Sunday, February 27, 2011

spring racing

Coverage of the Belgian spring races gets me all kinds of excited about racing. Who's going to be the first wearing a Ship jersey to bring home a win?

The forecast Tuesday is for temps in the 40s with sunny skies. The first step to winning the big ones is winning in your own backyard. Hoorah for the TNR!


Congrats to Pete, Aaron, and Tom for their top 10 rides this weekend at Navy. If only we could get Aaron to believe there's no shame in drafting...

Anyway, a promising beginning to the new season!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Navy Crit.

Well we had a great day to race at Navy. Sunny with a light breeze and 40's. I raced the C race which started out hectic on the first lap when a UMD rider went down on the front for apparently no reason and two VT riders immediately attacked while everyone else was slowing down. As soo as we got around the crashed rider we started hammering again, but it seemed like nobody really wanted to take a pull so I took several long pulls at the front. According to the countdown of someone from UMD we were pulling the VT riders in. They had a 15 second gap, then a 10, then a 7. I was taking another turn on the front pulling when I hit my pedal coming out of the sharp corner going onto the front stretch of the course and went down. I was a bit more upset about my torn leg warmer and handle bar tape than my brushburned leg and butt because bikes don't heal on their own. Anyway I lost contact with the chase pack and had to do some battling of my own with just 9 laps to go. I passed several riders on my own and then caught a UMD rider who was ahead of me. We were able to work together to pull back several more riders before the end of the race and I was able to outsprint him to the line as well which felt good. I finished 10th out of 25 and felt pretty good about it and confident that had I not gone down would have been sprinting up front for the finish line. Also some props. go out to Thomas Robson who got fourth in the C race and had a great ride.

Aaron raced the B's and looked very strong for the race. He also did a lot of pulling on the front which might have cost him some places on the finishing lap. He finished with the main field and rode very well.

I will try to post some pics on the blog once I get them from the photographer.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

2011 tree & farm race - RESULTS

Last Saturday's Tree and Farm Race was a lot of fun. Ten riders put on their underwear of fortitude and thanked Lady Nature for the opportunity to get blown around a bit (steady winds of 15-20 mph w/ gusts around 35 mph according to In response, she treated us to blue skies, mild temps, and...lots of wind. It was a good time.

As I said, ten riders started, six finished the entire course. JM repeated his victory of a year ago, having followed my move within the last kilometer on the stair-step uphill finish and then easily holding me off after we distanced the others.

The race for third was more exciting. From what I could gather, Alex and Pete bridged up to Carney as he tried to chase down Jon and I, then Pete edged Alex by inches in the sprint to the line.

Seventeen year-old Alan (on a campus visit to Shippensburg from Correy, PA) pulled in for sixth, the proud recipient of the Limp Chicken Award for the last-placed finisher.

Your 2011 results:

(1) Jon Marshall
(2) goat
(3) Pete LoBianco
(4) Alex Roberts
(5) Mike Carney
(6) Alan Royek

Non-finishers (but still awesome for coming):

Christopher Woltemade
Rider Big E
Chris Townsley
Cody Wertz

I'm sure the wind scared off many. Jon and I counted 17 folks who probably would have, had everything worked out, been there besides the 10 that were. But that's springtime in south-central Pee-Aay...

Half the starters; 5/6 of the finishers.

2011 podium.

Alan proudly displaying his limp chicken.

Friday, February 18, 2011

what it means to be a competent bicycle racer

Wade of made a nice little post the other day linking Maslow's stages of learning with general racing competence. I liked it enough that I thought I'd quote it here.
  1. Unconscious Incompetence
    The individual neither understands nor knows how to do something, and does not recognizes the deficit. An example of this might be someone giving racing a crack for the first time. He might be fit but still does not understand how to bike race. The best place to introduce someone to the race environment would be in D-grade.
  2. Conscious Incompetence
    Though the individual does not understand or know how to do something, he or she does recognize the deficit, without yet addressing it. This would be after a few races getting comfortable in D-grade and then racing in C-grade. This is a pack of cyclists who have a good fitness base but still learning the major details of how to bike race and the skills required. Things are still being learned such as how to roll turns properly, how to corner, where to position yourself.
  3. Conscious Competence
    The individual understands or knows how to do something. However, demonstrating the skill or knowledge requires a great deal of consciousness or concentration. Now we’re getting into the B-grade level of racing. Everyone who is good enough to be out there is committed to racing. Many people’s ambition is to make it into A grade but there is still lots experience required to put what has been learned into practice.
  4. Unconscious Competence
    The individual has had so much practice with a skill that it becomes “second nature” and can be performed easily (often without concentrating too deeply). He or she may or may not be able to teach it to others, depending upon how and when it was learned. This should be the skill level of an A-grade cyclist. An A-grade cyclists should know how the game is played, the tactics involved, and not have to second-guess details such as cornering, positioning, attacking, counter-attacking, the direction of the wind, echeloning, holding your line, etc.
The "grades" Wade is referring to are how amateur bike racing is organized in Australia. From what I gather, it's more of a self-policing category system, unlike the more institutional USA Cycling category system here.

