Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Stages Power meter and brake pads

I was finally able to complete my winter/commuter bike with the addition of a Stages Power meter. I picked it up through Upper Echelon Fitness through a team deal and so far, for the price, it's a great little power meter.

It was super easy to set up ... basically just pull the left side crank arm off, put the ANT+ numbers in your computer and you are ready to go. To zero the power meter out, just put the Garmin to Calibrate with the left crank arm pointing to the 6 o'clock position and that's all there is too it.

When comparing it to my Powertap, the numbers match up pretty well overall ... within 1% or so. With that in mind, other measuring areas match up pretty well ... TSS, FTP, IF, etc. Overall consistency has been good day to day as well.

The big question will be durability ... There are reports out there of the actual power meter falling off due to adhesive failure as well as a few reports of water getting in and causing electronic failure. The winters can be pretty harsh in the Pacific NW, so it will be interesting to see how well it holds up.

With that said, all reports point to good warranty service by Stages ... so if it does fail, getting it fixed should be easy.

I also wanted to post a follow up on my TRP Spyre brakes.

So far the brakes are great. There is no disc rubbing on the pads, they have good power, good modulation and great lever feel. In the wet, they continue to have good braking, though there is a noticeable drop off in power compared to the dry, but it's still way above rim brake power in the wet.

The one issue I've noticed is brake pad wear. The pads are almost worn down after about 600 miles of riding. Granted, I have a long downhill on my way to work that's pretty steep and requires hard braking down most of it, but the pads shouldn't wear out this quickly.

I ordered a new set today that should be here by the weekend and hopefully as the brakes get more use by more riders, they will address the pad wear issue. Either that or other pad manufactures (Kool Stop, etc.) will make better pads for the Spyres.

For reference, my Avid BB7 pads lasted approximately 2000 miles before wearing out.

Other than the pad wear issue ... the TRP Spyre brakes are a great alternative to BB7's and are actually a better brake overall in my opinion.

Udate FYI ... For those considering the TRP Spyre brakes, it appears that Shimano Deore disc brake pads will work with the Spyre brakes since they use the same backing, so Kool Stop D620 and D620S (if you want Sintered pads) will work as an alternative to the stock pads.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

TRP Spyre review

Since seeing their release in magazines sometime last year I have been very interested in the dual caliper cable pull design. I rode all last winter on a set of Avid BB7's which are seen as the standard for road disc brakes at this point (though with hydraulic and new cable pull calipers coming out, that may change).

With this in mind, I picked up a set of TRP disc brake calipers and I've have had a chance to put around 400 miles on them and a couple of wet commutes to work.

The brakes themselves:

Overall, they appear to be a quality build. They are solid in design, look good and feel solid overall. The polished aluminum should hold up over time with just some easy cleaning, but I wonder how well the bearings on the pulley will hold up over the winter.

They are smaller and lighter than the BB7's with little to no caliper sticking out past the frame/fork ... with the BB7's there was always at least 1 cm of caliper sticking out from the frame/fork. Basically they are svelt and look good on the bike.


This was both super easy and somewhat hard at the same time. With the Avids, you have the ability to move laterally with the set up to get the pads centered, but also the ability to tilt the caliper a little to make sure it's straight from the beginning.

With the TRP, they have a flat mounting surface that connects directly to the fork or extension on the chain stay. The caliper has plenty of room to move laterally to center the pads, but there is no ability to tilt the caliper. This may cause some problems with set up if your rear end is out of alignment. I had to mess with mine a little and it never set up perfectly to begin with as there was just a little brake rub initially.

With that said, after a ride or two, the pads wore down enough that the rotors are perfectly centered in the caliper and the wheel spins as smoothly as it would with rim brakes and there is no rotor rub even under hard acceleration or out of the saddle climbing.


The first thing I noticed was a much better lever feel. The Avid's were always mushy feeling and under hard braking you could pull the levers (Tiagra 10 speed) all the way back to the bars. With the TRP's they feel like regular road brakes, levers. When set up with zero rotor rub they have minimal brake pull before engagement and at full braking are only about 1/2 - 3/4 of of the way to the bar. This is a huge improvement and that alone makes the change worth if for me.

The brakes work very well in the rain or dry. They have good power that is pretty equivalent to the BB7's in dry weather, however they feel a little weaker in the rain. Modulation is very good and one finger braking is all that's need in dry weather. Due to their slightly weaker performance in the rain, on very steep declines you may need two fingers for hard stopping (10% grades or steeper).

The main concern I have at this time with the brakes is pad wear. I've only had a couple of rain rides, but even with minimal braking needed (other than one long, steep, 1000 foot downhill with several hard stops) I have noticeable pad wear after each ride. Granted, with rim brakes I would have similar wear, but the disc pads are more expensive and look to need replacing after 600-1000 miles in the rain ... or one good, muddy Cyclocross race. I was able to get around 2000 miles on a set of BB7 pads (and still have a little pad left over).


A quality product, the eliminates rotor rub, provides good but not great braking, looks good and is easy to set up.

One primary advantage to the TRP's over the BB7's if you are racing Cyclocross is that you can put a cable adjuster near the bars and adjust the brakes on the fly with even pad wear.

