Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Vampires on TT Bikes

Yesterday, Ian Robertson posted a theory that pitted Lincoln's KAOS roadies as vampires against Omaha's MWCC lycans (warewolves).

I have a theory that Cat 1-2 Kaos riders are vampires and Cat 1-2 Midwest Cycling Community riders are lichens and they can’t be in the same race at the same time.

It got me thinking. Perhaps Ian is onto something here. But why restrict it to just the KAOS riders? Perhaps all Lincoln roadies could be infected by the blood-sucker's bite.

So what if Ian was also a vampire? It's been said that vampires don't cast a reflection. Perhaps his race timing chip was affected by this phenomenon, because the chip apparently didn't reflect his official time, either.

I can imagine the scene at the Velo-GreenStreet Team HQ last Friday night as they went through the final race day's checklist.

Duryea: Did you get the timing chips picked up, Randleman?

Randleman: Yeah. I picked up the TT-1000 Timing Chip system today.

Duryea: What?! The TT-1000 system is total crap! I told you: get the TT-2000 because it's paranormally-tuned and undead compliant.

Fortunately for Ian, Garmin saved the day

Nice job to Jarred for putting 39s into me over 24mi. Still lusting after that wind-tunnel experience of his!
53:39 for 24mi today (no idea how correct that distance measurement is until I get the Garmin downloaded) … Hoped to do faster, but never really felt on top of the gear. Note to self – ride tt bike more

I don't know about you, but TTs are already scary enough. And now, thanks to Garmin, vampires' times can also be recorded when they throw the 55-12 hammer down at local TT races.

But I still wasn't satisfied. So, looking for more clues, I studied David Seever's photos from last week's State Championship TT. Tell me if you don't agree with my keen eye at picking a vampire

Overall TT Winner, Jarred Berger, and a Lincoln KAOS vampire

Joe McWilliams, from Lincoln KAOS, another one

Marc Walter, Lincoln KAOS and possible vampire

Ian Robertson, also from Lincoln, also a vampire

Greg Hagele, Ian's teammate and member of the Flatwater coven

MWCC's Kevin Burke. The first flaw in Ian's theory. But as the founder of KAOS and a Lincolnite, Kevin is quite likely a vampire

Eric O'Brien. Whoops, an Omaha MWCC dude. Oh well, there goes Ian's theory. But hang on, Eric's also a transplant from California and likely a repressed vampire, resorting to drinking pig blood.

And what about Shim? He's like older than Methuselah. I bet that he's a vam --


Hang on, somebody's at my front door.

Well Hi, Ian. Why, that's funny, I was just blogging about your vampire theory when, wait a minute. You don't look so good. You look absolutely famished, and your eyes...they're are all red and stuff. Are you alrig --

^^ CHOMP ^^



Friday, June 24, 2011

Flashback Friday: If Paul Harvey was at this Year's Norfolk Classic

Hello Wholesome Steel-Cut Goodness readers. You know what the news is, and in a minute, you're going to read... the rest of the story.

Reel 1:
It was the Norfolk Classic Road Race weekend and everything was all abuzz. Yes, there was lots of excitement in the air, for this was no ordinary road race. It was the one to settle them all. For the year 2011 at least, one victor would climb the stairs at the end of the race to stand proudly above the rest, adorned with a shiny gold medal signifying his glorious achievement. Yes, indeed folks, it was the State Championship road race weekend, and the Norfolk Classic was the gracious host.

And it was a beautiful day in hand for this year's Classic. Now let's pick up on the action, where this day's news of most lasting significance is about to be told.

The scene was a county highway, a flat section alongside vast cornfields famous for whipping up notorious crosswinds. The group had just gone through a feed zone and no one in the pack was motivated to move. Our good man was getting antsy. Time was running short. He carefully chose his moment, and swinging wide to the outside, dropped the hammer and pinned it. He got clear! Our man was on the attack and he was making good ground.

That's when he looked up and saw the rollers approaching down the road.

And by rollers, I don't mean hills. No, my good friends reading this story today, by rollers, I mean a Nebraska State Patrol car.

Yes indeed, our man was caught in a predicament and probably wouldn't want us to mention his name right now...

