Classic cobble paint scheme for Philippe Gilbert's Canyon.
With the 3 days of De Panne under way it's the race that springs into the big one for Sunday's Ronde van Vlaanderen. riders will focus on plenty of hills in west Flanders. A three stage race through beautiful Flanders covered in hills, cobbles, wind/rain and plenty of screaming Flemish fans. Look to pavé strongmen; Alessandro Ballan, Philippe Gilbert & Stijn Devolder to hone in their skills. The French are back with today's fine sprint by Steve Chainel with a clever David Millar in seventh. I have a feeling that the Scot, if he stays atop of the classification going into Thursday's TT can knock on the door for the overall. I'm thinking out loud on this on account of Millar's excellent TT win in Criterium International.
As for the tough men to win one of the upcoming stages before the TT are my list; Nico Eeckhout, Leif Hoste, Tyler Farrar, Francesco Chicchi & Bobbie Traksel. My eyes will be glued to my computer for tomorrow's stage two. Old man Winters gone and we're springing into classic Flemish racing!
The cycle computer was first introduced by the Japanese company, Cateye in 1981. A marvelous little invention. US based Avocet decided to compete with their very own. In 1984, Greg LeMond was the first to use it and introduced it in the Tour. As the Tour is always the showcase for anything new. Innovation brought success and many pro teams used it. Avocet stated in their 1984 Ad, 'It's small, lightweight, and 99.9% accurate. And it weights less than an ounce.' I remember Avocet introduced them in rainbow colors and that's when they really took off. Seems every pro team had one to fit their team kits.
I bought my first and decided to keep it simple with a low cost one made by Filzer. I can say my little gizmo is working very well and accurately spitting out the appropriate data I need. The only question is how not to look at so often!
LeMond with the first Avocet cycle computer at the 1984 Tour.
Tara Whitten, CAN(gold), Elizabeth Armistead, GB(silver),
Leire Olaberria, ESP(bronze)
I'm a roadie ever since dabbling and I mean dabbling in road racing back in my twenties. Track racing is another world on it's own and full of unpredictable excitement. With the world track championships over in Denmark there's one Canadian that deserves high praise. Her name is Tara Whitten from Edmonton. And of course, I'm waving the Maple Leaf as she has powered her way in winning two gold's in the: point race & the omnium event.
Congratulation's to her becoming world champion. Great performance!
Juan Antonio Flecha continues well in the classic sense. At the E3 Prijs, the Arrow was among the final break with Tom Boonen and winner Fabian Cancellara. The Arrow looks ready for the big one. Already into the season with an impressive Omloop win, the Spaniard Flandrian placed a very strong third today.
Tomorrow's Gent Wevelgem forecasts Flemish classic weather of wind and rain. Perfect conditions for Flecha to fire another arrow over the pavé!
Freddy Maertens is mobbed after he wins his second Gent Wevelgem in 1976!
From: Fabulous World of Cycling.
A big Flandrian weekend of racing is upcoming with the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen & Gent Wevelgem. A perfect setting is about to begin with plenty of hopefuls in need of a win. And the setting is the weather and cobbles. Forecast is for rain & appropriate cold temperatures for both races. It will be a factor. And more so is the redrawn race of Gent Wevelgem. With 16 leg breaking hill's over 219km. The notorious Kemmelberg climb with it's steep climb dares the riders' before a flat finish in Wevelgem. Both races will produce a worthy 'Flemish' winner before the big cobbled monument of the Ronde, on April 4th!
On the success of our Orangeman Cycling Cap, we had a request for a Belgium cap. We had so much fun designing and producing it I'm glad to introduce Galstudio's newest offering; The Flandrian Cycling Cap!
The Flemish cycling week starts with today's Dwars door Vlaanderen. And we thought it would be the perfect time for the Flandrian. The challenge was to find the right ribbon to construct the stripe. Honoring the great races with the colors of the Belgium flag wasn't easy. We used individual ribbons to construct the colorful stripe.
The Flandrian way...
The Flandrian rider is all about self sacrifice, a struggle over the pavé with grim suffering. Alberic Schotte was known as the Last of the Flandrians. Able to withstand the freezing rains, wind and atrocious road conditions give these riders of western Belgium the well earned toughness. Schotte won the Ronde twice (1942, 1948) and his Flandrian hardness earned him the nickname, 'Iron Briek'. Other Flemish star's would come Walter Godefoot and Johan Museeuw with their achievements through gritty determination. There are adopted Flandrians like Irishman, Sean Kelly. He had the perfect hard worker's character coming from a tough rural upbringing. The key to being a Flandrian.
