Friday, May 30, 2008

TGIF

Last night as I rode home my legs hurt, and then my head, and then I had a sore throat, a resurgence of last week's annoying cold. I was disappointed not only because I felt lousy but because I could not ride the OBC Thursday time trial that was scheduled for my training. Instead I spent the evening drinking tea and watching "Lost" on television. I don't watch much tv and had never seen this before. It was quite interesting (it must surely be filmed in lush Hawaii) but completely baffling.

This morning I got up early and felt much better. I left home, riding BlackAdder off into the cool sunshine, and took the longer way in, along the Rideau River bike path. Crossing the triple bridge, I pulled off onto a little island and looked at a recent memorial to the Hungarian Revolution, of all things, and then stopped to watch four adult Canada Geese which had nine fluffly goslings among them. There were lots of people walking dogs, and the grass was a lush, rich green. I was in a great mood rolling in to work, although my office is being moved and everything, including electronic connections, is in total disarray. Cycling clears your head and it is fun to go slow too.

I feel well enough to do some fast spins tonight and my Coach of Cruelty has scheduled me for 90 minutes of work. It won't make up for the lost time trial but at least I will be back on schedule. The weekend forecast is for rain, rain, rain so I think it might be off to the gym, plus polishing up the Campagnolo parts before reassembling the Marinoni.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Yet More Intervals Again

Once again, the wish of the Coach of Cruelty is my command. But my plan to get out on the Eastern Parkway at 5:30 this morning came to naught as it was just too cold outside (can this be almost June?) so I slept a bit longer. The ride to work was pretty awful as I did not bring gloves, figuring that a sweatshirt and a nylon windbreaker would be enough to keep me warm but I was quite wrong. And on the way home again there was a brutal north wind blowing.

But since I am paying for my coaching advice I take it pretty seriously. Just before 6 pm I saddled up the Dreadnought and headed out over the potholes to the Eastern Parkway. The tasty dish on the menu was time trial intervals, 5 of them at 3 minutes each, with a heart rate of 158+, and three minutes to recover. The first two went very well, but the third hurt a bit as my left calf began to cramp but then I felt better and the last two were fine. I then discovered I was on the course for the Ottawa Bicycle Club's women's time trial, so I stopped to cheer them on, even though they all looked faster than me. Sigh.

I finished up the ride with a comfortable cruise back to the house, confident that on Thursday I will not be nearly as slow as I was at the first time trial. Out on the road for 1:20, and put away 38 kms. Still feels cold, though.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Canada's Bicycle Niche

Cervelo P3C: World Champion tt bike
(note/hint: my birthday is next month)


The Toronto Star ran an interesting piece on the origin and growth of Cervelo, the local firm that has become globally-dominant in sales of triathlon and time-trial bicycles. The article points out the substantial number of Canadian firms building high-end equipment but also notes how surprising this is given the lack of world-class events and competitors. I am guessing with only two cyclists on the ProTour circuit, this might apply to road racing but I think Canada has a disproportionate number of top triathletes, male and female.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

First Century of the Season: on to Fitzroy Harbour!

It was another beautiful day in Ottawa, and I left home at 8:20 am to get to the Billings Bridge Plaza for the start of another Ottawa Bicycle Club group ride. On Beechwood I saw the runners doing the Ottawa Marathon. They all looked pretty fresh, but then the weather was superb and they were only at the 15 km mark. I, on the other hand, would do my exercise sitting down.

There was another big mob at the Plaza and we quickly divided into groups and headed off. On the menu: 58 kms roundtrip to Kanata, or 94 roundtrip to Carp or (and most people did this) 140 km roundtrip to Fitzroy Harbour. I had never been to Fitzroy Harbour but it just sounded so nice and Victorian, perched there on the Ottawa River.

After the usual boring ride through the endless Ottawa suburbs, our group eventually found its paceline rhythm under the leadership of Perry, the Man with the Map. We worked well together into a headwind and soon reached Carp. We found ourselves on empty country roads, some in better condition than others and before I knew it we had reached Fitzroy Harbour, which, frankly, is not much to look at, even though it was founded in 1831. We stopped at the general store there and several in the group had fresh pizza. I prefer to eat dull energy foods and save my appetite for when I can get home and relax.

