Wednesday, April 27, 2011


The weather just does NOT want to cooperate. Despite being the middle (ahem almost the end) of April in Milwaukee, this week's forecast calls for rain, rain, rain and cold. The rain is one thing, but when the lows are just above freezing and the highs aren't much higher it doesn't make me very happy. I'm supposed to race this weekend and need a good hard midweek ride. I'm not going to get it outside and risk poor health for the weekend. Sooooo...what to do? I'll turn to Sufferfest for an alternative.

Let me just say this before I say anymore; I AM SICK OF RIDING THE INDOOR TRAINER. Sometimes, though, you have no better choice. To beat the indoor trainer blues you need something to get you through it. This winter I made a find in The Sufferfest. They offer the right kind of stuff to keep your mind off being stuck inside. (un)fortunately when you ride with them, all you can think about is how much it hurts. My torture of choice is "The Hunted." It's a 61 minute battle that keeps my mind interested, occupied and--dare I say--entertained even. For a short sample, see below.

At approximately $10/video to download, you can't beat the price and it's hard to beat the workout.

Say, "Good-bye!" to Coach Troy and his short shorts. Spinervals ain't got nothin' on this ride.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Team Wisconsin (Whitnall Park) Spring Classic 4/23/2011

This past Saturday was the Whitnall Park Spring Classic here in Hales Corners, WI. It's only a stone's throw from home and I couldn't pass up the chance to race on a course so close to my new stomping grounds. Granted, I usually ride to the west of Whitnall Park, but let's not get too picky. The reality is I'm a pretty recent transplant as it is, so I don't have too many claims to stake on any particular territory just yet.

The Course:

Because of it's nearness to me, I decided to go ride the course a couple times within the last several weeks to make sure I knew what it would be like, i.e. where I wanted to be during what parts of the race, what line I wanted take, what the pavement was like, etc. etc.

The route was nice other than some pretty busted up tarmac. It was a short loop (1.1 miles) with two short steep hills. One that peaked just before the start/finish line and one on the backside of the course that started after the 90 degree right turn (#2 if you look at my map) and had a small flat in the middle (at #3). Based on this, I figured that the hill on the backside would filter the field and if I could hang on to the front group over the top I'd be in good shape come finishing time. On race day, there was a stiff west wind which punched you right in the nose as you went up the second half of the backside hill, but helped a little as you finished on the north side of the loop with a subtle cross-tailwind.

It was a course that suited me and I went into it feeling that I could do well, so I set my sights on a top 5 position. I decided that I'd be happy with top 10, thrilled with top 5 and ecstatic with a win. My strategy would be to hang out in the pack close to the front, but let people with teammates do the work since I was flying solo. This is hard for me to do, because I'd rather make a break and work together with a few guys than take my chances in the whole pack, but a quick call to my coach (aka my dad) beforehand reaffirmed what I was thinking and it helped make me a bit more patient come race time. Thanks Dad!

The Race:

The weather was messing with my head all week leading into the race. Last week, after all, was mostly rainy and miserable but there were glimpses of hope and the forecast had very low chances of rain for the day of. Come race day, the weather was beautiful despite rain all night before. The sun was shining and I think the temperature almost reached 60 F. It was certainly in the mid 50's at least. Thankfully, this dried up the roads very effectively and that was one more thing I didn't have to worry about.

I quickly realized it was a good thing that I preregistered because the race was full. 75 riders is a pretty good sized Cat 4/5 field and I started to wonder if my aspirations were a little too high. I started thinking top 10 was worth more than just happy, but I didn't let it damp my ambitions too much. I knew I was a reasonably strong member of the field after the Menomonee Park Crit a couple weeks ago, so I figured I may as well just go for it. Still 75 riders is a lot, and I had the misfortune of arriving on time instead of early to the start finish line which meant I was starting at the back of the peloton. Oof. The good news, though, about starting in last is that there's nowhere to go but up.

I quickly started moving up because I knew if I didn't it would be the death of my goals. They say in criteriums that "if you're not moving up, you're moving back" and with a field as big as this it was definitely true. The race didn't start at a particularly hectic pace and the rolling nature of the course meant that the field shuffled rapidly each time we started up one of the rollers. No one really wanted to work too hard on the front, so each hill saw the riders in back moving up around the outside to the front and most of the riders who had started closer to the front suddenly closer to the back. I tried to stay on the outside edge of the group to avoid getting lost in the mix and it worked really well. I was able to ride within the front 20 wheels for most of the race without sticking my nose in the wind too often. I basically just chose a strong rider who I was near each lap and tried to hold his wheel (which is probably the same thing he was doing).

