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Upsides to recovery weeks: Riding with people I normally wouldn’t be able to! In this case, my 14 year-old little brother, Alex.

As you can see, Alex is a bit of a Schleckian waif, and goes uphill like it to boot. I attribute this to his carefully-researched diet that mostly consists of cereal, cheese, Wonderbread, and sauceless pasta (and possibly his freakish adolescent metabolism). None of those crazy-exotic things like fruit, vegetables, or protein-heavy foods to upset this budding racer’s delicate GI tract. Dysfunctional dietary ribbing aside, Alex competed in his first race Saturday, taking second in his category on his miniature BMC. Stoked!

We went out the day before the race for a mellow spin, where I taught him some racer essentials. The magic of drafting, spinning fast on the flats (especially useful for the juniors on 14-tooth cassettes), doing as little work as possible until it counts, and finally (and in my humble opinion, the primary reason for a bike ride), the coffee shop stop. But seriously - teaching others about racing/riding, and sharing my experiences as a racer is one of my favorite things as the cyclist-next-door. Or, in Alex’s case, in the basement. It not only gives me the general warm-fuzzies, but it makes me feel like I might be paying forward (in the slightest bit) all of the help and support over the years that I’ve received from everyone around me.

Needless to say, I can’t wait to see if Alex keeps it up, though I’m not quite sure about how my mom feels. I’m sure she’s thrilled at the prospect of more gut-wrenching crit racing with another wayward member of her offspring!

Posted at 1:30pm and tagged with: alex king, nate king, training, racing, competitive cyclist racing team, competitive cyclist, caffe ibis, logan, utah, bmc,.

Contrary to popular belief, I am, in fact, still alive!

Let’s just say this spring has been…well, it’s been a little rough. Not rough like “I hate tomatoes, asked for no tomatoes on my burger, and they STILL put tomatoes on my burger” pick-that-shit-off rough, but rough like “I’ve got a fatal-convulsion-inducing peanut allergy and decided it’d be smart to eat at a restaurant at the George Washington Carver National Monument" rough…if that made any sense at all.  Compared to last year’s nearly straight-up trajectory, this one has been decidedly…not. All that mopey-sadness aside, I’ve learned SO MUCH more this year than last - and that makes me stoked. Not only that, but if I were to carry the same "Cat 5 to 1" basket of badassedness into this year, I’d probably not be getting any wiser as a racer. Making the stupid rookie mistakes at this stage in my career is so much more valuable than if it were to happen two, three, or four years down the road. Plus, I’ve now got the sponsor support that really helps to cushion the blows of things like wrecks and bad races. Everyone from our staff, teammates, management company, Gita (Pinarello/Giordana/DMT US distro), Reynolds, Competitive Cyclist (title sponsor AND employer), my family, friends, and our team supporters (here’s looking at you, Barbara and John Dowd!) have been incredibly supportive, patient, understanding, and accommodating for the rookie ascending the steep learning curve of pro racing. 

So, in that vein, I’ve made a pretty serious long-term career choice in moving to working with a full-time coach after some heavy-duty searching and vetting. After gathering a list of coaches I’d had interest in from various sources and speaking with all of them (as well as their clients), I finally decided working with Kevin Nicol from Dr. Inigo San Milan’s Human Performance Lab at the Univeristy of Colorado was my best option for squeezing the absolute most pedal-crushing out of my pasty body. Kevin is incredibly knowledgeable and scientific with his training methods (not to mention a total beast on the road), I’m super-pumped to be working with him and employing the methodology used by a number of top ProTour guys! 

With new instruction comes new direction, and in the interest of coming back swinging for the remainder of the season, most of June has been converted from riding my guts out into being professionally lazy - AKA, recovery. This meant scratching a couple races I was really looking forward to (Mt. Hood and Nature Valley), but I’ll be back on the road crushing in a couple weeks or so. For now, short coffee cruises and wallowing in the fact that the veins in my legs aren’t totally bulging.

Bike racer problems. Seriously. 

Posted at 12:04pm and tagged with: full width, competitive cyclist, competitive cyclist racing team, training, racing, kevin nicol, inigo san milan, coaching, recovery,.

