Tom LeCarner – Competitive Cycling News, Race Results and Bike Reviews Sat, 03 Dec 2016 18:52:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Tom LeCarner – 32 32 Smarter than the rock: Instantly hardening G-Form body armor Mon, 27 Aug 2012 18:11:24 +0000 Smart padding that is comfortable and low profile

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The pads have a low enough profile that they could be worn under jeans if need be.  Photo: Tom LeCarner G-Form body armor is soft and pliable until abrupt impact, when it instantly hardens and absorbs the shock. Photo: Tom LeCarner The pads don't restrict mobility much. Photo: Tom LeCarner The pads stay in place well and don't need to be adjusted. Photo: Tom LeCarner G-Form body armor is padding that could be worn all day in moderate heat.  Photo: Tom LeCarner

There are many companies out there making body armor to protect cyclists. Many of these companies employ traditional foam and plastic padding with Velcro straps — what you typically see on the elbows and knees of kids at the local skate park.

There are several companies, however, that are taking body armor technology to the next level by employing (seriously) space-age, shock-absorption materials like Intellafoam, VPD, and RPT.

These materials remain pliable and soft on your body until impact, when they instantly stiffen to absorb up to 90% of impact, the way cornstarch and water is viscous until you touch it, when it instantly solidifies.

The technology

The technology behind the G-Form gear is something called RPT (Reactive Protection Technology), which is a combination of PORON XRD and proprietary G-Force materials.

At rest, the molecules inside the composite slightly repel each other, which gives the pads their flexibility and comfort.

On the arms and legs, they feel a bit like slightly bulky warmers. As soon as something hits the pads, however, (like the ground, or a rock) the molecules instantly bind together and form a hard protective shell over your bits.

The ride

It’s one thing to describe the technology behind body armor, but for many of us, despite the incessant pleas from our spouses or partners, the idea of wearing body armor on a long, potentially hot ride is simply heinous. Who needs it? I don’t crash often enough to make it worthwhile.

Well, I wanted to try these pads on a ride that would put them to the test, at least in terms of wearability (I had no intention of crashing on purpose to test the science out — see the company test videos for proof that they work).

So, I took my set of elbow and knee pads on an epic ride up at Monarch Crest in Colorado. The ride begins at 11,300 feet, and boasts 2,400 feet of climbing and over 6,000 feet of descending. We rode for almost six hours and I had the pads on all day.

Never once did the pads ride up on me, or require adjusting or tweaking of any kind.

The temperatures on the ride varied due to the obvious elevation loss, but it averaged about 80 degrees on the day. I never felt like I needed to take the pads off due to heat, although I would bet that on a hot day with lots of exposure to the sun, they would tend to heat up, as would any body armor.

In short, the G-Form pads were much more comfortable than I had ever anticipated, and they remained relatively cool on an all-day ride.

The bottom line

It seems that the days of bulky plastic armor for the downhillers of the world are coming to an end. The G-Form pads, and those like them, have changed the way riders ought to think about armor, even the cross-country set. If you can do a ride with arm and leg warmers, you can do a ride with this armor.

They’re not intrusive at all; in fact, they are thin enough to fit easily under any jersey and would readily fit under a pair of jeans should you want to hop on your motorcycle or do some urban shredding on your dirt jumper before heading to the coffee shop — although they might not fit under skinny jeans, so hipsters beware.

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Unique sports video tech: Pivothead Durango Video Sunglasses Thu, 23 Aug 2012 16:13:37 +0000 The video camera mounted in your sunglasses

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Pivothead Durango Video Sunglasses are a unique approach for taking action video, and have the camera installed directly in the frames.  Photo: Tom LeCarner | Pivothead Durango Video Sunglasses have the video camera built directly into the frames between the lenses. Photo: Tom LeCarner | They do have some bulk to them but still fit comfortably under a helmet.  Photo: Tom LeCarner | The video lens is small between the eyes.  Photo: Tom LeCarner | LED lights on the inside of the left arm indicate power, battery life, and recording (among other functions).  Photo: Tom LeCarner | The unit is charged via a micro USB port on the bottom of the arm, which is also how you upload the videos and pictures to your computer.  Photo: Tom LeCarner | Still photos taken with the glasses are surprisingly sharp.  Photo: Tom LeCarner | Still photos taken with the glasses are surprisingly sharp.  Photo: Tom LeCarner | Still photos taken with the glasses are surprisingly sharp.  Photo: Tom LeCarner | Still photos taken with the glasses are surprisingly sharp.  Photo: Tom LeCarner |

What is a Pivothead?

In the spirit of James Bond, 007, Pivothead has developed a hi-def, 1080p video camera tucked inside a pair of polarized, if somewhat bulky-looking, sunglasses. Entering a market currently dominated by the GoPro and Contour cameras, Pivothead puts a decidedly unique twist on things.

Far more discreet than either the GoPro or the Contour, the Durangos sit comfortably on the face, and are not prohibitively heavy—I didn’t notice them at all on any of my rides. They fit well with my S-Works Specialized helmet, but required a bit of jiggling with my POC Trabec Race. My Oakley Jaw Bones do also, for that matter.

Pivothead glasses come in four styles with optional lenses. My first pair (which were defective, but immediately replaced) was matte black with dark grey lenses. The second pair were white with polarized “glacier blue” lenses, which worked quite well in variable lighting on the trails.

In between the eyes, embedded in the frame itself, you will find a small 8-megapixel CMOS sensor. The lens is protected by a bezel, although you need to be mindful that there is a lens between your eyes, lest you push your glasses up with the tip of your dirty, sweaty, glove finger.

The camera functions are controlled on the left arm of the glasses. There is a power switch on the bottom and a rocker switch on top; LED lights on the inside of the arm indicate power, battery life, and recording (among other functions). Once the camera is turned on, push the forward rocker button to start recording, push it again to stop.

The unit also takes relatively high-quality still photos by pushing the rear rocker switch. There are also options for burst photos, which can be set up on the desktop software.

The rocker switch can also be used to change settings on the camera while on the trail, such as focus mode (continuous, auto, fixed), and resolution (1080p, 720p/60fps, 720p/30fps, etc.).

One drawback to this design is that you cannot see the lights when you’re wearing the glasses and there are no beeps (like the Contour) to indicate whether you’re actually recording or not. A few times the unit had automatically powered down to save battery life and I thought I was recording the whole time, which I found a bit frustrating. Of course, you can simply remove the glasses and look at the lights, but when your hands are on the handlebars, it’s not always convenient to do that. The addition of beeps would improve the design significantly.

The unit is charged via a micro USB port on the bottom of the arm, which is also how you upload the videos and pictures to your computer. The unit comes with 8GB of storage, which works out to about 60 minutes of 1080p video.

The Pivothead also has an optional device called the Air Pivothead, which allows you, via a WiFi connection, to preview and upload your images and video to your Apple iPhone, iPad, or any Android device.

The quality of the still images is really quite impressive given the convenience and size of the camera. No need to stop, pull a camera or an iPhone out of your jersey or Camelbak to capture that view or your buddy’s epic wipeout; just touch the button on your temple, and voila, say cheese.

