no one line

The Man With The Hammer
July 12, 2010, 2:13 pm
Filed under: climbing, race, road racing, teamwork

If, during a conversation of eating and drinking while riding far or riding hard, somebody tells you about their favorite food and drink strategy by saying “There’s no way to keep the man with the hammer away like using…” then you can cut them off right there.

Because, if he comes for you, there’s no way to keep the man in the hammer away.
Yesterday, at the Pawling Mountain Road Race, one crucial teammate had to drop out early on with a mechanical, and for a great many miles in the middle of the race I had to do double duty as our team leader’s chaperone and as a break-chaser, attack-sucker, and general mark-the-frontsman. I had a reprieve when another teammate came to the front and counterattacked a move that I reeled in; unfortunately, the large climb came shortly thereafter. I made it up but slipped backwards in the group, got gapped, and had to fight my way back. We descended, I moved up, avoiding the brakes, and made sure to eat and drink. The second climb – long, shallow, and, when fresh, a big ring climb – was considerably harder this time around. We took the left hander after it, and began the Hurtenberg, the Muur de Pain, the steep, rough third climb of the circuit. I was at the back – panting, bobbing from side to side, adrift in a sea of lycra.

At this point, I heard somebody say to me, “Hot enough for you?” I looked over and behind me and saw a rider in a kit that I didn’t recognize. I grunted something and went back to concentrating on my pedal stroke, turning it over, turning it over, praying to the 25-tooth cog. “Hey buddy, I’m talking to you,” the rider said. I looked back again and saw that he wearing an antique three-piece suit. He had a waxed mustache and a salacious grin. He fiddled with a pocketwatch for a moment, eyeing me, watching my cadence, and then he produced a large hammer and, rearing back in his saddle, swung a cruel blow at me.

I watched the riders in front of me pull away. My legs were leaden and there were chills throughout my body. A brick was in my gut. I thought maybe when we crested I could chase back on during the descent, if there was anybody else around. I looked around. The man in the suit – the man with the hammer – had disappeared. Off hunting for his next victim, I suppose.

A New Hill
October 14, 2009, 6:02 pm
Filed under: climbing

This morning, I spent some time staring at maps of Northampton, Massachusetts to figure out some potentially excellent bike routes that I could frequent after I relocate. In particular, I was trying to identify the hills that I had seen while I was up there, and find out if there are routes up them.

One in particular – the big hill closest to my new house – does indeed have a road going up it, and it offers a fairly challenging 800 feet of elevation gain in a little over a mile and a half. For reference, I thought of the Alpine hill on River Road. In New York it’s our bread and butter. About eight miles from the George Washington Bridge, it’s 500 feet of elevation gain in a mile and a half. It’s not so much that it’s a terribly challenging climb. Instead, it’s just there, as the most accessible challenge that you do over and over throughout a season, that you get familiar with it, that becomes a way for you to get familiar with yourself.

Remember those first times when you struggled up it? Remember when you started realizing that you were doing it a lot faster than you used to? Do you know that feeling when you hit the top and you’re tired because you went hard at the bottom, and the crappy pavement becomes demoralizing? Remember that time you felt worse than you felt any time prior, but when you got to the top, you realized that you went up it much faster than ever before?

I’m looking forward to developing a new relationship with this new hill. Climbing it more often. Getting faster. My first two ascents rewarded me with stunning views south through the river valley, heaving lungs, and a desire to return. I think it will become a much-beloved nemesis.

Mount Washington
August 13, 2009, 3:00 pm
Filed under: climbing

Oh, Mount Washington.

I found this picture on VeloGoGo and was reminded once again of how badly I want to ride my bike up Mount Washington.

I’ve been on the mountain several times, and to the summit once – in my hiking boots when I was a teenager, which provided me with the self-congratulations necessary to scoff at those bumper stickers that read, “This Car Climbed Mount Washington.” Oh yeah? Well these legs climbed it.

