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Thursday, August 28, 2014

GPS Running Watches




In the very recent past, running with a GPS watch was like wearing an iron shackle on your wrist; they were large, heavy, and expensive. The technology has come a long way. Smaller, lighter, cheaper, and much more fashionable, most of the current generation watches aren't any bigger than a basic stop watch and have many added features. A quick size comparison of three popular Garmin models stocked at ATC shows little resemblance to ye olde Medieval torture devices:


Garmin 910xt, Fenix 2, and Forerunner 10

Forerunner 10


The simplest, most affordable, and smallest offering is the Forerunner 10 at $129.99. Available in a variety of colors and two different sizes, the watch is minimal enough to work for everyday wear, so you don't have to take it on and off for runs.

The Forerunner 10's key features include the ability to track distance, pace, and time and to estimate calorie use. It can also notify you of personal records, such as fastest mile or longest run to date, and provides a "virtual pacer" so you can set target pacing goals. Data can be uploaded to Garmin Connect or imported into the analysis tool of your choice via USB.



Forerunner 220 and 620


A little bit more conspicuous in size, the Forerunner 220 and 620 watches bring added benefits with the bulk: the extra screen space provides more room for tracking your run stats, and the size seems to allow for quicker satellite acquisition than smaller watches. These two models also have longer battery life and more storage than the 10.

The 220 provides mobile phone integration to automatically upload your data, as well as training features like heart rate alerts, real-time live tracking, and a built-in accelerometer that lets you know distance and pace data even when running on an indoor track or treadmill. The 620 takes things a step further with a touch screen and the ability to estimate VO2 max, predict race times for certain distances, and suggest recovery time; it's also the first GPS running watch that provides feedback on running form (via accelerometers that measure torso movement). The 220 starts at $249.99 and the 620 at $399.99.



Forerunner 910xt

This is the big daddy watch that does it all. If you don't mind the size, the Forerunner 910xt is the triathlete's dream watch. Water resistant to 50 meters, it can track your swim, run, and your bike, including collecting data from your power meter. No need to manage different devices for all three sports, you can just use your 910xt everywhere; transition is possible with the press of a single button.

Swim metrics include swim distance, stroke identification, stroke count, and pool lengths, and GPS captures your path, which after the fact makes it easy to see how far you veered off course in an open water swim... Leave the 910xt on for your whole race and forgo a separate head unit on your bike if you prefer. If you like to watch your numbers closely on the bike, a quick release mount allows the watch to move easily from wrist to handlebars. Battery life is 20 hours, so even on a bad day it will last for your entire Ironman. The 910xt retails for $399.95 (Without the hrm bundle)



Fenix 2


If you spend any time hiking or trail running, or branch out into other adventure sports like paddling, climbing, and skiing, this will be the watch you want. Possessing all the same features as the Forerunner 620, but with a more rugged design, the Fenix also has an on-board altimeter, barometer, and compass, which are used to add a remarkably advanced set of  navigation and tracking features. Built-in sensors provide data on heading, elevation, and even weather changes, and you can leave a "bread crumb trail," marking waypoints like campsites, start/finish lines, and other points of interest. Battery life is 50 hours in GPS mode and up to five weeks in watch mode.

The future is now...the Fenix 2 integrates via Bluetooth or ANT+ with other compatible Garmin devices or smartphones, and in addition to easy data upload, you can receive text and email alerts and even use the watch as a glove-friendly remote for certain action cameras.

With a price tag of $399.99, the Fenix makes you wonder why people would spend thousands of dollars on designer wristwatches that simply look pretty and make a satisfying ticking noise when they could have a timepiece that ensures survival from snowstorm, zombie apocalypse, and bear attack.

Alright, alright... We're not sure it'll do anything for bear attack, but we wouldn't doubt it. And while snowstorm and zombie apocalypse have roughly equal odds of occurring in Austin, we say it never hurts to be prepared.


Friday, August 22, 2014

Roadie says, “Running? What’s That?”

By Kat Hunter

For the past three years or so, my workouts have been devoted to the bike. Though I have a long history with running and I enjoy it, taking bike racing seriously meant focusing every ounce of energy on specific training.

Now that I’m taking a break and working out for fitness rather than competition, I’m trying to run. What I’ve discovered in my past few weeks of struggling to find my feet again is that more than just my running shoes are dusty.

Oh, the legs. This season I’ve been in the shape of my life, bike-wise, but I’m very quickly learning that doesn’t translate to bipedal locomotion. I started off short and slow, knowing that I have a tendency to overdo it and get hurt, but at the end of each sluggish 20-minute jog I felt like I’d just run an endurance race through the desert being chased by cheetahs. Alternating running and cycling workouts, the general muscle soreness wore off in a week or two, but the joint soreness has persisted. All those things that weren’t taking a beating on the bike—the feet, the ankles, the knees—they’re taking a beating now, and they’re letting me know how they feel about it.

