Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Year's supply of... GOLD!

Howdy... back from a hiatus on the blog, been so reliant on Twitter that I got away from this site. Will make more innane commentary here as I see fit... which begins with my bitching about the fact that I'm not in Friedrichshafen for Eurobike yet. I'm sitting at a hotel overlooking a Greg Norman Golf Course in Virginia... thanks to a tore-up tire on the plane headed out of San Diego. One day delay. Great.

As I burn through email, I came across this on Twitter: the guys at First Endurance are giving away a year's supply of Optygen.

Let me repeat that: A YEAR'S SUPPLY OF OPTYGEN. And not just Optygen, not just Optygen HP, but the new prototype that only sponsored teams (Astana, Columbia HTC) and pro triathletes (Jordan Rapp, Donna Phelan) have been testing, with a higher level of potency. This stuff is gold.

The $800 value aside, if you are training with regularity, this stuff will make you faster. There have been enough studies about Rhodiola Rosea and Cordyceps Synensis to prove the effectiveness in helping increase endurance. My wife, the aforementioned Donna Phelan ,is a First Endurance sponsored pro, and she's the most meticulous person I know who won't ingest anything that isn't good for her. For her to call me from Switzerland after two months asking me to FedEx a bottle of the stuff over because she is running low speaks volumes. Add to that the fact that First Endurance is among the leaders in testing (that is, testing to ensure their sourcing and packaging facilities are clean), and she's sold; Optygen is legal, and it works.

Here's the deets below:
First Endurance is running an contest based on the most-
outrageous thing that has happened while training or racing. It doesn’t have to be long or extravagant, just outrageous.
Entries will be judged on originality, entertainment, and buzz. Photos, video, or audio increase your chances of winning.
Five finalists will be selected and their entries posted on the First Endurance blog. Readers can vote for their favorite. One Grand Prize winner will receive a case of 12 bottles of OptygenHP Prototype. The four runner-ups will receive a prize of 3 OptygenHP Prototype bottles.
Entering is easy:
  1. Blog about your story. If you don’t have a blog yet, you can setup a free blog at wordpress.com.
  2. Mention that this story is an entry for the First Endurance contest with a link from your post towww.firstendurance.com
  3. Leave a comment below and paste the URL of your blog entry so we can find and read your entry

  4. Detailed info on entering is here: http://tinyurl.com/kjz52r

Knock yourself out... this is a prize worth winning. Personally, I'm a big fan of it as well, hence my own excitement about the contest.

Now back to my scramble to get back over the pond to Germany. Then next week to Italy, to take part in Granfondo Colnago just south of Milan on Sunday. And I've got my Optygen and EFS Liquid Shot packed in my luggage (which is somewhere over at Dulles International right now) to fuel the day... however hilly that might be. I hope my 80 mile ride in the heat with Normann Stadler this past weekend is enough training (amid all my flights of late) to get through this one!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Tour Tech on Show in Monaco

What are we in store for in France this month? Have a look...

Everyone in the industry seems to think I am in Monaco for the Tour. Sadly, I am not. As they say in France, C’est la vie. But this technical editor, however, on vacation in Switzerland, visiting my wife Donna Phelan, just as I did last year at TeamTBB camp in Leysin. It’s great seeing old friends (coach Brett Sutton and athletes Rebekah Keat, Lizbeth Kristensen and Erika Csomor), and all the new faces on the team. I brought my road bike and am excited to head out today after a day of jetlag sorting… got some new stuff to test, in a beautifully appropriate locale, the Swiss Alps. It’s a beautiful day today, and am sure it will be the same around the corner in Monaco for the race start today.

And among the things we’ll see during the month-long saga? There’s a ton...

Oakley Antifreeze Radar
This one debuts with Oakley's sprinters, who will wear an appropriately wicked liquid green frame that looks like frozen Prestone (which is in effect an impossibility what with it being call, you know, antifreeze... but Oakley makes the impossible possible), with a Jade Iridium lens.They’re limited edition, available in the standard Path lens or the new XL, with a longer 7mm nosebridge (which is functionally great for when down in the aerobars, so you're looking through the lenses and not over the frame) and available soon in that limited run at Oakley.com get'em while you can.

Castelli Apparel
While on invite at the request of Cervelo to see Carlos Sastre and Thor Hushovd do some aero testing at San Diego Low Speed Wind Tunnel this February, I had a chance to meet the folks from Castelli, and saw some prototype apparel they said would be debuted this July.

While you’ve now seen the new reverse jerseys (white instead of black), my interest lay in their tunnel-tested gear.
Like the Aero Race Team Jersey; the wind tunnel tested skinsuit, shoecovers and aero gloves will give the riders a technical edge to cut through the wind as well. Here's a shot of defending Tour champ Carlos Sastre checking out some of the fabric that Castelli's Steve Smith is showing him.

Further, and more of an aside: keep an eye out for a totally new TT helmet from Catlike with the Cervelo TestTeam; they had something at the wind tunnel that they were vehemently preventing me from taking photos of. Pretty cool stuff.

The body of the skinsuit is made using Castelli’s BodyPaint technology: a single piece of fabric to eliminate seams and cover your body as if it was painted on. It’s cut short in the front so that when the rider is bent over in the riding position, it lays perfectly flat on the front. A flat elastic leg opening means for smooth air flow. It’s finished with an aerodynamic flap to cover the riders race number. (maybe we’ll see this in triathlon?)

Castelli’s Aero Race Shoecovers also have a “golf ball dimple” fabric.

Giro TT helmet
We’ll see this one today; a two-year project, with aero testing taking place at the University of Washington Aerodynamics Laboratory Kirsten Wind Tunnel, as well as at UW’s liquid tanks doing fluid flow. It’s pretty impressive testing, which they captured on video and you can watch here at http://www.giro.com/en-us/media/#/asset:59/category:default/type:default. It' follows testing the team did with Lance Armstrong at the San Diego Wind Wind tunnel last Spring as well, in an effort to find yet another optimized helmet shape that will fit Lance's highly curved back. And there's the thing: not every aero helmet will fit every head.. but this one may be best for you.
Giro marketing director Kevin Franks went on record saying:

"Based on extensive wind tunnel and ride testing, we can report that the new Giro TT helmet that will debut on Giro riders tomorrow in Monaco is the fastest TT helmet in the world. The helmet is considerably faster than any other helmet in zero degree yaw situations, and remarkably faster in 5, 10, and 15 degree yaw situations. The helmet represents a paradigm shift in aerodynamic helmet technology."

We've asked if Normann Stadler will be wearing this at the Roth Challenge next weekend in Germany, and.. afraid not, Franks said... but probably in Kona.

Rotor’s 3D Carlos Sastre Crankset
The new 3D Crankset is of keen interest; designed in concert with Cervelo TestTeam, it has three longitudinally CNC-machined holes through the length of the crankarms to cut weight, while maintaining structural integrity. For the Tour, the crank goes yellow for one man: defending race champ Carlos Sastre. It will be available to the public, however.

Just six of these cranks have been made (good luck getting one), hand-painted by a design studio that does up custom MotoGP helmets.

Specialzied Shiv
Sure, we’ve seen this at the Triathlete magazine website. But we haven’t seen the new paintjob. Here’s Fabian Cancellara’s rig being built up in Monaco for today’s TT. Get some.
Cervelo S3 Tour Limited Edition

To commemorate Cervelo TestTeam's first Tour entry (and of course Sastre's title defense), a super-limited run of a black and yellow S3 frameset will be made available. Check cervelo.com for more info.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Fashion meets Function: Timex Debuts WS4

It was the biggest “aw, man” moments of my recent trip to Connecticut. Fellow photographer Larry Rosa, a frequent contributor to Triathlete was in town to shoot the Revolution3 Triathlon. He updated his Facebook page with this one: “Touring the Timex facility.”

No way!!! How cool would that have been, to visit Timex? I totally forgot that Connecticut was the U.S. base for Timex. Oh, and Cannondale! If I had planned a bit better and announced my arrival to the East Coast, maybe one of these guys could have received me and taken me around. As you might guess, I love tours.

I messaged my contact there, Keith Meyer. “Dude, I’m staying in Southbury, heard you are nearby! I should’ve come visit your facility and done a tour!”

His reply: :You’re just a mile away, but we’re slammed. For sure next year!”

