Monthly Archives: July 2009

Riding the “Race of Truth” – my first 40K time trial

Kuota K-Factor TT bike

On Saturday I competed in my first time trial, which just happened to be a 40K TT in Graford, TX. Since I just got back from two weeks off the bike while on vacation, I wasn’t expecting a real solid performance. However, you’ve got to start somewhere.

I pieced together a Kuota K-Factor back in April with the help of the good folks at Fort Worth Cycling. I normally ride the K-Factor with Flash Point FP60 wheels. I also ordered a disc cover from to convert the rear Flash Point wheel to a disc wheel. The cover was only $85 and pretty easy to put together. The combination is no  Zipp Sub-9 disc wheel, but I figured it would get the job done. I also purchased a Louis Garneau Superleggera aero helmet. I’ve read several articles claiming that an aero helmet saves more time than aero wheels, so I figured the Superleggera was money well spent.

Elevation profile for the 40K TT course

Elevation profile for the 40K TT course

I pre-rode the course the weekend before with my buddy Anthony, which was a huge help. I knew what to expect and, more importantly, new about the one significant climb on the course.

I got to the race 2 hours early, which gave me plenty of time to register, pin my number (number pinning on a jersey is an art-form), and visit with teammates before I started my warm-up. I started warming-up on the trainer a little more than an hour before my start time. I kept the pace fairly easy since it was already hot and I though the benefit of getting some lactate in the blood with hard efforts wasn’t worth the risk of dehydrating.

Graford TT Course Map

Graford TT Course Map

I truly had no idea what to expect. This was my first time trial, so I’ve never had to “dose” my effort before. The best advice I got was from the event’s promoter who said, “Ride hard. When you see an official . . . stop.”

I rode with a Garmin Edge 305 that allowed my to use my heart rate as a guideline (since I no longer train with power). I know my lactate threshold heart rate is 173 bpms based on the VO2 max study I participated in at TCU. The plan was to try and hover around 165-175 bpm for the first 13 miles (until the climb) and then open it up a little more. Did the plan work? Here’s how it went down:

9:33 – Get to the start line in time for my 9:36 start after using the port-a-potty

9:36 – Roll off the line in too high a gear – nearly tip over when they let go of my rear wheel.

9:40 – Despite my best-efforts to not go out too hard, my HR hasn’t dropped below 180 yet.

9:50 – I catch my 1:30 man (we went off every 30 seconds and there were two ghost riders in front of me). Further proof that I probably went out too hard.

10:00 – Feel horrible. Seriously consider “pulling the ripcord”. My two weeks off the bike are really showing and my legs and lungs are burning. The only positive is that my position is still pretty relaxed and I feel very aero.

I'm no Dave Zabriskie (above), but at least I felt aero

I'm no Dave Zabriskie (above), but at least I felt aero

10:05 – My teammate, Eric, catches me. He’s looking really strong and I pace myself to keep him within eyesight.

10:12 – I pass Eric on the climb. I tell him, “don’t worry, you’ll pass me again soon because there is a long gradual downhill.”

10:18 – Pick off a couple more riders right after the hill.

10:20 – Eric passes me. Once again, I make sure to keep him within eyesight.

10:20 – 10:30 – Feel really strong. It’s a slight downhill towards the finish so I’m able to really keep my speed up. This was a big morale boost since the  speeds I maintained on the first half of the course were disappointing.

10:31 – 10:35 – Realize the end is near and really ramp it up. My heart rate is now hovering in the mid 180s.

10:36 – With the finish line in sight I give it everything – hitting 193 bpm.

Cross the finish line in 1:00:45. Good enough for second in the Cat 4s behing my teammate. My average heart rate for the hour? 175 bpm.

10:37 – the rest of the day – I am in horrible pain! As soon as I slow down my legs and butt start to cramp. Try to walk things off while waiting for the official results and my check (2nd place got me $40, which my little guy decided we should use to buy ice cream and celebrate). The hour drive home was painful, my butt and legs were sore to the touch and everything hurt. I can ride a hard, fast century ride (in well under 5 hours) with little or no soreness – so I was totally surprised how the “race of truth” rocked my body. This was definitely the hardest hour I had ever spent on a bike.

