Nov 28, 2009

The Magnificient Seven.

Virenque up there with his fans!

I've been thinking highly, pardon the pun, of les grimpeurs. The mountain specialists that can effortlessly fly up a mountain. It's a beauty to behold. Steady rhythm. Eyes staring. Concentrating.

Awesome to watch as these light weight riders' with their thin bodies on their light machines gliding effortlessly provokes admiration on my part. Probably because I'm not a talented climber. At times I wish I had the ability. Despite the fact, it never stops me from trying as the pavement goes upwards. I'm always awestruck like the rest of us mere mortals how good they are.

I'm watching, for the first time, the 2003 Tour de France on dvd and it's magnetic. I can't help but admire the hip coolness of Richard Virenque in the polka dots rushing upwards to Luz Ardiden. Maybe because he was a heart throb to the ladies that earned part of his cool stripes but he always had the mountains to conquer. During his chaotic career he emerged tarnished from the ugly Festina affair but he set the record of seven KOM's jersey. He won the KOM's jersey in 2003. Then the following year, not being content with tying the record of six KOM's, he'll win his seventh to break the record from Lucien Van Impe and Federico Bahamontes. I have a feeling that it will be near to impossible to topple him as the King of the Mountains record holder.

Call it the unobtainable seven!

Nov 26, 2009

Thinkin' of the 2003 P-R.

A Flandrian job well done!

Can the 2003 Paris-Roubaix be called a truly gritty race? I should say so!

I had the chance to view the exciting race on dvd and I was pleasantly reminded. That it was an uncharacteristically dry one and extremely dusty was ....sheer discomfort for the riders. In fact, it looked unbearable. At times hard to see. A long hard day in the saddle for many as the Queen took her toll.

Two veteran riders were fantastic. Unfortunately only one could win...

Peter Van Petegem (De Peet) was just coming off an excellent win of the Ronde van Vlaanderen. The great 37 year old classic star shone in the Roubaix Sun by buying his time. The other was the rejuvenated 38 year old Vjatcheslav Ekimov. Having come out from 8 months away from cycling, the Russian rode strongly and nudged De Peet on the final straight of the velodrome. The track specialist tried but lost out to a gallant Dario Pieri (2nd) and to an even tougher Flandrian.

With his win, Peter Van Petegem entered in the record books as one of nine riders' to do the Ronde & the Roubaix double!

Nov 25, 2009

Gino the Pious.

The ascension back to the throne for the two time Tour champion.

Gino Bartali was extremely devoted bikeman and to his Catholic religion. He had the presence bordering a god. That's what Mussolini's sports minister, General Antonelli declared after the Italian won the 1938 Tour.

So embraced by his countrymen he stayed true to his Italian roots. Although he battled in the Tour, he never rode in the northern classics. In a way, he never had to. Before the start of World War Two, the tough Tuscan already had achieve an amazing palmares. He won two Giro's, a Tour de France, 2 Giro di Lombardia and a Milan-Sanremo. A master of his craft, he was mobbed everywhere. One soldier protecting him yelled, "Don't touch him. He's a god!"

Bartali's god-like figure cut deeply into the fabric of Italian cycling. He was a powerhouse of a simple man made for the rigors of cycling. Religion was his other strength. The Vatican revered him, blessed by three popes. While riding he carried five medallions of the Holy Virgin around his neck and across his handlebars. He would have shrines in his hotel rooms for the Giro and Tour. And spiritual visits to the nearby church before a stage would not be uncommon. Even when he punctured the saintly Bartali never swore.

At the 1948 Tour Bartali was 34, ten years after winning his first Tour. He mounted the challenge. He won the first stage and took the yellow. But at the foot of the Alps, Lousion Bobet looked capable of beating the Italian. The young Frenchman was more than 21 minutes in front with the yellow jersey. The press denounced old Bartali any chance of the overall. But, in Lourdes Bartali prayed at the Virgin's shrine. He sent a telegram to the Pope asking for a special blessing for him and his teammates. Was he asking for divine intervention?

