Thursday, August 25, 2011

Musings on The 2011 Rapha Gentlemen's Race

RGR 2011: 130 Miles. 11000 ft. of climbing (so says strava). 26 teams start and 7 finish the entire route intact. We were one of those 7 (the last) and here's how we all felt about it:

••What was your favorite part of the race?

ADNAN: The finish. Despite all of the hard stuff, the boys rallied and finished together and finished well, despite the [NAME RETRACTED] team falling off in front of us on the last climb.

ERIK: The camaraderie of our team. I can't think of a nicer group of guys with whom

to spend the whole day on a bike, especially in such trying conditions.

AND they all sported team issue GründelHammöcks in the

pool! Another highlight.

The top of every gravel hill. That and seeing how the team really helped each other get through it.

STEVE: I'm not really sure about that. It still blends together in my mind as one big sufferfest. I suppose the camaraderie is what I look back on most about any RGR. I could go out and ride silly miles any time, but it wouldn't be the same without the team aspect of the race.

DAVID: Riding with the team was really nice. The commitment to just keep plowing ahead was powerful. We had casually discussed that it wouldn't be such a bad thing to miss the cut off time and be sent back early. However, when we got to the Nuun stop and heard we could go on, there was no question, no discussion about what to do. Just keep riding.

I do have to make a special call out to Chip. After I decided it was time to quit fighting it and just purge my stomach, he stood dutifully by as I booted beside the road with him uttering words of encouragement. I believe it was, "Wow! Impressive volume."

CHIP: The sound that David's vomit made. Seriously, the first couple of wretches were pretty dry-heavey, but the next couple were absolutely stunning. Perhaps it was my jealousy that I knew it meant his stomach would soon feel better and mine was just getting worse, but I laughed for minutes about that sound of liquid meets grass and gravel. I did not look.

GEOFF, THE PRODUCT PLACEMENT GURU: While it’s true that I didn’t actually ride this year’s RGR, I would like to say that my favorite part was discovering that the new Rapha Country Jersey™ is available in white with German flag accents. Its Sportwool construction means that sweat passes right through and the robust pocket construction keeps your payload stable.

•••At which point, if any, did the thought of abandoning the race occur to you?

CHIP: Abandoning to me was only a fear. My one and only goal, since the first year of the RGR has been to finish with the team intact and having fun. I was thinking for a while around mile 90 that we might not make it, and I was okay with that, but upon reaching the Nuun checkpoint and everyone wanting to continue I gave up all thoughts of the abandon and focused on surviving with all six.

DAVID: I never really questioned finishing, but regularly questioned my sanity for continuing on.

STEVE: I had these thoughts repeatedly beginning about half way through. But I knew that the pain of abandoning would be a lot worse than the pain of continuing. And whenever I felt really bad, someone picked me up, with some positive support, or by distracting me with their own problems.

RYAN: I never seriously considered abandoning it, but during the last major climb on pavement, I just about melted down in the direct sun. Shade became a very valuable commodity.

ERIK: It was about an hour after foolishly deciding to stop eating the disgusting, melted energy bars I had been carrying. It was on the last big climb of the day, and after a longer-than-usual roadside pause to re-gather the team, my body wanted to shut down. Upon remounting the bike, my vision tunnelled, my legs lost uphill power and my lips went numb. Weird. It took some Shot Blocks and whatever water I could scrounge to get me going. I

even forced down a bar, at which point I was back! Sprint up the final hill? No problem.

ADNAN: Never. For me, the last 30 miles were the easiest.

GEOFF, THE PRODUCT PLACEMENT GURU: You know, not many people attempt the RGR in a car, but I was up for the challenge. Getting safely around riders was challenging, but with the window up, I felt insulated and safe, just like I feel when I zip into the Rapha RCS Team Issue Rain Jacket with its taped seams, long tail, and fleece-lined zip guard.

••••Which part(s) of your body hurt the most afterward?

