Tuesday, February 28, 2017


     But first, an update on my cassette problem, now solved.  There was nothing wrong with my 11 tooth cog.  It seems that in shifting cassettes back and forth, I managed to switch the Dura Ace lock ring from the CS 7900,  Yes, this fits a ten-cog cassette but with a 12 tooth cog.  For the 11 tooth you need a little more space for the chain to engage.  Thanks to Paul at Bicycle Sport Shop for sleuthing this out.  For the flat course in College Station, I wasn't even close to needing it, however it will come into play shortly.
     After last year's poor showing, I worked real hard on improving in the off-season.  Actually, I intended to work hard but coming into February, my training had been sporadic, with nothing long.  Then came the six-hour two-man "race" at Pace Bend.  I was very pleased with my endurance, not so much with the speed.  I put long distance on the shelf for a while and worked on cadence and repeats.  Also, every year except last year I went to spin class once a week.  This year I'm back to being a regular.
     I didn't bring enough cold-weather gear.  Mid-40's with a slight north-east wind.  That's in-your-face for the 5k and back-left-shoulder for the finish of the 10k.  I had tights and arm warmers plus a base layer.  I had a wind breaker.  I needed my heavy bike jacket.  The Redskin pullover would have to do until race time.  My warm-up in College Station is the same: ride the 10k course, which is one lap with four right turns and a slight uphill toward the finish.  The 5k runs south-to-north, point-to-point.  About half way through I realized my body was quite comfortable with the temperature and the wind not so bad.  I guesstimated twenty-two minutes to get back to the car; it took twenty-five minutes forty-eight seconds.  I took that as an omen (but after getting home and checking last year, it was two seconds faster).
     There is no drama with this race.  It runs quite smoothly, everyone doing their job.  I get a little antsy before a race, and usually forget something.  For the 5k, I was ready early and rode the mile or so to the start line and twiddled for about fifteen minutes.  I figured out which gear to start in, and reviewed my strategy: high cadence for the first half, and more gears for the second (it has downhills).  This worked to my advantage, in that for the first time ever, there was an "oopsy" and the finish line was set up at 1.77 miles rather than 3.1.  A really short race.  As it turned out, my time was good enough for first place.  Last year Dean beat me.  Regular readers know that Dean and I have been competing since 2004, and team up for team time trials, either two-man or three-man.  We came in second in 2009, the last time we didn't come in first.
     Things happen, we got over it and prepared for the 10k.  By the way, for the races I divested myself of the pullover and the wind jacket and had tight clothes to cheat the wind.  I was fairly sure I would come in first.  For whatever reason, I changed my start-strategy and went with the small chain ring and mid-range cog.  With a slight wind at my back, I figured to bring it up to speed quicker that way.  Should have known better than to trust that shift.  I accelerated quickly and pulled the lever.  Nothing happened.  More pull, more nothing.  Pook, ding-fu!!  Flashing in my head was me doing the whole thing cross-chaining in the small cogs.  I moved down a gear and the front derailleur had pity on me.  I concentrated on cadence into the right-shoulder wind, a right turn and some downhill into the wind, then finally some relief on the last right turn and a favorable wind.  I surprised myself how low in the cogs I was going.  Even going up a grade I held a decent gear, and still had a little oomph at the end.  I'm still waiting for the official times, but my best guess is, even finishing first, I'm about fifteen seconds slower than last year.

