Heading down the unbeaten tracks, no motor traffic for miles, no exhaust fumes to deal with, superb views and a lot of camaraderie. Wonderful – especially in the summer months! In the winter months the challenge just gets harder and a lot muddier but not any less fun.
Mountain bikes are generally heavy, durable with a strong suspension and wide studded tyres for added grip and friction. The straight handlebars are designed for total control. Marvellous machines – for mountains.
Not quite right
But when you hit the roads something just doesn’t feel quite right. The pedalling suddenly feels like extra effort. You are not taking advantage of the sheer speeds combined with comfort levels than only a road bike can bring.
A road bike is all about perfection, speed, the gentle hum of those slick tyres as you race along. You’ll soon find yourself wanting to join races or, heaven forbid, ride in groups.
The light, streamlined frame with components built to reduce weight in any way possible. Suspension and traction are done away with – dismissed as an impediment to speed.
The new riding position is bent right down over the top bar. The guts and strength needed for mountain biking are replaced with fitness and a propensity for pain.
To switch or not to switch? That is the question
So should you make the switch? The investment can be quite heavy. The lighter road bikes are expensive and if you are not sure you’ll get into it then you may hesitate. That’s not forgetting all the additional gear you’ll need. It’s not just the bike that needs to be streamlined, it’s also the cyclist. Tight fitting clothes, cycling shoes.
Most people will dabble with the dark side through commuting to work. Although this can be done on a mountain bike people will often eye a road bike purchase. The enjoyment of the challenge on the road can push people to take it further.
There is another option
Of course there is always a half-way alternative. A hybrid bike. Still capable of tackling some trails whilst not dragging you along on the road. These normally feature flat handlebars but thinner tires and a lighter frame. This remains my preferred bike for most rides but doesn’t quite achieve the same enjoyment as a road bike.
You could also opt for changing your mountain bike. Whilst you’ll never achieve a full road bike, especially with a heavy frame, you can make your mountain bike more suitable for the road. The first is to switch for a pair of thinner, slick and ideally puncture proof tires that help achieve better rollability. This will also probably mean however a new set of wheels will needed to fit the thinner tire width.
Additionally, clipless pedals that allow you to maximise the return on your pedalling effort can easily be installed to a mountain bike.
Have you made the switch? Or have you always enjoyed both road and mountain biking? Leave a comment below..
This post was written by Andreas. He blogs over at London Cyclist and covers everything from product reviews to cycling editorials. He has been a long time friend of Bike198 so check his site out when you get a chance.
Two weeks ago, I hit you guys up with a simple question in relation to those skinny tired machines that don’t like to get dirty…road bikes. Basically, do you ride one or not and a little bit more detail into why given the questions that were presented. To be honest, the results surprised me a little bit, so let’s dive in and take a look at what we came up with.
What do the road biking poll results say?
An overwhelming majority of you (me included in this group at 51%) answered yes to the question and you ride your road bike pretty frequently.
20% of you use your road bike as a cycling outlet when the trails are either wet or closed for some other reason.
19% of you are interested, but with limited funds available for pedal induced motion, the dirtier side of things gets the love from the wallet.
The remaining 10% just aren’t interested.
Why didn’t I expect these results?
I was really expecting the bottom 10% to be higher. Until several years ago, I was a 100% dirt guy. The thought of putting on spandex and hitting the road was not a priority and I was happy being a dirt only kind of rider. After awhile, I started looking for ways to get over that fitness plateau and road biking is where I went to get that fitness. Why not be on the bike if I am just trying to get into better shape right?
Something weird happened at that point. I realized that I could mimic the feeling of being on a motorcycle in the mountains while still increasing fitness at the same time. This same kind of 40+ mph adrenaline rush came without the aid of a motor and completely changed how I looked at the skinny tired bicycle. When done right, I can get that same feeling I do on dirt…on the road. That is when my complete bias towards road biking ended and I became a convert.
It is good to see that so many of you are using the road bike as another form of cycling obsession even if it is just a tool to keep the stoke going. 71% of you use a road bike on a regular basis and that goes against the myth that mountain bikers are not interested in being roadies.
Road.Bike198.com Is Ramping Up
The lighter, faster side of Bike198 is starting to dig in rubber to asphalt. Setup at the beginning of this year, road.bike198.com is going to start kicking into high gear. If you are interested in guest posting, reviewing your favorite product or just being a part of the Bike198.com family, hit me up and we can get things started…
As many of you already know…this year marked a first for me. For the first time in my 14 years of cycling, I bit the bullet and started to ride a road bike on a regular basis. At the end of last year, I picked up a Blue Competition Cycles Nx7 and went to work. At that point in time, my cycling exploits had been restricted to trail, urban and trials riding for 99% of my cycling career. In the interest of gaining forward propulsion via anything pedal powered and the want to get in a lot better biking shape, I threw on the spandex (tried it with baggies…just doesn’t work) and hit the road in search of a cleaner pedal stroke and another way to indulge my cycling obsession.
What I found is that I actually really enjoy road biking. Will it ever replace the feeling of blasting down singletrack or hucking off a big drop uncertain of the surface below? No…but it does allow me to ride a lot more than I did in the past…and that is a good thing. On top of that…anyone that tells you that there is not a pucker factor to road downhills just is not riding fast enough!
