Previous Posts

  • My Ride of the Falling Leaves by Wiscot November 24, 2022Teocalli5178

    Photos by Wiscot

    Variety is, as they say, the spice of life. Hence my seven bikes. Well, six get ridden but my 30 year old Trek carbon mountain bike doesn’t see much action. Four road bikes, a fat bike and a gravel bike all get their share of love and attention during the season and the latter gets a couple of special adventures each year in a part of Wisconsin commonly referred to as “up north.” Starting and finishing in the little town of Laona, the local Rescue Squad put on the Bear 100 and the Hibernator 100 in the spring and fall respectively, in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest which covers more than 1.5 million acres.

    Ride options are 30, 63 and 107 miles and this is not an event for the casual rider – the trails and forest roads that make up about 95% of the route soon mean you are somewhat oblivious to where exactly you might be. The “rest stop” is the rescue squad trailer parked in the woods with a couple of coolers full of water, sodas and a few gels. Help yourself and carry on. No technical support is on hand. This year 120 hardy souls turned up. A few years ago I curated an exhibition of Trek bikes. I think the Trek guys regarded me and my claims of being a bike rider with some disdain and suspicion until I told them I’d done the Bear 100 three times. Instant respect.

    Anyway, it was damn cold at 8am on the morning of the ride: 32-33 degrees with strong slanting sun. The trail was uneven and unpredictable so 100% focus on what was directly in front of me was critical. My fingers were freezing – my toes not so much due to the old aluminum foil trick. Pedaling away the miles clicked by as I slowly came to the realization that the absence of tire tracks meant I may have missed a turn. After almost 10 miles an ATV pulled up alongside me, “You’ve gone too far! Turn around and take a right on County T!” the man yelled over the engine’s roar. Instead of taking a left at 5 miles I’d gone five too far and was now ten miles in the hole. Cue expletives and massive self-recrimination.

    I’ve always maintained that long rides of five or six hours are as much mental as physical. You just need to be prepared in your head to do the time in the saddle. Usually, the full Bear or Hibernator takes me about seven hours and as usual I’d planned on doing the whole thing. Not this year. The screw up just buggered me mentally and the thought of doing 117 miles was just not feasible – mentally, physically or chronologically. Ultimately I did the 63 which, with my “extra” gave me a final ride of 74 miles. Still respectable, but just a tad frustrating and disappointing.

    On the plus side, the forest’s fall foliage was spectacular; near peak as possible. At one point I was riding on a carpet of golden leaves beside a burbling river; at other times I was “snowed” on by falling leaves. The day warmed up and the sun was out. I switched my thermal beanie for a cotton cap. The creamy colored gravel was dry and mostly firm as it rose and fell, twisted and turned through corridors of reds, ambers, golds and greens. I fell in with three guys from Kenosha in southern Wisconsin and we rode most of the last 25 miles together – a welcome development given my annoyance at missing that early turn. Normally, the ride starts and finishes (in true northern Wisconsin fashion) from a bar. Not this year – the ATV guys were out in force and hogging the hostelry so we stopped by for a beer afterwards to discuss rides, routes, tires and tire pressures.

    For the last few years my work schedule has clashed with either the Bear or the Hibernator. Not next year; I’m planning on doing both. As an event, the setting is spectacular. Organization minimal but perfectly adequate. As the gravel scene gets bigger, more organized and professional, these northwoods rides seem determined to cling to a more humble approach: a very modest entry fee, minimal rest stops and just a small raffle/t-shirt sale afterwards. Sure, there’s always that group of fast guys who are beholden to their Stravas and ride the course flat out, but for most, it’s a ride to savor the terrain, the colors and the peace and quiet. The camaraderie that can be found can be just wonderful; it takes a certain mindset and dare I say it, masochism to drive to a remote part of Wisconsin and ride an almost bare-bones event. Anyone stopped by the trailside is checked on to make sure they’re ok. Food and drink are offered if needed.

     

     

    Next May and October I’ll be heading back “up north.” Like most riders, the occasional change of roads and scenery is always welcome, except next time I’ll be much more attentive to my route and looking for the markers. In the meantime, winter is on my doorstep which means the “winter” road bike and fat bike will see some miles, but the memory of my ride of the falling leaves will endure.