     We had about an hour before the start of the 20k road race.  Usually I skip the 20k and do the 40k, figuring my competitors will have tired their legs.  But with my lack of distance training, this year I decided to do the 20k.  I switched out my front wheel, going with the Zipp 404 from the time trial bike.  In the past I would also change the back wheel, but not this year.
     There weren't many competitors doing the road race, so it was divided into 64-and-under and 65-and-over for the start.  We stayed in our 5-year categories, but it was just me and Dean in the 75-79 group.  Since we started in 2004 I've never beaten Dean.  I've won two road races, one at State, but in those Dean wasn't there.  Mostly I finish last or at least not close to the winner.  It's still fun.  Anyway, when going with the faster young guys (and gal), my only priority was not to get dropped early.  Therefore I expended a lot of energy finding a wheel (most of the time my other team time trial partner Tom) and staying in the draft.  This is twice the 10k loop, and all went according to plan.  That is, the young guys didn't get serious until a couple miles from the end, so I stayed fourth or fifth wheel for the first loop.  Starting the second lap a gap opened and before I could come around and close it, someone else did.  We were still together, but now the four older folks were in the back, and I was last, resigned to my fate.
     On the back side, into the wind, the leaders tried some leg-breakers.  That worked out well for me, in that I needed the breather.  The last right turn and I started gearing down, knowing the acceleration was about to come.  It did, but not as devastating as I expected.  We were still hanging together.  About a half mile from the end is an incline where I thought I'd be waving good-bye.  Well, the young guys were gone, but us four were together.  It would come down to a sprint, slightly uphill.  Since I was in the back, I should have been first to jump.  Because of my past experiences of poor finishes, I waited until everyone else jumped.  However, I had time to get into a good, low gear, so when I ramped up the cadence, I found myself passing Dean and Deb (national champion in Cleveland, four races, four gold).  The one in front (Gerry) wasn't in our age group, so I managed my third gold in a road race.
     I can't say enough good about Brazos Valley and the College Station Parks and Rec Department.  They are easy to work with, have dedicated volunteers, and a good race course. The 5k hiccup was disappointing, but I didn't detect any rancor from the racers.  Things happen, get over it.

Thursday, February 9, 2017


     My previous post described the switching I did to get my road bike (Roark) ready to race.  Well, after the race I needed to reverse actions to get things back to normal.  In my first book,  Bicycle Journeys with Jerry, I opine that I'm a mechanical klutz and other than keeping the chain lubricated, leave maintenance to the mechanics at Bicycle Sport Shop.  I've progressed since then, but still require help when things get technical.
     It seemed straightforward, take off the two cassettes and put them back on to their regular wheels.  I used the Park chain whip without a problem removed the cassette from the Zipp and cleaned the cogs before remounting them on the Rolf wheels.  The time trial cogs, mounted on the Rolf wheels as an emergency back-up, came off-and-on in one smooth action.  I was rather happy at how easy it was.
      I put the Roark on the rack, spun the cranks and ran the chain up and down the cogs.  Smooth.  Ready to roll.  I put the Felt on the rack, spun the cranks, smooth.  Until I got to the 12 tooth cog (smallest).  Clack, clack, clack.  Dang!  For the next twenty minutes I went over everything.  I saw that the chain rubbed the front derailleur but couldn't understand why that would be since I touched nothing other than installing the wheel back on the bike.  Naturally, I took the wheel off and made sure I hadn't missed a spacer on added one.  All was good with the shifting until I got to the small cog.  Time to go to the experts.
     They are always so helpful and solicitous when I walk in pushing my Felt (they are when I bring in my Roark, too).  I explained the mysterious clacking and was assured they'd be back in a minute with the explanation.  Several minutes went by.  I needed a new bottle of chain lubricant, so purchased that and took it to the car and came back and waited some more.  It took quite a while, but they sleuthed until finding the answer: the cog was bent (out of alignment).   Pook, ding fu!  They also did a little adjusting, so that shifting remained smooth.
     Back home, I removed the wheel, took my magnifying glass and closely examined the cog.  I could see nothing wrong or out of the ordinary.  I put the wheel on the Roark, and got the same clacking result.  It's not that I distrusted the diagnosis, I just wanted to see what I'd missed.  I'm guessing I must have hit it somehow when putting it back on the bike.  Bah! So now I need a new 12 tooth Dura Ace cog.  I sure as heck don't want to purchase a whole new cogset.  I have several options, including using the Ultegra set on the Roark.  But races are just around the corner and I need to make up my mind.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

