Thanks for everyone who came out to race, and to watch the Marshall & Sterling Racing City Grand Prix! Check back tomorrow for a full accounts of day's events.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
What else could I possibly write about on the eve of the eve of the Marshall and Sterling Racing City Grand Prix?
Today, Dieter and I did a final canvass of the crit course to alert residents of the race, and surveyed the parking situation. A trench has appeared in the pavement about 100 meters from the finish line, due to a new construction, but no worries; the Department of Public Works is going to patch it tomorrow, giving the new pavement plenty of time to set before Sunday.
The USA Cycling Officials are set, police are poised to post no parking signs, Bonacio Construction is ready with hay bales to make the course safer, and we now have a veritable army of volunteers (27 and counting).
Best of all, we're now up to 117 racers, with two more days for registration to fill up a little more. With all the pieces falling together, we should be able to meet our ultimate goal of raising funds for Team Billy.
I'm really excited that this race has come together so well, and that so many people are planning on coming out to race. Thanks to everyone who's chipped in already, and to everyone coming out to help and to race this weekend.
Here's an M&S themed tops list:
Top five reasons to race the Marshall & Sterling Racing City Grand Prix
1) Bicycle racing returns to Saratoga Springs!
2) Racing for a good cause.
3) The most-happening finish line of any race you'll do this year, period.
4) Fast, technical, flat.
5) Tremendous support from the community!
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
For those who have long been wondering about just when I'll stop beating up on cat 3 races, the answer is: soon. Maybe.
According to USA Cycling, with my results at Syracuse, Bear Mountain, the Tour of the Battenkill and Jiminy Peak, I've accumulated 24 upgrade points in 2009. Add into the mix my third-place ride at last year's Balloon Festival Classic and a handful of other top-ten finishes in the past 12 months and I should have more than enough points to put me over the 25-point threshold need to upgrade to cat 2.
For those who don't know, the jump from 3 to 2 is big. Instead of racing in cat 3 races, and even the occasional 3/4 race, once upgraded, almost all of my races will be pro/1/2, and the competition will be accordingly tougher. But I've never been one to shy away from a challenge.
But before I get to apply a sticker to my racing license, I'll need approval from USA Cycling, which I have duly requested.
Here is what I sent to USA Cycling today:
"I'm writing to request an upgrade to category 2. Please see the following list of relevant results.
2nd -- Tour de Syracuse, Road race
3rd -- Bear Mountain Spring Classic
9th -- Tour of the Battenkill
9th -- Johnny Cake Lane #3
2nd -- Prospect Park Spring Series
7th -- Union Vale Road Race
8th -- Maltese Team Invitational
3rd -- Balloon Festival Classic"
When I hear a response from USA Cycling, I will post the results here. The upgrade process is not always cut-and-dried, and although I feel pretty confident that I have enough points, there are cases where points don't count for one reason or another. We'll see what happens.
Looking back at my development as a rider, going from a collegiate racer who didn't know a pace line from a yellow line, I find it slightly incredible that I am now on the verge of this next step. When I was a newly-minted cat 4, I used to think that I'd get to cat 3 and stop there, content to race at that level. After all, as a cat three you can race in some seriously competitive events, but you don't have to put in the crazy mileage required to be competitive in 80, 90, 100+ mile races. But here I am. I already do 6-7 hour training rides on my off weekends, covering 100-140 miles at a stretch. Why not apply all those miles to a race setting?
Where I was once content to be able to sit in Prospect Park, I now want to be competitive at a much higher level. Far from staying a terminal cat 3, I now see cat 2 as a step on the way to cat 1. But, racing as a Cat 2 (and, eventually, 1) means that I will be racing at most event with professional athletes.
I fully expect this to be a jarring transition, and fully expect my podium at Syracuse to be my last placing for some time as I adjust to the increased speed and refined tactics at the higher level of racing.
Am I ready for a new challenge? I hope so, and I think so.
Of course, now that I've written this, my upgrade will almost certainly be denied.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
We're now just four days away from the Marshall & Sterling Racing City Grand Prix!
Can you believe it? I can't.
Of those registered thus far, it looks like Nathaniel Ward, of Spooky/Kenda is going to be our headliner, and is currently slated to win both the 30+ race and the Pro/1/2/3 -- with Mark Sumner in second. Of course, there's still plenty of time for registrations to roll in, but it's always fun to do a little prognostication ahead of time. Besides, it's not like picking Nathaniel to win a race in which he is the sole entrant (at this moment) is much a stretch. Perhaps he'll bring a few team mates with him?
As for the pro/1/2/3 .. sorry Mark, but Nate just took third at Bound Brook in a very-elite field of pros and fast amateurs.
So, who's going to step up to try and knock Nate off his pedestal (podium)? Maybe someone from Brooklyn? (I'm looking at you, Rob Lombardi.) Registration is here.
We're also still in need of volunteers. Email me if you're interested in helping out. (firstname.lastname@example.org) This event will not roll without volunteer labor, so don't be shy!
As for me, I've been spending my days coordinating with police, trying to wrangle volunteers, and thinking about details.
When planning a bike race, especially one in a venue as tough as Saratoga Springs, the devil truly is in the details.
Tonight, I spent 30 minutes tonight with uber-volunteer Mark Graber (North Atlantic Velo), and Tony Bonacio, of Bonacio Construction, one of our sponsors. We were out on the course, looking at turns with an eye toward proper hay bale placement. After all, proper hay bale placement can mean the difference between a jarring collision with a fire hydrant and a jarring collision with a fire hydrant that results in a broken collar bone. Needless to say, if a crash is not to be avoided, I prefer the former.
