Pin the number on the donkey


SCHL_0845_13My 2013 ToAD – here it is:

Day 1: (Day 2 of ToAD actually, but for all of us who don’t get paid to play – it’s Day 1)

East Troy.  Nerves on edge, been training and looking forward to this since the end of ToAD last year (like hundreds of other riders).  Storm blows in and dampens the course and bodies, but not spirits.  We’re still all jacked to race… too jacked.  Corners are sketchy and riders pile up like bodies in a war zone.  A friend from velocause flats his rear wheel and neutral support gives him a rock hard slick replacement to ride for the last laps in the rain.  That’s not a good combination in any playbook, and he eats it hard right in front of me and 2 teammates in turn 1 with 4 laps to go.  My teammates and I all slide into someone’s front yard, but somehow manage to stay upright.  By the time we veer back on course, the main pack has mostly passed us and any attempt to get to the front is a suicide mission.  I decide to play it safe and finish mid-pack ~ 38th of 74.

Day 2:

Grafton.  A fun course, nerves are settled down quite a bit.  Was able to follow Dave Eckel’s wheel around at the end of the course and sprint for 10th (of 116).  I’m still learning how to ride aggressively at the end of races, having been a support guy at last year’s ToAD, but I was happy with tenth.  I knew I wasn’t close enough to the front on the last lap, so I was hoping to improve  the next day.

Day 3:

Waukesha.  I ate it hard with 3 to go on this course last year.  Over-shot turn 1 and flipped into the barriers.  I was able to get back on my bike and work my way to the front with 1 to go, but I burned every match I had to do so and fell back quickly.  No crashes for me this year, but apparently everyone I rode behind didn’t get the memo.  Every time I tried working my way to the front, I’d end up behind a wreck and get relegated to the back again.  One guy piled his bike into the barriers, went to neutral support and got another bike, then piled THAT one into the same corner.  I was lucky enough to be right behind him both times.  I spent the entire race avoiding crashes, then trying to sprint back to the front of the pack.  With 3 laps to go, Dave Eckel and I found ourselves out in front, me on his wheel.  He hit some soft tar in the gutter and thought he flatted, so I’m all alone off the front with 3 to go.  With all the yo-yoing I had been doing combined with the extremely humid heat that day, I knew I didn’t have enough in the tank to gut it out alone for 3 laps.  I sat up and waited for a wheel.  The group passed me like a freight train and I was pushed to the back.  Tried my best to make it back to the front but once again I had burned all my Waukesha matches before the final sprint.  Finished a disappointing 41st (of 110).  After the race, my body temp was so high I could not cool down, or catch my breath.  An hour and a half later I jumped into my neighbors pool and sat with ice on my neck for 15 minutes before I could slow my breathing.  I love riding in the heat, but I’ve never experienced anything like that.  Waukesha was by far the toughest race of the series for me.

Day 4:

Sheboygan.  This course was made for guys like me.  Fast and flat with just 4 corners.  I moved to the front right away and just stayed on the gas with the race leaders the entire race.  With no traffic in my way, I was able to roll through just about every corner at will.  The effort felt like 50% of the previous day.  I was having a great race, until 2 to go.  Rather than take the riskier, but faster, inside line, I found myself taking corners on the outside and giving up 2-3 spots on each corner.  By the time I worked my way back inside I was probably 30 spots from the leader.  Clawed my way back a bit in the sprint to finish 17th of 69.  It was just lack of experience, and I told myself not to make the same mistake at Fon du Lac (a carbon copy course) four days later.  Overall, I was really happy though.  It was fun to race at the front, and I knew what I had done wrong at the end.  I was making some progress.