More sacrifice was in order...

At the rest day in Cannes, the Italian Prime Minister telephoned Bartali begging him to win the Tour. After an assassination attempt, the secretary of the Communist Party Palmiro Togliatti lied in critical condition and civil unrest was feared. If Bartali won then the country could settle down. Bartali answered the call and powered his way to Paris with more than 26 minutes over second place. He won his second Tour.

More so, Italy called Gino the Pious the 'saviour of his country'.

Alfredo Binda waiting for the Campionisimo!

Nov 23, 2009

1954 re-visited.

The eagle soaring on top of the Col du Tourmalet!

This 2010 Tour will re-visit Holland. A long time coming since starting in Amsterdam back in 1954. It was huge as the Tour celebrated it's 51st edition with the new twist of starting for the very first time outside France. A fine publicity feat, too. Frenchman Louison Bobet was back to defend his 1953 victory and it was simplify by the absence of the Italians.

A Dutch treat!

Hard to believe the Italian squadra wasn't there. At that year's Giro the top riders' like Coppi were caution for not racing and allowing the domestiques to take most of the stage wins. After a riders' strike, the Italian Cycling Federation refused a team for the Tour. Even the French organizers refused any Italian riders' from entry into the race. With Coppi out of the Tour a star was out, literally. To add to the drama Coppi went out training, during the Tour, and was hit by a wheel that flew off a passing truck. He fractured his skull!

You can imagine the interest the Tour generated as a reported 100,000 Dutch were on hand to cheer their own Tour 'hero'. Flying Dutchman Wout Wagtmans won stage one welcoming the Grands Départs in Amsterdam.

A Spanish sensation started his first Tour. Federico Bahamontes got his eagle wings over the grand summits in worthy style. He proved to be the revelation of that Tour amassing plenty of climbing points and making Bobet wince more than once in the high mountains.

But, Bahamontes was not a well known descender and ran painfully into a cactus as an amateur. On top of the Romeyere he waited on the roadside for the rest eating an ice cream. It worked. At the very least to calm him from the inevitable descent. The Eagle from Toledo finished 25th overall and flew to his first mountains classification.

Coppi was literally out from this Tour!

Nov 22, 2009

On the road.

Here's a photo essay of what I see along my wet bike route. I like the rain because it really brings out the colours in everything. Most disheartening is the aftermath of the major fire that occurred last week. It's just off the very busy Broadway street on Main. Three businesses were razed to the ground and I wonder what will come next?

I love dogs so that's why this guy is at the top!

Nov 20, 2009

Rainy day upgrade!

Velcro strip = no more stress point!

Last May I bought a waterproof cycling jacket in Portland (like that city). And just under 20 bucks I have a pretty good deal.

Fast forward today, and with a few wet rides under my belt or over my shoulders, the jacket is proving itself... with an DIY improvement!

It's made from 100% plastic. No space age material here. Waterproof it is, fancy it isn't. But the plastic tends to tear easily if pulled too quickly from the velcro. Although very weak, the seams are reinforced as best as it is. I noticed after pulling it off it would eventually separate at the seams. Tear is the better word. Then frustration set in.

After more than a few stitches at the appropriate weak points an idea hit me. Use a strip of rubber inner tube as an extra layer to keep the plastic from separating from the seam. Give it a certain strength it never had.

And you know what? With the help from Carolle my 20 buck jacket will live longer and stronger. Now, I can pull away from the Velcro with no worries!

Rubber inner tube (left) sewn in to provide it from
not pulling apart!

Nov 18, 2009

Thinkin' again about P-R.

The nice & muddy 1970 P-R...
Merckx is well out in front from his frustrated rivals.
It's enough effort just to keep upright!
From: Paris-Roubaix.

Another stab into the inclement weather as I set out this morning for my P-R like ride.

