(BTW, no Ed never suggested I do toastmasters - I made that connection myself)

Some years ago, I joined Toastmasters to improve my speaking skills. One of the skills that Toastmasters helps its members work on is thinking on your feet. You see, at the beginning of each Toastmaster's session is the table topics seasion which is meant as a skill builder. This seasion is where the group creates a list of topics on small pieces of paper and puts them into a hat. The hat is passed around the table and each person pulls a topic. Then, the person has one minute to speak intelligently on a topic. It is a hard thing for the newbie because most people just can not come up with something to talk about. It is a skill that must be learned. This evening in meeting Ed Veal, coach and elite bike racer, I discovered the same thing in bike racing: that quite off the top of you head type thinking is requires to win bike races. It is those quick split second decisions to jump to catch someone's wheel or to attack that are required. It is something I know I need to work on. It is something Ed pointed out is quite related to my "disability" with thinking on my feet. Maybe Toastmasters would help my bike racing?

Wednesday evening last I met with Ed Veal of Real Deal Racing. He is well known in the local racing scene as the guy to attempt to beat. Ed usually places in the top five of any race he enters. When Ed shows up to the Midweek Crit in Mississauga, everyone knows they are in for a hard workout. He placed fourth in the Blue Mountain Centurion C100 because his "body wasn't cooperating and cramped up" and he had to fall back from the break to the chase group. He finished 4th overall fighting pain and cramping for most of the race. I finishing in something like 254th place.

I think one of the reasons I managed to stay fit enough to race this year dispite not following any real training plan is that I commute to work 20km (one way) to work almost every day. While 20km isn't much, it's enough to get sweaty and to get short workout in. On the trip into the office, I managed to TT through the Don Valley and on the way home I get in some hard hill repeats. I have done it long enough now (since March) that I know every bit of road from here to the office. I also know when I am fatigued - hills I can do at 28km/h on a good day, I have a hard time with maintaining 22km/h on bad days. In my mind, without the ride to work, I would have never put in as much time as I would have wanted on the bike.

However, not everyone is so lucky. Allen Lim, the sports scientist that currently works with Team Radioshack has done a excellent inspirational video on how he got his start in cycling. He tells stories such as as a kid, he road from Los Angelos to San Diego with some friends. Apparently, he was 13 at the time. I think the best part of the video is when Lim says, "Ambition is a very easy thing to hide behind, until one day you realize it is all you have" and goes on to explain that his love of cycling was put on the back burner for his career. He works with Pro cycling teams, but never gets a chance to ride himself.

When discussing the "secret sauce" that makes a great cyclist, Lim goes on to quote the 1949 Tour de France winner, Italian cyclist, Angelo Fausto Coppi. Coppi, when asked what makes a great cyclist, said to "just ride, just ride, just ride" meaning there is no magic to making a Tour de France winner. Thus far, in my limited experience, I can say it takes ambition, dedication, and experience to win bike races, but I digress. Lim closes the video with his solution to his lack of time to ride. I will not give that one up. Watch the video for yourself. All I will say, if you commute by car and are one of the statitistic he quotes, you will feel inspirated to "just ride, just ride, just ride".

Allen Lim at TEDx:Mile High: (click READ MORE for the video)

One of the problems I have with coaching, is more coaches just assume you know how to do a weights program or are happy to pop into your local gym and pay some "kid", that has no idea how to ride a bike, show you have to do weights. Too many masters level athletes leave this stuff from websites, books, and videos and never have someone show them the proper methods. I do not trust "personal trainers" because how does one know they are qualified? I was looking for more. I wanted a program where I would be shown what to do. I had that experience when I was recovering from a broken leg in 2009. The Physiotherapist would run me through a weight training regiment as part of my recovery, and would critique my form. At one point, he told me I needed to learn to stand up straight.

