DuVine Dolomites Journey: Day 1 & Day 2

Days 1 and 2 were travel days. Getting from Toronto to Tirano took roughly 14 hours. Flight to Milan, train into the city and then another train into the mountains to Tirano. Here are some notes from the road:

First frustration of the trip; I bought a train ticket at the ticket desk. The girl told me where to go to board the train. Once on the train the security agent told me the ticket was not valid so he wants me to pay an additional 9€ for another ticket!! Apparently the ticket needed to be validated before boarding.

Feels very much like a shakedown as almost every person on this train car is in the same situation as me – unless they speak Italian. Strange that the folks selling the tickets don’t tell you to validate the tickets. And also strange that the security guy only takes cash…

I said I only had VISA and he said he’d be back. He never came back.

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Milan Stazione Centrale is a busy station where everyone smokes. And no one seems to give a damn about anyone else.

I managed to get my ticket to Tirano, an awesome pizza, an average espresso and some sparkling water, and then get on the train all in under 20 minutes and for less than 20 €. Woo hoo.

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The train ride from Milan to Tirano is pleasant with great views of the mountains and Lake Como. And as my wife reminded me, this is Clooney-country. He has a villa along the western shore. I should’ve have asked him if I could stay there seeing as he’s currently in Toronto at TIFF.

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I was listening to CBC Radio last week. They were interviewing an ASMRtist. Someone who creates art that gives you that tingling feeling of being relaxed. Check out some of the videos on YouTube to better understand it… For me that happens every time I’m lying in the dentists chair but that’s about it. But sitting on the train, reading a great book, going on this adventure that’s going to be filled with physical and mental struggles, I’m feeling it.

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Settled in to my hotel and out on the town looking for dinner. It’s 5:15pm. Saturday night. There’s a wine festival happening. And dinner time doesn’t start until after 7. So it’s an espresso and then some vino. And then dinner.

I’m worried that once the sun goes down the temperature plummets. The local are all in fall jackets with scarves. I’m in a golf shirt. Right now I’m overheating. But in about ten minutes the sunshine will be blocked by the mountains. More later.

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We met our tour guides – Tom and Valentino – along with the other travelers in the hotel lobby at 7. It’s fun to see each person trying to rank themselves relative to the other riders. Who’s faster than me? Who’s can I easily beat? Am I in over my head? Overall it appears that we’ve got riders spanning the spectrum from “this is well beyond my skill and strength” to “I do these kinds of rides every day”. I’m not sure where I fit at this point. Likely towards the faster end but I’m hoping to really soak in the sites, sounds, and tastes without contemplating Strava segments. We’ll see how strong my resolve is once we clip in!

PERFORMANCE ENGINES FOR CYCLISTS

ECC member Greg wrote this great article. Have a read and post your comments below.

PERFORMANCE ENGINES FOR CYCLISTS

Introduction
You often hear athletes talk about their bodies as though they were machines. They warm up, they push themselves to the limit, sometimes they break down. Athletes also take on fuel to generate energy.  It is all very bio-mechanical. This has led to an even more nuanced metaphor used among cyclists to further describe the size of their engine. Some are described as “diesels”, for instance. Others may have a “turbo-charger” to give them an added burst of speed.

What does it all really mean? What are the principles at play that allow the engine metaphor to work? This brief summary will will explain how an engine works, the technical attributes of different types of engines, and what it means to you as a cyclist.

How does an engine work?
Engines use compression, air and fuel to cause combustion and create power. Many things factor into just how much power can be created. Generally, the more air and fuel you can combine, the more power you get. Large displacement engines use more air and fuel than smaller displacement engines and therefor are more powerful.

Another important factor is that air and fuel have to be mixed. Air on its own won’t burn and fuel on its own won’t burn. They need each other. In fact there is an optimum ratio where by all the oxygen and fuel burns so nothing extra is left over after combustion takes place. The ratio of air to fuel is 14.7 : 1 and has the technical term “stoichiometric”.

