Friday, September 25, 2009

Interbike, Part II

Now fully armed with Metrigear stuff, I had to figure out how to tackle the convention floor layout. Pretty simple to just walk the aisles so that's what I just did. First up was the Euro area of the show. Strained conversations were the norm here. I got the sense that a few of the interested people at some of the booths were having a hard time trying to get through the language barrier of the foreigners.

For me this happened at the Acros booth. This is a German company that has some pretty light weight gear. Yup, a homegrown competitor to the other weight-weenie company Tune. They displayed a sub-700g wheelset made from their hubs and some new prototype AX Lightness rims. I asked about the hub weight, but this was lost in translation. I never got the answer. Most of the other Euro stuff were things I had already seen from the interweb postings from Eurobike.

Continuing my assault on the aisles, I soon found myself approaching the Vittoria/3T/Selle San Marco booth. And to my surprise there were some Garmin riders signing autographs. I'm typically not an autograph/rider groupie, but I couldn't pass up see these guys in person. First up was Christian Vande Velde, then some other random Garmin guy who I couldn't identify, and then Dave Z. All of them were cool, but I was most interested in DZ partly from my own twisted fascination with TT's and his complete domestic dominance of this discipline. I had a photo taken with him, but he didn't want to look short, so he stood up on his chair to even things out a little bit.

And here's DZ's secret weapon to being fast. His shoulders are so narrow that he probably could have been birthed from his mother at his current side and she probably wouldn't have needed an epidural at all. This dude is narrow, plain and simple.

Along the way I'd get folks asking me what Metrigear was all about, so I'd hand them the literature, show them my Speedplay pedal and direct them to the booth. I started to hit the wall and came across the Fizik booth. Some neat stuff there, but best of all was the espresso vendor. I downed a double and kept on working.

I eventually came across some other regionally focused vendors. First up where the Asian companies. These all felt cheap and inexpensive. I felt like I was walking through rows and rows of copy-cat designs and rip offs. I was happy to move on and find I was soon halfway across the world and surrounded by the Italians. All the Italian vendors had a certain air about they were the holders of cycling's holy grail (not sure what that may be, but the Italians probably have it...maybe it's called the World Champion rainbow jersey). Besides the class of the Italians, I really appreciated their attention to detail; very refreshing and a nice change from some of the in-your-face displays from other parts of the floor. I was surprised by the number of clothing vendors from Italy. A ton of vendors showing fabrics and clothing components. Neat stuff if you're a chamios geek.

On the way out of the Italion stallions, I passed through the Kuota booth. Go figure, more pros! John Murphy (US Crit champ), Rory Sutherland and Floyd Landis were just chilling at a table with nobody around. I saddled up and asked for a poster, and given the lack of action, and probably because there weren't any pretty girls around, they decided to strike up a conversation with me and ask what brought me to Interbike. We probably talked for five minutes and there were all pretty excited about a pedal-based powermeter. Nice guys.

A quick check of the clock revealed it was 1:30pm. The espresso was wearing off and I needed nutrition. I headed back to the Metrigear booth and met up with Alan. We headed over to grab lunch. Since he had been on the floor the day before he gave me the rundown of what transpired the day before and some booths I had missed that I needed to head back to and look at in more detail.

On the way back I wanted to hit up Pearl Izumi and find out what was new with some of the aero shoe covers. We had to cut through Shimano. Yes, I know. A Campy guy like me walking through the Shimano booth. It was damn tough. To make it worse, George Hincapie was signing autographs. I pushed aside the Campy voices in my head and had George sign a poster for me. However, the picture Alan took with my iPhone didn't turn out at all. Oh well. And if George is "big", then I'd hate to see the rest of the peloton. He's not that big, just normal size.

Wow, so who else did I bump into? Well, Lennard Zinn (VeloNews technical editor and tall guy frame builder) asked me where the Metrigear booth was located. And yes, he's not as tall as he claims too. It's like high school again when you hear about athletes from opposing teams (or frame-building editors) seeming to be larger than life, and then when you see them in person there's a different perspective you walk away with. Trust me, I played against a lot of 6'7" guys in high school who were barely pushing 6'4".