We cruised up a biggish hill out of town and on the ride home we had a nice tailwind, or at least a reasonable sidewind. The sun was shining, we did not get lost once (well perhaps a little at one point) and nobody had a flat tire.

Since it is 9 km to Billings Bridge from my house, I needed to add a few more miles to bring the ride up to a full Century. Andre and I rode along the bike path beside the Rideau River, which was a lot more crowded than when I had gone in the opposite direction in the morning, and then rode along the Rockcliffe Parkway. On the last stretch to the Rockcliffe Airport we rode on the bike lane and someone not paying attention almost rode his bicycle across the yellow line into us. It would have been ironic after a full day on the bike to be knocked down near my house!

Altogether I put in 163 km which, coupled with yesterday's ride, made a pretty full weekend. But I am still envious of my friends in Virginia who are riding the wonderful Mountains of Misery near Blacksburg today.


Paolo Bettini Riding in California: I Yam Still Specialized

For a chance to see Paolo Bettini riding his Tarmac SL2 again, but this time in California, where there are apparently no sun-dappled villages or cheering children, check it out here.

Hill Sprints in Gatineau Park

The weather was gorgeous today and I went back to Gatineau Park to do a set of five hill sprints, which are basically going uphill has fast as you can for around 30 seconds. By the second or third time my breakfast wanted to escape but I just kept at it and soon the instructions of the Coach of Cruelty were carried out.

The route was a variation on my usual Gatineau Park route, going to Champlain Lookout but then returning the same way I came instead of going back the direct way. This gave me around 1000 m of climbing today, and 74 km in distance. I felt very good and even chased down a few people just for fun.

The ride out to the Park was a bit scary. First of all a truck full of roofing supplies almost pushed me off the road near my house. Then on Beechwood Drive, as I got onto the bicycle lane and began to cross the bridge, a woman in a car behind me started honking her horn. I looked back to see that she was driving on the bike lane! I guess it would never have occurred to her to just wait until the traffic was clear and get back onto the roadway but this marked my first sprint of the day.

In the Park itself I saw more wildlife than before. A groundhog sitting up next to the road watched me with great interest as I rolled by him, perhaps two feet away. A red-tailed hawk swooped over the road and landed in a tree on a low branch on one of the big climbs but best of all was as I came up to two women cyclists and a big black bear loped across the road. He looked much better-fed that the bear I had seen on Skyline Drive once so I was not too concerned. I asked the women what kind of dog it was that had crossed, which they found highly amusing.

It was quite windy, which is usually not so much fun but the road was generally sheltered and the wind kept the blackflies away. When I stopped briefly on Champlain Lookout they began to swarm, which encouraged me to just keep riding. But on a beautiful sunny day with comfortable temperatures who would not want to keep riding? And the beer at the end of the ride just makes it so much more worthwhile.

And thanks to the assistance of Chill the Computer Genius, I have actually been able to do a map of today's ride!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

A Really Good Soup Recipe (dedicated to cyclingphun)

Tasty Red Soup

Recently, cyclingphun (an unblushing admirer of my muesli recipe) asked whether healthy eating had to be so expensive. My answer was no, if you bought produce in season and made a lot of soup. The response to that was to ask for some recipes. Here is one of my favourites, which is cheap, healthy, incredibly easy to make, colourful and quite delicious. Serve it with garlic bread, if you like.


Bell Pepper and Chili Soup
preparation time: 10 minutes
cooking time: 25 minutes

Ingredients:
8 oz/225 g red bell peppers, seeded and sliced
1 onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 green chili, chopped
1 ½ cups of crushed tomatoes (canned ones are fine, just go with the low-sodium version)
2 ½ cups of vegetable stock (I make mine from cubes from the health food store, again low-sodium)
2 tbsp chopped basil
basil sprigs to garnish

Directions:
Put the bell peppers in a large pan with the onion, garlic and chili. Add the tomatoes and stock and bring to a boil, stirring well.

Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, until the peppers have softened.

Take the soup from the pot and process in a food processor or blender until smooth. Return to a clean pot, add basil and cook until hot again. Garnish the soup with fresh basil sprigs and serve immediately.

Serves 4

Nutritional Information:
per serving

Calories: 55
Protein: 2 g
Carbohydrate: 11 g
Sugars: 10 g
Fat: 0.5 g

Additional comments:
I keep a jar of pickled jalapeño chilis in the refrigerator at all times. To do this, take a Mason or similar glass jar, fill it with fresh jalapeños that have been washed and slit along the sides and then top the jar up with Japanese rice vinegar. That’s all there is to it.

