Thursday, November 27, 2008

Blog Statistics / Cycling in Rio de Janeiro (2)

Blog Stats

Thursday morning, a rain-wet morning in Brisbane. Sitting at home, waiting for my parents to contact me via Messenger, I find no better time to get on the Net and do a bit of surfing. I wonder if the term surfing the net is still in use. Things change so fast.

One thing I do on the Net is to check AMRcycling stats. It gives me a good idea of what is happening with the blog in terms of numbers and traffic and at the moment, it is looking great. According to Google Statistics, the numbers have grown by 95% this month. It sounds incredible, doesn't it? And it's not that the visitor's
count went from seven people visiting the site to 13.65 ... The number of Unique Visitors reached a total of 2,315 since March.

This month so far, AMRCycling was visited 897 times with 583 of the visitors been Returning Visitors. Another positive piece of information is the Average Time on the blog, which is now 2'56". It is nice to know that visitors are reading the posts and coming back.

Cycling in Rio - video

As this post is #100, it is the perfect time to send out a quick Thank You! to all visitors, from Toowoomba to Bogota, from Sarpsborg to Cape Town, and as this blog is about anything cycling, to share this video that I found in one of my favourite cycling blogs, Copenhagen Cycle Chick. It was produced by a car insurance company, of all businesses, in Rio de Janeiro . It is advertising but it promotes cycling, telling me that things do change and a lot of times for the better.


Keep in touch and Safe Riding!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Cycling - Is riding a bike addictive?

Yes. I think so. But it is also possible that I have an addiction prone personality anyway.

A week or so ago, in one of my posts, I called cycling my little obsession and joted down a few points on why I do like it so much. Well, there are so many reasons but what I was trying to get to is this feeling that I get when I ride the bike. No matter how easy or how hard the ride is... I always find myself wanting more.

So, when I walked into Bruce's newsagency a few days later and found the new issue of
my favourite magazine, I got a surprise in form of very bright red letters they used on the cover: ARE YOU ADDICTED TO RIDING? No second thoughts on buying that issue, plus they always publish are variety of good articles on training, clothing, food and some new bling. Yeah, just like any other sports magazine, I hear.

No, I am not the only one and according to the author of the article, who described her craving as intense, and researchers in the US and Canada, it's all explained by changes in our brain chemistry when bicycling. Specially at high intensities. Ah, and my experience tells that we do get this from other sports and by ingesting or smoking some substances too - like beer and cigarettes.

They mention a boost in activity in the nervous system and an increased production of the neurotransmitters
serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, which get us all fired up and feeling good. Of the three, dopamine is the one that gets most of the attention as it stimulates behaviour associated with survival, and is linked to acts such as eating, having sex and earning money.

It is all starting to make sense now!!!

In the same article, a J J Ratey, a neurobiologist in Chicago, says that it's possible to become hooked on the chemical changes that exercises bring about and that hard rides trigger human growth hormones production. All good so far. In the down side, and there is always something, with a long, intense workout the adrenal glands begin to produce cortisol, or stress hormone, which begins to tear down muscle. Apparently, this is one of the reasons for elite athletes adopting short, intense intervals to their programs these days.

I like that!

Our excitable neurons

The other point they raise is that of a possible harmful behaviour which they say is a defining characteristic of an addiction. Thinking about riding when at work, dreaming about riding and have that urge to go into a bike shop when we see one might be seen weird by non-cyclist partners or friends but they aren't terribly bad things, as long as we keep doing other important things in life. What ever they are?? Just kidding.

In a very promising note, medical organisations should be able to use this association to treat alcohol and drug addiction just by introducing physical activity to patients. Yes, it is a complex issue but who knows if a program where people with those problems could be taken to a velodrome, given some instructions and bikes and told to race wouldn't benefit from it.

A program of this kind would help a cycling organisation in getting some financial support to build a descent venue, which could also be used by other patients, of the cycling-addict type, to get their fix on the boards.

Training and injury

As this blog is about training also, I will continue to put down my graphs and stats. Perhaps, I will also put down a bit of information on what, why and what I am trying to achieve with my training. Unfortunately, my injury hasn't gone away and a decision on what the final treatment is going to be hasn't been reached either. With the help of a good physio, it is a kind of waiting game at the moment.

Hence, a change to the trainer sessions for now, from some intense intervals to long easy spins. A kind of base training as it is going to be a while before a get on the bike and race again...

Time: 2h; Virtual dist: 36 km;

AvHR: 86 bpm; MaxHR: 106 bpm

Time: 1h; Virtual dist: 18.6 km;

AvHR: 86 bpm; MaxHR: 106 bpm

So, on your bike and safe riding!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Perfect Storm / The Criterium Season

The Storm that didn't come

Here in SE Queensland, we have been expecting the storm of all storms. It was expected to hit the area last night. We were not just told by the experts in the media but it was also pretty obvious that we were going to get hit badly by checking the weather bureau. I checked the BOM site (great site to check the weather before a ride) a few times in the last couple of days and it was looking pretty stormy to say the least. For a couple of days, the Radar showed cloud formations stretching from WA to NSW and QLD and stormy weather in the Tasman Sea. So, we all expected the storm of all storms.

The good thing, we got spared, somehow they disapeared before getting here. We only got a strong wind over night. This morning, we woke up to a nice cool morning. Driving to work at 4:30, I could not stop thinking: - What a great day to be on the bike!!!

Maybe in a couple of weeks.

Criterium Racing this summer

Summer in Australia is synonymous of Track racing, everyone knows that. But it is also the time of the year when the size of the fields grow twofold in every club Criterium in Brisbane, perhaps in the country. Clubs like HPRW and Balmoral, to quote just a couple, run their ultra fast "crits" in closed circuits every Saturday morning. Other clubs run their events on Sundays.
These club events also attract track riders as they can benefit from the flat circuits and from riding, or hiding, in the pack for most of the 45-60min races and then sprint for the last 100m or so before hitting the line. Less powerful riders often attempt to break away from the pack but are usually caught in the last 500m or less.
The pace in these races can be anything in between 38 km/h for a C grade bunch and 45 km/h for A grade. With some tight corners in most circuits, racing crits demands good bike handling and lots of explosive acceleration.
There are a few Open Criterium races also, like the Twilight Series (Dec/Jan)run by HPRW and the Sizzling Summer Series run at the end of Summer. They are events which attract huge fields, some above average prize money and generate some very fast bike racing.
Now is a good time to do some specific training for the Criterium races this summer. Time to do some speed work, short all-out efforts and lots of racing. Perhaps a few laps on the track might help with bike handling and confidence to get right in there with the big sprinters.
Check some photos taken by young cycling "ace"/photographer Nick Schultz.

Good luck and Safe Riding!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Storm and more storms / Blog Genderanalizer

I was surprised to read in a local cycling forum this week that people were still discussing the possibility of doing the Mt Nebo Wednesday Ride, when the area had been badly hit by what the locals called a terrifying storm a couple of nights earlier. Something like, the worst since 1984... or was it 1974?
"I'll be going, don't care about debris, debris shmebris, if it rains, even better, .... If nobody's coming, I'll go in my own time then, ..." Wrote the ever keen anonymous rider.
While the SES , an amazing organisation by the way, crews worked hard to clean up the mess and the Army was called in to help people find the roofs of their houses, e-mails and text messages with the usual "Are we still going?" or "Nebo tomorrow?" were still circulating. What the h...?
Don't take me wrong, I love that ride but don't we cyclists read anything else than cycling news and cycling forums (and blogs)? Or, there is a new secret bunch, to which I haven't been invited to be part of, riding cycle cross bikes to McAfee's Lookout. I better fit a couple of Pave Evo tires to the R3 and try to infiltrate the new trend setting group soon.
Seriously, sometimes I try to understand why we cyclists need to keep riding our bikes, or go training, as bad as we do. We do, don't we? I don't try to analyse anybody else, I just look at myself and ask why I miss riding that much. When an environmental, or as a matter of fact any sort of hurdle is presented to us, preventing us from turning our legs, we just try to ignore it or we accept it and start feeling really bad.
Must be time to get on the trainer!!
XXThe sunset before the storm
Then, the storm came...
XXOur usual way to Mt Nebo, next morning...

The next morning on Mt Nebo Road

The right choice of tires...
Blog Genderanalizer
Having done a bit of research, despite the "You should be riding your bike!" that I can hear, I came across a lot of new blogs and a lot of information on bloggers as well. I am very new at it, still I am part of a group of millions that have been doing it for a while now. Not very long, really, blogging has been going for five years or so...
The topics are almost infinite and one can spend hours, days on the computer reading and learning by reading blogs. In a conversation with my physio, he admitted using the medium to do his Masters studies as directed by his tutor. What a great information tool it is.
In a funny theme, I found this site which is circulating on blogs around the world. And below is my result:

I am a female blogger!!!

Have a safe ride!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Races, training, injuries... it is all part of it!

Sunday, at The Fusion Criterium
Early morning in the shower, getting ready to head out to watch Sandra's race and to catch up with some friends at Nundah, I still had this little voice in my head telling me I had time to change my mind, get dressed and sign up... I didn't!
I got there and watched the women going around the circuit, had a couple of words with Sandra and went around to see if I could find some familiar faces. It was an Open event with huge prizes and attracted a lot of riders and a good size crowd. It was early and there were marquees, music, the coffee van (love coffee, hate vans), bikes everywhere... the place was buzzing already!


After a few chats here and there, I had this conversation:
Racer: Hi Alberto?
Me: How are you?
Racer: Good! Not racing again?
Me: No, shoulder is still an issue.
Racer: Yeah... We are sick of reading that... in your blog.
Me: ?!?
Racer: You should drink a cup of cement and harden up!!!
Me: Yeah... Have a good race!
Nice. The voice said maybe I should.
The truth is, I felt like going home but it was Sandra's day, I moved on. I am glad I did, apart from an enormous desire to be racing, I felt alright hanging around and chatting and watching the Women's race, then the B Grade race and then the A Grade race. It was a hot morning, people were racing really hard... What an atmosphere!!!!
Sandra's race was really exciting... and fast! She looked calm at the start and got out there to race hard, not just to be dragged around. She raced well for the first few laps but looked like she was struggling to stay with them for the rest. I think she was just a little overwhelmed by the quality of the field and didn't get a better result because she spent a lot of time in the wind and/or at the back. A good experience for her and certainly good training for her main goal next month.
Her report here.

Sandra and Nick, concentrating at the start

Women's field, Sandra is the second from right

The B Grade was a huge event with 70 to 80 riders. Attacks from the start, small groups trying to stay away, fast sprints. With a bit more organisation it would have looked like a pro field. In one instance and a few metres from where I was sitting, a rider stopped because of a jammed chain, tried unsuccessfully to fix it, looked around and then launched his A$8,000 bike in the air. It landed on the grass. I didn't know what to think of it at first but then it came to my mind that some people have so much disposable income that they can put an act like that without thinking of the consequences... Just like a Pro... field.
When the A Grade riders lined up, it was like always is with them... The teams got called to the front, some of the riders answered a couple of questions, then the rest of the riders, and they were off to a fast show of speed and team tactics. Perhaps the second being one of the biggest differences in between A and B grades. Those guys know how to protect a rider and launch team mates like bullets for a sprint to the line.
Having said that, someone I've raced with a few times sneaked in for an amazing third place beating a lot of the local "pro" riders! Good on you Shaun!!!
No time to watch the presentations, time to go home and get ready for work. On my way out, another quick chat:
Me: Hey, buddy, fast race!
Rider: It was very fast! You are not racing yet...
Me: Perhaps in the road season.
Rider: We are looking forward to have you back in the field.
Me: Thanks, buddy. I am looking forward to race again.

I raced home!
Training goes on...
First session this week, not a very hard one but enough to get me sweating and the heart pumping... I changed the resistance to 4/5, which dropped the cadence to 100-110 rpm. It made more sense as it is not as the High Cadence efforts when I spin at 130+ rpm. And yes, it hurt!

- All out efforts (2'30"; 2'; 1'30";1' and 30") x 2

Time: 1h30m
Virtual dist: 35 km
AvHR: 115 bpm

MaxHR: 161 bpm
Music is necessary for the sweat session


View one
View Two

Detail on View Two makes me think about what I am doing


The Injured Shoulder

I took another step towards finding out what is wrong with my shoulder. This time a MRI was done to see if they can find any damage to tendons, ligaments or anything else as there is still a sore spot in there and I can't lift much weight with my left arm. Sincerely, I don't know what I want the result to be. If they find something and I have an operation, the recovery is going to be long. If they don't find anything, it is going to be like my other shoulder (I had a similar injury on my R shoulder after crashing in MTB race) and will take a long, long time to heel...

Now I must wait for the specialist to have a look at the "pictures"...


Friday, November 14, 2008

About Training & Racing... and another bike!!


The blog is also about training so I will put down the stuff I am doing at the moment. As I said before, the sessions are all an attempt to stay fit (and sane) and even gain some kind of form for when I get back on the road again. It seems like that day is still months away, that making it hard sometimes but at the end of the sessions, I feel better.


- All out Efforts of 2'30"; 2'; 1'30"; 1'; 30" (same recovery time) x 2 set
Time: 1h30m
Virtual Dist: 32.9 km

AvHR: 112 bpm
MaxHR: 162 bpm


- High Cadence Efforts of 3' x 8
Time: 1h52m
Virtual Dist: 40.8 km
AvHR: 105 bpm
MaxHR: 159 bpm


- Easy spin
Time: 2h
Virtual Dist: 47.2 km
AvHR: 93 bpm
MaxHR: 127 bpm


Or no racing I should say.
Another great event will be happening this weekend, the Fusion Criterium. Perhaps what might become in the future, the biggest Criterium Race in Brisbane. It is new so the organisers haven't been able to run all grades this time around but they are putting three big races (A grade, B and Women) with some really good cash for grabs. The sign-in is on race day but all riders were asked to nominate themselves by sending an e-mail to the organisers. A list was put together with over 60 names in each of the men's events. Huge!!!

After seeing my name on the list, which has more than 60 riders, I got really excited with the prospect of racing again and got me thinking how much I enjoy racing. I am missing it! On that, I also started asking myself how important can racing a pushbike be to someone...

In the last few years, cycling has become a very important part of my life. Sometimes, I must admit it, the most important part of my life. I can think of many reasons for doing what I do, what I call my little obsession:

1. I was a late starter in the sport so I had to do a lot of work (cycling) to catch up and become a little competitive;

2. Everything I do is in a kind of excessive way, can't help it;

3. My partner loves cycling as well. It helps the relationship when we can both talk bikes at the dinner table.

Then, in a more general way, there are health benefits and the social aspect of it. I drink much less alcohol and more Green Tea nowadays and I don't smoke anymore. I have met some really nice people, some really cool too.
Put all these together, add some amazing addictive chemical reactions that happens in the body and I am hooked on cycling.
Since I hurt my shoulder, I have spent a lot of time and energy trying to decide if I should enter the races. I missed most of my main events this year and I won't be there on Sunday. It is the right thing to do. There is always next season. Hopefully...

Another Bike...
Another important aspect of cycling is the chance of using some really simple and interesting equipment. They can be as high-tech as we want (wind-tunnel tested, electronic shifters, hydro formed tubes, etc) or really simple and not very different from the bicycles ridden in the beginning of last century.
I like it both ways. I can see the beauty in all of them, being how passionately they have been made and how fast they can take you to the top of the climb. On that note, I chose to post this beautiful example of simplicity and craftsmanship... it does look fast also. Also, because of the man behind the process. No, I don't know the guy and only found his web-site a couple of days ago. But I am so impressed with the whole thing that I need to share it...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


The results for the Sol Breads Rainbow Ride have been published... here.

Sandra finished her ride in 3h53m and was 26th overall.

She got 1st on her category!!!

Great ride!!!

PS: Good ride by Aaron also, just don't know why he finished at Currumbin beach !?!

Monday, November 10, 2008

A day as a Directeur Sportif... fun!

Sunday Race Report

My day started at around 2:00 am, for some reason I couldn't stay
in bed any longer. I got on the computer to check the weather for Northern NSW and got the percolator ready to go... WeAlign Center needed some coffee to get going.

One hour later, Sandra got up. We started getting ready for the
drive straight away. As it wasn't that long since we had our dinner, all we could have was the "best" fruit loaf available on the market and the coffee... More on the fruit loaf another time.

A few hours later, Sandra was at the start line and very ready to go. I was happy that Aaron showed up for the race. He would be the best company if Sandra could stay with him for the long race.

Aaron took off from the start as he always does, leaving 273 riders behind including Sandra. He was soon out of site with the leading group.

Sandra got into a small grupetto which was travelling very fast on
the flats with a little help of a tail wind.

When they hit the first climb, the climber of the grupetto (#2 on the jersey and definitely the oldest of the 6 or 7 riders) attacked but was chased by Sandra who got on his wheel very quickly. From the car, I was a little shocked.

Aaron got dropped by the leading group and joined Sandra's bunch for the next 95 km. That was great for Sandra as she knows he is one of the most experienced riders around.

The grupetto reached another climb and the rider, with #2 on the back hit the front again.



Half way up and he was doing a bit of damage... again! Sandra didn't seem bothered and went with him.

The older guy just kept going. Sandra and Aaron just paced themselves up the incline. Behind, a lot of pain, I could see it!

Damaged done, these guys came down very fast on the other side.

Who said it was not a race?

As a DS, that was my view from the car. And I got to shout:- Eat!

Ok, it was not the Tour de France but nothing wrong with a bit
of pretending...

One of the officials on the course builds these machines. He insisted I needed one of them. I must be looking old these days...

Last climb of the day, 5 km with a 6-7% average gradient. Very, very painful, I can only imagine. After racing for over 100 km,
the rest of the grupetto decided to attack each other...
as you do.

