Saturday, July 30, 2011

Know the rules

It seems like life is nothing but a learning experience.  We make good decisions and bad decisions and hopefully learn from BOTH.  Today I learned a lot from making a "bad" decision as a Starter in a Time Trial because I wasn't clear on the rules.  A rider also made a "bad" decision for being late, having a mechanical, and thinking that they'd get a NEW start time.  It didn't affect the outcome of the race but I made a rider very upset..which also upset me.  In this case, (I don't want to go into specifics) we BOTH didn't clearly understand the rules.  Yes, as a relative newbie official I'm still learning.  Trust me, it's not easy making quick decisions as an official during an event.  Here's the USA Cycling rule for Time Trials regarding the start:

3E5. Start.

(a) Each rider shall report to the starter at least three minutes before his or her scheduled starting time and shall start at the scheduled time. If a rider appears later than the appointed starting time, the start will be allowed only if it does not interfere with the riders starting on schedule. If it does interfere, the rider may be further delayed. In case of a late start, the appointed time shall be used in computing the results.
I've underlined the most important part of the rule.  That is, if you miss your start time the clock is still running on your Time Trial.  For example, if you were scheduled to start at 8:00:30 and you don't start until a minute later (9:00:30) your final time is based on your published start time NOT your actual start time.  In most Time Trials..there is usually some time to insert you in-between other racers (if you miss your start time) as long as it doesn't interfere with other riders.  The key there is as long as it doesn't interfere with other riders.  During the same TT today, I tried to insert a racer earlier that missed their start time in-between two other racers that were scheduled 30 seconds apart.  When that person got to the line I asked them if they were ready and they said, "Yes".  When they came to the line they had problems clipping in and almost delayed the start of the other racer that was scheduled to go off.  (So much for being ready).  What I should have done is pulled that rider to the side and had them wait longer..until they were TRULY ready.  Why should a late rider disrupt the flow of riders that were waiting and on time?  Everything went off ok..but I upset a rider in my decision making process.
So, here's the moral of the story- KNOW THE RULES.  It doesn't matter whether it's a Crit, Road Race, TT, etc.  In the case of a TT, if you're late and miss your start..because of traffic congestion, a broken down car, a bike mechanical, or're going to be inserted IF it's possible.  If not, you wait until the last rider leaves which obviously're NOT going to be competitive.  i.e. you're pretty much done for the day.  So, let that be a lesson to everyone.  If you're racing a TT, be there at the starting line AT LEAST 3 minutes early to get in the que.  The only exception to an excused late start is if they closed a road to the event in the case of an emergency/accident or something that you had no control over.  If that does happen, realize it's still up to the Chief Ref as to whether it's excusable.  If that does ever happen, the first thing I would do is seek the Chief Ref out, plead your case, and hope that they grant you a new start time.
Here's a link to the USA Cycling Rulebook. PLEASE read the rules and know the rules. If you don't understand them, or need further clarification..ASK.
Oh, one other thing.  When you are at the starting line of a TT being held by the holder, ready for your 5 second countdown,..please don't back pedal excessively.  I see riders do this all the time.  If you drop a chain during your 5 second are SOL.  The clock will start on your ride while you're putting your chain back on.  Also, make sure that you are in a gear that you can pedal away on your own power.  A few riders today had their bikes in too big a gear and almost couldn't turn the cranks out of the chute.  And, they almost fell over.  I had to hold a couple people up from falling over into me.  The holder WILL NOT push you.  They are not allowed to.  If you fall out of the gate you do NOT get a FREE re-start...the clock is running. Sometimes even the top Pros forget.  If you saw the final individual TT of this years Tour de France (on Saturday) you may have noticed that Alberto Contador almost fell out of the chute.  I'm not sure what happened.  I'm guessing he thought the holder was going to push him down the ramp or that he was in too big a gear..because he almost fell over.  If he didn't unclip and put a foot down..he probably would have fallen.  Or, who knows, maybe the holder held him back..ha  (just kidding).
Power ON!  Coach Rob

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Are You a Winner?

According to Webster a "Winner" is:

a) one that is successful especially through praiseworthy ability and hard work
b) a victor especially in games and sports
c) one that wins admiration
d) a shot in a court game that is not returned and that scores for the player making it

Contrary to the most popular definitions b) and d), the definitions I like best are a) and c). 

