Austin Tri-Cyclist Blog

Friday, May 29, 2015

How to Succeed at Time Trials Without Really Trying

ATC Racing - 2014 State Team TT Champions

by Jack Mott

The Individual Texas State Time Trial Championship approaches this June 20, 2015, a flat and fast 40K time trial. As usual, for triathletes there is a multisport category, or you can mix it up with the pure cyclists in any category you like! Time trial rules now allow any participant to race in a higher category than his or her own. For example, if you're a brand new cat 5 but consider yourself a cycling prodigy in the making, you can opt to race with the cat 1s. Sleeveless skinsuits are now also allowed, and UCI illegal bikes are perfectly acceptable as well. If you're interested in putting yourself and your equipment to the test, this race is the perfect place to experiment.

How To Go Faster (without really trying)

Triathlon and cycling are full of suspect manufacturer claims about how much time is saved with a given part, or bike. Often these claims don't live up to reality, as every hill and turn on a course will eat away at your aero advantage. But the State TT course this year is flat and straight, and you will get every free second your equipment promises. So here is a quick bang-for-the-buck list of how you can go faster without pedaling any harder.
  1. Don't Worry About Weight! - This freebie is so free you don't have to do anything at all. You just have to stop doing something. Especially for the flat and fast State TT, don't worry about how much equipment weighs. Even if $1 would save you 1 kilogram of bike weight, spend that dollar on a better chain lube or latex tube instead. Using the powers of physics, you can illustrate this point. Open up the aeroweenie calculator. You will see two columns that represent two bike setups. You can leave all the default values if you like, or change them if you know what they mean. Now make one bike 1 kilogram heavier than the other. Leave everything else the same. Enter how many watts you expect to do (slower riders will be around 200, faster around 300). Hit the button and see how much time difference 1 kilogram or 1,000 grams makes.  
  2. Position - This often costs nothing; you merely need to adjust your bike, or adjust your posture on it. Lower is not always better, but it tends to be. Don't be afraid of low. It doesn't take flexible muscles or a super strong core; it just takes the will to try, and the time to figure out how to make it comfortable. You might not want to make any big changes in your position right before State TT, but one simple thing you can focus on is simply how you posture your body on your bike. If you are like most people, you probably have "periscope head." Drop your head down and look up with your eyeballs. Hold your torso low between your shoulders; don't hold it up.  Just this act of consciously keeping your head tucked down can save 40 seconds per 40K.
  3. Periscope head on the left. Head low on the right. No bike adjustments necessary.
  4. Clean and Lube Chain - Compared to a clean chain with a good lube on it, a dirty chain may be eating up as much as 7 of your precious watts. I like to use Rock n Roll Extreme, which has tested really well over at friction-facts, and serves to clean and lube at the same time. If you apply it every few days and wipe the chain down really well with a rag afterwards you will keep it shiny and fast. While you are at it, wipe off the derailleur pulleys with a rag as well.
  5. Tires and Tubes - This is the most underappreciated part of the bike and the most important for speed and safety. While it's a bit pricey for some of the best tires, they can save or cost you minutes of time per 40K, so choose wisely.  Read up on our previous post All About Road Bike Tires, and don't use gatorskins for racing!
  6. Clothing - A quality skinsuit that fits you snugly can offer massive time savings. For a 40K TT you can use one with no pockets, but a solid trisuit is fine too. If you are really on a budget, find a snug-fitting under armor shirt.
  7. Helmet - An aero helmet is typically worth about 30 seconds per 40K over a road helmet, and many affordable examples are out there, making it one of the better bangs for the buck. 
  8. Aerobars - The parts of your bike at the front are always the most important aerodynamically, as they hit the air dead on before anything else does. Many bikes come from the factory with inexpensive or easy-to-adjust aerobars. This is a wise way to start for people who will be adjusting their position for a while. But once you figure it out, a more aerodynamic bar can save big chunks of time. Look for models that have an airfoil-shaped base bar, and that hide the cables inside them as much as possible. Options range from super expensive integrated bars like the Zipp Vuka Stealth to less expensive options from Profile Design, Vision, and 3T. ATC can help you pick out the bar that will support your position and budget. While it might seem crazy to spend a lot on an aerobar, remember it can often make more difference than the frame behind it!
  9. Wheels and Frames - While at the top of the list for most people, given their expense they are at the bottom of the bang-for-the-buck list. Once you have addressed the items above, shave more seconds away with top-of-the-line wheels and frames. Upgrading from an aging P2 or Slice may not radically change how fast you go, but you can also get handy new features like top tube bolts for bento boxes to install these more cleanly, or integrated water and storage solutions and better cable routing. The new P2 is my top pick for a budget bike upgrade. Pair it with a slick aerobar and you have a bike as fast as anyone. Upgrading from standard training wheels to deep aerodynamic wheels can save a bit of time as well. Don't worry about how much the wheels weigh, or if they are fully carbon or not. Don't even worry about tubular versus clincher, as it doesn't matter! What you are after is aerodynamics. Go as deep as you want in the rear, with a disc wheel almost always being the best choice. For the front wheel, pick a depth you will be comfortable with in crosswinds. Zipp, HED, Profile Design, Vision and others all make great aero wheels. Again, ATC can help you find what fits your budget.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Announcing the ATC Tri Club

Just in time for CapTex weekend, Austin Tri-Cyclist is announcing the details of the new ATC Tri Club. To join, all you have to do is buy an ATC kit at retail price and compete in it. The club will be very casual and fun, with the following benefits to members:

  • 15% off of products at the shop (some exclusions apply, ie bikes)
  • Social atmosphere and group to train with at occasional events
  • 10% off triathlon or strength coaching from Driven Endurance
  • Tent at future races

New trisuits are currently on order, and if you already race in the shop kit, you're good to go. Email to be added to the club and receive news about the latest happenings.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Why Women Should Race With the Men

By Kat Hunter

Driveway Crit Series, Masters + W123. Photos by Scott Strance Photography

Some men say women have no business racing with the men’s fields. They argue that women have their “own” race to enter, that when they race with the men the women riders get dropped, taking a spot that would otherwise have gone to a man who could have hung on. They claim women are bad bike handlers and cause crashes. I hear comments like these through some indirect channel about once a year, usually in reference to the Driveway Series crit races. Fortunately, the individuals the opinions belong to, loud as they may be, represent a small minority of the men’s peloton, and for every one detractor you’ll find four ardent supporters. Nevertheless, I think it’s important to answer the questions our critics have posed: Why are women racing with the men? And why should they be able to?

