Tacoma Twilight Criterium – My First Race

Tacoma Twilight Criterium

About a month ago an ex-neighbour and good friend challenged me to race in the (then) upcoming Criterium. The Tacoma Twilight is a lap race around 6 city blocks in downtown Tacoma. I thought “why not,” so I started training, figuring it out along the way. This Saturday I raced in the Category 4/5 Mens race and it was my first ever race. I thought I was going to die. I didn’t, but I quickly saw some big areas of weakness in my riding and HUGE holes in my training and preparations.

Me in the Tacoma Twilight Criterium

Fitness wise, I could have finished the race. I wasn’t out of breath and I wasn’t huffing and puffing. My big weakness was just strength. After 10 minutes I didn’t feel like my legs had much left to give. I couldn’t keep up speed and I was continually losing ground. I managed to pair up with another straggler name Markus and we worked together for about a lap, but neither of us had much left and I could no longer see the peloton down the end of each stretch. We were pulled off right after that. I lasted 14 minutes of a 30 minute race.

Me at the Tacoma Twilight Criterium

I had warmed up by riding along the waterfront for about 20 minutes or so. Starting waaaay too early, I was “warmed up” and still had an hour to kill. I should have brought my (noisy) trainer down with me and warmed up all the way to the beginning of the race, but it wasn’t until I was track-side that I noticed others doing the same.

Standing among the other starters I felt very small. Here are all these obviously serious racers on their Carbon rides and team uniforms and I’m there standing over my 20 year old steel bike with a shirt from a mountain-bike race in 1992, my $30 shorts, and my $2 garage-sale helmet. I just tried to ignore all that and just bloody race. Suddenly we were racing and I couldn’t get my damned cleat in the peddle (I’ll need to practice that). Initially I was thinking “I can handle this, this speed isn’t too bad” but other racers kept on pulling away from me. I don’t think I was tracking with the pace and before I knew it I was no longer in the main group and riding in the tail. I would gain in the corners, but lose out on the straights.

I was disappointed to be pulled out. I wouldn’t have minded a last-place finish, I just wanted to finish the blasted race. Training-wise I realised I need push myself much harder and work on leg-strengthening exercises. Afterwards it wasn’t my legs that were sore (they didn’t have time to get sore), it was my neck and back from pushing myself to keep up.

In 3 week’s time there’s a 34 mile race in Eatonville, WA. I’m going to try that and see how I fair. For training, I’m just going to try to get on the bike more often and push myself harder. Today I spent over 2 hours on the bike and it felt great!

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Changes afoot

The Gios

To have spent over $700 on the Gios I sure have spent about the same amount on upgrades and improvements. At first the handlebars were waaaay too narrow and I managed a sweet like-for-like trade over at bikeforums.net. It took about 2 months to finally realise that they were (and have been for a while) bent on one side. Oh well, luckily I have these sweet Modolo Ergo bars that I found on ebay for a project that never materialised. A few days ago I discovered that these were loose and done-for. I’m not sure why they’re designed this way.

Modolo Bars, Cinelli Stem

It’s funny how your tastes and preferences evolve. I though I wanted a pure vintage bike with classic Campagnolo stuff. I didn’t know what era. I then discovered that the early nineties stuff was what I liked – I needed ergo shifters (again Campagnolo was a necessity!) As I’ve been preparing for this Criterium and watching the Tour my tastes have been evolving again and focusing now on modernising and lightening the bike. When considering options for replacing the handlebars I decided to get the lighter more modern option (and broke a personal rule and preference for quill stems) of threadless adapter, threadless stem and handlebars. Chris over at Defiance Bicycles helped me find the Velo Orange adapter, a Zeus 10cm stem and Torelli Bormio Handlebars.

Gios Steerer

I think it looks good. I had an opportunity to take it out for a short ride with the boy and it felt good. The handlebar setup brings the Hoods back a bit, so it will take a little to accustom to the new setup. It feels lighter, but I have little evidence to substantiate that. We’ll see how it feels on a longer ride.

Le Tour Begins

Thor Hushovd - Wearing the yellow jersey

The Tour is here and it’s big. This will be the second Grand Tour I’m following after the Giro last month. I came away from the watching the Giro absolutely loving every second. But the Tour is something else. It’s big, really big. The Giro was Contador’s show. He totally owned it and only Nibali and Scarponi were anywhere near challenging him. It seemed so small compared to the Tour and pales in comparison. Today, there are over a dozen proper GC contenders and it’s impressive to see all these stars battling it out.

