Froome or Contador or Nibali or Quintana? Or . . .

 I cannot contain my excitement anymore. The Tour is coming. The hype is building. A strong field awaits. This year’s course is relentless. The colossal and looming mountains will devour many, many of the best riders in the world. And of course, the winds of rumor and fact begin to swirl and blend.

One of the first and foremost questions being asked and debated is if Alberto Contador will double. No, he will not. There. I said it. The field of the Tour is much stronger than the Giro, in the fact that El Pistolero has more to watch than only one to two people like he did in the Giro. Also, doubling after such a strong previous effort, in a place like the Tour with this “climbers” course, takes such a dramatic toll on the body. Tinkoff-Saxo is no slouch team. They have the fire power to protect Contador, but this will not be his Tour.

May I just go ahead and discuss the giant elephant standing in the room? Yes, the news has already discussed it, but it picks up a new wind as the Tour approaches. Froome missed a dope check. He gives a “my bad” reason. From his inhaler issues to health problems to now this, I think that Chris Froome is not a viable candidate to win. I am not going to discuss all of the parallels between Lance and his wife to Chris and his wife, but they are strikingly similar. I am personally tired of anytime the Tour, or cycling in general for that matter, is brought up there is doping in the discussion. It will eventually destroy professional cycling as a sport if drastic measures aren’t taken . . . much like professional bodybuilding did in its rapid death beginning in the late 70s and 80s. Is professional bodybuilding still there? Sure, but it is not on any major sports channel. Even the year’s newly crowned Mr. Universe doesn’t make the news anymore. But I digress.

All of this brings me to the other two factors in the pack: Nibali and Quintana. I’m not saying that either will definitely win. Nibali has loads of experience and talent and is an intimidating force. He’s got all of the tools for this race, and the course seems to fit him. He’s been there done that. I would not be surprised at all if he is not draped in yellow throughout this race. Then there is little Quintana. He is an absolute monster when the elevation kicks up. I’ve heard that many think that Quintana is riding very well, but there is the question of his being able to control the “largeness” of such a race with little experience. Just between you and me, I’ve got my fingers crossed for him.

Sure, there are others. There’s always a dark horse. Who do you think the field should keep an eye on, not being mentioned in the news?

BON VÉLO

Play It Again, Sam

On the recent trip to Boston, my wife and I made a list of things to see and do. We didn’t want to cover a lot of things with only a few minutes to take it in; but rather, we decided to see a smaller amount of things with more time to spend at each one. The Samuel Adams Brewery was on the list. Yes, the place was just like the commercials. The whole place had the feel of “yep, I could start working here, tomorrow.”

A brewhouse in a small neighborhood

Taking the subway out to Boston area of Jamaica Plain and taking the stairs up to street level, the first thing you’ll notice is that you’re in a residential neighborhood. There is very little traffic. People walking their dogs. Moms pushing strollers. This area of Boston has a more artsy feel to it, laid back and quiet. Strolling along the tree-shaded streets with a slight breeze blowing, it was a short walk from the subway. The brewhouse sits in the middle of a neighborhood . . . like it should be, where Sam himself might have lived.

The boys have won some things

The tour is free. If you want to donate some money for the tour you can, and all of the money goes to three specific charities that Sam Adams supports in the community. Beer labels are used for tickets, with different labels depicting what time your tour will start. One would expect to walk into a gigantic brewery from the start, knowing how big Sam Adams has become, but au contraire. The brewhouse is about as big as a school cafeteria. It is a working brewery, so men are moving about adjusting gages and checking on things as the tour moves around them, not for show . . . they’re really working.

Smaller that imagined

The tour discusses the brewing process and how Sam Adams brewery got its start: Jim Koch found the recipe of his great-grandfather’s brew and the rest is history. The feel of the entire place is a laid-back, Google decided to start brewing beer kind of feel. Our host was very knowledgable and friendly.

The end of the tour is the tasting. Each person (over 21) is given a beautiful Sam Adams tasting glass . . . yes, you get to keep it! It is then that the host discusses how to gage and judge beer quality. It covers all of the senses except hearing. Our group covered three different types of beer: Boston Lager, Boston Summer Ale, and Cream Stout. Not only was the information tasty, but very informative.

