Archive for the ‘GS-GFNY’ Category

2017 GFNY World Championship Jersey – Racing Team Edition

As Head of Group Rides for GFNY and Team Manager for the GFNY Racing Team, I get to preview much of the GFNY gear. And, for 2017, our kits are brought to us by GFNY Apparel – a new entity in the GFNY family. GFNY Apparel was created because Uli and Lidia, founders of GFNY, have uncompromising standards in their gear and now they can assure that these standards are fully realized.

The GFNY Racing Team has a season that starts in March, so we get the jerseys ahead of the full distribution to all GFNY World Championship participants on May 21st. And while there are a few minor design alterations to the Racing Team jersey, the overall design and the fit are precisely what you’ll get for May 21st.

While the previous jerseys were really superb, there’s always room for improvement and the zipper was top of this list. The previous jersey had a zipper designed to “disappear” within the jersey design when closed, but it wasn’t terribly durable. The new zipper has larger teeth, is easier to zip, and has a tab that is easy to grab (even with fingered gloves). And yet, for all these improvements, GFNY Apparel has managed to still find a way to hide the zipper track perfectly when closed!

Other improvements this year include a more proportional waistline cut, roomy (but not bulky) back pockets and, two side pockets for trash (not new, but unique, so worth noting.) Also, the side panels are extra-stretchy to fit all different body types.

With the weather way too cold for short sleeves, I took my new jersey for a spin on the trainer and I was very pleased with the results. If you are unsure of your size, I’d recommend you “size up” as these are racing cut (small) and, compared to last year, a bit snug. For me, the side panels accomodated the needed stretch, but I’d go a size larger given the chance. (If your fit has been perfect in the past, don’t change it – my thoughts are mostly for folks that consider themselves to be in between sizes.)

Here are a couple more photos of your 2017 GFNY World Championship jersey! (There are a few different design elements since these are the Racing Team jerseys, but you get the idea.)

What to Expect on May 15th

shields_multiple_PRINTTo all of you that participated in the Gruppo Sportivo training rides on Sundays from December through May…

First and foremost – you are ready!

Along with my teammates Omar, Vito, Frank and Ramon, I’ve watched a group of inspired riders take on the cold of winter, the climbs of the course and the typical trials and tribulations of cycling like flats and other mechanicals – and you’ve all come out ahead. The “B” group riders started strong and got stronger; many of you pushed me quite a bit this season. The “C” group riders went from “can I really do this?” to “bring it on!” in a few short months. And many “C” riders have switched from the Bear 50 to the full 100-mile sportive. I cannot think of any riders I’ve seen this season that can’t take on that challenge! While anything can happen on race day to interfere and ultimately sabotage completing the race, your fitness level and mental commitment can be counted on to perform for you on May 15th.

A few quick tips…

If this is a new challenge to you – first century, first Campagnolo GFNY, etc. – here are a few simple tips:

  1. BE CONFIDENT. This is far and away the most important advice. So much of endurance cycling is about your mental well-being and sometimes just convincing yourself you can accomplish a goal can get you there.
  2. DON’T OVER-TRAIN. If you’ve been training till now, you no longer need to “go hard” and it’s time to relax a little. Over these final two weeks, you should definitely ride, but don’t look for hill repeats or lots of extra miles. Just ride to stay fit and in your zone. Be comfortable. Enjoy the time on the bike.
  3. PLAN AHEAD. Everyone is different, but many of us have rituals before big races that require some planning. Be sure your bike is ready – for me that means new tires and new brake pads this week so I can do a few rides but have fresh gear for race day. That also means that I have already bought the tires and brakes – now I just have to install them.
  4. WEEKEND RITUALS. Again, is there a way you like to ease into a big race weekend? I take Friday off work for the Expo, relax on Saturday and, obviously, race on Sunday. But I also make sure I have my ritualistic ground chicken and pasta on Saturday, bagels both mornings and a few bananas.
  5. SLEEP. This one is easier said than done. I always nap on Saturday afternoon knowing that sleeping Saturday night is difficult. For many of us there’s a wake up time around 3 AM and we’re full of pre-race energy, so a full night sleep isn’t likely. Napping can help supplement that and sleep is KEY – so do what you can.
  6. ENJOY THE RACE! Whether you are racing at the front, trying to beat your own time, or just riding to finish – ENJOY IT! You’ve worked hard to get here and race day is an amazing day. Crowds, scenery, weather and attitude all play into a memorable event.

If you see me on the course…

OK – this is a tough one, but I have to be honest here. Sunday’s for the last six months have been all about YOU! Whether I was leading the B group and had to push myself to set the right pace or sweeping the C group taking it “easy” and focusing on coaching, each of those training rides was to get you ready for May 15th. My training took place the other six days each week.

On May 15th, that Sunday is all about ME! There, I said it. I’m not being a d!ck – I love riding with all of you. But on race day, I have a personal goal and to achieve it I need to remain focused and “do my own thing.” I may ride with some of you along the way and we may share conversation at an aid station as well. But if I seem rushed, impatient or inadvertently ignore you, please don’t take it personally. I probably won’t be rude, but I know that when I’m focused, I can really have tunnel vision. Last year someone was talking to me at the top of Bear Mountain and I completely ignored them. It wasn’t on purpose and, thankfully, they found it pretty funny when they saw me at the finish and I had no recollection of seeing them on Bear!

So, Jared, what’s YOUR goal?

I debated whether to include this but decided that putting a goal out there makes it that much more real and forces me to own up to it whether I make my goal or not. Here are my previous times:

  • 2013 – 7:12
  • 2014 – 7:07
  • 2015 – 6:44

My goal this year is 6:30. Six hours and thirty minutes. Including stops. I rode a solid ride in 2015 with no major issues and a strong finish. To take roughly 15-minutes more off that time, I need to do better than a “solid” ride – I need to ride hard. And I need to shorten my stops. My time gains won’t come on the climbs – I just haven’t improved that much in climbing. But if I can retain the energy to ride hard on the flats and rollers, and take shorter stops (especially on Bear!) I can make up that time. Last year I rode “OK” from Ramapo to River Road and then turned it up. This year I need to dial it up from Ramapo right through Dyckman Hill and into the finish.

What’s the bottom line?

I’m racing on May 15th. Granted, I’m racing myself, but unless you are one of the top few dozen riders, that’s what most of us are doing. Am I ready to meet my goal? I think so! And if I don’t? I’ll try again next year. No matter what, I’m out there to ride and have a great time doing it. And to share a few smiles and stories with all of you at the finish line. So, see you there!

GFNY15 Race Report

Prelude

Scene-2My Campagnolo GFNY journey began after I did my first century ride – a completely flat one – in 2012. A friend said we should do the GFNY 2013 and the training began when the first Gruppo Sportivo GFNY group ride took place in early December of 2012. (And the morning of GFNY13 looked a lot like the one this year, only about 20-degrees colder and it rained all day.) Despite having taken to cycling over the last couple of years, I was a sloth – overweight and lazy. I was at the height of my weight trajectory – one trajectory where “height of” is not a good place to be. I was quickly approaching 200 pounds.

I had never cycled past Nyack at this point and I had never climbed any serious hills. After the first couple of training rides it became obvious – I needed to lose some weight. I began paying close attention to my food intake and began taking more and more rides. This plus the encouragement I received from Heidi, Vito and Omar (and the rest of GS-GFNY) resulted in my losing 18-pounds before GFNY13. And I maintained this new “weight state” through GFNY14 and much of the 2014 cycling season.

Scene-5Then August and September (2014) happened – the worst two months in a long time. It was a stressful period at work – and I compensated with food. I traveled a lot – and used that as an excuse to eat more food. I went to Italy where, well, you just can’t help but eat great food! I returned from Italy just over 190 pounds. No problem – I’ve got the GS-GFNY training rides all winter to motivate me! Well, winter turned out to be really tough as well – one of the coldest on record and WAY too many training rides cancelled. Sure, I rode the indoor trainer – A LOT, but it wasn’t enough. Only as the weather started to turn in late March did I finally strt losing the extra pounds. By GFNY15 race day, I’d managed to get down to 177 pounds – my lowest riding weight since I started keeping track. Things were looking up again.

Race Weekend

Despite the warm and fuzzy feelings about my weight going into the race weekend, I was still a bit worried about the lack of sustained winter training. I felt mentally ready for the race, but was entirely unsure what to expect from my body. I’d had training rides where I was floating on air and others where I red-lined my heart rate on an otherwise ordinary hill. Which body was going to show up at the starting line was anybody’s guess. Either way, I went into the race weekend with good spirits and followed my now established ritual:

  • Scene-3Friday:
    • Work the bike expo
    • Enjoy the Italian welcome dinner
  • Saturday:
    • “Sleep in” (7 AM for me)
    • Bagel and whitefish “treat” for breakfast
    • Prep Maggie and take her for short spin
    • Cook up 1-pound of pasta and 1-pound of ground chicken
    • Relax with some TV and shovel down pasta and protein all day
    • Drink lots of water
  • Sunday:
    • Wake early
    • Bagel w/peanut butter for breakfast
    • Ride to the starting corrals
    • Second bagel w/peanut butter on the bridge
    • 7 AM – go for a pleasant ride with a few thousand close friends

The Race – Part One

sportograf-59844833_lowresRace morning was comfortably cool and waiting on the George Washington Bridge for 1.5+ hours was much more tolerable than usual. I was also incredibly relaxed – almost too relaxed. When the 7 AM start arrived, I rolled out feeling really comfortable for the first time in my 3-year GFNY history. The wait time on the bridge was social, relaxed and really enjoyable. I felt no obvious anxiety leading up to the opening gun.

As planned, I stayed with some super-fast groups through River Road and dropped off at the bottom of Alpine Hill. And at that moment, my relaxation turned on me. I began the climb of Alpine and felt rather sluggish. Despite a smooth ten mile start on the flats and rollers, my climbing was more tortured than usual. I took about 8-minutes to get up Alpine when I normally do it in about 6-minutes. Not a great sign.

Scene-4Alpine behind me, I found another group on 9W and got back to the 24-mph range which was sustained most of the way into Nyack. I felt better again, but next up were a few short, challenging hills in Nyack. I climbed the very short 4th Avenue climb smoothly and felt pretty good. Then the Old Mountain Road climb went pretty well, too. And, finally, I was on Hook Mountain (Toga) and while I was spinning more than usual, I felt pretty good. Then a rider passed me an asked it I was OK. “Fine, just climbing slowly as usual,” I replied. But was I actually going even slower than I thought?

