Jul 21, 2015

Road to Leadville: Tahoe Trail 100

Welcome back, it’s been a while! Twenty-five months and a bit, to be a little more precise. As you can see, I’ve also redecorated the place a bit, but that is not to say it’s not a perpetual work in progress. This throat-clearing (as an editor I know calls it) is probably the hardest part of writing because it really has nothing to do with the subject matter, so I’ll just give you the tl;dr and we’ll skip to the fun stuff. I raced the Tahoe Trail 100 MTB race on Saturday in an attempt to secure a spot in the Leadville 100 MTB race.

Tahoe Trail 100

After a very lackluster performance in Austin, TX, at the Rattler, due in part to fitness and in part to mechanical issues, I was looking to give another Leadville qualifier a go. Luckily there’s one virtually in my back yard, Tahoe Trail 100. The race had been on the calendar since March, and I continued to put in the miles on dirt to get my body ready for 100 km at altitude. The weekend before the race was my final training block. I put in a near 6-hour ride on Saturday, and pre-rode the course of the race on Sunday. Needless to say, Sunday’s pre-riding exercise was an interesting endeavor. While I got to see the course and the terrain (special shoutout to Conrad of MarkPro-Strava for letting me ride with him and showing me the course), I really couldn’t judge pace because my legs were cooked from the day before.

With some stopping, getting lost (before running into Conrad) and not really hammering it, I did the loop in 4 hours. Accounting for all those factors, I figured 3:15 laps were a good conservative estimate, which would still advance me one corral over my current placement.

Race day morning was cool and calm. For me it was an armwarmers/vest kind of morning, but many lined up in just their shorts and short-sleeve jerseys. Some people don’t like to carry extra clothing because of weight knowing they’ll eventually warm up; I don’t like to lose calories shivering cold at the start line. I think I have my priorities right.

While I typically race long MTB events with a Camelbak, this time I decided to go with bottles. It was the right choice. It was cool enough where aid stations were enough for extra water, and my drop bag contained my other two mixed bottles and more GU. In a course with many extended climbs, shaving substantial chunks of weight was definitely a priority.

The first climb was fairly uneventful as I settled into a pace for the first 3 miles of uphill. My only point of concern was the steep 50-100 yard lip coming up to mid-mountain, which I knew many would have to walk. While that was the case, luckily there was a line in the middle for those able to ride to get through. Once the climb was done, it was time for a long downhill. While the downhill was not at all technical, it was insanely dusty, and due to the crowds of the first lap, the visibility was next to zero. I almost overcooked a corner going into a cloud of dust, but luckily managed to catch myself in time.

Once we hit the long stretch of singletrack, I made a point of catching a wheel, and the miles started flying by, 7, 8, 11, 13, 17, the markers kept coming at me, and I was making great time. Then came Tavis. It’s not too long, and it’s not too steep (although many would disagree), but just long enough and steep enough to really sting the legs and forgive no errors in steering – so picking a good line was important. Half way up the climb, I came to a bottleneck and was only able to move as fast as the guy ahead of me. I looked up, saw the finish and figured I could drive up from about three-fourths of the way up, so I took the rough left line and passed a bunch of people fighting the hill to get to an open spot. After Tavis, it was pretty much smooth sailing to the bottom until it was time to climb up again to the finishing descent.

I made it to the start of the finishing climb on lap one in 2:15, and it looked like it was going to be a sub 3-hour lap. I came through the village around 2:50 and already left mid-mountain (after doing the steep lip a second time) at 3:01 after grabbing new bottles from my grab bag. I was stoked, as this may be a sub 6-hour performance – something I was hopeful for, but uncertain about post pre-ride of the prior week.

I paced the second lap about .5mph slower than the first and made it across the finish line in 6:00:53, chip time. The only thing different on lap 2 was fewer people as the race spread out and all the 50K racers finished and got off course. I wasn’t really that concerned about not coming in under 6 hours, but I was ecstatic that I came in under 6:10, because that moved me up all the way to the red staging corral. Now it was time to relax and wait for the drawing. I felt I had raced a great race against myself: paced evenly, fueled properly, finished faster than I expected, didn’t crash. Something inside told me that it was going to continue being a good day!

