Thursday, December 31, 2009

Reality - A decade to remember, to forget

Reality. Clearly the defining word of the decade - wait, hold your cringe, I'm not going to sing or dance or cast myself off in a balloon. At first had had no interest in writing some recap of 2009 and then I started thinking, the reality is a decade ago I couldn't have done this, a decade ago this reality didn't exist, and a decade ago I didn't really know enough about pedaling, pedestrian or pro, to comment.

Looking back at the "otts", our first decade in the new millennium, it would be easy to ring up a series of cycling highlights, to mention a few:
  • Lance Armstrong's incredible run a top the TdF charts and equally amazing run from every doping scandal that plagued the rest of the peloton,
  • birth of the "blue train" which cemented the realization that there is only one future way to achieve lasting superiority in the grand tours.
  • Stuart O'Grady's Paris-Roubaix snatched from the jaws of the contenders playing pave-chess.
  • And there was Gilberto Simoni embarrassingly being doped by his gandmother's home-made candy? (or this version: He ate coca candies bought by his Aunt while in South America.)
  • we also saw 10 days of how a jersey of yellow can transform a simple bicycle race into a passion play and forever change the life of its accidental protagonist. Thomas Voeckler did just that...

In 2004 the non-factor Frenchman escaped with five other riders during stage 5, in a calculated move not-to-defend Voeckler was "given" the yellow jersey. What Johan Bruyneel and world did not calculate was his tenacity at defended his jersey for ten days. Inspired with golden winds on his shoulders, and intense media attention all around him, Voeckler rode like a pro possessed. He survived the certain death in the Pyrenees, by 8 seconds. Voeckler finally surrendered the jersey to Armstrong on stage 15 in the French Alps. Five years later, almost to the stage, Voeckler won his first ever Tour stage. The little-boy-love of cycling that spread across his face as he crossed the line in stage 5 that day epitomized the joy seen around the world in the Millenium's first decade worth of charity rides, local races, birthday new bikes and Kids out for a Saturday ride - we love our bikes. Thanks Thomas!!

We also saw one of the great solo break-away performances of the past few decades on stage 17 of the 2007 Tour - regardless your feeling about Floyd Landis' final outcome no amount of 'overnight' drugs could produce the monster ride he delivered that day (psst - the French still can't explain why 9 other before and after tests are all normal?). For all of us who can't remember seeing the Coppi's and Merckx's peloton shattering breaks that stage into Morzine felt vintage.

But, there are a few other bits worth considering as we launch forward "where no man has gone before".
Okay - so here we go...

Comeback of the Decade has to be Lance Armstrong, not the second-coming, but the overcoming of 14 tumors, a 20% chance of survival, THEN going on to win seven straight Tour de Frances (ok - only 6 this decade). After going through cancer this past decade with several friends and family, not everyone pulling off the miracle comeback - what LA did blows me away. Regarding the cycling - from the beginning in 1999's Le Passage du Gois to the cross-country downhill into Gap in 2003 to passing Ullrich in the opening Prologue in 2005 - it was all frigg'n amazing.

Most Frustrating was George Hincapie's inability to capture the slippery pave trophy. I mean c'mon, how many guys finally have two teammates in a final selection, with 10 sectors of cobbles to go, and have the bloody handle bars snap off in your hands - only to leave George looking like the hapless coyote in a ridiculous episode of the Road Runner. The Paris-Roubaix curse is even more painful when one hears George despair, "I wake up every morning thinking of winning it." By decade's end we all were reconciling ourselves to the old saying "it's not about having luck, but not having bad luck" when it comes to the Hell of the North. PS - the 2001 P-R sucked as well, sorry George.

In the category of Great Moments Missed I would nominate Jens Voigt's indefatigable performance in the 2005 La Flèche Wallonne
. In a decade of memorable breaks this one went essentially unseen, but is worth the price of the World Cycling DVD so it can be watched again and again. Voigt in a break is nothing unusual, and we have been treated to many, but this ride is epic! Jens holds the charging Liguigas peloton off. Not just off, but OFF. Kilometer after kilometer sweep under Jens' wheels and they can't catch him. Phil and Paul go from commentators, to skeptics, to bewilderment, to finally cheerleaders. A K and a half from the base of the ridiculously steep Huy he succumbs - but damn, what any of us would do to ride like the wind and scare the shit out of the peloton like that! Buy the DVD!! It's 15 bucks of endlessly repeatable pleasure.

Cycling is unique, for the most part, in its old world credo to Great Sportmanship. When a rider dies on the roads we have seen the entire peloton ride at "half mast" all day - a rolling tribute - not just some fleeting minute of silence before the national anthem. While agreed sprinters play "argy-bargy, bumper cars" in the final straights, and one never knew when Robbie McEwen was going to head-butt you into the barriers, Jens refusing to take the line on Garate on stage 19 in the 2006 Giro d'Italia, despite DS Bjarne Riis going ballistic in his ear. Why? B
ecause Jens had sat-on the little Spanish rider's wheel the last 5K up the climb and that's "just not right", shows the kinda sportsmanship and honor this sport holds. Thanks for making us proud, yet again, Jens!

And remember Jan Ullrich reaching back for LA's hand on Stage 14 in 2001 atop Luz Ardiden
. Armstrong was ahead by a few feet as they approached the line, and then he did something he rarely did... he backed off the gas, sat down and soft pedaled the last couple meters. It insured Ullrich finish ahead of him by half a bike length, which put him in third place for the day and garnered him the 8 sec. time bonus. Those eight ticks clenched Jan's 2nd place in Paris.


Questionable Sportsmanship is a tough one considering the abominable move by Theo Bos in the Tour of Turkey (irony?) to grab race leader Daryl Imprey in the final straight-away of stage 8 and fling him into the barrier - therefore I instead award the No Brainer Jerk-Ass Award.


Back to the QS Award, there I have to go with Discovery Channel Team tactics through the persona of George Hincapie. It's mid-decade, 2005, Stage 15 of the Tour de France, the Queen Stage, logically Discovery puts a man in the break-of-the-day - George - and he is told to sit on, in case race leader Armstrong needs him - fare enough. Then on the way to the forum George isn't needed, so go for it, from (for the way it should be done - see Jens above)

It's a TEAM sport as German fans don't get. Once again Jens Voigt takes the award for doing his job as part of a team in the 2004 Tour (yes, I'm a homer), from CyclingNews at the time:

After being called "Judas" and other names by German fans on Alpe d'Huez yesterday, CSC's super workhorse Jens Voigt has defended himself strongly. Voigt was heavily criticised by the Germans after he played a key role in chasing down T-Mobile's Jan Ullrich during stage 15, following the orders of his team director Bjarne Riis who wanted to protect Ivan Basso's second place. Despite the fact that Voigt and Ullrich ride for different teams and Voigt was merely obeying instructions, the partisan German fans did not see it that way and hurled abuse at him yesterday.

"I was sworn at on the road for being a traitor," said Voigt to DPA. "That was open hostility. I would have got off and yelled at them. National politics or war have no place here. It should only be about sport. I've always tried to simply live my life. The uncalled for criticism really hurt me. "

Voigt said that his riding in Stage 15 was purely for his captain Ivan Basso. "Of course it broke my heart to ride behind Jan. I would rather see Jan win the Tour than Lance. But that is my job. If I didn't ride behind, the Tour would already be finished for me and I would be sitting on an aeroplane on the way back home, because I hadn't fulfilled my contract."

