Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Race Report: ORV Time Trial

After a string of second place finishes, I finally managed to nab myself a top step. On the way, I also set a new PB on the ORV course, smashing last year's time. But it wasn't quite as smooth sailing as I had hoped.

For a short time trial (7.6 miles) I like to get in a pretty good warmup. So we arrived on site a little over an hour early, and I found some of my friends who had scouted out a shady area (it's still amusing to me that we "warm up" in 95° weather) and started setting up. When I took my bike out of the truck I saw that I had pinched the tube in my rear wheel installing the tire and now I had a flat that would have to be changed.

Fast forward another hour... my hands are in ruins, I've bent at least one tire lever, and I've given up on trying to get the super tight Vittoria G+ reinstalled and settled for the Specialized Turbo Cotton... You KNOW a tire is tiiiiighttttt (My friend Tony, who also gave up the skin on his hands to help me seat the tube under the tire, called them 695c tires) when you consider the Spec TC to be the "easier" one to install. Finally, with around 10 minutes to my start time, we have the bike back together. My wife and mother pin my numbers and I throw on my shoes and helmet... the bad news is I didn't get to warm up... the good news is I got a heck of a warmup fighting that tire!

I jump out on the road to check the brakes and shifter, and as soon as I grip the brake I can feel that my headset has worked it's way loose. Jeez... just like a car, a bike can brake down just sitting in the garage. Cue the whole "Proper Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance" saying running through my mind... So the choice is either miss my start time or ride it the way it is.

I make my way down to the start tent and try to get my attention focused on the job at hand. I was in the lucky position of going last, so I only had people in front of me to pick off, which always helps me when it comes to focusing. Finally, after all the hassle getting to the line, we're down to the 3,2,1... Go time.

photo credit to master photographer Tony Falin

Orv's course is short, but it's lumpy in pretty much all the wrong ways, and I've found it's easy to pay for burning the matches too fast. I come out of the start nice and controlled and quickly find my way into the bars. My goal is to push for somewhere a little higher than my 20' power for most of the ride, driving it up a bit on the uphills and letting it dip slightly to recover on the downhills. I didn't wear my heart rate monitor because I didn't want to see the numbers I'd likely be hitting, blowing up was a possibility we had discussed and would rather see than a soft race. So on I went. Making my way onto the on ramp to Hwy 95 the course starts throwing the rollers, something I've almost decidedly gotten worse at since adding 20lbs to my frame.  As the turn onto Bear Creek Road comes into sight I am in the awkward position of needing to make a pass. I decide to burn a match and really put in an effort to get ahead before we go into the turn so that I've got free road to go. It's right on the limit of too much and it takes me a moment to recover, but I find my cadence again and just keep telling myself it's almost over. The back end of Bear Creek road is generally downhill, but still with some quick inclines and some overall mediocre pavement. As I make the final sweeping bend headed for the finish I pour everything I've still got in the tank (not much) into it and really hammer down. I pass my 5th rider in front right before crossing the line and stop the clock in 16:51, about 20 seconds faster than what we had set as a target.

For Reference
2016 - 18:15
2017 - 16:51

It was great to finally take a top step again. It's been nearly 4 years (has it really been that long) since I got to stand on the top step at the end of a race. I suppose it's only fitting that it happened at the Podium Sports Medicine TT, and I'm glad I got to do it with them as my sponsor. We're still building towards something greater, but this was a nice confirmation that the hard work does reap some rewards even while working up to the bigger picture.  Maybe it's also a lesson to spend a little more time getting the bike race ready a little earlier during the week ;)

Thanks for reading, I really appreciate it!

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Impressive riding

With the tour entering it's third week it's not terribly hard to find some impressive rides... but there have been some very impressive rides put down by a couple of amateur riders in Aguascalientes as well.

Kevin Metcalfe's blog tells the whole story of his attempt to break the men's UCI hour 55-59 record. Spoiler, he does it (49.121km, putting a solid chunk into the former record) and from watching the live feed on Youtube it looked like he did so without too much trouble. Around halfway he did drop off a slight bit, but he never had a true crisis, which in itself is a testament to good pacing (and fitness of course) and being a smart rider.

Oh, and he also set the new record for the 2k Pursuit... so not a bad weekend!

Molly Van Houweling dominated the W40-44 records, crushing the hour in 47.061, and adding the 2k (2.24) and kilo (1.14) to her palmares. Of course she is already a legend in hour record history.

As for me, I'm getting ready to race the Oak Ridge Velo TT this Saturday. It's a short one, but it promises to be hot. This is probably roundabouts the last road TT I'll be doing this year, so I'm hoping that some of the fitness I've carried from earlier this year will help me secure another podium. As I've been denied the top step every race so far this year, I will be aiming to improve from silver this time!

I've also been doing a little bit of work on my own track bike the last few weeks... it looks like Rock Hill is going to begin having weekend racing! Awesome! Might have to break out the track elite!

Thanks for checking in, I really appreciate it! Next week, I suppose a race report is in order!

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

More Excitement in the Tour?

So are we getting more action from the Tour? 

I think it's hard to argue it's been "boring" this year... now whether the excitement has been a good thing is highly debatable. On the other hand, despite what seemed to be an effort to break up the Sky dominance, it looks as if they'll nonetheless cover start to finish in yellow this year, failing something catastrophic happening (which seems quite possible this year) or a cohesive decision from multiple other teams to sacrifice all else to try and topple Froome, which is unrealistic.

The "Queen stage" was full of drama, and it showed us that at the very least Astana seem to believe racing for a podium spot is more realistic than racing for yellow. All in all, that's probably the prudent choice of action, as it would be tough for (any team) to hold yellow for so many days coming, save sky. 

The biggest "hit" since the Cav/Sagan debacle is the loss of Richie Porte and Geraint Thomas. (And also nearly Dan Martin) It's unfortunate as pretty much everyone had hailed Porte as the most likely contender to Froome, and of course losing GT, who was at the time holding fairly well onto second place was a certain loss for SKY. (although, just as testament to how stacked that team is, not a catastrophic one) 

The other hailed contenders still in the race have had some rough times of it. Aru looks very good, possibly the strongest man in the race still (although without the ability to TT on Froome's level he would need some very big gaps to steal yellow.) and Martin looks strong (although his misfortune has put a hamper on that) as does Bardet... and maybe surprisingly, Uran. (Has Garmin had a great tour so far or what?)

Quintana just looks tired unfortunately. Maybe we're at the point where the Giro / Tour double is a fools gold dream... it seems it hasn't worked out in our generation. Maybe Tour / Vuelta is still possible. It also looks as if it's time for Contador to accept that he is not a tour winner any longer, he has shown he isn't on the same level as the other's. Nothing wrong with that, I think he's a podium contender in many races, even GC's... but winning may be behind him, certainly in the Tour. 

Having a great tour though? Kittel. What a monster. He's won from so far behind I would have thought he wasn't even going to sprint on the day. Cavendish may have somebody hot on his heels for stage wins in the near future if Kittel holds this kind of winning trend. 

The other person having a great tour? Lance Armstrong. Seems ridiculous to say, but his new podcast has caught on and is a hit. I have listened to it, and it's well done, and so long as you can tune out Lance's often "eye rolling" heated analysis, you can often get short tidbits of insight from a very, very rare perspective of the Tour. Hard to think that so few years since the "bomb" went off I'm thinking this has been Lances best tour since 05. 

Finally, with Sagan's entertainment factor gone, I think this may be Phinney's time to shine. He's got the personality, is amusing and quirky enough to keep your attention, and is doing that little "extra" (his video's) to stand out even on the slow days. Maybe he's the next Sagan or Voigt... we shall see.

Alright, another tour post, back to a normal schedule soon I assure you!

Thanks for reading, I really appreciate it!
-Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Thoughts on the Sagan situation

Wow, I had a post for this week sketched up, but scrapped it because... well... this is such a polarizing topic right now. I know, exactly what everyone wanted/needed, another opinion post by somebody who isn't a professional or a sprinter. Perfect. So let's dig in.

First, I think Sagan was certainly at fault.
Put down the pitchforks, let's talk about it. For what it's worth, I think a DQ was pretty over the top, but again, hard to know all the factors at work.

Unfortunately, I have not seen exactly what rule they used to infringe Sagan, I can only assume it is 2.3.036, but if I'm wrong please correct me and point me to the right source.

