Sunday, December 25, 2011

Active in Aus

I'm getting some good shirtless time here in Australia over Christmas. It's been a few weeks since I last did a hard ride, but I really wanted to stretch the legs on Melbourne's renowned Beach Road. I headed out with a local racer and got my suffer on as we racked up 170 scenic bay-side kilometres.

The next day my decathlete brother took me to one of his track meets, where I had a really fun time with the welcoming Collingwood Harriers athletics club. First, Tim defied physics in a huge triple jump. Then I tried my hand at shotput, before the real reason for attending, the 5km. I started running a bit at the end of the cycling race season, but pulled my calf and spent time rehabbing under the knowledgeable guidance of Amanda at the Wellness Connection. Point being, I thought trying to get inside 20 minutes was a reasonable goal. So I was pretty stoked to run 18:08!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Newbie Rider

My first road bike:

I decided to get a road bike after I got my butt kicked in the cycling portion of a sprint triathlon and someone stole my mountain bike.  However, not knowing how to ride with fancy pedals and clips, the bike sat lonely in the basement for about a month until I had the chance meeting of a pro-cyclist who took pity upon me and agreed to teach me how to ride.

So it has been about 3 weeks and I can say with some confidence that I can ride reasonably well.  Some things I have learned from my esteemed biking team (Nigel and Lockie) include:

- Never plan your route, as it will change when you get to a dead end, find an unassumed road or a interesting looking trail that just may lead to exactly where you want to go
- If you haven't had to carry your bike across a stream, the beach or a farmer's field it probably isn't that good of a ride
- When you fall down, veer off the road or smash into a pile of burrs, laugh, get up and continue riding
- From a fashion perspective never wear a visor on your helmet, always wear your sunnies on the outside of you helmet straps and try and look as professional as possible.
- Bike in a straight line, don't look at your gears, and don't stray your glance at all the "shiny things"

I can't wait till spring to ride again. Thanks guys!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Not bad for a first timer

Good time of year to ride. So why is it that I know the water is about 10 degrees in Lake Ontario?

My friend, Amanda, recently bought a road bike and wanted basic instruction on going from the trainer to the road. Enter: me (god help her).

I tried to get a few people out, but it ended up just being Amanda, Nigel and I. Her first day riding outdoors was a little on the breezy side (40km/h) but gave us a chance to do some easy spinning with the wind and cover a lot of ground. At this point you might think we ended up going too far, but nope. However we did take a different, unplanned, route back. This resulted in riding a few kilometres down a road that ended up being a dead end. Or was it??? There was a little trail off one side, which Nigel jokingly suggested we take. Amanda immediately said sure! Let's do it! At that point, can you imagine two intrepid males saying no, looks kinda sketchy? Hell no!

Two hours later:

It was actually great fun (route here) and I'm sure Amanda picked up some wicked bike handling skills. :) We made it back to the cars for dusk; in my books, that's not too bad!

A few days later, Amanda excitedly told her roadie friends about her first road ride. They were shocked and appalled. Gravel? Hiking paths? The horror! haha

Still, Amanda was happy to come riding again the following weekend. Nigel and I plotted a slightly more "run of the mill" ride. And it was. At least until half way. Since we were only an hour behind schedule, we figured on the return we would take the road less traveled.... Again, Amanda was partly at fault. But again, so fun! The result: we hiked about half a kilometre on the beach, crossed a small stream feeding into Lake Ontario (water was cold but not unbearable), more beach, rode through a bird sanctuary, out-voted Nigel on taking the actual road (sheesh!) and instead went back to hiking on the beach in order to meet up with the waterfront bike path.

I should point out that although Nigel sounds like the voice of prudence, in actual fact he was a large part of numerous diversions throughout both rides ("hey, google maps on my Blackberry shows a faint trail through this [impenetrable looking] forest!" and the like).

Amanda found out on this ride that an apple and 8 raisins doesn't quite replace 2,000 calories on a ride. She bonked so hard. Lesson learned, I reckon, and we got to make fun of her while she lacked any come-back power.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Another toke of the big smoke

Start of October (yes, I'm a little behind) I moved back to Toronto. I'm staying with my buddy, Christian, who, in a funny things-coming-full-circle kind of way, was who I lived with when I first moved to Canada, ten or so years ago. Back then I spent 4 months on his couch in a one bedroom basement apartment, and since he tolerated me there, one can be optimistic that we can get along while I live in his several-bedroom house a little out of town.

Now that I've moved from the outdoor paradise that is Calgary, epics are nearly a thing of the past. I can't remember the last time I was unintentionally stuck outside, after dark. Miles from salvation. Potentially half-way up a cliff. Or other similiarly fun times.

