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.

Cycling from Vienna to Sölden the route becomes the destination… probably next year

By Spinning Mum:

Some weeks ago when Kai and I were planning our trip to Sölden for the Big O we were discussing the possibility to start off our journey a bit earlier in order to take turns cycling and driving along the way.

Frequenting the Ötztaler Radmarathon Facebook Fan Page Kai coincidentally came across an interesting post. The organisers of the Oetztal Cycle Marathon are offering a long distance rally from Vienna to Sölden for 20 ambitious cycling amateurs. During a period of six days between August 18th and 23rd the enthusiastic participants have to overcome the following six demanding stages:

Baden (near Vienna) – Graz 181 KM; 3,447 meters in altitude
Graz – Großraming 219 KM; 2,050 meters in altitude
Großraming – Abtenau 157 KM; 2,344 meters in altitude
Abtenau – Großglockner – Lienz 171 KM; 3,288 meters in altitude
Lienz – Felbertauern – Gerlos – Innsbruck 199 KM; 2,803 meters in altitude
Innsbruck – Sölden 111 KM; 1,910 meters in altitude

At a price of roughly EUR 1,000.00 taking part in this weeklong adventure is not quite inexpensive but it certainly beats your mama’s run-of-the-mill package holidays which are often more costly and infamous for leaving you with more than just a little weight gain and training deficit :) Plus, there is much more to the package: Next to a guaranteed admission for the 2014 Oetztal Cycle Marathon all starters receive fantastic goodies and excellent support along the way, including accompaniment by a service car, catering en route, etc.

Following the slogan ‘the route becomes the destination’, pregnant and combative me immediately thought “Wow, that would be a fun way to get to Sölden and with an accumulated distance of more than1,000 km and almost 16,000 meters altitude gain it is even more challenging than the Big O itself” (A fact I could banter Kai with over the next decade^^). Not forgetting to mention that it would be a fantastic story to share on cylcingparents.com :)

I blame it on the hormones that I was giddily thinking I could survive such an endeavour despite of my lack of training throughout the past months. So, I got in touch with the rally organisers from the Oetztal Tourism Board right away to find out more about the tour and would probably have been ending up submitting my application if our little belly dweller wouldn’t have axed this plan.

Actually at that point I was pretty certain that Konstantin’s premature birth would increase the chances of having another premature baby. Don’t get me wrong, I was absolutely NOT wishing for another early delivery, but (given the fact that I was suffering signs of early labour when I was only 29 weeks along) I had a strong gut feeling that Johanna also wouldn’t wait until the estimated date of birth. Against this backdrop the only bright side would have been an earlier start into the season and thus more training which would have been essential for the tortures of such an epic cycle tour.

Well, all the old wives’ tales about having another preemie after a preterm delivery proved to be false and Johanna took her sweet time cycling into this world. At the end she was even overdue and we tried everything to lure her out including a special cocktail mixed from spices, castor oil and cognac. Fie! Unfortunately, all these homespun remedies did not work and upon advice of my obstetricians I agreed to have the birth induced. Alas, this plan did not lead to the desired result either as it turned out that I was suffering from very weak contractions. Hence a Caesarean was unavoidable :( Worse Luck!

Thankfully the medical team did a great job and Johanna and I were both recovering quickly from the rushed operation. Nonetheless, in spite of (or actually due to) the fact that I was still dazed and confused from the anasthetics I was given one of the first things I asked even before I was rolled out of the recovery ward was “When exactly will I be able to start cycling again?” :)  [Since I did not particularly covered a C-section in my previous post about exercising after childbirth, I will share my latest insights by updating this article as soon as the little rascals allow].

But back to the actual topic of this post…
Since I had to revise my plans due to the prolonged recovery time, taking part in the rally to Sölden was no longer an option for me.Too bad… even if it would have meant countless sleepless nights wondering whether I am capable of handling the distance and altitude gain :)

Be that as it may, I will definitely keep the rally on my watch list for the coming year. For this year spending less time in the saddle gives me an opportunity to write more reviews, for example about the book ”Ich habe einen Traum… Ötztaler Radmarathon” by Ernst Lorenzi, chief organiser of the Oetztal Cycle Marathon, who was so kind to send us a copy when he learned about our blog due to my request for more information about the rally.

