are sometimes smooth and silky, and other times tired and tight.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Commercial Appeal (Spin the Sidi?)

Lord only knows what Alberto Contador will do to the person the shoes stops at.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Black Cat, up!

“A black cat crossing your path signifies that the animal is going somewhere.”
Groucho Marx
When it comes to cycling, I'm pretty superstitious. Just last week I shouted at a black cat, trying to scare it, as it attempted to cross the road. The cat ignored me, and scurried across my path. Fortunately nothing happened to me that day. Must have been my lucky charms.

Speaking of luck and superstition, I find myself wondering how superstitious Topsport Vlaanderen rider Ben Hermans is? I hope not very, but seeing as he 's a professional cyclist, my guess is that he is. If so, I hope someone lit some candles for him last night. He's going to need it after what happened in yesterday's first stage of the Ronde van Belgie.

Warning - if you're a cat lover, this may be a little difficult to watch.

This just in!
Sporza is reporting that a family in the village where the cat was run over, reported that they had 9 cats, and one of them didn't come home last night. The cat, whose name was Zorro, was found dead on the side of the road. After reporting the details of the deceased feline, Karl Van Nieuwkerke and Michel Wuyts paused for a minute of silence, in memory of Zorro.

This just in (continued)

"The animal probably didn't survive. I heard the spine cracking. Pity, but I couldn't avoid the cat. Luckily I didn't crash," said Hermans.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

SRC (Côtes La Redoute, take 3)

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Shot at 2009-05-26

“There is no terror in a bang, only in the anticipation of it” Alfred Hitchcok

The alarm clock wakes me at 4:30AM. Ridiculously early. This is the time I should be coming home, not going out, but less than an hour later, out I go. It’s a twenty-minute journey to my ride to Maastricht. For once I’m not the last to arrive. We pack our bikes into the car, and squeeze into the seats. If all goes according to plan, in a little over five hours I will finish something I started 11 years ago.

As we make our way south, we note that we are not alone. Every other car has a racing bike on the roof, or the trunk, or inside. It’s a procession, the Ascension procession, better known as the Steven Rooks Classic.

We chat idly. As we pass all of the bicycle adorned cars, we critique the various bikes on view. Assessing the set ups, laughing at some paint jobs, wowed by others. The closer we get to Maastricht, the more bikes we spot, until two hours later we hit a small traffic jam, almost a kilometer long line of cars, all taking the same exit, all about to ride. We’ve arrived.

Bikes unpacked and put together; clothes changed; money exchanged, timing chip collected, and we’re off. In eight eighty kilometers I will finally, finally have my chance to climb the climb, that I’ve twice attempted, and twice failed to climb. Côte de la Redoute here I come.

The roads bottleneck with riders making their way south. Direction Liege. A small group passes us, recognizing them I jump on, and chat briefly with one of them. We pass a few groups, and then I realize that my friends are a few hundred meters behind. They’ve chosen for a gentle pace. Gentler than I prefer, but friends are friends, so I slow down and wait.

I see an older woman standing on the side of the road, and say “bon jour.” She replies with a “goedemorgen.” We’re still in the Netherlands.

After twenty plus kilometers of flat roads, and congested bike paths, the peloton parts. A right for the shorter course, cross the road, and swing left up the hill for the longer. A chorus of clicks and clunks accompany the symphony of shifts: the climbing has begun. Easy now.

I take off my vest and arm warmers, and pull a fruit bar out of my pocket.

Up, down, left, right, eat, drink, straight, wait.

Thirty-two kilometers into the ride we hit the first feed, fill our bottles and wait for the rest of the group to catch us up. I notice that the rest stop is located at the entrance to a Canadian War cemetery, which I find slightly disconcerting.

Up, down, left, right, eat, drink, straight, wait.

I find myself thinking of my first attempt at riding the Redoute, and how I never even made it, waylaid by a broken finger and bad back. Standing on the side of the road, shouting encouragement, and giving a few pushes up hill, and learning the Dutch term for “Ik hoef ‘et niet” from a cyclist with more pride than legs, ended up being my experience of the Redoute that day.

Up, down, left, right, eat, drink, straight, wait.

We ride through a small town, where the streets are paved with cobbles. I remember these cobble from two years ago. Back then it was raining, rendering the smooth cobbles slick. So slick, that I almost fell over, as I kept my pace slow, in my vain attempt at getting traction. Today it’s dry, and I notice that it’s a beautiful place, worth coming back for a visit I think to myself.

