Cycling in a Toque

Cycling in a Toque: July 2010

Saturday, 31 July 2010

Philosophy Feedback

I received a great email the other day. It was from a former ski racing friend who has recently taken up competitive cycling and asked for some guidance a few weeks back. I started to put together a couple key points that helped my stay on the right track over the past four years and before I knew it, the paper grew into a bit of an epic. I shared some of the key points on the blog a few weeks back (Part 1 & Part 2) and in response to reading the philosophy, he sent me his recent thoughts and experiences on the bike.

Needless to say, I was extremely pleased to read about his discovery.

Enjoy!

Jason, Mike, Roman and I also did a small but challenging criterium race in Camas, Wa today. The course featured a 30 second effort (very steep hill) followed by a tight and fast descent to lap around in just around a minute. It was great fun slogging it out between us all. Good workout. A link to the Oregon Cycling Action can be found here and photos can be found at the end of this post.
* * *

Hey Ben,

Here is my first response to your email, starting with the muscles I feel when I ride.

Use every muscle. You have about 10-12 major muscles available if you have a very efficient pedal stroke. Try to think of them and email them back to me:

I focus a lot on this, as I have always assumed the more muscles you use and the more efficient your pedal stroke the more powerful and effective you will be. I feel the core, the lower glute, the muscles through the foot, the calf, the upper glute, the inner quad, the outer quad, the hamstring, the hipflexer, the muscles along the shin. I am sure in that mix there are a bunch of muscles, but I am not expert in anatomy. What I have noticed is its easy to think about all these muscles, they can fight one another with poor timing or like a great singer in tune they can work together with a flow that is tremendously efficient and powerful. On a good day I find that and can push it at what seems like any cadence for any amount of time. For me this is one of the most satisfying experiences on my bike and for sure the most rewarding.

Other things that have sunk in so far from what you wrote:

Ask out loud, do I want to ride? I like this a lot and what it made me realize is becoming a professional cyclist isn't about ability or skill, its about wanting to be on a bike more then anybody else. Yes, skill and ability come into play, so does nutrition, and lifestyle in general but no matter how much these factors come into play, you need to want to be on a bike day in day out. So ask yourself, do you want to ride? If yes, then with the skillet, genetics, nutrition and lifestyle one might have a chance at succeeding at what ever was set as the goal. At the beginning of the year I always go out too hard and I point at the biggest mtn in sight and climb it as fast as I can. I know it's the wrong thing to do as my body is completely fucked for a week minimum, but the worst part is mentally I have put myself through so much pain it's hard to get back on the bike. I never worry about burn out as its the first week or so of the season but that mental feeling of not wanting to get back on the bike is for real, and to burn out mentally seems detrimental. So asking oneself, do I want to ride right now? And listening seems like a smart way to continue enjoying the bike and all that it can bring.

Breathing through the nose:

Whats held me back from doing this is getting snot all over my face. I pushed through that and have dramatically seen improvements. The biggest one is O don't cough at night or wake up short of breath. Also I know i am expending less water, and getting more oxygen to my muscles.

Stretching:

I have stepped up my stretching this year but have always been a stretcher and understand it's value.

That's all for now. I will come back with more soon.

Thanks again, it's much appreciated!!!

* * *

Mike Northey & I
Le Cornering

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Friday, 30 July 2010

The Finer Points

Over the past few months I have had the opportunity to compete in a lot of races around the States and read about/watch a lot of races from around the world. Most of these venues have been brand new to me and when I combine my first hand experiences on the road with what I've read on the internet and seen on TV, I have greatly enjoyed picking up the finer points of cycling from 'inside' the barriers. However I am deeply worried about the perspective of cycling from 'outside' the barriers.

Every year, professional athletics offer an element of spectatorship that far outrivals any sitcom television show. A team's ability to come together and win in the most challenging of circumstances, or an individual's courage in overcoming what was only believed to be impossible just moments prior, or the heartbreak of rider/player injury or defeat can create moments that define generations. However occasionally, in an impatient pursuit to equal such epic thrillers of humanity, certain individuals choose the unethical road to success. Unfortunately, this will never change. Moreover, this problem is not isolated to cycling or sport in general as there are also individuals who cheat in the worlds of business and academics.

How can a cooperative society of individuals and families focussed on a mutual pursuit of excellence in anything, be it scholastics, athletics or business, be attained if the cheats continuously steal attention away from those who deserve it? Television no longer awards broadcast time to baseball field streakers, so why do to commentators still discuss the cheats? I was appalled when listening to sports coverage both on TV and at racing venues over the past two months when commentators consistently brought up the topic of doping (be it bike, blood or steroids).

Take for example the new spectator to cycling who attends an evening criterium at the suggestion of a friend. In so doing this person witnesses their first bike race and becomes motivated by the sight of the whizzing peloton to try their own hand at cycling, be it on a recreational or competitive front. Or perhaps the individual is a young child who gets to jump up on Dad's shoulders just so they can feel the wind rush created by the flying racers, the rings of cow bells and the announcer's booming voice sealing the moment in their memory.

But then one slip by the commentators by perhaps innocently stating that "these racers do not have motors in their bikes" or something to the general degree of some guy doping somewhere in the world while riding a bike and the evening's atmosphere is all but thrown into the trash. Why are you even bringing these awful elements when you could be talking about something much more heroic. Like the teams. Or the riders. Or the local businesses that sponsored the event and are probably paying you to speak all night on the loudspeaker in front of their shops!

