Jan 30, 2013

LABOR Spécial Course: Paul Deman's Secret

1922 Labor Spécial Course

It is a busy reading time for me as I am enjoying reading many cycling books.

I want to thank Hans again for lending me his excellent Cyclepedia by the avid bike collector, Michael Emacher. Very beautiful and highly detailed images of 100 unique and innovative bicycles that span the past century.

Paris-Roubaix... conjures up anguish riders in rain, mud, choking dust, chaos on dangerous cobblestones set against the backdrop of historical Northern France. It is the world's oldest cycling race first run in 1896.

My spotlight is on the French Labor bicycles, notably the Spécial Course...

Bought by the motorcycle company Alcyon in the 1920's, Labor bicycles acquired cult status after clever advertisements, from the time, of monkeys drawing Labor cycles. What's monkeys have to do with it? Monkey see and do... and Labor figured there was no way even for a monkey to make a copy of their unique Spécial Course. The Spécial Course has the truss bridge design inspired by bridge engineering. The design was torsion-resistant and made to endure the punishing cobbles of Paris-Roubaix. It came to practical fruition...

Paul Deman was the first rider to achieve fame on a Labor bicycle winning the 1920 P-R. I wrote a previous post on the Belgium classics rider also a secret agent during WW1 (here).

The great Belgium 'secret agent man', Paul Deman
after winning the 1920 P-R on top
a Labor Spécial Course!
via cyclingarchives.com
courtesy Guy Dedieu

The true test for a racing bike brand is ultimately to win races. Labor had no shortage of champions that won and rode on their bicycles; Albert Dejonghe (winner, 1922 P-R), Paul Deman (winner, 1922 Bordeaux-Paris), Bou-Azza (winner, first Tour of Morocco) and 'the Giant of Colombes' Francois Faber (Labor team, 1906-07).

Some details of the day...
One rear side pull brake, tubs, aluminum bottle
w/cork stopper, wood fenders,
wing nuts to remove and flip the rear wheel
to change gearing.

Looking at the Spécial Course, it is a beautiful steel bike hardened for the cobble classics. A little too heavy for our time (27 LBS) but built solidly for the tough rider of yesterday. Paris-Roubaix is pancake flat thus the gears of the time. It's a wonder changing a flat would prove so laborious and time consuming. The seat stem looks exactly like the handlebar stem. Equally superb is the crafted wooden fenders and wooden rims.

 A beautiful aging two-wheel warhorse of the time for the toughest race of all.

LABOR Spécial Course: The Specs...

DATE: 1922
WEIGHT: 12.3 KG, 27.1 LB

Labor-ing copying monkeys...
via oldbike.eu

Belgium's Maurice Dewaele finished 
2nd in the 1927 Tour riding a Labor bicycle.
via oldbike.eu

Jan 28, 2013

Bicyclegifts For Unique Gifts

by Michael Varenti
courtesy Bicyclegifts

I'm proud to WELCOME BACK my sponsor, Bicyclegifts

For that hard-to-find cycling gift(s) this is the place to go to where you can find a dizzying array of amazing one-of-a-kind merchandise. There are many items to discover that are unique and fun... how about a chain bowl or bicycle sculptures?

My love for cycling art holds no bounds and the variety offered here is astounding. One of my favorite cycling artists is Michael Varenti (above). He creates wonderful poster art reminiscing of the popular Paris poster period of the late 19th century. Colorful, bold and whimsical... it's wonderful artwork.

Is there cycling clothing? Yes, of course. Check out the fine gear from Apres Velo, you will be pumped... I am!

Jan 27, 2013

1979 Sunday in Hell

Incredible footage from the 1979 Paris-Roubaix as this video picks up when the unlucky Roger de Vlaeminck punctures. Francesco Moser also punctures but blasted away from RdV leaving without a doubt who was the strongest rider. 

Full results from a 1979 Sunday in Hell. 

Jan 25, 2013

Friday File: Merckx 525, Li estrong the Musical, Tuft in San Luis & Backstage Pass TdU

 Friday File and lots of videos to watch...

In the fridge presents a new cycling book courtesy from the local library...

