Archive for January, 2010

Pack Skills: A River Runs Through It

Posted in Skills Seminar on January 29, 2010 by bethleasure

A River Runs Through It 

47“…the flow experience of cruising around in a 100 rider peloton at 50kph… when your skills seem up to the task is sublime.Gordon Ross, Category 2 Cyclist

Majestic old man River

Maneuvering in the peloton is like a current in a river. Talweg is a term which describes the most navigable channel in a river – generally the place where the current moves the quickest. If you stand on a bridge above a river, the talweg is easy to spot though it isn’t necessarily straight down the middle where you’d expect it.

Each racing field also has a talweg. Common wisdom is to use the outside to continually move and reposition toward the front where braking is less likely and crashing usually more avoidable, and where one can see and act upon swift racing action. It’s true moving on the outside often gives one a path of escape if the peloton suddenly dominoes in front of you; but the outside also requires more effort because of less aerodynamic protection. The same openness which provides a way up also has to be forced through with less draft, and domestiques sit on the outside of team leaders taking the wind for this reason.

Miners bring forth gems by following a river’s origin and so can racers in the peloton. Watch to see where the flow is in the field, the talweg. Sometimes it’s outside and sometimes it’s a crooked path from line to line well inside.

In either case, move subtly as sudden line changes don’t win friends. In race situations, an etiquette which respects safety is rewarded at times by a rider who remembers how you moved around them. Poise on the bike is a great advantage in these tight jostling scenarios. Size can be an advantage either way – larger riders moving others aside to get through and smaller riders coming underneath to pick a path to the front.

Watchfulness is key to moving in that flow, so jump in with both feet taking care where the least amount of splash derives the way to best positioning.

Prayer for Pack Skills
“They discover the origins of rivers, and bring earth’s secrets to light.” 48 Job 28:11

We are grateful for the wonderful tension between group speed and constant motion in the pack. We confess we blunder like tugboats rather than skilled kayakers at times. We ask for pack savvy and safety as we master this skill.

Ponder Do I move in the group with stealth and grace? Affirm I can move my bike like flowing water or surging floods, whichever is appropriate and safe. Watch for points of entry and exit in the flow.

47“finding flow,” blog entry of Gordon Ross, February 07, 2005

48The Message, Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson.

Savoir Faire: Skill Mastery

Posted in Skills Seminar on January 26, 2010 by bethleasure

Savoir Faire: In the Know 

45“French cyclists are…much richer in cycling skill. It is enlightening to see a couple of 50-something guys riding on old bikes with cottered cranks, Mafac centerpulls and tubular tires cruising along at 20-25 klicks side by side, with their handlebars maintaining a constant gap of 3 or 4 inches between them.” Sheldon “Francophile” Brown

Wet roads, tight peloton, typical

I spent a season racing in France for a team based in the province of La Drôme, a fruited plain bordered on the west by small mountains – Les Ardèches, and the foothills of Les Hautes-Alpes hedging us to the east. Notable cycling events, such as Paris-Nice and stages of Tour de France pass through the region, which is home to reputed clubs distinguished for developing certain French cycling stars.

Between big events, I frequently raced with men in the Categorie Regionale. Sometimes I had to drive to these men’s events using my host family’s tiny Fiat. Driving and racing were the same in France in terms of a Latin sense of geospatial awareness. An opening the size of a road atlas is an invitation for a sedan to pop in front of you on a French highway.

Likewise, racing on goat path roads in the rain with 200 men proved a similar experience in closeness. One time during a race, my toe cover bumped off my shoe and got lodged in my front derailleur locking my front cranks. They pack so tightly that guys racing next to me noticed that I was unable to pedal. These Frenchmen leaned on me pushing me for what seemed like 2k’s keeping me in the peloton while I dislodged the neoprene booty – and the peloton continued without so much as an, “Oh là là!” – another example of French intimacy and competency.

I knew I was a successful Euro when I could race and drive there without clenched white knuckles, and I came back to American roads – wide as prairies it seemed- maneuvering in the peloton like a current in a river.

Prayer for Competence and Skill Mastery
Observe people who are good at their work— skilled workers are always in demand and admired; they don’t take a backseat to anyone.” 46 Proverbs 22:29

We acknowledge that riding a bike with skill requires coordination and self-control. We are grateful that practice leads to perfection! We pray for competence, expert teachers, and savvy competitors. We pray for opportunities to exchange information, courage that leads to mastery, and to be able to drill, drill, drill!


