Sunday, April 26, 2009

No Spring - Straight on to Summer

We had a double race weekend this past Saturday and Sunday. Both days featured very un-April-like weather with highs in the 80s. Saturday was the Turtle Pond Circuit Race in Loudon, NH put on by the MetLife team. They did an excellent job with organization and running the race. Compliments are due to them. Sunday was the Quabbin Reservoir Road Race, which is one of Mike Norton's races and replaces the Sturbridge race on the calendar. Despite suffering some organizational problems, the race venue was as scenic as the come and the course was quite good. All in all, a good race. More on that later.

Results for both races will be posted on the team website soon.

It's always hard to tackle the first truly hot race of the year. We become used to training and racing in the cold so much so that even mild weather feels extremely hot when it arrives. To go from winter to summer in a matter of few weeks can be a shock to the system. Saturday's race at Turtle Pond was our first effort in summer heat. The entire field suffered and many riders dropped out. We were very fortunate to have several supporters in the feed zone for this race. They did a fantastic job helping us survive the extremely hot, dry conditions by keeping us supplied with water - at least one bottle every lap seemed to be the necessity. Our feeders also had enough hands to lend assistance to our friends on the Kendy/Spooky team, who also rode a great race.

Better to tell this story in pictures:

Embrocation on and ready to go. For this race we used Mad Alchemy Summer edition.

Josh fuels up just before the start.

The Pro 1/2 field rolls out.

Bradshaw reaches for a bottle as he tries to bridge up to the breakaway.

The main field was only about 8 riders strong as they came through the feed zone on the final lap.

Josh had a tough day and decided it best to drop out - he was in good company as many other riders made the same decision.

Josh then added to our feeding efforts for the remainder of the race.

... and then gets down to business modeling Embrocation socks.

Jay manages a smile as he rides solo between the break and the main field.

Bradshaw had the best finish of the team despite suffering some mechanical issues. He rolls in solo.

The team assembles after a hot and difficult race.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Battenkill: Post Race Carnage Report

As I write this we're still waiting for final results to come in on several of our riders. Compliments must be paid to Dieter who put together another awesome Tour of the Battenkill this year. The new course was great, the organization was solid and the fields were large and competitive. Problems with accurate results persist, but this technical glitch ought not to cast a shadow over the success of the race.

So, here's how it went down for us:

Cat 1 field - Bradshaw and Burns raced solidly, both finishing in the mid twenties in a stacked Pro/1 field. Cory was active in chasing down attacks and breaks the entire race, while Bradshaw applied pressure on the final climb to shake loose a good number of chasing riders.

Cat 2 field - Josh cracked his front wheel at some point during the race but was able to ride in with the lead group for a 19th place finish. James suffered a flat tire while in the lead group with about 20k to go and chased the remainder of the race. While chasing, James picked up Jay who had been caught up in a crash and was unable to shift properly after. Those two chased the lead group in for 38th and 39th place, respectively.

Cat 3 field - Jeremy Dunn was in the break with a very good shot at a victory. He flatted on the final climb and despite some key teamwork from Pierre, who gave up his front wheel for Jeremy, he was unable to catch the eventual race-winning group and finished in the low twenties. Still, not bad.

All told, the team put in solid performances that were, in some cases, thwarted by mechanical problems. Such is the nature of all races, most especially the Battenkill.

Despite our numerous mechanical issues, the team rode very well together. Hopefully we used Battenkill to work all the kinks out of our system and used up all our bad luck in one spot. Next on the calendar: Turtle Pond and Quabbin this weekend.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Team Bikes - Part 3: First Bike, First Ride

Gaulzettis are in the house. Quite literally - I have a bunch of these bikes in my house now.
I was able to build mine up last night and took a first ride today. I did a fairly long ride up in the Fitchburg area today with Jay and all I can say is how impressed I am. It really does everything well and rides very similarly to the best steel bikes I've ridden - not a bad thing for an oversized-tubed aluminum bike. As a team, we feel fortunate to be able to ride such capable and unique bikes and I expect these will rise to every occasion during this season.

I could go on and on about it, but for right now, I'll just post some pictures of the frames and the complete bike. I built this bike up with a mixed Force/Rival group for right now. It's a Battenkill-specific build, so durability and function are the name of the game. It weighs in at about 16.5 lbs with pedals and a stupidly heavy FSA Gossamer crank, which will be replaced shortly with a much lighter K-Force Lite carbon crank. To me, the real beauty of these bikes is how functional they are. There are no superfluous features for the sake of marketing hype and no corners cut when it comes to build quality. These are simple, well-built race-specific bikes - something strangely missing from the market these days.

Here are some images I took during the build process.

The frames are made from Dedacciai light alloy - 7005 series aluminum.

Embrocation logo on the seat tube.

Dropouts and derailleur hangers are a simple yet effective affair.

Dedacciai supplies a propietary seat mast cap to match their light alloy tubesets. It has 4cm of vertical adjustment and is very easy to install and adjust.

