Sunday, December 19, 2010

cyclocross wrap up

Another season of cyclocross in the bag- its been fun and I'm not quite ready to be done yet, but it will be nice to put myself out to pasture for a month or two. Drink more beer, ride slow on my way to and from work and all that.

Some of my highlights from this season:

Worst mud ever at Beverly Park. I had a great start and was riding in third place for a while and then the course started taking its toll on the bike. I have been in deeper mud but it was soupier. The mud at Beverly Park was like peanut butter with lots of grass mixed in. I had to stop and change a rear wheel and a bunch of people passed me. Then I stopped a couple more times to try to free up my front wheel which was jammed with mud. It was like cement- no use. The last couple of laps my bike was so heavy and non-rolling that I would have preferred to just drop the bike and run. I was happy just to finish at the end- the conditions caused the most mechanical attrition I have seen in a race yet. It inspired me to switch to wide profile cantilevers- Tektro CR 720- I'm happy with them so far. I'm pretty sure we won't be invited back to that venue next year.

My best ride was at Woodland Park. I had a next to last row start. A Hagens Berman rider tangled with someone in the start sprint, crashed, cursed loudly and proceeded to throw his bike David Millar- style off the course. I managed to avoid that mess and finish in 5th place. The Woodland Park course is really fun to ride, my favorite, and the location is unbeatable. Its nice to ride instead of drive to a race.

Best beer garden was probably raceway cross/singlespeed. cyclocross world championships. You were obliged to buy a pint glass with PBR .Was sorry to see Craig Etheridge miss the title.

There was a complete absence of mechanicals in races for me this year. That always requires some luck but I am proud of my mechanical skills. It counts for something in cyclocross.

Also not as many crashes for me this year. Last year I would slide out a couple times in each race at some point. I didn't think it slowed me down much at the time (as long as I didn't drop a chain). Towards the end of this season I noticed that riding towards the front of the race, if a competitor slid out ahead of me and I got 5 bike lengths on him as a result, he wouldn't be able to close back that gap a lot of the time.

Friday, November 26, 2010

best commute of the year so far

This past monday we got 5 or so inches of snow and another couple on tuesday. That is enough to full on snarl traffic in Seattle. These are the very best days to commute on a bike, because
1. riding in the snow is fun
2. being stuck in a car on a freeway that has become a parking lot is not fun
3. wrecking your car or someone else's is not fun
4. fewer (functional) cars on the road. The cars that are moving are going really slow, so really it is probably a safer than usual bike commute.

Like everyone else, I wasn't expecting much snow on Monday so I rode my usual commuter, a Bianchi volpe with 32 mm tires. I have it set up with a front rack right now so there is more weight on the front of the bike, which really seems to help in the snow- it rode really well on the way home, I did not fall once. The ride across the I-90 bridge was eerie- the lights were out, the wind was gusting so hard it almost slid me sideways across the ice, the waves were almost splashing over the bridge deck, and there was a fog or mist that obscured the lights of Seattle.

Tuesday was clear and cold and there was packed down snow and ice on the road. I dusted off the mountain bike and put on my wheels with home made studded snow tires. They grip tenaciously even on clear ice. The only problem I have with them is that the tire liners don't quite cover all the screws so I occasionally get a slow leak. The widest Mr Tuffy is 38 or 39 mm, I need 42 mm or so to cover all my screws.

Both days were a blast to ride. Why does everyone think I'm insane for riding in the snow?

Friday, September 24, 2010

fall and cyclocross are upon us!

The days are shorter, there is a chill in the air on the morning commute, green tomatoes are rotting on the vine.... and the first cross race of the year. It is definitely fall.

I wasn't able to do any of the races leading up to Starcrossed which is too bad because I always use that first race to work out mechanical gremlins. Last year my saddle fell off at the labor day race. My result wouldn't show it but there was only one minor problem, difficulty clipping into pedals. I was using my wifes eggbeater candys because the bearings in my regular eggbeaters are shot. I have trouble getting into them though, even after commuting on them for several days. I had the usual far back starting position, couldn't clip in and lost even more ground. Then I found my rhythm and started passing people. The legs felt good but the cross back was particularly bad. I'm hoping it was just the flat bumpy course and not an omen of things to come. Last year I could crack the top ten in the Seattle series races and I feel like I'm in better condition this year so we'll see how it goes. For some reason I never do well at Starcrossed, even considering the larger and stronger field compared to the series races. I usually get stronger as the season progresses but I was hoping the summer track racing would give me a head start on cyclocross this year. We'll see!