We continued on like this for awhile. If it wasn't for the naturally frenetic nature of a criterium it would have been almost boring. One or two riders occasionally pushed the pace on the front as we passed the start/finish line, but because of the wind on the backside hill meant our pace slowed too much each lap to ever spit many people off. With 6 laps to go there was a prime. It was too close to the finish for me to be interested so I let myself drift back a little ways so I would stay out of trouble. Finally the pace was enough to spread out the pack a bit. To my dismay it appeared as though the group was no smaller than when we started. I had no desire to throw it down with 74 other amateurs in a mass sprint in the finish, so I made up my mind that I had to be really close to the front at the finish or it wasn't worth the risk of getting tangled up in a messy crash.

With only 5 laps to go, I had to take action. I used the next two laps, slowly making my way forward and using the hill on the backside of the lap to make bigger leaps when possible. With 3 laps to go I was sitting back within the front 1/4 of the race again trying to hold my position. I held steady for the lap and halfway through the second to last lap. This time as we went up the hill in back our pace slowed somewhat drastically again and I found myself being passed by riders on the outside. I tried not to wind up losing too much position. As we came up the hill for the one lap to go bell, the pack was fairly spread out across the road. I was staying as far outside as I could to avoid being boxed in and saw a rider start to go off the front. I jumped to catch him and got his wheel before anyone else reacted. He gave a good burst, but then he was done so a few other riders and I passed him in the low part of the course before turning uphill again (at #2). I felt great, I was rounding the corner within 5-10 riders from the front and knew that I could hold my position if the pace increased.

Behind me I heard the scrape and crunch sound of bike frame and asphalt meeting each other for the first time and all of us who had made it ahead jumped a little extra because we knew now that we would likely stay clear. In front of me, three riders from Rhythm Racing started to get organized and I hopped on the back of their train knowing I had no teammates of my own to help me out. At this point, I wasn't too sure who was behind me, but I was sure there were people close behind me and I just wanted them to stay there. The front two Rhythm guys dropped their man off a little early on the way up the backside hill, so I stayed behind him until I knew I could come around and stay ahead. I passed him just as I crested the hill and then it was just a dip down and back up to the right for the finish.

As we cruised down from the backside peak it was the moment I had been waiting for. My sprinting point was halfway up the finishing hill and I knew it by the long horizontal patch in the pavement. Waiting was killing me. I was using enough energy to stay in front, but didn't want to go too early and get passed on the line.

Wait for it...wait for spidey sense was tingling and I could feel the few guys who were with me creeping up in my peripheral vision...wait for it...GO, GO, GO!

I hit my mark and did the best I could to break the legs off the guys who thought they could go with me. My friend Nick H. was standing on the hill cheering me on (I have no idea was he was saying, but I knew he was there and it helped get me up the hill). As I crested the hill, I knew that my practice on the course had paid off because I had just enough in the tank to keep accelerating to the finish line. I wasn't about to look back and I gave it everything I had.

This is me on my way to the finish giving it everything I have.

I threw my right hand in the air as I crossed the finish line and gasped to catch my breath. It turns out I had a couple bike lengths to spare, but I wasn't about to risk it by being a doofus and sitting up or throwing my arms up to celebrate.

I won! I could hardly believe it. I was genuinely ecstatic (see above). It was a great day. Second and third places were scooped up by David Hudson of xXx Racing and Andrew Zens of Rhythm Racing, respectively. A good solid ride by all... I have to say, though, it's a bit ironic that the Team Wisconsin Spring Classic was won by a guy who recently moved here from Minnesota and the podium was rounded out by two riders from Illinois.

I finished my cool down lap and found my lovely wife who greeted me with a shout of, "You did it!" that only had a slight hint of surprise in it. I couldn't help joking with her andmy buddy Nick after the race that it was the most appropriate weekend for me to win for IC3 as it was Easter weekend and all.

The patience during the race paid off and the early season training has been well worth it. It looks like I'll get to race one more time before I have to put the bike aside for a little while and hit the books for finals (I am a medical student first and a bike racer second after all). Hopefully that means I'll have another chance for peak fitness in June or July when ToAD and Superweek come calling. That's still far enough out not to worry about, though. For now it's the Pedal for Proceeds next week and then concentrate on school.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope it was worth your time. Since you made it this far, here are some pictures to browse through. I may or may not be in wife is still working on her sports photography skills.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Cycling is a team sport

The Spring Classics this year have proven that while individuals most often get the credit for winning cycling races, cycling is nonetheless a team sport. Let's take a look at some good examples from this Spring's phenomenal racing.

