The above-pictured sign is a promo. For what? I'm not saying. Yet.
In the never-ending saga of my broken bicycle equipment, I've just got a new helmet. For most people this wouldn't be a big deal, but for me, on an evening where I am bereft of anything substantive to write about, it is blog-worthy.
My new helmet is the same as my old helmet, a Bell Sweep. The new one is in a white and silver colorway, which will better match both the Anthem Sports kit and my bike. So that's exciting. The old helmet, which was yellow to match BVF's yellow-and-black, was once left on the shelf of my car in the blazing sun. The result was a slight melting of some of the helmet's foam.
It might have protected me in a crash, but I didn't think it was really worth the risk.
So that's exciting.
Tops from the week:
1) Heading to Northampton and visiting Amanda. What a wonderful weekend!
2) Embrocation Cycling Journal.
3) My journalist math to be on display in Friday's Saratogian. You'll be impressed, I promise.
4) Scott's warranty department. Got that new fork in the mail pronto.
5) Looking forward to Sunday's long-ass ride.
Bottoms from the week:
1) Breaking my Zipp 404.
2) Cracks in my fork.
3) Track season, and all the people blowing smoke in my face while I'm there.
4) It's hot, and there's no AC at the 106.
5) Related to above, being sweaty all the time.
By the way, I still have a bike for sale. Email if interested.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
After my popular, if short-lived adventure with Cyclocross Magazine last fall, I'm proud to announce that I'll be making a strong return (comeback, if you will) to the world of online magazines in the coming days.
My erstwhile fellow Saratogian and buddy James has become heavily involved in the Embrocation Cycling Journal, and has been working round the clock to revamp the magazine's website. Once launched (should be any day now, right James?), I will be one of several writers featured on a regular basis. (You can see the current website here, but the new one is much cooler. I will, of course, be publishing a link to the sight regularly, once it goes live.)
Over the past couple of weeks I've been busy writing up a storm of essays to unleash on the new site, and in the interest of creating some excitement ahead of time, I would like to present to you excerpts from my two favorite Embrocation essays. You'll be able to read them in their entirety in the very near future:
Racer's program for dating
No bicycle racer should approach a racing season single.
Bicycle racing is already a lonely pursuit. There are long hours training and long drives to and from races. If, like me, you are struggling to find your place in the peloton, there can occasionally be lonely time spent off the back of races.
Now, if you’re single, you’ve got to throw the following into the mix of misery: solitary nights sitting at home when non-racing friends venture out to enjoy a normal night life, leaving you behind to clean and lube your bike, because you’re racing tomorrow and adult beverages, late nights, and drunken snacking are not conducive to fast racing.
Worse than that, though, is coming home after a race – a good race or a bad one – and having no one calling, no one around to ask you how you did, and to then offer platitudes or sympathy; no one to fix dinner as you lie moaning on the floor, throttled from your effort. Instead, you have to put off the moaning session, make your own dinner AND wash the dishes when you’re through.
Forget dating during the season, if you’re serious about racing, you are way too tired for that. Yes, this is a demanding sport, and that’s why we love it.
To avoid lonely evenings in the season’s busiest months, I respectfully suggest the following dating program for anyone currently single and racing, racing and contemplating being single, or currently single and contemplating racing. You’ve got a coach to create your training program. Consider this your program for dating-while-racing...
If you’ve never used a race radio, I do not recommend it.
My team made one, brief, foray into the world of mid-race, wireless communication earlier this season. We quickly decided that it would be best to revert to more traditional forms of communication – namely, shouting at each other.
As awful as it can be to try and understand your teammates’ shouted missives while ripping through a crosswind at 30 miles an hour, it’s much better than hearing things like this crackle into your ear:
"Andrew, we need you at the front."
There was something vaguely comical about hearing that instruction from my team manager. Like, if I hadn’t been in the middle of the Saranac Lake Crit, struggling to stay on the back of a surging field stacked with regional elite riders and a bunch of strong Canadians, I would have laughed...
That's all for now, but stay tuned.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
So, the Tour de France is now over, and now that I'm over the feeling of sadness and remorse that accompanied the end of the race, I have a few thoughts to share.
First of all, what a great race! It was the first tour in several years that featured incredibly exciting performances that seemed believable. There was no Riccardo Ricco repeatedly riding away from the best climbers in the world. Instead you had Alberto Contador, who could attack one day, but then seemed unable to shake his adversaries the next.
Secondly, this was the first tour where I was able to follow almost every stage on live coverage (via versus.com), and watching the race that way, without commercial interruptions every three second was much more enjoyable.
Thirdly, much was made of the "drama" between Contador and Lance Armstrong. To me, there was never any doubt that Contador would be the strongest rider on Astana, even if the English-language media was all aflutter about Lance's comeback. While Contador put himself out on the race's highest mountains to secure his victory, Armstrong relied almost entirely on the strength of his team to make sure he stayed close in the TTT (which was a disaster for other contenders), then rode a defensive race in the mountains, ala Cadel Evans, who is probably the least-exciting rider to ever stand on a tour podium. OK, maybe that's a bit harsh, but the guy is better known for yelling at spectators than searing attacks in the mountains. Which would you rather see?
Fourthly, while it's no secret that I am no Lance fan, I have to say that I've heard lots of stories of people getting into following this year's race because of his comeback. That's not a bad thing, and if those same people are inspired to watch next year's race, it'll be an even better thing.
Fifthly, Team Radioshack? You have to be kidding me. What, did they make all of their money selling radio-controlled cars in the late 80s? I especially like the bit about the team that says Lance will be racing his bike, running, and doing triathlons. Because retired pro cyclists tend not to that well in triathlons. (It doesn't work the other way, either.)
My Mom, who in a past life used to work as a securities analyst on Wall Street, says that RadioShack makes huge margins by selling stuff that you can't get many other places, which is cheap to manufacture and can be sold at a handsome margin. Who knew? In any event, I don't think it will hurt to have three major American cycling teams in 2010 (Garmin, Columbia-HTC, and RadioShack, plus BMC, if you want to count them), especially since it seems likely that all of the American talent will come over to RadioShack from Astana, and I'm sure a host of international riders will come along too.
So, I'm sad that the race is over, but glad that it was an exciting three weeks. My man Andy Schleck didn't quite pull off the W, but let's see what he does next year!
