Sunday, July 31, 2011

I'd Rather Laugh With The Sinners Than Cry With The Saints

"Trust me: it will totally be worth it."
I finished July with 1,020 miles, my first-ever 1,000-mile month.  I rode every day except for the 6th, the 13th, the 20th and the 27th, each a Wednesday.  That’s my softball night and I rarely ride before a game.  Reaching 1,000 miles in a single month was an itch I had to scratch.  With that accomplishment behind me, I will go into August looking for less volume and more intensity.

My fitness was tested on Saturday in a 19.3-mile time trial on a rolling course in northwestern Washington County.  I placed fifth out of six racers, averaging 20.2 mph.  I rode hard: my average heart rate was 160 (87%), I topped out at 174 (95%), and I was pedaling squares as I crossed the finish line.  The little hills really caused problems for me.  So, with the also-not-flat Kirke Vei Time Trial now just three weeks away I need to return to more structured training.  That plan goes into effect on Tuesday, because tomorrow I am taking a badly-needed day off from cycling.

Saturday’s Washington County Bicycle Club ride attracted a season-high 18 riders.  Attendance is way ahead of last year and that’s great to see.  I rode with the club for the first 10.6 miles until its route intersected with the time trial route.  Club riders then turned north toward Eden while I turned south toward toil and suffering.  Overall, I rode 79 miles.  It was my longest day on the bike so far this year and probably the hardest, but perhaps the most satisfying.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Going For The One Thousand

Is riding 1,000 miles in a single month a worthy goal?  I say, "Yes."
Several days ago I mentioned that I was on pace for my first-ever 1,000-mile month.  Then it kind of looked like it wasn’t in the cards, but now I’m so close that I have to go for it.  Today’s ride brought my July mileage total to 895.  That’s already a personal record, beating the 800 miles I rode in September 2009.  There are three days left and the weather forecast is mostly favorable.  I’ll keep an eye on Sunday; if it looks like rain, then Saturday might be a long day in the saddle.  I’ll get a little closer tomorrow but I don’t want to burn myself out.  On Saturday morning I have a time trial test, then a briskly-paced group ride.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi

While talking to a fellow cycling fan a couple of years ago, I described Cadel Evans as a professional race loser.  He looked like a rider who would post consistently good results without ever winning a Grand Tour.  He had obvious physical talents but it seemed doubtful that he had the mental toughness to reach the highest level.  Then he won the 2009 world championship road race in Mendrisio.  In the decisive moment of that race, Evans changed.  It was the first time I had ever seen him ride with absolute confidence in his own abilities.

Being the world champion doesn’t always work out.  Look at the career of Alessandro Ballan since his victory at Varese in 2008.  Ballan had established a reputation as a great one-day rider, but his results since winning the rainbow jersey have been disappointing.  By contrast, the 2009 world championship has propelled Evans to success in other one-day races, stage wins in Grand Tours, overall victory this year at Tirreno-Adriatico and the Tour de Romandie, and finally the maillot jaune in the 2011 Tour de France.  He’s absolutely a different rider now, and a most worthy winner.

Working from home allowed me to watch every live broadcast from this year’s Tour.  And during the last three weeks I’ll bet I watched at least 100 hours of coverage, because I often watched the rebroadcasts and the rest day recaps too.  With no more coverage to enjoy, tomorrow will be a bit of a downer.  I’ll try to beat the post-Tour blues by riding after work.  I have a time trial test on Saturday and I need to prepare.  Maybe the memory of Evans’ great performance in yesterday’s TT will inspire me to achieve more than I have before.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Do Not Disturb

Tomorrow morning I'm watching the individual time trial that will decide overall victory in the Tour de France.  NOTHING ELSE MATTERS until it’s over.  This has been the most exciting, most unpredictable Tour that I have ever seen.  Chapeau, Thomas Voeckler!  You did great credit to the maillot jaune.  Now it’s time for the final Andy Schleck vs. Cadel Evans showdown and I don’t want to miss even a second of it, as that just might be the winning margin.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Eisengoose

I love this little heat wave we’re having and my solo 40-mile road ride today was pure joy.  My road bike has gotten most of my attention this month and will continue to be my first choice through the end of August.  In the fall I hope to enjoy some long days on the trails, especially state trails that I visit infrequently or are new to me.

I’ve never been to the Ahnapee Trail … in fact, I’ve never been to Door County for any reason.  The Ahnapee Trail Century on Sep. 24 looks like my kind of late-season ride.  Events like that one and the B.A.L.L.S. Ride make me wonder whether we could do something similar closer to home.

