Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Was it Tommy Voeckler...

I caught with my camera at the Rose Bowl tonight?



The faces, the kit, and the equipment may change from year to year, but the Rose Bowl ride is timeless, it just keeps going the same as ever, season after season for what, sixty years now. Hard to believe, for myself anyway, this was my first trip out there this year for the Tuesday/Thursday speedfest, and frankly it was like picking up where I left off last year. Since the traffic driving out was not painful, I think I can manage once a week for the remaining three months of the season. Thomas V, this week; who'll be there next time?

the break coming up the road, headed toward the finish

typically, a couple cars got in the way, between the break and the chasing peloton. if you look closely at the guys in front, you'll notice they don't look too concerned - the break was gone, and nothing to be done...

even so, once the cars were out of the way the race was back on

Strava, and the Virtual Race...

Strava has been all the rage for a while now, a useful training tool, or at the least a way for your everyday Joe-on-the-road (or trail) to grab some bragging rights to share around on the next group ride, or bike forum. Sometimes it seems as though I may be the lone holdout, the one rider not competing in the virtual race. Yes I, thus far, have avoided the Strava lure, and all the talk around me has led me to an examination of the reasons why. I mean it could be as simple as "gee Mike, isn't it obvious? You're just an old retro-grouch, anti-technology, old school sort." I could buy into that explanation, and happily accept it if not for the fact that I know I would readily become an addicted Stavaite were I to join in. So no, there must be more.

No, I disagree. Witnesses, or it didn't happen.

As I see it there are two primary reasons for my avoidance of Strava. First would have to be overuse. It is a simple case of cause and effect. If I have it, I will use it. Every day would become a race. All my normal routes would become raceways, which would lead me to search out new ones (not necessarily bad); every insignificant stretch of roadway would become another excuse to try for a personal best. The world would become Stravatized. The occasional weekend donut ride would be forever changed - leisurely pace usurped by competition (this again, may not be bad considering donuts await at the end). The work commute, the grocery run, even the short ride over to the meet up spot for the local group ride would become timed challenges. The quickest time with two bags of groceries hanging from the handlebars would become a new event category. With a little imagination, the possibilities are nearly endless. My palmares could use a little bolstering - significant results are looking a little dated right now - but really, I don't need that much competition, and I don't want that much competition.

It is only July, yet all around me I hear riders say they are tired, they have ridden too much, and need some time to rest. Too much Strava? Hmmm? The old school way is basically mileage based - ride a lot, maybe even every day, but mix in easy days with others of hard effort. Strava won't allow me to do that, not with road section, group, and personal best times on the line.

The second reason I have kept clear of Strava has to do with the nature of competition. The idea of competing in a virtual race, honestly holds little attraction. It seems like a video game played in the real world. If I am competing against someone, or better a group of riders, I want them to be right there. I want to be able to glance back and see that I am a bike length ahead (or preferably more) at the city limit sign or KOM point. Worst case senario, I want to watch as the competition blasts by as I attempt to minimize the gap and my legs go increasingly wobbly. I want the group dynamics to play its inevitable part in the outcome, whether that outcome is in my favor or not. Excusing those who excel at time trials, the rest of us know that head to head competition pushes us to greater heights, expending greater than 100% effort is more likely to become reality in the group. 

The group dynamic is an important part of competition lacking in the virtual race. So many factors, both mental and physical, come into play within the group with the ability to affect the outcome on any stretch of roadway. These obstacles, and the strategies we as individual riders calculate to overcome them, are what make competition within the group so compelling. Since everyone within the group is likewise engaged with the same calculations, from their own perspectives of course, individual strategies are forever shifting from one second to the next. The end of a race is like a whirlwind of competing strategies, of calculated actions and split-second reactions, everyone vying for what only one can have. If we could consider the thought process of each rider in the group, both over the course of a race as well as at the finish, it would be a jumbled mess; everyone with a different means of achieving a goal, a different method of reaching the end on top. It would be hopelessly chaotic if not for that common "end" providing an ultimate direction to all those thoughts, all those strategic actions. It's fascinating.