Thank you, Ernst. We are absolutely enraptured by the pictures, field reports, training tips and statistics you meticulously put together and hope that we will be able to share our thoughts about your book soon.

 

Early morning workout for Cycling Parents

By Cycling Dad:

With two kids to look after, finding time for a workout has become more difficult. Essentially, every activity involving the children seems to take at least twice as much time as before. Alex is doing a great job taking care of Johanna and Konstantin, but I want to be there to support her on weekdays at least in the mornings and in the evenings, getting the kids ready for the day and ready for bed. So in order to be able to keep cycling, one has to be creative.

Bang! Wednesday morning, 5.22am. Cycling Dad sporting Lycra again, getting ready for a two-hour workout before getting the kids ready and heading to work. This shall be an experiment to figure out whether super-early workouts can be a viable option to get in some mileage during the week.

Johanna has kept us up more or less the whole night, demanding a fresh bottle of milk roughly every two hours. Her screaming then usually wakes up Konstantin, who figures that he might as well ask for a bottle. Today is an exception, and the sibblings’ wish for a lift to the big bed was granted.

Aren’t they adorable? It’s really difficult to leave the family behind in the warm bed, when you feel like curling up next to them and getting in an extra hour of sleep…

First stop before getting the bike ready was the kitchen. I picked up some easy to digest food – bananas, white bread and multi fruit juice. Coffee would’ve been nice, but I was eager to hit the road…

I left the house in complete darkness, using an excellent set of USB-chargeable Blackburn head and taillights (will post the review soon). Already around 6am, the sun already started to dawn. Paradoxically, watching sun dawns while riding my bike reminds me of a few memorable days in the summer of ’96, when I used to come home in the mornings after parties. Only that this time I wasn’t drunk :) .

The ride was beautiful, with birds singing all around and hardly any traffic on the roads. I even spotted a couple of deers right next to the road. However, in the absence of sunshine, this was one of the coldest rides this season. Make sure you dress warmly!

I rode for one hour and 50 minutes, 46k, covered 540m in elevation gain, burned through a bit more than 1000 kcal and arrived at work feeling fresh around 8.30 am. Not bad at all, especially considering that this would have been a week without any riding on weekdays. The experiment worked out. Super-early morning rides can be one component of our strategy to stay on the bike as Cycling Parents. Commuting to work by bike is the other. I will try to establish a routine from both shortly.

How about you? Do you go ride early in the morning, or commute to work? Let me know!

 

 

 

 

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!

Product Review – Pedal Systems: Shimano Dura Ace PD-9000 vs. Time Iclic Carbon

By Cycling Dad:

Verdict (if you are short on time and simply indecisive as I was)

Both systems are rock-solid and have huge fan-bases. Like all Dura Ace components, Shimano’s PD-9000 pedal system is the paradigm of quality, with ultra-smooth bearings and a superb finish. Unless they get obliterated in a really nasty crash, the PD-9000 will likely last a lifetime. The Time Iclic Carbon pedal system does not quite leave the same impression, but also delivers performance right where you need it. At 286 grams including cleats, the Dura Ace pedal system is 12 grams lighter than the Time Iclic Carbon (298 grams), but you have to be ready to pay roughly twice as much for Shimano as for Time. It is a tough decision, but one thing is certain: in combination with the Lightweight Meilensteins, Time will look decidedly more devilish on Cycling Dad’s new S-Works Venge. Spinning Mum can have the Shimanos ;)

We gave the pedal systems to our highly trained testing department here at CyclingParents.com secret world headquarters. Below is the full review.


