who says cycling tees can’t be attractive?
i beg to differ…
contact for more details
who says cycling tees can’t be attractive?
i beg to differ…
contact for more details
yeeha! i’m here, i’ sipping the local juice, and i’m loaded in so many, many ways.
read all about the trip’s first installment here on Pez Cycling News…
“What do I have to do?”
“Get to Belgium, chase the Tour of Flanders, the E3 Scheldeprijs and Paris-Roubaix, get taken care of by Velo Classic Tours, ride the Flanders sportif, hit the cobbles, drink the beer and write about the experience,” replied the Pez.
“Are you kidding me?” I asked.
5 minutes later my flight was booked and I was set. I was going to Mecca…
this is from wikipedia, i found it as i was writing an article on Gino the Great for a magazine.
it kind of blew my mind, to think that he was possibly the first in-competition drug tester of all time! as well as being a participant, and a huge one at that.
here are the quotes:
Bartali always suspected that Coppi took drugs. On the hairpins of the Col di Bracco, during a stage of the 1946 Giro from Genoa to Montecani Terme, Coppi drank from a glass phial and threw into the verge. Bartali drove back after the race and found it. He said:
|“||With the meticulous care of a detective collecting evidence for fingerprinting I picked it up, dropped it into a white envelope and put it carefully in my pocket. The next day I rushed round to my personal doctor and asked him to send the phial to a lab for analysis. Disappointment: no drug, no magic potion. It was nothing more than an ordinary tonic, made in France, that I could have bought without a prescription.||”|
|“||I realised that I should have to try to outsmart him and I devised my own investigation system. The first thing was to make sure I always stayed at the same hotel for a race, and to have the room next to his so I could mount a surveillance. I would watch him leave with his mates, then I would tiptoe into the room which ten seconds earlier had been his headquarters. I would rush to the waste bin and the bedside table, go through the bottles, flasks, phials, tubes, cartons, boxes, suppositories – I swept up everything. I had become so expert in interpreting all these pharmaceuticals that I could predict how Fausto would behave during the course of the stage. I would work out, according to the traces of the product I found, how and when he would attack me.
both quotes are from Miroir des Sports, France, 1946.
Devolder rises from the ashes!
loads of crashes!
oh yeah and Degenkolb wins.
read my take on Gent-Wevelgem on PezCycling News…
the ridiculously satisfying rides continue on a daily basis but hecky thump it is cold, 6 degrees today and i am no longer built for these conditions, that much is abundantly clear. my fellow Northerners would say i’ve gone soft and i will agree, and you know what? i always wanted to be soft. when in was a kid here i dreamt of life on a tropical island. i’d like to see them survive a Taiwanese summer on anything less than three layers of skin, a bucket and a half of camomile lotion for the burns and without saying ‘bloody ‘ell, too ‘ot for me is this!‘ fifty times a day.
reminds me of when i started scuba diving in my mid 20s. we went for our first outdoor dive to a sunken quarry in Leicestershire. in february. you could see the top of the abandoned crane poking out of the top of the water. there was a picture of a fish in the clubhouse, it was reputed to live in the lake and was the only fish anyone had ever seen, but no two people had ever claimed to see it at the same time, so its existence was very much debated.
everyone else by the dock had on full dry-suits, under which they wore tracksuits, thermal undershirts and thick wool socks, everything any sane person would insist on wearing before jumping into a lake that was full of water cold enough to kill a man without protection in about 3 minutes.
we, being new recruits and not having yet attained out dry-suit certs, wore 7mm wetsuits. our hoods were so tight that everyone’s face looked a bit like a testicle trapped in a zipper.
our instructor handed each of us a liter of water.
we dived in, and i was sure i’d been lobotomised. the rush of cold on what was exposed of my face is still now indescribable. the visibility was down to 2 feet and we clung to our buddies with our frozen claws as if our lives depended on it… cos, well, they did depend on it. after a couple of minutes of flapping about amidst the mind-jolting coldness, my buddy tapped me on the shoulder.
i turned to see him looking at me, eyes wide, then suddenly they crinkled into what might have been a half-grimace but was also kind of a half-smile. i thought maybe he was about to check out and leave me to drag his frozen stiff corpse back to the surface, but no – he then started to pat the area around his belly and then his legs and even his neck.
