Friday, December 31, 2010

2010: A Statistical Review

With the day off from work and temperatures in the high 40s, I rode outside today for the first time ever in December.  (January is now the only month during which I have never ridden outdoors.)  Today’s ride was just 10 miles; I would have liked to stay out longer, but it started to rain and I wasn’t willing to get wet.  There’s nothing left to prove this year.

With a total of 4,650 miles, 2010 was my second-highest year for mileage.  I would have set a new personal record—beating last year’s 4,800 miles—if not for the August 6 crash that kept me off the bike for 10 days.  Spread out over 137 rides, I averaged 33.94 miles per ride and that is a personal record.  The mileage breakdown by month looks like this:

000 January
000 February
350 March (PR)
650 April (PR)
690 May
600 June
710 July
548 August
460 September
532 October (PR)
100 November
010 December (PR)

I also established a new PR for miles in a single day: 113, on October 17.  That was my only century this year.  But I rode 13 metric centuries, far more than in any prior year.  And, for what it’s worth, I spent 52.5 hours on the bike trainer when I couldn’t ride outside.  For cross-training, I went hiking 10 times, spent 15 hours on the treadmill and did my 30-minute stair climbing workout on 17 occasions.

So, not bad.  But tomorrow the numbers get reset to zero, and it starts all over again.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Rec Trails

How fortunate are we?
Back in 2004—my first year as a cyclist, not just someone riding a bike—I discovered that I really enjoy rec trails.  Compared to today, I was neither as fit nor as comfortable sharing the road with motor vehicles, so rec trails made for easy days in the saddle.  The Bugline Trail, the Ozaukee Interurban, the Wild Goose and the Old Plank Road Trail were among my first rec trail rides.  I rode the Des Plaines River Trail and the Stone Bridge and Long Prairie trails in Illinois and, while on vacation, the Perkiomen Trail near Philadelphia.

With the opening of the Eisenbahn State Trail in 2006, my affection for rec trails grew again.  The Eisenbahn is a 25-mile-long playground just a few hundred feet from my home.  And like the other rec trails in the immediate area, the Eisenbahn doesn’t require a state trail pass.  But in 2011 my off-road rides won’t be confined to rec trails; I have mountain biking ambitions.  The mountain bike trails at New Fane do require a state trail pass, and I’ve already got mine for 2011.  I’ll need it at Greenbush too, and probably elsewhere.  At $20, my state trail pass likely will prove the least expensive of my preparations for the upcoming season.  Cheapskate that I am, I’ll try to make the most of it.  I’d like to return to the Glacial Drumlin and Military Ridge trails next summer.  I rode both in 2009 but missed them this year.  And maybe it’s time to check out the Badger State Trail, the Sugar River Trail and others.

These days, riding a rec trail isn’t the relaxed day out that it used to be.  Riding a trail in its entirety is now the minimum goal for any rec trail excursion aside from my frequent rides on the Eisenbahn, which take many forms.  When I do ride the entire Eisenbahn, that’s 50 miles round-trip.  On the Glacial Drumlin, it’s 100.  Even without big elevation changes, all those miles add up … especially the unpaved ones.  Rec trails can provide good training.  Sometimes it’s the accumulation of miles and sometimes it’s speed.  At least once a year I time trial the Eisenbahn from Kewaskum to Eden.  Several times a year I ride the Eisenbahn from West Bend to Campbellsport and back, targeting a negative split: a trip back that’s faster than the trip out.  These guys would know what I mean.  Maybe I’ll dust off my Eisengoose Fat-Tire Century route next October and invite them up to West Bend for “Fall B.A.L.L.S.”

Friday, December 24, 2010

'Twas The Afternoon Before Christmas ...

Professional stunt tongue.  Do not attempt.
With the day off from work I went dashing through the snow.  OK, maybe not "dashing," but I did spend an hour hiking briskly through the snow at Ridge Run County Park.  It was either that or an hour in my basement on the treadmill or bike trainer.  Hiking on snow—even with a good pair of boots like mine—really makes you work.  While the big muscles provide the power, all the little muscles of the feet and legs get recruited to provide stability on uneven ground.  These stabilizers are called upon during any hike, but never more so than on snow.

Tomorrow I’ll hit the trainer for an hour to rev up my metabolism in advance of a Christmas feast.  I won’t prevent all of the damage that gluttony will inflict, but every bit helps.  Then, with Christmas behind me, I will see about losing some weight as I start more earnest preparations for the 2011 cycling season.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Continuing To Evolve

Today I am proud to announce that I will join Team Pedal Moraine for the 2011 season.  I really like the leadership and the direction of the team.  One of the best things about the team is its broad range of interests.  Some teams focus on just one cycling discipline, but Team Pedal Moraine riders compete in mountain bike races, road races, time trials, cyclocross, triathlons … you name it.  The team’s main focus is mountain biking and that will be new to me but I’m excited about it, I’m willing to work, and I’m grateful for the opportunity.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Joe Kid On A Stingray

On Saturday morning I will host the first of this winter’s trainer parties.  To attract more participants I have changed the format a little, dubbing the series Spinner and a Movie and planning to show cycling-themed feature films instead of old road races.  I figure you can’t beat “Breaking Away” to kick off the series, followed by “The Flying Scotsman” in January and “American Flyers” in February.  I had to put something on the promotional flyer for March, so I chose “The Tour Baby” but only because I had access to it and not really because I was sold on it as the best choice.

Yesterday’s mail brought my latest eBay find: “Joe Kid on a Stingray,” a fast-moving documentary of the birth and evolution of BMX.  The movie came out in 2005 but it was new to me.  Like all documentaries, “Joe Kid on a Stingray” is real film festival stuff, so don’t kick yourself if you didn’t catch it at the cinema!  Maybe you’ll catch it at the March 12 trainer party.  I watched it last night and really enjoyed it.

