TNW Rules and Info

Counting Victories Phinney Style

I recently attended a Victory Summit presented by the Davis Phinney Foundation for Parkinson's, this one in Denver. The first thing I learned, the first victory, is that this isn't just a symposium it's an Experience. The main reason for my trip down I-70 was to honor a request Davis made of me more than a year ago, to learn firsthand how the Victory Summit helps those afflicted and their families deal with Parkinson's Disease. I figured it was pretty much a guarantee to make me a better advocate, very likely a better wellness professional, and maybe even a better coach. Well, it was so much more and a victory like no other.

Davis Phinney, diagnosed with Parkinson's in 2000, knows how to prove a point when he makes an entrance. It was fun to watch everyone brighten up when he ran through the venue, proving what is possible. 600 victories in one fell swoop. He bounded onto the stage, flashed his bright smile and supercharged the entire room. And you bet he had us throwing our arms up in the air for a big victory salute. 

The presentations and panel discussions were top notch and covered a variety of topics on the disease itself and living with the effects. We heard from doctors, therapists, and even a comedian who performed for us and later shared her experience of living with Young-Onset PD during a panel discussion. Maintaining control of movement is a primary focus for those living with Parkinson's, so we were on the move all day long. We played instruments, we exercised, we stretched, and we even danced. Each activity and each session a new victory. Would you expect anything less from one of the winningest American cyclists?

Family connections:
Terry Poertner and Gina Poertner meet for the first time
at the Davis Phinney Foundation's Victory Summit. 
The Victory Summit is very much about families since spouses, children, and relatives become caregivers to those living with PD. This summit had an unexpected and profound impact on my family. The Victory Crew's Program Manager, Lauren Hunt, asked me about the other Poertners who would be attending. I wasn't familiar with these people, but she made sure we connected. I met Terry and his sister, Carol, much to their surprise. We weren't sure how or if we were actually related, but it didn't take long to realize that it didn't matter, we became family that day through the Experience. A major victory for all of us. Terry and his father both have Parkinson's, so he and Carol filled me in on what they deal with day to day. Terry is an athlete, an avid skier determined to continue in his sport, to keep counting victories, to Live Well Today

The Experience that is the Victory Summit had blown the top off of any expectations I might have had. About 600 people experienced the day, 600 more reasons that Every Victory Counts®. You can help bring more victories to those living with Parkinson's Disease by donating to the Davis Phinney Foundation on my special page, TNW Victory

If you or someone you know has Parkinson's disease, make it a point to attend a Victory Summit. You'll hear from top medical professionals, get your questions answered, and actively learn skills to Live Well Today. I can't guarantee that you'll meet unknown relatives, but I can guarantee that you'll leave with new skills, more knowledge, and your own unique Experience. 
Your donation is a victory
in the fight against Parkinson's Disease.
Please click here to donate.

Just Another Tuesday: A Gift to Davis Phinney

I share the same birthday with one of my favorite cyclists, Davis Phinney. Last year another one of my favorite cyclists, John Howard, got together with Davis and between the two of them, they made sure I received a very special gift - a signed copy of Davis' newly released book, Happiness of Pursuit. If you haven't read this book, make it a priority. The story is a gift in and of itself, and one you shouldn't miss.

The book was only the beginning of what I was about to experience in the way of gifts from those two. About a month later, John and I spent some time with Davis, Connie, and their daughter Kelsey. We were in Colorado for the inaugural USA Pro Cycling Challenge stage race and to attend the reunion of the Red Zinger/Coors Classic races. I was a budding triathlete when the last of those races were going on, fresh out of high school and taking my cycling cues from Connie, Davis, John, and the rest that I had been reading about in magazines.

For those afflicted with Parkinson's Disease, writing can be a difficult and tedious task.

(Click photos to enlarge).

Celebrate Every Gift
As a health and wellness professional, I am frequently asked to teach a variety of topics, usually about using nutrition and exercise to prevent or improve certain health conditions. Parkinson's Disease is one of those conditions. Physical activity and key nutritional elements can enhance quality of life while living with this disease.

Davis Phinney was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 2000 at the young age of 40. As athletes we value motion, to go out there and do whatever we want to do. We value the effect motion has on our psyche. With Parkinson's Disease, motion becomes difficult. Motion becomes involuntary. Motion becomes rigid. The psyche takes a hard hit and the fight becomes more mental in order to deal with the physical. As with many diseases, we don't know how long we'll wait to find a cure. Davis has taken the bull by the horns and is teaching people with PD to live well right now. No waiting, no jacking around. Live well now.

