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World Champion!

Today was the first day of racing at the UCI Master’s World Track Championships. My first race, the Scratch Race is today. In the morning I took a short ride along the coast, then showered packed up and headed to the velodrome. Only one session today, starting at 2pm. I put on my usual mass start racing gear of 52×15, warmed up on my rollers, got my bike inspected and was ready to go. In the mass start races they choose half of the field to start on the rail and half on the blue band. If you start on the blue band you need to provide a holder. One of the many things I didn’t know before hand. Dan Smith helped me out and we started our 20 lap (5km) qualifier. We had 20 starters and 12 of us would go on to the final later in the afternoon/evening. I was VERY nervous. Not so much about the racing part, but of riding a bike that has no brakes while surrounded by 23 other riders on 45 degree banking. I’m kind of rusty on that part of things.

We started off and I was able to slot myself into 3rd wheel and was able to chill and stay out of trouble while one of the Argentinian’s rode tempo on the front. My biggest concern was getting swarmed and having the legs to do well, but being boxed in. As the laps counted down I was weighing on whether or not to make a move yet. I waited one lap too long and at about 6 to go got swarmed pretty badly. There were times when I was surrounded by guys who were closer to me than I like and had to tell myself to relax. Frankly, it was scary for me at times. Not because of poor riding around me, but because my comfort level is not what it could be in close quarters on the track. The last few laps were very fast and I moved up when I could, but at the finish I wasn’t sure if I had made it or not. In the end I finished 11th and made it into the final.

For the final, I geared up. I was going to switch to a 53×15, but realized that my 53 tooth cog is on my pursuit bike which was back at the VRBO house. So I looked at a gear chart and went with a 50×14. That’s about 1 inch more gear than the 53×15. I got my bike checked again and this time I was on the rail so I didn’t need a holder. My lack of aggression in the qualifier almost made me miss the final. For this one I knew that I needed to “got big or go home”. I was only going to do well in the race from a break away. I wasn’t going to win, or even get on the podium in a bunch sprint. My best bet was to attack and if I got caught, attack again.

A few laps in I attacked and was in a short lived break. We stayed out about 2-3 laps and were brought back. I recovered for a few laps in the pack and went again. I was joined by fellow Hellyerite Bill Brissman and two Canadian’s, Krzysztof Kurzawinski and Stephane Le Beau. We made good progress. Krzysztof in particular was really strong. Unfortunately Bill came off and as the three of us started closing on the back of the field, Krzysztof gapped Stephane and I and caught the field on his own. Stephane and I made contact about a lap later, but the field was in pieces and it was hard to keep track of where Krzysztof was. BTW, did I mention that this was really hurting? I made my way from group to group and was able to tag onto Larry Nolan as he closed one of the gaps to the front group. From there we only had 4-5 laps to go and I just kept moving up as much as I could. As the wind up for the sprint started I was giving all I had to stay on the wheels up around 6th spot. I didn’t think that the two Canadian’s were ahead of me, but frankly I wasn’t sure. In the end I held them off, but it wasn’t for another 10-15 minutes that I knew i had won.

Seeing as how this race was the first on my schedule this week I spent a lot of time imagining how I’d win this race. I’m big on that sort of thing. In fact I think my Tour de France of my imagination palmares rivals Eddy Merckx. 🙂 I came here thinking that I could win this race, but also knowing that I could end up last, or possibly not even making the final. There are so many other elements that go into a mass start track race than a TT or hill climb. In fact, doing so poorly in the qualifier probably helped me in the final.

I have to admit that I got a little misty when they played the national anthem.

Next up is the 2km Pursuit on Tuesday, Points Race on Thursday and Team Pursuit on Saturday. From here on out, qualifiers will be in the morning 9am session and finals will be in the afternoon session.

Edited to add the updated YouTube feed (music and commentary muted due to music licensing issues)




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Super Epic


2016 Hill Climb Nationals race report.  If it’s boring, at least skip down and check out Sunday’s ride.  It was a great weekend.

This is the first time they have held a hill climb championship and when it was announced I knew that I had to do it. The full Pikes Peak highway is a bit over 19 miles and starts at around 7,000 feet. This race does the same course as the car races do, starting at 9,000′ at Crystal Reservoir and climbing approximately 12 miles to the top at 14,115 feet.

I have a friend (Nathan Parks) who moved to Denver from the Bay Area. He rode up Pikes Peak a few years ago and gave me the heads up that a mid-compact (52×36) with an 11×28 cassette was NOT going to be enough. 10% at 13-14 thousand feet is pretty steep, even for the guys who live at altitude. I did my research on Strava and decided that I’d run a 34×32 low gear.

I flew out Thursday afternoon, rode in Denver with Carl Nielson on Friday and then drove to Colorado Springs. I purposely did not check out the course as I was advised by a friend to minimize the negative effects of going to high altitude. I didn’t like that, but figured that this wasn’t a race that would be won or lost because you didn’t know where to start your sprint.

The weather up high had been sketchy. It snowed a bit at the top the day before the race and on race eve there were thunderstorms in Colorado Springs. Race day though was clear and sunny, if a bit cold. The temperature at the top was expected to be in the high 30’s when we got there. Did I mention the 7AM start time? How to dress was a concern. I went with arm and knee warmers, booties and a skull cap under my helmet. I can undress on the move pretty well so I wasn’t worried about overheating.

Based on the chart on Joe Friel’s web site about power loss at altitude I figured that my 360 watt sea level FTP was down to 300 at the start line and about 260 at the top.

So finally, we started. Kind of slowly. Basically we putzed around for the first two miles. Even at “only” 9,000′ feet though my FTP has taken about a 60 watt hit so I was happy with the pace. The 60-69 group started 1′ behind and actually caught us, but shortly afterwards the first surge was initiated by Gary Sharp who finished 4th in the recent Mt. Evans climb. That surge put me in the position of thinking that I could handle that pace, but not for another hour. Looking at my power file, this was above my adjusted FTP for about a mile. I was a bit worried. Frankly, I came here to win this race and 15 minutes in I was having some doubts.

Sharp’s surge pulled a group of 5 of us away from the rest. When he finally pulled off I was heartened to see him huffing and puffing pretty hard. I think he dug a hole for himself with that surge. That was a mistake that I wanted to avoid. After that I started feeling better and more confident. Another rider Mark Zimbelman from Utah was riding strongly, but I was sticking to my pre-race plan of doing nothing but following and pulling through when it was my turn until at least 12k feet. No heroics down low.

As we headed up towards 12,000′ I still felt good and could hear others who were breathing harder than I was. I took a pretty good pull and got it down to 3 of us. Myself, Zimbelman and Kerry Ferrell. Still though I was careful to not put myself in a position of digging deep and opening myself up to a counter attack. Finally, up around 12,500′ I upped the tempo and dropped Ferrell and after a few more digs, eventually Zimbelman.

From there I rode a hard, steady tempo while always being mindful of avoiding going too hard and blowing up. I was pleasantly surprised that so far I had not needed my 34×32 and thought that maybe the 28 would be enough. Just before mile 9 there is a nice long break of flat and downhill. I liked that part. When it kicked back up again “all that was left” was two miles of 10%. At 13,000’… It was here that my “maybe I won’t need the 32” thought took a hike. I probably would have been okay in the 28 here, but very unhappy about it.

Inside the last km I was catching two juniors who were riding for 2nd in that race. I got to see them attack each other and sprint at the end. That looked VERY unpleasant and I was happy that I didn’t have to do the same.

In the end, it took 1:20:08 at 269 watts average.


There are a couple of pictures on my Strava file.

Back in the club.

A post shared by Kevin Metcalfe (@kevinmetcalfe) on

Afterwards I headed back to Denver. I had planned my trip with the idea of riding up Mount Evans on Sunday. I figured that I hadn’t ridden my bike in Colorado since road nationals in 1987 and who knew when I’d get another chance. I figured we’d drive to Idaho Springs and do the Mt. Evans Hill Climb course. My friend Nate had a better idea.

At 7am on Sunday Nate, his wife Flavia (7th in the Rio Olympic RR last week) and I left his house in Littleton and had an epic adventure. “Super Epic” actually.

A great weekend indeed.

Funny that in 32 years of cycling I had never ridden up higher than 9,000’ (Mammoth Stage Race), and now, in 2016 I’ve been above 11,000’ four times.  Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, Pikes Peak and Mount Evans.  I kind of like it.

