Absurd Weight Savings

I've been spending too much brainpower lately thinking about all of the ridiculous optimizations I can make for this Sunday's hill climb time trial (HCTT). At about 181 lbs these days, I need every advantage I can get. Here are a few of my silly ideas.
  • Weigh all of my rideable socks, and wear the lightest pair.
  • Possibly forego the heart rate monitor.
  • Weigh the skin suit, a jersey, and my shorts, and pick the lightest setup.
  • Pin my number on with only four safety pins, and/or make a minimalist frame number.
  • Remove water bottle cage bolts and headset top cap.
  • Use my Zipp 404s (lightest wheels I have) with the lightest skewers I have.
  • Remove springs from skewers.
  • Fill tires with helium.
  • Clean the bike - dirt is heavy.
  • Forego sunglasses and gloves. (I don't use chammy cream, bit I would forego that, too.)
  • Remove front derailleur and just rock the small ring (probably not happening).
  • Diet aggressively this week to get the weight down.
  • Warm up with too many layers to shed as much water weight as possible.
  • Use lightest possible computer. Does the Quark work with the PowerTap head? It should.
  • Use the Roubaix instead of the Aloha for the weekend? It might be lighter.
I don't think I'll do all of these, but I'm always thinking.


Army Race Profiles

As always, here is the week's pre-race conspiring. We have some more interesting courses than usual this week. (As an aside, minus points to Army for having really awful maps in their flyer. I can only hope that I re-drew these routes correctly. I did the best I could.

This TTT is as challenging as MIT's practice Dover course, if not moreso. It's constant ups and downs. My weight will pull the TTT team down the hills, but I just hope I don't hold us up on the climb. I'll use my Zipp disc if it's here in time. This course needs a real balance of power and lightness, ideally suited for all-rounders heavy enough to go downhill fast. This should be a really interesting race. Men's A: roughly 8:15.

The circuit race features a nasty climb every lap. Indeed, this is a climber's race, though the long-ish downhill may serve to benefit the pack. The hill is the place to watch for the inevitable attacks. I'll try to be toward the front of the pack to use my superb descending skills. Men's A: roughly 3:30pm. 80 minutes.

And there it is: the HCTT. I'll be staring at my power meter for this race, staying within zone so as to not burn out too fast. I'm a decent climber, especially for my weight, and hundreds of hours on the PowerCranks should pay off here. I'm looking for a strong result. Men's A: roughly 8:20am.

We'll end the weekend with another dead-flat crit, reminiscent of this past weekend at Philly. It can get pretty windy by that river, too. It looks like a fun course with a few really sharp corners, but otherwise little to filter the pack. Men's A: roughly 3:00pm. 60 minutes.

In terms of the weather, it looks like there is little chance for more dreaded springtime rain:

Friday Night: A chance of showers. Cloudy, with a low around 37. Chance of precipitation is 50%.
Saturday: A chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 57. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
Saturday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 40.
Sunday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 60.
Sunday Night: A chance of rain. Partly cloudy, with a low around 41. Chance of precipitation is 30%.

Race Report: ECCC Philadelphia Weekend

In summary: a disappointing weekend for me, but a good weekend for Team MIT.

Another all-too-familiar six hour drive brought Team MIT to Philadelphia, PA for a weekend of racing hosted by Temple, U. Penn, and Drexel. Many thanks to Max Feldman of U. Penn for hosting four of us, saving us a hotel room.

Saturday’s road race was on a familiar course for me; it was disappointing that the result of the race was familiar too. All of the people I marked as being likely participants in a breakaway ended up staying in the pack. In the second lap (of four), the attacks that formed the race-winning breakaway formed, and the pack did nothing – at all – to counter. At the end of the race, there was a pack sprint, which is not my strength. I knew in that second lap that the race was over; the rest of the race just became an increasingly irritating Saturday group ride. To be fair, I was spending too much time in the wind, and felt absolutely horrible. I suspect a mild stomach virus.

Sunday morning’s team time trial played on my strengths. The long, flat course was the first time that I worked with Guo-Liang Chew, Tim Humpton, and Mike Garrett in a TTT. We took the course conservatively, on account of the rain, and came in second place to Princeton in the Men’s A. I think we can win this race in the future.

The weather improved for the Sunday afternoon criterium, with temperatures in the 60s and sun. Frustrated by the laziness of the Men’s A pack, I joined the only breakaway in the race and stayed off with about four other guys for most of the race. Of course, none of the power sprinters were in the break, and – for the first time I’ve seen – the pack decided to work. We were caught, and it came down to a pack sprint, which is again not my strength. At least I put on a good show for 30 minutes.

After placing every weekend to date, this was a frustrating weekend of racing. I missed the move on Saturday, and got caught on Sunday. Oh well. I’m looking forward to more climbing and time trials next weekend at Army.


Philly Phlyer Race Profiles

U. Penn, Temple, and Drexel are hosting another beautiful weekend of ECCC racing in Philadelphia, PA, in Fairmount Park on the Schuylkill (Schoolgirl!) River. Forewarned is forearmed, so here are my thoughts on the courses.

This circuit race is one of the very few ECCC courses that I've done before (the other being Columbia). That long flat section could be great for establishing a break if no one is chasing, or could be the place where the pack comes back together if the wind is going the wrong way. The A field gets to go around the 6.5 mile course five times. My prediction is that a break will form early on around the course's major climb, which may or may not get caught. No matter what, the long, uphill finish is longer than even I would like. Like last year, the attacks will start on that very last climb, and the pace will get ever faster to the line. Cornering skills will help in two places: after the start for the left onto the river, and after the hill for the right back on to the river. The Men's A start time is about 3:20pm - so late!

The Team Time Trial course is about 8.5 miles long and dead flat, except for a section at the start and finish. Without a disc wheel to use, I'll be riding my Tri Spoke wheels. The wind could make things interesting. Aerodynamics will matter more than anything, so I think Team MIT will do well here. The Men's A start time is 8:30am.

This is a weird little crit course. If it is going clockwise as I believe it might, there will be a slight downhill finish. The Men's A field will go from the gun for 50 minutes, trying to wear out as many riders as possible before the finish. A good start is key. I believe this course is so short, flat, and empty, that you can see one side of it from the other. Cornering and pack skills are crucial to conserving energy for that inevitable final sprint. The Men's A start time is 2:50pm.

That crit is going to be nothing short of terrifying if the weather turns wet. Flats and crashes everywhere. I can only hope for the best.

Saturday: A chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 56. Chance of precipitation is 50%.
Saturday Night: Rain likely. Cloudy, with a low around 47. Chance of precipitation is 60%.
Sunday: A chance of showers. Cloudy, with a high near 58. Chance of precipitation is 40%.


Race Report: ECCC Delaware Weekend

Road race: 7/41 at 3m10s behind. 40 pts.
ITT: 34/34 at 15:59.99. (Should be 2/34 at 11:22.00 and 70 pts.)
Criterium: 4/30, 53 pts.

A six-hour drive from MIT brought us to beautiful Delaware, featuring milder temperatures than we have in the Northeast. The weather was beautiful all weekend, with sun, calm winds, and temperatures in the 50s and 60s. Many thanks to our gracious hosts, Senator and Mrs. Carper (!).

Saturday’s 68 mile road race was my first Men’s A race. I did not know what to expect from this stronger, more experienced field. Would attacks stick? Would the field counter-attack? Expecting the field to work harder than a B field, I allowed the race-winning breaks to leave early. About halfway through, when it seemed that the pack was soft-pedaling, I attacked. Just as I caught one of the chase groups, a Maryland state police officer almost killed us! Apparently, he didn’t know that there was a bicycle race going on, and, less than impressed by our aggressive, race-style riding, tried to run us off the road. I left the chase group, and rode solo for 90 minutes. I never caught the race leaders, but the pack never caught me. My 7th place finish tells me that I still have a few things to learn about racing.

The Individual Time Trial on Sunday morning should have been my shining moment, but instead, it was a disaster. A HED disc wheel that I purchased through Craigslist, broke, and apparently unsuccessfully repaired, failed at the start. The hub delaminated from the wheel, again, making it impossible to ride. I learned two important lessons. One, always pre-ride race equipment. I did not have a chance to do a proper warm-up. Two, I found out about USAC rule 3E5(b) the hard way: “The rider shall be held by an official at the start, but shall neither be restrained nor pushed. No restarts are permitted.” I was not given a restart for my wheel mishap. My time on the course was 11m22s. This would have put me in second place, and with a disc and proper warmup, I could have beaten Lipka for first. Damnit! At least the wind tunnel folks can use a broken disc wheel.

“Men’s A Criterium” is a scary string of words. The Delaware course, 0.5mi long, featured a tighter-than-90-degree bend at the bottom of a steep hill, and an uphill finish. Numerous crashes and delays caused our race to start 3 hours late. At our start, the guy in front of me failed to clip in, causing me to have yet another bad start. The race winning solo attacks took off early. Whenever I attacked, UVM countered and blocked. Taking control, I sat at the front of the pack, sat on the climbs, cornered hard, sprinted early up the hill, and took fourth. I’m a marked man now.

This was a great weekend, and I’m looking forward to Philly. I just hope I can find a disc in time!


Pre-Race Conspiring: Delaware Race Weekend

It looks like six hours of driving will lead to quite a race weekend in Newark, DE.

Oh hell. My first Men's A race is this monstrosity. We get to do this loop four times, just barely escaping the definition of a "circuit race" and making this a "road race". A 68-mile race is going to make this a war of attrition. The rider who has the best sprint after being in the saddle for about 2h30m is going to win. I'm going to try to ride smart: save energy, stay fueled, hide from the wind. My goal is to chase down exactly one attack: the one which forms the race-winning breakaway.

This here is the Delaware "lollipop" time trial course in all its glory. Time trialing is my strength, so I'll be looking for a strong performance here. Aero equipment is legal in the A's. All of that climbing makes me really wonder what the ideal combination of equipment is for this course. My tri-spoke is lighter than my disc, so the tri-spoke may very well make an appearance this weekend! Sometimes, having more equipment options is a curse. Aero or weight? That is the question. I need to pull out the scale.

When the Delaware folks said that this crit was on a new part of campus, they meant it. Of the major mapping solutions, only Google Maps knew about these roads - and even then, only the big ones. Using my usual trickery, I was able to re-create the roads very nicely in Topo. This looks like a very fast course, with an acute bend left at the bottom of a hill and an uphill finish. Hopefully this will be a course where individual strength and technique is enough to escape the pack.

With that said, who are the riders to watch? Anyone whose time beat mine in the Rutgers ITT is definitely someone to watch. That would be Josh Lipka (UNH blue, 153), Nick Frey (Princeton orange, 169), and Dan Cassidy (UVM yellow, 100). Points leader Eric Schlidge (Dartmouth green, 173) and strong finisher Thomas Coupe (UNH, 186), as well as Alex Bremer (Columbia blue, 161) are on the list as well. Of course, at this level it's anyone's race, but I'll be watching UVM and UNH closely for obvious team tactics.


Race Report: ECCC Columbia/Stevens Weekend and Cat++

Columbia and Stevens delivered an action-packed weekend of racing this past weekend. With cool spring temperatures, and even some sun on Saturday, all three of my races this weekend offered plenty of learning opportunities.

Columbia hosted the Grant’s Tomb criterium, on the usual course near their campus. The course had a long enough downhill section that let the pack easily catch any attempts at making a break. Sure, you could get some distance on the three corners just after the start, but the real strategic component was the long rise to the finish line. I took the conservative approach in the Cat 4 race in the morning, staying with the pack of mostly local NYC racers and a few collegiate riders hoping to earn some quick upgrade points. I chased down a couple of attacks, and made sure to stay toward the front of the pack and away from the crashed, but tried to hide from the wind. The last lap was fast, but with a good line, I was able to come around the lead group on that long rise to the finish, taking a conclusive first place in my second-ever road victory.

The afternoon’s Collegiate B race featured a smaller, but more aggressive field. Averaging 2 MPH faster than the morning race, numerous attacks failed as the pack picked up speed on the descent. I pulled more than I should have, trying to stay ahead of the pack with too much success. UVM’s Lee Peters (315, won the Rutgers circuit) and Marshall Ambros (320, second at the Princeton crit) were the riders to watch. Stupidly, I let Lee and a few UVM buddies pull away in the last lap. I came around everyone but Lee, finishing second.

We thought the Stevens crit would be a disorganized mess; we were pleasantly disappointed! The race, new this year, was a dream for anyone whose strengths included time trials, cornering, and descending. An uphill start/finish led to a hard right, a winding 15% downgrade, a wide right, and a 15% upgrade to the finish. The winning tactic was to leave the pack and take the corners fast. I had a poor start, and worked for many laps to get ahead of the pack. By the time I got there, Marshall was way off the front, and Lee was right on my wheel. Taking the descent and corner harder than anyone, I managed to open a gap for second place, never catching Marshall.

Two first place and two second place finishes to date were just enough to net me an upgrade to Men’s A and Category 3, my first major upgrade since 2003. I’ll be mixing it up with the big boys next weekend in Delaware.

A special thanks to my mother, who graciously hosted me and two other riders, treated us to dinner, and endured an hour-long subway ride to cheer on Team MIT. She is pleased to see so many female racers, and wonders how bicycles can go so fast.


Usual Pre-Race Detective Work

Looks like the ECCC races will offer two more criteriums this weekend: one at Columbia, the other at Stevens. I did my usual pre-race investigation using DeLorme Topo USA 7.0, though the amount of information Google Earth and Google Maps can give you about the "look and feel" of a course is really impressive.

The Columbia crit has three hard corners and one wide one. The sprint is on a slight uphill, and there is a short climb in every lap. I'm just hoping that the roads won't destroy my race wheels. After all, New York City has a reputation to maintain, and the city's streets have never disappointed me in their ability to destroy high-end race equipment.