Last summer in Colorado, Davis discussed the work of his foundation and filled me in on some of their upcoming activities. I also chatted with Kelsey for a bit as she shared her perspective on living with this crazy and frustrating disease. She's a very bright young lady and quite talented as a cross-country skier, which many of you know is one of my favorite winter activities.  

Icing on the Cake
Another big treat came during the the Time Trial stage of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Vail. I had the honor of being introduced with a group of Red Zinger/Coors Classic greats which included the Phinneys and John Howard. I had no idea they were going to include me until we were on the start ramp, it was quite a surprise. A heartfelt "thank you" goes to Wayne Stetina for his kind words when I said I felt like I was crashing their party. The crowd was huge and welcomed me as warmly as they did the rest of these distinguished individuals, although I seriously doubt that very many knew who I was other than a few of my friends who were there at the race. That night I attended the Red Zinger/Coors Classic 35th anniversary reunion, soaked up the insanely intense energy of the ballroom that held a couple hundred cyclists who were (and are) the best of the best, reconnected with people, and made new friends. That energy has stayed with me and has made for a really great year.

Doug Dale in front; Jeannie Golay, Dale Stetina, Ron Kiefel, Connie Carpenter-Phinney, Davis Phinney,
Jock Boyer, John Howard, Michael Aisner, Wayne Stetina, and the very surprised author, Gina Poertner.
Photograph by John Pierce / USA Pro Cycling Challenge.

Returning the Gift
This year I'd like to return the gift to Davis and John, a gift that has gone well beyond the pages of a book.

July 10th is one of our Tuesday Night Worlds crit races. Just another training race, just another Tuesday. But even in training, Every Victory Counts®, so I'm donating that night's entry fees to the Davis Phinney Foundation. This is my way of celebrating the gifts I have and to wish Davis well in his own fight and in his mission to help people living with Parkinson's. Please join me with a gift of your own by donating at: TNW Victory Party.
Davis and I sporting our reunion dinner neckwear.

Bring your party hats to Tuesday Night Worlds on July 10th and show me the biggest turnout of the season.

Happy birthday, Davis.

Live well.

New UCI Rules Affect Health and Performance

Toolbox: Stopping the Train Before the Wreck
Pez Cycling News

Tuesday, April 24, 2012  6:33:36 AM PT
Does anybody remember that great scene in Graeme Obree’s film, “The Flying Scotsman,” where the UCI bigwig pulls out his measuring tape and ruler and tells the Scottish World Hour record holder that his bike won’t pass muster? In response, Obree pulls out a hack saw and lobs off the nose of his saddle…

By John Howard and Gina Poertner, CHES

As most of us who race bicycles are well aware, the UCI's set of rules as to how we should sit on our bikes has not resonated well with riders, coaches, or bike fitters, particularly since the saddle angle rule has gone largely unenforced until recent months. Presumably, the intention is to make us all equal, so that rider X will not have a set-up that offers him or her an advantage over rider Y. It is a grandiose, seemingly evolving plan, but the results may not be what the UCI officials had in mind at all.

The UCI asserts “the primacy of man over machine” in order to set a level playing field in terms of equipment. This is consistent throughout the sports world with racquets, bats, vaulting poles, balls, skis, etc. The uniqueness of cycling is that our equipment – the bike and its components – tends to affect the function of the human body more profoundly than many other sports items. With this in mind, placing proper body mechanics and long-term health as a priority should be at the forefront of rule-making decisions. We know of several masters racers that have already thrown in the towel, and with the tightening of the regulations further, those numbers will likely be going up. 

Like Obree, we are a bit perplexed by the UCI’s decision to govern the art and science of bike fitting. For starters, most of us who have been in this game for awhile have spent the better part of our careers dialing in the most anatomically correct set-up. The operant word here is OUR. Our bikes, our set-up, and our racing licenses. In many cases the root of many rule violations is the saddle position, meaning tilt, fore, aft, and height. 

As we reflect on what it took to perfect that set up, we may be reminded of why those changes were made in the first place. In our twenties, it probably was not an issue. We could adapt to anything! But as we age, the flat hard saddle can start to hurt, causing undue pain and discomfort that eventually makes the bike difficult if not impossible to ride. It is important to note that USA Cycling utilizes UCI rules for all national championships and record attempts. Therefore, there is trickle-down for all domestic cyclists, and additional rule adoptions are eventually expected for events outside of the championship arena. 

