Saturday, October 30, 2010

Friday, October 29, 2010

Ups and Downs at Tour do Brasil

Brazil panorama on Andy's sweet Android, after a wet-and-wild Stage 3 with yours truly taking 7th in an uphill sprint

Well now that we have finished this crazy journey through Brazil, and I'm on the 10 hour flight to JFK before finally arriving in Denver tonight, I think I can include a little perspective on the rest of the TdB from Day 4 through Day 9.

This race has been one of the craziest I have done in a LONG time!  From uphill cobbled finishes to off-road dirt sections in TTs to 75kph sprint finishes and mountain climbs into the clouds...we've done it all.  1070km of learning on the open roads of Brazil is an experience that will not dim in the near future.

I'll give you a quick stage-by-stage recap, starting with Tuesday morning's time trial:

Another early morning start

Stage 4a

The morning started a little later than normal, with my start at a positively tardy 8:45AM thanks to my high place on GC.  Coming into TdB, it was understood that this single stage was my one and only real objective.  Although I haven't really trained specifically for TTs since USPRO over a month ago, and had jerry-rigged Tyler's M TT bike the night before to fit me, I was really looking forward to capitalize on my surprisingly good legs and give it my best shot.

The course is one of the coolest I've ever seen, bar-none.  With incredible winds, tough 150m climbs, roundabouts and cobbles and dirt and turns and--let's just say it was far from straightforward!  Having Seba's course scouting knowledge disseminated 10 minutes before my start, with no pre-ride, was as good as one could hope for under the circumstances but certainly far from optimal.  I found myself more than once unsure if I was even on the course still!

I gave it a consistent effort, making sure to avoid the 120% out of the gate mistake I seem to have made in my last few TTs.  It was great to see my two gringo teammates doing jumping jacks at one point in the course!  I'm usually too focused on the effort to see, but this time I had paced it right so that I wasn't completely cross-eyed at that point.

While I could think of many small places to shave time had I seen the course and timed the effort a little better, it was about 90% of what I wanted and netted me a nice 10th place!  There is always room for improvement in the TT, but I just try to limit mistakes as much as possible and keep 100% motivation throughout the entire effort--if I do both of these, then the placing is almost a side-effect.  I'm just lucky to have some natural talent in the discipline.

Stage 4b

This was a 120km afternoon affair on Tuesday.  My legs were surprisingly good after such a violent effort that morning, and I was excited to set things up at the end for our BBros.  We knew the final 15km were dangerous due to some seriously sharp hills, but I wasn't scared with good legs.

Going into the stage, I was sitting 11th overall, with Tyler just a few spots back after a solid TT.  I knew Stage 8 in the mountains would be my undoing, so my GC spot wasn't a big deal, but it's certainly fun to be in such rarefied air in a major stage race!

The first of two sharp climbs with 15km to go went well enough.  It's very tricky because the sharp uphill is preceded by a ripping descent, so positioning is almost luck of the draw.  If you try too hard to go into the climb in the front, then you start the effort already at 90% and go backwards.  If you just cruise on the descent and let things fall where they may going into the hill, you start the effort completely relaxed and can go harder for longer, but there are crashes and dropped chains and dropped riders strewn about the full width of the road and luck plays an almost intolerable role in the climb.

Well, I was a little unlucky.  One of the big altimeter on the Memorial-Giant team was getting dropped and stood up halfway up the climb, lunging his bike backwards and crossing wheels with me.  The full field was packed on the climb and there was no room for me to wiggle around him, and I unclipped and almost crashed.  Luckily I didn't go down but the gap opened and the field had the throttle pegged.  I stayed calm and rode within myself up the rest of the climb, but the small group I was with had been dropped not due to luck, but due to legs.  I watched in horror as the field started to roll away from us at +1kph and our little group was content to just ride it into the finish and lose time.

I knew the clock was running out to make the solo jump to the group, and I only hoped we would keep rolling fast so the gap didn't grow too quickly edits I flew the coup.