So here's our Flandrian Cycling Cap for all the hardy souls of cycling!
Eric Vanderaerden won twice at the 1986 & 1991 Dwars.
The Belgium door opens for cobble chaos called the Flemish Cycling Week with Dwars door Vlaanderen, E3 Prijs, Ghent-Wevelgem & Three days of De Panne. And following all that is The Ronde, Paris-Roubaix, the Brabantse Pijl, Amstel Gold, La Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
Certainly a long awaited and most exciting time for classic cycling fans. I'm one. And I will be following intently on the internet for the fireworks. The cobblestone misery will love company in the form of the adverse weather conditions common at this time. The races will be gloriously difficult for the riders to be sure. Flemish fans will be out in full force cheering on their Belgian heroes to win. I'll be cheering hoping Dominique Rollin can upset the apple cart. He finished a strong fifth in the miserable conditions of Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. The Canadian has a certain taste for the Flemish pave. Last year he made podium for third at Scheldeprijs. I have a certain feeling he's been going well enough to finally bring home a cobblestone victory and become a Flemish hero!
I'm happy (and extremely glad) that Deschutes Brewery of Bend Oregon is finally selling their tasty brew, so far just one, here in Vancouver. The other week I spied the Mirror Pond Pale Ale at my local store and after rubbing my eyes many times, took it home ala sixth pack to enjoy. For my faithful readers of my blog you know that I already reviewed this fine microbeer last year. I just returned from a trip to Portland and brought some back. A few months before that I was fortunate to taste their Black Butte Porter. After my frustrated post, Jason from Deschutes Brewery wrote me a reply. He informed me that they were looking into selling their wonderful beers up here. I don't have to wait ANY longer, they've landed!
Now, I'm back to reading another William Fotheringham book, this time the much anticipated 'Put me back on my bike.' A biography on the great British cyclist, Tom Simpson. I've just started into it and unfortunately I have only empty bottles of Mirror Pond. I know. I'll soon return with a full book review... and get down to the store for some more Mirror Pond Pale Ale!
Forty-one years young, Poupou at the 1977 Tour of Flanders.
From: Fabulous World of Cycling.
Now that the Italian dust has settled a third Milan Sanremo goes to the sly Oscar Freire. Already thirteen pro seasons with some seventy wins is illustrious to say the least. His amazing sprint putting Tom Boonen neatly away to win La Primavera was utterly epic. Thirty four years old, his nickname is the Cat, known for his cunning ability to smartly pounce when the time is right. A good thing, he cleverly decided not to retire at the end of this season but to come back to go for a Zabel tying fourth MSR. He definitely has a few lives left.
The Cat with a new life!
With the Ronde van Vlaanderen only two weeks away, I was going back through the Classic races searching who was the oldest rider. Raymond Poulidor was one of the oldest guys racing, probably THE oldest. My Longevity award goes to him as a 41 year old racing his last year with Mercier-Miko. I believe he was one of the rare riders to start and finish his career with one team. The Classic race was the 1977 Tour des Flandres. He didn't finish it but only a few did. In fact, 26 survived out of 167 riders. Although, no one could match the unstoppable winner Roger De Vlaeminck, Poulidor was in a class by himself.
Poulidor seems to me as an old warrior from an era befitting ironman status. Sure, his battlefield was fought between the years of two greats Anquetil & Merckx. That deserves credit. His longevity lasted seventeen years. And what was also remarkable Poupou rode 14 Tours and finished his 12th Tour in 1976 at the age of 40. He was so competitive that he finished on the podium in third. And for his last Tour he was presented with a bust of himself. Never once in yellow the 'unlucky' Poupou was much loved as France's underdog.
Weighing into Saturday's 101st running of Milan-Sanremo is bit of a monumental mix. I have many favorites and overwhelming as some are only one guy can win. It's an awful quandary to be in. And that's where it's so exciting. La Primavera starts on the first day of Spring sprouting good things to come, namely the start to the Classics.
Spring in Vancouver.
A few riders are sporting injuries & ailments early in the season. Last year's winner, Mark Cavendish seems to be suffering less from dental concerns as he's back to defend his title. His showing at Tirreno was nondescript and he may or may not have the form to win. Alles Jet Petacchi injured his leg in training and there's no indication that the sprinter is hurting. Finishing a close second behind winner Boasson Hagen on the last stage of Tirreno makes him a threat. Tom Boonen, Thor Hushovd, & Daniele Bennati are three liable to be in contention for the final sprint. Of course, there are dark horses lying in wait. Oscar Freire & Allesandro Ballan are just the two that can steal the show.
