Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Sogni a Pedali, di Giuseppe Pancera

I've found my next bit of research and have attempted to get it ordered through an Italian university store. Giuseppe Pancera raced from 1925 to 1934 on such teams as Olympia-Pirelli, La Rafale and Dei-Pirelli. I've seen a photo of him in a Bianchi jersey as well, but that's not listed on his palmares on the same site. Other than his two Grand Tour second places (one in the Giro, one in the Tour), Pancera twice won the Coppa Bernocchi and won the 1927 Roma-Napoli-Roma, a race that has grown more interesting to me lately, knowing that the longest run was 475 kilometres! Sounds like I may need to head back and attempt my own R-N-R some day.

So, hopefully I'll be able to sit by the fire this winter and struggle through another book in a new language (yes, I sometimes consider written Italian my 'third' language!). I may add a few drops of Fernet to my espresso in homage to Pancera (rumor has it Girardengo drank it as well). Unfortunately, I'm not a fan of bitters OR liquorice, so a few drops may be all I can stomach!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Postcard from 1919

The Golden Age of Italian cycling started in 1919. Costante Girardengo won the seventh Giro d'Italia. Second was Gaetano Belloni, who won the Giro the next year, while "Gira" returned to win it in 1923. Ottavio Bottecchia was seen triumphant in two consecutive Tours de France (1924 and 1925).

(Belloni - Girardengo - Bottecchia)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

My 2012 l'Eroica

It's been a couple of weeks now, I'm stuck inside sick all weekend, so I might as well get around to this! When I last checked in, I was headed out the door in the wee hours to get to the start line in Gaiole. When the marshals steered my car into a parking lot a mile away from Gaiole, it presented a new but minor twist. I guess I've never approached town from the South before!

Anyway, I made it to the square and waited among the first eager starters. I did a quick interview for somebody with a large camera - let me know if you see something out there! And then, just ten minutes til five, my front tire went soft! In a panic, I found a pump, filled it and headed off, a little preoccupied by the low air in my tire, but that thought quickly left me on the road towards Brolio.

The first part of the ride went by quickly and I found Dave on the road. Dave is an old friend from Cannondale, one of the few with more time in than I. He had come over with his wife and was riding a Cannondale from the first year of production. He was waiting on one of the guys in his group and, understanding my time crunch (rather, knowing that I was soon going to die on my three-speed horse that afternoon), he let me bomb the downhills and gravel sections, as he was taking a steadier pace.

Right about then, I began fielding questions from a group of Americans interested in 'that guy on the old bike'. After some demonstrations of the shifting, we made the connection. It was Todd Gogulski of NBC Sports. We had exchanged emails earlier in the race season and he was stunned to finally meet me in this manner! They gave me big props on the bike and I lost them when I slowed, realising there were two tacks in my front tire! This was just past Siena and then it became obvious... there were tons of guys pulled over changing flats. Someone had thrown tacks on the roads of Siena!

Somehow, my tire didn't lose any air until after the first big climb fifty km later! I had just finished eating and drinking (some wine) at the Montalcino rest stop when my tire went totally flat. A five minute change from my large cross tubular to my reinforced Roubaix road tubular and I was back on the road... this time with a dirty, half-inflated, knobby tire around my neck. I heard a yell from Todd, who arrived after his groups dealt with their flats.

The next section was a bit of a blur, but I believe it was on the seventh sector that I was passed by a line of a dozen or more vintage cars... finally! I hadn't seen any of this in previous years, and am not even sure this was connected with l'Eroica. Most likely a great coincidence that this Sunday group outing hit that segment of road just as we did! I took these three with my phone, from the saddle, on gravel!

As the miles sped by, I knew I was close to my time from '10 without really checking and doing the math that usually fills my mind on rides like this. At this point, you start to worry about the closing times of the control stations, but I wasn't going to worry too much about it this time... or was I just getting tired?