The much anticipated, 'Merckx 525' (VeloPress) by Frederik  Backelandt, Ron Reuman, Stephan Vanfleteren, Jan Maes and photographs by various. This massive book is large and abtly so due to the visually stunning photographs of the greatest racing cyclist ever... Edouard Louis Joseph Merckx. Produced when he turned sixty-five, it's a visual document loaded with many excellent images like the one above of him after winning the 1972 Milan-San Remo.

For my loyal readers... you may have noticed that I now have a new fridge that looks dwarfed by this huge and very heavy book. It's true. It is a small fridge. It's a large book, all the better because you cannot have a proper visual record of cycling thumbing through a small book. This book supports that wonderful visually sense for the images are rightfully large. By the way, enjoy it with your favorite liquid refreshment. I am with a local brew... Whistler Powder Mountain Lager, now my old favorite and turning into a classic beer.

Back to this gorgeous book on the Cannibal, there are images I have seen and many I haven't seen before. The majority of the photos are in black and white and few in color. I suppose the sign of the times in the sixties. One small gripe, I would love to see more color images. As I turn over page after interesting page the images are striking.

This massive book is worthy on any fan's well supported coffee table or bookshelf.

Hans sent me this statement from an art agency off their facebook page and this video on quite possibly the new upcoming...  Livestrong Musical!

Armstrong's legacy will provide dream material for satirists.

Congratulations to our TT champ, Sven Tuft (Orica-GreenEdge) for riding a fantastic TT to win stage 4 (19.2km) at the Tour de San Luis. He opens his season with a blistering win in a time of 22 mins 14 secs. Tuft said,

This time of year, I'm not always sure what I'm going to get. I've had good feelings but I was a little surprised at how hard it felt when I was out there. I forget every year how hard it is. I think that's what allows me to keep doing it. It was a wide open highway-type course. It included two roundabouts and a couple corners. That's it. It was really simple in that sense. The wind was a bit difficult going out, and the downhill sections were super fast. It's definitely a course made for me. I look to take advantage of every opportunity to time trial. 

I did a lot of strength and endurance in the off season. Working with Marc Quod (Orica team trainer) has been very good. It's probably been one of the better winters for me. I've focused on things that I don't normally work. We kept the training really simple and I think that helped. There's never any guarantee of good form, so when I have it, I'm ready to make the most of it.

Tuft on course to victory!

Good to see the season starting, so good here's the Orica GreenEdge backstage pass from stage 4 TdU. Nice mention from Robbie McEwen on Sven Tuft's very nice win at the Tour de San Luis.

Minus the Orica crashes, the on form, Andre Greipel wins his second stage of the race... 

HURTIN' out there,
and NO MESSIN' with the Gorilla!

Jan 23, 2013

Man For The Classics

Servais Knaven...
part of Domo-nation, 
2001 Paris-Roubaix.

As Servais Knaven begins his third year as directeur sportif for Team Sky, he will be a guiding hand for the riders especially come classics time

He knows all about riding and winning on muddy cobblestones... like the 2001 Paris-Roubaix. A fantastic solo victory for the Dutchman ahead of his teammates Johan Museeuw and Roman Vainsteins. That's 1-2-3 for the Domo-Farm Frites team.

Knaven's Hell of the North was his Hell of a race as he shares 16 completed PR's along with Raymond Impanis. Of the 16 PR's, Knaven finished in the top ten an incredible nine times!

I love this mud-fest edition!

Jan 22, 2013

New Cycling Inquisiton 'tierra fria' Winter Cap!

The new tierra fria Cycling Inquistion winter cap!
Red Dots Cycling

It's cold January and I'm very happy to report that the winter cycling cap is alive and well.

I suppose I call myself old school when it comes to cycling caps. Let's see, I have always worn one on the bike ... summer through winter. If you are fortunate enough to get out for a winter ride you know how cold it can be. I see many cyclists with the skull cap under their helmets. Whilst it does provide the warm insulation layer for the head it falls short with no brim.

For our winter cycling caps we include the humble brim performing practically in two ways shielding eyes from sunny glare and keeping away the rain or snow.

This winter season has been very busy with the high demand for our Red Dots Cycling custom winter caps. Klaus from Cycling Inquisition put in another order for his popular Colombian caps. He also requested a new winter cap!