I started my new road biking career with several goals in mind.
Compete in a local crit.
Rides the gaps in North Georgia.
Get in better shape and improve my form for the mountain bike.
Now, I have all but given up on the local crit goal because I just don’t race enough to truly be competitive with those guys. Could I jump out there and try my best? Sure…but the competitive nature that lives deep inside my soul does not let me enjoy getting my ass handed to me like that, so…instead…I let the guys that normally run those races kick my ass on other rides. The third part of my goals started coming true after my third ride on the road bike. Once I got back on the mountain bike, I was in better shape and my pedal stroke form improve dramatically.
Until this weekend…there was only one goal for this year that I hadn’t touched to its full extent. I needed to ride the gaps in North Georgia. I had ridden several of these elevation monsters by themselves over the course of the year, but…to say you rode the gaps means you can not just do one and go home…you need to suck up the pain and hit multiple gaps in succession to truly call yourself a road bike rider in the southeast.
My North Georgia Gaps Ride
This past weekend, there was a large, organized century in the gaps that has taken place over the past 21 years. The original thought was to participate in that century (6 Gaps, 11,000+ feet of climbing over 102 miles), but time constraints due to Laurie having to pick up Roger from the airport and I had to get home because Jenn was leaving town negated the ability to hang out for the full ride. Instead, 4 of us (Me, Laurie, French and RLaz) decided to head up and make our own 5 Gap version that spanned over 66.5 miles with 7,500+ feet of climbing.
The Gaps are basically the peaks and valleys that circle the Chattahoochie National Forest in North Georgia. When you head up to this area on a road bike (also popular area for motorcycles and sports cars), you can basically expect to climb for miles and descend for miles. This area was also made famous for road bikers across the country (and world for that matter) by testing the strength of pro road cyclists in the Tour de Georgia. It is real mountain riding the way it was meant to be. That morning, I grabbed my Blue Nx7 ready for what was about to be a really long day in the saddle.
The morning started off beautifully. A recent flood that had hit Georgia had left clean roads and a cold front. For the first half of the ride, we were hammering out miles on semi-wet roads with great views as the sun broke up the moisture through the clouds. It was shaping up to be a perfect day on the bike as far as weather was concerned. Our first climb headed straight up and over Blood Mountain. My legs were fresh and we were motoring along at a great pace as we took in the sights. As we came blasting down the other side of Blood, I was having a blast riding the turns like a motorcycle without an engine. Big, sweeping, fast turns make it hard to keep your ego in check and ride within your limits. The temptation is to drop the hammer to see how much stress those skinny tires can actually take, but we had a lot of miles in front of us.
During the next part of the ride, I was seeing some familiar landscape. We were heading up to Brasstown Bald and this is an elevation profile that you have already seen on this site. I have done this ride a couple of times before, and…most recently…during my trip to Lake Chatuge. The Brasstown climb spans for several miles but without any extreme pitches, so you just settle in for the ride as you inch your way up the mountain. Once at the top, we…once again…blasted down the other side enjoying the payoff for all of that elevation gain. At this point, we were expecting the A group from the organized ride to catch our front wheel, but it didn’t happen until we peaked the climb. We must have been keeping an ok pace.
The Pain Begins – Hog Pen Gap
All of the rest of this ride is really irrelevant as we continued to go up and down. Irrelevant…until you hit Hog Pen Gap. Hog Pen sucks. I’ll just be as blunt as I can about it. If you can not tell which peak Hog Pen is on the elevation summary from my Garmin Edge 705 GPS, it is the one with the most elevation change that looks like an elevator. In all reality, I brought the wrong gear for this climb (that is my excuse and I’m sticking to it!). My rear cassette’s largest cog is only a measly 23T. While this is great for 99% of my riding, when it gets pitched up like it does on Hog…my bike can’t go under 7 mph without rolling backwards. As it turns out…my ideal speed on Hog Pen is more like 4 mph. What did this equal? A lot of stand and hammer climbing that made me have to stop several times to regenerate power. Luckily, I didn’t walk a single step of the climb, but I would have liked to not have to stop at all. Next time, I’ll have to bring up a larger cassette and go find my ego on the side of the road…where ever I left it out there. I think it is somewhere close to where one guy said “if my 52 year old ass with MS beats you up this climb…that is a bad thing.” Yeah…no shit…thanks for the encouragement! heh…its all good…I know what he was trying to do. I just wasn’t too happy at that moment.
Once at the top, you are greeted by screaming spectators with cow bells cheering you on. It is really surprising how deep you can go when you don’t want to look like the idiot standing next to his bike on the climb. It almost makes you forget that your teeth are tingling and you now have to go back down and find where you left your legs on the road. I am pretty sure my body was about ready to disown me at that point in time. Hog Pen is one of those that you hate while you are on it…but you are glad you did when the ride is done. It is climbs like that…that make you a better rider and stretch was you consider normal.
More miles were pedaled out and we eventually made our way back up and over Blood for the trip back to the car. On the way home, I stopped my McDonalds and picked up the greatest cheeseburger ever invented…the Double Cheeseburger hold the onions. I am pretty sure I earned the pleasure of stuffing a couple of those down my throat!
