Monthly Archives: August 2012

The Clymb

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Every once in a while I put a link to the website, the CLYMB. I go there every so often because they have super deals on gear I use. I’ve posted it a couple times and have around $500 credit because I’ve received a $10 credit every time someone signs up because of my link. Now it is $20, which is twice as good. Anyway, I looked today and they have a bunch of cycling related sales going on right now. They have some Litespeed frames for $1000, bikes for $1700, a bunch of Castelli clothing cheap and then the normal other climbing and outdoor wear. Anyway, if you’re interested, click here to sign in. I think you just have to put in your email address to get started.

Rain-You have to Race in It to Excel at It

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Wednesday, I rode my bike over to Vail and back from where I was staying in Silverthorne Colorado. I felt like I might have been sort of acclimatized and was going pretty good. I got over to Vail with a 20.4 mph average, after climbing from Silverthorne up to Vail Pass and then descending down. The problem with the day was when I was returning over the pass, it started pouring down rain.

I see it as a problem now, because I don’t feel so great. Sick would be the word to describe it, but on Wednesday when I was riding, I didn’t really mind it so much. I had improved immensely descending the previous 10 days, but hadn’t been descending in the wet. I didn’t much like it on clinchers, but I was going okay down the bike path to Copper Mtn. considering the crazy headwind and thick rain.

I’m supposed to be heading to St. Louis in a few hours to race the Gateway Cup Criterium weekend. But since I’m feeling under the weather, I think I might skip today and head over there tomorrow. Trudi just got back from being gone a few weeks and could use the day at home to decompress too.

Anyway, no matter how hard I went down the descent, it wasn’t close to as hard as I would push it if it was a race. The only way to improve cornering in the wet is to race in the wet.

It is supposed to rain pretty much the whole weekend in St. Louis. The remnants of hurricane Isaac is going through. It is weird how often we race here in the Midwest in the aftermath of a hurricane that goes through New Orleans. I don’t get why it doesn’t come through more on the weekdays and not on the weekends. I’m not looking forward to racing in the rain, but you can’t be skipping races because it is going to be sketchy.

The problem with racing in the rain is obviously the risk of falling. That being said, again, you shouldn’t be not racing because you think that there is a high chance you are going to fall, especially because of it being wet. I know a lot of people out there will disagree with that statement, but it is true most of the time.

You have to have the ability to corner fast in the wet if you are going to be a great all-around bike racer. There will be too many important days in your career where you’re going to need that skill. And the earlier you learn the skill, the less you’ll be laying on the ground later on because of the rain. The reason for this is because a lot of the time you fall in the rain is because riders in front of you fall. You’ll fall less because you are riding much further up in the field because you have the ability to ride faster because you are good at it. Thus, you’ll be riding with more competent riders, having better results.

I haven’t ridden many big criteriums recently in the rain. I went over to the NRC races in St. Louis a couple years ago and it was raining both days, but I wasn’t going good. I finished in the top 10, but nothing special. Nature Valley seems to have it share of wet races. The problem there is that they don’t seem to have the officiating staff to score the races when the weather gets bad. I won one race there after they cut the race short, but didn’t score the event and then a couple years later in St. Paul, the just stopped the race after a hour, when there were only about 20 of us left, because a motorcycle fell on a corner and they decided it was too dangerous.

That being said, it is better to start out in less important regional races to get you rain legs. It will give you more of a chance to improve, not being completely stressed out because of the competition.

I hope I feel better today laying low. You do need a ton of energy to deal with rainy condition. Especially day after day. I don’t have much energy right now, but I’m crossing my fingers.

A picture of my Garmin when I got to Vail. Here is a link to Strava for the complete ride.

This is from the Minneapolis Criterium stage of Nature Valley I won in 2006. I was going pretty good that day.

Phil Liggett Interview on Lance’s Deal

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Here is a video of Phil Liggett talking about Lance’s suspension, etc. I actually haven’t watched the whole thing, it is 15 minutes long. I can say I agree with about 15% of what he says so far. I’ve known Phil since 1983. He’s a good guy. I guess he, like many others in the cycling community, is towing the company line. Maybe he’s just jet lagged from flying back from the Pro Challenge.

Triathon & Running vs. Cycling

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Yesterday someone left a comment about me doing a local triathlon in Manhattan Kansas. It got me thinking about why I didn’t pursue the sport more. I most likely would have made a ton more money, but the fact is that it didn’t interest me much.