It’s a dash of the Ronde in Wallonia. Later in the day, I’ll have a dose of the Kemmelberg, when I find myself descending on some more cobbles. The riders in front of me slow down, and pedal gingerly. I grow impatient, and bounce along past them, through the arch, and up the hill.

Up, down, left, right, eat, drink, straight, wait.

I see a group of riders up the road. As I approach, it appears that there’s one rider at the front, and about ten behind. Their pace is moderate at best. As I ride past, I see that the rider on the front is a woman, and her bibs are so worn out, that they’re transparent. The men on her wheel seem to be enjoying the show.

Later, on one of the climbs – the Trasenster? – I will see another woman, riding a brisk pace up hill. Something doesn’t look quite right, until I realize that from below the knee she has a prosthetic right leg. I want to say complimenti, or chapeau, or keurig, but don’t. It may come across as patronizing, which is not my intention.

Up, down, left, right, eat, drink, straight, wait. Go.

With the ups and downs, and for that matter, the all arounds, our group has split up. We’ll meet again. I know where, I know when. Yes, at the top. The top of the Redoute.

I’m with the climber of our group. He’s been looking forward to today. After all, when you live in a country where a bridge is considered a high point, you don’t get many chances to show off your climbing prowess. I wish that the KM was here, because unlike our climber, he tends to ride an even tempo uphill. I can follow that. With the climber, it’s a classic climber's Yo Yo tempo: in the saddle, then out of saddle, backwards, accelerate, back in the saddle, tempo, repeat.

I’ve lost tack of how many times I’ve blown up trying to follow his rhythm, so today I won’t even bother. I’ll catch him on the descents. He’s not bad at descending, but I’m better. At least I think I am. It’s not that I’m even very good at descending – after all, I don’t get many opportunities to practice.

The thing is, on these kinds of rides, I don’t trust the riders in front of me. Had we left earlier, and gone with the front riders it would have been different. That’s not the case. Due to our slow start, we’re amongst the weekend warriors.

This becomes clear when I find myself descending down a long straight road. I’m passing people, in a conservative tuck, at +/-65kph. I don’t need to go that fast, but then again, I could be going faster. That’s when I notice some riders moving suddenly to the right. As I find myself wondering what’s up, I spot a water bottle rolling in front of me. There’s no time to react. There’s not even enough time for my life to flash in front on me. I loosen my grip on my bars, and hope for the best. I hit the bottle, and bounce. Somehow I keep going. I shout at the riders for not giving a warning. A kilometer, or so later I spot a rider with one bottle, and call him a prutser.

Up, down, left, right, eat, drink, straight, wait, but not for long.

One of my friends started the day with a little piece of paper, with the length and percentages of each of the eleven climbs of the day. That was clever. I wish I were that clever. I only had one climb on my mind, and it wasn’t the Haute Desnie. I use the momentum of the previous descent to start up the base of the climb. A minute later the climber joins me, along with another one of our party of five. I opt for caution, and let the climber set the pace, sliding in behind his wheel. I’ll never learn.

To my surprise he’s steady. I hold his wheel, and we start passing riders. The road is wide, and I try not to look too far forward. Give me a serpentine climb any day of the week, but when I see long relentless climbs coming up I tend to crack. This time ignorance is bliss. The climber keeps the tempo. Much to my surprise he’s not getting out of his saddle. I focus a few bike lengths ahead of him.

We pass more riders. I note something up the road, is this the end? Must be. Climbs don’t last very long in the Ardennes. This one does. This one goes on, and on, and on. At least that’s how it feels. I briefly lose contact with his wheel, and another rider slips into his draft. I ride along, and place my hand on the Squatter’s hip, gently pushing him away. He doesn’t like it, but I don’t care. We pass more riders.

I look up. Ahead of us, the road is littered with riders, but I don’t see the top. I shout – to myself, to my company, to anyone who’s listening – when the f___ is the climb over? Nobody answers. That’s OK. It was a rhetorical question. The climber maintains a bearable tempo.

We pass more riders. The climber says something to me. It’s in English, but I don’t understand. That’s a bad sign. He never speaks to me in English. The last time I remember him doing that was when he dropped me on the Giau, two years ago. Against better judgment, I look up the road. I see what looks like the crest. We pass more riders. I see a line painted on the road. I ease up. The climber continues. I’ll catch him on the descent.

Up, down, left, right, eat, drink, straight, but I no longer have to wait.

