Cycling Dad with Team WBR Europe at the King of the Downs Gran Fondo, UK

Hey all, hello UK!

Just a quick note to let you know that fellow Team WBR Europe team member Axel and I will ride the King of the Downs Gran Fondo tomorrow, June 1st 2014.

Looking forward to 185km and 2300m cumulative gain in altitude along the way. The route covers the Surrey hills, North Downs, Ashdown Forest and Kent, and notable climbs along the route include Leith Hill, The Wall (Kidd’s Hill) and Titsey Hill.
Looking forward to a great day!

You can check out the ride here.

Also, here’s the ride’s Garmin track:

Remember, every donation helps to mobilize communities in rural Africa through the World Bicycle Relief programme. We need your donations to reach our fundraising goal, and any support will be greatly appreciated!

What activities do you plan this weekend?

Mobilizing communities in rural Africa with the World Bicycle Relief

Friends,

I am supporting World Bicycle Relief, an organization providing access to independence and livelihood through The Power of Bicycles, with a personal fundraiser. Check it out on http://teamwbr.worldbicyclerelief.org/kai

The money raised through my fundraiser helps to provide specially designed, locally assembled bicycles to students, healthcare workers and entrepreneurs in rural Africa; connecting them with education, healthcare and economic opportunities.

World Bicycle Relief is currently working to provide 50,000 bicycles to students (70% girls), teachers and educational workers in rural Zambia and Zimbabwe. For $134 we can provide a World Bicycle Relief bicycle to a student in need. Every donation helps.

As part of my commitment, I will ride the legendary Oetztal Cycle Marathon on August 31, 2014. The Oetztaler is an endurance event that pits 5,000 amateur athletes in the heart of the Alps against 240km in distance, 5,500 meters cumulative altitude gain, four alpine passes and temperature ranging from zero degrees celsius on the peaks to the twenties in the valleys.

In 2013, my finishing time was 10:52:09 (10:18:42 moving time). You can check out my effort at http://www.strava.com/activities/78100762

This year, I will ride the Oetztaler together with my wife Alexandra. Together, we aim to achieve a finishing time below 10 hours.

By supporting this fundraising campaign, you also support our goal to finish the Oetztaler Cycle Marathon together. Remember, every donation helps to mobilize communities in rural Africa.

What are we waiting for? Lets get rolling!
Thank you.

Yours, Kai

Quick recap of the 2013 cycling season – and a fresh look ahead!

By Cycling Dad:

Hi all,

The Cycling Parents have been a bit quiet recently. What has happened?

The 2013 season ended with a double bang – first the Oetztaler Cycle Marathon. After the race, I was working on an epic writeup – but woke up to a loss of all data on my hard drive, a move to Berlin with the family and a new occupation to keep me from blogging (and cycling). Bummer.

Here’s one picture to sum the entire Big O up – it was wet. It was cold. It was a tough race, but I made it. 10:52:09 h. Kudos to all of you who completed this race in 2013. It was mad.

Okay, one more picture. It was epic, but it was also fun!

One week later, I was on the starting line for a race in my hometown with my buddies from the old days. Axel, Basi – you guys rock and I bet you can see that I enjoy racing with you:

Two weeks after that, Alex and I participated in the Endura Alpentraum. Here’s another picture to sum it up:

The best part about the Endura Alpentraum was that I got to ride it together with my soulmate Alex. Apart from that, this race is sheer madness. It took me 12:57:47 h to reach the finish line, and I arrived there completely wasted. I honestly do not know how we made it, but we did it.

After these two races, Alex and I spent the rest of the year cycling for pure enjoyment, spent more time with the children and even looked into setting up business in the cycling industry. All of this took time away from blogging. Eventually, we decided to move from Austria to Berlin, Germany, where we arrived in January after two month of commuting between both cities. Life is slowly starting to “normalise” again, with the near promise of kindergarden places for the toddlers. Oh, needless to say that Konstantin and Johanna are taking more of our (and especially Alexandra’s) attention now. ;)
Family always comes first.

As we are slowly getting back in the saddle, this blog shall live up again soon to collect our cycling memories. The Big News is that this year, Alex has won a starting position in the Oetztaler Cycle Marathon lottery and is planning to get in shape for it. Oh, and there are a couple of other surprises, but I will leave it to Alex to tell you more about it.

We are thinking about moving the blog to a German language format – simply so we can produce content faster and hopefully also more eloquently than writing in a second language. What do you think about this idea? Do you think that Google Translator can help you keep up with our voyage? Is there anybody out there still reading this blog?

Keep in touch!