This is where my recent discover of FITS Toronto comes in. They are a physio company that has a full scale gym on site and they do Athletic development. The first step towards Athletic Development is a motion assessment. For a masters level athlete, this assessment is quite telling of ones (lack of) ability.

http://www.fitstoronto.com/

This morning I met with Lori at FITS for my motion assessment. She started by asking about my sport of cycling and my goals for the coming year. She then ran me through some simple motions with the camera turned on. It was quite interesting to be put through a few simple tests of simple motions that, well, I just could not do. Squat as low as you can go. Holding a bar over your head, squat as low as you can go - in my case, I might as well have given up because the tension in my torso was so much it was unbarable. Stand on one foot and ben over as far as you can go....which in my case was a test of can I stand on one foot without falling over. Too much time sitting around no doubt caused the problem.

11 of 12 spots for the trip are taken. There are one more left. Members of the Darkhorse Flyers, Vitess Racing Club, and Newmarket Eagles are joining together to ride France and see the TDF 2012!



The Tour de France starts again in Limoux. Stage 14 is on Sunday, July 15: DETAILS
We could be in Paris for the final stage as well. See below.

LINK: PHOTOS FROM JULY 2011

LINK: PDF FILE OF THE HOUSE

LINK: WEBSITE FOR HOUSE OWNER

Overview:

This is a trip for anyone on a budget that doesn't have $2000-4000CND to drop on a fully supported two week trip in France.

The plan for the trip to Limoux, France for Saturday, July 7, 2012 to Saturday, July 21, 2012. These dates do no conflict with Canadian Nationals which are at the end of June. The tour starts in Limoux on Sunday, July 15. We will stay in a rented house in Limoux, France that has: six separate bedrooms with single bed in each, two washrooms with showers, and a large eat in kitchen. Click on the link about to see photos of the house. The house is in the center of town and everything we need is in walking distance or a short bike ride. The town is well suited to tourists and if your french is bad, you need only point and they understand. Clara Hughes and some other notable athletes have stayed in these houses and trained there. I stayed there in July 2011.

The first house address is 21 rue des Oules, 11300 Limoux, France. The tour starts about 300m down the street from the house. The town square is some 300m the other way. The second house is across the river and it's address is 46 rue Blanquérie, 11300 Limoux, France. This house is on Google Steetview.

The plan is to make food ourselves in the house and we will share the costs. However, there are lots of restaurants in the area. Pastries and bread are ALWAY fresh from the many bakeries. Burgers and fries are available in the town square if just can't do French food. We can get milk/cereal/eggs/etc. for our breakfasts and share making lunches/dinners or eat out.

Flights are best taken via Air France. The flights are from Toronto to Paris, and then Paris to Toulouse. From Toulose we will arrange transport for us and our bikes. There are services that specialize in such things. They will pick us up from the airport and bring us and our bikes to the house. The same will happen for the return.

Limoux is about 45km from the mountains. Limoux itself is on a river in a valley. This means everything out of the town is a climb. There are hills varying from 1% to 18%. There are many good cycling routes, and almost all including some kind of hill; although, the route to Quenlan is flat because it runs through the river valley.

The trip is suitable for those that have raced in the past, have current racing licenses, or those who typically lead sprints in group rides and can average 28-30km/h avg on the flats.  You should be capable of riding a 100mile century ride without a support vehicle (we stop at cafes for water/coffee). The first week we will ride the area, and the second week will race for those that are interested. The owner of the house is the local bike club president and has offered to assist us with licensing issues and signing up for races.

The plan is to ride in the morning, and watch the Tour de France in the afternoon. There is no need to trek out to the start of a stage - Limoux is hosting the start of Stage 14. You can walk to the start location. It's down the street from the house. Plan to stay in town that day because it is shutdown for the tour. Last year, the Garmin team was more than accomodating allow our group to get photos and autographs. If you are adventurous, we can ride out to the tour route after the stage start through some of the back roads (the tour route is police patrolled and you can't drive or ride your bike on it - I tried).

What we do while there will be up to the group. If you want to sit around the pubs and drink rather that ride, all the power to you. If you want to ride 200km/day, sure...we can do that to (or you can). If you want to do a tour of the 30 wineries in the area, great. I am sure someone will join you.

Here is the edited version of the Niagara Classic Road Race:
[vimeo]28284480[/vimeo]
Thanks!

