Josh, Dirt Rag editor, and I are now at the Seven Mountains Boy Scout Camp, nervously preparing for the start of the Trans-Sylvania Epic. We begin our adventure at three this afternoon with the opening prologue, a time trial of 10 miles. Josh's wife Jamie is our directeur sportif.
Holy crap. Never thought I’d be saying such things as “opening prologue” in the context of a race I was actually doing, not just watching on TV.
As per usual with races I do, there was a bit of drama leading up to this one – bike drama this time. Our plan was to line up race-worthy review bikes for both Josh and me, since a full week of racing certainly is a good testing opportunity. Josh was already set up with a Trek Superfly 100 Elite, so we drew up a list of possible bikes for me, and procurement guru Karl got to work procuring. Strikeout after strikeout ensued. Finally the good folks at Orbea came through with a fast machine (I’ll try to keep the motor clean): the Alma 29er S30.
Purdy, ain’t it? At Dirt Rag's DirtFest last week, remarks tended toward the “sleek,” “sexy” and “very Euro” variety.
Those slick anodized fittings really set it off.
There was some speculation around the office that these are runes of power on the downtube... I sure hope so, I’ll need ‘em.
Although I’ve been “training” somewhat for this race, riding more and longer and doing some core strengthening exercises to get rid of nagging lower back pain, my fitness level to start with was not great. So I’ve adopted Team Dicky’s strategy: “If I can’t be prepared physically, I shall at least be prepared metaphysically.”
Before the bike arrived, I did a lot of fretting over tire selection. I wanted something nice and fat to give me some fake suspension and mimic the feel of my beloved Moots singlespeed, which is still sporting the WTB WeirWolf LT 2.55” tires it came with (and which are no longer available). But since they have a good bit of flexibility in bike builds, Orbea shipped this one with Mavic C29ssmax wheels and Continental Race King 2.2” tires, rather than the wheels and skinny ultra-racy tires shown on their website, which was cool with me. I’ll probably run the Race Kings for several stages. I scored a pair of Schwalbe Racing Ralph 2.2” tires for backup just in case. (The 29er size comparison chart on Mtbtires.com was very helpful in my fretting.)
Orbea accidentally shipped the bike in a more Euro configuration than I would prefer, with a handlebar that looked like it belonged more on a fixie. Normally the bike comes with a nice, wide RaceFace riser bar for us non-Euros. (Hooray for the relaunch!) Note the King Cage top cap-mounted cage – the frame only has one water bottle mount. Not sure yet if I'll stick with this or go with a hydration pack. It's gonna be hot...
Fortunately we had a Truvativ Noir T30 bar and stem just waiting to be used. This is the wider 700mm version – I ended up trimming some off the ends. Josh graciously allowed me to snag Ergon grips he had lined up in white for extra matchy-ness, which naturally will make me faster. I hadn’t used Ergons yet and they seem very nice and comfy so far. I opted for the bar-end version for an extra hand position.
Note the very cool cable stop wrapping around the head tube to prevent unsightly cable rub marks.
I got an actual, professional bike fit from my bud Matt Tinkey, who works for Pittsburgh local sports medicine experts UPMC. (They helped me out with mental training for a previous article.) The fit session was quite interesting – I’ll be reporting more on that later. Matt made some small but crucial adjustments to my set-up, such things as cleat, saddle, and brake lever position, all things I’d been doing the same way for years out of mostly ignorant habit. So it will be cool to see the effect on my riding comfort. The most “out-there” thing that Matt did:
I did hear from some more well-prepared racer types that the week before the race is when one is supposed to “taper”: ride less, eat and sleep more. OK! That part has been no problem. We broke up our drive East yesterday with a stop at Clem’s Cafe.
I also have a couple of secret weapons as far as carrying stuff... (sorry for the blurriness, that's me, not you)
On the left is a gas tank-type bag from Revelate, and on the right is a Hitch model Awesome Strap. We got a personal introduction in how to be Awesomely Strapped from Team Dicky himself. Unfortunately it looks like that one won't work with my saddle for some mysterious reason (it works on Josh's just fine), but Rich came through with a seatpost strap to save the day.
There's also the matters of nutrition and recovery. Here I hold my secrets closely (at least for the time being). Mysterious jars of goo? Secret green packets? Weird foil-wrapped clothing? Some type of powdered substance from South America? Yeah, I'm in it to win it...or, uh... survive.
Check back here for more reports from the field. And send us your good vibes, so that Josh and I can “live to fight another day.”