Saturday, February 25, 2006

Junction plus Blackhawk

Got to the Gate at the same time as Rick and JB. Nice day, a little cold but spring is almost here.

We started pretty quick and had a little talk about the Tour of California and other current events. Then we had some good natured testing of each other with little attacks which were more like mini intervals.

Wildlife Encounter: A millipede (big fat one) and a coyote (above Bump).

Below the Upper Ranch we were still all together and I heard Jay's voice behind me say "A Klein on Diablo - must be Scott". We exchanged pleasantries and then he passed everyone. After the Upper Ranch, Rick launched the decisive attack. JB followed and for quite a while there was Rick, then 20 seconds, JB, another 20 seconds, and me. Finally after Chainbuster JB closed in on Rick a little bit and I stayed within a minute but couldn't close. After he finished Jay turned around and rode me up to the line and my time was 48m55. Felt like a harder ride than a couple weeks ago when I was a few seconds faster, but that one was in much warmer weather.

We hung around the Junction for a while. Jay had some "Lion of Flanders" socks on that were really cool and he said he also had a flag in his garage. Today in Belgium was the Het Volk race so we talked about that a little too; hardly anyone else I know follows the early season classics as much as I do so that was a treat.

JB suggested Blackhawk and off we went. After the descent I was the one who put in all the moves. Diablo Road, Blackhawk Road, Tassajara, La Gonda - every little sprinter hill I enjoyed applying some pain. Rick did a pretty good one in Danville but otherwise it was all me. It's all about power to weight on the long climbs, and undivided power on the shorter ones.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Tour of California, Stage 2.

The plan today was to meet Rick at his house and he would drive to somewhere near Sierra Road which is the toughest climb of the whole week. Word was there’d be a lot of riders there and the road would be closed to cars. He knows that area pretty well and easily found a good parking spot at a sports facility (with restrooms!) about 2 miles from the bottom so we unloaded our bikes and started riding from there. Turns out though that he had to leave right after the race and go to a job site so I would be getting a ride home with Nicole who drove to the start earlier and was planning to walk part way up (no bike).

I brought Eddy because I wanted to wear my SPD shoes since I knew I’d be standing around and walking a lot after we got there. Plus I always get smiles from people who remember the old 7-Eleven team days.

The route sheet said the race would get to the TOP of Sierra between two o’clock and two thirty, but I thought that sounded a little early. At the left turn onto Sierra it was already starting to fill up with people by noon. The police were everywhere and turning the cars around except for a few who had “local traffic” status. We found Nicole who had staked out a comfortable place underneath a tree near the bottom and was sitting on a portable stool reading some magazines. It was surprisingly difficult already and I was glad to have a little breather. Then we started up again and there were a few houses with very big properties that were apparently having a party and some of the cars that were going up had invitations. After the first mile or so though there were no cars at all, and no more houses – just hundreds and hundreds of riders and a few dozen hikers all going up this steep hill. And it was hard. I made this comparison chart to show how Sierra Road compares to the first three and a half miles of Summit Road on Mt. Diablo.

For the Sierra Road curve, the elevation pretty much starts at zero, and for the Summit Road curve, zero is really the elevation at the Junction. Interesting, no? You can double click on it for a bigger picture. I have the whole Mt. Diablo road profile in the "MY PHOTOS" section; click the link up on the right to go there.

I was dressed for cold but I was putting out a lot of heat so I took off my jacket (with about five pounds of junk in the pockets) and wrapped it around my neck but it sometimes felt like it was choking me and sometimes slipped around one side or the other and was a hassle. Anyway I think it took us about 45 minutes to go three and a half miles – we rode all the way up to the area where the official cars and “king of the mountain” flags were but the view wasn’t as good so we rode back down about 250 meters where there was a better view point.

Cell phone reception up here was sketchy but we did manage to contact Nicole and told her to give us an update once the racers went past her. Then we mostly people-watched for a couple of hours while the sides of the road filled up with bike racing fans. There were also some folks on horseback on the uphill side of the road and it looked like they had great vantagepoints, plus they could move around easier, and they seem to have gotten their pictures taken and published everywhere. I also met the independent photographer who was on assignment with PezCyclingNews and he was passing out some little cards to win a trip to the Tour of Georgia. I think the best shots of our crowd there at the top are on the Pez site.

Finally about 2:30 we started seeing the race caravan of officials, police motos, and one Cliff Bar van passing out free samples (I scored three mini bars!). Then the noise started to escalate – everyone was on their feet craning for a look. The cowbells and whistles and cheers got louder and closer and the crowd opened up and there was Leipheimer and Kohl, and Floyd wasn’t far behind them. Got really good looks at Simoni, Creed, FredRod, Hincapie, lots of famous guys. It took over 20 minutes to get the rest of the field up and there were a few stragglers even beyond that.