i wondered what the heck he was doing when i felt my bladder protesting. ah. got it. he was pissing in his suit and shifting the warmth about with his hands!
i felt the liquid release and did the same,patting it about me, as my eyes fluttered and rolled in their sockets like i was having an underwater hot-gasm. it was that good. i tell you, i can feel it still, warm, wonderful, glorious urine!
when we all got out and unzipped though, i almost got whiplash, the smell was that bad. neoprene is a wonderful thing, but i advise against pissing a litre of English tap water into it. just in case you ever get the urge.
unless of course you’re in 7mm of it in a sunken quarry.
after the dive i chatted to the instructor, Simon, who was still completely stinking of booze from the night/morning before.
‘i’m thinking of going to Thailand to do my instructor course.’
‘is it any good there?’
‘well, if you like looking at fish and shit, then yeah, i suppose it’s not bad…’
everdrunk Simon, you see, was so hard and so bloody much a man that his idea of scuba was getting together with a bunch of blokes who looked like they’d rape you with a broken pool cue ‘just for a laugh’ and who all drove cars with stickers on the bumpers that said ‘divers like a lot of bottom time’ and going to a quarry to dive to depths of 90 meters on a baffling mix of gases that meant they had to be down there for hours, in the dark, rather than going diving at 15 meters in tropical oceans and seeing the kind of fish and colors that had you wondering if there wasn’t some strain of magic mushroom being pumped through your regulator.
and the point of that long preamble is this: riding in England in March, or February, or January or take-you-pick-uary is an altogether different kind of riding than riding in more temperate climes. it’s like a grim march, the winds whip your skin to flakes and the cold inhabits your bones like a scab that’s broken the picket lines to take your job. it’s beautiful, terrible, breathtaking, brutal and all in between and then some.
feels amazing when you get home though, though the post-ride meal has been bacon and sausage sandwiches almost daily, in a desperate attempt to get fat back in between bone and skin. but yeah, you feel like Scott might have felt if he hadn’t died in that tent.
i’m home Ma, i made it!
but it is beautiful. they call Yorkshire, the next county over, ‘God’s Country’ on account of its terrain, but it extends to Lancashire and the Lake District too. if you haven’t been here to ride, i implore you to consider it. those foreign lads at the Tour this year are gonna be gobsmacked.
did my first race in the UK in 20 years and more last Sunday, a Cat 4 one hour crit, and got 3rd. i still say i was 2nd, but the line guy was adamant. we had to sprint through 20 guys that we’d already lapped so it was a bit of a crapshoot but still, it was a lot of fun. i’m a long way off form so it was great to get the lungs going, same race tomorrow so will be going for the win this time.
Flanders and Roubaix draw ever nearer, i am so excited that if i was wearing a 7mm wetsuit i’d definitely pee in it.
today Sagan went and won the E3 and threatens to make this journo dude look a bit of a fool, the same guy who said he couldn’t beat Boonen and Cancellara next week.
over and out. next installment of the Euro Adventure 2014 coming soon, thanks for reading.
this article originally appeared on The Roar
There are a couple of anecdotes about Peter Sagan that tells you just how precocious the 24 year old from Slovakia was as a teenager.
Having started racing bikes at the age of 9, he had already made a name for himself by turning up to road races wearing normal shorts and t-shirts, riding an MTB with a pair of tennis shoes on his feet – and still winning.
Later, as a junior racer he entered the Slovak Cup, but after selling his mountain bike he was left without a replacement as his team’s sponsor couldn’t get his new bike to him in time. Faced with racing on any bike he could get his hands on or not racing at all, he borrowed his sister’s supermarket special – and carried on to win the race anyway.
I’m an admirer of Sagan and have been since he turned up at the EPO Tour of California in 2010 and won Stage 5 & 6 and carried off the White Jersey for Best Young Rider and the Points Classification for good measure.
Here was a guy who looked like the real deal, and you could see that anyone who had that build yet could still climb a bit and win uphill sprints must be packing some serious firepower in his legs.
