Feb 29, 2008

Here come's Het Volk!

It's exciting to see the really start to the season with the first Belgian race, the 63rd Het Volk. Tomorrow's race will see new additions: narrower roads, more cobbles and more climbs ... basically more action!
This gut wrenching, leg burning race will cover 199km that will certainly suit the riders that love the pavé. The race was cancelled due to snow on 3 occasions: 1960, 1986, and 2004. Last year's winner, Fillippo Pozzato is a no show. My sentimental favorites for the win: Thor Hushovd and 'the clown', Jimmy Casper. Maybe, Casper will wear his wig?
It's also good to see the young Japanese champion, Fumy Beppu listed to race. Ever since his internship at Discovery, he's learning what it takes to ride in Europe. And, now with the demise of the team he can look forward to more of a 'leadership' role on the new Skil-Shimano squad. Good to see ex ace grimpeur, Lucien Van Impe now turned  director sportif of the relatively unknown Willems Veranda Continental CY team.

Here's to a great race!

Feb 27, 2008

The 'Tank', gets the cult hero award

Just over 2o years ago, Thomas 'the tank' Wegmüller almost won the 1988 Paris-Roubaix. You don't have to win it to be a hero. He definitely is a hero in my eyes. Wegmüller won the 1990 Grand Prix des Nations time trial - but his real claim to fame was his 'almost' at the Queen of the Classics.
He was in the final breakaway with eventually winner, Dirk Demol. I remember watching on TV both riders getting ready for the run into Roubaix(it finished on the streets that year), when suddenly a plastic bag strayed into poor Wegmüller's derailleur. The plastic bag jammed and even with the futile attempts from his team mechanic nothing would work. The tank was helpless. Demol easily won, hitting the line in just over 6 hours, 34 mins. Wegmüller dejected limps in, 2 seconds after. And a super fit Laurent Fignon came in 3rd, almost 2 minutes later.

The Swiss rider became a cult hero. Here's to 'the tank', remembered for his gutsy ride and for his ... his bad luck!

Feb 23, 2008

Pedalling to the Bont side

With over 32 years in custom boot making, former speedskaters'  Inze Bont along with his wife, Sara are the two behind, Bont Skates.  This Australian  company  is  the  world's largest producer of hand made speed skates.

Bont cycling shoes are quite good looking, almost sexy. Each one is hand crafted and closely resembles  an art piece;  you know ... better viewed than use.  The shoes are definitely  both.

I haven't heard of these cycling  shoes until yesterday. In fact, my friend, Hans gave me a ring and said that he won a pair!  He just subscribe to cycling.tv  for a year and won an expensive pair of Bont's.  It certainly made my morning. Now, he can stay updated with this season's race coverage while  owning a pair of the snazzy racers. "They'd paid for the subscription, " says Hans.
And more.

Nice win  Hans!

Feb 22, 2008

'horse from the north'

Honorable mention goes to second year pro, Dominque Rollin as he unleashed his horses to victory on the bone chilling 4th stage of the Tour of California. It's so refreshing to see the "horse from the north" win the 71/2 hour rain filled 135 mile stage. He's only 25, originally from Boucherville, Quebec and with this win has moved up to overall in the points classification (green jersey).

"We call him the 'horse from the north' because he's all muscle. He's all power and his numbers are really phenomenal," said Toyota-United manager Scott Moninger. But, it was a day of hardship for 12 riders abandoning due to the cold temperatures(12 degree Celsius) and 25 kmh headwinds. "The conditions were terrible. It was a headwind all day... my core was so cold, the wind just went right through you," said classics veteran, George Hincapie.

Rollin confidently remarked, "The last time I raced in this kind of weather I won. Even if when I am on the bike I think 'I can't stand this,' the worse it is, the better I do, so keep it coming." He seems worthy for a shot at the overall. I'd love to see it.

For the 'horse from the north' ... it's a befitting nickname!

(photo): The 'horse from the north' forcing the pace onto stage 4 victory, 2008 Tour of California.

Feb 20, 2008

Yuks & g(l)ory

French rider , Jimmy Casper is 29 years old, in his 9th pro season with the Agritubel cycling team. In case you folks didn’t know, Agritubel is a well known French base agricultural machinery maker.

Casper is well known to his teammates as the clown. Making jokes, keeping spirits high, and giving a big boost to team morale. He laughs in the face of adversity, someone you’d like on the team, a leveler in any stressful cycling situation. But he also has an underlying seriousness. Casper is a damn fast sprinter willing to go toe to toe with kamikaze like ferocity with anyone willing to take him on. He’s won a sprint stage in the 2006 Tour. And, recently sprinted to victory taking stage 2 during this year’s Tour Méditerranéen. Casper has become somewhat of an expert at sizing the last 3000m of a stage to memory. He's a clever race tactician, even identifying every closing detail of the terrain.