Day 5:

Schlitz Park.  The great big lie detector test.  I’ve raced it twice before, both times pulling myself from the race after about 20 minutes.  There’s no faking it at Schlitz.  If you can’t hang, you either blow up and slither away to lick your wounds somewhere, or the race officials step in front of you and pull the plug for you.  This year, since I planned to race every day, my goal was just to finish it.  I’ll never be confused with a little fella who skips meals, so this wasn’t as easy as it sounds.  Even with a long warm-up, it takes me about 15-20 minutes to settle in at races and not feel like my heart’s going to explode.  I fought hard for the first 15 minutes and managed to find a rythym.  With 1 lap to go I rounded turn 1 and started the final climb.   Everyone got out of the saddle and hammered.  I knew that if I tried that, I’d make it to the top with everyone else, then I’d fall over dead.  So, I stayed in the saddle and ground my way up.  Crossed the line 21st of 60.  Since my only goal was finishing, I was satisfied with that.  Cross it off the list and move on.

Day 6:

Fon du Lac Road Race.  When I started racing road bikes a couple of years ago, I did so with not a lot of group riding experience.  Well, not 25mph-corners-6-wide group riding.  I was a mountain bike guy, used to riding alone.  My very first Crit was a 9 corner, .8 mile Superweek race.  I started dead last on purpose, so I could see things unfold in front of me.  I assumed that this would be the best way to do it, and like in a mountain bike race I could just pass people one at a time.  I think I might have lasted about 8 minutes before I was so far off the back I had to take a bus back to the start line.  After that I assumed that road racing would be my forte.  But live and learn, and now I prefer crits to road races.  I stayed upfront for the whole race and sprinted for 12th of 81.  Had I been more patient, I would have done better.  I started my sprint too early as we climbed the final hill.   I don’t think there’s enough Meth in the world to get me to sprint all out for a quarter-mile.

Day 7:

Road America Road Race.  Schlitz Park and then back to back road races.  Hope you’ve been eating your Wheaties.  This was a really fun course to ride.  Again stayed at the front whenever I could, though I did find myself on the outside wheel in the wind a lot.  On the final lap I heard Eck yell “Patience!” which is great advice if you follow it.  Instead I decided to try a Groundhog Day version of the previous day’s race.  Giant finishing hill, I get out of the saddle and mash the pedals like I’m driving a rented Pinto.  As I crest the top I look into the (very distant) horizon and see what looks like a finish banner somewhere in the next county.  Several months later I cross the line 23rd of 109.

Day 8:

Fon du Lac.  This is the one I was waiting for.  A big, flat rectangle.  Wide streets.  I’m ready.  My plan is to just sit on the race leaders’ wheels at the front, maybe take an early pull or 2 and finally line myself up for a real sprint.  Plan works just as scripted, though I still give up a few spots on the final lap.  Coming around turn 4 I’m in good position and I stand up and hammer.  I can see the banner coming up fast as I’m passing guys… this is working!  Probably a good time to mention that my Mom and Stepdad came to see this race and positioned themselves right at the line to watch the final sprint.  50 yards from the line, a guy comes across 3 lines and clips a wheel sending a rider to the pavement directly in front of me. Zero options at that point – I hit him full force and flip onto the pavement.  As soon as I do I curl up and wait to get hit by the rush of riders directly behind me.  1, 2, 3 hits, then I’m up and running my bike across the line.  Turns out someone had ridden over my back and into my head with their chainring.  Blood is cleaned, stitches are waived off and I wash down my frustration with 2 pints of Guinness.  When results are posted There are 2 “unknown number” slots, so I go to the podium and watch the video of me running my bike across in what appears to be slot #1, 29th.  Once results are finalized I realized that I’ve been bumped to slot #2, which is 51st.  Either way, it’s not part of the plan, and it’s just salt in the many wounds.

Day 9:

Downer Avenue.  The biggest and baddest of all the ToAD races.  This is the giant party that everyone comes out to see, and therefor every rider wants to do well at.  Really an uneventful race for me.  I was really stiff and sore, so I did a nice, long easy warm-up.  Worked my plan, but didn’t get to the front with 1-2 to go, sprinted for 15th of 94.  Starting to become a bit predictable when things go well for me.  I have 95% of the race handled, and I’m getting good at it, but I can’t seem to finish it off.  Tired of using the “lack of experience” excuse in my own mind. I know what I need to do now, and I have 1 race left to prove it.

