Monday, February 28, 2011

The Spring Classics Are Finally Here!

This picture the final sprint in the Omloop Net Neiwsblad is from Steve Tilford's blog.

With the start of this weekend the race season finally starting to really swing. Not that races like the Tour Down Under, Tour of Oman, and the Tour of Quatar aren't good races. But they do not have heritage and real hard man weather like the spring classics. Belgium is where the real racing begins for the year (In my opinion).

Boonen and Hushovd at the head of the peloton

I mean just look at a few of these pictures from the Omloop Het Niewsblad. Rain, wind, cobbles, classic wheels, the lion of Flanders flags whipping and hard men (No that kinda hard. Pervert) fighting for the ultimate prize. It doesn't get any better.  These are the races that I have always enjoyed watching (and dreamed about participating in).

Unlike in July. You see a different kind of suffering in these kind of races. Guys wrapped up from the elements left to die in the gutter as everyone is strung out along  a wind swept road. Just trying to hang on for dear life. Cursing for not being in the front echelon. Needing to close a gap that's only 50 feet. But it might as well be 50 miles. Because unless the road or the wind changes direction they're not going anywhere. Its an aspect of the sport that is written about quite a bit. But for what ever reason isn't shown on (or explained) TV very much.

Then there are the cobbles. They are jarring and fatiguing in the best of times. But add a little water and mud and they make even the most experienced racer pucker up in anticipation of them. Good stuff...

Langeveld during his brave solo breakaway
Langeveld won this years Omloop Het Niewsblad with a brave break away.

Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne was also this weekend. With Australian Chris Sutton taking the victory there.

Chris Sutton (Sky) celebrates his victory

And while there wasn't the rain like Saturday. There were plenty of burgs and wind to mess with everybody out there.

Even Tom Boonen had a go with about 7km left in the race.

Tom Boonen (Quick Step) bridged across to Jimmy Engoulvent (Saur - Sojasun) with 5km remaining.

Unfortunately team Sky wasn't having any of that and closed the gap with just 1km to go. Another red kite prayer un-answered....

So thanks guys! Thanks for running these races in the nasty stuff. Holding on for dear life for a chance to grab that ultimate prize. Not money or fame (Although I'm sure that's nice too.) But to quench that desire for competition. That primal urge to show dominance to all the other's that dare attempt to take it from you. Because I think that's what all athlete's try for. And only at this kind of level. Do you see it in it's most beautiful.

Rubber side down,

Big E

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Iditarod Invitational

These aren't pictures from Joe. Just examples of the machines.

A good friend of mine has a brother who is riding in the Iditarod Invitational that is starting this Sunday February 27th at 2 pm PST. For those of you who don't know anything about the race the website is here. It is run on the same route as the famous dog sled race. However this race is either done on foot, ski, or what Becky's brother is doing it on. Bike.

Bike!? You say. That's right. Giant wheeled bicycles specially designed for snow (Something like the monster trucks of the bike world.).

These are fantastic machines and the endurance race that Joe is taking on is one that has always intrigued and inspired me.

I had a chance to ask Joe a few questions not only about the race and his equipment. But I also got a chance ask him about his Grandfather "Tony" who died from Alzheimer's Disease and the charity that Joe is riding for.

I would like to apologize ahead of time to Joe and to you guys. I'm not a very good interviewer. A lot of my questions maybe had some redundancy to them. So bare with me. Thanks....

What made you decide to attempt the Iditarod Invitational? 

I guess kind of a natural progression to an interest in winter biking that started back in 2005.  My friends and I started riding more in the winter and figuring out how to keep warm, drink, eat and getting better equipment to travel on soft snow.  The winter biking had been around for a long time but I thought they were nuts and just cross-country skied or speedskated in the winter.  A few years ago my friend Greg Matyas actually started a bike shop called Speedway Cycles and developed a bike and components called the Fatback.  There has been a revolution in winter biking here in Alaska and elsewhere over the last couple years.  Its been fun to be a part of that.  I raced smaller races such as the Susitna 100 mile and 50K events and the ITI was something that captured my imagination particularly the adventure, freedom and independence of it.

How is your training going thus far? Have you had any quantum leaps or any major set backs? (i.e. illness or burnout) 

Training has been going pretty good.  Into the taper now with less than two weeks before the race start.  Big endurance efforts have been done back to back like ride long on Friday then another long one on Saturday and shoot for a combined time over the two days.  I think that will better prepare me for a multi day event where you have to get up the next day and go again.  I was sick for a while in December but nothing major.  In addition to riding, been running, skiing, lifting weights and pushing the bike to increase general conditioning.  I do find the malaise after the long rides and the training draw on other life needs is tough.  It is not a sustainable way to live. 