Ponder What do I need to learn to be a better bike handler? How can I help someone else who needs to improve? Affirm I can be an expert at every skill in cycling. Watch and learn how the best do it.

45Cycling in France, Sheldon “Francophile” Brown on mailing list. Sadly, Sheldon Brown passed away while I was writing this book. I’m glad I’d quoted him – let this be a small tribute to his desire in generously conveying cycling knowledge and tremendous humanity.

46The Message, Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson.

Team Directors: Field Commanders

Posted in No "I" in Team on January 22, 2010 by bethleasure

Field Commander

41“Noel is brilliant. He knows the courses, the riders, every scenario and can predict and anticipate, nearly flawlessly, what’s going to happen in a race.” Ted King, Pro Cyclist on Noel Dejonckheere, then US National Team-European Director now with Team BMC

Noel not leaving things to chance

The best directors know their riders, competition, courses, and conditions and can suggest tactics which comprise a thoughtful strategy. The height of directing excitement is watching a rider realize what was imagined in pre-race discussions while calling modifications to meet real-time race demands.

Command-Control-Communication or C3 is a system of information exchange within a military organization; its functional process verifies and corrects activity based on knowledge and rapid two-way information exchange between strategic or tactical units in order to attain its objective.

The chief officer in cycling’s C3 is the Directeur Sportif who commands race strategy via a reliable communication network with some form of feedback. Historically or under technically challenged circumstances, C3 is simple race-side support with team meetings. Now sophisticated radios, secretly coded and requiring special licensing meet the need for responsive, short reactions to racing’s rapidity. The DS cannot always see the action or sense the peloton, so riders must still learn what’s required of them to act at the critical moments, just as foot soldiers on front lines take orders from the Pentagon.

One of the beautiful aspects of directing is utilizing tactical insight, based on knowledge, intuition, and sensory perception, which prognosticates foreknowledge of race probabilities. The beauty is demonstrated by riders capable and willing to take advantage of it. Even a prophetic director’s vision is exceeded in victory. As the teams head into battle, pray for the front line field commanders.

Prayer for Directeur Sportif
Strength! Courage! You are going to lead this people…Give it everything you have, heart and soul…Don’t get off track, either left or right, so as to make sure you get to where you’re going.” 42Joshua 1:6, 7

We are grateful to those seers among us whose prognostications and high-speed calculations are part of cycling’s arsenal. We confess we lose our line when improperly directed. We ask for courage, incredible perception and blessing on team directors.

Ponder Do I see what really goes on in a race? Affirm I can listen to that insightful voice in my ear and respond immediately. Watch for all the intuitive and sensory information you can absorb at high speed.

41Conversations with Teddy King, pro cyclist. Teddy was on the US National espoir team and rode in Europe for Noël  Dejonckheere in 2005.  

42The Message, Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson.

Warm Bods

Posted in Warming Up on January 19, 2010 by bethleasure

24“Massage…gives a jump start by warming the muscles, tendons, and ligaments…preheats your body…to endure the demands to come.” Roger Pozeznik, Cyclist, Massage Therapist

Even sports massage can be luxurious!

The rigors of travel or hill repeats merit some spa time. The healing hands of a masterful masseuse compete with the heat of a warm sauna or outdoor hot spring for soothing relaxing recovery. Though cold therapies may be better at certain times, massage is important for injury prevention, recovery, and enjoying day after day training and touring, not to omit – yikes – help healing from a crash, and for a pre-ride warm-up.

Many techniques of massage are available. From deeply cleansing sessions to gentle clearing, the sequence for cycling should include legs of course, but also neck and shoulders. The goal is supplesse – that oft elusive state of great strength and flexibility – found after hard training. With appropriate recovery, supple muscles dance, responsive to the rhythms of the road.

Massage is necessary for pros but the entire community can avail of this service, either through self-massage, foam rolls, or some method of rubbing smooth the contours accumulated through fatigue’s metabolic by-products. Some believe a connection can be made with long-held emotional by-products as well, as mind-body-spirit types have felt for years. Many a tale can be told about tears on the massage table and some memory returning evoked lovingly by deep touch. With this vulnerability in mind, it’s important to choose practitioners carefully.