Voigt also criticised the commentators on German TV channel ARD, who he believed prompted the outcry. "That was certainly the trigger for the witch hunt," he said. "ARD and T-Mobile, that's a little narrow. It's the first time that I have been sworn at by fans. That's why I'm so sour."

The German also explained that he gave Andreas Klöden water with 7 km to go in Stage 15, and noted that he had worked completely for Ullrich in the Olympics in 2000. "And I will also die in Athens for him," he noted.

PS - Stage 10 in 2008 says TEAM as well

Fleet-a-Foot Award
goes to the unsung heroes behind all the podium winners. A crash in the final kilometer nearly denied Denis Menchov the Giro d'Italia, the victory was saved by the fast acting Vincent Hendricks. The Rabobank mechanic jumped from the team car while it was still moving, and had a spare bike from the roof before Menchov had risen from the slick cobbles. The final margin over Danilo di Luca (and a wee bit of CERA as we later found out) was a scant 41 sec. Hendricks said shruggingly with a smile, "I did my job"


Just-n-Time Award has to go to Cadel Evans. After nearly a decade of attackless riding the likes of which Tour penalty patriarch Henri Degrange would have invented a new time penalty for, Cadel finally realized he was running out of road as well as decade so finally put in an attack - holy shit, it worked - results: new jersey, new team, new decade, new attitude. "Good on ya mate"

But a small handful of events may have "slipped off the back" as Paul Sherwin might say. These are my Humble Heroes. Number one was as recent as this past summer, in the 2009 version of the Grand Boucle. For 11 stages Dutchman Kenny van Hummel (#199 above) electrified the blog-o-sphere and a handful of headlines with his refusal to fail. His suffrage was heroic and followed in the pedal strokes of the greatest Lanterne Rouge in history, who also graced this inaugural millennial decade, Belgian Wim Vansevenant. By a mere 10 minutes Wim missed capturing the rouge four consecutive times, his trio of lanterns from 2006 to 2008 however remains a mark unequaled in 97 romps to the Champs.

Number two goes to Dr. Bob Breedlove who died tragically in the 2005 RAAM. His patented words of departure were, "Just Another Day In Paradise" when riding off, graced with a smile. He finished the grueling non-human event four times solo, twice tandem. He rode with style, passion and a gentle smile - the way we all should remember to ride every time we saddle-up, clip-in and pedal-off.

And third, but not least, is Brian Benson, a local Portland hero who selflessly organizes the annual bike-give-away from the Community Cycling Center. Every year-end holiday season upwards of a thousand little bikes roll out of the donated Emanuel Hospital atrium attached to smiles and excited feet. Many of these kids would never know
"Just Another Day In Paradise" if not for Brian and the volunteers.

Dope, Dopers and Being Dooped. And finally, can we please lift our sights, and move on already! Despite what many would like to think this was not the "decade of the dopers". Any casual student of Le Tour, the pulsing heart of pro racing for it's only century, cheating is not new, cheaters have always been. Founder and maniacal director Henri Degrange even suggested in his own L'Auto newspaper in 1924, defending the Tour under attack by critics, that taking drugs might not be objectionable to complete a race.

And finally, Happy New Year everyone, thanks to everyone who reads, comments, and shares my thoughts with others - and remember if you have the joy of riding your bike you are living better than most people on Earth - smile, be safe, and enjoy the ride -

"Just Another Decade In Paradise"


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

1979 + bike + film camera = Possibly a Safety Announcement

As the year comes to a close, the streets are covered with weather debris of all nature, mostly frozen and freezing types, it's important to remember that those warm carefree days of longer light and sunny delight are not so far away (if you live in San Diego!). Here's looking back 40 years for a little safety tipping as you consider your bike and the New Year.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Birthday Bouclé '09

I'll be frank - I hate this holiday. It isn't my holiday - I got robbed at birth. I decided long ago not to accept it. Quite honestly I'm delighted that this holiday has become a beacon of all things commercial (which I'm against) and crass. It makes me feel much happier that it's no longer mine. (sorry mom) Being born on December 25th is NO HOLIDAY.

For many years I was happy to seek the solitude of far off places and those unacquainted with a day strangled by religious regulation and manipulated by marketing maestros; the best was hanging out with a handful of rare Tasmanian Forester's Kangaroos. So a few years back I decided to arrest the situation, impose my will on the world, or at least my immediate environment and insure the day was mine (much like I did on that morning in 1956) so December 25th has since become my first century ride of my next year.

This year was extra special having the full compliment of "kids" along for the ride - Lash, The Terrier, Hammer and TT (Lee we miss ya). A peloton of pedaling pals enjoying 31-34 degree fog (see photo above of Lash crossing the start over the Broadway Bridge) and lapping up the rare sun break. I couldn't come up with a better way to finish off the decade.

In years past it's been a partial peloton or just me being off the front on a solo break from my porch. Those are usually the years it's snowing or pouring rain and 37 degrees - neither occasion can I blame anyone for passing on this annual op.

December 25th is a grand day for the
Birthday Bouclé - the roads are generally quiet, the bubbas are sleeping off the previous evening's tryptophan over-loading, which means fewer turkeys on the road. The weather can be dicey and yesterday had its hiding icy patches. Some years throw a few flakes around, but only once did the weather conditions shut me down completely which called for desparate measures - a century on the trainer! Yes, while the passing of years should make us wiser, it often surfaces hidden stubborness. In 2008, as snow fell, then a glazing veneer of ice locked it in, I realized even the Gavia Gladiator, heroic Andy Hampstead, would have been in trouble here, it was time to seek an alternate route. I turned to Phil & Paul and took on six pedalling-to-nowhere hours in the Alps and Pyrenees of France. Wisdom, fatigue or maybe just head-banging boredom settled in after four increasingly long hours and they finally called up the broomwagon, I abandoned last year's Birthday Bouclé somewhere in 75-80 stationary miles mark.

This year, no trainer, no snow abandonment, no freezing rain. We negotiated the Vernonia Loop on some familiar roads, a few new wrinkles, a slightly slippery climb up Scaponia Hill, and just a single flat among 10 tires spread over 500 miles - that alone is a holiday considering all the crap on the roads this time of year. It was an awesome birth day out.

Hammer's calling for something "epic" next weekend to kick off the New Year, I say we just kicked it off in brilliant fashion - let's go epic on the whole decade.

Thanks Kids, for a truly wonderful
Birthday Bouclé 2009!

PS - Jennie, thanks for the cake, and I'm glad no rescues were required this year :")

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy Birthday Wim - Blow out the lantern and make a wish


What? Never hear of Wim Vansevenant, maybe the greatest you and me of Tour de France history?

In the 96 runnings of the Tour de France there have been 511 team and 4,566 riders compete in what most of the sporting world considers the greatest and most difficult outdoor sporting event on the face of the Earth. Cast on the world’s largest playing field, the country of France.


Each year we celebrate the winner, the maillot jaune, the rider clad in yellow. And each year someone must be last, most pedal home unknown, but they by no means suffer the least. In the Tour, from the very beginning, there has been recognition for the last of these great sufferers, a rider who against all odds suffered and survived, for him, is awarded the Lanterne Rouge.