Day 10:

Wauwatosa.  I ride in Tosa practically every week.  Half of my friends live there.  This is it!  The night before, I send an email to the entire M 3/4 squad: here’s the plan, we stay at the front the whole day, push the pace but don’t take unnecessary chances.  With 5 to go we start making our way to the front.  With 2 to go we ARE the front.  Last lap, anyone with anything goes and they go as hard as they can… Break!  I’m kind of impressed with my sudden and complete understanding of the entire game.  It took 10 days, but I have absolutely nailed this one!  Race Day… there’s a hill in this course?  Did they just put that there?  It’s always been there?  Are you sure?  2 free laps and I line up mid-pack.  That was not part of the plan.  Whistle blows and we start into a nice hard tempo ride, right?  No?  We go balls out from the start?   Did anyone read my awesome email last night?  Apparently I was not the only person who wanted to win this thing.  I was not aware of that.  The guys in the front are just laying it down, lap after lap.  The guys in the middle are gasping like goldfish that just jumped out of their fish bowls and have no idea what the Hell to do next.  Hard on the brakes into every corner, hard on the gas out of every corner.  Hey, this reminds me of that first Superweek Crit I did!  Just when I start making up a little ground, they announce a prime.  The field surges.  Then another.  And another.  And another.  4 back-to-back primes and in my mind I’m just trying to figure out how to recall my email message.  With about 5 to go I pop.  Nowhere to go but backward.  I find a friendly velocause rider and we pull each other around a little and limp across the line.  I’m 41st of 92 and my 2013 ToAD is officially over.

ToAD Tosa

Summary:

  • Despite not being able to use all the knowledge I was picking up as I went along, I definitely learned a lot.  I have more confidence than I did 2 weeks ago.  I’m OK with riding at the front now.  2 weeks ago I didn’t feel worthy, and I’m still struggling with the mental part of racing as much as the physical.  I ended the series in 10th overall in the Masters 3/4 35+ category.  Next year I’ll be racing in the 45+ category, and it’s a whole different ball game.
  • I had fun.  Like everyone else, I put a lot of effort into training and make some sacrifices.  If I didn’t enjoy it as much as I do, there’s no way I would put that much of myself into it.  At the same time, I’ve enjoyed getting better over the past couple of years.  I used to be an excuse maker, for every aspect of my life.  Cycling has helped me prove to myself that if you put the work in, you get results.  There are no excuses that can take the place of that work, and quite honestly no one cares about your lame-ass excuses.  Score your touchdown, set the ball down and go back to the bench.
  • I have some really great friends.  Not only the guys I ride with, but the people who lined the courses.  There was always someone yelling for me – at every course.  It makes you want to do better, for them, and it’s a great feeling knowing you have people around you hoping that you succeed.

I’ll be back next year, I’m already planning it out in my head.  But first, there are kids to play with, burgers to grill and beers to drink.

Sprinting – Secrets from the Pros


2013-milan-san-remo

This is how you do it.

Sprinting – you either have it, or you don’t… right?  We’ve all watched the great ones with amazement and disbelief: Zabel, Cipollini, Cavendish, Kelly, etc.  They seem like they were born to sprint.  In the modern era, we watch the overhead HD helicopter feed as the high-speed bullet train lines them up to launch for the line.  We see them squeeze through gaps the human eye can barely detect at 40+ mph, violently rocking back and forth for what seems like an eternity as we hold our breath…  We hear Phil or Paul saying things like “…Renshaw is putting the missile in the tube…”.  And then it’s over. They cast a casual glance over their shoulder as they cross the line alone, having zipped their jersey before the effort in the ultimate pro move to show respect for the sponsors.  Or they cross it in a psychotic tangle of bodies, looking like a pack of rabid wolves chasing an injured rabbit, launching their bikes at the line at the exact millisecond needed to stake their claim.  Then they raise their arms to some point between a crucifixion and a salute, which is oddly enough, probably a metaphor for both how they feel AND the way to see if someone is having a stroke.

