2012 Data in Review

Every season presents unique challenges.  2012 was an interesting year for me.  I was coming off a significant injury with a broken collarbone in October 2011.  I started a new job in January, and was presented new challenges finding time to train.  I had some successes and some failures but overall it was another successful season.

Results:

Although 2011 was my breakout season, winning the 2011 Best All-Around Rider, I still had not won a Pro/1/2 race.  I felt like my form was too even in 2011 and set out to find higher peaks in 2012 in hopes of winning a few races.  I was successful in this regard, winning 3 races (A stage race crit, a cyclocross TT, and a cyclocross race) in 2012.

2012 Dead Dog Criterium

2012 Dead Dog Criterium

Equipment:

The big addition to my collection this year was my first proper time trial bike.  I’d been racing on a converted road frame, and having a proper TT bike was a major revelation.  I improved my 40k PR by a minute at the State TT Championship and finished 5th, less than minute from the winner.

Blue Triad SP

Blue Triad SP

The Team:

This season I’ve taken on extra duties with the team. I’ve been taken behind the curtain with team finances and sponsor relations. Its been a lot of work but I’ve been excited to have more control over my own destiny.  Part of the reason for less frequent posting on this blog has been that I’ve allocated more of my free time to team matters.  That being said, I’m very much looking forward to the 2013 season.

2012 Natural Grocers Elite Squads

2012 Natural Grocers Elite Squads

Training Volume:

As always, my volume was lower than planned.  I’ve been reducing my training volume to meet my time constraints, and I usually miss my targets but 5-10%.  This year was no exception, as I trained about 400 of my planned 450.  You can see that my weekly hours and TSS varied week to week; This is evidence of my training to ‘peak’ with harder weeks followed by much easier weeks before key races.

2012 Annual Summary

2012 Annual Summary

Performance Management Chart:

Below is a chart with my 2012 PMC (top) and 2011 PMC (bottom). First I’ll point out that my data is much more complete for 2012 (2011 is missing some data in August). But next you’ll notice that my build up was more gradual and my peak form was longer. I think this is probably why I had trouble continuing through the length of cyclocross season late this year, as I had been very close to top form since July.

PMC 2012 vs 2011

PMC 2012(top) vs 2011(bottom)

Peak Power:

2012 (Purple, below) saw very similar peak power number to 2011 (Gray, below), and I even set a few power records. Partly this is due to my crank power meter reading ever so slightly higher than my powertap, since the power is measured before losses due to the chain (about 3%). At the very least I was happy to see similar power numbers with fewer training hours, as it showed I was utilizing my time training properly.

All Time Peak (Gray) vs 2012 (Purple)

All Time Peak (Gray) vs 2012 (Purple)

Power Profile:

This graph probably gives me the most insight into my abilities and where I need to focus my efforts for 2013. You can see clearly my three seasons of data below, with each data set (time interval) having three distinct peaks for each season. My sprint power has been decreasing, 5 minute power holding steady, and last season I saw my highest threshold number yet.

All Time Power Profile

All Time Power Profile

Summary:

Overall I am happy with how this season went. I laid out my goals and felt like I did my best at the State TT, although I missed my goal of qualifying for the Nature Valley Grand Prix. I had good race results and won a few races (I’ve updated my Palmarés page above). I wasn’t targeting the BAR and still finished 12th. I lost steam towards the end of the season and have taken more time off and gained more weight than I would have liked to, but I am excited to choose some goals for 2013 and make a plan for another successful season in 2013.

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Castle Cross

After starting my off season a little earlier than planned, I was unsure how to stay fit leading up to the start of my road training.  I enjoy cyclocross usually, so getting into the last few races of the season seemed like a good idea.  I wasn’t sure what to expect but after a month off racing and focused training, I was mentally prepared to finish outside the top ten and just have fun riding my bike.  Or so I thought…

The course was totally awesome, but also quite difficult.  There were perhaps two flat straights on the entire course, and the rest was constantly twisting with sections of great flow, off camber, loose dirt, dust, grass, bumps, sketchy descents, and a few stairs.

I usually do a little course recon via Twitter.  I expected to need intermediate tires, or even file treads, as the course it at a bike park and it has been very dry lately.  Luckily, I was informed of how loose the course was before I arrived and I brought my aggressive Specialized Terra tubulars which worked well to cut through the soft stuff to find traction.

