Monday 21 May 2007

Trials and Time Trials

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Saturday was supposed to be kind of crummy, overcast in the morning with rain in the afternoon. Larry, Tim and I agreed to meet to ride the famous Maryland climbing trifecta of Shookstown Road, Gambrill Hill and Harp Hill, leaving from Frederick. The goal was to do about 60 miles (100 km) in preparation for next week's Mountains of Misery. I suggested we leave a bit later from Washington as indicated fog in Frederick so we rolled out at 9:10 am under clear blue skies. I felt good and so did Tim, who immediately set a serious pace as we approached Shookstown Road. Larry, true to form as a Lost Boy, was behind us and missed the turn, so we had to wait for him. But was there ever a ride where this did not happen?

Anyway, Tim zoomed up the road and I was close behind. The squeaking in my bottom bracket began again, to my annoyance. I have covered almost every possible cause of this, but there is one more that might be the solution. At the intersection of Shookstown and Gambrill I could see Tim just ahead, but I decided to wait for Larry and ride up with him. We caught up to Tim at the top of the hill and then I took the lead as we headed toward Highland School Road and the terrifying descent.

Unfortunately, we never got there. As I cruised up and down the rollers, I shifted into a bigger gear and nothing much happened. Still bigger and still nothing... I stopped to look and discovered that there was something wrong with my rear hub. When you turn the crankarms the cassette turns but it does not engage the wheel. So that was the end of my ride.

Luckily I was not alone. Tim and Larry went back to Frederick and came back with my car in half an hour. I loaded the bike back in and then discovered I could not get my right cycling shoe off! This was my day of mechanical issues, I guess. I pulled the tab over so at least I could slide the shoe off my foot, leaving an examination of the problem until later. Larry and Tim decided they would not do any more riding either, so we all drove back to Zi di Pani in Frederick and had coffee and bagels before heading home after only, for me, 18 km of riding on a perfect day, weather-wise.

When I was back in Washington, I immediately took the bike to a new shop on Q Street, where the grumpy, tattooed mechanic suggested I call the wheel manufacturer about warranty coverage. He checked the bottom bracket for me as well, but said it was fine and suggested the problem could be my cleats being worn out--the last possibility on my list! I have already ordered new Speedplay cleats and should have them in a day or so and we can see if this is the final resolution. I don't want to creak up and down all those Mountains of Misery next weekend.

And I want my wheel back. When I e-mailed John Neugent at Neuvation, he responded immediately. He was pretty sure that the problem was not the hub but the wire in the cassette body, and that seems to be the case. He will send me a new cassette body by priority mail and I should have everything back in order before I drive to Blacksburg on Friday.

Another day, another time trial

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Leader bike with the new Renn disc wheel

After much soul-searching, I registered at the last moment for the Carlisle 40 km time trial in Pennsylvania, as well as the South Mountain Hill Climb.

Getting up at 4:00 am (!), I had already put most things in the car but brought down the Leader bike with the new disc wheel and the Tarmac, now with the Leader's rear Velocity wheel as a temporary expedient while the Neuvation awaits the new part. The drive out to Carlisle took about 2 hours and I passed through some bands of rain on the way. But the directions were very good and I found the school where the ride began. There were probably about 45 riders and, judging from the machinery, they were primed for serious riding.

The organizer assured me that the ride would be pretty flat but that we would have a strong headwind on the outward leg, with the reward of a good tailwind coming back. I wanted to ride faster than my time of 1:06:51 in Harrisburg two weeks ago but the wind, which was gusting up to 30 km/h (18 mph) had me worried. I set up quickly in the parking lot and, with most of the other contestants, began my warm-up on the trainer.

There seemed to be a bit of confusion at the start, which was about 1.5 miles from the school. We had been given popsicle sticks with our start number on them and someone else had the same number as me. It was pretty informal though and they just let me go ahead and start anyway. Straight into a massive headwind, and straight into some rolling hills. The route was definitely not flat, albeit no Mountains of Misery. I was really worried as within 2 kms my legs started to hurt and my heart rate reached 164 bpm. I relaxed and concentrated on countering the wind and it steadily came down to an acceptable 151-155, reaching 163-5 on the hills.

The road was pretty good, although there were places where the shoulder was narrow. At one point a series of Amish buggies passed in the other direction, and some Amish kids on bicycles. Not on bikes like ours, needless to say...

After the turnaround things got much easier and the tailwind worked to my advantage. Unfortunately, I was getting tired much earlier than I had hoped and I was desperate to hold on until the end. I was soaking wet with exertion, and I could hear the disc wheel drumming, the sound echoing through the aerohelmet. And all of a sudden there was a quick downhill and I passed the orange cones marking the end of the course. Although I am waiting for the official results, I think my time was 1:04:30 or so. Good but the wind had clearly hurt. And it will be a while before I get that "40 km in One Hour" t-shirt I crave. There are two more time trials in the series. As for South Mountain, the idea of doing a 7 mile uphill race at noon was no longer very appealing.

I chatted with some NCVC riders who had driven in, as well as a New Yorker who worked for Bicycling magazine and had a beautiful Pinarello tt bike. In the end, he came second overall, with a time of 53 minutes. The fastest rider did an unbelievable 50 minutes, a course record.

Landscape near Carlisle

A long relaxed drive home, including a little excursion through the Pennsylvania and Maryland countryside, including a stop in historic Greencastle, PA to visit Greencastle Coffee Roasters and buy fresh-roasted peanuts and loose tea. Then a well-deserved nap back in Washington!

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