Saturday, December 29, 2007

from the Isle of Islay...

I'm so pleased when from out of the blue, the internet blue - that is, I was contacted by Brian Palmer of  www.thewashingmachinepost.net  to be the subject of a feature on his cool post! The feature is aptly titled, 'le grand depart.'

A couple of days ago, I was jolted from my holidaze merri-making with his timely email. For you folks who are not familiarize with 'thewashingmachinepost', it is a captivating collection of everything cycling originating from the isle of Islay, Scotland! I enjoy reading the clothing, equipment, dvd and book reviews and find it indispensable. O.K. I'm a big fan of Colnago bikes and Robert Millar!

But, have a look at the very nice ardbeg winter jacket with the local single malt whisky distiller proudly displayed on it. Why am I thinking of a dram of whisky, right now? Dare I say more? 

I don't want to spoil it by revealing everything, just start tapping on the keys and you will see what I mean.

Again, big thank's to Brian!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Happy holidaze!


I just want to thank all the folks who have read and left a comment to some of my posts! It's the time of the year for merriment and cheer! My plans are to celebrate a few days of joy and bliss! And to my biggest fan, Carolle who introduced me to blogging, as she says, "I can have the chance to rant about my love of cycling and history", deserves a nice pint!
Wishing everyone; 'Happy holidays, I'll be back with more cycling stories!'

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The French Connection, 1985.

French business tycoon, Bernard Tapie had a way of running his companies into successful ones.  Buying bankrupt companies, reinvesting and selling them at a huge profit made him a rich man. As his profits rose in 1984, he looked toward the US market. He had already lured Bernard Hinault from Renault to his new La Vie Claire team. He approached the young American Greg Lemond with an offer he couldn't refuse. 
Tapie  introduced large salaries into cycling when Lemond accepted a salary of 1 million dollars over 3 years making him the highest paid cyclist in the world. To bolster his powerhouse international team , Tapie contracted Swiss coach Paul Koechli, Frenchman Jean-Francois Bernard, the Danes Kim Anderson, Kim Eriksen, American Andy Hampsten, Swiss riders Niki Ruttimann, Guido Winterberg, and Canadian Steve Bauer. This formidable group was formed to help Hinault win the 1985 Tour with Lemond as his lieutenant. 

After securing the bronze medal at the 1984 world's in Barcelona, Bauer quickly signed his new pro contract with La Vie Claire. 'Le Canadien'  finished an incredible sixth best in time trialing. His tremendous first tour saw him hold the white jersey for 18 stages before a bad day saw him drop off  a few positions. In the last week, he fought back to finish in a brilliant 10th overall and 3rd in the young riders category. Bauer looked very different from the sad rider who gave away the Olympic gold to Grewal in Los Angeles. 

In fact, La Vie Claire had 4 riders finishing in the top 15 in g.c. Tapie needed new stars like Lemond and Bauer to help him into the U.S. market and also to help the popular Hinault win his 5th Tour. Although, Lemond had the skills to win the overall he had to 'learn' prudence. He was frustrated on the famous Stage 17 climb before La Mongie, and was told by Koechli not to attack or lead anymore. It was here that Hinault was experiencing breathing difficulties, from his broken nose in a crash in St-Etienne. Lemond backed off on his pace and let his chance for victory slip away, with the understanding that the favour would be returned.  Both, Tapie and Hinault had the business savy to know that the future of cycling would be international. They were right. 

For Bauer, the rest of the 1985 season resulted in solid placings in the Dauphiné Libéré and the Tour du Haut-Var. His aggressiveness earned him respect in the peloton and a place in the french fan's hearts. Canadian fans came out in droves to cheer on our new cycling hero. He proved his worth and looked toward 1986. 

His door of opportunity was just opening!

Images from, Tour 85, Kennedy Brothers Publishing.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Bauer Power 1984, part 2...


Steve Bauer entered the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics with a quiet determination to win. He was part of the Canadian Olympic pursuit team selected to the ill fated 1980 Moscow games. In the early 80's, he rode very well and had spectacular performances namely in the Coors Classic and the Lowenbrau Series in the US.  
Nineteen eighty four beckoned and Bauer honed his bike racing skills for the GS Mengoni Team.  The owner/coach, Fred Mengoni, had a knack of finding gifted riders and turning them into excellent racers for his amateur team. Mengoni, a former racer from his native Italy, did very well in real estate and decided to fund an amateur cycling team in New York. Real estate was his interest, but cycling was his true love. He recruited the talented Bauer and under his coaching crafted him through the rigors of stage and criterium racing. 

