Saturday, April 17, 2010

Battenkill 2010

The big race is over and I'm already trying to work out the logistics of going in 2011. I knew this would be a good trip, but it exceeded all expectations and having this much fun should be illegal. The riding was incredible, everything you could ask for; great weather, beautiful views along the course and a race atmosphere that was like a music festival for cycling. Off the bike was a nonstop good time in the surprisingly beautiful Saratoga Springs.

Lets start with the important things first:

Most Beer Consumed: Brian and I staked out an early lead in this one with first pints consumed within three minutes of departing the death plane (more on that later). Soon overtaken by the quartet of Phil, Greg, Sarah and Helen who were leading a brash charge to the line. Obviously taking the competition seriously, Phil sniffed out the only bar in the otherwise civilized town of Saratoga that resembled The Beach. Cheap beer served in plastic cups? Check. Smells like a urinal? Check. Full of underage drinkers? Check.

While the lead being generated was commanding, they may have proved themselves the hare, to Brian's tortoise, and while all counts are unofficial I have to conclude that Dr Drea's slow and steady won this one. (Editors note, I was running neck and neck with the man from Goslings right up until the fourth afternoon when I just had to pack it in. I simply could not compete.).

Song Permanently Etched Into My Memory: Chis Isaak's Wicked Game. The moment our plane came to a stop on the runway, we all heaved a sigh of relief that we weren't going to be the headline story on that evening's CNN and then over the speakers comes Isaak's song at exactly this moment. His slow drawl made the moment seem almost surreal.

In the 40 minutes leading up to that moment the Captain had informed us all that he couldn't get the wheels down, assume the brace position and the moment the plane comes to a halt jump out the emergency exits. It may have been more comforting if the stewardess on the intercom wasn't obviously distressed, her words stumbling out over the fear in her voice.

Amazingly, while within sight of the airport wheels went down, but when we landed we were surrounded by police and fire trucks - or as Liz noted, "there were a lot of fire trucks, and zero ambulances. They were expecting the worst."

Best Traumatic Situation Reckoning For a couple of hours afterwards we all excitedly exchanged stories of what was running through our minds. There was the utterly banal; the Colonel deciding it was as good a time as any to go to the bathroom. The expected; glad the Mrs. is safe at home, when was the last time I phoned my mother. To the brilliant; "I really need to branch out and drink more than just Pinot Noir, life's too short to just stick to Pinot." (Don't worry Mel, that zinger came after being glad that you weren't there).

Best Part of the Race: I'm usually the world's most conservative rider, more likely to get dropped on down hills and hairy corners than anywhere else. This race was the first time I can remember where I threw all caution to the wind. I had to, my own team mate was driving the pace so hard on a five mile downhill, winding dirt track section it was all I could do to hang on. Tires skidding around corners, bottles flying I remember thinking only two things: 1) if I crash right now I am so F@#$ed, 2) I am sprinting, down hill out of the saddle in a 52x12 and Brian is still pulling away. I'm glad I didn't have a computer on, seeing it inch north of seventy would have scared me to slow down.

Best Thing I Saw all Week: Possibly no one had a better time than Spike. Of all the Bermuda lot, he put in the best ride and progressed the most over the last four months from a religious adherence to the training schedule. To remember the event, he inked himself up with the race logo.

Now You're Looking PRO: After months of sitting on the fence Podge decided it was time to shave the legs. Phil's next.

Biggest Cheer: Bonnet came screaming into the bar after her race and the whole place just erupted. It's great to be part of a team, just for moments like these.

I don't think the bar quite knew what hit them. Our lot essentially commandeered the place, turning it's upscale dining room into a cycling frat house.

Best Restaurant: I went to MAX London's for breakfast, lunch and dinner one day. The coffee and pastries were perfect, the lunch and dinner just what I wanted. My idea of heaven is to ride after a quick breakfast and then have a great lunch. I did that here for two days.