Monday, July 27, 2009
As I'm sure you surmised, I am not actually selling my broken Zipp wheel, but that's a story for another day (actually, that's a story for yesterday).
In further mechanical-related failures, last Thursday, Aaron and Dave, mechanics at Blue Sky who were working on my bike while on their lunch break, discovered twin cracks in my fork blades. The crack runs around the circumference if each blade, just above the drop out.
The fork on my bike is 100% carbon, from the lowest tip of the dropout to the top of the steer tube, and since we know that bad things can happen when carbon parts break, especially at the front end of a bike, I called Scott's warranty department. Although it was their opinion that the cracks are only cosmetic, they were happy to offer me a replacement fork. The new fork, which will arrive next week (I'll be praying to avoid a Delaney-esque failure until then), will look like the one on this bike. It doesn't exactly match my bike's existing colorway, but, as I explained to the helpful employee at Scott who took my call, I'd rather ride a goofy-looking bike than eat a facefull of pavement. Besides, that fork won't look that goofy.
The moral of this story is that it's important to regularly clean and inspect your bike, lest you have parts break suddenly and without warning at inopportune moments. The other moral of this story is that it's wonderful to have experienced mechanics around who can easily spot failures such as this one.
The final moral of this story is that you can't expect, apparently, a 16-pound race bike to last through two seasons of racing and training without replacing lots of parts. Next year, when I will likely purchase a new bike, I think I'll likely be considering a slightly heavier rig, in exchange for greater durability. Of course, I do still love my bike.
On another note, a while ago I mentioned that I was trying out Vittoria Corsa CX open tubular tires. I've been riding them for about a month now, and have so far had more flat tires than I experienced in six months of riding Schwalbe rubber. Of course, Continental 4-Season Grand Prix tires remain the benchmark for a flat-free ride.
Of course, the frequency of flats could be attributed to other things, so perhaps we shouldn't throw the tires under the bus yet.
However, I also dislike the tires for other reasons: Even in the standard 23mm size, the tires have a low profile, which delivers a harsh ride (and yes, it is noticeable). I suppose the trade off is weight savings, but I have been finding that the ride's harshness sometimes translates to an occasional lapse in contact with the ground. For me, this has caused one or two scary moments on bumpy descents, and even a hiccup earlier today, while climbing West Mountain. Call me crazy, but I prefer a tire that stays in contact with the ground.
I will say that traction is very good on these (when they remain in touch with the ground), so perhaps they'd be better in a 25mm size. But, I think I'll leave that test to someone else.
The bottom line is that these tires are fine, but do not perform as well as others I've ridden. I'll keep them on my bike for the time being, but I won't be getting a new pair when these wear out.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Answer: See above
My rear Zipp meets its tragic demise in a great splintering of carbon fiber
The good mechanical luck that I've been enjoying of late continued Saturday at the Tour of the Hilltowns in Windsor, Mass.
And by "good mechanical luck," I mean that I destroyed my rear Zipp 404, may it rest in pieces.
I'm not sure exactly what happened, but just as we were completing the first lap of the two-lap race (the two laps use some of the same roads but also some different roads), I was in a small chase group. There was another three-man chase just ahead of us, and somewhere up the road, a large break.
My group was getting close to the first chase, and I was absolutely on the rivet, giving everything I had to catch up. Unfortunately, just as we were closing on the group ahead, we hit a longish climb, and I was suddenly feeling the effects of the effort. At the same time, someone in the field picked up the pace, and we were re-absorbed on the climb, and I was spat out the back about half-way up. By this time, the SRAM car had already rolled with the break away, so even if I had noticed immediately that part of my getting dropped had to do with the cracked and rubbing wheel, there was no way for me to immediately get a wheel change.
BUT, you can see the crack directly above the "Z"
That's "Z," as in, Not so Zippy anymore...
Riding along on my own, after topping out the climb, I noticed that there was a definite flat spot in my rear wheel. Since I was already dropped, I stopped to inspect it, and found the above-pictured crack in the drive-side of my rear Zipp.
Zipp wheels are known for two things: high performance and low durability. While wind tunnel data (which I do not pretend to understand) demonstrates that Zipp wheels almost always outperform other brands' aero wheels in headwind and crosswind situations. However, real-world "testing" and loads of anectodotal evidence has also determined that other brands hold up much better over rough roads.
So, I certainly knew that one day cracking a rim was a possibility. I had just hoped that it wouldn't happen halfway through the season. The question now is whether or not it a faux pas tp run my still-intact front Zipp with a rear Ksyrium?
Back to the race: Doing my best not to think about the cost of a new rim, I continued to ride to the start area, where I got my Ksyrium out of the car, and then went back onto the course, intending to finish the race. The beginning of the second lap went downhill for a long time, and then turned suddenly and went up a long, but not very steep, climb in Hawley.
As I was coming through, the marshalls were packing it up for the day, which made me a little nervous that I was going to get badly lost in the wilds of Western Mass. Fortunately, a string of Gu packets and discarded water bottles served as bread crumbs.
At some point though, I took a wrong turn. The bread crumbs disappeared, but I continued to ride anway. Eventually, I came to a major intersection, and was trying to decided which way I should go, when, out of the blue, there came what was left of the elite peloton, chugging down the road.
Words can't describe the relief I felt at that moment. Although it was clear that I had inadvertently cut the course and would now have no choice but to take a DNF, atleast now I knew I would get home, without having to hitch a ride in back of a farmer's pickup. I accelerated to catch a draft off of the official's vehicle, and followed the field all the way back to the finish (without mixing in, of course).
In the end, I reckon that I rode about 80 miles. Hilltowns was supposed to my longest race of the year, at 97 miles, so I'm a little disappointed about not getting to finish, but so it goes.
Obviously, I'm more dissapointed about my wheels, and even more dissipointed about not getting a chance to actually race the whole event. I felt better Saturday than I have since upgrading, and was comfortable on most of the climbs, and was feeling better and better about going with repeated accelerations.
The race had a deep field, with riders from Rock Racing, Colavita, Kelly Benefits, Empire, Mengoni, CCB, and other big-time teams, so for me to be in there and racing felt great. Having it cut short, felt less great.
Notwithstanding my early exit, the team also had a good day, with David and Kevin fighting it out to stay in the field, and new rider Adam Zimmerman getting about the harshest introduction to the elite peloton that I can think of.