The film appealed to me because I was into BMX during those formative years in the 1970s.  BMX at that time wasn’t the half-pipe X Games extravaganza that it is today; it was four-cross on smaller bikes.  I was no stranger to the BMX trails on the banks of the Youghiogheny River in West Newton PA, first on my blue Stingray-wannabe from Montgomery Ward and then on my Sears BMX bike, black with neon green number plates and fenders.  When I moved to Charleston IL in 1976 I found a scene that was a little more organized and I won a few unsanctioned Saturday morning races.  But my modest success didn’t last long, as kids like Tim Woodall upgraded to better bikes …
There was no catching a guy who had one of these!
I grew too big for my BMX bike and “graduated” to a second-hand Huffy road bike.  That’s when the bicycle was my principal means of transportation.  Charleston was a college town and 10-speeds were in style.  Impressing my buddies became less important than impressing the girls, and I figured I couldn’t accomplish the latter on a kid’s bike.  BMX had to go, but it was fun while it lasted.

That many of the best elements of BMX in its original form have found new life as mountain biking disciplines seems to be lost on the makers of “Joe Kid on a Stingray,” but not on me.  And in 2011 when I do my first mountain bike race, I’m sure I’ll feel like a kid again.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Modest Record

Under the Boardwalk: Trail expansion in Quaas Creek Park
I rode 30 miles today.  The first 7 were mountain bike miles at Glacial Blue Hills, where I was one of perhaps a dozen riders enjoying sunshine and mild temperatures.  Those 7 miles took me nearly an hour of ride time, so technical is the terrain and so unrefined is my technique.  I did the remaining 23 miles on my FCR3 at considerably higher speed but with considerably less effort, splitting most of that time between the Eisenbahn State Trail and West Bend’s Riverfront Parkway.  I went through Quaas Creek Park to see whether the new bridge were in place but it’s still sitting in the parking lot, waiting for the crane.  There were signs of progress, however: the city has installed supports for the boardwalk that will connect the new bridge to the trail south of the Milwaukee River.

By riding today I established a modest personal record.  November 28 is now the latest date on which I have ridden my bike outside.  The old record was Nov. 23, 2006.  Now I’m hoping for a nice day in December.  Normally I wouldn’t be able to ride on a weekday, but I still have 10 hours of vacation to burn and riding on an unseasonably warm December day would be a great use for it.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Season’s End?

Jeff Melcher concentrates before the start of his race.
Today my son Ryan and I went to Hales Corners to cheer for the racers I knew in the state cyclocross championships: Patrick Brock, Ben Marchewka, Brian Petted and Jeff Melcher.  The guys didn’t disappoint.  I had been worried that Ryan would get bored—he refuses to watch cycling on TV—but he got into the spirit of the event.  (He was especially interested in Planet Bike’s outstanding 15-year-old Sarah Huang, but for reasons I suspect had little to do with her racing prowess.  He’s 12 and, well … I guess it was the allure of an older woman.)
P-Bro approaches the barriers.

Tristan Schouten—it will surprise nobody—was the class of the professional men's field.

Anyway, good times all around.  And there were good times yesterday, too.  I spent two hours at Glacial Blue Hills testing my mountain biking skills.  On the upside, I didn’t crash.  On the downside, there’s a lot of work to do!  But there's also a lot of time between now and the 2011 WORS & WEMS seasons. 

Ben handles an off-camber turn.
One of the best things to come out of Saturday’s experience was the understanding that I could dress for 32-degree weather and ride in relative comfort.  Being in the woods kept me out of a northeast wind that would have made things uncomfortable.  But with the wind or without, 32 is still cold and a couple of years ago I wouldn’t have bothered.  Hopefully I can ride again before it’s really too cold.  I'm done with the road bike until 2011, but maybe I'll try Glacial Blue Hills again next weekend when it's a balmy 37 or 38!  Beats getting on the trainer.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What’s Old Is New Again

The bike that began my obsession with this sport ...
From 1988 until 2003 I didn’t own a bike.  Then I bought a 2002 Gary Fisher Wahoo mountain bike, new old stock, at Pedal Moraine’s spring sale.  It’s still in the family, providing good service to my son Ryan.  I haven’t used the Wahoo since I got my Giant FCR3 in 2008, as the Giant is much more efficient on long rec trail rides like my frequent excursions on the Eisenbahn State Trail.  But now I’ve got a mountain biking itch that I need to scratch and on Saturday I’m planning to take on Glacial Blue Hills, so I’ve exercised my power of eminent paternal domain and, er, secured the use of the Wahoo through the end of the year.

That was the easy part.  Now comes the To Do list, some of whose tasks I was able to pick off tonight:

Lose the kickstand.  Check!
Replace the slicks with knobbies.  Check!
Raise handlebar and saddle.  Check!
Replace platform pedals with SPDs.
Wash bike.
Clean and lubricate drivetrain & cables.
Install a bike computer.
Replace seat wedge.

The pedals and the seat wedge stay with me when I hand the bike back to Ryan.  Basically, he gets a bike computer and real mountain bike tires out of the deal.  And he’s happy.  He has been asking for a computer, and the knobbies look way cooler than the slicks he was running.

I’ve ridden something like 8,000 miles on this bike, but I have never really used it for mountain biking.  At first it was my rec trail bike, and then I found myself riding it on the road more and more.  In late 2005 I got a real road bike and the Wahoo started to fall into disuse.  Time for me to show it a little appreciation … and then give it back to Ryan to make room for the next mountain bike that strikes my fancy.  I’ll try not to be such a fickle lover with the new one.

Monday, November 15, 2010

WORS And Rumors Of Wars

And power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth

If earlier this year I flirted with mountain biking, then today I’m in full stalker mode.  I’ve got pictures of it on paper and on my computer, I know who its friends are, I know where it hangs out, and now I know its schedule.

Last night the Wisconsin Endurance Mountain Bike Series—known as “WEMS” instead of “WEMBS” because silent Bs are dumb—announced its 2011 dates.  The Wisconsin Off Road Series—known as “WORS” because nothing else would make sense—published its 2011 schedule back on November 9.  Now that all of the race dates are available, it’s time to make some plans.

