2011 Het Nieuwblad- Antonio Flecha Oh so Close !

This past weekend marked the start of the 2011 Spring Classics in Belgium and I couldn't be more excited. I was so surprised to see that I'm able to watch the races live via the internet nowadays ? I'm really happy that technology allows us to watch races we would never have the chance to see in North America. I wish I had this kind of access back when Lemond was challenging the spring classics in the mid 80's.

So the race formerly known as Het-Volk was this past Saturday. I was so hoping defending champ, Juan Antonio Flecha was going to pull it off. He caught the solo break by Rabobank's Langeveld, and I thought he was the stronger of the two. I think he just spent too much energy and had nothing left for the finish. Hayman 3rd, and Michael Barry 60th place. Overall a good weekend for Team Sky. I don't think I even heard the mention of Cancellara ? nor Hushovd ? nor Leopard-Trek, Hmmm ? I just hope Flecha doesn't adopt the Hincapie or Bauer type of attitude and begin accepting second places as "good" results, otherwise he'll never win again.


We all need some Inspiration from time to time

Since its still that time of year, with yet another impending snow storm looming, in my neck of the woods, I needed some more inspiration for indoor cycling. Here's a great video that inspires me to sit my butt down and put in some more miles. A Kurt Kinetic road machine never looked better. A really tasteful, video with great cinematography.


Tackx Fortius - Simply the Best for Indoor Training

Its not cheap, but I think any serious cyclist should save their pennies and buy this virtual reality system some day. Tacx have really done a great job here.
Indoor training has come to the virtual age and those who have it, you'll be better off than the rest of us with our ipods, spinervals and WCP vids. You can ride the famous cols, and even one better, ride with the pros. The system is so smart that it tracks your speed and keeps them just in front of you, so its like you never get dropped. Its nuts ! I love it !!

Virtual Ventoux

Virtual Paris Roubaix - You won't feel the cobbles under you, but can still see the route.

You can ride with your heroes

Again, this is money well spent. If I had this system, I'd be a Senior 1 easily.

A Hidden Green Gem

Probably considered a hidden gem in today's world of road bikes. You won't see many of these on club rides. You could probably go to a dozen bike shops and never catch a glance at one either. There's a rare mystique about this bike and I can't quite put my finger on it ? I have not seen anything like it. A most underrated bike in my view. I think Time have a winner here with their NXR Instinct. Gorgeous lines, colour, and build. I spent years chasing an NSX, to now an NXR in the form of two wheels. It may be TIME I had a second look.

An FP Quattro for 2011 ?

Oh the decisions.. nice bike, nice colour, but will it be lighter than a Focus ? or another ?

A BH G5 = Bike P0rn !

Simply one of the hottest looking bikes I've seen to date.. Remember what bike the AG2R team rode in the 2009 Tour ? Yup.. this beast.. wow !


Pinarello Paris Lust !

Team Motorpoint's Paris is one hot bike! A perfect paint scheme, frame and groupset combo.


2011 – The age of "Allowable Micro Dosing " in Pro Cycling ?

With the recent decision to allow Alberto Contador to return to racing, sets a really bad precedent in my view. I guess the sport of cycling is now saying its okay if you have a little bit of dope inside of you, we’ll carry on. Does this mean, that fellow cyclists, can now use Contador's case to make the argument that the doses found in their system are small and therefore should not be admissible ? I guess we are officially in the age of micro-dosing ? In other words, we are officially in the world of allowing doping. I guess the next stage is legalizing epo and other such products and let the pharma companies battle it out while using the pro cyclists as lab rats ? Maybe make Floyd Landis a director to director the controls ? Cycling is headed down the road of the Vince McMahon days of the WWF. An utter joke.

Alberto Contador tested positive in four different controls for a banned substance. His penalty should be two years, no questions asked. The fact that he is now allowed to resume riding, simply furthers the notion, that there are different standards for different riders. I feel sorry for the likes of Michael Rasmussen and others who were so mistreated and didn’t even test positive. Will the UCI step in and make it right ? I doubt it. The corruptness that has over taken this sport has truly reached a new low level . This is a step backwards for cycling and any attempt to provide an ethical sporting environment has now gone right down the toilet.