The descent doesn’t last very long. At least I don’t remember much about it. I see a town in a valley. At least, I think I remember seeing as town in a valley. I see a sign – Remouchamps – that means one thing… the Redoute is near. We enter the city, and briefly ride alongside the Ambléve, before taking a right turn, followed by a left. We ride underneath the highway, and I see the graffiti from Liege-Bastogne-Liege’s past. The Redoute has begun. Easy Now.

A few thoughts on Feed Stations

The feed on the top of the Redoute.

After witnessing some of these things first hand, a couple of things to keep in mind when there's a feed station at the top of a climb.

1. A feed station, next to the top of climb does not mean you should stop pedaling when you cross over the official timing strip. Not only is that inconsiderate to those behind you, chances are you'll get rammed from behind, and rightly so. Pedal through.

2. Don't be one of those idiots who takes their bike with them while lining up to collect water/food/etc. It's rude.

3. Make sure to get there early. Otherwise, people like me will drink all of your cans of Aquarius, and eat all of your Onbijtkoek.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Olympia goes Olympic

Last night the Olympia's Tour kicked off with an 8 km long Team Time Trial, starting and ending at the Olympisch Stadion Amsterdam. The race consists of a mix of developmental pro teams (Rabobank, Milram, Garmin), amateur teams from the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, and Norway, and a selection of the Belgian track team.

Seeing as you do't get many chances to see a high level of bike racing in Amsterdam, there was on;y one thing to do: hop on my town bike, and ride on down to watch.

I arrived fifteen minutes before the first team was to start.


Some teams were busy warming up...


... some were making their way to the start...


... and some were getting a feel for the first corner.


The TV motorcycle, poised for action.


Then it was show time.


5, 4, 3, 2, 1...



The Olympia Tour was underway, and the procession of teams commenced.


The wait at the start can have its toll.


A few words of advice, from a more experienced hand.


The Argyle boys arrive.


And depart.


Half of the Olympic track covered, and the teams exit the stadium.


10+ minutes later, the teams arrive.


Some squeezing every ounce of air from a last minute puncture before the...




The fastest man across the line is interviewed, while the crowds wait.


To see the fastest team receive the customary kisses and flowers.


And the jerseys winners to be presented.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Creative Design

There's nothing busier than a graphic designer, hard at work, designing the team kit for a small European team. Looks like whomever did the job for Diquigiovanni - Androni missed a chance or two to get some extra product placement in there.


Monday, May 11, 2009

Race Report (don't think, ride)

After spending the previous 90 minutes trying to break free from the field, I give up trying with two laps to go. I find myself a good wheel and sit on. To my knowledge he’s a better sprinter than me, or at the very least he’s as good a sprinter as me. Good enough, not great, but someone I can beat. I think to myself - If things go to plan, I’ll have the perfect leadout.

Through the confusion ahead, I see a teammate just up the road. He’ll be caught, that much is sure. The question is when. The field strings out. It’s not a painful pace, just enough to keep any attacks at bay.

I see my teammate digging deep, trying to get aero. Not easy considering that he’s got to be a foot taller than me. He’s digging. We’re riding. I look behind, wondering where a rider in Green and Black is. I haven’t seen him for the entire race, but that seems to be his style, and judging by his results, it works.

We hit a long stretch of smooth pavement, and the rider on front slowly drags my teammate back. My wheel looks over his shoulder. I smile. My teammate digs, but to no avail. We catch him with a little under a kilometer and a half to go. I shout for him to jump on, but it’s too late.

There’s a small acceleration. I look behind, and see that we have a small gap. Nothing significant, but something. My wheel looks over his shoulder. Again. I smile. Again.

Someone jumps. My wheel? I think so. I can’t remember. Our gap widens, but it’s fools gold, so I remain firmly planted on my wheel. My wheel says something to me. I smile. The pace drops, and a mass of riders pass, I jump to latch on, but it’s over. I think.

Too many riders are in front of me. I won’t even make the top 10. That’s bike racing, better luck next time, next week will be different. As I crest the top of the short sharp ‘hill’ of the course, I see a flash of green and black go past. I dig. I dig deep. He’s gone. But I have momentum. I may as well use it. I shift into my biggest gear.

Meters ahead the field has slowed down. They’re getting cute, pausing before the sprint. Meanwhile Green and Black flies past them. I catch and ride past the main body of the field, on their right. There’s a rider, slightly further to the right, blocking my line.

For once I don’t think, I just ride. I squeeze through the gap, and jump with everything I have. Only 350 meters to go.