Lanterne Rouge is the French phrase, which translates to "red lantern," is used to describe the racer who finishes dead last in the overall standings when the peloton reaches Paris. (The terminology is borrowed from railway jargon for the archaic practice of hanging a red light on the caboose of trains, which assured station operators that no cars had come uncoupled.) The "winner" of the Lanterne Rouge are most like us – neither hero nor villain – simply the ones who tried, who struggled, and who, as the great French journalist Albert Londres wrote, rode with conviction and perseverance the “Tour de Souffrance”.

Today is the birthday of the greatest of these Lanterne Rouges, Belgian pro cyclist Wim Vansevenant. Wim accomplished a feat even more remarkable in many ways than the seven wins of Lance Armstrong or the seven King of the Mountains by Richard Veronique, he is the only Tour rider to ever have ridden into Paris with the Lanterne Rouge "hung" from his saddle three times - three consecutive times!

Call it what you like fate, luck, stubbornness, providence, maybe even stupidity, all have played a role, but Wim survived. He outlasted those who abandoned the Tour through illness, injury or simple exhaustion; those who were eliminated for failing to finish within each day's time cut-off and were unceremoniously forced to withdraw; and those who were banned or withdrew in disgrace for cheating (doping). Over the years about 20% of the riders plummet from the peloton. In other words, our Birthday Boy didn't simply coast to last place; Wim worked for it, he fought for it! And for that he is a cycling hero!

I doubt I shall ever enter another race, struggle in the peloton, cling on for dear life, even, god forbid, get dropped, without thinking of you. Thanks!

Happy Birthday Wim!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

We can rebuild it, we have the technology

No, not the environment or Tiger Wood's reputation, I'm focused on something simpler and closer to home. In fact, it can't get any closer and more personal - my spine.

Specifically I'm facing a degenerative disc (see x ray - not mine but similar) and I have what's referred to as Spondylolisthesis: The word spondylolisthesis derives from two parts - spondylo which means spine, and listhesis which means slippage. So, a spondylolisthesis is a forward slip of one vertebra (i.e., one of the 33 bones of the spinal column) relative to another. Spondylolisthesis usually occurs towards the base of your spine in the lumbar area. And then there are a range of issues, some from previous bike crashes (broken ribs, clavicle, scapula, etc) and the wear-n-tear of 53 very active years on this planet as a photographer, as I found out yesterday.

Spondylolisthesis can be described according to its degree of severity. One commonly used description grades spondylolisthesis, with grade 1 being least advanced, and grade 5 being most advanced. The spondylolisthesis is graded by measuring how much of a vertebral body has slipped forward over the body beneath it.

I have grade 1 Spondylolisthesis, painful, but good news - we can rebuild it, we have the technology... now I need the patience and determination to stay focused.

So I'm dealing with two phases - recovery and reconditioning

I initially started seeing a chiropractor, Dr. Jason Lindekugel, who has initiated the recovery portion - with regular visits to correct alignment, and egoscue static stretching as well as yoga.

And today Jason and I met with cycling and fitness coach Phil Claud. It was Jason's recommendation I (and he) meet with Phil to be part of my back rehab team. Phil became a professional cyclist and joined the USA national team, eventually racing in Europe for five years. More about Phil.

What is clear from our first meeting Friday - I have a lot of work to do. Phil's first objective is going to be to try reteaching my brain/nervous system to be more adaptive. He does know I can't dance (dance lessons may also be in my future - more on that later).

Funny - one of the last things he commented on was my saddle alignment - I had ridden my race bike over in case - he said, see that saddle position, nose is down, we'll get to that later, we have other things to work on first.

Over the next several weeks and months, maybe years, I'm going to try, with the help of some very skilled, experienced folks, try and rebuild this anatomy into something that will motor me more efficiently, faster and pain free on the bike, but also my life. If you are interested I hope to share as much as I can - please feel free to comment here or write me. I'll post all of these entries with the Label: Cycling pain free

Friday, December 18, 2009

"Can you hear me now?..."

Somewhere between the UN Climate Change conference and Tiger's marital meltdown you might have heard a pin drop.... wait... we'll play it again... there, did you hear it? I'm writing this blog a bit late because we were in the studio checking the audio, just to make certain the faint sound we heard wasn't just echoes of post Tour/Giro media reports, headlines and gossip still drifting in cyberspace. On December 16th (yes, just last Wednesday) the route for the 2010 Vuelta a España was announced. "can you hear me now.....?" testing, testing.....

They say the 75th anniversary edition (surprise, it is that old) "2010 Vuelta a España will feature fewer time trials and more mountains", classic climbs -

There will be six mountain top finishes, including two new ops to watch the surviving : the Cotobello (stage 16) and the Bola del Mundo. Other tip-top-ops include finishes, in order, at the Xorret del Catí (Stage 8), Andorra (Stage 11), the Pena Carbarga (Stage 14), and the Lagos de Covadonga (Stage 15). The third stage in Malaga will have a spectacular finale, with the Castillo de Gibralfaro in the background. Stage 16 features the Cresta del Gallo a few kilometres before the finish. It's the Bola del Mundo, near Madrid on the penultimate stage, which is expected to decide the overall winner.

The point is - and has always been - where the hell are those?? We don't know! Just for the record, I have most of the past few years of Vueltas on DVD thanks to the folks at World Cycling Productions, and I actually have spent many a trainer hour watching them (see Trainer Season with Phil & Paul), I like the Vuelta, sorta. I was delighted it was there for Tyler Farrar last year in Stage 11, so he could finally get the monkey off his back with his first grand tour stage win. I love watching pros grunt and grind their butts off up a 21% Alto de L'Angliru. But the bottom line is, a) there is so little consistency to the Vuelta that we never can wrap our chains around it, and b) after the Tour cycling fans take a siesta in the late August heat, and c) even the riders get sick and bail before Madrid.

(Below is Spain - where the Vuelta is raced. For reader support and all the little tikes out there reading this blog I have created a link to Google Maps - exploring geography can be fun!)


View Larger Map

Perhaps my favorite part of the ceremonies were the line up of pros set to maybe do battle - including Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Bernard Thevenet - unfortunately none of these greats of past will be gracing the burnt September roads of Spain. Even would-be greats of present - Contador, Valverde, Sastre - are hedging the Vuelta appearance with comments like, "The season is very long and a lot depends on how things develop." (Contador), and "I need a few days to think about things and take the right decision." (Sastre). And these guys are Spanish! Imagine the Italians pulling that trick ahead of the Giro.

So that ultimately begs the question - "Why bother with a Vuelta?" Maybe for late season exorcising of monkeys? I'm going to see Tyler Farrar speak tomorrow night at River City Bikes-for his sake I'm glad it does - and maybe that's why it always should.

2010 Route announcement on Cyclingnews and VeloNews

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Chris King calendar debuts, to benefit breast cancer detection

"Pretty and Stong" is the latest effort from a seven year relationship between the folks at Chris King and the Komen for the Cure cancer nonprofit. Together with PDXCross.com they have assembled a cyclocross calendar to raise money and awareness in the fight for a cure to breast cancer. The 2010 Pretty and Strong Calendar highlights women cyclocross racers of the Northwest.