I took my first of two gels before Bear Mountain, proceeded through Haverstraw (with a VERY short stop just for a bio-break) and over “Baby Bear” at my normal (slow) pace. At the bottom of Bear, I was 15-minutes ahead of my target pace and feeling pretty relaxed. I typically climb Bear Mountain from 9w (the very bottom) in just over 30-minutes. Add a short break at the top and I’d still be ahead of pace. But the climb took me almost 45-minutes and I felt awful. Now I was really worried – if Bear Mountain, a climb I usually take smoothly was such a challenge, what’s going to happen on the steeper climbs to come?

The Race – Part Two

Scene-6Well, this was definitely a Tale of Two Races. The first half was erratic, and I was now a bit off my target pace. But somehow, after a rest at the top of Bear Mountain, I was able to turn on the gas for the second half and never let up. Maybe I just needed the rest. Maybe it was the energy of the crowd on the top of Bear Mountain. Maybe it was just a weird day for me. All I know is that I took the rest I needed, got some fuel, filled a bidon, and went on my merry way.

Speaking of bidon’s – that’s my 2014 bidon in this photo on the top of Bear Mountain that was shared with every GFNY15 rider (and my knee in the corner of the frame.) I told the photographer that it was last year’s edition but he liked the contrast of the black. Yet the date was awfully clear in the shot, so I’m sorry for any confusion that this has caused!

JMS-C- (1)Despite my struggle ascending Bear Mountain, my descent was flawless. (And by looking at this photo, I didn’t seem to be visibly struggling on the ascent!) I didn’t set a personal best on the ride down, but I came close. And, frankly, I hit a cluster of riders near the bottom of Perkins that I couldn’t safely pass – once we got onto Seven Lakes Drive I passed them and continued rapidly. That delay plus the terrible road conditions at the traffic circle may have been the difference. No matter, I’d later learn that I didn’t really need to make up another 10-20 seconds on a fast descent.

As I began to climb “Baby Bear” on the return trip I was a little concerned that I might slow down yet again. But this time, I took it at a smooth pace and one that was more familiar to me from my training.

JMS-D- (2)A little further down 9W and it was time for the most challenging 12-miles of the course. While Bear Mountain is the longest climb, the next 12-miles have the three “hardest” climbs. I classify difficulty in ft/mi (feet per mile) otherwise known as % grade. Where Bear Mountain averages 5.5% for a longer distance, the next three climbs are all of a higher gradient and 1-2 miles long. And one of them, “Mott Farm,” isn’t even a “named” climb on the GFNY course layout. But, believe me, it’s just as challenging as the named climbs.

I really love the challenge of these three climbs and portions of them, especially on Gate Hill, are more suited to my style. These are shorter, steeper segments that I can attack and then get a small recovery before the next kick. I love this photo in particular because it reflects how I felt at this point – cool and collected. Other’s are struggling, jersey’s open, trying to recover and I’m just doing my thing. This is when I knew I was finally racing my race and I was in the zone. Passing riders on the hardest climbs is not usually what I do, but when I started passing others here, it really got me motivated.

JMS-C- (5)Even though I’d gone effectively 45-miles on the front part of the ride without a notable stop, I always had it in my plan to make the Pomona rest stop even though it’s so close to Bear Mountain. But with the toughest stretch in between, I know I need it. And I think it prepares me mentally for those 12-miles, knowing I can push harder and then take a break really helps.

I stopped in Pomona, filled a bidon, got some fuel, and headed back out pretty quickly. I needed the mental break more than the physical one and didn’t want to lose time here. While I made up some time over the last section, I was still a bit behind my target and it was time to get moving. Thankfully, I was ready for the next stretch and it suits my strengths – relatively flat with rollers where I can really get up to speed. I was feeling great and, even knowing there’d be few groups to draft here, I headed out at 20+mph and kept a blistering pace (for me) until reaching State Line hill.

JMS-A- (2)When I got to State Line I was almost back to my target pace but here was another climb and I was still questioning which rider would show up. Thankfully, I took it smoothly – no records, but no significant struggle, either. From here I headed back into Palisades Interstate Park for the final section through River Road. On the approach, I was really impressed with the new road layout and police control – it was nice to have a protected chute into Alpine Approach.

In the past GFNY years, River Road was a mixed blessing. For the most part it suits me, but after the challenges of the 90-miles already completed, I would find some of the small climbs to be unbearable. Not today, though – I was smooth and steady through the park and on my way to a terrific finish. At this point it was all but certain that I’d set my best time. What was uncertain was if I could reach my target time – a full 24-minutes faster than last year. What was certain, though, was that I was going to leave it all out there and either reach my goal or collapse trying.

Finish-2As I completed the River Road segment at mile 97 with only Dyckman Hill and Hudson Terrace left, I did a time check and saw that I’d have to crush the last three miles to make my goal. So I attached Dyckman Hill, briefly glanced across the Hudson River from the top to find some motivation, and began my sustained effort down Hudson Terrace to the finish line. There’s one short climb called Unnecessary Hill a little over a mile from the finish line which I love to attack. This time wasn’t my fastest as I’d been really pushing for the last two miles, but it was still enough. With a target of 6:45, I crossed the finish line at 6:44:14. Victory! And after that victory? The first GFNY where I almost fell over after the finish line because I truly left it all out there and hardly had the legs, or balance, to dismount.

Final Words

GFNY Results 2015GFNY15 posed a unique challenge – a tough winter which limited training and then a warm and sticky race day. Normally the weather we had would be welcomed, but I think many riders were unprepared for such effort in the heat when there had really been no hot training days this season. Maybe this is what hurt me on the initial climbs, maybe not. But the reality of a May race, early in the season, is that the weather is almost always a factor. And, for me, the reality is that improvements in my climbing could take yet another 10-15 minutes off my time resulting in a 6:30 goal for next year. (That was my stretch goal this year and was absolutely not possible. Yet!)

