As far as I'm concerned, today was the first real day of fall. I had to wear a long-sleeved jersey, knee warmers and gloves on my ride tonight.
The ride itself was pretty fun: a quick spin around some trail off of North Broadway with Jamie, and later Aleksandra, on our 'cross bikes. After all, the first race of my 'cross season is nearly here.
The bike, with it's new, 1x10 setup worked pretty well, and the ksyriums that I'm going to ride this year are certainly an improvement over the junky wheels I had on the bike. I still feel a bit too stretched on it, and think I'll swap out for a shorter stem before Sunday.
I was reminded, though, that I'm a really terrible bike handler. Ever the smallest technical challenge saw me dabbing a foot or getting off and running -- at least, in 'cross, that's sort of acceptable.
Anyway, I've just got back from dinner at Scott and Lauren's -- in Burnt Hills -- so I'm going to keep this really short, so that I can go to sleep. Photos of the bike's new set up will be forthcoming soon.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
As far as I'm concerned, today was the first real day of fall. I had to wear a long-sleeved jersey, knee warmers and gloves on my ride tonight.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
As I sit here and contemplate the end of my 2009 racing season, I realize that the end of my season was so poor that I'm better off focusing on 2010.
If the past is any indication, I should be set to light up 2010, after learning many valuable and important lessons in 2009. Of course, I have every plan to take my training and diet to new levels next year, because anyone worth their weight in chamois cream (or embrocation, if you're into the whole 'cross thing) knows that success at the higher ends of competitive cycling does not come without sacrifice.
I am also contemplating some equipment choices. Although it feels like only yesterday that I brought my Scott Addict home from NYC Velo, the truth is that two seasons, and 20,000+ miles is more than the lifespan of your average race bike. This is not unlike putting 300,000 miles on your car in two years. Sure, you can change the oil, filters, tires, brake pads, wiper blades and windshield fluid, but that kind of use wears on any car -- and on any 16 pound bicycle. And, certainly, it hasn't been an easy 20,000 miles. My bike has been tortured in inclement conditions, and on countless hours on the roof of my car.
So, I'm thinking about what I'll be riding next year. Dieter hasn't said anything, so I'm assuming that team bikes are not in the cards, so it's looking like I'll either be working my employee discount to buy a Tarmac like this one, or working a certain other connection to buy a BH like this one. Of course, I've also loved Ridley bikes, and the Excalibur could be a dark horse.
As you can see, I'm pretty much sold on SRAM Red (or Force) -- mostly because it's cheaper and lighter than any other equivalent system out there. I have to admit that I don't love the action on the shift levers, but I'm willing to adjust for the weight and money savings. Also, the new Dura Ace and Ultegra systems are not nearly as nice as the 6600 group that I've been riding, so I'll be compromising no matter what I do. I also continue to be not sold on seatmasts, and hope to avoid having a bike with one for a while longer.
The other feature I'm considering adding to a new bike in 2010 is a power meter. Despite what one cat-1 blogger has to say about them, power meters seem to be a valuable training tool, and with a host of new, relatively affordable models hitting the market for next year, I'm thinking it might be nice to take advantage of this training edge. But, I'm a neophyte when it comes to power, so I'm hoping that some of the more knowledgeable readers will chime in with their two cents, and let me know if I'm wasting my time with power, or if it something worth considering -- and then whether it's better to go with a hub-based system, or a crank-based system. Discuss.
Monday, September 28, 2009
If you haven't seen it already, my article on the Boston Mayor's Cup is now on Velo News. You can read about all the action here.
In other exciting news, the Spa 'Cross is coming along nicely, and I'm proud to announce the addition of a new, major sponsor, Blue Sky Bicycles. Although the details still need to worked out, it looks like a Blue Sky mechanic will be on hand to run a neutral support service in the pit, and the shop will also donate a generous amount of schwag, to be given away as prizes for some events.
I don't want to give away too much all at once, but it also seems that we're going to have a mini-expo, of sorts, with a few local cycling-related companies coming on board to take part in our race, and give spectators something a little extra to do, when they (you) need a break from ringing a cowbell or hollering your head off.
Of course, this is a race first, and everything else second, so we continue to tweak our course. We met with the park on Friday, and have figured a few ways to adjust the course to make it more fun and more challenging at the same time. I promise that you will encounter elements at Spa 'Cross that you will not see in any other 'cross race this year. For anyone who wants a taste of what the Spa 'Cross will be like, you can join John on his weekly 'cross training rides, Thursdays at 5:15, at the Columbia Pavilion, Spa Sate Park.
More details on the race to come, but you should go register for the race now, before all of our fields reach capacity!
Also, I have in my possession, a brand-new, and still shrink-wrapped copy of volume 4 of the Embrocation Cycling Journal. Although I have not yet read this magazine in it's final form, the essays in it are some of the best I've yet read -- no small accomplishment, considering that none of my work is contained therein!
This issue is all about road, and if road is your thing, you should buy a copy here.
Also, Cadel Evan attacked. Those are three words I didn't ever think I'd use in a sentence together!
Sunday, September 27, 2009
I spent the better part of this weekend over in Boston, to visit friends there, and to cover the TD Bank Mayor's Cup, a brand new big money crit held in Boston's government center. It's late in the season for a crit, but no one told the 140 men and 60 women who turned out to race, and the action was exciting in both the men's and women's races.
Of course, with $20,000 in cash up for grabs in both races, I'd be motivated too. My full report on the races will be available on Velo News sometime soon, so I'm not going to re-type the blow-by-blow here, but I do have some exclusive photos to show. Kyle Wamsley won the men's race, and Tina Pic won the women's race, ending her long and prolific career.
The police didn't want to give me any estimates, but I'd say there were probably about 10,000 people watching the end of the men's race, which is an accomplishment for the promoters, to be sure.
I'd say the production value was very high at this event
The hard barriers circled the entire 0.7-mile course
Friday, September 25, 2009
This from promoter Dieter Drake:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE BY THE TOUR OF THE BATTENKILL/ Anthem Sports - www.anthemsports.us
September 25, 2009 For immediate release
The Tour of the Battenkill, the largest bicycle race in the North America, garners US & International Cycling certification and expands from one weekend to two in April 2010.
