Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Redlands this weekend

Nick and I made the big drive to Redlands, California, yesterday, but understandably received no sympathy from the guys that raced in Vancouver Saturday and Sunday, then got in the team van and drove non-stop for 24 hours to meet us there!

It's been great to hang out with the lads and get to know everyone. We've received more new gear, including a replacement for my old and fugly blue helmet. Lots of eating, joking around, and stretching the legs on the bike in this beautiful location...I can see why so many millions live here.

DS Mark and mechanic Jeff have also joined us here. Everyone that knows of my amazing mechanical skills understand what an asset having Jeff around will be to not having my bike fall out from under me!

Godsend: Jeff

Monday, March 28, 2011

Training races

I always have a hard time really believing that a race is actually purely a training race. But this year, with some REALLY big races on the calendar, the little local races really can't at all detract from training for the focus events. Last weekend's TBC was supposed to be a tune-up for Redlands (next weekend!! Woop!!), but was big enough to have results listed on Canadian Cyclist & Pedal (can I please put after my race result "was just treating this as a training race"? ;) ). Of course, I say that, but really, how much difference would a full taper and no taper make, you know?

Road-trippin', Lockie-style: beans and canned fish

So this past weekend, I drove up to Phoenix for a pair of crits. Real "local race" situations, where they were impressed I drove *all the way* from Tucson (under 2 hours). Even still, 25 or so guys lined up for the San Tan Pro/1/2 race. I was flying solo this weekend, so I had my hands full covering attacks. There were 3 or 4 teams there with a number of guys on them, and they certainly worked like teams - it was non-stop attacking. This was my first crit experience in the US...not including the Race Day DVD I've watched a bunch of times. :) I thought to myself, I can't keep this up...maybe I should just try to go with every second attack.

Of course, the very next attack stuck. Crap! I could tell almost straight away the peleton was going to let it go...we weren't hitting it to chase them down, and the break had the right mix of big teams represented. Another racer attacked to bridge, and I knew that was a big chance to catch the break. But by the time I maneuvered out of the pack to give chase, he was too far away. I gave it everything, solo in no-man's-land for 2 or 3 laps, before I started losing ground to the break, before sitting up to wait for the peleton.

The rest of the race was pretty frustrating. I could tell I was seriously out-gunned for a sprint finish by all the big butts on the guys I was following in the peleton, and the only bigger team not represented in the break didn't appear very motivated to pull them back. I attacked a few times, but was always pulled back. Finally with 3 laps to go, I got away with 3 other guys. One of the guys got dropped, leaving two guys to crush me like a bug in the final 200m and out of the cash.

LESSON 1 of the weekend: You SHOULD cover every break. Suck it up, princess. If you're hurting, other people probably are, too.

That night I stayed in a one-and-a-half star hotel - not a terrible thing by itself, except that there was a problem with the online booking, and the last room they had was a smoking room. Mmmm...stale ash smell. To top it off, I forgot to clean out my car before bed, and was welcomed to a sardine-and-banana-smelling car in the morning!

For, Sunday's Honeywell Hungry Dog crit, I was determined to not let a single break go without H&R BLOCK representation (that'd be me). Unfortunately the wide streets and open corners made it effectively a donut-shaped course, so very high speed and hard for breaks to succeed. It was good experience for positioning, but tactics-wise, not so exciting. I was second wheel when the '5 laps to go' announcement was made, and the guy in front of me attacked. Being another solo rider, I figured a) 'hey, why not support the underdog and let him roll away' and b) that the big teams would roll him up anyway. 4 laps later, he was still off and clearly going to take the win! I launched with everyone before the last corner, but couldn't match the guns of, oh, about 20 guys.

LESSON 2 of the weekend: if you're not a sprinter, don't wait for the last 200m. Attack! If you blow up or get caught, at least you gave yourself a chance.

Threw down another sardine-and-banana post-race recovery snack, did a cool down spin, then drove back to Tucson.

Disclaimer: I built the Race Day link using Amazon Affiliates. I figure if everyone who reads this blog buys 7 copies of the DVD, I'll make what I used to get paid for an hour's work! ;)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Canadian Classics Season 2011

The Classics season is here, and along with the Paris-Roubaix comes Canadian Roubaix Madness in Canada!! I need to figure out what I do after a successful/woeful Redlands and subsequent return to Canada. Gravel is so fun (first word that popped into your head when you saw the photo above? "fun", right?), although it's possible too much sun down here has fried my brain. Anyway, I'd like a reset before another ramp to the next big race. Given that I don't know what part of the country I'll be in for each week of April, I might as well prepare for any eventuality. Here are the options I've found...any others you know of??