Never the less, I try. Jesse and co were going to ride in the Don Valley, so I rode the 30km in to town on the mountain bike, rode with them for an hour or two, then, since no one was waiting for me any more, took the path less traveled to return... Where the road & bike path diverged from the Lake Ontario shoreline, I found a park which abutted the lake (Greyabbey Park, in case anyone is interested), lowered my bike down the cliff (I so wanted to ghost-ride it off, but decided I didn't want to risk walking 20km home, carrying a busted bike) and rode along the beach for a few kilometres.
I had no idea Toronto had such nice, secluded beaches
Eventually the bike path returns to the water's edge, and after giving the bike a quick dunk in the water (living by fresh water is occasionally a good thing!) to wash the sand out of the brakes, I was quite happy to get back on pavement - even with 3.5" tires and riding just out of the lapping waves where the sand was most packed, it had been pretty tough going!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Fall hiking, in pictures

A little jaunt with Erica around Mt Olympia ski hill in the neighbouring town of Piedmont. Fun enough that I went for a blast there on the MTB the next day.

Monday, October 03, 2011

End of season "Going back to my desk job" sale

*SOLD* Cosmic Carbone SL PowerTap wheelset
PowerTap SL 2.4+  M10 (Shimano/SRAM) hub.
Train on 'em in the winter, race on 'em in the summer.
Purchased in April, like new, less than 200km on them.
Included tubes, tires (Panaracer Race A) and skewers.
RRSP $2799, selling for $1699

I'll add the rest of my pro bling as I figure out what isn't going on my old bikes (2007 aluminium Wilier with Fulcrum 7s and SRAM Red? Yeah baby! haha).

Thursday, September 29, 2011


There's some pretty solid mountain biking to be found where I live right now, Saint-Sauveur-des-Monts in the Laurentians. It makes sense, considering there are half a dozen ski resorts within 10km of here, but after you move away from the Rockies, it's easy to assume otherwise.

Given my tendency to crash when I ride the trails, I typically try to stay off my mountain bike for the summer road season. But now that road is finished, it's game on! And what better way to throw caution to the wind than go after dark? I hooked up with a few folks from my local bike shop, Espresso Sports, on the weekly evening ride, got to borrow a light, and off we went.

It turns out this was not a novel concept - we ran into three other groups over the course of the evening. And two dogs, both which could quite effortlessly overtake me on the uphills. Didn't anyone tell them about my fragile ego??

We started off at dusk, and so hadn't yet switched our lights on. But once we regrouped after the first section, it was time. I had almost declined the offered light, since I had my headlamp in my car, but luckily for me, I hadn't. I guess it has been a while since I last checked out the latest lighting options on the market...holy cow! This thing was akin to having car headlights attached to my handlebars. In fact, I wouldn't mind attaching to to my car hood, it's probably better! haha Ok, that might be an exaggeration, but I was blown away by how well it lit the trail, and blinded anyone who strayed across my path. The only time I had any issue was when the trail opened up and we bombed down some berms...since the light was pointing the wrong direction by being attached to my handlebars, trying to look through the turn was simply staring into inky darkness.

For fear of sounding like a shill, I considered not mentioning the actual maker. But I figured you're more interested in what I was using than wary of being peddled gadgetry. So I headed to the manufacturer's website, Light & Motion, and it turns out I was the lucky user of their highest-end offering, the Seca 1400. Oh, and look, the website includes the retail price....Wowzers! Until I got into racing, all my BIKES were cheaper than that bad boy. Or, to put it another way, I could pay someone minimum wage for two years to come on a weekly MTB ride and run alongside carrying a flashlight. But hopefully it'll be less than two years before I can MTB faster than someone on foot carrying a Dolphin! Or a golden retriever, for that matter.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Ride of the Damned

End of summer often seems to correspond with injuries for me. I was wondering whether it is because my base and weight training is at it's most distant point for the year, or that I'm doing the equivalent of "one last run at the ski resort" as summer takes leave for another year.

Nothing serious this time, just a weird twinge in my ankle, but it hurts to ride. However when Craiger called to suggest a ride, I knew it wasn't one to pass up. 140km riding north from Ottawa, 60km of gravel, fall colours at their peak... I decided to tape up my ankle and give 'er!

It didn't disappoint. For starters, a spectacular day...I have to find out what temp it was and request that for all future rides. For the first half we were treated to amazing vistas of fall foliage, a neat hydro damn (clued us in to the reason for the name, Ride of the Damned) and great terrain. The second half added in some solid suffering, the historic mills and other buildings in Wakefield and Chelsea, Dave stomping on it with some monster pulls, and Craig keeping us on course for all but 10km. ;)

Generally, there's just something very satisfying about crushing it on back roads with some solid chaps.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Circus is in town

This past weekend was an awesome, bike-themed extravaganza. I was at the Norco booth at the BTAC ExpoCycle trade show to represent Team H&R BLOCK, and happy to do so after their great support this season. I joined by two amazing Norco-sponsored riders, Andrew Watson, fresh back from the MTB world championships, and bad-ass BMXer Ben Kaufmann. It's normally a dealer-oriented show (shop owners come to look at what they can sell in the following year) but this year, for the first time, Saturday was for consumers. It seems someone forgot to TELL the consumers, but being quiet gave me a chance to wander around and geek out on 2012 bike bling.

OH, and I also did my first autograph signing session! Right after Ryder Hejedal. Does it count if I didn't actually sign anything? haha
Caught up with my buddy Jeff, who was the mechanic for H&R earlier this season and is now living the dream, travelling with the pros as a Spidertech wrench. Partied it up a bit...

Sunday was the World Tour race in Montreal. Tonnes of dudes from this year's Tour on a killer course - 17 laps of a course with a brutal 2km hill, totaling over 200km.
Almost more impressive was the way these dudes get down after a tough day in the saddle: Jeff was in the know, and we headed over to Club Musique to rock out amongst various national champs and such. Take Di Luca, he was in the break for 140km, and then 6 hours later, tearing it up! Sweet.

This week it's back to regular life...a couple of job interviews, training for cyclocross, watching in wonder and horror as the leaves change and start falling...

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Vizualize my resume

There's a rather neat web site called, that allows one to create a visual representation of their resume. I found it particularly helpful because my work chronology is not straight-forward. It also has a cool feature that allows one to upload their work history, etc. from their LinkedIn account, avoiding needing to type in all that information *yet again*.

The screen shots below are hyperlinks to my actual resume. Feel free to pass them out to friends, family and pets that may be looking to hire a software developer!


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Plus temps avec mes amis

I'll have to figure out how to provide an easy auto-translate, but until then, you can copy-and-paste into for a fairly intelligible translation.

J'ai allé à Toronto dernière semaine, pour le centieme fois ce été. :) En mercredi mon ami, Pete, dit que nous ne pouvons pas encore naviguer, parce que il y a avertissments de tornade! Mais nous avons aller à jeudi, et il faut trés bon: le soleil brillé et nous avons une magnifique brise de "mer" (dans la Lac Ontario :) ).

J'ai revenir en Saint-Sauveur maintenant. Je suis penser peut-etre je vais aller le Montagne Vert étape course, òu je vais avoir écrasé. Donc j'ai essayer garde la form. Aujourd'hui j'ai aller courir avec mon ami Seb avec notre velo des montagne. Il pleut mais c'est tres bon. Seb gagner lui dernier course et il a formidable compétences de manipulation de vélo. Cherchez-toi au dessous:

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Decisions, decisions

I had these to choose from when heading out for a ride last week. Part of a very good week!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

More tanning, more crashing

This weekend I was back in Toronto. It's entirely possible I would have done less driving this season if I lived in Toronto! But there's only so many times I can ride Keele St to Holland Marsh... Stopped a couple of days in Ottawa to catch up with Paul and Bets, and see Nige's team have a great run in the Canadian Ultimate Championships, until their worlds bid came off the rails in the semis. Great showing, boys.

On Sunday, Nick, Matt, Jordan and I converged on Niagara for the Niagara Classic. Probably 300 racers in various categories, and get this: after subtracting the entrance fee, the winner of my Elite 1-2 race got to take home $20. Good thing we don't count on prize winnings to eat (one could also point out that I would still starve if the winner got $1000 for every race I do... ;) ).

Nick got in a two-man break from kilometre 3, and had a tough 120km of suffering out there. He won the KOM competition, by cresting the Effingham hill first, 6 out of the 10 laps, but unfortunately hadn't heard them say before the race they'd cancelled it. Aw.

Jordan got in a 4-man break that caught Nick and co, but they failed to work as a unit and were separated in the last couple of laps, and ended up 4th and 8th. I need to figure out how to choose the right break to go in - I ended up chilling on the front of the peleton for the last 25km, chatting up a storm with my fellow riders and working on my tan-lines.

Afterwards, we figured Nick needed to check out The Falls, being just a hop, skip, and twenty vineyards away.

Fortunately he resisted straddling the barrier, unlike the unlucky girl half an hour later!

I was pretty stoked to get hooked up with a factory tour on Monday with our bike sponsor, Norco, and a 2012 model CRR to ride for the remainder of the season. Following that, we headed over to Joyride 150, an indoor bike park for BMX and MTB, partly sponsored by Norco, and got some more VIP treatment. The facility was super cool, with ladder-bridges, BMX pumptrack, an 800 metre XC trail, and plenty o' jumps...oh, and a foam pit!

Of course my 'push it till it hurts' attitude was once again my undoing, and I got to bond with
an ice pack for a while. While I was sitting/lying around, trying not to pass out or bleed on my t-shirt, a little dude comes over - he can't have been more than 10 - and said "did you do that trying to do a back-flip?". haha Unfortunately honesty got the better of me and I pointed out the jump (smallest in the whole place) that I ate it on.

After a trip to the Markham Stouffville Hospital and another scar to add to the collection, Nick and I mixed it up with the big rigs on their late night run to Montreal.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Catch up on BC Superweek and the aftermath

High time I hammer out a post to get caught up.

BC Superweek went poorly. Abysmal. DNFed every race (other than the 2 minute hill climb! haha), broke my bike and had no spare in the correct size, less than ideal team dynamics. Ugh.

Hurting a lot, but not quite making time cut for final circuits
Photo: Donna Marie

Afterwards I took a week off to hang with my buddy Sean in Van, then went to Calgary for another few days and met up with lots of my awesome peeps. Raced the Gran Fondo in town, with much better results: got a bro in the break, then worked a lead-out so that we ended with 3rd, 6th, 9th and a nice payout.

Back to St Sauveur for the last couple of days of July. Rocked some BMX pump-track with Seb, then back to Toronto to race a little event there. Results weren't ideal, but things were coming back together. More time with Toronto homies, and finally my head is back on straight. Chilling with everyone in Van, Calgary and Toronto all helped, but this last little email I got was the icing on the cake:

"Seriously good to see you - hope you had fun. Now go train & kick some french ass."

Don't know why, but that was what made it all click. I love my friends!

Back in Quebec, it was time for more Lachine crit madness. Nice and warm for the start, but spitting rain. By 10 laps in, we were in a full-on downpour. Riding behind someone (basically essential, because we get up to 50kmh every straight, before slowing for each corner) was like having a firehose blasting dirty water in my face. Actually kinda fun, in a sick and twisted way, since it was still pretty warm. Unfortunately I took a spill and now have road rash on my right knee, hip and forearm that match my Superweek grazes on the left, but this time it was a low speed corner crash, so not too bad. Good thing I bought four feet of Second Skin in Van! hehe

Our team is winding down now - money is done - so just a couple more little races for the end of the season. I'm giving myself August to learn French, and September to find a job.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Calgary calling

Do seagulls ever sleep? I'm still in Vancouver, post-BC Superweek, and from the lounge room of Sean's downtown condo (with the windows open), I can hear the cawing of millions* of seagulls. At 11am when I went to bed, it was pretty cool to hear them, since it reminds me how close I am to the ocean, but now that it's shortly after 5am, and I am (or at least was) trying to sleep, I'm not so sure.

Anyway, I'm going to be in Calgary in a day or two, for a short while until I migrate back East. If anyone I haven't yet emailed is about, and has time to catch up, let me know!!

* More than ten.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Crack goes the carbon

Brenco criterium was going well until I did a lay-out for a non-existent frisbee on the back straight. I'll save you pics of gore, but here's one of my poor bike. Still, I won't complain too much because I didn't break any bones, nor was I taken out by an errant French media car and put into a barbed wire fence...

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Beautiful British Columbia

For tweleve guys de-stressing at the local, after a typically stressful Nationals campaign, I thought we were relatively restrained: our rendition of Umbrella at karaoke was somewhat coherent, the po-po presence when we were kicked out was purely a cautionary measure, I learned of the folly in wrestling sprinters after ending up on the receiving end of a rear naked choke, and very few cars were relocated in the nearby parking lot.

From there, it was a quick drive back to Quebec, and an even quicker flight back to Toronto...some missed connections and lost bags later, we arrived in Vancouver. Fortunately our homeless situation was rectified when Brad's cousin, Warren, came through for us, big time...we crashed at The Chief's place, then drove out to Pemberton the next day.

Pemberton is an awesome little town just north of Whistler. It's like what I imagine Canmore was 20 years ago - it's cool little town situated in a narrow valley, so of course has an abundance of outdoor activities. Nick and I stayed at Warren's buddy's place (how many degrees of separation are we at now?), who literally has bouldering in his back yard, tons of mountain bike trails (which I avoided given my propensity to get seriously injured any time I go) that start a couple of hundred metres away, and some amazing road rides. One particular ride was one of the best I've ever done...half an hour of flat riding from Pembo, then 8km of up to 15% and 5km of up to 11%, then 70km through an amazing valley, to Lillooet. The lakes are mostly very cold, with the exception of two, Mosquito and One Mile lakes, which even a rake like me can get in for a bit...although I seem to have lost all ability to float!

Me being skinny, Brad being Brad

We`ve also had a chance to relax a little, and partake in Canada Day celebrations at the Pemberton Hotel (affectionately called the Pem Ho), and hit up a mid-bush rave, complete with 8-foot speaker stacks, with Brad`s family friends, one of whom I believe won gold last year - hats off to her.

