In Belgium, cyclocross = NASCAR

This video of a Belgian country song is proof positive that cyclocross equals NASCAR in Belgium…

Hot new helmet from Sweden

It’s an airbag for your skull, designed for biking. Wonder how long before this is accepted for UCI/USAC events? (Never.) Here’s a video of the helmet in action!

The Hovding apparently resides in a stylish scarf-like thing that lies around the neck. They’ll supposedly be released in the spring. Not sure if they will be available in the US as I cannot read Swedish.

Found this over from some bike-commuting co-workers who sent me the link from Popular Science.

Tongue-wagging and flying in Richmond

Raced three times at Bryan Park on Saturday the 9th, first in the masters 35+, then a one-lap time trial and later in the B’s. In the 35+ field, I was quickly dropped on the fast course, which featured a lot of road, due to a poor start and my own lack of form. I ended in 11th on my old geared Giant. An hour later I raced the time trial for the weekend omnium and finished 6th in 4 minutes, 53 seconds. Maybe I should be racing better or maybe my issue is endurance.

Later I raced the singlespeed Raleigh in the 3-race, which also featured the collegiate Bs. I felt better in this race and actually was dueling with a few guys rather than riding alone. I was shocked to find myself spinning away from guys on the road with the singlespeed 42×18 gearing. The other guys must have had some tired legs. Loved how the SSCX handled too. Much more sure footed than the Giant. Unfortunately I also experienced a dismount fail, missing my saddle on the jump and landing with my inside thigh on the rotating tire – big cut and bruise. My Tripower teammate Mike Park captured these images.

The next day we raced at Chimborazo Park on the other side of Richmond. My result was much the same on a very different course. The starting third was atop a flat plateau, which was followed by a screaming, weaving descent to the bottom of the park and a long grind of a climb, including stairs, back to the finish. I got 12th in 35+, which ,thanks to the time trial the day before, settled me in 7th for the weekend. These are some cool shots over the super tall barriers and on the off-camber downhill turn from teammate Tami Cole.

But this is my favorite image from Park on that day – bunnyhopping over the short barrier:

Me likey

Raleigh is showing a new SSCXWC frame at Interbike 2010. It’s carbon goodness with a belt drive. Mmm. That’s not a great picture of it. There’s more of this eye candy on CX magazine’s site. Wish I could figure how to afford and fly to Seattle for this year’s Single Speed Cyclocross World Championships in late October.

Perhaps the Singlespeed Intergalatic Championship at Staten Island CX in mid-November will have to do.

Charmed by CX in the City

No, I haven’t been blogging. Facebook and Twitter have proved distracting, but I raced the season’s first cyclocross race Sunday in Baltimore: Charm City CX.

Since the masters race was sold out, I signed up for the 2/3/4 “B” race at noon. As the 104th person to register, I was called up 104th and could see the front row of the race about half a block in front of me. That was the last time I saw the front.

I raced singlespeed by choice. I wanted to test my new rig – a Raleigh SSCXWC – to see how it would do and just have fun. The start was the typical large cluster with 125 guys trying to make it to the first corner. At each of the first few turns, traffic jammed up and we were brought to a standstill as the front of the race rode away. At one early off-camber chicane, I was able to dismount and squeeze a pass by about 15 or so guys.

I settled in and started trying to pick off a guy here and there. The 42×18 gearing proved fine for the course. It was fast, dry and very dusty. There was one power hill that made me wish for a lower gear and a few flats that required me to spin my arse off.

I powered through the sand pit when I could without running into traffic and railed some corners on a few sweet, swoopy downhills.

I did more passing than being passed until the very end of the race when a group of five guys I’d just spent the last lap working my way through sprinted past me on the flat paved finishing stretch. I did want a few gears there.

My finishing place was 68th, so I made it up through about a third of the field. I felt good enough that I wished I’d had a better starting position, though I might have still run the singlespeed. It’s nice not having to think about what gear to shift into.

And I had fun in the dirt:

Special thanks to Ellie, my oldest, for the fine photos.

Ahem

Not dead yet.

Just hibernating as I learn to play on Facebook and Twitter.

I do want to point out to the old woman driving the silver Lexus with the fur coat and bug-eye glasses and turning from Colley Ave. onto 20th Street that, yes, bicycles do have the right-of-way. Your horn is still ringing in my ears.

Power-to-weight up the Chimney

I can hang with those guys, really, I can. At least some of them. As long as the course doesn’t entail a climb longer than 100 feet or so.

A couple of weeks ago at the second Camp Hilbert race, I passed my Tripower teammate Kevin midway through the first lap and might have held on if I hadn’t flatted my old tubeless front tire and DNF’d.