First of all I will say that there are occasions where a strong individual can blow away the field. However, this usually is because other teams have failed to anticipate that individual. Last year's Flanders-Roubaix double by Fabian Cancellera was a great example of this. No one expected him to be able to ride away from Boonen the way he did from so far out during Flanders. As a matter of fact they were so stunned that no one expected him to do the same thing a week the following week.

This year, however, the other teams were ready and Leopard-Trek unfortunately was not.

Fabian Cancellera came out swinging at the E3 Prijs Harelbeke. He attacked and no one could follow. He chased down the lead group and swung past them as if they were standing still. I have to admit it was a bit of an ironic twist. He passed the group alone the way that a group usually passes a lone breakaway rider. It was pretty awesome.

Then came his troubles. His strength at E3, though, was his undoing. He made it seem as if he could defeat the world all alone and so the world challenged him. No one in the upcoming races was willing to work with him and in the end it was Cancellera stick all. He stuckit to them pretty good, too. But without the team support he needed for Flanders or Roubaix he missed the top spot on both podiums. Both losses were a result of teams working against him. And while Quick Step's Sylvain Chavanel only managed 2nd for his work against Cancellera, Garmin-Cervelo reaped the benefits and placed Johan Van Summeren on the top step, although at the expense of Thor Hushovd's chance to win in the World Champion's Jersey (but that's something different altogether).

Enough of Fabian's sorrow over this year's cobbled classics. (even though they were good examples of teams working it out especially Garmin-Cervelo's Roubaix win). I like the guy and have to admit I'd rather not rub it in. It did take an entire team/several teams/the whole peloton to beat him and even though he didn't win Flanders or Roubaix this year he single-handedly made them spectacular races to watch.

Now that Amstel Gold Race has come and gone we are officially transitioned into the Ardennes Classics and while the terrain has changed, the importance of a team has not. Philippe Gilbert pulled off a fantastic win at Amstel bursting clear of his adversaries on the final assault of the Cauberg climb to the finish. I don't want to take away from his win by saying his team did it, but his team did do it. Their goal was for him to win and as the captain of the team for the day he did a good job marshaling his troops and making sure things turned out in his favor. Ultimately, Gilbert was the strongest and best tactician on the day which led to his win. But what we saw from Omega Pharma Lotto at Amstel was what Cancellera was missing in the cobbled classics. Almost every time the camera showed the front of the race as it got more serious, Gilbert's men were there. He was there with them and took responsibility for his own racing when he needed to, but he always had a couple of men around him to help out.

We'll have to see how things play out as we head towards the final Spring classics to round out this week. A good show from Andy Schleck at Amstel might mean that he gets to put another Classics win in his belt within the next few days. Personally, I'm hoping Ryder Hesjdal has some better luck and stands on at least one of the next two podiums. Regardless of who wins at Fleche Wallone or Liege-Bastogne-Liege this year, it's a good bet he'll have had some help from his team to get there.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Speedplay Pedals

Two weeks ago I had the good fortune of experiencing the Wheel and Sprocket Bike Expo here in Milwaukee. It was a lot of fun. Imagine if all the shops converged for three days to showcase all their inventory and invited other vendor's with similar (but not competing) interests to come along as well. There were representatives for Race the Lake, MS 150 Ride, Ray's Indoor Mountain Biking, Tour of America's Dairyland etc. etc.

There were also some fantastic deals. Unfortunately I didn't walk away with the deal I maybe would have liked...56cm Felt AR4 with all Ultegra...but then again I didn't exactly expect to. What I did go looking for, however, were pedals and a saddle. I'll tell you about the pedals now and come back to the saddle later because that's a much longer story all unto itself.

I had been doing some research and decided that I would see what I thought of Speedplay pedals. Speedplay has been getting a lot of good press lately especially as numerous winning riders have recently been using their pedals in the pro peloton (Fabian Cancellera, Mark Cavendish, Ivan Basso, Cadel Evans to name a few). After looking at what I had heard about the pedals from different reviews and bike shop employees and talking to a friend who bought a pair last year I decided they were worth a shot. I especially liked the amount that you can adjust in a pair of speedplay pedals. The Zero comes with adjustable float between 0 and 15 degrees so that you can either be locked in solid or have plenty of range to swing your heel. They offered a little higher end performance for the price point so I bought a pair of black chrome-moly Zero pedals during the expo. I got a fair price and went home happy.

