Thursday, May 26, 2016

Urban Road Warrior

What a dramatic title, well that's how I felt astride my fat electric bike.   I needed to be in the office today and after spending so much time riding I did not feel like driving.  On the other hand I also did not feel like getting changed into my cycling kit and then getting changed when I got to work.

Then I remembered, this was one of the purposes I purchased our Sondors electric bikes.  The purchase was a bit of an experiment and todays was a chance to put the experiment into practice.  I was a little nervous that the bike would not have enough range but having been out with Sarah on hers I estimated it would be fine.

You might be thinking, "What's the big deal if the battery runs out, you are a strong rider, just ride without power", well that was my thought until I tried to ride the bike without power.  It is like trying to move an anchored lead weight. 

I headed out and soon discovered that although I had assist it still took effort to ride.  It did however have enough range to get me to work where I could recharge the battery.  What's more the energy output was low enough to keep sweating to a minimum, which was a good thing as I did not have a change of clothes.

On the ride home I passed a couple of riders and I have to admit as a cyclist I felt a little dirty, but only for a moment. 

Experiment over, I estimate I put in 40%-50% of the effort it would have taken if I had ridden my road bike.  So I got a little active recovery and passive exercise whilst avoiding the traffic and breathing some fresh air.  I will take that.

Remember to keep it Rubber Side Down and MaxLifeOut.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Back to the Real World

It was wonderful arriving home yesterday and being met at the airport by my darling wife.  It was strange waking up in the hotel room hours earlier and not getting ready to ride.  The trip to the airport and the flight home was uneventful thankfully.  I was shattered but our first stop was at Microsoft.  Prior to my vacation I had promised to sit on a Hack for Good panel and I had no intention of letting them down.  The panel discussion went really well and I was excited to see the non profit participation.  Sarah and I then took off home to catchup.  Not that I was much good in the catching up department, being dog tired has that effect on you.

One topic of conversation was "What Next?".   It is a great question and I am still working on it.   The priority for now however is recovery and to that end my coach suggested that if I felt up for it, Sarah and I could go for a ride together today.  I told him that surprisingly enough despite feeling tired I was eager to get back out riding.

Today the alarm clock did not go off in the morning, well that's a lie, it did but it did not stay going for very long.  I stayed in bed and it felt good.  Once up we had breakfast and took the dogs for a walk before heading out for almost a 2 hour spin in the valley.  It was an overcast but warmish day and it was wonderful to breath in the green air as we bumbled along.  Well I bumbled along, if you ask Sarah she has a different version and I could not be more proud of how well she rode. 

I spent the evening working on my Tour of California and CTS trip summary, but now it is time to get in some more recovery.

Remember to keep it Rubber Side Down and MaxLifeOut.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Tour of California 2016 - Stage 8

Completed 86 miles and 600ft of elevation.

This morning I got an extra hour in bed with my alarm going off at 6am.  I reached over and turned the light on before I turned over and went back to sleep.  I was tired but today was the last stage and I intended to finish strong.

Stage 8 was a pancake flat stage with just a little over 600ft of accumulative elevation.  We kitted up this morning at the hotel and road 15 minutes to the start line and then we were off.  The ride started out mellow and I am sure like me others were reflecting on there week.  I was very pleasantly surprised about how good I felt, sure my legs felt tired but nowhere near as badly as I thought they would feel.

The group stayed together for the first couple of hours and then the pace lifted as eight riders including me pulled away.  The day might have been flat but the head and cross winds made it hard work on the front.  We did turns pulling and the time flew by.  I could not believe it was nearly all over.  Before long the over enthusiasm of some of  the riders in our group started to show and by the end of the ride we were down to 6 riders with one having to be helped along by the coach.

As a result me and one other ended up doing the majoring of the pulling in the last 2 hours of the ride.  It was not exactly the easy day I had envisioned but it was really good to finish strong.   We came in as the woman's race was finishing so we did not get a chance to cross the finish line which was  a little disappointing but quickly forgotten.

After changing out of my kit and grabbing a bit to eat, I headed to the VIP tent with plans on a last visit to the Expo.  The VIP tent was packed and after seeing the woman's race finish and bumping into Freddie I decided to head back to the trailer to watch the race come n to TV instead of just getting a glimpse as they charged the line.  I headed towards the Expo and took one look and decided to give it a miss.  It was swarming with people and honestly I just wanted to chill out and watch the race come home.

