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Reynolds gave me the opportunity to review its new carbon clinchers, the Aero series, and write a review for Competitive Cyclist for them. Have a sneak peek at it below, after the jump…and yes, these wheels really ARE legit.

It’s official: The relatively new marketplace battleground of the carbon clincher wheelset just went nuclear with Reynolds’ new entrants into the fray, their Aero wheel lineup. This is the Wasatch Front-based firm’s first attempt at building a carbon wheel strictly as a clincher, and it’s truly a stunning effort.

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Posted at 11:43am and tagged with: one column, reynolds cycling, wheels, carbon clincher, dt swiss, competitive cyclist,.

Tommy Chandler, Competitive Cyclist

Undefined enigma of sorts, PRO is an aspirational essence - one of those things that “if you have to ask…”. In fact, if you’re wondering why it’s capitalized, you’re probably on the right track. 

Opining in my never-humble manner while cooking dinner last Friday night (and after taking yet another rib about running a frame pump on a Dogma 2), I came to the conclusion that the concept of pro has little to do with sock cuff length, shaved legs, neon-yellow helmets, what you eat on rides, your FTP wattage, carbon tubulars, or even your past race results.

I began dwelling on my somewhat-harrowing San Dimas/Redlands adventure last month (possibly fueled by the fumes of reducing pear balsamic vinegar), and giving a fair bit of scrutiny to the mentality of our veteran riders; looking for ways that I could improve my own performance. Something hit me, especially while revisiting the last day of Redlands.

We were up against the wall, with Paco (our team captain, GC honcho, and Iberian vino connoisseur) down a good chunk of time from the GC lead. Our director sportif laid out the plan of attack to put Mancebo in yellow, being honest in his assessment of our capabilities/roles for the infamous Sunset Road Circuit Race. It became apparent that the brunt of the load for winning the race would fall to the shoulders of our strongest riders.  

It was then that I knew what made these guys, by definition, pro. We were all tired. We weren’t in what I’d call optimal spirits, and the rain forecast for the day wasn’t lightening anyone’s mood (especially after the torrential San Dimas road race the weekend prior). It was obvious Paco was a bit knackered, and probably would’ve much rather have been sipping Castilian wine at home instead of destroying himself in the final minutes of that race - in a frigid downpour. So, when he went off the front with about 20k to go in the bike race (and from our understanding at that time, had taken the lead), I was struck with a certain sense of awe and respect. He went out and did his job. Period. The circumstances didn’t matter - he and the strong guys around him left it all on the course, just what their team had asked of them. THAT, in my nubile rookie eyes, is PRO - win or lose. 

(top photo credit: Tommy Chandler, Competitive Cyclist; bottom photo badass bib-fixing credit: my awesome lycra-adept mom)

Posted at 10:21pm and tagged with: competitive cyclist racing team, cycling, nate king, San Dimas Stage Race, paco mancebo, francisco mancebo, redlands classic, gord fraser, htfu, one column,.

2012 Competitive Cyclist Racing Team camp is over. 

I pen my missive from the lowly “A” terminal of the humble TUS (realworld name: Tucson International Airport). Our stalwart Uruguay squad has departed on their 24-hour slog to South America, leaving the intrepid T. Shelden and I behind to fend for ourselves at the airport bar. 

The past week has been a rush of unmodulated (and varying) emotions, not unlike that of a stage race; though lacking the intense competitive adrenaline rush usually accompanying said events. While the ephemeral euphoria I felt when I first received word I was being offered a contract has long passed, the whole “riding-your-bike-for-a-living” mentality hasn’t set in until now. A needed refocusing of priorities has taken place in the past week, likely thanks to the close proximity of compatriots and mentors on the squad.  

I feel incredibly lucky, not only to be riding as a pro, but to be riding as a pro on this team. I’ve said it before, but there’s really no better outfit for a (very) new racer such as myself. The veterans on the team, and there are a ton for an American Conti squad, are VERY willing to share their experience with the younger guys such as myself. This is nothing short of gold. Even though I’m a relative grain of sand in the cycling world (racing with veritable sandcastles like Mancebo, Grajales, Beyer, Olheiser, and Fraser), their adeptness with lending advice and critique makes me feel like part of the team. The inclusiveness of the whole crew is something I wasn’t prepared for, and it makes me feel right at home. 

