Monday, June 30, 2008

That was hard... L.A. Wheelman Double Metric Ride Report

Sorry for this being a bit late, but, well...

On Saturday the L.A. Wheelman held their Grand Tour, 4 rides that varied in length from 125 miles to 400 miles. All rides were to be completed in a day, needless to say I did the shortest of the 4...

I woke up Saturday morning at 4:30. My plan was to get up at 4:30, eat breakfast, get dressed and hit the road. Show up to the ride early, have some time to chill and get ready and then roll out right at 6:30 when the ride starts. Instead I rolled out of bed at 5:15, ate a couple bonk breaker bars, threw on my kit, some shorts and rolled out. I got there a lot earlier than I thought I would...6:15. I got ready, ate a little more, grabbed my rider number and rolled out.

The first challenge of the ride came much sooner than I would have liked. The ride started right by Pepperdine, and the first climb of the Day was Latigo Canyon. Latigo is about 10 miles of moderate to advanced climbing. There are a couple steep sections, but nothing too bad. The bad part is the climb was 5 miles from the start, not nearly enough time in the saddle to get really warmed up. So I hit the climb a little cold, but once I got past the first section I started feeling really good. I mean really, really good. I think I did the whole climb in about 50 minutes, which from what I hear is pretty good. I felt super strong on the climb, so I just kept going and going, not really worrying about trying to team up with any other riders.

I rode pretty much alone until the 55 mile rest stop. When I was on Santa Rosa, I was already thinking of titles for this write up "One is the Lonliest..." so on and so on... and that's the way it was for a good portion of the ride. After that rest stop I teamed up with another rider... who I managed to get lost with. I know, it's crazy, me getting lost. "That NEVER happens" you must be thinking, I know I know. but I got us lost. Fortunately we managed to hook up with a couple Double Century riders who knew how to get us back on track. So we turned right on Balcom Canyon. Though it was what we needed to do to get back on track, it was torture. If you've ridden Balcom before you know, If you haven't, well go ride it. It's tough...

Once we got back on track we teamed up with a couple guys from La Grange. So now it was me, Cash, Alfred (I think) and Paul. We gave it hard work, picked another guy up in the Camarillo/Oxnard valley and banged it out all the way to the 88 mile sag. Though getting lost, Cash and I had managed to miss two of the rest stops, so we were ready for this one. I seriously ate 10 strawberries, a whole orange and drank a bunch of water. The rest of the ride was coming, and even though I was at mile 93 we still had 35-40 miles to go.

35 miles. This was basically a quick jump through Camarillo to PCH. Then we just hammered it down PCH averaging something faster than 20 mph for that stretch. We rolled up to the stop I looked at my mileage and it read 128.44. I definitely earned that patch...

Now it's on to the Death Ride!!!

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Corny S**T Award for June 08: Rose Bowl Patrons

That's right... You, Rose Bowl patrons, get a big thumbs up from the Corny S**t Peanut Gallery. All you thoughtless pedestrians who constantly walk the wrong way while talking on cell phones, Dog walkers who have the "trip wire" leashes who let their dogs walk on the yellow line while they're in the ped zone, Jack ass cyclists who insist on treating everyone including other cyclists like they don't belong, and motorists who honk at cyclists like they don't belong as you try to drive through the place like it's the 210 freeway. You all have done a fabulous job of turning the Rose Bowl into a Kenny Loggins song. Good Job...

I think I've seen a crash report from my friends at PAA once a month since the RB ride started up this year. That's redonkulous.

To the walkers... Would you walk the wrong way in traffic, like some of you do, in the middle of the road on any other street? No. So stop doing that at the Rose Bowl. To the pet owners... would you let your pet run around in traffic on any other street? No, So stop doing it at the Rose Bowl. To the douchebag cyclists who think no one belongs except other douchebag cyclists... stop it. "Share the Road" goes both ways. And to the Motorists... If you have somewhere to be in a hurry that requires you to speed, Why the F**k would you go through the Rose Bowl???

You've all done a fabulous job of making the Rose Bowl about as safe as PCH. Thanks.

Now this obviously doesn't include pedestrians who walk the right way and pay attention, pet owners who keep their pets in the ped zone, cyclists who aren't total douchebags, and motorists who are considerate and aware of the fact that they're on the hippodrome of a major park. But to everyone else...Suck it.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Throwdown: Bonk Breakers...Greatest thing since PB&J...I mean...wait...uh..

A while back my good friend and cycling industry secret agent (who's identity must be kept completely secret) brought some yet un-marketed product from the 2007 Interbike show. This product wasn't any sort of crazy spoked wheel or some over priced steel track bike with flat black paint. Nay, this product was the size of a flat computer mouse. As I would soon discover this seemingly old and standby-ish yet somehow bold and new-ish product was poised to take over the world of food, I mean, food that you eat, uh...when on long rides... on your bike, I mean, you know what I mean...

I first utilized Bonk Breakers (not to be confused with Bong Bakers, which is a different and completely unrelated food product) on the first highway 39 attempt of 2007. The ride was flat prone and cut short, yet long enough to consume one of these tasty pre-packaged morsels. Bonk Breakers come in two flavors, PB&J, and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip. Both are extremely tasty though my preference lies with PB&J for it's throwback appeal and lower character count. Prior to Bonk Breakers I'd utilized a few different flavors of Clif Bars and during some unfortunate rides Powerbars. The PB&J was appealing right from the start. First, My secret agent friend kind of knows what he's talking about most of the time, so when he told me they were good I sort of believed him a little bit. Then when he handed me one I SAW an immediate advantage. "These things are small!" I said. For someone who didn't join the saddle bag club until recently for fear of being ostricized by bicycling's Style Man size matters and the smaller the better. Not only were these packages about half the size of a Clif Bar Package, they weren't the same lumpy hard mass that is Clif Bar. No, this package was compact and squishy, like my first college girlfriend. I popped a couple in my jersey pocket and we hit the road. Then I got a flat. Then we hit the road again. After we got to what would be our turn around point on Highway 39 I opened one of these bad boys up. It had gotten softer and warmer from being in my jersey pocket in the middle of October. I opened it up, and it was like eating a fresh PB&J straight from mom's kitchen.

Since that was almost a year ago I bought a case to try again. I have fond memories of Bonk Breakers, but to keep things fair and honest I thought I better try them again before I write this thing so it doesn't come off like Grandpa's stories of the old Country. I couldn't find a case anywhere, so on a Thursday I called the company, which is located in Chatsworth, CA. I got Voicemail so I left a message. The OWNER of the company called me back, thanked me for my interest in the product and promised me that my order would get to me by tomorrow. Friday morning at 10:30 there was a knock on the door and there were my Bonk Breakers, complete with my invoice, signed by the OWNER with a thank you note. Now that's Customer Effin' Service.

The following Saturday was Ride Around the Bear (RAB), and I took 2 PB&J Bars, some Clif Blocks and some Hammer Gel with me. My intent was to use this high elevation ride to test the effects of the three different foods. I would ride until my legs began to throb a bit, eat, continue riding, clock when my legs stopped throbbing, then clock when they started to throb again. That was my test. Scientific? Not really. Accurate? not so much.

What I realized is that Gels get in the fastest, but last the shortest. In their defense, Hammer Gels are only 90 Calories. Hammer gels alleviated throbbing in about 1-2 minutes but typically only lasted about 30 minutes. The Clif Blocks took longer on the uptake, about 10-15 minutes, but kept the pain away for about 45 minutes per bag. One bag of Margarita flavored blocks is 180 calories I ate both Bonk Breaker bars, one during the first big climb at about mile 27 and the other as I approached Onyx Summit. Both had an uptake that was shorter than the Blocks, which was surprising. I noticed that leg pain stopped about 5-7 minutes after consumption with water, with a total lasting effect of about an hour. One PB&J Bar is 250 calories. None of this really matters though, as the Bonk Breakers were the tastiest of the three. And I eat what I like the taste of. I don't care if it is the greatest sports product ever, if it tastes like flat,watered down key lime soda I won't drink or eat it. Everyone who rides with me knows if I could take a bucket of fried chicken and a 2 liter of Fanta with me on a ride I would because I love fried chicken and strawberry Fanta more than anything.

What I'm trying to say is this: Bonk Breakers rule, all other solid energy foods kind of suck. I hate to say it because I love what Clif does with the 98% vegan stuff, but really, the PB&J is like a little bit of heaven in a weird feeling plastic wrapper. Oh, and they are wheat and dairy free! Check them out at

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Monday, June 16, 2008

The Meat Grinder: Glendale Grand Prix

Our Crack SoCal Race Reporter gives us the digs on the CAT 4 race at this years Glendale Grand Prix. The report was understandably late, as our reporter was out on the town until sunrise this morning sipping champagne and eating caviar with Hollywood's young elite to celebrate such incredible and astonishingly against the odds results...

There were two races this weekend, Saturday in San Bernadino, and Sunday in Glendale. Saturday was hosted by PAA, Sunday by Bicycle Johns, our home course. I opted to skip out on Saturday to give me a better chance at winning Sunday. For the first time in while I had actual teammates who came out to the race, real live teammates. (For the record, before this race, whenever we had more than 2 of us show up to a race one of us won, I also had my lucky number, _00, which every time I have gotten it have podiumed, definitely a good start to the day)

