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Inhaling a Wasp aboard a borrowed Veloforma on the Alpenrose Velodrome.

The Elasticity of Time: The Hour

by frank / Jun 19 2013 / 90 posts

The Theory of Special Relativity states that time for a moving object passes more quickly than for a stationary object. Einstein, in deriving this theory, demonstrated great insight and creative power for which he is considered perhaps the greatest mind in human history. If he had owned a set of rollers, however, he’d be considered a common idiot for recognizing what all Cyclists inherently know: that a two-minute interval on a trainer is interminably longer than the same amount of time on the open road. Similarly, an Hour on the track is a different animal altogether when compared to an hour’s training ride.

@scaler911, @G’rilla, and I met @VeloformaMark (founder, owner, chief product designer and engineer for Veloforma) at the Alpenrose Track circa 2:00pm on Saturday, June 15 to celebrate Festum Prophetae in the best way we know how: to ride The Hour. After introductions, Mark disappeared to retrieve the 2013 Veloforma Pista Pro he was loaning me while I slipped into my Hunchback Disguise V-Kit. Mark reappeared with one of the most stunning track mocheene’s I’ve laid eyes on – and I’ve seen at least four.

As we busied about trying to get my position right, Mark explained the engineering tolerances in seatpost extension and described how far we can go beyond the “max extension” mark (don’t try this at home, people, Mark is an expert). Impressive as they are, current engineering principles don’t accomodate for 1cm of air beyond the end of the seat post in order to get enough height. Modern engineering is similarly limiting when it comes to stem extension and saddle setback. The net result of these limitations was a saddle height three centimeters not high enough, a reach four centimeters not reachy enough, and a saddle set back an undisclosed amount not set back enough.

No sweat, I’ll just V it.

I hopped on and embarked on my first two practice laps. While my track experience is limited, I’ve ridden enough tracks around the world to know my way around a banking. Alpenrose is a short, steep, bumpy concrete track. So steep, in fact, that after my first two laps, I got off and had to swallow my heart down out of my throat. For a moment, I considered abandoning the ride on account of nothing more than how terrifying the banking is – even in the lowly Sprinter’s lane. With crashing speed for the corners in the lane sitting at around 25-30 kmph, it was more than enough to discourage an easy warmup lap.

As we fiddled with my gear length, I gradually became more comfortable with the track and before long I stopped soiling my bibs every time I finished a lap. We settled on a 91 inch gear with a symbolic 14T rear cog.

As the gun went off, I settled into 24 second laps, right on schedule. Then it hit me; with the saddle too low, too far forward, and the bars a bit too close, I couldn’t really get any power into the bike to be able to maintain my speed. I struggled with my mind, my body, and my bike for what seemed like a lifetime as I tried to maintain momentum. I didn’t know if I was 5 minutes into the effort, or 15. All I heard was my split for each lap: 24.3 – 24.5 – 25.4 – 23.3 – 25.6…I soon realized that while I was advised by the various track riders in attendance to ride the waterline – the outside of the Sprinters Lane on the straights (the ride line) and cut in to the inside of the Sprinters Lane on the corners (the black line), how well I did this meant I would gain or lose a second per lap.

I contemplated stopping about every 25 seconds for the first quarter hour, not knowing how long I’d been at it. When I heard Mark holler out that I’d passed fifteen minutes, it was immediately obvious that This Could Be Done – no sweat. This was going to be nothing compared to bonking on Haleakala at the halfway point. The next 30 minutes passed as I focussed on my line; the only thing I was aware of was my constantly slowing pace and my inability to do much about it. I wasn’t particularly tired, and wasn’t hurting aside from my aching back on account of the short position. After a few wobbly attempts, I learned how to stand up on a fixed gear in order to get some speed back into the thing. Eventually, I got into a routine of accelerating to tempo on the home stretch, and then riding out the gear as it slowed down on the remainder of the track.

Throughout, my track inexperience showed itself most plainly whenever I’d have a little lapse of concentration or a muscular twitch; the slightest mistake would send me up the banking in a disheartening speed-sapping uphill climb or down toward the Cote d’Azure and a terrifying appointment with the pavement on the apron.

For 55 minutes, this pattern developed and while my body started to show signs of the effort – like my right ass cheek burning from the force of turning left for an hour – it didn’t feel particularly long. Then came the last five minutes.

Out of the saddle to sprint, do what I can not to crash through the first two turns, then sprint on the back stretch. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. A lifetime later, it was four minutes to go.

Sprint. Turn. Sprint. Turn. Sprint. Turn. Sprint. Turn. Sprint. Turn. Sprint. Turn.

Three minutes.

Sprint. Turn. Sprint. Turn. Sprint. Turn. Sprint. Turn. Sprint. Turn. Sprint. Turn.

Two minutes.

Sprint. Turn. Sprint. Turn. Sprint. Turn. Sprint. Turn. Sprint. Turn. Sprint. Turn. Sprint. Turn.

One minute.

Sprint. Turn. Sprint. Turn. Sprint. Turn. Sprint. Turn. Sprint. Turn. Sprint. Turn. Sprint. Turn. Sprint.

Ten more seconds.

Sprint some more. I couldn’t hear and had no idea how far I could go in 10 seconds. So I sprinted some more until I couldn’t sprint anymore and assumed I’d gone at least 10 more seconds, keeping in mind the slower clock of the stationary timers in @Scaler911 and @VeloformaMark’s hands.

Of the Hour I spent on the bike, the first 15 minutes were psychologically the hardest, and seemed interminable. When it came to the last V minutes, they seemed as long as the entire 55 minutes that came before it. Eistein should have been a Cyclist.

I thought the Hour would be a one-time affair, that I’d never try it again. I like to be proven wrong at least once a day, otherwise I’m not trying hard enough. @VeloformaMark is going to build me a custom seat post and stem to get my position perfect, and I’ll be back next Festum Prophetae to try again. In the end, I rode 139.25 laps at an unofficial distance of 37,317m. Next year I’ll come out a few days early, get the position dialed in, do a few good training blocks on the track prior, and have official timing equipment so the lads can heckle rather than be bothered with tapping the lap counter on their phones. I might even shoot for 42km or 43km. Just to be proven wrong again.

Special thanks to the community for voting on my time like you did; it’s a nice feeling disappointing a group rather than just myself for a change. Thanks to @VeloformaMark for loaning me a bike for the effort, for hanging out and helping with the timing, and for proactively starting to design gear for next year’s ride. Thanks to @Scaler911 and @G’rilla for supporting and helping in the recovery session afterwards – and thanks to @MrsScaler911 for her hospitality. Finally, thanks to PeepCode for loaning camera equipment, live streaming, and doing the editing of the video.

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