About the calenday and effort from the Chris King website where you can buy the calendar:

"Pretty and Strong enters its 7th year as a special edition and we are pleased to continue our strong relationship with the Oregon and SW Washington affiliate of Komen for the Cure. For 2010 we are excited to present a calendar benefiting Komen for the Cure in partnership with the talented photographers of PDXCross.com. Our shared effort with this calendar is more than an intimate look at the joy and tenacity of the women we see racing cyclocross each weekend during the fall. It's a call to awareness for early detection because breast cancer still doesn't care how fit or fast you are on a bike. Please make an appointment to see your doctor and circle the date on one of these great calendars."

According to a VeloNews online article,
"The concept gelled when Chris DiStefano of Chris King learned an interesting statistic related to rates of early detection in the Northwest. He was in a lunch meeting with the Oregon and SW Washington affiliate for Komen for the Cure, along with Diane Chalmers, Chris King VP of Operations, and Cristina Moore, Development Manager for the local Komen affiliate. Moore informed the Chris King employees that the demographic with the lowest rate of early detection included many of the women they were seeing at cyclocross races every weekend."

Chris' DiStefano and King sat down with PDXCross and poured through heaps of images to pull together the inaugural calendar effort.

You can purchase a copy of the Chris King “Pretty and Strong” calender on their website: www.chrisking.com

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

"oh, was I going to hard?"

Sometimes IT IS about the bike... and more

It's the most holiday thing I can imagine doing - giving little kids a new bike, for most of them their first ever. Over the past few years I have been volunteering each December with the 2009 Holiday Bike Drive. Along side friends Jenn, John and Alex, and a couple hundred other volunteers (like fellow mechanic James above) this past Sunday was again an awesome event. Much thanks goes to Brian Benson, CCC's Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator and his crew - they once again pulled off a herculean effort - the true domestiques of the Holiday Bike Drive!

This is an excerpt from Brian's thank you email, along with links to some wonderful images by photographer
Chad Berkley - be sure to check our the time-lapse sequence (link below) - great stuff!

"The 2009 Holiday Bike Drive was a huge success:

  • 248 volunteers came together and gave 1,110 hours over the course of two days. You moved bikes, fitted helmets, taught safety lessons, adjusted seats and wrangled the million behind-the-scenes details that made the event so amazing.
  • 415 children received their first bicycles. Due to icy roads and miscommunication within one of our partner agencies, some registered families were unable to arrive, but we have plans to get every bike we built out in the community soon!
  • Over 40 interpreters provided exceptional support to hundreds of Spanish, Vietnamese, Russian and Somali-speaking families.
The numbers, of course, can only say so much. The Holiday Bike Drive is all about making connections and building community, and everyone always seems to walk away with a few seriously heartwarming stories. We'd love to hear yours! Feel to email me to share some memorable moments from the event.

Speaking of memorable moments, make sure to check out this amazing Holiday Bike Drive Photo Gallery from volunteer photographer Chad Berkley. Chad has been taking photos at the event for years, and has a great eye for what makes it so special. I highly recommend checking out the two time-lapse masterpieces he put together."

The Community Cycling Center is a nonprofit effort and each year needs a bit of extra help to make the next year successful. If you would like to help make projects like the annual Holiday Bike Drive through the Give!Guide. CCC is only $2,000 short of meeting our fund-raising goal for the year!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Monday, December 14, 2009

Tyler in Town

Dec. 19th - 5 to 7 p.m.

Pro Racer Tyler Farrar of Team Garmin-Transitions will be at River City Bicycles for a meet-and-greet, Saturday, December 19. We have plans to receive him with pomp and style, and can promise the event won't be boring.

Admission is $5, with all proceeds going to OBRA. Register at orbike.com for your seat.

For more information, call River City Bicycles at 503-233-5973.

Friday, December 11, 2009

On becoming il Campionissimo...

In doing research for a new book on the Tour de France I stumbled across this nugget and thought of Lance Armstrong at 39, who, if he could win the 2010 Tour, would eclipse a record by the great Gino Bartali by doing what no rider had done before or has accomplished since - win the Tour ten years after winning your first.

“Age and treachery

will overcome youth and skill.”
- Fausto Coppi


BTW -
Bartali won that 1948 Tour not by a handful of seconds but by over 26 minutes from runner-up Briek Schotte.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Job Search: Designer needed urgently!

RadioShack twitters a "sneak preview" of its red and grey kit for the upcoming 2010 campaign... hmmmm? Reportedly "designed" by the folks at Nike, which makes sense if you are going to be the sponsor, but I'll admit Silence-Lotto may be looking at style infringement rights.

The tweet goes on to say that there "may be some tweeks" before the actual road debuet in the the Santos Tour Down Under in Australia January 17-24. Tweeks? Like a new team name maybe? Like a new design team maybe?

While there have certainly been worse kits - virtually everything worn in the pro peloton during the 80's - the new kit first-stab may be all the reason Armstrong needs to repeat of Italy's Ottavio Bottecchia original 1924 feat of the capturing the maillot jaune and hold it from the beginning until the final crit on the Champs.

BTW - still not sure how you sneak preview anything when you tweet about it yourself?

BTW2 - Armstrong looks damn fit for early December... Alberto, how's holiday going?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Trainer Season - Phil, Paul and a Suitcase of Courage

It was sunny yesterday in the Alps, I got over the first big summit, the Col du Madeleine, at nearly 2,000 meters high the scenery was breath-taking, I felt in great shape, but it was early, as I was being told. I hung on through a long plummeting downhill into the valley below, in the distance was where we were headed and another 90 mins, most of it heaven bent. I knew it was there that I would be "opening up my account" and "hoping to avoid being dropped". I just had to "shut [my] eyes, suffer and grab that wheel".

About 90 minutes later I hit the remote and turned off stage 17 of the 2004 Tour de France, and another day with Phil & Paul. Outside my window it was clear, sunny, mid-20's, stinking cold!

You need all the help you can get to survive the Trainer-Season. There was a time when I hated the trainer. An hour seemed an eternity. My friend Lash once said, "If the doctor told me I was going to die in a week, I'd climb on the trainer, it would seem like a month." Now, partnering with Phil & Paul and armed with the hundreds of hours of play-by-play Trainer-Season is almost something to look forward to.

Time and time again I pop in the Tour. Granted there are other races, Spring Classics for example, but the voices of Phil & Paul are a July thing. They feel warm. It's hard to imagine a month of mid-summer mornings without them and a cuppa Earl Grey tea starting each day. It's even harder to imagine the Tour without them - I've even contemplated the day that... well... never mind, that just couldn't happen.

Who are these guys? From a 2004 interview with Outside Magazine these bios:
"Phil's earliest ambition was to be a zookeeper. But in 1967, he got a job as a cub reporter with Cycling and Mopeds magazine, in London. Before long he'd moved on to ITV, where he landed in front of the camera one day in 1978, reporting on a London bike race, and discovered he was good at it. In short order, ITV made him their main commentator for the Tour, and over the next few years his verbal acrobatics impressed enough network suits that he was asked to report on cycling for the BBC at the 1984 Summer Olympics, in L.A. By the nineties he was covering skiing at the Winter Games for CBS.

