Hill Climb Season 2015

I am sat at the computer fighting off a miserable cold/ sinus infection picked up on my business trip to Norway and mulling over the cancellation of another two time trials. Naturally my thoughts turn to the hill climb season as with the exception of the tempus Fugit TT the TT season is over. The HC calendar at the moment looks like this.

  • September 12th : Mt. Tamalpais Hill Climb
  • September 20th : Fremont Peak HC
  • October 4th : Mount Diablo Challenge
  • Low Key Hill Climb Series ???????. I am hoping that the low key hill climb series also returns this year but things have been deadly quiet on that front up to now.

With the lack of entries for this type of event in 2015 I have worries that the two hill climbs in September will also end up being cancelled. I have ridden the Fremont Peak hill climb twice before and really enjoyed it but have never ridden the Mt Tam event. Last year the Mt Tam event was cancelled,

Neither of the two events in September are suitable for single speed as both feature a high speed flat opening section but I plan to return to the Diablo Challenge on the Wabi Single Speed. I am hoping to try to knock at least a minute off last years time.

Fingers crossed that no events get cancelled and I cant wait to start training for these events once I get rid of this darn cold.

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I have spent a considerable amount of effort getting a comfortable position on my TT bike after my nightmare experience at the National champs two weeks ago.  Seat of the pants feel is that I am not as fast but I am a 100% more comfortable. I have done a couple of hour long efforts in the weeks leading up to Sattley and not experienced any of the issues (including saddle sores) that hurt my efforts at Loyalton.

My goals for the race were to beat 57 minutes (to achieve a life time personal best at the age of 49) and to finish in a state where I could still walk.  My plan was to go for a negative split where I didn’t push quite so hard on the outbound leg and then have a faster leg home.  I had noticed in reviewing my previous 40K attempts that i always fade on the return leg and i am sure this hurts my time more.

The weather was just about perfect at Sattley with temperatures around 60 degrees and fairly light winds.  I wouldn’t need a bottle today but I took one just in case.  I set off at my target outbound power plan but was a bit disappointed with my speed. It felt like a headwind out so I had my fingers crossed that there would be a tailwind home. The funny thing about the Sattley course is that although it looks flat, there are drags that really sap your speed and they can be quite frustrating. At about 5 miles the road surface degrades a bit and there are expansion joints every 15 feet which are incredibly annoying.  I hit a section of these expansion joints on the way back that completely destroyed my pace for a while.

I hit the turn at at exactly 57 minute pace and was hoping for a storming tailwind home (averaged 289W). Unfortunately it felt like a headwind on the way back too so it was not going to be easy on the slightly shorter return leg.  Even though I had throttled back slightly on the way out I still suffered badly on the way back and struggled home at around 20W less than the outward leg.  I am a little puzzled how I can put out 330W for an hour on a climb but less than 280W for an hour in a flat time trial. I do think that altitude has an impact on my breathing which kills my FTP and today my average pulse was around 10bpm down on my usual 40K efforts.

In the end I managed a new all time personal best of 56m45s  but was deeply disappointed at the finish feeling that I had not done a good ride. I felt I should have rode a much stronger second leg and could not figure out why my power faded so badly.

Result : 6th Place 56:45 (New pr)

Winner : Dan Bryant 50:13

Not as low as I should be but comfortable. Skinsuit is billowing a bit on the top of my shoulders (not good)

Looking at the above picture I thought my saddle looked a bit low and when I just checked it had dropped by 1/2″ during the event. Those expansion joints must have caused the saddle to slip down which is a problem i seem to be having a lot this year with the Trek. I doubt this was the reason for the power drop on the way back but it cant have helped.

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Fiddling With my TT position. 1 Week to State Champs

This week I have ridden my TT bike almost every day and apart from today I have changed some aspect of my position. I have made some huge progress over my nationals setup and my shoulders now feel much more relaxed and my saddle doesn’t tear up my nether regions like a grinder. My saddle is slightly lower, my bars are about an inch higher and my aero bars are a bit wider apart (still not convinced the Specialized Power Expert is the saddle for me).