For a couple of years I have kicked around a concept I’ve named The Eisengoose, a century that includes the Eisenbahn State Trail and the Wild Goose State Trail.  It’s a 50/50 mix of roads and rec trails.

And it’s not dead flat by any means.

Imagine leaving Theresa and riding west through Mayville to meet the Wild Goose at Horicon.  The route then passes through Oakfield on its way to Fond du Lac, skirts the south side of the city on the Prairie Trail, then meets the Eisenbahn at Eden.  Riding the full length of the Eisenbahn brings you to West Bend, from which you travel a series of sometimes-hilly country roads back to Theresa.  The ride would be free of charge and free of support, but as it passes through so many communities you would have ample opportunity to resupply yourself with food and drink.

I admit it’s something of a freak ride, not unlike Cheesehead Roubaix.  It’s perfect for a cyclocross bike and definitely doable on a road bike, though I’d go with tires wider than the usual 700x23.  A mountain bike would be fine for the gravel trails but perhaps too heavy and inefficient for the 50 miles of paved roads.  So, would anybody do this as a September or October group ride?

Saturday, July 16, 2011


I’m not sure where I’m going but I’m riding as if it were very far away.  I sort of have in mind that July will be my first 1,000-mile month.  Actually, anything more than 800 miles would be a personal record.  I’m already at 517 and the warm, dry weather just keeps calling me outside for more.  And I guess right now it’s not altogether bad just to be rolling up big miles, as I enjoy doing it and there’s no real competition goal in the immediate future.

My original plan for today was to ride the century route of the Bay View Bicycle Club’s Lake Country Classic in Oconomowoc.  But with no ride partner, a pretty serious threat of rain and a strong desire to use the registration fee for something else, I spent my morning with the Washington County Bicycle Club on the Brat ’n Hell route.  There’s one more club ride this month—East of Eden, July 30—and I plan to be there for it.  WCBC attendance has been much better this year and I’ve been there for six of the seven rides so far.

I want August to be more performance-oriented, so I’m looking at the Kirke Vei Time Trial (Wisport) in Cottage Grove on the 20th and the Reforestation Ramble (WORS) in Suamico on the 28th.  The TT has a non-aero division that would work for me.  The mountain bike race is on perhaps the least-technical course in the series, and I’m looking to build confidence after a bad introduction to mountain bike racing in May.  My desire to be ready to compete in those races will shape my training over the next six weeks.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

I’m Number One (Of One)

When you’re French you have to know when to pick your fights.  You don’t want to take on, say, Germany.  Far better to flex your muscles on a smaller stage where you couldn’t possibly lose—Vietnam or Algeria, for example.  Better still when you’re Thomas Voeckler, you get into a strong breakaway and then let wet roads and bad drivers eliminate your competition from behind.

When you’re me—though I’m pretty sure you aren’t—you drive up to Ripon for the 21st Annual Louis Reed Time Trial, an unsanctioned event in honor of Ripon’s cycling and track & field star of the 1890s.  The event is close to home, is free of charge, and doesn’t draw a big field.  I figured I would do pretty well today on the mostly-flat, 10-mile course.  I didn’t figure on winning with a time of 28:13.5, an average of 21.26 mph.  And I especially didn’t figure on being the only rider in the competition!

So, it’s a hollow victory by any standard but I’m glad I went.  I rode hard—average heart rate of 154 bpm (84%) with a maximum observed heart rate of 167 bpm (91%)—giving the race organizers and volunteers a reason to be there and keeping their tradition alive for another year.  Hopefully they will get the word out for the 2012 race; there was almost no mention of this year’s race online or in print and perhaps some prospective racers thought it was canceled.  It would be a shame for such a long-running event to die.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Bike Wash Day

Screw the cars!  Only the bikes get washed by hand.
It’s dry out there!  We’ve had just 1/100th of an inch of rain so far this month, and that’s on the heels of a much drier than average June.  The unpaved sections of the Eisenbahn State Trail look like the world’s longest line of cocaine.  The limestone dust is so fine that it gets everywhere, but it’s most annoying on my water bottles.  Every time I take a drink I ingest a little dust that was stuck to the bite valve.

On Friday I rode 52 miles—mostly on the Eisenbahn—and my Giant FCR3 turned white.  So, today was Bike Wash Day.  The Raleigh didn’t really need a bath but I scrubbed it up too.  After today’s 30-mile road ride, the Raleigh’s only blemishes were a little sports drink and brake pad dust.