Race: We warmed up for about 45 min was we went over the strategy for the race, which basically all went out the door when it started which I will explain later. The cat 3’s finished and we rolled over to the line to take our warm up lap and as we come around we notice that about half the field decided to not take it and just try to get a spot on the line instead (douches). So for the first time this season I started farther back than on the line. Spent the first few laps trying to move up and Kenny tried to go off the front a few times, but none of the usual first few lap antics were sticking. All of a sudden I look up the road and there’s a PAA guy about 80 meters up, solo, and about 5 PAA guys on the front slowing down the race. I must also say congratulations the PAA team for racing and great race, amazing teamwork, and good job controlling the front. Definitely not something you see often in the 5’s. Nobody seemed to want to bring it back so Scott and Justin went to the front and kept him at about 10-12 seconds but couldn’t quite seem to bring him back in, so I decided to try to bridge up after he had been off the front for a while as it seemed like he might be able to hold it. This is how the next 10 minutes or so went

Jump…try to create gap…look back after about 10seconds… see Jim Downs (strong PAA guy), among other PAA people on my wheel… sit up because I can’t pull them up to the break… repeat. They did a great job covering for their guy. Finally got some other people to go with me but it still wouldn’t stick, as PAA would go the front and shut it down every time we got a decent gap. Again Justin and Scott go to the front and dig deep to keep him in sight, which allowed me to counter and slowly make my way up to the break. Jason (Velo Pacific) managed to come with me and with his help we caught said PAA guy after about a lap. Not it’s 3 of us OTF and we start building time. 4 more bridged up and I looked around and saw that we had a good group of guys. PAA guy who was obviously strong for initiating the break, two guys from platinum (seth and someone else) who I remembered placed well at San Luis Ray and Punchbowl (two very hard road races), sam from cynergy who is a strong junior that has a great TT, and a guy who sat on the whole time with a blue and white’ish kit, let’s call him wheelsucker (saying the whole time that he had nothing left and could just barely hang on). Wheelsucker also had no idea how a break worked either, every time he ended up on the front, which wasn’t often, not only would he not take a pull, he would slow down the break and not pull off forcing us to come around and disrupting the rhythm. I figured he might have someone in the field he was working for, but nope just him. All during this time the rest of my team was doing a great job of blocking and there were a few times that the field got within 50 yards or so, but we managed to pull away again thanks to said blocking, (Between PAA and Bicycle Johns we made up nearly half the field: PAA at 15 and Johns at 5, 47 finished). We finally got the paceline going smoothly trying to keep wheelsucker off the front and built time up to about 25 seconds or so. Coming in to the last few laps the field was within sight on the straights and we knew we had no time for any bullshit in the break. With about half a lap to go, on the head wind side of the course between corners 2 and 3 I heard the PAA guy shift on the right and jumped hard up the left, and sure enough he did too. We met up about 20 yards ahead of the break with him in front to the 3rd corner. I though this is perfect as we had a gap on the break and I wasn’t on the front, my own little leadout. Going into said corner PAA guy rolls his tubular and bobbles (not sure if he went down) and use the opportunity to jump again and open an even bigger gap on the break. 300 meters to go and the break is starting to sprint with the field in sight behind them, I put my head down and just bury myself. 200 meters to go the break is closing, 100 meters to go, the finish line is in sight, the break hot on my tail, 50 meters to go there’s about a 15 yard gap between me and second and I have just enough time to throw my hands in the air as I cross the line in first with the field about 100 meters behind. Wheelscuker who sat on the whole race complaining he didn’t have the legs somehow miraculously managed to find a sprint and take second with the junior on 3rd. Jim Downs won the field sprint, an amazing race, and definitely not possible without the teamwork from the pack. Went over to pick up the prize money and realize I had also won two primes, a 24 pack of FRS and an egrem (I think that’s right) shirt.

For the number junkie: average speed 26.04, average power 273, max power 1171, average heart rate 195, max heart rate 213.
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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Summer = Douchebag Season

Now that Spring is almost over and Summer is right around the corner I thought it would be a good idea to remind everyone that summer is really and truly douchebag season. Now that school is out and the girls are wearing less I really feel it's time to let everyone know, in case you didn't already notice, that it is officially douchebag season. Reports have begun pouring in from cyclists who have had run ins with douchebags across the nation...

Typically douchebag season begins memorial day weekend, as douchebags are busy thinking about what to bring to the BBQ, or what to wear to the club, or busy talking on the phone with their friends, all while driving. Too busy in fact to drive and do what drivers should do, which is pay attention to driving, thus I feel I must warn all cyclists to watch out for Douchebags now that we are well into douchebag season. With global warming causing spring to blossom early this year I noticed that Douchebag season seemed to begin early. I had a run in with a douchebag in a silver Mercedes as early as the first week of April when training in Griffith Park. This Douchebag was texting her buddy while leaving the observatory and had crossed the yellow line with me behind going about 15 mph. When the douchebag realized there was a car approaching the douchebag cut hard to the right, cutting me off. I to break hard to avoid being pushed off the road and down the hill, locking up the back wheel. I realized 15 minutes later that I tore a whole in my back tire, ruining a basically new 60 dollar tire.

Doug Wolfe has had a couple run ins with Douchebags, both in Griffith Park. The first run in was unfortunately with a douchebag on a bike. Doug was descending from the observatory on the right side of the road when the douchebag was climbing, on the yellow line. As they approached, the douchebag cut across the yellow line, crashing into Doug as he was descending. Doug came out relatively unscathed, but shaken by the fact that Douchebags now seem to be not only in cars, but also on bikes. His second run in was with a city employee. As he was climbing trash can hill there was a city truck moving at about 5 mph while sitting in the middle of the road and over the yellow line. As Doug approached he decided to quickly pass on the right as he was at a point where he couldn't see if there was oncoming traffic. As he began to pass the driver of the City truck began to move, turning right and causing him to be pushed into the dirt. Of course the douchebag tried to play it off like it was Doug's fault, but quickly cut the attitude when he realized his job could be on the line.

I had another run in with a douchebag on Monday as well. I was heading North on Alameda merging into the left turn lane, when someone in a gray Thunderbird convertible who had crossed the yellow line to bypass traffic to get into the turn lane hit me. I was OK, but it folded my front wheel up. Instead of hanging out to make sure I was OK and to exchange information so she could pay for my wheel she just took off. Well, whatever miss douchebag

I'm sure many of you also have had run ins with douchebags this douchebag season, so let me know about them, and we'll call them out.
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Thowdown Thursdays: Long Term Testin'

For this Throwdown I have enlisted the help of Banner Moffat, cycling guru and long time stalwart in the SoCal cycling scene. When Banner approached me telling me he wanted to write a piece about Chris King hubs I thought "Meh... Everyone does reviews on Chris King parts". When Banner told me these hubs had been in constant use for the last 12 years I thought "Meh...Now that's a great idea, No one does product tests that last 12 years" So here you go, gentle reader, a product test 12 years in the making.

I bought my first Chris King hubs in 1996 for my hard tail mountain bike. I rode that bike HARD for years both training and racing as an expert on those hubs and guess what? I still have them, I still ride on them and they still work great. I've worn out at least 6 rims around them. How's that for a long term equipment test? Plus I have owned newer disc brake Chris King hubs on more recent mountain bikes and used them for a mere 3-4 years and likewise, they always work well.

One reason they have lasted so well may be that I take them apart and clean and grease them regularly; twice a year if I use them a lot and once a year otherwise. If that sounds like too much work, keep in mind they disassemble very easily. I have the rear apart, cleaned, greased and back together in about 30 minutes. The front is faster.

With the cogs and quick release off, you just insert 2 allen wrenches and unscrew them against each other and then the axle comes out by hand. The freehub also comes out by hand. The needle bearings are exposed and the outer ball bearings have seals which come apart with my little dentist tool. I'm sure there is a kosher way to clean and grease these hubs that I don't know about, but I just clean everything I can get my finger into with clean terry cloth. The ball bearings I pack with waterproof grease and reseal, and the needle bearings I coat with a lighter grease.

Chris King rear hubs have a unique 72 tooth engagement mechanism (AKA "Ring Drive") that give them their characteristic buzz. The buzz is either a great way to warn the person riding in front of you that you are on his tail and he is not going fast enough... or an annoying bee-like sound. To me it is the sound of a rear hub that lasts forever so who cares what it sounds like. You have to be very careful not to put too much or too heavy a grease on those 72 teeth or else the hub will skip when you want it to engage. If that happens you can easily take it apart again and thin out what you put in there with some oil. When it all goes back together, you only have turn the screw down on the bearings an easy finger tightness and there will be no play.

I suspect these rear hubs may not freewheel quite as freely as some other brands. Perhaps the seals are tighter or the 72 teeth add a little drag, but if it is true, it is minor. I've never minded since if I want to go faster on my mountain bike I'm generally pedaling and the drag I'm talking about only is freewheel drag not wheel spinning drag.

These hubs are still lighter than almost anything on the market, same as they were in 1996: 112 grams front, 264 grams rear (a few grams heavier than XTR) for the classic model. They come in all sorts of cool colors. Or you can get the pink ones which include a donation by Chris King to the Susan G. Konen Foundation - a breast cancer charity, or you can get the red/gold/black and green ones which include a donation to Hans Rey's "Wheels for Life" charity which provides bicycles to needy people in developing countries.

Chris King has a modern factory in the US which was designed to be as environmentally friendly as possible. They recycle everything they can and construct all their product with minimal waste and use as much renewable energy as possible.

These are all reasons to consider buying these admittedly expensive hubs, but their durability is the best reason for me. They will outlast most bikes. Try considering the cost per wheel revolutions you'll get out of them. In fact at 1 penny per wheel revolution, a $5000 bicycle pays for itself in 70 miles! That way you can tell your loved one who sees your credit card bill and wonders if Chris King is a jewelry company - that they cost almost nothing.