Cycling is special not because it is hell of a lot of fun or that you get to go so fast that you can exceed the speed limit (of course I cannot and do not endorse such behavior), but that riders do not ride for themselves. Even if you are the team leader and riding for the win, you are also riding for your teammates who just demolished the field, or got bottles from the car, or who jumped in the break all day just so you, their team leader, would have the best chance to win for the team at the end of the stage. When reviewing the sport outside the tasks of individual riders, cycling teams exhibit a rare and powerful force in one's community and as such should and often do target ways to better the lives of those around them. Riding for a cause, be in your team leader or something much more special, can exhibit the power needed to extract that little bit of extra courage from one's suitcase and in so doing perhaps creating an epic moment that someone, be it a spectator or fellow racer, will carry and share with others when life's challenges become perceptively insurmoutable.

At the moment, there are a lot of top level teams that are able to support various causes. Check them out below and support them if and when possible.

Team Global Bike (Global Bike) See cyclingnews article
Team Luna Chix (Breast Cancer)
Trek- Livestrong (Livestrong Cancer Foundation)
Team CF (Cystic Fibrosis) See cyclingnews article
Bahati Foundation (Inner City Opportunities)
Team Type 1 (Type 1 Diabetes)
Rubicon Orbea (Livestrong Cancer Foundation)

Thanks for reading!

Pictures from today's beautiful ride in Portland - it's great to be back out on the bike. PS: you should all go check out Dinner for Schmucks. News on Canadian Track Nationals coming up on Sunday's post with an interesting reply from a reader of the cycling philosophy in Saturday's post.

Left: Portland
Center: Bridge to Skyline (& Germantown)
Right: Skyline Ridge (Land of many climbs)
Germantown 1: Feeling like many dollars
Germantown 2: Hard to keep camera still
Germantown 3: Last photo before camera goes away for a while
NW Benny Drive - I guess I'm a pretty big deal
Mt. Hood from the state line

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Thursday, 29 July 2010

Shake 'n Bake

Went out for a night of track racing this evening with the OBRA Thursday night track racing series at the Alpenrose Velodrome. The track is very unique as it is the only track in the country that riders do not have to pay to play which is good because the steep banking and an unusual 266 ft length per lap make for some needed acclimation time. Nevertheless, when I jumped on the track tonight, my first time on an outdoor cement track, I felt very comfortable as there was considerably more grip that on the wooden velodrome in Burnaby.

I started the night with the Cat 4 riders (C category) as I needed to pick up some pack riding skills. Each week OBRA organizers choose a different style of racing and this week was an omnium. An omnium event features multiple events where riders are scored by points (not time); winning honors go to the rider who accumulates the greatest sum of points over the evening's events (just like a decathlon in Track and Field). The C category started the evening's racing with a Points Race. In this race, only 12 laps long (30 seconds a lap), intermediate sprints at laps 3, 6 and 9 set the rankings while the final sprint on lap 12 awards double points. The breakdown for each sprint is four deep at 5,3,2,1 (so 10 points for the final sprint). I was able to win all the sprints and the final.

Norrene and Heather raced well in the opening event of the B category which was a Miss 'n Out. In this event, after a five lap warmup, the bell is rung each lap indicating that the rider to cross the line last the next lap is out. Eventually the race comes down to a two up sprint. Very exciting. The sling shot off the banking is huge and a rider can get caught sleeping if they are in the sprinter's lane (space between black and red line at the bottom of the track) deep in the pack as riders come around on the outside.

The 2nd C race was a Unknown Distance. In this event two dice are rolled so the event will be anywhere between 2 and 12 laps. The only indication that the end of the race is approaching is a bell at 1 lap to go. This means is it important to attack or stay very close to the front. A rider in front attacked on lap 2 and in the process of bridging up to him on lap 3, officials rang the bell! So a little effort to catch him and I ended up taking the top prize again.

The 3rd C race was a Tempo race. In this event points are awarded 2 deep (2,1) each lap through the duration of the event. Our race was only 10 laps long so I kept the pace high to start, duking it out with Cam and Aubrey (I met a lot of people tonight) as they were teammates and made me chase. I ended getting it in the end.

Hungry for more, officials allowed me a spot in the final A race of the evening. This event was a 50 lap Points race. There were two teams (each with two riders), Gentle Lovers and a team in black and white kit who were fighting it out for the evening's omnium. I knew that they would team up and try to outsmart and outpedal each other so since I just wanted track experience, I told them I would be there to keep the pace high. Immediately following the neutral lap, the race started with a bang and I found myself in a group of 5 (the two gentle lovers riders, the two teammates in white and black kit and myself) sprinting away from the 20 rider field. The two teams took turns crushing one another while I hung on (at times for dear life) and pulled through when they slowed down too much. Since the final sprint of the evening was double points, I bided my time and targeted that last effort. I was able to seal the night off with that final sprint, vaulting myself into second on points for the last race. That's good! I felt comfortable and am looking forward to more racing.

Currently we are in the final stages of solidifying my trip to Canadian Track Nationals in Bromont, Quebec from August 23rd-30th so after some time off the past five days, I am feeling rejuventated!

I practiced my track stands this afternoon and found out the since we all drive on the right hand side of the road (unlike the Kiwis on the team), when I track stand on the street, I turn my wheel left, with the right foot back because of the rain-drain angle of the street. This doesn't help you though when you are riding/track-standing on a left turning track. Oh well. Practice makes .... better.

Below are some picks from the day.

