Monday, October 30, 2006

Hubris and pain in Coromandel

For the 363 days before last Thursday, it was my firm intention to ride my Cecil Walker in this year's edition of the K1. The previous weekend, I had even spent a few hours repairing some Eroica-induced wear & tear, and fitting a pair of fast wheels with Conti GP4000s.
Cecil is a solid, comfortable bike, and the 50/47/32 x 13-26 gearing would get me up hills easily, with plenty of close ratios for the flat sections.

Nothwithstanding the obvious commonsense of this plan, on Thursday evening I convinced myself that I could, indeed should, ride my Gillott.
Surely the hills of Coromandel could be ridden on a 41 x 24 gear?
Had I not recently ridden 135km Eroica, ride with as much elevation gain as K2?
And did I not ride up a steep and relentless 8km climb in my 47 x 26 a couple of days before?
It's just a fun ride, right?

What a dick.

The day started well enough, leaving Auckland early with Chris Money and Yaughan Yarwood. Driving over Kopu-Hikuai, we passed the first K4 riders, and arrived in Tairua in time for a second breakfast.
From the start, Vaughan and I made good time up Pumpkin Hill, and got ourselves into a functional bunch along the flats to Whitianga, but eventually got separated as I chased a split in the group and Vaughan, wisely, opted to stay where he was.
On the Kuaotunu climb I stopped to fill one of my bottles with water, in anticipation of the heat on climbs to follow, losing the shelter of the group which continued onwards.
As the course turned inland from Kuaotunu, we were riding into the wind over a series of three shortish but steep climbs. A few other riders were getting off to walk, but I still felt OK, passing riders on each climb. On the descent from the third climb I decided not to chase a group that rolled past me, then, as the road flattened out, realised that my overgeared climbing efforts had smashed my legs.
I spent a few k's trying to recover, noodling into the breeze in the 21, but at the bottom of the 380m Whangapoua climb decided that a rest was in order.
I sat by the road for a few minutes until Yarwood's arrival galvanised me into action.
Back on my bike, I figured that if I kept Vaughan in sight, I would certainly out-descend him into Coromandel. My legs had no confidence in the plan, and stopped turning a couple of minutes later. After a couple more attempts I decided that the agony would be less if walked.
Money passed me as I was strolling, and Darren Strahan stopped the Calibre Cycles van for a chat, so my ignominy could not be hidden.
At the '500m to Go' sign, I remounted. My legs were still mutinous, butI flogged them to the top like a third world despot . On the descent I attempted to emulate Sean Kelly in the 1992 Milan-San Remo , but as the road flattened my legs continued to rebel and I coasted to the finish, as the riders I had passed on the descent streamed past.

It's just a fun ride, right?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Velo Rendezvous 6, Day 2

Velo Rendezvous Frame Symposium is a grand name for a small but passionate Show & Tell session, held in a public park in Pasadena.
In past years the symposium was fronted by Brian Baylis and had a strong technical emphasis, but this year's front man Peter Johnson ran a looser ship, so that almost every bike in the park, from Chuck Schmidt's Peter Johnson or this Graftek, through to my battered Cecil Walker got it's 15minutes of fame.

John Waner's photos on the Wool Jersey Gallery tell the story beter than I can.

Velo Rendezvous 6, Day 1

On Thursday I flew from Milan to LA, via Amsterdam, again subjecting myself to KLM's dodgy food and cramped seating.

The next day, I submitted to another kind of punishment, joining Sean Smith, Davis Jensen and Randy Duggan for a ride up the Angeles Crest Highway.
In the course of an 85km ride, we climbed more than 2000m, the first 1500m in single unrelenting ascent.
We stopped at the Hidden Springs cafe for lunch, where the proprietor entertained us, and an assemblage of good ol' boys, with tales of his poker playing prowess.
The route sheet called for a detour up Mt Wilson, but none of us could muster the enthusiasm for another 2000 feet of climbing, though I suspect Sean would have been up for it despite the 42 x 18 low gear on his Specialized Allez.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Ketchup & Mustard in Lugano

Today I'm at the office of Ritchey International, in Lugano, Switzerland, lurking and catching up with emails and the blog.
I have been staying in Saronno in a small B & B owned by Sally & Lucio, parents of Riccardo Deliziosi from Ritchey, and he has brought me over to Switzerland for the day.