I had fun warming up and ended up at the back of the start grid since I hadn’t pre-registered.  I moved up to about 10th from last as we hit the course, but I planned to have fun and wasn’t worried about having to pass a few guys.

At the second barrier section only a few minutes into the race I hopped back on and something was wrong with my bike.  I glanced at my drivetrain and everything seemed OK so I had to dismount and troubleshoot.  By the time I’d unhooked my brake caliper from under my rim, I was the last rider on the course.  I’d had this happen on a remount at the Boulder Cup, and I’m not sure when I’m catching the brake.  The pads aren’t adjusted perfectly, since I switch wheels a lot and unfortunately they aren’t all exactly the same diameter and I think my alloy tubulars are the largest, so the pads sit low on the braking surface of the low profile rims.

I passed the last placed rider and quickly found the tail end of the race.  I figured I’d start motoring past folks, but I was instead surprised to find that I couldn’t go much faster than the small group bringing up the rear of the race.

This was in pretty much all aspects.  I wasn’t interested in descending much faster, and I definitely couldn’t pedal much harder either.  I felt sloppy on and off the bike and before long my back started to hurt too.  I glanced at my computer and was only 20 minutes into the race.

It was only about 10 more minutes before I decided to pull the plug.  I was much further back than I expected, and was feeling much worse than I expected to feel.

But, the race still served its purpose.  It is easy to get used to being fast.  I’ve been racing well at the top level of local and regional races for a while now and it can start to feel like you intrinsically belong there.  I’ve often said that for the most part I don’t really believe in ‘genetic gifts’ and that hard work can take you a long way in cycling.  I was reminded that the opposite is also true and taking a month off on the tail end of fitness after nine months of racing will send your body into all-systems shutdown pretty quickly.  I also gained a bit of weight (I’m about 10-12 lbs over peak road-season weight), and this also can play a major role in race performance.

I’m not sure yet if I’ll pedal the cross bike in anger again this season or not.  I might be able to put things back together a little in the few weeks leading up to the State Championship.  At this point I’m planning on starting training for road season just after the start of the year, so my main priority is to stay fit beween now and then.

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Cyclocross Tires – Dugast Typhoon Review

I’m lucky enough to live in a city that has a Dugast distributor, so for the past few seasons the nearly mythical tires have been simply hanging on a hook waiting for someone to buy them.  Last year I decided to take the plunge and try them out, walking out of the store $250 poorer. These days the tires aren’t too hard to find with a few online stores, including cyclocrossworld.com, carrying them.

Tread / Rubber

The Typhoon tread is based off the Clement Grifo tread pattern which has been in use since the 1970s.  Either old habits die hard, or perhaps tread pattern nirvana was found many years ago… But either way the tread pattern performs as advertised: Rolling quickly on pavement with minimal buzz and grippy enough in most conditions.

When the tires were new, the grip was surprising.  I got the impression that the sharp edges of the half moons gave the tires most of their ability to hold a line under pressure.  At CrossVegas the tires were stuck to the grass like velcro in the corners.  I noticed in particular how ‘sharp’ the tires felt on my hands; if I was spinning the rear wheel and had to stop it with my hand the tread would feel very harsh across my palm.

However, the grip progressed from unbelievable to good after perhaps a half dozen races.  The tires lasted about two dozen races in total (keep in mind this includes pre-riding and occasionally riding out to a race).  By the time the sidewall gave out (more on this below), the tread was also no longer performing as well as I would have liked.  For most racers, expect the tread to last one season.

Casing / Sidewall

Yes, everything you’ve read is true.  The casing is without question incredibly supple.  Pumped up to 15 psi and compared to a typical vulcanized tubular, the difference is obvious: the Dugast feels like it is very soft and you can easily press your thumb to the rim, but on the other tire it feels firm and near a rideable pressure.  I don’t have experience with other high-end cold vulanized cotton tubulars (FMB, etc), but I assume they are similar in feel as they are similar in construction.

The supple casing translates into very predictable performance across a range of pressures, as the air pressure in the tire does most of the work in terms of stability.  When I say ‘predictable’, I don’t mean always good.  On firm ground in a fast corner, the supple casing is more prone to folding than other tires.  In fact, Dugast offers a stiffer casing for exactly this reason with its ‘flying doctor’ version of the tires.