Don't miss my entry tomorrow afternoon - Got a good idea for it!

Ride on!
Le Bicyclette

Alpenrose @ Sunset

Le Auto

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Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Bumpy Road

I was very excited to earn my starting spot at the Cascade Classic Criterium last Saturday and although I was feeling quite good from the difficult days before, Lady Luck had nothing for me come Lap 7 of the twilight event. The 1.3km four corner course through downtown Bend looked straightforward on paper but with a crunch from four lanes to two as the field approached corner 3 each lap, the long line of heavy breathing riders along the start finish line could attest to the importance of pack position. Despite good position in the early section of the race, I was once again involved in a crash. As we passed under the start finish banner on lap 7 the peloton slowed sending the usual 2 wide string to a +10 rider wall reaching from barrier to barrier. In what is usually a safe part of the course I knew that such a change in pace was very dangerous and I immediately felt an uneasy sensation in my belly. I remember thinking in those split seconds that it would either get real hairy in 15 seconds when we reached corner 1 or it would all happen right then and there. Well it happened right there and immediately a bike in the air down the middle of the peloton. I elected for the right side but soon discovered that that was the wrong choice as a pile of now half lycra-covered bodies splayed out in front of me. Despite jamming on my brakes, the +60km/hr pace proved too much and I ran right into a Team Type 1 rider already on the ground. I flew like a clipped bird, landing in amongst the barriers and bike parts. My bike end up with minimal damage and I could have jumped back in but I decided I had had enough for the day. It was the first time I had ever elected to voluntarily stop racing after a crash.

I thought about this afterwards. Why did I do this? My wrist was quite sore from the sprain plus the strain I had placed on it to make it through the week's mountain stages to make time cut. Now with my left elbow quite sore and an overall feeling of relief that I had NOT hit my head in the incident, I figured that I better save it for another day.

Once I had cleaned myself up at the med tent, I jumped alongside the race course to see Mike jump into a 7 man breakaway. Ten laps later, the break had established a +25 second advantage and judging by the representation - it looked good for the rest of the race. However a slowing by some riders prompted Mike to try another solo move off the front and grabbed the crowd's attention with a three lap flyer. You should have seen the breakaway try to reel him in - teeth gritted - just panicking! It was great.

In the finale, the breakaway stayed away and Mike finished 4th in the kick, just short of a podium ride. Great ride Mike! Roman, Taylor and Quinn stayed safe in the pack.

Sunday's course was very difficult, a 26km loop with a nasty climb, an intermediate sprint and of course a feed zone (or the tan zone). Tanning didn't actually happen as temperatures rose close to +35C once the 1pm race time approached. The guys set out for 5 laps, totaling 130km with the hopes of a good ride from Mike for stage placement while keeping Roman safe, who sat 15th in the Young Rider classification. Mike jumped in the penultimate move of the day, expending quite a bit of energy early but was able to hang in and dig deep the last time up the KOM (king of the mountain hill) to place 12th on the stage. Roman hung in there as well to finish 17th in the Young Rider's classication, three minutes back of Trek-Livestrong's Ben King.

The Classic was once again a classic. It was hard, the weather and altitude made for tough conditions and the NRC level field cut any chance of a gimme. The team's goal this week was not to win the race but to animate and be a part of the action. We were all happy with the way it went and are looking now for a little rest. Thanks again to Bici Vida Team Manager and New Zealand Olympian Carl Williams who took upon the position of Director Sportif this week. I look forward to more bike racing in the future under your wing. Thanks again for reading about my riding experiences, once I get healed up in the next few days and start thinking about track and cyclocross preparations, I think I may do a little section on some of my training - any starter questions?

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Cascade Classic 2010

Well we are just about to head down to the twilight Criterium here at the Cascade Classic in Bend, Oregon. Tonight's stage will be stage 4 of 5 and if the previous stages have been any indication - it will be very fast. The event started on Tuesday night with a short 3km prologue in and around the Old Mill District (right where they held Cyclocross Nationals this past December). I was quite happy with my ride, the elevation took a punch out of me though. I still placed 20th overall, top amateur and held onto 2nd place behind Andrew Pinfold (United Healthcare) through the first half of the event.

Come Wednesday though I knew my life would get difficult. Race organizers included Mackenzie Pass for the first time in 8 years and the 4,000 foot ascent at kilometre 50 made the race very difficult. I got popped quite quickly but was able to find a group of riders and make it through to the finish (at the summit of the steeper but shorter Three Sisters climb) within the 115% time cut. The team had a great ride and Roman Van Uden slotted into 17th in the young riders classification and 50th overall after hanging onto the second group up the brutal finish climb. It was hot too! 35 degrees. Since only 150 of the 200 starters were allowed to start the criterium, my goal for the rest of the week was to solidify a spot. After stage one I sat 163 out of 170 remaining riders.

Thursday the race stayed in town for a 26km individual time trial. The uphill (3-5%) out and back has been used many times over past competitions here in Bend (National Championships and the Classic) so some of the guys have run the course upwards of eight times! I enjoyed my first run on the course and despite cramping in the final push to the line, I placed 4th in the team and 71st overall, 3.35 back of fast man Ben Day who averaged 30.5 mph! I also moved up to 153rd of 159 riders as some were time cut.

