Thursday, December 27

The Strava Slam

If you were unaware, Strava once had a disgusting, stacked-up stem. I didn't like it, so I sent them an e-mail.

Wednesday, December 26

Surfing Lake Michigan

In the past week, I've transitioned from beautiful South Carolina, surprisingly nice Bloomington weather (see Miracle on 446th St.) and most recently the Windy City. After two solid days of training up in the cold North of Chicago, I threw on some tights and a jacket and hopped on the bike without a second thought. Almost immediately, the wind from between the Lincoln Park townhomes pushed me halfway across the road while I was turning out of the driveway. I couldn't help but smile when I hit those crosswinds head-on half a mile later; for some reason I get a sick sort of satisfaction from these rides.  

As I continued south, the tailwind pushed me along at comfortable 25 or so effortless miles per hour across the freshly-salted Lakefront Trail. Aside from a few amateur photographers taking in the views for a few cold minutes, it was a great feeling to have the usually packed trail to myself. A few miles down, Chicago Police had barricades up to close off the trail, forcing me to explore the dirt, grass, snow, ice, salt and sand separating the trail from Lakeshore Drive. Aside from the sections where all of the above mixed into a simultaneously slushy and bumpy concoction, it wasn’t too bad considering a dedicated road bike on 25c tires.

The median soon ended, so I hopped back on the trail to brave the waves some more. Still on a broad reach with the wind, I used the gusts to my advantage, trying to time my efforts with the sections of low seawall and high waves. This strategy worked pretty well and kept a smile frozen (quite literally) to my face right up until I hit the Museum campus. At 27 miles per hour.

You approach the Shedd Aquarium with a gentle left-hander into the wind, so I prepared accordingly, winding up the gears a little so I didn’t stop dead in the face of a big gust. No gust came, however, so instead I found myself going at quite a clip round the right-hand semi-circle just ahead. Consistent spray from the lake had formed pretty icicles along the hand railing. As my rear wheel skipped out, the realization that I was sliding around a corner over black ice hit me nearly as hard as I would soon hit the concrete barrier before completing my slide to a stop after the front wheel followed its counterpart’s lead and gave out in spite of my best upright balancing act.

I popped back up with a choice word or three before picking up my brave steed to bring me back home. While realigning the brakes and slipping the chain back on, Lake Michigan threw up a massive wave that broke at the top of the waist-level barrier and quickly froze to my bike and any exposed skin it could find.
The ice cracked off of various places on my kit as I remounted the bike against the wind. This ride was now a completely different experience. The wind blew spray and sand into my face as I struggled to spin up my 39x23 gear to any respectable RPM. Now that I was already beyond frozen, my wave-dodging strategy became rather pointless. Fighting the wind to ride through flowing water and crashing waves deemed too hazardous to fjord by the CPD took the pain away from my hip and freezing appendages and brought the fun back into my ride.

With blizzard conditions on the way, the weather looks like it won’t be changing anytime soon; but that’s not so bad, is it?


Friday, December 21

Winding Down

Sadly, our first winter break training camp has come to a close. Tonight, we're busy packing to go back to our families for the holidays.The weather has been great down here, but what I think we'll all miss most is waking up in the morning with nothing to do but ride bikes with some of our closest friends. Heading out for a hard 5-hour day in the saddle is so much easier to do when you know you have 5 other guys getting up and doing the same thing with you. Even better, you know that as soon as you get home you've got food and a nice comfy chair or bed waiting with no one else to bother you.

Although it's fun to always have a party around, like when we're back at IU, it's tough to express how much more satisfying it is to go down to the local brew pub with the guys who have been working hard and spending time away from their families, committed to the same goal as you after a week of training.

As I look to the 12-hour drive in front of us at some terrible hour in the morning tomorrow, I only dread it because every hour on the road will bring us further from the beautiful weather and great training that came with it.

Well, it's about that time, eh?

Merry Christmas

Wednesday, December 19


Today we rolled out at 9 AM for a ride with some local cyclists we met a few days back. Aaron, Kipp, Jacob and a few others from the Cyclopedia shop and Islanders team closed the shop for a few hours and took us out on a few more inland roads we hadn't checked out yet. Talking to some different people for a bit was a nice change for the day. We stopped for Aaron's 8-shot espresso at Starbucks in Myrtle Beach, then continued on our way.

