27 January 2012

Recommended Reading: Tour de France History

A wonderful read about one the the most significant stories of rider perseverance in the history of the Tour de France. This well-written story of Eugene Christophe and his broken fork on the Col du Tourmalet during the 11th Tour de France in 1913 delivers the real story with details you might not have read before.

The building that housed the famous forge still exists (repaired and with a new roof) and is a national historic site in Sainte-Marie-de-Campan in the Pyrenees. It is marked with a new commemorative plaque placed in 2003. 

were the bellows stoked inside this small workshop?
the new plaque on the reported site of the 2 hour fork repair
 old plaque
Location of Saint-Marie-de Campan (between the Col du Tourmalet and the Col d'Aspin)

26 January 2012

Guess Where #3

Where have we cycled to now?
Can you guess the locations of these 3 images (And because I was on vacation last week, a few extra images for you this week): click images to enlarge

Image #1
©Photo by PedalDancer.com
Image #2
©Photo by PedalDancer.com
Image #3
©Photo by PedalDancer.com

#1 - The gate to the Cirque du Litor
The Cirque du Litor shelf road connects the famous cols of Col du Soulor and Col d'Aubisque in the French Pyrenees. These two climbs are commonly featured in the Tour de France, as they will be again in 2012. The Cirque du Litor happens to be one of my favorite places to be on a bike. The views are incredible, and on each side of this passage, cyclists may relax at cafes. 

Getting to this road is worth every bit of the 8%+ climbs of the Col du Soulor and the Col d'Aubisque, or from the third option - the climb from the town of Ferrieres. I hope upon your arrival you do not find the gate down as it was when I arrived one day in June 2010. The road is closed during times of repair and during winter months (December-June). On this occasion above, the road was closed to remove gravel in preparation for the Tour de France. Don't worry I came back a few days later and rode it twice.
Now you know where this well known image, often shown in Tour de France photos, is located. This scenic tunnel below is on la Corniche du Cirque de Litor between Col du Soulor and Col d'Aubisque in the Pyrenees.
©Photo by PedalDancer.com

#2 - Piazza del Campo in Siena, Italy
The piazza is an urban open space in late Medieval style architecture dating from 1280 to 1350. The Piazza del Campo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Italy's most visited tourist attractions. Every July and August Il Palio horse race is held in the piazza, in which horses race around the brick square. The Palio is preceded by the Corteo Storico (passeggiata storica), the traditional parade of drummers and flag twirlers. Flag twirlers often delight tourists in the square throughout the year. If you are cycling in Tuscany (Toscana), make a point of visiting Siena in the heart of beautiful Tuscany, a 1'15"drive south of Florence, Italy.
©Photo by PedalDancer.com
Ivan Basso tweeted this photo of himself cycling in Tuscany on January 17, 2012

#3 - The Chapel on Alpe d'Huez
Any cyclist who has climbed Alpe d'Huez knows that the site of this chapel means you are nearing the top of the climb. It is a landmark well remembered. The name of the picturesque chapel is Church of Sainte Anne and is located in Huez Village at 1450m. The church still offers services on the first Saturday of every month at 4.45pm. There will be a Saint Anne's Feast Day on Satruday 28 and Sunday 29 July 2012. The festival is organized by Huizats (the inhabitants of Huez, I just learned that term) to honor the patron Saint of Huez (their historical village on the slope of Alpe d'Huez). The festival includes painting stained glass, trout fishing, a meal in the countryside, a ball, a traditional costume parade, a boot fair, and a mass.

