Monday, May 31, 2010

Six guys that matter

Today was the annual Stan Crane Memorial mountain bike race in Corner Canyon. It's the one mountain bike race a year I have no excuse not to do. It's on a Monday, so no conflicts with road races. And it's in my backyard--or may as well be--I rode my bike from home to the start. On dirt.

Given that it's a local race, lots of local guys show up. The fields are the biggest of the year, so "winning" is in how you define it. In my case, I won this race in the Sport class last year, so I figured it was time to move up and race Expert, especially since that way I could compete against more of my friends. Specifically, I had my eye on Adam and Aaron, who would both be racing in my category, as well as Daren and Bob, who would be starting a minute back in the Expert 40+ (Brad was also in this field, but he's beat up on me so many times I've given up), and Rick and Nick, who would both be racing singlespeeds, starting 90 seconds back. Hanging with Adam and Aaron would be a "win," while beating the other guys was a matter of pride given that I had a head start.

I failed miserably.

I started the fire road climb ahead of Adam and Aaron, but I had pushed it way too hard getting to that point and was anaerobic before I started going up. They both passed me with no answer on my part. Bob passed soon thereafter.

Rick was the next to pass me on the second climb. Then on the descent, one of the guys from Kuhl asked if he could pass, which I moved over to allow, and he promptly crashed right in front of me. My choices were to hit him or hit his bike. I hit his bike and broke his brake lever, perhaps among other things, in the process. That was an expensive pass for him. Sorry. Nick came around while I was getting untangled.

Daren caught me right before we finished the lap. I let him by and then followed his wheel until we got on the fire road again. And again, I just couldn't climb. Rick was still in sight at this point, and I tried to bridge to both of them but got no response from my legs.

On lap three, I thought I was DFL in my category but kept going because 1) I hoped I might pass someone and avoid the broom wagon, and 2) I was finally starting to feel good. I was in a rhythm and got around a few people on the fire road. I kept up a good pace on the second climb. Then on the last little up on Silica Pit, I had chain suck trying to get in my small ring. I got my chain out of my frame and tried to pedal and it sucked again. I tried to clear it twice more and finally just pushed my bike up the climb and shifted back into my middle ring at the top.

Had we been racing two more laps, I might have done OK. Or I might have blown up even more spectacularly on lap 4 and/or 5. It could be that the good legs I had on lap three were just a function of smelling the barn and knowing the suffering was almost over. Either way, I was happy to see teammate Pete M. take the win, with Drew in second and Justin in fourth. Oh, and I wasn't DFL, either, but 19th out of 26 finishers isn't anything worth mentioning, except a few of you would probably look it up, so I saved you the trouble.

I've mentioned before that the thing I like about road racing is that with tactics and drafting, it's more than just a straight contest to see who's strongest, since if it is, I probably won't win. Well that's what a mountain bike race is, and those guys who show up every weekend and just go full gas for two hours have my respect. That's a hard way to race.

I guess the one thing from the day I can be proud of is that on one of the several occasions when I got passed, the guy coming around said "you're the SkiBikeJunkie guy, right?"

"Yeah" (bracing myself wondering who I pissed off and how).

"I love your blog."

To whoever you are (I couldn't exactly see clearly at the time, plus you were going too fast for me to get a good look), thank you. You made my day.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Look no further

So I raced again last night. Shocking, right? Shocking that my wife puts up with it is more likely.

If I’ve improved my bike handling skills at all (which I like to think I have), it’s mostly from racing at DMV. That course is all about maintaining momentum, and you can’t maintain momentum if you don’t know how to handle your bike. The way it’s typically laid out, there are 10 corners per lap plus the “West Valley Wall,” a ~15 vertical meter climb that may not sound like much until you’ve done it for the 15th time in 30 minutes. I won’t pretend to be an expert on how to do well on that course, but if you’re interested, some sound advice can be had here.

As much as I admire Jens Voigt, my racing style is very different from his. I like to sit in and let others do the work, saving it all for a big effort at the end. If a break gets away, hopefully I have a teammate in it. It’s not likely I will be.

Last night Cam went on a solo break for a lap or two, got joined by another rider for another few laps, and as the rest of the field chased, lots of people got shelled off the back.

Then Steve and Pete went on a counter-attack that also had a guy from Canyon and a guy from Ski Utah in it. With those two teams represented, there wasn’t anyone left to chase. It stayed away, Steve finished second, and Pete finished fifth in his very first race in the B flight.

Casey from Canyon beat me by half a wheel in the best of the rest bunch sprint. I’m going to write a country song called “half wheel loser” because it seems that’s as close as I can get to beating anybody. Perhaps if you play it backwards, I’ll actually win something.

But the race report isn’t what I really wanted to write about today. What I really want to write about are yesterday’s photos. And as awesome as they are, their awesomeness is not what I want to mention. What I want to mention is Alex K.’s head.

Look at the photo below and notice how close Alex (red helmet, front right) has his head to his handlebars.

Think this is an accident? Alex is going nearly 60kph in that photo. At that speed, the thing he’s fighting most is aerodynamic drag. With his head down like that, he has a lower profile and consequently has to push against less air. Just as a lighter racer has an advantage on a climb because he’s pushing less weight up the hill, so too does a more aerodynamic rider have an advantage at high speed—he can go the same speed with less effort, or faster with the same effort. And since wind resistance increases at the square of the rate of increase in speed, the faster you go, the bigger deal reducing drag becomes. (I promise, the post on drafting really is forthcoming, and I’ll keep the math simple enough that I understand it.)

Being a sprinter requires a lot more than just good top end speed. If you’re not in position at the end of the race, you can go as fast as you want, and you’ll never get to the front. I watched Alex for the duration of the race Tuesday, and he was always about 10 back, near the front, but never on the front. Getting and holding that position is difficult, because everyone wants to be there. I watched Casey at DMV last night, and he did the same thing. The field was a bit smaller, so Casey was right around fifth wheel the entire night and didn’t stick his nose in the wind until we were sprinting up the hill to finish.

Staying near the front also helps you avoid the yo-yo effect of accelerating out of corners. The further you are from the lead, the more you have to accelerate to catch back on. If you’re on the front, you basically just hold your momentum through the corner and keep your effort consistent. Pedaling efficiently also matters. At DMV that means not pushing a big gear up the hill. At RMR that means staying smooth and in control. When Alex pedals around the course, his upper body is stock still—not one wasted movement. He stays low and in the saddle for the duration, saving it all for his sprint.