Performance Diagnostics | Functional Threshold Test at Radlabor Munich

By Cycling Dad:

Earlier this year, I hit jackpot as I was selected to become one of the amateur riders to the 2013 Team Alpecin. Part of the team package is a professional performance diagnosis and training plan from Radlabor (the Cycling Lab). Radlabor is a spin-off from the University of Freiburg’s sports faculty, which offers diagnostics and coaching for recreational, amateur and professional cyclists, and a key partner of Team Alpecin. They operate testing facilities in Freiburg, Frankfurt and Munich.

With the help of science, my training for the remaining three months should become much more effective. Unfortunately, I am a bit late to take the test due to professional and family obligations, but in the end a more structured training should help me get through the Oetztaler Cycle Marathon and Endura Alpentraum with at least some less suffering…

So on May 10th I took a day trip to visit Sophie Fleischer at the Munich lab. Sophie was already looking forward to punching my ears with needles for the lactate test.

Here is an inside look at the Radlabor’s Munich testing facility. It is compact in size, but everything you need to push yourself over the lactate threshold is there, including a top-notch SRM ergometer.

What happens during a performance diagnosis?

Testing procedures may vary between testing locations and athletes tested. However, what happens essentially is that someone puts you on a stationary bike and asks you to pedal at a rate of around 90 to 100 revolutions per minute. She then increases the resistance – in this case every three minutes. Resistance is measured in watts per hour, and increased in increments of 20 watts. At the end of every resistance level, a small blood sample is taken and analysed for lactic acid, which is a chemical compound produced by the body from breaking down glucose for releasing power to the muscle tissues. It is a complex process and I have to point to specific resources for explaining the details. However, when lactate is produced faster than the tissues can remove it, the lactate concentration in the blood begins to rise. Sports scientists use the lactic acid concentration as an indicator of fatigue in the athlete’s body. The so-called lactate threshold marks the level up to which an athlete can metabolise the lactic acid that is created under effort while it is produced. Beyond the lactate threshold, lactic acid starts to accumulate, which leads to fatigue and eventually forces the body to recovery. It will let you know gently, once you reach that point…

What does a performance diagnostic look like? Well, it’s not pretty. Send the kids out of the room before you watch the following video ;) .

Here is what the results look like: Radlabor Leistungsdiagnostik (click to download PDF). You receive a detailed report, outlining all the data from the threshold test. Unfortunately this document is in German, but Iet me summarise the most important information.

The following chart shows, by column: effort (watts), relative effort (watts per kilogram body weight), heart rate, lactic acid concentration, energy consumption per hour.

Upon applying cycling-specific calculations from sports research, my functional threshold was at 207 watts (2.5 watts per kilo) and a heart rate of 144 beats per minute. The diagnosis software estimated that my maximum rate of oxygen metabolisation is 4.7 litres per minute, which puts my relative VO2max per minute and kilogram body weight at circa 57 millilitres. My maximum effort was 360 watts, but I could only keep this for around 90 seconds. This places me among the top 25% of all athletes tested in my age group on Radlabor’s testing software Ergonizer - across all sports disciplines. Sounds quite good, but when looking specifically at cyclists, my results place me in the 15% percentile. This means that 85% of all cyclists who completed the test have a higher anaerobic threshold per kilogram body weight. I console myself by the thought that performance diagnosis today still is used to a large extend by professional athletes. It is okay to be better than only  15% of the pros ;) . MTN Qhubeka’s Gerald Ciolek for example managed to average roughly 400 watts over almost 12 minutes on the Cipressa Climb of Milan-San Remo 2013, for which I will admire him eternally. Also, in the same race Gerald achieved a mind-boggling 1386 watt effort on his race-winning sprint, while the test in Munich pegs me at roughly 625 watts maximum sprinting potential. For more details, check out this interesting post.

Back to the test. From the results, individual training heart rate zones can be derived. These will be important when drafting the athlete’s training plan. Based on my results, mine are: (KB = Active Recovery, GA1 = Endurance, GA2 = Tempo, EB = Threshold – the second column is effort in watts and the third refers to the heart rate zones)

Here’s another interesting graph from the report, showing the lactic acid build-up over time (lower-hand black line) in relation to the effort spent (x-axis) and the heart rate (y-axis).

At 206.5 watts, I reached my (anaerobic) lactate threshold at roughly 59% of my maximum sustained effort 350 watts. As Sophie explained to me, with appropriate training I should be able to delay the buildup of lactic acid up to 80% of my maximum effort, which would give me roughly 280 watts before reaching the lactate threshold. This is the recipe for significantly improving performance in the long-distance marathons.