Usually cyclists ride right by this small chapel and town, en route to conquer l' Alpe d'Huez's famously sign-posted 21 hairpin turns. I believe the chapel is at corner #7 (leaving six more corners to go to the top). Signpost #21 is at the bottom, when you see signpost #1, start celebrating - you have climbed Alpe d'Huez! This cyclist will give you a play by play of every turn on the climb. To learn more about the signs on Alpe d'Huez, which list every past stage winner, on Alpe d'Huez, in the Tour de France, read an earlier Pedal Dancer post: "21 levels of hell", or 21 steps to heaven. Discover whose name is on which sign.
Andy Hampsten's name is on Sign #5 ©Photo by PedalDancer.com

Recommended Viewing: Boulder Culture

Poking fun at the cyclist's culture
A friend recently sent me this video, that was promoted to the world on January 22nd, I watched it and immediately thought, where can I sign up to become a "runner," or a "swimmer" or just about any other title given to an athlete, for I realized I spent the last decade either saying or listening to the entire content of this video. Oh the life of a "cyclist."
This video was made in Boulder, Colorado. Boulder has a distinct fit in culture expected of their cyclists. Our local news site 303Cycling.com recently reported that Boulder is ranked as the #1 bicycle city in the United States. I suppose with cultural impact, often comes spirited character. Boulder is home to many students on bicycles, commuters on bicycles, professional cyclists in training, home of team Garmin-Baracuda, and way too many serious amateur cyclists. This is real life in Boulder, Colorado. Enjoy the laugh!

Hmm, I might want to return to being a "Skier"(video)

22 January 2012

I've been on vacation

To Laguna Beach, California
Vacations are wonderful, and the coast of California in January is at it's most beautiful, with clear views down the coast and across to the Channel Islands, perfect temperatures, and a distinct lack of tourists, Laguna Beach is a wonderful this time of year. Not only did I go without a bike (although my brother got in his bike ride), I mostly avoided all computers, except for a few quick looks at travel plans, and some texts to family and a friend. Thus the lack of my usual posts on Pedal Dancer. 
I was grateful for the warm escape from chilly Denver, Colorado, to the sunny coast of California. I enjoyed the blooming plants, walks along the coast looking for (and seeing) dolphins, eating fish tacos, cooking meals and birthday cakes (Happy Birthday Mom), feeling the sand underfoot, having lunch in outdoor cafes, shopping, and watching the sunset with a glass of cool crisp wine. 
I simply couldnt miss even one-minute of such a lovely vacation. Although I did get a chance to watch some of the action of the Tour Down Under on Versus late in the evenings.
Images of Laguna Beach - a beautiful beach town in southern California

17 January 2012

Buy your way into riding like a Pro

Join a team of riders to ride every stage of the 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge
In a new twist of opportunities afforded cyclists to experience what it feels like to be a pro in a UCI race, cyclists may apply to be on a small team of riders planning to ride every stage, preceding the real race, at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado in August, 2012. You'll need to pay $10,500 for this experience, and apply by February 29th, 2012, and be willing to be part of the Carmichael Training Systems (CTS) marketing brigade. 
When I read this announcement for CTS USA Pro Challenge Race Experience released by the media center at USA Pro Cycling Challenge, my reaction was,"You can buy any experience these days," followed by, "Does this mean road closures affecting fans will be even earlier, and are they considering the mayhem on the mountain passes prior to the real race passing through?" "Is catering to 25 cyclists for a sum of $262,500, worth affecting every fan out on the road?" I decided to call the number listed on the announcement for more information, before I jumped to heady opinions about how the USA Pro Cycling Challenge is deciding to sell off pieces of their pie.
Leland at Carmichael Training Systems (CTS) enthusiastically took my call and answered my questions. Their plan is to select 25 riders, men and women, and their ride will likely begin 2 hours before the real racers in an attempt to beat the race to the finish line. Yes they will ride the entire stage, each day, with the final time trial course in Denver ridden at a slower group ride pace. Their expected pace for interested cyclists on the CTS team should be at least approximately 3.5 watts/kg at threshold, with the ability to ride well in a pack. The CTS team of 25 will have 5-6 coaches on the road with them, and support vehicles passing through prior to the real riders and teams cars. So clear a path for them.

It sounds like fun for the 25 participants, and I suppose the growth of VIP experiences is inevitable. It is clear this pack will need more than money, they will need to be trained, and ah-ha that is precisely what CTS really offers. Included with the CTS USA Pro Challenge Race Experience is of course access to the VIP tent in each finish city, accommodations, meals with the teams, amenities and post-race massages. If you have $10,500 and want to apply to complete the CTS USA Pro Challenge Race Experience team challenge visit www.trainright.com/upcc-2012. Application deadline is Feb. 29, 2012. There are other VIP and travels packages found at this link

Related posts by Pedal Dancer: Are VIP tickets worth it?