A ban is a ban, he had a banned substance in his system bottom line. It shouldn’t matter where it came from. Its in his system, and he should be banned from the sport. WADA and the UCI have shown their corruption and incompetence that allowed a Spanish Cycling Federation overrule any WADA decision. But the message is clear, doping is necessary to be a champion and the sanctioning bodies are only interested in ensuring that the show must go on, as they get to pick and choose who is guilty and who isn’t. It also is a foreshadowing of another popular cyclist in the media as of late. As a result of this case, it looks like he too will become like teflon and will laugh at the world.

Colnago Lust - C59 Hotness!

I just can't find the words..

Another Colnago To Love!

I think it just has to be a Colnago for me.


Why 2011 will be another epic Paris Roubaix.

Its a little over 8 weeks away before the 2011 Paris Roubaix but I'm already eager and anxious to see how the race will unfold. I think it will be a largely epic battle this year, because of Hincapie and other really hungry teams wanting to solidify their mark on the peloton. I think it will be Hincapie's last attempt, so he'll be very aggressive near the front. But he's such a marked man, similar to Tom Boonen in that every strong rider will try to go with him. They both will have to come up with an extradorindary untimely launch, similar to the days of Wampers, Madiot, or Duclos-Lasalle, if they want to be victorious. Hincapie never has a strong supporting cast and I think that has always been his downfall. Maybe when he had the chance he should have signed with Mapei or was it Quick Step ?

Its been a long time since I've witnessed such stacked teams who can control the race. I think the most memorable team dominance was back in '96 with Mapei earning the top 3 spots on the podium. It will be an an epic battle between teams Garmin-Cervelo vs Leopard-Trek vs Quick Step. Who will it be ? Garmin-Cervelo have the current world champion Thor Hushvod, and his chief lieutenant Henrik Haussler providing back up support. Leopard-Trek have both former Roubaix winners in Fabian Cancellara and Stuart O'Grady and are stacked with back up talent in the likes of Jens Voigt and Jakob Fuslang. Quick Step have the legendary Tom Boonen and his very strong classic team.

These teams may mark each other all day, and if that happens, they risk having a lone rider slip away in the break. A rider like Juan Antonio Flecha or Michael Barry from Team Sky who I see as perfect candidates. They don't have such a strong supporting cast, but they are the type of rider who may be able to sneek away while the big favourites play their chess game. I'd love to see it happen.

Overall though, I have to give the advantage to Leopard Trek.


Rapha - perfect for X-Country Skiing

In trying to avoid the boredom of indoor cycling, my wife and I decided to do some X-country skiing.Of course I reached for my Rahpa winter gear. To my surprise, my Rapha deep winter tights held up to the riggers of x-country skiing quite well. I fell a few times trying to wind up like the "missile" in a bunch sprint. I feared that it would leave me wet and cold, but I simply brushed it off and away I went. No damp nor cold seeped in.

On top, my base layer was craft, then added my Rapha Team Winter Jersey under my Classic Soft Shell. I found that to be a perfect combo in battling the elements. Overall, I'm glad to report, that Rapha can hold up quite fine in Canadian Winters. Now I need to secure my Rapha spring/summer gear and I'll be set.

Will on the Koppenberg

Pics of my friend Will battling the legendary cobbled climb , the Koppenberg while vacationing in Belgium. He's looking like a true "Flandrien" ! Damn, I want that bike and that jacket !!!


Greatest day for Canadian Cycling, Hampsten Collapses

Back in 1988, this was a historic A'lpe D'Huez stage for Perico, who set a murderous pace up the mountain. It was the early days of "dutch doping" which made Steven Rooks a hero over Gert Jan. Many of us shook our head at the collapse of Andy Hampsten being as bad as it was. How bad you ask ? Well, allowing a sprinter to pass a hill climber in the mountains was and still is the ultimate form of embarrassment. Even Phil Liggett pointed it out.

At 1:48 yanni's score is just so perfect with Liggett's voice.
At 5:09 - Tesh's "brain dead weasel" in the background is just CBS perfection
At 6:07 - Hampsten spitting on a fan, dumb idiot showing his classless ways.
At 6:46 - Hampsten's ultimate collapse as he allows a bigger ,chunkier sprinter to pass him. Hampsten should have called it a day right then and there. I just love Liggett's commentary, really sticking it to Hampsten. Ha ha
At 8:24 - "No one knew where Andy Hampsten would finish" LOL ! Oh man, one of the greatest collapses in sport history

I will ride it later this year, it is these great memories which will help me propel up this mountain. Who knows, maybe I'll go faster than Hampsten as well.. LOL !

