Thursday, February 28, 2008

Ups and Downs

The last few weeks have gone totally crazy at work. Today, the schedule for my department came out and I'm working more than I wanted to. It's a complete pain in the ass because if I want to ride, then I'll have to do it early in the morning before work and maybe, just maybe, I'll get a Saturday off here and there. But I guess things could be worse. At least Het Volk is Saturday and things look a lot warmer than here over at the Vuelta a Valencia in sunny Spain. The only thing I keep telling myself is that is a long season and hopefully I will not run out of juice in August like I did last year.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Fun Rides

The phone rang at 10:45AM, and Dani was ready to ride after having a bout with some bug for the last 72 hours. Not soon had I gotten off the phone with the "pelotudo", Jose was ringing me to see what the plans for the day were. "A nice stroll to Heins because Dani is coming back and he wants to ride slow, besides, my legs feel a bit cooked from the weekend". Enrique made his usual appearance, because the guy is a flatlander and he likes to remind us of that everytime he gets a chance. At HP, we joined the group at the end of the first lap and I was thinking to myself, "this pace is nice, small ring and spinning, exactly what the legs need". But as is customary with the HP crowd, by lap number three the action was full on. Thinking that I'm not wanting another beating, I find my usual spot at the end of the group while the other three amigos are trading punches at the front. First attack with Jose in it breaks the group and I wait as the second group comes by with Dani and Enrique, I continue to wait and now the third and last group goes by and I latch on. After an upbeat chase, I spot Dani coming backwards, he tried to get on the wheel, but the engine was broken, "no mas". Next is Enrique who hangs there for a few more laps until one hard acceleration puts an end to his day in the group. Jose is still up there and I'm content (actually I'm hanging on for dear life) to see the exchange from the back. I had forgotten to check the time but I feel a extremely hard acceleration and my legs are not responding, and as I glance down I see "12:56PM" on my computer, signalling this is the last lap, so I give it one more hard effort to stay with the group, and Jose is doing the same, as I see him giving it all he has, but in my case, the engine room was closed and the group pulls away. Got dropped 200 meters from the finish, which is probably the best I have done so far at HP. Usually I last about two laps, so not bad considering the long miles of the weekend. Afterwards we sat around and joked and talked about each others ride. This is part of why I like riding with the "Spanish Mafia", it doesn't matter how good or bad you rode, the trash talk will be there no matter what and it makes it for some really fun rides.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The usual stuff

Yesterday's 7AM was a brisk affair, with a diminished crew due probably to the sucky weather. My legs and lungs were taking the day off because it was quite the struggle to get either of the two systems going. Nonetheless, the punishment I got out of that ride will for sure pay off later in the season. Nothing like positive thinking. Today's BP ride was tons of fun, but hitting Clara Barton at 35mph was an eye opener. Overall two good rides over the weekend and I am quite happy with the way the form is coming along. And of course, I haven't touched the trainer at all this season and I'm planning on keeping it that way.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Last chance...

I hope this is the last winter blast of the year. People are telling me that this wasn't too bad of a winter, and I just think that none of them fools were up at 7AM trying to hold on for dear life on Mass Ave. with the thermometer barely breaking 30 degrees. But hey, nicer days are on the way. Needless to say the Tarmac has been parked in the living room for the last 72 hours, waiting for the sky to clear. Yesterday I was planning on a quick spin before work, but a quick check to and the 22 degrees I saw were enough to make me change my mind. So now lets hope tomorrow's weather improves enough for a crack at the 7AM ride. If not, then Sunday will mark the return to training. On the pro side of things, TOC is rolling along just fine and the crowds are great, meaning that despite all the crap the sport is taking at the top level, fans are still willing to go the extra mile to see the guys ride. Versus coverage still not making my Christmas list as of yet, with some technical stuff still needed to be sort out. Don't get me the weather excuse or the "plane ran out of fuel", I will not have none of it. Maybe I'll send them my resume for next year and help improve things. Of course a trip to France in July will have to be pat of the package. Het Volkis just a week away and with that the start of the real pro season in Europe. Let the games begin.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Crappy Coverage

