Monthly Archives: November 2012

Racing 24/7

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If you haven’t noticed, I love to race my bike. I really like to ride my bike, training is great, but the additions that racing adds, makes it that much more enjoyable. The mental aspect is nearly as intoxicating as the physical.

This year I haven’t raced anywhere near as much as previous seasons. For a variety of reasons, but mainly injuries. Back when I was on a full time road schedule, along with cross, I had close to 125 race days year, year after year. Of course this included quite a few long stage races. This season, I’d bet it is less than 40 total race days. I haven’t done one stage race the whole season. I’d bet that is the first time since I’ve started racing that is the case.

I might have been the first rider that stayed in shape nearly the whole season. Back in the 80’s I’d race a full road season, which usually included a trip to South America in October or November, then race something like 5 cross races before Nationals, which was around the first of the year, and go directly back to the road for Tour of the Americas or some race like that, which was in early February. (Lots of comas in that sentence.) I normally ride best in the Spring and late Fall to Winter, so that is probably why that schedule materialized. It’s always more fun to race when you’re riding well.

The reason I thought about all this was the for the past two presidential elections, I was racing the Tour of Southland in New Zealand. One time, I had to make a decision about doing the stage race in New Zealand, or a Red Bull Rage Downhill for road bikes in LA. I toiled over that decision for a few days. Trying to decided between coasting downhill in smog or stage racing in New Zealand was hard, which might seem strange. But, both had their attractions and benefits. I ended up making the correct decision and flew to New Zealand. They ended up cancelling the Red Bull Challenge because of a fire that was in the canyon they were using.

But, there are choices like that nearly every weekend now. Do you race the cross weekend in Cincinnati or go up to Traverse City for the Iceman Cometh? Or ride a charity ride with a bunch of friends in LA or do a cross weekend at Balboa Park in San Diego? These choices are constant and happen nearly every weekend throughout the season now. It is a good thing because it shows the popularity of the sport, but it is also hard to deal with mentality. You can only be in one place at a time.

I’m not toiling with the choices right now so much. I’m not riding that great, so I feel I’m doing the exact right thing by just pedaling my bike and enjoying the scenery. But, when I start riding better, the choices start again. I guess it isn’t really all that bad when I think about it.

Ranger’s Big Day

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My friends that I’m staying with, Don and Sue, their dog Ranger is going to have major surgery this morning to remove a couple tumors from his jaw. He had cancer a couple years ago and it was not unexpected for it to return. Anyway, the good news is that it hasn’t spread into Ranger’s chest, so he can hopefully be back to normal in a couple months. The vet says that he is going to lose one of his eyes, but this dog is so quick and prey driven, that is hardly going to slow him down. Anyway, wishing Ranger the best.

Here’s Ranger hanging with me yesterday when I was posting my blog entry. He is a very loyal friend.

My old team mate, Thurlow Rogers, called me about riding out East up Kitchen Creek, but I couldn’t get out to Alpine by 8:30. So, I rode up into North County, Rancho area, and explored a little. I was riding some of the roads I knew, but decided to try to stretch the ride out. Next thing I knew I was at a T intersection with two private gates and a security guard. I asked him if either road went through, but he said they were private. I told him I was sort of lost, and from Kansas, but that didn’t help one bit. He pointed at this primitive dirt road and told me that it went to Elfen Forest, but was only for off-road vehicles and MTB bikes. I said it looked fine to me, but he told me that I shouldn’t try it on my road bike. Little did he know that it was really a cross bike with road tires on it.

Anyway, it wasn’t that long, only a mile or two. It was super steep and pretty slow, but I was fine. I ended up back on pavement, made my way back to the coast, stopped at Pannikin for a coffee and made it back to La Jolla just when it got dark.

The smooth part of the dirt climb.

And Pannikin.

This Strava thing is bugging me here. I coast off of Mt. Soledad everyday here. Down Via Capri, which is a street, dangerous street. Two days ago, I didn’t have any traffic ahead of me and road down it pretty clean. When I downloaded it to Strava, it said that I was the 3rd fastest down the hill out of 700 + people. So, today, just leaving for the ride, I tried again. The problem was their was too much traffic. I need at least a 45 second space with no cars starting down the descent, so I don’t have to brake at the bottom. It never occurred. I waited up there for 5 minutes or so, but just when I thought about going, another car would come. Finally I gave up and just went down. There are way too many cracks in the concrete, some parallel with your direction, to classify this descent as anything except dangerous. At least over 40 mph. So, even though I thought I was slower today, I was 3 seconds faster and only 2 seconds off the fastest time. That guy rode down the hill pretty great. I’m riding my cross bike out here, so I’m not that comfortable going that crazy fast, but the whole issue is bugging me. I know it is a silly thing, meaningless really, but it is still there. I need to think it through some more so I can just disregard it. Or just ride down the hill 3 seconds faster. (The ride is posted at the top of the column to the right.)