One problem was my shoes. I wasn’t sure when I bought my last pair; their original color was unknown, now a neutral shade somewhere between brown and gray. At ATC, Missy Ruthven walked me through the shop’s new selection of run shoes: Altra, Hoka, Zoot, Asics, On, Pearl  Izumi, and Newton. I went with the On Cloudsurfers. They’re a little unusual—the CloudTec soles are large knobs, rather than one continuous platform, which looks to me a little like the shoe is sitting on pylons. The On website describes the technology as “intelligently combin[ing] what conventional running shoes have failed to unite: a cushioned landing and a barefoot takeoff.” I find them comfortable, and they seem to fit my feet well, which is enough of a selling point for me. They’re also a nice shade of purple.

ATC has a regular Wednesday run at 6 p.m. They welcome anyone, from uber fast runners like Jeff and Liz Shelton to once-a-week runners like my husband (ahem). The group heads across the park to the Town Lake hike and bike trail for a short loop, some people going four miles and some extending it to six. The pace varies, and it usually splits up quickly. Lately it’s been a very small group because of the heat, with the highlight of the evening being rehydrating with beer at the shop afterward. Some people, in fact, skip the run altogether.

This Wednesday it was just Missy, Will Thompson, my husband, and me. Missy and Will were good sports, allowing us to crash the party with our 15-month-old in a baby stroller. My new shoes felt great on their inaugural trip, and it was my longest run in recent history, about 45 minutes.

If I were to give any running product a negative review, it would be the BOB Revolution stroller. With the wheel locked, it’s very difficult to turn and seems to pull to one side or the other. With the wheel unlocked, it bucks like a rodeo horse if it hits the smallest of bumps. Maybe this is just the way of things with running strollers? I don’t have a basis of comparison. On the bridge over Barton Creek, I hit one of the planks just right and the stroller took a violent diagonal trajectory; we almost ran over a runner coming the other direction, who, fortunately, simply laughed in the face of the danger narrowly averted and kept going.

Missy and Will were running at what felt like a decent clip to me, but I knew it was a recovery pace. This is perhaps the most frustrating thing about starting over again with running. When you first take up jogging, you tend to do it gradually...a mile here, a mile there. For a while you probably think two or three miles is a long way. Slowly, you build up, and your perceptions on pace and distance change, and before you know it, two or three miles is a warmup. I still have the mentality of a seasoned runner—anything less than an hour and anything over 8:30 pace doesn’t seem to qualify as a decent workout—but I have the running fitness of a beginner.

The funny thing is, my mind hasn’t adjusted to running vs. cycling any better than my body has. When I was pushing the stroller up the hill, I kept thinking, “I need to shift, I need to shift.” Later, as I was really starting to tire, I was running behind Missy and Will, assuring myself that I was “in the draft” and could make it if I just held on to the back. Some things are the same, however, at least when you’re running with our disappointment of a stroller—by the end of the run, one of the rear tires had a flat.  Roadie-style, I decided to blame my lackluster performance on the equipment malfunction.

Come join us for the ATC run next Wednesday. There’s suffering, good company, and beer, and I hear runners like these things as much as cyclists do.

Note: After the time change on Sunday, Nov. 2, the run starts at 5:30.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Tayler Wiles and La Course

by Kat Hunter

On July 27, hours before the men’s peloton traveled down the Champs-Élysées and Marcel Kittel battled Alexander Kristoff to win the final stage of the 2014 Tour de France, the women were the first to cross the finish line. Marianne Vos (Rabo Liv) would take the win, but in the inaugural La Course, victory belonged to more than the race’s champion. Though not the hardest, the longest, or even the most interesting event on the pro women’s calendar, the 90-kilometer circuit race represented two things the women’s peloton has been desperately short on for much of its history: recognition, and hope for the future.

Tayler Wiles, a 25-year-old native of Salt Lake City, Utah, riding for Specialized-Lululemon, says it’s no secret that the women want their own multi-stage Tour de France. But she, like most of the women who competed in La Course, felt honored to be part of the one-day race. A small contingent of female pro cyclists and advocates for the sport had nearly waged war to regain a place for the women in the Tour, and that fight had been successful. La Course would be broadcast in 157 countries. The winner would earn the same $31,000 payout as the men’s stage winner. Wiles voiced the thoughts of many when she called La Course “a big step in the right direction.”

Click this link to keep reading the story at TexasBikeRacing.com. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Race report: 2014 Jack's Generic Tri

by Liz Shelton

There’s a debate among cyclists about the bike. There are many debates, but in particular whether a high-end, fancy bike with all the newest technology makes you a better (faster) rider, and to what extent, and how much the rider makes a difference. This is the chicken and the egg debate. We’ve all been out on group rides and see riders on bikes that belong in a Grand Tour. Is it worth it? I mean, to upgrade your bike or even switch from a road bike with clip-on bars to a tri bike. Well, I learned for myself at JGT at Lake Pflugerville on August 3.

I’ve been itching to race a Sprint for a few weeks now, for several reasons. My last race was an Olympic at the end of May, so it’s been two months too long. Second, I knew I could really use some speed work, given most of my workouts lately have been progressive or tempo runs. But the real reason is that my better half and I recently returned from a vacation in Colorado. Translation: altitude. I came back feeling awesome! I feel stronger, lighter, and more relaxed than I have all year. So I wanted to test myself and see how much faster I’d gotten as a result. I didn’t have specific time goals in mind but wanted to race competitively and really push the run pace.

