Sunday, October 12, 2008

Lance and Greg: Greg and Lance

Have you followed the interaction between Lance and Greg?

At Lance's recent announcement of his return to competitive cycling the first person to ask a question was Greg Lemond, the three time winner of the Tour de France. Greg did not ask Lance a question, but directed several questions to the person who will test and monitor Lance's compliance with anti-doping regulations.

The clear implication of Lemond's questions was to cast doubt on Lance's record. Why?

Lance won 7 Tour de France bike races and numerous lesser races around the world. During his many years of racing Lance NEVER tested positive for any banned substance, yet Greg seems to think Lance cheated.

Where is the evidence?

Much like the French media who despise Lance (the French people love him) Greg seems to be bent on diminishing Lance's record in the TdF. The French media hate Lance because no Frenchman has won the TdF since Bernard Hinault stole the 1985 tour from Greg (they were on the same team).

I think Greg has a severe case of the green-eyed monster. He cannot accept Lance's superior record in the TdF and is determined to undercut Lance's legacy.

So sad.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Culpeper Century -2008

The Culpeper Century
4 October 2008

“Ready to go?” Patrice asked. “We don’t want the “A Team” to get too far ahead.”

“I’m ready,” I answered and headed for my bike parked along the Salem Fire House. We were at the second rest stop of the day. Patrice had joined me after the first rest stop at Mitchells Presbyterian Church. I biked the first 23 miles with a group of four and we ate up the flat roads; Blackjack Road, Algonquin Trail, Zachary Taylor Highway (US 522) which had high speed traffic, and Mitchells Road which took us to the first rest stop. The speed worried me a little since I signed up for the Century and did not want to burn myself out during the first half of the ride. But I took my pulls at the front and at times reached 27 MPH on the flat sometimes slightly downhill sections. It brought back good memories of young legs and the fun of riding in a pace line.

Patrice was a steady cyclist. She had ridden a century many years ago and wanted to accomplish the feat again. Her family urged her to bike and even sent her to France on a biking trip as a present for her 50th birthday. She told me about climbing Mount Ventoux and the famous Alpe d’Huez.

I did not see Cathy when we passed our house on Merrimac. It was 9:47 and we were 31 miles into the ride. I told Cathy to look for cyclists between 10 and 10:30.

At the start a chilly wind hit my face as I flew down Chandler Street. To the left and right was the National Cemetery, the resting place for good folks who served the nation in uniform. I was a mile into the inaugural Culpeper Century and looking for a pace line to join. I knew Patrice was riding but did not see her at the riders meeting. I met Patrice a few weeks ago on my regular loop around the countryside near my home.

I was surprised at the small number of cyclists who signed up for the ride. I expected 200 or so and it appeared we were less than 100. And I did not win one of the door prizes! Great prizes they were: A Cannondale frame, a jersey, a tool kit, and dinner for two at It’s About Thyme (one of the best restaurants in town).

Much of the route would be new to me. I did not know the total elevation gained or how many of the energy sapping rollers I would encounter. For that reason I decided to take a wait and see approach as to whether I would ride the full Century or go for the Metric Century. It depended upon how my body felt. And I had reduced the miles since cycling the Rappahannock Rough Ride in ugly conditions.

“We turn left here. Ahead is one of the best views in Culpeper,” Patrice added. The roads were well marked with arrows indicating turns before a turn, at the turn, and after the turn. It was one of the best marked routes I had ever biked.

“Duncan Trail,” I said more to myself than to Patrice when we turned off Reva Road. A sharp little climb tested the legs, but we soon reached a level road and spun toward Oakland Road. After a bend Old Ragg Mountain with its huge stone formations, outlined in the morning light, stood before us. To the left and right the Blue Ridge Mountains stretched in waves of blue and purple. Closer to us the still green fields surrounded large farms. A brick fireplace dominated a side of a green-roofed white farm house. A walled cemetery, most likely a family plot, was nearby. Fat Angus cows grazed, the crops were in for the most part, and rolls of hay dotted the rolling pastures.

“How do you feel?” Patrice asked.

“Good so far.” I had informed her that I would decide near the second rest stop whether to bike the 101 miles or go for the Metric Century.

Patrice knew the cyclists in the ”A Team” and wanted to catch them or at least keep it close. I had biked with some of them during the RRR including Michelle (see blog post on the RRR) who was riding her first Century. The section of roads between the second and third rest stop was rolling with short steep climbs as we biked to the northeast. We passed Eggsbornville Road, Drogheda Mountain Road, and other roads that led us to cross Route 229. After another tough steep hill I flew down the next descent and saw the sign for the third rest stop at Mount Zion Church. Good, the “A Team” looked like they had just arrived.

Applause filled the air as I coasted up. I bowed from the waist and turned to look for Patrice. More clapping welcomed her. I looked at my computer: 62.4 miles into the ride. I grabbed a hand full of cookies, ate two orange slices, refilled my bottles – both empty. I was taking extra effort to hydrate properly. I filled one with water and one with Gatorade Rain. Then I paid my water bill – always a sign of adequate hydration.

