Thursday, July 21, 2016

[New!] Monday Night Group Riding Skills Ride (5:45PM @ GBS Portland)

We at Downeast Racing love the community to which belong. There are so many people involved in Portland Cycling that I personally can't name them all and I there are too many names to remember everyone I've met. Many of us began our riding here and many of us have been welcomed with open arms.

We have also noticed the trend of the group ride scene and so have many of our other friends in the biz. That trend? Harder, Faster, Stronger is Better.

Is it though? It definitely makes riding fun, exciting, race-like, and a good opportunity for growth in performance metrics (which are not to be dismissed). Those rides expect you to have developed many comforts that come with growth as a cyclist: group ride etiquette and skills. These are principles that were core to clubs and club rides. More recently, many rides can be smashfests that you're allowed to ride in if you can keep up. It is simply assumed you've been guided along "how" to group ride without ever having been given the time to learn. There is some time for instruction on all group rides - and many of the local riders will give you a helping word (how I learned a lot of what I know), but for the most part group rides are for just enjoying the ride itself.

If you want to jump ahead to the ride specifics: click here

A much longer article detailing the change over time in behavior of group rides can be found at CyclingTips: The Lost Art of the Group Ride. It's a strong opinion article, but many of the points are more than valid.

So, what are the "basics" and "group ride etiquette"?

The 'very' basics: Two wide, drafting close, following a wheel, not overlapping or halfwheeling, pace lining, standing up smoothly, riding predictably. Calling out obstacles/hand signals. Communication.

The basics: Riding tight, steady pedaling/pacing on up/down hills, bumping, how to properly sit out a pull, pulling through close and not creating gaps, keeping the group together.

GCN has some 'funner' content here and here to check out.

These are the things that many experienced cyclists do as second nature. We all have skill gaps. I will be the first to admit I have skill gaps. But without these basics, riding is erratic, unpredictable, and can very quickly get dangerous. A crash should not happen on a group ride due to the cyclists in the group. We saw a manifestation of riders not adhering to or correctly understanding group ride principles last Saturday (July 16th) on the local SMR. A crash took out many riders; leaving one with a broken clavicle, another with a broken bike, and many with a whole lot of road rash and other injuries.

The Ride:

At DER we asked ourselves, "What can we do to give back to this community?" One of those options is to create a group ride focused on skills and etiquette, things I only had because of patient mentors who realized I had strength, but not skill.

Who's this ride for anyway? Anyone and everyone. It'd be good to have some comfort in riding with others (if you are nervous being with other cyclists, contact me - below). Whether you're an elite racer or a new weekend warrior, you can improve the way you ride. The only way to do that is to ride with others who have the same goals - and going 45kph on the TNR makes practicing the basics a little tough!

Meet: 5:45PM Sharp @ Gorham Bike and Ski (593 Congress St, Portland), please do not show up late as pertinent ride info will be discussed and you might miss the roll out.

Route: Will change week to week. First couple will be flatter and on roads best suited for riding 2 wide. Expect to be back at GBS by 7:15-7:30. Route #1 is: (35K/22mi) or (37K/23mi)

Requirements: Signing a waiver, a bike (no TT or Triathlon bikes please!), an open mind, and desire to learn/improve as a rider.

Pace: No drop. Even for mechanicals (that are fixable in a short time frame). Pace is comfortable for the entire group, this is a skills/etiquette focused. My thought is this will be a nice recovery-level ride for racers and an endurance ride for others. Everyone is encouraged to contribute in pace-lining.

Questions about the ride? Contact me (Travis) at (or find me on Facebook) - if you'd like to chat on the phone we can also do that.