Perhaps this young man would have seen those rollers sooner if he had taken his Hi-Health dietary supplements like I do. Have you heard about the good news from Hi-Health? Developed from the extracts of neolithic Scandinavian tundra that have been scientifically reconstituted in hydroponic labs in Scranton, PA, Hi-Health supplements have not only stabilized my vision, but improved it drastically. Why just the other day, I was able to clearly see from three bike lengths away that my friend's unidirectional ten speed Dura-Ace chain was installed backwards. Hi-Health is where it's at, folks. Remember that name: Hi-Health supplements.

Reel 2
No, those rollers weren't hills. It was the Nebraska State Patrol's Dodge Charger that was barreling toward him. And it was not the Norfolk Classic that our good man was in that early Saturday morning. No, it was the pre-race race to the Norfolk Classic. You see, the feed zone he just passed through was a McDonalds restaurant, and it wasn't exactly fast-food that morning. So due to an extraordinary long wait for an order flapjacks, he was making up for lost time on a stretch of Hwy 275 just outside of West Point.

When he saw the cruiser, our man quickly shifted the foot from the accelerator and started applying pressure to the brake. The needle was falling, but not fast enough. He was doing well over the posted speed limit of 60.

Meanwhile, NSP Trooper Bruning had him dialed in on his radar. He swung wide onto his shoulder and flipped the u-turn to chase the speeder down.

I imagine it was quite a scene from a rear view mirror: a thick dust cloud kicked up from the shoulder formed a marvelous backdrop while the Charger pursued with lights-a-blazing. The gap was closed quickly. Another speeding ticket was about to be in the books.

As the dust settled, Trooper Bruning stepped out of the cruiser. A Smokey Bear hat, a crisply starched khaki uniform and spit & polish black boots that crunched the gravel with authority, he was all business. There would be no soft warning today, folks. Bruning informed our man that he was doing 74 in a 60 MPH zone, then asked for license, registration and proof of insurance. He wrote the ticket, explained that he could pay the fine, protest in court, or take a STOP class to have it expunged from the record. The officer made a final plea to drive safely and let our man go about his business.

I'm sure right about now, our good man would not want his name revealed to our reading audience...

Reel 3
The whole affair took about 15 minutes. 15 minutes of precious time whittled away from the clock. And now, speeding to the race was out of the question. But without breaking any laws, he made it safely to the race to join his MWCC teammates with only minutes to spare.

Who was this spurned speeder?

Was it MWCC's Feagan, Marshall, O'Brien? How about Redemske, Savery or Webb? They were all at the race that day.

I will give you a clue. Our man wasn't at last Wednesday night's group ride either. No, he had chosen instead to take the STOP class this past Wednesday.

What about Shim? Was he the guilty party? While he missed the start of Wednesday's ride and has received a speeding ticket in West Point on Norfolk Classic race weekend, it wasn't from this past year's classic.

If not Shim, then who?

Our good man, the one who received the speeding ticket in West Point that day, and the same person who sat in the Red Room at the Ramada for eight hours this past Tuesday and Wednesday nights was Brady. And in the 25 years of driving, it was his first speeding ticket to boot.

And now you know the rest of the story.

Signing off as WSCG... Good day

Friday, June 17, 2011

Cats Are Steve Tilford's Kryptonite

Since gamjams-midwest began picking up feeds from professional cyclist Steve Tilford sometime last year, I've become a regular follower of Steve's blog. I like his blog because I'm a relative newbie to road racing and could use as much good advice as I can get. He brings plenty of that.

But what I also like about his blog is that it's not always about cycling. Take this past Wednesday's post, where Tilford suffered another cat bite:

I was trying to catch the mother cat yesterday to take to the vet to get spayed and thought I was past the cat-bites-the-human part of the relationship, but I was wrong. She chomped down on my finger pretty good. Nothing hurts more initially that a good cat bite. I think it is because their teeth go all the way to the bone.

