Monthly Archives: September 2009

20 years of progress

Here’s a measure of progress in the last 20 years: when Greg LeMond won the 1989 World Championship (in an amazing finish), we had to grovel for token TV coverage and scraps of news buried on page 10 of the sports section. 20 years later, on a rainy Sunday morning, I sat and drank coffee and watched the race LIVE via the Internet (http://www.universalsports.com).

Also in 1989 — the year LeMond won his 2nd Tour de France — I remember going out at lunch to pick up the New York Times to get Samuel Abt’s reports on the race. That was as good as it got back then. I never imagined we would ever be able to actually WATCH it, other than on condensed, tape-delay summary shows.

Pretty amazing when you sit back and consider the explosion in information availability and connectivity. We’re getting close to the point where we take it for granted. What, no Worlds streamed live on the Internet? We’d be PO’d. We just expect that now.

And that Worlds race in 1989? Yeah, you can find and watch the finish: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJSgzHTRg38. It’s an awesome finish, too. As good as the 2009 race was, this was better. No one really thought LeMond would win, and he came out of nowhere on the final climb, covered the attacks on the run to the finish, then won the sprint against no less than Sean Kelly. I don’t recall seeing a more exciting finish.

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Suck wheel or get dropped?

Here’s the situation: you make what looks to be the winning breakaway. But quickly you realize that if you keep working at the same pace you’re likely to be dropped from the break.

What do you do? Sit on and be a wheel-sucker, or continue to work and most likely get dropped?

This was the dilemma at the “G20 Summit Criterium” over in Pittsburgh. Early in the race, after chasing a couple of attacks I found myself in a 3-man break that included a guy (Clayton Barrows) who had good results at last week’s UCI-level Univest Grand Prix. That’s no Tuesday night training race. The other guy was Ruggery of Freddie Fu, another strong rider.

I knew I was in trouble from the beginning. I could feel that I hadn’t recovered enough from chasing the first couple attacks. I sat on at first and tried to recover. Then started to help. But after a few more laps I was having trouble following wheels on the uphill part of the course.

There are some who would say you should keep working. If you get dropped, well that just meant the other guys were stronger. But bike racing isn’t just about who is stronger. As I see it, getting dropped from the breakaway is a cardinal mistake. Especially when you have teammates back in the field working for you. The last thing they want to see is one of their jerseys going backwards.

So I stopped working. I don’t like doing that, and I know I’ve given other guys a hard time for it (yeah, that is part of racing too). The other 2 tried to get me to work, but I just said, “sorry, I can’t”. I was determined not to get dropped, if it was humanly possible.

And for a while, I wasn’t sure whether it was humanely possible. My hope was that the pace would ease up the closer we got to the end. Which it did, enough so that I started to help out again. After which Barrows attacked us and rode away solo to the finish. I didn’t contest the sprint for 2nd (though I don’t think it would have mattered even if I did).

Was it a satisfying result? Yes and no. No, because I don’t like not working in a break. But yes, because I avoided the worst case of getting dropped, and managed to get our team a spot on the podium. But I feel like I want to qualify the result by saying, “yeah, I was 3rd but I almost was dropped about 5 times … “

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When you come to a fork in the trail, take it

While out trail running at the West Woods, I came to a fork in the trail, happened to look down, and saw a fork laying in the middle of the trail. A few moments later I wondered whether someone did this as a joke.

It reminded me of the Yogiism: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Now I know what that means, literally. I should have picked up the fork and taken it. But then that would spoil the fun for the next person who sees it.

If it wasn’t for trail running, I’m not sure I would find the motivation to run at all in the off-season. Running on the road every day would make my joints hurt, not to mention it’s boring. Running on the treadmill is bearable only with the weather is horrible.

But running on a trail, the miles seem to go by just like *that*. I think it’s in part because you have to pay more attention to where you’re going, and in part because the terrain is usually varied, and in part because it’s just more pleasant to look at trees than cars, houses, sidewalks, etc.

I’m looking forward to about a month from now, when the leaves are changing and my legs are acclimated, and I can do a nice long run on a crisp autumn morning … while trying not to think of all the leaves piling up in the yard.

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Don’t try this

bike phone

When you see someone on a bike talking on a cell phone, do you think, “what a wanker”? What about texting? What about someone laying in the road, one foot clipped into a pedal and one hand holding the cell phone?

Yeah, that would be me.

My defense is: the text was from my daughter; I was only a few houses from having left home; I did at least stop and unclip from one pedal.

It was one of those incidents where the front wheel turns the wrong way, and you go over on the side where you’re clipped in. Like you sometimes see on the start line before a race, when a guy isn’t paying attention. Then everyone laughs and says, “now we know who to avoid.”