What type of equipment are you going to use? (bike, sleeping gear, clothing, lighting system, navigation) What made you decide on those choices?
What type of bag configuration are you using on your bike?

I ride a Fatback Titanium bike that is powder coated olive drab.  It’s a nod to an old military jeep and is anti-bling. This is my third season on this bike.  It is a lot of fun to ride on frozen swamps, rivers, etc. that you could never access in the summer.  Snowmachining is big out in the Valley and rivers are groomed or get a lot of use and you can ride where they go.  Stop at a lodge for a cheese burger and cup of coffee.  We usually make between 5 and 10 mph.  Small planes on skis will buzz you and I’ve even had them land just to stop and chat.  We also see dog teams and they are quiet and can sneak up on you.  Everyone just out having fun regardless of transportation mode. 

I have a North Face Darkstar -40F sleeping bag mounted to my handlebars and aero bars for support.  I have a bivvy sack too.  I use a Princeton Tech Apex Pro LED headlamp.  A Pltaypus 3L water bag and insulated hose in a small back pack.  It goes under a jacket to keep thawed out.  I do not have any experience in temps below minus 20F and it will be a challenge to keep water flowing.  You basically use your body heat to keep it thawed out.  I have various tights and shell jackets.  I like wool tops.

What on the trail nutrition are planning on using? Any good junk food? How are you keeping your water from freezing?

I love Ensure Plus for endurance rides but they are bulky and freeze in low temps.  Will take a few of those and then bars, candy, beef jerky, smoked salmon, nuts, bacon, peanut butter sandwiches, etc.  The pace will not be real high so you can eat different things.  Water goes in a big bladder in a backpack under a jacket.  I’ll take some kind of endurolyte tabs.
You are doing this for your Grandpa Tony who died from Alzheimer's.  Was there anything about him as a person or his struggle with this disease that inspired you to do this race?

At his request, we addressed him “Tony.”  I recognize there is no normal life, only life, but my relationship with Tony was not idyllic.  Spending most of my life 2500 miles away didn’t help (Oregon/Alaska).  I did love and respect him.  He was fiercely independent.  As he developed Alzheimer’s this quality necessarily faded and it was hard to watch.  It’s like losing someone twice.  My family struggled to find help taking care of him.  Where do we go, what do we do, are we doing enough, should he be on his own at the farm?  The last time I saw him he did not know who I was but he still had his laugh, mannerisms, hand movements, the way he carried himself, etc.  He was in a wheelchair but even at a distance you just knew it was him like seeing someone walking across a parking lot at a great distance - - you can’t see their features but you can tell who they are.  Tony would think this event was crazy and would punctuate his comments with a few choice swear words for emphasis.  For me, doing this ride is a tribute to his independence.       

What are the main things about Alzheimer's and the Disease Resource Center of Alaska that you would like the readers to know about? Where can they donate?

This group provides assistance to people and their families who are impacted by this disease.  There is a place to go to get help.  I personally know a care giver that works at the organization and a client with the disease receiving care.  I thought raising awareness and funds might do a little good.  They are also a very financially efficient organization with the 2009 Annual report showing expenses of roughly $3.1M of which 85% goes to programs. 

Where can people track your progress before and during the race?

During the race, you can hear stories from the trail and follow racer progress at 

For information about the ADRAA or to donate funds to the organization or watch the fund “thermometer” you can go to:

Thanks Joe! And good Luck! I hope the wind is always at your back and the....

Rubber side is down,

Big E

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Great Race That Never Was

They talk about how a picture is worth a thousand words. Well this one is worth at least five hundred. The other picture to make it a an even thousand would be the look on my face when the volunteers at registration said that I couldn't race.

Now I don't want to you to think that this post is about me blasting volunteers or the organizers of the race (even though I may do a little of that). It mostly is just an amalgamation of a whole string of events that led me to not being able to race.

Like most bike races, prep for me begins the day before. I make sure I have the directions to the race (If I've never been there before.). Gas in my car (Which I didn't do this time and sweated all the way home. With the needle on E most of the time.) That my bike is all tuned up and clean. Get the race wheels on the bike. Have all my clothes together. I would normally have my race number already pinned on. But because this is the first road race of the year they supply their own tyvek numbers (Which was part of the problem later.). Then I get all my during and after race food ready and packed.  Throw what I can in the trunk ahead of time and then sit there and get nervous the rest of the night. Well, most of that happened.