Paul began as a cyclist as well but stuck with it a little longer than Phil. He suffered through seven Tours (his best finish was 70th, in 1978) and was an excellent sprinter, he says, but in the mountains he couldn't keep up with the likes of five-time French champion Bernard Hinault. Still, he won two British national championships, in 1986 and '87, and became something of a multitasker: In 1986, while he was still racing professionally, the UK's Channel 4 hired him to help Phil manage the herculean task of covering the Tour. The two have been a team ever since, even with Paul's periodic extracurricular activities, like working as the PR director for Armstrong's Motorola team in the mid-nineties and, in 1999, lending help as a translator when Lance was having trouble with the French media during his first Tour win. But his line-crossing days are over; now he splits his time between covering cycling and running a gold mine in Uganda, where he and his family live.
"
Phil & Paul have helped World Cycling Productions become a bit richer off of me - the DVD collection now stands at nearly a complete decade, plus the historic stuff. I know their overlapping voices so well now that I catch myself saying their lines just before they do - a bit spooky sometimes, especially when I'm "coming down the finishing straightaway like a grand prix motor car" and gasping "like a goldfish".

Part of the reason it is so great to ride with them is they love cycling. They love it the way we do. They are cyclists. Phil was once quoted as saying, "One of the nicest things in the world is to go out and climb a mountain ... look at the scenery ... talk to no one ... freewheel it home. And all of your problems of the day are gone."

Phil I couldn't agree more. So this week I've started the winter Trainer-Season, made survivable only thanks to my daily ride partners. Over the coming weeks Phil & Paul will be a part of my everyday routine as I "reach into my suitcase of courage" and begin "dancing on the pedals", even if they go around and around in the same place. More than once I'll ask, "Bridge to engine room-more power."
But this much is certain "sunshine, I'm giving it all I got". In the end I'll know, "That's what you get when you suffer - you get results."

Thanks Phil & Paul!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Brain Freeze - and other parts

This is Portland for God Sakes! It's not suppose to be this figg'n cold here - especially when the sky is blue and the sunshine is pouring down.

Today the forecasted high is 29 F or something insane. Rode over the weekend with the "the Kids" and descended through 1,100 feet of brain freeze as well as the expected toes, fingers, and rest of my body by the time we rolled through town. If this is going to be the impact of global climate change then my winters will be spent penning this blog from the tropical slopes in Costa Rica - BTW - it was 82 F @ 3,000ft in San Jose over the weekend!!!! Think about it - ride to the west coast and back, get in 5-6,000 vert and do it all in 80 degree sunshine - YES, that's December cycling!

No whining here - it's just frigg'n insane to be out in this stuff.

Speaking of being out in this stuff - Portland was hosting the final round of the USGP Cyclocross Grand Prix at PRI this weekend. Great crowds out to see the boys - and girls - under cold, dry, winter skies on Saturday. So I decided to join the fun with Jenn and a couple visiting friends. Holy cow was it cold standing around there! With wind chill dropping temps in the 20's I was wishing I had my bike and trainer just to pedal in place, burn some calories to stay warm. On a day like that I give it to the winners, Katerina Nash (Luna), who dominated all weekend and Jeremy Powers (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) split one with Saturday's winner Todd Wells (Specialized)
, (see the VeloNews final results recap), but really, my heart goes out to the poor sods dragging around last - listen, I appreciate the effort, but there is no Lanterne Rouge, save yourselves, grab some fries, a pint and get warm.

That's what the spectators were doing - at least those that could still control any motor function except involuntary shivering. If my L4 and L5 vertebrae had been more friendly to one another this season I was actually planning on giving cross a go - after this weekend I still think it looks fun - but I'll be heading up the formation of Costa Rica Winter Grand Prix.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Joe Dengel's Crash Takes the Grand Prize

Last night was the Awards for the 2009 Bicycling Northwest.com Bike Photo Contest presented by Pro Photo Supply. Despite a civil war football game distraction we had a nice group of the winners and friends gather at the Lucky Lab NW for a bite, a pint (or two) and a look at all the entries as well as those that carried home the winning swag.

Taking top honors was a great shot by photographer John Rudolff - the crash of cyclist Joe Dengel in last summer's Portland Twilight Crit. The photo epitomizes the old adage, " luck is opportunity meeting preparedness". Many elements come together quite beautifully in this shot. In my mind, and many of the judges, what makes this image work so wonderfully is the expression on the young girl's face in the upper left corner.

Congratulations to everyone that entered and all the winners!

We will be putting up all the winning images on Bicycling Northwest.com over the coming week - as well, they will be displayed in large print format at Pro Photo Supply later in spring 2010 when we announce the opening of the next contest (I'll post a note here on the blog).

Thanks to Canon cameras for sponsorship of the prizes.

PS - Joe Dengel, is fine and cycling again - the crash did ring his bell a bit.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Why We Ride

Last month in Bicycling Magazine they list a hundred and eight Rights of Passage, or as they put it "Falling in puppy love, graduating high school, the birth of your child–nothing compared with your first case of road rash and these 108 other momentous occasions in the life of a cyclist." I like to think of them as reasons why we ride our bike. In the list were some wonderful reasons, and many I smiled at because of how close to home they hit. Not listed among them was "just because we can".

Last Friday my brother died from cancer, but mostly from treating his body like a hazmat site for the past 40 years. I don't remember him ever riding a bike, I'm pretty certain he never did -- maybe, just maybe, it would have made a difference. Who knows?

That same morning Michael Boehme, a friend in California, was struck by a car from behind while out for a ride. After a serious scare and visit to the ICU he is now home and it recovering without lingering difficulties we hope. Get well Mike, Elkhorn is only 6 months away!

Today I went for a ride under glorious cloudless blue sky, warm sun mixing with bone chilling late fall wind, and I chose every road for it's absence of cars and people - 50ish miles of solitude - the beauty of Portland, you can get away with that here. I went for a ride because it was gorgeous out and that's why I took this year off, but also to remember I ride my bike because I can. Most of the time I rode easy, soaking up the day. On occasion I launched up a short hill just to feel my body work - heart pound, lungs limit, legs ache. I stopped to watch a kestrel hunting successfully in a pasture and I chose a two and a half mile descent home just for the speed and serpentining curves.

I was riding for me. I love to ride my bike - just because I can.

Monday, November 23, 2009

8,500 of My Fellow Nut-cases

Well, I drank the cool-aid, or Gatorade, or Accelerade, or what ever liquid that is that makes us spend a small fortune to torture ourselves. My registration is in. I've bought the "package", including the 220 Euros for official "non-Residence in France" entry fee from Cyclomundo. As Goethe is quoted saying, "until one is committed there is hesitancy". Well hesitate no more, 2010 I'm tackling the Col du Tourmalet with 8,500 committed (or should be!) nut-cases - bring on the L'Etape du Tour!

The L'Etape is a little version of torture the folks at ASO, who run the Tour de France, dreamed up to let us wannabes try a shot at the pain and suffering the big boys go through. So in the true spirit of cycing-masichism ASO selects one stage of the TdF each to toss out for the amateur Convicts of the Road (and perhaps the truest Convicts)

Next Sunday July 18th I've decided to forgo my normal Tour de France ritual: morning cuppa Earl Grey, flip on the tube at 4:30AM and ring in the day with accented voices of Phil & Paul. Seven months from now Jenn and the "cycling kids" will have to hold my place in the cycling-room as the boys in the Tour begin their onslaught in the high mountains of the Pyrenees - Revel to Ax-3 Domaines.
I'll be on the other side of those same French hills, staying in the Pyrennean foothill town of Tarbes, a half-hour from the my own start in Pau.