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  • Sea Kayaking August 29, 2022Teocalli5137
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    Since moving to the Isle of Wight I have taken up Sea Kayaking and as a back injury, plus some building work, has kept me off the bike(s) for a bit, I’ve updated this page to share our wider experiences, sports or pastimes.

    Photo here is of my new Kayak pulled up in a creek called Newtown Creek in The Solent UK.  Depending on tide flow this is about an hour from home.  On this particular da the Solent was calm but it’s not always so peaceful.

    The page header photo is of The Needles which is the westernmost point of the Isle of Wight.

    Photo

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  • Freddy Maertens and the Vuelta by Wiscot August 18, 2022Teocalli5128

    Image courtesy of Cycling Art Blog

    One of the most startling facts about cycling is that Freddy Maertens never won one of the five Monuments. Given his stunning palmares it’s quite remarkable, even though he is generally considered the (moral) winner of the 1977 Tour of Flanders when he was disqualified for a (deemed illegal) bike change on the Koppenberg then helped pace Roger de Vlaeminck to the win – in return for a highly disputed (promised) 300,000 francs payment from de Vlaeminck. The latter denies making the deal, but such “arrangements” were not unusual back in the day. The dispute still festers 45 years on. Personally, I’m in Freddy’s camp. De Vlaeminck may have been a super stylish rider but I’ve never liked him.

    Anyhoo, another remarkable fact about Freddy (and he is truly one of the more colorful, and dare I say it likeable, characters in the 70s cycling scene) was his domination of the 1977 Vuelta. When I say “dominate” I mean it in a way that even Anquetil, Merckx, Hinault or Indurain in their pomps could never dream of: Freddy won thirteen of the twenty stages. (1st Prologue, Stages 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11a (ITT), 11b, 13, 16 & 19) He led from start to finish and naturally took home the points jersey. He kindly let someone else (Pedro Torres) win the mountains prize. Some might say, uncharitably, that there were only seven teams of ten riders in the whole race and the competition wasn’t great, but as the old saying goes “you can only win against whomever shows up.”

    We are in an era where two or three stage wins by a single rider in a grand tour is regarded as an incredible achievement (Cavendish won sixteen tour stages between 2009-2011, and Merckx won six stages in 1969 plus the yellow, green and polka dot jerseys), but no rider has ever won thirteen of twenty. But remember, Freddy was in his prime and was riding for Flandria – the Red Guard – whose team was stuffed with hard, seasoned professionals such as Michel Pollentier, Marc Demeyer, Mariano Martinez and Pol Verschuere. And the Spaniards would, if they could have, ganged up on Freddy. Just ask Robert Millar about that). And just to pre-empt the inevitable drugs question, yes, Freddy did fail drugs tests – amphetamines and cortisone – in an era where such stimulants were commonplace and hardly sophisticated. But he would have been tested every day of that Vuelta and back in the 70s the Spanish race was still seriously parochial (only eight of the top twenty-five on GC were non-Spaniards), the organizers would likely have loved to disqualify Freddy.

     

    So as we watch the last Grand Tour of the season with most of the big GC guys taking a post-Tour break, let’s enjoy the “lesser” of the three grand tours and remember when a stocky wee Belgian took the race by the scruff of the neck and refused to let go. Vamos!

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  • Changes by Wiscot July 15, 2022Teocalli5096

    Whatever one might feel about protesters disrupting the Tour on Tuesday, there can be no denying the legitimacy of their feelings or the validity of their cause. By now, only the most obtuse or ignorant deny that our climate is changing and in its most obvious form – it is getting hotter.

    Snow is still a somewhat common feature of the Giro when it reaches the Dolomites – but it’s held in early/mid May. The Tour is run in July and good weather is expected. As the riders have slogged up and into the Alps in recent days, the crowds and the gradients are still there but what is missing? Snow. Look at this picture from 1980 taken on the Galibier. The riders are clearly riding above the snow line. Today? There might be a bit of snow high above the riders, but in 1980 the snow level in July was still below the heights the riders scaled.

