Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Ride for the Ages

My memories of Memorial weekend are of loading up the car and rolling out to the Quad Cities for three days of suffering in shitty weather, drawing straws to see would sleep on the floor, and eating my height in Subway turkey sandwiches (they were cheap).

As much as I miss the proverbial demarcation line of the "real" racing season, I no longer do these things. I am, if you remember, a self proclaimed recreational cyclist. A "boludo globero" if you will (another day, another blog). Therefore, Memorial weekend was comprised of work and play.

"Work", because I worked at the shop on Saturday. It was a busy day because most people don't bother to think ahead about Bike the Drive, an early morning, closed course ride on the historic Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. Most can't seem to figure out how to pump their tires up with the "skinny" valves. And most people are manic grumpy chumps anyway.

All the bad washed away with the door's quiet whoosh behind me as I rolled away from the shop to begin my two days off. In a row!

Sunday started off rainy, which threw a wrench into the plans of a 6:30 AM start time. After just getting over a nasty 7 day flu last week, I wasn't going to ride 3+ hours in Mother Nature's tears. So, I went back to bed for an hour or so and then woke up to watch the 2007 Giro's best stage yet on RAI. By the time the race was over and I eased my grip from the armrests of my chair, the sun was shining and I was inspired.

I rolled westward on a ride that is only known as "Batavia". I rode hard into a gusting headwind and suffered much of the way. It felt good. I also enjoyed the idea that it would be a wind I would sail home on.

Monday was epic, as far as rides have been for me the past several years. I haven't been riding with many of my old mates (they all moved, live far away, or have different schedules) so it was a treat to see the two Jasons along with the perpetually reliable Dr. Giggles. We rode at a steady pace going out and stopped for coffee and laughs at the usual spot.

We took a slightly different way home than what I usually do on Jason W's recommendation. This turned out to be yet another route I will add to my book of rides. I will dub it the Batavia Screw. We rolled through some nice, traffic-less, roads and tree lined streets. Before I knew it, we put the afterburners for the last 10 km. I dug deep into my reserves and suffered much, but managed to end the ride with my self respect intact. Bravo, strong men! I tip my cap to thee!

I had to be back by 10 AM, because I promised a day at Starved Rock State Park to the wife. Being late because of a bike ride breaks one of the cardinal rules of Cycling while Married (will blog on this soon) so I wasn't about to ruin my weekend. I made it home within the allowed 15 minute window. I suffered again hiking for 3.5 hours in the heat and undulating terrain, and felt adequately destroyed by day's end. I hope future Memorial weekends are this year's equal.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Mad Props Vol. 5

I always liked Bernard Hinault. I was captivated by his dominance and grit and the way he would rule the peloton with his iron will and temperament. Hinault was an anomaly. Hinault was a dick. Hinault was a monstrous ball of testosterone and napalm. He was never afraid to attack, sometimes to his detriment. He possessed a recklessness and confidence I admire in riders. He was both human and superhuman throughout his career.

Hinault was also brash, arrogant, distant, and terribly shy of publicity. He was an eccentric mix of prima donna, petulent schoolboy, and lone wolf. He would control races from his position as "Le Patron", or boss of the peloton, and impose his will upon riders. Such as when Hinault famously said "there will be no attacks today because tomorrow's stage will be difficult". That was Hinault, the last of Le Patrons.

I never jumped on the bandwagon of demonizing Hinault the way many did when he had his famous battle with Greg Lemond in the 1986 Tour de France. If you understood Hinault, that episode should have been expected. Hinault was a fighter. Always.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Godspeed, Dario

One of the bike industry's finest, Dario Pegoretti, has been diagnosed with lymphoma. You can read his letter to his customers here (labeled "message from Dario").

I first saw a Pegoretti frame in the Gita booth at the 1996 Interbike show. It was a beautifully deep powder blue with white decals. I saw right then, that these were frames of unparalleled beauty. I was a poor bike shop guy/racer at the time, so I never had the means to actually pay for one, so I simply marvelled at them and told myself "Someday..."