The forecast said partly cloudy with a chance of Sun? Well, all I had to do was bundle up and with hot tea in a second bottle took off on my UBC ride. Why do I listen to these hack weather forecasters? Four degrees Celcius with the ominous dark clouds should have tipped me off as it started to rain. And the fair weather forecast vanished like a gambler's lucky streak. In fact, it never occurred to me as I just missed the morning hailstorm. Except on my way closer to home I did ride over the soggy frozen remnants from the storm.

I managed to stay out to complete my wet circuit, got home and turned on the hose to the bike. My leg warmers were covered in road dirt and I felt like using the hose on them. I'm glad I sidestep the nasty hailstorm.

My guess it wouldn't be quite like Paris-Roubaix!

my dirty leg warmers, wool socks & booties.

Nov 17, 2009

Café racer.

A pink Simoni when the hail fell...

Two thousand and three was the year for Gilberto Simoni to exonerate his name. You see the previous year, in 2002, he tested positive for cocaine and thrown out of the Giro d'Italia. He ate coca candies bought by his Aunt while in South America. He was later reinstated by the Italian Cycling Federation.

I finished watching this entertaining and exciting Giro titled, 'The Quest'. Along with Simoni's strong drive to prove himself I marveled at the efforts of Il Pirata. Still morally depressed by the drug scandals, Marco Pantani fought on and stayed in contention in the high mountains. Sadly, he eventually finished his final Giro in 14th overall.

World champ, the Lion King Cipollini, was astounding winning two stages and importantly given a special award for the most Giro stage wins (42!).

What I also enjoy was the profile of Captain Simoni and his coffee fueled Saeco soldiers. Really the stars of the show. They followed all nine team members, three directors, three mechanics, five soigneurs and the bus driver as they negotiate through the great race called the Giro.

Loved it!

Pushing hard...
Never stop Il Pirata from trying!

Nov 15, 2009

Drinking Companion.

Rain or shine...
Merckx purging the toxins behind soigneur Michiels.
From: 'Eddy Merckx.'

Behind the scenes in a cycling team supporting the riders is a monumental task. Take the soigneur, the indispensable team assistant providing message, responsible for feeding, clothing and just taking care of the team.

During a race, these key team member's help fuel the riders' by providing the ever important musette bag. For a long stage race like the Tour, where a rider can consume on average of 6000 calories per stage, food and drink is vital. You probably seen them gathered at the feed zone ready to pass the musettes to the hungry riders.

Eddy Merckx's soigneur, Guillaume Michiels was his regular trusty companion especially after a night of overindulgence. The next day the two would be out on the roads as Michiels helps Merckx "to ride the poison out of his system."

Classic champ, Hennie Kuiper out with his trusty companion.

Nov 14, 2009


It's a start!

This is my second Mo-vember to give it a go to grow a moustache. In a show of solidarity, with work, I’m sporting a moustache for awareness of men’s health-specifically prostrate cancer.

A 'stache Urs Freuler poses with Paolo Rosola 1987 Giro.

My German boss sports one. Seems he's had one since birth. His son tells me he’s never seen him ever without it. For the effort, it takes me awhile to grow anything on my upper lip. Only two weeks, it’s coming slowly along.

Moustache road riders were rare in the eighties/nineties. The only two I could think of was the Swiss ace sprinter, Urs Freuler and the Pole speedster, Lech Piasecki. Both, solid riders in their own right sporting the ‘stache. Today, I can only come up with the Garmin-Slipstream twins, Dave Zabriske & Steven Cozza.

The 'stache Lech Piasecki, first Pole to wear the yellow jersey for two stages, 1987 Tour.

I’ll be daring and extend the ‘stache to Christmas...

... and see how it grows!

Dave Zabriske...

... and Steve Cozza of Garmin.

Nov 11, 2009

Thinkin' about P-R.

Satisfied it's over...
but he'll be back!

I've been mulling it over and decided to go on my first ride in a week and a half. That's almost eternity for me but the sobering realization is that it rains pretty much everyday keeps me off the bike. As the weather turned for the better I was ready...

After the mucky ride.

