Friday, June 29, 2007

Quicky Update…

We ended up riding up Monte Grappa. Two kilometers from the summit it started to rain. There were the usual cow bells to cheer us on and we ground out the final switch backs to the top while others (perhaps more sanely) turned back. We were wet and cold but happy to have finished the 16 Mile, 5,900 foot climb.

Yesterday we were pretty tapped out but still managed to ride 50 miles through the vineyards and along the canals. Mostly flat riding with a few impromptu sprint points, one sustained climb and the usual fun and games along the way.

Today we did the flat, coffee shop ride nice and slow while hoping to recover for tomorrow’s race. Despite the easy ride some of us were feeling pretty bonky on the way home. Time for a huge dinner and a good night’s sleep.

Saturday afternoon we race again. Another circuit race on a 6 mile loop. It’ll be good fun. Stay tuned for the race report and a report on Sunday’s ride. The current plan is to venture deeper into the Dolomites and do more scenic climbing: Giro de Dolomiti. Should make for great riding, awesome photos, good stories and some healthy appetites.

For more stories on the past few days, check out Pat’s Velo Veneto blog as he has the lion’s share of the photos and video clips.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Rivers and Mountains

Racing on Sunday was a blast!! I love the the attacking style of racing here. I missed the main break in each of my races. I tried to bridge to each but my attempts came up a few watts short each time. Another great thing about racing here is that it doesn't end until you cross the finish line. Even if the winning break is well out of reach the attacks continue, endlessly. My highlight Saturday was reaching 38 mph in the sprint. Sunday I had a good time working with the chase group and then working them over when we decided the case was over. (You can see a few short race video clips here.)

After the racing on Sunday Ali and I took the train to Venice for a day off the bike. We spent Monday walking the streets old narrow streets, searching out good food, taking in the sites, drinking too much wine and doing a little shopping. It was my first trip to Venice, Ali’s second…it was fun for a day but a day was all we needed.

Yesterday it was back to the bike. We drove an hour Northwest into the Dolomites near the town of Feltre. After a little warm up spin for a few miles along the more gentle parts of the climb we started our serious assault up the Passo Rolle. About an hour and 20 minutes later we reached the top and enjoyed the rewards for our efforts.

Today we were going to climb Monte Grappa...but the storm clouds on top of the mountain is calling for a change in plans.

More later...

Monday, June 25, 2007

Grocery Run

I Won!!!

In the spirit of full disclosure, I must confess that I was the only woman in Saturday’s race and there were only 2 women on Sunday. But, I finished with the men’s pack, never got dropped, and can confidently say that it was the hardest race I have ever done.

For reasons unbeknownst to me (chime in if you have insight on this), the Italian women who race pro are really strong, but there are few to no amateur women racing. Pat says that it’s rare to have more than 10 women in a local race.

Consequently, the women race with the 55+ men (aka the Super-gentlemen). While in their late 50s, these men can rip my legs off as our race averaged only 1mph slower than Mike’s (who was with the spry 40-somethings). I am proud, and I mean seriously proud!, to say that I could hang, cause there was some serious digging into the suitcase of pain for most of the race.

Racing here is very different from NorCal. The attacks & bridges are constant, relentless, and fierce. While zooming along at 28pmh, the pack slows to a crawl (19-20mph) while rounding corners. It’s done purposefully so that guys at the front can attack out of the corners while the pack is strung out, but slowing far before the corner. So, post-corner, the accelerations would rip my legs off as I kept my nose as close to the ass of the biggest guy I could find. It was crazy, but so much fun. At one point, I was nicely tucked in and looked down to discover that I was pushing 500wts while fully drafting in the pack. Those guys can push some crazy-watts. Very impressive.

Both races were won from a break, and I finished with the main pack. I surprised myself to be able to do so and am eager to try to move around a bit more next weekend.

Winning here is a huge production. The top 10 guys each win an enormous bag of groceries. My loot included pasta, canned veggies, sugar, risotto, olive oil, coffee, and biscotti. On top of that I won an enormous bouquet of flowers, a medallion, and a kiss from the podium girl.

