Archive for September, 2008

I’ve started a new job after having been downsized from my last position. My old employer was an easy 6 miles from home. The new digs are about 25 miles away. Yesterday was my first day at the new job and today was my first day commuting by bike. My home is in Vancouver, WA near Hwy 14 and Lieser Rd and work is in Beaverton/Hillboro/Aloha, OR. No matter how you slice it, the west hills are in the way.

I solicited some advice from the usual suspects on the OBRA list and got some good suggestions. Number one was to avoid Germantown Rd. so as to stay alive. From the various suggestions, I decided to try out two routes. Today’s route was the Saltzman ride. The skinny:

  • Over the I-5 bridge and west along the Marine Drive bike path
  • Up Portland to St. Johns and the bridge (will probably take the sidewalk in the dark)
  • East on hwy 30 to Saltzman Rd.
  • With a backpack in (mostly) the dark (with a headlight) it takes me about 24 minutes from 30 to Skyline Rd.
  • From Skyline, drop down Springville Rd. to Bethany
  • Hook up with 185th and take that south over the Sunset Hwy to Cornell and the office park where the new job is.

It took me about 1:35 this morning with Saltzman the big time sink. I think it was about 25 or 26 miles. I’m debating about the route home. My first incination is to head up Springville to Kaiser to Old Germantown and descend Germantown to St. Johns. Since the weather is fine I’ll be able to flow with traffic down Germantown. However, I might should try out descending Saltzman on the skinny tires to get a feel for that in good conditions (dry and daylight).

Tomorrow, I’m going to try the route over the Broadway Bridge. The suggested west hills route is:

  • Lovejoy
  • Cornell
  • Thompson
  • Laidlaw
  • West Union
  • 185th

In the coming weeks I’m also going to try incorporating the MAX into my ride.

Oh yeah, I now have three total rides in the west hills — ever. Soon to be doing four five and six.

Surf over to sport.be and check out the news that Antwerp Scheldecrosss (Dec 19) is looking to bring out Lance for the race. The WC in Zolder (Dec 26) is also interested as is the Indoorcross in Hesselt (Feb 5). Lance is slated for the Tour Down Under (Jan 18-25) so scehduling could bee problematic but the start money looks big — 25,000 euros. Since Lance isn’t taking a salary this year, I don’t know if the money will tempt him.

Give him a few more starts and some cross gearing and he might actually be competitive.

One of my Seattle acquaintences made a comment recently about Portland cross racers not being quite as intense as the Seattle racers — at least in the masters categories. I just checked out the Starcrossed results and I’m ready to lay down some smack. Three of the top four finishers in the masters race were Portland based. Out of the approximately dozen Portland racers that made it up for the race, six placed in the top twenty. Not too shabby, huh?

How about Sue Butler? And Wendy Williams and Rhonda Mazza? A winner and two top ten finishers in the women’s race.

The Portland guys didn’t do too poorly in the elite event either.

Advantage, Portland.

On Friday afternoon, I dropped by a local park with my cross bike and some PVC barriers. While riding over to the spot I usually set up the barriers, I carelessly let them swing into my rear wheel. That locked it up and put a little wobble in the wheel. Stupid but fixable with a couple minutes on the truing stand. Later, while doing some cornering work, I buried my front wheel in a dust pit and fell over. I managed to twist everything around enough to slightly roll the tubular. That’ll teach me to train with tubs, huh? Probably not.

I had bunches of fun carving some corners on a nice variety of hills with plenty of off camber stuff. Lots of iterations over the barriers too. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — power is the biggest separation between the fast guys and the not so fast guys. However, there is no question that better technique, whether it be through the barriers or bike handling, will move you up some positions.

The aha moment came when I figured out my remount troubles for this season. For some reason I’ve been jumping too high and coming down with too much force on the rear wheel. Last season I was pretty smooth and I was frustrated that I had regressed. Last year, I worked on riding in the drops most of the time and did virtually all my reps in the drops. I tried a few like that on Friday and they were smooth as butter.

Hmmm. Maybe it was because my hands were lower and my body was positioned differently? Dunno. But I also want to be smooth on the hoods too. I finally figured it out when I got on and pivoted my hips into the saddle so I could get my feet on the pedals faster. No more thump. I tried it some more and just a little hip pivot to bring my legs forward as I hit the saddle was all it took.

Maybe in a couple more years I’ll be really smooth.

Here’s some hard hitting investigative journalism!

It seems that in November 2006 over on the WeightWeenies cyclocross forum, a Challenge rep stuck his head into a thread regarding tire weights. He started talking about a new tire they were developing and solicited suggestions for a name. The forum discussion thread is linked here and I’ll cut-n-paste the quote:

We are working on new tubulars and open version for next year so to answer your question, yes there will be something new for mud conditions.