I want racing to become a bigger part of my cycling experience, on-road and off-road.  In Wisconsin we’re very fortunate to have two mountain bike series and two road series: Wisport and the WCA’s Wisconsin Cup.  But I haven’t yet felt the urge to commit to one of these in pursuit of season-long series points.  I would rather pick and choose from them and from the handful of competitive events that don’t fall into these series.

The road schedules aren’t out yet.  Of the mountain bike events, these look good to me:

05/28   12 Hours of the Northern Kettles @ Greenbush (WEMS)
06/12   Big Ring Classic @ Wausau (WORS)
06/18   Muir South Kettle Classic @ La Grange (WEMS)
07/24   Alterra Coffee Bean Classic @ Franklin (WORS)
08/07   Battle of Camrock @ Rockdale (WORS)
10/09   Wigwam MTB Challenge @ Sheboygan (WORS)

Sponsored by West Bend-based Team Pedal Moraine, 12 Hours of the Northern Kettles should be a good introduction to mountain bike racing.  Because the venue is close to home, I’ll have opportunities to ride the trails in the weeks leading up to the race.  There had been some discussion of a WEMS race at New Fane too, but that proposed event didn’t make it onto the final schedule.  A race at New Fane would have been a no-brainer for me, as those trails are just 11 miles from home and I will visit them frequently to practice the technical riding skills that currently I don’t possess.  Development of those skills will determine where I go with mountain bike racing after May 28.

Unless there are some surprises on the Wisport and WCA schedules, my road racing season won’t really begin until July.  I’d like to return to the Wisport race at Omro, a race I’ve done three times in the past.  And I’d still like to take a shot at the Ride Across Indiana and Anthem Race the Lake.

As always, we’ll see how much I can afford to do when the time comes.  First, there’s the not-insubstantial matter of outfitting myself for mountain biking.  And all of these events come with other costs: racing licenses and registrations, state park and trail passes, travel expenses, etc.  Right now I like the way the cycling budget looks for 2011, but I’m one major home/auto repair away from being on the sidelines.  Best not to think about that …

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Anyone For Hiking?

This is my first weekend off the bike since August 14-15 when I was recovering from a separated shoulder.  I was a bit of a slug yesterday, napping early in the afternoon and then watching the USGP cyclocross webcast from Ft. Collins CO.  (It’s a two-day event, and if you’re reading this early enough you can watch today’s webcast here.)

Getting outside is important to me but getting on the bike when the “feels like” temperature is only 28 degrees is just not going to happen.  So today I opted for a hike through Ridge Run County Park.  Ridge Run, Glacial Blue Hills and the sections of Ice Age Trail that run between them provide miles of excellent hiking right here in West Bend.  It’s easy to forget that you’re still within city limits.

Done at a brisk pace, hiking is a terrific cross-training workout.  I do it throughout the winter, undeterred by snow.  Some people ride their bikes outdoors all year, but I’m not one of them.  In a couple of weeks I’ll be back on the bike trainer while I continue with stair climbing and weightlifting.  That’s a lot of indoor exercise and at times it will seem like a grind.  But hiking resets my Frustration Meter: it’s at least as useful psychologically as it is physiologically.

If you’d like to join me for a hike this winter, just let me know.  Sometimes it’s nice to be alone to clear out the head, but most of the time it would be nice to have company.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

On A Pretty Sunday In November

Today I had two objectives as I began my ride: to cover the 16 miles between my house and downtown Campbellsport in less than 1 hour and to finish with 35 miles overall, giving me 4,600 so far this year.  Done and done.

If 16 miles in 58:40 doesn’t sound especially fast, it’s not.  But it was a good steady pace for an Eisenbahn State Trail ride in November.  I needed a performance target, however modest, to make me work a little harder today than I did yesterday.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Nothing But Fresh Air & Sunshine

Surrounded by horsetail rushes at Glacial Blue Hills Recreation Area
I rode my bike today.  I didn't have a route in mind when I left the house, so I took the FCR3 to keep all options open.  I rode through Forest View Park, Quaas Creek Park and Riverside Park before heading north on the Eisenbahn State Trail.  I unexpectedly met up with a southbound Jimmy Scharrer and we stopped for a couple of minutes to chat.  Then I took Sandy Ridge Road up to Kewaskum, noted with some dissatisfaction that they're making snow on the Sunburst ski hill, and turned south to head back to West Bend.  At Glacial Blue Hills, I took a trail I had never ridden before and I felt like I had all 208 acres to myself.

I didn't ride very far (25 miles) or very fast (14.7 mph average) or wear my heart rate monitor, but I rode my bike today.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Rise Over Run

This was Week 1 of my new stair climbing program and I’m happy with the way things went.  I did 30-minute sessions on Monday, Wednesday and today, using a stairwell in the three-level office building where I work.  Despite the repetitive nature of the workout and the absence of anything remotely interesting at which to look, the 30 minutes pass quickly.  I think that’s because there’s always somewhere to go.  Half an hour in the stairwell doesn’t feel as long as half an hour on the trainer.

I don’t intend to get on the trainer until December.  Between now and then I will do a handful of outdoor rides and some hiking.  I would run if I could, but my knees won’t stand up to the pounding.  (That’s one of the reasons I started cycling in the first place.)  Stair climbing—the way I expect to do it—certainly won’t hurt but it won’t be as beneficial as cycling would be if good weather and daylight weren’t going to be in such short supply.  My average heart rate during this week’s stair climbing sessions was just 58% of maximum … better than nothing, but the main benefit of the exercise is going to be muscular, not cardiovascular.  Maybe next week I’ll try taking some flights two stairs at a time to increase the aerobic challenge.  That’s still low impact, so it’s worth a shot.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Mixing It Up

From north to south, today I followed the route shown in red.
As I mentioned on Wednesday, this hasn’t been the huge week of cycling for which I hoped.  Today I rode for the first time since Monday and it was great to be back in the saddle.  I’ve been staying busy with weightlifting, a Thursday afternoon hike at Ridge Run County Park, a Friday morning visit to the doctor for a routine physical examination, and yard work throughout the week.  I’m definitely “old school” when it comes to yard work—think manpower, not horsepower—and it’s good exercise all by itself.