In addition to having a deep well of human talent to draw from, we’re also incredibly lucky to be rolling on the best equipment in the UCI Continental game (and, dare I say, Pro Continental). A true “A-List” of sponsors, from the Pinarello bikes to the Chamois Butter/Paceline skin products. The simple fact that I don’t have to worry about equipment this year is a three-ton weight off my shoulders (the same could probably be said for my industry friends and colleagues who put up with my incessant begging last season). At the start of 2011, I was rolling on a too-big aluminum frame I’d snagged from eBay for somewhere under $100, outfitted with a free group that had been run into the ground, and “race” wheels I rode everyday, sourced from the returns bin at work with a vaunted Backcountry “schwag” ticket. The rear rim was cracked until month two of the season, when I finally convinced a certain warranty department that selling me a crash replacement was the only way to save me from…myself.  

Equipment aside, other aspects of camp provided both a physical relief and bludgeoning. I might accuse the week of being a “buffet party” (I wouldn’t be shocked if I gained a pound or two thanks to the infatigable Leigh’s phenomenal culinary labours), but by the last day I was feeling the compiled physiological effects of throwing down with an internationally-acclaimed crew. Or maybe it was the twin bed and snoringDutchman. Either way, even the coffee from Competitive (via Silver Bean, an SLC roaster co-owned quite ironically by the guy who owned the shop I was an on-and-off shop rat for in high school) couldn’t rouse my heartrate beyond the depths of threshold by the end. It hit me on return: This team is strong and incredibly deep.

 

Not to toot our own horn, but I think a certain Nikita Khrushchev quote might be in order, especially after witnessing Mike Olheiser absolutely crush the first stage of the first team race (and his first pro race - HELL YEAH MIKE!) of the year in Uruguay with a 50k solo win.

3.5 weeks to San Dimas. 

Posted at 8:56am and tagged with: one column, cycling, training, racing, competitive cyclist, pinarello, giordana, nate king, mike olheiser, competitive cyclist racing team,.

Know their own bodies. 

Enter scene today - shredder team pacelining on Paco’s wheel. Begin feeling haggard. Knee begins to feel haggard thanks to some position adjustments I haven’t adapted to yet. Instead of taking a breather on the back, I kept pushing it.

Knee begins screaming in pain.

Nate falls off the back. 

Gord drops back and feeds me valuable advice on the preceding situation - don’t be ashamed to take a break on the back.

"It’s always good to stay in instead of falling out," he says. 

Listen to your director. 

Jason rolls up in the team car, and instructs me to do the unthinkable.

"Get in the car."

Listen to your director.

I get in the car.

Posted at 4:41pm and tagged with: cycling, training, racing, gord fraser, competitive cyclist racing team, competitive cyclist, one column,.

It’s day six of my first training camp as a professional cyclist, and really my first “training camp” ever. We’re still basking in the February sun of Tucson, AZ, a far cry from the frosty climes of my training base of Salt Lake City.  

I’m still a little in awe. My experience is (extremely) limited, but I feel like there’s no better team for a neo-pro cyclist to start his career with. What other North American squad is completely stacked to the rafters with such diverse experience and talents? The amount of knowledge there is to draw on when we have the whole team and staff in one room is staggering. Experienced (and successful) Grand Tour riders, a Master’s world champion, the fastest sprinters on the continent, staff that knows the value of camaraderie, and it’s all wrapped up by a director who is arguably the most successful domestic racer of all time. I feel extremely lucky to have been given the opportunity to work with and for such a spectacular crew. My biggest goal this season is to learn as much as I possibly can from these guys, and I’m making a lot of progress  on it already. From paceline technique to relating hellish days in the Giro, the various tidbits I’m soaking up are straight cycling gold. I feel incredibly lucky to be here, and to help the team absolutely crush its goals this season.

Anyway, I’ll hopefully have a bit more mental energy post-team presentation this evening to relate the tale of us absolutely smashing the Strava KOMon Kitt’s Peak.

Posted at 8:59am and tagged with: one column, cycling, training, competitive cyclist, competitive cyclist racing team, racing, learning, mentoring,.

Is no longer steel. I’m a little young to have sampled the frames Pinarello chiseled from the earth’s crust for Der Kaiser, but I now understand what riders talk about when they say “…it’s a Pina,” and reference their Torayca-laid wunderbikes.  

I’ll admit, I used to be a bit of a hater. “Oh, nearly all carbon frames ride the same”, I’d preach, whenever consulted about the purported dream-like quality of the newer Pinarellos. Of course, I’d never had a real chance to swing a leg over one. Now, thanks to their generous sponsorship of the Competitive Cyclist Racing Team, I can finally sample the bikes many only get to fantasize about. 