Would anyone like to give us a suggestion for a name for this product? Does Tiger sound good?

Our local hero, TK, posting under the handle choylifut, suggested a couple of names, one of which was Fango. The Challenge rep comes back with great enthusiasm for Fango as does noted frame builder Mike Z. The entire exchange can be accessed through the forum thread link I provided above.

So what does TK get for coming up with the name of Challenge’s latest, greatest tire? Nothing. Nada. Zilch. I figure they ought to send him a couple pair at least.

Today was the second in a three race dirt crit series at a farm outside of Portland. Coach says I shouldn’t be racing and if I am, then I’d best be in the second group. Okay then. I told Bob Libby, team photographer and all around great guy, that if I weren’t smiling and looking at the camera every lap, then I was going too hard.

I got to Sauvie Island with plenty of time before my race and was greeted with emergency vehicles on the course. I guess someone in the C race had crashed on the first lap of their race. I have no idea of the type or severity of the injury. I figured that would be pushing start times back for the rest of the day. The Bs went off about 20 minute late so I figured my race wouldn’t start until at least 2:10 or later. After a course preview before the Bs, I headed off to warmup on the local roads and intended to get back around 2:00 to get a drink, puff the asthma spray, etc.

As I’m pulling back in at 1:58, I see teammate Mike R. heading out to cool down after his B+ race! And down on the field is my race, staged. Uh oh. I hustle to the car, swig a mouthful of water, puff quickly, and roll up to the start. We get underway about five minutes later.

I have mellow start and slot in towards the back end of the pack but pretty quickly move up toward the front. I spend the first lap sitting near the back of the front bunch when the dude in front of me pops. It wouldn’t have been so bad except that it came on a section through two 90-degree corners separated by some gravel. I came around and saw the gap. I decided that was a good time to shut it down and race my race.

Pretty soon after, I came by TK — he’d flatted. I dangled off the end of the pack for a while and teammate Chris T. came by and urged me to hop on. Thanks for the offer but not this time, Chris. Pretty soon, I saw TK get back on the course ahead of me after gettting a new wheel in the pit. I managed to chase him down and we worked together for the rest of the race. While I wouldn’t call our pace conversational, I felt pretty comfortable and switching pulls with a cooperative racer made the laps much more fun. The flat was bad luck for TK but worked out very well for me.

The only item of note during the race was that TK and I got the flag for the preme lap (I guess they chose a random point on the lap to offer it so the lead guys didn’t take them all). TK was leading and I thought about pipping him for the preme for about a half second. I sat on and let him take it. It could just as easily been me leading at that point so I wasn’t about to contest the sprint for a bag of coffee and some Cliff bars.

Oh, and I managed to smile at the camera every lap. My legs feel okay now– like I did something — and my back is fine. Last week, my back was a mess and it took almost a week for my legs and back to recover. This week I should be able to do some meaningful training instead of cutting sessions short because my my body is a mess.

Photo: Taken by Bob Libby. I’m the smiling guy. TK is taking the wind.

The number one reason to join a team for cyclocross is that your mates will heap abuse on you during the race and hand you cold one afterwards. The camaraderie is the primary reason for a team. During a race, however, there are few opportunities for team tactics to make a difference. That said, the Kruger’s race Sunday before last presented such an opportunity — not that Bill or I took advantage of it.

Here’s the situation: There are four masters riders at the front of the race mixed with two A racers. Just prior to two laps to go, there is a spill that takes down the middle four. The first guy, an A, makes it through as well as the last guy which happens to be me. Ron (the Horse) and Bill (my teammate) get up quickly and mount a chase. I try my darnedest to stay away.

Bill sits on the Horse since he isn’t going to chase down his teammate. Another reason Bill sits on the Horse is because the Horse is so f-ing strong that’s about all Bill could do. However, an effective tactic, if Bill had the legs for it, would have been for him to get in front of the Horse and disrupt the chase. It’s called blocking and when done correctly, is not getting in the way so much as it’s slowing things down just a hair.

Eventually, the Horse would have figured out that he wanted to go faster. Then Bill could sit on for a minute or three and get on the front and block again. Remember, this is a subtle tactic. If you can see the rider you’re chasing, a good block will either not make any progress to close the gap or let it open a few more meters. The point is to lengthen the chase — so that the chaser doesn’t make contact until after the finish line.

Bill and I found ourselves in uncharted territory in that race and so we did the best we could. But the block is something we’ll have to keep in mind for the future.