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Ironman Lake Tahoe Bike Calculator

I’m not a triathlete, but offer this bit of advise as somebody who has lived and cycled extensively in the Lake Tahoe area. I think that a lot of people underestimate the difficulty of the climbs in this race within the context of an Ironman event. It’s one thing to do the loop in training or blast up Brockway Summit for fun, but it needs to be treated with a lot more respect if you’re going to run a marathon afterwards. I saw a lot of talk on the Slowtwitch forums before the 2013 race and got to thinking. Here is what I came up with.

To start with, you’ll need to know your FTP. Then, take 10% off the top due to the altitude. Then take 75% of that to get the average power that you’re shooting for in an Ironman event. Some examples.  For a FTP = 350W your IMLT power would be (350*.9)*.75 = 236W.  For FTP = 300W, IMLT power = (300*.9)*.75 = 202W.  For FTP = 250, IMLT power = 169W.

So now we need to consider what kind of gearing you’ll need to ride up Brockway at your IMLT power at a reasonable cadence.  To help with that I found an excellent calculator.  Punch in your IMLT power, your weight, the elevation, % grade, distance, and temperature.  Let’s start with our 350W FTP (sea level) rider.  We’re going to use a weight of 75kg (I’m a metric guy, but you can use english units if you like).  The segment data can be found on Strava here. So, 350W FTP => 236W for the climb.  Elevation at the start is 1890m.  Grade = 7.1%.  Distance = 4km.  For temp, we’ll go with 15 degrees C.  That gives me a speed of 12.74kph and a time of 18:50.  FYI, the Strava KOM is 11:59.

Okay, what kind of gear do I need to go 12.74kph at a reasonable cadence.  For me, I want to be able to spin at least 80rpm.  Find your favorite gear calculator.  Sheldon Brown’s is always a good bet.  I use a compact crank so I’m going to cut to the chase and use 50 and 36 for my chainrings.  I picked the Campy 11 speed 12×27 freewheel and found that at 80rpm in a 36×27 I would go 13.8kph.  For me, that’s slightly too large of a gear!  A 36×29 worked out to be just about right at 12.8kph.  Think about that for a second.  A guy with a sea level FTP of 350 watts who weighs 75 kg, that’s 4.67 W/kg at threshold needs a 36×29 for this course!  Sure, a person with that kind of power output could easily get around that course in a 39×25 or even a 39×23.  IF they wanted to walk most of the marathon… How about our 300W and 250W sea level FTP riders?  11kph and 9.25 kph.  At 80 rpm that works out to needing about a 34×32 and 34×36 low gear respectively.

The important thing to think about here is what you CAN do versus what you SHOULD do. My opinion is that pretty much everybody but the pro’s should be on a compact.  I can hear the wailing and gnashing of teeth now.  “But what about the flats and downhill sections?  I need my 55×11!”  You know what?  No.  You don’t.  Seriously.  a 50×11 at 80rpm gives you 47kph.  Just a smidge under 30mph.  Please tell me where you’ll be going that fast except on the two big descents each lap at 236W.  The answer is nowhere.  “But what about the stretch from Squaw to Truckee?”  Again, NOT at IMLT power.  If you do, it will be on some short section of about 30 seconds or less and if you are smart you will either suck it up or learn to spin a bit in those short fast sections.  If there is time to be lost due to “only” having a 50×11 it will be more than countered by the time you would lose trying to get over those big hills in a 39.  If you really need/want something bigger, then a mid compact with a 36×52 might be the ticket.  But frankly, in my opinion only the strongest riders will be okay even with the 36.  I suspect the charts will tell most people to use a 34.  The 34×52 combo will likely lead to dropped chains.  Trust me, you lose more time stopping to put your chain back on than you will if you are “limited” to a 50×11 top gear.

Now comes the ugly part.  How are you going to get that gearing on your bitchin Shiv or P5 considering that right now you’ve got a 42×55 crank set with an 11×23 cassette.  Answer?  Get out the credit card.  If you’ve got a standard crank you’re going to need to pony up for a whole new crank set unless you’ve got a new Shimano 9000 11 speed crank (110 bcd rings) or one of the SRM models (like my Dura Ace 7800) that has a 110 bcd inner ring and 130 bcd outer ring.  Then, if you decide you need something bigger than a 28 or 29 cog, you’ll need a new long cage rear derailleur.  It used to be that you needed to buy a MTB derailleur and it was a lot trickier picking the right one.  Now it seems most brands have a long cage version that will fit the bill.  I believe that all levels of the current SRAM rear derailleurs com in long cage versions and I know Shimano makes them too.

FYI, here’s 2013 IMLT segment:

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