River City Market's Kirsten Fee
First, and perhaps most simply, USAC rules say we can. “Women may enter any men’s race for which they are eligible by age, category, and any performance requirements. They may also enter categorized races for men that are up to one category lower than their women’s category. For road, track, and cyclo-cross events, category 1 women may enter men’s races up to two categories lower.”

The rulebook is probably not changing anytime soon, but there are other, subtler dangers in generalizing a population of individuals by gender. For example, is saying that a characteristic applies to every woman any different than saying it applies to every brown or black or gay person? In our society, sexism is accepted in a way that racism is not. Often presented as a joke or a fact of biology, comments that frame women as lesser are woven into an everyday narrative so pervasive that such comments inspire no awareness or surprise.

ATC Racing's Anne Flanagan
When it comes to cycling, is the average man stronger than the average woman? Yes, of course. But the spectrum of physical abilities is like that of height. As a man, are you taller than the average woman? Probably. But you’re probably not taller than the tallest woman. And since we’re talking about local fields of recreational male athletes who might have a very disproportionate training load or experience level to that of, say, a professional or former professional woman rider, the “norms” are even less likely to apply.

There’s no shame in being challenged by a woman, or even beaten; cyclists should understand that better than anyone. Cycling is a sport that rewards different talent sets depending on a race’s particular circumstances. If you’ve been in the sport long enough, you know that once you get to a certain level, you won’t win every race unless every race, by accident or design, aligns with your strengths. Sagan needs a tough finishing climb. Cav needs a flat field sprint. You might be able to podium in a really short TT, but get smoked in a long one; you might excel at short crits and suck at hilly stage races. Sometimes a woman rider will be strong in the area where you’re weakest. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re a lesser athlete.

The higher the category, the more comfortable the group seems to be with a handful of women in their midst. Earlier this year, I was nervous about entering my first men’s cat 2 road races. I’d raced with the masters men before in combined fields, and sometimes the reception had been less than warm. Racing with the 2s, I experienced nothing negative—no nasty comments or looks, no aggressive actions. No one made a desperate maneuver to push me off a wheel. Many riders—guys I’d never met before—called me by name and gave me encouragement or just asked how things were going. They seemed comfortable in themselves, not threatened by my presence, and they tolerated my relative inexperience with the large field size as they would any strong male rider who’d moved up the ranks quickly.

But why be there in the first place? At the Driveway and other local events, there are separate women’s races. Why not keep with my own? In Texas, there aren’t enough women racing bikes to put together a 70 to 100 rider field. Because of the drastically smaller sample size, women’s fields are a third of the size of the men’s or less, and fitness gaps between the fastest and the slowest riders are wider. Often women’s races are shorter in duration or distance, as well. The Driveway women’s race, for example, is only 30 minutes and starts at 5 p.m., which is a difficult time for many racers to make. In road races the P123 women might do 40 or 50 miles versus 80 or 100 for the P12 men. Having a separate women’s race is a very good thing, and necessary for the women’s side of the sport to continue to grow, but women riders need access to the larger men’s fields too.

ATC Racing's Christie Tracy in the orange and black
When I sign up for a men’s race, I’m looking for a simulation of a women’s NRC field. One person was said to take offense at this idea, that his race at the Driveway could possibly be compared to a women’s race. NRC events attract the best pro and elite women in the country. I’m not a good crit racer, but I’ll say with the authority of recent experience and suffering that the NRC crits I’ve done make the men’s 3/4 race at the Driveway seem slow and very safe. The Driveway P123 field is typically faster than women’s pro crits, but I find it a much better approximation of what the women’s races are like, and I enter that race because I need as much practice as I can get with the dynamic of a larger pack and the speed.

Some criticism focuses on the fact that the men’s field reaches its registration limit, and a number of the women who enter are shelled before the end of the race. This I feel no reason to apologize for, as plenty of men are shelled along with them, and the Driveway offers and encourages pre-reg (payout is linked to pre-reg numbers). Sign up early and your spot is secure.

As a female rider, I’m not going to say that I don’t enjoy the attention that being competitive with the men brings. I like to think that I’m an example of what women can do, that I’m proving a point. So when I attack the Driveway P123 field early in the race and Stefan Rothe calls out “That’s a YouTube moment, Kat!” or I win a sprint point on the VOP ride or I get what would have been a top TT time in a men’s field, I feel really good about it. But the reverse is also true. I feel a great deal of pressure to ride well; if I get dropped because I’m having a bad day, or I clip a pedal, or I cause a crash, I don’t have the luxury of being just another nameless rider in the pack who’s made another common mistake. For many people—especially when it comes to the negative—I’m representing every woman rider.

Locally, we have some really good examples of women who can ride a men’s crit with incredible ability, and have been doing so at the Driveway for many years: Jen McRae, Mina Pizzini, Kathleen Hattaway, Kate Sherwin… Just to name a few. They’re often perfectly positioned—smooth, knowledgeable wheels to follow whether you’re a man or a woman. Jen McRae has podiumed in the men’s 3/4 multiple times, and won it in 2010.
Mina Pizzini at the Driveway in 2014 on her Cervelo S5.

Regardless of how you feel about the issue of women racing with men, it’s important to see us as individual riders. Know us. Talk to us. Follow women’s racing. If you see a problem, or even a success, know that it’s not all women, but a woman. And know that we’re there for the same reasons as you: the challenge, the workout, the community, and the pure and simple love of riding a bike.

To the men who support us and go out of their way to help us do what we do, whether they’re spouses, friends, sponsors, or just fellow cyclists in the local peloton, we’re eternally grateful; thank you, thank you, thank you!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

A Ride for Any Day of the Week, updated for 2015

If you're looking for company on the bike, you'll find it in Austin. Below is an updated list of group rides (searchable by difficulty or day of the week) for summer 2015.

