Saturday, February 28, 2009

Good Start to the season

So now that my racing season has officially started, I will be regularly writing race and training reports w/ some ramblings here and there. Today was a good start for my first race of 2009. I showed up to Prospect Park on two hours of sleep after a night out. Nonetheless I still felt ready to race.

This year the race director has added KOM and Sprint points during the race. This may sound like a good idea, but during the race no one really new which lap was a sprint. Naturally the 4 field assumed every lap was a sprint and KOM lap. At least this kept the pace high. My goals for this race were to attack the field at least once, take one pull at the front and be in position to contest the sprint. I have to say that I completed all of them.

Two laps in I attacked about a mile before the start/finish as I thought it was a sprint lap. WRONG, it was not and I went for nothing. But my first goal was complete, and right before I took the front to help reel in a break but I turned that into my planned attack. I stayed up front most of the race, working w/ the two Rutgers who also raced the 4 field today. Coincidentally we ended up working together in the final lap going into the sprint. Here I used the pack position skills I learned last year to get in prime position to contest the sprint. I got a clear view of the winning move and reacted. Unfortunately I did not have the legs to really gun the sprint. I guess that's what happens when you race on two hours of sleep.

I learned today that the 4's are much smoother than the 5's in Prospect and that 4's don't like to work at the front. It seemed today that only 2 teams were working at the front today: Brooklyn Velo Force(won the final sprint in a squirely leadout train) and Kissena. I also learned that there are some cat 4's who should have their licenses ripped up. There were a few wankers who attacked on the downhill and nearly caused crashes. In the final sprint, a few more very small minded racer took creative lines. Causing several near misses at 35mph and totally disrupting the leadout. Finally I saw that I am ready for next week when it really counts at the season opener. Legs feel good, form is good, all is good...

Friday, February 27, 2009

So it begins again...

Tomorrow will be my first race of the seaon, Prospect Park.
I did the bulk of my season there last summer and had a blast. Yes; there were crashes, arguments, breakaways, and late starts. But that's Brooklyn for you...

The vibe there is pretty good, post race everyone is pretty friendly and happy to have finished unscathed(most of the time). However, during the race is a whole another story. You got bumping, elbows, yelling arguing and nervousness and that's just while you're lining up. During the race it's an every man for himself hammerfest that doesn't ease up till the end. I did I mention the screaming downhill that always sees a nasty crash..

I missed only two races of last year's cadence cup, and with the addition of KOM points this season I will be there for all of them. Last year my sprint wasn't enough to contest the win, but after a good period of base training that will definitely change.

I can not leave out the crit paradise that is NJ racing. Every other weekend you can race several crits with some squirelly racers and either get shelled or get some cool prizes on the prime laps. As much as I enjoy Prospect, there is nothing like a NJ crit. You got tight turns, potholes, 60 man fields, and super fast master's races. Racing crits every weekend with some hardened racers will make you much more aggressive and squirelly, which will help me next week at Rutgers.If you ever want to learn how to be a better crit racer than there is no place better than NJ.

As you can tell, I am definitely ready to start my season off on the right foot. I have been training hard and working on all my weak areas. I feel good and my form is progressing along nicely. I think I will end this rant here as I tend to ramble on and on. One final thought, Prospect Park means I need to leave at 4:30 am. I guess that means no partying tonight :(

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The art of Pass/Fail Racing

Cycling should be an enjoyable endeavor. However, sometimes despite our best efforts we wind up in situations on the bike that are simply no fun. Such situations include: having accidents; getting caught in severe weather; and, perhaps worst of all, becoming involved in an amateur road race. Of course, the first two circumstances can be avoided or mitigated with caution and preparation. As for the third one, though, chances are that if you find yourself in an amateur road race in the first place you’re the sort of person who seeks suffering rather than avoids it. If you simply must participate in amateur road racing, here are some tips to help ameliorate the adverse effects:

Know Your Limits

There is a fine line between ambition and delusion. The former is the fuel for success, and the latter is the way to ruin. I believe it was either Sheldon Brown or Ben Franklin who said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” This is especially true when it comes to road racing. Basically, if you’ve never won a race before, you’re not suddenly going to start winning them now. So settle down, pick a wheel to follow, and stay out of trouble.