With the riders home it was time to pack up and head back to the hotel.  Whilst everyone was returning I took the time to watch the riders return to there team buses.  Once back at the hotel it was time for a final massage followed by packing to return home.  It was odd not to be preparing for a ride tomorrow but also really nice to be heading home to my girls.

We gathered in the hotel lobby at 6:45pm for a final group dinner at a local restaurant where everyone shared there trip  highlights.  When it was my turn I shared both the lows of the crash and the highs of the achievement.  The highest  point for me came today from my darling wife Sarah.  She has invested and sacrificed so much for me to take on this challenge.  Supporting me through the training, putting up with the hours on the bike, the seemingly endless requirement for equipment and ensuring that I fueled properly both on and off the bike.  So when I texted her the message "I finished :)" it was not exactly the message she was expecting which as a stupid man I was completely oblivious to. She said 5 words that meant more to me than anything else "I am proud of you".  I can't wait to see her tomorrow.

I hope you have enjoyed the journey with me, it has been a real pleasure to share it with you and I hope in some small way you are inspired to climb your mountain whatever that might be.

Here are a few pictures from the day:


Remember to keep it Rubber Side Down and MaxLifeOut

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Tour of Cslifornia 2016 - Stage 7

Santa Rosa
Completed 106.8 miles, 9,341ft of elevation in 6:56

The alarm went off at 5:30am and the now familiar daily routine of finishing up my finish bag, sag bag and packing to leave started.  Ready I headed down to the box truck with my luggage and then headed to breakfast.  Our transfer this morning was 20 minutes to Santa Rosa for a 7:30 start.

Last night I caught up with my coach and talked him through the stages and how I was feeling.  He said "tomorrow is the last big day, if you have anything left in the tank go ahead and use it". 

At the started we were joined by both Chris Carmichael and Fast Freddie Rodriguez.  Chris would be doing the full stage with us and Freddie would be doing a couple of hour's.

My legs felt heavy to start with and it was clear they needed waking up.  I did a couple of turns on the front and once out of town the group quickly split up.  The first short climbs did the job and I started to enjoy the ride as we rode through forest and winding roads.  I then found myself riding next to Freddie and we spent the next 30-45 min's chatting.  He is a super nice guy and it was amazing to be riding with him in person.  He shared how he got into cycling and stories about the Tour de France, then before I knew it he had to peel of and leave the group.

Shortly afterwards we hit the first big climb of the day a category 1.  My coaches words were in my head and I decided to just ride and power meter be damned.  It was a tough climb and the pace soon put me in a break of 3, myself, James and Jason a coach.  We rode strong staying together over the top where we stopped to take on water and re-group.  Back together we headed off.  A little while later I was on the front leading the group into another climb, it looked like a wall and we hit it and started to climb.  We must of been 3/4 of the way up when we were called back.  We had taken the women's course by mistake as the men's was not yet marked.

We rode through  few rollers before it kicked up again and again and again.  Rolling out of the next stop point someone mentioned that my brakes were rubbing.  Sure enough there was a rubbing noise but it was not my brakes.   It turned out to be a couple of stones stuck under my brake caliper and I had to remove my wheel to get them out.  By the time I got back on my bike the group had gone.  I did not panic, I just settled into the ride and slowly started the effort to bridge back.  We reached the top of another climb and I used the decent to close the gap down catching them just before the summit. 

I was having a good time in my pain cave and it was not long before the three of us were away again.  We pushed each other over the climbs.  When we were not climbing Jason set a blistering pace on the flats and gentle grades.  I checked in on how I was feeling and was happy to find things going really well.   We caught, hung with and then left other groups on the road and then we pulled over again to re fill water and re-group.  I was totally surprised to learn that we had completed all of the categorized climbs and would be heading to the coast.  The time was simply flying by.

Re-grouped we headed downhill to the coast and the decent was breath taking and great fun as we swooped around corners.  Once on the coast road we charged to the last KOM of the day, Coleman Valley Rd summit a category 2 climb of 1.5 miles.   At the bottom of the climb to group exploded as Jason and I set the pace up the climb.  It was a grueling climb but I had nothing else to save myself for so I gritted my teeth and hung in.  A couple of times I thought about giving up but each time I gave myself a pep talk and dug in.  James was a strong rider and he had beaten me over every climb we had ridden together so far, but not today.  With 1K to go my breathing was labored, my legs felt like they would explode and my mind kept wanting me to give up.  I shut out the voice in my head and ignored the pain and redoubled my effort.  It was working I was pulling away.  With 200 to go James was back to just in front of my back wheel. This climb was mine and I turned myself inside out and pulled away.  I had him and I went on to take the KOM encouraged by Jason who made it look easy.