Other details have been of a more practical, but no-less important nature: where can people park? Where can we put the portopotties? Where is registration? (The answer to all of these, by the way, is at Bonacio's Price Chopper parking lot.)
So, slowly but surely, this race is coming together. I think it's going to be a great time, and I hope lots of people are able to come out and race and/or watch the excitement. It's been too long since there's been a bike race in Saratoga Springs!
Monday, May 25, 2009
This was taken while the 5-rider break crested the finishing climb on lap one
Wayne (in front) put in a hard pace, and would later win. I'm on the far right, looking at my shoe
I'm feeling so good after three days away from the Blog that I've decided to come back form my blogcation early.
Also, after only a couple days without a post, traffic on the site has suffered a precipitous drop, so I figured I'd better post something up here before my six readers discover some other blog to fill their days.
Also, tonight's post was made easy by Team Placid Planet, hosts of next month's Adirondack North Country Race Weekend. For reasons which I don't fully understand, organizers of the newly-expanded race weekend seem to think that my endorsement of last year's race will help drive people to their race. Although I find it frightening to think that anyone values my opinion that highly, it's certainly a little flattering.
Wilmington-Whiteface is certainly on my calendar, and I hope I'll see you there!
Here is a press release from organizers:
Lake Placid, NY- The ADK North Country Race Weekend, to be held June 13th & 14th, is just weeks away as organizers of this two-day cycling event gear up for another great year. The success of last year’s inaugural Wilmington-Whiteface Road Race sparked the addition of the Saranac Lake Downtown Criterium to be held on the following day.
A team of over 60 volunteers helped run the road race in 2008. The race was described by one participant as “one of the best organized events I have been to.” Andrew Bernstein, of blue-mondays.blogspot.com and promoter of the Marshal & Sterling Grand Prix Criterium set for May 31 in Saratoga Springs, wrote that “it was a great race. It had everything: fast, steep descents, gut-busting climbs, sharp turns, and a steep climb to the finish high up on the flank of Whiteface Mountain — and all held on quiet country roads.” The road race course starts in Wilmington, NY heading out onto a challenging and technical 13.7 mile circuit for varying numbers of laps depending on category before coming back into Wilmington and finishing with a 1.6 mile climb up the side of Whiteface Mountain.
Saranac Lake, NY is no stranger to hosting criteriums. This year’s criterium is going to be held on a modified course that was used by the Cloudsplitter Classics in 2000 & 2001. The .55 mile course features 3 turns and is being held in the heart of Saranac Lake.
More information including race maps, profiles, lodging, and registration information can be found on Team Placid Planet’s website, teamplacidplanet.org, or by emailing the organizers at email@example.com. Registration is at BikeReg.com or on-site on the day of each race. Anyone interested in volunteering for either or both events please email the organizers.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Writers block would be a very bad thing for someone like me, someone whose livelihood is staked on churning out a few thousands words a day. Fortunately, I don't seem to be blocked at the moment. Far from it, in fact.
I wrote four stories at work today, along with countless emails and other written items.
I am, however, having a little trouble with my motivation. Putting words to page has lately been a little harder, both at work at here on this blog. Why? I'm tired. In an effort to rectify my perpetual tiredness, I think it's about time that I take a little blogcation. I haven't taken a legit break since last summer. I'd say I'm due.
Besides, BikeSnobNYC took a vacation this week, so it must be OK for me to take a break. And, there's no racing this weekend, and therefore I'm already down one automatic blog topic. So, there will be no blog tomorrow of Saturday as usual, and then I'm taking Sunday and Monday off in observance of Memorial Day. I might go to Cape Cod for my break, or I might just stay here and take a quick spin up to Northville.
In the mean time, I'll continue to work on the Saratoga Crit, which is now just nine days away! We still need lots of volunteer to help, and if you're interested in helping out, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
That's all for tonight, have a great few days, I'll see you on Tuesday evening.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
I was sad to read earlier today that Steve Larson, cyclist-extraordinaire, had died.
Larson was a road racer-turned mountain bike racer-turned triathlete-turned real estate agent. He was 39 when he died. Early reports are that he'd been having some trouble breathing for some time, and that an autopsy had showed that his death was not due to a heart attack.
Although I'm often saying less-than-complimentary things about triathletes, Steve Larsen was different.
When I first getting into cycling, Larsen was a champion cyclist, then racing for Subaru-Gary Fischer on fat tires, and Webcor on the road. To me, who fancied myself a mountain biker at the time, he was an idol, a master of the game.
I read every article on him, and followed his transition to triathlon, including his win the 2001 Ironman in Lake Placid. I was in high school then, and purchased my first road bike around the same time.
Larsen lived in Bend, OR, and the athletic community there is apparently feeling the loss. Of course, no one will feel it more than his wife and five kids.
In a time when so many of my cycling idols (Tyler Hamilton, Floyd Landis, Alexander Vinokourov, Ivan Basso, Riccardo Ricco, Genevieve Jeanson, Roberto Heras, and Jared Bunde, to name a few) have fallen to doping convictions (or suspicion thereof), it was great to look up to someone like Larsen, who seemed to ride out of commitment to the sport. I feel the same way about Ned Overend, the rider about whom "ageless" has become the most overused cliche.
I never had the opportunity to meet Larsen, or even to breath the same air, but I looked up to him all the same.
In retrospect, it's kind of funny that I spent so much time looking up to a man whose focus was really more on mountain biking and triathlon, but you can't be to choosy about who you look up to. Besides, as a young racer, it was easy to want to look up to a guy who was so dedicated to the sport, on every level.
