Great Legs Need A Great Mind

Great Legs Need A Great Mind

By Chris Lyman

“The mental preparation for racing is just as important as physical,” said Team Jamis-Hagens Berman pro Philip Mooney, when asked about great race game. That Dr. Phil, always with the profound statements.  Those in the sport for a while are slowly nodding to what Phil’s getting at: winning is more than just pedaling as hard as possible, and often because of race IQ.

 

Race IQ: the bane of existence of those who don’t have it, but for certain something we all want; the experience, instinct, smarts and cunning key to being first across the line. Volumes can be written about race scenarios and tactics. And while I’m certainly no expert (especially when my biggest wins were against the clock) fortunately I have email address of a few pro and amateur pedalers (the latter since that’s what most of us are). Here’s what they had to offer.

 

 “Racing is all about patience, you need to wait for the right time to strike and then do it definitively,” suggested Ben Jacques-Maynes. Very few have the ability to bludgeon a field with brute force at will, making smarts, timing and cunning invaluable skills.

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Love of the Bike: Part Two

 

 

Love of the Bike By Chris LymanIMG_0014

 

Earlier this month I was in France and on one day found myself grinding up Mt. Ventoux.  Cycling history and nostalgia were omnipresent as the road tipped up in final kilometers, and riders of all ages were no doubt soaking it up.

 

I took note of the number of riders in their 60s and 70s eschewing a more casual spin to/from one of the many cafes deserving of their patronage, to tackle the Giant of Provence.  One gentleman in particular caught my attention, standing on the edge of the road with his head in his hands on the handlebars gesturing “sacrebleu!” while a compatriot offered morale. This scene played out in French of course, so the friend could have been plying him with the notion of cafes and espresso and croissants.

 

All this got me thinking about why we willfully subject ourselves to such a scenario and more specifically, what makes us love to ride? Cycling is many things to many people: a sport, passion, hobby, and while less nostalgic, a job for some. But for even those on the payroll, there are far more pleasant ways to earn a living than slogging through a long, wet winter on the bike.

 

 

Jack Maddux, Student and four-time Junior National Champion

Jack Maddux, Student and four-time Junior National Champion

Jack Maddux, Student and four-time Junior National Champion

“Cycling is an outing for me, I can always jump on my bike and clear my head, and I love competing.”

 

 

Erle Martin

 

Erle Martin, Avid amateur who found his love for the sport late in life  

“It’s the cheapest therapy around.”

 

 

Kevin Metcalfe

 

Kevin Metcalfe, 15-time Masters National Champion in Track, Road Race and Time Trial

 

I love riding my bike because it’s just plain fun!  I like the feeling of being fit.  I like seeing the sights as I ride around that I’d never see if I was driving or would never get to if I was running.

 

 

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Ben Jacques-Maynes, Road Cyclist, Jamis-Hagens Berman Pro Cycling Team

 

“I ride for for the sights/sounds/experiences the bicycle takes me to every day”

 

 

 

Jason Walker

Jason Walker, Father and two-time Masters National Champion

 

“I love it for the escape and to inspire my two sons”

 

 

 

Brian Bach Vandborg

Brian Bach Vandborg, 2013 Danish National Time Trial Champion

I ride because I still love my time on the bike. It’s that simple.”

 

 

Paul Chuck, rides to Obtain a Better Quality of Life

 

Cycling became a part of my life 28 years ago when I realized all the money in the world couldn’t buy me happiness. I was work driven and unhealthy which was the beginning of a downward spiral into a black hole. Cycling saved my life and continues to make every other event in my life have meaning.”

 

 

What inspires you to ride?

Love of the Bike

 

Love of the Bike by Chris Lyman

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Earlier this month I was in France and on one day found myself grinding up Mt. Ventoux. Cycling history and nostalgia were omnipresent as the road tipped up in final kilometers, and riders of all ages were no doubt soaking it up.