I feel like i am not as aerodynamic and that I am not putting out the same power but I do feel much more comfortable.  I rode for an hour today in the TT position and got no sores and my IT band problems were thankfully absent so that was a huge win. I don’t really have any benchmarks to compare speed and power in the new position, as I have felt very run down since the 40k, but it is too late to fiddle around with stuff anymore.  In the off season I am going to get a professional TT bike fit but for the remaining TT’s I will stick with what I have.

What’s left in terms of TT’s for 2015:

  • State 40k TT champs (Satley, CA): Flat course at a pretty high Altitude (approx 5000ft) which I seem to have some issues with.
  • Beat The Clock 16k (Woodside, CA) ????: Possible date Change means I might be able to ride this. Currently the same date as Satley.
  • Warnerville TT 35k:  Sporting course with poor roads, railroad crossings, nasty heat, plagues of locusts and an evil uphill finish. I hope to reverse the trend of the last two years where I have gone slower and slower.
  • Esparto TT: 30K: Mixture of a flat to rolling course. Another TT where I seem to go slower every year. Ridden in 2012 and 2013 but missed it last year as it clashed with Tempus fugit.
  • Tempus Fugit Summer 18k: I won this one last year but in the spring version in 2015 i was well off the pace. Only concern is that it is the day after the Bodie Bowl Fat Bike race. I hope the fat bike race and the long drive back doesn’t destroy my legs too much.
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Sattley Time Trial (NCNCA TT Championships) Planning

After the somewhat disastrous National Championships at Loyalton I came away with a few things I need to work on in the short two weeks before the district championships:

  • I need to have a bottle on my bike.  The dry hot air at altitude makes 40K without a bottle a really bad idea for me.
  • I need to be comfortable for an hour on the bike
  • I need to sort out my hip/IT band  issues*
  • I need to sort out my saddle related problems

There is not much I can do in terms of training and stretching that would make my current TT setup effective for Satley in just two weeks.  In the same way there is no point in being super aero if I am so uncomfortable after 20 miles that I can’t stay on the aero bars. With this in mind I am going to work on a position that is comfortable that I can adapt to in a very short time period and one that opens up my hip angle.  I can put out some great power and speed on my current setup for 10 miles but that is no help over 25 miles.

*After some searching on the web I am convinced that what happened to me at The National 40K  was that my Tensor fascia latae muscles were utterly exhausted or cramping.  The hip pain I was experiencing was exactly in the areas shown in the diagram below.  This is all related to IT band issues so If I fix one I should fix the other.


With respect to the Specialized Power saddle I was so unhappy with it that I was going to sell it but after doing much research on line It seems that the nose up aspect of the UCI position is one of the main problems.  Satley does not require the horizontal (nose to Tip) requirement so I can setup the saddle as intended by the manufacturer.  I only hope this will fix the annoying saddle sores this saddle keeps giving me but I still feel it is the width that is causing many of the problems.

So far only one rider is signed up in the 45-49 age group but he is listed as “Team BMC” which means he has to be really fast. I am not so bothered about my position at Satley but my goal is to beat 57 minutes and to finish in a state where I can still walk :)

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National Elite 40k TT Championships : Loyalton CA

Even as late as Tuesday I was still fiddling around to get a comfortable position with my new UCI legal setup. I could put in some good power numbers for a mile but for for longer distances it felt like my saddle height was wrong and my hips and IT band felt very uncomfortable. I have never encountered such lack of comfort on my TT bike before even when I had to convert to a UCI position the night before the masters TT championships a few years ago. The setup was not radically different from what I had previously (apart from the saddle) so I suspect my discomfort is mainly related to my lack of training in the TT position on this bike.  I also suspect all is not right with me and the new saddle as I really think this saddle is not intended to be used “UCI horizontally”. I am developing a deep dislike for the new saddle (So are my nether regions).