The male category winners all won one of these. I’m disappointed to share that I was one
Y-chromosome away from bringing home the bacon. Alas.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Italian sweets

Other than gelato, the Italian sweets aren't always our favorite. But in the last few days, we've uncovered a lot of eye candy, our new favorite sweet.

Two days ago, while pacelining, we came upon a 19-year-old aspiring pro who jumped into our rotation. I was thoroughly distracted by the dreaminess of his calves and was convinced that he was fathered by Basso.
Later, we took in a little bit of this:

While Mike proudly flexed his own eye candy while purchasing some new eye candy:
And the heightened senses go on and on. Our crew took a stroll through Basanno last night, at the base of Monte Grappa, a Dolomite climb which we will head up next Wednesday. Before climbing, it's important to taste the fruits of its namesake. The peak of the Monte is the far one in the foreground which is where we'll be sipping hot chocolate and strudel next week. But today, we're off to race!! Reports forthcoming.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

La Palina…(The Scoop, of gelato of course).

Back in February we decided that we would love to try and go to Italy again this summer. A helpful United Airlines ticket agent managed to get us free tickets on miles and the deal was clinched. Our last bike trip to Italy was completely self-supported, a point-to-point journey from Rome to Florence; this go-round we decided to try something different. It still needed to be biking related but maybe more racing related. Pat Carroll of VeloVeneto had helped some with our planning of our first trip and his camp near the foothills of the Dolomites fit our needs perfectly.

At the camp we train during the week AND race the local UDACE races on the weekends. In order to get a license for the UDACE races you need to be a member of a local, Italian team. While here, the dots and Spidy kits have been are closeted and we’ll be racing for VeloVeneto.

So here we are, enjoying the Italian countryside from a bicycle, getting in good training miles and looking forward to racing both days this weekend.

Our typical weekdays are: breakfast, ride, gelato, lunch, nap or x-word puzzles or read, dinner, sleep. We’re almost over the jet lag so we may get out in the afternoon and explore some of the cute towns we’ve blasted through on our bikes.

In our first three days here we’ve ridden about 150 miles. Monday was a flattish spin through a couple of local towns, the ‘canal’ ride to locals. Tuesday was the Vineyard ride along beautiful single lane roads up and down through the Proseco vineyards outside of town. Many teams train in this region and we have been blown away by the number of off the beaten track backcountry roads.

Today, we did the climb to Foza. We started with a 25 K cruise out of town over to the small town of Valstagna which is the start of the climb up to Foza. The road winds through 21 hairpin turns up steep granite hills gaining 900 meters over 12 Km and ends in some beautiful alpine valleys. At the top we traversed the hilltop and descended another twisty road back to the Fume Brenta (river). Riding along the river for a while brought us back to Valstagna and we made our way home. Total ride distance 105 K which we completed in just under 4 hours of riding time. The climb was similar in profile to Mt. Diablo. As we neared the top, Paul, a longtime racer who has raced in several continents reminded us that this ride is on his top-10 lists of rides ‘in the world’ (and he meant that). Our respect has become even deeper for Pro-Tour racers (and even for age-grouper Joe (or shall we say Gilberto) -Schmoe) as he commented that the climb we did today is one of the easiest of climbs you find in local road races. Today we were barely in the foothills of the Dolomites and it was an awesome climb. Next week we hit the real-deal.

For the rest of the week we’ll be doing a little race prep—speedwork and leadouts on Thursday and the local coffee-shop ride on Friday. I guess Friday’s ride goes something like Cole to Danville Peets, with the addition of gelato and stronger espresso. When we first arrived, we looked around this tiny town stoplight-less town, and wondered whether riding and recovering would be enough to keep us busy. After only 3 days of hard riding, the afternoons spent napping, doing the Daily Herald’s x-word, and updating the blog seem like just enough excitement to ready us for another meal and its obligatory bottle of Vino Rosso. And that’s where we’re off to now…

More Photos here.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Ciao Regazzi...

It was a long journey, 24 hours of traveling including: near voluntary bump for big $$, 9 hours in a seat next to an oversized French couple overflowing their coach seats, and a 50 minute flight next to Chatty Cathy from Texas (while we just wanted some quiet time). But we made it and have had two great days of cyclin...160 K. It's hot so riding in the morning has been the key. Tomorrow we head into the mountains for our first day of sustained climbing.