I really encourage others to challenge themselves and to take advantage of the Gruppo Sportivo GFNY training rides December through May. Training with GS-GFNY made all the difference in my first year and now I’m blessed to be a part of that team and share this with others. I’m inspired everyday by the folks I’ve helped along the way – each of them has achieved a personal goal and rewarded the entire GFNY community in the process. Register now for May 2016 to secure your spot and to get into the GS-GFNY training community in spirit before we kick off on the road in December.

And in the meantime, have fun, be safe, reach new heights and I’ll see you on the road!

GFNY Results CBND 13-14

Winter Miles on the Old Putnam Trail

Last week, while still quite cold, had great weather for a Sunday group ride. However, as the GS-GFNY gods would have it this year, we were given yet another Sunday training ride obstacle: the pedestrian and cycling path on the George Washington Bridge was closed for emergency repairs. Without a reasonable river crossing, the GS-GFNY team was split in two – so we decided to offer riders some alternative rides that week.

Being on the Manhattan side of the bridge, and far to the north, I opted for a ride on the Old Putnam Trail (aka South County Trail and North County Trail). This is a 50-mile stretch of mostly protected and paved trail with very little elevation change. Perfect for winter base miles, but also difficult to ride in the winter as snow is not regularly removed from the trail. The first few miles in Van Cortland Park are not paved, but are navigable on a road bike as long as the trail isn’t wet and muddy. We had no issues on this section since it was below freezing at the start and the ground was solid. The return trip was a bit different.

Wade, Matt and I set out at 9:30 AM and took a fast but pleasant pace north into Westchester. We encountered some patches of snow and after a few low speed spills we learned to take the snow with a little momentum and just ride through the skids and slips. In Elmsford the path is incomplete and there’s a short stint through an industrial park. Wade took this opportunity to remind us that Captain Lawrence Brewing Company was basically just around the corner. Maybe a detour for another trip, but the idea of a cold beer outside in near freezing temperatures wasn’t quite as appealing as it would be on a hot summer ride.

Shortly after this detour we were flagged down by Rob, a fellow cyclist, at a parking lot on the trail. Rob was meeting Shannon, another cyclist, and was intending to connect with my small group to continue north. Rob and Shannon were, it turns out, in different parking lots about a stone’s throw away, yet they couldn’t find each other. We decided to proceed and the foursome head out to the north, but Wade and I soon realized we were a twosome and headed back. Turns out that Matt had a puncture right after the parking lot and by turning back we were all able to connect with Shannon as well. Once again, we set off to the north.

In Briarcliff Manor the path has a second detour, this one on a longer stretch of county road before picking up the trail again. Wade and Matt turned back at this point based on a predetermined time in order to get home. When Rob, Shannon and I returned to the trail, we quickly ran into a stretch of more formidable snow. We dismounted, walked through this section and soon realized that all three of us had cleats jammed packed with snow. We used sticks and rocks to free the slushy mess and eventually proceeded. This happened a second time and after that we proceeded to ride through any snow we eencountered. Remarkably, there were no spills.

image

From left: Shannon, Jared (Fred) and Rob

After several more snow patches that seemed to be increasing in size and frequency as we proceeded north, we stopped near one particularly long snow section to contemplate. A runner coming south said it only got worse and there was ice on the path where there was an underpass. We took this as a sign to abandon and returned south for a coffee stop. It was a little disappointing because we were so close to the Croton Reservoir where a very cool bridge with great views becomes part of the trailway. Oh well, a sight for another day.

Over coffee we all shared the usual cycling war stories and enjoyed the company. Shannon shared a personal and truly inspirational story that I won’t include here only because I didn’t ask if I could. If you see this friendly and strong rider on the road, just be sure to say hello and get to know him; you’ll be glad that you did. And while I’d ridden with Rob before on other training rides, I got to learn more about his journey to cycling and the GFNY coming up in May. It’s going to be a challenge after a rough winter of limited training, but one that we’re all looking forward to tackling. And the strength of other riders both on these training rides and on race day are something that makes the GFNY unique.

As we returned south, we stopped at the parking lot where Rob and Shannon started the ride, but they both determined they wanted to go further. Shannon came with us almost to the dirt path in Van Cortland Park while Rob continued through to the start/finish of the path at Broadway and 139th Street. Rob and I quickly realized that the firm path of the morning was now a much softer mud as the frozen ground was thawing in the afternoon sun. I came to a screeching halt in front of one mud bog and Rob barely averted a collision. Well, technically he ran into me, but when he did he was nearly stopped, so it was more laughable than concerning. We managed to navigate the mud and get to the final point on the trail safely. Rob headed back up the trail to his car and I headed south on a very traffic filled stretch of Broadway toward my apartment.

About ten blocks from home my Garmin told me I’d done 1,000 vertical feet of elevation gain.  The last ten blocks are a single hill up to my apartment and I clocked nearly another 300 feet. Goes to show just how flat that trail really is!

