Monday, May 5, 2014

4 Years Later and Still Rolling

Well, well, well.  It’s been quite some time since posting a ride write up, has it not?  Perhaps it’s time to fix that.

After a brutal winter with near record snowfall and several visits from the Polar Vortex, April finally rolled around.  It wasn’t the warmest of Aprils, but it was certainly more conducive to getting out on the roads than anything since October.  Even with cooler temps, I was able to get out for 400 miles to start shaking the winter atrophy out of my legs and lungs.  Motivation comes easier when you pick up a new bike, as well.  First one in 9 years for me.

So why restart the blog?  For one, it’s a simple way to get my mind flowing.  For another, it’s a motivational tool for longer range goals this year.  And still another, it’s selfish little time capsule for me and anyone else entertained enough to read along.

So with that, here are a couple of things happening.  First, the new bike.  After 9 years on the old Felt F65, which is still functional, but definitely has seen better days, I upgraded. The remnants from the original bike left are: frame, fork, seatpost, rear derailleur, and left STI shifter. Otherwise, there was a lot of lipstick trying to make that pig look good.  When the opportunity to pick up a brand new ride came along, I finally jumped.  It’s a new Giant TCR Advanced.   The frame is a big step up in quality for me.  It’s responsive in a big way when jumping on the pedals or moving up a hill – not that I’m fast on either of those counts, but I can tell a difference from the less rigid bottom bracket on the aluminum Felt. 

After an April spent retracing flat, windswept local roads near home, I headed up to SW Wisconsin over the weekend to see if my legs could still handle the hills.  Slow as I was and as tough as the wind was from the NNW, I did feel pretty good getting up the roads, such as Pinnacle, Lake View, Mounds Park, and Braun.  A bit of this feeling better I attribute to the solid response from the bike.  A bit of it I attribute to having a bailout of 34x28 on the Ultegra 11 speed.  I’ve been riding a 11-26 cassette,  for a long time on the Felt, so those extra two teeth on the 11-28 make a big difference when faced with sitting down and grinding gears up 15+% of rough pavement.

The wind was fierce, so it wasn’t a day to break any downhill records.  The long descent on County F from Brigham Park down to County J felt like the wind-buffeted ride off of Grand Mesa back in 2009.  A forcefully headwind made me feel like I was slowing down on the descent of Barlow Rd.  I think I hit ~51 mph there, but without the wind I might have had a new personal land speed record.  There’s always next time.

In any case, it was excellent to get back into the hills after being away for over two years.  The bummer being that our old friends at Uphill Grind Coffee & Bikes are no longer serving the Cross Plains area.  When I win the big lottery, I’m putting them back in business.

More to come (famous last blog words).

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Leland Pavement/Gravel Extravaganza

What’s a Kermesse and why is there one taking place in a nice little town like Leland, anyway?

I signed up for this race partly as a favor to
Rob to put more red and black kits on the line. I registered for my USAC license just so I could register for this race. And I registered about 20 minutes before the Cat 5’s filled. You’re welcome, boss.

I signed up for this race partly as a motivator of my own. It seems that everyone around is starting to race (or started racing in the last year or two). The training they are doing was leaving me in the dust. I needed something to kick me out the door and get real miles before April or I’d forever be dropped. So let’s do this thing already.

There wasn’t a cloud in the sky for the race, but gone were the unusual April 60 to 70 degree days with which we’d been spoiled. A steady strong NNW wind was in effect across empty Spring farmland. 50 riders started the Cat 5 race. The four of us in Psimet kit rolled out near the front. I hung out in the left line to keep out of the wind for the first part of the circuit.

As we turned north, riders started getting buffeted around by the wind and some were finding themselves in the grass. Pavement is good.

The race hit the first gravel section and things just went wonky. People got tentative and there was a lot of survival mode happening. I admit I felt a bit of gravel trepidation on that first go round. I just planted myself in the saddle and pushed a bigger gear to keep steady. I saw a few riders go down, but I kept it upright and stayed in line. That trepidation about getting into the looser stuff cost me before the long section ended. I saw the BH boys fly by on the left. A minute later I see Arron and Matt do the same. I should have jumped out there and tagged along.