From Deep Inside the Cranium of 198
There are many riders out there that simply ask…why? Why would you go out and ride something that you know is going to absolutely kill you?
I start every year of my cycling career with the same goal. I want to expand what I consider normal riding in the quest to become a better cyclist. For this year, that meant getting on an unfamiliar bike and achieving the goals I had set for myself. Most of the time, these goals almost seem unattainable at first, but through increased spin time and hard work, I normally end up achieving them by year end. What I am left with is a greater appreciation for cycling and a more well rounded resume that helps me out on the trail. This past weekend, I was able to check another one off the list and for me…that is a great feeling of accomplishment. It was a “killer” ride and I had a blast flying down the mountain descents. Now…I just need to sign up for the whole 100+ and rock it out next year.
All of the pictures that have “Chocolate Girl Photography” in the bottom right hand corner were taken by Laurie (mylifeonabike.com).
Summaries captured with the Garmin 705.
On September 9th, Lance Armstrong threw out a 140 character or less blast on Twitter that stated the following:
Hey LA – get out of your cars and get on your bikes. Time to ride. 7:30 tomorrow am. Griffith Park, LA Zoo parking lot. See you there..
The result was almost 1,000 riders showing up for a impromptu group ride in LA with the legend, Lance Armstrong, ready to see if they could keep up with the legs that have won 7 Tour de France’s, a Leadville 100 and finished 3rd in this year’s Tour. Honestly…I think that number would have been even bigger had he given them more than a days notice.
First, I am a Lance fan. I wear the trendy yellow Livestrong braclet, I cheer for him in the Tour and other events (although I would have liked Weir to take the Leadville 100 win, but that is just the mountain biker in me that can not be squashed) and I respect him for what he has been able to accomplish in and out of the saddle.
Also, there is a little bit of jealously in this post as I wish I could have that massive amount of impact in the Twitter world. Hell…all you would see from me is a simple 140 character Tweet telling you to visit this website, my other website and buy my ebook and I would be off retired in British Columbia, Canada spinning my life away with my wife. Who wouldn’t want that?
But…I have also been apart of several road rides of this magnitude in populated cities, and I know that a huge amount of planning and effort goes into an event of that size. Especially when you are using public roads to conduct your cycling extravaganza. I do think it is a little reckless and presumptuous for Lance to expect the city to jump when he says how high within a day’s notice. He did thank the LA police department in a Tweet directly after the small get together…
Great ride in Griffith Park. Thanks, LA! And thanks to the LAPD for the help. Off to Montreal…
But…would we be treating this situation differently if it was just another Hollywood actor or random famous person? He is really asking a lot of the city and tax payers to scramble and help with his “small” road rides. Having already done this in several other cities around the world, one can only think that these rides are only going to get bigger as it has been proven that Lance is actually showing up.
Maybe it is just me…but it seems like a little bit more thought needs to go into these rides if you are going to expect city officials to pick up the slack for an unorganized ride that contains a field big enough to need police support.
Note to Lance: If you really want to have a group ride that does not require police aid…come down to the southeast and you can Tweet something like…
Tomorrow…I am riding dirt on some super tech with 198. Come on out if you don’t mind getting dirty…
Luckily, for many of us in the United States, we got to enjoy a 3 day weekend full of sunshine, and…of course…you know what that means…3 days of riding! Labor Day weekend historically provides us cycling addicts with a perfect excuse to get out and do what we love best 3 days in a row. This year, I managed to do the entire weekend without the aid of a single suspension component and that is an extreme rarity on this end. Like any iPhone obsessed geek, I brought it with me the entire weekend so you can see how it all went down…
Saturday Road Hammer
To be honest, I had a lot of yard work that had to get done on Saturday (I think some of the weeds were growing into the weed classification and if I didn’t chop apart my dead pine tree back there…I think I would have been on my way to a divorce!), so a morning road ride is exactly what the doctor ordered in terms of time vs. benefit. Towards the end of this month, I am going to participate in a brutal road century or 50+ miler in the mountains depending on how I feel, so I needed the road time anyway. But…the main reason for tagging along on this ride was to get some spin time in with some friends that I had not seen in awhile.
This Saturday morning road ride was in Dallas, GA and was going to last around 62 miles with about 3800′ of climbing. To add to the punishment, there are some serious motors that run with this particular crowd (atlbike.org). I packed up my hairy legs, clipless shoes with tread and my Blue Competition Cycles Nx7 and headed out with the expectation of extreme pain as I continually try to keep that rear tire in sight.
To my surprise…I actually felt incredible on the ride. I even ended up pulling a couple of times and – for the first time ever on a group roadie ride – I pulled my own weight and contributed to the ride. Now…I am not a roadie by any stretch. I actually just try to pretend like one whenever I throw a leg over the skinny tired machine, but during this ride…I actually felt comfortable in the pack and with the riders. Luckily, a handful of these roadies are ones that I have ridden with before on dirt and road, so that helped with the entire situation. By the end of the ride, my legs were completely toasted but I was satisfied with my efforts. I think the bike literally pulled me along, but the more miles I put in…the better things felt. After this ride, I really feel like I am accomplishing something on the road bike. It was a great day out on the blacktop.