Dry plus warm equals lots of opportunities to ride and I’m already at 300 miles this month.  If I maintain that pace I will have a 1,000-mile month for the first time ever.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Almost Like Old Times

Because sometimes "hard" and "fun" are one and the same ...
The new Thursday evening group ride is still trying to find its audience.  We had five riders tonight and that’s OK but more would be better.  Our route was reminiscent of “Patrick’s Pedalfest of Pain,” the memorable Pedal Moraine ride from July 2008.  That route was conceived as a hill climber’s delight; tonight’s route just sort of grew into one as we improvised.  We headed southwest to Cedar Creek, then north on Hillside Drive.  We cruised past Little Cedar Lake and then up Scenic Drive.  Then we took on Schuster, a maiden voyage up the tough hill for one of our companions.  Beaver Dam Road brought us back into town and to the base of Jefferson Street Hill, the hardest climb in West Bend.  Up we went, hot on the heels of another group of cyclists who also had decided to challenge themselves.  They took a breather at the top while we charged down Green Tree Road.  A few minutes later we were back at the high school parking lot, satisfied with our 30 miles and our 17.3 mph average speed on such a hilly route.

Help spread the word about this ride.  It will get better as it attracts more participants.  Remember: it’s a no-drop group ride designed to average 17-19 mph.  Each week we take a different route and each week at least one of our riders discovers a road he has never ridden before.  You can stay informed about the ride by visiting Facebook.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Blessings Of Liberty

Independence Day started early for me as I didn’t want to miss any of the live broadcast of the Tour de France on Versus.  American sprinter Tyler Farrar won today’s stage.

That was a good start to my day, but another highlight left a bigger impression.  Coming back to West Bend from my own solo ride, I recognized a cyclist I hadn’t seen in a long time.  Two years ago he nearly died after colliding with a car during a training ride.  His list of injuries was so extensive that I don’t think I could remember them all, he now lives with pain that may never go away completely, and there are more surgeries in his future.  But there he was, enjoying the freedom of the bicycle under perfectly blue skies and bright sunshine.  He told me that the desire to get back on the bike had been a motivating and sustaining factor even in the early days of his recovery.  And while his body isn’t always willing to cooperate, he still wants to challenge himself and look for new goals on the bike.

How resilient is the human body, and even more the human spirit!  How lucky are we as cyclists to be part of a sport so diverse that it always offers new opportunities and challenges even when age or injury or other circumstances cause us to change our plans.

Saturday, July 2, 2011


Today I got my Wouter Weylandt tribute T-shirt from Stomach of Anger.  Sales of more than 3,000 shirts raised approximately $37,000 for Weylandt’s family.  I think Weylandt’s death troubled me so much because from half the world away I was watching a webcast of the Giro when he crashed.  I saw live pictures of the doctors’ attempts to save his life.  He was a cyclist, like me.  He was far more talented, of course, but we were part of the same small tribe.  His death was a sobering reminder that we all take risks when we ride, and we all have somebody who breathes a little easier every time we come home.  Remember Wouter Weylandt, and be safe.

Friday, July 1, 2011

At The Midpoint (2011 Edition)

Today I finally hit the 2,000-mile mark for 2011.  Last year I reached that milestone on June 18, so I’m two weeks behind.  I know miles aren’t everything and there are plenty of cyclists who achieve better fitness riding less, but I enjoy racking up the miles and I always feel better as they accumulate.

Through June 30 I had ridden 1,961 miles in a total of 70 rides, an average of 28.01 per ride.  That’s down from last year (2,290 / 69 = 33.19).  So, I’m 329 miles behind last year’s pace but I’m starting to cut into the deficit.  I posted a low total in May as I prepared for a mountain bike race, focusing on trail riding skills at the expense of long hours on the road.  In June I got back to my old routine.  Here’s the breakdown by month:

000 January
055 February (PR)
286 March
465 April
450 May
705 June

I don’t fret over how much time I spend on the indoor trainer.  For what it’s worth, I’ve done 31 hours of indoor training this year compared to 49 hours last year through June 30.  With better clothing this year, I got outside on several late-winter and early-spring days that would have been trainer days in 2010.

The second half of 2011 should include a few centuries and those are always good for plumping the stats.  I remain hopeful that this may yet be my first 5,000-mile year.