Sunday, April 27, 2008

HOT in RVA...

This weekend was the first multisport race of the year. Nothing like jumping in feet first with a National Championship. Richmond hosted both the on and off road duathlon championships this weekend. I ponied up the cash a few months ago with the intention of testing myself early on this season. And tested I was. The format for the off-road event was a 10k run(2 loop course), 30k mtn bike, and 5k run. The runs used the same 5k course along the canal walk in downtown Richmond while the bike leg used the sweet trails of the JRP. Bell's Island (early enough in the day to keep the drunks away), Buttermilk, Forest Hill and North Shore trails were on tap and riding oh-so-sweet, great job MORE on the trail work. I headed to RVA on Friday to stay with IFJeff. We hooked up with the Cracker at Joe's and had a good time carbo loading. This is the second time that Jeff has hosted me for a multisport event and I may have him convinced to try it.

My race was better than I expected. I finished 17th overall and 5th in the big 35-39 age group. Since I've been mostly swimming and doing long rides, I was concerned how my run would develop and if I would have the punchy power needed on the JRP trails. With the new training schedule, I've only been running for two weeks, with more mileage soon to come. The first run leg went well, I went hard but didn't get in over my head. Once on the ti Deluxe, I pushed it as hard as the legs would let me. The deluxe railed the turns and crushed the climbs. It is by far a better bike than any I have ever had. Better than I can ride, but I try. Thanks Independent Fabrication. The bike was decked out with the new Ergon P1 Grips (review coming soon) and a flat Salsa bar. The cockpit is dialed in perfectly. I did cramp a bit on the bike leg, but motored through the pain, knowing it would soon pass. Again I heard some people out on the course cheering for me, Thanks. That's always appreciated even if I can't respond during the race other than project my race face (a look of death warmed over). Coming out of T2, my legs were feeling the 10k of running and 30k bike. Jeff yelled that I had 5k left in the tank and I took off down the hill to Trefalgar Road and the canal. I gave up one place on the run, but once the brick sessions began, I'll feel better on the final leg and run faster in future races. Probably the hardest aspect of the race was beginning it in the upper 60s and finishing it in the mid 80s. Once again the heat of Richmond was a formative opponent.

A big thanks to Jeff of Allez Training Systems for hosting me, and for the encouragement out on the trail. Again, thanks to IF Racing and Independent Fabrication.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

2nd Annual Queen City Century...

Queen City Century

Closes Friday, May 16, 2008 at 12:01 AM ET
We invite you to join us for the Queen City Century, a ride through the beautiful scenic Shenandoah Valley south of Staunton, VA in southern Augusta County. The ride will provide scenic vistas, county farms, small towns, and scenic rural roads. All the routes are paved and have low traffic volume. Route lengths from 25 to 50 miles up to 100 miles of beautiful country roads. Preregistration cost is $15 for all routes.

Day of registration will be $30 for all distances. Make it easy on us and preregister. Please.

Rides Leaves from the Wharf area of Historic Downtown Staunton off of West Johnson St. at 8:00am sharp. Parking will be available in the Wharf lot or in the two parking garages in downtown. Registration check-in will be behind Black Dog Bikes starting at 7:00am.

Mapquest/Google 121 South Lewis St. Staunton, VA 24401 for Directions.

All traffic regulations and laws must be observed. Helmets are required and must be worn for the entire length of the tour. All riders must ride to the right side of the road at all times. Roads will be open to vehicle traffic. This is not a race. The rides will take place rain or shine. No refunds. For details call 540-887-8700 or leave a comment.

Friday, April 18, 2008


It's been almost a week since this year's edition of Harris-Roubaix. Pronounced harry-ruebay, it's a Shenandoah Valley Classic. This ride (race) takes advantage of Rockingham County's oh-so-sweet gravel roads just north of Harrisonburg. After a short 10 mile ride to the start point, the ride (race) hits a ~15 mile loop that is predominantly narrow gravel roads. Do as many laps as you want but if you fancy some bragging rights, it'll take you 3 laps of hard riding (racing). Unlike Paris-Roubaix, this ride (race) has some punchy climbs, none of that flat land stuff they have in northern France.