The classic tierra caliente Cycling Inquistion summer cap!
Red Dots Cycling

Going to the drawing board is always fun, so Carolle and I designed a very special Colombian winter cap adorned with the iconic Colombian stripes (red, blue & yellow). Klaus sent us the very special Colombian ribbon sourced in Bogota from his mother and godmother. So, together with our handmade expertise and the Bogota born ribbon a special handmade winter cap is born!

I never would think that Colombia gets very cold and thought of it as a warm country. But, thanks to Klaus' informative Cycling Inquisition blog... the temperature does have extremes - tierra caliente ("hot land") to tierra fria ("cold land"). Thus the names for his Summer cap: tierra caliente and Winter cap: tierra fria.

We now have worked closely with Klaus producing his special Colombian caps and now the new winter caps... a steady progression of fun. I have a special fondness for Colombian riders and for their inner strength as fine grimpeurs. Lucho Hererra, Fabio Parra & Patro Jimenez comes to mind. Guys from the eighties that helped ignite the Colombian fuse in the Tour. It's a pleasure to be associated with Klaus and making his dream of Colombian caps - tierra caliente & tierra fria -  come true!

Winter cap: tierra fria: handmade from wool blend, black with Colombian ribbon from Bogota. The wool blend fabric will keep you toasty warm and has very good wicking properties. The Ear flap is made from Organic Bamboo cotton blend that provides antibacterial, hypoallergenic, wicks and dries well. Both caps size: Small/medium (21 - 22.5") & Medium/Large (22.5 - 24").

All fabric on our cycling caps are pre-washed to prevent shrinkage.

The tierra caliente & tierra fria handmade cycling caps are available... HERE.

*Lucho Hererra brought it all together in 1984, as an amateur, becoming the first Colombian rider to win the famed Alpe d'Huez stage in the Tour.

Jan 20, 2013

Richard Garneau: Québec Voice Behind Many Sports.

Le Tour with Richard Garneau (left) & Louis Bertrand.
photo: Agence QMI

I grew up in Edmonton cheering for the Montreal Canadiens.

Back in the seventies, it was either the hated Maple Leafs or cheer for the Stanley Cup winning Habs. La Soirée du hockey via Radio-Canada would be the channel I would turn to for Saturday night hockey because the Canadiens would always be telecast in French. For me, I wanted to learn French and in a way, it was cool to do so.

For the much-storied Canadiens would not be the same without one of Québec's famous sport's voice of hockey... Richard Garneau. One of our country's top voice of sports has passed away at 82.

I grew up listening to the familiar voice of Garneau and, to me, he was genuinely the voice of the Canadiens. His special thorough knowledge of all sports transcended to his coverage of 23 Olympic Games and later covering Le Tour de France. He was known for his impeccable grasp of the French language and his encyclopedic knowledge of Olympics. I'm very happy to follow his last Olympics in Vancouver. He also covered cycling lending his authoritative presence to the GP Cycliste de Montréal and Québec City. Again, that familiar voice  I grew up with and respected and admire.

Une grande voix s'est éteinte, Je me souviens Richard Garneau!

The Québec voice of
The Olympics...

Le Tour de France...

Les Canadiens!

Jan 18, 2013

Friday File: Love for Cyclepedia, 1990 MSR & F**K Lance!

Hans loaned me an exceptional book, Cyclepedia: A Century of Iconic Bicycle Design by Michael Embacher. Foreward by Paul Smith.

In the eighties, I first discovered cycle racing, or was it that cycling discovered me? It was the flash of svelte steel bikes that moved me ...especially Italian. It still moves me. My 1984 trip to Treviso to visit the famous, Pinarello was a life-changing event for me. Always wanted a steel Pinarello. What I'm getting at is please read this wonderful and compulsory book for every bicycle lover. Photographed beautifully, one can't help but be moved by the two-wheel brilliance. On page 204 my heart quickened with the exquisite, Cinelli Laser: Steel Wind.

And, for those lucky folks who have the iPad, there is an App for downloading here. Hans showed me the amazing app and it's more than amazing...

Thanks Hans!