[Here start's the long version with explanations, if you want the straight and simple bullet points you should jump to the end.]

Unfortunately, my happiness didn't last too long after putting them on my bike. Installation of the pedal was quite easy, all you need is a pedal wrench. Installation of the cleat was a little more complicated because I have a three hole shoe and Speedplay then requires an adapter for their 4 hole cleat, but still not unreasonably difficult. I managed to get the cleats on in a fairly central position on my shoe hoping this would be a good point to start from for adjustments and it was. When I first tried to get into the pedal it was ridiculously difficult. I figured that this was mostly operator error, and kept trying. It was partly operator error, but as it turns out the Speedplay pedal actually needs to be broken in a bit. While it was crazy difficult to get in, I actually found it shockingly easy to get out. As someone who plans to race with these pedals I didn't really like that combination, but thought maybe some adjustments would help. While the pedal did get easier to get into over my week long trial period, it didn't really hold my foot as securely as I would like. I never actually popped out of the pedal while sprinting, but there were a couple situations in which I did pop out enough to lose the hold on my upward pedalstroke while adjusting my ankle or foot while trying to get into the pedal and while spinning on my trainer.

During my first short ride outside on the pedal I actually thought that they might work out all right (my first had been a short spin on the indoor trainer just to get things dialed in). I bombed through the neighborhood nearby and charged up and down the short little hills. I felt pretty good going uphill and pedaling hard on the straight flats, but when I cornered I couldn't help but feel that my heel moved a little too easily on my outside foot (the one that's supposed to be extended for holding your weight and balance). I didn't really like that. Also, when I sprinted hard I could occasionally feel a little sliding of my feet. They just float back and forth a little too easily in a way that makes you feel unstable on the pedal.

I decided the float problem could be easily taken care of by reducing my float. I didn't want the full 15 degrees anyway and thought it would be nice to make it more like 5 degrees or less. At first the adjustment was easy and the design on the bottom of the cleat for this really is genius. But the adjustment screws quickly got very difficult to turn because of their awkward position and the stiff plastic and I almost blew out the phillip's head. I decided that if there was any chance to return these I better leave the screws intact. Again, disappointed.

The final test was a 2 1/2 hour ride to see if maybe I just needed to get broken in. What I found on the long ride was that I adjusted to the feel of the clipping in and out and even the float a little, but that ultimately the platform is too narrow side to side. I have somewhat big feet (usually between size 11.5-12.5), so this might not be a problem for a lot of riders out there, but it was the last straw for me. I gave them one last hopeful spin on the trainer the next day thinking that it could be me not them. But I was wrong. This was not a compatible match.

After a week of unimpressed riding my pair of pedals got returned to Wheel and Sprocket with an exchange for the Look Keo 2 Max (review pending). They were friendly and helpful with the exchange, but probably not happy to have to deal with returned pedals and cleats considering that no matter how lightly you use Speedplay pedals they always show some wear and tear because most of the pieces and contact points are plastic and metal combinations. I figured that up to this point I've been riding an old pair of Look pedals that still use the delta cleat...they're almost as old as me...and if a new pair of pedals can't improve on that, I don't see any point in replacing my old ones.

To sum it up...

Things I liked about the Speedplay Zero:
-Easy maintenance
-low profile/good clearance on corners
-Diverse adjustment ability (can adjust float, side to side cleat position even place shims for leg length discrepancy)

Things I didn't like about the Speedplay Zero:
-Too easy to come out of
-Float in pedal actually made my platform seem somewhat unstable especially when cornering hard or sprinting
-Difficult to get in (this may change some over time)
-somewhat high maintenance
-poor quality adjustment screws
-small pedaling platform for a person with big feet

I've tested the new Look Keo 2 Max pedals once and once exams end this week I intend to spend plenty more time on them. Look for another review in the next few weeks.

Friday, April 15, 2011


That should read "in-cred-EE-blay!" I was thinking about how much I'm going to miss the NSC Velodrome this summer as I'm going to be in Milwaukee instead of the Twin Cities. I found myself at this video of Gregory Bauge. He's a big French track racer with numerous wins to his name including several Match Sprint world championships in that palmares. But more impressive than almost any of those wins is this...