So there you have it, that is my Strava spiel. You will agree with it, or not, as your own experience dictates. I freely admit that Strava can be a useful training tool, or at least provide some interesting statistics and possible insight into our progression, or regression, over a period of time. For someone who does as many solo rides as I, Strava would seem to be a no brainer. The program collects many of the same statistics (and far more) that I do in my handwritten log books, and does so more efficiently. I must say though, that looking back over the years, the most memorable competitive moments have all come through interactions with the group, in which the competition has been impacted by the dynamics of the peloton. That is something that no collection of KOMs or personal bests, no matter how extensive, will ever be able to compare.




Monday, July 30, 2012

Monday Blues...

it's a struggle to peek in the Velo's front window and see this Eddy hanging there week after week. it's a bit big, but i would certainly have some fun building it up.

juxtapostion. riding along, the other day, i came upon this paper flower on the bike path. it had somehow managed to avoid being crushed beneath the passing wheels. or, maybe the passing riders simply chose to leave it for the next rider to enjoy.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Frogs + Bikes: Angels Camp of Course...

A little twist on Mark Twain's Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County:


Kermit may be the most celebrated cycling frog of all time, but this giant amphibian gives a whole new meaning to the jumping frog competition.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Vinokourov: Going out in Style...

When I retire (if I retire, if I can retire),

pride before...

pleasure (Reuters photo)

I couldn't think of a better way to do it - with a gold medal.


Like most watching, I had a list of people I would like to have seen win the Olympic road race. If it couldn't be one of them, I'm glad it was Vino. Experience won out today. Alexandre Vinokourov has given us a career's worth of excitement, admittedly not all good, but he paid the penalty that was handed to him and came back with enough drive to gather up a number of significant wins. I would think Olympic gold ranks at the top of that list.

GMR Friday: Riding the Center Line...

Traffic up on GeeMaR is normally so light that it provides a perfect opportunity for some center line photos. Problem is, it's a little too light on Friday mornings; this Friday seemed especially devoid of riders. The few times riders came past on their way down, they took me by surprise coming around a corner, and no chance to snap a shot. Finally, at the very top, I caught sight of a rider slowly descending, hands off the bars, maybe stretching from the steeps bringing him up from the East Fork. I think seeing someone coming uphill slow, with a camera held low over the center line startled him, and he reached back to the top of the bars. Quickly passed hello's and that was it, empty road again.






Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Non-official PVBC Pubs n' Stuff Ride...

regroup at the head of the PET

The Pomona Valley Bike Coalition (PVBC) held another of their periodic fun/social rides this evening. You might say this one wasn't an officially sanctioned ride because, well because it involved some pub stops as the ride name suggests. Starting and ending at the Press (during happy hour) in Claremont the group rode out along the Pacific Electric Trail through Montclair and Upland, to the downtown of the latter city, where the Thursday farmer's market was taking place. Oh, and there was a pub there as well. A beer or so later and we returned to Claremont. A number of familiar faces were mixed into the fifteen of so riders, as well as some I had not seen before. Which is always good; it shows that word is spreading, new people are being attracted to the group and rides. 





locking up in Upland

On the way back, the ride took a brief detour for the James Turrell "Skyspace" light and space exhibit in the Draper Courtyard at Pomona College. The color changing light display is kind of interesting and boring at the same time. It is very peaceful, and could be quite meditative; unfortunately we arrived well past sunset, so we didn't get the effect of the changing sky in that center square in the roof, nor in the reflecting pool directly beneath. What we did get were the changing lighting and people watching (there were quite a few relaxing and enjoying a quiet evening). This was, I think, the second PVBC ride I have been on, and they have both been great fun; so different from the high pressure group training rides I am more used to. Additionally, this time, I got to renew my LACBC membership (I saw at least two new members sign up as well) and got a free head and tail light set in the process. Check out the PVBC on Facebook, join, and you can find info on the groups next rides, and upcoming volunteer opportunities, where you can meet some great people.



