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Battenkill 03/16/2014


JE_Main_BattenkillThere aren’t many, and this one has seen its fair share of trouble with sponsorship and race categorization in the past, but Battenkill still stands as the true American Classic. Billed as “Americas Toughest Race” the terrain takes riders over dirt, gravel and tarmac, up and down rolling hills, and through covered bridges in the beautiful Battenkill Valley. This year will see the 10th edition of the race that is probably as close as we get to a European style classic in America. It runs in the first week of April usually making sure that the weather plays a factor in how the race plays out, and providing spectators with a very unique racing experience. These shots from the 2010 edition saw Floyd Landis start in the hope of a return to the pro ranks. The race was won by Caleb Fairly who went on to now race in Europe with Garmin. British champion Kristian House and the Rapha team showed up to race with a group of riders who also included Jonathan Tiernan-Locke who went on to win The Tour Of the Med and the Tour of Haut Var. It tends to be a proving ground for the up and coming riders in the north east.

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Peyresourde 01/25/2014


JE_Main_PeyresourdeWe were unfortunate enough to have rain every day for our four days in Bagneres-Di-Luchon. But after a day holed up in the camper van there was a break in the clouds just before lunch. After a scramble to get into lycra in a confined space we were out on the road and rolling towards Arreau over the Peyresourde. The early slopes give you a chance to ease into the climb as you work towards the twists and hairpins that are famous from The Tour. It a popular choice in The Tour starting in 1910, and the leaders taking the summit are some of our sports most respected climbers. Coppi, Charly Gaul, Bahamontes, Jiminéz, Van Impe and Robert Millar. As I rolled over the top there was a loud clap of thunder and the light changed as a bank of dramatic clouds rolled over the summit. It was going to be a wet descent.

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STELVIO 01/22/2014


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Riding the Stelvio was one of the most beautiful and hardest things I have ever done in the saddle. It is the perfect climb. From forested to exposed rock face and stunning views to long sweeping hairpins on a perfectly paved surface. Add to that the altitude and you have a road that will challenge every rider who takes it on. Parts of it look deceptively easy, but we ll know how that goes. Even on fine summers day there is usually a headwind and unless you are used to climbing at altitude your forward motion isn’t going to be what you hope for. Other parts of the climb look demoralizingly hard and they are. Looking up you see what looks like a sheer cliff with a lace of hairpins falling over its edge, making it all too clear exactly what you still, and from there it is pretty much up all the way without rest. In just over 25km you move from 5427ft to 8985ft, with an average gradient of 7.4%. Some of those sections ramp up to 14% made clear by some kind soul  painting it on the road. Pictures will never do this climb justice, neither here or on TV. It is brutal and beautiful all at once.JE_Content_Stelvio01JE_Content_Stelvio02JE_Content_Stelvio03JE_Content_Stelvio04JE_Content_Stelvio05JE_Content_Stelvio06JE_Content_Stelvio07JE_Content_Stelvio08JE_Content_Stelvio09

 

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GAVIA


JE_Main_GaviaI rode the Gavia the day after riding up the valley and doing the Stelvio, so my opinion of it may be tainted by the tiredness in my legs. The Stelvio despite being one of the toughest climbs you will ride helps by being stunning to look at, the Gavia right from when you roll out of Bormio feels completely inhospitable. It kind of meanders out of town on a side street, without the grand entrance of the Stelvio with its beautiful sweeping hairpins. It pushes up through a series of villages, some paved  with cobbles to add to your distress. The second phase seems endless as it meanders through cow-covered pastures that have an particularly strong smell of cow dung, and a cacophony of flies to accompany you. When you break out of this you enter the final phase of the climb onto a road carved out of rock leaving steep sides all around you. It is a tough drag and a little dangerous with the Moto Guzzi’s taking corners a little wide. The Gavia is an icon of a climb, but not one I fell in love with. I think we just met each other on off days.

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IZOARD 01/21/2014


JE_Main_Izoard00The 14km of the climb that makes the Izoard has created legends in our sport. Coppi, Bobet and Thevenet in the glory days of steel. Chiappucci, Van Impe, Botero, and Garzelli in the modern era of lightweight bikes and carbon. It is a very unique place, with a harsh beauty that bakes you in the summer. The day we climbed it was a blistering 93 degrees. We rode it from Guillestre up and back down the stunning ravine section along the Guil River. The climb before the climb, a steady 10km up to the left hand turn onto the foot of the Izoard. It is always good to mention these things when trying to convince others to ride HC climbs. The road after the village of Cervieres is an 8-9% drag up the valley towards the imposing peaks looming over the Casse Deserte. When you get yourself around those final hairpins on the last corner before the entrance to the Deserte you will see a view that will do one of two things. You will stop in your tracks and your heart will sore, or it will drop right down into your cleats. There in front of you will be one of the most desolate beautiful scenes in the Alps, and a perfect view of the last 5km of climbing through the iconic Casse Deserte to the summit. It is a huge natural amphitheater that has seen some of the greatest showdowns in cycling.

