Monday, July 27, 2009

Reality Check

Yesterday I went out for my first ride in Tahoe in over two years. It was hard. I suck.

My original plan was to climb up Mount Rose to Tahoe Meadows, take the Rim Trail to the Flume, circle around Marlette Lake, climb up the Rim over Marlette Peak, then descend the Rim and Tunnel Creek Road back to the condo. In the end, I cut out the loop around Marlette Lake.

The ride starts with a constant 8.5-mile climb right from the condo. The climb begins with a steep 3.5-mile road section, then gets much harder in the middle as the road steepens and turns to dirt. The grade lets up a bit towards the top, and then the last singletrack climb gets steep and technical. It was here that I realized my wrist was going to be an issue; I didn't have the hand strength to power up and over obstacles. It was also at about this point that I realized my fitness level sucks.

The rest of my ride was mostly downhill, but it still took a lot out of me. The deep sand, technical downhills, and frequent little climbs tired me out. I think worrying about crashing was more draining than the ride itself.

I walked a number of technical features that in years past I didn't even think twice about riding. I have little confidence in my technical skills, and I get the occasional flashback of snapping my wrist on any rock formation that resembles the one I crashed on. I had one close call when my left hand nearly slipped off the bars. The grip strength isn't quite there yet.

In the end I made it through the most technical ride so far without hitting the ground. It was nice to get back out there, and hopefully tomorrow I'll ride with a bit more confidence.

Obligatory Tahoe shot:


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Enter the Dragon

What do you do when you're heading out on a mountain biking vacation, your first one since breaking your wrist? Your first foray into "real" mountain biking, rides with descents that are leaving you a bit nervous about your ability to hold on?

Build a new bike you are completely unfamiliar with! One that you completed in the middle of the night, and you're not quite sure all the bolts are tightened!

Feels good in the driveway. We'll see how it goes.


Monday, July 20, 2009

Hell On Earth

Satan is winning.

Of course, you knew that. How else could this have happened?

Another sign of prevailing evil is the existence of these little guys:

They’re called goatheads or puncture vine by most people, but when I look at them I see something more sinister. Could it be . . . Satan?

They grow on an innocent-looking weed like this one:

And turn into hateful little demons who deflower your virgin tubes:

Now isn't that special?

Created in his own image, these dedicated devil minions descend (ascend?) upon us every summer, and cyclists employ a number of different defenses in a vain attempt to deal with them. I have tried Kevlar-belted tires, plastic tire liners and inner tubes filled with sealant. Nothing can totally stop them.

They can't be stopped.

By mid-summer, flat tires become routine. And by the looks of things, this summer will be the worst in recent memory. Our weird spring, with repeated heating-cooling-raining trends, has left the weed population very green well into July.

Here's a recent picture of a road near my house:

The darker green you see going all the way up the road is puncture vine. Each plant produces hundreds of thorns. In a few weeks this road will become completely impassable.

Say a prayer to la Madonna del Ghisallo for me. It's going to be a long summer.


Sunday, July 19, 2009

Stage 15 Post-Mortem

Looks like my favorite writer, Julien Pretot, simply submitted his story about nine days too early. Everything I said Contador didn't do in my previous post, he did at the end of Stage 15 today.

Stamped his authority? Check.

Left Armstrong trailing in his wake? Check.

Astana's sole leader? Check.

That said, this Tour is a long way from being over. There is still plenty of time for Lance to spike Contador's food with PEDs before a post-race dinner. No worries.

If Lance doesn't want to go the drug route, he can always ride his bike. Still to come are three tough mountain stages, followed by the mostly flat 40k time trial, and then the Stage 20 finish on Ventoux. The smart money is on Contador, but anything can happen. We've seen guys have one bad day in the mountains and lose 10 minutes, so a 97-second deficit is nothing to worry about just yet.

Winning feels like this:

Losing feels like this:


Friday, July 17, 2009

Birthday Boy

Today is my birthday. That's all I have to say about that.

I'm currently working at home due to a split-shift situation. I worked from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. this morning, and now I'm working 7 p.m. to midnight. This is the life of an IT guy. After hours work is the norm.

On the positive side, I was able to drive in to work today with my spouse and leave at ten for a 41-mile ride home on the cross bike.

When I left work it was warm but not hot. I figured I would beat the worst of the heat since I was leaving so early. Um, yeah. Apparently in my 40 years or so in the Sacramento area I have yet to figure out that it gets pretty damn hot here in July.

The first half of the ride was awesome. I rode through the old neighborhoods of Carmichael, Fair Oaks and Orangevale. Lots of green grass and large, old trees casting cooling shadows across the roads. My route was quiet, the roads smooth and rolling. It was great. I hadn't taken that route in two years.

As I started climbing into Folsom everything changed. It was hot, open and brown. Dead. The air felt heavy and dirty.

I climbed and climbed, and sweated and sweated. I chugged along up through El Dorado Hills, Rescue and into Shingle Springs. When I pulled into home it was 97 degrees, but if felt hotter.

After a shower, I watched the Tour coverage on my DVR and fell asleep for a while. When the family came home we had a quiet dinner before I retired to the office to start my work. Tomorrow night we'll have a proper celebration dinner.

All in all, a pretty good day.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Wednesday Wanderings

As I have the past few Wednesdays, I took the boy out for a ride on the bike trail yesterday. We always park at Hazel, but usually we ride west where it's pretty flat. Instead we rode east towards Folsom Lake. Hills!

I now know what it would be like to climb if I were 60 pounds heavier; it wouldn't be easy. Towing a 60 pond anchor made the relatively short, mild climbs feel steep and LONG.

Along the way we were passed on two separate occasions by roadies who were either mute or very unfriendly. I'm leaning towards unfriendly. I managed to catch and pass each of them going up hills. I said nothing either time (I had my game face on) but Spencer issued a cheerful hello both times. Made me laugh, and I hope they felt horrible being passed by a mountain biker towing a kid.

Like I have mentioned before, even though I am not racing anymore, the racer in me is alive and well. I was very motivated by the fact that neither said anything to us when they passed us on flat sections. Spence then punished 'em with kindness; I with my legs. Justice.

When we made it to Beal's Point we continued on for a while on the dirt levy trail. It was nice to actually have my tires touch dirt. Kind of rare these days.

Cheesy, touristy timer shot:

Here's the new foot/bicycle bridge being constructed near Hazel. Routing foot and bicycle traffic down below will allow the current bike lanes on Hazel to be used for car traffic.

Real men ride in polo shirts:


Friday, July 10, 2009

Stupid People Reporting Cycling

It used to be that only cycling outlets provided racing coverage and the reporters knew what they were talking about. Not anymore. This is an excerpt from a story published in the Washington Post. I can’t believe how screwed up this is. My comments in blue.

Contador shows Armstrong his strength
By Julien Pretot
Reuters Friday, July 10, 2009; 2:03 PM

ARCALIS, Andorra (Reuters) - Alberto Contador stamped his authority on the Tour de France when he left Lance Armstrong trailing in his wake following a bold, morale-sapping attack in the final ascent of the seventh stage Friday.

Contador beat the group of favorites to the line by 21 seconds. Stamped his authority? Really?

Lance was “trailing in his wake” only because he adhered to team cycling principles. You don’t tow rival riders up to your own teammate (even when said teammate attacks you). You make other riders do the work, and if they do close the gap, you counter-attack.

Bold move? A bold move is when you attack two or three climbs from the finish—the stuff that Merckx and Hinault did. Contador attacked TWO KILOMETERS from the finish. Big deal.

Morale-sapping? Hardly. He angered everyone on Astana today.

Spaniard Contador made his move with some two kilometres remaining in the 10.6-km climb to Arcalis and seven-times champion Armstrong could not keep up the pace.

Unknown at this point. Again, Lance rode with team tactics in mind.

"There was no plan but when I saw that (Cadel) Evans, (Andy) Schleck and the rest were not trying anything, I felt there was an opportunity and I took it because I had good legs," Contador told reporters.

Sure, it was a brilliant move in a back-stabbing sort of way. Even if Lance isn’t capable of winning the Tour, Contador took the opportunity of wearing the Yellow Jersey away from him by jumping him in the standings. Yep, that’s teamwork, baby!

France's Brice Feillu snatched a solo victory in the 224-km stage from Barcelona ahead of compatriot Christophe Kern and German Johannes Froehlinger.

Contador is now second in the overall standings, six seconds adrift of Italy's Rinaldo Nocentini, who took the yellow jersey from Swiss Fabian Cancellara after being part of a nine-man breakaway.

Armstrong, who started the day level on time with Cancellara, is third, two seconds behind his Astana team mate and rival.

"There was no real plan, it (the attack) was not really expected but not surprising," Armstrong, back on the saddle after 3-1/2 years in retirement, told reporters.

Translation: “Nothing that little bitch does surprises me.”

"I feel quite good but it was not a steep climb."

However, the Texan would not concede defeat to Contador, whose performance showed he can now demand to be Astana's sole leader.

Totally. A dominant 21-second beatdown on the stage and a two-second overall lead makes it painfully obvious who’s in charge of Astana.

"Like I always said, there is still a long way to go," Armstrong said, although he left the door ajar to Contador, adding: "Like I said all along, I have to think about the team.

Translation: “Sometimes people ride over cliffs. If that were to happen, man, the team would be happy.”

"Overall I feel pretty good, I'm not as knackered as I thought I would be. Things did not quite go according to the plan set earlier today but it was a fine day overall."

Translation: “I’m in WAY better condition than I thought. That little punk-ass attacked me, but I could have stayed with him.”


Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Summer Days

About the only positive to come out the State of Califonia furlough situation is how easy it made the kids' summer vacation. Using some banked furlough days, along with our regular days off, we have one parent home most of the summer.

I am not riding as much as a result, but we do get out with the trailer bike a bit. Today we put in 20 miles on the bike trail and followed it up with a great lunch at a Thai restaurant. Gotta love summer.


Sunday, July 05, 2009

Independence Weekend

Had a pretty good weekend. Saturday I went on a ride I haven't done in a couple years. I dropped down Jurgens Road off of Deer Valley and plummeted down a 550 foot descent to the creek crossing. Yes, there's a creek crossing on the road:

After that it's a 750 foot climb up Luneman Road to Lotus. Good climbing and fun, technical descents even though they are paved. The creek crossing limits the car traffic, so it's a nice, quiet ride.

That evening we went to a block party/barbecue in Rio Linda. We left the party at dusk to catch the fireworks show at Sunrise Mall before making our way back up the hill. Nice day.

Today I put in a sink. It was a typical home improvement effort, meaning it took more time and effort that planned. The new sink was a bit bigger than the old one. No problem. Anytime I can get the angle grinder out and cut stuff it's a good thing. A couple trips to the hardware store, some customized plumbing, and we were in business.

Ugly white sink:

New black composite sink:

If I can't have a carbon fiber bike, I might as well have a little carbon technology in the kitchen.