Video quality

See them in action >>
In terms of video quality, the Pivothead doesn’t quite compete with the GoPro Hero 2 or the Contour, both of which I have used extensively. In this video I took to compare the videos side-by-side, you will first see footage shot in hi-def 1080p with the Contour HD, and then footage of the same trail at 1080p with the Pivothead. Both cameras do a good job of showing rider POV, as you can see, however, the “fixed focus” setting, which is the recommended setting, frequently blurs and does not offer the stability that the Contour does.

I then did a side-by-side shot of the same trail with both cameras on at the same time with a rider in front of me, which is typical for a lot of mountain bike video footage. To be fair, I adjusted the Pivothead to 720p to conserve storage space and battery to complete the shoot, so the side-by-side is not meant to compare video quality, but rather to demonstrate what I feel is the Pivothead’s biggest weakness in its applicability to mountain biking: the viewing angle of the lens.

The GoPro Hero 2 has a 170 degree viewing angle, and the Contour+ has a 170 degree (at 960p and 720p) and 125 degrees at 1080p. The Pivothead, however, has only a 75 degree viewing angle. What that means for us mountain bikers is that your field of view is far shorter, so if you’re filming someone from behind, it’s almost impossible to see them because the lens is looking out in front of your bike, not up at the rider in front of you.

I was aware of this potential problem when I hit the trail, and I intentionally tried to look up farther down the trail, which is always a good idea anyway. Even with this fact in mind, it was very limiting, as you can see in the clip.

Does this kill the deal for Pivothead? Not necessarily. It’s a matter of priorities; there are no mounts to fumble with (a big issue with the GoPro in particular) and you can effortlessly switch from still pictures to video with the touch of a button — features that the competitors cannot claim.

I spoke with Pivothead about my concerns regarding the field of view and the lack of sound indicators and was told that they have no plans to increase the field of view as it would require a larger lens, which is not an option in a glass frame. With regard to the beeps, they said that it was a “frequent request” and that, while not possible at the present without making the frames larger, they are interested in exploring that in the future.

The bottom line

I think if you already have a GoPro or a Contour, the Pivothead could make a really cool addition to your videography tools by providing some cool POV angles and some great stills to edit into the footage. It might be a better application for snowboarding, or other sports, but at $350, and with the limited field of view and rather mediocre video quality at high speeds, the Pivothead is certainly not going to endanger GoPro or Contour sales any time soon.

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Pivothead Eyewear vs. Contour HD side-by-side video comparison Mon, 23 Apr 2012 16:03:45 +0000 The post Pivothead Eyewear vs. Contour HD side-by-side video comparison appeared first on

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Savio: Nino could not win at Genting Highlands Sun, 04 Mar 2012 14:58:30 +0000 Part two of Anthony Tan's exclusive interview with Gianni Savio, manager of Androni-Giocattoli

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KUALA TERRENGANU, Malaysia (VN) – In part II of this exclusive interview with one of the most charismatic team owner/managers in professional cycling, Androni-Giocattoli’s Gianni Savio makes known a so-called gentleman’s agreement between his man José Serpa and Victor Nino Corridor of the Azad University team, where the latter believed he would be ‘gifted’ the stage to Genting Highlands. He also talks about the team’s plans for the upcoming Giro d’Italia, and who will lead the squad in the season’s first grand tour.

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US Champ Matthew Busche reflects on his early Euro season Sat, 18 Feb 2012 15:44:41 +0000 Having helped his Radioshack Nissan-Trek teammate Tiago Machado into second place overall on stage three of the Volta ao Algarve in

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Having helped his Radioshack Nissan-Trek teammate Tiago Machado into second place overall on stage three of the Volta ao Algarve in Portugal yesterday, Matthew Busche took some time out at the start of stage 4 today to reflect on his European season thus far.

“It’s my first time in Algarve and I don’t know what I really expected, but it’s been really hard,” said the US road race champ. “Its been nice to race in a short sleeve jersey and shorts some days. The weather has been tough in most parts of Europe, so it’s been nice to get the good weather here, but the first two stages were deceptively hard actually. Yesterday was definitely tough because of the parcours and also because Sky rode exceptionally strong, but overall the race is a really nice race.”

With just one mainly flat road stage to go today before the crucial final time trial tomorrow, Busche expects to spend the stage keeping Machado out of trouble with the aim to get his Portuguese teammate into the start house on Sunday in the best possible position.

“Today won’t be anything different than it’s been for the last two days,” said Busche. “Tiago is a protected rider and I would expect Sky are still going to try and control the race. All we can do is keep Tiago where he is and do some damage control until the time trial tomorrow and hope he can do his thing.”

Machado and compatriot Rui Costa of Movistar have proven to be the favorites with the roadside Portuguese fans and Busche reckons the former has a good chance of overtaking race leader Richie Porte in the final time trial.  “He’s got as good a chance as anyone to win the race overall. It’s a race he’s motivated to do well in. He’s in shape. He’s strong. And he’s a good time trial rider but, that said, there are plenty of guys within striking distance and Porte is no slouch himself in the time trial. It’s anybody’s race between four or five guys and I hope we can come out on top.”

Although he doesn’t yet know what his next race will be, probably either Paris-Nice or the Tour of Catalunya, Busche has firmer long term personal goals.

“Long term, or through the spring, the aim will be to go back to California and help Chris Horner defend his title there and then hopefully go to the USPRO championships and defend my own jersey. The team has come together really well with the old guys gelling really well with the new guys since the merger. The team is super strong. We’ve got good motivation and a good atmosphere and it’s going to be an exciting season.”

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What the POC? Sat, 18 Feb 2012 14:47:41 +0000 The funky lid from Sweden is all business

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Say what you will about the POC Trabec Race helmet—and believe me, people have—but I can tell you that whatever you make of the construction-worker looks of this lid, it absolutely rocks (excuse the pun).

Made by the award-winning Stockholm, Sweden-based company POC, the Trabec Race is one of the company’s latest innovations in safety for cyclists. POC has an established following in snow sports for its innovative helmets, body armor, goggles, gloves, and race clothing, and they have now moved into cycling. The bike line includes a full line of helmets, body armor, gloves, and cycling clothing, all of which speak to the company’s ethos of making very high-quality, understated products that deliver performance on par with just about anything out there.


The Trabec line of helmets includes the Trabec, the Trabec Race, and the Trabec Race MIPS. Many bike helmets rely on EPS (Expanded Polystyrene) to absorb shocks. EPS works well on first impact, but loses efficacy on repeated hits, which is why cyclists typically trash their helmets after a big fall. The POC, however, uses an EPS core that is reinforced with Aramid filament. Aramid is a synthetic fiber often used in military and aerospace products such as ballistic-rated body armor. Its use makes the POC helmet stronger overall, and more resilient to multiple impacts.

Many of the top cycling helmets today also incorporate what is known as an in-mold design, which adds a second layer of protection on impact—the outer thin layer destructs on impact, which leaves the inner EPS layer absorbs the remainder of the force, reducing the potential damage to the head. To combat the lack of resilience in this typical one-crash design, POC incorporates a patent-pending technology called “Aramid Ballistic penetration barrier,” or APB. APB adds an additional layer of Aramid between the shell and the liner, which does two things: it allows for a thinner, and therefore lighter, shell, and it increases impact resistance.

The Fit and the Ride

The fit of the Trabec Race is as good as any helmet I’ve put on. The focus of the design is to fit around your head, as opposed to many bike lids, which seem to fit on top. It feels more like a hat—or perhaps more like a skateboard helmet than a traditional bike helmet.

The best compliment one can give to a helmet is that you forget you’re wearing it, and I can definitely say that about the POC. It is a very comfortable helmet. While its freeride design might be a turn-off to the more hardcore XC riders, most weekend warriors, all-mountain or trail riders will find, much like the Giro Xen, that this helmet is perfectly suited for both comfort and protection. Given the time of year here in Boulder, Colorado, most of my rides with the Trabec Race have been in the 50s, so I cannot yet speak to its ability to keep the head cool on very hot days. Obviously, with much more back-of-the-head coverage, the helmet is not going to be as cool or as light (it weighs in at 380g) as an XC helmet, but the vents (16 total) are quite large, and I would suspect that it would only be a real issue on exceptionally hot days, but I can’t say with certainty until it warms up here a bit.

The lowdown

Overall, the design, fit, and comfort of the POC Trabec Race are top quality. In terms of protection, you won’t find much better. The POC comes in the orange/white and a black/white design if you don’t like being seen from a mile away. Personally, I’m going to stick with the orange…it matches my car.

MSRP: 180

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Qatar analysis: Death by echelons Sat, 11 Feb 2012 14:32:08 +0000 Besides Tom Boonen being in near-peak form, what else did we learn from the Tour of Qatar? Well, Stages 3 and 5 demonstrated that Mark

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Besides Tom Boonen being in near-peak form, what else did we learn from the Tour of Qatar?

Well, Stages 3 and 5 demonstrated that Mark Cavendish does not need a dedicated lead-out man to win. That’s not to say his Sky team did nothing – on both occasions in the final kilometers, Bernie Eisel and Juan Antonio Flecha got him where he needed to be – but Cav’ demonstrated his incredible dexterity by jumping from wheel to wheel until he launched his trademark low-profile sprint.

And when he goes, it really is a sight to behold.

It appeared that he was reveling in not having someone like his old lead-out man, Mark Renshaw, to steer him to the line – like he was playing a game of ‘Frogger’ on the Doha desert highway.

“You never really get the season going until you get that first win under your belt,” Cavendish said after his Stage 3 win outside Al Gharafa Stadium.

The key for his rivals was to stop him from taking that first win; now that he’s started, Cavendish will be virtually impossible to stop – unless, of course, he gets taken out (or takes himself out, depending on how you saw it), as happened on Friday’s final stage. Subjectively, it wasn’t really anyone’s fault, as much as it was the risks that riders were taking when 13 teams were yet to notch a notch a victory after five days’ racing.

It must be an awful conundrum for the likes of André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol, who was not in Qatar due to illness), Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Barracuda), Mark Renshaw (Rabobank), Thor Hushovd (BMC), Denis Galimzyanov (Katusha) and others right now.
It is clear as day that Cavendish is the fastest by a solid margin. He also has the agility and poise of Robbie McEwen in his heyday, which allows him to prevail with or without a lead-out train.

Greipel, simply because of his God-given strength (he says it’s from his mother – “you just need to look at her,” he said), will likely be the only man to come close to Cavendish this season. Perhaps his adversaries should get a hold of his race schedule and pick races the Manxman won’t be at, because to be beaten again and again and again, can wear on one’s confidence.


No surprises here, but when the winds blow, the Belgians reaffirmed their prowess in this discipline. The fourth stage was the highlight of the race, as the peloton shattered, then splintered, and left as its by-product shelled victims strewn across the barren landscape.

Narrow roads, constant changes of direction, and ‘cat’s eyes’ added to the drama with punctures aplenty; Farrar and BMC revelation Adam Blythe were just a few of the victims. Boonen and his faithful Quick-Steppers knew where they needed to be and duly applied more pressure, leaving just a quartet to contest the finale; ‘Tommeke’ held a vice-like grip on GC.

The stage also provided a clear bellwether for the Spring Classics, particularly those of the cobbled variety: Boonen’s team-mate, Gert Steegmans, was exceptionally strong all week; Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan-Trek) and Flecha (Sky) were equally solid; honorable mentions also go to Blythe, Tom Veelers (Project 1t4i), Eisel (Sky), Farrar and Johan Van Summeren (Garmin-Barracuda).

The form that four-time Qatar champion Boonen boasted in the Middle East, however, leaves me wondering a little: Is he too good too soon? Though the fourth stage aside, the 31-year-old didn’t really extend himself and the longest leg was just 160 kilometers, so, more than likely, the boy from Balen is back on track for a good run at Flanders and Roubaix. He last won those races in 2006 and 2009, respectively.

For the rest, the end of Qatar marked 36 days from the season’s first major appointment, Milan-San Remo, with Tirreno-Adriatico, another warm-up race for the sprinters in between, leaving enough time for fine-tuning before La Classicissima.

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Tour of Qatar Stage 1 Results Sun, 05 Feb 2012 16:49:07 +0000 Stage 1 – 141.5 kilometres Brazan Towers to Doha Golf Club:- 1. Tom Boonen (BEL/OmegaPharma-QuickStep), the 141.5 km en 3 h 11:32 2.

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Stage 1 – 141.5 kilometres Brazan Towers to Doha Golf Club:-

1. Tom Boonen (BEL/OmegaPharma-QuickStep), the 141.5 km en 3 h 11:32
2. Adam Blythe (GBR) s.t.
3. Peter Sagan (SVQ) s.t.
4. Tyler Farrar (USA) s.t.
5. Daniel Oss (ITA) s.t.
6. Mark Renshaw (AUS) s.t.
7. Alexander Kristoff (NOR) s.t.
8. Davide Appollonio (ITA) s.t.
9. Jonas Van Genechten (BEL) s.t.
10. Robert Wagner (GER) s.t.

Overall standings
1. Tom Boonen (BEL/OmegaPharma-QuickStep) in 3 h 11:22
2. Adam Blythe (GBR) at 0:004
3. Peter Sagan (SVQ)   at 0:006
4. Tyler Farrar (USA)  at 0:007
5. Adam Hansen (AUS) at 0:007
6. Davide Appollonio (ITA) at 0:008
7. Marco Haller (AUT) at 0:008
8. Mark Renshaw (AUS)  at 0:009
9. Nicolas Maes (BEL) at 0:009
10. Daniel Oss (ITA) at 0:0010

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Marcato wins at Besseges; Rolland takes lead into Sunday finale Sat, 04 Feb 2012 19:39:55 +0000 February 4, 2012, (VN) — Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil-DCM) darted to victory in Saturday’s weather-shortened stage at the Etoile de

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February 4, 2012, (VN) — Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil-DCM) darted to victory in Saturday’s weather-shortened stage at the Etoile de Besseges in southern France.

For the second time in three days, foul weather forced race organizers to redirect the route that’s been plagued with cold, wind and snow. After some consideration, offcials opted to hold the race on a 22km circuit in Bagnols-sur-Ceze.

Bobbie Tracksel tried his luck at an escape, but Europcar rode to defend the leader’s jersey of Pierre Rolland. The group was later
fractured in heavy winds, with second-place rider Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ) losing the wheel.

Marcato held off Belgian veteran Nico Eeckhout (An Post-Sean Kelly) to claim the win, with Julien El Fares coming close with third for his new squad at Team Type 1.

Rolland carries the leader’s jersey into Sunday’s double-stage finale, which includes a road stage and a 9.7km individual time trial to wrap France’s first stage race on the 2012 season.

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Put Some Spring in Your Winter Step: Spring Training with PowerMax Tue, 29 Nov 2011 21:19:18 +0000 If spring weather is temperamental, riding indoors doesn’t have to be a drag

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The class takes place at the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine. Photo: Tom LeCarner | BCSM Powermax Class BCSM Powermax Class BCSM Powermax Class BCSM Powermax Class
The winters in Boulder can be downright nasty, and the hopes of a consistent spring training plan are often dashed by inconsistent weather and brutal Colorado winds.

To help alleviate some of that inconsistency and to help me build solid base going into the off season, I spent two months at the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine riding in their PowerMax classes.

Let me tell you, this is no spinning class.

The program is an awesome training tool. You ride on your own bike, on Computrainers, in a PowerMax Multi-Rider workout format.

All the bikes in the class, 10 in my case, are synchronized with a central computer. The trainers measure your wattage output, speed, distance, and can accommodate cadence and heart rate as well.

Once you’re clicked in and calibrated, all of your data (and the data of everyone else in the class) is instantly projected up on the big screen for everyone to see.

So, unlike in a spinning class where you can sit in the back and slack, when you’re slacking here, everyone knows it—it’s an excellent motivator.

The coaches for the classes are world-class and they have designed a wide array of course layouts to alleviate boredom.

If you want to ride L’alp d’ Huez, you got it. Tourmalet? No problem. In fact, you can ride the entire 21-day Tour de France from last year, if you think you can handle it.

For the rest of us mortals, the courses are designed for a variety of purposes; we do intervals one week, climbing the next, sprinting, and everyone’s favorite in my class, the time trial.

There is even a time trial series where you compete against the members from all of the classes during the week. The sheer variety of the routes offered, coupled with the fact that you can actually measure your progress against other riders in your class (and the other classes during the week) provides an effective tool to motivate and track your progress over the early part of the season.

Those who sign up for a course (usually 6-12 week sessions depending on the time of year), are eligible for a discount on a series of physiology tests including VO2 Max, Lactate Threshold, Wingate, Fuel, and others.

I personally ran the full battery of tests, which I had never had done before, and it was an amazing assessment of my early-season fitness level.

The program at BCSM started five years ago and has grown exponentially over the years. The classes are taught by exercise physiologists, gold medal Olympians, medical doctors, world-class trainers and coaches, and they are all right there, riding with you, coaching you, and giving you advice and guidance throughout the class.

These are not just hammering indoor rides, the routes are carefully planned to maximize your early season gains. They focus on fitness, skill and education.

They have junior classes as well to teach kids about the fundamentals of training, proper form and recovery. Again, you simply cannot get this experience in any spinning class.

The seven-week sessions are $140 for the session, which is once per week for 90 minutes. BCSM also offers personalized sessions with coaches in a one-on-one setting, and also team training sessions are available. During the spring as the weather improves, classes are occasionally held outdoors.

The PowerMax classes are an exceptional way to measure early season progress, avoid the headwinds, and have access to phenomenal coaching. It’s a good way to spend the cold winter days.

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Outerbike: a game changer? Fri, 21 Oct 2011 18:32:42 +0000 The success of the Moab event could signal a change in the way the bike industry talks to consumers

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2011 Outerbike, Moab, Utah. Photo: Leslie Kehmeier Wide Eyed World Photography
2011 Outerbike, Moab, Utah. Photo: Leslie Kehmeier Wide Eyed World Photography

The cycling industry’s biggest event in North America is surely the Interbike show, held every September in Las Vegas, Nevada. The only issue with Interbike is that it is only open to bike industry folks. That means unless you own a bike shop, work for one, or work for a manufacturer, you just have to wait to see the hottest new bikes of the year until they hit the floors of your local bike shop. Well, not really. Enter Outerbike.

The Outerbike festival is Everyman’s chance at getting his or her paws on the newest bikes, not just drooling over it on the carpet of a booth in an expo center in Vegas, but in the dirt, on the road, and clipped in.

For the past two years Outerbike has been held in the mountain-bike mecca of Moab, Utah, and if one gauges the success of a business on how much growth it sees in a given year, well, we have to consider Outerbike a raging success story. In its second year now, the number of registered participants more than doubled from 350 to 800; and many of this year’s participants already plan to come back next year.

According to Carla Hukee, brand manager for Niner bikes, “I think people have clued into the fact that this is the absolute best deal in a mountain bike vacation you can possibly get. I mean it costs almost a hundred bucks a day to rent a bike in Moab; why not get a really badass bike in Moab for a hundred and fifty bucks for three days, plus food, beer, and parties?”

Some major cycling brands were in attendance, handing out bikes to anyone with a wristband — Specialized, Trek, Santa Cruz, Niner, Yeti, GT, Rocky Mountain, Ibis, and Pivot were all on hand.

Once you chose your bike, you headed out on the incredibly well marked Brand trail system, just north of Moab. Out on course, you found Jeeps acting like four-wheel drive sag wagons if you had difficulty; they also had spare parts, food, or water if you needed it.

Hukee sees trade shows like Interbike as a thing of the past, kind of old school. Prior to the Internet, the only way you could see something new was to go to a tradeshow like Interbike. Now, with new products released every quarter, everything is already out before the show. “Who we really need to talk to are our customers,” said Hukee. “We think it’s important to support our dealers and we see this as talking directly to their customers; it’s our job. We really think it’s important for the bike industry and the media to support events like this; this is real, this is where it’s growing.”

Niner didn’t even attend Interbike this year, for the first time since the company was founded in 2003. Instead, they have opted for a demo tour, which is comprised of three large company vans packed with bikes that tour the major cycling markets and bring the latest and greatest offerings directly to the dealers — and their customers. They’ve done over 70 tours this year. They are aiming for 100 next year.

On the first day of the Moab-based event, which is organized by cycling travel company Western Spirit, hundreds of participants lined up in forty-degree weather, in the rain, to mount their chosen steed. While the weather did clear up, the lines didn’t abate.

2011 Outerbike, Moab, Utah. Photo: Leslie Kehmeier Wide Eyed World Photography
2011 Outerbike, Moab, Utah. Photo: Leslie Kehmeier Wide Eyed World Photography

For all of its successes, the event did suffer from some organizational snafus that director Ashley Korenblat hoped to iron out next year. Some of the riders complained that the bikes they wanted were never available, or that bikes were reserved before the gates even opened — on a reservation system known to some, but not others. One of the issues was that bikes were being taken on long shuttle runs, such as going to Porcupine Rim, Magnificent 7, or the Whole Enchilada. This took them out of circulation for half a day or more, leaving those who wanted to ride that one particular bike, in that particular size, out of luck.