So… how does a Masters Cat 3 like me with very little sprint knowledge or experience get better?  You ask the Pros.  So I did.

Dirk Friel, World-renowned coach, author and founder of Peaksware, (perhaps you’ve heard of Training Peaks or The Cyclist’s  Training Bible??) took a few moments out of his day to give me this advice:

“I’m no expert when it comes to coaching for sprinting.  The main thing I can say is I’ve found efficiency of movement is very important. Moving pedals fast is the #1 focus then you need to add force behind the pedaling speed. 

From what I’ve found sprinting more in training does help. There aren’t many short cuts to improvement. The #1 way to improve sprinting in my book is to get on the track where you are forced to learn how to pedal fast.”

He then went on to reference Wiggin’s stage win on last year’s Tour of Romandie as a classic example of the guy with the track legs being able to crush asphalt when it mattered most.

I’ve been wanting to get down to the Washington Park Velodrome in Kenosha for a couple of years, but haven’t made it enough of a priority.  Here’s a guy who has personally been responsible for training millions of elite athletes telling me to make that my TOP priority.  What excuse could I possibly come up with to NOT go this year?

Moving on.  Next up, Frankie Andreu.

If you’ve read anything about Lance in the past 5 years, you’ve seen the name Frankie (or his wife Betsy) pop up.  What sometimes gets lost in the story is how incredible Frankie was, having competed in the TdF 9 times.

Perhaps referencing my own hopes, I started by asking him who was good at sprinting that shouldn’t be.  Frankie shared the following with me:

“There is no mold for a sprinter.  I think of skinny guys when it comes to not being a good sprinter.  But it’s all down to the fitness and training and muscle fibers.  Alberto Contador comes to mind as a great climber but also a rider with a fast finish.  Taylor Phinney is tall and lean and yet he is very fast and powerful.  He isn’t just a sprinter but can do everything.  Cycling in a way is a jumble of athletic misfits, riders of all different shapes and sizes can excel in different areas.”

So you’re saying there’s a chance?  A guy like me, built more for hockey than cycling, can – with the right training, fitness and muscle fibers – at least get invited to the party.

  • Right training – check.  Work with a coach, or at least structure your training around your goals.
  • Fitness – check.  Lay off the beer, work hard in the gym in the off-season, on the bike in pre-season.
  • Muscle fibers… uh.. aren’t you born with or without a certain type?  More on that later.

Next I asked for his thoughts about “controversial or unconventional sprinters” (are you sensing a theme?):

“Not sure on this one.  Controversial are the ones that are super aggressive and do whatever they want even if it means crashing.  Some call this just being aggressive and confident but there is a line that can be crossed in going too far.  I consider (that) you cross the line if you push and pull with your hands, sling riders, or hit with your shoulders or head. This just becomes dangerous. You have to keep your hands to yourself.   This is where the natural talent and muscle fibers take over. It’s special to find someone like Cavendish, Kittel, Sagan, that have that extra turbo of power to hold everyone off. It’s more about power then speed. “

Roger that.  Be confident, but don’t be a dick.  Got it.  And more about the damn muscle fibers??  Moving on.  Lots has been written about what you SHOULD do to become a better sprinter, but what about things you SHOULDN’T do?  What are some of the biggest mistakes or wastes of time?:

“One mistake is waiting too long to be in position.  It depends on the race but you can’t wait until the last lap to move up and sprint. You need to be in position a few laps before the end in a crit.  As the speed increases you save energy by already being in the front.  A common mistake in road races is being too close to the front when all the workers peel off you find yourself out front with too far to go to the finish.  It’s good to find other sprinters and sometimes follow them during the last kilometers.  The experienced guys know where to place themselves. It’s important in a finish to know where you want to start your sprint.  Pick that spot out ahead of time and when you reach that mark go no matter what.  If you wait a second you might get passed and then you’ll second guess that hesitation.  As you sprint you learn if you are good from a long way out or need to wait and do a shorter sprint.”

