Friday, December 9, 2011

2012 & and an invitation.

To race or not to race?

After massive (well, for me anyway) build-ups in 2010 and 2011 in preparation for the Tour of the Battenkill, I am likely out for 2012.  Why?  Well, there are a few reasons but mainly it's this guy right here:

He's not usually this snoozy, and we like it that way.  It's not that he is literally keeping me from racing, it's the larger picture of what kind of time proper training requires in the scope of my shifting priorities.  In fact, I'm sure Fischer would be nothing but supportive of daddy's amateur racing pursuits - as long as he gets his bottle and a bedtime story.

This doesn't mean I won't be in the Battenkill valley in April 2012.  There is a chance that we'll be there supporting others and/or volunteering for Dieter & Co.  He and his folks do a wonderful job with a huge race and I think it'd be fun to be part of it from the supporting-role perspective. 

Until we decide on that - I invite others who are in pursuit of Battenkill glory to send me their links, their stories, their blog links.  I'll post 'em up and keep this going as a place where Battenkillers can share tell their tales and read the stories of others. 

Who'll be first?  Send your ideas to

p.s.  In the meantime, fellow Battenkill alumn Barry and I are putting on some very interesting races here in NC.  Check out our little project:  Autodrop Ltd.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


Now that my bike rides are a little less frequent, I really need to make each one count. I checked off a box on that grand list of 'rides you should do' by joining Barry and his brother in Pisgah National Forest on Saturday. The plan, dating back a few weeks, was for me to roll up Saturday morning and hit Avery Creek, Cove Creek, and Daniel Ridge with said Brothers Stevenson. Well, when Barry goes to Pisgah, his usually technophobic self goes into full caveman mode so altering or even refining plans was dicey. All that is said with a smile, as he did try to call me during a 'trip into town' on Friday night.

Fast-forward to Saturday and after oversleeping by about an hour (we have a six week old, remember?) I got moving. Barry's ever-kind wife Lisa intercepted my Facebook message to him about my travel plans, and swiftly forwarded directions to his planned campsite. Note to Barry: this is possible with a cell phone manufactured at some point after the Bronze Age.

Sweeping into Pisgah just this side of Brevard, I missed Barry and Co. by exactly the amount of time I'd overslept. That wasn't confirmed until I spoke to Barry later (see below), but I did make a thorough search of the area by wandering through several folks' campsites looking for my crew. Luckily, most campers were dressed and getting on with their morning coffee. I decided to head out on my own and get some miles in. My fears about being completely remote (in case of a crash) were unfounded, as several hikers and other riders were out and about. Nonetheless, I started slowly.

...and really there is no other way, if you decide to tackle Daniel Ridge in the clockwise direction. The smooth gravel track slowly disintegrated into a boulder/root section that goes uphill by what might be a tributary of the Davidson River (?). Within 100 ft of making the hard right uphill turn at the collapsed stone bridge, I had the distinct feeling that I was riding in a direction opposite of the original builder's intent. Upon later reflection, I think I was just being a wuss. I passed several other riders who were clearly having a blast bombing the downhill. I was having a slightly different kind of fun in my little world of hike-a-bike, but I did manage to ride several sections before reaching the top. Here, I faced a decision: go left to Farlow Gap or keep right and finish Daniel Ridge. I heard Barry's voice in the back of my head, and something in there reminded me that Farlow Gap is super technical. Being alone and not really excited about the prospect of splinting a smashed collar bone with melted gummy bears and a wheel spoke if something went south helped me make my decision...

So Daniel Ridge it was. Once along the ridgetop, all the misery of getting up there faded away and I was revived. Shouting "yo bear!" around blind corners and through mountain laurel tunnels, I dropped 500 feet or so in no time. There is such a mix of environments on this little loop: a rocky ridge, lush hardwoods, small open fields and soupy low spots with log bridges...I never knew what might be around the next corner, which was frightening and wonderful. I finished the first loop in just about an hour, so I rolled up Government Rd. (475) for a bit then decided I had time to redo Daniel Ridge in the opposite direction.

Scorching down 475 to the parking lot, I retraced my steps and made my way up Daniel Ridge in a counter-clockwise direction. I hit it a little harder this time, thinking it'd be nice to actually feel a little sore later. I got my wish on the downhill back to the parking lot as a rock the size of a softball, kicked up by my sliding tires, careened off my left shin. It was one of those moments where at first it wasn't so bad, then rapidly got worse to the point of thinking "did I just do some serious damage?" Thankfully no, and it's really not a mtn bike ride without a wound of some kind, right? Still hurts, for the record.

