Feb 28, 2010

Straight as an arrow.

riding straight towards a pavé victory!

Juan Antonio Flecha fired off an impressive arrow over the pavé to victory in Saturday's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Van der Flecha soloed with 19 km remaining to score his first win over the cobblestones. A fantastic win for the Spanish Flandrian as Heinrich Haussler & Tyler Farrar followed 18 seconds later. Last years race, the arrow was third and out of reach but this win was vindication perhaps of a monumental sign to come?

Belgian's were shut out of the podium in both races this weekend. Dutchman Bobbie Traksel took an inclement victory at Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne. Can Canadien, Dominque Rollin (an excellent 5th place) be closer to a classic win? Stay tuned!

I had an interesting encounter on my ride up the hill in Spanish Banks Park this morning. As I past a lone rider he was quick to say, "Is this your hill?" I hesitated for a moment. He added that he was glad to see another cyclist and ...why not, I joined him. I saw that he was laboring (and I was too) so I rode beside him in tempo to the top. And funny enough, I said I was riding back home for the Olympic gold medal hockey game and he was doing the same …a Canadian moment, eh!

Feb 26, 2010

Tasty like a rice pie.

Ohh... those delicious tartes aux riz!

I have a hankering for Belgian rice pie. There's a cafe shop I go to for that alluring and tasty pastry. And it goes together. This weekend marks the true start to the cycling season. I'm biased towards the pavé races and Belgium has two. The Omloop Het Nieuwsblad & Kuune-Brussels-Kuurne will mark the much anticipated drive through classic cobblestones.

It just makes a whole lot of sense the beautiful rice pie and the Belgian classics. What can be more better? Right, a beer of course. Patisserie Lebeau, all sweet things Belgian here in Vancouver, has my favorite tarte au riz. The owner, Olivier Lebeau is originally from Verviers, Belgium and his specialties are an addiction, couple with a cafe and it's heaven.

And what better way to have a tarte au riz and think of the upcoming Belgian classics... I'm thinking there's quite a few riders primed for victory and to win will be prestigious. Only a hardened classics man will emerge to take it and these two races will serve as a primer for the ultimate to come; Flanders & Paris-Roubaix.

I like many riders' to win but only one can. The list is many. And that's what makes it fun to speculate. Flecha the arrow will make his mark. It's a long time coming. And if not, Sky has an alternative in Boasson Hagen. If Hushovd looks out of sorts, though we can never count him out, then his Cervelo teammate Haussler looks capable. Those triplets of BMC look a threat, too. Ballan, Burghardt & Hincapie are hungry for a piece of that pie...

Which reminds me ...I'm off for a tarte au riz!

Flecha going straight for the pie!

Feb 24, 2010

The Longest Daze.

Maurice Garin, nicknamed 'The white bulldog,'
often rode with his white jacket was the first Tour
From: Le Tour a century of the Tdf.

Superhuman is what I call the first Tour riders who rode the incredible if not mind boggling stage distances of over 400 kms. The Tour was designed as an epic race of endurance & courage. So enter the first edition on July 1st, 1903.

At just under 2500 kms, six gigantic stages with a group of professionals, semi-professionals & adventurers rode into unknown territory. Seven needed rest days were included as the riders ventured on their heavy bikes over terrible unreliable roads often through dust & mud. Sixty started & 21 survivors arrived in Paris on July, 19th. The race was especially ardulous to the non-finishers, many were ejected for cheating, some abandoned through fatigue and injury, and a few simply disappeared. All the stages took at least 24 hours to complete, and riders were expected to feed themselves and make repairs to their bicycles without outside assistance. Two stages started during the middle of the night. Maurice Garin made history becoming the first Tour de France champ. He won three stages; the first (467 km), fifth (425 km) & sixth (471 km). He won by 2 hours 49 minutes and the last rider finished 69 hours 47 minutes behind.

Since 1903, Tour organisers made the stages longer and harder and one of the longest post war Tours was the 1967 race. The stage was 359 kms long to Fontainebleau, and took the superhuman riders over eleven hours to complete. As Tour co-founder Jacques Goddet said, "Excess is neccessary."

Paul Lemeteyer won the 359 km stage
at the 1967 Tour in eleven hours!

Feb 21, 2010

If you can't fight it you might as well join it!

The Winter Olympics are here and very much alive in sunny & warm (10 C) Vancouver. It's a bit of an odd thing because there's no snow. I was born in Calgary where snow = winter, and during this time it doesn't fully compute. But life isn't always perfect, except for today.