This past March, "someday" finally came and I ordered Dario's latest creation, the uber cool, stainless steel, Responsorium. I was prepared to wait several months for the frame when I placed the order. I am resolute in my decision and now prepared to wait as long as it takes.

Hope your recovery is swift, complete, and without complications, Dario. My thoughts are with you.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Never Wanted This

It's sad enough that cycling has gained popularity through its association with doping, but the soap opera bullshit of the Landis trial is borderline slander to two wheeled locomotion. I sincerely hope the studio stiffs salivating in boardrooms don't make a fucking movie about this.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Screw the F150

A friend sent this link to me. Alot of weird, funny, sometimes crass stuff. The above qualifies as "wish I was there" funny.

All the Rage

Shallow drops are what's hot in 2007 in the PRO (permanently stealing the all caps from BKW because it's what fits best...thanks R.F!) peloton. Many friends have made the switch and absolutely love 'em. I've always thought the guys that did the Michele Bartoli stretch were emulating the wrong position.

Levers have been sitting higher on bars the past several years, so this seems to be an extension of the science of bike fit creeping into the populace. I hope it continues and folks understand that emulating the beasts that race for a living doesn't apply to the average shmoe. Book a fitting at your LBS and lose the Rack comparisons when you roll for more than ten miles.

Photo credit: Cyclingnews.com

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Mad Props Vol. 4

"This is a horse sport, we are called horses. They give us blinkers and tell us "go". Do not think, do not look around, do not to try to understand. But, on the contrary, I think, and I look around and often, I don't understand. And I wonder: what is that for? This is before feeling the cross around my neck, beating my face and dancing as I am riding ". - Pavel Tonkov, 1996

I watched the 1997 Giro d'Italia the other day and witnessed Pavel Tonkov go to battle against Ivan Gotti for the honor of the Maglia Rosa. Tonkov perpetually attacked Gotti, a friend and training partner, for the better part of the final week. Tonkov never gave up and continued his massive commitment to achieve a second Giro win even though it seemed a forgone conclusion that Gotti was able to match any effort mounted to unseat his control of the race. Tonkov finished in second place 1:27 down on Gotti.

Fast forward to the 2004 Giro d'Italia. Tonkov was toward the end of his career, and after some trying times, thus was no longer considered a threat for a stage win. That changed on stage 17, a 153km jaunt from Brunico - Fondo Sarnonico. After a long break, Tonkov dropped Alessandro Bertolini at 15km to go. Tonkov finished 2:15 up on Bertolini and crossed the line with his arms locked in the above gesture. When asked about the meaning of his actions Pavel said "It was only a gesture of rage against the journalists, that did not consider a protagonist in the Giro any more."

I like riders that dig deep within to prove the critics wrong and have the moxy to rub their faces in it as well. Mad Props, Pavel!

RAI Giro Coverage

I could listen to the entire broadcast in Italian. They have an energy and passion that oozes through the speakers. Got the link from Gewilli. Tutto bene.

RAI Mediaportale

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Wish I was Flandrien

Aside from the rants and observational fluff my aim is to also give my dear readers something that sucks the marrow out of their bones.

Enjoy the suck.

The portfolio of Belgian photographer Stephen Vanfleteren

Thanks to Velorution for the watermarked photo and the interest pique.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Dawn of the Un-Man

"Every man thinks that his burden is heaviest" - Bob Marley

Un-Man walks into bike shop. Un-Man sighs heavily to let mechanic know he needs immediate assistance. Mechanic calls salesperson over to finish sale in progress. Un-Man wants service NOW. Mechanic's interest is piqued. Un-Man wants to do "big ride" on Sunday. Mechanic asks what Un-Man needs to get him on road for "big ride". Un-Man explains his bike makes "ticking" sounds and "doesn't shift right". Un-Man further explains that he would do it himself but Un-Man has been "real busy". Un-Man also thinks job would be easy because it "probably just needs grease". Mechanic puts bike in stand and checks shifting. Un-Man crosses invisible line into "shop" area to see what mechanic is doing. Mechanic wishes stereo was loudly playing Bad Brains, not The Cure. Un-Man looks quizzically at mechanic. Mechanic gives diagnosis as new chain and cassette. Un-Man asks price. Mechanic obliges and mentions it's in stock. Un-Man doesn't like price and makes new offer. Mechanic declines. Un-Man sighs heavily. "Fine". Mechanic does on-the-spotter to be rid of Un-Man's polluted chi. Mechanic rings Un-Man up and sends him packing. "Have a good ride." Un-Man doesn't turn around. "Yeah".