The Viking guys were out in force and generously offered me a beer and brat after my race and then I took up my post as crossing guard for the elite womens race. Its always good to watch the elites race and try and learn a few things. In the mens race I was hoping Trebon or Page would take it. I was disappointed to see the French jersey of Mourey way out in front on the first lap. Trebon would catch him and they would ride the rest of the race together. It was a nail biting final lap but I watched Mourey outsprint Trebon in the final straight. Mourey would go on to win the Rad GP the following day and Cross Vegas the following week. I'm thinking he is happy with his decision to make the trip over here- thats a lot of UCI points. The evening format, level of competition, crowds, and beer make Starcrossed the cross event of the season in the northwest. Don't miss it!

Well the old eggbeaters are going back on for this Sunday. I hope they don't fall apart. Maybe I'll buy a new pair. My transitions will be flawless. I've been practicing dismounts and remounts on the way home from work. I even ran stairs last week. See you at the cross races.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Cascadia Crits

The Ballard Criterium was last Saturday. I pre-registered for the race to avoid my Volunteer Criterium experience, which was line up the nanny, show up ready to rock and feeling great, then find out the field is full. My good friend from Vet school was in town and is thinking of moving here. He is also an avid cyclist so I took him on the bicycle tour of Seattle, which is of course the Lake Washington loop. He is in decent shape these days and our ride was not as slow as I would have liked, given that I was signed up to race in Ballard in the afternoon. Lucky for us it was the first nice day in about 2 months and we had a great time. Hopefully I swayed him towards moving to Seattle as a result.

I didn't have high hopes for a good finish after the little warm up. Last year I was thankful to finish unscathed as numerous crashes whittled the field down to twenty-some finishers. But I was feeling good until the race was stopped to remove an unconscious rider that had crashed. There was some griping from other riders, which I thought was interesting. For all we know he is paralyzed or worse. I would have been happy to be done at that point. But as they carry him away he gives us the thumbs up and our race is restarted. Everyone sprints like mad, of course, and it really hurts after having been stopped for a while. I managed to win a points preme and then thought maybe I do stand a chance for a decent finish. I decided to stay close to Matt and Kyle from Recycled Cycles, my pick for the win at that point. Sure enough they move to the front and start drilling it with a few laps to go. I was third or fourth wheel behind them- perfect place to be. Their pace has everyone strung out in a line- perfect for a crash free finish. Out of the last corner I sprint but can't overtake them. Bernard from Hup, recognize him from cyclocross races, had a nice kick and easily passes me so I get fourth place. Probably my best road result so far given the field- maybe I need to rethink my warm ups for these races. Much to the wifes chagrin (already been gone all day on the bike) I stick around to claim my prize- celeste green bar tape a too-large jersey and shirt. If anyone with a celeste green Bianchi is reading this, let me know, I have some bar tape for you. Definitely not complaining though- I won a pair of speedplay pedals for a preme in Woodinville. That is pretty sweet for a cat 4/5 race.

Thanks to everyone that made the Cascadia criterium series happen this year. It combined the best local criteriums of the year into a series and made them all better. And added a couple of new venues!
Podium ceremonies, great organization, great prizes awarded... this is the new standard for local road racing around here. I was only able to make the Woodinville and Ballard race but I would have done them all if I was able to.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

spring is here

Living in Seattle, where you often don't see the sun for months at a time in the winter, the first nice days of spring are extra special. Even if the rest of the day was lousy, if the sun is out you automatically feel 100 percent better. I think Tuesday was such a day- My morning commute was typical but on the way home in the blazing sunshine, everyone was out riding their bike. And everyone was smiling and waving at each other. And not just people- I had to dodge more squirrels and crows than usual and even a raccoon in the morning. The level of hormones in the air just doubled. Happy spring!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

grand tour win for Farrar

I began my Mothers Day early by plucking the girls out of bed before they could make much noise, making breakfast, and doing as much as I could to let my wife sleep in and take the day off as much as possible.
I peeked at cyclingnews and lo and behold, our guy from Wenatchee, Tyler Farrar, wins the bunch sprint to take stage 2 of the Giro. If you have been paying much attention to his races lately I guess you could figure a grand tour stage win was only a matter of time... (Won the bunch sprint of the Tour of Flanders, beat Cavendish in a head to head sprint at Tirreno-Adriatico last year) but dang. Who would have thought that this guy that showed up to a Seattle cyclocross race in 2008 (in Cofidis kit) would be winning grand tour stages a year and a half later! I think he is 25- how many wins will he rack up by the time he is Chris Horners age? Watch out Cavendish!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Bellevue is wrong

Just read in the Seattle Times this morning that Kemper Freeman, the landlord of downtown Bellevue, is spending millions of his own dollars to sue the state to prevent light rail on I-90. If he succeeds he will doom light rail on 520 too. He would rather see more auto lanes on the areas freeways. The current plan for the new 520 bridge calls for more lanes that directly connect to I-5 heading west, while there would still be single lane ramps for the ramps heading east on 520 from Seattle. McGinn's plan would change this and also calls for light rail on 520- predictably, the east side contingent are howling.