The five-year-old event will more than double its scope in 2010. The 2009 attendance established the Tour of the Battenkill as the largest single-day road race in the USA, with more than 1,500 registrants from throughout the US and Canada.
Since the race’s first edition in 2005, cyclists and spectators have recognized the beauty and the challenge of the course. The 5th annual event in 2009 drew many of North America's best professional cycling teams to Upstate New York’s Battenkill Valley for the Professional Men's Invitational. Last year, the amateur race was held on Saturday, and the professional race was held the next day where thousands of spectators lined the route.
The race’s founder and organizer, Dieter Drake, of Cambridge, NY, also notes a significant new development, “For the first time, the 2010 Tour of the Battenkill will be accredited and scheduled on the UCI America's Tour for Professional Cycling. The pro race on April 18, 2010 is now recognized internationally by the Switzerland-based UCI -- the international sanctioning body for professional cycling – which includes USA Cycling certification for the 2010 date.”
The Tour of the Battenkill Professional Invitational has nearly doubled in size for each of its past five years, and the organizers are on track to exceed that next year. In 2010, the event will split from one weekend to two. Amateur racers will compete on Saturday, April 10. The Pro Men’s Invitational will be held on the following Saturday, April 18th.
The event is on a rapid growth curve. States the Wall Street Journal, "The country's largest sanctioned one-day bike race."
For the first time, the April 18th date now gives The Tour of the Battenkill a berth in the fabled spring “classics” season. The new date fits perfectly with the international racing calendar, as the largest classic races occur in Europe in the weeks prior to The Tour of the Battenkill, and the largest races in the US Southwest and California occur in the weeks after, allowing top professional teams to stop in the Northeast US and race the Tour of the Battenkill on their way from Europe to California.
GlobalFoundries (www.globalfoundries.com), which is one of the world’s leading computer chip manufacturers, is now building a new facility in nearby Malta, NY. GlobalFoundries was the race’s presenting sponsor in 2009, and has indicated that it will return for 2010, but due to the new expansion, The Tour of the Battenkill is presently seeking additional sponsors. Notes their marketing director, Christine Hoffer, “Next year will be a rare opportunity for local sponsors to gain national exposure.” A full sponsorship package can be requested at email@example.com.
The Tour of the Battenkill (www.tourofthebattenkill.com) is labeled 'America's Queen of the Classics'. A newly produced video of the event, as well as press stories, are posted on the website.
Unique on the North American professional calendar, the one-day race features 25 percent dirt roads, rolling countryside, covered bridges, and passes through the small villages of Upstate New York's Washington County, where tens of thousands of spectators lined the route in 2009. The race enjoyed the backing of US Senator Charles Schumer in 2009, and his support of growing tourism and commerce in Upstate New York.
What do pro cyclists think of the race? Third-placed finisher Francois Parisien told Velo News that it was extremely difficult and demanding. "Of the top finishers, all said it was among the hardest races they competed.” Parisien commented that it was in his top-5 hardest courses, helping the event live up to its billing as “America’s Queen of the Classics.”
“I never did anything like this in America,” he said. “Maybe in Europe, where you have cobbles or something.”
Organizers expect to be able to make further 2010 announcements soon regarding professional team attendance, an expansion of a third, mid-week event into neighboring Saratoga County, and other facets of the event including the race expo.
Photos by Dave Kraus/Provided
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Obviously, I've already posted today' big news. Yes, in case you haven't already seen the post, the Tour of the Battenkill was awarded UCI 1.2 status for the 2010 pro men's invitational. What does that mean? Bigger teams and more competitive racing action for the spectators. I'm already excited, just to see the action. And, the fact that I'll have a week to decompress after racing the pro/am version of the race should make it all the more enjoyable, I think.
There is other big news that I haven't yet published here, so it seems like tonight is a perfect night for good, olde fashioned, tops and bottoms lists. Before we get to it though, one quick point of interest: On Saturday, I'll be headed to Boston, to cover the Mayor's Cup, a brand new, big-money crit to be contested by anyone who isn't completely sapped from the season. Since deciding that racing would be a waste of time and money at this point, I figured it would be much more fun to report on the race for Velo News, and to get some post-season drinks afterwards. Fortunately for me, Velo News agreed with at least the first part of this assessment.
Tops from the week:
1) My new essay on Embrocation: ever wonder how useful those race radios are?
2) Spa 'Cross is coming together! Best go register, those free beer coozies are going to go fast!
3) Battenkill ups the ante.
4) After months of questionable carbon, I finally installed my new fork. Thanks to Billy and Dave for the help!
5) I've got a pile of shiny new parts, to be mounted to my 'cross bike, and to then be made suitably-unshiny. What could be better!
Bottoms from the week:
1) Night desk Thursday and Friday. But really, getting home at midnight isn't so bad.
2) This riding withdrawal that I'm currently experiencing: ride less and enjoy getting other stuff done, then feel like crap when you want an easy spin. It's like getting punished for not riding.
3) Feeling guilty about still eating as if I was riding a ton, but hey, I figure I'm a few hundred thousand calories in the hole from this season.
4) My big plans to clean house before my room mate got back home from her business trip didn't come to fruition. Oh well, at least there are no illusions of me being overly domestic.
5) Tough decisions about the MS Bike Tour, but I'm going to miss it this year, for only the second time in ten-odd years. You can still join me in sponsoring my parents, who ride for this great cause every year.
At a conference at the elite world championships, in Mendrisio, Switzerland, the International Cycling Union announced the schedule for next year's international racing calendar.
As expected, the third of three events proposed as part of the 2010 Tour of the Battenkill was granted UCI 1.2 status, the third-highest classification for a professional race. The classification will allow promoters to attract a deeper pool of international racers, who will complete for a larger purse.
Tour of the Battenkill will now be on the same scale as the U.S. Open of Cycling and the Univest Grand Prix, as well as a host of other international races. Next year, this race will truly be on the map, even more so than in years past.
