Unlike Alberto Contador, I will not be employing suspicious masking agents for next month's Lake Desolation Hill Climb. And, for that matter, I will be hoping to avoid tainted food, lest the USADA testers who are sure to be on hand take away my victory.
Instead, I'll be hoping to take my third-consecutive fall hill climb title through hard work, experience, and plain-old knowing the hill better than the other guy.
I put in some good work on Lake D this afternoon, posting three reps on the 3.7-mile climb, where I would usually only tackle the climb twice in an outing. I clocked just a shade better than 19 minutes on the first trip, then met up with some others fools doing the same foolish thing as me and, spurred on by some competition, posted a time around 17:45 on the second trip, not close to the fastest effort I've put in this year, but respectable for a Wednesday evening. I didn't time the third lap, which was more of a recovery effort.
I wouldn't want to piss off a certain Boston-area fan of GBBM who likes to cry about blogging "rules," even as he misplaces commas and otherwise embarrasses himself in a very public venue, but I'm also pleased to report that my power numbers were down slightly, as I've successful lost a little weight that I'd put on toward the end of track season.
Anyway, considering how poorly I felt when I last climbed Lake D, last week, I'm pleased with today's workout. Of course, nothing is ever assured, but I've certainly got a good feeling about the Oct. 10 Hill Climb Challenge.
And, to everyone who can't dream of posting a sub-18 minute time, don't worry, there's still pulled pork to feed us all!
OK, was that cocky enough for you? Sorry. On a more serious note, it was really nice out tonight, and I was glad to get out and ride for a few hours -- at this time of year, you never know how many more nice days are left!
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Unlike Alberto Contador, I will not be employing suspicious masking agents for next month's Lake Desolation Hill Climb. And, for that matter, I will be hoping to avoid tainted food, lest the USADA testers who are sure to be on hand take away my victory.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
I hit the rollers today.
It was sort of an odd sensation, as it's really not roller season yet, but it was raining, and I didn't get home from the shop until nearly 6:30, with sunset fast-approaching.
Under other circumstances I might have just called it a rest day, but I didn't ride yesterday, and I hardly broke a sweat on Sunday, so I had to do something.
Riding rollers at any time is an exercise of mind over matter, and today I god my mind over the matter but spinning for a grand total of 90 minutes, and sweating about 90 gallons onto my hardwood floor.
It was gross, and after contemplating the pool I've decided that as soon as I secure a more-reliable income I'll invest in a mat to go under my trainer/rollers. Living in an apartment building, as I have since 2007, always makes me hyper-sensitive to my neighbor's needs. Tonight, when I was spinning madly away I get watching some printout sitting on my printer. The were jiggling in time with my pedal stroke.
All I could think about was the light fixtures in the apartment below me. No one came knocking angrily on my door, so that was good, but anytime I heard someone moving in the hallway outside I just about jumped off my rollers to start preemptive apologizing. What, me, paranoid? No ...
No bike shop tomorrow, so after a job interview in the afternoon I'm planning on taking advantage of a favorable forecast and heading out doors. The Mayor's Cup may now be behind me, but it's time to start thinking about the next objective: the Lake Desolation Hill Climb. I've got a title to defend, so I'll be heading to West Mountain to test my form!
Monday, September 27, 2010
After a semi-decent ride at the Pittsfield crit back in August, I thought I was ready to step it up and race the Boston Mayor's Cup, a big-money event that I covered for Velo News last year. Boy was I wrong.
After dragging my Romantic Accomplice out of bed early on a Sunday and three hours east on the Mass Pike, I got dressed, warmed up, toed the line ... and raced for about ten minutes before getting pulled.
To my credit, there was a seriously stiff field in Saturday's race, with pros from Bissell, United Health Care, Mountain Khakis, Trek Livestrong, Team Type 1, along with all the usual suspects in an elite race. With $20,000 on the line, it was no surprise that a strong field showed up.
After lapping the field with six others, Bissell's national crit champion Daniel Holloway won. A split left seven others unable to lap the field, but safely out of range of being caught.
As often happens in this type of event, the pace was furious off the line, with the 130-rider peloton strung out around the course in Boston's government center. After surviving two laps, some doof from Embrocation Cycling Journal let a gap go, and I found myself adrift. I chased with one other unfortunate dropee for a lap before being pulled. Of course, if someone else hadn't let the gap go, it probably would have been me in the not-to-distant future.
