The Driveway Series – Thursday Night Bike Racing in Austin

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I had the pleasure to make my way over to the The Driveway in East Austin to do the local Thursday night’r last night. But, it was way more than the average local weekday training criterium. It was a full on, super organized race on near perfect asphalt. It was a blast.

I have a hard time believing I’ve never done this race before. I’ve been down in Austin on Thursday nights a million times and, for the life of me, have no idea how I’ve not raced here before.

The Driveway is a local car race track that is hidden back in the woods East of Austin. I’m not really sure how long the track is, last night they just used a lower section. The track has a bit of rise, so it isn’t your everyday flat, boring racetrack criterium.

I met Stefan Rothe over at Mellow Johnny’s and did the 10 mile ride over to the course with him and a couple others. It started drizzling pretty good on the way, nearly raining and I was thinking, “Oh great, a training criterium in the rain on a racetrack that probably has oil all over it.” But, no, the road surface is just about as pristine as it comes. The drizzle let up some before the start, but the two corners, if you could call them corners, were still wet. It was no problem though.

The race was great. Nearly a 100 guys started the Pro 1/2/3 race. It was super wide open, thus very hard to establish a break. The speeds were high. I think it was a little over 28 mph average for the 55 minutes. I think there were 8 primes during the race. It came down to a field sprint, which I would think would nearly always happen on this course. The Boneshaker Team and Squadra guys both lined up their guys. I was right behind Dave Wenger, from Squadra the last few hundred meters.

I can’t really sprint too great when the speeds approach 40 mph. I’m much better uphill when I can stand all the way to the finish. This was a sitting sprint. I did make a huge mistake leaving Dave for the Boneshaker guys with about 200 meters to go. All that did was put me in the wind for a bit when I didn’t need to be. I ended up 5th, which is a little worse than I’d anticipated 500 meters from the finish. But, it was fun.

Bill and I rode 40 miles in the morning yesterday, then riding to and from the race, I ended up with nearly 90 miles. Pretty simple. I rode back through East and downtown Austin in the dark, while it was drizzling. That might of been the highlight of my day. I love riding to and from races through new territory. Austin has some pretty interesting areas.

Andrew Willis is the race director for this race series. He does it for 32 Thursday night throughout the year. Man, is that dedication. He seems to have it down though. I didn’t see a thing that I would change. They had food, music, lots of dogs, and good bike racing. I have to say it is, by far, the best Thursday night training criterium I’ve ever done. And I’ve been to a lot all over the country.

If you are looking for an excuse to come to Austin, this could be it. It is that good. I know a few guys did the 200 mile drive down from Dallas to race.

We’re heading up to Dallas tomorrow to do a couple criteriums, The Matrix Challenge. The guys at Richardson Bike Mart put on the races in Garland. I’m not riding that great, but I think it is just temporary, hopefully.

Lots of riders at the start of the race.

Lots of riders at the start of the race.

The racing was just as hard as you wanted to make it.  Super hard in the wind, pretty easy following.

The racing was just as hard as you wanted to make it. Super hard in the wind, pretty easy following.

FInish sprint photo.  The line was 10 feet before the banner.  I'm in the middle about 5th, in the white helmet.

FInish sprint photo. The line was 10 feet before the banner. I’m in the middle about 5th, in the white helmet.

I saw these rabbits, at dusk, on the way back.  I walked right up to the black and white one, could have picked him up.

I saw these rabbits, at dusk, on the way back. I walked right up to the black and white one, could have picked him up.

I had the worst double espresso I've ever had at Mellow Johnny's waiting for Stefan.  It was almost like they used cold water to make it.    I would have returned it, but Stefan showed up right then.

I had the worst double espresso I’ve ever had at Mellow Johnny’s waiting for Stefan. It was almost like they used cold water to make it. I would have returned it, but Stefan showed up right then.

Tubular Tires for Training

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I obviously travel a ton and ride with a lot of different people throughout the year. It continually amazes me how nice of equipment that people ride in other parts of the country. Not that in Kansas, the guys I ride with ride shit, but they aren’t training on carbon clinchers, etc.

I’ve been riding some Hutchinson Intense tubeless tires on Shimano clincher wheels and let me tell you, they aren’t up to what everyone raves about.