“AW, MAN!”

I now know why they’re busy. Yes, they’re pumping out Ironman watches at probably rate of one per second (what a standard that has become not just in our sport, but in timing in general, eh?) But they have the coolest new watch hitting the market, and Meyer sent me one to test. It’s chunky, it’s bright, it’s bling, it’s data-rich. And it’s different than anything else they’ve ever offered.

It’s called the WS4, and part of Timex’ outdoor action-inspired Expedition Series. This was a watch (can you call it a watch? How about a control panel?) that we feature in the coming High Tech issue of Triathlete. When I saw it, a colleague of mine and I jumped up and down in an email to Meyer “Can we test? Can we test? Can we test?” Meyer relented and sent two to test. He was (and still is I think) suspect why all of us at the office were so geeked.Well, first off, it’s different. Way different. On my flight home from the race sitting in the United lounge, a fellow traveler asked “what kind of watch is that you have?” When I told him Timex he said “oh, really? I didn’t think Timex made watches like that.”

“That” is meant as, watches that are super chunky, and in fashion right now. Watches like U-Boat, Nixon, Bell & Ross. Sturdy statement watches. It looks more like a tool than a timepiece. It’s the action sport’s version of cufflinks.

And going to Connecticut, a guy in fatigues on my flight saw the big bit of orange bling on my wrist. “Man, that’s some sort of watch? What does it do?”

What kind of fun can I have with this guy? I put on my faux-Tony Little voice; up a few octaves, turned to volume 12 as though fueled by Red Bull and mescaline:

“What does it do? What does it do? Hell, what doesn’t it do?” I held out my closed, upturned palm and started unfolding fingers. “Altimeter! Barometer! Visual weather indicator! Digital compass! Temperature! It slices! It dices! It does it all!”

I was rollin’. “And—get this, you won’t believe this one—it tells the TIME! (And has a stopwatch, countdown timer, alarm, chronograph, Indiglo night lighting, all the basics in your normal Ironman watch… but I didn’t get into all that with him.)

Dude laughed—he was blown away. “Wow, I gotta get one of those.” Sold, to the customer in the military fatigues. Mildred, ring ‘em up!

The WS4 is gonna kick ass with triathletes, triathletes, swimmers—endurance sports fans age 18 to 45. Want to swim with it? Sure, why not? It’s water-resistant to 50 meters. Would I take it running though? Well, I’d opt for a smaller watch—it is a bit heavier than a standard Timex Ironman watch. But if I was headed to the track from the office and forgot my dedicated sport watch, this does everything that one does and has all the key functions (stopwatch, lap, countdown timer), so again, sure, why not?

Of course, pro triathlete/fashionistas like Luke Bell and Amanda and Michael Lovato were keen on it—it was the first thing Amanda noticed upon seeing me. (Of course, anything as bright orange and large enveloping my wrist would do that.) Luke said it’s the perfect competitor, in our market, to surf brands like Nixon, Quiksilver and the like, for guys who want to have good data, but don’t necessarily want to be wearing a sport watch around all the time. It’s all about style. A big, chunky watch is stylee, and guys as old as 45 want to retain their young style as much as they can before they sign up for AARP.

I noted that what separates the WS4 from being a copycat is the function. While the surf brands typically promote tide features, the WS4 has none of that. Instead, it has stuff triathletes would feed off of and surfers couldn’t care less about: outdoor data. And I had fun playing with it all.

Setup was pretty easy. I only had to calibrate the altimeter or barometer, since both rely on the same pressure. After setting the watch next to a trusty digital indoor temperature reader, the WS4’s temp reading was within a degree of my baseline guide. Cool. Of course, the temp goes up to 85 degrees F or so when it’s on your wrist. But it’d be interesting to do a crazy hot track workout, glance at it trackside with your bottle between sets and come out of it knowing you were able to make time on your 800s considering the track temperature was 102 degrees Fahrenheit.

The digital compass (with a digital needle and display in degrees and cardinal points) is probably more for fun than anything, unless you race Xterra and have a penchant for getting lost. It has an adjustable declination angle that bumps up the compass’ accuracy.

The barometer shows current barometric pressure, as well as lows, highs in millibars (mb) or inches of mercury (inHg). It will track current and sea level pressure. That barometric pressure then allows the WS4 to host a little icon for estimated weather patterns—sunny, partly cloudy, cloudy and rainy. It’s your own little weatherman-in-a-box.

Final element: It comes in a rainbow of colors: It comes in black (black with a silver face or black with black face), orange (shown, as tested), blue, yellow and a stunning white.

Price for this functional, fashionable conversation piece? $200—absolutely reasonable given the amount of stuff you get out of it. Final tally? Cool for Dimes to dollars, this will be the perfect birthday gift for the triathlete who has everything. Or at least thinks they do. They don’t have everything until they have the weather forecast at their wrist.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Revolution3 Triathlon: A Classic on Deck Tomorrow!

I'm back on the planet. I removed the poll asking whether I ought to be at the Tour de France—turns out I am not going. Ah well. I will be at that time (about a month from now) taking some vacation to going to Switzerland to visit my wife, though, and will instead cover the Roth Challenge in Germany. That's a better trip in my opinion—I've seen my wife for about four weeks in the last four months. Plus I'll bring my bike and try to tag onto the back of Donna and her TeamTBB teammates on their easy days before hopping on the rail to Roth.

Right now I'm getting my camera gear ready, batteries charged, etc., for tomorrow's inaugural Revolution3 Triathlon here in Middlebury, Conn. I love being at debuts, and this looks to be a real kick-ass kick-off.

My trip here has been sweet. Heather and Todd Gollnick, as well as the man making it all happen, Charlie Patten, are putting on a wicked, wicked race that will force all the rest of their competitors to step up their game. A pro section with plastic-laminated posters of the athletes at their racks? (See Alex McDonald racking his bike... easy to find your spot, eh Alex?) A lit-up finishline arch, a'la Vegas? a $100,000 pro purse? The investment in this race is significant, all the big names are here, and considering this race is growing into a series next year, I think this will be a legitimate contender to the WTC, who have been fairly content to deliver a consistent product, but that's about it. Let's see how they step up—for the race entry-paying age groupers, and for the now-race-entry-paying pros.

The coup de grace is a real course. Not a flat draftfest, no. This is what the sport is about—challenging yourself. And as Luke Bell and I found out, it will be just that.

Luke invited me to hop in his rental and co-pilot a drive over the bike and run course. Race literature says the race is challenging. Thank God for Google maps on my iPhone; the roads are so rural and twisting, we nearly got lost, and had to stop and ask a local for directions. That look on Luke's face below? It was a familiar one. He searching signs, me plotting our progress on my iPhone. We got done and he came up with this one: "I think this is gonna be harder than Wildflower." Read: this has the makings of a classic. Maybe even an ESPN-esque Instant Classic.

The entire bike and run course is rolling, without a single parcel of flat. It's net climbing on the outbound loop, and net descending on the way back on the bike. But it's nonstop rolling and thus work all day. There will be no two-hour pro mens bike times. I'd be impressed if anyone breaks 2:15—and the Wildflower bike coures record is 2:14. There will be some good speed on the return, but that's not why it will not be fast.

No, it because the run is stupid hard as well. So everyone will need to save something for the run. Same story on the run; opening miles will be fast, as it's a gradual descent. But there's a few pitches up, then a steep pitch down, leading to a gnarly dirt road section that is banked in the turns, has it's ruts and bars, and undulating as hell.

Tomorrow at 6:55 the pros kick off, age groupers going off 10 minutes later. You can watch the simulcast broadcast being put together by Rev3 at Triathlete magazine's site, at http://triathlon.competitor.com/rev3 I'm psyched to see how it all goes down. Because simple speed ain't an ally here; a combo of speed and strength on the hills will win this race. And whoever does should be fetted, for winning a tough race against a tough field.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Steve Larsen: A Study in Balance

In Memoriam: March 13, 1970 – May 19, 2009

Balance. It’s one thing triathletes are famously notorious for lacking. It’s all training, all recovery, all clean nutrition, all the time. No time for movies. No time for anything. Sacrifice, it’s all about personal sacrifice. Courtesy? Empathy? Those are casualties of being a champion. You run across enough athletes—and the pros are the worst—and you become numb to the myopic element of our sport.