The swim was a TT start, the first for JGT. I prefer it over a mass start, as I don’t like crowds, so right away I was able to find a rhythm and chase down swimmers. I started to catch the wave ahead of us about halfway through the 500m swim, so that helped my confidence. I veered off course at one point (only happens when I breathe to the left - still working on that!), but overall a good swim.

Transition was a short run on the beach, to the Astroturf-covered sidewalk, and down the stairs already wet and muddy from those ahead of me. Grabbed my bike and headed out as quick as I could. I haven’t mentioned it yet but this is my first race with a new customized tri bike from Austin Tri-Cyclist (thank you guys!). Now this is the part where my husband, and most of you readers, shakes his head in disappointment because I’m still not into the tech lingo. All I know is that it’s a P2, it’s blue, and it's fast! Oh, and we added electronic shifting. This proved to be a wise choice. I’ll give credit where credit is due…Thank you, honey, for encouraging me to go that direction. It made for a smooth ride, knowing I didn’t have to move around to shift gears. Since Pville was a rolling course, the electronic shifters are a must because you’re constantly moving from small chain ring to the large one and back. Also, you get two shift points on a tri bike, one at the brake levers and the other at the bar-end. But like I said earlier, I was mostly concerned about speed. Did having ES mean I would ride faster? Well, in the end, I did. I got my best bike pace to date, and while not nearly as good as the pros, I’ll take it!!

Transition to the run was a little slower than usual, but that was because I was being careful with my pretty bike and didn’t want to scratch it. I carefully hung it on the rack and then got to business. Grabbed my hat, Gu and belt…running out to the gravel looped path that encircles the lake. Crap! Dropped my Gu. Go back to pick it up (a crutch, yes, but it helps). That probably wasted six or seven seconds, so now I had to run faster to make it up. Started catching runners early on. Kept my eyes down on calves, searching for ages, and just plowing through the crowd. I wondered if or where I would start to slow down, but focused on quick turnover and keeping a constant, steady pace. Like I said earlier, I felt very relaxed ever since Colorado, so I never felt out of control. Caught a large group of guys with about 600m to go, so that made me very happy. And I passed someone a few inches from the finish line.

I had to find out my run time because Logan had announced they were giving out primes for fastest splits and transitions. Sure enough, I had the fastest run of the day for Sprint with a 5:52 pace. Sweet! That time on top of a bike PR just made my day. Head to head competition is fun, just like winning first place is. But real satisfaction comes from beating and bettering yourself. No trophy or medal can compare. So while I am a little slow to open up to those fancy gadgets, iCloud, or social media (I do NOT Facebook, nor do I own a mobile phone), I can say that electronic shifting is the way to go. Now I just need to go train. See you on the road!

Liz was the fastest overall woman at the 2014 Jack's Generic Triathlon. Click here to see results. Read her October 2013 post "The Life of a Runner Turned Cyclist Turned Triathlete" on the ATC blog.  

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Moment in the Sun
Cascades Cycling Classic Race Report

Stage 5, crossing the Deschutes River at Tumalo State Park
By Kat Hunter

The Cascades Cycling Classic, held in Bend, Oregon, from July 15 to July 20, is the longest running stage race in North America. The pro men and women race six stages over six days, the courses ranging in venue from neighborhood streets to thickly forested highways that skirt clear mountain lakes and the snow-capped Mt. Bachelor.    

I would have the opportunity to guest ride for FCS Cycling at the race. For my husband, Jack, and I, the experience would be an adventure, an almost-vacation.  My mother (a saint) was able to keep our 13-month-old son for two weeks, so we were turning it into a road trip of sorts—three and a half days of driving from Austin to Bend, six days of racing, and another five days of seeing the sights via the California coast on the return.  

I take cycling very seriously, maybe too seriously, but it’s not my career. At Cascades, I found myself playing the role of naïve tourist among-battle-hardened warriors for whom racing—at the highest level in the U.S.—is a lifestyle. These women are tough as nails, racing their hearts out from about mid-February to the beginning of September. They squeeze their bikes into impossibly small gaps and fly through corners. They get back in the saddle within seconds of bloody crashes. They change clothes in crowded parking lots and blow snot rockets as casually as they put up their hair. They both inspire and intimidate me.

Back home I was an experienced rider. In small Texas fields, bad positioning and timidness had been a nominal handicap, and my lopsided development, which leaned heavily toward speed rather than skill, had been easy to ignore. Here, in a field of 84 riders as fast or much faster than me, I was a novice trailing behind the pack like a lost dog. Of course, sometimes even the most unlikely of dogs can have its day. The proof: in the last stage, I would have mine.

The Team


Guest riding for FCS was an honor. The time I spent with the team revealed a unique kind of family, one that enjoyed spending time together and celebrated each rider’s contributions.

