Archive for October, 2009

Race to the Sky: Hope for All of Us

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

I was one of the cycling geeks that headed out Thursday night to catch the premier of Race to the Sky: the Leadville 100. Besides being blown away from seeing mountain bikes on the big screen, it was great to see that even the best MTB’ers are human too.

When 6-time Leadville champion Dave Weins started walking up Powerline Hill, I knew there was hope for all of us. Then Chris Charmical from CTS came hiking up.

I am coached by CTS expert coach Josh Drake. Josh said that the guy right behind Chris “is an incredible climber, just a mountain goat.” And even he was walking.

And even despite the positively inhuman pace Lance Armstrong was laying down there were some tells that made even him look like the rest of us: shaking a numb hand, stretching out a crink in his back, and riding home on a squirrely flat. And who would have thought, Lance Armstrong, in the granny gear?

But my goodness can that boy go or what? He looked like a dragster out there.

Some other observations:

It looked cold but it must have felt even colder. I’ve started races below freezing on several occassions and you warm up quick…even wearing arm warmers can be too much after five minutes of race pace riding. But those riders never stripped down. Just think: 14,000 feet of climbing all above 10,000 feet with hail and rain…it must’ve been miserable. In other words, a cyclists dream.

Tinker Jaurez up at the front. Tink used to race down here in Florida in the winter. I’ve been passed by him and on one occassion his Cannondale broke down and I got to pass him. A former world champion and recent national champion being passed by America’s Slowest Rider. Who would have thought?

Lastly, the theater crowd gasping as the computer-generated race map started climbing Columbine Hill.

Anyway, if you get an opportunity to screen Race to the Sky, check it out, it’s fun.

Roadie Madness: the Mountain Biker Mixes it Up on the Road for Charity

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

This past weekend I rode in the local MS 150 charity ride from St. Augustine, Florida, to Daytona Beach. The only thing I can say is man, those roadies are some strange critters.

I got chewed out for taking a flyer off a paceline while trying to link up with a group further up the line. I got clobbered by a woman with a butt the size of Memphis at the 60-mile mark. I ate peanut butter and jelly and washed it down with Gatorade for four hours.

Around mile 75 I struck up a conversation with a guy riding an ancient steel Cannondale using clipped pedals. Earlier in the day while riding together we shattered a paceline (unintentionally) while going off the front at about 26 miles per hour. I didn’t realize it happened until I looked back and saw the group I started with a half mile back.

This guy’s form was so poor, with his knees sticking out while pedaling, I thought “how does he do it.” But he got on just fine and finished ahead of me.

If this guy dropped some weight, got a carbon bike and clipless pedals he’d be world champion. So if you’re reading this Cannondale guy, get that new bike you were talking about and you’ll be blowing our doors off!

All kidding aside, I would like to thank all the volunteers and people who made the event happen, and all the crowds that lined the route. The job they did was exemplary, they treated us like royalty, the food was amazing, and we really felt appreciated for helping a good cause. I look forward to doing it again next year.

Pinning Numbers: the Thing a Mountain Biker Can’t Do

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

This past weekend I rode in the local MS 150 from St. Augustine, Florida, down to Daytona Beach.

As a mountain biker I’m used to running with number plate like in motorcross, and we offroaders have our own obscure myths about how to do it right. But I had no clue about how you pin on a number for a road race, er, ride. I saw something once while watching Tour de France coverage, but all’s it mentioned was that riders pin their numbers the way they learned while racing as juniors.

Anyway, the internet came to the rescue once again and I found this great article on the Cycling Skils blog about how to do it. If your an offrider mixing it up with the roadies in a charity race, er, ride, it will be sure to help!

To Hell and Back? Mountain Biking Michigan’s Potawatomi Trail

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

To Hell and Back. A bit of a double entendre there.

For a die hard Ohio State fan (as I am) the Potawatomi Trail presents a challenge. First of all, it’s in Michigan. And it’s a great, no, a fantastic trail. So how do you reconcile giving a glowing review to something on the soveriegn soil of your arch enemy? You can’t, and it hurts. That’s the first part of the double entendre.