Contrary to popular belief, I am, in fact, still alive!Let’s just say this spring has been…well, it’s been a little rough. Not rough like “I hate tomatoes, asked for no tomatoes on my burger, and they STILL put tomatoes on my burger” pick-that-shit-off rough, but rough like “I’ve got a fatal-convulsion-inducing peanut allergy and decided it’d be smart to eat at a restaurant at the George Washington Carver National Monument" rough…if that made any sense at all.  Compared to last year’s nearly straight-up trajectory, this one has been decidedly…not. All that mopey-sadness aside, I’ve learned SO MUCH more this year than last - and that makes me stoked. Not only that, but if I were to carry the same "Cat 5 to 1" basket of badassedness into this year, I’d probably not be getting any wiser as a racer. Making the stupid rookie mistakes at this stage in my career is so much more valuable than if it were to happen two, three, or four years down the road. Plus, I’ve now got the sponsor support that really helps to cushion the blows of things like wrecks and bad races. Everyone from our staff, teammates, management company, Gita (Pinarello/Giordana/DMT US distro), Reynolds, Competitive Cyclist (title sponsor AND employer), my family, friends, and our team supporters (here’s looking at you, Barbara and John Dowd!) have been incredibly supportive, patient, understanding, and accommodating for the rookie ascending the steep learning curve of pro racing. So, in that vein, I’ve made a pretty serious long-term career choice in moving to working with a full-time coach after some heavy-duty searching and vetting. After gathering a list of coaches I’d had interest in from various sources and speaking with all of them (as well as their clients), I finally decided working with Kevin Nicol from Dr. Inigo San Milan’s Human Performance Lab at the Univeristy of Colorado was my best option for squeezing the absolute most pedal-crushing out of my pasty body. Kevin is incredibly knowledgeable and scientific with his training methods (not to mention a total beast on the road), I’m super-pumped to be working with him and employing the methodology used by a number of top ProTour guys! 
With new instruction comes new direction, and in the interest of coming back swinging for the remainder of the season, most of June has been converted from riding my guts out into being professionally lazy - AKA, recovery. This meant scratching a couple races I was really looking forward to (Mt. Hood and Nature Valley), but I’ll be back on the road crushing in a couple weeks or so. For now, short coffee cruises and wallowing in the fact that the veins in my legs aren’t totally bulging. Bike racer problems. Seriously. 

Afflicted by permanent wanderlust, I’ve opted to spend the three weeks between the end of Speedweek and the US Professional Cycling Championships in Greenville, SC at the welcoming abode of one of our team’s gracious supporters just outside of Athens, GA (home of the University of Georgia, the infamous Athens Twilight Criterium, and launchpad for numerous American cyclists). 

Having never been to this part of the country before (read: The Deep & Dirty South), I’m still taking it all in and gulping it all down, like a UGA freshman frat pledge doing a manhood-validating kegstand.

First on my list of dispensable observations to expound to the outside world: The riding itself. I’ve never trained anywhere with population so spread out, and so my road choice has always been pretty limited. Here, though, there are roads FOREVER. I could easily create a 300 mile loop on twisty backroads that all look the same from the front door of my temporary domicile. Of course, this necessitates a cue sheet a mile long (yeah, that one was front AND back for a 4.5 hour jaunt) to keep from ending up bassackwards 200 miles away on the coast. While there’s no sustained climbing near Athens, the rollers of the Piedmont offer up spots for good, punchy accelerations on endless repetition of 500 meter-long Murs. Roads are fairly narrow and without the wide shoulders I’m used to, but they’re in really good condition (thanks to the lack of freezing temps in the winter, I’d guess) and typically devoid of traffic. The dirt roads are a blast! Well-packed, and not moondusty or gravel-strewn like the ones near my home in Utah.

The “store stops” here are nearly always entertaining - it seems the locals aren’t as used to seeing cyclists on long rides as they are in the West. I can always count on getting into an amiable conversation with store proprietors about expensive bikes, bike racing, the insanity of spending five hours perched on two wheels, and suspicious questions when informed of my Utah residence. 