For my first TT, after two weeks off the bike, I’m happy with my performance. I definitely plan on doing more TTs next season and will probably make the state time trial championships one of my “A” races in 2010.

New Team for Lance Armstrong in 2010 – Team RadioShack

Team RadioShack and Lance Armstrong

It’s official, Lance Armstrong will ride for at least one more year and with a new team . . . Team RadioShack!

There have been rumors swirling for months, but most of the rumors involved the Livestrong foundation and Nike as the title sponsors of a new Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel led team. The RadioShack sponsorship comes as a huge surprise and is a bold move for the electronics retailer.

Apparently RadioShack will also sponsor the Livestrong Foundation’s signature fundraising event, the Livestrong Challenge Series, a 5K run/walk and cycling ride held in four cities throughout the United States, providing support for an ongoing, self-sustaining fundraising vehicle to raise money for the fight against cancer. The Livestrong Challenge is actually the event that originally got me into cycling.

RadioShack’s corporate HQ is just down the street here in Fort Worth, so I’m always available if the team needs suggestions for training rides while visiting the “suits” 🙂

Jens Voigt crash in Stage 16 of the Tour de France

You might have heard that Jens Voigt crashed in today’s stage (16) of the Tour de France.  From  “Little Known Facts About Jens Voigt” we know that Jens is as tough as they come, but crashing in a bike race is no fun.

Let’s hope that Jens is OK and has a speedy recovery.

What to do on a Tour de France rest day? How about some bike dancing?

Lovers of the movie Footloose might disagree, but I think this scene from the 1986 classic, Quicksilver, is Bacon’s best on-screen-dance-scene.

Ride Report – Madonna del Ghisallo climb in Bellagio (Lake Como), Italy

My 2nd time up the Ghisallo climb

My 2nd time up the Ghisallo climb. The goofy face is because I did it on a mountain bike!

Part of our recent European vacation included time on Lake Como in Italy. So as a cycling enthusiast, I was obligated to find a way to do the Madonna del Ghisallo climb. What’s the Madonna?

The Madonna del Ghisallo is a hill close to Lake Como in Italy (just outside of Bellagio). It is named after a legendary Marian apparition.

According to the legend, the Medieval count Ghisallo was being attacked by bandits when he saw an image of the Virgin Mary at a shrine. He ran to it and was saved from the robbers. The apparition became known as the Madonna del Ghisallo, and she became a patroness of local travelers. The Madonna del Ghisallo (the hill climb) was later made part of the Giro di Lombardia (Tour of Italy) bicycle race and is also a staple of the Tour of Lombary race (one of the major one-day classics in professional cycling).

In 1949 a local priest, Father Ermelindo Vigano, proposed that Madonna del Ghisallo (the apparition) be declared the patroness of cyclists. This was confirmed by Pope Pius XII.

Bike of cycling great Eddy Merckx inside the shrine

Bike of cycling great Eddy Merckx inside the shrine

The shrine now contains the equivalent of a small cycling museum with bikes, jerseys, etc. from past champions of the sport. There is also an eternal flame in memory for fallen cyclists.

I found a bike shop in Bellagio that rents mountain bikes. The bike I got was in horrible condition (cranky chain, squeeky brakes). Not my Kuoda Kredo, but it had two wheels. My wife wished me luck and I told her I’d be back at 2 p.m. to meet her for lunch.

Profile of the climb coming from Bellagio

Profile of the climb coming from Bellagio

The climb is 10.6 km (6.6 miles) and climbs 1,800 ft (average gradient of 5.2%). However, the first two miles are the toughest with an extended stretch of road that winds up at 14%. After 4 miles of climbing it levels out for a period and even goes downhill through the quaint, Italian village of Civenna. The last mile before the shrine kicks back up to 10% with some knarly switchbacks. The average gradient of 5.2% is deceiving because of the downhill stretch – the actual “climbing” is much more difficult.

