Second Thoughts....

I ran cross country in high school and I know how tough it can be. I was never a great runner. I just ran because it was the only co-ed sport and I used it as training to get in shape for other sports. The following essay reminded me of it all, and also kind of reminds me how I feel at the end of a cyclocross race; defeated and exhausted. Have a read....

By Oliver Davies of Viking
The clock reads 4:24. Four minutes, 24 seconds into the most painful run of my life. 36 seconds left. 36 seconds to break five minutes in the mile.

If all the sub-five minute milers in America were to come together to promote breaking this difficult milestone, I have a feeling I might just be the spokesman for their campaign. I can almost see it now, big billboards and posters put up all over cities, buses and sports arenas with a picture of me, with a big caption underneath reading, "If he can do it, anyone can!"

I am a runner, but by no stretch of the imagination do I consider myself elite. I haven't been blessed with a body like Usain Bolt or Steve Prefontaine, but I've ran cross-country for the last four years, and have made do with my God-given talent (or lack thereof.) As this year's season came to a close, I decided I would aim to do what I never thought possible, and judging by the gaping expression on the faces of my peers, what they never thought possible either: breaking five minutes in the mile.

With a team of seniors, (plus one cocky junior Varun Kohli,) I warmed up that fateful Wednesday, aware that whether or not I broke five minutes, I'd either fail embarrassingly, or pass out on the track, unable to revel in my glory.

Conditions were perfect. The temperature was around 60 degrees, no wind. The fans packed the stands to cheer us on. In retrospect, they might have been there for the soccer game: it's still unclear. As runners lined up on the track, the silence was unbearable.

Before I knew it, the watch had started, and there we were, 200 meters into the most painful 1600 meters of my life. If everything went according to plan, adrenaline would take me a lap into the race, while the last three would be dependent on guts and pain tolerance. So why was it hurting already thirty seconds in?

Panic hit me like an egg on Freshman Friday. Thoughts like "Should I just get it over with and drop out now?" and "This could be a bigger fail than Michigan's football season," went racing through my head. Considering I had organized the race, I now had a pack of angry runners going after not only the five-minute mile, but me as well.

Like a bad dream that wouldn't end, I found myself at the end of the first lap, 3/4 of a mile left. My quadriceps were ripping apart as I strained through the first lap. The pack pushed on. I focused on sticking with proper mechanics and kept telling myself that in less than four minutes, I would be home free.

Jeff Billing, Paly's former boys' cross-country coach, used to repeat one thing throughout his infamous motivational speeches: your body can handle so much more than your mind believes. Herein lays the motivation of running, of stressing the body far past the peak of exhaustion: to see whether you can break the body-mind disconnect.

Two laps in, I honestly thought I could.

Pain moved past my legs and engulfed my entire body. The pack was falling apart, but I didn't dare turn around fearing what lay behind may only discourage my efforts to move forwards. Regardless, I pushed on.

In miler's folklore, the third lap serves to destroy every personal record, every shot at glory, and provide an immeasurable amount of pain before the final adrenaline rush kicks in at the finish. I strove to push on the third lap, but found myself helplessly slipping away from the steady pacer, cross-country coach John Welsh, as I closed in on the last 600 meters, one and a half laps left.

I had all but given up on my hopes of breaking five as the fourth and final lap came around. I knew it would take a miracle. 300 meters left and my legs were numb. Then, as I passed the halfway point, with half a lap left, my coach screamed "36 seconds left!" 36 seconds. Just like that, the dream was once again alive.

In those 200 meters, I don't think I've ever tried harder. With 100 meters left, the race became an all out sprint. Desperately trying to catch the lead man, I've almost got him.

Five seconds. Four seconds. This is my last shot. I sprint, no, I tumble, I collapse, through the finish line.

Lying on the ground, with my heart pounding like it might just give up and stop altogether, the timer reads the final time from his watch:



How to be Prepared in the Pit

At the Cycle-Smart International, I was able to take a peek at the pit kit of one Christopher Zigmont. Chris is currently the CEO and of Pedro's, manufacturer of environmental friendly bicycle care products and tools. He also previously served as the director of sales at marketing at Mavic.

Chris knows a thing or two about 'cross. You can find him on the microphone at the key New England Verge series races, and he even takes a break to strap on his cycling shoes and hop in the master's race. Chris taught me two important lesson before I started racing cross. One, having new and clean cables is the easiest way to keep your bike functioning. Two, always be prepared for whatever a cross race can throw at you.

