Thursday, September 27, 2007

Beer Bellies and Track Racing

This is my third posting about track racing; a discipline I've participated in exactly twice! I guess I found the whole scene fascinating, because I keep thinking about it while I ride to work.

So, one thing that really struck me, but didn't surprise me, was how many of the serious track racers do leg weight training. I talked with one veteran, Tim Montagne of LGBRC, who has been racing at the velodrome since before I was born, I mean, for over 20 years. We're actually fairly close in age. Sigh. Anyway, he told me that he could leg-press 510 pounds.... with one leg!!! Yikes! I had just finished doing my first-ever standing start track sprints, so I could totally understand what his goal was. To finish with a winning time it is critical to get up to speed fast, especially in the shorter 1K. They time you from a full stop, so every second you spend accelerating from that full stop up to cruising speed is that much more time spent on the track, so the advantage to being "strong" is huge.

But I kept turning this concept over in my mind while riding to work, instead of paying attention to the traffic trying to kill me, and something didn't make sense to me. How strong do you really need to be? I figure you really only need to be strong enough to be able to stand on one leg. After all, that's what you're doing when you mash down on the forward pedal. So maybe all of that weight-training they do is a waste of time? Well, before you cancel your 24 Hour Fitness membership, I know that ignores a few details:

  • You need to add some weight to account for jumping down on the pedal. We don't just stand on it, we kind of jump up and stomp on it.
  • You need to add some more weight to account for how we pull up on the opposite pedal... or at least I think we do.
  • Perhaps we also need to add some weight to account for how we can sort of leverage the handlebars to apply more force to the pedal. Sort of like standing on a bathroom scale while pushing up on a towel bar or something.
I don't know exactly how to account for those extra forces, but I did come up with a possible test-method, however Rube Goldberg-esque:

Clamp your bike in a trainer with the crank arms horizontal. Find a box that fits under the forward pedal with a couple of inches clearance. Put a bathroom scale on the box and slip it all underneath the forward pedal. Get up on the bike, clip in, and have a friend read the scale while you stomp and pull on the pedals as hard as you can. Come to think of it, you might need to bolt the trainer to the floor!

I'll make a wild guess: The total weight registered will probably be way less than 510 pounds, and probably something more like, oh, let's say, your body weight plus maybe 50 pounds or so. In my case that would be about 200 pounds. I should try this test myself someday, but I bet that's a good guess. And here's another thing: as soon as you start moving during a standing-start track sprint, the force on the pedal decreases, and it decreases more as your cadence increases. That's pretty accepted physics. So you only need your maximum strength for the first split-second of your sprint.

[After a while I thought of another way of checking maximum pedal force: ride a bike with a power meter and convert from Watts to pounds of force. Duh! I think most really good sprinters are capable of between 1200 and 2000 Watts at full sprint, so if anybody can work from that info to pedal force in pounds, let us know by adding a comment here.]

So, that means the maximum force on the pedal is well within the limits of any person who can walk up a step. And you only need your maximum strength for the first pedal stroke or so. Correct me if I'm wrong by clicking on the "Comments" link below and telling me why. Maybe that extra strength somehow translates into better "power" for longer efforts. Convince me; I even have a gym membership already. :-)

Oh yeah, "beer bellies:" I figure that big, heavy dudes with a beer belly would be able to apply a much higher force to the pedals in a standing start, assuming they can stand on one leg. A 250-pound guy might be able to apply 100 pounds more than I can. But they also have more mass to accelerate, so perhaps that cancels out any advantage??? Heck, I don't know... I'm just asking questions here, not answering them! :-)

By the way, the fastest guy out there at the California Elite State Track Championships was Ben Jacques-Mayne. Not exactly a huge hulking weight lifter. More evidence that you don't have to be super strong to be fast in any cycling discipline. But "power" sure helps, and that's a different subject.

Well, I'm planning on attending my third track event this Sunday, and that will bring me that much closer to being a for-real trackie instead of an armchair trackie!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

My Favorite Hated Training Ride

The training I love to hate: 4-minute hill repeats! That's where I start at the bottom of a hill, I usually use the same gentle 1-mile climb on a bikes-only paved trail at UCSC, and ride up it as fast as I can. I then coast back down, rest, and repeat this several times in a row. My friend Mark Edwards got me started on these repeats, which are a form of "intervals" training.

I hate these with a passion, but I try to remind myself that each one brings me that much closer to being an uber-mensch, capable of tearing the legs off mere mortals. ;-) These do, in fact, make me faster. Much faster. If somebody were to ask me, "what one thing can I do to get faster?" I would tell them to do these repeats once or twice a week and take it real easy the rest of the week. Since I added these into my regimen for the 2007 season, I've had my best race results ever, by far. Other things have helped too, but these repeats are at the top of the list.

I usually do six repeats in a session. That gives me about 25 minutes of riding at my, oh, I forget, some threshhold or another. Maybe it's my lactic threshhold? Anyway, that's what makes you faster.

Most guys don't like structured training, and prefer to ride with those maverick group rides that form out of nothing all over the country. Try to get those 25 minutes at 95% from a group ride. You will almost certainly fall well short, even though you feel like you worked really hard (well, you would work really hard, just not as hard for that long).

My friend Steve Rosen didn't believe this and took up the challenge on a group ride he specifically used as a test. Well, he fell way short of 25 minutes, and admits he might have gotten about 6 minutes at 95% . The problem is that you're in danger of getting dropped by the pack after each repeat, assuming you can find a way to get such a hard interval worked into whatever route and shenanigans the pack cooks up at random. If you take an all-out pull at the front for 4 minutes, you're liable to get dropped as soon as you finish the interval because you're so exhausted you can't even draft them. So you hold back a little instead, which means you're not getting as hard a workout. Do the repeats; you will be glad you did. Heck, then when you do join a group ride, you will... tear their legs off! :-)

I time each climb. The best technique results in the fastest time, so try to match that technique each time. Ideally each climb in a session will take about the same time, and as the weeks pass by they should get faster. The times may bounce around due to wind, temperature, what you ate for breakfast, etc. But if I see a consistent pattern where each repeat in a session is successively slower, I cut that session short and save myself for the next one. It means I'm not rested enough from my previous rides to go 95% for the full 25 minutes.

Today I rode these repeats on my new Giant TCR C2 for the first time, and set a new record: 3:58! My fastest previous climb there was 4:05. Granted, I may be getting faster, but the new bike didn't hurt either.

There is a technique: Try to pace yourself so that you don't get too tired early on. Be consistent, spin fast and smooth, feel the lactic acid start to burn your legs, and as you near the end you will cry for your momma, hitting about 95% of your maximum heart rate. Then take a nice break, smoke a cigarette, whatever works for you. I don't know what is best, but I take a long break and wait for my heart rate to drop down to about 65% before I start the next repeat.

Remember: Suffering during training translates into fun during races! :-)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Review of My New 2007 Giant TCR C2!

Yup; I got a second road-bike! This is only the third real road-bike I've ever owned (not counting the Sears 10-speed I bought in 1974!). I've also owned three mountain-bikes, and a few town bikes and cruisers. For an old guy who has always been an avid cyclist, that's kind of surprising, even to me. I guess I like hanging on to bikes for long periods.

Why another road-bike? I could actually justify a new mountain-bike more, as my old 1998 Specialized Stumpjumper is "antiquated," according to Mike Evans, and I feel that bike choice is more important in mountain-bike races. But I don't ride on dirt nearly as often as on pavement, and it was just too much hassle hauling my 2003 Specialized Allez Elite over the hill once or twice every week so I could use it for both bike-commuting and weekend training rides. I plan on leaving the Giant at home, mostly, and the Specialized in Los Gatos at my wife's office for quick turnaround when I bike-commute. (We usually carpool to Los Gatos from Santa Cruz, and I ride to work in Palo Alto from Los Gatos.) The Giant, is, therefore, primarily for training and racing.

The frame is at the heart of any bike, especially since no real bike manufacturers make entire bikes themselves, but bolt components, wheels and accessories from companies like Shimano, Mavic, SRAM, and others onto their unique frame designs. In that sense even the smallest custom frame builders, like Rick Hunter, of "Hunter Cycles," and Paul Sadoff, of "Rock Lobster," are on an equal footing with giants, literally, like "Giant." That's kind of cool. In fact, I considered getting a frame custom-built to my exact body dimensions by one of these shops. But...

I got a nice deal on the Giant from my new sponsor, Bicycle Trip bike shop in Santa Cruz, since it was one of their last high-end 2007 road-bikes in stock, and I didn't want to wait weeks or months for a special-order frame. The lure of a carbon-fiber frame was also hard to resist. I considered the Giant OCR models too, but the geometry of the TCR frames is much more suited to racing. And I prefer the lower position anyway, since my body is permanently frozen into the typical racer's stance by now! ;-) Speaking of stance; Aaron, the store manager, gave me great personalized attention and made sure my bike was carefully fitted to me. We ended up flipping and lowering the stem, and the seat was moved all over the place, of course. He double-checked the setup, based on the dimensions I saved from my Specialized, and everybody was happy.

The verdict: I absolutely love this bike!

I picked the bike up yesterday morning, and immediately rode it north on HWY1, through Davenport and around the Swanton Road loop; a gorgeous 48-mile ride along the Pacific Ocean, with varied terrain and pavement surfaces. This bike is better than my aluminum Specialized in every way. It is much more comfortable on bumps, is more responsive when jumping hard on the pedals, is lighter for easier climbing, tracks better through bumpy turns, and puts the power to the pavement better when sprinting on rough pavement. What else is there? I think it may be better aerodynamically too, but who knows. Funny thing, though: I actually hear it whistle at high speeds. Never had a bike whistle before! My wife told me it's the wind whistling through my ears, but she may have been kidding.

The full carbon-fiber frame design is truly remarkable, though the paint and graphics are in a boring gray scheme. I expected the bike to have a smoother ride, and to be lighter, but the difference is still amazing when you first experience it. Thanks to the flexibility of carbon-fiber frame construction, it's very easy to create a frame in any shape your sophisticated design software tells you is optimum, and to add extra material to stiffen the frame in critical areas, or soften it in others. You can even use the direction of the fibers to fine-tune the feel of the frame. Materials like aluminum, steel and titanium are much more limited in that regard, especially if you're trying to mass-produce them affordably, and therefore require more compromises.

As for the rest of the bike:

The Shimano Ultegra components are awesome. My Specialized has mostly Shimano 105 components, which are fine, but the 20-speed Ultegra shifters are way quicker and smoother. I don't think the derailleurs get the credit, because my 27-speed Specialized already has an Ultegra rear, and the 105 triple front isn't a fair comparison. The Ultegra levers also don't rattle on bumps like the 105s do. I'm very glad I got Ultegra components, though I suspect newer 105 components work better than my 2003 model-year 105 components. Oh, my new brake calipers are 105, but work very positively so I am happy with them.

My bike came with Mavic Aksium wheels, which may be causing that wind whistle; I'll put my other wheels on and see if that changes it. Anyway, they are fine all-around wheels, with bladed spokes that are mounted straight into the rear hub but J-hooked radially onto the front hub; nothing special really. They don't feel as stable on fast descents with a cross-wind as my other wheels do though. I may replace them with deep-dish wheels for most of my races, and use my Easton Ascent IIs for hill-climbs and such.

I don't like the Fizik Aliante saddle much, but that's a personal fit issue anyway. I feel it's too padded without adding any comfort. In fact, I think it's less comfortable than my firm Selle San Marco Aspide saddles.

None of the other components caught my attention, which means they must be working great. You can see the full specs, albeit for the 2008 model, here.

As I mentioned in my earlier post here, I'm still not convinced the stiffer frame actually increases my pedalling efficiency, even though my subjective feeling says it does. I trust stopwatches and proper testing equipment, and I haven't seen any data backing up that theory. Perhaps it does, but who knows. But I'm absolutely certain it does help whenever the pavement is rough. And the improved ride alone makes going with a carbon-fiber frame an easy choice for me.

I'm bummed that I will still spend most of my riding time on my old bike, but on the plus side I will appreciate the Giant that much more!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Nerdy Carbon-Fiber Physics Discussion

Carbon fiber bike components and frames are nice for the smoother ride and lighter weight they provide. I don't think anybody disputes that. And everybody who switches to carbon is convinced of its value. But honestly, I'm still not convinced carbon, or any other stiff frame or component, makes us faster or more efficient.

It may be true, and I want to believe it, but the skeptic in me isn't completely convinced yet. Sure, those bike engineers have lots of fancy equipment and programs that analyze the forces involved, allowing them to use the least material for the greatest stiffness with maximum comfort. No doubt carbon fiber is not only lighter, for faster climbing, but more comfortable. But does it result in a higher pedaling efficiency?

If you think of a frame, say, as a spring, then applying a certain force to it during a hard sprint will deflect the frame by some amount. A stiffer frame will deflect some smaller amount under the same force. But that smaller deflection doesn't necessarily mean any more force gets to the rear wheel.

Think of a stiff spring; a force applied to a stiffer spring merely compresses it less than that same force applied to a softer spring, but the force applied is the same. And that force doesn't disappear anyway; that energy comes back later (like when you release the pressure on a spring and the stored energy is released back). On a bike that energy might be returned later in the pedal stroke. Less deflection is nice only because it prevents the frame twist from shifting gears by accident and causing brake pads to rub, the better feel it provides, etc. Discuss. ;-)

I can most likely stop wondering; everybody I know who rides carbon is sold on it, and the experts seem to have lots of supporting evidence. But a lot of those experts are selling expensive bikes. Who has seen any real test data proving that energy is lost to a flexy frame or component? By "lost" I mean lost forever (through heat I'd guess), not lost briefly then returned later in the pedal stroke. The easiest way to lay my doubts to rest would be by proving that flexy components actually heat up more than stiff ones when force is applied.

I'm buying a carbon-fiber bike regardless, but....

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

My Cycling History

My first bike was a red Schwinn Buddy, with big, solid rubber tires. Very heavy, but I never had to worry about flats! Rode it all over the neighborhood. I was 8 years old, sometime back in the Dark Ages; 1969.

Then we moved to Denmark (that's in Europe somewhere) for a few years, and since cycling is so common there we kids got in the habit of riding everywhere. I rode my third-hand city bike to school, a couple of miles through the farmland, over pretty rolling hills, every day. Even when it snowed or rained. OK, sometimes when it was really nasty I would take the bus, but I hated doing that. Some things never change!

When we moved back here I saved my pennies up and bought my first 10-speed, a Sears Free Spirit or something like that, at the Sears by El Camino and San Antonio in Mountain View. It had smaller wheels than standard as I was kind of short, even for my age. I don't recall if they were 26" or 650c.

Then I saved up even more money and bought a full-size Peugeot UO8, in the Bicentennial year of 1976. I rode my old 10-speed bike to high school and all the way through junior college, with a lot of repairs and mods along the way. I dreamed of getting something really high-end, like a Bob Jackson with Reynolds 531 tubing and full Campagnolo, but could never afford it. All I could afford was reading the bike magazines, books, and catalogs like "Bikecology." I also dreamed of racing... but even then I had Walter Mitty traits and was too intimidated to actually try it. I came close enough that I found San Jose Bicycle Club's number in the phone book, but my fingers hesitated over the rotary-dial phone for many, many years.

I took several years off bikes while I went to SJSU, as working full time and studying full-time left me with... well, no time (and a nasty commute through north San Jose). Then I got a mountain-bike in 1993, after a friend showed me his trick, very custom, built-up mountain bike. I couldn't believe how cool the indexed shifters and suspension fork were. Mine was nothing fancy; a Marin with a solid fork, but I rode it a lot on the trails in the Santa Cruz Mountains and even the Sierras. I mountain-biked once or twice a week, then gradually upped it to 3-5 times a week around 1996 or 1997. That was easy because I worked from home in San Jose and could go whenever it fit into my workday.

I finally got the courage to enter my first bike race ever, in 1996 or 1997. It was a mountain-bike race held in Angel's Camp, in the rain. It was followed by my first visit to The Sea Otter Classic. I was hooked and raced for several years, racing long-gone races like Treeze and Breeze, The Sizzler, the Knobular series and others. Never did much better than mid-pack though. I also got a couple of nicer mountain-bikes; a Santa Cruz Heckler with full suspension, and a Specialized Stumpjumper hardtail. I raced the Stumpjumper in various cross-country races, and the Heckler in a number of downhill races, until mountain-bike racing pretty much died in this area in about 2000.

I got hired by HP in 2002 and started riding to work in Sunnyvale every day, rain or shine, for about 75 miles a week. When we moved to Santa Cruz that went up to about 130-160 miles a week. I had mounted slick tires on my Stumpjumper at first, but that seemed silly given the amount of miles I started putting in on the pavement. So I sold the Heckler and instead bought my Specialized Allez Elite road-bike in January of 2004. When my office at HP moved to Palo Alto my riding increased to about 160-200 miles a week. Plus I started riding centuries and stuff. But I've since cut back some on miles, and now I ride between 110-220 miles a week.

I got back into mountain-bike racing in 2004, getting 6th at The Sea Otter and 2nd at Napa Valley Dirt Classic. That was pretty cool, after my mediocre results from earlier! All those miles on my road-bike helped tremendously.

In 2004 I joined the Santa Cruz County Cycling Club (Team Santa Cruz). Yes, my childhood dream came true! I really went out of control, entering over 20 races, mostly road. I upgraded from Category 5 to Category 4, based on racing volume, but have now upgraded to Category 3, based on points from winning and placing at races. I have also been recruited by Team Bicycle Trip as a sponsored rider for the 2008 season. How cool is that!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

More on "Junk Miles"

My new teammate, Margie Biddick, and I are in a shared quandary: We both love to ride just for fun and stress relief, etc. ("junk miles" to some coaches), but we also want to get faster for our racing efforts. But the junk miles we both enjoy doing sometimes leave us too tired to perform our intense race training at 100% of the effort required. What to do?

Well, riding always comes first, so if that means compromising a bit on the racing, so be it. But there may be ways to work them both in. I think that perhaps we can time our rides and workouts to complement each other, or at least result in a minimum of compromise.

My theory: We "just-for-fun" ride lovers can take a day or two off every week, right? When we take a day off we allow our bodies to replenish our depleted glycogen (muscle energy) stores. That should leave us fresh enough to be able to haul ass during the intense workout we then perform the following day. The day or two after the intense workout we can take a nice, easy recovery "just-for-fun" ride. Then another day off, and another intense workout, followed by one or two easy days. Etc.

That way we get two tough days, and two to four easy days per week. Most coaches think two tough workouts a week is enough to make good progress, so perhaps this type of schedule would balance the fun vs. fast tradeoffs.

The tough part is scheduling the hard/easy days to fit into our daily lives, while still trying to train together with our teammates. Sometimes that requires some sacrifices too.

Hello, Team Bicycle Trip!

I've been training and racing quite a bit with my friends from the Bicycle Trip racing team over the last couple of years. Mark Edwards, Scott Martin, Margie Biddick, Larry Broberg and others. Great people, and fast too! We've done painful hill repeats together, carpooled to races, worked as a team in tough races, and even gone to the ER together. The Bicycle Trip bike shop's owner, Berri, currently sponsors Team Santa Cruz, so it's only natural to form a closer alliance between the two teams. It made sense to me to accept Bicycle Trip's formal offer to become a member of their racing team. Yes, I am now a sponsored racer! Watch out all you Pros! ;-)

Oh, I am still a member of Team Santa Cruz, and intend to remain so as long as I live here. I'll admit I was very reluctant to sign on to Team Bicycle Trip for fear I'd offend my Team Santa Cruz friends. I asked David Gill what he thought, and he was very supportive, reminding me that we already have many members doing the same thing. Some, like Melanie Dominguez, even race for Bicycle Trip. I fully intend to support our up-and-coming road race contingent and our long-term prospects are exciting! With luck we may even be able to race together later in the 2008 season.

For the 2008 season I have committed to race 10 races in Team Bicycle Trip kit. I will probably continue to race in Team Santa Cruz kit in the CCCX mountain-bike series, and other such races. Most of my Team Bicycle Trip races, maybe all, will be on the road. I visualize my role on Team Bicycle Trip as two-fold:

1. Ride in support of Mark, Scott and Larry (and whoever else shows up) in the very tough 45+ open-category road races they love to do. I'm not much of a climber, but I think training more often with Mark can fix some of that. I can always launch futile attacks in the flat sections, or try to help them bridge if they get stuck at the wrong end of a gap.

2. Race for the podium in criteriums, most likely in either Category 3 races, or 45+ open-category races. Since I will likely have teammates in many of these, including Ed Price, Vlada Strbac, Robbie Abundis and Joe Platin, I suspect we may be switching roles from race to race, taking turns as our designated overall contender, and the rest of us riding in support by leading him out, closing gaps, bridging him to breakaways etc.

Hey, this is a neat thing, and what I see as part of my growth process. I very much look forward to the cool racing to come!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Balancing Cycling and Real Life

That's another issue I have to grapple with. My wife, Margaret, is so supportive. But she also wants to spend time with me in ways that aren't bike-related. Yeah, sounds crazy, huh? ;-)

Bike-commuting is such a great way to balance training and real life. I combine my commute and my workout. Margaret and I usually carpool from Santa Cruz to Los Gatos, and then I ride to HP in Palo Alto from there. For less than an added hour or so per day I get two hours of hard training in. And I save money on gas, wear and depreciation on my car and tires, stress (amazing how much better I feel when I ride to work), Al Gore doesn't despise me as much... etc.

Some of my teammates want me to compete in cyclocross during the winter. But that is not likely. Everybody needs an off-season, and it would just make the cycling/real-life balance even harder. Plus, I have bad feet, no funds for a cyclocross bike, and no cyclocross skills.

Come to think of it, another reason to dispense with those "junk miles" I mention in my earlier post is to improve the cycling/real-life balance.

Junk Miles

Eddie Merckx, the greatest cyclist in history, is famous for saying that his secret training technique was to "ride lots." Modern cycling coaches have to fight that quote again and again, like an undead zombie. For one thing, guys like him didn't just ride lots, they also raced lots, often several times a week. They even invented cyclocross so they could train during the winter to be ready for early-season races. But the result of his quote is that many cyclists still follow that approach. They ride lots, and then wonder why they never win.

Enter the Cold War. East-Block countries started using sports as a way of proving the superiority of the Socialist system. Periodization was the secret weapon they came up with to fight Western athletes. It worked. Tiny East Germany was usually third in the Olympic medals chase, behind the Soviet Union and USA. Crazy.

Most coaches today set up a carefully designed periodized schedule of workouts for their athletes, with a specific workout for each day of the entire year. These workouts vary intensity and volume, usually in an inverse relationship, so that the athletes "peak" for priority competitions. I, for instance, followed a periodized program for the first time during the 2007 season and had my best season ever, by far. Sure beats the "ride lots" approach! I followed the guidelines set forth by Joe Friel in his book Cyclist's Training Bible (mostly), deviating by not doing his recommended weight trainning, but generally doing a good job.

But classic periodization also involves lots of easy "base" miles, just like Eddie did. And those miles are the ones the best coaches now question. Some even call them "junk miles."

Two good friends with impressive resumes, Chris Tanner and Mark Edwards, have led me to question the value of base miles too. They only ride with intensity; every ride involves pain. Yet both are super strong racers. Mark even does long road races which is where you'd most benefit, in theory, from lots of base miles; his weekly training volume isn't a whole lot more than the two- or three-hour road races he excels in. Chris doesn't even touch his bike until April, but is winning races after just a few weeks of riding.

There are a lot of precedents for this questioning. Even classic periodization coaches tell their athletes that if they only have limited time they should only do the intense workouts. And periodization calls for dropping the base miles in order to peak for a race. It seems everybody agrees intensity is more important.

All of this has led many excercise physiologists to take that one step further: Why not just drop all of those low-intensity workouts? This is where I am at now.

I feel that my constant load of base miles merely makes me too tired to conduct my intense workouts at full power. So wouldn't I be better off not doing those "junk miles" at all? We shall see.

I have no doubt I will continue to ride "junk miles" because I also bike-commute. It's hard to ride with intensity every single day, and I try not to drive much. I just need to balance my volume and intensity better, and will also add intensity into my off-season rides.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Velodrome riding as criterium training

So, I raced the 1K TT and 4K TT at the velodrome. I did much better in the 1K, with a 1:17:48. Yes, more evidence that I'm a sprinter. :-)

Results here.

It was interesting talking with guys at the velodrome. They have some cool training ideas, mostly involving weight training (which I do for upper-body and core strength only) or plyometrics (jumping excercises, which I do for my legs). But I would only do weight training for my legs if I planned on doing standing-start races more. I can see where it might help there, but I don't think it applies to crits very much (a little, just not very much), and the odds of injury during training are too high for the benefits IMHO.

The 1K is AWESOME for crits, simulating the last lap rush, though its standing start is too specific to apply to crits. I'd say a flying-start 1K TT ("kilo") and the popular 200m flying-start track sprints would be the best workouts for crits. The standing start is nice training for jumps and attacks, but to be really good at it might require a lot of weight training. The track bikes have a single fixed gear, so the force required to accelerate quickly in such a tall gear is fairly high. But in a crit you have many gears, so why bother with leg weight training when you can just shift to a lower gear that doesn't demand that much force?

The 4K is awesome for faster TTs though! Since I should train my weaknesses, I should do these more. Mine was about 5:40:20. The track makes a consistent pace easier than in my hill repeats. But, again, I can do without the standing start.

I have some ideas of where to improve for next year. Watch out Nolan, Langley and Caldwell! ;-)

Track racing makes my legs sore!

I can ride my bike for hours, up hills, down hills, into headwinds, train for sprints, jumps, hill repeats, intervals, you name it. None of that ever makes my legs sore. Dog-tired; yes, sore; never. But a basic session on a fixed-gear racing bicycle at Hellyer Park Velodrome, riding in circles, makes my legs sore. That must mean something.

The session I rode in last Saturday just happened to be:

- My second track session ever.
- The first time I rode this particular bike; a fancy Cervélo track bike that Rob Jensen loaned me.
- The first time I ever rode a bike with aero bar extensions.
- The California State Track Championships.

OK, I guess I bit off a lot! Even so, I ended up having fun (always my first priority), getting a decent workout, not crashing and not finishing last! I was 9th of 16 in the 1K TT, and 15th of 16 in the 4K Pursuit (TT). Clearly I am more of a sprinter than a time-trialer!

The aero bars scared me. In my 1K I nearly crashed when the front wheel started wobbling. That would be embarrassing; crashing solo on a perfectly smooth track. But aero bars take some practice, and in a short 1K you're riding all-out. Oxygen deprivation and torque conspire to make it a surprisingly tricky business.

p.s. This is the first entry in my new blog! I'll use it for random stuff, cycling training ideas, etc. I post my race reports on my club's website: