Archive for July, 2010

Criterium Fitness

Posted in Summer Carnival on July 30, 2010 by bethleasure

Sounds of Summer

3“I grew up doing this style of criterium racing. I’ve been a criterium rider my whole life, more than anything. If you grow up racing bikes in the States, that’s what you are. If you can’t ride a crit then you can’t make a living.”  Chris Horner, American Europro on crits 

Chris can race crits and 'cross, smiling the whole hour

Americans don’t have just a season for criteriums. Easily promoted, these events show up all year on our professional racing calendar. Crits are to American racing what Kermesse is to Belgian, or point-en-ligne is to French racing, or left-side of the road Time Trials are to Brits.
Criteriums show up in stage races here and even have their own national championships.

Crits aren’t the backbone of our race offerings but they may be feet that ground an aspiring rider to stand tall and be seen by scouting pro teams. Some domestic teams are crit-specific with rosters of crit specialists – sprinters, lead-out riders, and breakaway experts applied to criterium situations. These special crit scenarios may be translated to road racing or used in certain track events, but some of its fitness and strategies are unique to the discipline.

Many corners in tight proximity create the unique style of criterium fitness, skills, and strategies. The ability to surge potentially hundreds of times, hit corners at speeds greater than made for automobiles, and navigate around others while doing so separates crit specialists from strong road racers, time trialists or match sprinters. Rhythm changes, as a condensed feature, offer specific race segmentation; great crit riders can hear the changing music of the race like night noises to a summer camper. This music is on key during twilight versions of these events when sight and depth perception are replaced by other senses and speedy sensibilities.

As the American peloton grows younger, crit racing has become less important as a pathway to European racing. It’s still a viable path for a domestic career though perhaps not one that pays as dearly.

Prayer for Criterium Fitness

“Jesus, knowing they were out to get him, moved on. A lot of people followed him, and he healed them all… he won’t yell, won’t raise his voice; there’ll be no commotion in the streets. He won’t walk over anyone’s feelings, won’t push you into a corner. Before you know it, his justice will triumph; the mere sound of his name will signal hope, even among far-off unbelievers.”  4Matthew 25:15

We enjoy our crits. We confess our specialists may overestimate abilities vis-à-vis road racing. We know we need to know how to get around a corner to avoid commotion in the streets. We ask blessing on crit specialists.

Ponder Am I focused only on this specialty? Affirm I put parking lot crit skills to use in other road racing disciplines. Watch the front of the race or you can count yourself out of contention.

3Merco Cycling Classic – NE California, USA, March 1-2, 2008 Stage 1 – March 1: Elite Men Grand Prix, 40 mi “Borrajo claims victory a lap ahead of the field,” by Kirsten Robbins in Merced, California

4The Message, Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Cycling & Celebration

Posted in Summer Carnival on July 27, 2010 by bethleasure

Street Performers

15“Chasing records doesn’t keep me on my bike. Happiness does.”  Lance Armstrong, Street Performer

Crowd surfing is one way to celebrate

Fitness makes racing fun, and celebration turns competitive pressure into a pleasure. August is a month to celebrate in cycling. A long period of good weather, great events, and golden moments precede these days – as does hard work. These are times to enjoy rewards of labor like luscious fruits of summer – quartered, savored, and dashed with heavy cream!

Peaches and cream and everything in between are part of a dessert of well-deserved pauses in athletic endeavor. Pause and praise for whatever accomplishments and achievements have come this year! Ponder what you’ve done well, how you’ve improved, what changes could be made, and imagine endless possibilities!

Stoke your happiness through sweet thoughts of self-congratulations for the small moments of success so far this year. Then pass it on and praise your peers and supporters. Be generous and even rally your rivals and enjoy your enemies. Let nothing and no one stop your revelry. You are alive and well!

There is good all around you and gifts have come to you. Think about these things. Let grateful thoughts circulate like a merry-go-round for your cycling mind. Step up to the arcade and try your luck at shooting for some new targets – dream a little about what’s next this season. Mime a story in your heart about upcoming events and make them street performances that stop the crowd in awe and amazement! This midsummer day-dreaming is like a parade that marches into your performances.

My favorite pause was to return home and do a group ride or race that was so familiar and fun I could ride it in my sleep. It gives confidence a boost to ride as if at a summer carnival – for the sheer joy of it!

