Jul 24, 2014

Bump in the Road

The season was going great.  The plans were made, some goals already met, my aspirations were big, and the "Cœur Jambes Esprit" were committed in unison.

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Only one week before Canadian National Road Championships in early June, and several days after making the 6 hour round trip drive to test-ride the Championship courses, I woke up in my bed, planning to do a tough, long ride. Tough, as in : you might see funny colours at some points because you're so far in the red zone.  I like those.  I took no more than 10 steps from my bed before I knew it wasn't going to happen.  I went back to bed.  For two days.
I'm used to putting out big power on my Felt F1 road bike and its Speedplay pedals.  I had to be patient for what seemed to be an eternity before my body would be back to normal, after being hit with a nasty virus though.
The next four weeks were challenging.  I spent a lot of it on the couch or in bed.  Everything nauseated me.  I saw a girl wearing "too many" polka dots.  I thought I was going to puke.  I saw a car that looked too "Euro".  It made my stomach turn.  Once, I tried to do a long easy ride, and after 1 hour, I found a picnic shelter to nap in.  I fought to make it the rest of the way home that day; pushing about 50W felt like my Quarq powermeter should have been reading 300W instead.  I had trouble eating and my weight plummeted. I didn't like coffee anymore and I hadn't the slightest desire to paint my nails bright colours.  I couldn't do a grocery store trip without sitting down in an aisle to take a break, and once I had to lay down on a scuzzy subway station floor...  A nasty virus had attacked me.

I kept hope that I would be healthy enough to race the Canadian National Championships, right until the end.  I had my numbers pinned on my jersey.  Impossible. And, kind of heart wrenching.

There are times when you have to fight with all you've got to get what you want, and there are times to sit back and be patient.  It's like that in bike racing.  It's like that in life.  This was one of the times when I had to wait.  I didn't like it, and I was scared that I'd never be back to normal.
Racing the Prologue at Cascade Classic. Photo Credit: Dave Adams
The Cascade Cycling Classic in Bend OR was my first race back.  I didn't know what to expect.  But one thing was certain : I was so grateful to be back with my teammates, back on my bike, and back in the race peloton.  Sometimes I felt like a useless rag when my body wouldn't fight hard enough to help my teammates, and it was weird at first to get dropped where I knew I typically "shouldn't".  I felt my legs coming back though, and I was thankful to be with my TWENTY16 team who were supportive.
Back racing with my teammates at the Cascade Cycling Classic in Bend, OR. This pose (that I picked up from a guy who used to do the same group rides as me almost a decade ago) has been coined as the "Lex Flex" by my teammates.  The secret: if you shove your biceps out from behind with your fists, you'll look like you have big pipes.  It's not the look I should be going for..but I still think it's funny.  These girls rock!
I feel like I'm back to my old self again.  This bump in the road was a scary one mostly because it lasted for so long.  It was a good reminder to appreciate good health and strength when we have it, do all it takes to maintain it, and just how lucky I am to be living the dream as a bike racer. 
It feels good to be gross and grimy again after a good solid training ride in California. 

Jun 24, 2014

Bike Washing Tricks

As a professional cyclist I am fortunate to have a team mechanic (Vincent) to take care of my Felt F1 road bikes and Felt DA2 time trial bikes.  He washes them, tunes them, repairs them, and sets them up with the equipment I need (like specific SRAM cassettes or ZIPP wheels, for example)

Vincent doesn't travel to Montréal to give TLC to my training bikes (which are identical in set-up to my race bikes).  I have to find ways to get the job done on my own.  (Teamwork is a great thing; when you find yourself all alone, it sure pays to know how to be self sufficient.)  I can fix a lot of things and tune a bike pretty well, but I'm lucky to have generous expert help from  Martin Rooseboom Vélos in Hochelaga, and Cycles Néron help me with tuning and parts when I need it.
Sporting the Martin Rooseboom Vélo (Hochelaga, Montréal) colours!  Photo credit: Justin Knotzke
One thing I do on my own all of the time is WASHING my bike.  It's not "pro" to ride around on a dirty machine, it's not good for the bike, and it's not good for... the soul.  It may seem simple and mundane, but with a few little tricks, I've found ways to get the job done fast and efficiently.

1. Rinse the bike with a hose, starting from the TOP, front end, finishing at the bottom rear end.  Top to bottom..it's important.

2. Brush out the drive train and cassette with a stiff brislted paintbrush and harsh degreaser...  Then rinse with water

3.  I picked up a brush made for detailing car wheels at a hardware store.  It's big, soft, and holds a lot of suds and water.  I use car soap or dish soap to wash down the frame and wheels.  TOP to BOTTOM.

4.  Rinse the soap away, (top to bottom!) and let the frame dry

(If the bike isn't too grimy I get away with leaving the wheels on, and can finish in a few minutes.  In other cases, I take them off to make sure to reach into the upper inside of the fork and the rear side of the seat tube.)  Don't forget to re-lube the chain with a light, dry, chain oil.

Keep your bikes clean ;).

May 23, 2014

Coffeshop Rides Makes You Stronger

Every year I try to get better, stronger, faster, and smarter.  The aspect of training that has given me the biggest step up - believe it or not - is resting.  When it's time to go hard, it's pedal-to-the-metal (or medal...in an athlete's case)  When it's time to rest - there's no going halfway.
J. Knotzke www.shampoo.ca
One of my easy day activities is coffeshop riding.  I pedal without much resistance.  I would get dropped by a kid on a trike if I was riding with them.  But I'm not riding with anyone who is going faster than me on a coffeeshop ride day. So, it never counts as getting dropped.  I know a whole crew of riders who can't handle being overtaken by another cyclist.  I'm telling you, you'll be stronger once you can. 

Spinning easy, I "flush my legs out", loosening them up from the previous days' hard efforts.  My destination is usually 45 minutes away, either in a direct line, or winding around the city, through streets and neighbourhoods that I don't typically explore.   Coffeeshop rides are for discovering
Sometimes I choose a route that goes through some of my toughest training spots.  Pedaling through easily is good for me psychologically.  It's a reminder that I don't always have to be in the pain cave, cross-eyed and loopy-minded on those particular streets.  It's how we maintain a good relationship, those areas and I.  Coffeeshop rides are for enjoying, zen-style.

In the summer I try to visit many small, independant coffeeshops in Montréal.  I have my old favourites, and there are always new ones to discover.  I order the same thing every time - espresso.  No messing with sugar or milk; straight-up, and short.  I talk to whoever's on the patio and wants to chat.  About anything.  When I train, I don't talk to anybody.  I push hard on the pedals until the job is done.  Coffeeshop rides are for socializing.

The coffee itself is like the icing on the cake for the easy ride.  Taking a break for a day and having no power numbers to hit, on intervals to push through, or races to think about is a good thing for the heart, the legs and the soul.  Cœur Jambes Esprit!

May 16, 2014

TWENTY16 Dials In - A video from ZIPP

"Fluid in the drops, dancing on the pedals,Team TWENTY16 pros are both naturals and highly trained on their bikes. Fit, form, function united by Zipp Service Course SL bars."

This is the first season that I've had the opportunity to ride Zipp bars...and the first time ever that I've realized how important bar shape is to the control and feeling of a bike fit.  Even after years of professional racing, I've never felt so confident on a road bike in my life, especially ripping it downhill.

Apr 24, 2014

Throwback Thursday #TBT

Here's a #TBT (Throwback Thursday) photo of me at my first ever road race.

Yes, that is a Camelback.  I am wearing a softshell jacket that my Mom bought me from Costco, and my work uniform shirt from Coast Mountain Sports - it kind of looked like what I thought a cycling jersey should look like.  I was not wearing cycling socks or a shammy, because I didn't have any.  Hey - I just bought a bike for goodness' sake (it took a YEAR to save enough cash).  No dollars left over for the superfluous digs... (hashtag: #ownit)
#TBT : First race ever.  Sporting a Camelback because I didn't know how to reach down for my bottles.

I couldn't understand a single French word the comissaire was saying (I didn't speak much Molière, especially à la Québécoise back then).  So, I went off the start line with the masters men.  (I'd only ever ridden with guys anyways).  Some man shoved me on purpose as he rode by in the first few hundred meters.  What a jerk. Then I got dropped really fast.

The next pack (the girls who I was supposed to be racing with) caught me.  Then they dropped me.  It was raining.  I was cold.  Then I found some girl and a boy half my age to draft off of to finish the "race".

I still felt pretty badass for doing my first race.  Never give up. 

Apr 23, 2014

After racing in North Carolina at the Winston-Salem Classic with TWENTY16 (successfully scoring first UCI points of the season on the road), I headed to Colorado Springs to train.  The first days were low-intensity on the bike, but the training didn't finish at the end of the ride...

Apr 15, 2014

Three for 3 at Sea Otter

Sea Otter Classic Circuit Race womens' sprint, 2014. Photo Credit: Garrett Lau
 TWENTY16 scored a total of 5 podium finishes in 3 races at the Sea Otter Classic.  It felt so good to stand on the podium 3 times for my team, especially after sitting on the sidelines following my concussion in late-March.  The final race took place on the legendary Laguna Seca raceway.  What a treat to race on a race track!  The course was fast, challenging, and fun to ride on.  I chose to race with ZIPP 404's on my Felt bike.

TWENTY16 made the race hard and aggressive, yet again.  My teammates and I launched attacks, and drove the pace hard on the sections of racecourse that hurt the most.  
Credit: Will Matthews. http://www.wilmatthewsphoto.com
Several of my teammates and I initiated small breakaways.  At the end of the race, Alison Tetrick launched a superb attack and got away on her own.  I followed the first wheel to chase her.

There were about 5 riders in that little split.  Coming to the finish line, I was sitting second wheel, behind my teammate Alison, who our competitors had caught me up to.  I yelled at her to keep driving to the pace, to bring me to the finish line, with the other riders on my wheel. 

Canadian Criterium Champion and sprint specialist, Leah Kirchmann of Optum launched her sprint with 200m to go.  I followed hard, and didn't manage to pass her front wheel by the time we reached the finish line.  A second place finish thanks to great teamwork to finish off the Sea Otter Classic was awesome.  Alison and I celebrated by eating our Kiku Apples on the podium.  Woo hooo!

#SweetKiku Lex Albrecht and Alison Tetrick enjoying Kiku apples together on the podium at Sea Otter Classic!
 Next race : Winston Salem Classic (UCI 1.2) in Winston, North Carolina.