Nothing is more annoying than showing up to a ride that's not actually happening. Area races and daylight savings time often affect ride schedules, so if in doubt, check in with the ride organizer or someone in the know to verify that the ride is happening when and where we've listed it below.

Road bikes are recommended for all rides unless otherwise noted. In most cases helmets are required, and you'll need to bring your own flat-changing kit. "Time" listed here is wheels down - it's always a good idea to show up 10 to 15 minutes early. And last but not least, these are unsanctioned rides on open roads; you're responsible for your own safety.

Click the links below to search by difficulty level or click "View By Day of Week" to see a list of rides for a particular day. Have an addition or edit? Please email

*Bookmark this page to find it later!*

Beginner - Moderate - Hard - Insane - Women Only -
View By Day of Week

Beginner Friendly

Rothe Recovery Ride

A social ride led by elite cyclist and coach Stefan Rothe, this Monday evening option is open to anyone on a road bike. The route changes every week, going out east toward McKinney Falls and the Tuesday Nighter course, north along Shoal Creek, or south to 5th street or to Buda if time allows. Ride time is typically 1.5-2 hours max. Start time changes with the season, so email Stefan if in doubt. You can also check ride info at

StartATC downtown, 923 Barton Springs Rd.
TimeMonday, 6 p.m. until end of September
Duration1.5-2 hrs
ContactStefan Rothe,

BSS (Research Blvd.) Wednesday Beginner Road Ride

Hosted by the Bicycle Sports Shop Research Blvd location, this no drop ride is good for new cyclists or those wanting to ease back into the saddle. Average speed 10-12 mph. Check for current info.

StartBicycle Sports Shop, 10947 Research Blvd.
TimeWednesday, 6 p.m.
Distance15 mi, 60-90 mins
ContactBicycle Sports Shop, 512-345-7460

KLCTVE Fusion Thursday Night Ride

This no-drop ride takes you around town: east toward Mueller, north toward Shoal Creek, and then back downtown via Tarrytown and Pease Park, with one rest stop at the Mosaic market in Mueller. Expect some flats, short hills, and a few optional sprint points. You'll need to be comfortable with urban riding and obeying traffic laws. Bring a helmet and lights. Average speed 16 mph. Check for current info.

Start Mellow Johnny's, 400 Nueces
Time Thursday, 6:30 p.m.
Distance 24 miles, ~ 2 hrs
Route central/north
Contact Mellow Johnny's, 512-473-0222

Friday Truancy Ride

This 17-18 mph ride led by Mellow Johnny’s takes you through neighborhoods and official bike routes for the most part, with minimal travel on large roadways and just a few hills and optional sprint points. Check for current info.

StartMellow Johnny’s, 400 Nueces
TimeFriday, 2:30 p.m. 
Distance30 mi
Routesouthwest toward airport
ContactMellow Johnny’s, 512-473-0222

BSS (Parmer Ln.) All Levels Road Ride

Hosted by the Bicycle Sports Shop Parmer location, this ride offers two options: a faster-paced 35-mile ride for intermediate-level riders, or a more relaxed 24-mile ride for beginner/intermediate riders. The route is a straight out and back on Parmer Lane, so you can turn back whenever you'd like.

StartBicycle Sport Shop, 9900 W. Parmer Ln.
TimeSaturday, 8 a.m. 
Distance35 or 24 mi
RouteParmer Ln.
ContactBicycle Sports Shop, 512-637-6890

Scout-a-Route Ride

Great for cyclists new to riding or commuting, or for those just looking for a casual spin, this no-drop ride aids participants in navigating through the city and learning safe bike commuting options. Two groups are offered: 1) riders who can average 12 mph for 15-25 miles with regrouping points, and 2) riders who can average 14-16 mph for 20-30 miles, with one or two regrouping points and an extended mileage option. Routes vary weekly. Check for current info.

StartMellow Johnny’s, 400 Nueces
TimeSaturday, 9 a.m.
Distance15-30 mi

BSS (Lamar Blvd.) Sunday Beginner Road Ride

Hosted by the Bicycle Sports Shop Lamar location, this ride is a no-drop ride for 18+ adults (16-17 allowed with parental supervision). You must be on a hybrid or road bike; no trikes or recumbents allowed. Bring your helmet and flat repair kit. Average speed is 10-12 mph. An intermediate ride starts at the same time. Check for current info. 

Start Bicycle Sport Shop, 517 S. Lamar Blvd
Time Sunday, 8 a.m.
Duration 2+ hrs
Route varies
Contact Bicycle Sports Shop, 512-477-3472

Driveway Clinics

Check the Driveway Series website at for racing clinics.


Nelo’s Shop Ride

Always following the same route (see map info below), this ride meets Monday and Wednesday nights between April and late September. Although it can be described as “moderate,” the ride gets progressively harder as the summer wears on. Riders regroup at Parliament. Lights required! Check for current info.

StartNelo’s Cycles, 8108 Mesa Dr. #105B
TimeMonday & Wednesday, 7 p.m. from March to end of DST
Duration14.40 mi, 50 min
RouteGarmin Map
ContactNelo's Cycles, 512-338-0505

Tuesday AM Hill Ride 

This ride meets at 7 a.m. for coffee at The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf on Lamar. Roll out is at 7:15am. The route varies, but always hits the hills west of town for a 25-30 mile hard workout. Though the ride isn’t “no drop,” they regroup at the top of each big hill and recover between.

StartThe Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf on Lamar
TimeTuesday, 7:15am
Duration25-30 mi, 90-105 mins
ContactJames Murff,

T&T Violet Crown Ride

Meeting at Mellow Johnny’s every Tuesday and Thursday morning and led by a member of the Violet Crown cycling club, this ride is ideal for the intermediate-level cyclist. Expect a steady tempo ride with an average pace of 16-18 mph. Experience riding in a group is a must. Check the ride Facebook page or for current info.

