Monday, January 30, 2012


Like many others, I used this pejorative to describe Levi's tactics. But I've gotten away from describing him negatively, mainly because he has recently shown (or possibly because the tv coverage has shown) he can do more than follow. I wouldn't even bring this up but I ignored my own directive and read some of the comments following an article on A short aside: 95% of the comments are mindless rants and the few that are thoughtfully presented are quickly and soundly criticized by more mindless rants.

Let's define wheelsucker: A person who follows the wheel of others in order to save energy in their draft, which also helps in pacing. That's what team leaders are supposed to do, up to a point. Their teammates expend maximum energy to deliver the leader to the last climb, or in the case of sprinters, to anywhere from 500 to 100 meters from the finish. But that is not what we are talking about here.

Cadel and Levi are similar in their climbing style, in that they lack the speedy acceleration of Contador or Schleck, but instead generally do a gradual increase. After all, you cannot do what your body cannot do, you do what you can. But what gained both of them (possibly unfairly) the wheelsucker tag was their lack of initiative when the opportunity presented itself. Sometimes it was team tactics, or lack of team, sometimes it was a poor choice, sometimes it was because they had no more juice in the legs. Once Cadel moved to BMC and had a real, dedicated, well-coached team, he proved he was a winner. We still haven't seen a lightning acceleration, but we have seen him motor away from folks. When Levi left Schleck in Colorado last year, it wasn't like he was gone in a puff of smoke (yes, he did accelerate). He just saw the opportunity and kept the hammer down.

Most of the time Levi didn't have to win the climbs because his tt skills more than made up for it. In a multi-day race, unproductive energy expenditure is a serious waste. If you only have X amount of energy, it must be apportioned appropriately. Enough of this, I just wanted to expel it from my mind and I promise not to read any more comments.

We have at least four super teams that should make the racing season extremely exciting. Truthfully, my guy is Horner. After that, I just want to see really good cycling.

Monday, January 23, 2012


But before I do, let me relate that on the way back from Saturday's ride, I saw in the distance at least a dozen white-robed folks, including their heads, all milling around in a tight circle in a field. My first thought was: S**T, a KKK gathering right here in Williamson County! Fortunately, traffic was light because I really focused on what the heck they were doing. As I got closer, I saw a van with the word HONEY in big letters, then realized everyone wore a white beekeeper outfit, then saw the bee hives. Ok, excitement over.

I really don't like riding on Saturday. But I agreed to ride with Amy on the Weir Lost ride out of Old Settlers Park at 9am. At 8:30am I opened the garage door and prepared to leave, felt the cold, damp, north wind and called Amy to ask (beg, whine, implore) if we could postpone the ride a few hours. The temperature was mid 40's, but the forecasted partly-cloudy day had yet to materialize, with the clouds still low and heavy. She agreed. I'd check back at 11am.

I really, really don't like riding on Saturday afternoon. At 11:15am I called and said it looked like 12:30pm would be a good time. The temperature had only risen a few degrees, but the clouds were thinning out and by the time we started should produce a few patches of blue.

The Weir Lost ride has 30 mile and 50 mile options. I only wanted to do 40 miles or 3 hours, whichever came first. About twenty minutes into the ride, I mis-remembered the upcoming segment as not being very smooth and suggested a different route. This cut out about 8 miles (of the 50), plus put us onto very familiar roads. The wind was out of the northeast, and we were headed north and east, and generally, uphill. Needless to say, our mph proceeded at pedestrian pace. As we travelled along, now off the route but certainly not lost, we jetisoned a few more miles.

Finally we reached the eastern most point and turned west, no longer directly into the wind. A mile or so further we reached the northern most point and stopped to refuel (and for me, being old and cold, a nature break). I also removed my long-fingered gloves and wind jacket. Refreshed, I reminded Amy to hit her lap key because the trip back would be much faster.

We did a lot of big-ring pedaling. Downhill, wind generally at our backs, about ten degrees warmer than when we started, and much more enjoyable. As it turned out, we totalled 38 miles in 2 hours, 58 minutes. Close enough.

Oh, the repeating thing: Friends and variation. Friends will get you off the couch when you would rather blow it off. Variation keeps you interested (although only part of this ride was new to me). If you need incentive, find some friends and don't be afraid to go/do something new.

For the Sunday ride I joined the Jack & Adams group from downtown Austin. They rotate three rides, and this time Decker Lake became the objective, which meant going through a lot of east Austin. The city paved 2nd street and the new asphalt provided a very smooth beginning. I rode with the Intermediate group, which averages 16-18mph (except when they do 20-22+). The thermometer showed 47 degrees when left home. I had tights and three layers on my chest. This group takes no prisoners. While I had no problem hanging with them, even though I went over to McDonalds to empty my bladder just before we pushed off, about 45 minutes into the ride I received an urgent call. Actually, about 35 minutes in I received the call and it took another 10 to find a reasonably remote spot to again empty the bladder. Going, going, going. By the time I had remounted, they were just a blip down the road.

I had the wind at my back. I had my aero bars. I was quicker on the hills. After 20 minutes of chasing I caught up. It might have taken 25 but they stopped at a stop sign to regroup and have an energy bar break. Anyhow, the sun finally made an appearance and turned this into a nice 32 mile morning ride. I didn't wait around and socialize afterwards, because my bladder called.

Monday morning I did weights at Gold's in the morning and my normal 32 mile ride starting around noon. Because the forecast called for 70 degrees (61 when I left the house), I assumed the light wind would be from the south. It wasn't all that light, and it was from the northeast (still). Out in 63 minutes, back in 53. Tomorrow it is supposed to rain, so I'll be back in the gym or on the trainer, or both.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


A few weeks ago I removed the aerobars from the road bike. This is no easy task, I didn't get the top-of-the-line, easy-to-install types. My previous ones only lasted about seven years, but they were the kind that flipped up and gave you an extra hand position fairly close to the stem. When I replaced them, I went for a more sleek look. Unfortunately, if I wanted that extra hand position, I now had to hold on to the arm rests. So, I figured I'd be doing shorter or slower rides in the winter, plus my weekly hill routine, and therefore took them off.

The weather is not cold, but there is more wind. In looking at my ride stats, I can see how much time I'm losing against the wind. Time, in and of itself, is not the problem. I've never done well in the wind, and my stats tell the tale: I can't get my heart rate up to attain a decent workout. It may be all in my head, but when I try to go hard against the wind, my quads rebel and either go limp or cramp. Bah!

This morning the aerobars were re-installed. Generally, they give me an extra 2 mph against the wind, but more importantly, in cheating the wind, my legs are much happier and so I can work them harder, ergo the heart-rate goes up.

I'd like to report that in this 80 degree, slight wind day, I had a great ride. What I had was several appointments during the day and my only contact with the bike involved installing the aerobars. Maybe tomorrow.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


Under 65 degrees, cover the knees. Especially if the sun isn't shining and/or there is a wind. This maxim did not originate with me. I read it about 20 years ago (Alex Steida or Davis Phinney or somebody else), and have followed it faithfully, although I might fudge 5 degrees if the sun is bright and there isn't any wind.

One thing that did originate with me, however, is having three layers on your chest under 65 degrees, with any wind at all, in the winter. I just got in from my standard 31 mile ride. It was 58 degrees, sunshine, wind out of the northwest. I wore shorts, tights, base layer, jersey, and wind vest. I was not too hot. Arriving home I had ginger tea and 500mg vitamin C, also stretched. Don't wait for the sniffles before taking action.

On another note, I just received notice of a race in early February. Based on yesterday's tt practice, I don't think I'm ready for prime time in three weeks. But I haven't read all the details, and haven't had a couple more practices, so I'm not ruling it completely out.