With the Avid brakes, you could put a barrel adjuster near the bars, but since only one pad moves, you have decreased braking as a race goes along because of the increased distance between one pad and the rotor.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Winter bike nearly ready ... and new shoes

 Since winter is coming, I figured it was time to get my bike ready for winter. There were a lot of things about the bike I wanted to change before winter set in: Wheels, brakes, bottom bracket, tires and add a power meter.

So, a few weeks ago, I took advantage of a few team deals and picked up some new stuff for the winter bike and started getting it ready for the winter.

In the end, it was perfect timing since it rained all week and having the changes made allowed me to ride to work on the winter bike with no worries.

Changes to the bike:

First and foremost are new wheels. I had these built up by Brent at Portland Bicycle Studio. They are comprised of H Plus Son Archetype rims, 32 DB Sapim spokes and White Industries Disc Brake hubs. The build is fairly light, spins up quickly and feel really solid. I also added 28c Continental Gatorskin tires ... which I'm not sure how I feel about yet. Once these are worn out I may switch to some Panaracer, Schwable or Specialized tires.

Next change was the brakes. I liked the Avid BB7 calipers that came with the bike originally, however their single piston design leads to the disc rubbing on the non moving caliper. It was a little annoying and lead to a little extra pad wear.

So, with new brakes out ... I decided to go with TRP Spyre brakes. They are dual caliper, cable actuated brakes. This pulls both pads away from the disc eliminating the disc rub. They are also about 2 cm narrower than the Avid's and a bit lighter.

Set up was super easy and adjustment is just turning the cable adjuster ... no more messing with dials such as on the Avid's. With an inline cable adjuster the brakes can be adjusted near the bars and on the fly unlike the Avid's.

Overall feel is good with much improved lever feel. The Avid's always felt really mushy, but the TRP's have a solid feel to them without reverting to different cables. With some Nokian cables I would imagine these would feel as solid or more solid than a normal road brake set up. Power is good, maybe just slightly lower than the Avid's, modulation is very good which is important in the rain.

I'm not sure how well the pads will hold up in the rain though. During my first, full rain ride I could tell there was some noticeable wear in the pads. They are fairly cheap to replace, however, I got around 2200 miles out of the Avid's and hopefully can get the same out of a set of TRP's. During the course of this season I should put on around 5,000 - 6,000 miles on them ... so 2 -3 pad changes during the winter. Time will tell, especially as things get a bit more grimy with road dirt from frosty mornings and other events.

My next addition is shoes. I've been riding for several years now in the winter and my feet freeze when it's 40 degrees and raining ... even with wool socks and thick bootie covers. So this year I decided I was going to try something different. I purchased a set of SIDI Hydro shoes. They have Gore-Tex lining to help keep the feet dry and much warmer. The fit is really good and it will be interesting to see if they help during the winter and during commutes when the rain "and" cold hits.

I have two more additions that need to be added to the bike ... a "Buddy Flap" for the rear fender, which is greatly appreciated by others during group rides.

The other addition will be a Stages Power Meter. I'm looking forward to this to keep track of my training and fitness during the winter. I'll better be able to track 20 minute and FTP power during the winter, which is something I haven't been able to do before.

Overall, I'm excited about the changes and the bike feels really good. Bring on Winter!!!

Wildcat Mountain Hillclimb

Last Sunday was my final race of the season ... The Wildcat Mountain hill climb. I had thought about racing this last year, but my schedule didn't work out, so I skipped it last year. I had talked to a couple teammates/friends about the climb and most said it had some steep parts, but also had some good mild climb parts, some downhill and basically a little bit of everything.

Well ... it was harder than expected!

The first climb was much longer than anticipated and averaged what appears to be in the 8% - 9% range over 1 - 1.5 miles. From there it flattened out, then had some downhill sections that were pretty tight and twisty. The rest of the race had a combination of steep climbs, descents and a few tight turns.

Normally this would have been a pretty fast and straightforward course ... however, it started to rain a few minutes after I started, getting heavier as the race went along. By the time I made it to the downhill sections they were soaked and slick, so I backed "WAY" off down the hills not wanting to risk crashing during the last race of the season ... I've already been down three times this season.

Overall ... it was a good race, but with better conditions and knowing I needed points for the TT cup I'm pretty sure I could have taken a minute or so off my time which was 44:09 over 11.5 miles and 2200+ feet of climbing.

I ended up taking 2nd place on the day and had the 8th fastest time on the day ... pretty much where I expected I would finish based on those that had registered for the race and times of people I know that raced it last season.

It's a great race and I'm looking forward to racing it again next season.

With all that said ... I'm glad the season is over. I'm tired, feel a bit out of shape considering I've done one long ride (4+ hours) in the past two months. Most of my training has been commuting to work and racing on the weekends (but the races didn't last longer than an hour for the most part).

I'm looking forward to taking it easy for a while, getting in some good commuting miles and long rides on the weekend.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

OUCH - OBRA Uphill ITT Championships

Today was the OBRA uphill state championship ITT. It was supposed to take place at Government Camp like last year, but something happened with the permits and it was cancelled ... so they moved it to OUCH this season, which is a longer climb.

The difference between last year and this year was distance: 5.6 miles to 16.0 miles and elevation gain, 1900 feet to 3400 feet.