Carolle and I walked through the Olympic downtown center and it was packed, I mean JAMMED packed. And today is the big GAME, us versus the US in men's hockey. I for one will be sitting down with my brother to lose ourselves screaming over our nation's game. I've never ever seen so many red, hockey jersey's sporting the maple leaf. Even our Canada Day held on July 1st is sombre compared with the flag waving Olympic hysteria. Red is the popular color and many vehicles sport the maple leaf. It's infectious as I put on my Canadian maple leaf pin with a certain pride. I saw scalpers and guys with signs wanting Olympic tickets. Maybe they should get together?

But on the whole it's one big party and whether we protest against it or not our little city is growing up. I remember what one Quebec sports commentator said, "That Vancouver is like a 16 year old young woman who knows that she's beautiful but doesn't know how to use her beauty". Sounds like our little city is going through growing pains!

Feb 20, 2010

Turning Japanese.

Bianchi Ancora

Steel bikes are real. And more and more frame builders are including the age old material in their lineups. As flexy as it is and compliant on the roads, steel is far easier to work with and manufacturers are embracing the rising tide.

A Smart vending machine.

Bianchi provides a Japan only steel bike and hopefully it comes over here. It's called the Ancora for the commuter crowd. I know it's not a racer but I still love it. Seems the Japanese embrace and enjoy the pragmatic steel bike/commuting style. It's very Japanese and being so versatile in the fact that the daily two-wheel steed needs the essentials: fenders, lights & rack it just makes a whole lot of sense. Two more that is Japan only is a steel beauty, the Raleigh Club Special. Gios is in the Japanese market with the Spazio.

I'm starting to feel a tad envious and here's one more thing that's only Japanese; the amazing bike tree. Where else would you park your bike?

A lot of folks may not know (me included) is that Japan is a vending machine giant, with one machine for every 23 people. There's just about everything available; live lobsters, eggs (hmm ...are they fresh?), flowers, live bait, liquor and more. I like this smart one with a Smart car in it. Ok it's not dispensing the actually car but only brochures & stickers. A nice PR move. But, can a steel commuter bike vending machine be far behind? I hope so!

Raleigh Club Special.

Gios Spazio.

Feb 19, 2010

Inside the fridge; wine and the 1967 Tour

Pingeon's Peugeot 1967 Tour winning bike and more ... avec vin!

Frenchman Roger Pingeon entered the 1967 Tour hungry to do well. And when he took the stage to Jambes he secured the yellow jersey all the way to Paris. He rode for Peugeot but the Tour went back to national rather than to trade teams. It was the post Anquetil era and organizers felt keen to start off the new era.

What better way to show that era is with Pingeon's bike and gear from the 1967 Tour. This except is from French cycling mag. (April 2007) , Velomagazine. In it there's an excellent double page of Pingeon's beautiful classic Reynolds Peugeot PX-10. The set up was top of the line: 36 spokes on Ambrosio rims, 5 speed cluster, Simplex derailleurs, Campagnolo pedals & Mafac brakes.

The Paul Mas Grenache Noir 2008 is from France, of course, and lends an air of all things French; namely cycling and wine. It's super dark red with blackberries and vanilla with a hint of spiciness at the back end. C'est bon!

I couldn't help but toast that Tour, and to the memory of Pingeon's Peugeot teammate, Tom Simpson!

Looking good...
Pingeon wearing the yellow jersey
on his PX-10.

Feb 18, 2010

A giant on the pavé!

Sweden's first...
Big Maggy celebrates with his new titanium Bianchi, and rightly so!

Big Swede, Magnus Backstedt was a true giant in the classics. One of those rare big riders (over 2 metres & 90 kgs) to excel over the pavé. It was the enormous power that he could force onto his bikes. At the 2004 Paris-Roubaix he was one of the four survivors with a few kilometers to go. The Lion of Flanders, Johan Musseuw looking to join the exclusive four wins club with Roger DeVlaeminck, punctured! He was the overwhelming favorite along with Peter Van Petegem to win but it wasn't to be. Only four entered the velodrome as Cancellera led Hoffman, Backstedt and the diminutive pocket rocket, Roger Hammond. The big Swede was too much and beat the three in a classic sprint!

Backstedt punishes his bikes. And with Alessio-Bianchi a specially made bike was made for his foray over the pavé. Bianchi engineer's discovered that titanium suited his hard riding style and crafted oversize tubes with carbon forks. It worked successfully in 2004 and he almost did again the following year where he finished in fourth.

