Friday, December 9, 2011
Monday, October 17, 2011
Référence : les chiffres de Contador sur la montée de Verbier 2009:
Temps: 20’53” Pourcentage: 7,5%
Distance: 8’700 m
Poids du coureur: 62 kg Poids du matériel de Contador : 7 kg
Contador pèserait 69 kgs, ce qui porterait sa puissance à 550 watts sur Verbier
September 11, 2011 dawns and another Bite/Howe Ranch adventure is upon us. Riders SharkBite and Howe do not set their sights low: todays challenge is to equal or exceed Alberto Contador’s time for the Le Chable to Verbier climb, set in the 2009 stage of the Tour de France.
Consistent with best practice, comprehensive preparations began…ah…the night before…um…around Howe’s dining room table. Healthy amounts of protein and vegetable items were consumed, along with grape and wheat-derived beverages, in an atmosphere of maximum sociability.
7am and SharkBite and Howe are in Bite’s rented station wagon, en-route to Aigle. Today’s objective is the Verbier La Romandie Classic, a special event conceived by the organisers (and, as we’d soon see, the sponsors) of the annual Tour de Romandie pro UCI race. It would be a cyclosportive with a difference: start with 90 or so kms of cycling in a marshalled and escorted peleton (cruising beside the vineyards and fields of the Sion valley floor), rise gradually from Martigny to Le Chable, then—upon arrival in Le Chable—hit the first timing station at the base of the climb and let the demons rip as 500 or so riders do their best against the clock to pound it up to the Verbier finish line. Not your usual format, and it produced some interesting experiences.
Summary of race profile: flat…followed by one big ol’ JFG ‘er.
Howe and Bite pulled up to the suburban retail zone parking lot where the start was taking place and headed to the pre race registration area (which turned out to be inside a large 5 storey gymnasium kind of building). Everything went smoothly, with both race numbers and freebie gift bags and jerseys being obtained with typical Swiss efficiency. The usual next step ensued: Ranch riders searching out and evaluating toiletary facilities. It was while waiting for Rider Howe in the hallway for a few minutes that an important realisation dawned. In a concrete alcove all along this hallway there were bicyles stored in racks. But Sharkbite noted that these were not road bikes for today’s event: they were track bikes. It was at this point that both riders realised that when they registered at tables set up in the large open floor of this round gymnasium type building, they were not (as they had unconsciously assumed) in some generic conference centre space. This place was a full on bad-boy velodrome…in the middle of Aigle Switzerland!!! This of course started to make more sense in the context of the UCI Cycling Academy being about a mile away, closer to the centre of Aigle. (An institution riders Howe and Sharkbite were only too familiar with, given the tendency of a small group of UCI academy juniors to show up at the Martigny Mauvoisin race and comprehensively blow away the field…and the hopes and dreams of your hapless Ranch brethren.)
The organisers were requesting that all participants wear the green Vaudoise assurance jerseys given to the all the riders, but Howe and Bite had other plans: the colours they displayed today, would, as usual, be black, white, red and yellow.
A totally phenomenal, clear, blue sky, sunny day was dawning: a Ranch day.
Learning from the Gruyere experience, Howe and Bite arrived at the start area in good time and managed quick vaults over the barriers and into the start area (when the burly Swiss man charged with controlling the start group size had turned the other way to bellow at some other dude who got caught doing the same).
Although Howe and Bite couldn’t see it at the time, up ahead the full escort and cavalcade of motorcyle marshalls had formed.
…The customary Skoda station wagon escorts, complete with flashing yellow lights.
…And our leather-clad pals from the Valais Motorcyclers Federation. Respect.
Yup, we had a great big convoy…and she was a beautiful sight.
Howe and Bite slotted comfortably into a mid-peleton position in the long, snaking sea of green jerseys and sat back to enjoy the tour of the flatlands. They knew what their only priority was: conserve energy. And on this beautiful day they had about 498 available humanoids (sitting atop a wide selection of the best bicycle technology out there) to choose from, like they were put there specifically to help Howe and Bite achieve their plan. Even better, quite a few of these other humanoids were sized and shaped to provide maximum headwind-sheltering benefits to anyone behind them. God bless the chubby, Swiss weekend warrior: we like the way you roll (as long as you do it in front of us, not beside us).