What is there to look forward to in a triathlon? First, you swim, which I pretty much really dislike. Especially training for swimming back and forth in a pool. Then you do a time trial on a bike, which is the segment of cycling I dislike the most. And finally you run. I don’t necessarily dislike running, I just would rather be out riding where you cover 3 X’s as much terrain in the same time period.

Plus, the time consumed training. I really couldn’t have the swim and run training cut into my cycling time, it just wouldn’t be right. So, there you have it.

I have run a few races. I probably could have been an okay runner, but probably not great. During my semester at KU, I was “training” for the annual Turkey Trot running race between KU and the Haskell Indian College, which is in Lawrence too. It was snowy, so I was running in the indoor gym. The ROTC guys were doing a timed mile in their army boots and fatigues. I didn’t have a watch and asked the guy if he could time me too. He said no problem and I got into line to wait my turn.

I don’t exactly remember how many laps it was to complete a mile. I’m thinking 7 + a little extra. Anyway, I remember thinking after 3 laps, “Wow, I’m nearly half way done, this is so short.” So I just sprinted the last half. When I got done, I asked the timer guy what my time was and he was nearly crazy. He said I ran 4:16. He was so excited. I’d timed myself before running outdoors and could run pretty easily in the 4:30’s, so it didn’t seem all that great to me. I tried much harder this time.

Anyway, he took my phone number and told me he was going to talk to the KU track coach about me. The track coach called me the next day and I went over to see him. He was pretty into the whole thing, but I told him that I was a bicycle racer and that I was going out to the Olympic Training Center to live and race bikes. That was that.

I’ve done a few other running races too. A couple 10k races, a couple 5 k. If only my win percentage in cycling could come anywhere near my win percentage in running.

I did a half marathon once too. The Topeka to Auburn Race. I was out to dinner with a bunch of friends and it was snowy and we weren’t going to be able to ride on the roads the next day, so Catherine Walberg and I decided to run the 1/2 Marathon cold turkey. We hadn’t run a step the whole year.

It started pretty fast. Eventually I was only running with this guy Dave Halferty, the best runner I know of around Eastern Kansas. He ran around a 2:20 marathon and I my memory if correct, 1:05 for the half. I think he ran for KU. Anyway, about 3/4 the way through, it gets hilly, on gravel. Dave was “attacking me” on the hills, whatever that means, but it wasn’t a problem for me. Cyclists can run so well uphill, it’s the downhill that gets us. About 3 miles from the end, after he went hard up a hill I was beyond confident, thinking I was going to smear him at the end.

About 30 seconds later I was taking 12 inch strides. Trudi was following me on her MTB bike and kept saying, stride out, or something like that. I told her I was. It was like my legs were in molasses. I looked behind me and could see no one. But, pretty soon, a guy from behind came running by like I was standing still, which I was. He ran a few hundred meters in front on me, then went over to the snowy ditch and pulled down his shorts and pooped. I ran by him while he was having his issue. But, probably a minute later he came by, again, like I was standing still. I finished 3rd, but got beat by a guy that took a shit while racing.

I think I lost something like 4 minutes in the last 2 1/2 miles, I don’t remember exactly. I’ve never experienced anything like it since, where you don’t cramp, but just tighten up so much you can move your legs much or very fast. I had to walk backwards off curbs for a week I was so sore. After the race, Catherine told me her feet hurt and when she took off her shoes, her socks were completely soaked in blood. I have no idea how she finished, I cry like a baby when I get a small blister.

Anyway, I like the sport of cycling. I think it is the monotony of both running and swimming that dulls my interest. Cycling is never monotonous. Even the same training ride I’ve done for years never seems dull. I guess there is a reason that people pick their sports, or maybe the sport picks them, I don’t know.

Here is the photo from the Topeka paper of me finishing the Topeka Tinman Triathlon. It might be my 2nd worst sports photo ever, the first being the pictures from the Master’s Cross Worlds in Louisville last year with my helmet falling off the back of my head.

One of the Biggest Compliments I’ve ever Had – From Davis Phinney

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Sunday night I went to the 7-11/BMC gala after the Pro Challenge. Trudi was going and I hadn’t seen a lot of those guys for a few years or maybe longer. There were a ton of “famous” cylists from all over the world there. Plus, sponsors galore.

