Welch Creek Climb

Top of Welch Creek Climb

Welch Creek is a famous climb in Northern California and one of the hardest. I have only ever ridden it once before and that was on my mountain bike for a Low Key Hill Climb back in 2007.  I remember it being hard but not that much worse than Sierra Road. I wasn’t in great shape and came in in a lowly 55/60.

Me Racing LKHC on Welch Creek back in 2007

Welch Creek is back into the LKHC series for 2014 so I thought I had better go check it out. Today was supposed to be a recovery day so I chose my hard tail 29’er mountain bike for it’s low gearing.  It turned out that no matter how low your gearing is you cant do a recovery ride on that hill. It is an absolute monster and well deserves it’s fearsome reputation.  I went up it 5m47s quicker today than I did in 2007 with an average heart rate of 154 (2014) vs 178 (2007).  I do OK on climbs up to 6% but beasts like this one do not suit me.

View From The Top

 

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Tim Bell and Rock River Dirt Roads

Tim Bell  Dirt Road: 

Tim Bell Road : Start of the Dirt going South (rarely ridden in this direction)

* Tim Bell in the South to North Direction is used as part of the Warnerville road race so there are some very fast times on this segment and you can ride it with no problems on a road bike with 23mm tires. When I rode it in August 2014 the washboard was much worse than I remember.

Rock River Dirt  Road: 

Rock River Road. Start of Gravel (East to West)

 

Rock River Road : Start of the Dirt (West to East)

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Red Kite Tempus Fugit TT – Merckx Category (3rd Place), M35+ 3/4 (1st Place)

Comparison of Aero to Merckx Fixed:

Although I was more fatigued for the second run (Fixed) I was also probably better warmed up.  My legs actually felt pretty good after about 2 miles.

Aero vs Fixed Non-Aero

The Trek TTX advantage can clearly be seen even after 1 mile but the slope really become dramatic on the downhill return leg. From the 4.5 mile point to the turnaround there is not much difference between the two traces. It looks like the Wabi SE actually pulled back a bit of time at around 6.5. miles but it is because had to back off to avoid a Turkey on the Trek here.

Speed:

Speed : Purple Trace : Trek TTX. Blue Trace Wabi Fixed.

Very clearly quicker on the Trek just about everywhere.

Effort:

Pulse : Purple : Trek TTX. Blue Wabi Fixed

I dont know what to make of this trace. Looking at it you would think I didn’t try as hard on the fixed but that is certainly not how it felt.  You certainly cant push as hard on the downhills.

Merckx:

I was the only one daft enough to ride fixed gear on this hilly course but the Wabi Lightning SE felt fantastic. I chose a 48×15 gear which meant at times I was hitting in excess of 120RPM (30MPH+).  Cornering at 30MPH+ whilst pedaling at 120RPM plus was a bit wild.  I was unavoidably over-geared on the way out and under-geared on the way back but it was a blast. Even with gears I really doubt I could have beaten Chris Evans.

Results:

  1. Chris EVANS (27:37)
  2. Sascha MESSNER (28:34)
  3. Mark KING (28:41)

 

Merckx Category (48 x15 fixed) – Photo by Katie Trong

 

Masters 35+ 3/4:

I am a bit of a wimp on the bumpy fast downhills and reckon I lose some time but I still managed to equal my p.b.

Results

  1. Mark KING (26:52)
  2. Rick LAWTON (27:37)
  3. Richard NICHOLS (27:34)

M35+ 3/4 (Photo by Katie Trong)

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Warnerville and Cooperstown Dirt Roads

Where the Pavement Ends

Warnerville Dirt Road: 

Start of the Gravel heading West

Cooperstown Dirt Road: 

One of several railroad crossings

Several Old Bridge crossings

Pretty Desolate

 

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What makes me slow?