It became clear pretty quickly that this phase around the valley and on towards Le Chable was not going to be like any “normal” event. With it not being a closed-road event, for safety reasons the Swissies wanted the escort to hold the peleton in one long pack (and to keep it on the right side of the road only). This meant that permanent vigilance was required, because even though the peleton was half a kilometre long, there were immediately accordion effects every time the front reached any incline, roundabout, or negative change in velocity. All of a sudden, hands of riders up front would wave, the squeal and smell of brake pads on carbon would break out, and Howe and Bite would have to drop half their velocity and be careful not to impact riders in front.
Despite this challenge, things passed smoothly. Totally clear skies, warm temperatures, views of the mountains, fields and vineyards…and locals lining the way all along the route to clap and cheer. This wasn’t racing, but it was a training ride like no other.
There were only a couple of deviations from the energy conservation goal during this 2 hour period. First, Bite and Howe both simultaneously felt the need to urinate on the Swiss countryside. There were two dangers inherent in this: 1) Not getting slammed by some dufus from behind as you pulled off to the side of the road and stopped, and 2) the obvious: re-joining the peleton once you were a couple of minutes off the back. Howe and Bite executed successfully and quickly on satisfying their biological needs and were able to power back together to reach the whirring green peleton beast. A burst of effort that provided a welcome stimulation and prep, by getting the heart rate up.
The second energy expenditure came in the gradual climbing section from Martigny to Le Chable. The riders stuck religiously behind others, but found themselves nonetheless moving gradually forward in the pack, as heavy riders moved into slower relative speeds once climbing a gradual slope.
But with around 3 hours down, the duo duly rolled into the last couple of kilometres to Le Chable. SharkBite narrowly escaped a peleton wipe out on the gradual climb from Sembrancher, when a rider to his side lost his pedal, bumped Bite and Bite bumped the guy on the other side. A close one, but no one went down.
Coming into Le Chable, it was time to move into stage 2 of the race plan. SharkBite pulled over beside a field and reduced his bodily fluid burden. Howe pulled into the food station before the final climb. Both of them knew what was coming next…
And of course, while we were doing a lot of that, we weren’t really able to enjoy much of this…
Alex Moos of the BMC mountian bike team brings it home in a winning 24:56 time for the climb.
Rider Howe brings it home in a hard fought 44:52, pushing through an energy crash and the midday heat.
SharkBite, oxygen starved and confused, wonders what the numbers 36:24 mean, where he is and what he is doing there…and takes a photo of himself in the hope it might help him figure it out some day.
In a sea of green, the Ranch is duly represented. Rider Dazed (L) and Rider Confused (R) absorb the sweet, sugary taste of energy replenishing beverages. They smile at a job well done. And they smile because they know the secret weapon to beat Contador’s time by 50% every time, with no performance enhancing drugs or doping required…
the telecabine. Yeah, baby.
Alberto, eat your heart out. And enjoy those preserved meats, by the way.
P.S. Verbier TV put together this short piece on the event, complete with Ranch-appropriate 70’s porn movie soundtrack.
Saturday, October 1, 2011
So much to cover, so little time to post it. It’s now been a month since yet another successful tactical strike by Ranch forces. Let’s break that down—plus other Summer ’11 updates--for the global Ranch-loving community…
First, we don’t really have that many photos to post…but this one above obviously says it all as far as the summer ’11 Verbier rides went. Good times in the heartland of Ranch ridership.
The summer activities by the Verbier chapter included yet another successful participation back on July 24 by Riders Howe and Sharkbite (this time accompanied by local Verbier rider Raph) in the greatest regionally-organised, homemade bicycle race of all…the annual Le Chable Mauvoisin race. Howe and Bite commenced the day with a descent down the Verbier road at about 7.30am in steady rainfall. Our heroes’ technical cornering skills were tested both by the soaking road conditions and the finger-numbing chill. A slow descent indeed, but the boys made it down safe. As usual, this year’s race featured a start in Martigny for semi-pro Swiss types with fancy “elite” cycling licenses…and a normal human being race starting from Le Chable.