OK, maybe nothing too revolutionary here, but the one thing I keep re-reading is “…when you reach that mark go no matter what.”  There is absolutely nothing physical about that statement, it is 100% confidence, something I am sorely lacking when it comes to the sprint.  I am in sales and whenever a new sales rep starts there is inevitably a chicken and egg scenario:

Should I call on new customers on day 1 without knowing the new products/service, or should I wait until I have enough knowledge to feel comfortable setting the appointment?

Inevitably, the person with the most confidence makes the call on Day 1.  The other NEVER GAINS THE CONFIDENCE, no matter how long they study the products and services.  Confidence comes from within, and involves facing fear head-on. This much I know, but that doesn’t mean I always put it into action.  When I was younger, I was afraid of heights.  In order to overcome the fear, I jumped out of a plane… several times.  Fear conquered – confidence inspired.  So, it sounds like the cycling equivalent is to pick my spot in a couple of early season races and go for broke.

Last question, I pull back the curtain and go for broke.  “If you were to train me for 4 weeks for the Tour of America’s Dairyland and had a million dollars on the line, what would it look like?”:

“Motorpacing is great.  It’s super valuable and makes a huge difference in speed.  Sitting behind the motor and sprinting around it at 28mph will help your power and teaches your body to be able to turn the gear.

Accelerations.  Starting from a low-speed and then in the saddle accelerating up to a full spin in about ten seconds.  This teaches explosive power, leg speed, and recruits the fast twitch muscle fibers.

Power sprints in a large gear are great also.  Same as above.  Slow speed and in 53×11 jump out of the saddle for ten seconds and try to accelerate.

Another option is to find a medium hill.  Use the downhill to take you up to speed and at the bottom take off flat-out and hold until the speed starts to drop.  Once the speed drops then you shut down.  All of these exercises are like intervals but with full recovery in between.”

OK, cool stuff – but even MORE about muscle fibers.  Let’s see what all the hoopla is about.

Click here for the skinny according to Kelly Baggett.  If you’re like me you look at all that scientific mumbo-jumbo and close the link, so let me sum it up for you:

Which one is the sprinter...?

Which one is the sprinter…?

You’re either a born sprinter, or you can transform yourself into a sprinter.  I’m in the second category, so let’s explore that a bit more.  You’re born with a pre-determined body type and a pre-determined % of fast-twitch (sprinting) & slow twitch (strength and endurance) fibers.  André the Giant can’t transform into Djamolidine Abdoujaparov but you can transform into a leaner, meaner version of yourself.  How?  Quoting Baggett:

“In training you can accomplish this by focusing your training on strength, power, and speed dominant activities.  By doing so you train your nervous system and all your muscle fibers to behave in more of a fast twitch manner.”

Sounds simple, but painful.  In cycling this translates to things like squats, plyo-metrics, pushing a weight sled and anaerobic activities like (surprise) sprinting.  Check out another Baggett article called “How to Create a Speed Machine Using the Weight Room”.

