My buddy Nico invited me to do the Dirty Kanza, a 200mi GRAVEL race through the Flint Hills of Central Kansas. I’m never one to turn down a challenge so I accepted, and I’m still mad at him for it.
Let’s start off with the weather: 90 degrees, not a cloud in the sky. Normally my dream weather but in this case? All sunburn and dehydration party time.
Then there’s the wind, the dust, the never-changing green&blue scenery (just the occasional river crossing). “FUN” is not the word I would use to describe racing for 10+ hours in these conditions. But would I do it again? Probably.
Nico was aiming for the single speed record. Tim Johnson was aiming to finish his first go at this event and to support his wife (former Olympian Lyne Bessette) but she had a mechanical early on in the race. Rebecca Rusch, former Kanza winner, rode the 100mi and then announced the winners of the 200mi. Her advice to get through it? Don’t Stop. Seemed simple enough for a girl nicknamed “nonstop”.
I was just aiming to have a good time and finish. And I did (till the end). I guess there’s always next year? Big props to Nico for bonking and then getting through to the other side.
Cycling weekly look at the climbs this week – exciting
We’ve had a few tough ascents so far in the Giro d’Italia, but we’ve not experienced the true mountain stages that the race is famous for just yet.
As the race heads north the number of climbs on the route increases and the less the sprinters look forward to the stages. Three of the six stages before the next rest day are over 200km in length and there are 16 categorised climbs to take in between now and Sunday.
The sprinters will have their fun on stage 12, but week two belongs to the climbers and here are five of the toughest tests they will face this week, including a mountain time trial on stage 15.
Forcella Mostaccin (stage 11)
It’s by no means the longest climb in the race at just shy of three kilometres in length, but coming at the end of a pan flat stage the Forcella Mostaccin climb could split the peloton.
With a maximum gradient of 16 per cent and an average of over 10 per cent for the last kilometre of the climb we could see a few attacks go off the front on this climb.
The race still has around 25km to go from the top, but the rolling nature of those final kilometres means it almost certainly won’t be a bunch gallop.
Montemaggiore (stage 13)
Montemaggiore probably won’t be a decisive climb in the Giro because it comes so close to the start of the stage – the climb starts at kilometre 48 – but it heralds the start of a tough stage for the climbers.
Just over eight kilometres in length, the climb averages nine per cent, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. The first 2.5km kilometres are pretty straightforward, but then the hill ramps up to over 10 per cent for the rest of the climb, maxing out at 15 per cent in the final 500m.
There’s a sting in the tail of this one, and after a short descent the riders are heading uphill again on this very up-and-down stage.
Cima Porzus (stage 13)
The Montemaggiore climb earlier in the day may be more relentless, but after 130km of racing up and down mountains this climb of Cima Porzus could see a few riders crack.
Again, the climb averages nine per cent, but rarely does it go below that gradient. The riders will have to plug away for 8.5km at a steady gradient while they plan their finishing strategies.
This climb is followed by a shorter ascent to Valle, so attacks may come there rather than on the Cima Porzus, but this climb will certainly sort the men from the boys and the sprinters autobus will be stamping a lot of tickets.
Passo Giau (stage 14)
Anyone who has completed the Maratona dles Dolomites sportive will know the Passo Giau very well.
The scenery is stunning, but the ascent is pretty relentless. From Selva di Cadore the climb starts off hard (a kilometre at over 10 per cent) and continues in a similar fashion for the next seven kilometres.
Again, this climb might not be in a location to be the place of crucial attacks, with another climb following immediately afterwards, but it promises to be a great part of this year’s race. One for the breakaway, maybe.
Alpe di Siusi (stage 15 ITT)
As if riding up mountains wasn’t hard enough, imagine smashing it up as hard as you can with no teammates to help you out.
That’s what the riders face on the Alpe di Siusi on stage 15 as a mountain time trial could well separate some of the favourites for the maglia rosa.
Movistar‘s Andrey Amador holds the Strava KOM on the climb, set on a recce back in March, smashing up in 31 minutes at a modest 166 beats per minute on the heart rate monitor.
