Monday, August 30, 2010

Lincoln Trail State Park RR

Cliff’s Notes:

5 guys were in the 54 mile cat 3 road race. I finished 3rd. I crashed once, but am ok. The end.

War and Peace:

On Saturday I packed up the fam and bike and headed over to Marshall, IL for the Lincoln Trail State Park RR. The cat 3 edition was 12 laps of a 4.5 mile loop (54 miles total) on mostly wooded, rolling, twisty, state park road. Great course, great conditions. Each lap featured 4 kickers in the 5-10 second range, and the start/finish was set up after a mile of rollers trending upward from the lowest point on the course. With all the twists and turns you couldn’t see much more than 75 meters in front of you for most of the laps. Like I said, great course.

The field was 5 deep. Yup, 5 cat 3’s dragged themselves out of bed (at 11:10) to line it up. 2 guys from Dogfish (black jerseys) and 2 guys from IN Hand Center (white jerseys) went up against your’s truly. I had hoped that the field would be larger and more diverse but all year I’ve been racing in fields with numbers dominated by xXx and Burnham, so naturally - I was at home. I’m used to getting tag-teamed every Saturday morning.

A collective smirk was shared at the intensity of the send-off and the fact that with 50+ miles remaining, nobody was attacking at the gun. After an anticlimactic “Go!” and some softpedaling from our group, Dogfish and IN Hand began trading pulls. Later on the first lap, an IN Hand rider yelled at me to take a pull while a Dogfish grumbled about “being out here all day.” I laughed and retorted that “everyone had a teamate but me” and “there is no good reason for me to pull right now.” IN Hand repeated to me that I “should be pulling” and I said that if they want to go faster, they are more than welcome to. “If you want to drop me, then drop me” I shared. So he attacked. And that was the way it was going to be. Everyone was fresh so we watched each other and I rejected the notion that I would pull guys who had me outnumbered 2 to 1. This isn’t earth-shattering stuff, it’s bike racing 101.

Coming into the end of the 3rd (or 4th?) lap, John (IN Hand) was pulling on the rollers and I was sitting 2nd wheel. John was struggling a bit as he had done some work so far and launched a few attacks at our little love fest. His teamate attacked up the last climb, launching himself for the $25 prime on offer (he had won the previous prime, too). One of the Dogfish riders (we’ll call him Dave, but I’m not sure of his name) followed to contest it. Realizing the opportunity this offered I hit the gas too, not to contest the prime, but to try and drop John. I bridged up to the 2 off the front and went over the top holding a high pace. I kept the gas on for several minutes before yelling at the Dogfish to pull through. It had worked. The 3 of us rotated through and we were 1 IN Hand Center rider fewer. Now if I could only get Dogfish to continue pulling while I relaxed, I could try to drop both of them. Scott (unsure of name - IN Hand Center) was sitting in, and had no reason to work, what with the hope that his teamate would catch back on. We kept the rotation up for 3 laps, keeping the tempo between 23 and 26, so with each pull the likelihood of John rejoining was smaller and smaller. I felt really good during this section and noticed that I was taking longer and harder pulls than the Dogfish. [Read: you’re a darn fool, Frenchy!]

With 7 laps in the books (or was it on the 7th lap?) I decided enough was enough and stopped pulling. This angered the Dogfish, and the cooperation and steady pace we had enjoyed ended. We went back to Dogfish relay attacking, which was fine, although tiring. Which was the entire point. Generally, I was forcing Scott (IN Hand) to chase down the Dogfish flyers first, and then following his wheel. Obviously he wasn’t interested in doing the lion’s share so at one point, called my bluff, letting a gap open. Dave had a decent gap and realizing the opportunity, kicked it up a knotch to tempt us with 4.5 laps to go. I realized I had made a mistake as now both riders on my wheel had disinsentives to chase. Brian (Dogfish) wouldn’t chase his teamate, and Scott (IN Hand) could say he was waiting for his dropped mate. I was in a pickle. So I pulled. Once Scott saw I took a long hard pull, he pulled through, but not as long and not as hard. Ufh. Just before the rollers I ramped up the pace to close the last 30 meters to Dave and therein made my second tactical mistake. I should have attacked. Dave had been off the front for several miles, and since we had to actually work to catch him, he was probably the weakest of the bunch at that moment. I should have attacked hard through the rollers to try to shed him. Alas, I grabbed his wheel and we slowed down. [Read: c’mon Frenchy, work!]

