Monday, June 17, 2013

Home Sweet Home: Adjusting to Life in the Hood

So, I've been home for a couple weeks now. It's been a nice transition, there are things I miss about being in Europe, but overall it's been great to be back. I've started doing some real work for the HP Chrio-RPM Mortgage Cycling Team doing their blog and social media presence. I'm also working part time at a local shop, West End Bikes. The job is great! All I have to do is hang around bikes all day, and help people find the ride of their dreams. I've been riding a lot too, it's been great to get back to the old roads. All of this has made it hard to find time to do my own bloggy internet stuff, but I'll try and get some stuff up when I can.

Last weekend I did an Uphill TT in Corvallis, Oregon, about two hours outside of Portland. It was a challenging and fun race. And although I didn't do as well as I'd hoped I did about midfield for the mens 4/5. Given that it was a race that only attracted climbing nuts, I consider that a decent performance.

Hammering up Mary's Peak
At the end of the month I'll be doing the Baker City Cycling Classic, a three day amateur stage race. That will be a great test of my form and is of what I'm training for at this point. Other than that, I'll just have to sneak off to whatever races I can. My schedule is pretty busy at this point, and now I have to dela with races conflicting with my work schedule. But, I'll make the most of it and get as much bike time in as I can!

Stay tuned.
Kyle McCall

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Happy Trails: My Return to the USA

I’m writing this article during my 8-hour layover in JFK. I stayed up for over 24, so that I could fall asleep on my international flight that left at 10am France time, which was also 1am Portland time. The anti-jetlag method. You gotta break something before you can fix it. So far it’s gone OK, as I’ve been awake in the daytime here in New York and not feeling too tired. Now I just have to stay awake on my transcontinental flight back to the west coast, so that I can pass out after I get home at 1am Portland time and wake up the next day jet lag free.

It makes me think about professional cyclists who jet set around the world and then often times have to race within 24 hours of touching down. Being a professional athlete has its perks, but it is definitely not an easy job.

It's what America runs on.

I’ve also been thinking about the five months elapsed since I was last in the USA. I’m filled with a mix of emotions, both excited to be returning and also already missing the land I left behind. I ate a meal in an Italian restaurant in the JetBlue terminal, and my waiter was actually Italian. Ordering an expresso was a steaming double-shot of nostalgia for the cafés and bars I had left behind across the pond. It’s the little things like that I know I’ll miss most : the laissez-faire attitude of the waiters who will leave you to sit for hours after your drink, and not expect any tip; sipping bottles of red Côte du Rhone along the canals on cool nights; attacking punchy climbs flanked by miles of vineyard in the Vosges.

Staging all of my gear for the long journey home.

They are six months that will stick with me for the rest of my years. It’s been an experience that I’m lucky to have had, and few people ever do. But now I am at the start of a brand new adventure. I’m excited to start working in the bike industry this summer, and testing out my Euro-fitness on the old stomping grounds. America, I hope your ready.

Ride on,
Kyle McCall

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Bring the Rain

Watching this years Giro d'Italia from Europe has been exciting for a few reasons. First off, it's awesome to be able to see the finish at five in the afternoon as opposed to seven in the morning. Second, it's been a sadistic pleasure to see the pros battling the same shitty weather I've been facing my whole semester here. It's just been never ending winter here. It's the end of May and the weather remains cold and gray all the time. There is a 70 year old man who lives in my building and said this is the worst winter he has ever seen. He's lived here his whole life.

As I mentioned in my last post though, it builds a profound respect for what the hardmen who make up the pro peleton endure. during a day at the office. My condolences go out to Sir. Wiggins, who dropped out of the soggy Giro with a chest cold. If things had gone differently, I think he would have given Nibali a run for his money. But I'm impressed by the Italian's agressive and smart racing that has kept him in the pink for most of these past two weeks. Even more impressive is old man Evans, who still has a solid chance at becoming the oldest overall winner of the Giro.

