Monday, November 23, 2009

New Bars - 3T Ergonova Team

It always amazes me what cyclists and triathletes concentrate, worry and fret over the most when it comes to bikes. I would say that 80% of more, of the discussions when it comes to new bikes revolve around the frames. Then there is all the money spent on this part of the bike - typically the single most expensive part of a bike. Don't get me wrong, frames are important. However, what is actually of greater importance in my view are the contact points that you body has with that frame, and one of those key contact points are the handle-bars - this is true whether we are talking a tri/TT bike or a road bike. Comfortable, well fitting handlebars are going to obviously increase the comfort of riding but also your utility, of this key part of the bike - after all this is the cockpit of the bike, and this is where you control your braking, shifting and steering!

As some who follow along here know I recently acquired a new Cervelo R3 road bike. I had free choice for all the components and after a bit of research I decided to spec the 3T Ergonova Team handlebars for the new bike. In previous road bikes, I had found for comfort and optimal positioning for me, I needed a shallow drop handle bar. If you buy a Cervelo R3, as most do, complete - the bike comes with the 3T Ergonova bar! It's a great move by Cervelo.

The 3T Ergonova bar as it's name would suggest, is a wonder of ergonomics and engineering. It's a full carbon bar that seems to fit my smallish hands very well, regardless of where my hands are - on the tops, on the hoods or in the drops. The reach is a bit shorter than normal which may require a slightly longer stem( I needed a 120mm stem on my 58 frame), but combined with the shallow drop, it allows you better opportunity to easily find that sweet spot of positioning where both the hoods and the drops are optimally positioned - for comfort and use.

The tops have been flattened, and make for a comfortable perch for the hands as well, particularly on long climbs when this is a preferred position for many. Ditto for the bends on the drops, which feel great for long hard pulls on the front and out of the saddle sprints.

The carbon lay-up is such that the bar is both extraordinarily stiff, yet at the same time absorbs a fair amount of micro-vibration while riding. I have tested the latter feature extensively of late with a lot of riding on gravel roads, and the Ergonova Team bars definitely take a a bit of the buzz out of riding on such surfaces.

Full specs and more detailed information about the 3T Ergonova Team handlebar can be found at the preceding embedded link.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

20 Questions with . . . Graham Fraser

There is no question that Ironman, and it's spin-off half-distance cousin the 70.3 race are the flavors-of-the-month in triathlon these days. In North America and perhaps even further afield, there is one man to thank for that - Graham Fraser. Odd then, that Fraser has more or less checked out, and left the triathlon house! However, Fraser is, more than anything else, more than being the best Race Director and Event Manger in triathlon, a visionary! After all, this is the man who 24 years ago, literally on a whim, with nothing else to do, organized his first triathlon race in Grimsby, Ontario in 1986. At the time, triathlon was still a freakish side-show, practiced by fitness fanatics, but Fraser saw more to it. He thought, that if you organized, great, well run races with supportive sponsors and partners, that not only would he do well and make a bit of living at it, but that the sport itself would flourish. He was right on all counts - those series of races that he started organizing were the starting points for, both Olympic Triathlon and Ironman World Champions, several successful product suppliers in the business, the entry point for some major triathlon sport sponsors, and for some of the first real serious TV race coverage of triathlon anywhere in the world!

Late last year Fraser sold his licenses to run Ironman branded, full length Ironman and 70.3 races in various locations around North America, back to the World Triathlon Corporation for an un-disclosed sum. He retained one license for Ironman Canada - the first Ironman race that he owned, and one he personally saved from the brink of cancellation in the early in the 1990's. He makes it no secret that it's always been his favorite Ironman event and the one that was used as a template to set up the other Ironman and 70.3 events he started in Lake Placid, NY, Oceanside CA, and other locations around the continent.

Not one to sit around too long and watch the grass grow, Fraser has moved on already, and over this past summer, inspired by a cycling trip he took to the Tour de France, has formed a new series of events called Centurion Cycling. These events are modeled after the Gran-Fondo style of events that are very popular in Europe and attract thousands of entries. The Centurion events will fill a gap that exists right now in bike road racing and riding, between full-on Category( Pro, 1, 2, 3 etc . .) road racing and big charity rides. They will be 100 mile races (as well as 50 mile and 25 mile events), that are run over challenging terrain and open to anyone. The location and courses will be scenic - the kind of place that you have always wanted to go to ride. For a day, you will get the feel of what it's like to compete in a big Road Race, but do it on your terms and at your pace. This is Fraser's vision. Many are expecting the Centurion series to be the next big thing!

1. What got you into triathlons in the first place?
I had a friend ask me to do the Paris(Ontario) triathlon in 1983. I could not swim(Still can't!), and I did well for a hockey player!