I love to watch professional racing, not just for the entertainment the drama and competition provide, but also because I try to learn from what the pros do. I started racing in my mid-30’s and have a lot to learn. But I need look no further than my teammates and competitors to learn plenty of valuable lessons. If only I could put them into practice…

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

World domination at the weekly world championships

The Tuesday night crits at Rocky Mountain Raceway are mockingly referred to as the weekly world championships. And with good reason. A lot of guys take these races very seriously*. A lot of guys who rarely if ever show up for a sanctioned event are at these “practice” crits every week. There’s an ambulance that just sits in the parking lot, because it’s a matter of when, not if, a crash will occur. I’ve even heard tales of fistfights** amongst the racers.

*Including me, but only when I do well and can, with tongue firmly embedded in cheek, talk about “world domination.” As if. The rest of the time, or at least for the interval until I once again do well, I will mock and deride.

**Bike racers getting in fistfights just strikes me as hilarious. For one thing, I’m on the muscular side since I wear a size medium t-shirt instead of a small. And trying to throw a punch while wearing cycling shoes? Like that one’s gonna have something behind it.

Last night, Revolution Cafe Rio had eight guys in the B flight. Despite three crashes, two of them in the same part of the course, we all managed to stay upright, though Cam did have to ride through the dirt to avoid hitting a guy that went down right in front of him.

On the last lap, Nolan from Porcupine took a solo flyer.

Cam moved to the front with the Revolution train (white with blue accents, except me, in last year’s blue MTB kit) behind him, and chased just hard enough to make sure Nolan didn’t sit up, without allowing a gap big enough that we wouldn’t catch him.

We closed the gap just before the final turn, and a few guys came around for an early move, which was perfect, since that would give us wheels to follow before the sprint.

Alex K. and Mike H. were sitting in great position towards the front. Rob B., Scott P., and I were about 20 riders back. With about 200 meters to go, I started my kick, hoping I could get around the group and get to the front. There were two guys ahead that I knew I wouldn’t catch—Alex and Mike.

Cody from FFKR, Rob B., and I were racing for third and all finished within half a wheel of each other, with Cody just edging out Rob and me.

Scott, despite taking a couple flyers earlier in the race to force other teams to chase, finished a solid 10th. So we had four of the top five and five of the top ten from Revolution. Not a bad day’s work, and once again Cam deserves credit for making it all happen. The best thing about racing for Revolution Cafe Rio is that we’re all willing to work for one another and all happy to see the other guys do well, but Cam and Lance take that attitude to a completely different level.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Shoulda, woulda, coulda

Critics of road racing (a.k.a. mountain bikers) are fond of griping that the strongest racer isn’t the one who ends up winning because others can just draft* behind the leader and come around at the end. And while one need only watch Dave H., Peter A., or Nate P. race to know that this is not exactly true, for some of us, not needing to be the strongest to win is the appeal of road racing.

*My explanation of crosswind tactics was only to whet your collective appetites, as I’ve got an entire post on drafting in the works, complete with numerous awesome graphics and actual math**. It will probably take me a year to finish, but once I do it will be awesome. If anyone doesn’t get drafting when it’s done, I will consider myself a total failure and sign up for the next blogging mom prom so I can learn the finer points and once and for all master the blogging craft.

**Maybe just kidding about the actual math part. Seeing as how I was only able to pass 12th grade physics, required for high school graduation, because of a technicality***, having me explain the equations associated with aerodynamic drag may be a bit beyond my pay grade. But if I can make sense of it and in turn explain it in a way that makes sense, I will.

***Dying to know what the technicality is? I assure you it’s totally boring, and the story completely falls flat when I tell it. So I’ll take a page from the Lost playbook and build up a bunch of suspense with no thought to providing a satisfactory answer.

If it’s just a matter of who’s strongest, I’m never going to win. Every time I’ve had a good result, it’s been the result of decisions I made during the race that positioned me well at the end and conserved energy such that I had something left for a late surge. Only rarely do I have the elusive combination of good tactical decisions and good legs, but it’s the pursuit of that magical combination that keeps me engaged and motivated.

The frustrating part is when I make poor decisions and finish knowing I could have done better had I made better choices. I replay those decisive moments over and over, constantly thinking “if only…”

Saturday’s Sugarhouse criterium was just such a race. At the beginning of the race, Jon S. said to find him on the prime lap* and he’d give me a leadout. Things went as planned. I got on Jon’s wheel, and he attacked onto the front. Just as he was starting to fade, two guys came around us, so it was time to go. I passed one of them but was a wheel behind Nick E. from RMCC at the line. Would have been nice to win the prime, but having come short, now I was concerned about how much the effort cost me for the finish.

*Prime, pronounced “preem,” like the first syllable of “premium,” is French for “prize.” Most criteriums feature one or more prime laps wherein the leader on that lap is awarded a prize. Most race organizers seem capable of offering primes but not spelling the word. I’ve seen it spelled “priem,” “preem,” and “prieme,” among others, but only rarely “prime.”

I figured somebody would counterattack and make those of us who contested the prime pay for it. There were a few attacks, but nothing serious. Most were chased down quickly, and the pace going up the two short hills on the course was moderate enough that I was able to stay seated most of the time and recover within a few laps.

With two laps to go, there was a group off the front, but they were close enough to be chased down. I found Steve’s wheel and figured I’d hold it and trust him to be in a good position at the end.

On the bell lap, we came down the first hill, and people were fighting hard for position. I tried to keep Steve’s wheel but got pushed off. I should have fought to get it back, but I was also worried I’d get shelled if he tried to bridge, and I was more interested in a good placing than risking it all for the win.

Climbing the first hill, I saw teammate Bart, who had been in the break, back in the field. I thought he had fallen off but there were still others up the road, and the rest of us were racing for scraps. Had I known they were all caught, I would have fought harder to get back on Steve’s wheel, as he was near the front.

As we descended the final hill and approached the sprint, I couldn’t see Steve. I knew he was up front and figured he’d be best of the rest. I was about mid pack and started sprinting on the finishing hill a little late but not wanting to go too early and run out of gas. I had a good kick, passed some people, and probably could have snuck through a narrow gap, but it would have only got me past teammate Cam, so I backed off.

Steve was in first place coming up the hill but started just a bit early and faded to second. Who’s to say what the outcome would have been or how the dynamics may have changed, but all weekend I’ve been plagued by the what ifs. I had good legs, if only I’d held his wheel...

I’ll take the top 10 finish—that was my objective going in (frankly I just wanted to feel like I belong in the Cat. 3s without getting destroyed), and I should be happy with it. The “what if” has me highly motivated for the next race. I just wish we were racing again on that course next weekend and not next year.

