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The New Sheriff In Town

Much has been discussed regarding the efficacy of indoor Time Trialing. Whether good indoor results translate into success on the road in real world conditions is debatable. What with wind and hills and actual pavement to create rolling resistance, at best the indoor Time Trial is a workout that a rider would not normally force upon him/herself. What I know for sure about the indoor Time Trial is it's an event that prints money for the ABD club.

Millions of dollars per year are handed over to ABD by hapless Midwesterners who gaze upon the frozen, windswept landscape just outside their windows. From January to March they opt to make bi weekly trips to a suburb west of Chicago and subject themselves to computer simulated torture in lieu of sucking on the business end of a pistol. It's the price that must be paid for choosing to live in such a place.

It is widely acknowledged that this writer has for the past 3 years been the king of the hypothetical bike race. It has also become apparent that my reign of wattage is over. Done. I have been kicked off of the top step of the simulated podium. The usurper of my throne is the new Pope of the Computrainer. Peter Sharis is his name. I call him The Sheriff.

Click for larger image.
Photo © Paul Matsushima

He looks like this.

Who is this creature sitting astride his bike and effortlessly cranking out 450 watts for 10 hypothetical kilometers? Why haven't we heard of him before? Why, when I did a search of time trial results from 2004 did I see his name and a time barely under the hour for a 40k? How has an unknown former flailer transformed himself into a pedal-crunching beast? From where did this power that would make a Euro Pro green with envy come? The Sheriff is a newbie. Note the unshaven legs. He started riding a bike in April of 2004. His wife, an Oncologist, has threatened to leave him if he shaves his legs. Besides which, there is no aero advantage to be gained or risk of road rash in an indoor Time Trial. The Sheriff pays no heed to such tomfoolery.

Above, I noted a 2004 Time Trial a shade less than 59 minutes for a 40k. It was done in June on a standard road bike. Two months after being introduced to the sport.

The Sheriff is a Cardiologist by trade. He is graduate of MIT and Harvard Medical School. He practices in Davenport, IA. He was on the National Champion rowing team at Harvard and member of the US Olympic Rowing squad at the '92 Barcelona Games. He is also an incredibly normal person. Balanced. Disappointingly so. It would make for better writing if he could be suspected of dipping into the medical supply room at his clinic or if he lived like a hermit on a diet of lentils, cliff bars and BCAA supplements. What a great target if he strutted around in his chamois all day loudly reliving his glory days as an Olympian. Lesser men have been known to stretch the truth a bit about such feats. Not the Sheriff. The only thing freakish about him is his academic resume.

The Sheriff lends credence to the argument that no matter how much money is spent on e-mail coaching services; there is no substitute for genetics and the ability to suffer. Or, conversely, as my mentor the Rev. Billy is often heard to say, unless you can produce over 400 watts at lactate, you'll always be pack filler.

For the Category 2 and 3 dreamers who are reading this piece with a growing sense of dread over losing a spot on some future minimally funded US Continental team- you need not fear. The Sheriff is above considering quitting his job as a cardiologist in order to pursue the more lucrative and prestigious career of professional bike racer. He tells me that he'll confine himself largely to time trialing with a few road races. Broken bones don't lend themselves to efficiency with insertion of angioplasty balloons.

By contrast take a look at the vanquished king of the computrainer time trial.

Click for larger image.
Photo © Paul Matsushima

Juxtaposed against The Sheriff, he appears disheveled, broken and suffering. He is a whimpering, sniveling simp. Like Emperor Commodus before General Maximus Decimus Meridius at the end of Gladiator, he is a man formerly occupying a throne of power, revealed to be a weakling and a coward. The one noteworthy item in this photo is the opulent head of hair on the disinterested woman off the right shoulder of the former king.

Prior to this session, I had a brain fart. I had done indoor TT #1 on my road bike, #2 on my TT bike so why not do #3 on my track bike? Brilliant. Normally operating with a gear ratio of 53 or 54x12, 13 during these things, I outfitted my track bike with a 52x13. Granted, this is an enormous gear for the track, but not for a time trial. I had some trepidation about maintaining a sufficiently high cadence in order to generate the 420 + watts that are customary. Instead, the fixed gear mechanism of a track bike, during calibration of the Computrainer fools the machine into creating about a pound more drag than if it were calculating for a freewheel bike. It's technical stuff that I don't pretend to understand, but the net result being as The Sheriff noted, "You looked like Jan Ulrich riding up L'Alpe Duez". Not only was he noting the painfully slow cadence I was struggling to maintain -barely over 70 rpm- he was calling me fat. A fallen ruler is in no position to respond to insults.

Real Bike Racing

March 20, 2005. Hueston Woods State Forest. Oxford, OH. 36 degrees, mist and 57 bent cyclists in the Pro 1,2 field. Kirk Albers, after 20 years of bike racing forgets to pack his cycling shoes. He does the first lap in a pair of trail runners. After stopping for a borrowed pair two sizes too small, he catches the field and sits in. Former professional Patrick O'Donnell who has made the enormous sacrifice to give up his lucrative and prestigious career as a US Continental Pro for the mundane world of Orthopedic Surgery won the race out of a 3-rider break. Thus remains intact his record of winning 8 out of every 10 races he enters.

Delta/Estridge - my new team - was represented by a collection of 5 old men ranging in age from 40 to 50. Team mate Nooner, sitting in his van prior to the event was catatonic. Concerned, we knocked on his window to try and get a response. C-Bizkit, alarmed at Nooner's non-responsiveness shrieked "We must break a window in order to save Nooner from carbon monoxide poisoning!" as his van was running. Herr Hausfrau, the wiser of the two and never one for drastic measures said "Nah, leave him alone, he'll snap out of it." Ten minutes later, Nooner awakens, leaves the van, walks over to Herr Hausfrau's mini van and knocks on the driver side window. We could tell Nooner was deeply troubled. Hausfrau rolls the window down. "What ever it is it better be good because I'm letting in a lot of cold air". Nooner - "I've been sitting here watching these people (bike racers) in the parking lot for the past 20 minutes. Please tell me I'm not as strange as everyone else here." Hausfrau - "Kevin, you're fine. Get back in your van, get dressed and go warm up. Don't pay attention to the rest of these fools. They're not like you." Nooner felt better, we rode the race aggressively, Der Hausfrau finished second in the uphill field sprint, Druber was 15th, 50 year old C-Bizkit rode smoothly and comfortably in the field, guarding the back, making sure no one leaked out.

Next week. More drivel about bike racing.


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