Except for one small thing. As I was getting ready to leave it dawned on me that I hadn't put my carbon specific brake pads on. No problem, I just popped the wheels off and switched them over. It took 5 minutes but ultimately wouldn't put me to far behind.

So after that was done. I kissed my beautiful wife good bye and hit the road. Because of the local of the race to my house I just headed south off the hill down onto River Rd. and then I was going to hop over the Independence bridge and head down to the starting area which is only about 10 miles south of the bridge.

But as I was going around a corner I noticed the car was feeling funny. And that if I let go of the steering wheel the car wanted to turn left in a very fast fashion. So I decided to pull over to check in out.

My left front tire was flat. Shit!

I looked at my watch and I saw that I still had 45 minutes before my race. I knew it was going it cut it close but I thought that I could still make it. So I whipped out the donut spare tire, jack and lever and went to work.

I got the flat tire off without to much issue. Although I was very worried about the cheesy jack they put in cars. I've had bad experience with them in the past. But to Chrysler's credit the thing held up. Twisted a little bit, but held up none the less. 

As I 'm doing each step of the process I keep looking at my watch trying to keep a mental tab on how much time I still had left. As I start lowering the jack with the donut installed it became very apparent that I didn't have enough air in the spare to safely drive on it. So thinking swiftly I whipped out my bike pump and started going to town on it. 200 pumps later (Yes I counted. I wanted to see how long it would take.) I was at a pressure I felt like I was comfortable driving on.This whole process took about 10 minutes. As I through the spare and all the other crap haphazardly into the trunk and took off.

One of the draw backs to having a donut spare is that you are not suppose to drive more than 50 miles at 50 mph on them. I was pushing both of these limits within the round trip but I figured worse come to worse I would just get another flat and have to call my wife or father-in-law to come bail my ass out. So I chanced it and got to the race with about 25 minutes to spare.

I through my race kit on, shoes, bottles in the cages, and gels in my pocket. I then ran to the bathroom and rolled up to registration with about 18 minutes before the start. As I walked up to the guy at the registration desk and said hello. I could already tell that this wasn't going to go well.

He told me that registration had closed 25 minutes before the race was to start and there wasn't anything that he could do about. When I told him that I had preregistered he looked a little grumpy, flipped through some pages and then said he needed to go talk to someone. He went over and talked to a young woman who came over and asked me for my name and OBRA race number. Told the guy to go through the list of tyvek numbers to see if the number they had connected with my name was still there.

He gave what to me seemed a very half hearted glance through and said he couldn't find it. She then told me that because it was so close to start time that the list had already been sent to the starting area and there wasn't anything that could be done about it.

I went on to explain my car tire trouble hoping that she would take sympathy on me. But it didn't work.

I asked why I couldn't be given a different number and just written in on the start list? But I think that they both had had enough of me. So I asked for my money back. Which she was quick to deliver. It's a good thing too. Because had there been an "issue" with that I was about 2 seconds away from going into a tirade that would have more than likely got me thrown out of there and off my team. But I held it together and just got out of there.

Sometimes the world is against you when your trying to make good bike race. 

Part of me wanted to yell and scream and throw a big temper tantrum out there. And the other just said it is was it is. So I listened to the latter and tried to calm down (I must be getting more mature in my old age. Cuz I can tell you for certain that I never would have done that at 20.)

As I was leaving the area I got caught behind a couple of the races and got a chance to view the beginning of everyone else's world of suffering (Just a little more salt in the wound.) All the while watching my gas gauge get closer and closer to empty (I don't seem to follow my own rules very well.).

So that's the sad little story of me not getting to race. But ever onward!

Tomorrow is a new day and I have a pretty great story about a friend's brother who is doing the Iditarod Invitational.

Rubber side down,

Big E

Friday, February 18, 2011

Playing With a Trianing Beard

At the end of the cyclocross season I had made up my mind that I was going to grow a training beard. "A what!?", You might ask. You know, a training beard. Like Rocky Balboa in Rocky IV.

 When he goes off to the Soviet Union to battle against the steroid taking, every technological advancement that 1985 has to offer (Like that really cool ladder machine. Or the arm rotating machine that he does so much body rocking it's hard to believe he's doing any good) Ivan Drago.