Friday was another very hard mountain stage with a 25km climb right out of the start. I got popped at the 36th minute and suffered over the top of the climb to jump into the grupetto for the day. An hour later, our seven man group joined up with another dozen riders up the road and we made our way towards Bachelor Ski Resort. In the final 20km, the road went up again and although it wasn't as close as Stage 1, I was relieved when our team manager told me later that afternoon that I had indeed made the time cut. This also moved me up to 149th of 150 remaining riders as all riders behind me in the GC had dropped out. So in short I earned my right to start tonight's criterium and sore wrist or not, I am stoked for the chance to represent the Yellow. Last year there was 15,000 spectators and over the radio today I heard the advertisements so its going to be hot, dangerous and loud - ya hoo!

Here are a few shots from our team spin this morning around Bend. Thanks again to our gracious hosts this week: Chris and Rich Frey and Dr. Kerie. It's been very relaxing!




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Monday, 19 July 2010

A Philosophy of Five Parts

As promised, here are the five challenges that I sent along to a friend the other day. These challenges were instrumental to my development as a cyclist over the past four years despite sharing my time with academic requirements in the winter and 50 hour construction jobs in the summers. For that reason, my fellow team leaders and I at the Whitman Cycling Team worked hard to convey the importance of self-assessment to the new riders at Whitman every year. Understanding one's own reasons and goals in any pursuit, regardless of athletic orientation, is imperative to success. And so I share with you just a few things that I've been fortunate to pick up over the past few years. Enjoy the ride.

- Exert 2 -

Challenge 1:
EVERY time you get on your bike, ask yourself if you truly want to go for a bicycle ride. STOP. I want to really ask yourself OUTLOUD! Yes, I am serious, OUTLOUD. Listening to yourself is the first lesson. Answer the question out loud too. If you are riding your bike for yourself (and you should be! not for someone else!) then you should never feel bad about turning around after the first 30 seconds, the first 5 minutes or the first +hour of a ride if you are not ‘feeling it’, or maybe you don’t even kit up. If you are worried about the rest of the team or the group (if on a group ride) – then you are not riding for yourself. One holds a box of matches for each day that when used correctly can lead to a fitness improving ride or race victory, but one also holds a box of matches for the entire season. How best are you going to use your matches?

Challenge 2:
EVERY time you get on your bike, ask yourself if your body is ready to ride. Has everything been done to fully prepare for the bicycle ride that is in your plans? If not, take a nap. The body produces the highest amount of human growth hormone while sleeping. You don’t get faster when you ride, you get faster when you are not riding!

Challenge 3:
Have a drink the night before = no training the next day. You can go for a ride, but you cannot train. The difference will be discussed below. If you break this rule – I absolutely guarantee that sickness will follow.

Challenge 4:
If you are going to spend money on bike racing –
1. Buy good food
2. Buy good food to eat while you ride
o you should be eating at least half of what you are expending so that’s 200-300 calories / hour!
o just a guess but let’s say regular daily intake is 25% fat, 60% carbohydrate, 15% protein
3. Use vitamins - boost your recovery with vitamin B, omega 3 and a multi-vitamin (of course, some are better than others)
4. Buy proper cycling clothing (all the leg/arm warmers, booties, hats, gloves, rain jacket).

Notice there is nothing on this list that makes your bike lighter. Power is more important than weight. And happiness is more important than weight. If I am not tired, not hungry, not thirsty, not wet and not cold, I can ride all day. That's trademarked by the way so don’t get any ideas!

Challenge 5:
Cycling is a combination of physiological talent (ability to utilize oxygen and go up hill) and skill (ability to manoeuvre one’s bike across the course and through the pack). One cannot improve one’s talent; one can only develop their physiological and psychological potential. However, one can improve one’s skill set; therefore it becomes a rider’s obligation to become as skilled on their bicycle as possible prior to racing season.

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Saturday, 17 July 2010

Boise NRC Criterium


The Rubicon Orbea Team (Roman, Mike, Taylor and I) traveled out to Idaho this past weekend for a tumultuous epic through the dark, hot and drunken-fan lined arteries of downtown Boise. The event kicked off at quarter to nine with a adrenaline injecting countdown over the loudspeaker just as the desert sun's bright rays forfeit to a wall of bobbing heads and inquisitive eyes, effectively isolating the Lycra-clad warriors from the normally peaceful ambiance of the Idaho lifestyle. The peloton of riders shot away from the line in a pace similar to that of a grid of Formula 1 race cars and through the first right hand bend, the riders swung first from the far left of the main straightaway to only briefly graze the high walls of the right hand apex before extending out again to the left along the patio of Hotel 43. Following the slight corner two bend, the pack surged down 10th Avenue along a bumpy, manhole covered surface towards for the final two corners like an hi-jacked steam engine. The ever changing pace of the peloton forced riders from a single file formation to that of a wall as their churning pedals spanned from one gutter to another, plowing through the dense inner city heat like that of a tsunami. Onlookers of all ages cheered and slammed their cow bells in anticipation of the approaching pack, only to momentarily lean back from their coveted sidewalk viewing points as the pack rushed by, depositing a blanket of unsettled cool air over their sunblock covered noses before disappearing around the final 4th corner bend and back onto the long 350 metre haul to the start-finish line.

Taylor claimed the opening preme sprint at which point a small breakaway became established off the front. Yellow was represented with Roman Van Uden as Mike marked the front and I readied for the next move. The race continued to heat up as the legs of the peloton warmed up and after fifteen minutes of racing various groups of riders had attempted to breakaway but to no avail. I suffered some rear brake problems and as I was making my way back up to the front a change in the pace of the peloton over the start-finish straight created a dangerous situation resulting in a crash. I was involved in that accident and went down quite hard. My Boise race was over.