Props are due to lots of teammates who earned good results. In addition to Steve’s 2nd place, Cam P. finished 8th in the 3s. Curt D. took 4th in the Pro/1/2 race, Sarah W. won the Women’s 4 race, and fully half of the top 10 in the Cat. 4 race were Revolution Cafe Rio, with Alex K., Pete M., Jeremy T., Mike H., and Ryan W. taking spots 3, 4, 6, 7, and 9. Pete came back for the Masters B race and took 5th, with Justin A. right behind him.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Lip service

The fans have the right to be certain that they are cheering for human athletes rather than rolling pharmaceutical billboards, and clean riders have the right to a fair opportunity to stand on the podium.

-Greg Lemond, commenting on Floyd Landis’s accusations

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Floyd’s allegations has been the responses. Radio Shack issued a statement, ostensibly on behalf of the team, but really just on behalf of Lance. (But then again, is Radio Shack really anything but an attempt to house Lance’s massive ego within the confines of a team? Except Lance’s ego can no more fit within the confines of a team than Pam Anderson can fit in a training bra.) The Radio Shack statement was clearly written by an attorney (or perhaps Bike Snob NYC), as it was four times as long as it needed to be and exceeded its quota for superfluous, four-or-more-syllable adjectives in the first paragraph.

Needless to say it was an outright denial of the attacks on Lance coupled with an ad hominem attack on Landis.

Perhaps more interesting is Zabriskie’s choice not to make a statement directly, instead relying on this rather ambiguous non-denial from team manager Jonathan Vaughters regarding their conversation when the story broke:

Our conversation was fairly short and succinct. Dave is a very private and quiet person. I simply expressed to him that I believe he can win this race, currently, clean, and that we’re going to support him doing that. And that we can withstand any level of scrutiny anyone would place on us in that regard. I think Dave is going to focus on winning this race clean, along with the rest of our team.

In other words, Dave is racing clean. Now. We believe Dave can win clean. Now. No comment on how Dave may or may not have raced when he was Lance’s teammate with US Postal.

Hincapie’s sentiments were also much more ambiguous than Armstrong’s (or rather Armstrong’s lawyers’):

I have been a professional on the circuit for 17 years – which is one of the longest careers in the peloton. During that time, I have earned the respect of my peers and a reputation for working hard, honestly and honorably. I’m really disappointed to hear these accusations.

So what does all this drivel from JDs and PR types mean? Who the hell knows. Trying to interpret whether one of these statements is a hedged denial or an obtuse confession is like condemning beer drinking as violating a covenant of belief when your own scripture clearly says that beer is just fine—you simply can’t do it if you’re using the actual text as your justification.

Getting back to Lemond’s statement about rolling pharmaceutical billboards, the great irony of all this is that it came out during the Amgen Tour of California. I won’t, yet again, delve into the irony of the world’s leading EPO maker sponsoring a major cycling race. Suffice it to say that Amgen pays lip service to the notion of their drugs being used ethically. Only problem is that there’s a really easy way to ensure this would happen: include a clear and distinct marker in the drug that would be harmless to a legitimate patient but would trigger a distinct and unquestionable positive result in doping controls. As yet, they have been loathe to make such a move and would apparently prefer to live in a world best described by this dream/nightmare Johan Bruyneel monologue penned by the Unholy Rouleur:

The truth? You can't handle the truth. Son, we live in a world that has hills like walls, and those walls have to be ridden up by small men on bikes.

Who's gonna do it? You? I have a lower natural Power:Weight ratio than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Damiano, and you curse Virenque. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Armstrong's doping, while tragic, probably saved time. And doping's existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves time.

You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want skinny Italian guys flying up that wall, you need them rocketing up that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty, CERA and Autologous blood doping. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent riding something. You use them as a punchline.

I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain these things to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of propaganda white noise that Versus provides, and then questions the manner in which Versus provides it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a needle, lose a lot of weight, and climb a hill faster than your unaltered hematocrit permits. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you are entitled to.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

What’s your integrity worth?

“It's our word against his word. I like our word.”

-Lance Armstrong, in response to accusations based on eyewitness accounts by former teammate Floyd Landis that Armstrong doped

The only thing surprising about today’s news that Floyd Landis has come clean in remarkable detail about his doping, is that he admitted it. That he doped should come as no surprise at all.

LA finds himself squarely in the crosshairs, and all he can come up with is another lame denial. “I’ve been tested, I’ve never tested positive.” “Our word against his.” Ulrich didn’t test positive either. And neither of your word is worth very much, but only one of you has any vested interest in lying at this point.

Phil Ligget, whom I quite enjoy listening to as a cycling commentator despite his propensity to blow sunshine up the ass of Lance specifically and any member of team radioshack generally with every other breath, remains hopelessly naive and loyal:

“Well. It’s easy to name names. Now let’s see the proof. Then I’ll have a comment.”

Apparently Phil never read From Lance to Landis. Or how about the simple fact that Armstrong beat guy—who are known dopers—seven years in a row? In a race with margins that narrow, it’s simply impossible for a clean Armstrong to beat a doped Ulrich.

There are still some riders whom I hope are clean. Evans, Cancellara, Farrar, Voigt to name a few. But as much as I love the sport of cycling, I hate that every man in the peloton falls into one of two categories: almost certainly doping/vainly hope he isn’t.

Thanks, Floyd, for finally coming clean. Took you long enough. But I guess at this point you had nothing left to lose.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Broadcasting fail

This post contains a tiny wee bit of language. I’m in a bad mood. When I’m in a bad mood, I do that. If you’re bothered by that, don’t read. Hi, Dad.

So last night I’m watching with baited breath as Mick Rogers, Dave Z, and Levi are descending Bonny Doon and rolling into Santa Cruz. They pass the 2K to go sign. The peloton is 20 seconds back. It looks as if they’ll get caught. I’m on the edge of my seat, waiting to see who wins. Will they get caught? If not, which of the three will win? My pulse is racing. Beads of sweat accumulate on the back of my neck. Anticipation, excitement, everything great about bike racing is about to climax.

And then one of the kids knocks on the door, awakened by a bad dream. The moment is lost. We’re not getting it back. Instead we get to make warm milk and sing songs and try to find words of comfort.

Or at least that’s what it felt like, if you know what I mean. Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge.

There’s less than two minutes of racing left, and Versus cut away from the race so we could listen to a couple of mulletted, overweight Canadians introduce some dudes with missing teeth, ice skates, and unpronounceable-can-I-buy-a-fkng-vowel last names (or, not to be outdone, there's also the guy whose last name is, in actual fact, Satan). The hockey game wouldn’t actually start for another 25 minutes, and the winner wouldn’t be determined for two hours, but no, we can’t possibly cut over just a wee bit late so people can see the outcome of the bike race. Talk about blue balls.

At least they warned us that the cutover was coming and said to go to teamradioshack’ to watch the rest. Except those of us with jobs who were watching the recording went to the website only to have the outcome smack us in the face in the form of a 32 point font headline. And no video of the conclusion.

