- Panache by Wiscot August 2, 2023Teocalli5445
Ordinarily, the last stage of the Tour de France into Paris on the famed cobbles of the Champs Elysees is a formality for the general classification riders. It’s a stage reserved for the sprinters after the photo-ops of the winners of the various jerseys. Sure, breakaways go but are inevitably pulled back to allow the fast men to compete for the prized victory. It was therefore quite surprising this year to see second-placed Tadej Pogacar jump off the front and create some serious daylight between himself and the bunch. He was over seven minutes behind maillot jaune-wearing Vingegaard and let’s be honest, he was never going to be allowed to stay away. It was a spectacular display of bravado and futility.
As crazy as Pogacar’s effort was, it was symptomatic of why he is beloved by cycling fans: he throws caution to the wind and rides with what the French would call “panache.” Don’t get me wrong, I like Vingegaard but Pogacar is by far the more exciting and dare I say it, versatile rider. Indeed, as soon as Jumbo-Visma hit the safety of the 3kms to go banner, they ambled home savoring their triumph – given the same time as stage winner Jordi Meeus despite there being measurable daylight between them. Rarely does the maillot jaune get involved in the sprint – at best you’ll get Wiggins leading out Cavendish across the Place de la Concorde, but that’s about it.
Unsurprisingly, Tour history offers an exemplary tale of last stage derring-do. Back in 1979 going into the final stage, Bernard Hinault was comfortably leading the Tour by 3:07 over second place Joop Zoetemelk. Together with the talented German Didi Thurau, the Dutchman tried attacking the Frenchman – to no avail. As the newly established “patron” of the peloton, Hinault then did what perhaps only Hinault would – resplendent in the yellow jersey he attacked. Only Zoetemelk was able to latch onto his back wheel. Then, with their teams controlling the peloton, the duo were allowed to ride off into the distance. When Hinault won the sprint by a bike length from his companion, the bunch were two-and-a-half minutes behind! The final result? Hinault won by 13:07 over Zoetemelk, who failed a dope test and was penalized ten minutes, but still retained second place. In third was Joaquin Agostinho who was a whopping 26:53 back. (This year, the entire top 10 finished faster than that and a similar penalty on Pogacar would have dropped him to ninth on general classification.)
It wasn’t just the maillot jaune Hinault won decisively, he won the maillot vert by 253 points to Thurau’s 157 and was second in the mountains classification to the wily Italian Giovanni Battaglin. I see Pogacar very much in the mold of Hinault. A born racer who rides with panache. Whether his palmares ever rival Hinault’s or not (I doubt it), it’s going to be fun to watch.Continue reading →
- For Gino by Rob Sandy August 2, 2023Teocalli5439
Image by fe.tte
By now, everyone has seen Matej Mohorič’s fabulous interview following his stunning win of Stage 19 of the 2023 Tour de France. He spoke emotionally and eloquently about what the win meant to him and his team and at the same time was able to pay heartfelt tribute to his colleagues across the peloton. From a sporting perspective, it was an illuminating insight into the demands, sacrifices and rewards of top level of this dangerous, brutally difficult sport.
But his interview was revealing on another, more significant level.
I took my own race win the same week. Sure, mine was a trivial little sprint in a fairly meaningless 30 minute criterium and I didn’t get a television interview afterwards, but it was a tiny part of the same sprawling picture.
In a race a few weeks before, on the same tarmac, I’d seen a friend from another cycling club go flying over the handlebars following a minor coming together with another rider. He landed headfirst on the ground and broke his jaw and nose and been knocked unconscious. The rasping, bubbling sound of his laboured breathing has stayed with me. He was discharged from hospital the following week and will make a full recovery, but at the time it was horrible and sobering. I had to stop and think.
As a club, we still mourn the loss of one of our riders in a road race about ten years ago. A minor misjudgement led him to be in the wrong place, at the wrong time and he was hit by a car. It affected us all. I had the opportunity to meet his mother at another road race some years ago, and we shared a few words. What I took away was that, even as a non-cyclist who had lost her son to the sport, she understood. And what she understood was this:
As cyclists we are united. Everyone who sits down on a bike and pedals is part of the same community, whether we know it or not. Shared experiences bring us together. It is a hobby that hurts us.
When we go out on our bikes we know it is dangerous. There are risks we cannot mitigate and some days it takes a great deal of courage just to swing a leg over the top tube. And yet we do it anyway. There are times on the bike when we have all known fear, and pain and despair. In the darkness of a pre-dawn training ride or a late night turbo session we suffer alone.