StartMellow Johnny’s, 400 Nueces
TimeTuesday & Thursday, 7 a.m. 
Duration1.5-2 hrs
ContactAndy Austin,

Pflugerville Tuesday Night Ride

This ride is part social and part race simulation, described as "moderate to hard, but friendly." Part of the group meets at Austin Multi Sport, and others meet up at the southeast corner parking lot of Lake Pflugerville (E. Pflugerville Parkway and Weiss Rd). From the shop it's an 8-mile no-drop warmup to Lake Pflugerville and then another 4 miles easy to the start of the race loop at the corner of Cele Road and Cameron Road. From there, it's every man and woman for themselves, with some race team tactics thrown in for practice. A race loop is roughly 6 miles. Currently the group does two loops, but in June and July when the days are at their longest, some complete a third loop. Round trip from the shop with two loops the distance is about 40 miles, and you can expect to return between 7:45 and 8 p.m. Average speed is 20-22 mph on the race loops, with anywhere from 10 to 30 riders in attendance. Check the Austin Multi Sport Facebook page for current info.

StartAustin Multi Sport, 1011 Gattis School Rd., Round Rock
TimeTuesday, 5:15 p.m. from Austin Multi Sport, 6 p.m. from southeast corner of Lake Pflugerville
Duration40 miles, ~2.5 hrs
ContactAustin Multi Sport, 512-296-2696,, Facebook page

Lake Travis Tuesday Nighter

Rolling out from the heart of Lakeway during Daylight Savings Time, the Lake Travis Tuesday Nighter offers a little quality suffering for the work-week. The ride, led by the Lake Travis Cycling Club, usually has a group of 10-20 riders and is moderate to hard, with an average speed somewhere around 18-22 mph. The warm-up lasts the first five miles down 620 to the turn onto Bee Cave Road, and then the peloton separates into unofficial "A" and "B" groups until the turnaround at the Knollwood Loop just before Hwy 360, where the ride regroups again. (See below for the route map.) After the ride, everyone pitches in and enjoys some brews.

Start Plains Capital Bank, 1110 S RR 620
Time Tuesday, 6 p.m.
Distance 24 mi, 1-1.5 hrs
Contact Tim Diven, or

BSS (Research Blvd.) Tuesday Intermediate Road Ride

Averaging 14-16 mph, this evening intermediate ride travels in and through the neighborhoods surrounding the BSS Research Blvd location. Check for current info. Start time changes with the season.

Start Bicycle Sports Shop, 10947 Research Blvd.
Time Tuesday, 7 p.m.
Duration 1.5 hrs
Route Area neighborhoods
Contact Bicycle Sports Shop, 512-345-7460

Durata Devo Ride

Surprisingly well-attended for a mid-week, mid-day ride, the Durata Devo Ride is a friendly 2x2 group ride (average 18.5 mph) leaving from just east of downtown. From the start at Bike Haus (across the street from Wright Bros. Brew & Brew), the group takes varying routes; heading basically any direction but west, the group aims for a flat-to-rolling 50 to 75 mile route. Most days you can expect to return around 2 p.m.

Start Bikehaus, 1000 E 5th St #106
Time Wednesday, 10 a.m.
Distance 50-75 mi
Route varies, generally flat to gently rolling terrain
Contact David Wenger, 512-934-0131

Gruppo VOP Friday Ride

Gruppo VOP, formed 16 years ago, is an informal association of cyclists that welcomes all riders. The Friday ride is a 28-mile loop going from Westlake out Bee Caves Rd, down River Hills Rd, and up through Seven Oaks back to Bee Caves Road and the Bee Cave City limit sign. Some riders skip the river valley and go to the Barton Creek West entrance for a 19-mile loop. See for more info.

StartBrad Houston’s house, 1813 Holly Hill
TimeFriday, 6:30 a.m. (time varies according to season)
Duration19 or 28 mi
Routesee website
ContactBrad Houston,

The Bagel Ride

Led by the Violet Crown cycling club, this ride usually ends with a celebratory bagel and coffee. The ride starts at the Einstein Bros Bagels on Parmer/North I-35. One group completes 50-60 miles, and another travels 70-80 miles.

StartEinstein Bros Bagels, 12400 N IH35
TimeSaturday, 7:45 a.m. (time varies according to season)
Distance50-60 mi or 70-80 mi
ContactMatt Denton,

Cycle Progression Saturday Ride

Starting on South Lamar at bike shop Cycle Progression, the group rides a casual/medium pace to San Marcos and back. The mileage is generally 60-75 miles and is led by the Cycle Progression team. Check in once the time changes, as they may move to a 9 a.m. start.

Start Cycle Progression, 2153 South Lamar
Time Saturday, 8 a.m. (time varies according to season)
Distance 60-75 miles
Route San Marcos & return
Contact Alex Arumi,

Bat City Saturday Team Ride

Led by the Bat City Cycling team, this ride starts at Red Horn Coffee House & Brewing Co. (13010 W Parmer Ln, Suite 800, Cedar Park). Red Horn opens at 7 a.m., so stop in for a pre-ride espresso, or hang out after the ride for a beer. The ride has sprint points and climbs where stronger riders pick up the pace, but a designated “sweeper” will ride a group pace for those not interested in hammering. Suitable for either a "moderate" or "hard" training ride. Check Bat City's Facebook page for current info, maps, and other ride opportunities, or

StartRed Horn Coffee House & Brewing Co., SE corner of Parmer & 1431
TimeSaturday, 8 a.m.
Distance50-70 mi

BSS (Parmer Ln.) All Levels Road Ride

Hosted by the Bicycle Sports Shop Parmer location, this ride offers two options: a faster-paced 35-mile ride for intermediate-level riders, or a more relaxed 24-mile ride for beginner/intermediate riders. The route is a straight out and back on Parmer Lane, so you can turn back whenever you'd like.

