Livestrong Lance   Leave a comment

Many people have weighed in on the announcement  last week by Lance Armstrong that he will NOT contest the USADA allegations against him – here’s my two cents worth on the topic.

In my heart I want to believe, I need to believe –  I DO believe that he is innocent – but I don’t know –  and you don’t know. If he is innocent only he will know for sure. If he is guilty chances are only a very few others will know. I fully understand him saying “Enough is enough”. What a burden to have to keep defending himself against the same old charges, year after year after year. It has got to be very, very tiring. I note very clearly that his decision (which incidentally he first announced months ago) to not contest the USADA allegations is in no way an admission of guilt!

If he didn’t dope then why was he so successful? I have a rationale that suits me. It comes down to hard work, smart work, dedication and focus – qualities I admire!

My strongest memory of Lance’s golden years was his singular focus on the  the Tour de France. He made that one event, his one goal. He was not interested in going after the other grand tours, the one day classics, world championships etc. Sure he did some of those events in his training and preparations, but the goal of winning the Tour de France remained THE purpose and that focus led to his success. I will remember reports of his elaborate preparation for the Tour,  such as repeatedly riding the very same climbs that would be used in the Tour de France stages, so as  to know every slope and corner of the course. His familiarity with he route gave him “home field advantage” on many of those classic Tour climbs that paid off in well-timed and efficient attacks.

Race tactics undoubtedly played a significant role in his success. Not only his individual tactics and his smart decisions on the road, but his team tactics were meticulous. Those tactics didn’t always make for the most entertaining races, as there was no wasted effort, no challenges on the road unless they’d lead to the ultimate goal: number one on the podium in Paris. Those team tactics were also demonstrated by  being part of a very strong team and using that team brilliantly. How many times did we see Lance’s teammates lead him up the climbs, saving Armstrong’s energy for the final assault, after his team mates had given their all.

Success also came from the extensive preparation and use of scientific tools by Lance and his team. I remember watching reports of his time trial preparations – using wind tunnels to analyze and make minute refinements in the bike, his position upon it and even the clothing he wore. This was no “short-cut” but a lot of intelligent application of science and engineering!

I hypothesize that Lance did have one unique advantage that lead to his great success. The cancer that nearly killed him allowed him to come back stronger than ever – stronger in precisely the ways necessary to become a cycling animal. When the chemo broke his body down, he had an opportunity that few athletes have – to rebuild their body , practically from the ground up, and to do so in a very specialized way. I believe that the rebuilt Lance, through his mind power and training, put energy into those systems (e.g. lungs and leg muscles) necessary for cycling, without wasting energy and weight on superfluous parts. It was as if an evolutionary process to transform man into a Tour-de-France-cycling-machine occurred not over a thousand generations, but in one man’s lifetime and body.

I wonder about the motives of those who have come out against Lance. Some of them I can dismiss as just being a bit unbalanced and not to be taken seriously, but other seemingly respectable people I just don’t know. I don’t understand where they may be coming from, unless the accusations are just a manifestation of some personal conflict between them and Lance. About the only person’s word that could have swung my opinion  on this case would have been George Hincapie. He would have seemed to know Lance very well and to be a very respected and honorable person, with no axe to grind against an old friend. Reportedly he had given incriminating evidence to the USADA but he’s never said anything publicly so we don’t know what Hincapie did or did not say. With Lance choosing not to contest the case we may never know for sure.

And what about the motives and tactics of the USADA? I’ll admit I don’t fully understand their jurisdiction or power. I especially don’t see how they can strip Armstrong of his 7 Tour de France titles. Think what they may, do what they feel they must, but the USADA did not award those titles so they are not theirs to revoke. In any case I don’t think Lance (after undoubtedly very much thought) really cares about the formality of those titles anymore.

I also wonder about how the decision to give up the fight to clear his name, will affects Lance’s cancer-fighting Livestrong activities (or indeed about his long-speculated political ambitions). Hopefully the effect will not be too negative, because whatever his doubters may think about his cycling performance, even they have to admire his leadership in the cancer fight. Perhaps one indication of the effect is a report that I saw saying that donations to the Livestrong campaign are up in the days immediately following the USADA’s deadline and surrounding publicity.

