Thursday, July 31, 2014

Product Review: Headsweats Super Duty Headband

     A growing brand, in the cycling world, Headsweats popularly provides an array of athletic headwear designed for all occasions. Headsweats began to emerge, as a recognizable force, with their witty advertisements that commonly feature Bob Roll, throughout cycling races and events. Headsweats provides products for all occasions, especially pieces that are extremely applicable for exercising.

Pros: Sweat Absorption, Comfortable Fit, Low Profile, Cleanliness
Cons: Helmet Compatibility

Sweat Absorption
     As the primary mission of Headsweats, sweat absorption must be a key component. Needless to say, their design and materials pass the test with flying colors. After using the Headsweats Super Duty Headband, on numerous occasions, I have not had the experience of sweat passing this insurmountable barrier. Although it may not be necessary on light rides, the headband is a must for extended rides and intense efforts. There is nothing worse than having to remove eye protection because of sweat streaks that disturb vision. With an inexpensive but ideal piece of equipment, Headsweats has conquered this challenge.

Comfortable Fit/Low Profile
     Design and production with an "eventure knit fabric" allows for supreme comfort. At times, the headband is not noticeable, as it blends in with the helmet construction and fit. The low profile, of the headband, increases the ability for a smooth, ideal piece of equipment, which has the consumer wanting more.

     The cleanliness, of the headband, crosses two fields. While performing its job, the appearance, of the headband, is very incognito. It will perform the task at hand, while flying under the radar. Also, the headband is extremely simple to clean. It is machine washable, which is always a positive, and it dries in a jiffy, due to its limited appearance.

Helmet Compatibility
     Unfortunately, there is seemingly always a negative with outstanding pieces of equipment, especially for the time crunched cyclist. The headband takes a couple of extra minutes to don. After proper headband alignment, it is important to fully open the helmet retention system. This allows for the helmet to fit over the headband, prior to tightening the retention system and confirming the helmet is snug. This is the only downside of the Headsweats Super Duty Headband.
     Overall, the Headsweats Super Duty Headband is a must have for cyclists that have experienced the inconvenience of having compromised vision, due to perspiration. Please find more information, about Headsweats and this product, at: Thank you for reading. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Trials and Tribulations

Friday, July 4th
     It has been a fair amount of time since I last posted from Europe. However, I am now sitting on free time and I figured that I should begin to write.
     Friday, July 4th kicked off the four day, five stage Sint Martinusprijs Stage Race, in Belgium. This particular stage race is one of the most iconic junior races for Belgium. It is known as an "Interclub" race. I am still a little fuzzy on the exact definition but it is an extremely competitive race that draws teams from all over the world. This particular one also allowed for a full race caravan. Think of ProTour races with team cars but for juniors. It was a neat experience.
     The stage for Friday was the prologue. The prologue was a short effort of just over five miles and eleven minutes. It was a brutal effort and quite the way to kick off the race. July 4th was also the day that a few lucky team members had the privilege to race USA Cycling Time Trial bikes on the fourth of July. Can you say "Patriotism"? Oh yeah. Loud and proud.

     The Saturday portion, of the race, was the first road stage. Initially, the race was complete carnage. With fresh legs, hyper-motivated international teams, and prestige, on the line, there was bound to be gutsy racing. The first crash came about five kilometers into the stage. A few teammates went down but they were able to rejoin, as the race was neutralized. The remainder of the race went off without a hitch. Crashes, brutal accelerations, and antics were becoming regular. Overall, the stage was 80 miles, 3:07:48 seconds, completed at an average speed of 25.4 miles per hour.

     With stormy weather predicted for the afternoon, Sunday was a grind. It was the first and only day with two stages.
     The morning stage consisted of the team time trial. Time trialing is a discipline that I am always excited to squash. The race against the clock is a true test of will, determination, power, and in this case, teamwork. After beginning with five riders and shedding two early on, Robert, Tom, and I were off for the races. The three of us worked well, as a unit, and my legs felt outstanding. I was propelled by the possibility of moving up in the overall standings, promoting our team sponsors, and representing America, as one of only six, in the race. Our team finished in 18th out of around 32 teams, with an average speed of 27.3 miles per hour over 11 miles. The only downside of the outing, for me, was rim rolling a tubular for the last 800 meters. That was easily the most painful part of the stage. The German National Team held positions one through five in the overall standings, after the team time trial.
     Between the morning and afternoon stages, a race caravan to Antwerp, Belgium took place. This was a chilling, once in a lifetime experience.