If you listen to those who know, and you want to find yourself on a podium at the end of your next race here’s the secret sauce :

  1. Get fit.  All of the rest of this revolves around the fact that you’ve done what you can to get as lean, mean and strong as you can before the race starts.
  2. Learn to pedal fast.  Well… duh.  I thought I had this one tackled until I started adding high RPM training rides into my pre-season work.  As someone who never used to shift into his small chainring (never) it’s been eye opening to try to sustain a 120+ RPM spin for more than 30 seconds, especially uphill.
  3. Actually, this is probably point #2.1 – ride the track.  You can’t go fast if you can’t go fast.  Not everyone has access to a track/track bike, so the lesson here is learn to churn butter for a long time.  And when it’s super- creamy, churn it some more.  Besides, who doesn’t love butter?
  4. Get stronger.  Not Hulk Hogan strong, but functionally strong. Learn to push beyond your comfort zone, and then beyond that.
  5. Get confident. It seems to me that sprinting is 90% mental.  Knowing you are going to win, knowing when to go, knowing how hard to go, never second guessing yourself.  I’ve seen all of those traits in the guys that win consistently. 
  6. And here’s one last one I’ll throw in – wise up.  Get smarter.  You can’t crush it at the line, if you’ve been crushing it the whole race.  Last year, 1 guy, riding by himself, won the entire Tour of America’s Dairyland series (in my Category) by riding smart.  He laid back during the race and let everyone else do the work.  With 2 laps to go, he put himself in position to win and on relatively fresh legs sprinted out the last hundred meters every day.  After a few days of this the entire peloton assumed each day would boil down to a sprint so no one ever pushed the tempo and made him work.  There were probably faster guys, and smarter guys and guys with a lot of confidence in the pack, but only one with the perfect blend of all 3.  Without saying a word, he dictated the series – just like you can this year.

Next month – Part 2 including an interview with another 7-11 rider (and local legend) Tom Schuler.

7 Ways to Become a Crappier Rider


Brothers and sisters, if you want to know how to do everything wrong – you’ve come to the right place!

I’ve done all the legwork for you, no need to break a sweat or crack open a book.  All the answers are right here.  I’ve been training this way for a long time, so I know it works!

  1. Ride hard – all the time!  Recovery is only for people who want to win races.  Riding hard all the time is what you should be doing on every group ride.  Go to the front and push the pace – don’t let up.  I know that some of the guys you’re riding with are on 12-speed Firenze mountain bikes they got free with a sofa and love-seat combo, but who cares?  When you get to the coffee shop afterwards you’ll be able to gloat about how you smoked everyone on that 9 mile ride through the park.  And hey, did I see you drop that Mom with the Burley going uphill?  That was EPIC dude!  KOM points for sure!!
  2. Water’s for fish.  I know it’s hot out, and you spent the whole night eating Saltines, but what’s more kick-ass than finishing a ride with a full water bottle?  Yeah Buddy!  Hydration is for houseplants.  Besides, drinking water makes you weigh more and we all know about the whole Watts to Body Weight thing, right?  I’m pretty sure Contador never drinks any liquids – that’s why he can fly up mountains so fast.
  3. “Diets” are for soccer Moms.  I eat whatever I want, and it doesn’t affect me at all.  Sure, I run a little low on energy sometimes, or feel a bit sluggish after that 7th piece of deep dish pizza, but cyclists need a lot of calories.  I’m sure that by race season I’ll have lost some weight…  If not, I’ll just blame my genes.
  4. Get 5 hours of sleep a night!  Yeah, I’ve heard that you should get 8, but what am I a newborn??  I have stuff to do!  Bonus – watch TV before you go to sleep.  Preferably something violent or disturbing.  Like Golden Girls.
  5. It’s all about the bike.  You cannot go fast without all of the latest, greatest equipment.  You’re still riding 2012 Dura Ace?? What a loser.  Haven’t you heard that the 2013 version is .05 grams lighter??  I mean, if we lived on the moon, that would be like 6 pounds!  If it’s not carbon, it’s crap.  You should really cut down on the actual riding you do in order to spend more time in online chats about the latest gear.  There’s no way you’re going to keep up or hope to go fast if all you do is ride.
  6. Your bikes all fit just fine.  Put the seat wherever it feels good, slap your cleats on and you’re ready to ROCK!  Don’t worry, everyone gets knee and back pain, numb feet and hands – it’s just the price you pay for riding a bike.
  7. Blueprints are for architects – not cyclists.  I just get up and do whatever suits me that day.  Training by feel – it worked in the 1800s, and it still works today.  Although having a PowerTap does make you look cool, don’t ask me what it’s for.