Here they are, west to east:
Local Ride Barry's Roubaix, 10 April, Pitt Meadows BC
Speed Theory Pre-Roubaix TT & Prairie Roubaix RR, 16 & 17 April, Calgary AB
Ottawa Bicycle Club Paris Roubaix, 16 April, Ottawa ON
Tour of the Battenkill, 10 April, Cambridge NY

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tucson Bicycle Classic

Just finished a weekend of intense racing at the 2011 edition of the Tucson Bicycle Classic.

Things got rolling Friday with the prologue, a 3.2 mile (5km) TT, on a neat little narrow, winding road called McCain Loop. It's a really challenging course to pace, starting out with gentle downhill for the first half, then rolling up over two hills, and finally a short down and up. I found out in training that working hard for the first half was wasted effort, as precious watts were burned pushing wind at high speed, but how easy is too easy/easy enough when it's the first 2km of racing for the year?? I also wanted to small-ring the hills, but changing into the big ring mid-race on the TT bike is a gamble, so I planned to use the small ring just for the second, big hill and leave it there for the finish.

When it came to the race, I blew through the first hill so easily, I couldn't believe I was hoping to small ring it, and left it in the big ring for the second hill too. Unfortunately, I didn't have that searing lungs, heart and legs, visions-of-god level of suffering, so I could tell I didn't have as good a time as I was capable. Would that place me last? Mid-pack was as much as I could hope for.

Online, results were "expected by 7". At 7:30, that changed to "expected by 7ish" haha. Finally, the waiting was over...I placed 43rd out of 55. Not awful, but close...

On Saturday morning came the road race. 80 miles/130km. Felt super-jittery as I went shoulder-to-shoulder with pro's and cat 1's, the 60 of us squeezed along the narrow road. Moving through the pack was really hard - everyone had the same plan of moving into good position in the pack (10th is safe, top 4 was best to be really serious about going with attacks). Nick, coming off two years in racing in Europe, did a great job of being up near the front, so I felt the pressure to get up there to cover my half of the attacks. The Mexican team, Specialized, had a good-sized squad, and seemed to sent a guy hammering off the front every five minutes, but current GC leader, Phil Zajicek (Fly V Australia) and a number of other guys did a good job of chasing them down to keep the peleton together. Stephen was invaluable as our team feeder...this dry desert air had me polish off my first bottle in 30km, and another shortly thereafter. Lots of suring in the final kilometres. I had a bit of gas left with 200m to go, but was poorly positioned behind way too many dudes and followed them across the line for 21st.

Nick and I on the front, coz that's how we roll

The peleton was down to 30 or so riders by the end of that race, but lots of guys who'd beaten me the day before had fallen off the back, so I moved up to 29th overall, affirming my suspicions I should have done better the day before, but I was pretty stoked to be finishing in the right half of the field.

To round out the weekend was Sunday's circuit race, held on a 10km loop in town. "Only" 90km and all the bickies on the line (an Australianism?) meant an insanely fast race - a crit, really. By half way through the race, guys were going crazy hitting it in the last couple of hundred metres of the lap's climbing - trying to hold onto a strung out line of riders, then match the downhill speed, had me wishing for an 11 at the back, and perhaps an extra set of legs. Still, I was maintaining better position, and Nick and I were working together well, and coming into the last corner Nick was on my wheel, as was the plan. Unfortunately I was squeezed to the side at the final corner, and Nick moved past me as I lost position in the pack. The final km was non-stopping crazy attacking, but I was going backwards by the final 200m, finishing 24th. Nick cracked the top 10, congrats dude! And thanks to Bill, our impromptu feeder!

In GC, Zajicek narrowly kept his lead over the sprinters, who'd picked up time bonuses for podium finishes. Pedal Magazine had been highlighting Nick and I as the Canadians in the results (1, 2), but I guess seeing Nick and I side-by-side in 20th and 21st respectively made them realize by the last day I was actually an Aussie! haha

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

First race!

Very exciting weekend coming up...I'm racing in the Tucson Bicycle Classic. It's not a focus race for me or the team, but mentally it's a huge race for me for a host of other reasons:
- First race of the year
- First race with Team H&R BLOCK
- First race as a cat 1...I'm racing in the Pro/1 category!

No pressure, though! haha It's my second race in the States, and after a really fun, eye-opening experience (which could also be called "a beating marked by massive disorganization" ;) ) last time, I'm expecting some very fast competition.

I don't expect to have enough time to give a daily blog summary of how it goes, but I'll try tweeting (@lachlanholmes) the results each evening.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Cycling Northern Tucson, part deux

I've been finding that some good use of Google Maps can scope out interesting, mountain-side communities, complete with winding, baby-bottom smooth, road surfaces. This occasionally means negotiating gated community security, but fortunately their methods appear to only be intent on barring entry to car-based trespassing.

