Author Archives: Steve Tilford

Descending Like Sagan

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I did a post a while a go about “the new” way Sagan was descending.  And it might not have been so new, but for sure, Peter Sagan made it possible for this style to become way more common.   Funny how that works.

Descending on your top tube isn’t for the faint of heart.  It really isn’t that stable of a position on a bicycle when you are going 90 kph +.  The reason is that you’ve taken all you shock absorbing abilities out of the mix.  By that I meant that when you are sitting on your top tube, your knees and elbows are available to be used for bumps.

I thought of this while watching the finish of the Ruta del Sol yesterday.  Valverde had dropped Contador on the final climb and they were both descending pretty aero.  Then Contador starts to pedal while tucked, like Sagan started, then Froome did to win a stage at the Tour last year.

I don’t get the pedaling while tucked.  For one, I can’t really do it.  It is hard enough getting in the position.  I think I read Sagan say he could produce something over 200 watts for doing it.  I guess that is enough to add speed, but to me, it seems a little over the top.

Contador is so small, he looks silly pedalling.  The video of the finish is below.  Go to around 1:40 into it and you’ll see him start pedalling tucked.

Then there is a shot of Valverde and he is way over his front end while in the top tube, tucked position.  Talk about being unstable.  The road is pretty good, but this seemed ridiculous, since it really all got back together again anyway.

I tuck like this, at last practice tucking like this now.  I can’t see doing it in a race unless I was off the front trying to win descending, or off the back, trying to catch back on.  It seems valueless if you do this in a field.  You might as well be just in a normal tuck, and drafting.

Anyway, look at the photos and video.  If you decide it is for you, make sure you watch out from your front tire.  Seems like nearly everyone I know had an issue with burning the inside of their knees with their front tire initially.  These guys are so far forward, that they could burn their upper thighs.  Like I said above, seems like it wouldn’t be that stable, but it seems to have worked for him.

Contador catching Valverde.

Valverde scoots up on his top tube and get more forward.

Then there is Froome position, which is even more forward.

 

Radios, Disc Brakes & Lance’s Lawsuit

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I saw a couple weeks ago that USAC ruled that we, as in all Cat. 1/2’s can use radios again in all races.  I hate that.  I don’t like much anything about radios in bike races.  The idea that radios make a race safer is total BS.  It is a way for team directors making their riders robots.  Or plain dumb riders viable.

I’ve written posts about radios before, so I don’t need to dwell on it.  Here is probably the one that explains it the best.  At least from my perspective.  I have a whole box for of radios in a closet.  I’m really not sure where they are.  By whole box full I’m lots.  I guess I’m going to have to pull them out and see if any of them work.  Stupid.

Somewhere else said that the Professional Riders Union was protesting the use of disc brakes in road events.  I don’t know about this.  I don’t much like the idea of mixing disc and rim brakes in races, but that is how it is going to have to be.  My problem with disc brakes in road races is the same as it is in cross.

Actually, worse than cross.  We all have to get a whole garage full of equipment. Bikes and  wheels that go with these bikes.  Most of us that have been in this sport for a while have collected enough equipment that is interchangeable.   Not with disc brakes though.

And the real problem is getting wheel changes in events.  Or just changing wheels between bikes.  It doesn’t seem like anyone has standardized the rear axle width and even if that number ends up being 142 or whatever, getting different discs to line up with you calipers on different wheels is tricky.  Especially on the road when time is important.  Once they get the calipers more usable for wheel changes, then I’ll reconsider my position.

And finally Lance’s deal.   The case is going to trial.  All the judgements have been done and it is happening.  The government says the total is something around $32 million damage, so with the tripling thing going on, the most he’ll owe is $96 million if he loses big time.

It kind of surprises me that he hasn’t settled this.  Maybe it is that time.  But when you read what Lance’s attorney says, maybe not.  “There is no actual evidence of any quantifiable financial harm,” to the Postal Service,  so the government may now proceed to a trial that, as a practical matter, it cannot win.”  Elliot Peters.