Today, at work, I was witnessing some of our country's finest hi-performance jet pilots (both civilian and military) involved in Dynamic Flight Simulator (aka Centrifuge) testing.  Each pilot was performing a set of Air Combat Maneuver (ACM) profiles that consisted of pulling G's from 1 to 9 G's for durations up to and including 30 seconds.  (FYI, pulling G's for 30 seconds is HARD work)  For those of you that aren't familiar with pulling G's in a jet or a Centrifuge, watch these two videos and you'll get an idea.  and  Funny, in the first You Tube video, the  F/A-18 backseater in this video G-LOC'd (G-induced Loss of Consciousness) not once but TWICE.   If you've witnessed the hundreds of Centrifuge runs/tests like I have over a 30 yr period you'll notice that the shorter, stockier, red-meat eating (hi blood pressure guys) are some of the better G-pullers (or G-Monsters as they're called).  And, that the taller, slimmer, vegetable eating (low blood pressure guys) are some of the not-so-good G-pullers. i.e. their G-tolerance is not that high and they are prone to G-LOC incidents like that shown in the video.  I've also discovered that women are also good Centrifuge riders.  Anyway, there is a certain degree of bravado/machoism involved in not only being able to pull high-G's but to also endure an ACM profile such as the ones I witnessed today.  (BTW, G-profiles such as the ones I witnessed being run today are VERY strenuous.  They are WORK!  You pull high-G's at max heart rate..and use a full body straining maneuver to help retain consciousness.  For me, it hurts watching.)

So, what's all this have to do with being a "Winner" and how does this apply to cycling..if anything?  Well, in the jet jocks're a "Winner" if you can endure the high G's that the machine produces..whether it's an F/A-18 jet or a Centrifuge.  Today, a tall athletic pilot G-LOC'd at 7 Gs and ended his profile run prematurely.  He could have easily stopped the run when he knew he was ready to lose consciousness..but he didn't.  He pushed it to the limit..until he unvoluntarily nodded off.  He wanted to finish the profile so all of his data could be used in the test study.  (If you don't complete the profile/run the data isn't used)  In his eyes..he failed today..he was a LOSER.  Just after being pulled from the test, because he G-LOC'd, his friend (a female) entered the Centrifuge to begin her profile run.  She did MUCH BETTER than he did which only added insult on top of his injury.  She was a WINNER!  I could see that he was embarrassed and humiliated..he let a girl beat him.  But after her Centrifuge run, he was the first to greet her and give her a high five (and a hug) and take her picture.  He could have easily left the building with his tail between his legs (after his run) and headed back to the hotel.  Instead, he stayed and celebrated the moment with his friend.  To me, he was the WINNER today...based on definitions a) and c) above.

Just this past weekend, I heard a few of the athletes that I had trained with for their Ironman Lake Placid event, did NOT finish their race..for whatever reason (usually bonking, cramping up, injuryng themself, crashing, mechanicals, etc).  I'm sure in their eyes..they lost..they did NOT win (let alone finish) and were definitely NOT winners.  To me, they were WINNERS.  Why?  Because I know they trained long and hard for this event.  Again, see definitions a) and c) above.

Look at Thomas Voeckler at this years Tour de France.  He didn't even take a podium spot, but to me..he was the WINNER.  Why?  Once again, see definitions a) and c) above.

I have some athletes I coach that have come in dead last in races this year.  A race where they could have definitely/easily quit on, rode off the course and saved face.  To me, they're Winners for hanging in there and giving it their all.

For any of you out there that train long hard hours and don't achieve your goals (for whatever reason)'re Winners in my book because of definitions a) and c).  For me, unlike sponsors, it's not about Wins and's all about hard work and giving it your all- regardless of the outcome.  It's ashame the big $$ sponsors don't see it my way.  They're programmed to reward WINNERS only based on their definition..which is definition b) above.  There are NO LOSER athletes that train hard and compete and never quit/surrender.  The losers are the couch-potatos of the world that waste their God-given ability/talents..and abuse their bodies.  The losers are the "quitters" of the world.  The ones that quit when it starts to get hard.  Quitters NEVER Win.

Are you a Winner?  Damn right you are..if you train/compete/race..and give it your all...regardless of the outcome.  I just wish others saw it the same way.  If it were up to me, a Winner would be defined by c) (above) only.

Power ON!  Coach Rob

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Racing in the Heat

It's one thing to ride/train in the heat it's another to RACE in the heat.  I've always wondered how the Pro riders are able to cope with the heat when race day temps are nearing 100F.  I can barely stand being out in that kind of heat let alone race in it.  Wimp?  Absolutely.  But, this blog is not about me being a fair weather (wimpy) rider/racer it's about coping with the heat on race day..what you can do to be competitive in the heat.

If there is just one thing I can recommend (to you) for coping with the heat on race day and that is ACCLIMITIZATION (or acclimation).  Put simply, if you're going to race in the've got to train in the heat.  That is, you've got to get your body used to dealing with the heat/humidity.  If you know you'll be racing at the hottest time of the day..usually around've got to train at that time.  Yes, I realize that most of you are working during those mid-day hours and it's not possible to be out on the bike.  But, the pros are out on the road at that time and training in the heat.  That is why they are able to cope better than amateur racers.  So, other than skipping work and training in the heat..what can you do?  The first thing you can do..and again, I know this is NOT possible for most of you and that is to get out of the air conditioning.  When you work for 8+ hrs in an office with 68F's NOT going to help you acclimate to the 100F heat on the road.  Sorry, but that's a hard fact.  If you're a UPS/FedEx driver that drives the truck with the doors open in the heat all day (all week long), you're going to fair/acclimate much better to the heat on race day than the guy/gal that works in an air-conditioned office all day/week.

In addition to are a few other things you can do prior to and during race day to better prepare yourself for the heat:

a) Nutrition- you want to eat "quality" carbs leading up to, and including, race day.  That includes eating plenty of fruits, veggies, etc.  Watermelon is a great fruit (carb) to consume even during race day.  Stay away from the simple carbs. i.e. sugars, sweets, etc. prior to the race.
b) Hydration- you want to keep your body hydrated at all times...leading up to and during the race.  It helps to consume electrolytes along with the fluids.  Make sure the fluids/liquids are COLD.  Keep your water bottles in a cooler right up to race time.  It will help lower your core temperature.  Also make sure you put ice in your water bottles.
c) Ice- during your pre-race warmup put some ice in a pair of stockings/pantyhose/etc.  (You can steal a pair from your wife or girlfriend (or both) ha.  Put the ice on the back of your neck/back (inside your jersey) and let the ice melt and run down your back.  You want your jersey to get soaked with cold water.  This will help evaporative cooling when you race.  It also helps to wet your hair (if you have some..ha)..which will assist in evaporative cooling.  Remember, your body sweats to put fluid on your skin as a way of (evaporative) cooling itself.  If it's REALLY hot outside, take your shoes off (for a couple minutes before you warmup) and put your feet in a bucket of cold/icy water.  That will really help lower your core temp.
d) Shade- stay in the shade..period..right up to race time.  It makes no sense at all to warmup in the sun...and I see it ALL THE TIME.  If you don't have a sun one.  You can buy a 10x10 ft. canopy for under $100 and use it for other events/activities.  Also, keep your sunglasses on.  I can't tell you how much energy you lose through your eyes squinting into the sun without sunglasses.
e) Clothing/equipment- if you have a light-colored helmet (white is best) wear it during your race.  You don't want the sun cooking your brain under a black helmet.  Same with your kit.  If your team has a light-colored kit..wear it on race day.  You don't want to be wearing black since it absorbs heat.  Also, lower the zipper on your jersey..there's no sense being all zipped up retaining heat.  Don't worry you can zip it up for the final sprint and your finish line photo..ha. You can also put a soaked/ice cold bandana around your neck when you race.  You might even want to put some ice in an empty jersey pocket to keep your lower back cool.  If you sweat profusely while racing in the heat like I do, wear a head band to help keep the sweat out of your eyes.  There's nothing worse than sweat impairing your vision when you're racing.