Here's a shot taken from almost my exact place on the hill - shamelessly copied from the web somewhere:

Then we rode down to Piedmont and watched most of the riders finish the loop before they turned into town. We hooked up with Adam who had ridden all the way from work, including 10 miles or so with a T-Mobile rider who wasn’t racing but was doing the whole route just for training! (If you saw the T-Mobile rider with no helmet and no race number toward the very end of the hill climb that was him – Bram). They were ahead of the race until the end of Calaveras, then they pulled off to watch and started again after everyone went by. Adam said a lot of fans were cheering them on, not realizing they weren’t part of the race and he was a little embarassed but also jazzed to be riding along with a Euro Pro.

Here's Bram Schmitz. Adam says he's a good guy and he liked riding the Calaveras Reservoir section and thought the fans in California were better than in Europe!

Best excuse I’ve had for taking a day off from work in a long time!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

I’ve been looking forward to today for months now. The threats of cold rainy weather never materialized and it was a great day to be in San Francisco watching a bike race. Dear daughter and I took the BART to the City this morning and got to Embarcadero about 10am. I trained her to answer “Levi!” if anyone (especially a news reporter) asked her who she thought would win.

We met up with Rick and his son who’s about the same age as my daughter and watched the racers go by from various vantage points along the Embarcadero. I had my digicam and camcorder but didn’t actually take too much footage. The crowd was really thick at the start and at the expo, and I guess it was pretty crowded at Coit Tower also but we never made it up that far.

Some of the racers had full-on time trial bikes and some had regular road bikes – some of those had clipons attached though. Some were obviously really going for it and some were obviously not.

(I have a photo to insert here )
This is Martin Elmiger of Swizerland who finished 92nd in the prologue, but whose photo turned out the best of the few I took. Martin finished the Tour in 52nd place on GC.
Tour of California Prologue!

OK, here’s my embarassing story; I had a big California Flag that I was waving at riders that I knew had a California connection. There was no start order list that I could find but I did have a lits of the riders and their numbers and I did identify the team order so I knew which team the next guy would be on and when they got down to the team leaders it was clear who it would be. So when Levi’s turn came – about 4 riders from then end, I told Rick that I was going to run in the street with my flag and he should get some photos. Well when Levi got within eyeshot, I jumped out (way in front of him so he wouldn’t be startled or have to change his line) and started running with the flag held high over my head and shouting like a fool, when suddenly I tripped on something and went face down into the pavement. My hat fell off and my keys fell out of my pocket and I scraped myself off of the road and onto the sidewalk before Levi got there. It was a total dumbass move and I felt ridiculous and then three SF cops came over and advised me not to do that again or else!

Then I heard that Levi won the Prologue so maybe he enjoyed my little stunt.

Then we hung around the Expo area for a while and scored some schwagg. My daughter got a T-Mobile poster with all the rider group photo; she really likes “the pink team”.

Very cool day – not quite as exciting as the SF Grand Prix, but in some ways bigger because this is a stage race and the Euro Pro’s are taking it pretty seriously.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Diablo Junction 23 miles... IN THE SNOW!

A little late getting to the start today because of demanding females in the house, but it was a righteous start. No rock on the post so I took off not knowing if anyone else was coming. Overnight weather forecast was for thunderstorms but none were obvious so I figured all systems were go. It was dry but the clouds were low and I couldn't see the mountain's top from anywhere on the ride. Just before I left, DW said "Mt. Diablo's closed because of snow" and I said "No way, you were watching news of Mt. Hamilton or something." Once again, had to eat my words, sort of.

About a half a mile up I encountered JB and he told me to wait for him so he went back to the shack and reset his computer or whatever and caught up to me near Moss Landing. He was packing for severe weather and wasn't in any shape to challenge me for the sprint so we had a cordial ride. Still couldn't see the snow though and questioned whether it was really there. He said we should ride until we get to it and I said as long as it's at Junction I agreed - not actually thinking that were the case.

We got around the Upper Washout and saw that the snow line was down below Junction and realized that this was going to be a really memorable ride. We were being passed about every 30 seconds by an SUV with kiddie sleds inside and just tried blending in. A few hundred meters below the Junction we saw a Ranger directing people where to park and a few hundred meters beyond that we saw the point where they stopped traffic all together. No vehicles, two or four wheeled, were allowed past the Junction on Summit Road. There were dozens of autos parked in places where autos never park and there were kids sledding down the hill from the picnic area just up the hill.

Shot the shoot with a few other riders near the benches and then split up to go home. What a fun day.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Diablo Junction - 23 miles

Just me today so I slept in a little bit. Rolled out at 9am and that extra hour of sunlight really warmed up the air. I had shorts on for the first time this year, and a long sleeve thermal shirt under a short sleeve jersey. Also first time on the Klein since the New Year's Day ride. Lots of broken glass on Bancroft near Countrywood - probably a wreck and the tow truck didn't clean up.