By the time we saw the
Lion of Flanders snapping high in the breeze signaling the resuming of pavement, I was still in sight of the first and second groups. I could see Matt and Arron chasing. I could have buried myself to catch them, but I know that would have been worthless. I would have been completely gassed and been dropped, anyway. So I just turned the pedals best I could and soldiered on to the southbound gravel and picked off a few riders along the way.

The southbound gravel sections were much easier to handle than the northbound. More compact surface and a blessed tailwind to assist. By the second lap I started working with a guy from Spider Monkey to handle the crosswind and eventually we caught up with a few other riders, one each from Half Acre, WDT, and Joe’s Cycles. Working together helped make the second and third circuits easier to handle. I need to throw a big shout out to Jason of WDT for basically pulling the rest of us through the last 2/3 of the final lap. I wish I could have done more up there.

We came across the line 16th through 20th out of 40 who finished.

Again, no good shots of me to be found, but here’s one that happened just behind me on the first gravel. Matt and Arron going by like nothing’s wrong.

(photo credit: John Firak: link)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

GDVC Mad Town Crit Action

While the bulk of the Psimet Racing Team was downstate on Saturday to race Hillsboro-Roubaix, I snuck north of the cheese curtain to Madison to ride my first crits on Sunday. I learned a bit, held on for the most part, and most importantly kept the rubber on the road.

The course was in a business park and maybe a half mile around, maybe a touch more. Two of the corners were downhill, the finish was a little uphill. We had the whole width to work with. During the 5's I was on the inside taking corners pretty tight the whole way around. 20 minutes of go go go for those youngsters. I was finding out where I was falling back and where it was easiest to make up lots of ground. At one point midway a kid in front of me was moving up on the inside and for no reason cut back into the pack. I saw a wheel get clipped, but wasn't sure if anyone went down. I kept on going and yelled at the kid. I think somebody crashed, but by the time we came back around it had been cleared or they were back on the bike.

With two laps to go I somehow got shuffled up to the front and was pissed that I basically pulling up the end straight to the bell. I let up a little. I should have just punched it and taken off. Instead I got shuffled to the back and wound up pretty much the last rider on the lead group 20th place out of 47 or so starters. Alright for the first 20 minutes of racing, I guess.

The Masters 4/5 was 35 minutes long and I was in there with Matt from Bicycle Heaven, who had just finished taking the 4’s with a nice come from behind sprint. I worked the outside lines more in this race and found that carrying more speed there helped me to get a free pull up the little hills that followed the downhill corners. A couple of times I almost fell off the back, but latched back on to keep with the lead group.

At a few points Matt was chatting with me about the pace of this one versus the pace of the 5’s. That I was able to chat back to him hopefully meant I was doing something right and not completely going full tilt halfway through the race. With 4 laps to go Matt let me know the pace was about to ratchet up a few notches. He was right, but staying in the draft made it tolerable.

I fell off a bit with two corners to go as the afterburners were lit by the more experienced riders. I had the final corner pretty much to myself and took it pretty conservatively / wide. As I was right in the middle of it I saw the guy in front of me start getting squirrelly and then his front wheel went sideways. I darted as far to the right as I could and remember yelling “OH S***!!” but missing him. I saw him go down and then from the corner of my eye caught another rider plowing into the down rider. I did not look back and kept going for the line. All I could think was if I did that someone might be behind me. No good in looking backwards at that point.

After the finish (23rd in this one) I saw a rider in a familiar kit roll up on my left. It was our old buddy Dave from Fond du Lac. Hadn’t seen him in a few years and it was good to know he missed the incident.

Was hoping I’d get in some of the
Peloton-Pix shots, but I couldn’t find any action shots.

This Saturday’s the
Leland gravel fest. That’s going to hurt.

Friday, March 19, 2010


It is time to move the efforts outside. It is time for the 2010 cycling season. Time to prepare for the next challange.

One question remains though; Will Tim ever wrap up his BTC 2009 thoughts?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Day 7 - Buena Vista to Glenwood Springs via Independence Pass

Another huge climb loomed for the 103 mile final day, along with the start of the drive home to Illinois, so Arron set his alarm for 4:00 am hoping we could get a jump on the day.

