Sorted for E’s and Wizz

Since the previous posting concerned Eddy Merckx, it feels only right, that the story of 160km, Saturday 17th September, should appear here.

The day began pretty badly. An alarm set to UK (not French) time, so we’d lost hour already. Not what you need when you’ve decided to do a bulky ride to Italy..

Once on the bike however, things began to change pretty rapidly. Not more than 8km from the door, a rider coming in the opposite direction, wearing Belgium champions jersey.. yes, Philippe Gilbert getting in some last training before heading to the UCI World Championships in Copenhagen.

Having recovered from that, I continued to ride past Cap Ferrat and on towards Cap d’Ail. Police at every junction, and Tour de France race arrows.. I suspected something else was up! Turns out, ASO were in town for a PRO-AM (read “jolly”) race. As I waited for the ‘race’ to pass, none other than Alexandre Vinokourov rode past. He grumbled a little about his pelvis and rode off.

Gendarmes, a lead car and then a small peloton. Giving shout of encouragement, as riders look bemused to see anyone watching, the shout came back “Nice Rapha!” I hopped back on the bike and followed the course on the climb to St Laurent d’Eze. The shout came from Simon Mottram, CEO of Rapha. I’d ridden past Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault to reach him. 6 laps of Cap Ferrat, having started in Monaco, with the race finish at the top of the current climb. Gert Steegmans (QuickStep) was there too, along with other associated guests from Trek, la Vuelta, Mavic.

That’s me with Eddy Merckx. Still the most important man in cycling.

Leaving the race behind, I needed to continue on the ride to Italy. I’d a vague plan in my head, hoping to link up a few places. Past the border and heading to Latte (having sunk a caffe machiato in Menton) Simon Gerrans rode past too.

I turned left after Ventimiglia, aiming for Dolce Acqua, via a side-valley climb. Sign posted for Caixa, this one is steep, regularly over 10%. With the gradient levelled out and clearly heading for Dolce Acqua, I came across a left turn too good to miss. Not on my poorly-scaled map, but confirmed by the Garmin, this was to take me over the top and down into the adjoining valley – precisely where I wanted to be going!

Road signs are a great anticipator of what lies ahead. Some of my particular favourites were on this left turn. Read between the lines, and these signs tell you the next stretch is going to be TOUGH.

Heading north on the SS20, to avoid the feats of modern engineering (tunnels) the old road still exists and winds around with the river. Traffic free and utterly beautiful, the camera was out, then Screech! cruuunnch! The tarmac road ended abruptly as it intersected back to a gallery. With a camera in one hand, slowing was difficult. Skidding on the gravel I tried to avoid damaging myself, my bike or my camera as I came to a faster-than-planned stop.

The gravel was short-lived so I rode on. Nearing the French border again, I stopped for food before climbing to the Col de Vescavo. It was here I made the best decision of the ride.

You just can’t beat a local Italian shop as a lunch stop. A sandwich made there and then, 2 nectarine, a banana and a can of Peach Ice Tea, all for less than 4€.

Still climbing, the road heading towards Piene Haute. I knew up here was either a dead-end or an “hors-piste” sector. On seeing the signs, I couldn’t resist – Hors Piste it was. Further climbing up to Col de Brouis, I was more expecting to see mountain bikers or motocross. Not for the faint of heart, and likely to void any warranty, this gave some outstanding views, and, unsuprisingly, the KOM on Strava for this sector!

A superb and very quiet (Saturday siesta) descent to Sospel left me with Col de Castillion to climb and descend back to Menton and the coast. A short ride back along the Basse Corniche and I was back in Nice. 161km / 2700m climbing. I did actually want to make the ride harder, by climbing back to Nice via Col de Braus, Col de L’able and L’Orme, but that will wait for another day.


Il faut fermer la porte

In terms of bicycle racing, to “fermer la porte” is to shut it down. In recent bicycle racing history, its hard to pick a rider who has consistently <shut it down>. I’ll give you Fabian Cancellara as an example. Particularly in the 2010 edition of Paris-Roubaix.

While we on the subject of cobbles.. Eddy Merckx made it his life’s work to <shut it down>. He’s featured in Issue 02 of Peloton magazine. I’m amazed at this publication and here a two reason’s why. 1. Its a great magazine and its American, 2. Starting to publish a new magazine now? in 2010/11? Are you mad? Nope – make it both paper and digital. All your digital subscribers will realise that the paper version is so much better and will have to subscribe twice.

the end is just the beginning

Late in 2010 I read the English translation of Laurent Fignon’s autobiography – “We Were Young and Carefree”.  A truely monumental account of Fignon’s career and how he became the guy that lost the Tour de France by 8 seconds, rather than the guy that won it twice. Made even more piognant by the fact that I’d heard him on French TV that summer commentating and offering insight into the Tour, despite his troat cancer taking its toll on his voice. This video shows Fignon, not at his best, but at the finish. Or the beginning to something new.

back to the randonneur

Its deep inside. Long distance cycling. I have never professed it to be fun, yet I enjoy it and come back for more! Its 2011, which means only that is Paris – Brest – Paris year (or PBP). I’ve found plenty of great audax and randonneur blogs out there, and my qualifying campaign begins this Saturday with the Poor Student 200km from Oxford.

January is a time to think forward, so I’ve been looking around for items for the year and asking around for ideas and advice.

Bags – BillyKirk – Amish, but just to look at that photo makes me want to ride a bicycle and explore. Painted wooden buildings and open scenery.

I always love to see Speedvagen bicycles, particularly their ‘cross frames. So a pair of wellington boots and socks look ace! Clearly, I’m already thinking past PBP to 2011-12 ‘cross season.

Essential reading is as ever, Bicycle Quarterly and by natural progression Jan Heine’s Blog.

These are all just little inspirations for 2011. Some of which I hope to turn into realities, as well as other snippets which I’m yet to reveal

A little art never hurt

I was inspired and reminded in one fell swoop today. Mondrian has a bit of a connection with cycling, and being French, frame and pedal manufacturers Look have produced a Mondrian-Inspired frameset. Its not the first year, but this 595 is limited to 50 pieces worldwide, and captures the pure essence of Mondrian

This could certainly lead to a long post about bicycles and art, ranging from Pegoretti to SpeedVagen and many more. For some the art is in the bicycle, for others art is on the bicycle. Rarely is it combined so well as Independent Fabrications. Sure, some companies use great painters, but I’ve never know a brand so consistently produce good looking bicycles that are art, function and a base for art.

From there, pretty much anything else is possible. Find a skilled and meticulous painter, and you can customise and re-create to your hearts content. As somewhat demonstrate by this post from Spectrum Powder Works.


I’m driving back!

Thoughts and desires writing are well on their way. Fret not. More musings soon.

Fabrique Au Japon

I’ve been building wheels recently. DT Swiss RR1.1 to 7700 Dura Ace 28h (NOS). Then I also purchased a set of Dura Ace 1380 Factory Built wheels.

There is something about the simple yet complex structure of a wheel. Combine that with a selection of tyres and you have a huge  choice and maze in which to play.

Dura Ace shod with Veloflex Masters.