12 January 2012

Guess Where? #2

Where have we pedaled to now?

Happy Friday! Welcome back to Guess Where photographic series.

Can you guess the locations of these 3 images? (answers below)

©Photo by Pedal Dancer
©Photo by Pedal Dancer™/StrayySuz
©Photo by Pedal Dancer™/Kenny Rakestraw (2 days ago)


1. Creperie on Col de Peyresourde<

The creperie cafe is a well-known landmark for cyclists climbing the Col de Peyreourde in the French Pyrenees. The climb of Col de Peryresourde is 15.27km long, and averages 6.1% grade, with the steepest sections a tough 9.8%. The gradual mountain pass connects the towns of Bagnères-de-Luchon and Arreau. The Col de Peyresourde was first used in the Tour de France in 1910. In 2012 the pass will be climbed in Stage 17 before the final climb to the mountain top finish of Peyragudes.

The site of the creperie signals a cyclist has arrived at the top of the Col de Peyresourde. Sit and enjoy your triumphant climb with a few crepes. This is not the kind of place where you should order just one crepe, they will happily serve a plate full (as you can see the prices are reasonable). I can guarantee that most Tour de France riders nary glimpse this landmark during the race, as hundreds of fans crowd it's friendly patio.

The creperie is best visited on a non Tour de France day when you may sit and watch cyclists pass by and enjoy the beautiful green landscape. Inside the creperie the owners are very friendly and ask every visitor (in surprising English), "Where are you from?" In 2010 two cyclists from Colorado wandered in for a crepe, when asked where they were from, the owner replied, "a woman just left from Colorado!" That woman was me, and the two Coloradoans were Tom and Courtenay whom I met by chance 1 year later on Independence Pass at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. Small world.

2. Le Tour de France dans les Pyrénées Sculpture

The 80-foot sculpture is located along the peage tollway in the center of the Pyrenees, in the region of Midi-Pyrenees. The sculpture was created to honor the Tour de France. It was inaugurated in 1996 in cooperation with organizers of the Tour de France and highway officials. Designed by artist Jean-Bernard Métais, and made from 30 tons of steel, it is located at Les Pyrénées aire peage reststop. The sculpture displays 12 panels around the base depicting a history of the riders and Le Tour.

If you are driving along the A-64 (E80 La Pyrénéenne) peage, between exit 11 and 12, and happen to see the rest stop (aire) sign for Les Pyrenees, east of Pau/west of Tarbes (I believe you must be traveling in the eastbound direction to access this rest stop), get off the highway, drive behind the gas station, park and walk up to the sculpture. It is truly wonderful.
  • Sinnbild Autobahnausfahrt.svg  11 (Soumoulou) towns served: Soumoulou, Nousty, Lourdes via RD940.
    • Aire de pique-nique.png  Rest Area: Les Pyrénées
  • Sinnbild Autobahnausfahrt.svg  12 (Tarbes-ouest) Towns served: Tarbes, Lourdes via RN21

3. Piazza San Marco, Venice, Italy>

In 2009 the opening stage in the Giro d'Italia featured a team time trial on Lido de Venezia near Venice, Italy. The Piazza San Marco is the primary public square in Venice and has been referred to as "the drawing room of Europe. The Piazzo is commonly listed first as the most recommended tourist site in the city. Known simply as the Piazza or St Mark's Square because of the great Church of St Mark's (Basilica Cattedrale Patriarcale di San Marco, consecrated in 1094) located at one end, no motorized vehicles are allowed, simply strolling tourists.

Nearby is the famous clocktower Torre dell'Orologio. My nephew Kenny wrote home this week describing the clock, "it was built in the 15th century, and tells the hour on a 24 hour system, the phases of the moon and the motion of the sun. He mentioned "you get a view of the waters surrounding the Piazza along the Puazzetta San Marco. I sat on a bench and glanced at the passing ferry taxis." Ah Italy!