This week, racing the Walnut Creek Chimney Chase near Charlottesville, Kevin got a great start and put me away early in the climb intensive first half of the 11-mile lap. Two laps served up 2,300 feet of climbing and descending on a technical, root and rock strewn course. Kevin weighs 150, if that, whereas I hover around 190. I may have more power, but he makes it up those climbs faster because he’s so scrawny. Advantage, K-dawg.

Meanwhile, our other teammate Bill “Goat” Gilmer, who’s been sandbagging masters races this year, sailed away from both Kevin and I early on as he chased the leading elements of the 20-plus expert vet field. He finished 7th in the stacked field, while Kevin got 11th and I managed 15th. No idea what the times were, but I’m told I was about five minutes behind Kevin. Jerry “12-pack” Hadley rolled in a while after me in 17th despite his intensive hydration program the day before.

Sadly Chad Holm, who rode up with us the day before, flatted out early, but Liz Schleeper got fifth in the expert women’s field that was dominated by DeeDee Winfield.

My race started well enough. I was mid-pack early, but the wheel I followed on the early climbs thrice couldn’t make it up the steeps, forcing dismounts by both of us as other riders rolled by. I couldn’t get away from him for about a mile, but finally did. I soon caught Jerry, whom I distanced on two climbs, but charged up on my wheel on the next downhills. Lost him about three miles in on a longer climb. I felt better and better on the first lap and passed a handful of riders.

However, about a mile into the second lap, my arms and shoulders grew tired and I slowed to avoid an accident from sloppy handling. The climbs I’d spun up on the first lap, chewed me up on the second. Two riders I’d passed came back by me. I’d hoped to catch one of them on the second half of the course, which was more suitable to me, but he finished maybe 15 seconds in front of me.

After racing in the muggy Charlottesville summer heat, a dip in the lake at the park was a great way to cool off. Charlottesville Racing Club put on a nice race. Next time I need to remember to pre-reg and avoid that onerous $10 same-day fee.

Hand-made bike show in Richmond!

Cicli_Polito

I have trouble believing it, but Urban Velo is reporting that the North American Handmade Bicycle Show will be in Richmond next year in late February.

Virginia isn’t exactly a hotbed of frame building. Previous shows have been in California, Portland and Indianapolis, all of which have much bigger custom scenes. I seek out the coverage every year and drool on my keyboard over the bikes offered by Vanilla, IF, Cicli Polito, Black Sheep and many others. It’s bike porn of the highest artistry. (That’s this year’s best in show above – an old-style grass track racer from Cycli Polito.)

Our own Jimmy Miller made the trip to Indianapolis this year to spread some of his Speedy’s hot sauce love. If Urban Velo is to be believed, the trip will be much shorter this year. And I’ll be making it. I may not be able to afford a custom bike, but that can’t stop a boy from dreaming.

Wednesday update: Richmond show confirmed by Velonews!

May is for mountain bikes

May is for mountain bike racing.

There’s a race every weekend this month. I missed Middle Mountain Momma due to soccer commitments with the girls, but I could hit one a week for the next four weeks.

May 9: RunRideRace’s Camp Hilbert #2

May 16: SportsBackers Urban Assault

May 23: Devil’s Backbone Challenge

May 31: The Shootout at Angler’s Ridge

Camp Hilbert, west of Richmond, is a longtime favorite race venue where the only three wins of my short mountain bike career came as a sport vet. The course is forgiving enough that I can make up for my technical shortcomings.

The Urban Assault takes place on the James River trail system in downtown Richmond. This remarkable assembly of technical trails in the heart of the city hosts the annual Xterra eastern championship and was the scene of the duathlon national championship meltdown two weeks ago.

If I can make it, Devil’s Backbone should seriously test me since it’s at Wintergreen and will no doubt feature a monster climb. Looking forward to beers at the brewery after the race too. Liz describes the course (with a few photos) on her blog.

The Shootout near Danville though sounds the most intimidating. The expert class will do 34 miles with about 3,000 feet of climbing – about half an Ironcross, but mostly single-track, no roads. Ouch. It’s cool though because it will draw a lot of racers from North Carolina as well as Virginia.

Should be a great May playing in the dirt.

The hottest race

Saturday’s National Duathlon Off-Road Championship race in Richmond turned into a sufferfest of survival thanks to 95 degree heat, the first day over 90 this spring.

Yes, I’ve raced in hotter weather, but typically my body has had more time to acclimate. Many people suffered Saturday in the heat, including a couple of the strongest athletes I know.