Lining them up

Another area that I thought intriguing dealt with the beer glasses that Jim Koch had designed by MIT engineers to get the best taste out of his beer. For example, the Boston Lager glass has an rounded lip, a large belly, and a small bottom. The rounded lip rolls the beer as it leaves the glass to allow more air to the beer, while the large belly of the glass allows the drinker’s nose to enter the glass to allow the smell to enhance the flavor. The small base of the glass has very thick glass (it becomes thinner glass moving toward the lip). The thickness of the bottom works as a koosie to keep the heat of the drinkers hand from warming the beer. Attention to detail has made Sam Adams the beer they are. So, if you are ever in the “neighborhood” just stop in and see what the textbook definition of the American Dream really looks like. It is not dead.

Traveling and Cringing

The Park

The Secondratecyclist has been on the move. Two weeks ago, I spent the entire week living at Mount Vernon as a resident student . . . a post on that later. This week, my wife and I took our first “empty nest” vacation to Bean Town! Being a cyclist, I had to visit as many bike shops as I could and did! My wife could only smile when one popped up in the area of Boston we happened to be visiting that particular day. She knows me and understands my addiction . . . er, passion.

“HOLY CRAP” cab ride

Boston is a cycling town, although I am still shaking my head. Bikes zipping everywhere . . . fixies, road, mountain, touring, rentals, and on and on. Here’s the interesting part: traffic is nuts! After arriving in Boston, my wife and I took a cab to our apartment and was in total shock (while cringing) to see how close we were to cyclists in the city as we buzzed by them at 50+mph, dodging in and out of traffic! It wasn’t long after that, while Tammy and I stood at another section of intersecting streets near Copley, I saw a group ride! Yes, a group ride. It was about six riders on road bikes, fully kitted out, having a nice go at a double pace line as they disappeared around a corner in fairly heavy traffic. Now, I consider myself a pretty decent bike handler . . . until two days later.

While waiting for a crossing light near the Frog Pond at Lafayette Mall, the traffic was heavy (lunch rush hour). Buses, cabs, people, and personal vehicles were everywhere . . . and then it happened. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a black Cannondale fixie barreling down the street (on a fairly good decline) moving in and out of traffic with relative ease,  and I focused on the rider as he approached. Tapping my wife and pointing to the rider as he passed us at around 25 mph was when I noticed that, within his skill set, HE WAS ALSO DRINKING A LARGE DUNKIN’ DONUTS COFFEE! Then he was gone. I just stood there with my mouth hanging open for a second or two.

Another interesting part of the trip, through the lens of a cyclist, was a trip to Harvard University. Yes, it was beautiful. I think I gained a point or two in IQ just breathing the air; then I spotted an unusual feature placed among the towering buildings, ivy-covered walls, and large oak trees:

Public bike stands to work on your bike with attached tools and pump! Are you kidding me?! I was so excited to see such a wonder. The thought of keeping cyclists in mind when designing and selecting things for the needs of the public blew me out of the water. Bravo!

Our first “empty nester” was great! We watched Big Papi smash one out of the park on Wednesday night. We stood in awe of the Dutch masters and French impressionists at The Boston Museum of Fine Arts. We meandered old Boston and visited the beautiful parks! The weather was perfect, and we only got turned around two or three times on the “T” subway. We’re already planning the next one. Picking up local bike shop jerseys is also a side hobby of mine. I picked up this one plus another t-shirt at two of the many great shops in Boston:

BBB

BBB

Superb Bikes on Beacon Street

Superb Bikes on Beacon Street

BON VÉLO!

Serving Size and Portion Control – Keys to Weight Loss – Infographic

Originally posted on One Regular Guy Writing about Food, Exercise and Living Longer:

I hope you will take the time to study this infographic. There are loads of fascinating and useful facts and observations in it.

In my battle of the bulge, I found serving size and portion control to be the keys to my victory. Once you take charge of how much you are consuming, the battle is won. To continue on to robust good health, of course, you need to add regular exercise, too.

If you click on the illustration, you get an enlarged picture. If you click on the illustration, you get an enlarged picture.