By this time the day was winding down. I hit up the espresso guy again and swung by the Bell/Easton booth. An old Stanford teammate of mine is the business manager for their helmet business. He was in the middle of a conversation with some former US mountain bike pro champ, but when he saw me he quickly excused himself. We caught up and later I told this story to the rep at the Prologo saddles booth. He said that my buddy was probably all too eager to get out of the conversation with the bike rider because the rider was most likely only talking about themself.

With sore legs I went back to the booth and meandered through Rotor and Selle San Marco. Rotor is coming out with their Q-rings for the Zipp cranks (which will suit my road bike just nicely thank you). Selle San Marco just came out and updated the Regal saddle at Eurobike. They've shaved 150 grams off the saddle and have retained the shape. Finally, a nice big saddle without a significant weight penalty. I asked the rep if I could buy one, but he had to keep it around until the show ended.

This led to a moment of enlightenment. Some of these vendors are willing to wheel and deal with their goods on Friday. As the show closes down, they're looking for ways to reduce the amount of product they need to ship out. So with that in mind I took Mandi over from the Metrigear booth, made introductions between her and the San Marco guy, and gave them both instructions on the saddle make/model/color I wanted. Mandi, I owe you!

Wow, is reading this exhausting? Yeah, probably. Just like being on your feet all day at the show. More reads to come in Part III and pictures.

Interbike, Part I

Over the past year I've been covertly planning to make it down to the 2010 Interbike show. For years I've scoured the web to see photos of what was coming out from different vendors. So now with some careful planning and deft product development of some friends I executed my plans. So what's so covert about going to Interbike? Nothing really except I was going in support of a friend who's bringing out the equivalent of sliced bread to the power meter crowd. More on that later...

Day trips to Vegas aren't a regular occurrence for me. Heck, prior to heading to Vegas for my ten year wedding anniversary back in April, I hadn't been back to Sin City since spring break 1994. Lots can change in a fifteen year absence, but now I'm heading back only a few months and it actually will seem more "normal" of a city than when I was overwhelmed during the spring.

No major hiccups on the flight, except I learned a valuable lesson at the Vegas airport. I tried to be sly and pick up a taxi on the wrong side of the airport. The airport officials quickly guided me to the right "line" on the other side of the building. After getting into my cab, I asked why none of the taxi's weren't even giving me the time of day on the other side of the airport. Apparently it's a $100 fine for them to pick up people on that side of the terminal. Ok, my bad...I forgot that I needed to queue up with two hundred other people and wait in line (I think some Brit might be running the airport since their love of queue's is high).

Upon arrival to the Sands Convention Center I found the reg desk and promptly was greeted by Velopromo people. Not really, but when I think "reg", I think Velopromo. However, the man helping me could have fit in just perfectly with the Velopromo folks.

I'm going to turn the clock back here about eight years and tell you a little side story that will help you understand what I was about to face. Before Lisa and I decided to have kids, we made sure to take a nice trip to Europe. Since I had spent some time around London and knew the town well enough, I wanted to expose her to Harrod's. We spent about five hours there (including lunch) and at one point Lisa had one of the paralysis moments of shopping. Just too much overload of what to buy. We fondly refer to this as our "Harrod's" moment.

So back to Interbike. I see the open door to the convention floor and briskly walk through. WHAM! I'm being hit from all sides with "Harrod's" moments! I am so utterly completely overwhelmed by everything that I found myself standing still for about a minute. Soaking in all the biking goodness was such a nice feeling. With that over I quickly got oriented and found my way over to the Metrigear booth.

A quick change of shirts soon found me in the black Metrigear t-shirt. Armed with a handful of marketing literature, I decided to walk up and down the aisle to get the word out for Metrigear. Of course along the way I saw some pretty cool things...but we'll get to those in the next blog posting.