Combine this with the inability to show more than 20 seconds of action from yesterday’s stage because of a little rain, and in all of three days of racing when they were actually doing it themselves rather than just commentating on the French television video feed, Versus has achieved a complete and total broadcasting fail. WTF, Versus?

It’s not like they’re alone in their ineptitude, either. I’ve pretty much gotten used to skipping the first hour of the Giro d’Italia broadcast on Universal Sports because for some reason the bike race has been superseded by an infomercial for some cooking contraption endorsed by—I shit you not—Mr. T.

Because forget Mario Batali, Rick Bayless, or Thomas Keller. When I want culinary expertise, the first person I think of is the guy who played B.A. Baracus.

I realize that all of us leg-shaving, lycra wearing, anorexic, cyclists who are obsessed with other men’s bottoms (not that there’s anything wrong with that) are a tiny minority of the population at large, and that we should be grateful to even have any cycling coverage on TV at all beyond a three minute summary of the entire Tour de France on Wide World of Sports.

But still, getting bumped by hockey and a Mr. T infomercial is almost worse than no coverage at all.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

On sponsors, laundry, and landmark events

Padraig over at Red Kite Prayer has a philosophy with regard to wearing old cycling kits: any company willing to support cycling with sponsorship dollars for whatever period of time, he’s willing to support by wearing their kit.

I think that’s a good approach. I’ve got a few teammates whom I’ve only ever seen training in this year’s kit. And while I admire their loyalty to our sponsors, my cycling budget isn’t vast enough to purchase enough kits to train in nearly every day of the week, and my patience for doing laundry isn’t high enough to wash the same ones over and over.

So I usually just wear team kit on race days (typically a couple times a week) and wear whatever else is clean on all the others. Besides, the kits advertising a shop other than Revolution were given to me by Steve’s boss, gratis. And since they also have the name of his insurance agency on the bum, I may as well give him some exposure, natch. Because let’s face it, amongst bike racers, my butt is as wide as a billboard by comparison.

As for supporting the companies that support cycling, I hadn’t even heard of HTC before they signed on as a sponsor of what is now HTC-Columbia last year. They make mobile phones. I needed a new phone, so I bought one of theirs. Mostly because they sponsor a cycling team. Turns out I quite like the phone (or at least the platform for the android operating system, which, with zero intervention from me other than signing in, linked my email, calendar, address book, and pretty much everything else I do online to my phone). Also turns out it has a built-in twitter app.

I like to make fun of twitter. I especially like to make fun of people that tweet every time any of the following landmark events occurs in their lives: their music player starts the next song; they buy a cup of coffee; they have a bowel movement, regardless of whether it’s gratifying or not. Seriously, the line between newsworthy and not is not nearly that fine. I know we bloggers think that every little thing about our lives is legitimate content (take this post, for instance), but if bloggers are egotists, constant tweeters (of what could in many cases rightly be described as anti-content) are clinical narcissists.

Nevertheless, I’ve embraced twitter. Most of the people I follow are guys from the neighborhood. It’s great for announcing group rides in Corner Canyon that I never attend. It’s great for announcing that the midweek race is once again canceled due to weather. It’s also great when you set your DVR to record the Giro with the anticipation of watching as if it were live that night, only for someone to tweet a spoiler. I especially love that part.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Protected rider

Even though an individual wins the race, bicycle racing is a team sport. Any race you watch*, you will see someone give his wheel to a teammate who’s had a flat or sit on the front blowing himself up trying to chase a break, knowing full well he won’t contend for the win as a result. The person receiving the wheel or comfortably sitting in the slipstream without taking a pull is the protected rider. This will typically be a General Classification (aka overall or GC) contender in stage races or a sprinter on a flat stage or one-day race.

*BikeSnobNYC has a great post today in which he mentions how much easier it’s become to be a cycling fan in the USA what with all the TV coverage these days. He also mentions missionaries on fixies and some slightly humorous albeit unoriginal Mormon stereotypes.

While this notion of an entire team working for one racer is typical of professional racing, it’s less characteristic of the amateur ranks. We tend to self-select races we’re well-suited to, and while there are basic rules such as not chasing a breakaway if a teammate is in it, we usually choose races in which we reasonably expect a good result and work towards that end.

At Saturday’s Bear Lake Classic, teammate Lance A. was there with the objective of getting 160km* worth of racing in his legs, and, not being a sprinter, figured he’d work for the team to try and set Scott P.** and me up if it came to that.

*As of today, I am doing away with any use of English units of measurement in this blog. SkiBikeJunkie is all metric, all the time. Seriously, how ridiculous is it that we insist on feet, inches, pounds, pints, and miles when the rest of the world has already made the switch? It’s not that hard to get used to (though I still have almost no frame of reference regarding what constitutes hot when the temperature is in Celsius). For instance, I don’t even think of bike parts in terms of pounds and ounces: it’s all grams. When talking about bikes, I’ve flipped the switch mentally. Ever buy a 2-liter bottle of diet coke? You’re used to it there, too. Wouldn’t be any great feat to do it for everything else we measure. Seems like while we were throwing stimulus money around on a bunch of useless crap that forcing a switch to the metric system would have been a good use for some of it.

**This is my Cat. 3 teammate Scott P. Not to be confused with my Cat. 4 teammate Scott P. who placed fourth in the Cat. 4 race on Saturday and now has enough points to upgrade. Man, that’s going to get confusing.

The race was two laps around Bear Lake. The first lap featured lots of attacks, none of which stuck. I was in two of them. One had about eight of us, apparently about one from each team. If there was a move that was going to work, I thought that was it. It wasn’t. I didn’t have the legs for too many more attempts, so I figured I could try to get in one more move or save it for the sprint. But probably not both.

There was a feed zone after lap one (more on this later), after which Scott, Lance, and I were all at the back of the field eating. A move went, and we weren’t in position to cover it. We figured it would get chased down like all the others.

But it didn’t. The field started chasing in earnest, reaching speeds of 50kph without making up ground*. Manny C. and Nick E. were in the move, and both of those guys can go, but I didn’t think they could hold us off for 60km.

*After Fabian Cancellara made his winning move at the Tour of Flanders, Tom Boonen said that he was chasing at 55kph and still losing ground. Now I almost know what that feels like. Except that Boonen was going 10% faster, and he was by himself. So I guess I really have no idea what it feels like to go 55kph trying to chase something down, except for maybe 10 seconds while trying to bridge to a break that’s not very far up the road. Seriously, the speeds the pros are capable of are ludicrous.

When we reached the north end of the lake, we took a right turn, heading east. The wind was coming from the south, across the lake with nothing to break it up, so it created a severe cross wind. Only when there’s no wind or a headwind is the ideal position immediately behind the rider in front of you. Usually slightly to one side or the other provides a little more protection. In a cross wind, the best tactic is to form an echelon.