Then a guy like Steve Larsen comes along, and reminds you what it’s like to have a life.

Several weeks ago, I caught up with Steve Larsen at the Sea Otter Classic. Steve was racing cross-country long course as prep for the coming Xterra season, but while he had to face the likes of Christoph Sauser and his Xterra nemesis, Conrad Stoltz, he was more fired up about his some Massimo, who was doing his first big race in the junior cross-country event.

Of course, Massimo podiumed, taking second, and dad beamed. Steve had a “whatever” day in the race, but whatever—Massimo podiumed. The drive south from Bend was a roaring success.

By now, the proper obituaries are out; “Steve Larsen, a veteran professional triathlete with a race resume that included road and mountain bike championships, suffered a fatal heart attack Tuesday evening during a track workout in his hometown of Bend, Oregon. He was 39. Before Larsen found triathlon, he had already amassed a lengthy and successful bike racing career, compiling a race resume across a variety of cycling disciplines that will be impossible to replicate. Two NORBA national titles, world championship appearances across five disciplines (road, track, cyclo-cross, mountain biking and triathlon) before devoting his training to triathlon in 2000, earning an Ironman USA Lake Placid victory in 2001 among others…. “ It goes on, the guy with more decorations than a war veteran.

But his real resume reads best as the signature tag on his Slowtwitch handle “Steve Larsen - dad, triathlete, mtbiker, roadie & online retailer”.

The impact that Steve brought to triathlon is immeasurable. A guy with his palmares (we can say palmares when the guy raced the Giro d’Italia) like his has it at his option to be selfish. To be flighty. To be arrogant. Many pros take that option. Steve went the other way—he was a man of his people.

Want an example?

Just before Sea Otter, Steve made a trip to San Diego, driving his Jeep south from Bend to visit with retailers at his WorldTri.com online retail storefront. Steve said he was gonna be in town and asked if I wanted to grab a bit with him. As if there was any other answer—I told the office I was gonna be in late, and took whatever time I could having huevos rancheros with one of the baddest cyclists and triathletes to stomp on this earth…. and his son.

Of course I asked about his coming season race plans (he wanted to get back to Hawaii again, but wanted to have a fun Xterra season first) and we chatted about his online storefront—how business was doing, what the good brands were to carry. He let me in on something that tells you a bit about what made Steve Steve, as an aside as we were chatting about his business practice:

“I send out thank you emails to all my customers,” Larsen said. “It’s a little thing, but hey, I want my customers to have a positive experience.”

For cyclists and triathletes, this is akin to getting a personal thank you from the President for voting for him.

Those who met him found it impossible to not get sucked into the vortex of cheer and inclusion that is Larsen’s legacy. While Larsen reached the top of road racing, of mountain biking, and Ironman racing, he was always there for his fans, for the industry, his customers, for the media, fair with everyone, fan or critic. He was open with the triathlon forum community, answering any forumgoer’s question, about anything. In business, Larsen was faithful, a sponsor’s dream, and a well-spoken spokesman. As an online retailer, he was able to personally help plot your purchasing path with truly educated advice. If you had Steve’s endorsement, his suggestion it meant something.

But his family always came first. Five kids. Count ‘em. Five. One wife, Carrie. All those kids, his wife, his job, his training, there’s no place for sleep in there at all, is there? I asked. “I have a very patient family,” he said. “There’s no way I’d be able to race and be the kind of guy I want to be if it wasn’t for them. But…. it’s great when I can get out and do stuff with them,” as he threw a glance over at Massimo.



Selfishly, I was disappointed when he retired from pro racing in 2003, as I always enjoyed watching Steve more than any athlete on the race course. You knew he would have a deficit out of the water. And you knew he was going to tear through the bike and get to the front, making so-called bike specialists look like they were standing still (when you make Normann Stadler say after the Hawaii Ironman in 2003 “he passed me like a motorbike,” that constitutes being on another level). And you knew that based on that gap, he might win that race, because he was no joke on the run.

But that competitive fire burned, and after a few forays as an age grouper, while managing his real estate business, he dove in again as a full-time pro. (while still being a full-time dad, husband and online retailer). I still remember one of Larsen’s first races back from retirement last year, when he donned a CAF race kit and entered Ironman 70.3 Oceanside. He had at that time received coaching consult from TeamTBB’s Brett Sutton, asking me to introduce the two. “I know he can make me faster on the run, and I want to try something different,” Larsen told me as we talked about how to approach Sutton for coaching. “The swim, any gains are negligible, but I’m sure he could help there, too.”

“But the bike, I got that.” I laughed.

Giddy with anticipation of the inevitable as I rode on the back of a photo moto, I awaited the arrival of Steve… and here he comes, cutting through the field to the front. If his male pro competitors were going 24 miles per hour, he was going 28. It was an absolute treat to watch him simply tear past big names who were clearly already giving their all. “How demoralizing for those guys,” I remember thinking, smirking with mirth. Even amid the monotony that triathlon can be, Steve’s bike power, his ability to become one with the bike and push through the air like a rocket was something to witness. Oceanside became like watching him at the Hawaii Ironman in 2001. It was one of those days where watching a guy do his job was like watching for the green flash during a sunset on the Pacific, or seeing Michael Jordan do an up-and-under that defies gravity. It was just a special moment, sporting or otherwise.

I found him after the race and said “Man, it sure is fun seeing you out here again.“ His reply: “It’s good to be back.”

While Steve grew his fame racing alongside Lance Armstrong on the Motorola Racing Team in the mid-90s and on the NORBA circuit, I venture to guess his enjoyment and happiness in sport came in the balance that triathlon afforded him. Balance with family, friends, business and his fellow competitors.

Steve is survived by his wife Carrie, and five children. Steve's business partner tells me that services will be held Saturday at 1 p.m., at the Old Mill near Les Schwab Theatre. There will also be a ride heading out in conjunction, before or after services.

At this point, I’ll let those who were lucky enough to cross paths with Steve speak…

“It was a delight to work with a man that had so little airs and graces for the status he reached in professional sport. To work with him made one realize why, after so many years, he still wanted to compete—he loved it and he was passionate about not just his competition. (He) was one of the few that had reached the top that spent as much time as he could putting back into the sport, and out of the limelight level. I personally, and I am sure all at TeamTBB pass on the warmest heartfelt wishes to his family." —Brett Sutton, TeamTBB head coach

“He had so much focus. When he was gonna go to Hawaii, he just plainly wanted the fastest machine out there. He was sponsored by Mongoose and he said they didn’t care, so we put him on the Lotus. When he came to me, he was a legend. For him to trust me on everything, the fit, I was like” wow, what a huge honor to work with him.” He
He was professional with everything he ever did, and easygoing. He was really enjoying getting back into the industry, it’s his passion. Absolutely the nicest guy. He was magic. My feelings and heart go out to Carrie and the family.” —Craig Turner, Xlab (Former owner/manager, Nytro Multisport)

“I considered Steve a friend. Last couple year he’s really encouraged me in my career, and then we’d slay each other on the Saturday ride. I consider Steve a friend, and I’ll miss that push, and that guy. But more importantly, it’s sad for the community. He has five kids, and they’re all active in the community. The community will come together, but my heart goes out to Carrie and the kids.” — pro triathlete and fellow Bend resident Matt Lieto

“He was a fierce competitor, one of the most fierce I’ve raced against. I was very intimidated by him. He would lose three minutes on the swim, catch me, and put five, six minutes on me. And he didn’t just overtake you—he chopped you down. He could push himself harder than anyone I ever met. On rides, he’d just push until it was just him, I’d just be dropped. But I got to see a side of him most didn’t get to see, as one of the most sincere, nicest people I’ve met in the sport. In 2004 Steve said come to Bend and I took him up on it. He let me stay with his family for a week. I trained there three years, and he was my best friend in Bend. He was my agent one year and was so unselfish about it. He drove me to the Bay Area and we saw sponsors, and afterward it was always Italian and great wine, and we would laugh for hours. I bought from him I sold through him a condo a couple years ago. I was leaving back to South Africa, and in typical Caveman style, I left my renovations unfinished. He finished them for me, then sold the place. Such a very selfless person. At Sea Otter, his son Massimo was like “you have a shoe named after you,” but I was like “hey, your dad has two tires named after you and your sister!” (The Maxxis’ Larsen TT is called TT after Larsen’s daughter Amalia, while the Maxxis Mimo is the nickname for his son Massimo). Everything he touched turned to gold, and he was always so professional. He was an example to me and other athletes of what a true professional was. Two weeks ago, we had drinks after the race, we were talking about the old days. Now he’s gone. I feel really bad for his family. As a friend. It’s not going to be the same to be in Bend.” —reigning Xterra World Champ Conrad Stoltz