At the CSI, Chris was pitting for Mitchell Hoke of the Clif Bar Cyclocross team. Save for a crash at the start on both days of the men's elite race, Mitchell avoided major mishap and pulled off an impressive 17th and 23rd place over the weekend of racing.

Let's take a look at Chris' tools.

Upon first glance, you'll find the standards tools found in everybody's tool box. Looking at the center of the kit, you can see a set of metric allen keys, screwdrivers and a spanner wrench. But also in this kit are tools that I would never have even thought of bringing to a pit. Let's tackle this by drivetrain components:
- Tire Levers
- Front Skewer
- Rear Skewer

- Screwdrivers
- Various Pliers (likely a needle nose and Breaker-grozier)
- Pedro's Vise Whip
- Cable Cutters
- Scissors
- An extra set of allen keys

Other Nice Touches:
- Zip ties
- Permanent Marker
- Handy carrying case

I'm sure there are plenty of other tools hiding in all of the pockets of the bag, but this is just an idea of what to bring to be prepared. We all bring clothes to make sure we're comfortable for every 10 degree change in weather, and we bring tires to accommodate the unpredictable conditions of a parcours, so why not bring a set of tools to make sure you have every possible mechanical covered. After all, what's the point of driving over 200 miles for a weekend of racing if you break your bike riding a warm up lap.


It's All About the Details

There are several levels to being PRO. It's one thing to align the tire label with the valve stem, but it's an entirely different thing for your entire bike to match, functionally and cosmetically. No, I'm not talking about hipsters on fixed gears with Velocity Deep V rims or Aerospoke wheels. I'm talking about Mo Bruno Roy's custom Seven Mudhoney SLX, prepped by her husband and mechanic, Matt Roy. Check them out at mmracing.org.

The first thing that pops out at me is how all of the colors are coordinated together perfectly. The blue on the Seven logos match the bar tape. Not only are white hoods sparkly clean, the handlebar tape is finished with white electrical tape too. The white accents on the Sram Force shifters and cranks don't hurt either.

Mo's choses a Fizik Vitesse HP saddle, in matching blue of course. The black and blue combination of the saddle compliment the blue Seven logo on the carbon downtube. You can also see just how good the white hoods, blue bar tape and white electrical tape looks.

Now this image here highlights all of Matt's attention to detail. Take a look at the custom blue anodized bolts holding down the TRP Euro-X carbon brakes. The cables are also all capped off with blue cable ends. At the top of the cable hanger, sits a rubber boot to help seal the brakes against any mud, dirt or grime.

Mo currently holds the Verge leader's jersey and is having a fantastic season with five wins and eleven podiums so far. Not only is she fast, she and her husband are some of the nicest folks you'll meet at a bike race. So give her a shout and show her your support as she tears around the race course.



Cyclocross is a game of chances and things can always go wrong. Day 1 saw a broken chain, and a rolled tubular taking out several riders while stalling half the field all within the first 300 meters of the race. Day 2 saw a crash occur right out of the starting grid, sending a handful of riders to the ambulance. This story was no different for Richard Sachs' rider Dan Timmerman. With the Verge Series leader's jersey on his shoulders, Timmerman found himself in the lead group of three riders after the first lap on day 2. A rolled tire soon stymied his chances of a win. He still rode the race as if it were his, finishing seventh on the day. Here, Richard Sachs himself gives his rider encouragement as he passes the pit.


Cannondale/Cyclocrossworld.com at the CSI

Jeremy Powers and Jamey Driscoll (Cannondale/Cyclocrossworld.com) go 1-2 on day 1 of the Cycle Smart International.


Adam Craig's Giant Prototype

You've seen it all before already. Giant is in the process of testing and developing a carbon cyclocross bike. I was able to take a closer look at this bike in the pit at the Cycle-Smart International Cyclocross race in Northampton, MA.

On day 1, after starting in the last row and being stuck behind a crash, Adam was able to make it up to the front of the race and finished 5th. On day 2, Adam suffered another bout of bad luck as another crash at the start of the race slowed down half the field. Craig was on the ground for several minutes before getting up and continuing the race. He took a bike change on the first lap and finished the race the current TCX aluminum production model to 9th place.

Adam's legs and the aluminum Giant during post race interview. Note the MRP guide with a single chain ring setup.

While leap frogging the field in the elite race, the carbon Giant sat in the pit in case misfortune were to strike again. The bike is complete with Shimano's latest electronic Di2 Dura Ace 7970 gruppo along with several other PRO selections.

A closeup of the stem on Adam's bike.
This stem is very similar to the stem on Mark Cavendish's bike from the Tour. This one has a hole drilled right through the middle to make way for the front brake cable. If you take a closer look, there's no cable hanger attached to the head set.