Today is meant to be the last day of good weather, and it is certainly warm, but it's also raining pretty hard.
This didn't stop us from taking a lap of Lake Lugano at lunchtime, Ricki on his titanium & carbon Ritchey Breakaway, and me on 'Ketchup & Mustard' a red & yellow bike that Tom Ritchey
brought to Europe in the eighties and left here to ride. It is now a well used bike-biz loaner.
For a lunchride, we covered some extra psychic distance- across the border into Italy, then back into Switzerland a fews k's later.

A long day with Trenitalia

Up with the birds this morning, for the 30km, mostly downhill ride from Radda to Poggibonsi, from whence I caught the train to Milan, via Pisa.
This is by no means the direct route, but the only one where I was able to take my bike on the train.
In total, I spent about 6 hours on trains, arriving in Milan mid-afternoon.

Once there, I allowed myself a side trip to the Vigorelli Velodrome, which was looking unloved; and to Masi's shop outside, where Alberto Masi was schmoozing with a couple of cronies.
I'm sure Alberto has a practised eye for penniless tyre kickers, because no one made any effort to fit me up with a new carbon fibre Masi while I was there.

L'Eroica Ride Report

This blog is a work in progress.
I'll add some more detail, and hopefully some photos, when I get home to Enzed.

Not one of my more organised days, what with getting to the van at 6:00 am and realising that I did not have my helmet. One of the guys from Blufreccia found it in the keeping of the hotel (I guess I had left it outside the previous day), and we headed down to Gaiole for the start.

The 135 & 200km rides start 'alla Francaise' as they say here, meaning that you start whenever you like between 5:30 and 7am. Lights are required to start before 6:30, so Courtney and I decide to start around 7am.
Before the start, bikes are checked, not for roadworthyness, but to sort out the ordinary, ie modern, from the 'heroic'. To be technically heroic requires toeclip pedals, exposed brake cables and frizione downtube or bar end shifters.
Each rider gets a carnet de passage, a route sheet which must be stamped at each checkpoint.

The first few kilometers are in the half dark, downhill on smooth tarmac, but the first turn brings a climb, followed by the first strada biancha. None of this is too taxing, and I feel we're making good progress. Matt & Aaron, brothers from San Francisco in the Blufreccia group, catch us, and we ride together until Courtney drops his bottle.

The first feed zone is at about 60kms. An official stands in the road exhorting riders to get their carnet de passage stamped, while a group of women in traditional Tuscan dress serve food, and brew coffee and cook bean soup over open fires.
In the next 30kms, the climbs seem to get longer and steeper, and the gravel gets deeper- I have a couple of heart-in-mouth moments on the descents, and have to give myself a talking to. Both Courtney and I puncture on one gravel section.

The second feedzone at Asciano comes after 91kms, and to this point we are averaging 20kph. We snarf down some traditional Tuscan bean soup and crostata di frutta, but eschew the red wine.
Straight out of the feed zone, the road climbs steeply, soon turning to gravel.
This section is the hardest, and the hottest, of the day, and I stop in the shade to take off my undershirt. Cecil's 32 x 26 low gear is a boon here, allowing me to clean all the climbs, while Courtney has to walk one steep pitch.
At the end of this section of strada biancha, I am well and truly cooked, and not looking forward to the last 40kms, but a third, unanticipated feed zone appears at 105kms, and I take the time to sit down in the shade and cool myself down. When we finally leave, the temperature seems to have dropped a bit, and we roll through the last 32kms, including two more sections of strada biancha relatively easily.
The last few kms are an easy climb back to Gaiole on smooth sealed road.
The scene at the finish is a jarring contrast to the bucolic calm of the ride- the finishing chute is crammed with wives and girlfriends, and a the a brass band plays in the town square. I get my carnet de passage stamped for the last time, and head for the showers.

An "I'm not worthy" moment

Valeriano Falsini.  Photo: Bob Freitas
The old gent that I met on Saturday morning is Valeriano Falsini, who was a team mate of Coppi's in 1951 & 1952. He is 78 years old.
Every January, he leads a ride to Coppi's birthplace at Castellania on the anniversary of Coppi's death.

On Saturday afternoon when we arrived at the Eroica registration/swapmeet/bike display, he was just inside the doorway of the hall, with his bike, photos from his racing days, and a book of his racing reminiscences.

Valeriano Falsini was not the only famous local boy in evidence.
A large display commemorated the achievements of sprinter Ferdinando Teruzzi, who won the Tandem Sprint at the 1948 Olympic Games.

The display and swapmeet spilled out of the hall into the yard outside, but the capacity of my saddlebag limited my acquisitions to a pair of souvenir wool shorts.
For those with greater load carrying capacity, there was no shortage of garb, racing memorabilia and high grade junque.

MORE PHOTOS at my Wool Jersey Gallery album.