StartBicycle Sport Shop, 9900 W. Parmer Ln.
TimeSaturday, 8 a.m. 
Distance35 or 24 mi
RouteParmer Ln.
ContactBicycle Sports Shop, 512-637-6890

Middle of the Road Ride (MOTR)

On this intermediate-level, 30-40 mile ride, the front group averages 17-20 mph, and a second group averages 15-16 mph. All participants start together in a large group of 50+ people and naturally split into the intermediate and advanced groups. View the current route description and other info at

StartMellow Johnny’s, 400 Nueces
TimeSaturday, 8:30 a.m.
Distance35 miles, ~ 3 hrs
Routesee website

Gruppo VOP Sunday Ride

Gruppo VOP, formed 16 years ago, is an informal association of cyclists that welcomes all riders. The Sunday ride, ideal as an introduction to VOP, is a 27-mile recovery ride that heads south from Westlake to South Mopac/45 and FM 1826, coming back Slaughter Lane to Mopac. It’s the most social of the VOP rides and typically ends by 9:45-9:50 a.m. See for more info.

StartBrad Houston’s house, 1813 Holly Hill
TimeSunday, 8 a.m.
Duration27 miles
Routesee website
ContactBrad Houston,

Bat City Sunday Team Ride

Led by the Bat City Cycling team, this intermediate-level ride is a bit more casual than the Bat City Saturday ride. The ride starts at Red Horn Coffee & Brewing (13010 W Parmer Ln, Suite 800, Cedar Park). Red Horn opens at 7 a.m., so there's plenty of time for a pre-ride espresso. Check Bat City's Facebook page for current info, maps, and other ride opportunities, or

StartRed Horn Coffee & Brewing Co., SE corner of Parmer & 1431
TimeSunday, 8 a.m.
Distance50-60 mi

BSS (Lamar Blvd.) Sunday Intermediate Road Ride

Hosted by the Bicycle Sports Shop Lamar location, this ride features a different route in south and west Austin each week. Average speed is 14-16 mph (including hills). You must be on a road or tri bike. A beginner ride starts at the same time. Check for current info.

StartBicycle Sport Shop, 517 S. Lamar Blvd
TimeSunday, 8 a.m.
Duration2-3 hrs 
ContactBicycle Sports Shop, 512-477-3472

Sunday Violet Crown Ride

Reputed to be one of the oldest group rides in Austin, this group has been meeting every Sunday morning for more than 30 years. The average pace is 17-18 mph for 50-60 miles, but there are often "spirited" sections of fast riding, after which riders regroup. The ride can be considered a recovery ride for fit riders and racers, and perhaps the hard ride of the week for others. Check for current info.

StartMellow Johnny’s, 400 Nueces
TimeSunday, 8:00 a.m.
Duration3-4 hrs
ContactDave Henderson,

Sunday Circle C Ranch Cycling Club Ride

This ride is a more spirited version of the club’s no-drop Saturday ride (contact the club for more info). Distances and routes vary, but can range from 40-80 miles, depending on the difficulty of the terrain. The average distance is generally 55 miles, with a speed of 17-19 mph. A few riders tend to go off the front at higher speeds. Expect a pack of anywhere from 8 to 25 riders, with a mix of intermediate riders and seasoned veterans. Often an intermediate group will be called at the outset. Sign on to the Yahoo Group for more info, including weekly maps. Membership encouraged but not required. Inclement weather may cancel the ride. **Ride time is 8:15 a.m. depart but changes between June 1st and August 31st to 7:30 a.m.**

StartStarbucks, 9600 Escarpment Blvd #700
TimeSunday, 8:15 a.m.
ContactYahoo Group

ATC Barton Springs Sunday Recovery/Intermediate Ride

Led by ATC employees, this is a very small and casual group, usually between 4 and 20 cyclists. The average pace is 17 mph, and riders regroup at multiple points along the 30-mile route, which heads southeast to Stassney and Burleson. This ride is often canceled for rain or very cold weather; if in doubt, call the shop to check. Find more info at

StartATC downtown, 923 Barton Springs Rd.
TimeSunday, 9 a.m.
Distance~30 mi
ContactATC, 512-494-9252,

ATC 360 Sunday Ride

This no-drop, out-and-back ride takes Bee Caves Rd to Bee Caves Parkway, with a hilly side-trip on Cuernavaca. The group tends to be small, with an average speed around 16 mph. For more info, see

Start ATC 360, Davenport Village
TimeSunday, 9 a.m.
Distance 30 mi
Route west, click here for map;
Contact ATC 360, 512-483-1273,

Bike Church

A recovery ride led by Super Squadra, Bike Church brings together a bike-loving congregation every Sunday at 9 a.m. in the fall and winter off season. (**No rides during the summer.**) The ride leaves from Austinbikes and generally heads south on flat(ish) terrain.

Start Austinbikes, 1010 West Lynn St.
TimeSunday, 9 a.m.
Duration ~3 hrs
Route varies
Contact David Wenger, 512-934-0131


Gruppo VOP Wednesday Ride

Gruppo VOP, formed 16 years ago, is an informal association of cyclists that welcomes all riders. This very popular, very challenging Wednesday ride is a race-paced, 28-mile loop that goes out and back on Southwest Pkway to Barton Creek Blvd and Bee Cave Road, then through the neighborhoods in Lost Creek. You’re guaranteed to get in some hard efforts and brutal hills. Be prepared for three highly coveted sprint points.

StartBrad Houston’s house, 1813 Holly Hill
TimeWednesday, 6:30 a.m. (time varies according to season)
Distance28 mi
Routesee website
ContactBrad Houston,

Pure Austin Driveway Series The Driveway Series is a criterium race, not a ride, but it happens every Thursday evening from March to October and is a great way to train. Many Austin area bike racers consider it an essential part of their week. For event info, go to

Gruppo VOP Saturday Ride

Gruppo VOP, formed 16 years ago, is an informal association of cyclists that welcomes all riders. The Saturday ride offers ride options of 26, 45, or 52 miles. Like the Gruppo VOP Wednesday Ride, this ride often feels like a race, with multiple sprint points and a consistently high pace. The longer loops follow Wednesday’s route and then continue up Hwy 620 to River Place or Anderson Mill Road. Some riders add on Lime Creek. The short ride usually travels back along Bee Caves Rd from the intersection of Hwy 620 and Bee Caves Rd. See vop/ for more info.

