Saturday, 24 April 2010

George Hincapie, and the Cobbles

I'm not sure that any American racer has displayed the passion and love for the Pave like George has. He's made it cool for a whole generation of young (American) cyclists to aspire to being more than a Grand Tour rider, and frankly in my books that is no bad thing.

The question is, and a one frequently asked, will George ever win Roubaix or the Ronde? He has had some close calls, his best possible chances have been in Roubaix, and there have been a few. I still think that 2002 could rightly claim the spot for the ride where he could have won. Museeuw was away, George was chasing with a team mate who was a similar height and this made identification difficult for the commentators. Slowly they where clawing back kilometres and time towards the lone escapee. Suddenly on a cobbled section George fell into a ditch, apparently suffering with 'the knock'. It was pretty cold and damp that day and obviously the effects of chasing hard to get back to him had taken there toll. Oh and the Team mate was a 22 year old Tom Boonen who started the race as another promising Belgian talent, but ended up with him becoming one of the Cobble masters, winning Roubaix three times. A move to Quick Step soon followed and the rest is recent history. On that day Boonen finished third and Hincapie sixth.

George's best placing in Roubaix was a second in 2005, when Tom won his first of three (so far) Roubaix victories. Tom did the double having won Flanders the weekend before and was on fine form. It finished in a sprint which there was only ever going to be one winner.

Watching this small clip from this years Ronde van Vlaanderen shows how much he is at ease on the stones.

But George's palmares are not blank when it comes to winning on the pave. Winning Gent-Wevelgem in 2001 and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne in 2005 would rank highly on many professionals lists, but you get the sense with Hincapie these, although important, are not the reasons he gets up in the morning to train.

George's highest placing in Flanders came in 2006 when he bagged a third behind Boonen (yep him again) in first and Leif Hoste in second. From the consistent placings over the years George knows he has the right stuff to be a winner, he's just had some bad luck (think 06 with the broken fork in Roubaix a week later) which has been the difference between the second step and first.

I'd like for George to win it once, and if it could be awarded for the never give up mantra, he should get it. This year both at Roubaix and Flanders he didn't have a chance against Cancellara as he was truly stunning. So back to the question, 'Will George ever win Flanders or the Roubaix' well I'd have to say No as the other guys around him are stronger and younger, but you can never really say never until he hangs up his wheels. George has that ability to make adults believe in Father Christmas again, but I fear that the cold reality that its not going to happen is creeping up on any die hard Hincapie fan. George comes over as a nice guy, and for once it'd be great to see the nice guy not finish last (well 2nd 3rd or whatever, but you get my point), but to see him aloft the top step.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Yellow Card

Like so many good ideas they appear simple, but it usuaully requires somebody else to do it. I stumbled along this post via the The Blue and The Red as he's moved to a new site. I really like the site as they (the Americans) bring the Punk to Road Cycling. Where Europe brings history, drama and passion. Being in the UK we tend to embody both parts and absorb all cultures while not forgetting the wealth of our own. But I digress as that is not the point of the post.

I lived in London for a long time, in many ways it feels like a lifetime. Commuting through London on a daily business I would have so loved one of these to throw at a car.


So often I used to get angry at the near misses thinking that they where trying to kill me. Near death experiences can envoke the 'Red Mist' and I have chased after cars and given them a mouth full. Age is a great mellower and you realise, it is much like the idiots who cross the road while looking at their phone, i-pod or whatever, that people get wrapped up in whatever they are doing. It's just with a car it's pretty scary at times as you can feel very vunerabal.

So living in West Sussex, is it a bunch of roses. No, but in general there is a different mood. In the week I commute much as I did in London except that the sounds of the city have been replaced on half of my journey by sounds of the countryside. The other half is urban sprawl and has many of the same issues as London, just in a micro version. Modern life can be stressful with people rushing here and there, so the same issues arise. Many drivers have no concept of how quick a cyclist can go, and if they are a quick fit person they can easierly keep pace with the traffic.

Some drivers love it, and I can remember on many occasions car drivers coming along and saying of you where doing X miles an hour. Of course you get those who think that you are the roadways version of a rat or a pigeon and so it is there job to rid you off the road.

Weekend riding around the lanes of West Sussex and Hampshire has been on the whole very respectful to cyclists. Maybe there are more drivers who consider themselves a cyclist, or is it that outdoor pursuits here are common place and for everyone?