Only I was laying in my own street, with a chainring gouge in one calf, and a road rash scar FROM JULY torn open again. For the third time. I think the scab is going to be with me until next July.

At least I don’t think any of the neighbors were watching.

Apparently some others have also decided this is not a good idea:
http://washcycle.typepad.com/home/2008/01/no-texting-whil.html

http://www.japanator.com/japan-thinks-texting-while-biking-is-a-bad-idea-new-biking-laws-in-consideration-7135.phtml

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Don’t need a weatherman …

What did we do in the days before weather radar was a few mouse clicks away? We looked up at the sky, decided it was safe to ride … and then got wet a lot more often.

The forecast today was for ‘scattered showers’. Scattered is OK, as long as the rain is scattered on someone other than you. Otherwise you just feel like Schleprock.

Radar was inconclusive. The sky however was clear. Heading out on the road, I could see a line of clouds to the east, but clear skies to the south and west. Radar showed a general movement north-northwest. So I went in the direction of the sunshine.

Good decision. It was sunny, dry, warm, and quite pleasant. A nice, easy ride after a long weekend. I was congratulating myself for my superior weather-pattern reading.

You just know where this is going, right?

Two miles from home, on the same stretch of road where the day before I helped push a broken-down SUV, in one instant the clouds closed in, the sky became dark, and the temperature dropped 10 degrees. I’d hit the edge of the front that was literally passing over my neighborhood.

The cloudburst soon followed. I pulled off the road, and with a nice cyclocross dismount ducked under a tree. Then I made the call home:

“Um, can you come get me? My bike is clean, and I really don’t feel washing it again.”

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Just riding around

I’m coming to the conclusion that interesting encounters happen more often while you are out “just riding around”. That’s “just riding around”, as opposed to an intentional training ride — the dreaded 2×20 minute intervals, hill repeats, sprints, etc. For example …

Not long ago while just riding around I found myself helping an owner chase her dog that had gotten loose. The dog was faster than she was, but not faster than me (on the bike). I wasn’t able to actually catch him, but was at least able to keep up with him while she went to get her car and someone else to help.

The other day I found myself riding for a short while with a guy from France. I didn’t get the full story on how he ended up riding out in Geauga county, but apparently he lives out this way so I expect I’ll run into him again.

Today I was flagged down by a group of kids — who all looked to be under the age of 8 — selling tomatoes, gourds, corn, and peppers at the end of their driveway. This is why you should always carry money while riding. Kids not only love snagging a customer, but especially snagging one who’s on a bike (this applies to lemonade stands, too). One warning though: tomatoes don’t travel well in a jersey pocket.

Also today, just a few miles from home, I passed a young guy obviously out on his training run, straining to push an SUV up a slight grade. The driver had the door open and was also trying to push while steering. They were not going anywhere. I swung around to help. The guy said, “if we can get it over the hill I think I can coast the rest of the way”. (where that would be wasn’t entirely clear). So I left my bike in the grass, and while wearing my cycling shoes helped push the SUV the 500 meters to the crest of the grade. At which point it really took off and the driver scrambled to jump into the moving SUV. I went back to get my bike. The other guy took off on his training run. Definitely a first.

Probably not simply coincidence that these things happen while just riding around. If I’m not concerned with a specific training goal, I’m more willing to not only notice what’s going on … but also more willing to do something like help push a broken-down SUV. (BTW … I was SO tempted to tell the guy he wouldn’t have that problem if he were on a bike).

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Wrong time to start riding to work

The ideal time to bike to work is in the middle of summer, right? Warm mornings, lots of daylight, and most importantly no parents rushing to get their kids to school on time.

But most of the time riding to work seemed to interfere with training: need an easy ride on Mon; Tues go to Westlake; Wed recover from Westlake; Thurs often go to Leroy for the TT; Fri need an easy ride. It’s hard to do an easy ride to/from work. There is a climb from the Chagrin River valley each way, and for some reason I find it difficult to go “recovery slow” when riding to or from work. I guess that same impatience that makes people drive frantically during rush hour carries over to the bike.

So I chose today to ride to work for the first time in months. And encountered the aforementioned parents rushing to get their kids to school on time. Riding up Cedar Road in the morning isn’t easy. It’s uphill and narrow. There is no shoulder to speak of — unless you want to ride in gravel — and what shoulder there is drops off quickly.

It was made worse by the steady stream of SUV’s — I was counting and it was easily 5-1 vs. cars — carrying kids up to Gilmour Academy. The same school where a student XC runner was hit by a car a few weeks ago while practicing (2 broken legs and fractured skull). You’d think the parents would give a cyclist a little breathing room on a narrow road.

Nope, sorry — HONK! (then weave across the yellow line even though there is oncoming traffic).

Then I managed to break off the key in my bike lock, which is now permanently attached to the bike rack at work.

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