Getting ready for your next “Big Ride”

With a few Gran Fondo’s (Big Ride’s) coming up this Summer/Fall, it’s a good idea to be properly prepared for the event. Gran Fondo Banff, Gran Fondo Whistler and DV100 to name a few!

Here’s a few tips to help you be the best you can be on the big day:

1) Clean your bike, including the drive train. Use a good chain cleaning tool and a good degreaser (I use diesel fuel – as do the pro mechanics) to thoroughly get all of the gunk and grime out of the chain, cogs and chainrings. Rinse with full pressure from your garden hose. Let is completely dry and then apply your favorite lube. I like the ‘dry’ style lubes as they don’t pick up as much dirt.

2) Ensure that your bike is in top working order. If you’re unsure, go to step 1 FIRST, then take your bike to the bike shop that you have a relationship with. Do not leave this to the last minute. Check the tires for cuts, make sure that your electronic shifting battery is charged, check for wear on the brake pads and go through the full range of gears.

3) Review what’s in your spares bag. I like to have 2 spare tubes, 2 CO2 cartridges, tire levers and a small multi-tool in the spares bag. Make sure that the tubes are in good working order and not left over from your last flat!

4) Finally, do NOT over train. You won’t get any fitter by doing long, hard rides in the week before the event. If you’ve been riding all Summer, I’d recommend going for a long ride a week before the event and then a couple short, easy rides in the week leading up to the weekend. Use the same food and drink mix that you use in training. Bring lots of clothes to the event start and choose what you need on the morning..you never know what the weather will do.

See you on the road!

Alex

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Keeping the Passion Alive

1977. I was 16 the year I started bike racing. Quite a long time ago when you do the math…36 years in fact! I’ve often pondered on my love for the sport and how I continue to find the motivation to ride my bike. I’m sure that there are many of you out there who have also been riding for years but there are also many new comers to the sport who may have just completed their first Gran Fondo.

For me, I equate riding my bike to freeing my soul and letting my mind relax and forgetting about the stress of everyday life. There is something therapeutic about letting the pedals turn under me while I let my mind wander and think about how lucky I am to live where I live and be able to do what I love to do.

It’s also about the sense of adventure and exploration that riding on a self-propelled, two-wheeled machine gives me. I can think of no better ride than to set out onto new terrain (paved or dirt) with a map (or not!) and general idea of where to go. Case in point was my recent entry into the 8-day Cape Epic mountain bike race. As a seasoned ex-pro road racer, I knew it would be a tough challenge especially not knowing each day’s course. However, I was able to finish strongly by mostly drawing on the mental strength that I continued to develop over the years.

Another facet that keeps me coming back is how many different ways there are to enjoy a bicycle. Road bikes are amazing with how efficiently I can apply power to the wheels and propel myself forward. Riding alone is still fun since I can go as fast or slow as I want, when I feel like changing pace. Riding in a group creates the social camaraderie that I really enjoy. I can really get to know people personally while on a group ride. The bike has a way of lowering the cultural barriers that we often experience in society. People’s ‘real’ personalities come out while on these group rides, and you can experience true friendship when you work together into the wind to finish a ride.

Most of my life-long friends are guys who I’ve ridden and raced with over the years. When we get together from time to time, it’s like we’ve never been apart. The bond is strong.

After a training ride in Texas - name the 'players' - these guys are my friends for life.

After a training ride in Texas – name the ‘players’ – these guys are my friends for life.

Mountain biking brings out another element of challenge and enjoyment. Whether it’s a race such as Cape Epic where I had to utilize all of my technical, mental and aerobic capabilities; a local trail ride in the Edmonton River Valley; slamming the DH terrain in Whistler or an adventure ride in the Rockies; the feeling of finding a flowing, smooth line through a curvy trail is second to none. There was more than a few single track sections in Cape Epic where I wanted to double back and ride it again. Next year, I think BC Bike Race is on my agenda. I hear the single track is exquisite!