We were now back to Dogfish relay attacking and being a little tired from all the chasing found myself with Brian and Scott up the road a bit with me sitting on Dave’s (a Dogfish) wheel. I tried talking Dave into chasing his teamate. Explained at length how tired I was from chasing him, but he was having none of it. So of course I sprinted as hard as I could to open a gap on him and went over the top of Scott and Brian off the front. I had a gap on all 3 and they were strung out themselves, not working together but struggling to get on terms individually. And here I made my third mistake – on a kicker I let up after seeing that everyone was intent on chasing hard. I should have kept it going for another couple minutes (even at a lower intensity) in order to shed someone or significantly weaken the other riders. As it was, I only tuckered myself out. Stoopid!

Sitting up in the group Dogfish attacked again (a good move) and I found myself back with Brian (the other Dogfish) with IN Hand up the road. Same situation, and I had let a gap open up. This time I didn’t know if I had the sprint to close the gap again, and it was clear from the pace that the guys up the road were digging deep. I jumped during the longest flat section after a significant gap had opened, in an effort to shed Brian the Dogfish. Unfortunately, while churning in my 53x11, at 34mph, I closed my eyes for a split second (this was not the course for such things!) and put my rear wheel into the gravel shoulder. The next second I exercised some kind of ninja insticts of which I was heretofore unaware – I bunnyhopped out of the gravel at 30+ mph, stabilizing myself in the roadway on my front wheel. During the process I had torqued my right shift hood inwards and unclipped with my left foot. Surprisingly I didn’t soil myself. I really did think I was going to go into the gaurdrail to my right and die. Needless to say, as I regained composure (and Brian caught me and shared that he thought I had certainly cheated death) I lost momentum and after taking the next corner, saw the 200 meter gap to the leaders grow. Now into the rollers I was not ready to power ahead at 400 watts for 2 minutes to make the catch. Surprisingly, neither was Brian. He didn’t try to jump me on the hills and get up the road solo. I assume he was either too tired to do so or too timid, thinking I would be able to follow. Regardless, this was his first mistake. I kept the pace as high as I could for the next mile and would catch glimpses of the leaders before they disappeared into the trees but I didn’t have it in me to reel them in and I certainly didn’t want to get too close only to have Brian bridge and drop me.

My pace slowed considerably at this point and Brian just sucked wheel – as he should. With just over 3 laps remaining, I was not too chipper about the situation. I resolved to recover and outsprint him at the line, so I pulled at 18 mph. The gap to the leaders ballooned out to over 3 minutes by the finish. What I didn’t know (but REALLY wish I did) was that up the road Scott (IN Hand) had started cramping and fallen off the pace of Dogfish. I have to think that had I known that fact I could have mustered Brian to chase with me and we would have been racing for second and not third. Alas, the fans were either too ignorant or unwilling to share this critical info. Here was my fourth mistake. Keeping a higher pace might have meant that we would have caught him, but I didn’t want to present Brian with an opportunity to attack me – there’s the rub.

Entering the last lap, my dear wife (who was not giving us splits!) made a bid for wife of the year as she approached the road (unbidden!) with a fresh bidon. We had discussed the possibility of a feed earlier, and we even practiced handing off a bottle in the parking lot (once), but she executed it to perfection and I now had fresh water in 90 deg. heat. Bless you woman. On top of that my (nearly) 3 year old yelled out a “Go Daddy Go!” reinvigorating my tired carcass. Brian asked me if that was my kid and we began a brief over-the-shoulder chat about our kids. It was while looking back at him (not the time for such things!) that I departed the roadway for the ditch. I kept it up through it and on the return trip back to the roadway caught a rut and fell over at about 12 mph. Scratched up, I was pissed. How could I have let this happen? Brian, in a class gesture, waited for me as I loosened up my rear brake to avoid the rim strike on the whobbly wheel. After a minute of righting myself, I went back to pulling.

With 2 miles remaining I upped the pace a little to speed the end of this march to the line. Coming into the rollers Brian attacked up the left side and began to swerve back and forth across the roadway in an effort to drop me. I held his wheel and he found himself in the unenviable possition of leading me out in a match sprint. While I have ZERO track experience I think I’m pretty good at this kind of thing. He made several mistakes (that I will not elucidate here – in hopes that others will perpetuate them) and I jumped him with about 200 meters to go and won by a bike or 2. I threw at the line just in case, nabbing my first podium finish in a cat 3 race.

Not winning in such a small field was rather humbling considering I’m on the best form of the year. While I “trained through” this race, the power numbers I’ve seen in the last week are quite good (for me). It goes to show me that I need to be more subtle in the tactical department and wiser before I begin winning races at this level.

I can’t believe you read all that. Next up is the Gateway Cup, which serves as the end of my road season.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Winfield Criterium (Cat 3, ABR Criterium National Championships) OR The Coulda Woulda Shoulda

On Saturday the family celebrated my maternal grandfather’s 80th birthday. Good times. We stayed the night in the Chicago suburbs which afforded me more time with my siblings and parents, as well as an opportunity to race in Winfield on Sunday.