Unfortunately, though, too many people fail to realize this, especially in the lower categories, where everybody stupidly sees him-or herself as a potential winner. When everyone’s going for the podium the result is a pile-up. It becomes like some moronic slapstick routine where eight people bend down to pick up the same $100 bill and just end up bashing their heads together as a gentle breeze carries the money down the street.

The reason the higher categories generally see fewer crashes is not because they’ve acquired better riding skills over the years; rather, it’s because higher-category riders have been psychically beaten into submission. Their wills have been broken, they’ve admitted to themselves that they don’t have a chance, and they ride accordingly. In real life, if more than like 50% of the country believes it should be running it, you’re going to have a civil war. In a race, if more than half the field thinks it can win you can expect carnage on wheels. So don't be part of the problem.

Race Pass/Fail

So you’ve admitted you’re a loser. Congratulations, and welcome to mediocrity! Please come in and make yourself comfortable. Would you like a Shasta? Believe it or not, embracing your inner “meh” is one of the most positive things you can do as a cyclist. And now that you’re coming to terms with this, it’s time to re-evaluate your goals. Clearly, winning is out of the question for you, so the next best thing is helping someone else win. Well, that’s all very nice, but what’s in it for you? More importantly, once your job is done and the winning break is up the road what’s your motivation for staying in the race?

In this case we can look to the halls of academe for an answer, and that answer is to race “Pass/Fail.” This simply means finishing=passing and getting dropped=failing. Over the years, I’ve learned that riding for a place is discouraging. However, if you treat simply finishing the race as success you can strive for—and attain—something close to perfection. Remember: success is how you define it. And when it comes to defining things in a manner that suits my own purposes, I’m like Robert Cawdrey with an Erasermate.

Employ Tactics

Road racing is all about tactics. Unfortunately, the tactical advice you get from books and magazines is intended for winners or for people who aspire to be winners. As such, it doesn't apply to you. Using that stuff for pass/fail racing is like trying to assemble a piece of Ikea furniture by following Mapquest directions to Chuck E. Cheese. You’re not interested in winning, you’re interested in surviving. Here are three key pieces of advice for the survival of the pass/fail racer:

Go Where The Most People Are

If you see a group of people go up the road that has less people in it than the group you’re in, stay where you are! What’s happening is that a selection is being made, and trust me when I tell you don’t want to be a part of it. The first rule of pass/fail racing is to avoid breakaways. Being in a breakaway is like going from a cushy job at a big company with a regular paycheck to a really hard job at a tiny company where you have to work 16 hour days on commission only and people are always yelling at you. And trust me—someone will yell at you. Every break has a self-appointed driver who is really mean and constantly shouts stuff like, “Short pulls!” and “Rotate!” and “Pull off into the wind!” and then gets indignant when you say “But I don’t wanna rotate!” since just want to sit on the back crying because you miss those fun cubicle days when all your friends were around and you didn’t have to do any real work. I mean, seriously, if you want to suffer do a cyclocross race.

Conversely, if you’re in one group and you suddenly realize the group up the road has much more people than the one you’re in, that means you’re probably being dropped. If possible, get back to the group with more people in it. (Shouting at someone else to “Close the gap!” can be helpful here.)

Savor the Slowness

There are times in the race when the pace will slow for no apparent reason. This is a good thing for the pass/fail racer, as it is an opportunity to relax and enjoy. Occasionally though, you may be tempted to try to lift the pace or “make a move.” But it is absolutely essential to always remember the first rule of pass/fail racing and stay where the people are. Because if you do go off the front, nobody’s going to follow you since you’re a pass/fail racer and they are too and they know better than to get mixed up in some fool’s errand with you. Then you wind up alone in no-man’s land. If you don’t know what no-man’s land is, it’s kind of like that period after you learned what the cycling-related jokes on the Primal jerseys meant, but before you figured out that it was totally uncool to wear them, so you just rode around alone wearing a Primal jersey and looking ridiculous. And that’s what will happen if you go off the front. You’ll wind up alone, between the field and the break, looking ridiculous.

