Thursday, June 17, 2010

You go girl!

Sandi has steadily been improving this season, much like that in her hey-day of racing, and is killing it. Fresh off a 2nd in Niederlinxweiler at the MTB-Cup Saar-Pfalz series, Sandi overcame a tough starting position at the Rocky Mountain Marathon in Willingen to nail a top ten & beat out some very fast ladies in the process.

Sandi said the course at the BIKE Festival actually turned out to be somewhat fun since it was wet, turning some of the doubletrack into fun, slippery techy sections. The rolling terrain also was a welcome change to long flat sections typical in German marathon racing. She had a lot of fun with it, so that made it all worth while.

Starting in the 2nd block, an half an hour later that the winner Pia Sundsedt and other top women, also she was pretty far back in her start block, Sandi charged forward, making quick work of her group (guys included) and eventually caught up to the earlier start block. Hopefully we can get her in the same start groups with the other fast girls to give her a better shot at moving up in the placings.

Next up for our top girl rider is the 24hours of Munich with the boys from Team Zypris, and then the Pfronten Marathon on the 4th of July.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


The CremaCycles site is up, finally. we still have some tweaking to do, but it is live. Come on over and check it out, we have Independent Fabrication, embrocation journal, soft goodness, coffee, Mule Bars and much more. Give it a spin and let us know what you think.

Monday, June 7, 2010


After a week of rest, it's now time to share my Transvésubienne experience.

The Transvésubienne is a race taking place in the South-East of France, in the backcountry of Nice. This is known as one of the hardest, if not THE hardest, race in France. Since the beginning in the early 90's, this race has been long, rough, technical and basically just hard. Its legendary status might be too much, but this is no race for the week-end warrior.

I did my first Transvésubienne in 2006. At the end of 2005, a friend bet we could do it on fully rigid bikes. I was the only was to follow. We didn't really know what to expect, but the appeal of the legend was enough for us to jump in the band wagon. We prepared for 6 months and discovered the hardest way what the Transvésubienne was. We had a good time, finished the race, won our bet, came back home sore and happy. After a few months, I was already thinking of coming back. I was hooked.

Fast forward 4 years and I'm finally back at the start of the Transvésubienne. It took me a couple months to get up to speed, but coming in Nice, I'm confident I can finish it once again. But I know it won't be easy. The course is the legendary one, which goes on top of the Brec d'Utelle, toughened up for what the bikes of nowadays are able to cope with. Imagine 86km, with 3300m of elevation and 4800m of downhill. Add rocks, treacherous hiking singletracks, lots of hike-a-bike and even more rocks. And you're not even close to what it is really like!

Transvésubienne 2010 course on Google Earth from LudoTA on Vimeo.

I wake up at 4:45 AM on Sunday. Harsh. From 6:00, we get our places on the starting line. 6:30, off we go! The first quarter of the race is the easiest. A big climb right at the beginning, amazing views from the singletrack on the edge at almost 2000m above sea level, a first few downhills to tease you and as you approach the Brec d'Utelle, it gets more serious!

Brec d'Utelle - Photo © Christophe

The course arrive North of the Brec d'Utelle and get on top of it with a short hike-a-bike giving you a nice view to the East, on the Vésubie valley. At the top, you discover the view to the South West and all you can see beneath your wheels are rocks. After the first switchback, you're in loose rocks the size of your head for 5 minutes and 20 more switchbacks. Low saddle, easy on the brakes, trust your line and go for it. Full suspensions bikes are not much faster than me and my trusty full rigid Deluxe 29er. A bit of rest with an easier part with much more flow and speed and it gets rougher again for the biggest part of the downhill to Utelle. I have a mechanical there, with my chain getting out of my rear derailleur cage, without even breaking. Strange.

Somewhere in the downhill of the Brec d'Utelle - Photo © Art Reflex Photo

Down in Utelle, it goes up again, around the Cime du Diamant and up to the Madone d'Utelle (a small chapel above Utelle and the Vésubie valley), where the second feed stop is. From here, we go down to the bridge above the Vésubie, which is halfway on the course. I start to feel cramps in my legs around here. Rough terrain, not enough drinking and not much time to take my Camelbak hose. But I really enjoy that bit of downhill, which suits me and my bike better. I finally arrive at the bridge in 5 hours. It will be tough to be at the finish line in 10 hours, as my goal was...

The race really begins here. Right from the bridge, the climb is brutal. It's long and not rideable the whole way. Alternatively, I push, carry or ride my bike, whenever possible. Then we hit a fireroad, which gets us to the top. It's hot, there's not wind to cool off on this climb. After more than an hour of climbing, it's downhill again, on a steep, loose and narrow singletrack. Just after the biggest climb of the day, this downhill takes a lot of riders down. I ride conservatively, I have no safety margin with my full rigid bike.

At the 3rd feed stop, I make a long stop. Volunteers are friendly and take care of us nicely. I chat a bit, eat lots and finally take off for another long climb under the sun. This one is easier, but there's still a bit of hike-a-bike to get on top of the Cima Mount. I ate too much at the last feed stop, I'm feeling heavy and my legs are still on the edge of cramps. I manage to keep everything under control, taking it a bit easy for some time. The downhill afterwards is rough and loose, freshly cut between the bushes. My head is still clear enough to ride quite fast downhill and it's a lot of fun trying not to get passed by full suspension bikes!

On the slopes of Cima Mount - Photo © Denis

The last feed stop is also the last time barrier and I have more than hour of margin when I get there. I make a short stop and hop on the bike again for the last stretch of the course. We're on the slopes of the Chauve Mount and after the climb coming from the North, the view on Nice is a relief. The finish line can almost be seen from there, although there is still quite a bit of riding to get to it! But I'm feeling better here. My legs are not worth much, but I have lots of energy left and 10h seems now achievable. Rock on, then!

The end is almost a blur. The downhill is super fun, although once again I'm careful and keep everything under control. I try to be smooth, fast whenever possible and mostly to have fun! Then, we leave the trails and enter Nice, where we ride on a river bed for a few kilometers, before one more climb to the Arena where the finish is. Finally, the line is in sight and I cross it after 10h04 on the course, 201st out of 900+ riders, of which only 418 finished. Job done!

Thanks to my Deluxe 29er, its 29" wheels, disc brakes and a few other nice bits, this experience was much more comfortable than 4 years ago. This bike is still not adapted to the course, which is really well suited to full suspension bikes. But I chose to ride it this way and had fun along the way. Who cares about anything else?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Message received

"If you were a full on pro, you could toss this season away," is what my doctor told me when explaining my diagnosis of EBV. He went on to say taking it easy would be the best thing I could do and racing would not be a good option.

I have felt like poop. Last weekend in Garmisch I could barely turn the pedals and felt exhausted. Training rides I have reduced in both volume and quantity to aid in the recovery process, hoping that I might be able to salvage a late mtb/ cyclocross season this year. So going to Neiderlinxweiler in Saarland this weekend I was just looking to go for a 'training' race to build on what little condition I have. Also, i promised myself to quit if it did not feel right or thought I was going to incur more damage to the body.

So from the start I took a conservative approach, letting others dice for position, buying my time to see how I felt on the first climb. Surprisingly enough, I felt pretty darn good, and quickly lept up through the field until I found myself hoovering in the top 5. It still felt strenuous on the climbs, and little wobbly, but good. The flats and descents I was flat out morting and was pulling people in and passing them. The one 'tricky' descent fun was to be had pulling mx-style block passes and finding much faster lines than what others were taking, aiding in my cause to move forward. Lap 2 I found myself in 3rd with 2nd in sight, a great feeling for sure. But towards the end of that lap I could tell the body was not liking the efforts I was putting in. So I settled in to a steady pace to see where that left me, and with no improvement, some overheating and seeing that continuing I was running the danger of doing some damage to myself, I pulled the plug.

Quitting is normally not an option to me, but given the circumstances it was the right decision. Besides I can take a lot of positive out of this race, and it gives me something to continue building on. Having a rough first part of this year have been a challenge physically and mentally with lots of set backs, but every situation has a positve and negative aspect to it. At first I rejected my diagnosis and then was depressed, along with being angry about it. But there is a positive, and I am starting to receive the message.