On a beautiful and warm (I hope) Sunday morning at 7:00 am I'll mount my trusty ride and join "a flow of more than 8,500 riders will be on their way for a warm up” over Col de Marie-Blanque and Col du Soulor before tackling Tourmalet!" according to the Cyclomundo's pre-package info. Haven ridden over Cols such as Marie-Blanque and Soulor, even at a casual pace I would not discredit them by referencing their gradients as "warm up". They are listed as
Col de Marie-Blanque 9,5 km at 7,5%
Col du Soulor par Ferrières 22 km at 4,9%
Col du Tourmalet par Barèges 19 km at 7,4%

But after riding there a couple years ago my legs and lungs can vouch for inclines of 9-12+%. And of that final little lump in the road, the Tourmalet? Well, I hammered my way up the easier west slope in 2008 - and foolishly muttered how fun it would be to tackle the steeper east slope, so next July 18th I'll find out, along with many other shared suffering souls - 8,500 of my fellow nut-cases!

After our little "warm up" we set our sites and front wheels on the geant of the Pyrenees - Col du Tourmalet - where we like the Pros (four days later on Stage 17) will summit; of course this is after they have crossed the Tourmalet two days earlier, hey, they're Pro Convicts, they get paid for gratuitous suffering. In a true statement of cyclo-dedication, I will also stick around and reclimb the Tourmalet to watch (and film) them come over on Tuesday Stage 16 (the epic Peyresourde-Aspin-Tourmalet-Aubisque). Yes, you read that right - I'll end up climbing the Tourmalet three times, from the steeper east side, in five days. I'm also considering swimming the English Channel and rowing a boat, with my bike, back across the Atlantic,

.... KIDDING - one collective act of insanity at a time :").

So now that I am mentally and financially committed, totally psyched to do this, I'll alter my racing plans for next year just a bit - coming off of Elkhorn Stage Race in late June I'll put in a few more long mountain kilometers getting ready for France - unfortunately the Cascade Cycling Classic stage race will be the victim, since the L'Etape and Cascade overlap - but hey, maybe I'm just exchanging one set of nut-cases for another?

More later on the L'Etape, my preparations and a daily blog from the Pyrenees as it all develops.
If you want to know more about L'Etape 2010 check out Lindsay Crawford's experienced review on BikeRadar:

Preview: L’Etape du Tour 2010

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

"...leaving her in the street for dead."


I'm just outside the passenger window, in the bike lane, and watching the drivers head - not one glance my way, not a hint of considering it... I unclip the right shoe - preparing to frog leap with my bike up onto the curb. Before I can make the slightest "rrribbit", muchless hop, the rear truck wheel is coming my way -
S#@&TTTTT! Holy MdG (Madonna del Ghisallo) where are you??

That was some time ago, I survived the near encounter with a bruised wrist (my frog hops aren't apparently what they use to be) and an increased distrust for 'right-turner' - that was before Portland began the green bikebox-no-right-turn project, hopefully that will increase awareness.

Others, have not been so lucky. Bikes and collisions with cars seem to be crisscrossing my life lately - earlier in the year it was "Moose", nearly killed by a driver turning across him (he is alive and recovering - not the bike); then it was Brian with the sequel to Moose's collision (different place and driver, same result); then the fall saga of Dr. Death-to-Cyclists hit the webwaves (available in painful detail on VeloNews), then Portland got its own sanctuary of the Madonna del Ghisallo, protector of cyclists and those not so lucky - kinda cool and ominous at the same time.

They say these things come in threes, or sevens, ...or elevens, I don't know. But whatever their fractally define frequency is, at some point they begin to coalesce into something that resonates, is meaningful; the critical bit for a cyclist is you just need to be listening for the music. I just finished this afternoons ride (safely) and I'm listening to the World on PRI and hear the story of
Melody Gardot and damn if it isn't another one! Errrrrrgh!! This last one struck a cord - several beautiful cords - reminding me not every bike-car encounter ends in the erection of a ghostbike. It's about Gadot's collision with bad judgment and her musical rise from death's door (thank you again MdG).

As I sat there listening to the story and her sultry jazz-infused voice wafting from the speakers I was struck by conflicting images - her lifeless body and bike splayed across the Philly pavement and this incredible living voice I had never heard. Increasingly we are living in a shared world - incumbent on our ability to learn and accept sharing - of resources, religions, rights, and roads. "All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sand pile at primary school." I also learned how to ride my bike in primary school - and nobody got hurt doing it.


In addition to the World's version of Melody Gadot's story, here's Michael Nastos' summation of events and musical outcomes:
"
The story of vocalist Melody Gardot is as remarkable as any who perseveres against abject adversity. Born in New Jersey in 1985, she took up piano and played as a youngster on the nightclub scene of Philadelphia, influenced by jazz, folk, rock and pop musics. At age 19 she was a fashion student at the Community College of Philadelphia. But, on a fateful day, while riding her bicycle, the driver of a Jeep made an illegal turn, hurdling into Gardot and leaving her in the street for dead. Hospitalized for months with multiple head injuries and pelvic fractures, her love for music was the best therapy she could receive. While in her hospital bed, she wrote and recorded songs that would become the EP Some Lessons. Upon her eventual release from intensive care, Gardot found the strength and determination to further her career as an artist. Blessed with a beautiful voice and grand insight as a songwriter, her cognitive powers slowly but surely became pronounced, leading to the independent recording and release of her debut CD, Worrisome Heart, which was reissued in 2007 by Verve records. Gardot is hypersensitive to light and noise, thus she wears dark glasses, and uses a cane to walk. On-stage she requires a special seating unit, and wears a Transcutaneous Electro-Nerve Stimulator, a TENS device, to assist in alleviating her neuralgic muscle pain. As amazing as her story is, what is more evident is that she possesses a blue style and persona that reflects not only her afflictions, but conversely the hope and joy of making personalized music that marks her as an individual and original. Though touring is difficult, she has been performing in major cities [in Europe and in the US] on the East Coast to support her recordings. In 2009, Gardot followed up her Verve debut with My One and Only Thrill."

Madonna di Ghisallo Portland-style

Winding down through the park behind the Zoo, above the Rose Garden, the road is being tinted lemon and golden amber with a thin layer of fallen big leaf maple leaves. The sky above crisp and deep blue. Our little version of the "Race of the Falling Leaves". The big difference - the speed. It was the last descending kilometer of the Thursday lunch ride - we were all seriously backing off the gas, enjoying the exceptionally gorgeous color of fall, and extremely cautious of the banana peel-like mat of leaves. It's fall days like these that make you pray you stay upright and remember it for all the right reasons.

Last fall when we began cycling in Italy Jenn handed Todd and I a small medallion - La Madonna del Ghisallo - none of us are Catholic, we are cyclists, Cycloterians maybe, but we were about to begin racing about, up and down narrow mountain roads on a couple square inches of rubber, so we thought why not take every blessing available - heck, what was good enough for Fausto Coppi is definitely good enough for me. It was also a lovely gesture as Todd and I were about to climb up from Bellagio, on the shore of Lake Como, to the sanctuary of cycling - Madonna di Ghisallo.

