Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Monday, September 21, 2009


After finishing, that's how I felt. I was at my limit just after running through the sand on the first lap and did not come down until after the race was over. The limit you ask? How about an average of 190bpm. I have never run that high. I haven't been practicing cross and the first barrier I came to was the first barrier I came to of the year. I take that back the first barrier I came to I was already off my bike running, trying to advance places while people were still slowing down to dismount for the barrier. After that the field started to thin out. I have always liked spiral of death and it was a pleasent reminder of the course from last year. Again I ran over the timbers because of too many people on the first lap. The rest was elemental. More "mental" than anything. A couple of dumb mistakes that cost me spots. On the second lap I unclipped with the wrong foot attempting to dismount for a barrier. The other, on the first lap while I was running attempting to remount I threw my bike too far forward not landing on the saddle but catching my shorts on the back of it having to readjust to get back on. Not the worst mistakes but they hurt none the less. At least I didn't go down as is my penchant.
You could say there were too many people for the race. But what is the constructive sollution? Unfortunately at this time I cannot cat up because of family commitments earlier in the day or I probably would. Do I deserve to cat up is another story. I just hope nobody gets injured with so many riders out there.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Almost everyone I know who races has some sort of pre-race ritual. These rituals can vary as widely as the personalities that they are attached to. From what you eat, and when you eat it, to how you prepare yourself for an event. These rituals can range from how you pin your number on, to which shoe goes on first. We all have some form of ritual, whether we recognize them or not.

As for me, I go one step further. The pre-pre-race ritual for me focuses entirely on the machine. For without the machine, I am merely a spectator. The pre-pre-race ritual involves a top to bottom review of the machine. And the first step always includes a wash. Sure a dirty bike proves to an onlooker that you actually get out and train. But a clean bike on race day shows that you care about what the outcome of the race may be. Showing up to a race with a dirty bike in my opinion is like showing up being prepared to lose. Why? Simple. Someone who looks after their machine on a regular basis knows that it will work for them when they may perhaps need it most.

To start a race being undertrained is one thing. To start a race not knowing for sure if your bike will work flawlessly is inexcusable. I'm sure you have heard the stories post race of how someone would have made the selection or out kicked someone in the sprint if only their derailleur would have shifted better. I have also seen more than once someone lose a crank arm. A crank arm? Yup, had that racer gone over their bike and been familiar with all of its parts a crank arm would have never come off. This is where the pre-pre-race comes into its own.

The most important thing is to start with a clean bike. Get a bucket, a hose, a few brushes, a sponge and some dish soap and water. A good cleaning can go a long way in keeping a bike running smoothly. And a routine cleaning after muddy or rainy events can prolong the life of a drivetrain. Rinse it off, scrub it down, repeat as necessary. A clean bike can also reveal things that a dirty bike may not. With the abundance of lightweight carbon fiber parts on bikes these days, a clean bike can reveal the tiny cracks in stems, handlebars and seat posts that otherwise might not have been noticeable. I would rather discover that I have to replace a seat post that has devoleped a crack in it in the driveway, rather than the crux of a race when the post fails.

Once the machine has been throughly cleaned and dried, take the time to look over the shifting mechanisms from the derailleurs, to the shifters, and cables. A smaller brush and some degreaser can clean out the rear mechanism and a few drops of lube on the pivot points can keep everything running smoothly. At this time you can also check and make sure the brakes are working properly and the pads are hitting the rim squarely. A quick check of the cables and their tensions is also a good idea at this time. The chain should have been scrubbed with a stiff brush during the wash. Now check for any tight links and apply a lube to each roller. Wipe off the excess and the drivetrain is complete.

At this point you should turn your attention to the frame, fork and components. Check the high stress areas first. If there were any crashes recently check for any additional damage. Check the fork crown for stress cracks and make sure the drop outs are in good condition. Seat posts, stems and handlebars are the controls of the machine. Make sure they are secure and are not broken in any way.