So, it was very sad to read the news today. These days, I'm more likely to take inspiration from someone like Jens Voigt or Chris Horner (I'm also sad about Horner dropping out of the Giro), but I still like to think fondly on my early days, and the people who got me to ride in the old days.
Rest in peace.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
I found some photos from this weekends Tour de Syracuse. They were posted in a flickr album by tour promoter Marcello. The album is heavy on the kids races, but I did find a few shots of Anthem Sports in action:
I beat my 30-second man by about 12 seconds,
but otherwise failed to impress with a 14th-place effort
I was doing my best to stay on Wayne's wheel
Five riders started the last lap together, but we all finished alone
The juniors were waiting to start when we rolled through
It was a great race for Farm Team Cycling too!
The women had a tough race, but came away with some great results,
even after a crit in monsoon conditions
Unfortunately, Marcello seems to have completely missed Austin, Erik and Ricky, as well as our cirt on Sunday. So it goes... the guy was plenty busy keeping the race moving along, so I won't hold this against him.
Nothing else to report around here, except that we are now in the final preparations for the Marshall & Sterling Racing City Grand Prix. Now, we're in search of volunteers to help direct traffic during the race. Email me (email@example.com) if you can help out on Sunday, May 31!
Monday, May 18, 2009
I was thinking today about how silly bike racing can sometimes seem to outsiders.
Case-in-point: On Saturday, after racing the crit at the Syracuse Stage Race, me and team mates Erik, Austin, and fellow Saratogian Rick Gorton piled into the ultimate race transport machine and drive over to the course for the next day's road race, to drive it and get a sense for what the race would be like.
This seemed like a perfectly natural thing to do, since the course had been revised since anyone had last raced it, and some of us had never raced it before. At the hotel, several of our team mates and friends said they planned to do the same thing.
We knew generally where the start was, but were unsure of the race route. After passing the start line, we planned to follow yellow arrows painted by organizers on the pavement. Upon arriving at the first intersection, a T where we could left of right, I pulled up to the stop sign, and was suddenly unsure.
Some one in the back, Erik or Rick, said they saw an arrow "back there." There were no other cars around, so I put it in reverse and rolled back to take a look at the arrow. Just as we got rolling, a NYS Trooper turned left, and seeing my backing up, rolled down his window, pulling up next to me.
"What are you up to?" he asked.
"Hi officer, we're just looking at the arrows," I said, thinking that would satisfy his curiosity.
The look of stunned apprehension I got in return was therefore rather perplexing. After all, if we couldn't see the arrow, how would we know which way to go. I think he glanced up and saw the rack full of bikes on my roof, because where he had seemed on the verge of administering a field sobriety test, he said: "Oh, for the bike race tomorrow?"
"Yes," I said, and got his nod to carry on.
By the way, the arrows pointed right.
For the rest of the weekend, my friends made fun for me for that line, but even in retrospect, I'm not sure what else I could have/should have said. We were looking at the arrows. We proceeded to look for arrows for the next 27 miles, although I got better at spotting them before getting to the turn. To me, it seemed perfectly natural that we'd be out driving around, following arrows. But to that trooper, we probably looked like a bunch of stoners trying to reverse away from an oncoming bust. So it goes.
In my work at Blue Sky Bicycles, I've come to realize that to most people, a bike race and a charity bike ride are the same thing.
This has been of special interest to me lately, as I've been working to promote the Racing City Grand Prix. Because the event is being held to benefit Team Billy, which had its own charity ride on Sunday, the police and fire officials who have to sign off on our permit have been calling me to make sure that this is not the same as the charity ride.
"Let me assure you," I tell everyone, "this is a separate event." What strikes me is that even with the obvious difference between the words "race" and "ride," people still seem to put them in the same category.
I suppose, from a planning perspective, they amount to the same thing, but they're really different.
Anyway, I'm not sure how this second point relates to people thinking that bike racing is silly, I mostly just wanted to share the story about the cop, and to remind my readers that a race is different charity ride (in one, you're competing to win, in the other, everyone is a winner because you've raised money for an important cause).
Finally, there's this.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Just got back from the Tour de Syracuse.
Crit on Saturday, TT and road race earlier today.
I'm still looking for that elusive 'W,' but it was a good weekend of racing. I finished second in the road race, and fourth overall in the omnium.
Here are the details: I raced this weekend with Anthem team mates Erik and Austin.
Team strategy for the crit was to send me up the road as much as possible, while saving Erik for the likely field sprint. I spent the first seven of 22 laps off the front, first with another rider, then solo for a while, getting caught just in time to loose a prim sprint for a pair of Giro sunglasses. Bummer.
I spent the rest of the race trying to keep the race together for a sprint, but despite my best efforts, one rider got up the road, and survived to win by about 8 seconds. Behind, I was too spent by the last three laps to do much of anything. I came to the front one last time, but eventually it was up to Erik, and he wound up around 12th, I think. I brought in the rear, slightly behind Austin. It was real windy during the race. The wind died down immediately afterwards ... just in time for a deluge during the elite women's race.
The TT was really short, only 7 miles on some very moderate rollers. Other than one turn, I was able to ride the whole course without coming out of the aero bars, but it wasn't enough. I was the second rider to start, and I was feeling less than stellar about riding my TT bike for only the second time this season in a race setting, but so it goes. There was a strong headwind on the first stretch of road. I made up some ground on my 30-second man, but never got within passing distance. I had a few places where I didn't take the best line, or where I chose the wrong gear, and wound up 12th, about 30 second down on Rick Gorton (Battenkill-United), who put in a very quick time of 6:30. Then it was time to warm down a bit and kill time until the road race.