Taylor, Mike and Roman carried on with Northey jumping in a bridge attempt to the 3 man breakaway at half distance. Although successful in the bridge attempt, ballooning the front group to eleven riders, the peloton was not pleased and brought the field back together with 30 minutes remaining in the 90 minute event. At this time another 4 man move went off and although no Rubicon riders were able to make that selection, the breakaways hopes were again dashed at 10 minutes (approximately 10 laps) remaining. By this time the streets were dark and the only light guiding the 100 rider peloton through the streets was that over the start-finish line with a secondary beacon at corner two. With nine laps remaining the Fly V Australia team lined up their full 9 man roster on the front of the field, Jamis-Sutter Home (in very similar colours) and Rubicon-Orbea following closely. With three to go Northey closely followed Van Uden, still riding in the top twelve as the lead out trains began to whither.
Each corner the pace increased and riders took greater risks, diving down the inside in a plea to set themselves in good position for the final push for the line and that coveted $2000 paycheck. In the finale, Roman was able to survive for 15th in the dark while Fly V took a 1-2 victory, with a Jamis rider completing the podium.

The night's event did not turn out as we had planned but with a
few days rest before Tuesday's 3km prologue stage of the the infamous Cascade Classic in Bend, Oregon, the team is confident that we will regain our June and early July momentum. Thanks to Christine and Patrick who helped me out after the crash. Also, great to hang out with fighter pilots Ben and Jim in the B-Tent as the race unfolded. Perhaps see you all next year.

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Friday, 16 July 2010

A preview to a philosophy

The last few days have been very quiet, very slow moving, very relaxing days. Today we traveled to Boise in preparation for tomorrow's NRC criterium on the wide but very hot streets of the Idaho desert. I grabbed this beautiful shot of the sunset from our nice accommodations at the race hotel. They have free internet and so.... we have a blog entry!


I wrote up a long paper today about my riding philosophy for a fellow former alpine ski racer who is starting to pursue bike racing. I kind of went over board but also wanted to take the opportunity to collect my thoughts as I am finalizing my lecture notes from this past semester's cycling class at Whitman College. I am hopeful that either Justin or Glenn can spread some of this philosophy to the new batch of riders whether it be in a classroom setting (if the school promotes another cycling class) or on the road. So I have included a brief section of this many page document for your reading pleasure.

It covers a philosophy of cycling and bike racing that I learned from my long time friend and coach David Youngblood. I learned a lot from David over the past three years and since he gifted me this information when I came to him as a burnt out cyclocross rider in 2008, I share with you some of the secrets that helped incorportate cycling into my life whether it be when I was working 50 hrs/week as a construction labourer, completing my undergraduate degree or now racing full-time with Rubicon-Orbea.

- Exert 1-

First off I am super excited that you are interested in racing your bike. There is no better feeling than riding in a peloton, participating in a team time trial or contesting a sprint finale, especially when you know, you truly know, that you are riding on or beyond what you thought was your limit.

There is no limit. The only limit is how far you want to take this.

However, there are a few tricks that will help you find your potential. I’m going to let you in on the secrets that I have been fortunate to discover over the past three seasons (with the help of coaches that I have paid – so....) here is my challenge to you: Whatever goal you set for yourself in the world of cycling, be it a daily goal, a seasonal goal or a dream goal – you do so in a mental state that guarantees an interest in bike riding far after your athletic prime. For the challenge is not to go fast for 1 year and then stop (because anyone can do that), and it’s not to see who can suffer more or hurt other riders the most either (that’s only how you win races), but it is in learning how to train and approach the cycling lifestyle in a manner that will guarantee long term success regardless of one’s goals. That all sounds incredibly vague but since you have a lot of experience from ski racing – I think with a little bit more detail you’ll get where I am going with this.

The BIGGEST difference between ski racing and cycling is the ability to hurt oneself. Truly hurt our bodies to the point of mental anguish, just like the last few minutes of VO2 max testing at the Alberta Scientific Institute every October. At those moments I used to ask myself “how much longer”, now when I am suffering I ask myself “is this what I truly want to be doing” – the answer is very powerful. Sometimes it is no! And that’s okay – I just go take a nap and usually feel much better. The great thing about ski racing was that the dryland was very separated from our on-snow time. In the gym we all pushed big weight and competed against our teammates but come every October (usually earlier as we all got older), we disliked the weight room. Tell me if I’m wrong here. Skiing well at camp always refreshed my efforts in the gym but it didn’t change the long term effects of the gym. So in the end, I kind of burned out of the gym. With cycling, I train and race on the same apparatus. The squat rack and the downhill track are the same thing so the trick of avoiding burnout is a very real challenge.

At this point, the worst thing I can do is tell you what to do, however, from my experiences as the coach and leader at the Whitman team; that is exactly what new riders want. So instead I am going to establish a few guidelines, very shortly described, and I am going to let you build off those for a little while.


- Check back on Monday for the five challenges -

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Thursday, 15 July 2010

OBRA HIGH SCHOOL CYCLOCROSS

I have also been fortunate to recently begin work with OBRA (Oregon Bicycle Racing Association) as an assistant to the new High School Cyclocross initiative. We are hoping to establish a racing series that rivals the High School Mountain Bike programs of Colorado and California by utilizing the hugely successful cyclocross series in the Portland area, the Cross Crusade. These 1 day (1 hour per race) Crusade events are epic and have hit over 1200 participants on given weekends each fall. I am looking forward to this opportunity as I took great pride in working with new and excited riders at Whitman College. Hopefully we have a wet and muddy fall!