Sky's Michael Barry is confident of Edvald Boasson Hagen's chance to win. Barry said, "It's a race we can win and we are going there with a plan to do just that. Edvald is in great form and we will ride for him."
Canadian, Michael Barrya domestique for Team Sky, is also an accomplished writer. Notably he's authored a very interesting book due out next month. It's aptly called, Le Métier. What is métier? Simply it's a trade, field or activity at which one excels; one's forte. He writes with a compassion being a domestique, the relatively unknown, unsung working class heroes of the peloton. They attack when they can believing victory possible. Or chase down breaks. They seldom win but sometimes they can. Barry mentions the French riders are most motivated to attack or breakaway on their home soil. That pursuit of glory could turn them into overnight idols. Domestiques are often remember by the fans. On agonizing mountain stages, fans cheer on the domestiques struggling in the back appreciating that certain sacrifice. But it's all about hard labor, in fact, Barry has been a pro for eleven seasons. That's lots of days in the working saddle.
Ex-pro, Sean Yates was a domestique, too. He knew he was one and not a leader. "It's to do with your work ethic. I knew from the beginning that I wasn't going to be a big hitter, not every day." Barry's definition sums it up, "Le Métier was a phrase I heard every day as I worked toward being a pro. To me, it is the essence of cycling; devotion, work ethic, savoir-faire (a knowledge of how to do something), an identity developed through experience."
For Michael Barry, his role as domestique seems fitting. He helped guide Boasson Hagen to a final stage win in Tirreno-Adriatico. And, along with a strong team will ride Milano-Sanremo this Saturday ...no doubt working hard for an monumental victory!
A domestique's victory...
Michael Barry wins stage 4, 2008 Tour of Missouri.
Finishing Roule Britannia by William Fotheringham about the exploits of the Brit Pack during the early cycling years. Engaging reading and I'm enjoying Fotheringham's writing; detailed, well researched and entertaining.
Certain guys stick out from this pack and one notable rider is Sean Yates, nicknamed; the beast. He was part of the foreign legion of the eighties including; Graham Jones, Robert Millar, Stephen Roche & Aussie Phil Anderson. A big impact rider with a tendency for his fearlessness on the bike. The opposite was true of him, he was quiet and let his actions speak for him. Even the young Lance Armstrong was scared of him when they were together with Motorola in the early nineties. He was well respected for towing his teammates in time trails due to his colossal speed. Teammates would guesstimate how much pain he would cause them. Yet, his wins were infrequent but he won the Tour's fastest ITT(in 1988) before aerodynamic bars. He used his size to downhill advantage often stringing the peloton behind him tearing down a mountainside at 60 mph usually without a helmet. He also made his bike suffer wearing out a chain a week. And he loved Paris-Roubaix, his best placing fifth, in 1994. A typical Yates race, splendidly muddy and fit for adventure. He calls it, 'A man's race.'
Fotheringham paints a broad picture of British cycling's achievements in the Tour and does so... with a big heroic brush. A fine read!
I bought a set of cork tape, seven dollars from my local neighborhood outdoor shop. A good deal considering the price goes over 10 dollars. With Spring around the corner (this upcoming Saturday), I felt the time was right for a Spring clean up.
Amael Moinard wins the final stage 7, P-N.
Come to think of it I've use black cork tape for over four years. I started off with white cello tape, my favorite by Benoto. I believe it's not made anymore. A pity. I loved that shiny cello tape. It was the classic tape used in the 80s. I stripped off the old tape, peeling it away right down to my smooth and glistening aluminum Cinelli handlebar. More percisely, I have the model 66-40 Campione Del Mondo road bar. The '40' means 40cm center to center. I marveled at it. A beauty to behold. I placed the new tape on and wrapped it with joyful pride. A new season was about to start.
Spring brought out the best at this year's race to the Sun, Paris-Nice. Many riders' finding their form in a difficult week long test. Alberto Contador showed his form along with compatriots; Alejandro Valverde & Luis Leon Sanchez. But, I thought of the final stage winner going, symbolically, to a Frenchman. Amael Moinard took the stage convincingly and scored enough points to win the Polka dots mountain jersey. One thing's for sure, the ever hopeful French cycling fans are feeling that his success can 'spring' a new beginning at this year's Tour de France!
A closer look...
Bad to the bone...
My classic Cinelli 66-40 Campione Del Mondo & stem.
Thirty-eight year old wunderkind, Jens Voigt seems to be riding so well in Paris-Nice that the age thing is not an hinderance. He's riding well and spent a day in yellow only to lose it to an opportunity driven Alberto Contador after stage 3.