Let’s start with saddle position on TT bikes. The new rules adopted by the UCI affects a number of other variables such as arm and hand position which means we may have a problem with our backs, knees, and hips, all of which affect our ability to leverage power and most importantly, breathing. Consider the fact that cycling, both in the United States and worldwide, is essentially a master’s sport, meaning that if we are age 35 or older we are called masters. As masters, we are likely to have aches and pains that younger athletes don’t have yet. If you are a young athlete, incorrect positioning can cause chronic injuries and pain that would be otherwise avoided.

This brings up a pivotal point: who were these rules made to control? What is the intended purpose? Did the UCI arbitrarily decide on these rules to better control malleable young racers? Did the UCI take its cue from motorsports where standards and restrictions in some categories essentially turn race cars into even-steven spec racers? If this scenario holds true, it must be remembered that mechanical devices are not the same as human soft tissue and skeletal structures that change over time. We hurt, we break, and eventually we quit racing because we can’t be mandated into a state of pain that affects the quality of our lives. 

All of us should question the logic of the UCI’s decision to control bike fit in this manner. It is not clear if the organization has considered the laws of human biomechanics or to what depth. For additional detail, UCI Cycling Regulations and other documentation is accessible on the website of the Union Cyclist International. Let’s take a look at a few of the UCI’s rules and examine the practicality of each.

Saddle Angle
Article 1.3.014
The ruling allows a saddle angle of +/- 2.5° from level with a margin of +/- 0.5° error. 
This is actually an improvement on the previous ruling which maintained that the saddle must be level. Historically, this ruling was rarely enforced and riders tilted their saddles to accommodate more physiologically sound positioning. With the new ruling and more diligent enforcement, the allowance does not go quite far enough to keep the human body happy.

While 2.5° nose down may be a good saddle position for a recreational road rider who sits more upright with hands on the tops, typically it is not a good saddle position for a TT racer who is leaning further forward. By limiting the saddle angle to 2.5° nose down, the majority of racers are going to be in a position where their pelvis is rocked back, further closing off the core that is already compromised by the mandated horizontal arm position discussed below. By allowing one additional degree of downward saddle tilt to a total of 3.5°, the core is opened up by improving pelvic angle, which in turn allows the body’s circulatory and respiratory systems to function at a more optimal level during this type of exertion. It also decreases stress to the low back, a problem area for many cyclists. 

Arm Position and Aero Bars
Article 1.3.023
The new ruling is that aero bars must be positioned so that the forearms are parallel to the ground with a maximum elbow angle of 120°. The ends of aero extensions must also fall within a range of not more than 75 cm forward of the bottom bracket unless a morphological exemption is granted.

While it is agreeable that a maximum angle at the elbow be capped at 120° for safer handling of the bike, requiring the forearms to be in parallel position is another matter. Placing the forearms at parallel disengages the support muscles of the core. The core represents thirty-five or so anterior and posterior muscles that provide a stable platform so that the athlete can use the big muscles to generate more power. The core is the enabler of a cyclist allowing for better control. When core involvement in the cycling effort is eliminated, control of the bike is compromised, thus compromising safety. By raising the forearm angle a few degrees up from level, say 15°, the core is engaged providing the cyclist with greater efficiency and increased control of the bike. Aerodynamics may be the main UCI concern, but at what cost? 

Note the crude description instructing race officials on anatomical measurement. Ambiguous measurement increases margin of error. which may lead to undue positioning changes or disqualification.
Photo Credit: USA Cycling Bike Measurement for Commissaires

Hand Position

Good news/bad news on this one, falling under the same Article 1.3.023. Cyclists may use upturned bar extensions to keep hands in neutral position or straight bar extensions, which place the hands in a downward position of ulnar deviation. It’s nice to have choices. However, the bent position of the hands at the wrists is not advisable as it places undue stress on the radial nerve and locks up the bio-kinetic chain of muscles and tendons in the arm that affect comfort. Maintaining hand position in ulnar deviation may well trigger nerve issues that will not be completely noticed until the damage is done.

Article 1.3.013
The Knee Over Pedal Spindle ruling states that the knee cannot be forward of the center of the pedal spindle. The limit is measured by race Officials by placing bike and rider on a jig and using a T-square. 

This is another facet of the saddle placement requirements and it has a number of consequences. If the athlete happens to be born with a tibia that is disproportionate to the femur, it will have an effect on the KOPS placement. If that same athlete picks a frame with a seat-tube of 77-80 degrees, it will adversely affect saddle height and plumb dimension, placing the athlete in an unfavorable position. 

PhotoMany anatomical variables in play here, many to the disadvantage of performance and health.