There is more than ample evidence that Lance Armstrong’s success came from hard and smart work. The evidence against him is weak and increasingly dependent upon a conspiracy theory that ranks up there with the most complex of them.  I don’t know for sure what the truth is, but for now I am comfortable with my beliefs. Live Strong Lance!

 

Posted August 27, 2012 by Randy Talbot in Cycle Racing, Tour de France

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2012 Tour de France – Wrap-up   Leave a comment

Well, that’s a wrap – the 2012 Tour de France. As I write this, there is still the final ride into Paris but that is largely ceremonial as far as the General Classification is concerned.

Bradley Wiggins won, but more by attrition and by a strong team, than by any personal heroics on his part. It is sad that his most noteworthy moment (to those outside of the UK anyway) will be remembered as his angry, foul-mouthed response to reporter’s questions.

Cadel Evans, the 2011 winner was supposed to challenge Wiggins but he never seemed to be in contention – he was dropped in the mountains and suffered big time losses in the time trial (where he was expected to do much better). I won’t be surprised if we hear some story after the race, about how Evans was hampered by an illness or injury that was not made public during the race.

Frank Schleck positive was a surprise but did I hear correctly that he tested positive for a diuretic which itself was not prohibited but is often used as a masking agent for other banned substances – so Schleck drops out immediately (or did the Radio Shack team make that decision?). I’ll credit Schleck for his cooperation with authorities and give him the benefit of the doubt with his suspicion that he was poisoned. Normally I may not have been so quick to accept that excuse but after the tacks on the road incidence, it does seem like someone may have been trying to influence the results of this year’s Tour.

My favorite competitor in this year’s Tour was Wiggin’s Sky teammate Christopher  Froome. He’s the type of rider I like to watch (and support) one who is strong in the mountains and a good overall competitor. I’ll be watching him closely  next year and if he does end up on a different team, things should get interesting (not to mention how interesting things will be if Andy Schleck is back, and Ryder Hesjedal too).

I was also impressed with some of the sprinting performances – Peter Sagan comes to mind first but also the powerful finish of Mark Cavendish on Stage 18!

Overall, I found this year’s tour to be the most boring that I have seen. Although I faithfully watched the live race coverage everyday (via British Eurosport), I never seemed to really get into the race. I don’t think there was anything wrong with the event, the coverage or the course, It’s just the way things worked out.

The next big event on the cycling calendar is of course the Olympics but I’ve never found Olympic road cycling to be particularly captivating – probably because of the way Olympic TV coverage jumps around from event to event. What I am looking forward to next is the Vuelta d’Espana. I’ve heard very little of who will be riding but I am  looking forward to it nonetheless.

So what did you think of the Tour? Did it meet your expectations?

Posted July 21, 2012 by Randy Talbot in Cycle Racing, Tour de France, Uncategorized

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Thoughts on the First Week (of the 2012 TdF)   1 comment

As I write, Stage 8 of the 2012 Tour de France is just ending – a few thoughts on the first week of this classic:

This year I’ve been following the tour much as I did last year.  I’m using  SteephillTV as a gateway to live video feeds. I usually chooses a Eurosport feed and have been enjoying the commentary from Sean Kelly and David Harmon. I am happy enough with this coverage that I have not even explored the coverage from Canadian or U.S.  sources (which frustrated me so much last year)

I also have been finding the Skoda Tour Tracker app to be handy for results when I am away from my desk. I am a little disappointed that the videofeed is not available in my area through this app, but the  text updates and results are great to have.

My biggest disappointment of the first week was Canadian Ryder Hesjedal withdrawing from the race. That came as a result of him being caught up in the big, bad crash on stage 6 that saw him getting pretty beat up and losing 13 minutes. A time loss of that magnitude would be very difficult to make up against the front runners Wiggins and Evan. Although  Hesjedal definitely was physically injured I have to wonder how much  the the decision to withdraw was to made so he could focus on other events. He has already turned his attention to the Olympics and then perhaps (having save himself from the exhaustion of the TdF mountain stages) he will make a go at the Vuelta?

The crash that took out Hesjedal affected many of the riders. He wasn’t the only member of the Garmin Sharp team forced to withdraw, nor were they the only team. There seemed to have been an inordinate number of crashes during the first wee. It reminds me of the year of Lance Armstrong’s last Tour. The race seems quite wide open at the start, then crash by crash, the field of GC contenders gets whittled down. Frank Schleck also lost  a fair bit of time in that crash and for that reason alone seems like a long shot for the podium now but it should be an interesting last two weeks, with lots of mountain stages.

What are your thoughts on this year’s Tour?

 

Posted July 8, 2012 by Randy Talbot in Cycle Racing, Tour de France

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The 2012 Tour de France has Begun   Leave a comment

I know where I will be every morning for the next 3 weeks – glued to the coverage of the 2012 Tour de France (live web coverage via Eurosport). The Tour is easily my favorite sporting event of the year. I love the way it is different every year – the route changes, the teams and riders change but what stays the same gives it it’s great appeal. There is always some drama, always some unpredicted happenings and undoubtedly there will be some exceptional personal performances.

This year has started with some pre-race controversy. I’m thinking primarily about a number of stories with Team Radio Shack: dissent on the team, unpaid riders, an injured Andy Schleck (who won’t be racing), the drug allegations against Director Johann Bruyneel, Chris Horner’s initial exclusion from the team. They had been my favorite team but now … I just don’t know.

The favorites to win GC this year are defending champion Cadel Evans and Bradley Wiggins. They could do it but somehow both of these riders leave me a little cold. I don’t dislike them but neither do I have any strong feelings for them. It seems that this year’s line-up lacks riders that evoke strong positive or negative emotions – no great personal rivalries.

So who am I predicting to win? Don’t know! Who am I pulling for? Well I’m going with old-timer Levi Leipheimer. I’ve liked his attitude and personality for years and he is probably getting near the end of his career. It would be nice to see Levi win the GC (or at least get on the podium). If everyone stays healthy and accident free he may be a longshot but if the cards fall in an unfortunate way for the other front runners, Levi could be there.

I’d also love to see Ryder Hesjedal perform well and take it. Common belief say that a rider can’t do well in both the Giro and the Tour (and Hesjedal did win this years Giro). Maybe it’s time to put that old thought to rest. Ryder rode a smart Giro and maybe did not exhaust himself. He may have what it takes to pull off a double – wouldn’t that be something!

Whatever happens I will be enjoying the Tour. I would enjoy it even if just for the coverage of the peleton cruising through the varied and wonderful French landscape.

Who are you pulling for in this years Tour?

Posted June 30, 2012 by Randy Talbot in Uncategorized

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Headwinds   Leave a comment

Ah … back on an EBTC Target the Tour training ride.

Pre-ride Instructions

For one reason or another I had missed the previous few Sunday morning rides. Although the weather forecast had looked a little iffy, with possible early morning and late afternoon showers, It was absolutely beautiful as we gathered at 0930 for a planned 100k ride in the countryside northeast of Edmonton, out to the town of Bruderheim. [map of region]

Although this ride would be my longest one of the year and I hadn’t been on the bike much in the last couple of weeks I was feeling good and confident. A group of 25 riders, set off this morning on a route that would take us north from the Yellowhead highway, through Fort Saskatchewan and then north east to the town of Bruderheim before returning on a slightly different route.

Crop Rows (a bit unusual as most crops in these parts are fields of canola or grains)

Canola Field and Rural Road

Straight and Flat

It was beautiful, uneventful morning – well except for my getting-all-to-common electronics challenges. First, my cycle computer which I had again thought I had fixed wasn’t picking up the signal from the front wheel so I has no speedometer or odometer. All i could use it for was as a timer. It told me how long I’d been on the road but as I had inadvertently stopped the timer at some point and lost approximately 7 minutes.  I have no options now for this device other than to try to replace the thin wires (soldering will be difficult), or to get a new unit.

Luckily I had my Garmin heart rate monitor with GPS as a back-up – except that 1 Km out it displayed a message that it could not receive signals from the satellites – this out in the middle of the flat prairie! After approximately 10K the function mysteriously returned but for the rest of the ride I didn’t now how far I’d gone or had to go. I was able to get my speed although looking at the watch and changing screens while riding was not very convenient.