Met Patricio and James in the parking lot and rolled to Court Square to catch up with my peeps. damn, it was cold, but if you're cold at the start then you are dressed correctly. The group (50-60 strong) paraded north to the start of the gravel loop. The ride (race) started with a neutral section and once the word was sounded it was on. Thomas sprinted for the early glory before the first pave section, followed by the main group that was stringing out. I rolled along with Jimmy Mc, another Allez Training Systems athlete. We compared notes on how Jeff has helped us both become faster racers. After a couple of pave sections I felt my front end starting to shudder. Uh Oh. Carbon steerer, loose headset, rough pave; not a confidence inspiring combination. I stayed in the front group till about 5 miles to go in the first lap. I got caught behind some guy in lederhosen riding a fixie and another guy who sat up on a longish climb. From that point I rode in the second group till the start/finish where I stopped and fixed the front end shudder. Once on the second lap, I put my head down and motored, catching up with the riders I had been with. Nothing exciting happened on the second lap. As I came in, I called it a day, telling Patricio who was heading out on his 3rd lap. Marshall heard this and started heckling me. Told me I couldn't pull out since I was in the top 10. Not wanting to disappoint the man, the myth, the legend, I take off in pursuit of Patrick. After giving him some food, I wished him well and turned towards Harrisonburg. Sorry Marshall, but my kitchen pass ended at 4pm and I had to get home.

Jimmy won. nice job. holla.

Ronde van Vlaanderen vacation, and...

I finally finished the vacation recap posts. I started the posts on the Wednesday that I came back but didn't get around to finishing the posts until today. Life got in the way.

The Trip

The Ride

The Race

This was also the first week back on the training schedule. Jeff of Allez Training Systems has me set up for the upcoming race season. Upcoming? While the roadies and mountain bikers have been beating each other up in the host of races so far this year, I've been riding, running and mostly swimming, but not racing. Ok, I've raced once at Camp Hilbert but that was more to get ready for the Flanders trip as it was a 5 hour enduro event. This time last year, I had already done 1 mtn bike race, 2 sprint triathlons and was getting ready for my first XTERRA event. I will be setting up my transition area at the Off Road Duathlon National Championships next weekend in Richmond. This will be more for training and to see where I am. I'll go hard, but have no aspirations of doing well. I just want to see what I need to do to get ready when the race schedule heats up in June. My A race isn't until the middle of July, plenty of time to build up and fine tune my fitness.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Ride...

I looked for Ken but they must've cleaned him up..