The road racing season is over for me this year and it has been a disappointing one.  Even though I have been plagued by Sinusitis all year and felt bad it doesn’t explain completely why my time trialing and road racing  have been so lack luster. In the fall of 2012 I felt stronger than I had in years and could put the hurt on team mates at will.  I did massive personal bests for Diablo and Mt Hamilton hill climbs and was time trialing probably at my best ever. In 2013 I had a pretty good year but concentrated heavily on speed over short distance time trials and by mid year I was a mere shell of what I was in 2012 .  I worked hard but was still well down on my 2012 pace and had a pretty disappointing hill climb season. Was I just getting old ?

The lethargy of 2013 spilled over into 2014. It never really got going for me and my time trialing, climbing and road racing have been very lackluster.  I had a few flashes of my old self (particularly time trialing on fixed gear) but generally I have been going slower and slower. I certainly lost more Strava KOM’s than I got this year. The final nail in the coffin was a terrible performance at the Warnerville time trial a few weeks ago and I knew something had to change.

What did I do so different in 2012 that made me so strong in the second half of the year ?  I did two very different things in that year. Firstly the first few months of the 2012 season was spent concentrating on Double Centuries and endurance events.  Secondly I was doing all my long rides on recumbents.   Whilst I have no intention of going back to recumbents* (at least in the short term) the big mileage doubles might be a key for me.  I know that modern sports thinking looks on massive base miles as nothing better than training to be able to do massive base miles but maybe for me I really need them.

I have done a few endurance events over the past few weeks (Death Ride and Santa Cruz Mountains Challenge) as well as upping my weekly mileage to around 270. To be honest I feel vastly better for doing this rather than shorter intense interval and speed sessions.  This week I did a personal best for the Del Valle climb (beating my 2012 record)  and managed a 58 minute assault up Diablo on not such a great day. My Diablo time is still 3 minutes off my 2012 effort but I hope by October I have managed to get the form back.

For 2015 I am going back to endurance events. DMD here I come.

What makes me Fast ?

*Note:  I still believe the recumbent to be the ultimate weapon of choice for Endurance races where the climbs are less than 10% gradient due to superior comfort and aerodynamics.  Road bikes are catching up in terms of comfort with sub 17 pound Carbon wonders such as the Cannondale Synapse, Giant Defy and Calfee Manta pro and they always win out with drive chain efficiency.  I don’t think anyone could win the DMD or Terrible Two on a recumbent. I am still keeping my Bacchetta Corsa SS for the times when doing well on the road bike isn’t so important again.

 

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Last BTC 10 Mile TT : A Tale of Two Fixies

The bikes used for the different categories

My goals for the last BTC time trial were pretty simple. I wanted to set new records for the Single speed Aero and Non-Aero Men on back to back rides. Although I have not returned to full power after my illness I am a few pounds lighter than last year.   I was feeling quite confident after my recent hard block of TT racing on fixed and felt I could do it,

Event 1: Single speed Aero Men

I had to get up at 4:45am for this event, which is no fun at all,  but once I started warming up I felt OK. The temperatures were cool but pleasant and the wind was very light. These were not ideal conditions on this course for a fixed gear bike as you really want a headwind on the mainly down hill outbound leg and a tailwind to blow you up the hills on the way back. I had only converted the  felt TK3  to Aero on Thursday and had one  brief test ride to try it out but it felt good. My previous fastest time on the TK3 was set with the same setup and pretty normal wheels but this time I was intending to use my HED’s.  Unfortunately my HED disk did not turn up until the night before so the race was going to be my first test ride. I opted for a skinsuit and my Kask Bambino helmet for speed.

The race itself went to plan and the bike felt really fast on the outbound leg. I struggled a bit on the return leg on the hills but I could feel I was on for a good time. I ended up knocking off 42 seconds of my p.r, but wished I could have found five seconds to break into the 23’s.

Event 2: Single speed Non- Aero Men

I have been doing a lot of work on my speed in the “Merckx” category so I was hopeful that I could bag the second record of the day. I knew I had my work cut to beat the record as when I did the 24m50s there was a good tailwind on the return leg.  Some of the hills on this course (particularly the first mile) end up being speed limited on the fixed gear as I simply cant pedal any faster so it is good to have a wind to push into.  The same hill on the way back is slow enough that a good tailwind will make a significant difference to your average speed. Todays conditions were pretty much neutral wind.

