Archive for the March Madness Category

Wheel Changes

Posted in March Madness on June 21, 2011 by bethleasure

Blown Chances

22A super-fast wheel-change can save the day.”  Geoff Brown, Race Mechanic

Race mechanics must race also...Help them win.

Despite a preference to be taken care of mechanically, responsible maintenance for smooth working order is a priority for a professional. Pro team mechanics appreciate a meticulous rider who provides equipment information in preparation for fast mechanicals and wheel-changes. Imagine needing a bike change without first conveying that your pedals are different from team issue. This is a disastrous sure way to get dropped from a race, not to mention being inconsiderate toward team staff as they attempt to switch bikes on the fly.

Likewise on your local group ride, a lack of preparation is inconsiderate toward training partners. Bring your basic flat tire stuff and know how to use it. I’m really grateful when I come prepared and someone still offers to help. Hundreds of thousands of miles later, road-side repair chivalry has saved me a few times.

On the other hand, one neutral support wheel change was the stuff of my nightmares. My tire popped on a high speed course into a screaming section. A willing but inexperienced helper took minutes for what should’ve taken seconds. I tried not to panic as I watched a promising tour turn into a week of stagiaire work,
because I and a group of others ill-fated and ill-inflated lost 16 minutes on Stage One.

In contrast, a neutral support success story was a save via a wheel change that took only seconds for our star rider at the base of a key climb on the penultimate stage. As an amateur elite team, we’d practiced wheel changes at camp. Three riders dropped back for a stunning example of teamwork, and our guy made the lead group of grimpeurs. All involved handled it like pros. This is the management of maddening circumstances for which we pray.

Prayer for Tire Repair/Wheel Changes

“…produce and promote full recognition and appreciation and understanding and precise knowledge of every good [thing] that is ours…” 23Philemon 1:6


We are glad for assistance when frustrating circumstances come. We confess we are not always blamelessly prepared. We ask for diligence in risk management to avoid the worst as much as possible.

Ponder Is my bike ready for its upcoming uses? Affirm I am precise about maintenance, even if I rely on others mechanically. Watch your tires for cuts and clean off debris.

22“Brown heads home: No more Euro’ wrenching for Discovery mechanic,” by Andrew Hood Posted Sep. 30, 2006 Geoff was one of Europe’s top professional mechanics for 14 years, including 3 Giros, 11 Vueltas and 12 Tours. He is from western Canada.

23Amplified Bible Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation

Safety in the Caravan

Posted in March Madness on April 8, 2011 by bethleasure

Road Rage

30“He ended up chasing through the 40+ car caravan and was careened into a ditch by one of the follow cars!” Mike Barton, Cyclist, describing a teammate’s chase in the race caravan

Draft yes but also Danger

Chasing back through the caravan can be like a respite with a motorpaced escort or like the worst road rage clash: cars on impact with riders, between caravan drivers, with a moto, and on and on. The screech and shatter of these incidents can be terrifying. There are some precautions but there are also uncontrollable variables so it ultimately becomes an exercise of faith as well as following rules.

The biggest warning is too often riders chase back opposite of the driver’s side in the caravan. The driver is concerned about safety but also strategy and is juggling more than a soccer mom on a cell phone with a van full of kids. A caravan driver usually has at least two radio systems, time pieces/technology/results/rosters/route to study and other tasks like feeding. Add press coverage to this mix, and it’s a multi-tasking nightmare driving in the caravan.

Make it easier for the drivers to see you by riding on their side – as is often the rule. You don’t get both sides of the caravan for a bike lane! As a rider, chase back on defensively. Allow yourself an out that escapes cliffs, ditches, guardrails, other cars. As a driver, flash headlights or beep the horn if that’s the appropriate signaling etiquette in the caravan. The average speed of the peloton is often lower than a some of the driving in the race caravan. The cars snake through switchbacks downhill at speeds that would make F1 drivers envious. They catch air chasing back after fixing a rider’s flat or nature breaks.

Most drivers are cautious as well as quick, but like an efficient racer, try to keep a tight caravan so that a chasing rider doesn’t have to bridge gaps between vehicles. My impression is that it’s more dangerous in the caravan than the peloton and it is often sheer madness. Many dangerous accidents have occurred between riders and cars as a result. Beware!

Prayer for Caravan Safety

“Caravans turn aside from their routes…”31Job 6:18


We are grateful for intra-race support, knowing that a willing helper follows behind our race. We confess we take safety for granted when focused on catching back. We pray for riders and drivers to have eyes to see and ears to hear, for all to stay on course, and for safety in the caravan.

Ponder Can I practice awareness under pressure? Affirm I can make safety as much of a priority as performance. Watch the road and ALL its occupants: riders, drivers, cars, motos, fans.


30“FBD Insurance Ras – Stage 2 – Emyvale to Tubbercurry,” by Mike Barton from Mike Barton’s Race Diary—53rd FBD Insurance RÁS—Tour of Ireland, News 2005

31The Bible, New International Version, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Bad Blow

Posted in March Madness on March 16, 2010 by bethleasure

17Ninety-nine percent of racing is just not being sick.”Andy Hampsten, Pro Cyclist

Time off the bike blows this time of year

It blows in like March winds with its familiar, but unwelcome fatigue, thick throat and beyond-normal farmer blow. Maddening! Cold season is winter, flu season November–February, but a 18cyclist is susceptible during special and a lot of times: after every hard training or race; off-season; cold/wet weather; increases in volume or intensity; around injury or crashes; and stage racing.

So are you sidelined? The old school cycling rule is above the neck, ride easy; below, rest. Is it a cold or is it flu? Flu usually comes on suddenly with high fever and cough, chills, aches, and exhaustion. Colds affect upper respiratory and come on gradually often with a sore throat, milder in fever, headache, fatigue.  Since colds and flu are viruses that can’t be treated by antibiotics, they must run their course (antibiotics can treat infections that result from these viruses.)

Relieve the symptoms. 19The cold virus lives best at 98.6 degrees, so raising the temperature in the throat and nose can help: through hot showers or breathing in steam, camphor-menthol rubs, chicken broth and warm fluids with salt (minimizes replication of virus) and freshly squeezed lemon – a natural expectorant. If necessary, over-the-counter meds bring relief for sore throat, cough, sinus and ear pain, but won’t kill the virus and must be checked against the banned substance list because some of these remedies may contain illicit ingredients.

Consult your doctor if fever persists beyond a few days, or any time you’re concerned about your congestion. Rest is the biggest thing: with the flu, no riding; with a cold, a short ride lightly sweating may ease congestive symptoms, but do not ride hard enough to pull mucous deep into lungs through heavy breathing. Get more sleep. Most importantly, vitamin, mineral and caloric deficiency contribute to compromised immunity. This is not the time to skip your daily multivitamin, have a negative caloric intake, or skimp on fresh foods. 20Most adults endure two to four viral illnesses per year, be encouraged as you await recovery!

Prayer for Treatment for Colds/Flu
“Woe to me because of my injury! My wound is incurable! Yet I said to myself, ‘This is my sickness, and I must endure it.’” 21Jeremiah 10:19 

We are glad that a cure for the common cold is time itself! We are discouraged when the first fresh signs of Spring fitness are rained on by illness. We ask for encouragement as we await recovery.

Ponder Will riding lightly be best? Affirm I make best use of this time through more sleep, heat, and fluid. Watch that as your energy improves, you ramp slowly and carefully back into riding.

17“Sick,” March, 2008 blog posting

18This is my opinion:

Time Frame       My Theories/Research                                                                             

Beginning of Off-Season        Either lacquered from a long, hard season OR Body rested enough to process dormant viruses. Inactivity suppresses immunity, but I think a cold is a small price to pay for muscle/mental rest.

Exposure to Cold                       Cold or Rain do not cause colds! (This is a fact.) Immune suppression due to glycogen depletion by not increasing calories to match energy to stay warm.

Volume/Intensity starts        Immune suppression due to glycogen depletion, inadequate rest.

Injury/Crashes/Stage Racing  Body needs more rest/more calories to recover/heal

19“FAQ Cold Treatment” Dr. Greene Content Alan Greene MD FAAP January 14, 2003 20“Cold & Flu Self Care Station,” Cal Poly Pomona

21The Bible, New International Version, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Blowing Up

Posted in March Madness on March 12, 2010 by bethleasure

24” I like to call it the ‘Jimplosion’…I start drilling it…‘Pop’ that is the sound of me blowing up…I am in oxygen debt…” Jim Allen, Category 5 Amateur Racer

A Man's Got to Know His Limitations


25Blowing up is not just an amateur mistake, elite riders pop also. Especially in early season when your mind remembers what you can do but your body isn’t quite ready for it, one can go on the rivet and then blow. Catching on after a blow requires a skill-set: learn to pace, modulate effort, tactical temperance, and in some cases, correctly interpret data from a pacing tool or 26powermeter.