Today’s ride was just 40 miles, but they were challenging miles.  First I took the Eisenbahn State Trail to Campbellsport, fighting a steady wind and working pretty hard just to average 14 mph.  The return trip was almost effortless: 18-23 mph the whole way thanks to the tailwind.  Feeling good, I crossed US Highway 45 and took Friendly Drive down to Glacial Blue Hills Recreation Area.  Usually I take the flat doubletrack trail through Glacial Blue Hills to Beaver Dam Road, but today I decided to challenge myself on the technical singletrack that the local mountain bikers love so well.

My Giant FCR3 is not a mountain bike; it’s a flatbar road bike intended for “fitness” riders.  But it has a good aluminum frame, a sturdy CrMo fork and cyclocross tires.  It’s more than adequate for my rail trail adventures, but unfit for technical singletrack.  I didn’t expect to get far.

But I surprised myself.  I used a series of switchbacks to reach the top of the ridge to the west of the Ice Age Trail, overcoming rocks, exposed roots and fallen branches.  In one or two spots I could feel the front tire lift off the ground and during a brief moment out of the saddle I almost spun in place as the unweighted rear tire lost its grip.  I made it … not with the panache of a real mountain biker, certainly, but I made it.  Getting back down from the top of the ridge was a different story, one that involved a little walking!  With no suspension, 700x35 tires at 75 psi, brakes that didn’t feel strong enough and a lack of experience, I wasn’t going to risk a crash.

Those few minutes in Glacial Blue Hills made me wonder what I could do with a proper mountain bike.  Despite a couple of holes in my technique, I showed a little talent negotiating the climb.  Next year, with the right equipment … who knows?  Even if used only for a change of pace, a little mountain biking would be great for my overall fitness and my bike handling skills.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Cool Is Coming

And this time I’m not talking about the weather.  See the white triangle in the photo above?  If you have walked or ridden on the Eisenbahn State Trail lately, then you may have wondered whether downtown West Bend were about to host some kind of discus throwing championship.  But actually the lines represent the proposed location of the new and improved Museum of Wisconsin Art.  The museum has outgrown its current location next to the library and envisions an ultra-modern replacement.  The new building would be an important piece in the city’s effort to redevelop the corridor east of the Milwaukee River and would link to the Eisenbahn with a new pedestrian path.  Another important piece in the redevelopment of the corridor will be a new covered bridge—to replace the vestigial Fields Furniture bridge—linking the Eisenbahn to Main Street.  Both of these projects took a big step forward yesterday with the announcement of a $407,120 grant.  In the end the corridor will be a bike- and pedestrian-friendly place with the Eisenbahn serving as its main thoroughfare.  And it will have an interesting mix of old and new: the museum’s sleek lines will counterbalance the Victorian charm of the train station and the relocated, remodeled and now re-opened Binkery restaurant.  I don’t need any more incentive to travel the Eisenbahn, but I expect these new attractions will introduce the trail to a lot of people who haven’t yet experienced it.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Kicks Just Keep Getting Harder To Find

New Balance MX506 Cross-Trainers
I’m still sitting on 4,500 miles for the year.  The extraordinarily high winds of the last two days have kept me off the bike.  Tomorrow doesn’t look promising either.  My hopes for several days of good riding during this week of vacation are pretty well dashed.

But my mind is still very much on cycling and on the auxiliary activities that support my cycling objectives.  Having previewed the stair climbing routine that I expect to be a big part of winter cross-training, I knew I needed different shoes and today I got them.  Tomorrow I might break out my hiking boots and explore the Ice Age Trail.  I’m hungry for fresh air and exercise; I refuse to touch my treadmill or bike trainer this early in the off-season.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Mid-Fall Crisis

"You looking for a date ... in 2011?"
For me, autumn is a desperate and ultimately unsuccessful struggle against the inevitability of winter.  And if winter is a time of death, at least it’s a dignified and sterile season that doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is.  Fall is an old whore, at first glance pretty enough to tease you into believing that winter is still far away, then decrepit and repulsive in its nakedness.

Is that too dark, too bleak?  I did ride today, after all.  The morning was rainy and miserable looking and not at all fit for the Washington County Bicycle Club’s season finale, so I waited until late afternoon when it was only miserable looking.  My 29-mile effort got me to 4,450 so far this year.  I think tomorrow will be a washout, but Monday should be gorgeous and reaching 4,500 should be a joy.  I’ll be off work all next week, looking for opportunities to ride in the afternoons.  At the moment, save Monday, the weather forecast is unfavorable.

While I waited out today’s rain I had plenty of time to think.  And to what did my mind turn?  Racing … that thing in which I dabble, one or two times a year at best.  I have no reason to expect that I would be any good at it.  My greatest effort as a road bike racer yielded 73rd place out of 113 finishers in the 2008 Omro Classic.  But success in racing need not be measured against other competitors; adding more races to my plans would make me fitter, and that’s good enough by itself.  Oh, and it’s fun.

Several races and other timed events have already been announced for 2011 and I think I’d like to pick from a variety of cycling disciplines.  I can imagine myself doing a couple of road races and time trials, a gravel grinder or two, a gran fondo and maybe even an endurance mountain bike race and/or cyclocross.  Over the winter I plan to make some refinements to my Raleigh Competition and my Giant FCR3, but I’m also thinking about picking up a mountain bike.

I ride between 120 and 150 days each year.  A lot of those rides look exactly the same.  By its nature, training requires repetition and there will always be standard routes that I do again and again.  But I also want to be free to sample different things and to punctuate my calendar with special events.

It’s autumn in Wisconsin and a long layoff from outdoor rides is coming.  It’s not too early to think about 2011.  And if a couple of my plans for next year sound like plans for 2010 that didn't come to fruition, that's all the more reason to take another crack at them.  Hope springs eternal.

Hope next summer's eternal, too.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Distant Second

Each year, my friend Brian and I try to predict the winners in the major races of the international cycling calendar.  It’s a friendly competition for bragging rights only, and this year it’s Brian who gets to brag.  He amassed 940 points to my 788 and clinched overall victory before the end of the Vuelta a España.

We take turns predicting the winners, then each of us picks a wildcard.  This year we added a rule to prevent us from picking the same riders.  Even when there are prohibitive favorites, for each race we pick four different riders (or teams, in the case of team time trials).  When your pick to win actually does win, that’s worth 10 points.  If he takes second, that’s worth 9 points, and so on through the top 10 places.  Wildcards are worth half the points: if your wildcard actually wins, that’s 5.  And there are no shutouts: if all four picks finish outside of the top 10, then 1 point is awarded to the “Lucky Dog” who finishes highest.

I got off to a great start in January, winning the Tour Down Under 63-41 on the strength of three stage wins from Andre Greipel.  Things were still looking good through February, but in March I had a bad Paris-Nice (lost 50-27) and Criterium International (lost 22-10).  The one-day Spring Classics were a toss-up.

I lost the Giro d’Italia 141-119.  The overall competition was still close, but June was a disaster.  Brian won the Dauphine 50-8 and the Tour de Suisse 36-12.  Things looked bad for me but with a good Tour de France I would be back in the fight.

I won the Tour 134-117 largely through the luck of the draw: I was fortunate to have the first pick for two time trial stages won by Fabian Cancellara and two sprint stages won by Mark Cavendish.  But taking back only 17 points still left a considerable deficit.

I needed a big Vuelta, but my 122-108 victory did little to change the overall.  The remaining races—the US championships, the world championships, Paris-Tours and the Giro di Lombardia—were an anticlimax.

In 152 races, Brian picked the correct winner 23 times.  I did it 18 times.  Each of us got 17 wins from our wildcard picks.  So that’s almost a 50 percent success rate (75-for-152) in getting a winner from one of our choices.  Not bad.  For what it’s worth, Brian picked up 14 “Lucky Dog” points to my 12.

Losing by 152 points is humbling, but I stand by my picks.  During that awful stretch in June when Brian jumped out to a big lead, I had nine consecutive races in which my “winner” failed to yield even a single point.  And just who were the guys who let me down?  Alberto Contador, Denis Menchov, Samuel Sanchez, Levi Leipheimer, Philippe Gilbert, Roman Kreuziger, Andy Schleck, and Mark Cavendish … twice!  It’s not like I picked a bunch of guys who don’t know how to win bike races.  Oh, well.  There’s always next season.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Record-Setting Ride

Today I did the longest bicycle ride I have ever done: 113 miles.  That breaks my previous mark of 109 set in May 2009.  With today’s ride I also set a new personal record for miles in October (413, and counting) and I brought my mileage total for the year to 4,421, now my second-highest mileage total behind last year’s 4,800.

But today was much more than merely an accumulation of statistics.  I spent most of my day with 15 other riders on the Loberg Century.  Now in its fourth year, the event attracts some of the best racers in the area.  For them it is a casually-paced ride at the end of a long season.  For me it was sometimes a challenge to hang on.  I was doing well until we restarted after a lunch break in Elkhart Lake.  That was roughly halfway for the other guys, but for me it was a little more than halfway: the Loberg Century started in Cedarburg but I rode from West Bend to the start.  Restarting after a break is always a challenge for me and my legs didn’t really come around after lunch.  In fact, they started to cramp on the hills, causing me to climb slowly and then work too hard to rejoin the others after the summit.  By the time I reached Mile 88—my Mile 88—I was pretty well cooked.  Then I got my chain stuck between my smallest cog and the frame and had to stop to fix it, and I figured I wouldn’t see the others again.

Disappointed but knowing that I had enough in the tank to get home with a personal record and my only century of 2010, I said goodbye to the SAG vehicle and rode solo to West Bend.  Without the pressure of keeping up with the others, and now able to pick my own route, I started to feel better.  Dropping back into Washington County, I chose the flatter Kettle Moraine Drive instead of the hillier Forest View Road that the others followed.  The distance is roughly equivalent—my route was a bit longer—but without hills to climb I kept the cramps at bay and reclaimed some time.  When the other riders restarted after a rest stop on the north side of West Bend, I caught them.  It was a pleasure to ride with them for a few more miles before we reached my neighborhood and I said goodbye as planned.  My century was done; they still had to return to Cedarburg.

Obviously I would have liked to ride without cramps, but overall I’m very satisfied with the effort.  And it was a day of neat coincidences.  As we arrived at the Elkhart Lake lunch stop, Jimmy Scharrer and Denny Bolinger were just about to depart and continue their own ride.  As I neared West Bend on my improvised solo route, I met Jim Saueressig riding in the opposite direction.  I was happy to see you guys enjoying another gorgeous autumn day.  I hope to see you on Saturday for the Washington County Bicycle Club’s season finale … and I hope that by then I will have recovered from today’s exertions!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Gast From The Past

Prairie Hawks are everywhere.
Today it was my pleasure to ride with the Bay View Bicycle Club on a beautiful 44-mile route from the Hamburger Haus in Dundee through the northern Kettle Moraine State Forest.  Fall colors are past their peak now, and at times the wind was too brisk for my taste, but it was a great ride nonetheless.  I spent most of the ride with BVBC members Ted Gast and Scott Siebers, who proved to be good riders and good company.  Scott was a nice surprise.  Ted was more of a known quantity: he and I graduated from high school together.  But despite our history we had never ridden together prior to today.  Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity … even if only for a couple of hours.  Hopefully I’ll have more chances to ride with Ted and Scott next year, perhaps at BVBC’s Lake Country Classic if they’re not too busy staffing the rest stops.

There’s no rest for me this weekend: tomorrow I’m doing this.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Great Weekend Of Cycling

The northern Kettle Moraine has its share of tough little hills.
Thanks in no small part to unseasonably warm weather, it was a great weekend of cycling!  This morning I rode up to New Fane for the Cream City Cycle Club ride.  I was one of 14 riders on a really nice route with a few tough hills.  The route itself was about 45 miles, but riding to/from New Fane brought my total for today to 70 miles.