Tangent: I learned when having dinner the other night with frequent commenter Kim and her husband that not all my readers are well-versed in cycling tactics. So we’re going to spend some time on drafting 101, specifically drafting tactics that can be used in a crosswind.

Drafting for those not familiar with cycling is somewhat analogous to the flight formations of geese. We’re all probably aware that geese fly in formation because it requires less effort than flying alone or as a haphazardly collected flock.

I won’t get into the downwash and upwash specifics and why, in the case of birds, a V works better than flying one in front of another, but basically similar principles hold true on a bicycle. Sharing the effort is critical in road racing and why team tactics are important. It’s also why if a protected rider has a mechanical, one or more teammates will drop back to help pace him back into the field.

In a cross wind, the ideal position is just to the leeward side and behind the rider in front of you. (In the photo above, if the wind were coming top to bottom, and the geese were cyclists, all the geese to the lead goose’s left would be in his or her draft.) Cyclists in a cross wind will form echelons, spreading across the road, to optimize drafting.


Knowing that an echelon is the most effective formation, the lead racer will sometimes position himself so that only a teammate will benefit from the echelon, not leaving room for anyone else on the leeward side. This tactic is known as guttering.


Guttering forces the racers trying to draft either into the gutter or off the road or over the yellow line, depending on whether there’s a gutter or not and whether the wind is coming left to right (into gutter) or right to left (over yellow line, and still eventually into gutter/off road). Crossing the yellow line is a big no-no in open course road racing.

Guttering can be used to great effect, most notably in last year’s Tour when HTC Columbia formed an echelon and put it in the gutter, forcing a break in the field that a guy named Lance was famously part of, while his teammate Alberto was not. Lance claims it was just smart racing; I think he got a tip from his buddy George.

We had echelons all over the road trying to deal with Saturday’s cross wind. At one point, I had a choice: join an echelon that was already over the yellow line and risk disqualification, or start a new one and risk being caught on the wrong side of a gap. I chose the former, hoping that they would consider the crosswind and wouldn’t DQ all of us, as I was in no way the only racer over the line. Alex evidently chose the latter and got caught on the wrong side of a gap.

It was in this cross wind that Drew N. and Greg R. from Logan Race Club attempted to bridge to Manny and Nick up the road. I was close enough to them when they made the move that I probably could have joined them. I didn’t know these guys (the LRC guys don’t race often, but when they do, they race well—I should have considered that), instead opting for the safety of numbers, expecting that working together we’d pull all of them back.

Teammate Lance did a great deal of work in the crosswind, then once we rounded the corner and were out of the crosswind, he turned it up a notch and chased hard. There are a few rolling hills on this portion of the course, which is otherwise completely flat. Someone yelled at Lance to take it easy on the fatties and not go so fast on the hills. Lance is about 190cm tall and weighs over 85 kilos. He’s one of the biggest racers in any event he enters, so it was quite ironic that the so-called big boys, all smaller than him, were begging him to take it easy.

Lance had a bit of help but not much*. He flogged himself like a borrowed mule trying to catch that break. I’d pull up next to him, and he’d sound like he was about to heave out a lung.

Me: “How you feeling?”
Lance: “Great. Tuck in behind me and stay out of the wind.”

Then he’d go up and take another pull.

*There were a couple of guys that worked really hard to help Lance pull it together, and a couple teams that did pretty much nothing. Scott tried to rally some of the other teams to help with the chase. One team came up only when asked. Another team claimed they had a man in the break so they wouldn’t have to work when in actual fact they did not.

With a little over 10k to go, I asked Lance at what point we concede that the break was not going to be caught. He said “about now” and finally eased up.

Shortly thereafter a red Audi went speeding past our field, pulled across our lane of traffic, then off the road. The driver jumped out, ran into the road, and started waving her arms. It was one of the USAC commissaires. She stopped us and began yelling at us about yellow line violations, telling us she had heard multiple complaints. She threatened to DQ the whole field but allowed us to proceed after we promised we’d police ourselves and stay on the right side of the road.

I was actually glad for the break. My legs felt good at this point, but I was thinking that I needed the pace to ease up just a little so I could recover enough for the sprint. I felt recovered. For a while.

Then with about 2k to go, my legs started cramping. First the inside of my left leg. Then my left quad. Then my right quad. It was bad. I was hoping I’d just pedal through it and be fine, but as we rounded the last corner on the finishing straight, the cramps hadn’t gone away. I knew there would be no real sprinting. I tried to go but was fighting to push my bike forward and to push against my cramped muscles. I still managed to finish somewhere around 15th, but I don’t think very many of the people behind me were contesting it.

The feed zone had no neutral support. I’ve got to think that dehydration was a factor in my cramps, as over a four hour race, I only had two bottles and the dregs of a third I begged from Scott. I was hoping for at least a neutral water handup or just a volunteer willing to hold out my musette bag. Nothing. So I had to tough it out. I can understand not having sufficient volunteers to do neutral support, but that should be made abundantly clear in the race bible.

To add insult to injury, there was one rider disqualified from the field: me. I have no idea why*. Perhaps a yellow line violation? I don’t know. If that was it, why just me and not the numerous others who had crossed over?

*If I were a conspiracy theorist, I would say I was singled out for my comment about TJ’s dad at Tour of the Depot. TJ was in our field, and his dad was the race official following us. But I don’t think TJ’s dad reads my blog, nor do I even think he knows who I am. Nevertheless, does anyone else find it a little fishy for someone’s parent to be an official, capable of affecting the outcome, at an event where the kid is competing?

What I needed from this race was high-volume, high-intensity time on the bike. I got that. I shouldn’t be disappointed. Except that Rachel sacrificed so I could have the day away to race, and frankly treats me like the protected rider every day of every year with how nice she is about my bike racing and skiing addictions. Lance sacrificed to try and set me up at the end. It would have been nice to have a better result to show for their efforts. Sure there’s next time, but next time would require Rachel and Lance to sacrifice all over again. I guess all I can say is thank you.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Half a foot of fresh is plenty of snow to drag me out of bed at 4:30 on May 12. Maybe not in February, but in May I’ll do it. I won’t say this is our last storm of the year, but it is probably the last one. We didn’t need headlamps, and birds were chirping as we started the climb if that tells you anything about what season it is.

Up high, visibility was terrible, so I didn’t take a single picture, except for this one as we transitioned at the bottom of Holy Toledo and began our ascent back up to Cardiff.

The snow was surprisingly fun. Not deep, but fun. It had come in heavy enough underneath that we weren’t bottoming out on a hard crust. And it was light enough on top to provide plenty of face shots. Who’d have thought I’d regret having shaved my beard in May?

