Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Burns wins in Rochester

First the good news: Cory Burns won the John Dechau Memorial time trial near Rochester, NY this weekend. He completed the 35km time trial circuit in 44:01.52. That's pretty damn fast, especially considering the rainy conditions.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A New Bike for Bradshaw

Our resident strongman and clothing model, Peter Bradshaw has always been a strong rider on the road. This year he's been a regular participant in the local time trial series with the goal of increasing his TT performances in stage races, etc. His performances have been pretty impressive - I've made the mistake of starting just in front of him on a few occasions only to have him fly by after only a couple miles. He's done this mostly without the use of a dedicated TT bike. By mostly I mean he's been borrowing Josh's bike for the last few weeks and doing so has allowed him to set some personal best times out on the local course.

Now it's a whole new ballgame. Enter one of the most unique TT bikes out there that will hopefully carry Mr. Bradshaw to some seriously fast efforts against the clock later in the year.

Our quest for a skinny bike for Bradshaw led me to my friend and great team supporter Craig Gaulzetti, who built our team's road bikes earlier in the year. Craig is also one of the head fellas over at International Bicycle Centers here in Boston and had access to several TT framesets, the most unique of which was an unused Pegoretti TT bike left over from International's association with the Nerac team a few years back. The Peg TT bike is essentially the aero version of the Love #3 aluminum frameset. It's handmade in Italy and has some phenomenal welds and a pretty cool paint job.

So team Nerac's white, purple and red don't even come close to matching our blues and green it's at least unique looking and won't be any less quick. We'll probably send it to our painter over the winter so the appropriate team paint job can be applied. For now, we'll see just how fast it can go.

We'll see a complete setup on this bike before too long and hopefully get some action shots as well.

Thanks for reading.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Product Experience: Maxxis Road Tires

I'll give you the bottom line first: Maxxis tires are among the most underrated road clinchers currently on the market. After more than 3 years using these and with a good number of us riding them this year I feel confident that they should be considered on par, or better in some cases, than Michelin, Continental and other leading tires.

We've been using 3 models from Maxxis this year:

The Re-Fuse is an inexpensive and durable training tire . We've had very good luck with the 700x25 size tire which has held up extremely well over hundreds of miles in all conditions including many training miles on dirt roads such as on the Rapha Gentlemen's Race and the Battenkill pre-ride. This tire uses a very grippy tread pattern and the wider profile of the 25mm tire is perfect for the less-than-stellar roads in the Boston area. I've logged almost 2000 miles on one set of these tires so far this season with zero flats. In fact, I can't even locate any cuts or gouges in the tire's exterior. If there's a downside to this tire I would say that it doesn't inspire total confidence in the corners, nor does it feel particularly fast. Given that these are training tires, not race tires, these drawbacks are practically not worth mentioning. With their proven ability to go long miles and they're relatively low cost (about $35 apiece at retail) these are a worthwhile investment for any rider doing lots of miles on variable road surfaces.

The Xenith Hors Categorie is probably the best all-round tire we've tried from Maxxis. We've been using this dual compound clincher for training and racing with good success. The first noticable characteristic of this tire is how sticky they are in the corners. The very soft grey compound on the sides grabs hold of the road as well as any other pure race tire we've tried. The ride quality on these tires is also good. In most respects I would compare this tire to the Michelin Pro3 race. It's similarly constructed, has a familiar ride quality and performs in an equally high performance manner. The big advantage of this tire versus the Pro3 is how long it lasts. While Pro3's wear out within a few hundred miles, we've ridden the Xenith well in excess of 1000 miles, including many winter miles. Our most used Xeniths suffer many small cuts and slices, especially in the softer grey compound, yet none of this damage penetraged the casing or resulted in flats. Price on the Xenith is slightly less than the Pro3 Race. They can be had a bike stores for about $45 apiece.

The Courchevel is a race-specific clincher. It's similar in ride quality to the Xenith but is slightly lighter and uses a triple compound for great cornering. It's more of a pure race tire than the Xenith but has held up well over a few hundred miles so far. It's not as smooth rolling as the Xenith but does feel a bit faster and corners with equal or greater confidence. This is one of the best criterium tires I've used. Price is basically the same as the going rate for Pro3 Race.

While the Maxxis mountain and cyclocross tires are widely used and well-accepted the road tires don't seem to have broken onto the scene quite so well. That's really too bad because from what we've experienced they are as good or better than many of the alpha dogs of the road tire world.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Team Updates: CT Stage Race, Balloon Fest and Maine

It's been a busy couple weeks for Team Embrocation.

First up, a little review of the Tour of Connecticut Stage Race two weekends ago. This was a new race on the calendar for 2009. Held in the rural area of northwest CT near Windstead the CT Stage race was a 2 day, 3 stage race with a ITT on Saturday morning, a Circuit race on Saturday afternoon and a long road race on Sunday. Although the race was off the beaten path, once in the host village of Colebrook there was little reason to leave as all the stages started and finished in basically the same spot. Very convenient. We also procured some comfortable lodging at a YMCA summer camp just a few miles from the race venue - also convenient.

While the race wasn't very well attended, the level of competition was high with the entire MetLife, IF, Bikereg and Kelly Benefits teams, as well strong elements of CCB, CCNS and TargetTraining.

The ITT was fairly standard - about 10 miles, out and back, rolling course. Bradshaw had a great TT and finished up 8th while Jay had an impressive 17th place on his road bike.