Something's amiss. In his lengthy career, Tilford has been involved in more crashes than I care to think about, but seemingly nothing hurts more initially than a good cat bite? Yeesh. Unconvinced, I did some research on Tilford's injuries. Here's what he had to say in Pez Cycling news last October:

One time in the Milk Race I broke my leg, hand and collar bone and was back racing at the Coors Classic within five weeks. I've broken my collar bone pretty often, that heals in about three weeks.
-- Pez-Talk, American Legend Steve Tilford

Did he really just trivialize broken collarbone(s)?! And the Coors Classic in just five weeks from multiple fractures? No wonder he's called the 'cyborg'. And yet, because Tilford doesn't have a spleen (afraid to ask why), this cat bite will probably sideline him for a month due to the risk of blood infection.

Let's recap: that's five weeks for broken leg, hand and collarbone, four weeks for cat bite or three weeks for a routine broken collar bone. Wait. What was that -- a month for a cat bite? Suffice it to say, it's probably not the crashes that keeps Steve awake at night. No, it's being bitten by another cat.

Cats are apparently Steve Tilford's kryptonite.

Anyway, I may not be able to offer any cycling advice to a seasoned pro like Steve Tilford, but I have successfully caught an angry cat or two in my time. And since Steve has had more than one bad cat nabbing outcome, I'm assuming that (he's reading this and) could use a tip here or there to get him through the next time he squares up against his feline nemesis. So while that finger mends, pop another antibiotic and read on, Mr. Steve Tilford, because this one's for you.


On a bitterly cold winter night years ago, I awoke to hear my cat Newton making those really low, guttural tones that escalate slowly into the higher decibels. I got up to check out what was going on. Newton was upset that a feral cat was at the sliding glass back door. It was definitely a stray: an unkempt orange tabby with a chunk of ear missing. And, one couldn't help but notice that the family jewels were well in-tact. Yes indeed, this fella was a wild one, and he either wanted to come in from the cold, or make a territorial claim against Newton.

Newton, RIP 2005

With the wind and all, the temperature outside felt like -20F. I assumed that the tomcat wanted to come in from the cold. But it was 1:00 AM, what could I do? I went back to bed and wrestled with my conscience under a heated blanket. I wasn't about to let a wild cat into my house, so I decided on a compromise. I setup a space heater and some of Newton's bedding in the three-season, enclosed porch and then let the tomcat in there. My guilt relieved, I went back to bed.

But in a short while, the tomcat and Newton started that eerie trash-talking again.

So I got up once more, put some water and cat food out there and then covered half the door's window panels with paper so the tomcat couldn't see inside to Newton. Heat, food, water and privacy. That's pretty good for a stray cat. Contented once more, I went back to bed.

The peace and quiet lasted all of about two minutes before the commotion started again.

So I got up for the third time. This time, I found that the tomcat had climbed all the way up the backside of the porch door and was hanging from his front paws to look through the top row of uncovered windows. That cat didn't want shelter from the harsh weather outside, nor was he hungry or thirsty. All along, all he wanted was to rumble with Newton.

Now I was determined to resolve the issue once and for all. So pay attention Tilford, here's what I did. I got fully dressed in cat-catching garb, which included jeans, a heavy flannel long-sleeve shirt, leather boots and heavy leather work gloves. I then grabbed a large cardboard box and duct tape and went to work at catching a feral cat that was set on staking a territorial claim.

It wasn't pretty. The tomcat put up a good fight with lots of hissing, kicking, clawing and attempted biting as I hauled him in. But by the time all the fur-balls settled, I was scratch-free with one very pissed off cat sealed inside a cardboard box.

I then loaded him into the car for a drive. Now my friend Shim probably would have driven to the Mormon bridge and thrown the box with cat inside into the icy Missouri river below. But what I did instead was to take the cat to the Omaha Humane Society. Even at 1:30 AM, our local Humane Society accepts strays. As an aside, the Omaha Humane Society is truly humane to our dumb friends. They have a heated room with an empty cage for strays that's monitored by the Humane Society's staff 24/7. See Shim, no need to dump cats in rivers.

So there you go, Mr Tilford. You probably already knew this stuff. But just in case, wear some heavy work gloves the next time you need to grab that mother cat.

It's either that or another ten days of horse pills and a month off the bike.

Mend well, Steve Tilford.