I feel like i have done this event now – my first year was 2014 and the weather was fine and last year was in the pouring rain and howling wind and yet I was finished in nearly the same time.
This year I trained more and went on more rides and with good weather forecast I was hoping to smash my time.
But it my girlfriends mums 60th and a big house was rented and fine food booze and food was consumed. To top this off I left late in the morning to drive up and was stuck in traffic going to event parking when i should have been at the start line getting ready to head off.
the course is a good one with 130km of riding around a pretty loch and then a wee ascent (about 1200m in all over the course)
6:30am and the elite and VIP’s head off. I should have started in Wave A with the faster boys but by the time I made the start wave C was heading off so for the first 20mile I was completely solo hoping to find a small group that was going faster and I could work with.
NO SUCH LUCK
Until a man caught up – he had punctured at mile 2 and had lost everyone so we worked together for a good hour. At one stage 4/5 people were tagged on behind but only we two were taking turns at the front so he drifted back and I heard him yell ‘I don’t mind you guys taking the wheel but take a f***** turn a the front’
That caused all but one to drop off and that person definitely took his turn from then on in.
Just before the climb I recognised my friend Carla who had started on time (8min in front of me) and we said hello and then the climb up Schiehallion started. I took this easy as I had been working pretty hard up to this point (in fact my slowest ascent of the 3 times)
The downhill was as lovely as ever …. and then into the back of a big group around Fortingall on the narrow singletrack road. The wind was unseasonal and Easterly so the last leg was into the wind but i was quite sheltered in a large group of 30 – never really making it up through the bunch to make a turn at the front.
The thing about groups like this is that my speed is so much higher than normal with the massive slipstream benefit and after all my solo rides this year the time (miles) passed quickly.
Average speed 33.6kmh (imperial says nearly 21mph) average.
so my best time but not the sub 3h50/3h45 i was hoping for.
At the end a medal and a text with my finish time according to the tag on the bike ….
then enter my new league – lets see how good/bad we can be ….
League Name: The bike Blog league
League Code: 02090731
My thoughts this year run as Nibali as outright winner … but Vivaldi might give it all this year. So spare 5 min and get your team sorted. Past experience has shown me that the longer I spend choosing the worse my results.
Read yesterday that the mafia have been implicated in pantani being thrown out of giro. Doctored a medical as they needed hi. Out as they had put large bets on him not completing the race …. So this Friday I celebrate him as the magical, lonely, manic and magical man he was.
I should also point out: I SUCK at racing. I’m a busy guy, I don’t have time to really train, I barely have time to ride every now and again. I’m distracted in my race focus as I ride road and also SUP and kitesurf. I’m not a naturally-gifted athlete, and I’m carrying an extra 5kg I don’t need. I’m a slightly better than 70% racer on a good day.
1. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, but there are good reasons it sometimes does.
Sure, some races are expensive: I’ve paid as much as £150 for an event registration fee (plus a night in a hotel, gas, food, etc.), but I’ve also paid as little as £5 at a local race I rode. It’s also important to keep in mind that the expensive races are expensive for a reason (besides just greed – there aren’t many rich MTB race promoters). Promoters have to buy insurance, swag items, number plates, course marking materials, permits from land owners, and prizes, among many other things. Most big races are typically manned by volunteers from various local organizations (bike clubs, boy scout troupes, local trail running clubs, etc.), and the promoters make donations back to the those groups as a thank you for their help.
2. You can spend all day (or night) enjoying yourself on a bike.
Greg is right that at some races you’re pedaling too hard to look around and enjoy the scenery. My advice: do an endurance race! If you’re riding 50+ mile, and you’re like 99% of MTBers, you will not be riding super fast. Sure, you’re pushing yourself, but if you’re going to survive and make it to the end of race you’ve got to be somewhat conservative, and there’s plenty of time to look around and enjoy where you are. I’ve even stopped for pictures at races. I’m nowhere near the front of the group, so why not?