More to come...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Chico Crit Race Report

Place High-teens
Category: 35+ Masters 3/4
Race: Chico Downtown Criterium
Team Mates: Steven, Jonathan, Bruce
Field Size: 40+
Conditions: Hot and windy

After racing in the Henleyville RR the day before, it was nice to hang out in Chico the rest of Saturday and enjoy the town. After a fun dinner with Steven and Jonathan at a local Thai restaurant and a good night of sleep, I was ready for a hot day of racing. My racing didn't start until 2pm. Nothing like a lazy morning in Chico to get things started (and a plug for Cafe breakfast spot in town).

I set the family up under the shade in the plaza near the start/finish line. Lots of other racers were doing the same thing and it was a great atmosphere for racing. After some brief time on the trainer, I did a few laps on the course. One corner had the nastiest rain drain I had ever seen. It must have sunk a good two feet! If you cut that corner you\'d be launched off your bike into the exit of the corner from the apex. Definitely a line that nobody tried to take willingly in the race.

The race started off fast and stayed that way. A couple of laps into the race the first prime was called (two deep). I was in the top 5 coming into the next to last corner and so I put in a hard dig to get to the last corner first. With that successfully accomplished I was able to nab the prime. A quick glance back and I had a gap, so we all know what that means ;)

I kept the gas on and probably did about 3 laps out by my lonesome self. I know was hurting and I was hoping my teammates were helping me back with the pack (Steven must have been hurting because in his oxygen-depleted race report he completely forgot I had rolled off the front solo). As I started to eventually slow, a Chico Corsa rider bridged across. He was pushing a big gear and I was having trouble sticking on his wheel.

A few laps later another guy made it across. I was cross-eyed at this point due to the heat of the afternoon, the solo effort and the dead legs from the road race the day before. I held on for a few more laps, but I ended up popping off the back. In retrospect I should have sat out a few pulls, but logic is defied when the door of the pain cave is closed and everything around you turns dark.

I slowly drifted back to the pack and saw that the rest of the SJBC crew had been shelled. There were some Chico guys on the front keeping the pace reasonable. Every now and then guys would try to push the pace, but there wasn't any great amount of teamwork between teams to pull the break back.

With about three laps to go I put in another hard dig to bridge up to three guys off the front of the pack. However, they pretty much gave up their effort as I rolled past them. So once again here I am in no-man's land. This lasted only another lap and a half before I was tracked back down. I surfed the back of the pack as the final two laps were ridden at a fast pace. I was happy to cross the line and be done.

In retrospect I probably could have, and should have ridden a bit differently in the break. As noted by Steven in our post-race chat, it's sometimes not until you\'re in the pressure of the moment that these opportunities of learning present themselves on the bike. This is not something you learn on a training ride or at our Tuesday night rides. It's what you do the next time this happens that defines whether or not you've learned from your past experiences.

As my final race of 2009 I can say I've learned a ton this season and can't wait to see how 2010 plays out.

Henleyville Race Report

Place 7th
Category: 35+ Masters 123
Race: Henleyville Road Race
Team Mates: None
Field Size: 10
Conditions: Sunny with wind picking up throughout the day

I had targeted this weekend not so much for the racing, but to take the family up to Chico to visit a niece of ours starting her first year of college at CSU-Chico. Just my luck, OK I planned it out just a bit, that there would be two races over the weekend.

This was the first time I actually was able to wake up past 6am and make it to a Velopromo race on time. Nice to be staying close in Chico for the weekend. Our field was real small! Two Morgan Stanley's, three Zenn's, two Sierra Nevada/Bike Plus and then myself, Winder from Lombardi and a random Davis guy.

At the start the Davis rider decides to go up to the front and set the pace. Nothing too hard, but he kept pulling off and then rotating back into the front three. I stuck my nose out in the front a bit on the first lap, but not much. The Davis guy was just too ready and willing to pull us around. The feed zone was on a small pimple of a hill (maybe only a 3% grade at most).

