Sunday, November 20, 2011

The End is Nigh

Well another season has ended. Which of course means the bittersweet feelings of completion of another year and also the relief of being done with it. I'm very happy to be able to take a break and rest and do other things than ride a bike, and my body needs some R&R time. On the other hand, there's a routine you have and it's feels weird to not have to do it. I feel the same after the Tour De France finishes. For three weeks I follow the tour, and all the stories and it becomes a big part of my life. But the day after I wake up, and flip on the computer and I'm sad that I don't have that in my life. The end of the seasons is kinda like that. You get used to seeing people at each race and having a routine, you have a purpose, everything is geared towards one common goal. Now that that goal is gone, it takes a little bit to get used to. I'm not a bike racer anymore but just a civilian.

Looking back on this year, I can at least say it has been a good year for me. At the beginning of the year there were a lot of unknowns. I had joined a new team, and I had come off a pretty big injury. I knew I wanted to ride again, mainly because I got on my bike even against doctors orders, but I didn't know if I'd ever want to be competitive again. Well let me rephrase that, I knew I'd be competitive, but I didn't know if my injury would keep me from doing that. Those first few months on the bike were scary. My mind wouldn't let me take risks I normally would. Plus racing in a pack scared the crap out of me. It didn't help that it seemed that every race I entered I barely escaped someone else's crash. It really fried my nerves. It took me a while to mentally prepare myself to race again. In doing so I got out of shape and started skipping races to try and train more to get in shape. Which, of course, didn't work. In August I officially ended my road and mtb (one race) season and start prepping for cross.

Cyclocross was a breath of fresh air for me. I started actually following my training plan, and doing weekly skill practice and though my first race was a DNF I knew from that race that I was progressing and besides not being able to finish I was racing right and doing well. Then the second race I had a good race and actually felt racy again. I was fighting for position with George Gantner for a couple laps and having a blast and ended up coming in 10th. I knew I probably wouldn't be fighting for wins, I would have loved to but I knew this wasn't going to be that year. This would be a building year. After that I placed 18th in my third race and after that, the lowest position I got was 10th at states. I had a good streak of top tens, and I completed my goal of finishing in the top ten of my category, got a medal at states. So I can't say this wasn't a great year. And the icing on the cake, this was the first year I completed an entire season without a major injury!!!! So really can't complain about that.

Now I'll take a couple weeks, take a cruise down to Mexico and start planning for next year. The most important thing I need to do is enjoy taking a rest.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

NEOCX #4 Stark Velo

Well another race is in the books. Didn't go as planned, actually it went exactly how I envisioned it, but didn't go as I planned. The course was located at the Kent State Stark campus. I had ridden there with my group I do cross practice the week before and know somewhat of how the course would go. I know that it was going to be generally flat, with a couple technical places, and only one hill to really contend with. I knew this may not be the course for me. This was a course suited for the powerful riders I had one hope, and it looked plausible leading up to the week before the race. My last hope was mud and rain. If the conditions were bad, then I might have a chance to make up time with my bike handling skills.

Friday morning I woke up to clouds and rain. Good, it had rained a couple days this week, and I had gotten my one ride this week in wet conditions, purposely leaving dry weather tires to get used to sliding in mud. Then it turned worse, it got sunny!! And it stayed sunny all day Friday and I woke up to sun on Saturday. Well, this wasn't going to go well for me.

Lined up on the outside of the start line knowing I would be to the inside on the first turn. The race started and I had a killer start, up to second place and closing on the leader. That's when things started to unravel for me. I just didn't have the legs for the long straights with no recovery time. Each lap took more and more out of me and I slid from 2nd to 18th by the time the race ended. I had a slow training week as I only had one day on the bike due to some last minute changes in schedule. Not happy wit how I finished but that's life. I'll get back on the bike and ride hard this week to be ready for the Brooklyn rec race that my team is putting on.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Why I love Cyclocross

First and foremost. It is by far the most difficult racing I have done. Sure, I've probably put more effort into a mountain bike racers, and suffered more during a road race. But there's just so much more involved in cyclocross. It's the pure fact that everyone is packed into a smaller course, during a much shorter course. It all comes at you so fast, and you have no time to recover.

