Saturday, December 13, 2008

Creating DVDs for NCVC Awards Fete

Every year (for the past 3-4 years), I get tapped to produce DVDs that will be used to project images on the walls or in big screens at NCVC's annual awards banquet.  It's a nice movie folks can watch as they nosh and socialize.  Each year, it's the same pattern -- I forget how to produce DVDs (because I only do it once each year and technology changes).  This blog entry is a scratch pad for what I did in 2008 so I can re-use my method next year, and have a little less stress.  (My work is really intense now and comes home with me, so I don't have much soft time to do hobby and charitable work.)  The pattern described below is related to the photo processing workflow described here.

First:  Go into Aperture (photo workflow management application).  Select all 2008 images rated 3 or higher.  Establish keyword "NCVC 2008" (or such) (shift-H to bring-up keyword HUD).  Second, go through all selected photos and mark those with the keyword that you want to show at the banquet.  If there are not enough selected quality images, set rating filter to 2 and above.  In 2008, this selection process garnered 600+ images.  (Took 2-3 hours, aided by fine merlot.)

Second: Select all images with keyword "NCVC 2008" or such.  Export image versions (JPGs) at full resolution to a new disk drive folder.  (Took about 10 minutes on Mac Pro.)

Third: Launch Macintosh iDVD application.  Select "File/Magic iDVD" (create).  Choose a theme.  (I like "Reflective Black.")  With Mac Finder, select folder of images exported from Aperture and drag photos onto movie, into box labeled "Drop Photos Here:".  Enter DVD title, click the "Create Project" icon/link, and hit save after the project initializes.  (Do saves often during this work.)  (Took about 20 minutes on Mac Pro.)

Fourth:  Refine the DVD.  In tree view of the DVD content, drag the slide show (pictures that were imported) onto the top icon so that the DVD will autoplay the slideshow when inserted into a DVD player.  Double click on the slideshow to view discrete images, and delete or re-order images, as desired.  I did my first run DVD with projection ratio at 16:9 letter box TV format.  On review, I went to 4:3, standard TV format (for whatever reason, seemed to look better on my  big screen HDTV). Don't forget to turn on looping mode so the DVDs will run continuously.  (I forgot, and had to re-burn DVDs a third time ...)  With iDVD, you can also add music and all sorts of stuff.  (I didn't.)

Fifth:  Burn the DVD.  When everything looks good, select "File/Burn DVD" ... insert a DVD (DVD-R is the format I used).  Burning the initial DVD requires about 20 minutes on the Mac Pro (used to take about 45 minutes on my entry-level MacBook).  Subsequent DVDs can be burned in 2-4 minutes, each.  Put the DVD in a DVD player to test, to make sure it came out right.  If not, go back in the process.

You're done.  Hopefully I'll be able to find these notes in 2009 and life will be good, our economy will be robust, banks will stop failing, car makers will be lean and competitive, Santa Claus will come down the chimney ...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Ed Sander Memorial Cyclocross

September 28, 2008 -- Ed Sander Memorial Cyclocross, Lilypons Water Gardens, near Barnesville, Maryland.  Summer's over.  It gets dark about 6 PM.  Cross season is a pleasant delimiter, mellow and fun for spectators and difficult for competitors. Taking pictures is easier because cyclists are moving more slowly than in a road race or criterium  -- e.g., they're struggling to climb out of a muddy gully.

Photography was good today; light was mixed cloudy, rain and sunny, like the tropics.  Very interesting.   Lots of kids.  Worked mostly at ISO 400 and 1/1000 or 1/1250 for action, and 1/320 for candids.  All shots with 70-200 F4L.  Finding 5D is very good with backlit images. Aperture makes managing photo uploads easy; latest version has improved color management features that I use (e.g., vibrancy).  Had pretty high keeper rate -- about 25%.  Enjoy -- Ed Sander Memorial Cyclocross images.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Tour de L'Abitibi -- Nathan's Account

Yo Team --

For those that don't know last week, July 25-29, I was racing in Val-D'Or, Canada in the Tour de l'Abitibi as a member of the North East Regional Team. The tour is a world cup junior race consisting of five days and six stages. There were 26 teams with each having 6 riders for a total field of 156 riders.  Teams came from all over the US, Canada, Europe, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand.  The competition was fierce and very unlike anything I had ever participated in the US before.  Before I report on the racing itself I just want to say thank you to everyone in the club and the community that supported me to help me progress to this level.  The race was an incredible experience, as racing in the international junior field is very aggressive, and on the whole time.