From the top of the climb we had a few more climbs to deal with before the run into town.  Jason got on the front and drove the train home.  We finished well ahead of the pro's and I was stoked with how I had ridded.  I grabbed the Rapha stage cap and then some food to start the recovery.  I missed the end of the race but that was ok my day had been awesome.

We had a 2 hour transfer to our last hotel in Sacramento and tomorrows final stage.  I can't believe it is nearly all over.

Here are a few pictures from the day.  Not many as I was too busy enjoying myself - sorry.

Chris Carmichael

Fast Freddie Rodriguez

Remember to keep it Rubber Side Down and MaxLifeOut

Friday, May 20, 2016

Tour of California 2016 - Stage 6

Boy I am getting tired of waking up at 5am.   I am not sure what is making me more tired, the riding or the constant travel from hotel to start and from start to hotel.  This morning the transfer was 2 hours to Folsom for the time trail stage and for us a rest day and a chance to wander around the expo and do a little shopping.

At breakfast one of the coaches came up to me and said he had been thinking about the crash and that I must feel really bad.  He impressed on me that it just happened and to let it go.  It was just one of those things.  I really appreciated the thought and thanked him.  It did however resurface some emotions I thought I had let go of.

In town and in our kit we rode to the start line.  The amateur race was delayed by 15 minutes holding up our start time.  Once all the riders were away I got the chance to roll down the starting ramp and onto the circuit, that was very cool but my mood was a little somber.  I fully intended to just roll the course and completely rest so when the CTS train came by in pairs and I jumped on the back.

We started to do turns and before long the pace was lifted a little by a few riders caught up in the moment.  5K in and we turned into a strong head wind and the ride started to get harder.  I was beginning to regret jumping on.  Tucked in behind the rider in font I started to shelter to the right due to the cross wind when the rider next to me started telling me to move over.  I was neither interested or able to enter into a debate.  My inner voice was screaming WTF through.  We had an entire closed circuit to stager as needed and here's this guy telling me to move over.  We were not racing so I kept my inner feelings in check and moved over.  Then the riders in front peeled off and we took up the pace.  Almost instantly he lifted the pace and started half wheeling me and staggering the pace line.  He then waved me forward wanting me to go faster.  I let him know he could lift the pace if he wanted but I was not.  He then dropped back to lecture me on being a team and working together, at which point my inner voice became my outer voice and I told him to "Shut Up", he continued to try to lecture me at 22 mph into a vicious head wind with everyone riding behind.  I had to repeat "Shut Up" a few time before he got the message.  He then accelerated pass me shattering the formation on the road, so much for team work I thought. 

Really I was not trying to be mean, I just did not have the mental faculties to deal with all the variables going on, maintain the pace and try to be polite.  I checked in after the ride to make sure we were good and clear the air.

Back to the ride.  4 coaches moved to the front and the pace changed from tempo to sustained.  I slid onto a wheel as the formation went from pairs to a pace line.  We were now moving at 30mph with a police escort and fully time trialing, so much for the gentle spin.  I gritted my teeth and felt my legs burn as we flew past the 10k to go sign.  I looked back and there were only 5 of us left, all coaches and maybe one other athlete.  I got my heart rate under control by sliding back to let a rider in front of me so I could recover a little.  I then mixed it up with them taking turns on the front as we tore up the last 5k and I finished with a big smile on my face.  I was not what I planned but it was fun and I was inwardly pleased my body responded so well after feeling so crappy at the 10k mark.

The ride over we had time to look around and hang out in the VIP area.  Noise was made about a tour of the Hincapie team bus but that did not transpire.  Not sure what happened but we ended up back at the vans for the 2 hour transfer to Santa Rosa.  We arrived before our rooms were ready and given the option to hang out either in the lobby or by the pool.  I opted for the pool as they had loungers and before long I fell asleep.   I was woken and told my room was ready.  I caught up with Bill Walton before heading to my room.  He is having an awesome time and seeing him riding is an inspiration.