For next year, Korenblat plans on limiting some of the more popular bikes to the Brand trails, and also allowing people to reserve bikes online in advance so that you can plan your days — one day of shuttle rides on bike X and another of 1-hour laps on bike Y.  “For some people it’s their vacation, their trip to Moab, and they want to go do the big rides,” said Korenblat, “and there are also people who are really trying to decide what bike to buy; we have to try to please them both”

One thing that will change for next year according to Korenblat is the number of bikes available. “Next week, I’m calling the marketing directors of these bike companies and saying, ‘proof of concept? Check’ I want your entire Interbike truck here,” she said. With 800 riders from 43 different states, it’s likely she’ll get all the bikes she wants next year.

“The bike industry has such a camaraderie, such friendship, and such real connections, and sometimes we don’t share that with the consumers directly,” said Korenblat. “We’re so focused on the dealers; it’s time to let the people ride the bikes.”

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Destination: Cortez, Colorado Fri, 21 Oct 2011 17:55:34 +0000 While it doesn't have the name recognition of Fruita or Moab, little Cortez, Colorado rocks.

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Crested Butte, Monarch Crest, Fruita, Gunnison, Golden, these towns are among the many world-class options for mountain bikers in Colorado, the highest state in the country. But there is a small town, down near the Four Corners area, that few have heard of; and those who have heard of it are keeping a tight lip on it. Try as they might, however, word is getting out about the little town of Cortez, Colorado. While it certainly doesn’t have the name recognition of a Crested Butte, Aspen, or Monarch Crest, it boasts some of the best riding in the West.

There are essentially three main options for riding in Cortez. The first, and arguably the reason people are starting to show up in Cortez, is a network of trails known as Phil’s World. Set among the Pinon pines, sage and juniper of the Southwest, the trails were started, according to Jimbo Fairely, the affable, co-founder and co-owner of Kokopelli Bike Shop in Cortez, “by a local guy named Phil.”

And while most of his original work has been modified and expanded, the network still gives you that feeling that you’re riding something that was built with pure mountain bike love. Like the trails in Fruita, Colorado, to the north, “the trails are mostly built and maintained by a core group of folks,” said Fairley.

The trails are extremely well maintained, clearly marked and they are all directional, clockwise trails that end up where you started; it’s pretty damn hard to get lost here. There is no double track to speak of, all buffed-out singletrack with amazing flow, and a few really fun rocky sections here and there to get the blood pumping a bit. This isn’t a huckster’s paradise, but if you like to get air, there is plenty to be found here. One trail in particular, recommended highly by Fairley, and rightly so, called “Rib Cage” is screaming fun — you can spend a lot of time in the air on this one, if you so choose. It’s a guaranteed perma-smile trail.


Phil’s World packs a ton of fun for all levels of rider. I rode here with my 9-year-old son and we all had a blast. For those just starting out, you can try the Trust and Hippie House loop, which is about a 7-mile sinewy singletrack route with very little climbing and almost nothing technical. If you’re feeling more adventurous, there are options aplenty. To the west side of the network there’s Ledges Loop, Vertebrae, and Stinky Springs.

In addition to Phil’s World, there are two other hot spots for riding around Cortez. To the north is Dolores, Colorado, which, according to Frailey, has an amazing network of seldom-used singletrack waiting to be enjoyed. To the south, there is Sand Canyon, which boasts slickrock, singletrack, and challenges for any level of rider. You can easily spend a week riding here and never hit the same trail twice.

The town of Cortez itself is a gem with tons of character, and worth making a trip for. It’s about eight miles west of Mesa Verde National Park, which is home to the ancient cliff dwellings of the Pueblo Indians—dating back to A.D. 550 – A.D. 1300. We camped in the park and the facilities were excellent—what you can expect from the best of the National Park system. Main Street in Cortez houses a number of very good restaurants and shops, including Once Upon a Sandwich, and the famed Silver Bean coffee shop, which can be found in an Airstream trailer. If you’re thinking of planning a trip for some fair-weather riding, and one that’s slightly off the beaten path with amazing trails, look no further than Cortez, Colorado.

If you go: Cortez, CO
Must-do trails: Rib Cage, Ledges Loop, Lemon Head, Stinky Springs
Best bike shop: Kokopelli Bike and Board
Best map: Latitude 40
Best coffee: Silver Bean Coffee
Riding season: Technically, you can ride here year-round. In Dec/Jan the highs are in the 40s, in July/Aug the highs are in the upper 80s.
Getting there: Phil’s World is located across from the Montezuma Fair Grounds, just east of Cortez.
Lodging: The best way to experience Cortez is to camp in the Mesa Verde National Park. The park has clean restrooms, showers, shops, etc. There are hotels in Cortez as well.
Insider tips: Rib Cage Trail = some of the most fun you can have on a bike while clothed.

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Review: Niner's Newest Creation, the RDO Thu, 13 Oct 2011 21:26:14 +0000 " ... an excellent all-rounder that is nimble and climbs like a goat"

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Niner RDO Review
The RDO's rear suspension delivered 120mm of travel, but it felt like more. Photo: Tom LeCarner

While in Moab this past weekend for Outerbike, I had the opportunity to spend a little time with Niner’s newest creation, the RDO. I have to confess, it was something like love at first ride. The bike is an excellent all-rounder that is nimble, climbs like a goat, and has enough moxy on the descents for just about anyone.

The frame is a full-carbon beauty with an exceptionally elegant internally routed cable design, tapered head tube, and fully sealed bearings on all pivots. The top tube arcs its way gently to a split, one side intersecting with the seat tube and the other with the massive bottom bracket shell. The rear triangle is isolated via Niner’s patented CVA suspension design. The pivot, which is located underneath the bottom bracket shell, is designed to eliminate chain growth and provide efficient pedaling in all chainrings; it sports 100mm of travel in the rear.

The bike I rode, which is the only production version in existence at the moment, was equipped with a full SRAM XO group, R1 Formula brakes, Reynolds XC 29 wheels, a Fox Float RP23 shock with Kashima coating, and a Fox Talas 120mm fork up front. And while the Formula brakes left a lot to be desired, the set up was well-suited to the desert terrain of Moab, down to the Schwalbe Racing Ralph tires, which performed well.

The ride
I took the bike out on Moab’s Brand trail system. The trail was a mixture of dirt singletrack and rocky climbs with twists and turns that definitely keep you on your toes. The first thing I noticed about the RDO was how quick it was to accelerate. At the first slight incline, the bike was almost effortless going up — it felt like it was egging me on, daring me to go faster. The CVA suspension offered exceptionally stiff acceleration out of the gate with no noticeable pedal bob.

Weaving through the tight many twists and switchbacks, I expected the RDO to be less agile and a bit cumbersome in the turns. And while it was not as nimble as a comparable 26er, it took me almost no time to adjust to the wagon wheels and I quickly forgot that I was riding a 29er, at least until the rough stuff came.

Where the RDO really excels is in rough terrain. It is one of the most forgiving bikes I’ve ridden. The Dead Man’s Ridge trail is moderately technical, with some short, rocky uphill blasts that require your attention. On the RDO, if you miss a line, or take a turn too wide, it’s not a problem; it rolls over whatever you put in front of it. It’s an amazingly confidence-inspiring platform that allows you to push your limits beyond what you might have thought possible on other rigs.