Prologue--The prologue was definitely my least favorite stage.  It was a 400m sprint.  They took your time as if it was an individual time trial, for the GC.  However you were matched with someone so it was like a drag race. The whole scene was very professional, before the prologue we took team photos and there was a team presentation for the town.  About halfway through the prologue it started pouring I was stuck going in the rain. While it is just straight it is scary.  I am pretty embarrassed about my performance.  I rode down the start ramp like a wimp, and by the bottom my opponent already had probably a bike length gap on me.  I sprinted the whole way but did miserably.  I finished in 148th.  I was a little bummed but not really as I didn't have high hopes coming into the stage and only lost a few seconds for the GC.  The winner was someone from the New Zealand national team, but two kids from the US got 2nd and 3rd...AJ Meyer and Ty Magner.

Stage 1--Stage 1 was the first road stage it was 95km.  It started in a small town called Preissac traveled 85km to Val-D'Or then completed 3x3.5km finishing circuits.  The course was pretty flat with some rolling hills in the beginning.  It was a fully enclosed caravan so we got the whole 4 lane road.  Team cars followed behind.  Also there was a helicopter following us the whole way which was pretty cool.  The whole day it looked like it would rain but luckily it held off.  The first 5km was an eye opening experience. The peloton was stretched edge to edge and was nothing but pushing, shoving, and yelling in different languages.  I was pretty scared and figured I wouldn't see the front of the race all week.  After a bit though I figured it out, and was more aggressive.  I was able to work my way into the front, where it was still a big fight, but you could at least be in the action.  A break went with New Zealand, Australia, France, and US national so I jumped across.  We rolled for a while, but I was mostly just sitting on with the big national teams represented.  Over a KOM sprint I got 4th but the points unfortunately only went 3 deep I think.  Once it came back together I tried to just sit in but stay up front.  The whole group was very jittery and there were a lot of crashes throughout the day.  With like 30km I focused on staying tucked in and getting ready for the circuits.  Then with about 20km to go there was an 18wheeler pulled partway onto the road, the racing was so aggressive people wouldn't even make a spot for that.  4 riders up and the pileup started I went straight into it and got hit from behind and flipped over.  I didn't feel hurt so I got up as fast as possible and began to jump on my bike.  I had a broken spoke though.  The whole caravan was jammed up so I had to run backwards for about 1min to get to my team car.  Once I got the wheel change and got going the race was way up the road.  It was so far up the whole caravan took off so I couldn't use the cars at all.  That was basically the writing on the wall.  I ended up getting stopped at the entrance to the circuits.  I made the time cut losing 13 minutes, which put a pretty good stopper on any of my GC hopes.  But I learned it is dangerous on the edge, the roads are bad and you can easily get pushed out.  We had 2 riders finish at the same time as the field.  A French National rider won the bunch sprint.  Iggy Silva of the US National team finished 3rd. The race was very fast we avg 

45kph.  I finished the day 130th on GC despite losing so much time.

Stage 2--Stage 2 was 90km.  It started in the town of St. Mathieu traveling 80km to Val-D'Or where we completed 3 of the same finishing circuits from the previous day.  Again the course started rolly getting very flat and open towards Val-D'Or.  The peloton was much smoother and than stage 1 but still very aggressive.  It started very fast with I think 3 sprints/kom in the first 15km.  At one point the whole Australia national team went to the front and for about 15min it was single file in the hard!  Once the pace came off I countered a move by the US national team.  The group let me open a bit of a gap.  I just TT'd it a bit hoping someone would come up. A few minutes later a French and Ukraine national guy came up.  We started to ride well together.  My dad later told me that they announced over race radio we opened up a gap of 30s...i was hoping we might roll away for a bit. Then Charlie Avis of the US Nat'l team bridged and was pretty content to do no work.  So then everyone else stopped working and we were swallowed back up.  I was pretty pissed that some big US nat'l guy came up and did nothing but whatever.  The rest of the race was fairly hard but I just tried to sit on.  At one point with about 40km to go a huge crash happened right in front of me and I narrowly missed it.  I was able to sprint onto the tailend of the group as there had been a big split.  When I went up through the group there were only 2 of my teammates left.  I went to the tailend and saw my teammate Kevin Gottlieb (races locally for Coppi) struggling in the caravan about 100m back...i dropped back and brought him up.  When we hit the finishing circuits the pace skyrocketed.  I was hurting pretty bad.  It is a technical circuit with one painful hill each lap.  On the last lap I got popped up the hill and finished a bit off the group.  But we had 2 finish same time so that was good.  I probably burnt a few too many unnecessary matches, but was learning.  2 French national riders broke away in the circuits to win with a 14 second gap.  Again a fast day close to 30mph speed.  I moved up to 116th on GC despite all the time lost yesterday.

Stage 3--Stage 3 was the famous mineshaft TT in Val-D'Or.  You start 800m down a mineshaft and have a painful climb out.  Then go out on the course, totaling 15km.  It is a technical TT though with lots of turns.  The warmup is very odd.  They take your bikes down the shaft the night before, so you have just 5min on an exercise bike then 5min on your bike on a trainer.  I thought I would do decently.  It was very hard, wet when I wet.  I felt alright, but my legs never felt very open.  I think I might have been too conservative in some of the turns, but oh well.  My team car was very aggressive behind my beeping constantly which I think helped a lot.  In the end I finished 98th, which was definitely worse than I thought I would do but I just didn't feel too great and it is a hard field, oh well.  Charlie Avis of the US National team won the TT and is now tied for 1st on GC with a rider on the French nat'l team.

Stage 4--Stage 4 was a very tough criterium.  We did 55 laps of a 1.4km course.  The total distance was just under 50miles.  It had one painful hill in it each lap.  They stage by team GC we were 18th so were forced to stage in the back.  Right on the line there were two crashes right in front of me, and I almost just fell over to take a free lap which I will for sure do next year if the same thing happens.  It was so fast aggressive and single file, getting to the front was nearly impossible.  I felt pretty good and worked really hard to get towards the front 40 spots.  The pace never let up and I basically just left it in my 52x14 the whole time.  I was feeling pretty comfy sitting in till a bout 25 laps to go then it hit me pretty hard.  I hadn't really dranken or eaten antything it had been so FAST.  So all of a sudden I lost about 50 spots in two laps and was suffering at the back.  I ate a gel but it was too little too late.  The next lap my teammate took himself out infront of me and I was stuck with a good gap to close to the gap(second free lap I should've taken).  I had nothing and rode the rest on my own.  I ended up losing 8minutes on the day which was very dissappointing.  I was pretty bummed after the crit, but it happened and there is nothing to do about it but move on.  A rider from the Kazakhstan national team won in impressive fashion.

Stage 5--Today was the last road stage it was 97km from Amos to Val-D'Or. It went straight into Val-D'Or with no finishing circuits.  It was probably the hilliest stage of the whole race but still nothing out of the big ring. It was pretty fast but never super all out single file.  By this day I felt I had mastered riding in the group and tried to surf the sweet spot all day just getting sucked along.  Over one of the KOM's a group of about 15 including myself and my teammate Kevin split off the front, but no one really drove it so it came back together.  On the run in to town, I started to move up for the sprint, but with 

5km to go a crash happened in front of me and I had to chase back on.  I honestly didn't even know we had crossed the finish line and rolled in for 75th, my best finish of the tour.  All of us that started the stage finished same time so that was good for the team.

We finished the tour with 5 riders of 6 starters.  Kevin finished highest on the GC, at 41st, a really good ride in an incredibly hard field and race.  I learned a lot and hope to go back next year and have a good ride.

Thanks, Nathan


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tour de L'Abitibi -- Stages

My 17-year-old son, Nathan, of NCVC, Squadra Coppi's Kevin Gottleib, and four other 17-18 year old young men were selected to ride for the Northeast Regional Team at the Tour de L'Abitibi, a prestigious international (UCI-sanctioned) Juniors stage race in northwestern Quebec, Canada.  The tour consists of a Prologue and five stages over five days.  This blog describes (progressively) each stage, with some creative license.  Pictures are posted here.  Stage maps are downloadable here.

Also, see Phil Young's blog and pictures at ... Another DC-area race father, Phil's son Kevin is racing with the Borah cohort.  Nathan's account is here -- probably the most accurate telling.