Work Only Out of Craven Self-Preservation

There is only one situation in which it is acceptable for the pass/fail racer to accelerate or attempt to move up through the field, and that’s at the beginning of any sort of incline. This is a widely-known rule, but it’s one of the few that’s actually designed for the pass/fail racer and so it bears repeating here. What you want to do is move to the front of the group at the start of the climb so that as you continue up it you can slowly drift back through the group instead of struggling to stay on. Hopefully, by the time you get to the top of the incline you haven’t already been spit out the back. This is the equivalent of periodically selling something you own for quick cash so you can enjoy a few months of easy living instead of simply working hard all the time.

Premature Withdrawal

Road racing isn’t like other types of racing. In a cyclocross race, you stay in the race until you finish or until you’re pulled, even if nobody’s near you. In a mountain bike race, you keep racing regardless of your position as well, unless you’ve got an irreparable mechanical problem, or unless you’re me and you just wanna go home. But in road racing, if you find yourself dropped and alone, you stop racing. This is perfectly acceptable, and it’s because, unlike other activities, road racing is not done for fun. It’s done out of obligation. So once your race is over there’s simply no point in carrying on.

Of course, there are times you may want to leave the race even before you’ve gotten dropped. Technically, this is unacceptable. However, there are a few ways to do it while saving face. They are:

Get a Flat

Be honest: who hasn’t prayed for a puncture during periods of extreme physical duress? If you simply want out, try to steer towards gravel or bits of broken glass. If possible, ride in the gutter, where these sorts of things accumulate. Also, if there’s any kind of neutral wheel service, be sure to start the race on a bicycle that is incompatible with modern-day drivetrains. There’s no way the mechanic’s going to be able to cram a 10-speed wheel with 130mm spacing into your 120mm-spaced frame quick enough for you to get back in the race. And even if he does, it's not going to work with your Huret rear derailleur. Best of all, you can blame not only bad luck but also bicycle marketing and gimmickry for your failure to finish.

Unfortunately, getting a flat on purpose isn’t always easy, but you’ll just have to try your best until I start selling my Deflat-O-Mat 3000, which will instantly induce double-flats via a discreet handlebar-mounted trigger disguised as a cycle computer.

Have a Mechanical

There are innumerable ways to feign component failure. My personal favorite is the Hincapie ‘06. Remember the moment his steerer tube broke in Paris-Roubaix and he sat there for a moment studying his disembodied handlebars in disbelief before he crashed spectacularly? You can easily replicate this yourself by simply carrying a multi-tool in your jersey and subtly unbolting your stem. When it’s time to throw in the towel, simply slide the stem off the steerer tube and you’ll be out of the race in no time. (You can also do a Hincapie ’08—wheel failures can be induced by opening a skewer with your foot.)

And of course this all leads to the best but most dangerous way to leave a race:

Have a Crash

A good crash requires no explanation. Of course, it might require hospitalization, so this method should be used sparingly. If possible, steer towards grass or haybales.

Monday, February 23, 2009

New poll

Check the latest poll for the conference, it's a good one.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Time Trial Excitement

With today's TT in Solvang and the first race of the ECCC being a time trial, it is only fitting that we watch the following:

If anyone pulls a Rasmussen at Rutgers, you will be mocked the rest of the season...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Excited for start of season

We're in the middle of February which mean the first race of the season is only 2.5 weeks away. To get racers more excited the Tour of California is going on now. Yesterday we saw Levi put in a superhuman effort to catch a break that was 3 minutes and then blew the legs off everyone on a long descent. What an athlete...