Stay tuned for a follow-up article: “Hipster Etiquette – How to peg your jeans”

“When you come to a fork in the road… Take it”


Now what?

I cranked up my training this year, made it through ToAD and the Windy 500, and then… nothing.

I have another Century to ride tomorrow, will probably do it on my track bike for fun, but I have no desire to finish out the WORS series or even do my first CX race.  The funny thing is, I don’t care.  And, I don’t care that I don’t care.   4,000 miles of riding/training and I’m ready to just ride my bike because I enjoy it.  What a revelation.

I think it really sank in on the 4th day of the Windy 500, our 4th day in a row of 120+ miles.  Thanks to my friend Mark calling me out, I finally realized that was still training.  This is a ride that I dreamed up, specifically to get out and ride for fun with friends, and after 3 days I was still dropping people.  Friends.  Who were just riding for the sake of riding.  Although they weren’t saying it out loud, I know they were thinking: “…what a dick!“.  Of course, I was oblivious to the whole thing – too concerned about the next Strava KOM, or how many more miles we could go without a rest stop.

It seems that September is always the time of year that I get tired of “training”.  Maybe it’s because I’m not training toward anything, I’m training away from stuff.  My biggest goal of 2012 was to be a “super-domestique” at ToAD.  Mission accomplished.  I moved up to singlespeed Comp at WORS, but I was so focused on ToAD that all I want to do this year is ride road bikes.  At first I was bummed, but then I realized… who cares?  Bikes are bikes.  Riding is riding.

In years past, I don’t think I ever “got it”.  I don’t think I ever made the connection.  There’s riding and there’s training, and you CAN have it both ways.  As I mentioned to another friend of mine, I was a late bloomer.  I’ve always ridden bikes, but I was never competitive until a couple of years ago.  So maybe I don’t have that history of being fast or racing to fall back on, I’m still building my resume.  Maybe that’s why I feel like I can’t let off the gas sometimes.  And maybe that’s why some people might think “…what a dick!”.

All I can say is: I’m sorry.  I get it now.  I get the “Crappy Bike Ride” and I get how Ronsta can crush it at WORS and then go out and do social rides in Waukesha with the same level of enjoyment.  I get how Russell can race track and commute to work on a 3 speed with a giant basket on the front and not see the difference.

I’m not the fastest guy out there, but I try really hard.  Maybe it’s time to be the slowest guy out there for a change.

My 9 Days as a Domestique


The 2012 Tour of America’s Dairyland has finally come and gone.  I was fortunate enough to be able to race all but the last day of the series this year, 9 days in a row.  I am still a Cat 4 on the road, since most of my racing experience has been on dirt (where I am a Cat 2).  My road experience before ToAD was a grand total of 10 races over the past 3 years, and 3 of those were this year. 

Overall, ToAD was a success for me.  I am definitely a better rider now.

Here are a few things I’ve realized:

