trouble. I hope he can get a book deal and maybe some more paying interview gigs. I want this guy to be able to make money by blowing the lid on doping. I want this to be the cataclysm that brings pro cycling so low that things have to change in order to set the ship right again.

I am praying that Jörg Jaksche is the guy who becomes known as person who reformed doping in cycling. I’m looking forward to Monday and I hope he doesn’t go Basso on us.

Any of you who have tried to lose weight realize that it can be pretty hard to get rid of those extra pounds. I’ve had losing weight as a priority for the last couple of seasons but haven’t had the discipline to get the job done. Well, this year I finally did it. I started at 192 pounds and am now down to approximately 170 pounds (+/- a pound or two). I still want to drop about five to seven more pounds before the season. Last year I raced at about 185 pounds though that’s a guess based on how my clothes fit since I didn’t weigh myself last year.

Here’s my weight loss chart (click on it or a big/readable version):

Weight Loss Chart

I’ve been using the Physics Diet web site to track my weight. It uses a moving average and recent trends to plot your weight which minimizes daily fluctuations. The only downside is that it takes about six to eight weeks to get the numbers on track if you start by losing quite a bit of weight.

I’ve lost weight before and I knew it was going to take a long time to get the pounds off. The combination of a zippy metabolism, reduced calories, and laser-like focus added up to some significant inroads over the first three weeks. I was losing over two pounds a week. Over the five subsequent weeks, I managed to hold tight and maintain a consistent loss of about 1.75 pounds a week. And over the past six weeks, I’m losing a sustainable half to three-quarters pounds a week.

At this rate, I’ll be 165 or less by the start of the cyclocross season.

I think the most important thing you can do to lose weight is to set attainable goals. The total number isn’t as important as the week to week number. You need to decide what kind of lifestyle you are going to be able to maintain over a long period of time. Sustaining losses of 2 pounds a week for long periods is difficult mentally and physically. You won’t be as strong and the hunger gnaws at you. If you have a family, it can be doubly difficult if everyone isn’t totally supportive too.

But let me just say that hills are a lot more fun now that I’m lighter.

I’ve gone through more than a couple attitude adjustments over the four cross seasons I’ve raced. I’ve gone from just happy to be here to racing near the front to learning how to race to racing at the front to pack fodder. While the bottom line is personal fitness, your attitude is what will let you make the most of the fitness you have.

My last two races last season were the USGP stops in the Pacific Northwest where I raced in the 35+ 1/2/3 race. At the Steilacoom race on Saturday, I was nervous, excited and just wanted to put forth a good effort. The result of that thinking was that I stacked it up through the barriers on the second lap, twisted my shifters around (requiring a field adjustment) and never made up for that momentary lack of concentration.

The Steilacoom race had been warm and dry and I was hoping that the rain would hold off until after racing then next day at the Portland race. However, it was raining pretty good when I awoke and it continued to rain throughout the day. It rained when I signed in. It rained when I tried to warm up. It was going to rain while I raced. The course was a quagmire of slop.

After signing in, I stopped by my team’s tent where they had a fire going and I was reluctant to leave the warmth. I went off to “warm” up and it started to rain harder. I was not in a racing frame of mind.

However, while I was tooling around on my own, I stumbled on a moment of zen. I was just ready to race — and by ready, I meant mentally ready to line up and do whatever I could to finish in front of as many guys as possible. When we staged, I fet loose in the starting grid. I started strong and settled into my pace. I kept churning through the mud and pulled off a great race.

I have a hard time explaining how my attitude flipped 180 degrees in the blink of an eye. One possibility is that I decided that this was just a race rather than the culmination of the races that had come before. Instead of dragging along baggage from the season (and previous seasons), I was out to race right then and there. Also, the conditions were terrible (some might say great) and the absurdity of racing through that mess and trying to warm up with a rooster tail of cold water running running down my butt poked some fun into my grim demeanor.

I hope that I can find that attitude this season. I need to keep things in perspective. Every race isn’t going to be great. There are lots of guys faster than me and they will beat me most of the time. I need to line up, stay loose, and be aggressive in the race. When I cross the finish line, I need to understand that the race is over and while I can learn things from my performance, I can’t dwell on the negatives. I need to enumerate the positives and go into my next race thinking about what I will do rather than trying to avoid doing something dumb.

