Sunday, April 26, 2009

Cannondale Goodness Times 3

I was fortunate this year to be able to build up three new bikes after selling off all my old frames, forks, and even another non Cannondale bike. I kept all the important stuff to swap over to the new frames and forks. Items kept include drivetrain, brakes, saddles, bars, etc.

Two of the bikes, the geared and singlespeed 29" hardtails are almost identical to the ones I sold except they have the new team colors. But I built a completely different bike compared to what I have been riding, a full suspension Scalpel. I had an older model Scalpel but they changed the bike a few years ago.

I went one better than stock by custom building mine with a 29" wheel on the front instead of the normal 26". Since Cannondale doesn't yet make a full suspension 29" wheel bike I figured I would try a 69'er build. I had seen one or two builds similar on the Internet and I thought it would make a great endurance bike. Lightweight carbon frame and a bigger wheel to roll over obstacles.

I had the regular 29" bikes built a few weeks ago but had to wait on parts to finish the Scalpel. I was able to take it out for its maiden spin on Friday on the Pontiac Lake trails. I could tell I didn't have it dialed in as I was not as fast or as comfortable on it as I should be. Saturday I changed the shock pressures and the overall fit, including a different stem and bar. Today's ride confirmed that it was a lot better.

I got out for about three hours and the bike felt great. Hopefully it will translate into faster times and less fatigue in the long races.

We had major thunderstorms roll through the area yesterday, accompanied by high winds. We were fortunate to not lost power for more than a few seconds but everyone across the street from us and in other areas close by are still without power since about 3:00 PM yesterday.

I had finished up a new trail at the high school yesterday but never got a chance to ride it before the rains came. Today I checked out all the school trails for storm damage and there are about five trees down that will need a chainsaw to clear. The first school race is a week and a half away and of course they are calling for rain. Hopefully we will not have the same bad luck as last year.

The Scalpel 69'er

F29 HT

F29 SS (time to tighten the chain)

Name stickers courtesy of Cannondale. In case I foget who I am after a long race.

A little anodized bling

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Racing in Canada, eh?

Mark Parmalee and I drove over to Canada yesterday for today's Paris to Ancaster race, near Hamilton, Ontario. I had done the race a few years ago and had a good ride so I was looking forward to going back. The race is a 60k point to point route through back roads, rail trail, singletrack, farmer's fields, and a few super muddy downhills. All capped with a long climb right at the finish. It's one of Canada's biggest races, drawing over 1500 racers.

We got to the registration area late in the afternoon and after picking up our number plate packets we changed into our riding clothes to check out part of the course, especially the finishing hill. It was then that I realized I had forgotten my tool kit and pump that I carry with me in the races. I thought maybe I could find something at a local store later. But first we went riding and down the finish hill and tried to find the rest of the route. The course wasn't marked yet so we ended up riding some rail trail and the rolling back roads. We finished our ride back up the hill, taking note of the lines to use due to the deep ruts caused by four wheelers.

Looking for a place to eat we found a sporting goods store that had closed but the employees were still inside. They were gracious enough to let me in and purchase a CO2 inflator to carry in the race.

On the way back from dinner we decided to check out a curling club just down the road from the motel. Neither of us had seen curling in person, only on TV. The parking lot was crowded and we walked inside to find the place lined with spectators at the glass watching the matches going on. Upstairs was the bar and another viewing area, also crowded. We managed to get close enough to see and struck up a conversation with some of the crowd, made up of mostly those probably in their 60's.

It turns out that the club championships were being held that night which is why they place was so crowded. The ladies we talked to were very nice and explained to us the finer points of the game and how it was played. There were a few younger people on the ice but not many. I guess the sport is a great place to go and hang out and have few drinks, which we were invited to join but declined. After watching the matches for a while we were impressed with the skill it takes to be able to throw the stones at just the right speed and direction. Also the strategy involved in placing the stones.

Race day morning Mark and I arrived at the finish area early so that we could get our bikes loaded on the trucks to take them to the start line. We took a bus over to the start area. We had purchased this service with our registration, it solved the problem of how to shuttle our vehicle from the start to the finish. But we both cringed when we saw that they were basically just standing the bikes next to each other in a big box truck. We were fortunate that there was no damage to bikes once we goth them off the truck.

Mark and I set out for a warmup ride and could see that we were in for a long day. The race is primarily a west to east route and the wind was blowing very strong from the east, or a headwind that would greet us for most of the race. The gusts made it very difficult to maintain much speed. Sitting in a group would be the best bet, if possible.

The start is a little crazy since they have the top 100 riders from the previous year up front, with another 250-300 riders right behind them, all starting at once. Then there are two more waves after that. Mark and I were in the first wave and he was a couple of rows ahead of me and I expected him to be a strong contender for one of the top 25 spots by the end of the race.

When the race started all 400 riders funneled out onto the road up a hill and then onto a dirt road, eventually reaching a rail trail that resulted in two long lines of riders stretching out for some distance. This part always made me nervous as there is a lot of dust and nervous energy at the start. It wouldn't take much for a big crash to happen. Fortunately we made it through that section but I almost hit a post head on that was in the trail entrance as we crossed from one section to the next. With all the riders in front of you it was hidden until others parted around it.

Out on the course it was difficult to make up much ground by yourself. I found my self in groups and then would be faster than them when we came to the hills, only to leave myself in the open and exposed to the wind. Eventually a group would catch me and I would fall in with them but I seemed to struggle some today on the flats but was strong in the hills. I seemed to drop back some every now and then.