It's sort of a bummer way to end the season, and turnout was probably half of what it was last year, likely due to cold temps and sprinkling rain, but it was still cool to race through tunnels of cowbell-ringing crowds on the course, even if just briefly. Someday, I'll learn how to crit.
Following the race, R.A. and I headed out to visit James (another Embrocation Cycling Journal doof) in Newton, before spending Monday wandering around downtown Boston. The verdict: it's a nice little town, and getting around by bike is vastly preferable to walking, whether in Boston or anywhere else.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
It's after 10:15 and I've been so busy pounding out emails on a variety of topics that I haven't even yet had a chance to take off my sneakers, so I'm going to go ahead and do that before I type the next paragraph.
Ah.... much better.
Now, where were we?
Oh yes, I've written a lot of emails today. Nearly all of them were on productive topics including but not limited to Spa:CX and my ongoing search for full-time employment. John's done a remarkable job of cranking out some emailable promos, and getting useful information posted on our blog, be sure to check it out. Before that, though, you should go register.
Our latest breakthrough? There will be a dino-bounce at SPA:CX, but it will not be a part of the course, because the UCI has banned inflatable arches from crossing the 'cross course, and we don't want to run afoul of any uppity UCI commissaries, such as those seen at Green Mountain Cyclocross last weekend.
I also spent some time yesterday and today working on the beer situation, and thanks to an old friend, I think I made some good progress today. As long as we can solidify our liquor license situation we'll be all set to serve anyone over the age of 21. It's not just a 'cross race, it a beer-fueled, family-friendly spectator event! Tell your friends!
On the job front, I'm happy to be able to tell you that I've been able to do a good amount of productive networking of late, and can now say with some confidence that I will find a job, and hopefully sooner rather than later. Of course, I'm not one to take anything for granted, so the job search and networking efforts will continue at full speed for the foreseeable future. Please continue to get in touch if you hear of any opportunities!
On to more important things. The road racing season is just about wrapped up here, but I've still got one event on my calendar: the Boston Mayor's Cup on Sunday.
I covered this event last year for Velo News, and spent the entire afternoon standing by the side the racecourse wishing I was racing. Not this year!
Without a doubt, this will be the highest-profile event I will ever have raced in, and I'm really looking forward to giving it a shot. At the same time, though, I've had a chance to look at the start list, and I'm already feeling some nervous butterflies -- the kind that I haven't felt in years. After all, if you do enough road races, they all begin to feel the same, regardless of who's there. But a crit on closed streets in the middle of Boston with 130 racers, including many pros? Did I mention 10,000 spectators last year and more expected this year? Yeah, this is going to be a new experience for me. My goal is to finish -- I'm not even going to worry about collecting a piece of the $20,000 pie.
I'm hoping that racing the Pittsford crit a few weeks ago will serve as some kind of preparation, but honestly, that field was a little soft by comparison. I guess we'll see how it goes. R.A. is coming along for the trip, I hope I'm able to pick her out among the over-sized crowd.
I also had a chance to interview promoter Nicole Freedman on Thursday, look for the interview over on Embrocatoin Cycling Journal in the near future.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Ever since I've increased my hours at Blue Sky Bicycles, I've had a lot of time to contemplate what it is to be a beginner.
A few days ago I was pretty excited to write a post gently teasing a guy who came into the shop on Saturday boasting about he'd raced Fall Bear the weekend prior.
"I let my Mom drive me, so I was 15 minutes late. They let me start anyway, and I caught the pack on the last climb. Boy, those guys are sketchy, I gotta get out of the 5s," he said, shaking his head in a way meant to indicate that he really felt is safety was in jeopardy given the quality of riders by whom he was surrounded.
"I've been riding at a much higher level for a while now," he said, despite the doughy rolls plainly visible under his too-tight jersey that made it moderately difficult to believe him. Besides, I'm pretty sure getting the race on time is an important part of racing at any level.
Still, I can appreciate the sentiment. Having never really been a cat 5, I don't really know what racing those events is like. More to the point, every cat 5 believes they don't belong there, and want to upgrade ASAP. It's certainly good to try and improve.