Prayer for Celebration

“For everyone will talk about your fearsome deeds, and I will tell all nations how great you are.  They will celebrate and sing about your matchless mercy and your power to save. You are merciful, LORD! You are kind and patient and always loving.” 16Psalm 145:6-8

We celebrate our love of riding and are grateful for bikes as means of escape and enjoyment. We ask to see blessings of this summer day and for happy riding moments.

Ponder What can I celebrate from this season’s cycling? Affirm I am so glad about – – -. Watch your spirits soar by commemorating special deeds at your cycling party!

15This is one of those internet quotes without a source. One reference stated that Lance said this after his 3rd Tour de France victory. Lance may have never said this. I cannot substantiate it but it does seem like a philosophy he would reinforce.

16The Bible, Contemporary English Version Copyright © 1995 by American Bible Society

Cycling’s Media

Posted in Uncategorized on July 23, 2010 by bethleasure

Extra, Extra

33“The elastic has snapped.”
“…dancing on the pedals…”
“Now [insert name] is going to have a go.”
“This is NOT a made for television event.”  Phil Liggett, Cycling Broadcaster 

King of the Airwaves

We are no longer bound by the lag time of printing processes or delivery for day old news. We can find out about races as they are happening! The modern journalist is in the caravan also, uploading their perspective of the racing action using wireless connections, or at race end broadcasting to the four corners of the earth if televised. I can sit in my office online on the East Coast and be in the break vicariously with my coached athlete racing in the Pyrenees!

Unless you’re lucky enough to reside in Europe where television covers bicycle racing with Superbowl-style publicity, it’s staggering to think that instantaneous sports reporting has only occurred in the last few years in cycling! Live satellite feeds can give spectators a better view of the action at times than even a racer in the field. We experience the hype, even a bit of the elevated heart rate and get as close to racing as we can.

Yet traditional journalism has its place also. Long after the event ends, it’s gratifying and educational to read about what happened, understand the perspective of its participants through their feedback, and follow a continuous, ongoing story that supersedes sound bytes. Online news services, periodicals, books, bios, and memoirs serve to deepen our understanding of the facts and the opinions in our little world of intrigue, intensity, and incredible feats. Media coverage provides commentary and announcers as zany and loveable as cycling itself.

Prayer for Media

“‘Write the vision and engrave it so plainly upon tablets that everyone who passes may be able to read it easily and quickly as he hastens by.’ 34Habakuk 2:2

We are thankful for technologies that bring us news from afar at speed.  We are grateful for existing media outlets and for its reporters. We pray for colorful and responsible reporting that’s accurate while it attracts new fans to the sport. We ask for opportunities to talk to the media, an expanding audience, and increasing coverage to promote cycling.

Ponder Am I prepared to give an informative account of my cycling experiences? Affirm I am committed to being well-informed about the events in cycling. Watch read, listen to as much news and information as possible to further your understanding of first-rate riding.

33Comments by Phil Liggett known as Liggett-isms or catchy colloquial descriptions given in his special vernacular during his race announcement for television. Phil Liggett is an Emmy Award-winning broadcaster widely regarded as the voice of the Tour de France and cycling in the world. He is arguably the most popular English speaking cycling journalist on the planet.

34Amplified Bible, Copyright © Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation

Cycling & Podium Presence

Posted in May Flowers on July 20, 2010 by bethleasure

Winner’s Bouquet

37“My father phoned me to tell me to continue racing, and I will take the winner’s bouquet from today back to Italy to lay on her tomb.”   Guido Trenti, dedicating his Vuelta stage win to his Grandmother

A Sweetheart on the Podium


A class act example of podium behavior is all the public may know of a rider off his bike. This moment is a very important one to inspire crowds, please sponsors, thank teammates, and send a winner’s message of grace and gratitude. The podium pro stands on the top step and looks at the shutter of every camera pausing for the perfect shot, slightly altering position to peer into every lens. The famous know to look at the camera as if facing a best friend during these structured shoots. Hundreds make their living based on this shot and your interview savvy.

While racing in France, my association on a racing squad famous for historical development taught me much about public speaking. Every regular team meeting at club headquarters, we were required to stand before our peers and give an account of our recent performances. The French press spends endless time talking to their cyclists in a public forum. What these riders discuss isn’t fluff but full of useful information that reveals their thoughts, personalities, race details and strategic insight. Perhaps the analytical public demands reasons for everything but the result is great interviews and cyclists who are savvy at speech. A bit is learned of the rider. Some of the race mystery is revealed to nurture an interested public, and this promotes cycling.