Once at the parking lot again, I was just about to pack up when I saw a familiar sight: the blacked-out CLM kit coming up the road. Barry was with his brother Brad and friend Billy. I had a pretty tight schedule at this point, but we decided to hit the Ridge one more time, and on the double. Funny how much faster you go when riding with someone else, and how much more intent I was on clearing sections that I would've walked earlier in the day...

Beer and gummy bears consumed, I made tracks for home. Pisgah really is special; just driving past the old CCC stone structures gives you a sense of the importance of this place. I felt a bit small piloting my mtn bike across a corner of Pisgah's domain, and that's the way it should be.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


A new dimension has opened in my life. Fischer Keaton Grant was born on Sunday night. He's a vigorous, blue-eyed baby ready to take on the world. Even through the fog of days and nights that blend into one soupy permanent mid-morning at midnight, I can feel the life change taking over. It's going to be some time before I fully know the reaches of Fischer. He's already opening doors that I never knew were there, much less that they needed a 7lb 3oz key.

I am slowly and rapidly unlocking, all at once.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A race of a different kind.

So, with inspiration from the Tour of the Battenkill, our love of off-kilter events, and the desire to put on a race with a twist...

The 2011 Autodrop Invitational

I know you probably have questions, so hit the link and read up.  We'd love to see you in NC in October.

Friday, July 1, 2011


Just a quick post to say that adventure is soon to arrive. 

Baby Grant #1 should be here in just a few weeks, and if that weren't exciting enough...

The Battenkill Bros. (aka Barry and I) are putting together a very unique race involving bicycles, maps, rally points, and bonus points.  Try to keep late Sept or early Oct open on your calendars. 

Heads up people, life is coming at us.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Roots, Rock, & Roulette.

So, it's been nearly a month since the last update.  Here's a two-for.  On Monday, Barry, Mitch and I hit up Pisgah for some seriously aggro riding.  I don't think I've been so close to death on such frequent occasions since my last Dixie crit.  Kidding.  After the 13 mile climb to Pinnacle, we bombed down sections of boulders, roots, slim-rhododendron-lined singletrack and some wicked switchbacks.  Good times.  Here are a few more shots.

Once back to Winston, it was rush-rush to get some work stuff done before hopping a plane to the annual American Academy of Physician Assistants national conference. This year, the venue is Sin City.  So far, the only trouble I've gotten into is a frosty beverage by the pool at the Hilton.

I'll get back to town on Saturday just in time for dinner.  Here's to hoping the jet stream provides a helpful tailwind back to NC. 

Next ride is probably the MNRR, put on weekly by the City Loop Mafia, but as for racing...nothing on the books at the moment.  Hmmm...

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mule Hell - Roubaix.

Mule Hell - Roubaix is a 48-ish mile Gran Fondo-style ride to benefit the Family Resource Center, a shelter for abused women and children.  The route begins and ends in Wytheville, VA, following a few ridgelines, a few creeks, and a few choice gravel / dirt roads.  There were also a few choice words uttered when tires began to blow on the first gravel section, but since this is a family site, we'll get on to the ride report...

Weather was purrrfect.  Upper 50's to mid-60's and not a cloud in the sky.  With 40-50 of us lining up, it was sure to be an interesting ride.  I noticed quite a few SWVAC kits around.  These guys, the Southwest Virginia Cyclists, put on this ride and at least three others as fundraisers.  The others have cool names like Big Walker Century and Bikes and Barbeque.  Sounds like some stuff worth getting out of bed for.  Anyway, I was greeted by Lee, the event organizer.  He seemed to think that since I was fresh back from the Battenkill, I'd be in fine shape for his ride.  I decided not to tell him I've been pretty lazy since early April...

The ride started and immediately, I mean IMMEDIATELY this one guy in a Subaru kit (not the cycling team kit, as far as I could tell) slides off the front.  He was nearly out of sight after a few miles of straight, rolling highway riding, but slowly and surely he started getting larger in our view.  Not sure what his plan was, but the breakaway lasted about 8 miles and by mile 10 he was off the back.  Fun times.

I took my first pull (see the pic above) just as we passed Photographer Jill.  I tried to hold a good pace up and over a few rollers, and did thin the field just a bit.  The first gravel section came up around mile 20, and as soon as we hit it two guys blew out, then another just before we got back to the pavement.  I ended up on the front with Lee at the end of the gravel climb, which was nice as I wasn't sure exactly how hard this ride might be.

Now down to a group of about 16, we rolled up and over several more hills, cruised (pretty quickly) along nice creekside country roads, and approached gravel section #2.  This sections wasn't as hard, and the group pretty much stayed together.  A semi-truce was called until the last dirt section, at which point I found myself on the front.