The soup freezes very well, so you can make a big batch and thaw it as needed.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Escape to Hyde Park

FDR in his Ford Phaeton

After spending two days in New York City, we decided that that weather was good enough to head north alongside the Hudson River and look around a bit at the Hudson Valley.

Our goal was Hyde Park, where the family home of Franklin Delano Roosevelt is to be found, along with his Presidential Library.

Hyde Park is not very far from the city, perhaps 150 kms away, and we began by driving up the Taconic Scenic Parkway before opting to do a bit to the west and try to follow the Hudson itself. We drove through Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow, among other places, before passing the Culinary Institute of America and arriving in Hyde Park itself.

Springwood

The FDR home was very easy to find, and we parked in front of the Visitors' Center, which is quite elaborate. We signed on to a tour and soon found ourselves walking past the FDR Presidential Library, the first Presidential library and actually built in his lifetime, before coming to Springwood, the imposing house where FDR was born and raised. The house has maintained almost exactly as it was when he lived there. In fact, he visited the house only two weeks before dying rather suddenly in Warm Springs, Georgia. He and his mother had decided that upon his death the house and grounds would be given to the people of the United States and it is managed by the National Park Service.

After visiting the house and passing the stable, we saw where he and Eleanor Roosevelt are buried, near a white monument in a rose garden, before returning to the Library, which has an excellent display of the President and First Lady's life and times, including his Oval Office desk and the famous Ford Phaeton modified for hand controls. There was a recent exhibition about the American economic situation when Roosevelt became President and his efforts to bring the country back to prosperity. The commentary was very even-handed, pointing out that his recovery program had its share of failures.

Fala

The exhibits about Roosevelt's life and career are superb and quite comprehensive. The fact that he was a fairly recent President and that as the only one elected to four terms he must have be concerned with posterity means that it was easy to collect everything needed for the Library. So there is a lot of material from his childhood, his prep school days at Groton, and early political career. Life on Campobello Island, in New Brunswick, is also covered, with charming period photos showing the rich folk at play. There is even an nice little exhibit about the famous Scottish Terrier, Fala, who outlived his master by seven years, including his various leashes, collars and toys, including the ones found in the Oval Office after the death of Roosevelt.

Although I did not cycle on this trip, I have considered riding the Hudson Valley. There is a bike trail, Bikeway Route 9, that runs from Albany to New York City and it passes by Hyde Park. I noticed the signs along the way and given the number of fascinating places to visit in the Valley it would probably be worth the effort.

Escape to New York

The First Emperor, by Tan Dun, at the Met
Placido Domingo in the title role

(photo by davajan)


After a lengthy drive, with some slow traffic in Pennsylvania due to I-81 construction, followed by pouring rain and a big back-up at the Lincoln Tunnel, we arrived in New York City just after 5:30 pm on Friday. We found our excellent hotel, the Michelangelo, although I had accidentally written down it was on West 52nd when in fact it was on West 51st, quite easily and the valet parking man took away the car.

Free to wander the Streets of New York at last! Driving in New York is pretty exciting, to say the least, as pedestrians use their force of numbers to cross on red lights but I learned that you just keep driving and beep your horn as you approach the intersection. I guess this adds a frisson of danger to daily life, but I would not own a car in the city if I lived there.

We were in town as I had purchased some tickets to the Metropolitan Opera from a colleague who was unable to attend. The hotel was within walking distance of Lincoln Center, and Times Square. Unfortunately, the rain got worse and it became much colder so the evening was spent relaxing in the hotel, where we had received a gorgeous upgraded one bedroom suite, with no less than three televisions in it.

Early the next morning, after having an excellent cappuccino and some biscotti (after all, the Michelangelo is part of an Italian chain!), I walked over to 50th and 7th Avenue in what was now glorious morning sunshine and took the subway downtown. Public transit in New York is another reason I would not bother with a car and the express train took me down to 14th Street very quickly. I then transferred for a few stops and got out in the up-and-coming Tribeca area. Many of the old buildings are being renovated and they look terrific: Olde New Yorke. Bricks and cobblestones everywhere, and I even saw a building with a sign promoting whalebone on the facade.

