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4 Days Down in the Tour d’Afrique

First 4 days of Tour d’Afrique are over and its been more about becoming accustomed to the daily routine than anything else. I have already gained a great appreciation for toilets and showers. Cleaning up with baby wipes isn’t too bad. Washing up in the red sea was a bit chilly(before the military arrived telling everyone to get out of the water). A hot shower today made my day. I have been freezing since I arrived in Africa.

The day is very simple. Awake, eat, bike to lunch fairly easily, bike hard to the finish, set up tent, eat some soup, lay around, eat dinner, and off to bed often at 6 or 7 pm.

The racing has been fast. A large group usually to the lunch break than the pace picks up and the group gets whittled down to 4-6 riders. Always 2 Egyptian riders who are quite strong and using this first week with us to prepare for the Tour of Egypt.

Nearly everyday there has been some sort of disagreement about where we can set up camp.

Jet-lagged and approaching Cairo

I’m a few hours from landing in Cairo for the what I hope will be one of my greatest adventures. Nervous would be an understatement. Ive biked far and long, probably further than most anybody you’ve met. Ive biked further than most people have driven a car in one stretch. I’m not nervous about biking 7300 miles. I am nervous about giving up everything I know and the many possibilities of what can happen. No home, no job, no beers at the regular haunts or workouts with friends, no more of my routine that I’ve practiced and honed over the last 5 years. I say 5 years, because that is when I last shook things up by doing Race Across America.

Why am I going to Africa? That’s a tough one to completely determine. Part Raiders of the Lost Ark fantasy, part adventure in one of the last places not consumed by corporate chains and parking lots. Its because I don’t know much about it and it intimidates. It’s the scale of it. Bring on the longer, steeper, more extreme races.

Biking & Rocking for World Bicycle Relief

Tour d'Afrique Route

Tour d'Afrique Route - 7281 miles, 10 Countries, 120 days


“Chicago Ultra Endurance Athlete to Conquer Two Continents and Ten Thousand Miles. And Cal’s Bar.”

Date: Dec 10 9:00 pm add to calendar
Location: Cal’s Bar – Corner of Wells and Van Buren – Google Map

Bryce Walsh, a Chicago-based endurance athlete and coach, is set to compete in the world’s longest bicycle race – Cairo to Cape Town in the Tour d’Afrique – then follow it with the Tour Divide: the world’s longest mountain bike race, self-supported from Canada to the Mexican border along the Continental Divide.

2 continents, 10,000 miles, and a great night of music at Cal’s in support of World Bicycle Relief (www.worldbicyclerelief.org), a 501c-3 organization bringing the power of bicycles to students, healthcare workers, and entrepreneurs in rural Africa.

Along with surprise special guests, the evening’s entertainment includes:

  • LOINS – Collaboration of members of Penthouse Sweets and Dodge City Getouts – preview music
  • Tea and Sympathy – The band Bryce played with for 10+ years – buy/preview music
  • “Tea and Sympathy is one of the best live bands to come out of Minneapolis,”beautifully messed up and mesmerizing”. Jim Meyer, Star Tribune

$10 donation at the door earns you admission plus 10 tickets for the evening’s raffle. Every additional dollar you donate at the door earns you another raffle ticket.

Raffle prizes generously sponsored by Cal’s Bar, Infinit Nutrition, and Vision Quest Coaching include (among others):

Tour Divide Route

Tour Divide Route - 2745 miles, touches 3 countries, days unknown - current record 17 days 21 hours 10 minutes

  • 1 taste of VQ class (value $165) – more info …
  • 1 performance test with Robbie Ventura (value $300) – more info …
  • Set of cycling training DVDs by former US Postal Service pro rider, Tour de France commentator and professional coach Robbie Ventura (value $250) – more info …
  • Infinit Nog Recovery Drink – more info …
  • Infinit MUD – more info …
  • and more

If you can’t make it on 12/10 but still want to get in on the raffle and support WBR, please donate here:
http://action.worldbicyclerelief.org/page/outreach/view/individual/brycewalsh

Chainlink Event Page: http://www.thechainlink.org/events/walsh-biking-and-rocking-for-world-bicycle-relief