On July 29th, the Olympic road race was set under hot conditions, from L.A. to Mission Viejo over a challenging  course of 190 km! What a race it was,  after more than 4 hours of grueling racing, two riders were left, American Alexi Grewal and Bauer! I remember the televised pics as both riders played a cat and mouse game trying to feel each other out. Grewal wouldn't work as Bauer had teammates in the chase group behind. So, Bauer would have to drag Grewal to the line and kill him in a sprint. Ironically, Grewal almost missed the games, he was suspended by the U.S. Cycling Federation three weeks ago for using a banned substance; phenylethylamine, an amphetamine stimulant. But the U.S. Olympic Committee gave him permission to use a related asthma drug, and he won reinstatement for him a week before the games. 

As they approached the run in towards the finish, one cannot help but feel that Bauer could take it. As Bauer pulled on his leather toe straps to get ready for the sprint, the tv commentator said, "Bauer is the stronger and will take Grewal in the sprint!" I believed him. I think Grewal knew this, too! The last 100 metres came to an amazing sprint... as Grewal just edged Bauer for the gold. Sadly, Bauer made two crucial mistakes; underestimating Grewal and choosing too big of a gear for the final headwind sprint. That heart ripper of a finish would be etched in the minds of cycling fans forever.  Twenty one seconds behind, Norway's Dag Otto Lauritzen would grab 3rd place. 

There was a silver lining in it for Bauer, having won the silver Olympic medal he turned professional and was allowed to ride the World's in Barcelona! Bauer took a fantastic 3rd to claim bronze behind strong riders Claudio Corti(silver) and the infamous Claude Criquielion(gold).  The bronze medal was the icing on the cake for Bauer, and afterwards he signed with the powerhouse La Vie Claire French team. 

Bien mériter,  Bauer!

Coming soon: The French Connection, Part 3!

(Photos by GS Mengoni USA, Marcel Segessemann, Piet Kessel)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Bauer power, 1982! Part 1...


Photo by Ron Lee

I want to show this interesting pic of a very young, talented racer ... Steve Bauer! Canada's most successful road cyclist. Bauer is out in front, leading the pack of course, on his way to win the 1982 Canadian National Championships in Edmonton. Bauer would go on to win a remarkable three  National Road Championships in his career (1981, '82, '83). I was standing beside my brother Ron, who took this shot, as Bauer sped past us. Little did we know, that this red clad Ontarioian locomotive would win the race! He was on another level from the other riders, wearing a skinsuit like the old Soviet racers. His 'Maressi shoes' gave him that added class. I'm not sure of the make of his bike, but, it was painted red and white proudly emblazoned with the red maple leaf! Note the retro 'hairnets' on the riders! Even back then, he seemed to exude talent, authority and dominance to a race. He made it seem simple taking control of the race early on, leading it and by sheer will power beating the rest of the field to win, alone! Later, Bauer would win silver behind Britan's Malcolm Elliot at the 1982 Commonweath Games, Brisbane, Australia. He almost made the medals again, finishing 4th in both the 10 mile track & team pursuit race. And at the 1982 World's in Bruno, Czechoslovakia, Bauer came up 4th in the points race.
However, 1984 proved to be the turning point for the ambitious Canuck!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Spinning

Christmas is fast approaching and all through the house,(ok my apartment) I relax, paint and listen to some soothing music...
Here are  some of the tunes I'm listening on my trusty ipod to get me in the mood while painting my cycling art.  Actually, this helps me when I blog,  too  and when I'm perpetually staring out into space! 

"Tour de France Soundtracks", Kraftwerk (Not a surprise!)
"Winterlong", The Pixes
"Mr. Johnson", Jimmy Smith
"Stalingrad", Tom Verlaine
"Pallin' with Al", Squirrel Nut Zippers
"When the day is short", Martha Wainwright
      
Have a pleasant evening.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Luck of the Irish!