Sunday Was A New First For My Wife
For sometime now, my wife has been hinting that she wants to give road riding a try. She really enjoys mountain biking, but is running into a common hurdle that many beginning mountain bikers struggle with…endurance. To build up mountain biking endurance, you really have to be riding regularly. With a limited amount of friends at her riding level and a limited amount of time to ride, she just has not been able to jump over that hurdle and get her riding where she really wants it to be.
Road riding – in comparison to mountain biking – increases your endurance much faster and also requires far less prep and tear down time when you want to ride. She thinks (and I agree 100%) that if she gets a road bike, she can increase both cycling disciplines much faster and hopefully join us on long, mountain rides in the near future.
Luckily for us, a friend of ours was gracious enough to loan Jenn her Blue Competition Cycles RD1 (can you tell we like Blue road bikes around here?!). With a beautiful carbon road bike in hand, we headed to a local paved path ready for some first time roadie action. As I had predicted, this trip was going to end up costing money as we now need to open up another bike slot in the garage. She loved it!
Like many mountain bikers, she still thinks that mountain biking has a bigger fun factor when it comes to riding, but there is a tranquility about road biking that you do not get on the dirt. She also could feel herself working consistently as she kept a constant cadence and this instant feedback was really what she was after with the road bike idea.
There was only downside of the entire ride (other than the plastic in my wallet crying)…in all of my road miles, I have never gotten a flat, but – sure enough – she gets one on her first trip out! To make matters worse, it was actually a ripped tire that caused the blowout and I didn’t realize it until I was pumping up the new tube. A quick trip to the bike shop to buy a new tire and tube…and we were back on the trail. I put in 25 miles with my trip back to the car and she got in a total of 18+ on her first road ride experience. Great day when it was all said and done…even got to see some wildlife!
Riding MTB Rigid
Remember when I said I did the entire weekend without suspension? My Monday MTB ride was just that…rigid. I brought the Wolfhound Rigid SS out of retirement and hit Chicopee Woods with a couple of friends of mine.
It was actually great to get out on a rigid SS bike on the dirt again. It also made me realize how sloppy I had gotten with my mountain biking. While suspension bikes make you faster through most sections of trail, they also easily cover up a lot of your mistakes and adjust for your trail mishaps. A rigid bike does none of that and you are given a sharp reminder when you f’up. By the end of the ride, I was comfortable on the rigid sled again and my riding was cleaned up dramatically. Now…I can jump back on my suspension bikes and apply that to increase my speed. If I have said it once…I have said it a thousand times…diversifying your riding will make you a better mountain biker. There is also a great amount of satisfaction in mixing things up a little bit as you continue to explore other avenues of the sport.
So there it is…an entire weekend without suspension and a whole lot of miles. You really can not ask for more…now…to get ready for next weekend with a lot of big wheeled suspension…did I mention a new review bike is arriving on Thursday?!
It always amazes me…every time I get the chance to watch the pro cyclists do their thing, I am really reminded why they are pros and we are not. Their ability to make speed look effortless on terrain that makes us wince in pain is what takes them to that next level. Over the weekend, while I was at the US Pros in Greenville, I got the chance to ride the course before the pros and then watch them battle it out on the road race shortly there after. Just when you think you are feeling great and speed is on your side, you get a chance to watch what speed really is as the pro cyclists tackle the exact same hill you did, but rip minutes off your time and make it look like another day out on the bike.
I have been fortunate enough to ride with several mountain biking pros over the years and each time has been a new learning experience. Riding with different styles ranging from cross country racers to downhill racers, you learn a ton with every pedal stroke as you try to keep that rear tire in sight throughout the trail. The stability and control of a pro cyclist is mind blowing, and so much so that you feel uncoordinated and awkward in comparison. Every motion and power transfer is fluid as they move with the bike without working against it. It is really poetry in motion…
But…when it comes down to it…they are just another rider on a bike. Some of the best times I had over the weekend was walking through the pits and listening to conversations between riders. Just like our local races and rides, the riders joke around and have a great time as they get ready for the days events. At one point, Ted King came up to George Hincapie and said, “Yeah…I heard you were racing today through Twitter!” When it boils down to it…they are all just out doing what they love…racing and riding their bikes.
Training To Be A Pro
I’m not that’s for sure! For some of us…we like just enough competition throughout the year to get our feet wet, but the amount of training and dedication it takes to be a pro cyclist (forgetting that you need some natural talent) takes up your entire life. To perform at the level these athletes do…you really have to give up everything in pursuit of a podium spot, and that is not a sacrifice that 99% of us can make. It takes a special breed to get to that level and most never even get to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but…for the rest of us…we get to watch all of their hard work over the years pay off with the hope that we can pick up just a little bit of that knowledge to become just a tad bit faster on our local trails and roads.
A big congratulations goes out to George Hincapie for winning his 3rd US Pro Championship over the weekend (and his 2nd US Pro win in his hometown of Greenville). James Thomas from Bicycle Design was able to get some great shots at the end of the race since I had to leave early to get back to Atlanta. The shot of Hincapie hugging his dad is priceless, so head over to Flickr and check out his shots.
You can find the rest of my US Pro shots on Flickr by clicking here.