Amber Neben, former world time trial champion and U.S. national road race champion, was our GC leader. In spite of breaking her hip at the 2013 Tour of California time trial (video) and then fracturing it again in a crash at the Joe Martin Stage Race in April, Amber was racing strong. The other riders and guest riders on the team, which included Jess Cutler, Anna Sanders, Mia Loquai, Olivia Dillon, Anna Grace Christiansen, and Mandy Heintz, were accomplished and experienced. Mandy, a fellow Texan and my nemesis at all the early local races, I knew well; technically, she’d been involved in the sport about the same number of years as me, but she’d spent 2014 racing the pro circuit. I was light years behind them all in terms of knowledge and ability, and was grateful for their patience and kindness. My teammates’ gruff orders during the races—“Kat, move up. Kat, follow me. Kat, GO.”—are the only reason the week was a success for me.    

My experience at Cascades was a reminder of the depth of talent and personality in the women’s pro field. No two riders are remotely the same. Ages and backgrounds vary widely. My teammates were at times serious, silly, raunchy, sarcastic, and hilarious. In the race, they were selfless. Race results often don’t reflect the events during the race, the breakaway attempts and leadouts and domestique duty, and thus the GC leaderboard is often no indication of the caliber of a team’s individual riders. In a stage race, most of the team is engaged in active, no-holds-barred sacrifice for a particular teammate. For us, the goals were the GC lead and the sprinter’s jersey.

Prologue, Short & Sweet

Lasers and Levels 
Jack’s laser level and obsessive measuring paid off, as my old Cervelo P2 passed pre-race UCI inspection without a hitch. The officials weren't checking weight or saddle tilt, but they were cracking down on extension length and the horizontal distance of the saddle from the bottom bracket. Depending on the race, officials, current UCI rules, and even measuring equipment, a bike can pass one race inspection and not another. Some riders were making last-minute adjustments right before their start.   
    
About a month before the race, Jack had swapped out my HED aero bars for take-off P5 bars. Friends dubbed the result “Frankenbike.” Other than a new Cobb JOF saddle and the Zipp 808 clincher ATC had loaned to us, the setup was the same as it was for the State TT, and I felt very comfortable.

The prologue was 2.5 miles through neighborhood streets in Tetherow. I played it over in my mind a thousand times: fast downhill through a sweeping turn, another curvy near-flat section, a sharp left turn that I was worried about, another straight section, a roundabout taken backward as a smooth-ish left turn, and a set of ominous rollers to the finish, the line on a slight downhill. I botched the left turn and probably paced the beginning a little too hard, but I was happy with the effort, finishing with a time of 5 minutes 10 seconds in 10th place. Texan Lauren Stephens (Tibco) set the fast time of the day, 4 minutes 53 seconds, which would have bested almost half the men’s pro field.

Stage 1 Road Race, In the Mountains

The original course, a new-for-2014 route through the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, had to be changed because of wildfires that started during a storm Sunday night. For most of the week, the air would remain hazy with smoke. (Props to the race organizers for managing to change the course on such short notice.) Wednesday’s course was now the loop around Cascades Lakes that we would also race on Friday, except we’d run it the opposite direction and start from Wanoga Sno Park. The 54 miles consisted for the most part of easy descents and flats, with one brutal climb that started around 10 miles from the finish. The scenery—what little I managed to see of it in the midst of racing—was beautiful; the race passed through thick stands of national forest and alongside three mountain lakes. The finish, at Bachelor Ski Resort, sat at 6,400 feet.

My FCS teammates did amazing work. Jack rode in the team car and was writing it all down. Jess was away solo for 11 miles just after the first feed zone, taking sprint points to earn the green jersey. Sprinting from the field, Olivia scored a point too in third. Anna Grace and Mia went back to the team car for bottles. Anna Sanders, Mandy, and I were supposed to sit in and wait for the final climb, where we'd get more specific orders from Amber. My one real contribution to the team during this stage, however, was helping Amber rejoin the group after an early pee stop.

My nose started bleeding as we crested one of the small hills around 24 miles or so, and I was wondering what effect the final climb at altitude was going to have on my power. When the time came, Anna Grace spotted me and urged me forward, patting her hip to tell me to get on her wheel. She moved me up close enough to follow the action in the final climb, but when the selection went, I wasn't able to deliver. Whether the result of altitude, lack of fitness, or lack of willpower, I was soon off the back of the front group feeling like I’d been punched in the gut.

After a few moments of going at my own pace, I was able to recover and ramp it back up. I clawed my way back to a few stragglers who’d fallen off, finishing 19th in the stage. I was now 18th in GC. Amber had bridged up to a solo attack from the front group by Lauren Stephens; Lauren took the win, and Amber finished second in the stage, now 19 seconds down in GC.      

Stage 2 TT, Frankenbike Rides Again

The out-and-back 20K TT was in Prineville, about an hour away from Bend. It looked flat compared to the other stages, but the course was rolling in places, with a tailwind on the way out and stiff headwind on the return. Again, I paced it a little too hard on the way out and faded significantly about three-quarters of the way in. Knowing who was behind me, I was happy that I didn't get passed, though Allison Tetrick (Team Twenty 16) seemed to come across the line just behind me; she placed second in the stage at 35 minutes flat. Lauren won the stage with a time of 34 minutes 51 seconds. My teammates Amber (35:38), Olivia (35:59), and Jess (36:06) placed in the top ten. My time was 36:21, 12th in the stage, and I moved up to 12th in GC.   

Stage 3 Road Race, Blowing Up

My special purpose in this 73-mile stage was to get in an early break, starting it if necessary. The course profile had a big, long hump for 15 miles or so in the beginning, followed by a long section of flats and gentle descents, and another monster 10-mile climb at the end that, like Wednesday, ended at Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort. The team needed to make sure everything before that final climb stayed hard in an effort to isolate Lauren and help Amber get time back in GC.

As we started the first climb and a few unsuccessful attacks were made by other teams, my teammates scolded me to move up. I attacked from somewhere around the front third of the pack, going as hard as I could from the middle of the hill to its crest. I’d been successful, with three riders tucked in behind me—Katie Donovan from Team Twenty 16, Alizee Brien from Tibco, and a rider from DNA Cycling (Mindy McCutcheon?). I’d been so intent on getting the break started, however, that I neglected to conserve enough to stay in it. The talent of the women in the break was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. When we started rotating, I took my pulls, breathing like a horse, until I started to feel myself slip. I didn’t make it for long.

When I succumbed completely, we had a minute and a half on the field. I was gapped off in no man’s land, and I tried to make up the distance, but it was quickly growing. From the team car, team director Scott Warren told me to just rest and rejoin the field. The team car went back to the peloton, and soon after I saw a Vanderkitten rider, Liza Rachetto, bridging. I fell in behind her, unsure of what to do, but I decided why not? Maybe it would still help the team if I was up the road. Again, the most I could do was hang on. At one point, we were two minutes behind the break and two minutes in front of the field. I was falling to pieces.   

Finally, the group was about to catch, and I had fresh instructions from Scott to back off. I came into the feed zone, able to grab a bottle from Jack just before the field caught me. I found out later that I did get a single point in the climbers’ competition for going through the QOM point fifth, which I found amusing.    

I did some water bottle duty after that, a first for me and very stressful. A domestique's job takes a surprising amount of effort and finesse. First, you have to drift back to the team car to get the bottles. Then, you have to take the bottles from the moving car and somehow stuff them in your jersey. Then you have to surge hard to get back onto the field, and from there weave around the pack delivering the bottles to the team and take their empties. I was miserable at it, taking an inordinately long time to reach my teammates. I was terrified that the bottles would fall out of my jersey or I’d still have them for the final climb. When I went back to the team car to toss them in, most were half-empties I’d taken from my teammates, but I did return at least one completely full bottle...

At one point during the race a rider swerved off the road and then made it safely back onto the pavement, but someone in the middle of the pack crashed as a result. I managed to go around the downed rider without any mishaps, but two of my teammates got caught up in it, getting back on their bikes so quickly that I didn't know they’d stopped until much later.

The break that had dropped me stayed away most of the day, the remnants caught by the peloton going into the last climb. By that point in the race, I was mostly recovered. I was told to move up and see what Amber wanted me to do. I tried, but I never quite made it to her at the front of the pack. When the pace picked up, I was again in a position to follow, but as riders came off one by one, I was gapped behind them and didn't have the gas to regain. Anna Sanders and Amber had both made the selection.

As on Wednesday, after easing off a little I was able to push the pace again, but I was completely on my own time-trialing it, watching the front group of 24 riders in the distance. The bottom of my right foot began to feel simultaneously burning hot and numb, and my knees were killing me. The men’s team cars and vans were coming back from the mountain after their earlier finish, and many cheered me and the other stragglers on. I finished 25th in the stage, almost 2 minutes behind the front group, and moved to 25th in GC. Amber was 10th in the stage, now 11 seconds down in GC. Tibco rider Krista Doebel-Hickok won the stage. It was a long, long day.


Stage 4 Criterium, Survival

Crit start
I woke up in the morning feeling awful, mentally and physically. I bailed about 10 minutes into the morning team ride. Later that day, after eating half of a very large pizza I felt better.

My teammates were superstars in the crit, which started at 5:45 p.m. in downtown Bend with a big crowd of spectators. We were working for the sprinter’s jersey for Olivia, with Anna Grace, Jess, Mandy, and Mia leading her out and attacking. Amber and Anna Sanders were sitting in to conserve for the climbs the next day. Jack’s Twitter updates from the sidelines give a play by play of the dominant role FCS played in the race:

Click For The Live Twitter Play by Play


Lauren Stephens and Tibco control the front.
Like Anna and Amber, I was supposed to just find a comfortable position and rest up for the next day. But my cornering was terrible, and I was riding last wheel nearly the whole race, suffering the accordion effect and closing gaps from dropped riders. I was worried about crashing, but the race was so smooth and fast that not a single rider touched the pavement.

Joanne Kiesanowski (Tibco) won the stage. Mia, after doing leadouts the whole race, was still able to take third place in the field sprint at the finish. In the end, we were only two points off the sprinter’s jersey for Olivia. My teammates had also won a large number of primes. After the race, the rest of the team was smiling and talking fast, electric with a post-race high. Though I was happy just to have survived the stage, I found myself wishing I’d been able to play more of a part in it.  

Stage 5 Road Race, Moment in the Sun

Going in, I don’t think there were any real expectations for me in the final stage, the 51-mile Awbrey Butte Circuit Race. I was just supposed to get in some early moves if I was there (I was not). With the turns and fast descents, it felt like another crit, just longer and much harder. I was holding on for all that I was worth at the back for most of the race. 

I felt very guilty. The team had taken a chance on me, giving a bumbling amateur the opportunity to ride with a pro team, and I was being utterly useless, was maybe even embarrassing them. From the gun, they were up there fighting to get Olivia in the green jersey, some of them holding a break off for something like 15 miles. At another crucial point, Olivia and Mandy got in a break with two other riders to collect the sprint points. 

In almost every way, I was unprepared for this race. I’d seen the finish line from the parking lot above, but I hadn't ridden it and didn't know what the final turn looked like. In my warm-up, I remember the interior monologue in which I'd told myself there was no way I was coming to the line without lots of company; by that point in the week, my bravado had been firmly tamped down. I’d also thought the race was four laps and not three—I heard the bell and saw the lap card for one to go, and somewhere around 10K to the finish I finally rode up beside Mandy and asked whether it was a mistake. When I found out we really were approaching the end, I began to panic. This was my last chance to do something, anything. I didn't want to end the week with apologies and excuses. I tried moving up a few wheels. Olivia saw me and told me to get to the front. I made it halfway there, and riding next to Jess, I tried asking, breathless, what I could do. She said, “GO.” Her tone of immediacy and frustration, coupled with my anxiety, made me forget that seconds earlier I was wondering if I was going to get dropped on the next hill. I launched myself out and away from the pack.

I went hard for a few seconds and looked back; no one was with me, and the gap between me and the group of Tibco riders at the front of the peloton was growing. There were two riders up the road, at what seemed like a long distance—Allison Tetrick of Team Twenty 16 and Karol-Ann Canuel of Team Ice Sportswear. It was 4.8 miles to the finish.

Sprint to the line
My first thought was “What am I doing?” But I mostly felt a sense of relief—there was wide open road ahead, and whatever I was doing, it was something as opposed to nothing. No apologies would be necessary.  

I could tell that I was gaining on the two-woman break, which was further encouragement. I caught them just before the right turn onto the Archie Briggs hills, and at first I hung back. They hadn't been rotating since I’d been close enough to pay attention; Tetrick was on Canuel’s wheel. But Canuel also seemed to be slowing, and though I was thinking to myself I might be making a terrible mistake, I just kept the momentum going and went around, charging up the hill with Canuel glued to my wheel and Tetrick falling off.   
 
The pack was closing soon after. The moto official gave us time gaps—at one point it was only 10 or 15 seconds, and I looked back to find the peloton breathing down our necks. Mentally, I accepted the fact that we were going to get caught. If I’d been riding solo, I would have eased up and let it happen. As it was, I reminded myself that, in theory, I was finally able to do something for my team, so I needed to follow through with it and make the chase as long as possible; it wouldn't hurt anything, beyond my pride, if the pack blew past me and I had  nothing left to follow them with. I dug deep on the next rise. Similarly, as the effort dragged on, I decided Canuel being on my wheel didn't change the fact that I needed to push the pace for as long as I could.

Eventually, I looked back and the distance to the peloton was growing again. I was in a new kind of agony by the time I realized we could actually carry it to the end. Until then, I’d never truly believed that the outcome could be anything other than us getting caught. A couple of things were working in my favor: Lauren had plenty of time on us in GC, and we weren’t a threat to the yellow jersey. Though Tibco would still want the stage win, they had been working to control the race all day and all week, and they were tired. Julie Emmerman, third in GC, did put in an effort to protect her position—Canuel was fourth in GC—but her objective was probably to limit the time gap, not to catch us. It also couldn't have hurt that most of the peloton didn't know me from Adam.   

As we took the left turn into the finish, I slowed, and Canuel came around me to the inside. It was a steep, long sprint, about one minute. I stayed on Canuel's wheel up the hill until I felt her start to ease off, I think somewhere around 200 meters to go. At the time, I wasn't sure if she was on my wheel (she was), but I didn't look back. I sprinted as hard as I ever had, telling myself that it might be the only time in my life I’d come this close to winning a professional race. This was my one chance. I kept expecting Canuel to come around, or the whole field to come around. As I crossed the line at the outer limits of what my body could do, winning the stage, no effort had ever felt worse, or better.

I didn't throw up my hands or do a Sagan-style wheelie. It didn't even occur to me to celebrate—one, because I felt close to death, and two, because I still wasn't sure it had actually happened. I rolled to a stop at the edge of the road and put my head on my handlebars. Lauren finished in third 7 seconds later. Amber and my other teammates, as they crossed the line, rode up to me, and I’m not sure what they said, but I remember they were smiling.             

Stage 5 Podium
They don’t tell you, when you’re the longest of the long shots for winning the race, that reporters are there with recorders and cameras to interview you before you catch your breath. I had no idea what I was saying. (Click for Bend's KTVZ highlights from the race and the stage 5 interview with video of the finishing sprint.) Unaware of proper podium procedure, I neglected to shake my competitors' hands. 

I also had no warning about the complexity and intimacy of the USADA process. Once they told me I had to be tested, I figured peeing in a cup would be part of the deal; what I didn't know is that an official watches as you pee in the cup. The athlete being tested chooses and handles all the packaging, even pouring and sealing the urine into two separate vials before they’re boxed up. In the paperwork, under the question about vitamins and supplements, my one entry—“Flintstones vitamins”—looked a little ludicrous in print, and I wondered if the people reading it would laugh. As we neared the end of the interview, the official asked a question about my address, assuming I’d been tested before, and I had to explain that the process was as new and bewildering as the stage win. I’m not complaining, though. As much as I dislike sharing a porta potty with an audience, I’m grateful to USADA for their vigilance—keeping the sport clean is what keeps it a real sport.    

FCS went home that day with the green jersey, second place in GC, third place in team GC, and the stage win. Jack and I spent one more night in Bend, completely unable to sleep, before we headed out on our post-race road trip through the redwoods and wine country.  

Thanks

Thanks to Scott Warren for his positive leadership, Erin for the massages, Neils for the mechanic-ing, and Jack for holding my hand through the six days of racing. Thanks, also, to my ATC Racing teammates back home for being so supportive and encouraging of the whole endeavor. 

Most of the team stayed at the home of Tad Hodgert, a little outside of town. (Thanks, Tad, for having us for dinner too!) Since space was limited, Jack and I asked around for other host housing. Many, many thanks to Mike (owner of Larsen Performance Coaching), Joanna, Luke, and Drake for welcoming us into their home sight unseen. You guys made our stay extra fun.








Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Vineman Race Report

by Ben Munguia


A pack of riders flew by, and I lifted the tempo to try to “stick” with them. I felt strong, but they were putting time into me, and there was nothing I could do. The only thing that was going through my head was “I shaved my legs for this?” Thank you Deanna Carter and thank you Specialized.

To back up a little bit, Lauren was nice enough to let me turn our anniversary Napa trip into a Sonoma for the Vineman 70.3, and then usual Napa winery vacation. We arrived in San Francisco early Saturday morning and headed to the Sonoma area for packet pick-up, bike pick-up/checkup, and a few short workouts. I definitely underestimated the amount of time it would take to get everything done on Saturday, and it ended up being a bit too stressful. Some last-minute bike pains resulted in a little too much time at the race expo, but everything checked out during the pre-race ride and I thought I had everything dialed in for Sunday's race. The one thing I was not able to figure out before the race was my Garmin watch, which conveniently decided to die upon arrival. Last-minute adjustments are part of the game, though, so I mentally prepared myself to race by feel during the run.

Side note—if you are looking for a way to get your bike to an out of town race, check out Tri Team Transport (soon to be Cycle Chauffeur). Kevin did an unbelievable job, and I’m still amazed at how patient he was with all of his customers. He fixed flats, pumped tires, provided race nutrition, and most importantly, he delivered the bikes in great condition.

Maybe I’ve just never checked out guys' legs in detail in the past, but walking around the race expo I noticed a lot more shaved legs than I ever have before. I’m going to guess that I wasn’t the only one that saw the recent study done by Specialized on the time savings from having smooth, pretty legs. Well, more like hairless legs with razor cuts up and down both sides. Props to all you ladies out there who do this daily.

After an unusually good night’s sleep it was off to the race start for a relatively late start. I was in the last wave, which was scheduled to take off at 8:36 a.m., which was actually 10:36 a.m. Austin time. It was a very relaxed morning spent at a Starbucks next to the race. I went through the usual pre-race routine and felt ready to roll.

Swim (28:25):

The swim start was pretty entertaining, with a few frat-tastic guys in the same wave who didn’t stop talking and quoting movies until the horn sounded. A decent start but not a very good line to the first buoy had me in no man’s land. It was a pretty uneventful swim until the turnaround, where you could stand up and walk, dolphin dive, or continue to swim with your hand scraping the bottom of the river. I felt like I made up some time on the way back in and had a smooth transition to the bike.






Bike (2:27:41): 

I’ve been training with a power meter and was planning to race with one as well, but was having some pre-race difficulties getting everything set up. Fortunately, the guys at Austin Tri Cyclist hooked me up, and I now had TWO power meters on my bike. Well, as luck would have it, both power meters decided to start working on Sunday, which caused some mass confusion to the borrowed Garmin (Thank you, Dustin). I had random spurts of power, which I could get going just long enough to make sure the effort was strong enough.

I felt pretty good on the bike and never hit too much of a rough spot mentally until the rough road towards the end of the bike. I could hear some unusual sounds from my front wheel, but it didn’t look like anything was flat or rubbing so I kept going. My left aerobar did drop down about 45 degrees, which made for a rather uncomfortable position, but at least it was still intact. I rolled into transition frustrated with my position after being passed by quite a few guys in the second half of the ride.

Run (1:25:52):

Hot, hot, baby. Starting out on the run I felt so-so, but soon found a decent rhythm. The first few miles went by quickly, and then there was a tough, hilly section from miles 2-5 that sapped my legs, but I still felt pretty strong. The only thing that was really bothering me was my feet. They felt like they were on fire, and I started walking aid stations to give them a break, as well as make sure I was taking in enough fluids. The run course loops through La Crema winery and provides runners a nice break from the pavement and hot sun. It was definitely warm on the run, but I’ll take California heat over Austin heat and humidity any day of the week. Miles 7-9 were pretty rough. I wanted to walk, real bad. There were two things that kept me running and inspired me to pick up the pace for the last few miles. The first was Lauren's pre-race advice of “the sooner you finish, the sooner we get to go to wineries.” It was some pretty good and logical advice that kept me motivated to shuffle on. The second, and the one that made me pick up the pace again, was the thought of my best friend's mom. She has been toughing it out with ALS and has refused to give up. She has always been a very health-conscious and active woman before being diagnosed with ALS. All I could think about was how much she would give to be able to do what all of us were out there doing that day. Maybe it wasn’t the fastest or prettiest of runs, but I was happy to have finished and grateful for the opportunity to race.

Finish (4:25:58): 6th in Age Group and 44th Overall, including the Pros (Yes, I got chicked)

The Vineman 70.3 was all around a great race. Beautiful course, great community support, and a very well-run event by the organizers. How often do you get to run though vineyards during a race? Not too shabby at all. There are definitely some things I’d do different next time, but it was a good experience and a race I hope to do again in the future.

I can’t thank Don, Kaleb, Adam and Chris of Austin Tri Cyclist enough for all of their help with getting me race-ready on the bike. Above and beyond. ATC’s unbelievable support along with the great guys at Cobbcycling resulted in this beauty:


Also, a big thank you to Dr. Jarrod Carter for working his magic and getting me in before leaving town. And of course I have to thank the Pickle and my family for supporting me and this crazy habit. The other real beauty in my life:





Thursday, July 10, 2014

Quintana Roo - History and Technology

History

The Redstone at ATC-360
Quintana Roo was founded in 1987 by Dan Empfield, also founder of slowtwitch.com and the popular F.I.S.T tri bike fitting system. Quintana Roo's first product was the first triathlon specific wet suit, and two years later in 1989 they followed it up with the first triathlon-specific bike. The frame was designed around steeper seat tube angles, which facilitated the use of aero bars and low, aerodynamic time-trial positions. For the first time, athletes could ride a bike that would handle properly when ridden with time trial bars, and they wouldn't need custom seat posts to get their saddle forward enough. This basic geometry has become the time trial and triathlon bike standard.

Over the years Quintana Roo has introduced dozens of innovative ideas and bikes, including the outlandish 1999 Redstone pictured above, which has a deep rear wheel fairing attached to the seat tube. At one time, QR produced titanium bikes with carbon-fiber, aerodynamic forks, such as the Aerial. They also popularized the use of 650C wheels on smaller frame sizes to allow for appropriate geometry to support low positions and proper handling. Today, Quintana Roo produces carbon fiber bikes and continues to offer unique technology and ideas.


Bike Tech

The current flagship technology featured on all of Quintana Roo's mid- and high-level bikes is SHIFT. Bikes are not entirely symmetrical; on the right side the crankset and derailleurs add a significant amount of drag. SHIFT uses a non-symmetrical downtube shape to divert air to the non-drive side of the bike, which reduces drag because less air comes in contact with the components. This technology is featured on the CD0.1, the Illicito, and the new PR6.

The Illicito expands on the SHIFT technology by eliminating the non-drive side seat stay. This has been done in the past on a few super bikes like the Lotus, but QR claims that since they are diverting 80% of the airflow to the non-drive side of the bike, eliminating that seat stay is of extra benefit. Stiffness does suffer some as a result, but it's a small price to pay for extreme aerodynamics!


The newest QR bike, the PR6, takes a different approach, maintaining the usual degree of stiffness with seat stays on both sides, but using a highly asymmetric chain stay design to further optimize the SHIFT technology. This along with other features like an integrated fork and dropped down tube make it QR's most aerodynamic offering.




The CD0.1

The highlight of the QR lineup, and the bike most of us can actually afford, is the CD0.1. The bike starts at $2,800 for the CD.01 Rival and goes as high as $5,500 for the Di2 model with aerodynamic crankset and better aerobars. Every model can be upgraded to the "race" version, which comes with an aerodynamic Reynolds Strike wheelset for an additional $1,100.

The CD0.1 features the aforementioned SHIFT technology, along with a behind-the-fork front brake and hidden rear brake under the bottom bracket. The current CD0.1 has improved the performance and ease of use of the rear brake, and it now accommodates wide race wheels more easily as well. All models include frames with high modulus carbon fiber construction and BB30 bottom brackets.

QR provides a tech sheet with more details on technical features of the CD0.1. Included is the wind tunnel data shown below, indicating competitive aerodynamic performance, and highlighting the effect of the SHIFT technology.


QR bikes are in stock and available to test ride at ATC stores now. A free F.I.S.T certified fit is included with purchase!

Entry Level Bikes


Quintana Roo also has a line of less expensive bikes, the Kilo, Dulce, Seduza, and Lucero Lite.  All are carbon fiber aerodynamic bikes based on the same frame shape.  The Kilo starts at $1,900 and it goes up from there with better components and lighter weight frame materials to the Lucero Lite at $2,900.  Other companies have set their entry level prices as high as $3,000, so it is great to see that Quintana Roo offers a no excuses, excellent bike for under $2000.