Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Time to race!

The Oak Ridge Velo omnium is this weekend, and it seems like I'll once again be taking part in most, if not all of the available races. I'm still on the fence about the criterium (I really don't like the course, but I end up doing it usually anyways) and it'll likely depend on my Omnium points at the end of Saturday as to whether I do it or not.

Being a Cat4 this year will change things, not only will the road race be longer, but the competition will be stronger and likely smarter. Honestly, I'm expecting to do nothing more exciting than sit in and try my best to hold on during the attacks. I haven't been doing much climbing, and I weigh more than I historically have, so I expect that will be tough, but we'll see. Familiarity with the course is likely my only advantage. In the time trial... I'll do what I can. I haven't been on my TT bike since the State Championship, so I expect it'll be pretty uncomfortable, but at only 8 miles it shouldn't be too bad.

Castelli Stealth top may be made for triathlon, but it's not a bad crit top either 
There is a lot of slick color coordination between kits and helmets going on here.

Last Wednesday I did our local practice crit, in the B group this time. The hard thing about the B's is that a lot of the A riders are in there "warming up" so IF you can hold the move from the A guys you get a huge advantage over the rest of the B's. I had the right people marked for the most part, but I sat in behind the wrong guy early in the race and when the strongmen made a big move, I was just a little too far back to make the jump. I tried to bridge, but starting a few bike lengths back against three very strong dudes pulling hard is not a recipe for success. I settled back in to the second group on the road (5 of us) but got only the barest amount of help. Only one other guy would do much work with me, with three wheelsuckers. Not my favorite way to race, especially when I had a little hope harbored that we might be able to bridge back to the front group with enough teamwork (we didn't, and got lapped!) but with only a little help it was not to be. I understand, most of these guys weren't interested in racing hard this time, saving up for the A race, but it's still slightly frustrating. Eventually I attack our group at 3 to go, but with fresh guys behind me it didn't work out. I ended up third of the Cat4 racers (One in the lead break and one in our group) which was good for what was basically a hard training day.

Channeling my inner Sagan hair
Might has well be time trialing with all the pulling I'm doing
I finished the wife's Raleigh finally. It was a bit of a headache, I couldn't get the shifting smooth and eventually, after a bit of elimination I had to bend the derailleur hanger back to straight.  I know, it's pretty common, but it still amazes me every time. Why not just send the hanger not attached? But I digress. All is good now, and she loves it, which is awesome!

Thanks for reading! I really appreciate it! Some stories from the race next time!

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Project Manager

I've been busier this last few weeks than I think I have been in months...if not years. Add to that a return to a full training load and also a good bit of actual "work" waiting for me every day and it's a recipe for the blog to suffer, at least a little. This week I'll let you guys have a peak inside the garage to see what all is on the workbench.

First is the Cervelo rebuild. As I've had a tough time getting low enough on my Speed Concept I've decided I'm going to sell it (ahem... $500 for the frame, two forks, two seatposts, new headset and Shimano BB... shameless plug) and go back to my aluminum P3.

New braking hazards

It's much easier for me to get low on the Cervelo, mainly due to it being made in a time when long/low was something that bike manufacturers actually made. Add to that some very low stack bars (USE Tula's, something I've been searching for for some time) and an adjustable stem and I'm able to get back to as low as I was years ago on my Planet X. It's coming together rather slowly unfortunately, as I'm not really in a  hurry to get back on a TT bike, and I want to make sure the fit is totally dialed in before I start cabling it.

What am I in a hurry to get on? My cyclocross bike. Actually that's not fair, I've been on it a bit already doing some gravel grinding and playing around near the house.  I've got a set of clinchers to get me around the fun stuff, but for racing I need to get my Major Tom tubulars glued and ready to ride.  I hope I have a how-to on both how to glue a tubular (at least my own way) and also on how to build a wheel. (I laced/built my Major Tom's) It's tedious, but not very difficult. I've glued tires before, but nothing quite so tough as a very wide rim. Gluing the front I made a huge mess and had to remove / re-glue the tire due to my own inefficiency at getting the tire straight before it settled. I'm hoping I do considerably better on the rear!

prep work!
One thing I figured out quick is that taping the brake track is a very handy thing to do. The amount of glue on the front rim brake track was a little bit ridiculous (could have also had something to do with my heavy handed glue painting.) and extremely annoying to remove. Prep work goes a long way in saving time and hassle in the long run!

But by far and away, the biggest project going right now isn't even mine... it's the wifes!

boxed and "partially assembled"
She has been on the hunt for a "do it all" bike for a while now, and after some serious research we ended up going with the Raleigh RX 2.0 Disc.  I've been rather impressed with my 1.0 I picked up for cyclocross at the end of last year and this was pretty much the best "bang for buck" we could find for her. It came to the door "75% assembled" which is code for "we threw a bunch of stuff together with no grease and super long cables...good luck. So currently I'm about 60% into building it after taking it from 75% to 0%. Here's where we sit now.