If you want to learn more about this program check out the article linked above or if you have an interest in supporting this program (as we are looking for ways that we can help new students/riders find a cross bike) contact Kenji. The cyclocross season starts in Seattle on September 25th with Starcrossed at the Marymoor Velodrome before OBRA’s Cross Crusade opens on October 3rd with the always popular Alpenrose Velodrome event.

Don’t know what cyclocross is? Here are few links to my favourite cyclocross videos:

Pure Sweet Hell (Cross Crusade)
World Championships 2008 (Look at all the people)
Whitman Cyclocross 2008 (I made this one!)

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Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Velodrome Track Test

Today we traveled home to Portland with a brief stop in Vancouver at the Burnaby Velodrome Club for a track test with the Canadian Track Development team. It went great. When we arrived around noon, the Women’s National team was just finishing up their morning session so I was able to snag some open track time before the Men’s team showed up around 12.30.

The Burnaby facility is the only indoor track in Canada and 1 of three on the continent; two others in Boulder, Co and Los Angeles, Ca. The surface is wood and the entire 200m velodrome is fully enclosed so racers can train and race throughout the year. UCI World Cup events and the Summer Olympics feature as the pinnacle of the sport. Some World Cup events include huge, spectator friendly “Six-Day” events that bring in TV coverage, night-time racing and lots of tipsy spectators. Very Euro. The national team riders at the track today were training for the Team Pursuit (Men’s TP: 4km – Women’s TP: 3km). As a team of 4 riders, the goal of course is travel from a standing start to the finish line as fast as possible using smooth transitions and consistent lap times once up to speed. The efforts the guys threw down today averaged out to +57km/hr! Pretty impressive.

I was able to score a loaner bike and get comfortable with the banking. It was cool. It felt like ski racing again with the G-forces. The guys jumped on for a warmup and after I got comfortable, I too was rotating through with the nine experienced riders. It was fun. Intense. But fun. Jason suggested that I keep my left shoulder relaxed through the corner and that I push myself to look farther forward than I was which greatly improved my cornering. Thanks Jas. Jeremy Storie, National Track coach, set me up for a flying 200m and a flying 500m. The banking is very important. Proper use of the transitions help a rider speed up without using too much energy and really propel you forward. I was able to record a 12.5second effort at 200m (bit too high on the banking) and then a 32.7 in the 500m effort with a 88inch gear. On the ragged edge, high G-forces, clenched teeth. Good stuff. Ski racing. Since the best time at the Burnaby track for the flying 500 is 29.0, Jeremy and Richard wanted to see me try a different gear. When using less teeth the gear is harder to push but I can reach a greater speed (since track bikes are fixed single speeds with no brakes or derailers, to change the size of the gear, the rear wheel is removed and a different size cog is screwed on). They also threw on the best wheels you can run, a penta spoke, unidirectional front and a full rear disc. I improved my time to a 31.0. It was pretty hard. Felt a few muscles creeping up that I haven’t activated before on a bike. Le Maximum! It was a great afternoon and I look forward to more track opportunities in the future. Thanks Jeremy and Richard!

We have one day at home tomorrow before we take off for Boise on Friday. The Boise Twilight Criterium on Saturday night is an NRC (National Racing Calendar Event) so there should be some fast riders there. Then it’s the infamous Cascade Classic starting July 20th in Bend, Oregon. The first stage has been switched from a gnarly mountain stage to a short 2km prologue time trial. Cool beans.

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Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Tour de Whistler

Epic Day!

Jason, Taylor, Mike, Roman and I took off to find bears. That was the goal. If I didn’t deliver, I was pretty much off the team. After a nice coffee stop at Alpine, we took off for Callaghan. Four bears later and a lap of the Olympic 5km Nordic course in WOP and I was still on the team! Good stuff.

Then it was off to Kadenwood for some climbing. A brief stop at the boneyard in the village to show Mike and Taylor just how crazy downhill mountain bikers really are (and what the best downhill mountain biking in the world looks like) and then it was off to the top of the bobsled track. Steep ass! Another bear at the top, sandwiches at Portbello and a gander at Lost Lake topped of the Tour de Whistler.
Then of course it was up to the lake. Good times.

Team Trouble (Jason, Ben, Roman, Mike, Taylor)
West Side road after a coffee at Alpine Market
Suiting up for the descent
Whistler Olympic Part - Callaghan
Top of the World! (Bobsled Track)
Green Lake
The Mushroom House
The Lake
Taylor goes big

Roman's first Jump

Roman Cannonball attempt (turn up your volume)
video

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Monday, 12 July 2010

Go-Karting!

Our homestays here in Tsawassen lined up a session at the outdoor go-karting track this morning. The cars were fast and the racing pretty vicious. Bumping happened, what can I say. Roman seemed to enjoy spinning out, but he did set the fastest time of day. Kudos. The trip to Whistler this afternoon was quick and the trip through the city a little too quick for all the ‘scenery’. A stop at BrandywineFalls was the highlight. I took Roman and Jason for a quick spin around town in the evening - showed them everything I could think off in 80 minutes (Westside, creekside, village, boneyard, blackcomb) leaving us all hungry not only for some home-cooked lasagne (thanks MOM!) but for more riding on Tuesday morning.


