Austin Tri-Cyclist Blog

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

So You’re Doing Your First Triathlon

by Robert Dao
Baby steps!

With the triathlon season about to get into full swing, many of us are getting off the trainer, dusting off the spandex, and heading to our favorite races. While many of the athletes getting back into racing are seasoned veterans, many among us are heading to the races for the first time. Your first triathlon can be a daunting experience, with so much to learn, and so much to soak in. While it can all be fun, it can be just as stressful if you don’t have a good idea of what you’re doing. Here are some of the most common FAQ’s to get you through the first of hopefully a long list of races!

What do I bring to the race?
While some people can get away with the bare minimum on race day, there are a few key things you don’t want to forget. I always start packing in the order of the race: swim, bike, run. You’ll absolutely need to have your swim cap, goggles, and wetsuit (if necessary) for the swim. For the bike, you’ll need your bike (obviously, but I’ve seen people leave home without it), helmet, water, and bike shoes if you have them. For the run, you’ll really only need your bib number and running shoes. Extra common things can always include nutrition for longer races, sunglasses, a hat, and a towel to dry after the swim. As always, bring what you think you’ll need and don’t feel bound to this list!

When should I arrive? 
Usually, transition opens up about two hours or so before the race starts. I usually like to show up no more than half an hour after transition opens, but it all depends on how early you like to be. I like to be early to things. When you’re planning your morning, remember what all you’ll have to do. You’ll need to unload your equipment from your car and get to the transition site. You’ll need to get your numbers marked on your body at transition. You’ll need to get transition set up the way you want it. And lastly, you should leave some time to warm up! I like to show up really early so I can make sure I have the time I need and then some extra to relax, get myself mentally prepared, and have time for something to go wrong!

What should I eat for breakfast?
For breakfast before a race, just eat what you normally would before a morning workout, but don’t have anything too heavy! Personally, I like to eat half of a bagel with a little peanut butter, and then nibble on a banana through the rest of the morning.

I’m not confident about open water swimming, what do I do?
Relax. Just relax. Swimming open water is still swimming, just without that white line to stare at. If you’re worried about the mass of people, there are a few ways to stay safely away from the crowd. The easiest way is to line up on the side of the pack. That way, people aren’t trying to cut you off and there’s no one in your way. The other tactic can be to start in the back and wait a second after the gun goes off. If you give everyone a chance to hit each other before you start, it clears things up for your swim! Then you can make your way up the pack as you’d like.

How strict are the rules?
Depending on the race, they can be strict, especially on the bike. So make sure you are familiar with the rule book! Drafting is the most commonly violated rule, so always make sure you are three bike lengths behind the rider in front of you unless you’re passing! Here’s a link to the official USAT rule book.

How should I handle the actual race?
First thing’s first. Have fun! None of us do the sport because we hate it, we do it because it’s a good time! Especially for your first time, don’t get too caught up in having the perfect race, winning your age group, or beating that one person you’ve been training with. The most important thing is that you go out and have fun! There will be plenty of other races to go try to win. Just race for what you trained for. Don’t try to push yourself harder than you did in your preparation, don’t try to speed up just because someone else is, and let yourself relax.

Will there be people to help answer questions?
Always! Almost everyone at the races will be more than willing to help you with any last-minute questions you may have!

Robert Dao is an employee at Austin Tri-Cyclist, a personal trainer for Driven Performance Training, and a USAT-certified triathlon coach with experience working with junior, collegiate, and adult triathletes of all skill levels. While competing in triathlon at the collegiate level, he spent a good amount of time getting new athletes adjusted to the sport, making sure they were the best athletes they could be while still having fun racing.

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Friday, March 27, 2015

Sweet Potato as a Ride Snack

By Kat Hunter

Every kind of bike snack has its time and place. Shot blocks and gels work well in a pinch or on race day. Bars with chocolate are great in the winter but melt in the summer. Homemade snacks like rice bars and PBJs are nice if you have the time and the skill to unwrap them while riding. Drinkable calories from Skratch, Gatorade, Coke, etc, go a long way, but on really long rides they won’t go all the way. You need a ride food on standby that is portable and affordable, tastes good, gets you the calories you need, and handles most weather conditions.

I nominate the sweet potato.

It’s true that when you whip out a whole sweet potato (or the brown, wrinkled end of a particularly large or skinny one is peeking out above your jersey pocket), you might generate some laughs. But let them laugh, I say! Sweet potatoes are packed with Vitamin A, Vitamin C, manganese, fiber, B6, and potassium. You get a solid amount of calories and natural sugars, they taste sweet but not too sweet, and they don’t melt or otherwise disintegrate when carried on your person. Also, unlike packaged and processed options, you always know exactly what’s in them: potato.

My favorite thing about sweet potatoes, however, is that they come with a built-in, edible wrapper. The potato can be completely naked in your pocket (or loosely wrapped in a paper towel), so there’s no need to worry about removing your ride snack from plastic packaging or disposing of it after. The key to this, from my experience, is microwaving the potato rather than baking it in the oven. The result may be less delicious, but it’s also much less juicy and stays together better. Just remember to give your potato some time to cool before you head out...unless, in addition to being a skilled cyclist, you’re also a very talented juggler.

How to microwave a sweet potato

Friday, March 20, 2015

Recap of Cervelo Shape of Speed Event

by Jack Mott

Cervelo's "Shape of Speed" event, which came to Austin Tri-Cyclist on March 7, included a presentation about the history and technology at work at Cervelo, a quick question-and-answer period, and free beer and pizza.

In attendance from Cervelo were Phil Houston, marketing, and Phil Spearman, product manager, who are known as P2 and P3 back at the office due to an overabundance of Phils (co-founder Phil White is P1). Phil Spearman did most of the talking, taking us through the history and technology of Cervelo.


  • 1995 - World Champion Gianni Bugno approached Gerard and Phil, founders of Cervelo, to design a time trial bike for him. The Baracchi is born.
  • 1996 - Cervelo bikes first appear in the Olympics.
  • 1998 - First professional Ironman rides a Cervelo (Paula Newby-Fraser).  
  • 2002 - Tyler Hamilton asks for a TT bike, which was disguised as a Look and then ridden by Laurent Jalabert in the Tour de France.
  • 2003 - World Tour cycling team CSC picks Cervelo as their bike sponsor.
  • 2006 - First of three wins at Paris-Roubaix.
  • 2008 - Victory in the Tour de France with Carlos Sastre, and Kona with Chrissie Wellington.
  • 2009 - Cervelo Test Team is formed, to focus more on product testing.
  • 2010 - Project California produces ultralight R5Ca.
  • 2010 - Cervelo wins world cycling road championships (Thor Hushovd) and TT championship (Emma Pooley).
  • 2012 - Ryder Hesjdal wins the Giro de Italia on a Cervelo.
  • 2013 - Victory in Kona for the P5 ridden by Frederik Van Lierde.
  • 2014 - VelocioSRAM and Bigla women's teams sponsored by Cervelo.
  • 2015 - Team MTN Qhubeka sponsored by Cervelo.


Cervelo didn't send an engineer to this Shape of Speed event, but Phil Houston did a respectable job of communicating some interesting technical tidbits. One was an amusing argument that even a generic carbon frame is more original and handmade than the typical round-tube lugged steel frame. He mentioned that every carbon frame design is a completely original shape rather than stock tubing from one of a few suppliers, and that in the end human hands are laying that carbon fiber into molds and creating the frames.

When asked how Cervelo seems to do very well in wind tunnel tests, especially at low yaw angles, he said that much of the testing Cervelo has done indicates that yaw angles averaging around 7 degrees are typical much of the time (but not always!), indicating that they tend to focus more on low yaw angles than some other companies.

A recent revolution in the process of bike design for Cervelo has been the acquisition of CFD and FEA software tools. These allow Cervelo to try frame designs and test both their aerodynamics and structural properties virtually. Rather than spending days and tons of money in a wind tunnel to try a handful of shapes, they can try thousands of iterations virtually before taking a few promising ones to the wind tunnel for refinement.

