Austin Tri-Cyclist Blog

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Two Days with a Cervelo P5
Hel of a Du and Natural Bridge Caverns Duathlons

Photo by Steven Starnes: Heading into T2

by Jack Mott

When the road cycling state championships were over at the end of September, I started running to prepare for the winter duathlons. After some good results on my trusty P3, Don at ATC offered to let me ride his P5 for the final two races. Free P5? I'll take it! I would be racing it at two bike-heavy duathlons in one weekend. First was the prestigious Hel of a Du in Helotes, Texas. This race, featuring two 3.5-mile hilly runs and a 26-mile hilly bike course, was originally created by ATC's own Adam Stroobandt. The very next day I would race in the T-Rex category at the Natural Bridge Caverns Duathlon. The T-Rex category, the longest race option, includes a 5-mile run with an uphill segment out of a cave at the start, about 24 miles of biking, and a final short run of just 2 miles.

Bike Prep

The bike was a pretty standard P5-3 build, the UCI legal model, with Don's current aerobar setup – a Profile Design base bar with Zipp extensions. The bike came equipped with Magura Hydraulic TT brakes, something I was interested in trying out to see if they were worth the hype. Other standard equipment included a Dura Ace mechanical groupset and Rotor BBRight crankset with an aero chainring.

The first step was to try and recreate my P3 position on the P5 as exactly as possible. Don's profile design cockpit had to stay, but we were able to get the stack and reach nearly identical by swapping the stem and removing all the spacers. I did end up losing a little bit of reach due to a last-minute adjustment I had to make to the extensions, but it didn't cause a problem for me. We carefully measured the saddle height and setback from the bottom bracket, and used the exact saddle I have on my P3, a Cobb Max. Remember that the P5 has a different bottom bracket drop than all previous Cervelo TT bikes, so make sure to measure from the BB if you upgrade and want to recreate your position.

I used my own race wheels and tires, a wheelcovered HED Jet 9 with my Powertap in the rear, and a HED Jet 6 in the front, with Continental GP4000S tires and latex tubes. I used my super slick View-Speed Skewers, which you can barely see in the picture at left. I also zip-tied a bottle cage between the aero bars to hold my water bottle.

Hel of A Du

I traveled to Hel of a Du with my boss, John Craft, and his Houston area triathlon teammates from Jockstrap Catapult. John and I had gone head to head a few weeks prior at a duathlon in Waco, where I narrowly came out ahead. John was here for an epic rematch!

The transition area was in one of the outdoor stadium areas at Floores Country Store, a local restaurant/bar/dance hall across the street from Soler Sports. As we prepared our bikes in transition I heard that pro triathlete Robbie Wade was going to be racing, which meant my hopes of clocking the fastest bike split of the event were already crushed. I had been in a bike race with him before; there would be no contest.

The weather was nasty, too – warm, dark, and foggy. It was so foggy it was basically raining, and the roads were wet. As we lined up at the start I realized my visor was going to be a problem on the bike, but I would have to deal with that in transition because it was time to run! John Craft must have been out for revenge, because he pulled away from me nearly immediately on the run. I didn't try to stay with him because I have learned, the hard way, to stay within myself on the first run of a duathlon. The Hel of a Du run is a tough one, a little extra length and some very steep sections that really suck the fight out of your legs. I like to fly down the downhills super fast to take advantage of the free ride from gravity, but I may have taken that too far this time because it pounds your quads pretty hard too. I got to T1 in about 20th place, almost 2 full minutes behind my boss. I grabbed my helmet, tore the visor off, tossed off my running shoes, picked up my bike, and was off.

I pace the bike with my power meter, trying to keep a steady wattage, going just a bit harder on the uphills and a bit easier on the downhills. The goal for today, based on last year's duathlons and recent performances, was 250 watts, about 15 watts more than I did the previous year at this event. I started out just under that, knowing that a long uphill section awaited in the middle where I would want to raise the power a bit. I charged through the field and eventually caught John and a couple of others at around mile 16 in the middle of the long uphill section. I raised my power slightly to make sure I passed with authority and nobody tried to follow. John was able to keep it close while we were still going up, but he reports that I disappeared once the road went downhill and the P5 got to do its job of not hitting any wind. The fog was making the roads wet, and many people had trouble slowing down for the corners, with a number of crashes. The hydraulic brakes really shone through here. Gentle touches of the fingers slowed me down without any difficulty at all.

I kept the power up till the end, finishing with a normalized power of 244 watts and 3rd fastest overall bike split. I counted 4 bikes in transition, meaning I had moved up into 5th place, about 2 minutes ahead of John.

The second run always hurts, pain the whole way as I try to hold off people who can actually run. With about 1 mile to go I had been passed by a few guys, but still no sign of John. Then I heard footsteps, and John pulled alongside me at the top of a steep uphill section. I fought back on the downhill and pulled ahead, but as soon as the road was level again John was gone. He had his revenge. He would end up one place ahead of me in 7th overall. We both would walk away with age group wins and $20 prize certificates.

Full 2012 Hel of a Du Results

Natural Bridge Caverns

This time I was joined by my Ghisallo bike racing teammate Matt DeMartino and fellow ATC groupie William Jabour. The weather was the same as the day before, warm and foggy with wet roads. This race started early, at 6:30 am. It was still completely dark as I set things up in transition and this, combined with fatigue, led me to make a rookie mistake I would discover later.

The T-Rex category was to start first, and we were led into the cave by a race official. Since the cave is too narrow for a mass start, we went one by one, with 5 seconds between each racer, seeded in order of predicted run speed. The cave section of the run is short, but steep. Taller people need to watch their heads at times as well. As we exited the cave it was still dark outside, and the front group of us, about 5 in all, got lost for a few seconds before we could find where the course was! Once that was sorted out the real runners left me in the dust. I knew I would never see Matt again unless he crashed. William was an unknown – I knew he could run much faster than me, but I have never biked with him before. The 5-mile run, once you leave the cave, is almost entirely dirt and gravel, with a super steep section right at the turnaround that pretty much brings you to walking pace when you go up. Once again I tried to just stay within myself, arriving in T1 in 20th place.

I left transition and hopped on my bike, placing my feet on top of my shoes. This is when I realized my rookie mistake. I had put my shoes on the wrong sides of the bike! I had to stop, get off my bike, pop the shoes off, put them on my feet, and get back on. Probably 20 seconds wasted! I kept calm, though, and got going and tried to see whether I could aim for 250 watts today on my tired legs. Pretty soon it was clear that wasn't going to happen, so I dialed back and just tried to keep the power above 230. This race has many separate race categories going on at once, so it is hard to tell when you are pacing someone that is part of your race. Many athletes competing in shorter distances were already out on the bike course. Having someone to pass is always good motivation, though, so I kept picking off people one by one. A few hundred yards before the turn around, I saw William up ahead. I love to take corners fast, and this one was nice and dry. I didn't want pass in the middle of the turn or get stuck behind, so I surged ahead, passing just before the corner and flying through it as fast as I could. William reports that it was pretty cool to watch.