Remember, it's your core temp that you want to keep from rising.  You can feel fine and have an elevated core temp.  Unless you have a rectal probe inserted (or swallow a core temp ingestible pill) along with a temp sensor, there is NO WAY you'll know if your core temp is rising.  If your core temp're cooked/done.  You will NOT be able to generate your normal power output during your race with elevated core temps...period.  And, that's a fact.

Stay cool!  Power ON! Coach Rob

Friday, July 22, 2011

Le Tour..le finale!

Three weeks just blew by- at least for me it has since the start of the Tour.  I've watched EVERY stage.  It's hard not to have fallen in love with Thomas Voekler..even if he is French. ha  If you know me well, you'll know that I'm not enamored with the French.  Don't get me wrong, France is a beautiful country..been there twice..and I'm sure the people are nice..but can't say that about their Governing body. 

This particular Tour had it all: dramatic sprint finishes, tough mountain stages, crashes, rainy cold days, etc.  Little disappointed with the "Shack" (and some of the crashes) but that's racing.  Actually, I'm a LOT disappointed since I lost a beer/dinner bet on Chris Horner winning a stage..but he crashed out. Levi?  Levi who?  And, the Alpe d'Huez did not disappoint today with the excitement it always brings.  As far as the overall winner..I can't say who will be standing on the top podium spot on Sunday.  It's looking good for Cadel Evans w/ a TT tomorrow.  However, he's going to be riding that TT with tired legs.  We'll see if he can overcome the time deficit to Andy Schleck.  As far as Alberto Contador (which I'm not a true fan of), he rode hard like a Champion it all he had.  Is it good enough for a podium spot?  Who knows.  I think the Giro took a little too much out of him. Still, any kind of podium spot for him will be a job well done.  Guess we'll see.

Lets just hope no more doping charges/cases arise post-race.  The sport doesn't need any more egg on its face.   As far as all you amateur racers out there, I hope you're having a good racing season.  A lot of the athletes I've coached in the past, and present, are having some of their best years ever.  Kudo to you guys.  The reason every one of you are doing well this year is (not because of my coaching) because of your hard work ethic.  Keep it going.  Before you know it, the road racing season will be over and some of you will be transitioning to Cyclo Cross.  Good luck in your preparation. 

For me, it's not been a good year.  I worked VERY hard over the Winter for my Spring kick-off Masters race (Battenkill) only to be disappointed by being caught up in a crash 10 miles into the race and losing contact with the lead dawgs. I know that's racing, but I also know it's bad luck.  It just put a sour taste in my mouth for the season that I never reallly rebounded from.  Instead of racing, this summer I concentrated on being a better official.  I even bought a motorcycle so I could start officiating from a moto for the 2012 season.  I've worked at least a race a weekend (officiating) and am gaining more experience. I'm also working/officiating with great people..some of the best in the business.  My busy work schedule has also put a damper on my training, making it impossible at times to ride/train during the week.  Additionally, this heat we've been experiencing this Summer has left me wiped out.  I'm not a heat person..never was..never will be.  I sweat like a pig in the heat (when I ride) and I almost have to carry a 2 gallon container to replace the fluid I lose on a 3 hr. ride.  If I don't replace the fluid- I'll bonk, like I did in Lake Placid over Memorial Day weekend. Not fun!  In fact, on one training ride I lost 4 lbs. of water weight and I don't even think the temps exceeded 90F.  And, that was with drinking two bottles of water, one bottle of Gatorade and a Gu. Enough of my whining. 

Speaking of Lake Placid....good luck to all the IMLP riders/racers this weekend.  I know you guys/gals have worked your butts off in preparation.  For the rest of you, and me, there's still a good month or two left in the road racing season.  Perhaps when this heat breaks I'll ramp up my training and finish the season strong with a couple races and try to achieve a goal or two that I set out to.  Regardless, I'll see you out on the race circuit whether I'm racing, coaching or officiating.

Power ON!  Coach Rob

Monday, July 11, 2011

Crashing...that's bike racing!