2012 Olympics: A Little Then, A Little Now...


I always look forward to the arrival of the Summer Olympics - the build-up, and then the competition in athletic events I don't normally hear anything about, and some that are in the news daily. I've never gone out of the way to collect Olympic memorabilia, but picked up a few pins here or there in the past. Most notable of them would be that one commemorating Connie Carpenter's victory in the women's road race during the 1984 Los Angeles games. This year, of course, we get to watch Connie and Davis Phinney's son, Taylor (along with Chris Horner, Tyler Farrar, Tejay van Garderen, and National Champion Timothy Duggan) challenge for medals in the men's road race. 

Connie Carpenter (now Phinney) is the last, and only, American to win gold at the Olympic games. her teammate, Rebecca Twigg took silver at the same time, and is the only American to do that.


The women's road race team of Kristin Armstrong, Evelyn Stevens, Amber Neben and Shelley Olds is also strong. If Armstrong has fully recovered from her crash at the Exergy Tour, we should expect to see the women battling hard as well. 

With only two selections for the men's track squad this time around, chances for US success seem a bit shallow, and the excitement should come from racers representing other countries. The women's squad, however, composed of Sarah Hammer, Dotsie Bausch, Jennie Reed, and Lauren Tamayo will keep it interesting on the boards.

On the dirt, Georgia Gould and Lea Davison will wear the stars and stripes in women's mountain biking, while Todd Wells and Samuel Schultz will carry the hopes for men's success. I suppose Gould should have the best shot at medalling, but Wells, racing in his third Olympic games has a lot of experience behind him.

BMX will be back at the Games (it debuted in 2008). A three rider men's squad - David Herman, Connor Fields, Nic Long - and two racer women's squad composed of Arielle Martin and Alise Post can be expected to challenge for medals.

Road racing action takes place right away, opening weekend, with the men going on Saturday the 28th and the women on Sunday the 29th. Both men's and women's individual time trials take place on August 1. Track events take place between August 2 and 7. In mtb, the mens cross country race takes place on August 11, and the women go on August 12. BMX events take place between August 8 and 10. Good luck and riding to all the athletes.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

From the Library: Silent Steeds of Reno...


Williams, B. Delbert  Silent Steeds of Reno  Reno, NV: Del Williams Publishing, 2006


 Through cycles of up and down, cycling and Reno have progressed and grown in tandem, so to speak, with one another over the years. Last month, during my quick visit to Nevada City, California, I stepped into an antiquarian bookshop, and stepped back out with this book in hand. I didn't expect it to be much more than a curiosity in the library, but as it turns out there is a lot of interesting information in here about the history of cycling in Reno and general region. I was especially fascinated with the accounts of early racing (beginning in the 1880s) between the Reno Wheelmen and various clubs in California. Unless you are more of a fanatic than I am, you probably will not be familiar with the names of these early men (and women) racers, but they should rightfully be considered amongst the pioneers of the sport. While there is a great focus on the racing scene, that is not all there is to the book. There is also information on the early shops and bicycle sellers, and builders. This is information you do not just readily find anywhere - the author clearly expended effort conducting research, and then compiling it all into a readable format. The uniqueness of the content makes this more than a mere curiosity.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Upcoming: Another Season of SoCalCross...

I suppose all you cyclocross-types, those who go into withdrawal at the end of a season, and start obsessing over your rigs months before the next season kicks off, have already seen this. For everyone else - roadies, and fat tire bruthas - the indomitable Dorothy has posted up the preliminary race schedule for the upcoming season (2012-2013) of the So Cal Cross Prestige Series of Cyclocross.

There are some old favorites mixed in with some exciting new venues. First race is September 30. Cross at the Cornfield in downtown Los Angeles is back, as is Velocity Cross in Chino, Storm the Beach in Oceanside, and Turkey Trot Cross in Glendale. There are two UCI race weekends again this year, the first being Spookycross and Krosstoberfest right in the backyard - the County Fairgrounds in Pomona, and the second in Los Angeles (I am only guessing the venue will be Griffith Park by the Greek Theater again). Now I see that the second UCI weekend will be at Los Angeles State Historic Park, just as the October 7 race. In keeping with the tradition of spreading races across the Southland, there are venues as far south as San Diego and as far north as San Luis Obispo. Plenty of opportunity to get out and race.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Monday Mural...