I went to my car and changed. Got a beer. Cooled down my system and lined up for some food! There was some room on the stairs in the sun, so I sat next to Merilee (one of the race founders); Ken Chlouber came by a few minutes later (the other "co" of the co-founders). We made some pleasant conversation. I finished my food and went to lie down – it was at least an hour before awards would begin. 

At 4:00PM, the awards began rolling out, and once the last bottle of Champaign popped, it was time for the drawing. Qualifying for a spot in my age group (30-39) is no small task, so while perhaps in a year or two I can make those advances, at TT100 my goals were to get a good corral time, and hope for the best in the drawing. Based on the number of available coins, awards given out, riders opting out and the remaining participants, I calculated the odds to be around 1 in 4 to 5. Good, but very far from guaranteed.

As Dave Wiens got down to the last 10 coins (out of 60 they brought for the drawing), I probably started getting visibly nervous because Ken came up to me and asked:

“What number are you?”

“One sixty,” I replied.

“I’ll be rooting for you!”

Just a few minutes later, the last number was drawn and it was not 160. “That’s all folks, thanks for coming to another great Tahoe Trail 100, yada, yada…..” said the announcer and folks slowly started to disperse. "I guess I'll have to try it again...." I thought.

Something told me to stick around, as if there had to be more! And lo and behold, a few moments later the announcer was back on the mic: “Folks, we just had one coin returned, so we’ll draw one more number!” By that time the numbers were tossed from the drawing hat into a Champaign box. Everyone still hanging out suddenly perked up, he reached in, and called a number that also wasn’t 160. But you have to be present to win, and the owner of the number had already departed. By that time, everyone seemed to be in a huddle (Dave, Ken, the guy calling the numbers), and when the next number was announced, I heard a loud “ONE SIXTY” come over the microphone! Needless to say I was both incredibly thankful and excited. I came up to Dave, shook his hand, grabbed my coin, and made my way to the "Merilee line." As I was making my way to the line, Ken put his hand on my shoulder and said, "I really wanted to see you in that race!"

Leadville 100 has been on my bucket list for a few years, from a vague “I might want to do that some day,” to “how do I get myself there?!” And now I have my ticket. My goal will be to finish the race in under 9 hours and bring back a big buckle back from Colorado. It's time to reconnect with the part of myself that loves to suffer.

The adventure begins!

May 6, 2013

My Boggs Enduro adventure

This is a tale of what happens when you take a roadie and throw him (me) into a three-day mountain bike race. When Isaac mentioned the race to me a few months ago, I brushed it off almost immediately. Then, after some browsing, checking the dates and my sanity, I decided it would be a good mid-road-season break. If, of course, by “break” you mean destroying your body in every way imaginable in just three short days.

So I ogled the race website and not seeing the “I don’t know what the hell I’m doing on an MTB” category, decided to register in sport. Because why the hell not? And I’m always a fan of biting off a bit more than I think I can chew.

Here’s kind of how it all went down. I say “kind of” because the results don’t really count, and categories don’t really matter, so I’m putting the entertainment factor ahead of accuracy.

Day 1 – Hill Climb

We lined up around 5:30 in the evening ready to climb a 1.7-mile stretch of dusty fire road. Having the benefit of every other group going ahead of us, not only was our view of what’s to come partially obstructed by the dusty cloud ahead, but most of the air was also replaced by dust. Because who the hell needs to see or breathe during a hill climb, right? Just go until you fall over!

I lined up in the front row. On the signal, Zach took off and got a short gap. I immediately bridged (a roadie term) and stayed glued to his wheel for a little bit. Isaac was right behind me. “Holy crap! Why did I just go out so hard? This feels just like a cross race! Oh, I remember why I don’t race cross.”

Luckily, while very strong, Zach wasn’t super human either and the pace settled. Then I did one of those famous reverse attacks I’m known for while going up the hill and attacked myself all the way into seventh place. Which for me, up a hill, is frankly not too shabby.

I apparently also lost my mind near the top of the hill because I swear I recall someone yelling, “sprint!” And I did! I then spent 10 minutes hacking up everything I had just inhaled in the last 14 minutes: dust, some pine needles and maybe a baby squirrel, but don’t hold me to that. The best part of the hill climb was that it was over and I could finally have a beer! You can’t even imagine how hard it was to have been in the woods since noon without a single beer!

Day 2 – 8-Hour Solo

The format is simple: ride until you drop! The course was a loop of about 8.5 miles made up of fire roads and mostly smooth single track. Objectively speaking, it wasn’t technical at all, but because I’m as graceful on a mountain bike as a polar bear riding a tricycle in a Russian circus, some of it was probably more challenging for me than for mostly everyone else.

There is one thing I do well, however, and that is pacing. I knew that pacing and calorie intake would be the difference between having a very hard day on the bike and a “fucking kill me now” day on the bike.

For me, pacing is an afterthought, I have that down to a science: leave the ego at home, let everyone go as fast as they want, and find them bonked a few hours later because they went out too hard, or never see them again because they are way stronger. Calories were a different story mainly for two reasons: I pace to ride non-stop, and it’s very challenging to unwrap food on downhill sections of singletrack and chewing solids up steep fire road climbs isn’t ideal either. Intake would have to be in liquid or semi-solid state.

Here was my plan (and I caution all of you to not try this unless you are 100 percent certain your stomach can handle it – I wasn’t, but mine did): I mixed four very heavy bottles of Cytomax, each having about 5 scoops, or 400 calories, and added endurolite powder to each of the bottles (it was going to be warm). I prepared three full Camelbaks of water, two 100-oz and one 70-oz and stuffed some GU gel packs in my back pockets for extra calories and a caffeine boost. The plan was to drink the syrup from the bottles, drink it down with water, and once in a while pop a GU.

I lined up alongside 700 others, with the 70-oz Camelbak on my back, a bottle in the bike cage, and gels in my jersey pockets. We’re off!

The first lap was fairly uneventful other than the part where I wiped out in a switchback and sliced right though my forearm with a sharp rock, but I had eight hours left to ride, so who has the time to take care of that, right? I figured the blood would just dry up and all the dirt flying through the air would make a nice seal for the wound. If this happens to you, don’t be stupid, go get stitches! Unless you too have so many gnarly scars on your body that one more won’t really make or break it for you on the social scene.

On lap two something very unpleasant happened, I started to cramp. I had no idea why. It wasn’t yet warm enough to be suffering from dehydration, my calorie intake was going great, and I didn’t go out too hard. The only possible explanation I could come up with is that my body is just not used to the efforts required to ride a mountain bike and my muscles didn’t take kindly to being thrown off the deep end. 

And so it went on. For the next 7 hours it was a balancing act of steady pedaling to avoid leg seizures, drinking syrupy mix to avoid bonking, and trying to navigate singletrack so as to not go head first into a tree or a rock. I originally hoped to get nine laps under my belt, but as my legs cramped harder and harder, my pace up the hills had to be more and more moderate. On the other hand, by lap four I knew I had eight laps in the bag as long as my “nutritional” plan didn’t go haywire.

The eighth lap. As I passed the start finish at the end of lap seven, I saw the clock at 3:18PM. This meant I had an hour and 27 minutes to do one more lap.  (We had to be done with our last lap by 4:45 for it to count.) Up to that point, my slowest lap was an hour and 10 minutes, so with no pressure at all, I made my last pit stop to pick up the last Camelbak and kept on going. Half way through that lap, I realized exactly how perfectly I had paced – I was just getting to the point where I barely trusted my body to control the bike into turns when the final climb was before me. I looked at my Garmin, saw that I had plenty of time and dragged myself to the top one final time. From there, it was just a few turns on mostly smooth singe track and I was at the finish. Eight laps in eight hours and 34 minutes was good enough for 26 out of 68 who started in the Sport category. I, of course could go on and on about how I felt, but a picture is worth a thousand words.