The race started at 10:30am, but it seemed as if the midday heat had already set in. I started the run at what I thought was a moderate pace, but slowed about a mile into it. On any other day, this might have been a pleasant run: Down the hill under the Lee Bridge, across the suspended pedestrian bridge, around Belle Isle, up onto the isle’s plateau and back. But we had to do it twice. About two miles in my mouth went dry and I almost choked trying to clear the cotton. At the water stop, I downed a Gatorade and pushed on. As I crossed the suspension bridge, the lead runners came back at me. This was going to be a long day.

I struggled through the second loop and was so happy to get to my bike. I rode across the Lee Bridge, getting my cycling legs under me and then hammered along the fire road with Tom Gillespie, making up ground on faster runners. Once we transitioned to the single track of the Buttermilk trail, I started to feel really good. I passed Tom on a climb leading into Forest Hill Park and chased down others. Soon I saw the East Coast jersey of Rob Dinterman, who’d won the FORD race two weeks ago, ahead of me. As I passed he said the heat killed him and he was going to DNF. I rolled on. Back on Buttermilk I tried to ride through a small rock garden at speed, but miscalculated and went right over the bars. Fortunately I landed well.

Back on the fire road again, I saw Mark Russell‘s IF jersey ahead of me. I caught him soon after we transitioned back to Buttermilk. Not long after going by Mark I felt my handling start to get shoddy. I was getting tired and I soon paid for my effort on the bike, clipping a rock with my handlebars and going down again. I got rolling again quickly, but rode a little more conservatively. When I got to Boulevard Bridge I was really gassed. I hit my last gel – this one borrowed from Scott Ramsey (thanks) – and kept pushing but I was really pedaling squares once I hit the North Trail. Tom G. caught and passed me at the ramp and big climb. I couldn’t follow.

I recovered a little – the gel kicking in – when the trail flattened out for the last mile or so back to transition. I pushed it, but was suffering. Back in transition, I took two more Endurolyte caplets and grabbed my spare bottle to run with. And started walking. Yes, walking. My legs wouldn’t give me anything else. At the water stop outside transition I downed two cups of Gatorade. I soon started shuffle running – down the hill, across the bridge. Back on Belle Isle, I started to cramp in my stomach (too much Gatorade?) and had to walk a bit along the riverside trail past the hordes of kids out playing and partying. I must have been a sight – a bare-chested, red-faced dazed man shuffling along in bike shorts. I walked (with purpose) up to the hilltop, then shuffled along the plateau as best I could. By this point I realized I shouldn’t have carried the water bottle; it was just dead weight and I couldn’t drink a sip with the cramp.

I plodded along, down the hill, around the back of the island and back over the bridge. I even caught and passed a couple of people with my shuffle. But I died again on the hill climb up to the finish. One of the guys I passed came back by me. As I crossed the finish line, I took a stagger step that had the people waiting for us lurching toward me, but I recovered my balance and was draped in a cold wash cloth. Ahhhhh.

I finished what was one of the hardest races for me ever. It was a real mental fight to keep going. And I was really impressed by some of the resilience I saw out there. A redhead from the VaTech Triathlon club came into transition as I was picking up my bike. She was completely disoriented and bleeding from a large gash on her knee. She spent about ten minutes pulling herself together and getting some medical attention and fluids. But she got up and insisted on finishing with two of her teammates following along at the urging of the EMT.

My time and placing are nothing to brag about. I finished 35th out of 90 or so starters, 33rd among the men and 9th in my obscenely deep age group. The first 10k run took me 58:38, which is the slowest I’d ever run over such a distance. The 26K mountain bike took me 1:27:48 for an average speed of 11mph – not bad, but not great. If I thought I was slow on the first run, the second was much worse. It took me 42:02 to shuffle the final 5K, twice as long as that distance usually takes me. With transitions, my final time was 3:13:02. Thanks to Jimmy and Karen, who won her age group in the sport race(!), for the encouraging words and just being there after the race.

I’ve decided duathlons are just plain hard and I’m glad I don’t have another running event coming up for a while. I’m still fried and my whole body is sore more than a day after the race ended.

I did get up early this AM to attend to Dan Hersh Memorial Ride for the bicyclist struck from behind and killed by a driver last Sunday on Shore Drive. (Story from the Pilot) Wes Cheney organized the placement of two ghost bikes, one for Hersh and another for a cyclist killed on North Witchduck last year. Hersh’s sons locked the bike to a telephone poll in an emotional moment that choked me up. What happened to Mr. Hersh could happen to any of us out on the road. Be safe out there.