After the race, I headed back to Northampton, where I was staying with Amanda, a good friend from high school. On the way, I stopped to help a recreational cyclist who had a flat tire, thinking that maybe my Karma needs a little update. Next up for me is Tokeneke, I guess we'll see if the Karma trick worked..
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
As I lie here on the love seat in my living room, feet pointed skyward and back arched like an upended truss bridge, it occurs to me that tomorrow is stage 18 of the Tour de France, and I have yet to write a single word about it.
As I said last year, it's not that I'm not following the race. Believe me, I am following it. It's just that some part of me thinks it silly for me to add my own two cents into the growing discussion surrounding the race when I am not there, and haven't really been able to see very much of it. (an unfortunate consequence of not having a TV).
But, that's neither here nor there. It is July, the Tour de France is underway, and Good Bye Blue Mondays is, yesterday notwithstanding, first and foremost a cycling blog.
Where the tour is concerned, I really only have one over-arching thought: this as been one hell of a race, thus far. Everything from the sprint duel between Mark Cavendish and Thor Hushovd to the mountain top battles played out between Garmin-Chipotle, Astana and Saxo-Bank have been edge-of-the-seat stuff.
I thought last year's race was exciting, but this year's race has been even more so.
Of course, last year I was also made a fool by Riccardo Ricco and Leonardo Piepoli, and in the interest of avoiding that type of embarrassment this time around, I'm going to keep my adoration for any specific rider in check -- save one.
Before the race ever started, I picked Andy Schleck for the win. It now looks as though it will be difficult for him to leap one step higher on the podium, but you never know. After all, last year, Cadel Evans was supposed to take 2-3 minutes out of Carols Sastre in the final time trial, and it never happened.
All of which leads me to my main point for the evening.
I am so sick and tired of hearing about Lance Armstrong. Perusing Velo News just a few minutes ago I counted two articles on the Schleck brothers, two on race leader Alberto Contador, one on the amazing sprinter who talks best with his legs, Thor Hushovd, and, wait for it... two articles on Lance Armstrong.
Seems like a lot of digital ink for a guy who wasn't able to hang on the climb, and is now slipping down the GC faster than Gollum fell into the volcano at the end of the last Lord of the Rings movie.
Yeah, I understand that Armstrong is, as they say, a big champion, and there can be no doubt that his return to racing has spurred renewed interest in the Tour, BUT, he has shown himself to be unable to vie for the top prize, and I, for one, highly doubt that he will have the grand resurgence required to get himself back onto the podium.
To top it all off, he's been a terrible team mate in this tour, bridging on the climb on Tuesday when he should have been sitting on rivals' wheels, and then gapping Kloden near the finish of today's stage for no apparent reason other than making sure he keeps a time gap over his team mate. Is that any way to treat the guy who paced you when you got dropped in the Pyrenees? Is it?
But most of all, I hate that my co-workers only seem to care about him. "Andrew, do you think Lance can still win?" "Andrew, how come the Spanish guy didn't help Lance today?" "Andrew, why doesn't Lance try to ride away on the climbs?"
The answers, as any cyclist would know, are: "No, he shoulda stayed home," "Because Lance's old ass couldn't keep up," and "Because he can't." But these responses always seem to fall on deaf ears.
So here's my bottom line: I'm very pleased that Lance's return has got more people interested in this year's race. But, those people who are interested because of him are not going to watch this race next year or the year after that, when Lance decides he's had enough -- unless we draw them in and show new spectators how cool cycling is and can be. We should be playing up stories like Thor's crazy ride to shut Cavendish up, Jens' sacrifice for his team mates, how Bradley Wiggins is able to win Olympic track medals and now climb near the best. These are amazing stories of athleticism that anyone could become interested in, if given a little push.
Instead, the media is telling them what Lance is putting on his twitter page. I'm not providing a link out disgust.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
I've been writing about bike racing a lot lately. Of course, that is the principal subject of this blog, but periodically I feel the need to remind readers that I am also (primarily) a journalist.
To that end, I spent a few hours earlier this evening sitting in a Saratoga Springs City Council meeting. During tonight's meeting, two new police officers were sworn onto the force, which resulted in thunderous applause from the assembled crowd of politicians, other officers, and proud family members.
That got me thinking about one of the most basic tenets of journalism, which is that you never applaud anybody.
I will admit that I broke the rule once, last week, when Saratogian Managing Editor Barbara Lombardo announced that we'd hired Erica Miller to become our new chief photographer. But that isn't really a violation.
The unspoken rule (maybe it's a spoken rule if you've been to J-school, which I have not) is really more about public venues. Regardless, it's a hard rule to follow. The idea, of course, is to demonstrate that you are not partial toward or against whatever it is that's happening around you. You must be objective at all times.
The problem with this rule is that clapping and other exclamations of jubilation expressed in a large group can be hard to suppress. Sometimes, the enthusiasm for a candidate, a performance, a stirring speech, or whathaveyou can infect a whole room. And then, you're the only person standing there not joining in. It's not that you didn't appreciate what you just saw or heard. You just aren't supposed to express that emotion.
This type of conflict -- between your natural tendency to get swept up in whatever is happening around you and your goal of remaining impassive -- was made real for me for the first time on Election Day last November, when I was at Kirsten Gillibrand's victory celebration at the Gideon Putnam. Gillibrand secured a landslide election to her second term, and in Ohio, Barack Obama was celebrating a similarly decisive win.
In the giant room filed with supporters, politicians and media, there was a very palpable energy of excitement, which came to a head when Gillibrand took the podium. At this moment, nearly the entire room exploded into applause.
I will admit that my initial reaction was to join in. This was not a partisan show of support -- I'm sure that my reaction would have been the same, had I been in the room when Roy McDonald secured his election to New York State Senate.
My solution to this problem is to keep my hands full of stuff, usually pens and paper. Sometimes, keys, lip balm, cell phone, etc... That way, when the thought "Hey, you should be applauding" goes through my brain, I have to take the additional step of emptying my hands, thus giving me an extra couple of moments to think about what I'm doing, and to realize that I shouldn't be doing it.
So far, it seems to be working. Now, if only I could find a way to control my urge to eat refined sugar I'd really be onto something...
Monday, July 20, 2009
Sometime in the coming couple of weeks I'm going to be test riding a new bike. Not a bike that I own, or have any immediate plans to own, but a very nice, expensive, and well-designed bike manufactured right here in the United States.