I slept like junk the night in Buena Vista. I thought I heard an alarm sound and next thing I know Arron’s telling me it’s 4:30. Alright. Stumble around getting ready/packed and when I find my phone, the time reads 3:45 am. Seriously? I mean, really?? Yes. Arron’s phone somehow kicked ahead an hour, so we’re up and ready to go but it’s still pitch black outside. We loafed around getting the bikes ready and then parked it in the cafeteria to wait for some daylight.

Is it 5:00 am, yet?

Around 5:30 we headed north on US-24 out of Buena Vista. Temps were between 45-50 degrees as the massive Collegiate peaks to our left kept us in shadows for an hour.* Mounts Yale, Columbia, Harvard, Oxford. All the schools Arron and I turned down to study in the heart of Illinois.
*edit - I realize now that this sentence would make sense if the sun rose in the west. Duh.

A headwind and a steady rise along the headwaters of the Arkansas River kept our pace slow. We could see sunlight on the mountains to our right, but only occasionally would we get any of its warmth when the sun popped out between peaks. At mile 20 we took a left turn onto CO-82, which we’d follow all the way back to Glenwood Springs.

Along US-24 with the early risers.

At the first rest stop we met up with Portage Park and his crew (whom we had dubbed Team Budvar for the jerseys they were sporting on Day 2). Five of us headed out from the stop with La Plata Peak on our left and Colorado’s tallest peak Mount Elbert on our right. Both mountains top out over 14,300 feet. Soon it was just Portage Park, Arron, and I. Then Portage Park took off up the valley.

Mt. Elbert cloaked in clouds

More Mt. Elbert
The pass is open for business.

Arron and I rode along the incredible valley winding around the south base of Mount Elbert. The forest was thick with pines and firs as we passed the gate that closes the pass for most of the year. The elevation kicked up to 10,000 feet or so and soon we saw the road take a sweeping left turn and like a scar cut across the side of the mountain in front of us. I knew I’d be on my own for the ride to the top of the pass as Arron found his legs and took off ahead.

The view from this part of the climb was spectacular. The rock face sloping up on the right and a drop off to the left getting bigger by the pedal stroke as I passed the official ride photographers (“Remember Blue and 8:40!” they holler). The air chilled considerably and a waterfall of snowmelt loomed up ahead, but the road switched back before we got that far. I was riding pretty steady passing a few people and getting passed by a couple of wicked fast riders along the way. After one switchback I heard Arron’s voice from up above, but didn’t understand what he was saying. At least he was within earshot and I’m not totally dropped like on Cottonwood and Grand Mesa!

The climb went on for a long time, but seemed to go by in a blink for me. Soon painted on the road I read: “Fajitas: 3 Miles” and eventually “Fajitas: 1 Mile.” At this point the trees are nowhere to be found and then Cowbell Cathy is there at the final switchback yelling: “8/10 of a mile to go!! You’re so inSPIRing!!” Thanks Cowbell Cathy! You’re pretty inspiring, too, standing there all day by your lonesome cheering on the riders.

Snow fields are popping up and I see a couple of figures dancing around on the side of the road. It’s Portage Park and Arron. Arron’s got a camera in hand, so I upshifted to a bigger gear, jumped out of the saddle, and rocked it to the apex of Independence Pass. 12,095 feet and the top of the world as far as I was concerned. I let out a huge “YEAH!!” as I glided into the second rest stop at the top of the pass.

Top of the pass meant time for requisite photo op at the elevation sign. It was cool to get a shot with both of us on the final day. Thanks for waiting, Arron! Load up on some salty snacks from the food tents and we’re ready to basically coast down to Aspen.

The descent was dramatic. The top portion sliced across the mountain with a huge left turn visible from far away. Sketchy pavement with tons of bumps and holes (many marked in orange by the BTC crew). And it was cold downhill. Arron was out front and all over his brakes and I was doing my best to stay a good distance back without burning up the rims.

When we got back into the trees the road curved, narrowed, and just kept on going down for 17 miles. There was tons of traffic, much of which was trucks w/ campers crowding the lanes, so there was nowhere really to let it all hang out and fly as was the case coming off of Cottonwood Pass the day before. My top speed on the day was a mere 42.0 mph. When the signs said “Road Narrows” they meant it. Outcroppings to the right, steep drop offs to the left and only a guardrail to keep things in perspective.