This morning was nippy as I looked outside and felt the cold air but the Sun like me was gently peeking out. Four degrees Celsius, time to wear layers. I actually put on two leg warmers (a first) and made sure to put on my toasty merino top under my wool jersey. Add another jacket plus skullcap, winter gloves and the indispensable shoe covers to finish it all off. One last job and important one too, I filled up my water bottle with hot tea/honey to get ready for the cold.

I really like riding in the cold, maybe it's the thought of Paris-Roubaix. Or is it the Paris-Roubaix syndrome? I feel content bundling up for a cold weather ride. The roads were unflinchingly wet as the sun wasn't up to it's potential and hid away during most of my ride. Periodically, I glanced down to my bottom bracket collecting the muck and water off the road and all I thought was Paris-Roubiax. I started to look like a refugee from the race as my leg warmers & shoe covers were covered in road grime. A badge of courage? Ok without the dreaded pounding from the pavé, I still think so.

First off; liberal use of warm water/detergent...

After my grimy adventure I thought of Sean Kelly's days as a rider and what he did after a grimy ride. He washed his bike down with warm water/mild detergent and and then puts the hose to it. A two time winner of P-R can't be wrong. I did the same. It's satisfying washing away the dirt and getting the bike prime for another tussle. I enjoy this ritual. My own mini Roubaix!

And hose it off!

Nov 10, 2009

Winter with Bobet.

Ready to conquer the cold
with this classic winter cap!

I’m ready for the weather change. It’s fall just like the temperatures. Time for warmer cycling gear for my noggin. This is my Winter with Bobet Cycling Cap from Galstudio.
It’s very warm made from 100% wool and looks just as great alone or under the helmet. When I have it on I feel that I have a much needed weapon to combat the cold.
Last year I acquire a skullcap toque that was very toasty. Now I have an all-purpose winter cap w/brim to keep the rain out of my eyes. You can never have enough cycling caps. And I love the color.
Bobet was a classy rider as the first to win the Tour in three successive years. And the cap?… As stylish as the name!

Nov 8, 2009

Waiting for the Broom Wagon.

Off the back in Les Triplettes of Belleville,
the Madame Souza special!

The voiture balai – is the most iconic vehicle in the Tour. First introduced by Henri Desgrange in the 1910 Tour along with the new climbs into the high Pyrenees. Others said that it was a savvy way to prevent cheating at the back of the race.

Also called the broom wagon, its purpose to pick up riders too exhausted to continue the race. For many years a broom was mounted on the van that acts as an ominous symbol trailing the last place rider(s) waiting to ‘sweep’ them up. That was up until 1992, the organizers decided the broom was outdated.

The lesser lights climb into the van. But, you rarely would see the big stars. They will call for cars or wait at the feed stations. Of course there’s exceptions to the rule.

My favorite broom wagon...
The iconic Citroën H Van.

The 1965 Tour in the Pyrenees was the end for the great Eagle of Toledo. Federico Bahamontes barely survived and finished within the time limit. On the next stage, the aging star climbed off his bike and sat in the back of the broom wagon amongst startled riders.

The well known and my favorite is the Citroën H Van. It’s the most famous broom wagon of the Tour. In the late forties & early fifties it represented the Tour with it’s characteristic rippled body work and box like shape. I always like that ultilitarian look. And it had a supporting role in the excellent movie, Les Triplettes of Belleville.

It may be disheartening for a last place rider to see the balai looming over his shoulder. For the upcoming 2010 Tour a four-wheel tradition will continue rolling on … celebrating it’s 100th anniversary!

Renault 1000 kgs Camion Balai.
Swiss Rolf Graf takes his place in the voiture balai at the 1957 Tour.
From: Tour de France: The Illustrated History.

Nov 6, 2009

Dario Pegoretti: fatto a mano!

The artisan...

Where framebuilding equals art the cycling world can look and marvel at Dario Pegoretti. He was well schooled in the seventies learning framebuilding from none other than the great Luigino Milani. He actually continue building in the Milani shop in Verona until 1999.

his art...