Just an example of the conditions Europe has been enduring this year. Photo pulled from

In other news, I'm headed back to the states in about two weeks now, but couldn't wait to change out some parts on my bike. I recently installed much needed new bottom bracket, chain and set of tires. I had my Dad bring over one of Wheels Manufacturing's new BB30 with angular bearings that are supposed to have a longer life then the standard SRAM models. They seem a bit more solid, at the very least having an aluminum body as opposed to plastic. But it's really the bearings that always crap out, so I'll see how these last over the next few months. Chain was the standard Shimano ultegra 10-spd, which has been my go-to for the past few years. I highly recommend the KMC missing link with that as well, so you can take it off to clean it properly without messing around with Shimano's silly magic pin system. Lastly, Continental 4 Seasons tires. They are the best. I had over 6000km on my old ones, and only ever got 1 flat. It was a staple that had pieced the side. I roll the 25mm ones for extra traction in the endless wetness.

New tire side by side with a very well worn one. Can you guess which is which?

Anyway, probably more information then anyone cared to read about, but those are some of the products I use and would recommend. Now go forth and ride bikes!

Kyle McCall

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Switzerland: Where Mountains and Cows Reign

A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of riding the Tour of Romandie trip with Brevet Alpine Cycling Adventures. And it has taken me this long to recover from the overdose of awesome enough to write about it. My legs and mind alike were just simply rendered inoperable from the awe I got struck with on this fantastic voyage into the towering spine of Western Europe.

I thought your eyes might need a break after that last sentence. So, here you go.

Yeah, you can see we are Raphing it up pretty hard. Bam, verbalization. And I'm not even trying to sell you $330 "Deep Winter Tights," I'm just giving you this shit for free. But for real, the whole trip was like being in a photo shoot. And not just because our host-with-the-most, Tom Eeles, was taking more pictures of us than Bradley Wiggins at the Giro, but because it turns out Switzerland is just a damn beautiful country. That's probably why they have the Tour of Romandie (just the region where we were) and the Tour of Switzerland (the whole kit-and-kaboodle). Did I mention Brevet does trips for both tours?

Peaks on Peaks: Swiss Cycling.

There were a couple times when we could probably have used some of those elitist-level winter tights though, as the crazy weather Europe's been having this Spring gave no quarter to this early season stage race. As you probably read from the headlines, the Tour of Romandie's Queen Stage was only slightly less disrupted by mother nature than this year's Milan-San Remo (updated: and now the Giro too, what?). And having ridden the stage's principal climb earlier in the day before watching the pros summit (pretty standard format for our trip), I gained a new level of respect for the hardmen that make up the Pro Peloton. The worst part wasn't even going up the 1,500m climb, it was going down afterwards. My sweat very quickly turned to salty icicles.

Nice little photo collage of my Dad here. I managed to drop the photographer on our way up.

Beyond five of the best days on the bike I've ever experienced, the tour also offered great comforts for after the ride was over. For the most part we were settled into a boutique hotel in Les Diablerets called the Hotel du Pillon. We were there in the off season, so we had the place almost entirely to ourselves. That meant the owner, a Parisien Art Dealer named Francis, was our unofficial soigneur for the duration of our stay. Well, he didn't respond too well when my Dad and I showed him our shaved legs and asked to be rubbed down, but he did lay out an awesome breakfast and hardy dinner for us every day. Which was almost always perfect, except for the fondu. Which was tasty, yes, but not exactly the type of meal one wants to indulge in when riding a bike all day. Then again, no one's going to sandbag the guy who ate a quarter pound of gorgonzola the night before.

The Town of Les Diablerets. Not a bad place for a Stage Race finish.

There was an awesome zen about getting up each day and knowing that all I had to do was ride my bike up hills. It was all the fun of being a pro, only easier and less stressful. And the best part of the trip was getting to share it with my Dad, the man who first put me on two wheels in the first place. I had a lot of fun and most of the courses Tom put together were plenty challenging for me, which means I know they were a massive effort for him. But the old diesel pushed his ass up every one of those speed bumps like a champ. It's not about the bikes or the mountains or the even the act of riding. The farther I go and the faster I get, the more I realize that the greatest prizes have been here all along. And you can put that in a Rapha ad.

