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Showing posts from May, 2010

Gavia, schmavia, it's all about the descent...

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Today the Giro climbs the Passo Gavia as its final act in the mountains.  It'll be the Cima Coppi (highest summit) and the last climb of the race.  Last chance for Evans and Arroyo to take back time on Basso, who looked a little shaky coming down the Mortirolo today in the rain.  Nibali was waiting for him a lot, and he lost about 1 and a half minutes of his advance over to the dropped-but-desperately charging-back Arroyo, only to pull the elastic back out again on the finish climb to Aprica.

Today, they'll come up the Gavia from the Bormio side this time (I believe 'opposite' of the way the famous Andy Hampsten-blizzard epic of 1988).  No matter, still a killer climb.

When I heard they wever coming now this side, I thought of this photo, which I first saw on the cover of the Palo Alto Bicycle Sport mail order catalog back in '77.

I couldn't stop thinking about how insane a race down the Gavia would be.  I knew the dirt road has been repaved in recent years, a…

Photos of the day: Old soldiers never die...

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...and contrary to popular opinion, they don't fade away either.

In fact, they never stop riding.

Here's some photos I found on the web of a ex-pro champion's invitational race in Belgium...(sorry I lost track of where to provide the credit)

Flandria Cafe topfavorite, the King Sean Kelly with Lucien Van Impe.   Van Impe could out-grimp anyone.  Whenever I see a polka dot jersey... I think of compact Van Impe with an afro perm, dancing away with souplesse up some impossibly steep pass, leaving Thevenet and Merckx gasping and stomping.    Next time you're lugging up a hill in a too-big gear, think of Lucien's soupless, gear down and spin away.

Few know that climber Lucien once made an ill-fated April 1 attempt to take the hour record in Oostende... check out the video here for a good laugh :)

Today, Van Impe is sporting director of the Willems Veranda team.  In this photo he's wearing the jersey of the wieler cafe 'De Katoen' in Affligem, great place.

In…

Is this the best Giro in years?

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You betcha.

In contrast to the 'Bore-de-California', the Giro GC is getting tossed around every day like a good insalata.

Nibali and Basso just came back from their nap on the road to L'Aquila to take two key stages. But Vino, Evans, Sastre and Cunego are far from finished. And Toldo, Porte and Arroyo don't look like lying down without a fight either.

The stage to the natural arena that is the top of the Zoncolan yesterday saw Basso shatter the field, with guys wobbling up one at a time. Check out the video of the final k here, and see if you don't agree that the sight of riding up to a summit finish with 140 thousand screaming Italian fans doesn't beat a time trial in blase LA for drama.

Basso was on a great day, but for me the hero of the day (and the season so far) was Cadel Evans. After a few years of bad press, it's nice to see this guy finally getting the recognition he's earned. He's a real fighter, and with the consistency he's showing, …

Lake Sunapee 30+ years later...

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Who says you can't turn back the clock?
Well still-not-so-fast-Eddy took the consolation sprint of guys dropped in the finale of the 45+ race at Lake Sunapee this past Saturday.   At least this week I got through about 35 miles or so before getting dropped.

My own stupid, should-know-better overgearing on the climbs didn't help... the power left me suddenly on a short sharp acceleration.  

No worries though, this time only 4:28 down... lots better than the 20+ min lost at Battenkill a month and a half ago.  Getting there - a few more races, watts on, and pounds off and I'll soon be sprinting with the leaders...

Lake Sunapee is a fun, classic New England race filled with good memories for me.    Back when I started racing it in 1977, it was held in late August and was the 'New England road racing championship'.

Yellow champions jerseys were awarded to the winners.   In '79 I came whisker close to getting one.  In the 68 mile Sr. 3/4 race, I finished second beh…

Film Revue - Gino L'Intramontabile

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Saturday's Giro battle over the strada bianchi - the 'white' gravel roads in the back country of Tuscany just shattered the peloton, and provided a great day of racing.   Didn't see it?  Watch the stage recap here.   Primary protagonist and beneficiary on the day, the tough-as-Kasak-yak-hide Alexandre Vinokourov said after the race that those roads were ok for a one day race, but that they really shouldn't be included in the major tours.

What's that sound?   Oh, that's just Gino Bartali, rolling over in his grave.

Ginataccio the iron man rode and raced those gravel roads for his daily bread throughout the 30's, 40's and 50's.   And you never heard him whining that they didn't belong in the Giro.

I'm assuming if you're reading this blog, you know who Bartali was, and also some about the significance of his exploits.  Deeply religious, Gino the Pious embodied toscano character and values.  Conservative Christian Democrat, friend of Pop…

The Chamois of the Abruzzo

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Tomorrow the Giro leaves the Strada Bianchi of Tuscany and heads to the first of several tough mountain finishes at Terminillo in the Abruzzese Appenines.

It's the first day for the mountain goats, a summit arrivo in the terra of a true mountain goat who passed away a few years ago - a rider little known to most English speaking cycling fans - Vito Taccone.