The Stone Pony was in attendance for the master’s race and gave me the scoop on the course. In a rare move he told me this circuit was tailor-made, and that the way I’ve been riding in the local slugfests, I should do well. I certainly appreciate the encouragement from a racer of Dave’s stature. The man is half horse. (He handily won his master’s race.) I did tell him about my training and “poor” prep for the race, but he brushed it off – “you’ve got 2 good days in your legs.”

The weather was fair, temps were warm but it’s August and we’re all used to the heat by now. The course was a 4 corner crit, with wide corners. The back side had a block-long two-tiered kicker, followed by a rough “descent” into a smooth wide left hander, with 500 meters or so to the finish. I liked the course. Breaks were a possibility, but if it came to a bunch kick, there was plenty of room to sort things out on perfect tarmac.

The field was small with 18-20 of us lining up in the cat 3’s. Burnham and Psimet had 2 riders, while Tower had 3 or 4 and ABD fielded 4 or 5 I think. The rest were solo guys like me. There was definite quality in the field as Tim (Psimet), Nate (Burnham), and Kyle (Tower) were racing. I got to catch up with Keith (unattached) during the warm-up, which was nice.

The legs were a little stiff during my warm-up as I had ridden hard Saturday morning (both pushing a big gear and doing my first “micro-burst” workout). I hadn’t originally planned on this race, but when the opportunity came, of course I jumped at it. The legs started coming around but I still felt “slow.” The race kicked off and Ben (Powerbar) went off the front on an early glory-flyer that wasn’t getting away. He stayed off for a lap or three, but everyone silently agreed: if we let him dangle, he’ll be done for the day. We caught him and he tried again, but soon after he was recovering in the pack for the duration.

I stayed in the top 5 wheels most of the time and waited for other guys to close gaps, conserving energy. I noticed I wasn’t breathing hard and most of the time I was breathing through my nose. A good sign. In the second half of the race more moves went but unrepresented riders and teams pulled them back. Nothing too dangerous got more than 50 meters.

With 7 laps to go (or thereabout) Kyle (Tower), Tim (Psimet), an ABD, and one or two others (maybe Chris (xXx)?) got off the front with a little gap. They started rotating through and I thought the move might have the impetus to stay away, so I jumped at the start-finish and bridged up without any hangers-on. Sadly, by the time we came over the kicker the field had caught us. Coming back down the finishing straight, I recall mentioning to Nate: “so glad I just bridged to that!” In retrospect, I wasn’t hurting too bad as I was chatting up my competition. Nate’s been injured and after the stunning form he had earlier this summer, I think he’s ready to hang up the bike for 2010. Not that it’s been a bad year – winning the cat 3 state crit champs and all. He didn’t look too hot at the time though and just gave me a nod.

Soon after I saw we were looking at 5 to go. Being in the top 5 or 6 wheels, I was happy with my position, and tried to keep attentive to moves coming up the sides. The pace started to hot up a bit and ending the fourth lap, I fumbled a bottle while coming into turn 2. I got it in and made the turn but opened a gap to the rider in front. I hammered for a second to close the gap and noticed the front end bounce with each pedal stroke, the type of motion you would expect on a mountain bike with no front shock lockout. Hmmm. It didn’t register at the time; I was only interested in closing the gap. Into the kicker I stood and maintained my position as the field was lined out. Coming around the left hand bend at the top of the hill it felt as though my front rim was locked against my brake pad – “what is going on?” - I thought. I look down to see the front tire deflated. I was incensed. There was sailor talk – and I don’t mean “talk like a pirate day” type sailor talk. Raising my hand I pull out of line and begin to slow. I took the corner to the inside (sorry guys!) and slowly pedaled to the pit. It had just closed. The official asked me for my number while I said I had a front flat. He asked me again. I showed him my back and walked off the course. My race was over.

The next time through, Tim and Kyle had a 200m+ gap on the field, entering the (next to?) final lap. I cheered for them despite the sting of fresh legs. Coming into the finish it looked as though Tim attacked on the climb or opened the sprint up really early trying to shell Kyle, but Kyle jumped him with 175 meters to go and Tim sat up exhausted. It was an earned victory for sure as Kyle had attempted a few moves earlier in the race.

Sitting in the land of would-have-beens I have no doubt that without the flat, I had a podium spot. Nobody likes the jerk who opines that he would have won had the mechanical/spectator/teammate/meteorological event not taken place – but I find I AM THAT GUY right now. I strongly think I would have won. How annoying. But I didn’t. Kyle did. I clapped for him, and later shook his hand in congratulations while honestly meaning it. I’m not sure if my 3-year old will remember this or not, but I have to think she got a lesson in how to lose. I hope that at some point I could, you know, change it up a little and show her how to win, too.