Speaking of, the church marquees in front of Baptist houses of worship on the backroads are nothing short of comedic gold. I think I might start photographing all of them and making a nice leather-bound photo essay when I get back to the Wasatch. 

Posted at 9:36am and tagged with: athens, nate king, competitive cyclist, cycling, racing, training, the south, pinarello, georgia,.

Made it to the Athens computrainer races after a gracious flat tire rescue from Jeff and Katherine! Tommy/David go 1-2 in first heat!

Posted at 8:47am and tagged with: Athens, competitive cyclist, cycling, racing, twilight, full width,.

Made it to the Athens computrainer races after a gracious flat tire rescue from Jeff and Katherine! Tommy/David go 1-2 in first heat!

photo: http://cottonsoxphotography.com/ alt title: “How not to win a circuit race.”

Testing waters on a new Friday gig: Ask me anything, and I’ll write a blog post about it?

Posted at 12:10pm and tagged with: nate king, competitive cyclist racing team, training, racing,.

photo: http://cottonsoxphotography.com/ alt title: “How not to win a circuit race.”
Testing waters on a new Friday gig: Ask me anything, and I’ll write a blog post about it?

Achieving Crash Zen:

Seven race days.

Four deck hits. As a sage told me, “missing more skin than many hospitalized burn victims”. 

All of 2011? 60+ race days. Skin met tarmac twice.

Always learning.

Posted at 1:03pm and tagged with: redlands, san dimas, stage race, competitive cyclist, racing, cycling, nate king, tommy chandler, crashing, wreck, blood, bike, criterium, pinarello, gita, giordana,.

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,.

This new job is really hard, especially given my week-long locale and its downright balmy (mid-50s and partly cloudy) weather.

Posted at 11:03pm and tagged with: cycling, nate king, racing, st. george, training, utah, zion, full width,.

This new job is really hard, especially given my week-long locale and its downright balmy (mid-50s and partly cloudy) weather.

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,.

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,.

Oh hey embro, knickers, taking forever to get ready for a ride, numb digits, five-hour trainer sessions, shoecovers, frightened baristas, post-ride hot buttered rum, and staring at the crude “HTFU” on my toptube like it’s an apparition of the Virgin Mary as snow batters my insufficiently swaddled face in the midst of a Zone 1 slog. Here’s to hoping I don’t have to get to know you so intimately well as during last winter’s Bataan Death March into JUNE, you frigid annual four-to-seven month bike racer menstrual cycle.

Today was my last in shorts for 2011, at least anywhere 50 miles north of the Utah/Arizona line. Coincidentally, it was the first time I’ve hit snow during the 2012 training schedule. I’d be a overjoyed to say it’s the first time I’ve seen snow in awhile, but that’s a complete lie, thanks to the previously alluded-to epic winter we experienced in Utah last year.

I’m thinking a thermos cage might be in order. And a handle of Bulleit.

Posted at 11:33pm and tagged with: cycling, winter, htfu, training, cold, nate king, salt lake city, racing,.

Oh hey embro, knickers, taking forever to get ready for a ride, numb digits, five-hour trainer sessions, shoecovers, frightened baristas, post-ride hot buttered rum, and staring at the crude “HTFU” on my toptube like it’s an apparition of the Virgin Mary as snow batters my insufficiently swaddled face in the midst of a Zone 1 slog. Here’s to hoping I don’t have to get to know you so intimately well as during last winter’s Bataan Death March into JUNE, you frigid annual four-to-seven month bike racer menstrual cycle.
Today was my last in shorts for 2011, at least anywhere 50 miles north of the Utah/Arizona line. Coincidentally, it was the first time I’ve hit snow during the 2012 training schedule. I’d be a overjoyed to say it’s the first time I’ve seen snow in awhile, but that’s a complete lie, thanks to the previously alluded-to epic winter we experienced in Utah last year.
I’m thinking a thermos cage might be in order. And a handle of Bulleit.

Posted at 11:03am and tagged with: burke swindlehurst, cyclingnews, cycling, racing,.