27 March 2014

Congratulations Tejay!

Tejay van Garderen won a stage today in the Volta a Catalunya

In the cold Spanish snow, Tejay won a stage of the 2014 Volta Ciclista a Catalunya to Vallter 2000. Where is that you might ask? Well I was wondering the very same thing myself, as in, "Where the hell is that?". I discovered Vallter 2000 is a peak (that I am guessing not many people visit) on the border of Spain and France, well north of Barcelona. Barcelona is the city where the Volta a Catalunya will end this Sunday.

Location of Vallter 2000 climb in Spain
Joaquin Rodriguez is currently in the lead of this race by 4 seconds.  The route map has to be one of the most confusing I have ever seen, all I know is they ride all over Cataluyna (Catalonia, Cataluña) in 7 days and 7 etapes.

Cataluyna has fantastic cycling. It's capital is Barcelona, it's provinces are Girona, Lleida, and Tarragona. I last visited Spain in 2010, I wrote a bit about it: I finally get Girona, Cycling in Girona Spain, I'm on Vacation in France/Spain! (a beautiful beach north of Girona).

My coffee break in Cataluyna.  Photo by Karen Rakestraw of Pedal Dancer®
But today - Tejay won Stage 4!

American Tejay van Garderen (BMC)  Photo by Karen Rakestraw of Pedal Dancer®

Today's race coverage showed fog, fog, and more fog, with occasional riders appearing through -fog. Vallter 2000 is one of those remote ski stations. When it isn't covered in snow, it looks like this.

Vallter 2000
Which is a far cry from this, which is Barcelona
City of Barcelona, Spain, with the landmark Torre Agbar skyscraper
Which is known for this
Casa Batllo: architecture by Antoni Gaudi
And this
And this
And come Sunday - it will be known as the place where one of these men won the 2014 Volta a Catalunya. Three more stages to go:
General Classification after Stage 4
ESP  1  RODRIGUEZ OLIVER, Joaquin (KATUSHA)                 17:47:34
ESP  2  CONTADOR VELASCO, Alberto (TINKOFF-SAXO)           +    4
USA  3  VAN GARDEREN, Tejay (BMC RACING)                           +    7
FRA  4  BARDET, Romain (AG2R LA MONDIALE)                          +   10
COL  5  QUINTANA ROJAS, Nairo Alexander (MOVISTAR)               
GBR  6  FROOME, Christopher (SKY)                                             +   17
USA  7  TALANSKY, Andrew (GARMIN SHARP)                             +   18

Ciclista a Catalunya 2014 - Stage 4 - FINAL KILOMETERS. it is foggy! (hi ha boira) and it is snowy! (està cobert de neu).

22 March 2014

The Real Monuments Men

Roger De Vlaeminck, Rik Van Looy and Eddy Merckx

Spring means the Spring Classics and for many cycling fans this is the best of the season when epic one-day races challenge the strongest in the sport. The classics are not the time to witness yet another featherweight climber leave the sprinters and rouleurs in the dust; the classics are for the toughest of the tough. Those who excel in enduring harsh weather on brutal roads over really long distances.

One of the best of the Classics is tomorrow

105th edition of Milan-San Remo is tomorrow, 13, March 2014. This year's route is 294km/182.7m. Startlist and top competitors.

milan san remo 2014 route map
The first winner of Milan-San Remo

Lucien Petit-Breton (Lucien Georges Mazan). Born in Brittany, France, his parents moved to Argentina when Lucien was 6 years-old. He became a Argentinian citizen but returned to France to race bicycles, becoming the first man to win the Tour de France twice. He died in France in 1917, during WWI, not in warfare but in a car accident.