Coming into the last few miles of the first lap the attacks started. This caused the Davis rider and one of the Zenn's to fall off the pace. Winder and I looked at each other and figured we'd sit in and watch the teams just punch/counter-punch each other. A first for me happened rather soon too...a pee break on the side of the road. Such gentlemen us junior geezers can be when the need arises.

Soon after we got back on the road and there was way too much talking between the represented teams. I had a feeling something was up. The attacks started again and finally there was one that stuck; it had one guy from each team. The remaining teammates looked at Winder and I with that pitiful look of "Hey, go chase them down...we're not!".

The break got up the road by about a minute, but Winder and I thought perhaps we could gutter the other teammates and bridge across in the crosswind section. We hit the corner and Winder launched me from the back of the pack. I put in a pretty hard dig, but the 3 chasers didn't want to let me go and reeled me back in within the next two minutes. Then Winder attacked. Rinse and repeat, it was the same thing for the next eight miles as we tried to make something happen/stick. We didn't have the numbers and the remaining teammates were more than willing to chase us down.

I resigned to the fact that we now were racing for 4th place. But my moral victory was that I had beat the Davis rider, so I was doing my part to help close the BAR gap. The winds picked up more on the final lap and we all eventually played nice and rotated through the pace line. Coming into the final kilometer the Morgan Stanley guy launches and I slowly bring him back. Just as we're about to catch him the remaining three guys launch their sprint. I rolled through 7th and learned what it feels like to miss the winning break and ride without teammates.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Lady Gaga, Your Dad's Proud of You!

Watched the VMA's tonight on MTV. Just a short word to Lady Gaga...your dad called and said he likes what you did with your hair (the Eskimos like it too). If you saw her last outfit during Jay-Z's performance you'll see know what I'm talking about.

Friday, September 11, 2009

La Palabra de Vuelta del Día

Universal Sports is doing a great job with their live coverage of the Vuelta on their website, but let's not overlook the other great contribution they're making.

I don't have a large vocabulary of smart-guy words I like to throw around to impress people, but I can usually ascertain a word or two that's out of my league when I at least know the context. The announcers on Universal Sports today threw a new word into the mix:


Ponder that for a minute...Ok, now there are a few things that make sense about this word and why you might have never used it in your normal day to day communications.

First, are there any bonifications on the line if you finish your coffee first? Probably not. People on this side of the pond don't throw this word around (at least in the company of my friends). Second, do you notice where that above link takes you? Yup, to a UK dictionary website. Maybe this is a more common word in the Queen's commonwealth. I'm sure the UK version of Beavis & Butthead would go nuts using the word "bonification" in a skit or two.


Sunday, September 6, 2009

District TTT Race Report

The District TTT was a late addition to the Norcal racing calendar. This was going to be run on the same course as the Altamont TTT back in April with some additional kilometers thrown on to make it a full 40km. The newer section of road wasn't a surprise to me as in-laws live out near the course and I've ridden these roads quite a bit.

There's a reason there are windmills dotting all these hills. It's typically windy and this morning was no different. In fact, it was probably one of the strongest winds this early in the morning that I've ever felt in this area. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

As with the District TT in Sattley, I had the same early morning problem. You'd think I'd learn to set my alarm when I'm not tired, but I neglected to pay attention to the AM/PM distinction. Thankfully for me I woke up at 6am otherwise I probably would have missed the race. I quickly checked my iPhone alarm and realized I made the same mistake I did for Sattley. Gotta work this out eventually...

So with my adrenaline was pumping and after slamming a yogurt and banana down for breakfast, I was on the road. Thankfully for me I was staying at my in-laws, the car was pre-packed and it was only 20 minutes to team's meeting spot. I texted Clark to let him know I was going to be a few minutes late.