We're now all in Vancouver, tackling BC Superweek: 8 races in 10 days, mostly crits.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Nationals and beyond

Canada's biggest one-day race of the year, the National Road Cycling Championship, was held this past weekend just outside Toronto. My team placed particular emphasis on it, shipping the whole team from west and east coasts (and Montreal), and setting us up for the week in beautiful Oakville (actually, just north of there, in sketchy Oakville...but beautiful Oakville was but a short ride away).
Winning break, which stayed away for 160km: Rob Britton vs Team Spidertech
Photo: Nigel Wallis
I was brimming with confidence after my surprise 38th-place finish last year, confidence that was only tempered by my role as team water-boy/sacraficial lamb. I knew the course would be selective...a gradual climb, leading to 600 meters of torturous 13% climbing, capped by another 1-2 kilometers of more false-flat climbing, gave the strong men of Spidertech (Canada's only pro team) et al, every tool they needed to separate the wheat (them) from the chaff (me and 170 others like me).
Painface by teammate Aaron, photo by Nigel Wallis
I survived the opening kilometers, and I mean this both figuratively and literally: someone crashed on the 100+km/h descent and was taken away in a ambulance in rough shape. I found myself on the wrong side of a separation after the first time up the hill, and the following 5km of drilling it in a 4 man paceline to catch back on was the first nail in my coffin (my coffin only needs two nails). A couple of laps later, I exploded at the top of the hill like a watermelon having a drug overdose. Nige and Dave showed up (thanks, guys!!) unfortunately just in time to see me quite obviously out of contention and being showered in pity-cheering. Teammate Seb had a great race and finished 7th - way to go, Sebber!
Teammate Seb and various other superstars in the front chase group, one hill repeat closer to finishing
Photo: Nigel Wallis

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Hill riding strategies for road races

While racing over 600km in 5 days in the beautiful, and really, really hilly Beauce region of Quebec, I had plenty of time to think about how to ride hills. The area is so hilly, that pretty soon we weren't even calling anything shorter than a kilometre, or less than 10% grade, a hill! But now back in the normal world, they were hills. Pretty serious hills.

The second KOM of the second stage was paricularly brutal, 2.8km of 5.2% with
sections over 20%, even though it was a "sprinter's stage".
Photo: Rob Jones, Cycling News

I had a number of strategies for handling the hills, depending on whether I knew it was coming and whether I had a choice in the matter, and I thought I would share my thoughts on how to ride hills in road races with everyone.

Don't pull to the bottom of a hill

The first one is easy: avoid doing all the work in the lead-up to a hill! It seems obvious, but when I'm hurting in a race, sometimes I lose focus and mess up tactically. Even if it feels like you're not going hard, the guys behind you still have far more energy to hit it (or attack) when the hill arrives, and might leave you in the dust. I certainly didn't need to worry about this one at Beauce! but I did go off the front of the pelton on stage 1 primarily because the pace-makers on the front of the peleton behind me just didn't want to step it up a notch on a hill.

Sag Climbing

The principle is easy...start closer to the front, ride slower and put out fewer watts than most, and end near the back. Use lower-effort times in the race, like lulls between attacks and the start of hills, as I mention below, to move back to a better position closer to the front of the pack.

Climbing like this requires that you know how long the climb is, so that you can lose ground to the leaders at the correct rate, leaving you near the back as you crest. It also helps to have a good idea of what will happen as the leaders crest. Will they attack? If so, trying to stay with an accelerating peleton by sprinting the last part of the hill, while the leaders are on the flats, certainly wont save any energy. If there is a selection, and you find yourself in the second (or third, or fourth) group at the top, you may also use more energy working hard to catch back. But if you're fairly sure the pace wont change too much, it can definitely be worthwhile.

I plan to use sag climbing when it's either early in the race, when I don't expect people to burn matches hitting it on or after the hill, or when there is a break off the front, again decreasing the chance people will attack at the top. Also, if I'm running out of gas later in a race, I will drift back on the climb (assuming I can get to the front before the hill starts) just to avoid blowing up.


Have you noticed that when you're in the middle or back of the pack, you have to brake just before you start the hill? This is because the front of the pack has already arrived at the hill, while you're still on the flat or downhill. Sling-shotting allows you to use the momentum from the downhill or flats preceding the hill to save energy and/or move up in the pack. Generally, you need to be on the edge of the peleton, so that you can choose when to pull out from behind the riders slowing in front of you and pass them. I find this best if you can see the hill coming, and there is enough space on the road to pass people.

Allow me to give an example. Picture a 90-rider peleton riding three-abreast, going slightly downhill at 45km/h, and approaching a fairly long hill of 10% grade. The people behind the leaders might be pedaling very lightly, or not at all. As soon as the leaders hit the hill and slow down, riders behind them will often brake to match the speed of the leaders ahead and maintain their position in the pack. However, if you are at back of the pack (unlikely where you want to be), you are roughly 60 meters behind the front riders. In 60 meters, they have slowed to their hill-climbing speed (perhaps around 20km/h), while you are just hitting the hill and still doing 45km/h. At this point sometimes the peleton will fan out across the road as riders, consciously or unconsciously, sling-shot up beside the racers at the front, to avoid braking and save energy.

Ideally, I start just far back enough that by the time I run out of momentum, I'm very close to the front. This of course depends on how much faster you expect to be going than the front of the pack. For example, if the road slowly gets steeper, you may not have any extra speed to sling-shot past other riders. However if you are on rolling terrain, for example the back leg of the Stampede Road Race course in Madden, there is a good opportunity to gain a few places as the peleton's speed ebbs and flows over each roller. The Stampede course isn't the ideal situation, because the road is narrow enough that the peleton may already fill the entire lane, leaving no space to move past people. Regardless of the road you are on, you should always use caution when swinging out around the riders ahead, both to respect the center-line rule if it is in effect, and to watch out for other riders who are doing the same or not expecting you to come along-side/past them.

Spin it to win it

Not as much of a climbing tactic as a strategy for saving your guns: try to get into a smaller gear than necessary, but one which still allows you to still apply pressure at a reasonable cadence, so that you don't need to down-shift once the pressure is on. Mountain-bikers will be familiar with this. You don't want to have to change from your big to your small ring after you get bogged down and need to keep applying pressure. If possible, switch to your small ring before the hill and cross-chain a bit (maybe 39-13), so that you can shift up on the cassette as your speed drops off and don't have to big-ring the whole hill. The same applies when accelerating out of a corner - I often see people not down-shift as they enter the corner, and end up having to push a giant gear, like a 53-12, as they accelerate from low speed. This leads to poor acceleration and trashing your fast-twitch muscles for later in the race.

Rolling off the top

This strategy is almost the opposite of sag-climbing. It actually makes those try to sag-climb, or those dangling near the back, work harder or get dropped. If you are able to finish the hill at the front of the pack, you will likely be tired and want to slow down to recover. However, try to keep the same effort, or even surge a little, to get back up to speed - around 40km/h is a common race speed on a flat road. You are forcing those at the back to match your speed when they are still on the hill, perhaps doing 20km/h, or they will lose contact with the wheel ahead. And because you are now going fast enough for drafting to be more effective, they lose out on that all-important draft at the higher speed.

I remember this being done very effectively at Banff Bikefest in 2010. The Lenovo team was working hard on the front, keeping the break's lead in check to protect their team leader's GC lead. This meant that they were tired in the latter part of the race, falling to the back of the peleton on the hill. Other teams on the front ramped the pace as they crested the first main hill on Tunnel Mountain Drive, and each lap it seemed one of the Lenovo team would get dropped. In the end, the Lenovo team's efforts kept their team leader fresh for the end of the race, and he was able to keep the pace high and finish in the pack, to win the overall GC for the race, but them being dropped certainly made the outcome much less certain!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Tour de Beauce update #3

Today's stage was in the old/bar/touristy area of Quebec City, 9 laps of a circuit that included maybe 200 meters of 15%, followed by 1km of less-steep climbing. I could feel the big guys turn the screws when we hit this section, and I got popped first lap. Can't give up prematurely though...I did a solo TT for nearly 100km before getting pulled with one lap to close!

Not a super day for the team, I think we lost 4 guys today. Although we didnt have anyone in the winning break, Seb finished strong in the pack, so at least there's that.

Great crowd turn-out, especially on the climb. There can be no dogging it when hundreds of people are watching and cheering! On my third time up, as I was going through leg- and lung-burning hell, I could see in my periphery a guy running beside me dressed in black lingerie...I saw him after the race, and he was also sporting a blow-up doll. haha

So that's the end of my Beauce racing. I'll be cheering for my H&R boys from the sidelines tomorrow, the final day, and still making the most of the *amazing* breakfast and dinner buffets the race provides all the racers :) Pretty sure I'll still be in calorie deficit for the week though!

Huge thanks to all the support from everyone! Great to see Nick and Jocelyn after the race, even in my sorry state.

Of course, there's no rest for the wicked: Nationals in Burlington next weekend! I'll be riding support for our key dudes...pretty sure I can handle bottle duty now ;)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Tour de Beauce update #2

Yesterday was one of the highlights of my cycling "career", fetching bottles and closely a (tiny) gap in the crosswind for my teammate, Sebastian, who finished 3rd on the stage!!

It was another long race, 150+km, capped off by a climb to the observatory at the top of Mont Megantic. Alternatively, I could say it was 480km of racing in three days, finishing with half of Apex, or three of the You Yangs climb, or...Toronto would be....30 times from Queens Way into High Park?? haha Anyway, intimidating.

The day started out calmly enough, a few surges until a break stayed off, and nothing more than hard tempo on hills for the first 50km that I can remember (could be selective memory...). After 50km, we're allowed to go back to the caravan to feed, so it was time for me to get bottles. The rolling terrain meant going back for bottles was challenging. I'd usually get 6 or 7, so a few were stuffed down the front/back of my jersey, and I tried to time it so that I wasn't carrying, handing out, or taking bottles on the uphill, and I wasn't riding beside the team car at too high a speed. Didn't always succeed. :)

There was one particularly memorable feed: I'd just gotten my last bottle - usually the driver gives me a bit of a whip to help me sprint back to the back of the pack, and I had accelerated in front of the car. As I did so, I saw something happening in the pack ahead - I saw everyone was bunny-hopping train-tracks diagonally crossing the road. Crap! I had a bottle in one hand, which I momentarily considered/tried squeezing down the back of my jersey with the other, but I was approaching too fast, around 50 or 60kmh - I opted to turf it. I then rather ungainly jumped the tracks - the bottles weigh almost as much as my bike! Both bottles in my frame bounced out, but I made it through and rejoined the pack. However now I only had four bottles left, and had to go back pretty soon thereafter. haha

The next chunk of the race was pretty straight forward. I got a random half a Pepsi from one of Jamie Sparling's Raleigh team mates, rolled through some hills, and chatted with Jamie a little. Always stoked to race with him, both because he's always genial character and because it often means I'm breaking into a new level of racing...last time was the Invited Men's race at Banff 2009 when I was a lowly cat 3.

Next up was the final KOM. I maxed out quickly and began falling off the back. It was one of those times, when you're sooo close to the pack, but they're slowly slipping away...funnily enough, I ended up rolling with another dude I'd had a bit of an altercation with earlier in the race. :) We lit it up at the top and gunned it for a few km, weaving through caravan cars to catch back. We'd just caught them at the base of a hill, when I realized they were making a hard right turn to go up a hill. I was still in my 50-11 by the time I'd slowed to almost stopped, and now I had to start up a 10%er. Damn.

We ended up forming a gruppetto of about 10 guys, and knocked off the last 20-odd km to the base of the final climb: 5km of 10%. Then it was *suffer time* as our group exploded and we all slogged up to the finish. I heard my name and Sebastian's name announced as I rolled across the line, totally gassed. Team manager Mark was there to give me a push to the car and tell me 'good job' and that Seb came third....woooo!! Great moment.

Today was the TT, a mostly-downhill out, uphill back 20km TT, which I had to finish within 20% of the winner's time to not get time-cut. Given that Svein Tuft, who came 2nd at the TT world championships, was there, I couldn't really "save myself"....managed a 30:07, so I live to fight another day.

Tomorrow we head to Quebec City for a 120km circuit race. Same as Nationals a few years back? Really looking forward to it...beautiful city, and crowds are great for helping me dig deep. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Tour du beauce update

> Soloed the last 30km of yesterday's Tour de Beauce opening stage for an inconsequential 23rd. Still pretty friggen fun. Of course, they could have pulled me back in a second, but sometimes being a nobody is a good thing! Anyway, found out later it was 'disrespectful to the peleton'...cycling etiquette thing. Check.
> Was already regretting that move 30km into today, when I got dropped the first time...was a long, hard hard day in the saddle. I think I ended up getting dropped 4 times total, but also got back to the team car for bottles a few times while we were rolling at 50kmh, because I was on bottle duty again. I told Zack afterwards that he got the award for handing me bottles at the highest speed, 86kmh! haha
> After a seriously brutal climb, I saw on my bike computer we still had 5km to the KOM...oh god. It wasn't for a few km later that I realized my bike computer had stopped working, and we only had the last, flat 20km run in to the finish. haha Thank christ. Race ended in a field sprint (and a thank god! from me), so there won't be any gc changes, other than time bonuses.
> Tomorrow is the mountain stage, which will shake up the gc. And really, really hurt!
> Thanks a ton for the support, guys!! Really. Can't understate how much it helps when I'm bleeding out the eyeballs :)

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Call up to the big leagues

Just got a call...well, technically I got a text, prompting me to call back...I'm making this far more difficult than it needs to be...what I mean to say is:

I'm going to Beauce, baby!

Time to shift gears. Like from 1st to 5th!

For those that have never heard of it, this is probably the best description of the level.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Tough times

Another lovely sunny rest day in Saint-Sauveur. It would be nice if it were accompanied with the glow of success... These past couple of weekends have been challenging both physically and in the aftermath, mentally.

Killington Stage Race takes place in central Vermont, which at this time of year is lush and humid. All four of us Quebec-based H&R boys were there to contest the race.

Friday was a relatively flat circuit race, each of the 4 laps having a gradual ascent over the first half, and decent to the finish, so we planned to lead out our big boy, Brad, for the fast downhill finish. The technical guide for the race suggested a 55-11 for sprinters!

The race was fast and furious until a break was established, including Nick to represent the black and green. However with a lap to go, it all came together, so we started preparing for the sprint finish. Unfortunately unnamed eager beavers on the team started our leadout way (way way) too early, and we were gassed by 3km to go. The leadout was swarmed and Brad was stuck in the melee. Despite Matt pulling out a surprising 10th and my 14th, the result were worthless for GC (at least 80% of the 115+ riders were still in the peleton, and with a mass finish like that everyone gets the same finish time), stage winnings (money only going 3 deep), and general team happiness at having failed to execute our plan.

