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Notes from the back (Sat)…(9 posts)

Notes from the back (Sat)…TFerguson
Aug 6, 2003 8:35 AM
How do you follow a post like weiwen's? Here is mine anyway.

Race Report: Arlington Classic Criterium, Arlington Heights, IL 8/2/03. A 0.6 mile course with 8 x 90 degree corners on city streets.

This looks to be a good weekend of racing as the last prep-races before the next two weekend's goal races. The past three weekends have been Superweek, which means that there are no races of my caliber in the area. I've taken these three weeks to work on bike fit and to switch to Speedplays. If you've read any of my past reports, you would have seen that one of my many weaknesses is oxygen. I just can't get enough air. Well I have finally given up trying to look like a racer with my bar 7 cm below my saddle, to actually be a better be a racer with the bar 1 cm below. I've done this with a Look ErgoStem, which has worked out quite well on my training rides. Now it's time to try the new position out for real.

I arrive at 5:15am since we are the first race of the day at 7:00. It's still dark out. I go out and ride easily around the course, trying to stay out of everybody's way as they set up. At 6:00 I go register. Then I'm back out on the course trying to memorize good and bad lines and constantly sipping water.

Arlington is the shortest, curviest course of the year. The start/finish stretch is three half-blocks long with a slight rise. Then half-block straights between corners of left, left, right, left, left, right, left, left and back onto the start/finish straight. And it really is that quick. The pavement is pretty good with only two or three manhole covers that affect the race line.

It's getting close to race time and I do three good hard front straights, a "finishing sprint" and a few easy laps to finish off my warm up. This, by far, the best warm I have ever done for a race and I'm ready.

The original limit for this race was 70, but they actually stopped at 90 because that is all they could get registered in time for the race. I line up third row and the whistle blows. The front is off but it is still a few seconds before we get going. We're still kind of slow and bunched up in the first turn. Easy into the second and accelerate. Good speed onto the third, hard acceleration coming out and everyone in front of me is now lined out and cooking. I go as fast as I dare into the third corner and shift my weight forward onto the hoods to put more weight on the front wheel for a nice neutral balance going through. I hit the one small pothole that I had noted before as of no consequence and the ErgoStem drops about 3 inches rotating the bar forward. I have two fingers on the brake levers and two around the hoods. The two around the hoods are now wedged up between the hood and the lever and are the only thing keeping me from falling over forward. I get through the turn and drift high and out of everybody's way and scramble back to get a hold on the bars. Very shaken and done for the day.

When I get home, I find out all I can about the ErgoStem and the consensus seams to be that it is fine as long as you tighten it down regularly. OK, back to its original position and 250 in-lbs on the torque wrench. Ready for tomorrow's races at the Wood Dale Criterium. Stay tuned.

re: Notes from the back (Sun)…TFerguson
Aug 6, 2003 8:38 AM
Race Report: Wood Dale Criterium, Wood Dale, IL 8/3/03. " A smooth 0.7 mile loop with wide stylish turns and a tender, gentle rise" (stylish??) in a light industrial park. Illinois ABR State Criterium Championships.

I arrive at Wood Dale on a beautiful Sunday morning for another day of racing. Today's course is a sort of rectangle with two 90 degree corners and two wide curves. The front stretch is a subtle rise and the back an equally subtle downhill. I watch the Citizen race and the 60+/W40+ race. During the Junior race I go out on the local streets to warm up. A half hour of easy, 2 half mile hard efforts, a couple of high cadence sprints, 5 minutes easy, and out onto the open course for an inspection. It's a little bumpy in spots but nothing critical.

The official says to clear the course and 22 50+ riders line up across the road two deep. Instructions, blow the whistle and we're off for 30 minutes plus two laps. I find myself in the back third of the pack and prepare to do what it takes to get near the front to avoid the slinky. But these guys are smooth and I find that at even about 15 back there is no slinky motion. We go a couple of hard laps and I'm hanging on with enough left to cover any gaps that form in front of me. Then we come across the start/finish line and the prime bell rings. I moan to myself and get ready to hurt, but the pack actually slows and bunches up going up the straight and around the first and second curves. Then down the back straight someone attacks and the hurt is on. I'm flying around corner three, hit a small pothole and down goes my Look stem again. I can't believe it. At least this time it doesn't go down as far and it's not such a big surprise, so I recover, go into the drops and just keep pedaling. By the end of the front straight the back has caught the front and slowed to only a death march pace. Since my hoods are now useless with the bar rotated forward, I only have the two hand positions – in the now lower drops or up on the tops to get some air. On the tops I'm a long way away from the brakes.

