MONDAY was the first day of Black history month so in homage to all athletes of color I thought I’d write a bit about Major Taylor.
I’M guessing you may be asking yourself: “Major who?”
MARSHALL Walter “Major” Taylor (born 1878, died 1932) was an American professional cyclist. By winning the sprint at the 1899 world track championships (held in Montreal, Canada) he became the first African-American to acheive world-champ status in cycling and the second African-American world champion in ANY sport.
THE first, in case you’re wondering, was George Dixon, a bantamweight boxer born in Canada, who won his title in 1891.
MR. Taylor was also an American sprint champion (1900) and a member of several teams, including the See-Saw Cycling Club (love that name, so apropos), an amateur team; and the Iver Johnson’s Arms & Cycle Works (a professional team). Gotta love that too! Iver Johnson manufactured guns, bikes and motorcycles; an interesting combination but oh so American in its diversity.
HE did most of his racing between 1896 and 1904 and after a 2 1/2 year break he returned to competition for a short time in 1907. He retired at the age of 32 to Worcester (Massachusetts), where he moved as a teenager after being raised in Indianapolis.
HE accomplished a lot more than I’ve mentioned in this post. To learn more about him click here, and be sure to take a look at the “Major Taylor biography at a glance.”
WHAT a stud! I can’t even imagine the rigors of professional cycling today, let alone at the end of the 19th, and beginning of the 20th, century. And as a Black man he must have withstood prejudice that most of us cannot even contemplate. As a person of Jewish heritage I experienced some bullying early in my life but being white I know it wasn’t anything close to what people of color had to endure, and still do.
THANK you Major for being a pioneer not just for American cyclists but for all athletes of color. I hope to meet you some day in that great velodrome in the sky.
IN the meantime I’ll wear “your shirt” with pride and remember those athletes like you who paved the way and still inspire us to be better versions of ourselves.
THE short answer is YES! It certainly has in my case and I’m willing to bet it will help you improve too.
I’VE recently finished reading the 3rd edition of the book “Training + Racing with a Power Meter.” It’s a lengthy and technical tome, and I first mentioned it last October in a post I published about fitness apps.
THE book is full of juicy bits (and myriad workouts) and I’ve been practicing what it preaches for several months now, with my most recent efforts focused on pacing. If you’re like I used to be (and most cyclists are I suspect) than you’ve probably been using your heart rate for your focal point, and that’s a decent option, especially since some power meters can be a bit pricey. And if you don’t have one…
Don’t get me wrong. I still pay attention to my heart rate but now it’s in comparison to my power numbers, not vice-versa. Let me explain.
Typically, cyclists just ride. We ride hard if we feel good. We ride easy if we don’t. We’ll watch that heart rate and let it settle down if it gets too high and we’ll push harder if we think we’ve got some beats to give. And yes, you can pace yourself using those criteria. I have and sometimes still do.
However, if you take the leap and instead make power the cornerstone of your cycling workouts (after you test yourself and figure out your FTP) then you can instead set your pace based on the watts you’re producing.
FTP, or Functional Threshold Power (no, not File Transfer Protocol you computer nerd) is defined as “the highest power that a rider can maintain in a quasi-steady state without fatiguing for approximately one hour. When power exceeds FTP, fatigue will occur much sooner, whereas power just below FTP can be maintained considerably longer.”
THAT’S pacing in a nutshell: Don’t go all out early. Save some matches (also defined in the book) for later in the race. For most of my cycling-life I’ve been this guy: Go as hard as you can until you get tired and then rest more often, and longer, in order to finish the event or workout. Holding back is hard. Especially on a time-trial and especially when other cyclists are passing you or you’re riding with a stronger rider.
I’ve been working on my pacing, mostly inside on the trainer, by doing a couple rides I’ve done many times before, one on Zwift and one on FulGaz: Alpe du Zwift on the former and the Alpe d’Huez on the latter. The former by the way, is Zwift’s version of the latter. They both have their advantages, or likes as the case may be, but I won’t bore you with those distinctions. Suffice it to say they are difficult climbs, with specific sectors, that easily translate to pacing practice or HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training).
When I’m working on those “two- P’s” I focus on keeping my power number down in Zone 3 for most of the ride and as I get closer to the finish I continue to push harder through the other zones so that I finish in Zone 5 or 6.