Shortly after I returned to Vienna, Team Alpecin trainer Tim Böhme from Radlabor Frankfurt called me up to discuss my personal training plan. Based on the results of the threshold test and my personal time constraints, he assembled a training plan which contains a lot of long-distance endurance rides in June and some interval sessions, which will gradually increase in July as we move closer to the main events Oetztaler Cycle Marathon and Endura Alpentraum. The training plan is online (screenshot above) and requires me to feed back my training information at least on a weekly basis. From the heart rate information collected, the system calculates time spent in the different training zones and presents the results in summary overviews. According to this information and personal feedback, adjustments will be made by Tim. Also, there is an option to conduct another test in August to evaluate progress made and determine the perfect pace for both races.

Perfect preparation for the marathons to come!

Team Alpecin 2013 Training Camp in Mallorca

By Cycling Dad:

Earlier this year, I hit jackpot as I got selected as one of the amateur riders to join Team Alpecin for one cycling season. So far, I received a bike worth more than I would ever have on my bank account, a professional bike fitting and support along the entire way to the Oetztaler Cycle Marathon in August and Endura Alpentraum in September.

This post is about the next goodie on the seemingly endless list of benefits for the chosen few. As part of the 2013 Team Alpecin package, I had a chance to spend one week in April along with eleven other lucky team riders at the Robinson Club Cala Serena on Mallorca. Mallorca is the largest island of the Spanish Balearic Islands archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea and has a reputation for being the Eldorado for road cyclists from all over Europe, because of its climate and diverse topography. After one week of riding on this beautiful island, I must agree. You’ll see why – but let’s start at the beginning of the trip.

You would not necessarily have to bring your own bike to Mallorca. There are dozen of rental stations all over the island that rent out everything from beginner’s to current high-end models. As a member of the 2013 Team Alpecin however, of course I wanted to bring the team bike along ;) .

As I did not travel a lot by air with my bike so far, I had to get some sort of transport box first. There are tons of choices available, but I figured the easiest thing to do would be to rent one from the local bike shop. In my case, I rented an EVOC bike travel bag from Bernhard Kohl’s bike store in Vienna. Time for a mini-review:

The EVOC is a huge soft-shell bag on wheels with reinforcements in strategic locations to protect your bike from impact during transport. You essentially have to take off the saddle, the pedals, rear derailleur, handlebar and take out the wheels. The wheels are secured in two separate compartments on the side of the bag, again with paddings and special reinforcements. It took me less than 30 minutes to get the bike disassembled and packed into the bag. As there still was a lot of space left in the bag, I also packed all my regular check-in baggage to the bike bag. Nice!

I took the Air Berlin Tuesday noon flight from Vienna to Palma de Mallorca and arrived to blue skies and 25 degrees temperature. What a bliss after a long, cold and dark winter! Mallorca, here I come!

It took a bit of waiting at the baggage claim, but after an hour or so the bike finally arrived. Next, I met Kei Uwe, my roommate for the week, at the airport. Before coming to Mallorca, we already worked out a nifty model for the rest of the day that would allow us to save money (airport shuttle would have cost 60 EUR per person) and spend time on the bike at the same time. Here’s how. First, we rented a car for half a day. Then we went to the hotel to assemble the bikes, drop off the bike boxes and change into cycling gear. We then headed back to the airport to return the car, taking the bikes with us. The ride back to the hotel already got us 70k on the very first day. The transfer set us back by 30 EUR in total expenses. Not bad.

We arrived to the hotel a bit late, immediately plundered the buffet and got to bed. The days ahead would be packed with activities!

I felt a bit guilty, as I lay there in the big hotel bed – slowly sinking into a restful sleep. Everything was quiet around me. My last thoughts were with Alex, who was struggling alone with our lively toddler Konstantin and newborn Johanna at home. Live is not fair.

Before I left, Alex reminded me time and again that I owe her a favor from this day. The day would come, and no matter what the request, I would have to grant her this favor. She seemed pretty serious about that… ah well, for now – good night world ;) .

8 hours of deep, deep sleep. Again, I woke up feeling a bit guilty thinking about the family at home. I made a short call to Alex. Her night was horrible. Both kids conquered the bed and gave her a tough night. Check out H is for Hell, provided by HowToBeADad.com for a remote visual reference… Alex then told me the fifth time that the day will come when she’ll ask me that one favor. Whatever it is… has to be done… shudder…

I decided to make the best of the current situation and joined Kei Uwe for breakfast. We met quite a few of the last few year’s riders at the buffet, who have been invited to come along from the team managers. Sort of a Team Alpecin Alumni Club! We also met our Sportive Director Jörg Ludewig and former Tour de France champion Jan Ullrich. Wow, what a start – we were completely starstruck!

At first we were expecting being introduced to the harsh dietary prescription of a cycling team in training camp. But there’s nothing further from that. Yes, there were epic tales of hunger during training camp from the former pros, including hotel room raids for hidden snacks and athletes eating directly from the buffet so that the team coaches could not count the calories. But at the same time Jan and Lude stunned us with their healthy appetites. We decided to join then and shuttled to and fro the buffet tables. The food at Robinson Club was absolutely amazing and I think I can proudly claim to have overeaten on every single meal that followed during the week. As it would later turn out, the training camp cost me 2 kilos on the scale… but it was worth it ;) .

