The state of Alabama is set for a spectacular year of cycling events for racers and endurance enthusiasts alike. The Alabama Wheelmen has compiled the most complete listing of upcoming rides and races all across the state that you will find anywhere. The result includes over 50 events or activities including the recently announced “Bo Bikes Bama” which will be held in Auburn for the first time ever. The calendars are printed in glossy heavy stock and there is a high-resolution photograph that accompanies each month grid. If you are interested in riding centuries, you will be pleased to see that every one of the ten Alabama Backroads Cycling Series events for 2014 is shown. We have also included some triathlon and duathlon events courtesy of our friends with the Team Rocket Tri Club. The photos below show the cover and a composite of all 12 months of the calendar. You’ll have to get the calendar to see the full-resolution photos of each month. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested. The supply is limited so don’t put this off.
Estimated delivery time is Monday. Be on the look out for email traffic for distro early next week once I get the items picked up.
As a certified bike snob, what am I looking for in a bike? My last bike was a good match and there were lots of things I liked about it. It was a Bianchi 928 painted in a special edition white paint to celebrate Danilo DiLuca’s victory in the new world tour points series. If you know your history, prior to this things were set up a little differently. The world champion wore horizontal rainbow stripes. That is the guy that one the one day race. Then there was a guy that wore vertical rainbow stripes as the leader of the points tally. That is the kit that morphed into the white jersey for the “world tour”. I don’t even think they have a jersey for that anymore, but Rodriguez won the points over Chris Froome in 2013. I only ever saw one bike in real life with the same paint job and it was an Aluminum FG Lite. So there was a sense of exclusivity that I liked. The Bianchi was also pretty good at about everything. It was light enough, it was comfortable and it sprinted pretty well. I was perfectly happy riding centuries on it. It was very sure footed on descents. I loved it. To me it was a 911 Carrera. All the sporting credentials you need with daily drive-ability. Now after 7 years of ownership, I’ve been able to test ride a couple of bikes in search of my next dancing partner. I’d love to have another newer 911 or maybe even up a level to something analogous to an Audi R8. If you haven’t ridden a flagship carbon bike in 7 years, I’m going to let you in on a secret: bikes have gotten MUCH better. Suddenly my 911 Carrera looks like it’s from the late 60s with the little air cooled engines putting out 128 hp.
So what does a 911 or Audi R8 look like now in bike terms? I’ve been liking the Cervelo R5 and the Bianchi Oltre. They are both flagship bikes and both race in the world tour. Both bikes have come out with important updates for the 2014 year model that made them even more appealing. I also have the hots for the Colnago C59. It’s a world tour bike too, but I keep expecting Colnago to come out with an upgraded model. All three of those would certainly be exclusive. I don’t think anyone in Huntsville owns any of those bikes. The Cervelo and the Bianchi will not be stocked in bike stores as they are so exclusive, the only way to actually see one is to put a deposit down. Turns out, you can actually buy a real 911 Carrera for the same money. That means no test rides on the real deal. So what can you do? You can test drive the R3 and sample the baby brother. I actually did that and I was impressed. It was my first test ride and I was blown away. It was comfortable, it was stiff, it was much lighter than my old Bianchi. There were some things I didn’t like but there were so many things that I did like I started to get my head around the things I thought were funny like the BBRight bottom bracket standard and tons of toe overlap in a size 54. The tall head tube didn’t bother me, on my fit I would just run a slammed stem and it would be perfect and look pro to boot. I also tested an S5 and I thought it was going to beat me up. Those really aero seat stays couldn’t be that compliant. But they didn’t beat me up. I actually thought it was lovely and now I believe David P when he says it’s quite comfortable. Oh, and it was fast. Really fast. If you are a breakaway specialist you should have a look.
Last night though I had a date with something else. Something that hadn’t been on my radar. And I loved it. It’s not a 911 or an Audi R8. But I have the perfect car analogy. It’s a Mustang Boss 302 in a Laguna Seca edition where they add the extra roll bar for stiffness and take out the rear seats. It’s an off the lot race car and for someone who does crits and needs something stiff out of corners it’s perfect. Through the S5 test drive I have come to appreciate aero and I want a slice of that pie as well. This bike has all of that. And even better, it comes at a price point south of a Porsche. I’m heading over at lunch today to buy one!