Down to brass tacks. This frame is a mind-blower. My first time on it, with too-big bars and stem, it was still an epic experience. Stepping on the cranks provides razor-sharp response from the bike, but without the feeling of being beaten around on the pavement. It’s not mushy like a lot of carbon bikes - I’ve never once looked back at my rear wheel thinking I’ve got a flat. No waifish chainstays here. From the front end, the massive 1.5” tapered headtube and fork steerer rail corners with nary a hint of flex. 

The bike strikes a perfect balance, in my opinion, between all the polar qualities of a superb all-around race bike. The geometry is incredibly well-balanced. It’s stable on descents and when taking a no-handed feed, but not to the point of feeling slow in corners or in the pack. It’s comfortable over the long haul, but not comfortable enough that you lose road feedback or stiffness. The fit and finish is second-to-none…I often find myself gazing at the bass-boat silver paint accents and getting a little lost. I honestly can’t think of a better bike for us to be on this year.

Posted at 8:24am and tagged with: bike, competitive cyclist, competitive cyclist racing team, cycling, dogma, dogma 2, gita, gitabike, italian, nate king, one column, pinarello, training, one column,.

I know it’s been a mellow winter when I see a forecast of 45 with a 50% chance of snow and opt to spend my day on the trainer instead of outside. Hey, at least it’ll help out my Chilblains (aka “Warehouse Trenchfoot”), yeah?

Yes, I am still alive - still riding. Shooting pretty pictures of beautiful bikes (read: working) takes a certain creative (and mental) toll that I still haven’t figured out how to mitigate coupled with training; at least when it comes to devoting my energies elsewhere. Like writing a blog entry, cleaning my house, getting an oil change, finding a “nice girl” (thanks, grandma), or maybe trimming the mane.

 

Enough bitching about my favorite hashtag. Life is good - I am, after all, riding my bike for a career. In that vein, I recently got hooked up with both a new laptop and new bike, both of which I’ll profile (yes, the Dogma 2 is amazing) a touch in an upcoming update. I’d commit to tomorrow, but I’ve been studiously counseled on “underpromise, overdeliver” at the nth degree, so I’ll let that hang.

Dogma Twizzle

In any case, I’ll be jetting down to Tucson in three days to hook up with the team for a week of basking, bonding, and battering some pedals (as well as shooting with a borrowed Hasselblad). Excited to shut off the half of my brain that worries about work for fourteen hours a day, see the guys I know, meet those I haven’t, and put myself into knowledge sponge mode for a week. I’ve got a lot to learn. 

Posted at 9:30am and tagged with: fwp, cycling, training, chilblains, trenchfoot, one column, nate king, competitive cyclist, dogma 2, pinarello,.

Disclaimer: I swear upon Tom Simpson’s memorial on Ventoux that I wrote most of this prior to my boss calling me out on his widely-perused blog, in which he also categorizes the joy and variety of stationary torture machines; which I’ll leave out for the sake of his rather astute coverage of that topic . Really. Carry on.

Surviving Aerobic Base:


The very mention of the phrase “Aerobic Base” sends chills down the spine of many a cyclist in northern climes - visions of frostbite, snow, marathon trainer sessions (with accompanying salty-sweaty patinas on random surfaces), spousal threats of divorce, and the pungent aroma of capsaicin grease (romantically referred to as “embro” around these parts) pollute the mind.

I’ve got bad news - it’s all true. The bitter three-month (typically) pill that plenty of cyclists swallow between November and February so they can fly come March; embodied by long, relatively slow rides, can be a torturous (and necessary) personal hell. Thankfully, using a vast array of insightful research approaches, my team of experts (note: me) has developed a number of useful ideas and techniques for dealing with self-inflicted torment during this magical time of year.  

A word of caution: I’ve traced a lot of mental, physical, and social dysfunction directly back to aerobic base. Pondering existential theory, questioning your own sanity, sleeping for 12 hours on a regular basis, and breaking up with girlfriends (or vice-versa) are all normal symptoms of the affliction of wanting to tear the legs off your fellow man come Spring. You’ve been warned.

BEHOLD - the (turbo) Trainer. Only slightly more civilized than the medieval stretch rack.




Whenever the topic of trainers comes up in certain circles, there’s usually an inauspicious level of banal groaning and mentions of a mental time limit, as if pedaling aboard one was a soccer match with a 90-minute stopwatch, or that you lack the stones to ride outside in the winter. These pessimistic attitudes towards the most efficient training method legally available are seemingly born out of what I’d like to characterize as a distinct lack of HTFU (as well as the likelihood that critics have never attempted to race full-time and work full-time with only eight hours of daylight). Yes, trainers are quite miserable - but minimizing the misery of your new malevolent mistress isn’t insurmountable. Knocking out a 4+ hour ride in one place isn’t a totally mammoth task if you’re prepared. So, a few quick notes.

