Monday, January 30, 2012

Found Something New

So I mentioned in my last post that I had started rock climbing a bit. Joined the local gym and even yesterday I went outside for my first bouldering session. Which, I learned, is in the same area where I ride my mountain bike all the time- which is within walking distance right behind my house!
Now is that me in the picture? Hardly. That is Chris Sharma, one of the more well known climbers in the sport who is constantly pushing the limits. Climbing crazy things like this and other 5.15 c/d routes which up until he came along, most people thought would be impossible to climb.

This is a video off a cool website called Climbing Techniques. A great site for people like me who are pretty new to the sport but want to learn as much as possible. This is Sonnie Trotter, climbing one of the most difficult "trad" (stands for traditional) routes around. The route is called the Cobra Crack out in Squamish, British Columbia. Rated at a 5.14 b/c. As I understand it. A 5.14 is really hard. A 5.14a is harder, and a 5.14b is pretty much impossible. The farther down the alphabet it goes, the higher difficulty without breaking into the next category- a 5.15. And the same goes for a 5.12, 5.12a, and so on. I know any climber who's reading this is yawning at this point and I'm surprised they haven't moved on to another blog, or the latest cute cat pics on imgur, but by telling you about it- I'm teaching my self! Huray!

So, for these past 4 days I haven't been working. I took time off to head up to the X games which just finished up on Sunday. But as it goes, plans fell through and by staying home I was able to even save some money. I haven't been riding or skiing much since I twisted my knee the last time I was on the slopes. My first knee injury skiing, and I was very fortunate that it was only a minor one. A sprain in my left MCL, or the ligament which runs along the inside of your knee. It definitely could have been worse. I hit some rocks which put a burr on my inside edge. So when I continued down the slope it caused the ski to pull out from underneath me and spun me around while my left leg was pulled up the slope-without me. It was this that has me taking a good look at Knee Bindings. If you've never heard of them, and you ski a lot- check it out!

These bindings have a third release point in the heel that acts the same way your toe releases. So when you fall, like I did, and your heel is trying to twist out of the binding, it actually releases instead of tearing your ACL or MCL in half. I was informed that the rates of ACL injuries are skyrocketing, but the good news is these bindings seem to prevent many of these injuries. In fact, even though the company is only two years old, they have no reports of any major knee injuries. Now will they prevent all injuries? No. Does wearing a helmet mean you won't get a head injury when you crash? Nope. But I'm glad that I was wearing one for the four I've broken in bike racing. So, save your knees. Try 'em out. And when you buy them, bring them to me and I'll mount them for you!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Cool Job, A Familar State, and a New Path

I've been here before, I lived in Colorado for about a year before I went to Belgium. It's one of those places, like belgium, that you don't realize you miss until you leave. Sure it's great fun when you're there, and you try not to take it for granted, but after you leave you think of all the experiences you had there. And with that fondness you wish you had never left.
I won't be returning to Belgium next year. I have taken the lead tech position at my old shop at the REI here in Fort Collins Colorado. Yes, I finally made it back. It took me two years, and every time I talked to any of my friends who were left in Co, I would always tell them that I was coming back, and of course they didn't think so. Even I had my doubts. I was afraid that I would never make it back. For whatever reason, this would be that unobtainable place that you always hear your, usually older, friends talk about that place that they lived for a while when they were young but then settled down elsewhere and could never make it back.
Not me
So here I am, made it back for good this time. And got a sweet job to boot. Lead tech in a bike and ski shop. Two things I certainly love to do. I haven't been skiing much over the past two years since training took so much time and didn't leave me with any time left for anything else. Now, I'm not training as much, or hardly at all like I was this time last year. I will get back on the bike and race again, but this year it won't be all road. I'd like to stray into the knobby side of cycling and do more mountain. I've also signed up for a membership at the local climbing gym. Even bought a harness and have a rope for lead climbing on the way from my brother. Went and got a Summit county ski pass for all the slopes.
What can I say, life's good in colorado.