The circuit race later that evening was a blast. A hilly 3 corner, 3 mile circuit was fast, technical and entertaining. My only complaint was that at 24 miles it wasn't quite long enough. By the end I felt like I had just begun figuring out how to manage the course. Leflamme and I had decent finishes at the front of the main group behind a wave of Kelly Benefits riders chasing down Will Dugan of CCB who had a most impressive solo victory off the front of a charging field.

If the circuit race left us wanting for distance, the road race didn't. 90 miles of rolling miles up across the Massachusetts boarder and back down along the Farmington River with a tough finish in Colebrook. While there were not real major climbs to break up the group, there were many rolling, technical sections. Our predictions prior to the race proved to be inaccurate. We figured a break would not go early due to the length and style of the course. We were wrong - the eventual winning breakaway went off the front around mile 8. Caught off-guard and unprepared we were unable to put a rider into that particular break. We were in good company as MetLife and Bikereg also failed to place a rider off the front of the field. Those two teams organized a vigorous chase, to which we contributed our efforts as judiciously as possible. This chase was of no avail, however. With this knowledge settling in to the peloton, attacks began and small groups began to slip off the front of the race. We were aggressive in our attacks and eventually got Jay and Leflamme into one of the chase groups, but not in enough time for them to sweep up other riders off the front. They managed to finish in the mid teens on the day with Brashaw and I close behind.

The Connecticut Stage race was well-run and the roads were very beautiful. I hope it stays on the calendar for next year and draws a slightly larger crowd.

This past weekend, we divided our efforts between a few different races.

Bradshaw and I traveled to Cambridge, NY to participate in the 6th annual Balloon Festival race put on by Dieter Drake who is the promoter of the Tour of the Battenkill. The start/finish is basically the same as the Battenkill but the course is a circuit and primarily on roads. In fact this year, due to road construction, Dieter was forced to shorten the course and eliminate the dirt section altogether. We did 6 14 mile laps, each one with a decidedly difficult climb in the middle.
Again, we had a small but strong field composed of approximately 80 Kenda Spooky riders a good core from CCB and Bikereg and CRCA/Jonathan Adler. Immediately two Kenda riders went off the front and stayed there for two laps. I was able to get in a larger break with many strong riders on lap 3. We swept up the two Kenda racers off the front and formed a lead group of 9 that stayed away for about 2 laps. Despite our best the group caught us largely because of the efforts of Will Dugan and his CCB teammates who did not have any representation in the break. The penultimate time over the climb Dugan and a small cadre of riders slipped off the front. Over the next lap several riders jumped off the front of the group in chase including Bradshaw, who would ride in no-man's land between the lead and chase to take 5th. Behind, I ended up in the chase group with Justin Lindine of Bikereg, Colin Jaskievicz of CCB and four Kenda riders, who were unshakable and ultimately vanquished me in the finish.

Meanwhile at the Lake Auburn road race in Maine, Chris Leflamme took third, winning the sprint out of his breakaway group and finishing behind Ted and Robbie King. He was the best of the mortal men on the day. I don't have details about this race so I will let Chris describe it in a future post.

Also, Josh Gunn was out in Seattle racing and taking second in a road race there on Sunday. He'll fill us in on that soon as well.

Thanks for reading. Training camp next weekend and then back on the road to Housatonic Hills Road Race in CT.

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Monday, June 1, 2009

Rapha Gentlemen's Race

Last weekend (May 23rd and 24th) we participated in a unique event. Clothing company Rapha hosted a wide range of regional teams to participate in a team time trial style race in New Paltz area of New York, up into the Catskill mountains. It was a phenomenal ride and we got to connect with many friends, including Embrocation founder Jeremy Dunn, who has been traveling the country as a rider for the Rapha Continental team.

Bradshaw got some good little bits of video from the ride - really the most important parts:
- The Rapha team departing for the ride
- The spotting of the day's first lawn ball
- Us getting dropped by Empire
- Pete Smith getting a puncture caused by a fragment of an unidentified animal's skull
- In the paceline with the Continental team
- Finding our way back onto the course after missing a turn. Oops.

Lawn Ball! Red! from Peter Bradshaw on Vimeo.

Each team started with six riders. Slate Olsen, in charge of Rapha USA and this race, had seeded teams with various start times by their perceived strength. In other words, slower teams started first with various time gaps to the faster teams - first team to complete the 120 mile loop were declared the winners.

We fielded 5 of our team riders: Peters Smith and Bradshaw, Jay, Josh and me plus Matt Roy, a guest rider with Embrocation and a long-distance race specialist. Our team started in the last wave alongside the Empire team our of NYC. To make a long story short, they dropped us in the first 10 miles - they went on to pass every other team on the course and finished first, winning themselves some pretty nice looking Rapha jerseys for doing so.

While our race wasn't really competitive, we did get 120 of the nicest miles I've ever done. With winding back roads, great views, solid climbs and technical descents the course Rapha had designed for us was beautiful and challenging. After one of the main climbs we caught up with the Rapha Continental team, who we joined with for the remainder of the ride. Justin Spinelli of Svelte Cycles was a guest rider on the Continental squad and has a good blog post on this ride as well and yes we did leave them after the last checkpoint and yes, they did beat us anyway. Serves us right.

Rapha rented a house in the hills outside New Paltz to serve as the start/finish and after-party venue. More than 100 hard miles, plus beer, plus fireworks = things your mom told you never to do.

It was one of the better weekends of cycling I've had and a good bonding experience for team Embrocation and a chance to catch up with some good friends in a light-hearted setting.
It was also nice to do a hard organized ride without worrying about the ultimate results. This weekend resulted in a lot of good pictures and other media, some of which will appear later on in this blog while others can be found on the Rapha Continental Site. Keep an eye on these guys and track the progress of Jeremy's quest for the perfect tan lines.