30 June 2005

Eric's "Ride The Rockies" report. Thur. 6/23

Thur. 6/23 Gunnison to Salida – 66 Miles

Weeks before my trip I had been warned that the first couple of days in Colorado I might have some acclimation issues. I certainly took their word for it and was drinking lots of water the week before I left. Always having a bottle with me. On the plane I had 2 bottles of water and kept asking for more from the flight attendants. I was determined to beat this thing. Friday, I was fine. Saturday up and down the national monument, no prob. Monday 92 miles a cinch. Etc. Yesterday (Montrose to Gunnison) I had felt my strongest and could barely keep from skipping as I headed to the community dinner right across the street from my motel. Then I guess I did something bad… I had a couple of beers and had the audacity to do it at 7,800 feet altitude. Mother Nature clearly took offense at my hubris and smite me down last night and today I was gonna pay! I woke this morning and my stomach felt like there was a boulder stuck in it and had to force myself to eat as I woke at a relatively late 8:00am. One piece of good news, the ride out to Salida ran past my motel. As it happened I saw my buddies go by and I could barely wave to them as they yelled to me to get on the bike. I told them I had to eat breakfast and off they went. I forced down a bagel, some cereal and a lot of OJ. I did not feel like riding this day at all. I felt a fever and my throat was dry and sore.

I mounted the bike and made my self one rule….one aid station at a time. This was the second biggest day. 66 Miles and 4000 feet of elevation up and over Monarch Pass (Elev. 11,312) and over the continental divide from the Pacific to the Atlantic side. Of course it started raining the first couple of miles, but by the time the first aid station at mile 18 came round, things were looking up both weather-wise and for me. I hit the john and felt better immediately. Filled up on bananas oranges and Gatorade and set off again. The sun was shining and I was making myself take triple swigs each time I reached for my water bottles. The Beatles “Getting Better” started buzzing in my head as my body was starting to come around. Reached the aid station in Sargents at the foot of Monarch Pass and actually felt hungry enough to eat a PB&J and a peanut butter Cliff Bar. Again I promised myself to ease it, but I couldn’t help pass it seemed hundreds of older folks (50+) already in their granny chain and I hardly felt anything. Looking back at the picture (inset) that I took from behind my back, it was steeper than I remembered at the time. Reminded me of Stateline hill along 9W heading back to NYC from Nyack only it was 10 miles of this. I stayed in the middle ring for about 3 quarters of the way and then had to stop for a nature break and eat a gel and another cliff Bar. As with every last peak, you knew you were getting close because the mobile DJ was crankin’ the tunes and it served as inspiration to all of us. I was getting cold and was looking forward to throwing on my jacket and leg warmers and eating some hot food. At last I reached the top and it was freezing!!!! Just a minute after reaching the summit I caught sight of Ken and Dustin. They offered to take pictures, but I was looking for the port a potty and was sort of incoherent. They looked ready to head downhill and I was gonna definitely chill for a while. Do I smell cheeseburgers? Yes!!!. The line was long, but my craving could not be squelched. On the cheeseburger line I ran into a rider from Colorado I rode with some of the first day – Craig and we caught up on the days in between and sat at a table out in the sun trying to warm up. I finally got up from the table an hour late.I was actually not looking too forward to hunching down in the drops for another ½ hour of straight downhill. Normally on any day I would, but there was a nasty sideways wind and it was blowing the riders out toward the outer edge of the cliff. As I was heading down it felt lke I had a flat. I slowed when it was clear to and checked the tires. Nope, there fine. Found out later that many cyclists had the same experience. Must have had something to do with the heavy winds. While stopped, I took a picture (above) of the view heading down. Just like at Grand Mesa, after about 20 minutes of wide endless switchbacks at 35 + miles an hour heat hit me like a furnace as we were again below the snow line. 17 miles of downhill later I reached the final aid station, filled up on water and dragged myself to Salida. The motel was just 5 blocks away from the High school where the campers set and the start/finish. The Motel looked like a total hole from the outside, but wasn’t too bad on the inside. I asked the owner what places I could order from, because I was in self-preservation mode and was gonna hibernate in bed and hope I was better tomorrow. I ordered a pepperoni pizza, Gatorade and potato chips and then lied comatose staring at the TV until I finally conked out around 9:00pm.

Eric's "Ride The Rockies" report. Fri. 6/24

Fri. 6/24 Salida to Leadvillle - 59 Miles

Woke up feeling almost 100 percent again after my acclimatizing issues Wed & Thursday. Met up with my buddies Doug, Ken & Dustin. Actually I caught up with them at aid station 1 and we just rolled from there. I was sporting my lovely Brooklyn Jersey that Atlas Client Heather Ballantyne gave me because her husband Frankie wasn’t biking. Thanks Heather. I was surprised that so many people commented to me about it and asked if I was from New York. Ironically the Jersey is an Italian Cycling team from the 1970’s sponsored by an Italian chewing gum factory called Brooklyn Chewing gum. If you ever get a chance to see the cycling documentary “A Sunday in Hell” you’ll see Belgian cyclist and Brooklyn team leader Roger De Vlaeminck lose the 1976 Paris-Roubaix by a bike length after dominating the race.

Any how, I meet up with the guys and had a nice relatively easy ride. The route we took along 285 was marvelous because to the riders left (as you’ll see in the pictures) the highest peaks of the Rockies are right there. Mt. Harvard and a couple of other Ivy league named peaks. Further down past Buena Vista, CO. the roaring rapids of the Arkansas river were on our right. It was a nice relaxing day, with some inclines and no real hills. 5 miles to go it began to rain mixed with some hail as we rose steadlily up to 10,000 feet. A few miles back Doug got something (maybe a passing bug) lodged in his throat. Dustin hung back with his pop while Ken and I picked up the pace. Ken had his HS reunion in Idaho the next day and was in a rush to grab the rental car to get to the airport. I followed his wheel as the weather drew worse. I pulled a bit and looked back and realized I dropped him. He was laboring from riding off the saddle as it was literally giving him a pain the ass. As usual on these long rides the ride planners liked to stick it to us and give us a nice sharp incline to the finish. I got shelter in Doug’s family camper for a little bit until the rain/hail let up. Like they tell us all the time here….if you don’t like the weather in Colorado, wait 20 minutes. Leadville was the one town that Terri did not have a room reserved as there were too few available to start with. This was a blessing in disguise. I found out there was a charter bus available from Leadville to Copper Mountain resort for the trip and had paid for a room there in April. About 25 minutes drive from Leadville and we drove up a long pass and I mentioned out loud to other passengers on the bus “Glad we’re not climbing this tomorrow” (laughing) “We are” said a woman’s voice near the front. “This is Fremont Pass. It starts at mile six”. I sighed and realized that the day had taken it out of me and I wasn’t fully 100% quite yet. Oh well, I thought. I’ll get a good night’s rest tonight and be in a better mood for a climb tomorrow than I am now.

All I can say about Copper Mountain Resort is Wow! (see above) It’s beautiful. The room overlooked a man made lake with pedal boats. The town is made up of cobblestone streets with every imaginable shop and restaurant. I had an early dinner at a sports themed bar & Grill called “Endo’s” and had a delicious turkey burger. If at anytime someone says to me where should we ski in Colorado, I’m definitely thinking Copper. Hit their grocery store for breakfast snacks (bananas, cliff bars) in a pre-emptive move as I had to get up extra early and be at the finish at Breckenridge early and didn’t want to stand around Leadville at the community breakfast for an hour. Was in bed by 8:00 pm (I am such the party boy) and set the alarm for 4:30am. Tomorrow was going to be a long long day and would end back in my bed back in NYC.

29 June 2005

Eric's "Ride The Rockies" report. Sat. 6/25

Sat. 6/25 – Leadville to Breckenridge – 45 miles

Last day and this was going to be a long one! Quite a bit of logistics involved. I awoke in lovely Copper Mountain resort at 4:30am. The weather channel says 40 degrees and so I dress accordingly, Knee warmers and my heavy jacket. I pack my suitcase and knapsack for p/up by the Alpine Cycle people who will deliver it back to me in Breckenridge. I catch the 5:30am charter back to the start at Leadville (Elevation 10,000+) Today was the day I was going to do a test ride on the $6,500 Serotta Titanium/Carbon Legend TI. This puppy was light!. The Mission was to be riding by 6:30 and get to Breckenridge between 9:30-10:00 – get my pedals and saddle swapped back on to my bike, take the bike to the company that was packing my bike and sending it back home. Find my luggage then shower at the portable shower bus and make the 12:00 Noon charter to Denver airport that I had a reservation for. From there it was a 4:55 flight to La Guardia.

After gulping a coffee, filled my water bottles and chewed on a cliff bar, I was off. It took me about 10 minutes to get really comfortable with the Shimano Ultegra gearing as my Giant has the entry level Tiagra gears. I skipped the first aid station just 9 miles out of Leadville at the foot of Fremont Pass which if anyone has climbed Bear Mountain, is very similar. Bear is 5 miles, Fremont pass is 4 and slightly less steep than Bear, but you are starting at 10,000 feet and climbing to 11,350 and boy I felt it. Anytime I went faster than 12 mph, I’d start hyperventilating, so I decided to keep it at 7-8mph. That worked Better! I managed to settle into a rhythm and started passing those early rising old farts (60 yo and over) It didn’t seem that long but 25 minutes later I was at the top, grabbed a banana to eat and one for later in my back jersey, hit the Port a potty then filled another bottle with Gatorade and down Fremont I went riding on “my” $6,500 dollar speed machine. The two lane road was very wide and very steep. Perfect for checking out how fast you could humanly go. The wind was light as I started downhill and shifted into the heaviest gear I could get my hands on and away I went. Whoopeee!!!!. I have never gone faster than 42mph on my giant, but on the Serotta, I was at 44mph and I wasn’t at the steepest part yet! I hunched down into my lowest position and glanced every now and then to see my eventual top speed – 48mph!!. I think the Serotta just felt so much more stable than my bike does at speed so I was comfortable pushing it. Carefully, I whooshed past some more tentative riders and eventually got down do what seemed flat land about 15 minutes later. The signs lead to an intimately narrow two lane bike path surrounded by deep vegetation and felt to be on a continuously slight downhill. It was the best damn little bike path I was ever on!! The name of this path is the “Ten Mile Creek Bike path” I highly recommend it. What made it especially fun was that the direction of the path was never fully revealed until you were about 30 yards from the turn, due to the trees and the sharpness of the curves. I averaged about 25mph for the next half-hour of pure heaven! It was still early, about 8:15 and so there were few cyclists going the other way to contend with and it seemed that I was definitely one of the earliest risers for the last day, so I had the path almost to myself. I had skipped a little aid station after Fremont Pass to make time and got to the aid station at the end of the dreamy bike path in Frisco, CO. and pulled out a snickers I had bought yesterday and ate another banana. Re-filled the water/Gatorade and had 10 more miles that (as the profile shows) went slightly uphill as I left Frisco on route 9 to Breckenridge. I latched on to a group of 3 riders and basically drafted off of them. I pulled to the front twice just to be polite, but I was definitlely letting them do the work and they seemed happy to. They rarely even drafted eachother so, I kept getting on the wheel of whichever bike happened to be closer to me. It was a long ten miles and I was getting a little tired when I finally sqaw the sign welcoming us to Breckenridge. As usual there was a slight uphill as got near the finish. All of a sudden there are crowds on both sides of the road. Clapping, cheering, banging cow bells. Wow! I feel like I’m at a race with fans and everything! Cool! I make a final sweep left and then right onto the main drag and the finish. There’s 300 people clapping and cheering us and it’s 9:45am!. I could only imagine what the finish line crowd would be like at 12:00 or 1:00pm. I made great time too!. As I made it over to the Serotta dealers, locals were patting me on the back and little children looked up at me in awe as if I was a pro or something. It hit me there that the “Ride the Rockies” wasn’t easy and not everyone could do it or imagine doing it and here I was at Breckenridge. I had ridden all 405 miles of the trip and rode well. Even on my bad day up Monarch Pass I still was a lot stronger than most. The icing on the cake was that I didn’t have one single flat the whole trip. Those who know me, know I fear changing a flat. I’m all thumbs to this day about it but am determined to improve on it, but I was relieved I didn’t have to on this trip anyway. Got my bike back, dropped it off to the People Powered Sports outfit that was shipping my bike and quickly found my luggage amongst other in the parking lot. Hit the shower and felt brand new and ready to hit the bus by 11:15. I walked over to the main st. in Breckenridge and grabbed a turkey & Swiss sandwich, a Gatorade and water for the 90 min. bus trip to DIA. As the bus headed to Denver I marveled at the beauty of the fast flowing river along side the highway as it continued nearly it seemed to downtown Denver. I realized what a great week it was and how blessed I was to not have any accidents or injuries this long week. I sat on that bus completely satisfied and at Peace. My only lingering thought was when am I gonna see this beautiful place again?

Maybe next year….


15 June 2005

The FBF Massacre, or The Strangest Race

Well now, last night was interesting. I’ll try to relay all of the fun and excitement of the Cat 5 FBF race last night, but I’m sure that there are other stories.

Well, things started out all fine and dandy like normal. There were a few squirrelly riders mixed in with the group, but hey it’s Cat 5, you have to expect as much. The first four laps of our five-lap race go pretty well. Holding a decent pace myself and another unattached rider tried for a break on lap 2, just to break the group up and tire them out a little. It only held for a kilometer or so, but it wasn’t really meant to last. There were a few other attempts at breaks, but they all relented to the 91 degree heat after a kilometer or so as well.

Lap four comes around and the 1’s catches the Cat 5 group before the first corner. The race coordinators neutralize our field till the 1’s pass. Just as an aside, for those who are new to racing, never, ever pass the pace car. When they slow down to neutralize the field stay behind them or else the coordinators are going to get in a car and come and yell at your group. Not fun. So anyway, the coordinators come up to talk to the 12 or so of us who were in the front of the group when it was neutralized. We ask for another lap to make up for the neutralized lap (it did end up being about half of the last lap that was neutralized). We get the lap and start passing the news back through the group. Problem #1. Some idiot in the middle of the field keeps yelling, “Last lap!” as we’re trying to get the info about the extra lap through the pack. As a result about half the pack think that we’re stopping at 5 laps and the other half think that we’re going for 6. Now, the coordinators should have used the megaphone or at least rolled back through the group to let everyone know about the extra lap, but by this point it was a pretty ornery group and I don’t think that there was any better way to get the info out then the way it was handled, by the group itself.

So they release the group just before the second corner. There’s a quick mad dash to regain placement and soon order is restored. We come around the final corner and those that didn’t hear about the extra lap start a sprint. But those of us that do know think that they’re trying a break and set up to chase. The only problem is that those who were going for sprint sat up once they were over the line and those of us that were chasing had to maneuver through a group of riders sitting up after a hard sprint. (Apparently there was a crash at this point right on the first corner, but I was up at the front of the pack and didn’t see anything.) As we come around the corner we’re neutralized once more, this time because we caught the 4’s. We’re let go just before the second corner once again and in the mad dash to regain position a rider goes down one place up and on my left. He brings down a few riders behind him and to his left in one of the most painful looking crashes I’ve ever seen. As the group passes him and rounds the second corner there’s another dash to pick up positions that were lost by this crash. Of course this results in one rider clipping another riders rear wheel and the first rider goes down hard. This second crash happened further up in the field proving that even the front of the pack isn’t safe in a Cat 5 race. So now I’m still in the top 20 of this large field, but I have to sprint up to regain position before coming into the last corner. We come around the corner and sprint for the line. Once again I come in somewhere ~15th having had to fight my way through two crashes, one right before the sprint. I don’t know the field size as the results haven’t been posted on racelistings.com yet, but I’d imagine it was close to last week.

Overall not a bad finish for a race that had more confusing twists and turns that anyone expected.

Apparently there were winners for the 5th lap sprint and the 6th lap sprint as well. Once I have the results I’ll put them up as well.

Till Sunday’s Tour of New York,


08 June 2005

Romancing the Sprint, Or, Who knew Cat 5 had team tactics?

So I’ve been sick, really out of it cold and flu stuff for the past week or so. So as a result I missed two weeks of FBF (Floyd Bennett Field) racing fun, including the first race with Euri the machine from Miya Shoji out of the 5’s and in the 4’s. So finally yesterday I was able to race again. A week out sick and then a week of training and trying to get some form back resulted in a fairly good ride last night. The Cat 5 race was fairly quick at 24mph average for the 5 lap, 11.5 mile course with a large field of 41 starters.

Now this really isn’t impressive for FBF, however the fact that we were racing in 90 degree weather with a 15mph wind coming out of the south made it all the more intense (read draining). Not much happened in the early portion of the race, a few mechanicals and some squirrelly riding around a large puddle on the back flat kept the pace nice and light. A small group of riders broke off the front on lap 3 with myself, a Kissena rider, the two Miya Shoji guys and a few others (about 8 in all). We were caught on the back straight, but stayed towards the front and kept the pace up into the last lap.

On lap 4 something happened that would shape the finish of the race, the wind shifted from corner 3 to corner 4, right into the finish. Previously, the group had been slowing after corner 3 with any breaks being formed after corner 4 heading into the start/finish. So in the bell lap a two-man break formed on the back straight. Nobody thought that they would keep away, especially with the wind on the back half of the course, so the group just kicked the pace up a bit and slowly reeled them in. Then after passing the 1km to go point the pack started to wind up for the bunch sprint. All of a sudden teams became organized. People started lead-out trains with the riders pulling off into the field completely wiped after their turn at the front was done. This kept those of us without teams swerving through the mass of cast off lead-out men and fighting to contest the sprint.

This was when I made my mistake. I pulled off to the left of the field in an attempt to pull up a few spots, but I forgot that the wind had shifted and pulled out too soon. I did move up, to about 15th – 18th by my count, but not as far as I feel I could have. But I did have a good strong sprint at ~34 mph (again into the wind) according to my computer and I did move up a good 5-6 places as well.

Overall the race was definitely a success and I can’t wait till next week when I use FBF as a training race for the Kissena Prospect Park series.

Till next week.