-Banner Moffat
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Monday, June 9, 2008

The Meat Grinder: CBR State Crit Championships 08

The Meat Grinder is a new feature on 15 rides. It's our weekend race report, brought to you by none other than Joseph Ainsworth, a rapidly rising star in the SoCal racing scene and our crack race reporter. Providing that Joseph's weekends of destroying the field and general debauchery with Hollywood's elite doesn't get in the way, he'll be reporting for us on a regular basis...

The weekend started with a ridiculously long drive down to San Diego on Saturday afternoon, arriving about 5:00 p.m. The start time the next morning was 8:00 a.m. (the disadvantage to being a cat 4) so if I had decided to drive down that morning I would have ended up getting up at freaking 3 a.m. which is not fun let me tell you, so I spent the night at a friends down there who just happened to live just a few miles from the course which enabled me to wakeup at 6:00 instead of 3:00.

Sunday morning: Woke up and drove over to the course and got registered, found a place to park, found the guys I see every week and said hey, "Hey"; got warmed up, and tried to ride the course.

I was hoping, that considering this was a state championship race that it would be on of the better courses of the year (that’s pretty logical right?), but on the first lap of warm up on it I knew we were in for a crash fest. The course was essentially an L shape with corner one being a 180, a very, very narrow 180 around a divider in the middle of the road. Corner two was a change in road surfaces from concrete to asphalt, probably one of the easiest ones of the day. Turn three had a pothole right on the inside line which was inevitably where you got pushed if you sat in the middle of the pack. Turn four was probably the worst after turn one, the road narrowed from a good two lanes wide to a little over one and it slung you right into a curb on the outside, with a huge pothole and off camber gutter on the inside which pushed you out even more if you hit it. Saw some nasty carnage in the 5’s race while we were warming up which ended up with a broken Time VXRS and a broken set of zip wheels for one guy, among other road rash. I really wish I had taken a picture of the “barriers” they had up which were pieces of Styrofoam about 1-2 inches thick taped to the fucking wooden phone poles and cables that held them up. Crashing into them would have felt like getting hit by a car with a piece of leather wrapped around the hood at 30 MPH. For those of you who have never been hit by a car wrapped in dead cow or those with minimal imagination it would hurt bad. Finally turn 5 was back from asphalt to concrete and then you had about 200 meters to the finish. The actual race: We watch the finish of the 5’s and rolled over to get lined up.

The announcer was nice enough to remind us all that we're idiots, which is good, since I always forget that, and not to try any funny business in the corners because of all the crashes in the 5’s. Thank goodness for that reminder, since I was totally not paying attention to the 5's carnage party 10 minutes prior that I described in bloody detail above. It's my assumption the announcer is very popular and has many, many deep and prosperous relationships due to his kind and compassionate demeanor on the microphone.

Race starts and sure enough, second lap coming into the 180 some guy drives up the inside only to end up with nowhere to go and pushes the field out a little; the La Grange guy (lee I think) slid out. Every time around this corner for the rest of the race the same thing would reoccur and someone would at best scrape a pedal and at worse crash. I don’t think we made it through cleanly once. Since the race also slowed down to about 15 every time we went through the 180 it was also a full bore sprint out of it every time which really starts to add up after ~30 times through it. I think it was this corner that caused about half of our field to get dropped. A few laps in I ended up on the front reeling in a solo break. I caught him just before the line, which also just so happened to be a prime lap, but at the time I had no idea what I had even won. I look back as we cross the line and realize I have a little gap on the field and decided to go with it. The first thing I realized was that you could take the 180 about 4-5 mph faster if you were alone, the second thing I realized was that there was a slight incline on the back section that I hadn’t felt in the pack, but really fucking hurt when you were out alone. After a few laps I sat up and merged back into the field because I knew I wasn’t going to be able to keep up the pace for the rest of the race. When I merged back into the pack I was pushed over a pothole and all of a sudden I feel myself come to almost a complete stop. My front brake is rubbing; well rubbing isn’t quite the word to describe it, maybe a death grip on the wheel would be better. Turns out that the cable got pinched somewhere and every time I went over a bump it would lock up for a little while. Well this course had a lot of bumps, so the ensuing race really started to suck. I somehow managed to move up as the race neared lap cards and was about 8th wheel coming into 3 laps to go. Coming into the turn on the second to last lap though someone goes down directly in front of me, which I thankfully had time to stop for, but the guy right behind me runs up my ass and manages to get something (probably a pedal) caught in my rear wheel and breaks two of the spokes, just enough that it’s no longer ride-able and since it happened within 5 to go, no free lap.