Taccone was a compact, powerful climber.   Nicknamed the Abruzzo Chamois, he was a Giro great of the early sixties, but an even greater character.   
Born into poverty in Avezzano, Vito - using the proven Fausto Coppi template - leveraged a job as a bakers' delivery boy into a pro cycling career as a way up, and out.  The daily bike deliveries up and down Monte Salivano gave him the conditioning to climb like a goat, but it was his stubborn, belligerent character that made him a true force of nature on the bike.

Alas, this character was also his biggest weakness, for Vito tended not to find many friends in the bunch.  Impuls…

Fausto worship - the photo of the day

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50 years after his death, the Giro paid tribute to Fausto Coppi today by routing today's stage to Novi Ligure that went through his home village of Castellania.

Never underestimate the Fausto-worship that lives on in the World War II generation of Italians.  He was symbolic of a nations rise from the humiliation and carnage of a lost war.   Following him on radio in the papers was a daily diversion at a time when most had little to celebrate - a passion that for some approaches religious zeal.  This is not an exaggeration.

Coppi's house and tomb is a place of constant pilgrimage.  Go there.  You can visit his old house that's been converted into a B&B.  There's also a Museum here.   (Killer restaurant Il Grande Airone too!)

Here's a translation and a link with some more photos of the visitor in today's photo - it's from a distinguished visit couple of years ago...

Castellania, the memory of Fausto Coppi 
Fog and cold as that day, my heart squeezed by a v…

One crazy weekend at casa Moser.

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How to become a cycling champion?  As the old adage says, 'choose your parents well.'

In a little-reported-in-the-English-press footnote to this year's Paris Roubaix, the world got to see the international debut of another rising up-and-comer who won't have much trouble ticking off the 'superior-genetics' box.

 In the same-day-as-the-pros Junior race, in 36th place just a few minutes out one can find a certain Ignazio Moser riding for the Italian national azzuri.  Yup, you got it - the teenage son of 3 time Roubaix champion Francesco Moser.  (Check out the results here - there were two Americans in the top ten with Texan Lawson Craddock in 3rd.)  Papa Francesco was there at the finish to embrace the latest star from the extended Moser dynasty.    

Unfortuantely, the family mood at the Moser household went downhill as fast as Francesco used to descend the Poggio.  Next day, 'cecco' was back home choping wood outside his farm in Gardolo when he was struck…

Taking the long view

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As a naturally impatient and thick-headed character, It's taken me about 30 years to realize that cycling is a fickle friend.  If you're not careful, it can quickly cloud your perspective, and demotivate you into burying your bike in your backyard... or putting it on ebay.   That is, unless you do what's counter-intuitive to most intelligent people, that is just shrug, ignore it, and take the long view.

Take my weekend.  Saturday I show up at the Sterling Road Race.  48 miles of age 45+ racing.   Training since my peloton finish last Sunday?   A whopping total of two and a half hours.  One interval session, and a short recovery ride.  Other than that, a work week filled with a two-day out-of-town conference, a big evening client shin-dig, and lotsa work.   A little too much pasta, and a few drinks.  Weight?  Boom!  From 165 to 172.   Bad omen.

The race went hard from the gun and lap one was up to 35 mph lined out in the hardest rainstorm I've ever seen in a race.  It p…

Position Perfect: the Photo of the Day

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A style masterclass, courtesy of...Maitre Jacques Anquetil, circa 1957.

Toes down, keeping pressure on and pulling back throughout the full pedal stroke past the 'dead spot', turning a big gear as steadily as a metronome.

Torso solid as a rock, with all the power emanating from the titanic strength of a lower back that never so much as sways.

A horizontal and perfectly aerodynamic back, this despite the fact that the stem is only a 1-2cm lower than the saddle.

Bent relaxed arms, elbows in.  Relaxed hands and wrists pushing ever so slightly against the curve of the bars for more leverage and stability.

Eyes fixed on the road 10 meters ahead.

Immense concentration.

Perfection.

A little boost from Dossard 51

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Today, I got the monkey off my back.  I finally finished a race in the bunch.  Let the pigeons loose!

The Blue Hills road race was 42 miles on a fast, but not very hard course.  The 7 mile circuit around a nice wooded reservation just outside Boston featured one big ring mile-long climb each lap.  It wasn't a very selective climb.   I felt better and better as the race went on, was able to mix it up in the action at the sharp end of the bunch during the finale--  even got off the front a bit on the last lap in a small group pulled away by World Masters Time Trial champion Dmitry Buben (a CCB club-mate).   Unfortunately, I couldn't uncork a great sprint at the end  - still lack the old explosiveness.  I ended up only 18th, but hey I'll take it...the front end of the bunch beats getting dropped.  Finally started to feel like the old days.  

Maybe my race number was a lucky omen. It was 951.

Number 51, as Phil Liggett is fond of saying, is pro cycling's lucky number, wo…