“One of the things that struck me most about Steve was his humility. I last spent time with him at Sea Otter in April, where he had an absolute crap race. He told me about a fellow athlete on course, recognizing Steve as he walked along with his bike and blown tire, who slowed down to accompany him for a bit. The racer said that Steve had been his idol growing up, and he was honored just to race together for a few minutes. Steve was pretty emotional, and a bit surprised, as he recounted that story; it really touched him to hear that he had that kind of impact. After Steve’s rough race at Sea Otter, and his son Massimo’s stellar performance, Steve suggested that maybe it was time we switched our sponsorship to Massimo! It was so obvious, seeing those two together, what an amazing father and role model Steve was – and will continue to be – to Massimo and all of his and Carrie’s children.” — Holly Bennett, marketing manager, Gu Sports

“So sad hearing about the loss of Steve Larsen. Leaves a wife and 5 kids. Terrible. He and I were on natl team and Motorola together.”—Lance Armstrong, via Twitter

“We did one race together, one of my 1994, and all I knew and remember was that he was a fierce competitor. It was unique how he went from pro road to mountain biking, to triathlon; not too many that could to that. That’ll be his legacy; succeeding at a world-class level in three sports. I’m really sorry to hear this news.” —Gord Fraser, former Motorola Cycling Team teammate

“At Ironman New Zealand in 2003 he came down with his wife. They were fantastic people and he was such a friendly guy. It took me 18k’s on the run to catch him. That was when I first saw him. But in Hawaii, the speed he’d come past you at, you‘d think he couldn’t keen it up, but he could, he was such an incredible cyclist. It was out of sight, out of mind pretty quickly, an incredible sight to see. With some guys you have a good idea, but with Steve, you could only hope you could pull him back. I am very sorry for his family.” — pro triathlete Cameron Brown

“We first met at the Hawaiian Mountain Tour, he was one of the first Xterra competitors. To have him come back this year was special. When he started in Las Vegas, it was great to see him, full of life, the normal, professional, well spoken guy he is, ready to get down and dirty. We’ve always saluted him and he has a special place in the Xterra family. I’m flabbergasted, I don’t know what to say… it’s a tragic loss.” — Xterra President Janet Clark

Monday, May 18, 2009

Lance's Giro Long TT bike?

So my friend Alex with SRAM travels with a lot of the SRAM teams and athletes at events. Of course, he's at the Giro with the Astana team, one of his component charges.

Alex also updates his Facebook a bunch with pics. And given his access (that is, "all), he generally has some cool photos. But this one caught my eye:It looks like Lance's TT rig for Thursday's loooong time trial; 61.7 kilometers from Sestri Levante to Riomaggiore. From what I've heard, it's lots of hills—hence a bike that recalls Lance's time at the Alpe d'Huez time trial.

Note the Hed ClipLite clip-on aerobars. Note yet another kick-ass Trek custom Livestrong paint for Lance.

Another note: Look closely at Lance's shifters. THESE look different. They look like something I saw on a SRAM-sponsored triathlete's bike recently... but cannot talk about. Yet. Alex, Please? Can I talk??? I'm champing at the bit over here.. I'll buy you a beer in Monaco!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Extra: Jay Buys a Bike Part! (And is happy about it!) A.K.A. the Debut of the K-Edge Chain Catcher

Well, I just installed and tested (in the parking lot of our condo) a new product on my wife’s bike that I just bought and showed up in the mail today. Yeah. Me. Bought. Me, the king of swag, bought a bike part.

Well, it all came after I saw a piece one of our competitors, CyclingNews.com (great job, James!) did on this product at the Giro d'Italia. It’s the K-Edge Chain Catcher.

Now, I’ve been dreaming of this day for years. Because my wife (bless her heart) ain’t the most mechanically inclined. So when something goes wrong, as it often does, it’s just something she deals with. Dropped chains are something she deals with. Lemme explain.

Two weeks ago at Wildflower, I was heading out to take photos during the race, and I see Donna headed in the opposite direction—was she dropping out? No, she dropped her chain off the front ring as she headed into a climb. She tried so shift it back on before she came to a standstill, no luck.

So she had to circle around, and get it back on as she descended in the opposite direction. What fucking luck. There went about one minute, 30 seconds. That could have gotten her eighth place instead of 10th among the pros. Damn, damn, damn. Mechanical shit like this kills me.

Then this product came along, which I will go into in deeper detail in the coming days, as I just got off the phone with Joe Davola, husband to reigning Olympic time trial gold medalist (and former triathlete) Kristin Armstrong, who co-developed and co-created the AceCo K-Edge Chain Catcher out of necessity.

With the short chainstays and steep shifting angles on tri bikes, chain drop is a fact of life. This product is going to change all that—I will be shocked if about every pro triathlete, and any triathlete who cares enough to add a 10-gram piece to their bike to ensure they will NEVER drop their chain again in training or in a race, doesn’t have this on their bike by year’s end. It’s that important an advance in tri bike technology as I’ve seen in a long time. I have the Third Eye Chainwatcher on my cross bike, clamped onto the round seattube. But the aero tubes of tri bikes makes the Third Eye impossible to use.But the front derailleur bolt mount point for the K-Edge Chain Catcher takes that blockade and throws it out the window.

I’ll go into greater detail in a bit (with some interesting storyline about how it came about), and Joe is sending me a piece to test on my own. But where my wife is leaving for TeamTBB training camp in Switzerland this Wednesday, I saw the value in this, and had to have it for her. So I went online, bought it. Money well, well spent.

Wheeling the bike around in the parking lot just now, cross-chain, slap-dropping the front shifter, doing anything I could to initiate the dropped chain she had experienced on her 5-hour ride just an hour before. No dice. I don’t see that she’ll find anything different either… ever.

More soon on this.

King for a Day: Epic Tri in Ireland to Kick Off in August

This one ain't a gear piece (will get back to that quickly, there's a few new things that are reaaaaally interesting to me, one in particular). And it's kinda long. So settle in...

Anytime a triathlon takes place on a course that people remind that “legend says…” then you know it’ll be an epic. Right?

“Legend says” that Madame Pele, the Hawaiian Goddess of Fire, is responsible for the heat and winds come one October weekend along the Kohala Coast. Anger her and you’re fate goes to the mumuku winds.

“Legend says” that Lanzarote local Cesar Manrique wanted to attune himself to the raw natural beauty of the rugged volcanic terra of the island. To plot a route for visitors to enjoy the raw beauty, he walked the island—naked. (Anyone who has been through Timanfaya knows how frickin hot and blistering that island is.)

And of course, the birth of the first Ironman in 1978 on the legend of a bar bet, is, well, legendary.

What is it about the upstart, the intrepid spirit of doing what has never been done before? Particularly, what draws us to it? For Commander Collins to come up with a challenge that not only went from a bet to seeing fruition is impressive. It turned Ironman into a sporting juggernaut. Same with ultramarathons. I guess it’s the sheer ridiculousness of it all that pulls us to this stuff like a magnet.

But there are ways of turning it up a notch.

Put the distance events in ardent locales, like with an epic swim at Alcatraz, or a bike at 70.3 Monaco or the Alpe d’Huez Triathlon that leaves you wondering halfway through if you’ll make it through without crashing. Then you really have something.

Put it in a locale that challenges our doubts, at the same time allowing you to take in with wonderment what you’re experiencing (as you do when you flip over and absorb the Golden Gate, Alcatraz Island and The City during the Alcatraz swim, or enjoy the simplicity of a farmer hauling in olives from trees while traversing towns at Monaco—as you’re suffering up a hill.)

There’s a new event on the horizon that I think promises to be that sort of epic event, called Eireman. For anyone who has a sense of adventure can agree that a triathlon in Ireland could be one of those unforgettable experiences. A race director is putting on an Ironman on August 23rd, and we’re hoping to be there to see if this really is a legend in the making.