He didn’t remind me of Boonen nor of Cancellara but more of Bernard Hinault and Laurent Fignon, perhaps even with a bit of Sean Kelly thrown in there too. He was reminiscent – and still is – of those riders before the days of the Lance Armstrong ‘inspired’ specialization, when these tough nut all-rounders threw themselves into every kind of race they could get their hands on, and quite often won too.
And if his riding style conjures memories from another era, that pinching of a podium model’s backside after the Tour of Flanders just compounded that. It was a sign of immaturity, and it’s one that extends to his riding too, which I’ll get to in a minute.
Sagan is so good that many commentators started tipping him as a future Grand Tour winner. He has the flatline speed to become a good time trialist, and the legs to become a very decent climber if he can lose a few kilos of his upper body muscle, but I have to say I am on the fence on that one.
With the kind of specialization we have today, with riders like Chris Froome basing their whole year around one race and turning up with 3% body fat, it’s hard to see Sagan competing for the podium in any of the big stage races any time soon.
But where he can cement a legacy and establish himself as one of the greatest of all time is in the Classics.
Indeed, he might have already started along that path had one or two of the big races gone his way. Instead, he has so far racked up two ‘mini’ classic wins (Gent-Wevelgem and Brabantse Pijl last season), and a whole truckload of close calls.
2012 saw him claim 2nd at Gent-Wevejgem, 3rd at Amstel, 4th at Milan-San Remo and 5th at the Tour of Flanders.
In 2013 he was second at Strade Bianche, 2nd at Milan-San Remo, 2nd at E3 Harelbeke, and 2nd at the Tour of Flanders.
This year, he was again 2nd at the Strade Bianche and 10th at Milan-San Remo.
One of Sagan’s problems – and he has very few it seems – is that sometimes he is just too good and doesn’t know what to do with it. In some races, like the recent Strade Bianche, Sagan took off so fast and at a point when only one other man could go with him that he effectively handed the race to Michal Kwiatkowski.
Alessandro Valverde has a saying that goes like this:
“When you are not strong, take a chance. But when you are strong, do nothing until the end.”
Of course, we love to see swashbuckling riders who take big chances and give it everything, but that game is a little hit and miss. If Sagan could pull back his natural instincts just a fraction I think he would win even more races.
Strade Bianche was a case in point. Cancellara said afterwards that from the get go it was obvious that Kwiatkowski was on a flyer. Did Sagan not see that too? Or did his natural egotism get the better of him? Perhaps Kwiatkowski would have won no matter had there been 30 riders at the finish, but Sagan carried him to the line on a finish that suited the Pole rather than him.
Sometimes in bike racing you have to be prepared to lose it all, to win.
That Sagan is one hell of a Classics rider is not in dispute. Neither is the fact that, if he wants to win at Flanders or Roubaix this season, he will have to usurp two of the best Classics riders of all time: Fabian Cancellara and Tom Boonen.
Not just good, these too, they are truly great riders, proper legends in an era when so many have fallen by the wayside. When they roar, the peloton listens, for they are lions of the peloton.
Can Sagan be as good?
Judging simply from wins and age, he is actually doing better than Cancellara was at 24. In 2005, at the same age Sagan is now, Cancellara had in terms of Classics’ results one 4th place at Paris-Roubaix to his name.
In terms of big wins in big races such as the Tour de France, Sagan is way ahead on that score too (Sagan has 4 already, Cancellara has 8 in his career to date).
Cancellara though had won Roubaix by 2006 when he was 25, the first of his three wins. His record since has been one of the best in the modern era, with two Flanders wins, one Milan-San Remo and four victories at the E3 Harelbeke.
He’s looking good this year too despite a sluggish start that saw him not at his best in the Middle East. Last week’s 2nd at San Remo though will have buoyed him and indicated that he is near top form.
Then we come to Boonen. At the age of 22 he was third at Paris-Roubaix. By 24 he had won Gent-Wevelgem and the E3 Prijs Claanderen, the Points Jersey in the Tour de France and two stages there too.