I think that I’ve been a bike snob for nearly my entire life. The people who ride with me are nodding in agreement with a “I know that’s right!”. Seriously though. I think my first BMX bike was the culprit. When we lived in Arizona I was in 1st grade. For Christmas Santa brought me a wonderful chrome BMX bike with blue accents. I don’t remember the brand, but I loved it. It was one of the first “I’ve arrived” moments of my life. It made me feel prestigious. Truth be told, I remember becoming quite arrogant. Thanks to my friends and family for putting up with me.
Now fast forward about a year, my family moved us to Huntsville and I don’t remember why, but my BMX bike didn’t come with us. Instead out in Grandma and Big Daddy’s garage was a well used, mostly red replica of a Schwinn Apple Krate. I didn’t know at the time that it was a replica of a very popular bike. The chrome was mottled with rust and it had a banana seat. The horror!
All bikes have a personality. And in my crazy world, bikes from Italy are infused with so much personality from their creator that I have been wondering if it just might be possible that there is a Heavenly presence alive and well in those little Italian factories. I think it works the same way with cars. As a general rule, the more attention paid to the piece during manufacture, the more personality there is to bond with as a finished product. It’s our job as riders to choose your next bicycle carefully so that the attributes of the bike best match your personality. It’s not just finding a match for stack and reach, that is simply the entrance criteria for consideration. Has it been designed to excel in areas where you as a rider excel? Can it cover your weaknesses a little bit? Does it ignite your passions? The best analogy I can think of is to compare it to choosing a dance partner. Each of us will place a different weight of significance onto each attribute. When the match is right, you don’t let her go, it should always be “till death do us part.”
So at the end of last season when my race bike needed to be retired due to a structural death I began a search for my next dancing partner. I’ve had my eye on a couple but nothing has worked out yet long-term. I’m excited though because I’ve got a date tonight. I’ll let you know it went in part 2…
Yeay! First delivery was attempted at my house this morning. I’ll pick the kits up tomorrow before lunch at FedEx’s Production drive location and plan to eat lunch and meet y’all at Chipotle Tuesday @11:30. I’ll work to deliver the rest of the kits to folks that cannot come to lunch tomorrow so if that time and location is inconvenient then no worries. Looking forward to seeing you guys tomorrow.
“2013 reorder” kits are due to ship out 11/20 to include all Red White and Blue kit items (kits, vests, skinsuits, warmers). That is right around the corner. I should have them by that Friday and will keep you guys and gals posted as I learn more so distro to y’all can be smooth and expedient.
Just like last year, Stephanie and I made the trip up to Greenville SC for the weekend for the Hincapie Gran Fondo. Last year was such a good time for me at the ride and for us as a couple being in Greenville, that we both wanted to have another go. In fact, I think I’ll do early bird registration before Jan. 1 so I can get the 30% discount.
So how is a Gran Fondo different from a typical century we might do around here like say, the Stinger Metric or All you Can Eat? The difference is that for 3 very fast guys and gals there are prizes for KOM and overall finisher including a BMC frameset for overall winner. For normal folks the only difference is that you get a finish time. The nitch for this ride is that you get to ride with George Hincapie and several of his friends like Christian Vandevelde, Tommy Danielson and Taylor Phinney. Timed ride huh, how did you do? Well I finished 66th out of 436 timed riders for the 80 mile route with a time of 4 hours and 53 minutes. That is 16.4 mph average including all of my stops. The winner did it in 4 hours and 2 minutes. That is 20 mph for 4 hours over 7,300ft of climbing. Kudos to you sir! There was a KOM competition up the biggest climb of Skyuka mountain. Skyuka is 4.0 miles and 1,813 ft at an average gradient of 8.7%. The first 3 miles are 9.4% and the last mile is about 7.1%. David Winston who won the overall did a time of 24 minutes and 7 seconds. Tommy Danielson just beat him at 23:55. My time was a little less than 40 minutes. What a difference!
Last year I was able to spend a good amount of time exposed to the pros. They would stop at every rest stop and socialize and then ride back through everyone to the front and repeat. This year they were a bit more elusive. They started out much faster which actually made the front of the pack much safer. I was able to bridge up to the main pack after about 20 minutes of riding. I figured the pros would stop at the rest stops anyway so I wasn’t stressing about getting up there, I just tried to follow wheels and make good progress. Once I got up there I took a chill pill and socialized with Brian Jackson who gave me a bit of history on his team from Indianapolis. Just before the first rest stop I allowed myself to trail off the back on one of the larger rollers. I was doing 450+ watts and had already worked pretty hard to get up there. I figured there will be a slow down at the rest stop anyway so why not take care of myself. In hindsight I should have tried to stay on. Tommy D and Christian Vdv were away in a 2-up break and apparently it was fox and hound stuff as the group tried to keep them close. That was the last I saw of the pack. I rode a good tempo to the climb, did a decent climb, except for dropping my hat and having to turn around and pick it up. After that I stuffed a couple of things in my pocket at the rest stop and headed off down the most technical descent I’ve ever done. Kudos here to the organizers, there were guys in all the dangerous switchbacks waving flags and shouting words of caution. Last year despite these measures I saw half a dozen people climbing up out of the woods back to the road. This year I only saw one guy with a tear in his bibs and road rash.
I ended up in a big pack of Hincapie development riders but after a few minutes I realized they weren’t really riding and I saw 2 guys just up the road wearing the R/F kit that Brian Jackson wears and thought I might be able to bridge up. Dropped the Hincape guys bridged up no problem but Brian must have been up the road. Bummer. From here I pretty much rode solo for the rest of the ride. The Hincapie development squad would leapfrog me several times with riders hanging off of and drafting the team car. I found that annoying actually as I could have used a good workman like group. Finally the car took them way up the road and I never saw them again.
That’s basically it. I rode in the remaining 40 miles putting out decent tempo power and tried my best to enjoy the roads and revel in the scenery God created. Stephanie met me at the finish and brought me a large sweet tea from Chick-fil-a. Bless her!
After the ride Stephanie and I walked around downtown Greenville and I’ve got to tell you, it’s one of, if not the, best downtown we’ve ever been to. Having recently returned from Vienna and London, those places don’t have the charming atmosphere of Greenville. Those two are obviously really nice cities to visit, but I could see myself living in Greenville.
So what had happened wuz…Tuesday after a normal lunchtime ride chatter back at the locker room drifted to climbing. Alex Clark looked at Johnny and said “I can beat you up Monte Sano” to which Johnny replied “Can you now?” I can tell you that the rest of us listening, all of us essentially 9 years old in our hearts, had heard everything we needed to hear. Words like that are not to be spoken lightly and you had better be ready to back it up. This was essentially a triple dog dare from the Christmas Story movie we watch every year. This would have to be settled on the road. Mano a mano.
The race was to happen today, Friday. Glorious Friday! Let me set the stage for you. Alex is a fit guy. Has never raced his bike but does quite well in the Triathlon scene. Johnny has raced his bike before, but not so much this year with the new baby. In fact he is a good sprinter but I’d probably categorize him more as a Roleur, or a guy suited to the longer hard efforts on rolling terrain. So what is the big deal? Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, Alex is 50 pounds lighter than Johnny. That’s Alex’s 138.5 to Johnny’s 188. That is a huge delta! Why would a bigger guy accept a challenge like that? The cards are certainly dealt more favorably to the lighter guy. But you gotta know Johnny. #1 he is very competitive. Words like “I can beat you up Monte Sano” is just the kind of fuel a guy like that needs to do something special. #2 Johnny can suffer.
Since none of the rest of us had any skin in the game, it’s only natural that we egg these guys on and build hype for the showdown, doing our part to ensure we get to watch the spectacle. Besides, what else do we have to ride for? So Wednesday and Thursday the emails circulated talking about strategy.
Montesano is a 3 mile climb with varying slope. From the 4 way stop the beginning kicks up but before you can even get into a rhythm there is a short descent. Then a short section with gradual slope until just before Tollgate Rd. Once you get to Tollgate it kicks up pretty good and stays that way until Land Trust parking lot. Once over that part the gradient stays pretty light until you reach the Fern switchback at the barricades. From the barricades it’s about 3 more minutes to the stop sign at the top where we agreed the finish would be.
Johnny being the bigger of the two, would favor a slower pace. The popular thinking was that if he could sit in and hold onto Alex’s wheel through Land Trust, then his chances increase. The gentle slopes would allow him a moment to draft and recover and prepare himself for the 3 minutes at the top.