Before this year comes to a close, I want to mention the 20th anniversary of Stephen Roche's fantastic '1987 triple'. An elusive record consisting of: the Tour, the Giro, and the World Championships!
I know records are made to be broken, but, this one won't happen again! The Cannibal was the first to do it in 1974. Merckx's was in a league of himself, and of course, won everything. However, Roche was an unexpected champion...
Roche was plagued by injuries and bad luck throughout his career, but, managed to duplicate what Merckx naturally did. His Giro win wasn't without incident. The Italian Carrera jeans team was jointly led by the paranoid Roberto Visentini. He was a gracious champion when he won but a whiner when he didn't. "The race of knives under the table", as one Italian writer put it plainly. Roche proved the stronger of the two and had the chance to win,  without team support. This was a battle in itself.  Belgium teammate Schepers and lone Italian Ghirotto gave what assistance they could to Roche. Faithful French mechanic Valcke also offered his support. Even rivals, Robert Millar and Phil Anderson rode beside him for protection from the tifosi. (Tifosi are the fanatical, Italian fans!) The enraged fans spat on Roche and flashed pieces of raw meat to show what they would do to him. Because of his inability to win the race, Visentini's rants turned spiteful towards Roche and downright ridiculous. He accuse Johan van der Velde(Gis Jolly Team) of conspiring to help Roche win the Giro! In fact, he would blame anyone who did not side with him.  Visentini would lose all credibility with the partisan Italian press and soon would abandon him. He would retire from the Giro, sadly embarrassed and defeated, a shadow of his former self.
As for Roche, he would go on to win the Giro, Tour de France and the world championship in 1987, thus equaling Merckx's triple. A rare treble!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Goodbye, Alexandre the Great!

Vino departs from what should have been an illustrious cycling career, under a cloud. It sounds uncannily familiar...
I like Alexandre Vinokourov, for the right reasons, I admire his fluidity on the bike and gutsy desire to win. When he was found guilty of doping, it was dreadfully wrong, why he would do it under suspicion because of his dealing with Michele Ferrari, we will never know. After winning the time trial stage in Albi,  Tdf 2007, he was tested positive for a homologous blood transfusion. He was subsequently given a one year ban, half the mandated sentence. But, strangely allowed to compete in the '08 Olympics. He decides to retire, instead! His palmares of 46 victories are to be envied, notably, wins in Amstel Gold, Paris-Nice, Tour de Suisse, and Vuelta a Espana! I thought that he was destined to win the Tour, a fantastic 3rd overall in the Tdf 2003 proved it! Then, 2007 came crashing down with the expulsion of himself and his team Astana from the Tour. Similarly, American Tyler Hamilton, was suspended for positive blood doping after a time trial victory in the 2004 Vuelta a Espana. Hamilton maintains his innocence and continues the lengthy battle to clear his name! As it looks, Vino will be the 3rd rider to be caught 'positive' on the blood doping test introduced in 2004! Not a record to be proud of, either!

Today, with the annoucement of his retirement, Vino has one last battle, to clear his name...it maybe the toughest one to win.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Re-introducing: Colnago's Master X-Light!


I love Italian bikes especially steel, as an owner of a Marinoni the racing heritage is inherent as you ride it! I winced with pleasure with Colnago's re-birth of the Master into the Master X-Light! This is the frame that Beppe Saronni won a World Championship at Goodwood, 1982 while beating Lemond and Kelly!  Under the leadership of Saronni,  the great Del Tongo team (1982-88) rode to fame in the Giro d'Italia with red, white and chrome Masters. German star Didi Thurau, 'the blonde angel', rode as his lieutenant and help him to win the 1983 Giro. Today, Saronni is head director sportif for the Lampre-Fondital squardra. I guess it's the Italian in me... love for that country's bike building heritage and its glorious cycling heroes.  The Master X-Light is offered with a  choice of either a carbon fork or a chrome steel precisa fork(definitely this!) and cool color schemes.  There's no presence of down tube shifters but that's fine, the fact is that its steel.  I'll mark this Italian stallion steel beauty to my ever growing wish list, but, for now I'll have my trusty old Colnago cap for company. Due to the demand by the steel is real crowd, Colnago brings back the Master!
And, we can all be happy slaves to it!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

An old cycling repair kit with a temporary patch.

I looked in my tool box and found this nifty French made Velox tubular tyre repair kit no.5, circa 1985! I'm not sure what no. 5 stands for. Anyways, it's complete with thimble, crayon, patches, 8 meters of fil de lin, glue, and instructions with detailed illustrations all in a nice metal container. Now that I ride on clinchers this remains as a museum piece. Velox is one of the oldest cycling/accessories company based in France, founded in 1903 and still going on strong! An interesting side note, today, the 91st Giro d'Italia organisers announced the 2008 route and called for a clean race. Race director, Angelo Zomegnan said, "the riders selected for the Giro will have the new biological passport. We want riders who are honest and who will avoid any short cuts." In 2008 all professional cyclists will submit blood samples to create a medical profile(I shiver when I hear this word!) to monitor against possible doping. It's only a temporary patch job to the tarnished sport of cycling. Like most folks, I'm not a fan of doping, but the powers of cycling has a huge job ahead to right a ship that has an open secret for nearly 100 years!






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