Final UCI legal position For the TT……..well almost

My strategy for the week was to put in a few hard intervals on Tuesday on the TT bike but keep the duration short, rest Wednesday and then pre-ride the course Thursday with a few leg openers to open up the pipes for Friday’s race. When I got to the course on Thursday afternoon it was very hot and very windy.  The course also turned out to be pretty bumpy if you rode close to the edge due to expansion joints in the road. My handlebars actually shifted during the ride due to these bumps.  I took the chance to do some extended efforts at tempo in the aero position but quickly found i was suffering from hip discomfort after about 5 miles.  I finished my course pre-ride pretty drained and had sore hips and IT bands despite not pushing very hard.

The TT course the day before

On Thursday evening I went to Northstar to have my bike checked out to ensure it was UCI legal. It passed the bike check with no issue which is more than can be said for many of the bikes there.

Waiting for the bike check

Come race day I still had sore legs but I did an extended trainer workout at fast but light tempo and my legs actually started to feel pretty good.  I felt my saddle was a little low on the warmup so I put it up 1cm and it definitely felt better (reading up on the subject of hip angle related TT problems after the event indicated that this was probably a very bad idea). There seems to be a particularly nasty hot air at altitude that really dries you out. I felt very hot and thirsty while warming up despite drinking plenty.

Race day

As I pulled up to the start ramp I was expecting a full bike check and weigh in but to my surprise all they did was check my brakes worked. I asked the official what was going on and he said they were not enforcing UCI rules for my event. I was taken aback by this announcement especially because of all the trouble I had gone to to be UCI compliant. It felt very warm waiting for my start in my Kask helmet. I didn’t have provision for a bottle on my bike as i thought aero bottles were banned for UCI events and this was worrying me a bit. Fortunately my friend Brian brought me an icy cold bottle to drink from while I waited.

Start Ramp [Picture by Jenny ]

I felt pretty good for the first 2 miles and was riding at a good controlled pace but still maintaining 27MPH +. After 2 miles I put it up a gear and pushed on at race pace but things started to feel a bit harder. i felt as if I was riding into a bit of a headwind. When I got to the 90 left at 5 miles I definitely felt like I was riding into a headwind and I started to struggle a bit. I thought I should push hard into the headwind as the way back would be much faster. The next 7.5 miles to the turn were generally very hard but occasionally the wind seemed to drop and my speed picked back up to 27MPH +. It felt a very long way to that turn but I was looking forward to a tailwind home.

Unfortunately it felt even harder on the way back and i really started to struggle. My mouth was so dry my tongue kept sticking to the roof of my mouth and sweat was running into my eyes. I kept pushing on waiting for the super fast 5 miles to the finish but the turn never seemed to get any closer. I got passed by a few riders over the next few miles and my power was dropping alarmingly. I really began to wonder if I could hold the pace to the finish.

[Picture by Jenny Peng]

 I finally hit the 5 mile turn to the finish and didn’t really experience the tail wind I was expecting. I started to get major pain in my hips and my power was dropping even further. I pushed on as hard as I could but the pain in my legs was getting worse. I got to 4 miles to go and had to change down a gear and seriously wondered if I could even get to the finish. I have never suffered like this before in a TT and I hate to think how much time i lost over these last few miles.  In the end I still managed a personal best time of 57m14s (Road bike, not recumbent) but this time was only good enough for 70th out of 77 riders. The winner did a time of 47m22s !!!!!

After the finish I was in excruciating pain in my hips and could barely pedal the bike. I couldn’t even move for a long while after getting off. My IT bands were tight as guitar strings and I was not able to walk properly or drive the car.  I sat down in the car for about 10 minutes drinking several bottles of water and took some strong pain killers.  Eventually the pain died off enough for me to start the 4.5 hour drive home. Despite the worst TT of my life i still really enjoyed the event but i need to sort out my position before i do any more TT’s this year.

Many thanks to Team Fremont for looking after me and letting me warm up under their tent.