I tapped into a little left-over Battenkill frustration and picked up the pace on this section just a bit.  Most of the SWVAC guys had no problems hanging on but the Hokie you see here was a casualty. 

On to the last set of steep climbs, both of which required a granny gear and nearly some paper-boy action.  We crested more or less together as a group of 5-6 and made turns for home.  It was with about 1 mile to go that I realized we were closing in on the finish, and with the spirit of camraderie and fun that had been such a part of our group, sprinting for the win was really more for kicks than any result. Plus, the only prizes were door prizes, so it made the end that much less stressful for all.  I followed wheels and rolled in 3rd, happy to line up for BBQ and some slaw.

Big kudos to the SWVAC folks and Lee for putting on a cool event.  I really think this ride should be bigger and draw a huge crowd.  The route is perfect for a fondo-style ride but could get hard to manage with categorized racing.  Nevertheless, mark your calendars for next year's event and join me there.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Down and Dirty.

I don't think it's a rash decision to go ahead and declare that this summer will be the Summer of Dirt.  What does this mean?  It doesn't mean that I plan to go sans a shower June - Sept, nor does it require that I employ my own personal dustcloud a la Pigpen.  It does mean that I'm going to get back to my roots in mountain biking, or at the very least some significant dirt on the road tires.  Pretty simple.  Battenkill was a good first step...

We'll start on May 7 with a little ride called Mule Hell-Roubaix in southern Virginia.  Then, on Memorial Day weekend, I'll hit up the Wilkes County singletrack with a co-ed team for the BURN 24.  That's gonna hurt.  Lots.  After that, it's time to plan some epic (did I just use that term?) rides in Pisgah, Boone, and the Brushies.

Why dirt?  Why now?  Well, my road fitness has brought me to a place where mountain biking is actually fun and less difficult than it was before.  Not to say I'm fast on the dirt, but the legs are less of a problem compared to the technical skills and upper body strength I need to work on.  In a way, it's a new (old) challenge that keeps me in shape, less frequently on major roadways, and in the company of the homies I like to ride with - they are already way ahead of me and enjoying the dirt scene.  I'll probably still shave my legs. 

I'm heading to Virginia this weekend for a little Easter R&R with the in-laws, but will hopefully get a ride in.  The original plan was for a 50+ mile spin from the homestead to Williamsburg, VA, but I think rain will keep us from doing that...unless I can convince the fatha-in-law to don a rain jacket and make it a REALLY epic (there's that word again) ride...

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Farewell to Arms.

Battenkill done and the seduction now fading, I returned to riding just for the sake of riding today.  I had to, actually, as the new City Loop Mafia kits had arrived in the mail.  It is well known that you can't leave a new kit sitting around for too long, lest it spoil. 

Mitch and I rolled out of Winston around noon.  It was surprisingly chilly, but by the county line we were plenty warm.  We took a direct route to Pilot, catching up and spinning the hills.  On the slopes of Jomeokee, we caught a small group of cyclists, offered greetings, and kept going.  Mitch adhered to his ritualistic duties and enjoyed a Mellow Yellow at the top (the Mt. Dew machine was busted).

We pushed a little harder coming home but we were never really in a hurry.  This was a perfect ride to follow the frenetic Battenkill. 

Next up?  Mulehell-Roubaix and then the BURN 24.  Gonna be a fun spring!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Race Report, plus some other stuff: 2011 Tour of the Battenkill

The summary (my brain is working in recovery mode right now):

64 mile bicycle race in upstate NY.
Roughly 14 miles of the course are dirt / packed gravel roads.
Countless rollers and some gnarly steep dirt climbs (18% max).
123 riders in our field (Cat 4 Grey).
89 finishers (me included, 44th place).
I got a sunburn.

The details are too many to recount.  How does one go about recapping 3.5 months of training, a mammoth road trip, great friendship and a race that asks everything?  I'll start with THE TRIP and then go to THE RACE. 


Coach, Barry, Fausto and I set out for NY on Friday morning.  Who is Fausto?  Our friend Kristin offered this guy up as we started our winter training, so we had to bring him along:

We probably said "I can't believe it's actually here" 200 times between Winston-Salem and the NC/VA line.   We dropped Coach off at Union Station in D.C., as she was to catch a train to NYC and visit her sis before coming up to Cambridge.  Navigation was a problem for me (for the entire trip, actually) and we ended up way too close to Philly and finally on a secondary road through Princeton, NJ.  Lovely town, but by this time we'd been on the road for 8 hours and the fatigue was setting in.  Add the rain, stoplights every 30 yards on the very bumpy Hwy 206, plus Friday afternoon traffic, and you get two previously giddy cyclists sitting in silence for the better part of an hour.