With my early morning coffee in hand, I headed up to Greenville, SC Saturday morning to catch the action. The USA Pro Cycling Championships were starting and I had a press pass to get up close and personal with some of America’s fastest riders. Just like any other cycling obsessed junkie, I had to get my fix if I was going to have all access. I grabbed my Nikon D80 and went to work.
USA Pro Cycling Championships Time Trial
The entire time trial was a really cool event. With a short looped course, you are able to really get in on the action by just running around. With multiple great action spots, you can see the racers do laps and catch the action from several areas throughout the course. James Thomas of Bicycle Design and I met up and started shooting the race.
If you ever want to get an idea of how slow you really are in comparison to the pros, get out to a road race. They make hills that you and I would have difficulty with look like a walk in the park…at speed and over and over again. Watching these riders put it all out there on a TT event was a really cool experience as you get to see pros doing what they do best up close and personal.
David Zabriskie of Garmin-Sliptream took the win for his fourth consecutive TT win at the USA Pro Cycling Champsionships. Zirbel bested Zabriskie’s time from last year, but it just wasn’t enough as Zabriskie took the win by almost a minute. In a short TT course like this one, that is a huge gap.
One of the more humorous moments throughout the entire time trial event was being right on the action as Floyd Landis got passed. I don’t know what his deal was, but he was riding really slow at the TT event. Luckily, I was already shooting on the climb where it took place, so it was caught through the eyes of the Nikon lens.
You can check out my photos worth posting of the entire weekend on my Flickr account —> Click here.
James at Bicycle Design is also updating his pictures as he gets them ready that you can check out here.
USA Pro Cycling Championships Results and Press Release
GREENVILLE, S.C. (August 29, 2009) – David Zabriskie (Garmin-Slipstream) won his fourth consecutive is Stars and Stripes jersey as the national champion in the professional time trial discipline. The Salt Lake City, Utah resident beat his 2008 winning time by over one minute, covering the 20.7-mile course in 39 minutes, 37 seconds. Tom Zirbel (Bissell Pro Cycling) of Boulder, Colo., finished second in 40:21, copying his 2008 podium position. Third place was secured by Downington, Penn. resident Scott Zwinsanski (Kelly Benefit Strategies) in 41:18.
“I really get up for this race every year. It’s something I take a lot of pride in. It doesn’t get old for me. I like the course. Greenville is a nice city,” said the 30-year-old Zabriskie, who has never lost in Greenville. The U.S. Professional Individual Time Trial Championship, presented by Duke Energy, was held for the first time in 2006, when the U.S. Pro Road Race Championship moved from Philadelphia to Greenville and established the dual championship for pro cyclists.
A total of 23 professional cyclists started in two-minute intervals at 11:30 a.m. under clear blue skies and warm temperatures in Greenville. Using the same course as 2008, at Clemson University – International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR), race organizers estimated larger crowds this year, evident to riders all along the final kilometer.
“I didn’t expect to lose by 45 seconds. Wow, he (Zabriskie) had a good ride,” said Zirbel, who was aiming to improve on his second-place finish from 2008. He finished second earlier this year at the nature Valley Grand Prix and leads the individual points competition for USA Cycling’s National Racing Calendar. “I’m a rhythm rider, and it’s tough to get in a rhythm here. I’d like longer straightaways. It’s not as technical as it looks on paper; it’s a fair course.”
Zwinzanski is having a good year, winning the overall title at Tour de Beauce and Vuelta Ciclista del Uruguay. “It was my strength as an amateur (time trials). It kind of disappeared:I didn’t really focus on it at all when I turned pro in 2004. Last year it just started kind of clicking again. The TT’s are all about suffering pretty much,” said the 32-year-old Bissell rider at the post-race press conference.
CU-ICAR also hosted a morning time trial for the U.S. Handcycling Series, presented by Paralyzed Veterans of America. Thirty-six competitors rode two laps for the final time trial of the series this year. Florida’s Chris Peterson had the best overall time of 37:19, also winning the men’s kneeling category. The men’s handcycling “C” category was won by Krige Schabort; men’s “B” category was won by Matt Updike; men’s “A” cateory was won by James Watson; the women’s “C” category was won by Carly Waugh.
The 2009 Tour de France is over and now we have to wait another 49 weeks until we are able to shut down our lives for 3 weeks as we watch the best in the world take on the streets of France. The 2009 Tour de France was a special event this year. With the return of Lance Armstrong and an extremely strong Astana Team, the Tour de France saw a 54%+ increase in viewers as we got to watch the Tour in HD glory thanks to the VS channel. So after the dust has settled on the cobblestone of the Champs…what did I think about the 2009 Tour de France?
2009 Tour de France Recap by 198
Lance Armstrong – You can not talk about the 2009 Tour de France without mentioning Lance Armstrong. Armstrong can leave the 2009 Tour with his head held high and critics silenced with his overall third place finish in the Tour. After his long hiatus from the sport and considering his age…he is still performing with the best in professional cycling. It will be interesting to see how things pan out with his new Radio Shack team when he does not have to back up Contador. Can he close that time gap and take yellow next year? It will be interesting to see what more training and the mental experience of Armstrong has for the rest of the field next year…
Alberto Contador – What a machine. Contador’s climbing attacks were incredible over the mountain stages of the Tour. If Contador was not just trying to keep Lance Armstrong on the podium on Mont Ventoux, who knows what the time gap could have been if he had given Andy Schleck a real run for his money. With his 2 for 3 record in the Tour de France, it will be interesting to see how many yellow jerseys Contador can rack up over the coming years.