The run in to the Asciano rest stop is just the beginning of the torture. Having done this thing twice already, I knew it was coming but blocked the memory of the pain. It still hit me... hard. Either my lack of gearing, the weight of this old anchor of a bike, my lack of any real form evidenced by my rather chubby white legs or just being plumb wasted - probably a combination of all of the above - did me in. Not too terribly, just enough that I ended up walking the same hills I (and most others) usually do. That's why those calculations don't matter... you usually don't factor your average walking speed, and it's tough to guess how long it'll take you to push your sled over that next hill... which turns out to not be the last.

This guy is always at Asciano offering up fresh eggs laid by vintage birds! It's a welcome sight, but the climb right out of Asciano isn't. It's just the first in a very long, tough series of hills that you have to trudge up (not unlike they actually did in the 30's).

Then came death. As usual, at Castelnuovo Berardengo. The name alone makes me tired, as it's now three years in a row that I've suffered the cruelest of bonks at this rest stop. Luckily, trusty Michele and Francesca found me just before the stop, and loaded me up with Fanta and Coke. While Michele trued my front wheel and made a couple other adjustments to the bike... I passed out. He woke me up twenty minutes later, pushing me to get going. I fell asleep at a horrible angle on the stone tiles, too tired to unload my pockets and with a banana in hand, resting on my chest! Another new friend, Fabio snapped this just before I woke back up!

Like Lazarus, I jumped back on and bombed the downhill and flew over the remaining sectors of ghiaia (a great Italian term for the dusty gravel). Michele and Francesca followed me after Radda to lend me their car's headlights (mine once again died for the dusk arrival). They were once again surprised that I rode so well after being so dead earlier, but I passed rider after rider in the dark final kilometers heading back to Gaiole. The finish line was far busier than last year, meaning I had regained my 'normal' time on a bike twenty years older than last year's! Fourteen and a half hours total, twelve twenty in the saddle! 

But that wasn't all. I had a secret in my pocket! On the photo podium, I reached into my front jersey pocket, grabbed my comb and spruced up for my photo, a la Hugo Koblet! It earned an extra cheer from the fans still waiting for their arrival, or those already drunk on the festivities!

Final thought before posting the my tips and mistakes to avoid...? It remains the greatest day you can spend on a bike. And next year, I'll go back yet another decade to the 20's!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

l'Eroica 2012: And We're Off (Almost)

It's been a great trip so far, and it's now 3:00 am and time to start eating as much as I can, as fast as I can. In two hours, I'll be in the square in Gaiole ready to depart on what should hopefully be a fourteen  or fifteen hour ride through Tuscany's strade bianche with a few thousand friends.

The legs should be ready. Joao from InGamba Tours has been my host for the past few days (thanks!) and has a great staff. I was able to score a massage yesterday afternoon and stay off my feet for a bit.

The clothes are also ready! Yesterday I picked up two custom wool jerseys, including the Cicli Masini jersey from Mauro at Tre Emme. I'll be wearing the Airolg jersey I designed a bit ago to match my bike.

The bike is ready, finally. I guess 75 years can take their toll on the technological side of things. I spent the last five days not so much dialing it in but rather fixing 75 year old problems. Example:  last night at the worst possible moment, I learned that the knocking in my front wheel was due to an axle that had been stripped... on both sides! Luckily, I have some amazing friends who can improvise with anything. Michele and I spent two hours unbuilding and rebuilding the hub until dusk. I know, it doesn't take that long to change an axle in a hub, unless said hub was built in an era that took a different view on serviceability. From there, I frantically shoveled in dinner and raced to bed.

And I'm off!

These old legs, that old bike!

Decent views...

Bottom row, right!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

My 1930's Airolg for l'Eroica is done!

Enzo just sent photos of my Airolg. I'll be picking it up later today and testing it out on some long rides next week before heading to Gaiole. My main goal should be learning how to shift the Vittoria-Margherita, as I have yet to do so!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Possibly the nicest Galmozzi project I've seen

I'm an idiot. I know. I don't check my FaceBook messages that often. Sorry - I get over 200 emails a day at work and don't make time for all those other socials that people use to reach out to me. Case in point: Fabi sent me a message looking for info on this bike. It's a Lazzaretti, made by Galmozzi. It is in good shape other than a bit of light rust and some over sprayed paint. It also it the only rooster bike with the curved cambio corsa dropouts that I've seen.