Radical as it may seem but I think that the major cycling organizations in the UK should get these made, to spread the message that beyond the lycra there is a person, a father, mother, brother, sister or friend and that we all have to care for another. Pipe dreams maybe, but change doesn't come by doing nothing.

Fleche Wallonne _Video Hi-Lights

These are some video hi-lights of Wednesday's race. On the co-commentary is Eddy Merckx, how cool is that.

The Muur de Hoy is crazy, such a monster of a climb compared to Amstel.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Amstel Gold Pro Race

I watched a bit of this while cooking lunch, from roughly 80km to go. I was keeping up with it until around 30km to go and then we decided that we'd have some frisby and kite time. This proved to be a great time. I got a text from Belgian saying 'I told you so'. A couple of texts more and I had found out that Gilbert had won.

I like the bit at 6:43 where Ivanov goes. He looks pretty cool in his national jersey and matching bike. Gilbert, climbing out of the saddle, responds at 7:22, the chase is on. On the second clip we rejoin the race with 7km to go. Klobnev is off the front with an Elite small chasing group of Gilbert, Cunego, Schleck (F) and Ivanov.

I am so pleased for Phillipe Gilbert. So often he has been the strongest in the race but a lack of paitence has betrayed his chances of the win. Today he didn't panic and waited and finally made the decisive attack. This takes a bit of pressure in the Lotto camp.

1. Phillippe Gilbert
2. Ryder Hesjedal
3. Enrico Gasparotto

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

The Question that is always asked

I've worked in the bike industry for a long time and there is one question you are always asked, whether it comes from a colleauge, a supplier or a friend, 'have you been riding much'. The answer can change depending on your level of honesty, but I always think people never truly believe you. The pursuit of being fit is as widely sought after as hitting sales targets, making sure the customer is happy and making sure that the deadlines are met. The problem is, working in the Trade fitness can be a hard thing to keep on top of.

You'd think because you work with bicycles you'd have bags of time to ride. In reality this is never the case. Working in the shop  meant long days, in for 8:30 and leaving at 6:30 meant that by time you were home it left little time to train, as I've worked in all parts of the industry it's the same from all sides. I have employed the services of a coach, mainly to give some focus and to make sure that I'm not hanging out of my arse come time to ride a Sportive.

So my answer to the eternal cycling question 'have you been riding much', well my normal reply is 'No not enough, but is it ever enough' there are of course times when this isn't the case, but usually the person knows that answer before is given, as you actually look like you've been on the bike.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Paris Roubaix - Spartacus enters the arena

Cancellara was stunning today, truly in a class of his own. I have been thinking since the finish, which was the most impressive, de Ronde or Roubaix. The move on the Muur was stunning and showed how much power he can deliver for such long periods. It proves what many people say in that long distance Time Trailing can be a benefit to Road Racing. But thinking about it Roubaix was the more stunning of the two, and for two clear reasons. In Flanders Cancellara was protected from the wind until about 80km to go, this left him bags of energy for the final bergs, in Roubaix the Team where spent well before this period as the action looked way hotter. He basically did more work. Again Fabian had another slick bike change, maybe he'll be doing some Cyclocross in the off season. The second reason was from how far out he attacked, nearly 50km is a long way. Boonen again was left isolated much earlier on than Cancellara, Flecha and Hushovd, again this meant just like in Flanders he had to do too much work. If I was a Quick-Step DS I'd be pretty pissed off today.

Specialized, Zipp and Sram will no doubt be using the victories over the last seven days heavily in the advertizing in the next few months. For Specialized they are 3/3, which for a bike manufacturer is a great piece of kudos. Sram are adding Monument wins like olives to a pizza, this is a great testiment to the quality of the product and how it's designed. I bet they are super pleased that the bikes didn't have the brake issues of last week. Zipp may well be the most pleased of all three. The cobbled wheel project was started some years ago, at least three, maybe four. The goal was to make a wheelset that could withstand the impact that driving a wheel into a cobble at 50kmph could yeald. They proved last year with Hushovd that they could last the course, this year they where used to win (and to grab second and fourth).

So the question on my lips is 'what else can he win', Fabian has talked about winning all five monuments. Liege-Bastogne-Liege may be difficult for Cancellara as it normally favours a rider who is more of a pure climber, but I never underestimate self belief and desire. Giro di Lombardia is well within his reach, although no walk in the park, he should be able to bag it. The question is how soon will he manage it. He's only 29 so he has some time to add them to his list and become only the fourth person to do so.