PACE BEND 6-12-24

     First, my hat's off to the twelve and twenty-four hour riders, and their crew.  Cold and drizzle is no fun.  Same to the six hour solo riders.
     Continuing from the previous post, since I decided to switch to the road bike, several changes had to be made.  While I really like my bomb-proof, fifteen year-old Rolf Vector Pros, there is no denying the Zipps roll faster.  So, I switched wheels.  But, if I wanted to stay in the big ring (more on that shortly), I had to also switch my 11-32 cogset to the Zipps.  I lubed the chain but didn't bother cleaning the bike since it was going to get filthy anyhow.  And, I went with Continental 4000's rather than racing tires.  So my bike was ready.
     Next, clothing.  I packed all my rain gear: booties, helmet cover, pants, jacket.  Given the forecast, I only expected to wear the jacket, but better safe than sorry.  I packed four kit changes, four pair of socks, tights, four shirts for base layers, one of which actually was a base layer garment.  Clif bars and a tube of Nuun, a gallon of water, one water bottle.  Two of my kits were skin suits, two regular jerseys.  I was hoping for maybe a dry lap, didn't happen.  I was prepared for riding, not prepared for waiting.  Angela brought her Snuggie.  I wished I had one to bring.
     On to the race itself.  We're talking fifty degrees and more or less racing in a cloud.  The road was wet, sometimes more wet than others, with sometimes drizzle messing with your glasses, sometimes not.  A light wind, but you could tell when it was in your face.  Lots of rollers, a couple of decent downhills.  Jim and I decided we would do two laps then hand off.  A lap was 6.12 (or .21 whatever), so we were looking at more or less twenty minutes for Jim and twenty-two minutes for me.  I started.
     To repeat, we were in it for fun and exercise, not that we had any expectations of placing well.  There were folks who were really serious about their racing.  That being said, I intended to give it my best.  That didn't happen (body, yes, bike no).  I knew last year that my shifters were beginning to wear out.  The left one (front chain ring) sometimes goes walkabout when I hit it.  Multiple clicks and cajoling might finally get it to switch.  This is all well and good on a recreation ride, not so much when racing.  That is why I left it in the big ring.  Well, maybe it was the cold and damp, but the right one started acting up.
     The start of the race tilts down then a big decent.  I brought the cadence up to speed and clicked for the next gear.  Nothing happened.  Four clicks later it finally moved, but by then I needed three more gears.  A whole bunch of clicking and swearing and I got it down, but by then everybody had moved away.  And because this is a rolling section, I needed some more clicks to bring it back up the cassette.  Then down, then up.  Bah!  Eventually, it started working right about 90% of the time.  Even with the shifting difficulties, I managed the first lap in twenty-one minutes.  And the second one, so I handed off to Jim after forty-two minutes.
     I waited around with a pullover, getting chilled, for his first lap, but then went to the car and changed my base layer to a dry one.  This was more of a chore than anticipated.  I made a big mistake in choosing my old skin suit to start the race.  It is one piece, with long sleeves.  To change the base layer, I needed to wriggle out of the upper part.  That accomplished, it was back to the pit to await my second section.  An aside, being old and cold means an over-active bladder.  Going in the skin suit was quite a chore.
     Jim was right on time, I was not.  I thought I was ready but had forgotten to take off my clip covers.  We lost maybe a minute, not that it mattered.  I thought my second section went faster than the first, but alas, I lost fifty-three seconds for the two loops.  This time I didn't wait for the cold to set in, but took a change of clothes to the car.  Picture this: sitting in the passenger seat, divesting a jacket, sweat shirt, rain jacket, then putting on a dry base layer and jersey, then removing the tights and replacing the shorts.  Fortunately the parking area was devoid of people.  I delayed putting on the rain jacket since it was wet inside and out.  Anyhow, I missed cheering Jim on for his second lap.
     He was a model of consistency.  I thought my third go around had more wind and a tad heavier drizzle.  In any case, I lost another minute.  I was protecting my protesting hamstrings.  Interesting enough, even given the cold and wet, I wasn't uncomfortable on the bike.  I certainly didn't get overheated.  I spent more minutes out of the aero bars on this go around, and my cadence slowed a bit.
     Once again I changed out the base layer, but this time it was quite easy.  I spent more time in the car with the engine running and heater blowing, and again missed Jim on his first lap.  The ladies, Annette and Angela, decided early on that they would alternate laps, thus not waiting the extra twenty minutes getting chilled.  I think my body needed the extra rest to recover.  Be that as it may, I dreaded what it would do on the forth foray.
     The hamstrings did not revolt, and I made it around, although losing another forty seconds.  Still, I originally figured forty-five minutes for the two laps, and my slowest was under that.  I packed up while Jim finished up, but managed to cheer him on to the second lap.  Done.
     I was more than done.  The race finished at 6:00 pm and awards were to be given out at 7:00 pm.  Refreshments were available, and a food truck.  I didn't think my body could handle hanging out for an hour, then the awards, then the seventy-five minute drive home in the dark and drizzle.  With apologies, I headed home.
     I slept well, but I need to spend today loosening up all the very tight areas which were abused yesterday.  All the knuckles on my hands are swollen. This afternoon I'll get my two bikes back to normal.  Maybe tomorrow I'll be back riding.