Cycling is probably the only sport that gets some pretty crappy coverage if you live on this side of the Atlantic...RAI from Italy knows how to do this stuff. A full pre stage show, follow by at least three hours of live coverage, followed by a post stage show, followed by another post stage show. The frenchies have it dialed too, but heck, they have to, having the biggest bike race of the year. On this side of the pond, things are a bit different. I sometimes think that the networks hire monkeys to handle the cycling side instead of someone with some sort of idea of what to do. Watching the re-run of Ironman on Saturday is like reading every issue of Bicycling magainze. The same crap. You have your touchy stories about some athletes and their difficulties to get to Kona. Or the guy who has tried to win but couldn't and now he's at the front and could possibly win. Anyhow, you get the picture. And this type of television pattern is what Versus thinks they should focus their coverage of the Tour of California. Of course having Phil, Paul and the guy who can't stop waving his arms when he talks (Bob Roll) is a must, but that's for pure sentimental values at this point. The guys need to spice it up a bit. Phil commented last night that "Cancellara is an expert in this sort of long effort" referring to the prologue at Standford U., which by the way was about 3.2 kms long (it took him 3:51 to ride it, so long in comparison to what Phil?). And guys please, stop trying to figure out who's making the break using the helicopter angle. 99% of the time you can't get it right even if the shot is the one from the motorcycle right next to the rider, so the chooper shot is a no-no for you. On Sunday's show, the first hour, you didn't see a single bike. It was all this crap about Rock and Racing, Astana not going to the tour, and all the rest, "who gives a f#$%" stuff that cycling fans are not interested in. Show us the real race for Pete's sake and stop with the promoting of hockey. The bull riding, OK, but enough with hockey promos and the such. Concentrate on the race and don't break away from the coverage when an attack happens to show "lets take a look at what happened yesterday", you already did that at the top of the show, or the cameras not staying with the lead group as the final sprint is about to happen. Personally, I don't care about the "Health Net Maxxis moment of the stage" and the view from the "Rock Racing Cam" needs to be improved. Ohh and one more about the prologue, it was only 3.2kms long, and they didn't have reference times or a clock for that matter. You saw the only time check at the last 500m. WTF is that??...Versus is trying to teach the noncycling viewer about the sport, forgetting about the large number of people who watch their so call racing coverage, the weekend warrior who knows what an echelon is. Hire some competent producer who at least owns a bike for a change and see if you can improve on the coverage. If I may, here's my humble idea of what the hour of race coverage should look like.

00-05-Open, show the course and talk about what's ahead.
06-10-what happened yesterday
10-13-quotes from riders about yesterday and what's going to happen today
13-15 first commercial break
15-30-race coverage...nothing else
30-32 second commercial break
32-45 more depending on the action, add an interview or talk to a director in a team car.
45-47- third commercial break
47-55 finish the stage coverage
55-57 last break
57-00 post race comments and interview of the winner...

About 36 minutes of RACE!!! coverage. Versus, give it a shot and see.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Be prepared