Why, you ask? Well, envision biking and running over that rugged, untapped escarpment… a bit of misty rain in your face, maybe a bit of crosswind. What comes to mind for me is the Kohala Coast, at a much lower temperature, and with a lot more grass over

Race organizer Eoin Ryan says that while the area is called the Sunshine Coast, because it’s Ireland, there’s a good likeihood for rain. But hell, who said triathlon can only be held in 73 and sunny conditions? Why has Kona, or courses like Lanzarote, or Monaco, or Alcatraz, or become legendary events? It’s because of the heat, or the topography, or in this case, the possible rain.

What might make it legendary? Well, I can only imagine the beauty of riding past castles, forts, abbeys, old monuments, prehistoric burial sites and thinking of just how really old that patch of green earth really is. Celtics, Vikings, Normans, all fought for their piece of territory.

And yes, there’s true legend; thousands of years ago, Garman Garbh stole the crown from the tribe’s queen. The queen got a hand from a local witch, who flooded the mudflats, drowning Garman. The harbor was then called the Lake of Garman, the Gaelic word for Wexford—host county to the race.

And those who were king and queen at the time were called Eireman. So in reality, the man or woman who wins Eireman will be, quite literally, the first king and queen of Wexford in hundreds of years.

Think about that. Is that not epic and legendary?

Of course, it always comes down to the question for those who would want to do the race: what’s the course like? Ryan thinks this course will give Roth a run for its money as one of the worlds fastest.

The race will take place in Courtown Harbour, County Wexford (which is due south of Dublin on the Southeastern tip of Ireland). The day will set off with a swim in the calm Irish Sea in a counter-clockwise fashion in this not only wetsuit-legal, but wetsuit-mandated swim.

The bike is a four-lap 112-mile course (or a two-lap 56-mile bike for the half-Iron-distance event, or one lap for the Olympic-distance event) and as advertised, dead flat, on fully closed highways. Having raced on closed highways for the first time at 70.3 New Orleans not long ago, there is no greater experience (and deterrent to drafting) than a fully open road for cyclists.

After a few snaking turns in the early miles, the run is flat and straight. The out-and-back two-lap marathon moves you from from Courtown Harbor inland to the town of Gorey and back.

While there’s not much prize money on offer as yet (this is an upstart race, after all), the winners will take up an honor not bestowed upon any triathlon, Eireman, king and queen of Ireland. Epic.

What's cool is that on the one day are the various distance events. So one spouse could conceivably do the Ironman-distance event, with the other doing an Olympic, or a half, or a relay, and not wasting their day waiting for their spouse to finish the longer event.

Thanks to a bit of luck of the Irish, Inside Triathlon is jazzed to get a chance to document this inaugural event. Ireland is such a far-flung reach from the North American or Austral-Asian, or even middle-European triathlon centers of the world, that it will undoubtedly recall those early years of our sport, when it wasn’t as heavily vested into marketing as the sport is today. It’s not an M-Dot event as yet—and maybe it’s better that way. We’ll be keen to see how legendary it can be.

Check out the site at www.eireman.org.... and maybe look at booking an air ticket to be part of a kick-ass epic debut.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Gear Extra!! New Scott Plasma Images, Shimano proto wheels spied, new Rotor cranks and Nuun's new flavor .. and the Giro TV Schedule

I’ll cut to the quick on a bunch of stuff;

First, Wildflower: killer weekend last weekend. Too much fun with great people. I got to piggyback my wife’s association with TeamTBB, which is sponsored by Avia shoes—which also served as Wildflower’s title sponsor. So Avia was there in full force, and looked after its athletes with a killer team environment for all its athletes, a great spread of food (cooked up by grillmaster Kenny Souza) and even the live pay-per-view broadcast of the Pacquiato-Hatton fight on Saturday night after the long-course race. It was “roughing it” in a cool way. Donna finished 10th, a great result given that she was two weeks removed from taking fourth at Ironman China. Trooper.

On to some other stuff.. namely, gear:

I received a press release from Shimano that Craig Alexander is fully-sponsored by Shimano for the year, meaning he’ll not only be running Shimano parts, but he’ll also be running the new Di2 Electronic tri group. I’ve had a chance to play with the electric shifters, and it’s pretty wicked.

But what caught my eye was the attached image of Crowie. Check this out:
What stands out? How about the deep-section wheels?

I contacted my peeps at Shimano for some comment, and none was forthcoming. Shimano’s Devin Walton said that indeed, Shimano is working on some prototype products, a full-Shimano product (they are Shimano's own rims, not Zipps or anyone elses) that Crowie is testing, but that none of that means it will actually see the light of day in terms of production.

From what we can see, it’s about a 75mm rim, and as with their existing Dura-Ace wheelset, is set on Shimano’s silky D-A hubs. If there’s one thing the public has wanted from Shimano in their wheel line, it’s a deeper, more aero race wheel. (They already have a disc in the PRO line).

What does this all mean? Well, selfishly I hope to see those wheels become production—a deep-sectioned wheel on Dura-Ace hubs will be among the silkiest race wheels on avail. Those hubs are bad-ass. But more importantly, it shows that Shimano is really recognizing the tri market. They’ve slipped as SRAM has come on strong the last few years, but by actually prototyping with the reigning Ironman World Champ, hell, by hiring him on to ride all their products full-time, means they are making an investment.

An aside: for those looking at my previous blog post about Shimano’s new brake levers, the Dura-Ace levers will price at $185 while the alloy one I’m trying to track down pricing for.

Those wheels lead us to our next debut. On the fortnight of the team time trial at the Giro d'Italia, Scott sent the press some info on the new Scott Plasma. I'm gonna read up on it (as I just got the link), but wanted to post not only the below photo but a link to a presentation about the bike, which you will find at http://www.scott-sports.com/download/PlasmaTT/start.html

We'll be getting into this one as things settle down to see if and what the application is for triathlon. From my talks with Scott marketing manager Adrian Montgomery, the existing Plasma is still earmarked for triathletes geometrically. So this may be a TT-specific product, built within the handcuffs set forth by the UCI. Stay tuned.

Rotor Cranks is also using the Giro to debut its newest crankset, the 3D. They're doing a Giro version (with some pink accents) for reigning Tour de France champ Carlos Sastre. I was at the tunnel in advance of the Tour of California, and Carlos had a sort-of drillium crankset they were testing. It seems they are moving away from that and going into this new 3D direction. It seems to make a lot more real-world sense on its face. See the press release below;

Cervélo TestTeam and ROTOR collaborate on new 3D Cranks Product to debut at the Giro

Cervélo TestTeam riders will be using the new 3D Cranks from ROTOR Bike Components, when they start the 09 Giro d’Italia.

“The 3D cranks are the first cranks to have been designed with the input of a pro cycling team together with our ROTOR engineers,” said Ignacio Estellés, President ROTOR Bike Components. ”Drawing on a wealth of technical experience, this innovative product was developed collaboratively with Cervélo’s engineers, TestTeam riders and the TestTeam’s mechanic staff. We are passionate about supporting the riders, because they need these products in order to do their job well.”

“We have a four step protocol for product development with the TestTeam,” explained Damon Rinard, Cervélo TestTeam Race Engineer. “A partner, in this case, ROTOR develops and tests the proposed new product. We then review it and check the in-house data, testing it in different riding situations. Then the Cervélo TestTeam mechanics install it and the riders try it in training; both provide us with their feedback. Once it’s been approved at these three levels, the product is then available for the fourth level: use in races.”

The result is the 3D Crank - extremely stiff, to meet the high demands of Thor Hushovd and the TestTeam’s sprinters, yet lightweight enough to satisfy the needs of Carlos Sastre and the climbers on the team.

Utilizing a special manufacturing process, named the “Trinity Drilling System,” an extruded aluminum bar is intricately CNC machined with three drilled holes through the length of the crank. The result is a unique triple hollow crank arm that enables ROTOR’s engineers to remove the excess aluminum in the core while still maintaining the structural strength of the crank. With this new system ROTOR has significantly improved the Hollowminum technology they developed for their Agilis Evo cranks.

No attention to detail has been missed by ROTOR; even the graphic design on the 3D Cranks is unique with their impressive laser graphics. A special limited edition version of the product, with pink stripes along the crank (in a nod to the Giro) has been created for Carlos Sastre, with a special symbol that Sastre contributed etched with his name.