Caravan staging.
Taking over the highway.
     The afternoon stage started in Antwerp and traversed down to Kontich, before the finishing circuits began. Unfortunately, I never made it to the finishing circuits in Kontich. While racing from Antwerp to Kontich, the peloton was caught in an enormous storm. The driving rain and wind put the peloton on edge, as few people had brakes that worked well in the slick conditions. While making a left hand turn, my front wheel was struck by a rider that was unclipped and attempting to slow down. My wheel took care of that proposition. However, one spoke was broken and one was severely bent. This caused my wheel to go out of true and rub on my brake pad until coming to a complete stop. Down I went. With the need for a new wheel, I waited for the team car before receiving a wheel change and then a bike change. All of my problems were sorted out and it was time to chase. Bad luck would strike again, after about a fifteen minute chase that left me just meters behind peloton, when I crashed in a slick left hand turn. The superficial injuries were not horrible but my left leg seized up, during the accident. I abandoned the race and would not be racing on the fourth and final day. Sunday was a day for the hard men of cycling. The peloton split into pieces and the top German rider was now in fifth place. So much can go wrong when the weather turns for the worst.

     Monday was the final day of the four day stage race. I was "gutted" to not be racing but the team did great! Everyone who started, from our team, finished the fourth day strongly. I was able to support the team with two stellar bottle feeds, if I may say so myself. It was odd to be watching from the sidelines and I was eager for the burning sensation in my legs that would have been present had I been racing.

     Tuesday and Wednesday were the final days at "The Chainstay" for our team. We certainly went out on a high note. Both days were filled with very few events and mellow riding.

     Thursday, Friday, and Saturday was family time before splitting. We spent the day in Brussels on Thursday, before taking the Eurostar to London for Friday and Saturday. If you want to see super cars, go to London! It is a very interesting town that is buzzing with excitement but I will never forget the numerous super cars and dealers that were out in force.

     Sunday was certainly a bitter-sweet day. As I took the Eurostar train back to Brussels, the rest of my family was headed back to the United States. I cannot wait for the experiences that are ahead of me for the next month and I know that I will be in close contact with my family.
     After arriving in Brussels, Jozef Mertens was kind enough to provide me with transportation to Oudenaarde. We made a quick stop at "The Chainstay" for bicycles and luggage, before making the journey to my host family. I know that I will have a wonderful month in Belgium, with my host family. They were warm, inviting, and extremely friendly. I am having a blast here. Tom and I will have great training grounds and many more Belgian kermesses for competitions.

     Monday has been a lazy day, which is perfect. I woke up mid-morning and took off for a spectacular ride. My host family was kind enough to lend me their GPS. It has a "Surprise Me" loop feature, which calculates three optional loops, depending on the inserted time and distance. The device worked perfectly and I completed a three hour ride that included a variety of major roads, bicycle routes, dirt roads, and  cobblestones. Tomorrow will be more of the same and Tom arrives in the evening. Wednesday is our first race of the continuation!      

Taken on my Monday ride.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Mellow Days

Monday, June 30th
     A fresh week and relaxing days were upon the group of aspiring cyclists, especially after a busy weekend with two kermesse races. The plan for Monday was to visit Brugge, Belgium. However, the train workers were on strike and our plan was diminished. We saved our day by spending time in Oudenaarde. After walking around and visiting a few local bakeries, the day was cut short. It is fair to say that everyone was eager to catch up on sleep and settle back to a normal schedule.

Panos Bakery (Oudenaarde) is amazing!

     A normal morning filled with sleeping in and taking care of daily tasks was followed by a team time trial practice. The team time trial practice took place along a beautiful canal path that was extremely quiet. During our ride, we witnessed a Belgian group ride that appeared to be rather serious. Nothing like a weekday group ride going all out.
     After a morning filled with team time trial work, our afternoon consisted of visiting Brugge. Brugge is one of the more touristy Belgian cities and we took full advantage of the time that we had there. Not having a strict agenda meant that we had the freedom to wander into random side shops and down back roads for exploring. A canal tour wrapped up our Brugge adventure.
     On the way home from Brugge, our train stopped for a connection. The connection city happened to be housing the Tinkoff Saxo professional cycling team, as they were staying in Belgium to do reconnaissance on the fifth stage of Le Tour de France. We were able to speak with Sports Director Steven de Jongh, who has an impressive rider resume. He was extremely approachable, easy to speak with, and a joy to be around.
     The evening concluded with us cheering for the United States soccer team. Unfortunately, the game did not end as we would have preferred but there is always next time.

Canal tour in Brugge, Belgium.
Mechanics truck.
     More preparation for our upcoming stage race occurred on Wednesday. After looping through numerous narrow roads, which appeared to be eerily similar to the French countryside, water bottle feeding was practiced out of the team car. Everyone had a few opportunities and Michael Shein provided us with the proper technique for riding in a caravan. The final piece of our loop ended with a climb up the iconic Muur. After stopping at the Muur cafe and taking note of the breathtaking views, it was time to turn around and head home.

Views from the Muur.
A beautiful, sacred chapel.
Definitely as good as it looks...
     In the words of a cyclist: ride, eat, sleep, repeat. This sums up Thursday. Our final tuning for the stage race took place. The individual time trial is tomorrow and three of us will be racing U.S.A. branded time trial bicycles, on the fourth of July. The stage race is a total of five stages, during four days of racing. I cannot wait to get this feat underway and I will be eager to report, through another blog post, early next week.