Thursday, February 2, 2017


     At the Bicycle Sport Shop club kickoff party the other night several of us were discussing the upcoming Pace Bend 6-12-24 race.  I was whining about the change of venue, in that I'd planned to ride my TT bike, but would now switch to the road bike in view of the terrain and possible rain.  I then remarked that in the seven years of racing time trials on this bike, it had never (ever) been wet.  I have never washed it, only a damp cloth on occasion to remove the dust.  Raised eyebrows.  True.  If it is wet out, I train on the road bike and aero bars.  I've been lucky in that actual races were dry (except one that I did on the road bike).
     I truly love my TT bike.  Jack (of Jack and Adams) spent a whole lot of time getting me fitted just right, and I can spend fifty-five minutes in an hour in the aero position.  It is a Felt B2 Pro, with Dura Ace and Zipp 404 and 808 wheels.  I became a minute faster overnight (See my March 23, 2009 post).
     After typing the last sentence I looked up my time trial results with this bike.  I've raced 51 times in Texas and podium'd 49 of them.  At Senior Games Nationals I placed 13th and 18th, but first from Texas.  I admit that most of the races had thin fields, and were age-grouped, so I don't get too chuffed up about it.  Besides, it's the bike that makes the difference.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017


     For starters, for me it isn't a race at all, just an opportunity to ride faster than normal.  But, let's start at the beginning.  Originally this six-hour race (there are also twelve and twenty-four simultaneously) was to be held at The Driveway.  I've never ridden it, just cheered the BSS racers and others, on Thursday evenings.  This was a perfect opportunity to experience the 1+mile course with little elevation on my TT bike, a much needed training ride in advance of my first actual race at the end of February.  Teamed up with Jim Hungerford, I anticipated six half-hour sections.
     Just like in real life, sometimes there are hurdles to overcome.  Due to construction delays, The Driveway would not be available and the venue was changed to Pace Bend Park.  Pook, Ding-fu!!  I've "raced" twice at Pace Bend and have also done a few practice rides.  There are no fond memories.
     Several years ago, like maybe ten, when I felt much stronger and in better shape, I thought I'd do the Walburg/Pace Bend weekend.  Walburg was a tough ride.  For Pace Bend, while I felt good warming up, my legs lasted about half a lap and I dnf'd in a hurry.  The next year, having learned my lesson, I skipped Walburg and toe'd the line full of vim and vigor. My plan was to be mid-pack, but somehow I mis-placed the start line.  Not by a lot, maybe twenty yards.  Once I realized the error, I moved up, but now at the back.  I was ready.  Too ready.  I botched the clip-in, needing two pedal strokes to get up and running.  That's all it took.  The pack was full gas from the get-go and I could never close the gap.  In my defense, these guys were ten years younger than me and I had no illusions of hanging with them for more than half the race anyhow.  I didn't finish last, but did the whole race more or less alone.
     From the start, Jim and I were just in it for the fun, so that hasn't changed.  Rather than passing the start/finish line every five or six minutes, it will be more like twenty to twenty-three.  We figure two loops before handing off, so something like four sections each.  Rather than my TT bike, I'll be on the road bike with aero bars, regular helmet.  Rain is forecast, but with luck will be done by the time we start.  If not, I'll have my rain gear.
     Check back next week to see how we fared.