Andy Schleck – This young gun from Luxembourg not only took the white jersey for the strongest young rider on the Tour, but his 2nd place finish overall was the only threat outside of Team Astana for Contador. As long as Andy Schleck can shake the need to keep with his older brother Frank, he should be a lot of fun to watch over the coming Tours.
Mark Cavendish – “The Manx Missile” completely ripped up the sprints to easily take 6 stage victories. Forgetting that he has the best lead in rider in the sport, Mark Renshaw, it is still an amazing feat as you watch Cavendish literally explode to the finish. Unfortunately, American rider Tyler Farrar (also one of the best sprinters in the world and one of the only to ever beat Cavendish) had to watch from second place for most of the Tour.
Doping – We finally made it through an entire Tour without a huge doping scandal! It appears…at least for now…that the riders are playing by the rules and have left the happy pills at home. Hopefully, this trend can continue and the Tour de France can shake that monkey off it’s back and get back to racing.
The 2009 Tour de France was one of the most exciting Tours in recent memory. With the return of a lot of strong riders and the focus back on the racing and not outside influences, the Tour really shaped up to be an incredible race with exciting twists and turns along the way. Who knows…if Levi Leipheimer had not wrecked…maybe Astana would have swept the podium, but it was still a huge success for the Astana team and the rest of the Tour. Next year will be an interesting one as the new teams enter professional cycling and we prepare for an all out war on the mountains surrounding France.
It was time for my second road biking century. Fresh off a two week hiatus from riding due to a shoulder and neck annoyance, I got up a 5am to meet up with other road bikers in the Roswell, GA area to complete a 100 mile road bike ride through north metro Georgia. This inaugural Hospitality Highway Century was going to be a special one. Not only did it cover a lot of my local road biking routes, but we got the chance to ride down 400 south at the very beginning of the ride. That’s right…they shut down one of the busiest highways in Atlanta to let the ride hit the highway between exit 7 and 6…this was going to be a cool start!
Hospitality Highway Century Info
This inaugural Hospitality Highway Century was started to raise awareness and money for the Georgia Transplant Foundation. I am always on board for a great ride ride for a great cause, and apparently so were over 1,200 other riders yesterday morning (7/12/09). This was the largest turnout for an organized ride that I have seen to date and the event organizers have to be extremely happy with the turn out.
With several mileage options (9, 35, 64 and 100), riders of all skill levels were invited to come out and enjoy the action as we started the ride down 400 south.
Riding the Hospitality Highway Century
This century had a unique start. Since we were riding down a section of highway that had to be closed, all of the riders started at once as we navigated 4 lanes of open highway. This created a mix in of a lot of different riding skill levels that are normally not riding side by side. Luckily, everyone made it through without a scratch (as far as I know) and we made it the exit in one piece.
A friend of mine, John, and I decided to get to the front of the pack early to avoid the traffic jam and I am glad we did. As we jetted over to the fast lane doing well under the 65 mph speed limit, John looked at me and said, “look over your shoulder”. As I turned, I saw one of the coolest sights that I have ever seen on a road bike. All of GA 400 south was covered with cyclists. It looked like 5 o’clock rush hour as over 1,200 eager riders all pedaled down what is normally a busy highway affectionately referred to as the Alpharetta Autobahn. That sight alone made my early rise at 5am worth it.
Now that the fun was over with the highway riding, it was time to exit off and get serious. Since all of the riders started at once, the normal large A group pelaton never really got organized. After about 20-25 miles, we finally got a group together and started picking off the miles. This made the beginning of the ride a lot more work than normal as we struggled to organize, but there was really no way around that because of the unique start. Once we got going, the hammer was laid down and we got to work.
About mile 45-50, we entered a neighborhood and the climbing got STEEP. At this point, I had already worked had to keep the draft and with soft legs from so much time off the bike leading up to this ride, I knew it was time to fall back and ride my own ride. I was about to blow up trying to keep that rear tire on these really steep pitches, so I stopped playing with the A group. If I was going to finish this ride in one piece, I needed to ride at my own pace with a lot of climbing left.
Luckily, the weather was absolutely perfect. The early start and slightly overcast skies created perfect road biking weather as I navigated the streets of north Georgia. The ride was very well supported (so much that I didn’t stop at a lot of the sags) so you were never too far away from nutrition and fluids. I just kept on spinning my way to the end…eating before I was hungry and drinking before I was thirsty.
This ride had a lot more climbing than the Rome century that I completed earlier this year. With 7,198 feet of climbing, I can tell you what the road looked like on every foot of the last 30 miles. This was a brutal 100 mile route, but at the end…you really felt like you accomplished something. I was pretty happy with my performance overall. My time was faster than the flat Rome century and when you add in my time off the bike prior to riding this ride…it equals a pretty good finish. There is also a part of me that likes to hang with the purists in with my hairy ass legs and tread on my shoes. Yes…the guy with the MTBR.com jersey and muddy Sidi’s is keeping up with you! My Blue Competition Cycles Nx7 performed flawlessly and pulled me to the finish. There is something to be said for a bike that performs that well and fits correctly. I had zero mechanical, fit or equipment issues during the ride (or any ride up to this point).