This leads to the next question… how does the air and fuel get mixed? In engines you have a carburetor. It is a mechanical device that feeds air and fuel into the engine at the proper ratio. Carburetors have been replaced by fuel injection in modern day cars, but the purpose is the same.

In humans, the fuel is mixed by the cardio-pulmonary system. Lungs take in the air and carry it to muscles by way of hemoglobin in the blood.  The oxygen in the blood combines with the fuel, either fat or sugar, to power the muscles. The factors at play here are not just the size of your lungs, but how much oxygen can you carry in your blood and how much fuel you have ready for your muscles to burn.

So this is how an engine creates power and this is how your body creates power. As you can see, they have a lot of similarities.

Common Engine Types
There are many different types of engines that have been designed. Some are primitive, like steam engines. Some are exotic, like turbine engines. Engines used by the present day auto industry have evolved over time to include those with the best combination of practicality, efficiency and power.

You could group the engines into four types. Naturally aspirated engines, diesel engines and forced air induction engines that use super-chargers and turbo chargers.

Engine 1: Naturally Aspirated V-8, V-6 or Flat 6
The naturally aspirated V-8 may not sound exceptional, but it is all most of us will ever need. For the longest time the most popular engine was the naturally aspirated V-8. Naturally aspirated means that the carburetor sucked in the air around it, naturally, without assistance. V-8 means it had eight cylinders arranged in a “V” configuration, slanted outward. It was reliable, it was powerful, it was versatile enough to handle any driving situation. Because of the size, the V-8 can accelerate quickly, has a high top speed, and it can tow a heavy load. The V-8 can do it all.

Porsche uses a more sporty naturally aspirated engine called a Flat Six, where the cylinders are laid down horizontally, opposing one another. It is still naturally aspirated, but the weight in a better place and the engine itself is tuned for a little more performance.

Engine 2: Super-Charged
In an attempt to get some of the same attributes of a V-8, but using a smaller, less powerful engine, the automotive industry introduced forced air induction. This is an enhancement to the carburetion system, using “super-chargers” and “turbo-chargers” to add more air to the carburetor, so more fuel can be combined and more power created by a smaller engine.

Super-chargers are adding air all the time. They are a fan, attached to the engine, that blows additional air into the carburettor. As the engine revs higher the fan blows more air, so more fuel can be mixed.  The end result is a smaller engine that has the same power as a V-8.

Engine 3: Turbo-Charged
The other device that was mentioned is a “Turbo-charger’. Typically used in combination with smaller, less powerful engines, the turbo-charger is a way to provide short bursts of power. The turbo-charger uses a turbine that is driven by the exhaust gases from the engine. As the exhaust gases power the turbine, it blows more air into the carburetor. Exhaust gases must have a certain velocity in order to power the turbo-charger, so the turbo-charger is only in use during hard acceleration. Once again, this form of forced air induction allows a small engine to at least temporarily, have the acceleration of a larger V-8.

Engine 4: Diesel
There is another type of engine that is widely used, and it does not run on gasoline. It uses a fuel that is similar, called diesel. One of the interesting factors about diesel fuel is that it does not actually burn. You can’t light it and watch it catch fire. Diesel fuel only combusts under intense pressure. When diesel fuel is highly compressed with oxygen, it combusts with a great deal of force. This is why a diesel engine has typically more power than a standard gasoline engine. The extra power produced by a diesel engine makes it suitable for heavy jobs, like towing. But because the extra compression takes time, the diesel’s maximum speed is limited. Once a diesel gets going, it can go for hours, generating immense power.

What do you have under your hood?
What kinds of rides do you enjoy? How do you compare to your fellow cyclists? What professional cyclists do you most identify with? These are some of the questions that will help you visualize what type of engine you have within yourself.

Remember each type of engine is designed a little differently and as a result each engine has its own characteristics. A particular engine is better suited for some situations and less so for others.

Naturally Aspirated
If you are average size, and find yourself riding with the pack, then chances are you have a V-8 (or V-6 depending on size) under your hood. You might not be the best climber or the fastest rider on the flats, but you can keep close. If it is not too steep or not too flat, you may occasionally finish first.

If you were a car, you’d be a an American icon like the Ford Mustang GT with a V-8, or the convertible version with the slightly smaller V-6. Maybe even a light weight, sporty Porsche Cayman.

Peter Sagan, Michael Kwiatkowski, Alejandro Valverde and Mariana Vos are examples of riders who have large, naturally aspirated V-8 engines that allow them to be competitive in most types of stages. Their V-8 engines can handle pretty much anything.

Super-Charged Engine
How about if you find yourself passing your fellow riders as the road heads upward? That is an indication you are able to mix a higher volume of oxygen and fuel than a typical rider your size. Pretty good chance you’ve got a super-charged engine beneath your hood.

If you were a car, you’d be a svelte and sleek Jaguar F-Type with a super-charged V-6.

Famous riders with super-charged engines would be Nairo Quintana, Chris Froome and Alberto Contador.

Turbo-Charged Engine
Smaller riders can’t sustain a high pace on the flats like some of the bigger riders. They just don’t have the muscle mass or the momentum. But you’ve noticed that if you conserve your energy, you can still put forth a good burst of acceleration and out-sprint the bunch. This would indicate that you likely have a turbo-charger feeding your engine.  You can’t run it constantly, but if you use it sparingly, you’ll blow past the pack when it counts.

If you were a car, you’d probably be the fun and zippy turbo-charged Mini Cooper.

Famous riders who have turbo-charged engines include, Mark Cavendish, Marcel Kittel, Andre Greipel and Caleb Ewen.

Diesel Engine
Find you can power on into the wind when your fellow riders are getting blown back? Can you ride a solid pace for long periods of time when others start to fade? Hills may be a problem, but hey, you are probably carrying a few more pounds than some of those light-weights who make it look easy. That steady, high power output is an indication that you have a diesel engine inside.

If you were a car, or in this case, more likely a truck, you’d be a Dodge Ram pick-up with a powerful diesel engine.

Some of the most celebrated riders who have diesel engines are Fabian Cancellara, Tony Martin, Sir Bradley Wiggins and Geraint Thomas.

What’s the best engine to have?
Each engine is useful in different situations. This is why the professional peloton is filled with different types of riders. A given stage or race will favour one type over another depending on the route. Big climbs call for super-charged engines. Smaller climbs may allow for naturally aspirated V-8’s. Flat stages that finish in a sprint would favour riders with turbo-charged power plants. Of course it would be the riders with diesel engines who would be up front the entire distance, shielding the sprinters from the wind.

Some riders aren’t satisfied with the engine they have and they want a complete replacement. They turn to things like blood doping and taking performance enhancing drugs to try to transform themselves into something they are not. Drugs like EPO give everyone a supercharger, so they can use more oxygen and fuel for a period of time. Problem is, when a mechanic bolts on a supercharger to an engine that is not designed for it, the engine blows apart. You need super tough parts to withstand the higher compression and combustion forces that a super-charger creates. Similarly for cyclists,  drug modified engines sometimes blow up too and this can mean death. The boost is temporary anyway, because once the drugs are out of the rider’s system, the rider goes back to his/her original engine.

The reality is, you don’t have much choice… the engine you have is yours for life. As performance coach, Joe Friel likes to say, “choose your parents wisely if you want to be a high performance athlete”. Sure you can make some adjustments to try to achieve some incremental gains, but you can’t do a complete engine change.  When mechanics are working on car engines, they try to do things to improve efficiency. They focus on making the air flow more smoothly into the carburettor so it mixes better with the fuel. Or they reduce the weight of the internal parts so the engine is not wasting energy overcoming inertia with every turn. These things improve  efficiency and performance by small amounts.

