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Although this blog was originally created by Andy Brickell and continues to be updated by him, the design and layout of the page is credited to his daughter, Mary-Claire Brickell. She's pretty awesome.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Il fait chaud

Out with the Truth Squad yesterday morning. I missed last weekend's ride (we were out of town) and it hasn't got any cooler. Jamie had to sub for Manny (who is nutritionist for one of the Ride Across America teams) so we went out on our own. I asked for a short'n'sweet ride but the others wanted a longer run and opted for Old Katy/Kingsland, 39 miles and change.

On the way out it was pretty clear who felt strong and who didn't. Two riders in particular set the pace and would do so all the way round. I struck up conversation with one of them, Scott, while we were hauling ass through Cullen Park. He's a Texan, but married a french girl, speaks pretty good french (can't beat a sleeping dictionary...) and has a daughter who tells everyone she's french even though she's never left the country.

Out of the park and onto Park Row for the 9-mile drag to Old Katy. We initially start at a very gentle pace, but before too long we're back at 20 mph or so. I'm definitely feeling the pace and drop back with the Autobus. We regroup at the Shell station and get to practice our french a bit, amidst lots of laughter and folk wisdom (Scott's Dad told him, if you meet a girl and can see her boobs from behind, marry her). I manage to forget to eat my gel and regret it later.

Back on the road and it's hotter than Satan's armpit already. We cross the freeway (very steep bridge that brings out the sprinter in everyone) dead into a strong wind off the Gulf, than turn east for the run home. It's a cross-wind now and I try to ride en echelon for a while. Scott and the other hot shot leave us quickly but we catch them at the many traffic lights on this route.

Finally back at the Cop Shop and I congratulate the two speedsters on their promotion to the ILC (translation - bugger off and let the rest of us cruise along in peace). We head out along Wind Alley, but I'm fading fast (too hot, too fast, too much vino last night). The last section is straight into the wind and I struggle. We pick up Memorial for the run back to the shop and I get dropped pretty quickly, although we hook up again at the lights at Eldridge.

I'm very glad to get off the bike and sit down in the A/C comfort of the shop. I look briefly at a new wheelset (way too rich for my blood) then head home for a nap. If I'm going to keep riding with these guys I'll need to take it all a bit more seriously.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Racers both real and pretend

Second Saturday morning ride with the Truth Squad and some familiar faces appear. Dennis rocks up in a very smart Texas bike jersey and new shades. Jamie shows up looking tired - she had been racing at the Alkek Velodrome the night before - and she opts for a shorter route, an out-and-back to Katy Mills Mall. We roll out, thankfully ahead of the ILC this time, although one rider sets a pretty hot pace down Memorial. I've been out with him before - he goes off like a rocket but fades fast, and today was no exception. Another familiar face is a man who used to take twin 12 year old boys with him on Manny's ride. He's upgraded to the Truth Squad but is riding with just one of the boys today, and when he takes off at the front of the paceline, his son jumps on his rear wheel and I follow suit. Not a lot of point drafting behind a leggy, skinny kid though.

We stop at the Constable Station (aka "The Cop Shop") to stretch and regroup and head out along Kingsland. This route is straight and flat but the first half has a lot of traffic lights and we manage to hit most of them red. One rider I remember from last week is setting a hot pace and the group fragments. With a few miles to run to the turn I get spat out the back but I don't really mind. When this happens with the Mules they stop and wait for you, which is embarrassing to say the least.

At the Walgreens where we turn around I chat a bit with Dennis - he's in insurance and is dealing with a claim relating to water in crude from some Eagle Ford production. We're standing in the sun and it's getting very warm, so I'm glad when we set out again. The usual suspects roar ahead and I hang with them for a while, before dropping back to join Dennis, where the conversation turns to Colombia. His wife is Colombian and wants to go home.

When we get back the section with all the lights Dennis and I rejoin the front-runners. Jamie and the others appear too. According to Jamie, if you ride at 28 mph you'll hit nothing but greens - but none of us (except perhaps her) are capable of such speeds for a long time.

We finish out the ride at a little before 10am and I'm home soon after. That's why I left the Mules - shorter rides and home earlier.