After the first event I had to swap bikes, change clothing to regular Shorts and Jersey and change helmets. All this left me with less than 5 minutes to do a very short warmup on the Wabi so the adrenaline was flowing a bit on the start line.  Compared to the aero setup the Wabi felt much slower over the first couple of miles (see speed trace below) but it felt great on the hills. You can see the Wabi was quicker over the last 2 miles in the speed trace below even though my legs felt more fatigued. I ended up with 25m05s which was a disappointing  15 seconds slower than the record.

Purple = Felt TK3, Blue = Wabi SE

Looking at the Comparison of the two races,  the clear speed advantage the aero bike had on the flats and down hills is very obvious. Considering both bikes were speed limited by 48 x 15 gearing the difference over the first three miles is quite remarkable. The time difference between the two bikes of 1m01s is probably a fair reflection of the aero advantages.  I think on a flat course the difference would be bigger.

Old but interesting paper comparing Merckx style  to TT bike.

Final Records:

Single speed Aero Men

  1. 24:04 Mark King Kovarus/Wells Fargo Racing Team 6/14/2014
  2. 24:46 Mark King Team Fremont/ FFBC p.b. Chipotle 3/16/2013
  3. 24:56 Mark King Kovarus/Wells Fargo Racing Team 2/15/2014

Single speed Non-Aero Men

  1. 24:50 Mark King Team Fremont/ FFBC p.b. Chipotle 4/25/2013
  2. 25:05 Mark King Kovarus/Wells Fargo Racing Team 6/14/2014
  3. 25:25 Mark King Kovarus/Wells Fargo Racing Team 5/24/2014

 

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PCSD 40K Time Trial : Wabi Lightning SE (48 x 15 Fixed).

I got up at 5am to go to work so I could finish earlier to drive to Dixon for the Davis Wheelworks TT.  I felt incredibly  tired all day at work and the commute to Dixon was horrendous but after a 20 minute power nap when I got there I felt fine  After my coach’s comments that I was overdoing the warmups in the Californian summer heat I did less of of a warm up than usual but felt better for it. A 20 minute warmup including the first 5 minutes at “village policeman pace”  and three race pace 1 minute efforts seems to work well for me.

The wind was completely different to the Dunlap TT with a Pretty strong headwind out rather than a crosswind. I would hazard to guess that the wind was from the West (Dunlap it was from the North).  The  temperature was much nicer too with the mercury hovering in the mid eighties.

My tactics was to push really hard into the wind out to the turn and then recover a bit on the spinning tailwind return.  I touched over 30MPH with the tailwind into the finish which equated to 120RPM plus.  I don’t think I am particularly efficient at this pedaling speed but the Wabi was absolutely zinging on the Vittoria tires and latex tubes.

I think 48×15 was about right for me tonight.  I did feel overgeared into the wind and undergeared with it on my back but I don’t think i could have pushed anything bigger into that wind without cooking my legs.

Hammering Into the Wind

Times:

  • Leg 1: 10k [16m43s]
  • Leg 2: 10k to 20k [14m26s]
  • First 20k [31m09s]
  • Leg 3 : 20k to 30k [17m18s]
  • Leg 4: 30k to 40k [14m09s]
  • Last 20k: [31m27s]
  • Overall : [1h02m36s*] * Official times still have not been Posted

The split times clearly show the impact of the wind. Legs 1 and  3 into the headwind were really hard but there was a good payback on the final leg which resulted in a time that gave a very close 20K split (18 seconds slower than the first). An 18 seconds difference between the first and second split shows a big improvement for me as on all my other Putah 40k’s I have has a much worse differential.  My best time on 48 x 15 fixed on my Felt TK3 with aero bars, skinsuit and aero helmet was 59m52s so I am 2m42s slower Merckx style.

Comparison of “Aero” (7/5/12) vs “Non-Aero” (6/11/14) 48×15 fixed.