I went into this race with pretty good hopes of being on the podium again (I actually won the race last year), but had not ridden this hill in about 5 years. I remembered a bit from that climb, but not much.

Overall, the course starts out a little flat, then goes into some "Rollers", then goes into a fairly steady climb at around 2-3% for the first half of the course, then continues to get steeper with the final half in the 4-6% range. The steepest section topped out a little over 9%.

I chose to race this on my road bike, but purchased some mini Vision TT bars for this race and another taking place in two weeks. They really help from an aero perspective without adding much weight. In the end I spent about 60% of the race in the aero bars ... so for me they were well worth putting on the bike.

I got off to a good start, catching riders within 5 minutes of the start (we went off at 30 second intervals). As I climbed I continued to catch riders so I felt good about my ride. At around 31:30 a former teammate of mine in a different category (who is about 35 pounds lighter and has similar power output) caught me ... knowing his time last year, I felt I was on course for a good overall time.

As the road got steeper, I could tell my power dropped a little and I forgot to drink some of my energy drink early in the race, so I think I ran a little low on energy over the last 20 minutes.

In the end I finished the climb in 1:07:50, which would have placed me 2nd in this race last season ... but was only good enough for 5th this season. There were three guys in the 1:04 range and one in the 1:06 range. My average power for the race was 335 watts, which wasn't too bad, but had I pushed a little harder I think I could have added another 10 watts or so to that power, however, that wouldn't have made much difference in my placing but would have shaved 40 seconds or so off my time.

Not a bad day on the bike, but I'm a little disappointed that I didn't make the podium this season ... even though I'm far from a climber at 195-200 pounds.

I have one more race this season, two weeks from now, the Wildcat Mountain ITT ... which is a little shorter, has more flat sections, but more steeper climbing sections as well. Then it's back to base miles, commuting and trying to re-coup for next season.

This season kind of fell apart at the end. I had some good races with PR's early season ... then I lost the ability to do lots of FTP work or 2x20's like last year and it cost me a good 15-20 watts at FTP. That's something I need to recover for next season as well as get my weight down earlier in the season and keep it a little lower by the end.

The bright part is I built up enough points today to win the TT cup again this season in the 40-49 class, which was one of my big goals at the beginning of the season. I had a lot of competition early in the season by one guy, then he stopped racing and I started getting more competition from another guy later in the season ... but it's a series that lasts from late winter to early fall ... so you have to race for a long time and I was able to accomplish my goal this this year.

One more race ... then onto next year.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Today was the OBRA Time Trail Championships, a race I've been waiting for all season. I was really hoping to come into this race healthy, peaking and ready to roll ... sometimes, life gets in the way.

Two weeks ago I had a crash at a TT which I'm still recovering from. I still have a hard time taking deep breathes and my left hand still is far from recovered ... but the race was here, so it was time to get it on! I took some Alieve to help with the pain from breathing which helped, but didn't eliminate the pain totally.

I also don't feel like I'm in peak shape at this time, having missed a fair amount of training over the past two weeks and not getting in as much riding as I would have liked heading into the Championships. I didn't feel bad, but just not where I should be heading into a championship race.

On the bright side, when  warming up, I was at least able to get my heart race into the mid 150's which was better than two weeks ago. It's still low overall, but better than before, which means my body had recovered a little.

The course it's self was the same as years past, however the road had recently been chip sealed. Overall, it was in very good shape, but the chip sealing slowed the course down a lot compared to years past. It really appeared to have an effect on larger riders than smaller riders. I came to this conclusion by talking to riders and looking at finishing times ... lighter riders were much closer to last seasons times than larger riders. I'm guessing they rode over the chip seal while larger riders tended to sink into it a bit more.

We had a 6 - 7 mph wind from the north on the day, which meant a tail wind on the way out and a headwind on the way in, but in reality it seemed more like a tail/cross on the way out and a head/cross on the way in. It was a warm day however with temps in the mid 70's by start time (just before 11:00 am) and it warmed up a lot on course with the black, tar covered chip seal. A lot of people appeared to suffer from the heat today, especially considering the highs earlier this week were topping out under 70 degrees.

Once on course, I felt pretty good. I tried not to go out too hard and was able to get my heart rate into the low 160's. About 10 minutes into the race I was already starting to feel it and could slowly see my HR dropping over the next 10 minutes to the mid 150's. As I approached the turnaround and started to see riders again, it went back up a little ... so I'm guessing I wasn't pushing myself hard enough.

My HR continued to be in the mid 150's but the last quarter of the race, started to climb again as did my speeds, with the last 5 miles or so in the 160 range. Overall, I ended up with an average HR of 158 BPM, which is a good 5 BPM lower than what I would normally TT at, and 10 BPM lower than what I would run a 20k at.

Coming into the last stretch I caught a couple of racers in my category, so I knew I had an OK run even though I knew my time was slow.

At the end of the race, I thought I had finally beat the cramping curse that I've suffered from during this race, then about 20 seconds after crossing the line ... there it was. My left hamstring/glute cramped up and I had a hard time pedaling back to the start/finish area, but the more I pedaled the better it felt. It stayed cramped up for the next couple hours and is sore, but feels a lot better now that I'm 8 hours after the race.

In the end I ran a time of 55:57 which is about 1.5 minutes slower than last year and the first time in two years I've not run in the low 54 minute range. The end result was 3rd in category and 18th fastest 40k time on the day (most riders were 1-2 minutes slower than they expected).

With this one over, hopefully I can build a little fitness during the week as we head into the Uphill Championships next week. The course changed this season from Government Camp/Timberline to Larch Mountain ... which means a 1+ hour race instead of a 30 minute race like last year. The climb is 16.5 miles long and climbs about 4000 feet. I've climbed it once years ago and remember parts ... so it should be interesting.

More on that race next week.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Revenge of the Disc Wheel #2

This was my second attempt at the course, with better wind conditions and slightly cooler temperatures I was hoping to put in a good effort and better my time from the previous week.

Warm up went well enough, but I was still having difficulty getting my HR up with a max HR of 151 bpm during warm up on the trainer. My legs felt OK, a little tired, but OK ... however, my HR just seems to be struggling to get up. I'm reading this as a sign of my body being tired and needing a bread (which as it turns out will happen ... more later).

Once on course I went out a little slower due to the technical nature of the first 3 miles. I kept the bike under control and looking at my STRAVA comparison from last week, I was 30 seconds slower over the first 3 miles.

Making the turn, I was a little slower in the crosswind sections, but faster in the headwind section (around 30 seconds faster). With around 3 miles to go I was ahead of my previous weeks time by a little over 30 seconds ... but lost all of that over the final 3 miles, turning a time that was 2 seconds slower than last week.

My legs are dead at this point and just need a break.

So with that said ... this is how they will end up getting a break.

As I crossed the finish line, I was coasting down on the long straight. I junior racer had finished about 15 seconds in front of me and had slowed way down, as I came up on him he suddenly turned to the left, without looking, right in front of me. I was doing 22-23 mph at the time and grabbed a handful of brake to avoid hitting him.

I locked up the front wheel and endoed on the course. Witnesses said the bike flew 5-6 feet in the air, I however went straight for the ground, helmet hitting first, then shoulder, then back and I came to an instant stop.

I laid on the road in a very extreme amount of pain, which slowly subsided enough to get up and see my bars and saddle pointing decidedly downward. I gave a brief inspection of the bike and all looked "OK" but I wasn't sure if I had cracked any part of the carbon ... so a trip to the bike shop was in order.

It appears the bottom bolt of the stem may be pulling out and a picture was sent to Argon to get their point of view ... so the integrated fork "May" need to be replaced ... however, they didn't see any other damage that was structural, just a little cosmetic damage around the headtube.

As far as my body ... My shoulder and back have a lot of road rash and hurt a lot, but I can breathe OK now. I have a "Grill" bruise on my face from the Styrofoam as my head hit the ground (but the helmet did it's job) and my left thumb is in a large amount of pain and is swelling/bruising a lot. I'm wearing a brace on my left hand that's helping a lot and taking ibuprophen at this time for pain management which is helping.

I'm guessing a couple days off the bike and I should be OK ... but it's not something I want to repeat again.

I'll see where I'm at and hope to hear back from Argon before deciding to race next weekend ... I might take the weekend off since the ITT championships are two weeks away and I want to be healthy for that race ... even if I may lose a little fitness over the next couple days ... though the rest will probably help me get some strength back on the bike, if not make me a little heavier.

Overall ... a good race with a painful ending. I still love the course and organization of the race ... the promoter gave me a call today to check up on me, which was pretty cool.

Now to heal up and get back on the bike.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Revenge of the Disc Wheel #1

This weekend was the Revenge of the Disc Wheel, a new TT series this season (and hopefully for seasons to come). It's an 18.3 mile course in Brownsville, OR that is on many of the same roads at the State Championship Team Time Trial.

The day started out a little odd in the fact that when I was driving to the staging area there were a lot of cyclists on the road. Pulling into the staging area, there were more cyclists ... it turns out that Cycle Oregon was using a few of the roads in the area and the same staging area as a rest stop ... so we had 2000 other cyclists in the area at the same time. Thankfully they were not going the same direction on any of the roads and we only crossed paths twice.

The wind was the story of the day ... with a steady 12-15 mph wind from the north and gusts into the 20+ mph range. I didn't really think about it before heading down there, only bringing my 90mm front wheel ... which as it turns out was a bit of a mistake and one I won't make next week ... having options is always a good thing in the end.

The race started with a tail wind, which under most circumstances would be nice, but the first 3 miles were the most technical of the course with a tight "S" turn and multiple 90 degree turns. Many people had issues through here due to the higher speeds with the tail wind and overcooked corners. I about blew it through the "S" turn, but was able to pull it out somehow.

After the first 3 miles or so, we took a right hand turn into a heavy crosswind. The deep front wheel and rear disc helped with the "Sail" effect, but the bike was a handful to handle as I was getting pushed around a lot on the crosswind sections.

About a mile later we went into a long, direct headwind ... speeds dropped off dramatically. I tried to spin through this section as best as possible maintaining speeds in the 22 - 24 mph range. This was also where I caught my 1 minute man. About mid was through this section my HR dropped by about 5 bmp and stayed there until near the end of the race.

