Friday, June 30, 2006

Operation Puerto

I just got back from Oklahoma. My throat is still a little sore, but I'm not feeling too bad. I'm still planning to race tomorrow unless I feel a lot worse then. I'll probably head out a little later for a quick spin tonight, so my legs aren't totally in shock tomorrow.

I checked VeloNews when I got back tonight, only to find out all kinds of stuff has been happening at the Tour de France. Some of the top contenders (Basso, Ullrich and others) have been implicated in a doping scandel and will not be allowed to race. Alexander Vinokourov got screwed, he was apparently clean, but since 5 of his teammates were also implicated, the team pulled out. The whole thing is pretty sad.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

New Arrival

My new cyclocross bike arrived this afternoon. I was pretty excited about the whole thing. It should be fun to do the races this Fall on a proper bike. I got a Redline Conquest Pro built up with mostly Shimano 105 components.

Ooh... a wheel...

The whole bike...

I got the bike adjusted more-or-less correctly and took it out for a quick spin before dark. I still have a couple issues to address. I'm getting a little brake rub on the front wheel, and I had trouble getting the brakes adjusted correctly on the rear, I think that the dish might be off. I'll check all of that out this weekend when I have a little time.

The bike didn't feel very "snappy" tonight, at least not compared to my road bike. Of course, my brake rub issue might have had something to do with that. I also had knobby 'cross tires on the bike rather than something smoother. I didn't think my Dad's new Cannondale R800 felt very snappy when I rode it a couple weeks ago either, but I just figured it had to do with our setups being different. The only major difference I'm aware of is that my road bike is steel whereas the other two bikes are aluminum. I'm also going to check out the geometries a little more closely and see if there's something else different. (OK, so my road bike is also the heaviest and oldest of the three, but I don't think being heavy and old equates to snappy-ness.)

I'm heading down to Oklahoma tomorrow for work; I'll get back Friday afternoon. I'm not sure if this trip is coming at a good time or not. It should be pretty low-key, but it's still a business trip. I've had a sore throat all day today, so I'm a little worried that I'm getting sick. The Marathon XC race is on Saturday and I really want to be feeling good for it. We'll see what happens I guess.

Sarah took some random pictures of Suzie while I was unpacking. They turned out well (Suzie usually won't face the camera), so I'm posting a few.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Review: The Hard Road

I watched "The Hard Road" this past weekend. It's a documentary that follows a first-year US pro cycling team through their entire season. The team was composed of two veteran racers and six rookies. We see lots of race coverage, but there's also time spent following the racers off the bike at home or with the other racers.

Highlights - The race coverage is pretty good as they get into the meat of the season. Some of the team meetings are pretty interesting, as are some of the interviews with the racers immediately following a race. What was a little surprising to me was that you see how hard these pro races are for the rookies. In many cases, these guys aren't even finishing the bigger races.

One of the better parts of the film, in my opinion, was an interview with Frankie Andreu (also a Michigan native). He provides some impartial commentary on the team and how hard it is to make it in pro cycling.

Another strong sequence was when we followed one of the veteran racers on a training ride. unfortunately, it was one of the few parts of the movie that discussed training. Regardless, it was interesting to hear him talk about what he was thinking and how he was feeling during this ride. Both of the veteran racers talked a lot about the mental aspect of racing, both in terms of mental toughness and in terms of making good strategic decisions during the race.

There were a few spots, mainly in the interviews with Andreu and the two veterans, where I felt like I should be taking notes.

Lowlights - While I saw some reviews that compared this movie to "On Any Sunday", I don't think it quite gets there. Particularly at the beginning, the film moves through the season way too quickly. I think they wanted us to get a sense of how busy the racers were, but it just ended up feeling rushed.

I was disappointed that we didn't see more training and more discussion of tactics. The training bit may be excusable though, since the bulk of the film takes place during the meat of the race season so they probably really weren't doing a lot of training. I would have liked to get "in the huddle" a little more though and learn more about the team's strategy and tactics. What we tended to hear was "just hang on as long as you can" and "don't quit". That's basically what I do! I don't know, maybe for a bunch of rookies, that's pretty much the best you can hope for.

Anyway, for a bike racing nut, it was a good movie. Probably not so great for anyone else.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Rest Day Post

I've noticed that I almost always make a post to the blog on Monday. Why? It's my rest day, so I don't have any workouts to distract me.

I needed the rest day this week too. I did a hard ride out at Bald Mountain on Saturday. Then on Sunday I did 20 miles out at Stony Creek in preparation for the "Marathon XC" race there next Saturday. It's a standard cross-country race, just extra long, 40 miles. Granted, they use a lot of the two-track for the course, but it's still a lot of off-road miles for me. Should be interesting to see how it goes... I figure I'll be OK through the third lap (30 miles), but I'm not sure what will happen on lap 4.

I've been feeling good about my riding lately. I read a post over on Ashwin's blog about how your riding position is never as good as you think it is. It made me check out what I was doing, and I realized that I'd gotten into the habit of riding with my arms in a very stiff position (too much time on the road?). This was, of course, creating all kinds of handling problems for me. On my two rides this past weekend, I really focused on keeping my arms bent and my chest down, and it made a big, big difference.

Monday, June 19, 2006


Our 4th wedding anniversary coincided with this trip. Here are a few photos from June 8th.