The other technology challenge encountered was that after I’d taken only 5 pictures, my camera indicated that the memory card was full. This was not a big problem but did mean that I had to take the time to manually delete a bunch of my oldest photos from memory to free up space.

Petro-chemical Plant

The ride north to Fort Saskatchewan was on the quiet rural roads. From there we took Highway 15, a busy 4-lane divided highway, but with very wide paved shoulders – not a bad stretch at all. This section of rural Alberta is noted for petro-chemical processing. Large industrial plants are frequently next to farmer’s green fields as a well as small pumping units in the fields.

During this part of the ride to the northeast I could notice the effect of the wind blowing from the southeast. The result was that my pace fell off noticeably, probably to something like 15kph. However, once we turned back north, I was flying – cruising along at more than 30.

Rural Road (to get back on course)

Gravel Road (to get back on course)

After another eastbound stretch on a rural road into the wind, I came to the intersection with a highway. By this time out group of riders was pretty stretched out and I was riding on my own with no one else in sight. So I quickly pulled out a map in my back pocket and noted that I needed to go north on this highway (830) so I turned left, and with the wind at my back I was again flying.

It turns out that I shouldn’t have turned! I had looked at the preliminary map that I also had in my pocket but we had already gone as as far north as we were going. I noticed my error when I stopped to check at the next intersection, a couple of kilometers down the road. I could have (probably should have) simply backtracked but decided that I would take the eastbound road at that intersection and then take the next south road to get back on course. Most of the roads in these parts are along a rectangular grid – very predictable!

The rural road which I took east was a bit rougher in places than the ones I had been riding on but not bad. when I came to the next crossroad I headed south. This road however was much rougher, a gravel/dirt road. I was glad I was riding my touring bike with its bit heavier/wider tires rather than ones only suited to paved roads. The road surface wasn’t as bad as the headwind I now encountered. My speed dropped to something like 13 Kph which made it seem like forever to cover this 3 Km stretch. It did however only take 15 minutes to get back and then shortly thereafter arrive in our designated rest stop in the town of Bruderheim [map].

Rest in Bruderheim

It was good to see others of our group there, but they had already been there for awhile and by the time I had a blueberry muffin and some Powerade, they already had a 10 or 15 minute headstart on the ride back.

When I did get back on the road it was due south, into the wind, for 3 kilometers. Although I had only stopped for 15 minutes it felt as if my body was starting to seize-up. Back on the road, I was noticing an uncomfortableness in my left knee. Since this knee had been an occasional problem in the past I was a little concerned.

After the 3K I turned right onto the major highway and was traveling in a westerly direction. Even though the wind was not fully at my back, enough of it was that I felt I was flying again. Indeed my speed had gone from the 10-15 Kph range to averaging in the 30’s. After a few kilometers it was a turn south and a long straight stretch in to that wind.

(Was it jut the fatigue of having already ridden 60 or 70K or was the wind really picking up as we headed into mid-afternoon? Anyway, it was a drag, a slow, head-down, solo ride that quite frankly wasn’t much fun. I did stop for a few photo breaks but not as many as I would have liked.

Prairie Field and Summer Sky

Prairie Rails

Eventually I did catch-up with Chas in his support truck and then with a couple of other riders. I stuck with them until we got to the end of the ride.  We were looking forward to a break from the long headwind stretch.

The Long Road into the Headwind

We were supposed to turn west onto a quiet road for a few kilometers  but when we got there we saw that the road had been very recently oiled, so we continued south to the Yellowhead and then rode that busy highway back to the Ardrossan turn-off.

It was around 3 PM when we got back – a little over 5 hours on the road. It had been a decent ride, especially nice on the first half. I had looked at this ride as a test of my fitness in evaluating if I’d be up to doing the 180K Tour de l’Alberta distance in four weeks. Having completed this ride, the thought of heading right back out and doing practically the same distance again, pretty much answered my question – I’ll be sticking to the 100K distance on July 22nd.

Back in the Saddle   2 comments

The evening of the 2012 summer solstice – a beautiful evening here in Edmonton and it was time for me to get back in the saddle – literally and figuratively.