My aunt, cousin, and I left Lakes of the Clouds a bit earlier than the rest of our family, who were heading south along the Presidential Ridge. We left our packs by door and half-hiked, half-jogged the mile and a half up to the summit. The mountain up there is rocky and the wind blows hard; the conditions alternated between incredible views of the entire state of New Hampshire, and near white-out conditions as we became encased in cloud. When we were at the summit, the wind was strong enough to make me lose my balance once or twice. It was stunningly and terrifyingly beautiful – once I tricked myself into ignoring the buildings up there. I eventually developed a little bit of a mystically ecological side and grew to resent the buildings, the road, and anything that impinged on the pristine beauty of the spot – my own presence excluded, of course.

Now, as a cyclist, I begrudge the road less, because it offers the possibility of someday climbing the thing. It’s 7.5 miles, at an average of 12% grade. Ninety minutes of crawling up a hill. It sounds awful.

Oh, and, there’s a $350 registration fee. That’s a barrier.

I’ll tell you what: pledge me some money. Help a kid who’s not exactly flush with funds raise the scratch necessary to register next year. Wish me luck with the registration. I’ll have to buy a compact crank and a cassette with, like, a twenty eight. Or more. Maybe a long-cage derailleur to accommodate all of that.

Help me raise the money, and I’ll do it. Okay, I’m half requesting the money tongue-in-cheek – there are better places to which to donate your extra money. But someday I’ll ride my damn bike up that mountain, up that final 22% pitch.

Good luck to the jerks who are doing it this weekend. I wish I was one of you.

Photo found on

Excitement: Results and Potential
June 24, 2009, 2:01 pm
Filed under: climbing, race, road race

The weather has been ridiculous lately, with rain all month long, and so even though the sun is shyly, tenatively shining from behind thinning clouds I’m still keeping my fingers crossed that track racing will not be rained out, like it’s been for the past two weeks. Track racing is an hour of hard training, guaranteed. A good warm-up ride out to the track, a few races with regular hard efforts, sprints, and, if I’m lucky, a long race made up of constant suffering.

If you’re lucky, or if you live in New York City, you can have all of your training take place in racing. It’s a little bit more expensive, but a lot more fun. To that effect I’ve had a good week of training via racing: Saturday was a Prospect Park race in which I planned to spend the first half going off the front and the last half watching from the start/finish, saving my energy for Housatonic Hills on Sunday. That race tested the legs in the hills and found them sufficient for the task of staying with the front but not for whittling it down further – it came down to a sprint of about two dozen. A fast, technical end – a downhill false flat flying toward the start finish, a ninety degree corner, and a 300-meter sweeping uphill sprint. I took the corner third wheel but missed the wheel of the attack going up the inside, jumped into the wind with 200 meters to go, and watched, sprinting and cramping, as two more racers came around me, knocking me down to fourth. A fine finish nonetheless.

Thursday, I plan to ride up to Rockleigh, New Jersey, to give the crit there another whack. Last time I had a whopper of a sprint but poor position and only managed eighth. I’ve got an odd habit of either having the sprint or the positioning but never the two at the same time and I’m trying to rectify that – I wouldn’t mind a win. On Sunday comes one of the races that I’ve been enjoying more and more throughout the season – the Cadence Cup Series at Prospect Park. My club has been showing out in full force for these, bouyed by some good results early on and the very compelling promise of increasingly adept teamwork. In the second race we put our teammate Yack into the Green Jersey for sprinter’s points, and in the third and fourth we’ve kept him there. While I’m generally on the lookout for results I know it’s time to lay it down to keep Yack wearing that jersey, and I’ll be a part of our large, guns-to-a-knife-fight leadout train for him.

Now that, my select and loyal readers, is exciting.

Leading up to Housatonic Hills I was excited but nervous. Could I do well? I should improve on my results from my last major road race, and if I don’t it’s an opportunity wasted. Fourth is good and I’m pleased but I saw second place tantalizingly close (first place was taken with a commanding sprint from a BVF rider).

But with the prospect of laying it down directly for a teammate the nervousness of letting myself down dissipates, and it’s not replaced by nervousness about letting somebody else down. Why exactly I can’t say – maybe because it’s all still pretty new to me.

Sunday – I can’t wait. And speaking of excitement for things to come, good things are in the works.

photo above by Marcia Van Wagner.