I've seen it all too often as a racer, official, and coach at local races and on TV.  You hear it all the time too- Crashing..that's bike racing!  But, did you ever wonder why bike crashes occur and wonder if/how they can be reduced or possibly even eliminated (if that's possible)?  Here are what I believe are the MAJOR causes of crashes in bike races..from amateur through the professional ranks.  I'm not so sure there is a #1 cause of crashes in races.  If there is, I haven't seen any published listings.  If I had to guess, I'd say it's related to the "human element" vs. anything external/environmental.  Regardless, here is my list in no priority order:

a. Poor bike handling skills- touching a wheel in front of you, swerving-not holding your line, etc.
b. Risky move/behavior- shooting a gap that is too narrow, taking unsafe chances, etc.
c. Fatigue- which leads to poor handling skills, poor judgement, etc.
d. Weather- rain slick roads, high wind, etc.
e. Poor road conditions- potholes, storm grates, road debris, obstacles, narrow roads, etc.
f. Mechanicals- flats, broken/dropped chains, etc.
g. Sudden braking/accelerating- the accordian effect prevalent in the back of the peloton
h. Other- animals, pedestrians, etc. unexpectedly on course
i. Not alert- poor attention, oblivious to road conditions and cycling racing dynamics, etc.

Now, lets address each one of these and see how we can reduce and/or possibly eliminate them from your race:

a. Poor bike handling skills- this one is least for amateurs.  PRACTICE..PRACTICE..PRACTICE.  If you don't feel comfortable in a pack..then spend more of your training rides/time with groups of riders.  If you don't feel confident at high speed, then moto pace at high speed.  If you can't "bunny hop" or jump small obstacles- learn how to do it.  If you need better cornering skills, go down to your local elementary school on the weekends and practice in the parking lot.  For the Pros, it's more about staying alert and attentive.

b. Risk taker- this one is obvious too.  STOP taking unnecessary risks. If you don't have the power or skill to shoot gaps then don't attempt to.  If a turn looks too tight..take it wider or slower.  Remember, you taking risks not only jeopardizes your safety but the safety of your fellow competitors.

c. Fatigue- as any race wears on, your fatigue level will increase.  When it does, your attention/alertness will decrease rapidly...not to mention your bike handling skills.  Just be aware of this fact and leave more room for error in the latter part of the race.  Wider turns, bigger gaps, (12 in. gap between your front tire and the rear tire in front of you versus 6 in.), etc.

d. Weather- be prepared.  If it's going to rain, reduce the tire pressure in your tires.  Be aware of any painted road lines, man hole covers, bridge/storm grates, etc. as they become slick as ice.  Understand that your braking distance will increase.

e.  Poor road conditions- again, be prepared.  Always ride the course BEFORE your race..even if it's with your car if you're short on time.  Identify storm grates, road debris, gravel, tight turns, painted lines (if it's going to rain), etc.

f. Mechanicals- a lot of these types of crashes can be prevented by good bike maintenance.  Tighten bolts, inspect spokes, tires, chain, cables, etc.  Adjust/tune shifting.

g. The Accordian effect- the only way to prevent this from happening (accordian-ing) is to avoid sitting at the back of the pack.  Yes, I understand, easier said than done..but it's a fact that most crashes happen at the middle and back of the pack because of the constant decelerations and accelerations.

h. Other- there's not a whole heck a lot you can do if a dog, bird, squirrel, deer, (or car), etc. runs out in front of your race.  Hopefully, your lead car has a driver/official that is clearing your race course void of animals.  Again, just BE AWARE/ ALERT!

i. Attentiveness- be ALERT!  Keep your head up when you ride at all times.  Look ahead of you, not at the rear wheel in front of you.

Regardless of how much you stay alert, and do all the things I say you SHOULD DO, unfortunately you're going to crash or get caught up in one...sooner or later.  That's if you race frequently.  I wish I had some advice on how to fall or the best way to fall but I'm afraid that would be a futile attempt since just about every crash has it's unique set of circumstances.  There have been races where I crashed where I NEVER let go of the handlebars and landed on my hip and only suffered a case of nasty road rash.  There have been other races where I braced myself with my arm/wrist and was lucky enough not to break either of them- or my shoulder.  There have been other races where I was able to clip-out one foot, stay upright, and skid to into a pack until I stopped.  And, lastly there have been times when I was able to avoid the crash altogether. (not many of those though).   I guess my only advice here is to be prepared.  Make sure your helmet is on tight, make sure you're wearing gloves, make sure you're wearing sunglasses/glasses that protect your eyes, make sure you're shoes/cleats are lubricated so you unclip easily, etc.

