Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Tops vs. Drops

One of the things I like about road and cross bikes are their drop handlebars. The mono-position flat bar of mountain bikes just doesn't do it for me. Drop bars give you so many more options. The question is then, where should your hands be and when?

As a junior, one of the first camps I attended at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, our coaches were adamant about keeping us out of the drops if the speeds were below 25mph. The theory being that when you're in the drops it closes off your chest limiting your ability to take full breaths and at those lower speeds the aero advantage of being in the drops doesn't outweigh the physical limit of being crunched up. Not to mention you have much more control of your brakes and shifters while on the hoods.

Which brings us to pack riding. If you're in the peloton and speeds are above 25mph should you then be in the drops? No. Like I noted above, you have much better control and can react faster to speed and direction changes if you're on the hoods. Not to mention the more upright position gives you a better view of what's going on around you and what's coming ahead up the road. The only times you should be in the drops is when your nose is in the wind at the front of the pack.

So in short, only ride in the drops when speeds are above 25mph and your nose is in the wind. The rest of the time you'll be much more comfortable and safer riding on the hoods.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Bike Practice: Making the most in a small group

Last night, even though the we put the kibosh on the WNW ride, Jordan, Brady and I still went out and braved the elements. It was actually nice getting to practice riding in a small group that would simulate a three man breakaway.

We're all pretty astute at riding in a continually rotating echelon but what do you do when there's just three of you? The default technique is to fall back into the constantly rotating group scenario. The only issue in doing so is you really get no time to recover from being on the front. As soon you pull off the front you're immediately grabbing the last wheel and heading back to the front. This is fine in groups of 6 or more, but any less than that and riders should spend more time at the front. How much is dependent on the conditions and strength of the riders. I always like pulling to the top of the next hill or if you're on the flats, 30-60 seconds.

Which brings us to question number two. When is the optimal time to pull through? The answer is simple, if you're on rolling terrain, wait until you crest the peak of the hill. By doing this, you lessen the effort required to pass the lead rider. You've crested the hill and gravity is on your side. Trying to pull through before then will just waste energy and eventually wear you out faster.

So remember these two techniques.

#1 In a small group of less than 6 riders. Stay in a single paceline and take longer pulls on the front, 30-60 seconds. This will give each rider 2-3 minutes of recovery before going back to the front.

#2 If you're on rolling terrain, pull through after the crest of the hill to conserve energy.

Practice makes perfect.

A small group should be riding in a single paceline most of the time to maximize recovery time
A larger group will be faster and more efficient riding in a constantly rotating double paceline

Friday, March 27, 2015

Race Report: Tour de Husker

First race of the season. Always a nervous occasion. The build up is filled with, "He's been riding really good", "they've been putting in tons of miles", but just like the Omloop, it's too early to make a serious call on who's good and who's not. The important races are 6 weeks away. Rarely is the winner of the Omloop a factor in the monuments of Flanders and Roubaix. It's the guys lingering in the top 10 that you have to worry about. The guys that are on their way up, not the guys that have plateaued.

The Tour de Husker is no exception. Let's face it, a mid-March race is far from the heat of the late April, May and June battle ground. The TdH however does offer a great opportunity to work on riding as a team.

It's been an exciting "off" season. Not only because of my usual cyclocross campaign, but also because of all the hard work and dedication we put into creating our new road team, Harvest Racing p/b Midwest Cycling-Trek Stores. We've been lucky enough to put a program together with some of the best guys around on the best equipment around. Trek bikes, SRAM components, Bontrager wheels and Capo Custom apparel. I love rolling to line knowing that I have the fastest, lightest bike in the race and clothing that will keep me warm/cool and comfortable in the most unforgiving conditions.

The TdH road race at Branched Oak Lake is rarely interesting. Having raced there for almost three decades, it's a metronomic affair. An early break goes away, but because of the usual windy conditions it rarely sticks. Greg Hagele (Team Kaos) was the first to make a move after the first 11 mile lap. We were more than happy to let him roll away solo, his hope of survival was nil. Like clockwork, one lap later, Chris Spence (Team Kaos), Jonathan Wait (Flatwater) and our own Brady Murphy (Harvest Racing) launched an attack and were quickly joined by Jon Nelson (SC Velo). Our goal was to put Brady on the podium, mission accomplished. The remainder of the race was smooth sailing for us. Brady put up the good fight, battling with the on form Wait and Spence and eventually rolled over the line in 3rd place.

Brady Murphy (Harvest Racing), Jonathan Wait (Flatwater), Chris Spence (Team Kaos)
The follow days circuit race at Pioneers Park was sure to be a more explosive affair. With three previous winners of Pioneers Park circuit (Jordan Ross, Lucas Marshall and myself) we were sure to have the upper hand. Early on we put Brady and Greg Shimonek on the front to keep things tight. Paul Webb launched our first attack of the day and was quickly followed by Chris Spence and Ryan Legg (Flatwater). Rarely does the first move stick, today was the the exception. The three quickly gained a 45 second advantage before counterattacks by Harvest Racing teammate Jordan Ross and myself brought the gap back down to 10 seconds. As the gap shrank, Matt Tillinghast (Harvest Racing) was able to jump the gap and join the group. With a numbers advantage in the break we began thinking more about the bunch sprint and hoping Matt and Paul had things under control up the road. Matt rode a perfect leadout for Paul launching him to the teams first victory, and finishing third himself. Spence rounded out the podium in second and Ryan Legg fourth. Behind the bunch sprint on the final climb was a hectic affair. The threesome of myself, Jordan and Lucas Marshall went head to head with Team Kaos' super sprinter Lee Bumgarner. An abrupt move by Flatwaters Jeremiah Grell almost crashed me and created enough chaos and hesitation to give Bumgarner the sprint for 5th, followed by Jordan, Lucas, myself and John Rokke (Team Koas) in short order. All in all it was super fun racing. Make that four Pioneers Park winners for Harvest Racing now.

Next up is the hilly circuit of the Twin Bing Classic in Climbing Hill, IA.

Playing the good teammate, sitting on wheels
Photo: John Peterson/Nebraska Cycling News
Matt leading break
Photo: John Peterson/Nebraska Cycling News
Post up! Paul Webb taking the win
Photo: John Peterson/Nebraska Cycling News
Matt Tillinghast (Harvest Racing), Paul Webb (Harvest Racing), Chris Spence (Team Kaos)
Photo: Lucas Marshall

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A New Year

Hello again. It's been well over a year since I really felt like writing. Probably because I'm just too interested in the micro-blogging of Twitter and image sharing of Instagram. We are a society that thrives on the instantaneous.

Hopefully I can change that and find the desire to comment on things a little more frequently this year.

Where I'm at...

As has been the norm the last three years, I'm in final prep for Cyclocross Nationals this year in Austin, TX. Preparations are on track and I'm looking forward to leaving the cold temps of Nebraska behind for a week.

Looking ahead, there's a new team on the horizon for me that I'm super excited for. I'm more than ready to set aside my personal aspirations and throw everything in to helping teammates achieve their goals. And no, I'm not moving away from Trek CXC.

Where I've been...

It's been a good year of racing for me. I took a step back from racing over the summer and focused solely on cyclocross. This final week is bound to be a good one.

Returning to Champions Park, site of the 2013 Masters World Championship

Finally finding my legs winning all three days at Jingle Cross in Iowa City