My goal was Cadence Cycling & Multisport on Hudson Street, the second location (after Philadelphia) of this upmarket bicycle store. I had been very impressed by the Philadelphia shop, on Main Street in Manayunk, and in New York I wanted to see an exhibition of cycling photos from Rouleur magazine that were only going to be on display until May 18th.

The Cadence store is in a gorgeous light yellow brick building, with lots of windows. From the street you could see several nice bikes on display, including a Colnago CLX in Italian tricolori and a new Cervelo. I went inside and was again impressed with how much effort went into finishing the store, with beautiful hardwood floors and excellent lighting. As you enter, there is a small café to the left, while on the right there are a number of frames–Cervelo, BMC, Wilier and Colnago–on display. Cadence also sells Cyfacs, but I think that they are all custom-built and I only saw some customer bikes.

Walking forward there is a large counter, and a range of small items, such as Clif Bars. There is a nice display of shoes, mainly Northwave and Sidi, and then quite a few items of cycling clothes, including an entire display of gear from Rapha. I even saw the special Andy Hampsten Giro commemorative jersey for sale.

The first floor also has the maintenance area, which is very open and quite spotless, where two mechanics were working. Next to them was a room with a window where a bike fitting was taking place. Beside this was an open door and I walked in to a large, high-ceilinged room to see perhaps 30 bikes set up on wind trainers and two huge screens, one showing a bike race. There were two people working out, including a woman who looked astonishingly fit, with truly terrifying calf muscles. All the bikes were different, so it is clear that people leave their bikes at Cadence and come to train in a group or individually. It appears that the system is the CompuTrainer one and it would have been nice to see how this worked.

Although I did not take the stairs I could see that downstairs there was an endless pool and probably there were showers and a locker room, although I am not sure. Cadence offers an impressive range of services, including VO2 max/LT tests and medical consultations. Of course, none of this–the hardwood floors, the coaching, the Tribeca location, the cafe–comes cheap. The cheapest frame that I saw was a Cervelo P2C, which went US$1850, and even the Clif Bars were US$ 1.75 each.

A few months ago I wrote about cruising bicycles, an attempt by manufacturers to get non-cyclists out for a ride using the kind of equipment that needs only the most minimal of effort of cost. What Cadence is trying to do seems to be the diametric opposite–a club-like location for serious athletes, or wannabes, with plenty of cash to indulge their favourite hobby. This kind of establishment is not for pros but needs a bigger market.

Unlike my experience in Philadelphia, the staff in New York was not very enthusiastic about coming out from behind the counter, although one of them did politely ask me not to take any photographs after I took a picture of the rack of frames. I guess if you look hard you can see some of the photos from Rouleur on the wall (you can see these from the street in any case) but otherwise it all just looks like what you would see on the Colnago or Cervelo website. Although I don’t like to be harassed by salespeople in shops, I was a bit surprised that after I spent nearly forty minutes looking at pretty well absolutely everything in the place and was clearly very interested–enough to take photos-- nobody approached me. Perhaps it was my apparent lack of terrifying calf muscles or the fact that I was not wearing Spandex in the store, as the handful of the other customers were doing, or my general simpleton vibe of Canadian cheapness that held them back rather than some kind of inherent snobbery, the sort of thing that prevents other roadies from waving at you on a ride as they pass you on the opposite side of the road. In any event, I was impressed with what Cadence is trying to do, and I enjoyed looking at the photos from Rouleur as well.

Monument to the Spanish-American War near Columbus Circle

I then took the subway uptown to look at Lincoln Center before returning to the hotel after walking a bit through Central Park and watching the cyclists there for a bit. The afternoon was spent watching an excellent performance of “the First Emperor,” with Placido Domingo in the title role, at the Met, followed by a wonderful dinner at the vegan gourmet restaurant, Candle 79, on the Upper East Side, where I enjoyed: grilled artichokes, with blue-cornmeal crusted onion rings; a wild mushroom salad with cippolini (!) onions; a Moroccan spiced chickpea cake with spring vegetables, red pepper-coconut curry and apricot-date chutney, accompanied by a dry Riesling. Then for dessert I could not resist the strawberry-rhubarb tart with dulce de leche ice cream. I think I will need to try a bit harder once I am back in Ottawa...