I waited for the right moment, about 1/3 up one of the rollers about 5km before the finish, and I ripped as hard as I could.  The field started coming back, but my legs started fading as well.  I came within 10 seconds of the field but just couldn't close it, as the field was going full blast to the line.  I just put my head down in pursuit and made sure not to crash on the crazy roundabout-laden finish, eventually conceding 40 seconds to the leaders.

I was pretty bummed.

Then I heard Ale won the stage!!!  We celebrated a great team effort and incredible finishing attack by Tyler to either take the win or set up the sprint for Ale and Ani.  The Bros finished things in style and Ale gCe Jamis Sutter Home a much-needed TdB stage win, the first by any team other than the dominant Fumvic Brazilian team.

The whole team (and Ale's nosy new friend) after a dominating stage win at Stage 4B

Stage 5

After a terrible rainy 180k slog Stage 3 and then a very hard and hot double day with Stages 4a and 4b, the field looked forward to a relative "rest day" on Wednesday's Stage 5 with only 65k in front of us.  It certainly was nice to see 20k to go less than an hour after we started!

However, a stage win is a stage win, and Stage 5 was yet another opportunity for glory for one of the 135 remaining riders.  With Ani and Ale behind me, we moved into perfect position with 3k to go, since the course made sharp left and right turns with just 2k to go.  I pushed my way into first in line behind the well-drilled Memorial-Giant train of four, and things were looking set for a good leadout.

As each MG rider did a huge effort and then swung off, I saw 1k to go just as the last guy hit the wind.  He went for as long as possible, around a long left sweeper, and I was expecting to see the line any moment and give it the stick.  But in TdB, we learned, 1k to go is more an estimate than a fact!  I had to hit the front with probably 700m to go and had no option but to drill it and maybe even slot back into the train, take some deep breaths, and then contest the finish or help the Bros if possible.

When the pointy end of the field came over the top on my right, I started moving right to slot in...and a guy shot between me and the field, clipped my bars at over 60kph, and I immediately slammed the ground with my right shoulder and back, then rolled and tumbled as more riders fully sprinted into me and pilled on top.

That night at dinner we saw a replay of the crash on TV and it looked just like the Tour sprint crashes.  I was incredibly lucky to have my bones intact (save for a possible broken rib, more on that later) and a functioning bike and wheels.  Even luckier, none of my teammates went down and Ani managed to take second place on the stage!

Needless to say, my rest day wasn't very restful, but you must take the good with the bad in a stage race, there is always a job to be done and more opportunities for success.

Stay tuned for the thrilling conclusion of the Tour do Brasil coming soon, still four stages left!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

World Tripping: 4/10 of Tour do Brasil

My updates about this crazy Brazil trip have thus far been fragmented and largely limited to 140 characters. But TdB deserves so much more, and we have a nice little transfer ahead of us so here's nuthin'!

Let me begin by saying: "Dad, you are right. I should leave an extra hour on top of whatever I think will be required for travel." I am lucky enough to have a great friend (and Boo customer!) in Denver, Dori Biester, whom I pick up and drive with to the airport so she can keep my car while I'm gone and I can avoid the $6/day at the Pikes Peak Lot.

Well let's just say I pay for that convenience in part because I must travel straight through Denver to her house...and Colorado folks know how to balance life, so rush hour starts at 3PM!

Long story short: I missed my flight by about 15 minutes after leaving my house over three hours before departure. So right after the 45 minute security line (which passed as I would imagine time passes when one's hand is inserted into lukewarm water on the stove and the burner is turned on), I got on the phone with Delta to see what's what.

I was flying DIA-SLC-JFK-Sao Paulo, and my first layover was five hours, but I heard the next (and last) Delta flight DIA-SLC was fully booked, and I was facing the prospect of missing my entire itinerary (as well as sleeping in DIA). Delta passed me to TAM Brazilian Airlines when the found out my whole trip might change. TAM passed me to Expedia when they found out our director Seba booked with them. Then Expedia told me I just needed to get to SLC somehow to get my bike, which would be waiting on a carousel somewhere, before they could redo the rest of the flights.