I found the supple casing makes pressure selection even more important, as the tire is less forgiving once pressure drops too low.  Generally less pressure gives more traction, but more traction is not always needed with an intermediate tire such as the Typhoon.  There is also a tradeoff between the ability to absorb bumps (low pressure) and stability in the corners (high pressure).

Like I said, the Dugast offers predictable performance, so once you’ve dialed in your pressure for a particular course, you’ll know what to expect from your tires.  I’ve found that tires with stiffer casings are prone to suddenly folding or squirming if a corner is taken 1% harder.  The softer casing is more predictable and since it ‘feels’ softer at a given pressure, a higher pressure can be used for increased stability while the soft feel retains traction and smooths bumpy sections.  At 160 lbs I would use 26-27 psi as a starting point for most courses.

Durability / Sealing

I’ll admit that I have did not perfect my sidewall sealing technique on my first try.  Firstly, I didn’t seal the tires before riding them, and instead waited until before the first wet race.  I also (obviously) didn’t seal the tires before gluing.  There are different schools of thought here, but I found the cotton basetape to be very ‘thirsty’ and it was difficult to seal the 1-2mm of base tape running along the rim after gluing.

When I see the big time pro’s tires, I’ve noticed a few things.  Firstly, their race tires are always very fresh, with the ‘tire hair’ still prominent.  Secondly, they are very well sealed with an almost plasticy layer of aquaseal.  Eventually, my tires developed some black rot near the base tape and eventually the thin fibers of the cotton casing began to split.  The casing is incredibly thin (2 ply of unidirectional fibers, so both are necessary), so any imperfection will destroy the tire.

Rumor has it that some or all of Dugast’s tires will be factory sealed for 2013.  I’m not sure if this will sway me too much, as my tires were still able to last a season with a marginal sealing job, which is about what I expect out of the tread.

Summary

The Typhoon is a phenomenal intermediate tire.  I rarely felt like I needed less tread, but wanted more in the mud and would opt for a different tire when it was wet or soft.  The sidewalls are fickle, but if you plan to race enough in a season (12-20 races), expect to be replacing your tires at the end of the year anyway.  They are somewhat more expensive than some tires, but if you’re comparing high end tires, you’ll likely be paying about $100 each, so Dugast are still competitive at $120.  Overall verdict: I’m 90% sure I’ll be buying another pair for 2013.

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Offseason

If you’ve been wondering why the blog was so slow lately, it turns out I hit the offseason a little quicker than I expected.  I cut my hand badly and couldn’t race for a weekend. Before I knew it I was enjoying the benefits of not riding, eating a lot, gaining weight, drinking alcohol and spending more time with my family.

I want to race two more cyclocross races, but only for ‘fun’.  It takes me a little time away to adjust my expectations from ‘trying to win’ to ‘fun’, so I’ll probably take a few more weeks off and then race and finish with the State Championships.  I’ve really enjoyed cross this year but I didn’t quite have the super-form that would have motivated me to race seriously through the end of the season.

I’ve also been busy with the logistics of road season, which has helped re-align my focus towards next year.  I’d prefer to have fallen off the cyclocross wagon a few weeks later, but I’m going to try to remain flexible and find some offseason exercise to stay fit until I really start training in about a month.

This is the time of year where I’ll be looking at solidifying my goals for next year so I can start building my training plan around them.  I’ll be crosstraining and for the first time, I’m going to the gym for some weight lifting.  I’ve been telling myself for years that I’m going to start but this year I am committed to adding weight lifting to my training.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for some offseason updates and some final thoughts about cyclocross.

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Power Meters for Cyclocross

I was a bit torn on whether to use my almost new 2012 SRAM Red Quarq power meter for cyclocross this season.  Firstly, the chainrings with the hidden bolt that threads through to the crank aren’t used on the Red PM (because the torque is measured in the spider, and if the rings were bolted to the crank, 100% of the torque would no longer pass through the chainrings/spider), and there currently aren’t chainrings available for cyclocross.

I was able to install chainrings using standard crank bolts by trying a few times until the friction was enough to tighten the bolt sufficiently without accessing the second allen key on the back of the bolt.  I may try chopping one of my allen keys in the future to see if I can manipulate it into place, since there might be just enough clearance.