Stage 0 -- Getting There ... (Tuesday, 7/22 - Friday, 7/25/2008)

The travel stage was chaotic and difficult (with some compensation).  Nate and Kevin drove to Mike Fraysse's Sports Camp in Glen Spey, New York, on Tuesday -- about a six hour drive from Washington, DC.  Former USCF President and cycling legend (from a legendary cycling family) Fraysse runs a series of cycling camps and events, including preparations and qualifications for the NE regional team, headed by Marka Wise.  Both the NE team van -- driven by Rich Foley, another team father and squad mechanic, -- and Team Director Marka's vehicles had flats during the trip north to L'Abitibi, turning a 10-12 hour drive into a 15-24+ hour ordeal.  I left DC at 2 PM on Thursday and power drove north on US 81, and across the Saint Lawrence to Ottawa (with a lengthy dinner stop in Binghamton, at Station 5 -- a place to remember, old firehouse converted to haute cuisine).  I arrived at Chateau Laurier about 2 AM, having filtered through rain and hail in Pennsylvania-New York and again really-really heavy rain in Ontario.  I cracked the mini bar for some red wine and slept like a baby.  Ottawa is an incredibly beautiful city in very bike friendly Canada.  In the morning, I rolled out of the Chateau, which sits across from Parliament on the Rideau Canal and the Ottawa River.  I did an hour or two of zone two work along river and canal bike paths, before packing-up and driving north to Val D'Or -- base for the Tour.  All was well -- the rolling hills, lakes and mountains were beautiful.  (Though less beautiful the farther north one travels in Canada.  Things get 'straggily' -- I think the biome north of Val D'Or is tundra.)  I got into Val D'Or about 5 pm, clicking over 900 miles on the trip computer.

Prologue -- 400 meter sprint (Friday, July 25)

The Tour de L'Abitibi is the junior (17-18 year old racer) equivalent of the Tour de France.  A prologue and five or more stages, with competition among about 27 international teams -- U.S. and Canadian teams, of course, but also teams from Japan, France, Kazakhstan, Australia, Dominican Republic, New Zealand and Ukraine.  It is a wonderful polyglot mix of youthful riders.  All the teams are given a classroom in the local high school, with mattresses on the floor and -- fine, fine -- cafeteria meals.  It works very well.

The Prologue was held Friday night, starting about 7:30 PM.  It consisted in a 400 meter drag race, with two riders launching in parallel off of high-incline start ramps down the cordoned center of a Val D'Or city street.  It was very cool.  Crowds packed the barricades to cheer on the riders. Only glitch was that at about 8:15 PM it started to rain -- light at first then hard.  The launch ramps and road course got pretty slimy and slippery.  One rider (French, I think) crashed pretty spectacularly, after catching his handle bar in a barrier -- he summersaulted and his bike flew across the opposing rider's lane.  He seemed okay.  All the NE team guys finished fine.  The sprint isn't a substantive event -- it lasts only about a half-minute, so the time gaps are minimal.  However, the results determine the position of the team cars in the race caravan, which is important when a rider needs to get a replacement bike or water/food during one of the three lengthy road stages.

Signing off for now.  Tomorrow it's a 95 KM road race from tiny Preissac (NNW of Val D'Or) back to the race city.  Hope it's dry and all goes well!

Stage 1 -- Road Race, Preissac - Val D'Or -- 95.4 Km -- Saturday, July 26

Wet, rainy morning.  Up at 6:00 AM.  Off to Tim Horton's (doughnut shop), then on to racer's school lodgings to be "helpful" -- clean bikes, run uniforms through laundry ... whatever.  The racers start the RR at 6 PM.  (Something about the northern latitude, I guess.  All races start pretty late in the day.)  TD Marka gave me the day off -- Rich will do most of the work today, ride in the race caravan.  Tomorrow's 91 Km race from St.-Mathieu - Val D'Or will be a workday for me.

Liberated,  I rode out in the country on various trails, some part of Route Verte, Quebec's several thousand kilometer trail network (2004 trip notes here).  Midday was pretty pleasant, partly sunny.  Some of my ridings took me along the lakes and on woodland trails -- a nice break.  The wind picked-up later in the day and thunderstorms headed in.  I'm heading over (6:00 pm) to Centre Ville to have supper and catch the road race's finishing laps -- pictures if not raining or too dark.  Nathan said that if he finishes in the pack that by itself will move him up into a pretty good position (general classification -- scored by total race time).  (With the wind so strong, I think sitting in is a good strategy.  Two more road races will provide time to surge and attack towards higher GC.  One of our coaches says that winning big stage races is sometimes more a matter of what you do off the bike -- staying fresh and rested as the days advance ... we'll see; L'Abitibi is a great learning opportunity.)

