This summer I got to ride on the course of the Tour Of Lombardy after nearly a 2o year wait, falling in love with it all while watching it on TV from afar. Not that the riders this weekend will be doing much sightseeing, the course has to be one of the most stunning in the world. The climbs and roads of the route have a historic and poetic ring to them, in an area that is passionate about its riding. That coupled with the cool breeze that comes off the lake as you ride, makes this race and the area one of the pros’ favorite places to turn their pedals. From the busy town of Como up towards the village of Argegno along the west shore of the lake. Past millionaires row and George Clooney’s villa. Along by the cafes and hotels of Argegno, then left up a punchy little hair-pinned climb and over the hills to Intelvi. After the village at the top, a bumpy descent down to the shore of Lake Lugano. More hills, and then down again to the beautiful village of Menaggio (where we witnessed the worst thunderstorm we have ever seen from our camper) and around the top of Lake Como. Then down the valley to Lecco, to get onto the peninsula and towards the finale. Up the east side of the peninsula on the stunning SP583, with the view of Varenna in the distance. Then the legendary Ghisallo. Not the longest or steepest of climbs, but deceptively hard. Past the shrine to cycling at the top and right over the Sormano climb, the highest point on the circuit. Down to the lake again and the finish. This is a hard course, and one for riders that have saved a little for end-of-season glory. Always animated. Always beautiful to watch.
On a trip to Switzerland this year I found this beautiful book in a flea market. The book was commissioned by Editions Palais in Paris to commemorate the last days of the great Six Day races at the Vélodrome d’Hiver (Winter Velodrome). It was France’s first indoor track, and the name stuck for all covered velodromes built since that first six-day race took place on the 13th January 1913. The track was designed by Gaston Lambert, and was 253.16m round at the base. Their were two tiers of seats which towered above bankings so steep for their day that they were considered cliff-like and the space was lit with 1,253 hanging lamps. That first race set a very high bar. Included in it were the Tour de France winners Louis Trousselier and Émile Georget. Racing began at 6pm and by 9pm all 20,000 seats were sold. Among those who watched was the millionaire Henri de Rothschild who offered a prize of 600 francs. A tradition also started of electing a Queen of the Six, whose job included starting the race and giving out the prizes, the most famous being Édith Piaf.
The last six-day race at the Vel’ d’Hiv’ started on 7 November 1958. The stars of the series were Roger Rivière, Jacques Anquetil, Fausto Coppi, and André Darrigade and the race was run in teams of three. Rivière had to drop out after a crash with Anquetil in the first hours on 5th night, and Darrigade won the biggest prime ever offered at the track of one million francs. The overall winners were Anquetil and his partners, Darrigade and Terruzzi. The final night at the Vel’ d’Hiv was on the 12th May 1959. The illustrations captured in this book by French illustrator Jacques Lem are some of the most beautiful drawings I have ever seen of riders. They have captured a mood that no photographs of the period could ever convey and the personalities not just of the riders but of the spectators and workers around the track.
After two days at Interbike looking at some of the most technologically advanced human-powered equipment you could ever hope to own it was nice to stumble across this beauty, reminding us that it doesn’t have to be a matte and gloss covered carbon frame, white spokes or kangaroo leather to stop you in your tracks. On a recent trip upstate we found this Trishaw outside a shop in Kent, CT, a beautiful example of this practically unchanged functional design. Colonization made sure that it spread globally from India to Finland and South Africa to the USA. Depending on their origin and alterations to the design they have also been called the Becak (Indonesia), Padyak (Phillippines), and the less glamorous Pedicab (in the USA).
The passenger cabin is covered with a retractable canopy, which is equal part sun protection, and a shield from tropical downpours. This is usually supplemented with plastic bags being stuffed into every nook and cranny to seal the cover and keep the monsoon out. This one looks like it hails from India and has beautiful hand done paintwork on the passenger shell identifying the passengers clearly as tourists. It also has a dynamo lighting system that includes indicator lights for turning. For those of you that might have spent time traveling in one of these in any Indian city will know that these indicators are pure “decoration”. There really doesn’t seem to be any right of way on city roads, or a sense of letting other “drivers” know where you intend on going. Looking at many of the drivers of these Trishaws makes you wonder why they aren’t Chris Hoy thigh sized power dynamos? If the average weight is about 100kg (220lbs), throw in a couple of 220lbs tourists, and you are looking at some serious dead weight to get moving, and you better hope those brakes work.