Paris Roubaix and SAXO Bank

The race is on as I write this and I can't wait for the live pictures to kick in. I've spent the morning looking at pictures of the riders kit and I think the best prepared (equipment wise) Teams are Cervelo, SKY and SAXO Bank. All of these Teams have Special bikes, but the prototype SL3 Roubaix along with the new Pinarello KOBH have caught my eye.

From what I can see of the Specialized bike only Fabian Cancellara and Stuart O'Grady have one. The rest of the Team will be on a SL2 Roubaix, but these are not stock geometry, but are much closer to a Tarmac, particularly in the head tube length. The Pro bikes look smart, sensible and well balanced. The consumer is sold the dream 'ride the bike Fabian rides', but you can't as it isn't available. The good news is if that the UCI clamps down on bikes being rode in the peloton being available for sale to the general public may force Specialized (and other manufacturers) to actually make it available.

I've always wanted a 'Roubaix/Vlaanderen Style' bike, as I love the cobbles and the extra comfort that could be achieved by good bike design and a bit more tyre room would be welcome. What has put me off is that the commercial version is stacked up at the front like a chopper. I know for many this is the Holy Grail in comfort for some, for me it is a bridge too far (and for the record I'm not super flexible).

Some photos:

As you can see from Fabian's position on the bike it replicates his Tarmac shape, with maybe only a slightly longer headtube. Comfort will come from the frames added length, Zertz and the different lay-up of the carbon.

You can see Hoj aboard the Roubaix SL2 and Cancellara on the proto SL3. Interesting to note that Fabian is happy to run the Zipp 303 wheel whereas Frank is using an Ambriso/DT setup. Both riders are using the much favoured FMB tyres. These look like to be the same ones they used last year in Roubaix.

Although Breschel has been touted by some areas of the Cycling Press as being a contendor, I'd only rate him on a three star chance. His build looks better suited to Flanders than the pounding of Roubaix. But I could be wrong. Maybe Specialized think so as it's only the previous winners of Roubaix on the Team that have recieved the new bike.

So a few final tweeks and the riders where off. Good luck to all riders today.

Michael Barry, the Pro's PRO

Michael Barry is described by many as the 'Pro's PRO', and rightly so. Being part of USPS, T-Mobile, Columbia and now SKY his services are rightly in high demand. The hard work and commitment to the cause is for all to see. We know he is tough, the work he did at the Ronde van Vlaanderen last week was there for the whole world to see. If you looked up on Wiki the definition of  'Super Domestique', Barry's name should be there.

If you have never had chance to take a look at Michael's blog you should do so. He has a new book coming out with photographs by Camille J McMillan. It's been two years in the making so I reckon it'll be a pretty special book. The words of Barry and the images of Camille should provide an amazing book. I feel it'll be more a bottle of red book, rather than a coffee table one as you may want to spend a lot longer looking at it than a mug of coffee lasts (and if you don't drink, maybe two coffees).

I was first really switched on to Mike by a friend of his Dad's called Bob Zeller. Bob was a bit of a journalist in his day and has written articles for many Cycling magazines both in the UK, USA and his native Canada (google Bob Zeller, cycling and a few things come up). He can tell a great story and those that he has told me about his experiences of interviewing some of the World's Greatest Cyclists are like nectar to a bee for me. He was also very gracious and encouraging when I first started to write/blog. I was (and in many ways still am) an over enthusiastic amateur in this arena, but spending moments with him where very precious.

As well as turning me on to Mike Barry Jnr, he also switched me onto Mike Barry Snr. Although I am not into retro bikes, I do love a well executed functional bike which has been created for a purpose. Mike (Snr) had a massive part to play in setting up .randonneurs ontario. Long distance French style cycling, while not racing par se, was every bit as tough and gruelling as some of the big one day Classics or shorter Tours. Mike (Snr) was also a framebuilder of some note, building bicycles for this and many disciplines. Unfortunately I became aware as he was winding down his business and is no longer making bikes. His work thankfully can be seen online here and I think that amongst the over macho names that fill the cycling world he chose one of the most beautiful, Mariposa.

The Mariposa (in English Butterfly) captures so much about the cyclist. At first we are all none cyclists, caterpillars who feed on both information and strange bars and drinks to encourage us to grow. One day it happens and we go into a cocoon and come out transformed into a Butterfly, or the Cyclist. This experience of the coccon isn't sleep driven, but it is driven by the experience of the ride, of the journey. That is the thing that changes the person. It can be one event or many events, and unlike the Butterfly whose experience is a once in a lifetime journey, as a Cyclist it is something we are continually on.