1511422_10206583271840933_5430803472249865221_n[1]UPDATE: I forgot to highlight the interesting wildlife observations from the ride. First, on the return south, Shannon, Rob and I saw two people standing in the middle of the trail taking pictures of what appeared to be nothing on the ground. As we got closer it became clear that they were photographing a fully intact and gutted carcass of what was likely a dear. All the was left were bloody bones – maybe a coyote’s meal? Second, Wade and Matt saw a hawk swoop down in Van Cortland Park and catch a pigeon. Unlike me, Wade was able to catch a photo of the carnage – or at least the hawk in the tree with the pigeon.

Campagnolo Gran Fondo NY 2014 – Ride Report

logo[1]First, I cannot thank the GFNY14 sponsors enough for their contributions to this awesome event. But this year, one sponsor in particular, De Rosa, deserves special attention: not only for providing Gruppo Sportivo with a terrific ride, but for the personal attention that they gave us and this event. I met Chistiano De Rosa at NYC Bike Expo and he was both friendly and humble.  Then, on ride day, he and I shared most of the River Road section on the ride out and encountered each other numerous times along the way. I hope that my cycling hobby (career?) keeps me in such good shape. And spirits.

And before I continue, let me thank a few others:

  • Uli and Lidia for their desire to create such an incredible, international event. And the dedication to make it actually happen.
  • The officials and volunteers (on and off the course) for making the event safe, supported and fun.
  • The Gruppo Sportivo riders for coming out in some seriously challenging weather this year. You guys make winter interesting and make our training so enjoyable!

OK – now, to the race itself…

sportograf-48814788Last year was my first GFNY event and it was only my third century ride to date. And while I trained with Gruppo Sportivo, there was nothing that could prepare me for the conditions of the day – 50F and rain – ALL DAY. It was awful, but finishing the course was epic. And looking back, my official time was quite respectable and this was likely influenced by my inability to stay at an aid station for more than a few minutes before feeling too chilled.

This year couldn’t have been different (except for my official time, but we’ll get to that shortly.) The weather was near perfect – partly sunny with temps in the mid-60’s. And I couldn’t have been better prepared: both mentally and physically, I WAS READY! I arrived early, lined up in the front corral, socialized with fellow riders, fueled up and tried to stay warm until the 7 AM starting gun. (Despite the great weather, it will pretty much always be cold on the lower level of the George Washington Bridge at sunrise.)

And as 7 AM approached, I made a last minute change to my race strategy. During training, I’ve been giving out the advice, “don’t let the adrenaline at the starting gun get the best of you or you may burn out too early.” Well, I’ll still give out this advice, but I made the decision not to take my own advice. I did this for a very specific reason, though. Being a Gruppo Sportivo captain, I’m lined up in the front corral with riders that are much stronger than me. So my adjusted plan was to get into a strong peleton and let them carry me for as long as I could hang with them. And… IT WORKED. I was pacing about 1.5mph faster than last year without overexertion. But soon the wheels came off the bus for an entirely different reason.

sportograf-48877953

Attacking Bear Mountain

My first 30-miles were really strong. I spent much of this time in various peletons using paceline techniques to my advantage. At about mile 10 is Alpine Climb, the first notable climb of the day – and I conquered it with little difficulty, tying my personal best on that segment. My only physical issue was that my lower back was nagging me early in the ride, forcing me out of the saddle more than usual to stretch it out. Thankfully, my legs were fine, so the added exertion on them was fine. But as I got to the Haverstraw aid station, the nagging was flaring and I took a short break to stretch.

Stretching off the bike was helpful and I got back on the ride quickly. But I didn’t plan my departure well and quickly found myself riding alone along the Hudson River where there was a very notable headwind. Rather than hammer through it, I slowed up and was finally overtaken by a group that I could tuck into and I rode with them back to 9W where we all broke up again (but the wind wasn’t much of a factor here). I made it to the base of Bear Mountain having lost a few minutes (due to my stop) but still notably ahead of my target pace. And I still felt great. Time to attack the Bear…

I rode the first section with a small group all pacing together to the roundabout. The section from the roundabout to Perkins is my favorite – fairly low grade and very consistent, so I found my rhythm and started passing other riders. Typically I’ll gain ground through this mile or so and simply try to hold it through the first mile on Perkins – and when I entered Perkins, that’s exactly how it went. Then I got a pleasant surprise as I approached and overtook Nelson Vails on the climb.

“Hey, Nelson! Not too many hills on the track, right?”

His reply?

“That’s the beauty of riding today – I don’t have to twist myself upside down to beat a time – I can just take it easy and enjoy the ride!”

Touché.

After passing Nelson I started to hear the music from the top of Bear Mountain and that sound can really drive my legs to finish the climb strong. Soon after I reached the top of Bear, music blaring, and I was still about 15-minutes ahead of pace. BOOM! The day was in my favor. And after a rest at the peak that I should have cut shorter, I nailed the descent in record time (for me). But as I passed the 50-mile midpoint, I ran into a stretch of trouble.

sportograf-48871712

Climbing Gate Hill

Before and after Bear Mountain is a “hill” known as Dundenberg (or Baby Bear) that is 1-mile up and 1-mile down in both directions. It’s also a terrible stretch of pavement along 9W. And while much of it had been patched this year, there were plenty of notable potholes remaining, including the large one I ran into while attempting to talk to another rider. POW – pinch flat. Bummer. But that’s OK, I’ve got what I need and can change the tube in about 10-mins, keeping me on pace. But my first replacement tube was defective – and it took me awhile to figure it out and move on to my second tube – losing a lot of additional time. Ultimately, Matt, a fellow GS-GFNY rider stopped to help me and at the last minute a SAG Vespa pulled up and we finished the job. However, having used both my tubes and both my Co2 canisters, I should have bought another set from SAG – but what are the odds of another flat, right?!?