3. You get to ride new places and not worry about navigation.
Exploring is great. But a lot of times, I just want to ride my bike and shred some singletrack. Races are a GREAT way to explore trails you’ve never been on without the hassle of stopping to check maps again and again. Just turn the pedals and enjoy.
4. You can see tons of new things while preparing for an event.
I like endurance races… have I mentioned that? Preparing for an endurance race means riding–a lot. A lot more than you otherwise would. I don’t know about you, but I can only ride circles around the same trail so many times a month before I need to venture out and try something else. Also, most of the races I do aren’t local–they’re off somewhere else, which is why I want to go. It’s really rare that I bother pre-riding a race course, certainly not riding it again and again and again. (i agree ED)
5. Races give you a guided tour of awesome trails.
Most of the races I’ve been to go out of their way to route the event over some of the best trails in the area. Avoiding technical areas? Some do maybe, but lots of races use those technical areas as the focal point of the route–it’s why you’re there. Hundreds of people haven’t flocked to Scotland mid winter to do a 24hr ride for over a decade because of the doubletrack sections –they go for ice over rock garden at the top. If you want to ride your bike all day on fun and/or challenging terrain, there’s plenty of opportunity to do so.
6. You don’t have to be as self reliant.
Self reliance is great, and I’m a big proponent of it. I carry the tools and supplies to fix almost anything on my bike on pretty much every ride. Even road rides, I’ve got a pump, a minitool, and a few spare tubes. But it’s also really nice to ditch some of that stuff and ride all day without carrying the extra crap. When I go to races, I make sure my bike is in tip-top shape, and since there are aid stations every so often, I’m able to carry less, and I can send supplies ahead to the stations to refuel/top off supplies along the way. Where else can you ride 65 miles and not have to carry a massive hydration pack? I do always carry the essentials, though (spare tube, multitool, power links, and derailleur hanger all fit in a small saddle bag, and a pump in a jersey pocket). Even if the aid stations are only 10 miles apart, I don’t want to have to walk for miles in bike shoes.
7. Grass Roots Good Times.
Greg’s point about over commercialization is valid to an extent, but at the same time it’s silly to complain about pros decked out in matching kits head to toe when A) they’re paid to do so, and B) plenty of weekend warriors spend their own money do exactly the same thing. Most MTB races I’ve been to, including the big ones, are super laid back events where everyone is there to have a good time. Sure, there might be some sponsor logos on the finish line banner and whatnot, but who cares? Those companies probably donated that stuff.
8. The time constraints.
Honestly, I don’t have a major counterpoint to this. Races are (sometimes) big events with (sometimes) lots of people–there has to be a schedule, and if you’re participating, you have to adhere to it. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still explore the town. I’ve explored towns I would have never been to had it not been for attending a MTB race–ate at great restaurants, explored nearby trails the day before the race, and checked out some cool bike shops.
9. Meet lots of people!
Okay, if you want solitude (and we all do at times), a race is not the place for that. But at the same time, races present the chance to meet a lot of really cool people. I’ve shaken hands and chatted with a spanish elite rider sleeping in his belingo van and driven up to do a marathon race in Scotland because the ‘weather is worse’ . I’ve met people in person I’ve chatted with on forums before. I’ve seen with my own eyes people do things on bikes I wouldn’t have thought possible. (not just the accidents)
10. You’ll realize you suck, and will then get much better.
A few years ago I raced and when I pulled into the first feed station at mile 15 one of the volunteers announced, “In case anyone is wondering, the leaders are about 30 minutes ahead of you.” WHAT?!?! I didn’t even know I’d been riding for 30 minutes already–it was hard to believe the leaders could be so far ahead already. It took me a little over 7 hours to cover the 75ish-mile course with over 2300m of climbing–the winner finished in just over 4.5 hours. And once when I raced the 60km course the winner on the 85km course overtook me 10km from the finish.
Attending a race–especially one with pro riders in attendance–you’re guaranteed to get a HUGE slice of humble pie. For one thing, I routinely get bested by guys several decades older than me. I want to be those guys when I grow up–it’s motivating to keep at it, keep pushing, keep trying to improve. Not only that, but having a big event on the calendar is a great motivator to ride as much as possible. You will get fitter. You will become a better bike handler. Youwill get faster.