The following year...
he move to Liquigas with his speciality made titanium
Bianchi to finish fourth in Hell!

Feb 16, 2010

Plat du Jour: Poulet ...

Bottecchia with musette at
the 1926 Tour.

Food & water let's say it nutrition, back in the early days of cycling took a back seat to the bike and riding. In the fifties, at the Tour, food was laid out for the cyclists before the stage start. Tour organisers arranged with hotels giving the riders a daily half a litre of wine with their breakfast and a litre with their evening meals. That's a lot of wine. So the riders would end up giving it to their respected masseurs who would be usually schloshed. I'm sure Jacques Anquetil and others took full advantage.

I'll have the Bordeaux!
Le Tour de Vin, 1947.

As we know, nutrition is fundamental to bicycle racing success. But, back then it was sorely missing. Musettes, the cotton cloth bags with straps, were giving to the riders during a stage. What was in it would make today's pro level cycling team's cringe. The first musette contained a quarter-chicken or similar, ten prunes & ten sugar lumps. The second musette was lighter; no chicken, double on the prunes. And wine was offered freely on the roads, either by overzealous fans and roadside trucks.

And 'drinking' on the job was considered a normal routine. Certain riders needed a 'cafe', like the Emperor ...Rik Van Looy. He won many races, ruled with an iron fist and expected the most from his charges. British rider, Vin Denson was a domestique and rode many miles for Van Looy's 'thirst'. When Van Looy shouted, "Denson cafe, cafe!" Denson rushed to the next cafe and filled his bottle. He got back to the peloton and handed it over to the Emperor. Van Looy promptly poured it on the road. Seems Denson hadn't heard that cafe can mean beer!

At one point in time tradition dictated that riders went ...cafe raiding. Not a crime. Domestiques would literally empty a designated cafe of all drink including beer. The problem wasn't the drinking but the tab the Tour organisers received from bar owners.

And that was luxurious compared to riding in the Tour of Spain. After a stage, riders would sift for their gear in the baggage wagon and ride back to the hotel with their baggage on their handlebars. There were no masseurs. I can only hazard to guess what was in their musettes!

Feb 14, 2010

Grazie Marco Pantani!

Today, marks six years since the untimely death of the great climber Marco Pantani. He was one of cycling's most if not gifted climbers. His love for the mountains is legendary especially for his two wins at the 1998 Tour & Giro. When he rode he did so with authority often finishing higher and stronger than his competitors.

That's what I want to remember him by for his Il Pirata persona - strong & attacking but perhaps hiding behind a most sensitive soul!

Feb 13, 2010

Flecha: in the driver's seat.

Juan Antonio Flecha or 'Flecha' as he likes to be called is already on winning ways. He helped his team win the TTT at the Tour of Qatar. A huge win for the new Team Sky. Of course, a win is good for the team, but he has other goals.

I like nicknames and he's known for two good ones; 'The Spanish Flandrian' & 'Van der Flecha'. He's come so close on winning the two fabled classics, the results are impressive.

Third at the 2008 Tour of Flanders, and his favorite race Paris-Roubaix; a second (2007), third (2005), fourth (2006) and sixth (2009). A cobbled classic specialist is what the Argentina born Spaniard, Flecha's all about. He's a rarity for sure. He says, "I'm more famous in Flanders. When I'm on the muurs training, I can hear people mutter 'Flecha' as I go past. But in Spain, I'm just another cyclist."

Now, surrounded with a supportive team, it's time for the Arrow to fly towards a certain pavé victory!

Pavé Specialist...
Knowing how to suffer
in Flanders & Roubaix.

Feb 12, 2010

What's in the fridge: Ruling with a Rad!

I just had to say it... It's Rad to have both; the book called Roule Britannia: a history of Britons in the Tour de France. And, the crisp, clean skunky pilsner from Dresden ... Radeberger.

I want to thank Guy (Le Grimpeur) for lending me this very tasty err I mean the most interesting book by William Fotheringham. I'm just into the first chapter while enjoying a refreshing Rad-deberger. The British invasion started earlier in 1955 as a ten man team was sent, for the first time, to race the Tour. They were less equipped than the seasoned teams for the Tour. L'Equipe headlined, 'RICHER IN COURAGE THAN IN EXPERIENCE', was true of the newcomers. Of the ten starters only two finished, Brian Robinson (29th) & Lantern Rouge; Tony Hoar.