So far the biking, gelato, wine and food are all that we had hoped for. We'll post more later but now it's time for the afternoon nap.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Felled by a log...

That's right, that's what I said.

Not 'meld with the blog' or 'smelled like a frog'.

F-in Felled by a log...that's what happened to me today. Riding down Tunnel Rd, minding my own business. Trying to sneak in one more workout before packing the bici in the box. In fact, I was done, heading down the hill trying to make the year-end-middle-school picnic. All of a sudden the tree worker up the steep hill starts yelling, the dude on the road holds up his hands imploring me to stop while watching his back. I grab a fist full of break and look uphill for what's crashing through the brush. A log, big enough to be a foot stool, comes bouncing down the hill like a crazy football making a bee line for the end zone, only this bouncing foot stool has drawn a bead on me. Next thing you know I'm lying on the deck in need of a new fork and maybe a bar of soap in my mouth.

I'm sure I'll be sore tomorrow. My main concern is can the awesome guys at Montagna Della Bici get the new fork installed before the flight leaves on Sabato. They say 'no sweat'...they haven't let me down yet! Thanks guys.

No, that's not the same broken fork picture from last year.
Look closely and you can see some Eucalyptus embedded in the carbon.

I must have a serious karma debt to the Goddess of Carbon.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Stale Blogs are...

well, stale.

We've been busy wrapping up the school year on several fronts and getting ready to get out of Dodge.

A quick check of the weather reminds me to pack the rain gear (...thought I was done with that stuff for the summer.)

We're looking forward to some great riding, yummy food, tasty wine, great views and lovely people. Oh, and we're even going to get to do some racing! Unfortunately we arrive the day of this Gran Fondo. Looks like quite the spectacle...maybe next year.

Rumor has it there's i-net access in town. We'll try to share some pictures and stories along the way. Stay tuned.


Thursday, June 07, 2007

New Photos...

A few shots from Sunday's EMC race in Pleasantville have been added to our photo site.

Follow the link in the sidebar ->.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Confessions of a 7th grade teacher

I confess, I really like 7th graders. I seem to
have found the right combination of being super-
strict, having engaging mathematics to work on,
and telling provocative stories. It's the stories,
though, that are the most convincing reason for
them to come to class.

Yesterday we were learning about simple
interest compared to compound interest. Before
launching into formulas and such, we were
having an informal discussion about when
interest comes into play in the real world and
what kinds of questions they could ask their
parents to learn more about the effect of interest

We talked about how banks give you interest as an incentive for storing your money there, and turn around and lend your money to someone else, while charging them interest. Students almost angered to discover that the money they put in the bank isn't the exact same money which they receive when withdrawing from an account. "But that was MY money..."

One question led to the next and we started talking about advantages of banks and why you might have a lot of cash and NOT deposit it into an account. I dug into my suitcase of courage and found the perfect personal story. When in college, I spent a year in Bolivia and often had large amounts of cash stored with me during my travels. In considering how to hide it, I decided (male readers, please excuse my bias here...) that most robbers are men and most men avoid women's feminine products at all costs. So, I used a box of tampons, threw away some of the tampons, and stored my cash rolled up inside the wrappers.

I hadn't thought about that story in years, but the spontaneous telling of it was quite a hit and I doubt that class will ever forget how to calculate interest as my Bolivian tale led into the teaching of interest as the 'alternative method to storing money in a tampon wrapper'.


In case you missed the political debates, like I did, I found this brief summary on the web.

Artwork by B. Kliban.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

No Bozos

All week I've been thinking about sportsmanship. Some actions I saw at the race on Monday reminded me how important it is to me that competitors win and lose with grace. We're all taught from childhood that being a good sport means holding your head up and losing with grace. Maybe it goes without saying but I believe winning with grace is more important. Victory celebrations are great and exciting but taunting is for punks and bozos. Luckily, karma anticipated Monday's shenanigans and rectified things immediately.

Sure, from time to time we all have Bozo thoughts inwardly but indulge in victory taunts and you will Turn Into Bozo Cyclists Outwardly.