Thanks to Mike Barry for sharing some of his life, a life well lived and well written.

A Repsonse to The Service Course - a blog you should visit

I posted this in repsonse to and Ryan's post on Friday, April 09, 2010, 10 Things About Paris-Roubaix. If you haven't read this blog take a look, it's worth a read and a good daily distraction.

My response:

I've been routing for Tyler Farrar all season. I agree with a recent interview that Robbie Mcewan gave. He said that Farrar isn't a pure sprinter, but that he can see him becoming a great Classic's rider.
I'd agree, being a pure Sprinter like Cavendish isn't really his bag. Don't get me wrong, he's quick, but he seems to be developing a passion for the Cobbles. I can see him winning de Ronde and maybe Roubaix one day.

Today I think he may bag another top 10 finish, but if it comes down to a bunch sprint he's got a good a chance as any of the top contendors. Maybe we'll have a finish like in 1981 when Hinault won the sprint, and nobody was expecting that.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Roubaix Video Teasers

Compared to last year there seems to be much more in the way of Previews of the Teams on the cobbles this year. Here are a few to get you in the mood for tomorrow. Looks like it may be hot like 2007, but I was secretly hoping that it'd be like 2001. So enjoy. Oh for the record I am going for:

1.Flecha - SKY
2. Cancellara - SAXO Bank
3. Boonen - Quick-Step

2001, what a race. Tough conditions and an inform Domo Team. George is left exposed with no Team mates.

and a little bit from the film that has started a million passions for this race.

The Cycling Year 1990

This post is inspired by a book called The Cycling Year. It chronicles the events of the 1990 cycling season. The words come courtesy of Phil Liggett, John Wilcockson and Rupert Guinness and are equally matched by the stunning photos, captured by Graham Watson and Cor Vos.

It is only when you stare long and hard at a photograph that you see the details, the little things that while not making the photo a point of interest, do at least get your mind wondering.

Whilst the smaller things are some what lost in the hazy images attached, I can at least add a few words to my favourites, which will hopefully jog memories of riders, victories and bikes...

The front cover shows Greg LeMond on the Champs-Elysees, on the verge of capturing his third tour victory. Whilst this is a historic sporting moment, there two things I can't stop thinking about.

His track mit's, have the initials R.P, on the leather palm, inked with a permanent marker pen. It always instills the same image in my mind, one where Ronan Pensec is scrambling around, pre stage, looking for the one set of gloves that haven't been soiled and made grimey from a grand tour...

Secondly are his shoes, the Brancale logo's, the bright neon branding hide a set of shoes that aren't just broken in but just plain broken. My thoughts are then transfered to the stories of LeMond getting his personal soigneur / helper Otto to put the shoes in an oven to dry them out, on a particularly wet Giro . A long day and other duties for Otto meant the shoes were left to cook slightly longer than was required, leaving the shoes whilst dry, also mildly singed and smouldering.

The next image is that of Erik Van Lanker on his way to Victory in L-B-L. This is a favourite on a few fronts. Firstly the Panasonic - Sportlife team kit is one of my favourites and its the only time neon has been put to good effect. Once again my eyes are drawn to other details within the picture. This is 1990, Edvig Van Hooydonk hasn't thought about chopping up his tights to make 3/4's and convential knee warmers have yet to catch on. Erik has medical wrap style bandages, around both knees to protect him from the cold. This is a point of interest in itself but its the safety pins which are holding the things up, that make me smile. Silicon grippers found on today's "warmers" should be appreciated if only for Erik and his safety pins.

The Avocet 30 computer on his bars. Perhaps it is this tiny detail that ages this image, the technical features extented only to that of a top speed. When compared to SRM, Power Tap the unit seems somewhat lacking. But for me cycling has never been about watts / power and every time I see an Avocet, it makes me want to dig out my old computer from the garage drawer and put it on my bike. Top speed is the figure that makes you smile, so why do you need anything else?

The final image is that of Giles Delion, a huge talent, winning the Tour of Lombardy. It is the pure joy on his face that makes this photo. Captured just as he's about to lift his arms up, in victory salute. It is that pause, pre salute that captures the finest moment of Delion's career, that makes this shot. I have no doubt, the feeling has lasted and the memory is as strong as ever for Dellion. The Suntour Superbe Pro groupo, TVT frameset, Time Equipe pedals are the things that have been cast into history. Whatever happened to TVT?