I think this was Bauer's greatest day. Wearing the yellow jersey and in over his head really. I can't believe a man of his "body type" propelled so well up the mountains of the '88 tour. But it was a tour that had minimal amount of days in the mountains compared to today's standards. I think we'll never see another "easy" tour as it was considered back in the day. Regardless, Bauer rode it like a true champion.

Yes Eric, the "Hills are Really Steeep!"

Back in '86, I must have watched this CBS tour coverage a few thousand times. It brings back great memories of the juggernaut La Vie Claire team, Hinault and LeMond. But it also brings the memories of the 7-Eleven team who were the laughing stock of the European teams. They were mocked and ridiculed from day one. Unfortunately, these guys had to pay the price, but paved the way for Lance.
Surprising to think, Chris Carmichael came from being a "little scared" to being the coach behind 7 tour wins. Carmichael and Shapiro barely making it up the steep climbs. Grewal coming back 50 ? I wonder if he remembers this footage ?
Our boy Alex Steida's harmonica playing was definitely not "Juno" material. I think he holds the record for the shortest amount of time in the maillot jaune. Got it the morning, and lost it badly later that same afternoon. From hero to zero in one day. wow ! A disaster of a team time trial.Yes, the tour was more cruel back then.

At 4:37, a great musical score, Tesh's voice, and Eric Heiden's famous quote. And all of this happening behind Steve Bauer, as he zoomed past them riding for La Vie Claire.
At 6;09, the sadness of the Tour - I wonder if Taylor ever saw this footage of his dad Davis suffering during this tour ?

But, without these pioneers, (and Jock Boyer), who suffered the pain and embarrassment of the European press, there would be no Lance. Yes, Eric I know the hills are really steep but I too will see my limits come September.


Canada's Cycling Team Spider Tech Launched

Canada's greatest Cyclist , Steve Bauer retired from professional cycling and set up his own team. Team Spider Tech is born and was launched today at the Hockey Hall of Fame. I would have chosen a better venue. Bauer looks good. He looks thinner now than he was when he was passing Andy Hampsten in the Tour back in '88. Heh heh

I absolutely love that creation by Gervais Rioux. The Argon 18 looks sweet !!!!

What's with those Knee bands ?


My 1st month Weigh In – My Transition has begun

In the past 3 years I have spent my energy focusing on developing a “hockey player” body type which is a more muscular upper body with trunks for legs. In my hockey community, league and team, there is no serious commitment to fitness nor diet? Its just a few bursts on the ice and you go have beer and wings in a bar afterwards. Most of the guys, even “the really good” players, have the largest of pot bellies I’ve seen! I found myself, getting fatter which was acceptable for hockey. It’s a sport that allows for “slips” in diet, (sugars, starches, fats) and allows for less stringent training. I don’t know why, but you can be the worst drinker and smoker , guzzle sugars, eat tons of carbs and fat, have a muffin top, or a huge ponch, and still be good on the ice ! I can’t explain these guys ? I assume the skating and ice allows those unhealthy ways to be hidden ? I assume naturally they are simply made up of more “fast twitch” vs guys like me who are made up of more “slow twitch”muscle fibres. So, as I transition out of hockey and back into cycling, all of this lackadaisical and non attention to diet, and training has stopped. I was leading an unhealthy lifestyle, thinking it was healthy. Having any kind of extra belly weight hinders any cyclist, especially on the hills.

My journey back to cycling, has me having to work doubly hard as I have to first “undo” the P90x muscular style, and get back to my “skinny” , “uber thin” body type. I am seeking a return to my true “ectomorph” body type of when I was a club rider. Should I decide to race in the masters category in 2012, I have to even more regimented. It is not easy. I know what it takes and am focused on doing so. My typical days and weeks now, consist of constantly checking my calorie intake, and monitoring my duration and heart rate when training. During my journey back into cycling, I noticed how “skeletal “ the Pros have become. Wow ! I don’t know how they produce such power from such frail bodies. I’m not going to reduce to that extreme, but shall return to ‘uber thin’ to hopefully kick some ass on the hills during club rides. A good indicator of a true cyclist/endurance athlete is look at their neck and collar bone region down to their torso. They are “tiny” figures. Look at our their jerseys and shirts “hang off them.” It’s a dead give away. They are almost funny looking , almost “alien-like” with their larger head, supported by this skinny , bony neck area. Those are the serious guys to watch out for on the rides.