It came with pre-wrapped bar tape...wut?

It's a very slick bike... the matte base paint really pops with the decals. I'm not a huge fan of disc brakes or thru axles, but it's what she wanted and this one delivers.  I am a big fan of the SRAM Rival 1x group they put on it, although the wife might need something smaller than a 40t if she's going to be doing some of the bigger gravel climbs around here. Or maybe not... she is a mountain bike beast. I'll throw up a full detailed post on it once I get it totally put together (and of course after she gets to ride it a little bit!)

Thanks for reading, I really appreciate it!

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

What a Tour so far (Past Day Spoilers for 2016 TdF)

I know I said this weeks post would be a How-To, but I just had to share my excitement over this year's Tour. Already one of the most amazing TdF's in recent memory.

Look, I know a lot of people are not Cav fans, but even those who aren't fans still have to admit, finally pulling on that yellow jersey had to be that icing on the cake. Personally, I like Cavendish (I liked Columbia HTC as a team a lot back in the mid-late 2000's.) but I was a doubter. I just didn't think that he had that explosive dominance (let alone an insane lead out train) he had as a younger sprinter.

Hard to not feel pretty wrong after the first three days of this year's tour. Two stage wins in 3 days, day one making it look easy vs. all the big names, and Monday squeezing out that little extra against the Gorilla. If you had asked me Friday if Cav would ever pull on yellow I'd have said no way barring some fluke where the rest of the sprinters missed the final run in... now... hell maybe it's not so impossible that he can get up to Merckx record. I suspect he'll abandon the tour before the mountains start, but this is already his best tour in recent history.... probably in the last 6 or 7 years at least! Interested to see if he can keep the dream alive and bring home some hardware in Rio. My current thoughts are "unlikely...maybe bronze" but seeing how surprised I have been this week, maybe I won't be surprised in a few weeks.

But Cavendish isn't the only one living some dreams. Whereas not everyone loves the Manx, I think it's a fairly safe assumption that pretty much everybody loves the World Champion. Sagan has also lived a pretty big dream, breaking his streak of finishing right off the top step and winning stage two (and not even knowing it apparently) and maybe more importantly, pulling on the yellow jersey to combine with his rainbow stripes. Is this the tour of dreams? It will be interesting to see just how long Sagan can hold on to the maillot jaune, as Wednesday may very well be the preliminary fireworks between some of the big hitters.

Yellow, Green and Rainbow... not a bad haul.

That said, it hasn't been a fairy tale tour for everyone. Contador continues his streak of bad luck in the tour with a couple of pretty nasty looking spills. Oddly almost every spill has been in a fairly uneventful section of the stage while being in good position / doing it all right... It really just looks like bad luck. Reports seem to say he's not beat up too bad, but Contador is good at hiding when he's hurt. I suppose we'll see.

It's also certainly not how Porte was imagining his co leadership role on BMC. A flat that has left him quite a ways down on the competition (and also on his own teammate Van Garderen) has almost certainly removed him from serious contention this year. I think both of the BMC captains have a similar weakness in the big Grand Tours... they are very strong most days, but when they have a bad day, they have a VERY bad day. I hope I'm wrong, I'd like to see both of the BMC boys do some special stuff in the Tour.

Actually, I'd like to see anything shake up the seemingly unstoppable entity that is SKY. Quintana is almost certainly the only "real" threat, and I am just not sure he has the team to back him up for three weeks. I have no doubt he certainly can win the Tour, I'm must not sure he can do it if SKY is on top of their game.

The secret to Froome's strength... the stem stare.

Of course all of this will play out pretty soon. I am excited to see how the Time Trial's go this year... is Rohan Dennis unstoppable (except when he flats of course...) or do the "old warhorses" like Tony Martin and Fabio have another stage win in them? (or even Froome / Porte)

My guesses for Paris...
Frenchman in Polka Dots
Sagan in Green
Froome in Yellow
Quintana Second Step
Tejay Third Step

Let's see how I do!

I swear, How To is on it's way ;)

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Back to Basics

It's about time to get back in the saddle, and back to what I'm used to. It's been a good time I've taken trying to shake thing outs and focus on time trialing, but now that states is over I'm ready to get back to just working on getting stronger again and maybe working on some off road stuff in preparation for cyclocross season. Man, remember those days when 300 watts for an FTP wasn't a far away dream... I sort of do. I'd like to again. I've got all the technical details down to the absolute minimal... now I just need to get back to the simple "push pedals harder, go forward faster" formula.

