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.