Saturday, May 22, 2010

The little Things

After watching the thrilling Big Bear stage of the Amgen Tour, I was inspired to test my aching back by heading out into a vicious wind just before dark yesterday. I knew that stage would be brutal, very close to the feared Mt Ventoux in France, as I used to ride up to Mt Wilson from the Cal Tech area when living in the Pasadena area in the 80's. Hincapie, who's performance was stellar and gritty, stated flat out it was the hardest stage ever in the history of the Amgen Tour.

That said, with a 20mph on-shore breeze (tail wind) that was 20-25 degrees below normal for this time of year, that stage could have been much more difficult. Typical conditions this time of year would be mid to high 80's and smog limiting visibilities to less than 3 miles. Once above 5,000 ft though, they would have been in clean air, being above the thermal inversion that sits like a lid on the LA basin's air. I was shocked to learn Cavendish didn't even make the time cut yesterday :-O ... and over 30 riders quit or were DQ-ed.

I find myself agreeing with Leipheimer that after all of that climbing the race should have been a true mountain-top finish, not a high-altitude flat sprint of circuits. There is a back way into Big Bear that is steeper and would offer a true mountain top finish. Let's hope it will be included in next  year's course. Multiple attacks by RadioShack failed because the grade was just not steep enough. Perhaps they could start in Pasadena instead of Palmdale, descent though the Cajon Pass, and finish coming up the back way to BB. Little things.

As part of my efforts to get my bike as optimized as possible for TT use, I tried a little experiment. I moved my downtube waterbottle rack down one hole and zip-tied the bottom hole onto the frame using a rubber pad and some vinyl tubing over the tie for its stickiness, and to protect the frame from scratching. It turns out the area down near the bottom bracket is an area of very turbulent airflow, so moving the bottle down there seemed worth a try.

It worked! The airflow from handlebar level down to the top of the cage is nice and clean - perfect for dumping the air that gets compressed and funneled down the torso. Riding into stiff headwinds I can really feel the difference. It's almost as much help as lowering the handlebars 10mm. The bike is also less susceptible to cross-winds, which I was very thankful for last night, as I was almost blown into an oncoming rider by an especially strong gust coming straight up the river into the bend I was on.

I'm sure the DT Revolution spokes were helping too, as was my pump slung beneath my seat bag instead of sticking out from the side of my frame, aerobars and a very slick Garmin mount. I have also become religious about bringing my top knee to the bar the instant I stop pedaling. As is true in most sports, the difference between the good and the great are many, many little things, not one big thing. Of course, as Peter Sagan has prooved, being 20 doesn't hurt either!

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