I forgot what Floyd gets out of the whole take, but it isn’t the same as before the government took over the case.  For some reason 1/4 the total comes to mind, but don’t quote me on that. But 1/4 of 0 is still zero, so he should probably proceed with his new enterprise in Leadville.

My doctor’s visit went alright on Tuesday.  Yesterday was exactly 4 months since I fractured my skull.  Seems like a really long time to me, but when she asked me how long and I said 4 months, she said it is still super early.  I guess that is a good thing.  Better early than this is the final outcome.

Not that I’m complaining.  It could have been a ton worse.  Like I’m not on the planet Earth anymore worse.

Vincent is down in Arizona doing the 24 Hours of Pueblo with Lance and his old Postal Service gang this weekend.  Vincent isn’t riding on their team or anything, but he’ll be riding around with them in circles for a day.  I make a bet that they aren’t just there to “have fun”, like George said when asked.  I bet they ride pretty fast.  They probably win the 4 person team event would be my guess.  Maybe 2nd, but probably win.

Okay, I didn’t ride for two days, thinking that maybe I would feel better if I didn’t.  That didn’t work, so I am planning on going out today.  It is “only” gonna be 50 degrees today.  I say only because it is going to be in the 70’s the whole next week.  Probably mild for February in Kansas.

Weather the next week.

I worked on my van yesterday. Somehow this got bent. Not exactly sure when or how.

I had to pull the fender off, which involved taking off the front clip with the headlights. I got it pretty straight. Just need some paint now. The whole process got me a little dizzy, but not horribly.

 

 

Elizabeth Elhers

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Sue’s mother passed away last week.  It was expected, but unexpected at the same time, as all deaths are.

I’ve known Sue’s parents most of my adult life.  I met them at the time when, even if you were riding on a Pro team, you were transient and were constantly moving from other rider’s parent’s homes to other places.  That is how I happened upon them.

During the Tour of Texas, Sue and her parents would have a gaggle of riders over to their house for a huge dinner.  They were both from Minnesota, but have moved to Richardson, a suburb of Dallas, back in the 60’s.  It always amazed me how they could feed so many ravenous cyclists, during a race.

Eventually, I would stay with them whenever I was passing through Dallas.  I signed my contract with the Schwinn team, with Mike Farrell, in their house, after the Tour of Texas.  That really doesn’t seem that long ago, even though it was.

Anyway, I got to know both Sue’s mom and dad pretty well through the years.  Sue’s dad used to always ask me what I was going to do when I got done racing.  He was always concerned that I wasn’t going to college and that I was living a fairly unconventional lifestyle.  I told him that I wasn’t sure, but I loved what I was doing and was planning on doing it for a while longer.

Sue’s father got sick with prostate cancer.  I came through pretty often during that time.  One night, late, he wasn’t comfortable and was sleeping in the TV room, in a lounge chair.  I must have just raced, because I was up and couldn’t sleep.

He said to me that he wanted to apologize, which totally got me nervous.  I had no idea what he wanted to say.

He told me that he’d been thinking a lot, since he’d been sick and was pretty frustrated about having to lay around and do nothing, but watch TV.  But watching TV had got him thinking about what was important to him.  He didn’t say he had regrets, but he’d seen lots of things that he wish he could do in person.

He said he wanted to go to Home Depot and buy a bunch of tools and build something big.  He said that he’d seen places on travel channels that he didn’t even know existed and would love to get on a plane and fly there.  Everywhere.

He finally just told me he was sorry for giving me shit all the past years about not applying myself and just racing bikes.  He told me that I should gather all the life experiences I could, when I had the ability, because you never know when you’re not going to be able to do that.

It was a very special conversation for me.  I was living that way already, but not from a plan, just because.

Sue’s mom was stoic.  She worked as a nurse, then came home and worked in her yard.  I remember pulling up to her house, in the middle of the Texas summer, when the night temperature is nearly still in the nineties, and she would be mowing her yard.  This is when she was in her 70’s and still working as a nurse.