Back in the saddle figuratively because I had not been out on the bike for nearly a couple of weeks. As sometimes happens, life throws you a curveball and mine meant that I had to cancel on my much-looked-forward-to Silver Triangle tour. That disappointment meant I didn’t feel much like riding for awhile. But like they say when you fall off a horse, you’ve just got to pick yourself up and get back in the saddle.

I was back in the saddle literally as I took out the oldest bike in my stable, which is equipped with a classic Brooks leather saddle. This old bike is my first “real” bike, an Apollo MKIV. I will have to dedicate a future post to it, but for now I will say it is my road bike, the one I use for just going fast (which is all relative of course). The Apollo was my all purpose bike back in the day, used for recreational riding and touring. It was equipped with fenders and a rack and was what I rode on my first tour in France. Today it is stripped down to the essentials, with narrow high pressure clincher tires. The biggest change to the bike is the pedals I put on a few years ago. I replaced the traditional metal platform pedals with the small ones that cleats clip into. I love the way these pedals make me one with the bike (and occasionally “too-one” when I have not unclipped before stopping.). The seat however is still that comfortable old leather saddle – they can take a long time to break-in but once you have …

This evening ride was great – the sun was shining brightly and the temperature around 20C. I rode a relatively flat route through the Edmonton river valley and covered 28K. One other “feature” of this road bike that differentiates it from my touring bike is the gearing, which has a very narrow range. My lowest gear is something like a 48-24, so on the couple of times that I had to climb out of the river valley it was not  a leisurely sit-back-in-the-saddle climb. It was a standing-up, rocking from side to side type of climb – but I felt powerful and I liked it!

Now that my big tour plan is behind me it is time to focus on my next goal, which is the one-day Tour de l’Alberta ride at the end of July. I am now thinking that I will probably ride it in the saddle of the old Apollo.

 

 

Posted June 25, 2012 by Randy Talbot in Recreational Riding

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Explorer in my Own City   1 comment

Like a Foreign Land

The excitement of exploration – even in my own city. I love to just explore, to take new paths and see what I can see. It is a particular bonus when I can discover a new cycling route, one that will become part of my regular routes by virtue of it’s good qualities: low traffic, smooth surface and interesting scenery. I felt like an explorer of times of old, looking for a new passage to the Orient. For the last couple of years I have hoped to discover  route from the west side of the Anthony Henday Drive bridge [map]. I’ve crossed the bridge and rode up into and around the Cameron Heights neighborhood, a number of times but never found  that elusive connector route. I always had to turn around, cross the bridge again and return my ride on the south side of the river.

I approached the bridge again this day and was taken by the construction of another,  new high voltage power line along the existing utility corridor. It wasn’t my goal but it did provide a surreal view (see photo above)

Construction

Wooden Road

I’ll start this tale from when I reached the Terwilligar area since I have already described my route getting there a few times .  there is a bike opath that leads down to the Anthony Henday Drive over the North Saskatchewan River in southwest Edmonton. I have crossed this bridge a few times in years past, always hoping to find a route that goes somewhere but to no avail.  I’ve ridden the path until it dumps me out in a residential neighborhood, ridden around that neighborhood not finiding anywhere to go and then simply backtracking.

This day however I pulled out my iPhone and looked at my mapping application. I noticed what looked like a path that I’d not noticed before just a block away. I rode over there, discovered a little concrete sidewalk goinf away from the road and following that a short ways it connected to an old road that lead into a ravine!

An old road through a ravine

Downstream: The Tiny Creek

On the left of this picture you can see a wooden fence, Below that fence a culvert provides a path for the tiny stream under the road. At this point one could hop across the creek but what a difference looking upstream.

Looking upstream I saw the most marvelous beaver dam and not only a big dam but a huge pond with the beaver’s den  in the middle. I was even fortunate enough to see the beaver swimming around in the pond. What  a fantastic discovery! I wasn’t expecting to see something like that so close to the heavy construction, freeway and residential neighborhood that I had just passed through.

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Upstream: The beaver dam, pond and den (and the beaver swimming too).