Some 57 days until the first Monument of the season starts... Milan-San Remo (March 17). I can't wait as it signals the start of the season, for me. Here's Gianni Bugno on his way to the 1990 victory...

Bugno to victory.

Now that it's over, I'm trying to digest the latest LA rhetoric... so I share in these words by the late and truthfully funny George Carlin...

Jan 16, 2013

Coppi & Coffee.

Yesterday morning I was greeted, via twitter, by this wonderful colorized image.

Thanks again Peter... love this image of Fausto, in yellow, in the mountains!

Jan 15, 2013

1921 Tour: Long Distance Acrobats

Desgrange also acknowleged some fun...
1921 Tour de France: Strasboug, after an incredible 400 kms, 16 hours of riding, 
Antony Wattelier shows off his acrobatic skill.

Tour founder, Henri Desgrange held a tight leash around the riders offering unsympathetic draconian measures. Desgrange believed the Tour had to be an example of inspiration the ultimate human physical achievement. For example, riders had to fix their bicycles without outside help and forbade riders to cooperate with each other. For the riders had to be independent and self-sufficient.

In 1921, the shortest stage was 272 kms, the longest ...482 kms. The riders could only curse at the insane long stages ahead of them. The great French rider Henri Pelissier would use his own authority to object and raise enough hell to eventually convince Desgrange that too long is too much. Pelissier was the hero of French cycling winning: Milan-San Remo, Bordeaux-Paris, Paris-Roubaix (twice), Giro di Lombardia (3-times), Paris-Tours and the 1923 Tour de France.

Pelissier made very public his disdain for the treatment of riders in the Tour. So much so, he fought for rider's civil rights against race authorities including Desgrange.

In the 1924 Tour, Pelissier decided to throw one of two jerseys he was wearing during a stage. Desgrange's rule that riders had to finish each stage with EXACTLY the equipment they started with. Well, shit hit the fan, Pelissier was treated "like a schoolboy" and promptly quit that Tour. Les Woodland, 'The Unknown Tour de France', wrote Desgrange called Pelissier, "this pigheadedly arrogant champion."

According to Dutch sociologist, Benjo Maso who wrote the clever, The Sweat of the Gods... Pelissier had many enemies among the riders, especially among the Belgian riders. At that time, the French riders still regarded them as interlopers and they frequently had a tough time in the peloton. Pelissier believed Desgrange confused 'toughness' with 'brute strength'. He added, the Tour was a race for 'workhorses' (the Belgian riders) and not for 'thoroughbreds' (like himself).

By 1927, Desgrange would finally relent and reduce the stages to a more 'humane' 225 kilometres, when Pelissier's cycling career was coming to an end.

A calm Henri Pelissier often...
photo: Michel Renaud

...had rows with Henri Desgrange.
The father of le Tour is keeping a watchful eye
on Roger Lapebie, stage 16 1937 TdF.

Jan 13, 2013

1927 Tour: Smoking to Third

Here's an interesting image from the 1927 Tour to close the weekend with.

Gustaaf van Slembroek smokes on his way to third place on stage 20 to Strasbourg.

Jan 11, 2013

Friday File: GripGrab Cover Socks & Belgian Style

Getting a kick out of my
 GripGrab Belgian style cover socks.

Yesterday, on my first ride of the season with Guy, I tested my new Cover socks by Danish based GripGrab. Cover socks is one of the most important pieces, I believe, one should have (if you don't have a pair already) as part of your kit arsenal. I already have a pair of all-weather water resistant shoe covers when the weather gets extremely cold and ugly. These cover socks are intended for fall/spring riding but I wanted to test them on the cold (1C) day. The construction is of a robust stretch knit fabric, black and striking red band in the rear. Again, I'm pushing the boundaries a little here and decide to wear them under cold conditions. The sock performed flawlessly repelling the road spray/gravel and providing my feet with the right amount of insulation. Doing what it's suppose to do and at the same time giving a classic racing look. After my 2 hour ride, my cover socks were dirty... no problem, hand wash them in cold, soapy water and hang dry. Job well-done, GripGrab!

As these cover socks are Belgian style, prompted further research into the origins of the first cover socks. Not an answer no where because no answer is needed when you talk about the Belgian style.