This is one of the more recently murals around town, just completed this year. It does not seem to have made any of the online catalogs yet, so I am not sure of the title. I call it "TRUTH" for obvious reasons. I am also not completely sure of the artists name - [Julia Berryman] maybe. I tend to like things that have a message, make a statement about something important to the artist, things that make you think. Such things could be songs, art, poems; this fits right into that category. I noticed it while riding though the Pitzer College campus the other day.



Sunday, July 22, 2012

TdF 2012 Recap: Bike Bells, Cardboard Profiles, and a Whole Lot of Racing...

Alright, well it is time for the obligatory review of this years Tour de France. But before getting into the nitty-gritty of the actual racing, there are some extras to get out of the way first. 


I seem to recall some saying about leading with your best; in this case that would be Sean Kelly, who sat in the commentating booth of British Eurosport along with David Harmon. The man (Kelly) has a wit about him that I failed to recognize through, I don't know how many viewings of the Sean Kelly Story. He, and Harmon, would regularly come up with something to make me laugh, but it was the final day, when a Eurosport interviewer prior to the stage start, presented Mark Cavendish with a cardboard cut out of the stage 18 profile, a stage won by the Manx Missile. During the resulting banter in the booth concerning Cav's accomplishments, Kelly's response was "... the cardboard from Eurosport, he'll appreciate it some day." Hilarious. If you were not paying attention, you would have missed it, it was so subtle. I can just picture it, some year in the future, Cavendish sharing stories of glory with his grandchildren, pointing out this trophy, that trophy, rainbow and green jerseys, and up there on the shelf amongst them all, the cardboard cutout. Good one, Sean. On or off the road you're the best. I hope someone got a photo of Cavendish holding that c'board, I haven't seen one yet.



Best new component seen on this year's Tour bikes: Electronic shifting - heck no. The latest, greatest, lightest - seen it. No, the prize has to be Peter Sagan's official Cannondale bicycle bell. 



The most exciting moment for me - Thibaut Pinot's edge of the seat, will he do it, can he hang on, shout out the window, stage eight win.

The most exciting moment for Marc Madiot - Thibaut Pinot's edge of the seat, will he do it, can he hang on, shout out the window, stage eight win.

The most disappointing moment - Peter Sagan's failure to take a fourth stage win, therefore depriving us all the chance to view another of his patented and creative victory salutes.

Most disappointing moment (runner-up) - no win for the Irish duo, Nicolas Roche and Dan Martin. Both rode a terrific Tour, gave great efforts, and Roche came oh, so painfully close on stage 18. Martin gained valuable experience in his first Tour, so the wins, the placings, they will come, of that I am sure.

The best in men, the worst in men. Tacks in the road brought out both. Once again, the Tour showed that sportsmanship isn't dead; it is alive and well in cycling.

Hooray for Tommy V. He may not have worn Yellow this year, but two stage wins in the mountains, including what was arguably the toughest of the bunch, and the Polka Dot Jersey, was some spectacular consolation. Thomas Voeckler keeps a three week long race exciting like few, if any, others.

The multiple-stage victors - Peter Sagan with three, Andre Greipel with three, Mark Cavendish with three (not to mention Mark's fourth consecutive on the Champs-Elysees). Way to dominate the sprints guys.

The old guys - of all the starters, 11 were aged 38 or older, only two failed to finish. Chris Horner (40) was the highest placed at 13th; the others were Alexander Vinokourov (38) in 31st, Levi Leipheimer (38) in 32nd, George Hincapie (39) 38th, Jens Voigt (40) 52nd, Danilo Hondo (38) 86th, Stuart O'Grady (38) 97th, Joan Horrach (38) 119th, Sebastien Hinault (38) 122nd. Special recognition, of course, to Hincapie - 17 starts, 16 finishes - the most of any rider in Tour de France history.

Contracts: I have not checked to see how long Chris Froome has with Sky, but I can't see him as anything other than a team leader next year. Somewhere.