 

I took note of the number of riders in their 60s and 70s eschewing a more casual spin to/from one of the many cafes deserving of their patronage, to tackle the Giant of Provence. One gentleman in particular caught my attention, standing on the edge of the road with his head in his hands on the handlebars gesturing “sacrebleu!” while a compatriot offered morale. This scene played out in French of course, so the friend could have been plying him with the notion of cafes and espresso and croissants.

 

All this got me thinking about why we willfully subject ourselves to such a scenario and more specifically, what makes us love to ride? Cycling is many things to many people: a sport, passion, hobby, and while less nostalgic, a job for some. But for even those on the payroll, there are far more pleasant ways to earn a living than slogging through a long, wet winter on the bike.

 

So I asked around to find out what drives everyone from Pros to Joes to throw a leg over the bike, and keeps them coming back for more.

 

Phil Mooney

“I love exploring the world by bike. Whether it’s a seldom used stretch of road near my house, a fire trail in the middle of nowhere, or a new country when traveling to race, the bike is my favorite way to see new places.”

Philip Mooney, Professional Cyclist, Team Jamis-Hagens Berman

 

cockroft

“Exercise and fitness are obvious but piece of mind and stress relief is on top. When riding alone, I can watch speed, HR, etc, but I can also dream, plan and think about tomorrow and beyond.”

Bill Cockroft, 1994 Inductee to Mountain Bike Hall of Fame

 

 

 

Giampaolo Pesce

“I get satisfaction from completing a long ride. It keeps me fit and is a great stress reducer.”

Giampaolo Pesce, Restaurateur.(ed. note: Giampaolo’s Riviera Ristorante is a Northern Cal cycling culinary Mecca)

 

 

Ted King

“I ride because bikes are awesome and with enough patience, they’ll save the world. I mean that. From a health, environmental, societal, financial, and every other perspective standpoint, bikes are a cure for what ails us.”

Ted King, Cannondale Pro Cycling

 

 

 

To be continued……..(Part Two Coming Soon)

Bigger goal for Taylor Phinney: Time Trial rainbow stripes or prized Paris-Roubaix cobble? We find out

Taylor Phinney

Taylor Phinney

Bigger goal for Taylor Phinney: Time Trial rainbow stripes or prized Paris-Roubaix cobble? We find out

By Chris Lyman

 

How has the season gone so far? Are you where you expected to be?

It’s gone pretty well. It hasn’t been like a super, super season. But I got a great result in Milan-San Remo with the top 10 (he finished seventh). Unfortunately, I didn’t quite get the result I wanted at my key, target race: Paris-Roubaix. Other than that, the first half of my season has gone by pretty quickly.

 

As you continue to grow and learn, what’s most critical?

I’d say it’s probably more on the fitness side of the things due to the fact that I’m a lot bigger than most of the people that I race with. It’s taken me a couple more years for the watts to even out with the weight of my 85 kilos and being almost two meters tall.

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Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp)and Paris-Nice

Photo MARK JOHNSON/IRONSTRING

Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp)white jersey at Paris-Nice

 

It’s well documented that 24-year-old Andrew Talansky hails from South Florida’s flatlands, yet that hasn’t hindered his ascent to the top ranks of the pro peloton with Garmin-Sharp. On the heels of a stage win, second overall, and winning the white jersey at Paris-Nice, Andrew reflects on the past week and looks ahead to what’s next.

 

Last year, you proved that the 2011 rookie season was no fluke; highlighted by second overall and the white jersey at the Tour of Romandie. After that success, what’s changed psychologically about your approach to racing this year?

I gained a lot of confidence from my performances at Romandie, Tour de L’ain, and the Vuelta last year. Romandie was a bit of a “surprise.” Tour de L’ain reminded me of what it felt like to win.  The Vuelta showed me I have the consistency over the course of three weeks to develop into a real grand tour contender. I took all of that into this year, so I was very confident that as long as I put in the work and dedicated myself to the plan that [coach] Jesse Moore came up with, it would pay off at Paris-Nice. I still approach races the same as I always have, to get the best performance possible out of myself, whatever that may be.  [Read more...]

Domestique of the Week

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Domestique of the Week

By Chris Lyman

 

In late October I started riding outdoors after a summer crash had sent me to the hospital for 20 days and three surgeries. Once back, I realized how much I missed and enjoyed riding, and was glad to again be at it.