The crux of this issue is that transportation -wise, whatever you build will be used. You could build a 10 lane I-90 and I-405 and there would still be single occupancy vehicle gridlock. Or you could build light rail and infrastructure for mass transit and cycling- it would be used, there would be less traffic and less pollution, and most importantly everyone would have more than one reasonable choice for how to commute. Right now most people drive because even with traffic, it winds up being faster than taking the bus or riding a bike. And riding a bike is still downright dangerous in some places. I commute from the wedgwood neighborhood of Seattle to Eastgate in Bellevue by bike. Everything is fine until you get to Eastgate (the Montlake interchange from the last post is weird but doable once you figure it out). Riding eastbound on Eastgate and hanging a left on 156th is daunting- you have to merge into multiple lanes of high speed traffic- only a bicycle fanatic would do it on a regular basis. This is a good example of an area where a car is the only reasonable option for most people. There are lots of roads on the eastside that are like this. If I want to ride somewhere in Seattle, I just ride in the general direction of where I want to go and I'll get there in one piece. If I want to ride somewhere on the eastside, I pore over the bicycle map and carefully plan the route that is least suicidal, and if you get off track you will find yourself on a dangerous road. I think that is why I see tons of other cyclists on my commute in Seattle and Mercer Island and then hardly anybody once I'm in Bellevue.

Areas that allow more than one mode of transportation are more liveable and more pleasant. It is isolating and depressing to have to live somewhere where you are required to get in a car if you want to go to work, school, the grocery store or whatever. I'm sorry to say eastsiders, but if you continue to be developed around the automobile you will always be the ugly stepchild of Seattle that you are now.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

the montlake interchange stinks

My daily commute takes me over the Montlake cut. I have ridden around the city a fair amount and I think heading south over the Montlake cut is one of the most convoluted sections of road for bicycles in the city. The Seattle bike map will have you cross to the east side of 25th Ave on a pedestrian crosswalk and "bike salmon" down the sidewalk on the wrong side of the street to cross the bridge. This is usually how I do it. If you remain on the right (and correct) side of the road, you can stay in the lane on the really rough metal grate if you have wide tires. But don't even think of it if its wet. I did once, hitting the grates with a decent amount of speed and fishtailed the entire way over the bridge, thinking the whole time I was going down and the car behind me was going to run me over. So you ride onto the pedestrian sidewalk, and once you have crossed the bridge you get to hop the curb back onto the road and try to merge into the lane with cars that are impatiently trying to merge right back across you for the ramps onto 520. Then if you want to get to the arboretum you have to quickly and dangerously merge all the way left to a turn lane to cross the traffic in the opposite direction. The traffic light here doesn't detect bicycles, naturally, so if no car is with you in the lane you get to wait until a car joins you or try to cross against the traffic light with a steady stream of high speed traffic from the 520 off ramp. If I was new to the area I would have no idea how to navigate it by bike. Riding north across the montlake interchange isn't so bad but it still forces you to either ride on the extremely rough grate or ride on the sidewalk with pedestrians. Most ride on the sidewalk.
The Fremont and University bridge crossings are completely straightforward in comparison.

I sure hope they get the 520 rebuild right. I am happy that the new mayor is trying to get the new bridge fitted for light rail. The current plan will take out a nice chunk of the arboretum and have nice westbound high speed exit ramps but the eastbound ramps will still be only one lane. And it won't be suitable for light rail. I'm thinking that will be nice for eastside SOV commuters and that's about it. Its a short sighted and small minded plan.

Monday, March 29, 2010

ravensdale-cumberland road race

Rode the Cat 5 yesterday; it was a weird race. The pace was slow. I haven't done a road race in a while, maybe I'm just used to the pace of criteriums which usually seem ballistic from the start. A guy on a cyclocross bike made a run for it early on and no one wanted to chase him down. Despite having at least 5 guys in the race the Bikesale people weren't doing much at the front. After mile 20 or so the pace on the downhills especially was annoying and I went after the breakaway rider even though I knew it was doomed. We rode together for a while, my breakaway mate was a good sport and still wanted to pull after a rest, but we were eventually caught. After a bit we crested a hill, saw the 200 m sign, and I sprinted up the right side as best I could and only one of the bikesale guys passed me. Props to the breakaway rider, don't know his name, he spent a lot of time in the wind.