Worst Omission of Guilt: Brian manages to befriend the only Frenchman in the race who follows us to the bar. They're instant friends, jabbering away in French. The guy seems all right, but I'm talking to Phil and Greg so I'm ignoring him. I get up and go to the bathroom, and when I come back fingers are pointed and accusations are hurled, 'It was him, that guy right there who kept messing up the pace line.' I turn around looking for the person who must be standing behind me. No one there, then Brian jumps on the train, 'yeah, he never does any work.' This goes on for five minutes, I'm the reason the break got away, this guy was thinking of riding me into the gutter etc. Helen is thinking of taking this outside, restoring Madison dignity with some fisticuffs. I start believing him, apologizing for my sins, but he won't accept my apology.

In the van on the way back, out of no where, Greg pipes up, "Adam, you know that French guy in the bar? He was confusing you for me. But I thought you could handle the abuse." Thanks, Greg.

Local Brew Endorsement: The pleasant surprise of Saratoga was the choice of locally brewed beers. Coming from Bermuda where every bars stocks the same five, it was great have a new world of opportunities at every restaurant. I tasted a lot, but not all, and the winner for me was a Belgian style white beer called Blue Moon. Refreshing and light, this stuff should be served in every bar in Bermuda as it's perfect for warm summer days.

Best One Liner: Chelsea rolls into our finishing area and complains that he was right up there until he dropped his chain. Twice. In brilliant deadpan delivery, Greg, "You should take it down to Winner's Edge, they do good work there." One of many from the Irishman, but that one stole the show.

Best Bottle of Wine: By unanimous consent, David Bruce Pinot Noir. Apparently it's also the last one I'll enjoy until next year as it's not exported.

Competition was stiff:

What It's all about: As fun as the race was and as good as the food was, for me the best part was the ride on Sunday morning. So much of the riding I do here is mapped out months in advance. Intervals planned and executed mostly in the dark make you fast, but they never leave you thinking, 'this feeling is the reason I started cycling in the first place.' Instead, on this morning, we got wonderfully lost, taking turns when it felt right, riding roads whose names we didn't know and would never ride again. Descents were electrifying because you never knew what was around the next corner. We rode past mansions and then past wood oven burning shacks. It was zen for a mind that it is normally so busy with the demands of work and home. A state of mind that rationalizes the more lost you get the better the experience will be.

Some parting shots of that ride:

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


The big race is this Saturday. By big, I mean big: It's the largest US one day with an estimated 2,000 participants. It's also by far the bigggest grouppo I've ever raced in, on the most challenging course around.

Even though I've been planning this for a while it feels like it's snuck up on me at the exact same time that my form has snuck out the back door. I'll just try and hold on for as long as possible.

One thing I'm worried about is drinking and eating enough. I'm going to burn about 3,000 calories and my soigneur (below) won't be able to make it to the race which means I'll be responsible for carrying everything I need.

On post-race drinking, I'm thinking that beer will be the carrot to get me through the race. But at the same time, it's not really the greatest motivation as I'll be legless regardless of the result, so may propose to the team that drinks are on the last finisher.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Win

The team got the first win of the season yesterday. Also won the bunch gallop for second, so it was a satisfying day all around. Dr. Drea went with about 600 meters to go and managed to hold off the field for a well deserved win. Nothing else to add and the picture does the win more justice anyway.

We took some team photos after the race, and I think Phil must have glammed them up a bit as we all look like we're fresh from the tanning salon.

Rode home, crawled up the 18% wall that is Brian's driveway, had some belgian beer with breakfast before the first barbeque of the season with the lovely girlfriend. Kind of a perfect day.

One final note on the below photo from Liz. I know Elliot is a lawyer now, but he's still PRO in my eyes and every time I ride with him I can't help but think "this guy rode the Giro!"

Monday, March 15, 2010

Budget Racer

It's the start of a new racing season (more on that later) which has me thinking about new racing bikes. There were several new ones at yesterday's start line. Steeds that had been put together over the winter, polished and shined up to be brought out to impress and maybe inpire more dedicated training. I love my bike, but I can't - and really, what man can - help thinking about a new one.