Voigt is a fan favorite for his gusto riding, always maintaining a hard tempo at or near the front. He always seems to have a little extra in him when racing. I like his style. As an older rider I'm inspired by his recent outpouring on the pedals. The German finished well placed but out of reach of the twenty year old new wunderkind, Peter Sagan. The young Slovak took charge sprinting to his second win (stage 5) leaving the favorites in the dust. Jens Voigt lies quietly sixth overall.
I remember that horrid fall on stage 16 at last years Tour where Voigt had to exit resulting two months off. Like everyone else I thought it was the end. But, thankfully he's back with all the gusto and enthusiasm as ever. And it's refreshing. As much as the young Peter Sagan is turning out to be the race revelation, the older Jens Voigt is doing very well!
I dropped over last week to see Hans at this studio to deliver his new Galstudio Orangeman cycling cap. Carolle did another great job. Hans wanted a cycling cap to replace his ill fitting Rahpa cap. I told him that we could do a better one. Hans is Dutch and what better way than to make him an orange cap. It's made out of cotton/polyester and we added a nice sporty touch with Dutch stripes. And may I add that it goes well with his Colnago Master X Light!
The weather's been cool at Paris-Nice. March in France is sunny and crisp. And the gloves are definitely on for the riders' as the prologue & stages 1, 2 are completed. Dutchman Lars Boom is lowering the ...boom and staying, so far, in the leaders yellow jersey. Guy of Le Grimpeur, was quick to support fellow Kiwi, Greg Henderson's big stage 1 win edging out Grega Bole. Not so good was Gert Steegmans road crash that broke his left collarbone during the prologue has forced him out of the race. He had successful surgery with pins & plate and hopes to come back for Paris-Roubaix.
What's with the weather, anyways? Due to the reports it's snowed a pile in Livorno for the start of the race of the two seas. If that's true more than gloves will be needed for the blue skin riders. Race organizer's will dedicate Tirreno-Adriatico to former Italian national coach Franco Ballerini who died tragically in a car rally accident. Also a fair play prize will be awarded after every stage. And the overall leader will wear a blue jersey symbolizing the azzurra blue worn by the Italian squadra at the world championships.
One item off the list is the massive climb to Montelupone. I'm already missing this gem of hurt but maybe just maybe the pain will return on the Forca di Presto, midway on Stage 5. All the top sprinters will be there and they all have alot to prove before Milan Sanremo. Cavendish is tipped to win stages but look out for his nemesis Thor Hushovd. Tyler Farrar looks ready to finally cash in. Thomas Lofkvist is my man for the overall but Cadel Evans is my darkhorse!
Steve Bauer at the 1984 World Championships in Barcelona.
He went on to win a bronze and launched his Pro career!
In the eighties I was introduced to the great cycling races ie. Le Tour, Paris-Nice & the Classics with one guide. I remember it was yellow, always that familiar yellow and the magazine was called ...Winning: Bicycle Racing Illustrated. I always had to buy it from some obscure newsstand. I think it was on Whyte Avenue in Edmonton. It was a trip to get there. Quite far out. Either I had to ride or take the bus to get there. Sometimes that newsstand was sold out and that was a problem but when they did have it ...it was magical.
This was the cycling magazine offering fine stories on the colorful world of international cycling. Although it had an American slant to it that was ok. I found the photography utterly amazing transporting me right into the great races I admired. I'm not sure what ever happened to it. Just sort of faded away. I still have fond memories of how excellent the magazine was. Importantly, it helped bring to light on the talents of my Canadian heroes like Steve Bauer & Jocelyn Lovell.
Jocelyn Lovell was a truly gifted track star in the seventies. Born in England. He was Canada's first international cycling star and with a gifted tenacity in the 1970s won gold medals at the Pan Am (Cali, Columbia) and Commonwealth Games (Edmonton). He also won a silver medal at the world championships in Munich. Sadly, in 1983 his fine cycling career was cut abruptly short, when a dump truck ran him down during a training ride near Milton, Ontario. He was left a quadriplegic at age 33. Today, Lovell still has that tenacity and is the long time Canadian head of the international advocacy group that promotes research aim at curing paralysis.
As for the Winning magazines, over the years I've lost them and now I wished I've kept them ... just to catch another glimpse of all my cycling heroes of that time!
I'm toasting Canadian, Ryder Hesjedal for his fine fifth place at today's Montepaschi Strade Bianche. It may not be a victory but it's bloody close to it. At the final climb Thomas Lofkvist, Mick Rogers & Maxim Iglinskiy (the eventual winner) took off and were the final three heading to the finish. Only Filippo Pozzato could react from the tiring Canadian. It wasn't his day but I feel it's coming. Hesjedal said, "I didn't feel that great, and I had to dig deep all day. To get fifth with the field that's here, I'm pretty pleased with where I'm at."