THE PROOF IS IN THE PUDDING
Yum! Pudding! It’s been awhile since I’ve had some good pudding. I have to make some and put it on my post-ride list. I’m salivating now but will move on. Apologies…
Last week I was reading one of the last chapters (chapter 13) and came across the section(s) on time trials. Last year, as you may have read in my “Social Distancing Racing” posts (use the search box on my home page to find ’em) I participated in some racing, and due to Covid-19 all the races were essentially time trials but I didn’t know then what I know now. I would have done better had I read the chapter sooner.
THE section(s) to which I refer delve into flat TTs, hilly TTs and more. There is great advice to be gleaned but I’m not going to regurge it all here. Instead let me just say that I took the author’s advice and applied it (last Sunday as it turns out) on an 18-mile TT (with rollers, and coincidentally, a headwind).
Drum roll please…
I paced myself at my FTP (290). I didn’t worry about speed or heart rate.
I kept my power close to my FTP when hitting the rollers. In the past I would instead push well over my FTP, sometimes into Zone 6 on the climb, and then try to rest a little on the downhill.
AS you can imagine, I didn’t fare too well towards the end of the races. I was coming in 10th, 11th, or worse. I was burning WAY too many matches WAY too early.
THIS time though, I didn’t do that and the above screenshot of the segment (the entire TT) from Strava says it all!
AND what you can’t see is the TT within this TT that I had done twelve (12) times before. It’s approximately 9.5 miles long and on this effort I beat that previous time by OVER 3 MINUTES, and my average power was 70 WATTS HIGHER!
Holy frijole Batman! As I told my wife via text when I was done: “I guess that book was right! Check this shit out! 2nd out of 168. All time! It actually works!”
THE moral of the story is that training and racing with a power meter DOES WORK and it can make you, like it has me, a stronger rider and a more formidable racer.
IF you’d like some 411 on power meters and what I’m using, shoot me an email with your contact information and I’ll get in touch. I’m currently running two different power meters (both crank-based) on two different bikes and have experience with a third single-arm meter. Here’s a link to a good article as well.
Wishing you a happy and powerful new year. Stay safe and healthy and let’s kick some time trials’ asses!
This morning I got a little glimpse into what Smoke Eaters did, or in some cases still do, when I tackled the last race of the season, the Diamond Valley Road Race. When I got home my wife crinkled – or wrinkled, you choose – her nose at the smell that permeated my clothes, helmet, you name it.
To my credit, for what that’s worth (I’m a knucklehead) I did check the AQI before I left. It was in the green here at HQ and in Alpine Village (where the race started) so even though it was showing over 150 in Diamond Valley I went for it. I thought the wind might be blowing east based on those two green readings but that was not the case; it was coming in from all directions.
I should have called for extraction but you know how that goes – I was committed, or more aptly put, should be (committed that is)!
The season started on April 19th and due to the pandemic the first few races of the Alta Alpina Cycling Club’s (AACC) COVID-19 Social Distancing Race Series were slotted to be time trials. We had hoped, as many of you likely did in April, that we’d be so over this by now. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and so all of the remaining races (twenty in all) were done as time trials. Click here, by the way, if you’d like to read my initial post of April 23rd on this subject.
I should point out that the racing season doesn’t really end until this Sunday, and perhaps it will be extended if the smoke continues to be an issue. I was a minute slower today than I was back in April, maybe because of the smoke, or maybe for another reason…See the “What I learned” section below for more on that. Nonetheless, I could race the course again as I have until at least Sunday, but there are still many more racers to go, many of whom are FAST. So, right now I’m not too motivated to put that on my calendar; in addition to looking for work-work, I’m also doing the FulGaz French Tour (more on that next week), so this professional cyclist (as my brother from another mother calls me) is a bit busy.
What I’ve Learned
For a nervous, have no clue what I’m doing first-time racer, this format was perfect!
I was able to ride against the clock, as opposed to other, more-experienced racers, and so was less intimidated.
I still had to race every week and so preparation, including rest, nutrition and hydration, was very necessary. BTW, I still need more practice on the prep. part.
I have a tendency to go too fast and hard on the out-leg. I’ve really only been able to keep those horses in the gate for one race, the week 15 Foothill TT, and on that day I was 27″ behind at the turn but made up 42″ on the return leg. That discipline helped me beat my previous PR by 15 seconds!
I have to think more strategically/tactically: One rider re-did the Luther TT a few days after he and I raced to a tie. He smoked me on his re-do and so earned more points for that second effort.
I still need to cogitate more creatively. E.G., should I ride in the a.m., afternoon, or evening since weather and wind conditions do change? I’ve been paying more attention to what the big dawgs do so that next year…
It was so fun and engaging, even riding solo!