After breakfast we got ready and went for a first ride with the team and our special guest Jan Ullrich. What an experience, riding next to him and chatting along. I can confirm that Jan is an all-around normal guy, apart maybe from his supernatural cycling talent. I am sure that even without any training he would be able to beat me up in any race.

The rest of the team arrived in the meantime, so I finally got the chance to get to know everybody. They assembled their bikes after lunch and we went on another group ride that same afternoon. We only covered roughly 40k, in order to get everyone acquainted to the new conditions. Time flew, as we rode and chatted the afternoon away. Soon, we were back at the hotel, got fresh, had a huge dinner and our first daily team meeting. The team management introduced us to our trainers Tim Böhme and Stefan Zelle from Radlabor.de along with the schedule for the coming days. During the first two days, there would not be much time for riding as we’d be busy taking pictures for RoadBIKE magazine and other media outlets. The rest of the week would be free for longer rides, a visit to the RoadBIKE festival in Playa de Muro and technical training. Happy and overeaten, we retired to our rooms and were looking forward to the next days like kids before their first day of school.

The third day started with another novum. Probably as a result of watching our eating habits, our trainers decided that we all needed to strengthen our core muscles. This was most likely in order to keep us from bursting apart after another sumptuous meal. Our trainers Tim and Stefan showed us some basic positions for strengthening the core body muscles and we followed their moves. We would repeat this early morning activity almost every day of the training camp. Needless to say that most of us were rewarded with sores from our neglected core muscles. However, professional experience and anecdotal evidence from the hobby athletes shows that well trained core muscles will be a key success factor during our epic ten-hour rides during the Oetztaler Cycle Marathon and the Endura Alpentraum Transalp Cycle Marathon.

As announced during the team meeting, we spent third and fourth day of the training camp with photo shootings. Unfortunately I can’t post the professional photos as they are not released yet. But I can assure you that they look stunning. They will be used in the upcoming RoadBIKE Magazine articles, and maybe I will be able to share them all with you in a few months. In any case, we had tons of time to enjoy the sunshine and hang out.

During the entire time, we were extremely well taken care of by our sponsors. Not only were we dressed head to toe in the finest Assos clothing, riding the 2013 Specialized S-Works Venge on devilish Lightweight Meilenstein Obermayer wheels, but there was also a seemingly unlimited supply of Squeezy Sports Nutrition to be consumed at will. Great stuff – I’ll post a detailed review soon.

Also, we had a team of world-class bike mechanics from Lightweight on service to help us make all final adjustments on our bikes and overhaul the bikes on first sign of wear. The mechanics service was also offered to the team Alpecin riders of the previous years who joined us during the training camp. It was absolutely splendid, and I need to take a moment to give a huge personal thank you to our team mechanics Oliver and Daniel. You guys are magicians on the wrenches ;) !

Once the photo sessions were done, we spent the rest of the training camp with some long rides that mainly focused on building base endurance. However, we also spent a few climbing sessions on Puig Sant Salvador, which is a large, beautiful hill in the South of the island with guesthouse-turned ancient monastery on top.

The road leading to the top is stunningly beautiful and first meanders through pine forest before giving a view across the island and the Mediterranean Sea.

The trainers introduced us to various interval training techniques and practiced fast descending with us, which was fun and gave everyone insights into ways how to safely improve the speed downhill. It was amazing to watch Jörg Ludewig taking on tight turns at high speeds, using skills honed in countless pro races. Also, we had a celebrity commentator with us as sprinter legend Marcel Wüst stopped by to share some of his wisdom with us.

On Friday, April 19th we went on one of our longest rides – 150k from Cala Serena to the RoadBIKE Festival in Playa de Muro and back through the heart of Mallorca. The scenery along the way was stunning and we rode in three large groups with a lot of the previous years’ Team Alpecin members. Jan Ullrich again joined this ride and there was a chance for everybody to have a picture taken next to him.

The RoadBIKE festival itself is a three-day, pop-up consumer fair right in the heart of Playa de Muro, one of the (Geman-speaking) cycling tourism hotspots on Mallorca. The big tour operators like Max Hürzeler Cycling Holidays have their main bases here. Some of the big brands in cycling give consumers a chance to experience their products first hand here, including Specialized, Sigma, Continental, Squeezy and Canyon to name but a view. Also, visitors have a chance to meet cycling stars first hand, including Eric Zabel and of course Jan Ullrich. It is quite a nice event, but what I found stunning (also considering that I am running an Austrian-based, English-language blog) was the fact that all communication on site was conducted in German. No sign of English or Spanish whatsoever. I wonder how many non-German speakers were lost along the way.