To witness a bit of the private person in public delights: a winner kissing a podium girl who happened to be his wife; a win dedicated to a supporter; a bouquet delivered to team staff as thanks; a credible interview in clear voice rallying popularity. Deals are made and broken based on the savor of this key celebration– will you smell like a rose from the victory bouquet or a skunk cabbage?

Prayer for Podium Presence

“To the latter it is an aroma…the smell of doom; to the former it is…a vital fragrance, living and fresh. And who is qualified for these things?”  382 Corinthians 2:16

We are glad for opportunities to shine. We confess celebrating publicly increases our vulnerability. We pray for a powerful and pleasing podium presence and good interview and media skills.

Ponder Can I discuss a race intelligently and speak well in public? Affirm I speak to the masses with a grateful demeanor and choice words of explanation. Watch the crowd for cues to speak or pose.

37“Trenti takes easy win,” posted 28 September, 2001 on BBC Sport Online

38Amplified Bible Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation

Cycling & Race Photographers

Posted in Cycling Community on July 16, 2010 by bethleasure

31“Thanks for the compliment on the images, but if you only knew what I had to do to get them!!” Kurt Jambretz, bike race photographer

A rare look at THE man in cycling photography, Graham Watson

 A Picture’s Worth…

 …A thousand words and immeasurably more. Cycling is a business after all. Without images to entertain, explain, and market, information about our sport would be less tantalizing. Only so many can be reached at race-side, but millions of eyeballs participate by proxy via a still or moving picture.

The photographers of cycling often put themselves in harm’s way so an audience can imagine what it feels like to be in the midst of racing life, and their competition to do so is fierce. Only so many spots are designated for passengers on the motorcycles which move through the racing field. Established shooters, local media, and sometimes VIPs are designated those moto spots by the race promoter. Taking pictures outside the caravan, at road-side, leaves an incomplete story of the racing action.

The photographer and cameramen are in constant motion to capture the key moments of the race and to get that perfect shot: right light, a rider’s expressive face framed just so, in focus, and at a point which tells the story. Sometimes you’ll see a photographer perched atop a bridge railing or in the middle of a field to get a panorama of the peloton. Sometimes you’ll see one dangling over the side of a helicopter while filming. Post-race the real work begins as they rush to edit and file their best shots with the press, hoping their unique viewpoint is seen by the world.

It can be fun, and in all weather, under competitive circumstances, managing multiple variables, it becomes a bit like the sport that it’s documenting.

Prayer for Photographers & Cameramen

“Fear-of-God will be all his joy and delight. He won’t judge by appearances, won’t decide on the basis of hearsay. He’ll judge the needy by what is right…” 32Isaiah 11:2-4


We are enthralled by inventions which record a likeness in order to enjoy and evaluate racing. We know that appearances can be deceptive, and ask for heightened perception to see and learn truth behind what’s presented. We pray for safety for both rider and shooter in getting these captivating shots and ask blessing on those behind the camera.

Ponder How do I wish to be seen? Am I more concerned with my exterior than working on the qualities of a winner? Affirm I can be appreciated for my authenticity. Watch for ways to show your unique contribution to the world.

31Conversations with Kurt Jambretz, Photographer.

2The Message, Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Cycling: Reciprocity & Reconnecting

Posted in A Time for Everything on July 13, 2010 by bethleasure


16“I don’t enjoy being away from my wife and son and even when they’re here (in Spain), I’m off racing 90 percent of the time anyway.” Jonathan Vaughters on ending his pro cycling career

Vaughters takes a moment

It’s a fast paced world with lots of demands in it, many of them outside of our control in fulfilling work obligations so we can provide for ourselves and our families. Ride schedules often separate us from our loved ones for long periods. Time apart takes a toll on relationships and we suffer from lack of connection. Even with increasing means to communicate from any place at any time, there’s no substitute for face time. Being in front of someone offers an authenticity and depth– they can see you, you can see them. It can be a better experience for keeping each other close.

Even superman athletes express this need to return to a stable home base. Off-season or periods off the bike – forced or not – give this opportunity and more. Savor the presence of your loved ones; give to them in the ways they’ve given to you all season. It’s possible they’ve protected you from issues or conversations or duties so you could focus. Perhaps this is the time to offer the same service to them. It’s not easy loving a cyclist who at times can be single-minded, even self-absorbed. Consider that your loved one may be waiting for the right time to share with you about their needs or wishes. It’s easy to believe sometimes in sport that it’s all about us, but our loved ones know it’s not. You know what you’ve been asking from others to support you; now is the time to ask others how you can support them. The answers may cause some changes on your part, but consider this: what lasting value has winning if there’s no one to celebrate the victory with you? The ones who care about your triumphs also have dreams, and you know about going for those!

