Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Afton, Chicago Tri, and new bike goodies!

Hello everyone! What a fun, busy weekend. It feels like I haven't had a weekend off in a long time with France, Trek World, 24 hour races, etc. So this Labor Day weekend is going to be glorious!

On Fri and Sat was the 24 Hours of Afton (solo-style) with Trent, Vino, Sears, Chuck, and myself partaking in the fun. I have no fun pictures from the event, but Vino has some good ones over on his blog. Long story short was that I had 11 laps in by noon (race ends at 5pm), but my left knee, which had been bothering me since about 2am, really started to hurt on that 11th lap. Could barely push down or pull up on the pedal. So I decided to call it a race at that point. I didn't want to risk screwing it up. I was in 6th place at that point (out of 72 soloists), but ended up in 11th place after all was said and done. Not too shabby, but looking at the results, I think I could have ended up top 5 if I could have continued, so that's disappointing. Oh well, that's racing. Trent had a KICK-ASS race, dropping 40 min (!!!) from his last year's lap time and doing 6 laps. Now we need to convince Tonia that he needs a 07 Trek Top Fuel 8. Vino was suffering from 'emotional problems' and had to end his race at 3am. Sears did very well on his fixie (another person that needs a new bike! ;) ) and did 3 laps. I can't imagine doing that course without being able to coast. Chuck had a kick butt race as well, finishing with 10 laps. He also brought his huge RV. Thanks for the post-race shower! The plans for next year are still up in the air...we are switching things up by doing 24hr of 9mile solo...and then doing another race (possibly Afton) as a team.

Big thanks go out to Tonia for being our only support 'pit girl', Auntie Alane and Dick for providing company and bringing deviled eggs (as well as a place for me to stay, post-race), and Kerkove for kicking all of our asses.

While we were all suffering in MN, Heather and Mary went to Chicago for the Chicago Triathlon. They both did really well! Mary kicked some major butt, taking 10th in age group (out of 337), 381st overall (out of 3722). Heather got 62nd in the same age group and 1244th overall. They are both already planning on improving next year. Heather's goal is top 30, and Mary's is top 5. Brooks and I will have to push them extra hard. :) Here is a pic of the two lovely ladies:
With the extra money earned from Trek World, I decided to buy myself some early bday gifts. I love my Mavic Ksyrium's, but I wanted a more aero wheelset as well, so I picked up a pair of the Mavic Cosmic Carbone SL's. They look fast just sitting there on the Madone. I will still use the Ksyrium's for most everyday use, but will probably bust these bad boys out for races. I also found out that the bike that Heather wants for next season (Equinox 7 WSD) comes with 700c wheels instead of 650c this year, so she can use these for her tri's as well. Works out nicely.
Then I also got some new cranks for the XO-1. I wanted an external BB on there, and these carbon Bontrager cranks are quite pimp. Very sweet.
That's about all I know for now. I will be visiting the Ski and Bike Shop sometime soon for their Ascend install, so that will be fun. Have a week off from racing now, then I have another WORS mtb race followed by the Chequamegon Fat Tire 40 race. 2500 racers taking off at once...oh joy! Hopefully my knee feels better soon! :)

Hope you all have a good Labor Day weekend.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Trek World...lots of 2007 bike products!

Attention: Bike geek post below. Proceed at your own risk. :)

Hello all! Back from France, and I am immediately thrust into the busiest work week of the year...Trek World. Trek World is Trek's huge dealer show to show off all of next year's product lines. Needless to say, it is ALOT of hours (but I can make up the hours that I missed last week, plus get hella overtime). But I also get the chance to drool over some of next year's coolest bikes and products before they reach the dealer floors. Here is a sample of some of my favs:

