Monday, July 27, 2009

It Never Get's Old

"It never get's old" - I heard Mike Reilly say that as a multi-time finisher came down the chute yesterday afternoon. And he's right. There is something about these races. Perhaps it's the audacity of the distances. I have been to many IM events over the years going back to my first in 1989, as an athlete, as a journalist, as a spectator, as an event sponsor, race announcer, TV Commentator, spousal supporter etc . . and Mike's right - it never seems to get old. Yesterday at the 11th IMLP race that was indeed the case. The race, the drama, the emotion, the challenge, . . it was all there in spades.

IM race days put you in some weird time vacumn. If you are involved at any level, you are up at an insanely early hour in the morning and you are on-the-go until midnight that night, yet the day seems to go by in a flash. There is never any time that you are thinking, that things are taking a long time. You always want each of all the many and blurred moments in the day to just keep going on and on.

Some highlights/comments:

- Huge shout-out and congratulations to Tereza Macel. No question the race of the day. First out of the water in the Pro Race and first onto the bike then duking it out with the top men deep into the bike. This was a BIG win for her and a massive jump up in her performance. I will also note that this was the first real big triathlon race win for the Cervelo P4. Let the flames begin!

- Thank you to the weather. On the whole it was pretty good. But Mother nature did decide to dish out a bit of everything on race day to make it interesting. Monsoon rains right at the start of the swim and early in the bike - had many thinking about a repeat of last year. Then clearing. Then sunny. Then humid. Then windy. Then threatening rain again, but back to sun for the rest of the day. Maybe they should change the name of IMLP to the Weatherman!! :) You get a bit of everything here!

- The WTC continues to produce the best, big event triathlons in the sport. It's been a year of significant changes behind the scenes, but again, the massive logistics and all the details were taken care of, and well in hand with RD Jeff Edwards, his team and the WTC.

- I continue to be amazed at the growth, the enthusiasm and the passion of the people in this sport. Supposedly, we are suffering from the worst economic conditions since the Great Depression, but if you live in the triathlon bubble, you would have no idea of what's going on in the outside world. Maybe this is a good thing. Perhaps it's not. Who knows? Thank you to all of those passionate and amazing triathletes.

- Onto the dark side for a bit. Never underestimate, the challenge of the Ironman distance - this race has humbled and torn to shreds some of the fittest and best endurance athletes on the planet. It's not something to take lightly. Again, we saw a lot of that yesterday. Many falling far behind their expectations and plans. However, no matter what happens, no matter the time on the clock or the place in the results sheet, if you swam, cycled and ran that far in a day, you have really done something special. In more Reilly-speak - " You are an Ironman"!!

- Finally, for the first time ever, and I have seen a lot of these things over the years, I got really, and I mean really, caught up in the drama and the emotion of the final finisher(s) and the drive and the guts that it takes to get to the finish line of an Ironman. I won't go into Matthew Long's whole story. Words are hard to come by to describe what he's been through. The WTC gave Matt, my wife, Paolina Allan's original race number( #43) at the last minute and moved her to #45. MissP was just smashed, after her race(after finishing a well-earned 5th place in the woman's race and getting a spot for Ironman Hawaii), but we were sitting on the side of the road, about 2 miles out from the finish watching the last finishers after 11:00pm and along comes Matt. Paolina goes out on the road and starts walking along with Matt( Picture above). Tells him the story of the switched numbers. They embrace. Paolina tells Matt, that when she was at her worst during her race, she thought of Matt. That and the number change gave her strength and spirit. We both fell in with many others and started walking/running along with Matt to the finish line. It was the least we could do. We all supported and cheered him every step of the way over that last little bit right to the line just under the time cut-off. Both MissP and I stood there at the finish line with tears running down our face. Emotional stuff, to be sure.

Indeed - It never gets old!

Thanks IMLP. Thanks WTC and thanks to the Town of Lake Placid.

Friday, July 3, 2009

And So It Begins - 2009 Tour de France

The Tour de France is set to start off tomorrow in Monaco with a technical 15K Time Trial. The length of this starting stage, much longer than the traditional Tour start Prologue of 5 - 6K, should see most of the race favorites and the obvious Time Trial specialists up at the top of the standings from the get-go.

This year's Tour de France, is shaping up to be perhaps the most dramatic and exciting in years. The unusual start, will make it even more so. Normally after the Prologue, there are a string of reasonably flat to rolling "Sprinters" stages in the first week. The real action not coming for a number of days - often with some unknown rider, a Time Trial specialist or a sprinter in the Yellow jersey. This year should, and with the stages that are coming up this week and into next weekend, the main protagonists for the Yellow Jersey will be right down to business.