Alex as a Tri guy and the lighter of the two, would favor a constant but hard pace. Typically you would expect a guy with 50lbs advantage would want to push all out on the steeper parts and force the breakaway companions to work on the flatter sections. In this case though, Johnny wouldn’t be inclined to work and any accelerations might play against Alex’s strengths.
So how did it go down? Right out of the 4-way both guys wisely played to their strengths. Alex laid down steady power at the bottom as he settled in. Johnny grabbed his wheel and programmed his mind to never let that wheel go no matter how much it hurt.
Difficult to see in this picture (can’t figure out how to enlarge) but for the first 10 minutes Alex’s pace had me above my threshold at 305w average. 305w for me. Alex would have been a little less and Johnny a little more. Johnny held tough right on Alex’s wheel all the way through Land Trust. I commented to Rustin that I didn’t think Alex was going hard enough to really hurt Johnny through there. After that Alex did a great job keeping the effort really high because my wattage didn’t drop on the more shallow slopes (remember I’m sitting in drafting) which was impressive. We averaged over 15mph through the flatter section and Johnny was still on Alex’s wheel at the bottom of Fern. No attacks. Both still looked strong. I allowed myself to trail off just before Fern and was probably 50 yards back around the corner. I could still see what was going on. At this point I’m fancying Johnny’s chances. I don’t know how much he was hurting at the bottom of Fern, but he can suffer for 3 minutes. Still together around the second switch back. Nearly there. They had to sprint for it at the top and Johnny just couldn’t quite come around – Alex wins by half a bike. Kudos to both of you guys but I gotta give Johnny some credit: a 50 pound handicap and you still made it a really good fight. Chapeau!
Johnny trying to recover from a very intense effort, still able to smile!
To the victor go the spoils: a Butterfinger candy bar. How sweet it is.
Thanks guys for the memory and entertainment.
The Alabama Wheelmen launched a new kit in May 2013 featuring several sponsors. In addition to the title sponsor Johnson and Hayes Physical Therapists, the team is also supported by an engineering company based in Huntsville’s Cummings Research Park: Sigmatech, Inc. The company also has locations in Colorado, Virginia, and Maryland. The partnership is natural to the team, which counts several engineers and scientists as members. Much like Sigmatech, the Alabama Wheelmen places a high value on the quality of our members and the contributions and commitment that are display during training and competition events. The Sigmatech logo is featured on the side panels of the jersey as well as the back of the bib shorts. We are proud to bear the company’s logo and hope to pay further to tribute during 2014, when the team will feature the same kit as in 2013.
The Alabama Masters 35+ CAT4/5 State Road Race Championship would be the culmination of my first year as a bike racer. I was hoping that I could roll together my training and the lessons I’ve learned throughout the year and end the season on a high note. Despite the repeated reports that the climb was really tough I liked the look of the course, which was 2 loops with an ascent of the climb on each pass. Wednesday before the race Brian Sumners and I made a recon trip and after riding the climb twice I didn’t think it was too bad. Even though the climb topped out 13 miles from the finish I wondered if it might be the deciding factor in the race. I even asked Brian how much time he thought someone would need at the top to be able to hold the lead to the finish. He said with a minute gap it might be possible to hold it.
Being an engineer and very type A I figured applying a little math to the situation might be advantageous. So I set up a spreadsheet to calculate how fast a chase group would have to go to catch a breakaway over a given distance. I even broke it down for different sections of the course since I knew speeds would vary on the rollers after the climb, the long descent off the plateau and the closing miles into the finish. I figured a minute lead was possible to hold, not easy, but possible. A minute and a half was better and two minutes would be even nicer, although likely really hard to establish.
One thing I have learned this season is that the best laid race plans can go out the window very quickly. You have to not only be willing to abandon pre-race plans but also be able to develop new plans on the fly. That being said, going into the race with a plan still seemed like a good idea and my plan was to ride the first lap in the pack, conserving energy for the second lap and then on the second time up the climb push the effort to see if I might be able to get off the front, or at the very least, whittle the field down some. The first lap went pretty much to plan. I took some pulls on the front to help keep the pace honest and concentrated on staying relaxed, taking in fluids, and not expending too much mental energy thinking about the second lap.