The race will be held on April 18, 2010. The amateur version of the race, similar to the format from 2009, will be held on April 10. Registration opens on Dec. 21. Take a look at the UCI America's Tour calendar here, visit the race's website here, and stay tuned to Good Bye Blue Mondays for more information.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Quick update on the race tonight. I spent all morning working on various aspects of the race, and I'm happy as hell to announce that we've secured our first major sponsor, Eastern Mountain Sports Wilton branch!
The retailer has agreed to supply us with some very cool schwag to be used as prizes in some of the category races (I'll hold off on announcing what exactly they've offered in the interest of building excitement).
And they've also agreed to donate a large supply of EMS-branded beer coozies. In light of that, here's the big news: The first 90 registrants in the Saratoga Spa 'Cross will get a beer coozie on race day.
Don't waste any time, supplies are limited (to 90). Registration is here, and stay tuned for more exciting announcements.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Note, only one lever, the other side will have a brake lever on it
I'm going to 1x10, in search of better shifting and fewer decisions
I apologize for the lack of a post yesterday. With the president's visit to the area in the morning, and then a Saratogian community meeting in the evening, it turned into a 14.5-hour work day, and by the time I got home a little before ten I was, I would say, deeply unenthused about anything except getting into bed.
The president's visit was, however, very exciting, and I was honored to be able to attend. Visit my other blog if you'd like to read more about his visit.
Anyhow, now that I'm officially declaring an end to my road racing season (on a completely parenthetical note, a quick count shows that I entered 35 races this season), I turned my attention to racing 'cross this evening.
Since I don't have the money to buy a previously-contemplated new 'cross bike, and since I eventually had to return the Serotta I borrowed for part of last season, I decided to put a little money into my Kona, to make it a slightly better-performing racer. Specifically, I am changing the bike from a 2x9 drive train with Shimano 105 components to a 1x10 drive train with a mix of some Shimano Ultegra parts, and a smattering of lower-level components.
Part of what I didn't enjoy about my bike last season was the general crappiness of the shifting, in both the front and the rear. I attributed this crappiness to the age of the nine-speed levers on the bike, which I bought used from a very generous friend, combined with the sluggishness of an old drive drain.
So, I'm hoping to address part of the problem by upgrading to newer rear shift mechanisms, and eliminating the front mech. In the last race of my 'cross foray in 2008, I lost a spot on the podium when I tried to shift from my little to big ring (while riding the Serotta). I firmly believe that if I had concentrated on spinning out the little ring, instead of trying to shift, I would have sailed past John Onderdonk. Instead, I took fourth. There will be no such decision making this season, it's little ring for me.
I'm also going to race 'cross this season on Mavis Ksyriums, because I hardly ever use mine anymore, and I might as well get some use out of them.
Of course, in typical Bernstein fashion, I sold my old 9-speed equipment (or, committed to sell it) before I'd removed it from the bike. So, tonight's project was to strip the shifters and derailures off the bike, to deliver them to a friend. but, I haven't yet acquired any of the drive components I'll need to make the bike usable, resulting in an odd-looking ride, for the moment.
I'll post some more photos once I get around to putting the thing together. My first 'cross race of the year is going to be the CX @ Brewery Ommegang, in Cooperstown, on Oct. 4. Since I'm still a cat 3 in 'cross (and intend to stay a cat 3, until I get some skillz), I'll have the option of 3/4 glory or 1/2/3 suffering. We'll see.
More photos of the bike will be posted as it progresses.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
A special note: on Monday morning I will be covering President Obama's visit to the Hudson Valley Community College. Follow the visit on my other blog here.
... I'm done.
I would say that my legs gave their two week notice shortly after the Capital Region Road Race, now more than a month ago. The Green Mountain Stage Race was tolerable, if not successful, but Bear Mountain was simply not fun. A logical person would have cut their losses at that point. But no, I had to make one more fool-hardy attempt, and to that end I went down to the Catskills to race those mountain's eponymous stage race.
Last year, racing the 3/4 field, I had a pretty good race, finishing at the business end of what remained of the peloton on the first of two days, after spending a lot of time on the attack. On the second day, sitting sixth on GC, I was comfortable sitting in when my wheel imploded. I was able to salvage a top-ten finish on GC, and had a lot of fun doing it.
Obviously, racing in the pro/1/2 this year, I knew it was going to be a whole different ball game, especially with the addition of a prologue time trial on Friday afternoon.
The tt was a 2.2-mile uphill slog, with a headwind on parts of the course. The steepest pitch was right at the start, so I started out in my little ring, thinking I'd take it easy over the first pitch, and then kick it up to the big ring. The first part of the plan went swimmingly, but I had a really hard time getting my spin going on the flatter sections. In the end, not one, but two people passed me. I was pretty sure that such an effort would put me dead last on GC. Somehow, four people managed to go slower than me (or miss their start). After day one, I was 27th out of 31, 1:14 off the leader. My time was 8:09, decidedly un-quick. It turned out, though, that one of the people who'd passed me was the eventual winner, so at least I wasn't getting passed by mid-pack people. Just as at GMSR, David was leading the Anthem charge, sitting 22nd, at 51 seconds. Adam, who is coming off of some illness, rode a little slower than me.
With nothing too loose, I went on the attack early in Saturday's 80-mile road race. There were three KOMs, and I had delusions of being able to ride into a jersey in that competition. I was with three other riders -- Eugene Borronow, of GS Mengoni, a Kelly Benefits development guy and a Westwood Velo guy (not Roger Asphlom). We got about 40-seconds on the field at one point, in a fast, downhill section heading away from Windham. Our gap started to come back down quickly once we hit the lower parts of the climb to the KOM, but we had enough of a gap to make it past the sprint point. I would up taking third-place points, while the Westwood guy won and Eugene took second.