This was the start ...for British cycling!

The Hip British Invasion...

The 1955 version...

...and the other one in 1964.

Feb 11, 2010

A very close 1994 Ronde.

Close but no cigar for the Lion!

The most important race in Belgium is the Ronde van Vlaanderen. One of the oldest single day races around, stretching back to 1913. And you know a race that's right up there in my book as a favorite because of the infamous element... the pain searing pavé. And next to Paris-Roubaix, the pavé are shared but this race has something more ... 16 climbs, some cobbled including the 20% Grammont.

Johan Museeuw (Lion of Flanders) was already crowned the king of Flanders for winning it the previous year. Everyone pegged him to win it for a second straight year. On the final finishing straight Gianni Bugno was leading Museeuw, Tchmil & Ballerini. Even Museeuw's director sportif Patrick Lefevere claiming that, "Museeuw could have won on one leg". Talk about cocky...

Bugno made the jump and with a few hundred metres left raised his arms too soon. Without knowing the rampaging Lion was beside him. It was so close, a photo finish was declared...

The Lion of Flanders along with his fanatical fans cried that day!

Feb 10, 2010

Riding with Galstudio!

It's official...

After many months of preparation I have joined forces with Carolle of Galstudio in producing fine handmade cycling caps and accessories. I'm very excited to help her out in production, design & sales. And, my very own blog will have more attention and will be updated frequently. I'll have more time to spend on creating & selling my cycling artwork. You know when it feels right ...and it does, so now my time is fully devoted to building the business. There will be even more wonderful cycling caps, laptop & piccolo pouches & special fun urban designs!

Feb 9, 2010

Slip sliding in the 1994 Paris-Roubaix.

The Heroic Mudslinger: Andrei Tchmil.

I have Spring fever. I admit it. There's about a month left before the race that always leaves me with an lasting impression. That's Paris-Roubaix and how can anyone forget the 1994 muddy mess? I've watched the video (check it here!) and it's NASTY FUN; unbelievable, dramatic & anguish laden... one of the epic tests in Hell.

With about 50 clicks to go, Russian classic star Andrei Tchmil crushed the opposition to ride away for victory. That year, team's went for mountain bike suspensions and the Lotto team equipped their metal monster's with Rock Shoxs. The pavé was the most brutal with rain on and off during the day forcing mud onto the cobble roads. Tchmil rode an heroic Hell of a race, finishing ahead of Fabio Baldato (2nd) & the late great Franco Ballerini (3rd). Olaf Ludwig was fourth and fifth place Sean Yates said it best ... "It was flipping hard!"

Feb 8, 2010

The Return of Flavio Zappi.

Ah, that's former pro Flavio Zappi with an expresso!

The Internet truly amazes me. It brings people who started as strangers from different parts of the World right into a close kinship. That's what happen to yours truly. Yesterday, I received an email from Italian ex-pro cyclist Flavio Zappi. Ok, you maybe asking who the heck is Flavio Zappi? Let me start from the beginning...

Together with my partner Carolle we run our business called Galstudio. We design and make our very own wonderful cycling caps and accessories. Last week we received an email from Steve who bought one of our cycling caps. He was so excited that he sent an image of himself happily sporting it. By the way, thanks Steve for the images. It just so happens that he goes for coffee at ... Zappi's Cafe in Oxford, England. Thus the tie in!

On the wall at Flavio's Cafe...
there's his green jersey!
Both images: Steve Reynolds

Steve mentioned that cafe owner, Flavio Zappi rode in the 1984 Giro wearing the green jersey. What? I did a second take. And I quickly did some research and found out it was indeed true. Obviously, I contacted Flavio to introduce myself. Shortly afterwards, I received his email only yesterday with an interesting reply.

Flavio Zappi rode as a professional in the eighties, and 1984 was by far his best year. He had good results: 12th Milan Sanremo & 18th at Paris-Roubaix. He wore the king of the mountains jersey for nine stages, riding for the Metauro mobili-Pinarello team, only to lose it to Laurent Fignon. Thus our connection. During that same year I travelled to Treviso to meet the frame builder Pinarello & bought a team jersey. I emailed Flavio that I still have it and often ride with it. He said that he was jealous because he lost all of his jersey's after all these years. So, he contacted his old director sportif in search for another one.

