Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Missed my flight--AGAIN!

Damm it here I go again. The ticket said New York to Milan on Delta so I went to Delta and was suppose to be at Alitalia. So I missed the flight and ended up getting on a plane to Milan through Paris meaning that I would miss most of my meetings for the day. Ah but at least I got to quickly go into the city to have breakfast and see if I could find those bikes that my boss keeps talking about "Yeah it cost something like 40 gazzilion dollars for them to do that" See the pictures I am not lying. Yes this is the exciting life of an ad sales executive/pro bike racer. You are always on airplanes visiting clients and you have to drag your bike everywhere because sometime before 9 a.m. you hope to get a decent ride in.

As usual I traveled to Italy with my trusty sidekick Steve. Thanks to the fact that the Euro is at 1.50 we get to share rooms again. Steve loves that. Apparently I steal the covers a lot. Yes that's right when they say two beds in Europe it really means two mattresses next to each other and one blanket. It's at times like this that its good to be the boss. 5 days and 15 meetings that was the goal. And a little riding each day to keep the supless in the legs as the French say. It went something like this. Friday arrive and missed the first meeting, Steve picked me up after the meeting and we rushed to our dinner in Bassano. Oh yeah nothing like a red eye in coach, no sleep since I was sandwiched between two sumo wrestlers from the mid west. Have I mentioned the glamorous life of an ad exec/pro bike racer? Then drive 300 Km to the dinner, have dinner and drive 100 K to the hotel. 40 hours later with no sleep and I'm in bed. And so is Steve. We managed to ride both days on the weekend. First day we did 3 hours and Steve kept bitching about how his ass hurt. What a freaking wimp I'm thinking. The next day he figures out that his tights had no chamois. Jesus you mean you put the things on and hopped on the bike for 3 hours and only the next day did you figure it out that you didn't have chamois. This is when I remind myself that yes ad sales is the perfect job for C students. Sunday we ride, Monday we are back on the road for a meeting in a different town with a GPS that keeps getting us lost. Actually the GPS doesn't get us lost but for some reason I keep missing the turns. We call our good friend Steve (lots of Steve's) at the GPS company and offer some suggestions such as a sexier voice on the unit or maybe when we miss a turn instead of saying re-calculating it can say "Your a f--c-- idiot turn around" After three or four calls to Steve he stops finding it amusing. I still think its pretty funny, but Steve reminds me that this guy really does pay for our salaries. Oh yeah OK.

During the week we do 15 meetings where we seem to spend an awful lot of time explaining to people whom we’ve seen a few times already that indeed we are not editors but are on the ad sales side and only manage to get on the bike twice for an hour each time. But I (sorry Steve -- we) did clock 250 Km/Hour (that's 153 Miles Per Hour for the metric challenged) on the Autostrada. Oh the good life. Friday comes around Steve hops on a plane back home to see his wife and I head to the mountains to pretend that I am Lance Armstrong in 28 days. Monday I'm back in the US walk into the house the neighbors kid calls me daddy and my own kid walks right by me without even looking. Life is good.

Friday, November 23, 2007

2008 Season Dedicated to Saul Raisin - All Prize Money Donated to Camp Twin Lakes

Yesterday I spoke Saul and he told me the news that he wasn't going to be able to return to racing. He received the news from Roger Legeay the Director Sportif of his Crédit Agricole team. Knowing Saul for a little less than a year I have always been amazed at how positive he is despite the difficult circumstances both him and his family have faced since his accident in April 2006. Although to realize that he won't be able to continue to fulfill his dream of being a professional cyclist is difficult, Saul realizes that there are many new opportunities in front of him and he is optimistic about his future. He is especially looking forward to his upcoming wedding to Aleeza. As difficult as it is to hear the disappointment in his voice, we are all happy for the incredible comeback he has made and how fortunate he is for being able to lead a normal life again after such a terrible accident. As Saul exits the professional peloton and I enter it for the second time it’s to him that I dedicate this upcoming season. All of the prize money that I make in 2008 will be donated to Camp Twin Lakes, one of Saul's favorite charities on his behalf. Above and below are pictures of Saul in New York City this past winter.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

A New Season Starts

Salt Lake City might as well be my second home. I went there so much this year to test and see Max and Nanna that my wife is suggesting that I rent an apartment out there. I've been hitching for the transition period to come to an end so that I could start the work of the new season. Officially that starts on November 1st. Max had told me not to come in late October since he could still give me the plans until late December before my first tests. But like an addict I couldn't stay away from the torture machine. I had a friend of mine Ricardo Martins (Ceramica Flaminia) who is the current Portuguese national time trial champion fly in so that I could have an excuse to "take him" to Sal Lake City. We had two days of tests including a lactate and Vo2Max test the first day and a Vo2Max test with a new machine TOSH has acquired on the second day. The lactate test went pretty well. Max stopped the test at 340 Watts so that we still had something for the Vo2Max test. My results were better than my best tests of the year so I was happy about that. The Vo2Max test showed an improvement of 120 Watts over my tests a year ago and a Vo2Max of 70 which isn't too bad but not great either. The second day we did another Vo2Max Test and I could only go to 420 Watts while Ricardo went to 580. You could smell the rubber of the tire when he was doing it and although Max stopped the test, Ricardo says he could have gone to 610. Wow. We also spent a lot of time with Nanna and Ricardo did an RMR test and all of the necessary nutrition meetings. Although with a body fat of 4.7% he doesn't exactly have to worry about being overweight. And yes I finally made it under 8% for the first time in probably 11 years. Yes nothing like a low body fat to make a girl feel good about herself. My poor wife just rolls her eyes when I step on the scale and ask her if my ass looks fat.