The field brought us back shortly thereafter, and without a level or downhill section to recover on, I was promptly spat out the back and spent the rest of the day riding in solemn dejectedness with both of my team mates and four other unfortunate souls. We eventually crossed the line. Up ahead, someone won. I believe it was Guptil, but I still haven't seen results, so I can't really be sure. With my paltry KOM points, I felt obligated to race the next day, even though I was tempted to call it good right there, and to see how I could help out with the race in a less-embarrassing manner.
So, I started the third stage on Sunday. Adam had pulled himself out, having suffered enough. If I had nothing to loose on Saturday, I really had nothing to loose on Sunday, so I again wanted to try to make it into the early moves. Unfortunately, I missed the boat, and was unsuccessful in my attempt to bridge up. Later on, I made another attempt, although the break was out of site at that point, and I had little hope of actually catching anybody. Still, riding on my own and ahead of the field, I was able to go up the first KOM at my own pace, and was happily able to reintegrate into the field when I was caught.
I stuck in the field until a climb on the pro/1/2 extension, that would bring us back to the the start, for the beginning of our second lap. the hill wasn't particularly steep or long, but I wasn't able to go as fast as I needed to, and I soon found myself alone. It was purely by accident that I missed the turn back toward my car, and started the second lap instead. I rode alone for a while until connecting with John McGill, of Onion River Sports, with whom I completed the second lap. John and I rode together the previous day as well. We were dead last when we finally crossed the line. David did better, but again, we haven't yet seen the results.
So ends my 2009 racing season. As many people have said to me today: "There's still 'cross."
Anthem's Beth Miller won the women's race. Congrats!
I've got more thought on the Tour of the Catskills, but this post has gone on long enough. We'll revist the topic tomorrow. On my way home, while drinking a chocolate milk outside a Stewart's in Tannersville, I met two FGX Racing guys (James?). Nice to meet you two, I hope your drive home was pleasant!
Thursday, September 17, 2009
On Wednesday, I was casually watching out an office window as workers prepared to excavate the site of a former manufactured gas plant up the street from the office when we saw a few dozen motorcycles thunder down Lake Avenue and pull up in front of the New York State Military Museum, located in an armory across from our office.
At the rear of the motorcade was a black SUV. Not realizing that reporter Paul Post was already on assignment across the street, I grabbed my camera and ran out the door. It turned out that the motorcyclists were part of a group called Patriot Guard Riders, who had escorted the 147-year old remains of a union soldier of unknown identity to New York from a battlefield at Antietam.
Sgt. Andy kept traffic moving
A similar scene occurred on Thursday morning as well
The story goes that the remains were found with buttons that identified him as a member of a New York regiment, so the remains were brought back to be buried in the Gerald B.H. Solomon-Saratoga National Cemetery, in the Town of Saratoga. Despite his identity being unknown -- or perhaps because of it -- there was a lot of interest in the remains' arrival in Saratoga Springs, and the remains were received by a military honor guard. It was all very impressive, although a few police officers seemed a little stressed about motorcycles, which had parked themselves in the middle of the roadway. I suppose you get special privileges when you volunteer time to escort a remains on a 400-mile drive. Anyway, they didn't stay long.
I that was that, but the whole crew reassembled on Thursday morning, to transport the remains back from the armory to the cemetery. So, if you're looking for a way to ensure that your body is given an grand reception for a funeral, try dying for country and freedom in a war, tucking yourself away for a century and a half, and you should be all set.
Anyhow, it's not something you see everyday.
Tops from the week:
1) Hoping for resurgence at the Tour of the Catskills.
2) Spa 'Cross is coming!
3) President Obama is coming to town, or nearly, anyway.
4) WEQX -- how did it take me so long to realize how good this radio station is?
5) Wounds are starting to heal, but slowly.
Bottoms from the week:
1) Bear Mountain, but it seems that I wasn't the only victim.
2) The president is coming, and it's looking like another reporter is going to go for us. Bummer.*
3) One-day weekends with lots of travel make for a long week.
4) With all this talk about Kanye West's behavior at the Video Music Awards, everyone one is overlooking the fact that Beyonce's "Single Ladies" video is TERRIBLE.
5) As mentioned above, my wounds are taking their sweet time in healing, and greatly restricting my motion in the mean time.
Updated 9/18 at 12:55 p.m.: Turns out that I will be going to see the president. Yay for last-minute reprieves!
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
The trouble with fall is that the weather can vary widely from day to day. For instance, yesterday was a gorgeous day, with temps in the 70s and blue skies. I went for a four-hour ride, and would have been very pleased to have ridden for four more, had I not needed to go to work.
Today, it was cloudy in the morning, and clouds persisted throughout the day, with the sun making occasional cameos. When it was time to leave work to meet Jamie for a ride, it had started raining. Not hard, but a persistent drizzle that left any ground not sheltered by a vehicle moistened.
So, we did the usually rain day two step, trying to decide if it was worth being wet and cold for two hours. Ultimately, we did ride, heading out to Greenfield. The rain didn't last, and we eventually even got to dry roads. However, it remained chilly throughout the ride, and I was glad for the arm warmers I was wearing -- although the knee warmers turned out to be overkill.
It feels like I have this revelation about fall once a year. Last year it came a bit later. This year, today was the first hint. While I've been fairly insistent that it's still summer. I suppose that I have to recognize that it is a little cooler out. Hopefully, though, we'll have more warm days to come, especially this weekend at the Tour of the Catskills.
Yes, I am heading down to the Catskills to race this weekend, despite my better judgment. I think I've pretty well proven that I'm out of gas for this season. But, once one last stage race? Besides, Dieter and Anthem Sports are promoting this event, so the least I can do is going down there, fly the Anthem flag and give it my best. So, that's the plan, I suppose. Plus, the courses are fun, so at the very least, I'll enjoy two days of nice riding in the Catskills -- and one day of leaving work early to get downstate in time for the 2.2 mile prologue on Friday evening.
I'm not sure what my Internet situation is going to be, at the accommodations that have been graciously offered to me by BVFer Josh Pulver, a Catskill resident, so I'm not going to commit to posting race updates during the weekend, but I will, of course, post a full report upon my return on Sunday.
As far as the race itself goes, so far, there are about 30 people registered, including some really strong riders. I think I have a strategy to hopefully see me not get dropped quite as quickly as I was last weekend, but we'll see how it goes. Like I said, there are some really strong riders registered. Who knows, maybe I'll see some resurgent form for the very end of the season. I did have two pretty solid rides at Catskills last year -- but that was last year, and I expect the pro/1/2 will be a bit more challenging than the 3/4 field was.
This is starting to sound like an end of the week post, but of course, I'll be back tomorrow, before I sign off for the end of the week. But, that's all for tonight.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Well, now that the cat is out of the bag, I suppose I might as well officially announce that myself and a few others are promoting a 'cross race in Spa State Park on Oct. 25.
Our race, dubbed Saratoga Spa Cx, will be part of the NYCross.com series, and registration is open!
On Saturday, Jamie and I met the originators of the NYCross series, along with some Capital Region 'cross racers to show off our course. Although I think some of them were a little afraid of some of the more technical spots, on the whole, our course got a positive reception, which I'm quite pleased to report.
John Onderdonk and Jamie tweaked the course while I was on vacation to include a u-turn in the sand pit, and a log in a tight, single-track section will have many people dismounting, while the most skilled riders are able to navigate the challenges.
We're still working on hammering out the details of our special use permit with the park, but I'm confident that it will all come together -- and that we'll be able to offer a few extras that other races in the capital region won't have. I don't want to give away any details too soon, but I'm thinking a lightly carbonated beverage of Belgian extraction would go quite well with a little 'cross action.
Now that it is nearly fall, we're going to start having 'cross rides on a modified version of the race course in the coming weeks. I'll post details here as I learn them. In the mean time, you'd best start sharpening your dismount...
Monday, September 14, 2009
It just occurred to me that I never posted a link to my most recent Embrocation essay on the blog, so here it is. It's about a recent experience I had leading a beginner's ride at Blue Sky Bicycles. The experience turned out to be as educational for me as it was for my beginners, I think.
Anyhow, I did take a vacation this month, and was so rude as to never share photos from my time away. So here, for your viewing pleasure, is evidence that I have ridiculous tan lines not only on my thighs, but on my legs as well. As you'll recall, before I headed up to Vermont for the Green Mountain Stage Race, I spent several days on Cape Cod with my parents.
We chilled on the beach, we ate lots of Cape Cod-y food, went for a bike ride, sailed our family's first (and favorite) sail boat, and paddled around the bay in kayaks. All in all, I would say it was a great little vacation, and I only wish that I'd had more time to spend.
Here's the evidence of the fun:
Checking the weather by looking out the window
Yes, he usually does wear sunglasses inside
We were paddling with the tide going out
So, the muddy bottom of the marsh is beginning to be exposed.
I was forced to detour through this crap to drop off my rent check before leaving town
Sunday, September 13, 2009
I can't actually give much of a race report today, as I got dropped on the first climb -- oh, I'd say about six miles into the 85 mile race. As you can imagine, I'm feeling less than pleased with my performance.
I'm going to chalk it up to a growing late season burnout, two hard rides I did toward the end of the week, and a lack of sleep on Saturday night. Also, my stomach felt awful all morning in the car down to Harriman State Park.
Let's see... Also, it was slightly warmer than my optimal racing temperature, I had a speck of dirt on my sunglasses, and thus couldn't see clearly, and I think the pressure gauge on my pump is mis-aligned, so I'm pretty sure my tires were under-inflated by about 3.6473 psi. So, basically, I had a lot going against me this morning.
The real problem was Dan Vaillancourt, of Colavita-Sutter Home, who attacked about two-thirds of the way up the longest climb on the course. David had been setting a solid tempo on the front (at least, it felt solid to me, as it was sustainable, yet not to easy) when Vaillancourt attacked. David and I both lost a few spots at the intial surge. Then someone else attacked, and Vaillancourt counter-attacked, and attacked again. I went into the red to try to stay on, but it was no use.
For the record, Vaillancourt must not have been quite the right rider to make Colavita's team for the Tour of Missouri, so he came to Bear instead. Clearly, this guy, along with a few others racing today, including some Kelly Benefit development riders who came out, are in a different league from guys like David and I. But really, I love being a 2.
So, we got dropped. We rode together with Kissena's J.P. Partland for a lap, and with some Empire riders and CCNS riders who were similarly dispatched from the peloton. No one really seemed eager to ride past the parking lot, but we kept on. As we went up the climb for the third time I wasn't able to keep the pace J.P. set, and fell off. I finished the lap, and rode one more on my own in which seemingly every cat 4 in the race passed me. This fall campaign is clearly going really well.
At least my legs look good, as evidenced here, by BVFer Jordan Jan.
I dropped out after the fourth lap, having been lapped -- on a 14-mile course -- by the leading trio of Vaillancourt, Roger Asphlom and a target training rider. It was really great. The ironic thing is that I thought today's race would be easy, becasue there were only about 30 in the field, and because I did well at Bear Mountain in the spring. Boy was I wrong. Mom asked me earlier if I regret going. I'm not sure if I regret it, but I think I'll consider more carefully the next time I want to drive that far to a race, especially if I'm in questionable condition.
David tells me that his two second power was 979 watts, or 15.23 watts/kg at the moment we got dropped. I don't know much about Watts, but that seems like a lot. By way of comparison, Nicki Sorrenson's maximum two second power in stage 8 of this year's Tour de France was 983 watts, or 15.4 watts/kg.
Word on the street, although I didn't wittness this myself, is that Anthem's Beth Miller won the women's race, and Vaillancourt eventually won the men's race.
The plan for this week is to re-group, and make one last bid for glory (and by glory, I obviously mean not imploding six miles in), at the Tour of the Catskills. Coach Scott and I had a heart-to-heart while I drove home for the race, and I'm confident that I can jump start my legs for this last stage race, but I think we'll be doing things differently next season. I'm so over 2009.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Hunter, NY - The 2nd annual Tour of the Catskills cycling stage race will return to the Hunter, Windham, and Tannersville, NY area on September 18-20 in an expanded and more exciting format. Organizers of the event are proud to announce the expansion from two days in 2008 to three in 2009. Current registrants for the event include riders from throughout the Northeast and Canada.
The event has also draw the attention of participants from as far away as South Carolina and Colorado this year and expects to more than double last year’s number of participants. Hosted by the Catskill Mountain Foundation, the Tour expects to become one of the largest races in the Northeast in future years. Major sponsors include Teany, Powerbar, Greene County Tourism, Windham Chamber of Commerce, Hunter Chamber of Commerce, and Champion Systems.
The event is a 3-day stage race where racers compete for cumulative time over a series of days. The Prologue Time Trial on Friday, September 18 is the newest addition to the event; riders will race individually at 30-second intervals along County Route 23C in Tannersville. At only 2.2 miles, but at an average 4.4% grade, this time trial will set the rugged nature of the stages for the remaining two days of competition.
The 'Catskill Epic' Road Race on Saturday, September 19 starts and finishes at Windham Mountain in Windham, NY. Riders will race on a course that takes them through Windham to Prattsville where they will have to contend with the difficult County Rte 10 climb and then descend down the Susquehanna Turnpike (County Rte 20) into the Town of Durham, where the race will progress to Cornwallville and Acra. Riders will climb back up scenic State Route 23 to a mountaintop finish at the Windham Mountain Resort.
The 'Mountaintop Classic' on Sunday, September 20 marks the final day of racing. Racers will start at the Hunter Mountain Resort in Hunter and race back down to the Hudson Valley along State Route 23 into Acra, then along County Route 31 & Hearts Content Road through the hamlet of Roundtop. Via Bogart Rd, racers will reach Palenville and the final, most difficult climb of the weekend - the Kaaterskill Clove (State Route 23A). Shaded roads, switchbacks, and an arm's-length pass by the historic Kaaterskill Falls will mark the event's most memorable elements. Racers will pass through Haines Falls and Tannersville on their way back to Hunter and an exciting Main Street finish at the Catskill Mountain Foundation Headquarters in Hunter Village.
Friday, September 11, 2009
I always forget how Sept. 11 pulls on my heartstrings. In the days leading up to the anniversary, I always think it’ll be the same as any other day. I’ll go to work, get some exercise; maybe I’ll eat pasta for dinner, or maybe a burrito. Intellectually, I know that it’s the anniversary, but it doesn’t seem any different from any other day.
And then I wake up that morning and turn on the radio. Inevitably, there’s a broadcast of the memorial service from Ground Zero.
“Oh, it’s September 11,” I think. Then I sit down to eat a banana and some cereal, and everything is fine until the radio goes silent. It’s always at 8:46 a.m., the exact moment when American Airlines flight 11 hit the north tower. And suddenly, I’m back in high school. I’m 16, and I’m a junior, being herded like a sheep with all my peers into the Gothic chapel our school used as an assembly hall. The Tiffany stained glass windows shown in the bright September air. The school year was less than a week old. As we shuffled into our pews there were whispers that a plane had hit the World Trade Center, but I didn’t believe it, there must be some other reason for this unplanned gathering.
Mr. Pearson, our usually affable and energetic headmaster, took the podium with a look of such consternation on his face that I knew something big was up. He told us, in very plain words, that an airliner had been crashed into the building, and that the government believed it was a terrorist act. He told us to go to our classes and to carry on with our day as if nothing unusual had happened. But something unusual had happened.
My thoughts immediately flew to my Mom. She worked across the street from the Trade Center. I walked through the complex’s enormous courtyard to get to her office from the 4 train stop on Fulton Street.
As soon as Mr. Pearson dismissed us I ran to the pay phone. All my peers had cell phones, but I thought it was cool to resist the trend. I dialed Mom’s office. No answer. A lump formed in my throat. I called her cell. No answer. My stomach twisted into a knot.
What if her building was next? Would she know to leave? Would she be able to leave? How could she get home, the subway was in the Trade Center! I called home, no answer there either. With trembling fingers, I dialed my Dad’s home office, and there was no answer. Taking a deep breath, and blinking back tears, I called Dad’s cell. Mercifully, he answered.
With a tremble in my voice, I asked if Mom was OK.
“Mom’s fine, she went with some co-workers to someone’s apartment in Stuyvesant Village,” Dad said. “She’s going to come home as soon as she can.” With a shudder of relief, I hung up the phone and slumped against the wall. I closed my eyes, but something was still wrong. I thought of my brother. He was 13, in eighth grade.
Would he know to all Dad’s cell? Would he be as scared as I had been? Maybe he wouldn’t be worried at all.
I thought of a time he and I had gotten separated from our parents on a ski slope. I was eleven or so, and I was a worried little kid. No, I was a panicked little kid. If we couldn’t find our parents, how would we get back to the hotel? How would we get back to Brooklyn? How would we eat? In that moment, I was ready to find a payphone to call our grandparents to come rescue us, even though they were in Florida and we were in Colorado. Eric remained cool through it all. He told me not to worry. Sure enough, we found our parents in short order and got on with our vacation.
No, this wasn’t like that, I decided, Mom could have been in real danger. Surely Eric would recognize that. Without even considering going to class, I took off to find him, searching all the likely places an eighth grader might be.
As I encountered my classmates in the halls, we all wore the same pallid expression. We were scared. We didn’t know what was going on, we didn’t know what was going to happen, and you could see the tower burning through the windows. Then the second plane hit. News traveled like a wave through the school. Then, the Pentagon was hit, the White House, the National Mall, the Washington Monument, the Empire State Building, the Sears Tower, Seattle’s Space Needle. Rumor supplanted truth and the knot in my stomach grew to watermelon size. I felt simultaneously like my bowels were going to release and my heart was going to stop. What if Brooklyn was next. Prospect Park seemed like a likely target. Hell, even our school seemed like a likely target, we were only a block from Borough Hall!
And still, I couldn’t find Eric.