The appreciation for the history of the sport is very appealing to me as well. I love to read about the ‘old days’ of road racing where the guys raced on a simple, single speed over the same mountains that the guys race on today. Riding up the smooth pavement of the Galibier in the Alps with my groups on an 18 pound race ready machine is hard enough. Trying to imagine racing up the same roads on a 40 pound single speed on gravel is hard to fathom. Those men were truly made of steel.

Technology of cycling has also advanced considerably since I started riding…from 5 speed, downtube friction shifters to 11 speed, electronic, it’s been an incredible ride along the way. I have a real appreciation for the history of where the bicycle has come from but at the same time, it’s wonderful to experience where the bicycle is going. Another great example from my Cape Epic race…I was fortunate to be able to ride on a Scott Spark 29’r – a dual suspension, full carbon fiber endurance racer that also included a 3-stage lockout that controlled the front and rear shocks. More than a few times during the 8-day event, I smiled to myself remembering my first rides on a fully rigid Ritchey Comp with my junior racer friends as we picked our way down a streambed on Mt Seymour…before any “North Shore” trails were ever built.

2013. I‘ve just turned 52 but certainly don’t feel over half a century old…more like half a century young! This year, I returned to mountain bike racing, completing the Cape Epic in March in 6th place in our over 50 age group with my teammate, Tom Ritchey. I really enjoyed riding in Axel’s Gran Fondo in early July with my sisters and my Mom who is turning 74 this year. What other sport can bring families together like this? Then we did a jaunt over to Chambery, France in mid-July for a week of riding, wine tasting and relaxation with friends and watching the Tour pass which was very enjoyable. Gran Fondo Banff is on my ride list for the end of August as is the new Intrepid 3-day event in the Okanagan, Sept 20-22. Finally, I’m helping bring the Tour of Alberta to fruition, Sept 3-8. It’s been a long ‘ride’ with lots of head winds, but we’re finally going to have a World-Class Pro stage race in my home province. Another goal checked off! I’m looking forward to the next 50 years on two wheels.

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My Weekend with Team NetApp and James Lau (Co-Founder of NetApp)

I was fortunate to be invited as a guest liasion officer for Team NetApp during the 2013 Amgen Tour of California, May 12-19. Along the race route I was able to ride my bike with distinguished guests of Team NetApp as well as explain the intricate details of the racing tactics as it unfolded before us. Here are a few brief notes of the last few days as we hosted the co-founder of NetApp, James Lau at various sites along the race route.

Friday, May 17 – Tour of California Individual Time Trial
NetApp had 6 employees signed up to race the time trial course (race against the clock) themselves, 30 minutes before the Pro’s! The course was 30km long and had an elevation gain of 2,149 feet, the last of which was 942 feet. The wild card was the strong head wind which weakened everyone’s legs before the final ramp.

James, one of the co-founders of NetApp in 1992 led the way with a valiant effort, punching his way through the wind and up the final climb without stopping. An incredible effort considering he has just starting ride his road bike within the last year.

James pushes hard up the final climb of the Time Trial

James pushes hard up the final climb of the Time Trial

Saturday, May 18 – Tour of California Mt. Diablo Road Race

Today was a tough day for the pro riders and also tough for us! The Pro’s raced 91 miles with over 10,000 feet in elevation gain, including the final climb up Mt. Diablo of 3,455 feet. I met up with the NetApp group including Mr. Lau at the base of Mt. Diablo to ride this climb together, in advance of the race.

Ready to tackle Mt. Diablo

Ready to tackle Mt. Diablo

We rode the climb together and James was able to ride the entire climb without stopping, save for a forced stop when we had to display our passes.

Phil Brotherton and James Lau

Phil Brotherton and James Lau

We then changed into our ‘normal’ clothes (which had been shuttled to the top by our support van) and watched the race live via video from the VIP tent.