After cleaning up, preparing for tomorrow and dressing my wounds I headed down to dinner.  The idea of eating with the teams sounded great but it is really just a bunch of guys who you don't get to meet or talk with and they are not all there so it is hit or miss who you might see.  Tonight Tom Boonen was in the hall.

Tomorrow is our last big day of climbing so until then here are a few pictures of the day:

New Wiggins Mod Helmet

Remember to keep it Rubber Side Down and MaxLifeOut

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Tour of California 2016 - Stage 5

Completed 90 miles and 12270ft of elevation - 6 hours 20 mins

Today's stage was form Lodi to South Lake Tahoe.  The alarm went off at 5am and I literally crawled out of bed bleary eyed but ready to go.  When I got to the buffet for breakfast, I was not surprised to find I could not eat anything.  We eventually got a to go box and I eat in the van during our transfer.  A few mouthfuls of the onions and my body confirmed what I was tasting, butter.  Fortunately I did not have much and the reaction was mild.  I let the lead coach know just in case.

Today was a monster stage with climbing right out the gate for over 30 miles and then 2 KOM's followed by a nasty little climb to the finish.  We started a little further in than the pros and we had three guest riders today.  Phil Sutherland from team novo nordisk, a well renown chef, I did not catch his name but do have a photo below and the one and only "Shutup Legs" Jens Voigt.

After a pep talk about the length of the climb we rolled out with Phil and Jens on the front.  It was awesome to be riding with them but there was a downside.  Jens is still a monster on the bike and a quick look at my power meter confirmed what my legs were telling me, he was setting a hard pace and all the while chatting away with Phil as if he was on a casual ride, which for him he probably was.  Phil was riding with us all day but Jens was only with us for a couple of hours.

With my power jumping from 220 to 350 watts I knew I could not sustain the pace but like everyone else I was not going to pass up the opportunity to ride with 2 pros.  Whilst I gritted my teeth, Jens shouted out "is the pace good" and there is always the one that says yes.  I voted for shooting him but was too busy staying on the power.

As predicted the pace soon took its tole on the pack as we splintered into two groups with Jens obliviously driving the pace.  An hour into the climb we stopped for a call of nature and before we all headed off I got my chance to talk to Jens and get a picture.  Jens then announced he would drop back to he second group on the road.  I have never been so happy to see the back of a hero, however the lead group was still in charge mode and it was time for me to make a decision.  Stay with them and blow up or drop back and manage my energy.

I chose to drop back and boy am I glad I did.  The climb went on for what seemed like forever.  I clipped my phone on the stem and put some music on and tapped out a tempo.  I dropped back quickly and one of the coaches dropped back and suggested pacing me back to the group.  I explained that I could not sustain the current pace and that I would be fine by myself.  He slowly pulled away from me and I got down the the business of climbing and taking in the experience.

With support from the sage van when I needed water I kept a steady pace.  I was surprised to catch riders I thought were behind me, I think they got ferried up the road but I am not sure.  One of the coaches suggested I drop back with them but I was quite happy managing my own rhythm.  The patience paid off, about 5 hours into the ride I saw CTS riders, as I drew closer I saw it was Phil and Kirk.  Kirk was soft peddling as I joined him and he confirmed that there was only one athletes ahead of me.  That was a shock as I had not expected to pull them back although I was pretty sure when I back that they could not maintain the output all day.

My lower back, legs and well my body ached but making the catch was an awesome feeling.  Phil paid me a genuine complement on my effort and called me an animal.  Truthfully I did not feel like an animal but I took it gratefully.  We were now four and we hung for a while, but it was clear that the other athlete and Phil were tired and on the second KOM I pulled away and gapped them following Kirk downhill into strong cross winds that knocked us all over the road.  I was really pleased I did not have deep rim wheels.

Kirk waited to make sure the other athlete got down safely and I carried on, riding the remainder of the course solo, which was great until I had to ride into the wind up the second to last climb which I can tell you was no fun.  What was fun was seeing the woman's race winner pass by me in the last 1K of the ride.

I rolled in as the first athlete to finish with one of the coaches ahead of me.  I had not set out to be the first home but Iwas inwardly very pleased with the achievement.  I had time to stop by the Rapha trailer, buy a stage cap and then head to the VIP area to see the men's race come home.

Today we had a 10 min transfer which was great and allowed me to get in for a massage and clean my wounds before dinner.