  • I can race for 9+ days in a row.  Not every day will be my best day though.  I started the series strong, faded a bit in the middle and came back even stronger at the end.  I found myself wishing that I could have raced a few more days to see my best efforts.  Prior to ToAD I had only raced 2 days in a row once.
  • Staying hydrated cannot be overstated.  I am very conscious of this, so in addition to the recommended daily allowance of beer I added Pedialyte.  Gatorade, and most cycling specific sports drinks are too sweet and/or “chemically” and tend to give me a stomach ache.  I used plain Pedialyte before and during the Bone Ride this year, and it really helped.  So I made sure to down a bottle every evening at home during ToAD.
  • Eating enough calories cannot be overstated.  Like most cyclists, my motor’s always running.  I tend to eat something about every 3 hours just about every day.  Also, like most cyclists, I try to eat pretty “clean” – good food, high in protein and complex carbs.  Halfway through the week I realized that I was eating like I normally do, not like I was racing every day.  That night I came home and ate a whole pizza, then went to Kopp’s and ate a chicken sandwich, onion rings and a chocolate shake.  The next day, I was twice as strong as the day before.  I did go back to eating clean that day too, but filling the void of negative calories the day before seemed to help tremendously.
  • Warming up on a trainer is awesome.  I have always warmed up on the road before races.  Such a simple thing, but I will always do it this way now.  It allowed for a structured warm-up, and it was cool to talk a little last-minute strategy with teammates before we launched.  Plus, I had access to anything I needed.

Leatherman making his daily move to the front…
Photo courtesy of Nick Schwietzer
http://www.nickschwietzerphotography.com

  • Crit racing is a science and an art.  Like golf, a lot of guys buy expensive equipment thinking it will make them better.  It doesn’t.  The best crit racers are smart, patient, tactical and smooth riders.  They have the ability to ride unnoticed until the last lap or 2, then be in the perfect position to sprint to the line.  They could probably do it on a Schwinn Varsity and still kick most people’s ass.
  • Speaking of ass, there are a few guys in every category that believe we are out there to fight to the death and defend the honor of our dead grandfathers – at all costs.  I took a bad line early in one of the races.  It was partially due to excitement and partially my lack of experience.  For the next 2 laps, everyone within 50 yards of Speedy McJagoff had to hear him drop F bombs about my bad line, etc.,  etc. etc.  Really?  I hope his paycheck from Team Douchebag doesn’t bounce.  I’m still learning, and anyone around me would have realized that it was a mistake on my part, one that I did not repeat.  I even tried to ride up next to the guy and apologize, but he wouldn’t shut up, so I didn’t.
  • Speedy McJagoff was never on the podium.  Enough said.
  • I was not riding for myself, I was riding to put my teammate on the podium.  I have never played team sports in my life.  I have always gravitated toward things that were a test of myself against the clock, or someone else.  I have never had a “role” to play in sport.  WORS races are all about going as fast as you can, by yourself  (at my level anyway) until you cross the line.  Hopefully you win, or at least don’t cough up your spleen when you’re done.  I have a whole new level of respect for the no-name guys going off the front in the Tour, or the guys blowing themselves up with 5K to go to get the lead out man into position. 
  • Crashing and getting back into the race is instinctual.  I flipped into the barriers around a corner in the Waukesha race, and I was back on my bike and pedaling before I realized it.  Thankfully, it was a minor crash.  My shin caught the corner of a metal barrier and it took a nice bite out of it, the only bad thing was that there was not enough skin left to stitch up.  The allure of racing is the adrenaline rush, and I got a double dose that day.  I have crashed in mountain bike races, once bad enough to require a trip to the ER, but I never realized how fast my body automatically puts me back on the bike.  
  • The only thing cooler than going 40 miles per hour on a city street with hundreds of people watching using only your own body for power is going 41 miles per hour on a city street with hundreds of people watching using only your own body for power.

2012 Windy 500 dates are set!


Next year’s 2nd Windy 500 will take place from August 3rd to August 6th.

500 miles in 4 days.  Nothing but bikes and beers.   This year’s adventure left us all with some great stories as well as something to brag to our grand-kids about someday.

The goal this year will be to (at least) double the number of riders.  We’ll have a support vehicle and even more fun (did I mention beer yet?)

Bookmark the website, and check back for details:

www.windy500.com

ToAD and WORS schedules are posted, this does not interfere with either, so get it on your calendar.

I’d like to get a preliminary count of people who are interested, and we can all do the planning together in Spring.

jasonkayzar@mc2wi.com

Let my friend Chevy explain why you should “…go for it!”: