2009-07-25

Paterson Pass Road Race

I'll be in California for job training with Model N for the first week in August. I'll be starting as a junior Java developer there in the middle of September. There are good jobs out there in this economy - you just have to look hard, and be patient. I'm very excited.

I'm staying for a few extra days, with girlfriend and bicycles in tow. This is our opportunity to find housing before we head out, and we're glad that we have the chance to do so.

Dave Miller is trying to get me to do the Paterson Pass road race. It would take a logistical miracle to get everything together for this, so the jury is still out. Needless to say, this would be my first Pro/1/2 race. A 92-mile road race with four goes up a 1300 foot climb sounds just plain hard, much like the Easterns course up the Black Mo. Add in local pros who know the race well and are in peak form, and it's the makings of what could be an interesting learning experience. We'll see.

If nothing else, I can look forward to an abundance of really fast riders in the Bay Area. There are mountains AND a velodrome! So many decisions.

Garmin, Get Your Act Together

I went for my 80 mile loop ride today; it's posted at http://connect.garmin.com/activity/9719415. I need to start training with PowerCranks again and getting back into a routine; my power data clearly indicates that I'm getting fat, slow, and lazy.

Garmin Connect is a neat service; in fact, it integrates many of the features that I would have liked to see in some other programs, like WKO and SportTracks. Of course, there is no single program that does everything I'd like, so I'll probably end up writing my own in the next few years. In short, I want a program that has all of the advanced power analysis features of WKO, with the mapping features of SportTracks and Connect, that allows you to seamlessly store information both in a standalone app (because I don't always have Internet at races) and online in the cloud (because I like to share my data).

The single biggest complaint I have, at present, is that Connect doesn't work in Opera or Chrome. (I haven't tried Safari.) Come on guys, really? I haven't taken a look at Garmin's Javascripts at all, but I'm guessing it's a simple fix. For all that they've done to embrace Web standards - the .TCX format is, after all, just an XML standard that works with the usual XML processing tools very nicely - it's a real pity that Garmin locks browsers this way. It's like the browser wars all over again. Party like it's 1997.

The best thing about standards, is that there are so many to choose from!

2009-07-21

Cervelo P3 - "new" time trial bike!

As a budding time trial specialist, it's important to have a fast bike. So, I finally buckled down, bit the bullet, and procured an older, aluminum Cervelo P3. After doing my homework, I found that the older P3 frame was almost every bit as aero as the newer P3 Carbon, and possibly more durable, at a fraction of the cost.

Hopefully, it will be as fast as it looks!

I spent the past few days doing nothing but building the bike. It was a fantastic amount of work. I stripped the P3, and the Motobecane that is replacing, to a bare frame. I cleaned everything. I had to carefully cut the seat mast, as it only offers about 47mm of adjustability once cut. Then, I had to think long and hard about which cockpit configuration I wanted; I ended up settling on my integrated Trimax Vision bars, because the pads were more comfortable than the custom-made aero bars that came on the P3. This, and the aluminum post, make the bike about a full pound heavier than it could easily be, and just a couple of ounces/grams lighter than the setup it replaces. Finally, UCI compliance is a pain: the 5mm setback seat position is horribly uncomfortable, and I had to cut the bars by 30mm to be within the 80mm bar end rule.

In the photos below, you can see the near-finished P3. I made my own "jig", consisting of a wall and tape, to check UCI compliance. In the photo, the bars are compliant but the saddle is not. this is tough to tell due to the perspective of the camera.

Naturally, after hours of toiling to get the bicycle tweaked and ready to ride, the weather took a turn for the worst. It looks like a solid week of probable rain. Screw you, Boston.

I now have a time trial frame and lots of goodies that I need to sell. Make an offer!



Boston to Provincetown

This weekend, I cycled to Cape Cod with two of my favorite people: Jane, and Mike Short. The weather was beautiful, and we were able to enjoy 135 miles of flat, calm riding, much of it with a tailwind. We didn't even get a flat tire, or break any equipment!

We are all riders of different strength levels, so I made some hardware changes to help us all happily go about the same speed. I lent Mike a pair of Zipp 808 clincher wheels; a cassette change was all that was necessary. Jane borrowed a pair of 85mm deep carbon clincher wheels that I own. They're unbranded OEM wheels made by Gigantex, so I was able to get them at a deep discount. I rode my cyclocross/commuter bike - complete with fenders! - to provide a little more comfort and to help keep me from soloing away. I still had enough extra power to push Jane and Mike up the hills. It's amazing what a difference a little push makes! Jane and Mike are both champs for making it to the very end.

With Mike's wedding two weeks away, I thought it might be fun to wear matching bicycle jerseys that look like tuxedos. We did, and the silly jerseys brought smiles to people's faces. Of course, as it turns out, Provincetown is an incredibly liberal and homosexual-friendly town, so more than a few people simply assumed that Mike and I were getting married, and that Jane was the "best man". Hilarity ensued.

More photos and a video are available at http://picasaweb.google.com/jsoltren/CapeCodTrip#. Furthermore, the ride data is available through Garmin Connect at http://connect.garmin.com/activity/9314004. The ferry ride back is at http://connect.garmin.com/activity/9313586. (I'm going to begin experimenting with Garmin Connect as a way of storing rides.)

We took a fast ferry back from Provincetown, and I mean fast! My GPS reported that we were sustaining 38 MPH for most of the way back.





2009-07-15

I'm a Cat 2!

Probably the greatest thing (for me) about the Fitchburg race was that it gave me enough points to upgrade to Category 2. In the USA Cycling ranking system, this means I'm one step closer to being an "elite" level racer, and eligible to do a large number of high level, incredibly challenging races.

The neat thing about being a Cat 2 on the road is that, per USAC rules, it enables all kinds of other upgrades. It lets you be a Cat 3 on the track with the approcal of a USAC certified coach, meaning I can do most B races and some A races at velodromes. Whether I do well in these races is a different story. It also means that I can race cyclocross as a Cat 2 (I'll save that until I can remount gracefully), and race mountain bikes as a Cat 1 (I'll save that until I have a mountain bike and learn how to ride it).

I was able to upgrade from Cat 4 to Cat 2 in one season. Not many people can do that. My race license now has three upgrade stickers; it's getting awfully crowded.

2009-07-11

Digital Fitchburg

Winning the Fitchburg race meant a lot to me, so I contacted the local television station, FATV, for their footage of the race. I have their express permission to use clips of the video on this blog! I present the first five minutes of their coverage, including the call to the start. Unfortunately, it doesn't have the awards ceremony.

video

These are the last of the photos from the weekend: a few of me in the crit, and per request, some photos of me, Will (2nd) and Steve (3rd) on the podium. These photos are courtesy of teammates Katie Lovejoy PhD '09 and Zuzka Trnovcova '09. Enjoy!









2009-07-09

On Flat Tires

A friend mentioned that he was getting more flat tires on his bicycle. This is a common problem, so let me address it here.

I usually recommend the Continental GatorSkin series of tires for urban riding and light touring. They are a good compromise on durability, weight, and ride quality. They come in almost any size anyone needs, and even have a kevlar bead and a tubular variant. If you need the ultimate in durability, at the complete expense of weight and ride quality, go for the Specialized Armadillo series tires. I also enjoy the Michelin Lithion for training on nice roads, and race on the Michelin Pro 3 Race or any of Continental's high end tubulars.

Of course, all clincher tires may get flats regardless of your tire choice. Remember that all flats happen for a reason!

  • What kinds of flats are you getting? If you are getting pinch flats (a.k.a. snakebite, with two holes), then your tire pressure is too low. Remember to inflate your tires daily to the highest pressure advised by your rims and tires (at least 115 PSI on a road bike). If you're getting punctures, read on.
  • Are the tires worn? Every tire will get thinner over time, and thinner tires are more susceptible to flats. Tires typically last about 1000 miles, and less in more urban areas. Feel your tire; if the center of the tread feels thin or flat, it's time for new tires.
  • You will get more flats if it is wet. Water acts as a cutting fluid for debris. Make sure to avoid puddles and wet patches on the road.
  • Glass will work its way through a tire in due time. Every so often, use a safety pin to pick out pieces of glass stuck in a tire.
  • Staples, wires, and small nails are not always visible. If you keep getting slow leaks in the same spot, there is a hidden piece of debris. This is why I always mount tires with the manufacturer's sticker at the valve stem: you know the tire's orientation with respect to the tube, which allows you to check the area of the tire that was near the leak.
  • If your tire has a sidewall or casing cut, use a tire boot between the tube and tire. I recommend energy bar wrappers, as they're free and work very well. Currency works less well, and is expensive!
Your choice of route may influence the number of flat tires you get. Larger roads will always have more debris, in the form of sand, gravel, grass, and the like. Consider making your route 10% longer and avoiding big roads whenever possible. You'll have a happier ride, and increase tire life.

2009-07-05

Glory

I am the 2009 Category 3 overall race winner for the 50th Annual Fitchburg Longsjo Classic.

At the start of the Fitchburg race, I wanted exactly two things. One, I wanted the rain to stop - it had been raining for an entire month! Two, I wanted to earn enough upgrade points to be a Cat 2. Nothing more, nothing less.

I was lucky to have a strong time trial performance, strong enough to gain some time on the field. I was just as lucky to maintain my lead through the circuit race, not get dropped on the road race climbs, and not fall victim to the two crashes in today's criterium. With that, I took home the leader's jersey, and the stage race win.

Nothing comes easily, and I wanted to make certain that I held my lead. I wrote numbers on my bike, calculated times, reviewed results, scrutinized the courses, and spent hours tuning three race bikes. I made sure that no breaks stuck, and did much of my own work. For this, I gained some respect in the field.

Winning the Cat 3 overall, with a few other placings, ought to be enough for my Cat 2 upgrade. I look forward to racing at the next level.

My heartfelt thanks go to the City of Fitchburg and the Fitchburg Cycling Club for organizing such a fantastic event; to the MIT Cycling Team (and headline sponsor FXDD) for helping me to race at this level; and to the good men in the Cat 3 field, who made it a good, fun, and (mostly) safe race.

(Photos and final results will be in a later post.)

2009-07-04

More Of The Same

So: Take yesterday's circuit race course. Scale it by about 500 percent. That's right: make it five times longer, and five times taller. (Only make it last for three times as long.) That's about what today's road race was like.

The brutal winter of 2009 convinced the State of Massachusetts to bury some power lines near the road that climbs Mount Wachusett, so the Longsjo race's notorious climb was not a factor. Points became incredibly contentious, as racers dueled for points every single lap. After two laps, I was able to pick out who were the good climbers. I made sure to keep them in check.

The weather was fabulous for bicycle racing, sunny and in the 80s. The race course, running through the woods, shielded us from the worst of the sun and wind. The big climb was exposed to both, so I compensated by pouring about 500mL of water over my head each lap.

I entered the race with the leaders jersey, and I wanted to hold on to it! I made certain that happened, by staying at the front of the pack and covering the few attacks that happened. The consensus was that I worked quite hard in the race, which is unusual for a race leader. Old habits die hard.

Michael, the other MIT Cat 3 in the race, did not finish. This means I don't have any teammates tomorrow! I was able to make a few friends today, including a tall gentleman on a black Soloist, who helped me stay toward the front. Thank you.

Our field was neutralized three times, and even stopped one of those times, to allow the juniors and the masters to pass. I guess young boys and old men are more feisty than the Cat 3 crowd.

At the finish, I decided to conserve my energy and not duel for the big stage win. I may have lost a few seconds doing so, but I'm still in yellow.

My goals for tomorrow's crit: don't crash, don't get dropped, and finish with the pack. I don't want points or the win. I want to keep my leader's jersey, and I want my Cat 2 upgrade. I hope everything goes smoothly tomorrow.

Now, where did I put that ice cream? Ah yes, here it is. Delicious.

2009-07-03

An Unimpressive Finish, But Still First

Logistics were delayed this morning, as I needed to pick up my leader's jersey, and then spend a long time pinning numbers to it. I know, I know: cry me a river. I like to have these little things done before leaving!

Today's circuit race was as I expected. It was an overgrown crit, with a long, shallow downhill and a sharp uphill finish. The race was unremarkable: my goals were to stay upright and finish with the lead, and I did just that. Racing was a little dicier than I would have liked at the end, so I finished far from the front. Meh. At least I get to hold on to the leader's jersey - which means I don't have to do any more pinning tomorrow!

As one of the race leaders, I had to do the whole (mandatory!) interview and podium procedure. The announcers asked me what I thought of the race (I'm glad there were no crashes), and how I thought I would do tomorrow (we'll see - I'm not a super climber). I even had my ceremonial podium moment, complete with photos.

Maybe this is why Lance enjoys winning?

2009-07-02

So I Won The ITT...

I've been looking forward to the Fitchburg race all week, nay, all month. I've been fiddling with bikes and doing lots of mental preparation. So, it's really encouraging that I did well in today's Men's Cat 3 ITT stage.

The TT bike received new, chicane-extension aerobars, and a wheel upgrade. Today, I used a Zipp 808 clincher front wheel (heavy!), and the usual Zipp 900 tubular disc in the rear. I had a 404 tubular, but I figured faster was better than lighter. I was right!

I looked at the junior's and master's results at work today. It looked like 19 minutes was the time to beat to place in the top 3, so I made that my goal. Although I passed four people (we were spaced at 30 second intervals), I failed to meet my personal goal by 5.40s. The 19:05.40 was still good for first place in the Cat 3 field, though. I voraciously consumed 100 grams of chocolate ice cream in celebration.

Tomorrow brings the 28 mile circuit race. It's a 3 mile loop, really an overgrown crit or something really similar to a Prospect Park race. My goal is to stay up and stay toward the front, trying to hold on to my lead. Of course, I have to wear a (mandatory!) leader's jersey, so I'll be a marked man. (At least I get a free shirt out of it.)

Thank you and goodnight.