Many thanks go out to my friend, Edward Henley from Creemore, and Aaron Arndt, from the Gears bike shop. Both of which made the ride great. Aaron and Gears provided the bananas and drinks. Ed dished them out on his front lawn for the first water stop and drove the left overs to Eugena for the second water stop. Needless to say, we ran out of "stuff" because we never expected this many riders out.

Thanks to all the people that came out and made it a great ride (I wish I could have riden with you - more on that in a bit).

Ride Day

With emails still trickling on Friday, I knew the number of people on the planned recon ride would be large. I guess at 60-80 people on Thursday, and I doubt I was far off. The group grew as we collected at the Starbucks in the Blue Mountain Village. At 8:30am, I gave my speel about the ride...or what I thought it should be. We had a lot of fast guys out from the Donut Ride, MG Club, D'Ornellas club, Collingwood riders, etc..

It is the end of August. Only a short few weeks ago, it was light out at 5:30am and dark out until 9PM here in Toronto, ON. This morning, at 6:40AM, I rode with my lights on my bike because it was not quite light out. It is completely dark now at 8:15PM. The last Midweek Time Trial was last week. The last RealDeal Time Trial was last night. The Midweek Crit has one more night left, and that is it for that. I have raced my last race of the season at the Niagara Classic - well, except for the Centurion Gran Fondo, but that is more of a ride than a race to me. Road Cycling season is coming to a close for the most part. For me, it is time to take stock in what I have accomplished (which is not much), and what to do next.

This year my general goal was to get out to road races and race. I wanted to get used to going to races, racing them, being with the pack, and finishing. Because of my crash in the Tour of Bronte, I promised myself to always ride the course prior to the event which I did for all races. I believe understanding the course route and elevations was an advantage and it worked. I also learned that the Tour of Bronte is a Cross race. While many guys do it on road bikes, the gravel is deep enough to be hazzardous, and a cross bike would mean, even on the paved sections, one need not stick to the road.

I also had a goal to ride to Niagara Falls and I have done that three times this year. The second time, completely on my own, without a support vehicle, I managed 210km from my door to the door of my parents place in the Falls in 6:32min moving time for an average speed of 32km/h. I now know can go really long on my own and, well, survive. This adventure also opens doors to other cycling routes, because I managed to discover some good roads in the Niagara Penisula including some tough climbs and some good long TT riding routes. I also discovered I can ride to Niagara on a 150km route that could take me about 4-5 hours. I mapped out a ride from the Falls to Effingham hill and back. All this means I can visit my parents more often without missing a training day.

I did a France trip this year to Limoux in the south of France, and found an area I think I will be visiting more often. For this year, the highlight of the trip was seeing the start of the Tour de France which passed through Limoux. We stayed in a house and were able to prepare our own food, so the cost of the trip was cheap. The roads in the area range from flat to mountainous. The mountains are also within riding distance, and I did a 160km ride through lots of small town, up and down two Cols, and back to the house again. Riding 50kms to the climb of a mountain taught me to be prepared because I forgot that it takes food to fuel the body, and was out of steam at the stop of the first climb. I also discovered short route where I could climb a hill for 800m that averaged 14% and topped out at 18-20%. The Concrete Wall is what they called it.

I rode with my bike cam at the Niagara Classic RR this past weekend. While I am stilling in the process of editing the video down to under 10 mins, I created a full length version I cut to DVD for winter training. I uploaded to Vimeo in case others want to view it. The best part of the last 20 mins of the flick because that is the final lap.

[vimeo]27913020[/vimeo]
Back in August, I was still doing weekly time trials. As I had done for the months or so, I work from home so I can get to the TT with enough time to do a good warmup. The usualy day starts the same where I am usually quite enthused about doing the TT; however, that is in the morning hours. As the day roles on and I contemplate what I have to do to get the TT on time, my enthusiam subsides. By the time 4pm roles around for a 7pm TT, I am in full excuse mode. I am looking for excuses not to go. That night in August, I was praying for rain. If it rained, I would not go. Oddly, this is my experience for most races I've done this year. I have found I enjoy the trill of the race, assuming I make it to the start line. Getting to the start line, well, that is another matter.

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