Bulldog tough is another sprinters’ characteristic he embodies well. He’s infamously known for his frightful face plant which resulted in severe facial lascerations and a broken cheekbone at the 2007 Gent Wevelgem. (I’ll spare you the gory picture!)

Casper has claimed two Lantern Rouges as last place finisher in the Tour de France(2001, 2004). In fact, during the last day of the race in the 2004 Tour, Casper carried a small red lantern seeking publicity and post Tour business opportunities. Lantern Rouge is French refering to the red lantern on the caboose of a train. In years gone by, potential winners would go so far as to hide behind buildings, coast along race routes or fake injury in order to be last. The popular lantern rouge ‘winner’ would receive a sizable sum of appearance money to compete in the lucrative post Tour criteriums. Today, the Tour’s last rider receives no prize money only a special distinction of admiration.

One things for sure, if Jimmy Casper rides this July’s Tour, no one can bet against him for another stage victory or perhaps ‘winning’ a record 3rd Lantern Rouge.
I hope he gets both … along with a few yuks on the side!

Top photo: Jimmy Casper(white wig) yuking it up with his teammate at the 2001 Tour.

Feb 18, 2008

The Bilingual Entrepreneurs Exhibition, Vancouver

My partner, Carolle, had a wonderful opportunity to show my artwork at last Friday's, "Bilingual Entrepreneurs Exhibition" held at the Heritage Hall in Vancouver. Although, I couldn't attend, there was a great response to my cycling art. We had a table displaying my new cycling cards, one of my framed prints on an easel, and my complete cycling art portfolio. I'm very proud how it was presented and looking forward to a show this spring.
I'd like to thank everyone involved, especially to Carolle and the kind folks at Éducacentre College.

Feb 17, 2008

No more wet stripe up my backside

Fenders are a common fixture on any bicycle. Especially, with our rainy winters, here on the west coast. I've just come back from a wet morning ride and for the first time with my bike (hard to believe) I now am riding dry. Never again, will I ride with a wet stripe up my backside. Why all the fuss? It's taken me a long time to equip my road bike with the two simple pieces of plastic. Mind you, it does take me a little longer to do things.  And, a good thing too, it was very cheap ... at 19 bucks! Above is my fully winterize road machine(this is what we call it up here, eh!).  Some ingenious sort even thought of rubber straps that can be dismantle at a snap.
Next ... mudflaps!

Feb 14, 2008

Marco on St. Valentine's day...

Marco Pantani shook the cycling world on Feb. 14th, 2004 with his sudden death alone in a hotel room in Rimini, Italy. Although it's 4 years ago, I'm sadden with the lost of this great cyclist. And, I have tremendous respect and admiration for one of the world's finest climbers. He was adored by his fans while mercilessly shunned away by his detractors.

Top photo: www.ilmessaggero.it
Bottom photo: www.hotelprestigio.it

Feb 13, 2008

The Flea on top of the mountains

This year's 2008 Tour de France marks the 75th anniversary of the introduction of the coveted grand prix de la montagne, or the King of the Mountains competition. 
In the 1930's, professional cycling really began to change. National teams, better road surfaces, improved bicycles, tailored clothing, tactical approach to racing, and live radio broadcasts were now commonplace. To offset race costs, Tour organizer, Henri Desgrange introduced the publicity caravan.  Also, new innovations for the 1933 Tour:  a clockwise direction and the Pyrenees crossed in shorter stages, 4 rest days, and the introduction of the KOM competition. Hard earned points were  awarded to the first riders across each major mountain summit, according to difficulty.  

Spanish rider Vicente  Trueba  entered the 1933 Tour as a "touriste-routiers."  The touriste-routiers was a name given to riders not competing among the ranks of  professionals. I like these guys, they were the plodders the underdogs, they were not under contract with the big name bicycle manufacturers. They had to fund their own ways in cycling, often learning from hardship. But, they were hungry to compete and to win, Desgrange and the professionals knew this.

Trueba fit the classic climber's build;  compact, sparrow like. He was a small man, just over 5 feet tall and 120 Ibs. He was one of the 40 "touriste-routiers" allowed to participate beside the 40 professionals(aces) in this 27th Tour.  It maybe a combination of his Spanish climber's pedigree or his feather light physique because he soared easily over the major cols. One by one, he was the first over the top: Ballon d'Alsace, Galiber, Lautaret, Vars, Braus, Port, Peyresourde, Aspin, Tourmalet, and Aubisque. Desgrange was so impressed with the little Spanish grimpeur describing his style as, "giving jumps on the pedals of his bicycle." He gave Trueba the nickname, "the Flea of Torrelavega." 