Tony

View original

Shape Shifting

I enjoy it. Who among us hasn’t enjoyed transforming into a deer, running through the woods or feeding in a grassy meadow? What about a dog, like Sirius Black in Harry Potter, running with a pack all night long? And of course there is nothing like being an eagle and drifting on the wind currents a thousand feet in the air. Having the ability to change shape is very important in cycling.

Now that I have many wondering if I am on drugs, I must cut to the chase to save myself. I just finished a lengthy ride alone. The ride was over ever changing terrain, pan flat at some points and good climbs in others, all the while being buffeted by winds in different directions. Changing my position on the bike happens multiple times during the course of a trek across the surrounding counties. Half way through this ride, I began to play particular attention to my body, hand, leg, and head positions. Ride long enough, and it almost become instinctual with the slightest shift in terrain or wind. It must happen if you plan to be efficient in your rides, meaning that you want to use the right amount of energy for powering the bicycle and not fighting wind or terrain.

Here are a few positions that I have learned by watching others in my group rides or the professionals on television:

Raul Alcala

Although I personally limit my standing to double digit gradients, to spin my cadence back up, notice how Raul Alcala keeps his hips over his seat and not near the handle bars when climbing. This keeps his transfer of energy near the rear tire and his weight back, instead of placing his hips near the bars (like a sprinter would do) and placing the weight up front. This position uses a lot of energy, mainly because you are asking the body to engage many muscles and support your body weight.

Chris Froome

Knees and elbow would best describe Chris Froome. But why? Placing his hands on the top and flaring his elbows allows the chest to open up more and give more clearance for the diagram . . . more air. There is no need for aerodynamics at this point, so riding more upright engages the whole leg and buttocks for a better climbing cadence. Notice that his elbows are out, but his knees stay close to the top tube.

Ben Jacques-Maynes

Ben Jacques-Maynes

Today I found myself in this position quite often, dealing with a strong head wind. It takes time to be able to contort your body into a position where you can rest your forearms on the handlebars while holding the hoods. It will feel very uncomfortable at first. Notice how Monsieur Jacques-Maynes’s knees stay close to his top tube, elbows close, and flat back. The wind can’t hold onto you. Now, do be aware that, for the most part, this is a quadriceps using position.

Andre Greipel et al

Although I did not have sprint sections figured into my ride today, it is worth mentioning. The Gorilla is a beast and almost undefeatable with a good lead out. Yes, I am aware of his wattage . . .  but his form is just about the same way every time. Greipel stays in the drops, elbows flexed, head low, and again the knees are close to the top tube. In the final few kilometers, when he storms out of the saddle, his hips shift quickly toward the handlebar with a frantic but controlled kicking and pulling method of his legs.

Marianne Vos

Marianne Vos

Even the normal cruising position requires thought, at first. Marianne Vos’s hands are side-hooded with a slight flair on her elbows (but flexed) for chest expansion, and as always . . . knees close to the top tube. Notice that her chin is slightly down for a bit of an aerodynamic advantage, keeping her neck inline with her spine.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan

Of course, if you do things the correct way and train the right way and work hard, you can ride in this position. Peter Sagan has many from which you can choose, or you can invent your own. There are many ways to ride efficiently and effectively. What works for others might not work for you. Try different things. Have fun.

BON VÉLO

Cycling’s Seven Deadly Sins . . . or things you just shouldn’t do

  1. WEAR A PRO TEAM KIT/GC WINNER’S JERSEY: Nine out of ten riders who do this can’t ride well in the first place. It’s embarrassing. Put your team SKY jersey in the bottom drawer, until team SKY calls you. You might have the same bike, shoes, and helmet, but you don’t have the same legs.
  2. LISTEN TO AN MP3 PLAYER IN A GROUP RIDE: It is rude for starters, and it is dangerous, not being able to hear what’s going happening around you.
  3. SPORT A MOUNTAIN BIKE HELMET/ SHOES WHILE RIDING A ROAD BIKE: Know the difference, if you are serious.
  4. WEAR BIBS ON THE OUTSIDE OF YOUR JERSEY: Needs no explanation . . . you definitely get noticed though.
  5. NOT HYDRATING: Drink often and drink what will help . . . plain water is no good in taxing heat. Plain water acts as a diuretic.
  6. ROTATION TO THE . . . BACK: Be able to pull in the front. Don’t work your way up in the slipstream to third wheel back and suddenly drift to the back. The same three dudes can’t do all of the pulling. Pull, even for a little bit.
  7. NOT PUTTING IN YOUR TIME: Have fun but work hard on the bike. Group rides are great, but you can’t “sit in” all of the time and expect to get better. Do interval work, and search for interesting ways to train in magazines or the Internet. Cross training is also very beneficial.

BON VÉLO

Making Contact

Okay, so my eyesight is bad. I know that it’s age. What is even worse to me is that I am told to wear “progressive” lenses! Yeah, the old man crap. I know about the corrective surgeries, but most will tell you that it eventually goes back to where you were prior to surgery. So what in the world does this have to do with cycling? Well, everything if you can’t flippin’ see!

When I was in the reading-glasses-only stage, I bought a pair of Dual Eyewear. It was heaven. My computer screen became clear again, and I was back on track. But then . . . I noticed that things ahead of me also had blur to them. Oh crap. Well, what is a man to do? Ignore it, of course. So this continued for a while, and I have stayed with my Duals. Now, it is to the point where i need to do something, so here are my options:

  1. prescription sunglasses
  2. “old man” flip down shades that clip to my prescription eyeglasses
  3. surgery
  4. contacts

First, when looking at prescription sunglasses like Oakley, Tifosi, Smith Optics, and the like, they can land anywhere in the $600-800 range. Guess what? If within a year or so, when you need a new prescription, you’ll need new shades. Plus, there is the hassle of placing the regular glasses in a case and switching to the shades, which is not so bad when cycling, but popping in and out of stores can be a bit a pain in the greater rear-end region.

Second, the “old man” flip downs were a passing thought. I’m not that old yet, not do I think I ever will be . . . NEXT!

Third, the surgery eye has been given much thought. It can technically be covered on insurance if certain parameters are met. The thought of “it may work” is a turn-off. And the thought of having to re-do later on down the road is not pleasant. That cost lands somewhere in the $2000 per eyeball!

Fourth, the thought of sticking my finger in my eye has never appealed to me. My eyes water just thinking about it. But out of the blue my eye doctor calls me about my yearly check-up, and I thought what the heck. I discussed this with him. He gave me a pair of contacts to try and had a lady in the office give me a class on how to gouge myself in the eye. After a half-hour of blood shot eyes and water streaming down my face (NOT tears), I had them in. She was so proud of me, but then she told me to take them out; that was another thirty minutes of going against natural instincts. In the end, I did it. I even placed them back in  . . . eventually. The cool part was that when I walked outside and threw on a pair of regular Costa sunglasses! Shade and sight! It’s a miracle!!!

So, the choice has been made. I will try this and see how it goes. I can only wear them two hours today, four hours tomorrow, six hours the next day, and on and on. So, I’m going to give them a road test tomorrow afternoon, concerned about them drying out in the wind, even with wrap around shades . . . we’ll see.

Bon Vélo

Just Give Me a Glympse

Between family and riding and writing, I had to let one slide for a bit. Well, the Secondratecyclist is back. I don’t even know if I was even missed, but I want to think that hundreds have wondered what happened. I think I’ll keep that thought in my head. Recently I was introduced to an app called Glimpse. I wanted to give it a full run before I blogged about it. This is truly a good way of keeping you safe while you ride, run, travel, or whatever . . . and it’s free.

How many of you ride alone many times and text your route to your spouse or friend, just in case something happens? Well, you should. Now, instead of that, you can use the Glympse app. It’s very easy to use. I just send a Glympse to my wife (it sends in a text message with a link). She clicks on it an boom, showing my speed, direction, and location.

I know that there are things like this out there, but it’s a very clean working application. I like the fact that YOU are in control of sharing your location and how long you want to be tracked (up to four hours), so you can’t be tracked without knowing. You can download it  here. It’s available for IOS, Android, and Windows. No, I’m not the developer (I wish I were), and I have no stake in it. It’s something good for runners and cyclists alike. It’s all about being safe. Try it and let me know what you think. Bon Vélo!

The Art of Cadence

Dizorb.com

Dizorb.com

For many who are new to cycling and those who can’t understand why mile after mile after mile you aren’t getting any better, here is something I noticed in my quest to help others. No, I’m not the know-it-all in the group who is constantly babbling about tips and advice while getting dropped (side note: ever notice that many who have a lot of advice can’t hold the last wheel of the group?) Anywho, here’s what has come to my attention.

For most who ask me what is something they can do to improve (by the way, I rarely give advice without it being asked of me), the first place that I inquire is about his/her cadence work (how many times a minute the pedals go around in a circle). So far, 90% or so of the people whom I ask don’t even have any way of measuring cadence on the bike! Most just point to a speed sensor on the front fork. No, that’s how fast your bike is moving. From there, I began to look at people riding in various places and various riders in groups to see if I could find a cadence monitor on their bikes. Funny thing is that the bikes I saw that do have measurable cadence were the “fast” and “strong” riders of the groups.

So, what is so important about cadence? It’s all about efficiency. This is how to get the most from your body and bike with the least amount of energy consumed or the absolute best way of using the energy that you do have without waste. Think about driving. When you’re on an interstate or highway, if you hammered the gas peddle and backed off and then hammered the gas and backed off for 100 miles, how good would your fuel efficiency be? If you’re traveling in high mountains or a very hilly area, why not put your car on the cruise control and go at a certain “speed”? Fuel efficiency. Cadence on a bicycle helps you be efficient.

What is the ideal cadence, you might ask? Not one. Seriously, it depends on where you are as a cyclist. What a UCI professional does will NOT translate to you . . . I don’t care if you have the same bike he has and wear his kit (please don’t). To judge where you are NOW, use your heart monitor and find a stretch of rode that is flat and runs about 2-3 miles. After a good warm up, ride that whole stretch at 80 rmp and constantly monitor your heart rate; easy pedal back then ride it at 90 rpm; then repeat at 100 rpm. The lowest heart rate wins the title of your perfect cadence for now. As you train in this cadence zone, I promise you’ll see your cadence rising and your heart rate staying down. This is being efficient with your energy. Do NOT be upset if your cadence happens to be lower than 80 right now. It WILL rise.

Ask most CAT riders or any professional, and he/she will say that cadence is important. It is VERY important. As a matter of fact, I personally switched the “big” number on bike’s computer screen to be cadence instead of speed. It is THAT important. Since I have been riding for cadence, my speed and endurance have increased tremendously. After all, interval work (Google it) without cadence work is almost useless. Another added bonus for sprint speed, attack speed, and acceleration out of the turns in a criterium is how quickly you can turn the pedals and for how LONG you can maintain a speed.

In a nutshell, everyone is concerned about speed and endurance. The wrong way of thinking is that slower cadence on a big gear=more power=speed. When in reality, slow cadence in a big gear cooks the legs quickly. Yes, professionals turn a big gear at 100-115 rpm for a long period of time, but it took years of training to get there. Just because you own a swimming pool in your backyard doesn’t mean that you can try to match Michael Phelps lap times. He’s been at a while. But don’t get frustrated. Keep working and trust the method. You WILL see results.

Fill The VOID

secondratecyclist:

This video doesn’t need words . . . if you truly understand cycling.

Originally posted on A RIDERS VIEW:

VOID combines Swedish design heritage with
functionality and performance.
Born out of Swedish road cycling and
created by passionate cyclists with a
background in the technical outdoor industry. 

The Swedish brand have a short history but the people behind it have traveled the road for a while.
The founders felt it was time for a change in the lifestyle industry. Sick and tired of the same old ignorant global strategy forced upon distributors and designers by
corporate brands, they decided it could be done
differently.


VOID1

They have already developed an impressive range of products. Jerseys, tops, jackets, shorts and a nice line of accessories.
I´ve been so lucky to get my hands on their wind jacket in camouflage-design.
The wind jacket is perfect for chilly and crisp days on the bike. I always bring it with me when climbing, because it’s perfect when descending and keeps me protected form the…

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