Famous last words.

With the tube finally replaced, I was back on the course and I started hammering towards Gate Hill in hopes of gaining back some time. Also, Gate Hill is my favorite climb, so I still felt good about my ability make up time. And I may have done so – I was pretty strong through Gate Hill, but then came my second flat on a climb “in the middle of nowhere” – not likely to see SAG anytime soon. I had to plead with passing riders who could spare a tube, but I had a lot acting against me. Who in their right mind would stop mid-climb? During the hardest 10-mile section of the course? And since I having racing wheels, I needed a long stem valve which most didn’t have. Avi, another GS-GFNY rider stopped to offer a tube, but it wasn’t long stem, I eventually found a valve extender in my kit and made the replacement. Sadly, though, I had now lost about 40-mins total to the two flats.

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Colle Formaggio. Those cheerleaders are the best!

Having rested during the repair, I was pretty fresh for the last big climb: “Colle Formaggio” (or Cheesecoate) and I killed it. Both up and down. Following that climb I coasted into the Pomona aid station to buy a tube and CO2 canister, unwilling to take that risk again. Alas, more time lost. Leaving Pomona I did the mental gymnastics required to figure out how I could still beat a 7-hour chip time. And it was pretty daunting. I’d need to average 18-mph for two hours (including one notable climb) – not a likely feat, but I’d certainly try. I picked up a group doing 21-mph on Strawtown Road and that certainly helped, but once I struggled up State Line Hill and the climb that follows, I needed to average 20+ mph for the final ten miles. And there were no groups to draft in sight. I pushed on for the short stretch on 9W before getting into the park and found that I still had the legs for a sprint, so sprint I did.

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Fist bump at the finish.

I got back to the park (last 8-miles) and tore down Alpine (again tying my best time) and I pushed, hard, through the River Road rollers. As the timing mat approached for the finish I could see that I was already a few minuted past 7-hours, so while I pushed through the finish, I dropped from my sprint pace at that point and crossed at 7:07:02. Really not bad considering how far off a 7-hour time I was only two hours earlier. I celebrating with a mysterious fist bump to nothing as I crossed the finish line.

Below are my official results, side by side, from 2013 and 2014. While my improvement of about 5-mins is a bit underwhelming, I’m so thrilled with my performance. Having lost about 40-mins to mechanical issues, I’d have crushed my previous time. And being able to get an official time under 6:30 is my goal for next year. It will be a challenge as I felt in top form this year, but who’s to say I can’t improve upon that form over the next year?

GFNY Results CBND 13-14

Also, there’s more to a ride than the official results. Most important to me was how strong I felt on the ride. I was faster and stronger than ever before and my “moving time” shows this. I don’t have accurate figures for last year, but I estimated my moving time around 6:45 and this year I came in at 6:17. And I had PR’s all over the course just proving how solid I was riding. My full Strava details in all their glory…

All in all, a terrific day with great weather and fantastic people on the course. I talked to so many people along the way and shared great stories. And, of course, a special thanks to Matt, Avi and Heidi who all stopped to help me during my flats. Each of you made the day that much better – your willingness to help a fellow rider is what makes GFNY more like a family than just a group of riders.

Warm Weather & The Deed is Done

Over the winter on the Facey-space, I took a lot of flack over my stance on leg shaving for male cyclists. I boldly said something along the lines of, “you won’t see me shaving my legs!” Fast forward several months and with the arrival of warm weather, THE DEED IS DONE!

What gives? What changed my stance?

I want to be perfectly clear about this. I’m comfortable with my decision and my logic, and it boils down to a simple word…

Vanity

Wait, what?!?

My teammates and group riding comrades told me I’d be more aerodynamic and ride faster. Yeah, sure, whatever. If I was a competitive racer, this might matter, but that 1/1000th of a second on a century ride is nothing compared to the speed I’d gain if I lost a few pounds. They also told me I’d heal faster/cleaner after a crash. This one makes sense, but I have a better philosophy: DON’T CRASH. (OK, I know I can’t guarantee I’ll prevent this, but here’s hoping.)

So in the end, this is all about vanity. I’m a Fred and, let’s face it, Fred’s shave their legs. Simple as that. It’s time to look the part.

And now that the deed is done? I have to admit, the breeze feels quite nice…

 

Be Courteous, Not Correct

police-249x300[1]Any cyclist who has ever ridden in a group ride has heard something like this during the pre-ride talk:

“Stay single file, stop at traffic signals, obey the rules of the road – the police are out in force today!”

Every group rider should be obeying the rules of the road at all times and remain single file. It’s a shame we have to have this discussion. It’s a shame that we have to have this discussion over and over. And it’s a damn shame that we’re often having this discussion with the same riders over and over! And it’s also a shame that local police are constantly barking warnings at us over megaphones or, worse, issuing tickets.

But let’s face the facts here:

  1. The police have a very real obligation to oversee public safety, and getting us to follow the rules is absolutely meant to keep everyone safe.
  2. As a collective, road cyclists have a terrible history of bad behavior. Your group may ride the most obedient ride in the world, but you are still part of a collective that gets a bad rap because of a few bad apples.
  3. Drivers despise us. Like it or not.
  4. Motor vehicles will kill us. Doesn’t matter who broke the law – get hit by a car and you may be dead. Hard to argue your case from the grave.