After a good break to observe and photograph  this marvel, I continued on up the road to the top of the ravine on the other side. From here I rejoined residential neighborhoods and roads. Although I did not explore  and further I was very excited because from that point I think I will be able to find a route, back along the north side of the river to the pedestrian bridge by Ft. Edmonton Park. If I can do that I will have a very nice cycling loop – but I left that exploration for another day and just retraced my route for this day.

A Dayride to Fort Saskatchewan   1 comment

With a couple of days of rain this week and a couple of days of fatigue, here it was Friday already and I hadn’t been out on the bike since Sunday’s Target the Tour group training ride. That one ride will not be enough by itself to get me into shape for touring the Silver Triangle in June. My plan has been to get in two progressively longer rides each week in addition to moderate daily rides. So today would have to be a longer ride. The weather looked fine so I decided to try a new route of what I estimated to be about a 75K distance – from central Edmonton to Fort Saskatchewan (a small city northeast of Edmonton).

Meridian Street

As soon as I had finished watching the day’s coverage of the Giro d’Italia. I got ready and headed out to the bike. At this point I discovered a small technical issue (actually two of them). Normally I wear my Garmin HRM/GPS and have my Cateye cycle computer (odometer, speedometer etc.) on the bike. For some reason the Garmin would not turn on and a probelm with a loose wire on the Cateye meant it was only intermittently getting a signal from the wheel sensor. The net result was I had not indications of speed or distance. On the way home I turned on the GPS on my iPhone which indicated a distance of about 36+ kilometers, so counting a couple of extra Ks in Ft. Sask my total was likely close to the estimated 75K.

My route to through Edmonton to the northeast was my usual (Dawson Park, Ada Boulevard, Rundle Park, Hermitage Park) along the bike paths and routes. From the top of the valley at the North end of Hermitage Park I dipsy-doodled my way north through the residential subdivisions until I reached the countryside at 153rd Avenue [map]. A couple of kilometers east I hit Meridian Street, a lightly-traveled rural road, and headed north. this road passes through farmland and, a few small acreage subdivisions. The road is in pretty good condition and the ride is pleasant!

A Sikh Temple in the distance across a fallow field

Approximately 8K north, Meridian Street is intersected by the Fort Road, which I turned right and followed. However, looking northwest from that point, across the fields and behind some trees one can see the unexpected sire of an ornate Sikh temple.

Turn onto Fort Road

Old Fort Road – an Idyllic (if rough) Country Road

The Fort Road is busier, as would be expected from the center and shoulder line markings, but it wasn’t too bad, late morning when I was there. I followed this road northeast for 4 or 5 kilometers until it intersects Manning Drive (Highway 15). At this intersection it is necessary to turn right and travel on the highway.  It is not a bad stretch of road, it starts off divided with a wide  shoulder (then becomes undivided but still with a generous shoulder.

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The highway stretch is just for a couple of kilometers before I turned right onto the Old Fort Road (Township Road 545). This is another quiet road through the farmland – very peaceful. Well peaceful but with a very rough road surface. It was paved and not particularly broken up but it was kind of jarring. The fact that I had a very-unusual-for-me headache today meant that I really noticed the roughness.

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The Highway Bridge to Ft. Saskatchewan

The Old Fort Road takes us to just below the highway bridge that crosses the North Saskatchewan River and leads into the City of Fort Saskatchewan. To get onto the highway it is necessary to first turn north onto a little road before turning right onto the highway.

This bridge crossing was my least favorite part of the ride – the traffic was moderately heavy (with big trucks), the shoulder was narrow compared to the open highway and the shoulder was also a bit rough and dirty. Full focus is required is required for a few hundred meters and I appreciated my rear view mirror

Once across the bridge the shoulder widens and taking the exit to the right, one is in the City. After first going west, I found downtown was to the east and offered more food options. I found a place to grab some lunch and took a break for half an hour or so then headed back, along basically the same route.

Again the bridge crossing was the only real concern but once across, I turned right and went back south, under the bridge and along the old Fort Road. Shortly back on to this road I came to a railway crossing where care was called for (as indeed it was when I  crossed on the way out). The timbers are old and rough and the rails are at quite an angle to the road but again traffic was light so there was no problem in taking it very slow.