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Diablo Hill Climb TT cancelled

Due to lack of entries my clubs hill climb TT has been cancelled. This is a great disappointment for me as I was really looking forward to riding this one on the Wabi Classic Single speed. Never mind, I can still look forward to Mt Diablo challenge and the low key hill climb series in the fall.

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Fixed No Good for nationals ?

Just saw a posting on the time trial forum that appears to prevent fixed gear from UCI road events :(

I am going to have to dust off the Trek !

Oh Dear !

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It’s Mt. Diablo Hillclimb TT time again. Practice 2

I had decided to try a 18t this week and even though I had a brand new spare Shimano 18t freewheel in the toolbox I couldn’t bring myself to use it on my race bike.  I normally exclusively use White Industries ENO freewheels for my hill climb bike but I just couldn’t afford keep buying different sizes for different gear rations so I went with Excess Components 3/32 freewheels instead. I was able to buy 5 of these for the price of one White Industries cog on sale from Amazon. I was really hoping they were not the junk that the Shimano freewheels are (I do use these on my commute bike but they develop a lot of play pretty quickly) or even worse the ACS freewheels I tried. I tried two ACS freewheels on my single speed CX bike and one started slipping after riding in the rain just once. The second one worked better but sounded horrible after only 500 miles and my chain kept derailing (a problem I have never experienced on any other freewheel on my commute bike). The spec of the Excess sounded very encouraging:

 Excess Components Single-Speed Freewheels

  • Cold forged from 4130 chromoly
  • 3 heavy-duty fast engaging/releasing pawls
  • 30 Points of engagement for an instant and reliable start every time
  • Show chrome finish on the outside, titanium finish in the center
  • 8-spline body for weight savings and easier removal with standard tool

FREEWHEELS — White Industries

The freewheel utilizes a sealed cartridge bearing instead of a loose ball system. There are two advantages to the cartridge bearing:
•It is sealed from elements like mud, grit, and water.
•The bearing is nicely contained in one simple unit, easily pulled and replaced when worn.

The ENO freewheel features a machined inner driver and machined outer gear case resulting in a freewheel that runs concentrically without the tight and loose spots common to other freewheels. A 36 point engagement system and a case hardened, nickel electro-plated outer gear case make this freewheel a perfect addition to your single speed. For trials riders or those wanting a beefier version we offer the trials freewheel with 72 points of engagement and a thicker outer gear case to withstand the rigors of a more demanding style of riding.

The good news is although they do not feel quite as smooth or tight as a White Industries freewheel and the chain is a little noisier they actually feel great with a crisp engagement and good freewheel (time will tell how reliable they are). The finish is also not as good as the White Industry but you can find them for about 1/5th of the price on sale so they are definitely worth the risk. Long term report to follow.

I was expecting big things with this change to a bigger gear in terms of my overall time. I hoped that the 1.4MPH gain at 100rpm would translate to a similar improvement over the first 1.5 miles with a corresponding 0.5MPH improvement in the overall time. My theory was that I was losing a lot of time through spinning out the 32 x 20 but I should still be OK on the steeper stuff on a 32 x 18. What I actually achieved was a nearly 30 second slower pace over the 1.5miles which led to a deficit of nearly a minute by mile 3.5 and finishing up with a deficit of 33seconds by the top. I was not a happy bunny.

Comparison of 32×20 ride to 32×18 ride (pink)

I have adopted single speed for hill climbs based on the mechanic simplicity and purity of the experience. I also enjoy the challenge of figuring out the optimum gear for the climb and the joy of riding an “old school” steel bike . Having said that, I am pretty disappointed with my lack luster performance on the single speed on this climb. In theory I can expect to lose 5 seconds per mile simply due to the weight difference between my Carbon Tarmac and steel Wabi which would make me just 30 seconds slower than the carbon. Unfortunately I am losing 30s per mile throughout the course (over 3 minutes slower in total) which is a huge loss. I thought even with the disadvantage of Steel and Single speed I would be able to do a time that wouldn’t put me in last place. I am not sure my ego can handle last place :+)

