Archive for the ‘cycling’ Category

The New Bike

Finally, after waiting to get all of the components, and taking the time to build everything, my new racing machine for 2009 is complete (with one minor exception). After I got the insurance money from the crash, I wanted to build up a bike that would be perfect for racing, a real no-compromise, serious, single-minded machine. I also knew that crashes happen, having survived two very serious ones (both resulting in broken bikes) in a two week span, so I wanted a bike that would not break the proverbial bank if I hit the pavement and need to replace the frame.

With those two primary criteria in mind, and with a club sponsorship from Cannondale, the choice was pretty obvious: the 2009 CAAD 9. It is an all aluminum frame with a carbon fork, and the geometry is fairly aggressive, ready for racing. If you look at some of the races around here, you will see a lot of CAAD 9 frames, especially among the serious, broke, strong racers–the guys who need to win primes so they have enough gas money to get home. The frame is solid and dependable, and you can get one, especially if you are lucky enough to have a sponsorship, for less than a decent set of race wheels. A lot less.

When I saw that Campagnolo had a new 11 speed system out, I decided I should build up the new machine with those components, but, in keeping with my affordability mandate, I had to shop around carefully and buy a mix of components instead of a full Super Record gruppo. Here is the full build:

Frame/Fork: 2009 Cannondale CAAD 9 with ultra fork (alloy steerer)
Stem: FSA OS99
Bar: FSA Wing Pro Compact (alloy)
Seatpost: FSA K-Force
Saddle: Fizik Arione CX
Shifters: Campagnolo Chorus 11 Speed
Front Derailleur: Campagnolo Chorus 11
Rear Derailleur: Campagnolo Record 11
Crankset: Campagnolo Super Record 11 53/39 (hollow carbon with CULT ceramic bearings)
Brake Calipers: Campagnolo Record 10 (with the Ti bolts)
Cassette: Campagnolo Chorus 11 speed 11-25
Computer: Garmin Edge 705 Team
Wheels (training): Fulcrum Racing 1
Wheels (racing): Flashpoint FP60 (these require a a hub adjustment before I can fit the cassette on)

And here are some pictures:






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Sportsman of the Year

Tonight my cycling club had its annual end of the year/beginning of the new season meeting, where we recap the past year and talk about plans for the new year.  The team manager, who is also the bike shop owner, always has a Powerpoint slideshow with highlights from the past season, such as our Ironmom’s performance at Kona or the growth of the club membership.  It’s a good way to wrap up the year, and it highlights the strengths of our group pretty effectively, even if it does go on a bit longer than is strictly necessary.

Greg also always gives out a couple of awards, one for Most Improved Athlete, and one for Sportsman of the Year.  I was completely shocked when he announced that I had won Sportsman of the Year.  He said that I always showed great sportsmanship, worked hard as a team member, and effectively rallied the team to work together.  Upgrading to a Cat 3 helped, too.

As I’ve mentioned a number of times in past posts, I was never much of an athlete as a child.  I did not do well at team sports, and the football-mad culture of my redneck hometown did not really have a place for me.  Add to that my utter lack of coordination, and I was always ready to fail at sports.  I did like riding my bike, though, and that joy has stayed with me.

It was a good year for my cycling, even though I broke a rib and a bike in one crash and broke another bike when I got hit by a car.  I accomplished both of the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the season: win the summer series and upgrade to Cat 3.  After winning this completely unexpected award, I feel like I’ve found a very comfortable spot in the peloton, a place of respect.  It’s fun.  It’s good to be a sportsman.

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More Bike Teases

My wheels arrived today!  They look very cool, and they are lighter than I expected them to be.  I can’t wait now for the rest of the parts to arrive so I can build it all up and ride.  Although they were supposed to be a closeout of the ’08 wheels, the model that actually arrived was the ’09 set.  Team sponsorships are a good thing–because the deal was so awesome on these wheels, my new frame is essentially free (that link, by the way, is for the whole bike, but I’m getting just the frameset and building it up with my own component choice).

I also ordered this today–the team edition 705 bundle.  I’m going to have so much fun with it.

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Another Tease

Here are the wheels I just ordered.


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A Tease

I have ordered my new bike…

That’s all I’m saying for now.

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Doing My Civic Duty

The lines at the polls in my part of Connecticut were not bad at all at 7:30 in the morning.  My total time, including waiting in line, filling in the bubbles on the ballot, and slipping the ballot into the electronic reader was about fifteen minutes.