 

But some days my thoughts are dominated by how much life nearly changed in July. My neurosurgeon often reminds me of how “damn lucky” I am – had my L1 burst vertebra moved a tad further into my spinal column I wouldn’t be walking, let alone gearing up to race.

 

Enter my newest feature for this column: the Domestique of the Week.

 

With race season about to get underway I’d like to call on you to recognize those who help make a win possible for their comrades. If you find yourself atop the podium thanks to the assistance of another, let me know about it. Or maybe you observed a teammate pull back a break, or drop a sprinter off at 200 meters so his/her buddy could take it. That deserves recognition, don’t you think?

 

It’s no secret that the best wins often result from someone who is off to the side, celebrating quietly, satisfied with the job he or she did in support of another.

 

Since the season has yet to start, I’d like to recognize my wife, Carm, who has been steadfast in her support and encouragement to get back on the bike. She knows how much I enjoy cycling and accepts it as part of my daily life (so long as I’m being reasonable).  The decision to ride was/is a joint one, even more so considering this year’s trials and tribulations. Without her help I would have given up cycling and moved onto something else. Thanks to my domestique, I’ll once again be a bike racer.

 

Yet even buoyed with this support, there are days when getting out the door remains a challenge.  Just last week while at a final rehab session, the anxiety about cycling’s risks once again descended on my psyche. Typically I can push through, but this one got the better of me, and I decided an outdoor ride was not going to happen. My fallback was trainer time.  Leaving PT I feared that if I didn’t turn the pedals that day I might never again.

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Just then I pulled out my phone to see a text from Lucas Euser, a dear friend and rider on the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team, who is in town for the holidays. “Hey buddy! Going to ride… Let me know if you want to join” read the message.  20 minutes later, Lucas and I were on the road logging some miles and my concerns faded.

 

A few years ago I had the privilege of accompanying Lucas on one of his first outdoor rides following knee reconstruction from getting hit by a car. I saw him struggle through it, but admired his determination to look forward versus back. Last week he returned the favor and so he’s also my Domestique of the Week.

 

As we turn the page on 2012 and look forward to 2013, these two important people have reminded me that with fear comes an opportunity for courage, and without support, little can be accomplished.  For that, I thank them.

 

Drop a note to <Chris@cyclingillustrated.com> and share who you observed being a great domestique. Let’s make this a weekly feature that recognizes those important to our sport.

 

Happy New Year to you and your family.

 

Lucas Euser on the move to UHC!

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Lucas Euser in “The Conversation”

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’61 Metcalfe Continues to Improve With Age

 

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’61 Metcalfe Continues to Improve With Age

By Chris Lyman

In 2011 at Masters Nationals, Kevin Metcalfe of Team Specialized Racing showed everyone clean pairs of wheels by winning the 2011 Time Trial and Road Race, and finishing second in the Criterium. In 2012 he packed his suitcase full of courage and repeated in the Road Race and finished second in the Time Trial, just four weeks after breaking his collarbone for the second time in eight months.
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Class is in Session

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Class is in Session Starting January 5th with the Early Bird Criterium Training Series

By Chris Lyman

 

Tales of Cat 5 misadventures are voluminous enough to fill blogs faster than Google can build data centers. This is especially true when it comes to the weekend circumnavigation of an office park, with 50 comrades bumping bars as if steaming towards the finish line on the Champs-Élysées.

 

Thankfully, in the 1990s, Northern California promoter Velo Promo and a handful of highly qualified coaches set out to create a skin preservation program. The Early Bird Criterium Training Series was born and has since taught countless new riders about pack bike handling, race tactics and generally how to conduct themselves in a safe and civilized manner.

 

This year, five directors—Laurel Green, John Cheetham, Matt McNamara, Dan Smith and Larry Nolan—are putting the final touches on 2013’s clinics and training events, scheduled for January 5th, 6th, 13th, 20th, 27th and February 3rd..  Directors set a weekly curriculum and catch up racers who may have missed the previous week(s).  They also coordinate 70+ volunteer leaders (folks comfy instructing 50 or more racers) and mentors (those helping smaller groups of racers) who help make the series possible.