Now if we can just get some more snow in the mountains!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Oostkamp Kermis

Yesterday was the Oostkamp kermis, our hometown race. I missed it last year since I was sick with bronchitis so I was really looking forward to it this year. We've had a lot of rainy and overcast days this past month so we were relieved to see bright blue skies yesterday morning. It was all a cruel trick a la Belgium style. By 4 in the afternoon the rain started to fall and since our race wasn't starting until 6:30, we would be getting wet for sure.
The course is pretty technical with some slick cobbles in the center on town, it's basically a big figure 8 loop with lots of manhole infested turns. Lots of guys were going down including two of our own but no one was seriously injured.
Taylor Kneuven attacked from the gun and stayed away long enough to pick up some primes, which were going on every lap for 1,2, and 3rd place. Races in the rain here are sometimes easier than in the dry. If you can get over the discomfort that is, riders here take the turns so slow but sprint like mad men coming out so you have to be ready and can't let gaps open up between the wheel in front of you. I always find that the safest place to take the turn is in front, especially in the rain. I can choose my own line and take it at my speed. Every turn I take first, I can open up a gap just by keeping my speed, the rider behind me is usually too scared to follow which is great because then he opens up a gap. I used this to my advantage later in the race.
A couple of moves went, and they came back. The first hour or so is like that. Guys get up the road and the rest chase. It won't be until later in the race when guys start to get tired that they start looking at each other to do the work, which usually no one does and a lot of yelling ensues. The trick is to attack just as all of this is about to happen. I had tried a couple of attacks, went with some others. A couple of the local strong guys were here, Mario Williams to name one and Kevin Mane for another. Mane crashed into a barrier so he was out. Willems will attack incessantly until he finally gets away. He's known as a kermis king here in Belgium. There's a handful and everyone knows their name. He got away with two other guys, our own Paavo Pajaanen being one of them.
Now all we have to do is get a second group going and sit in.
The center of town hosted two of the most dangerous turns in the race, the ones with the slick cobbles and manhole covers. You might as well be turning on ice. I went through first, opened up a gap and floored it. I took it all the way to the next turn and saw that some guys were bridging. It's important to see if it's just a small group or the rest of the peloton. This time it was a handful of guys with the green light to start pace lining and making some time up the road. Also in the group was Taylor. Perfect.
Just before we got away I was told by a team mate of mine that Paavo had crashed on one of the manhole covers and was no longer in the lead group. It wasn't long before we picked him up in our group, and then there were three, with two up the road.
We worked well together. There was an eissen guy with us (another strong team in the area) who was working well along with some others. The sand baggers weren't there for long, sitting in the back. After a while our group was halved and coming into the last lap it was even smaller. Paavo and I planned a little attack and follow move in the last lap. There was a head wind section going into the backside of the last lap, three turns before the finish. I would attack and if I was pulled back Paavo or Taylor would counter. For these to work you have to jump at just the right moment. First you need to pick out who is the strongest guy in your group and attack when he has either just taken a pull or is at the back of the group. Sitting second wheel I saw that Paavo had opened up a gap behind me and sitting on his wheel was the Eissen guy. Perfect. Off I went, deep into the pain cave.
they guy I went around was still trying to match my speed but I was gaining some ground and established about a 5 second gap. through the last turn, avoided the icy manhole cover, and went with everything I had left to the finish. I peeked under my arm and saw that two guys were not far behind. What I couldn't see is that Taylor was sitting second wheel.
 I stuck it for third place, grabbing the last podium spot. Taylor came around easily for 4th, and Paavo for 11th. I even got a bouquet of flowers, white roses actually, and a little trophy.

Hopefully I can get some podium pictures up after this post.

heres a link for the results.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

June? July? August?