I am so happy tomorrow is a short recovery ride around the time trial circuit as my body is feeling every bit of the 500+ miles and a crash.  I am looking forward to checking out the rest of the event as I have not had a chance to do so properly yet.

Here are a few pictures from the day.

Kit ready to go

Breakfast hall

Teams add there own favorites

Sitting in behind Phil Sutherland and Jens Voit

Go up bsby

Selfie on the road

What a view

Remember to keep it Rubberside Down and MaxLifeOut

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Tour of California 2016 - Stage 4

Completed 112 miles, 7,743ft of elevation

The alarm went off at 5am this morning and it felt like I had just put my head down after finally getting to bed at 12am, damn I was tired.  Surprisingly I did not feel too sore, that anti inflammatory injection in the butt must have helped.

Packed up and ready to go I headed to the vans for 5:45am  and an hour transfer to the start.  Due to the early start scheduled for the pros the plan was for us to start on the course making it a little shorter for us.  Due to finding a location on the course to  park the bike trailer and kit up, it only ended up taking around 10 miles off the pro distance.

It was a foggy morning by the coast and I started with overshoes and a wind jacket.  We rolled out and instantly my glasses fogged with the mist making visibility a problem.  About 30 mins into the ride I wiped my glasses with my glove and a lease popped out.  We were traveling at 24 mph and leaving it crossed my mind.  Instead I slid back and turned around to find it.  I glad I did as It would have been a pain later in the day when the fog cleared.  As I went back I let the riders know but at that speed I don't think they heard me. 

I recovered my lense and then headed after the group.  With the head wind it quickly became clear I was not going to bridge the gap.  Fortunately one of the coaches dropped back to pace me back to the group after delivery a reprimand for not letting them know.  Being tired, sore and off the back of the group I was not particularly receptive to the talking to but I am proud for restraining a retort and instead saying that I had, but clearly no one heard me.  He was not a happy chap and I know it was said out of concern for keeping us all safe which I totally respect and appreciate.   Discussion over he then proceeded to tow me back to the group ahead.

The coaches are animals and spend all day pulling the group and riding up and down the line.  With an engine in front we soon rejoined the group.  For me it came with the cost of burning energy I could well of done with keeping.

From then on we stayed together until we broke into two groups.  I rode in the front group and we spent the entire day in a pace line until the penultimate climb were we all broke apart.

Let me say highway 1 is very scenic but it is certainly not flat and my legs today can attest to that.  At the 3rd KOM I had a little dig and was beaten to second over the line.  The big surprise was the last climb, it was long and brutally unrelenting followed by a fast decent and then a 16 percent kick in the pants.

I was riding strong  as we entered the last clim and stayed with Jaso n who beat me in the 3rd KOM.  We were just behind two other CTS riders and bridging the gap.  Don't get me wrong I have no delusions that I am a stronger rider than him, but it is good to have someone that challenges you.  I was matching him up the climb but glances at my numbers told me I could not sustain it.  I decided to let him go and boy was I glad I did.  I don't think I would have made it if I had kept going as the hill just kept kicking up.

I crested the climb and saw the sag van.  They told me the others had rolled through so I followed suit.  After the decent I hit the raceway climb to the KOM.  I had no choice but to turn myself inside out to finish.  I came home  around 3rd in the group but a little frustrated I did not enter the race circuit and cross the finish line.  Not that anyone is actually watching but after 112 miles it would have been nice.

Although CTS have access to the finish line it seems that no one  one has told the officials as they have tried to stop us at every stage.  Blocking the way yesterday and knocking me off the bike to add insult to injury for the day. 

Today I was guided the wrong way and did not get onto the raceway to finish the last 2K.  When I found out where it was I had no energy or desire to backtrack up hill and then ride the circuit instead I settled for food, drink and a walk to the VIP tent to see the race come home.

With the race in it was time to head back to the van for a 2 hour transfer to the next hotel. We are staying in a different hotel from the pros but shuttled over to the food hall.  The tension of the last few days seems to have worn off and the teams seem more relaxed.   It would be great to interact with them but it is there time away from the press and fans and we need to respect that.

At least I will get a massage tonight having missed yesterday.  I won't lie I am feeling tired and tomorrow is another big day of climbing.

Misty morning start
Jason got stung in the ear by a bee - now that sucks

Bike hand off, change and food before watching the race come in

Bike fans enjoying the event
Random snap at the finish

Thanks for following along and remember to keep it Rubber Side Down and MaxLifeOut ....