Well, one foot in front of the I get to the counter of my 5:15 flight, now 5:40, and I succinctly described the horrible security line and gave her my useless ticket. After a short bout of pecking at her keyboard, the printer started humming to life. Of course this standby ticket is worth less than the paper it's printed on, and I was about to hop onto the see if they had a one-way I could get on that night and still make things work.

Then she started to hand the standby ticket to me and said, with affirmation, "this is your only flight, right?" now here's the subtle note about my flights: the DIA-SLC leg IS a single flight, disconnected from the rest of the itinerary, because teammate Tyler Wren is in SLC and Seba simply booked two identical trips from SLC so we would fly and arrive together.

"Yeeeaaaaah..." and she now fully extends her arm, waiving what I now see is not only a real TICKET for the last over-sold 7:20PM flight to SLC, but it's seat 1C Premium. I'm flying First on the last flight to SLC after it was oversold!!!!!!!!!

So yeah Dad, it worked out great, this time :)

Anyway, Wren and I met up at 11PM in SLC for the epic redeye to JFK right before a 10hr flight to Sao Paulo. I think Tyler is the only reason I made it through the trip!

I did meet an awesome couple from Spain spending the next eight months between SLC and Ogden (i.e. The Middle of Nowhere) so she could teach Math and Chemistry to middle school kids. We had an incredible four hour conversation about Mormonism, US Healthcare policy and geo-societal quirks and stereotypes, as well as cycling/Boo/schooling. Although I should have been sleeping, this was worth it!!

After arriving at our hotel in Sao Paulo at 10PM (I left my house at 2PM the day before) we learn that the bus transfer departs at 5:30AM. And it is a 600k transfer. On a bus that goes 90kph and stops every two hours for a thirty minute rest. We didn't get to wherever we got until 4PM. That means a total of FORTY EIGHT HOURS door-to-door.

OK, enough travel, there is a bike race to do, and it's nine days and 10 stages, so let's get to it!

Saturday, Sunday, and Monday were basically the exact same terrain. Maybe even the same 50ft wide freeway. I don't know. What I do know is there is not a flat piece of ground for thousands of kilometers, nor is there a hill longer than four minutes, nor a solitary tree to protect the Peloton from wind.

The races start at 6:50AM at the crack of dawn, proceed neutral straight out of town and onto a freeway entrance ramp, before the checkered flag is waved. Then either a small break immediately goes or lots of small breaks go and each grows too large before being reabsorbed, just to start the process over again.

In the end of each stage, all notions of safety are thrown out of the window as the field takes an off-ramp and goes on/through/around at least two of the following: 1) roundabouts, 2) man-eating potholes, 3) parallel cracks of death, 4) stray dogs, 5) Bot's Dots the size of squirrels, or 6) oil-soaked paint lines (with Bot's Dots).

After the sprint, life somehow returns to normal as everyone changes and goes to lunch (provided by the race, as are all meals/hotels/transportation) since by now it's between 10 o'clock and noon!

The first day I came in 13th in a ripping "field" sprint that looked more like a final kilometer blown-apart mess. Anibal came in 5th after Ale got boxed while in perfect position for the win, avoided a huge pileup, and came in 18th. The other two Gringos, Tyler and Andy Guptill, came in with the same time and all was well.

The second day finished with a 90kph descent in a U-TURN 300M before the finish!! Again Ale narrowly avoided a crash and the Borrajo Bros (BBros) rolled in 5th and 18th, while Los Tres Gringos came in way back, at the same GC time.

But the third day...Stage Three...uh, that was a beast. Yes, there are usually a couple days each season where I wish the extent of my bicycle riding was limited to cruising on a townie to Whole Foods. And Stage Three was such a day.