     Has it really been three months since I last posted? That would be a yes. Well, since then I have raced...a lot,  took a week off in Spain, raced more, and now I'm looking at the last 4-5 weekends of racing here in Belgium until the end of the season.
     It's not over yet, but at this point it's been a really tough season. There wasn't much racing after Triptyque and everyone went on break. i took mine a little later in the season, since I'm staying for almost 7 months, I wanted the first part to be longer than the second. No one likes coming back to school knowing they have long semester ahead. We had 4 1.2 races all in a row after I came back. It really amazes me how fast you can lose your edge when you stop riding, even for a week. Retrospectively, doing all of those pro races may not have been the best way to get back in shape. I am now just pulling myself out of a little slump in my form. In all the races I've done since Romsee, which was a really good race, I feel like I've lost a cylinder. That top end just isn't there. A big clue was having a lower than average heart rate in races. In one race I maxed out at 183, my usual is one or two over 200. That's a problem. So, off to the team doc I went. Got some blood work, and physically everything is fine. No viruses, no elevated white blood cell count. Good iron levels and good hematocrit levels (43), well ok levels. That one could always be better.
     We have our home town race next week, the Oostkamp kermis. Last year I missed out because I was the lucky one with bronchitis. I'm keeping that to a minimum this year. The good doc prescribed what he calls "parasympatic overheating". This involves me getting on the trainer in full thermal gear. Just like how I dressed when I was riding for hours in sub freezing weather. But on the trainer, with no fan, riding until I hit 140 bpm and them holding it for 40 min. The idea is: there is a hormone that's released once you go above 140 to keep your heart rate in check. To keep it from going too high. In doing so this will also trigger more adrenaline. I keep the same effort as I did to hold 140, and you want to see your HR increase. And that it did, I went up to 170 eventually and was thoroughly soaked. And the best part is, I get to do it all over again tomorrow, oh goody!
     So that't not very fun but it should help get those adrenaline glands going again.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Stage 3, Time Trial with 100k in the Afternoon

     Ahh the dreaded double day. This is the day that really wreaks havoc on a lot of riders. We woke up at dawn to eat a quick breakfast and off to the time trial course we went. Since most of us are close to last on GC, we were all grouped together to go first. Since Peter was 4th, he went off about an hour after we did. It rained last night, so the roads were pretty wet this morning and everyone was on pins and needles about a wet TT this morning, but it held off.
      I could have soft peddled the TT since it really doesn't matter since I was so far down in GC. but I trained for it and I was feeling good so I gave it a go, "full gas". 16:38 was my time, the winner was 14 and change. About a full two minutes faster on an 11.5k course. That is one fast Bulgarian. 
     Peter did what he could but lost a minute to the leader.  He's now somewhere in the top 10, I haven't seen final results from today.  
Stage 4

      the afternoon's stage was only 100k so it went by pretty fast. I thought it was going to be harder than it was. The wind was really beginning to pick up and a lot of the roads were pretty small so it would have been easy for a strong team to gutter the field and split it, but that never happened. There were some hills as we left the start town. From the first attacks guys were already going backwards. After a couple more, Peter went with a couple and found himself up the road. He was the only threat in the break to it was up to Nugent* to bring it back. They have the guy who won two stages already (one being today), 4 total wins in a week. He won the race on Monday in Beauchamps and a TT the day before so he's rolling on some good form right now. 
     With Peter up the road, all we do is just sit and save energy. The local laps went fast and so did the pace on the finishing hill about a kilometer long. I was feeling pretty good, stronger than yesterday so I was able to help out Peter a bit once his group was caught in the beginning of the local laps. After a couple pulls on the front to keep the pace high and bringing some guys up to the front I was hurt on the hill. I lost contact just on the last lap of the dwindling peloton. My job was done and it was time to spin out my last lap and take in the scenery. We're really close to the coast and you can see that island just off the coast of Granville. Can't remember the name of it but it's the one you can walk to when the tide runs out. We'll see it again tomorrow when the stage finishes in Granville.
     Tomorrow's the last day and there is still a lot that can happen. The local laps are very, very tough. The peloton will be reduced to about 30 riders once the final bell lap rings. 

The final report will come on Monday since we will be driving back on Sunday night for 5 hours. 

Friday, May 6, 2011

Stage 2, short version.

     This will be brief since we are all getting up very early tomorrow for the time trial. I attacked in the beginning of the race to get up the road. I went with just one other guy in tow, but he was pretty strong. We soon had a big gap of over 2 min and there were two guys 1:30 ahead of us. Unfortunately one of the riders up the road ahead of us was on the same team as the guy I was with so my group didn't get far. but the job was to  take the pressure off Peter in the peloton and save him for later in the race.
     Peter raced well and is now 4th in GC with only 6 other guys in contention. the rest of the race was very difficult with lots of narrow roads and strong winds. I finished in the groupetto with Arne, Thomas finished with Matthew a group ahead of us and Paavo finished with Peter. A very long day indeed.
     Tomorrow will be a very long day, a time trial in the morning and a 100k race in the afternoon.