The “A Team” left and we followed shortly. “They were shocked. Did you see their faces?” Patrice laughed.

“Well, we are just biking at a steady pace and making good time,” I answered. “They know your age, but wait till they learn my age,” I chuckled.

“Maybe we can catch them before Kelly’s Ford,” Patrice joked. “Wouldn’t that surprise them!”

We spun a few miles in silence. “Look, someone has a flat,” I said. Sure enough one of the “A Team” was working on a tire change and the others, about 10-12 riders were waiting.

We were caught just before Lakota Road by the pace line. The route turned east and pointed to Remington, the village near the Rappahannock River. At the traffic signal on US 29 we caught Marcel, Patrice’s Dutch friend who was cramping severely. We carefully crossed the RR tracks and took Summerduck Road through flat farm land on a silky road.

The last rest stop at Kelly’s Ford greeted us. More praise from the “A Team” greeted us when we appeared with Marcel. It was my first time at Kelly’s Ford and I was impressed with the large Inn next door. The parking lot was packed with vehicles.

“Almost home,” one of the “A Team” told us. “From here we have the climb after the narrow bridge, a few rollers, and flat or downhill all the way to Culpeper.” We were 82 miles into the ride and if the total was 101 miles as advertised, we were almost home free.

“Whoa. That is a narrow bridge,” I exclaimed after slowing and navigating the tricky approach to the bridge. “Wow, this must have been built for one team of mules pulling a narrow wagon.” I checked across the bridge before starting across. No way did I want to meet a speedster coming the opposite way on this thing!

The pace line caught us before we reached Route 3 in Lignum. ‘Now I know where I am,” I told Patrice. The roads were indeed flat or slightly down hill and we made good time. We caught and passed Marcel who was suffering with cramps again.

“They travel all over the world cycling, Marcel and his wife,” Patrice informed me. ”No kids, so a few years ago they quit work for two years and biked. What a life.”

I love to bike, but I don’t know that I want to spend all my time cycling. If I were younger, perhaps.

Marcel waved to us from the SAG on Batna Road. “Poor Marcel. He was really having a tough day,” Patrice remarked.

“Hello,” a person from a passing car waved and called to us.

“That’s Marcel’s wife. She must be looking for him.”

We inched closer to Culpeper crossing Route 3 again in Stevensburg. We turned left on Greens Corner Road and I knew we were headed for the intersection with US 29 where Eastern View High School just opened this fall. It was the second high school in the county.

I still felt good and I attributed that to eating and drinking during the ride. ”I drank 10 bottles,” I told Patrice.

“What?” she asked. “I only drank 3 bottles. That must be why I cramped.”

Wouldn’t you know it? In Culpeper the longest train in the world blocked the road. We were less than one half mile from the finish and a freight train delayed us. Oh, well. Trains do have their schedules.

At the Bike Stop, Rick, Patrice’s husband greeted her and snapped a photo of us. Patrice thanked me again, for the uumpteenth time for riding with her.

“My pleasure. It was fun and a really good ride. Thank you.”

I checked my Garmin 705:

104.2 miles
6,035 calories burned.
4670 feet elevation gain.
17.0 MPH average
Average Hr 123
Max Hr 148.

Keep spinning
John Dwight Brown
6 October 2008


The Rappahannock Rough Ride

The Rappahannock Rough Ride
Washington, Virginia
13 September 2008

I coasted up the rest stop. ”Wow,” I said after unclipping my right foot. It was as if someone had just turned on a steam bath. I was drenched in sweat.

“This is like Florida heat and humidity,” a woman remarked.

“It sure is,” I answered. I headed for the water and food laid out under a tent. Two young ladies, high school age, I guessed, were seated near the tent.

“Where are your bikes?” I asked with a grin.

"We don’t bike,” they answered together.

“Too bad,” I teased them. They were pretty and looked fresh even in the extreme heat and humidity on this Saturday morning.

It was my first time cycling the Rappahannock Rough Ride. It was a 100k ride through the countryside of Rappahannock County – one of the prettiest places on God’s green earth. I was biking with Stacy, my cycling buddy and friend. We were about 19 miles into the ride and so far it had been fast despite the constant up and down of rollers – hundreds of rollers that taxed the legs and sapped energy in the overbearing heat and humidity.

The mass start was at 10:00 AM. That was late for a bike ride start. Most rides start early -around 7:00- to help avoid the hotter part of the day. We lined up in the street in tiny Washington, Virginia – called Little Washington by most people to distinguish it from the Nation’s Capital 75 miles or so to the north. While waiting to start the ride director gave out the door prizes. Gift certificates for $25 and $50 were awarded. Then the big one came. It was a dinner for two at the world famous Inn at Little Washington. Who would win the coveted prize?

Not I! Not Stacy. So much for that!