See you on Mondays!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Sleep In Your Own Bed Training Camp Routes (March 19-27, 2016)

Seven Rides in Nine Days

1.       Saturday: SMR + TNR Short Course: 70 miles (3090’ climbing). Starts from Cyclemania (65 Cove Street, Portland 04101) at 7:30.
2.       Sunday: Around Sebago: 94 miles (4260’ climbing): from Gorham Bike & Ski (693 Congress Street, Portland 04102). The map shows starting from Cyclemania but it does start from Gorham Bike & Ski (too inept to edit map and too lazy to make a new one!). Starts at 9:30
3.       Monday: Off

4.       Tuesday: Extended Raymond Loop: 80 miles (5714’ climbing): Twin Brook Park, Tuttle Road, Cumberland, Maine. Starts at 9:30
5.       Wednesday: Fortunes Rock Loop: 67 miles (1920’ climbing): from Gorham Bike & Ski, Portland at 9:30
6.       Thursday: Off

7.       Friday: Cumberland-Bailey Island: 86 miles (4016’ climbing): from Twin Brook at 9:30
8.       Saturday: SMR (35 miles)+ Little John Island (37 miles): 72 miles (1890’ climbing). from Cyclemania at 7:30
9.       Sunday: Blinn Hill or Bust: 90 miles (5128 climbing): from Freeport, Maine parking lot (parking lot across from Nordic Movie Theater). Starts at 9:30

Monday, December 21, 2015

Ice Weasels Cometh

Ice Weasels Cometh, RI

It's not fall, its not winter. It's the season of CX! Well for my mind CX just kept creeping into my dreams, my desires, my focus in training. My first races in September didn't go so well. I would have a decent start and then something would fall apart, being me or my gear. I rolled tires in the first three races, I found my fitness not quite up to par with the gents that had been training specifically for CX since June or those coming off of a strong road season. I figured this was alright though. I really wanted to be "driving" the bike come November and December anyway.

When I last raced CX in 2009 I was still living out at the gateway to the Pacific Northwest in Idaho. I would find myself heading over to Boise, down to Salt Lake City or Ogden, over to Bend, OR or to Portland, OR. All long road trips, all really good scenes for CX. With all the CX hoopla going on around the U.S. over the past decade, New England still has the history and the depth that other regions will always be chasing to catch. I've really been fortunate to find myself in New England CX scene this fall. Heck I am fortunate that my road season took a break in August/September due to some back issues and I found myself rested and hungry to race in October and November. Original intentions focused on fall road racing suddenly became mired wandering down to Massachusetts or Rhode Island to race CX. However, after one race and I wasn't mired at all. I simply had lost focus on how much I enjoyed CX. How much I enjoyed the scene and the people that race CX, the difficulty and skillset required for CX. These folks are true Hedonist of the sport. I have a dear friend that resides in Belgium and races CX. Don't be misled, I don't have direct experience with Belgium CX racing or culture, but listening to his experiences I see similar CX fanatics  here in New England. It is truly amazing to see so many different folks having fun and making a party out of chasing one another around in the woods, the mud, over barriers, through sand and up steep hills in tights.
Running through the Pawty! - Ice Weasels
So, as with so many other New Englander's the right direction to go this time of year is CX racing. Now, I am perpetually driving to RI and MA as we head into its final month CX here in New England. As folks turn their final build focus to CX Nationals the first week of January in Asheville.
Myself, well I hadn't really put Nationals as a real expectation this year. While it was always in the back of my mind it seemed just out of reach with the other life balances I look to keep in check every day. As I write, I have found myself in a final build and headed to Asheville. A dress rehearsal for Nationals in CT? Yes but definitively No. The details are coming together, I am going through my gear with a fine tooth comb, my training is on tract and fitness is still rising. And most importantly my hunger is at an all time high. I am looking forward to what Asheville has to throw at us in January. I am looking forward to a road trip with our "director sportif". The stories and dialogue that only a road trip produces when couped up with a friend for hours. After all, its the journey that actually carries the most value. The destination? Well, I've done the homework and I just have to go do what I do, drive the bike. Let the moment take its course.
Through Woods - Ice Weasels

Driving the bike through the Kitty Litter
Sand Cornering - Ice Weasels
Punching it through Kitty Litter - Ice Weasels

Podium - Ice Weasels


Tuesday, September 29, 2015


The prospect of riding a gravel grinder has increasingly intrigued both cycling road racers and mountain bike riders for a few years now. So when the posting for the Northwoods Gravel Grinder to be held in Rangeley, Maine during the late September foliage season popped up on, a bunch of us decided now is the time to give it a try.

