Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Oak Ridge Velo 2016 (RR/TT)

Hot. If there is any word that would describe last weekend, that would be it. Our race started with the heat hovering around 96° and after you add the actual "on road" heat...well it was effin' hot.  34 of us started our little 50 mile race, and only 26 finished. That's the kind of heat we're talking about!

As far as the actual race went, well... it was pretty tough. Two laps with a feed zone at the start of the second lap, with one fairly steep climb about 1/3 of the way through each lap, which is (historically) the defining point of the race, at least for me. This year was no exception.

We durdle around the first lap without too much real action. There are a couple of half hearted attacks, but with  I AM cycling, Village VW and Southern Performance teams all having a good number of representatives in the race it was held together pretty well. I survive mid pack for the first lap without much trouble, but do not take in enough calories or water for the brutal conditions. A classic mistake, and something I should know better than to do, but I felt good, like I wasn't doing too much work. Eventually an attack on the second lap seems to stick, and I take it upon myself to stick my nose in the wind and slowly wind it back. I do, pull off and grab a drink, then hit a crack in the road. I keep it up, but it was a scary moment... I was paying attention, I saw the crack but didn't register it as enough to jolt me. So, better lucky than good and all that!

When we hit the climb on the second lap I'm near the front, ready to go when the inevitable attacks come. They start early and the pace is just too much for me to hold. I start going backwards and watch the strong guys head off into the (scorching) sunset. I top the climb and descend in my best Froome impression to see if I can gain anything back, but it's futile, as I'm pretty cooked. (literally and figuratively) I catch on with a few others who couldn't stand the pace and we form a small grupetto to get back home.  Everyone is pretty well smashed on the wall, so we go only as hard as we can manage. Not excited to sprint for god knows what place, we cross the line of the punishing finish just as we can.

in the white and red, didn't even have the energy to zip up my jersey
I get back to the parking lot and am fortunate enough to have the Podium Sports Medicine (Provision) trailer ready to accept me! I get some water, air conditioning, and even Ben King's old Normatec boots! Sponsor perks are nice.

Hey, this is the best I've felt all day!

Standing in front of all the sponsors logos. 

Almost depressingly fast my time in the boots is over (should have signed up for the longer session) and the clock is ticking for me to find some food, cool down and get ready for the time trial. So I spin for a little bit, pack the car and we (myself, my mom and my poor wife, whom the sun is nearly as merciless to as a vampire... and not the twilight kind...) head back into town to get a little food in me.

I considered not doing the Time Trial, as I was not feeling like I had recovered from my bout with the heat as my start time rolled closer. I decided that I would wear my short sleeve skinsuit, without any gloves or feet covers to try to stay as cool as possible, and that I would drop my target watts by about 10w avg. (to a depressingly low number!) and see how things went. 

I actually had a pretty good TT, I think I paced it very well, averaging within 3 watts of my target, and while that was lower than I had originally planned, I was confident that my original goal would have resulted in me blowing up.  I only managed to snag 5th place in the CAT4's, but I was happy with it, averaging 26+mph with some very low watts on a pretty steadily inclining course. It's a new *current* reality for me, and one I'm slowly starting to accept...for now.  My main goal, besides not dying, was just to hold my position (have I mentioned I haven't been on my Trek since States...) without sitting up, regardless of how tired I felt. I was able to meet that goal, something I was at least a little proud of.

Tony Falin gets all the best shots!

Great side view

Head on you can see a lot of wrinkles in my skinsuit, but you also get an idea of the hole I punch into the wind

My CdA has gotten pretty slippery over the last year... lots of trying new things, which really means going back and playing around with information some of the pillars of cycling fit/aerodynamics have written years before. (I look at a lot of John Cobbs older articles / posts / etc) and having an open mind to try things that even I don't think sound correct. (surprise, I have been wrong) To get really slick in the wind sometimes requires taking what you already decided was fast, throwing it out the window and starting over. That and lots...lots of testing. If you want to get fast and don't know what the Chung Method of testing is... learn.  In my own case, if I can just start putting out some watts I'll be able to put my money where my mouth is.

I was beat up enough after the TT that I decided against doing the crit race on Sunday. (Honestly it's that and the fact that I wanted to sleep in one day!) That's pretty much a wrap for my road racing this year I believe... next on the horizon is cyclocross. With any luck I won't break my neck (or anything else) as I venture off the road.

Thanks for reading, I really appreciate it!

- Christopher Morelock

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