Another focus with the latest round of bikes is more "systems integration." This is the recognition that there is more to a bike's aerodynamics than the frame alone, especially once the frame is well designed aerodynamically. An interesting breakdown of the relative contribution to aero drag of various parts on an S5 was shown:

  • 30% handlebar
  • 16% front wheel
  • 16% frame
  • 9% bottle
  • 9% fork
  • 9% powertrain
  • 3% front brake
  • 2% rear brake
  • 1% seat post
This kind of data has led to Cervelo introducing their own handlebar with aerodynamic tops, and to offer some of their bikes with aerodynamic wheels standard.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

New Monday Night Spin & Friday Lunch Ride at ATC 360

Motivation Monday 6-7:30 p.m.

Looking for an alternative to breathing rush-hour exhaust on 360? Allison Atkinson, one of the best spin instructors in Austin, leads the free trainer session every Monday night at ATC 360. If you're looking to get in a hard 90 minutes, show up at 6 p.m. to spin. The workout will kickoff at 6:30. Expect a different workout each week!

"We do high-intensity interval training, which is basically riding at an intensity that is uncomfortable for various lengths of time with some amount of recovery time between intervals," Allison says. "There could be several sets of intervals, or maybe just two long intervals, depending on our focus that day. The workouts are designed to make you faster on the bike by building power and turnover in the legs as well as greater capacity in the lungs. We also tackle practical stuff like how to shift properly, basic maintenance, or whatever question
s come up as we ride. All levels are welcome. We currently have seasoned triathletes, beginners, road racers, and developing junior racers all in one class. Most importantly we have FUN and keep things pretty laid back. My goal for people is to get them motivated each Monday so they can tackle their week with a fierce attitude!"

Where: ATC 360, 3801 N Capital of Texas Hwy STE G-200

What to bring: a bike and trainer (Storage space is available for those who want to leave trainers and/or a training bike at the shop.)

Friday Social Ride 12-1:30ish p.m.

You don't really need a tough workout on Friday, but you still want to get outside and spin your legs with friends before tackling your big weekend plans. If this sounds like you, then you're in luck! The Friday Social Ride kicks off this week.

"On Friday, your lunch break should be spent outside on a bike," Allison says. "This will not be a hammerfest, as it is a social ride at conversational pace. Route will vary weekly depending on wind, company, or vibe that day, but should be approximately 25 miles.  Everyone is welcome, and I'm positive we will burn enough calories to warrant a post-ride macchiato and pastry at Uno's. This will be fun!"

Where: ATC 360, 3801 N Capital of Texas Hwy STE G-200. Meet and park at the back entrance of the shop.

What to bring: flat repair kit, road bike, helmet, and some knowledge of group riding etiquette

Call ATC 360 with questions at (512) 382-1273, or send an email to or 

Allison rides for ATC Racing, teaches spin at Pure Austin Fitness, and currently coaches the ATC Racing Junior Squad. She is a newly certified USAC coach with an interest in working with competitive and recreational road cyclists. Her lengthy experience in group fitness training makes her an expert in motivation and coffee consumption. She is also a brand ambassador for Castelli Cycling, as well as an employee at Austin TriCyclist.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

So You Want to Be a Pro?

By Kat Hunter

Visit Dallas Cycling p/b Noise4Good at the Valley of the Sun Stage Race criterium. Many thanks to Keenan Photography.

Why am I doing this? I ask myself every time it’s bitterly cold, or I’m on the trainer for hours, or I’m having a bad day, or I have to try another new saddle. When I signed the contract with Visit Dallas Cycling p/b Noise4Good—my first with a pro cycling team—I knew there would be times I’d regret it, but I also knew that if I didn’t, I would always wonder what I might have missed.

Kat at the Valley of the Sun time trial
My husband calls the period from roughly August to mid-November my “retirement.” In July 2014, I’d won the final stage of the Cascade Cycling Classic as a guest rider for FCS Cycling, and the team (which added new title sponsors Visit Dallas and Noise4Good this year) had invited me to be on the 2015 roster. I’d decided I was finished with bike racing, however. I started jogging again. I tackled half a dozen home improvement projects and spent time with my son. I worked on expanding my writing career. I settled into a different kind of life, one that didn’t center on competition.

But I soon began to feel I was missing something. I realized that being a bike racer and an athlete had been a kind of self-definition for me. After all, what better hat to wear to show that you’re adventurous, interesting, even special? Some people become bike racers because it fits their personalities. Me? I think it’s who I want to be.

I was born in 1984, so I grew up in an era when the strong woman—smart, savvy, tough—was edging out the damsel in distress as the desirable protagonist. As much as I admired and wanted to be that type of person, I often felt powerless. Even now, it’s easy for me to revert back to a 5’10 mouse. Bike racing doesn’t change who I am, but it does change how I see myself, and that in turn makes me feel more capable in every area of my life. I may never be Ripley busting up a ship full of aliens in my underwear, but I know I can hold my own. I wish I’d found the sport a decade earlier.

The women I’ve met in the cycling community, both in Texas and nationally, are assertive and unafraid, clever and funny. For me, they’re living proof that the strong-woman archetype isn’t a fiction, and I love being a part of that, even if I don’t exactly fit the mold.

ATC Racing at the Walburg Classic Road Race, Feb 21. Photo by Jamie Tracy.
I love riding my bike, too, just the pure daily grind of it. Cycling gives me a sense of purpose and forward momentum. The path is so refreshingly simple: You have a goal? Train more until you achieve it or your genetic gifts play out. Then there’s the wonderful and terrible intensity of it, of pushing yourself until your entire being is completely and utterly spent, and the heady vindication of crossing the line before your competitors. The sprint has the profoundly personal feeling of head-to-head combat, always like a hard slap to the face if you’re not the victor. Bike racing is a thrill and an endlessly changing puzzle all rolled into one, like flying through a war zone in a high-powered fighter jet (or on a bad day, an antique biplane with half a propeller).

By the time Thanksgiving rolled around, I’d already sent an email turning down the spot with FCS, so it was supposed to be said and done. But I’d been inching my way back into the sport by degrees. I went from quitting cold turkey to planning to ride again for ATC Racing, the women’s team I’d helped to organize and to run since its inception in 2011. I could feel myself slipping back into full-gas training mode. Like me and a pint of ice cream, bike racing would have to be all or nothing. I kept asking myself: if I was going to spend most of my time training anyway, why shouldn’t I aim for the highest level of competition open to me? What if this was my one chance to do it?

In the end, I couldn’t let it go. I finally heard back from the team director, just a one-line response to my magnum opus about why I wasn’t going to ride for FCS, and the effect of his words was like pulling the bottommost brick out of a leaning tower: “I think you are more convinced than I am of your racing decision,” he wrote.

I spent a sleepless night thinking about what life would be like without bike racing, if I’d ever feel that sense of intensity and fulfillment again. I imagined myself forty years down the road, reminiscing about my bike racing days and wishing there’d been more of them.

And so began the adventure.

The Team

The classification of women’s pro cycling teams in the U.S. is a lot simpler than the men’s. A team is either officially UCI, which requires a sizable budget in addition to the costs of running the team ($30,000 is paid to the UCI), or it’s “domestic elite.” Typically the two race in the same national events regardless, though UCI races, such as the Tour of California, are obligated to invite UCI teams first; all other teams are invited at the discretion of the race organizers. Visit Dallas Cycling is not UCI, but everyone on the team holds a UCI license, and we have three former national champions on the roster. The team currently hails from Arizona, New Mexico, California, Colorado, Oregon, and Austin (that’s me).

The team has an ardent and longstanding network of individual supporters in Dallas and beyond, many of whom I met for the first time at the team presentation and launch party in February. The triumvirate behind most day-to-day operations includes Lee Whaley, who is one of the co-chairmen of the nonprofit organization FCS Team Inc; Scott Warren, a product manager at Orbea; and Rachel Byus, long-time team manager and miracle worker. Our sponsors are pure gold—people and companies who believe in women’s cycling and the riders. The Dallas Convention and Visitor’s Bureau has signed on as one of the title sponsors for three years.

I learned many important things from the time I spent with the team during the launch and week-long training camp that followed it. Not least of which—you never want to be last in line for food in the company of women bike racers, as we’re not shy about portions. Several of my teammates requested mixing bowls for their cereal.

Anna Grace, Kat, Beth Ann, Mia at Feb 7 launch party in Dallas
I think there’s a misconception about women who race at this level, that we’re all deep-voiced, beefy she-dragons with facial hair. I won’t argue that cycling isn’t a brutal sport, or say that we’re always playing nice with legs crossed and lipstick on. My teammate Mia Manganello, one of the returning members of the team, is a woman who illustrates the point I’m getting at. She looks like a model, with long white-blonde hair and nails color-coordinated to match our race kit, and yet she’s one of the best and most aggressive crit racers on the team. She helped me flatiron my hair for the launch party and then a few days later showed me how to take apart and pack my bike.

Three people on the team are getting married this year, which makes for interesting conversation in the team van. Anna Sanders, with a personality the size of Alaska and a stature more like Delaware, could charm the pants off of anyone. Usually it takes her all of five minutes of knowing you to share an off-color anecdote. Her wedding ceremony will be in Phoenix, complete with a live band, whiskey hour, and chandelier. Beth Ann Orton, an infinitely kind person with a built-in diesel motor, is getting married to her mountain biker sweetheart in an outdoor park just outside of Bend, Oregon. Beth Ann is new to the NRC scene like me, and while she’s a crazy good time trialist, has only actually done a handful of them so far. She’s also a talented cyclocross racer. Olivia Dillon, five-time Irish national champion, is engaged to fellow cyclist Tayler Wiles, and all the discussion of wedding arrangements during training camp seemed to be making her nervous that she hadn’t done enough planning. Described as “candid,” Olivia and her straight talk are usually well worth listening to (and not just because she pronounces “idiot” as “eejit”).

AGC's house pants and wool/salmon-skin slipper ensemble
Flavia Oliviera, Brazilian national champion and custom-made climber, stands just over five feet tall—she’s like a bundle of fireworks wrapped up in a package the size of a stick of chewing gum. Everyone told me that Flavia would be my opposite in both stature and personality, but we get along well. Amber Neben, “the franchise” and typically our GC contender, is a former world and national time trial champion. She’s sincere and smart, always going out of her way to be encouraging to me in my struggles as a new recruit. All-around talent Anna Grace Christiansen, who works full-time for sponsor Danner Boots, is often the team’s comic relief. Her tribal-patterned, MC Hammer-esque “house pants” were a daily topic of conversation when we were together, Olivia always “candidly” telling AGC what she thought of her fashion sense and threatening to set them on fire.

The Life

The lifestyle of a female pro cyclist is somewhat Bohemian, in many ways mimicking the cutthroat, cut-whatever-corners-you-can mentality of bike racing itself. You sleep on couches and air mattresses. You mooch off whoever doesn’t mind hauling you around. You gamble for the big break that’ll come somewhere down the road.

And the prestige? Only other bike racers really understand or care about what you’re doing, so if you’re racing at the pro level for the glory, you have a very limited audience. Oddly, that’s what’s so lovely about women’s cycling, though. The people involved, from the team owners to the team directors to the riders, do what they do for two simple reasons: they’re good at it, and they love it.    

Being on a pro team usually means you get equipment and travel expenses paid, and then you figure out on your own how to support yourself. However, you still devote something around 20 hours or more per week to training if you want to be competitive, and you have an insane travel schedule from roughly March to August.

Rainy trip to the beach, training with the mosquitoes
 on my birthday, Feb 28 (or as close as a Leap Year baby gets)
I work as a freelance writer/editor, and I have a 21-month-old son. I’ve accepted the fact that I probably won’t have a life of my own again until next winter; guilt-free downtime is nonexistent. I have a spectacularly supportive family, though. My husband is endlessly helpful and patient, probably the only man who would have so enthusiastically been on board with this from Day One. From 2013 to now, he’s been my coach and diligent equipment manager, neither of which is an easy job.

I’m training more than I would have ever imagined possible. One week I’m on top of the world, and the next week I’m scraping at rock bottom with a pick ax to see if I can get any lower. I’m about 15 weeks in, averaging 1,000 TSS most weeks, and now big races like Redlands and Joe Martin are on the near horizon. I’ll fly to California for the San Dimas Stage Race on March 25.

This year is a big question mark for me. Trying my hand at this level of racing is kind of like walking out onto a stage in really tall stilettos three sizes too big: I’m either going to make it to the podium looking great, or I’ll fall flat on my face long before I get there. Either way, it’ll make for a good story.

Follow our blog to read race reports throughout the season—enter your email address in the field above that says “Follow the ATC blog by email.” Or “like” my somewhat neglected but soon-to-be improved Facebook business/athlete page

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