Naturally much of the talk has surrounded the return of 7-time Tour de France Winner Lance Armstrong, and in particular what is going to happen on his Astana team with so many former Tour de France Podium placers and the best Grand Tour ride in the World and the 2007 Tour de France champion, Alberto Contador - all on the same team. There has never been a team coming into the Tour de France with so much General Classification( GC) fire-power as Astana has. But Armstrong proved repeatedly in his 7-Tour wins that GC- fire-power was not essential to winning the Grande Boucle. What's key, is having a team totally focus and in many cases sacrifice themselves, for one supreme team leader. That is the model that has the most success at the Tour de France. So, much of the drama will be seeing how things un-fold for Astana - who will be the leader, who will help and what will happen.

Back to defend, his win from last year will be Spaniard, Carlos Sastre. Once again Sastre will be aboard a Cervelo bicycle.( See picture above). This year Canadian and Toronto based Cervelo is the sponsor of a team in the Pro Tour - the Cervelo Test Team - another first for Cervelo, a company that just keeps going from great to greater. More than a few had written the team off, but the Cervelo team as acquitted itself well this season with some significant wins, and podium finishes at many of the key bikes races of the year as well as, great support for Sastre's 4th place finish at the Giro d'Italia - which was really a training junket. Cervelo co-founder Gerard Vroomen was interviewed on CBC radio this morning about what he though both Sastre and the teams chances were. Vroomen comments seem surprising given the cut-throat nature of sport at this level. Listen to the interview with the CBC's Matt Galloway here. Sastre will have his hands full over the three weeks of the Tour, but as he proved in the Giro, big stage racing can often come down to one, key stage and one key move - that's what did it for Sastre last year at the Tour de France and as well as at the recent Giro. The rest of the time it's about staying in the game or limiting your losses where you are not as strong.

Following the Tour de France has never been easier. In most parts of the world there will be same day live coverage of each stage. As well, there are many web sites to track and follow whats going on. A selection I have listed below: - TV Coverage in Canada - TV coverage in the U.S. - the bible of pro cycling news coverage - Outstanding stage by stage pictures

Cervelo Test Team

Cervelo Test Team Twitter

Lance Armstrong Twitter

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Rough Ride

Just came back in from a very pleasant 60K ride. Some of it was on gravel and dirt roads. In fact, to access some of the really nice roads on this ride, I needed to ride along the un-paved roads.

I find that many triathletes and cyclists tend to panic, when the pavement ends or the pavement gets a bit rough. I was on a large group ride a few years ago and the entire group voted to back-track about 30K to avoid riding about one kilometer on what I knew was a good gravel road!Then at Ironman Hawaii last year, there was about a 200m section of the bike course on the Queen K highway that had been roughened as they do prior to putting on the final layer of asphalt. Unfortunately they were not going to be able to get this finished in time before the race. I was surprised that this caused quite a bit of consternation and questions at both the Pro meeting and the Age- Group meeting. Some Age-Groupers, seem terrified about this stretch of slightly rougher pavement, saying they might have to dismount and walk it!!

There really is no need to panic. Riding on rougher pavement or even gravel or dirt roads should be a skill that triathletes and cyclists should master. You never know when you'll encounter rough pavement when racing and in training, and as I pointed out, sometimes the gravel and dirt roads can open up whole new places to ride.

Some things to keep in mind when hitting the rough stuff:

1. Don't panic - being relaxed is the most important thing.

2. Shift to a bigger gear on rough pavmement. This may seem counter intuitive, but by shifting to a bigger gear more weight/pressure is shifted to your legs and they are far better shock absorbers than your butt is! Pedal RPM's may drop but that is OK.

2A. On loose gravel and dirt, a higher pedal RPM may be required - so shifting to a smaller gear may be needed. The gyroscopic effect of the legs and wheels turning over will help keep you up-right.

3. Keep the weight rear-wards on the bike by riding as far back on the saddle as you can. This will improve traction in the rear and better balance the weight on the bike for rough riding.

4. Don't have a death-grip on the handle bars. Again counter-intuitive, a lighter grip is better. Let the front end of the bike do it's own thing and steer with a light touch and with very subtle movements.

5. For the really big bumps and hits, get out of the saddle slightly and let the legs fully absorb the shock.

6. On gravel and dirt roads, there is often a smooth groove - either where the car tires have been running the most, or at the fringe in the loose, fine gravel and dirt. It's often a substantially smoother in these areas.

7. If standing to climb on gravel or dirt, try and keep the weight back over the rear wheel, other wise you will spin it out and risk going down. Generally, you are better seated, and as noted in 2A - riding in a smaller gear, and keeping pedal RPM high on gravel and dirt.

8. When descending a hill on gravel or dirt - keep weight back and, using the brakes sparingly and subtly - heavy braking will cause either front or back wheel to lock-up and slide, and that's never a good thing.

9. I know that lots of triathletes like to carry lots of stuff on their bikes. If you know you'll be hitting rough pavement or gravel or dirt roads try and minimize this - if it get really rough there is a good chance it's going to come flying off.

10. Don't panic!

Hope this helps.

Picture at the top is of part of the Paris- Roubaix road race course in France/Belgium. Now that is a rough ride!