The 2nd half of the bike had a few short, steep climbs, and I stopped caring about the pain a bit and cranked hard up the hills, bringing my average power back up. Once again the fog was making parts of the road wet and people were crashing. On a wet, slick-looking left-hand turn at an intersection I saw Matt standing with his bike. He had gone down and destroyed his rear wheel while in a commanding lead of the race. Disaster! I squeezed gently on the Magura hydraulics to make sure I didn't go down too. Just a couple miles later I flew into T2. Normalized power – 237 watts, and fastest bike split of the day! A great victory for the P5 and fast enough to move me into about 4th or 5th position overall.

The final run was just two miles, and I ran as hard as I could. At the turnaround I could see two other T-Rex racers bearing down on me. I successfully held them off to the finish, but because they had started after me in the cave, I was actually just behind them on total time. I would end up 7th overall and 1st in my age group, which gets you cool geode trophies at this race! ATC's William Jabour screamed through the final 2-mile run at sub 6 minute pace to take 3rd in the most competitive age group of the race.

Full 2012 Natural Bridge Duathlon Results

The P5
Comfort - While I am not very sensitive to frame comfort, I did feel like the P5 had a bit more compliance in the rear triangle than my P3. Damon Rinard, engineer at Cervelo, confirmed that this was the case, referring me to the P5 White Paper.

Handling - The overall feel of the P5 was similar to my P3 back when I had a shorter stem on it. Comparing the two directly is difficult because they are different sizes and have different length stems. However I was perfectly comfortable doing threshold workouts at the twisty veloway on the P5, rounding the hairpins at my usual speed. The P5 also handled the wet corners, turnarounds, steep climbs, and fast descents at both races with no issues. Everything felt rock solid.

Braking - The Magura hydraulic TT brakes are very cool. My P3 uses a TriRig Omega center pull setup, which is cheaper and perhaps a bit more aerodynamic. The Magura brakes, however, offer amazing modulation and power. Those who race or train on carbon rims, and/or in the rain, may especially want to give these a look. The good news is you don't need a P5 to use these brakes; they will fit on any bike. And if you don't want them, you can also use regular brakes on your P5.

Speed - The most important question of all! No scientific studies were performed during my days with the P5. Cervelo's own claims suggest well over 100 grams of drag, or over 40 seconds time savings per 25 miles, are saved by moving from bikes like the P2 or P3 to the P5. The exact number will depend on many details, especially your cockpit setup. I did these two races last year, and I went faster at both of them this year. An interesting point of comparison as to the real-world utility of aerodynamics comes from the Hel of a Du race. Another competitor who raced with a power meter put out 3.3 watts per kilogram of body weight on a well-prepared Cervelo P2. On the P5, with a lower position and little details like aero brakes and aero skewers, I biked 4 minutes faster over a 26-mile hilly course with only 3.1 watts per kilogram. Aero works in the real world. But don't forget to run!

Thanks to Don Ruthven Austin Tri-Cyclist for the bike, and to my wife, Kat Hunter, for putting up with me being gone all weekend!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

2012 Texas Winter Duathlons

It may be getting way too cold to swim, but that doesn't mean the off-season has started. It's never too cold to bike and run in Texas, so the winter season is duathlon season! Texas offers a lot of fun events, all of them low-key and interesting. Have you ever started a duathlon inside of a cave? Or braved a hellish bike course personally designed by the one and only Adam Stroobandt of ATC? If we've caught your interest, get your running shoes out and pick some races from this list of upcoming Texas duathlons:

November 24 - Poultry In Motion, Waco, $50
5k run, 9 mile bike, 2 mile trail run

Organized by the Waco Striders Running Club, this duathlon takes place along the Brazos River in Waco. The first run is 5k along the paved river walk, followed by a short 9 mile bike, and then a 2 mile trail run along the river. A separate 5k and kids' duathlon are offered with family discounts, so you can bring the whole group!

December 2 - Du Boerne, Boerne, $50
5k run, 25k bike, 5k run

This low-key duathlon is just north of San Antonio. Transition is located at the Boerne City Lake Park, with a 5k run on paved roads. The 25k bike has some nice elevation changes on low-traffic roads. If you've done the Small Texan Triathlon, you'll notice this race shares the early part of the bike course.

December 8 - Hel of a Du, Helotes, $55
3.5 mile run, 26 mile bike, 3.5 mile run

Now for a tough one! Hel of a Du adds a little bit of extra distance with the 3.5 mile runs, and a LOT of pain with the 26 mile bike, which features a long climb in the middle. This race was started by ATC's own Adam Stroobandt and is now put on by other friendly folk from Soler Sports in Helotes, Texas. The 2011 race featured cool prizes like locally produced wine bottles.

December 9 - Natural Bridge Caverns Duathlon, New Braunfels
Various Distances

If Hel of a Du didn't tire you out, you can race the very next day at Natural Bridge Caverns. This race features a unique time trial start inside of a cave. You run your way up and out of the cave and then along a trail. The bike course features some decent elevation gain as you head back for your second trail run. Various distances are offered, from pleasantly short to gruelingly long. The hardest category, T-Rex, also adds a super steep segment to the first run.

Natural Bridge Races Offered:
Cave Bear: 2 mile run, 15.5 mile bike, 2 mile run
Sabertooth: 2 mile run, 12 mile mountain bike, 2 mile run
Woolly Mammoth: 5k run, 26 mile bike, 5k run
T-REX: 5 mile run, 26 mile bike, 2 mile run

If you know of other Texas duathlons not on the list, let us know in the comments!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

2012 Tour de Gruene Wrap

By Stefan Rothe

November usually means it’s off-season and slowly getting back into shape with some basic strength training, running, and light riding after a few weeks off the bike. But there’s the Tour de Gruene, a late-season race and a Texas tradition if you’re a cyclist and like time trials. And I love time trials!

I’ve gotten 3rd place there in 2008 (a certain L.A. won ahead of then TX State TT Champ Erick Benz) and lost out to super-fast Master racer Ian Stanford from Minnesota in 2011 by less than 20 seconds. When I looked at the (yet again) new course for 2012 I definitely wanted to race it. It was only going to be 10.5 miles with quite a bit of climbing at 600ft and more than a dozen turns – that’s a lot for Texas time trial “standards.”

That being said, I needed to “activate” some time trial legs for November. After closing out the season at Track Nationals I began some structured training a few weeks before with running, core/strength, and cyclocross, and had done one cyclocross race. So I started riding my trusty P4 (courtesy of Austin Tri-Cyclist) a week before the TdG TT. I was trying to get comfortable and powerful in that position after a long time away from it.

Five days before the TT I went down to Canyon Lake and did a couple of laps on the course to get an idea what to expect. “Pretty interesting course,” I thought. “Interesting” because it required a lot of different things in order to come out on top: climbing, navigating tight turns (including a wide 180), descending at 40-45mph, and going flat-out on the few flat sections available. So compared to your normal and “boring” 40K TT, the Tour de Gruene promoter (Will Roetzler) showed some guts by picking this course, a nice loop with start/finish at the same spot – a good improvement from last year.