Anyway, with the season so close and so many new riders I figured this link will clear up any questions on pacelining and group riding. It also good for some of you older racers who have become very squirrely over the years(ahem Joe ahem). Now only if I could get the CRCA racers to read this, then maybe Prospect Park wouldn't be such a crashfest ;)

I almost, forgot our SGA at Stevens approved our astronomical budget request. So we may roll up to the Rutgers TT rocking BMC's w/ full campy record, or maybe some other badass euro bike. Well everyone is just going to have to wait....

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Feeling good

I just returned from my training ride today, 50 miles of tempo/sprinting/climbing/etc etc. I felt good, starting to regain some form after many weeks on the trainer. Throughout the ride I kept a high pace(no computer, that's how i roll) and rode hard up every roller and hill on 9w. It feels good to be on the bike after so many mindless hours on the trainer. As long as I can get in a few more rides like this before March 7 I should be in race condition.

Hopefully everyone else in the ECCC has been logging up miles and improving their fitness, we've been working hard at Stevens and look to do well again this season. Oh yea, I'm watching the ToC today which should be interesting. I'm betting on Cavendish to take the sprint in today's flat stage, but the best part about today's stage is that the Astana is riding on training bikes as thier race rigs were stolen last night. You don't believe me then check this link and have a laugh like I did.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Oh boy, cracked frame

So I found yesterday that I cracked my Trek Madone....yeah it sucks. It was creaking on my training ride in the morning, so I took to my bike shop and had the mechanic look at it. Long story short, the frame is shot.

On the bright side, this means I'm getting a new frame. Well first I need to come up with the money for it, so we'll see how the search goes. As far as my training ride goes, it went well. We did 45 miles of race drills and honestly it felt good. Mainly b/c I've been on the trainer for several weeks and was starting pull my hair out.

At Stevens we are in the midst of planning our race and so far so good. We still need some sponsors and several other things, but we should be able to get everything ready for it. Also as far as the Intro category goes, my coach from Montcliar my make an appearance do some coaching that day for the new ECCC racers.

As promised, here are some pics of the 2009 stevens jersey.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Team bike building

So my team mate Ray Junkins just bought a BMC Road Racer, yeah it's pretty bad ass. We spend the afternoon building it up, it only took about 5 trips to the city to get parts.

I have to say this bike is pretty sick, we may even get a fleet them for our entire team. Well, everyone is just going to have to wait till Rutgers to see what bikes we're riding.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Spoiler Alert: Stevens Jersey

There has been a lot of buzz about our 2009 team kit, well here's a taste.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Training Status

I just got back from a very tough trainer workout. I led my my fellow Stevens riders through a very intense TT pyramid. We did a 1-2-3-5-3-2-1 min session one day after a tough power workout. Everyone was hurting, but no one complained about having tired legs.

We are progressing well as a team, and I'm getting stronger with each interval session. I'm looking forward to the first race weekend of the ECCC road season, but I may jump the gun and race in Prospect Park on Feb 28. I know the cat 4 there is very squirley, but at this point I think everyone just about wants to get February over with and start the hammerfest that is March.

I will soon be posting the status of the Stevens Crit as well as some pics of my fellow teammates. In the meantime, I'm going to get some hw done. Thanks for reading.

My first post

So this is my first post; I've never really been into blogs as I'm more of a forum type of person. Either way, I'll be writing about my training and racing for this year. So naturally expect to hear several rants about rides, racers, traffic, etc...

I'm currently in the middle of a micro cycle in my training plan. Working on time trialing and climbing as they both use similar muscle groups. So far so good, I'm about 6lbs off my target weight and my power and fitness are steadily improving. By the end of the cycle I should be right where I need to be for the start of my season on March 7 at Rutgers.

So for the time being I am going to work on bringing the weight down and getting stronger, the only limiters I have now are class, beer, homework, and women. Oh wait, some of those limiters may not be conducive to a good racing season :)