There was also a very positive, almost jovial air at the polling center.  Nearly everyone was smiling and seemed to be in a good mood.  The guy behind me in line, a stocky fireplug with a Harley Davidson sweatshirt, kept grinning and joked about not waiting in a line this ling unless there was food at the other end.  I laughed and said they should at least have doughnuts for us.  He agreed and got a faraway, dreamy look on his face that clearly said, “Mmmm…doughnuts…”

My town is a generally peaceful, good-natured sort of place, so maybe the atmosphere at the polls was just the quiet New England way.  Or perhaps the line held a lot of Obama supporters, happy that they were casting their votes in one of the bluest states in the country.  Or perhaps everyone was in a good mood because of the weather: it was chilly but it is supposed to get up to the low 60s later today.

Now I’m going to celebrate my civic-mindedness by going for a long bike ride.

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Last week I read my treasured find–the first edition hardcover of Ralph Hurne’s novel, The Yellow Jersey.  It is a very quick read, and I found myself racing to finish it before I had to run off for an appointment.  Despite its significant flaws, it is entertaining, and the racing scenes make it worth reading for any fan of bike racing who is looking at the lack of TV coverage in despair and is considering watching Breaking Away for the hundredth time.

The novel was published in 1973, and I have to say again, for Mr. SOC’s benefit, that my edition says “First Printing” right there on the copyright page.  First printing.  Hardcover.

But, in my shameless gloating, I digress.  The novel is certainly dated, and while that is usually an unequivocally bad thing, this novel sometimes shows how “dated” can be a benefit.  The narrator, Terry Davenport, is a 37 year old former pro racer who now spends his time coaching an up and coming cycling star, working in his fiancee’s antiques shop in Ghent, and have surreptitious sex with his future step-daughter.  The bad sort of dated shows in that small plot summary.  Terry is a sort of Austin Powers on two wheels, a swinging late-60s, early-70s bachelor who says things like “When I bought this model, I made sure it was a station wagon with a fold-down seat.”  All the better for his conquests.  And he does go on about the various “birds” he has conquered, in a completely open, unenlightened manner that is almost but not quite charming in its utter candor and ingenuousness.

The good sort of dated, though, is found in the descriptions of the racing scene.  Terry’s experiences in the tough Belgian race scene are worth getting through his antediluvian sexual attitudes.  He talks about the tough Belgian pros who race several days a week, hoping to earn enough in prize money–a few francs here, a few there–to earn a meager living.  The races are local affairs far from the hype of the Tour and the big classics, but they are contested just as fiercely as any of the name venues.  Hundreds of local townspeople line the streets in the rain to watch the race, and they cheer on the local heroes and the big pros.  It is a tough, gritty, damp, and tiring world that is seemingly far removed from the weekend warrior outings I see all summer long.  The men racing in Belgium are not dentists and attorneys and college professors who want to have some fun on their bikes but bicycle racers who race because they have to.

Once the action of the novel moves forward and leaves Terry’s dalliance with a 19 year old tourist from New Zealand more or less behind, it grows in appeal, at least to me.  Although he had retired, he entered a local race to impress the girl and, as a result of this and some other events, finds himself slated to help his young protegee in the opening weeks of the Tour de France.  Terry figures that he will ride the opening flat stages to help Romain, who is an awesome climber but timid in the rough and tumble of a pack sprint finish, and drop out once the race hits the big mountains.

The plan works well at first, with Romain sitting well when the Pyrenees rear up.  However, when a fortuitous accident and a doping scandal thrust Terry into the yellow jersey with a fifteen minute lead, the plan disintegrates.  The team owners are furious that this old man is threatening the status of their young star.  The young star, meanwhile, agrees to help his mentor win the whole race, further infuriating the big brass.  The last several chapters are detailed descriptions of the race stages unfolding, with Terry’s lead slipping every day, and more and more pain and trauma at every rise in the road.  Not only must Terry battle his main rival on the raod, but he must also fight off attempts by his team’s sponsors to sabotage his chances.  I found my palms sweating as I read about the attacks, counter-attacks, and team strategies being played out.  I could feel the tension of the race, and Hurne’s account made me think of my own race reports.

However, Hurne seems to get as tired as his hero, or he decides to toss in the proverbial towel.  The last chapter is a frustrating, opaque, and rushed mess, where he wraps up everything too neatly and too quickly for any satisfaction.  Still, I have to recommend the novel for the great race scenes.  Anyone who has seriously watched a race unfold or has tried to strategize in the middle of the peloton will appreciate and see the grace and excitement of racing in Hurne’s workmanlike prose.

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