 

I remember attending an EB Crit to get my final Category 4 upgrade point as a soon-to-be former triathlete. Even as a newbie I recognized the World Champion stripe-bedazzled jersey on the imposing figure of Larry Nolan, who was riding along mentoring the action.

Larry Nolan

Larry Nolan

 

For those who don’t know Larry, he’s earned 14 Masters Track World Championships and needs a storage unit for all of his Masters National gold medals. I still laugh with Larry about that day because just two years later we ended up as teammates, and I was able to absorb much more knowledge from him about how to how to race a bike.

 

Back to today, or perhaps January 5th, Larry & co. will be back at it, offering a helping hand to those new to the sport and/or wanting to improve handling & race skills. If you missed it the first time, mentors include a WORLD CHAMPION with double-digit titles to his name – someone who can teach most any of us a thing or three about bike riding.

 

Early Birds are just $15. They kick off January 5th with an evening clinic at Palo Alto Bicycles and introduction by Jim Ochowicz. Outdoor action commences January 6th at 8:30am with numerous category events taking place throughout the day.  Cat 5 participants receive 1 point per training race and .5 points for each clinic. Cat 4s receive .5 points for each clinic that they complete.  Details and registration information at http://www.velopromo.com/ebcr-ent.htm.

 

Now, since not everyone lives in Northern California and is able to attend in person, Larry was kind enough to proffer a few tips and suggestions as we head into race season.

 

Larry’s tips and facts for the new racer

-       Early Bird mentoring starts with group drills.  Presumably a friend proclaimed how strong you are and that “you should race.” Congratulations!  We’ll help you get more comfortable in a group, but the Early Birds should not be your first group ride.

-       A 75-minute clinic is not enough time to get you race ready.  Best to continue to learn and develop race skills from teammates, friends, coaches and by attending other clinics outside of EBs.

-       On the road, protect your front wheel.  Assert your position in races.  Do not race passively or aggressively.

-       Be humble and never pretend that you have all of the necessary skills to race through a corner at 30 miles per hour, shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers.

-       The 2013 Early Birds comprise five weeks of “training races,” which is to say that no one tracks your finish placing.  Therefore there’s no need to sprint at the end for a result.  Practice your sprint in your training and if you’re not yet a fast sprinter, then continue to practice and observe how others go so fast.

-       Come back to the Early Birds years from now when you’re experienced and ready to help others.  There really is no greater feeling than giving back to a sport that gives us all so much.

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Northern Cal’s Road Trip-Worthy Races

 

Northern Cal’s Road Trip-Worthy Races

By Chris Lyman

Daley Tapley Photography

With December’s arrival, it’s time for that magical time of year when we dispense with such luxuries as sleeping in on Saturday, or eating an extra slice of cake, and begin behaving like a 35+-year old avid cycliist ready to train in earnest for 2013. (Or, for those of us still in the holiday spirit, we at least give the concept some serious thought. Pass the eggnog.)

 

The Northern Cal race season is a mere four weeks away, commencing January 1st with the San Bruno Mountain Hill Climb—an annual right of passage reserved for those who carpool together from Nerdville.

 

From then on, the weekends are two to three deep with crits, road & stage races straight through September. With so many to choose from, I thought it would be worth taking a look at the biggest, baddest and/or most notorious races of epic nature that are worth packing up the car for a road trip.***

Daley Tapley Photography

Criteriums

For crits, I consulted with sprint ace Dean LaBerge, a 2011 Masters National Crit Champ, to get his take on Northern Cal’s best.

 

Mike’s Bikes Cats Hill Classic, 40th edition on April 4th.  A hill approaching 20% hill each lap turns this into an interval workout within a race.  The finish frequently comes down to a small group contesting for the win on this iconic course.

 

Nevada City Classic, June 16th. Yes, it has a hill and shares the word ‘classic’ in the title. But the likeness ends there, with basically half of the course uphill and half down through a historic, Gold Rush downtown.  After a triple-clutch climb (replete with 95+ degree temps in 2012) racers make a screaming descent into a 90-degree corner. Giddy up.

 

San Rafael Twilight Crit, July 27th.  This is pretty much a straight sprinter’s special through Downtown San Rafael, just north of San Francisco. The rectangular course has a mild, one-block rise after turn one and slight decline through turn three followed by a long drag to the finish. Stick around for the pro race and call-ups accompanied by umbrella-wielding womens.

 

Metromint Giro di San Francisco, September 2nd. One of the last significant races of the season. Downtown San Francisco, hills, rough pavement and whoever still has legs in after August.

Road Races

So many races, so few weekends. To sort the wheat from the chaff I consulted with Jesse Moore, who spent years beating up on the Northern California Pro 1-2 peloton prior to retiring to the masters ranks in 2012.

 

Copperopolis, March 30th. Batten down the hatches and tighten every bolt on your bike because this is not a race for the faint of heart with a climb and fast descent on ‘road’ that “looks like it was bombed out in WW2.” This is a hardman special that’s most often won by a super rouleur

 

Pescadero Coastal Classic, June 2nd.  This is a great course worthy of championship events with a little something for everyone: 75 miles of difficult climbs, one of the most technical descents in Northern Cal races, and great scenery. Down Highway 1 south of Half Moon Bay, it’s also not as far for So Cal folks.  Refuel with a bowl of Artichoke Soup and adult recovery beverage at Duarte’s Tavern after the race is over.

 

Leesville Gap Road Race, July 6th.  If you want to channel your inner Jens Voigt, this is the race to do it.  Don’t let the short distance fool you; this is a serious race of attrition that favors the well-rounded and mentally tough.  Early pave sections expose poor tire choices and eject water bottles just in time for a long sustained climb to further break up the field.  Those that survive at the front will be challenged with more climbing, heat and famous Central Valley winds leading into what is usually a slow motion, small group sprint amongst the least-cracked riders.  In the spirit of summertime, everyone is rewarded with fresh watermelon at the finish.

 

Daley Tapley Photography

Patterson Pass Road Race, August 4th. Patterson sneaks onto the list because it’s a hot, tough course. Right away it goes up with a long climb into a headwind, semi-sketchy descent and another climb followed by a rolling parcours. Repeat 3 times.

 

Special Consideration: Mt. Hamilton Road Race, May 26th. The race starts with a 4,500-foot climb in the first 20 miles followed by a wicked descent that will test the best of bike handlers. After the 63-mile race, join the group riding 50-odd miles back to the start for a solid day on the bike.

 

Stage Races

One day isn’t enough? Can’t decide between a crit or road race? Here are a few stage race options.

 

Merco Classic, February 28 – March 3. Last year was the first of Merco as a four-day masters stage race and it was an instant classic. Merco opens with a road race featuring a grippy climb but flat run-in to the finish. Stage 2 is an out-and-back time trial to sort out the standings. Stage 3 is a downtown crit with a chicane and plenty of turns. The final stage is 96 miles, mostly flat with a few rollers and rough pavement to keep things honest. Quite possibly the best masters stage race in California.

 

Little City Stage Race, anticipated for August 10-11. LCSR debuted in 2012 with a two-day, three-event omnium format. It’s held in/around Minden, Nevada about an hour south of Reno. Great TT course, fun crit, and tough final road race. All at altitude that readies participants for Masters Nats in Bend.

 

Honorable Mention: Sea Otter Classic, April 20-21. True, it’s not a stage race, but with a crit, fun circuit and road race over three days, your legs will be sore on Monday morning.

 

Rumor Mill: Word on the street is that the Tour de Nez might be back as a four-stage race in July. Stay tuned.

 

Find the full calendar of races at www.ncnca.org/road.

 

***Before hate mail starts arriving and plans are made to ride me into a curb, many other events are worthy for this list. Northern Cal is fortunate to have a fantastic lineup of races, these are just some of the more classic variety. Feel free to chime in and add others worth mentioning.