For all his climbing prowess, he lacked descending skills and as a result,  he didn't win one stage and finished 6th overall.  Nevertheless, he acquired 134 points and was the winner of the first King of the Mountains title. The flea never had the wonderful opportunity  to wear the flashy polka dot jersey,  it didn't make its debut until 1975.  

The 75th anniversary is coming up,  I'd like to see the Tour honor  Vicente Trueba, the "Flea of Torrelavega" ...  one more time!
Top picture: www.forodeciclismo.mforos.com

Feb 10, 2008

Darkside of the rainbow, part 5

Steve Bauer and Claude Criquielion were the only two left after 7 hours racing in the 1988 world championship road race in Ronse, Belgium. It was August, 28th and from a field of 178 ... it seem like deja vu. Flashback to the 1984 Worlds, Bauer and Criquielion were amazing with Criquielion winning his first rainbow jersey and Bauer finishing 3rd, a month earlier Bauer was a very close second at the Los Angeles Olympic road race.

With meters to go the Canadian and the Belgium sprinted and, what now is history, both didn't win. Bauer sprinted close to the barricades, Criquielion responded and tried to pass him on the inside, between him and the barricades. Bauer's elbow flew up. Criquielion crashed, rubbed against a policeman and then hitting the base of the barricade. Bauer swerved but kept his balance.

During the mayhem, a surprised Italy's Maurizio Fondriest crossed the finish line arms held high for the victory. Bauer visibly dejected crossed the line head down. Moments later, Criquielion limped in dragging his wounded bike and looked pissed shaking his hand in protest! I can still remember a picture of Bauer, straddling his bicycle, in tears being consoled by Greg Lemond. Bauer lost his chance for the rainbow jersey, he was disqualified, a first in the history of the race. Criquielion was livid and sued Bauer for assault and for $ 1.5 million for the loss of the rainbow champion's jersey. A first in professional cycling.

But, contrary to the disqualification and after witnesses viewed the race tape, Criquielion actually bumped Bauer first as he tried to pass. Bauer's elbow was, pure and simple, a reflex action. In 1991, as the court case dragged for more than 3 years, Criquielion quietly retired from racing. The following year, in 1992, he did not show up in court when final testimony was heard.
Finally in 1993, and after 5 long years in a drawn-out court battle, Steve Bauer was rightly exonerated of the assault charge.

For Claude Criquielion, after an accomplished cycling career, I will also remember him as, 'the sore loser of Ronse.'

"The presumed elbowing that led to the assualt charge"

Feb 9, 2008

Here comes the Bakfiets!

I was transporting my old stereo speakers and tuner/amp to my  friend, Peter, today. And, I saw a cargo bicycle down Main Street! I've seen many bikes in my time, but, this was a first. The only thing I regret was not packing my camera. It was very euro chic cool,  coasting  well  on semi wet roads. This may have to do with the new bike store, that I past by to work every morning, on Manitoba and Broadway Streets. I checked the internet and it's called, "bakfiets", a dutch cargo bike, pronounced, "back feet". Very popular in most countries in Europe(especially Holland), the United States and hopefully here in Vancouver, it just makes sense. 
It reminds me a little of the "dépaneur" (convenient store) bikes in Montréal. These steel bikes equipped with a heavy metal basket are primary used for delivering large amount's of "La Fin de Monde beer."  Smart.  The bakfiets are also very utilitarian, great for delivering mostly "anything" ... and a bicycle I wouldn't mind using!


Feb 7, 2008

The Gentle Hulk

Bernard Hinault(left photo) once described Joaquim Agostinho as, " a large rider, very combative, a true warrior. It was a pleasure to have him as an adversary." It pretty much sums up the kind of rider he was. "Tinho", as he was affectionately called had a cycling career that lasted from 1968-1984.

Joaquim Agostinho was born April 7th, 1943 in Torres Vedras in Portugal. The fact that in 1968 he was discovered by cycling guru, Jean De Gribaldy at the age of 25 was a precursor to his meteoric rise. De Gribaldy, a former french racer was well known for building formidable cycling teams and discovering cycling stars. He was a wealthy businessman selling funiture and running professional cycling teams. And, he approached Agostinho in 1968
in an amateur race in Brazil, saw his potential and offered him a contract. Word has it that Agostinho answered with a smile to seal the deal.