2. With some free time now, what's next for you?
Obviously the Centurion cycling events but also spending more time with my family.

3. Is the Centurion Cycling series going to be the next big thing?
It has potential. We'll give it our best shot, creating an event with a different slant to it, and a different experience from other events.

4. How big can the Centurion Series get?
How big it's get's is not the goal . . . how much good it can do is the goal.

5. When you started that first triathlon you organized back in 1986, did you ever think that it would get this big for you?
Never. I was 25. I was just looking for something to do that summer and I always wanted to work in sports.

6. What's wrong with triathlon these days?
It does not have much wrong with it. Every generation looks at it a bit different. Ironman was never meant to be a do-2-3-a-year type of event. Some people are loosing perspective.

7. What's right with triathlon these days?
It has introduced a lot of people to a active and healthy lifestyle which, North America sorely needs these days.

8. If out for a training ride with Lance Armstrong, what would you talk about?
Would love to hear the off-the-record stuff, that he can't talk about. Who his real friends are? Training advice, of course. What motivates him? How his foundation works? It would be a long ride. Hope that I could keep up!

9. Will we see Lance Armstrong or other top road racers in the Centurion events?
It would be really nice to have his foundation involved.

10. What is the one thing all Race Directors should take care of first?
Simple. Athletes need to come first. Specifically, their safety. Plus little things that will give them a memorable experience.

11. What is the best triathlon race that you have ever been to, that has not been one of yours?
Challenge Roth

12. Are we doing the right things in terms of developing youth triathlon?
Kids need to do some team sports. If they do tris, do it for fun and with no specific training programs. If they really love triathlon, they can get "serious" at sixteen.

13. Why has Canada been such a leader in the sport of triathlon in a number of different areas?
A little luck with the talent pool coupled with great opportunities to race and compete. Plus everyone in the sport is generally really nice. That helps a lot.

14. Will you ever do another Ironman?
If my kids do it I might. To be honest, I was never good at the distance stuff. I think I have ADD! Now it's cycling and Nordic skiing - easier on the body.

15. Tubular or clincher?
Clinchers for training. Tubulars for racing.

16. Where's your favorite place to ride?
France. The Tour de France was unbelievable. Lake Placid is another place I like and the canyons around Boulder.

17. Who are you inspired by?
Steve Fleck!! [ LOL. He's joking. Full disclosure - I may be the only person still active in the sport who raced in that first triathlon Graham organized in Grimsby, Ontario nearly 25 years ago.]

18. Who will win the Stanley Cup this year?
Buffalo - I have been waiting 30 years!

19. Will Toronto ever win the Stanley cup?
No. Not in our, or our kids life-time either! They should just move the team to Hamilton!

20. What makes you the most proud?
Seeing people make the move at our events over the years from spectator, to volunteer, to volunteer captain, to doing their first triathlon, to finishing a 70.3 or Ironman race.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Off Season & The Road Not Taken

Years ago, there used to really be an off-season for those of us who practiced summer orienated sports like triathlon. These days not so much. Many of the bigger more important races are now deep into the fall and people start getting ready for races in the late winter and early spring. Then there are people like our friends from Australia, who we had spent some time with at Ironman Hawaii - they were going home after Ironman Hawaii to summer. For them there really is no off season. I am not sure how they do it.

For me, I have always enjoyed having four distinct seasons and the varying weather that comes with each of them. It gives the year, and the training a natural and organic ebb and flow. It was this time of the year, the late fall that was and still is particularly enjoyable to me - strange as it may seem. It is at this time of the year that the formal and structured training can stop for a bit - just train every day, however I want. Just do something and stay active. Also, cross-country skiing is hopefully just around the corner. We have been on-snow here in Southern Ontario as early as the last week in November.

Near our cottage in Muskoka there are networks of cottage roads and gravel and dirt roads, like the one above( Paolina in the picture above looking out our cottage road). At this time of the year, with all the leaves off the trees and before the snow comes, is the perfect time to ride these roads and trails. It's quiet. There are no bugs and the views through the forest are rather nice. To borrow from Robert Frost, it's nice to take, the road not taken at this time of year. Although, surprisingly many have already headed indoors and are riding their bikes bolted to the trainer! Boring. But to each his own. Too soon I'll be doing some of that as well.

Back in the 90's a spent an entire year traveling in the tropics. For me it was a whole year without winter. I arrived home in Vancouver at the time, in the fall of the year. I had never looked more forward to the cooler weather, the change of seasons and the coming of winter, than I did that year. I recall going for a run in an early winter blizzard of snow and loving every minute of it. Perhaps it's the Canadian in me, but I think what having four distinct seasons has done more than anything else, is keep me fresh, physically and mentally over the years. If nothing else, there is always something to look forward to in the next season.