The 7-11 guys got up on the stage and sat on couches and reminisced about the old days. About the first year of the team, an old communal car, and of course their recollections of first racing professionally in Europe, especially the Tour de France.

The evening was dedicated to Davis Phinney, whose son, Taylor won the last stage of the Pro Challenge that day, but more importantly is currently fighting Parkinson’s Disease.

At the end of the evening Davis had the mic and was wrapping it up and he said he especially wanted to thank me, (Steve Tilford) for attending. I thought that was really nice. Afterwards I went over to say hi and thank him for singling me out and he thanked me once again and said something about me being a true legend, which really pretty much embarrassed me.

That got me thinking about Davis and my history with him.

Early racing, Davis and I were just competitors. He was much better than me. He could out sprint me with one hand tied behind his back. He could out sprint about anyone. Every once in a while, Steve Bauer would get the best of Davis, but not that often.

Davis rode for a bunch of teams before he ended up racing for 7-11. He rode for Austro Daimler Bicycles, then AMF I think, and a defunct before it started Yoplait yougurt team. He finally ended up on 7-11.

There were really 3 teams during that time, the early to mid 80’s. 7-11, Levis, and Schwinn. Nearly all the “good” riders in the country were on one of these three teams. So, obviously we bumped heads every weekend, month after month. We went to after race parties and trained with each other when we were in the same town, but really didn’t hang out much other than that.

Connie, Davis’ wife, was riding for us, the Levis/Raleigh Team, during the 1984 season. She won the Olympic Road Race that year. But, the men’s and women’s Levis teams were pretty autonomous. We had completely different support, vehicles etc.

I remember a criterium at the Tour of Texas one year when Davis and I had a little falling out. Roy Knickman, Levis and Alex Steida, 7-11 had lapped the field in a criterium in San Antonio, I think and I was leading Roy out. Back then, great team work would be one rider on your team helping you the last lap or two. Anyway, I thought I was riding like shit, but got to the front with a couple corners to go with Roy on my wheel. I got Roy to the last corner in the lead and Roy came through on my inside and I swung off to the outside. Davis was coming by on the outside and I obviously screwed up his line, very unintentionally. Afterwards, Davis, along with Connie, came over to me and our team director, Michael Fatka and proceeded to scream about the incident. I told Davis it was completely unintentional and I was just trying to get out of the way. I normally wouldn’t of even cared about the whole thing, it was just normal criterium racing, but Connie was really on my team and I felt strange having Davis and her confront me.

Anyway, that was that and Davis raced more and more in Europe, won a couple stages of the Tour and whenever he came home after that, his sprint wasn’t quite what it used to be. He was still super fast, just not unbeatable.

Michael Engleman and I spent a month or so after the 1988 Pro World Road Championships in Belgium, racing in Europe. One of the first races was in Geneva Switzerland and Davis, Steve Bauer and a bunch of other guys were there. It was pretty much for start $$$. I think the first race was a miss and out criterium, then the 2nd, maybe a points race. Micheal was riding good and was actually out sprinting Davis for point sprints. And Michael had just about the slowest sprint on the whole Wheaties/Schwinn team. It was just about then when I realized how much speed it takes out of your legs riding 250 km stages of the Tour, day after day.

Davis rode a bit on the Coor’s Light team domestically, after leaving Europe, before he retired in the early 90’s.

Flash forward maybe 10 years later, after Davis had already been diagnosed with Parkinson’s. I was racing the Athen’s Twilight Criterium and Davis was there. I’m not sure why exactly he was watching, other than someone was doing a documentary on his life and filming him. Right when the race was over, pretty late at night, Trudi came over and told me that Davis was in hanging in the wheel pit. I asked her if she had went over and said hi, but she said that she hadn’t and was a little worried because she hadn’t seen him in so long.

I rode over to the pit and he was there. He looked pretty nervous and he was having a lot of shaking and movement issues caused by the disease. It was kind of uncomfortable just talking to him. He told me that when he got stressed out and nervous, then he had a lot more problems with the shaking and tremors. There were lots of people around and I finally asked him if he wanted to go somewhere else, sit and have a beer or something. He said sure.