I felt it was possible to get within 1-1.5 minutes of my p.b with the fixed setup and to do this I though all I needed to do was up the gear. I assumed lack of gearing was my issue over the first 1.5 miles but even with a bigger gear the headwind was a significant enough factor that I was nearly 1MPH slower to mile 1.5 (The wind was definitely harder this week). The first section is a big problem On my geared bike I can set off in a controlled fashion and ease into the TT with a pretty high average speed. On single speed I need to pedal furiously to keep up a half way decent speed and I also have to freewheel down the little drop just after the start. I think this may be having an impact on my performance later in the climb which is why even when the gearing isn’t an issue I am still losing 30s per mile. Backing off more at the start simply isn’t possible so on the day I will have to do a super warm up so I am zinging right out of the starting gate.

Black line = PR on Carbon tarmac with Gears, Blue line = 34×18 Wabi Steel , Purple line = 34 x 20 Wabi Steel

Surprisingly the bigger gear didn’t actually feel all that bad and on the hardest section of the climb I only lost 5s to my previous 32 x 20 attempt (14 seconds slower than my PR). I did however have to do the entire climb out of the saddle which took quite a lot out of me and my arms began to ache a lot.

The Steepest Bit : Black line = PR on Carbon tarmac with Gears, Blue line = 34×18 Wabi Steel , Purple line = 34 x 20 Wabi Steel

The trace below comparing 32×20 (purple) and 32×18 (Pink) shows  I was definitely suffering more as the climb went on. It does have to be noted that there was a noticeable headwind on the climb this week so this may be why I had the 5s difference. Expanded view just showing the two single speed attempts below.

Comparison of 32×20 ride to 32×18 ride (pink)

I fitted a cadence sensor and saw some very low cadence numbers on parts of the climb (low 60’s)  so I don’t think upping the gear any more will achieve anything other than destroying my knees.  The other variable I haven’t really been able to quantify is my fitness in relation to last year.  As I haven’t the option of a power meter I can really only go by how I feel.  I would say I feel pretty fit and my weight is quite similar to last year but I haven’t had the quality of racing.  Quality racing really teaches you how to suffer so perhaps I am not pushing myself as hard as I could. On my final practice before the big day I am going to concentrate on better pacing to take advantage of the 18t gear and trying to push a bit harder.  Perhaps a skin suit on the day may gain me a few seconds too.

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Elite National TT championships on fixed…Am I mad ?

June was forecast to be time trial month for me as there were 4 TT’s on offer. Unfortunately the Dunlap TT and Satley TT were both postponed or cancelled which left me with only the USA Elite nationals TT on the 26th and my own clubs Diablo HC TT on the 27th (see Diablo HC blog posts).to look forward to.

Common sense would dictate that I should ride the National Championships on my geared Trek but I have a real passion for TT riding on fixed so I am going to ride it on my Felt TK3. UCI rules allow the use of a fixed gear providing there is a front brake on the bike.

From USA Cycling rule book:

“3E2. Road bicycles shall be used. Bicycles with a front hand brake and fixed wheel may also be used.”

Unfortunately the UCI also require that frames appear on their approved list.

“Each licence holder shall ensure that the equipment he uses on the occasion of road, track or cyclo-cross events shall be approved by the UCI according to the specifications of the Approval Protocols in force and available on the UCI Website.”

“During the transition stage, this procedure does not apply to frames and forks which, on 1 January 2011, are:
• already manufactured
• on the market
• already at the production stage.”

Now my Felt TK3 is a 2011 model but it does not appear on the UCI list. In fact no track bikes appear on the UCI Road TT approved list. Being a 2011 model year it probably means that my frame was manufactured prior to January 1st 2011 but in any case the 2009, 2010 and 2011 models all share the same frame so I believe I should not have a problem. I contacted Felt for help but got no response.

2009 Model

2010 Model

2011 (My model)

Riding fixed is perhaps not as mad as it seems as the course is supposedly very flat and I have a faster 40K time on my Felt than I have on my Trek TTX with gears. Pasted below are my 6 fastest 40k times on a regular style bike. My two fastest times were actually on my Bacchetta Recumbent but that is definitely not UCI legal.