By 25 he was World Champion, and in the same year won Flanders And Paris-Roubaix. His one day classics palmares is unrivalled even by Cancellara, with 4 wins at Roubaix, three at Flanders, three at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, three at Gent-Wevelgem, five at E3 Prijs Vlaanderen and a host of smaller wins too.
On paper Boonen is the best Classics rider of his generation and absolutely one of the best of all time. Cancellara’s wins may be more spectacular, generally, but it is Boonen who has the numbers (Boonen’s tally at the Tour by the way is 6 stage wins).
It is these two men that Peter Sagan will come up against in the following weeks as he strives to claim his first Monument Classic win.
Cancellara is firing and Boonen had been having another great start to the year until the still-birth of his first child last week forced him to miss Milan-San Remo (and I’m sure all out thoughts go out to him and his partner at this time).
But, Boonen is already back on the road and determined not to let his training over the winter go to waste.
And so, can Sagan win at Flanders or Roubaix?
No, not this year. Barring an accident to the other two, I can’t see him winning on firepower alone. Perhaps if he could manipulate a situation to have them negate each other, maybe, but for one, the Swiss and the Belgian are too experienced to fall for anything but the con job of a master and for another, Sagan just isn’t smart enough yet to do that.
There is also the fact that the skills of Boonen and Cancellara mean that Sagan comes up lacking, if ever so slightly, in comparison. Boonen has a far greater wealth in experience of conserving energy for the sprint at both races and can go it alone too, when on his absolute best form. Cancellara of course can go it alone from just about anywhere, even if at 90% against most riders.
There’s no doubt that Sagan is very, very good, but he has some way to go to be considered in the league of Boonen and Cancellara, and he’ll have to wait another year at least to claim a win at either Roubaix or Flanders.
just a bit…
a thank you to Bjarke Rasmussen for sending this along…
yeah, it’s just not doing it for me, the ‘biggie’ that opens up The Monuments season.
you can read why here on PezCycling News.
here’s a snippet:
Ready for some blasphemy? Ok, well, Milan-San Remo is a little boring.
There, I’ve said it now, it’s out there and I can’t take it back.
It’s like the bloated uncle sat loosening his belt after too much turkey and stuffing at Thanksgiving. It’s a Hummer in a car park full of thoroughbred race cars. It’s that kid that can’t play football that is still left standing there, alone at the end, every time you pick teams…
my last Euro Adventure was back in 2011 when I was fortunate enough to get my butt kicked in some proper kermesse (aka interval training from hell) in Belgium and Holland and to take part in several post-Tour de France city crits, the highlight being the one in Maastricht, over wet cobbles under spotlights and in front of a good 20,000 people.
a whole city smelling of beer and french fries, ringing with cheers, the delight in the eyes of the spectators as their stars whizzed by and me being in amongst it all.
the 2014 Euro Adventure is of another flavor altogether. this time i’m visiting family in the UK, racing two events here, then heading over to Belgium on the 3rd of April to go work for PezCycling News at the Tour of Flanders, E3 Scheldeprijs and finally on to Mecca, otherwise known as Paris-Roubaix.
hallelujah, hellelujah, the bells are ringing and i am coming home. i know this is gonna sound delusional but that i am not actually racing these events is going to annoy me quite a bit. but heck, next best thing right? my remit from PEZ is to report on what it feels like to be there, which sounds like a Gonzo Mission to me if ever i heard one.
so i fully expect to be plastered on Rochefort 10 for the whole trip and writing according to the rhythms of that most beautiful of liquids as it works its magic on my central nervous system. if i awake the day after Roubaix in the Arenberg Forest in a tree with nothing on except a giant foam orange top hat and green galoshes, it will be Mission Accomplished
look out folks, i’m going Gonzo.
i will have to stay sober for at least part of it all though, as i’ll be taking part in the Tour of Flanders ‘Sportif’ (i call it the ‘sportif’ cos i’m gonna be racing all the way on that one, even if i’m the only one in the ‘race’), also riding the Gent-Wevelgem U23 course, and taking on 17 sections of the fabled cobbles of Roubaix.
the trip is part of a package tour supplied via Richard Pestes at PezCycling News and Velo Classic Tours, run by Peter Easton. you can see the ‘Cobbled Classics’ itinerary on their site, it’s mouth-watering… and maybe a little tear-inducing, considering all the cobbles and 30% climbs in there…
so, i’m back in the UK now, after 7 years on the run. all i can say is, man, people got fat. like, fat as flip. the Americanisation of our bodies continues apace.