I’ll end up riding this one again next year. It is a great challenge and it is 5 minutes away from my house (the 60 mile route actually rode right by the entrance of my neighborhood). With another century under my belt, I am ready for the next. Hopefully, I will complete a sub 5 hour attempt sometime in the near future.
Big thanks to all of the event organizers…Roswell Bicycles really stepped up and provided great support for the event.
It has been four years since Lance Armstrong graced the streets of France competing in the Tour de France. As we watch the coverage of one of the most exciting starts of the tour in recent memory…one has to wonder…is it because Lance is back?
With as much controversy that has surrounded the Tour during Lance Armstrong’s absence from the sport of cycling, it is refreshing to watch an exciting start as we get ready to jump into the first summit finish of the Tour.
As the question plagued my mind yesterday afternoon so I just had to ask my friends on Facebook and Twitter.
Do you think the Tour is more exciting this year because Armstrong is back in the saddle?
Before we get into what I think about the beginning stages of the 2009 Tour de France, lets take a look at the responses that I received yesterday!
Facebook and Twitter Responses: 2009 Tour de France
Yes, and because there haven’t been any doping issues yet.
duh!! Actually, I think that it has been really good so far anyway, but you know I love him. I watched for all the years that he wasn’t in it and it just wasn’t as exciting to me, but I think that was because there wasn’t a really strong leader…someone who was consistent year after year, kwim?
Yes, Nuff said
the doping is always in the middle or end of the race..or at least that is when they get caught….just saying, don’t get too pumped yet about no doping. I hope it stays away but the past few years haven’t been so good.
thus the “yet”. Last year, and maybe the year before, there was a big cloud of doping controversy at the very beginning of the race, and / or leading up to it.
I think its been one of the best starts to the Tour in a long time. Lots of favorites with good hard racing and the confirmation of Cavendish as the king of sprinters. Lance’s presence has certainly been part of that drama but even if one wasn’t Lance, a difference of .22 seconds at this stage is pretty amazing.
Sonya Hamilton Dreiske
Absolutely. For me it has been more exciting than the last couple years. I was on the edge of my seat when Astana was racing to the line for the TTT win. He’s a smart, confident racer and can deliver a blow to his competition when he needs to and I like watching that happen. Not sure if he will win this year but it will be fun to see what happens.
This is my first year actually paying attention to it, so I guess so.
Very competitive race, but Lance has set the table for a major comeback.
Yeah, and I’ve seen a lot of roadie crashes too!!
Alan Jakob Paulo Saiz
I can only say yes as I kiss my yellow wrist band.
My heart of course beats for Fäbu! I want the present standing to stay like that until the end! And I just hope sooooooooo bad that both Armstrong and Cancellara are clean…. Not sure if I actually believe it but I desperately want to believe in it!
Absolutely! He’s impressing the hell out of me after four years away from the TDF. Astana is insanely strong with four guys who could win it. I love the TDF!
@ESPNCommunityEd Yes … RT @MTBby198 Do you think the Tour is more exciting this year because Armstrong is back in the saddle?
@Turner @MTBby198 Not Armstrong specifically, but Astana as a team looks awesome (5 in top 10!). It doesn’t hurt that he’s 2nd after 5 stages tho.
@mtnbke @MTBby198 You mean they had the Tour after Lance retired? Learn something new everyday! #tdf
@lowcadence @MTBby198 It seems to me that with him or without him this year has gotten off to a fun start… can they keep up this intensity to the end?
198′s Thoughts on Lance Armstrong and the 09 Tour
So what are my thoughts on the start of the 2009 Tour de France? This is one of the most exciting starts that I can remember, but I think there is more to it than just Lance Armstrong. While Lance Armstrong does bring back a lot of viewers that fell off the ratings with his break from the sport of competitive cycling, the strength of the Astana team has brought the competition up across the board. With 5 of their riders placing in the top 10 overall (Armstrong, Contador, Kloden, Leipheimer, Zubeldia) after stage 5, they are poised to keep all of the remaining teams fighting for 2nd.
If the teams continue to pull this hard in these beginning stages, it will be interesting to see who actually has any legs left towards the end of the Tour. Team Columbia/HTC has been defending the green jersey worn by Cavendish through every stage up until this point by pulling the pelaton. In an interview with one of the coaches for team Columbia/HTC, the coach stated that they are going to be burned out before the end if this keeps up.
I think it really boils down to the increased exposure for the Tour due to Lance Armstrong’s return, Team Astana’s beginning dominance and the exciting stage finishes due to what seems like heightened competition for 2009. Who is going to break away as we start testing leg strength and endurance during the beginning mountain stages? We will find out shortly, but it will be interesting to see if Lance still has the legs to break away from the pack when things start to turn skyward…
Today it starts, Lance Armstrong’s comeback to the Tour de France. Will he be able to wear that illusive yellow jersey once again? Starting today…we will find out, but one thing is for sure…the month of July is an extremely exciting time for cyclists. July is our time to take up the tv airways and enjoy the biggest road race of the year…the Tour de France.