The road race is two 27-mile laps. Starts with a long downhill-to-rolling stretch which had a strong head wind today. Then there were a series of climbs of varying length and severity. The lap wrapped up with another rolling-to-downhill stretch with a tail wind back to the start. The finish was on top of a mile-long climb.
There were some little attacks on the opening headwind stretch, but nothing was really doing and we just rolled along until one guy attacked and got a solid gap. Shortly thereafter we took the right onto the climb, and Erik opened the aggression launching an acceleration up the climb's opening slopes. Some one dragged the field back to him and I countered, springing myself with a Full Moon Vista rider. We got a big gap almost immediately, so we kept drilling it, catching the solo leader.
I kept things rolling through the climbs, but the field was starting to come back. Coming up a steep 300 meter kicker, the field had nearly brought us back when Wayne Brey (sp?) came across with a CRCA junior and a Corning guy. Now with a solid group of riders, we pinned it, setting up a solid rotation and hammering on the downhill toward the finish. It hurt, but it was working and our gap grew and grew.
We had about a 90-second gap when we started our second lap, and hammered through the head wind, extending our lead. I later heard that when the field started the climb on the second lap, we'd grown our lead to three minutes. At some point in the headwind we blew through the men's 55-plus fields. The pace up the climb's opening slopes wasn't too bad, and we all stuck together, except the one guy we dropped. We were getting ready to pass the women's field when trouble arose on a long gradual uphill, when Wayne put in a big dig -- probably trying to impress some girl.
I had been on his wheel, but quickly became unhinged. I kept the pace as high as I could, now with the CRCA kid and the Corning rider. We rode through the back of the women's field, passing dropped riders, but not really gaining on a very solid Wayne. Of course, it wasn't helping that my break-away companions weren't pulling through, claiming exhaustion.
At first, I was getting frustrated, but I resisted the urge to scream and yell, and instead told the other riders that is we worked together, we could catch Wayne. "This is the podium right here," I believe, were my exact words.
It didn't work at all. Almost immediately thereafter, I'd dropped the Corning guy, and I was left along with the CRCA rider, who I did my best to encourage. Riding together, we zipping along the down wind, playing cat-and-mouse with the women's field, alternately passing them, and then being passed.
At some point, the CRCA guy came unhinged, and I was left to TT it in on my own, now without any real hope of catching a speeding Wayne.
I started the finishing climb just behind the women's field, but quickly passed them, riding as fast as my race-weary legs could manage. The CRCA guy held on for third, and Corning was either fourth or fifth, dramatically collapsing in the grass upon finishing.
Afterwards, we sat around for three hours waiting to claim prize money, which was annoying. While I thought the courses were great, and the format fun, this race was a little rough around the edges in terms of organization. Word on the street was that turnout was larger than in the past, which gave organizers a challenge.
No matter, I'd come back.
Andy Ruiz, of Keltic won the overall in the men's 45+, and Matt Godeke had a great ride in the men's 4 race. Great ride guys!
I've got to tally my points, I think I may be getting close to my jump to the big leagues...
Thursday, May 14, 2009
This has been a good, but long week. I feel like I'm always saying that, and I haven't even finished my work week yet. God damn.
It's OK. I did just come across an excellent photo gallery from last weekend's race at Bear Mountain, courtesy of Gina Green and Team Organic Athlete, via NYVelocity.com. The gallery is here, and the photo above is from the gallery. Awesome pics, with several of my BVF and Capital Region friends. Enjoy, and thanks to Gina!
It's late and I'm tired, so I'm going to get right to business:
Tops from the week:
1) Third place at Bear Mountain.
2) The Saratoga Crit (Marshall & Sterling Racing City Grand Prix) is coming along nicely. Going to be a great race on May 31.
3) My head set works! Thanks Keith!
4) Team Anthem Sports is getting set to steam roll the Tour de Syracuse.
5) Rain on Thursday. The best night for rain.
Bottoms from the week:
1) Doughnuts are my kryptonite.
2) My room mate moved out without saying a word. I'm now on the look out, again.
3) I bonked more thoroughly than I had in a long time on Wednesday morning.
4) Laundry, but what else is new.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
I apologize for the lack of an update yesterday. I was discussing serious matters pertaining to the state of print media over beers with James.
Why? In addition to getting super-fast over the winter, James is eyeballs deep in Embrocation Cycling Journal, so we had an interesting discussion about the challenges of launching and building a new publication, and all that goes with that.
I'm currently working on an essay for Embrocation, Volume 4, due out in June, and if some pieces fall into place, I'll hopefully soon be a regular contributor to the magazine's website. Stay tuned for more information on that.
Embrocation Cycling Journal is a slightly off-center take on your run-of-the-mill cycling magazine, heavy on culture, light on gram-counting. Think Todd Colby's Glee Farm meets Velo News. It's a quarterly magazine, and it's awesome. The current issue, Volume Three, features an essay from Bill Strickland (Editor-at-Large of Bicycling), and photography by Chris Milliman, as well as other notables. It's worth all of the $24 newstand price (or order online.)
Anyhow, there are several items in the cycling news that I feel compelled to address.
First of all, Tom Boonen tested positive for cocaine. Again. The last time this happened, I defended Boonen, saying that as a popular sports hero in his native country, it should be expected that he'd be out partying. Sports stars here in the United States get away with much worse on a regular basis -- not that anyone should be allowed to get away with violating the law.