The rest of my season is up in the air. There are still some races on my schedule, and it's likely I'll end up doing them, including the slight chance that I end up doing a sprint triathlon before the end of the season. That run won't be pretty though. Maybe more of a float, hammer, walk type of triathlon :)

I've got another how-to currently in the works, one that should interest a lot of people that visit the site. It's been a slight pain in the butt though, (mainly forgetting to take pictures and having to re-do all of it!) so that's why this post is going to look a little sparse! That and not much exciting is currently happening... Hopefully the Tour will shake things up!

Anyways, thanks for checking in!

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Wow, 200 posts. That's a milestone!

200 Posts!!

Seriously... I would have never thought that when I started this little blog that I'd actually end up keeping up with it enough to ever hit 200 posts! Sure, it's not the most premium content you can find on the internet, but I would like to think it's not the absolute dregs either. What's possibly more unbelievable is that at least some number of you guys think it's good enough content to come back for more. I'm not one for getting choked up, but seriously... thanks!

I've been a lazy bum the last week (and part of this week) as after the State TT I needed to decompress a little bit. Sure I wasn't terribly excited with the way it turned out, but I was realistic enough to know it was about right. Big ups to Bestbikesplit.com, who, when you factor my actual average watts (215) spit out a projected finish time of 1:00:19, which is within 15 seconds of my actual finish time. That's pretty accurate considering how much guessing it does.

If you are looking for some extended reading across the internet about some interesting (at least I think it's interesting) stuff, let me direct you to a few places to check out. First, our very own Provision Racing blog, filled with race reports from our elite team of athletes (don't ask how I got on the team... certainly not by my recent results!) where you can fill up on what's going on in the minds of some very, very fast people. See how I so effortlessly dropped a sponsor plug in there!

Another excellent read that is ongoing right now is Dan Empfield's (Slowman) article series prescribing the right bike for your stack and reach numbers. You can find the articles on the Slowtwitch main page and the forum post that corresponds with it here. I'd suggest if you even have a passing interest in fitting bikes or just wonder about where you stack up on your current ride that you have a look. The TL;DR of the series is that we really, really need a new long/low bike. It seems like for the "Aliens" out there the only real solution is to find an old Cervelo P3/4.  I can relate as I've been struggling to get low enough on my Speed Concept. I'm actually planning to move back to my aluminum P3 soon... well, at least soon'ish.

Without dropping into too far of a tangent, I will say that despite this season having so far never gained much traction, I've had a lot of fun. It has taken me a long time to really internalize the whole "journey" back to competitive racing, but I think I am finally starting to find a balance. That's something I never had before getting sick, I based every race as the current gauge of how I was doing... which a lot of us do, but is very short sighted.

There's some more exciting stuff on the way, not just reading about me ramble on and on about this and that, I promise.

Thank you all for reading. Seriously, I wouldn't keep putting content up if I didn't see that people actually seem to visit. It's incredible, so again, thanks so much for reading!

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

TN State Championship Time Trial

Life had been barreling towards June 11th for the better part of this year. I focused all of my attention towards it, with the intent of trying to win the Cat 4 race. I knew going in it would be a tall mountain to climb, as the level of fitness I've enjoyed in the past has continued to elude me. I spent a large amount of time squeezing every bit of speed I possibly could out of my position and economics, but at the end of the day, I was shooting towards averaging a relatively low 235 watts over the 40k. Certainly not "strong" by most any cyclists measure.

Friday evening start times were announced. I had (correctly) picked out Matt Hunt as the man I would have to beat to win, and as fate would have it I was starting 30" behind him. Looking at it retrospectively, you could say this is where things went off the rails. Normally, a time trial, and especially a 40k are dictated by pacing properly and following your own race. For one thing, you generally have no idea exactly how you are doing compared to your competitors, so the best you can do is pace yourself well and hope it's good enough. I was in a fairly unique position however. I was as certain as I could be that I would know exactly how fast I needed to be to win... I needed to keep Matt within 30" of me. So, a choice had to be made... do I race my own race, or do I throw caution (and pacing) to the wind and try to keep first place in sight.

As I have mentioned many times in the past, I came to the State TT to win. I would be just as unexcited with second place as I would with last place, so the decision was simple. I would not look at my powertap, I would simply do all I could to keep my chance at winning in view.

Looks count for something, right?

Off and away

It was mercilessly hot even as I was gearing up and heading to the start line. I don't dislike hot conditions, but I knew this was going to be merciless as the entire course is on a no turn (except the turnaround) highway with no shade. I watch Matt take off and shortly it's my time to follow. With a moderate tailwind going out I know that I'm going as fast as I am on borrowed time. We pick people off at a feel good rate for the first 20 minutes, at which time I hit the lap button on my powertap so I'll be able to look back later. 255 watts avg. 20 watts higher than what I had planned for the whole ride. Nonetheless, my plan is so far working, I'm within spitting distance all the way to the turnaround.

