From The Saddle: Cream Hill Road 11/10/2013
Described as a book for “Pass-Lovers“, this is a collection of some of the most stunning mountain shots you will ever see. The incredible images are shot by Stefan Bogner who runs a design agency in Munich. Each year he takes a break and relocates to the Alps to continue his documentation of the most stunning roads in Europe. They are a combination of images captured from both the road and helicopter through all the seasons. I found the book on a recent trip to Europe, but unfortunately it isn’t available here in the US. It can be ordered from the German publisher Editions Delius here. It isn’t cheap, but believe me if you are looking for some road inspiration, this is the book.
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.
I would never place Irelands mountains in the same category as The Alps or The Pyrenees, but what they lack in height, they gain something back in shear remote beauty. One of the most beautiful passes you can ride there is Molls Gap, rising up out of Irelands garden near Killarney, and along the Ring Of Kerry to a narrow pass at the top blasted out of the Old Red Sandstone. The road winds its way out of Killarney on the N71 towards Muckross, a typically narrow Irish road lined with high hedges. Every now and again the hedges break, giving you a glimpse of Muckross Lake and Upper Lake before the gradient starts to lift up into the hills. Officially you would call it a Category 2 climb, which regularly gets featured in the Tour Of Ireland and the Rás, but the gradient is consistant, and the road pretty sheltered, making it feel easier than it should. Pray for good weather if you are riding it, it is just close enough to the Atlantic that if rains it will feel frigid no matter what month you are riding it, and the wind will add another couple of percent to the gradient. Probably the only way you should ride it in Ireland.
That hill. We all have one. You might ride it every week, or maybe just once a season. It is the place that lets you know where you are at. Ahead or behind where you need to be, or should be. Some days you ride it like you have no chain, with the wind in your back and fresh legs. Fluid. On other days it is like riding through glue, your legs refusing to turn and feeling heavy. The burn. But that hill is your test ground, you go back because you know it will make you suffer, the only debate is how much. There is no fooling anyone but yourself on this hill. It will always give you an honest and blunt opinion. It won’t cushion the feedback, it will just tell it like it is. Yes, you are better than last time, last season, you are making progress, keep doing what you are doing. Or, come back in a few weeks and try again son and maybe then we will see. Drop a few more pounds that might help. We all have that hill where we go by ourselves some days. Today when I got to the top of my hill I found this mitt (My hill is Mt Washington CT, up from Egremont to Bash Bish Falls – down to Copake Falls and back up to Bash Bish). Looks like someone dropped the gauntlet or tossed it aside in disgust at themselves, but it seemed like a fitting marker for the top. Today was a good day on the hill. The legs felt good and the drizzle kept me cool.
A while back I started thinking about doing a number of limited edition projects in a series of different formats. Short runs, that would allow me to work a little quicker and play around with the formats I love. I just got back the proof of the first of these projects, a poster titled THE GREAT CLIMBS OF EUROPE helping kick-off ELCYCLISTA EDITIONS. Since I was a kid I have loved maps, and could easily spend hours with my head stuck in an atlas taking imaginary trips along roads and up mountains all over the world. This progressed later in life to crossing off the climbs I traveled to around Europe, and highlighting the ones I still hoped to do next. All of this inspired the Climbs poster (click on the images for a larger detail view).
Interestingly, without ever tracing the boundary of a country, the climbs we all love still define the shape of the regions we gravitate to each year to challenge ourselves. I started out with the monuments, those climbs passed into cycling folklore through races and riders that have given them great stories. Then there are those mentioned in conversations with local riders, people we have met on the road, picked up in articles, or discovered through studying race routes. Key cities were added next, the places we travel in and out of, and the ranges and areas where all of these exist. Together these created a footprint that document the climbers playgrounds of Europe, and hopefully giving you some inspiration as to where your next ride might take you. The prints are available for order at our shop here.
The Posters are printed by SUPREME here in Brooklyn and are of exceptional exhibition quality. They are created using the Giclée inkjet printing process using archival inks to create fade-resistant prints, typically used for gallery printing. They are printed onto an enhanced 260gsm Matte paper. We are offering the prints in two standard sizes (unframed), printed to order with a 5 day turnaround:
SIZE 1: 18″ X 24″ print at $80
SIZE 2: 24″ X 36″ print at $140
The total first edition of all sizes will be 124 prints, all hand numbered. Why 124? Well Sean Kelly our fellow country man and all round great rider was know for his exceptional descending skills (check out this video at about 4mins of him coming down the Poggio in pursuit of Argentin). His fastest clocked decent was on the Joux Plane into Morzine at 124 KM/H. So 124 prints in honor of what goes up must go down.
Better late than never, a gallery of images From The Saddle in Acadia National Park, Maine. Before traveling there everyone kept warning us about the traffic, and how packed it would be. Maybe living in NYC has immunized us to congestion or maybe nothing else compares to the craziness of NYC jams, but everywhere we went up there it just seemed quiet and open. Even in the Park itself (The Park Loop is a two lane one-way system that hugs the coast) I never felt squeezed on the road. Reading one of the Kayak rental company leaflets they made a point of saying don’t be put off by low cloud or early morning fog, “it is often the best and most dramatic time to see the Park“. They weren’t wrong. Early morning in the Park is practically traffic free, the light is beautiful and you basically have one of the most stunning national parks in the world all to yourself. With good legs, blue skies, the sea on your left, climbs on your right you may just have one of your best days on a bike in there.
CLICK ON THE IMAGE ABOVE FOR THE GALLERY
Last Saturday I joined the Grand Fundo, a charity ride organized by Jeremy Powers in Southampton MA. I had really no idea what to expect other than an as advertised “not a race, on a pretty demanding course”. One swift scan of the car park on arrival pretty much sorted that out. Most riders there could have been described as “serious riders” so you know the competitive gene would emerge in some form at multiple points of the day. The ride is super well organized with quality merchandise (I am drinking from my JAM Fund pint glass as I write). The Fundo is a 64 mile loop, and what it lacked in distance, it made up for in hills and dirt, it is a nice course. Two things left big question marks floating over my helmet during the ride. The first: The ride is described as having “20 miles of maintained dirt roads…”. If that was 20 miles I will eat all of the Jelly Belly bean packets I picked up in one go. I don’t know if it was the fact I haven’t really ridden dirt that much, or the heavy legs from the 92 degree heat, but man those sections felt LONG. The second: A heads-up on Climb 3 would have been handy! The average may have only been 5% – but when you see riders zig zagging up the road in front of you, be rest assured there is a section in the “Wall” category coming. The halfway point is marked by a very special Feed Zone, The Flavor King Truck. I have never been so happy to see an ice cream truck. The heat was slaughtering me and the Strawberry Shortbread ice cream managed to stop the steam coming off my head. Overall this is a great ride, with a great vibe. And to the kids at Rest Stop 3 with the surgical towels soaked in ice water – you are angels.