The rest of the week in the training camp brought more long rides, and a chance to enjoy the amenities of the Robinson club, including a splendid wellness area and the beautiful coastline. This place must be great for swimming during summer, but at this time of the year still was a bit chilly…

Also, there was a glitch in the secret cover-up operations of the secret billionaire lifestyle of a certain Swiss member of our team. The crew brought the yacht too close to the shoreline, so the rest of the team could catch a glimpse and establish the logical association to the owner. As a result, we all received personal invitations to his royal mansion in Switzerland for high-altitude training. We’re all looking forward to it, Matthias Count of Niederhäuser ;) !

For those of you who made it all the way to the end of this extremely long post, here’s a special goodie for you – a short video sum-up of some of our rides. It gives you the chance to experience parts of the training camp from the participant’s point of view. We had an amazing time. I would like to express a heartfelt thank you to all our sponsors and supporters, and of course our families at home who missed one week with their dads, husbands or girlfriends.

P.S.: I started writing this post on April 16. The date of publishing, today, is May 13. In other words, it took me almost a month to finish this post – a striking evidence of the challenge to manage family, profession, training and blogging next to each other. No wonder that there aren’t that many bike bloggers around. To those of you who can manage everything at the same time, here’s my respect and deep appreciation. You guys rock!

Cycling Parents Family Bike Ride

By Cycling Dad:

After three races over the last two weeks, my body is sending me signals that it’s time for a break. So Alex and I decided to take the kids out in their Chariot Child Carrier and made a short video about it.

What’s your recipe for happy kids?

2013 Volcanoland Cycle Marathon | Vulkanland Radmarathon

By Cycling Dad:

May 6, 2013 – Today is Monday. I feel fried and at the verge of falling sick. Yesterday, I rode the Volcanoland Cycle Marathon (“Vulkanland Radmarathon”) in Feldbach, Styria, Austria. 124k in the pouring rain with 1466 m alt gain. Quite tough – especially after last week’s race in Moerbisch and a short, but fast run of the Vienna Woods time trial series on Friday. The Volcanoland Cycle Marathon must be a lot of fun in nice weather. Just look at the bizarre scenery above and imagine sunshine. Every race gives me the chance to travel to beautiful places in Austria and meet new people. I came in 22nd out of 35 starters in the <40 age bracket in Feldbach and 4th out of 7 in the time trial, which sounds much less spectacular than 110th out of 700+ as in Moerbisch. I guess I could have done better with a bit more training. Here’s the data from the Cycle Marathon:

Race Report:

I’ll have to keep it short as I already feel like falling off my chair any minute. Race day started early at 4.30 am. I was in the car by 5, driving till 7 so I could make it before registration cut-off time at 7.30 am (I know I should have registered weeks before…). Plenty of time to warm up, unlike Moerbisch last week. No need to put on sunscreen either – the race started at 8.30 am in light drizzle. There were merely 200 brave guys and gals at the starting line. The first kilometre leading up to the first 100 m alt climb was neutralised, so it was a very save start without any pushing and shoving. As there were two laps with a combined 124k ahead and almost 1500 m alt gain, I thought it sensible not to go full-out on the first hill, but rather settle into a somewhat sustainable pace (which turned out to be a GOOD decision..). The leading group with the first 50 riders immediately took off. In the meantime, the rain started pouring from the skies and made me really uncomfortable on the first fast descent that followed. Even though my Lightweight Obermayer wheels have superior braking performance in the wet (compared to other leading full-carbon wheels), there still is a huge difference to aluminium rims in heavy downpour. Nothing to worry about, but definitely something that takes time to get used to…

What followed was a constant change in incline, speed, heart rate and road conditions. I was hanging on to my handlebars, wondering when there would be time to have a safe sip from my bottles on this course. It took over one and a half hours for this moment to arrive. Clearly, this rough-rider still has a long way to go to find back to past glory…

Our group made a good pace. Over time, we collected more and more single riders and smaller groups from ahead and behind of us, amalgamating into a second peloton of roughly 40. We roughly stayed in this larger group for the remainder of the first lap, finishing the first 62k in roughly 1:50, with a 33.6 km/h average speed which I found quite impressive on this course profile.

On the second lap, more and more riders blew up on the hills and fell behind. It happened to me around 3:07 into the race. Left leg to brain: running out of glucose. Brain to right leg: do you have any left to share with lefty? Right leg: BOOM! You must have been able to hear the explosion in Vienna. Too much workload over the past weeks with too little previous training?

I was left with 45 minutes to go until the finishing line, seemingly running on the energy left in my thumb that’s normally used to push the button on the remote control. Pouring rain. Feeling miserable. The rest is history. 3:52 finishing time, 22nd out of 35 starters. Congratulations to all the fine ladies and gents who finished today’s ordeal.

I know that I will be back next year, beating my ass until then to improve my finishing time. This is a beautiful course, but today the weather did not quite comply.

Off to bed with a cold.

2013 Moerbisch Cycle Marathon | 22. Neusiedler See Radmarathon

By Cycling Dad:

April 28, 2013 – Today I participated in my first race since many years: the 2013 Moerbisch Cycle Marathon | 22. Neusiedler See Radmarathon (German original name). Overall, it was a quite pleasant experience, but of course there is always room for improvement. I made position 110 out of 731 starters. Overall, I feel rather satisfied with my performance, considering the long break from amateur cycling and the fact that my legs still felt tired most of this past week from the Team Alpecin training camp in Mallorca (the article about it is still work in progress, but should go online in the coming days).

The Moerbisch Cycle Marathon covers 124k in distance with a comparably flattish 600m in altitude gain (at least that’s the data I get from my Garmin – the organisers even only show 300m – but I will stick with the Garmin data). I finished today’s course in 3:20:38 with an average of 37,4 km/h. Click here for the official results.

Here is the course and my data from today’s event:

Race Report:

I arrived to Moerbisch roughly one hour before the start at 10 am, leaving me plenty of time to walk around and pick up the starter package. At least in theory. What really happened was that after getting the gear ready, installing the timing sensor and putting on sunscreen, I barely had ten minutes left for warmup before heading to the starting line. It sort of worked out, but the first learning of my amateur racing comeback would be to factor in more time prior to the race. Easier said than done with a toddler and a newborn at home…

Arriving to the starting grid only minutes before the start of a race with over 700 riders means that there are a lot of riders in front of you… which was also the case today. As I was riding the Team Alpecin Specialized S-Works Venge and wore the full team kit, I briefly tried to talk my way into the special starting grid with the faster riders at the very front of the pack, but at no avail.

The starting signal came spot on 10am, but it seemed like minutes passed before the peloton slowly started moving. The first challenge of the course was a 200m climb in altitude over a series of hills that should quickly separate the field into several groups that could then take on the remainder of the course in roughly similar performance groups (at least in theory). As the track was a narrow rural road, it was difficult to pass other riders on the way up. I still managed to wiggle through somehow and must have gained 100 or 200 positions in this section. After roughly 10k, the rural road joins a regular country road which leads to the Klingenbach border crossing between Austria and Hungary. From here, there was a moderate decline for the next 10k. The speed picked up significantly and climbed to the upper 40s until shortly after Sopron. Along the way, we accumulated into a group of roughly 50 to 60 riders.

We just passed a roundabout, when the guy right in front of me took the corner too widely and got his wheels on the sandy shoulder of the road. He slipped at a fairly high speed and almost wiped me out when he came sliding back to the middle of the road. Luckily, he touched the ground on his side with no signs of a hard impact on his shoulders. When I glanced back, I saw him getting on his bike again. I hope he’s fine and finished the race.

After the crash, the speed dropped significantly and lingered in the mid thirties. Three or four of us tried to pick up the pace again, taking pulls at the front, but the majority of our group seemed determined to suck wheels all the way to the finishing line. I was wishing to ride this race together with a handful of teammates in order to be able to split the effort…

We crossed back into Austria near Pamhagen, where we hit head-wind. With only half the race distance left, the group woke up and more people finally joined the pacemakers. From Illmitz onwards, the group had a nice flow and a somewhat functioning alternating pull system installed in the front. We collected more slower riders along the way. Still, there were 40 riders staying in the back, sucking wheel…

On the last 40k of the race, a lot of movement started within the group, often leading to risky situations. Some of these riders were very strong – probably from thousands of kilometres solo training, but unexperienced of riding in a group. Then there were riders that were half blown-out, barely able to ride a straight line. And then again some of the guys were plain and simple idiots, squeezing themselves where there was no space, shoving their back wheels into other people’s front wheels when getting out of the saddle and swiping from one side of the road to the other as in a sprint final. On the final 10k, the speed picked up significantly again, but also the shoving in the peloton got worse and worse. There they were suddenly – all the wheel suckers who never took a pull at the front, getting ready for the grand sprint finale for position 100…

By the time we arrived to Moerbisch, my goal was simply to survive the last few corners unscathed – which seemed rather unlikely. I was just waiting for someone to go down infront of me or wipe me off the tires. It was close, but I guess today was my lucky day. At the end, I did not go all out in the sprint (what for?) and arrived in the front quarter of my group.