Lucien Petit-Breton
Most Milan-San Remo Wins
1. Eddy Merckx (Belgium) - 7  (1966, 1967, 1969, 1971, 1972, 1975, 1976)
2. Constante Girondengo (Italy) - 6  (1918, 1921, 1923, 1925, 1926, 1928)
3. Erik Zabel (German) - 4  (Zabel admitted doping from 1996 to 2004)
4. Gino Bartali (Italy) - 4  (1939, 1940, 1947, 1950)

Who won in 2013?
1. Gerald Ciolek (Ger) MTN-Qhubeka
2. Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale Pro Cycling
3. Cancellara (Swi) RadioShack Leopard

Gerald Ciolek (Germany) won the race in 2013. Last year's weather was so brutal that frozen riders had to be chipped off their bikes, placed inside team buses to thaw and redress, driven around a mountain climb, and set upon their bikes again. It was a thrilling race to watch and even more exciting when photos started streaming in, like these below.

Taylor Phinney tweeted this image of himself after boarding the bus in transit to complete the 2013 Milan-San Remo.
This was the scene last year at Milan-San Remo as frozen riders desperately searched for the team buses when the race was halted due to severe weather and restarted again further down the road.
This year's weather report in Milan for Sunday will be: Rain early...then remaining cloudy with showers in the afternoon. High 49F. Winds NNW at 15 to 25 mph. Chance of rain 90%. Rainfall near a half an inch.

The Monuments

Everyone is a buzz with excitement for this first race of the Spring Classics tomorrow. But Milano-Sanremo belongs to another class of races as well. Milano-Sanremo is one of five Monuments of cycling.
  • Milan-San Remo (Italy)
  • Tour of Flanders (Belgium) (Ronde van Vlaanderen)
  • Paris–Roubaix (France)
  • Liège–Bastogne–Liège (Belgium)
  • Il Lombardia (Italy)
This grouping of five race represent the creme of the crop in one-day cycling races. Only three men have won all five races in their career, and none did it in the same year. Their names are legend in the sport of cycling: Roger De Vlaeminck, Rik Van Looy and Eddy Merckx. All three men are Belgians.

The Monuments Men -

Roger De Vlaeminck
Roger De Vlaeminck
Roger De Vlaeminck, now age 66
Rik Van Looy
Rik Van Looy
Rik Van Looy, now age 80
Eddy Merckx
Eddy Merckx
Eddy Merckx, now age 68
Sean Kelly (Ireland) - earns honorable mention. Although he is one monument win short, having never won Tour of Flanders, he repeatedly won the other four monuments. Milano-Sanremo (1986, 1992), Paris-Roubaix (1984, 1986), Liège–Bastogne–Liège (1984, 1989), Giro di Lombardia (1983, 1985, 1991). I may not be able to understand his commentary but Sean Kelly is one the the toughest cyclists of all time.

Philippe Gilbert (Belgium) - has tried - he won Giro di Lombardia in 2009 and 2010, Liège–Bastogne–Liège in 2011, he came in 3rd in Tour of Flanders is 2009 and 2010, he also came in third in Milano-Sanremo in 2008 and 2011, but the Paris-Roubaix remains his major challenge only finishing once in 2007 in 52nd place.

Tom Boonen (Belgium) - has won the Paris-Roubaix four times (2005, 2008, 2009, 2012), he won the Tour of Flanders three times (2005, 2006, 2012). Boonen has had dramatically mixed results at the Milan-San Remo with his best result in 2010 when he placed 2nd, he pulled out of the race after the bad weather in 2013 and DNF. He has never competed in Liège–Bastogne–Liège or Il Lombardia.

Fabian Cancellara (Suise) - is another favorite, he has won Paris-Roubaix three time (2006, 2010, 2013) with the second place (2008 and 2011), he won Tour of Flanders (2010 and 2013). Cancellara won Milano-Sanremo way back in 2008, in 2011 and 2012 he was second, in 2013 he was third. This race means something to Cancellara and he will be one to pull for when watching tomorrow. He has also never competed in Liège–Bastogne–Liège or Il Lombardia.

I would like to ask any of these riders if they would take a win at the Olympics, Tour de France or Milano-Sanremo; I would not be surprised to hear Milan-San Remo.

The Monuments (5)

The five "Monuments" are a different combination than the eight "Spring Classics", the Monuments add more of the beautiful terrain of Italy. Only three riders, all Belgians, have won all five races in their career - Roger De Vlaeminck, Rik Van Looy and Eddy Merckx; none in the same year. The Monuments are grouped as:
  • Milan-San Remo (Italy)
  • Tour of Flanders (Belgium) (Ronde van Vlaanderen)
  • Paris–Roubaix (France)
  • Liège–Bastogne–Liège (Belgium)
  • Il Lombardia (Italy) – the only race considered a Monument, but not a Spring Classic, the race is held in October. Known as the "Race of the Falling Leaves" and initially called the Milano–Milano (1905). The race was renamed to Giro di Lombardia in 1907, and then Il Lombardia in 2012.
Nicknames for the Classics
Paris-Roubaix = Queen of the Classics (La Reine), The Hell of the North, La Pascale
Amstel Gold = [no nickname] 

La Fleche-Wallonne = The Walloon Arrow
Liege-Bastogne-Liege = La Doyenne (the oldest/old lady)
Milan-San Remo = La Primavera (the spring), Sprinters' Classic, La Classicissima
Ronde van Vlaanderen = Flanders' most beautiful (
Vlaanderens mooiste)
Paris-Nice = Race to the Sun
Tirreno-Adriatico = Race of the two Seas 
Il Lombardia = Race of the Falling Leaves

Related posts by Pedal Dancer

Do you remember the snow storm of 2013?

My favorite Milano-Sanremo photo from 2013 is of Thor Hushovd. A great album of photos from last year here.
Thor Hushovd in the snow of Milan San Remo. Photo from DanGerous tumblre. Photographer: BrakeThrough Media | VeloNews.com.
Tune-in tomorrow: live links available at Steephill.TV for where to watch Milan-San Remo: Milan-San Remo Coverage.

Results 2014

197 riders started the 2014 Milan-San Remo, 114 riders finished (full results). 83 riders DNF.

Update 04/09/14: Book Review: The Monuments, By The Inner Ring

20 March 2014

Photos for the Day - Pla d'Adet

Pla d'Adet is a climb in the Vallée d'Aure in the Pyrenees, France

My friend Paddy Sweeney of VeloPeloton climbed Pla d'Adet today (Plah-deh-day). He said, "Overall it's not a particularly hard climb as it is short and would be easier than Luz Ardiden or Hautacam." That is because the Hautacam is in Paddy's back yard and he climbs it (what seems like) every other day. 

I think Pla d'Adet is kind of hard. So much so, that I remember distinctly saying out loud after the last time I descended that mountain in 2010 on Bastille Day, "well I don't need to do that again." Once was enough, plus the 10-hour day we spent on that same mountain in 2005 to watch the Tour de France mountain top finish at the ski station. Do not get stuck in a traffic jam on Pla d'Adet. 

Still that mountain has epic memories for me. Just knowing that it looms over the Vallée d'Aure is magical. In 2010 I climbed a hill opposite simply to photograph it from different angles. Down valley is the city of Saint-Lary-Soulan. I totally disagree with Phil Liggett who claims this town to be one of his favorites in the Pyreness - "What? He needs to get out of that small broadcasting trailer more," I always scream at the TV.

The town of Arreau, north (up or down valley, it depends which way you are riding, because the road feels sort of flat) of Saint-Lary-Soulon, is a lovely town with a patio outside the Hotel de France and a pleasant river to picnic along. I like this valley a lot, it's beautiful. The climbs of Col d'Aspin, Hourquette d'Ancizan, Col d'Azet, and Pla d'Adet line the sides of this valley. Col de Peyresourde, Port de Bales, and Col de Tourmalet (east side) are close by.

