Sunday, June 28, 2015

Game on! Velogames Tour de France JBar Minileague #25133048

In case you are not familiar with Velogames , it is a site that allows you to pick riders from the pro peloton to form a team that competes with thousands of other teams worldwide, can join minileagues in order to narrow the field and compete within your own community or circle of friends. You work with a budget of 100, and the riders all have an assigned value. Read the scoring rules if you want to gain some insight on selecting your final team. It is simple to sign up, free, and adds a new element of interest to following the Tour de France or other major races.

I have formed formed the 2015 JBar Cycling Minileague, code #25133048,  so sign in, choose your team and follow the prompts to join the league. It is very easy to go back and change your team selections right up to 1400 CET, Saturday, July 4, so you don't have to agonize over your first picks.Just get it done. I believe that cut-off  translates to 7:00AM CDT if you want procrastinate. 

Last year, we had 28 teams, with an exciting finish as Kelly Thompson edged out Team Mattox. Here is a link to one of the articles:

Some fabulous prizes were awarded to winners in various designated categories, including gift cards from Chainwwheel and Spokes , a CARVE jersey, and a couple of the exclusive JBarCycling coffee mugs.
You don't have a chance of getting one of these babies anywhere else, and it costs nothing to enter. Amazing, but true!

I made it up as I went along last year, and will be making it up some more over the next week. My goal is to spread the winning around while still awarding a good team choice. There will be also be a  DFL prize for the Lanterne Rouge,  A couple of local merchants have already agreed to help out with prizes and I'll be looking around for more. In the event that you are already in a league, you may join more than one league.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Big Dam Bridge Open

It was announced that the BDB was to re-open today, Friday, and reliable reports indicate that is is open, though work is still under way to clean the trails.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

River Trail Clean Up and Conditions Report From The North Side

The long line

Shovels glinted in the hot southern sun. Angry heat radiated . The long line of sweating bodies rhythmically scooped and threw the dirt to the side. Dust hung in the still air as thousands of hungry buffalo gnats bit and flew into eyes, ears and noses.  "The Man" stood in the shade, invisible eyes watchful behind black lensed glasses, dog nearby, eager for the chase.
No, this was not a scene from the Paul Newman classic Cool Hand Luke, but a hot Tuesday in Burns Park and the folks behind the shovels and rakes were cyclists helping in the post-flood clean up of the River Trail. "The Man" was ranger Ian Hope and Shep was hoping to get a shot at a goose or an inattentive  squirrel.

Volunteers from the cycling community pitched to help clean the Arkansas River Trail at Burns Park
Ian speaks to a TV reporter as Shep lobbies for an ear scratching.
This is how the trail looked a few days ago. City crews were able to move off most of the mud with their loaders and sweeper. Our task was to move back the dirt "curbs" that formed to allow the sweepers and blowers to more effectively operate..
Bud Laumer and Jim Britt dug some drainage cuts where the trail-side grade has been raised by the deposited silt.Bud made a good point in that the newly elevated trail-side grade could pose a danger to riders forced to veer off the trail by eliminated run-out space and may also cause drainage issues. 
Charlie Roberts of SimplexQ has a remarkable and well-known penchant for neatness, as demonstrated here by his precision raking.

Beyond the park
After a couple of hours of shoveling, I ran by the house for a quick rinse, grabbed my bike, and took advantage of my work visa to tour some more of the closed trail.In short, the area between Burns Park and the Big Dam Bridge is closed, it's a mess, and it should be avoided for the time being. Among the more annoying/maddening problems are the massive swarms of gnats. On the NLR side at this time, they seem to be one big cloud. While they are present in other areas of the trail, their density from the soccer fields to the BDB is daunting.

The gates are closed at the north end of the BDB, Cook's landing is closed, and, as of Tuesday night, no work had been done to clear the area of mud and debris.
While the trail between downtown and Burns Park is clear, some damage is apparent. The posts holding the cable along the trail west of the rock quarry have been undermined and have fallen.

Many folks suffered far worse in the recent floods than those of us here in the Little Rock area, but we will still face a long clean up. Two Rivers Park has re-opened, so riders can again make their way to the west. The rides east of town are unaffected, and there are big doin's at Camp Robinson on Saturday. There are also certain to be more opportunities to pitch in and help. Thanks to the hard working folks who have done so already.

Update on trail work from Mark Rogers of the BDB Foundation:
The second river trail clean-up day is officially on for this Saturday, June 13. We will meet at 9:00AM at the NLR side of the Big Dam Bridge. Bring shovels, rakes, wheelbarrows, and any digging and earth moving tools. We will be moving a lot soil this time. The Big Dam Bridge Foundation will be there with cold water, sports drinks, and sodas. If you use and love the Big Dam Bridge, please consider showing up and helping. Pulaski County plans on opening the gate on the NLR side of the bridge on Monday, and there is a LOT of work to be done to get the trails on the NLR side ready.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

All-A-CARP ride, trail run and cookout event, June 13th at Camp Robinson

Get yourself out to Camp Robinson for this!
 Wille sez, "The Camp Robinson CARP trails are the coolest"
The CARP and CATA crew sez, "Yeah, what Willie sez is the truth!"

From Central Arkansas Trail Alliance:

Join CATA and CARP for the inaugural All-A-CARP ride, trail run and cookout event, June 13th at Camp Robinson in North Little Rock. Come and enjoy the Camp Robinson trails, including the new Merlin's Revenge, Flatlands and By the Numbers trails, as well as some re-routed sections.