Wear after 2 months of Cross

Wear after 2 months of Cross

More of a concern though was wear.  I know it is silly but cranksets are the centerpiece of a groupo and cyclocross is very hard on the finish.  Mud and grit get rubbed on the crank arms by your feet as you wrestle the bike at strange angles.  This is made worse by low-tension pedals which make foot/ankle interference even more likely.  I may try a treatment to refresh the clear coat by the time road season comes around.  If I do, I’ll let you know how it goes.

More importantly, now that I’ve thrashed my crank for a few races, how useful is the data?

Race Power Data

Below I’ll provide data from seven races.  I’ve raced a couple more this season but I was having problems with my Garmin 500 not recording data properly (since resolved since performing a ‘full reset’ and turning off ‘smart recording’).

Race

Subjective
Rating

CrossResults
Points

Placing

Race
avg/NP

30 min
avg/NP

Boulder
Racing #1

3/10

N/A

DNF

261/307

* 25 min
only

CrossVegas

10/10

209

1

299/326

306/344

Boulder
Racing #2

7/10

211

5

283/317

296/338

UCI USGP #1

3/10

285

67

261/316

270/322

UCI USGP #2

5/10

281

61

262/321

271/335

UCI Co Cx Classic

8/10

225

20

278/307

296/323

UCI Boulder
Cup

7/10

251

28

263/299

270/304

I think the most useful data from the above chart is the 30 minute average / Normalized Power and the CrossResults points (lower is better).  The 30 minute average accounts for sitting up the last lap and shorter races by focusing on the fastest 30 minutes of each race.

Overall there seems to be little correlation between power numbers and race performance.  While it is true that CrossVegas was my best race and had my best power numbers, it was also at 2500 feet of altitude, half that of the other races.  I think the best example races to compare are the USGP Day 2 and the Boulder Cup: Both races have similar power numbers but I did much better at the Boulder Cup by all metrics.

I think there are a few reasons the data doesn’t account for performance.  Most importantly, the running sections.  30 seconds off the bike per six minute lap is would reduce power by 8% (about a 25 watt reduction for the above data) compared to riding constantly for the entire lap.  Even small changes in the amount and difficulty of running sections will affect the data significantly.  Keep in mind that this reduction in NP also reduces TSS scores.

The next reason for variability in the data is technical ability/tire pressure, etc.  The faster a corner can be taken, the more speed is carried, and less power is required to accelerate.  When you’re riding well technically, less power is required to complete the course, and a better placing can be found with lower power output.

Summary

I haven’t found the power meter to be terribly useful for cyclocross racing.  Race day power data doesn’t seem to correlate well with a successful race.

However, that doesn’t mean the power meter is useless on my cyclocross bike.  I train more with intervals during cyclocross season and the power meter is very useful for training.  I also have found that I was generally under-estimating TSS scores for race day.  After accounting for riding out to the race, warming up, course preview, and riding home, I might burn 2000 kJ and accrue 175 TSS points.

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Boulder Cup

The Boulder Cup is always a huge event.  This year was no exception, and Boulder’s Valmont Bike Park was packed with expo tents, team trucks, and drunken spectators in costumes.

I’ve had bad luck at previous editions of the Boulder Cup.  In 2010 I crashed in one of the first corners and broke my brake lever off.  I grabbed my townie from the pits but was quickly pulled out of the race.  I wore a costume for that race, but I didn’t want to be the guy off the back making a joke of the race.  I wanted to be the guy who could get a laugh as well as be a serious competitor.  I would have to wait until 2012 to get my revenge, as I watched the 2011 edition from the sidelines with my arm in a sling.

I’ll keep this race report short and let the photo gallery speak for itself.  My costume doesn’t reference a specific character (although cheers of “Silver Surfer”, “Silver Bullet”, “Silver Guy”, and “Tin Man” were heard on course).  The weather warmed up quite a bit and I was overheating badly during the race.  I still had a great time, chugged a beer on the runup, and still finished 28th place on the lead lap!

I’d also like to thank photographers Brian Patrick, Dejan Smaic, Annette Hayden, Yann Ropars, and Rob Jones for providing photo and video for this post!

