Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Final Preparations

The Mt Washington hillclimb has traditionally been the high point and finale of my cycling season. After last year's disappointing cancellation, I no longer put that many expectations into a single climbing basket. I didn't establish any "A" race hillclimbs this year. I'm taking what I get. The PR on Equinox two weeks ago was a true bonus. It could happen on Washington again this Saturday, but it certainly isn't a goal. The weather is not looking the greatest either.

There will be a lot of fast guys there this year. I've had email correspondence with a few. I'm looking for local riders Steve Gatzos (BRC) and Gerry Clapper (Benidorm) to break an hour. Drew Miller from out west will be there. He gives Tom Danielson a run for his money on climbs out there and could be the overall winner. There are other sub-hour candidates coming in from far away. It would be nice to make my age group podium this year. I spent 6 years in the 40-44 year old age bracket since they go by age on race day, unlike USCF. I think I made the podium twice in that time.

My 45-49 year old age group is huge and diverse. Men and women total about 140 riders, are from 19 states plus the District of Columbia and multiple provinces of Canada. Many come out just to see if they can do it, but at least a few come expecting much more.

Hillclimbers are always curious about how each other trick out their climbing bikes. Some treat it like its top secret. I don't get too carried away. You reach a point where each second saved costs many dollars or makes your bike unreliable. Here's the main features for this year's Mt Washington:

Frame: Trek 5900, about 1kg weight
Rear brake and front derailleur removed (with cables)
Wheels: Velomax Ascent-II's
Tires: Michelin Pro2 Race clinchers, 23mm
Tubes: Michelin Latex
Crank: FSA carbon left side, Ultegra triple with spider chopped off drive side
Ring: Single 30t elliptic Q-ring
Cassette: Ultegra 27t, 9spd
Rear Derailleur: Shimano XTR

The other stuff doesn't matter. This gets the bike down to about 15 lbs (6.8kg, UCI legal). You can buy a bike right off the shop floor these days at this weight with all the gears and brakes. My weight penalty on Mt Washington is in the 15sec per pound range. My body weight going into this year's event is the highest in many years, around 165 lbs (75kg). But Equinox has proven despite weight gain, I managed even bigger percent power increase for a stronger W/kg output.

Another rider is adressing the W/kg equation with body weight reduction with less than two weeks to race day. Personally, I feel any weight loss should have been dealt with many weeks ago and then work on power at the reduced weight. The risk is losing power with the weight and actually hurting W/kg. Another risk is coming to the race with less than 100% full glycogen tank. It will be interesting to see the power data from this experiment.

I've never built my Trek in this exact configuration before. The minimum ratio is slightly less than what I used for Equinox, and the gear spacings are a little tighter. It is bigger min ratio and spacings than when I PR'd Washington in 2006. The elliptic chain rings can mess with ratio calculations, as a 30t Q-ring actually peaks out at an equivalent 31.7t. At minimum ratio, it is less than 29t through the "dead spot", and it is this aspect I believe reduces fatigue.

I pretty much have to high-tail it from the race to the airport. Heading out to the midwest for a couple days work related business. Going a day early with a bike in the hopes of sampling some midwest dirt. I'll be in the Minnesota/Wisconsin/Iowa tri-state region with some great riding prospects along the Mississipi River. It is not flat there, and 500ft climbs with views are possible.


solobreak said...

I think you're right on with the work on fitness and not worry (too much) about weight at this stage.

How long of a warmup do you do for this event? Is the 1-3% loss of fluid weight with a "long" (1.5-2 hours) warmup too risky? On shorter climbs I know I do better after significant mileage, but probably not for an hour, because of glycogen depletion as you note.

Also surprised you don't ride tubulars, and why not a 26 or 28 ring with a tighter cassette?

Good luck.

Hill Junkie said...

I'll warm up about 20 minutes, finishing about 10 minutes before race start. I'll do a couple anaerobic bursts toward the end of the warmup. A 66 minute effort comes close to emptying the glycogen tank, so I don't want to do too much more than this. I do not take water with me for the race. A 2% fluid weight loss can impact power way more than 2%. It is a net loss. I make sure I am fully hydrated at the line. I don't do much longer warmups for the shorter climbs or TTs, but I do include more intensity in the warmup.