Two ugly guys, and two Beautiful IFs.
We drove to Ninove and took the shuttle to the start in Bruges, which necessitated an early start. Like a 3:45 wakeup. argh. Once in Bruges it was at least a 45 minute line to get the ride card punched and walk across the stage. We met another American (you can tell the Americans by their Pearl Izumi clothing) who had come over from his temp home in London to do the ride. He rolled with us for the first few Kms on his Titus, Nice Guy.
The first 100km or so of the ride was on major roads and in and out of towns and cities. This along with the large groups on the bike paths wasn't much fun. Don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed riding my bike in Belgium, but sharing the road/bikepath/sidewalk with cars, pedestrians and oh around, 15,000 bicyclists can be nerve wrecking. Sam and would catch up to a group (easily 100+) and sit in for a few minutes then get frustrated with the pace. We'd jump onto the road or bike path, whichever was clear and make a dash for the front. This worked well for us.
I remember the first hill, the Kluisberg as being somewhat steep, but what struck me most was the speed that everyone was going up it. Slow. Too slow. Come on, they aren't that terribly long, hit it hard and get it behind you. Just Like Jim Says. I've lost a bit over 20 pounds since December so Hills are easier these days, but I was also Highly motivated to ride each berg/hillingen/cote/etc. Besides I live at the top of a hill that, depending on how you go up it, gives you 16% to 18% pitch options. Light, motivated, trained; I was going to ride 'em. All of 'em.
The Oude Kwaremont was the first hill that hurt. At 2200 meters and cobbled with a mix/match set of stones, it was a slog to get over. It was quickly followed by the Paterberg, which is blissfully short but difficult. These two climbs were the combo to soften your legs up for the main competitor. No not the 45 degree rain we had experienced, or the ever present smell of cow manure. (Having worked on farms in my younger days, this doesn't bother me.) My main opponent was the Koppenberg. I'd dreamt about this hill, and still do. Probably will always dream of this hill. 3 years ago we rode it in the dry but on this day, the cobbles were wet. Not with rain but with water infused dirt, otherwise known as MUD. This hill is a bitch in the dry, add mud and the numerous cyclists who magically become pedestrians at its sight and it is nearly impossible to ride. Even the pros walk this monster. But not I. I spun, I pushed down on the cranks, I stood, I sat, I felt my rear wheel spin, I felt it reconnect, I rode through the throngs of people, pushing their bikes, standing on the side cheering, drinking, yelling, till I spun out. I can't walk is what I thought as my right foot came off the pedal. I don't know who he was, or even really remember what he looked like but an older gentleman was right there and started yelling "clipin, clipin" as he grabbed my saddle. He gave me a short push and in less than 5 seconds from when my rear wheel spun till my cranks were propelling me up the hill, he was gone. I yelled "thank you," not knowing if he heard me. He saved my ride. I conquered the Koppenberg, beat it and the mud and rain, I made it up that bitch of a hill without walking.
Sam and I had lost contact with each other on the Paddestraat cobble section, which is around the halfway point of the ride. I would stop and wait for him and I later found out he was doing the same. Just not at the same places. So for the final 130+ miles it was a solo ride for us, well Solo + 15,000 other riders.

Ah cobbles, how I love 'em. The challenge of them. You see them approach and the only tactic is to motor through them. Shift to a hard gear, Man Up and blast through them. One other tip for the cobbles in Belgium... Keep your mouth closed. These roads are mere farm paths through the fields that have a fresh layer of manure spread upon them. HTFU and RIDE
The Muur is the penultimate hill and snakes its way up and around a hill in the town of Geraardsbergen. With a 20% cobbled section its supposed to the deciding point of the day, but I found the lower sections in the town to be more difficult, probably due to the people that line the upper section of the climb and cheer for all the cyclists. Motivation. The final hill is the Bosberg and is a wide and cobbled road through a forest. At its zenith there are food vendors tempting with their aromas, but I pointed the Planet Cross down the hill and towards Ninove. I didn't want to delay the end of the ride. After 170+ miles, 11+ hours, 17 hills, and countless waffles shoved down my throat, I wanted this ride to end. It was the hardest ride I've completed, harder than the 190+ miles of the C&O Canal from Cumberland to Washington. I got to the end, cold, tired, wet, and in pain but exhilarated that I had finished the Ronde. Checked that one off the list. Once Sam came through we loaded up the car and sought out the nearest McDonalds off of the Ninove centrum. That was a delicious Big Mac.

That's kilometers or around 171 miles.

Dirty bike.

Isn't she beautiful.
My IF Planet Cross was perfect for this ride, especially with the new Reynolds carbon fork. It was comfortable for this all day ride. I love this bike. Thanks Independent Fabrication for creating the best bikes.
Would I do it again or recommend the Ronde, Hell Yeah. I just wouldn't do the full version again. The 140km version lets you hit the Hills and get the full sense of the Flemish Ardennes without having to deal with the countless miles of bike paths.
I'm Flemish.
(at least according to Tom...)

The Race...