After we parted ways with the Islanders, we headed back to our Litchfield Criterium course for a few fast and fun laps. Each 1.3 mile lap has quite a few brick sections and two tight roundabouts, making for a somewhat technical little circuit. With a few hard laps down, we decided to hold a friendly competition to see who could lay it all out for the fastest standing-start one lap ITT. The results panned out with Torrance leading the bunch:

Nick - 2:52.8
Drew - 2:59.3
Thomas - 3:00.0
Paul - 3:00.9
Rice - 3:10.0
Capshew - 3:20.0

With fantastic weather in the mid 60's and lots of sun, it's been a great day for riding bikes. Next up are we'll be hosting our very own rookie exchange clinic for the entertainment of the area beach communities. Check back for more soon.

Tuesday, December 18

Day Trip

To mix things up today, we took a little drive down to the National Forest north of Charleston for our ride. We parked at an old style general store where check out was still done the calculator and paper method. Our bikes were rearing to go, so we obliged and hopped on for our loop of the forest.

The entire ride consisted of about four turns, so the tree-lined roads seemed to go on forever. Three-quarters of the roads were nice and smooth; the other bit bore an unfortunate resemblance to of some of the Spring Classics. Overall, today's 96-mile rural excursion was a refreshing change of pace from the monotonous beach roads from the past few days.

Miles of smiles

Look for an update about our local group ride tomorrow!

Monday, December 17

Let's go find some great whites

Today started off with a quick team breakfast at Casa de Cox before we got in the saddle for a long, steady ride. A few miles out we once again resigned ourselves to the wet, soggy, leaf-covered and twisty bike path before putting rubber to open road. Once we were out of congested traffic, a steady 22 mph average, nearly unimaginable back home in Indiana, was the norm for the next 75 or so miles.

While waiting for the clouds to open up an take the pain away from our legs as the weatherman had foretold, we caught up with a local club cyclist who hung with us and shared some local gossip for a few miles. According to our new friend, two great white sharks have been tagged off of the coast of Myrtle Beach recently. Better yet, Jeff told us that anyone with an iPhone can download an app to see the sharks' exact GPS locations. We feel this app may soon become the next leading cause of death for male Myrtle Beachians (behind alcohol poisoning, of course) and thus, strongly advocate it's distribution and widespread use.

Guess which floor is ours
Jeff was the only local person we befriended on the bike today, but team botanist, Andrew Capshew, did manage to form some uncomfortably close relationships with a few local trees and other assorted wildlife. After Cappie recovered from the severe laceration of his pride, the team continued home to our personal criterium loop just as the weatherman unleashed his wrath upon us. We did a few fast loops of the 1.2 mile course before calling it a day just as some other rookie got a flat or something.

We got inside, cleaned our bikes, and had a big late lunch. A few of us shot down to the local bike shop to talk to some more local cyclists. According to Aaron, the shop owner, most people here actually consider this weather too cold to ride bikes. Aaron and his friends, however, are not most people here and thus offered to meet us for a ride Wednesday morning with some more of their buddies to show us some good routes while reliving their illustrious racing careers. So, we're kind of looking forward to that.

Sunday, December 16

Welcome To South Carolina

After leaving at 6 AM Saturday, we pulled into our parking spots at the condominium at about 7:30 that night after a little mix up on directions. The condo, generously provided to us for the week by an alumnus, has been a great surprise, with more than ample room for our 6 man team and beautiful views of the beach. Boatloads of Chinese delivery made the night complete.

We were on the bike this morning by 9, taking a conveniently close and surprisingly technical bike path out to the roads planned for the day. After a 20 mile jaunt to Surfside Beach, we stopped by a local bagel spot for breakfast. Parking our bikes outside, we walked in to a sea of surprised and inquisitive faces. In the short time we were eating there, we had half a dozen friendly locals approach us to ask who we were and where we were going. Compared to Bloomington where everyone under the sun rides bikes, this attention was a nice change of pace, especially on the roads. As we continued our ride up to Myrtle Beach on some well-traveled roads, we noticed much friendlier and more cautious drivers than in Bloomington. The only honks we got were accompanied with a smile and a wave.

Entering Myrtle Beach city limits, traffic seems to disappear altogether. Compared to the beautiful resort areas nearby, the 10 mile stretch traversing the Dirty Myrtle is like being transported to an old Western ghost town, only much, much worse. It's obvious that nobody voluntarily lives there and seems like the entire economy there revolves around mini-golf and Ferris wheels. Of the few people we did ride past, most would  be competitive in a Slim Shady look-a-like contest. Needless to say, we were happy when we got back out of "city" limits and continued our ride elsewhere.

The rest of the ride took us inland, through some golf courses and back South to our home for the week at a nice easy pace to warm up for the week. The sun finally came out as we were arriving, hopefully as a good omen for the rest of our stay.

Stay tuned for more daily updates on our training trip!