I went months before opening and looking at the photos. Who knows - I would've probably tried to convince him to sell it to me! I wouldn't even repaint it... honest!

Yes, please.

I've not seen a Galmozzi with this dropout before!

Have NEVER seen this before, either!

Why do we see classic bikes with evidence of spray paint in Italy?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

l'Eroica is coming... my bike is coming along nicely

Enzo is busy building up the Airolg. I can't wait to test it out. It will be a crash course in shifting the Vittoria Margherita. Anyone have any tips?!?

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Cicli Masini Wool Jersey, Maybe?

So now that I have the template done, maybe it's time I get a matching jersey for the Cicli Masini made.

My Airolg Jersey for L'Eroica?


Saturday, September 1, 2012

My 1930's Airolg for l'Eroica

This is NOT ideal preparation for l'Eroica's long course. I would normally be doing lots of long rides on the actual bike to shake everything out. BUT, as it's taken almost a year to get the parts chromed (really), decals applied, wood rims stained and decals applied, the various pieces are finally starting to arrive to one singular location (Enzo's). In a somewhat perplexing series of events, I've sent a wheelbag stuffed with parts to Eurobike, had the chromed parts sent to Enzo, and months ago drove the frame to Enzo's as well. By Monday, everything should be all there and ready to build, piece by piece!

With the exception of the seat tube Modello Extra decal (seventy-year old decals don't like to apply straight or in one piece), the frame looks great. Enzo has a friend who will outline the lugs in gold and clear coat everything. This really should be spectacular. I hope I can get the seatpost up high enough and that it rides nicely and stays together well.

I plan to arrive to Enzo's the weekend before the festivities begin in Gaiole. I'll help him put the finishing touches on, glue the chosen tires, and begin a week's worth of what I refer to as 'cramming.' I plan to head out on extremely long days, having built up my endurance in September. I'd like to follow in Bartali's steps, retracing some of his training rides during the war in which he smuggled Jewish passports. At some point, I'll arrive in Gaiole, where Joao of InGamba Tours has offered me refuge with his classy tour group! At least, that's the plan for now... and if this bike proves anything, it's that plans rarely play out that smoothly!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Togliatti, Bartali and the 1948 Tour

The story of the 1948 Tour is well known; how Gino fought back from a huge deficit to take three stages in a row and win the overall ten years after his first Tour win, and how that victory eased the tense political atmosphere in Italy after the shooting of Communist leader Palmiro Togliatti. But what I'm truly in awe of is the character of Gino as retold in Road to Valor, upon seeing the Italian journalists were leaving the Tour and heading back home. Not yet aware of the situation in Italy, and over twenty minutes down on the GC, Gino jumped up from his table and shouted...

"Go! Go home! I know what you're thinking: I'm old. You came here and tired yourselves out for nothing. There's no point in following Bartali's race, that poor old man, eh? But I'm warning you: a stopwatch won't be big enough to record the amount of time by which I'll beat the others. And don't come back to interview me when I have the yellow jersey!"

A stopwatch wasn't big enough to measure his winning margin. And you certainly can't measure the impact his win had in an Italy that was thrown into panic, with mobs taking over factories and local governments and political groups literally heading for the hills, ready to start a revolution.

I realize it's a different age, but what destroyed that bravado in our sport? Is it that respecting your rivals now means you have to bury your confidence? Does our media coverage and online peering into every word and detail around a race bury any spontaneity? Do race radios effectively control our racing to the point that the winner is almost predetermined by power numbers? Has cycling emerged from those postwar days when it was the poor guy looking to escape his situation that caused him to drop his shovel and get on a bike because he might find that labor easier to feed his family?

Whatever it is, more people need to know Gino's story and cycling's rich past.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Slowly But Surely... New Wooden Rim Wheels for l'Eroica!