Our painter did a truly great job. All the lines are clean and accurate with excellent paint clarity.


These welds don't mess around. They're text-book quality.

Chainstay bridge is nothing fancy. Big welds get the job done.

The downtube and chainstays are huge. Using the BB30 shell allows maximum real estate for the welds.

The team bikes use standard Chris King headsets.

The bottom brackets are huge BB30 compatible aluminum shells.

The team bikes use Serotta F3 forks, which share contruction methodology with Reynolds Ouzo Pro forks but in a different shape in multiple stiffness levels.

The Serotta forks also use titanium dropouts without lawyer tabs for easy wheel changes.

The bikes very nicely match our team kits. A necessity, of course.

More bikes to build this weekend...

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more pictures and ride reports from other team members.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Battenkill Pre-Ride Report, etc.

This weekend I took a trip up to my former home of 5 or so years, Saratoga Springs, NY with the intention of doing some serious training in hilly country and doing a pre-ride of the revised Tour of the Battenkill Course.

Joining me was the always stalwart Jay Combs. Our plan was to do a longish ride up in the Adirondack foothills on Saturday followed by the pre-ride of the course the following day.

Saturday proved to be a truly epic day - more so than I had intended actually. (To be clear, I think epic is an overused term in the cycling world used to describe rides that, on any objective level, fall short of deserving that adjective.) We did 95 miles with 4500 feet of climbing.

To add to the degree of difficulty add mid to high 30 degree temps, rain, snow and 35+ mph winds coming from the west. There was a good degree of ice on Lake Sacandaga as we rode by.

Pretty desolate, cold and difficult all told. We probably overdid it a little bit.

But who cares. Really what I want to talk about and the two or three people who will read this want to know about is the Battenkill course. Here's the short story. It's completely different, longer and much harder than the previous version.

Here's the longer version: The race previously started in Salem, NY. A true one horse town. This year Dieter Drake, the race director, saw fit to move the start/finish south a bit to Cambridge, which ranks at least two and a half horses on the same scale. Still a small, rural town but it has charm, more than one store and a really nice main street nestled between rather large ridges on all sides.

The course uses many of the same roads as it has in the past, but all recycled routes are done in reverse. This includes the first climb from years past, which is now a screaming downhill after a dirt climb. Racers may also remember the final climb from the past - half dirt, half road with a right hand turn at the top followed by a very fast descent onto the finishing straight. That's now a very steep uphill followed by a fast dirt descent... you get the idea.

The infamous Meetinghouse Road is still a major factor, but comes much later in the race.
I think it's easier going this way as each of the four pitches gradually becomes smaller and less steep. Meetinghouse drops onto a relatively flat section of about 4 miles. This turns into a fast descent and a long stair-step climb followed by a fast downhill into Cambridge. The final few K are flat with a 90 degree right turn onto main street and about 250 meters to the finish line.

There is also a higher percentage of dirt roads this year. They come early and often. This year, the dirt conditions appear to be very good. Unlike last year, which was extremely dry and warm, upstate NY has had a good degree of rain and colder weather. The dirt roads were, for the most part, moist and well packed down. There were few sections with loose gravel. Toward the end of the course there was one section about 15 meters long with golf ball sized white stones covering the entire surface of the road. This looked like some county plan to add structural integrity to that section of road, but made it extremely treacherous for those on skinny tires.

Having done the course this year, raced the previous course numerous times and having lived there for years, here are my recommendations:

Use a cassette with a 25T cog or higher. Some of the dirt sections are extremely steep - especially at the beginning of the course and it will be good to have a wide range of gears.

There should be no need for extra wide tires. This isn't Belgium - there aren't cobbles or extremely rough sections of road. I used 25mm tires on the pre-ride and will be using 22mm for the race.

Use tubulars if possible. While the dirt roads are in good shape and fast, there are sink-holes and some larger rocks rolling about loose. They were not a problem in a small group during the pre-ride as we were able to avoid them. In a large group however, avoidance might not be possible and you'll want to reduce the risk of pinch flats and blowouts.

Bring lots of provisions and/or be diligent about getting feeds at both feed zones. The course is relentless and there are few places to rest - hiding in the group won't help much in this race.

It's a harder course than before, but in my opinion, more fun. It's more rhythmic, rolling and the dirt sections are much improved. Not sure I'll feel the same way after race-day. As Jay put it after he regained blood-flow to his synapses, "it was the longest 62 miles I've ever ridden." He needed two bottles of chocolate milk and a cherry coke before he started to recover.
Pretty much sums it up.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Team Bikes - Part Two

These pictures arrived from our painter yesterday. Now I'm getting psyched for real.
That was great news. The bad news: He made a small error and every bike says "Bradshaw" on the top tube. Oops. Not to worry, he's fixing them today and it shouldn't add more than a day or two to our lead-time. Next time we see these, they'll be fully build race bikes.