It is hard to find the perfect pair of shorts. They tend to be too baggy or too long, and never seem to be comfortable enough to ride in if you are just heading out and about. Also compounded by the fact that the more you wear them, the worse they look. I have never been one for different shorts for different occasions, except for racing. So last weekend prompted by our new riding buddy and photographer Emiliano, and seeing some of Outliers clothes around the studio I headed over to Williamsburg to see for myself what looked like some really well made clothes. Sometimes when you pick up a product or a piece of clothing you know instantly two things, 1) you are going to buy it without asking the price, and 2) you will regret not buying two. Outliers Summer Shorts are such a product. But if there was any doubt I was hooked by the “water demonstration“. When placing the shorts on a table Abe proceeded to pour a bottle of water over them, only to see the water bubble and run straight off the shorts. Yes my friends these shorts are water repellent. Sold!
The shorts are made here in New York with an imported Swiss technical fabric called Schoeller Dryskin Extreme. As mentioned they repel water incredibly well and when saturated will dry in 15 – 20 minutes. The 4-season fabric has a little elasticity to it (a four-way stretch) that makes them very comfortable to wear. The cut is pretty much perfect. They sit just above the knee making them perfect for riding and evening out your cycling tan. They have a stylish rear pocket design that remind of a well cut pair of Paul Smith trousers, and mesh front pockets that if you get a soaking will breath and dry quickly. I tried them on in the shop and walked out wearing them and have been wearing them for the 5 days since, even after spilling my Stumptown coffee on them which wiped straight off. I think I am going to be wearing these for most of the summer. A great company run by a great bunch of guys who love riding of all types and want to contribute some quality enduring products to the bike community.
Vincenzo Torriani was best known as one of the original “Giro Bosses” or organizers of the Grand Tour. He held the role for 46 years, from 1946 to 1992. This bike was a special edition given to him by Ernesto Colnago in the 1980s as a gift, recognizing his contribution to the great race and Italian cycling in general. Also in his honor they named the “Trofeo Vincenzo Torriani” after him, awarded to the rider who took the Cima Coppi ascent. He was also the man responsible for introducing the Cipressa to the Milan – San Remo, under the direction that the race needed to be made harder in the final stages. Something riders like Cav will curse him for today. I saw this bike in the museum at the top of the Ghisallo, and of all the bikes on display that day this one really stood out. The pictures do not do the finish justice, the bike literally glows in the light, even indoors. But as with Colnagos of that era, it was the attention to detail that makes it special: the painted inlay branding and the Italian national colors painted into the seat post inlays. Bike design today has got me so used to fat and shaped tubes and high profile rims, that a bike like this looks almost naked now.
Is that thing even legal (well not with todays rules)? That is a ridiculously large wheel, and somewhat seems to defeat the purpose of trying to beat the hour record. Sure you might as well just stuff a motor down that extra long seat tube. Hell why even stop at the 4ft diameter, you can get that thing up to 6ft, and your back isn’t even straight. Dave Zabriskie (“the most aerodynamic man in cycling” according to Phil Liggett) could sort that out.
I can’t find much out about Cicli.co, a company from Milan that we found on our recent trip. They make a very unusual and cool looking commuter bike. They work in partnership with Spernicelli Bici one of Italy’s premium vintage bike restoration shops. Check out their site for some beautiful vintage rides. Would love to get a test ride on that power arm crank they have instead of a chain.
Found this great piece of helmet Cam footage over at La Gazzetta Della Bici. Shot on the last 450 meters of the Plan De Corones time trial following Michael Barry you get a real sense of what it must have been like for him to ride up through the Tifosi, without the lung busting pain of coarse. The last kilometer has to be one of the steepest ridden in any race, and took on average about 5 mins to ascend. As I was watching it on Youtube I couldn’t help looking at the “Flag as inappropriate” button, and thinking damn right, how inappropriate is it to make a rider time trial up this. Accompanied by Paolo Conte’s “Bartali” – a song dedicated to Italian cycling legend Gino Bartali. A great piece of footage.