Aaron on his final effort to the top before entering Queensland.
Align Center

Sandra on her last attempt to get to the top faster and end the pain. She finished the 120 km race in second place in the woman's division. Her time was an amazing 3:49 for the epic race.

From the top of the range, a great view of Mount Warning, a sign for the huge accomplishment by everyone on the race.
Not that many had the energy to look...

Dream Bike and things from the past.

Saturday evening, raining, not much happening at work but I still had to be there until 19:15. The idea of having to get up at 3 am Sunday morning to drive to Byron Bay didn't make it any easier for me to be there.

The net helped me stay occupied for a while... I checked a few blogs, read Cyclingnews, searched for the morning's crit results and then decided to look at my current favourite bike. No, forgive me for creating a difference here but I was looking at my current favourite "bicycle".

What is the difference, it's just a word. Well, put it this way, I love my technically perfect carbon bike. It is well designed, well made, good looking, light and stiff. It is everything that a racing bike is suppose to be. More importantly, it allows me to do 120+ km rides without having to use a crane to get me off at the end. And it's fast up the hills. I like that!! But... I still think that a real bike, or a "bicycle", should be made of some type of metal. If it has something to do with the bikes I rode for most of my life, or something else, I am not sure.

What I know is that my old steel-frame bike, now retired to a life hanging under the house (here), provided a certain feel that I liked when taking it on the commute to work, or even up Nebo road, despite it's limited 7 speed cluster and 13.5 kg. I could try to explain this feel but it would be just a philosophical attempt to describe something that just feels good. So, let me leave it that way.

Now, that bike was purchased new in 1997/8 and cost me just over A$700. I didn't ride it for all these years but I did 8 months of training and racing on it before buying a real racing bike (light and stiff Starship aluminium frame). I also did lots of kms commuting to work in the last three and a half years and it always felt good. The only changes I made to this bike were a new stem (shorter, as the bike was the wrong size when I bought it) and saddles, as I broke a couple of them. And, up to the day I crashed it, this bike still felt good.

2004 Tour de Tablelands

That makes me think that a "contemporary and high tech" steel, or titanium, frame must provide an even better "feel". And, as some of the builders advertise, without compromising on the ability of going fast, or being a racing bike. Is that possible?

A question often thrown in when discussing frame materials x racing is why don't we see them (steel or Ti frames) in the Pro peloton. My simple guess is that the cost of producing these "racing" metal frames is too high, being for the price of the tubing and the price of the labour to put them together. The price of carbon isn't that low, and getting higher too, but after making the moulds to make the frames, the cost per unit must go down dramatically.

Nevertheless, I like dreaming about them and the possibility of having one of them and have decided that a custom made Baum would do the job... Do the job? Now, that is funny. Specially the way this one in the photo has been built. I wonder if they would send me one to test ride or even better if they would sponsor me????

Does anyone else have a dream bike?

Things from the past

Having spoken of the past, there are many things or moments of the past that can't be really matched by the modern and new, can they? Having watched this video another day, and thanks Ron from Cozy Beehive for introducing me to so many interesting things, I couldn't think of a recent footage and commentary put together recently that could match the intensity and beauty of this production. Moments of Passion.

Enjoy the video!!!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Friday it is... ahead, another weekend off the bike.

Friday already, the week went quickly. A few months ago, it would be like: - Yes! I don't have to work Saturday morning, I can race at Nundah!!! But no, I won't be racing this one either, in fact, I might not even get on the bike as the shoulder is still giving me grief.

The good news is that I did get on the trainer this morning after a couple of days off as a flu kept me out of action for a couple of days. Action? Did I say action? I even had a book with me...

I try to listen to the radio while on the trainer but the local stations are really bad. For every song they play there are five minutes of stupid jokes or somebody calling to tell what was the most interesting thing they found in something they were eating... Who cares???

Back to the weekend, there is a great event happening on Sunday, The Sol Rainbow Ride . The 120 km race starts in Byron Bay (NSW) and finishes in Currumbin, Queensland, passing through some beautiful areas and with a couple of really good climbs on the way. How good will that be?

I will have to wait for next year. In a better note, Sandra is racing and I get to be her DS. That is what she says, I see myself as being the driver/water man. I am looking forward to that.

Getting tubed

This week, I also finished fixing the tubes that I had sitting here for ages. The final result was 9 out of twelve. Not too bad, I think!

II. Testing Phase

III. Packaging Phase

A dish to remember
The other nice thing this week was deciding to cook some Brazilian food for Sandra (and myself). After watching a cooking show on SBS, I went to their web site and chose a seafood dish. My mother had cooked the same dish for us during our visit to Rio - Moqueca de Peixe. Very simple to make and very delicious.

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