The Stevens crit is new this year. I hope I drew it correctly, I wasn't positive which way the course ran. Either way, there are three real corners and an uphill finish. These courses are fairly similar in the number of turns and finishes. I wonder how this will affect pack strategy.

Really, I just want to start racing A's as soon as possible.


Race Report: ECCC Princeton/Rutgers Weekend

(All future race reports will be 500 words or less in length.)

This weekend brought sunshine, warm temperatures, a lack of rain, and the first weekend of glorious ECCC bicycle racing! Rutgers hosted an Individual Time Trial on Saturday morning and a circuit race on Sunday afternoon. Princeton hosted a criterium on campus Saturday afternoon. Team MIT drove five hours each way for these races – but UVM drove even longer, and McGill longer still (though they had a motor coach).

In short: I won the Men’s B ITT and Crit, but my performance on Sunday was sub-par.


Time trials are my specialty. They’re so simple: just hop on the bike, hammer, and wait. Considering that this was a “no aero” time trial, I spent an awfully long time obsessing about aerodynamic details. The Fuji Aloha CF2 aero frame and Zipp 404 tubulars were perfect for the race. I removed the bike’s bottle cages, taped over the bottle holes, and donned my skinsuit and shoe covers. My 5:45.23 time over the 2.8 mile course with two corners was enough to win the Men’s B category and set a new course record. Unfortunately, it was a fast day, and three of the Men’s A riders were faster. My victory photo shows that my position could have been way better. I look like I’m on a training ride. Geez. I averaged about 460W, or 5.6 W/kg. Not a personal best.


I didn’t think I was any good at criteriums until I won this one. The pack was taking the wide turns slower than I could alone. (Tubulars corner like they’re on rails.) When I saw two UVM guys off the front and not getting any closer, I knew it was time to start working. I won three of the four prime sprints, and took the win by half a wheel. I set some new power records here, too. A sincere thank you UVM for working with me. You have some impressively strong guys.

I wasn’t feeling all that great for Sunday’s circuit race. Road conditions forced a reverse running of the course, turning a long uphill finish into a long downhill into the wind every lap. I soloed off the front for most of the race, before being caught by a UVM-led pack and being spit out the back. I had no punch left for the pack sprint, not that I had any to begin with – time trial specialist.

There was a jersey for the omnium (omnicide?) winner in each category. I would have won if it was based on time as advertised, but the organizer gave it to the points leader due to lack of timing data.

7 upgrade points to Cat 3/Men’s A earned. 13 to go. My goal is to go to Nationals, so I need to race hard to get there.


Allen Lim's Rice Cakes

I'm whipping up a delicious batch of Allen Lim's Rice Cakes in preparation for glory at this weekend' ECCC Rutgers/Princeton races. This famously simple recipe only calls for short grain rice, eggs, prosciutto, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, parmesan cheese, and Bragg's liquid aminos. It is delicious, wonderfully balanced, provides all kinds of macronutrients, and is quite cheap for cycling food. Directions: Cook. Blend. Wait. Cut. Wrap. Unwrap. Consume.

Best of all, these are delicious. Compare PowerBars: expensive and non-delicious.


Race Report: Boston Triathlon Team Indoor Time Trial

So, the first "race" of the season was the Boston Triathlon Team Indoor Time Trial, held at MIT sponsor shop Landry's Bicycles this past weekend. It was straight out of Triplets of Belleville: head-to-head stationary trainer racing, though fortunately, without the mafia. Having done two very hard rides the two days before, I did not set a personal record, but still managed to place 1st in the collegiate category (of 23 male starters) and 3rd overall (of 131 male starters).

The CompuTrainer race simulated the last 10km of the Boston Marathon in reverse, with adjustments for rider weight. I completed the course in 17m08.47s, two minutes behind the two leaders (boo!) but ahead of everyone else (yay!). Hopefully this bodes well for the upcoming race season.


Tubular Reinforcement, and About Updates

A logistical note: though I aim to update this site regularly with original content, there is occasionally a long gap between posts. Please consider using the (new!) follow and subscribe tools to get updates automatically. I use RSS feeds for this, and it works well.

So, my fancy carbon fiber Zipp 404 tubular racing wheels should propel me to victory this season. That is, if the tires don't roll first. Tubular wheels and tires are lighter, faster, and more pleasant to ride. However, unlike their hook-beaded brethren, the glue is the only thing that prevents tires from rolling off in a hard corner or descent. Not taking any chances, I painstakingly reinforced the bond between my tubular rims and tires by adding an additional bead of glue at the edge of the rim. I filled in the rim-base tape crevice with some glue, and let it cure before riding. I found that a wooden toothpick works quite well for this application, allowing you to work the glue into the crevice. After doing this, my tires don't budge at all. I'm fairly confident that they will stay on through the hardest of corners. Glue is cheap; medical bills are not.