Then the south tower collapsed. It fell straight down, but the radio said it could have tipped any way. What if it had tipped toward Mom’s building. Eric must be so scared!
And I was terrified. I wanted to go home and get into bed with the blankets over my head until the danger was gone. But first, I wanted to tell my brother that Mom was OK. I had to tell him, who else would? Nothing was as it had been, but Eric had to know that Mom was OK.
As I walked through the halls looking into empty classrooms, I started thinking about the last time the Towers were bombed, in 1993. I was 8. It was snowing. My Mom didn’t work on Fridays back then, so I wasn’t scared. I didn’t understand what had happened, or why we were sitting in the house watching the TV news when we could have been outside playing in the snow. I knew her office was across the street form the towers, but it didn’t seem like a big deal.
Then, a couple weeks later, we ran into a friend of Mom’s on the subway. She was a healthy looking woman breathing oxygen through a tube in her nose. I asked my Mom, in the way only an 8-year old can, why the woman had a tube in her nose. My Mom told me that she’d been in the Trade Center when it was bombed, that she’d been trapped in the dark, walking down an endless staircase, not sure if she’d make it to the bottom. Mom said the stairwell had filled with choking smoke, and some people ran down, pushing anyone else out of their way. The oxygen was helping Mom’s friend recover. Oh. I was still 8, but I sure understood the danger a little better.
What if the bombing hadn’t been on a Friday, Mom? What if you’d been at work? What if it was on a Tuesday?
Finally, I found Eric. He was with a school administrator, who had collected children whose parents worked in the towers. They were trying to contact Mom by phone, but of course, as I’d already discovered, the phones were dead. They hadn’t thought to try Dad’s cell. My brother, a jokester with a constant mischievous smile on his face, was near tears.
“Mom’s OK,” I said, now near tears my self. I think I hugged him, I sure hope I did.
This essay was first posted on 9/11/2008
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
Today was my first day back at work after a glorious nine days of vacation. Really, there are some things that aren't so great about sitting at a desk every day, no matter what your job is, but paid time off makes it well worthwhile.
But, even after nine days away, I think some part of my subconscious wasn't ready to go back to work, and so, while I was out on a ride this morning, prior to starting an afternoon/evening shift, my body thought it would throw me to the ground, possibly in an attempt to sabotage my plans of working later on.
Really, I'm not quite sure how I managed to crash while riding alone, on a slight downhill without a car, dog, person, or sandy patch in site, but I am quite sure that going back to work with a bunch of skin missing falls somewhere between chest waxing and bamboo shoots-under-finger-nails in terms of how much fun it was.
On the up side, although I did loose a bunch of skin, I don't seem to have done any serious damage, and my bike is fine.
Just another day in the life...
The real measure of how nutty I am, though, came post-crash when I got back on my bike.
Once I got over the initial oh-my-god-this-hurts-so-bad-gonna-die sensation, I took stock of my situation. My right knee was bloodied, my bibs' right leg was ripped wide open to expose a large patch of road rash on my thigh, blood was dripping out of my elbow, and the back of my right wrist had been scraped away to expose a nice red sheen. In the mean time, someone had taken some 100-grit to my shin, and my palm was covered in small abrasions.
Although I'd landed on my right side, I had blood spouting from two of my fingers on my left hand.
So, I was in pretty tough shape. Almost before I'd picked myself up and walked down the road a bit in an effort to mitigate the pain, I was thinking about who I could call on a Wednesday morning to come pick up my bloody carcass.
But then I walked it out a bit. I circled back and picked up my bike. I gave it a quick inspection, and other than a mis-aligned brake and a cracked hood cover, it was fine.
"OK," I thought, "I can ride home." So, I picked up my sunglasses from where they had fallen, mounted up and rode on.
Now, I'd crashed at the mid-point in my ride. I had set out to tackle three climbs, Lake D, Plank Road, and Ormsbee. I'd crashed after coming down off of Plank. Now, I was heading home, which is also the direction of Ormsbee.
So, I'm riding along. The wind in my wounds hurt like hell, but other than that, I really felt fine. As I got closer and closer to the turn that would bring me most-swiftly toward home, I started thinking, "What the hell, you might as well finish the ride."
So, I did. I got quite the look from a stranger as I climbed Ormsbee, bloody leg hanging out of ripped shorts, but so it goes. It was a nice morning, I wasn't going to waste it. Besides, the sooner I got home, the sooner I'd have to go about the painful business of cleaning the wounds. And, boy was that painful. But, even as I scrubbed dirt from my knee, I was thinking about Bear Mountain, the second of my three fall goals, planned for Sunday.
At the beginning of the week, I'd decided that I'd race, even after a crappy run at GMSR, as long as I could find someone to drive down with. Immediately after the crash, I thought Bear Mountain was out the window. But, "Hell," I thought while spreading bacetracin on my hip, "If I can climb Ormsbee, why I can't I race Bear."
So, in all likelihood, I'll see you at Bear on Sunday. And that is the measure of someone truly addicted to racing his bike.
I decided that I wasn't going to post photos of my injuries here, lest they offend some of my more-sensitive readers. However, if you enjoy gruesome photos of wounds dripping blood, you may click here. And yes, I did go straight for the camera when I got home, even before taking off my helmet.
Tuesday, September 08, 2009
Here's a race report from team mate David Costa. David anchored the team at GMSR, riding to a 10th place finish on GC, after blazing up the App Gap with the leaders. He was able to defend in the crit to retain his spot, while I was quickly gapped, dropped, and pulled.
Since this was not the most successful of my GMSR campaigns, I thought David's perspective would be more fun to read than my own:
Thanks Dave, I'm sorry I wasn't there to do more work for you in the crit. I'd also offer a quick shout-out to Wayne Bray, of Syracuse Bicycle/Spokepost.com, who marked a late-race move by stage 2 winner Steven Black during Sunday's road race, to finish second on the stage, and on GC.
I raced Wayne earlier this year at the Tour de Syracuse, and he beat me then too, but he's proving to be adapting to the cat 2 peloton much more quickly than me. Congrats Wayne!
