je ne sais quoi

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Track Racing: Outdoor Edition

Hey There. The entries are definitely getting more and more spaced out as the season winds down...that's been a common theme here, hasn't it? "THE END OF THE SEASON". With the bike racing game, there isn't really a finite "end". It's up to the rider to decide when to stop racing, and look to the offseason and beyond. Me? I'm pretty sure the body was ready to take a break after superweek, but hey. This is socal. There are too many races to do. Too many fast group rides to mess around in, and so on.

So this weekend had scores of options. Ontario 120 degree crit today (which I'm not doing...and no one else is), The San Ardo Road Race (wayyy up north), and the cheapest and most local option: track racing at Encino Velodrome. Times are a bit tough in the checking account, and I think i've maxxxed out the race reimbursements for the year 10-fold, so the $15 track race would be it.
Warm Up

Track racing. It's great. Each time I'm out there, I shoot the schise with a bunch of 'core track dudes. Today was no different: "Aram, you gotta do this, then this, and jump there, and you can win the [insert event name here]." I'm a roadie, and as long as I can go uphill at a reasonable clip or put in a nice sprint after a 4 hour RR, that's where my heart will be. So all these track strategies people talk about...ALL of them would be trumped so nicely if one guy has good legs and a bit of a killer instinct. You can attack the field, do a 2 minute TT, and it's game over. 'Core trackies don't play that game, they got *strategy*, and that's their main competitive advantage against the road guys out on the oval. Unfortunately for me, the days of "good legs and killer instincts" [one is dependent on the other] are way behind me. I still tried, though.
Start of the Scratch Race. Nice T-Shirt to my right patronizing good ol' GW

Encino Velodrome (250m)

#1: 10 lap scratch race
It's a ten lap race. 3 minutes! There really can't be much to report on. Oh, we had a really really small field. Top 5's all the way! Oh, and I upgraded finally, so got to race with the 1/2/3. So in this race: with 7 laps to go, I attacked. Got a gap, held it. With 2 to go, a guy bridged up. I was pretty cooked, but still led out the sprint from the bell to the line. Lost, got second.

#2: Win And Out
First time doing this even. It goes like this: 8 laps. The winner after 8 is out of the race, he wins. But everyone still left has to do one more lap for 2nd, then one more for 3, and so on and so forth. After the first race, I identified myself as the "foolish road guy", so I was marked more closely. This race hurt. Again, I attacked with 3 to go. Got a nice gap, but on guy timed it right and pipped me for the win. It was really close, total bummer. I was exhausted, but had to keep riding! Nope, didn't get second either. Finished 3rd.

#3: Miss and Out
I wanted to win this one. Didn't happen. Got 2nd again. One of the riders was clearly stronger than everyone else. It came down to me and him, and he beat me easily.

#4: Derby
I picked a number out of a hat. 6 laps, I drew position 2. It's basically a scratch race but without a neutral lap. I finished 4th. 6 laps! It was over before I even started breathing. Toooo short.

#5: 30 lap points
I felt really poorly in this one. Gah. I skipped a sprint, in order to attack, maybe lap the field, but gahh, the legs just reallly weren't there. I rolled around like a dead man, and finished 3rd or 4th.

I think that's all the races. I ended up 3rd in the omnium somehow, and got TWO boxes of lara bars. Tasty, for sure.

And let me give this a shot:

Monday, August 21, 2006

We're All Wasted

It's August....I can't really figure out why my legs are still good. My mind is definitely my limiting factor at this point, as it's not really sure why I've been racing for so long with little reprieve. But hey, it's all still really fun. I've got a short (and uninteresting) report to delve into, but before that, definitely check out this clip from the Broadband Racer website. It's a spot-on synopsis to the Manhattan Beach Grand Prix...There's a brief clip of JJ winning the sprint, and though it isn' too clear, you can see me a couple spots back, coasting in...wondering what the hell just happened. I've told the story to 1000 different people already, it seems. I'm getting tired of it, so I might make up something cooler (and shorter) for future "so what happened at manhattan beach?" questions. So, we go from high-profile $10,000 NRC races with Health Nets and Toyotas to $1000 (only if the field is of sufficient size) local races with...umm...HELENS BIKE SHOP.