As we headed into lap 2 I was positioned well towards the front and before long we were at the foot of the climb. Time to execute the hard part of the plan and see what kind of time I might put into the field. I eased off the front and got into a good rhythm on the lower slope of the climb and was feeling strong. Part way up a glance back told me I had about 30 meters on the group. I kept up my effort and as I neared the top of the steepest section another glance back showed one rider who had jumped across to me. The bend in the rode obscured the rest of the pack, but the gap was larger. As the climb proper ended the road continued up a slight grade for a bit. I looked back at the rider with me and he indicated he had nothing to come around and help pull. I certainly wasn’t going to pull someone else around the rest of the lap, so I put in another little effort to get a gap.
The climb was now behind me and there was only one rider that I could see and I knew I was committed. The previous day I had been talking about my pre-race plan with Parker Agricola at Bicycle Cove and his words were now coming back to me, “If you go you have to commit and just keep pushing.” Time to see what I had in the tank for the day. Soon the race commissar rode up alongside and told me I had 15 seconds on the next rider. I figured that was the rider who made the climb with me so I kept the power on. A little while later and he reported I now had 30 seconds on the next chaser. I figured that was still the lone rider and I asked how far back the next group was and found that the next two riders were 35 seconds behind him. I had the minute that Brian, and my spreadsheet calculations, said was possible to hold.
I had 10 or 11 miles to go which included a section with some rollers, a section of gradual descent and a short, steep descent just before the final 5 mile run into the finish. As I pushed on a lot of thoughts went through the back of my mind, all helping to fuel me to keep the effort up. I knew a group working together could easily pull back a minute, but I also wondered if the group was splintered at the top of the climb and that it might take some time for them to organize. And there was no guarantee that a group would work well together. Ultimately, those were things I couldn’t control. All I could do was keep my head down and concentrate on keeping my effort high. Fortunately, I was feeling pretty good. I got past the rollers and was now on the steady, barely perceptible downhill off the plateau. The race commissar pulled up to tell me I now had 2 minutes on the chasers. Given the numbers from my spreadsheet calculation I knew that being caught was becoming a small possibility but with 7 miles or so to go I was not about to let up. I still had a 5 mile run into the finish and I knew I might encounter some headwind. And no one ever knows how the wheels might figuratively fall off.
I kept up the effort, soon negotiated the steep descent and the 90 degree turn at the bottom and was on the home stretch. At this point my mind wandered less to thoughts of how quick the chasers would have to ride to catch me as they were to pushing myself to keep up the cadence, stay as aerodynamic as possible and not forgetting to drink. The last report I got from the race commissar was that I had 2 minutes and 45 seconds over the chasers. With only a few miles to go I knew I had it. But to me the real race is always against myself. Seeing how far I can push myself. There’s always the challenge to push the envelope a little further. I kept pushing forward, not racing the competition, but taking the gifts the Lord has given me and using them 100%.
Soon I came to the 1km to go sign and knew it would be over soon. I kept on with my effort and the finish line was soon in sight. As I crossed the line the pre-race plan was complete and the effort over. And while fatigued and glad to be done I was somewhat sorry for it to be over. Don’t get me wrong, as the saying goes, “Victory is sweet.” But to me, whether in my past as a runner, or in this newfound challenge of cycling, the race for me has always been against myself.
I’m thankful for a lot of things this season… For my team, The Alabama Wheelmen club which has been a great group to be affiliated with and our title sponsor Johnson & Hayes Physical Therapists, along with C&C Fabrication, Pharmacy First, Bicycle Cove, Bicycle Works, Madison Cycles, and Trailhead which were great to have on board. A big thanks to Chris Leven and Parker Agricola who always got my bike perfectly tuned and fixed up… Especially after crashing out big time during my second crit. A huge thanks to my Tuesday/Thursday sufferfest training partners who pushed me to work hard and not slack, and who are just a great bunch of guys. And a big thanks to Brian Sumners for all the encouragement and tactics. I’ve learned a lot from you. And to my family, Clare, Ben and Maggie, for always supporting me. Clare, I’m especially thankful for the Cervélo you bought me to help get me into this crazy, fun sport, and your unending love and support. I’ve had a blast this year.
“The ultimate victory in competition is derived from the inner satisfaction of knowing that you have done your best and that you have gotten the most out of what you had to give.” – Howard Cosell