Cyclists try to find incremental gains too. They focus on eating right so they have proper fuel available. Training hard helps improve not only the efficiency of the cardio-pulmonary system but also efficiency of motion, at the same time, building muscle. The result of all these efforts is that you end up maximizing the potential of the engine you’ve got.

In conclusion,  you only have one engine, so make the most of it. And remember… don’t do anything that would void your warranty.

Ride Safety Reminders

The riding season is in full swing, and that means more folks are out on their bikes… Some who haven’t been out since last year, and some who are brand new to group riding. With that in mind we need to take a few minutes to go over some important safety details:

Remember, SAFTEY FIRST. Group riding is different than riding solo. When you are riding in a group, you are part of a team. Every member of the team has a part to play.

  • This means earbuds cannot be worn. They interfere with communication within the group as well as your ability to hear the traffic all around. Besides, group riding is a social activity; chat with your fellow riders – you never know what you will learn about them.
  • When you are part of a group ride, don’t ‘sightsee’. If those at the front of the group are indicating a turn to the left and you are pointing out the beautiful house on the right, we now have a dangerous situation.
  • As part of the group ride, those at the head of the group MUST identify hazards to those behind – use your hands to point, and your voice to call them out.
  • Just like in your car, intersections require more care and attention.
  • When turning left, a group of cyclists takes as much time as an 18-wheeler to start up and get through the intersection. If you are at the head of the group, you need to ensure there is enough time for the whole group to turn and get through. Those behind you are following your lead.
  • When we come to a red light, it means we have to stop. If there is no bike lane, then we need to stop behind any cars already stopped – we DO NOT ride up beside cars already stopped. When we stop, we need to stay in our lane. Please do not stop in adjoining lanes. This impedes traffic wanting to turn right or left.
  • If you need to stop at the side of the road, remember to move OUT of the active lane of traffic.
  • When you are leading the group and you are rolling from a standing start, don’t hammer at the front. When you are at cruising speed, those at the back will just be getting going, guaranteeing to break the group.
  • It is the responsibility of the person at the front to try and keep the group together and safe. However, it’s also up to those in the pack to shout out if they are dropping off the pace or get caught at lights etc.

Let’s make this a safe summer of group rides!

If you have any questions or comments, suggestions, etc, please comment below.

#SROTSD

It’s the shortest day of the year, and to bookend our #LROTLD we decided to do a short ride on the shortest day. At least that was the plan.

DuVine Alps to Paris: Final Thoughts

Wow. That’s the best way to describe my experience this year with DuVine. I had high hopes for this trip, based solely on my adventure last year with DuVine. So high that I was a little nervous that if this trip didn’t live up to expectations it would tarnish my memories of Belgium. Thankfully the trip exceeded my hopes and met my (unreasonably high) expectations.

Every member of the DuVine team that I had dealings with were terrific. At my business we work under the mantra, “Make It Easy To Do Business With TwinPro” and I think DuVine do as well. They make it easy and offer services to make it even easier!

Our guides, Arien & Krysten, do all the standard guide things with skill and ease. But it’s the little things they do, above and beyond the expected and required, that made the trip truly exceptional.

This was my sixth cycling-specific trip and third to watch Le Tour. You’d think that getting to a spot at the side of the road to watch a bike race would be something that anyone could do; and you’d be right. But DuVine do more. They make it an event.
Most of us are familiar with the circus clown car where it appears as though an endless supply of clowns are packed into a tiny car. Arien and Krysten have harnessed that magic and used it to their advantage with a seemingly endless supply of treats and drinks, all prepared and presented at the side of the road as if from a complete kitchen!! Incroyable!

I’m sure that most readers have long since given up reading my praise for DuVine but if not… If you’re thinking of going on a cycling trip, please contact DuVine. And tell them I sent you. Thanks. Maybe I’ll see you on my next adventure with them. 

DuVine Alps to Paris: Day 8

Up early and checked out of the hotel, we made our way by van to the Grenoble train station. We had to catch the TGV to Paris. As we drove through Les Deux Alpes we watched cyclists and skiers getting ready for the day. It’s funny seeing folks in cycling shorts and shirts next to people in full ski gear!