I must break you.

While Rocky's training the old fashioned way.  Climbing up snow covered mountains, lifting carts full of rocks, and caring logs around.  All the while being tailed by that darn KGB.

But since the first race of the season is this weekend it's time for it to come off. So I thought I would share a few stylish designs to make it entertaining.  Enjoy....

Just a slightly more trimmed up version of what I had.

The master sculpture at work....

The wolverine style chops.

Pretty much just what I had before.

I like to call this the "Paul Sr."

The hipster fixie stash (Ironic because I am neither hip or own a fixie).

I left the soul patch because I figure I can always use more soul.

Bare as a babies ass. Or at least a middle aged babies ass...

I know you all were completely riveted to your seat to see all these pictures and what comes next. I'm sorry to say that was it. But when weird manscaping things have to be done it's always best to do them on the Internet. At least that's what I always say...

Tomorrow is the first race of the season. Wish me luck. I'll probably need it. Hopefully I can make something stick. If I can't, I'll be pack fodder until the end.

I'll have a full report next week...


Rubber side down,

Big E

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Post From Steve Tilford's Blog That I Think You Should Read

For those of you who don't know who Steve Tilford is, he is a legend in American racing. He has been racing his bike for thirty plus years and continues to do so. Most recently getting third in the Masters class at the Cyclocross World Championships.

He has a wonderful blog that I would recommend to anyone interested in a highly experienced opinion on all things cycling. 

A little bit ago he had a really interesting break down of Lance Armstrong's years of winning the Tour de France and what would happen with the podium line up if you took away the racers that have been busted for doping.  Makes for some really interesting reading and thinking for that matter.


Here is the link.

Also, there was a Velonews article about Lance's final year winning the tour (2005). It goes into a little more detail and quite frankly a little more biting.

Both are well worth a look at. Thanks for reading.

Rubber side down,

Big E

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Lance Armstrong Retires From Professional Cycling (Again)

Lance Armstrong officially re-retired from professional cycling again after having retired the first time in 2005. Or as he liked to call it Comeback 2.0 (Eye roll here).

Like I've said in the past. Lance has been a polarizing figure within cycling for his entire career. In his youth it was because of his brash nature and quick tongue. It was his fight with cancer and the development of the Livestrong Foundation. Post cancer he was continually shadowed be doping allegations and just the unbelievable nature of what he had accomplished (Which in my opinion regardless of doping or not is truly an impressive feat).

But I would be lying if I didn't say he was a part of my reason for getting re-introduced to professional cycling.  Like a lot of other Americans his tenacity and dominance of the Tour de France was hard to ignore.

When I first became interested in cycling back in the late eighties Greg Lemond was the man.  And I often imagined myself as Greg winning the tour or the world championships as I was out on my bike.

Of course back then we only got little snippets of cycling from CBS sports specials. Unlike today. Where the coverage is still no where near as good as in Europe but at least we've got something. And we have Lance to thank for that. Without his achievements we would still be viewing half an hour specials about certain races (Only if an American does well in them.).

He brought in a whole new conscienceness of cycling to the general public. You stop anyone on the street and they won't know who Albertor Contador is. Or Floyd Landis. Or maybe even Greg Lemond. But they will know who Lance Armstrong is. He's like Tiger Woods in that he has brought a somewhat fringe sport out into the open. And at least let people know it exists. In fact I'll still here someone when I'm out on a training ride yell, "Go Lance!" every once in a while. Which I know they're just trying to be funny or a smart ass. But it still illustrates my point.

It was because of Lance that we have had some of the most exciting moments in resent years as well. The 2003 Tour de France is still one of the best pieces of racing I've ever seen. His continual dual with Jan Ullrich are the things of legend. And they should be. They were fantastic moments. Regardless of what they were fueled by (Anger and competition, or EPO and testosterone).

Even in the beginning of his comeback with Alberto Contador nipping at his heals. Or in some cases flying by him up the road. It was still interesting stuff. Those fights and the "he said" back and forth in the press is part of what makes our sport so entertaining.  And he was damn impressive too. When you think of all he has been through with cancer and his age (Relatively speaking in the peloton mid thirties is over the hill.) I don't think there was anyone else at that time that could compare and compete with guys ten to fifteen years his junior.

I've always had a great respect for Lance. I don't always like what he does or says. And I'm certainly no "fan boy". But then again I can't think of anyone that I can say that about (At least anyone who's in the public eye). He has had an impressive career, savy business sense, and some of the best self branding I've ever seen.