First of all, they are labeled as 25mm, but they don’t have the volume or height of a 25mm tire. They look and ride more like a 23.

2nd, they ride like solid rubber. Even at 80 psi, they are harsh. Descending the crummy roads off Mt. Soladad in La Jolla, they sent such a shock to my handlebars, it made controlling the bike very unpleasant.

The one advantage this new tubeless setup has going for it is that it does reduce having punctures. I’ll give them that. But the horrible ride quality offsets any advantage of less flats.

I have been riding with a bunch of people that are training on carbon clinchers. I don’t get it. They weigh just about the same as aluminum ones, but cost a ton more and you have the carbon braking issue. Plus, they have to wear out a ton quicker than scandium or aluminum rims.

So these guys are riding expensive carbon clincher wheels with expensive tubeless clinchers. It doesn’t make sense.

If you’re going to all this trouble and expense, I’d suggest you just ride carbon tubular wheels with Vittoria CX sewup tires. This is the best setup that you can have on a road bicycle at the present time. The lightest wheels with the best handling tires.

If you used just a small amount of sealant in the tires, I’d bet most people could get half a season out of a tire. You can buy the Vittoria at Wiggle.com for less than $50 with free shipping. That is a 1000 times better deal than an Hutchinson Intensive for $70.

Anyway, I’m considering going back to tubualar tires for training. Especially in the mountains. The clincher tires do not handle anywhere near as well as a tubular and they aremuch more dangerous, if you flat, when you’re descending fast or cornering.

The perfect setup, a Shimano C24 carbon tubular and Vittoria CX.

The perfect setup, a Shimano C24 carbon tubular and Vittoria CX.

I haven't used this, but I've heard great things about it.  It doesn't corrode a scandium rim like Stans does.

I haven’t used this, but I’ve heard great things about it. It doesn’t corrode a scandium rim like Stans does.

Breathing Cement Dust

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Yesterday Bill and I were going out for a shortish ride through South Austin. We’d ridden across the MOPAC pedestrian bridge and then were heading out south on the frontage road beside MOPAC, when ahead we saw a huge dust cloud. As we approached it, it became apparent that is wasn’t just dirt. I should of made a quick decision and just turned around. But, I glanced over my shoulder and there wasn’t a car coming from behind, so we just kept riding.

At the bottom of this hill there was a big pile of cement, not concrete, but just dry cement. I have no idea how it got there. It would have been dozens of bags of Quickcrete. We rode by the pile and got a hundred meters up the hill by the time the first car drove by. Looking over my shoulder, there was a huge plume of airborne toxic dust.

Dry, unused cement/concrete is really not something good to breathe. The way cement works is when you add water, a chemical reaction occurs, by hydration, and a lot of different things occur. Lots of different chemical reactions occur and heat is produced as a by-product. When you breathe dry dust into your lungs, this hydration process starts because you’ve added the water. I’ve had the pleasure of having the experience a few times and it plays havoc on my lungs and throat. It was not different this time.

The first time I had any experience with this was when I was racing MTB bikes for Specialized back in the mid-90′s. We were racing the World Cup in Hoffalize Belgium. I was doing the qualifying race the day before the World Cup and they were rebuilding the cobble main street in the morning. The construction workers were spreading a dry cement mixture on the cobbles and then they were just spraying a little water and using a squeegee to spread the mixture and get it between the cobbles.

Anyway, there was a lot of dry cement dust that hadn’t contacted water, thus was ripe to react with our lungs. 150 of us started out and it was a complete whiteout of cement dust. Nearly instantly I couldn’t breathe. My throat was toast. I don’t think that any of us that road that first qualifying race had a result the next day at the World Cup. All of us were ill from breathing the cement.

I’ve had the same experience laying tile. When I get lazy and don’t wear a mix when I mix the thinset, mamy times I get the throat burn. Usually doing this, I end up with strep throat, having to antibiotics.

Back to yesterday. I’m not sure how much cement dust Bill and I actually took in. We were pretty far past the pile before the first can came by and the wind was blowing from the west, so it was blowing away from us as the cars passed. But the road was dusty for a long time, maybe half a mile.

My throat felt pretty bad all ride and then this morning isn’t good either. I should of done a sinus wash right when I got back, but didn’t think about it.