Upon arriving at our meeting spot, Mike and Dave were waiting for me and it was pretty cool out. Definitely a long-sleeve skinsuit morning. However, no Clark to be seen. Ten minutes pass and still no Clark. I gave Clark's cell phone a ring and no response. Not good, but this race only requires you to have three riders crossing the line. Yeah, I'm already thinking worse case scenario and we haven't even hit the registration table.

We finally make the call to drive over to registration after we waited for twenty minutes. I left a message for Clark and we rolled. We parked and rode up to the registration table to pick up our numbers. Come to find out Clark had picked up his number and was already warming up. I found Clark on the way back to the car and I was very relieved. With almost an hour to warm up I felt much better knowing the entire team was ready.

I brought my tiny arsenal of wheels, but in reality I knew it definitely wasn't necessary. Running a 1080 would have been fun for maybe the first quarter of the course, but with the strong winds it would be too much to handle this deep of a front wheel. In fact, having the disc on the rear was even something I was questioning.

Our team rolled up to the start and just in the nick of time. I quickly heard the starter tell us we only had thirty seconds before starting. Just around the same time the Rocknasium team in front of us had a logistics snafu and missed their start time. Needless to say they were pretty steamed about it, but the rolled on and out of site.

At the start we all clicked in but Dave had a problem. We had to wait and he eventually caught back on. Once all together we ramped it up and were flying. The tailwind had to have been 20+mph and I've never gone up this gradual hill so fast (~36mph). We hit the peak of the climb and then descended at terminal velocity. How fast is terminal velocity on a TT bike? About 54mph! It was probably the scariest moment I've ever had on a bike. That fast, and being whipped from side to side by the wind (every rider after the race I spoke with was just as scared too).

As we hit the crosswind section on Mountain House Road, we quickened up our rotations and echeloned. It was hard to find any calm wind behind the wheel in front of you since the winds were so strong and we were all getting blown all over the place. At the turnaround we lost a bit of time with Dave not being in the right gear.

It was fast on the way out, but it was a death march on the return. The crosswind was now coming a bit more from the front of us and it was really slowing us down. It hurt just to do ~21mph! Poor Clark was starting to feel the effects of the wind the most. Not surprising given he was the lightest guy in our group. We were able to rotate smoothly and let him sit out a couple of pulls to recover.

Turning onto Altamont Road I was thankful I was running my 11-25t cassette. I dropped into my small front chainring and explored all my rear gears to find a suitable cadence. With the straight-on headwind, the 39-23t combo proved to be where I spent a ton of time riding. And it wasn't any better sitting up to climb. The wind would just slam into me and cause me to lose momentum. I spent all my climbing in the aerobars.

Halfway up the rollers to the peak of Altamont Road we lost Clark. I don't like losing teammates in TTT's, but it's part of the strategy to know when to push on and when to wait. With how Clark was feeling it was time to plug on. We pushed through the last rollers and up to the summit.

With just two miles to go it was time to empty the tank! Dave was starting to get gassed so it turned out to be the Todd and Mike show taking longer pulls as we gradually descended down to the line. The last two minutes of the TT seemed to take forever. I think lactic acid probably makes your brain loopy, since I was producing it in spades!

The three of us stayed together and we passed the Rio Strada team (they started 4 minutes ahead of us) right before the finish line. With my vision crossed and my face covered in a mix of sweat'n'snot, I looked over at Mike and we both had the same thought. This was the hardest conditions, and perhaps, the hardest TT we've ever done. Period.

Finishing this race in one piece with all your teammates safe was reward enough. Taking third and being on the podium was just icing on the cake after dealing with these conditions.

So what are some key takeaways with these conditions? First, it might have made sense to use a road bike with aerobars. The handling of the TT bike was pretty scary. Second, running a wheelset like a 404 and not having a disc might have been just as fast. This morning I went out on a ride from my in-laws with my low profile training wheels and the wind was just as strong. It was amazing how much more stable I was on this wheelset compared to the Edge 68 front/disc rear.

Hopefully they'll keep this event on the calendar as it's one of the few TTT's out there and a blast to ride with a strong coordinated team.