The feedback from the Kashmina Fox Float was incredibly responsive, and the Fox Talas did its job up front with no complaints. The RDO has 120mm up front and 100mm in the rear and it feels like a 160mm bike that accelerates like a hardtail.

Perhaps the biggest complaint about the RDO at Outerbike was the line of riders waiting to get on it when I got back.

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Burning the candle at both ends: Nutrition in a 24-hour race. Tue, 04 Oct 2011 20:16:20 +0000 Sleep-deprived and overworked, 24-hour racers eat a mixture of a lot things

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This past weekend, Colorado Springs hosted the USA Cycling 24-Hour Mountain Bike National Championship.

Men’s overall winner, Josh Tostado, crushed the field with 18 laps in 22:12:21; he finished early and opted out of a 19th lap because his nearest competitor was 90 minutes down.

If you’ve ever wondered what these sleep-deprived riders use to fuel themselves, well, it turns out to be a mixture of a lot things and is very rider-specific. There is no holy grail.

Singletrack spoke with Seth Strickland, one of Tostado’s crewmembers in charge of nutrition at the race this weekend.

“Josh uses a combination of things. He uses Infinit Nutrition, a custom-blended drink; he runs a protein mix in his Camelbak, which he keeps only one third full. In his bottles we run electrolytes, at least until he gets sick of proteins and Gu. We typically give him something solid during the night; I think tonight he had a croissant with cheese, egg and bacon at about 4am.”

Some riders will do the entire race without any solid foods, simply because they can’t keep them down. AJ Linnell, second-place finisher in the men’s singlespeed category, took only fluids throughout the race. His parents, serving as his pit crew for the race, said “he usually asks us to save him some yams, but when he came in he just didn’t want any this time — he drank only fluids.”

One local rider we came across as we were surveying the course with race director Tim Scott, hadn’t been able to keep anything down. We saw him at 9:00 am. “This is what you look like when you don’t eat for 24 hours” he said as he rode by, looking fairly haggard.

The overall consensus is that nutrition has to be flexible during a 24-hour race. Some riders can stomach solid foods, others cannot. And it can often be race-specific as well. Some races riders will eat solids, while others, depending on the level of exertion, might not be able to.

But a sensible mixture of protein-based liquids, and electrolytes can be an effective substitute if your belly can’t handle the solid stuff. Unfortunately, whether you can handle it or not ultimately comes down to trial and error.

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Tostado and Mata Don Stars and Stripes in 24-Hour National Mountain Bike Championships Mon, 03 Oct 2011 15:17:21 +0000 Colorado Springs would seem an ideal venue for the USA Cycling 24-Hour Mountain Bike National Championships

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2011 USA Cycling 24-Hour National Championships
Jennifer Smith riding at sunrise. Photo: Braden Gunem |

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (ST) — With the famed 14,000-foot Pikes Peak looming in the background, Colorado Springs would seem an ideal venue for the USA Cycling 24-Hour Mountain Bike National Championships. What is most surprising about this year’s event, however, was that it wasn’t in the local mountains that lie in the shadow of Pikes Peak; it was held in a city park. But Palmer Park is no ordinary playground for toddlers.

The park, located not far from the Garden of the Gods, the site of the USA Cycling Pro Challenge prologue last month, boasts miles of technical rocky singletrack, stiff climbs, and some extremely tricky sand sections that made for one of the most difficult 24-hour courses in recent memory.

There were hundreds of fans, friends, and family who braved the overnight chilly weather to watch the field of 230 riders. Race director Tim Scott said the “course lends itself to a pretty fit rider, but it’s not the ultimate climber’s course either—they’re working their entire bodies.”

Breckenridge, Colorado’s Josh Tostado took the men’s title for the third time, completing 18 laps of the 13.2-mile course in 22:12:21, just a minute and a half over second-place Nate Ginzton.

What the results sheet doesn’t show, however, is that Tostado actually finished 90 minutes ahead of Ginzton, but elected not to finish a 19th lap, betting that Ginzton would not be able to erase his substantial lead. Jonathan Davis finished third with 18 laps at 23:50:57.

Speaking to the quality of the elite field, and to a couple of prominent no-shows due to illness, Tostado said “it was a bummer that Tinker (Juarez) and Kelly (Magelky) weren’t here, but I’m glad I was able to do the race and the guys that were here were strong — I was being pushed the whole time.”

Tostado was able to maintain his lead despite two rather philanthropic moves on the course. On the same lap, at about 3:00 am, Tostado stopped to help another rider change a flat, donating his Co2 cartridge; he later stopped to donate his handlebar light to women’s overall solo winner Pua Mata, whose light had burned out.

“I come across Pua with no lights, at about 3:00am. She was pretty down in the dumps, and I told her to take my handlebar light, ‘here just take it’ I said; and we got her going again. It’s always nice when you can help people out” said Tostado.

Mata (Sho-Air-Specialized) dominated the women’s solo field, completing 15 laps in 22:34:57, while second place KT Desantis managed 13 laps, and was over an hour behind. Laureen Coffelt finished up in third, with 13 laps in 23:37:21.
But it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Mata.

“The course was actually a lot of fun, but for that many hours straight, it gets rough. There was a point in the night when you’re just begging the sun to come out,” Mata said.

She was not sure until a few weeks before whether she was going to race.

“I haven’t done one [a 24-hour race] in two years, and I’ve had a lot of issues in the past couple. Then I thought about it, and I came off the marathon national championships, and I just wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. This is probably one of the hardest 24s I’ve ever done.”

Evan Plews took the men’s solo singlespeed field with 18 laps in 23:02:55. His thoughts about the difficulty of the course echo those of other riders: “I can’t even imagine setting up a course like that—I’d be afraid someone would die out there” he said.

The women’s open 4-person team category was dominated by the SRAM dream-team of Jenny Smith, Kelli Boniface, Sonya Looney, and Rebecca Rusch, winner of this year’s Leadville 100.

“The course was really hard, but super fun; you’re having a good time out there, but for 24-hours and especially for the soloists, it was brutal. There’s just never a time to rest, it’s on the whole time” Rusch said.

Boulderite Sonya Looney (Topeak-Ergon) seemed to really enjoy herself on the course and sang the praises for her team.

“We were all pushing each other because none of us wanted to be the weak link. It was really positive. It was the most fun I’ve ever had at a 24-hour race.” The team completed 20 laps in 23:32:08, besting second-placed WMBA of Colorado Springs by three full laps.

Part of the proceeds of the race will be donated to the Wounded Warrior Project, an organization to raise awareness for wounded American soldiers.

“In this town, with five military bases, we are affected by war. I don’t know of many people who aren’t at least one person removed from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s a privilege to get to interact with the community like that,” Tim Scott explained.

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Long term test: Sealed cable systems for cyclocross Thu, 29 Sep 2011 19:46:18 +0000 A long-term test of sealed cable systems

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When I wrote the piece on Cables for ‘cross in the fall, I have to admit that, while touting the virtues of sealed cable systems, I was skeptical that anything could survive a whole season of ‘cross. I knew they’d be good, I knew they’d last longer, but I didn’t really think  they could go the distance.

Boy was I wrong.

The second part of the story was a longevity test on two different setups and the results were better than expected. I chose the Nokon and Gore RideOn professional systems for my season-long case study in ill-treatment and both were up to the task. My pair of trusty Moots steeds went to hell and back this season. I lined up for no fewer than 29 races from early September until Master’s worlds in Belgium in late January. From the mud, sand and snows of Colorado and Oregon to the (even more) mud, sand and rain of Belgium, if my cables were going to fail they would have done so in spectacular fashion.

The Nokon system on my “A” bike performed admirably and, aside from a mid-season, barely necessary cable replacement and general clean up, they survived the season handily. I don’t intend to change them any time soon either. The one modification I did make was to sleeve the entire length of the outers with clear heat shrink. This eliminated grit from getting in between the pearls, protected the frame and stiffened up the outers a little, which helped the smoothness of the action. The cosmetic downside was that it took some of the pretty Nokon shine away. As per the mostly indecipherable Nokon instructions, I did lube the cables on the second install, but think overall that is a bad idea. Lube attracts dirt. Keep the setups as dry as possible. Graphite powder would be the only lube I’d put inside cable housing.

The Gore RideOn professional setup on my “B” bike copped the most abuse by far. Even though I took every precaution on install to reduce failure points, I still thought there would be no way they could withstand the abuses of ‘cross. Despite my doubts, the cables performed flawlessly, and even after countless training rides, power washings and races, the action is as good as the day I installed them. There was just one small issue: Right before Christmas, I noticed some of the coating shredding inside the ferrule right behind the headset. It wasn’t affecting performance at all, but I installed a replacement cable and repaired the liner where it emerged from the ferrule. Done. The other part of the puzzle was compatibility with top-routed ‘cross bikes. I have two answers. 1: Lois Mabon from Gore RideOn confirmed that the new professional kits will come with enough hardware to wire up a top-routed crosser and a SRAM rear derailleur-compatible grub seal will be included in the kits in the near future. Lois also hinted on a ‘new component’ that they will be unveiling, but that’s all I could pry out of her for now. 2: The other obvious RideOn option would be the Sealed Low Friction System. The liner runs continuously through the cable housing, eliminating the need for heat shrinking ferrules and offering a nice, clean look. Things to look out for on this are: the ferrules are all 5mm (not 4.2mm) and the system weighs about 20grams more than the professional kit.

The upshot of all of this is that I spent a lot less time freezing my fingers (among other things) off in the garage this winter. If you spend one hour per bike carefully installing a sealed system at the beginning of the season, you will eliminate most or possibly all of your cable maintenance for the year and dramatically reduce the expense involved with replacing and maintaining your cables. As with everything, taking the time to install properly is the key to the most reliable setup. Whatever your brand of choice, here are a few tips to get the best out of your cables.

  • First, pay attention to curve radius when cutting housing to length. If your curves are too tight it significantly decreases performance. I even route my front brake cable over the stem so it has a nice graceful entry into the top cable hanger.
  • Cut the housing sections clean and square and/or clean them up with a grinder or file.

Blow any debris out of the cut housing sections with a compressor, canned air or good old lung power.

  • Open up the housing liner at the cut ends with an awl.
  • Heat shrink any ferrules that could let in contamination.
  • With coated cables take care not to damage the coating when pushing the cable through the shifter. As you pull the cable, guide it into the shifter body through your fingers.
  • For RideOn cables remove the last 3 or 4 inches of coating from the cable at the rear derailleur to prevent shredding and binding.

Editor’s note: Australian native Michael Robson grew up racing dirt bikes and flat-track and in his teens progressed to BMX. He first came to race in the U.S. in the early nineties and ended up in Europe as a workaday roadie. Now a professional photographer and rabid cyclocrosser, Robson is reliving his youth ripping it up in master’s ‘cross, making great photos for a living and testing gear for VeloNews.

Cross cable routing Cross cable routing Cyclocross, Belgian-style Cyclocross, Belgian-style Heidi Vandermoere

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Picking up the Pieces: Fly V Australia is ready to get back to business Fri, 03 Jun 2011 22:38:19 +0000 BOULDER, Colo. (VN) — After the debacle that was the Pegasus fallout late last year, one that saw nearly a number of riders and staff

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2011 Sunny King criterium, men's race, V Australia
Jonathan Cantwell on his way to a win at Sunny King this spring — one of the highlights of the year so far for V Australia


Two weeks ago, the V Australia team and staff descended on Boulder for its first training camp of the year. And while the weather was anything but “spring” for the team, the spirits were, nonetheless, very high. I sat down with Chris White and some team members to talk about the past, present and future of the team.

As someone who has undergone an intensely difficult year, White remains staunchly upbeat about the future. In the face of the setbacks of the Pegasus deal, White did what he could to salvage the V Australia team and to keep morale high. “The fact that I went under the bus a few times and kept getting knocked down meant that we started the year off behind the eight-ball. My objective was to save the 25 guys that signed.” He has managed to save a squad of 15 solid riders and several staff members from the fallout.

They’re ready to race.

The squad has had some early successes this year, beginning with Jonathan Cantwell’s victory at Sunny King criterium in Anniston, Alabama; Michael Freiberg’s win in the Omnium at the UCI world track championships in the Netherlands, and Cameron Peterson’s final stage victory at the Joe Martin Stage Race. These wins on the heels of such adversity and uncertainty on the team “speak volumes about their character” said White.

The sponsorship game

One of the big challenges for White this year was finding sponsors for the team. He went knocking on doors after the Pegasus deal fell through with very little positive reception. “You go from being the best team in America, with 90-plus wins to being on your hands and knees, trying to talk to the industry when they don’t want to know you — you have to try and rebuild,” White said.

He noted that this is not a problem unique to himself, nor to Australian teams. “Things are really tight in the sport right now. If you look at a team like Leopard-Trek; they’ve got all that massive talent and can’t find a title sponsor — what’s is going on with this sport? You’ve got Bob Stapleton, who’s got the winningest team in the pro peloton and he’s putting in his own money for the team.”
Eventually White scored sponsorship deals with Lazer Helmets, Fuji bikes, Fast Forward wheels and Champion Systems.

Team morale looking forward

When asked about the general morale on the team, White was unapologetically upbeat. “You know it’s interesting, Bjarne Riis takes his team out and does his ‘commando’ training with the guys. Well, we’ve just had the real-life team building experience. We had to stick together; it’s the only way you come out of something like this. It’s been team building 101 in real-time. It’s tested everyone.”

As we sat in a Boulder coffee shop, I asked White how it felt to be watching the Giro d’Italia and the Amgen Tour of California on television instead of racing in them. He acknowledged the frustration and disappointment. “Oh, yeah, absolutely we would have been in the Tour of Italy; and the Amgen Tour. We’re not there now; but every cloud’s got a silver lining — we’re just looking for it.”

As for the team members themselves, I spent the day riding with the team around Boulder and had a chance to chat with many of them. There was a very highly positive attitude about the team. Not a single rider gave any impression that he was nervous about the future — to the contrary, all seemed to feel very secure in their place. World omnium champion Michale Frieberg noted “everyone’s got such an optimistic attitude — there’s a real Aussie spirit on the team.”

For the remainder of the season, White remains focused on winning races. “Success heals a lot of things. We’ve always said that the most important ingredient in success is success itself. We talk about the momentum we need and the Sunny King win was one of them for sure. We just need to deliver at the biggest and best races we have access to. Delivering in those big moments will define success for us.”

The team hopes to have some of that success at the Tour of China, the Tour of Qinghai Lake, the Tour of Langkawi, the Philadelphia International Cycling Championship and the Tour of Utah.

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Tested: Küat NV Hitch Rack Thu, 26 May 2011 14:01:54 +0000 When we say the "long haul" it doesn't mean just a road trip, it means spending a year with the Küat NV rack. Did we like it?

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The built in repair stand on the Küat NV hitch rack is a pretty cool feature.

Last summer we received one of Küat Innovations’ (pronounced Koo-at) new NV trailer hitch racks for testing.

The week prior, I had just bought a new car — an orange Honda Element. Imagine how cool it was when I opened the NV box to find that it was grey and orange, an exact match for the new ride. After assembling the rack, which took about 20 minutes, and was very straightforward, I installed it and played around with some of the features.

I have to say, in terms of build quality and design, it’s hard to beat the Küat. “Elegant” is not typically a word I would use when describing a bike rack, but I think it’s appropriate here.


MSRP: $495
• Tray-style rack
• Mounts in a 2-inch or 1.25-inch receiver
• Accommodates up to a 2.3-inch tire
• Built-in repair stand and cable locks

The design is simple enough: a lightweight, aluminum hitch-mounted rack that holds up to four bikes with an optional extension pack. It can be used with either a 2-inch or 1.25-inch receiver. There’s no need to remove the wheel of your bike; you simply stand the bike up, zip the rear wheel down and slide the U-shaped, ratchet cam over the front wheel to secure the bikes. Anyone who has used a hitch rack from Thule or Yakima will feel right at home. The front wheel tray can accommodate just about any size bike tire. I ride a 2.3 up front and there is plenty of room to spare. You can also get a ratchet arm to accommodate the kids’ 20- and 24-inch wheels.


It’s the features of the NV that set it apart from the competition. The rack features a built-in repair stand, which makes on-the-road tweaks and repairs a snap. It also has a built-in cable lock that hides inside the trays when not in use. The rack can be folded down with bikes on it to provide access to the rear of the vehicle. When not in use, I can open the back hatch of my Element without folding the rack down.  I’ve never bottomed out in a driveway either, thanks to the slightly elevated platform.

A common complaint about hitch racks is that they tend to bounce around a lot. With the NV this is reduced considerably with a rather creative use of the old quill stem technology. Once you’ve put the rack inside the hitch receiver you simply turn the knob, which expands the quill inside until it fits nice and tight. Clever. And once the bikes are up and mounted, they have a roomy 13 inches between them, which is great for downhill and freeride bikes with wide bars.

The NV is comparable to the Thule 916XTR hitch rack — although the NV is about $60 more. Both use a similar cam system to hold the front wheel in place, and both fold out of the way for access to the rear of the car, and of course Thule’s reputation for quality is stellar. The Thule’s locking mechanism, however, only holds the front wheel; the rest of the bike is insecure and requires the purchase of an extra cable lock — a feature built in to the NV.

I’ve been hauling with the NV for nearly a year now and have had absolutely no complaints — It does exactly what a good car rack is supposed to do: make you forget it’s even there. After many long trips to Moab, Sedona, Fruita, and elsewhere in Colorado and the West, the NV has held up firmly. My only complaint is that the ends of the cable lock are showing small rust spots. Apart from that, the rack has performed flawlessly. The cam systems are still smooth, nothing has seized, and the paint is still in good shape — although the clear coat is showing a few cracks in places.

Overall, the NV is a top-quality rack on par with any of the bigger names in the biz. It handles abuse of long-range mountain bike trips, and comes back for more every time.

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Video: 2011 Fruita Fat Tire Festival Wed, 04 May 2011 20:56:36 +0000 After 16 years, the Fruita Fat Tire Festival is still going strong. Check it out

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2011 Fruita Fat Tire Festival, Fruita Colorado

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Fruita Fat Tire Fest: All About the Ride Wed, 04 May 2011 17:02:06 +0000 Troy Rarick looks back as Fruita's MTB fest wraps up year 16

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There is air to be caught on Fruita trails. Photo by Tom LeCarner


Mountain bike mecca, Fruita, Colorado, celebrated the 16th edition of the famed Fat Tire Festival this past weekend.

Sponsored by New Belgium Brewery, Shimano, and US Bank, the event included the 18 Hours of Fruita endurance race, a three-day bike expo, the historic “Clunker Crit” race and plenty of singletrack to go around.

Bike manufacturers such as Yeti, Santa Cruz, Specialized, Giant, Trek, Orbea, and Pivot were on hand, providing demo bikes to festival-goers to test out on Fruita’s famed singletrack. While the weather was less-than-perfect, with winds, occasional snow and rain, the festival itself carried on a tradition that festival founder Troy Rarick described as “part of what Fruita is.”

In the winter of 1995 Rarick opened Over the Edge bike shop in downtown Fruita. While he was trying to get the shop up and running, he and about eight buddies were simultaneously building the trails that riders from all over the world now know as the 18 road and Kokopelli trail systems. They were dedicated to making Fruita a mountain bike destination, like its neighbor two hours to the west, Moab, Utah.

The Fat Tire Festival itself was originally designed to simply get the word out about the trails in Fruita.

“We just wanted people to come ride here; we needed tire tracks,” said Rarick. “We were having a blast building stuff, but it needed to get ridden.”

Over the years, the festival has grown and evolved, however.

“As the event grew, it became more and more organized, with scheduled events, and planning, until about year ten, when we had a week-long music festival and we introduced the 18 Hours of Fruita that year,” Rarick said.

But the vibe of the festival gradually began to conflict somewhat with Rarick’s vision.

“After about ten years, we realized it needed to be reinvented,” he said. “So we dialed it back a bit to where now we just throw parties; we keep the Clunker Crit, because that’s been a key part of it. But other than that, we just let people go ride and give them stuff to do when they’re not riding like the expo during the day and the bands at night.”

Paying Off

Ah, choices, choices and more choices... Photo by Tom LeCarner

The formula seems to be paying off. Despite the weather this year, there were well over 1,000 mountain bikers on hand.

The tiny town of Fruita, nestled in the high desert on Colorado’s Western slope, has a population of about 13,000, and according to the latest estimates, mountain bikers contribute about $25 million annually to the economy — that’s approximately 15 percent of the the annual budget for the entire Mesa County.

That’s a statistic that Rarick is proud of.

“What’s made this event special, is that it’s followed a trend in mountain biking; when we opened in 1995, everybody raced; if you were a mountain biker, you raced, period. And that’s cool, it is what it is,” Rarick said. “But the sport has changed now, and Fruita has been a big part of that. We didn’t want racing to be the theme of our event. Here, you ride because you love to ride. Mountain biking has become such a beautiful sport because it’s about your own personal experience. it’s not about beating your buddies. Fruita embodies that.”

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