The whole beginner thing took on another dimension entirely this evening, when I attended a meeting of the Skidmore Cycling Club. The club has been on a hiatus from racing since Travis and Dante graduated in 2008, and it was awesome to meet a bunch of kids excited about racing this spring.
I'm really looking forward to helping them out, and hopefully give them a little more guidance than I had as a new cyclist at Skidmore back in the spring of 2004. But, these guys are pretty much complete beginners where racing is concerned, so we'll have our work cut out for us.
In both cases, the braggadocio at Blue Sky and the Skidmore dudes, we have beginners who are excited about the sport, and looking forward to giving it a go. It's easy to make fun of people who haven't been doing this as long as I have, or who don't understand the rudiments of racing, but it's pretty cool that they're into it, seeking knowledge, and looking to improve. That's something I'd like to get behind.
Just as Lance was reminded last year, you should never forget your beginner's spirit.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
On the one hand, it's a little sad to get out of work, after a beautiful autumn day, as today was, when the shadows area already long and the turning leaves are shimmering in the orange glow of an early sunset.
On the other hand, dusky rides have their own special kind of joy.
Tonight, I rolled out of town around 6:30, equipped with a shiny new handle-bar mounted headlight and my trusty, old red blinky light.
It was decidedly dusk by the time I got to the southern end of Saratoga Lake, and dark when I reached Malta Ridge. My little light did an excellent job of keeping me out of potholes, and lighting up all the road signs along the way, while my red light cast a protective buffer that kept cars from straying to close to my "lane" in the shoulder.
Rounding to the east on Riley Cove Road, the nearly-full moon shone on Saratoga Lake, casting a brilliant, silver light on the black water, and reflecting up onto the turning leaves. A brisk breeze whipped the water into low waves and the trees swayed in the wind's rhythm.
I only had a moment to savor it -- I swooped around a corner to face north again, and the view of the lake was gone.
I still prefer to ride in the daylight, but that was a sight worth seeing.
Monday, September 20, 2010
Things over at the offices of the Saratoga Spa Cyclocross have really kicked into high gear over the past few weeks and we've had to bring on a couple dozen folks to help with our promotional efforts. On Sunday night, the board of directors met in a private, plush conference room at a very exclusive club to discuss some race details over goblets of the finest Spanish Rioja.
It was a classy affair for the the 40 members of the spa:cx board. Fortunately, John remembered the corporate credit card to pay for the whole thing. Despite my nearly falling asleep in a high-backed leather and wood throne at the head of the table (I was rather tired after riding a century earlier in the day), we got a lot of work done.
As the race begins to take shape we are now able to confirm the following details:
-The race will be held at Saratoga Race Course, because it's a huge, awesome venue. A spectator standing near the finish line or the pit will be able to see 80-percent of the racing action. And our sand pit is harder then your sand pit, guaranteed. (Register now to make sure you get the chance to check it out.)
-Food will include Coffee and breakfast from Saratoga Coffee Traders, with more vendors to be announced.
-The race expo will feature neutral support from Blue Sky Bicycles, along with exhibitions from Serotta Competition Cycles, Sigma Sports, and others.
-The Kids race will be the best-attended U-12 'cross race Saratoga Springs has ever seen.
-Thanks to Mike, we will have porta potties on site, so no need to hold it all day.
-Blue Sky Bicycles' Bob Priestly will race the Run What You Brung on a tandem (free, open category for anyone who wants to try 'cross. No 'cross bikes allowed), and he needs a stoker. Let me know if you want to volunteer.
We are still working on other details, and please let me know if you can help with any arrangements!
- Chiefly, we need to find a beer vendor. Please let me know if you know one!
-There are many open spots in our expo, let me know if your business or venture would like to purchase a booth. It's like Interbike, only our 'cross race is cooler.
-Anyone who wants to sponsor the race should! We anticipate a crowd of 300-400 on the 24th, which means great exposure for your brand. Donate prizes (product, gift certificates, etc...), and we will post your company's logo on our web sites and display your banner on the course. Cash donations are also greatly accepted.
-It's been suggested that a bouncy-bounce may be the key to success. Thoughts?