RYAN: My right leg/hip from eating shit at mile 100. Yay gravel-rash.

ERIK: Honestly, nothing. I rallied to play (and win) our championship hockey game on Monday night. Gotta love compression tights...

CHIP: Other than amounts of fatigue generally reserved for new mothers post natural child birth it was Ironically my gründel. I do believe it was likely all those washboard descents that caused the bruising...

ADNAN: My bum and my quads. I got some nice cramps in the car on the way home.

DAVID: Legs, on account of all the cramping they had been doing all day. Honestly, though, nothing hurt that much. It was the effect of the heat that made the riding hard. One of the benefits of being out there so long was that the temperature started dropping. I felt better at mile 120 than I did at mile 80.

STEVE: My gründel (seriously) and my triceps, most likely from all the gravel descents. I was surprised that there wasn't more muscle pain afterward, just full body fatigue.

GEOFF, THE PRODUCT PLACEMENT GURU: Yep, just watching all of you guys out there, I couldn’t help but think how much I hoped everyone took the time to apply Rapha Chamois Crème to their gründels.

••••Person or team you met during the RGR and liked:

DAVID: Everyone had a smile on their face and was clearly in the spirit of the day. Bumping into the always-friendly crew from the Ira Ryan team was nice. Watching Tina rally the Upper Echelon team was impressive. She is a certifiable bad ass.
Best of all, however, was riding with Adnan. Sure, he may have been bored (and a little frustrated?) with our pedestrian pace, but his early prodding, encouragement and pulling probably got us to past the cutoff point. After he figured out that no amount of persuasion was going to make me go up the hills any faster, he settled in for the cruise.

STEVE: I spent most of the race hurting too much to be very outgoing. But everyone our there was willing to give me a smile and some words of encouragement.

ERIK: While most of the people riding past us were too focused for small talk, those whom we passed or leapfrogged were happy to socialize.

I especially liked talking with the Upper Echelon and Ira Ryan ladies and the good people of Team Beer. Jeff Johnson and I enjoyed a great reunion.

ADNAN: Bearded guy from the Rapha team who bummed some food off me. He was SO thankful.

CHIP: There was a whole pile of awesome out there this year for sure. The Ira Ryan women were amazing and upbeat, Tina and the Upper Eschelon team were fun to listen to, and the Donkelope guys managed to get me to laugh at mile 120, but really I'd have to go with Autumn. Something about a smiling woman giving you a shoulder massage at mile 75 or so that's impossible not to like. I met her, and I liked her.

RYAN: The Upper Echelon ladies were fun to ride with for a while and it's always nice getting Team Beer's own brand of encouragement. Really the best moments were with individual people on long climbs, giving each other smiles of encouragement.

GEOFF, THE PRODUCT PLACEMENT GURU: Everyone was just so warm and friendly…not unlike the warmth I feel on winter days when I put on my ultra-cozy Rapha ¾ Length ThermoRoubaix bib shorts.

••••If you have done RGRs in the past, how does this one compare?

STEVE: The route was harder. It seemed to have more gravel. I didn't like the idea of the start and finish being in the same place, but it worked well.

This was harder. In particular, the amount of uphill gravel, that did not allow

out-of-the-saddle climbing. And the amount of downhill, washboard gravel, that worked the triceps, deltoids, finger muscles,... Hard, but a great challenge.

CHIP: I have done all 4 of the NW RGRs and I'd say this one was the toughest. This year we took off much more aggressively than we have in the past. We knew ahead of time that there would be a cutoff not allowing us to finish and I think it pushed us harder than we would have normally gone. Well, that and Adnan being wise enough to know that we should take advantage of the cooler morning air.



RYAN: T'was my first. Probably won't be my last.

GEOFF, THE PRODUCT PLACEMENT GURU: I did the two RGRs before this one, and I’m going to have to say that the V-8 power and full time all-wheel drive with traction control made this one easier. More than that, though, I have to say I was helped most by my stylish Rapha + Paul Smith cycling cap with anti-bacterial tape and eyelets for improved temperature control.

••Any suggestions for improvement?

CHIP: Nope.

ADNAN: Make sure the county are not striping the roads during the KOMs

DAVID: Since Rapha clearly controls the weather for this, I would go with the other extreme for next year. Think Andy Hampsten over the Gavia. Snow, ice and somehow rain all mixed together. Wait, who am I kidding? That would be too easy for an RGR.
Really, though. Either more water at checkpoints or more towns/stores to refuel.
The critical mileage error for the last Plaid Pantry hurt. I heard other riders saying they finished their bottles at mile 84 thinking they would pull into Plaid Pantry, only to have another 10 miles to go. We suffered.
Having the loaner GPS was wonderful. It saved us from a lot of reading and likely some missed turns.

STEVE: I really enjoy the spirit of the RGR. I think that spirit comes out even more in the point-to-point race (like 2008 Lolo Pass RGR) with no set course and only a couple of checkpoints for the teams to pass through. That style of race adds another element that has been missing since first year. The task of coming up with your own route adds a whole new element to the team dynamics of the race.

ERIK: Be sure to know the actual mile mark at which the final Plaid Pantry (or similar) sits. We heard 85. It was 95.

The actual vertical rise might be nice to know too. Not totally necessary though.

RYAN: if there's a vital final stop, make sure the mileage on it is correct. That and have a bit more water at the Nuun stops. There comes a point when the idea of more electrolytes begins to sound pretty awful.

GEOFF, THE PRODUCT PLACEMENT GURU: I think we can all agree that cyclists in general would be happier if they could spend more time logged onto to enjoy an easy and rewarding shopping experience. Oh, also, I’m a fan of the point-to-point formats for the RGR, in general.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Late report from the Rapha Gentlemen's Race

My clock radio wakes me up with NPR every day. On the morning of the RGR, the first phrase I heard from the radio was “once again, there is a heat advisory in effect for Western Oregon. We advise you to minimize your time outdoors today, and if you must go outside, don’t do anything strenuous.”

Forty-five minutes later, I was in a van heading to Forest Grove, Oregon for the start of this year’s iteration of the race that had pretty thoroughly wasted me the year before.

I was emboldened by the shorter distance of this year’s race. Certainly 124 miles was nothing to fear after doing 141 last year. Sure, there were a few humps in the race profile map, and some of that climbing was going to be on gravel, but hadn’t we done gravel sections last year? No sweat.

So we rolled out onto the winding roads of Oregon Wine Country in good spirits.

One run-in with a dump truck later, we turned onto the road to Vernonia.

The grade increased noticeably. This is where I should mention that I was playing the part of anti-rabbit. I was to be the anchor that would keep any of my 5 younger, fitter teammates from getting into what Phil Ligget would call “a spot of bother.” This is not because I’m more vigilant, or a better coach. It’s because I’m slower, and they’d have to wait for me. So when a team began to pass us and two of my teammates jumped on their wheels for a few strokes before looking back, they saw me not chasing. Despite this course looking decidedly tamer on paper than last year’s route, I had learned not to trust race organizer Slate Olson. I had all kinds of faith that he had something horrible in store for us, and I was not going to let it catch me by surprise. So in this fashion we covered the first 35 miles to Vernonia at a decent clip, refilled bottles in town and turned onto the first gravel section at Pittsburgh Road.