His palmares were numerous; 6 times national champion, 1969 Trofeo Baracchi with Herman Van Springel, 3 times Volta a Portugal (26 stage wins), 2nd Vuelta a España(1974), and 2 stage wins in the Tour de Suisse. From his 13 Tour de France appearances, he never finished lower than 15th. And, for a man who started relatively late in his cycling career his age knew no bounds, especially in the Tour. He placed 3rd behind Zoetemelk and winner, Hinault in both the 1978 & 1979 Tours at the ripe age of 35 & 36 year's old respectively. Yet, his crowning achievement was a brillant solo finish on stage 17, from Moutiers to L'Alpe d'Huez!(right photo) No one can blame him for not trying, and at the incredible age of 41, he would finish 11th in the 1983 Tour. Eleventh place in his last Tour was truly remarkable as the high mountains was too much for the veteran leader of the Sem-Mavic-Reydel team. But, what tenacity he had! He was rightly given the nickname, 'the Hulk.'

But, with great stellar careers his was short lasting. During the 1984 Tour of the Algarve a dog step out in front of him. He never wore a helmet, always found it uncomfortable, and fell landing on his head. Amazingly, he got back on his bike, helped by his teammates and crossed the finish line. The nearest hospital was some 400 km away, and if it was closer, perhaps he would've lived. Joaquim Agostinho went into a coma and died 10 days later, on May 10th, 1984 in Lisbon. The funeral was attended by thousands of fans and he was mourn as a national hero.

Monuments were erected to the legacy of this ageless racer ... the beloved Tinho from Torres Vedras.
1972 Tour: De Gribaldy, Driessens and Tinho (www.jeandegribaldy.com)

His final Tour in 1983, 'Tinho' (Sem-Mavic) at the head of the pack dancing with les grimpeurs. From Tour 83.
Photos: 1, (www.jeandegribaldy.com), 2 (www.veloluso.blogspot.com)

Feb 4, 2008

Slipping into the argyle gear

Canadian, Ryder Hesjedal did an excellent ride in Sunday's GP La Marseillaise finishing on the podium in 3rd place just out of reach of winner, Hervé Duclos-Lassale(the son of Gilbert). It was the first race to open the 2008 European calendar. This year he's on the new 'anti-doping', Jonathan(the crusader) Vaughter led Slipstream-Chipotle Team. You know the guys in that funny argyle. Hesjedal is originally from Victoria, British Columbia. A strong rider who is a seven-time former World Mountain Bike Medalist before shifting to the roads. Most notably helping Floyd Landis on the now defunct, Phonak Squad.
It now appears that his role is a domestique, and on a given day ... to go for a win. That's what happened at the GP La Marseillaise, when he found a break, sprinted and finished on the
podium. He shows a similar talent just like fellow Canuck, Steve Bauer! And, he'll be in good company with strongmen; Millar, Zabriskie, Dean, Danielson, Backstedt and Sutton. After coming off a successful Tour of Qatar(Chris Sutton, 4th overall), and selected for the Giro, the daring Slipstream team seems to be heading towards an optimistic 2008, with the Tour in site. My fingers are crossed. I hope this team gets to ride the Tour. To see Hesjedal and crew win more races would be fantastic but, also to see if they can positively(pardon the pun) ... change the tattered, worn out cycling establishment with their argyle wearing, new anti-doping attitude.

Feb 3, 2008

A member of the Obsidian order

There's nothing like beer and cycling. It seems to go hand in hand, mates for life. Historically, watercarriers ferried the magic brew, along with other drinks, up to their thirsty captains. During the classic races, tough guy, Rik Van Looy was known to have a Stella or two. Just ask Vin Denson! I received a couple of nice gifts from my brother. He was down Seattle way and picked me up a great Campy cap. And, what better way to compliment this cool cap, with a nice brew from Bend Oregon, called, "The Obsidian Stout(6.4%)". I love the description on the bottle: "Smooth and black, like the volcanic rock, Obsidian Stout is a solid, satisfying beer with a rich roasted malt flavor. Made with pristine water from the Cascade mountains. Just a few miles south of the brewery. The big Obsidian flow, as they called it, covers more than 700 acres with shiny black Obsidain."
What an exotic name almost cult-like, but before you finish reading this, I'd have already joined the Obsidian order!

Feb 2, 2008

Is that Jeannie Longo?

These are my images from the June 13th, 1998 La Coupe du Monde Cycliste Féminine de Montréal road race. It was a world cup race, fought on very wet conditions as I photographed on a huge concrete block near the top of Mount Royal in beautiful Montréal. I didn't have a decent enough camera, so I used my old toy plastic one. Fortunately, there was a hot shoe on where I used my old Braun flash for fill. I was pleasantly surprise with the results. Most of the cyclists here, are unknown to me except for the great Jeannie Longo(although, I'm not sure it's her). I believe she finished in second place.

All photos by yours truly.

Wait a minute, Is that the great Jeannie Longo(white helmet) charging up Mount Royal!

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