We woke up late on Sunday, it probably had something to do with a big ride the day before, getting lost on the way back and not getting to sleep till midnight. Sam and I quickly loaded up the car and made our way towards the village, Nokere and the second hill of the Ronde. Sam piloted the Kia while I navigated our route using a race map handout and google map printouts. For some reason we found the race course despite my efforts. We saddled up to the fence and waited. The race caravan comes through and we wait. More cars. Motorcycles. Once the helicopters arrive we know the race is at hand. The racers getting TV time roll in front of us and we wait a few minutes for the peloton to arrive. We yell like everyone else, than make our way back to the car and the drive to Meerbeke. Except we root for Slipstream and are yelling Meatball.

Once in Meerbeke, we grab a bite to eat, then a beer and walk around the finish area. We heard the finish of the women race and saw the ladies riding through to their respective team vehicles. Nice. No seriously, Nice.

About an hour before the scheduled finish, Sam and I position ourselves at the 125m to go point on the fence and wait. Nothing much to do but watch the race unfold on the big screen tv, no walking around at this point as we don't want to give up our prime spot. It was an Epic Race with Devolder soloing from over 25km out to take the win while clad in the Belgian National Champion Jersey. wow. The power of the main group as it roars by us is awe inspiring, it's not measured in watts but in megawatts.

helluva race.

Artsy shot for your viewing pleasure.

Pimping the Lion and the IF shirt.

Mmm Cobbles...

Looking down into the village of Nokere.

The breakaway comes through.

Followed by the peloton.

Ballan and his boo-boo. That's gotta hurt.

The RvV monument in Meerbeke.

Just watching some TV.

About an hour before the finish.

45 minutes later...

Belgian National Champion winning the Ronde, a Beautiful Win.

The sprint for second.

Big George going for a solid 5th place.

The big Guns, the Roubaix Three.

Soft pedal to the finish, a day's work is done.

The Trip...

The first day in Belgium is the hardest as jet lag saps whatever energy I may have. I couldn't sleep on the flight, even with the help of ambiens. Arriving in Brussels, I had to wait for the bike box to arrive, not everything is efficient in Belgium. Sam was waiting for me with Nele, a former co-worker of his from Hansen. She was kind to let us use her apartment to shower. We waited at her apartment for Tom to get off work. Surfing through the channels we found Sporza which was showing the De Panne time trial, try that on ESPN or even ESPN 8, the Ocho. Once Tom got off 'work', we followed him to his parent's house where we were staying. We assembled the bikes then it was back in the car to go to dinner in Antwerp. Nele met us at the restaurant which was on the banks of the Schelde river and we enjoyed a delicious meal and beer. After dinner we walked around Antwerp finding ourselves in De Engel, touted as the oldest bar in Antwerp. The smoke was all encompassing, as if they hadn't aired it out in a hundred years, but the Westmalle I had was delicious. Belgian beers for some reason taste better in Belgium. go figure...

On Friday, Tom's mom made us breakfast and after we filled our pie holes, we kitted up to spin the legs. Tom rode with us and led us to the canal. My legs felt like wood and I had to concentrate on pushing the pedals to maintain 30kph on the flat canal path. Tom dropped back leaving Sam and me to find our way back to his house. After 45km we made it back and piled back in the car to drive to Aalst and the Van Eyck bike shop. It was amazing how much inventory this shop had displayed. 8 Cervelo frames, Willier, Merckx, Colnago, Bianchi, the list could go on, and the accessories wall was impressive. Everything, and I mean everything, that could be needed on a bike was displayed. After Aalst we made our way south to Oudenaarde and the Ronde van Vlaanderan museum, recently reviewed in We were close to Melden, the small village at the bottom of the Koppenberg climb so we hopped in the car and drove there to take a few pictures. Once we got back to Zoersel, Tom showed off his culinary skills by boiling water for pasta and reheating some sauce. Ah spaghetti, the cyclist fuel of choice. We loaded the bikes for the drive to Ninove in the morning and called it a night. We had an invite from Nele to go to a concert but didn't think it was wise to get 2 or 3 hours sleep before the RIDE.

Saturday and The Ride.

Sunday and The Race.