Finally, Bradley Wiggins, the first British champion of the Tour de France. That is a long wait, and must make it especially sweet. Wiggins did what was necessary in the mountains, and rolled over everyone in the time trials. My fingers are itching to make a comparison, but I won't - Bradley is Wiggins, and deserves the spotlight and accolades. 

wait a minute - get out of there. that's not Wiggo

there we go, that's more like it.
Congratulations Bradley Wiggins!

Some Old School mtb/bmx Fun...

First up a new, and upcoming, mountain bike race series to be held at the Mountain Bike Racing Park in Acton. Not sure how the Old School fits in, but it sounds pretty cool anyway. If you are on Facebook, you can checkout and like the Acton Bike Club page, for updates and some photos there as well. They also have a general info website too.


Next, and kind of in keeping with the above (apparently the location of the Mountain Bike Park is in spitting distance of the old Soledad Sands BMX Track), I give you the wheelie kid. How many of us grew up trying to ride wheelies all the way down the street on a bike like that? A show of hands; mine's up.


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Lost in the Shuffle: Moreno Moser...

In a cosmos dominated by the Tour de France, a rising star was kind of lost in the glare of the big one when he won the week long Tour de Pologne (Tour of Poland) last Sunday. The nephew of accomplished uncles Aldo and Francesco (who of course is in town this week for the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia in Pasadena) is showing much promise. In his first full year as a professional, Moser has won the Trofeo Laigueglia, the Eschborn - Frankfurt City Loop, and now the overall, plus two stages of the Tour de Pologne. These go along with numerous wins as an amateur, and a third place finish at the Italian National Road Race Championships this year. I don't want to jinx him so early in his career, but we may see another man named Moser racking up wins for some time to come.

Moreno Moser during one of his Tour de Pologne stage wins

Friday, July 20, 2012

Another Friday with the Psycho-lists...

Was it humid today? After the ride I took a nice cold shower, but continued to sweat beginning immediately afterward. I always roll my eyes when people complain about high temperatures during the summer months. I mean, what do you expect? I guess you know what I did just a few seconds ago.


Now, it may sound funny, but I never knew there were so many hills in the Covina Hills. Normally if I want to climb, I head up to the mountains. Of course it is a different type of climbing - long and steady, versus a series of short punchy ones. Today's ride was all about the latter, and started off with Bloody Esperanza. After you have done Esperanza you feel either exhausted and want more, or exhausted and want to keep things relatively flat. That's when you are riding solo; the group ride doesn't come with options so, more climbing it was. Luckily, the next climb was the easy grade of San Dimas Canyon.


i had no extra energy to spare for photos today, so the three shown here, were all taken at the turn around in San Dimas Canyon by Trish Mayo. now the question is, why am i the only one not standing up?


Ride leader Phil, had a surprise stashed away in his jersey pocket, and he sprung it on us next - in the Covina Hills. Things started off familiar enough - Via Verde, or what is commonly known as mile hill. We only went half way though, before turning off for a series of energy sapping rollers. It was up, then down, then up, and up, then down again, then back up, and up. You get the idea, the kind of route where it is difficult if not impossible to find and maintain any kind of rhythm. The ups are never enough to exhaust you, but at the same time, the downs are never long enough to let you recover. You suffer on, and it builds in your legs, but you don't care, because you are in the group. You are chasing, then leading, then chasing again, and there is nothing else you would rather be doing. By the time we made one final right hand turn and the last wall loomed above us there wasn't a person in the bunch with kind words for Phil. Most kept the curses to themselves; some couldn't hold back, and let him have it.




By the time we made it over to our Classic Coffee stop in Glendora, I think it was earned. The stop in fact seemed longer than normal - I even had time to go back for seconds. The rest of the ride was pretty typical - someone had to make the stretch of Bonita back into Claremont fast and, well, no one could let that challenge go unanswered, so a chase was the obvious outcome. It was a perfect ending, and four hours later my legs are still tingling in recovery mode.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Claremont Racing, Part 1: Stan Schwarz, 1978...