Did you even read my words or just look through all the pretty pictures?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Just Warming Up

The weather has been getting warmer and the protour has gotten full under way. After seeing the Tour of Romandie live a couple weeks ago I have a new respect for the beastly men who make up the elite peloton. There were a few days in the Swiss mountains that were near freezing with snow only freshly cleared off the ground. The climbs weren't so bad, but the descents were just brutal. Numb digits and chattering jaw are way worse then the steepest of hills, IMO. The whole experience added a new level of motivation to my training though, and I'm excited to return to the states and start racing in June.

I finally read Hunter Allen's Training and Racing with a Power Meter, which is something I should have done months ago. The six month training plan my coach designed for me ends when I get back to the states, at which point I'll be working more on my own. But I feel like I've gotten a handle on what my body can do and what it needs to improve, so I'm not too worried. I'm predicting a great season this year, hopefully moving up some categories. I compared my Critical Power curve to a chart Allen includes in his book and it ranked me along side his tests of Cat III cyclists, so that could be a fun goal. Of course there is a lot more to bike racing then power output, and as this will only be my second season of road I am definitely still wet behind the ears.

Here things are just warming up. The grand tours are getting underway, my legs are feeling stronger, and the weather is becoming brighter. I'm excited to see what the next few months bring.

Kyle McCall

Thursday, April 25, 2013

It's been a Nice couple weeks

For the past couple weeks I've been on vacation, seeing Paris, Nice, Italy, and now Switzerland. In all that excitement I've not found the time to put up a new post. But, here we go; I'll try and catch the world up on my adventures the way a middle-aged father would tell his distant relatives about what the families been up to for the past couple years. Slideshow !

Bam, Nice.
Start you off here with a beautiful panoramic view of the Nice bay. This is really a land of paradise. Sunny weather complements gorgeous mountains backing up to gorgeous surf. Brilliant. I was here for about a week and got in some really solid riding. Finally filling the hunger for climbing I've forsaken for so long in Strasbourg.

Peace and bikes, yo
Looking hip and hipstamatic here. So Europro.

I can tour myself, thank you very much.

 There was a sign at the Hostel I stayed at (Villa Saint-Expury, I highly recommend it) advertising trips to three different countries all near Nice. Not sure why they think it takes three different days though, I managed to hit all of them on one killer ride. I set out for about four hours one morning and followed the coastline through Monaco and straight on into Italy.

The Italian border was essentially non-existent. The Eurozone is a huge boon for cycling.
It was a fantastic ride with beautiful blue skies, at first. About halfway through though things started to turn gray and I decided to stop in an Italian restaurant for lunch. Because, hey, I'm on vacation.

Would you like some cheese with that wine?
I know I'm from Portland, but when presented with the decision between Italian dining and riding in the rain, I choose the prior. I had a great meal and managed to drag it out long enough that the storm passed right over me. Then I was able to spin back to Nice with two more hours of beautiful weather.

Nice waterfall. I road my bike up this. J/k.

This is just a bus stop map. But the title of the map is special.
You know that bike that one American company makes? The Madone? It's named after this region. I know, pretty cool, right?

Mid-ride mandatory Instigram. #whereiride

I drank Absinthe in France one time. That was pretty cool. Not sure how it relates to cycling though.

Here's a hip photo of me in Paris. I didn't have my bike with my there, but I just want to show you how cool I am. Did you know I'd been to Paris ? Pretty wicked. Wicked pretty.

Got the new team kit this week too! Pretty sick, I'm psyched about the design. Flahute racing, Trailhead Coffee Roasters, represent ! That said, it's not very pro how I'm blocking the sponsor's name with my hands in this photo.

A sneak preview of what's to come...
So that's what I've been up too. Right now, I'm writing this post from a hotel in Switzerland. That's the view from my room. I'm doing a badass guided cycling tour here with my Dad. Super tight. Sit tight for more about that in the next few days. But until then, keep pedaling.