Okay, I need to get going early today. Doing a North County ride and then heading up to Orange County for some business stuff. I hate riding this early, especially when I start, but when I get back it doesn’t seem that bad.

This is along the coast hwy. just North of Chesterfield in Cardiff-By-The-Sea. This is the first trail I ever rode a MTB on. Back in 1983.

These pelicans escorted me most of the way back South along 101 today.

Drug Testing and Beer

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Yesterday, I drove up to Irvine to get some parts from Shimano. I was talking to Wayne Stetina about some of the “happening” recently concerning professional cycling. Wayne’s newphew is Peter Stetina, Dale’s son, and rides for the Garmin Team. He has very, very good genes.
We were just catching up and talking about various things and one thing that came up, when talking about the “USADA episode” is that they, USADA, pretty much just told everyone, all riders, that their testing sucks, and that there is hardly a chance to get caught through testing, if you’re cheating. It wasn’t exactly it, but that the essence of that part of the conversation.

Here we have at least 5 riders, 6 if you include Lance and they’ve taken 100’s of drug tests and not one positive. That is along with this biological passport. It is all a waste of time, in my opinion, and needs to be taken back to square one and start over.

So, last night, Don, Sue and I were out eating with some of Sue’s co-workers and one of them is a beer expert. The woman was really into beer, like seriously. She said she likes Belgian sours, whatever that means. I need to look that up. I told her my all time favorite drug testing experience. She liked it, so I’ll post it here.

I was racing the Belgium World Cup on MTB bikes in Hoffalize, Belgium and got called for random testing, I think, since I never came close to finishing on the podium there. Anyway, I went to testing and there was my friends Thomas Frischknecht, from Switzerland and Rune Høydahl, from Norway.

The race was a muddy mess and we were done. For liquids to drink, they had bottled water, of course, soda and these liter Belgian beers. It was the last race before I was heading back to the states and figured I wouldn’t see those guys for a while. So, we decided to have a beer to say goodbye. Pretty soon, the old doctor came out to get one of us and Thomas went in. Rune and I talked and we finished our first liter. Then Thomas came out and Rune went in. Thomas still had most of his beer and opened another for me. Rune took a while and I had time to finish my second liter of beer. I said goodbye to those guys and got up to go back with the doctor.

Immediately I realized I was jacked. I could hardly stay upright. It was a lot of beer for me, on an empty stomach, plus I’d just finished a 2 1/2 hour World Cup MTB Race. The doctor was ancient and was barely shuffling down the hallway. I had to use both hands on the wall to stay upright.

I got back to the bathroom and picked my specimen collection thing out of the box and pull my shirt up over my nipples. When I dropped my shorts, there was mud everywhere. My privates were cake completely. I was way too unsteady and was trying to balance with one hand on the wall and one holding the cup. But, that wasn’t working. Eventually, I just put my head against the wall and used my hands for the cup and accuracy. While I was concentrating on the task at hand, lots of dried dirt was falling off into the plastic container. But, I got the flow going and couldn’t really stop it. I filled it to the top and when I looked, I would have guessed it was full of pond water. No yellow color, just muddy water.

I was so wasted, I just handed it over to the doctor and they guy didn’t say a word. I’m pretty positive he didn’t speak English, but I never heard him utter a sound. I couldn’t believe that he was going to seal up those two samples. Anyway, I went through the rest of the process, signed my name and left.

I went back into the lobby and grabbed three more liters of beer and put them in my jersey pockets. We were staying 5 kms. up a hill and I swear it took me a 1/2 hour to ride back.

When I got back to the hotel and was cleaning up, I looked at the beer labels and realized that they were Trappist Beer and 10% alcohol. I had just drank something equivalent to two bottles of wines. I was surprised I was still upright, let alone moving. And actually, probably from the race, but I sobered up pretty quickly. I guess my body used up the alcohol pretty quickly.