I was still in my skinsuit and on my bike, and Davis was walking, so we just went around the corner a block or so off the course and sat outside. It took him a little while, but pretty soon it was as if I was just talking to “the old Davis”. No shaking of the hands, no head movement, nothing.

We talked for quite a while and then he thanked me for helping him escape from the crowds, for just being a friend, and having a beer. I’m pretty positive, that I’d never just been with Davis one on one before, just hanging out and talking. It was a huge compliment to me, that he could feel comfortable enough to laugh his great, deep laugh and just be himself. I’ve never forgotten that night and never will.

If you would like check Davis’ Parkinson’s Foundation, please click here. I’m sure he would appreciate it.

Davis and Ron Kiefel, who were nearly inseparable though out their careers.

Davis didn’t crash much, he was a very good bike handler. But, this was a bad one. I remember seeing him in Boulder a while after this accident and he looked awful. He laughed and said something about how it he thought it made him look gnarly or something like that.

Pro Team Travel Expenses

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I’m in Silverthorne again and Trudi just left in a BMC team car heading back to the service course in Santa Rosa, CA. It is something like 1200 miles depending on which way she goes. There really isn’t a true direct way to drive though.

Anyway, I was thinking about all the costs incurred in the modern cycling era for the travel of these teams. The number of trucks, buses, cars each and every team has at every event seems overwhelming.

This isn’t even counting the flights. Think of this, every time a rider quits a race, he needs to go home, he doesn’t travel with the race anymore. So the team has to buy the rider a day of, one way ticket, or maybe if they are lucky, just pay a change fee to get the rider home earlier. But, the former is most likely the case in bigger stage races, such a a Grand Tour. Can you imagine the costs for that? Especially when the travel is intercontinental.

I’ve had to do this a couple times in my life. Once when I was racing the British Milk Race and hit a car at 100 kph. The other time was when I was riding the MTB version of the Tour de France, the VTT, and I fell and broke my hip. Both times the airlines made special arrangements for me, flying me directly back to the US/Kansas City, both times first class, free of charge. I guess it was a different era then. Service and compassion, back then, was more the deciding factor than the bottom line now.

Anyway, Trudi has something like 20 hours to drive and it is just one of 5 or 6 vehicles heading somewhere in North America. They have to have their vehicles in Canada for the two UCI races in Quebec City and Montreal next week. Lucky she doesn’t have to drive there.

This guy was taking a picture of the team car at the Starbucks in Dillon this morning and Trudi gave him a hat.

About ready to head West towards California.

This is a rainbow that I saw yesterday while walking along the creek in Silverthorne.


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There are lots of hummingbirds in the mountains. I’ve had a fascination with hummingbirds a long time. Not really since I was a kid, but it started was about 18. I can remember the day.

It was the first day I came to Colorado to watch the Red Zinger Classic. I was staying at the KOA campground in Boulder and was going to ride the complete Boulder Mountain Road Race course the first day. That course leaves Boulder, heads up Coal Creek Canyon, up to Nederland, then Ward, down to Lyons and back to Boulder. It is 93 miles I believe. It was a big ride for me.

Anyway, I obviously wasn’t acclimated, but I had a enormous amount of enthusiasm. Climbing up Coal Creek Canyon is pretty hard for a boy from Kansas. At least it was then, I’d probably be better now. Anyway, I was riding alone and was loving it. The towns of Wonderview, Nederland and Ward were really super small, nearly primitive. By the time I got through Nederland, up to Ward, I was hurting and decided to stop and get some water.

I’m not sure if I stopped at a small store or restaurant, and I can’t imagine what I would have bought to drink, it might have been Gatorade. While I was sitting there, I started cramping in one of my legs. I keep drinking water and then it really started. I was cramping everywhere. Arms, neck, back legs, everything. I must of been a sight sitting there.

As I was trying to keep the cramps in control, somewhat, I noticed that there were some hummingbirds flying around, the store had feeders hung. I must of been pretty out of it because when I looked around there were hummingbirds everywhere. They were unreal, super aggressive towards each other and very agile in flight.

It was like aerial combat. Beautiful. The speed and control they have is amazing. Their ability to stand still in air, just hover, was mesmerizing. I sat there close to an hour, letting the cramps leave my body, but also falling in love with these amazing creatures. I’ve had this love affair ever since.

Watch Hummingbirds: Magic in the Air on PBS. See more from Nature.