Happy Friday, everyone

Friday, June 10, 2011

State Championships Are Earned at State Championships

I used to follow Charles Schultz' Peanuts when I was a kid. Sunday comics, books and holiday specials brought the peanut gallery to life. Favorites included Linus and the nativity scene, Snoopy as the Red Baron, Peppermint Patty and who could forget Pig-Pen.

But if I had to reduce it all down to one frame, I'd pick Charlie Brown, Lucy and the football. Somehow, Charles Schultz managed to capture the essence of Charlie Brown's tenacious character in that scene. How many times would he line up to kick that ball only to have Lucy snatch it away at the last second? It seemed that it appeared in in the Sunday comics about once a month, was in every comic book, and in every holiday TV special.

You got to hand it to Charlie for never giving up. For better or worse, he was resolved to accomplish that goal of beating Lucy at her own game.

My friend Mike Miles reminds me a little of Charlie Brown's character. Not in the blockhead sort of way, but because of Mike's tenacious character. Since I met him in 2009, Mike's road racing has seen more than a fair share of good chances at a podium snatched away by defeat near or at the last moment of the races. I can imagine the frustration of being so close and yet seemingly so far away. But despite the setbacks, he's one of the most dedicated racers around.

I've ridden a lot with Mike. He handles his bike well. He has good power numbers that come from calf muscles that look like volleyballs. Sprinting is one of his strengths. So you'd think he'd do well in a field sprint.

But like I said, often with the finish line in sight, victory has been snatched away. At last year's Babcock Road race, he was in good position for the field sprint when carnage broke out that sent him into a ditch. At the Pioneer Park Grand Prix a few weeks ago, another rider crashed in front of him, forcing him off the course. And if not for interference from other riders, then it's been a host of mechanical setbacks -- flats & dropped chains -- that have kept his number from making it into the final selection.

That's bike racing sometimes.

So at this past weekend's crit, our good man Miles was looking great, riding third wheel with a half lap to go. It was like Charlie Brown lining up to kick that football out of Lucy's hands once again...

The field rounded the last corner and began the final 400 meters of frenzy. It was going to be decided in a large field sprint. Though he was third wheel moments before, Mike was nowhere to be found. At about 150m, I distinctly remember thinking, 'where is he?' It was at that moment that Mike made his move. Suddenly, I saw his head pop up as he came out from hiding and was in a full standing sprint in tight traffic. John Lefler Jr. was swallowing the microphone calling the exciting finish.

photo credit: Devin Bethune
Looks like persistence paid off this time.

Congratulations on a State Championship, Mike Miles. That was a well-earned win.

Happy Friday, Mike Miles.

And happy Friday, everyone else

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

State Championships Aren't Decided on Wednesdays

Some might say that the Nebraksa State Championship road and criterium championships were soured by a low turnout among the Cat 1-2-3 field. Yes, that was disappointing. I can imagine even more so for the organizers of the event, Elkhorn Valley Cycling club.

But make no doubt about it. The low turnout was not a reflection of the quality of the races that were put on this past weekend. The Norfolk crew and local race officials deserve accolades for the race they put on. Thank you!

But I still wondered, was the low turnout at a State Championship weekend due to it being hosted (remotely) in Norfolk? At more than two hours by car, Norfolk is just far enough to make one choose between the lesser of two inconveniences: a five hour round trip each day, or in staying overnight. But as a State Championship venue, Norfolk also makes for an ideal location because of its neutrality as its nearly equidistant from Nebraska's most populated areas of Omaha & Lincoln.

Perhaps it was due to a lack of motivated racers in Nebraska? But this is obviously not the case. Last Wednesday night, there were 39 riders on the local Trek Store Omaha ride. No, there's a healthy appetite for racing around here.

Perhaps it's because of us. You and me. Perhaps we roadies simply need to do a better job of recruiting.

Recruiting is simply a matter of asking a non-racer, "When are you going to start racing?"

That's all it took for me. Four years ago, I didn't even own a bike. At the time, running filled that competitive void for me. Sometime later, my brother gave me a very well-used road bike and suggested doing triathlons. Soon, I was joining in on small group rides. Then came the Wednesday Night Worlds (WNW). My bike handling improved tremendously. So did my triathlon bike splits. I soon found myself looking forward to cycling more than running.