Started up pretty quick but I've been coughing a lot and hacking up some gross sticky stuff so I was limited on aerobic capacity. A little ways up the road I saw a couple guys I figured I could pass easily but then they pulled off as I got closer - I greeted them and one guy said "We did it! 1.7 miles!" I said "All right! Time for a beer!"

Felt like I was getting a good ride in; even if it was a little slow it was faster than any recent ride in full winter clothes. I pulled off below the Lower Ranch for a minute to take a phone call (wife relaying semi-important work message) and one guy came by me so I gave him some encouragement. Also a car slowed down to see if I might be in trouble but I just gave them a thumbs up and they kept on going. After I started up again I thought I might catch the other rider but I never did see him. Looked around for something interesting to write about but didn't see any critters or anything. Junction time was 44m47s - oh well, it's February.

Talked to a guy at the Junction who had a classic steel bike (Austro-Daimler) set up with a flip-flop hub - he even had the rear respaced for 120mm. We discussed classic steel bikes and flip flop hubs, sew up glue, and college savings plans. Then I had a beautiful ride back down. Can't hope that the weather is going to stay this good until spring, but can enjoy it for now.

I am REALLY looking forward to the Tour of California!

Sunday, February 05, 2006

My website statistics program tells me that a lot of folks find my blog from searching on product reviews of various things I've written about so I'm going to try to do more of that, starting now (plus it breaks up these long stories with some photos). Feel free to add your comments to any of my reviews.

Product Review: Do Wrap Pack

I got this on-line from the DoWrap folks. I'd been looking for a cycling wallet that would hold my ID, Chap Stick, and assorted stuff but I wanted one that zipped so my change wouldn't fall out. Found nothing at REI or any of the bike shops and then I saw an ad for this one on It is EXACTLY what I wanted and it's the perfect size and it costs $8. It's just the right width to fit in a jersey pocket and it's really well made. I sort of wish it were water proof to protect my cell phone better, but so far it hasn't been an issue; I put a plastic bag and rubber band in the Wrap Pack so I can put the phone in there if I get caught in a downpour. I give this product my highest rating - 10 out of 10.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Diablo Junction - 23 miles.

Earlier this week I decided to get serious about my sticky STI problem on the Belgian Beast. The front would shift both up and down but sometimes on upshifts would drop right back down - like the ratchet just wasn't catching, and I had to keep pumping it until it would stay. In the rear the downshifts went OK (pulling the cable) but the upshifts usually didn't work at all (cable release), I would just flick and flick on the small lever and nothing would happen but it generally got better after a few miles of riding. So I bought a big can of WD40 and emptied about half of it in there hoping to bring the shifters back to life. I think earlier I had been thinking of this as a lubrication procedure but now I was seeing it as a flush. I squirted the oddly sweet smelling stuff into every place that looked like it might pivot or rock and I ran the shifters up and down and squeezed the brakes at the same time. After I thought I got everything twice, I did it again. Dirty fluid was dripping out of there onto the cardboard box I parked on and it seemed like it was working; my shifters were clicking and the derailleurs were moving.

The weather report said that showers would come overnight into this morning but when I went to sleep last night everything was clear. Woke up at 6:30 this morning and just assumed that it would be OK to ride but when I looked out the window at 7 o'clock it was raining heavily so I decided not to ride. Checked some e-mails and drank some coffee and looked out the window at 8:30 and it was CLEAR! So I changed my mind again and chamois'ed up.

A few shifts and WOW! It seemed good as new - shifting was a whole new satisfying experience. Out on Bancroft I met up with a guy in a yellow vest from a cross street who looked about my age but in better condition and he came around me without any problem. I got to the Gate at about 9:20 and put a rock on the post, not knowing if JB was coming. Yellow vest guy was there changing his gloves or something but I decided it would be OK for him to pass me again so I started up. Last night I did a hard hour on the elliptical machine at the club so today my legs were already aching a bit and I also am getting a cold so I wasn't setting any speed records but I felt like I was getting in a good workout.

Wildlife Encounter: SLUGS - lots of them. Most were less than 10mm long but I don't usually see any up here so it's worth noting - once.

Past Moss Landing I saw JB coming down and he turned around and rode with me a while, we discussed the weather and then when we got to the bottom of the Bump he went back down.

Did the last three miles in 24 minutes and got my heart rate over 180 a few times so I tried to convinced myself I was doing some good training that would pay off later in the year. Absolutely nobody at the Junction - I sat on the bench for about 10 minutes, didn't see a rider, or ranger, or auto of any kind. Turned back down and did see a few riders coming up. At the Bump I saw Grant P and another Rivendell guy coming up - Grant looked like he was struggling with a too-big gear and I wondered if he was on his semi-single speed Quickbeam bike.

Time to nurse this cold - yuck.