The last section of the course had a couple of little rollers, then a descent with a crosswind ... which was a lot of fun at 38 mph. The finishing stretch was again into a crosswind and a gust about knocked me over at 32 mph. It was a sudden gust that turned my bars way more than expected ... I about crapped my shorts at this point, but dropped down a gear, spun for a second or two while I regained my composure, then crossed the finish.

The wind was so strong all day, I only took one corner in my aero bars ... every other corner, even sweepers I would normally stay tucked in, I rode through in on my bull horns. When coming out of corners, it was so strong I couldn't get out of the saddle because it was blowing my front wheel around so much, so acceleration was slow.

Overall, I felt good about my performance but felt I could have gone faster on the day. My average HR was only 157 bpm, well below normal and even during warm-up I couldn't get it over 152 bpm. I think it had something to do with riding 1800 miles over the last 6 weeks, some of it racing out at PIR and other hard rides. My legs felt OK, but never full of energy ... so I was happy with my performance.

I was also really happy with my position on the bike which I've been working on for a while. I didn't move around on the saddle and kept my position through the whole race. This was also the first long TT where my hamstring/glute didn't cramp up at the end. I would like to get a little more hip angle, but I'm not sure if the aero trade off is worth it at this point ... maybe a few changes next season, but for now, I'm keeping it as is.

In the end I finished 2nd on the day in my class (40+ Masters) and had the 7th fastest time overall on the day. I was about 2 minutes slower (41:56 over 18.3 miles) than what I should be able to complete the course with calmer conditions (which I'm not sure we will see during the 3 race series).

I'm looking forward to this Saturday for another shot at the course ... hopefully with less wind and a better wheel selection.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

State TTT Championships

Sunday was the TTT state championships yesterday and this was my first time racing in the CAT 1/2 (Senior Men's) category. I knew it was going to be a hard race ... and it didn't disappoint!

I didn't get the warm up I wanted due to getting out of the house later than I wanted and having start times earlier than expected. I was able to get in about 30 minutes before meeting up with my teammates and had a good sweat going before putting things away and heading to the start line.

Since I'm a CAT 3 ... this was the first time riding with any of my teammates, giving me little idea about what to expect in terms or rotations, smoothness, speeds, etc. ... however, they had ridden together in many races and TTT's before. 

As we headed to the start line we did a little pace-line work (the start was about a mile from the staging area). We didn't really have a plan as far as which riders we would place where and just kinda winged it. We did decide to start with 30 second pulls instead of 1 minute pulls which was probably a pretty good idea.

We lined up, the clock counted down and we were off ... I was 4th man as we assembled and took off, which allowed me a little time to see what the pace would be like.

Well ... the pace was "Insane" from the start ... Out of the gate we were doing 30 mph into a 12-15 mph cross/headwind!

Needless to say, we were going a little faster than anticipated and my HR was through the roof. I managed to stay on and complete my pulls and lead the group up the only short hill on the course. 

I fell off the back a couple times ... mostly due to having problems getting in the draft after my pulls. In the past, with a slower pace it wasn't as hard to jump on ... but at this pace you had to be in the draft before you hit the back wheel. With that in mind, I was able to get a little draft off of them and TT my way back up to them within 15 seconds or so ... but it drained me doing this 3-4 times.

After the hill and a couple turns, we had a "Long" straight into a headwind where we averaged around 25 - 26 mph. The pace had settled down, but was still very hard.

The first 11 miles or so of the race was into the headwind/cross-headwind. Once we made the turn we had a hard crosswind from our right and I could feel it pushing me around a fair amount, so I'm guessing my teammates were feeling it as well ... however, we were able to hold a good eschelon through the next 1.5 -  miles before the turn back home.

When we made the turn, I was feeling it ... we had been holding 30 - 32 mph in the crosswind section and I was starting to wonder if I could hold on to the end. Then as I came off my pull and drifted back ... there were only two other riders in our group! We had dropped, likely the strongest rider in the group (last years Senior Men's road race champ). During the last part of the hard crosswind section he missed jumping on the last wheel after a long and very strong pull ... not knowing this the next guy took another hard pull ... and he was off the back. The next thing we knew he was 150+ meters back and the others decided to just keep going.

So, at this point ... I had no choice but to try and dig deep and hang on. For a couple rotations I just sat on the back while the other two rotated up front. We had the wind at our back and were rolling along in the 34 - 35 mph range. My HR finally dropped back down into the upper 150 BPM range (it was in the upper 160 - low 170 BPM range during the first half of the course) and I was able to start taking some pulls again. 

Over the last section I sat out of one or two more rotations, but was still able to contribute to the effort as we were motoring along.

With 1k to go ... I think we all dug deep and finished hard ... crossing the line with a time of 49:41 over 23.8 miles (just under a 29 mph average).

We didn't know where we finished results wise at the time, but knew we didn't win. We checked with another team and knew we didn't get 2nd either ... so we were knew we put in a very solid effort, but didn't really think we made the podium. With that in mind, the others on the team went out for another ride, though at a slower pace, knowing they have stage races coming up and wanted extra miles on the day.

I stuck around to see where we finished not really having anything else to do that day and wanting to see where we finished compared to the others.

As it turns out ... we ended up 3rd and on the podium.