Fortunately, we broke free of the gloom as we entered the Empire State.  The skies cleared, and with Interstate 87 as our new best friend, we had the pedal down and our eyes focused.  We arrived in the Battenkill Valley around sundown, and thanks to far too many hours on the road, more than a healthy amount of Coca-Cola, and DJ Eric D on 95.1FM, we rolled down the windows and blasted some cow-frightening techno 'till our ears bled.  The beats were really so fresh that when we finally lost 95.1 in the hills around Cambridge, a momentary sadness again loomed over us.

We were revived upon finding our accommodations:  Gallery 668 is located right on the race course, roughly 6 miles out of Cambridge.  Our place was literally a remodeled 18th century barn.  Susan B. Anthony lived in the house next door.  Yep, that's right. 

We also met up with some cool folks from PA and Connecticut...and maybe Delaware?  These guys drank beer all day before the race and still laid down some good results.  If we all end up staying here again next year, I think we'll book an extra night and enjoy a few frosty beverages. 

We rolled to Saratoga Springs to pick up the girls, who were arriving via rail from NYC.  We took in a quick lunch then set out on a recon mission.  The goals:  check the new section of dirt (Carney-Cassidy) 'cuz word on the street (read:  we ran into our old buddy Andrew at a stoplight in Saratoga) hinted at a recent re-grading, then ride the first 12 or so miles to recall the opening sections.  After that, it really is less critical to 'know' the course in acute detail because these things become less a factor than the attrition the course dishes out.  More on that later...

Barry flatted while pre-riding Carney-Cassidy, so naturally we were relieved to get that out of our systems before race day (is that how that works?).  We rolled into Cambridge to check in and grab our race numbers, then hit the opening 12 miles.  The classic covered bridge, the rush onto Roberson Rd. and the anticipation of Juniper Swamp.  Those opening miles are perfect in pressurizing a twitchy peloton, where the meek dangle off the back, the wanna be racers make sketchy moves, and the hard men get to the front and stay there.  The mark that signals the real start of the race:

And the sections on Carney-Cassidy were fantastic.  Hard on the uphill and scary on the downhill.  The way it oughta be.

Pre-riding done, we met up with the girls and hit the Jonesville Store for dinner.  We discovered the little place last year and fell in love with the antique-general-store vibe mixed with a contemporary menu.   Even better, live music was in the house in the form of the Rebecca Angel Trio.  Good times.

Our friends Stephen and Frank arrived later, so naturally we sat around and talked bike racing for about 5 hours straight.  We all pretty much agreed to try and win our respective races, little did we know that one of us actually would...


We were set for a 10:20 am start.  Stephen had already taken off for his Cat 3 race start.  On the morning of a race, my mind feels very small (no jokes please).  I can't think big picture, I don't know where my keys are, and questions aimed at me may or may not take hold at all.  Frank was so worked up he drove to the race with his bike helmet on.

We were not too stressed about arriving very early, as none of us typically do a big warm-up.  I literally soft pedaled for about 5 minutes, dropping my chain 3 times (don't ask) before we lined up.  Due to some inconsistent info from the volunteers staging racers, we ended up pretty close to the back of our Cat 4 Grey group.  Frank noodled his way up effectively, but Barry and I stayed put. 

"Riders, 1 minute."

Off we go.  The 1K neutral start was uneventful, as riders stayed cool.  We had a tailwind and were cruising out 313 with legs getting warm.  At mile 2, a guy to my right flats.  Sheesh, that sucks.  Just before the turn at Eagleville, I happened to look back and realized we were literally at the back of the group.  Ok, perhaps I was a little too relaxed and needed to pay attention.  I decided to slide up the right side of the group as guys were braking for the left-hand turn to the covered bridge.  I think I made up about 30 spots there and a few more accelerating toward the bridge.  Through safely, it was now time to think about the first dirt section.  Let's revisit my comments about this section from last year's write-up...

"Now, things got interesting for me. Within seconds of hanging a right onto the first dirt section (Roberson Rd.), I hit 3 or 4 potholes and lost BOTH of my nearly full bottles. Crap. I feared the sweet, lightweight carbon cages would not stand up to the bumps, but that was just insane. I was now without liquid and no way to get it until the 2nd feed zone at mile 41. By the way, did I mention this happened in the 7th mile? I'm not to too good with fancy math, but that seemed like a long time to go without fluid in a race. Egads. "

I planned to avoid this by grabbing some super cheap aluminum cages and cranking them down.  The dark side?  Too much cranking and you can't get your bottle out without crashing!  No sweat, the dirt was silky smooth and the group was tame this year. 