Belgian style!
Edwig van Hooydonck winner 1989, 1991 
Tour of Flanders.

This year, the Giro is promoting a five-gun battle ...

5-gun salute.

and one more Sean Connery style...

Happy riding!

Jan 9, 2013

Anquetil & Merckx: Ravenously Ambitious

Champion to Champion.

For Eddy Merckx, 1967 was a blossoming for the 22 year old wunderking.

He started to turn into a ... Cannibal... with impressive victories; World Championship Heerlen, Milan-San Remo (his second), Ghent-Wevelgem, Flèche Wallonne plus 22 others. His first Grand Tour, Giro d'Italia, was an eye-opener that was part of his blossoming. Winning two stages including his solo ride to Block Haus was his first stage victory. His ninth place in GC was a claim to fame, a call that according to Merckx,

It was dawning on me that I probably had a future in stage races too.

As the young Merckx moved up cycling's ladder, Monsieur Chrono Jacques Anquetil was on the decline. His championship form was still there, for all to see, finishing a gallant third in the 1967 Giro. Like the young upcoming Merckx, Anquetil also shared a hunger to win, inherent in both.

From Daniel Friebe, Eddy Merckx: THE CANNIBAL...

Anquetil was also ravenously ambitious - but in a way that couldn't have been more starkly juxtaposed with Merckx. Born poor, the Frenchman hoped to get rich, and realised that he could do so thanks to his one extraordinary talent: riding bicycles. 'I was inestimably lucky. I didn't have to fight my way up because I became a star very quickly, but if I hadn't succeeded, I'd have really scrapped and I'd have become a star anyway.

When I look at the image above, I pause to reflect and sense that the torch is being handed from one great champion to the next champion.

Jan 7, 2013

Garmin-Sharp: Taking it to the EDGE

Garmin Presents.... The Edge: Let others follow!

Product placement is essential to any company with something to sell.

Cycle racing is plenty alluring with the speed, color, noise and athleticism. Cycling jerseys let you know who their sponsors are and will make it hard for you NOT to forget. But that's what it's all about selling a brand(s) through cycling. Here's a clever ad from Garmin-Sharp, starring; Andrew Talansky, Dan Martin, Ryder Hesjedal, David Millar and boss-man Jonathan Vaughters. Cool gadgets on offer using star riders to sell it in spell-binding settings, a superb video... I'm on the Edge!

Early Publicity ...
after the first stage, 1903 Tour de France. 
Maurice Garin rode
a bicycle from La Francaise. 

Jan 6, 2013

The New Presta Winter Wool Cycling Cap

The New Presta All-Wool Winter Cycling Cap with
Bamboo cotton blend ear flap by
Red Dots Cycling.

Winter here, in Vancouver, is a mixture of cold and rain and more cold and rainy weather.

That means, the business is trying to stay warm on my cold outings. No need to have snow to complete the scene, thank you very much. Having endured frigid cold Albertan winters through my early years, the wet-coast winters are mild in comparison but are cold
and damn humid.

Enter the new Presta 100% Wool Winter Cycling Cap by Red Dots Cycling!

It's made of British Super Fine Wool, just right for your winter chill. We all know the importance of wool: hard wearing, mildew resistant, water repellent (great for Vancouver winters), hypoallergenic, lightweight and a natural insulator.

The ear flap is made of a new Bamboo Cotton blend fabric. Bamboo is an organic product, more antibacterial than cotton or wool. Good insulating properties to help the wearer stay warm in the winter. And another important asset for cyclists is that it wicks moisture. Bamboo is amazingly soft and comfortable to the skin feeling like cashmere.

And, of course, the Presta winter cycling cap fits just right under your helmet. Two sizes available: Small/Medium (21-22.5") and Medium/Large (22.5-24"). And, it's black with a very small grey dot pattern. This superb wool winter cap will keep you warm on your winter rides and also looks good on your daily errands about town.

Jan 4, 2013

Friday File: Duel in Dubai, Horse Sense & Conscience of the de-throned King

To the line in Dubai,
Contador, Hesjedal & Nibali...
Contador won it.
photos: Giro d'Italia Facebook

Racing err riding from some of the big guns of cycling started today... in Dubai.

