It somehow only seems appropriate that the rules of The Hour record be benchmarked against the ride done by a rider who pretty much benchmarked the sport, Eddy Merckx. A blistering 30.175 miles in sixty minutes. A record that stood for 12 years until Francesco Moser beat it by 1.6 miles, the difference being Moser used disc wheels, bull-horn bars and an oval tubed frame, and ushered in the era of technology and aerodynamics. It was at this point the UCI decided to recognize the massive achievement that Merckx had accomplished on a “traditional” track bike and created two records, the UCI Hour, and The Best Human Effort record.
To what sounded like a very rare atmosphere Merckx made one of the sports great records to sound of polite clapping and the chants of “Eddy…Eddy…Eddy”. The shear effort that The Hour takes has humbled all those who have tried. On finishing his record breaking ride Merckx rolled into the center of the velodrome and into the arms of Ernesto Colnago and uttered “Basta (meaning enough, and remarkably close to bastard)… that’s the last time I’ll ever do the hour record. The pain was incredible… ‘. Coming from The Cannibal that is saying something. Although not really a surprise that it hurt as his preparation leading into it was a season where he won no less than fifty races, among them a fifth Milan-San Remo, a fourth Tour de France, a third Tour of Italy, a third Liège-Bastogne-Liège, a third Fleche Wallone, a second Tour of Lombardy. Not really the preparation you would expect.
It seemed the only way to beat Merckx’s record was with technology. Boardman and Obree both breaking it with both unusual and advanced bikes and positions. Merckx’s effort was later beaten by Chris Boardman on a traditional set-up by a painful 32.8ft, riding a 54 x 14 with a 160mm stem (above). The difference between the two rides comes down really to the first KM. Merckx started fast, Boardman was a little more conservative. For the next 45km they basically stayed the same. Boardman had a slight edge having Merckx’s time to beat in the final KM and was able to pull out a little extra to take the record. That record stood for another 5 years until Czech Ondrej Sosenka beat it by nearly a mile, literally, (0.707 of a mile, or 44795.5 inches) pushing a 54 X 13 gear. Unfortunately his incredible ride is somewhat tainted as he later twice tested positive for doping, although not on his record breaking ride.
So since Merckx set the benchmark in Mexico on the 25th of October in 1972 at 30.175 (if we give Sosenka the benefit of the doubt) in 42 years we have moved the record on by 0.7 of a mile. This coming season we may see two of the best chances yet to put a new benchmark on the board. Two of the best cyclists in history against the clock will make attempts to push the distance out further, Fabian Cancellara and hopefully Bradley Wiggins. Wiggins a veteran of the track, and Cancellara one of the best engines in the sport. The Hour is maybe one of the last pure “blue ribbon” records left standing in the sport. Controlled conditions and controlled technology. I can see the attraction for both riders as they enter the twilight of their careers. To have your name talked about in the same sentence as Merckx, Boardman, Moser, Indurain, Rominger, especially as a record holder will stake your place in cycling history. Now all we need is Tony Martin to create the trilogy of the modern “Clock men” to try and break it.
And so it is over. 6 days and 550 miles later we have completed the Fireflies West 2013 ride. Right now I would say I am suffering from a little bit of post-ride blues (probably mixed with saddle fatigue). 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 (mostly). If you are a rider, is there a better way to spend a week? But none of these things are what made the ride special for me; in the end it was the people I met and rode with. 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 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. The feeling of giving something of yourself and contributing to such an amazing charity created a very special kinship. No one was left behind, no one crashed, we just took care of each other and rode together. What we gained in safety we made up for in flats – especially the “King of Flats” – which all being said isn’t a bad trade.
Massive thanks has to go to the organizing crew for picking out such a great route. Right from rolling out of San Francisco to pulling in to The Mill in LA (although we did manage to roll right past the welcoming party and the Brazilian band), the route never got boring and stayed challenging. 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.” A stretch of road that felt like it was going down hill, but didn’t look like it, on a surface that looked like it had been laid down 2 hours earlier (in fact it felt so good we rode right past the vineyards).
Going into a 6-day ride mentally feels like a big effort, but on reflection it actually went by really quickly. Once you get past those first few days, you and your legs slip into a routine. You know when you can push yourself, and you know when to back off. I rode always leaving a little bit in the tank to make sure I wasn’t on my knees by LA. Although there were always those moments when you say f@*k it! Like riding into Santa Cruz on the back of Vlasta the “Czech Vespa” at 34 mph. Sometimes you just have to go, right? 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 behind me and the climbers rolled past – that might have been the moment where I moved on.
The photo above says it all, the regroup at Father’s Office in LA. A beer in hand and a closing speech from Mick, we were all happy to have finished, but also maybe just a little sad we were done. Bittersweet – although the ice cream Tracy bought me helped. If you ever want to challenge yourself on the bike and do some good in the process, the Fireflies is a damn fine place to start – I recommend it to everyone. There was one thing that made me smile maybe more than anything. So many people commented on how good a wheel I was to ride behind, how consistent and safe it felt. After 3 decades in the saddle you would hope I got it right , but really it comes from riding behind my father who had the most perfect souplesse pedal stroke crafted from years on the track and touring for weeks at a time. He was a good study and I know he would have been proud of the compliments as he worked hard to get me there both in the saddle and in life. Thank you so much guys for those words, they meant so much. The ride has reinvigorated me, and made me want to get lean and fast again. Here’s to next year – hell maybe even the Alps.
Did someone actually say “Should we keep going to Tijuana”?
Here at last! Our Ardennes Book Project for Elcyclista Editions. The book is a collection of images captured at the 2012 Ardennes week (Amstel, Fleché and L-B-L). No passes, no “Moto’s”, no access to hotels, the images are all from the perspective of the fan, and being surrounded by the ambience of these three amazing races. We have done the book in a first edition of /50 with each book individually numbered on the special editions page inside the book. This project took some time to finish as during its making my father unfortunately passed away from cancer. It was one of the last things I showed him that I was working on, so the project holds a special place for us. We are offering the book at two prices. We always appreciate the support we get and we try to keep our prices as affordable as possible, the first price is $65 which is the cost of production and packaging. The second price if you can afford to is $70 where we will donate $5 to the Hospice that helped him through his last days. As always we are grateful for whatever support you can give us. Lets see if we can get this fella to a second editon!
Available for purchase at our online store here
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”