At Perry Hill the group started to stretch out, and I was deep into the dreaded Zone 5 by the top.  Coming over, I had a feeling that the legs were not 100%.  However, I disregarded that feeling and kept working to stay close to the front without doing too much work. 

Arriving at the base of Juniper Swamp, I was probably in about 40th position and comfortable.  I saw Barry on the run-up to the hill, off to my right.  Frank was sitting in the top 10.  This year felt a bit faster, and I crested the hill to the sounds of other riders exhaling deeply under hunched shoulders.  Gotta go straight to the big ring though, because the group can stretch out on the descent.  Coach caught a shot of us descending on 64...

The real action was coming up on Joe Bean and Carney-Cassidy Rds.  Over Joe Bean, I briefly lost contact but easily got back on with a few other riders.  Looking back and in talking to Barry later, it sounds like less than half of the field was still together at this point.  On Carney-Cassidy, the boys up front really hammered it.  Inexplicably, I ran into a wall of cramps in my quads.  Not just a twinge, but a full on pedaling-squares moment.  What the heck?  I haven't had cramping problems in quite a while, but there you go.  Once the gap opened up on the first section of Carney-Cassidy, it was over.  I chased hard on the downhill sections but even as the cramps faded, it was too little too late. 

Those moments give pause in the mind of the racer.  I scrutinized my nutrition over the past 5 days.  I considered the recon ride the day before.  I wondered about those little digs getting back on after Juniper Swamp and Joe Bean...

Now in the hinterlands, it was time to focus on getting to the feedzone to grab a new bottle of Gatorade.  Unfortunately, the girls were snarled by traffic and just missed me riding up the hill.  I actually doubled-back briefly to see if I'd missed them, but seeing no friendly faces I started batting my eyelashes and asking for a bottle from ANYONE as mine were completely empty.  I scored a bottle of water and started chomping shot blocks.

Miles 42-56 are a bit of a blur.  I was alone 90% of the time, passing lots of guys blown off the back of the Cat 4 Pink field.  I picked off a few Greys and generally had trouble finding anyone to work with me as we were all going different paces.  It was carnage out there:  guys on the side of the road changing tires, broken men stretching or hunched over their bikes.  At this point, every mile revealed a guy off his bike or someone nearly going backwards, mumbling "my legs...Joe Bean...that new section...I got nothing."

On Stage Rd, I could taste the finish.  Even better, I was caught by a small pack of Cat 4 Greys who'd latched on to some chasing Pinks.  All Cat 4's, we considered this a good opportunity to work together.  Rolling inside the last 10K, a Grey made a move and tried to roll off the front of our little grupetto.  No dice.  He dangled for a minute and then latched back on to our wheels.  I tried to organize some rotation, but guys were skipping pulls left and right.  With 2k to go, I got on the front and put some work into it, hoping to break loose some of the guys hanging on.  I looked back to see my friend, the previously escaping Grey, on my wheel and unwilling to come around and help.  The other guys were temporarily displaced, but were now closing in...

By the way:
1.  Barry and I had scouted the finish and knew two things:  It was two 90 degree right turns in close succession, and the pavement was crap.
2.  I also knew I was setting up a sprint for somewhere around 50th place, but hey, it seemed like fun.

Even though I could only stand for a moment due to cramps, I was able to hold of the hombre to my right and win our little bunch sprint. 

Barry came in shortly after, unscathed.  Afterwards, we caught up with Frank, who finished 8th after working hard with the group that broke away on Carney-Cassidy.  We also learned that Stephen won his Cat 3 race after breaking away solo at mile 7.  He won by 4 minutes.  Studly.

I was happy to simply sit and hold my legs still...

Barry was one salty dog.

In reflection, I can say a few things about this year's event, my placing notwithstanding (I was 44th out of 89 finishers in my field):  I didn't quit, I didn't crash or crash anyone else and I won a sprint out of pack for the first time in my life.  Does it matter that half of the dude in my grupetto were dropped from a race that started 10 minutes before mine?  Nah.

Big thanks to Dieter and the TOB folks for putting on a crazy, spectacular and super hard race. Barry deserves a huge thanks, too, for training with me and coming along for the adventure.  Unmeasureable gratitude is owed to my wife (Coach) and her sis for coming along, being supportive and taking most of the cool pics I posted here.   Oh, we also have to give a massive shout to Kristin and Fausto, our adoring fans.

Will we do this in 2012?  Could I finally overcome the cramps of this year and the mechanicals of last year in a perfect storm 12 months from now? 

Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Vote! Vote! Vote!

Feel like your voice is never heard?  Well, I'm an equal-opportunity listener.  Over on the right, check the poll that begs for your input.  Which portion of the 2011 Tour of the Battenkill course is the hardest?  Is it Juniper Swamp in the middle of bunch grind to the top, like salmon going upstream...or is it that intimidating view from the crest of Meeting House...or maybe another portion that strikes fear into your pedals?

Have your say!  I have it on good authority that Dieter checks this page from time to time, so let's give him something to chew on. 

10 days to go!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Two weeks and counting...

Fourteen days from now, I'll be in an automobile (hopefully) and on my way back from the 2011 Tour of the Battenkill.  I wonder what the conversation will be like with my teammate Barry?  A few possibilities:

"Sheez Louise that was really fun...can't believe we made it all the way to Meeting House before getting dropped.  I bet I coulda held on for the sprint if I hadn't lost both bottles on Robeson...."

"Where am I?  Did I finish?  Who are you?"

"That (insert your team name here) team had eight guys in our field and not one of 'em did a lick of work.  They just sat on the WHOLE time."

"Anyone seen my legs?  I just had them right here..."

"Barry, what was it like to win the race?!?!"

"I knew we shoulda done a few more long rides.  I just knew it."

"I figured 5 spare tubes would be enough..."

"I swear that pothole was NOT THERE when we pre-rode on Saturday.  I saw four guys go right into it and completely disappear!"

"My embro is still causing small fires to break out on my legs."

"That was totally worth it."

I vote for that last statement, actually.  I would love to win, and so would Barry, but we're realists.  No matter the outcome, I think we're both aiming for a surreal experience that brings us as close to hard core, European classic racing as we amateurs are likely to get in our lifetimes. 

The training is nearly done.  The miles have been logged.  The winter nights yielded just about all that we could ask of them.   Now with three hard rides left before the official taper begins, the mood is switching to excitement mixed with a little bit of apprehension. 

I'll lay down a few more blogs before we go, and hopefully one from Greenwich the day before the race.

Stay tuned fans...

Friday, March 25, 2011

Simulation Saturday.

65 miles.  Gravel.  Hills.  Rain.  Cold. 

It's just about time...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Thursday Night Group Ride.

Well, it's that time of year.  The days are getting just long enough for groups of rabid, pale, twitchy cyclists to get in a few miles after work without donning a torch and Gore-Tex.  Hence, the Tuesday / Thursday Lewisville rides are back.

Barry, Mitch and I met up with plans to do the A (fast) ride.  Duane showed up which improved the style quotient of the group considerably.  There had to be 50 people altogether riding out there tonight.  The chaos started right away as groups were separated by cars on the way out of town.  Rolling across the Yadkin River, things began to sort out, and by the time we got into Yadkin County proper, we were clipping along in a nice rotating paceline. 

A group of us (9, maybe?) started putting in some hard pulls at the front and eventually separated ourselves from most of the peloton.  The nice part about this is that four CLMers were in said group and digging deep.  It was a beautiful sight, especially because we've done a pretty poor job of riding together over the winter.  I can't wait for late spring.

I was feeling that skipped breakfast by mile 20, and was dangling off the back by the time we were about 7 miles from home.  Barry was looking strong, but interestingly we both struggled at similar points during the ride -- talk about fitness symmetry.  Makes sense, given our very similar training regimens.  Our group had been reduced to seven by the time we returned to Lewisville, and after a somewhat anti-climactic sprint, we limped in.  At least I did.

We averaged around 22.5mph and although I didn't have my HR strap on and I can guess I averaged in the upper 160s.  Good stuff for March.

This weekend brings a serious ride in the NC mountains with a CLMer or two, then our big Battenkill simulation next weekend.  It's getting close now...

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Getting one under the belt.

The Greenville Spring Training Series comprises three back-to-back weekends of racing near Greenville, SC.  The series is put on by Hincapie Sports, and well, you know who that is.

Today was race #1 in the series, held at the Donaldson Center.  This is basically a small airport / industrial park with a 7-mile perimeter road that suits itself for a calm road race.  The terrain is essentially flat, apart from a few rollers on the back side and one semi-lengthy drag at about the 5 mile mark.  Today's weather was P-E-R-F-E-C-T apart from a headwind coming into the finish.  70-some degrees in February.  And I have a sunburn.

The race itself was anti-climactic.  That's just the best way to describe it.  Don't get me wrong, the race started on time, the officials were professional, and the fans were loud (for a Cat 4 race).  With the yellow-line rule in effect and 60+ guys on a relatively flat course, it came off like a fast group ride. 