So, that's what you can do yourself.  Here's one last thing you can help someone else do..and please don't hesitate to do so.  If you think a particular course is dangerous, tell the promotor/race director and the officials.  If enough racers complain about the course, the promotor/director may change it.  If the turns are too tight- tell em.  If a bridge has gaps between the wood slats- tell em.  If the storm grates are too low- tell em.  In the litigious society we live in, I don't think there are too many race directors/promotors that won't listen to you.  If they don't listen, and it falls on deaf ears, then they're open to being sued if somebody gets seriously injured during a race. 

Yes, crashes happen in bike racing and will ALWAYS happen..but I think if we can ALL reduce the primary reasons for crashes we'll have a safer sport..and that's a good thing.

POWER ON!  Coach Rob

Friday, July 1, 2011

Le Tour de France

It's that time of year again sports fans..for the Superbowl of road racing- the 2011 Tour of France.  Except this year, more coverage of cycling may occur off the roads and in the courts..that is, the judicial court.  Seems like ever since the "60 minutes broadcast" with Tyler Hamilton's, former teammate of Lance Armstrong's, allegations of Lance taking EPO during his racing career that more attention has been given to that instead of racing itself.  What fueled the "off-road talks" even more was George Hincapie's, another former teammate of LA's, testifying before a grand jury that he and LA both supplied each other EPO.  When you didn't think it could get any worse for LA, in June, Armstrong and Hamilton bumped into each other at an Aspen restaurant (soon after the airing of the “60 Minutes” broadcast). While eyewitness accounts claim nothing happened, Hamilton says Armstrong stopped him on his way to the bathroom, threatening to “make his life a living hell on the witness stand” should the case ever get to trial.  Hamilton’s attorney responded by contacting federal grand jury and now the FBI is investigating whether Armstrong’s actions constitute witness tampering.  So, I'm sure in this years' TDF coverage we'll be getting updates, whether we like it or not, on the LA court case.

Speaking of EPO, I heard that 3-time TDF champ Alberto Dopeador, I mean Contador, was booed and jeered by fans yesterday at the team presentation.  Contador, who failed a dope test for banned drug clenbuterol in last year's Tour before being cleared by his federation, is taking part in this years race pending a final decision on the case by the Court of Arbitration in Sport.

Apart from the local riders, the French seem to be rooting for Andy Schleck at this years TDF- as well as I am.

But for me, despite all the doping talk, the Tour always has some funny moments, that keeps me watching EVERY stage, like Stage 6 of last years race when Carlos Barredo and Rui Costa went at it after the race.  Barredo actually took his front wheel off the bike and used it as a weapon to swing at Costa.  Barredo said that Costa elbowed him in the gut during the Stage almost knocking him off the bike.  What a pussy!  Taking a wheel off a bike and using it as a weapon?  What happened to your fists Carlos?  Here's a video clip: 

What would the Tour be without crashes?  I hate to say it, but that's the reason why some people (not me) watch races (particularly NASCAR) and that's to see the wrecks/crashes.  If you're into that kind of'll love this video clip: 

What I truly love about the Tour is the gathering of the Worlds Best cyclists..the creme de le creme of cycling.  If you win a Stage of the TDF you know you've beat the best in the World unlike other Tour's including the ToC- sorry Chris (Horner).  You gotta love the "bad boy" of racing too- sprinter Racer Boy Mark Cavendish.  He hasn't done much thus far, this year,  (including the Giro)  but you can be sure he'll be in form for this years TDF.  He's won so many final sprints by large margins at the TDF of past he makes it look so easy.  And, as much as I'm NOT enamored with the French can't dispute the beauty of their countryside.  Notice I said countryside..I think Paris is a sh$thole having been there a few times.  Always good to see Bobke in the booth too and his ever popular antics and pronunciation of the "Tour dee France" which probably pisses the French people off...ha.

So, tune-in to Versus starting tomorrow morning, where coverage begins at 8am for the greatest race in cycling.

Power ON!  Coach Rob