Woke up this morning and the weather channel said 61 degrees!!!!. I was so excited I didn't bother with the wind speeds. Took the car to the dealer to get work done and the phone started to ring. First Jose and then Dani, giving me the meeting times for the ride. Days like today are a little tricky for me because I tend to bonk when the temperature is between 50 and 70 degrees. Even though it was 61, I have this rule, if the weather is below 65, I wear knee warmers. As a precaution, I took my arm warmers and vest, just in case. Jose and Enrique came by the house and we rode to HP where Jose met us. Because it was a holday, HP had a crowd (both people and traffic) and the group at first was riding a good tempo, with the wind wrecking havoc on both sides. Because I didn't get the full weather report, I was unaware of the cold front that was slowly moving in and as the ride went on, the wind started to shift and the temperature started to drop, which call for the arm warmers and vest to come into action. The sky started to turn gray and rain clouds were fast approaching. Dani, Enrique and I headed back home taking the trail. Now the trail can be a dangerous place, with walkers, joggers, cyclists, etc. all wanting a part of a small piece of real state. As the three of us slowed down due to some walkers on both sides of the trail, some dude sporting the Italia national team jersey passed us in a very dangerous maneuver, between the two group of walkers. I guess we were slowing his average speed. Dani asked me to catch the wanker and keeping in mind that there was high traffic on the trail, I increased the pace slightly, always keeping safety first. We caught the idiot (no other way to describe him) and as we were approaching the overpass by the airport, Dani accelerated, with both Enrique and myself in tow. "Il Italiano" never expected us and couldn't react in time, although I did see him huffing and puffing trying to catch the wheels. As we were laughing about the little payback, rain drops started to fall and we quickly had to go into team trial mode to avoid a good soaking. The legs felt a little better than yesterday and it was a good workout, but tomorrow is back to the good old days of winter. Is it April yet?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Brick Legs

That's right, that's how the legs felt today, like two bricks. On the way to the shop, everything was good. When the group started to climb Mass Ave., the pace wasn't too aggressive and that meant a larger number of riders bunched up towards the front. It wasn't long though before things got hot, with a sudden acceleartion coming from the pace setters, which left me filling gaps. Note to self, pay more attention next time. The front runners were keeping a good pace, but I managed to get in with a few more in the chasing group and I thought we would catch back on before MacArthur, but that didn't happen thanks to a rider who shall remain anonymous, who decided to glance back (why?, who the hell knows) when it was his turn to pull. As if that wasn't annoying enough, he then pilled off of the formation and the chase group broke apart. Another rider and myself went along and after a short sprint, I was latching myself to the front group, but that wasn't going to last long. On Clara Barton, the speed went from managable to out right nuts, and when I saw the onboard telemetry showing 30mph, I called it a day. Riding solo most of Clara Barton wasn't too bad and it gave me time to think about working on my mental strength. That was pretty much it, at the top of Gray Falls, the B group caught me and I spent the rest of the ride in it, not burning too many matches and taking care of the somewhat sore legs. The ride home was uneventful, and although I wasn't feeling too tired, the legs were just not wanting to cooperate. Thigs like this happen, so I'm not too worried, at least not right now.

Saturday, February 16, 2008


Today's 7AM ride felt a little more human than the last few editions. Although the climb on Mass Ave. was attacked at full throttle by the big dogs, the size of the A minus group was big enough to stay sheltered from the wind. And it was probably the wind, but it did feel colder than it looked. My hands never warmed up and breathing was a little difficult due to the cold air. But overall, another good ride in the bag, confidence is slowly getting better as the training moves phases. Tomorrow's ride should be another fun affair, especially if I get to ride the 70 mile round trip. The legs will feel nice and crispy by the time I get home. And the Daytona 500 should be on then, so it's good news all around. Speaking of that, the sole American team in the Pro Tour had some great news yesterday. Hopefully my old training partnerwill have his day in the sun over the cobbles of northern France.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

This is getting out of hand...

Yes, the weather situation is starting to suck big time, but then again is February so I'm not going to complain too much about it. On the other hand you have ASO leaving Astana out of the tour and for that matter out of any race the frenchies organize. If you are Contador, Leipheimer, Kloden, any other Astana rider, management or sponsor(s) and you were eating your Wheaties this morning when the news broke, I'm sure the weather issues were the least of your concerns. Talk about a wake up call. A complete revamping of the team management was not enough for the French to realize that changes were happening. ASO is not "falling" for that one again and they openend a six pack of whoopass on the Bruyneel lead team. Seems to me like High Road did the same thing and everything looks cool with them because at least they got an invite to Paris-Nice which pretty much grants them entrance to the other ASO events. But Astana is this year's, and unless cooler heads prevail, things are not looking that promising for the Kazakh backed team.
On the home front, no riding the last two days and it seems like I'll swing my leg over the bike again on Friday. Train a few days, rest a few more, that's my motto.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Same pattern...