Wheels and tires are the last thing to be checked for me. Start with a spin of the wheel and make sure there are no wobbles. A rim that rubs a brake pad not only wastes energy, but could signal a larger problem. Check the tires for cuts, and make sure they are seated in the rim. If using tubulars, make sure the base tape is still firmly attached all the way around and on both sides. Finally check the wheel alignemnt in the frame and fork and make sure the skewers are securely fastened.

One final thing. If you are using white or colored tape, a scrub brush and some soapy water will return them to a new appearance. For the ultimate in PRO cleanliness, also be sure to clean the mud off of the bottom of the saddle.

Doing this all sounds like a lot of work. But so is all of the training hours that we all put in. A little bit goes a long way if you can ensure that you can cross the finish line with a bike in working order. There are so many variables come race day, from the weather, to the parcours to the competition. Why not eliminate one of them and make sure your machine is as ready as you are.

Friday, September 18, 2009

My Clincher Can Beat Up Your Clincher

I have a feeling that I possess the only known pair of these in the City of Chicago if not the entire state. I bought these back in 1997 and have used them ever since. Quite possibly the best cyclocross tire. Ever. These babies hook up well in the loose stuff, hardpack, mud and grass. Fetching upwards of $100 sometimes for only one on eBay and often used, I feel lucky to have held onto them for so long. Now the question is which wheelset should I mount them on?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

New Toy

After spotting one of these at Church a few weeks back everyone who was present knew they had to have one. We all joked about how Amazon was going to crash because we were all going to be logging on to buy one. Bob took the plunge first and had his at the last Church race where he put it to good use, rumor has it that he was charging $1 a bike!

As of yesterday there were still a few left over at Amazon, I ordered mine on Sunday and had it yesterday, so there is still time to have it for Jackson Park, although the weather looks like it will hold out til then. Even so, I expect to hear lots of little orange pressure washers at races this year, get yours while supplies last! Now I just need some rubber rain boots.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


So, it's been a month since my last race and I don't feel that great. The good thing is most of the people I talk to feel the same way. I have been bothered by my left hip for a while. Then I fell on it again during cross training and am developing sciatic pain that radiates down to my little toe. That being said, the race started without a problem, or should I say the neutral roll out. I don't mind this course and have rode it frequently with the team ever since we started riding. We also sponsored a leg of the Chicago time trial here last year. Good communication on the hill led to everybody agreeing where the hill opened into it's full width. "Is it now, is it here? Well the guy did wave the flag." Right after the hill somebody goes off the front and the pack responds. No big deal. That pretty much summed up my race. There was really no place to go on the course and I knew that nobody would be able to stay off the front. My hip felt good not nagging me at all. I tried on the hill on lap 2 and 3 to get good jumps and I did, then slow myself down in the middle to see how passed me. One thing that I noticed but few did, was after the first hill, after the cones, just before the second hill, there is a slight l hand turn. The left hand side of the course there was flatter and more of a straight line. Nobody was really riding that section and boy could you pick up some places. That would be my plan for the last lap. On the last lap I didn't feel that I had good positioning. It's hard to move anywhere on the course and the pack was just surging back and forth the whole time on Archer. So into the hill for the last time and I'm postionined about 25 back. I come into the hill in the middle and i'm not really pounding moving onto the right side of the course safely. Thank goodness I did that because a short while later, right where the cones ended I hear some carnage going on. You know it's bad when you hear a rider who is caught up in the aftermath of a crash hollering because he knows he will be going down also just for the simple fact he's behind it. And I'm sure going up a hill, the crash must have been like slow motion in his mind. Needless to say I never made it to the point on the left side of the hill that I wanted to. I did pick up a bunch of places peddaling hard into the base of the last hill where it seemed like a bunch of guys in front of me were soft peddaling, waiting for he finish. I did end up at the finish line getting caught by two of those riders but held off the rest for 13th. Not the worst or the best finish for the end of the road racing year. Now onto cross!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009