Race day was perfect: A “late summer” day in November, close to 80 degrees, 8mph winds and sunshine. I was there early enough to ride around for a bit, talk to some friends and athletes of mine, pin numbers and pump up a tire or two for some guys who were running out of time. After that I got on the trainer for ~30minutes and did my usual TT warm-up while trying to stay out of the sun. The start was on the top of the Canyon Lake dam so part of my final warm-up was riding up the final finish hill in my 42x25 trying to go as easy as possible and “paperboy-ing” it.

I was fortunate to have a 90second gap ahead of me and also was the last rider to go off. That adds to motivation and makes things a bit easier. If you’ve got someone around you – in this case the never-boring and always entertaining moto-official Mike Gladu – you don’t have to worry about your back. The first mile was flat-out over the dam on smooth-as-glass asphalt. I aimed to keep it right at 30mph here. Then we got into the twisty, technical part: North Park Loop. For you Austin residents reading, it was basically a bit over a mile on the Veloway at full speed, including 8 turns. You can lose a lot but also gain a lot here. After that it was back down toward HWY 306 and onto some descending rollers towards Canyon Lake. I tried to push it over the little risers and let it “roll” on the descents, trying to give my legs some recovery because the really hard part was yet to come. With the right turn on FM 2673 it was 1-2 miles flat and descending towards the dam. It’s not the Tour of the Gila TT where you spin out a 55x11 and go 50mph, but at 43 it was still fun and I was trying to stay aero and not to move my legs in order to rest as much as possible before that final left turn up to the top of the dam. “Those last 500m hurt the most,” I remembered from last year’s race, but you can lose a lot of time here by spinning. But if you like pain and keep the chain on the 54 you gain some time. I didn’t want to risk shifting under big loads and potentially dropping a chain so I rode the 54x25 (I know, mechanics tell you different) all the way to the top. It hurt but it was satisfying to finally be on top of that damn dam!

US Air Force member and fellow Texas P/1/2 racer Dan Cassidy ended up in 2nd place, while the “New Kid On The Block” Caleb Fuchs came in 3rd Overall.

Thanks to Will Roetzler for another great event out on Canyon Lake with some quicker results than last year. I wonder what chip-timing would cost the individual racer for a future event? I figure it would be so much easier and quicker than manual scoring and keeping track of times, spreadsheets, etc. Just a thought maybe for 2013.

And a big thanks to Austin Tri-Cyclist for supporting me with the best TT bike out there this season, a fast Cervelo P4. And while Wes Jerman did not race this year’s event (we won the Team TT together last year) he deserves a mention as I was riding his HED disc and Stinger 9 in this year’s TT. The P4 and HED TT gear is a winning combo anytime in my opinion. Both are available at ATC, too.

You can view the ride on Strava here

TdG ITT Men’s Overall Results:

Stefan Rothe22:55
Dan Cassidy23:42
Caleb Fuchs24:38

TdG ITT Women’s Overall Results:

Nusha Peliocano29:12
Barbara Kuhlmeier29:12
Melissa Kuliska29:13

Complete results at the TdG Website

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Amy Marsh's Triathlon Toolbox

Pro triathlete Amy Marsh, Austinite and ATC-sponsored athlete, finished third overall at the 2012 Ironman Championship in New York City on August 11. Already a 4-time Ironman champion, a 2-time iron-distance champion, and the 2010 USAT Long Distance Triathlete of the Year, Amy will add the IMNYC finish to a long list of career accomplishments.

To celebrate, ATC is spotlighting Amy’s gear, with many of the featured items and brands on sale. Use the coupon code marsh2012 to place your order online or in the store.

Read Amy’s full race report here.

Gear Brand Buy Now Coupon Code
Wetsuit Real Jane Rocket Science
Goggles TYR Nest Pro Buy Now! 20% Off marsh2012
Aerobar 3T Aura Pro Buy Now! 20% Off marsh2012
Hydration/Nutrition First Endurance
Aerobottle TorHans
Racing Tires Continental GP 4000s Buy Now! 20% Off marsh2012
Training Tires Continental Gator Skins Buy Now! 20% Off marsh2012
Race Wheels HED Jet 6/9
Training Wheels Mavic Ksyrium SL Buy Now! 20% Off marsh2012
Helmet Rudy Project Wingspan
Cycling Shoes LG
Sunglasses Rudy Project
Bottle cages Specialized
Transition bag Rocket Science Elite Buy Now! 20% Off marsh2012
Brakes TriRig Omega
Run Shoes Brooks Launch
Sunscreen ThinkSport

Friday, August 24, 2012

The World of Women's Pro Cycling

by Kat Hunter

Lining up with the pro women's field before a crit is like entering an arena with 100 angry lions. Without any pretense at politeness, they crowd to the front of the staging area. Here, once you've claimed your few inches of space, vigilance is key. To relax your stance or to drop your elbows is to invite a wheel or handlebar into that prized real estate, losing your second row spot to the third row, and so on. And this you can't allow; when the gun goes off, it'll be an all-out, lung-burning sprint to the first turn. The pack is so large and the speed of the race so high that if you're not either an experienced and fearless crit racer or manage to insert yourself somewhere in the top quarter of the pack from the beginning, your race will be nothing but a struggle to survive.

The National Racing Calendar is a collection of the top stage races, omniums, and one-day road races in the U.S., the stomping ground for any domestic pro or elite team. On the NRC circuit, the pace is furious, teams are motivated and well organized, riders are relentlessly aggressive, and Olympic medalists and national champions are scattered like prized jewels in a peloton of fast nobodies racing their way to being somebodies. Few women's teams are officially registered as pro UCI teams, and most riders are designated as cat 1s or cat 2s, but if you call a spade a spade, NRC racing is essentially pro cycling in the U.S.

Before the summer, I'd had a very vague, idealized version of women's pro cycling, and I meant to write about it. But my research took me much farther than I had planned, and it shook that imagined reality to its core. Heading straight into the lion's den, I rode as a guest rider for Landis/Trek at Tour of the Gila in May, and for FCS|ROUSE p/b Mr. Restore Cycling Team at the Nature Valley Grand Prix in June. Each stage race was about 5 days long, but the different formats tested me in very different ways.

I'm a good time trialist. I like to think of myself as physically and mentally tough. But by the fourth day at Nature Valley, I'd never wanted to quit anything so badly in my life. I'd crashed in the first two crit stages. I'd lost my appetite. I was tired of having to face one day of racing after the next, getting elbowed and shoved around, showering with road rash, never knowing what to do or when to do it. Though Gila had already shown me, quite vividly, that the top women pros are as fast or faster than the elite men back home, nevertheless I was stunned by the speed and violence of the races. I rode like a coward in the fifth stage's 80-mile road race, fighting to stay last wheel as if it had been first, and I knew it. At the team meeting later that day, I burst into tears. I wanted to go home like Dorothy to Kansas – I couldn't hack for one week what these women do all year long.