Back at home, I had lunch and did some channel surfing until the 4 p.m. broadcast of Paris-Tours on Versus.  Unfortunately, that’s the end of racing coverage until next year; Versus won’t broadcast next weekend’s Giro di Lombardia.

Next weekend could be my last big cycling weekend in 2010, and I’m hoping for decent weather but I won’t expect anything like these last two days.  On Saturday the 16th there’s a Bay View Bicycle Club ride at Dundee—probably over many of the roads I traveled today, but that’s OK—and on Sunday the 17th I’d like to do the Loberg Century out of Cedarburg.  I’ve done 13 metric centuries in 2010 but not a single 100-mile ride.

Whatever next weekend brings, I should be rested for it: I don’t expect to ride at all between now and then.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Happy To Get 'Cross

Today’s Washington County Bicycle Club ride took us from the county fairgrounds to Grafton for PumpkinCross, part of the Wisconsin Cycling Association’s cyclocross series.  Watching from the sidelines, I explained some of the techniques to a couple of fellow club members who hadn’t seen cyclocross before.  It was a good time, and there were lots of familiar faces among the racers and in the crowd.

I think it’s a good thing for the club to show its support for other cycling events in the area, even if they are not road events.  Today it was cyclocross; back in May it was a mountain bike race in Greenbush.  Making such events “rest stops” on our club rides is an easy way to build a closer cycling community and to raise the club’s profile.  It’s not unthinkable that someone might notice us in our club jerseys and decide that it would be fun to be part of a club that takes an interest in different aspects of cycling and cheers for its friends even when they swap their skinny tires for fat ones.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Taking The First Step

Today I tried stair climbing for exercise.  There are three floors to the office building in which I work, and 48 stairs divided (unevenly) among four flights.  After work I changed clothes, put on my heart rate monitor and got moving.  In 30 minutes I burned 228 calories and got my heart rate as high as 125—68 percent of maximum—just by walking the stairs.  My average heart rate was 109—59 percent of maximum—and that’s not super impressive but today wasn’t about intensity.  I wanted only to see what kind of workout the stairs could offer.  At the end of the workout my legs were trembling a little and it was clear that I had asked them to do something unfamiliar.  That’s good.  I’ve found something in my legs that cycling doesn’t hit, and as these workouts progress I will add new strength.  Other lessons learned: get a pair of cross-training shoes and keep a towel handy.  My running shoes seemed a little light duty for stair climbing, especially rounding the corners for each flight.  That will only get worse as I increase the tempo.  And a towel is a must.  There’s very little air moving in the stairwell and today I was sweating pretty heavily after about 15 minutes.  But overall today’s experiment was a success.  With a few little adjustments, stair climbing could be a good cross-training activity this fall and winter.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Marvelous Garmin-Cervélo

The Mighty Thor joins Captain America and a cast of other heroes for 2011.

Do you know how absolutely stacked Team Garmin-Cervélo will be in 2011?  I can’t wait to see this group in action.  And while I’m not convinced that it’s a team for the grand tours, I’m sure it’s going to be massively successful in the spring classics and in shorter stage races like the Tour of California.

This year’s Garmin team already features the great sprinter Tyler Farrar, world-class time trialists David Millar and Dave Zabriskie, experienced and successful GC contenders Christian VandeVelde and Tom Danielson, up-and-coming talents Dan Martin, Peter Stetina, Ryder Hesjedal and Martijn Maaskant, and workhorses Julian Dean and Johan Van Summeren.

Now, add to that group these riders from the soon-to-be-defunct Cervélo Test Team: newly-crowned road race world champion Thor Hushovd, another top sprinter in Heinrich Haussler, and classics specialists Roger Hammond and Andreas Klier.  Brett Lancaster, Daniel Lloyd and Gabriel Rasch will have their roles to play as well.

Obviously, things don’t always work out on the road the way you think they will when you’re making the plans.  Last winter when I saw what Team Sky was doing I thought it would be far more successful than it proved to be.  But I don’t think I’ll have to eat my words about Garmin-Cervélo.  This will be a great team.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Man-Cave Refinements

This will be a familiar view in the months ahead.

Today is the end of Week 2 in my return to weightlifting.  I’m doing upper body exercises on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, alternating muscle groups to allow for adequate recovery.  Mondays and Thursdays are for the pectorals, biceps and triceps, while Tuesdays and Thursdays are all about the deltoids and trapezius.  (The latissimus dorsi will get some love this winter when I return to the fitness room at work.  I don’t have an effective way to exercise them at home.)  I do ab crunches every day and those muscles are pretty strong, but with my diet you’ll never mistake me for The Situation.  I digress … the important thing is that I’m already seeing progress toward the level I was maintaining this summer before I got sidetracked by a shoulder injury on Aug. 6.

I had some extra incentives in the home gym tonight …

My son worked out with me and it was the first night of his new program.  In the last year I had him on a program of very light weights.  His goal was not to gain muscle mass, but rather to learn proper technique and develop muscle memory.  He’s 12 now and his technique is solid.  I’m convinced he can add a little weight without risking injury, but the cornerstone of his program will be pushups.  Lots of pushups.

My other incentive was a new TV, a gift from my employer for 15 years of service.  It’s not a big TV but it fits neatly on the shelf in my home gym, easily visible from my weight bench, treadmill and bike trainer.  You know what I’m really going to like?  Being able to read the sports scores that scroll across the bottom of the ESPN channels!  My old TV had the traditional 4:3 aspect ratio, and in today’s world of 16:9 HD broadcasting the scroll was off the bottom of the screen.  It doesn’t take much to make me happy, and every little bit will help when I’m trying to stay motivated to train through another long winter.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Prepare For A Scare

What: The Ride of Krankenstein
When: Wednesday, Oct. 20, 6 p.m.
Where: Imagine Coffeehouse, West Bend
Who: Anyone crazy enough
Why: Answer unclear / Ask again later

Jimmy Scharrer, local grave robber and reputed conjurer of evil spirits, invites you to perish participate in the inaugural Ride of Krankenstein.  Earlier today during a rare moment of semi-lucidity, the aspiring mad scientist and suspected Transylvanian described his creation as a “full-moon Halloween night ride to Campbellsport and back on the Eisenbahn (27 miles) … lights and tail lights required ... mountain or ’cross bikes are ideal on the crushed gravel but a road bike will work.  Don’t miss out on the {unintelligible} FUN {mocking laughter} and after-ride drinks at Riverside Brewery.”