PHOTO CREDT: Isaac Sparling
Day 3 – Super D

So this is the thing where I was supposed to roll down the hill for about five miles as fast as possible. Maybe on a good day, that would have seemed like a good idea, but after almost 70 miles and eight hours and 34 minutes on the mountain bike, there was not a single thing appealing about it except being done. I promised myself at the beginning of this season that barring a mechanical or a ref’s call, I’d finish every single race I start, and being too tired to come up with excuses, I made my way to staging.

My request to start last was vetoed and having apologized in advance to everyone starting behind me, I rolled off. For some, the goal was to get to the finish as fast as possible. For me, it was to show up to work on Monday. My body felt like I was taking the last run on skis at the end of a very long day in the mountains – muscles refused to do anything I asked them to, but I managed to cross the finish line safe and sound. And all the bitching and moaning notwithstanding, it actually was a lot of fun.

Thanks to Carlos, the guys at Bike Monkey, all the volunteers and sponsors for putting on this great event. Also a huge thank you to Muscle Milk, Cytomax, Ritchey Logic, Felt Bicycles and Enzo’s Buttonhole for supporting me in this and other cycling endeavors!

As I was leaving on Sunday, I wasn't sure if I'd do this event again, but this morning as I woke up, I discovered that every single muscle in my body is sore. I will definitely be coming back next year because as far as I’m concerned, once you’ve found a way to put yourself in the pain box on a bike, you have to keep coming back until it stops hurting. 

Apr 16, 2013

Chico Stage Race report

I’ve eyed this event for a couple of years now, and this year finally decided to give it a go. It would be my fourth stage race in six weeks and I was looking for a solid performance after a few sub-par ones at Madera and Topsport.

The Road Race

The road race is a 45-mile loop out of Paskenta with a 4.5-mile section of gravel that ends 3.5 miles from the finish. The rest of the race is flat with a few rollers.

It was warm and calm, so wind was unlikely to be a huge factor. There were several teams with numbers in the race and I had no intention of doing anything heroic unless a move went up the road with proper representation. As I suspected, everyone was kept on a very short leash and no one was allowed more than 100 meters on the field.

The entire 50-plus field rolled into the gravel section, and I had two thoughts going through my mind — don’t stop pedaling, don’t brake. I wasn’t ideally positioned, but not horribly, in the top third of the field. A few hundred meters into the gravel a guy ahead of me on my left wipes out, takes a few more with him and all I see in a ball of dust is a guy curled up on the ground ahead of me. Luckily there was room to get around and I quickly bridged to what ended up being the selection (with a couple other bridging later).

With the gravel and rollers, we ended up breaking up and after jumping back and forth between groups, I rolled in with a small group in 16th place, but only half a minute down on the winner. Most importantly, however, I gained a lot of time on guys I knew could TT well, and in this stage race, that makes all the difference.

The crit

The course was an L-shape six-corner crit with strong winds on the back side and a tailwind into the finish.

My plan for the crit was to stay safe and lose as little time as possible (none, ideally). The whistle blew and the pace picked up immediately, which I liked. The peloton strung out and we were single file for the first five or six laps. After the first time bonus prime went, the pace slowed down a bit and the field began to swell, with riders trying to move up in position.

As more primes got called, the field stretched out some more, and then came back together again. I looked down at my SRM and saw we were about 19 minutes into a 40-minute crit when the last time bonus prime was called. I knew after the prime, the pace would die down, which I didn’t particularly like because that’s when everyone becomes a Pro Tour sprinter and corner dives into position. To my even greater surprise, the next time we came around, the 6-to-go card was up. “WTF?” – I thought.

From that point on, I was mainly focused on staying safe and finishing in the main bunch for the same time. I was partially successful – I stayed safe, but due to small gaps in the finishing sprit, I lost about 5 seconds (raw time) to the winner, who also got a 10 second bonus. Jesse Reeves, who won the road race and was in the lead on GC, picked up a second place in the crit and another 11 seconds on me (6 bonus and 5 time), and was now ahead by 54 seconds heading into the TT. The race ended up being only 32 minutes. 

The Time Trial

I knew I’d have to ride the TT of my life to pull back all that time and finish in the money (top 5). Luckily, my legs were feeling phenomenal and I was feeling confident I could get it done. I started the TT 15th overall.