Quite possibly the coolest thing that they are unveiling this year, the Trek Mod. It is a kids big wheel-like bike, made with steel and a freewheel on the front wheel. Super cool, just like the Trikester.
Could this be Heather's new bike this fall/winter? A Trek Equinox 7 WSD in cool light blue color. Equipped nicely right out of the box ready for her to kick butt in next year's tri season.
The new carbon cross fork from Bontrager on the new Trek XO-2 cross bike. All carbon blades with an aluminum steerer tube. Very nice...but I still like my Reynolds. :)
The complete bike pic of the Trek XO-2. They shaved almost 3 lbs with this bike coming from the XO-1 by putting Ultegra on it, better wheels, and the carbon fork. Very cool bike.
Here is one of the pimpiest looking bikes at this year's show in my opinion. They took one of the brand new 6.9 SL Madone frames (sub 900 grams) and put a new style Project One paint job on it. This paint job allows you to pick 3 different colors of your choice! Looks especially pimpy with the white tape, seat, and red-spoked wheels.
The new LeMond Poprad cross bike, in metallic red with retro white panels. The Poprad is only offered in the disc version this year. Also has the carbon Switchblade fork.
Sweet! The new Shimano XTR group is kick ass. So many options, with different rear derailleurs (standard or rapid-rise), shifters (rapidfire or dual control), etc. Here are the new cranks. The finish on them is really cool...and won't dull like the current style.
The new LeMond Triumphe series, with funky Min/Max tubing. Check out that wide seatstay! Very light though.
The new XTR rear derailleur. Machined goodness. The new rapidfire shifters take a page from the SRAM mtb shifters by allowing down-shifting by pushing or pulling on it from either direction. Speaking of SRAM, they have a booth setup here with some demo bikes, so I checked out their new road groups. I thought they looked cool. The shifters are definitely simple with just one lever for shifting both ways...might take a bit of time to get used to while on the road though. I'll stick with my Dura-Ace. :)
The totally redesigned Trek Fuel bikes. This is the Top Fuel 9.9. Better functioning rear suspension, and much lighter than previous years at around 23-24 lb. They also make a Top Fuel SL that weighs in around 21-22 lb.
The Trek 69er with 29 inch front wheel and 26 rear wheel. Single speed with Maverick front fork. Crazy.
That's all I've got for now. Better get going to bed, as I've got another long day tomorrow. Hope all is well with everyone!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

France Day 7...and beyond

And here it is...the last update from our honeymoon. What a great trip. It was sad to leave, but at the same time good to get back home. We'll start out with some pics from our last day in France, and our day of flights.

Here is a pic of John Norris (no relation to Chuck), the photographer that Trek Travel hired to ride along on our trip to take pics for next year's brochure and website. He is an amazing photographer, some of the shots that he got were unbelievable. He is also quite fearless, climbing up on mountain ridges to get pics of us biking by, as well as taking lots of shots while he was riding alongside us...carrying a 20lb camera! You should check out his website, here. He gave all of us a book of some of his photos, and here he is signing our copy:

Our last day in France we took the cable car to the top of the glacier across from our chalet. The views from up there were astounding. Look...snow and ice!
We also explored the ice caves that were up there. They had carved animals out of some of the ice. Pretty cool. Here's spelunker Brian:
They had a stone table up there with all the names of the mountains that you could see. In the distance (to the right of the little village on the left) is Alpe d'Huez.
Here are the newlyweds. We were literally among the clouds at this height. It was a 40min cable car ride just to get to the top. To the right of us, and way far off in the distance, is Galibier.
We had to fly through Belgium again on our return trip. I sampled a chocolate covered Belgian waffle at the airport. Tasty.

As usual, here is the link to the rest of the pics: France Day 7

Our last night was spent in Lyon, France after a train ride from Grenoble. The train was fun. We stayed at the Radisson SAS, which is the tallest hotel in Europe. It really wasn't that tall though...something like 35 stories, and the bottom 29 floors were for a bank (Credit Lyonnais). False advertising! :)

The airports weren't too bad yesterday. A little bit of a hold up in Brussels because we had to check EVERYTHING. I walked onto the plane for the 9hr trip to Chicago with just my wallet, passport, and boarding passes. Then we had to pick up all of our bags in Chicago, then re-check them for the journey to Madison. But we got to keep our carry-on bags for that flight. Not too many bad lines though, so that was good.

And then we arrived back to our home, greeted by little Vontoux (who was quite excited). This trip was awesome. It was a cyclist's dream vacation, and there was so much fun stuff to do off the bikes as well. Trek Travel is amazing, they took care of everything. The hotels were great, the meals as well (lots of cheese and wine). The riding was breathtaking and challenging. Heather and I have already said that we want to do another Trek Travel trip...probably not for another 3-5 years though because of the cost. The hard part will be deciding what the destination will be!

The End. :)

Thursday, August 10, 2006

France Day 6

Today was a cyclist's dream day. Climbing the 14km Alpe d'Huez, the most famous Tour climb of them all. As has been the case for our entire trip, the weather was excellent. Let's get right to the pics:

Our nice paceline leading right to the base of the mountain. We had a nice, leisurely 20km descent before reaching the base. Then the fun began. The first 3km are by far the steepest, with sections as high as 14% gradient, but then it mellows out as the climb progresses.
So close....I've heard that around 1 hour is good for amateur racers, so I was hoping for a sub-hour time, but 1:02:32 wasn't too bad. I definitely didn't go all out (we still had more riding to do after the climb...and the legs were feeling a bit heavy with all the miles this week), so I think I could have done around a 56-57min. I can rest assured knowing that the last few pros this year in the Tour did it in around 54min. ;) Heather beat Sheryl Crow by over 3min, posting a time of 1:27:00. :)
Holy cow, there's a hockey rink on the top of Alpe d'Huez! They were actually playing hockey there when we first got to the summit, but by the time we had changed and eaten (there are many fine diners up there), they were having some sort of pleasure skate.
The whole gang (minus our two guides, Stephanie and Shannon, and our Trek Travel photographer, John). From left to right...Tom from DC, Tim from Spain, Jake from CA, Craig from NC, myself and Heather, and Becca and Peter from PA.
There are 21 switchbacks an Alpe d'Huez, and they are all numbered with the rider that won the stage up Alpe d'Huez during the Tour. Here's switchback 5, with none other than Andy Hampsten. Cool.
The view on the way back down the mountain. What a fun descent as well.
As you keep going down, you can look out and see all the switchbacks below. The climb starts in the town in the background, so this view shows the first 5 or 6 switchbacks.
As usual, here is a link to the rest of the pics from today's awesome ride: Get your pics!

And that concludes the riding portion of our Trek Travel trip, unfortunately. Tomorrow morning we are taking the cable car up to the glacier across from our chalet to play in the ice caves and stuff. Should be a blast. Then it is off to the train station to head to Lyon for our last night in France. The week went by much too quickly....

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

France Day 4 and 5

Hello bloggers. Sorry for missing one day...yesterday was a VERY long day, and we didn't get our hotel 'internet box' until today. So today's post will be a double-day extravaganza.

So, first things first, I will answer some questions from the comments: It would have been a tandem paraglide jump, so we would have gone with an experienced paraglider. We have not seen a single bidet here yet. I asked our guides and they said that bidets are not as popular in this region of France. I keep my camera in my jersey pocket and take most of the pics on the fly, but some during breaks as well. Some of the views are so amazing that you just have to stop and look around for a bit. I will take a pic of the map bag for you attaches with two velcro straps. KOM (king of the mountain) points are given on Tour stages to the people that cross the top of the mountain first. Turd Ferguson is a solo rider...haven't seen him though. :)

France Day 4: Wow. That's it. What a long, epic day in the saddle (6+ hours!). First and foremost, I would like to say that Heather is AMAZING. We were given many options by our guides of how far we wanted to ride on this huge day, and Heather was the only girl that chose to ride the ENTIRE route (even our guides, who are both girls, rode the shortened route). Of the 9 guests, only 5 did the whole thing, and one of them was Heather. She was awesome. The day's ride looked like this: 130km (80miles)...a 70km 'warmup' with a few smaller climbs, then the 13km long Col de Telegraphe, then the brutally long 18km Col de Galibier. Follow that with a 20km descent to our hotel. The Telegraphe and the Galibier are two of the hardest Tour de France climbs, and we did them back-to-back (with only a 5km descent separating them). Heather and I rode together all the way to the base of the Telegraphe, where we decided to start riding at our own paces. Heather finished it off very strongly (almost catching a couple of the guys!!). I am happy to say that Heather and I were given the Queen and King of the Mountain awards at the end of the day for being the first male and female from our group to summit the Galibier! On to the pics...

Here are Heather and I at the beginning of this epic day. We're smiling because we had no clue of what was in store for us... ;)

Here is the base of the Telegraphe. We took the right hand turn and then started climbing that big mountain in the background.
The view from the top of the Telegraphe was amazing (5140 feet elevation). The climb itself was really cool as well. All tree-lined, and the gradient was very steady, so you could really get into a rhythm while pedaling. A very enjoyable 13km. :)
The base of the Galibier. This 18km climb is very deceiving, as it starts out very mellow and then really kicks up with 9km to go. It hurt. Especially being that we had already ridden over 90km before reaching it.
The summit of the Galibier (8700 feet in elevation!!). We were literally in the clouds at this height. It was very windy and very cold. It was around 90 degrees at the base of the climb, and it dropped to only 50 at the summit. Crazy. This pic shows the last few switchbacks.
Here is a shot of the King and Queen next to the very popular sign. After this was a very cold descent.
It was a very tiring day. But WELL worth it. It was an amazing experience. Following the ride, we had a nice social hour with all of the other guests, then went to a really cool restaurant for a well-earned dinner. Our hotel that we are staying at is INCREDIBLE. The views are unbelievable. This is the same hotel that the Discovery Team stays at during the Tour.

I highly recommend taking a look at their website. Hit the Virtual Visit button. Amazing.

France Day 5: Today was a 'rest' day, so it was only 80km (50miles). :) There weren't too many climbs, just a few short, steep ones. We took a cable car to the top of Les Deux Alpes (another Tour climb), then ate lunch at one of the cafes up at the summit. There were people skiing and biking up there. Weird. Then we descended the mountain on our bikes. Here are some pics:

Here is Heather on the balcony of our chalet room. Yes, that is a glacier in the background. I told you the view was amazing. :)

Getting ready for the descent of Les Deux Alpes. This was a really fun descent. Heavily forested with smooth asphalt. I hit close to 55mph before having to brake for the switchbacks.
Here are the photo albums from the last two days:

France Day 4 ............. and ............ France Day 5

Tomorrow we get to climb the most famous Tour climb of all, Alpe d'Huez. Should be great. Talk to you all soon!

Monday, August 07, 2006

France: Day 3

Hello everyone once again! What a day of riding today! Two big climbs were summitted today in our 52 miles of riding, the Col de Leschaux and the Col de la Forclaz. The ride started out with a ride around Lake Annecy, with the Leschaux climb thrown in for good measure. It wasn't too steep of a climb, but nice and long at 11km. It offered very nice views of Annecy and the lake below though:
After having lunch in Annecy (pizza...pretty good), we took off for our 2nd big climb, the Forclaz, which was ridden in the 2004 Tour de France. This climb was not as long (9km), but really got steep for the last 4km. One of the other trip riders has a GPS unit, and he saw grades as steep as 13% on his computer for the last 4km! Here is a pic of the Forclaz at the base: And here it is at the summit (3775 feet in elevation). All those people are gathered watching the paragliders, which take off on a ramp to the left of the pic. Unfortunately, our earlier plan to paraglide had to be cancelled, as the winds in the valley where they land were too high, so they were very backed up. So we spent some time at the souvenir shops instead. :) Cowbells are very popular in this area, as well as stuffed animal marmots (evidently marmots are all over on the climb up Galibier, and they whistle at you!). So we got a couple cool cowbells and some postcards.
We both did very well on the climb up the Forclaz. A few of the other trip riders were using too much energy up the Leschaux and were paying the price on the Forclaz. I got full KOM points among our travel companions at the summit, and Heather powered her way up the climb so much that one of our guides compared her to Jan Ullrich! That's my girl! :)

Once again, here is a link to the snapfish album for today's pictures: Click me!

Tomorrow is the biggest day of the trip, with 3 huge climbs (including the Galibier, the highest mountain pass crossed in the Tour de France) over 80 miles. I best be getting some sleep. Hope all is well back in the States!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

France: Day 1 and 2

Hello everyone from Annecy, France! Heather and I arrived safely here on Sat afternoon after a joyous 9 hour flight.

First things first...the 24 hour race in Wausau, WI was a blast. It was great seeing the guys (Trent, Simmons, Sears, and Greg) and we had a lot of fun. That course is really fun. Especially at night. We got 22nd as a team. Not too shabby for a team 'taking it easy' for the national championship race. Simmons (Vino) has a great race recap here.

We left Madison on Fri afternoon (Thanks Brooks and Mary for dropping us off at the airport...and for taking care of Vontoux, Birdie, and Gordon!!!). Went to Chicago first before heading to Brussels, Belgium. After hearing so much about the rainy, crappy weather conditions for all the spring cycling classics in Belgium, I was not surprised when we arrived in Brussels to wet and rainy weather. We had a few hour layover there before we boarded our plane for Geneva, Switzerland. We didn't stay long there though, as once we picked up our luggage we hopped into a cab to take us to our current location of Annecy, France (just a quick 45min cab ride).

Annecy is a real cool town that is right on Lake Annecy, the cleanest lake in all of France. Very clear. Heather was amused by this older man walking his dog in a suit along the lake, so I took a pic of him:

We met our tour companions early this morning for our first day of riding. There are only 9 people total on our trip, so a pretty small group. A cool group of people, including a Trek Travel photographer, so odds are good that we will be in the Trek Travel booklet for next year. :) We had a good ride today, a little over 30miles with a couple of smaller climbs. Here we are at the top of one of them:

After riding, we took a nice swim in Lake Annecy, which is also quite warm. Then we had dinner at the hotel, and we got a little dressed up. It was also a special day for Heather, as it was her birthday. Here's the birthday girl, looking all cute posing on a couch:

You should check out the website for the hotel that we are staying looks like a castle and is right on the lake. The website can be found here. You should also take a look at the other pics that we took from the last few days. I put together a SnapFish album for all of them here.

Tomorrow will be a very fun day as well. We take a ride around the lake, then climb our first major climb, the Col de la Forclaz. Also, once we get to the top of Forclaz, we are going to paraglide off the top of it! The tour guides got us all a group discount, so it was an added 'bonus' to our trip. Should be a great time! Talk with you all tomorrow!