Is this just crazy?  Is this just crazy enough to be a blast?  It will be dark: sundown will be at 6:02 p.m.  And it might be cold.  And despite the promise of after-ride beers at the always excellent Riverside Brewery & Restaurant, it will be hard for riders to resist the urge to, er, fortify themselves before the start.  Given the Eisenbahn State Trail’s proximity to watering holes in Kewaskum and Campbellsport, I wouldn’t be surprised to find some riders knocking back additional doses of courage as the ride progresses deeper into the night.

So, I’m intrigued.  I have a bike that’s suitable for the trail.  I have a good set of lights.  I have medical insurance.  It might be stupid not to do this.  I have three more weeks to decide, but I suspect I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Nice Milestones

I have surpassed 4,000 miles of cycling this year. I reached that milestone today with an Eisenbahn State Trail ride to Eden and back with my friend Jim. On July 17 I reported to you that he had just bought a bike. In the last two months he has emailed me several times with questions and progress reports. Today I got to ride with him for the first time and he was up to the challenge: at 47 miles, today’s ride was his longest ride ever. And combined with 30 solo miles yesterday, Jim completed his biggest weekend ever. He’s beginning to reach for loftier goals and, quite without any prompting from me, is looking into his options for indoor training during the winter. It’s great to see someone go from non-cyclist to that level of commitment in such a short time.

So, what’s next for me? I’m 403 miles away from my second-best mileage total ever. That’s not a bad goal, but I’m not going to kill myself to reach it. No, from now until the end of the year I’m a fair-weather cyclist. If it’s raining, snowing, freezing or gusting, then I’m not interested. We’ll see what October brings, but once November gets here I’ll be hiking, stair climbing and redoubling my efforts in the weight room. In December I’ll dust off my CycleOps Magneto and, hopefully, talk Jim into joining me for the trainer party series.

Monday, September 20, 2010

So, I Lied ...

I said last week would be the end of after-work rides in 2010, but I couldn't resist heading out this evening. It was such a dismal weekend—I somewhat reluctantly rode for two hours on Saturday but couldn’t talk myself into it on Sunday—and I needed to atone. With fresh legs today I tore up the Eisenbahn State Trail between West Bend and Kewaskum. I felt great … and then on the way back home I popped another spoke. That’s two spokes on different wheels on different bikes in a nine-day span.

Tomorrow will be an off day, then it’s back to the road bike on Wednesday afternoon. At work I’ll be in/out early to take care of a special project. That should mean getting on the bike sometime around 4 p.m. with three remaining hours of daylight! Assuming no more mechanicals, that should be a nice ride.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Are You Ready For Some Nothing?

This week a Sports Illustrated columnist asked, “What would it take for you to give up football?” It’s a sport whose participants frequently suffer serious injuries. In rare instances these injuries can cause permanent paralysis. And now there’s growing concern about the cumulative effects of blows to the head that, taken individually, don’t appear to be that bad. Players are getting bigger, stronger and faster. Collisions are getting more violent. Our modern-day gladiators are literally taking years off their lives to entertain us every Sunday, and we couldn’t be happier. Every game is a sellout and TV ratings are through the roof. But labor troubles could be in the NFL’s immediate future. If there’s a lengthy players’ strike, will that be enough to burst the bubble?

How about auto racing? NASCAR’s television audience increased immediately following the death of Dale Earnhardt. Perhaps John Q. Public thought he had found a new blood sport. In the nearly 10 years since, safety has improved dramatically and TV ratings have dropped. Coincidence?

What would it take for you to give up baseball? In the last few years we have seen a steroids scandal that invalidated the Hall of Fame credentials of the sport’s biggest names and an All-Star Game that ended in a tie. Baseball denied its steroids problem for years before the Mitchell Report named 89 players with varying levels of involvement. But baseball didn’t invalidate the statistics accumulated by those players, nor did it rescind the wins of the teams that benefited. The Mitchell Report was baseball’s apology to a suspicious public, but baseball’s actions since the report’s release have failed to demonstrate a sincere commitment to a clean sport. Baseball won’t vacate records and championships. Such actions appear to be confined to collegiate sports, as in the recent case of Reggie Bush.

And what about cycling? Anyone can tune into football, baseball or NASCAR and be a “fan.” But following pro cycling requires real dedication. To be an American fan of a predominantly European sport is to read obscure magazines, to visit websites from countries whose languages you don’t understand, and only rarely to enjoy televised races. So, what would it take to make you stop? Not crashes, certainly … or even deaths. Like auto racing, cycling has its share of those. But fatalities and crippling injuries are very rare. How about drug scandals, then? They’re plentiful enough. Still, no.

For all its problems with doping, cycling does appear to be sincere in its pursuit of clean competition. In that respect it’s different from baseball, but like baseball it doesn’t vacate championships. Maybe it should. Maybe the official result of the 2006 Tour de France should be “no winner.” Maybe when cycling catches a cheater it should invalidate the results of not just that rider, but also the rest of his teammates in that event. It’s one thing to take performance enhancing drugs in pursuit of your own goals, but you would have to be a real bastard to jeopardize the livelihoods of your entire team. Imagine having to face your teammates after getting them all kicked out, perhaps costing them victories and monetary prizes. I like to think the offender would be forced to endure something like the blanket party from Full Metal Jacket. Revenge may be a dish best served cold, but when you’re in a hurry it also can be as simple as a soap bar wrapped in a towel.

The one thing that could make me turn away from pro cycling is the prospect that the whole system is so corrupt that not even the sport’s governing body can be trusted. If it’s true that the UCI accepted a bribe, more-or-less, to cover up Lance Armstrong’s doping control failures, then the only hope for the sport is to replace the UCI. But I think we’ll never really know, and in the space between what I suspect and what I would like to be true, I will remain a fan.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Summer Goes Out With A Ping

It wasn’t a bang. It wasn’t a whimper. It was the unmistakable ping of a popped spoke. Just like that, 37 miles into the 50-mile route I meant to do, my ride was over. And just like that, summer ended. Today was beauty touched with sadness, a swan song. For all its brilliance, today the sun had only a fraction of its mid-summer power. Tomorrow’s forecast looks decent enough, I suppose, and I’ll try to get out for an hour after work. Tuesday should be a rest day but I’m not ruling out another 1-hour ride. Then the air gets a lot cooler: on Wednesday and Thursday we probably won’t reach 60. We should warm up a little on Friday … just in time for a 6:59 p.m. sunset. This will be my last week of after-work rides until next spring.

I’m just 182 miles away from 4,000 miles this year. Anything after that will be gravy. I want to do more hiking this fall, taking some time away from cycling before getting back into indoor trainer sessions in December. My overall approach to indoor training will be different than it was in the past. Bike trainer sessions and weightlifting will continue to be the cornerstones, but I’m going to add stair climbing—real stairs, not a machine—to provide another option. More options = less tedium. Why stair climbing? Check out this article or search the Internet for hundreds more like it. Aside from the well-documented physical benefits, for me a big factor is the convenience of doing the exercise at my office right after work. And I love the cost: nothing. I think it’s odd that I can ride my bike for hours without getting winded, while briskly climbing just a couple of staircases can leave me gasping. Clearly there’s a hole in my overall fitness and I aim to plug it. If I do it right I should drop a few pounds too. In a typical winter I’m 6-7 pounds heavier than I am at the end of summer. Maybe this will be the year that I don’t let the weight creep back up.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Sign, Sign, Everywhere A Sign

This summer Washington County put up new signs on the Eisenbahn State Trail to give users a framework in which to operate. The sad truth is that a lot of people don’t have a clue when it comes to proper conduct on a multi-use trail, and if you don’t know what you’re doing then eventually someone is going to get hurt.

So, here are a few pointers. Washington County doesn’t want to call them “rules” or “statutes” or anything enforceable by law, but as points of etiquette they’re not bad:

In my experience—and I’m on the trail several times each week—people are pretty good on those points, but there are still way too many dogs without leashes.

For some reason, the county chose to single out cyclists for an additional set of admonitions:

Three of the four points address speed but the county stops short of imposing a speed limit. "Safe and controlled speed” and “high speed riding” are different things to different people. As a cyclist, just assume that from the point of view of a pedestrian you’re going too fast all the time. And that’s because …

Most pedestrians are clueless.

And the county has failed to give them the one rule that would really do them some good:

Move right. Pass left.

A multi-use trail is not a street and it’s not a sidewalk. All users should move on the right and pass on the left. Moving against the flow of traffic is a sure way to cause conflicts. I’m happy to report that I don’t see this behavior in cyclists; walkers and runners are the culprits. And walkers must recognize that there are faster users on the trail—not just cyclists, but also rollerbladers, runners, skateboarders, etc.—and being overtaken from behind is part of the deal.

So, what about the audible warning we should give as we are preparing to pass slower traffic? Good luck with that. It’s a noble goal and I try to do it when I can but sometimes it makes no sense. If I call out, “passing on your left,” about 1-in-3 pedestrians will move to the left. Some people will stop dead in their tracks, unsure which way to move. If there are two people walking side-by-side, chances are excellent that they will split and expect me to ride between them. Also, cell phones and MP3 players seem to be growing in popularity on the trail, and their users simply can’t hear the audible warning.

I wonder if a center line would help, and/or directional arrows painted right on the asphalt to encourage the proper flow of traffic. We’re really talking only about West Bend here; the rural areas of the trail are virtually conflict-free. But as things stand, it is just a matter of time before there’s a serious accident. Sooner or later, some iPod-wearing dingbat is going to pull an abrupt 180 and get steamrolled by a bike. When that happens there will be those who advocate a ban on bicycles on the trail. Don’t say I didn’t tell you so, and try not to be the steamroller.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Time Inside My Own Head

One of cycling’s most attractive qualities is that it can be enjoyed with others or as an individual pursuit. After two days of riding with others, today I enjoyed a solo ride. Nothing clears my head better than riding by myself. All other concerns fall away and I’m happily absorbed by the activity.

Today I reached the 3,700-mile mark for the year. Tomorrow will be a rest day. I probably would have taken the day off anyway, but the weather forecast demands it: sustained winds of 30-35 mph with gusts up to 50 mph. That’s dangerous stuff.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Role Reversal

Can Dave come out to play? That’s what my neighbor Mark wanted to know when he showed up unexpectedly this afternoon. My son was getting ready to mow the front lawn—I had just finished the back a few minutes before—and it fell to him to fetch me. Mark’s arrival couldn’t have been timed better: I was just about to head out anyway. And as Mark already had a route in mind, he saved me the trouble of deciding where to go. He also made me push just a little harder than I might have alone, but the ride still served as the recovery I needed after yesterday’s effort.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A Good Ride In Spite Of The Weather

I did another metric century today, adding a few miles on each side of the Washington County Bicycle Club’s "Farmland 55" ride. Turnout was poor and I blame the weather: it was just 49 degrees when we started at 8 a.m.! And the wind out of the northwest was relentless, sometimes gusting to 30 mph. But the route was fun for me because it included a lot of rolling hills and one leg breaker. Also on the positive side of the equation: we had a guest who drove to West Bend from Delavan—150 miles round-trip—just to do our ride, and he had a great time.

I was thinking about doing the Bay View Bicycle Club ride from Holy Hill tomorrow but I've decided to wait for the afternoon when it will be warmer. That probably means riding solo, but I don’t mind. And I still don’t have plans for Labor Day other than to ride, but this could be a possibility next year.