Photo credit: Ebet Roberts

Giro d'Italia 2007

The Giro d'Italia begins Saturday. Go to cycling.tv for coverage. It'll cost some coin and you'll need Internet Explorer (no Firefox, unfortunately) to access. The price is moderately cheap and includes uninterrupted (bandwidth permitting) coverage so you can enjoy more racing and less PBR plugs. Allez!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Don't Forget the Struggle, Don't Forget the Streets

"Raybeez" Barbieri was the frontman for Warzone, a NYC punk band that formed in 1982 and played some pretty raucous tooth chippin' thrash. He was something of an icon for me in my impressionable youth. He wrote "Don't Forget the Struggle, Don't Forget the Streets" about the commercialization of hardcore music. Raybies died of pneumonia at the age of 35 in a VA hospital in NYC. He's the one hanging upside down.

Sometimes, I'm digusted with the human race. I abhor the hopelessly bland look-a-like developments in the suburbs. I despise the pervasive drive to convert every sliver of prairie into a fucking industrial park. And, I hate all the traffic congestion that goes with it .

I've been riding the same routes since 1991. I have five that I ride pretty regularly and change them up on different days to accommodate traffic patterns and boredom of the same old shit. As the years pass, these routes are slowly being suffocated by over development, poor urban planning, and addiction to the automobile. The days of riding two abreast amongst lighter, friendlier traffic are over. Riding in the western suburbs of Chicago has become a battle, or "war" in the contemporary, testosterone fueled, us versus them, lingo.

Drivers are becoming frustrated and lashing out with more regularity at riders, who are deemed an impediment to forward progress. They swerve, honk incessantly, pass closely, yell obscenities (usually some variation of "fag"), and pull a whole lot of other douche bag shit. I'm not much of a fighter, so I usually ignore them or laugh. You've got to have pretty thick skin to ride amongst the mongoloids. Otherwise, you invite confrontations that you will almost always lose.

Regardless, after sixteen years of riding routes that have shaped the bulk of my cycling life I'm not ready to give them up in pursuit of some maze-like, traffic dodging, stop sign fest that the automobilists would like to banish us to. Hell no. I'm gonna stand my ground. I won't forget the struggle and I won't forget the streets. I won't forget my roots. I won't sell out. Raybeez would've done the same. RIP.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Mad Props Vol. 3

Mario Cipollini: Sprinter, Joker, Playboy

Mario Cipollini, in my eyes at least, was the greatest sprinter to ever grace the professional peloton. Not only did he regularly kick the shit out of his contemporaries from the front at 300 meters out, he was a flamboyant joker that loved to perform for his publicity hungry sponsors. I'd hesitate to say the "Lion King" had an ego as opposed to a supreme confidence. He was always charming, often complimentary of his rivals, and sometimes, outright humble.

Cipollini beat Alfredo Binda's record for Giro d'Italia wins in 2003 with an incredible 42 wins to his name. Although "Super Mario" (another nickname) had a reputation as a womanizer and partier, he obviously was a focused racer that had the utmost devotion to the sport considering his consistent dominance. "Mario the Magnificent" (yet another nickname) ended his career in 2005 with an uber-impressive 191 victories.

Photo credit: Graham Watson

Thursday, May 3, 2007

This Looks Bad

The second stage of the Tour de Romandie was marred by a massive pile up. I don't miss this side of racing. The entire crash may last only .2 seconds, but when you're at the launching point like the LPR rider (black and white) it seems like everything moves in slow motion. Reportedly, no injuries were serious and R. McEwen took the win.

Photo credit: cyclingnews.com

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Mad Props Vol. 2

Don't mess with Tullio.