I was sort of interested on the results of the dope test, but never heard anything. They probably just tossed it out when they saw the samples. With all these guys never having a positive test since then, it seems like they kept up with that tradition up to present day.

“See you tomorrow Steve”

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I was thinking about how the really small things that happen to you in the sport of cycling can make a big impact on your ability to race a bike fast. Obviously, it takes a lot of mental strength to get to the top level of the sport. I never put much thought into the mental aspect of the sport. That was a big attraction of it for me. I enjoyed, and still enjoy, seeing how I personally deal with situations as they arise. And I like to observe how others handle adverse and critical situations too.

I was thinking about when I really knew that I had a shot at becoming a good bike racer. It was something that wouldn’t seem to be obvious, except to the person it changed.

I can’t tell you where I was or what the year was. I had to have been either 19 or 20. I had been traveling around the country doing all the best races I could get to. It must of been a race up in Wisconsin, maybe a Superweek race, or Wisconsin Milk race or maybe even Boul-Mich in Chicago. We had just finished a hard race and I was just riding back to the parking and Thomas Prehn came riding up and started talking to me. Thomas was already on the US National Team and I knew of him and of his results. He was very good. I was sure he didn’t know who I was.

I don’t remember what we were talking about or why he approached me to start with, we might of been in a break together, it doesn’t really matter. What did matter was when I turned off to go to my car, Thomas said, “See you tomorrow Steve.” I couldn’t believe that a guy like Thomas Prehn would have any idea what my name was. I was perplexed and thrilled at the same time.

I went back to the car and thought it about it and took a huge pride in knowing that he knew who I was. I knew at that time, I must have made some impression on him and that I was breaking into a new level of the sport. It gave me an inner confidence, really changed my perception of myself. One word, my name. It is strange.

Thomas and I went on to race against each other for the next 5 or 6 years until we eventually became team mates on the Schwinn team. We traveled around the country and the world together for 3 years. I got to know him well. I never told him this story. By the time we were riding together, we were peers and friends. And it didn’t really seem to matter. Now, looking back, it was a pivotal moment of my life. It might have happened anyway, some other obscure sign or way, but now looking back upon it, I’m glad that it was Thomas that said my name.

Thomas won the Professional National Road Race in 1986.

This is his hero card from when we were team mates.

Back in Kansas

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I got back to Kansas about 1 am this morning. I flew back through Denver and they were clearing snow off the runway. Then, coming into Kansas City, storms were a brewin’, so it was a pretty bumpy landing.

I am heading down to Austin, Texas for the Formula 1 this next weekend. I know, no Jingle Cross. But, I committed to the F1 before Jingle Cross changed its dates to before Thanksgiving, at least before I realized it was a week earlier, so I’m going to Austin. I have a bunch of stuff to do here these next few days.

Shimano has new derailleur cables that are super slick. Something like Gore, but they seem to be slicker. There are rumors that they can go up to 10,000 miles or more. Since I’ve never gotten more than half that out of any cable, I’d be pleasantly surprised if that is the case.

I finally got some Di2 shifters to put on my cross bike. Eventually, I’d like to get over to Steamboat to have Kent make my bikes internal routing for the cables. It seems a little complicated to install, so it might take awhile this afternoon. It is only in the 40’s and raining now, so there are worse things to be doing today.

I missed the local cross race at Heartland Park last night put on by Jeff Unruh. It was warm, windy and a good time I hear.

Sue and Don’s puppy, Ranger, went home yesterday after a successful surgery. He still has a couple weeks of radiation to go through, so it’s going to be a long road.

I bet he’s going to sleep today away for sure.

This was the bed when I got home at 1 am. Bromont was not very happy. These three guys tend to hang together, inside or out.

I remembered to get my knife that the TSA was going to take away on the flight out. It took me a few moments to find it in the dark, buried by the tree.

This was in the Orange County airport. They should be embarrassed. And, it wasn’t the only one overflowing. Maybe they had a trash collector’s strike or something going on.

These are the next generation of the Shimano Road Shoes. If you’re going to be needing a pair of new road shoes soon, wait a couple months. These weigh nearly nothing, it amazing.

And these are the super slick cables. They have a different color and feel. You need to use them with the SP-41 housing, it has the white grease, not the green.

This Range Rover was in the airport in Kansas City. It attracted me because I saw about 10,000 of these the last few days in SoCal. The sticker price on this one was $88,000. All I can say is……nothing.