StartBrad Houston’s house, 1813 Holly Hill
TimeSaturday, 7:30 a.m.
Distance26, 45, or 52 mi
Routesee website
ContactBrad Houston,

MJ 100K

If there's not a road race going on the same weekend, this cutthroat ride is popular with a fast crowd. There aren't sprint points, per se -- everyone just rides like there's one every quarter mile. The route twists through far southeast Austin's farm country, with a quick refueling stop at mile 35. You'll get left behind if you drag your feet, and the group doesn't always stop for mechanicals. Check for current info.

Start Mellow Johnny's, 400 Nueces
Time Saturday, 8 a.m.
Distance 62 miles
Route southeast
Contact Mellow Johnny's, 512-473-0222

Bat City Saturday Team Ride

Led by the Bat City Cycling team, this ride starts at Red Horn Coffee House & Brewing Co. (13010 W Parmer Ln, Suite 800, Cedar Park). Red Horn opens at 7 a.m., so stop in for a pre-ride espresso, or hang out after the ride for a beer. The ride has sprint points and climbs where stronger riders pick up the pace, but a designated “sweeper” will ride a group pace for those not interested in hammering. Suitable as either a "moderate" or "hard" training ride. Check Bat City's Facebook page for current info, maps, and other ride opportunities, or

StartRed Horn Coffee House & Brewing Co., SE corner of Parmer & 1431
TimeSaturday, 8 a.m.
Distance50-70 mi

ATC World Championship Saturday Ride

A classic in Austin, this ride has regularly hosted elite-level and professional triathletes and road cyclists, but the group is hard to predict, varying in attendance and speed depending on area races, time of year, and weather conditions. This is, however, a ride that you can always "race"--no one will chide you for attacking or pushing the pace, and generally you can expect a fast haul down Southwest Parkway and 71. The group often pauses at the cleaners at Hwy 71/Bee Caves. Some people head home from there via Bee Caves for the short loop and others continue on the dam loop, with the possible addition of Lime Creek. This is one of the few group rides that welcomes tri bikes and aero bars--just be sure to say out of them when you're in the pack.

VideoATC Video Montage
StartATC downtown, 923 Barton Springs Rd.
TimeSaturday, 8:30 a.m.
Distance30 or 55 mi
Route30 miles, 55 miles: continues north along 620 on the dam loop 
ContactATC, 512-494-9252,

Insanely Hard

Heavy Metal Ride

All masochists are welcome, whether dedicated roadie, fixie rider, mountain biker, or whatever-else-on-two-wheels, on this informal Monday-night hammerfest. The group meets at the Pflugerville Pedestrian Bridge. Lights and helmets required. Beer money recommended for after.

StartPflugerville Pedestrian Bridge
TimeMonday, 7:30 p.m.
Route Varies, some examples: Bikely, MizKansas Strava

Tuesday Nighter

Not for the weak of heart, this event has been tearing down farm roads in Southeast Austin at 25-30 mph for what some regulars estimate to be 25 to 30 years. However, the addition of neighborhoods and two stop signs on the course has slowed things down a bit. The ride currently completes three 9-mile laps, with an unofficial “A group” and “B group” determined by who can hang on in the first few miles. The ride is free, and there’s no marked course, no support, no prizes, no judges, and no category system, but by most accounts, it's very much a race.

VideosTuesday Nighter Smash, Tuesday Nighter History
StartAlum Rock Dr and Thaxton Rd, Southeast Austin
TimeTuesday, 6 p.m. sharp during daylight savings time

Women Only

Bikin’ Betties

A very casual, ladies-only ride, Bikin’ Betties welcomes beginning cyclists. The distance traveled is from 8 to 20 miles, always ending at a bar, restaurant, or coffee shop for post-ride refreshment. Since rides vary widely in intensity and distance, check the event details on their Facebook site.

TimeMonday 8:00 pm (departs 8:20pm)  

Austin Flyers Sunday Ride

Led by the Austin Flyers Women’s Cycling Club, this intermediate, women-only ride averages 15-16 mph, with varying routes. The pace and the people are friendly. Check for current info.

StartCycleast, 1619 Cesar Chavez
TimeSunday, 8 a.m.
Duration2.5-3 hrs

Rides by day of week


Rothe Recovery Ride, ATC Barton Springs
Nelo’s Shop Ride, NC
Heavy Metal Ride, Pflugerville Ped. Bridge
Bikin’ Betties


Tuesday AM Hill Ride, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf on Lamar
T&T Violet Crown Ride, MJ’s
Tuesday Nighter, SEast Austin
BSS (Research Blvd.) Tuesday Intermediate Road Ride
Lake Travis Tuesday Nighter, Lakeway
Pflugerville Tuesday Night Ride, Austin Multi Sport


BSS (Research Blvd.) Wednesday Beginner Ride 
Nelo’s Shop Ride, NC
Gruppo VOP, Westlake
Durata Devo Ride, near downtown


T&T Violet Crown Ride, MJ’s
Pure Austin Driveway Series, Driveway
KLCTVE Fusion Thursday Night Ride, MJ’s


Friday Truancy Ride, MJ’s
Gruppo VOP, Westlake


ATC World Championship Ride, ATC Barton Springs
Scout-a-Route Ride, MJ’s
BSS (Parmer) All Levels Road Ride
MJ 100K
Middle of the Road Ride, MJ’s
Gruppo VOP, Westlake
Cycle Progression Saturday Ride
Bagel Ride, Einstein Bros. Bagels
Bat City Saturday Team Ride, Red Horn Coffee


Gruppo VOP, Westlake
Bat City Sunday Team Ride, Red Horn Coffee
BSS Lamar Sunday Beginner Ride
BSS Lamar Sunday Intermediate Ride
Sunday Violet Crown Ride, MJ’s
Sunday Circle C Ranch Cycling Club Ride, Starbucks Escarpment
ATC Sunday Recovery Ride, ATC Barton Springs
ATC 360 Ride
Austin Flyers Sunday Ride, Cycleast
Bike Church, Austinbikes

© Copyright 2015, Kathryn Hunter

Friday, May 1, 2015

2015 Fayetteville Stage Race, W40+ Race Report

W4 and W40+ field, Photo by Ino Sofjan

Everyone loves Pam Downs. She’s quirky, funny, and always exceedingly encouraging and nice. A mom of two teenage boys, Pam spends her free time paper crafting and riding bikes. You always learn something new about a person when you ask—originally from Michigan, Pam moved to Texas in 1984 to work for Texas Instruments as a computer programmer. Before getting married, she taught aerobics and competed in bodybuilding contests for several years. She transitioned from running to cycling after she had knee surgery, and quickly fell in love with bike racing. Pam has been racing for the Colavita Texas Regional Team since 2012.