Puazzetta San Marco  ©Photo by Pedal Dancer™/Kenny Rakestraw (2 days ago)

See all the previous posts in the new Guess Where series. Until next Friday, keep dreaming of travels.

11 January 2012

Cyclo-cross - join in the fun!

If you haven't discovered cyclo-cross yet - you need to
I love this sport, and yes, love is a strong word. But cyclocross is growing and developing in ways in which there is no wrong to this sport, just enjoyment, excellent racing, and a lot of effort. Unless you are a fan of course, where effort mostly involves dressing appropriately (for weather, appropriate fashion is actually discouraged), and leaving a chunk of time to watch race after race, because you will not want to leave the fun. As frozen and cold as you might be, and struggling to juggle a beer and a camera and heckle at the top of your lungs, you'll have a blast because cyclocross is a real spectator sport.
A few weeks ago, my cycling buddies asked me if I was going to compu-trainer class at 8:00am on the following Saturday morning, aghast I replied, "No! Are you kidding me - it's States tomorrow!" Now keep in mind, I don't race, but I mark my calendar with the best cyclcross races of the season in Colorado as if I needed to peak for them myself. In fact after witnessing the fun at Cross Vegas this past September in Las Vegas, I think that cross racing might be worth journeying to just as I journey to the Grand Tours.
If you are into emotion and entertainment in sport (like our buddy Jens Voigt), then cyclocross is your destiny as a fan. Whether you spell it cyclo-cross, cyclocross or CX - just go see a race! Here is my summary as a fan: 
  • Stage Races - great fun to watch in a beautiful setting with enthusiastic fans before, during, and after the race. Even if the riders "look so much bigger on TV and fly by within 20 seconds". The travel is fun, the riders appreciative and accessible, and the history long.
  • Criteriums - okay if you enjoy watching the same 100 riders zoom by in a blur of 10 laps around city blocks, where you are lucky to pick out 2 riders per lap, and have lots of free time on the weekends. There is a reason why girlfriends and wives are scarce at Crit races, but the races are fun to attend to say hi to friends.
  • Mountain Bike races - you might as well just go ride your bike yourself.
  • Cyclo-cross races - you are absolutely discouraged to stand along the barriers with a serious face thinking that the race is only about who wins. You need a cowbell, a crazy hat, a number of beers, a loud voice, and a good sense of humor. Worth every bit of your time if you are willing to let go and have some fun. "Hup hup buttercup, you're not that old yet!"
I am in cyclo-cross withdrawals, I need to go heckle some snowboarders on the half pipe. For now, 303Cycling routed me to this video by CyclingDirt (including grand gestures) recapping the USA Cyclo-cross National Championships which took place this past weekend in Madison, WI. I can't help but wish that the Gregory Brothers would songify this guy in the video. CyclingDirt could take a cyclo-cross video viral. View full race results if you wish.