Sunday, September 19, 2010
This morning, after Dieter twisted my arm (he didn't have to twist that hard), I drove over to Cambridge for the Cambridge Valley Cycling Club's fall benefit century.
It was a really good ride that delved into Vermont, north almost to Granville, and then back south to the Hudson River. Riding most of the 105-mile route with Dieter, Keltic's Mark and Paul, and Dave, we stopped the clock at 4:55 and change, an average speed of about 21 MPH.
It's not quite pro-tour speed, but it hurt. I'm tired. Really great ride, with a hint of foliage beginning to show, and a challenging course. Thanks to the Cambridge Valley Cycling Club for the great ride, and thanks to Dieter for making my participation possible.
All-in-all, I'd say it was a solid day of MS Century training. Speaking of which, you should pledge to support me for the MS Century on Oct. 3. Click here to pledge online.
More blog will come tomorrow, time for bed.
Friday, September 17, 2010
Some disturbing news today. Apparently, one of the many pro cyclists outed as a doper during a US Anti-Doping Agency investigation in Joe Papp's illicit dealings is Jonathan Chodroff.
Chodroff and I raced together in the collegiate Bs in the spring of 2006, where he almost crashed me out of UVM's Mt. Philo Road Race. Fortunately, we both kept it upright, and lived to later duke it out right here on the pages of GBBM.
A little more than a year later, apparently, when we had both moved up to the 3s, Chodroff started doping, buying EPO from Papp's online store. A year after that, he was an elite-level racer, winning the elite national time trial (proof that EPO can work as advertised.) A year after that he was racing for OUCH-Maxxis, then arguably the nation's best cycling team. This year, he raced with the Jelly Belly Pro Cycling team until the Tour of Quinghi Lake, after which he decided to pursue a career in medicine.
So, I'll admit that I was always a little jealous of Chodroff's "natural ability" back in the day. I guess I shouldn't have been. We had a tense exchange after I first blogged about him, but I have since had friendly digital interactions. Now, I guess I feel bad for him, but would also like to know more about his doping. Did he dope while riding alongside Floyd Landis at OUCH Maxxis? Did he dope this year with Jelly Belly? Which of his cat 3 team mates were doping in 2007? How about his Empire Cycling teammates in 2008? I'm scared to see who else will be on Papp's list.
Of course, I hope the answer is none, but, as I read this story through my jade glasses, I fear the worst.
Parenthetically, I heard from those who raced with him in the professional peloton that Chodroff was a terrible bike handler, and was to be avoided during crits and any other tight situation. Just goes to show that while EPO may turbo-boost your engine, it doesn't teach you how to drive a bike.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Tonight I find myself thinking about the technical reviews of bikes and equipment so often published in a wide range of cycling publications.
To my mind, these reviews are fairly similar to the evaluations I'm asked to give each day to customers at the bike shop: "Why should I pay $150 for these bike shorts when those only cost $60?"
"Well, ... "
Of course, there is a litany of reasons for why some products cost more than others: better construction, better fabric, more careful fitting, specially formed chamois, etc... But, to your first-time bike short buyer, these can be exceedingly subtle differences, and difficult ones to notice. What difference is your average consumer going to notice between a Trek Madone 3.1 ($1979.99), and a Trek Madone 6.9 SSL ($8709.99)? The shifters, most likely -- the more expensive bike comes with nicer shifters, and since that's where his or her hands will go, and those are the levers he or she will actuate, that's what he or she will notice.
Of course, the more expensive bike is a lot lighter, so it will ride a little differently, but it's fundamentally similar. Some will wax poetic about the feathery weight of the expensive bike. Others will not the action of the drive train. Others will point out the similarities to Chris Horner's 10th-place ride aboard a similar bike in this year's Tour de France, but answering that fundamental question really does come down to a certain cycling voodoo -- and that's a hard thing to quantify.
So what's a product reviewer to do? The Bike Snob has made a blogging career out of lampooning the bulbous frame shapes foisted upon consumers as necessary by manufacturers. Personally, I appreciate reviews that contain useful information on the product, and insight into the products merits without undue jargon.
But this type of review is hard to achieve, given the subjective nature of any product evaluation.
As an independent blogger with no advertising to speak of, it's easy for me to overlook the whole issue of pleasing advertisers.