Old Railway Crossing on the Old Fort Road

My return route deviated from the outgoing one only slightly as I was coming back into the Northeast Edmonton residential area. There was construction on the little dirt road I had taken to get to 153 Avenue so I couldn’t turn off 153rd at the same point.

A Gravel “Connector” Path

I continued west to 18th St., then went south on a little gravel walkway (after having to carry my bike over a barrier). This gravel path was only about 300 meters before I got back on the residential road. It wasn’t a bad ride on my touring bike (with a bit wider tires) and would have been no problem on a mountain bike. I retraced my route back to where I could connect with the bike path at the end of Hermitage Park. From there it was just 15K or about 45 minutes) to home. Well “just” that with a couple of  significant climbs, the only real ones since about 50K back. Overall this was a very flat route.

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I did like this route and look forward to riding it again.

Quiet Countryside on the Road to Fort Saskatchewan

 

In the Zone   1 comment

Another Sunday. another ride with the EBTC‘s Target the Tour Classic group.

Receiving Pre-ride Instructions

It was a beautiful day for a ride – a bit cool, but sunny and with no wind. I rode in cycling shorts with a jacket over my jersey for the first half of the ride and was  comfortable. Today’s route was 66 Kilometers, so the longest of these group training rides this year. The group was again a healthy size, of about 40 riders. I arrived a little bit late so ended up starting at the very back of the pack, again. The route started off south – a long 13K straight stretch.

On the Road

Along this stretch, I was stopped to take a few photos when another rider asked if I might have some some chain lube in my large read rack bag. Indeed I did! I prefer to have my chain lubed and ready to go before a ride but encountering rain along a ride  has sometimes necessitated re-lubing during the ride, so I do like to carry a small bottle of lubricant with me and I was happy to be able to help out.

A Hill (sans fool) in the Relatively Flat Central Alberta Landscape

I found I wasn’t stopping as often to take photos today. the landscape was still beautiful and each week has been a little different form the weeks before , but I fear I am getting a bit desensitized to the scenery as it becomes familiar from riding in the same area week after week. One thing that stood out for me today was the color of the water in the small lakes and ponds – very blue!

Prairie Pond

Through the first half of the ride I continued to  lag near the back of the pack and often could not see the next rider ahead of me for a long time.

Along Wye Road

This week’s route again featured a variety of roads, mostly quiet country road but also some secondary highways, 2 lanes with moderate traffic and wide or narrow shoulders. For the 5K approaching the 40K mark we were traveling south east on Wye Road towards north Cooking Lake. For some reason this stretch was uniquely swarming with little bugs. It was absolutely necessary not to be riding along breathing through an open mouth. Instead I found I had to breath though my closed teeth. I was also glad to be wearing glasses but had to keep my head up and glasses forward so as not to get bugs in the eyes. It was like watching a show of  traveling at warp speed through a starfield – quite amazing.

Fortunately these bugs were only an issue for a short distance. At 40K I stopped to take off my jacket and to down an energy bar before we headed north off of the highway and back onto the country quiet roads. A minor frustration occurred on this stretch as I had inadvertently turned off my heart rate/GPS monitor when I  took my jacket off and didn’t realize it until I was a further 3 and a half kilometers up the road. this then through off distance markers on the day’s route map.

Riding Beside Wetlands

It was somewhere around the 50K mark that I lost sight of the rider behind me and I never did catch up with anyone in front of me. I was riding solo and that was fine with me. the roads were good, our maps were good and I was feeling strong. I just kept plugging away at a good cadence and soon found myself “in the zone”.

The zone is a nice place to be – the riding is free and easy. I was proceeding north along Range Road 215 into the final 10K of the ride. Somehow, in this “zone”, I missed  a turn-off. I didn’t realize it until I saw the sign indicating that I was approaching Highway 16, The Yellowhead. I should have turned west 3K back. I could have backtracked but decided to brave the highway. It is a very busy 4-lane divided highway but does have wide shoulders, so I decided to take it for 5K.

