Friday, February 26, 2016

Letter to Cycling Canada, Re: Rio selection

I can’t say that I follow professional cycling too closely, other than occasionally looking through results and race reports on Monday morning. Watching races cuts into my riding and sleeping time. And it’s easy to become jaded after your former favourite athlete gets caught doping. Some argue that ALL cyclists at that level are doing it, or that the cyclists are forced to if they want to keep their job. But that’s not true. And we have perfect example in a Canadian cyclist.

Canada was a mountain biking powerhouse in the early part of the 21st century with world championship medals and multiple riders capable of finishing in the top 10. Geoff Kabush, who finished 9th at Sydney was ultimately not fast enough to qualify for Canada’s 2 Athens spots. Ryder Hesjedal and Seamus Mcgrath ultimately got the nod for Canada. Ryder quit the race and Seamus was unable to work his way up through the field. Seamus and Ryder got called out for doping leading up to the Athens selection by Michael Rasmussen in 2013. They weren’t racing for some road squad with a systematic doping program. They doped on their own will to stay ahead of the game. Go far enough down the 2004 Olympic selection pool and you will find a clean athlete, like Kabush who lost prize and sponsorship money because his competitors chose to dope.

Cycling Canada’s Olympic road cycling selection criteria is purposefully vague. Road racing is too variable to for some objective measure (such as UCI points) alone to select the team most capable of medalling. A medal for Cycling Canada would go a long way to secure additional government funding.

And medalling is important. But the field for the hilly Rio parcours will be deep and skilled. Contador isn’t going to give Hesjedal the leash that he enjoyed to secure 2nd place on two 2015 Giro stages. His 2012 Giro, which still resonates in the mainstream as Canada’s only grand tour victory came an Olympiad ago and was overshadowed by a much more competitive Tour de France that same year. Not to discredit Ryder’s results, but at 46th on the UCI world tour ranking (2015), even he is an extremely long shot for a medal.

So with no guaranteed medal, why should Cycling Canada select a confessed doper who once cheated others out of their Olympic dream? Canada has three spots for Rio, riding largely on the success of our cyclists on the UCI Americas Tour. Michael Woods, Guillaume Boivin, and Rob Britton all meet the selection criteria pool for Americas Tour points. Hugo Houle threw down at the Pan Am games and at World Championships in the time trial, with the only caveat that he would boot one of the previously mentioned riders out of their road race spot (the time trialist must race the road race as well). Olympic cycling has been marred by doping (the reigning Olympic champion is one of the sketchiest dopers of all time) and Canada can make a statement by bringing a team with a clean record to Rio. Either Ryder can race to a forgettable 22nd place finish, or we can inspire our current and next generation cyclists.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

ROAM Randonee

Once again I made the long trek from Edmonton for the Coldsmoke Festival and the ROAM Randonee race at Whitewater. Rain turned to snow on the drive up and over Kootenay pass for a short ski, then back to rain on the descent into Nelson for the pre-race meeting.

In typical interior fashion, temperatures cooled the course was blanketed in 20cms of snow on race day. The starting groomer climb had at least 10cms on it since being groomed, so I made sure to put a couple of tracks in during my warmup to keep things from bottlenecking off the start.

I got pinched in off the start and settled in, then attacked once there was space. Eric was the only one to follow me and we skied into the fresh bootpack with a good gap. Oh boy, my first major turn trailbreaking in a  race. We were soon joined by Ben and Travis and then another group of 3 and skied down the 1st descent as a group of 7.

Me and Eric took turns trailbreaking on the 2rd climb, pulling aside as skins failed. Although I blew my skins right before the groomer section, I was able to chase back on, while admiring the job Eric was doing up front, creating a gap while breaking trail! Fortunately the bookpack up to the ridge had been set. Without fresh snow to slow us down, the pace lifted.

Ben and Eric got a gap on the descent, leaving me and Travis chasing on the 3rd and final climb as they broke trail. It was not until Ben was breaking trail up the bootpack that we caught them. After the bootpack, I took my turn trailbreaking, using my full width and length skins to plod my way up. As the top of the climb neared, the skintrack flattened and Ben and Eric glided away while I could not answer the attacks. Ben caught Eric on the descent and almost skated to the win, while I ended up in 3rd place.

3rd step on the snowdium
Following the race was the traditional "ski someone else's skis" event (Black Diamond Helios are awesome) and Kootenay Pass cooldown day.


Monday, February 22, 2016

My progression over the years.

I showed up to my first Whitefish Whiteout in 2012 in my second season of ski-mo racing. Through blizzard, fog, and temperatures just below zero, I battled my way through skin failure on the last climb. Whitefish offers up a prime for the fastest time up the first climb and it is interesting to see my progression over the years. I barely broke 35minutes on that climb. The next year, in 2013, I was living and training in Canmore, preparing for World Championships, and my ski/binding/boot setup was probably a pound per foot lighter. I finished the first climb within site of prime winner Brad, around 28 and a half minutes. In 2014, I had moved back to Edmonton, but I still felt like I had good speed early in the season. I was battling sickness and was not well recovered and I fell off the pace of the lead group on the climb, topping out just under 29 minutes. I think in 2014, they moved the finish of the climb to the top of Chair 5, away from the finish of the race, keeping approximately the same elevation gain of 625m, but shortening the length of the route. I skipped 2015 with an illness, not wanting to have a repeat of the previous year. In 2016, I’ve come out firing and threw down a blistering 27minute climb. As far as I can tell, this is the 3rd fastest time to have gone down! Reiner did a 26:59 in 2010 (longer course?), German Phil did a 26:15 in 2015. Anyways, here is a comparison of my times over the years looking at vertical ascent rate as measured by my garmin (to account for the finish location) and based off course statistics.

Vertical Ascent, Garmin (m/hr)
Official Time
Official Vertical Ascent rate (m/hr)

whitefish top 2.JPG
top of 1st climb, 2014-present
whitefish top.JPG
top of 1st climb 2013
Stano has an interesting analysis from 2010 on Chatting with Stano in 2013, he believes that subtle changes to how the ascent route is followed have some effect on the time, followed by some in depth hotel room analysis comparing Brad and Reiner, factoring in gear weight as well! I think whenever Ben has led the race, we’ve gone up Toni Matt proper, but whenever someone else has led, we’ve gone up the ascent route as marked
whiteout climb.JPG
marked ascent route
full Toni Matt, Ben Parsons special!

But what you are really wondering is how the sufferfaces have changed over the years:
whiteout 2012.JPG