Back at the mouth of the canyon, it looked more like spring, with green sprouting up between the rocks.

While taking in the view, there was a mountain goat sighting (actually, it may have been the chupacabra). Can you see it?

How about now?

That may be it for ski season. I’d still like to get up on Timp for a little fun in Cold Fusion, but these things have a way of never actually happening. We’ll see.

Another thing I won’t experience again is drooling on my stem while I try to stay in the group that’s desperately chasing Peter A. Peter got a forced upgrade to Cat. 2 this week. Steve said it was a little sad seeing him trade in his B flight number for an A flight number at the DMV crit last night. Peter has absolutely dominated every race he’s entered since Harvest Moon last fall. And while it will be nice for someone else to win, nobody begrudges his success, because Peter is a class act and an all-around good guy.

As for DMV race results, Cam P. kept the Revolution Cafe Rio streak alive with another win last night. Steve was the only other Rev-Rio rider in the Bs, and got a solid fourth. That’s four weeks out of four that a Revolution racer has won. No pressure on us next week, right?

On the topic of pressure, how about that breakaway group in the Giro stage today? Ordinarily the chase group times the catch to be a lot further from the end, but watching it unfold today was just awesome. I’m a little disappointed at the lack of big-time GC contenders in this year’s race, but that hasn’t made the racing any worse. I’ve said it before: the Giro is better than Le Tour.

One more thing that’s coming to an end is Lost. I would have given up by now, except I’ve invested six f’ing years in that show, and I’m going to see it through. But it has become egregiously terrible. The only thing worse than Tuesday night's episode will be the finale. It’s beyond not entertaining at this point. It’s anti-entertaining to watch it because it’s so frustratingly bad.

And what's with the worse-than-Jackie-Chan audio sync? I mean seriously? At least in the Jackie Chan movies, they’re trying to make it look as if the Chinese words being formed by the actors’ lips are on the same timing as the English audio dub. But Lost is like the highest-budget show on TV, and they can't even be bothered to sync the audio track to the video of the actual actors saying the actual words in the same language?

I don’t even care how it ends at this point, I just want it to be over. This season should have been about resolving unresolved questions, as should have the last and probably the one before. It’s hardly done that. It’s just introduced more questions to keep viewers curious about answers continually tuned-in in hopes that the show will throw them a bone and resolve something for once. Most of the time I just quit watching well before a show gets this bad. But the finite, serial format has me wanting to endure to the end. At least there are only two episodes left.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


I have never crashed in a road race. In fact, I have only crashed once on a road bike. (I do, however, have a crash rate of about 50% in MTB races.) Some may think I may be inviting bad karma, jinx, or some other mystical bad fortune upon myself by saying this, but I don’t believe in that crap anyway. If I crash after writing this, it will have been a coincidence and nothing more.

The fact that I have never crashed in a road race actually surprises me. I have bumped elbows and shoulders, had my handlebars pushed by someone’s knee, touched wheels multiple times, and gone into the gutter on a tight right-hander to avoid the outside-in traffic closing off my line. I have seen crashes in front of me and heard them behind. Last year, someone crashed in front of me, and I ran over both of his wheels but somehow stayed upright. In other words, I’ve been lucky.

The typical field size in races I’ve done is between 20 and 40 riders. I’ve been in fields of 100 or so, and it’s much more dicey. Pro races with field sizes of 200 have to be that much more sketchy. I have no data to support this, but I would guess that the likelihood of crashing increases geometrically as the field size increases. It’s rare to watch a pro race that doesn’t feature at least one crash.

It’s not surprising to see pros crash. What is surprising is who crashes. It seems like the same guys are always going down, especially Horner, Leipheimer, and Vandevelde. Vandevelde’s had the worst of it, yesterday for the second consecutive time crashing out of the Giro on stage three. You’d think it’s an American thing, except that Lance doesn’t crash very often. Of course Lance doesn’t race very often, either, except in July. But Hincapie rarely crashes. Hincapie also has some mad bike handling skills—wonder if there’s a correlation?

The Cat. 5s are often mockingly referred to as the Crash 5s in reference to their lack of racing experience and comparatively poor pack riding and bike handling skills. But do they crash more often? That hasn’t been my experience. And if it comes down to bike handling skills, you’d think the pros would crash the least. Yet clearly they don’t.

My half-baked theory is that as bike handling skills improve, racers are more likely to attempt a difficult maneuver. A given racer’s risk tolerance may remain constant throughout his career. However, as his skills improve, and the likelihood of a crash resulting from a particular maneuver decreases, he may attempt that maneuver with greater frequency, leading to no net change in the number of crashes for riders in a given pack size. Thus the pros are no less likely to crash than a Cat. 5, and actually more likely to do so given the typical field size of 200.

But that still doesn’t explain why it’s the same guys who seem to most frequently go down. In many of the races, there’s one guy to avoid—can’t hold his line, seems to be not paying attention, squeezes his brakes too aggressively. Everyone tries to avoid him. Maybe Horner, Leipheimer, and Vandevelde can’t stay out of his way. And maybe I’m crash-free because I am him, and everyone gives me a little more space.

Regardless of why, VDV’s crash is a nasty bit of luck happening once again to one of the most likeable guys in the peloton. Here’s wishing him a speedy recovery and a successful tour.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Don’t look back

Saturday was the State Championship Criterium, held in downtown SLC around Pioneer Park. It was my first race as a Cat. 3, and since it was my first race as a 3 and Peter A. hasn’t been mandatory upgraded yet, I went in with fairly low expectations. I was just hoping to sprint it out with the pack, with the assumption a group including Peter would be off the front.

The assumption about the group off the front held true. Even though Peter had soloed to victory in the Masters A race immediately before the 3 race, he somehow still had the legs to make a move off the front after all of about one lap. We chased for a long time at what was for me a very high speed, even sitting in.

In previous four corner crits—especially when chasing a breakaway—I’ve always noticed a very pronounced accordion effect—slow for the corners, accelerate in the straight. Rinse and repeat every 200 meters until the bell rings, then hit it even harder to try and sprint.

The accordion effect in this race was not as bad as it usually is in a Cat. 4 or Cat. 5 race, but that’s only because we were cornering faster. At one point I looked at my computer as we were rounding turn 3. 29 mph around a right turn on a downtown street with painted lines and a man hole cover for improved traction (I jest about the improved traction). So basically instead of going slow-fast-slow-fast, we were just going fast-faster-fast-faster. It was the highest intensity hour of riding I have ever experienced.

Eventually we realized that Peter and his four breakaway companions were not going to get caught (teammate Adam C. was among them). So the pace slowed. For about one lap. Then someone would try to bridge. So we’d all chase. Then someone else would go. And we’d chase again.