So, I'd like to leave it open to readers. What do you look for in a product review? What products have you purchased after reading a review? Were you satisfied? What should be in product reviews that isn't?
Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Part of working at a retail establishment is working rides around retail hours. Tonight, I didn't get to leave the shop until 6:30, an hour after the Tuesday night World Championships had departed, and 30 minutes after the 'cross ride scheduled to be held in the state park had begun. Still, it had been a long day of bicycle sales, and something physical had to be done, so I hopped on my 'cross bike and headed to the state park, hoping to join the ride late.
Save for a few minutes last week, this was the first time I'd touched my 'cross bike since Wicked Creepy in 2009. I find 'cross to be an odd sport, and as much as I love promoting 'cross races, I don't love dismounting, jumping, and attempting to re-mount my bike. But, I do recognize that it gets easier if you practice, so there I was.
I briefly met up with Stud Chris McBurnie and Studette Jenny Ives, and tried to follow them through some of the park's sinuous trails. I was able to hang until I dropped my chain to the outside and had to stop to fix it. How I dropped my chain on a bike with no front derailleur is a very good question.
Eventually, I ran into the boys from Team Elevate, and joined them in a little barrier practice. This was good, as I'm a terrible stutter-stepper where barriers are concerned, although, at least I'm not as bad as this guy. After some practice runs, I decided to give up and headed out to Malta Ridge for a few laps in the fast-fading daylight.
With properly inflated tires, the 'cross bike wasn't too bad to ride, although I think my 1990-era Ritchey pedals are finally toasted. I'm willing to bet that my 'cross racing would improve dramatically if I wasn't afraid of pulling my foot out of the pedal on every stroke. Next time, I'm going to test my metal on some more-challenging trails on the northern side of town, but first I'm going to need to fix my front brake, which was rubbing so badly that I had to ride around with it disconnected tonight.
So, while starting my ride after 6:30 with a sunset scarcely an hour later isn't ideal, I had fun tonight, and with the productive evening of cover letter-writing and networking that followed, I really don't have much to complain about.
Monday, September 13, 2010
By and large, 2010 has been an interesting year. Racing-wise, it's been a bit of a dud, and I have little to show for all my hours on the bike. Work-wise, I can honestly say that I worked harder this year than I ever have in my adult life, only to be continually frustrated that I wasn't able to achieve the kind of success I always strive for.
As someone who lives in his head, when one thing is going poorly, other things suffer. As such, I believe that frustrations at work this year, contributed significantly to my crappy cycling season.
But things have changed for me. On Sunday, racing the Nancy Morganstern Memorial Fall Bear Mountain Road Race, I rode my best race since the first race of this season. I didn't post a result, but it was the first time in a long time that I came to the line close enough to the front of the race to see who won (it was some pro from Virginia).
The season is over (or just about), but it was an excellent feeling to be able to climb Bear Mountain's climb at the front of the peloton, to accelerate when the little climber-types accelerated, and to crest the climb without having to chase (on all but the third lap, anyway.) Having not raced since mid-August, I went into this race without expectations. Sure, it's not the hardest climb in the world, and sure all the talent was at Univest, but I was right there, and damn was it nice. I think I had the legs to place on Sunday, but I bungled my positioning coming into the roller heading to the finish line as we went around a roundabout, and that was the end of any chances I might have had.
Still, dangling off the back of what was left of the peloton at the finish was a pretty damn good feeling, knowing that about half of the starters had not finished. Like I said, it's been a frustrating season, so I'm going to take the little victories that are offered to me. My next major goal? The Lake Desolation Hill Climb on Oct. 10. Catch me if you can!
Now, how did I achieve this performance at Bear Mountain? A new training regimen? A new energy drink? Nope. I'm no longer at my job. The proverbial monkey of a job at which I was clearly poorly suited and unhappy is no longer clinging to my neck.
Yes, for almost as long as I've written this blog I've worked at The Saratogian. No longer. Labor Day was my last day at work there (ironic, I know.)
It's funny. Everyone makes sacrifices for work, and I've certainly not been an exception. But, I felt better about those sacrifices when I was reporter, feeling that I was doing important work that made a difference. Boy to I long for those days. In my next job, I am hoping to find an opportunity that I look forward to every morning. We spend so much time at our jobs, it's crazy not to derive some kind of satisfaction out of what you do. More to the point, I know that all aspects of my life will improve when I find a job better-suited to me.