Sometimes targeting specific tightness or injury is assisted by physical therapy or chiropractic modes. It’s pretty common in cycling to have some kinetic dysfunction now and again when even subtle changes wreak havoc on palpable areas.

Prayer for Massage & Therapeutic Treatments
“But Jesus said, ‘Someone did touch me; for I perceived that healing power has gone forth from me.’” 25Luke 8:46

We are grateful for masters of muscular manipulation and for deep relief from soreness. We confess we sometimes neglect this necessary part of training. We ask for conscious effort and opportunity to care for laden legs and for blessing upon massage therapists and other muscular practitioners.

Ponder Am I caring for my legs as much as I’m cracking them? Affirm I can learn some self-massage when absent from experts. Watch for happy legs when warm hands apply their healing power.

24Massage for Cyclists, by Roger Pozeznik published by Vitesse Press, Montpelier, Vermont

25Amplified Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation

Warm Accommodations: Host Housing

Posted in Warming Up on January 15, 2010 by bethleasure

Some digs are better than others

19″ We are looking forward to your visit! We’ll take everyone. If I get to eavesdrop on a conversation …on the day’s racing in the evening I am more than happy. Now I have a team to root for when I watch the race.” Michael Foley, Recreational Cyclist, Host Housing extraordinaire

In nine countries in twice as many years, I stayed in hundreds of homes at various training or racing venues. In all that time, I only had one really sketchy bed – the one where two large outside dogs slept and it was rainy season; and one bad experience – with a feuding couple just prior to their divorce. The smell and feel of wet flea-bitten dog sheets and inadvertent conflict for two nights was well worth the risk to become acquainted with all the other hosts. I owe a huge debt and will probably have company in my house as payment for the remainder of my life.

Benefits to home away from home include: visiting a place from a native perspective; instant fans; insight on routes; more control over meals or accommodating special diets; at times, but not expected, logistical support. In some host situations, I was able to give back and have a positive effect, even remedially influencing troubled relationships or watching kids grow up while reacquainting them to an active, healthy lifestyle year after year. But even that is no guarantee. There was one raucous night when the race organization put our team at an inn above the cantina – the party beneath us didn’t end until dawn. Needless to say, we started that day’s stage a bit bleary-eyed.

Host housing isn’t always the way to go, sometimes you want to return from a race and be alone to recover in solitude or with a choice of teammates who are restful. In that case, to make yourself at home in a hotel is an artform and there are certain tricks – like setting it up as you’d have it at home for ease and comfort. The best hosts know that hospitality means not entertaining you but making you feel at home.

Prayer for Hosts
“Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder…be inventive in hospitality.” 20Romans 12:11

We are grateful for welcome receptions. We confess we can never repay all the hospitality we’ve received from others in this community. We ask to be polite and housebroken guests and blessings on willing hosts.

Ponder Do I leave a place as clean as I arrived? Affirm I can groove into a household while setting up my needs. Watch how big your connections grow when housing is exchanged.

19Conversations with Mike Foley and family from an anonymous location. Let’s just say his area is host to an important race in America.

20The Message, Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson.

Warm Climes: Tropical Travel

Posted in Warming Up on January 12, 2010 by bethleasure

Cycling shorts in Paradise

15Mallorca is quite fascinating! It has a great climate and great scenery and it offers unbeatable conditions for both holiday cyclists and professionals.” Stephen Roche, Pro Cyclist & Camp/Ride Director, on his choice for a winter cycling paradise

Although globalization is expanding cycling’s scope, Eurocentric traditions drive our sport. January’s cold latitudes in the northern hemisphere become wearisome, and we seek ways to warm ourselves this week. After the new year, many pros head to winter training meccas from Majorca to New Mexico, San Diego to Santa Barbara, Tucson to Tasmania. Our friends down under are in full blossom in their warm “winter” (their summer actually, mate) racing season; but track their racing calendar with the north’s seasonality for international competitiveness.

This opens up possibilities to heat up your training travel, especially if your agenda calls for early season fitness. For a mid-winter motivational trip, recreational cyclists can also enjoy a variety of balmy options at winter cycling camps and on touring vacations. Even in nations where bicycles aren’t raced, their prime use as transportation broadens possibilities for warm-weather riding multi-continentally. Then there are the isles – ranging from Hawaii’s sea-shore-to-celestial climbing to tropical circuits around the 16Canary Islands.