In the past, I've "reviewed" a my Scott Addict, a Serotta 'cross bike, tires, chain lube, and probably a few other things that I'm forgetting. Also, I'm going to writing a negative review of the Vittoria tires I've been riding, but that's for another day. It's a little self-indulgent of me to think that anyone cares what I think about a new lube, tires, a bike, or whathaveyou. But, on the other hand, if you're reading this, you obviously care at least a little about what the electrons bouncing around my head are up to today.
For that reason, I continue to seek out opportunities to write about new (and old) products from time to time.
But, I'll also admit that I'm not the best product tester. For instance, I can't distinguish between the stiffness of the Ritchey stem on my road bike and the cheapie Cannondale stem on my fixxie. Similarly, the Ultegra SL Hollowtech II crank on my road bike, the FSA SLK carbon crank on my TT bike, and the SRAM crank on my 'cross bike all feel about the same, as far as I can tell.
In order to compensate for what might be a shortcoming in this area, I've been doing a little research on reviews. Of course, I looked first to my idol, BikeSnobNYC, who has written the book (well, it's a blog post, but you know what I mean), on no-nonsense product reviews that get to the heart of an issue, without a whole lot of technomumbojumbo. If there's one thing I hate in a bike review, it's technomumbojumbo.
At the same time, I am grateful that the company in question is providing me with the opportunity to ride their new bike, and I plan to give the bike due consideration, and a fair evaluation. I do want to take this seriously, so as to hopefully have future opportunities.
BUT, as hinted above, I am the type of rider who is satisfied if my bike has two wheels that roll, a handlebar, saddle, and functioning drive train. I'm not so concerned about what's in between, so long as it weighs less than a Smartfor2.
So, in order to review this bike honestly without falling into the trap of bike review cliches, I've decided that I need to get all of my cliches out ahead of time. First of all, I want to avoid the obvious cliches:
-The bottom bracket area will be massively beefy -- the size of a triple-stacker at Five Guys.
-The bike is slippery to the wind.
-The bike will be horizontally stiff, yet vertically compliant, floating over bumps.
I also want to avoid obvious comparisons to racers:
-The bike climbs like Riccardo Ricco (they don't make bikes pee into a cup), descend like Paolo Salvodelli, corner like Taylor Phinney on a velodrome, and sprints like Cavendish.
I am hoping not to use an animal-related references:
-The bike jumps up climbs like a mountain lion scaling a cliff.
-The bike makes a hawk look like a butterfly when zipping down cols in France.
-Light as a feather.
-Pounces like a boa on a goat
Vehicular references will not be permitted in my review:
-It corners on rails, accelerates like a Ferrari.
We'll see if I'm able to achieve my lofty goal, in the mean time, if any readers have any favorite cliches they'd like to see me avoid in reviewing the mystery bike, please feel free to let me know.
I think it'll be interesting to see how this highly-anticipated bike stacks up to my Scott. In a way, since I can't ever discern a difference between bikes, it will be remarkable if this bike is able to distinguish itself in any way, good or bad.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
When I sat down to write tonight's post I was momentarily at a loss. Usually, on Sunday evenings, I write a report of the weekend's racing. This weekend, I didn't race, leaving me without a race report to write.
This hasn't happened in a while. Since Jiminy Peak in early May, with one exception, I've raced every weekend. Some have gone well, others, well, less well. It was a really fun and exciting spring and early summer, what say me post some great results, earn my cat 2 upgrade, and begin to step up to the challenge of the higher level.
But it was also really tiring. Last week might have been the worse I've felt all season. So, I greatly enjoyed a mid-week rest (with Coach Scott's blessing). I also took a pass on the Owasco Stage Race-turned single-day road race.
Instead, I stayed at home, spent time with friends, drank two beers and a shot of some unnamed Polish liquor that was foisted on my at a birthday celebration (I'm surprised at myself, aren't you?), slept in, cleaned the apartment, did my laundry, and got lots of good, relaxing training miles in, while enjoying some of the nicest weather we've seen this summer.
So, in lieu of the race report, here's the training report:
Jamie and I got a late start, heading north. I had a plan to hit several of the area's steepest climbs. I didn't tell Jamie my full plan before heading out, but he was game, as he always is.
First, we hit the steep side of Corinth Mountain Road, which hits close to 20 percent for about a mile. Next, it was Spier Falls Road, which is longer, but not quite as steep. Then, it was through Glens Falls to Luzerne Mountain Road, which works its way uphill through a series of switchback, the steeper sections of which also ramp up to near 20-percent. This was the day's most-challenging climb. To finish off, we hit Hunt Lake Road, which was the day's longest climb, but not all that steep.
We rolled back into town with four hours on the clock.
I left town with Steve and some of the Sunday morning regulars (Ken Grey, Mark Bettinger, Todd Shapiro and John Onderdonk) a little before 8. The plan was to ride 100 miles, looping through Washington County. I also had my own agenda, of riding another 2-3 hours after, to make sure that I was sufficiently miserable on Monday.
The route Mark had plotted took us through Schuylerville, and into Easton, up to Cosayuna Lake, and then down through Geenwhich. We brushed by Center Cambridge, before heading to Schaghticoke. We rolled back across the Hudson to Stillwater, and worked our way through Stillwater and the Town of Saratoga with nearly exactly 100 miles on the clocks. I made a pit stop at Blue Sky to refuel, then headed out to Lake D, where I completed the climb twice.
At that point, I'll admit too not feeling my freshest, but the climb went well, and I was buoyed on the ride home by the thought of a burrito for dinner.
In all, I rode 7 hours and 40 minutes today, and about 140 miles. (I don't have a computer on my bike, so mileage estimates are always rough).
Why, you ask? I'm racing 98 miles at the Tour of the Hilltowns next weekend, and I want to make sure that I'm as prepared as possible. It will be the longest race I've ever done. Also, if you can ride for nearly 8 hours, there is little you can't do..
So, inside of all the time on the bike this weekend, and all the chores I did, I feel remarkably rested, and ready to begin the work week tomorrow. Sometimes a weekend at home just hits the spot.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Sorry for the lack of an update last night, I was pretty busy investigating a hot tip.
You see, the enigmatic, much-adored blogger BikeSnobNYC offered a revealing hint as to his identity in his Wednesday post. No, it was not the underwater self portrait. Instead, it was a shot of his chamois.