Obviously, in a money is no object world I can think of a lot of nice bikes I wouldn't mind riding, but I'm going to try limiting this post to bikes at $3,000 or under. Cheating in a couple of areas, I'm going to assume that existing race wheels can be swapped over, saving money there. Saddle too.

#1. I keep coming back to Cannondale's CAAD range. I just don't think that from a value for money perspective that it can be beat. Sure, it's aluminium, but I think a good metal bike is better than a bad carbon bike. It's also less likely to die a sad death in a crash. The CAAD9 4 version is equipped with a mix of Sram Rival and force and has a BB30 bottom bracket - all for $1,800. That price leaves you plenty of room to swap in some nice bars, stem and seat post and still be right around two grand. Throw on your own wheels and it's ready to go. I found these two online that have been nicely speced.

Can't tell which I like more, the white or the black...

#2. Ridley Damocles. This one is a little more, but still a good deal. Before I say anything else I going to cite two references for this bike. 1) Brendan Quirk, the man at the worlds best bike shop chooses this bike to ride from all the bikes available at his impressive store, and equips their semi-sponsored team with them. 2) Pozzato rides for the Ridley sponsored Katusha, and of all the bikes available chooses and wins on their 'third tier' frame.

It's a very cool bike, and if you buy it without wheels and with Sram Rival and 3T bars, stem and seat post it's going to come in right at $3,000.

#3. Pinarello FP3. Looks great. Pinarello geometry. Will always be cool. Fully equipped with Force, Rival and FSA parts for $3,200. Say no more.

#4. Willier Mortirolo. This frame is going for $1,200 right now and while it's slightly heavier due to less expensive carbon fibre, it shares a lot with the Le Roi model that took Ballan to Worlds victory in 2008. Again, go with Rival and this is around $2,700. Or, with some savings gained from the frame's price spring for some Campagnolo Athena 11 speed and keep the Italian theme going.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Borrowed Bikes

When I was a student I was poor. So poor that my 4th year job folding laundry was a promotion from working as a Subway Sandwich Artist earning $7 an hour before union dues and taxes where taken out. A whole day of work would get me home with $50 Canadian (and a backpack full of smuggled out subs to 'subsidise' my salary) and my bike reflected my bank account.

I had an aluminum Specialized M2 with such a ramshackle mix of components that a store I'd dropped it off to actually reported it to the Police as stolen. My ride was the bicycle equivalent of a chop shop job.

Three years later I got a badly scratched Eddy Merckx frame off of Ebay for $306. During the last five minutes of the auction as the price ticked upwards I remember being really nervous: 'if this thing goes above $310, I'm going to have to back out.' That was my economic line in the sand, across which would have meant self imposed fasting for longer than I'd have liked. (As it was, front derailers were incompatable between frames - clamp on vs braze one - and that non-existent $46 meant 18 months of small ring only riding).

After getting a real job one of the first things I did was buy a new bike. Shortly after that I started riding a lot less as life (read job) got in the way. That resulted in a relationship that's likely universal to all un-sponsored cyclists and graphed below:

It paints an ugly picture, and since the idea of downgrading my bike is crazy, I'm going to have to work on the other metric here.

I'm thinking of this because I came across this great photo of Juan Antonio Flecha the other day as a kid.

I love this picture. Look at that top tube, it comes up to his hips with the saddle slammed all the way down he must have had to jump off when coming to a stop. Stopping would have been a bit of a problem though, he's only got one brake on there! The leather helmet, the wool jersey a size too big. It's classic stuff. He must have really like riding to go around like that. But hey, now he rides a Di2 Pinarello Dogma.

Like I said, unless you're PRO I think this is the all but inevitable life course for the average cyclist. I only wish that while I was out trying to rectify my bike:speed ratio, Dominique wasn't reminding me how cool I used to be as he flys by on his own borrowed bike.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

What you missed this morning.