I hope this isn’t the start of something bad. I know I’m very much on the edge and have trying to be very careful and stay well. I guess time will tell.

The World Cup start in Hoffalize a few years ago.

The World Cup start in Hoffalize a few years ago.

Dry cement powder.

Dry cement powder.

hydration copy
Click to enlarge.

Skewer Replacement ???

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I was sort of perusing the internet and came upon this headline story over at Velonews.com about “When you should replace skewers?” The headline grabbed my interest because I’d never heard of anyone replacing a quick release skewer for any reason other than scrapping it flat from falling on it.

So, I click on the link to the story and Lennard Zinn is answering a question from a reader about when to replace skewer. Lennard proceeds to answer the question with 6 different replies from skewer manufactures.

I personally know a few of the guys that answered and they all said that they had never heard of a situation where a quick release skewer failed and there really wasn’t/isn’t a test to check for fatigue.

I don’t get it, an article about a subject that does worry some people new to the sport, portraying that there might be an actual issue there, but there isn’t.

They might as well wrote an article about if Cancellara was using mice to power his bicycle or would it be good to use maple syrup to lubricate your chain.

I think Lennard should of just answered the question, since he already knew the answer, or maybe after he contacted the manufactures and got their responses, just said, “Hey, I contacted about everyone I know in the industry and you don’t have to worry about your quick releases failing, they don’t.”

I think there were plenty of cool technical innovation to bikes at the Paris-Roubaix last Sunday. Maybe Fabian’s bike could have been the headline story, not a failing quick release scare headline.

It sort of irked me that they used a attention grabbing headline, of a non-issue, to attract readership. It didn’t deserve to be the led story of the website Velonews.com.

I took this photo up at Trek in Waterloo.  They originally used mice, but now are testing out rats to power the new Madones.

I took this photo up at Trek in Waterloo. They originally used mice, but now are testing out rats to power the new Madones.


Lance shows you how to use a quick release in this video.

Weekend Roundup

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Okay, this the last post on the MS150. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised how much fun I had the last couple days. It was a refreshing reminder about how vast our sport is and how many facets it has. Those people that sat on the bikes for over 10 hours to ride 80 miles, man, I have to give them credit. It was hot and windy the first day, then just muggy and windy the 2nd.

I was so impressed by the infrastructure that the tour had. I can’t believe how many SAG wagons, EMT guys riding, police (100′s of police) and all the other volunteers that made it possible for 13000 people to ride from Houston to Austin. And the cones. One lane was blocked off in Austin the last 6 miles. And there was a police officer at every intersection. It was a big organizational task.

We started off from the ranch we stayed at at around 7 am. We had to ride 12 miles to the start and by the time we got there, the roads were pretty much line to line riders. It was nearly impossible to ride side by side. So, I went to the front and pulled for the first 5-10 miles. We were going along at a pretty good clip, somewhere close to 25. We had a pretty good line of guys riding behind us.

I love the vernacular that a tour type rider uses. The announce when they are starting off by saying “rolling”. Of course, the ever present, “stopping”. Lots of people would say something was we went by about announcing our passing. One guys said, “Hey, sing out when your passing riders.” Oh, sure. I would be riding along, saying over and over, like 6000 times, “Passing on your left”. We could ride in the left lane a fair amount of the time, the road was virtually closed. Towards Austin, it started thinning out, but the cones made the bike lane super narrow, so it was hard passing.

The last 20 miles, we started just pulling a mile each. So, one mile in the front and 3 miles off. We kept up a pretty good speed. We got to Austin a little before 11 am. I think our average was around 22 mph, but the first hour, riding to the start it was only 15, so we were going a bit faster than that. It was Brian’s birthday yesterday, so we had a beer to celebrate. I kept going and rode another 20 miles to get over 100 for the day. I had to ride back to Ann’s house anyway, I just took the long route.

I had a little over 500 miles for the week, with one day of no riding and one day of 13 miles, so the other 5, were pretty big. Four days over 100, which isn’t normal for me recently.

I was going to have to get up super early to drive all day up to Kansas City this morning to pick Trudi up after Paris-Roubaix, but I just got her a ticket from Kansas City to Austin this evening, so she has to travel another couple hours, but it’s easier. She needs a little down time and hanging in Austin is pretty enjoyable down time. It is supposed to maybe snow in Kansas today anyway, so the weather isn’t so good. It’s raining right now here in Austin, but is supposed to clear up early afternoon.