Monday, October 29, 2007

João how did this all start

I get asked two questions a lot. The first one is "João how did this whole thing start" and the second usually is "Jesus man how did you get so fat". I'll start with the first one now and leave the second one to another day.

It was May of 2006 and I was doing the Dieci Colli Granfondo in Bologna with the Pinarello team. Somehow I ended up riding with Fausto Pinarello (see picture) and a before I got popped on one of the climbs (getting popped on climbs is a theme in this blog) I was pacing him a bit and he asked me if I had ever raced. I said "yes as a matter of fact I was a pro in a Portuguese team" (I say that a lot but nobody cares). He told me that he could tell that I was an ex-racer and said if I could drop the weight that I would probably be able to get over the hills. Then he dropped me. The Dieci Colli Granfondo is extremely hilly and I remember that when I crossed the line many hours laters I almost started to cry from happiness. Happiness that the darn thing was over.

A few months later I was at the Pinarello Granfondo and during the warm up ride I was riding with Giorgio Andretta and Sandy Nicholls of Gita and Giorgio says to me "Hey you should race again, I am sure if you dropped the weight you could race again." For some reason I went with it and thought "Yeah I can do this again" I mean the heck with the fact that I am a fat pig (being fat is a secondary theme on this blog) and like to put away 5 course meals with one or two bottles of wine a few times per week. But the idea went into my thick head and that's how it started. By end of October I was seeing Max Testa and Nanna Meyer and I've been hungry ever since. Thanks Giorgio, really appreciate this one.

Friday, October 26, 2007

End of the Season

This has been an interesting year. The season really started back in November 1st of 2006 when I decided that I would race this year with the goal of participating in the Portuguese National Time Trial Championships. After 11 years of not racing at the pro level it was an insane goal but it was the kind of goal that I needed to be able to focus on getting back into shape and loose the extra weight I still had. I started by hiring Max Testa and Nanna Meyer at TOSH in Salt Lake City to help me with my training and nutrition. I started 2006 at 190 pounds and by November I was down to 165. 25 pounds is a lot but I was still too heavy for a cyclist. By the time my first race rolled around in February I was down to 160 and by the end of the season I managed to get to 155. Now it's the end of October and training for the new season starts in 2 weeks and I am at 150 pounds. 5 more to go or is it 10 I forget. The goal is to reach team camp at 145 pounds.

When I stopped racing back in 1996 I never tought that I would return to racing at this level. At the time I decided to stop racing and take advantage of a scholarship I had to Fordham and keep the promise that I had made to myself when I was seventeen that if by the age of 21 I wasn't on a major pro team then I would stop racing and go to school. At the time I didn't have much interest in racing for an American pro team nor a Portuguese pro team. My goal and dream was the big leagues. This was the time's of Banesto, Once, Rabobank, Castorama that's where I wanted to be. It wasn't to be. In hindsight it was the best thing that could have happened to me.

Now I have little interest in racing for a big team and am instead intrigued by racing in the US and Portugal. I am happy to have the opportunity to race for Bissell next year. They had an incredible season as Priority Health - Bissell in 2006 and is built around an incredibly talented Time Trialist named Ben-Jacques Maynes. I did the Tour of Virginia with them as a guest rider and did a few other races for Bicycling where they were present. They always seemed like a great group of guys (although I am pretty sure Teddy King yelled at me once for spriting for 30th or something) and like the better teams in the US always seemed nice to everybody in the Peloton. Something that some of the smaller pro teams don't do.

So this is it for my first entry. I'll upload some pictures from the season and look forward to updating this blog on a regular basis as my training and season progresses.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Weekend in Portugal

I went to Portugal to for the inauguration of my godfather's bust. Antonio (Alves) Barbosa competed in four Tour de France's and was 10th in 1956. It was a fun occasion and I was accompanied by one of my closest friends Ricardo Scheidecker as well as future Ceramica Flaminia rider Ricardo Martins and Discovery rider Sergio Paulinho. We got to do some riding together and one of the highlights was a ride with Joaquim Gomes one of Porugal's greatest riders. Always a lot of fun since you hear the stories of the days when he used to race. In this particular trip he told us about a Dauphine Libere of 93 or 94 where he finished 10th. In one particular mountainous and long stage he found himself in the lead group with his faithful domestique of the day Jose Rosa. He told us that he was out of water and asked Rosa to go back to the cars and and get him some. Unfortunately Rosa never came back. About 45 minutes after the stage ends and he is showered, dressed and laying in bed he hears the habitual footsteps of cycling cleats on wooden floors. Clack, clack, clack. The door to his room opens and there is his Rosa coming into the room. Without skipping a beat, he reaches into his rear pocket takes out a full water bottle and says "here's your water" - Loyal to the end laughs Gomes.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Nationals Road Race

Less than 24 hours of rest after a TT isn't the ideal but at least 20 of us are in the same boat. The time trial went ok but not great. But finishing within a little over a minute off of 5th gives me some hope that I can crack the top 5 next year. The road race course is super hard with a 2 Km climb and a bunch of false flats that really kill the legs. The race was 175 Km in 6 laps. I managed to last 4 laps before getting popped and dropping out one lap later. I didn't feel bad but a look at my power file showed that I wasn't hitting the numbers that I normally hit either. A few people recognized me from the days I was racing here and most that did couldn't believe that I was crazy enough to try and come back. But I am. By the time I got dropped a lot of guys had already been dropped so I don't feel terrible about it. Although it is humbling to know that when the racing really started I was gone. It was a good experience and there is a reason why these guys are pros. Next year I'll do better. Hopefully with another year in my legs I'll be a little more competitive or just competitive would be nice.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

National Time Trial Championships

This was the goal of the season or more the motivation to do the work. After 11 years of not racing at this level I decided to try and do the Time Trial at the Elite Nationals. In Portugal if you are not under 23 racing in the U-23 category then you're racing as an Elite and that means with all of the pro's. My minute man was Jose Azevedo the former Once and Discover rider now riding for the continental team Benfica. Gee maybe I can catch him. I guess its better that he starts in front of me than behind me. The day was really hot and I was a little nervous. Nevertheless I had a lot of supporters around me including my wife, son, daughter, my parents, uncles, cousins and our friends from Spain Jorge and Mercedes Planas. My recon of the course was done in a mini-van with two kids strapped in. Pretty sure I was the only one who adopted such methods.

The race itself was good. I fought that perhaps my SRM wasn't reading well since I was in the high 300's for the first 5K of the TT and feeling pretty good. Nothing for the pro's but for me that was pretty good. After 5Km I had lost 20 seconds to Azevedo who had the best time at that point. I fought that wasn't so bad considering he was in the Pro Tour last year. I found my rhythm quickly on the flats but the hills really took their toll on me. I just couldn't get over them with much power and kept getting yelled at from the car not to take so many gears out at once. Excuse me, but it's been a while since I've done this. Heck just doing a TT in a closed course is new. Normally in the US you have to focus on the race and make sure some car isn't coming out of a side street. The second lap of this two lap course was my best and I caught somebody who was in front of me. He couldn't have been going very hard since he was on a regular bike. Still couldn't shake the little guy on the climbs. He kept looking over and I kept thinking, you've got to be kidding me. With about 5 K to go my chain fell off on a climb but I quickly put it back up without loosing too much focus. Still it breaks the rhythm. With 3 K to go I got caught and passed by Ricardo Martins who started 4 minutes behind me. At least he went on to win. I was dead by the end and managed to ride to 11th place out of 20 starters. Not so bad but not what I was hoping for either.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Valley of the Sun - First Race

So I decided to come out and race Valley of the Sun to see if I could get the season kick started. The first day was a Time Trial where I got passed by 3 guys. Not a great way to start but its understood. Max told me to keep it at 300 Watts for the TT and that's what I did. The second day was the Road Race and it was a rude awakening. High winds made the echelons difficult and I didn't have the power to stay in them. I could see what I needed to do but my body juts didn't have it in me. I got popped up the first climb and managed to come back but on
the second of 4 laps I was dropped for good. Still tried to stay in there with one other guy (see picture) but we were getting thrown all over with the wind. When I stopped the poor guy looked like he was going to cry. I was leaving him out there by himself. Since I didn't finish the road race I can't start the criterium tomorrow. Not exactly how I had imagined the season would start but its a start nonetheless.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Training Trip to Portugal

I took advantage of my good friend David Cathcart's trip to Portugal to do a few days of training and see some old cycling buddies. Most notably Joaquim Andrade - Fercase Rota dos Moveis, who along with former Once and Discovery rider Jose Azevedo, I befriended during the Volta ao Algarve in 1994. Andrade is a TT specialist and one of the senior members of the Portuguese peloton. Along with Bartot-Torrie rider Carlos Pinho and the old pro Fernando Mota we enjoyed a nice 3 hour ride around the Pombal area where Mota lives. Incredible roads to train on and Mota is starting training camps in this area. After the ride I drove to Algarve to meet David where he was on behalf of Saris-Cycleops at the Predictor-Lotto training camp. We did some riding together including getting lost on one occasion meaning a 5 hour ride where poor David almost killed me. Ah the bond between buddies on those 5 hour rides where you bonk.