Studio Velo Spanish Adventure: Day 3

Left out of yesterday’s post was mention of the raging wildfire that started in France, crossed the border into Spain and began working its menacing, unfocused march toward--well, everywhere.  We saw it beginning around 2:00 in the afternoon, a massive plume of smoke initially misinterpreted as a herd of thunderclouds.  A second look confirmed that this was a rather large conflagration, and as we rode back toward the villa via van or bicycle, the orange tinted gray smoke became increasingly ubiquitous.


After yet another splendid dinner (lentils with sausage, a caesar salad, bread, sausage/potato/onion, and eggplant/zucchini/garlic), someone realized that the flames had made it over the ridge and were now visible with the naked eye--flaring, leaping, advancing.  It made for an intensely beautiful (if vaguely concerning) sunset.

Fast forward to the actual beginning of the day 3 post.  Change of plan.  The ash on the ping-pong table and the acrid smell of smoke hanging heavy in the air turned the mountain ride of day 5 to the mountain ride of day 3.  We loaded up and headed to Castleforrit de la Roca, assembled and were off in a jiffy, after a quick “cortado”, Catalan for “spankin’ good espresso and milk”. 


Another gorgeous climb with a maximum of two polite cars per hour, dreamy roads, epic views, and the perfect dose of camaraderie to get you up the quite grueling climbs.  The first descent ended too quickly (as descents are wont to do), and up we went once again.  A quick stop in the town of Beget for spring water dispensing from an iron spigot backed by old (ancient?) stone masonry was like something out of a travel brochure.  Again with the climbing, another disproportionate dollop of descending, and we arrived at lunch.  It was a luminous affair under an ivy trellis with an adorable 8-year-old in pigtails serving our cokes and bocadillos that made the previous three sweat-filled hours worth every searing pedal stroke. 


After lunch, there was an option for a mind-bending climb up Valter.  Enthusiastically opting out, I joined 10 others less masochistic in persona and Scott led us down the most delicious downhill I have ever deigned to delight in.  No cars, open sightlines, my Cyfac whirring like a precision top beneath me.  When we coasted into town, we headed for the cafe of earlier cortada fame.  We reveled in a few well-deserved beers as we awaited the return of Marni, who had flatted on the descent and was provided assistance by the Spanish police (and Mike and Scott too). 


Pool and cocktail hour(s) at the villa remind one that yes, we are in fact on vacation in Spain, and that all is well.

“Esta es la vida”.   This is the life.  Indeed. 

Studio Velo Spanish Adventure: Day Two

The day dawned thankfully hazy and not too hot.  Chef Ritchie had whipped up eggs, potatoes, homemade muslei, fresh fruit and yogurt for the morning feast.  Five alpha males set off at 8:30 to get some extra miles in before our planned meet up spot in Olot.  The balance of us prepared for the ride in a leisurely fashion and hopped into the vans at around 9:45.  In a masterful piece of choreography, the alphas arrived mere minutes after we had suited up and rolled into the square, having already clocked an impressive 35 miles. 


Our group of 17 riders was an energetic force wheeling out of town for our first climb that began after about a .003 mile warm up.  The road turned upward--as did the heat--though to be sure, I was once again thanking whomever controls the weather (Scott?  Colin?) that it wasn’t 105 or any other obscene three-digit number that the first week was cursed with. 

 The grade was relatively gentle--4% to 6%.  And the roads?  The roads need a full poetic praise-filled paragraph all their own.  As any half-cognizant person is likely aware,  Spain, like her erstwhile Greek cousin, has found herself in a bit of a financial bind of late.  She can’t pay the rent, the phone company is gonna cut the line, and the German landlord is knocking with increasing fervor.  Unemployment is rampant, street protests flare and swirl, accusations fly.   But the roads?  They are perfect.  Like butter.  A pothole is a most unusual creature, and I imagine that should one appear on a Spanish thoroughfare, the locals might gather around stroking their chins in a thoughtful pose considering the aberration before them.  These people know how to prioritize their spending.  No job?  Go for a ride--the roads are great! 


The landscape was reminiscent of Southern California (the good parts--Santa Barbara, etc.), but with the occasional thousand-year-old castle thrown in just to keep you on your toes.  Ron, Rachael, Petra, Deanna, Scott and I crested the climb together and there was much rejoicing.  We picked up James on the descent, and oh-what-a-descent.  Again, the roads smooth as silk, the only potential hazard the ill-placed cow splatter which I assume would be rather slippery at 40+ mph. 

 A bit of a hand-gesture misunderstanding at the bottom of the descent led half of us to head for the town square and wait for the others, while the others were wondering why we were so god-forsaken slow, and where the heck were we anyway?  They say that 90% of human communication is non-verbal (or maybe its 56%, but in any case, “they” say it’s a lot...).  While this is probably true, a nod, a wink, and a point “that-a-way” from Colin as he rides in the 100% percent opposite direction might have dictated an actual verbal exchange in this particular case. 