Needless to say I was a touch disappointed and with expletives flowing as freely as the cheap warm beer at a college kegger I walk it back over to the pit and watch the rest of the race from the sidelines. Some swamis guy ended up winning it about 50 yards ahead of the field.
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Sunday, June 8, 2008

I'm an Idiot...Ride Around the Bear 08 Ride Report

I barely made it into this ride. I heard about it at Heartbreak Hundred from a few different people who thought it would be a good ride for me to do. I checked out the website, the route profile and some commentary on chatboards about the ride and thought it would be good for training as well. As I get closer to the Death ride I'm realizing it's hard to find rides that get me up in altitude. This ride gets as much altitude as the Death Ride at Onyx Summit. The ride unfortunately was already full. I managed to get on the wait list and thanks to some wrangling by some friends I was able to get in...

Ride Around the Bear starts in Redlands at Sylvan Park. The ride is a smaller ride that is limited to 400, but it's a really well supported ride with a hard core contingent of riders who wake up early on the day registration opens to sign up. It is a timed ride, although not a race, so you have groups of people who are busting their asses, and people who are taking their time like me. It's hosted by the Orange County Wheelman, who also host the Amtrak Century. I arrived at the park, checked in, then sat around and waited for some friends, and then ran into Brad from PAA.

Brad, myself and a couple other guys rolled out. By the time we hit the first climb on the 330 Brad and one of the guys took off as I and one of the other guys, Errit, set our own pace, taking turns setting the pace and just generally easing our way up the first massive section of climbing. Brad tends to be a bit competitive and a bit of a hammer head, but that's why I like the guy, he's always messing around and challenging people for sprints, he doesn't take riding all seriously. I was keeping my heart rate low, so I didn't want to push myself to hard. I saw Brad at the first rest stop, but he was taking off right as I got in. The first 21 miles to the 1st rest stop saw some incredible climbing. Despite the heavy traffic on the 330 the climbing was awesome. It went up and up, from the starting elevation at about 1,500 ft. to over 5000 ft. That's right, 3500 ft. in 20 miles. It was like the secret training route I have, only without all the descending wonderfulness. Instead it's just a constant, grinding up hill struggle...kind of like my work life, only a lot better. The road was lined with these beautiful yellow flowers who's bloom looked like some kind of orchid, but was blooming in mass out of bushes. The bushes were so prominent that you could smell the flowers for much of the climb. Flowers disappeared after the first rest stop and were replaced by evergreens and the smell of pine, I know what pine smells like because I use Pinesol when I mop. What didn't stop though was the climbing. Nay... climbing continued up until the 330/18 junction, where there some rollers that led to the second rest stop at Snow Valley ski resort. By this time I was fighting with some significant indigestion or bad gas or something. Whatever it was it really sucked. This section was beautiful, and like the roads at Heartbreak Hundred, totally reminded me of Colorado.

After the second rest stop, it was 10 miles of rollers and then some sweet sweet descending through the narrows to Big bear lake, The road was steep enough to maintain 35-40 mph, but the bends were sweeping enough that you didn't have to break, or even lean really hard into the turn. By this time the elevation was well over 6,000 feet. I didn't have any issue with the altitude this time, which was great since before I felt like I was affected by it at heartbreak. Before and during the ride I made a couple adjustments to my use of supplements to counter the effects of the altitude. Thankfully it seemed to work.

After the lunch stop the road was pretty flat around the lake, and then went up. And then Up and up and up and up and up. Up all the way to Onyx summit. Despite this section of climbing being not as difficult or as long as sections of climbing that we had done previously it still seemed extremely difficult. It was during this section that I ran across a guy doing his first Century. That's a hell of a Century for your first. As we climbed you could hear the cicadas buzzing in the fauna. I was wondering to myself if the constant buzzing from chains spinning on the climb was getting their attention. The scene at Onyx might as well have been a party. People were sitting around talking, taking they're shoes off, stretching, eating soup... you know, getting crunk. And for good reason, the ride was about to get really exciting.

From Onyx the road went down for a few miles and I was able to clock 45 mph at one point, despite a significant head wind. There was a bit of climbing at Barton Flats, and some rollers after that until the last rest stop. From there it was all down hill. Down hill all the way to the finish. It was awesome. Awesome climbing, Awesome Descending, Awesome Everything. The only thing that sucked about the whole ride was losing my Camera. Despite losing my camera, it was still an awesome ride.

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Friday, June 6, 2008

Road Scholar: Commentary by Andrew Vontz

Andrew Vontz is a contributing writer to a variety of publications including Bicycling, Road, Rolling Stone and FHM. He has been kind enough to let me repost a commentary he recently posted regarding the terrible and horrific accident in Mexico...

Per the Mexico car/cyclists collision, yeah this stuff is godawful, car shouldn't have been there. But to me, this simply reaffirms how insane the streets are on bike, foot, or in a car. Cyclists happened to be there, but this dude would have run over anything that was in his path.

when I was a kid, I was at a parade with my parents and saw a street cleaner drive into the parade and run over a marching band. Tubas and toms were flying everywhere. Turned out the street cleaner was drunk.

The night before I graduated college, my brother was driving my car on the freeway to get to my graduation and a drunk driver collided with him head on--the dude entered the divided highway from an off ramp driving the wrong way. Both cars were going about 70 when they hit. My brother had scratches but was fine.

my brother's best friend when he was a kid was killed when a drunk driver blew a red light and plowed the pickup truck he was riding in the back of. His sister in the front seat lived. Gnarly. If it had been a pack of cyclists at that intersection, he would have killed the cyclists. I don't think blacked out drunk drivers are very discriminating when they kill people.

So to me, events like this are tragic and terrible but more representative of the huge problem with drunk driving (anyone see the Dateline piece on cops getting caught on tape drunk driving, in huge numbers? that's life affirming) than the more predictable and specific tension of cars and cyclists maliciously antagonizing each other or being unprovoked victims of bad driving/riding, etc.

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Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Why Il Giro Is, And Always Will Be, Better Than Le Tour

After this years hotly contested Giro d'Italia, riders at tis years Tour de France will be hard pressed to give a more exciting, breathtaking, and down to the wire competition than the one that was on display through out Italy this year. The fight for this year's Maglia Rosa was one of Epic proportions, one that will be talked about throughout Europe for years to come as the main protagonists where laid to rest in a late and hard fought battle sieged by the Spanish prodigy and late entry Alberto Contador. While most Americans were completely unaware, the roads through out Italy were set ablaze, and the Italian favorites were badly burned...

And this is why the Giro is so much more exciting than the Tour. The Italians are fiercely proud of Il Giro, as well all of their cycling traditions for that matter. No other race in the world is as hotly contested by all of it's native riders as Il Giro.

Here are the reasons why the Giro is hands down better than the Tour, this year, years past, and all the years to come.

1. National Pride: No one, except maybe the Belgians, take cycling as seriously and personally as the Italians. Cycling is a matter of national identity. There is one Grand Tour in Italy, a number of 1 week tours, and spring and fall classics that take place through out the boot of Europe. With the exception of this year's Giro, the race has been won by an Italian every year since 1996, and Italians have won 65 out of the 81 years the race has been run since 1909. The Italians are undeniable in their domination of the Giro, and for good reason. The Tifosi, or Italian fans, have cycling in their blood. They live for bicycle racing, and the cyclists in Italy give their best for the Italian people. The Tour de France is very different. A Frenchman hasn't won the Tour since the Badger, Bernard Hinault. Hinault was a true champion in the European tradition, racing all year and winning everything he could. If a Frenchman doesn't win in 2008 it will be 23 years since one has worn Le Maillot Jaune in Paris. But the French riders don't really seem to care. Instead of fighting for the overall they bicker with each other. Instead of showing a united national front they ride for themselves trying to be the best Frenchman, instead of racing to stand atop the podium in Paris. Because of this, the tour has been won by every other nation in Europe, and much to the disdain of the French, by Americans... more than ten times. Although the tour gets the most international coverage, it simply lacks the national enthusiasm that the Giro has in spades.

2. Race Schedule: Il Giro happens earlier in the year than Le Tour, spanning most of the month of May, which is generally pleasant but cold and snowy in the mountains. This years Giro was punishing as it took riders through the high mountains late in the race. Andy Hampsten, the lone American to have won Il Giro in 1988, was the main animator over the Il Passo di Gavia during an all out white out snow storm. In pictures of Il Passo di Stelvio there is regularly 8+ feet of snow lining the mountain roads. Although the Tour is sometimes plagued with heat on Mont Ventoux, the weather is rarely as dastardly as Il Giro.

3. International Coverage: Or lack there of. The Giro remains behind the shroud of the Atlantic for Americans, with the exception of those willing to pay for's shit coverage, or those committed enough to wake up at 3 a.m. to watch streaming live coverage from Italian TV. Because of this much of Il Giro and it's traditions remain shrouded in secrecy. While many American cyclists don the Maillot Jaune, the emblematic symbol of leadership in Le Tour, rarely do you see any American's in the Maglia Rosa, despite it being a considerably more elegant garment. Now often people call me curmudgeon-y, and maybe that's why I love Il Giro so much... because so many others miss out on it completely.

4. Terrain: Le Tour is tough. I'm not going to say it isn't. Le Alpe de Huez and Mount Ventoux are emblematic climbs that have defined Le Tour for years and years. Mount Ventoux even has the dubious distinction of having killed a man... or maybe it was the drugs, either way, Tom Simpson, World Champion and Hero of British Cycling died on Ventoux. Regardless of all this, the Italian Dolomites are unrelenting. Climbs like Il Passo Gavia y Stelvio are climbs that not only strike fear in cyclists because of their impending gradiants and level of difficulty but also because of the cold that chills to the bone at the summit. Routes are regularly raced on dirt roads, and many climbs pitch up to as much as 25%.

5. 2008: This year will be a lynch pin for the sport, whether change is good or bad. In a poorly thought out attempt to re-estabish Le Tour as the grandest of the grand tours, ASO has decided to strike out from the UCI and deny the worlds greatest stage race team, as well as the home of last years Tour winner, Astana. I personally am contemplating not watching Le Tour at all, as the winner of this years Tour will only be a paper champion, having not beaten last years winner. Unlike what will become of this years Tour, this years Giro was a battle. It pitted last years Giro Champ against last years Tour champion. The gap from 1st to 2nd going into the final stage was 4 seconds. A gap like that hasn't been seen since Greg Lemond beat Laurent Fignon in 1989. Contador came off of Vacation to race Il Giro, and still handed the competition it's proverbial ass. It was an absolutely incredible race marked with incredible attacks, and nail bitingly close gaps between the leaders. I can't imagine the Tour coming close at all to the excitement level of this years Giro.

For the past 4 years I've watched both Il Giro d'Italia and Le Tour de France, and since 2005, when Il Falco won the Giro with style and Panache while Lance utilized science and the best team in the pro peloton to win the tour I've thought the Giro has been the better race. Italians ride Il Giro with Style and Grace, they stamp their authority on it, and when an outsider like Contador wins, they demand a win with typical Italian flair. Maybe the Tour, the ASO, and French Cycling could take something away from that.
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Monday, June 2, 2008

Oh... My....God

In Mexico this weekend there was a 34 kilometer bike race close to the US/Mexican border. About 15 minutes into the race a drunk driver who fell asleep behind the wheel plowed into the race, killing one and injuring 10 others. Juan Campos was charged with killing Alejandro Alvarez, 37, of Monterrey. Astonishingly a city official caught the crash on film, as you can see...

The first thing I thought about was the Roger Milliken race this year. Matt Gunnell made the call at that race to have a guy taken off the road who was trying to drive onto the course. Turns out the guy was shitbombed and the result was him being hauled in for his 4TH!!! DUI. Looking at that photo freaks me out since that could have been the result at the Milliken race had it not been for Matt's quick thinking.

I thought racing was supposed to be safe! Closed courses with no cars, right???? WTF!!!
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Sunday, June 1, 2008

Ojai Century 2008 Ride Report

Saturday was number 7 out of 15 of this years 15 rides. Number 7 was the Ojai century, starting and ending in no other place than, Ojai California. I wish I had a little more time this weekend, as I would have loved to make a weekend trip out of this century ride. Ojai is a beautiful little city. It's located about 15 miles up highway 33 from Ventura. The main town square, which seems to surround Libby park, is absolutely beautiful. It's lined with little shops, cozy hotels and beautiful tree lined streets. The area that surrounds that are beautiful residential areas. There are no large corporations, no strip malls with GAP or Abercrombie & Fitch, no starbucks or other big city crap...

This little city couldn't have been a more perfect host city to one of the best Centuries I've ridden this year. I teamed up with Ed from PAA for this ride, which was cool, as I rarely get to ride with people from my own club. The Ojai century takes you through some beautiful parts of the Central Valley. The first 20 miles rolls through Lake Casitas and Casitas pass. It's a beautiful stretch of road with large winding bends that gradually climb up over the pass. The road then goes down, giving you a nice easily winding descent where speeds of 40 mph are easily obtainable. After the first rest stop we made our way through the Montecito hills, which is similar to the Coolbreeze route with the addition of Torito Canyon. It also took us through Summerland and down into Ventura. We skipped the rest stop at 40 miles, and went straight through to the 60 mile lunch stop on Main st. in Ventura.

The next 20 miles was relatively flat roads with a significant tailwind through Suburban streets and farm roads. This is the only section of the ride that I didn't like, because of all the stopping and turning through the suburbs. But all in all this was 10 miles out of 100 that I didn't like. The last of the Rest stops was in Santa Paula, It was at a cool old train station. The last section of the ride was awesome as it was up and up and then down to the finish. The climb wasn't difficult at all, mostly between 4 and 8% grades with a couple little steep sections. When the summit was reached there was a long section of flat, a little step up and then a nice long winding descent. This led to a section of false flats the took us down to the finish.

You couldn't have really asked for a better day for the ride. The temperature never broke 80 degrees. There was only a light wind, that turned into an awesome tail wind that pushed us up to Santa Paula. The organization of this Century was also top notch. The route was well marked, with road labels that would repeat at close proximity when awkward or hard to see turns where approaching. The rest stops were in nice places with clean bathrooms and more than enough help at each one. Now, this ride didn't have the Jr. High Band playing Styx covers at the rest stop, but this ride did only have 700 or so people. Considering the size of this ride it was the best organized ride I've ridden so far. Libby Park is a beautiful start/Finish, and the town of Ojai seemed very accommodating.

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