The next day's time trial was mostly a false flat, so we were again betting on Brad to crush. That didn't happen, and we didn't really have any other personal victories to rally behind either.

The last day was the road race, featuring two worthy KOMs. We were hopeful that the final huge 4km climb would negate the team tactics of the bigger squads, and with Nick, highest placed in GC, also being a good climber, we wanted to protect him for the finale.

Unfortunately, right after Nick bridged to a break ( I had a blow-out and as I rolled from 50km/h to a stop on $4000 wheels with no air in the back tire, I had a little meltdown.

What can I say? I panicked.

It was very much a Redlands deja vu moment...despite this time being well positioned about 10-15th wheel... Once I stopped swearing, I got off to take my wheel off, realized it was not down the cassette, got back on, started trying to change gears but being SRAM and me freaking out, I changed up instead, as the neutral wheel guy runs up, pulls off the wheel, I finally change down, he throws a wheel on, I hit it, not sure if he will pace me, he pulls his car in front just as we hit a short climb, I kill myself trying to get close to him on the uphill and then get closer on the downhill. He stayed about 3-4 meters away, and we were doing about eventually he left to catch the peleton.

From there I went as hard as I could and was sooo close to the back of the caravan (i.e. support/officials' cars following the race) just as they hit a decent hill...I was about 100 meters back when the peleton crested, taking the cars with them. Didn't see them again.

I talked to the wheel guy afterwards...they're pro SRAM/Zipp neutral support, so I figured he would be able to tell me what to do. He said that I should be just inches from his back bumper to get a real draft, BUT I had to give him the thumbs down to slow down, because he can't be unexpectedly slowing down in front of riders and freaking them out. Seems reasonable.

Anyway, I TTed for the remaining 2/3 of the race, 65km or so, determined to make time-cut. I experienced absolute hell as I rode through a friggen paradise...old towns, cheering locals, a river running by the road, and hills thick with brilliant green spring foliage, all to make time cut. Ended up passing a few dudes of the final climb, and finished within the timecut, 27 min down...although they don't seem to have cut anyone. I heard Nick fell out of the break, but the break was caught just before the final climb, and he managed to get 8th for the stage.

After a four days to recover, train, taper and generally get my head back in the game, we headed north east to the Charlevoix region of Quebec, know for hills, hills, more hills, and good cheese.

The first race was a 17km TT. I was feeling motivated and quite rested, and dare I say, prepared! Nick helped me tape on a tubular for my rear Zipp 808 the night before, so I was running the triathlete special: 404 front and 808 rear. Light, but deep enough to be wicked-aero. Tuned my gears during a good warmup, and got psyched while avoiding thinking about the brute I would be following down the start ramp (he went on to win the stage).

I headed out at a good clip, conserving a little since it was slightly downhill and a tailwind. Road was a little bumpy, and then crack! Oh god, not the 808... Still seemed to be rolling fine. A short while later, another crack...and I felt my position was now a little off: seat post had slipped down. Crap. I still rode hard, but gradually my seat got to the point where I was riding a clown bike. My quads were on fire, but I hadn't been passed...was I keeping my Garneau 30-second man at bay? No, it turns out my 30-second and minute men hadn't started the race, so I had kept my one-and-a-half (or maybe even 2 minute) man at bay, just, so I ended up 2:20 behind the winner for 41st. Boo.

Back to motel, eat, sleep, eat, warmup for crit, snafu at the lineup so we started at the back. I worked my way up to not-quite-at-the-back for 43rd. Boo x 2.

Last stage on Sunday, 3rd race in 24 hours. Beautiful course, quite a bit of climb up to the two-thirds mark, then ridiculous amounts of climbing. I sucked, finished in the 3rd group for around 40th. Definitely the hardest result to deal excuses for this one... Perhaps it's time to try my hand at golf? haha Nick finished 7th, so he is in great form for Beauce next week.

A little sightseeing and dinner in Quebec City was a nice way to lift the spirits before the long drive home.
Shrine of Sainte Anne de Beaupré

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Racing and pacing

Long race to end a long week. It was supposed to be the flat race of the weekend, but the hill was a far more selective than anything else on the prior day's race. I suffered through, but Nick was our man of the day, getting in a key move and finishing in the break, sprinting for 6th.

Ever since we moved to Saint-Sauveur, I think at least one of us has been into our LBS, Espresso Sports. Bunch of solid dudes working there - Seb's a wizard on the drive-train, and today, Ben lent his scooter to us for some motor-pacing. It's great motivation to try to stay on the wheel while hitting it on the highway, but more importantly, there's great training effect from being in a big gear at speed just like in a race.

Go Canucks!