January jump starts travel legs as a beginning of our community’s roving. One of the rules for an itinerant lifestyle is to try to return to base camp periodically: the more you travel the shorter the time between 17exercusions, about every three weeks for a domestic pro for instance. This is one competitive advantage of indigenous racers since they can race near home and therefore enjoy the benefit of secure recovery, as well as “home field” advantage. Travel widens one’s definition of home allowing for a bunch of base camps – in our international village.

Prayer for Travel
Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage” 18Psalm 84:5

We are grateful for our gypsy free wheeling. We confess frustration when travel is hectic. We pray for safe passage.

Ponder How can the inevitability of cycling travel become an advantage? Affirm I can be a seasoned traveler who migrates with as much ease as a rotating paceline. Watch your requirements for feeling settled, and balance your time away accordingly.  

15Stephen Roche as quoted in “Cycling Tourism,” under Majorca on

For reference to Roche’s own Majorcan cycling camp and for cycling-specific trips to warm climes, see

16For a great article about the Canary Islands, “On your bike in the Canary Islands,” by Nick Ball, editor of posted Monday, 24 Sep 2007 on<

“The island’s year round clement climate and super low rainfall (it lies just off the coast of west Africa and the Sahara) attracts professional and amateur cyclists in droves during the winter months, as they seek out warmer weather for training…”

17Conversations with Jim Copeland, former pro and team director of Team Saturn. His suggestion was three weeks on the road and then swift return to your base to recover and recharge. Just as we rely upon the stabilizing security of gravity while zooming downhill off camber, we need a sense of home between trips. This is one reason under-resourced cyclists are at a competitive disadvantage to those who can afford to travel back and forth, or have luxuries similar to home as they travel.

18The Bible, New International Version, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Making It Happen

Posted in New Year's Resolve on January 8, 2010 by bethleasure

Podium time comes through Planning

6“…right away, I started to think about what I’ll do differently next year — because I plan on getting there again next year.” Nick Frey, American U23 TT Champion after his ride at World’s

Dreams revisited and hope refreshed, now it’s time to think about the activities required to create a desired future. For some in our community, this may mean an actual business plan with financial projections for sponsors, promoters, managers. In some cases, this may be a strategic plan which forecasts a global racing agenda. A cyclist’s annual plan may consist of a training program, a race schedule, and performance-related goals. These are all stages in the dream tour. Some homework is in order today: creating and gathering these documents; and setting up meetings with trusted advisors to discuss it.

Contemplate where your bike is taking you this next year, how it’s going to get you there, and how you’ll know if you got there or not. You know from where we’ve gone together so far, that you’ll not get off simply with the bike goals. It’s best to add some other essential ingredients. Soul-search on your true motivations, check their veracity and integrity, skim off the fat of self-absorption and the dross of vengeance.

Focus instead on what your unique contribution can be thinking about your goals within a series of concentric circles in community. From the inner circle of you and your intimate allies to an ever-widening sphere of influence and involvement, evaluate your strategy to include club/team/organization, then racing region to national impact, and finally international exchange and the universal good of all. Your contribution to the world may be as simple as responsibly approaching your goals so as not to expect from or be a burden upon others. Interdependent realism has amazing returns during tough times, at all times.

Prayer for Planning

“May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.” 7Psalm 20:4

We are grateful for free will and the right to pursue happiness. We confess our dread of tangible measurements to that happiness at times. We ask for divine intervention to make a path before us and be our rear guard.

Ponder What are some tangible steps I can take this year toward my dreams? Affirm I can plan where the light shines upon the next steps and not fear the unknown beyond them. Watch those steps turn into destined pathways.

6“Need for Speed: Engineering Propels Champion Cyclist,” Science Daily Nov 5, 2007 on Adapted from materials provided by Princeton University

7The Bible, New International Version, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Direction: Signs Between Switchbacks

Posted in New Year's Resolve on January 5, 2010 by bethleasure

Glimpse of the Future

1If you are not intimidated at the foot of Alpe d’Huez, you never will be. You go through every emotion on that climb...” Robert Millar, Pro Cyclist, one of Britain’s best grimpeurs

Happy New Year! An opportunity for a fresh start should take the best of the past with it. Using your quiet time to ponder what’s peaceful in your cycling, now resolve to apply that peace to discovering a direction that sees you through the next hairpin.