Team members

Unlike many blogs I decided not to name it after myself. The name Sprinting for Signs came from an activity that exists in any group or club ride no matter what level you ride at. The thrill of beating your peers to a marker off in the distance is for many the start of the racing bug, or just an added way to keep fit. Often I have been pipped at the post, but occasionally I have managed to get a first (but not very often).

Another reason I never wanted my site to bear my name was that someday I'd hoped to gather a few more like minded bike people who'd like to pen a few words and muse over the Cycle World at large. I always enjoy sites where there is more than one voice, but with a shared passion. So with this in mind I present a new writer on SfS, Paulo Fonzaso. I hope you enjoy his words, thoughts and passion for the world of bikes.

Cycling is very much a Team Sport and not just the riders, but all the background staff, mechanics and DS's. I'm hoping that as the Sprinting for Signs Team grows it will continue to be a source of joy and escape. Thanks for reading and get out and have a great ride.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Tour of Flanders 2010, Video coverage

Maybe only in America could you add more drama to the MOST important race in the Belgian calendar. It's nice and the footage looks very nice in black and white. When will somebody do a Road to Roubaix style pic on Flanders?

I've added this after having it brought to my attention, action on the Paterberg

Having a camera mounted roadside really shows how steep these climbs are.


At 27km, with the voice of a legend, Sean Kelly

This was the second time that Cancellara put the hammer down. Losing a reported 5kg in weight seems to have given him the edge that he required to make the difference. Can't find footage of the first time on the Molenberg.

Great footage just showing the damage been done. I like the fact you can see the massive time gaps between the riders and how the cameraman (or maybe a friend) gets excited when his favourite riders go past. Isn't it great to be a fan.

This piece of coverage shows the final 10km. The damage has been done, the red hammer has been struck. Fabian goes into TT mode, impressive stuff.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Fabian at Flanders, in his own words

The Ronde van Vlaanderen in Fabian's own words. 

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Flanders is Looming, my kit list

I was hoping to do a really cool post with lots of nice photos of the kit I will be taking. But alas work has been really busy and has left me completely knackered! So I thought I'd do a bit more of a list and pull some images off at some point, probably after the event.

Okay here is my list of clothes:
Jacket I'll take my dhb Event. It has a little more room round the mid section, no point in fooling anybody at the moment.

Shorts, well brushed shorts to be exact. I'll be taking my Craft ones as the pad is good and it's comfy for long periods.

Knee Warmers - the best ones I have for fit, warmth and mental well being are my Gore Bikewear Thermos.

They are proper PRO in length. Think Paris Nice if you need an image.

Leg Warmers - in this instance I'll take my Assos ones, enough said.

Arm Warmers - Likely to be Assos again or dhb.

Baselayer - I'll take a couple, mainly from CRAFT, but I have a secret squirrel one that I am testing if the weather conditions permitt.

Shoes - Northwave SBS. Stiff comfy and a relaible friend. As much as I love my new Lake CX401, I don't want to get the new shoes messed up on the Bergs.

Gloves - again I'll take a couple of options but I reckon it'll be the Castelli Nano that I use. I have some dhb Neoprene ones that I will take also.

Socks - both winter and 5" Cuff SockGuy Ronde van Vlaanderen specials will be packed.

Jerseys - I'll opt for a summer jersey of some description, not really decided except for that it'll need good pockets.

Gilet - I have a couple of Gore ones. In case the weather brightens up and the jacket can be stashed away, it's likely that I'll keep the core protected.

Cotton Cap - essential for shit windy weather.

Other kit:
Sportique Centuary Riding Cream - Hours of protection while in the saddle. This is my current favourite Chamois Creme.

Warming Oil. Getting old and well it helps with the old muscles and aches and pains. Either Morgan Blue or Sportique.

Elements Cream - shit this stuff is bloody amazing. It really stops you getting that wind chaffed look all over your face and legs, due to the ingredients it works it hot or cold weather. It works and if it's cheating I'm all for it.

Rudy Project Genetyk Glasses with photochromatic lenses, essential for Sportive riding in my books.

Bell Volt Helmet, oh so comfy but not the greatest for ventilation, which is no bad thing at this time of the year.

I'll be riding a Felt FC this year. That will be a change as this isn't my bike but a loaner. The bike itself is a revelation, stiff comfortable and a great direct ride. I'm looking forward to seeing how the bike copes with the cobbles.

So apologies for that lack of pictures, but I thought I'd at least give an idea of the kit I'll be using.