She was super generous, always cooking me cookies to travel with, or buying dinner when we went out.  Her and Sue travelled a bunch, so it wasn’t like she just stayed at home.  And she loved animals.  That is a pretty big deal, in my book, when judging a person.

Her service is today, at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church, at 10am.  I had a doctor’s appointment scheduled for yesterday, and this was all sort of last minute, but I wish I would have just cancelled that and went down.   I’m not big on these things, but this is different.

Anyway, I’m very glad to have known Elizabeth Ehlers.  She was a great person and super mother.  She lived a very full life and will be missed by many.  I’ll miss our conversations.

Elizabeth Louise Ehlers

She loved this gaslamp on her alley. I fixed it many times.

 

Busy Weekend, then Busy Monday

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Yesterday I received a text from Brian (Jensen).  Showed him on a podium.  Brian had told him he was going to do a race in Colorado on Sunday, but I had sort of forgotten.  It was from a gravel race in Lyons, called Old Man Winter, I think.  It was really an adventure weekend with a couple bike course, 50 and 100km, then a run.

Anyway, Brian looked like he had a good race, finishing 3rd.  He said that he lost the leader, 1st and 2nd on an icy section and never saw them again.  Still, I rode with Brian just a little over a month ago and he wasn’t in typical Brian shape, so he must have either been training pretty hard the last few weeks or suffered like a dog.  He has both those arrows in his quiver.  I had it was the first, not the later, for his sake.

Seemed like a pretty good field.  I only know the guys that finished behind Brian.  Matt Stephens, the guy whole beat Lance in Texas a couple weeks ago in a 100 mile gravel race was 5th and Alex Howes, a Pro on the Cannondale-Drapac team was 6th. Those places were close, so Brian must have dropped them before the finish.  Or was getting swallowed and barely made it.  Either way, he had a great race.

I wrote that post yesterday about not worrying about not training so early, then I see the results of a race that a team-mate is in and feel badly about not going.  But, I know, I can’t just yet.

I’m heading to Kansas City to go to KU Med today to see my rehab neurologist.  I haven’t seen her in a few weeks, so that will be good.  I am much better, or at least better, than the last time I saw her.  It is an hour there, so it takes most of the day.

On the way, I’m going by Garmin and see if the guys at their “Genius Bar” can help me with my Garmin.  It is a mess and I’m getting a little tired of it.  I plan to leave it there and come back by and pick it up after the doctor’s appointment, if possible.

Plus I have an Apple appointment for my iPhone, so it is going to be a busy afternoon.

I rode 100km yesterday, just not at the pace those guys did in Lyons.  It was only around 50, which felt cold, but I’ve been cold for months.  It was pretty windy, like over 30, so that was the main issue.  We rode on gravel.  A couple friends rode over from Lawrence and we rode them back.   They were going good, like race good.  It was nice seeing how I’m supposed to be riding, even if I can’t.

I had 330 miles last week, so that isn’t too bad for February in Kansas.  Plus, I feel a little better, but am still sick.  Not crazy horrible, but sick, none-the-less.

So this year I’ve ridden 1157 miles. I figure I’ve drafted about 20 of those miles, so the rest has been in the wind.  And the wind is always here this time of the year.  I’m a little beat and haven’t even gotten close to getting race fit.  It might take a while this year.  It would be nice riding in a group and getting in some easier miles.

Okay, I need to get going.  I have so stuff to do before driving.

The podium from Colorado yesterday.

 

When To Start Racing?

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I’ve always liked to race a bunch.  I’m not sure why.  Maybe training becomes mundane or something, but that isn’t it.  I guess I figure that if I’m riding enough, why not test myself through races.  Races are never the same.  Races nearly always create a small life experience. Plus racing has been the only way for me to get to a higher level of form, which is always sort of a goal.

So I’ve raced a lot.  I might be the first guy to really race year round.  Cross Nationals used to be towards the end of December and the first road races would be the end of January or early February, so there wasn’t much time for an off season.  Not that I wanted one.  I like the lifestyle and routine.