After lunch I drove into the City to watch the final stages of the Houston Grand Criterium meet. Eric, who rode with us last weekend, was competing (he's a category 4 racer - respect!) but I missed his event. When I arrived, the Ladies Elite race was finishing. A few minutes later the Men's Elite/Pro began and I watched a few laps. This shot is the peloton after rounding the turn on Bagby. Quite exciting to see the riders go by so fast, so near, but Eric had warned me that it wouldn't be very interesting and he was right. A breakaway group of three formed quite quickly and their team-mates sat on the front of the peloton to prevent any attempts to catch them. Fun to watch anyway, but too hot to hang around and I left before the end.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Out of the frying pan, into the fire

Saturday was my first ride with the Bicycle World and Fitness group since last Fall. It was nice to be able to ride to the start, rather than drive for 30 minutes, and we started earlier too, at 7.00am (more or less) instead of 7.30 with the Mules.

BW&F has three different rides on Saturday morning, each led by a different employee. Manny's group rides 27 miles on Terry Hershey at a fairly easy pace, Jamie's group (aka The Truth Squad) goes about the same distance but faster, and the hard core ride with Ryan (The International Liars' Club or ILC), 50-60 miles at a pretty hot pace. Before departing to rejoin the Mules I had been a regular with The Truth Squad. I only recognized one rider, Denis the Mad Irishman, but it was good to catch up with him.

Jamie's group has adopted a different route since my last outing with them, and this morning the ILC was going the same way, at least as far as Katy. We rode as a big group for a while but the pace set by the ILC was too hot for Denis and me (and a couple of others) and we soon fell behind. We regrouped at Bear creek and restarted but split up quite quickly again. I was pretty comfortable with Denis, Jamie and the others.

Coming out of the park I got a flat in my front tire and we all stopped while I changed it out. Denis helped and we got the tube replaced pretty fast. I used a CO2 bottle to inflate the new tube but didn't get it all the way up to pressure. We set out anyway and crossed into Cullen.

One of the other riders took the lead through the park and set a fast pace. I was able to keep up with him but really wasn't happy about going that quickly. The trail is not suitable for high speed cycling - there are lots of turns and usually plenty of foot traffic too. We made it through OK though and turned on Saums road. While waiting at a light I noticed that we hadn't got my tire properly seated on the rim and it was bulging slightly near the valve stem. Fixing it would require deflating the tire, seating it properly and reinflating, so I decided to wait and see how I got on with it.

On Saums the pace crept up and we took it in turns to pull. We hit 23 mph on one section but decided that was too hot and backed off a bit. By then the group had fragmented (this happens very easily when there are traffic lights on a route), with me and three others in the lead, and Denis, Jamie and the rest behind.

We pulled into the Shell station for a pre-arranged break and found three ILC riders, including Ryan the leader and Eric, a mechanic from the shop. Eric was riding a full-on fixie - cleats and no brakes! Jamie and the others soon appeared and we took a good break. I let the air out of my tire, seated it properly on the rim and tried to reinflate with a CO2 bottle scrounged from Jamie, but I couldn't get it to work. She took pity on me, and used her own CO2 adapter, the kind apparently known to the pros as a "crack pipe" (as illustrated above).

Back on the road with the ILC trio in the vanguard, setting a strong pace. I was able to keep up but I was feeling it. Coming up to the Highway 99 underpass, Eric gave an object lesson in stopping a fixie - he locked up the back wheel and skidded about 20 yards, weaving the wheel left and right all the way. He must get through a lot of tires.

We got back to the Dam and started a fast paceline. I held on but eventually got spat out the back. We regrouped at Route 6 and when Eric appeared he had a flat back tire. Without a fixie wrench (to get the wheel off) he couldn't do a repair, but he seemed happy to ride on the rim and made it all the way back to the store without apparently damaging the tire or rim.

A quick chat and cool-off in the store and I rode home. I felt pretty rough, pretty much the same as I feel after a Mules run, but I need to do better with my hydration, and having the ILC set the pace for half the ride didn't help. We'll see how the Summer proceeds.

Bear Creek - Terry Hershey loop

Bear Creek - Terry Hershey loop

Daily commute to work

Daily commute to work
This isn't quite right but it's close. 9.5 miles, about 40 minutes.

Terry Hershey Park

Terry Hershey Park
10 miles of safe, paved cycling bliss - except for all the foot traffic

The Sealy ride

The Sealy ride
45 miles through very pretty Texas countryside. Looks benign but there's a very hilly section at mile 35.

The Katy ride

The Katy ride
It's on the Katy prairie - flat, flat, flat