A Racer in Need

In Thursday's Roadbikerider.com newsletter was a piece about a Mexican cyclist and former national champion, Fausto Esparza Munoz, who was severely injured in a recent race. I am extracting the entire piece from the newsletter and have copied it below so that it receives the widest circulation possible. If you have a blog, you might like to do this as well. Those of us who love cycling could not imagine life without it but for some people this is a tragic reality.

I will be sending a small donation myself and hope that others might do the same.



We've heard cyclists say that in case of a bad accident, they'd rather die than come away from it paralyzed.


Former Mexican national champion Fausto Esparza, 33, is in an El Paso, Texas, intensive care unit without use of his legs after crashing during a high-speed descent in the Tour of The Gila on May 4. The accident, which broke his back and paralyzed him from the waist down, occurred on the race's final stage near Silver City, New Mexico.


Esparza is described by a friend as "very depressed and not sure what to make of this terrible situation." As a pro cyclist he supported his family through bike racing. That source of employment is no longer is available to him. His wife, parents and 3 children are with him at the hospital.

Some North American teams are stepping up to help. Toyota-United announced that its riders and staff have donated $5,000, which consists of prize money earned during the race in which Esparza was injured.


In addition, Toyota-United is auctioning a signed team jersey on eBay, with proceeds going to Esparza. There's a link on the squad's website at http://www.toyota-united.com


Said Toyota team owner Sean Tucker, "We all agreed to do something for Fausto no matter how small it may be. We want to start the ball rolling in hopes that other teams and fans will follow suit to help him in his time of need."


RBR has mailed a donation. If you'd like to help too, the address is:

Wells Fargo Bank

1201 N. Pope St.

Silver City, NM 88061

Attn: Fausto Esparza Donation Fund


Esparza is expected to be in the hospital for another 7-10 days. Cards and letters can be addressed to:

Patient: Fausto Esparza, ICU/12

C/O Thomason Hospital

4815 Alameda Avenue

El Paso, TX 79905

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Blair Hill Project, or Yet More Intervals!

Nice profile!

My coach, Robert the Cruel (but Fair), has indicated on my training plan that he wants me to do hill sprints today. So, after riding by the Ottawa Bicycle Club members getting ready to do the Thursday Open Time Trial, I looked for a suitable hill. This was supposed to be 3-5% in grade. There is not much choice here in Ottawa but after a short ride I found Blair Road,w which I had done some hill training on when I did the "Learn to Race" course in, oh, 1997.

I did 8 sprints of 12 seconds each, starting each one at the bottom of the hill and then slowing down to recover, but completing the hill before turning around and coasting down to start again. In all I climbed around 500 m, which is a lot when you consider the total ride from start to finish was only 36 km. The training went well, although by the time I came to the final two sprints I was starting to hurt bad, real bad.

After doing the hill over and over, I slipped back onto the Eastern Parkway as the last time triallist was on the course so I did not interfere with anyone. Lots of mosquitoes still out, though.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Interval Training Can Be Fun!

It was a very busy day at work, and my day was extended as I had to sit in on an Parliamentary Committee meeting for a group of MPs and Senators going to the US, so by the time I got back to the office and rode BlackAdder to the house it was nearly 7 pm. Luckily I had set up Dreadnought, my Leader TT bike, near the door. It was the first time I had taken the bicycle, which usually is my weapon of choice for trainer sessions, out of the basement in five months. I had to change the batteries in the Cateye computer/HRM (three in all!) and then headed out to the Eastern Parkway to do the time trial intervals suggested by my coach, Robert.

The first thing that struck me was how stiff and noisy Dreadnought is compared to my other bikes. I banged and crashed my way over the potholes that are on the road leading to the Eastern Parkway and I was really missing the Tarmac's shock absorbing qualities. I also felt a bit awkward as you really have to ride this bike in the aero position and I am not really used to that.

I rolled onto the Parkway and past the start line that the Ottawa Bicycle Club uses for the Thursday time trials. I slowly dialled in some speed as Dreadnought does not like to accelerate too fast. The heart rate indicator on the computer was behaving strangely and jumping all over but eventually it settled down and I reached my target of 158+ bpm and continued speeding up. The road soon became smooth and the rattling and banging disappeared as I settled into a comfortable pace. I was amazed at how much faster Dreadnought is compared to the Bianchi I used in the time trial last Thursday. The wind was a lot less on this beautiful evening, which probably helped too.

My intervals were 5 kms each, with a 5 minute recovery between each one. I was supposed to turn the cranks at 85-100 rpm but think I may have been a bit on the slow side there, but my speed was quite good, with a lot of stretches in the 40-42 km/h range. There were a number of other cyclists out enjoying the balmy temperatures too.

I met up with my friend Peter and we chatted for a bit but then the mosquitoes came out and I remembered an element of Canada I had always hated but conveniently put out of my mind. I think I was bitten 7-8 times before I got home. But the ride felt really good and I had a great time. Dreadnought ran like a clock, just maybe not so much over potholes.

Dinner was soba noodles with peanut sauce and fried tofu, followed by a small dish of Pecan Butter Tart Ice Cream which gives me motivation as a reward when I have done good training. Butter Tarts are a distinctly Canadian food item, like miniature pecan pies I guess, and judging from the video on my previous post Paolo Bettini has never eaten one. They are to make you fat while you watch "Hockey Night in Canada" on the television, I think. You can hear a discussion on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's Morningside radio program from 1991 here, including mention of the runny vs. slightly runny controversy and the raisin question.

Since I am on a video kick this week, here is one about making Butter Tarts:


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Specialized Tarmac SL2 and Paolo Bettini

Although as a devoted Tarmac rider I might be a bit prejudiced, I really like this ad from Specialized featuring Paolo "the Cricket" Bettini riding really fast at home in Tuscany, wearing the whole rainbow ensemble of the World Champion. The sun is shining, the villages are beautiful, the kids worshipful. There is even an accordion playing.

Paolo looks great. Sometimes it is just a question of La Bella Figura and I think this ad captures it. I even like it when he says, in the only English he speaks in the ad, "I yam Specialized" at the end.

Mill Mountain Downhill

One of my favourite rides in the Roanoke area is to leave the centre of the city and climb up Mill Mountain along the closed-to-traffic Greenway, and admire the view from the star before turning left and completing the loop with a screaming descent back into town.

Dan Casey, with whom we rode only only a few weeks ago, wrote up this ride in his cycling column for the Roanoke Times and I have done it often, finishing with a Mill Mountain Coffee espresso. Dan has gone all high-tech now and as you can see he has put the ride onto video and although it is better to do it in person it is still a blast to watch.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Another Long Ride in Ottawa

The weather was terrific again in Ottawa and at 8:25 am I left home on the fabulous Tarmac for the Billings Bridge Plaza to meet up with the group rides of the Ottawa Bicycle Club. The sun was shining, although it was a bit on the cool side, but I looked forward to getting in another long ride.

There was a big crowd at the McDonald's and we soon sorted ourselves into groups. Touring 2, which I find to be a good speed, was once again the most popular and we were then divided into more groups. I ended up on the extended ride to Navan (100 km), riding at the "Touring 2.5" pace. Simon volunteered to be the group leader and he did a good job, particularly considering it was his first time doing this.

We crossed the Alexandra Bridge into Quebec. I ride this all the time on the bike path, which is wooden slats, but as a big group we went over the main roadway, which is metal grating. I have a feeling that should you have to brake on this surface nothing much is going to happen so we all zipped over it pretty quickly.

Once in Quebec we headed eastwards along the Ottawa River, passing through a number of small towns. Although I have lived on and off in Ottawa for about eleven years I have never been on these roads and I can honestly say that they are quite miserable. The roads have horrific potholes everywhere and very heavy traffic. I almost came to grief at a railway crossing as I was not quite able to cross the tracks at a right angle and could feel the wheel slip. I corrected the movement but almost crashed into a huge pothole directly behind the crossing. My chain slipped but popped back on. Of course, I was being passed by impatient drivers while all this was going on.

If the roads elsewhere in Quebec are this lousy, my interest in riding the new Route Verte, the most extensive bicycle route network in North America, may be diminished. I was hoping to do some touring on my Marinoni Ciclo in the province of its birth but I will have to do some more research.

We continued on and eventually the potholed shoulder improved and we reached the ferry at Masson. Our timing was impeccable and we rolled right on; $2 took each of us across the river to Cumberland.