The second part is that the Potawatomi (nicknamed the “Poto”) is actually near Hell, and no I’m not talking about Ann Arbor. Hell, Michigan, sits just off the Poto, literally (just check out this trail map and see for yourself). Hell sits just down Patterson Lake Road, just past a trail junction.

The Poto sits in the Pinckney State Recreation Area just north of Ann Arbor in Washtenaw County. So while it can be said that Ann Arbor is not, in fact, Hell, you can see it from there.

The Poto is a great trail, and garners Strackacobra’s top honor, The Shit-Ton-of-Fun Award. It’s a 19-mile roller coaster of dirt where you can gain lots of speed on the descents, carry lots of momentum into the ups, and where you never have to worry too much about having too much speed for the corners.

Like Racoon Mountain in Chattanooga, the Poto almost seems built for racing. Once you’ve been on it for a few miles and learn what to expect you can really let loose. But where Racoon Mountain has expert-level technical sections, the Poto is a fairly non-technical trail that even an intermediate rider can bomb on. There are some off-camber drops and some rooty, lung-buster climbs, but nothing that is unmanageable. Experts will find joy by finding out just how much speed you can carry into the corners.

The Poto does have a few negatives. There are sand pits at the bottom of the drops, especially in the last 8 miles. On the day I rode in late September trail conditions were nearly perfect, so the pits were manageable, but on rides in previous years when it was really hot and dry (and the sand loose and soft), getting through the sand was a real chore. Also, on some of the climbs there are some very tricky root step-ups. But after you’ve been caught out of position once or twice, you begin to anticipate them and look for the lines early.

The other negative is that while the trail is very well marked on the map, it isn’t very well marked on the ground. For example, you will get to marker five and it will direct you to marker four, but not to marker six (which is the way you want to go for a longer ride). So I had to stop a few times at trail junctions just to make sure I was going in the right direction. There’s an especially tricky one where you pop out onto a fire road near Gosling Lake (just keep following the fire road because there’s no markers).

To get to the Poto you take U.S. 23 a few miles north of Ann Arbor, Michigan, exit at North Territorial Road and head west for a few miles. Then turn north at Dexter Townhall Road, and then turn left at the sign for beach parking. A day pass costs $8 per car. The trailhead is just off the beach parking lot.

Eats in Ann Arbor.

Krazy Jims Blimpy Burger (551 S. Division St., just north of Packard) in Ann Arbor has a reputation as one of the best burgers in America.

It was a very good burger and not too expensive either. They are sold as doubles on up, but the doubles are actually pretty small so if you’ve got an appetite, order the triple. The onion rings came highly recommended but they weren’t anything special.

The restaurant is a tiny place in a residential block just off the UM campus, and it can be difficult to spot.

If you like the Krazy Jim burger I would recommend two other places in the region. Wilson’s, at 600 Main Street in downtown Findlay, Ohio (just off I-75), and Kewpee at 1350 Bellfontaine in Lima, Ohio (also just off I-75). Kewpee is the best by far.

A Mountain Bike Racer’s Life on the Road: Eating on the Road

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

Nothing is more different in a mountain biker’s life on the road than nutrition while traveling.

At home, I eat right. Lots of fruits and vegetables. Lots of water. Whole grains. Meat generally only once a day, and then usually just chicken or turkey. My sole deviation, ice cream and an unhealthy addiction to the Dark Master, Diet Pepsi.

And then I hit the road this week for an out-of-state wedding. Greasebomb burgers. French fries with every meal. Gigantic slabs of pepperoni pizza. Cookies. Wedding Cake. And even more Diet Pepsi.

During a shorter window, like a three-day race weekend, I’m usually pretty good. I’ll pre-pack my breakfasts, carry enough quality food to make lunches, and scout ahead for a good restaurant. But on a week getaway without the focus of a race I’m like a sailor in port after a six-month cruise: self-control goes right out the window.

Part of it is unavoidable, the wedding cake for example. But the Greasebombs and fries are all choice. A glorious, fattening, choice.

The trick now is to get through the shakes from a body demanding cookies for breakfast. I guess I’ll just have to have another Diet Pepsi.