Seeing how others did, what they did and when they did it was cool (and helpful).
Bragging rights (I did beat my nemesis ONCE) are part of the equation.
Here’s some other images from some of my races. Sorry but no snot-dripping, coughing up a lung, sweat soaked Mark photos. You’re welcome!
Looking forward to the official points totals and hoping I’m still in the Top 10. So honored to be put in the A group for my first year of racing and am planning on being even better next year.
Thank you to my fellow members of the Alta Alpina Cycling Club for helping me take my riding to another level!
Big thanks too, to the first responders who are out there on the front lines right now trying to keep us all safe from this uber-crazy year of wildfires.
Looking forward to a superior – and fingers crossed, a smokeless, no masks or social distancing required – racing season, next year.
Well, not a forum per se, but work with me here…I’m referring to California Alps Cycling headquarters, which could loosely be defined as a forum.
Webster’s “1b definition” of forum is “a public meeting place for open discussion.” While we haven’t had any public meetings (aka grub and beerfests) recently, we have in the past and we certainly plan to have more in the future. This virus too shall pass…
For you youngsters — admittedly I was only 6 years-old when the movie premiered but I thought it would be good to provide some context — here’s a link to a clip of the movie, and if you’d like to go the extra mile and read the Pittsburgh Current review, click here.
So now that I’ve set the tone, as it were, let’s get to my story of woe. “Whoa” also works in this case, as you’ll see. Read on!
Last Friday, again thanks to Alta Alpina’s Social Distancing Racing Series, I participated in my 7th TT in the last 7 weeks. This was the first climb we did in the series and being a clydesdale (6’2″, 220#) I knew I wasn’t going to be in the top 10, so my goal was to get it done in under an hour; my previous best was 1:10. I rode from HQ so I got in a nice warm up of about 20 miles or so before I hit the grade, a Cat. 1 climb.
As you can see, I was a happy camper post-climb and was stoked to hit my goal. And as it turns out I placed 17th out of 34. Not bad for a fat-boy!
BTW if you haven’t done Kingsbury before you should definitely add it to your list. It’s not as brutal as Monitor or as long as Ebbetts and the views into Carson Valley are amazing! The shoulder is fairly wide as well and the road is pretty clean. Did I mention the descent? It’s a screamer!
After the glide down the grade I was pretty much toast but I figured a little rest, some water and a bit of food would do me, so when I talked to my soigneur (aka wife) from the base of the climb I told her I’d go ahead and ride back.
Here’s where the funny part starts
About 5 miles in on my return trip I wasn’t feeling it. Or maybe I was but in the wrong way. It’s been so long since I bonked I didn’t remember what it felt like and while I don’t think I completely hit the wall I realized I didn’t have another 20 miles in me, especially if I had to do those frickin’ rollers on Hwy. 89!
So, I texted my trusty assistant and asked her to come and get me. I told her where we should meet (Mad Dog Cafe & Market in Woodfords) and that I would keep riding. I also asked her to bring some cold water. About another mile in I realized I wasn’t going to make Mad Dog so I texted her again with another location and wrote that if I wasn’t there that she should just keep driving down Foothill until she saw me. Well, as you can imagine our cell service isn’t the best here in the heart of the Sierra so she didn’t get the complete message.
When I finally made it to our rendezvous-point I went a bit further up the little road then I should have (nature-break needed) and as I came back around THERE SHE WAS! YAY! RESCUED!
BUT She drove right on by!
I whistled (and I have a LOUD whistle), I yelled, I waved. But to no avail. No brake lights, no wave, nothing. So I texted her and told her she passed me and to turn around. I then began riding back towards Kingsbury, albeit much slower than my first leg in the a.m. Still…nada.
Then I called and thankfully she answered. By this time I was truly gassed but at least I had ridden far enough to try and catch her that I got in my half-century.
She turned around and we agreed to meet at another designated point, this time a landmark – Fredricksburg Cemetery. Appropriate, huh?
After a few minutes of waiting and no sag-wagon appearing I checked her out on “Find my iPhone.” What!? She was going the other way! Shit! Wait…No she’s turning around. Here she comes. There she is! With my cold water, too. I was already tasting it.
We laughed as I hung onto the truck and then I asked for the water. No dice! She left so fast she didn’t get that part of the message. “Oy vey” as my dearly departed Grams would say! Thankfully she did have some water though (emergency supplies that we always carry) and that was guzzled down very quickly as you can imagine.