Extraordinary exciting finish. 85+ hard kilometers on the road, followed by three laps on a 3.5 Km city circuit.  This city -- Val D'Or -- loves bike races.  I've never seen a more enthusiastic crowd.  Near the finish line, packed with many hundreds of folks, the noise was overwhelming -- cheering, people pounding on the barriers.  Every rider, even the lone ones and twos off the back, got thunderous cheers.  The Northeast team did great, with about three of our folks finishing in top 50.  The game was won by a breakaway of about seven, followed by several chase groups, with 50, 20 or so folks in each.  Nathan crashed with about 20 miles to go.  He said it was the most intense road race he'd been in; gripping the bars, staying steady in the front-middle of a boiling 150-rider pack, spinning out in his 14 tooth gear (about 40 mph).  At about the 20 mile-to-go point, the police had pulled over a 16-wheeler truck so the race could pass.  This squeezed the road.  Four guys went down hard, including one who slid under the (motionless) wheels and got carted away in a EMT unit.  This occurred about 15 yards in front of Nate; he went over top the downed riders, banged his legs and broke a wheel spoke.  Nate waited for the team car to get a new wheel, and rode into the finish under the time cut.  Another race tomorrow, from St.-Mathieu; similar format -- about 80 Km of road racing, followed by three laps in the town circuit.  We'll see.

Stage 2 -- St. Mathieu-Val D'Or, 91 Km road race, Sunday, July 27

I love bicycle racing -- mostly because it's good to see the kids involved and all the enthusiastic, giving senior racers, coaches and parents.  My experience has been mostly local regional races.  Good stuff.  Today's venue took it to a much higher level.  Intensive race caravan, tens of referees on motos, medical units, motorcycle photographers, helicopter shadowing, live news coverage, cheering country-folk roadside.  From St. Mathieu, the pack started the 91 Km race in a sprint, crushing 40-50 Kph.  About 2 km down the road, the pack turned hard right.  At about 5 km, the road narrowed to a single lane over a bridge under construction.  The TDs and racers were all briefed about this perilous spot: the race pack owned the full width of the highway -- two lanes plus paved shoulders, -- and needed to thin itself to less than 15 feet.  Everyone made it across the bridge without incident.   After the bridge, Nathan led a breakaway out for a couple Km, opening a 15-20 second gap.  (Race radio fed live updates of Nathan's progress.) No major GC contenders were in the 3-person break, so Nathan thought the folks would work together and the break might stick.  The USA National team sent a rider forward, not a GC contender, and he refused to work, so everyone but Nathan decided not to work, and the break was reabsorbed by the pack.  About 10 Km in, first big crash.  The whole left lane of the road was shut down as about ten riders went down, stacked up together.  Team North East riders (Josh, Kevin) reported hearing much crash language ("...Oh sh*t!..." (bang)) and dodging the mess.  Nate slammed on his brakes, cut right and then sprinted to catch back on to the pack.  A few breaks tested the front from time-to-time, but were eventually reabsorbed.  The countryside was beautiful, gold and green fields, farms, ponies, etc.  About ten minutes of rain, not too much wind, and otherwise partly sunny.  About 55 Km in, second big crash.  Really big, messy crash.  Four guys went down hard.  Our guy Austin came over top the downed riders and slammed down through his carbon-fiber top tube, cutting his bike in half.  Riding as mechanic, I leapt out of the team car, and first checked Austin's health.  He was in a lot of pain -- "lower central pain syndrome" would be a polite description.  I called medics and three were on scene.  I assumed Austin was out, so I packed his two part bike in the team car and summoned transport to take him to Val D'Or.  TD Marka asked Austin if he could ride (after the inspecting medics pronounced him "not pleasant but not bad" in broken English). Austin said "yes."  So I pulled a spare bike off the roof and spun on Austin's pedals, got him on  the bike and sprinted/pushed him back down the road.  We cheered Austin's courage, counseling him that he'd make the time cut if he worked hard.  Attending Austin cost about 15 minutes, so Marka and I were way off the back of the caravan.  We drove into Val D'Or passing various stragglers -- crash survivors, folks who flatted, burnt ones.

The road race finishes with three, 3.5 Km circuits about Val D'Or.  The French nationals -- two guys from the squad -- were at the front, followed by the pack.  We were excited to see NE's Kevin Gottlieb and Josh in the pack, with Nathan just little off the back.  Connor, a strong NE 18 year-old flatted on the penultimate lap, and Kyle Foley came in a later chase group.  Courageous Austin came in a qualifying finish.  A pretty cool, exciting day.  My sense is the team moved up in GC -- we were placed 15th of 27 teams at the day's start.  Results will be posted about midnight at the school.

Back at the race hotel -- the high school classroom -- soigneurs (me and Rich) tended the wounded (ice packs, saline wash, betadyne, etc.) and helped ready bikes for tomorrow morning's mining cave time trial and evening 77 km criterium -- a very long race for the Rouyn-Noranda city crit.  The squad is doing well by Marka's leadership and soigneur-ship.  Everyone is working hard, resting sensibly and learning.