Facebook Event Page: http://www.facebook.com/events/252156651505801/

More about the Tour d’Afrique: www.tourdafrique.com

More about the Tour Divide: www.tourdivide.org

More about World Bicycle Relief: www.worldbicyclerelief.org

Litespeed C1R in 3D Series: Field Notes with Bryce Walsh – One Man, One Bike

Second entry in the series on the Litespeed blog on why I’m using the Litespeed C1R this year for all my races in 2011 from Race Across Oregon to Paris-Brest-Paris :

One Man, One Bike

Ultracyclist Bryce Walsh recently went from training and racing with two bikes—an Independent Fabrication XS and a Cervelo P3C—based on the terrain and type of race to exclusively using a new Litespeed Archon C1R. The transition has made him quite content so far. “Litespeed has been so good for this season,” Bryce says. “The Litespeed gives me aerodynamics, but I don’t feel like I’m bouncing around and getting beat up as bad. I’m getting the best of both worlds.” Read more at the Litespeed Blog

Calvin’s Challenge 2011 – Or how I learned to love Ohio

This post originally appeared on John Foote’s excellent ultraracenews.wordpress.com.

Bryce Walsh - 2011 Calvin's Challenge ©UltraRacePics

Bryce Walsh - 2011 Calvin's Challenge ©UltraRacePics

I’ll start by saying I hate this race. Its really well organized. The people are very friendly. I even like where I stay(though its a secret, since I don’t want it to get booked up each year). No I hate this race because something always happens that makes me walk away feeling like I didn’t get as much out of myself as I should. Its been various things over the years: flat tires, mechanicals, poorly timed bio breaks, bonking, and just plain being stupid or overconfident.

This year I entered with some hesitation. Waiting until the last week before finally committing. A hard race fit well with my schedule for a build toward summer and Calvin’s typically is fast. Yet in the back of my mind a bit of dread about a really flat race with wind and likely rain. The weather is always perfect at Calvin’s.

The race started as it typically does at Calvin’s with a large lead pack, but even from the start the group seemed smaller. In the past the group has stayed together for 100-150 even 200 miles. Strength in numbers keeps the pace high. This year the pace was slower early on. A handful of riders would put in hard pulls. Kurt Searvogel would take a turn at the front and turn the screws a bit, but overall the tempo was restrained.

The lead group divided pretty early on. From 60-100 miles the lead pack was whittled down to seven. 2 recumbents, 1 HPV, and 4 diamond frame bikes. Each time Bill Hannon in his HPV went to the front more and more of the group fell off. Eventually he had rode us all off his wheel. For the next 40 miles I spent a large amount of time tucked as low as possible next to John Schlitter and his Bacchetta recumbent to gain some shelter from the wind and recover from Bill’s pace. I was the last of the diamond frames.

I held onto John for as long as possible. Hoping to make it to the halfway point of the last 50 mile loop to utilize whatever draft I could get, but at 160 miles the elastic snapped and I was on my own for the next 50 miles solo. Fighting the wind at what seemed like a painfully slow speed. I figured I’d have company eventually but it never came until I was 2 loops into the short 7mile loop when Kurt Searvogel caught up with me. Kurt has been really strong this year so I did my best to stick with him for the remainder of the race. It made those last laps much more fun.

251 miles in 12 hours. Not by highest mileage at Calvin’s, but I’m very happy with it for this day. Special thanks to my crew of one, Shifra for the support and spending another weekend on the road. Thanks to Litespeed. My new Litespeed C1R is just plain fast. Its going to be a fun season.

Official Results

Hill Country 600 2011 – The Return To Texas

I have now raced the 24 Hours of Sebring 3 times. I use it as a motivational tool to keep myself in shape over the winter months. I never have great endurance at it, since its just too damn cold in IL to get meaningful long rides that early in the year and my sanity only allows so many 12 hour computrainer sessions. Yes, I really ride a computrainer for 12 hours at a stretch.

Hill Country Crew

An exhausted crew and rider

This year I decided to switch it up and return to my RAAM training grounds in the Hill Country of Texas for a new(ish) race, The Hill Country 600. I have great memories of spending a winter in Austin TX to prepare for RAAM in 2006. It was a concentrated period where all I did was ride my bike, hit the gym, eat, and sleep.

There was a small field registered, but it was a strong one. Marko Baloh, Chris Ragsdale, Kurt Searvogel, Thomas Lavallee, and Valerio Zamboni all in, many using this race as prep for RAAM or starting busy race schedules around the world. It was gonna be competitive.

