Sunday, February 26, 2012

Post-Omloop Hoop Post

Is this the "sweet spot" where performance and price intersect?
Road racing returned to Europe this weekend with a very entertaining Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday and a sadly predictable Kuurne—Brussel—Kuurne today.  Garmin-Barracuda’s Sep Vanmarcke, a 23-year-old Belgian, got himself into the winning breakaway and just plain out-sprinted Tom Boonen and Juan Antonio Flecha for the Omloop victory.  Mark Cavendish won K-B-K almost by default as none of the other teams made a serious effort to control the front of the peloton after the last breakaway failed.  I watched streaming coverage of both races on the Internet, then capped off my weekend with the Tour of Oman highlight show on NBC Sports.

I spent much of the weekend thinking about the equipment I will need to achieve my own competitive objectives for 2012.  My big purchase will be a mountain bike suitable for WORS and WEMS races.  I want to buy into the sport at a high enough level to ensure that my results be limited mostly by my fitness and skill, and I think I know which bike I’m going to get.

But I’m much less certain about buying a new wheelset for my road bike.  Currently, it’s outfitted with the wheels that came with my cyclocross bike.  They’re OK for indoor training and will serve as backups for both road and cyclocross, but they’re inadequate as a primary set for either bike.  Road racing doesn’t figure prominently in my plans this year, but road riding does.  I’m thinking about upgrading the wheels on my Diamondback cyclocross bike and returning the trusty Mavic Aksium wheelset to my Raleigh road bike.  At 1950g the Aksiums are kind of heavy but as training hoops they’re just fine.  And for those rare competitive events on the road this year I could temporarily swap-in the new, lighter wheels.

Lighter, but not too light.  I’m always around 200 pounds and a new pair of super-light, low-spoke racing wheels would be a poor choice for my needs and my budget.  I have almost talked myself into another set of Aksiums, which for 2012 are down to 1735g without sacrificing strength.  That’s almost a half-pound savings, and that’s enough to yield a performance benefit even for a rider of my modest abilities.  At around $300, new Aksiums would be a sensible upgrade.  They also appeal to my spartan aesthetic: black rims laced with black spokes to black hubs.  My cyclocross bike would be the Stealth Bomber of Masters Cat 4.

Outfitted with 700x25 Continental Gatorskin tires, the Diamondback is proving a very capable winter bike.  I haven’t ridden the Raleigh outdoors since Sep. 10 and it may be weeks before I take it outside again.  But sooner or later that day will come and I want to be ready when it does.  With bad weather in the forecast this week, I might do some shopping to make sure I’m prepared … and to keep the blues away.

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