Off gear, onto nutrition: I was just sent some of the newest Nuun flavor: Banananuun. (please excuse the soft iPhone image).

Very, very good stuff. same as the rest of the line in terms of operation (drop in a bottle of water and suddenly you have instant electolyte drink with 180mg of sodium and 50mg of potassium) and ease-of-utility. I dig it, but still like Kona Cola best among their lot. Will have to try it with rum, maybe a bit of Mai Tai mix. Certainly worth trying.

Finally... the Giro on Live TV! his is great news-we can follow the Giro on TV. Below is the stage-by-stage broadcast
schedule for Universal Sports...

LOS ANGELES – May 8, 2009 – Universal Sports announced a multi-year deal today to
broadcast the Giro d'Italia as
the race celebrates its 100th anniversary, starting
tomorrow. Lance Armstrong will make his debut in this race as he
returns from his
retirement. Coverage of the race begins with a team time trial on May 9 from Lido di Venezia on the
Universal Sports Network and live online, all broadcast times available
at UniversalSports.com.

Universal Sports continues to solidify its commitment to broadcast top cycling events with the multi-year broadcast
agreement. As part of the deal, Universal Sports will
provide television and online coverage, including archived video
and television re-airs,
for the 2009–2012 Giro d'Italia races. Previous to this agreement, the race was available on a
limited basis on the Versus network, and through pay-per-view on
Cycling.TV. In addition to the Giro, Universal
Sports has had a long-term agreement
with the International Cycling Union (UCI) to broadcast world cups and world
championships in Road, Track, Cyclo-cross, Mountain and BMX, as well as the Tour of Basque Country, Tour of
Missouri, Tour of Georgia and the Deutschland Tour.

COVERAGE ON UNIVERSAL SPORTS: Universal Sports, available in 45 million homes, will present same-day
coverage of the 2009 Giro d'Italia, with nightly re-airs at 9 p.m. ET and 11 p.m. ET. The Universal Sports broadcast
team consists of Steve Schlanger and former professional cyclist Todd Gogulski, with Scott Ogle on the ground in Italy.

Date Events Time (all times ET)
May 9 Lido di Venezia 12 p.m.
May 10 Jesolo to Trieste 12 p.m.
May 11 Grado to Valdobbiadene 12 p.m.
May 12 Padova to San Martino di Castrozza 12 p.m.
May 13 San Martino di Castrozza to Alpe di Siusi 12 p.m.
May 14 Bressanone to Mayrhofen 12 p.m.
May 15 Innsbruck to Chiavenna 12 p.m.
May 16 Morbegno to Bergamo 12 p.m.
May 17 Milano 12 p.m.
May 18 Rest day
May 19 Cuneo-Pinerolo 12 p.m.
May 20 Torino to Arenzano 12 p.m.
May 21 Sestri Levante to Riomaggiore 12 p.m.
May 22 Lido di Camaiore to Firenze 12 p.m.
May 23 Campi Bisenzio to San Luca (Bologna) 12 p.m.
May 24 Forli to Faenza 12 p.m.
May 25 Pergola to Monte Petrano 12 p.m.
May 26 Rest day
May 27 Chieti to Blockhaus 12 p.m.
May 28 Sulmona to Benevento 12 p.m.
May 29 Avellino to Monte Vesuvius 12 p.m.
May 30 Napoli to Anagni 12 p.m.
May 31 Roma 12 p.m.

COVERAGE ON UNIVERSALSPORTS.COM: UniversalSports.com will provide exclusive, live
coverage of the entire Giro d'Italia, starting with the Stage 1 team time trial
Saturday at 9 a.m. ET. Full schedule, as well as full-length videos, highlights, stage
maps, photos and breaking news available at UniversalSports.com/cycling.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


In our last episode, I was up late-night in Monterey watching my wife at Ironman China on Ironmanlive. Now, she's here, tapping away at here blog next to me (having recorded a 4th place finish in 112-degree F temps) and we're checking in before we depart tomorrow morning for a Wi-Fi-challenged (heck, a cell phone coverage-challenged0 Wildflower—she's racing, and I'm working. Well, I guess we're both working. I spent the evening getting her bike race-ready; the team set her atop a 2009 Cervelo P3, and it's cherry.

I generally pooh-pooh sponsor-spec rides, but hers is a beaut; P3 with Oval Concepts bars, Hed Jet race clinchers, Vittoria Open Pro EVO-CX tires, Cobb Cycling V-Flow saddle and SRAM Red. And thanks to Dan Empfield for getting her set proper atop her ride... it was a longtime work in progress. And thanks to TeamTBB for providing her a bitchin battle ax. I'm the pickiest of the picky, and I'm finally happy with how her bike is set up.

I'll be at Wildflower doing more videos for the new, improving Triathlete website—I currently have some great interviews up there with Steve Larsen and Conrad Stoltz from Sea Otter, and will be doing video tours of several of the pros' bikes that I run across (perhaps including the above described one belonging to my wife).

But before that, I have a few things on that I'll be visiting when I get back. One such thing is my first test of the new Shimano 7900, set up for triathlon. Shimano was kind enough to release a test setup, which worked out perfectly, because my Guru Crono was in need of a gruppo. My buddy Andrew has been diligently building it up, and I'll be set to begin testing of the group in earnest. I'm actually keen to give it a go, as my experience lately has been on SRAM for the most part. It will be great to revisit the brand that has been the mainstay, and see what the new 7900 means to triathletes from a functional standpoint.

I have not only the group, but a few key pieces, including the PRO Missile aerobar. I was also supplied a set of the new aerobar brakes. THIS is the piece that most intrigues me.
These TT brake levers have gotten zero fanfare, and for triathletes, this is gonna be one that ranks in top-three. The Dura-Ace version has a carbon lever pull, the Ultegra version an alloy one. Both have what I would deem the strongest return spring I've felt—and I rate the Bontrager and SRAM brake levers to have among the strongest return springs.

For me, the return spring is a big deal. It means you'll have a positive feel every time you pull on the brakes. There's no rattle as I can see thus far, it's aero enough, and it has a tab at the end to prevent any last-finger slip-off. I think I'm really gonna like this lever.

Off to the land of lost cell phone signals....and a hell of a race.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Monterey Musings: Sea Otter

Well, I have nothing better to do.

It’s just after midnight., I did two rides today, I’m tired… and I’m awake. My wife is racing Ironman China, and I must stay up to track Donna’s progress. Steady as she goes thus far. The only downside: I have a 3:45 wake-up call for a 6 a.m. back to Carlsbad.

I don’t know why I do this to myself.

So before I post a nice Sea Otter Redux with some gallery photos, I thought I’d give a nickel tour of my weekend. Thursday: take photos. Friday: press launches. Saturday: fun stuff. Yes, today was certainly the best day; a morning road ride, an afternoon road ride, some cool cross country race spectating,

Friday I took part in a press launch of the newly-re-designed Zipp 303 (which you’ll learn more about in my official redux). The redesign is awesome, and will be more attractive to triathletes with a slightly deeper rim section, a fully-toroidal shape (providing greater brake modulation, and a MUCH wider rim width.

So wide, in fact, that Zipp now as a 700 x 23mm Tangente tire to complement the existing 19mm tire. Aerodynamically, the 23mm tire mates perfectly with the wheel.

Zipp invited select media out for a test ride of the new 303—we were the first to ride it beyond those pros who debuted it at the Paris-Roubaix and a few other classics in the last few weeks.

Apart from the wheels being absolutely silky, we headed out toward 17-mile drive. A light fog was beginning to lift, then finally burned away as we rode along the snaky road that butts up against the Pacific. Salty sea air, sea lions barking, waves crashing against the rocky shoreline… it was a pretty ride.

Along the way back, we happened along a lone local I recognized: pro triathlete Alexis Waddel-Smith, out for a cruisy ride. It was good to catch up with her, and great to hear she’ll be at Wildflower, her first race back after dealing with some injuries. Her pink dyed hair and ever-optimistic smile are the calling card for Alexis—I’m glad to know she’ll be there. She peeled off and we continued back to town.