There were some singletrack and muddy sections where the lines would slow down and I would just go around them, either on the bike or on foot. Cyclocross skills helped in these areas. I had forgotten from the last time I did the race just how many farm fields we went through to connect the roads and rail trails. You definitely wanted to wipe off the top of your water bottle before taking a drink, you weren't sure just what that brown stuff was that was on there. The smell of fresh manure was prevalent in many areas we passed.

I was surprised to see Mark on the side of the course at one spot. He had flatted earlier and then flatted again. He had only brought one tube with him so I stopped and gave him mine, hoping I didn't get a flat later. It wasn't too long before Mark caught and passed me. But later he was on the side again, now with his third flat. There wasn't anything I could do so I just hoped he was able to borrow what he needed to finish.

We finally came to the infamous mud chutes and I knew we were near the end of the course. I could ride the first one but the second one was pretty deep and chewed up. I opted to get off and run, passing quite a few riders on the way down. At the bottom it was short section of paved road before we turned off onto the final climb to the finish. I manged to pass more riders and dug deep near the top to pass a few more as many riders were now walking up the last steep section.

I finished in a time seven minutes slower than three years ago, hopefully due to the severe headwind. I finished lower in the standings as well 12th out of 144 as opposed to 4th last time. I know the winning times were slower as well. I'm not sure what happened exactly, maybe I exposed myself too often in the wind. I know I didn't feel quite as strong as a few weeks ago but at least I felt good on the hills.

I changed and waited for Mark to come in. I was worried as to how he would get back as it would be difficult to have a sag wagon on the course for much of it. It turns out that he had to wait a while to find the third tube and then a pump. All of the course marshals really had no idea how to help either or even give directions on the shortest way back to the finish. He ended up taking two hours, much of it on foot, to finally make it back. That is a tough way to start the racing season. I felt bad for him, especially due to time and cost for the race, plus he was running in the top 20 at the time he got his first flat.

He was talking about coming back next year though, and bringing someone else who can drive from the start to the finish so we don't have to take the shuttle.

Next week Chris, Jay and I are supposed to head down to Ohio to ride part of the Mohican 100 course. I think the next race for me may be the first Lake Orion High School race and then the Addison 12 hour.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter

Happy Easter to everyone. Sandy cooked another fabulous meal of roast lamb with the works and of course the Easter bunny made a visit. I have to have someone hide the basket so I don't eat all the goodies. We had a video call with Jason and family. both of the grand kids looked impressive in their Easter outfits. Isabel looks like one of those antique bisque dolls. Unfortunately I don't have a picture of her in her Easter outfit, hopefully Jason took a bunch and will share them.

This weekend we have been blessed with sunshine but cool temperatures and light winds. The trails have been starting to dry out with most trails now able to be ridden or they will be ready soon.

I got the team geared and SS bikes built up (pictures coming) and got each out on a few rides. I tried a new, lighter saddle that received a lot of rave reviews but it was not for me. I'm going back to my heavier but more comfortable WTB saddles. When you spend 10 to 12 hours or more on a bike the last thing you want to do is have an uncomfortable saddle just to save a few grams.

Friday and Saturday I joined Greg in softball practice and managed to screw up my right hand when I hit the ground going after a ball. When I went down to catch it I stumbled on the lovely outfield we were on and my hand hit the turf hard, while holding onto the ball. The impact caused my hand to swell and turn purple and it also is making it difficult to hold onto the handlebars while riding. I seem to have a habit of injuring myself while playing sports with my sons.

Next weekend I will be traveling to Canada for the point to point Paris to Ancaster race. I did the race a few years ago and had fun. It's one of Canada's bigger one day races with over 1000 racers split among the 60k and 35k course. Both courses finish on the same section that includes a monster climb right before the finish line. Last time I finished 4th in my group but with advancing age I hope to get into the top 10 this year.

My hand after softball practice.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Good weekend

This past weekend was great for several reasons. First, my brother and his fiancee, Sandy, came to visit. It was the first time we had a chance to meet her. They were in Windsor Friday night for a concert and we met them downtown on Saturday at the Eastern Market and had lunch at the outdoor barbecue spot while listening to karaoke. The singers for the most part would not present any challenge to the American Idol finalists. But I have to give them credit for even getting up to sing. And it wasn't like they were drunk. I think most of these people do it on a regular basis.

The sunshine made it feel warmer than it really was, especially if you kept out of the wind. The proximity of the market to Ford Field added to the atmosphere as people were getting ready for the NCAA Final Four later that evening.

After lunch we went to the Motown museum. We weren't sure what to expect and there were lines of people waiting to get in, most from out of town. The place is fairly small as it is the original home, office, and recording studio of Motown records. Once in you get a guided tour through the history of the company and the facilities. I had to laugh when one of the guides mentioned that most people that live in the Detroit area don't go to the museum unless someone comes to visit them from out of town. I can vouch for that.

It was amazing to think about all the recording stars that have been in that place and recorded records in the small studio. It kind of gave you goosebumps to think you were standing in the same spot as all those greats when they made their records. We sang as a group a short section of one of the Motown hits so now I can say that I, too sang in the famous studio.

After the museum we headed back to our place where my brother and Sandy checked in to the motel and then came over later for a great dinner prepared by my wife, Sandy. We got a chance to catch up and see more of Sandy. She has a great personality and I think she and my brother will do fine together. I don't see my brothers much so it was good to get together, but it was too short of a visit.

Since I went to bed late I also slept in but was able to get out for a ride on the back roads for over 3.5 hours. I mad a few more tweaks to my riding position and my legs seemed to adapt well. I couldn't ride my new bike though as I'm still waiting for a part from Cannondale to complete it. The part should be here next week, just in time for the crummy weather we are supposed to have.