Sunday, September 06, 2009
The queen stage of the green mountain stage race is the stage 3 Mad River Road Race. The 75-mile, single-loop route sends racers twice over the Green Mountains, once via the Brandon Gap, then up to the finish on top of the Appalachian Gap, which is the highest four-season highway in Vermont.
There is a sprint point about halfway toward the Brandon Gap, and then KOM points at a few places. Since Kevin had scored some sprint points the day before, we thought we'd try to get him points at the hot spot, and then see how things shook out during the rest of the race.
Unfortunately, we started toward the back of the field, and by the time we'd made our way to the front, a break had already rolled. I thought it was only two guys, though it later turned out to be more like five or six. Still thinking we should go for the points, I went to the front and did everything I could to keep the pace high, with an eye toward bringing the move back.
The thing is, both previous times I've raced GMSR, an early break rolls to get the sprint points, then comes back before the first major climb. Everyone else obviously knew this too, so there wasn't much motivation to chase, leaving me with little help up front.
I wasn't successful, and we rolled through the hot spot with all the points up the road.
The Brandon Gap isn't the hardest climb in the world, and the peloton made it over almost completely intact. With the break still clear, the chase ramped up on the western side of the green mountains for a little while, but we never gained much traction. The word I got, form riders dropped from the pro/1 race, who were drifting through our field, was that two riders attacked the break, leaving two leaders and a group of four stragglers with a narrow lead over the peloton.
The race got interesting on the brief dirt section on Lower Notch Road, with some riders seemingly not used to riding dirt. Mix in the peloton that decided to use the whole rode and opposing traffic, and you've got a fairly crappy situation. Most of us survived, and we race on toward Baby Gap. As we went up, we started picking up some remnants from the break, who started coming back through the field.
Like a fool, I had started the climb toward the back. Although I'm not climbing well, per se, these days, I'd like to think that I could have made it over the Baby Gap with the field, were it not for a couple riders letting a gap open, which I was unable to close. Oops.
So, I was detached from the peloton about half way up the Baby Gap, and rode to the base of the App Gap proper with Steve Roszko, of BikeReg/Cannondale. He went up the climb faster than me, but we both made it, even managing to pass one or two people along the way.
It was a far cry from my experience in 2008, when I got into a late-race move that put time into the peloton on Baby Gap, and saw only a handful caught by the fastest buys in the peloton. That phrase -- "what a difference a year makes" -- it goes in reverse too, apparently. Oh well.
I'm not sure exactly how the end-game played out on the climb, but David and Kevin worked well together, getting David into good position at the base of the climb, where we has able to cruise to an 11th place finish -- a very solid result, I'd say. His performance bounced him 30-odd spots up on GC to 10th, going into the stage four crit tomorrow. Not a bad day in the office, I'd say.
So, even if I've mostly been a non-factor at GMSR this year, I'm happy to take pride in David's result today, and who knows, maybe we can even bounce him up another spot or two on GC tomorrow.
Saturday, September 05, 2009
We are now halfway through the Green Mountain Stage Race, which as always, is proving to be a bit of a challenge.
My time trial on Friday was decidedly craptastic, and saw me finish 65th out of 77 racers. I guess it could have been a little worse -- but not much. We won't talk about my time, except to say that I finished about 45 second slower than my 2008, cat 3 time. On the flip side, everyone who raced the tt in the afternoon went significantly slower than in 2008, thanks to a headwind that stiffened throughout the day.
Still, I went into the tt with the express goal of improving on my 2008 time. I thought I was going faster this year, apparently not. I did take a little solace in the fact that nobody passed me during the tt, as opposed to last year, when everyone and their uncle passed me -- to say nothing of my equally-disastrous time trial at Fitchburg, back in July.
So, that was great.
Earlier today was the "circuit" race. I put "circuit" in quotation marks because if this were any other stage race, the 14-mile course would be considered a road race, but whatever.
After going on hiatus in 2008, the circuit race returned to it's traditional course, which features one KOM climb, which is not the easiest thing in the world, but pales in comparison to the more serious climbs on Sunday. The finish is a downhill sprint with a long run in on wide roads.
With our whole team in the bottom half of the GC, we knew our only option was to ride aggressive and hope to get into the right move. It was windy today, with a headwind somehow blowing from the north and the south, at various parts of the course, meaning there was no respite.
We started out fast, and a break of about six went immediately. They dangled just in sight for a long time, like for nearly 2 out of 3 and 3/4 laps. At one point, the break got a minute and the SRAM car went up to give them support, but it was short lived. I made a few attempts to bridge, as did Dave, none were successful.
This was especially a bummer for me, as I was thinking I was going to try my hand at taking KOM points, as I did last year, finishing third in the competition. But with the break up the road, all the points went with it. I don't think I had enough of a kick to take the points anyway, so whatever.
When the break came back there was another flurry of attacks, and Kevin managed to spring himself with a CCNS rider. I saw them move clear, and went to the front to try and ride a little defense. I'm not sure how much good I did, but the move motored right along with Kevin scooping up second-place points at both the KOM and Sprint hot spot.
A group of four riders snuck out from the group and bridged up to Kevin, and despite a valiant effort, he got popped from the leaders with about 5k left in the race. One rider went clear to take the win by 36 seconds. The rest of the break stuck, with a 6-second lead over the field. Team Anthem all finished in the field, with me leading the charge in 44th place, David and Kevin close behind.
So, tomorrow we go into stage three with diminishing opportunities. Perhaps I will find my long-missing climbing legs on the slopes of the Appalachian Gap? Stay tuned...
In related news, I'm crashing with friend Emma Bast in Hinesburg, VT. She and her family have been most gracious hosts to me and a veritable peloton of other racers staying here. Thank you so much, you've all made this race possible for me this year!
In a procedural matter, I've extended my vacation by one day (thank you Betsy & Barb), which means that regular posts on this blog will resume on Wednesday, Sept. 9) instead of Tuesday the 8th, as originally planed. But, I do plan to continue to post updates from GMSR for the remainder of the weekend. Thanks for reading!