Second, it's a whole hell of a lot of fun. If you step back and look at the sport, you can see the absurdity of the whole thing. Let's take road bikes with slightly knobby tires, make a arbitrary course in a park somewhere and make them ride around in the mud, jump over plywood and watch as they trundle up hills. All during a time when most our hanging up their bikes. Unlike road racing or mountain bike racing where you go from point a to point b, there's no destination. It just looks like a bunch of road cyclist got lost in a field and can't find their way out. I love that, and it takes some of the pressure of me as a racer. I can just enjoy myself, and truthfully, that's when I do best.

The fellowship, we are a close knit group of masochists who enjoy the suffering.

The gear! There's not sport where it's normal to show up with two bikes, and panoply of wheels. Along with a ton of different clothes to match the weather. I'm a gear nerd and love perfecting my bike, and my tire selection. Playing around with tire pressure.

It gives me something to do after a long season. I'm surrounded by roadies and mountain bikers who are all sad because their seasons have ended or are close to ending. I on the other hand have something to look forward to and I can get excited about. Something that's similar but different enough to keep me interested, after doing the same routine since January.

Lastly, and for me this year most importanly, it gives me a second chance. If you've not met the goals for your road or mountain bike season, you get a second chance at redemption. There were 2-3 weeks between the last road race and the first cyclocross race which gives you a couple days of recovery and then you can start from scratch and reinvent yourself.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Cyclocross Season has arrived

Today marked my return to cyclocross after taking a year off last year due to injury. Today was an important day because it would tell me where I was in my fitness and how much I loved the sport. I had been gearing up for cross for about a month now of actual workouts geared towards cross, although truthfully, I had viewed everything I had done this summer geared towards cross. I had been excited for it last year, but my broken collarbone took me out a week before the first race. So my main goal for this year was simply to make it to cross and enjoy it.

Well despite some scares, I made it to the first race in perfect health. So I went into today with realistic hopes, but fear bit of apprehension. I haven't done this in a year, I had no clue how I'd react. I banked my whole season on these races, not only for doing well, but for completing my races for the year. So I had better enjoy it, because I had signed myself up for the entire season.

Two races went off before me, and between each race I was able to do a warm up lap of the course. It definitely was a good course. From what I heard a lot more singletrack, which was fine by me since part of my training has been riding my cross bike on the mtb trails in the area. The course has a couple obstacles to deal with, a sand pit, 3 log crossings on the singletrack (two you could hope, the third you had to dismount) and then two barriers before the end. I picked my tires, figured out their pressure and got ready to race.

The race started well for me, I got a great start and had finally successfully placed myself towards the front of the race. I lost a couple positions in a gravel turn as I got pinched on the inside in the loose gravel. But held my place up until the trip down the sand pit. After that point I started ever heating and couldn't get cooled down again. As my core temperature rose i lost more and more of my power until the third lap when I came undone. My mom luckily was there handing me bottles each lap and each lap I would take in as much water as I could and toss the bottle. On the third lap I had to stop because I was getting dizzy and was about to throw up. I composed myself and carried on hoping to finish the race. Coming into the stadium section of the start area I blacked out on the top of the climb just barely composing myself before I went off course. At that point I decided my race was done and there would be another race to fight for. So I pulled off.

Truthfully, even though it was a pretty poor race for me, bordering horrible. I feel really good after this race. Everything I had control over went perfectly. My dismounts and remounts were good, tire choice and pressure was perfect. My cornering was good, I was holding enough speed that I was on the course tape coming out of each turn. I had some fun in the sand pit, I still think that if I had not been so out of it because of the weather I could ridden that section, as that's the kind of thing I'm good at. The only thing that went wrong was something out of my control, and that was record high heat. So everything I could control was perfect and my race was undone by something out of control, and something that won't come up again this season. So it's time to get ready for next week.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Thief Would Like Your Bike.

Thanks to Micheal Bloomhuff for this one.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

More Doping News

Tyler Hamilton is set appear on 60 minutes this Sunday where it is said that he admits to doping and also says that he witnessed Lance Armstrong dope. This is the second high profile rider to go on record as saying he witnessed Lance dope. Now only two have officially came out and said so much, the first was Floyd Landis, who after years of denial and spending his fans money on denying her doped came out roughly this time last year. Now, Hamilton, does the same, on the day that Lance's ex-teammate Chris Horner takes over the race lead at the tour of California.

Lance's publicist has of course denied the that he is a credible source, but lends no claims other than "He's was the most tested athlete" and that Mr. Hamilton is only doing this to gain publicity for his book. Now this is what we call in the Philosophy world as a Red Herring and a personal attack. Neither one of these refutes the claim and is only a way to distract the listener from the fact that there's really no claim being made.