It was a had, hard race ... and I felt a little bad not being in as good of shape as I could have been. I'm still around 200 pounds (usually am about 10 pounds lighter this time  of the year) and haven't hit the intervals as hard due to more base miles since my season hit's it's high point in July/August ... so I start hard efforts again this week.

Overall, the team had a good time and we felt like our effort was both good and smooth.

Anyway ... it was the fastest race I've ever done and was a super hard effort, but I'm happy with a podium at this level. The winners were about 2 minutes faster than us but had two domestic pro's and two of the fastest TT racers in the state on their team ... so I don't feel bad about that.

The TTT continues to be my favorite race of the season and I wish there were a few more on the schedule each year.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

PIR ITT #2 - Epic Fail

The second race in the two race ITT series held at PIR took place on Memorial Day. Leading up to the race, the weather had been spotty, but all weekend had been dry. Upon waking up on Memorial Day and looking outside ... it was wet. The closer the start time to the race, the wetter it seemed to get with a consistent rain taking place up to the start time of the race.

Driving out to the track I questioned my sanity racing in conditions like this. I'm guessing some auto racing took place during the weekend, which likely put some oil on the track, which the rain brought up during our races.

Riding around before my start, I could tell conditions on the track would be sketchy since my bike already felt like it was sliding around a little and I wasn't even going that fast.

At the start of the race, things felt ... OK ... I was hitting speeds around 28-29 mph down the front straight into a head wind. Around the first corner I could feel my bike moving around a little but overall it wasn't too bad. My though was to go really hard on the straights and easy through the corners. Down the back straight we had a tailwind and it was easy to get up into the 30+ mph range before the 110 degree hairpin turn. My first trip through the corner took place around 26 mph and again, it felt sketchy as did the following two corners.

Down the front straight again I was a little slower, hitting more wind down the straight. This helped through the first corner as I wasn't going as fast.

Down the back straight I picked up more speed than the first time and came up on two racers just before the hairpin corner. The combination of passing riders and having a tail wind made me think I was going slower than I actually was. I entered the corner at over 30 mph and about 2/3 of the way through the corner the front wheel went out from under me at 31.8 mph (according to my Garmin).

When I hit the deck I rolled over onto my back and must have slid for a good 40 feet ... long enough that I could look back at the riders I passed and give out a loud "Woooo" as I kept sliding.

When I got up, my chain had fallen off and it was taking too long to get back on, so I walked to the side of the track out of the way of other racers. Once moving, my chain kept catching when I would coast making it difficult to continue. I made it through the corners and pulled in for a DNF since I didn't see any point in continuing.

Assessing my bike and body after the crash ... I had a minor scrape on my left elbow and very, very minor road rash on my left hip. My bike had scraped up left brake lever, base bar and skewer. I ended up replacing the brake levers and using nail polish on my base bars to make sure the exposed carbon didn't have issues. The rear skewer is toast though, but that's OK since it was the cheapest part to get damaged.

Overall both myself and my bike made it out very well for a crash at over 30 mph.

Next race up is the State Championship TTT, which I'm really looking forward to. The long term forecast only reaches to the day before, but it's looking really good so far with dry weather and warming over the next 10 days.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Crank Cycles PIR TT #1

The Crank Cycles PIR ITT #1 was the 3 race in the Oregon TT Cup Series. I love this course since it's closed to auto traffic (taking place on an auto race track), has a lot of turns (some tight) and is more of an all out power course with perfect asphalt to race on.

The weather for the day was perfect, especially for March. We had temps in the low to mid 60's for the race with low winds out of the N/NE ... somewhere in the range of 3-5 mph.

With such good weather conditions, times would be fast on the day.

I started with my normal 40 minute warm up on my trainer and was able to get a good sweat going quickly with the warmer temps. My legs felt a little dead during the initial part of the warm up due to a bit more riding leading up to the race. I usually will take the day before a race off, or do an easy 35 - 40 mile ride the day before (taking the day off two days before the race) ... but due to the race last week and schedules getting messed up,  I ended up doing a harder day on Friday with 50 miles and some intervals, a middle length but easy day on Saturday and then racing on Sunday this week, so I wasn't really sure what to expect time wise.

My previous best time (24:34 over 11.5'ish miles) was set last year at PIR ITT #2 that took place on Memorial Day ... which gave me two more months of training and threshold work compared to last year.With a good warm up (my legs started feeling better near the end of my warm up), good weather and good early season form, I was hoping for a good time on the day.

I've been working on my position with my TT bike as well and made some changes since the first TT of the year at Jack Frost. I've lowered my aero extension/pads by 5 mm and raised my saddle by a few mm's. I lowered my extensions after seeing pictures of my position at Jack Frost where I looked just a little tall up front. My saddle height was adjusted due to leg extension and feel when it came to power and feeling.

As it stands with my position I feel overall, it's pretty well set now. I have a nice flat back, I'm forward in the position, comfortable for extended periods of time (have completed 3 hour training rides on it) and feel like I have good overall power. I may still play with my pad width a little to try and gain a few more seconds, but am unsure about that.

Once on the course I felt pretty good. I started hard and accelerated to around 32 mph down the front stretch heading into the first left hand turn. It's tighter than you think and I had to back off a little because I could feel my rear wheel loosing traction a little.

This has been a minor issue I've had with my Argon, through corners I don't feel as planted as I should be and I'm not sure why. The dimensions of the bike are very similar to my old Fuji, but it just doesn't feel as stable in tighter turns or at high speeds. The only thing I can guess is that I'm farther forward than I was on my Fuji with my position which puts a lot of weight on the front wheel, causing a bit more instability. With less weight on the rear wheel it has the ability to lose traction faster or skip around more.

With this in mind, during the race I had to make a few adjustments to my line through the first corner by taking it wider at the start and apexing it later in the turn. This allowed me to carry a little more speed and be more stable through the turn, but wasn't necessarily the fastest way around the course.

The hairpin turn on the backside of the course wasn't an issue with it's banking in the turn and a lot of room to move outward if you hit it too fast and I felt comfortable through it. The S-Turn after that was a little sketchy from time to time partly due to wind, partly due to my lack of confidence in the turns at this time and partly due to passing traffic through those turns.

Down the front straight I felt really good. With a bit of a tailwind I was able to hold a steady 30 - 31 mph down most of the straight, with good stability.

Looking at my lap times, I came out really fast through the first lap, slowed a bit over the next two laps, my 4th and 5th laps were the same time split and my last lap was closer to the first time wise. I could feel a couple places where I lost speed, such as through the first corner and down the back stretch where I seemed to enter it a gear to high and spinning too much.

In the end, I finished with an official time of 24:28 which was a PR on the course for me by 6 seconds ... but could have been better.

I placed 3rd in my class (40+ Masters Open) and had the 12th fastest time of the day out of all classes (two of those were by the same rider who rode in two different classes). So not bad, but could have been a little better. The bright spot was that I made up ground in the TT cup beating the winner of the first two ITT's (he finished 5th on the day) ... so I'm one point out of first at this time.

The next race is now two months away which will be "As the Raven Flies ... Only Longer" which will be a 40K ITT. The Estacada race that was to take place in April was canceled due to an inability of the promoter to get the needed permits for the parking area.

So I have a couple months to drop some weight and work on my FTP, especially with the longer distance of the rest of the TT's this season ... all but the hill climbs are 40K in length.

I may also make a small bike change after some wind tunnel results are posted. Flo Cycling took their wheels back to the wind tunnel and also tested several tires ... early results appear to have the Continental GP4000s as the fastest tire they tested (50 grams less drag than the Michelin Pro 3 they used in their first wind tunnel test) and was apparently faster than the Bontrager tires I'm using now. If I can lose 30-50 grams of drag, that 3-5 watts of power I gain and 15-20 seconds over a 40k ITT. They may also have slightly better traction than the Bontragers, which seem a little hard when it comes to their rubber compound ... though the Bontragers may have less Crr due to the harder compound so it may be a wash in the end ... I'll have to wait and see.

I would also like to get a FLO rear disc, but unless I get a new job sometime soon ... that won't happen for a while. Sometimes working in social services sucks due to working around grants, donations and government money. If the referrals are not there, the grants don't come in or the donations are low ... your position is cut and back to looking you go. Such is life I guess!

Monday, March 25, 2013

As the Raven Flies

This past Saturday was the second race of the season for me: As the Raven Flies, which is the second race of the Oregon TT Cup.

The race is fairly short at just over 11.5 miles, but is a tough TT with around 600 feet of climbing in that distance. The course starts with a short 200 - 300 meter flat section, then turn right into a 150 foot climb that averaged around 7.5%. 

From there the course flattens out for a little while, then goes into a series of steep rollers where you end up going from one end of the rear cogset to the other constantly.

The course is entertaining in that there are a few high speed turns (40'ish MPH at the bottom of the first and last hill) and a couple of other sweepers.

All in all a very fun course, but hard to get a rhythm on.

Since I'm a bigger guy, the first/last climb and rollers take their toll on me during the race, but over time I've had descent results.

Warming up my legs felt OK, but the week leading up to it they were pretty dead from training camp last weekend. I had two days off the bike which helped, but they were still suffering a little (I had a 285 miles week with 15000 feet or so of climbing).

On the first climb they were still very sluggish and I think it could have been the slowest I've climbed it in any previous race. However, once over it, they seemed to feel better and I was able to carry a good pace on the flat sections (what few of them there were on the course).

Another aspect that made the race hard was 1 minute gaps between starts, so having carrots to chase was more difficult since riders were so spread out on the course. As the race went on I was able to catch my 1 minute man at around the 8 mile mark, which helped me push during the race as I could slowly see myself catching him as the race went on ... then I caught my 2 minute man on the final climb.

Overall ... a hard but good race. I finished with a time of 28:27 which is about 13 seconds off my PR on the course, however on that run I had 6 weeks of extra training and more racing under my belt and was also around 7 pounds lighter, so I'm pretty happy with the result.

I finished 2nd in my class again and had the 6th fastest time on the day of all classes (technically 7th but I'm not counting the tandem).

Next week is PIR, the 3rd race in the Oregon TT Cup. 

There is another Raven ITT next Saturday, but competing in two TT's on the same weekend is difficult. If the days of the races were reversed I'd do them both ... but the TT cup race is on Sunday and I don't want to burn my legs out the day before ... and I really like the PIR course due to it's overall speed (my fastest races of the year last year).

Sunday, February 24, 2013

2013 Jack Frost ITT

 Today was the first race of the season for me at the Jack Frost ITT. A week out the weather looked spotty at best ... but it turned out to be an excellent day for racing with temps in the low 50's, a light wind and no rain.

I've made a lot of changes to my position on my TT bike over the winter and today was my first chance to give them a shot in a real race. I've put around 150 - 200 miles on the bike over the last couple weeks during nice riding days, continually making small adjustments here and there.

In the end ... all the adjustments felt like they paid off with a position  that was comfortable and appears to be pretty fast overall.

Jack frost is usually my worst race of the year position wise. I don't think I've ever finished higher than 3rd place at this race with a Personal Best of 27:42 that was set a couple years ago. With a course length of around 12.4 miles, that gave me an average speed of around 26.7 mph. As the season progresses on flat ITT's I'm usually in the upper 27 to low 28 mph range ... so I do tend to get faster as the year progresses.

I wasn't sure what to expect time wise given I'm at the tail end of a cold I've had for the last 9 days. I'm still a bit congested and hacking up stuff from my lungs, but overall felt really good.

I got off to a fast start and for the first 4 minutes or so my HR was above 170 and with a max HR of around 178, I knew I was pushing it pretty hard. When I rounded the 2nd tight corner I pulled back a little and my HR dropped down into the mid 160 range where I was able to hold in the entire race.

On the way out we had a tail wind ... which allowed me to move up to 5th overall on the STRAVA KOM list for the outward bound section with an average speed of 27.9 mph. I felt good on the way out and my cold didn't seem to be effecting me too much. I knew though with the speeds I was holding outbound, I was going to have a headwind on the way back.

Last year I crashed at the turn around by locking up my rear wheel, so I took it cautiously through the turn this year. I could see a couple guys I was chasing ... I was the last one off in my class having won the TT cup last year and could see I had made up little if any time on my 30 second man at the turn around. Up to this point I had caught/passed two people in the race, so rabbits were hard to come by until the turn back. From there I started passing other riders at a regular clip.

The headwind wasn't too bad, either that or my position is more aero than in the past ... not sure which at this time, but I was able to hold a good clip on the way back.

Rounding the final turn, I got out of the saddle and sprinted for the line finishing with a time of 27:25 eclipsing my PR by nearly 20 seconds. So, either I'm in better shape or I'm in a better position on the bike ... either way, I'll take it.

I ended up 2nd in the 40-49 class and had the 11th fastest time overall (I don't count the guy in the full fairing recumbent). My best result overall at Jack Frost.

After the race I received my trophy for winning the TT cup last year since I was unable to attend the awards banquet. I should be receiving my new skinsuit in the next month or so that each winner can purchase as well ... which I'm really looking forward to.

Anyway ... a good start to the season. Not a win, but a very good result for this time of the season.

Next up: As the Raven Fly's (two races) and PIR #1 that will take place at the end of March.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Winter training ups and downs

Winter training is always a mix in the Pacific Northwest and is usually a combination of weekend rides and weekday trainer rides.

For October and November I was really doing well. I was averaging about 15 hours a week between weekend rides and weekday trainer rides. I was also getting in regular lifting 3 days a week and making good progress with my fitness and maintaining or losing weight (though slowly).

Then December hit and all the food that comes with the holidays. I was able to get in some good riding, but ate "A Lot" of stuff I shouldn't have. I ended up putting on a couple pounds but was able to get in some good riding. The last part of 2012 was very wet around here and we had the 2nd wettest year on record. With that said it was fairly warm for most of it ... so it wasn't too bad getting rides in on the weekend.

When January came around I was really starting to feel good.

During one of our group rides we did one of my baseline climbs and I was able to hold 363 watts for 24:29 and was only averaging 155 bpm for my heart rate. I was going hard, but not full on and just wanted some basic baseline number. Extrapolating from those numbers I figure I could have held 375-380 watts if I was really being pushed on the climb. These are very good number for this time of the year and should make it easy to get back into the mid 390 watt range for 20 minutes during the race season.

Then this past week I developed a saddle sore from my trainer, then got a cold. I've missed about 7 hours of riding during the past week or so and feel like a slug. I've been able to get in some shorter training rides while sick, but could feel the extra effort it took. I'm on my way toward healing but it's going to take a couple of weeks to fully recover from this.

My weight during my sick time also went up a little to around 205-206 pounds, which is still very good for this time of year, but I'm feeling fat right now.

I'm hoping things pick back up from here on out since the first race of the season is about 6 weeks away. It's a flat ITT so if my power numbers stay where they are or get better, I should have a good time and placing ... assuming my TT position is good. There is also a road race the week before and if the weather is good and my weight is below 200 pounds I'll likely race in it as well, just to get one in early.

Our first team meeting is this weekend, which should be fun since I've only met a fraction of the team so far. Looking forward to seeing some people in normal clothing since we never look the same when not wearing a helmet or cycling clothes. We should get more information about this years retreat also which I'm hoping to attend.

Overall ... I'm encouraged by the power numbers I put out two weeks ago ... but frustrated with being sick and having a saddle sore. At least they came now and not during the season so I have time to recover.

It's also time to start hitting intervals a lot harder ... so let the fun begin ... next week :)