At a bare minimum, to be a pro woman cyclist you have to train like it's a job. But you also have to cultivate a mental toughness, to accept fatigue and injury, the constant and very high risk of crashing, racing and riding in any weather conditions, surviving on a razor-thin budget, and leaving friends and family behind for months at a time. The schedule is grueling, and teams travel across the country and the world from one race to the next from roughly February until November, with some riders riding a double season of indoor track or cyclocross in between. And even if an athlete is only racing NRC part-time or sitting out the winter months, the competition is so intense that she can't afford to take much time away from training.

I went to Gila and Nature Valley to "experience" the next level of racing. What I learned is that in order to have even the smallest amount of success you have to be fully committed, as to a mental institution, to the sport. As rare as fame and fortune may be in women's pro cycling, there's no room for tourists, no time for fear or hesitation or thought of anything else. Nothing can be more important than winning. That's because the women you're competing against, the ones unapologetically edging you out of that precious spot in staging, have sacrificed everything just to be there.

The Women's Peloton

Men's pro road cycling is an industry, and though only the select few make it, there's an established path to the top. Many begin climbing this ladder somewhere between the ages of 13 to 18. National teams and elite junior squads usually court talent around 15 or 16, pro teams at 17 or 18. Successful young riders often sign with under-23 teams, typically subsets of large pro teams, and compete in U23 races or U23 competitions within races (for example, the young rider's jersey in the Tour de France). Some riders may skip the first part of this trajectory, getting what's considered a late start in their mid-twenties. Regardless of age, a neo-pro – newly defined as any rider in his first two years of competition on a ProTeam or Pro Continental team – will make at least the UCI-mandated minimum salary of $29,000 to $33,500.

For women, there is no typical ascension or immediate paycheck. They're more likely to enter pro cycling by accident rather than by design or "development." Most start by competing in small local races, progressing quickly from a strong cat 4 to a cat 2 or cat 1. With as little as one year of racing experience, those interested in the next level might move straight to the NRC scene, which is like jumping from the frying pan into the sun. To get "noticed" or to develop a viable race résumé, riders often guest ride for teams, or sometimes enter a race as an individual.

Women's high school and collegiate cycling is growing, but currently, many of the top U.S. women road cyclists started out in other disciplines and found their way into the sport in their mid or late 20s. Carmen Small played volleyball at Colorado State University. Amber Neben ran track and cross-country for the University of Nebraska, then competed as a pro mountain biker. Evelyn Stevens played tennis at Dartmouth, giving up a successful career in investment banking for cycling at the age of 25. Alison Powers spent 7 years on the U.S. National Ski Team. Kristen Armstrong, gold medalist in the women's time trial at the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics, was a distance runner in college and later a triathlete, starting her bike focus at 27.

The women's peloton could also put together a very interesting Jeopardy match. A large percentage has master's degrees in varying subjects, and there's a smattering of PhDs. Most have at least a bachelor's degree. Even women cyclists who start early and have the talent to move straight to the pro ranks often pursue a college degree, since the sport lacks the financial incentive to consider it either a short-term moneymaker or a long-term career choice. Coaching is a common side job, and the majority of riders work at least part-time. As a woman, racing bikes is simply not something that's going to pay the bills unless you're the best of the best...and in that case, then it pays some of the bills.

Experience varies. Some riders have only been cycling for a year or two, while others have been racing for 20 or more. Laura Van Gilder, first overall in the pro women's race at this summer's 11-day Tour of America's Dairyland, will turn 49 at the end of the year. Kristin Armstrong is 39. But the reality is, compared to men's pro cycling, there are far fewer women riders, teams, races, and opportunities for making a living. An amazing amount of talent is present and coming up, but without the money or the structure to keep them there, it seems a little like planting high-quality seeds in the stone floor of a basement.

The pro women's peloton is intelligent, well spoken, interesting, and unbelievably fit. Unfortunately, they're also almost completely invisible.

Pay & Prestige

Most of the world catches a glimpse of women pro cyclists once every four years for the Olympic games, as if they've emerged from some clandestine boot camp in the mountains, a well-guarded national secret. There's no women's Tour de France, no USA Pro Cycling Challenge. Most major cycling tours don't have a women's competition, but when they do, as with the Giro d'Italia Femminile, there's barely a whisper of the results. You'll rarely see the pro women on TV or in the headlines, even in cycling media.

Quoting from Velonews, for men the UCI mandates a minimum salary of $29,000 to $34,500 for Pro Continental riders and $33,000 to $41,500 for ProTeam riders, with an average ProTeam salary of $331,500. In 2013, those minimums will increase by 10 percent for team employees and 24 percent for independent contractors. There's no such UCI minimum for women's racing. Another Velonews article estimated that the top salary for a woman pro is around $80,000, with many earning $6,000, and, as an unconfirmed but very believable estimate, up to a quarter of the peloton making nothing at all.

Last year, when questioned whether the organization planned to introduce minimum salaries for women, UCI president Pat McQuaid said, "We have an agreement in men's sport, but women's cycling has not developed enough that we are at that level yet."

This inspired an uproar, albeit a quiet one. Some riders interpreted McQuaid's statement as a disqualification of their performance and said they deserved equal pay for equal effort. Others called, if not for equal pay, then equal opportunity – the creation of new rules that would require a women's division on all ProTeams, or a women's race at all ProTeam tours.

McQuaid said his comment was taken out of context, and he dismissed the idea of forcing women's cycling onto men's teams or race organizers, saying in a later interview with the Daily Peleton, "The passion for women's cycling must come from a more grass roots level, not from creating new rules and obligations."

His answer to the next interview question ("Is there anything fans can do to support the growth and success of women's pro racing?") envisioned a suddenly fortuitous – or some would say, conveniently hopeless – solution. Fans could line the road to watch women's cycling events, he said, and their support would show sponsors that women were a worthy investment.

The metaphors crowd in: The chicken before the egg. Men in lycra robbing from the rich to give to the poor. The washing of hands. A charity fund. Communism, by golly! But in some respects, the naysayers are right. Unless the structure changes substantially – the redistribution of wealth from multi-million dollar riders at the very top of the sport as perhaps the only alternative, such as the UCI regulations that require pro teams to take on and fairly compensate young riders – a required minimum salary on par with the men would simply shut down most, if not all, women's teams. Men's and women's pro cycling depend almost exclusively on sponsorship money, with the emblems on a team's jersey showing not just a source of support, but of life itself.

Further complicating the argument, there are many levels of "pro" racing. For men, there's ProTour, Pro Continental, and Continental – formerly Tier I, Tier II, and Tier III – but registering as a UCI team involves a prohibitively large fee and additional regulations regarding team composition. Along with many smaller U.S. men's teams, most women's teams that compete on the NRC circuit are classified as "Domestic Elite" teams, and are not governed by the UCI at all. Exergy Twenty 12 and Team TIBCO/To the Top are the only UCI-registered women's teams in the U.S.

To be fair, women cyclists aren't the only ones who are struggling to make ends meet. Many domestic male pros on Continental and Domestic Elite teams race without a paycheck, as well. On this level, sponsorship determines how much and how many riders on the team can be paid.

When I spoke with Michael Engleman, director of the former US Women's Cycling Development Program, he painted a much less rosy picture than I had imagined. Though the USWCDP program no longer officially exists, Engleman and a network of others still continue its work, helping to "fill the gaps" for women cyclists by assisting individual athletes in getting connected with pro teams, finding coaches and health insurance, and reviewing contracts. Most women make no salary their first 2 to 3 years of pro racing, Engleman explained, and it's very difficult to get started in the sport without a sizeable amount of personal savings.

"We try to be honest with that," Engleman says. "We try to tell them what the odds are that they can pull something off. Most of the riders that we've worked with that had the potential to move up have moved up, so they go from zero dollars except for prize money for two years to maybe making $6,000 or $10,000 a year, plus prize money. I think for anyone who really wants to go race, it's not about the dollars. It's wanting to make ends meet. There are usually ways to figure that out."

Like many others in the cycling world, Engleman says the key to improvement lies with corporate sponsorship. He pointed to Specialized as an example. Specialized currently sponsors three women's teams, including Now and Novartis for MS, TIBCO, and Specialized-lululemon. Team Specialized-lululemon, formed early this year just in the nick of time, resurrected the ashes of the illustrious women's Team HTC-Highroad; many of its riders, of various nationalities, represented their countries in the 2012 Olympic Games. (As a frivolous aside, Lulu's kit design is one of the coolest I've seen – it's like a zebra-striped stereogram.)

"If you look at all the women out in the world, why aren't bike companies and corporations jumping in to sponsor women's cycling?" Engleman says. "I think that part of the answer is that most marketing people don't understand that the difference between a Mom with two kids and an elite woman pro is not that big of a jump." With their diverse backgrounds – motherhood, marriage, college sports, PhD programs, office work, riding centuries, racing with the local guys – they offer a message that would resonate, a history perhaps more relevant to the public than pro men's cycling because it's less removed from the norm.

They're also a lot cheaper. "If you want to be the No. 1 men's team in the world, you're putting millions in – $10, $12, $15 or more million," Engleman says. "If you want to be one of the top women's teams in the world, you're maybe starting around $350,000, but if you really want to support the athletes and you really want to make serious changes in the sport with PR and marketing, then $500,000 is a good starting point. Those are still big numbers, but if you start to look at the fan base that can be built and how the women can connect with development programs and their communities, the value's there."

It's an old story – the talent and desire may be in ready supply, but the money is not. At the moment, that puts women's racing in the unfortunate and uncomfortable position of a charity. Why should a sponsor sink money into women's racing if there's no media exposure? Why should the media give women athletes more exposure if no one wants to see them? Why should the profits of pro men's racing be shared with the women's side?

But many proponents would say that the public is interested and ready to see more. Segments of The Blue Ribbon Alpine Challenge, the pro women's crit held on August 22, 2012, in Aspen during the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, were shown alongside the third stage of the men's race on RadioShack TourTracker. Though cameras only had footage of one turn of the crit course, viewers were writing in to the announcers to request more coverage of the women's race. Footage would alternate from the men's breakaway grabbing a feed to the heat of the action in the women's crit – a potentially ideal mix of race formats and personalities.

Sixty years ago, women were idealized as a softer, weaker sex designed exclusively for domesticity, and now they're depicted as sword-bearing warrior princesses in popular movies (though it's true they may be baring far more skin than wise for battle). Women's boxing recently became an Olympic sport. And of course, more and more women are riding and racing bikes, which makes them interested parties and consumers. So without too much of a stretch, women's cycling can be seen as a "startup" rather than a charity, an investment with the promise of larger returns.

Engleman says there have been a lot of positive changes in recent years. Former women pros are staying involved as team directors. Talented junior riders have more of a network of support and development. Riders are visiting schools and talking to kids about what it's like to race bikes, encouraging them to start cycling early. More women, on both the amateur and pro level, are sharing what Engleman calls "positive messaging" on blogs, social media, and other outlets. "Any little thing goes a long way," he says.

Living the Dream

Rachel Byus, a 25-year-old studio art major at Lindenwood University and rider for FCS|ROUSE p/b Mr. Restore Cycling Team, doubles as the team manager. When I ask her what the biggest challenge of bike racing is, she answers without hesitation. "Being able to race your bike and balance it with everything else you do in life," she says.

This year FCS|ROUSE raced in Texas, California, Arkansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Georgia, Wisconsin, Illinois, Oregon, Missouri, and Colorado. Like many teams, FCS|ROUSE lacks the budget to fly their athletes to races, so they hop in a van and drive cross-country from one race to the next, sometimes competing in back-to-back, week-long stage races with one or two days on the road between. Food and gas are paid for, but that's usually as far as the budget stretches. The team relies on host housing organized by race promoters and friends, and they mostly cook their own meals.

The women's FCS and ROUSE teams were combined this year. For most of the women, this is the first season of racing together, as well as the first full year of following the NRC circuit more or less start to finish. They're relatively young for a women's team, ranging in age from 25 to 31. The riders who race the NRC circuit coach, work only part of the year, work remotely, or are in graduate programs. Lauren Stephens, one of the team's Dallas-area riders, is a full-time teacher and races NRC in the summer.

Rouse Bicycles, the team's primary sponsor, produces custom-painted carbon fiber frames and bikes. They entered the market about three years ago and were soon looking for a way to put advertising dollars to work, says Chris Cornetto, co-owner of the company. "We could either spend a bunch of money promoting our bikes in magazines and things like that, or we could get people out on the bike and ride the bikes and use that as a way to promote our company."

"We decided to sponsor a women's team for several reasons," he says. "One is just because I think the women get overlooked a lot. There are a lot of people who sponsor men's teams and if you look at the NRC teams, there are maybe 7 women's teams and probably 20 men's teams this year." Also, when Rouse Bicycles Elite Women's Team was formed, several women's teams had recently folded. Good riders were available and looking for new teams.

Cornetto plays an active part in the team, sometimes serving as team director. He also organized the 2-day Come and Take It Omnium in Gonzales, TX, which offered an equal payout for the Pro 123 women. Women's prize purses are usually half or less that of the pro men's field in Texas races, so this was not just unusual, but practically unheard of. When I questioned Cornetto about equal payouts for women, I expected to hear a larger diatribe on inequality in the sport. But his answer was short and to the point. He says prize money matters little, if at all; it doesn't necessarily bring a race more participation or more publicity. "I think it's the right thing to do and that's why we do it," he says.

Byus says sponsors of women's teams tend to be "extremists," in a way. They're sold on the cause and very active in supporting it. "I think it'd be great for more companies to think about how or why using us, or any women's team, as an advertising outlet could possibly benefit their company. It's a mystery why, if you ask a random company if they want to sponsor a women's team or a men's team, it's the ones that truly support women's cycling that support women's cycling. There's no in between."

Some individuals support the sport and the riders in other ways. Little things help a lot, Byus says. Volunteer host housing is essential at most races. And even meals make a difference. "If you don't have to take 8 girls out to dinner one night, that saves the team around $200," she says. "$200 here and there, that adds up."

I witnessed this generosity firsthand at Nature Valley. Several people had surrendered their homes completely to allow the team to use all available space, staying with friends for the week. After the third stage was cancelled for heavy storms, a good Samaritan saw our team trailer in the parking lot and came sprinting out into the downpour to invite us to the Cannon River Winery for a free meal and tasting. On the last day, the owners of The Fix Studio held an outdoor barbecue for those of us still waiting on our planes. Most of our benefactors were avid cyclists themselves.

If more women's teams are funded, more women will race, Byus says, admitting that she's seen plenty of good riders come and go. "It's kind of a flooded market. There are a lot of good bike racers and not enough sponsors to go around. Some people have to give up on their cycling dreams and pursue something else because they've got to move on with life."

For now, the FCS|ROUSE riders seem to take everything in stride, staying in a borrowed mansion in Tulsa one week, sleeping on a floor in St. Louis the next. Like most women's teams, at the beginning of the year they'll see what sponsor money they'll get for next season, and go from there. One day maybe they'll have the budget to move to the next level, make it big. Or maybe individual riders will work their way onto top pro teams. Maybe in some important race, years from now, their accomplishments will be announced and they'll get a call-up to the start line, having paid their dues and set themselves apart from the rabble behind.

Byus, however, sums it up a little more simply. "It's not the easiest thing," she says, "but we like it and it's what we do."

Other articles on women's cycling around the web:

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Olympic Reading: A review of The Price of Gold, a new book co-authored by Austin's own Ian Dille

by Kat Hunter

The Price of Gold is history told by the victor. Marty “The Blade” Nothstein, gold medalist in the 2000 Olympic Games, is revealed as a loveable bully, an athlete intensely proud of his body and what it can do, a man who’s so obsessed with Olympic gold that he’s willing to do anything to get it. He’s ambitious, cocky, self-absorbed, aggressive, ruthless, overwhelmingly full of himself at times...and not quite apologetic about any of it. In sum, he’s a 210-pound recipe for success on the velodrome.

Comparing himself to his great-grandfather, who was a bike racer and bare-knuckle boxer, Nothstein writes, “Like him, I’m compelled not just to compete and win, but to assert my superiority. I don’t crave the adulation of others. I don’t care if I’m loved or despised. But I need to be the best, and I need everyone to know it.”

Track racing is an inseparable mix of intimidation and muscle, cleverness, and insane speed. Unlike the bony, lean-muscled endurance athletes of road cycling, track cyclists are thick-necked, beefy weight lifters. They boast cross-hatched scars and earn nicknames like “the Outlaw” and “Bones.” In the 200-meter match sprint, two opponents stalk each other for three laps like wary bears; in most cases, the win is decided by a short and ferocious sprint to the line on the final lap at speeds over 40mph. This is Nothstein’s signature event, though he also wins championships in the keirin, kilo, and team sprint competitions and later races on a professional road team.

The Price of Gold explains the intricacies of track racing in a way that’s comprehensible even to the uninitiated. Turning the pages, the reader experiences Nothstein’s progression from punk kid to world-class athlete, his cycling future shaped in part by luck and random generosity. He grows up in Trexlertown, Pennsylvania, home to a renowned velodrome incongruously plunked in the heart of farm country in 1974. When Nothstein is 14, his punishment for throwing rocks at a neighbor’s garage is to join the neighbor’s junior track racing program. There his talent is recognized, and a contingent of tough-skinned, washed-up track cyclists takes him under their wing, giving him not only the experience and training to race well, but also instilling a sense of purpose and entitlement. When he wins silver at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, it’s not good enough for Marty Nothstein.

In the early 1900s, track racing was wildly popular in the US; track cyclist Frank Louis Kramer earned more than baseball stars like Ty Cobb. Today, the Olympics are the be-all and end-all of track cycling, its Tour de France. “The Games are the only time the best in the world come together, and everyone in the world watches,” Nothstein writes. Track racing is not unique in this regard, of course. For many sports, Olympic gold is the pinnacle of achievement. Athletes have an opportunity to compete at this level only once every four years – maybe two or three chances in a lifetime – and must perform at their best, whether they’re having a bad day, caught the stomach flu, or, like Nothstein, got knocked down on a training ride by Christian Vande Velde three days before competition. The pressure is enough to break a normal person in half.

Exploring the single-minded determination and oftentimes unhealthy obsession required to be an Olympic athlete, The Price of Gold details a work ethic beyond what any sane person would deem reasonable. After his silver medal in Atlanta, Nothstein etches No. 1 into his mind. He must end his workout at 51 miles, not 50, must pump 11 gallons of gas, not 9. The narrative is almost entirely focused on Nothstein’s training and competition, only briefly alluding to his personal life, but his preparation for Sydney leaves little room for anything else. Nothstein cites the emotional and physical distance from his family as one of his biggest sacrifices.

Those who might expect the airing of dirty sheets, given the ongoing drug scandals in the sport, will be disappointed: the book makes no mention of cycling’s doping controversies, past or present. But some less-than-savory stories do emerge, including the disintegration of the Dallas-based EDS track team and the discovery that the team manager had embezzled $1 million in funds. Most of the drama that Nothstein describes, however, takes place as competition on the track.

The content is as well written as it is interesting. Vivid descriptions bring the reader into the heat of battle with the greatest sprinters of the time, an inside look at the diving and hooking and headbutting, slowing down the blur just enough to witness and understand the import of each move. Watching online videos of the races later – you’ll find yourself compelled to do this – you recognize who’s who immediately. Jens Fiedler, his artful goatee, small round helmet, and menacing dark glasses. Florian Rousseau, the “pre-race histrionics” when he snorts and bares his teeth like a rabid goat. Curt Harnett, who Nothstein calls a golden retriever to Darryn Hill’s pit bull, is easily marked by his flowing blonde hair – “He’s even appeared in shampoo commercials. He’s subdued. Docile. Canadian.”

This is the beauty of writing, of remembered history, of shared experience – you were there, with Marty, briefly you were Marty, when he endured the injuries and high-speed crashes and grueling workouts, when he rode his heart out in the semifinal and final rounds in Sydney against the best in the world, when he picked up his 5-year-old son and took a victory lap around the track after achieving, at last, the dream of gold.

Attend The Price of Gold Launch Party at Bicycle Sport Shop on Wednesday, Aug. 1, 6-8 p.m. Reading and signing by Ian Dille, plus complimentary beer and appetizers. RSVP here.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

2012 Marble Falls Race Reports
Now with a sprint distance!

by Jack Mott

The Marble Falls Triathlon has always been a favorite event for Texans, well known for its laid-back atmosphere and beautiful, challenging bike course. The race offers a unique distance that is just a bit short of the standard Olympic distance, with a 1K swim, 23-mile bike, and 4.4-mile run. This year for the first time a sprint distance option was also offered, with a 500m swim, 12-mile bike, and 2-mile run.

The race starts in Lakeside Park, and the swim is held in Lake Marble Falls. The bike course winds up and out of the park and then goes straight uphill and out of town for about 5 miles. Sprint athletes turn around at the top and fly straight back down, while the full course athletes head up Hwy 71 for a few miles of rolling hills before returning. The run course then winds through Marble Falls City Park and the surrounding neighborhood, with a short, steep uphill climb to the finish line, just to punish you one last time. ATC had a large contingent of groupies and their friends at the race this year, with successful performances by all.

George Schmitz - ATC Mechanic

George Schmitz started off his race with a 17-minute swim, aided by a fancy swim skin (see him tearing it off in the title picture). He was 2nd fastest in his age group, but he quickly took the lead by throwing down the fastest bike split in his category on his Cervelo P4 at 22.5 mph. Backed up by quick transitions and an ITU-style flying bike dismount, he was able to hold off the chasers on the run and finish 1st in the 20-24 age group and 9th fastest man of the day.

John Trowbridge - Triathlon Superman

ATC regular John Trowbridge put on a clinic in the 45-49 age group. Fastest age group swim split, fastest T1 time, fastest bike split, fastest T2 time, fastest run, and of course the age-group win. His overall time was the 4th fastest in the entire event as well, without a Cervelo or an aero helmet. A truly studly performance, with no weaknesses!

Marla Briley - Snapple-ATC Racing

Marla has been splitting her time as a triathlete and bike racer this year. She has been sighted in recent weeks gunning for the podium at the Driveway Series crits, but that hasn't stopped her from running and swimming too. Marla started off with a decent swim, beginning the bike in 5th place in the 35-39 age group. She then put her bike racing skills to use by powering herself back into the lead on her trusty Cervelo P3 with a 20.8 mph average speed, quickest in her category. Sadly, Mary Green, who had led out of the water, was able to get back into the lead on the run, but Marla hung on tough for 2nd place. On the podium again!

Kent Snead - Sprint Specialist

Kent Snead, occasional bike racer and occasional triathlete, was the only one among us brave enough to try the shorter, more intense sprint distance. Kent had no expectations, but we expected great things. He had also been seen on Driveway Series crit podiums in recent weeks, so if nothing else, he would surely bike fast. Kent started out with a decent swim, and then crushed the bike course on his Cervelo P2 with the 2nd fastest time of the entire sprint event at 23.9 mph. This, despite losing his chain in the closing meters and having to coast in full Dave-Zabriske-aero-tuck all the way down to transition. Kent followed that up with a solid run to take the Masters overall win!

Gray Skinner - Cat 1 Cyclist

Gray Skinner came to Marble Falls as part of his preparation for the 2012 Savageman Triathlon. An accomplished cyclist, this would be his first triathlon in years. The swim, his weakest event, went relatively well, completed in about 18 minutes. He then stormed through the 23-mile bike course at an average speed of 25.6 mph, finishing the bike course minutes faster than anyone else at the event. His bike weapon of choice was his old-school aluminum Cervleo P3. He followed this up with some 6-minute miles on the run to take the age group win and 3rd fastest time overall.

Dustin Finley - Team Finley

Dustin is half of one of the most fearsome husband-and-wife tri duos in Texas, the other half being last year's overall female winner Maggi Finley. This year, however, his wife was away, leaving him to race alone. But this didn't stop him from dominating the swim, posting the fastest split in the always competitive 40-44 age group. He followed this up with a 21.6 mph bike split on his Cannondale Slice, 4th fastest in his category. Dustin was troubled by a strange rattling sound during the bike, which turned out to be a loose cassette! Fortunately it stayed on and allowed him to shift for the duration of the race. Dustin then charged through the run course with some 7-minute miles to post the 3rd quickest run split and get himself onto the age group podium in 3rd place.

The Austin Dreamcrushers - Relay Ringers

On a whim, we were able to assemble the most fearsome relay team in the history of Marble Falls (as far as you know). James Davison, ex division 1 swimmer and coach would start us off in the water, followed by myself (Jack Mott), ex division 1 video gamer, on the bike, and ex division 1 runner and coach Leah Soro Skinner on the run. Our goals were loftier than merely winning the relay category. More importantly, we wanted to help Leah score a victory over her husband Gray. We got off to a good start, with James making it through the swim in 16 minutes. He ran up to transition and handed me the chip, and I grabbed my Cervelo P3 and was off. I kept the power high up the 5-mile climb to the highway, knowing that if I blew up a bit early, it would be no problem, I didn't have to run and the last 5 miles would be downhill! I felt like I was using cheat codes on the bike course. With no swim before, or run after, I was flying past people like I was actually good at this. I even had time to give Marla a little slap on the rear as I went by on the climb. (Fortunately, she laughed!) On the way back to transition I flew through the turns fast enough to worry the volunteers, but made it safe to T2 with a 57-minute bike split, 5th fastest of the day. Leah grabbed the chip and took off onto the run course with some sub 7-minute miles to bring home the relay win! We failed in our most important mission, however - Gray Skinner had 30 seconds on us.

The Overall Winners

The overall winners of the 2012 Marble Falls Triathlon were Austin's own Jamie Cleveland and Andrea Fisher, the other most fearsome husband-and-wife triathlon duo in the state. Congratulations to them both!

Full Results Posted Here

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Austin Tri-Cyclist 2012 Summer Deals

923 Barton Springs Road Austin, TX 78704 (512) 494-9252
The SLICE - $1895
The SUPERSIX 105 - $1995

Austin Tri-Cyclist Summer Deals are HERE.  From now until July 31st or while supplies last take advatange of these HOT bargains.

Stop by the shop or use the code "summer2012" on our online store.

20% OFF Continental Gatorskin Tires - Stop Flats!

20% OFF Austin Tri-Cyclist insulated water bottles to keep you cool

20% OFF Aerohelmets from Bell / Giro / Louis Garneau

20% OFF Carbon Pedals from LOOK and Shimano

Even 2012 bikes are marked down to make room for the 2013 models.  Check out the full carbon Cannondale Slice Tri bike for $1895 or the Supersix for $1695.

More bike deals can be found HERE 

Want to keep up on the latest bargains and news?

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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

2012 Texas State Time Trial Championship

by Jack Mott

This past weekend was the annual Texas State Time Trial Championship. Hosted the last two years in Lytle, Texas near San Antonio, it features a 40 kilometer out and back course with rolling hills and smooth pavement. Each year the fastest athletes in the state test their time trial skills and aero equipment in hopes of winning a coveted state championship jersey, and cash prizes of course.

Kickstand Racing, who has been running the event of late, has paralympic categories, multisport categories, and an Eddy Merckx (non aero) category along with the usual roadie categories. The multisport category makes the event perfect for triathletes to test their bike skills and win some money in the process. It is also a great way to check out the positions and equipment of the roadie studs, which can often be instructive for new triathletes.

Riders are sent off at 30 seconds intervals, grouped by category. Drafting is not allowed. The course is rather simple with no technical turns other than the turnaround at half way. It is open to traffic but there is a sizable shoulder the entire length of the course. Saturday features all of the individual categories, while Sunday hosts team time trial competitions, where teams of 3 or 4 must carefully work together to go even faster.

The weather this year was hot, as usual, and a bit windy which is also the norm in central Texas. In the Category 1 men ranks, the favorites were 787 Racing's Brant Speed and Super Squadra's David Wenger who were 3rd and 5th respectively at Nationals just a few weeks before. As the Cat 1 men were finishing it became clear that the course was almost a kilometer too long. In the end Brant Speed came away with the win, with an average speed of nearly 30 miles per hour and a full minute ahead of 2nd place Logan Hutchings. David Wenger would end up fourth.

In the Women's category 1, Snapple-ATC TT specialist Kat Hunter was the favorite with Jenny Park of Team Brain and Spine and Jenn Mix of Team 787 gunning to upset her. Kat managed to hold them off and take the win with a time of 59:25 after holding an average of 240 watts for the 40+ kilometer course. She was aboard her Cervelo P2, with HED Jet clincher wheels and a brand new super fast Continental Supersonic 20mm front tire thanks to Kaleb West at ATC. Other trick equipment included the new Omega aero brake up front, a very cool new piece. Men be warned: the women in this event were cycling at 25+ mph for an hour

Browsing through the pictures of the competitors a clear pattern emerges. The people going fast are talented, and hard working, and they extend that hard work into their position on the bike. They have spent time figuring out how to get low and powerful, and even focus on how they hold their head through the course. In the time trial, the wind and your pain are the only enemies, and they must both be conquered. Triathletes can learn a lot by watching the top road cyclists in a TT.

On Sunday one of the more fascinating cycling disciplines takes place with the team time trials. These contests are fascinating due to their complexity and the high speeds that are achieved. Teammates fly along the road at over 30mph, wheels just inches from one another, hands in the aero bars away from the brake levers. Perfecting the timing of when each teammate should pull requires thought and practice. The top teams are ones with great athletes who have also put in the time to practice. In the men's top category, team Think Finance took the victory. They were the only top team present at the Mineral Wells team time trial a couple weeks before, and their dedication was rewarded with a state championship.

In the men's category 4, a victory for the triathletes as team Jockstrap Catapult of Houston narrowly bested team Ghisallo by 14 seconds with a 54 minute effort. Team Ghisallo did avenge this shame with overall wins in both the Category 4 and Eddy Merckx individual categories by Matt "Baby Jan" DeMartino and Adam Butler respectively.

In the most important race of all, the Category 4 Slowtwitch bragging rights contest, your author, Jack Mott, bested Charlie Buser by over 2 minutes in route to breaking the hour barrier for the first time, but still slower than his own wife.

Full TT Results Here (Scroll to the bottom)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Enlightened Performance Coaching
Leah Soro Skinner

by Kat Hunter
Running coaches are near-mythical creatures. They’re expected, whether by experience, intuition, or some degree of black magic, to conjure up prized PRs for their athletes. Often as well-grounded in human psychology as physiology, they’re required not only to know the right thing to do, but also how to get a person to do it.

If anyone can pull a few extra minutes or miles out of a runner, it’s probably Leah Soro Skinner. A former Division 1 cross country and track athlete at the University of Tennessee, she has the background and the experience. But more than that, she has the personality. If you talk to her about running even for a few minutes, you come away with the impression that she’s someone you can trust, someone who knows a lot about and cares deeply for the subject matter.

Leah started her coaching business, Enlightened Performance, in February. Currently all of her clients are marathoners, though she doesn’t specifically focus on that distance. Some are beginners, while others have targeted goals like qualifying for the Boston Marathon. She also works with high school students at St. Michael's Catholic Academy as assistant coach to Jeff Cunningham, esteemed head coach of Rogue High School Training.

Leah says she plans to keep her business small and as “hands on” as possible. “A lot of running programs are kind of generic. My coaching is really tailored toward the individual athletes – their previous running experience, the kind of injuries they’ve had, their long-term goals. One of my biggest questions is ‘what do you like to do?’ Are you better at tempo? Are you better at speedwork? What gets you excited about running?”

Separating training into four phases, Leah has her athletes do as much of their preferred type of workout as possible in the hardest phase so they don’t get burned out. She also adapts workouts to the runner’s personal life, taking into account work, stress, kids, sleep, time, and other events and obligations that affect performance. The training plan is never set in stone.

Leah’s husband, Gray Skinner, is a cat 1 cyclist. A full-time lawyer, he coaches a small number of cyclists on the side. Leah is a cyclist as well, racing as a cat 3 for Snapple-ATC Racing. The Skinners are considering combining their expertise in the two disciplines in a multisport program. This program wouldn't be specifically designed for dedicated triathletes, but rather those athletes who fall somewhere in between – an individual who wants to compete in both running and triathlon, for example, or someone who’s simply interested in incorporating running and cycling in a general fitness program.

So what is it about coaches – those magical leprechauns and sometimes evil taskmasters – that makes them so successful at leading athletes to that long-sought pot of gold at the finish line?

For starters, Leah says, it’s very beneficial to work with someone who’s emotionally removed. “’Well, I was really tired but I pushed through it’ – you hear that all the time in running. Or, ‘I was super tired and I did it anyway because it was on the training plan.’ As a coach, you can say that’s not important. Running through injuries, running through being tired, running through illness, those are things you can step in and say, ‘Look, as your coach, I don’t recommend this.’ It prolongs the season.”

Leah says she herself used to be a “presser” and was frequently injured. “Every run was fast, every workout was hard, everything I did was all out... I never really took it easy and relaxed. As a coach, I don’t want people to press. I want them to have some intention in what they’re doing. I want them to understand the purpose of every single workout and why it’s so important to rest and to consider your stress level and how much sleep you’ve had.”

“I also had a lot of racing anxiety in college because I put so much emphasis on the results of the race,” she says. “My big thing is taking a very holistic approach because the sport is so much fun and it’s not good to waste all that energy on negative expectations.”

Another benefit of coaching, Leah says, is having someone to plan and interpret your workouts. Many people don’t fully understand the structure of the training plans in one-size-fits-all, do-it-yourself running books, especially if they haven’t been running for a long time. “I don’t think they understand how each of those workouts affects them physiologically, even if they read the whole book. And every runner is very different. As a coach, as someone removed, you can say, ‘You’re not responding very well to this workout, and you’re tired three days later. Maybe we should do this other kind of workout when you have this one backed up right behind it.’”

Kirk Larson, a client whose goal is to run a sub 3 hour marathon, has had big improvements this year. When she talks about his accomplishments, Leah sounds as proud as if she were speaking of her own. “I’ll kind of rag on him,” she says. “He had no idea what he was doing. He was just following a training plan, and he ran a 3:33 for his first marathon. He really wanted to run the Austin Marathon before Vancouver, so I had him run really slow and then tempo the last 10k. He ran a 3:18 and felt like it was easy. That was a huge confidence booster for him. He’s been doing incredible stuff, like the other day he PRed in the 5k in the middle of a workout. He just needed a little bit more structure and to understand his body.” A few weeks ago, Kirk set another PR at the BMO Vancouver Marathon, running a 3:06.

A coach can be someone to help define your expectations, to celebrate with you when you meet your goals or to help you come up with an improved plan when you don’t. Leah says, however, that the number one benefit is accountability. “Just saying I am dedicated to this, I’m dedicated to this goal, I’m going to have complete confidence in this coach that he or she is going to get me to that goal. Just doing that one step will make you successful and will make you run PRs.”