Time vs. Shimano

Is it a sensible thing to compare Shimano’s 2013 top-end pedal system with the not quite so fresh 2011 upper mid-range model from Time? Tough call, but we did not really have much time to think about this question upfront. At the end of February, I received a call from one of the editors at Roadbike Magazine, telling me that I had been selected for a position in the 2013 Team Alpecin which, among other benefits, provides the opportunity to ride a EUR 10k+ Specialized S-Works Venge for an entire season. The only thing not to be provided in the team kit would be the pedals, as most riders gravitate heavily towards one certain system of their choice. I can deal with that :) .

I have been riding Time since the 90s and loved them ever since. LeMond, Indurain, Pantani, Ullrich, Boonen – they all rode Time… so these pedals can’t be too shabby. And as I am planning to use my Cervelo with the entry-level Iclic Racer pedals on rainy days, it was an easy choice remain faithful to my existing system. There are more upscale models in the Time product range, for example the Xpresso 12 at just 217 grams per pair (weight including cleats), but clearly these come at a price. Also, I got a good value for the slightly dated Iclic Carbons.

The Dura Ace PD-9000 entered the scene when Alex finally decided to give a proper road pedal system a try. She’s been riding the touring-style SPD PD-A520 system until now, but with her new BMC racemachine RM01, clearly a matching pedal system was required.

The incumbent: The Time Iclic Carbon pedal system

The Time Iclic Carbon system comes in an aggressive-looking cardboard box. Included in the set is a pair of cleats and the usual manuals.

The pedal itself looks rather spaceship-like and comes with a matt carbon finish, slightly rough to the touch. It is stunningly lightweight and provides a rather large surface area for the shoe to make contact. This is important especially on long rides and cycle marathons as unequally distributed pressure on the pedal can lead to “hotspots” on the soles of your feet. Remember that any detail that may nag you after three hours may turn into a source of excruciating pain after six hours. As I am aiming for a finishing time around ten hours on the Oetztaler Cycle Marathon, every detail counts. I know that the Time system works for me, so no experiments here.

Time claims that it’s Iclic pedals are the fastest pedal system in the world. This is because the closing mechanism works like a ski binding and automatically builds tension in a carbon spring when stepping out of the pedal. This tension is released when you lower the shoe onto the pedal, securely locking the cleat into position without any additional effort required from the rider. The pedal system allows you to alter the Q-Factor (the distance between the foot and the crank) by circa 2.5mm per shoe, simply by swapping the sides of the (offset) cleats. You also get to enjoy a lateral float of 2.5mm on the pedal and +/- 5 percent angular float, which is an asset if you feel discomfort and/or pain in your knees from long bike rides.

Does the Time pedal system live up to the marketing claims? I’d say it does. When I was a teenager, my knees hurt a lot after riding the (then still fix-positioned) Look pedal system. Part of the discomfort in the knees must have been attributable to growth, but once I changed to Time with its (then unique) float, the discomfort vanished. I still hold a grudge against Look and obviously cherish Time until this day, even though most (all?) pedal manufacturers offer float in their current systems.

However, I must point out one weak spot from my experience with the Iclic system. With the cheaper Iclic Racers, every now and then the cleat does not seem to engage the pedal quite as smoothly as it should, requiring me to step out of and into the pedal one more time. Not a big deal as I am not racing criteriums that tend to be fast directly off the starting line. I am curious to see if the Iclic Carbons will behave differently from the Iclic Racers in this aspect.

Time claims a weight of 225 grams per pair, which I wanted to put to the test. Our scale must be off by 9 grams…

To be honest I was a bit surprised one cleat alone comes at 32 grams. 64 for a set is more than one-fourth of the weight of the pedals. I also forgot to weigh the screws and screw fixtures which surely may add another race-deciding five grams per shoe.

Dear Time Sports, is there no way these cleats can be made less bulky and/or more durable? Remember the good old Time Magnesium Equipe pedal system? I know from today’s perspective they look dull, but hell – spaceships looked like that in the 80s!
What I loved about them is that they came with metal cleats that worked perfectly and would last forever. From an economical perspective, I understand that the latter meant that the system needed to be replaced… but… can’t it just come back with a fresh design?

 

The Challenger: Shimano Dura Ace PD-9000

Shimano sends its top-line pedal system to the starting line packed in a slick, highly glossy cardboard box. They put an attractive middle-aged man holding an iPhone camera on the front of the packaging. It’s modern, it’s flashy. Kind of makes you want to get on your bike and ride. Oddly enough, his head seems to melt into the area right next to the Dura Ace product family brand logo.

Once I opened the box, I had a flashback to my first business trip to Japan. Packaging is important and perfection is the goal. I had interviews with managers of foreign companies in Japan who told me about deliveries of industrial chemicals being rejected by the Japanese customers because a single barrel in an entire delivery was dented or scratched. The appreciation for your customer’s business and your dedication to serving his requirements shows in the packaging. It does not matter if you’re selling candy, cosmetics, industrial equipment or bicycle components. There is much we can learn from Japan. So I was gazing at the individually packaged pedals, the right-hand pedal in a blue sachet labeled R, the left-hand pedal in a red sachet labeled L. Poka Yoke at work.

The Dura Ace PD-9000 pedals feel good to the touch, and they look fast! The release tension can be manually adjusted from soft to strong to match your individual preferences. One thing I cannot show you on the photo is how incredibly smooth those bearings are turning. They also appear to be sealed pretty well from water and particles to enter. Perfection.

Look at this contact surface. It’s huge! Pressure hotspots? Not with Dura Ace!

 

At 248 grams, the Dura Ace pedals certainly are not the lightest in the world. Quality comes at a cost. However, things are put back into perspective when adding the weight of the shoe cleats….

At 19 grams, Shimano managed to shave the weight of its cleats by 13 grams compared to Time’s Iclic… That’s 13 grams – per shoe! 26 grams on the entire system. I also forgot to include the weight of the screws and fixtures here, but even after adding a few grams on both Shimano and Time the difference remains the same. In the end, Shimano’s Dura Ace pedal system is 12 grams lighter than the Time Iclic Carbon (286 grams compared to 298 grams, both excluding screws and fixtures).

I am curious to see how fast Shimano’s cleats will wear in comparison to Time’s. We live on the outskirts of the city, so most riding takes place on rural roads without the need to step out of the pedals a lot, e.g. at traffic lights.

We will give both Time’s Iclic Carbon and the Shimano Dura Ace PD-9000 a thorough test over the coming months and post our summaries below at the end of the season.

Ride safely and stay tuned.

Exercising after childbirth – when to start and what to obey

By Spinning Mum:

At odd times I actually take my doctor’s advice serious and when I was showing signs of premature labour some weeks ago I really listened to him and forced myself to slow things down a bit. However, it was not until about 4 weeks ago that I totally paused my training for the upcoming weeks.

I am in the middle of week 40 now and miraculously survived 35 days without doing any sports but two sessions on the good old Tacx. Well, hardly survived I have to rephrase since I often feel fretful, ill-tempered and moody these days as I never had problems getting up from the couch or tying my shoes before. Plus, there is also the fact that I am super jealous that Kai has been admitted to Team Alpecin and my cool new BMC’s spot in the bedroom will most likely soon be taken by his S-Works Venge. Not to forget that due to Alpecin’s shampoos and tonics his hair could soon be looking much better than my fluffy postpartum mess. Grump! [Picture some comically drawn potty mouth font expressing my displeasure here.]^^

Come what may. If I might have to accept some hormone-induced hair loss again [Hey Dr. Kurt Wolff, this is your keyword... ;) ] it does not mean that I have to accept all other physical complaints, such as a weak pelvic floor, puppy fat and a flabby belly.

Being as vain as most other woman on the planet, getting my figure and fitness back as fast as possible was already my goal after having Konstantin. After leaving the hospital with our little rascal, I was virtually lacing up my running flats as soon as I closed the clinic door behind me in order to go for a run and test our Chariot on this occasion. Not caring much about postnatal gymnastic because as soon as I could see my feet again, I felt strong and ready to start where I had stopped before.

Big mistake…! Since my pelvic floor was still far too weak to keep up with high impact sports, I had to plan my jogging route around public toilets if I did not want to put one of Konsta’s nappies on. Luckily my ingenuousness did not cause any permanent damage and recovery yoga lessons paired with some cycling and low intensity training at the gym got me the results I was wishing for in no time. Nevertheless, this time around I did my homework and started some research about exercising after childbirth as I do not want to buy diapers for three family members in the future :)

So, here is what I learned from my doctor, midwife and various books and webpages.
However, please note that every pregnancy, delivery and body is different and the following advice and suggestions do not make up for an extensive consultation from a medical professional.

1. Being patient is the biggest challenge - Allow yourself the time to heal

Loosing weight and feeling at ease with their post baby bodies is on top of the mind of most young mums. But you have to remember that even if it is the most natural thing on earth to give birth, it is still very demanding and puts a lot of stress on the body – especially if perineal tear occurred or a C-section was unavoidable. The good news is, that does not mean you cannot start working on your abdomen soon after leaving the labour ward.
After you have been given green light from your doc, midwife or nurse, kick it off with doing regular Kegel exercises as they will support your recovery by strengthening your pelvic floor muscles which in turn influence many different body functions including a strong bladder and a good posture. Doing Kegels is fairly easy and you can do them anytime and anywhere, e.g. when nursing your baby or whilst taking a shower. Simply take a deep breath and when you exhale, squeeze your pelvic floor muscles as if you want to stop the flow of urine and hold it for five seconds before you let go again as you inhale. Repeat these contractions about five to 10 times. After your lochia has stopped, you might want to try some pelvic floor trainers commonly known as Ben Wa or love balls. Don’t be embarrassed :) There are a couple of really sophisticated ones on the market, such as the pelvic weight set “Ami” by Je Joue or Fun Factory’s “Teneo” smartballs, which are carried at a lot of drug stores and respectable online shops.

2. Start with some light activities once you feel ready

…And I mean light. Though I know how hard it can be to stay patient, you will have to remember that slow and steady wins the race. Depending on whether you had a vaginal birth or a Cesarian, regular half-hourly to hourly walks with the pram, yoga and pilates are the most recommended post-partum activities and can be picked up right after your follow-up examination and consultation at your gynaecologist’s which normally will be scheduled about four to six weeks of your delivery. The good thing is, that a lot of hospitals and other institutions offer classes especially for mothers and babies, so that you can take your little squaller along and benefit from meeting and chatting to other mums. Moreover, you can include most of the exercises you will be taught to strengthen your core and abdominal muscles, such as pelvic tilts, glute bridges and leg slides, into your daily routine for even faster results.

3. Let’s get down to business

Depending on your prenatal fitness and your activity level throughout the past nine months, you are now prepared to work out several times a week at a moderate-intensity. Swimming, low-impact aerobics, a turn on the cross trainer and notably cycling are ideal for a smooth start. Start with 30 minutes sessions three times a week and extend your routine once you make progress. Make sure that you stay hydrated, allow for enough recovery and contact your physician if you experience abdominal pain, vaginal bleeding nausea or dizziness. Nowadays a lot of gyms offer child care solutions, so that you can enjoy some me-time without worrying about your little one.
If you are keen on cycling, cross-country skiing, walking or running, I can only recommend to invest in a Chariot instead of a regular stroller. They come with a lot of equipment, e.g. a special baby seat called the Infant Sling, which even allows you to use it as a pushchair for your newborn. [Read more about our experiences with the Chariot Cougar here.]

Last but no least keep in mind that you still have a certain level of the hormone relaxin in your body. During the past nine months its job was to loosen your joints and ligaments in preparation of giving birth. But it can cause the connective tissue to remain soft even months after giving birth. Thus, please be extra careful when you start sports again that put stress on your knees and ankles. Also take care if you were suffering from abdominal separation as it can take some time to heal properly. Crunches and sit-ups have to be avoided until you are fully cured.

This warning passed on there is only one thing left to say: Enjoy your workout and don’t forget to share your personal experiences in the comment section!