What’s MY moral to the story?
First of all, pick a landmark, Mark, and stay there! Second of all, drink more water you fool. Third…If you’re going to give it full, or close to full gas, on the way up an almost 8 mile ascent with ~2500 feet of climbing, eat more.
I know these things but for some reason in my TT induced haze I forgot them. Don’t be like Mark!
I hope this post finds you all staying healthy, safe and sane during these turbulent times. A special tip of the hat, by the way, to our front-line warriors who are helping many of our fellow citizens survive. At the same time, condolences go out to the families and friends of those who have lost loved ones due to the covid-19 pandemic. As I write these words, and so again take stock of the current state we’re in, I still can’t help feeling like Alice, or perhaps Dorothy. But, this ain’t Wonderland and it sure as hell ain’t Oz. Pardon the ain’ts – dramatic effect… Those stories, too, were more like dreams. This? This is a nightmare…and on so many levels. So, like you I suspect, I try to keep my mind focused on other things and live as normally as I can. Quick break while I sanitize my keyboard…🤓
Social Distancing Road Race Series
Thanks for letting me get that off my chest, by the way. No doubt many, if not all of you, are feeling the same way. That brings me to the main subject of this post: racing in this era of social distancing. For me, cycling has become even more important right now – it’s one of the things (probably the main thing) that’s helping me keep my mind off the nightmare. And, thanks to Alta Alpina Cycling Club I’ve got some racing options! AACC did us all of us locals a solid and morphed at least the first three (3) races of the season into virtual rides. Now I’ve never raced before but I’ve been training hard for organized rides that have now been canceled or postponed. So why not put some of that energy towards racing, eh? Especially, since it’s little less intimidating in this format. So, I jumped on in.
Race #1 – Fredricksburg Prologue (Time Trial)
The race director sends an email the weekend before the race and everyone has the entire week to complete the course, as many times as they wish, with results recorded on Strava (click on the link to see the segment). I took my first whack at it on Tuesday of last week and so was able to compare my numbers a bit to other racers/members. I knew I had some work to do to get into the top 10, which was my goal. So last Sunday I got my soigneur (aka my wife, Pat) to join me. Actually, she offered. Pretty sweet. She parked her fine-self next to the truck, read the paper and sipped on some coffee and off I went for a short warm up…
The course is only about 8 miles long so it was full-gas the entire time. Thanks to the live segments feature (try it if you haven’t) on Strava I was able to see my goal time, as well as my carrot’s best time, displayed on my computer. I was kicking ass on the way out – behind my goal (which was okay, it was a big hairy audacious goal after all) but ahead of my carrot. That all changed at the turnaround. I started losing time even though I had a bit of a tailwind. I put too much into the first-half of the course; I should have paced myself better. Oh, well, I said to my solo-self, only about 10 more minutes of pain.
As I approached the finish, feeling and looking like many of the big dawgs I’ve seen on the TDF over the years, with snot pouring out of my nose and so much sweat on my glasses that I could barely see, I was cooked. As it should be, right? After a few minutes of gasping and hacking I was able to function again and actually speak to my wife, instead of just grunt. That spiked hot chocolate went down well as I reveled in my new PR. And, I ended up with a 9th place overall. I’ll take it!
Here’s a link to the course/segment, which I just road yesterday. While the course was really “designed” for a true road race, again this was a solo effort for each of us. I had done the route last year and so was anxious to see how (if?) I had improved. I needed some additional miles so I decided to do three (3) laps; if I did well on the first one then I’d take it easy on the next two (2) I figured. ‘Twas a beautiful morning and I was stoked that I didn’t need a vest or knickers. I wore my 2017 Deathride Finisher’s Jersey as I knew it would make me ride faster (it’s my version of the yellow jersey, you know?) and it did help. I shaved 3 1/2 minutes from my previous best time! Yowza! Still, not enough to beat the strong riders who have yet to ride the course. Right now I’m sitting in 5th position but I’m pretty darn sure that won’t hold. May have to give it another whirl this weekend but at this point I don’t think I’ll improve my time much so perhaps I’ll just ride Monitor or Ebbett’s instead.
Stay tuned! More Updates to Follow
I do have some news about Monitor and Ebbett’s, two (2) of our three (3) passes that we here at California Alps Cycling ride regularly, as well as some information about the upcoming fishing season and the Deathride. Stay tuned for that post. You can, in the meantime though, check our Facebook page for information on the former.