Prayer for Reciprocity

“Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything.” 171 Peter 4:8


What a privilege to have emotional support and practical help from others. We are grateful for those who love and help us. We pray for wisdom to know how to give back. We ask to be a blessing to our loved ones.


Ponder What can I do to thank others? Who may need me to come through for them? Affirm I can be world-class at caring. Watch how love multiplies when it sets aside its own interests.

16“Vaughters requests release from contract,” by Charles Pelkey, News Editor, Velo News, July 20, 2002

17The Message, Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Clocked at 64mph/103kph

Posted in Skills Seminar on July 9, 2010 by bethleasure

52descending mt wachusett at race speed turned me into a different gender…you want honest? that’s honest…” racer posting on Serotta Competition Bicycle Forum

The speed limit on a typical American highway isn’t fast for downhill skiing or even gravity mountain biking. But for a road racer in a pack on a potholed road with bottles flying out of cages and a shimmy in your top tube, sixty-four miles per hour (103kph) downhill is definitely top end. This was clocked during the pro women’s laps of the 53Wachusett circuit race. At that speed, even minor adjustments seem major as trees at cliff-side blur dangerously near and any racer doing anything remotely squirrelly sends the fear-a-God-into-ya. The descent is straightforward, short and steep so no braking necessary; you crest a sprint line and then let it go to the bottom for one of the most harrowing roller-coaster thrills in American bike racing.

Though this was record downhill speed, my hardest descents were raced in France. These we clocked around 85kph (53mph) descending layers of technical switchbacks on goat paths often with no clear line of sight for long distances. Further, these courses were unfamiliar to me and point-to-point (en ligne) races. Another feature to this level of descending skill was Dark Tunnels. We’d come upon them with no warning, go through them quickly, but nearly blinded. Occasionally, all I could see were sparks flying when bikes made contact and somehow we made it through unscathed. White knuckled, still it was a thrill!

Although it can be a heap of fun, descending well and quickly is no game. Practice it with extreme caution, never taking risks in training, and sparingly in races. The key is to see the apex and visualize your line as you look through the turn. Due to pelvo-occular reflex, the body follows where the eye is focused, so use those eagle eyes in broad vision for bike placement and then let it fly!


Prayer for Descending Skills

“Come with me…descend from the crest of Amana, from the top of Senir, the summit of Hermon, from the lions’ dens and the mountain haunts of the leopards.”  54Song of Solomon 4:8

We are exhilarated and refreshed by terrain changes. We confess we may not be as cautious or as skilled as necessary. We ask for eyes to see the safe and speedy downhill line and opportunities to practice skills for handling at high speed.

Ponder Have I practiced finding the apex downhill? Affirm I can see far ahead safely on the drops. Watch for ways to practice rapid adjustments by drilling the sight-movement connection.

52“Registered for Fitchburg,” listing by atmo 6-1-06 on Serotta Competition Bicycle Forum

53Fitchburg hosts a great stage race every year in early July, called Fitchburg-Longsjo Classic One of the notable Wachusett incidents involved Henk Vogels, who to check the the veracity of a break-away which formed over the top of the climb, looked back and touched wheels. This sent him flying head first into a guardrail at 60+mph. Henk was injured badly. I prayed for him and his family, knowing he faced an uncomfortable trip back to Australia for his recovery. Henk came back swinging and went on to many more successful races and descents. Moral of the story: keep your eyes focused ahead when descending, enlist people to pray for you if you mess up, some recover from high-speed descending accidents and some do not.

54The Bible, New International Version, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Re-evaluating Cycling

Posted in A Time for Everything on July 6, 2010 by bethleasure

Stepping off the bike allows you to pick it up again triumphantly


“But the results he’d hoped for didn’t quite eventuate, and following a tough year in 2005…McGee knew he had to go back to the drawing board.”An Interview with Brad McGee

This blog was originally written for the off-season. Yet in the midst of summer after hard racing, sometimes a mid-summer night’s dream is necessary for revitalization.