As you have no doubt already observed, this is is a chamois from a pair of Giordana custom bib shorts. Since we know, from earlier admissions, that the Bike Snob lives in Brooklyn, and we know that he is some kind of racer (cat 3, if I had to guess). SO, in my estimation, we've narrowed BSNYC's identity to a Brooklyn-based racer riding for a team that purchases custom apparel from Giordana.
Needless to say, rather than blogging last night, I was busy calling all the racers I know in Brooklyn, and demanding to know if they were the Bike Snob.
No luck so far, however I will note that my former team, Brooklyn Velo Force, has been using Giordana clothes since 2008. Could BSNYC have been my team mate without my knowing it? Perhaps.
Anyhow, I'll certainly let you know if I do discover the blogger's top-secret identity. But, after a day of inquires, I'm not overly optimistic about that happening.
So, that's how I spent my Wednesday. What'd you do?
Tops from the week:
1) Maybe I'm recovering some old form?
2) GMSR has a cat 2 race! I won't get beat up on by the pro guys.
3) No race this weekend, no where to be but at home. Just what the doctor ordered.
4) Summer BBQs. Two in one week.
5) Internet at home. I can't believe I waited this long.
Bottoms from the week:
1) Possibly my slowest Lake D climb ever on Wednesday morning. Should've stayed in bed.
2) July is flying by a bit too quick for my liking.
3) Thunderstorms knock out Saratoga-area power.
4) People who can't separate religion and government.
5) Homophobia does still exist in this country, as do racism and bigotry. Even on the NAACP's 100th anniversary.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
By ANDREW J. BERNSTEIN
CAMBRIDGE — For its sixth year, the Tour of the Battenkill, which became the nation’s largest single-day bicycle race in 2009 with about 1,500 professional and amateur racers, will grow to two weekends and two counties in 2010.
Promoter Dieter Drake said Tuesday that tentative dates have been set for the expanded 2010 edition.
Next year, in addition to the hallmark race for professional and amateur racers on Saturday, April 25, two events for professional racers will be held on Thursday, April 29, and Sunday, May 2.
All races will continue the race’s tradition of combining dirt and paved roads, a feature that has helped to make the Tour of the Battenkill one of the most popular races in the nation.
Drake is hoping that the second of the pro-only races will receive a spot on the international racing calendar, a status that would attract a field of domestic and international teams.
In 2009, professional and amateur racers competed on Saturday, followed by a pro event on Sunday.
“It’s a lot of work to put on both events in one weekend,” said Drake when asked why organizers decided to spread events over a week. “It makes sense to take time in between to get our hands around things that didn’t get done this year.”
Drake also added that from a tourism perspective, he and other organizers felt that splitting the event over two weekends would have a greater financial benefit to the area.
“If you can do two weekends, and they’re still open weekends in most of the villages around here, why not?” asked Drake. “It makes sense to attract more people.”
Spreading out the schedule will also give the race a chance to have a larger impact on surrounding communities, said Drake.
Friday April 30, the day after the first of the two professional races, will be reserved as a Media and Outreach day, during which professional riders will be able to visit area schools and meet with community leaders, to talk about awareness causes associated with some of the teams.
At least two of the 2009 teams, Team Type 1, which aims to raise awareness of Type 1 Diabetes, and Team BMC, team of 2009 winner Scott Nydam, expressed interest in this kind of an opportunity.
“It’s a big part of what they do,” said Drake. “We want to give those guys an opportunity to invest in the race.”
Saturday will feature a recreational “cyclosportif” for cycling enthusiasts to enjoy roads used on the race course at a leisurely pace.
With the addition of a third day of racing, Drake said the race would likely leave the boundaries of
“Schuylerville has expressed an interest in bringing a race up there,” said Drake. “The course will have a historical flare to capture the history of the Battle of Saratoga.”
Although the route for the new event is still being planed, Drake said he hoped to go through the
The final race, on May 2, will close out a week of racing, will retain the Tour of the Battenkill moniker, and will be the event’s crown jewel. Drake said it is likely the Sunday race will receive a spot on the international cycling calendar, although races are not announced until the fall.
In 2009, the Tour of the Battenkill was sponsored by GlobalFoundries, the microprocessor manufacturer that is building a foundry in
Reach Andrew J. Bernstein at email@example.com or 518-583-8729 ext. 219.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Here's a product review.
On Friday, fellow Saratogian and expert-level mountain biker Scott Paine gave me a bottle of Happy Chain, a new chain lube being produced in nearby Ballston Spa. The lube is oil-based and impregnated with detergent. The concept being that you can use the lube in most conditions, and it will keep your drive train running well in those condition, but you can then use water -- rather than degreaser -- to clean your chain.
I started using the lube on Saturday, when I sent out for my pre-race tune up ride. The lube is slightly blueish on color and goes on thick. I back pedaled for a while, and then wiped the lube off, just as I would with any other lube.
The chain looked very clean when I was done. I then proceeded to ride on it, and then race on it the next day. There was no noticeable difference between my drive train's performance from my usual lube, which is Pro Link. Shifting was fine, the chain was quiet enough.
After the race, I noticed that the chain appeared dirtier than it normally would after two days of riding, but I'm confident that by following Happy Chain's instructions, I'll be able to easily clean the chain with water and a brush. The bottle warns that the lube doesn't work that well in very wet conditions, or in the cold, but otherwise, should be good to go.
So, my hat is off to the the local guys who are working to create this lube. It sells for $8/bottle at www.happychain.net, and I'm sure that the makers are working to bring it to a shop near you. I'm intending to use this lube until supplies run out, or until I find a reason to stop using it -- which I don't really expect to happen.
I'll offer an update on lube when I get around to cleaning my chain, probably in the near future. We'll then be able to evaluate the manufacturer's claim of using water to clean you chain.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
I think things are improving for me...
I was unable to replicate (let alone, improve on) last year's seventh-place performance at the Union Vale Road Race, earlier today, but, I did a whole lot better than I have in any other road race since upgrading to Cat II.
The race is held on a hilly, 14-mile loop near Poughkeepsie, in the Town of Union Vale. While there are a few flat sections, and some fun descents, the majority of the course is up-up-up. To me, it felt like the hills got steeper and longer as each lap progressed, with the most-difficult climb coming near the start line. Not content to have a boring pack finish, organizers gave the course a 1.5-mile finishing climb. We raced five laps, for a total of 72 miles.
I haven't been climbing as well recently as I was earlier in the season, so, although I was hoping for a solid result, I wasn't overly optimistic. Anthem came to the race with our full team of four riders in the elite race (Jesse, Kevin, David, me), giving us a real presence in the race, at least on the start line. In addition, Anthem riders Erik and Matt were in the 3/4 field, while the women brought their usual stacked team (One reader has suggested to me that this reference constitutes a double-entendre regarding my female team mates. Such was NOT my intention, I intended to reference the strength and racing prowess of the womens' team. I apologize if anyone took this comment the wrong way.)
Strategy is always easy on the start line, but it never hurts to plan anyway. We picked the obvious riders to mark, and decided it would be best to look for late-race breakaways, optimistically thinking that we'd have the horsepower to pull back any early moves.
The race was not immediately fast, but aggression started early, with Embrocation Cycling's Cory Burns going on the march, taking a Northeast Hardware rider with him. There were some other people in the break too, but I'm not sure who they were.
That move got a solid gap, and hung just out of view for a while. Meanwhile, we in the peloton were alternately gliding along at conversation pace and going on the rivet. One feedzone attack was particularly memorable, as I was climbing comfortably at the back of the peloton, when I looked up to realize that we'd been split into three groups. Needless to say, I was in the last of these.
Much chasing ensued.
Eventually, Burns and his companions were brought back. At some later point, James Morrison, also of Embrocation, attacked with three others, quickly riding out of sight. I will admit that I did not see them go, most likely because I was busy getting drooped.
Yes, I was dropped a number of times during the race, usually on the long climb that came mid-lap. Fortunately, I was able to get back on almost every time.
On the second-to-last lap, Jesse tried to make a move, so I went to the front and soft pedaled. Jesse stayed away for a couple miles, but ultimately didn't get anywhere. I then got dropped again, and chased back on with fellow former-BVFer Brett Cleaver (Sommerville Sports). We were passed by a boat on a trailer, and I think we were both contemplating the awesome potential of drafting behind it. Unfortunately, we didn't get the chance, as we were soon back in the fold.
So, I lasted through most of the last lap, but got popped one last time, and despite linking up with Brett a second time, was unable to regain contact. Still, staying in the peloton until the last five miles of a race is better than I've done yet at any elite-level road race, so I'm happy with the outcome. I enjoyed the climb to the finish about as much as I enjoy giving blood to the American Red Cross. That is to say, I do it because I know it's the right thing to do, but the temptation to skip the chore is very high.
Way up ahead, James won, taking his second Union Vale victory. Congrats on the hard-fought prize!
While I had a tough day, I was not alone in my quiet suffering. Temperatures were in the 80s, and the effect on the peloton was similar to that on an ice cube that falls from the punch bowl to the pressure treated deck at a summer time barbecue. That is to say, the peloton melted a little on each climb.
So, for me, to have made as many of the selections as I was able to was a small triumph. Based on a quick count taken toward the beginning of the last lap, there were about 20 left at that point, with four up the road. I haven't seen results yet, but I might have just squeaked into the top-20. Otherwise, I'll be just outside it, which would be fine.
Thanks to Kevin for the ride, I was not in any shape to drive home after the race.
Beth Miller also won the race for the team, so congrats to her too!
Thursday, July 09, 2009
Oops... blink and you miss it.
Nearly two weeks ago, I had my 500th post! It occurred sometime around when I was writing about mountain biker Missy Giove getting busted with 500 pounds of weed, I pressed "publish" for the 500th time. (For the record, today's post is 512.)
500 posts. That's quite a lot of writing. Some if it has been good, some of it excellent, and all of it enthralling and well read. (Hey, a guy can dream, can't he?)
But truly, I really love my blog, and get comfort from the fact that there is a small-but-growing contingent of dedicated readers following along as I race my bike and learn to be a person in this crazy-mixed-up-world. It's fun to write here, and I look forward to sitting down and reflecting each evening.
It's been nearly two full years since I started this blog, and in that time, in a strange way, it has come to define me. I think a key moment in adopting Good Bye Blue Mondays as a part of my identity came in the 2008 Capital Region Road Race. I was rolling in a three-man breakaway, but was about to get booted out the back of that three-man breakaway after 40 miles of pain and suffering.
A course marshal at an intersection saw us coming, and, having ridden with me at a century nearly a year prior, cheered for me: "Go Blue Mondays!" I think being recognized -- and reassured that people do read this blog -- gave me the strength to stay in the break for another mile or two...
By the way, that marshal was Jennifer Clunie, executive director of the New York Bicycle Coalition.
So, it's been a strange, fun, long trip. I'm looking forward to the next 500, 5,000, 50,000, 500,000(?) posts. Thanks for reading!
Tops from the week:
1) Fitchburg. Sure, why not.
2) The kindness of strangers. Francis Morison and family put me and a host of others up for Fitchburg. I am forever in their debt, and will open my apartment to them any time!
3) Post Fitchburg form coming on -- watch out for these legs!
4) Gear Works Cyclery. Getting me going after my mechanical meltdown.
5) Rain! I love the rain. I wish it would rain more. It doesn't rain nearly enough. Maybe if I put rain in my top 5, it will stay forever.
Bottoms from the week:
1) Rain. Seriously, what the fuck?
2) Mechanical meltdown. A near crash, flat tire, broken handlebar -- all in one race?!!
3) 10 vacation days is not enough. We should all switch to the European system.
4) Coming back to work after vacation -- it's hard to get the ball rolling again, and perhaps that's why we don't have more vacation time...
5) UPS -- the saga of Eric's bike continues. Now it's lost.
Wednesday, July 08, 2009
Over the weekend, in addition to racing 165ish miles, I also drove about 750 -- from Saratoga to Fitchburg, to various spots, locations, and venues within and around Fitchburg, then to Cape Cod, then back to Saratoga, while spending the requisite amount of time lost between destinations.
This allowed me to getting better acquainted with my steering wheel and captain's seat, solidifying my already-well worn ass print into the chair. After leaving a trail of burnt rubber, exhaust, used windshield wiper fluid and shattered dreams all across New York and Massachusetts, I am relieved that this weekend will only see me drive 250ish miles, to and from Union Vale, for a race there.
