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Cycling Tue Dec 29 2009


Finally, winter's here. It's not a good thing or bad thing, it just is. Chicagoans are a hardy sort, despite the fact we don't seem to resign themselves quietly to four months of frigid hell like residents of Fargo might. (Yes, everyone around you is cold. Yes, it's windy. Yes, it took me 35 minutes to dig my car out of the snow, too.) This time of the year, the icy rime is here and is going to stay until those freak 60 degree days of February come along.

Life on two wheels is a little harder this time of year. Down to 20 degrees, all a cyclist needs is a good pair of tights, "lobster claw" gloves, and neoprene shoe covers. Further down the thermometer, it gets a little tricky, but it's do-able. However, there comes a point that common sense dictates that it's better to ride the trainer inside then venture out bundled head-to-toe into the icy mire, braving cutting crosswinds off the lake. Hitting a patch of black ice and smashing into the ground is a good way of having a bad day.

Dedication and perseverance to riding a bike indoors is how one wins races in the spring. If you even had a hope of contending for the podium in spring road and crit races, you would have been on the trainer two weeks ago doing base mileage on the days that riding outside didn't make much sense. Riding inside is a loner's game and can be a test of will (see paragraph 6), but there are ways of making the hurt just a little more tolerable and that's training and competing with others.

Yes, you can race indoors.

The bigger game around for pure cycling is the Athletes By Design indoor time trials. Using Computrainers (a high-tech trainer that varies resistance electronically), one "races" against other cyclists on a variety of courses. Three of the five races are open, one is an invitational, and the final, the John Fraser Memorial, is outdoors.

Winter is also the time to cross-train. Running is good, same with swimming, but at that point, one is nearly a triathlete, albeit a casual one, so it would make sense to try a tri. The MITCS (Midwest Indoor Tri Classic Series) offers a shorter-than-sprint triathlon workout of a 10 minute swim, 20 minute bike, and 15 minute run on three different dates. Naturally, the shorter the event, the harder you go.

For the antisocial types, though, an iPod loaded with Daft Punk or Discharge and DVDs of the "Classics" is enough to get one through to the spring.

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