-Come prepped to ride. There are few bigger motivation-sucks than getting on the trainer tired, hungry, or needing to take an epic poop.

-Entertain yourself in your own bizarre fashion. The weapon of choice in my world? Video games. Not any video games, mind you, but video games that require only fleeting focus and a click at your leisure. I’ve been known to stray to books, movies (specifically LifeCycles), general web surfing (even work email/IMs), but the games remain my top banana for distraction. They’re of the flavor that are so mentally unstimulating you wouldn’t feel pressed to play them off the bike (think turn-based strategy and “management” genres). Anything requiring significant action in real-time (racing, shooting, real-time strategy) is pretty difficult to swing if you’re riding at a solid endurance pace and actually getting a workout in. My two favorites, Civilization V, and Pro Cycling Manager, strike a happy balance between just enough going on to keep you interested, but not enough that you can’t hold 250w for half a decade. PCM also has a user community that turns out some interesting tweaks for the game, like databases that allow you to race with real (and historical) teams/riders/races/bikes, all the way down to a Continental level. Not only that, but it teaches a semblance of bike racing tactics (note: SEMBLANCE, my vaunted attacks on the Galibier with Cancellara leading out a Schleck seems decidedly unlikely) to a rube like myself. Besides, DSing the team I’ll be racing with next season on courses I’ve raced on? RAD.




-Get a methodical, comfortable setup rolling. Mine is pretty basic (read: cheap and functional) in the grand scheme of things, but it works well. A big LCD monitor hooked up to my laptop (I recommend a glossy screen to better showcase your progressively ripped legs/waifishness through the winter), a set of some cheap speakers (for your presumed thumping of the greatest trainer song ever), and a wireless keyboard/mouse on a rolling hospital bedside table keep everything electronic functional. The ceiling fan keeps all things perspiration to a minimum, and being able to open the huge bay window next to the bike is key (also to successfully ensnare the 60-something neighbor lady who often stares at me from her kitchen). The window shelf makes a most excellent spot to stash hydration/food/sweat towels/copies of Peloton/Rouleur/diaries about how sad you are.



-Eat and drink liberally. Remember that you’re being quite a bit more efficient on the trainer with output than on the road (doing more work in a shorter amount of time), so adjust your food accordingly. Added bonus: The trainer lets you eat some really…interesting stuff since you don’t have to carry it with you. I’ve been known to make big plates of freakish food combinations for long trainer days. Tell me, have you ever had Lucky Charms, spongecake, pumpkin pudding, and ribs on the bike - from a casserole dish? That’s what I thought.


Yes, sometimes even with this myriad of truly staggering distractions and amenities of the First World, the trainer sucks. Sometimes all it takes is a heavy dose of HTFU. Imagine - you could be outside getting frostbite. Or mining for diamonds in Sierra Leone. Or getting slow whining on the internet about guys riding their trainers in November. Ah, the little things.

Posted at 10:32am and tagged with: one column, htfu, trainer, training, competitive cyclist, nate king, food, pro cycling manager, training, indoor training, aerobic base, cycling, racing,.

The heat in my car stopped working (intermittently) a couple weeks back. In a not-so-serendipitous turn of events, this was also the point in time where it became necessary to restock my shelf of on-bike “energy” food. With visions of $500 car repair bills dancing in my head, I peered a shelf lower only to find vast quantities of oatmeal, honey, and peanut butter. You know, all that stuff I never eat during aerobic base because I’m neurotic about food. Ish. In any case, I came to the conclusion that making my own bars could be a (potentially) money-saving venture with (potentially) disastrous consequences, mostly for my kitchen and cookware. 

Correct on all points! After three tries, I think I may have it dialed. Not only are most of the offspring of the Powerbar on the market expensive and not terribly appetizing, but their ingredient list is often peppered with additives ending in food engineering suffixes like “ol”, “gum”, and “ium” in the name of consistency and shelf-life. Bars I make in a giant shiny bowl with raw ingredients I snag from the bulk food section of my local Sunflower Market (take note - this spot rocks for those of us without the resources for Whole Paycheck but the desire to eat well) lack most anything you wouldn’t be able to name on first glance, and they’re quite pleasing on the palate as well. Check after the break for the dead-simple ingredients and recipe.

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Posted at 2:44pm and tagged with: cycling, energy bars, homemade, nutrition, road bike racing, one column,.

Singing along to Frightened Rabbit while doing an hour-long tempo workout on the trainer will result in heartrate spikes and peanut butter cravings.

Posted at 11:21am and tagged with: cycling, hifrom300watts, training, one column,.

Cause:

Effect:

Homebrew (aka, “I’d rather spend the PowerClifGuHammerBar money on new tires”) nutrition working its magic on one of the most miserable stretches of Utah cycling byways around.

Approximately 500 kcal of:

-Amaretto honey bar made of stuff I had lying around my kitchen (250 kcal - I’ll post a recipe someday…maybe).

-Honey (~100kcal)/water mix in an EFS flask spiked with a dash of orange electrolyte replacement powder.

-Gummy bears coated in sea salt (150 kcal - a hint of water gets it to stick)

So, bar replacement, gel replacement, and chew replacement for a fraction of the retail cost of prepackaged food. The honey/bears I’d probably forgo for “real” nutritionals in a race, but the bars are ROCKING! My ultra-endurance runner housemate finds them scrumptious enough for his own consumption. 

Posted at 1:43pm and tagged with: bike racing, cycling, energy bar, food, homemade nutrition bar, honey, point of the mountain, training, utah, one column,.

Saturday morning! A glorious time to be awake! Usually. Sadly, in the Valley of the Great Salt Lake, this particular Saturday was forecast to be spoiled by the first harbinger of the seasons frozen onslaught - a high of 32F and snow.

"No matter!", our tepid cycling protagonist quaffed, and engaged in the hour-long winter pre-riding ritual of donning approximately eighteen layers of various forms of synthetic and natural fibers.

Spotting former (penniless) bike messengers turned (penniless) bike racers 101. Now accepting contributions for a pair of Sidi Hydro boots.

The air was crisp and thick with the vapor of the recent storm, upper elevations of the Wasatch still shrouded in precipitous low clouds. Day in and out climbing of the litany of HC climbs surrounding Salt Lake City is decidedly over until spring.

In the midst of the fog of winter riding stoke, tragedy struck in the form of a disintegrating tire. Mechanically crippled, the boy and his velocipede limped home to finish the work of the day aboard the stationary mistress of mental malevolence.

Perhaps today will be an improvement.

Posted at 9:46am and tagged with: bikes, coldasballs, cycling, plasticbaggybooties, racing, sidi hydro, training, winter, one column,.

Gummy bears coated in salt: Legitimate energy chew replacement?

If I’m awake later, I’ll attempt to provide an adequate documentation of my attempts to create my own energy bars. 

Posted at 7:26pm and tagged with: bike racing, cycling, i'mpoorandcan'taffordbars, nate king, nutrition, prudent pabulum, one column,.

Today, while rolling under an unseasonably frigid October sky, I came to a rather stark pop culture realization. The Zombieland Rules identified in the film apply, nearly directly, to the three months of hell-on-earth known as “Aerobic Base”. I’ve attempted (poorly), to translate as such.

Per Wikipedia:

  1. Cardio - Duh.
  2. Double tap - And THEN stand on the pedals.
  3. Beware of bathrooms - Peeing off the bike is a valuable talent.
  4. Wear seatbelts - Cranial protection should apply here.
  5. Cast iron skillet - How else are you gonna cook that 97% lean ground turkey and egg whites?
  6. Travel light - Goes without saying.
  7. Get a kickass partner - Also goes without saying.
  8. Paper towels - ‘Cause no one likes a bike covered in dried road salt and snot rockets.
  9. Bowling Ball - Keep pedaling, fatty.
  10. Don’t be a hero - Except when confronting four rednecks in the middle of nowhere who just buzzed you in an F350.
  11. Limber up - Foam roller.
  12. Avoid strip clubs - There’s one on one of my regular base routes. Temptation is high.
  13. When in doubt, know your way out - Plan B, whether it’s a credit card for a cab or a girlfriend at home when a squirrel gets caught in your drivetrain.
  14. The buddy system - See rule 8
  15. Check the back seat - Dooring is fun!
  16. Enjoy the little things - Like hot baristas, beautiful sunrises, girls checking out your legs, and a hot pumpkin latte in the middle of a long ride.
  17. Swiss army knife - Multitool.
  18. Clean socks - Derp.
  19. Hygiene - Double derp.
  20. Always have backup - See 31, 22, 8.

Rule 32 in action.

Posted at 2:33pm and tagged with: cycling, training, zombieland, zombies, one column,.