Craig uses TRP Euro-X Carbon brakes to scrub speed. Take a look at Adam's straddle cable height, relative to the setup on Jeremy Power's CX9 or Katie Compton's Stevens Cross Carbon Team. You can see why this is important over here.
Craig is also rolling on Shimano Dura-Ace 24mm carbon tubular rims. The front tire is a Michelin Mud tread glued onto to a 30mm Dugast casing.

A close up of the electronic Dura Ace shifter.

The bottom bracket junction on the carbon prototype.

Shimano 7900 crankset mated to a custom 46 tooth Dura Ace chainring.

The battery pack at the heart of the Di2 system. It looks like the mount is bolted to the underside of the chain stay, with the battery pack sliding right on. I wonder if there's a chance that this could get knocked off during a crowded run up?

On his first lap mishap, Craig seems to have suffered a rear tire casualty. Here's a closer look at the tire that was originally on his A bike. This tread looks like Vittoria's new XM tread.

A look of the rear triangle. Take a look at Craig's rear tire, mounted to a Dura Ace 24 mm clincher wheel. He choses to run a Michelin Jet as a backup to the Vittoria. The most interesting thing about this tire is the way it's mounted. Michelin features arrows on their sidewalls for a front and rear specific rolling direction. Many chose to run the rear tire in reverse, with the REAR arrow pointing forward. Craig on the other hand decides to run the tire with the FRONT arrow point, and the same direction as a front tire would be mounted.

Another view of the rear triangle and brake caliper. I don't fully understand the reasoning behind the small rear triangle. Initial reports say that Giant was aiming to design a compliant bike, instead of focusing on stiffness. My thought is that the smaller rear triangles and shorter tubes would result in a stiffer ride. An independent bike testing consultant told me that the smallest "bendy" bike, is still stiffer than the largest stiffest bike out there.

Check out the detail on the machined ramp feature on the one off Dura Ace chainring. The plates on the chain also have excess material removed to reduce wait, saving 18 grams over the older 7800 incarnation.

Good luck the rest of the season Adam. I'll be rooting for you at Nationals.


Analysis of Crash at CSI - Northampton, MA

Screen captures and commentary courtesy of Chris Eager.

The rider in the black skinsuit gets a little sideways going over the curb from the pavement on to the grass.

The lead group make it through safely, but the riders at the back of the pack will not be so fortunate.

As the rider in the black skinsuit goes down, the force of the crash causes his tubular tire to roll off of the rim.

The CCB and Kenda/Seven rider try to avoid the crash and end up getting airborne.

The trajectory of the airborne riders continue.

Note the Embrocation rider starting a two wheel drift, trying to avoid the crash.

The Embro rider stays upright after sliding across the grass, as the airborne Redline sets a pick. Adam Craig meanwhile calmly makes his way around the pile on the ground.

Traffic jam starts.

The riders starting at the back of the race now make their way through the crash site.

Unfortunately, a rolled front tubular for Gavin Mannion.

Fortunately no one was seriously injured during this crash. The race continued with Jeremy Powers (Cannondale/Cyclocrossworld.com) taking the win. This weekend marks the 19th edition of the oldest UCI cyclocross race in the United States. You can read more about it over here.

Crash At Cycle Smart - Elite Men

Crash at the start of the men's elite race at the Cycle Smart International in Northampton, MA.
Video courtesy of Eric Silva.

Cycle-Smart elite men start (and crash) from Eric Silva on Vimeo.



Richard Sachs cheering on his riders on Day 1 of New Gloucester. Team rider Dan Timmerman would go on to take the win and teammate Josh Dillon would go on to finish third.


Providence Cyclocross Day 1

Start of the men's elite race. Tim Johnson (Cannondale/Cyclocrossworld.com) would go on to win the race, followed by teammate Jamey Driscoll, Champion Systems' Chris Jones would end up third, rounding out the podium.


Adam Myerson in the Pits at New Gloucester

While at the race, this whole sequence made no sense. Why would anybody change their shoe in the middle of a race? Then this was overheard over the internet waves:
"3rd for a while, flatted, dropped to 5th, then lost a cleat! Changed a shoe, finished 6th. The form, it's coming..."
- @adammyerson

Adam Myerson (Cycle-Smart) pulls into the pit and starts to take off his shoe

His mechanic comes closer ready with spare shoe in hand

Myerson finally pulls off his shoe and starts to put on a new one

He gets a hand from his mechanic with the buckle on the new shoe. It was 40 degrees that day, my guess is that dexterity was non existent.