Now, I will lay out I do believe at one point in his career lance took a banned substance. I don't know when it was or how long or in what context. Though, I do believe that an important step forward is to accept that the sport has a problem and then learn from it. If for no other reason than to give hope to individuals who are trying to make it into the pro ranks now. The first step to cleaning the peloton is airing out it's "dirty laundry" so that we can start to solve the problem in it's entirety. Make it transparent, we don't have to know everyones Biological Passport and their test results, but knowing what the doping agencies are doing to combat this horrible scourge of the peloton would be a good start. The problem has to be attacked head on, and I'm sure a lot of Pro's and team members will be hurt and lose their job, but it will be in no way even close to how much they've already hurt the sport.

Friday, May 13, 2011

What the UCI dope list means?

Today, Le Equipe published a list, ranking every rider from last year's Tour De France on how likely they were to be doping based on their Biological Passport. That Biological Passport is a health record of every pro rider, chronicling their blood values over their career, the idea behind it is that if levels change in a dramatic and erratic fashion it can point to someone who is doping. What does this list mean then, well each rider is placed in a number from 0 (no suspicion of doping) to 10 (high suspicion or evidence of doping) with anything under 5 being unlikely to have doped. This list was supposed to be used as a tool to guide testers on who to test during the tour. It should be noted that none of this proves that someone has or hasn't doped. There's no proof in this evidence at all, and the numbers can be swayed by a large amount of factors (illness, crashes, even a rider who is completely clean can have a higher than normal reading because of getting into shape.)

So what does this mean? Well, first and foremost, it means they are actually using the biological passport. We haven't heard much from the UCI and WADA in regards to actually being able to catch someone in the act. So it's good news for all of us fans to know that they are using this information to clean up the sport of cycling.

Second, that most of the peloton was in under level 5. Out of 198 riders, only 42 riders where above the upper limits, meaning 156 riders were below the upper limits. That's a good majority in the lower half, or safe zone. Even ten years ago, if they had this the numbers would surely have been swapped. Even the highest zone 10 only had two riders, Carlos Barredo (Quick Step), and Yarasloz Popovych (Radioshack.) In fact if you put all the members of the team together. The top three times most likely to dope are HTC, Astana, and Radioshack. All 4 french teams were the least likely to dope, followed by Garmin and Cervelo.

Overall, I think this is good news for cycling fans and the majority of the peloton, and can only hope bad news for anyone in the upper 5.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The greatest Tribute.

Today we remembered Wouter Weylandt in the most fitting way. As I watched today's coverage I was touched by the rolling memorial. Each team taking 10 kilometers to show their respect to Wouter. Each team silently on the front paying their respects to a man that gave his life to a sport he loved. Finally, at the end Leopold Trek taking the front, lined up in race order with Tyler Farrar, Wouter's best friend taking his positions in the line. Watching them come towards the line brought me to tears as you can see the sadness behind their sunglasses and helmets, and see some of the toughest athletes showing their grief at the loss of one of the friends.

David Millar showed pure class in orchestrating the memorial. He talked to the team and asked if they wanted him to wear the leaders jersey, and what they wanted to do. When they decided on the rolling memorial, he went around to all the teams and made it happen. He's a true patron of the peloton. Watching over them and being the voice of reason. Since his return he has greatly impressed me, and I have even further respect for him now.

The most stirring moment had to be when Tyler, out of respect for the team moved back to let Wouter's teammates cross the line together. The team, however, slowed and pulled him forward and the two closest members put their arms around him as he visibly broke down into tears. Wouter's 8 remaining teammates and his best friend crossed the line together as one, showing their respect for their fallen brethren. With Tyler being hugged as he crossed the line broken down.

It will forever be the a day that will be etched into my mind. Not only for the sadness, and reminder of the danger I face every day I get on a bike. More so, the class and respect that was displayed by each rider. Each rider put their own goals and ambitions on hold, and instead showed the greatest respect for one of their competitors. I don't know many sports that have this level of class. It was a moment that transcended sport and showed compassion, today all 206 riders weren't teammates or rivals, they were family. No moment of silence will ever compare to the 216km rolling tribute and the emotional end.