Leaving Cumberland we soon ran into a very nasty headwind that battered us most of the way to Navan. We then had to double back a bit and then it was back into the headwind again, or, more accurately, a vicious crosswind. We rode very close together to try and get an echelon effect and it helped, although I found it hard to control the bike at times. But soon we were rewarded with a turn and a tailwind, pushing our pace up to nearly 50 km/h.

We did endure a few wrong turns and poor Mike had three flat tires but it was a sunny day, so no matter. We rolled back into Billings Bridge Plaza and discussed finding a more attractive place to meet, like Carleton University, before I headed off on the bike path for home. By the time I rolled in I had ridden 126 kms, at an average speed of 27.1 km/h. I was supposed to do some hill sprints today but between yesterday and today I am pretty beat.

Adding my rides onto my journal at www.bikejournal.com, I find that I have moved from 3150th position to 2650th! Whee!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Portland, Oregon is becoming to bicycles what Cremona, Italy is to violins...

The City of Portland, Oregon is famous as a bike-friendly community. Last month at the Portland Airport an exhibition, with bicycles from ten custom builders in the region, opened in a 40 foot long glass display case. It will run for six months, and be seen by some 3.3 million people. The Portland Development Commission (PDC) supported the video below to give those who are not ticketed passengers and thus unable to see the exhibition a chance to do so. This is forward thinking from an economic development agency which has recognized the unique attraction these custom builders bring to the city.

The ten bikes on display were built by: Cielo Cycles (Portland), Vendetta Cycles (Corvallis), Keith Anderson Cycles (Grants Pass), Stites Design (Portland), Jeff Jones Custom Bicycles (Medford), Renovo Hardwood Bicycles (Portland), Dropout Bike Club (Portland), Ahearne Cycles (Portland), Vanilla Bicycles (Portland) and Bike Friday (Eugene).

Back to Gatineau Park

Spring must truly be here because today I did my first ride of the season to Champlain Lookout in Gatineau Park.

The weather was foreboding when I left home just after 8:20 am and headed north. I was dressed properly for once, with a long-sleeved jersey, long-fingered gloves and leggings under my shorts. It was 6C but the wind was not too bad so it was not uncomfortable. The forecast was for sun later in the day and temperatures going up to 18C.

After meeting Fred at the Gamelin Gate, we headed onto our usual loop, taking us around Kingsmere and the Camp Fortune ski area before doing the serious climb up to Champlain Lookout. There were a lot of cyclists out and about, even with the cold overcast day.

We both were rolling well and completed the circuit in good time. Then we headed to the very trendy Westboro strip and enjoyed an excellent lunch in a vegetarian buffet restaurant, the Table, on Wellington Street. Then we stopped in at Mountain Equipment Co-op, which ias always a fun place to visit, and I bought a new blinkie light for BlackAdder as the previous one had gotten killed by rain. It was fun riding back along Wellington Street and looking at all the interesting stores en route.

After saying goodbye to Fred, I rode along the bikepath on the Ottawa River, passing the Tulip Festival at Major's Hill Park, and I added a circuit of the Eastern Parkway to bring my ride up to 100 kms (and 1000 vertical meters) for the day. And as I came home the sun began to shine brightly.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Time Trial Season Begins

Today I rode my first Ottawa Bicycle Club 15 km Open Time Trial since August 1998. The course was the same and just to see if I have managed to delay the effects of aging I brought my Bianchi Limited with aerobars, the same setup as a decade ago. The course along the Eastern Parkway is well-known to me as it is close to my house, but so is the brutal west wind that never seems to stop blowing.

A big group showed up, including a lot of guys with very high-end time trial bikes, and registration was completed by 6 pm. The first rider went out 10 minutes later, and after a ridiculously short warm-up I headed onto the course at 6:33 pm. There was a tailwind to begin with and I made an amazingly fast start, with my heart rate skyrocketing to 183 bpm. I backed off fairly quickly and tried to control my breathing.

I executed the turnaround pretty sloppily but felt confident turning into the big headwind. Things went pretty well until around the 12 km mark when I began to feel cramping on my right quad, and then my left calf. This meant I had to back off a bit but I did hit 35 km/h when I crossed the finish line.

Although I will wait for the official results, I think I crossed the line close to my time ten years ago, a somewhat snail-like 25:30. That was a ride at the end of the summer when I was in pretty good shape; it is still early season here and pretty cold so I will improve. Of course in subsequent time trials I will switch back to the Leader TT bike, having made my point, whatever it may have been.

It was great fun but my legs really hurt tonight.

Postscript: this morning I checked my official time and discovered that I had finished in the top ten of my age group at 26:21. This is putting the best face on it, since there were nine entrants in the class and I came dead last. In two weeks I will try again, and I will beat my 1998 time for sure!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Escape to the Old Dominion

Hotel Roanoke

As I sit here in Ottawa, with the cold wind howling, it is hard to believe that a week ago I was enjoying the warm hospitality and rolling hills of Virginia.

After suffering through the second-worst winter in Ottawa’s history, we decided to escape to the greener environs of Virginia which, after all, is just a few hours’ drive along Highway 401 and then down Interstate 81–well, 12+ hours actually. Leaving Ottawa at 5:30 am on Friday, it was clear that Spring had indeed come the further southwards we headed. Stopping only for fuel and then for dinner in Staunton we reached our destination by 7:30 pm and checked into the elegant Hotel Roanoke.

A good night’s sleep, a relaxed breakfast and we were ready for our first test of the cycling season. We drove through Roanoke, up past Mill Mountain and onto the Blue Ridge Parkway. Leaving the car parked beside the road, we headed northwards. The road was in excellent condition and the gentle climbs and descents made a challenging beginning. The temperature began to climb and by the time we turned around after 25 kms it was nearly 80F. Nearing the car, however, the skies turned dark and then it began to rain gently but we made it back to the hotel before the deluge really began. 50 kms and 700 m of climbing! Of course, Mr. Mechanical Genius forgot to turn off his Garmin Edge so it appears that my top speed on the bike was 80 km/h, which was actually my top speed in the car on the way back.

We got cleaned up and dressed and then drove northwards again for ninety minutes to Staunton, where we enjoyed a superb meal at the hyper-trendy Zynodoa restaurant (Roquefort grits!), followed by a performance of “the Taming of the Shrew” at Shenandoah Shakespeare’s Blackfriars Playhouse. As usual, the actor were very entertaining, and produced a boisterous version of the play that would probably have the Bard spinning. By the time we drove back to Roanoke I was feeling pretty tired and slept very well.

Which was a good thing, since the next morning we joined some of the members of the Blue Ridge Bicycling Club on a 50 mile (88 km) ride around Roanoke. This was organized by Dan Casey, whose columns in the Roanoke Times had taken me to many excellent rides in the Shenandoah Valley. Jesse, Manly, Karen and Jay were all strong riders. We had a superb ride along Bradshaw Road, including a stop at a farm whose owner had a vast menagerie, including African Crested Cranes, llamas, Turkish sheepdogs and who knows what else. He was very enthusiastic about his critters and would have entertained us with stories about them all day.

The road was very good, and we had plenty of scenic vistas. The best part was a seven mile stretch of Bradshaw that gently went downhill. The pavement was good, the wind behind us and no traffic anywhere so we cranked up the speed and enjoyed ourselves. Unfortunately a bit later Dan had a flat and also some shifter issues but otherwise we had no mechanical issues and no weather problems.

That evening we went to a Mexican restaurant on the main street in downtown Roanoke and gorged ourselves on cheap and cheerful food.

Monday was a write-off from the cycling perspective as it was raining steadily. We took the opportunity to cross the street from the hotel and visit the top-rate O. Winston Link Museum located in the old railway station. Winston Link was a photographer from New York who took celebrated pictures of the last days of steam, from 1955-1960, on what was then the Norfolk & Western Railway. The photos were black-and-white and taken at night, with the aid of a vast number of flashbulbs. They are genuine artworks and it was wonderful to see them housed so well in Roanoke. In addition to the Link exhibition, there was also a small exhibit dedicated to industrial designer Raymond Loewy, who had redesigned the station in the late 1940s.

We then drove a few miles out of town towards Lynchburg to visit Poplar Forest, the less-celebrated home of Thomas Jefferson. He built it as a little retreat to escape the crowds at Monticello after he retired and it has been undergoing a long and exhaustive restoration. There was only one other couple visiting the place so we had a very relaxed tour before returning to Roanoke and yet another Mexican feast.

And that concluded our little cycling escape to Roanoke. We left early the next morning and had an uneventful drive back to Ottawa. As if to welcome us home, the temperature plunged and it felt like March again.