Start a 178k stage in pitch darkness with pouring rain and cold after sitting on the start line for 10 minutes. 140 Popsicles rolled out, and 119 rolled in, some over 30 minutes down, others battered and bruised with broken wheels and frames and bones. I came in fifth in the uphill sprint with two (somehow) still a minute up.

We orchestrated the finish to perfection, with Wrenegade super-tucked at 2k to go to pull back a late break of three, and Ani, Ale and me sitting around 20th ready to rip the 300m uphill to the line. Then a rider crashed in front of Ani on the Bot's Dots of Death, Ani crashed at about 60kph, and Ali didn't sprint after fearing for his brother. I closed my eyes and displaced the vision of Ani rolling over the other guy, and focused on timing the tricky sprint, almost a replica of the Univest Grand Prix.

The timing was just a couple seconds too late, as I had a good 5kph on the guys in front of me but the line came to early to grab the last podium spot on the stage.

We regrouped after the finish and watched in amazement as Ani rolled across the line on the same bike and wheels, unscathed! We were all completely exhausted and mentally shattered after a brutal, nervous day in the wind/rain and endless 100m rollers of Brazil, ready to roll to the hotel and shower/eat/sleep.

This race is excellent training and a strange experience for most of us at this point in the year. But a nine day stage race is two more days than I've ever raced before, and I know the team will come out stronger and more connected than before, finally ready for a nice off-season vacation.

Tuesday AM was a brutal TT which I'll include in the next race report, and this afternoon we have a 120k road stage about which I currently know nothing.

I plan to do shorter and more frequent iPhone blog posts over the next seven days as we continue on this crazy Tour do Brasil!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Orglamic plugs Boo Fixie for Manly Monday

Sandra Sanchez, creator of the wonderfully hip Orglamic site for "sustainable luxury living", just gave the Boo Fixie a nice plug in her latest post, a series called Manly Mondays.  Check it out:

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tyler Wren top-20 on Boo at Cross Vegas!

Straight from the lips of Tyler "Wrenegade" Wren, Jamis/Sutter Home pro on the road and Boo Bicycles factory racer in the dirt/grass/sand/barriers.

Looking over the start list for last week's Cross Vegas cyclocross season opener, I was second-guessing the intelligence of my participation. I would be starting in 40th position, on the fifth row of riders, and some of the biggest names in the cyclocross world were present. Bikes, parts and clothing for the season was trickling in literally just hours before the start, so I only had two short opportunities to ride my beautiful new Boo CX before the race.

When the gun went off, I was able to find my pedals quickly, and start sprinting towards the front of the group. I feel confident using my road positioning skills in these crazy CX starts, and I was able to tag onto the back of what was becoming the front group by the end of the prologue lap. My Boo CX was responsive when I stood up to sprint, and tracked very well over the bumpy grass course.

I yo-yo'd off the back of that front group of fifteen riders for the first third of the race. The Boo was duking it out with Tim Johnson's Cannondale and Ryan Trebon's Kona. It was where it belonged. Part of the goal of this Boo CX sponsorship this fall is to show the bike's legitimacy. For a cyclocross bike, the bamboo is actually an ideal material, with amazing power transfer during sprints or low speed grinds, stability on high-speed descents, and minimal fatigue to my lower back over the course of the entire race.

Eventually I came off that front group, but held off the chase group behind me that included Barry Wicks, and some other big CX names to finish 18th on the day. 22 spots ahead of my starting position, and proof that the Boo CX can handle the toughest international CX competition with ease.


Credit to the wonderful Lyne (aka Podium Insight) for her incredible first image, then Jonathan Devich, DMunson, and VeloDramatic for their photos, respectively.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Memorial Weekend Races: a homecoming in Iowa

It was about a hundred degrees at Snake Alley on Saturday, and I was totally unprepared.  It's been a *long* time since I've raced in heat like that, especially with the notorious Midwest humidity, and I went from riding with Volodymyr Starchyk (badass Ukrainian national champion on Amore & Vita and eventual winner of the race) and Paul Martin (another storied strongman of domestic racing) to getting bogged down in "the field" halfway through and then pulling myself out with just five laps to go after some serious side cramps.  It was frustrating to have good legs and just not prepare well (ice sock, cold water, two bottles, etc.) but having my one bottle of ice water eject on the second of twenty laps is just plain bad luck!

All that said, I know every other non-winner of The Snake has similar war stories--that's why that race is just insane and I want to win it at some point in the near future!

The rest of the weekend went very well, no breakout wins but just solid performances across the board with 6th in the road race (3rd in the 80kph downhill field sprint), 7th in the Melon City Criterium (in no-man's-land trying to bridge to the break a little too late) and 10th in the crazy Cage Match field sprint in Rock Island.  I made sure to stay crash-free first and foremost since Nature Valley is just two weeks away, but I also wanted to get some great training in and rode a couple hours before each race.  I love these races, they're like a homecoming for me, and it's awesome to reconnect with a bunch of racers I've grown up with through the juniors and espoirs.  The racing is extremely fast and the Snake always makes Sunday and Monday a lot harder.

Here are some more pictures from Nikki of the Melon City race, thanks Nikki!  The amazing shot at the top is from Michelle Blake, a member of Colavita Florida.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Been a LONG time!

I might start doing some blog entries, as much as I love Twitter there's just not enough content.

I just made a (not super pro) video about Boo Bicycles for the Bike Expo in Munich this July.  It's a huge trade show with some big awards up for grabs, and Boo is grabbing!

Please PLEASE click here and vote for us, it takes less time than reading this sentence.

If you want, watch the video as well, enjoy!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

following me

Hey all, it's been a while since NAHBS preview pics!  I want you to know I'm using Twitter and Facebook much more often--you can follow me @nfreyboo and Bicycles' fan page is and you can become a fan and keep updated with all things Boo!  The blog is probably going to stick around as a nicer medium for those rare thoughts and updates longer than 140 characters, but Twitter and Facebook are so much easier to stay on top of!

Thank you so much for reading, as usual, and I'm looking forward to a wonderful season with Jamis Sutter Home and growing Boo into a top-notch company with beautiful bamboo bikes, high-performance art.  Take care everyone.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Saving the best for last

It's been a pretty low-key race for Jamis Sutter Home down here in Argentina, we've been trying to lay the foundation for a great season and not over-extend ourselves so early.  However, the last day we had a mission: animate the race and mix things up from KM 0.

And mix it up we did!!!  Wow, I felt really good today.  We were supposed to make the break, Seba said we *have to*, and I was in the break when it formed but it split and fell apart on this insane hard uphill drag and I was caught in No-Man's-Land between the break (just within spitting distance) and the entire Liquigas squad chasing me.  SO close, I was pissed, it was the move and I just barely missed it, so I was determined to really rip at the end.

With Annibal on my wheel, we fought for the last 15km in an *INSANE* downhill finishing section completely spun out in the 53x11 (probably 80-100kph) and my front wheel hit a guy's skewer when he swerved and broke on of my front spokes with about 6km to go.  I thought it was game over, but I opened my front brake and let the wheel just wobble at warp speed.  I made sure it was OK and just decided to keep mixing it up.  We went through numerous roundabouts at full throttle, heading into town, and the adrenaline was coming out of my ears.

I had to sprint around in the wind a few times to keep Anni up in the front, Liquigas and Katusha had the right to stay up there with Napolitano and Cicchi, two of the top sprinters in the bunch.  I had no idea where the line was, too busy trying to stay alive.  With about 3km to go, things were getting hairier and a touch of brakes sent a ripple through the front and kicked Anni off the road into the gravel.  Somehow he stayed upright AND found my wheel within 30 seconds!  I was coming up on the left, and Anni said "go Nicolas, GO!" so I just drilled it up the left and hijacked the entire sprint train of Katusha/Liquigas with Anni right on board!

