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Thursday, May 22, 2014

First Race of the Season & First Win of the Season! 2014 Eagle Creek Fast Criterium Race Recap

If you follow me on Strava, you might have learned that at the end of the 2013 season, my Continental GP4000S tire blew up right after I made a solo attack and reached 33mph.  It sent me falling to the ground on my back and shoulder, gave me a concussion, plus strains and sprains at my neck, shoulder and abdomen.  The most dangerous aspect of my fall was that it was impossible to anticipate the tire failure.  The tread separated from the casing and caused an instant loss of traction- enough to send me to the ground despite travelling in a straight line.  Here are some pictures of my wounds.  Some of them went deep enough to reach my fat cells.  Check it out:
After 2.5 months off my bike to focus on rehabilitation, I was finally able to turn my head without my neck and shoulder going into spasms.  When I finally made it back on a bike, my legs and lungs hit the wall 15 minutes into the ride and forced me to stop.  Afterwards, my neck proceeded to go into spasms for hours due to the riding position.  
Continental never apologized or responded to my concerns about the tire.  My tire had no sidewall bubbling or cuts, and I actually checked my tire pressure with a tire gauge prior to its failure.  Despite riding on several pairs of Continental GP4000S tires for three years, I probably will never ride on them again.
Without my girlfriend of seven years, I wouldn't have survived the months healing and rehabilitating the injuries I sustained.  She patiently waited for me as I spent hours in the shower trying to tolerate the massive pain all over my body.  No one else could lighten the mood and help me laugh through the healing process.  The proof is in the pictures!  I was smiling in all of them thanks to her! :)

After riding on a defective Continental GP4000S, I decided to go tire shopping to find a better tire.  After riding on the Michelin Pro 4 for almost ten months now, including three criteriums, I can confidently say that its better than the GP4000S.  I've only had one flat which was caused by hitting a deep pothole.  I've always known the Continental GP4000S to produce flat tires from hitting decent pieces of gravel.  I remember worrying on several occasions that I would flat after hitting similar objects only to find that the Michelin Pro 4 survived without a scratch.  The grip surprised me the most about the Pro 4.  I wouldn't be surprised if an independent research company finds that the Michelin Pro 4 has better grip.  I've taken corners just as hard or harder than the Continental GP4000S this season.  I have yet to experience its limit around a corner.  I always thought that some sliding was normal in a tire until I tried the Pro 4.

As usual, I got lost trying to find the parking lot in Eagle Creek, so I ended up running late.  As a result I didn't get a chance to ride warm up or practice laps.  As soon as I received my number and had it pinned, I immediately had to line up at the start line.  Since I was also late to line-up, I had to start at the back.  I wasn't too worried since I knew we had 45 minutes to race.  Plenty of time right?

When the race started, Each lap only lasted about one minute and 44 seconds long.  I basically spent the majority of the race trying to move up to the front of the group.  It was hard trying to remain at the front due to the constant rotation of the group, and by the time we reached the final lap, I was about fourth place... from the back!

By the time we hit the bell lap, I was definitely panicking and almost accepted that I had no chance at even reaching a mid-pack finish.  That all changed about halfway down the lap.  The group hugged the inside of the road and left a moderate opening at the left.  As soon as I saw the opening, I knew that it was my last chance to reach the front, so I accelerated hard and bridged up to the front.  Once the five leaders were in sight, I noticed that I was approaching them quickly... while coasting!  Instead of coasting and slowing down to their speed, I started my sprint with an advantage and blew past the leaders.  When I crossed the finish line in first position, it didn't seem real, especially since I was almost last place by the start of the last lap!

Looking at the speed graph in the screenshot below, you'll notice three peaks.  The first acceleration was influenced by the group being aware of the last lap.  The second peak occurred when I bridged up to the front.  The last peak was the final sprint.  You'll notice that it took more speed to catch the leaders than it did to perform the final sprint!  Everything seemed to connect perfectly today!
Big thanks goes to Velocity Wheels and The Wheel Department for helping me replace my severely bent A23 Pro Build wheelset!  Your support helped motivate me to train and win the first race of the 2014 season!  Thanks guys!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Smart Core Exercise - Alligator Walk Suicides (Advanced Plank Progression)

Contrary to popular belief, the core was not designed to move the spine- it was designed to protect the spine from movement.  When the spine flexes, extends or rotates (twists), it places severe stress on the discs.  The goal of core exercise is to train the core to resist movement throughout all planes of motion and various loading patterns so that the entire body can operate as one single unit.

A Spine Biomechanics Professor, Dr. Stuart McGill was first to discover that the sit-up exercise places harmful stress on the spine.  A great article posted on Mens Health interviewed and covered several of Dr. Stuart McGill's ground breaking research on core training and its impact on the spine.  Check out the article below or do a Google search of his name to find hundreds of his studies on this topic.  After reading the article below, you'll learn that the sit-up is merely one of the many exercises that are dangerous to spine health.

An interesting study published by the National Strength and Conditioning Association studied the relationship between cycling mechanics and core stability.  The study demonstrated that a fatigued core negatively impacts the quality of each pedal stroke.  While power output was not significantly affected, the quality of each pedal stroke was compromised.  The study left me with one question: How does a fatigued core affect cycling economy and efficiency?  If a fatigued core leads to altered cycling mechanics, then it's likely that cycling economy and efficiency will be compromised, especially out of the saddle.

Now that you have a great understanding on how to train the core properly, here's an exercise that follows the recommended protocols to train the core safely- Alligator Walk Suicides.  This is one of my favorite cycling core exercises.

Due to the advanced nature of this exercise, consult a Doctor before attempting to do the Alligator Walk exercise.  Even after getting a go-ahead with a doctor, ensure that you meet the following criteria to reduce your risk of injury:
  • You can hold a stationary plank for three minutes without losing form.
    • Example: Dropping the hips, dropping the head, holding your breath (valsalva), protracting/ retracting the scapula often (shoulder instability) or failing to maintain a neutral back
  • You have no history of wrist or hand pain
Tips for Performing the Alligator Walk Suicide:
  • Walking backwards will feel almost two times harder than walking forward.  Anticipate this by taking your time backwards to focus on your form.
  • Do not slam or stop the hands into the ground.
  • Keep the shoulders and pelvis level to prevent rotation at the spine
  • BREATHE!  Do NOT hold your breath!

Why this exercise is effective:
  • Every time you lift a hand, an asymmetrical load is transferred from the single hand to the feet.  Preventing the hips from shifting or the shoulders and pelvis from tilting will require the core to stabilize.
  • The plank position will still require the transverse abdominis to fire and stabilize the lumbar spine/ low back.
  • To keep the hips and pelvis from dropping, the quadriceps and the rectus abdominis (six pack muscle) will have to work extra hard.
  • Cyclists will see big gains out of the saddle as a result of performing this exercise because it also trains the serratus anterior to endure the fatiguing effects caused by anaerobic metabolism.  Anytime you're out of the saddle or supported by your hands, the serratus will have to fire to stabilize the scapula/ shoulder.
If you want more videos showing core exercises for cyclists or simply want to leave feedback, please send me an e-mail (  I appreciate your feedback!  Good luck and enjoy!

Vincent is an ACE Certified Sports Conditioning Specialist, ACE Certified Personal Trainer and holds a Baccalaureates Degree in Kinesiology from Indiana University Bloomington.  He races criteriums competitively and resides in Carmel, IN.  For Personal Training inquiries, contact him at  Follow or subscribe at Strava, the ESTSmart Strava Club, YouTube or Twitter (@ESTrainSmart).