Stages 3 and 4 -- 14.5 Km Time Trial (about 8 AM - 1 PM), Val D'Or, and 77 Km Criterium, 7 PM, Rouyn-Noranda, Monday, July 28

Up early.  Rainy morning.  My last day in L'Abitibi.   Individual time trial this morning starts 800 meters down an iron ore mining cave (now a tourist attraction), somewhat dark and sketchy.  Even though riders will be racing uphill (one at a time), word is, they can't stand in their pedals so as not to hit heads on mine ceiling.  (I worry about our tall riders, some about 6' 2".)  After hitting daylight, riders cruise about 7 Km through Val D'Or, past a vast open gravel pit, then they come back the same way to finish outside the iron mine.  Time trial, the race of truth.  We'll see.

Evening (7 PM) brings us to Rouyn-Noranda for a 77 KM criterium around seven city blocks.  This (about 50 miles) is a pretty long distance for a crit.  Winners will probably take it in about two hours.  After the crit, I'll start driving south to make it home.  Will probably overnight in Mont Tremblant or Montreal, then power drive to DC Tuesday.  I'll miss Tuesday's 97 Km road race from Amos to Val D'Or, the last stage.  Nathan and Kevin should arrive back in DC about Thursday.

Off to the school to soigneur.

From Rouyn-Noranda:  Morning TT was good for Northeast team.  Riders started in reverse GC order.  Crash-afflicted Austin launched at 8:04 AM and Nathan launched about 9:00 AM, followed  by Kyle, Connor, Josh and our top GC contender Kevin at about 12:34 PM.  The guys found the 800 meter climb out of the mine challenging, dark and steep.  After picking-up regular roads at about 2 Km, lead motorcycles for each rider and a team follow vehicle (carrying wheels) launched to package the rider.  I drove team follow behind Austin, Kyle and Josh; Rich followed Nathan, Connor and Kevin.  While there were no incidents of the road (save some edgy turns hitting gravel), a couple folks had mechanicals in the mine -- Nate's wheel flatted while on the warm-up trainer; he got a fresh wheel from neutral support before his start.  A couple racers had gear slips.

The road section ran about 10 city street blocks, then south a Km on the airport road, right up past the gravel mine (the only hill on the road section) for about 2 Km, right into a residential section, around a couple residential blocks to reverse direction, then back to the starting area (short of the mine) -- 14.5 Km total.  Rich reported Nathan rode very strongly; I watched him sprint into the finish, throwing his bike left and right.  Pretty cool.  I followed Josh and was amazed how quickly he made it through corners, taking a wide arc and pedaling strong.  Josh only hit one or two sketches of gravel over his aggressive lines.  The team will see the results tonight.

(A side anecdote, my relative, Larry Warbasse, riding for the US National team, missed a turn, retraced, and still finished with the seventh fasted time.  That's a powerful young man to watch.)

Blogging from PizzaDelici in Rouyn-Noranda:  Good WiFi (and good pizza).  Weather is sunny and pleasant.  Crit course is around 7 city blocks, with a tough hill -- steeper but shorter than the Fitchburg circuit hill; rough downhill corner to unload.  55 1.4 Km laps.  Crit starts in two hours at 7 pm; should conclude about 8:45 pm.  If not called heavily to soigneur, I'll pull the camera out.  Maybe some Kodak moments.

Blogging from Scranton, PA (didn't quite make it home in one day):  As predicted, last night's crit was major intensive.  The French team (and to a lesser extent the Ukranians) are at a totally different level than the other teams -- including good old Northeast Regional. The lithe French riders would run off the front, turn on their seats to survey the pack, and whistle signals back to teammates to coordinate some action.  Even at 30 or more laps, they seemed to do this without effort.  On the other hand, it was a very tough crit for most everybody else.  NE's Kevin Gottleib, Connor and Josh muscled the whole race.  I think Kevin finished top 30, which is performing at the highest level in U19 international cycling.  Congratulations, Kevin! Nathan confided that he felt tired before the start; nonetheless, he rode with great heart and stayed in the pack through about 30 laps, before slipping back and getting reabsorbed (a lap down) several laps latter.  Basically, same situation for Kyle.  Kyle and Nathan, as programmed by the race bible, were pulled (removed) with five laps to go, and awarded deprecated times.  Austin, Sunday's bike-buster, rode the 58 Cm spare Fuji generously donated by Mike Fraysse.  Charging up the hill, he pushed too hard, dropped out of the pedal and crashed to the pavement.  The first 45 minutes of the race, I took pictures while Rich tended pit.  The balance of the race and awhile after, I performed medic duty.  Saline wash, betadyne (iodine), and Tegaderm on Austin's top shoulder, scapula, and lower flank.  A couple 1 Mm deep avulsions on the elbow (wash, iodine, Neosporin, special wrap).  Advil.  His pain dropped from 4-5/10 to 1-2/10 in 30 minutes.  Due to the crash (stage non-completion), Austin will sit out the final road race.  I hit the road from Rouyn-Noranda about 9:30 PM, dropped bikes at the school at 11 PM, and headed south.  The team members and Marka attended a great banquet put on by "the wonderful ladies of Rouyn-Noranda" -- getting back to the school about 1 AM.  I drove and drove (with cat-nap breaks), making it to Scranton about 6 PM.  Into work (DC) tomorrow morning.