 

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MILAN SAN REMO 01/26/2014


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The longest race of the season at a leg breaking 298km. In the past it was called the “Sprinters Classic”, but with the recent race changes it has become a race more for an all round strong rider who has prepared well in the winter. I was lucky enough to travel there with Specialized and had a pass that got me inside the barriers before the race. Despite this race being one of the recognized monuments the atmosphere around the start is pretty relaxed, with fans having a lot of access to the riders. In 1907 Lucien Petit-Breton won the race in a time of 11hr 14min 15sec, and the last time the race went its full distance Simon Gerrans threw his bike over the line at 6hr 59min 24sec (which was also 10km longer).JE_Content_Square_MSR03JE_Content_Square_MSR01JE_Content_Square_MSR04JE_Content_Square_MSR02JE_Content_Square_MSR05JE_Content_Square_MSR06JE_Content_Square_MSR07JE_Content_Square_MSR08

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JACQUES 01/22/2014


JE_Main_JaquesWalking around a flea market in Switzerland I stumbled across a stand full of vintage sports memorabilia. Needless to say in this part of the world that tends to be mostly skiing and boating. When I asked the owner if he had anything cycling related he broke into a wonderful smile (turns out he was a cyclist). He reached under a pile at the back of his table and presented me with two things of beauty. The first is this feature, a Jacques Anquetil Souvenir Magazine, published by Miroir De Cyclisme in Paris in 1987. The images on its pages capture the essence of one of the most stylish riders to ever grace the roads of Europe. They show him in both the joys of victory, and in the pain of defeat. A true icon of our sport, and one of the few riders to ever wear the Tour’s yellow jersey all the way from day one to the finale in Paris. It took a while to convince the seller to part with his magazine, but I am glad he did.

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GHISSALO


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As one local pointed out to us when asking for directions, it is pronounced “Geezallo“. The Tour of Lombardy has always been one of my favorite races, with a name that just adds to the romance: “The Race of the Falling Leaves“. In all of the trips to Europe over the years we have managed to miss this region, so this time a whole 9 days was dedicated to Lake Como and then up into Bormio. You don’t have to spend long on the roads around the lake to realize that you are at the heart of Italian cycling. Riders of every size and age were out clocking miles on some of the best roads you will ever ride. The Ghisallo itself has played the role of decider many times, from the Giro to the Tour of Lombardia, and in the lesser known Coppa Agostini and Giornata della Bicicletta. They live and breathe riding here. Lombardia has over 700 registered cycling clubs with over 12,000 members. If you are wondering what they do all year, they have a choice of over 1200 races to to choose from in any given season. And of coarse the climb leads to the church at the top, maybe the most sacred and respected monument to cycling and those we have lost.

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CORNICHE 01/21/2014


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Just west of the late night parties and socializing of Cannes a road hugs the coast all the way to St Raphael, and is held close to the hearts of the locals. Once you break beyond the suburbs of Cannes and La Bocca the traffic frequency drops and you find yourself on a roller coaster all the way to Frejus. On one side you are propped up by scorched red rock, and on the other by the vivid blue Cote D’Azur. This is a “local” ride, and every day I joined clubs from Nice to Mougins. It is a route that hasn’t really found its way into the folklore of our sport (the neighbors to the east in Monaco and Nice get that fame) and I have a feeling the locals are happy to keep it that way. As you crest bends at the top of kickers you are presented with picture perfect bays and places you wish you could retire to. Yachts anchored in bays that can only be accessed by sea. At one point a sunbather on one of their decks waved at me as I stopped to take a picture. I don’t know who was happier.

 

 

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FFW13


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6 days and 550 miles later we completed the Fireflies West 2013 ride. As a group we traveled down PCH in a bubble of adrenaline and chamois cream protected from government shutdowns, saddle sores, news, and our jobs. For 6 days all that mattered was getting up, getting breakfast, getting to the lunch stop, getting to the hotel and Chocolate Milk, repeat. Perfect roads, perfect weather, and the wind on our backs. We are all used to suffering in the saddle, some more than others, but few of us express or show how we have suffered in life. Every rider that did the ride had their own special cause, someone they were riding for. A lost parent or a friend, or in some cases actually riding with cancer. Some were open and wore it on their sleeves (or in my case on my stem), others didn’t need to say anything, you just knew. There were moments that will go into the catalogue of unforgettable rides. Rolling into the Redwoods of Big Sur after a 98-mile day. Climbing up Stage Coach with Ben in the pre-lunch sun with a perfect tempo. Ripping up the Cabrilo rollers on a tailwind into San Simeon and looking down to see my dad’s face smiling up at me and getting that little extra (he knew exactly what was going on:). Rolling out of Ventura on the front and looking back on a bend to see about 40 Fireflies on my wheel, incredible. Riding in the group with Mick into Solvang over what became known as the “Magic Carpet.” On the last day I slipped away at the rest stop and rode up most of the Mulholland climb by myself. Just me my thoughts and my dad on my stem, it was a very special moment. Then I was back in the ride again as I heard gears and panting from behind and the climbers rolled past – that might have been the moment where I moved on.

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