You might still suck when compared to the guys who get paid to ride, but you’re better than before, and you’ll always know there’s lots of room for improvement.
Racing is awesome. It provides an opportunity to ride somewhere you might not get to otherwise, you get support so you don’t have to carry gallons of water and lots of food all day, and it’s a GREAT way to challenge and push yourself. You’ll learn things out on the course that will help you in all aspects of life–not just riding. Endurance racing in particular is a great for mental toughness training. Plus, convince some friends to race with you and you have a fun weekend away with your buddies.
That said, racing should absolutely not be the only reason you ride–if it is, it will take the fun out of mountain biking. But racing is a great way to compliment and improve your mountain biking life, and add some variety.
“Cielos Infernales” was being billed as the world’s toughest track bike race. The first of it’s kind- long, brutal, fast with miles of climbing into the clouds- on one gear in live traffic. 75 miles and 3 mountain ascents completely unsupported. It’s the first time an all-fixed gear alleycat has required the fitness and endurance of a stage race, and the street handling of a messenger. Plus racing in open streets in Mexico City is always a risk. Traffic is wild, roads are rough, and there’s always a chance of a stray pothole, dog, donkey or car catching you out.
Look at how they descend – feet up on the water bottle cage
had one of those weeks when work has got in the way of writing anything on this post …. had 2 rides last weekend and a great new mtb tyre ….i will get to it. At the moment my mind is as confused and busy as this poster ….
What a day – the forecast was grim but the weather was grimmer. Registered the day before Saturday and it was pretty nice Went to friends 40min away to stay the night, had a nice meal a glass or two of red and then bed by 10:30am. Alarm at 4:40am shower quick bite then drive back to Pitlochry and the start. a train of cars arriving with bikes to park and this was at 5:45am – the last starts were at 8am. On the bike £2 in my hand to buy a quick coffee. Bumped into 2 friends as my wave was called – they were also starting but are so quick I knew i wouldn’t see them again – and I didn’t until after the finish. Boom off went – the weather was grim and I think that after 10 miles my hands and feet were frozen – and least I wouldn’t feel their complaints of ache although it made trying to drink water or eat quite difficult. I worked in with a large group and it all went well – the KOM climb split the group and I found myself at the top of the mountain cycling into a 20knot head wind and rain by myself unable to catch the faster group in front.
Eventually 6 of us got together and worked until we caught back up at the bottom of the climb. (the sticky out bit bottom left on map) then the turn home. 2 abreast down single track roads and everyone cautious in the wet and rain. I had to stow the glasses as I couldn’t see through them which meant that my face was showered by rain spray and grit from the road. Road widen and group relaxes and Bammm the crunch of carbon as 5 or 6 riders fall. I get hemmed in behind – everyone alright apart form bruised egos … but the group is gone and again there are 8 of us playing catch up although the others are bust so just 3 of us taking turns to drag. Get to the last wee hill and kick and look at my time 3h45min – I could break 4 hours I reckon. So pedal harder and realise my right shifter has actually worked loose but my hands have been so cold I hadn’t realised it … this last section has a lot of wee rises so working the gears more with loose shifter …. last corner and finish line in sight. Over the line celebrate ease forward and realise my gps still running 4H01 but did I take it. Get back to car and official eTap text arrives congrats Hooray only 1min 40sec slower than last year and that was in good weather. the Bike as ever was flawless
The defending race champion somehow managed to beat three super-strong riders from the same team — Etixx-Quick-Step’s Tom Boonen, Niki Terpstra, and Stijn Vandenbergh — and take the classics season opener in Ghent, Belgium.
It was a huge disaster for Etixx-Quick-Step and an unforgettable performance by Stannard.
In the closing kilometers of the race, after the group of four had been out in front for 40 kilometers, the three Etixx riders started attacking repeatedly in hopes of forcing Stannard to chase and tire himself out.