Stage 5 --  Amos to Val D'Or, 97 Km, Tuesday, July 29, 3 PM 

Longest stage and final stage, starting at 3 PM.  I was coming through Albany when the race started.  Another reportier will have to fill in.  (Read Nathan's account.)

Lessons-Learned:  A lot of lessons.  A few are:
  1. This is a heck of a great race, very difficult, unlike any event I've seen in the U.S. (including USCF Nationals).  I think it's a must do for any serious aspiring U19.
  2. Participation requires an immense amount of work by the support crew -- team director, mechanic, soigneur/bike-washer/etc. -- behind the scenes and actively at races, in race cars etc.  Marka did an incredible job enabling this opportunity for the NE team, as did Mike Fraysse in the training and recruitment preceding team formation.  We could have used another soigneur or two to help with all the stuff, track splits, etc.
  3. What you do off the bike for a big stage race is important.  A night off the reservation -- grabbing drinks in the local bar, carousing and missing sleep -- can disable a racer and his team.  NE had no problems in this area.
  4. The intensity of the races is additive, every day (sometimes twice a day), the racers push their bodies to the limit.  Good warm-up, nutrition and recovery are essential.  We have exercise physiologists and coaches in our cohort who can weigh in with better authority.
  5. Teamwork matters -- a lot.  Several events in the races pointed to the importance of teammates working together -- for example, Northeast riders would drop back to assist burnt teammates and bring them back to the pack; teammates protected one another as crashes exploded; folks blocked when a teammate broke away.  Normal stuff, but not that familiar to the (small) club racing most US juniors encounter.
Many thanks.  Corrections, additions, pictures etc., doubtless forthcoming.  Results are published here (some hunting required).

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

CSC Invitational

The CSC Invitational, organized by Rob Laybourn's Arlington Sports, has gained marquee status.  Every year, it grows larger, attracting higher levels of competition and talent.  In 2008, there were world champions, Paris-Roubaix champions, Olympians, top amateurs, teams that will compete in the Tour de France and Giro d'Italia.  World press.  A great show.  Laybourn almost singlehandedly has made Arlington a world-class cycling venue.

At the June 1 races, weather was great for picture taking, cycling and sunburn. Took about 2,000 images and published a few hundred to the web -- one collection for the amateur, women's pro and kid races, and another for the 100 Km men's pro race.  Shooting was pretty good.  I experimented a bit with manual focus and got some nice split-second shots of racers cutting a corner quite close.  Most shots were about F8, 1/1250 and ISO 400 or 800.  Crowd candids about 1/320.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Bike Jam

The kids and adult racers at Saturday's Bike Jam were incredible.  I shot about 1,700 images, and posted a few hundred to the web.  Light was fine -- bright, sunny and contrasty.  I pushed ISO to 800 for the later races, which gave good depth (e.g., F8+ @ 1/1250).  The Canon 5D handles high ISO very well; it's tough to see different image quality from ISO 400 to 800.

My friend and favorite bike photographer -- il miglior fabbro -- Kevin Dillard was at the Jam, so we coughed-it-up a bit.  I did a number of shots of photographers at the race.  I think these guys and gals are sometimes the odd appendages that really inform us about what is going on.  Not unusual for a 75-degree sunny day athletic event, there were a lot of gorgeous folks about.  And some canines.  So you'll find them in the mix of spandex and sweat.  Also, some blue sky American flag images.  Memorial Day weekend 2008.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Can-Am U19 Challenge

The Can-Am U19 Challenge (organized by Skylands Cycling) is consistently the best all-around  junior bicycling race on the East coast.  2008 marked NCVC Juniors' fourth consecutive year at Can-Am.  We brought seven young men to the three event omnium -- an uphill mountain time trial, a ballpark criterium, and a fairgrounds circuit race.  All very beautiful venues -- and, for once in quite a few races this season, the weather was perfect.  A little rain closed Sunday's circuit event, but that was good against lofty expectations.  The guys did great -- several podiums, and a team trophy.  My 17 year-old pushed to a mid-race tie for first place overall (GC -- general classification), but was marked, blocked and faded to a very respectable top-ten GC result.  His powerful teammate grabbed GC 2nd in the 17-18 year class.  Next year, when both boys will be racing age 18, is quite promising.  Same story for our 15 year-old hot shots.