The race started easy with parade start out of town. A brief bio break than the race began with Kurt jumping out front with quite a pace. There were numerous position changes over the next few miles, until Marko and Chris sailed away on the other side of a red light from Kurt and I. I never saw them again until the awards.

Kurt and I went back and forth over the course of maybe 70-80 miles, before he pulled away from me on a climb. I checked with my power meter at this point thinking maybe I just didn’t have it today, but the numbers were high. Later at 11 hours in I was averaging 20 mph. I was happy with that on this hilly course. However I needed a bit more with this field. I was squarely in fourth at that point.

In these long races it is very much a mental test to keep pushing, especially when the race is pretty well settled. As recent as last year, I was able to catch a race leader after a very long day thinking he was too strong and had too great a lead. I think it is one of the defining characteristics of ultracycling. The races are so long that major changes of fortune are possible.

Unfortunately that was not the case in this one, though I did have Thomas Lavallee breathing down my neck when I became complacent for a moment.

In the end 23 hours to race 375 miles. Off my goal time of 20 hours, but still a great race for the early season. Big thanks to Shifra and Carmichael for taking care of me, couldn’t do it without the support of a great crew. I loved the course and hope to do it again.

Official Results

Fight For Air Climb at Presidential Towers

I entered my 3rd Stair Climb. The Fight For Air Climb at Presidential Towers. This one was a bit different. 4 towers, sprint between the towers, but elevator time is not included in you race time. Each tower was 47 stories, so it was an all out effort on each followed by trying to recover as much as possible. Sprint to the next one and do it again while hopefully not running over a confused resident or interrupting a snuck cigarette in the stairwell.

Once again following my no stair climb specific training plan. Not even any runs for this one as I was coming off my first ultracycling race of the year the weekend before. It seems to work for me though. Stair climbing one week after a long cycling race is a recurring habit. I climbed the Hancock Tower after racing a 24 hour race and had a good climb. This time I raced the Hill Country 600 in Texas the weekend before.

Intensity on this one is much higher. It took 4-5.5 minutes for me to do a tower, so I’d sprint up, spend a few minutes coughing at the top floor, take the elevator down, wait for my heart rate to drop to a reasonable level than try again. I thought the rest breaks would make it easier, but they made the intensity higher as well as providing time to consider the impending pain.

Overall, went pretty well. 9th place overall on this one. Now its back to bike racing

Mt Washington Hill Climb 2010

7.6 miles with a record time of just under 50 minutes. Sign me up.Finish of Mt Washington

I’m a sucker for the excessive race. Long distance, extreme conditions, long duration, or in this case extreme grades. I usually fare pretty well on climbs, considering I’m a mid-westerner. I need some improvement descending as I learned a couple years ago in Race Across The Alps. I was passed while doing nearly 50 on a descent like I was standing still. So what to do? I found a race where all I do is climb to the top and never get to bike down.

Tom Danielson climbed it in 49:42, 9.1 mph average speed in 2002.

The week before the race I finally started glancing at some of the forums about the equipment choices riders were using and realized I had to make some last minute changes. I had assumed it wouldn’t be any tougher than some of the tougher climbs I’ve done in the past. After reading about many using mountain bike gearing and leaving brakes off to save weight, I had Carmichael at Cycle Bike Shop setup my bike with a 34 on the rear and locked out the front chain ring on the 34.

Mt Washington - The Final 50 MetersGetting to Mt Washington is a bit of a journey, but beautiful. The race organization was well done. The race starts in waves based on age group. Being a newbie I raced off at the start quickly to realize a steady effort is a better plan, but it sure was nice to have open road rather than swerving around others. These grades are tough. Barely a moment to take a breather. I used my 3 easiest gears and often reached for another.It wasnt unusual to see riders carrying their bikes up the hill since it is so hard to get back on.

The last corner appears to be a wall, just when you think you’re done the road tips up to 22%. In this last stretch a number of riders just fell over on their side. It took me 1:18:38.

Official Results

New Bike Sponsor – Litespeed

I am excited to announce my new bike sponsor for 2011, Litespeed. Ill be riding their new C1R. Litespeed bikes have been a favorite of ultra racers over the years. In 2010 Litespeed released their first series of carbon frames. The 2011 C1R is the next step. Lighter by 100 grams, nanotube carbon construction, and mean looking. My old ride took me across the US, France and over the Alps. Im hoping for even more extreme adventures on this one. More to come as I build this machine for the coming season.

2011 Litespeed C1R