At one point Steve tried to bridge. He was out in no-man’s land for a while and then was swallowed up. Towards the end, it seemed like the pack was starting to break up. I thought people were getting tired. I thought a gap had opened and people were off the back behind me. Prior experience suggested more gaps were going to open. Even though I was actually smack in the middle, I thought I was at the end of the peloton, and that if another gap opened I would be behind it. I was more nervous than I should have been.

So I accelerated to get to the front of the field, hoping to be sitting in in a better position for the final laps. Right as I was about to tuck in behind teammate Cam P., he made a move off the front. In that split second I thought that with help, maybe he could stay away, even though I am not the sort of rider who has ever had the ability to go on a break and stay away. Cam pushed hard for a lap, then I pulled through and gave it all I had. I expected Cam to pull back through, but he didn’t, so I kept pushing for another half lap before I realized Cam didn’t pull through because we had been caught. It would have helped to look behind me from time to time, but I was too focused on maintaining the imaginary gap we had only briefly opened.

I was completely blown with four laps to go. Stupid move on my part—I should have let Cameron solo and sat in and tried to set up for the sprint. (But that’s not what Cam would have done for me. Because Cam rides pretty much every race just looking for ways to help a teammate.) I tried to recover, but there wasn’t time. The bell rang, and I knew I’d be lucky to just stay with the bunch.

Steve positioned himself well and won the best-of-the-rest bunch sprint for sixth. Adam stayed off the front for fourth. Peter, when he realized he was going to be out-sprinted at the line, sat up, presumably so he’d get fewer upgrade points. He’s getting close to a mandatory upgrade to Cat. 2, and he doesn’t want it. Even though the rest of us want nothing more than for him to upgrade.

Am I satisfied with the result? Not particularly. With Peter, Adam C., and others capable of making a break stick, it was never going to end with a sprint. And if it didn’t end with a sprint, I was never going to win. But I know where my strengths are, and I failed to play to them and could have done better otherwise.

There is a moment in nearly every race I enter when I am suffering beyond what I thought I would ever choose to suffer. In these moments, I want to abandon the race and give up bike racing. I think about how stupid it is to pay for the privilege of punishing myself like this. I think about riding my bike just for fun or taking up another hobby altogether. Yet at the end of every race, these thoughts are completely banished. If I have a good result, the elation more than makes up for the pain. If I don’t have a good result, I can’t wait to try again and prove the result does not reflect my ability. But for the time being at least, I cannot conceive riding my bike without racing, however poorly I do it.

Friday, May 7, 2010

On the relativity of fatness and the perks of my job

Like so many other cyclists, I obsess over my weight. I think about every bit of food I put in my mouth and most of the time eat just enough to ensure adequate energy to train and race and sufficient recovery from workouts. Sometimes I err on the side of too little.

Take last night, for instance. I was racing at Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele after having raced the night before at DMV. I wasn’t racing to win at DMV and didn’t do much besides a short, hopeless, one-lap flyer off the front to take the pressure off of Steve and force the nine Canyon guys who were sitting his wheel to actually do some work*.

*The tactic worked, by the way, as they had to chase me down, allowing Steve to get behind their best guy and pip him at the line to take the win. It was a thing of beauty to watch. Which is not to say I deserve any credit—it really was all Steve. I made a tiny contribution, but he was the strongest guy in the field. Team Revolution Cafe Rio has now won the B flight every time the DMV race has been held this season, with Cam P. and Mike H. winning previously.

Unlike DMV, I was hoping to have a bit of success at Miller after finishing 2nd last time I was there. Teammate Adam C. went out on a break. Jon S., Karsten from Spin, and Jason from RMCC bridged, and the break was four. Since we had a man up, we didn’t chase, even though we probably should have. We had six guys back, including four sprinters.

The only other teams present were RMCC and Spin, and since they had men in the break, they weren’t chasing either. The riders without teammates made a few efforts to chase but never really got organized, so the breakaway soon had a gap that would not be closed.

I was hoping to do well in the bunch sprint for fifth place and should have with Cam, Steve, and Scott leading the train. But when I came around Scott after the final turn and tried to go, I had nothing. OK, not nothing. But very little. It seemed like several racers just flew past me, and try as I might, I couldn’t stay with them. I crossed the finish line and felt shaky and weak. Not making excuses, but I realized that morning’s new low weight for the season had probably come at a price, and I should have backed off on the diet this week.

The good news is that the guys who passed me in the sprint were teammates Mike H. and Alex K., along with a couple of A flight racers (they combined A and B flights but scored separately). Adam ended up third out of the breakaway racers, with Jason and Jon S. ahead of him, so we got third, fifth, sixth, and seventh as a team. Unfortunately, those fifth, sixth, and seventh places may very well have been first, second, and third had we chased down the break, which Adam had even suggested we do if we only had one guy in it. Oh well.

Here’s where the relativity comes into play: even at my lightest, I’m an absolute fatty for a bike racer*. And yet compared to the population at large, I would guess that fewer than ten percent of adult males are under 160 pounds. But the absurd thing is that even a competitively-sized bike racer, for instance reigning world champion Cadel Evans, who weighs 140 pounds, would be a giant among distance runners.

*Wednesday night while waiting for the DMV race to begin, I complained of being cold. Mark T. grabbed me by the shoulders and said “Really? With all this to keep you warm?”

Which is why the running world is all abuzz at Chris Solinsky, who just set what is being called the “fatty world record” in the 10,000 meters. Chris Solinsky is 6’1” and weighs 160 pounds. In other words, he’s pretty much the same size as Rick. Last I checked, nobody was calling Rick fat. Solinsky is the first person over six feet tall and over 141 pounds to break the 27 minute barrier in the 10,000 meters. A more typical-in-stature distance runner is current marathon world record holder Haile Gebrselassie, who is 5’5” and 123 pounds. Just think, If I lost another 37 pounds (~25% of my mass), he and I would be the same size.

Graph (borrowed from Science of Sport) of mass in kilograms of sub-27 minute 10,000 meter runners. Notice the outlier (in red)? That’s Chris Solinsky.

Tangent: one might be tempted to think that between my apparent obsession with other men’s bodies and my own shaved legs that I’m gay. My wife is happy to report that I’m not. And though I’m perfectly happy to live and let live and marry and let marry as far as all that’s concerned, others are not. One in particular who’s not is George Alan Rekers, who allegedly hired a male prostitute from for a recent ten-day trip to Europe.

Mr. Rekers claims that he hired the help because “I had surgery, I can’t lift luggage. That’s why I hired him.” I jokingly mentioned this bit of news during an otherwise boring meeting at work, and a very senior executive ran with it. “Sure he needed help with the ‘luggage,’” he said, “and it had to have been a tough decision whether to stow it in the overhead bin or under the seat.”