The photography was pretty good.  950 images; posted 210+ to website.  (Satisfactory yield was pretty high -- near 40% -- but didn't post many shots with folks I didn't know.)

Stuck ISO at 800 except for in the best light where I shot 400.  This let me work at 1/1250 and F8 +/- ... The cycling photography sweet spot for the 70-200 F4L seems to be F8 -- sharp and reasonable depth for the action.  Bicycling seems to require about 1/1250 if you're not panning.  I adjusted ISO to be near this sweet spot for action ... crowd/candid stuff generally gets about 1/320 ... higher if I want more bokeh.  Got a couple nice race shots at about 1/320 while panning.

Lots of kids racing bikes, a number of good crowd (and friend) shots, and a couple odd dog and bug images.  Enjoy.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Poolesville Road Race

NCVC's Poolesville Road Race is always epic: 4-to-7 ten mile laps (depending on category) on country roads, with a one mile dirt stretch along the Potomac River. The dirt is often sketchy, with gravel spots and potholes. One dirt section got about covered with water-bottles shook loose. About 100 volunteers required for the event. I worked morning shift as lead driver for the Women's Pro/1/2/3 race. In afternoon, I shot some pictures. Good light, nice contrast, ISO 400, 1/1250 shutter speed, better quality. About 60 posted to web. Take was low because about mid-afternoon I got called to EMT duty. A junior went down hard, (briefly) unconscious. I followed his care to the ER that night, where CAT scans showed normal. While paid EMT squad was busy with this patient, I treated others at finish area. Long day.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Crashes (Tour de Ephrata)

Crashes are compelling events at bicycle races.  I'm not sure exactly why.  I'm set by personal history, a sense of pain and desire to help.  When I was seventeen, a drunk driver ran a red light and hit my car.  Bad news: bottom GCS coma score, brain surgery, left-side paralysis, much damage, long recovery.  Many folks did God-lovely things to help.

A bunch of folks crashed at the Tour de Ephrata in Lancaster County, PA.  My seventeen-year-old son chased a strong threat in the Cat 3/4 criterium:  he overcooked a 90-degree turn at about 30 mph, hit the curb, settled his bike and flew into a wall.  Lots of abrasion, deep bruises to his upper left arm and, later, pain in the clavicle/acromioclavicular area.  We swathed him.  JayDawg (who crashed Saturday) gave solace.  Monday's X-rays showed no fracture.  He'll race Poolesville Saturday.

Ephrata was the first bike race in several weekends without rain.  Saturday's road race had nasty cross winds and chalky light, but Sunday's Pain Mountain time trial and town criterium were better -- light gray sky.  1,000+ images.  More than I needed; whittled down to 170+ posted.  Shot most everything at ISO 400; sacrificed depth of field.  In retrospect, ISO 800 would have been better.

Ephrata images heremovie here.  Lots of race shots, brief crash series and some farm critters.  Though he crashed in the crit, my son finished in the money on Pain Mountain, so overall the weekend was a great success.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Carl Dolan Memorial Spring Classic

Another rainy day at the races.  Caught three events -- masters 30+/40+, Cat 3/4 and Pro 1/2/3.  346 images; pushed 70+ to web.  Started with ISO 800, then dropped to 400 when light improved. Race shots at 1/1000 second, auto aperture.  Rain limited mobility; plastic bag over camera.  Wind hit 35-45 mph during last event, cancelled due to lightning.  (Tornado reported down the road.)  A number of crashes in several races.  Not a pretty day, epic.  Changed focusing mode to more center-weighted.  This improved picture quality for action shots; the lens hunted less to focus.  Abandoned event when last race cancelled; tent ripped useless, referee and post-race pavilions flattened.

Mac Pro much faster for post processing.  About 5 times faster than MacBook.

Licensed a dozen pictures to a team's sponsor; funds donated to Ethiopia Healthcare Network.