Group Rides

Join us for evening indoor training rides on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 5:30pm at the Recycle Bicycle Shop in downtown Ellensburg.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A great weekend

A couple of posts back I mentioned how I was trying to cope with getting older. Well, for a brief period this past Saturday, I forgot about the age and experienced the action of riding/racing in a large group of riders.

Saturday was the 29th annual I Made The Grade in Clarkston, WA. The ride is a short 17.5 mile course with a 6.5 - 7 mile climb out of the valley at the end. The final climb covers approximatley 1837 feet of elevation change. Ellensburg was represented by three riders - myself, Chris Bruya and John Brown. For John this was his 5th time at the ride, my second (and first in 25 yrs) and Chris' first time.

For most people the ride is a fun and social event. For probably 20-30 of us it's a serious racing event with a lot of jockeying for position before the hill. I chose to ride my 1984 Gitane Tour de France, Chris was on his beautiful red and white Sekai and John had a blue and white Specialized Roubaix.

The lead group jumped out pretty quick and suddenly settled into a slow pace at around 19-20 miles per hour. It seemed nobody really wanted to get out and lead the group to the hill. So, after a couple of miles about 5 of us got serious and picked the pace up to 23.5 to 24 mph. It was a blast to be in this group and riding just inches off the wheel of the rider in front of me.
I think we all had a nice sense of accomplishment after the ride and enjoyed the best part - riding back down to the start finish.

Next year is the 30th anniversary of the ride and we need some more Ellensburg representation.

The truck loaded with our family "team" bikes

At the top of the hill

Chris Bruya before the start

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Cancer and doping had an article last week about 3 time Tour de France champion Laurent Fignon and his fight with intestinal cancer. You can read it here. I have several thoughts on this article and some of the comments contained in it. I was never a huge fan of Fignon but I did really enjoy the battles he had while racing, especially with Greg Lemond.

First, if Fignon's book is really going to get into the doping he's done and how rampant it has been, and probably still is, then I'd be real interested in reading it. Let's hope it is translated to English.

Second, fans are living in a make believe world to think cheating is not rampant in the elite levels of sports. Cycling has had plenty of scandals, and deaths, related to doping. Athletes and teams have proven repeatedly they'll do whatever to get an edge - sometimes it's legal, but pushing the rules and other times it not legal at all.

Tyler Hamilton just received an 8 year suspension for his latest battle with a positive test. Alex Stieda wrote about the temptation of doping in Bicycling magazine. And, now Fignon brings it up. Positive tests for doping/steroids/whatever you want to call it have come up in baseball, cycling, track and field, football, etc. There have even been reports of steroid use in professional golf. I don't know if that's true, but it wouldn't surprise me. At the elite level of sports, with so much on the line (aka money) cheating will always be present.

Third, from an average athlete's perspective all the risk of doping and performance enhancing drugs just doesn't seem to be worth it. I remember being approached about using steroids when I was doing bodybuilding training. Tempting? Of course, it was. Did I do it? Heck, no. I viewed it as cheating and wasn't willing to use them. I was around a couple of guys in college who did use steroids and I didn't like what I saw. However, for elite athletes who may see it as that little bit of an extra edge, I can understand why you'd take it.

Fourth, does doping cause cancer? Who knows. I'm sure it doesn't help but it is way too soon to jump to that conclusion. There are too many things these days that might or might not cause cancer.

Fifth, my thoughts and prayers go out to Laurent Fignon for a speedy recovery. We need voices like his still out there in the cycling world to hopefully help clean up the sport.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Struggling with getting older

As my fitness continues to improve so does my frustration. It's probably a frustration that we all have at some point as we age. It takes longer to get in good shape, requires harder work to maintain it and is easier to overtrain.

I crossed 1,000 miles in training for the year today. That's not much for folks who commute by bike everyday, but I don't have that luxury. So, my fitness comes in 20 to 25 mile increments with occasional days in the 40 to 50 mile range. I have also found I can't have two hard days in a row. That realization really hit home today during my ride. I rode 46 total miles yesterday with much of it into the teeth of a 20 mph wind and a slight uphill grade. The temperatures were close to 90 degrees Farenheit and despite drinking two bottles of Gatorade and one of water I was pretty wiped out when I got home. Today the legs felt a little sore but overall not too bad when I started my ride. Then I got to the hills and the bottom dropped out. I just had no power and it all was revolving around the fatigue in my legs. It was depressing to think I couldn't do what I wanted today. But, at the same time, it was another learning experience. Instead of light, slower rides for "off days" I actually take an off day and stay off the bike completely. I am fresher the next day and have an easier time maintaining speed.

On the positive side, my average speed continues to increase. Last year I struggled to maintain 18.5 to 19 mph averages. With a large family I don't have the disposable cash for heart rate monitors or power meters so I do the best I can. I've added some interval training for the first time and climb at least one decent hill a week. With this work my averages, over the same routes, and with similar conditions, are now consistently between 19.5 and 20.5 mph. My body is getting stronger. The other benefit is I continue to drop weight. My goal is to get back to between 150 and 155 lbs - a good hill climbing weight for me. I started the year in January around 175 and am down to 164 at the last check.

Continue working hard and you'll see the progress. As difficult as it is, learn to embrace the wind (ok - anything 20 mph or less) and train with it. It definitely makes you stronger. And, above all have fun.

The Giro is over

The last stage - an individual time trial - at the Giro d'Italia was completed yesterday with Russian Dennis Menchov holding on to the overall win, despite falling with 700 meters to go in the race. The roads were rough, wet and very slick and, in the blink of an eye, Menchov's front wheel shot out from underneath him and he hit the ground sliding between 30 and 40 feet before stopping. His team mechanic had a back up bike off the team car extremely fast and Menchov was back up and riding within about 10 seconds. Quite an intense finish to a tough, tough race. Many of the mountain stages had gradients of 11 to 13% in places and one stage had a 16% grade the riders had to climb.

Some overall observations about Americans in the race - Lance Armstrong was visibly getting stronger as the race progressed. By the last few mountain stages he was riding longer and longer up the climbs before being dropped by the leaders. It will be interesting to see if this race took too much out of him only 5 or 6 weeks before the Tour de France starts. Levi Leipheimer continues to struggle in the grand tours. Wenatchee's Tyler Farrar had a good showing in the sprints and it will be fun to watch his progress in the Tour de France.

On another note, Americans have some good looking prospects coming into their own for future professional careers. The most notable is Taylor Phinney who, this past weekend, won the junior version of the infamous Paris-Roubaix race that covers some of the nastiest roads you'll see in bicycle racing.

It should be a fun summer of bicycle racing on the pro circuits. Finally, for some fun racing action check out the Friday night race series at the Marymoor Velodrome in Redmond, WA.