Last race of the season

Yesterday was my last race of the season (for real this time), a cross race in Ottawa. It wasn't planned, I wasn't prepared, it followed my off-season of pretty much no training so I had no expectations apart from enjoying the ride. I did...

More words and pictures to come.


Mavic tires

Apparently, giant french wheel manufacturer Mavic will start making their own tires (or having another company produce them). Road clinchers will be first, but tubulars, mountain clinchers and maybe mountain tubulars are planned.

2009 in pictures

Racing bikes often means going on the road, especially if you live right in the middle of the biggest city around as I do. It made me go to places and/or at times I would never have otherwise.


2009 in pictures

The view from the airplane window, somewhere over the Atlantic coming back from my first bike-centric trip ever. Only a week, the Pyrénées, Basque region, wonderful roads, memorable climbs, mostly great weather... All enough reasons to do it again in 2010 but, let's stretch it for more than a week.


Picture of the day

We're far from the big packs on the road now. It feels like the 09 season is already far gone and yet, we are so far away from next spring...


Domination and breakthrough

More domination and some breakthrough. That's how I see the weekend's cyclocross racing.

Tim Johnson lead yet two more podium sweeps from the Cannondale-cyclocrossworld.com team, taking the win in front of his teamates saturday and sunday. He's clearly the man to beat right now in North America and hopefully, the team that has dominated the season can keep the motors running smooth through the Nationals and until they head to Europe.

Speaking of Europe, top cross races this year usually end up with either Niels Albert or Sven Nys winning but all year, Zdeněk Štybar has never been too far until now. He won the Gazet van Antwerpen Trofee saturday in Hasselt and the Superprestige Hamme Zogge...



If you like bikes and beer, this one's for you. I posted about tires re-used to make belts, now, I found another smart idea that re-use thrashed bikes and parts and that makes a great Christmas gift... if you don't mind the steep prices... or want to do it yourself.

Take an old dead fork, cut it, machine a little notch at the dropout, re-finish it and customize with bar tape if you want and you have one nice bottle opener. If you don't want to do it yourself, you can buy one, thanks to architect Raphaël Betillon.


XXX without one X

My Scalpel received some Christmas presents early...

USGP CX video

Nice video from last week's USGP races in New Jersey from the same people that brought you The 9 Ball Diaries.


Picture of the day

Tim Johnson brought things almost back to normal in the North American cyclocross scene last sunday. 'Almost' because he won solo but a day after Ryan 'whiney' Trebon took saturday's race... And 'almost' because the podium wasn't completely filled by the Cannondale-cyclocrossworld.com team.

A friend sent me a link to the Eastern Ontario Cyclocross Series... And now I'm thinking about going to do their last race of the year, November 29th in Ottawa... I even have some friends and family in the area who could come and shake those cowbells... Of course after the sickness, the off-season, and now doing training but more a base-prep, I would probably be slow, I mean, slower than my usual slow but it would be fun anyway. To be confirmed.


The last and first ride

Guillaume and me taking a pause at the top.

Today, Nic, Guillaume and I wanted to take advantage of the unusually warm November temperature and go ride the nice climb up Jay road, just south of the border. We never know past mid-November, each ride might be the last before winter arrives so we went as if it was the last, enjoying it as much as we could. That meant that, for today, the light rain was okay.

I brought the CCM but opted to ride the Cannondale...

The loop covers two countries!

For me, it was also the first 'longer than a commute' ride of my 2010 training, a mix of tempo, resistance, miles eating and enjoyement. Enjoyement is always the easiest goal to meet but it's alright as it's also the most important.

Heading to the climb after I got lectured by the US Customs man.

We had a good pace, but not fast enough to stop our conversation.

Moments before I upped the tempo to finish the climb solo.


CFR goes CX

Drool-inducing bikes... Some of you may remember that Cannondale Factory Racing team members Martin Gujan and Marco Aurelio Fontana are racing some cross races in the off-season. Former Italian Cyclocross Champion Fontana showed last winter that he can even race and stay in front against the world's bests. Now they have some sweet new CAAD9 bikes to race on, the above one being Martin's bike.


Old tires, new life

Many people wonder what to do with their old tires when they are worn out or punctured beyond repairable. I got my idea that I will eventually post about but through the Italian Cycling Journal blog, I found a company called Jiro Belt that turns old road tires into very cool belts to keep your pants up when you're off the bike. Available from a discreet Schwalbe black to some red, yellow and what not colors Michelin, Continental, Vittoria and other brands of road tires have. Very nice and good for the environment.

They will also have keychains following the same idea eventually. Christmas gift ideas anyone?

Of course, the belts wouldn't work too well with mountain bike or cyclocross tires unless you wear clown pants... My idea will be able to use all kinds of tires so people don't just throw them in the garbage...


2009 in pictures

The first of a few '2009 in pictures' posts. This one more than qualifies to illustrate the mountain bike season in Quebec, it was a wet and muddy one. After one lap of the Bromont XC World Cup course last July, my Hollowgram SL quickly went from being one of the lightest to a more standard weight one. The second lap was much worst... I think my Scalpel actually hit the 30lbs mark that day.


Ditching chainrings

I'm not a fan of front shifting. They are much slower than rear shifts, they dont deal well with shifting under power (we all know we shouldn't do it but in races, it happens) and they are more risky to drop chains or suffer chainsucks. Triple cranks are already dead in my book and the idea looks to become more mainstream with SRAM's XX and the availability of a double XTR crankset option next year (of course Cannondale has offered double cranks for many years already).