Kyle McCall

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Born to Ride

Let's be honest, bike racing is a sport that requires a lot of stuff. The only sport that could warrant more gear is triathlon, where you are required to having running stuff and swimming stuff, in addition to biking stuff. But, I bet most cyclists have more bikes than triathletes, so we probably still got the most stuff. It can be a pain in the ass, and a little overwhelming. Sometimes I get damn tired of all the stuff, especially when it starts to have problems. When I get a flat tire, I want to just leave the damn thing there and go for a run. But that wouldn't work, and not just because cycling cleats make really shitty running shoes. I've ran before, I ran cross country for a season, and it just isn't as fulfilling. There is something magical about riding a bike. About being able to traverse 100km or more in a day, and then  being able to get up and do it all again. It feels a little like cheating. And a little like flying.

There is another reason running and I don't get along. Every time I try to take up running seriously, it seems like I get injured. That season of cross country I ran was cut short by a bad case of shin splints. I have pretty flat feet or whatever, and maybe I'm just not born to run. Maybe I'm doing something wrong, because I actually love running when it doesn't hurt. But all too often it does. Riding a bike can certainly hurt, but it's the good pain of getting stronger. Not the bad pain of fracturing your tibia. And that's what all that stuff is so good for. It's like the ultimate in motion control footwear. Every impact is cushioned through tires and a frame, and the human body works magically more efficiently astride this steed. It's a perfect cyborg symbiosis of man and machine. Face it: we were born to ride.

The trusty steed atop an Alsacian Vineyard.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Images of Spring

Today's blog post is all about pictures I've taken over the last couple weeks when things have started to get a little springy. Today it was gray and raining again. Hopefully by putting these out here God will see my preference for the sun, and change the weather accordingly.

Isn't this nice?

Just some chopped wood, because, you know, nature?

More nature.

Pretty water

I think a wizard lives here

I'm not that into fishing, but who doesn't like just standing around in the sun?

This is a line of jager bombs. I didn't see this on a bike ride.

In Alsace, these are mountains.

Damn, canal-tastic.

A little something for the pavé enthusiast 

I think I just want to take pictures whenever the sky is blue. Just to remind myself that it happens sometimes.

Cockpit shot.
Onward and upward!
Until next time.
Kyle McCall

Thursday, March 14, 2013


Wait, what was I gonna talk about? Oh yeah...
Before I do that though, I should check my facebook, and my email, and listen to that new JT song, and water my cats, and eat more carbs. You've probably been told this a million times before, but we are just to distracted nowadays. I myself struggle with being in the moment. In class, talking to friends, or even on the bike I am there but it can be challenging to keep the mind focused on the task at hand. There are broader levels of focus too. Beyond just being attentive to the moment, there is long term focus. This is an area where cycling has really benefited me. Maintaining the discipline and the focus to train every day and live the healthy lifestyle that supports recovery is a constant challenge. There are days when its easy and other days – when it is near freezing, raining, and I didn't get enough sleep – that it can truly be a challenge. When we lose focus, in the moment or in the long term, things can become overwhelming. What was once a passion that stirred excitement to think about becomes a dirge. It's easy to get lost and forget why we ever set out towards a distant goal in the first place. This is when a strong sense of self discipline and focus becomes most important.

Young rising star Joe Dombronski exhibits some complete concentration at the end of this time trail. Photo source:

Whatever I've done in my life, there have been times when I've wanted to quit. Whether it's school, or a relationship, or a job, or cycling. Sometimes it just becomes so hard that to continue doesn't seem worth it, no matter how motivated I once was. I can't go on. I must go on.

There are times when I loose my focus with cycling. Times when I get up and the last thing I want to do is pull on my kit and do the scheduled workout. When those times happen, I take a deep breath and meditate on the things I love about my sport. I think about the joy of motion that brought me here in the first place. And while there are times that it is hard, my journey with the bike has been one of the most rewarding challenges I've ever undertaken. This is directly related to how hard it is. Nothing easily gotten is worth having, as they say. It is the inherent challenge in many tasks that gives them value. This what we need to remember when we start to lose focus. It may damn well be hard, but sometimes that's just how life is. Accept that, buckle down, and do the work. After it's done, you can look back at what you've accomplished and feel the pride of knowing that your could have quit at any time, and a lot of times you probably wanted to, but you didn't. And you may well find that this is addictive. Before you know it, your innate response to challenges will be to overcome them. Focus leads to focus.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Spring Cleaning

Many of my regular readers may be lamenting the lapse in posts over the past couple weeks, but I can assure you I am back now and feeling refreshed. I had a great break and was delighted to travel about some of Europe. I manged to visit London, Berlin, and Amsterdam, three beautiful cities and it was truly an awesome break. Now that I'm back in Strasbourg I've been pleasantly surprised to find that Spring has sprung!