Unless you use track glue, tubulars do not offer lower rolling resistance than good clinchers. Carbon tubular rims do offer significant weight savings though. I'm too lazy to learn how to use and maintain tubulars.

In '06 and '07 I had my bike set up with 24t elliptic front ring with standard 23t D/A road cassette. It is impossible to warmup on that and second bike is necessary. It will be marginal warming up on 30t ring. Pinkham notch is not very steep. Plus if I went with 24t, I'd have to shorten chain. I'm just getting too lazy to chase all these 1 second savings.

The spacing is 9.1% difference between 23/21t and 11.8% between 27/24t. This ain't going to kill me. On Equinox this year, I had 13.3% difference with 32/28t MTB cassette and PR'd. One untimely wind gust could erase these tiny optimizations by 10x. It's in the noise, as we engineers like to say.

plum said...

A little similar -

I'm running:

* Trek 5200, 58cm frame
* Rear brake & front derailleur removed
* LX crankset, 22t chainring
* Custom rear 9-speed Miche cassette cluster, 27-12
* Ksyrium SL wheelset w/Michelin Pro Race 2
* Total bike weight: 17.6 pounds

Not the lightest climbing bike ever made, that's for sure. But it does run almost 2 pounds lighter than usual. I opted for the stiffer Ksyriums this trip up; the last two times I have run Easton Ascent IIs, but at my height and weight (6', 173lbs) I am really pushing the weight limits of the Ascents.

Hill Junkie said...

I hear you on the weight limits on the Ascent-II's. I have broken spokes twice in the rear wheel with my weight in the low 160's. First time was day after Whiteface hillclimb, second time was start of the steep stuff on Burke Mtn hillclimb last fall.

At Burke, I knew something happened but couldn't tell what. I kept going thinking bike was ok and maybe just the chain skipped. Guys passed me that never pass me. One asked up top if I broke a spoke. I rolled my bike and rear wheel just skidded. It was rubbing brakes and chain stay, wearing a deep gouge in carbon chain stay. It made no noise while riding. I'm taking a gamble each time I race these wheels up a hill. They are probably ok for road racing, but when you put a tiny 24t ring on up front mashing a 15% grade, that puts a mother load of force on the small number of drive side spokes. The non-drive side are radial laced and do not transfer force. I should put them on Ebay and try something else.

solobreak said...

Yes, I would think for this type of racing, the advantages of all carbon tubular rims outweigh (pun intended) the disadvantages. It's not like good braking is a priority here. There should not be too much tire maintenance if you only used them for hillclimbs.

I read (I think) the same review claiming shellac was required to obtain low rolling resistance with tubulars. I'm not sure I buy that. I don't think FastTack is any more plastic than shellac. Maybe having 3 mm thick of built up Mastik could be a problem, but I doubt so much as the base tape itself, which is kind of thick and spongy with some tubulars.

The rolling resistance is not that big of a deal anyway. Not sure about the new tubeless clinchers, which are supposed to be superior to everything. I've observed tubulars are still used almost exclusively at the elite level. My unscientific observations are that good clinchers feel very fast when they are new, but not so good as they age. Tubulars seem just the opposite. There is also a huge variability tire to tire (as opposed to tire model to tire model), especially with tubulars. Getting them on straight and all that is critical. But I'd think you could knock off serious rotating weight, and probably use fairly light tires at high pressure in these races and gain some advantage.

Those other guys (can't find it now) who have the big study of rolling resistance of various tires on the web do so many things wrong that their conclusions meaningless, IMHO. They trash Tufos based on their single test, which for one was done on rollers (please), with all tires at the same pressure. More importantly, the only Tufos they tested were also the only "belted" tire in the test, and the only Tufo model where Tufo does NOT make a marketing claim of low rolling resistance. They did rate Michelin Pro Race clinchers quite well, and Veloflex too. I rode those once and they felt amazing. YMMV, of course...

Anonymous said...

That's gotta be a heck of a ride. I've hiked the mountain countless times, but never biked it. I hope to do it next year, assuming I can drum up the entry fee and fitness. :)

You said you've done Mount Agamenticus TT - how do the dirt sections compare? That was the bit I was worried about going into last Sunday's race, and I'd be worried about it on Mount Washington.

I'd say good luck, but I guess you've already raced. :)