Google Earth is out, it’s Google Girth these days, if you zoom in on any English town.
what else? the price of things – i say this at the risk of sounding my age – has gone nuts. 6 quid for fish and chips? 3 quid for a coffee? yet at the same time the government’s austerity measures (aka screwing the poor) and the stagnation of salaries combine to wreak havoc on people’s lives. it’s tangible, the hurt, and it is upsetting to see the places i know falling apart at the seams. England has always been shabby and dog-eared, as long as i’ve known it, but there was a whiff of solidarity and rebellion amidst the North when i was a kid, and that feels like that’s dissipated. or rather, been beaten down.
there is a violence within policy, in decisions made by bureaucrats who live in another place altogether, we see it everywhere, all over the world. it’s slow-drip, and often the most damaging of all because no one sees it until its effects are irreversible.
and then we come, awkwardly, to the riding. let’s just say the weather has been less than clement, and that i’ve been soaked to the bone twice now, had my iphone’s ‘waterproof’ case invade by H20 molecules (stuck it in basmati rice for 12 hours and rescued it, amazingly enough), but on two days the grey skies opened up and after the sun’s rays had only half-burned my retinas the beauty of the Lancashire landscape unfolded before me like an impossible promise made good.
the dry stone walls, architectural wonders in themselves, flank the road as ancient sentinels standing proud, behind which are fields of rolling green which seem designed to assuage the mind of its modern worries, flecked for miles with white dots of sheep and hungry gulls. the moorlands beckon further ahead, burnt orange and brown, the wind whipping over them creating its own music, haunting in a way yet nothing more than timeless.
you don’t listen to music when you’re riding here. the land takes you in, not the other way round. it is so beautiful and i had forgotten how much i missed it, or perhaps i’d forced myself to forget. 15 years away in Asia and filled with a lifelong yearning for experience that has taken me far and wide, this trip has confirmed to me that this is in fact my home. this land is in me, and i have no choice in the matter whatsoever.
the highlight so far has been seeing my family and my new little niece, Etta, but second was the trip to Chipping, a small village near the Trough of Bowland. in my memory for so many years, 25 in fact, was the carrot cake at the cafe there. i went in, sat down, ordered a pot of tea and a slice of carrot cake, and – you know how so often, when revisiting things or places that you’ve kept on a pedestal in your mind can disappoint when you eat, see or hear them again? well, this did not – it was still the best carrot cake i’ve ever had.
the staff had no idea of the momentousness of that slice of cake, and i liked that.
i wiped the plate clean with my finger, bid the waitress farewell, and then headed over country lanes and steep little climbs with a smile on my face.
without having discovered the bike, i’d have never met Eric Simcox, who took me to Chipping when i was 15. i’d have never gone into that cafe nor ordered the carrot cake without his recommendation. and i’d never have gone back there to revisit that picturesque little town either, without the bike.
thank you, bicycle, for more than you can know.
and so, i’m sat here writing this at 9:36am on Saturday morning. in a little over 5 hours i will be racing in my first race in the UK in 22 years, in the exact same crit event where i won my last ever race in England.
funny how things work out eh? wish me luck.
(that day i won 6 Eccles cakes and a Coca-Cola headband, i hope things have stayed exactly the same!)
the ride to Chipping, first time on the GoPro, got a tad foggy and lost the best footage. hopefully will improve!
this article first appeared on The Roar.
What do we do with these guys huh? They come along to a race, doped up, get busted, go away for two years or even less.
Then at the end of their suspension, they swan along again and slot right back in to the groove of things, taking part in the very event that they got caught doping in in the first place.
Numerous top-level pros and not-so top-level pros have done this before, and yet the organisers of these races often feel powerless (if they care at all) to prevent the ‘reformed’ doper from returning to the very event that their selfish actions tainted.
In other cases, event organisers know that an athlete has tested positive in the past and that their participation will serve to antagonise some of the other participants.