I can hear the jeers and yells at me as I focus on the green and black jersey just ahead. He’s getting closer. 300 meters to go.

My legs are burning, I want to sit in the saddle, but I force myself to stay up. 250 meters to go.

I look at my computer, and am surprised that I’m not losing momentum. He’s getting closer. I try to squeeze out whatever power I still have. 200 meters to go.

He’s getting closer. I dig deeper than I have in a sprint, for a long time. 150 meters to go.

He’s getting closer. I’m so focused on Green and Black, that I completely miss the fact that there’s another rider ahead of the both of us. 100 meters to go.

I keep my speed. So does Green and Black. Second place will be his. 50 meters to go.

I smile, and think to myself - wrong wheel, that’s bike racing, better luck next time, next week - and cross the line.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Commercial Appeal (Marco sings)

After suffering a near career ending injury at the end of ther 1995 season, Marco Pantani had no choice but to sit out the 1996 Giro d'Italia. This wasn't just bad news for Pantani, but for the organizers of the Giro, seeing as Il Pirata was the golden boy of Italian cycling, and his absence would surely effect ratings.

Well, those Italians, they showed everyone that when life gives you lemons, you can make some lemonade. Capitalizing on ol' Marco's love of Kareoke, they invited him to sing a song for the bumper to the daily Giro coverage.

Herewith, I present Marco Pantani, singing "E adesso pedala."

Saturday, May 9, 2009

57 words about Cycling

apologies in advance to the ladies who may take offense.

Cycling is like the girlfriend you once had, who you knew was no good for you, yet you couldn't get out of your mind, always treated you like crap, but made up for it once in a blue moon with the ride of your life, leaving you sore in places you're embarrassed to tell your friends about.


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Monocle Manga goes to Liege

Thanks to a twitter tip off from a friend, I started listening to the Monocle Weekly podcasts a few months back. In case you’re not acquainted with the Monocle, it’s a magazine that covers 'global affairs, business, culture, fashion, and design.' For some unknown reason, until last week, I hadn’t actually gotten around to buying a copy of it.

When I did, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that they include a specially commissioned Manga every month, called Kita Koga, which is written and illustrated by Takanori Yasaka. What was even more surprising was the fact that the installment I had used the cycling world as it’s backdrop.

It shouldn't come as a great shock that the angle of the story is about drugs, or as the sub caption on the cover states "on the trail of a Belgian drug mule." The basic plot is that Kita Koga’s protagonist, Niels Wattanabe, is sent to Belgium by the Japanese government, to investigate an anonymous tip off about a drug ring. A professional cyclist is linked to the drug cartel, and the yarn that unfolds is “an intricate tale of competitive wrong-doing, fading careers, and athletic excellence.” It almost sounds like Astana or Rock Racing.

While the story leaves something to be desired from a cyclists point of view, and a little more research into the physiques of road cyclists would not have gone amiss, it was a welcome treat, with some fine bits of detailed draftsmanship, not to mention a plug for Luis Garneau. I wonder if the Monocle's Canadian editor Tyler Brûlé had something to do with that?


If only Liege looked so good in person.


Apparently the Devil is in the details.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Sport and Fashion

Last month, I found myself strolling through the streets of Antwerp, which meant that a visit to w.a.l.t.e.r. had to be made. While I was perusing the latest offerings of Sofie D’Hoore, Dirk Van Saene, Bless, etc... I spotted a rack of suits that caught my eye.

These weren't suits in the conventional sense of the word, they were - for lack of a better description - skinsuits. One, in particular, caught my eye. It was a full length skinsuit, complete with fingers.

this can be yours for a mere €600.

I immediately thought of a certain Italian bike racer, who is no stranger to fashion. In fact, I wondered if Mr. Van Beirendock has been inspired by one of the most memorable garments in the history of cycling, namely the St. Bartholomew inspired skinsuit that Super Mario wore in the prologue of the 2001 Giro de Italia. Who knew?


Well, last night I was flipping channels, and who did I see on a Belgian chat show? None other than Walter Van Beirendonck himself. When they were glossing over his career, with footage from his student days with the Antwerp Six, at the Koninklijke Academie voor Schone Kunsten
to the work that he did for U2 for their Popmart Tour in 1997.


I should have known better. Cycling is always late when it comes to fashion. Just look at all of the tattoos and mullets that have been popping up lately. At least Mario had style.

Monday, May 4, 2009


Bricks and speed bumps make for a less than impressive reintroduction to crit racing.


At least they had a nice finish line set up.