We go on like this with the board showing the time counting up and me saying to myself, "I will not quit." over and over. Another mantra that helps – "It's easier to stay on than get on, easier to get on than solo." This one provides just that little bit more of push when I need to stay or get back on from a short gap. Finally, after the seventh prime lap, the timer goes past 30 minutes and the sign says 2 laps. Now there has been one rider up the road about 15-20 seconds for the last 10 minutes or so with the pack keeping him hanging out there about half the front straight ahead. Now it's time to haul him in and off we go without recovery from the prime lap. "I will not quit." I grab a wheel and hang on like a mad Chihuahua and just won't let go. Down the back straight and around to the front for the last lap. I'm not a pretty picture (think of the horse in the old westerns that they road too hard and then had to shoot), but I'm still with them. They haul in the break rider and just keep on going. The riders I'm following get gapped and we're off the back, but I stayed with the pack till the last lap and that's a first! Even more important – this is first time I made them drop me rather than deciding to let up. I finish the last lap and head back to the car for some repairs.

I've seen bike shops with fewer tools than I have in my trunk, but I have nothing in a 6mm hex with enough leverage to loosen the adjustment bolts on the ErgoStem. I had tightened them to 250 in-lbs with my 2-foot torque wrench (which I do not have with me) and they are tight. How could they slip? The only thing I can do is to rotate the bar back to level hope the stem doesn't drop further.

As I pull up my chair to watch for a while, there is a big storm moving across to the north with the southern edge getting closer and closer. In the middle of the 30+ race
re: Notes from the back (Sun) Part 2…TFerguson
Aug 6, 2003 8:40 AM
As I pull up my chair to watch for a while, there is a big storm moving across to the north with the southern edge getting closer and closer. In the middle of the 30+ race it starts to pour. We (Cat 4) are next.

I get about five warm up laps and every time I go to the hoods my bar drops a little. We line up in the rain. About a quarter of those who had signed up have already packed it in and won't start, leaving about 25 I think. The whistle gurgles and lets out a small squeak and we're off. We take it gingerly around the first turn and then start to push it. I move up about five spots on the inside and brake going into second turn. As expected, these rim brakes are nearly useless in these conditions. Down the back straight rather slowly, allowing me to go to the tops for a breather, and into a fast corner three. I forget and go to the hoods. Down goes the bar. I go to the drops and barely maintain control through corner four. The bar is just too low for me to handle the bike (measured at home – tops are now 4.5 inches below my saddle) and I call it quits. I don't think that I'm just finding new excuses to give up.

I grab my umbrella and it's kind of surreal watching a friend pedal his Paramount around and around in the rain and hail accentuated by distant thunder. I had one really good race today and feel ready for my coming goal races. Stay tuned.

My opinion of the Ergostem...brider
Aug 6, 2003 9:00 AM that it's useful to find a good position in training, but then you need to get a solid stem to duplicate that position once you find it, and sell the Ergo.
I would bail on the ergo stemspookyload
Aug 7, 2003 8:21 AM
It cost you a race on Sat and 1.5 races on Sun. Not worth the $60ish dollars in race fee's in my eyes. The first race Sunday sounded like you were fighting, but the slip took away a position you can rest in, and a little fighting edge on top of that. Not worth your troubles to keep it in my eyes. Like the other poster said, find your position and buy a fixed stem.
Problem is, racing is the only time...TFerguson
Aug 8, 2003 4:49 AM
that I can go hard enough, especially in the corners, to know if the position is correct.

possible solution: performance bikeweiwentg
Aug 8, 2003 8:31 AM
they have knock offs or ritchey pro stems. I had my hands on an MTB stem. the finish looks poor. the basic workmanship looks good. about $25, I think. sorry to hear about the ergostem, but it looks like that thing is too delicate to take bumps.
I now have it cranked down to 600 in-lbs,...TFerguson
Aug 8, 2003 11:14 AM
the maximum on my 2 foot Park torque wrench. I took it out yesterday and, while riding, popped the front wheel up in the air and slammed it back down with my hands on the hoods as hard as I could several times. The stem didn't move. Wish me (dumb) luck.

Best of luck, but...spookyload
Aug 8, 2003 2:26 PM
I would seriously think about getting a real(sorry bad choice of words...fixed is a better word) stem when you find the postition you are looking for.