Having looked at past year’s results, I knew I’d have to ride the 10-mile TT in under 23 minutes to have a solid shot at the podium. 

Three … two … one … go! I kick and within seconds settle into my aero position. “Shit, forgot to zero out the SRM!”  Instead of getting out of the aero position to fiddle with buttons, I made a quick calculation while my brain still had some glycogen reserves and in my head zeroed out the time and distance.

I caught my 30-second man within a mile, the minute man a few miles down the road, then the minute-thirty man and now there was no one ahead that I could see and I just kept asking myself, “can you push any harder?”

With about three miles to go, I could see I was making good time and that gave me even more energy to push. Then I saw what I thought was the finishing tent, and started driving to the line, only to discover 200m later that it was just a combination of a road sign and a van that made it look like a tent, and the finish line was really nowhere in sight. “Oops!” I settled down, kept it steady and soon saw the 1k to go marker. From that point on I just kept revving up the effort making sure everything is left on the line.

As I crossed the line, I glanced at the SRM clock, tried to do some math while focusing on not puking and figured I rode something in the mid-22s – best 10-mile time I’ve ever had. Now it was just a matter of waiting until the results got posted.

The finishing straight

About 90 minutes later, the results sheet got taped to the table and I didn’t have to scroll very far. I was third in the time trial and gained enough time to earn the third spot on the podium – I was very pleased. The time trial has always been my favorite discipline, and I was glad to finally break a streak of lackluster performances and race to my potential.

Final podium. Jersey short and sandals was clearly the outfit du jour.

More importantly, my performance at Chico was the last checkmark I needed to qualify for a Cat 3 upgrade, and am very much looking forward to racing with my Cat 3 teammates!

Apr 8, 2013

UCI lends a hand to USAC in fight against grassroots cycling

When I began riding my bike, as a kid around Chicago, it had set me free. All of a sudden, I was no longer confined to my neighborhood, but could go see friends who lived several miles away. I’d regularly ride all over Rogers Park, and from there to nearby Lincolnwood and Skokie to visit friends and sometimes just to explore; on my Huffy, in my sneakers and of course without a helmet (something for which I would reprimand my younger self  now).

Over the years, I’ve met numerous cyclists who’ve expressed the freedom they felt when they first got on a bike and how that moved them to pursue the sport in a more serious way. However, as the cycling world recently learned, if you are so good on a bicycle that you get the privilege of holding an international UCI license, freedom should be the last thing on your mind when it comes to how and where you race your bike.

By now, the news of USA Cycling’s aggressive stance toward UCI licensed riders participating in non-USAC events has spread like wildfire, with several misinterpretations, clarifications and even a letter to USAC from the UCI president Pat McQuaid. While USAC is claiming that it is merely trying to conform with the UCI rule 1.2.019, its past relationships and financial ties to the UCI cast substantial doubt over those claims.


UCI and USAC have long been tied in an interesting financial and personal relationship. The lynchpin of which is one person, Thom Weisel.

In 2000, USAC was in financial distress and on the brink of insolvency. That’s when Weisel stepped in and single-handedly bailed USAC out with a $1.5 million check. In return he got to put his people at the helm, like Steve Johnson (a long time Lance Armstrong supporter), and later Jim Ochowicz, who sat on USAC’s board of directors from 2002 until 2006.

Here’s where it gets even more interesting. As reported bythe Wall Street Journal, from 2001 until 2004, Weisel’s firm managed the finances of then-UCI president Hein Verbruggen. The broker at Weisel’s firm handling Verbruggen’s money was non other than Ochowicz. So from 2002 until 2004, an active member of USAC’s board was in charge of at least a part of the personal wealth of the acting president of the UCI. Who, as it happens, is still the honorary president, likely not without some lingering influence over UCI policies.

As best I could determine, rule 1.2.019 predates McQuaid’s ascension to UCI presidency in 2005. However, given the length of time that Verbruggen has been involved with the UCI, the rules were undoubtedly drafted on his watch.*

Current enforcement

Fast forward to 2013, and UCI licensed riders in the U.S. start to receive emails and letters stating they are no longer allowed to compete in unsanctioned events and may face fines and suspension if they do. The rule has been on the books for quite some time, and states:

No license holder may participate in an event that has not been included on a national, continental or world calendar or that has not been recognised by a national federation, a continental confederation or the UCI.

