I've added the Specialized Roubaix SL3 as my third and final choice for 2011. So the finalists are the Focus Izalco Extreme, the Specialized Tarmac SL3 Expert, and this Specialized Roubaix SL3 Expert. Its not to anyone's surprise that a bike named "Roubaix" is one of my choices. The Roubaix SL3 is the bike that Fabian Cancellara road a 50Km untouchable solo breakway to victory in Paris Roubaix 2010. The SL3 is Specialized's best attempt at making a full carbon frame comfortable to ride on the cobbles. Not only did they achieve this, but they ended up winning on the cobbles. And we all know, a bike built for Roubaix is a bike for me. I can't wait to take these monsters out for their maiden voyage. I am bursting with anticipation. Its going to be a great 2011.
After spending some time in my favourite bike shop La Bicicletta, I laid eyes on this beauty. Its from a German frame builder Focus, and their 2010 hit, the Izalco Extreme Edition. I could easily see myself riding this bike come spring 2011. It has all the features I desire in a Chorus groupset. But most importantly, its rare. You're not going to see many of these around club rides. Focus has done their homework making this a true all rounder. It will allow me to bounce over the cobbles and take the ascent to the Tourmalet. Now the hard part is pitting it up against a Pinarello ? That is going to be the big decision come 2011.
If there is one mountain climb in the French Alps which scares me, its this one. However, along with the fear , brings great anticipation of suffering up this great mountain like the past champions of the Tour. The Galibier has been a part of the Tour de France over 50 times. What makes it so unique is the actual route. Its actually 2 cols in 1. The Col du Galibier can only be reached after you summit the Col du Telegraphe, (see the last photo) which makes it one of toughest climbs in cycling history at 35km (That's over 15 times the Scarborough Bluffs length)winding upwards towards a steep uphill finish. (see the first photo) The summit at the Galibier peaks at a astonishing 8,000 ft. Most amateur cyclists who have ridden this route, take about 3-4 hours in a 39 x 2x combo. Many don’t have enough left in the tank to concentrate for the high speed icy cold decent back down this mountain. I certainly hope I do.
I woke up this morning with visions of riding up the Giant of Provence today. As I clipped into my pedals and began spinning I was overcome with visions of this epic mountain top finish in the Tour de France. I can hear the sounds of Yanni and the commentary by Phil Liggett in the background as I power up this climb. I picture my hands grabbing my handlebar hoods to elevate me out of the saddle to maintain my rhythm. As I dance on the pedals I'm envisioning catching Andy Hampsten who started minutes ahead of me on the climb. I pull up next to him pat him on the left thigh as a nice gesture , and continue powering my way up the mountain. I look back at him and he's in a lot of trouble trying to find pace. He's reached his limit, on this unforgiving mountain. The switchback increases in grade steepness, I sit back down farthest back on my seat, hoping to be efficient as possible as I spin up this mountain. I can see the top now. I reach the summit and take a moment to catch my breath. I look back down at Provence from this misty mountain top, and revel in my accomplishment. Wow what a great start to my day !
The sun barely peaking through the clouds , as I rise out of bed. Its a perfect Belgium morning, cloudy and cool with a hint of rain. I'll feel at home, sitting on a wooden table eating breakfast in a quaint Belgian bed and breakfast in the scenic Flemish countryside. I can barely contain the excitement building inside of me of what the day is going to unfold. As I hold my coffee mug, I make my to the window and peer out to the soft green hills and winding roads. Its quiet, tranquil. I hear farmers tractors in the distance from one direction. In another direction I hear cowbells. I get my gear ready, I make my way outside, I lean towards my Ridley bike. Not a sound near me, other than the zip of my jacket, and the click and clack of my cleats, I set off on the winding roads. As I ride through the Belgian border and enter Northern France, I am filled with excitement knowing the history of this sacred land. I adjust my gear and cadence as I begin to bounce over the cobbles. I hear and feel my bike dancing underneath me. I'm trying to keep a smooth pace and a steady rhythm over the cobbles, while at the same time try to take in the sites and sounds of this wonderful place. In between the pave, I get a break , I can ease up a bit. As I continue to ride, visions of past Paris Roubaix races enter my mind. Then I see it, I finally see it, the Arenberg Forest. I immediately stop, and am overwhelmed in emotion at the thought of being in the same place of past heroes. I get off my bike, set it aside, and place my hands upon the cold cobblestones. I can feel the grit and the dirt and he ruggedness of this brutal road. As I get up and shake my hands and knees of dirt, and prepare to ride across the forest, an older Frenchman with a old driving hat similar to one I wear on occasion, wearing a ratty old sweater , under a sport jacket, stands in the distance watching me. I noticed his wrinkled , course, beaten up hands, as he places his cigar aside. He cries out to me, " we've been waiting for you for a long time ? " I smile and gesture towards him, and say "yes, I know, this is where I belong." As I get click into my pedals, look down the forest, I then turn back to the old man to say something else, but I notice he has gone? disappeared ? Was my mind playing tricks on me ? Was he real ? or a "ghost of Roubaix ? " I wake up knowing one day, this dream may become reality.