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Colorado Cross Classic

The Cross Classic was my first UCI race back in 2010.  I was a newly minted Cat 2 and took my first opportunity to be at the start of a race with international level competition.  I finished in the mid 30’s and was pulled with two laps to go.  It was a decent result that left me wanting more.  Last year I was able to finish my first UCI race on the lead lap, and also had my best finish placing: 31st.  After sitting out the 2011 edition due to my broken collarbone and a poor showing at the USGP, I was hoping for a good result.

I say hoping because I’d given up on training for the last two weeks following the USGP.  Seriously.  I only rode four out of the 12 days leading up to this race.  Two days were just riding at the Valmont Bike Park (venue for tomorrow’s Boulder Cup) for fun.  I had a feeling that I just didn’t want to ride anymore so I decided to listen to the feeling and clearly it was the right thing to do.

Firstly, a quick note about this venue: There are goat head thorns all over the place! Do not ride your bike anywhere except pavement, and the course.  A previous time I was out at the Boulder Reservoir I was stuck in the thumb by a thorn in my pocket!  The course is designed to avoid the gravelly areas where the dry, vine-like plants are most frequently found.  I was vigilant enough to come away unscathed for another year.

Credit: Donny Warbritton

Credit: Donny Warbritton

I arrived to find the course mostly tacky and perfect for my brand new Specialized Terra Tubulars.  The Terra is an aggressive tire that is reported to be more versatile than some of the mud specific tires out there (like a Dugast Rhino).  I couldn’t agree more, since the tires were perfectly suited to the course which had a few greasy spots but was soft and tacky with the addition of sandy areas on the course.  I rode a higher pressure than I might normally since the previously wet course had been smoothed out (few bumps) and there weren’t many slick spots.

I drew a good number for the race and lined up 35th.  I made sure to choose the left side since the first two turns went to the right and the field always stacks up on the inside of the corners.  The first corner was especially wide and I scouted a line in advance that worked well.  The field was a much more manageable size (about 50) compared to the USGPs fields of 90+.  I was riding mid-field halfway through the first lap.

28 seconds of pedaling! (Blue section)

28 seconds of pedaling! (Blue section)

I knew I was on a good day when it seemed easy to keep moving up the field.  Part of the was the course design: The long straightaways allowed me to use my high neuromuscular fatigue resistance to pedal harder than the other guys on the couple sections of course.  There were 3-4 sections of course that required pedaling for 20-30 seconds, compared to the USGPs more compact venue that only had one long section along the home straight.

On my off days at the USGP I was riding with riders that I usually don’t see too much of at the big races, since they’re pretty far behind me.  Today I was riding with riders that I also don’t see much of, but they’re usually in front.  I was passing guys like Jake Wells and Ken Benesh without feeling like I was riding my eyeballs out.

I took a conservative approach to the course as far as obstacles were concerned.  I ran the exit from the beach (which to me is a no-brainer because the exit is very slow and it was a short run), and ended up running the sand pit a time or two.  The sand pit was touch because it was a slow speed entry on a physically demanding part of the course.  I also ran the logs, since I’m not much of a bunny hopper.  I was even heckled for being ‘the first guy’ (frontmost) to run them.  I didn’t even try during warmup and now I wish I’d at least taken a closer look.  Bunnyhopping has been on my summer skills to-do list for a while but I still haven’t gotten around to it.

At one point I was as far up the race as about 17th position, but I was overtaken by a strong group of five guys that I couldn’t hang with and settled in just outside 20th place.  I was feeling strong at the end and made a few passes to finish about 20th.  I rode a smart, clean race (not a single bobble with the exception of the sandpit) and was thrilled with my result.

I’m not certain, but it looks like if I finished 21st place, I’ll get $20, which will be my first prize money in a UCI race!  Tomorrow’s race is a C1 (versus C2 for this race), and 20th place would net me a decent $94.

I don’t get too many readers on weekends, but I’ll go ahead and mention that tomorrow’s Boulder Cup is a big race and an even bigger party!  If you’ve never been to watch a bike race, this is the one to go to.  I’ll be racing at 3:50 and warming up in the team tent off Valmont by the Dog Park entrance.  There is a beer garden, expo, and this year even has a Jumbotron!  If you can’t make it out to the race, it will be livestreamed by cyclingdirt.org.

Note: Although the Boulder Cup has been a C1 event in year’s past, I was informed that this year it is a C2, as there are no C1 events held on the same day as a World Cup.

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