After changing his shoe, Adam hops on a fresh bike and starts to rejoin the race

But stops after he realizes that he has a rear flat.

He runs back to his mechanic to grab the same bike he rode in on.

After an interesting pit stop, Myerson jumps on a functional bike to finish the race in 6th place. Nice race Adam.

Addendum 2009.11.05:
Adam came across this post and added a little commentary on his blog. Check it out: http://www.cycle-smart.com/blog/2009/11/04/you-cant-make-stuff
"As it turned out, the second flat was from a valve stem that wasn't completely closed and was leaning against something that accidentally depressed it. So while 2nd was still within reach when I flatted the first time, the combo of the loose cleat and and a good minute in the pit put me back in 6th for good.

Muddy days like this are just full of unpredictability, and even the winners are falling off their bikes. Fast and steady wins the race, as Frankie McCormack always said."


What the pros ride

Let's take a moment and look at the bike of Luna sponsored rider Katerina Nash.

Katerina is off to a blazing start right now, taking the win both days in Providence and being the only rider who can answer to the speed and power of Katie Compton. With the 2010 Cyclocross World Championships in her backyard in Tabor, CZE, Katerina has a lot on the line this season. She rides for Team Luna, a perennial powerhouse on the domestic and international cycling circuit. With riders like Georgia Gould, Catherine Prendal and the newly un-retired Alison Dunlap, the Luna team brings the estrogen and horsepower to any bike race. The team is sponsored by Luna, Orbea, Maxxis, Mavic and Shimano among others. Now let's take a glance at her equipment choice.

Upon first glance, all the component choices match up.
Frame: Orbea
Drivetrain: Shimano 7800
Wheels: Mavic Cosmic Carbone Ultimate Tubulars
Tires: Maxxis....wait, Maxxis doesn't make any tubular tires.

Well, that's okay. Maybe the tires are Maxxis treads glued onto a FMB or Dugast casing. Maxxis did release a new tread called the Mud Wrestler at Interbike this year, maybe she's doing some real world testing. All plausible scenarios.

But when we take a closer look, it seems as this tread doesn't quite match the one on the MW, or any other Maxxis tire.

If my eyes don't deceive me, they look more like Dugast Rhinos with black sidewalls. If you look closely, you'll see the unmistakable arrows on the side knobs of these tires. Katerina rides Dugast tires even though her team is sponsored by Maxxis...gasp!!


Happy Halloween

Today was 70 degrees and sunny. Just last weekend, it was pouring rain and the temperature hovered around 45 degrees. Two weekends ago it was snowing. I hear they have these things called "seasons" in New England. Here's a photo to remind us what it was like in Maine last weekend.


Gloucester Day 2 - 2009

Jonathan Page (Planet Bike) entering the sand pit after winning the mudbath that was day 1. If you haven't seen the video of his crash with Tim Johnson yet, I suggest you go check out cyclingdirt.org

Tim Van Nuffel (Rendementhypo Cycling) leads Dylan McNicholas (CCB), Adam Myerson (Cycle-Smart) and Jesse Anthony (Jamis) in front of a wall of fans.

Andy Jacques Maynes (Bissel) visiting from California. A great interview with Andy can be found over at Podium Insight: part 1 and part 2. I've never met the guy but he's easily one of my favorite riders because:
a. He went to Cal and studied engineering.
b. He worked at Specialized as a product manager (A job I would love to have, Andy can you hook me up?)
c. Lived out of an RV over the fall of 2008, traveling to races up and down the east coast
d. Crashed hard in May 2007, was hospitalized and still came back to win Masters 30-34 nationals six months later.
e. He's from California

Jesse Anthony (Team Jamis). I don't particularly like this image but I love how one of the bib panels has an upside down logo.

A view of the pit

Joachim Parbo (CCV Leopard Cycles) over the barriers. He's the 2006, 2007 and 2009 Danish national cyclocross champion. You can check out a profile of his Leopard over a the old cyclingnews.com

Stu Thorne, the man behind cyclocrossworld.com hauling bikes away from the pit after the race. Take a look at this image for a second, each rider has a pit bike and a spare set of wheels. Let's do some math. A set of Zipp 303 wheels retails for $2280. A set of Dugast Typhoon tubulars retail for $230. With a set on the pit bike, and an extra set in case of a second flat, this comes out to over $5000 in spare wheels alone. Now take into account the wheels on the race bike, three sets of mud tires and three sets of file treads and you have just about $23,000 worth of wheels alone! Yes this is a pro team sponsored by Zipp and Cyclocrossworld.com, but I just thought this was insane.

The stable of Cannondale/Cyclocrossworld.com bikes after the race.