It’s like riding past an obstacle; since you tend to ride where you look, if you stare at the spot you want to avoid, you are more likely to run into it.

I got my first 10-speed when I was eleven back in 1976. My dad bought it for me along with a pair of Eddy Merckxs – one for him and one for his girlfriend. I don’t know how many miles they put on those Merckxs but it wasn’t many. A couple years later, my dad’s girlfriend dumped him and I inherited a Molteni orange Eddy Merckx at the age of thirteen. It was way more bike that I needed at that age.

I was living in Ann Arbor, MI at the time and I used that Eddy like any kid would use his bike. I rode over to my friends’ houses. I rode downtown. I rode to neighboring towns (Dexter). I had no idea that I might actually be able to race the bike but I sure put some miles on it. I also gained an appreciation for the fine Campy components and learned to do all the basic wrenching required to keep it running in tip-top shape.

One evening after attending a weekly computer night at Community High (Commodor 64s and Pets among others), I found Eddy’s spot at the bike rack was empty. All that was left was a deftly snipped cable lock. I’ve had a number of bikes through the years and a few of them have suffered ignoble demises but none stung as much as losing Eddy.

EddyA few years ago, I had the opportunity to buy a Merckx Alu-cross. It was used but had only seen limited racing. Much of its appeal was the fact that it was a Merckx and I could somehow get back some part of that bike I lost so many years ago. New Eddy has been my primary race bike for three seasons and I love it. I’ve got a Redline Conquest for a pit bike and commuter but Eddy fits me much better. The ride is great.

New Eddy has some things that I don’t like such as the 1″ headset and non-replaceable dérailleur hanger. But I just love the ride.

The best thing about the Eddy crosser is that it connects me to that thirteen year old kid who rode his bike around everywhere. That kid whose bike meant freedom — freedom to go wherever he pleased, wherever his legs might take him, as fast as he could ride.

I’ve heard from a few people that they read this blog from time to time. Since I never see any comments, I sometimes wonder if I’m just casting out to the void. If you check in, why not add a comment to this post to let me know where you’re from.

Thanks!

While fartleks are commonly employed by runners serious about getting faster, cyclists don’t know diddly about this great workout. Except maybe they do. You see, fartleks are unstructured intervals. Sprint for that sign, go hard up this hill, accelerate through that turn. The principles that make fartleks effective are the same as those that make intervals such great workouts. In fact, when Gosta Holmer invented them back in the 1930s, it was quite the revolution.

If you’re like me and have a hard time getting motivated to do intervals, try fartleks instead. Some fun suggestions are:

  • Charge up small rises
  • Ride an uncomfortable pace up longer hills
  • Sprint up to speed after corners, stop signs and traffic lights
  • Go hard for landmarks

One of the best aspects of fartleks is that you don’t have to find that perfect piece of road to perform them on. Just make it a part of any of your rides.

Some pointers … Fartlek sessions should be between 30 and 45 minutes with lots of tempo changes. A fartlek session can be integrated into rides of practically any length but I like to do them when I’m out for 70-90 minutes so I can really thrash my legs. Don’t do them every ride — once or twice a week is plenty. Make sure you get adequate rest.

I picked up Simon’s Cyclocross: Training and Technique this evening and read a few of the chapters. Even though I’ve read it front to back, I still find it worthwhile to reread sections from time to time. This books is it when it comes to solid advice about technique, race tactics, strategy and training. The good news is that it’s coming out in the 3rd edition this August. The 2nd edition from the late 90′s was becoming a bit dated so I’m looking forward to this new edition.

My advice? Buy it!

… Long live the tubular clinchers. Tufo says that they have ceased production with no plans to produce any more. The ones on the street are the only ones available. I don’t have any word as to the corporate reasons why.