From a physiological standpoint, the test goes against proper measurement of KOPS. The fulcrum is behind the patella (kneecap), rather than in front of it. To properly position a cyclist over the spindles, the measurement is taken based upon direction of force rather than the simplistic anatomical landmark of the front of the patella. The difference could be up to 1 cm if measured incorrectly. By using the front of the patella in relation to the spindles, the ruling forces bike fitters to compromise proper placement of a cyclist by placing them behind the spindles. This moves the force to a point behind the spindle instead of over the top during the downstroke, thus stressing the patellar tendon and compromising the low back region. 

The measurement of 1 cm or even 0.5 cm may seem small, but it is very significant to the human body in terms of protecting the joints and muscles from injury. Our PowerFiTTE positioning protocol takes this into account and places importance on optimal health through proper body mechanics. And isn’t good health a primary reason we ride our bikes in the first place? 

A Sum of the Parts
A complete discussion in terms of anatomical function as it relates to the rules is warranted although not practical for this format. 

Let it be clear that we are not anti-UCI. In fact, we agree and applaud the organization for its thoughtful consideration to prohibit the removal of closed-tip retention devices on front forks in the interest of safety and saving lives. It is in this same vein of safety that we created our PowerFiTTE protocol that addresses what bodies really do on bikes. FiTTE is an acronym for Fitness, Technique, Training, and Equipment. The current crop of rules compromises this relationship, detracting from safety. We hope the UCI will view this critique of its rules on bike fitting as constructive criticism in the continued evolution of our sport. 

Peer review by Ernie Ferrel, DC, CCSP

About John:John Howard is one of the pioneers and true legends of American bike racing, with palmares including: 3-time Olympian, Ironman world champion, bicycle landspeed record, USA Cycling Hall of Fame, and elite and masters national champion. John is also an active cycling coach and the author of Mastering Cycling. Check out more information about John and his coaching at

About Gina:
Gina Poertner, CHES is the owner of Life Balance Sports, focusing on cycling, triathlon, and track and field. She is also a FiTTE System Practitioner and Instructor for John Howard Performance Sports specializing in bicycle fitting and positioning. Find out more about Gina and her coaching at

Read More Cool PezCycling Stories
• Toolbox: Massage Under A Microscope
• Toolbox: Turn Your Breathing Upside Down 
• Toolbox: Praying For Speed

Bike/Ped Advocacy: Senate Resolution 1805

Today I testified before the Kansas Senate Transportation Committee on SR 1805, a resolution supporting Livable Streets policies. My testimony is below.  Being a resolution and not a bill, my written remarks were brief and I made additional comments during my verbal presentation.

I know at least half of the committee members from my time working as a Legislative Assistant, so they know me and my background. They kept me at the lectern for a while to answer questions and discuss several points, it was a positive exchange. There were four of us giving presentations, and in the end, we are now working on drafting legislation to take this resolution a step further to a proposed plan of action. SR 1805 was drafted to bring awareness to our state leadership, and before it even goes to the full Senate for acceptance, we are already working on a piece to change our laws for the better.  

I encourage all of you to be active in bringing positive change whether it be on the local, state, or national level.  Every action we take is an important one.

To view the Resolution, go to:   SR 1805 
January 31, 2012

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Senate Transportation Committee:
Thank you for the opportunity to present testimony in support of SR 1805. I am Gina Poertner, owner and physiologist at Life Balance Sports & Wellness. I am also co-founder and Past President of KanBikeWalk, Inc. and currently serve on its Board of Directors. Many of you on this committee know that cycling, running, and helping others to live an active, healthy lifestyle is my passion, and I will continue to work with you on bringing safe and viable solutions to my fellow Kansans.

Supporting Livable Streets, also known as Complete Streets, is a critical element in fostering activities that contribute to the good health of our citizens. It is also critical in connecting our communities and enhancing safety for all roadway users throughout our state. 

It is our responsibility as leaders to educate and enable our communities to implement roadway infrastructure that fosters active transportation. By maintaining our currently accessible “Complete Streets” areas and creating new ones as future road projects are planned, we provide:

  • Enhanced safety features for our young people who are not of age to drive. 
  • Greater accessibility and a higher degree of independence to people of all ages who do not drive motor vehicles due to physical or mental limitations. 
  • Additional options to all Kansans, able-bodied and disabled, who choose to travel actively in their communities and across the state for work, shopping, school, and recreation.
  • Increased economic benefit to areas conducive to various modes of travel. 
I ask that you support and encourage your fellow Kansans to live healthy and to be safe on our roadways whether we drive, bike, trike, scoot, skate, roll, run, or walk by giving your favorable recommendation for SR 1805.

Gina Poertner, CHES