Where: Camp Robinson in North Little Rock
When: Saturday, June 13 starting at 9 a.m.
What: Trail runs and rides for all skill levels, including kids, beginners, and women-specific rides

No Camp Robinson pass? No problem!
How: Three-day ($5) and annual ($25) passes will be available on site
(kids under 16 ride/run free)

Refreshments will be available on the trail, plus a grilled lunch and beverages included for a ride fee of only $12 per person. All proceeds will be dedicated to CATA's trail maintenance and stewardship of trails in central Arkansas!

Want to get your Camp Robinson Sportsman Pass early? Here are the instructions:

Unfortunately, we have a scheduling conflict for this party in the dirt. We'll be pedaling and paddling in the Rockies, but I hope that there is a big turn out. The trail work that has taken place at Camp over the last couple of years is nothing short of amazing and even with recent rains, I'm told that conditions are great. 

The River Trail will likely still be a mess from the flooding, so air up those fat tires and get out to Camp! 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

A More Refined Ride-2nd Annual Little Rock Gran Fondo

The 2nd Annual Little Rock Gran Fondo went off without a hitch on Saturday, in spite of consistently gloomy weather forecasts and near-daily heavy rains in the preceding weeks that gave those forecasts great credibility. Overnight rain gave way to light showers which faded as the 8:00-AM start approached, and, unlike last year when riders were left standing in the rain awaiting a live TV roll-out, only to be delayed again at a nearby rail crossing, the ride started on time and the pack rode smoothly out of town.

Riders await the start.

The promoters skipped the champagne toast that opened last year's inaugural event. Better weather and improved logistics  made for a better start,

When the promoters laid out the 68-mile course last year, one goal was for it to be distinct from other event rides in the area, and they succeeded. Where rides like the BDB100 and MS150  are defined by some notable climbs, and others, such as the CARTI Tour de Rock and the Wampoo Roadeo take place on the pancake flat prairie, the Gran Fondo starts out with a steady diet of rolling hills, then transitions into flat roads about a third of the way through the ride. Many riders are slightly taken aback by the 2000-plus feet of elevation gain and loss that takes place without encountering a single identifiable climb. While the flat roads on the return leg are welcome, the last few miles around the Clinton National Airport are almost always windy and can punish tired legs. One somewhat snarky rider made the comment that Parks and Tourism had to be involved in promoting a ride that toured the airport, an industrial park, a correctional institute and a waste-water treatment facility, but most of the ride cruised through sparsely populated forested areas.
The rest stops were spaced at 23-mile intervals, evenly splitting the mileage, and were well-staffed with volunteers and well-stocked with food and drink. A Mavic support vehicle patrolled the route, complete with the ubiquitous Mavic yellow bikes filling the roof racks, added practical help for those who needed it, and a pro-tour air for those of us who just got a kick out if it prowling our local ride.

The post-ride party was also an improved version of last year's event. Lost Forty was on hand passing out canned pilsner (and Pale Ale to those who knew to ask)

I Win.
My friend Joe Jacobs of Arkansas Outside greeted me at the finish. "I just rode 40-miles instead of 68, but I've already had 3 beers, and so has your wife. I win."

Actually, Diane had just started down the path to 3 beers, but she was enjoying the day and her exuberance is apparent.
The crowd enjoyed fine weather, great food, good music, and cold beer.

Several of Little Rock's best restaurants were turning out first-rate fare, and Loblolly Creamery was on hand with delicious hand made ice cream. The food at the Gran Fondo is definitely a step above normal group ride fixings. OK, two steps.

Dunk The Mayor
Mayor Mark Stodola was on hand to help raise money for Ron King's Recycled Bikes For Kids. He sportingly subjected himself to 30-minutes in the dunking booth, and I took a turn. As I told the mayor, I've taken a few shots at him over the years, but this was the best, yet! 
 Mayor Stodola awaits his fate.
..and the pitcher delivers!

While I have expressed my frustration with the lack of progress by the City of Little Rock on many cycling issues, Mayor Stodala has proven over the years that he is supportive of the cycling community. He is in a difficult position due to his limited powers as mayor and the relative strength of some of the state's major political players whose interests lie in the path of progress on the cycling/pedestrian front. And, then there is  the speed bump that is city director Erma Hendrix, who is against all things 'bike". I say that to make clear that there was no malice involved as I wound up and delivered a perfect strike on my second pitch.
Thank-you Mark, for playing the game and for being a very good sport.

More winners
As things wound down, the prize drawings started. When you hear "prize drawings" at these events, you expect water bottles, maybe some lube, a T-shirt, or a multi-tool. Once again, the promoters and sponsors went big. The prize list included a Garmin 510 bundles, Mavic tires and a massage package, a 1300.00 Mavic carbone wheel set, and the grand prize of a $3000.00 Cannondale frameset.
 The prizes were big!
"It shoulda' been me", was a common refrain when the frame winner was announced.

Once again, Michael Chaffin and Tony Karklins, along with Jason Warren of title sponsor Arvest Bank and Spokes owner Mat Seelinger, raised the bar on cycling events for our area. As I congratulated Michael on the job well-done and improvements over last year's ride, he responded in his usual low key manner, "We're not supposed to get worse." Great job guys.