Three grand tour winners: Ryder Hesjedal, Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali competed in an exhibition race. Officials invited them for this weekend to help promote more cycling events in the future. One of the races will be the new Tour of Dubai, slated for next season.

Nibail and Contador will square off at the Tour de San Luis in Argentina, January 21-21. I don't know when Hesjedal will start his racing season but intends to go for the Giro/Tour double later in the season. As we stretch and scan the horizon, we will have to wait for what promises to be an exciting May 4th in Naples and June 29th in Corsica.

Promoting the new Dubai Tour...
Tony Martin, Ryder Hesjedal, Alberto Contador 
and Vincenzo Nibali.

Tony Martin was also in Dubai. 

He rode against a racehorse over the same distance (1km) ...and lost.

Reports are out that de-throned king, Lance Armstrong is considering publicly admitting that he use banned performance-enhancing drugs and blood transfusions during his cycling career. He wants to lift his life time ban so he can compete in triathlons.

Have a good riding weekend!

Jan 3, 2013

Juan Antonio Flecha: Onward to the Cobbles

A new team...
and closer to a chance to win the big one.

Juan Antonio Flecha on Vacansoleil-DCM?

Yes it's true, he signed a one-year contract with the Dutch ProTeam for 2013. Van der Flecha is brought in to rub off some of his classic experience to the younger riders. And it's two-fold.

He has a famous lengthy palmares in Paris-Roubaix. The race he wants so much to win. From 2003 to 2012, Flecha has completed ten editions finishing top-ten - seven times. Quite remarkable, a feat in itself.

Now, at 35 years old with a new team and a fresh start... a certain cobble stone trophy is surely within his grasp for the classic specialist known as the Spanish Flandrian!

A Paris-Roubaix Odyssey...

2003---25th, 2004---13th, 2005---3rd, 2006---4th, 2007---2nd, 2008---12th,
2009---6th, 2010---3rd, 2011---9th, 2012---4th

Jan 2, 2013

Luis Ocana: The Real Deal

Ocana: the real deal.

I welcome 2013 with a heroic bang.

That hero is Luis Ocana. Probably the only rider to give Eddy Merckx a run in the 1971 Tour. Before that Tour he showed glimpses that he was worthy to dethrone the Cannibal from his Tour throne. He finished third behind Merckx in Paris-Nice and second behind Merckx in the Critérium du Daphiné

On stage 8 was a masterful attack by Ocana that left Merckx unable to chase to win the stage thus gaining precious time on Merckx. On stage 11 Grenoble to Oceires, a more masterful attack that left the peloton reeling, Merckx included, and soloed to victory. Merckx was distanced finishing in fourth almost nine minutes behind Ocana. Merckx was so distraught that he was ready to give up his chance for a third Tour victory. Ocana was the real deal.

During the fourteenth stage to Luchon, a heavy rain storm caused a calamity as now race favorite Ocana fell on a descent and Joop Zoetemelk punctured running into him at full speed. Ocana was seriously injured and abandoned giving up his yellow jersey to Merckx.

A description of the toughness and frailty of Ocana comes from the superb book, Eddy Merckx: The Cannibal by Daniel Friebe.

Bic team and roommate at the time, Johny Schleck describes Ocana...

Merckx was the king at the time, but we felt that Luis, with the ability he had in the mountains and the ability he had on the flat above all, was a possible Tour winner. He wasn't explosive but he was enormously strong. When he accelerated, it took him a while to open up a gap, but he went so fast that he blew everyone off his wheel, one-by-one, until no one was left. He could climb in the saddle, with his hands on the drops, and just batter people. He had these, big, rippling thighs and I think he must have produced about as much power as anyone in the peloton back then.

He was a very fragile, sensitive character. Sensitive to everything, even success. I personally think that he was very bad at dealing with pressure, right from the start. Sometimes he was on a cloud and sometimes he got out of bed and nothing was right with the world. Back then, going to the Tour de France with Luis as our leader was a big step into the unknown.

A combination of toughness, frailty and bad luck for Ocana... his luck would change in 1973.

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