     The peloton keeps getting smaller and smaller.

Stage 1 Report

Yesterday's Course   

     Today's stage started in the town of Urville, located right on the coast with some spectacular views. We did a couple local laps to celebrate the start of the race. Twice we went around the small town and along the beach, it was difficult to pay attention to the riders in front since the scenery was so nice. While warming up, I explored a little and just down the beach were some German bunkers left over from WWII. The bunkers and their entire foundation had been eroded away by the sea as they now lie on the beach, sloping at different angles, like a giant had picked them up and dropped them there.
     After the gun, it wasn't long before we started charging up the hills along the coast. If you weren't ready to lay it down on the climbs you quickly found yourself at the back, especially in a small field as this (less than 100). A small group was beginning to ride away on one of the climbs, I bridged to the group, which Peter was in, but as soon as I made contact the group was brought back. A quick descent and another steep pitch, a second attack went. Peter jumped immediately, I was still recovering from my previous attempt, which when I looked back at my race data spiked me to 202 heart beats per minute. We went over a couple more rollers and then descended into a smaller town back on the coast. Sitting 5th wheel from the front, I began to notice that cars were pulling out onto the course without moto's stopping them. We're now doing 70 kmh+ on an open course with no one directing, and stopping, oncoming cars, but fortunately they moved over when they saw what was coming at them. More confusion followed when we blew through an intersection where we should have made a left, but again, with no one there to direct us no body knew where to go. I think this is a race organizer's worst night mare, but merely a shrug of the shoulders in France.
     One good thing about this blunder is that Peter's break-away was now well established. After the hills, we started inland and the pace dropped significantly- just about every team was represented in the 12 man break, at least every team that mattered. We went from larger, two lane highways to small farm roads. After the first feed zone at 50k, the attacks began. They were quite pointless really, everyone wanted to attack but no one wanted to ride. They were still a threat though, especially with a couple of weaker teams who might open up gaps and with no one willing to close them- there goes another group up the road.
     All the way until the local laps, Matthew, Thomas, and I followed attacks and closed gaps. Making sure that nothing went up the road with out one of us represented. Only three local laps but at 12 k, they were longer than usual.

Those squeamish about crashes skip this next paragraph. And no, I didn't go down.

     With 5k to go, Peter's break was still safely up the road with about 2min. In the last kilometers of any race, especially the long and tough ones, you want to be in the front to avoid crashes from wasted riders. People do dumb things and take unnecessary risks for little benefit. With 4 k to go, out of no where 20 riders went down in a huge pileup right on front of me. I was able to keep it upright, avoiding downed riders and fishtailing to a stop. A couple of guys ran into my back wheel but thankfully didn't break anything. Every Fuji rider was caught up in the crash. Some went down  but all were ok except Thomas. I stopped right behind him, he sat on the pavement cursing in flemish. Broken bike, broken helmet, and bloody limbs. I saw a rider next to me lying in a ditch with half a helmet left on his head. the other half was lying 5 ft away. After the bikes were cleared and Thomas was ok to at least ride to the finish, I went ahead to cross the line. 6 min 30 sec down in GC. 
     I later learned that the cause of the crash was not of a dodgy rider, but from a fight. One rider, who was cutting a lot of people off and causing a lot of people to get angry, started a fight and intentionally crashed the rider by shoving his handlebars. At least three riders went to the hospital, Thomas being one of them just as a precaution (he later joined us for dinner that evening and is starting today). The rider I saw in the ditch broke his arm. Totally senseless and unnecessary. That behavior has no place in cycling. The offending rider, whose identity is now well known through out the peloton, should be kicked out of the race and fined. But its France, so don't hold your breath. 
     The crash happened just outside of the 3k mark, so the 3k rule doesn't apply. Our director will appeal to the commissars, but we all know not to get our hopes up.
     In the big picture, our game plan hasn't changed. Peter is now 5th in GC, and our plan today is simple. Make sure Peter gets up the road and bring anything back that is a threat. In the meantime, we'll appeal yesterdays crash and hopefully nullify our time gap of 6 min for the group time of 2:20.

     Stage 2 starts at 1:30, I will post this evening with good news I'm sure.