There's plenty of time later in the year to hammer the 6:15 ride so for now I'm enjoying the scenery over slow rides and good conversations.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Big Maggie is Really Big

- I mean Huge. I had the pleasure of meeting Magnus Backstedt over the weekend and was just blown away by what a nice guy he was. He had nothing but patience for my rain-man-like-cycling questions (he wants Hincapie to finally win Roubaix in 2010 and thinks Boasson Hagen is Merckx for a new generation) and was gracious recipient to Dr Drea's insistence that he try a Dark n'Stormy (which he liked).

It's always great when the stars you admire turn out to be just normal and decent human beings in person. I especially liked his advice to aspiring juniors, "just always give 100%, that way no matter what happens you'll know that you tried your hardest."

One final note from the big Swede that can go under the topic of "benefits to cycling they don't advertise enough"

Me: "So, if you win Roubaix, do you ever have to buy a drink again?"

Magnus: "'s pretty rare."

He's doing some good things with a small team. It's not going to get you a sponsors spot on his team kit, but I'm sure it would help the cause to buy some of his coffee here.

- I found myself sucked into the black hole that is MTV's Cribs over the weekend. It's a train wreck of too much money and bad taste; did you know that Dale Earnhardt Jr has a Western village in his backyard complete with period dressed women? It's as though all US celebrities live in a world of expensive LARP. Each time I saw the garages full of Beamers and Bentleys I'd wonder to myself just how many bikes I could fit into that space if given the money. Then last week I found out that Michael Barry has his very own Cribs-style bike porn garage full of vintage one-offs. These are his bikes - not including his stable of 10 years worth of actual PRO rides.

- If you're like me you often find yourself staring at the TV in July in absolute awe, wondering how much more training you'd have to do to get up those hills so fast. This picture of Dutch climbing sensation Robert Gesink helps answer that question. You just need a beach body that isn't going to win you many ladies (unless of course they're very into cycling).

- Velonews had a look at the logistics behind Garmin-Transitions recently. I knew it took a lot to support a team, but didn't realize it was akin to supplying a military operation. Just look at the photo below. Those boxes contain 22,000 camel back water bottles. Those things retail for $9, that's $200,000 a year just on water bottles that get used once before being flung into a ravine in the French countryside. Add the thousands of gels, bars, bar-tape, tubulars and pedals that the team goes through in a year and they have a whole warehouse just to keep the team stocked.

- I've been nothing but cold on my bike recently and it's testing even my love of the sport. A quick Google of "how to stay warm while cycling" revealed mostly boring answers. Yeah, who knew that wearing more clothes would help? But I came across this great suggestion here that advised I cover my legs in duck fat! Answers like that are the reason I love the Internet.

I have to say I'm tempted, but it would be just one more thing I'd add to the list of cycling quirks that my lovely girlfriend will never understand. That, and I'd fear dogs chasing after me.

- On a recent group ride I was looking around at the body language in the group. By and large we were man handling our machines, rocking our shoulders side to side trying desperately to squeeze every last watt out. While I'm on the Roubaix theme, I found this video of Moser winning the '78 race in the World Champion Stripes. It's text book perfect cycling technique. I've heard that Moser used to ride his rollers in front of a mirror just so he could dial in his technique. Watching this makes me believe that leaves me striving for that effortless technique only attained through thousands of miles.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

I think most pro cyclist interviews are really dull (Question: What's your training secret? Answer: I ride a lot in the mountains and I don't eat). I came across this interview from some Cat 1 rider and wished this guy taught interview lessons to the pros:
Lanolin: You’re quite a good climber. What’s your secret?

Alan: My mother was a social climber. My father was a corporate climber. I have no friends and no money, but I can do this.

Monday, January 4, 2010

My bike is a mess

I've ridden almost every day over the last two weeks.

I keep thinking that nature will reward my perseverance with a day or two balmy skies and gentle breezes. How foolish, it's been nothing but gale force winds and cold rain on almost every ride.

As a result my bike is a hot mess. Next time my lovely girlfriend is out of the house post-ride I might give this a try: