Triple D, CIRREM, Iowa Spring Classics, BALLS- all is not lost

The 'season' of gravel is over, but all is not lost. Dates have been set for all of those great events above...

google is your friend- except today when they have a really annoying video of pumpkin carving they foist on you.

This picture is from Colfax last year- gives me something to at least think about (hard to actually look forward to anything that looks so desolate).


The Dirt Bag 2011

This is the last race in the Almanzo Gravel Racing Series and the last endurance race for me this year. You all know how I feel about the Almanzo


I also have really enjoyed the time I've spent riding/racing with Ben Doom (ever since he crushed me in the 8 hour at Afton two years ago) and wouldn't miss his race for anything.

Skogen and I were lucky to be able to crash at Tim Werts' place Friday night and thus avoided a super early morning. We had a good conversation and too much Diet Mountain Dew and I didn't get to bed as early as I should have- but I woke up feeling pretty decent (I have had a cold that I can't quite shake since at least the Heck). At least that was until I realized just how damn cold it was outside. We would wind up riding as "team breathe-right" once again.

Thankfully we were indoors for check-in and able to stay warm right up to the start. Lots of familiar faces, friendly people and a lot of fast riders I have a ton of respect for. There was some pre-race tension and nerves, but overall it was a really friendly vibe.

The bike- My $100 Giant OCR with the repaired top tube and the repaired Zipp 404 clinchers. Only major difference vs. the heroic was the addition of an 11-32 10 speed XT cassette. As it turns out I never left the 53t up front.

The race-

Controlled roll-out on pavement. As soon as we left the pavement I dialed it up to 80% and dropped into the aero bars. The gravel was fast, I was cold and I figured I may as well have some fun. A few miles later the main group led by Jim Bell caught up with me. Jim said, "good morning" and I sensed that had probably not been a popular move with the lethargy that sets in amongst the peleton in the cold.

We hit sand and it was pandemonium. I knew my 30c tires weren't ideal and I picked my way through the next mile or so, jogging where I had to. out the other side I grabbed a wheel and bided my time as we slowly realed in the lead pack. I was thankful we had hit that section on the way "out" this year- as I knew it would have been my demise had it happened 5 miles from the finish like last year. I guessed we were going to ride something close to reverse of last years course. As I was thinking this our little group (led by Tim Ek) managed to close the gap to the lead and I was able to settle in and get some rest.

I got a real itchy trigger finger on a long pavement climb around mile 20, but no one else seemed ready to organize and nothing came of it. Then around mile 36 I could sense the time had come. The "big names" were massing at the front on a pavement section and I determined I would have to hold my place. We hit some incredibly bumpy gravel and shit just blew up. My GPS flew off of my bike and hit Tim (we'd later go back for it and find it had been run over by a car), my bike was flexing and bucking under me and the road felt like it was covered in glue, but I kept my head down. It was at least 4-5 miles before I even looked back, and saw no one. We were a group of 9 with 6 Revolution guys, 1 rider from Grandstay, myself and BOB GRITMAN. I was very happy to have another rider with me wearing the Almanzo colors and even more so I was geniunely happy for Bob that all his hard work training/riding was paying off. We had dropped a lot of big names, guys who had beaten Bob (and myself) comfortably in past AGRS events, but Bob was here now. We wouldn't be in much of a position if Revoution tried some team tactics of some sort on us, but we would be able to take advantage of their huge horsepower to stay well ahead of everyone else at the least.

Our pace slowed to conversational and we measured the gaps to the chasers behind us. We knew they would push hard right away and burn themselves up so long as we held a gap. I also knew that I wanted no part of anyone else getting back with us. Finishing 9th would make my day. I rotated through at the frond and generally did what I could to keep things moving.

Eventually one of the Revolution guys got up the road, then 2 but I sat on. I figured the biggest threats to win were still back with me and I knew that pulling them forward would result in nothing good. That game went on from about mile 60-75.

Somewhere around mile 70 I started to feel good. It was that old "pull of the finish" thing I've wrote about before. The pain started to go away and I started to get antsy. I tried to hide it. We hit another soft section and everything switched- I had to try to hide the fact that if they pushed me here they'd drop me. Luckily, they didn't. I attacked a bit on pavement, but backed it down at mile 78. We hit more soft stuff and I was off the back, frustrated, tired, beat. I though my race was over. The gap was 10 seconds. They hit the pavement and rode easily, letting me back in. Bob and I talked at the back of the group. I think we both felt great for just being there, that we had both already more than accomplished our goals for the day.