It was a chilly, wet morning and both Howe and Bite were feeling it, big time. Even the long pre-start visit to the local café (including pre-race stress testing of its toiletary facilities), plus some uphill warm-up rides, could not remove the chill on the bones.
Yet another strong performance from Howe and Bite ensued. About 15 or 20km and a good 1000m of steady alps climbing up to the Mauvoisin inn…and once you get going on that, you warm up pretty quick. Both riders deployed their local “domain expertise” to the max, knowing the steeper ramps to lay down bursts on…and where to hold energy in reserve…in what is a long and testing climb. And this year, there were no flat tyres for RiderHowe.
There was one clear objective: show the rear of the London Ranch cycling jersey to as many local “Happy Sport” team riders as humanly possible. Unfortunately, it became clear that some of these local mountain-goat-biker-men are definitely not human at all, since a couple of them beat the Ranchers to the top (including the overall race winner, who put in a mind-crushing 51 mins 30 secs time). But every year the Happy Sport fear levels grow, as the Ranch boys push it to new levels and lay down new PBs each time. This time the combination of RiderHowe’s relentless power deployment and slick Cervelo frame brought him to the top in 1:12.02, while SharkBite duelled with relentless junior riders to bring it home with a 1:04.48 time.
Promptly recognising the tit nipply temperature conditions, the boys checked in to the Mauvoisin inn for the best thing of all: a long, long coffee in the warm café with maximum post-race banter.
Mauvoisin was just one of many, many excellent summer 2011 riding experiences. Here is a typical shot…LoneWolf dorking it just above Volleges. What a day! What a view!
And here we have 3 stooges at the top of the Le Levron climb, taking a pause to discuss future applications for lycra textiles in the 21st century.
Summer rides to Le Levron, Mauvoisin dam, Bruson, Champex, you name it, meant that when August 28, 2011 rolled around, Riders LoneWolf, Howe and SharkBite were ready to tackle a healthy gran fondo challenge. That challenge came in the form of Switzerland’s Gruyere Sportif…
The tactical strike began with ruthless precision at around 6.30am, when the LoneWolf-mobile swung by both Howe’s and Bite’s houses to form up the squad and begin the mission deployment. 3 bikes on the roof and the boys were quickly on the road to Bulle, inland from Lausanne, to arrive early enough for pre-race check in and bike preparation activities. En route, the squad exploited its know-how from past missions to the fullest. Pre-fuelling on snacks and liquids and, most importantly, swinging in to the local gas station before race arrival in order to yet again test the ruggedness of Swiss plumbing installations. Anybody who saw two grown men, at 7.45am on the outskirts of Bulle, enter the hallway of the Tamoil gas station and super shop was probably pretty confused by the levels of excitement and enthusiasm displayed when LoneWolf and Bite found the two doors for the men’s and women’s 1-person facilities. (Quote of the day as LoneWolf peels left and grabs the open door of the Women’s toilet “Psyched…it’s Women’s and Handicapped!!!” Sight of the day: seeing the expression on the face of some swiss lady when Wolf emerged 5 minutes later, grinning, satisfied and race-ready.)
This race was a new challenge for the boys, as the route was unknown and the race—a UCI organised event—attracts a couple of thousand riders keen to explore the alpine scenery via a slickly organised sportif event. Riders Howe and Bite vowed to try and take it at a reasonable pace: 120km and 2000m of climbing lay ahead and both riders had had interrupted riding patterns in the preceding couple of weeks. LoneWolf, as usual, was shaved and ready to hunt.
The team got split right from the get go, as LoneWolf managed to climb over the start barriers towards the mid front of the couple of thousand starters, whereas Howe and Bite were channelled around right to the back. 5 mins after the start gun sounds, and under glorious sunny, summer skies, Howe and Bite were on the move and executing the race plan.
Tour de France level race-marshalling (including motorcycle marshalls, yellow flag and whistle-blowing guys on any road furniture, and comprehensive race direction signage) immediately distinguished this event as truly first class rider experience. From the outset, Howe and Bite powered carefully and mercilessly through a couple of thousand riders, and made their way through the first gentle climbs towards more competent cyclists.
A total breakdown of the route is impossible, but the highlights were roughly as follows. After heading up into the mountains, a long gradual valley climb in the direction of a mountain pass leading to Gstaad. This culminated in a final few kilometres of proper hill climbing, where Howe and Bite powered cautiously to the first summit and rest station.
Next came possibly one of the coolest descents ever…down 15km of single track farm road. From the outset, it was punctuated by riders on either side of the road, having either wiped out or with some kind of mechanical failure. It was all about keeping it smooth and controlled. The winding descent led from open pastures down into a forested valley stream zone, with the road winding through trees next to the stream for many kilometres. It was obvious that the road had been swept of any dangerous gravel and race signs warned of unusually sharp corners, but every corner was a new exploration and the boys never knew what would be coming next. Moments of sunlight alternated with stretches in the forested shade, and corner after corner unfolded, with brief bursts of top gear power applied in between. Rider heaven.
From there the course descended into Gstaad and began another long, gradual climb towards Le Diableret. Howe and Bite got separated into separate groups by intervening riders on the descent to Gstaad, then re-united near the summit of this next climbing section. At the top, another rest station, another opportunity to urinate all over the Swiss countryside. Unfortunately Bite’s urination hid him from Howe, so the team were separated again. But at this point it didn’t matter. It was all about tooling down another big descent, linking up with a groupetto, powering through the third and final climb, then yet another truly amazing descent…to the final rest station…then 40km of flat or gentle downwards climbing (unfortunately against a strong headwind) to bring it back into Bulle and the finish line. Both Howe in front, and Bite behind, managed to slot into highly effective 12 to 18 man groupettos, that worked with clock-like leader alternations to bring each pack home with maximum energy efficiency. And make no mistake, doing that last flat 40k into a headwind solo would have been an experience to avoid.
Rider Howe. 119.99km down and 0.01km to go, JFG’in ‘er to cross the line and do the Ranch proud. Final finishing times: SharkBite 4:36, Howe 4:31, Wolf 4:00.
Back at the race finish, the boys reunited promptly at the Wolf-mobile, re-fueled, packed up and exited quickly. Start at 9, finished and out at 2pm. And the Swiss race efficiency kicks in, with text messages to all the riders with their finishing times…and in LoneWolf’s case, the news that his top quartile finishing time qualified him for the UCI world championships (which unfortunately turned out to be in Belgium the following weekend, so that obviously wasn’t going to happen).
Grabbing snacks from the gas station on the way out of town, the crew comprehensively debriefed on the race en route back to Verbier and fully restored all energy levels.
Mission team returns to base, sporting (R to L) Gruyere event cycling jersey, classy Mauvoisin race souvenir T-shirt and, classiest of all, Ranch gilet/wife-beater top.
This man has found a new mentality…and it’s closer to his heart. RiderHowe sets new post-race fashion highs, twinning the Ranch wife-beater top with black nylon track suit pants, stylin shades, and (not quite in shot) ball cap featuring the Val De Bagnes “two homies in a bathtub” regional logo. Dress for success.
Sunday, June 26, 2011
Ride the Rockies (RTR) is an organized and supported 6 day summer cycling tour through the high alpine Colorado Rocky Mountains. http://ridetherockies.com/
The ride covers 400+ miles total with an average of 60-80 miles distance and 2000-4000 feet of vertical climbing per day, linked point-to-point over multiple mountain ranges topping 7000-12000 feet in elevation.
Some months ago, RiderTurbo and RiderMama registered for the event in anticipation of cycling through the picturesque state of Colorado on a glorious summer ride with 2000 of their closest cycling friends.
As luck would have it, complications arose. RiderMama gave birth to RiderSasha on February 25, 2011. This meant that RiderMama would either need to sacrifice breast feeding four months into RiderSasha's infancy, or devise a way to breast feed on the cycling trip every three hours during daily rides of 6-7 hours or more. Aside from the logistical difficulty of breastfeeding on the roadside in the middle of nowhere each day, would lactic acid accumulation in the breast milk on long rides cause it to taste sour and be rejected by young RiderSasha when she had not yet made the transition to solid food or baby formula?
Frailty is not a characteristic associated with the Ranch.