I like Wade's application of Maslow's model to cycling. However, I believe a distinction should be made between what I'll call race survival skills and race winning skills. Race survival skills are more or less technical in nature, easier to achieve competence in, and you don't necessarily need to race that much to get there. These include skills such as drafting, pace-lining, echeloning, cornering, holding a wheel when you think you have nothing left to give, how to close a gap, knowing how to eat and drink in the peloton, knowing when to eat and drink to survive the race, and countless other things you just learn by doing a lot of riding with others. Race winning skills are less technical and more nuanced in their application, and are thus harder to learn. These include skills such as positioning, attacking, counter-attacking, when to burn matches and when to save matches, how to race with teammates, how to race without teammates, etc.

The distinction between these two types of skills is important, I think, because the four levels of bicycle racing competence that Wade describes seem, at first, to map nicely onto the D-A category system in US collegiate racing, where D fields are comprised of novice, USAC Cat 5 riders, and A fields are comprised of elite, USAC Cat 1-3 riders. However, upon reflection, I think the comparison is a more appropriate typology only for race survival skills. Race winning skills, well, that's another matter. While every pro cyclist is likely fully competent in race survival skills, there surely is a great deal of variance in race winning skills (one reason I suspect directors are so adamantly opposed to the elimination of race radios--they want control over in-race tactical decisions because they don't trust their riders' judgment). And I think an argument can be made that some riders are natural racers, which is to say that they seem to have an innate gift for reading a race, attacking at opportune moments, conserving when attacking would bear no fruit, etc. These riders can't really explain how they do it and may be only vaguely aware of the difference between themselves and others in the first place. However, like any skill, no matter the rider's disposition, education and practice can make him or her better, whether that person is the equivalent of a tactical moron or race-reading genius.

Education and practice. With emphasis on the later. Unless you are orders of magnitude more fit than your competitors, wins will not just fall in your lap (and if they do, you're racing below your category). In bicycle racing, to win you have to try to win.

And, in my opinion, that speaks to one of the great ironies of bicycle racing--that those trying hardest to win the race often finish amongst the last in the standings. You see, once a cyclist reaches some standard of competence in race survival skills (and requisite fitness), it's not really that hard to hang on for a top 25 percent placing in any race. Race conservatively, and with minimal effort you'll find that's easy. But to win, you have to be willing to risk colossal defeat. So it would seem that the limiters to winning (if you're counting) include being willing to risk personal pride. And it may be useful, at least from the racer's perspective, to think of a race as having one winner and n-1 losers. No second place. No top 10s. There is just a winner and a lot of unhappy losers.

So that comfortable (and respectable) top 25 percent placing? Screw it. Exhaust your matches winning or lose big trying.

Friday, February 11, 2011

2011 tree and farm race



FEBRUARY 19, 9:00 AM

Location: Meet at Southhampton Township Park near Shippensburg.

Description: Forty-nine miles gallivanting around southwestern Cumberland County.

(Click here for an interactive map w/ elevation profile.)

This "race" (we'll probably only end up really racing over the last 5-10 miles or so) is our annual unofficial kickoff to the collegiate season. The ECCC starts its season on the first weekend of March, but since the ACCC generally runs a race on the previous weekend, The Tree and Farm Race goes off on the third weekend of February.

Usually cold, usually windy, sometimes snowy, completing this course is no Sunday stroll. The route offers a survey of wonderful riding southeastern Cumberland County has to offer, with a survey of Mennonite farm lands, Pennsylvania game lands, and the edge of two Pennsylvania state forests.

Unless you plan on never leaving the wheel of someone who knows the course well, you'll want a cue sheet (provided at start) tied to your top tube. The course meanders along all manner of rural farm road, peppered with two sections of loose cinder rail-trail and about a half mile of double-track (if the snow is clear, otherwise we'll take an all-paved detour around these sections), though nothing is too intense for standard 23mm road tires at typical pressure. What with the weather and the terrain, it's our way of giving nod to the spring races across the pond.

And if you're not game for the whole thing, don't worry, the course offers plenty of opportunities to bail and head for the comfort of home or car. (However, packing your own map is recommended.)

The "race" starts at Southampton Township Park. It finishes at the top of Strohm road (the high point of the TNR course) at the "M & M Roofing" sign.

A view of the finish from the rider's perspective. The finish is at the white elbow sign which reads "M & M Roofing."


Jon Marshall (1st), Dr. Goatesauce (2nd), Tim Cusick (3rd) ... limp chicken award (last-placed finisher): Rider Big E.


We call this a "race," but it's really just a bunch of guys and gals out looking for a good time on a cold Saturday morning. We race, yes, and there's usually a little something fun for the first finishers, but there are no entry fees, no waivers, and therefore no whining if something bad happens to you while on this ride (like you crash and break your carbon frame or someone insults your girlfriend). If you're the kind of person that doesn't play well with others, please don't come. This non-event event is for non-fun-haters only.

For more about Ship Cycling, please visit us on the web.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Who has goals?

So I was riding today and thinking how much I am ready for Spring as my fingers and water bottle were equally frozen, and I began to think that it is time to post up some goals for this season. The first race is coming up in about two weeks so the moment is just about upon us.

Goals for the season and beyond:
1. Do not get dropped in the first crit. of the season at Navy.
2. No just sitting in the pack and being satisfied to finish with the main field.
3. Attack during every race.
4. Win a road race and a Crit.
5. Have enough teamates at a race to work together as a team.
6. Move up and be competitive in the B field.
7. Have fun every weekend no matter the outcome of the races or the weather, etc.
8. Gain enough cycling fitness to significantly improve my triathlons.

Hopefully everyone who is planning on racing this year is thinking about some goals for the season,so post them up so I am not all alone.