And yet, cycling provides friendships, and moments of joy in achievement or exploration. It’s a light that we shine on ourselves to reveal the depths of our courage and resilience. It strengthens mind and body and can provide profound, intense experiences. It’s a sport that gives everything and yet the contradiction is that in a heartbeat it can take it all away. Whatever happens in our life, at some point we’ll get back on our bikes and go for a ride.
That is what I thought was most revealing about Mohorič’s interview. It showed that behind the mirrored shades, 4% body fat and 420w FTP the cyclists of the pro peloton are just like us. Through cycling they know pain, suffering, grief and fear, but also like us they know triumph, joy and pure enjoyment. And, like us, whatever happens, the day afterwards they will get back on their bikes and ride.
Cycling cannot change the past but it has a huge potential to alter our future. It’s not just fitness, or competition, or transport or a route to self-knowledge; it is all of these things and more. So when we say ‘I need to go for a ride’ we hope the other person can understand the emphasis we place on both the words ‘need’ and ‘ride’ in the sentence.
Matej Mohorič spoke for the peloton. He spoke for me too. he spoke for us all.
- Look 795 Blade … dead sexy March 15, 2023chuckp5302
To show you how delinquent I’ve been visiting and keeping up here, this is from my PEZ review of the Look 795 Blade last November. https://pezcyclingnews.com/technspec/look-795-blade-rs-review-proteam-white-dead-sexy/ This bike is bone stock out-of-the-box. No mods whatsoever. My first full-on, purpose-built aero bike. Probably just my imagination, but definitely feels faster.Continue reading →
- Winter Wheels by Wiscot March 13, 2023Teocalli5289
Traditionally, winter in Wisconsin means two things: cold and snow – and usually an abundance of both. If you live here year-round and don’t do a “snowbird” and head south from November to April, you can do two things: bitch or embrace. Wear the right clothing and adopt the right attitude and a world of ATVs, snowmobiles, snowshoes, cross country skiing and ice fishing opens up. Hell, Lambeau Field in Green Bay has no roof – that’s how hardy folks are up here.
I ride all year round. With a winter road bike and a fat bike this is feasible. That being said, I have my limits: roads must be substantially dry and ice free and the wind chill must be in the twenties or above. This winter I’ve ridden the fat bike once – we’ve had so little snow and what we have had has generally disappeared within a week, leaving the trails muddy and soft and basically unridable. The road bike has seen more action than normal which is fine by me.
Growing up in Scotland, the winter bike was always called just that – the winter bike. Here in the States it tends to be referred to as a “beater bike” – a term I’ve always detested. It seems to imply that it will take the beating (and maintenance) it deserves – and again, by implication, that care and maintenance won’t amount to much. My winter bike is a bit of a mongrel mishmash. A basic internet store brand aluminum frame, carbon fork, Microshift brifters (cheap, exposed shift cables but work like a charm) and various components sourced from all over the place. For example, I found the tires on sale several years ago for a crazy good price – probably because they were hot pink. I’d never put them on one of my three regular road bikes, but for the winter bike? Perfect. The mudguards/fenders? Indispensable when the roads are awash with melting snow mixed with salt. I had a “thermal” water bottle but it was rubbish at keeping even the hottest liquids warm so I found a small aluminum one that fits the bottle cage perfectly. Even after two hours the water will be warm which sure beats sipping icy cold fluid on a day where the temperature is barely above freezing.
Top winter bike tips? Check your tires regularly. When the bike is on the stand I use an old scouring pad to run over the tires to clean off any debris and expose any cuts or abrasions. Valve stems. Nothing makes these wee buggers seize up like a bit of salty road water. Take the plastic valve cap, put a little drop of heavy lube in it and screw it on. Check your spares regularly. There’s nothing worse than puncturing in the cold only to find out your spares are unusable.
This trusty bike will see action for a few more weeks until the weather finally warms and I start shedding layers of clothing and riding other bikes. There’s a world of a difference between it and its carbon brethren but in its own quiet, unassuming way, it’s a great bike. It has its place and time every year and for that, it can’t be beat.
Continue reading →
- 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.Continue reading →
- Sea Kayaking August 29, 2022Teocalli5137
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.
PhotoContinue reading →
- 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!Continue reading →
- 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.
- 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!Continue reading →
- 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.