Todd made it through Italy safely, the little MdG medallion, fastened to his stem, did its job. My medallion popped off a week later while descending the twisty upper sections of the Mortirolo. I like to think it is there along some extra nasty 11% curve, where it belongs - it saw me through that section and now will shepherd safely the fate of others - I guess that's the Cycloterian conviction in me.

Portland's cycling culture has now made the next leap in it's full conversion to becoming a Cycloterian community - the Madonna has arrived - but does this mean we're no longer
non-denominational Cycloterians? Inside Portland's St. Stephen's Episcopal Parish Rev. Dennis Parker bless the nation's first known church shrine honoring the Madonna del Ghisallo – patron saint of cyclists (originally any old travelers - but since 1949 she has been ours). A portion of the 83 year old wood and stone sanctuary now awaits cyclists. Like in Italy the sanctuary is a place for those who have been blessed in their bicycle journeys and those who have died while cycling.

Portland is pedaling everyday a bit closer to that community of cycling citizenry that we read about in Copenhagen and Stockholm, the acceptance of bikes one sees in the streets of Milan and Amsterdam. Maybe it is time for us to welcome the Madonna to Portland to keep safe all the travelers of our streets, wheeled and otherwise.

More about the Madonna di Portlandia from Oregonian writer Joseph Rose: St. Stephen's Parish dedicates first bike shrine in Portland

Monday, November 2, 2009

China - no leisurely spin after work

Ran across this article that I thought you might enjoy - as well as sprinkle your local club ride with a bit of "global" perspective, especially when we deal with the occasional bad motorist.

Cycling in Chinese city is anything but leisurely

By WILLIAM FOREMAN

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Death by Tourmalet - a play in two acts

Meeting your maker is generally something all of us set out to postpone as long as possible. Accidents and old age are going to take their toll, but to go seek it? The 2010 version of the hardest sporting event on earth has decided to turn the clock back, a hundred years to be exact, and reenact Henri Degrange's passion play "Death by Tourmalet", or as the lead actor Octave Lapize in the 1910 version of La Grande Boucle remarked, "You are murders, yes, murders."

The Tourmalet is a monster. It's one of the few Pyrenean climbs I remember with great detail from our two weeks crossing the mountains from Perpignon to St Jean de Luz in 2007. The western side, from Luz-Saint-Sauveur, is 19km long, climbing 1,404m at an average of 7.4 percent with a maximum of 10.2% near the summit. Starting from Sainte-Marie-de-Campan, the climb is 17.2km, gaining 1,268m, an average 7.4% with a maximum of 11%. And as if the climb was not hard enough, the road department has been kind enough to mark your journey skyward, with little tombstone looking markers (I'm certain there was nothing
"murderous" in that choice) - each kilometer is inscribed by the distance to the summit and the average gradient of the next kilometer - in case your burning legs needed any additional reminder.

We, three of us, Todd, John and me, approached from the east through the now famous (thank you Phil & Paul) village of Ste Marie-de-Campan where the forge used by Eugène Christophe (more below) is now an official monument; it's on the left of the road, as you start through the village. From this side the granite monster is unseen for most of the climb; in fact, since the chopper views each July spare us most of the run up, I was actually a bit caught off guard. After Ste Marie-de-Campan the road flattens and dips a slight bit through a small valley. I'm racing along thinking -
"what's this about?" Then I began really getting concerned, less road and still all that climbing means the gradient is definitely going to bite and bite hard. It does, it did!

From the east it's a wonderfully long strange climb, that's why I loved it. It gets steep, 9%, 10%, 11%, and opens to the world. A couple kms from La Mongie you disappear into a couple of snow tunnels - that only look out to the north - kind of an erie feeling that something above you is happening that you are privy to, but who cares, your in your own little personal pain chamber. It's in these tunnels, at 11%, where Armstrong attacked on Stage 11 in 2002. That year the Tourmalet just watched it all from 4 km further above, they finished in La Mongie.

As I struggled through the ski town of La Mongie I remember shaking my head at how insane this was - the gradient - it was just plain stupid! To be riding through the center of any town, even a ski town, at 10-12% was crazy; I had to pedal or roll backwards! I kept thinking about all those orange shirted Basques that line the road here, mouths agape and flailing about like fish on a beach. If one of them trips they'll start rolling down through town, launching an avalanche of orange, it'll look like a giant pumpkin smashing contest. The image distracted me from the pain - just kept trying to turn the pedals over at a respectable rate. Above the town there is a since of relief, the road begins to switchback, and you have the illusion you are going faster, making real progress, the top, the Tourmalet, is somewhere close, you hope.

The Tourmalet is at the very heart of the Pyrenees - and it will be there for many many Tours to come. Like a giant splinter of granite thrust skyward through a limestone crust it is 100-150 million years and youthfully rugged - not a good glacier or rounded erosion to mar its flanks. It's the Andy Schleck of the Pyrenees peloton, young, raw, angular and enormous potential. So PS - Lance, you have years of comebacks ahead of you and the Big T will still be there.

The summit has a historic café filled with old Tour
velos, mementos and pictures - and on a cold rainy day, hot tea, fresh crepes du chocolat as well as other foods. We were glad to see it and Jenn with the van and took refuge there. What it doesn't have is a couple of decent cycling jerseys. Why not? They could make a killing. This coming year alone the etape du Tour rolls through the summit with thousands of cyclomaniacs clamoring for their piece of history - seriously, is there not one enterprising Frenchman (or woman) open to the idea of selling a few hundred or more jerseys????? And then there are all the folks - mostly drunk and clad in day-glow orange of the Basque country - who will camp out for there for days and the ultimate prize - seeing their heroes suffer over the geant twice:

Stage 16: Bagnères-de-Luchon - Pau - 196 km

Km 11 - Col de Peyresourde - 11 km climb to 7,4 %
Km 42,5 - Col d’Aspin - 12,3 km climb to 6,3 %
Km 72 - Col du Tourmalet par La Mongie - 17,1 km climb to 7,4 %
Km 128,5 - Col du Soulor - 19 km climb to 5,3 %
Km 138 - Col d’Aubisque par le col du Soulor - 5,4 km climb to 6 %

Stage 17: Pau - Col du Tourmalet - 174 km (pictured above)

Km 57,5 - Col de Maris-Blanque - 9,5 km climb to 7,5 %
Km 118,5 - Col du Soulor par Ferrières - 22 km climb to 4,9 %
Km 174 - Col du Tourmalet par Barèges - 19 km climb to 7,4 %


Some History

I love cycling history, and few races have more drama filled days than the Tour. So it was in 1909 when first Director Henri Degrange was looking for the same thing every director since has sought - a way to just spice things up a bit. Tricky bit for the riders of the coming 1910 edition of La Grande Boucle was that Degrange had every Col and goat track in the land to choose from - nothing had really been climbed yet, his palet of pain was wide open, so why not choose the most painful? The Tours to that point were largely left to the rouleurs (those tireless fellows of the rolling lowlands) - the 2010 Tour will give then their due: the roly-poly hills of Medoc, Bordeaux, the infamous cobbley
“trouée” (the trench), in the northeast near Arenberg (where stage 3, Wanze-Arenberg Porte du Hainaut, will include 7 cobbled Paris-Roubaix sectors over a total distance of 13.2 km). But a century ago this coming year life in the young peloton was about to change - and it has since.