It was almost a year and a half ago that I picked up my unfinished wooden rims for my Airolg from Cerchio Ghisallo. If you read that previous post, you'd see that I was a little unsure if I could finish the Airolg in time for last year's l'Eroica (I couldn't!). But finally, my components are back from the 'Chrome Guy' and the frame has been decaled by Enzo and all pieces are being shipped to me soon.

In the meantime, I spent a long, hot, humid weekend staining the rims, followed by carefully applying the water transfer logos. This was a highly delicate operation that Antonio did not guarantee success for, as the old D.A.M. (d'Alessandro di Milano) transfers were on dry, seventy-year-old paper! But, with patience and a steady-ish hand, I was able to get them down. OK, so one went on a little crooked, but that's the way things were done in an artisan bicycle industry. I surely wasn't going to waste one of the two remaining D.A.M. logos - you never know when I'll need them again!

After some dry time, I put down two final coats of urethane and allowed them to fully dry in my damp garage. I just put down some black paint on the logos of my Continental 'cross tubulars and slipped them over the now-finished rims to have a look. I'm hoping they'll fit in the frame, as this is a drop-dead look for my 'new' old bike!

l'Eroica, here we come, and we can't wait! And with the short training rides I'm doing on new bikes, I may point towards a SIXTEEN hour day on the bike this year!

Gino Bartali's Road to Valor

Travel has afforded me plenty of reading time this year, allowing me to recently breeze through some great titles like Fignon: We Were Young and Carefree; Sex, Lies and Handlebar Tape; Team 7-Eleven; and Slaying the Badger. But none were as rewarding as Aili and Andres McConnon's much-anticipated Road to Valor.

I've been a Bartaliano (as Bartali fans called themselves in the "war" between themselves and Coppi supporters) since I started this journey into cycling's history. Little by little, la Gazzetta or Bicisport would reveal his efforts in the underground Jewish aid movement, smuggling falsified documents via long training rides to Italian Jews in hiding. In the past couple of years, even more has been uncovered to a much broader audience, culminating in this book, the first big push to an english-speaking public more and more interested in cycling's past (Rouleur or Rapha, anyone?).

The mystery behind the tales are even more compelling since the gruff Tuscan, who had his greatest sporting years robbed by the war, refused to profit by the telling of incredible tales of bravery and intrigue. It was only well after his death in 2000 that it was revealed how he had hidden a family of friends in his cellar during the darkest days of Nazi occupation. When asked about his actions by his son Andrea, Bartali replied that "One does these things and then that's that."

After the death in 2000 of one of the central figures in the movement, Giorgio Nissim, diary entries were discovered by his surviving sons which revealed the extent of Bartali's involvement. This spurred an intense research into his wartime actions and began to uncover an incredible truth about a man whose fame on the bike was to be eclipsed by his heroics during the war.

That's not to say that Bartali was without flaw, either. He was reported to be difficult at times, a pessimist, gruff, often a braggart, and even prone to drink a little more than a religious man should at the time. His most famous quote is "Everything's wrong, we'll have to start all over again." An odd view of the man who became known as "Gino the Pious." But to me, the post-war silence of a man who saved so many by risking his own life speaks volumes in a time when Olympic champions make more press about their podium celebrations than their performances.

Promo video for the book Road to Valor

npr interview with the authors

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Peter Sagan: Questo e' un corridore!

I don't do this often, but it seemed appropriate. I'm bumping this post from it's original March 10, 2010 date...

"Now THAT'S a bike racer!" It's not a phrase uttered lightly in Italian racing circles, but in this case, it's 100% true.

Peter Sagan won his first pro race today! After taking 5th in the TT and second by a hair yesterday, the 20-year-old finally struck gold. Reacting to a late move, Sagan joined up in a six man break that included Alberto Contador and Jens Voigt. He then outsprinted the remaining two riders to take an emphatic win, the green jersey for Best Young Rider, and second place overall!

Why am I so big on Sagan? He's one of the quietest guys you could ever meet, and also very polite. When I recently visited the team at a Tuscan training camp, I was greeted by the typical ball-breaking that Italians are so good at. Sagan was the only one to rise from the lunch table and come around to shake my hand with a big smile. I'm always telling him that when he's ready to return to the dirt, we'll have a spot, a bike, and everything else ready for him. Remember, he raced for us on CFR last year and did fairly well, even when saddled with poor starting positions.

At the Tour Down Under, the day before joining in that famous "Lance Break," Peter was getting stitched up by the race doctor after a pretty serious crash. In his rusty, quiet english... "Doctor. Tomorrow. Race!"

And one final reason... the guy is hard on equipment! He puts a bike through its paces like few others.

There's a couple of other phrases you hear around Italian teams:

Tuo corridore - used in a similar manner as when the dog has an accident inside, your wife may specifically refer to 'your dog'. This is reserved for those racers who tend to be a pain in the butt on occasion.

Mio corridore - to be used proudly as I do when referring to someone like Francesco Chicchi... "MY racer".

As it relates to Peter Sagan, 'questo e' mio corridore'!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Happy Birthday to the Greatest American Cyclist

I've been on a book tear lately, quickly consuming titles like Sweat of the Gods and Laurent Fignon: We Were Young and Carefree. Today, I received my copy of Slaying the Badger and can't wait to start reading again. You see, Greg Lemond was my Lance Armstrong. I'm not going to get into the Greg vs. Lance debate, even though I have some opinions. There are message boards seemingly dedicated to the subject.

The first two books went into good detail as to what Greg's miracle Tour win in 1989 represented. It was a real turning point in cycling. Old school versus new school. A shift in technology. Television versus radio and print.

Greg brought the latest wave of big money to the sport (when you consider that in their day, riders like Girardengo, Binda and the Pelissier brothers were making what would be considered outrageous sums).

The list of technical innovations that he pioneered or was an early-adopter is impressive. TT-specific bars, Oakley glasses, clipless pedals, power meters, electronic shifting, titanium and carbon frames and on and on.

His comeback from the shooting accident was inspiring and unlikely. How many Tours could he have won without the accident? He may not have that record, but his career accomplishments leave me with no doubt...

He raced to win, from February to October. When was the last time a Tour winner lined up as a favorite in Paris-Roubaix and Milan-San Remo? The eight seconds are testament to his determination to win the Tour, and even that has its controversy. Those clip-on bars were not entirely legal at that point, and why Cyrille Guimard didn't protest is beyond me.

Most impressive is that he did all this as an outsider in an old-world sport. His triumphs were an unwelcome revelation to cycling's old guard. In his early days in Europe, there was no support group and few Americans to lean on. When everyone tells you that you can't... who can you turn to? His methods and creature comforts were laughed at. Scandalous were the reports from Europe that a cyclist would eat ice cream or Mexican food! Golfing? Spending time with your family? Perhaps the world was primed for a change. His respect for the sport and willingness to fit in on his own terms eventually won the hearts of European fans.

His strong anti-doping stance at a time when mules became thoroughbreds eventually spelled the end of his career. He was left wondering why he couldn't keep up and searched for explanations, overtraining in a hopeless race to form.

To me, he was the first and the greatest. Happy Birthday, Greg Lemond. Thank you for opening my eyes to this sport and leading me down this long road.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

La Mitica!

Partly organized by a friend of mine in what is the holy land of Italian cycling, La Mitica will soon be on the mind of every vintage rider the same as l'Eroica is today. The event will take place July 1 and departs from Castellania, Fausto Coppi's birthplace. From there, it will enter Novi Ligure before circling Tortona and returning via the hills and roads that were used by Fausto and Serse Coppi and the first campionissimo, Costante Girardengo!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Words of Wisdom from Cino Cinelli

I'd like to think that this not only applies to racing...