But can we improve doubles? Last year people looked at Adam Craig's bikes running a single chainring and thought he was weird (which he is but not for that) but the idea has caught on a lot this year and hit the front under the legs of none other than Julien Absalon and Geoff Kabush, the Canadian champ of course winning the Bromont World Cup with a 1x9 setup showcased that the concept isn't a bad idea after all. The possibility to save a bunch of weight by dropping one shifter, one cable and it's housing, the front derailleur and keep only one chainring is appealing but avoiding the front shifting risks and issues (especially in muddy conditions) and the slow shifts is even more interesting to me.

Then I saw a funny press release from e*thirteen a few days ago. They released their XCX chainguide for the growing numbers of XC riders opting for 1x9 or 1x10 gearing setups after apparently 5 years of testing, only to come out with a product almost identical to the year old MRP 1.X guide. Same pricing, about the same weight, both available in black or white as BB mounted guides and they look almost identical. Hummm...

Unfortunatly, both were just available in BB mounted version that are not compatible with the BB30 standard I have on both my Scalpel and my CAAD9 cross bike. I had inquired about a seat tube mounted version from MRP (as e*thirteen didn't have it's model annouced back then) and their product manager told me one was in the works and should be annouced around November.

So today, MRP released three new versions of their 1.X guides, two seat tube mounted, one for mountain bikes, one specifically designed for cyclocross gear sizes and chainline and one for direct mounts like on the new Cannondale Flash... So I think that, once I get a road bike, I will finally be able to dedicate my cross bike to cross and set it with a 1x10 and go 1x10 on my Scalpel with a 11-36 XX cassette, rear derailleur and shifter... On the Scalpel, a 32T ring with the 11-36 cassette would have about the same low end gear as my current 29T small ring with a 11-34 cassette and I would sacrifice the two highest gears of the typical 44x11, gears I used very rarely when mountain biking. Thanks MRP.


Off season

It's that time of the year. When a beer or two and chorizo on any given night are welcomed without feeling bad about it, when the Garmin and it's HR strap are accumulating dust in the bike room, when riding is limited to getting from point A to point B and just ride for the fun of it. It's the off season, a time to let go a bit, rest the legs and the mind...

It's also a time to start planning next year. I'm currently drafting my training plan for 2010. Setting objectives and planning races, researching to build a better training plan than the last two years... Last winter, I started base December 1st but my base consisted almost exclusively of long zone 1 and 2 rides, junk miles as they say. I was accumulating lots of trainer time in front of the tv, 3-4 times a week for a few few hours. I was pedaling to and back from work everyday, only pedaling hard a bit when there was a lot of snow. It was a very old school base training and looking back, I'm not convinced I was making an efficient use of the limited training time I have.

This year I will probably start training around the same time but cut some hours of easy boring rides. Instead, I'll add more variety and keep some harder efforts mixed in the form of strength training, tempo rides, sweet spot training, leg speed exercises, fine tuning the pedal stroke and keep only one day for long rides, trying to do them outside even in the harsh Quebec weather or maybe even trading that for xc skiing depending on the conditions.

I'm not an expert in training by any means but I think it will be more fun and I wont lose as much strength and speed as I did last winter. What do you guys think?


Picture of the day

Yet another two podium sweeps for the Cannondale-cyclocrossworld.com team this weekend in Boulder. Will someone else be able to stop them before the end of the season or will it take a trip to Europe and some Nys, Albert and such to end their streak?


Season highlights

I'm still riding my bikes but with the days getting shorter, it's getting colder and training has stopped for a few weeks now. Today was my first ride (not counting the short commutes) since the Cowansville CX race two weeks ago, it sure felt good! There will be other rides before the year is over but most of it is now behind. Looking back, it's been a great season. First road, marathons and cyclocross races, a cycling trip over the pond, discovery of new trails, new roads and a great trail network project got started.

Any special mentions? Well yes, some moments stick out. One of the greatest ride of the year was climbing the Col du Tourmalet. Not only is the climb nice but hard, it had spectacular views and you could almost smell the history. But the whole trip to France was one of the highlights of the season... and of my cycling life. Great roads, a great test for the legs, beautiful, I want to go back!

After trying a few racing disciplines, I have to say, cyclocross is the coolest type of racing. Very hard, a good balance of power, brute force, will, cardio, handling and technique. I still have a lot to learn but it may become the discipline I'll try to focus on, building my season toward being fast for fall and using mountain bike races as training for it.

A particular moment during a race that sticks to my mind and makes me smile is during the Sherboucle. Sure I missed the front group at the start and the wind meant we would never see it again as a whole but the first road event I did was special, riding at high speeds in a group, chasing, pulling. It was surprisingly fun. But even more precisely, with around 15km to go. when, following a sharp corner, I found myself alone in front of the group I had been with all day and saw that it took a while for them to come back, my decision to get on the gas and leave them behind proved to be the right thing to do at the right time. I bridge to a guy, asked him if he wanted to work to get away, and away we went, picking and droppin remnants of the front group. Sure we finished far from the winners but still, it was a thrilling, fast and fun 15km.

Road riding had not been my idea of fun before this year, the trip to the Pyrénées and the two road events I did changed my view on it. No longer is it just a part of training, I actually enjoy road riding now (as long as it's not in the city where roads are crappy, full of stop signs and red lights, crazy car drivers and dangerously behaving cyclists). It's very different, covering lots of milage without even putting a foot on the ground, going fast, it puts you in a very trance like mood.

All in all, I love cycling. The machine and the sport. Riding with friends, alone, with groups, racing, training, fun rides with no other goals than have fun on whatever surface... It clears the head, it tunes the body, it truly is a beautiful sport. I can't wait to live the highlights of the next seasons!