Just before Aspen was the third and final rest stop of the week. We got there so fast, but it was a welcome break. I needed it to relax my tensed body and shaking legs/toes. Arron hops of his bike and just says, “My brakes are CASHED.” Crazy stuff.

The last 50 miles of the ride went through the town of Aspen and continued along Hwy 82 all the way to Glenwood Springs. Even though we were on a busy divided highway, this ride was completely opposite of the Grand Junction to Montrose slog of day 3. For one we were cruising ~21 or 22 mph for much of the way following a river to our right and great mountain scenery all around. The final 20 miles did seem to take forever, but soon we were back at Sopris Elementary and our 2009 BTC was at a successful end.

All the bags were laid out in the parking lot and ours were right at the front. No searching, no problem. We did run across our old buddy Gun Show in the lot. He was hopping out of a car gushing to his companion about what a great ride BTC had been. Yeah, right big guy, next time try riding all of it! There’s no way no day that he had ridden the whole 103 miles of Day 7’s route. Then again, we saw tons of people hopping the SAG vans throughout the whole week. For us it just did not compute why they were skipping some of the best parts of the route. I guess that’s their business and they can post it to their blogs, right?

Anyway, Arron went to get the car, we piled everything in, stopped at Wendy’s to refuel (Double with cheese, big fries, big Dr. Pepper!), and then hit the road for home. More on the ride home in a post to follow.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Cottonwood Pass redux

Never fear. I'm almost done with my day 7 ride report, but found this and thought it was cool.

To contrast with my last post, here's a picture in the last few weeks at the top of Cottonwood Pass. Found this out at and hope Colorado Guy doesn't mind if I repost it here....

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Day Six - Crested Butte to Buena Vista via Cottonwood Pass

(apologies for this extremely tardy entry)

Friday was BTC’s unofficial Gert Steegmans Appreciation Day. And a day to heed the following we had heard from more than one source: On a big climb day, get up and off the pass early.

The chilly 8000 foot temps at 6:00 am and anticipated climb to the highest point of the week had me going a bit overkill on clothing. In addition to the usual bibs, jersey, vest arm and knee warmers, I had on the only wool jersey I own (New Belgium merino!) and my old ratty PI tights. The added warmth was welcome at the start of the day. Arron was sporting his Quick Step Belgian champion look.

Hey, man, you didn’t earn that jersey!

One little kick up the hill out of Crested Butte just after 6 a.m. and we were headed downhill south toward Gunnison with a turnoff at Almont. The leg was an effortless warm up for the coming ascent along the Taylor River.

The canyon was really beautiful, lined with steep slopes filled with fir trees. The road was a really buzzy chip seal / rock tar combo. This is where we saw Arron’s doppelganger sporting an identical Belgian champ jersey. If I recall correctly we were just about to the first rest stop when we passed him. A minute or so later this guy passes us in full on attack mode, but does so by riding between the two of us. What the heck, man?

After a quick break we followed the river through canyons and a few remote ranches tucked away in the mountains.

Taylor River on the left.

Along the way we were passed by Tough Guy, who was desperately stuck on the wheel of Dr. Colorado. Tough Guy could usually be seen wandering the gym camping letting people know that that there was only one real challenging day on the week’s route. He was pretty cocky and wasn’t afraid to let anyone know he was a tough guy.

Tough Guy sucking some wheel.

22 miles later the river was dammed and the road tipped up to meet Taylor Reservoir. We road up above it on a ridge for a hundred or so feet and then swooped back down across a bridge, around another ridge, and to the second aid station. With Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” piping over the sound system we made it a pretty quick stop. My right shoulder blade was aching so I got a few Aleve from the medical station wagon. Skies behind us were looking a bit gray.

The road tilts up just past the dam.

A bit higher we go above the reservoir.

Clouds gathering over the lake at the western end of the pass. Rest stop two.

Upon leaving we hit the start of the 14 miles of dirt road that make up the western end of Cottonwood Pass. I took a quick video of us riding the semi-washboard. After a couple of miles The sun was out and I was burning up with too much warm clothing. Arron was jumping ahead and I could sense I wasn’t going to stay with him the whole climb (like on Grand Mesa) so I told him to go for it. I stopped to take off the wool jersey and stuff it into the back of my vest.

Sunny skies at the start of the dirt road.

The climb up Cottonwood was steady and not too steep. The road was bumpy, but the dirt was dry so traction was not an issue. I noted that I was riding between 6 and 8 mph. That sounds slow in retrospect. There were a lot more trucks/trailers/cars on the pass than I had expected, but they gave a wide birth to riders. Again the Colorado troopers were riding up and down the route to assist.

On the way up I spotted yet another rider sporting a QS Belgian Champion jersey. Was there a sale that I missed or something??

The 14 miles of the climb are marked from 0 at the reservoir counting up as the road approaches the top of the pass. At one point more than halfway up I reached into my vest pocket for the last of a Vanilla Crisp Power Bar. My glove stuck in the pocket and when I wrenched it free with bar remnant in hand, the wrapper went flying. Crap. I stopped and rode back down about 50 feet to reclaim the wrapper. That’s all I needed was to be riding down the pass before riding back up the pass!

A few miles from the top of Cottonwood Pass.

As the trees started to fade, the wind made it cold on my bare arms and unzipped vest. The turns in the road could be seen farther in the distance cutting across the side of the mountain dividing fields of dirty late June snow. Around mile marker 13 our good buddy Cowbell Cathy was rattling away letting us know there was only a mile to the top. Across one final ridge with a steep drop off on the right and I hit the top of Cottonwood Pass. 12,126 feet. That’s pretty high.

This shot's for the folks back at Uphill Grind Bicycles & Coffee.

I spent some time wandering around, getting the requisite pictures of the bike with the continental divide sign, me with the sign, a random kid playing on a summer snow pile, and the gathering clouds off in the distance from which we just climbed. Bob Seger’s “Roll Me Away” started playing on the sound system, which was a perfect choice. “Staring out at the great divide. I could go east, I could go west, It was all up to me to decide.”

In reality, though, there wasn’t much of a decision. Behind me was a dirt road and ominous weather. Ahead was a sweeping swath of pavement leading to the east. I cleaned the tires off with the palm of my glove and glided down toward Buena Vista, the Ramones “Blitzkrieg Bop” replacing Seger. Hmmm… Bob Seger > Ramones. That’s some juxtaposition there.

Looking back to the west from top of Cottonwood Pass.

Summertime snow fun. Eastern side of the top of the pass.
Stay on top of the pile, kid. That's a steep drop on the other side!

Start of the eastern side of Cottonwood Pass. Pavement!!
The descent off of Cottonwood was magnificent. The top few miles had some twists and turns. Somewhere along the way there was what I could only describe as a small speed bump across the road. I kind of hopped it and kept rolling, but that’s a bit scary at 40+ mph. The middle to bottom section of the pass had steeper straighter sections of pavement. At one point I looked down to see I was just floating along at 52 – 53 mph. This wasn’t the quick 50+mph downhills like we ride in Wisconsin, but went on for a long time. Thrilling.

The whole way to Buena Vista was fast. I got to the high school, found Arron, and set up camp. Tough Guy was in the gym holding court while downing a 64 oz recovery cola from the local Loaf & Jug. After settling in we headed out to find. Walking to the nearby Subway we looked back toward the pass to see the rain clouds enveloping the valley. By the time we made it across the street it was pouring rain. We had beaten the storm.
The pictures below were taken within a couple of minutes. The mountains just disappear by the third photo.

Where did the mountains go??!??
There were plenty of other riders who did not have such luck with the storm. Riders were coming into the gym shivering and blue. I loaned my wool jersey to one person who was without dry clothes while waiting for their gear to arrive. We heard stories of riders who were ferried down off the pass huddled in the back of the big yellow Penske moving vans used for SAG support. Sounded miserable, but I guess it was safer than them trying to descend a 12,000 foot pass in freezing rain.
Later in the afternoon the sun came back out and baked things back to summer. We wandered out again to grab lattes at Bronco Billy’s Buena Vista CafĂ©. They had wi-fi. So we sat and read the Denver Post’s coverage of the death of Michael Jackson and just chilled. I had a bowl of Red Pepper Bisque for dinner. It was pretty good.

View southwest of town to 14,197 foot Mount Princeton after the storm.

The view northwest of Mount Columbia and Mount Harvard from Bongo Billy's Buena Vista Cafe.

Only one more day to go and another 12,000 foot monster pass to climb before we head home.