"Sport teaches, above all else, internal honesty with oneself. While racing, there is just one rule: if you promise to help a teammate, you must help him; if you promise to lead out a sprint, you must lead it out; if you promise to give a hand on a climb, you must do so. You can't be clever. Even if you find out that it's truly your day, that you don't feel the chain, that you're going like a motorcycle. Give. Give without pretending. To give is never a mistake. Give so that something or someone will give back. And if you give, you'll sleep well at night."

Thursday, May 3, 2012

My l'Eroica Bike For 2012 Has Paint!

It's been almost a year now, but my 1930's Airolg that I HOPE to ride in Tuscany this year finally has some color, albeit black and white. Ciöcc ran into a snag with the 70-year-old decals, so it had to go to an expert... Enzo!

The plan is for him to decal it, pick up the parts from the chrome guy, and ship back to me to build the wood rims into wheels and then assemble the Vittoria Margherita shifter in time to work out the kinks and put a few LONG rides on it for reliability testing prior to l'Eroica!



A king's crown.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Pro Cycling Starts to Look Better and Better

So after just one week of perusing the USA Today, which I really only do while traveling abroad, I see headlines about Meta World Cheap Shot, NFL suicides after years of on-the-job injuries being ignored, and today even police-escorted Cannonball Runs to Atlantic City. Don't get me wrong, cycling has its elephant in the room, yet I'm inclined and hopeful to say that the sport is cleaning itself up.

I'll still remember when my no-longer creamsickle Bucs won the Super Bowl after years of suffering. It was a sporting moment that I'll never forget. 

But I also won't forget the anticipation I had standing on a billboard in Liege watching Nibali gain 42 seconds on the chasing bunch. It was 2007 when Cannondale last won LBL (by Di Luca, who ended up with his own sanction later on) and I could think of no better outcome than Niblet's winning the only classic that I showed my face at this year. He represents the future of Italian cycling like no other in recent times. The heartbreak when he was caught and passed with just over a km to go was unbearable. The tears in the eyes of usually-macho Italian team staffers said it all after the race.

We all have our sporting heroes, I'm just lucky enough to work with mine and support their endeavors. I just finished reading Team 7-Eleven on this trip, and seemingly found myself surrounded by the characters that made US cycling history and set me off on this journey. First, I bump into Ron Keifel at Sea Otter, followed by an encounter with Jim Ochowicz at the team presentation in Liege. I had to thank both of them for their pioneering efforts. Following that, I had a quick conversation with Steve Bauer and for some reason am drawn to a small restaurant near Bergamo to relive those post-Giro celebrations of the first US team to inspire my Italian-centric love of racing.

This week, I may have the chance to meet my first cycling hero. Those following closely on Twitter know who he is. I'll be sure to report back. It is not the equivalent of meeting Lee Roy Selmon. No, it goes far beyond that. For all the Bassos, Nibalis, Sagans and Kings that I am lucky to call friends, it's the cycling superstars of my youth that leave me starstruck. Back when we didn't know what our heroes ate for breakfast or what time they got a massage... or when their convoy made it to Atlantic City?!? Yeah, pro cycling is looking better and better every day!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Sea Otter to Liege-Bastogne-Liege!

Having just flown from San Fran to Brussels, it's time to look back as to why my legs are a little sore still. I wrapped up my single day at Sea Otter (I know, great scheduling) with a ride on the 17-mile course with none other than Tinker Juarez. "Tinker, it took about twenty years for us to ride together, and now it's getting to be a regular occurrence." We had just ridden off road in Italy together at the CFR team camp, and now we were time trialling along the California coast with Billy R.

I say time trialling because for some reason, with a constant headwind, we were pushing the pace for absolutely no apparent reason other than to get back to the hotel and to other tasks at hand. At one point Bill asked if we had even taken the time to notice the scenery around us at Pebble Beach... we hadn't!

From there, it was off to San Fran and my 4:00 am wakeup call to get on another plane headed to Belgium. Planes, trains and automobiles took me to my current location... the famous Hove Malpertuus in Riemst just outside of Maastricht. This is Liquigas' preferred hotel just before Liege-Bastogne-Liege and where many champions stay just before winning the big one... fingers crossed - I'm off to the race!