Average Speed = 23.8MPH * Final speed to be confirmed

This means I was 1.2MPH down on my “Project 72″ goal.  The Wabi felt really good and I don’t think there is anything I could do to make things faster.  The bike was unchanged from the Dunlap TT on Sunday. Perhaps upping the gearing to 50 x 15 might help but there is a big risk if the wind was a strong as it was tonight. I am trying different road helmets to see if any are a bit faster which might net some speed. The trouble is I have no idea if the Kask or the Specialized S works is faster as there is no perceptable difference on the bike. Back in 72  there were no helmets so the goal here is to make me as fast with a helmet as I would be without one. 1.2MPH is quite a goal for improvement :)

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Dunlap 30K TT : Merckx Category (48 x 15 fixed) : 1st Place

This was a brutally hot race for me,  registering at an average temp of 106 degrees Fahrenheit, and it was also very windy.  My weapon of choice was my Steel Fixed gear Wabi with a few tweaks since I last raced it.  I mentioned the new Vittoria Tires in a previous blog post and they feel wonderful on this bike.  The bike seems to have much more zip and when warming up on the rollers the rolling resistance change is very noticeable.  I also put a longer stem on (now 120mm) and upped the diameter of the bars and stem to 31.8 and swapped the brake levers for some nice Crane Creek items.  The result is a bike that feels much more responsive for out of the saddle sprints and the change also dropped the weight down to 17.5 pounds. I also find the new bars to be much more comfortable both in the drops and on the hoods.

My final tweak for Dunlap was to borrow a tighter fitting jersey from my wife as my medium race cut Voler team jersey can be a bit flappy at the front when on the drops. It also helped that this jersey was extremely well vented with the back section virtually mesh fabric.  I love the fit of Castelli clothing and it is a shame that we cant get our team kit from them.

2014 Dunlap 30K TT

Unfortunately all these tweaks were offset by pretty hard conditions for fixed.  The majority of the course was crosswind which suits fixed fine but there were two sections that had a really strong head/tail  wind.  Big differentials in wind resistance are the enemy of the fixed rider as you are usually too low geared to take advantage of the tail wind and you have to grind back into the headwind.  The 2.5 mile section after the turn on Stephenson Bridge road was really hard today and I had to dig really deep just to keep the gear turning.  I was doing everything in my power to get as low as possible to cheat the wind but still dropped down to 18 MPH in places.

The net impact of fighting the mighty wind was that I was pretty cooked for the last 6.7 miles to the finish. I think the return leg had a slightly less favorable wind and was clearly slower for me than the outbound leg. I really suffered those last miles with my mouth dry as a bone and my tongue trying its best to stick to the roof of my mouth.  When I  finished I was smashed and felt uncomfortably hot.  It took me quite a while and a lot of cool drinks before I felt human again.

I ended up with a time of 47m49s which was good enough to win the Merckx Category but there were only 3 people signed up for it.  Second Place was ex womens Master World TT champ  Molly Van Houweling but she had already ridden once to win the womens Cat1/2/Pro category so she must have been tired. It is interesting to note the difference between Molly’s aero and non-aero times (44m06s vs 49m31s).   It is hard to draw firm conclusions as she was likely to be tired for the second attempt and it was also much hotter but 5m25s is pretty significant.

My “Project 72″ goal for this event was to beat 24 MPH (46m30s) but unfortunately I fell well short of achieving this with a speed of only 23.4 MPH (47m49s). It was all I had on the day and I don’t think there was anything I could have done to the bike to have gone any faster. I even had a great motivator in the shape of Molly chasing me off 30s.

Darn that was a hard TT :)

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First Race : Project 72

Monday :

I got my new Wabi bike on Monday night and it will form the basis for “Project 72″ (Beating 25MPH for 40K in the style of 1972). The bike was very well packed for shipping with the only issue being the back wheel was slightly buckled upon first inspection.  It didn’t very long to assemble the bike and then I spent a couple of hours dialing in the same position as my Specialized road bike. The bike with front brake, two brake levers, flip flop cog and pedals weighed in at 18 pounds exactly. Unfortunately it was too dark to go for a proper test ride.