There are two things that I need to do to the Felt to get it ready for the Championships:

Find the optimum gear
Make my position UCI compliant and fast.

4th May 2013 PCSD TT running 48 x 14

Finding the optimum Gear:

Looking at the chart of my best 40K times it should be considered that my fastest fixed time was on 48X14 at 96.6 average RPM and my slowest time was on 48X15 at 99.64 average RPM. I definitely found the 48×15 to be a little low and was happier on a 48×14. Although spinning at 100RPM isn’t really a problem on fixed I find that on aero bars I feel more powerful and more stable on a slower cadence. My ideal Cadence seems to be 95 to 96 RPM so my gear choice for Nationals needs to reflect this. My goal is to break into 56 minutes and get a lifetime personal best which means 26MPH plus.

I have decided to go for 52 x 15.

48×14 = 26.8 @ 100rpm
48X15= 25.0 @ 100rpm
52×15 = 27.1 @ 100rpm

Of course such a big fixed gear could be a huge problem if it is really windy on the day but seeing as I am not up for a win or anything like that it just makes it more of a challenge. I am sure if I rode 48×15 I would struggle to beat the hour.

Getting a UCI legal Postion:

Here is my current setup which has issues on both the 5cm and 75cm rules. The saddle also doesn’t have a hope of meeting the horizontal rule and I think the aero bars  may have to move down too.

Felt TK3 before fiddling to get to UCI legal position.

The position is now UCI legal with the help of a new saddle.

New TT saddle

New Position:

New Position

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It’s Mt. Diablo Hillclimb TT time again. Practice 1

My teams annual fundraising event is scheduled for June 27th.


Every year I strive to beat my goal of  29 minutes and last year got within 19 seconds of doing it.  Since last year I have developed a fondness for hill climbing on single speed on my all steel Reynolds 725 Wabi Classic so this year I intend to ride that.

Wabi Classic 725

The Diablo Hill Climb from the North Gate is not an ideal climb for single speed as the gradient varies considerably throughout the course. The first 1.5 miles are not really steep at all and there are a few false flats on the course too.  The solution would be to gear up but unfortunately there are a couple of fairly long steep sections too. My normal climbing gear for Diablo is 42″ when riding single speed. This gives a speed of speed of 12.5MPH at 100RPM which is about 0.5MPH short of my sub 29 minute target.

Comparison of Specialized Tarmac on gears to Wabi single speed 42″

I did a practice attempt on the climb today on 42″ to see what sort of time I could do.  I had ridden the climb a couple of weeks earlier on the Diablo Northgate summit TT so I knew the gear was ok but racing on your own is a different matter. The first mile was horrible, setting off at 110-140RPM and attempting to keep it up was very unpleasant and my average speed was well down on my Geared bike PB. From the chart above you can see that only a mile in and I have lost 35s and continue to lose time all the way up. The only time I was slightly faster on the Wabi was at around 2.9 miles on the steepest section of the climb. By the finish I was a catastrophic 2m34s slower than my Specialized Tarmac time.

The Wabi felt good on the majority of the climb so I was quite shocked to see how much slower it was (I was). I am not sure I could have pushed a bigger gear on the steeper bits but i am going to have to try if I have a hope of getting a respectable time come race day.  The Wabi weighs 2+ pounds more than my tarmac which according to the 7% average grade should equate to about  (http://cdn.velonews.competitor.com/files/2014/08/FASTER_LighterBikePower_Time.jpg) 5 seconds per mile or 30 seconds. I can work on losing 2 pounds body weight before the event but the real time gains will have to come from fitness,  technique and gearing. I plan to try 46.7″ next weekend to see if I can manhandle the bike up the steeper bits. A 42″ gear is roughly equivalent to a 34 x 21 (39 x 24) which is bigger than I would use on the steep bits of the climb if i had gears.  A 46.7″ gear is roughly equivalent to a 34 x 19 (39 x 22) which I am sure will feel quite big.

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