“Before the Tour de France, we warned the sprinters that we would look very close to every sprint. And that is what we did today”

– Philippe MariĆ«n

I copied this from the UCI's Road Race rules

Sprints 2.3.036 Riders shall be strictly forbidden to deviate from the lane they selected when launching into the sprint and, in so doing, endangering others. 

I think a lot of folks are caught up on the physical part of the sprint and the elbow. I'm of the opinion that the elbow was a combination of Sagan's arm getting hooked on Cav's hood, and also him trying to hold balance (his left knee also shoots out at the same time) and I'm also of the opinion that despite how it's portrayed on velonews/cyclingnews/etc, the elbow / contact had almost nothing to do with the decision, except that it was able to lend credibility to the "serious case" standard, which I'll agree with the masses was excessive and BS.

That said, while I don't think Sagan should have been ejected, I do still believe he is in violation of 2.3.036, definitively so. When watching the overhead video, right before the tree's block the line of sight, it's pretty clear that Cavendish has a line. From the head on view you can also see there is room for a body if nobody closes the door. So the question is, was closing the door on Cavendish an acceptable tactic or not.

That opens the question, at what point is the sprint initialized? I think it's fair to say that at around 50m to go both Sagan and Cavendish have launched into their sprints, (at a certain point you either are sprinting or you aren't, the road is ending) certainly Demare (who also had a horrendous sprint) is initiated. At that point, Sagan falls foul of the above. He continues moving in towards the barriers, and which point Cavendish leans into him to keep space...following which Sagan leans back to keep himself upright, and then carnage ensues.

Unfortunately, some of these rules are sort of written in pencil, not ink. When is the sprint initialized? What is the lane selected and how far does it extend?

In track cycling sprint events, in the last few hundred meters the lead rider in the spinters lane is required to stay in the lane regardless of anything else that happens around him/her. (3.2.041 and 3.2.042) That's because trying to move up the track once the sprint is initiated (200m is common distance) can easily cause carnage and/or block another rider.

Of course Track cycling and road cycling are apples and oranges. Nonetheless, the rules are similar, with the exception that the track rules are slightly more clearly outlined.

It's my opinion that Sagan did nothing malicious or with intent to stop Cavendish's sprint, but that he merely continued with his momentum and it happened to cross paths with Cav who was accelerating on the outside. Malicious, absolutely not, however, negligence is not a free pass from judgement. Therefore 12.104 should not have been applied, and Sagan should have continued to race. However, with that said, he was deserving of some judgement if you believe he did not follow 2.3.036.

What I think, briefly, is not that what Sagan did was so much wrong in a vacuum, but when you account for WHEN he did it only then does the necessity of a penalty look clearer.

One thing is for certain, we lost two very entertaining players in le Tour de France.

This is what the UCI handbook says about irregular sprints
10.2.Irregular Sprint 10.2.1. One-Day Race Relegation to the last place in his group + 200 Relegation to the last place in his field + 100 UCI CYCLING REGULATIONS E0217 DISCIPLINE AND PROCEDURES 14 10.2.2. Stage Race 1 st offence: relegation to the last place in his group + 200 2 nd offence: relegation to last place in the stage + 200 3 rd offence: elimination + 200 1 st offence: relegation to end of his field + 50 2 nd offence: relegation to end of stage + 100 3 rd offence: elimination + 200 Moreover, the Commissaires Panel may, in particularly serious cases, eliminate and fine a rider with 200 on the first offence 

here is a link to the regulations from the UCI to study yourself.

I know, Sagan is beloved. I am a Sagan fan. I'm also a Cavendish fan. Cavendish has been on the wrong side of the rules before (a good number of times) and has been involved in a good amount of crashes. That isn't a defense for Sagan fans to use in this case however.

I don't envy sprinters, professional or otherwise. What they do requires split second choices and nerves of steel. Hesitation on Sagan or Cavendish's part on stage 4 would certainly have resulted in something other than a win (as it turned out it did anyways) for both... I think things went tit's up, and sometimes when things go that way you make people stop and look closer than they normally do. In this case, under scrutiny, it seemed something needed done. I don't agree with what that was, but I agree SOMETHING should have been done.

Interested to hear what other's think. I believe we'll be talking about this for a long time. Unless of course Froome end's up running up a hill again.

Thanks for reading, I really appreciate it! I hope only the best for all involved.

- Christopher Morelock