The drive to Grenoble took us through the Romanche River valley – a valley filled with hydro electric projects and signs of an industrial past. 

Once onto the train you could almost see the riding mode get turned off in each of our travelers. The reality that the riding was complete and the tour was winding down felt good and bad all at once.

As we pulled into Paris the rain started. A fitting bookend to our tour that started with crazy rain on Allos. 

Arien and Krysten got us to our hotel, fed and then over to the Champs d’Élysées where we watched the finale of Le Tour from grand stand seats. When I say “we” only Brad, Margaret and I stuck around to watch the finish. Everyone else had returned to the hotel. The rain, wind and cool temperatures were not ideal for racing or watching but as we’d come this far I wanted to see it through.   

After the race we rejoined the group at an amazing restaurant called “Derriére”. Wow. Great food in an incredible setting. It even had a secret smoking room that you accessed through an armoire. Wild!  

After hours of great food and drink most of us retired to our hotel for a final night of sleep before heading our separate ways. Most. A few hearty souls went out to a club and parties with Tour riders until 4am…

Wow. What an awesome adventure. 

DuVine Alps to Paris: Day 7

Our final day of riding saw us ride an amazing climb out to La Garde and then up a couple of switchbacks to turn 14 where Arien and Krysten had the van set-up with tents, chairs, snacks and drinks.

The ride to Alpe d’Huez was amazing. The first part of the climb was tough but it saw us gain lots of altitude quickly, which made the second part of the ride all the more spectacular. 

The road was carved into the side of the mountain face. With 1000 foot plus drops at the edge of the road!

   
 Arriving at Alpe d’Huez you could feel the excitement in the air, even though there was almost five hours until the pros came through.
Having settled in to our space on the mountain we enjoyed a delicious picnic lunch before we set off to explore the chaos of the Alpe.

At Dutch Corner the party was in full swing. Thousands of fans lined the road dressed in orange. The music was pumping, people were singing and dancing, and the beer was flowing! If you get to Alpe d’Huez on race day be sure to swing by corner 7. 

  
We returned to our base to watch the race as we had to ride back to the hotel. With a few hundred thousand people on a mountain with only one exit road, you want to be near the front!

We took the same route back as we took to get to the Alpe. It was equally stunning in reverse!

Once we’d showered and changed we went out for dinner at a great little restaurant in Les Deux Alpes. Food, drinks and laughter took us well into the night. Another amazing day. 

DuVine Alps to Paris: Day 6

Alpe d’Huez. Woo hoo! The day before the pros race it. We rolled out of the hotel and descended into the river valley. This ride alone is awesome. Switchbacks, amazing vistas, tunnels, and tons of speed as it’s all downhill. And then a ripping flat stretch before making the turn onto the first slope of Alpe d’Huez.

This climb is famous in cycling history and many amazing races have taken place here. I wanted to better my time from when I rode it in 2008, but I was also determined to soak in the atmosphere and have a beer at Dutch Corner. I did both.  

After finishing my beer I continued towards the summit, riding steady until the final switchback where I did my best Chris Froome impression and hammered it for a bit. The final couple of kilometres through the town is my favourite part of the climb. Ripping through town, under the building, around the round-about, and then up to the finish line in front of the grand stands is amazing.

We hung out in town for a while as the rest of our group completed the climb. Having shopped and caught our breath we got back on our bikes and rode the Col de Sarenne to our spot for lunch. An amazing off-the-grid, (and off the beaten path) refuge in the mountains. The food was ready upon our arrival and it was INCREDIBLE.   

After lunch we descended the most crazy road I’ve ever been on. One filled with breathtaking views at every corner, and life-taking falls if you took a turn too hot!

   

In the evening we were on our own to explore the town. Six of us went out and had dinner at La Maison de Raclette… Eating traditional Alpine dishes! We had a great time.