All in all, it was a fun race, but I could have done better a) starting from a better position further up front b) riding with a team and/or in a more experienced and motivated group and c) probably also with a bit more experience on my own side. Next year will show. Overall, the organisation of the Moerbisch Cycle Marathon was quite good and I can recommend the event.

Specialized Bike Handover and Bike Fitting

By Cycling Dad:

Remember the prize?

You can’t rush nature. I was reminded of this fact again as I missed the 2013 Team Alpecin kickoff event while staying with the family in the final days of Alex’ pregnancy. When Johanna finally arrived, she was six days past her expected date. This came as a big surprise to us, as Alex was already having labour pains around Christmas and last year our first child Konstantin was born five weeks earlier than expected. In the end, everything that counts is that Johanna was born in perfect health and that Alex is recovering well from the Cesarian that could not be avoided… this is first and foremost – all that matters. Johanna and her big brother Konstantin bring joy to our lives every day.

< end of disclaimer, back to the cycling folly :D >

I was sitting, waiting, wishing. Bittersweet agony, looking forward to the birth of our baby girl while being anxious of missing the team kickoff. In my fantasy, I saw myself being expelled from the team for not being there when the big show starts. All of this took place in my head only. The team sponsors were absolutely supportive in finding an alternative to get me on board. It turned out that I could pick up the equipment and get the bike fitting directly at Specialized’s German headquarters at Holzkirchen, which would additionally give me a chance to blog about it. Here’s a big thank you to Daniel at Roadbike Magazine and Sebastian at Specialized for setting up the workaround schedule!

So, after signing up Johanna for Team Cycling Parents and dropping off the family at home, back from the hospital, I took a detour from parking the car…

Specialized Germany Headquarters

Holzkirchen is a charming, tiny village in the South of Germany. Imagine timbered houses among farmhouses and cuckoo clock workshops. Here, Specialized’s German Headquarters and EMEA marketing-hub is located in an old farmhouse, which was converted into a state of the art facility with showrooms, offices, classrooms and a few mounting stations for fixing demo and pro bikes. Let me take you on a quick tour:

Below is the outside view of the location. Notice the big stack of firewood nicely piled behind the building? Love it!

Once you enter the building, you are taken back to the modern world. There are two workstations located near the entrance, which double as visitor reception. Check out the mountain panorama in the background. I wish I had that wallpaper also next to my workstation!

Take a left turn and you walk right into a modern showroom that can also be used as a meeting room. Here, retailers visiting Specialized in Holzkirchen for training can also check out the latest product releases and discuss upcoming marketing activities. There’s also a spacious bar area that seems as if it could serve more than just coffee ;) .

The wall behind the bar gives an impression of what this place looked like before being converted into the Specialized office.

And here’s how it looks today: the cowshed has been transformed into the office section. There are workstations to the right and to the left of the central aisle, which effectively still is part of the showroom. The whole place feels really cozy.

Take another turn to enter a social room that leads to the training classrooms. There’s a tabletop soccer station and spacious changing rooms and showers packed with cycling gear which I think is another perk of this location.

I briefly peeked into one of the classrooms with a training session in progress.

There’s also an extensive warehouse upstairs, where demo bikes and pro team equipment is stored and prepared for action. I only quickly walked through there, as the main reason for my visit was soon to begin…

Specialized Body Geometry Bike Fitting

Meet Sebastian Maag, Technical Marketing Manager at Specialized. Sebastian usually takes care of introducing newly released products to Specialized retail partners and training store personnel in sales and customer services. Today, Seb will give me a professional Specialized “Body Geometry Fit” bike fitting. Seb promises that this will help me climb faster, descend more confidently and ride with less fatigue on my new Specialized S-Works Venge.

Sounds good! Bring it on.

Ah, let’s have a coffee first.

Here’s what my bike setup looked like up to now. The green letters gives my specifications in cm, black are Alex’. We got this note during a fitting session at a Cervelo dealer in Germany in 2012. I must admit that the sheet we used to scribble down our specs looks rather basic. So far, these specs worked quite well.

Specialized’s fitting philosophy goes much further than saddle to crank and saddle to handlebar geometry. They also take a rider’s unique physiological features and acquired pain points (e.g. through attrition) into consideration. Individually matched shoes, sole inlays, gloves, handlebar tapes, saddles and shorts create the playing field for achieving the perfect conditions for every rider. I am really curious if this will help me in my preparations for the Oetztaler Cycle Marathon.

Here’s a short video about the “Bike Geometry Fit” service from the Specialized website:


Below is a photo from the bike fitting room. This is where Specialized retailers get their training for offering the “Bike Geometry Fit” service to end customers. As you can see, the bike is fixated on a static trainer. There are two cameras connected to a computer workstation. One is taking the front view, the other the right-hand side view. Also, there is a measurement chart on the left hand side of the wall that is used for measuring flexibility and a number of physiological features that are relevant to your position on the bike, for example static and dynamic knee positioning. You can also see a selection of shoe inlays in the middle of the picture that can be used to correct said foot and knee positioning.

