The thought of making your team to ride Paris-Roubaix must bring an incredible sense of excitement, and probably at the same time also a complete feeling of dread. A few years back I talked to some of the triathletes in the New York City Marathon, who described the symptoms of what they called the “Hudson River Flu” – a sickness you get from swimming in a river that quite frankly is not appropriate for swimming in (I won’t go into the details). Paris – Roubaix brings its own special type of “flu“. One that is described as hitting the rider two days after the race has finished, a result of the punishment the body receives riding over a surface that most of us would consider only appropriate for an all wheel drive. A “flu” that pains right into the bones. This all just comes from the surface, the storied cobbles, throw in the distance, 50KM of that over cobbles, some weather and a lot of riders making this their early season goal, it is no wonder the race holds the position it does at the top of the things we love about this sport. This year it is predicted to be rain free, and with some late-week rain probably dust free as well. None of this will reduce the spectacle. Thank the lord for the internet, I will have my Sporza and Eurosport streams flowing on Sunday looking down the line for Russ Downing and Alex Wetterhall, both who have won races back in my home country of Ireland and are now riding one of the biggest races in the world. I wish them luck, safe riding and good legs.
It has been in the making for a while (almost a year in fact), but we have in our hands the first book proof of our Ardennes project. It has surpassed all of our expectations formed over drinking hot chocolate in Maastricht last year and dreaming about creating a limited edition publishing label. Hopefully this (and our poster series) will be the start of something new for us. The book presents a fans-eye view of attending the Ardennes week, a very special time for riders and fans on the annual racing calendar. We just have some final color correction to do and then it is off for the final print run. We are not sure of the number in the edition yet – it all depends on budget and interest, the more interest we get, the cheaper it will be. If you like what you see here drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will make sure you get added to a hold list when the books come in. I will be putting it up in the store soon for anyone that wants to pre-order to secure a copy. Hope you like it – share it around with your fellow bike porn lovers!
Placed this early in the season finishing Milan San Remo is an achievement in itself. Being there at the finale makes you a special type of rider, with a little bit of luck on your side. Riding one of the longest races on the calendar at 298km drains the riders, physically and mentally. 276 km of leg softening followed by 22 km of explosive attacking over two of the most famous climbs in the world. But as those in with a chance of a podium take the right turn up the Cipressa, the “workers” drop down a few gears and roll into the finish. A few years back I was lucky enough to be there with Specialized, and while the team celebrated there first race and a win on the launch of the Venge I noticed out of the corner of my eye riders rolling down the back of the promenade, picking their way through the crowd. Some bloodied, jerseys patterned with salt, and not even the energy to tell people to get out of the way. These guys were the leg-softeners, the ones who made the race hard. All of them carried the same thousand-yard stare that comes with pure exhaustion. Being completely empty. It was these guys that got my admiration that day, and they will tomorrow as well.
A few years back I sat in a campsite near Bédoin as the sun set over Mont Ventoux and contemplated what was to be my first time over the legend of Provence the following day. It presents an intimidating presence with the radio tower on top serving as a marker for the pain to come. It turned out to be a great day, riding it with two Aussie’s, all of us “Ventoux Virgins”. Of all of the stages in next years Centennial Tour, the Ventoux finish is the one that holds the most potential for me. The idea of two times up Alp D’Huez on paper sounds amazing, but in the end will probably cancel itself out with tactics and strategy. The ASO have set up the Ventoux finish to be an explosive day, for both GC and the stage winner (although they may not be mutually exclusive). It is the perfect stage for a Bastille Day hero. A lumpy approach before the final 20.8km ascent ensures plenty of opportunities for a solo attack, and the French now have in their ranks plenty of riders capable pulling that off. The previous three days favor the sprinters giving any of the GC contenders a chance to sit in and save as much as possible for that final all out slog. And with a rest day to follow, why hold back. So we may well be treated to the spectacle of a lone French attacker being chased down by a group of favorites in the last 5km, with a whole nation screaming him up to the finale. Recognized as one of the hardest climbs in France, and that is when the wind doesn’t blow – if they get hot and windy conditions I expect this to be an epic stage worthy of a 100 year celebration. Then there will be the 3 hour camper van race across to Embrun to get your spot on what looks like being a great TT in the Écrins and the Alps to follow. Those final 8 days might be the time to book your holidays.
Nathan Young was good enough to send us this set of really nice shots from the recent Magnuson Park Cross race in Seattle. The course looks as dry as a bone which has to be an anomaly for Seattle. Look out for more shots from Nathan as the season gets a little more “sticky”
I hate it when people mess with stuff that isn’t broken. If it hadn’t been for Rapha I would probably still be sitting on the sofa in November wondering who canceled the race. This coming weekend we will experience one of the most beautiful races in the world, The Tour Of Lombardia, or The Race Of The Falling Leaves. Except this year maybe it would be better to call it The Race Of The Almost Falling leaves because it isn’t quite that time of year yet because of the UCI? The UCI in all their wisdom pushed it up two weeks so they could squeeze in another race, The Tour of Hangzhou. Yes that Chinese monument that the Pro’s love to travel to the other side of the world for. Alas the spectacle of Lake Como and its surrounding roads will not be reduced. If I had to pick one race I could go to every year this may be the one. The location is stunning, there is a reason why famous people all live in the same place. The racing is exceptional, as riders squeeze out that last ounce of fitness before heading into winter and the ever shrinking Off-Season (and final contract negotiations). The fans are incredible, and the food….man the food is so good. To this day I still had one of the best Calzones I have ever eaten in Tremezzo. If you are lucky enough to go and have got time to ride, yes you have to do the Ghisallo, it will be packed on race day and a “competitive” ride up with the locals should be expected. Nobody will be holding back. Don’t skip the west side of the Lake above Menaggio, and the SS340. It is a lovely climb over to Lake Lugano and Switzwerland for coffee and proper chocolate, and you will be back in time for an afternoon espresso at Café Del Pess overlooking the lake and the ferries back to Bellagio or Varenna. It really is a special place to ride and a hub of Italian cycling, plus Moto Guzzi are built on the shores of Como, so you can expect to see nice bikes of all types.
A series of beautiful prints, one for each of the Grand Tours, created by the Netherlands based designer Vincent Vermeij aka Chungkon. Somebody should give his number to A.S.O.
… is my tip for winning the Giro (Scarponi the guy in pink, not the pooch). I watched him in person “testing his legs” at Liege-Bastogne-Liege going up La Redoute, and he was definitely holding something back. Or, he was just very dis-interested and a bit cold. He comes out better and better every year, and last years performance should have given him the confidence to go for the top step. Also, now supported by a bigger and better team as a true leader he will be fresher when he hits the very vertical last week. The Tifosi who love him will probably give him an extra few watts and a little push up the climbs as well. This is all what I am telling myself because he is leading my fantasy Giro team. This post may well of course have completely jinxed him.