Based on this, I mapped out a route that took me up Dove Mountain (Tortolita).

View Larger Map

Turns out there are some super-impressive houses out there, built on some super-impressively steep roads. And of course they have a golf course or three.

Then my route took me west out to, well, desert. Around Avra Valley, gas stations, houses, and frankly pavement, all become fairly scarce. Luckily the Google Maps car and "google maps street view" has been to many of these places, and a little research prepared me for this off-the-beaten-track part of my adventure. But until that point, I was treated to a neat road that appeared to stretch forever into the desert. Did I mention it was really, really hot?

At the north-western-most point of my route, I came to the junction shown below:

Although it might seem somewhat crazy to leave a nice(ish) paved road and head into the dust and dirt, you might see from the photo/map that the road doesn't really head directly for a booming metropolis, or any guaranteed supply of water. At least not any time soon, when travelling by bike. So the dirt road is actually the precursor to me staying within the realm of civilization. You see, at this point I'm two flat tires away from a long, hot walk back to town, given that I have only one CO2 cartridge (the pump is on order).

So now that I've taken the road less travelled, and feeling pretty hardcore, you can imagine my surprise when I came across this sign:

Exactly how many bicycles come out this way? Apart from the general lack of pavement and water, I must imagine the gun-toting, cattle-guard-sign-shooting locals are also deterrent.

The rest of the ride went fairly smoothly. I did have a small meltdown as I arrived back at the first gas station, walking in like a ghost, typically salt-encrusted, and then proceeded to sit outside with a 2 litre cup of oh-so-sweet-and-cold pop, but apart from that, made it back barely after sunset.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Cycling Northern Tucson

I've moved to new digs for a week, giving me a good opportunity to explore a different end of Tucson.

So Tuesday, I rode out to Biosphere2. I managed to get in a four hour ride, do the tourist thing, save the money for gas (for the car I don't possess) and get a sunburn all in one fell swoop!

The first thought I had was, what happened to Biosphere1? Turns out Biosphere1 is earth. Oh, got it. The interior of Biosphere2 is the size of three football fields, and has 5 different climate zones: rainforest, savanna, coral reef, mangrove, and desert. Super neat. It was actually used back in the 90's to test closed-system ecosystems and potential space colonization methods! A handful of people spent two years living entirely on what they grew and raised (and apparently at one point, this was mostly bananas).

The grounds and buildings are currently used by University of Arizona for a plethora of research, including insulation strategies for house rooves, as seen below with the miniature houses. Turns out the best material is a garden.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Crazy, urban MTB race

VCA 2010 RACE RUN from changoman on Vimeo.

From the 2010 Valparaiso Cerro Abajo race through the narrow, mountainous streets of Valparaiso, Chile.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Cycling Mount Lemmon

The last time I attempted cycling Mt Lemmon, I was with Trev, Tom and Paul, and we instead ended up on a steep dirt road with impromptu shooting ranges on either side. This time was the real deal.

I met teammates Brad and Nick, and fellow Albertan Cody, at Le Buzz, a bicycle-friendly cafe conveniently situated a couple of miles (I have to acquiesce to imperial units eventually) from the start of the Mt Lemmon climb. The day was supposed to be very warm, a nice change are Sunday`s `winter storm`. People were driving down, as we rode up, with snow on their rooves...the guys said the locals are so fascinated by snow, they go up to the snow line and put in on and drive back down. Weird.

The riding itself was pretty straight-forward. Engineered grade - I guess it`s about 5% almost the entire way, but the crazy bit is that this goes on for 45km (28 miles)!! Beautiful winding roads, stunning views from the saddle (so no excuse to stop!), and a good climb up to cooler temps. Occasionally, tour-guide Nick would point out the road we would eventually make it to, thousands of feet above. Pretty neat, but I think I liked looking down to the road I just rode/I would be riding soon!

We reached 8,000 feet, which is about 5,500 feet of climbing, at which point the road starts rolling down to Summerhaven beforing finally climbing to the summit at just over 9,000, but we'd heard the cafe there was closed today, and I was out of food and water by this point, so we clicked off some happy snaps and pointed out wheels downhill.

I was warned that it would be bitterly cold on the descent, and I did lose feeling in my shins and a couple of fingers on the way down, but hearing that Calgary is experiencing a -31 (I realize I`m switching back and forth between units...please bear with me!) cold snap right now gave me reason not to complain. :) At the bottom, it was back to Le Buzz for croissants and coffee, and baking in the 30 degree heat.