It's a great start to his season!
Montepaschi Strade Bianche:
1. Maxim Iglinskiy (Astana)
2. Thomas Lofkvist (Sky)
3. Mick Rogers (HTC)
4. Filippo Pozzato (Katusha)
5. Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin)
32. Michael Barry (Sky)
Negotiating through the back streets of Siena is challenging!
Tomorrow is one of favorite 'new' semi-classic, Montepaschi Strade Bianche. I'm in love with the white roads of the Tuscan hills near Siena. It's the fourth edition and 190 kms long over undulating hills make the riders' look like they're from a period piece from early cycling history. Just take out the cycling helmets give the riders' hairnets, a wool kit, tyres wrapped around their backs complete with steel bikes and of course, clip pedals. It's sparked by the L'Eroica race run as a cyclosportif event. And 'L'Eroica' means 'heroic' in Italian.
The Italians have found a unique semi-classic not to rival the legendary classics but to stand out on it's own. Well placed before Wednesday's Tirreno-Adriatico, riders' have grown accustomed to the bianche dirt/gravel roads. I'm glad that part of the strade bianche roads will be included in a stage of this year's Giro.
A bunch of hungry riders' are set to test themselves and I'm still convince that Canadian Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Transitions) will be in the top five. He's shown his class and enjoys riding in the dirt and will be there to improve upon last year's tenth place. Of course, you have to have a little luck and be on form to beat the dust of the sterrati. My Italian homeboys are Ballan (BMC) & Bennati (Liquigas). Cancellara (Saxo) & Lofkvist (Sky) are heavy favorites to repeat. And there's always a few good men out there; the Garmin threat's Maaskant and the resurging Hunter and let's not forget the 'outsider' rainbow jersey holder, Cadel Evans.
Exciting early season racing in Italy with the heroic star going to the strade bianche!
I felt stir crazy missing the last two days of riding. My second cup of coffee helped me as I left under the cover of clouds with the promise of ...Sun. This morning I was off on my UBC ride and I'll be purchasing a cycling computer soon. The shop is currently out until mid March so it's the waiting game. All I need is a simple, straight forward read out on distance/trip and time spent riding.
The cloudy skies didn't deter me in thinking of this Sunday's Paris-Nice and some heavy hitters will be on board. Sanchez won't be back to defend his title but there's plenty of other's to do battle. Contador looks set and ready for the win but he's up against the likes of Leipheimer, Haussler, Valverde, Kreuziger & Schleck.
Paris-Nice will be full of mountains and one I believe will win the mountains classification is Brice Feillu of the Vacansoleil Team. Last year's Tour was remarkable as he made his mark winning the mountainous seventh stage. He won the mountain classification in this year's La Ruta del sol to further lay claim that a certain polka dot jersey will be waiting for him on his way to the Sun!
Steve combats the harsh weather with a Galstudio winter cycling cap avec frites & mayo!
He said, "It kept me ears warm!"
This past weekend in windy and rainy Flanders Steve aka Empidogsent me some images of him sporting a Galstudio cycling cap. That's the closest, that our caps have been to the Flemish pavé. He was over there with Team Flavioto support their young riders for a weekend of racing. Big thanks to Steve and I like the cycling cap & frites/mayo in action. And, NO he didn't have a beer in the other hand!
Steve visited the Flemish Cycling Centre Eddy Merckx!
Another one of the many reasons to visit Flanders.
I'm recovering from the Olympic hockey euphoria that hit Vancouver like a Belgian Classic storm. That was one of the great hockey games that I've ever seen in a long time. You can bet I'm wearing my maple leaf pin with pride.
Yesterday's Belgian storm hit big time over at Kuunre-Bruxelles-Kuunre and the surviving riders look like a war torn bunch. For a semi classic, KBK resembled a better fight of rider vs the elements than Saturday's relatively dry Omloop. The messier it is the better.
Good win for Dutch domestique, Bobbie Traksel. And hard work goes rewarded to Rick Flens (second) & Ian Stannard (third). It goes to show you a supporting rider can also win a big race. Most of the favorites dropped off or just dropped out of the race. The brave ones were left to contend with the harsh weather but three non-Belgian's found themselves finishing in the top three spots. Thor Hushovd (6th) looked strong and with the help from teammate Dominique Rollin (5th) rode intensely like the weather to the finish. I'm believing in Rollin and he looks very close to a big classic win. Just keep the cold and rain coming!