Yet again, they have no precedent to fall back on of these guys being denied entry, and lack the nuts to be the first to make a stand.
In other cases, the organisers themselves actually suspect that these ex-dopers are still doping, and still feel powerless to do anything, as they know that testing is hit and miss and that, despite a rider putting in truly incredible – not credible – performances, they probably won’t get caught.
And so they pass the buck, let the guy in, then cry bloody murder when he gets busted.
Michele Acquarone, formerly director of the Giro d’Italia, said as much about the performances of Danilo di Luca in the 2013 race.
Claiming at the time that Di Luca had an addiction problem, after he tested positive for EPO, Acquarone said “I’m angry because I think: ‘How can a rider or a person of his age be so stupid and not understand that the music has changed and not understand the damage he’s doing to himself and the whole movement.”
At that time, Giro d’Italia technical director Mauro Vegni refuted the suggestion that RSC Sport should have been suspicious of Di Luca’s performances after his successful but very late comeback to racing.
“It’s not up to us to evaluate a rider’s performances. I think it’s up to the team, not the organisers,” Vegni said.
“He’s got a licence from the international federation and so that’s OK for us. He undergoes all the controls, like all the riders. He got caught by one of them. I don’t see why we should evaluate his performances.”
But is that attitude really good enough? Remember, these are the same organisers who watched Maurio Santambrogio enter their race then get busted for EPO too.
“Of course I’m not happy, but I’m not even surprised,” Acquarone said. “We all knew.”
What an incredible statement: ‘we all knew.’ And yet, he still entered the race. As Vegni argued at the time, should the onus be 100 per cent on the teams, the cycling federation and the UCI to hunt down the dope cheats?
I’d say yes. But, do race organisers bear some responsibility in all this too? Again, yes. I’ve done enough races where guys come straight back from suspensions and smash the field apart just as they did when doping.
I’ve also known organisers to allow guys to ride without a word even though, privately, they suspect that these guys are doping.
It’s a tricky one, isn’t it?
One race has finally come through though with a policy that could and should mark the beginning or race organisers beginning to pick up the slack and to make statements where dopers are concerned.
Six days ago, the organiser of the Cape Epic MTB race announced that two riders had been banned for life from ever taking part in the event again.
One rider was already provisionally suspended by the South Africa Institute for a Drug-Free Sport (SAIDS) and the other was suspended for three months for returning an “adverse analytical finding in an in-competition test” in May, 2013.
Neither are professionals. It is worth noting here that amateur riders still receive cash and other prizes, can get sponsored bikes and equipment on the back of good results and attain social stature too, all of which have a value.
“I don’t care whether a rider has been banned for three months or three years, if you cheat then we don’t have time for you – even if you are not earning a living from cycling, as is the case with these riders,” said Cape Epic founder Kevin Vermaak. “This is a new era in cycling, things are changing and I don’t want to entertain anybody who still feels the need to dope.”
Unfortunately, the ban will not be applied retroactively pre-December 2012 (when the organisers made the statement regarding the life-time bans) as they felt to do so would be ‘naïve’.
“We’ve chosen not to apply this retrospectively because we believe that would be naive. Cycling has a dark past. Many riders from this previous era have rediscovered the joy of cycling as mountain bikers and participate in the Absa Cape Epic as their expression of riding clean.
‘Previous offenders, who have served their suspension term, may ride future Absa Cape Epics. We want to be part of the new era of cleaner cycling, and therefore only future offenders will receive the lifetime bans.’
Personally I think that is a cop out, and the fact that guys like Floyd Landis could sign up and ride serves to make my point. Yet still, this is a move that other events should take note of.
This is an example of organisers taking matters into their own hands and setting out their stall. They out in massive efforts to get people to ride and they have every right to call the shots. As a result of a policy such as this, more people will be drawn to participate and its reputation will only benefit.
Worth stating clearly is that the Cape Epic decision is one of zero tolerance. So, no second strikes. One strike and done, you’re out.
Is that fair? Again, it’s a tough one, but more and more I am starting to think that, unless the UCI comes up with a better proposal, then the race organisers worldwide should sit down and make that decision themselves.
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