Today was the CBR Costa Mesa Criterium. Again, I wasn't planning on doing this race, I was supposed to be at camp. This entire week, I've been forcing myself to go places and do things that "I would have been missing" had I been at camp. Eh, it was an okay week...the stress (and expense) of trying to put together a bike was annoying, and 3 front flats in 3 rides almost put me over the edge. But i'm whole again. This morning was tedious. The plan was to ride out at 11am to a friend's place by 12 to bum a ride to the race (no metro to Costa Mesa). I no longer have a rear race wheel (my training wheel is a 36 spoke mavic cxp33 pig), so I borrowed one: Campy Eurus. Awesome wheel, but it had a 13-26 cassette...and I couldn't find my cassette tool in time, so put the 11-21 in a zip lock-bag, and hauled-ass to Santa Monica. Got to the race a full 90 minutes early! Ah...too much time! So I went and had a couple bean burrits at del need lots of calories for these 100k crits...and i'm blessed with a very tolerant stomach. We line up. Usual kids are out. had a couple guys. was well represented. Those guys...EVERY week, they're out there. FULL-team, balls-out racing. Amgen had that exactly once this year. Race starts. The announcing at CBR races is a bit "raw". It's not really "announcing," per se, but more like a couple guys taking turns yelling at the field to "Catch the break!" [dude...we have 500k left, we can give them 6 seconds], or announcing the withdrawal of a particular racer with great zeal. It's a 100k crit, anything goes, I guess. Grassroots. I really want to try my hand at race announcing one day...preferably the lower categories. Honestly!

Yeah, my tangents are annoying, but they're tons more interesting than the race itself, trust me. Okay. The race. It was the first race on my "new" bici. The bike is a size too big, and the cranks are a size too short. If only one of those conditions were the case, it'd be okay, but combining both makes for a strange adjustment. My back hurt a bit on the first couple rides, and with the smaller cranks I was able to sprint better, but everything else took a me gusta. But damn they help kick fast...really cool for sprints and short bridge efforts. So, it's 100k, late season, and I played it mostly conservative for the first 50k. A nice break was off for quite a bit. Christian Valenzuela was in there, and I was pretty sure they'd lap...but no. It came back. A couple minutes later I was in a sure-move: Christian, a SoCal guy, Rudy Napolitano, and myself. Great group, again, but nothing. Came back after a lap. Annoying. Right as the head of the field caught us, Christian snuck into another group the cheeky bastard, and that group lapped. Game over. End of Report. LOTS of crashes...and I've decided that I despise this course. People crash way too often for some reason: The sprint is sketch and dot-ladden, and the dots (those reflector things on lanes) are ALL over the course. I'm not sure who won. Congrats to him. Congrats to my teammate Richard who put in a nice solo dig with 10 laps to go. I think he hung on to finish first after the break. And some fotos........cause we can:

Friday night: me with my brother Ari who's pointing at my shirt indicating that it's actually his.

For Ms. Beard: 2004 Conference Final. Me and that guy crashed in the same race, same turn, same leg. But we looked good doing it. And serrrriously, we're not flexing, that's just how the legs are.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Nova Bici

The New Bike

An Update:

So on Monday morning, I took the remnants of the old 'Dale to Incyclce in Pasadena. "Wow, dude. We've never seen that." Yep. I thought about it again, and wondered if it's possible that the derailleur or wheel (excessive flex during a sprint) may have failed first...but the drive-side dropout's initial break is the most logical explanation.

The staff at Incycle: Top notch. Although the frame wasn't purchased there, they took the frame, and immediately began warranty proceedings. I think my new frame is being built right now. As I was getting ready to leave, the head mechanic saw the frame. "Hey, what frame size is that?" "58"....he went into the storage room, and pulled out a clean 59cm caad7 frame (his own), and said I could borrow it for as long as the warranty process takes. Good guy, for sure. He had no reason to do that, really. He also mentioned that he'd sell the frame to anyone who's interested. 59cm caad7, clean throughout except for a nice ding in the toptube. Accepting offers. Will be available in a month or so, once i'm done with it.

So, I got the frame. I got a great deal on a set of cranks and a bottom bracket (can't use the cranks from the old frame on this one...different BB shell). All that's left is a 10 speed campy-compatible rear derailleur (under $150, so no record/chorus)..........I've called every local shop, and no one has one in stock! I'm gonna try a couple more shops today, and see how it goes. Ain't ridden in way too long. Will go to the track tonight if I can't source a derailleur. Anyone out there (and local) have a 10 speed campy rear derailleur to spare?? email me.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Bummed: MBGP

First: I shouldn't even be writing this. I'm supposed to be up at AYF camp, away from the bike, away from this computer, hanging out with kids, eating crap food, officiating dodgeball, etc etc. I got a call late saturday night informing me that they're "overstaffed". That's all I've got on that. I wasn't angry, just saddened. Anyhow...the whole no-camp thing bummed me out and skewed my motivation for the big race Sunday.

My brother is out of town for the weekend and left me his car, but I still took the train. It's honestly easier, and the parking scene in Manhattan Beach is always a chore. The metro station is about 1 mile from the course -about how far you'd usually park. So I get there, bike was good. Just glued on a new (used) front tubular, degreased the chain, re-lubed, etc. The bike felt good. Why talk about the bike so much? Hm. So rolling around pre-race was fun. You see all these people from Superweek that you don't really know, but you do...'cause you've raced with them way out in the midwest. Surprisingly, I was recognized despite being clean-shaven.

We roll out. The usual NRC superstars are present, largely from the Health Net and Toyota teams. Menzies, JJ, Dominguez, Henderson. Those were the favorites, no doubt. The race started off surprisingly fast, because any time Toyota didn't like what was up the road, they'd shut it down reallllllll quick. Good thing, too. It's always better when a team takes control like that. I felt fine. Again, not too amped up because of the whole exclusion from camp, but hey. A few laps in near turn 2, I heard "Ca-mon Aram!", said in a tone exclusive to my old boss, Marcelo. I [happily] worked at his restaurant a few years back, and we were teammates before then at my first cycling club, Encino Cyclery. You never can forget the people you start the sport with, so it was definitely motivating to have one of them out there cheering.

Right! So I'm riding along gingerly, about 30 wheels back, when I saw a "3" near the start finish area. Kept riding along, and 100 meters later it occurred to me that "wait...3? 3 laps to go? already?" Crazy. The legs were great, lets go! A small hopeless break was allowed to hover 10 seconds in front of the group until the last lap. Before then, the pace slowed quite a bit, and I threw myself into every little hole that opened up. That's what you gotta do. It's amazing how much less hectic these situations are when you look at them systematically. The basic agenda: the closer you get to the finish, the more aggressive (some would say "risky", but hardly) your moves to the front need to be. Sure enough, I got there. With 2 laps to go, the Peleton slowed, got really wide, and I put myself right near JJ (it really helps that they've got their names on their know just who to mark), knowing he'd come out of the swarm in front, and that's exactly what happened. 1 lap to go. Regular, expected chaos. I followed some wheels, kept moving up. Approaching the final "U" turn, I thought "Right on! I'm in the money [top-20] for sure!" Round the turn smoothly, and with great exit speed, and passed a couple people and was on my way to a certain top-10 when 15 meters from the line....hmm. What word or keyboard character do I use to describe what followed? Oh...this will suffice: my frame broke...but I stayed upright, and was able to coast in. I was overtaking the guy that finished 12th place, when, amidst really unnerving and loud noises, I could no longer apply force to the pedals. I began losing speed quickly. A bunch of guys passed me in half a second, followed by a strange lapse in rider-traffic, all while I'm just lunging the bike toward the line...took forever. Money was 20 deep ($200 for 20th, $0 for 21st), and you can imagine how upset and distraught I would have been had I missed out. Results were posted...I nervously walked up, glanced....17th!!! Couldn't believe it. I was happy, but still disappointed....that could have been my NRC top-10. Bummer. But hey, got my biggest single-day check ever, $266. Now it's rough...I have no bike (except the track bike, which, coincidentally, was given to me by Marcelo). Cannondale is awesome when it comes to warranty issues, but who will "warranty" the destroyed rear-derailluer, rear tubular, rear wheel (just the spokes), and skewer? I loved that bike, and i'm sad to see it go. It's won a national championship (TTT Collegiate), the SDSR Road Race/Green Jeresey, lots of bowl sprints, and honestly, it probably has at least 70,000 miles on it. It was really really light, stiffer than all your stupid big-$$$ carbon frames, rode nice, and was easily the best looking bike in the world...Sad to see you go in this way, friend.

Yep, That's my Dad in the Back with a 768lb Marlin he caught in '95.

That's what happened. The dropout just broke off mid-sprint. Then the derailleur got jammed, the pulley bracked broke under the tension, the chain madness...and I didn't crash! Any bike-forensics experts want to chime in on this?

Monday, August 07, 2006

So, it's August...

...and motivation is teetering. Lets go back to the days immediately following the Superweek run. In my head I had it all planned out...I would not allow my body to relapse after a 3 week run of good form. By "relapse" I mean general fatigue and/or sickness. Before I could even put my plan to action, I was ill. I got back from Wisconsin on tuesday, and rode for the first time on thursday night (Rosebowl). Felt amazing on the ride out there. Ready to ride hard and everything, then a couple pedal strokes into my 2nd or 3rd attack (trying to bridge to Gord Mccauley and Christian Valenzuela...who attacked during the "neutral" roll-out), the body hit the off-switch. Nope. I then hopped out of my chase group, rode in the back of the pack for a bit, and even that was too tiring. Gingerly rode home, and as expected, woke up sick the next morning. This same thing happened after San Dimas, in the same way. Won't happen again, I just need to ride easy and not drive cross-country following long runs at big-time form. It wasn't too bad, however...I skipped the race that sunday, and did some mellow rides on monday, and the legs felt fine.

Okay: A road race to report on....Sisquoc. Things were up in the air. A couple teammates were going up, so I figured I'd go. Turns out they wouldn't be able to make it, so I carpooled with a cat 5 friend of mine, and we got out there. First thing I notice upon arrival is that my front tubular is flat. Bummer. I don't know when it flatted. I hadn't ridden it since the final day of Superweek, and inflated it that morning. Bummer. Luckily, Lea Adams was kind enough to let me borrow her spare front wheel. Filled up/mixed my bottles, and we was good to go. Oh. The entry fee for this race was $35. $2 cheaper than Superweek, yeah!! Slight difference, however: Superweek's purse is $3000 per race. This one was $700. Ridiculous. A waste of time, really, but I went anyway, certain that maybe i'd make taco money.

We line up. As I thought: Paltry, low-quality $700 field of 20 guys, max. Bummer. Bowl regulars Valenzuela and Rigo Meza were there. Thurlow and Walker, 10 (I'm serious) LaGrange guys, and a handful of others. Ah well. First lap starts blazing fast. I was having a conversation with one of the Lagrange guys, and bam, giant gap. Typical of such a small field, I guess. We closed it, and eventually, a group of 5 was off. I missed it, but wasn't alarmed. The group was 1 lagrange (not one of their threatening riders), thurlow, walker, rigo, +1 more. A couple minutes later, Thurlow and a LaGrange are dropped from the break. Odd. I ask Thurlow, and it was a pretty genius move: The Lagrange guy wasn't pulling. So Thurlow gapped him off, and waited for him to pull through and back to the group. He didn't, and they came back. It's fine for Thurlow, because the onus is on LaGrange (who, with 500 guys in the group, were not represented in a serious breakaway)......annnnd no. Nothing. LaGrange sat there, and it was game over. Instead of organizing a chase, they sent feeble attacks up the road to try to bridge a 4 minute gap. Eh. Eventually, they got 1 guy up the road a good way, with Thurlow. So now it's 3 up the road, 2 in between, and a peleton of maybe 10 left? Eh. I still wanted to get across to that second group...they were only 1 minute up the road. The legs felt good, and did what I asked of them. I put in some hard moves, and knew LaGrange would have to bring me back, and was pretty upset after a particularly long solo bridge-attempt that failed...Some of the individual (without teammates) riders pegged themselves at the front in an effort to bring me back. Idiotic. I had some words, and I think they understood that in fact, it should be LaGrange to have to chase me down. Eh. Shortly afterward, I attacked again, taking a weaker LaGrange guy with me. I knew he wouldn't work, but I didn't mind dragging him along for however many miles -he's not gonna gap or outsprint me, no worries. As expected, the group let it go. The legs were good, and we had a minute or so. seat came off. Yeah. Game over. I made a U turn, got my seat, and waited for the peleton. Rode the 1k to the feedzone, and pulled off. One guy had tools/parts lying around, and got it working, but I lost a good 5 minutes. I rode the final 3 laps solo, dehydrated, with my bottom bracket clicking loudly with every stroke. THAT'S really annoying. Eh. Ended up 13th, I guess a few guys dropped out. On a positive note, I officially have the best/safest/fastest downhill tuck in the history of cycling. And on an ironic note, my bike was STELLAr for all of july through crazy crits and crashes and rain and all that, and in my first race back here I get the front flat, the atrocious noise from the BB, the broken seatpost....

Coming Up:

Manhattan Beach 8/13 $10,000
North Park Classic San Diego 9/3 $6000

Gotta keep the form going for at least another month...somehow...even with that F-in bottom bracket noise. Also, immediately after Manhattan Beach, I go up to AYF camp for a week. A week off the bike, could be just what I need to help prolong the season a bit more.

And some photos:

Riding to the Rosebowl
Giro D'Italia...right here in SoCal

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Superweek Photo Special #2

Day 3: The Skies Opened Up Reallll Good For 10 Minutes...So We Shook Our Fists In Anger

Like All Things: Sexier When Wet & Soapy

Casa Koss: This Was Home. I Miss It.

I Was Completely Enamoured With This. Anyone Else? Anyone Ever Eat One?

Revelry: After Shorewood. (L-R) Aram, Cameron, Rassan, Nate
Beers [Indirectly] Courtesy of Karl Menzies.

Nate Loyal: Superweek MVP. Thanks For All The Help, Guy.

Bonus Points If You Guess Where I Am.
It Was 100+ Degrees With FULL Humidity, Too.

Superweek Start Madness.

Revelry: After the Green Bay Crit. The Veggie Sandwich Was Surprisingly Delicious. (L-R) Paul Che, Manny Suarez, Bearded Man.

Apparently, Cigarette Prices Are So Volatile, They Necessitate a Spot On The Marquee.

Somewhere Between Wisconsin & Los Angeles.

Did Lots Of This.