Follow this link to watch the emotional end. Fast forward to about 20 minutes in.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Rip Wouter Weylandt

I'm sure all the follow professional cycling are feeling the same thing that I'm feeling. A deep sadness and emptiness after hearing of the tragic crash of Wouter Weylandt. It's a stark reminder of the dangers that we face every day we sling our legs over our top tube. Yes we take our precautions and we ride as safely as we can. But everyday we take our lives into our hands, and it's days like these that remind us how lucky we are.

My heart goes out to his family, teammates and friends. I'm sure their hearts are heavy with the lose of a loved one. I can only fathom what they must feel, along with the entire peloton, who must get on their bikes tomorrow and ride again. He will be remembered for his kind heart, and his sacrifices for his teammates. Today, was a dark day for professional cycling and may he rest in peace.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Buildup

Ahh Fuck. That's what's going through my mind right now. I wish I was one of those confident people, man that would be awesome. No, I'm neurotic. I've hidden it since my first race, you don't want your competition see your weakness, they are a ruthless and cutthroat lot. You show them where you don't feel good and they will eat you and shat you out the back, (pun semi intended.) So you put on a stoic face, and soldier on keeping the pain inside, that is unless you're Jens Voight, because then you'll just slaughter your competition into dust. That's not in my skill set though. My skill set is hold on till I can't anymore and then attack.

So what? Here I sit, in that nervous state that precedes any race. It will only grow from here, I'll toss and turn all night and wake up groggy. Then as the race gets closer it will reach a feverish pitch of overwhelming dread. Then the starter lets us go and within one pedal stroke everything changes. In a matter of seconds nothing else matters, except for the wheel in front of mine, the gap that's opening up. Should I move up? Yes, I should definitely move up. Should I push the pace, or should I just let it stay slow. No, if I'm resting so is everyone else. Off the front I go.

Did I breakaway? I can't see past the rider behind me! I'm either doing something good, or I'm pulling the field. Oh well, either way I'm sure making someone hurt. The next turn I can see that I'm pulling the pack. I flick my elbow out and pull off to sit in the back. I've done my part to liven up the race. Should I go for the primes? My legs do feel good. I won't go for the money (everyone goes for those), I'll go for the lesser ones. They are much easier and less effort.

Ok one lap to go. Get to the front. I don't know if I have the energy to do this, ok if I finish strong I can have a whole pizza and that gelato. I must, I'm much to close. I made it to the front, I'm committed, I'm here I have to give it a go. 500 meters to go, 400, wait for it, 300, way to early, 250, Please no one jump, 200, GO!!!!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Dusty Spokes is Back!!

Well, I'm back. Did you miss me? After too long I'm back at it. For those that haven't heard I did go into surgery. I spent an entire month in bed, because it hurt to sit up. I stayed off the bike all the way through the new year, well I'm come clean. I did have some rides during that time. Just don't tell my doctor. Most were short, a lot of them I turned around because it hurt too much. But on Christmas eve eve, I got the ok from the doctor to start riding again. On New Years Day I returned and now after a month of taking it easy to cage how I would ride, I started training again! So hopefully this year I'll update more regularly.

In the time off I got a call from Snakebite Racing, actually it was a Facebook message but that sounds a lot less professional. It was the first month off and I was sitting at home, I had barricaded myself from the cycling world because it was way to depressing. I had spent the week of the Big Valley Race being asked where I was. It had gotten to much so I had just walled myself in. The message was asking me to join the team. I had thought about switching up teams for a while, but it seemed like now was a good time.

Now, that is not to allude that I wasn't happy at CAMBA. Truth be told, I was rather happy at CAMBA, everyone was awesome and very helpful. They were always there to answer questions and I must give thanks to them as they helped me progress as a rider. It came down to two things; my desire to get more into road racing, and me wanting to push myself further. With those two things on my mind, I accepted the spot on SnakeBite Racing.

The other thing that happened was me really come into my own at work. I had just picked up the Head Mechanic position when I got hurt, and after coming back I made sure the make my mark on the shop. I have already impressed my manager, District Manager and Corporate. So much so that I have been featured in the company blog (, the FYI that goes out to each store and an e-mail sent out to our stores mailing list. Below is the e-mail.

In other news, I have moved to just outside the Cuyahoga Valley so I'll be right down the road, and when I say right down the road I mean just a downhill to the Valley. So hopefully, I'll be getting in a lot of a good training in. Well this post was supposed to be about why I love the early season training, but I got of on a tangent. So I'll be back with why I love early season training. That is, if I remember why I love it tomorrow.