Hiking Trip

Since we didn't spend much time on the mountain when we had the bikes, we decided to do a little hiking there instead.

Parts of the trail were pretty steep and rooty.

There was still snow on the ground on the higher parts of the mountain.

View from about halfway up the mountain.

We did have a little trouble following the trail where it cut across a ski run at one point. Clearly, I know where I'm going though.

Coming back down the hill, we saw a few of the more challenging ski runs. This one dropped steeply down a ravine and then made a hard turn into the woods.

Unfortunately, it started raining on our way down the mountain and my knee was getting sore, so we didn't take many more pictures. We did take a shortcut along part of the dowhill (mountain biking) course they used for the 1994 World Cup. The part we walked along wasn't as tough-looking as I expected. I'm sure it is plenty challenging at speed though. We also walked by the entry to the course, which did look tough... really tough. It was extremely steep with lots of big rocks and a sharp turn. I don't think I would even attempt it at my current skill level.

Vail Mountain Ride

The last day we had our bikes in Vail, we did a little riding around town and on the mountain. We didn't get too far up, not even up into the singletrack stuff, before Sarah had enough. She'd been a good sport about my cycling adventures, so I didn't push it. Here are a couple of pictures from the mountain.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Village

Assorted pictures from the village of Vail.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Davos Hill Climb

Day 2 of cycling took us just across I-70 to try the Davos Hill Climb, supposedly a "classic Vail ride". Here's the elevation chart. About 1000ft of climbing in 3.5 miles or so, then you turn around and ride back down the hill.

Technically, this was a very easy ride, it was all a wide dirt road. All you had to do was climb. But for a couple of Michiganders, this was a lot of climbing. For reference, here's a link to an elevation chart someone made of a trail a few miles from my house. Notice that the longest single climb is less than 100ft.

Sarah was a trooper to go on this little sufferfest of a ride with me. A woman that passed us said that this was the "hottest ride in Vail". Here is Sarah, gutting out a typical stretch.

I kept saying, "We must be getting there, just another half mile." (Note the smile on Sarah's face; this must have been early in the ride.)

Nice view from the top of the hill.

Victory photo at the top. Just an easy cruise back down the hill was all that was left.

Even though this was kind of a tough ride for a vacation, it was something that I really wanted to do. You just don't get the opportunity to climb hills like this in Michigan. If we go back, I found a road ride I want to do too, from the village of Vail to the summit of Vail Pass. We could see parts of the route from the freeway, it looked awesome. It's about 2300ft of climbing (with the summit at 10500ft!) in 15 miles, pretty much all uphill, all the time.

Eagle Ranch Loops

We picked up our rental bikes on Monday morning, a couple of K2 Zed-somethings. They were OK bikes, but the components weren't great for trail riding. In particular, my fork was extremely sticky. Most of the time, it was like riding a rigid. Next time I go on a bike trip, I'm definitely bringing my own. I did switch my brakes around (left for the back and right for the front) to avoid any emergency braking unpleasantness. I remembered to switch them back before I returned it to help someone else avoid some unpleasantness.

The first trail we picked to ride on was dubbed the "Eagle Ranch Loops" (lots of info on the Vail area trails is at It was supposed to be pretty easy singletrack without too much climbing. It ended up being pretty much as advertised. We stopped a few minutes into the ride after we found that the bike shop put way too much air in the tires, but otherwise the ride went without incident.

The terrain was very strange for me to ride in. It was very open, we rode mostly through sagebrush. It was nothing at all like riding trails in Michigan, which tend to be heavily wooded. Unfortunately, we left our camera in the hotel for this ride.

One other point, the bike I rented had a slightly longer top tube than I'm used to (I did this on purpose). I decided that I liked this setup. There was one steep descent on the trail, and I felt more stable than I think I would have on my bike. This also fits with a tip from Gene Hamilton on using a relatively large frame with a relatively short stem. I may have to see about making a switch...

Stock photo of the trail.

Elevation chart... pretty easy.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Mountain Games

It just so happened that the Teva Mountain Games were going on in Vail the first weekend that we were there. They had all kinds of outdoor events going on. We caught some of the climbing, kayaking and dirt jumping competitions. Plus there were all sorts of huge dogs there for a "mountain dog challenge". We never did figure out what the dogs had to do, if anything, for this competition, but they were all amazingly well-behaved.

We ended up mostly watching the climbing events. Those guys and girls are very impressive. Lots of upper body strength, especially in the hands and fingers.

I was a little disappointed that we missed the freeride competition. The course was still up, it looked rideable even to me, but I doubt I would have done it with any kind of style.

The whole vibe of the event was pretty cool. Corporate sponsorship everywhere of course, but it was generally tolerable. I'm not used to being around so many younger, outdoor-minded people. That was actually the first thing that struck me as we drove from Denver to Vail, that there were a ton of people out on bikes riding on the various trails and roads that run along I-70. You definitely don't see that in Michigan.

Back to Reality

I just got back from a week-long vacation in Vail, CO . Between the trip itself and lots of work before the trip, I haven't been blogging much. I did try while I was gone though. I spent a total of about 5 hrs working with a tech support guy trying to get my computer and the hotel's high speed Internet hookup to work before I decided that wasn't how I wanted to spend my vacation.

Anyway, it was a good trip. I'll be posting pictures, stories, etc over the next couple days.

Here's a little preview...