That was back when the European pros used to take a few months off over the winter and then try to ride a little before heading to Sicily to race into shape.  And by racing into shape I mean riding long races really slow.  No one showed up in shape, they just rode into form.

We’d used Tour of Texas for the same thing.  I remember heading down to Texas one year with maybe 400 miles on my legs.  I was in no shape to race.  I think that was the first year of “the new” 7-11 team.  Those guys had been down there riding big miles for a few weeks.

They were pretty much in race shape and the rest of us were in off-season form.  It was ugly.  The first road race I got into a break with 5 guys from 7-11, me and Thurlow Rogers.  I was dying in a sidewind, hardly able to pull, but knowing if I didn’t they would just gutter ride me off the back.  There was a final corner, maybe 5 miles from the finish, and then it was going to be strong tailwind.

I had that corner as a goal.  Just make it to the tailwind, where I could rest.  We turned the corner and probably less than a mile later I was dropped, riding by myself. The thing with strong tailwind is that you don’t get much relief from drafting.  And I needed relief.  I couldn’t believe I was dropped in tailwind, but I was young and naive then.

The best thing about Tour of Texas is that Richard Degarmo, the promoter, knew it was a good place to train and the races were set up around the training, sort of.  It sometimes lasted over a month and we’d race on the weekends, sometimes a midweek training criterium, and then train the rest of the week.

After a month in Texas, we’d all be up to race form.  It was really easy to slay riders that didn’t have the ability to flee the weather early season.  It started the season off on a good note.

Now it is way different.  Many, many riders have the ability to flee the weather.  Or they have moved somewhere that has good weather all year round.  Or their teams are doing training camps that allow their riders to get early season form.

I got thinking about this for a couple reasons.  I was riding in Sand Diego with Robin Carpenter, Holowesko/Citadel Cycling Team.   He said that their first race would be at Joe Martin.  That surprised the shit out of me.  We were riding in January and he wasn’t going to be racing until nearly April.  That is pretty late in the season considering guys have been racing since early January.

Plus it got me thinking when I was a junior, I probably didn’t even think of riding outside until the end of February.  That was back when winter was really winter.  For some reason, that is great for riding, horrible for the planet, winter isn’t really winter anymore in Eastern Kansas.  I would first start riding in a down coat, with tennis warm-up bottoms tucked into my socks, so they didn’t catch in my chainrings.

That’s not the case now.  Yesterday it was nearly 70 again.  Today is going to be closer to 50, but still alright.  Early season here the problem is wind.   It can be crazy windy.  That is the cast today.  It is supposed to be blowing over 30 all day.  That isn’t good for lack of form.

We’ve got a gravel ride planned.  That is a way to avoid wind some, since many of the gravel roads, especially east are sheltered some.  Still, it is gonna be ugly.

I was in a race in Iowa, a few years ago, and in a break with my team mate, Bill Stolte and two other guys.  We were going pretty well and after an hour or so, one of the guys asks me if he can sit out a few pulls.  He tells me that it is the first time he has ridden outside that year.   I said to do whatever you need. The other guy says that it is the first time he had ridden in shorts. That amazed me.  It was late April.  Bill and I had already raced at least 10 races, hanging out in Austin for a least a month.  They both were going pretty well, considering.  We did drop them a little while later, but we had better form.

Okay, if you don’t have the ability to ride outside, don’t stress.  Trainers are better and there are races all year round.  Eventually form comes.  Just wait for it.  Don’t let the internet, showing all the results, from throughout the world, freak you out.  Just enjoy.

The women’s race at Tour of Texas had the best women from throughout the World.

 

 

 

Over 1000 miles for the Year

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I know, that isn’t a very impressive title.  A 1000 miles by early February is nothing special.  It is this year, for me, because I am fairly surprised that I’m even riding by now.  A couple months ago I wouldn’t have been surprised if I was still told not to ride my bike outside.  Head trauma isn’t something to mess around with.  I’ve learned that the hard way.