OK, enough of my weight obsession. I’m starting to sound like a style-obsessed teenage girl watching runway models during fashion week. And while I’m not taking diuretics or purging after meals, I can say that I would see a bright side to contracting a stomach virus, provided the timing were convenient inasmuch as it can be where those sorts of things are concerned.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Virgin Gooseberry trip

Last weekend I was faced with a tough decision: go to Moab with Psycho Rider and the Boise crew, or go to Gooseberry area with Alex, Kris, and Alex’s hunky neighbor.

I’ve been to Moab a bunch of times over the years. It’s always fun. And it would likely be the one chance for the year to ride with the Boise crew, unless I take a trip up there (which I may). Problem is, they stay in hotels, eat out, and start the trip mid-week, so the cost in terms of actual money as well as the perhaps-more-precious vacation days is meaningfully higher.

Alex and his crew sleep on the ground, leave Friday afternoon, come home Sunday night, and effectively brown bag every meal. The trip is done on a shoestring. So I was leaning that way for that reason, but that wasn’t the real kicker.

The real kicker is this: until last weekend, I had never ridden Gooseberry. Moab is known as a mountain biking Mecca. And for good reason. But many of the Utah locals I know prefer Gooseberry. And now I know why. If you took the best of Amassa Back, Slickrock, and Sovereign trails, you’d have Gooseberry Mesa. It’s like a good parts version of Moab. And it’s singletrack. And there are no jeeps or motorcycles. In other words, it’s an unqualified awesome place to ride a bike. Nearby Little Creek and Jem/Rim/Goulds are spectacular trails in their own right.

So with apologies to my Boise friends, I’m glad I chose what I did. Even if it meant not witnessing what was one of the more painful-looking endo crashes I’ve ever seen.

We rolled into the Hurricane area just in time to ride along the rim above the Virgin River while the sun splashed alpenglow onto the adjacent bluffs. Not a bad way to start the weekend.

After trying to sleep through a horrific windstorm, we got up, ate some of Alex’s awesome egg and chorizo burritos, and headed to Gooseberry.

Alex did an awesome post about the geology of the area, which is academically interesting and mind-blowingly beautiful.

A dramatic lunch spot, perhaps more so because Alex, who isn’t bothered in the least by exposure, rode to the end of it and back.

I seriously couldn’t watch him do it (notice I’m turned away in the video). I rode partway out, just sort of following the trail. When I realized how exposed I was, I walked back.

That night we made camp on top of Little Creek Mesa. The wind was blowing mightily against the side of the bluff, but where we were camped right on the edge, we were in the slipstream. It was quite calm, though we could hear the wind raging right next to us. One of the questions we pondered is when you are sheltered from the wind by trees or rocks or whatever, how does the energy of the wind dissipate? Is it lost as heat somehow?

While the comfort of a hotel is nice, camping on a mountain biking trip is its own delight. Sitting by a fire after a great day of riding, knowing there’s another day ahead provides a certain satisfaction that can’t be had otherwise. It helps to have good food and good company. Hunky Neighbor made an awesome potato salad to go along with the steelhead baked in the fire. Kris is one of my oldest Utah friends, pre-dating my move to Utah, and always good company. And we were joined by Cory and Jill, some friends of Alex and Hunky Neighbor, for the evening and next day. Cory is already on my list of nicest people in the world, and his wife Jill kept us entertained with stories about her prior life being married to a Mexican drug lord. It was a fine evening indeed.

The views of the Pine Valley range were nice but the weather made it apparent that hitting Thunder Mountain on the way home wasn’t going to work. This shot was taken next to the primordial pond, which was teaming with tadpoles (or perhaps some other creatures that will fill the evolutionary void when we humans kill ourselves off).

The riding on Little Creek was nice—similar to Gooseberry but a little more pristine and a little less technical. I liked Gooseberry a bit better, but I’d never turn down either one. Of course it didn’t help that wind and even a skiff of snow dampened our spirits to the point that we cut the ride short and skipped riding out to the “big trees.”

The only downside to the trip was the most nearly-fatal crash I’ve ever had on a bike. There are several sections of both Little Creek and Gooseberry where you’re riding right on the edge of a cliff. None of these sections are particularly difficult, but an unlikely fall in the wrong direction would mean certain death.

While riding one of these sections on Little Creek, there was a small step-up onto what appeared to be a flat rock. It was an easy move that I should be able to nail every time. Except that I didn’t account for the fact that the flat rock was not so flat underneath and tipped to the side when my front tire weighted it. It was just enough to put me off my balance. I threw myself to the right, away from the exposure, then reached for my bike to keep it from falling the other way. No physical damage, but I was a bit shaken up. OK, I was a lot shaken up.

I keep thinking I’ll get over my fear of exposure one of these days. And while I’m not comfortable with it, it’s not like I avoid it either. But I keep having experiences like this and the slide down Little Pine chute last year that hack down any courage I may have built up. Perhaps I should just avoid locations with place names beginning with “little” during the month of May.

Dug says if he could have just one trail in his backyard, it would be Gooseberry. I have to agree, especially since if it were in Dug’s backyard, it would more or less be in mine. Gooseberry isn’t in our backyard, but a four hour drive ain’t bad (and it’s not like Corner Canyon, which is in our backyards, sucks either). I’m just a little embarrassed that it took me this long to get there. It won’t take me nearly so long to get back.

Monday, May 3, 2010


I spent the weekend on a desert plateau. If you took the best parts of Slickrock, Porcupine Rim, and Amassa Back, and put them all together in one ride, that was kinda what it was like. I’ll write about it later. After I download some photos. All I will say is that I am embarrassed that I waited this long to ride there.

There’s another plateau I’ve been on for a couple of weeks, and that’s with my weight. I would like to know how it’s possible to spend ten hours on the bike each of the last two weekends and end up weighing two to three pounds more Monday morning than I did Friday morning.

It’s not like I pigged out either weekend. I ate a normal amount of food. And I spent a more-than-normal amount of time on the bike. This last Friday I was finally back down to what I was the previous Friday before I rode White Rim. And today I’m two pounds heavier.

I eat lean meats, veggies, fruits, and whole grains. I go to bed hungry almost every night. Over the weekend, I splurged and had a few brownies and some cheetos. But not two pounds of brownies and cheetos.

You’d think I’d be worried about hanging on to a fast-climbing Cat. 3 group, but that’s not it at all. The real fear is that my brother is presently eight pounds lighter than I am, Rick is in race-winning shape, and the Alpine Loop is almost clear. The only race series of the year that matters is about to begin, and I don’t want to embarrass myself.