As legend tells it, on 11 November, 1927 on the Croce d'Aune pass Tullio's frozen hands couldn't loosen the wingnuts to fix the flat tire on his rear wheel. Soon thereafter he patented the quick release hub and the rest, as they say, is history. His company, Campagnolo S.p.A., went on to create some of the most memorable bicycle jewelry ever.

Names like Record, Super Record, Gran Sport, Croce d'Aune, and Nuovo Record became revered in the industry and amongst the masses. Campagnolo blended glorious designs with modern technological and metallurgical advances to fabricate some of the most sought after bicycle parts ever. Magnesium wheels for autos and motorcycles were also made for a short time. Even the pope got in on the Campagnolo action when he received a 50th anniversary group in 1983.

Name a legend of cycling and it's virtually guaranteed that he won on Campagnolo equipment. Fausto Coppi, Gino Bartali, Lucien Van Impe, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, Laurent Fignon, Greg Lemond, Miguel Indurain, and on, and on.

If it wasn't for Tullio we'd probably still be riding with the Flintstones and Captain Caveman. Mad Props to Tullio and his continued angelic guidance of all cycling equipment with panache and function.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Beware the Vincolo!

I had the rare opportunity to work on a fine Italonese bike the other day. It's called a Vincolo. Perhaps Ernesto has a bastard brother we don't know about. A quick test ride confirmed my suspicions. It offered a superb blend of Mack truck handling with hot-tub limpness. In other words, FABULOUS(-ly wretched)! So, keep your eyes peeled for this glorious two wheeled specimen of aluminum/carbon poo.

The Suffering

"Man is sometimes extraordinarily, passionately in love with suffering" - F. Dostoevsky

The first cycling video I ever saw was the 1985 Paris Roubaix. I remember it all. The mud. The grit. John Tesh's fruity voice. Most of all though, I remember the grim, fixed gazes of the riders fighting for position amongst the fury of Mother Nature. 1985 was the year that she hurled her worst at the mortal men pedaling ferrous machines across the flatlands of the French countryside. I was awestruck and inspired. Marc Madiot had a weird habit of sticking his tongue out between clenched teeth when he rode balls out. I imagine mud and shit never tasted so good.

While watching the dark figures of the peloton do battle that day, I became acutely aware of how much I was enthralled by the deep suffering etched on their faces. It made my fists ball up and heart race. I never saw a baseball player suffer like that. Or a football player. Or a basketball player. This sport was different. It was self-inflicted inhumanity. And I, the little dweeb that I was, wanted to be a part of it.

I didn't know a damn thing about bikes or racing at the time. I had no historical reference other than those retarded Taco Bell commercials with Greg Lemond. So I read books and magazines and studied photographs. The photos that drew me in were the ones where the riders had the thousand mile (yard, kilometer...whatever) stare, where they were mashing the shit out of their teeth in agony, or gasping for a few more molecules of O2. The crash photos were a guilty pleasure.

Soon after, I was battling my way into the world of bicycle racing. I suffered along with 4's. Then the 3's , and finally, with the 2's, 1's and PROs. My racing memories are filled with oxygen debt and lactic acid burn. I thrived on that throughout my days as a racing cyclist and traded stories with friends and teamates about how much we were either hurt by, or put the hurt on, each other. I finally understood the photographs I studied for so long. I felt like I was part of a warrior family of masochists.

Things have changed alot since I stopped racing. I ride slower and take more time to smell the proverbial roses. I'm more casual in my approach to riding and who I ride with. I am more liable to ignore that twitch in my legs when another rider passes (challenges) me. I suppose these are symptoms of me "maturing" as a cyclist. Whatever it is, I'm cool with it. It's hard to live in the past. And, ultimately, impossible to live up to.

I still miss the deep exhaustion that comes from racing a 100k criterium (about the only racing we had here in the good ol' midwest) and continue to get fired up watching the PROs duke it out in ways that seem to defy human limits. I'm still addicted to the suffering that baptized my virgin soul. Someday my addiction may get the best of me and I'll make good on my yearly warnings and race yet again. But, until then, I'll keep the pilot light in the ol' furnace set to "best efficiency".