Springtime on the Canals

Spring means many things. It means the leaves are coming back to the trees and flowers are blooming. Love will be surely sprouting up as well. It also means spring cleaning and spring classics.
That's right, bike racing is starting to rev up with Paris-Nice practically in my bike yard not to mention Roubaix and Amstel Gold. It's good to live in Europe. I've been cleaning my act up as well as I enter the period titled "build" on my six month training plan. That means harder intervals, threshold work, and real sprints. Yum! To commemorate the coming of the news season and beautiful weather it was time to really clean the bike and reshave the legs. I've been wearing tights since the end of 'cross season, but I can feel the guns craving some vitamin D in the beau temps.

Cleaning my bike in the bathroom

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Wait, I wasn't already on vacation?

I know it's hard to believe, but I'm actually in school right now. Like, I spend about 20 hours a week in a classroom learning French and European culture stuff and do a little bit of homework too. But, this week and next I am on vacation. I'm taking the opportunity to do a little bit of traveling around Europe, so I'll be off the bike for about 10 days but that's the price you pay to see the world. I'm jetting off to London tomorrow and from there it'll be Amsterdam and then Berlin. Quality Eurotrippin'.

My vacation started on Friday though and I've been taking this first part of it to cram in the miles before I go. That's a valid form of training, right? I did a nice long team ride and some beautiful spins on my own as well. The team ride was mostly without incident, until some dude crashed on one of the corners in a little village and snapped his rear derailleur off. Ouch! The bike was fine though, that's why they make the hangers out of aluminum. Easily replaced and then your good as new. Oh, the rider was okay as well.

Man down! Also, is it fucked up that after this happened the first thing I thought was, "I should get a picture for the blog?"

The best part of my week was probably this killer long ride I went on on Monday though. I headed East into Germany in search of the little range of hills there that offered about as much elevation gain as I could find in the area. My regular readers will probably know what I'm going to say next. I got hella lost. You can see that ride on Strava and it looks pretty silly, it's basically a big loop with little spines coming off all over of roads I started to take but than realized they weren't going where I wanted. Navigating is a bitch man, I need one of those fancy ass bike computers that tells me where to go. "Uphill!" it would say and point me towards the sky.

Das Rhine

Honestly, it probably wouldn't help though. The "bike paths" here are usually pretty poorly marked and I doubt they would even be on the digital maps. A lot of times they will be just dirt or gravel. In fact, I'm pretty sure I figured out how the sport of cyclocross was invented, but here they just call it winter training. It's partially due to my sense of direction often leading me towards the edges of cliffs, but I usually find myself riding onto unfinished roads, through construction sites (seriously, half this damn country is under construction), or on trails through the woods. I've just given up trying to avoid it and write it off as some quality bike handling practice, but man am I gonna need a new chain when I get back stateside.

Das Flatland

Anyway, yeah German excursion. I eventually found some real pretty vinyard hills. None of them were more than 1,000 feet, so I don't want to call them mountains, but it was really nice to get a chance to do some climbing. I live next to the Rhine and pretty much everything around here is flatland. It was a beautiful day too, which made the five hour ride a breeze. It was really the sort of thing I'd been praying for these past couple weeks of consistant shitty weather. Midway through I even stopped and grabbed a slice of pie and a coffee from a little bakery in the country. Sun, hills, and pie? Now that's my kinda vacation.

Das Fuel

Cheers folks, I'll see you after the break. And remember: Live to ride. Ride to live.
Kyle McCall

Bonus !  Want to see some more pics? Check out this album.
Probably be posting some more there during my travels, so check back often.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

You Must Believe in Spring

Things have been trucking along nicely this past week, but I'm getting damn tired of the snow and ice. It's pretty and all, but it's a pain to ride in. Sometimes I actually miss the rain! This past weekend the clouds parted for just long enough to thaw the frozen crust on the land. Both Saturday and Sunday had beautiful afternoons. Saturday I set off on my own, but some group ride swept up shortly into my ride and I decided to hop on. Why not? I'm here to meet people after all. It was a slower paced ride than the other ones I've gone with, but the riders were a nice group of older club guys who still set a decent pace. I'm really impressed with all of the teams and clubs here, there are just tons of groups riding around. Sunday I met up with my usual team for a quality long ride, but nothing crazy this weekend. I just appreciated the breaks of sun I was able to get and some quality long rides.

That's all a really want, the sun. Spring is only a couple of months away. I can almost taste it! There is a girl on my program here who hails from Southern California and we talked about the weather. She says she doesn't really like the weather there, "it's too sunny all the time." This is a sentiment I've heard echoed by other SoCalites, believe it or not. I think they just get engorged on Vitamin D and can't handle anymore after a certain point. As an native Oregonian, however  I am habitually Vitamin D deficient and so have a fetishistic love for the sun. That's probably one of my favorite things about Oregon in fact: what a bunch of sun worshipping hippies we are. There's the slightest cloud break and people start playing ultimate Frisbee, having vegan picnics, and walking their labradoodles. Yes, it's as Bill Evans always said, You Must Believe in Spring.

This weekend. Real perdy.

Today. Also perdy, but less fun for riding.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Oh, My Portland

There is this magical effect that has been prevalent in my life whenever I travel that I call the "Portland Curse." Basically, the curse is that wherever I go the Portland weather follows me. I can travel to San Francisco and it'll rain. I went to Nice in the French Riviera and it rained. Whether it's Germany, Israel, or Hawaii in the summer, even if it's supposed to be blue skies, it'll start raining when I get there. So it's been pretty rainy in Strasbourg because it's in Northern France and it rains here all the damn time. But today I was reminded of the Curse in a uniquely charming way.

The infamous David Guettler of River City Bicycles generously sent me one of their kits to enable the looking pro and as well as spreading the love of this awesome shop to Europe. Pretty cool deal. And a fine looking kit of I don't say so myself:

So, the first thing I did this morning after I got it was the same thing I do every morning: I went for a ride. It was beautiful out, a veritable rarity in Strasbourg. I did some jumps, worked on the leg speed, and spun down the canal. A real nice ride. Then, after about an hour, the clouds started to roll in. Damnit, I thought to myself, there's a lot of white on this kit. The sky opened up and it didn't just rain, it started to freakin' hail! Luckily I was wearing an RCB cap too, which I flipped down to semi-protect my face from the icy bullets hitting me in the face at 50km/h.

I felt so at home. I had already turned around at this point and threw in some impromptu threshold work to keep the blood flowing and get out of the freezing rain quicker, but it wasn't an all bad experience. I was actually kept pretty warm and dry thanks to the weather resistant fabrics of that fancy new jersey (as a side note, this is perhaps the only construction of a sentence where the word "fancy" can appropriately be placed adjacent to the words "new jersey"). After I got home was a little dismayed at the dirt soaked into my new duds, especially the white leggings. But, they rinsed clean real nice with just a little bit of dish soap, so they will be looking fresh to rep this weekend on the team ride. It's all in a days work. And you gotta love the work.

A little on the bike vanity. You can see how sunny it was when I left the house.

Disclaimer: This blog is not sponsored by River City Bicycles, Castelli, or the State of New Jersey. I just think they do/make great things. Except the State of New Jersey.

Kyle McCall

Sunday, February 3, 2013


The pros do it, so it must be good.
Motorpacing, the practice of a single or group of cyclists drafting a motorized vehicle, such as a car, motorcycle, or scooter. It's a great way to simulate the high speeds and varying paces of a race in addition to allowing a coach to have a more hands on interaction with his riders during their training. For this Saturdays ride I joined up with team Eckwersheim again. They brought about 20 of their riders and the team coach, who was in their team car (I know, what?).

So, needless to say, it was pretty badass. We met the coach out near a little commercial area that was pretty light use. For our main workout we were going to ride a ~5km loop with him motorpacing us from the team car. Well, a recurring theme with my experiences with the Euro cyclists is that nothing is ever that simple. The ride evolved very much like a race. From the start we were tucked behind the car going nearly 40km/h (25mph) and the pace rarely dipped below there. On one particularly open flat stretch of the road, that brutal pace was matched with a strong headwind so if I got even slightly out of the draft I could feel myself being torn away from the group. The challenge wasn't in staying inside the constantly rotating echelons on the flats though, but keeping the bunch together out of the turns. Our route cornered through a couple of round abouts where the pace car would shoot out like a criterium racer. Pummeling winds were followed by explosive sprints in a constant battle to keep in the group behind the car. 

There would be no respite though and the pace just got faster and faster. Eventually, coming around a corner, I couldn't grab back on and got spat out the back. Fortunately I wasn't the only one who got dropped, so me and another team mate trucked on along the loop, waiting for the car to come back around. After a few minutes we I could see it coming around a corner and down a long straightaway toward us. We built up speed, preparing to jump onto the back of the pack. I gritted my teeth with the effort as the group thundered along side of us. Like jumping onto a freight train, I hurled myself up and into the draft. But the pace continued to quicken and my legs were considerably drained. After a few more minutes of sprints and turns the team car unforgivingly rolled over my legs. Metaphorically speaking. That is to so, I felt like my guns had been crushed and I simply could not hang on any longer. 

As the train thundered away down the tracks I was actually relieved to see a dozen or so riders – more than half the group – scattered around the road within a kilometer or so of me. The sight of others alone or in small groups around the loop told me I wasn't the only one who's legs had given out on them. It wasn't long after that point that we all regrouped back together and rode the loop a couple more times at a well earned relaxed pace. I talked with some of the other guys about are high intensity workout.
"Yeah, it was fast," a team member said to me, "I've never done that before."
Oh yeah? For some reason I had assumed this was the reg, but it was some great threshold work either way. The rest of the day was pretty moderate riding around the area and then back into town. Overall, it was a great day for cycling: forging new friendships and elite fitness. That's what I do.

-Kyle McCall

Team Eckwersheim, lookin' Pro

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Pleasant Introductions

So, my goal for this weekend was to get out into the community here in Strasbourg and dip a toe into what the cycling scene was like. I had found out about a ride on Saturday at 2 from a dude I passed while riding around, so that seemed like a grand place to start. I was pretty unsure of what to expect from this, first off I was a little disarmed by the fact that it started at 2. In the States, at least most organized rides I've heard of start at 10 or 11 at the latest. So, I figured this would probably be some kinda laid back afternoon spin sorta deal. Worked for me, I just wanted to meet some people.

Ladies and gentleman, never assume.

I decided to get some miles in before the ride, because starting at 2 it probably wouldn't be that long. So, I set out and spun around with about an hour on the clock before meeting up with the group. When I finally did head over to where they were meeting, a good sized pack had started to build up. We set out with maybe two dozen riders. This is in part due to the way cycling in Europe is organized. Unlike the smaller teams in the US, which are focused primarily as a racing team, Velo Clubs in France and elsewhere can be large, 50 people up to even 200, and based out of a city or region. The largest club in this area, for example, has 100 members and is "owned" by the small village of Eckwersheim outside of Strasbourg.

We set out at a decent pace and I did my best to chat up some of the local roulers. Unfortunately, my French failed me a bit on the roads, where wind, navigation, and riding a bike made my basic language skills a bit strained. I did my best to introduce myself though and make a positive impression. The real way to show myself as a rider though would be to take some hefty pulls. The pace quickened as the ride got underway, passing through some beautiful countryside and winding through beautiful roads I would never have been able to find on my own. I took my turn in the front a few times, gunning it out at the fast pace that had been set. Soon, we had gone far enough west that we were in the mountainous region away form the city. The group broke apart on the climbs, but I managed to sit up near the front groups for the first couple hills.

Then, as we approached are biggest climb a few guys shot out from the back, breaking away form the main group struggling up the incline. I jumped, trying to grab the wheel of the escaping lead group. I hit it hard, but at this point I had spread myself too thin with my pre-ride and ego-proving pulls. They slipped away up the hill, but I did stay with a secondary break which sweeped me up on the way up the climb. I could feel myself fading though and honestly had no idea how long this ride was going to be at this point. It was certainly a lot faster then I had expected.

At the bottom of the hill, the group recongealed and began to head back toward the East. Shortly into are return, one of the guys told me the group tends to pick up near the end and into town. I felt like it had picked up a bit already. But, as we winded back through the small towns there was a moment when the hammer dropped, like we were going into the end of a race, and the pack jumped forward. This wasn't your usual Saturday no-drop ride, no sir. I did my best to hold the wheels infront of me, but at this point was just spent. I had ridden for longer then I expected and had burnt too many matchs pulling and sprinting the hills, not to mention the hour I'd done before even meeting these guys. I watched the group pull away down the road and just hoped I would be able to find my way home.

Even though I had been dropped, I kept on the gas. I saw another rider fall from the group put my last hard effort into catching his wheel. We rode on together, chasing after the pack which was by now out of sight. I was still straining though and could feel my skinny little bodies blood sugar dropping fast as I tried to focus on keeping behind the guy infront of me who would hopefully be able to help me find my home. But I was zoning out on the bike at this point and when the road snaked to the left a bit I ran right into the curb. I flipped off of the bike, tumbling down into a patch of dirt that was thankfully on the side of the road. My bike had deflected off and continued a few feet down the road without me before lazily tipping over onto its side. I got up, a bit dazed, but more awake now. I was OK. The guy I was trailing noticed and stopped. I did a quick check of my ride and was amazed to see everything was fine on it as well. It was one of those stupid silly crashes that only happens near the end of a ride, but luckily everything was OK. I got back up and mentally slapped myself. Keep going, your almost home.

Well, not really. We met up with a third chap and the three of us, all a little warn, rode the rest of the way into town, but it was a surprisingly long distance yet. I managed to chat with this guy a little though thanks to our smaller group size. We got back into town pretty late, the sun was just setting. I rolled the rest of the way home with the thoughts of a grand feast on my mind. The day ended up being 80 miles in four and a half hours. A bit more then I had planned.

The guy who I had ridden the last leg of back into town invited me to go out with him again tomorrow though. He was part of the Eckwersheim team and he said it would be a ride with those guys. Some more decent base millage, but not as fast as today. I was glad to have gotten the invite and so, tired as I was, I gladly accepted. We would meet Sunday at 9:45. A more reasonable time too.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Settling In

Well folks, here I am. I'm settling into Strasbourg and have been spinning around getting a feel for the city. It's real perdy here, although a little flat in comparison to Oregon. In the course of my spins ran into a couple different people around the area to ride with and am going to try to hook up with a big group ride tomorrow. I only got some vague French directions to where and when, so I'm not totally sure about it, but I'll see if I can't find 'em. Not to mention this area is damn confusing. Like all of Europe, the road layout is the same as it was five-hundred years ago so nothing is on a grid and roads twist and turn and change directions. I'm starting to get some idea of my way around, but I'm usually lost for a portion of every ride.

The past couple weeks have been a little hectic training wise, what with all the travel and adjusting and stuff putting me a bit off "the plan" but that's how it goes sometimes. Since I've started working with structured training, I definitely find myself overwhelmed sometimes. For all the times when I was working on my own and felt lost for what to do to improve, there are times working with a coach that I feel confined and want to just spin my own way. Everything needs a little bit of perspective sometimes. A step back and a view of the simple beauty of flying across the Earth that riding a bike is all about in the end. That grande ronde where you aren't counting your watts or miles and are just racing to catch the horizon. That's why I ride. That's what a change of scenery has helped me realize.