Pam was the dark horse going into the Fayetteville Stage Race last weekend, April 25 and 26. There aren’t many time trials in Texas, so few riders knew the friendly Pam Downs was also a time trialing demon.  

FSR report from Pam Downs

This was my first experience doing the Fayetteville Stage Race. (It always fell right after Spring Break, so I never had a chance to do it before.) When I drove into the tiny town on Friday, I fell in love with it. It looked like a Norman Rockwell painting. The homes were well kept, the lawns were mown, and the shops were unique and inviting. 

Pam Downs in her bodybuilding days, circa 1990
My friend and I drove up to the Hall (race headquarters), and since it was too early to pick up our numbers, we decided to change into our kits and ride the TT course. It was hot and humid, and the sun was beating down on us, but once we made the first turn, the road was shaded and smooth. We finished riding the course and were excited for a weekend of racing. I picked up my numbers and headed back to the hotel, smiling when I saw a sign that said "God loves you, praise Him." 

Stage 1 Road Race

Oh my! What a difference a day makes with the Texas weather! It was cloudy and overcast when I woke on Saturday, but I thought the rain and storms that were predicted would hold off. They did, but only until I parked my car at the Hall and signed in for my race, which was scheduled to start at 8:20 that morning. Then the thunder and lightning started. My heart sank. I will race in weather like that, but I don't like bit. I stood there thinking about the slippery roads and corners, wondering why I do this to myself, and then came a bit of good news: the race had been postponed 30 minutes. 

But rather than getting better, the storms actually seemed to be getting worse, and my spirits were dashed. My friend was sitting in my car with me and she was telling me that she wasn't racing in these conditions. I told her, "Let’s just ride our bikes to the hall and see how the roads are and THEN make a decision. It's a stage race— you have to finish in order to continue racing, after all.” As we were getting our bikes out of the car, a gentleman walked up and told us that the race had been postponed yet again, this time two hours from the original start time. I did a happy dance. What a relief! Surely the rain would stop by then...the radar said it would...and isn't the radar always right? HA! By this time, my breakfast had worn off and I had to dig into my recovery food for nourishment. I drove back over to the hall to double check the TT start times. They had been postponed two hours also. Now all I could do was wait and hope that the weather cleared.

At 10 a.m., I rode my bike over to the race start. The roads were wet, but the sky had begun to clear. When I heard the race official tell the W123 group about a metal bridge we had to ride over and how slippery it was when wet, my ears perked up and fear started to set in. I have crashed on wet roads before, and it still haunts me. I wasn't looking forward to the wet corners and definitely not a wet metal bridge. Ten minutes later when the W4 and W40+ lined up to start our race (the fields started together for both road stages and were scored separately), I ended up near the back. That's okay, I told myself. I'll just play it safe back here.

The race started out at a good clip. It was easy staying with the pack, but it was hard descending at the back. I am big, 5'10" and 150 pounds, so I descend at a faster speed than most everyone else. I don't like to put on my brakes when I descend, but being at the back of the pack with a yellow line rule in effect made me pay attention and ride with caution. Only one advantage to being at the back...I saw ALL the sketchy riders and knew who I wanted to avoid. I saw my teammate racing near the front in a perfect position, riding strong and smart (this was her first stage race, so I was very proud of her). I saw who could climb with ease, who was trying to climb in too big of a gear, or who couldn't climb at all, so I knew who to get in front of going up the hills, and I scoped out all of my competition (W40+ had numbers that were 370 and above). We took the corners safely and slowed down for the metal bridge, which we traversed with no problems. 

I kept thinking, "I need to get closer to the front of the pack. I need to get up there before the hot spot." I just didn't (or couldn't see) a clear path to the front, and I wasn't willing to take a chance at being guttered or crossing the yellow line to get up there, so I just sat in. The hot spot came and went—there was a surge at that point, but nothing major, in my opinion. I put in a little sprint effort at the 2K mark, which helped me pass several girls, but my "sprint" was not all out. I finished the race with the pack and with a lot of energy left. I did not exert myself at all, which at the time was a big disappointment, but looking back, I had a lot in my tank for the TT, so maybe it was all good. 

Stage 2 Time Trial

I was fortunate enough to have Jack Mott analyze my TT bike and equipment at ATC several months before the Fayetteville Stage Race. He suggested changing a lot of things—my bars, helmet, booties, rear wheel, and tires. I changed all of this and got an aero wheel cover (from instead of a disc wheel because it was cheaper. I had ridden with the new "stuff” on training rides, but hadn’t felt too good about the watts I was able to produce. I didn’t know how I would stack up to the rest of the field, so I went in with a bit of a heavy heart...

My teammate left her room at 4:30 p.m. to head over to the square to warm up. I was running late. I decided to load my TT bike up and then come back to the room to get the rest of the bags. I was headed to the elevator as I heard the door shut and realized that I didn't have my room key. "That's okay,” I thought to myself, "I'll just tell the front desk and grab a new key on the way back in." But the first two keys the lady at the front desk gave me didn’t work, and the elevator was painfully slow. I began to panic. When I finally got into the room and back down to the car, I drove like a bat out of hell to get to the town square, with just enough time (thanks to a 10-minute delay to the start) to get a good warm-up in.  