Almost everyone seemed to be saying that Etixx had the win in the bag and that it would be too difficult for Stannard to win. It looked possible for Etixx to dominate the whole podium in a clean sweep.
And with the likes of Boonen and Terpstra attacking, all that made perfect sense. It was a really classic set-up in terms of tactics: three riders versus one. So, attack the lone guy until he’s blown and win the race.
Boonen put in the first big attack. Stannard was isolated but kept on the gas, with Terpstra and Vandenbergh sitting on his wheel. Then Boonen imploded, and Stannard closed the gap to him.
Next to attack was Terpstra, and Vandenbergh jumped on his wheel, which was puzzling (why not let Stannard chase Terpstra, then attack Stannard again with another hit?). They gapped Stannard right away. But Stannard clawed his way back to them. Suddenly, it was all four back together.
That’s when Stannard jumped. It was quite a sight. He got a gap right away, surprising the Etixx riders, who seemed to be tiring themselves out.
Terpstra rode up to Stannard, while a totally blown Boonen tried to get back to them (Vandenbergh had imploded and was gone). It came down to Terpstra and Stannard going to the line mano a mano, with Terpstra leading out the sprint and Stannard just coming around him to cross the line first.
Watch the final 10 or so kilometers of the race below. (Skip to 6:00 for the real fireworks.)
We already knew Stannard was super strong and a real hardman. Saturday he showed he’s not only one of the toughest riders in the peloton but also one of its most astute tacticians. The guy doesn’t know how to give up. His combination of brute strength and clever riding won him the race.
What looked like a predictable outcome after classic tactics of three-on-one backfired. Conventional wisdom failed because Stannard was too strong. He’s only 27, so expect to see him winning more races.
“I couldn’t be happier,” Stannard told TeamSky.com after the race. “It’s nice to do the double sweep at the race, but after the difficulties I had last year breaking my back it’s nice to have got myself back to where I was.
“Being with those three guys I knew they were all committed to trying to win. As a team they haven’t won it for 10 years and it’s a big one missing off Boonen’s palmares. I knew they were going to race hard. With Sep Vanmarcke and Greg van Avermaet chasing behind it put the pressure on them. I could just sit back, play a bit of poker and enjoy the ride.
“I just wanted to get a free ride for as long as I could. That was my idea. When they all started attacking me it wasn’t a great feeling. When Boonen went I was thinking ‘right, what do I do here?’ I knew if I rode him back I’d get attacked. I paced myself back a little bit. I could feel the wheel behind was trying hard to stay with me. So I felt like it was going pretty good and then I just took my chance.”
Terpstra: “Looking back, maybe it would have been better to wait for the sprint with Tom and not attacking, but it’s a question of moment and circumstances. Stannard was really strong in the end against our attacks, and deserved the win.”
Boonen: “Today we made a mistake in the final,” Boonen said. He added: “There is a thin line between a great race and a costly mistake and unfortunately we took the risk of not waiting for the sprint, and it didn’t work out. It would have been great to win the race, but that’s cycling. Congrats to Stannard. He rode a smart tactical race and his reactions to our attacks were impressive. His sprint was also strong. As a team we rode super strong today and while we unfortunately fell short of victory, we know what we are capable of for future races.”
This may just be our favourite track cycling video ever, and it’s certainly one of the more bizarre events we’ve seen – it’s called the Marymoor Crawl, and is a perennial crowd-pleaser at the July Marymoor Grand Prix track meet in Redmond, Washington State in the Pacific North West of the US.
The idea is simple. Riders have to stay upright – no feet on ground, no interfering with other riders, no holding the rail on the side of the track, no crossing the finish line – for up to four minutes before the bell rings, then the ones left in go hell for leather for a single lap of the velodrome.
Cue plenty of trackstanding … then a desperate dash for the line by the handful of riders left in from the couple of dozen or so who lined up at the start.
We’d LOVE to see this in the Olympics – Brian Cookson, please push for it – but is it just us, or do the riders with the more aero, pro-looking helmets get eliminated earlier than most of the others?