I have been looking for a new opportunity since July, either in journalism or in a related field such as marketing, communications, or PR, and the job search is continuing. In the interim, I can be found at Blue Sky Bicycles most days of the week, where the generosity of the owner inspires me each day. I nearly left my job at The Saratogian in July, but with Saratoga's busiest season upon us, I couldn't find it in me to hang my coworkers out to dry. I saw them through the racing season as best I could, and am now on my way.
Obviously, this is a down economy and therefore a bad time to be looking for work, but with the excellent skills I have developed over the past several yeas in research, communication, and analysis, I am hoping to find a new opportunity quickly. I've got all the pertinent jobs search engines bookmarked on my browser, and any advice my readers have to offer will be greatly appreciated. Anyone who tells me about an opening for which I apply and receive an interview will be rewarded with a highly prized shout-out here on GBBM.
I've posted a .jpg version of my resume below for your reading pleasure. Please feel free to forward this post to anyone looking to hire a motivated, diligent worker!
Thanks to my family, my friends, and my Romantic Accomplice during this transitional period in my life, and thanks, as always for reading!
Sunday, September 12, 2010
The next post I publish here, which will include a report from today's Nancy Morganstern Memorial Road Race in Harriman State Park, will be an important post. I had planned to write this post tonight, but I accidentally got sucked into other projects, so you'll have to wait.
Stop by and see me at Blue Sky Bicycles tomorrow if you want the story in advance.
Wednesday, September 08, 2010
Happy New Year!
I'm on Cape Cod enjoying a belated holiday weekend with my folks, and eating a traditional Rosh Hashanah meal.
After a stretch of bad eating that began sometime in August, my diet resumes tomorrow. In between sleeping in and eating poorly today I did squeeze in a pretty good set of LT intervals over on Bridge Road on the route between Welfleet and Orleans. It was rather windy today, which probably added some value to the intervals. I could be crazy, but it seems to get darker even earlier here than at home.
Otherwise, after yesterday's awesome event, this was a fairly mundane day. Of course, I'm trying to stay awake for another 20 minutes to see how many hits GBBM got on the heals of our social media marketing blitz. Beyond hits on the blog, hopefully yesterday's events will pay off in the form of a more awesome Spa:cx come Oct. 24.
Now, go register!
I guess that's all for tonight. Hopefully something interesting will happen tomorrow about which I can write.
Tuesday, September 07, 2010
Not only is he fast, but a super generous guy
All it took was a brisket sandwich!
Although John's design credentials are beyond reproach, we felt we could use a little expert guidance in getting the most out of the venue for Spa:Cx -- to give our racers something truly awesome. A course to write home about. A course worthy of true champions.
To achieve that end, we recruited Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com pro Jeremy Powers (who arrived wearing the yellow jersey he earned by winning the Green Mountain Stage Race on Monday) and elite 'cross racer/UCI 'cross promoter Alec Donahue to come check out the venue, ride around, and set the beginnings of what may be the most challenging 'cross course this side of the Kayderoserass Creek.
Jeremy was somewhat limited by a freshly-fractured hand (thanks a lot, Burlington), but we were still able to survey the venue at the Saratoga Race Course, and the consensus was that this is one awesome venue with lots of interesting terrain to play with.
John and I did our best to avoid embarrassing ourselves by riding behind Jeremy, lest he see that we were unable to ride with two hands what he was riding with one.
A word to the wise: you'd better hone your sand skillz -- our sand pit is much harder than your average volleyball court.
Look for more details in the next day over at our blog , and registration is open here.
Thanks to Mike Sylvia for taking the photos!
Monday, September 06, 2010
Well, the track season is now officially behind us until 2011, and also behind me is one of the most epic work weeks of my life (it began sometime in July).
I'm hoping that things will settle down for a bit as we get back into the groove of high school sports at work. I'm also hoping that I'll be able to blog more regularly now that life is going to be settling down.
Before I get to the meet of today's post, I want to let everyone know that there will be a BIG update tomorrow on the Saratoga Spa:Cross cyclocross race, both here and at www.spacx.blogspot.com. Make sure to check in on both in the evening!
For my first post in this new, post track world, I wanted to write about changes to the Tour of the Battenkill course for 2011.
On Saturday (or was it Sunday? What month is it again?) I had the chance to ride with Dieter Drake and two guys who drove up from North Carolina for the privilege of being among the first to survey the new parcourse along with the designer himself. I tagged along for the ride mostly because they weren't leaving until noon and I had had to work until midnight the night prior, but also because I love the ToB and after a disappointing ride in April, I'm beginning my training now for 2011 -- and an important part of ToB training is knowing the course.
To cut to the chase, the new course is harder than the existing one. How much harder? That depends on whether you were still racing after the Bunker Hill descent in 2010. If you were off the back at that point the changes probably won't make too much of a difference to you. If, however, you are still in contention when the race rolled to Route 29 south of Salem, things will be decidedly more challenging.
The revision to the course eliminates the section of the race that took you on Rt. 29, along the Battenkill River. While scoured by winds, this section was flat and pelotons were likely to reach it still with some numbers, offering all but the foolhardy a chance to recover.
Now, instead of turning south on 29 at the state police barracks, racers will turn north for a shorter stint on 29, before heading back east to link up with the first of two new dirt sections, Carney-Cassidy Road. Simply put, I found this road to be awesome. On Saturday the surface was fairly loose, while rolling hills made it a challenging ride. It's about as narrow as a Belgian cow path, and the views are incredible. The remainder of the new roads are unremarkable, aside from the near-constant elevation change.
The addition makes the race about two miles longer (the 20-mile loop for the pro/1 and 2 races will remain unchanged.)
On the down side, the new route was put in place to circumvent the town of Greenwich, where bridge construction will render a long-used ToB staple unsafe. My parents will have to find somewhere else to watch from this year. Instead, racers wind up on 372 near the intersection with County Rt. 74, at which point the course takes off on the same route as in the past two years.
All things being equal, the new section probably won't make or break anyone's race. It's more of the same hard hills that you're already racing over -- and if you're strong enough to make it over Juniper Swamp, Meeting House and Stage roads, what's one more hill? That being the case, I do think it's an improvement -- I never liked the oncoming traffic on 29, aside from the general lack of scenicness on that part of the course. But, I will be hoping the new dirt road is in better shape, come April. The other dirt road on the new section, by the way, was so smooth it might as well have been paved.
It was great to meet Erich and Barry on the ride, two cat 4s who are extremely enthusiastic about the ToB (even I wouldn't drive that far to preview a race course!) Great ride guys, I'll see you in April!
Wednesday, September 01, 2010
A year ago Thursday I was headed up to Vermont for the Green Mountain Stage Race from Cape Cod. A year ago, I was over-raced, burnt out, and should have stayed on Cape Cod rather than attempting a brutal race like GMSR.
But, having made a good showing in 2008, and because GMSR has quickly become one of my favorite events of the year, there I was, struggling to hang on the Brandon Gap climb, and saying good bye to the peloton on the App Gap.
What a difference a year makes.
Tonight, I walked in from work at 1 a.m., after having working to make sure that The Saratogian's HS football preview section got out to the press and onto the internet. If anything, I'm dehydrated but under-raced, and raring to go. Sadly, because the Saratoga Race Course is in business for another five days, there will be no trip to Vermont, and I'm pretty sad about it.
Of course, I knew the deal when I took this job. It was OK, I rationalized, because I could still do Fitchburg and the Empire State Games.
Well, work screwed me over there too -- with a special project announced in the spring, which culminated right in the middle of Fitchburg, and necessitated my being at work. Then, the Saratoga Race Course it would open five days early, which made it overlap with ESGs, and you can guess what choice I had to make.
So, I've realized recently that part of my problem this year has been a lack of motivation due to the knowledge that I can't race some of my favorite events. I guess I'll have to find some new favorites for next year, and I'll have to hope that the track reduces it's season back to a perfectly-reasonable six weeks, rather than the nearly seven we had this year. Of course, there's still Bear Mountain to look forward to -- so here's hoping I'm able to pull a result out of all this frustration!
With that, I'm going to bed. Good luck to everyone lucky enough to be heading to Vermont this weekend!