All photos by Karen Rakestraw of Pedal Dancer®

The climb of Pla d'Adet is on the right of the Vallée d'Aure
The climb begins with a massive switchback.
You climb and climb above the valley
Looking down on the town of Vignec below.
Steepness of the climb
So steep (Paddy) that the houses are perched in stone on the side of the hill.

But Paddy claims it's not so hard. I think it is because he is riding super well this year.  (https://www.facebook.com/pyreneescycling)

Paddy is right that this climb will be part of Stage 17 of the 2014 Tour de France: Route of the 2014 Tour de France, By Pedal Dancer. Paddy is also an excellent photographer.

Related posts by Pedal Dancer (when I climbed it in 2010): Pla d'Adet in 2005 and 2010.

And about the valleys in the Pyrenees: The Valleys of the Pyrenees and The Valleys of the Pyrenees in Pictures

What you do while hanging out on Pla d'Adet for hours for the Tour de France to race by.
Near the finish on Pla d'Adet
Caravan on Pla d'Adet
Being fans at the Tour de France
The riders just kept coming long after the stage was won by George Hincapie in 2005.
And then a massive traffic jam to get off of the road to Pla d'Adet, so ride your bike if you can!

19 March 2014

Photos of the Day - Lookout Mountain

Lookout Mountain is in Golden, Colorado

The Mountain has a big white M on it's face, that is because Colorado School of Mines sits at its base. So does the famous Coors beer production plant, which adds a distinctive aroma to the town of Golden, Colorado. This mountain climb is very popular with locals, it is short at only 5.1 miles in length, but worth including in a longer route.

Last Saturday I was on Lookout Mountain to photograph the inspiring racers who competed in the Oredigger Classic Lookout Mountain Individual Time Trial. It was cold and windy. I hiked all over the twists and turns of this well known local climb, I felt for those cyclists descending in the cold after such an effort. When I wasn't dancing to keep warm, I entertained myself by taking landscape photos in between racers.

This is Lookout Mountain. A climb to be included in this year's Golden Gran Fondo and possibly, not sure about, probably not, but has been included in the past - USA Pro Challenge.

Lookout Mountain. Photo by Karen Rakestraw of Pedal Dancer®
The famous pillars of Lookout Mountain mark the start of the climb.
You climb quickly above the town of Golden and the Colorado School of Mines below.
Before you know is you are on the bends
The sweeping bends of Lookout Mountain
There are days when you'll feel alone on Lookout Mountain. In good weather expect lots of cyclists.
Beautiful trees and natural cooling system as a cyclist climbs Lookout Mountain
It's just man and mountain on Lookout Mountain
And the view - from Lookout Mountain toward Boulder
It gets steep in parts
You'll start wondering how much further you have to climb right about here
The views begin to distract you
View of Coors Brewing Company from Lookout Mountain
View of Golden from Lookout Mountain
View of Denver from Lookout Mountain
This sign marks the official (post) top of Lookout Mountain climb, but it continues going up from here to Genesee Park.
You know you rode it right if you look like this at the end.
Then you get to descend
All the way back down this short but dramatic 5.1 mile climb.
Lookout Mountain Facts:
Length: 5.1 miles
Total elevation: 1,438 ft
Average Grade: 5.3% (7%)
Lookout Mountain climb is called Pillar to Post for the landmarks at the start and finish.

My photo album from the race  on March 15, 2014 can be seen here, race results from 2014 Lookout Mountain ITT here. The fastest time from pillar to (just short of) post was by Michael Burleigh of team Primal-Audi Denver with a time of 18"01'.

Here is Team Evergreen's suggested cycling route which includes the climb of Lookout Mountain:
Here is the route of the 2014 Golden Gran Fondo (June 28, 2014) - the toughest Gran Fondo in America!
Golden Gran Fondo route map link
One of my favorite photographs from the day:
If he can do it, so can you!