I feel a sense of homecoming as I transition out of hockey and back into cycling. 2011 has started off in the right gear. Vive le Tour.

Chasing Legends Review

Chasing Legends is a cycling documentary following the 2009 Tour de France through the eyes of the HTC-Columbia team. Albeit, it is not a new concept, it was a refreshing view of a scandal riddled sport. For non cyclists, it was great to get an understanding of stage racing like “The Tour.” Neophytes might be surprised at the extent to which the race is a team sport as well as one of grueling feats of individual stamina and athleticism. There was decent narration, but I would have liked to have more included. Race commentary was as always, spectacularly done by the legendary fixtures, Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen. It was nice to see the historic segments of the Tour, in the old footage. Plus having the great Eddy Merckx commentary, could not have been more fitting as he is thee “Legend of Cycling.” However, I thought the opening scene was weak in the scene re-enactment, and poorly portrayed.

I liked the fact that they followed the Tour from start to finish, but had hoped to see more drama as it is the most extreme, epic race on the calendar. Depicting tour drama was simply perfected by the CBS coverage in the mid 80's and to this day, no one has done it better. I would have also liked to see more behind the scenes footage of the riders instead of the Director Sportifs in the team car. The film had good cinematography but I would have liked the camera to stay a wee bit longer on the mountain stage scenery. There were quick pans, with quick glimpses of the scenes jumping in and out of the screen, instead of a longer more fluid camera pans of the scenery. One the weakest aspects of this film was its musical score. I would have preferred a more "Yanni-like" or “Paul O’Brien-Like” soundtrack, something that brought out the real emotion of cycling. I had also hoped the film would have depicted the suffering, the pain, and the glory a little better. Again, that would have meant a greater emphasis on the musical score. The Hincapie story line was a pleasant surprise, as it is something that the normal viewer would have never been privy to back in 2009. His losing the jersey to Team Garmin's spitefulness, made me lose all respect for the Garmin Cervelo team.

Chasing Legends is a cycling documentary which is not a new concept , as there are plenty of them available now. The directors have done a stellar job in its portrayal. They have definitely carved their niche in documenting the world’s greatest bike race and have firmly entrenched its spot among the likes of “Hell on Wheels,” “Overcoming,” and “Road to Roubaix.” I enjoyed the film and overall I give it 7.5 out of 10.


La Bicicletta, - top podium in my books !

After a 15 year absence from the sport, I re-kindled my passion for cycling. I am glad I made that decision. Getting back into the sport, hasn’t been easy. I’m older, and a lot heavier. But I’m hoping over time, I can regain some sort of fitness level I used to have. During my consideration back into the sport, I obviously had to consider what shop I’d like to be affiliated with. Almost every cyclist on the planet has some affiliation to some local bike shop. Its quite important to develop this type of business relationship as you need proper service, and you need proper advice , as cycling can be a sport of extreme precision and feel.

La Bicicletta have been a major source of my inspiration. The first day I walked into the store, I felt like that teenage kid again, who was crazy about Bernard Hinault and Greg LeMond back in the mid 80’s. Back in the mid 80's I was a club rider with affiliation to stores that were true to road racing. Well the times have changed, the stores have lessened in numbers, but I can honestly say La Bicicletta is by far the best in the GTA. Its place where one often goes "..Wow? .." at a bike, or at a display cabinet. It is also a place that takes pride in their store. Their level of expertise and excellent quality of products to choose from, really put them in a “niche” category. From the walls, to the showroom, to the FiT room, its exudes passion for cycling. They have a small core of staff who exemplify excellent customer service. From the time you walk in, to the time you depart, you will always be handled with the utmost of courtesy.

I often forget these guys are in the retail business, as its not run like your typical run of the mill retail environment. Every member of the staff are always friendly, courteous , knowledgeable and generally seem to care, which is rare in today’s retail sector. So much has changed and cycling technology has gotten so much better. They have surely helped me bridge the gap from over a decade of lost time. They are passionate about the sport and it is evident everywhere in the store. I'm pleasantly surprised to see a store so true to a sport in today's world. I’m also pleasantly surprised, they have entered the digital age of computing. They have a good website offering online ordering and they respond to emails. I am certainly proud to be affiliated with this store. So anyone who's into the sport of Road Cycling, do yourself a favour and go say hello to the folks at La Bicicletta.

My New Lemon

You really get what you pay for in the sport of Cycling. If you go cheap, you're really gonna get poor quality, bottom line. In going the cheap route, you really run the risk of something or some piece of technology frustrating you, and eventually not working or breaking down. If you want something to last, and want good quality, you HAVE TO PAY for it. Its that simple.

Case in point, my indoor trainer. Before the winter hit, I decided to cheap out and get a Minoura Indoor trainer. Big mistake ! I now have semi broken trainer after months and many hours of riding on it. It was significantly cheaper than the Kurt Kinetic, and that's why I bought it. Lesson learned. I should have purchased the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine. My Minoura is now like that old German car which constantly broke down.

I am now in that "constantly breaking down world" again, this time not with my car, but with my indoor trainer. Because of my cheapness, I now have to constantly deal with slipping, resistance and placement issues. I am struggling to find my rhythm every time I ride. So now I have all of this setup /tweaking to do before I can get a so-so ride in. Frustrating to say the least. On top of everything else, I have to be mindful of these plaguing problems, during every ride. These distractions prevent me from the spinning properly and getting into a good rhythm. This will no doubt decrease my winter base mileage. I’m back to owning a lemon unfortunately. I must reiterate, YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR.

Here's what I should have bought.

Rapha has done it again

In a previous post, I discussed my love of Rapha Products. Well I'm hear to say it again, that if you want quality and looks, there is no other. Rapha is simply the best. My latest purchases of the winter team jacket, tucked under my classic softshell, coupled with my deep winter tights made the perfect transformation into cross country skiing in a cold Canadian winter. I am overwhelmed with the quality, styling and what this company stands for. Should I be able to land my "Focus" bike, the Rapha-Focus combo will definitely serve a 1-2 punch and will mimic the already great amalgamation of the two companies. Now i just have to lose some more weight and I'll fit into their "medium" instead of "large" :-)


Shifting Gears

The concept of shifting gears on a bike, has at times become the main topic of conversation in the industry. We've gone from down tube shifters to shifters moulded right into the brake levers. The big TWO have always been Campagnolo and Shimano. Now there is a competitor SRAM who hope to make it "the big Three." But the jury is still out on them. SRAM have taken the bicycle component industry by storm and are prevalent in the professional peloton. I think they came on a little too strong, were a little arrogant in their revolutionary "double tap" shifter and bit off more than they can chew. I think the Andy Schleck incident "humbled" them to a certain degree. Many people argue the point that Andy Schleck lost the tour (2010) because of his SRAM components. I agree that SRAM have changed the way we shift. But the double tap lever is certainly not the choice for me. I think as a cyclist, its easier to have two levers. One for the front derailleur and one for the rear derailleur. I am a Campy or Shimano die hard. I will never go SRAM unless I'm paid to.

Getting back to shifting. There's no "right" or "wrong" gear to be in. You shift according to feel. As the terrain changes you operate the shifters to make it easier or harder to pedal depending on what feels right to you.You have to be pedaling in order to shift, however, it's important to ease the pressure off the pedals when you shift. Below is shifting using the Shimano STi method. You can click on the photo to see it enlarged.

Riding with Team Leopard Trek

Stu Bowers is a journalist for Cycling Weekly. Recently he had a chance to ride with Team Leopard Trek in Mallorca Spain. He had the most interesting of obversations.

Feeling like a fatty, says Stu Bowers;
Being six foot and 65kg (143 lbs) I'm usually the one bearing the brunt of the ‘stick legs' jokes, and rarely have I ever felt like I could do with shedding some weight, but riding among some of these guys I felt like a proper porker. The Schlecks are one thing, both brothers look pretty skeletal, but Brice Feillu, unsurprisingly one of the team's climbers, looked even more skeletal ?

As my dear ol' dad used to say, I've seen more meat on a butcher's pencil. Being able to push 53 x 11's and 12's at 65Km/h begs to ask the question, where does all that pedalling power come from ? Is Brice the new chicken ?