This time, I'm not jumping to Boonen's defense. Didn't he realize that there was no third strike in the highly sensitive world of pro bicycle racing. What's more, Boonen's excuse is that he drank too much, and apparently didn't know what happened after. Oh sure, that's not going to get you kicked off of Quick Step. Jeez... This is why a second DWI nets you a felony charge in New York. People don't learn!
Then we've got the Giro D'Italia going on in ... Italy. Today, Dennis Menchov (Denee, if you're Phil Liggett) won the stage. More importantly, Team Saxo Bank, is sucking, with it's highest-placed rider on GC, Lars Bak, sitting in 39th, 6:30 down on GC. Not a good showing for last year's top-ranked pro team.
Also Lance Armstrong is not doing well, mostly, I think, because Trek is forcing him to ride a bike worthy of Mario Ciploini. Perhaps the paint job is the result of the budget crisis going on over at Team Astana...
Monday, May 11, 2009
I guess I don't have too much more about Bear Mountain, except thank to David Trimble, of Kissena for the video above. The clip shows the finish of the cat 3 race, and you can clearly see me (the streak of white, red and blue with yellow helmet) on the left side of the road. I think it's a pretty neat video, even if I do say so myself!
The more important thing is that we are now less than three weeks away from the Marshall and Sterling Racing City Grand Prix, right here in Saratoga. Registration is here, and here's a press release:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: Andrew Bernstein, local organizer (917) 414-8424
Marshall & Sterling Insurance brings bicycle racing to
SARATOGA SPRINGS -- On May 31, hundreds of amateur and professional cyclists will race through the city's historic Beekman Street Arts District.
Made possible by the generous support of Marshall & Sterling Insurance, and dubbed the Racing City Grand Prix, this race will benefit Team Billy, a foundation that works to support medical research in brain tumors and to promote collaboration with all cancer communities.
Eight separate race will be held over the course of the day, starting at 9 a.m. There will be races for athletes in various ability levels, from beginners to elite amateurs, and for children as young as those under 9, and for adults in various age groups, up to those older than 60.
Highlights will include the women's race at 2 p.m., the race for kids under 9 at 12:45 p.m.. Professional and elite men will close out the day's events at 3 p.m.
Racers will complete multiple laps around the course, negotiating six tight turns, making for exciting racing action everywhere along the course. Called a criterium, this type of bicycle racing is one of the most exciting forms of bicycle racing, and makes an exciting spectator event with high speeds and thrilling sprint finishes.
With several eateries on the course, this is a perfect spectator event.
The course will circumnavigate one of the city's oldest and most-storied neighborhoods. Once known as Dublin, the West Side is now home to artists' studios and some of the city's finest restaurants. The start/finish will be outside The Local Pub and Teahouse, on Grand Avenue, a West Side staple.
Broadway and all of Saratoga's finest attractions are a short walk from the course.
In addition, to raising money for charitable research, the Racing City Grand Prix will take over from Glens Falls as the 2009 New York State Criterium Championships, awarding state championship medals for juniors racers under 23, amateur racers in four categories for men and women, Master's men, 30+, 40+, 50+, 60+, and masters women 30+, 40+, and 50+.
Additional support for this exciting new event has been provided by The Local, Bonacio Construction, The Marriott Residence Inn, and Blue Sky Bicycles.
For more information or to register, please visit www.bikereg.com and search for "Marshall & Sterling Racing City Grand Prix."
We hope to see you on the 31st!
Sunday, May 10, 2009
I lose, but get a reprieve thanks to the yellow line rule
I need to work a little more on my bike throw!
I'm currently lying on the couch, trying stretch my legs out a bit. They're feeling a bit dead, having worked rather hard today over the 70 miles of the cat 3 race at Bear Mountain.
All the work paid off with a third-place finish, without a doubt my biggest result so far this season. The top ten results for all categories are here.
Before I get to the race report, I have to acknowledge that I was actually the fourth rider to cross the line, but the guy who finished third was DQed for violating the yellow line rule. Hey, at last year's Green Mountain Stage Race, I was relegated for the same reason, costing me 20-odd spots on GC and 30 seconds.
Here's how it happened:
Bear Mountain starts with a 50+ MPH decent into a 180-degree chicane into the climb to Lake Tiaroti. The decent scares the crap out of me, so my modus operendi for the first few laps was simply to hang on the climbs, and be the first to the decent, so that I didn't have to descend in the big group.
As always, the first lap started with a neutral decent to the hairpin. The aggression started shortly thereafter, as we tackled our first of five trips up the three-mile climb. I helped out with the pace making, and was briefly off the front, but we didn't go too crazy and most of the group was intact when we arrived at the traffic circle at the lake.
With the pace high going into the last few miles of the first lap, I jumped off the front with Evan Cooper (Northeast Hardware, formerly CRCA Jr. Dev.). We didn't get to far, and when the field brought us back, I counter attacked myself to bridge up to Brett Clever (Sommerville Sports). who was off the front. We worked together to establish a gap, and achieved my primary objective: blazing through the finish, and starting the decent alone. We were caught right at the left-hander at the bottom, but that was fine.
The pace was fairly moderate on the second trip up the climb, while all of the usual big guns hovered near the front, including Adler's Matt Cutler, Metro's Colin Prensky, Phillippe Cappala, Ethan Atkins, and others.
As usual, I'm riding for the camera
Brett was taking monster pulls, great ride!