Take a few days to let the events of the season go, then take time to take it up again, but now with the detachment of an analytical observer. If you’ve done your rest days’ homework, your ego should be in submission. Confidence newly tamed can approach its wilder virtue – truth, with caution, whip in hand to beat back insecurities and arrogance. Seek the truth with soft heart, believing that your best is yet to come, but also with hard eyes toward wise preparation. Gently explore your failings and disappointments. Everyone loses more than they win. There is no perfect cycling season. Critically determine how to improve.

If you do the same things, the outcome will be the same. History is the best predictor of the future. What needs to continue, to go, to improve? Get real with yourself. I knew a rider who was masterful at this. With objective precision, Becky Conzelman would study her performances. She refused to indulge in excuses and simply called it as it was. She never reached her goal to go to the Olympics, but she did manage, in just four years of competitive track cycling, to win the races and qualify to compete at Worlds. I believe it was partly because she short-cut the bull and went straight to what needed work.

So few have the courage to do this. We seem to need to encourage ourselves with half-truths in order to stay motivated. In the off-season especially, it’s good to get this kind of feedback from the experts you respect, but sometimes mid-season is when it’s most needed. What others tell you about how to improve is worth seeking. Take the time, steady your emotions, be open to trust and explore.

Prayer for Wisdom

“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free! 19John 8:32


We are made to have light in us, and light penetrates darkness – even the darkness of self-doubt. We need to know our purpose in cycling. We pray to know what’s real.

Ponder What lies do I believe about myself? Who can help me discern what’s really happening? Affirm I can handle the truth, and I will be freed by it to the heights of a unique pinnacle for me. Watch how your invitation of truth ushers in peaceful, effective change.

18“An interview with Brad McGee: Pieces of the puzzle,” Latest Cycling News for May 10, 2006, Edited by Jeff Jones, assisted by Susan Westemeyer.

19Holy Bible, King James Version, public domain

Staying Power: Cycling & Patience

Posted in The Spiritual Cyclist on July 2, 2010 by bethleasure

Staying Power

81“…people have to realize cycling is a sport of time. It takes time to train. It takes time to get fit. It takes time to learn race tactics. It takes time, so be patient.” Mike Sayers, Pro Cyclist

Sayers knows about cycling's pitfalls and pitstops

The mantra of our times seems to be, “we want it all, and we want it now.” Two proud flaws of entitlement are: 1. blindness to the benefits of a long labor in the same direction and 2. blame when quick solutions elude.

Despite soundbyte communication and speed dating, there is no shortcut to valuable, lasting excellence. In cycling, there are immediate results and long-term results. How many overnight sensations have you seen burn off like morning mists?

It takes about 100 races just to begin to understand strategy, and some never get it, clueless about what’s really going on in a race. One cycling mantra is it takes 5 years to know how to use your legs, and five more to execute what you can imagine. It’s a beautiful thing to experience a rider’s chrysalis into that second decade.

Physiologically, 82it takes about 10-12 years to make a male europro. Instant success may come to a rare few, and if they stick with it, now we’re talking world class and record-breaking.

The best used implement in the toolbox of winning skills is willingness to wait while working…the dreaded PATIENCE. This tool comes out in the final breaths of hard effort, sensing that momentum is about to reverse, surprised by a second wind, discovering the right opportunity to act. This tool works especially well with others because it knows its prize-winning place in the box. This tool can be cruel if wielded against you forcing you to wait; but with the protection of hope, it becomes teachable and trusting.

Patience believes the best is yet to come, pride sadly thinks it is passing and must all be seized now. It’s as important a tool to carry in your saddle bag as a tire iron for patience can fix a broken spirit and keep you rolling on.

Prayer for Patience
“The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.” 83Ecclesiastes 7:8

We are thankful that meaning and value are added through the depths of time and perseverance. We confess we don’t contain our desire for speed separately from patience in the soul. As hardship must come, keep us encouraged as we wait, energized as we work.

Ponder Am I using energy to push away what instead should be persisted? Affirm I can tough it out and finish stronger than I began. Watch for a generous spirit as patience makes your heart large enough for a task as big as was meant for your life.

81“The Best Cycling Advice,” by Bruce Hendler, PezCycling News posted on Mike Sayers has wonderful tenacity as a star domestique.

82Presentations by Andy Coggan, Exercise Physiologist, power guru, and Masters Cyclist, from clinics held between November 2004 – October 2006 on Cycling-Specific Exercise Physiology which noted research comparisons of VO2 Max and power at LT as indicators of performance potential.

83The Bible, New International Version, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society