This was not your garden variety quarter-minus. These were more the size of shattered baseballs, shattered golfballs, crescent ice cubes, or the heads of claw hammers. None of us expected this – certainly not I, with my 23c road tires. We soldiered on. Team Gründelbrüisers wears an all-black kit. Top and bottom. Three or four miles up Pittsburgh Road, I began to entertain the idea of a white summer jersey. Six miles up, I began to recognize the road. I had seen it before on “Axe Men”, filled with logging trucks that were rattling like my bike was at that very moment. Near the top, we had our first flat, then almost immediately, our second. Somehow, my Maxxis Re-fuse tires were holding up beneath my Clydesdale-Category body and my bike as we started a fast, uneasy descent through the Coast Range over stuff that no sane person would venture into with a road bike. The road was lined with riders fixing flats, fixing broken wheels, fixing teammates.

The heat had begun to assert itself. Shoulders began to protest. Hands and forearms began to tire from constant gripping and braking. More flats. More crashes. More stranded riders.

Speed increased. There was a lot of unintentional drifting, and I was getting accustomed to my bike sounding like a pinball machine. Ding! Ding! Clack! Rocks smacking carbon. Rocks smacking titanium. Chain slapping titanium. Rocks careening off of spokes. Ping! Clang! Clack! For about an hour.

We emerged from Pittsburgh Road with all of my bottles empty. Teams were regrouping in small patches of shade where the asphalt began. Every team seemed to be missing riders. There was a kid standing out by a barn with bottles of water.

“How much?” I asked, ready to throw down 10 bucks each.

“I’m pretty much giving them away,” he said.

This was not the last surreal thing I would see that Saturday.

“No you’re not,” I said, and gave him a few bucks.

Another 10 miles down the road, we descended the east side of the Coast Range and in the span of less than a quarter mile, it went from hot to feeling like someone had swung open a blast furnace door. Whatever heat we had been experiencing on Pittsburgh Road was like spring weather compared to this.

The first store we came to was also a barbeque restaurant, and it was there that we began to see the first true casualties of the day. Riders sitting against the outside wall with blank, vacuous stares. Guys apologizing to teammates.

Inside, most of the Gatorade and water was gone already, and we got some of the last bottles before the supply was coming uncooled from the storeroom.

We drank by the quart. We drank water and Gatorade until it hurt.

I chased it all with more Cliff Bars and wondered at the riders who were eating barbequed ribs and chicken.

Then we saddled up and headed for Scappoose. Five miles later, I had gone through another bottle of water. Ten miles later, we stopped for more water, more Gatorade, more food.

I took inventory of my teammates.

Brian looked great. To this day, I don’t think he exerted himself at all during the RGR. He is from another planet. Larry, Chip and Steve were equal parts fatigue and resolve. They were feeling it, but they were not letting on too much. I was beginning to wonder about the next two gravel sections. I have no idea what I looked like, but I’m sure it can’t be described in polite company.

The bank on the edge of town showed 101 degrees on its thermometer. Chris sat on the curb, shivering. Not a good sign. More water. More Gatorade. More salty crackers. More energy bars. I drank all I could and bought additional bottles to stuff into my already-bulging jersey pockets. If Chris was going on, I was going on.

When you’re sitting at a gas station in Scappoose, you know that it’s not that far to Cornelius Pass Road and Sauvie Island beyond it, and then it’s just ten flat miles back to Portland. And that would have been fine. That would have been a nice 75-mile ride that any of us could have been proud of on a day of rock shards and triple-digit temperatures.

But that’s not what we were doing.

We turned south and climbed farther and farther from the beautiful flatness of Highway 30.

Slate Olson was sitting on the back of a van at the entrance to Otto Miller Road, and he was smiling like he knew something we didn’t.

My first thought was relief that there was shade. But what Otto Miller lacked in direct sunlight, it more than made up for in dust clouds and traction-murdering gravel. Where Pittsburgh Road had been lined with big, shattered rocks, this was more like riding through someone’s garden path. Tiny sharp pebbles, several inches deep. And we were climbing. Hard.

You couldn’t stand up to climb, as it would un-weight the back wheel and you’d just spin. Some of the turns functioned like those doodle bug holes that insects fall into and slide to the center.

My teammates were pulling away from me and I did not begrudge them that; everyone had to keep whatever pace worked for him in this stuff.

Climb, slip, climb.

“How much more of this shit can there be?” I asked myself. It was a phrase that would become my mantra over the next 90 minutes.

Climb, slip, climb, slow to a crawl, repeat.

Do I save this last bottle until I’m really desperate, or do I drink it soon?

I did both.

Otto Miller also gave us the day’s third and best redneck encounter, and I’m no stranger to rednecks. I’m a transplanted Southerner with honest-to-God Confederate ancestry, and whoever that asshole was in the white pickup truck was a nice reminder for me that the South has no monopoly on asshole rednecks. 65 mph on a gravel road through a pack of cyclists. You’re not just born with those feelings for your fellow man; you really have to work at it.

Otto Miller Road was the gift that kept on giving. Long separated from the rest of my team and totally out of fluids, I had begun to stop for short breaks. I had begun to wonder how I was going to tell my teammates that I was going to ride home in the sag wagon. Where was the sag wagon, come to think of it?

How much more of this shit could there be?

Climb, slip, slow to a crawl, repeat, stop.

I was leaning over my handlebars, both feet firmly planted in the gravel. I was pushing my helmet against my forehead and making little Jackson Pollack patterns on the dry ground with my sweat when I heard a vehicle approaching.
The sag wagon appeared like an answered prayer out of a cloud of dust. A few smudgy faces peered out at me from the cool darkness within.

“You alright, man? You need a ride?”

The question hung in the air for a few seconds.

“Nah, I’m good.”

And they were gone.

“Who the fuck said that? I’m good? I am decidedly un-good.”

Click, click, pedal pedal. Nothing else to do.

I could taste dust. I could taste the rocks. How long since that last bottle was gone? 30 minutes? 45? An hour?

How much more of this shit can there be?

A few miles later, it was clear that Otto Miller was starting to level off and I caught up with one of my teammates just before the checkpoint.

Water. Coca-Cola. Sandwiches. Men and women in salt-crusted spandex were thrown randomly across the grass and pine needles like a bus crash of Mouseketeer colors all over the landscape and at the far edge of it, I found my team.

“You guys, I don’t know…” I began.

“They’re cutting this thing short” Chip said from behind his water bottle. They’re making us just ride in from here. You were saying?”

“I…don’t know…where the sandwiches are.”

If I’ve had a more satisfying can of Coke, I can’t remember the circumstances.

The rolling of Skyline, the mind-bending descent of Newberry, and bit more hideous traffic on Highway 30 later, we found ourselves in an all-out battle with another team for the last few miles and managed to edge them at the finish. We finished with all six riders, which was something not many teams managed, so that felt good.

I can already feel it slipping away, the memory of all that sucked about the day. Sometime around May or June, the Rapha Gentlemen’s Race might even sound like a good idea again.

Monday, August 16, 2010


Okay, for the 2 readers a year we get, I'm sorry. This sümmer, and spring for that matter has been pretty darn busy and well, there's been no updates. Whoops. I'm really going to try to improve that as we head into cross season, really. So here's the summary. There were quite a few Mountain Bike races for us this year. Some of us crushing, some of us crashing, and Schültz REALLY crushing. That about sums that up, Red to Red, Chainbreaker, Mudslinger, Bear Springs, and on and on. Stoli and Hammer gave the Cascade 100 a go, bravo. And Schülz destroyed the Portland short track Cat 1s and done put some Gründel up on the series podium. WERD. I did my best to injure myself whenever possible, Crits, Short Track MTB, whatever, I love me some Tegederm.

This weekend saw the annual süfferfest of the race that's not a race. 100 degrees, 100 miles. Good times. Sortof. Only 2 flats that was really only one flat twice, pretty cool. All in all, superfün, and now with salt.

And that sortof brings us to the present. Some are getting ready for cross, others some marathon on the east coast, and others just more mountain biking. Personally I'm about to spend my day off scraping glue and stretching some new tires out for the fun that's now only a month away. Giddy.

image of Schültz destroying it courtesy of Dave Roth

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Wax it Stewie

Here's to Team Beer. For realz. The short story. Team Beer gets sponsored by Wax On, they throw the Wax on / Wax off competition and Stewie straight up represents for the Gruündel. I'm sure the details of that night are gonna be well documented, so I'll just say. Rad. Mostly, rad racing in Portland where shit like this goes down. Perhaps the rest of the teams that took part now have a much more intimate relationship with their own grundels, that can't be bad right? All I can say is that with the ability to enjoy suffering like that we need Stew to race wayyyy more races, although, that might slow down the frame building even more so on second thought get in the shop. So here's to team Beer. I snaked a picture from Brujo as I was far too busy drinking and laughing to take any of my own. And of course a giant werd up to Dave Roth who brought home the victory for HUP. Can you believe it, HUP won. Really. Dave, you are amazing.

For more retina scaring action you can check out Brujo's pics here, be warned, you might never be the same...

Monday, April 5, 2010


Usually my 10 mile mini training commute is quite unworthy of any mention whatsoever. Today however, it was worthy of one of my very rare entries here. You see, there was roughly a 25 mph tailwind for me the whole way. While it's super rad to go fast, right, it's even cooler to ride all friggin stealth. Seriously, most of the ride was silent. So cool. Fast, Quiet, and wet as hell, what fun. That's all. The next news will be of racing for sure...

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Bring on 2ö1ö

Okay, yeah, so updating blogs and sites isn't really our bag. You know, what's better sitting in front of a computer, which we all seem to do too much already, or racing? So, now that cross season has ended for the Gründel just maybe we'll actually do some updating. Maybe...

Monday, November 9, 2009

A weekend of racing and a new hatred for the SRAM chain

Saturday saw the OBRA Championships down in Salem. Clayton and I headed down for the fun. Clayton rocked the C race to a 6th place looking really strong for sure. He spent the whole race in no mans land just behind the lead group of guys in a headwind that would knock you over if you weren't careful. Solid. Then, just in time for the B race the rain came. At least the wind died down, but it made for a very wet affair. Worked out well for me and I snagged a spot on the podium, hard work for sure and quite a battle with the Portland Velo boys. Now a few beers and on to Sunday...

All lined up and ready to rock the B race at Cross Crusade number 7 and luck was not on my side. The call up had me sitting nicely in row two on a course I knew I would love. No real climbs, 3 run ups and miles of mud, what could be better? Fifteen seconds to go, bring it on, stoked. Racers ready, oh yeah. Go, snap, not moving, wtf, oh, stupid chain. That sums it up. At least I had a spare bike there for the WCSSCX so I yell to Clayton, get that SS to the pit as I start the jog. I get to the pit and mount the trusty Voodoo. Um, what was I thinking when I put this gear on, good god. That hurt. 32x13, bad idea. That about sums that up. And then, on to the WCSSCX race. I pull out the short shorts and throw on the Grundel formal kit and have, well, a lot of fun. Hamer and I hung out in the back for a while then he decided to call it a day, um, crap, I guess I'd better race then. With Brian so far up the road krushing it at the front I suppose I'll just try to make some friends out here. For some reason no one was really into chatting, odd. I even had someone throw down for a full on sprint finish for what must have been like, 100th place or something, really? Um, it's yours...

Hats of to the designers of that madness, short cut, nuff said. All in all, a fun day of racing out there. The Grundellegion saw the return, straight off the IR, our very own V-Power bringing home some glory in the womens race. Welcome back Lid. Saweet. All in all a day of a few mishaps, some strong racing by the boys, and perfect cross weather. Now on to the recovering from racing two races with gearing that should only be used by Magnus Ver Magnusson. Bring on Barlow.

Photo by Stephen Fitzgerald