There were a few guys trying to go off the front on the rollers at the top of the climb, but nothing seemed likely to stick, so we just kept rolling. One rider had been off the front nearly since the gun, and we were starting to bring him back in the cross-wind section around Lake Tioratti. He wasn't more than 30 second off the front when we were getting into the last miles of the second lap, so I attacked again, quickly catching the leader, and riding past him and through the start/finish.
Again, I got pulled back in shortly after the 180-degree turn, but happy to be down the decent safe.
The pace up the climb on the third lap was either faster, or felt faster because I was tired from better off the front. Either way, with the help of a few friendly shoves, I managed to stay in the lead group on the third trip up the climb, and resolved to ride more conservatively for a bit. By the time we'd topped out on the climb on that lap, the peloton had been reduced to about 40.
I managed to keep my self together when we down the decent on the next lap, and everyone was cool going through the 180-degree turn. Frankly, I'm not sure what I was so scared of. The group was reduced further on our fourth trip up the Tioratti climb, and I was happy to be comfortably sitting in. Everything was status quo until the start of the fifth lap.
On our last trip up the climb, Cuttler put in acceleration, forcing a selection. There were about 30 left when we got to the top of the climb, and a clutch acceleration through the cross winds around Lake Tioratti trimmed the group to closer to 20. All the big players were still in the running, including those I mentioned, and a whole bunch of people I don't know.
In the last few miles of the race, there is one long-ish roller, and then a series of smaller rollers. Before the race, I thought I might attack on the long climb if I was feeling good on the last lap, but I wasn't feeling that great, so I sat in while three others went off the front. No one really chased as we crested the last significant climb.
The three were off with a solid gap, but were still within reach in the last few miles. Feeling my moment had come, I accelerated on a small roller in the typical Bernstein way: no big, out of the saddle attack, just sort of rolling off. Fortunately for me, no one chased, and I was off on my own.
Up ahead, the group of three had broken into two leaders and one guy trailing, a Westwood Velo rider. I caught the Westwood guy pretty quickly. I wasn't sure how much gas he had left, so I went by him, letting him jump on my wheel.
A few moments later, I tried to pull off, but the Westwood guy said he was gassed. I kept pulling, no within the last two miles. I finally got him to pull through giving me a brief rest, before I went back to the front and kept pushing.
In that type of situation, it's always possible that the "gassed" rider is actually play-acting in hopes of a sitting on for a sprint, and this was seeming like a greater possibility when he attacked me in the feed zone, in the last kilometer. I had no problem getting on his wheel, and thinking we were about to be caught, I went to the front again.
Now completely gassed, I had nothing left to sprint with, and he came around me on the line.
So, after my somewhat dissipating ride at the Tour of the Battenkill, this result is a huge validation for me. Sure, I couldn't catch the two leaders in the closing miles, but it was two against one, and those guys earned their first and second spots.
After finishing, I felt like I'd left everything on the road, rode my own race, and came away with an awesome result. I couldn't be happier.
Looks like Ben Woodbury in their with the yellow-and-black.
BVF had a great day out, with Danny taking the win!
On an equally exciting note, several of my friends also had great rides today. My fellow Saratoga County resident Mark Sumner won the 45+ race, my former BVF team mate Danny Inoa won the cat 4 race, my current team mate Meredith Ehn won the women's cat 3/4 women's race, and another team mate, Beth Miller, was second in the elite women's race.
BVFer Brian Breech was eighth in the cat 3 race, after helping me up the Tiorati climb when I was struggling on lap 3.
Congrats to everyone, it sure was a great day for upstaters, and for BVF. Thanks also to Dieter for the support in the feedzone, Erik for support during the race, Stacey for driving with me and taking photos, and everyone whose offered their congrats since!
Thursday, May 07, 2009
I'm all for improved technology in bikes, and most race bikes these days are shipping with over sized, tapered head tubes and integrated headsets. Press fit bottom brackets bearings, seated into cups molded into the frame.
What they don't tell you, when you're picking your shiny new race bike up from the local bike path, is that when those integrated parts start to wear out, it's going to be a real nightmare to replace them. Of course, most cyclists are not likely to wear through things like a bottom bracket or headset.
As we know, I rode 10,000 miles last year, and I'm on track to ride even more miles this year. Around early March, I noticed that my head set was worn, and developed a noticeable groove. This has made riding without my hands on the bar damn near impossible, and has made cornering a challenge.
Then, last week, while cleaning my bike, I noticed that my bottom bracket was worn.
A call to NYC Velo, where I bought my bike (no link, because I'm unhappy with their service), told me that my bike would accept a standard Shimano bottom bracket with external bearing cups. WRONG.
I had a feeling this was wrong, as there are no external cups on my bike, but I figured those guys knew what they were talking about. Today, at Blue Sky, I asked Keith to install a new BB on his lunch break.
He, of course, immediately contradicted what NYC Velo had told me. After a few minutes of head scratching, we decided that a bearing removed from a Shimano bottom bracket could probably be pressed into the frame. Fortunately, this proved correct, and I now have a smooth bottom bracket.
Of course, the headset has proved to be more of a challenge. It's a Ritchey headset mounted to a Scott frame. So, I asked both Scott and Ritchey what size bearings I needed ... and I got a different answer from each. Of course, both answers turned out to be wrong. At the risk of considerable expense to myself, I later bought a new headset (this is about twice the cost of replacing the bearings), simply ordering the same one listed as being equipped on the bike. When the head set arrived, the bearings didn't fit.
Finally, this afternoon, I had some help to measure the bearings with a caliper, and should now, finally, be able to get bearings through Ritchey.