And then, reality comes crashing in. Overcooking myself, along with 90 degree temperatures catch up with me, hard. That nice tailwind turns into a headwind, and those rollers I had been bombing down don't seem nearly as friendly going back up. I know it's all about damage control now, as Matt disappears out of my sight (and on to win!) and I am left with that long, gut-check ride back to the finish. I make a deal with myself that I stay tucked in aero on all but the longest climbs, but let my watts fall to whatever will get me there. At the second 20 minute lap I am averaging 213 watts, a meltdown if ever there has been one. The last twenty minutes is a grueling battle both physically and mentally, I don't care what anyone says, the hardest minutes of your (athletic) life are when you know it's over but you still have to get to the finish line as fast as you can. For the last 20 minutes I averaged 203 watts, as complete of a disaster as I've ever seen.

I stopped the clock in 1:00:05 - 24.7mph average over moderately rolling terrain. Good enough for 6th place, almost 3 minutes behind 1st place.

Looking back, it's easy to say it was a mistake to not pace myself, but I disagree. I think it was not only the right choice, it was my only choice. I knew going into the race I would need a lot of things to go right to claw away the top step of the podium, and given the opportunity to see exactly how fast I needed to go, I don't think there was a better setup to throw a hail mary. It's hard to separate results from the correct line of action, but it should still be done. I went all in, first or nothing... and with it probably cost myself a podium spot and certainly a much better time, but despite the fact that we endurance athletes generally phrase it that "we're racing against ourselves" eventually that simply isn't true... we're racing others, and sometimes to have a chance to beat them you have to go out of your comfort zone / planned pace/race. You miss all of the shots you don't take, as the saying goes.

I would like to thank all of my sponsors... Provision in particular... without their help I wouldn't have even made it to the start line, let alone the finish line. I'm not discouraged, now that this race is over it's time have some fun!

Some pictures of my buddies starting

Jimmy was looking for a back to back jersey win, but also had a tough day

Matt crushed all the 4's and can now claim back to back state TT wins, helluva ride

Sharon had a very rocky start, involving ripping her rear derailleur off her bike on the warmup and having to borrow another bike just to get to the start. Still snagged second too!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Taper Time

There's very little left to do before the State TT.  Two more short, hard training sessions and one last equipment check and then it's go time. Weather report is hot, especially as the day goes on. We don't have start times posted yet, but looking at the group start order I suspect we'll be seeing the hottest parts of the day during our ride. That's fine with me, bring on the heat.

This is probably the most relaxed I've been about a race in recent memory, even before my time off. Not because I think I'm going to dominate, but because I feel like I have done everything I could have done to put myself in the best position possible. My equipment is sorted, my fitness is as good as I was able to get it, and my aerodynamics / rolling resistance / efficiency is as tight as I know to make it.  There's nothing, short of dropping a couple of grand on a new bike that may or may not be any faster that I can do other than go out there are suffer the best I can for a little under an hour.

As far as equipment goes, I've not said lots about it leading up, but here's what I'll be running.

2011 Trek Speed Concept 7.0 - Medium
3T Brezza Nano base bar w/ USE 50° extensions
SRAM CX1 RD w/ no name 13/15t Pulleys
Shimano 105 Crankset w/ Falco 54t Narrow/wide ring
SRAM 500 TT shifters
SRAM 500 TT brake levers
Tririg Omega X front brake
Fizik Ares TT saddle
LOOK Ergostem
Zipp 404 Powertap w/wheelbuilder disc cover
Specialized Turbo Cotton 24mm w/latex
HED. Jet9 C2
Continental Supersonic 23mm w/latex
Shimano Dura Ace Chain w/ Speed Wax coating

Nopinz Supersuit w/number pocket
Specialized TT helmet
Specialized Sub6 laced shoes w/speed covers
Aerocoach Trip Sockz
Bioracer TT gloves

Targeting a 235 watt avg, but I don't plan to stress over my numbers during the race, just holding my position as tight as I can.

What do I think my chances are. Realistically, without factoring in the "unknowns" who can always show up at a race, I think I have a good shot at the podium. What step of the podium is in question, as I don't know the exact level of fitness or watts/cda some of the other guys put out. With a "perfect" day, I think I have a shot at the top step. My "safe, I'll be happy regardless of placing" goal is 57 minutes. Bad day, just break an hour. Great day, in the 55's. My "Babe" called shot is 55:58 (it's also what BestBikeSplit spat out) but we'll just have to see how it goes.

Thanks everyone for reading the blog! Next week I'll have a race report, good bad or ugly. To my competition... ride hard! Just not as hard as me!

- Christopher Morelock