    The picture above was taken on Stage 17 on Bastille Day in 1980 – a 242 kilometers (151 miles) ride from Serre Chevalier to Morzine over the Galibier, Madeleine and Joux-Plane. He we see Johan deMuynck going over the Galibier in first place; he wouldn’t finish the stage in the top ten, but overall would finish fourth on general classification.

    A lot has changed since 1980 in the world of cycling: no more steel bikes, wool jerseys, or real chamois in the shorts. Race distances are shorter. Lighter, technically much more advanced bikes are the norm, team buses, better nutrition, and greater fitness have become standard. Many of these changes have been positive, but beyond the sport many changes do not augur well for cycling or the world.

     

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  • Studied Nonchalance by Wiscot April 25, 2022Teocalli5039

    Picture credit” “Coppi” by Herbie Sykes, Rouleur Books, 2012

     

    The unveiling of a Grand Tour route is always an exciting event. We know what the general format will be: three weeks, two rest days, sprints, mountains, transition stages and (not enough) time trial kilometers. Past winners and contenders for the various classifications anxiously look at the parcours and assess their chances. Of course, it’s not unknown for a GT organizer to tweak the course to suit a particular rider . . .

    One of the more curious things at such events is the sartorial choices of the invited riders. Young men as they are, they often sport a mix of the trendy and downright casual. I’m always somewhat amazed at the insouciance of some: no ties, jeans, t-shirts. Every time I see a route unveiling I think “really? it’s a big formal occasion and you thought that was appropriate?” (Mind you, I’m saying this as someone who still, voluntarily, wears ties to the office and gives as much due care and attention to what I wear off the bike as when I’m on the bike).

    This whole issue has come to mind lately upon reading a biography of Fausto Coppi, one of the all-time greats of professional cycling and the first man to do the Giro-Tour double in the same year (1949 and again in 1952). Blessed with ridiculous cycling talent and silent movie star good looks, he was noted for the elegance of his riding style. On the bike his finest years were spent riding for Bianchi; black shoes, white socks, black shorts with maybe some lettering on the legs and that lovely celeste and white jersey. He was a pioneer in the wearing of sunglasses on – and off – the bike. He also dressed impeccably when not riding; truly a case of “gilding the lily.” Speaking of which, foreign languages often shame English with their ability to convey a lot of meaning in a single word. “Schadenfreude” is a German one that comes to mind. Another is “sprezzatura.” This single Italian word can translate as “studied nonchalance: graceful conduct or performance without apparent effort.” Sounds like it could have been coined with Coppi in mind.

    Had there been big formal announcements of the Giro or Tour routes in Coppi’s day, you can rest assured he would have shown up “dressed to the nines.” The perfectly fitting suit, shirt, tie and shined shoes. The hair brilliantined to perfection. His appearance alone would have been worth a couple of minutes on GC.

    This picture is, to me, the personification of “sprezzatura” – Coppi isn’t wearing a tie, but is casually perfect. The whole scene is enhanced by the expressions on the two policemen – mouth agape at the fact that a superstar has just walked by. They will get home from work to excitedly tell of “guess who I saw today?”  And those hearing the story will have instinctively known that they were in close proximity to “sprezzatura.” Ciao!

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  • Paris Roubaix April 11, 2022Teocalli2951

    Lead Photo – Roubaix Velodrome by Teocalli

    Is it just me or is Paris Roubaix The Classic of The Classics.  Does it have better PR (Public Relations) ie The Hell of The North?  Is it because of the number of times I’ve watched A Sunday in Hell?

    Anyway Paris Roubaix is back to Spring this year after last year’s Autumn running.  At the moment it looks like being dry after the wet of last Autumn.

    This will also be the second Paris Roubaix Femmes once again us a double event for Sunday.  Hopefully the coverage will be as good for the Femmes as we get for the Men.

    Rider entries and race details for the Men can be found here.

    Race details for the Femmes can be found here.

     

     

     

     

     

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  • Amstel Gold April 4, 2022Teocalli3023

    Photo – Amstel Gold Experience by Teocalli

    The first of the three Ardennes Classics, Amstel Gold takes place on the 10th April for both Men and Femmes.