Yesterday, the weather cooperated and a few of us got out for 70 miles.  That is about as far as I can ride now.  I’ve been riding bigger miles, early season, recently, but that isn’t possible as of now.  Plus, I have a chest/head cold thing going on, so it isn’t a great idea pushing it from that perspective

Last night was a trifecta astronomically.  A full moon, a moon eclipse and a comet passing close to the earth.   I guess that is special on a birthday, but I’m not sure what.   I’m into astronomy, so it is cool.

Today it is supposed to be nice too.  In the 60’s.  That isn’t really normal for February in Kansas, but it isn’t that unusual.  It is nice for my working friends to have good weather on the weekends.  This weekend it is exactly that.

Anyway, I’m gonna keep plugging away.  It is a bit frustrating.  Tweaking training isn’t the easiest thing for an older athlete.  I think I’ve done a fairly good job of it my whole life.  But having to change training because of an injury that is super foreign, and quite unknown, is a little more difficult than the normal broken collarbone, etc.

I still hate wearing a helmet.  I guess I need to get a winter helmet and the another one for the warmer weather.  For some reason, unknown to me, when my head gets cold, or just gets hits by cold wind, my head aches.  It sort of feels like it is still fractured, which, I hope, it isn’t.  My helmet is too small to fit even a thin hat under it.   I’m pretty glad it is 1/2 way through winter.  In March, the weather normally gets a lot warmer.

Okay, I’m just babbling.  I feel sorry for all of the cyclists that live in the Northeast.  Big snowfall there that is going to be on the ground for a while.  I guess it is winter still.

This is Amanda Coker. She rides around 1000 miles every four days. She is on schedule to smear the World Record of most miles ridden on a bicycle in one year. Man or woman. Her distance per day and average speeds are incredible.

 

Another Birthday

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Today is my birthday.  Another one.  They keep coming in constant procession.  I’m not normally too big on celebrating birthday.  Still aren’t, but this one is a little different, I think.

This head injury deal has made me appreciate life a bit more.  Not that I didn’t appreciate life a lot already.  It is just that when you might have come close to not having it, you tend to pay a bit more attention to it.

I’ve already lived a couple years longer than my father.  When he died, I didn’t really take into account how old he was and how much potential life he had left.  You don’t do that when you are young.  At least I didn’t.  Now is a different deal.

Both my mother and father aren’t alive.  They lived their lives and I didn’t have much control over them.  They were great parents, but rotten on their own preservation.  They aren’t alone in that category.

Maybe I’m not so good at it either.  Maybe I am, I guess I won’t know that for a while.  I do know that I like living and would surely be disappointed if I quit doing that shortly.  But, it is life, and as we all know, we ultimately don’t have all that much control over the endgame of that.

I have a doctor’s appointment in a couple hours.  Guess I’m going to try to retrain my eyes and ears to work together with my brain better some.  Plus, get some more ear crystals to go back to where they belong.  Seems a little weird, but I tend to be more dizzy after I leave the dizzy doctor than before I went.  Maybe it is like getting active release or something.  It might hurt initially, but is good for you in the long run.

I try to ride my age in miles on my birthday.  I had a friend that used to do that running.  He did that until he was around 50, then switched to kilometers.  Anyway, I haven’t done it in a couple years.  I should skip it this year again since I have a bad head cold, but sort of feel like riding.

Catherine is taking half a day off work, plus Bill is feeling a little better from being sick, so we’ll probably just ride over to Lawrence, just some coffee and ride back.  That is the correct mileage. It is supposed to be nearly 70 degrees today and tomorrow.  I’m not sure we’ll make the one mile for every degree temperature winter rule.  Maybe, but maybe not.  It is supposed to be windy and when that is the case here in Kansas, it is pretty windy.  Should be fun either way.

Okay, I didn’t sleep much last night, from coughing most of it.  Think I’ll try to sleep another hour before heading to the doctor.   It is my birthday, I should be able to sleep in.

Nice picture someone made.

And then I got an email with this, early this morning, like last night. Seems appropriate.