Nice to see our kit get some air-time post SXSW in Austin. Proud to have it out on the Sunday morning shop ride from Mellow Johnny’s, taken out by the “tallest cyclist outside of Holland” – Super Dom Russell. Check out the height of that head tube on his Land Shark. Did I mention that he is tall? Also nice to run in to Don Vanderslice when I was down there, another follower of the blog and kit owner. Sorry we didn’t get to ride together, next time. Some great roads down there. No doubt we will be back.
Hennie Kuiper winning Milan San Remo in 1985.
This Saturday is one of my favorite races, Milan San Remo. Last year I was lucky enough be there in Milan and on the Poggio with the kind hospitality of Specialized, which made me fall in love with the race and the Tifosi even more. Growing up it was one of the few races that we got live on Irish television, in the glory days of Kelly and Roche. I have memories of Kelly literally bouncing of the walls on the decent of the Poggio in hot pursuit of a desperate Argentin. In that period there were not many riders that could get my support beyond “King Kelly” – but Hennie Kuiper was one. This type of rider comes along about once every 50 years (actually in these times of “saving your matches” I am not sure we will ever see them again). He could ride cross in the winter, finsh on the podium in the Tour, win on Alp D’Huez, win a hilly classic like Milan San Remo and Lombardia, win a flat classic like Paris-Roubaix, oh and he also won the Olympic road race and the World Championships. He could win solo or he could win in a sprint. A true Dutch legend, who when he decided to retire went home to Holland to a small cyclo-cross race at Oldenzall near his home, and rode for his own one last time.
I just returned from my first trip to Austin Texas, and it is no coincidence that I spent at least one hour of each day I was there in Mellow Johnny’s. It might be one of the best shops I have ever been to. They have the right balance of product, space and coffee (they serve Stumptown our favorite), all rounded out with some of the best and most helpful staff you could hope for. The space is in the old warehouse district and used to be a beer warehouse if I remember right. They have rides pretty much leaving the shop every morning with a mixture of levels. We were lucky enough to have our very own personal Mellow Johnny’s guide in Russell, who may well be the tallest cyclist outside of Holland (he is 6′ 7″ and his custome Land Shark has the largest headtube I have ever seen). He took us out into the Austin farmlands onto the “Flemish Loop” on a damp and hazy moring. Sitting behind Russell on a 25mph wind in your back return leg, is like sitting behind a Vespa motorpacing. There is no wind. Nothing. Just a hole that pulls you along with minimal effort. He is a “Super Dom” of pure quality, who to quote him “loves being second in command“. I wish I could have spent more time there, the riding seems great, plus I met two riders proudly sporting Elcyclista kit. That brought a smile to my face. It is so nice to see the kit out there and meet fellow riders who love design.
There has already been some great racing this season, but despite the “off-season” getting shorter and shorter, March and this weekend is where I really tune in. Although I did really enjoy K-B-K last weekend, and watching SKY click. It looks like they have already got their act together in their 3 weeks down in Mallorca. Business as usual for Cav? This weekend there is a race like no other, Strade Bianche. A race unique in character, and a serious test of fitness and mental strength, as it rolls through and over the stunning Tuscan hills. I selfishly almost pray for rain before this race making it a visually spectacular event, one better suited to maybe mountain bike skills than road.
As it happened they got a dry and perfect day for racing, and a lot of the classic stars showed their form. Cancellara, although not looking as dominant as days gone by, rode away when from the break when it mattered. I feel the “quickening“. One of my favorite riders, Van Avermaet, was animated and in the break, looking like he is setting himself up for another great MSR. Ballan, despite looking like he was riding someone else’s bike (what is it with that guys position? He looks awkward as hell) seemed to have good legs, and Roman “Christian Bale look-alike“Kreuziger seems to have come out of the winter with good legs. This time last year was the start of Gilbert’s romp of a season as he set the the pattern for many of the great one day races. This year, it is a bit early yet to start questioning his form and team move, but it is certainly different. Maybe the biggest stat of all from yesterday, that is either testament to the quality of the race (or riders not wanting to “go too deep, too early) is that out of 112 starters, only 52 finished.
Today the Paris-Nice “mini tour” kicks off, and despite wet conditions and riding conservatively, Wiggins delivered a smoking time trial. So far this season Sky and Omega/Quickstep seem to be the teams most settled and ready to race early.
Back where he belongs, on the top step. It looks like Tornado Tom has put personal and injury issues behind him and is getting back to deliver on the talent we all know he has. Best of luck in the classics fella!
Peter Drobach 5th December 1912.
From the collection of the Library Of Congress
Since we are on the theme of Keirin racing, this is not a shot by Fredrik from his amazing Keirin essay below. This surfaced on the internet when researching. I bet that room smells amazing, and I can’t think of a better top than a white cotton t-shirt for some sweaty roller work.
THE FULL KEIRIN PHOTO ESSAY IS HERE
One day I am going to get to Japan, and one of the first things I hope to do is go to a Keirin race. The track racing scene is alive and well in Japan, with annual bets getting up to ¥1,5 trillion ($15 billion). Seats are hard to come by for the bigger events, with more than 20 million Japanese attended Keirin races last year. The riders trained specifically for the 2km event have all earned the privilege of competing professionally by passing through the Japan Bicycle Racing School in Shuzenji. With school days that start at 6.30am, that include 100km road rides before lunch, schooling, cleaning chores and track training in the afternoon, it takes a dedicated rider to stick it out and survive.
Unfortunately graduating does not always guarantee you a ride, with only a percentage of the 150 graduates making it on to the track. Those that do get the “honor” of wearing the green striped shorts with seven white stars denoting “Rookie“. Top professionals can race up to 100 days per year at the 4 day events. Riders are locked down at the tracks during the events and isolated from all contact with the outside world to prevent race fixing. Top riders earn up to ¥100 million a year, a very good living, with some riders sustaining that level well into their 40s. Unfortunately for the pros at the bottom of the league life is a constant test, with each rider being accessed every 6 months. Failure to compete at a consistent level means getting demoted out of the pro ranks, a place where it is very hard to return from.
One of the enduring stars of the Keirin scene is “Tomity“. Toshihiko Tomita is a 52 year old, 29 year Keirin veteran. Yeah, read that line again and think about it for a while. For 29 years Tomity maintained the power to stay at the top of the pro ranks, despite a constant challenge and influx of new young talent. On a trip to Japan photographer Fredrik Clement was able to spend a day with Tomity training at the Seibuen velodrome before he retired. His photo essay presents the opposite atmosphere to that felt on race night. The empty stadiums where the riders train appear cold, empty and emotionless, and behind the scenes the rider facilities present a picture of a harsh and simple life. We were lucky enough for Fredrik to allow us to feature this series. Cheers mate.
THE FULL KEIRIN PHOTO ESSAY IS HERE
THE FULL PHOTO ESSAY CAN BE SEEN HERE
Emily Maye sent us these beautiful shots that she took at his years Tour Of California. She has managed to create a unique mood that we don’t usually see in cycling photography. Focusing less on the tip of the action, and more on the candid moments when riders maybe feel mostly off camera. Check out her full portfolio here.
CATEGORIES: Childhood Heroes,Riders