I had a great time this past Sunday watching (when I wasn't talking) the race at a party organized by my favorite local CX racing team Frites en Mayo Velo Club. They gathered folks together at their new sponsor Wynkoop Brewery's downtown Denver location to watch the championship race in Wisconsin streaming live on the big screen. What a great way to get cyclists together who normally only see each other out racing in the mud and cold. 
Video recap of Elite Mens race by In The Crosshairs
Worlds is still to come. The UCI World Championship Cyclo-Cross 2012 will be held in Koksijde, Belgium, on the 28th and 29th of January. I hope the Frites en Mayo Velo Club team throws another party.
January 8th was a big day for cyclo-cross racing around the world - other National Champions of cyclo-cross were crowned over the weekend and now a number of these great athletes will meet up at Worlds! Who are the new national champions of cyclo-cross? (read more at the UCI cyclo-cross home page)
USA: Jeremy POWERS (age 29)
Austria: Daniel GEISMAYR (age 23) 
Canada:  Chris SHEPPARD (age 39) 
Croatia: Jasmin BECIROVIC (age 20) 
Belgium: Sven NYS (age 36) 
Czech Republic: Zdenek STYBAR (age 27) 
Denmark: Kenneth HANSEN (age 21) 
Finland: Sami TIAINEN (age 23) 
France: Aurelien DUVAL (age 24) 
Germany: Christoph PFINGSTEN (age 25) 
Great Britain: Ian FIELD (age 26) 
Hungary: Szilard BURUCZKI (age 33) 
Ireland: Robin SEYMOUR (age 41) 
Italy: Elia SILVESTRI (age 22) 
Japan: Yu TAKENOUCHI (age 24) 
Luxembourg: Gusty BAUSCH (age 32) 
Pays-Bas: Lars BOOM (age 27) 
Poland: Mariusz GIL (age 29) 
Slovakia: Robert GAVENDA (age 24) 
Spain: Isaac SUAREZ FERNANDEZ (age 33) 
Sweeden: Magnus DARVELL (age 30) 
Switzerland: Julien TARAMARCAZ (age 25)
Jeremy Powers (website, twitter) is featured in the SRAM The Road Dairies (videos). And just because I captured a number of photos this year of our new USA Cyclo-cross Champion Jeremy Powers (who also rides for Team Jelly Belly during the road season), some 2011 photos of Jeremy Powers by PedalDancer.com:
J-Pow cyclo-cross racing images from the USGP CX Longmont, CO
©Photo by Pedal Dancer
©Photo by Pedal Dancer
©Photo by Pedal Dancer
©Photo by Pedal Dancer
©Photo by Pedal Dancer
J-Pow road racing images at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge prologue at Garden of the Gods, CO.
©Photo by Pedal Dancer
©Photo by Pedal Dancer
Update 01/12/12: Wow, once you earn the title it does not take long to get the kit - Jeremy Powers in his new National Champion Cyclo-cross kit

Update 01/13/12: The Frites en Mayo Velo Club will indeed be having another party for anyone wanting to watch Worlds streaming live from Belgium - Sunday, January 29th at 7:00am (I know - it's early!) at The Three Lions in Denver, Colorado. Read more on their blog.

10 January 2012

2012 Vuelta a España route leaked

2012 wouldn't be complete without the final Grand Tour route being leaked
Today the Spanish Newspaper MARCA reported that it had accessed the 2012 route prior to the official release, and of course they published it. As you remember the routes of the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia, USA Pro Cycling Challenge, and probably a few others were leaked prior to the official presentations.
The official presentation of the 67th Vuelta a España is planned for tomorrow, Wednesday, January 11 at 12:00 at Baluarte (Pamplona), Palacio de Congresos y Auditorio de Navarra. The 2012 tour is confirmed to begin in Pomplona on August 18th and finish in Madrid on September 9th. We'll have to wait until tomorrow for the exact route details and stage lengths and profiles. Update: the real story from CyclingNews.com on 11 Jan 2012: 2012 Vuelta route revealed.
Official website of the Vuelta a España.
This is the purported route: (The leak had 3 cities wrong. I think it looked too planned, the errors perfectly spaced, almost to promote the leak, but not to give away all the details.)
2012 Vuelta a España route
Saturday August 18, Stage 1: Pamplona - Pamplona. 15.4 km Team time trial
Sunday August 19, Stage 2: Pamplona - Viana
Monday August 20, Stage 3: Oion - Arrate (Eibar). Mountain top finish
Tuesday August 21, Stage 4: Baracaldo - Valdezcaray. Mountain top finish
Wednesday August 22, Stage 5: Logroño - Logroño
Thursday August 23, Stage 6: Zaragoza (Tarazona) - El Fuerte del Rapitán (Jaca)
Friday August 24, Stage 7: Jaca - Motorland (Alcañiz)
Saturday August 25, Stage 8: Lleida - Santuario Canolich Coll de la Gallina (Andorra
). Mountain top finish
Sunday August 26, Stage 9: Andorra - Barcelona
Monday August 27: Rest day and Transfer from Barcelona to Ponteareas
Tuesday August 28, Stage 10: Ponteareas - Sanxenxo
Wednesday August 29, Stage 11: Cambados - Pontevedra. Individual time trial
Thursday August 30, Stage 12: Vilagarcía - Mirador de Ezaro (A Coruña)
Friday August 31, Stage 12: Santiago de Compostela - Ferrol
Saturday September 1, Stage 14: Lugo Palas do Rei
- Los Ancares. Mountain top finish
Sunday September 2, Stage 15: La Robla - Lagos de Covadonga. Mountain top finish
Monday September 3, Stage 16: Gijón - Cuitu Negro. Mountain top finish
Tuesday September 4: Rest day
Wednesday September 5, Stage 17: Santander - Fuente Dé
Thursday September 6, Stage 18: Aguilar de Campoo - Valladolid
Friday September 7, Stage 19: Peñafiel - La Lastrilla
Saturday September 8, Stage 20: La Faisanera Golf Palazuelo del Eresma
- Bola del Mundo. Mountain top finish
Sunday September 9, Stage 21: Cercedilla - Madrid