During my long absence from the sport, I had forgotten how unforgiving cycling in the winter can be. At 40 years old now, my resistance to cold has decreased considerably. That has been quite the unpleasant surprise to experience this past week. My biggest enemy is not time, nor age, but WIND ! You don't feel the wind or windchill when you are walking, nor when you are going from Building to Car or vice versa. But you get yourself on a bicycle and you will feel the wrath of winter obstructing you in every shape and form. The hardest part is starting off when your body isn’t warmed up. The frigid temps take a toll on my joints. After this week's riding I found my recovery also needed adjusting. As soon as I got in, I reached for the A-535 and worked it into my legs, as a fast as I could to delay that onset of pain and soreness. I'm slowing starting to see my limits in the cold. I am grateful for the advances in technology towards winter clothing to minimize the damage. From jackets, to base layers, to booties, and gloves, every item has improved which make it easier for "old guys"like me to survive cycling on these cold days. Its going to take me a little while longer to figure out what works in the cold and what doesn't. But I hope to have some decent mileage under my belt before the real stuff begins in January/February.
Merce , Marshall are you reading ? Hamilton Mountain here we come !
Ronde van Vlaanderen that is. Or what's commonly known as the Tour of Flanders. Its an epic bike race held in Belgium every spring one week before Paris-Roubaix. I'm so drawn to this part of the world its not funny. Not even an hour away from Roubaix, lies another sleeping giant only awake one day a year. The Tour of Flanders is a warm up race for the "Hell of the North." The cobbles in Belgium are "not so rough" as they are in Northern France, but it is the hills and the length of the climbs that really make this race unique. Just the mention of the Molenberg, to the Oude Kwaremont, to the legendary Koppenberg, instill fear in the riders who have to endure not only the conditions, but the steepness and length of the climbs. I cannot wait to get my chance to ride one of these climbs one day and complete one of my dreams. Northern France, riding a Belgian bike, a Belgian race, now that's a perfect day!
Just the simple mention of the word "Tourmalet" and cyclists from across the world envision the most pain and suffering a cyclist can endure climbing a mountain. The Col du Tourmalet (2,115 m / 6,939 ft) is the highest road in the central Pyrenees. It is rated as the steepest , longest most difficult climb in the Tour de France. It is definitely on my "To Ride" list one of these years. I am so looking forward to the day when I am out of the saddle dancing on my pedals, amidst the clouds, the mist and fog shrouded roads ascending to it. When the Col calls, hopefully I will answer.
Probably the most glorious stage of the Tour de France. All the climbers want to win it. Its like the Monaco GP for Tour de France stages. It may not be the highest, nor the steepest but definitely the most famous.
Just outside of a town called Bourg D'oisans, L'Alpe d'H'uez has played host to the tours most epic battles between riders. I can remember that historic day in 1986 when Greg LeMond and Bernard Hinault climbed it and crossed the line together, or Marco Pantani's record mad dash up the mountain top back in 1997.
There are 21 hairpin switch backs which keep you out of your saddle to maintain your rhythm. Its a stage where the crowds are thickest and people go absolutely nuts as they wait for their heroes to ride by. Some even get in the way. The gradient is supposedly not the steepest but many are in a 39 x 20's! Wow! that's pretty steep for me. Many cyclists dream of riding up this famous Tour de france climb.
Hopefully one day I can live the dream and climb this legend.
I can still feel the flurry of emotion inside of me whenever I read or hear about Mont Ventoux.
Its a renowned mountain in the Provence region of France that has witnessed many Tour de France battles. Mont Ventoux is legendary for being one of the most gruelling climbs in the Tour de France bicycle race. I was introduced to this great climb back in 1987 when a time trial stage finished atop of it.
It had the likes of Andy Hampsten crack and ended his quest for victory while riders Stephen Roche and Jean Francois Bernard elevated themselves into overall contention.
The climb ascends south from Bédoin: 1617 m over 21,8 km. This is the most famous and difficult ascent. They claim it will take about 2h30m for trained amateur riders as the pros take about 1h-1h15 min.
Its a legendary mountain top finish which has been very unforgiving to many riders because of its steep ascent and blowing winds. They have nicknamed it the "Giant of Provence." All riders will pass the monument dedicated to Tom Simpson, the great English rider who died on the Ventoux during the 1967 Tour de France, pushed by amphetamines to exceed the limits of his endurance.
To me, Mont Ventoux's greatest depiction of the pain and suffering it can dish out, was epically displayed by CBS's tour coverage back in 1987. I guarantee you it will stir some emotion inside of you. The voice of Phil Liggett accompanied by a score composed by Yanni made for a masterful piece of television coverage. I often relive that moment of how I felt watching this back in 1987 almost every day now. Its a great reminder of the passion I have re-captured for this great sport of cycling. I can't imagine how emotional I will be when I get an opportunity to venture up the Giant of Provence. I can't wait for that day.
Okay so I caved and am now contemplating one of the newer designed "aero" road bikes. For good reason though and here’s why.
Its the 2010 Pinarello KOBH Team Sky Edition. Being a current Pinarello owner, I am certainly partial to them. I'm currently riding Pedro Delgado's 1988 Tour de France winning frame.
Pinarello have huge racing pedigree and even after almost two decades, they are still very prevalent in the pro peloton today, whereas Colnago appear to have taken a hiatus. I don't know if that's temporary. Regardless, this says something for all those who think Colnago is a step up from Pinarello. It appears the tables have turned? Yes the times have changed? The era of Pinarello has returned. They have re-invented themselves and have catapulted to the top of the road bike scene. Pinarello’s Dogma frame and design was so revolutionary that it won the Best Road bike Overall category in the 2010 Editors’ Choice Award from Bicycling Magazine, considered the Oscars of the cycling world.
With the introduction of the KOBH,(KOBH is pronounced "cob", short for cobblestones), Pinarello takes the amazing form of the Dogma Carbon and re-fashions it for the worst of the Spring Classic pavé. So you know that will be my choice.
The frame was developed from Pinarello's highly successful past. In 2007, the Paris Carbon won. In 2008, the Prince won. In 2009, the Prince again won , and in 2010, the Dogma has won.
With this outstanding record, I would be crazy not to consider another Pinarello for 2011. But I fear Pinarello's price tag. I think it may be out of my range. So lurking in the wings is a Ridley Damocle and Helium which may take 1st place. Stay tuned for that post.
Trying to play catch up after a 15 year absence from the sport of cycling has been overwhelming at times. I find myself bemused, bewildered, even delusional at times. I grasp on to the past, to help guide me. As I journey, I'm witness to a vast evolution which has taken place and now forge ahead and see the future in design and technology of this great sport.
But in retrospect, I find myself achieving the greatest sense of belonging. Belonging to a sport that always been good to me. It feels good reclaiming that sense of belonging.
If there had to be a downside, it would be the daunting task of having to buy everything from clothing and equipment again including a new bike come 2011. That hasn't been easy. The names, the stores and people have changed. Many retired, some passed on. From frame builders, to clothing and component manufacturers, the old guard has been replaced by the new. I'm glad for companies like la bicicletta, racer sportif, and Rapha , as they pay tribute to my heroes of the past, and they certainly have made it easy to recapture that sense of belonging.