The pace stayed low. I studied the map and moved to the front of the group. I was able to establish myself in a position at the front and on the "inside" of what would be the final turn. There was no real fight for it and the pace remained fairly low. I wasn't sure where the final turn would be (I don't think anyone was) nor what it would look like. It just seemed prudent to sit on it positionally for as long as I was allowed to. I expected the pace to really ramp up at any second. My plan was the "slingshot" effect of starting on the front, grabbing a wheel of the guys who go too early and then coming by at the line. I would stick with that plan until I was pushed too hard at the front. The pace stayed low. I saw the street sign, I kicked hard to stay in my place and made that final corner at speed. I remember remembering the final corner in a few crits over the summer. I was thinking I should have been on someones wheel and not out front... in all of those other races it had not been the front runner who had won. Regardless, no choice but to pedal as hard as I could. I heard people yelling my name. I had a lead, but Grandstay was closing... then he wasn't.

It felt great.

Then I realized how much I'd left out there. I was coughing, but it was so shallow and harsh that it was nothing but painful (I eventually lost my voice and can barely speak today). I was nauseous and unable to eat any of the wonderful chili or Famous Monster Cookies provided. I sat and shivered and coughed. The reality of winning not quite setting in. I went back outside and watched some of my competitors finish, I had to tell them I won when they asked how I did. I started to realize it. The sun felt good. My whole year started to look a bit better.

Both Tim and Chris finished respectably. We all had fun talking with the other racers and hanging out together. Eventually Chris and I got back to Rochester- I immediately showered, dressed as an Asian Carp and headed to a Halloween Party.


the bridge to nowhere

In the past I've been critical of the City of Rochester's and the Mayo Clinic's bicycle friendly "improvements". The improvements they've made, and done a lot ot publicize, have not done a single thing to increase my safety or otherwise improve my commute. In fact, they've recently spent $$$$? adding gates to the one bike trail that sort of heads toward my house (and the thousands of other people who live out my way from downtown) such that they can now more effectively CLOSE IT DOWN during the winter. I emailed and called them a few times last year hoping to prevail upon them to plow more of it and it seemed that the answer was to close it completely? I guess I'll be riding on the road this winter once again. Luckily, I am switching back to an evening shift in a couple weeks here and I won't have to deal with the AM rush, unplowed roads, and no legitimate path to work all at once. I'll be heading in to work at 2pm well after the roads are cleared and then leaving at 1:30 am when no matter the conditions I'll only have to share the roads with the occasional drunk in a pickup or red grand prix driving nurse leaving after a 16 hour shift. Enough with that though, one project I've been particularly critical of has been the "bridge to nowhere"...

Turns out I was wrong! Yesterday I worked a 12 hour shift and agreed to meet Laura at Osaka for some Sushi when I got off. That bridge and the associated trail took me ALMOST PERFECTLY NEAR TO OSAKA. This makes perfect sense- where else would the smug, Mayo Employee, Cyclist types want to go via bike but a crappy Japanese chain restaurant that is isolated from anything else? Woot!

In reality I do understand that the bridge allows people in the city center access to the Douglas Trail and many of the newer NW neighborhoods in town. I just think that for what it cost we might have been better served with a whole host of other improvements. It obviously hasn't crossed anyone's mind that someone might want to bike to a grocery store, target, a bike shop, chipotle or basically any other business. Or for that matter to the Mayo Clinic... despite the 6 or 8 bike lanes/paths that head TOWARD downtown not a single one of them really gets it done. We are conveniently left with the busiest last 3 or 4 blocks to navigate with no bike lanes or paths if we should like to make it to the downtown campus.

Here is a map- 88 miles of trail that only goes places on accident. O, ya- my additions suck. I don't even have access to "paint" here.


My parked car was hit by a car and I was blamed

This was left for me this summer

Apparently, someone backed into my parked car and wanted me to call them to discuss it... Like, maybe I should cover their damage for having the audacity to have a bike rack? I resisted the urge to call them and tell them where to shove it. The following morning I called from a secure/untraceable number.

Drew (Didn't give my name): Hi- I got your note. My bike rack is ok, thanks for your concern.

Tom (he signed his notes first name only): Umm, no. I'm actually quite angry with you.

Drew: what?

Tom: My car is damaged.

Drew: ...

Tom: Your bike rack sticks out at least 2 feet (this is roughly true- doesn't seem that far at all...). I had no way of seeing it.

Drew: You hit a parked car and want to blame me?

Tom: I'm a cyclist too. What you did was wrong, you should have parked elsewhere (I was parked in the back row of a large parking lot near a favorite coffee shop, there was plenty of room to get by and very few cars around. This took place between 2 and 7pm on a Wednesday)

Drew: What?

Tom: blah, blah Damage, blah.

Drew: I'm in no way liable for any damage that was caused by your hitting my parked vehicle.

Tom: blah, blah Damage, blah.

Drew: I'm in no way liable for any damage that was caused by your hitting my parked vehicle.

Tom: blah, blah, click (he hung up).

This conversation occured at approximately 11am. At 3pm I walked out to my car and found this note-

My car was parked no closer than 3 miles from where the original incident had occured and in a city of about 100k people. Even if he had figured out my employer from my parking tag it would still have only narrowed things down to a 5x20 block area full of parking ramps, meters etc.. How fucking creepy is that!? God knows what he even meant. It has been a couple months now and nothing has happened since.

Recap- Dude hit my parked car, dude wanted me to pay for his damages, I said I wasn't liable, he stalked the fuck out of me, I held the notes for a while and waited to see if anything else would happen.


learning to run, learning to walk part 1- chondromalacia and running, teaching dogs to walk on a leash

I haven't run more than a few steps for 26 months. Dickie has never learned to walk. Yesterday we began. Me with new knee strap/brace, flat shoes and a lot of patience. Dickie with his new "Gentle Leader" to remind him to stay with me. We drove down the hill to the beginning of the gravel, god knows I shouldn't run downhill, and we set off down the road. We ran some and walked some. Initially, my steps were slow and his movements were jerky. By the time we turned at the Boy Scout Reservoir we moved together.

My knee feels alright today, no worse for the wear. Dickie is happier to put on his harness.


Another MTB vacation to Michigan and Wisconsin

Another great trip to the Keweenaw! This time it was just going to be Friday evening thru Monday with Tall Mike and the Olsons.

Not as many pictures this time- We were riding a ton and the weather wasn't so nice. See my posts from late June for many more.

Here are a few-

Our first stop was the Angry Minnow in Hayward. The food was almost perfect, but the beer wasn't quite as good as I remembered. We tried their seasonal varieties and the River Pig Pale Ale that has been a mainstay. I don't know what was "off"- maybe I've just become more picky due to the improved beer selection available at home. Regardless, we left with multiple Growlers of Octoberfest and River Pig and continued on.

We spent Friday night at the Wolverine Village. As always it was welcoming and comfortable. We rode the trails there Saturday morning. It was fun to show some other people the trails I've been talking about for a while. I think everyone enjoyed it... even if it is far from "polished" and the leaves had made things even more tricky than normal. It felt sort of like bringing a bunch of Midwesterners out "West" skiing and then heading down an iced out bump run the first time up the lift (although, of course, Trevor was the one showing me how to do it).

The remainder of Saturday was spent working out way up the shoreline. We basically did the opposite trip of my last day in June. This included stops at the Black River Harbor, Porcupine Mountains, Ontanagon etc.. This time though we went on a tour of the Adventure Mine. I had heard about their bike race


but hadn't realized the extent of the tours that they offered http://www.adventureminetours.com/ We went for a gratuitous ride in a Pinzgauer, which is sort of like this-

but not quite as cool.

We saw Bats everywhere

which the tour guide knew very little about. Good thing I used to "teach" Mammology (shot out to SSC if you ever read this, ha).

It was mostly big open rooms with piles of rocks. We did the $23 tour and it was well worth it. I'd bet that the more expensive ones would be pretty incredible. They have a lot of climbing equipment set up in there and let you use it to go down lower in the mine. I also got to scope out the part of the XC course that takes place in the mine- I've been using visualization and my bat senses are strong. I think I'll be able to race it without a light... should be just the weight savings I need for next years race.

Once in Copper Harbor we settled down at the Mariner North, moved everything into our room and got some dinner. Sunday we rode about 6 hours. I love Copper Harbor riding! Hopefully everyone else had as much fun as I did. The "flow trail" is now complete and it is insane! We also took part in the Keweenaw Cup CX race (see pictures I posted yesterday). Trevor blazed to 2nd place in that race, only losing to Tyler Gauthier. I had a great time despite my mechanical issues and wound up finishing OK. We convined Tall Mike to do the C race. He thundered to the win by over a minute! Picture a 6'8" tall dude wearing basketball clothes on a Trek Rig SS with toe clips absolutely crushing people, sorry this is the best picture we got...

but here is another-

and here is Trevor leading out the "chase group". I'm about 4? behind him.

We celebrated hard Sunday night, but were up and ready to ride around 8 on Monday. Sadly the rain had finally come and the 40 mph gusts had been constant the whole time... That combination meant it was time to go!

We hightailed it all the way to Levis. Hard to beat riding Levis and Copper Harbor back to back.

I'm looking forward to more Cyclocross this weekend up just north of the Twin Cities.



Here's a picture of me last weekend- I had switched to the Orbea due to some carnage on the Viner. I hope it makes you want to race some 'cross.

Slam That Stem!

This website always cheers me up.


Recenty Dave and I both were lucky enough to "make it"

Maybe you should slam your stem?


The Haymaker write-up and my Giant OCR in Winning Gravel bikes!


Check it out.

More to come from me on the Heroic, the Holzinger Hot Lap and the Haymaker on this blog sometime soon. What an awesome weekend- feel like I was run over.

On another note- I'm headed up to Copper Harbor this weekend. Friday-Monday night... We are taking the Sequoia and have hotels booked etc.. there is still room for another if you are interested. We will be Mountain Biking every day and also racing CX on Sunday.

Oh, and a better picture of the OCR. You can see how comfortable it looks here...


What makes a comfortable, good bike?

What makes a comfortable bike?

I was randomly browsing the internet today


came upon this gem-


This Almanzo.com post


Tto me it's striking how much more comfortable the Roubaix looks in profile- like it's designed to be ridden all day and not just for an hour. Thinking back I also remember my terrible back pain last fall that occured when riding my Kona

in a less aggressive position than my current gravel setup.

and yes I do know that both of those photos suck- I also know that my links shouldn't have to be copied to be used, but it seems posting from my phone I have no choice.

I've also become more interested the last couple of years in the pro peleton and particularly the Classics and the bike setups they choose to ride therein. There is a lot of similarity between those races and my favorite races here in the midwest. Of course, I'm competitive and you might argue that I view things differently through that lense. I would argue that what's comfortable is pretty independent of whether you are trying to ride 13, 20 or 25 mph. Although, maybe someone who rides slower is also influenced by their body type to need a different fit... but that is a small % of riders. There are also a ton of people out there telling you what is comfortable and "necessary" to alleviate discomfort on long rides (the Seven review above makes a brief reference to some of them).

A while back I wanted a custom steel frame with road geometry (link) because I thought it would be the fastest and most comfortable way from point A to point B. Over the time since that fell through I've gotten to ride a lot of great bikes and have steadily gotten faster myself. I've also tried the "recommended", Salsa Vaya, and the totally off the wall, Look 585, each for some very long gravel rides and races plus a lot of time on regular old aluminum and steel frames somewhere in the middle.

I don't have a conclusion here- my only point was that it's something I've been thinking about and that it's an issue in which it seems like a mistake to accept the status quo. Or is the status quo that I'm referring to only the status quo amongst a small niche of cyclist in the midwest while in most other parts of the world the status quo for an all day, classics type bike is something totally different?


Join me this Sunday for a tour of Red Wing's beautiful gravel


I hope to make it over for this.  I'll have to leave and get over here for work by about 5 pm though, so I may miss out on some of the fun.  Maybe I will see you there.

I guess I'm doing a bit of a triathlon this weekend, eh.


How to recover your own bike saddle- wtb devo carbon recovering

A few months ago my favorite saddle (WTB Devo Carbon) was looking a bit worse for wear and I had some high quality marine grade vinyl laying around.  I decided to recover it. 

Fast forward to last week-  the material was still looking almost perfect, but my "glue job" was a bit lacking (I'd tried to use some inferior glue).  I decided to redo it again and take pictures-

Heck of the North

Heck of the North

Drove up with Chris and my Parents. Check in at Kershaw's and dinner at the Burrito Union. Started with 2 and our party kept growing as more people randomly showed up- pretty cool. Back to the hotel at 11:00 and in bed soon after.

Woke up feeling even sicker than I had the previous few days. I had known since Tuesday morning that something was off because I was sleeping as much or more than normal and still feeling tired. By Thursday I had skipped all riding, and anything else fun for the week but still felt like I had to take the morning off from work to get extra rest. Regardless, I had a plan to deal with that it and I remembered feeling sick prior to the Dirt Bag last fall and still riding well.

We rolled out and the group stayed together, as always, into the first trail section. There had been a couple of attacks and some solid tempo up one long hill, but we were still 30? strong. With my aero bars and "road" setup I think I could have soloed away on the pavement leading in to the trail, but I was too concerned that I'd solo right by the turn to really try.

As it was the group almost missed the turn en masse and there was quite a lot of panic-braking and sliding on the way in. I kept it upright and found myself bouncing along the trail behind Farrow and Deathrider. I hit a huge rock head on and flatted my front (700x30 Ritchey Speed Max at 65psi). I knew I was likely out of contention just that quickly, but I had some hope and quickly changed my tube. The replacement tube was flat out of the box. I changed it again and finally (7.5 minutes elapsed time now) got back on my bike.

I quickly realized I was now 7 minutes behind the group and it was going to be a tough task to get back to the front. Almost immediately after that I realized that my GPS was gone. I debated the merits of going back and realized that I basically had to. I was in a free race with no big prizes, I was unlikely to catch back up regardless, and I was missing something I both needed for navigation and didn't want to have to $$$ to replace. After some hiking I recovered my GPS and Joe Meiser's drivers license and credit card- apparently it was bumpy there for everyone. I also had a conversation with a dude on an ATV out clearing trail for the winter/snowmobiles and was able to borrow a flathead screwdriver from him to fix the mount. Back in business, but now over 30 minutes of "stoppage time" down vs. the lead.

I rode on and made a conscious effort to enjoy the road and the scenery. On and on. The weather and colors were about perfect too!

I realized I had also lost all of my food from my feed bag.

I realized I should have been more prepared to deal with the trail section and wondered what I had been thinking. Had I not been there the two years previous? Was it bumpier this year? Was it just bad luck that I'd flatted and my GPS/food had been ejected. Should I have foreseen all of the above and done something about it? The answer was probably that I was at fault. I didn't like it, but I was still pedaling hard.

I crossed the halfway point and heard that I was in about 50th. Pushed hard, knowing that the longer I was out there the worse it would be to not have anything to eat. Bonked pretty hard for a bit around mile 80, but begged some food at mile 90ish. Almost as soon as I swallowed it my cadence picked up. I felt like an animatronic cyclist (or for some reason that was what was in my head). I went up the last 8 miles or so from the lake up and up to the finish as if I were trying to win the race. I passed another 8 people. I felt good about my effort and crossed the line with a smile at just over 6:20.

Every time I ride I'm sure I learn something. This ride I learned or relearned more than normal.

1. Navigation is paramount in these events. Even if not lost it does not serve to not know the next turn. Uncertainty ruins race strategy and can lead to dangerous panic turns. Being lost is an absolute killer too.

2. Food is of utmost importance. During the Gentleman's ride I spun around all day pulling my group and feeling great. Here I felt like hell at mile 80. Biggest difference was the lack of food. During the Gentleman's ride I consumed 5 gel shots, 1 pack of cola flavored gel caps, 2 bottles of heed and plenty of water.

3. If I'm going on the road bike/skinny tires I need to remember that I have an advantage in a lot of places, but it goes away if I flat by trying to pretend I'm in a cross race.

4. Aero bars are the shit- I absolutely love them. Think about the solo effort I put in on the back half of this race to finish where I did and compare that to how nerdy you think they look? Worth it? I would have been 15 or 20 minutes slower without them. They also contribute to my comfort on the bike. Last year I had huge back issues in this same race, this weekend I felt comfortable the whole ride. There have obviously been other changes, but they are a significant factor. It is huge to be able to get in a position that feels like "rest".

5. Bike preparation is important- my chain/cassette weren't of the same vintage and I didn't have access to my 4 hardest gears. Why hadn't I figured this out before the race and fixed it? This pissed me off all day and effected my strategy early on.

6. Sport legs actually work- this was the first time I tried them. I will use them for anything long in the future, enough said.

7. Breathe right strips actually work- I think I'll be wearing one even when healthy.