As much as driving can sometimes be fun, it does also wear on you from time to time. To break it up, you have to start looking for interesting things along the road:
This bumper sticker was probably the most interesting thing I saw. It reads "My friend was abused by a Catholic priest."
Now, I'm not sure if "my friend" is being used in the sincere way, or if it's being used in the "Hi doctor, my 'friend' has a rash he wanted me to ask you about..." kind of way, but in either case, it really stopped to make me think.
The sticker isn't crying out against the Catholic church, it wasn't blaming inattentive parents or anyone else, it didn't ask for sympathy, it didn't even say the priest was a bad guy for abusing the victim. The sticker merely stated that an event occurred, leaving you to take from it what you will.
Unfortunately, I spotted this sticker close to the end of my trip, so I didn't have long to think about it. I decided to draw the conclusion that one should use care when spending time with Catholic priests.
Another thing that tends to happen when you're driving around with three bikes on the roof and 4,000 wheels in the backseat is that people on the highway take notice. I got a lot of "What's up with that guy?" stares this weekend as a result. At one point -- I think it was when I was leaving Fitchburg -- some people were taking photos of the car.
At first, I was pissed off about it, but then I realized that I do the same thing all the time, so I really had no right. Then I realized that I'd missed lunch, and was probably just hangry -- for anyone who doesn't know, that's when you get cranky and easily perturbed as a result of not eating enough.
Still, I would have liked to have asked what exactly they found so interesting.
The same can be said for the people in the photo above. The blue Nissan in the foreground had an older, balding man behind the wheel, who stared up at the bikes as he drove past. Later, we had switched lanes, and he checked out the other bikes while I passed him. He was off the highway shortly thereafter.
The black Mercedes in the photo, a little farther up the road, drove along with me for miles. When we first came upon each other, the driver, an older balding man, gave me a thumbs up. I glanced over and saw a bike in the back seat. I couldn't make out what type of bike it was, but I'm pretty sure I saw a Campy Super Record shifter.
Judging by the man, the car, and the Super Record, I'd say that shifter was probably bolted to a Serotta, or possibly a Seven.
Anyhow, when I wasn't driving, I did have a little time to relax this weekend. Sort of. By way of relaxing, I helped my Dad launch is other sailboat, a 19-foot O'Day Mariner, which lives on Cape Cod. I was very little when we bought this boat, and we had many fun times sailing it around the bay, going to various beaches and picnicking, swimming, and generally horsing around.
It stately-looking boat if I ever saw one
And surely happy to be off the trailer
This boat hasn't been in the water in a few years, which was sad, as I really do enjoy the little boat more than Dad's 37-foot J-Boat. The O'Day, named Arielle, is the boat that I learned to sail on, which gives it a special place in my memories.
Arielle has been in the yard for several years,
and needed a good cleaning
Although the wind wasn't great, we did manage to get out for a little sail, before putting the boat on the mooring, to await our return to Cape Cod later this summer.
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
Between us, we had three bikes and about 4,000 wheels.
and during the stage one TT, shown here
SRAM provided neutral support, of which I availed myself twice
Here is Anthem rider Bryna riding out of the frame
My host for the weekend, Francis, is in the blue kit in the center of the shot
Note, I'm one drop short of a handlebar
Fortunately, this did not result in a crash
Bet you didn't know that sweat kills aluminum, did you?
I will admit that this is an argument for carbon bars
My photo-taking time seemed to coincide with the women's 3/4 races
During later races I was too busy getting ready to bother with photos.
The weather improved throughout the race
Then I got poured on while driving home
I'm back in Saratoga now, and will sadly be heading back to work tomorrow. I've got a few more photos from the weekend that I'll be posting in due course. The only thing that I should have taken a photo of, but didn't, was my wrecked shin. When it happened, the injury looked fairly gruesome, smeared with grease, and streaming blood down the front of my leg into my sock.
Unfortunately, I did the prudent thing and had it cleaned up and bandaged before I had the opportunity to point a camera at it. I am now left with a series of small punctures in a swooping spiral pattern. It's sort of cool looking, but not at all gruesome. So it goes. Maybe I'll put a photo up tomorrow anyway.
So, that's all for now.
Monday, July 06, 2009
I'm still on vacation -- for at least one more day, and to that end I will be half-assing tonight's post. I promise I'll get back on track with real updates (and photos from Fitchburg) upon my return to Saratoga tomorrow.
For tonight, I wanted to briefly note that while I continue to feel beat down (in the healthy, competitive sense of the word) by my peers in the Cat 2 peloton, I did see a brief glimmer of hope in Saturday's stage three road race.
This event, the queen stage of the Longsjo Classic, is an 11-mile loop, which starts at the Mount Wachusett Ski Area. In the past, this stage ended on top of Mt. Wachusett, but after a severe ice storm left the summit road impassable, the finish was moved to Princeton Center, also the location of the feed zone.
The cat 2 race was 88 miles long, or there about. Although the course isn't the hardest in the world, but the steepish climb in Princeton was hard after repeated ascents, and a stiff headwind on a series of rollers heading away from Princeton was no fun either.
After my diasterous ride in stage 2, I was looking for some redemption in the road race. The glimmer of hope came about halfway through the second lap. In the fast, downwind section, and with one rider off the front, I took a flier. Looking back, no one reacted so I kept drilling it, bridging up to the lone leader, an NEBC racer.
With a sizable gap, but the field still in sight, we hit the climbs leading into Princeton. There was a three-man chase in pursuit, with the field falling farther behind. The NEBC guy took first place points on the line, with me grabbing second. Shortly after cruising through the feed zone, the chase caught up with us, bringing Matt Purdy (Spooky/Kenda), Jay Combs (Embrocation), and a Maetra rider.
With a group of five, we worked well together, slowly building our lead until we were out of sight. Our lead stretched, at its maximum, to two minutes, at which point the neutral support car came behind us and a moto official was giving splits, making me feel very pro.
Unfortunately for me, the pace in the break was high, and I burned a lot of matches to keep up and do my share of work, while entertaining delusions of grandeur associated with a Fitchburg stage win (or podium -- which would be just as good!). Although we were working well together, Jay and I were noticeably slower on the climbs, with Purdy picking up a lot of slack.
The high pace took it's toll on me, and as we started our third lap off the front, our gap still around two minutes, the field came to life, starting to bring us back. We hit the line with a minute gap to the field, and Purdy, most definitely the strongest rider in the break, realized it was time to cut the deadwood.