The weather seems to have a pattern these days. Over the last month or so, most weeks started with crappy weather (i.e. rain, more rain, wind, more wind, cold and damn cold) and this week is not dissapointing. Knowing that the weather was going to be on the crappy side, I did something to improve my training today. No, I didn't set the trainer, at this point I don't even know where that thing is. I went for a massage and it was great!!!...Here I thought that my back, neck and shoulders were the problem, but when Dominique started to work on my legs, I found out why pros get rubbed often. After a relaxing time, I had planned to ride before the rain/snow/sleet got here, but the temperatures were hovering around 25 degrees and I wasn't in the mood to put up with the cold. Jose came by and tried to talk me into riding but I was having none of it. He went to HP for some laps and Dani called to see if I wanted to do an easy ride in the afternoon, which I thought would be good. I dressed for the occassion and just two blocks from the house, the rain arrived and I made a quick U turn and headed back home. The good thing is, I didn't feel bad for not riding, which means, the massage did its work.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Messy weather

If I'm riding and I get caught by rain I'm usually OK...but starting a ride in the rain is another matter. As Jose picked me up for the usual panacke and sausage feast at McD's before the Bicycle Place ride on Sunday, the sky towards the west look pretty darn scary. A quick check to the radar and our fears were confirmed, rain was fast approaching and so was our departure time if we wanted to ride the planned 70 miles. The mood quickly changed and talks of cancelling the ride were running around our group. Enrique seemed OK to do whatever it was decided, Dani was out due to his daugther's illness the night before (good excuse buddy!!) and Jose was more concerned about his bike getting dirty, and so was I. The decison was made to drive to Rock Creek and see how things looked there. Upon arrival, we got ready and headed to the shop. Nothing like that getting your legs and back wet right off the bat, priceless. The legs were not firing in all cylinders and it wasn't until the group got decimated up Mass. Ave, that things started to turn for me, even though on Clara Barton the wind was mistreating me pretty good, but overall the ride was good. I got to do some work on the hills and flats that had me feeling good at the end. But late last night, my tail bone started to hurt, quite bad. The chiro told me this morning it was probably because of the wind yesterday, throwing me all over the place. If that's the case, then the wind was harder than I thought.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Back to business...

The 7AM ride was a peppy one today. Somewhere down Macarthur, Jose and I got behind some questionable riders and lost contact with the front group. I'm not a usual member of the A group, usually you find me hanging around the A minus or B plus groups. Jose was out of action the last few weeks due to his duties at work and today I got to see his new ride for the first time. Bitching!!! is all I can say. The plan was to just ride tempo to get his legs back under him and before I knew it, he was hammering. Before the ever popular sprint, coming out of the neighborhood leading out to the long drag to the line, he needed a few encouraging words to get him in the mood and before I knew it, he was at the front taking the sprint. Now, I'm not the one to keep score on local sprints, to me they don't prove much and can cause some serious crashes, but it was good to see him back in business, even though he knows that a few more rides will get him back to where he was. And as a bonus, I was just a few meters behind. Again, I don't usually mix it with the big guns, but today I was testing the waters. Tomorrow's looking a bit difficult with the wind and the 70 miles planned. The "Spanish Mafia" will be at the Bicycle Place ride, adding a few extra miles by riding to and from Alexandria. If the weather channel's wind advisory is correct, this could be an epic event.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Not done yet...

Winter is fighting hard to keep its grip, and just because the temperatures were way above normal this week, it doesn't mean that I can pack away my winter clothes. This morning I headed to HP for a few laps before work and it was great. Even though the weather channel said it was 34 degrees, the wind was "light" and it didn't feel bad at all, making it a perfect end to the week. The two visits to the chiropractor and the bike fitting are improving my position on the bike and I feel like I can generate a little more power, not that my engine is that big. But that's pretty much it for good news because on Sunday, it's going to be cold again and to add insult to injury, the wind is going to be hard to content with. At least is warm somewhere and I'm sure the racing is going to be good. Not as hot as the fight betweent ASO and the UCI but then again nothing can come even close.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Super warm, super fast...