On the drive home I was reliving the race in my head, imagining sprinting with Kyle and Tim head-to-head (to head) in the finale that wasn’t. My wife would notice that I gripped the wheel intensely for a moment, and know that I was thinking through the critical moments of the race. My mind also wandered back to the Tour of Hermann. Not for comfort (I won an omnium – yeah!) but to remember Dave Stone in the criterium. The man had the field by the balls. It was his race. He jumped for an omnium points prime from the breakaway and made it look effortless. Nobody could respond. But on the last lap we watched him limp in last in the breakaway with a flat tire, ceding the omnium overall in the process. That’s bike racing.

P.S. I have a set of Ritchey WCS Protocols for sale for $75. The front wheel has gone flat on me in 2 races this year and I hereby consider it accursed. It is leaving the stable never to return. I’m sure it will carry you to dozens of solo victories though, so contact me, this wheelset is for you and priced to move!

P.P.S. Avg HR during the race: 158. That hurts, and not from being too high.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Glencoe Grand Prix Race Report

I wasn’t originally going to write a race report for the Glencoe Grand Prix, as my result was lackluster, and really, how many reports can you read about pack finishes? But, it is a personal/family blog, so here goes – another “my story.”
After 2 weeks in Phx for work (with weekend breaks for cycling in AZ and NM) I had been off of training for some time. Regardless, my goals (The Gateway Cup) remain the same for the late season, so I knew I needed to kickstart my training for this finish to the season. Glencoe was lined up as a competitive crit to gauge my fitness before beginning a block of intervals. Though I always think of raising my hands while crossing the line (it’s only happened once!) I knew it was a big ask given the circumstances. I was not a little intimidated to see the usual suspects at the start: what seem like a dozen burnham and xXx riders together plotting the demise of the pack. To see (Big) John Whipple (Tati) my friendly nemisis this season (though the competitive vibe is definitely one-way, as he continually beat me) cat’d up to the 2’s was a bit sad. Alas, I was hoping to have a(nother) crack at him at Hillsboro next spring and I highly doubt I’ll be rolling with the P/1/2 field come April.

The Glencoe course was a tight 10-corner route through a depressed neighborhood. If by depressed you mean $600K+ homes. To futher illustrate what I mean, I will only add that our pace-car (which I didn’t see very much), was a Jag. Tough times these.

We got underway and immediately I noticed 2 things: 1) after taking a racing hiatus since the Peoria Cycling Classic in late June, I was not used to such close quarters on all sides; and 2) everyone was braking about twice as much as I expected for the turns. It was as if we were trapped in a cat 5 race for the day. The funny thing about these observations are their seeming contradiction – usually someone unused to racing brakes too much into corners. What can I say? I’m a paradox.

The race was cruising at a good pace and I was content to sit in the bunch. I complained to Newt (Ritte v. Vlaanderen) about the braking and he probably told me to get a life. Attenuated by the wind, my complaining and his responses went unrecognized so I think we’re still friends. Newt finds himself singled out since he is one of the few “too cool for school” cat 3’s who is willing to chat with his competitors. And I am always up for chatting (unless recently, completely, sploded). The legs didn’t feel too bad, but I wasn’t going to start going for primes or probing attacks, mind you. I couldn’t afford to crack in that heat over the next 30 min. Regardless, there were some who did feel the “good sensations” and I watched a Flatlandia go and a xXx’er follow. Turns out, that was the winning move. I recall whining to Newt later on that “they had 30 seconds.” Like a papa-bear he gently demurred that we were both racing solo, and it was up to teams not represented in the break to bring it back. “You’re right” I thought, but the laps ticked by.

I stayed on Newt’s wheel for a while but when I woke from a short nap I found myself 20 riders back of him with 5 laps to go. My plans had unravelled. Moving up was difficult on the narrow streets, and was exacerbated by the field’s penchant to grab fistfulls of break into every corner, followed by a low grade sprint back up to speed. (Really though, I likes crit racing!) Entering the final 2 laps I just told myself to look for opportunities to move up and grabbed a few spots during the kicker of a hill on the back side. Entering the final lap I was too far back to fight for a significant placing, but I thought I might be able to get in the money (que the “lowered expectations” themesong). Going into the 1st corner, the wheel I was on belonged to a young man who decided the pavement would be a better kisser than any podium girl and promptly “ate it” after touching shoulders with the gentleman to his right. I am very glad I did not crash, however, I was not pleased with losing several spots and scrubbing a lot of speed in the process. You can see the crash on the left side of the screen at timestamp 10:34 in this youtube video.
Yelling (while sprinting) “way to keep it up!” at the guy ahead of me, I worked myself back into some kind of a draft and REALLY started looking for opportunities to move up. Obviously everyone (and their [insert cliché family member]) was looking for the same at this point. However, I sprinted up the kicker (while everone else was also keen to move up) and grabbed a couple of spots. I then kept the gas on through the false flat and surprisingly kept picking guys off. I was delighted to find this moment also captured in this video @ 12:16. In a way I felt my lackluster finish was somehow better, seeing as how I was fighting at the end, and I had the legs to move up.
Coming around the last corner I sprinted for a middling place (I know, I know, sprinting while out of the money, in my case 4 spots out of the money, is lame, foolish, and dangerous), moving up another 3 or 4 riders. However, I wasn’t sure how many riders were ahead so, while keeping it safe, I gave it a go.