I had a few flashbacks to my race here a few years ago as a Cat 5.  With guys running 3-4 wide and not working together, we surged to and fro endlessly.  I actually managed to get off the front on the first lap, simply by riding at 18mph.  That's how slowly we were going at times.  By the way, that little flyer came right back as not a soul went with me. 

Fast-forward to the real action of the day.  Big George Hincapie himself was there and racing in the PRO 1,2 field.  The PROs started just ahead of us, so essentially we had a 7 mile head start and 35 miles to finish before they lapped us.  Well, we all knew that Mr. Hincapie would smash it from the gun and we were dead ducks. 

On lap 3 of 5, the inevitable happened:  The motorcycle ref neutralized us as an escape group of 5-7 PROs went by with Big G leading the way.  Smoothness in action and actually nose-breathing.  One of the coolest moments on a bike for me.  Ever. 

It was all downhill from there.  Just as we got going again, the PRO peloton caught us and we were again neutralized.  Astonishingly, they passed us and then just sat there.  There was a 10 yard gap between the PROs and us for few miles.  One guy shouted, "neutralize the PROs!"  Right.

At this point, we had fewer than two laps to go and were running out of time for anything exciting to happen.  A group of 5-6 slipped off the front in vain, as the peloton gave a good chase.  Closing that down was the last real excitement of the day.  Barry and I were pinned in about 3/4 of the way back and essentially stuck without breaking some rules or taking some chances.  We elected to play it cool.

Rolling into the finish, our haphazard group got moving but it really felt like a surge more than a sprint.  That ol' headwind tamed things on the finishing straight, I believe.  I landed in 40th place.

On the inside, I'm wondering if I copped out by not trying harder to maintain position and mix it up in this race.  All along, I set it up in my mind as a training race designed to reacclimate my body (and mind) to racing.  Well, we did that but 40th place just never feels good.  Here's some data:

Distance:  35 miles
Avg HR:  160
Max HR:  180
Avg speed:  23.2mph

Those numbers just don't seem to represent a very hard race.  Look at that Avg HR...for a race this short I really expected a harder ride. I felt pretty good, with no cramping, never really being in a difficult spot.  I agree with Barry, that today reminded us as to the importance of positioning in a race and knowing the character of the race course.  The Battenkill route provides plenty of natural selectivity, something the Donaldson course does not. 

I think I know what it is:  Today's race was a really long criterium.  That's the ticket.

Next up:  Some training and then River Falls RR in two weeks, the last weekend of the series.  Now that course has some action on it:  A steep 1k long climb at the end of each 6 mile lap.  I think even Big George would like that.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Side project.

When I sold my mountain bike in 2007, I knew it wasn't the end of that side of my cycling life but merely a long pause.  I knew I'd once again sweep down a dense eastern forest slope in humidity thicker than Duke's mayonnaise.  Though the reason for selling the old Trek hardtail was beyond noble (I needed to buy a certain special lady a very shiny piece of jewelry), I had faith that it wasn't the last I'd see of the knobby-treaded world.

Fast-forward to 2011.  Coach and I are expecting our first child, and as we prepare for (and look forward to) a massive shift in priorities we are also taking time to enjoy our last months as a couple without children.  Clearly, planning for and getting to the Tour of the Battenkill is important to us, as is taking time for walks, visiting family and friends, and sleeping in.

It was also important for us to do a few things for ourselves that we might not be able to do for quite a while.  This was on the advice of nearly all of our friends with kids.  When it came time for me to consider what 'thing' I might like prior to the real present we're both hoping to receive later this year, it was a no-brainer. 

A mountain bike.

Though I am a tried and true roadie now, my roots are in mountain biking.  Thanks to a high school friend who worked at a local bike shop, I got my first real adult-style mountain bike before heading off to college.  A Giant ATX 860.  It had a crummy RST suspension fork (which I thought was the COOLEST thing ever) and though it was aluminum, it probably weighed 30 pounds.  I took it off to college at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC, and the rest was history.  My friends and I, all haphazard mountian bikers, had countless death-defying moments in the hills above Boone.  More than once we returned to the dorms with scrapes and cuts, plus smashed equipment and muddy faces.  The guys at Magic Cycles loved to see us coming, as they knew we'd probably broken something and would be spending some green in their shop.  I raced at Tsali in an event called the Knobscorcher, landing 3rd place in the First-Timer category! I kept that t-shirt for 10 years.