I discovered that Flavio returned back to cycling in 2007. After some twenty years away from it he's rediscovered the love for the bike. He now coaches the U23 Men's University Oxford team and again racing. His stories a familiar one. I returned back into cycling in 2007. Life commitments took me elsewhere but I'm glad to be back. And I can truthfully say that it's one of the best things I've ever done for myself.

And the icing on the cake, Flavio says if I'm planning to travel to England, to stop by and meet him. You know ... I'm looking forward to that!

1984 Metauro mobili Pinarello jersey.

Feb 7, 2010

Goodbye Franco Ballerini.


Shocking news today as former two time Paris-Roubiax winner Franco Ballerini has died from injuries sustained in a rally race in Larciano Italy.

He rose to prominence with his 1995 & 1998 victories at P-R. But what he did in retirement was monumental. In 2001, he was the national team coach (I like the name best, Squadra Azzuri) and helped guide rainbow title's in the years: 2002, 2004, 2006, 2007 & 2008.

He will be missed, a true cycling legend...

Thank you, Franco!

Feb 6, 2010

Le Grimpeur approves the winter cycling cap

Guy sporting his new & dapper...
Major Tom winter cycling cap from Galstudio!

This morning Guy (aka Le Grimpeur) and I went on our expresso ride. If you haven't checked out his blog, may I suggest that you do. An insightful and well crafted blog on cycling. And yes the expresso was very tasty, just the right jolt to get us going toward our set course to the UBC campus. Guy sported his newly acquired Major Tom winter cycling cap from Galstudio. Carolle has placed most of her cycling caps on sale for the month of February. It's a fantastic deal where specially selected items are on sale for up to 50% off.

The ride was set under sunny skies. And, you wouldn't know it was winter as the weather was, dare I say, Spring like. It's a great start to the new year and I for one am feeling invigorated & ready to start afresh and looking forward to a great year of riding!

Feb 5, 2010

1973 Giro: calling Fuente

Three stars of the 1973 Giro...
(l to r) Felice Gimondi, Jose Manuel Fuente & Franco Bitossi.

Feb 4, 2010

What's in the fridge: A toast to the Sweat of the Gods.

Toasting those Gods!

Two things are forever constant; cycling & beer. The varieties are endless (beer that is) that it's a joy to have one with a good read. I found two that works.

Belgian white beer Hoegaarden (pronounced whogarden) is a crisp 5% brew that has an distinct & quenching taste. One book worth mentioning is The Sweat of the Gods by Benjo Maso. It's an captivating read on a century of cycle racing. Maso subdivides cycling with influences between: the media (newspapers & TV), industry and the stars of all the riders. He writes with passion pinpointing and focusing the true love of cycle racing.

The book & beer are both enjoyable by the end you're asking for more. Of course, there's always more beer and Maso has another book I want called, We Were All Gods - The Tour de France of 1948...

Feb 3, 2010

Etoile de Besseges ... getting the horses in gear!

Bozic wins the massive opening stage...
Rollin (orange/yellow oversocks) charges in ninth!

Today was a rough day for Cervelo Test Team as David Lloyd crashed into a tree during the opening stage. He doesn't know if he's continuing the French stage race but I have a feeling without him a certain Dominique Rollin is eyeing a stage win.

Rollin is called the Horse from the North and was part of the massive sprint to the finish. He came in ninth behind stage winner, Bout Bozic (Vacansoleil). The Canadian is gunning for a stage win to set him for his first Cervelo win. And maybe the sunny, dry conditions were slightly against him. You all remember him winning the wet cold stage 4 at the 2008 Tour of California. After that stormy stage he confidently said, "Even when I'm on the bike I think 'I can't stand this,' the worse it is the better I do, so keep it coming."

Which makes me think that tomorrow's stage, around 140 kms like the rest of the stages & sprinter approved flat, is forecast for rain. I have a very good feeling Rollin will get his horses into the right gear!

Feb 1, 2010

A walk with Beppe Saronni

Saronni at the 1981 Ronde...
sometimes a walk is good too!
From: Fabulous World of Cycling.

With only two months away from the start of the Ronde my interest level has shot way up. To win this great Belgian monument classic the victor will be crowned the King of Belgium. Not to mention negotiating up the 17 leg busting cobblehills. And Belgian riders' have won it more often than any other nation with 66. They almost seem to have it in their DNA.

The second nation with the most wins is Italy, with ten. Even Francesco Moser never won it. His love for the pave was simply ...elsewhere. Giuseppe Saronni won many classics but missed out on the Ronde. Was the pave or the cobblehills too much for him?
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