So, Thank you Lance. It's been real and it's been fun. I hope you enjoy retirement...

Rubber side down,

Big E

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Schizophrenic Post

Hey everybody! Sorry for the long delay since my last post. I have been out of town on business, dealing with house sales stuff, and a super busy schedule at work. Not that I'm making excuses (Okay, sort of. But It's the way I rationalize being a lazy bastard.).

So this post is going to be kinda all over the place.

First a little ranting:

Two things have come up in the news since last I posted and the first is Riccardo Ricco being hospitalized for kidney problems from an alleged blood transfusion gone bad.

 Seriously, what the hell!? A guy who gets busted for CERA (new version of the blood booster EPO). Doesn't really show any remorse about doing it or getting caught. Then comes back to the sport early for turning states evidence about how he did it. And then once he is back in the fold swears up and down that he is clean and people can win at the highest level without doping. There was also a particularly endearing moment in there where his partner

That's her on the left....

 (And mother of his child.)gets busted for doping as well (later the charges were dropped) and he rakes her of the coals in the press on how this all is terrible for him and his image (What an ass hat.). If the blood transfusion is true I think that guys deserves a lifetime ban from the sport and some sort of public humiliation. Like a drive by rotten fruit throwing contest. Where he is the target.  Maybe anyone who wants to can go up an kick him in the balls or something. At least that way there shouldn't be anymore kids coming from him. Which would be a plus in my book.

The second is Alberto Contador being released of all charges by the Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC) for  Clenbuterol being in his system. Now the amount that was in his system when it was detected is such a small amount that there wouldn't be any benefit to his performance from it. But (Everyone I know has a big but...), the fact that it was detected and it could be a cursor for other nefarious (i.e. blood doping) activities. Many other cyclists got the "To bad, so sad!" from their perspective federations. It seems a little unfair. And a lot of favoritism for Ol' Burt to get off the hook when every other cyclist got the book thrown at them.

Not that I don't think the UCI won't step right in and try and get this thing overturned at CAS (Court for the Arbitration of Sport). Because as we all know. The UCI never looses. Just ask anyone busted for doping in the last... Well, forever. It's a really fair system in that way *eye roll*.

It would really surprise me if we see Ol' Burt finger banging his way through the Tour de France this year.

 But who knows. The system is so screwed up as it is anything could happen.

The next thing is a run in we had with a motorist on a group ride last week.  I know it seems like we've had a rash of them lately. And while this one wasn't near as scary as the last one. It was still disheartening for a couple of reasons.

I think the main one was that it was our fault. I don't ever want people to think that I always side with the cyclist. And in this particular instance I was one of the guys who caused the tift.

We were at a three way stop sign with a fellow who was on the opposite side of the road as us. I had slowed down to stop behind two other cyclists in front of me.

I should explain a weird cyclist phenomena now so you can understand a little where my mind was at the time. Whenever we (As in the group. I'm not speaking in the third person.) make the attempt to stop at a stop sign with a vehicle at the intersection as well. The driver 9 times out of 10 will wave us through. But, (another big but) if we don't they usually great extremely agitated (and rightly so...).
I was just looking at the cyclist in front of me and saw that after slowing way down he continued through the intersection. So I followed.And in doing so had the driver of the van go into a world of pissed off that was partially justified and part totally over the top.

I stopped and tried to talk with him. I mean an actual conversation not a shouting match. Which was really pretty useless. He just shouted at me for a minute and them peeled out and didn't use his signal as he made his turn.

He looked a lot like this guy.

It was an odd feeling for me. I don't think I've ever been in a position where I wanted to be depressed and kick someones ass all in the same moment. A real juxtaposition.

I just thought it was an interesting experience...

And lastly, as my previous post said. The Cherry Pie Road Race is coming up this Saturday down in Adair, Oregon (South of Independence, north of Corvallis). It's the first race of 2011. And I'm pretty pumped! I don't expect I'll be in the mix (Although you never know...) for a win or anything. But I'm looking forward to turning the wheels in anger once more. My race doesn't start until 12:50 pm. Which for a Cat 4 racer is a weird experience. Most of the time we're the first one's out of the starting gate.

I'm also right in the middle of gluing up the road tubulars and as I'm sure (I hope) you've read here. I do love that process. It really plays to my inner bike geek.

Hopefully this post wasn't to all over the place for everyone. Thanks for reading.

Rubber side down,

Big E