I’m not trying to be Debbie Downer here, but these are some realities of the road cyclist. However, we can mitigate these issues by, first and foremost, following the rules. Let’s all just start there. Follow the rules. Period. And you can find article after article about group riding ettiquette and road rules. This post isn’t going to rehash those points.

Instead, this is about a pet peeve of mine – when the PoPo bark at our group and we’re actually following the rules. I was really ticked off a few weeks ago when I was leading a group ride through a town center and the group was obeying all the rules. We were “taking the lane” because there was no shoulder and near the curb were tire-swallowing drain covers (and potholes.) I was pretty ticked off for the rest of the ride; although I was happy that we didn’t get a ticket.

After thinking about this encounter further I have shifted my viewpoint. It’s sad that this officer seems to hold a grudge toward cyclists, but my anger in response would only make matters worse. I’ve decided that it’s critical for us to “be courteous, not correct.” If the police pull us over to warn us or give us a ticket, there’s no good that will come in arguing with them. In fact, debating a police officer is likely to just get someone into more trouble than they were in to start. But being courteous, friendly and respectful can really change the dynamic. See, the officer is likely expecting an encounter, so being friendly and respectful catches them off guard. Further, it sets the example that we’re really trying to follow the rules and we’re most interested in safety, not taking over the road to make drivers (and police) miserable. Maybe the next time that same officer won’t feel bitter towards cyclists.

Maybe this is wishful thinking, but it’s a better approach than arguing with the police and getting a ticket when it may have started with just a warning. And as road cyclists we’re all out there trying to enjoy the miles – taking the high road will make everyone enjoy those remaining miles.

First Impression: Selle San Marco Aspide Carbon Open FX

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GFNY Selle San Marco Aspide Carbon Open FX

Selle San Marco is the saddle sponsor of Gran Fondo NY and there have been two branded models available in the past: Concor and Mantra. The Concor is a nice saddle, but in the GFNY branding, it doesn’t have a cutout, so I never gave this model a try and I went with the Mantra instead.

 

Quick note on personal preferences… There are a lot of decisions in selecting cycling components and gear that can be done through scientific means. But there are just as many decisions that can be very personal rather than logical. If you ask me, there’s nothing more personal than selecting a saddle. Despite pages and pages of reviews and specifications, what works great for me may not work for you. I, for example, have determined that I very much prefer a cutout. I know plenty of great riders that will never select a cutout. And with that out of the way…

 

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GFNY Selle San Marco Mantra Racing

I’ve been riding the Mantra for a couple of months and a few hundred miles. It’s a terrific saddle for sure, but it just hasn’t been perfect for me. It seems that I’m just rubbing the corners (the portion that “hangs down” where is says San Marco in green in this photo) just enough to create a bit of discomfort on longer rides. And if I continued to ride this saddle I’d likely find that there’s no discomfort after few hundred more miles and I’d love this saddle.

 

But we’ve all got options, so why not try them out?

 

 

Selle San Marco Aspide Carbon Open FX Test Saddle

Selle San Marco Aspide Carbon Open FX Test Saddle

Yesterday I put a Selle San Marco Aspide Carbon Open FX test saddle on my GFNY De Rosa Protos to give it a try. I’ll be honest, I didn’t have high hopes. Why? Because this saddle is quite narrow and all the “professional advice” I’d gotten was that I needed a slightly wider saddle. It’s actually quite hard to pinpoint precisely where an individual’s ischial tuberosities (sit or sitz bones) are without getting quite intimate with said individual. And because these are not only on said individual’s back side, but also “underneath” if you will, self inspection can only go so far. Even with precise measurement, there are all sorts of angles and pressures at play based on the rest of the your body that make the requirements of each individual very, ‘er, individual. There’s really only one way to pick a saddle – TEST SOME!

 

So with nothing to lose but some comfort, I gave this narrow saddle a try. As I first mounted my ride and began moving forward, it was hard not to notice just how narrow this saddle is under my body. However, I never felt like it was too small and I very quickly forgot I was riding a new saddle. After about 15-miles I stopped at a traffic light and only when I was standing on the ground with the saddle nudged against my backside did I remember to give some thought to the saddle. It suddenly dawned on me – I was super comfortable on this saddle! The fact that I completely forgot about it speaks volumes!

 

I rode another 15-miles and for this portion of the ride I really tested the saddle. The length and shape provide excellent support whether my hips were rolled way forward for a tuck, or way back for a leisurely climb. Leaning side to side was also very comfortable, but for the opposite reason – less saddle “hanging down” to make contact with awkward parts of my anatomy. I also tested it over some wonderfully bumpy New York City streets. Well, no road saddle will win any awards in this category and I’ll continue to get out of the saddle in these situations. But I will say that it was no worse than my previous saddles and it felt like a sturdier surface than its truly narrow frame.

 

Granted this was only one 30-mile ride, but, WOW, I was really impressed! I’ll continue to ride this test saddle for a few weeks to be sure, but I think Selle San Marco has provided me with a real winner in the Aspide Carbon Open FX and I can’t wait to get the flat black GFNY branded version mounted on my ride. (Sorry, but the test pattern keeps reminding me of TRON.)

 

Anyone riding the Gruppo Sportivo GFNY Sunday training rides – come find me and I can lend you one of these test saddles. Or, like I said, it’s personal, so you can try the Concor or Mantra as well.

 

I am an Elite Athlete

I am an elite athlete.

I am not an elite athlete because I win races or perform better than others.

I am an elite athlete because I enjoy the sport for what it is. I enjoy the people in the sport. I enjoy sharing the sport with others and helping them improve. In fact, I am elite because I hope everyone I encounter can be better than me at our shared sport.

I am elite because I do not want to beat others in competition. My only competitor is myself and every other athlete in my sport is an opportunity to improve the sport and everyone’s ability to enjoy it.

I am elite and you should be, too.

Gruppo Sportivo 2014 Inaugural Ride

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Last Sunday was the first Gruppo Sportivo GFNY (GS-GFNY) 2014 training ride and it was terrific. The mission of GS-GFNY is to prepare riders for the Campagnolo GFNY ride in May; prepare them mentally and physically. Riding through the winter in the metro NY area on road bikes, well, I’m not sure if this is more of a mental or physical challenge. I will say, though, that it starts with the mental challenge of getting out of a warm, cozy bed in the morning knowing that the outside temps are likely below freezing and it is often overcast, foggy or downright wet and rainy. Snow and ice play a factor as well, but in the interest of safety, GS-GFNY will survey the route and cancel when the conditions are too difficult to navigate.

Once out of bed, the challenge has just begun: you’ve got to shake the cobwebs, get your body fueled and begin layering on the cold-weather gear that is so critical to riding this time of year. Our kit sponsor, Biemme, has put together some incredibly effective, comfortable and great looking gear. I typically find myself with a merino wool base layer, the long sleeve GFNY jersey and then the GFNY winter jacket. Add the GFNY gilet for a little more warmth in your core and there’s no temperature too cold. It also turns you into a Russian nesting doll of GFNY branded gear; but a warm and toasty one for sure. And despite being warm, somehow this magical material can breath so you don’t end up a clammy mess underneath the gear. Getting clammy isn’t only uncomfortable, it can be dangerous and make you more susceptible to the cold weather (quite the opposite of its purpose.)

1149272_735877426441671_658137344_o (1)The day before the ride I headed over to Strictly Bicycles to get my new bike – the GFNY Protos by De Rosa. The photo is of my final fitting at the shop with Nelson and Gato working their magic. I have a lot to say about this bike, but I’ll save that for another post after I’ve been on the bike a little longer. But I will say now: this is one sexy lady and I am truly blessed to be riding her. The bike may be provided by our sponsor, but it isn’t free and teammate Heidi really covered this point well on her blog.

So, how about that Inaugural Ride?!?

Oh, right, I said this was about the inaugural ride, didn’t I? Sorry about that – there’s so much else to cover as well!

In typical fashion, the season kicked off with a overcast, cold morning. While it was below freezing, the wind wasn’t a significant factor and snow wasn’t expected, at least not until after we’d finish our ride. When we got started, Vito lead our “C” group out with Heidi riding midpack and I was riding sweeper at the end of a 39-person pack. Moments after the start a rider dropped her chain, so I helped her get it back in place and then rode with her for the next 10-miles or so as there was little chance we’d catch the pack at our pace. She kept telling me to ride ahead, feeling guilty that she was “holding me back” but that isn’t the spirit of GS-GFNY. In fact, this is precisely why I wanted to join this team! Last year the GS-GFNY team did so much to train, encourage and motivate me – I wanted the chance to do the same for others.

It was a bit of a disjointed ride day, but quite fulfilling nonetheless. We caught up to the pack at the top of State line Hill – where the lead usually stops to regroup. From there, the group stayed pretty well together until we turned around in Nyack and rode back to the base of State Line Hill where the group generally breaks up a bit on the climbs. Feeling the need to test the new bike I attacked the first half of State Line Hill before retreating to the sweeper position again so as not to lose any riders. I didn’t set any speed records, but my heart rate on the climb was a full 10bpm lower than I’d ever recorded – something I attribute fully to the awesomeness of my new ride.

At the top of State Line we did our last regrouping effort and headed out for the return leg. Heidi took the lead group and we quickly broke into two groups on the next climb with me leading the second group and Vito riding sweeper. However, due to some confusion on my part about possible lost riders, I sent my small crew ahead (they knew the final directions) and looped back. I found the riders I was looking for with Vito and I joined that group for the final sprint. However, with five miles left, I hit a hole in the road and heard the lovely hiss of a tire going flat. Being at the back of the group I had to scream, “FLAT!” and hope they didn’t drop me. Three riders heard me and one stopped to assist, the other two agreeing that one is all that is needed and more shouldn’t stop and get cold for nothing. (I totally agree with this decision and appreciate the team thinking.) Shiva was helpful holding my bike up while I took off the rear wheel and took out the tube.

Now, here’s the flip side of a terrific new bike – not doing a good job preparing for the differences in components. Sure, I had a spare tube, but I needed an 80mm stem and I had no such tube since my stock from my old bike were standard tubes. Shiva has the same type of tubes, but was riding with Rick who was carrying the tubes, so we were out of luck. Thankfully, Strictly Bicycles was happy to send their SAG wagon out to fetch me. And, frankly, the warm ride back in the car was welcomed in a “my ride is done” sort of way. Of course, after back at the shop with a new tube (and replacements) I still had to ride back over the GW Bridge so the cold came right back to me until I made it home for a hot shower.

All in all, a great start to the training season even if it wasn’t a perfect ride. Heck, the GFNY won’t likely be a “perfect” ride, so getting used to adversity is part of the training, right?

For another POV: Vito’s ride recap.