As the race approached, I described the team tactics that Team NetApp was deploying to the NetApp employees in attendance as well as their customers including “Williams Sonoma” and “The Gap”. The team had 1 rider in the breakaway (David “the clown” de la Cruz) who acted like a fully redundant data drive in a RAID array – running at full speed. Leo “The King” König remained ‘idling” in the draft of the field as if he were a RAID DP drive – in case David faltered. As David tired, and at the critical moment, Leo attacked from the lead group and sprinted up the final, 300 meter ramp of 18% to take the win! A perfect display of how team work is always stronger than the individual. As a bonus, AEG, the owner of Tour of California invited Leo to watch a Stanley Cup playoff game in San Jose – a life-long dream for Leo who grew up playing hockey in the Czech Republic.

The Critical Attack!

The Critical Attack!

What a Feeling!!

What a Feeling!!

YES!!! NetApp Wins!

YES!!! NetApp Wins!

NetApp Wins!!!

An Incredible Day for Team NetApp

James was able to greet and personally congratulate Leo on his amazing win as he beat some of the best Pro’s in the world on a very demanding day.

James Congratulates Leo “The King” Koenig

James Congratulates Leo “The King” Koenig

Later that evening, we attended the Chairman’s Dinner in Santa Rosa as guests of the Local Organizing Committee and sponsor, ZD Wines. Great conversation ensued along with world class wines!

A Toast to Team NetApp!

A Toast to Team NetApp!

Sunday, May 19 – Tour of California Santa Rosa Road Race

Sunday’s stage for the Pro’s started in San Francisco and took them over the Golden Gate bridge, finishing with a flat circuit finish in downtown Santa Rosa. In the morning, before the Pro’s arrived, we took part in the Chairman’s ride with James and Phil, Vice-President at NetApp. We rode the hilly 50km route as a team and finished strongly together.

Myself, James and Phil, both of NetApp Inc.

Myself, James and Phil, both of NetApp Inc.

Just when we thought we had enough excitement, we watched the final sprint in awe as Daniel “The Speedster” Schorn of Team NetApp sprinted to 2nd place on the stage just behind Peter Sagan and ahead of Tyler Farrar, both previous stage winners at the Tour of California.

Daniel Schorn in the blue NetApp jersey, "throws" his bike to the line for 2nd

Daniel Schorn in the blue NetApp jersey, “throws” his bike to the line for 2nd

More Team NetApp photos from Tour of California are here.

Monday, May 20 – Corporate Day at NetApp HQ, Sunnyvale, CA

Today was “Meet the Pro” day at NetApp Inc. in Sunnyvale. Team NetApp arrived at the NetApp Campus for lunch at the corporate cafeteria and then held an autograph and photo op session with NetApp employees.

Employee Photo Op with Team NetApp

Employee Photo Op with Team NetApp

Autograph alley

Autograph alley

The team then went over to the NetApp Executive Briefing Center for a presentation from James about the history of NetApp.

The team presented James with a team jersey autographed by the whole team

The team presented James with a team jersey autographed by the whole team

Chris Cummings then explained the solutions NetApp provides to their customers.

Team NetApp learns about “Secure Multi-Tenancy” from Chris Cummings

Team NetApp learns about “Secure Multi-Tenancy” from Chris Cummings

Chris then shared this video as a great example of NetApp’s dynamic data storage capabilities.

Next on tap was a 50km bike ride with NetApp’s employees. About 25 riders including James gathered outside of NetApp’s fitness center for a fun, conversation-filled ride around the Sunnyvale neighbourhoods.

Team NetApp and NetApp employee bike ride

Team NetApp and NetApp employee bike ride

After a wrap-up dinner and visit to downtown San Francisco, the team flew back to Europe to prepare for their next series of races including the Critérium du Dauphiné (June 2-9) and the Tour of Spain (Aug 24 – Sept 15).

Good luck to the team!

Alex Stieda

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