This race was a reality check for me. Regardless of what the powermeter says, how do I match up in a big crit similar to what I’m targeting in September? The good news was that 1) I didn’t have a terrible day (getting dropped or crashing) and the fitness was alright; 2) I was able to move up, even during the last lap, which is usually hotly contested and 3) I genuinely enjoyed myself while racing, though there were moments (like the split second before the dude crashed in front of me) where I thought I would have been better off on a couch somewhere. The bad news (or critique, if you will) was that 1) I was waaaayyy out of position with 5 to go; 2) my fitness was NOT there to go off the front with the winners* (and trust me, there ARE winners and losers here – myself being the latter.); 3) I spent a lot of money to race bikes on the day without much to show for it. Oh well, that’s bike racing.

*Though I wonder about this point. With all the accelerations at the corners, I wonder how much less effort I would have used in the top 5 or off the front in a small break? Perhaps someday I’ll have the guts and legs to try it.

Tour of the Gila Recon Notes

After 2 weeks of long hours in Phoenix, I took off for Silver City, NM intent on riding the Tour of the Gila course. The drive from Phx to Silver City was pretty uneventful. It wasn’t the most boring 5hrs I’ve spent in a car (thank you Western KS!) but it was up there. That is of course, until you start to climb upwards west of Tucson. It gets pretty real quick if you enjoy mountains. The drive from Lordsburg, NM to Silver is quite picturesque, cresting the continental divide.

I linked up with Chris at the Mimbres Café (closes at 8:30 on Friday night, so plan your reveling accordingly) after downing a veggie sandwich. My avocado consumption skyrocketed during this trip, and all those (healthy) fats surely came back to get me in the hills.

For those of you who haven’t met him, NYChris is an affable young man. He is mature beyond his years and strikes me as a truly thoughtful person. I appreciated his hospitality for the weekend.

Chris led me from the café to the place he’s been house-sitting for the summer. After a few single-lane bridge crossings on gravel back roads, we pulled in front of this little house. Sliding around these mountain roads in the dark, I won’t deny that the thought occurred to me that this was all a set-up for a pistol to the face and an emptying of my admittedly meager wallet. Instead I was invited into this (off the grid) fine home and shown the separate guest bedroom/art studio where I could crash for the next 2 days. With minimal light pollution, the national forest, and a nearby creek as the backdrop – even in the dark - the place was beautiful.

We chatted for a while then headed to bed as the group would leave from Silver City early the next morning.

Gila Monster Stage (~79 miles, serves as the final stage of the TotG)
On Saturday I rode with Chris and some local guys (3 young Navajo XC runners turned cyclists – I have more body fat than the three of them combined). We set off from downtown Silver City to ride the “inner loop” counter –clockwise, which is the course used during the Gila Monster stage (final day) at the TotG. Starting altitude was just under 6000ft.

The route opens with rollers of the sort you can expect in southern IL or Missouri. The descent into the Mimbres area (on 180 or 152, I can’t quite recall) serves as the decisive climb on the inner loop road race stage (stage 2) as it is almost the same course, but run clockwise. Descending was fantastic as the views were stunning and the speed was pegged at 40+mph into a headwind. I jumped once or twice to get past the other guys, and while there were turns, the pavement was good and road broad. Coming back up the climb would be quite difficult and serves to form the selection in most races on the clockwise route. NYChris expects the climb to eliminate all but the top 10-20 riders in the fields, with the rollers on the run-in to Silver serving to separate the top 10.