After transferring to UNC-Chapel Hill, my Giant was stolen.  Yep, nabbed from the bike rack in front of the dorm.  I was able to pull together enough scratch to get a new hardtail, a Trek 9700 that would be my only bike until 2004 when I bought my first road-worthy machine.  The 9700 was fantastic:  light, stiff, noisy (a chain slapping a carbon chainstay is not subtle in the woods) and bright blue.  I eventually upgraded nearly every component.  Actually, I can say that no component was left untouched over its lifespan, except for the seatpost. 

Some guy in Chicago won the auction on eBay, and I think I got about half of what I paid for it in 1997, not accounting for the mucho dinero in upgrades over the years.  So when it was time to get back to the dirt, I landed on a Trek again - a 26" wheel aluminum hardtail.  It may seem retro in these days of 29ers and full-suspension, but in a way, I wanted to go back again instead of going forward.  Does that make sense?

With the road season looming over me now (first road race this weekend in SC), I am already looking forward to the change of pace that mountain biking can bring.  With a little one on the way as well, I do feel some drive to stay a little farther away from passing cars.  It is true that I've had more frightening moments on mountain bikes than road bikes, but nevermind that...

All eyes are on the Battenkill for now, but you just never know where this blog will go after that fateful April day.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Fast ride with my Battenkiller bud, Barry.  31 miles at 22.7mph across rolling western NC piedmont terrain.  Love it.  Perfect warm-up for the Spring Training Series in Greenville, SC this weekend.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Speed work.

I'm a skinny boy.  Built to climb hills and tuck in behind larger riders.  Given that predilection, that's what I've done.  Playing to one's strengths in a race is a no-brainer, but doing so in training is a big mistake for many riders.  It's so easy to do.

Take your average group ride.  Friendly start, lots of chatting.  First hill:  the skinny climber on a carbon Italianissimo moves to the front and glances back at his cohorts, looking for a challenge.  On the flat 5k to the county line, however, you'll find that same svelte kid tucked in and wheezing behind Bruce, the 6'2" 250 pounder on a steelie who's barely breaking a sweat.  Hyperbole?

We like what we like, and we often like things because we're decent at them, or someone told us we looked good doing it.  This year, my preparation is about not looking nice.  It's about doing those things that are slow, painful, and essentially necessary to cast a bright light on the hidden side of my fitness equation.

Tonight was big-ring-smashing along our beloved City Loop.  20 miles at 21mph.  I hit the targets but with some difficulty.  Flat land speed is not my forte'.  Put me on an incline and I could probably be heard to say "the steeper the better."  So, it's time to work on the flat land speed.  Breakaways require this.  Steady state power output at a speed faster than those behind you.

The stats:
Distance:   20.6 miles
Avg:          21.2 mph
Avg. HR:    159
Max HR:     182
Temp:       36 degrees

Next up:  A night ride at Salem Lake (off road) followed by a 40 mile speed work ride on Saturday.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Breaking the seal.

Tomorrow, Barry and I (plus maybe, just maybe Mark Hekman) are heading to Greensboro, NC for a strange duathlon called the Toilet Bowl.  With all of the rain we've had, I suspect we will look rather akin to things found in a sewage facility by the time we're done.  1.5mi run, 10 mi of singletrack, 1.5mi run.  The best part?  Prizes are awarded lottery-style at the end.  Who cares how fast you go?!

More updates after we get back.  Should be super fun and a great way to start the competitive side of our 2011 season.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Out with the old, Part II...

I've been a road cyclist for about 6 years now.  When I got my first road bike, a Trek 2200, I bought the cheapest cyclocomputer I could find:  A Cateye Mity 8.  Basically, this thing could tell you your speed, your average, and your distance, and that was it.  Truly, what more does a cyclist really need?

GPS and ANT+ wireless compatability.  That's what.

I bid adieu to the wonderful, tough, relentless wedge of Asian plastic below (still on the original battery, believe it or not):

12,730 miles of friendship

I welcome, with open arms, a new piece of technology that will surely distract, befuddle and dilute my cycling experience, turning it into a simple algorithm of coordinates and trajectories.

Ok, not really.  The nerd in me loves geography, data, and reflection.  Bring on the numbers!

The ANT+ compatability means that I could add a power meter at some point in the future, but that's not in the plans right now.  Truly, there are many aspects of my riding that I can improve that don't require the detail of watts.  

But it will be nice to know latitude and ambient temperature.

Here's a look:

A clean slate.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Out with the old...

Here lies my pair of Pearil Izumi Cyclone gloves.  I have loved them, and they have saved my digits on many a cold winter night ride.  As I'm fortunate to have received some new PI gloves for Christmas, these have to go.  Note the electrical tape on the first fingers...too much downshifting to easier gears, I'm afraid.