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Puncheur

I learned a new cycling word this week: Puncheur.

Here is the definition... "Ein Puncheur ist ein Fahrertyp bei Strassenradrennen, andere Fahrertypen sind zum Beispiel der Rouleur, der Sprinter oder der Kletterer. Der Puncheur hat besondere Stärken in welligem Gelände und ist oft auch ein starker Sprinter"

Oh wait, that's in German.

Roughly it translates as: "A Puncheur is a type of rider in road cycling races, other types of riders are, for example, the Rouleur , the sprinter or climber. The Puncheur has particular strengths in rolling terrain and is often also a strong sprinter."

That's guys like Phillipe Gilbert, Sylvain Chavanel, Thor Hushovd and the likes. These are the fellas who have the legs to fight the short steep climbs over rolling terrain and then still kick it in a sprint. They may not always come out on top in a mass sprint finish, but watch out if it's only a select group left over.

After analyzing my past race results and the kind of roads I do best on, I think this may just be me. Cool, eh? Hopefully I can incorporate that into my future races. Sounds like I need to look for the breakaway and help make it stick, then try to recover enough to kick it in the finale. Stay tuned and if I'm lucky maybe one of my next races will have a report that sounds just like that.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

This is why the spring Classics are awesome!

The past few weeks have been filled with races known as the Spring Classics in cycling. They are generally very long one day races that take a lot of skill, a lot of courage and a little bit of insanity. They tend to be in gross spring weather ranging from pouring rain to sleet and snow, although this year was warm and sunny. Still, the dirt is unavoidable as you can see above with this post Paris-Roubaix example.

One reason that these races are great, besides the dirt and warzone-shell shocked feel that all of the riders seem to finish with (if they finish), is that you never really know what's going to happen. It's only one day and everyone wants to win. Teams still have their team leaders and all but there is no strategizing for position in the general classification like stage races, because it all comes down to the one day, the one finish line, the one result! It's pretty exciting to see them all put it on the line. I'm fairly new to following the Classics of cycling as they are called, but I'm all in and loving every minute of it.

We've just finished the cobbled classics (truly brutal) and next week begin the Ardennes classics which tend to be made for the lighter weight riders and hill climbers who can't take the pounding on the pavé. We'll see who decides to show his hand this week as we shift gears. The brothers Schleck perhaps? I can't wait!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Menomonee Park Criterium 4/9/11

The first race day of the season has come and gone again. I made it through alive and even achieved my main goals. Since you're here, how about if I tell you about it?

Being new to the Milwaukee area, I didn't know what to expect as I began searching for my 2011 race calendar. The fact that I'm also doing medical school makes things a little more complicated too, since my school comes first and my cycling season comes second. What I have found, however, has been pleasantly surprising. There are definitely plenty of races to do around here and enough that even with a tough schedule like mine I should get to race between 5 - 10 times this year. The first on my schedule and the first on the Wisconsin Cycling Association (WCA) calendar was the Menomonee Park Criterium hosted by the Velotrocadero club. The course was a very nice 1.7 mile loop in Menomonee Falls.

There some slight ups and downs, but it was basically flat and twisty. That made for a fun race, but also a little nervous with an entire peloton fresh off their trainers with a frosty bit of winter still in their legs. Thankfully, though, there was only one 90 degree turn and we had both lanes of the road to use.

The Men's Category 4/5 field started off at 10am for a 40 minute race. I expected we'd cover about 10 laps and felt like I had it in my legs to make a difference in the day. I went in with two goals. First, try to make an attack either on my own and either initiate or follow a breakaway during that move. Secondarily, finish safely with pack if there wasn't an opportunity to stay away or get in a break. The second goal was a little more ambiguous, because a safe finish looks different depending on where you are in the pack as you come closer to the finish. Especially given the fact that the only sharp turn is just longer than sprinting distance away from the finish line. With these things in mind I set off with the pack.

Our first lap was surprisingly sedate, only averaging around 20-22 mph. The whole group was still together as we started the second lap and being in the middle of a slightly unsteady pack was making me a little anxious. I decided my time to attack had arrived.