Read the complete article on MARCA The Tour is North (in Spanish). The newspaper reports: "Specifically, the seven major goals of the Tour 2012 are: Arrate, Valdezcaray, Coll de la Gallina, the goal will be on-Canolich Sanctuary, Los Ancares, Lagos de Covadonga, Cuitu Black (ramps of up to 25%) and Bola del Mundo. To these we must add the other three stages ending in ledges or third ports: Fort Rapitán in Jaca, and the Mirador de Ézaro, in A Coruña, in addition to Fuente Dé, who, at the foot of the Picos de Europe, is one of the most beautiful Cantabria."

The leaked route map of the 2012 Vuelta a España.  Source MARCA
*Update: 11 Jan 2012: route presentation
The Vuelta a España route presentation video:
The official 2012 Vuelta a España route map
2012 Vuelta a España
click this link to view map of Vuelta a España
Jan 11, 2012 - The Official route of the 2012 Vuelta a España (click on the red arrows to view the stage profile)
1Crono equiposSábado 18 de agostoPamplona > Pamplona16,2 km
2LlanaDomingo 19 de agostoPamplona > Viana180,0 km
3MontañaLunes 20 de agostoFaustino V > Eibar (Arrate)153,0 km
4MontañaMartes 21 de agostoBarakaldo > Estación de Valdezcaray155,4 km
5LlanaMiércoles 22 de agostoLogroño > Logroño172,0 km
6LlanaJueves 23 de agostoTarazona > Jaca174,8 km
7LlanaViernes 24 de agostoHuesca > Alcañiz. Motorland Aragón160,0 km
8MontañaSábado 25 de agostoLleida > Andorra. Collada de la Gallina175,0 km
9LlanaDomingo 26 de agostoAndorra > Barcelona194,0 km

DescansoLunes 27 de agosto

10LlanaLunes 28 de agostoPonteareas > Sanxenxo166,4 km
11CronoMiércoles 29 de agostoCambados > Pontevedra40,0 km
12LlanaJueves 30 de agostoVilagarcía de Arousa > Dumbría. Mirador de Ézaro184,6 km
13LlanaViernes 31 de agostoSantiago de Compostela > Ferrol172,7 km
14MontañaSábado 1 de septiembrePalas de Rei > Puerto de Ancares152,0 km
15MontañaDomingo 2 de septiembreLa Robla > Lagos de Covadonga186,7 km
16MontañaLunes 3 de septiembreGijón > Valgrande-Pajares. Cuitu Negru185,0 km

DescansoMartes 4 de septiembre

17LlanaMiércoles - 5 de septiembreSantander > Fuente Dé177,0 km
18LlanaJueves 6 de septiembreAguilar de Campoo > Valladolid186,4 km
19LlanaViernes 7 de septiembrePeñafiel > La Lastrilla169,0 km
20MontañaSábado 8 de septiembreLa Faisanera Golf. Segovia 21 > Bola del Mundo169,5 km
21LlanaDomingo 9 de septiembreCercedilla > Madrid111,9 km