Beautiful Rangeley, Maine
Rangeley is the last outpost of civilization in the northwest corner of Maine and features gobs of lakes, mountains and forests. It also features an extensive network of logging roads and private camp roads leading to secluded lakes and excellent fishing spots. Drew Hufnagel, who organized the event, and his crew did an amazing job of piecing together a 35 mile route and a 79 mile route that took advantage of the wilderness setting and served up a full gamut of bike riding challenges.

Spencer Nietmann, Troy Barry and I (Hank Pfeifle) of Downeast Racing joined 40 or so others who were evenly split between the two routes offered. Not a huge turnout but a new event has to start somewhere and maybe this post will entice more to give it a go next year. Now I must admit to being an old dog roadie with limited mountain bike experience, whereas Troy (former USA 2-man x 12 hour national mountain bike champ + pro CX licence) and most others on the starting line had a mountain bike heritage. Cyclocross bikes predominated the mode of transport selection with 33mm wide, mini diamond tread centers and slight knobby edge tires as the tire choice. Tire pressure ranged from 45 lbs to 80 lbs depending on one's estimate of the road surface conditions (no preview of the course was possible as the route was on normally closed private property).
Lakes & woods abound in the Rangeley region

We rolled out of town on Route 16 but soon turned onto the dirt road that goes around Dodge  Pond.  Upon hitting the dirt, the "go" switch went on and the pace quickened. Ah, this surface is fine - just a few potholes. Mr. Hufnagel had informed us to follow the signs, arrows on the roads and florescent green tree ribbons. A mile into the perfectly fine Dodge Pond dirt road the route markers all pointed towards a .. what? .. a stream bed? Why, whats wrong with this dirt road we're on? Off we go onto this stream bed (actually it WAS a road) and Troy really turns up the heat. Time to dwindle the herd. One thing I have learned during my limited time on a mountain bike is that, if you don't know what you are doing, follow someone who does. That fraction of a second of learning where the good line is through the mayhem of rocks, holes and tree limbs can make all the difference between sticking around or going backwards. Onto the back wheel of Matt Reynolds I went and a couple miles later six of us emerged intact onto the next road. Phew! And that's how the whole ride went - good roads, stony roads (ugh), wash boardy roads (ugh x 2), long gradual uphills (nice), long speedy downhills (nice x 2), crazy fast rutty downhills interspersed with humped culverts (yikes!!), big rocks, grassy centered roads (is this really a road??), questionable bridges over streams  - everything you could think of to test your skills.

Uphills, flat tires and just plain craziness eventually shattered all semblances of  people riding together which means, a) being able to take care of yourself in the middle of nowhere, and b) being able to solo TT for 60 miles are good & necessary skills to have. Mountain bike descending skills are a prerequisite as you need to be comfortable on the speedy and always tricky downhills. Steve Edwards of PVC incorporated the full package of gravel grind experience, bike handling skills, climbing ability and a mechanically clean negotiation of the route to earn the well deserved win. Troy Barry used all his considerable skills (he hit 45 on one of the gravelly, rutty downhills - don't tell his wife) to overcome two flats to nab 2nd. Matt Reynolds rode an error free ride for 3rd and, after fixing a flat of my own (with tube assistance from Ron Dunn - thanks), I managed a 4th place with John Liston hot on my heels (that guy can fly downhill - fun to watch hard to overcome).

Experienced gravel grinders opined that the Rangeley route was mid-level on the gravel grind extreme scale based on the many Northeast options out there. Dang. In other words, practice up and be ready for everything when you enter these events. Fast or slow you'll have a memorable time.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

DER takes the Fight to Vermont

Labor Day signifies two things; the unofficial end of summer and the end to 4 great days of racing at the Green Mountain Stage Race.  The 2015 edition of the GRMS had deep and talented fields, brutally steep mountain roads and oppresive heat.  In typically fashion the DER boys put up a fierce fight day-in and day-out, highlighted with 2 trips to the podium in the Cat 3 event.  Not satisfied with making the break on the Day 4 Crit, Zev Myerowitz attacked with 1 lap to go so he could enjoy the glory of crossing the line by himself.
Zev pumping his fist with joy on day 4

On the day 2 circuit race John Boucher clawed his way over Duxbury Gap 4x so he could contest the final finish.  Anyone that has tried to go toe-to-toe with John for a local town-line sprint knows it is a tough ask, and the other GMSR riders felt that same pain. John had the motor firing on all cylinders at the finish and was just a few bike lengths off the top step, a great results for this up and coming sprint man. 

John finishing 3rd, a few lengths off the win
John enjoying his glory on Day 2
John ripping the bottom corner on the Day 4 Crit, with the field strung out behind
Eliot Pitney took up arms against the Cat 2 field.  A strong performance on the Day 1 TT resulted in a 6th place finish.  He also hung tough on the Queen Stage with the mountain goats and finished 12th on the day, moving himself into the top 10 in GC.  A fast day at the front of the pack in the Burlington Crit didn't net any time bonuses, but every time Eliot hit the front the pack's legs were begging for relief  (A huge change from last year when Eliot was hanging on to the back of the pack on for dear life).  Great effort Eliot!
Eliot clawing his way up the final pitch of App Gap.  Look how steep that is!!!
The Masters squad of DS Hank Pfiefle, Joe Lynch and Troy Barry were hit by the injury bug on Day 2 when Troy was forced to pull out of the race.  Hank and Joe continued to grind out the miles in the 40+ event during the day, and impart wisdom and knowledge to the youth of DER at night.  Their wealth of racing knowledge was always appreciated when breaking bread together at night.
Joe Lynch ripping a crit corner in Burlington

Joe, Eliot and Hank after conquering the Queen Stage and App Gap
One racer that could have used a few additional pearls of wisdom was Cat 4 racer Gary Dugas.  Gary overcooked a corner coming down Middlebury Gap and had a spectacular crash as a result (he has the shredded kit to prove it).  Without any major damage to bike or body, Gary's teammates quickly turned from bike racerts to ER nurses and acquired all the necessary items to give him a saline bath and dress the wounds. Gary will be back in action in no time, watch for him this upcoming CX season, he should be shredding the fields in no time!

Tired of cooking, the boys hit the town on Sunday night and enjoyed some Mad Taco in Waitsfield
Thanks for following along with our racing adventures.  For more instant up to the minute doings of all things DER, you can find us on both instagram and twitter @racingdowneast
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Until next year.....

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Stage Racing & Its Addictive Appeal

John Boucher, Troy Barry & Eliot Pitney atop Killington
This past weekend a bunch of us Downeast Racers played stagier and rode the Killington Stage Race (KSR) capably hosted by Gary Kessler, the Killington Mountain area and the gracious people of Vermont. Those who follow Downeast Racing postings know how our trip was highlighted by the dominating performance of Zev Myerowitz in the Cat 4 class with his two stage victories and the garnering of the General Classification, Sprinters and Climbers jerseys. Impressive, yes, but what happens now that Zev moves up a class and faces stiffer competition? As in all sports, as you continue to move up in class you eventually equalize in ability with others. And then the outright victories become more elusive. Think about it - guys ride entire years, heck, careers without a victory. Yet they keep coming back for more and as happy (happier!) as the first day they put their bike on the starting line. Why do you think that is? Well here's a theory - it's the personal victories within the ride that provide so much satisfaction and, yes, elation. Our just concluded KSR experience provides many examples to support this theory. 

Take Matt Moon's ride in the 1st stage of the Pro-1-2 field, the 4x17 mile circuit race with the screamingly fast sprint finish. If one were to peruse Matt's results over the past year they'd see a number of 14th, 25th and such finishes not knowing, and thus not appreciating, that he rode those races in slave service to others on the team. His teammates know his value, note his work ethic and marvel how he can flow through a pack. On Stage 1 Matt was released to race his race and RACE he did - 3rd. 3rd! You'd have to be there to fully understand the value of this finish. You'd have to have ridden in the middle of 80 guys tightly bunched & averaging 41 miles an hour over the final 2 miles to understand how nerve wracking that is. To come in 3rd knowing that you had the speed, skill and NERVE to duke it out is so, so, sooo satisfying. We his teammates, too, were so happy. His witnessing wife & kids - happy. Proud. Matt didn't say but you could tell he was jacked up. Probably too excited to sleep well that night. As an athlete, you live for that emotion.

And Troy Barry's ride on the day 2's Queen Stage provides another example of my theory of the addictive satisfaction of personal victories. Troy and I rode the 40+ category and we kind of pooched Stage 1 by missing the break. Actually there is no "ifs, ands or buts" about our botching it and we were definitely bumming afterwards. Fortunately in sports there is another day, another race and redemption can be attained. In stage racing that redemption can be claimed the next day.  The KSR Queen Stage is "lumpy" with a 7k lump at mile 25 to the KOM line and the finishing 8k, 10% average lump at mile 60. The assemblage of 40+ riders this year was very aggressive and all knew that the trip to the KOM would be vicious as would it be up the multiple hills afterwards. Field splits inevitably happen on hills and you have to be toward the front of the pack to make the break. I was fortunate to be among the 9 guys who crested the KOM hill and felt bad that there was no Troy among us. On we raged and on the following downhill a couple more guys fought their way back to us. No Troy. Keep pedaling. Keep hanging on to the break up the hills. We finally came to a dirt road hill that carried us back to Route 4 and the 9 mile upwind, upgrade slog to the Killington Skystation and the start of the finishing climb. If you didn't make it over the dirt hill with the break, you'd easily lose 15 minutes battling the wind and hill by yourself or in a small shattered, dispirited group. So imagine my joy when halfway up the dirt section I heard, "Hey, how's it going?" and saw Troy's beaming face next to me. Yeah, his smile said it all. The relief, the validation of ability and the internal elation and satisfaction of proving oneself able to overcome mistakes and adversity. And for me having a teammate by my side just amplified everything positive. What a great moment and then later to see Troy battle up the final climb to finish 9th - wow, icing on the cake.  

Well ... no trophies or jerseys for Matt, Troy and we other Downeast Racers but we had plenty of great moments and can say that Zev's victory haul is symbolic of how we feel inside.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Zev goes off at KSR

The Open 4/5 field let Zev roll off the front of the Queen stage of the Killington Stage Race at mile 1 and by the top of the first climb at mile 6 he had a nice little cushion and a little bit of company.  Zev continued to press the pace through the valley, sucking up top honors at the sprint hot spot and ground out the North road climb with the break, nabbing a few KOM point in the process.  Not content with the pace of the break, Zev rode them off his wheel in a screaming headwind, while following the river back into Killington.  With only 1 major effort left, Zev paced his way up East Mountain road taking stage honors and the available KOM points.  It was a big mouthful for the announcer to say, "your General Classification Leader, your Sprints Point Leader AND your King of the Mountain Leader....Zev Myerowitz", but he managed just fine!  Zev is going to come home with a trunk of new jerseys for his collection.

Rumor has it that one of the members of the break was so shattered from trying to keep up with Zev that he had to stop on the final climb, and a local family took pity on him and gave him water and a pizza to refuel. 
Zev was a one man wrecking crew today, a man among boys, who is ready to step up to the Cat 3s.  Good on ya Zev!