In the summer of 1910 riders must have approached the much anticipated
geant Tourmalet with some trepidation. Octave Lapize (the eventual winner of the Tour) reached the top of the Tourmalet first, followed by Gustave Garrigou. Garrigou was the only cyclist to reach the top without dismounting and received an extra 100 francs.

This next July as the boys cross over the summit (2,115 m / 6,939 ft, it is the highest road in the central Pyrenees) climaxing the initial fun ride up the east side on stage 16 (the easy side) they will be greeted by the large statue of Octave Lapize gasping for air as he struggles to make the climb - oddly it's a memorial to Jacques Goddet, director of the Tour de France from 1936 to 1987; why not poor Lapize? He's the poor schmuck who did all the work. The best part of stage 16 is whizzing down off the Tourmalet, with every rotation of the wheels, is a reminder - "Crap, we have to come back up this side!"

I've only seen the west side in a cold rain; a cold rain from behind the windscreen, following my stubborn friend Todd as he descended as cautiously as I have seen him come off any summit. If July 20th is anything like "our" Tourmalet, I can't fathom racing off that monster - yet the
maillot jaune will likely hang in the balance and it will be full on, like wheeled falcons stooping for golden glory.

The
geant Tourmalet has been crossed 73 times since Degrange tossed it in there in 1910 based on a trusted collegue's appraisal - After reaching Barèges (with the help of rescuers), Steines sent a telegram to Degrange: "Crossed Tourmalet stop. Very good road stop. Perfectly practicable." , after mushing to the summit in the snow. (Even the Vuelta a España has crossed the pass several times.) In first year the poor peloton, all 110 of them that started dwindled quickly, but the monster was the main culprit - only 44 near dead riders finished Degrange's little experiment. The Tour now had Grimpeurs!

Three years later, 1913, comes one of the most painful and retold acts of this play. The famous cyclist, Eugène Christophe, known as 'le Vieux Gaulois' (the Old Gaul), worked feverishly in village of Ste Marie-de-Campan to repair the front-wheel fork of his bicycle there after being struck by a car during the descent of the Tourmalet. Director Degrange's rules were strictly enforced and prevented him from obtaining assistance and he had to walk 15 km to do the repairs himself. While in the forge he solicited the "assistance" of a young boy to work the bellows - on top of the four hours he lost in repair the unsympathetic King of the "murders" tagged him with a 10 minute penalty. This gave the leading pack an advance of four hours and Christophe's dreams of securing the
maillot jaune went up in the forge's fires.

When the lads-n-lycra ascend the west wall it will only be the second time since 1974 that a stage finishes on the Tourmalet - and it may yet be the most dramatic final act in "Death by Tourmalet" since it was first crossed a century ago.

In the 'modern era' have there been tougher Tours than 2010? One thins is for certain - "Death by Tourmalet" should separate the men from boys, and the rest from the will to go on.

Inside Cycling - Perspective on the 2010 Tour route

By VeloNews' John Wilcockson

Slide show of the Tourmalet


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Joe's Grand Day Out

Ya know, some days are just meant for being on your bike - period. You can come up with a bazillion reasons why you should be doing a mess of other things - cleaning the garage, yard work, sitting on your arse watching football, painting something, etc - but bottom line is, you ain't gunna get many days like this in late October. So despite a sore back and only three days on the bike in the past several weeks, Alex, Chris and I piled the trusty rides into the Sube, made a swing by "Barnyard's" (Helen Berhard's Bakery) so Chris could get the proper morning kick start of fried dough and sugar to help soak up his diet coke, and then we were off, headed east on I-84 for Hood River and Joe... and who ever else he could cajole into a Saturday on the roads.

Turns out his cajoling technique is par excellence est sans égale
. No sooner had we shivered our way into a well discussed few layers of lyrca than Joe and a contrail of 30 plus arm-warmer clad folks came spinning up out of town. A cloudless deep blue sky over head, a fresh bite in the morning air and a gorgeous flush of fall color launched a perfect day on the bikes.

Seeing a gaggle of 30 or 40 riders pass by is too much temptation for anyone in a good pair of Sidis to resist. Michael Jones just finished a loop of 7 Mile Rd with the local group out of Hood River when "Joe's Grand Day Out" parade swooped through Mosier -
'Ya know, some days are just meant for being on your bike - period.' So he joined on and we rode along as the front of second group for a bit, chatting, talking local races and sharing like no other sport allows; and that's why the other non-impact sport doesn't work, ever try getting to know someone while doing the backstroke?

Joe had advertised this a "
A bunch of us will probably ride it a notch or two below tempo cuz of fitness level and to enjoy the scenery." Well, while our roll-out along the Gorge was below tempo enough Joe was definitely le grand patron, riding up and down the ranks (Hmmm... can you say double yellow-line violation?)(see lead photo :")(Joe - next time that will cost you a pitcher at Double Mountain!) keeping the rogue-riders inline, offering up encouragement, reminding stragglers of the end and beer.

Slipping up around the back of The Dalles we crossed over hwy 197 and started a gentle pace up Eight Mile Creek Rd. - one of the nicest little lazy stretches of road anywhere in the state (unless you are popping a lung trying to scorch yourself to a win in the Cherry Blossom TT). Along the way our wildlife highlight of the day when Joe's band of turkeys encountered the local fowl - our pelotons were about the same size, but obviously lycra is more intimidating than feathers, and they surrendered to the convicts of the road.

After a regroup (BTW - nice sprint out for the stop-sign warning sign Bill) we headed into the "lumpy stuff" in the orchards behind (south) The Dalles. If you have never ridden there it's worth a day poking around; see the linked MAP - it's the area around Three Mile and Dry Hollow Roads. The route is on very low traffic roads through oak tree forests, cherry orchards, vineyards, and wheat fields - with some sweet views of Mt Hood.


After the regroup - and loss of Chris who decided to ride the road less traveled (can you say G R A V E L) and disappeared somewhere up Five Mile Rd. - Alex and I decided to give Seven Mile Rd climb a shot - no one else took the bait - so we said goodbyes until beers back in Hood River and road out The Dalles like the Lone Ranger and Tonto, two guys who knew something the rest of Joe's Peloton was oblivious to. What this pair was headed for was not a lovely climb above the Gorge (see "the best day ever" she burst!
), sweeping vistas of late October autumnal hues, but a survival ordeal of gusts and ripping winds to surpass anything Fabian Cancellara attempts at the San Diego Air & Space Technology Center Low Speed Wind tunnel; there was no position, TT or otherwise that was going to make this fun. So with bad back seconding the motion we turned, with wind at out saddlebags and flew back over to the Gorge Scenic Hwy and headed west. The wind was still blowing but at least twists and turns of the road offered occasional reprieves.

Into Mosier we crossed Chris - he didn't get our message and slugged it out over Seven Mile, encountered a baby rattlesnake, and survived the gusting sidewinds downhill. Thinking for certain we were trailing Joe & Co. we "notched" it down even further and pedal west to finish off 80 odd miles and six or so thousand feet of vertical - all the while wishing the Double Mountain folks would send a pizza out to meet us.

Thanks Joe for truly Gorge-ous Grand Day Out!