Westbound on the Yellowhead

 

Again this highway was not part of the official route and I wouldn’t recommend it, but it wasn’t that bad. I was thankful for having a rear-view mirror as I probably spent half my time keeping an eye on the traffic coming up behind me. At the first opportunity I got off of the highway, which happened to coincide with the Ardrossan turn-off, where I was able to get back on the route for the last couple of kilometers.

But instead of the Yellowhead image, I choose to remember the peaceful rural roads from today:

Peaceful Rural Road

 

A Mid-May 70K Training Ride   3 comments

Happy Zen Cyclist

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“Are my tire pressures low?”

“I think my chain needs to be re-lubed”

“Weren’t my hubs supposed to be sealed and never need maintenance? They must be dragging ”

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Thoughts like those raced through my mind yesterday, two and a half hours into what would be nearly 4 hours in the saddle. I accomplished my longest ride of the season, covering 70 Kilometers.

River Road Cycling Path

Again, I was able to rack up this distance riding mostly on the trails through the river valley  in Edmonton. I may sometimes complain about the condition of the paths these days, but it sure is nice to have the pleasant scenery to cycle through and not to have to deal with motor vehicles.

Further along River Road

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It was a cool May morning as I set out – about 8C degrees. Even though it was sunny, I did wear a jacket over my jersey and left it on for 3/4 of the ride. I also found that my legs (in shorts) were cool and my toes got  a bit numb.

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I linked my 40K westbound route with my 30K eastern route to rack up the  distance today. I started along the northside paths to to Groat Road. The long, flat section along River Road is a good way to warm up.

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I hit my first climb out of the river valley at about 7K after crossing Groat Bridge and heading up Groat Road. My route would  give me a surprising amount of climbing – I ascended to the top of the river valley about 10 times. My GPS monitor indicated about 870 meters of elevation changes.

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Talus Dome Sculpture

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As the bike path  crosses under the Quesnel Bridge [map]. I see a fascinating but controversial public sculpture, the Talus Dome, at the south end of the bridge, on the east side. I very much like this one – maybe because it reminds me of ball bearings but the setting beside a freeway just doesn’t do it justice. Cyclists probably get a better view than do the motorists and I think it will look better once the landscaping at the base is complete.

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The ride proceeded uneventfully. I reached my turnaround point in Terwilligar at 20K and started by journey east which I would do along the south side of the river all the way to Rundle Park. This route involved 4 major climbs (i.e. to the top of the river bank) and a few smaller ones.

Edmonton River Valley Path

By the time I got back to the downtown area, I’d covered 40K, just over half of my goal, in a couple of hours without any real rests. I was starting to feel a bit tired, a bit slower and getting hungry. I usually like to pack along an energy bar for times like this but I didn’t have any at home today. I figured I could pick up a snack along the way, but the downside of my route is that it doesn’t pass by any convenience store. I was looking forward to getting to Rundle Park where I know they have a snack bar/ concession.

Reflections in a Rundle Park pond

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By the time I crossed into Rundle Park [map]. I’d covered over 50K and was certainly looking forward to a break. The park was looking particularly attractive. The lakes have been refilled with water and are in their reflective wonder.

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I made my way over to the pavilion but – the snack bar was closed!  I looked around hoping to at least find a vending machine but one was not obvious, so I continued on my ride. I had another 20K to go, so figured I’d just have to do it on my built in energy reserves (5 or 10 Kilos of which I wouldn’t mind burning off).

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It was around now that those voices got loud. I found my self looking down at my tires to see if they look flat and wondering about all of the other mechanical reasons that might account for my slowing pace. Not that I was really fooled; I may have been tiring but still could reason that my low energy levels and muscle fatigue were the most likely culprits.

I continued north from Rundle Park through Hermitage Park [map], amongst the dogs and up to the top of the riverbank at 20th Street, before heading back down on the 15K return trip.

Path Through Hermitage Park

I did find my pace fell off  noticeably  over the last half of the ride but I still felt pretty good. Having been on the bike for so long, my neck got a little sore but that certainly reminded me of one of the areas that I am training – It is NOT all about the legs!

I look back on that ride with pleasure, a sense of accomplishment. Now, in preparing for next month’s Silver Triangle, I just have to build up to cover a 50% greater distance in one day, then do it for three consecutive days and  oh, do it in mountainous terrain.