In most race situations that require sudden decision-making, it’s best to understand one’s limits intuitively by feel. It’s good to test these limits periodically and try to get dropped as a result of a gutsy super-attack. In a planned peak, it’s effective to choose an unimportant event or training race and ride to just blow by either making repeated overreaching efforts or one earth-shaking maximum exertion. In weight training, this is referred to as max rep: a session of maxing out, so the system can 27progress. Physiologically, it’s not like a max rep because it’s an event of cardiorespiratory endurance but this tactical rationalization also mollifies a bruised ego if blown and dropped when it’s not your intention.

Catching on after overreaching, a wheel-change or any reason involves fitness, focus, finesse, and sometimes fear of being fined. The funniest chase story I ever heard was of 28two sleepy friends from different pro teams, fortunately both roleurs, happily sipping espresso several blocks away from the start line in the fresh air of a piazza prior to what was supposed to be one of the chill stages of the Giro. Instead, the two missed their start and were forced to chase for many kilometers before catching the gruppo. How’d you like to see the face of your director as you pass him in the caravan on that excuse – speaking of blowing up?

Whatever the cause, the chase is about managing emotions as much as it is ensuring aerobic energy in constant supply – we’re all constantly learning about limits and going beyond them.

Prayer for Catching On

“…he became a young lion, and learned to catch the prey, and devoured men…” 29Ezekiel 19:6


We are glad for opportunities to test our limits. We confess we don’t always appreciate the bounds which confine. We ask for energy to catch back after blowing it and to learn from the experience.

Ponder Have I tested my limits recently? Affirm I balance risk with pacing. Watch the clock for a start time, and your breath in the gap.

24“My First Race,” by Jim Allen from The Tao of Jim: Thoughts and Stuff blog posted on Monday, February 18, 2008

25Sometimes blowing up is used as a term interchangeably with bonking from glycogen depletion. Blowing up is used here to describe a maximum effort from which you cannot or can barely recover. 

26Effort indicators, such as rate of perceived exertion and heart rate aren’t nearly as effective for pacing as a powermeter, but even the objective data takes subjective interpretation to be useful in race situations. Further, training figures often vary from racing wattage due to hormonal and motivational factors.

27I was unable to find any cycling studies to substantiate this, so perhaps it’s one of cycling’s urban legends or more of a psychological benefit.

28I can’t remember which retired racing friend told me this story. I do remember thinking this kind of “planning” happens to the best of us. It was particularly funny because the directors weren’t aware that either rider was missing until the point they passed the caravan, and this stage was supposed to be a “restful” one for all but the final sprint.

29The Bible, New International Version, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Off the Baccalaureate

Posted in March Madness on March 9, 2010 by bethleasure

34“Collegiate cycling looks like the future of cycling.” Scott Coady, Cycling Filmmaker

From collegiate to pro


Finally, we arrive at the real March Madness – an exciting Spring phenomenon of conference play. College basketball is a fair comparison to collegiate bike racing: a few exceptional teams, enthusiastic fans, well-known coaches, a possible route of passage to the pros. Wish collegiate cycling had that varsity financing and media attention!

College students racing bikes is all about eagerness, self-discovery, lessons, and opportunity for honors. It is madness of the best kind as fervent young intellects are schooled in cycling’s lecture halls on the roads near university campuses. The courses are abridged versions of interesting venues – some rivaling elite parcours in petite sizes. The effect is a spring calendar in parallel with amateur and professional schedules.

American pro teams are drafting star juniors as they break into the national scene and allowing them the pick of the collegiate calendar to get legs and skills incognito away from pro-type pressure. On the women’s side, many of America’s elite riders are coming from collegiate racing – typically composed of female athletes from other sports with developed cardiovascular systems. This makes their time to elite development a somewhat shorter cycle and a better investment than women’s junior development, where typically girls grow up and decide for other pursuits.

The social aspect of collegiate racing coupled with its emphasis on team points and team events make it a fantastic training ground for teamwork and competitive consensus. Race-side at a dual-conference event is like a frat party for bike geeks. Whether collegiate racing leads to a bachelor’s degree in a cycling career or a better lifestyle, it makes a competitive curriculum for life-long fitness.


Prayer for Collegiate Cycling
“Know also that wisdom is sweet to your soul; if you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.  35Proverbs 24:14

We are thankful that another school of talent exists. We ask for blessing on collegiate cycling and a solid foundation for university riders.

Ponder What topics do I need to study to ace my exams as a rider? Affirm I can raise my GPA and earn a diploma in more cycling knowledge by studying the sport. Watch your collegiate conference events and cheer.

34Scott Coady is cyclist, pro-cycling fan, filmmaker and fundraiser. He made his first film – The Tour Baby! – to raise money for the Lance Armstrong Foundation in response to his best friend’s daughter being diagnosed with brain and spinal cancer and has raised over $250,000 for non profit causes. and

35The Bible, New International Version, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society