But I was still on the fence about racing.

If not for cyclists asking me when I was going to start racing, I may never have moved beyond the WNWs and inked my name on a single-day cat 5 license at the Norfolk Road Race two years ago. I've been all-in ever since.

Like me, did you wonder where the cyclists were this past weekend? It wasn't because of the the race, nor because of the location.

I say it's because of us. Recruiting grows our sport and makes for larger fields in all categories. It may take some time to get the younger riders into more competitive ones, but it's worth the effort. The benefits will be seen in more balanced teams and better competition. And as much as I enjoyed racing with the cat 1-2 field, as a cat 3 racer, I don't belong there. Wouldn't it have been great to see a field of 30, 40, 50! pro-1-2s duke it out for all the glory?

So next time you see that dude in the Pink Floyd jersey who shows up week upon week at your WNW ride, ask him when he's going to start racing for real.

Soon enough, you'll see him frantically pinning his number to his jersey in the parking lot on race day. And when you see this, make sure you go up to them and congratulate them for being there. Chris Spence did that to me. I'll never forget that.

So who's in with me?

Friday, June 3, 2011

There Will Be No Bacon Without Blood

This past Sunday, I joined up with eight others on what's known locally as the Bacon ride. It was my first undertaking of such an event.

Bacon ride participants Jonathan Neve, Mike Miles, Mark Savery & Eric Brunt. Not pictured: James Peters, David Randelman, Chris Goodall, Rafal Doloto

For those not in the know, the bacon ride is a round trip between Omaha and Platte River State Park, where a breakfast buffet complete with salted pig meat awaits. Much of the ride is on gravel and crushed limestone. As a result, most choose to ride cyclocross bikes.

It was a wet morning. A thunderstorm passed through at 4:00 AM, and another was threatening when we pushed off. Fortunately, we missed the storm and only had a few bouts of sprinkles. Still, the ground was soaked. The gravel wasn't too bad, but the crushed limestone was mushy in parts.

James Peters hydrates in Walnut Creek

There were many memorable moments on this ride. One of them was Rafal's crash on an old steel-trussed bridge spanning a swollen country creek.

Remember when Curly the Stooge would step on a wooden plank, only to have it come up and smack him in the face? Well, it was kinda like the inverse of that. As Rafal crossed the bridge, his front wheel neatly slipped into the expansion joint between two wooden planks. The wheel seized instantly. That's bad, especially when you're going about 20 mph, like Rafal was. However, the bike didn't stop moving. No, it continued to rotate around the front hub. Rafal had no time to react as the bike bucked him violently over the handle bars and onto the bridge decking.

Fortunately, both he and his bike were fine.

The same couldn't be said about his bibs:

Rafal's tattered bibs and road rash

I rolled up next to him a few minutes later to check how he was doing. What he said next was verbatim:

There will be no bacon without blood.

Yes! Our man was on a mission, and he was not going to be denied a seat at the Platte River State Park breakfast table that morning. Tattered bibs and road rash seemed to only motivate him more.

But before we got there, there was one more crash. A few miles down the road, Chris Goodall and I were riding and chatting side-by-side. We approached a sketchy corner at Hwy 50 and Hwy 66. As Chris rounded the inside corner, his tires washed out and slid into mine. Both of us went down. Then came a prolonged noise of aluminum scraping over wet concrete.

Remember folks, there will be no bacon without blood.

We were fine. Chris had some minor road rash, but otherwise okay.

The rest of the ride was relatively uneventful. In all, we covered 70 miles of beautiful country field roads, wooden planked bridges and crushed limestone trails.

Most importantly, Rafal got his bacon. In fact we all did, and even got some free high-fives to boot from the Lincoln crew who also rode in.

Good times.

If you haven't done a bacon ride, you really owe it to yourself to do so. I'm not saying that there'll be blood every week. There will certainly be bacon. But who knows? If you're lucky enough, perhaps Rafal will demonstrate how to wedge a front wheel into a bridge expansion joint just for giggles.

Happy Friday, everyone