I’m excited waking up to watch it at 6:30ish every morning and when I wake up too early I’m disappointed that it’s not yet time! I’m watching it at Tourdefrance.nbcsports.com. It’s in HD, looks fantastic and cost $30. Not bad when it ends up being $10/week!

The Giro – the Conclusion.

Contador, Scarponi & Nibali celebrating.

This year’s Giro was the first Grand Tour I’ve watched from start to finish. Early on this year I decided to give my summer to the Tour: I would do everything I could to watch it. When I was reminded by Eroica Cicli that the Giro d’Italia was coming up I immediately jumped at the chance to get my first proper taste of Grand Tour riding.

The Tour de France carries an impressive weight in the cycling world. It is THE event of the year, and everyone is, in varying degrees, familiar with the TourBut the Giro is something else, a little more mysterious and much less known. When explaining to friends and colleagues that I was watching the Giro I’d explain: “It’s like the Tour de France, but for Italy.”

What was it like watching my first Grand Tour? I was first struck by how little rest these riders get. I was expecting five to six days of riding followed by a rest day. In reality, they rode for nine days straight! And each stage isn’t a two to four hour ride, some were as long as eight hours! At the end of the Giro Contador concluded: “Hombre, it was tough. This was the hardest work and the hugest effort of my career.” And this is from the guy that breezed by other riders on more then a few occasions! It’s a tough race!

It’s easy to be disappointed when your favourite rider (in my case I decided to back Nibali – not the most exciting rider, but he had the amazing skill of just grinding up those hills in spite of breakaways and attacks) can’t quite get away from the chasing group and get on the attack. It took a while for me to realise that pushing yourself for upwards of four hours and then having anything left is a challenge in of itself. To remember that these riders had been doing it for three weeks brings a whole new perspective.

I was also surprised at how much tactics played a part. Well, maybe not surprised about how much tactics were key, but more the different ways riders used tactics. It had never occurred to me that if you pushed yourself hard one day, you might no longer have the strength to properly compete the next day. Or that riders would intentionally hold themselves back in the closing kilometres of a stage in order to try to provoke another rider to attacking early, so that they might draft behind the leader and ultimately pass them closer to the finish line. I wasn’t terribly impressed at the small ways riders try to gain an advantage. This was most clearly noticeable when riders were receiving drink-bottles from the team cars. Staff would hold out the bottle and pull the rider for a second or so as he was grabbing the drink, providing just a moment of repose. I just thought it was a shame.

It was certainly an adventure! I loved getting up early, watching these guys slog it out, experience the excitement of frantic finish morning after morning and then having the whole rest of the day to get on with the rest of life. I hope I get to watch the Tour this summer. Maybe, just maybe, like Contador I’ll get two Grand Tours under my belt this summer!

Battaglin Aelle Tubing

Battaglin Aelle - Drive Side

This bike was for sale in my area a few months back. I corresponded with the seller a number of times about buying it, but it’s odd group of components and Aelle tubing turned me off. I think I was looking for something a bit purer, so ultimately I went with the Gios. Looking at it now, I realise this is a lot of bike and there would have been very little for me to change. Oh well. I’m on-board with the Gios and want to get it 100% road-worthy.

This is quite a bike though, looks fun to ride.

Battaglin Shifters

Battaglin Rear Wheel

Battaglin Front End

Battaglin Seat Tube
I love this seat tube. I couldn’t explain to you why I’ve gravitated to this brand. I tend towards the lesser known brands. That’s why I’ll probably never own a Bianchi (although the pull of Celeste is strong), De Rosa or a Colnago, but a little brand like Battaglin, I’m all over it!

See the full sale post here: link

Giro d’Italia – Stage 3 – Wouter Weylandt

Wouter Weylandt
Image: kristoframon

Great race today with a late break-away group of riders taking the race, but it all feels a bit meaningless. Wouter Weylandt, a Belgian rider for Leopard-Trek died on a fast-paced decent on the other side of the Passo del Bocco. To have a rider be injured or out of the race is one thing, life goes on. But, to have a rider go down for the last time changes the way you look at the race. It brings the triviality of the Giro to the fore-front. After all, these are men on bikes, vying to be the quickest. It’s fun when all is well. But when the most valuable of all things, a human life, is lost, we can’t help but wonder whether it’s ultimately worth it.

Tomorrow, the Peloton will honour his life and then we’ll talk about him again the following day. But the day after that those men, who are trying to be quickest will once again come back and the race will go on.

Family of Wouter. I am so sorry for your loss. I can imagine the pain you must be going through and yes, ultimately he died in vain.