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