I need to go and find a great breakfast place now, that is if Bill every wakes up. He’s staying too and he can sleep.

Here are some photos from yesterday.

Rolling out the ranch at 6:45.

Rolling out the ranch at 6:45.

We passed this place on the way to the start.

We passed this place on the way to the start.

It was pretty much wall to wall riders most of the day.

It was pretty much wall to wall riders most of the day.

The road did clear a few times and we saw some pretty great terrain.

The road did clear a few times and we saw some pretty great terrain.

Coming into Austin, the traffic control was awesome.

Coming into Austin, the traffic control was awesome.

Bill finishing.

Bill finishing.

They were handing out this at the finish.  Coconut water with chunks of coconut in it.  I drank/ate 4.

They were handing out this at the finish. Coconut water with chunks of coconut in it. I drank/ate 4.

Brian was Skyping with his mom in Denmark at the finish.  She was wishing him happy birthday.  Pretty incredible.

Brian was Skyping with his mom in Denmark at the finish. She was wishing him happy birthday. Pretty incredible.

I stopped at Mozart's coffee before I headed out again.  This guys were on the porch playing.

I stopped at Mozart’s coffee before I headed out again. This guys were on the porch playing.

We went to the Oasis, a place overlooking Lake Travis last night for dinner.

We went to the Oasis, a place overlooking Lake Travis last night for dinner.

The place is kind of cheesy, but the views are great.  The lake is nearing empty though.

The place is kind of cheesy, but the views are great. The lake is nearing empty though.

Sunset was nice from the balconies.

Sunset was nice from the balconies.

Later last night, we went down to 6th street for Brian's birthday.  The Moto GP was there and it was a pretty crazy crowd.

Later last night, we went down to 6th street for Brian’s birthday. The Moto GP was there and it was a pretty crazy crowd.

We did a loop of the Driskoll Hotel.  It was pretty ornate.

We did a loop of the Driskoll Hotel. It was pretty ornate.

Sunset was nice from the balconies.

Sunset was nice from the balconies.

MS150 Day One- Only 130 Miles

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Day one down, day two started of the TradWind Energy Team’s Houston MS 150 adventure.

I don’t have an Internet connection, so am going to try to post this from the ride from my phone. Early rise today. Started riding before 6:30 am.

I ended up with 130 miles yesterday. 105 riding from the hotel to the ranch we stayed at and then Brian and I ride an extra 25 ish after. Brian is training for the Dirty Kanza. Maybe I am too now.

The thing that was the most amazing was the masses. We left at 10 am and had to ride 25 miles to the start and then “chase”. We caught the first guy at maybe 15 miles in. We nursed him along for a few miles and then he just was gone.

We kept going along at a pretty good clip. The wind was from the south, with a twinge of east. Pretty sure we were in the masses. Eventually we pretty much couldn’t stay on the right side of the road.

Then we got stopped by the police. Someone had crashed and they were flying in a life flight helicopter to take him out. It wasn’t a long wait.

It got pretty warm, upper 80′s. Bill, Brian and Nick are pretty sunburnt, even though Nick stopped and bought some sunscreen.

We had an awesome dinner at a ranch of a friend of Clean Line last night. We slept on a open porch, which was nice.

Today we have to ride an extra 10-15 miles to the start, then the ride which is over 80 miles, maybe 90. I’m just gonna ride back to Ann’s house, say hi to Bromont, then get my van to get my sleeping stuff etc.

Heading back to Kansas to pick up Trudi tomorrow. She is doing Paris-Roubaix today.

Gonna be a short turn around.

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Road was pretty empty early on.

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We saw this guy before the lunch stop, over 40 miles in.

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Stating later made it more riding in the heat.

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Pretty soon it was a whole lot of riders.

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Brian and I came upon this guy on our extra ride. I asked him if he was okay and he said he was just resting.

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Clean Line brought in 3 massage therapists for our group.

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There was an enormous amount of guacamole. Something like 60 avocados.

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And plenty of beer.

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I only had a couple. I used to ride to Shiner from Austin back in the day.

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There are a lot of eclectic places out in the countryside in Texas.

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Bromont seems to not be missin’ me much.