I was relieved to see that there wasn't a ramp at the start. I have bad experiences with ramps...really bad. I thought, "Darn it! I should have reread that chapter about time trialing in my Racing 101 book. Too late now." I started nervously chitchatting with the girl in line in front of me. She was a triathlete and had a fancy bike and was all decked out in her aero stuff. She jokingly said, "Now, don't you pass me!” She was really tiny, petite, and younger than me, and looked like she was very fit. I said, "There is NO WAY I will be able to pass you!" I sincerely meant it. We slowly made our way up the line to the starting clock. I nervously watched all the girls take off in front of me...looked at how they were holding their wheels and brakes, what gear they were starting in...every detail I could glean. Then it was my turn. As the official was saying, "10 seconds...5, 4, 3, 2, 1,” I was silently saying a little prayer and hoping that I could pull this off. I took off without falling over, YAY ME! I stayed to the left of the white line so I could stay far from the rumble strips on the shoulder. I focused on the girl in front of me. She kept getting closer and closer. I was able to see how she took the first corner and I mimicked her. I didn't want to pass her until AFTER the corner. Then, as I overtook her at mile three, I didn't know whether to say, "On your left!" or, "I'm sorry, I am passing you!" I decided to say "on your left.” I slowed way down on the corners, but I hoped to make up for that on the straights. I passed another girl, then another, and another. Every time I passed someone, it gave me more energy. I remember looking at my Garmin a couple of times and my power not being as high as I would have liked, but I kept pushing. I finished feeling like I had nailed it. It was a good feeling.

I knew I had done well, but didn't know how well until the next morning when my friend Anne texted me to congratulate me. 22 minutes and 24 seconds. I was 1st place GC for the W40+. My time was the best in my cat!!! BUT what made me even happier, was that Mina Pizzini (I love saying her name!) had a time of 21:53, and Allison Atkinson's time was 22:05, so I had the third fastest TT time across ALL the women’s categories.  

One side note...Since I had been in the back of the pack for the first road race, no one even had me in their sights as a surprise to everyone when I showed up on the race results as first place in GC.

Stage 3 Road Race
W40+ GC podium:
Pam Downs & Michelle Lewis Sirianni Gacki

On Sunday, I woke up wishing I could drive back to Austin. I wanted to leave while I was ahead. The sky was cloudy again, and it started raining as I was loading up my car. "Not again!" I thought. I had talked with my teammate in Austin the previous night, and she told me that Shelby, her friend from Dallas, was a strong, steady wheel to follow. Just by chance, I ran into Shelby as I was leaving the square to ride to the start. She was really nice, and she was currently fourth place GC. We decided that we should stay near the front and take the first lap at a slower pace. I told her I just wanted to finish the race upright and get back to Austin. She asked if I would mind doing two laps instead of three. That really appealed to me. I didn't know you could request that.

We lined up behind the W123 again. I listened to the race official tell them that they would be doing three laps and would be riding over that metal bridge each lap. Oh man, I really hoped we could do just two laps...I'm old (53) and if I go down, I would probably break a hip. Shelby asked the race official. The official said if it was unanimous, we could shorten the race. We voted. The only woman that wanted to do three laps was the girl in third place in the W40+, the one who started before me in the TT. So the official asked a second time, "Who wants to do two laps instead of three?" Everyone but that girl raised a hand. So the official asked one more time, "Is there anyone opposed to doing two laps instead of three?" This time no one raised a hand. 

We started out and I was at the front with Shelby. I was nervous and started out fast—way faster than Shelby had intended, so she let me pull. I pulled and pulled. I knew it was stupid…all I had to do was sit in. I was WAY more comfortable at the front, though. I could take the corners the way I wanted and at the speed I was comfortable with, and I could descend without having to watch wheels or put on my brakes. At one point the whole group went around me, and I was at the back of the pack again. Then I heard a loud POP! I knew someone had blown a tire, but didn't know who. It was a bit scary as the whole group slowed and looked around to see who it was so we could avoid her. It was the girl in third place GC in W40+... I hate to say it, but I thought, "That's one less person I have to worry about," and that put Shelby in third GC.

We went over the metal bridge and through a patch of dirt road. I looked for the first opening and rode up to the front again, slowed down, and hoped someone would go around me and I could get on a wheel. That didn't happen, but Shelby came up next to me, and I told her I was nervous about the gravel. She said just ride through it like it was pavement. It would be packed from the rain, so nothing to worry about. She calmed my nerves, and the second time we went through that section I got on Shelby's wheel and rode through it like a champ. The hot spot and finish were on our second lap. I was thinking that there would be a sprint to the hot spot, but there wasn't, maybe because everyone was saving energy for the finish that was coming up. With 2K to go, Amber Smolek, the GC for the W4, and I were neck and neck. Eventually I started to get tired and she pulled away, and some others passed me too. There was a small gap between the first group and myself at the finish. I was hoping that wouldn't affect my place.

After crossing the finish line, I heard that there had been a crash. Someone hadn't held their line and wheels had touched. A girl had gone down hard. Fortunately, no broken bones...I was thankful that I had been in the front of the pack that day. 

We waited and waited for our results. For some reason they were going to give the girl that flatted the same time as the rest of us. The Red Bull guy started to take apart the podium. I don't get on the podium much, so I told him that he needed to wait until I got my picture taken. HA! And he DID!!! Then we found out that there were no trophy's for the W40+, just the W4's. So we had our pics taken with the trophies and had to give them back so the W4's could have them. That's okay. I just wanted to get back to Austin and take a shower. :)

Aeroweenie Consulting

Pam met with Jack Mott at Austin TriCyclist to go over her TT setup and gear. She already had a great frame (a BMC TM02) and wheels (ENVE carbon clinchers), so he made the following tweaks and changes:
  • Added a wheelbuilder cover to her rear wheel to make it a disc wheel
  • Switched from Michelin Pro 4s (not bad) to Continental Attack/Force (really good!)
  • Recommended 105 to 110psi air pressure
  • Swapped out the factory aerobar for one with internal cable routing and an airfoil-shaped base bar
  • Swapped out her overly large TT helmet for a properly sized LG P-09 aero helmet
  • Picked up some Zipp aero skewers
  • Suggested holding head low and looking up with the eyes, as well as riding the TT bike more during training to increase overall comfort