On Monday, Sam and I followed Tom to the house he is renovating. Or should I say the Bachelor Pad. Maybe the Love Pad. Nah, Tom's house is the best description. He started with just wanting to install new floors, which led to replacing the heating system and then he decided to redo the kitchen. Ah the joys of owning an older home. The upstairs bedrooms are on the list to be redone, sometime in the next year. Or so... He gave us the full tour and showed us what he plans to do with the garden. It had a lot more space than I thought, even larger than my yard. Sam and I left Tom to his construction duties and headed north to Amsterdam. Arriving in this wonderful city we began our journey to find a parking spot. 45 minutes + later, we shoe-horned the Kia into a spot and started walking towards the city center, rounding a corner we found a bike shop (imagine that in Amsterdam) and rented bikes. We bought a map and set off across the canals, dodging bikes, cars, bikes, trucks, bikes, pedestrians, bikes, scooters and bikes. Ok, I'm a pretty good cyclist. I had just ridden the full route of the Ronde. I've won a few races and series, even beaten Patricio in a few heated sprints, but damn I felt like I was riding a bike for the first time. It didn't help that I was on a coaster brake bike for the first time since I was 9. After a few stops and turns while enjoying the sights, sounds and aromas of Amsterdam, we stopped at a cafe in the Nieuwe Markt and enjoyed a couple of Heinekens. We had to ride back to the car to feed the meter and I felt much better on the bike after a few beers. That's all I needed. Just get a bit sauced and the riding comes naturally. Not sure if I'll try that in the Mabra cyclocross races, but maybe in the VACX (watch out Dawg)... We made the decision to go to the Van Gogh museum instead of the Riksmuseum. I wish we had the time to make it to both, oh well I'll just have to go back and enjoy more of Amsterdam. Back in the car to Zoersel where Tom had finished patching of his roof. Kind of important in a country where it rains pretty much everyday. We finished off the day with another wonderful meal and beer next to the canal we had ridden on Friday. Tom didn't have a beer, even with our taunts to 'man up', he had a glass of port wine and sipped it with his pinkie finger in the proper position. We said our goodbyes that night. Tom's parents were wonderful hosts and I enjoyed our stay with them.

Tuesday we got up at 'zero-dark thirty' so I could make it to the airport for my 7:30 flight. Sam's flight wasn't until noon, so needless to say he got some reading done in Brussels. Brussels to Vienna to Dulles to Staunton in around 20 or so hours.

Damn that was a great trip, long enough that we got to do and see a lot, but short enough I didn't get too homesick. I did miss Parker and Holly and was elated to see them once I got home. Parker liked his toy Quick-Step bus and hat, and Holly and I both enjoyed the Leonidas chocolates I brought back.

I'm already looking forward to my next trip to Europe.

A few pictures for your viewing pleasure.
Too bad that wasn't the rental car.

Tom, riding a bike. He's available ladies...

Koppenberg hill, doesn't look too tough.

But it is a bitch.

And this is why, just add water for slip-sliding fun.

nice angle on the cobbles.

Dude, where's my car. Amsterdam Style.

Ah, beer. Heaven is a cafe in Amsterdam.

This is how you ride a bike in Amsterdam, with flowers.

This is how I roll.

Caution work area.

The garden before. (after pictures sometime in the next few years)

Remember ladies, he's single. Owns his own home and is gainfully employed. Enjoys long walks on the beach and can cook spaghetti...

thanks Tom for everything.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

In Belgium...

Made it...
Jetlag sucks...
I`ve had frites...
and Toms computer has a french keyboard; typing sucks.

will post more later...

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Leaving on a jet plane...

But before I left I needed to have an appetizer.

At this time tomorrow I will be hurtling towards Europe for my Flanders vacation. For a long time I didn't think this trip would be doable. But the stars have aligned and I'm leaving Dulles tomorrow afternoon. Going to try to get some sleep on the plane because once I disembark we'll be on the ground running.

Have a great day.