Yes! I’m back in writing mode! This road season has been amazingly busy but still so much fun. It’s like getting the boys back together. When you have a good group of doods and you’re traveling around racing your bike it’s pretty hard to buckle down to write it all out in a journal. Now I’m gonna attempt to re-tell the awesomeness in one article.
I headed to Durango, Colorado, in June for a bunch of reasons, but a hard altitude training camp was on tap for me. “D-town” is an amazing place: the scenery is top notch and there are so many other cyclists to ride with there. It’s almost too easy to get in the hours on the bike.
Why was I in Durango training like a madman at altitude? My coach, Rick Crawford, who happens to live in Durango, convinced me that I needed to be at altitude the weeks before I raced the world’s highest bike race: The Tour of Qinghai lakes in China.
You’ve probably heard of the race, it climbs all throughout the Tibetan highlands and Qinghai lakes region. When I was in Durango I was consistently sleeping at 8,000 feet and training/camping out at over 11,000 feet to try and get ready for this year’s race.
Last year I got pretty smoked trying to tackle the big mountains coming from sea level in Massachusetts, so I decided it was better to be pre-emptive and get my buns high beforehand. While I didn’t win the race, I did have a much easier time making it over those 14,000-foot high climbs and I was able to take some form away from the race rather than laying in bed for three weeks after the race (true story). The race went decent. A lot of my teammates had stomach issues, which happens when you are overseas typically. But overall, everyone left with something. Whether that was an experience or a result, we made it worth our time and looking back it was a great experience.
Back onto D-town … If you know anything about the small mountain town, then you know it’s home to some of the KINGS of mountain bikin’! A couple of them happen to be my good friends “The Wells Bros.,” Todd and Troy Wells, who are two of my good friends.
One day they asked me to rip the “Aztec loop” and I was into that! 100 miles and mostly flat, it shoots from Durango down into New Mexico and then back up. I was good for most of the ride but towards the end I started feeling a little bonky. I soon noticed I looked like Casper the Ghost and had salt all over me. It was definitely hot but I didn’t want to keep bothering everyone to stop for water again so I kept on … That hurt. I barely made it back into town before the vomiting and dizzyness started! I eventually had to have my girlfriend Emily come pick me up in town. I drank Pedialyte and laid on the couch for the remainder of the day. How about that for a welcome back ride?!?!
The good part of the ride was that I asked if I could borrow a mountain bike for my stay in Durango and Todd was quick to let me use one of his Specialized MTB’s he had around. I hadn’t done much mountain biking but I was psyched to be able shred the trails with everyone out there and make it happen on the dirt!
I did the Durango Devo short track races at Fort Lewis College on Wednesday nights to get the intensity in and it was so much fun! Those races got me all excited about mountain biking again, so much so that I decided to put in a call to my friends at Spooky Bikes while I was in D-town. Since Spooky is literally a stone’s throw from my door in Massachusetts, it was an easy call. Having good friends is the best thing in the world! They helped me put together an awesome mountain bike with help from SRAM and RockShox.
At that point I had no choice: I had to race at Mount Snow. It’s just over an hour from my door and I love racin’ mountain bikes. But I’ll say I’ve had a lot of time off since I raced mountain bikes as a junior and it hasn’t gotten any easier since then!
The best part was seeing all the familiar faces from cyclocross out there. When you’re racin’ a lot at this point in the road season it’s all about staying excited about racing, so doing something different was a good way to get in some racing without using too much brain power.
Once I got all settled from my China trip I ripped into a box that had been pushed against the wall for many months; a gigantic box of clothing from Justin England at the Pro’s Closet. You are probably wondering why would I get a box of clothing from those people? It wasn’t for me! It was for my friend and protégé Anthony who I told you about.
Anthony’s been training his brains out while I’ve been off racing around but we’ve been staying in contact. Anthony has been diligent in putting in hours after work, doing timed intervals and even bringing a light if he has to work late. That’s Merckx style: training at 11 p.m. He recently moved up to the expert level mountain bike class and has been constantly getting better.
The last three events he’s entered he’s placed sixth in all of them. But the times have been getting closer to the winner. Category 5 road races next year in New England will never be the same after this winter with Anthony …
Before I wrap this up I wanted to tell everyone about this really cool wind tunnel testing that I was able to use in Connecticut a couple weeks back. I don’t know if you’ll be able to believe this, but a person that I grew up with racing as junior created a cycling-specific wind tunnel. Aiden Charles and his brother spent about year and half perfecting the tunnel. A couple weeks back Aiden and I made time to hook me up. I’ve tried to get into the other wind tunnels in California and Massachusetts but the timing never worked out. I was always trying to find someone that could align with my schedule and finally Aiden was my guy.
The process was awesome. Beforehand, Aiden had asked me what section of my position I wanted to work on. I really wanted to close up my frontal area because in the last couple years I felt like I was able to get a very low with my back flat but the gap I had between my elbows and nose was gigantic and I would get into a race and have power in my legs but really wasn’t beating the wind.
Once we got my bike all set up in the tunnel, Aiden and I tried various positions with the front of my bike. First we got some baseline numbers so we had something to make a comparison to. We tried all kinds of stuff, including ‘the praying Landis,” which was slow for me, then we had me hunched over the front of the bike ridin’ the tip of the saddle – that also wasn’t too hot for drag.
Ultimately, moving my arms closer together made the biggest difference. We brought my arms inwards by 11 mm, which also happened to be the maximum amount that I was able to bring them in, given the components I’m running. We were able to get my elbows out of the wind and when we hit the tunnel, that position came up with the lowest drag numbers. We continued to try and find time with other modifications but eventually brought the position back to the exactly how it was before and reproduced the exact same results and even a bit faster than the initial test.
So now I’ve been training in this position tryin’ to ready myself for the Tour of Missouri and hoping for some good legs!
That’s all I’ve got for this time. Check out Aiden’s site charlescoaching.net if you want more info on the tunnel. If you’re on the East Coast and close to Connecticut, it’s an awesome resource!
Next time I’ll tell you about my ’cross camp in the mid-Atlantic and my journey to raising $2,000 dollars for the LiveStrong ride in Philadelphia.