In front of the shrine

In front of the shrine

I stopped at the top to take some pictures and look around the shrine. The collection of cycling “artifacts” is truly impressive.

Inside of the Madonna del Ghisallo shrine

Inside of the Madonna del Ghisallo shrine

As a born-and-raised Catholic it was also interesting to see a place where my passion (cycling) and religion were so intertwined.

Statue in front of the shrine

Statue in front of the shrine

After walking around, taking pics and checking out the cycling museum next to the shrine, I filled up my water bottle and headed down the hill towards Asso. After Asso I went through Valbrona and then on to Onno. I followed the road along the lake (with some of the most stunning views I have ever witnessed while on a bike) back to Bellagio. This made for a ~25 mile loop and I still had some time before meeting the wife for lunch . . . so I did it again. The second time up the climb was much easier since I knew what to expect. I paced myself on the first two miles and then picked up the tempo.

My perfect post-ride lunch

My perfect post-ride lunch

I met Jess at a little cafe in Bellagio for lunch. After an epic Italian-ride, I figured there was only one post-ride meal that would do . . . a cappucino and a prosciutto panini.

This was a truly amazing ride and up there with my all-time favorites. However, next time I need to bring my Kuota – a mountain bike just won’t do.

Tour de France Report – Monte Carlo

Tour de France Stage 2

Jess and I are back from our European vacation and we had an amazing trip. I won’t talk about our whole trip in this post; instead, I’ll focus on the first two stages of the Tour de France we caught in Monte Carlo.

Stage 1

livestrong crowd

The crowds at the opening time trial were amazing. To our surprise, there was actually a lot of support for Lance. I saw countless French, Italians, etc. wearing Livestrong gear from head-to-toe.

Lance warming up for the TT

Lance wore a Livestrong jersey during his warm-up on course – one of the benefits of racing for free (Lance doesn’t pull a salary from Astana).

We decided to walk to the top of the TT course where the riders do a 180 before the last climb. This was a great spot since we got to see the riders coming looking down the cliff and then could move to the barriers to see them suffering up the climb.

Kevin D from our perch on the TT course

Kevin D from our perch on the TT course

Kevin D and I were constantly trying to predict who was going to end up in the top 5 based on how they looked as we saw them zoom by.

Dave Zabriskie tearing up the TT course

Several riders looked really strong, like Garmin’s Dave Zabriskie (owner of my favorite chamois creme – DZ Nuts) above. However, there was no doubt Cancellara was going to win. He shot passed us on the climb like he was riding a Vespa. Cancellara’s winning time of 19:32 puts his average speed at 29.8 mph – which is mind-boggling after walking the TT course. There was more climbing than you realize on TV and lots of technical turns.  As I said in my Tour of California report, the pros are VERY GOOD.

Stage 2

Columbia bikes

Several different teams were staying in our hotel in Monte Carlo – Columbia/HTC, Quickstep, BBOX Bouygues Telecom, Euskatel-Euskadi, so we got to see the riders prep for Stage 2.

Jess and I with Tom Boonen

Jess and I with Tom Boonen

The riders all seemed pretty relaxed and were great with signing autographs, taking pics, etc.

The stage rolled right past our hotel, so we decided to watch from there. The “caravan” came by and you would swear that we were back home in Louisiana for Mardi Gras.

TDF caravan

The caravan is a 30 minute procession that leads the officials, VIP’s, teams and team cars along the course. It includes over 250 vehicles and has every Tour sponsor, most of whom toss out free swag (thus the Mardi Gras reference). Most of the vehicles have extravagant themes (they look more like parade floats) and feature beautiful women dancing or throwing goodies to European house music. I had seen the caravan on TV before, but seeing it live is a totally different experience. With the speeds the vehicle travel, many of the goodies they toss out the car become lethal projectiles (I was also lobotomized by flying Gendarme key chain).

TT course

Overall, it was an amazing experience. This may have been our first Tour de France, but I can guarantee it won’t be our last.