Rappahannock County lies at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains with the western border of the county lying at the top near Skyline Drive. Page County is to the west, Warren and Fauquier Counties to the north, Culpeper County to the east and Madison County to the south.

The weather forecasts called for a chance of thunderstorms and rain. I hoped for a dry ride. Then the weather could do its thing. I didn’t realize the heat and humidity was going to produce the same effect as rain!

Stacy and I were old hands at cycling in Rappahannock County. One of our regular rides starts at Massies Corner at the intersection of US 211 and US 522. We bike 8 miles to Sperryville and tackle the 7 mile climb to Thornton Gap and to the Shenandoah National Park. The Skyline Drive is the main road, the only road that travels the 105 miles from Font Royal to Rockfish Gap. We go north to Front Royal and pickup US 522 again for the return to Massies Corner for a total of 65 miles with 19 miles of climbing. It is a tough, but great ride with cool mountain views, great descents, and frequent black bears sightings.

But today we crossed numerous streams flowing from the mountain. Each time I flew down a roller I knew a stiff climb waited on the other side. It was suffer like a beaten dog on the climb only to fly down the other side at 40 MPH to repeat the process again and again.
Rappahannock County does not permit cell telephone towers so I left my cell phone in the truck. The county has stringent rules on development and requires either 25 or 50 acre lots for residential permits. Folks here want to keep the country agricultural and small scale.
We crossed US 211 and I finally recognized the area. The roads to this point had been all new to me. Now we were spinning toward Flint Hill and a rendezvous with Crest Hill Road with which I am too familiar. Can you say ROLLERS?

”Who is that woman?” I asked myself when a young woman flew past me on the first climb on Crest Hill Road. It was not an easy climb. Just the opposite! It had grades of 10 -12 percent and this lady mountain goat soon disappeared from sight. Stacy gave chase, but she found the top first. Wow, I thought. She was in a group of eight cyclists and I latched onto the pace line. Stacy was ahead of us since the young lady had slowed at the top.

A pace line is fun if you can tag along. We maintained speeds above 20 MPH on the rolling road except for the short but steep sections. The same man led the line and it became clear he liked the front. Stacy tried to take a pull but the fellow refused to follow Stacy’s wheel. Strange. Another cyclist pointed to numerous road hazards; potholes, tree limbs, and sometimes to blades of grass. It is common for cyclists near the front to point to objects of danger on the road. This guy overused the pointing, in my opinion.

While drafting near the rear of the group I checked out the female mountain goat. She was small with well developed legs, especially thighs and pale skin (I wondered if she biked indoors). She dropped everyone on the rollers. There was no way my legs could keep up with her on the sharp and short climbs.

We turned left on Leeds Manor Road searching for the village of Hume. Stacy went to the front and I followed him to the turn west on Hume Road. Again, I was on familiar territory since Stacy and I bike these roads frequently. Also, I knew the second rest stop was at Marriott Ranch a couple miles west of Hume. Yet more rollers waited us. On the last roller a bee flew into my helmet and started to build a nest. Great! Just what I need now is a couple of bee stings in the head. I took my helmet off- while still riding – and brushed the bee away.
Ah, cold water!

I dripped sweat. It was too humid for sweat to evaporate so we were soaked. But there was shade along the stone wall that lined Hume Road. I ate a banana, an energy bar, drank a bottle of water, refilled, and drank more water. I knew the road and the rollers that waited for Stacy and me. We were at Mile 43 and had 17 miles to complete in the boiling heat and humidity. We spun past two more vineyards. The vines were bare of grapes, but green leaves still waved to us. I wouldn’t mind some tasty rice and lamb rolled in grape leaves and steamed to perfection. It was years ago that I last had them.

At the junction of US 522 and Hume Road we turned south. I knew we turned right before reaching Flint Hill and looked over Stacy’s shoulder. He was pulling me along at 25-28 MPH. After we passed Wakefield School we hung a right on another new road for us.
I was tired, hot, and wet. One last climb tested my legs. Garmin said 12-14 percent grade and I struggled up the twisting road. Ahead I saw pale skin flashing. Ah, the lady mountain goat scampers home.

“It should be illegal to climb hills the way she does,” I exclaimed when I motioned to the blonde lady. We had torn off the soaked jerseys, replaced the hot cycling shoes with sandals, and had a cold drink at my truck.

“She weighs 103 pounds….”

“How does she do it?” I asked of my parking neighbor who was one of the pace line group.

“Michelle started biking two months ago,” he replied.

“What?” I turned to look at Michelle.

“I have been running for 19 years,” she told me.

“Wow,” I replied. “You sure fly up the hills and rollers like a pro.”

She smiled, “It’s the cross training and all the miles I run.”

”Well, whatever it is, keep doing it.”

Garmin stats
60 miles.
4,000 feet elevation gain
3,600 calories burned.

17.9 MPH average
130 BPM HR average
158 BPM HR max

It was a good ride, but lousy weather conditions. The start should be moved to 8:30 AM or so. I need to win the big door prize!

Keep spinning,