Turning north into the town of Mimbres, the race sees some flats and should be protected from the wind. Scenery remains beautiful. There are a few rollers and shorter climbs before you pass the “Breathe Inn” and are faced with the big climb of the Gila Monster stage – [insert name here]. At this point we were in our third hour of riding and I was starting to really feel it. The lower slopes of the climb are the steepest, and the switchbacks see grades above 13%. Usually, I don’t get too worked up about grades since in the midwest it’s going to end in the next 5 minutes. It doesn’t in NM. It keeps dishing it out. I cracked pretty early and finished the climb in 24 minutes. (For reference, the top cat 3’s summit it in just under 17 minutes. NYChris did it in 20, while the climbers – Dustin, Marcus, and Kempton - uncorked times between 17 and 18:30. Of note, I popped really badly and was turning over a 39x26 @ 50rpm, showing the world a measly 215W. So, to give an idea, if you absolutely explode and there is no life left in your legs, you won’t do much worse than 24 or 25 minutes. ) The climb itself is beautiful and the pavement isn’t too bad going up. Coming down the other way, however, one should use prodigious amounts of caution. Several of the switchbacks do not have guardrails, and while you may get lucky and stop yourself on a tree, if you go off road here you may be going off a cliff. Don’t schleck. I didn’t actually do the decent (though my time suggested I did), but studying the road at 6mph, it’s safe to ride, but be very cautious. I would not be surprised if I gifted 1-2 minutes to competitors on the decent to preserve my life. Frankly, I think there is enough road left on the stage that you can get that time back. (Someone may prove me wrong!) Also, as you’d expect, you’ll want to be towards the front going into the decent. Descending 3 abreast would not be cool.

After topping out, your legs get a little reprieve but the climbing isn’t done yet. There are several more climbs in the 5-10% range. Just before the finish, a 10-15% ramp welcomes you home. It wasn’t too hard (more of a sprinter’s hill) but at the end of the day, it could produce seconds-wide gaps.
The route takes you over 7000ft, so any ability to get to Silver a day or so early will benefit your body.

Chris and the guys were gracious to this fat flatlander and waited for me repeatedly in the final hour(s) of the ride. Even more gracious was their humoring of my belly-aching (I haven’t slept for 2 weeks, I’m not acclimated to this altitude, I’m fat, I’m slow, I’m I’m I’m…etc). It’s been a long time since I’ve been the first one dropped on a group ride, so the day went down as a big piece of humble pie. Regardless, even on a good day, I would have been put into difficulty on the major climb of the route. I have a lot of work to do before next April!

After getting back to Silver (by descending the 1000ft+ over 7 miles from Pinos Altos) we grabbed burritos and checked out the Gila Hike & Bike. Wherever we went, Chris was greeted warmly by a different cyclist. It seems like a cool scene.

Mogollon Climb (~38 miles, 77 miles from Silver to the Mog serves as stage 1 of the TotG)
After my terrible climbing the day before and my upcoming 5 hr drive back to Phoenix, we decided to shorten this stage a little. Starting from a scenic overlook near Cliff, NM we rode north on 180 through Glenwood, turning right (and up!) to climb the hors catagorie Mogollon.

The start of the stage in Silver is followed by a “neutral” climb out of town that is equivalent to the opening climb of the Tour of Hermann RR route (yeah, ouch). I would put it at a 5 minute climb (guessing, we drove it). Just a little something to warm up the legs! With just a few rollers from there, you enter the flattest racing you’ll see during the stage race. The next 50 miles are pretty darn flat. Winds will play a factor here, but there is some cover from nearby hills. I wouldn’t be surprised to see echelons form if a stiff crosswind presents itself. Near the town of Cliff, you’ll enter some rollers. These rollers are tough. They are long and shallow enough that maintaining momentum up them is a challenge. They aren’t really “rollers” but “slowers.”
The town of Glenwood is quickly followed by the second feed zone (on an incline during which I didn’t want to remove my hands from the bars!). A couple miles later, you hang a right over a cattle guard to enter the Mogollon climb. After a false flat, the climb begins for 2 miles at 8-11%. I felt good through this section and thought perhaps I would put the hurt on NYChris. We crested that section together and entered a 1.5-2 mile false flat. After the 10% sections on the lower slopes, it felt like we were riding downhill. This might be a place to go over the top of the group if there isn’t any wind, and test the other racer’s legs. Most people will be conserving every thought and watt for the punishment ahead. Once the road kicks up on the upper slopes, it doesn’t relent, save a 3% section, until you hit the cattle guard at the finish line. The climb was awesome from a cyclotouring perspective: great views, constantly wrapping around the mountain. However, racing it will be quite difficult. With about a mile to go I gave up the ghost as the lactic burn was too much. The right side of the road is marked for 1 mile, 500m, and 200m remaining. At 500m, stand up and finish like Cadel in the 2009 World Championships, cuz you shouldn’t leave with anything in the tank. Chris beat me to the line by a good 30 seconds on the day (hey, I’ll take it over 4 minutes the day before! So we think he was on a bad day, and I was getting a little better). Because of this climb, I would recommend having at least a 39x26 on the bike. If you are a spinner, consider compact gearing. You may not need it if you’re a grinder, but it’s nice to have while trying to keep the cadence up out of the 50-60 range. The upper slopes average 11% I think. The fact that the cat 3 RRs all extend beyond 70 miles means you’re not going to have your best 1 hour power on the climb.

The climb wasn’t “that bad” for me; compared to the day before it was easier. Perhaps it was the shorter run-up to the climb, a good night’s sleep, and/or my body beginning to adapt to the altitude (not likely) but we rolled fairly quickly up this climb (10+mph on the lower slopes, and 8+mph on the upper slopes). At the tail end of a 70 mile RR, I can’t see going much faster up the climb without significant fitness/acclimation improvements. But, as I mentioned, I wasn’t having a good weekend on the bike (from a performance standpoint).

The road is very narrow, and there was some fallen rock and wash across the road. Descending (after the race) is a little sketchy through these sectors (especially with other racers coming up), so frequently scrubbing speed is recommended.

There are some logistics to work through regarding the return trip on this stage of the race. Chris and I discussed leaving a “team car” at the base of the climb, and having us all pile into it for the return to Silver. The race organization has a bus that takes guys back, but I would want to have my post race stuff (recovery drink, change of clothes, etc) available instantly, and dictate my own schedule. Something to think about.

After shedding the jackets we donned for the decent, we rode through Glenwood and the rollers to our launch point at Logan’s Lookout (or some such thing). I will say that one of the highlights of the weekend was putting NYChris into difficulty during this stretch. I took my longest and strongest pulls of the weekend through here. It’s a bit sad, that at the end of the trip I was starting to show some legs. After he had laid the smackdown on me all weekend long, the shorter, steep kickers suited my high-power/short duration efforts. Hooray for midwestern crit racing.

After packing up the bikes we drove the 50 miles back into town and perused the crit course again.

Crit Course Recon (day 4 of the TotG):
Chris and I drove the crit course two (2) times, and it looks like a really nice circuit in downtown Silver City. Pavement wasn’t too bad (check back after the winter!) and the turns seemed reasonable. There were 2 turns where the pack will have to squeeze from 2 lanes down to 1, and I’m sure those will get interesting. Also, there are 2 short kickers on the course which will tire the legs as the race unfolds. Not sure as to the history of breakaways on the course, but I could see a break sticking if teammates are blocking and the will of GC hopefuls is broken. The final corner is a good 400 meters from the finish, so the winner will be top 5 out of the last corner, maybe top 10, depending on everyone’s sprinting legs if it comes down to a bunch.

TT Course Recon (day 3 of the TotG):
Coming into town on Hwy 90 from Tyrone, I was hoping to find a fast and flat TT course. I kept looking but didn’t see one. Instead I found long rollers and constant climbing and descending. I think I will probably forgo any TT accoutrements beyond a helmet, as this route is all about going up and down quickly.

The road cycling scene there is not the largest, but it is quite friendly and competitive. I think a spring training camp in Arizona and New Mexico would be ideal for midwestern racers. The Tucson and Phoenix areas have (thousands of) riders ramping up in fall and spring for races, so group rides in Jan. and Feb. would be pretty good riding for early season training to bring the intensity up. If anyone reading this is interested in going down there early on in 2011 (Jan/Feb/March), please contact me. I’ve been in PHX and Tucson frequently in the past 2 years for work and as a result I’ve collected a list of group rides and made friends with many a racing cyclist. I’ve been to dozens of bike shops and I’ve ridden the local routes. Furthermore, NYChris has said he’d be happy to join in the fun and tour the AZ-NM routes. In fact, Chris and I discussed the possibility of a no-frills cyclotouring operation down there. Let’s just say, there’s a reason all the pros relocate to Tucson during the winter. :)

For those of you who are interested in joining me at the TotG in 2011, feel free to email me specific questions regarding route/altitude/equipment/etc. If I can’t answer it, I’ll forward it on to Chris, who did the 4/5 race last year and intends on upgrading to do the 3’s race next year.

Thoughts on Idiocracy OR “Brawno’s got what plants crave!”

[Whoa, haven't updated the blog in a long time, so here's some old posts that have been in the que. Probably need editing, but oh well.]

The wife and I watched Idiocracy this weekend on the recommendation of a friend. I was skeptical (with adequate warnings
of silliness), but as it is a Mike Judge film (Office Space) I thought I’d give it a go. It was difficult to watch (with little to no
dialogue), but we made it through. Before I get to my thoughts I must say a word about social commentary and farce.

Anyone who watches Idiocracy realizes one of the goals of the film is to be silly and make people laugh. However, the film
is a social commentary, and therefore deserves critical thought about its statements and apparent goals. The danger here is
to take too seriously that which was not seriously intended. But this puts commentators in an awkward position to criticism
themselves – not unlike Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. You see, Brown offered in his preface that the facts of the story
were well researched and implied that his distortion of Biblical textual history was correct, though it was presented in a fictive
form. Anyone who critiqued the claims in the text was lambasted as “taking a novel too seriously.” I’m sure something similar
could be said about this silly little blog entry; however the film did make (“an assload” – to adopt the parlance of the film - of)
statements about society and civilization, though they were through a silly medium.

Briefly, the plot is centered on a dystopian future wherein stupid people out-reproduce intelligent people. Without checks on
this process for 500 years, culture is reduced to a farting buttocks on screen for 90 minutes (the acclaimed film Ass), language
is reduced to catch phrases and grunts, and the American consumerist mentality is taken to its glutinous extreme: lard-suckling
corpulent masses and trash mountains overwhelming the landscape. Into this depressing milieu an average sluggard from our era
is inserted via an Army experiment neglected (not without a few laughs proffered by glamorizing illegal prostitution in the US –
a cruel modern slave trade).

The film presents an atheistic future. I’m not sure if this is intentional or just the product of the writer’s/producer’s worldview,
but the 26th century is a world without God. More surprisingly, it is a world without religion. The only cult is the cult of
personality, as “President Camacho’s” image is plastered everywhere and celebrity recognition exists for “Beef Supreme” (a
correctional department officer, and the new nick-name of my pudgy 5-month old son) and “Hormel Chavez” (the star of the
hit sitcom – “Ow, my balls!”.) I find this particularly fascinating as the old canard of “religion is for the ignorant/stupid” and
the use of god-myths as a means of explaining the mysterious aspects of reality, seems best suited to this fictitious age. I can
only assume that this has been forgotten by the film-makers and thus as gods are not on their minds, gods do not feature in the
future. The universality of death, one would think, would retain supernatural explanations in the consciousness of any society,
whether you think such things are correct or not. And while on the subject of death, it is interesting that while guns and phallic
battle cars – both clearly designed to kill – are invoked, I can only recall one person dying on screen in the film. Even the one
fatality I can recall (wherein a convict is run over by a Zamboni-style lawn mower/execution device) seemed disassociated
from death as 1) his actual death was obscured by the machine and non-descript “parts” were ejected from the mower and 2) his
death was presented in a comedic/entertainment format (a lá The Running Man.) In sum the execution seemed rather “clean”
considering the rest of the film’s filth. Regardless, a teenage “live forever” mentality appears present in the film, perhaps as
another consequence of the “hormone amped idiot teenage patriarchy” back-story that got humanity into the situation in the first
place. The atheistic vision was quite stark though, similar to the film Castaway.

Beside the atheistic future, or perhaps as a consequence of it, the base nature of people as animals was demonstrated in a near
total moral bankruptcy. The assumption that stupid people would behave without moral compass is a little off-putting and mean.
Sadly, many extremely intelligent people have been extraordinarily selfish and evil over the centuries, so this assumption seems
poorly placed, however, it sure gets a lot of cheap laughs when Starbucks becomes a bordello and each man’s existence (and it is
a MAN’s existence as women are further reduced to sex objects) is summed by eating butter and exercising his loins.

Not only is the world solely for a man, apart from god(s), but it is an exclusively “Uhmerican” vision we are offered. While
multi-ethnic, it was not multi-national. Apparently American awesomeness destroyed or overran other nations. However silly
that part of the plot might be (though unstated in the film), I think this aspect is more a commentary on the current American
audience for whom the world does not extend beyond what CNN/Fox/CNBC and E! tell them.

Another observation from the film was the surprising resiliency of the American corporate sector. Despite the complete
destruction of foundational social relationships (of which a corporation is a sort of artificial offspring), corporations appear to
have increased in prominence and control in a sort of “leftist nightmare” wherein government regulators are co-opted to advance
corporate interests. But really, is it going to take 500 years for us to spray our fields with Brawno! - the thirst mutilator - when
we’ve already attempted (THE ONCE FDA APPROVED!) feeding of our cattle the ground parts of other cattle (producing
MAD COW DISEASE!), and we continue to feed our animals and ourselves in ways which immediately imperil our health
but provide short term profits? Will it really take us that long to kill ourselves when we subsidize the destruction of farm
land, our air, and water? The “funny” thing about Idiocracy is how little has to change in 500 years to get from here to there.

The entertainment focused future of Idiocracy appears to be the best polemic I can think of against the age of Television. The
future is devoid of reading, and the life of the mind is reduced as described above. I don’t consider myself literati, but after
watching this film, I feel I owe it to myself to read more. For the love, as it were.

I will not watch Idiocracy again, and I wouldn’t recommend it unless you are on a serious Mike Judge kick or are ready for

countless crude gags – perhaps redundant conditions? Wait, I take that back, I do recommend this if for a good time, and
encouraging maximum cognitive dissonance, you first watch something like Glengarry Glenross in the same weekend. Joking
aside, I don’t think it was Judge at his best, as this critique of Uhmerica lacked the subtlety of the brilliant Office Space.
Laughing at stupid people grew old quickly for me, but perhaps I am a cruel person and enjoyed it longer than I ought to have.