Stay tuned, but one thing is certain: my next bike will have a standard 1 and 1/8 steer tube with a Chris King headset, and a standard external bearing bottom bracket. the oversized head tube and bottom bracket are supposed to make the bike stiffer, but I think I'll be fine with standard equipment.
Anyhow, bike frustrations aside, this has been a pretty good week. Here are the high and low points:
Tops from the week:
1) Having Tom come to visit Monday and Tuesday. It was great riding with you, buddy! I don't know anyone else who could go from no riding to a five-hour slog.
2) Getting an email from BikeSnobNYC.
3) Bear Mountain on Sunday. I think I'm ready.
4) There are still plenty of problems, but at least my bottom bracket works now! -- Thanks to Keith.
5) The Felshstin Society's 90th reunion -- more on this soon.
Bottoms from the week:
1) When are we going to get some spring weather?!
2) That asshole from Wednesday.
3) Non-standard bearing sizes.
4) Always so much to do, but never enough time.
5) The long drive to Bear Mountain on Sunday morning.
Wednesday, May 06, 2009
Two things happened today. One was great, and one was mildly annoying.
First, I received an email from the elusive, talented, and mysterious BikeSnobNYC.
After reading his ongoing discussion of fenders and related devices, I decided to write Mr. Snob to ask him to classify the fenders that I use on both my commuter bike and race bike.
Here is a picture of the fenders on my fixxie:
And, the rear view:
Mr. Snob categorizes fenders that mount to eyelets as fenders, but calls devices that mount to the seat post as "filth prophylactics." Since my fenders do not mount to either eyelets or the seat post, I wrote the expert to ask how I should refer to my mud guards.
Since there has also been some discussion about whether one "rocks" or "runs" fenders, I also asked Mr. Snob to guide me in regard to those semantics.
Here is the email I sent him:
Dear Mr. Snob,
I was following with great interest the coverage on your blog of the ongoing fender debate over the past couple weeks, when I suddenly realized that I am in the middle of it all, and need some guidance.
You see, I commute on a fixed gear bike whose frame does not have eyelets. Yet, I appreciate arriving at work with dry pants, even on rainy days. As such, I have been running SKS Race Blades on my commuter for some time. These mud guards (the German people who make them opt for an anglophone translation of "fender") have struts, but do not mount to eyelets. Therefore, I wonder if you think it's permissible to refer to these as mud guards/fenders, or if I am among the unfortunates guilty of palping a filth prophylactic.
That issue aside, I was also somewhat confused by your assertion on Monday that one cannot "rock" fenders. Here's the thing: when talking about my fixxy commuter, I often find myself telling people about how I "rock" a front brake, Bontrager tires, Flite saddle, Campy crank, etc... In addition to commuting on a bike, I'm also a racer who rides my road bike every day. I really dislike riding indoors on a trainer. As such, I sometimes ride my road bike in the rain ... with SKS Race Blades on my Scott Addict (which also does not have eyelets).
SO, since fenders/filth prophylactics on a 16-pound road bike is surely ironic, do you think it's OK to ironically talk about "rocking" fenders/FPs on a bike on which I "run" Mavic Open Pro wheels, Ultegra components, etc...?
Thanks for any help you can offer in clearing this up, AB
P.S. I've attached some photos to aid you in your deliberations.
And here is his reply:
I'd consider the Race Blades "filth prophylactics." Mind you, I have nothing against filth prophylactics, but I simply take a hard line when it comes to terminology. I'd say you can "rock" Race Blades since they're not fenders and since they have both "race" and "blades" in the name. I'm also not sure the Race Blades on the Addict are ironic because I've seen pros rock them and pro road racers are not capable of irony.
So there you have it, from the man himself. I will now appropriately refer to my Race Blades as filth prophylactics, and continue to rock them on both bikes (and even on my 'cross bike from time to time).
Honestly, it was mostly just a thrill to get an email from Mr. Snob, as I read his blog every day, and getting a personal email makes me feel a little special, even if the only reason he wrote was in reply to my somewhat-solicitous missive. But hey, I'll take what I can get!
As for the thi ng that was mildly annoying, when Jamie and I were on our way home from a nice cruise around Stillwater, while crossing the Rt. 9P bridge over Fish Creek, a very angry, bald man in a red pickup slowed as he was passing us (more accurately, his driver slowed), leaned out the window and yelled at us that we should be walking our bikes.
At the time of the incident, Jamie and I were riding in the manner specified as legal by New York State vehicle and traffic code: two-abreast, as close as possible to the right shoulder. There was no oncoming traffic, and therefore we were not impeding this truck or anyone else from passing us, even on the narrow bridge.
In a moment of unusual aggression, I jumped out of the saddle and chased after the truck, which still wasn't going very fast. Pulling up next to it, (yes, I am that fast), I yelled back that 'We have every right to be on the road, asshole.'
His face turning red and purple, the man yelled something unintelligible, and then called me a "Lance Armstrong turd..." there were some expletives tacked on after "turd," but I couldn't catch them as the truck's hemi kicked in, trying to get away from me -- needless to say, I don't think they were intended to be complimentary.
I slowed down and Jamie caught up (he wisely prefers to avoid such conflicts). As we came up the hill away from the lake, we saw the truck stopped at the red light at Crescent Avenue. The irony here is that if the truck had simply passed us and continued on its way, it almost certainly would have made the light.
Afterwards, we wondered if the bald man's common sense had fallen out with his hair. I mean: "walk our bike?" What sense would it make to walk a bike? Doesn't he know that bike shoes are f--ing uncomfortable for anything other than riding, and doesn't he understand that if we'd wanted to go for a stroll in our brightly colored spandex, we almost surely could have done so without our bikes.