In any event, we soldiered on and after another beautiful-if-challenging climb, and another grin-inducing descent, we found our troops assembled at a delightful long table in town brimming with water, beer, pizzas, salads, and a plethora of happy SV patrons.  Except Mike.  He was still “out there” somewhere.  He was eventually retrieved and brought back into the lunch-fold.  After lunch, half of the crew jumped into the van, and half needed yet more pedaling so rode home with full bellies and cramping legs.  These people are made of steel.  I enjoyed the steel of the van that carried me back to the pool. 

Tomorrow:  To the coast!

Studio Velo Spanish Adventure Summer 2012: Day One

As we cruise through our three weeks of cycling trips to Spain, we are graced with some talented scribes who are eager to share their stories with our friends back home. This will be one of many articles to come. Enjoy the read. No doubt this will help you join us on our journey through the roads of northern Spain. 


We were met at the Grand Hotel Central in Barcelona by the SV van packed to the gills with the first week’s guest and their luggage.  As they poured out, bubbling and oozing admiration for their trip, Scott, Colin and Ritchie welcomed us and began anew the task of fitting 12 cubic yards of luggage into 3 cubic yards of van space.  After some “creative apportionment” (and putting some shoulder into it), the doors were closed and we were off to our estate in the countryside of Girona. 


Arriving at the villa in the beautiful Spanish countryside--a converted farmhouse on 90-acres--was a soul soothing tincture for flight delays, jet lag, and the beautiful chaos of the city.  While we were lucky to be arriving when the temperatures were in decline from the previous week (110 degrees!), the sparkling deep dark blue pool was tantalizing even at a reasonable 80 degrees. 

After Scott, Colin and Eli made quick work of assembling the guests’ bikes, we set off on a mellow warmer-upper of 25 miles.  The road surfaces, though rather narrow, were smooth and delightful, and the relatively few cars we encountered were gracious.  My Cyfac rental bike was a scant 15 pounds and was heaven on (a super light, super smooth carbon-like) wheels.  Pedaling through bucolic sheep-laden fields, complete with grizzled old sheepherders and their working dogs made me giggle with the delight of it all. 


Cicadas sawed their song of summer as we rolled past that most quintessential view of pastoral Europe--giant golden rolls of hay, plump and ready for the artist’s paintbrush.  We rolled as a happy unit, occasionally needing a regrouping when the fast guys got away from the peloton.  We rolled back into the villa a couple of hours later--a smile on our collective faces--and hit the gleaming pool with cold beverages. 


Dinner on the veranda was accompanied by sunset over the Pyrenees and the glow of warm conversation.  Bright orange shrimp in their birthday suits graced an expansive platter, multi-colored cauliflower, exquisitely dressed salad, potato perfection, and hearty chicken contributed to a magazine-cover table.  A welcome toast from Scott, a description of our bountiful meal by Chef Chris (aka Ritchie), a fill of deep crimson wine in all glasses and thus began our weeklong Spanish gastro-palooza.  Dessert was a mango Zabaglione that was light and perfectly sweet, and, and.....uber delicious is the only way to truly describe it.


Sharing this fantastic experience are several first-timers, and many returning customers from fantastical Studio Velo trips past.  Our guides/cook are Scott, Colin, and Ritchie.  Guests include Jasmine, Mike, Maureen, Ron, Rachel, Sandy, Jerry, Nina, Eli, Mark, Petra, Deanna, Sara, Steve, Marni and half of James who has stayed an extra week after his delightful first week at the estate. 

Tomorrow:  Olot!  65 or 100 miles. I’ll take the 65 thank you! Stay tuned for tomorrow's report. 

by Maureen Gaffney

Osmo: The Science of Hydration

Hydration has long been understood as an integral part of performance, endurance, and recovery; however, new brands such as Skratch Labs and now Osmo Nutrition are taking hydration to an unprecedented level. Osmo, created by Dr. Stacy Sims, a Stanford University sports physiologist, and athlete herself, is designed to help regulate your body’s internal temperature and keep athletes cooler longer. Sims is one of the nation’s leading authorities on thermoregulation and has tested her product on top endurance athletes.  

Based on peer-reviewed science and tested on athletes who are training in heat and high intensity environments, Osmo is truly making a wave in the hydration business. The Osmo team has developed four different drinks for the specific needs of the body before, during, immediately post, and nightly recovery. Made with natural and organic ingredients and refreshingly good tasting, the hype about Osmo is well deserved.  

 The active hydration system is designed to ensure rapid fluid absorption, delay fatigue, boost endurance, reduce cramping and maximize cardiovascular efficiency. Check out the Osmo site, and find videos about how to utilize their different hydration mixes for increased results.

We are excited to be sampling Osmo in our shop this week. If you are looking for a way in to increase your overall performance and strength, this could be it.

**Also available online click HERE to view the product.

Rob Britt Race Report: An Inside Look at Bike Racing

Rob Britt, one of Studio Velo's own, shares his experience in the Folsom Cyclebration Race. The Studio Velo team is an informal, but tight group of riders and friends. For those of you who don't race this is an awesome window into the emotions, challenges, and rewards of racing. Thanks for sharing Rob and congratulations! 