At the expo at Laguna Seca Raceway, the Triathlete team (myself and new media manager Kurt Hoy) were busy doing interviews. Check our site for some cool videos interviews with Conrad Stoltz and Steve Larsen, as well as a look at the new Zipp 303 (available now) and the new SRAM R2C shifters, which are coming to market very soon.

In the afternoon was the pro cross-country short track race, so I grabbed my camera and shot a bit of that, with Melanie McQuaid and Conrad Stoltz representing Xterra. And representing it well. Mel finished on the lead lap taking ninth, and Conrad (who was jazzed to get a front-row call-up and thus a good starting hole shot) and finished 16th out of 74 athletes. Conrad was jazzed to make a start against a field of top pro cross-country racers.

He’ll get the shot again tomorrow, lining up against most of them in the cross country race, as well as against one Steve Larsen, who has been hitting the MTB circuit a bit this early season. Expect to see him making some Xterra appearances this season, perhaps a few 70.3s and maybe even an Ironman… see my interview with him coming soon.

What was cool about catching with with Larsen? He was with his son Massimo—who finished second in his cross-country race on Saturday. The education has begun…

After the short-track race and a sip of water, Stoltz, his girlfriend and fellow Xterra pro Amber Monforte and I headed out for part of the cross country loop. I got to ride the new, not-yet-available Specialized S-Works 29’er hardtail. I’d never ridden a 29-inch bike, and now I can see why Conrad was lobbying so intensely to get one. The thing is FAST—the bigger wheels just cruise over stuff with greater ease, to put things simply. I’m instantly a fan—I remember when writer Roy Wallack sent us a piece on 29ers years back, saying they would be the next big thing. I thought he was talking, as Mr. T said “jibba-jabba.” Well, he was right.

I was concerned the hardtail would buck me, but I managed to stay upright. With Conrad ahead and Amber behind, I was riding a bit on edge… but had a blast anyway. And it’s always great when you have a guy of Conrad’s caliber telling you to watch out for that poison oak “leaves of three, leave them be—I’d never heard that, thanks Conrad!

But more importantly, he totally saved me on the descent to the fireroad that took us back to the expo. Sandy washboard straight downhill. I would have white-knuckled and summarily put on a yard sale if he didn’t tell me to let the front brake go and allow the front tire to surf over the sand “the moment you hit the brakes, it dives into the sand and it’ll pitch all over.”

Sure enough, against my chicken-ass instinct to grab handfuls of brake, I let it ride… as best I could. And didn’t eat shit, remarkably—the front wheel slotted into tire ruts, but it surfed right through and over everything. Again, thanks Conrad. My skin, collarbone and back thank you, too. Thanks to both Conrad and Amber for letting me tag along for a fun easy loop.

Folks, if you’re an Xterra athlete and want to have a greater race-day experience, go to one of the clincs the athletes, like Conrad put on in the days leading up to the race. You will learn something technical, and it might be the one thing that keeps skin on your forearm. I grabbed a shot of the two with my handy iPhone as we did a climb back to expo that smarted of Nasty Grade at Wildflower... it just went on and on.
The evening closer: a quiet pizza dinner with Kurt and his family, and my VeloNews compatriots; editors Ben Delaney and Matt Pacocha, and shooter Brad Kaminski. Nothing like filling the belly with Hawaiian-style pizza after a dual-ride day.

Of course, the sheer quantity of grub also helps me to be sleepy. Maybe I have to find out how China ends—in the morning. For once, though, I'm leaving Otter happy about the weather. It started cold, but it got about perfect by the end of the weekend—a rarity for a festival that is typically drenched with rain. Stay tuned for a comprehensive gallery of goods I saw that triathletes will dig.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Loop is Closed: a new Vision debut? Maybe more?

Thursday I head up to Monterey for the Sea Otter Classic. A festival of all things bike.

Except triathlon.

Kidding. It's actually a fun weekend of racing for the industry and west coast cyclists who take part. For me, I love to watch the dual slalom, and it's a fun opportunity to see the top pros in mountain and road do their thing, as well as catch up with friends racing.

And there's this big-ass expo.

Historically, this event is a mud pit. I have lost shoes in the mud taking photos of dual slalom. This year, the forecast is for good weather. I'm keeping my fingers crossed, as I had my colleague Sean take my road bike up to join some industry folks on some cruisy social rides, and while I don't mind riding in the wet, what I detest is the inevitable cleaning that comes with it. And I don't want to have to ruin a bunch of hotel towels.

An increasing trend is to do product launches at Sea Otter, instead of Las Vegas at Interbike; with the launch, the media can then go out and test the gear with much greater ease. SRAM did this a few years ago when they debuted their Force road group.

I've several invites through the weekend, and have had to print them off so I can keep them in order. But one just came across from my good friend Max at Full Speed Ahead and Vision.

Evidently, they have a debut that they are hyping: visit www.theloopisclosed.com to see (or more pointedly, not see) what they're up to. A whirling globe of macro images that reveal... well, nothing. I see carbon, I see aluminum, but I see nothing that represents a part or piece.

I know they're doing some thing with their FSA Gravity group—which is fine. But where Vision was also mentioned in the mix, I'm curious to see what they have on. I know there was talk long, long ago (in a galaxy far, far away) about a road group coming to fruition. I've been led down that road too many times... but might there be something?

Maybe not, since I doubt they'd label a road group with Vision. But I'll be jazzed to see what they have up their sleeves. To create a website hyping the debut, I'm guessing it'll be no token launch. Will be updating from Monterey to let you all know what we've discovered is coming down the pipeline for '09 and beyond.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

T.J. Tollakson's New Race Setup Revealed!

Well, well, well... time for the vocal minority to issue their .02. Tis a detailed look at T.J. Tollakson's new race setup, as raced at Ironman 70.3 New Orleans last week.

We did a photo shoot with T.J . the day before the race in Nawlins. He said he'd kept his race setup pretty much on the low-low, the only folks seeing it being those in Tucson on the Shootout.

This new position, as I mentioned, was something he tested and developed on his own dime at the A2 Wind Tunnel in North Carolina. I know lots of athletes are at the tunnel at the behest of their bike sponsor, but T.J. is probably the first athlete who has gone on his own dime.

Granted, he was doing work for his front-end hydration systems, but again, I can count on one hand the athletes that are doing their own product development. So there you go.Given the steep angle of his setup, the solution of using jock cups as forearm cups certainly takes a lot potential fore/aft stress out of the equation (since he doesn't have to shift forward or back). His forearms and chest are so close, he likely doesn't get any eddying behind the arms and into the chest cavity.

T.J. said it was night and day the power numbers that I think he'll be posting soon at his Specialized Riders Club site. (After the race I hitched a ride back to transition with Chris Lieto—a guy known for being protective of his power numbers—and back to my hotel with Tollakson. As we all took off, TJ was offering up his SRM data to Lieto. Jokingly (and knowing the answer), I asked Chris what his numbers were. Nothin' doin.)

I settled into T.J.s aerobars and with the hands up so high, the custom-designed hydration system is literally inches from the face, at about chin level. To create his setup, all T.J. did was use a gasket he picked up at a store in Boulder, and insert it into the side of the bottle, allowing him a way to refill the bottle with course hydration. A straw driven in right in front, and voila, a simple but effective aero bottle. No splash, no muss, no fuss, and as he has tested, aero. Tollakson seals the deal with a bit of duct tape across the front of the extensions, sealing off the leading edge of his aerobar. I don't see a ton of age groupers running as aggressive a setup as T.J., but for those that might, it's a clever solution.

Glad I was able to spend some time with T.J. last week in New Orleans—save for the getting lost on about three highways back in to downtown. Man, his girlfriend has some patience. Kidding—it's something when you've got an athlete taking a journalist out to dinner because he's broke as piecrust. Thanks for the carbload of that alligator and pasta (or chicken and pasta in my case.. but that gator was good!)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Big Easy, Over Easy

Didn’t think I would have anyone asking how the bet went. Good thing it turned out favorable for me; not only would I be deprived of the gloating at office, I would have been subject to Brad’s gloating. I’m trying to keep it civil. Honest. With just a little jab here or there. For now, Brad is my bitch.

Since then, he’s been threatening to throw people across the office and put people in sleeperholds. He’s clearly moved on.