Of course, the eight-cylinder engine gives any jerk with a two-inch dick who happens across a pair of relatively slow moving cyclists an easy means to express supressed rage stemming from an unhappy marriage, shitty job, money lost at the track, or rising gas prices -- all without an real risk of repricussions.
Really, I just feel bad for people like baldie, who live on the edge of rage, and rather than dealing with feelings in a healthy manner, take their feelings out on inoccent bystanders. It really is sad that people like that think that yelling at Jamie and I will make their miserable lives any better.
I assure you, it doesn't help anyone.
Tuesday, May 05, 2009
Apparently, I wasn't the only rider feeling a little frustrated after Saturday's Jiminy Peak road race.
In my race report, I credited Cambridge Bicycles for helping to chase a breakaway in the closing miles of Saturday's race. I may need to get my eyes checked, because apparently the team wasn't helping to chase, they were trying to slow things down for a team mate up the road in a break. Frankly, if that was their goal, I don't think they were being too effective, but that's neither here nor there.
What's really interesting is that while the CB riders in the field thought they had a rider up the road, that rider, after being in the break for a while, decided to jump into the bushes to take a leak, and was then off the back. Now, I can't say that I've ever had the experience of a team mate playing hide-and-seek during a race, and I can certainly understand that it would be frustrating to work for a guy you thought was off the front, only to discover that he'd effectively taken himself out of the running, but, I probably wouldn't air my frustrations in public.
Yes, you are reading a blog post in which one CB rider levels pretty harsh criticism on his team mate -- in public. Specifically, the author, RMM, writes that break-away rider should have wet his chamois rather than taking himself out of the running. I'm not sure if I agree, but I certainly agree with the many commentators who pointed out that a blog is about the worst place to call out your team mate for doing something you didn't like. The same goes for email or online forums.
RMM did later post an apology, but I suspect that the damage has been done.
Sure, Erik might have been pissed at me that I went to hard up the first part of the climb at Jiminy, and then toasted myself well before I should have, thus leaving him without a lead out, and sure, I could have been pissed at him for not holding my wheel, but if that had been the case, I think we would have figured it out like adults: by talking about it. Not posting shit on the Internet.
That's no way to create a winning spirit among a team.
Thanks to MC for alerting me to this story and forwarding the link to the google snapshot.
Sunday, May 03, 2009
Every May I swear that next year I'm not going to come back to race Jiminy Peak the following year, and, without fail, I give in and come back the following year.
The Jiminy Peak Road Race, at Jiminy Peak consists of a 30-kilometer lap. The first portion of the lap is a series of downhill, upwind, rollers. Then it's a gradual climb up Route 7, also in a headwind, and finally a one mile-ish climb to the finish line. The category three race consisted of three laps.
I've raced Jiminy Peak three times previous to this year (twice as a 4 and once before as a 3), never with a good result.
Lining up on Saturday with team mates Erik and Austin, our plan was to sit in, and set up a solid leadout for the uphill drag to the finish. We also had some Battenkill United Allies.
The race went off without incident, and because I hadn't really done much in the way of a warmup, I took a flier almost immediately. A Cadence rider came up to me, and we rotated through for maybe a mile or so, until the field caught back up. There was a strong north wind, so a break didn't seem like a likely proposition.
Back in the field, I did my usual circumnavigation of the peloton, taking a few turns on the front, jumping off the front a few more times, but mostly just sitting in.
At some point during the second lap, about five riders went off the front (I was toward the back of the field at the time, so I didn't see it go). They weren't far ahead, and when I'd arrived back at the front, just before our second trip up the hill, they were still within site.
The break was coming apart on the climb, and we swept up a few guys, but three were still off the front. The pace ratcheted up on the last lap, as pretty much all of the big teams had missed the break (the three guys were all New England riders who I've never heard of). Despite the high pace, there wasn't a lot of cooperation at the front. I took a few pulls, along with Cuttler of Adler Racing, Ethan Atikins, some of the Cambridge Cycling riders, and a few others, but as I said, we weren't being very organized at the chase.
At some point, we got a 1'20" split, and the break was out of site, it wasn't looking like they'd be coming back. I wasn't feeling my fastest, so I'd told Erik I'd work for him at the finish. In the last mile before the sharp right hand turn onto the finishing climb, I dropped back, found Rick Gorton (Battenkill-United), bringing him up the front to see if he could help.
Thinking of setting Erik up for the uphill sprint, I took the right hand turn at about 2 million miles an hour, passing scarcely an inch from the curbed island in the middle of the turn. With Erick still on my wheel, I went to the front of the group, and put the pedal to the metal. I went up the first part of the climb about as fast as I could, thinking that I was getting Erik into prime position while dropping lots of potential rivals.
Unfortunately, I went so hard that Erik wasn't able to hold the wheel, and by the time we hit 1K to go, I was pretty much toasted. I lost contact with the front group shortly thereafter. Erik and Austin (who ahd come out of nowhere) both stayed in the lead group, but weren't able to contest the sprint.
As I said to Dieter in a text after the race, it was a learning experience.
The problem with Jiminy is that it's a fairly easy course, and almost always results in a large group at the finish line. then, everybody thinks that they can be a hero on the last climb. It's really a sprinter's race, favoring those who don't mind patiently chilling in the pack for 55 miles, and only showing themselves in the final moment. That's not how I like to roll, but I'd probably do well to learn how.
Congrats to the guys who stuck the break, it can't have been a fun day to be off the front.
No post tomorrow, as Tom is coming to visit. See you Tuesday.