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Powered by Strava, the 2011 KOM Challenge was a climbing competition that was designed to be fun and highly rewarding. Over 8000 riders worldwide particpated, ranking up millions of feet (meters) of altitude (and attitude) over the 12 months. This individual, team and bike shop competition was brought to you by Studio Velo Cycling.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Brian Toone - February KOM Challenge Men's Winner

KOM Challenge: Brian, congratulations on another unbelievably strong month of climbing, this time bagging by a wide margin the KOM Challenge top-dog bragging rights. Must feel pretty good, yes?

BT: Thanks, wow, it feels really good especially after coming so close last month only to miss out by 362 feet!

KOM Challenge: January saw quite a battle between you and Ryan Sherlock – it came down to the last day and he got you by a wheel, I almost thought I heard Phil Ligget calling the finish. Tell us about your motivation, first in January duking out with Ryan and then this month?

BT: It was definitely exciting – one of the great features of Strava is bringing riders together from all over the world for a single competition. In regular racing you can look over at other riders and see how they are doing, but on the final day, neither of us could know how much the other was going to ride. We were only separated by a few hundred feet at the start of the day. I set 10,000 feet as my goal for the day, but it wasn’t quite enough. Both of us had pretty miserable conditions that last day with a cold rainy on my commute and Ryan was battling a very windy day over in Ireland, This month, I was so happy with my form coming out of January that I decided to structure my training for February by focusing on climbing rather than riding a certain number of hours or miles each week.

KOM Challenge: Rumor has it that you have a family and a job, how do you manage to fit it all in? We’re assuming you do find time to sleep, right? Or are you the Alabama Night Riders?

BT: This morning I biked to Samford University and taught two computer science classes. Then I biked home, threw my bike in the car and drove about 75 miles to another university for a committee meeting getting in my third ride of the day up to the highest point in the state (Mount Cheaha), climbing it twice. Bike commuting helps add some time for training. Also, I have the support of my wife Kristine and my kids, Analise (6) and Josiah (4). In fact, my kids have helped me a bit in the competition because when I get home from work early enough, I bike over with my son to pick up my daughter from school. Our neighborhood is so hilly that just riding there and back throws in a few hundred feet of climbing. 

KOM Challenge: What’s cycling in Birmingham like? Obviously there are some hills and even mountains locally; our guess is that your numbers dispel any myths about the South being flat.

BT: Riding in Birmingham is awesome. We don’t have the long climbs found in other parts of the country, but we have many ridges that cross the city and suburbs with some extraordinarily roads. I live in a valley on one side of a ridge and teach in a different valley on the other side of the mountain. On my commute, I climb a couple thousand feet round trip. Most of our climbs are less than 2 miles and have a vertical difference of 400-700 ft, but many of these are stair-steppers leading to a total elevation gain closer to 1000 ft.

I’ve categorized the steepest climbs in Birmingham on my cycling blog in three posts.

KOM Challenge: Are you going to back-off on the KOM Challenge in March? Rest up a little? You’re training for the upcoming racing season, correct?
The KOM Challenge has definitely helped me establish a huge base for this upcoming season. I am a Cat 1 racing Pro/1/2 local races as well as a selection of NRC and USA Crits races. I plan on continuing that base through March.

KOM Challenge: Tell us about the Alabama racing scene and how you got to be part of it? Have you always lived (and raced) in Alabama?

BT: The Alabama racing scene is really great with Sunny King (NRC) in April and some great local races. I grew up in Birmingham, getting my start in bike racing mountain bikes in high school. I switched to road racing in college at Clemson University, near Greenville, South Carolina where the road riding is just amazing.
I’ve had some early season success winning a training race and placing 5th in an endurance cyclocross race, Southern Cross.  I have two important races this month (Rouge Roubaix and Tour de Tuscaloosa), but in April I am racing every weekend (Dothan, Sunny King NRC, Mississippi Gran Prix, Barbers, Athens Twilight and the USA Crits Speedweek) so my training during the week will come way down. A lot of the races around here are criteriums with very little climbing so my weekends will no longer have a lot of climbing. So I expect my April and May numbers to come down a bit.

KOM Challenge: The Alabama Riders are a one man club – are you training solo, or do you have some other cyclist that could make the Riders contenders in the Club Competition?
BT: My racing team Tria Cycling puts together a winter training series. The series runs every Saturday and is about the only group training that I do during the fall/winter as the rest of my training is on my commute to and from work. During the late spring and summer, we also have a Tuesday worlds ride that I will sometimes do.

We definitely have some strong riders in Birmingham, several of which have just signed up for Strava. If I can keep on recruiting more people, then we might have a shot at one of the months later in the year.

KOM Challenge: Brian, thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts with us - good luck in the upcoming season and I surmise we might see you as a contender the year-end Studio Velo KOM Challenge on Strava men's leader.

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