A national federation may grant special exceptions for races or particular events run in its own country.

USAC has not enforced the rule until now, and I’d like to focus on the last sentence of the rule, which, plainly read, gives USAC discretion to permit riders to participate in certain unsanctioned events.

Is this new enforcement implemented to hurt riders? In all likelihood it is not. This all has to do with the ongoing battle between USAC and grassroots cycling organizations like ABR and OBRA. The grassroots cycling association in Colorado caved and in 2013 folded into USAC, but there are many holdouts. Most of them will likely never fold into USAC unless they are financially pressured to do so. What better way to flex some muscle than prohibit the top cyclists from competing in these grassroots events? The promoter will either suffer from not being able to attract top talent, which then draws participation from amateur participants, or fold into USAC like in CO.

What’s in it for USAC? That’s simple: more money. As promoters are forced to get permits from USAC, they have to pay fees, and USAC’s bank account swells. Additionally, as more events are sanctioned by USAC, more racers have to buy USAC licenses, which would also be a financial windfall for USAC.

My theory

I’d like to postulate a theory, which in light of the above, to me appears to be the most likely one.

If I’m the president of USAC and I see that member enrollment has been holding steady at around 60,000, I know approximately how much money USAC will be taking in yearly from memberships. What better way to increase membership than to force promoters to permit their events under USAC, which in turn will not only increase the flow of dollars from promoters to the USAC, but also from new riders who may have never otherwise purchased a USAC license because they were more than happy to race within their grassroots organization.

The only problem with implementing this plan is the amount of backlash USAC would receive in light of the last sentence of rule 1.2.019, which gives it discretion not to enforce this rule. What better way to deal with such backlash locally than to have some high-ranking UCI official provide an overly complicated explanation as to what those 17 words really mean?

Is it so unlikely that Steve Johnson  (hand-picked by Weisel, who took care of UCI’s president’s money) picked up the phone and asked good old Pat to help him out with a stern letter of admonishment explaining what “exceptions for races or particular events” really means? I don’t think it is, and here’s why.

Here’s how McQuaid explains the exception:

For example, an event may be organised by an association that does not have a link to the National Federation, such as a race specifically for members of the armed forces, fire fighters or students or perhaps as part of a national multisport event.

With the exception of these special cases, the National Federation is not permitted to grant an exemption to a cycle event which is held, deliberately or not, outside the federative movement. For example, in no case should an exception be granted to a cycling event that is organised by a person or entity who regularly organises cycling events.

In light of the above, the exception is virtually unworkable and completely superfluous, and had that been the intent of the UCI, the last sentence of 1.2.019 would have never been drafted.

If the event is specifically for members of the armed forces, fire fighters or students, then a UCI holder cannot participate unless he fits into one of those categories. Moreover, reading the two paragraphs in tandem, if the race is created specifically for a certain group, but is created annually, or by a person who organizes other cycling events, UCI holders still cannot participate. According to McQuaid’s interpretation of the rule, the only event for which USAC can give a permission to a UCI license-holder to take part in would have to be a once in a lifetime event, organized for a specific group of individuals by someone who doesn’t organize bike races. Am I the only one who finds that absurd?

This, in essence, narrows the exception to such an extreme as to make it pointless. This fact is what leads me to believe that McQuaid’s interpretation is completely fabricated to aid USAC in its war with grassroots promoters. This could not have possibly been what was envisioned when this rule was drafted, and McQuaid cannot, ex post facto, change the meaning of UCI rules, without an official amendment, in a letter to Steve Johnson. That is simply not how rules are made or enforced in any organization, even one far smaller and less far-reaching that the International Cycling Union.

* Member of the Board of the Fédération Internationale du Cyclisme Professionnnel [UCI’s prior incarnation] (1979-1982), Vice-President (1982-1984) then President (1984-1991); President of the International Cycling Union (UCI) (1991-2005).

Feb 11, 2013


I've talked about this to so many racers over the few years, that it finally dawned on me that perhaps if I blog about it, I can stop regurgitating sentences and just regurgitate one — "yeah, I've got a blog on that." Or maybe it will actually help to somewhat alleviate the problem. Either seems like a good cause to continue typing.

So what am I talking about? The horrible, awful, offensive way in which many racers pin their numbers. And I'm not necessarily talking about alignment (full disclosure: I did once manage to pin my number upside-down, but I was extremely sleep deprived), however, I will talk about it briefly below, but rather pinning technique itself. Flapping numbers that don't hold, or blow up like sails aren't only annoying to the rest of the field due to noise they make, but aren't much help to the racer either.

Here are some tips on how to properly pin a number to your jersey for a bicycle race (or any other race, so pay attention runners and triathletes!):

1. Stretch the jersey. Typically at the race site, I stretch it over my knees, zip it, and turn the side where the number goes toward me. If I'm pinning to a skinsuit, I'll put it over the steering wheel of the car and zip it. You have to zip it! If you happen to carry a big pillow around, that works well also. (PRO tip: don't pin the jersey to your pants)

2. Position the number on the correct side. For most races here in NorCal, the number goes either on the right or on the left, so whatever side of the road the camera is on, it can capture your number as you cross the finish line. Keep that in mind when pinning! Your jersey has a middle panel on each side, most of the botton half of your number, should be on that pannel. But no more, otherwise the number will be too far down. Go too far in the other direction, and the number will lie flat on your back. (PRO tip: don't position your number in such a way as to seal off your back pocket — in a longer race, you might need it)

3. Forget the holes. I wish number manufacturers would just stop putting holes in numbers altogether. They are useless for cycling. Do not put pins through the pre-made holes in the numbers. When you pin, make holes in the number with the pin. (PRO tip: read number 3 again)

4. Use 8 pins for each number. The math is easy, 4 corners + 4 sides = 8 pins. (PRO tip: bring the same pins to the races each time — it saves resources)

5. Twice through with each pin. Start with the corners by pinning through the corner, going twice through the number and the jersey. Then pin each side of the number in the same way with the pins going parallel with the side of the number on which you're pinning. Wow, that came out sounding way more complicated than intended. Just look at the picture below. (PRO tip: fold the corner of the number over and pin parallel to the fold for stronger hold — works especially well for stage races, where you have to reuse the same number several times)

6. Check it out. Put your jersey on, lean forward to simulate your cycling position and see how the number looks — I typically use my car windows to do that. It took me quite some time to be able to get all the pins correctly on first go. Usually at least one would be a bit out of place and make a strange fold in the number. But after a few times, I just learned where the numbers go.
This is how it's done. 

Feb 2, 2013

Knights Ferry Road Race

It was my first race of the season and I was curious to see what my legs can do and what we could do as a team. Knights Ferry is a 60-mile, rolling race on an out and back, and out and back course that finishes on a hill just shy of a kilometer in length. Representing Squadra SF on the line were Alex, Brian, Graham, Mario and I. We had several alternative strategies worked out, but I guess that’s what happens when you have a doctor and two lawyers racing together.

The whistle blew and we headed north into a mild NW wind, with the temperatures in the low sixties. The plan for the first lap was to sit in and see what the field was going to do. I got to the start late, staged near the back and spent the first couple of miles slowly getting myself to the front. Graham got on the nose, I pulled up next to him and said I wanted to test the field and see how much they wanted to race, so I attacked (we’re at mile 4 here) and immediately got separation. I kept going at a steady pace, looking back periodically to see if there was a bridge attempt (no one that crazy in the field today), or a chase.

The field looked wide and not interested in chasing for a while, and I thought that perhaps if I got over the hill solo, it could get interesting, but as I began approaching what would be the climb to the finish, I saw the field narrow and start to get close. Given that it was still early in the race and I had oxygen in my brain, I figured at this pace I’d get caught before the climb, and that’s the last place I want a charging peloton to pass me. So I eased off and got reabsorbed into the group with about 2km to the top of the climb. I got in fifth wheel and we all crested together. However, after the catch, the pace never quieted down. We drilled it hard up the hill, fast down the other side and the race stayed really fast and on for the first 35 miles. While we didn’t drop anyone, it ate up a lot of legs in the field.

Graham was doing an amazing job rotating with a few others in the front and keeping the pace really high. At mile 25, I started to cramp. I’ve never cramped this early in a race, but I went to the back to rest, dumped some water on my thighs [read: crotch] (thank you, black kit!) and kept going. After the first turnaround, we come back through the start and were now heading south to the second turnaround. The pace is still very high and shortly after we cross the start line again, a Suffolk-SunPower (f.k.a. Webcor) rider attacks solo off the front and gets separation.

I get myself from the very back of the field to about fifth wheel, when in a matter of 200 meters, the four guys in front of me disappear. So instead of just eating wind and pulling everyone along, I attack off the front and try to bridge. Incidentally, that’s almost exactly the same place I attacked the last time. I was slowly but steadily getting closer to him, but the guy never looked back. “Does he not want to know if anyone is bridging or chasing?” – I thought to myself. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs, “slow the f**k down! Let’s work together!” And while I was gaining on him, the field was gaining on me, and the catch was also going to be made at the base of the climb. Now in addition to not being a climber, I have cramps to deal with, so I sit up.

Within a minute I’m caught, and Mario does exactly as we planned, attacks immediately as I rejoin the field. No one answers and he makes the bridge. The field, however, would not be held back and they get caught near the top or shortly after we crest. At this point I’m fading through the back of the field as we go up the climb, but still completely in control of the situation. We hit the north turnaround the second time and the guy front of me takes a horrible line, forcing me to unclip to avoid going in the gutter. The twisting motion of pulling my foot out causes my calf to cramp and I end up pedaling one legged around the cones. I clip in and catch the field on the downhill.

At this point I need to decide how we are going to end the race. One of our plans was for me to attack from about 3-4km out and hope to hold it to the finish (or be the carrot and have the field be the leadout for my teammates) if I felt good. So that clearly went out the window. The second option was for me to get on the front at 2km to go and drill it with all I have to the base of the climb and let Graham, Mario and Brian sort it out – climbing being their forte.  So that’s what I commit to. Lucky for me, the attacks and the efforts put in by Graham on the front completely destroyed the field and we went into a complete lull after the abovementioned turnaround.

I ride off the back for a while, then pull up to Alex and tell him to pass on to Brian and the rest the plan for the remainder of the rest. Now my main focus is to get my cramps under control and have something to aid the finish. We were going so slowly, that after the second southbound turnaround, the Cat 5 field, which started a few minutes after us, caught us and passed us. As they passed us, I heard an unpleasant noise in the back – not a crash, but I knew something wasn’t right. Soon after, Tam Bikes guy, Dean, pulled up to me and said, one of our guys broke a spoke. I looked up and saw Mario, Brian and Alex up the road. “F**k! Graham is out!”

At this point, Alex was covering anything that moved on the front and putting in attacks to further hurt the field. I kept my nose out of the wind, spinning as easy as I could and not spinning at all if possible. We’re approaching the 2km mark. Alex did his job and is now toast.

I come up to Brian and tell him what’s going to happen. I see the maker, but I’m slightly boxed in, and Dean is to my right. I ask him to let me out, and being the gentleman, he obliged. I got on the nose and drilled it to 27mph into a headwind until I couldn’t do anything else. But by that point, we were at the base of the climb and my job was done; I pull to the side. Mario and Brian were sitting great, about eight-tenth wheel and as I faded back, attacks went flying and I saw Mario following wheels up the climb. The guys who attacked after I pulled off quickly faded back.

My race was done, I dropped my chain into the small ring and rolled to the finish for the lanterne rouge. Mario is the first guy I see, “Second place!” I’m ecstatic – it worked! Then a minute later, Brian rolls up, “I got third!” Now I’m elated through the roof! I’m so overcome with joy for a great team performance that I almost forgot I just rode for 35 miles with cramps.

Next up, Cantua Creek!