So tale of the tape: Oceanside was from all accounts pretty ideal weather wise. Brad was on pace for a fast swim but was kicked in the shoulder by a woman from an earlier wave (yes, a woman), resulting in one of his frequent shoulder dislocations (I am not making this up). He found a nearby piling just 100 yards off shore and began banging his shoulder against it, trying to re-set the sucker in socket. So he accounts for five minutes of that.

On the bike, his first half was beset by a tight back. On the half marathon, his first half of the run, like the bike, was beset by the tight back. 5:19 was the final damage of his race.

My race? Considering all the travel I have undergone in the last three or four weeks (Arizona for TriFest, then Thailand and Arizona again for a couple birthdays), I was pleased that my impromptu taper on airplanes and in my car seat along Interstate 8 between Tucson and San Diego worked out so nicely. And it was nice to be on the run in Nawlins, knowing that I had run in hotter temps in Phuket two weeks earlier.

The point-to-point swim was awesome—longshore in the murky Pontchartrain without a bit of contact. Swimming was the one thing I did the least of (swimming once a week, getting in once every two weeks every so often as time didn’t permit) and I expected an ugly time. That said, I started easy and found a good set of feet that I latched onto, battering anyone who contested me for them. I wasn’t letting go of this pacesetter. Ended up with a 34-minute swim.

The bike was my favorite. I love flat courses—just love to tuck in and jam. Through 30 miles, that was it—jamming out east of town into Bayou Sauvage. Race officials said we might see crocodiles out there, and while I didn’t, a few pros said they actually saw a couple. But I saw some shit there I didn’t expect. A forest of trees, absent their foliage after the hurricane, looked like erect toothpicks. But something caught my eye; a 40-foot closed-bow boat was jammed in there behind the trees, clearly forced up nearly onto the road by the Katrina winds that shoved water high up the shore. There was no water around now, the boat stranded in a prison of trees, high and dry.

An out and back along the Bayou Sauvage was crankin at 25 mph. But I saw the guys coming back in from the turnaround at a much slower pace, and I knew what was coming: ugly headwinds. A turn onto the main highway was hoped to be a respite, but no dice; it was wind in the grill the rest of the way home. My early dreams for a sub 2:30 bike were gone, but I was happy to split 2:37. But I also wondered if I overcooked the bike.

As such, the run was gonna be the big question. At mile one, I got dehydration tingles in my arms, and expected it to be a walkfest. The sun beating down, paired with the humidity, reminded me of my run in Phuket two weeks ago. I found a cat who was cruising super easy, and just locked into his pace. I’d rather ease into the run and finish stronger, especially in the heat—at the advice of my wife. I didn’t want to walk a step of the run. At every aid station, it was water over the head, water across the chest, ice into my singlet, cool the engine room.

It paid off. After five miles, the sun tucked in behind the clouds, and the going got easier. I invited my run partner from Dalton, GA to join me when I was gonna pick things up after mile six. An aid station later, he dropped off and I never saw him again. So I picked up the pace 30 seconds per mile through the rest of the day, enjoying the shade trees that covered the rest of the run course.

Somewhere along the way, I had a laugh; some fans held out a bedsheet with YOU CAN DO IT! spraypainted across it. All I could think of was Rob Schneider’s little Cajun character in all of Adam Sandler’s flicks like The Waterboy and 50 First Dates.

I came across the finish in front of Jackson Square, the chute beset by spectators that were only a few feet wide, a Jazz band playing off to the side, and I immediately put this race in my top three of all time ever done: Monaco, Alcatraz, and New Orleans. It’s an ESPN Instant Classic. My time: 5:13. Brad spotted me 45 minutes, and I beat him outright by five minutes.

Thanks for the unofficial snag of images from Brightroom.

Some folks are bitching about not getting cold towels (queue teardrop) during the run. But goddamn it, what the hell do you want? The spirit of this event from the early days has always been one of self-sustainance (remember the days of using electrical tape to secure a banana to the stem?)

Just because you paid an entry fee does not mean it is a catered buffet with guaranteed deviled eggs, escargot and champagne flutes. Race director Bill Burke said he was shocked that so many first-timers (not first timers to that race, not first timers to the half-Ironman distance, but first-timers to triathlon) were laying out their transition race morning, and setting off for the swims start—without a bottle on their bike. And he took heat for being shocked about that. I’m as shocked. Granted, it was hot and people went through too many bottles. But sorry, no sympathy for these whingers. One bottle cage on your bike for a half Ironman? Really? Take ownership of your day—end of story. I learned it’s one more thing for my “First Timer” articles: bring nutrition. I thought it would be a no brainer, but I guess that’s what happens when you assume.

And logistics? I was from out of town, figured out the map, rode to the race start, checked in my bike and got a cab back to my hotel the day before the race. After the race, a shuttle got athletes back to transition. A point-to-point race makes the race itself greater than any out and back or loop—that’s the tradeoff. I’ll take a bit of hustle in periphery to the race in deference to the actual race experience. This is one reason this race makes my top five—I mean, we traversed town from Lake Pontchartrain to the Mississippi River and the French Quarter. Without the “inconvenience” of a finish at Jackson Square, this race is just another 70.3. With it, this race is special.

Beyond this all, the race did something else; it wrote a check to A Shared Initiative, an organization that is helping rebuild houses in the Lower Ninth Ward. Burke took me on a personal solo tour of the Ninth Ward; upon crossing the bridge, he pointed in the direction of where a river retaining wall (which stood about 13 foot tall) failed, flooding a massive neighborhood with waters that ripped houses from their foundations, ripped the only possessions from folks, ripped folks from the lives of loved ones. Burke pointed out some green homes that Brad Pitt was having built to help rebuild the hood.

But the area still needs so much help. I’ll be doing a travel piece in Triathlete on this race. There’s so much to see, but athletes need to see this area.

I wanted to show two photos I took on my tour with Burke that resonated with me: one of a table set on its end, with a message to then-President Bush… which I am sure extends to President Obama. New Orleans is out of the media spotlight, but the area still needs help. Click on the pic to read what it says. The site was home to a headstone for one resident who died. Behind was a trailer, housing offices for the guys building some of Brad Pitt's new rebuild project homes. It was encouraging to see that, because beyond that, there was nothing but steps up to homes.. without the homes even being there.

The other is from inside a home, any home, about seven blocks inland from the wall. It wore the proverbial scarlet letter that so many of the homes wore: a spraypainted X, with numbers and codes that alerted emergency staff to status of lives—or deaths—inside. To see the waterline still set on homes was appalling.

But walking into this particular home, only held up by 2x4 supports, it hit home more. A pile of photos lay on the linoleum floor. A little girl features in the first one I see. I don’t know the status of the family, but to see this family’s belongings sitting, water-stained in this empty home was like walking on a grave—I felt like an intruder.Of course, if nobody pays notice, nothing changes.

This 70.3 race, with whatever tourism dollars were generated by athlete presence, helps rebuild the community, the city. This was my first time to New Orleans. I saw a t-shirt that said “Recover, Rebuild, Restore New Orleans” Of course, I also saw a t-shirt that said “I got Bourbon-faced on Shit Street.” Whatever your pleasure, injecting dollars, tourism or otherwise by doing as little as buying a t-shirt, or an order of beignets and a cafe au lait, helps get this great city back on its feet.

After the race, I joined the LifeSport crew—coach Lance Watson and athletes Brent McMahon (your race winner), Linsey Corbin, Chris Lieto, Magali Tisseyre and Justin Park well as elite age groupers Nat Faulkner and Sean Bechtel—for some Bourbon Street revelry. Much fun was had by all, but things, as they probably always do on Bourbon Street, devolved as the night went on. Starting the evening with Hurricanes at Pat O’Briens was great; Brent drank, hilarity ensued. Upon leaving at 2:30 a.m., you think we can get out unscathed?

No, not when there’s a bar open with a mechanical bull. Park, Tisseyre and I were dumb enough to ride the bull. I had to represent my Tucson rodeo upbringing (well, it was merely watching in the stands as a kid). I wrapped the rope around a hand and channeled Ty Murray.

I sucked. We all did. But it was fun.

Taking my Pacificos home from work now. Don’t like my choice of that beer for my race earnings? That’s ok; you don’t have to drink it, and summer is coming soon enough, it’s warm enough to start drinking it here in San Diego.

Next up: a detailed look at T.J. Tolakson’s race rig.