That's basically what today was. I headed to HP for the noon ride and found the usual suspects ready for action. As is customary, the first lap was the warm up, but as soon as we turned on the airport side, the crossed tail wind increase the group's speed and the guys were feeling frisky already. And once the second lap began, the gloves came off and it was every rider for him/herself...I was hanging on for dear life and as lap three started things got just plain ugly and before I knew the rider infront of me opened a gap and that was it. At the speed the group was going, I couldn't have closed the gap even if I had a motor onboard. A quick recovery and the second group came by and I jumped on. The speed was good and everyone was taking pulls. The new position on the bike felt a little weird and the longer stem (110m) gave me a little pain on my right shoulder, but I'm hoping it's just the muscles getting used to the position. I can't believe how fast the big dogs are riding this early in the year. I didn't do many noon rides last year and I'm wondering if the speeds will remain the same all year long, with the same riders applying the pressure at the front. It's a long year.

Monday, February 4, 2008


Woke up this morning and it was sprinkling. No worries, the ride wasn't planned until noon anyway, so there was some hope. Besides, the morning agenda included a trip to the chiropractor (which by the way has done wonders to my back), a stop at the post office and the usual cleaning of the house. But no sooner had I walked through the front door, my phone rang and guess who it was? work..."hi, we need you to come in today"...never mind is my day off. No ride today but as bad as it sounded having to go to work, I was looking to the positive side. I will (more than likely) be able to take a comp day off later, hopefully for Poolsville or any other race on a Saturday. Tomorrow is supposed to be warm again with rain as a possibility, so I will get my fitting done and hope that neither work or the weather will get on the way of riding.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Great weekend...

If you didn't take advantage to log some miles this weekend, you missed a good one. After the rain on Friday, I cancelled my plans to ride the 7AM ride and from what I heard, the choice was a good one. Instead I ended up going to HP for some tempo riding and it turned out to be an amphibious operation. On the side of the airport, there was a huge poddle of water, or as I later described it "a mini lake", which caused me to reduced my speed to about 2mph. Once through the water, I worked on my acceleration, so not all was lost. Sunday turned out to be a good day. Left from the house and ended up with 70 miles in the legs. I was planning to just ride with the B group from the Bicycle Place ride, but somehow on Mass. Ave. I was at the tail end of the A group and was able to stay with them for most of the ride which was good for me. I got home and did a good post ride stretch to help the muscles recover and then went to Dani's to watch the Super bowl while enjoying some Argentinian barbecue and some Coronas...perfect recovery food. The weather channel is calling for warm temps until Wednesday, but some rain will be lingering around and the wind might cause some problems by mid week. I'm going to log some more big miles tomorrow and Tuesday for sure.

Friday, February 1, 2008

No Giro for you!!!!...

The rain is getting old, nothing new there. So I have spent the last few minutes checking out the latest on news from the international peloton. First item on the agenda is Boonen winning his third stage and overall at the Tour of Qatar. Not the complete domination the team showed last year, but the desert likes the Belgian and his boys. Staying in the dunes, the locals have thoughts of running the Tour's prologue in the near future. Money is not an issue with the natives, but the logistics of it do present a bit of a problem. More of what their plans are can be found here.
Next is the announcing by RCS (Giro organizers) of who's going to be in Italy in May partaking on the annual trek around the penninsula. Big names are going to be sitting at home watching on the tele, and several of the squadras that were not invited will be thinking hard about what the future will hold for July.
On the local front, I was able to register for Jeff Cup at around 9:00:15AM EST and about 4 minutes later, the list was about 63 and growing. I'm wondering, are they using the entire road or will the yellow rule be in high demand?. If the pack reaches 125 riders, position will be the key. Fun times!!!.