Shown above is the Claremont Colleges cycling team in 1978. Pictured left to right are Ken Westbrook, Stan Schwarz, Fred Matthews, Kel Yamada, Neil Brock, Chip Svoboda (standing behind Westbrook is Mike Riley). The photo was taken at the 1978 Southern California Intercollegiate Championships, held on 6 May at California State University, Dominguez Hills. Stan, in his only season with the team, rode the Expert race (USCF categories 1-3), jumped away at the start and, with the rest of the team controlling things in the field, stayed away for the duration to finish in 1st with a 40 second gap. The photo is courtesy of Stan Schwarz and the recap, paraphrased from his own story, can be read here. Incidentally, if you click around his blog you can find some pretty cool stories of racing back in the 70s, both in So Cal and on the East Coast, in races such as the Acton Road Race, and the Fitchburg Longsjo Classic.


Early in 2012 (February) I did a short post on Claremont as a hotbed of cycling. From infrastructure for everyday commuting by bike to collegiate and professional racing, cycling has long been prominent in the city. Lately I have become increasingly interested in researching the history of racing within the city, from the racers, teams, organizers, and the races; there will be short posts like this one, and then at the end (however far ahead that may be) I will put it all together.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Bud's Ride is Just a Blur...

The Bud's Ride has long held a reputation as  one of the fastest training rides around - it can leave you with an oxygen deficiency, feeling light headed, incidents during the ride drifting around your head in a haze, unable to focus on the progression from lap to lap. Tonight I actually managed to get proof of what that looks like:


That said, I do think the Kretzschmar Steel Team rider held first to the line. 

Bicycling Facts and Figures Infographic...

from Kern Active Transportation Consulting & Public Relations

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Santa Barbara for a Bastille Day Ride...

if Americans can have French fries, the French can have le Hot Dogs - same
basic ingredients, but a little twist to how it is done

As promised, I did head back up to Santa Barbara for a second consecutive weekend to check out the French Festival, and do a little riding. The French Fest was pretty much as I remember it to have been twenty or more years ago - food and drink, French music, French dancing, French women (francaise), French pirates, French nobility and peasantry (or at least people dressed like them). It was great to see so many people arriving by bike to avoid the traffic and parking mess that always seems to accompany these things. I understand that the festival is logistically difficult to put together each year, and for that reason was not held in 2011. Good to see it is back and hope they can keep it going.


la française - oo, la la

Before hitting the festival though, it was time to ride. We parked at La Cumbre Jr. High, directly across the 101 from Oak Park (site of the Festival), and accessed by a handy pedestrian, or cyclist in our case, bridge. The route I chose was basically along the Coast Bike Route and Obern Trail, up to UCSB, and back. It is a route I have done frequently, but not in the past 10-15 years. Hard to believe it has been so long. That said, other than some new signage and lighting, I don't think anything else has changed. This is a well used route at all times of the year. Sometimes it is a bike lane on road and street, other times it is a separated bike path following along creeks and sloughs, behind houses, skirting fields. It has a very non-urban feel to it.


la Cumbre Junior High School - ride start

rolling along the Obern Trail bike path

Ultimately we came out at Goleta Beach, and made that short, steep punch up to the University. We cruised along the campus bikeways, some old, some new, checked out the architecture, some old, so much new, checked out the views, some old, others new. New buildings always create new viewing sequences, perspectives, and there has been a lot of new building on the campus. It is amazing really, and I can see why UCSB is always highly  ranked. It is interesting to ride the campus bike paths during the summer when they are empty; such a dramatic contrast to when classes are in session. Unfortunately the saying all good things must end proved to be true and it was time to leave; but not before a stop at Carpinteria, where I lived during the school years - those vanilla Foster's Freeze cones are a mandatory part of any trip to the area.


summer empty

summer full

does it shed in hot weather?

typical university beater bike - self-painted, saddle mostly duct tape

the AS bike shop, certainly nicer than when i was there

winding path along the bluff top above Goleta beach

high monkey hangers

gateway, been there a few years now, but was just a little ticket booth when
i attended

well marked bike paths

cruising along Goleta slough

the Obern, one well lit path

these wooden bridges have held up surprisingly well

seaside, Carpinteria Bluffs Nature Preserve - this area below the bluffs is closed during the winter for the sake of the seals, but you can access it by trail this time of year

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