We went up the left about 3kph faster and I was on the front for about 30 seconds before the legs were just gone and I could tell I was fading.  I just barely past the 1km to go sign before Alexander Kalobnev (Katusha, bronze in the last two World Championships) rolled by and Anni jumped into fourth wheel and I was coasting and hoping no one ran into the back of me.

Sorry to be anti-climatic, but I have no idea how it ended up!  I know a Sparkasse German guy hit a spectator with 300m to go and it was apparently terrible, but I stayed upright even with a broken front spoke.  It's a little frustrating to have the legs all day and miss the break, then do the leadout just a little too early, but I was very close on both counts.  The team has stayed relatively safe and done some great work this week, so now it's time for a couple beers and the long journey home starting tomorrow.

Almost done with TdSL

Hanging out with the team on top of Merlo after TdSL Stage 6 - thanks for the pic, Andy!

Tour de San Luis, Stage 5 description:

Thankfully the time cut is HUGE!  So I had flatted twice before the final climb ever came, but no biggie, just fronts and grabbed bottles and no sweat.  Then the climb started and it was freaking insane, like a barely-there amalgamation of weather-beaten concrete slabs strewn on a hillside that made it *possible* to ride/drive to the top.  No joke, it averaged 10.8% for km long sections but in-between there were points that you could almost not get up in a 26.

Then I realized one of the issues: my rear tire had about 30psi in it.  The team cars all had to pass immediately at the base of the climb, so I basically just had to keep riding and hope for the best.  Finally, about 2/3 up the 20km climb (did I mention it was 104 degrees and no even a bush in sight?) the team car was stopped.  I got a new rear wheel and some Coke and was FLYING, like night and day.  Frank had caught me by then, and we were just going to cruise in.

Then the new rear went flat, too!  And there were absolutely no team/support vehicles.  And 20km from the top to the finish.  And on a very sinuous, up/down road with stream crossings.  And a cop/ambulance right on my butt the whole way, somehow not understanding my issue and almost killing me in every white-knuckle turn!!

It was one for the record books :)  My favorite was when the sprinter's grupetto passed us with about 10km to go, after I had flatted twice and could barely hold the bike upright--those guys go seriously slow!

Anyway, I was a wreck, pretty demoralized and all, but Ivan Dominguez came to me that night when I was on the massage table and said, "What happened man, you get the middle flat?"  I didn't understand and explained that it was my rear, and he said, "Yeah I know, but did you have a middle flat?"  After explaining and me understanding at the same time, I laughed and said for sure, then he said it has happened to him and everyone else in the past.  Coming from that guy, it meant a lot, and I just put it behind me immediately and was feeling great the next morning!

Stage 6:

The finishing climb yesterday was significantly *steeper* as well as an insane *headwind* the whole way up, but I could push the pedals hard and decided to stay with the front group the first few kms.  The heat is something I'm still not prepared for, even after going through about 8-10 bottles in a 4hr race, but the legs were good and even going 90% I was catching some guys and not having a bad go of it.  Got to the top and was fine, just cruised in, then we had some recovery drink and RIPPED back down to the busses, just insane descent at 15% with a tailwind!!

Busses left at 5:45PM.  We arrived at the hotel at 9:45PM.  NO JOKE.  And we had a 2hr transfer to the start.  It's been some terrible transfers and extremely boring highway stages with a big climb at the end, really only one cool/interesting stage (Stage 2) in all.  However, great weather, awesome competition, and excellent team building so early in the year.  The week has flown by, unlike any stage race I've done.

Today is the final stage, 160km or so with three big hot-dog loops, pretty boring until the final downhill sprint at 100kph!  Tonight we might have some beers and relax, then the bus leaves for Mendoza airport tomorrow at 8:30AM (!!!) and arrives after about 4hrs on the same dead-straight highway.  You can't say they aren't efficient with their roadways in Argentina :)  Hard to believe I'll be back in Denver in two days, it's been an awesome trip and we'll see if we can do something good today.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Figured I'd start the new year with a new bike!

Leaving for Argentina in 6 days, she'll be getting ridden a lot!