Over the years, the Tour de France has grown into its own animal as people all over the world take a chance to get involved with cycling. The Tour de France is arguably the largest sporting event on the planet due to the large spread of countries represented that can only be topped by the Olympics. I do not think there is one household that does not know the name Lance Armstrong.
1903 – Premier Tour de France
After having completed the event circuit at an average speed of 25 km/h, Maurice Garin was rewarded with prize money of 6,075 francs, a handsome purse for the era. But most importantly, he was the first in a long line of champions.
1903 started the madness that is now one of the largest sports events in the world. The drama, excitement and news coverage of the event affectionately referred to as “The Tour” captures cyclist and no-pedal obsessed, normal people alike as we watch the pure machines of the sport hammer it out on some of the most difficult stages in the world.
Will Carlos Sastre make it two in a row? Will the same doping controversy that has plagued recent tours rear its ugly head in 2009? It is time to sit back, relax (yeah right) and swallow up all that is the Tour…
This past weekend, my parents headed up to Lake Chatuge for the weekend, so my wife and I (and my brother and his wife) headed up to spend the weekend with them. Normally, I do not bring the bikes with me on these trips because I rarely have enough time to ride dirt. However, this time I brought up the Blue Nx7 road bike and my trusty Garmin Edge 705 to lead the way for a great morning road ride. The road bike allows me to get out and ride on days where it might have been impossible. The ability to leave from the driveway and the added benefit of turn by turn directions with the 705 make it so that I can ride solo and get some miles in with a short time window.
After a quick post on a local forum, I had a gpx file uploaded to the 705 and I was ready to head out on my early solo ride. I hit the road at about 6:30 in the morning to beat the heat and be back in time for pancakes. Leaving in the early morning in the mountains is surreal. The fog is lifting off the lake and into the mountain range as the sun tries to break the clouds and rise. This situation creates a red and orange glow around everything as you hear your breath and heart pump out the pedal strokes. The early mornings in mountain towns are crazy quiet. You are really able to concentrate on the road ahead while at the same time clear your mind and enjoy the ride.
Circling The Bald – Brasstown Bald – Hiawassee, GA
I started off feeling fantastic and settled in for a spin. Having never done this route before (or any road riding in this area for that matter), I was not sure what to expect. All I knew was that there was going to be one long climb and a total of 3,000 of elevation gain. I tried to settle in a pace that would leave me with some in reserve in case I needed it. When you don’t know exactly where you are going, it is always good to leave some “getting home” juice in the tank in case something does not go as planned.
The ride started off on a large 4 lane road and eventually broke off onto the twisty mountain roads that circle this area. As I pulled off on the first turn, about 1/4 mile in I saw this scene to the right. The sun was just breaking the mountains so I had to stop and take a picture with my iPhone.
One of the beauties of riding by yourself is the ability to really enjoy being outdoors. You are your only competition as you spin through the mountains, so when you see things like this…you can really stop to enjoy it for a second. When you ride through the back roads of the north Georgia mountains, you get to see some houses, animals and junk cars that you really can’t see anywhere else. I would stop and take pictures of all of them, but then the ride would take all day. It is interesting to see the contrast in how people live out in the mountains. There is a drastic difference even between neighbors and that makes for an interesting backdrop as you continue your ride.
I continued to wind around the turn filled roads until I eventually came to the long climb that I knew was on the horizon. I used a combination of sit and stand climbing and kept a pretty good pace all the way to the top. I was actually up a lot faster than I thought I would be as I saw the Brasstown Bald sign slowly get closer. Once at the top, I took a quick picture of the bike and got ready for the descent. Right next the road, there was a sign that read…”steep grade…trucks use low gear”…so I knew I was about to have some fun.
And have fun I did! This was the longest, fastest road downhill I have done to date. With a top speed of a shy over 50 mph, I was entirely tucked and spinning out for several miles of s turn filled mountain road. I would have been able to tick the mph up a little bit more, but with my current gear ratio, I was tapped out. A larger big ring might be needed if I plan to hit more roads like this one. It really was a blast. Very rarely do I have to think on road downhills, but this time…I was picturing myself as a Formula 1 racer just ripping up the street. It was a great ride.
The rest of the ride back to the driveway was pretty bland in comparison as I road through the town of Hiawassee and back to the house. At the end of the ride I had completed 3,031 feet of climbing over 37 miles with an average moving speed of 17.3 mph. I was incredibly happy with the stats seeing as I was out there by myself without any draft.
I thought this was a mountain biking site!
I know what you are thinking…why the hell is he out on this skinny tired machine so much these days? As this ride has proved, the road biking I am putting in lately has drastically improved my endurance for all aspects of cycling. Several months ago, there is no way I would have been able to complete this ride in that amount of time. The time I have been spending on the road bike has brought my mountain biking to new levels as I have a much bigger endurance base to pull from and this allows me to pull off tech riding on the mtb much easier. Ever have those rides that you wish you could have hit those last dh’s harder or those technical obstacles late in the ride, but you were just too tired to do it? Road biking can bring your endurance to the point that you are hitting those trail features just as hard at the end as you were in the beginning. That was my goal with the light, skinny tired sled and so far…it is paying off in spades…