Folsom Cyclebration Race Summary
Category: Masters 35+ 3/4
Results: 1st overall in Omnium Points (TT=10th, CRIT=6th, Circuit=3rd)

The original plan back in April was to rally my family and Studio Velo teammates (Scott, Thomas and/or Josh) to make the pilgrimage to the Mt Hood CC. Everyone was interested in epic Oregon cycling but the logistics are challenging, so when I saw the Folsom Cyclebration Races on the schedule for the same dates I decided to check it out as an alternative. Folsom is quite different from Hood River in many ways but it actually turned out to be a fantastic weekend and the family was able to come along which made it much more enjoyable. We stayed in Rancho Cordova, got a suite for a great rate, free breakfast, a pool for the kids and I was able to ride to the venue each day from the hotel.  

Day 1: 11 Mile TT - There were about 24 participants total and even though I hadn't spent much time on a TT bike I was hoping that I would be a bit more competitive. My performance was a bit of a wake-up call to the fact that I need more practice on the bike itself, my pacing, my power, etc.  I started fast but probably too fast. After 3 minutes of averaging 28.5 I watched the rate slowly tick down for the next 20 minutes. It turns out that the crosswind at the start offered false was more of a tailwind that I had mistaken for awesome form! By the last 2k my lungs were searing. The wind was also stirring up pollen so my throat was burning as well and I was glad that I wasn't going to make the start time for the M123 TT (I went with the idea of doing 2 omniums over the weekend). I ended up 10th with a 25.5 MPH avg. I need to knock a minute off that time minimum. More intervals.

Day 2: Crit (45 min) - Since I figured my Omnium chances were pretty bleak with the TT placing I decided my new strategy was to race as aggressively as possible and accumulate the bonus points that were being offered as primes. I spent quite a bit of time off the front of this race but I never had any takers to come up and join. At one point I spent 3 laps off alone. I never had much of a threatening gap but I won 4 primes this way and also was awarded the "Cycles Gladiator Most Aggressive Rider" as a result. That was pretty cool I thought, so I now felt like I had made up for the TT performance and was smiling again. : ) In the final sprint I made a bit of a mistake by keying in on a particular rider that I thought was going to contend for the win. I got a late start on getting to the front and wound up 6th, having to move thru lots of traffic due to my bad decision.

When the points were added up I was surprised to learn that I was now the omnium points leader. A bunch of new riders joined after the TT and apparently none of the Day 1 guys finished ahead of me in the sprint. This coupled with the bonus points put me ahead by 2 points but the top 5 standings were tight. I decided this omnium format is cool and seems to work for me. : )

Brief aside...Later in the afternoon I jumped into the M123 Crit to get some additional work in. Since it was super windy and I had not seen a break stick all day I figured I would sit in and give the final sprint a go. Of course this would be the race where a lovely 8 man break gets up the road with all the big teams represented. I was so annoyed for not being in it that I went to the front to chase...then tried to bridge 3 times...and then realized it was silly and surrendered.  

Day 3: Circuit (Flat 50 min)-  The fact that this is a points-based event with riders being able to enter at any point makes things interesting. The same weird way I acquired the lead could easily be the way I lose it. After much thought I concluded that there is really no strategy but to get a very high placing to maximize my probability of hanging on.

I noticed a few guys following me around the pack on the first couple of laps so I decided that I was going to keep doing what got me into the lead...attacking. I got in a few non-threatening breaks but it seemed to get everyone else thinking defensively so on the last couple of laps I felt more comfortable sitting in and waiting for a sprint. This time I focused on staying at the front. A win would be awesome of course but I was thinking that a top 5 would be good enough for the overall. Anything lower would not do it given the tight spread.  

Going into the last turn I noticed the 2 guys right behind me on points were right in front of me with 350 meters. I hesitated a bit to make sure I was going to at least beat them...then I jumped to try to catch 2 guys that had gained a gap while I hesitated. It was a drag race with one other guy (who went on to win it) and I just came up short of catching the lead guy of the 2 who were clear...putting me third.

Video footage of finish here (along with a link to the "photo finish" shot!):

The 3rd place finish secured first place in Omnium points. Over the course of the weekend I won $175, a ton of sport drink product, 3 bottles of rancid wine (I will drink them though!), 1 six pack of beer, pint glasses, cycling eye glasses, key chains, bottle openers and coupons for stuff in Folsom that probably expire today. And my Cycles Gladiator hat with "most aggressive racer" written on the back...which I will treasure and wear in my sleep probably.  ; )

My wife and 2 daughters were at the final stage cheering me on which motivated me to give that little extra...I definitely needed their energy since everything was so close. The 2nd place finisher overall was only 3 points behind. Overall a great weekend and it would be real cool to bring a few teammates/friends/family up for next year if Folsom does it again. The format keeps everyone in it until the end (unlike a typical stage race where the TT gets weighted more heavily) so it would be kind of cool to be able to strategize and consider various outcomes as a team...or just talk smack a bit. : )