Head on over to the Cross Crusade site to check out the schedule. The big news? No Barton. I can’t believe that they are dropping Barton. I *love* that course. It rocks — literally. I race really well there — when I don’t flat. The compression ditch is one of a kind! I love, love, love the starting straight. And the dikes are classic features I’ll miss the most. The second date of the series still lists the venue as TBD so there’s still hope for Barton. However, Barton is best served as a November venue when it is likely to be waterlogged.

The classic courses of Alpenrose and Estacada again grace the schedule. Hornings looks to become a regular (word is that it will be less mountain bikey this year) and Hillsboro returns for a slog fest in middle of November. There are two new locales on the schedule this year. Since the sale of the Flying M necessitated relocation of the Halloween race, the Crusaders found a home for the camp/party/race at the Astoria Fairgrounds. Is the soil sandy out there? Let’s hope so since Astoria gets 70 inches of rain annually. The Rainer, OR school district got hoodwinked into allowing the Crusade circus to use Rainier High School for an early season race. Maybe it will be dry and there won’t be enough turf damage to preclude an invite next year.

The Portland USGP weekend(December 1, 2) is at PIR. I wonder if the Crusaders are going to set the course on the infield one day and then use the northwest open space (near the golf course) the next. While that would be tres cool, it might not be a financial reality.

The other big news is that the Crusaders are hosting the World Singlespeed Championships. It’s going to be contested in conjunction with the Estacada racing. Qualifiers are scheduled for Saturday with the championship race on Sunday along with all the other regular racing. That looks to be a great weekend. Estacada is a great venue so all you SSers out there had better put this weekend on your schedules.

If you add in Hood River (9/23), Barlow (9/30) and Kreugers (11/25), the Portland cross schedule looks packed with some excellent racing. It’s shaping up to be another outstanding year.

Pedals anyone? Among the usual questions that rookie crossers ask is what pedals are best for cross. First, let me state the obvious — get mountain bike pedals. Road bike pedals are *not* the best choice. Among the various mountain pedals, two stand out; Time ATACs and Crank Bros Eggbeaters (or Candys). Those two pedal systems are the best for shedding mud when a racer is attempting to clip in on a remount. That’s the bottom line in cyclocross, how fast can you get into your pedals and apply power to the cranks on a remount.

I’ve used ATACs and Eggs and prefer the Eggs. I gave up on the ATACs after a race where I was unable to clip in because of a small rock lodged in the pedal clip mechanism. I kept knocking my foot against the pedal in an attempt to dislodge the rock as a couple of guys rode away from me. That single frustrating incident caused me to switch from ATACs to Eggs.

The Eggs are very easy to clip in to. It’s got four sided entry so pedal position is a non-factor. I have a smooth clip in motion where I roll the pedal onto the cleat. It’s gotten to be second nature. However, I’ve found the Eggs and ATACs to have practically identical performance for clearing mud. For full disclosure, on a couple occasions, I’ve gotten a small rock lodged between a cleat and shoe tread which has impeded my ability to clip in. Thus, I don’t think that Eggs are the magic bullet for perfect clips in sloppy conditions. My endorsement of Eggs is primarily based on their overall ease of clipping.

Eggbeaters don’t have a pedal platform per se and that alarms some people. If you’ve got a reasonably stiff shoe, the lack of platform is not a problem. Even with pedals that have a platform, virtually all of the force is concentrated at the cleat so the platform has little role in transferring power to the cranks. While not clipped in I’ve found that I can pedal just as well on the Eggs as I could on the ATACs. So if you are going to go with the Crank Bros, get the Eggbeaters and not the Candy version since the platforms aren’t necessary. (Note: I’ve heard from a couple guys that they found the Candy pedal body got in the way of toe spikes when trying to clip in.)

I’ve heard some mixed reviews of the high end Shimano mountain pedals. Some folks claim they are quite reliable in the mud while others decry their performance in the slop. I’ve not tired them so I can’t offer any first hand observations.

And finally, one more reason to get Crank Bros pedals: rebuilds. After a couple years of use, My pedals had been developing some play and a clicking noise. I went down to the LBS (River City Bicycles in my case) and picked up the $15 rebuild kit. After 30-40 minutes at home, I had a set of pedals that were as good as new. Rebuilding my pedals suits my environmental sensibilities as well as my cheapskate tenancies. Two thumps up!