Sunday, 11 July 2010

Tour de Delta - Road Race

It’s all over and the race turned out well. The weekend didn’t turn out perfect from the team perspective (Taylor 2nd in Young Riders, 2nd in Team GC) but we all enjoyed the racing. Actually losing the leader’s jersey last night made today’s less stressful as we could play more cards rather than ride the front all day. We sent Quinn and Galen up the road in the early move, forming from the drop of the flag (the race is started under a neutral roll out until it is safe to begin racing at which point the race commissar drops the flag from the lead car). With ten riders 4 minutes up the road, the rest of us could rest in the peloton (kind of) and focus on conserving as much energy as possible for the final laps.

Starting with 4.5 laps around North Delta, the race travels to Tsawassen via an exposed 30km route before ten 8km finishing circuits featuring a 1 minute effort at 12-14%. Usually the race blows apart in the 30km transfer but the winds were quite low today so a large group made it through. At 3 laps (24km) to go, Galen watched his chain fall apart on the climb so he pulled in at the feed zone for assistance (he actually fixed it and finished a lap down! What a stud!). At this point Quinn attacked, followed by strong man Zach Bell (Kelly Benefit Strategies) as the peloton now followed only 60 seconds behind. The breakaway was fully absorbed with 2 laps to go (averaged 12 minutes a lap) except for Bell who stayed off the front after attacking Quinn and establishing a maximum advantage of 2 minutes. This pushed Tuft to move to the front for “crushing” duty just as his sole teammate Christian Meier tired after a whole day on the front (Meier’s ride was amazing – there is a reason why that guy is ProTour).

Up the final climb the pace kicked again with a dangerous 15 rider move forming over the crest. With only Northey up in the move, I bridged hard, making it up to all the top riders before the right hand turn off 1 avenue. The field ended up coming back and rolling down the backside of the circuit for the final time the leadout trains formed. Bell was visible with 2km to go. Time bonuses were available as well but I did not know this and we were planning on setting up Mike for the final push. At 1km to go the yellow train was all lined up on the front of the pack but a surge from the left separated Mike and I. Now with only Roman and I riding in the front 3-4 riders, the final corners was fast approaching. Jamie Sparling (Total Restoration) attacked from the far left into the final corner (500metres from the finish) and I covered his acceleration hoping Mike could also find me. Out of the corner, the straight drag up 56 avenue seemed extra far this last lap and at 300metres to go Kelly Benefit launched. Two crashes occurred in the field at this time but all the Rubicon-Orbea riders survived unscathed. Kelly Benefits grabbed the top two places out of the field with Bell hanging on to the win by just 5 seconds. Mike finished 5th and I followed in 9th. The time bonuses awarded to the road race podium finishers pushed me off the overall podium but fifth place is still an amazing ride for me. Cloud Nine! Tomorrow I take the guys up to Whistler for some bear dodging and Olympic venue viewing. They are very excited to say the least.

Thanks again to all my friends and family who were able to make it out to the race this weekend and thanks again to all of you who follow me online. Our homestays in Tsawassen were also super rad! Go Karting tomorrow!
Learning to Saber!

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Saturday, 10 July 2010

Tour de Delta - Criterium

It was a bit tough to sleep last night so I made sure I snagged a solid afternoon nap in preparation for tonight’s Stage 2 criterium. This evening’s race also served as the Canadian National Criterium Championships. National championship races are always special as the victor gains the right to represent their country’s colors in that specific event for the following 12 months. In this case, the national criterium champion will don a Canadian jersey or a Canadian rendition of their trade teams’ kit in every criterium event they choose to enter. National color kit renditions are often seen at the Tour de France so if you are watching this year’s tour, be sure to look out for Geirant Thomas (Team Sky – Britsh Road Race), George Hincapie (BMC – USA Road Race) and Andy Schleck (SaxoBank - Luxemburg Time Trial). The Rubicon-Orbea team honoured Mike Northey’s 2010 New Zealand national U23 criterium championship with a special white and black kiwi rendition of the regular yellow and black kit seen below.


So although the Tour de Delta has continued to grow over the past ten years, the quality of the field jumped a bit this year with the inclusion of the National Championship Criterium event. The four corner 0.9km course in Ladner, BC looks relatively harmless on paper but once on piste, riders soon discover the first three open corners make for fast racing and the wind up the back straight, the narrow front straight through the crowd and the tightening fourth corner make for extra stress. Positioning at the beginning and the end of the race through the final 2 corners is very important as crashes often occur when the peloton is nervous. The cool bonus about my ride last night is that I earned the right to start the criterium from the front line, as event organizers call up the top riders to avoid the stress and crashes associated with starting at the back of a hundred amped racers.

Okay, the race now. Off the start Mike and Jason went to the front and covered multiple attacks from the likes of Svein Tuft (Garmin-Transitions) and David Veilleux(Kelly Benefit Strategies). With each lap in the 60 lap event taking no more than a minute and change, the pace was extremely high (average speed for the entire race hit +49 km/hr). With 30 laps to go I jumped in a serious move featuring all the big names and teams.