    For the Men the rude will run over approximately 240 Km and for the Femmes this will be over approximately 120 Km.   The routes start in Maastricht and end in Valkenburg.

    Bottom of The Cauberg by Teocalli

    The Mens route is over three loops through the South Limburg hills with three ascents of the Cauberg and finishes  with ascents of the Geulhemmerberg and Bemelerberg, but not the Cauberg.  On the final lap after the climb of the Geulhemmerberg the peloton will descend via the Kuitenbergweg.  Following a route through the Molenweg and the Peutgensweg, over the Rasberg, up the Bemelerberg, towards Terblijt and then via the Rijnsbergerweg on the Sibberweg – and into the last kilometre.

    The Femmes route covers the Geulhemmerberg, the Bemelerberg and the Cauberg.

    Having ridden the Cauberg 3 times on a vintage steed (Eroica Limburg starts and finishes in Valkenburg) the Cauberg did not seem quite as bad as I expected – though to be fair it is at the start of the Eroica Limburg and I was not going quite as fast as a Pro Peloton!  Though I can vouch for the fact that that part of the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany are anything but flat.

    Limburg River Crossing by Teocalli

     

     

    I doubt that the Pros will encounter the river crossing encountered in Eroica Limburg but the restaurant at the crossing serves fabulous tartes.

     

     

     

     

    For Route and Rider details for Men see here and Route for the Femmes here.

    Cyclist Statue in Valkenburg by Teocalli

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  • Ronde van Vlaanderen March 29, 2022Teocalli2863

    Photo by Teocalli

    Potentially one for Wiscot here – 1977 saw Roger de Vlaeminck win from Freddy Maertens.  Both punctured on the Koppenberg but Maertens received a wheel from a spectator and was then pushed the remainder of the way up the cobbles.  They then caught back up with Merckx before dropping him with 70 Km to go.  De Vlaeminck then sat on Maertens’ wheel for the final 70 Km before riding away from him in the final run in.  De Vlaeminck was booed off the podium though there was a claim he knew Maertens would be DQ for an illegal wheel change.  As it was Maertens and Planckaert were both disqualified after testing for positive for Amphetamines.  Seems that the museum in Oudenaarde still  have a grudge against Roger de Vlaeminck in the two cobbles in the lead photo despite the fact that officially there is no second and third place finisher for the 1977 event.

    This weekend sees The Classics running from Antwerp to Oudenaarde with the Men riding 267 Km taking in many of the famous cobbled climbs culminating with Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg before the final run in to Oudenaarde.  Details of the route and start list can be found here.

    For the Femmes the route is 157 Km also culminating in the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg before their final run in to Oudenaarde.  Details of the route here.

    Chances of a bunch sprint in either are practically zero.

     

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  • Milan San Remo March 7, 2022Teocalli4497

    Saturday sees the 113th edition of Milan-San Remo.  As usual La Primavera the first Monument of the season is the longest Classic and rolls around 299 kilometres. Will we see the Cipressa-Poggio combination determine the final outcome before the downhill into San Remo or will we have a small bunch sprint to the finish?  Your guess is (at least) as good as mine!

    Start List can be found here.

     

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  • Strade Bianche 2022 February 27, 2022Teocalli4447

    This Saturday is the 15th edition of the Strade Bianche.  The route is 184 kilometres and finishes just after a 16% climb into the old town of Siena.  As usual the finish is in the Campo in Siena and I can vouch for the fact that the climb up to the citadel is a brute.  Young to be called a Monument but it is a firm favourite with fans and riders alike.  Much of the route rolls through stunning scenery when dry the dust rolls off the Strade from the riders and team cars and when wet the white mud cakes everything and gets everywhere – and I mean everywhere (having ridden the Sportif in the wet and the dry).

    The start list can be found here.

    For the Femmes the route is 136 kilometres with the same finish.

    Last year’s winner was Annemiek van Vleuten who racked up her second win in succession and is the only women to have won the race twice.  Will she make it three in a row this year?  Last year’s podium was rounded out by Mavi García and Leah Thomas.

    The start list can be found here.

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