During the nineties pro teams sought out Pegoretti for his functional frames and badged them under different makes. His star value was already high. Roche, Indurain, Tafi and Boonen are just some of the stars that had the honor of riding his bikes.

What is remarkable is that there is currently a wait time of 2 years for his custom beauties. Only about 600 frames are made per year with Pegoretti & his staff of two hand painting each to a work of art. In May 2007, Pergoretti was diagnose with Lymphoma. And not one to stop what he love to do he set out to create art with his beautiful frames. Columbus steel tubing is his material. Working through his cancer treatment & side effects he put his experience graphically on his frames. It was so well received that in 2008 in Portland Oregon, he was awarded the North American Handmade Bicycle Frame Builder of the year.

At the 2007 Tour de France, Tom Boonen rode a Pegoretti Marcello badged under Specialized to win two stages and the coveted green jersey. Which goes to show that his bikes are still sought after and won on. And you gotta love the way that these frames are lovingly & meticulously hand built. And the names are catchy and enduring; Responsorium Ciavete,(I don't give a f*@k!), Big Leg Mama (from a Frank Zappa song), Marcelo, Love #3, Duende, Luigino, Wild Women don't get the blues & 8:30 (aluminum).

His inspiration... he listens to some of his favorite's; Pink Floyd, John Coltrane and Ravel's Bolero. Dario Pegoretti is a self made artistic scribe of the bike. A unique innovator. His frame's are made for a lifetime. Come to think of it... any of his stunning frame's I wouldn't mind owning!

the rider...

...and the steel!

Nov 4, 2009

Pomegranate Love.


I'm shamelessly plugging the simple but lovely red fruit ... the pomegranate. Returning from a afternoon ride, I enjoyed the edible seeds on yoghurt. And there's more to the robust red fruit. I checked it out...

Getting to the edible red juicy arils (seed casings) is a chore. Just wear something that you don't mind having pomegranate juice splatter on. You'll have to rip into it separating the seeds from the peel. Time consuming but well worth it.

A good source of fibre, Vitamin C, potassium and especially high in polyphenols, an antioxidant. A good weapon in the risk of cancer and heart disease. In fact, it has higher antioxidant to beat out green tea & red wine. It won't be a reason to stop drinking red wine!

Cheers to the pomegranate!

Nov 1, 2009


Climbing away!

In 1969, at just only 24 years old, Eddy Merckx had already amassed a list of palmares that was superstar status. So young and dominating his wins were an envy of many. He won prestigious races: Paris-Roubaix, Tour of Flanders, Milan SanRemo, Giro d’Italia & a World Championship title.

On June 2nd he left the Giro under a cloud of suspicion. He was disqualified for a drug test. Could it be a plot? Belgium thought so. Was there a conspiracy? Merckx denied any wrong doing and so he set upon clearing himself. He gave samples in front of journalists. And a lab in Milan cleared them. And it grows murkier. The test weren’t official and the UCI banned him for a month... for the Tour. Belgium put more pressure on and appealed and the UCI suspended the sentence. Merckx was finally cleared after a certain number of irregularities were found in the testing procedures. So stressed he became that he thought of quitting.

His solo breakaway!

The Tour was his stage race for exacting revenge. Symbolically he took his first yellow jersey after his Faema red guard took the TTT at his home town of Woluwe. He won six stages staggering and impressing all especially on the Tourmalet riding 130 kms alone with the yellow jersey. At the end his rule was supreme. He gobbled up the jerseys: yellow & green. Also winning the mountains and the combine classification and the combativity award. His second placed finisher Roger Pingeon was the closest any rider could come to scratch Merckx, a whopping 17m 54s behind. With this win he became the first Belgian since Sylvere Maes last won at the 1939 Tour. French cyclist Christian Raymond riding for Peugeot baptized Merckx the famous nickname, ‘the Cannibal.’ Race director Jacques Goddet called it ‘Merckxissimo.'

The Cannibal was born!

Leading the pack!

A victory wave...
with his red guard!

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