Will Routley (Jelly Belly – Canadian National Road Race Champion)
Andrew Pinfold (United Health Care – Tour de Delta 2009 Winner)
David Veilleux(Kelly Benefit Strategies – Fitchburg Classic Winner)
Zach Bell (Kelly Benefit Strategies – ’08 Olympian)
Justin Kerr (Team H&R Block – very experienced Kiwi racer),
Svein Tuft (Garmin-Transitions – ’08 World Championship TT 2nd)

I was in good company to say the least. The breakaway established a maximum advantage of thirty seconds with 22 laps to go. It was very hard. The advantage started to waver with 18 to go and with the peloton only 8 seconds behind, the attacks began. I don’t remember who attacked first but by lap 49, Tuft and Veilleux were off the front and the peloton had reabsorbed the rest of us. The yellow train immediately dove to the front of the race, driving the field in pursuit of the two man move up the road. Taylor Gunman made sure I was ready for the sprint finale in 10 minutes time (whether it was for the win or the last spot on the podium) with a Hammer Gel and a coke that was much appreciated. With 3 laps to go, Quinn Keogh moved me up on the back straight so we had all six riders on the front in the closing moments. There is nothing better than being in a yellow lead out train. By this time, Tuft and Veilleux had smashed it and moved to a +30 second advantage, splitting the $2500 crowd preme (intermediate sprint) with 3 laps to go so as to maintain their advantage. With 1 lap to go, Veilleux attacked Tuft and held onto a slim margin for victory and the jersey. On the back straightaway, after Jason Allen and Roman Van Uden crushed the last two laps (using a leadout train, a team can keep the pace high so as to stay safe and deliver their sprinter to the ideal length from the finish line), Taylor Gunman throttled it far on the left hand side. UHC edged up inside on the left (in the gutte!) so with 100m before the left hand third corner, Mike countered Taylor to throw a wrench in the UHC leadout. I wasn’t able to match Mike’s speed and through corner three Mike led, with UHC leadout man, then fast man Tyler Trace (Trek-Red Truck), Andrew Pinfold (UHC) and myself. I was hoping to slingslot past out of the fourth corner but mistimed it and had to touch the brakes a little going in. After that it was a full on drag race to the line with Tyler taking the spoils. Mike and I finished 7th and 6th respectively.

Although I lost the leader’s jersey to Svein Tuft, I remained 3rd overall going into Sunday’s challenging road race. Throughout the race, the guys also picked up a bunch of preme sprints. The race organizers split the premes between the breakaway and the field in order to spice up the racing. I was disappointed with my finish but stoked with my overall performance in the breakaway so tomorrow is a new day and I’m looking forward to the steep, short climbs of Tsawassen.

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Tour de Delta - Prologue

3km doesn't sound that long and it doesn't feel that long either, but that doesn't make it any easier. Throw in four 90 degree bends and a traffic island and its pretty hard to get bored out there. Last night the course worked out well for me and after the biggest ride of my cycling career, I am starting today's National Championship Criterium in the Tour de Delta leaders jersey. I am absolutely floored.

I first raced this course in 2008 as a new Cat 2 upgrade and had a great ride for 14th. It was super rad to be in the "big show" after enjoying some similar experiences during my alpine skiing career. I knew that the course matched my physiology (3-4 minute effort) and sporting background (technical corners that showcased my cornering skills from years of parking arcs on the slopes) so every year I've had big hopes for the Tour de Delta's opening stage. Now racing with Rubicon-Orbea (thanks to the Godfrey's and Keith Seed), I have been able to live like a monk. Sleeping, eating, riding, stretching and sleeping since graduating from Whitman College seven weeks ago. They have made my life so simple and its been very easy to motivate myself to get out on the bike every day. Any time I have trouble, which is not often when you live with four crazy Kiwis, I think back to the two construction jobs I have been lucky to have over the past three years (Mr. Chalk and Mr. Robson, thanks again for always supporting my goals). This opportunity with Rubicon-Orbea has been very special and I have thoroughly enjoyed turning myself inside and out on the bike.

Of course, Mom and Dad and my brother Darren have always been very supportive of my athletic aspirations so it was very special to share the evening with Dad. It was his first time at the prologue and I think he liked the champagne (helped me out so I could focus on Saturday, at least that was his excuse!) Everyone who was part of my time on the Whitman College Cycling team has also been very important to my development as a rider so I look forward to dropping by sometime this fall. The guys at Allegro Cyclery (Mike, Steve, Justin) always pushed me to the next level both on the road and as the leader of the team.

After the espresso last night, I woke up way early today so a nap will definitely be in order this afternoon. I figured I'd better start writing as thinking about both the prologue and tonight's criterium just threw my heart rate up to about 100 beats even though I was resting on an air mattress. Ladner is going to be televised and I hope my heart doesn't jump out of my chest when they call me up. Its go time.

Photos Courtesy of Greg Descantes:

Push for the Line

Podium Shot

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Monday, 5 July 2010

Quiet before the Storm

Training:

After a lot of blogging this past month, I have hit a bit of a writer's block. So if you have any questions about training, diet, racing and anything really, be sure to leave a comment on the post or hit me up by email.

Since recovering from out 36 hour marathon drive across the country, the guys and I have been doing some heavy duty riding in preparation for the next three weeks of racing. It has been great to get back home and re-establish a regular training schedule. We've mixed up the regular riding routes with a trip up to Battleground, Wa where I grabbed this shot of the local swimming hole. It was a nice temperature for training on Sunday but not hot enough for a swim so we stuck to the bikes.

Swimming Hole @ Battleground, Wa on Sunday


The guys and I have been doing some tough rides up Germantown (3km @ 8.5%) plus other steep hills in the area in preparation for this weekend's Tour de Delta and the Cascade Classic later this month. I have been feeling great and am hoping to have a great weekend. We are taking seven strong guys so I'm looking forward to a trip home. The guys are super stoked as next Monday and Tuesday we'll head up to Whistler to test our legs up Kadenwood and Callaghan.

Time to giver skidoo in the big ring

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