An acceleration up to the feed zone popped Jay and I like ballast being thrown off of a hot air balloon struggling to stay aloft. We each rode solo for a bit, until being swept up by the field, which was coming apart as the chase ramped up. I rode in the field for the remainder of the lap, then got dropped, having used all of my hill climbing matches while in the break. I (and Jay and the NEBC guy -- also dropped) all wound up in a group of pros dropped from their race, then got back into our field, only to get dropped again, eventually finishing the race about eight minutes behind Purdy, who won in dominating style, having dropped the rest of the break, and heading out on his own to hold off the field.
Damn dude, congrats. Wish I had those legs...
So, although I was never really anywhere close to any kind of a result, and my breakaway endurance is still closer to the cat 3 level than the cat 2 level, I feel pretty good about getting myself into the break, and being able to ride it out for as long as I did. That alone felt like a major accomplishment, and will certainly be something I can build upon going into the second half of the season.
During Sunday's near-four hour race I had lots of help. Thanks to Jessie, Steve and Andy for the feeds, and thanks to everyone who cheered for me, especially while I was in the break -- even if I can't acknowledge it in the moment, I hear every word, and I really appreciate it.
OK -- that's all for now.
Sunday, July 05, 2009
With the 2009 Longsjo Classic now over and behind me, there is quite a bit to parse and recap here. I'll be doing that over the next few days, but I don't want to get too deeply into it tonight.
Why not? I've just arrived on Cape Cod after four days of hard racing, and would like to rest a bit. I think I've earned it.
For tonight, I just thought I'd share part of my stage 2 saga. Stage 2 at Fitchburg, for those who don't know, is a circuit race on a 3.1 mile loop around the Fitchburg State College Campus. The finish is near the top of a long, stepped power climb. After topping out on the climb, there is a quick right-left-right combination onto a gentle downhill. then a sharp right onto a steeper downhill to the base of the climb. Although some of the turns aren't easy, it is a stage on which I shouldn't have had any problems. I'm not sure of the total number of laps, but I think it was about 17.
After a dismal stage one TT, any GC ambitions I might have dreamed about were gone, so my evolving plans for the race was to sit in on stage two, and then try to make something happen in the stage 3 road race.
Unfortunately, sitting in proved much more difficult than I had anticipated due to a string of mechanicals.
First, before we'd even gone once around the course, on our first trip up the hill, a rider crashed next to me, having been taken out as someone behind him went down and swept out his rear wheel. I jinked to the left to avoid him and his bike, but the bouncing rig hit my right shin.
Although it hurt, I didn't think it was a big deal immediately, and kept racing, accelerating up the climb to get back to my spot in the field.
Part way through the second lap, I was getting harsher-than-usual ride from the front wheel, and looked down to realize it was going flat. I cursed my luck, threw my hand in the air, and pulled to the right. The SRAM guys were busy cleaning up from the earlier crash, so I was left standing on the side of the road waiting. While standing there, I noted that my shin, where the bike had hit me on the previous lap, was streaming blood, soaking my sock and shoe. Wonderful.
But, it wasn't that bad, and once I got a new wheel, I soldiered on, riding with Peter Smith, of Embrocation Cycling Team for a few laps, until we got lapped (there was no sense in wasting our efforts on a futuile chasing). At that point, I thought I'd be able to sit in and ride out the rest of the race once we got back in.
Not so, then came mechanical number 3:
Just after I'd got back into the field after being lapped, I suddenly felt my rear brake being applied, as if I was pulling the lever blade in a full panic-stop. The only problem? My hands, on the hoods at that point, were not squeezing the brakes.
Not sure what to do, I put my hand up again, now blatantly swearing out loud. I flagged the SRAM car down again, and could practically see the driver thinking "what's with this guy?"
Still, one of the mechanics came running at me with wheels. I tried to tell him it wasn't a wheel issue, and his response was to open the brake's quick release. It seemed to work, so I mounted and started to ride. I made it about 50 meters before the same thing happened. This time, I discovered the problem: my handlebar had broken, with the right drop failing completely and catastrophically right where the break lever mounts.
Fortunately, the SRAM car hadn't yet passed me, so I stopped them for the third time, told them what happened, and got to finish the race on one of SRAM's neutral support Specialized Tarmacs.
Under other circumstances, I might have been stoked to try out that kind of new equipment. As it was, I was mostly just bummed that my bike had fallen apart at the worst possible time. Worse still, I was worried about the time cut.
I wound up being lapped a second time, and then chilled at the back of the field for the remainder of the race, slipping further down GC, but easily making the time cut.
So, I've had a lot of bad days on my bike, but Friday's circuit race might have been the worse. Also fun was getting the grease cleaned out of my wound afterwards. I now have a series of five rectangular puncture wounds on my shin in a very distinctive chainring pattern.
Fortunately, Gearworks, in Leominster, was very generous in giving me a discount on a new handlebar, bar tape, and tire, and their expert mechanic glued my new tire on while I used their tools and workspace to mount my new handlebar -- all to get ready for the stage 3 road race. But more on that tomorrow.
Wednesday, July 01, 2009
I need a quick post tonight, as I'm in the midst of packing, organizing, and loading the car, ahead of the Longsjo -- for which I'll be leaving in the morning. At least my bikes are about as clean as they've been in months.
While in Fitchburg, I'll be the guest of some gracious hosts, whom I've never met, and whose names I don't even know (a friend hooked me up). Along the way tomorrow I'm planning on stopping to pick up a thank you gift of some sort to be determined.
During the race, I'm hoping to be able to post daily recaps of the stages, but just as I don't know my hosts' names, I don't know what the Internet situation will be. Therefore, if you don't hear from me until Sunday, don't panic, it's all good.
For tonight's quick post, I wanted to touch on the last facet of my last weekend's adventures downstate. This was an afternoon sailing with the family aboard Cool Fire, my Dad's boat. Here's what it looks like when the Bernstein's go sailing:
He was injured, and trying to stay out of the sun
He wore the funny hat, but I have to admit to owning it.
The wind was promising from shore
But wasn't great once out on the sound
By the way, it continues to rain in Saratoga, so I was, again, on the rollers today, for my final pre-Longsjo spin. This time, however, I was able to successfully ride the rollers without inspecting the linoleum's cleanliness.