Tuesday:

I finally finished setting up the Wabi Lightning SE and took it for its first ride on Tuesday night after work.  My first impressions were that it rode really nice and I immediately felt comfortable on it. I tried a few time trial efforts and in comparison to my felt TK3 track bike it felt a bit sluggish (especially out of the saddle efforts) but it also felt more stable. Once up to speed there was little to choose between the two bikes although I felt the Kenda Kosmic Lite tires felt a little dead.

After about 30 minutes of riding I increasingly felt unhappy with the shape of the bars and these are something I am going to have to change out.  I am also going to up the bar and stem size to 31.8 in order to give the front end a bit more stiffness for out of the saddle efforts. The unbranded saddle turned out to be pretty comfortable.

Wednesday: Putah Creek #7  10 Mile TT:

Putah Creek TT “Merckx” style

I made a last minute decision to ride the 10 mile TT (16k) near Winters on what turned out to be a pretty hot night (99 Degrees when we got there). I got in a pretty good warmup and my position felt quite comfortable with the exception of a bit of finger numbness. I felt slow compared to the other people warming up on their fancy TT bikes but I was glad I had no aero helmet as it was roasting hot.

My goal was to achieve 25.1MPH and a time of less than 24 minutes as this would reflect the same speed I would need to do to achieve my 40K goal. Despite pushing really hard I only achieved a speed of approx 24MPH.  The official time has not been posted at the time of writing but my Garmin reckoned 24m59s.

This means I have a lot of work to do if I am to fulfill “Project 72″. I need to find another 1 MPH and keep that going for an extra 24 kilometers. From the photograph above I can immediately spot  one thing that is holding me back. My jersey is flapping with the wind and billowing at the front. The back and shoulders look really good but up front things are in a sorry state. I am not exactly sure what I can do to fix this. I have a much tighter Castelli road vest I could wear but I really want to wear my team kit.

I also feel I can get some extra speed by swapping out the Kenda’s for some higher quality race rubber and latex tubes so after the race that is exactly what I did. I also went out of my way to get retro looking tire walls.  My tires of choice are:

“Vittoria Open Corsa SC  : Pro peloton’s favorite in 2012, Corsa SC enhances the all-conquering Corsa CX with the features specifically asked for by professional cycling teams, and a new tread. It’s now our leading 320 TPI Cotton tires clincher, hand-made of course, and available with traditional para sidewall for classic looks.  A true connoisseur’s choice.”

 

Vittoria Open Corsa SC rubber

The bike looks even more retro now

“Project 72″

I will try the new rubber out on Sunday in the Dunlap memorial 30K TT. I am hoping to beat 24MPH for the 30K (46m30s).

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You Can Teach An Old Dog New Tricks

I rode my friends rollers a few times in my teens but gave up on them in favor of the new craze of  “Turbo” trainers. Turbo trainers clamped your forks and you couldn’t fall off no matter how hard you tried. I never rode the rollers again until I was 21 where I entered the East Riding division roller racing championships.

Roller racing my way to a bronze medal.

The good thing about roller racing was that someone held you up so all you had to do was pedal, really hard. I was a bit of a sprinter demon at the time (I know I don’t exactly look like one) and managed to get a bronze medal for my efforts.

Fast forward 27 years and I was suddenly presented with a dilemma on how I was going to warm up for time trials on my fixed gear bike where the roads were not suitable.  In a mad impulse I purchased a pair of rollers and thought how hard could they be.  Unfortunately for me I have been plagued by sinus problems for the last 9 months and this seems to have had some negative impact on my balance.

My first attempt at riding the rollers was absolutely comical and terrifying at the same time. The worst thing you can do on rollers is stiffen up and I ended up frozen rigid with fear. It was my first time riding my new fixed gear project bike too and it took me a while to have the courage to let go of the wall for fear of falling off and scratching it.   In total I did about 10 minutes and that was enough for one night.

Next day I got up early before work and had another go. This dog was going to learn this new trick come hell or high water.  This time I got going pretty quickly and managed a full 20 minutes without any serious wobbles.  I still don’t feel at ease on this strange contraption but hopefully on tomorrows session I will see the same level of progress and by the Dunlap TT on Sunday I will be an expert :)

 

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