And this is the moment when I first put my hands on my dream machine for the 2013 cycling season. As full carbon wheels and static trainers don’t get along well, the back wheel was changed to the standard Roval wheelset that comes with the S-Works Venge. I will write a detailed review about the bike soon. Today’s post is about the bike fitting.

After taking some measures from my body and asking me about my general riding experience on the bike, Seb first took care of my main pain point – the saddle. On my Cervelo S1, am currently riding a Selle Italia C2 Gel Flow, which has a width of 136mm. It worked great for me on shorter rides up to three hours, but gave me sores on longer rides beyond three hours. I already tried chamois cream to help ease the pain, but this only helped marginally.

Seb first measured the distance between my sit bones, using a gel-padded scale for me to sit on. The bones leave two indentations in the gel pads, marking the areas where the pressure on the saddle is highest. Here’s an anatomical mockup of the pelvis. You can clearly see the sit bones on the bottom.

Seb’s recommendation for me was the Specialized Romin Evo Pro Team with a width of 155mm. The picture below gives you an idea of how the sit bones ideally should rest on the saddle, to ensure an even distribution of pressure. If the saddle is too narrow, it will put pressure on the sensitive perineal area, causing discomfort and sores. Upon trying the new saddle, I must confirm that it feels really comfortable without compromising on weight or design. I am curious to see if this new saddle remains comfortable on longer rides. During the Oetztaler Cycle Marathon, I will most likely spend around ten hours in the saddle. It will be the ultimate test.

Now that we solved the first problem, Seb swiftly moved on in the fitting. Next up was alignment of the knee. For this, I was asked to step on the Arch-O-Meter. As the arch of the foot flexes under pressure, it can cause the knee to rotate in movement. This costs precious energy and can lead to fatigue during cycling. As you can see from the color of the footprint (probably triggered by the distribution of pressure), I have a medium to high arch. Today I learned something about my feet – there’s a lot of flexing going on…

Seb told me not to worry and quickly came up with a pair of supportive insoles (pictured below on top). You can feel the difference once you step from the original flat insoles (pictured below on the bottom) onto the supportive insoles. They snuggle under your arch, giving your foot support when it needs it most – on long mountain climbs.

What followed next was a series of video sessions, where Seb asked me to get on the bike and pedal with a little bit of intensity. Seb first adjusted my cleat positioning, then he adjusted my seat height by a stunning 50 mm upwards, aiming to achieve the ideal 145 degree knee angle (pictured below). Before, I was cycling with a 134 degree knee angle as recommended by the Cervelo dealer in the last (basic) bike fitting. And I have to approve – the new position indeed feels better. The picture below is not the final positioning, but rather a quick snapshot that I took during one of the video playbacks. Seb pointed out that I should bend my arms slightly in order to attain a more comfortable and dynamic position on the bike. I did this instinctively when I was a younger rider, but sitting in an office chair every day clearly has taken its toll..

At this point Seb was almost happy with the results, but he still noticed my right knee slightly rotating inwards during the pedaling movement. He put me on a bench and did some more physio-therapeutic testing, diagnosing the need for a valgus-adjustment in my forefoot. This can be achieved by introducing shims under the insoles, (pictured below), which help move the foot into the ideal position.

The result of the 90 minutes Bike Geometry Fit session is simply stunning. The bike feels super comfortable under my hands, feet and bum. I could hardly wait to get out on the road and give it a test, which by the time of writing this article had been done: 2 x 100k rides on the Easter holidays – feeling perfect, with no unusual signs of sores or fatigue whatsoever. If the professional bike fitting holds up to its promise, this will make a huge difference during the upcoming cycle marathons. If you are curious about getting a Bike Geometry Fit session for yourself, head to your nearest Specialized retailer. It is amazing what these folks can do for you!

But for now, time had come to thank Sebastian for his help, load up all the 2013 Team Alpecin equipment into the car and head home to Vienna. What an amazing experience this was!

As you can see, the car was absolutely packed with all the goodies to take home…

4 hours later I unpacked everything and spread my new possessions out in the hallway. This is madness – the cream of the crop in cycling equipment and everything you could ever wish for as a cyclist! For the complete list, head back to my post introducing the call for applications to the 2013 Team Alpecin.

We already ‘unleashed’ the CyclingParents.com testing team and together, we’ll review each piece of equipment in the team kit over the next weeks and post the reviews here. The Specialized S-Works Venge will soon receive a very special place, but details will follow in another post. By the way in the background you can see Alex holding her hands in her lap, staring at my new bike in awe ;) .

Thanks for reading and stay tuned!