I took a run at it, but was a little too obvious. I made a gap, but didn't hold it for too long. No one came with me, so instead the entire peloton strung out single file. It wasn't a break but it was what I wanted, some space. I dropped in around 5th wheel from the front and rode within 5-10 wheels of the front for the next few laps. There was a strong University of Wisconsin Whitewater rider who was chasing down other attacks as they went, so I held his wheel and let him do the work when to close the gaps that formed from time to time until about the middle of lap 6. At this point there and been plenty of surge-and-slow cycles where a rider would try to break and the whole group would swarm to stay with him which meant that as we made contact the entire group would slow up and fill the road. There had only been a few casualties popped off the back as far as I could tell, and the group was still a little too big and a little too wide on the road, so I decided once again I had had enough of being brushed by nervous riders and made my second move of the day.

Approximately 0.7 miles into lap 7 just as the road juts up and turns back from its most easterly point I decided to give everything that I had left. I attacked from about 3/4 of the way back in the group as they were all comfortably adjusting before the turnaround. I gave it everything I could to put some daylight between me and then, hoping that one or two other riders would join me. I had chosen the perfect part of the course because I made my gap riding up the only little incline on the parcours and dashed around the corner which sent me sailing with no wind or maybe a tailwind to help hold off the chasers. No one followed. I glanced back and the pack was strung out. I had a good gap. No one was bridging, so I knew it was now or never. I dug deep into my suitcase of courage, channeled every last bit of Jens Voigt that I could find in myself and worked desperately to stay away. Unfortunately, it wasn't going to happen

If you know anything about cycling, you know that 1 man against 44 chasers on flat roads doesn't tend to succeed unless that one man is Fabian Cancellara. I did manage to hold them off for an entire mile going solo, but as my gap began closing I gave in. Back in the pack I drifted to the middle of the field and tried to recover. With a little over 1.5 laps to go I decided the best thing to do would be try to get close to the front with about a half lap left and see whether or not I could maneuver myself into a spot before the final corner that would give me a shot at contesting the finishing sprint. It turns out that everyone else had the same idea. At approximately the halfway mark on the final lap the whole field began to fill the road as they tried to move to the front. The only problem being that there is only so much road to be shared. A Winona State rider paid the penalty as he was pushed to the outside, dropped off the edge and crashed sideways in the hard grass on the right hand side of the road. That sobered me up a bit and I decided that I had achieved my first goal already, so now it was time to achieve my second goal: finish safely.

There wasn't much I could do to move up before the hard left hand turn just before the finish line, so I played it smart and finished midpack. I was a little disappointed because I felt that I still had legs enough to try and fight for a sprint, but I knew it would be better if I lived to race another day. Overall, it was a successful day and a great first race of the season. I'm happiest with the fact that I feel that I managed to animate the race. 46 riders started the day and I finished 22nd of 41 finishers according to USA Cycling results and I think I did the IC3 kit proud during my debut in the WCA racing calendar.

Thanks for making it this far. Until next time: Go fast, don't crash. And don't forget to enjoy the ride.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

My first race of the 2011 season

Saturday is my first race this year. I'll be doing a criterium hosted by the Velotrocadero team in Menomonee Falls, WI. Crits always make me a bit nervous even before they begin. I can't help lining up without feeling that I'm at the start of a Surge commercial (see below). Thankfully, none of my races have been quite so haphazard. I don't know what you're doing this weekend, but I'll be tearing it up on the race circuit here in Milwaukee. Maybe I'll even throw down a cold bottle of Surge afterwards to quench my thirst...

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The April Challenge

Since I failed miserably at the March Challenge (yep, miserably), I've decided to up the ante a little bit with the April Challenge. Since my typically lopsided cyclist's physique tends to favor muscles in the lower half, but the demands of the world generally require you to have more muscle in your arms than a twiggy fellow like Mr. Schleck; this month's challenge will be pull-ups.

In 9th grade I walked into the beginning of gym class able to do only 1 or 2 pull ups at a time. I decided that if I was going to make a difference on only one aspect of my presidential physical fitness test it was going to be pull ups. My dad built a pull-up bar for me in the laundry room and by the end of the semester I was able to 18 in a row. Not a bad improvement, eh? They do a lot for you in several different muscle groups so they are a good way to get some all around upper body fitness, functional even. You don't ever want to be that last guy in a group of people who is trying to run away from a pack of hungry wolves but can't get himself up into the tree for safety. (I don't know if that happens to you often, but if it ever does you'll be glad you took the April Challenge.)

My challenge number for the month is 40 pull-ups a day with a goal of 20 in a row. I might increase to 50 by the end of the month, but given my time away from the pull-up bar my arms are already a bit sore as it is.

Give it a try and see what you can do. You might surprise yourself.