The famous L’Alpe d’Huez climb provides a dramatic illustration. Until you race it for real, it’s impossible to know what makes it so daunting. For me, it wasn’t so much the average gradient of 8% although there are steep pitches in the mix. It was more the combination of being able to see the top again and again bend after bend and feeling like it wasn’t getting much closer. Its thirteen kilometers seem to go on endlessly. Twenty-one hairpin turns are 2marked and numbered indicating many changes of rhythm before the famous finish.

Up d’Huez, you get caught in the contrast between a seductive mountain top and its scornful signposts. You climb to another level and are immediately faced with the distance to the next hurdle. It’s almost cruel at first. About halfway up, I redirected my anaerobic thoughts and made those signs a comfort. Rather than letting the markers mock, I used them as guideposts to remind me what was overcome to arrive that much closer to the goal.

The peace that accompanies sure direction is like the calm interim between switchbacks. It’s a guide that can steady you through the next setback. Even if the summit can only be glimpsed occasionally, use the decisions sought in calm to help you dance your way upward.

Prayer for Direction
“Set up road signs; put up guideposts. Take note of the highway, the road that you take.” 3Jeremiah 31:21

We are thankful to catch sight of what’s ahead. We confess we sometimes crack at the task of getting there, well short of the summit. We ask for indications to plan our course, guidance in the going, and strength for the journey.

Upwards and Onwards!



Ponder Is my rhythm steady in the right direction? Affirm I can endure immediate trial on the way to completed tasks. Watch those benchmarks between bends noting what’s being done well and knowing more chances are ahead.

1“Cycling: the Uphill Road to Hell,” by Andrew Longmore published July 13, 1997 in The London Independent, Copyright 1997 Newspaper Publishing PLC 

2For an interactive route map of L’Alpe d’Huez and photos of each sign see

3The Bible, New International Version, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Cyclist of the Year

Posted in New Year's Resolve on January 1, 2010 by bethleasure


4“I remember making up a list…win the junior world championship…win a gold medal…be a professional within a year or two…win the world pro championship…win the Tour de France.” Greg LeMond on his extraordinary goal-setting

Aim at something, that's what you get

Greg’s list is extraordinary not just because of the level of his goals, but because these goals were made with little indication of reality. These were the dreams of a star-struck teenager inside his second or third dozen races! Yet each goal was achieved!

I always ask the dream question when initially helping an athlete set goals. I don’t want an edited version, but a spontaneous confidentiality about desire’s destination. My requirement isn’t that it has a basis in reality, but that it is truly what one dreams of doing. I used to think everyone would have the same answers – aiming at the sport’s pinnacle events. But I was humbled about how wrong I can be; everyone answers differently.

We seem to have an internal mechanism which indicates our destinies. Some adages that apply: as a man thinketh within himself, so is he; aim at nothing, that’s what you get. The key is not what the dream is but that you get at it. Uncovering that ideal which may be hidden under layers of put-downs or discouragement, dusting it off, and putting it back on the shelf like a prized trophy is today’s assignment. If you had your own panel of judges, what would you accomplish which would make you the Cyclist of the Year? It could be as simple as consistent training, as challenging as weight management, or as bombastic as Best All Around Rider. It could be a power to weight ratio figure, an increase in speed at a timed distance, or a particular event. Take some time on a ride this week to let those dreams come to you. Write it down and take aim! Your world championships await…

Prayer for Goal-Setting

“…I’ve got my eye on the goal…I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.” 5Philippians 3:14

We are thankful that we are all given dreams! We confess our age of reason sometimes hinders uninhibited imagination. We ask for reckless internal abandonment to dare to dream again.  

Ponder What pumps me up? What is my dream in cycling? Affirm I am in wonder about how my bicycle can transport me toward accomplishments arranged for me.  Watch those fantasies turn into a well-ordered to-do list.

4“Inside Cycling with John Wilcockson: The exceptionally gifted LeMond,” By John Wilcockson
VeloNews editorial director filed September 23, 2005. Produced by: Inside Communications on

 5The Message, Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson.