VeloNews.com » VeloLife http://velonews.competitor.com Competitive Cycling News, Race Results and Bike Reviews Wed, 17 Dec 2014 23:08:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 A Case for Suffering: Made in Taiwan http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/velolife/case-suffering-made-taiwan_354025 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/velolife/case-suffering-made-taiwan_354025#comments Wed, 26 Nov 2014 12:00:48 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=354025

Managing editor Chris Case crosses the line in 14th place at the incomparable Taiwan KOM Challenge. Photo: Daniel Simms Photography

Managing editor Chris Case describes the agony and ecstasy of taking on the incomparable Taiwan KOM Challenge.

The post A Case for Suffering: Made in Taiwan appeared first on VeloNews.com.

]]>

Managing editor Chris Case crosses the line in 14th place at the incomparable Taiwan KOM Challenge. Photo: Daniel Simms Photography

Editor’s note: Velo managing editor Chris Case has raced enough criteriums to know there are far more enjoyable ways to spend time on a bike. He has set out to find pain and pleasure at the most unique, challenging, and captivating competitions. Follow along with his experiment to ride the best and most difficult courses, the most punishing and most promising races, on- and off-road, on Instagram and Twitter, @chrisjustincase. Questions or concerns for his health? Send him a note at ccase@competitorgroup.com.

It was pissing rain.

It was the type of day that gave you a simple choice: sulk, or smile. I’ve learned a lesson from years of racing in inclement weather: it’s always advantageous to stick with the grins; pouting only makes you colder.

We were in Taiwan, far from home, in an exotic landscape that I had quickly fallen in love with, about to race bikes up one of the longest hill climbs in the world. The choice was made for me.

I embraced the dreary, soggy conditions, absorbing the wet, the cold, the foul soup of mist and misery and turning it on its head.

I made a case for suffering.

It would have been easy to mope and complain. But a simple flip of the switch in my brain and it was just as easy to tell myself, ‘This is the weather that only the hard thrive in; these are the conditions that make for great stories; these are the days when pain is my friend, and the harder I shake its hand, the more pleasure will come my way.’ I shook vigorously.

It’s not as if it would have been an easy day even if the weather had been tropical. Today, I, along with 472 other intrepid and/or insane cyclists, set out to ride to the top of Taiwan, in the KOM Challenge, all 62-miles of climbing, with its 17 percent average gradient over the last 8 kilometers. The route was famously picturesque, a warped canyon of ancient marble accented by clinging carpets of green, known as Taroko Gorge. You couldn’t imagine a more beautiful route for a race, and on this day that’s exactly how you had to experience the Jurassic decor, since the folds of fog had settled deep into the cut.

We, invited cycling journalists, had been in Taiwan for a week, tasting the flavors of a country rich in sustenance. There had been glorious jungle climbs, through thick, ripe foliage on ribbons of chalkboard black tarmac. Each night we were fed heaps of food, platter upon platter of things we could not necessarily identify, and which we knew we could not finish, but which were offered to us by a people bursting with generosity. We ate heartily. Shrines and temples dotted the hillsides, and stinky tofu stands peppered the curbsides of many a town and city corner.

But now the royal treatment was over; the Taiwan Travel Bureau had invited us here to experience the nation, its culture, this devilish race, and had pampered us in so many ways, but they forgot to talk to the rain gods about our final mission.

The KOM Challenge is, arguably, the hardest hill climb race in the entire world. From zero to 3,275 meters to the summit of Hehuanshan mountain. One road. One direction: Up.

We rolled out to the click of nearly 1,000 pedals popping with the sound of cycling.

The rain, it continued to drop. My teeth chattered; I looked over at Will Routley, an invited professional who claimed the KOM competition at the 2014 Tour of California, whose lips were a pale shade of not-right. We had 18km of neutral rollout, and that was 20km too much. We wanted to race, to generate fury and warmth and spirit. But we had to wait. It was best just to think ahead, to know that it was all about to detonate.

Once we turned into the mouth of the gorge, it was immediate. The racing became racing, and a universally familiar feeling washed over the peloton. We’d all done this before; find your home and settle in for the long climb into the heavens.

There were small rocks scattered on the edges of the gleaming darkness of asphalt from the incessant rains. You notice these things when you’re following unfamiliar wheels; you hope the others notice too and kindly indicate which side to take warning. You notice all these things, and hope.

Then it came. The singular sound of a cycling crash. The shriek of frightened voices and the noise of impact instantaneously register a warning. Sometimes the speed with which your brain can process the information is helpful; you slither by. Other times, you have no choice. Down.

My brain helped me now, and only a slight dab was required to avoid the chaos. But I looked to my right as I tiptoed to safety, and I saw the pained face of a fallen friend, a fellow journalist and professional rider. Down.

To stop, or not to stop? As quickly as your brain can process myriad tactical sensations, it can bog down with moral dilemmas. Conflicting thoughts. I wanted to stop and see if she was okay. She’d probably want me to press on. She could use my help and encouragement if she was able to return to the race. She’s in good hands here; someone will stop to help.

I was swept up the road, allowing myself to be taken farther from a place of decision. It pained me to press on. But I did, knowing that there were only people as hard as diamonds in this race. She would have some story to tell, one way or another. She would come back stronger.

I patiently made my way back through the field, to the pointy end of the race, settling in and finding a rhythm amongst the gathered tribe. This was elite company: small bikes, small people, big engines. I felt like Stijn Vandenbergh among a fleet of Rigoberto Uráns.

We pierced through the floating waters of the atmosphere, concentrated air that combined with the falling rains to create a mobile sweat lodge. We smoothly flowed slowly upward, losing riders one by one, until a finite group of 20 coalesced. And, then, we pedaled on, waiting for the moves to come. I drifted off the front, more so to spawn warmth than to elicit counterattacks. Will tried to bridge to me to make a North American tag-team. His team-issued orange helmet would go nowhere without passengers.

We pressed on. For hours. Only up.

I dangled at the tail of the snake. I sensed the dawning of the drop; any lift in pace, after three and a half hours of climbing and I would drift away, behind and beyond. Sometimes the solo effort is a more comfortable place to be, and so a small part of me was eager for the fall.

And then, nonchalantly, it came. They floated away, softly, silently, and I searched for signs that would help me understand just how much longer I would have to endure this growing ache. Eleven kilometers. Maybe 20 minutes of torture? Deep sighs. Eleven kilometers of torture.

The closing eight kilometers are touted as the hardest of the race, but when you’re numb, or dumb from the bonk, it’s easy to consider them impossible. Unnecessary. Contrary to sane.

But if you’re lucky, inspiration comes to you, and you push on. I received a gift in the shape of small cyclists emerging from the fog, just up the road from me. They were going slower. I knew I was going to catch them. I was better than them at this moment. Momentum. Mental momentum. I rode it.

I had become so cold that my hands no longer functioned. They were catatonic. Hands, in fact, are important for riding a bike. They allow you to shift, and brake, and steer — and also eat. You might call them essential. And when you lose the ability to tear open a wrapper to feed your starving cells, and fear shifting to a harder gear knowing that you may never be able to downshift when the road tilts skyward, you know it is time to hurry home. Grip and ride. Hold on tight. Turn the legs. Churn skyward.

Then, sometimes inspiration comes on a grand scale, such as the sight of a bright orange helmet and yellow socks, the distinctive kit of an Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies professional cyclist named Will. He’s moving so slowly. I’m very much catching him. He is paper-boying so bad that I think I could be hallucinating. ‘I’m going to drop his ass.’ Giddy with the thought. And then, in painful, grinding, slow motion, I passed the pro who was colder than me, only 500 meters from the line.

I know my brain function was compromised at the summit. Some form of hypothermia-meets-fatigue syndrome. I say that now. Then, I was delirious, crawling around looking for warmth, seeing familiar faces but not saying much. Did I smile? I’m smiling now, thinking back, but then I was a shell. Will came across the line moments later; we tried to embrace, the sheer camaraderie almost overwhelming us. But it didn’t go so well. We were pathetic. We were done. Our arms wouldn’t rise for the occasion and we bumbled around and uttered only guttural sounds.

There are times in life when everything blends to perfection like a spritely, summer cocktail: the right people, a captivating place, and profound, collective enjoyment are the only necessary ingredients. This was far from summer, but the satisfying taste of success was effervescent in the whirlwind chaos of a mist-shrouded summit on the other side of the world.

This cocktail, on this day, was made in Taiwan.

Editor’s note: Chris participated in the Taiwan KOM Challenge as a guest of the organizers and had his flights, food, and accommodation paid for. VeloNews would like to thank the organizers for the invitation and their hospitality. A full list of the 252 successful finishers can be seen here.

The post A Case for Suffering: Made in Taiwan appeared first on VeloNews.com.

]]>
http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/velolife/case-suffering-made-taiwan_354025/feed 0
Alexi Grewal to ride Gran Fondo Italia Aspen-Snowmass http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/08/news/alexi-grewal-ride-gran-fondo-italia-aspen-snowmass_339895 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/08/news/alexi-grewal-ride-gran-fondo-italia-aspen-snowmass_339895#comments Wed, 06 Aug 2014 15:08:19 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=339895

Grewal’s most famous win remains the 1984 Olympic road race in Los Angeles. Photo: Steve Powell/Allsport. Getty Images

The 1984 Olympic champion lines up to ride Sunday in Colorado

The post Alexi Grewal to ride Gran Fondo Italia Aspen-Snowmass appeared first on VeloNews.com.

]]>

Grewal’s most famous win remains the 1984 Olympic road race in Los Angeles. Photo: Steve Powell/Allsport. Getty Images

Olympic champion Alexi Grewal will join hundreds of riders in Snowmass, Colorado, Sunday, August 10, to ride the 95-mile Snowmass-Aspen Gran Fondo Italia. Winner of the 1984 Olympic road race in Los Angeles, Grewal lives in Colorado.

Grewal has put together a training primer for riders who are looking to tackle their first gran fondo.

In 2011, Grewal, then 50, attempted a comeback, competing at the Redlands Cycling Classic, hoping to ride in his home state’s inaugural USA Pro Challenge. That didn’t work out, however, and in December of that year, however, he called off his comeback attempt.

The event will be the first in a series of five rides taking place throughout the U.S., with the final event happening in Rio de Janeiro, November 16. This year will be Gran Fondo Italia’s fifth season of events. The organizer claims that more than 30,000 cyclists have toed the line in their competitive rides since 2009.

Gran Fondo Italia also announced a new partnership with Italian helmet manufacturer Kask. Angelo Gotti, CEO of KASK said, “Gran Fondo Italia brings the best of an incredible Italian cycling tradition to destinations worldwide, and its heritage, expertise and passion matches that of KASK, making it a natural organization to partner with.”

Registration is open for all 2014 Gran Fondo Italia events.

The post Alexi Grewal to ride Gran Fondo Italia Aspen-Snowmass appeared first on VeloNews.com.

]]>
http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/08/news/alexi-grewal-ride-gran-fondo-italia-aspen-snowmass_339895/feed 0
Feed: Belfast’s Coppi restaurant http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/05/velolife/feed-belfasts-coppi-restaurant_327046 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/05/velolife/feed-belfasts-coppi-restaurant_327046#comments Sat, 10 May 2014 04:13:47 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=327046

Coppi gives diners a real taste of Italy, in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Photo: Neal Rogers | VeloNews.com

Belfast restaurant and pasta-maker provide a real taste of Italy in Northern Ireland

The post Feed: Belfast’s Coppi restaurant appeared first on VeloNews.com.

]]>

Coppi gives diners a real taste of Italy, in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Photo: Neal Rogers | VeloNews.com

Coppi restaurant

Location: Saint Anne’s Square, Belfast, Northern Ireland
Why: Real taste of Italy, in a cycling-centric atmosphere

The 2014 Giro d’Italia may be the race’s first trip to Northern Ireland, but a slice of the Giro has existed in Belfast for years.

The upscale Coppi restaurant, named after the Italian champion, is located in Saint Anne’s Square, in the trendy Cathedral Quarter.

An old truck, so well loved that it has its own Twitter account, sits outside, marking the location, and a wall-sized mural of Italian great Fausto Coppi can be found on the back wall.

Appetizers include chichettis, small snacks typically served in traditional bars throughout Venice, as well as boards of meats, cheeses, and seafood. Main courses consist of pizzettes (small pizzas), pastas, and risottos.

Italian beer Peroni is served on tap, while the locals’ favorite, Cathedral Quarter Irish Ale, is served in bottles. San Pellegrino sparkling water is, of course, ubiquitous.

The owners of Coppi also run Il Pirata, named after fallen Italian champion Marco Pantani, and The Pastificio, the pasta development kitchen for both Coppi and Il Pirata restaurants.

www.coppi.co.uk
www.ilpiratabelfast.com

The post Feed: Belfast’s Coppi restaurant appeared first on VeloNews.com.

]]>
http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/05/velolife/feed-belfasts-coppi-restaurant_327046/feed 0
Review: Islabikes CNOC delivers aggressive, durable ride for kids http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/05/bikes-and-tech/reviews/review-islabikes-cnoc-delivers-aggressive-durable-ride-kids_326905 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/05/bikes-and-tech/reviews/review-islabikes-cnoc-delivers-aggressive-durable-ride-kids_326905#comments Fri, 09 May 2014 20:05:39 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=326905

The Islabikes CNOC 14, pictured here next to a 29-inch wheel, is a durable, aggressive kids' bike aimed at young riders looking for more maneuverability in a small pedal bike. Photo: Brian Holcombe | VeloNews.com

If you're looking for a bike that can serve your young, dirt-exploring children, Islabikes' 14-inch frame is worth consideration

The post Review: Islabikes CNOC delivers aggressive, durable ride for kids appeared first on VeloNews.com.

]]>

The Islabikes CNOC 14, pictured here next to a 29-inch wheel, is a durable, aggressive kids' bike aimed at young riders looking for more maneuverability in a small pedal bike. Photo: Brian Holcombe | VeloNews.com

Parents, if you’re anything like me, your passion for bikes and riding them bleeds over to your kids. Perhaps your little one started on a balance bike before two years and has quickly outgrown his or her first pedal bike. If so, the Islabikes CNOC 14 is a durable, lightweight, and maneuverable option for kids starting to explore singletrack and the freedom of fast bikes.

The British builder first brought its frames for young riders to the U.S. market in 2013. Founded by former British cyclocross champion Isla Rowntree, the brand focuses on ergonomics and weight in its designs and the results paid off over four months of riding by my four-year-old son.

I measure children’s bikes against three qualities: Immediate visual appeal, ridability across conditions, and durability. The 12.4-pound Islabikes CNOC 14 nailed all three.

Jumping for excitement

We tested the CNOC’s first-impression performance on Christmas morning with the time-honored “cover it with a blanket in the corner” unveiling. Our then-three-year-old couldn’t conceal his feelings after carefully pulling back the cover.

“I’m jumping because I’m excited,” he said loudly as he hopped around the living room.

The rest of the morning centered around one thing: getting to the trailhead for a barely-above-freezing ride on the dirt.

It’s easy enough to dismiss our son’s reaction; he would probably be over the moon for any new bike under the tree. But with the Islabikes micro V-brake levers and knobby Kenda Small Block Eight tires, this new rig looked like mom’s and dad’s bikes, and he was thrilled. The CNOC is a bike for big guys and girls, shrunk to fit the youngest riders.

The CNOC rips, and takes some getting used to

The aggressive geometry of the CNOC 14, constructed of lightweight 7005 T6 aluminum with a cro-moly fork, took a bit of getting used to, but after a couple hours in the saddle on our local trails and the road between our house and the nearby park, our son was dialed. What was twitchy at first became maneuverable after three rides.

Many bikes designed for the sub-seven-year-old set feature handlebar height that is 10cm-plus above the saddle. The CNOC 14 features a more level plane between its small-diameter aluminum bar and saddle, forcing young riders into a more forward, over-the-bars position, which makes for improved handling on the pump track and trail.

The first handful of rides were a bit nervous, and we had a few crashes that wouldn’t have happened on a more upright frame, but the performance benefits made the memories of those skinned knees fade.

The downsized 1.5-inch Small Block Eight tires hooked up well on the dirt and didn’t provide an overwhelming amount of resistance on the road. And while the front V-brake allows the rider to gain familiarity with hand brakes, the coaster brake provided secure stopping. The brand’s British bikes sport two hand brakes and no coaster, but U.S. law requires all “sidewalk bikes” under 20 inches to carry the pedal-based stopping.

The 25-tooth front chainring, 89cm crankarms, and 14t rear cog make for a solid all-around gearing, though our son did spin out a bit on high-speed descents. This, thankfully, allowed dad to win an occasional race home from the park and was expected, given the singlespeed drivetrain and small sizing requirements.

The 12.4-pound claimed weight meant our son was able to push and carry his own bike — a big benefit at the pump track, where he was able to dismount and walk up any hits he didn’t top out.

Two shortcomings do mark the CNOC. First, the saddle cover is slick enough that our son shot off the seat and into a superman position after catching a little air on the trail. (Yes, he rode it out, and it’s one of his favorite riding memories, at the moment.) A grippy saddle would be a functional improvement, though it might take away some unscripted fun out on the dirt.

The size range is tight on the 14-inch model as well. Our son is 106cm tall, with a 42.5cm inseam, and he’s on the verge of outgrowing the bike, which fit perfectly just four months ago. I would recommend sizing up one model, if possible, though it’s hard to say how this would affect the ride quality early on.

Standing up to abuse

Perhaps the most important characteristic of a high-quality kids’ bike is its ability to stand up to abuse. We’ve ridden the CNOC hard off-road, left it out in the rain, and allowed mud to dry all over the drivetrain, and the bike keeps working as if it were new. In the instance you encounter trouble, each Islabike comes with a five-year frame guarantee and a two-year parts guarantee — plenty of time to run two or more kids through the bike.

The paint has held up to the usual throwing around kids do with their bikes and the grips show no sign of the dozens of scrapes on the concrete they’ve endured. I’ve lubed the chain just twice in five months and there has been no sign of needing more care.

We’ve also had zero flats on the Kenda rubber — which reminds me, I should start carrying a spare tube for the kid.

Availability and accessories

The 12.4-pound CNOC 14 retails for $269.99 and is available directly from the brand’s Portland-based U.S. offices. According to the company’s website, bikes deliver to most locations within 14 days, for $25-40.

Accessories available from the manufacturer include “full wraparound ‘cromo-plastic’” fenders ($24.99), spare tubes ($6.99), and “no tools” training wheels ($14.99).

www.islabikes.com

The post Review: Islabikes CNOC delivers aggressive, durable ride for kids appeared first on VeloNews.com.

]]>
http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/05/bikes-and-tech/reviews/review-islabikes-cnoc-delivers-aggressive-durable-ride-kids_326905/feed 0
Notes from the Scrum: Fast and slow http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/05/mtb/notes-scrum-fast-slow_325764 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/05/mtb/notes-scrum-fast-slow_325764#comments Fri, 02 May 2014 09:00:13 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=325764

What kind of rider are you? What kind do you want to be? Photo: Matthew Beaudin | VeloNews.com

A writer and rider struggles with what kind of rider he is and what kind he wants to be

The post Notes from the Scrum: Fast and slow appeared first on VeloNews.com.

]]>

What kind of rider are you? What kind do you want to be? Photo: Matthew Beaudin | VeloNews.com

Fast. Shiny shaved legs, new tires, new shorts, shimmering road bike, new cap tilted just right. Embrocation.

I’m fast today. I smell fast today. I’ll be faster today than I was last weekend. Maybe not pro fast. No, never pro fast. But fast enough to hang on to them maybe. Maybe fast as the laughing group up Ventoux if they’re telling jokes and I grit my teeth. I gotta be. I’m going good. You can see veins in places I didn’t know I had veins. Maybe I could have been a racer. A real one, if I’d tried this sooner.

Fast.

I am dropped by people a short time later whose names don’t end up in race results. I am not fast. An Icarus who pedaled too close to the physiological sun again and I’ve cracked for my troubles in the howling wind of the plains. I had to counter. People with panache always counter, even if they can’t. Candy bar. I need a candy bar.

Slow.

I am slow today. I don’t need a light race bike. I need a trail bike. Because I don’t care about going fast; I’m a soul rider. A guy who rides because the rocks and trees and dirt are air and heart and head fresheners. I’ll ride off that drop twice, better the second time. Cleaner the second time.

I’m the kind of rider who carries a beer — or two? — in his pack and drinks it on the rocks looking at the sun as it sets over the Colorado River. That’s me. I don’t do this sport to go fast. Fast people can have it. It’s not for me.

I tell myself I’ll never care about going fast again because I am not fast by nature and should no longer try to be. I should be the rider with tattoos and scars and flat-billed hats. I should be thicker and louder and buy a sweet new freeride bike. And a bigger truck. For sure, a bigger truck.

I bounce off some rocks a short time later, following a rough line in Grand Junction. My shin has swallowed an egg, and it’s bleeding into my sock. But I had to try to ride it. Who comes all this way and doesn’t try? Maybe I’ll try enduro.

Faster now.

It feels good to go fast.

It is dawn and the Leadville 100 is starting and I am fast again in the early morning with the 1,500 others, most of whom can’t be faster than me. Not today. No sir. Pedal pedal eat eat pedal eat drink spit cough cough.

A full workday later I am 201st, I think. Two hundred people better than me. They went hard. I had to go hard. Had to. Can’t let those wheels fade away into the valley with wind like that. I coughed for hours. Woefully ate half a pizza while lying on a hotel bed. Was that fun?

“Hey, let’s just take it easy,” I say to my legs. Nothing wrong with slow. I attack on the downhill 20 feet later. Seeing how much leash he gives the underdog. I’m the underdog. No leash given. Venga.

We are going faster now, faster than I’ve ever gone before on this road, racing. He is better. He is up the road three seconds but I try because one day I might have it. I don’t know what I’d do if that happened. Hasn’t happened yet. Maybe today it happens.

Chasing in the corner. Do not touch the brakes do not touch the bra— my front wheel is gone. Long slivers of time now, time stretching like first light over the plains. Unbearable time.

The tire is back! The tire hooks up again! I sprint and the deadly gravel marbles do not take me, not today they won’t. I try to catch him and fail. But man we were fast. Strava will prove it. Maybe the two fastest?

We were not the two fastest.

It’s time to slow down. Put a heavy bike in the truck and drive to Moab. Maybe I can find a few locals there, just to show me around the new stuff. Maybe there’s a new drop. Maybe I’ll do a few shuttle laps. The bigger stuff.

Or.

Or I could race that fondo Saturday morning in the desert. I’ll be going pretty good then, won’t I? Maybe I could fight it out. Could I win? Why not? I’m fast again. Fast in my legs. Fast in my head.

I’m confused as ever. What kind of rider am I? Maybe it all depends. Maybe it depends on what kind of rider you are.

The post Notes from the Scrum: Fast and slow appeared first on VeloNews.com.

]]>
http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/05/mtb/notes-scrum-fast-slow_325764/feed 0
Finding inspiration in an eclectic group of California-riding women http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/04/commentary/raphas-tour-california-ridden-six-ambassadors-one-journalist_324224 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/04/commentary/raphas-tour-california-ridden-six-ambassadors-one-journalist_324224#comments Thu, 24 Apr 2014 09:00:47 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=324224

The spirit of a wildly eclectic group lifted seven riders over the climbs of California to Sacramento. Photo: Jeremy Dunn | Rapha

Seven women ride the Tour of California, in reverse, and discover inspiration in the commonalities across a wild range of ability levels

The post Finding inspiration in an eclectic group of California-riding women appeared first on VeloNews.com.

]]>

The spirit of a wildly eclectic group lifted seven riders over the climbs of California to Sacramento. Photo: Jeremy Dunn | Rapha

Seven women, 700 miles, and one overwhelming sense of inspiration.

Women’s ambassador programs have become rather prominent in cycling over the past few years, and while there is not necessarily one common objective among them, they all come together with a unifying message: cycling should be accessible for all women, regardless of background and ability.

Rapha, known for its chic cycling apparel, has expanded wildly in the last few years, not just with its impeccable line of clothing, but also its presence in the community of the sport. Celebrating the romanticism of road cycling, Rapha has sought to build a community around the shared love for cycling — whether in the interest of socializing in the saddle or competition through racing. Perhaps most notably has been Rapha’s development of its Women’s Ambassadors program. Sometimes confronted over a limited women’s apparel selection, Rapha’s support of women’s cycling and drive to enhance the sport is anything but limited.

Earlier this month, the brand hosted a retreat, The Calling, for its 14 North American women ambassadors near Los Angeles. After the weekend retreat, six of the women embarked on a rather epic journey, riding the entire 2014 Amgen Tour of California route, in reverse, from Thousand Oaks to Sacramento.

I accepted an invitation to join the ride and, over the ensuing week, learned a great deal about our commonalities in the struggle that is cycling.

On paper, the Tour of California is arduous — 700 miles and over 60,000 feet of elevation gain (the equivalent of ascending Mount Everest, twice). Every element becomes a consideration, and in many cases, a nemesis. Whether it’s the demoralizing coastal headwind, the thick fog and torrential rain, that new saddle you’re not quite used to, or the intent focus on pacelining and echeloning with wheels you’ve never ridden behind. Coupled with the emotion that develops both on and off the bike when a rider has hit her limits, physically and mentally, the strength and inspiration of those around her is really what keeps her turning the cranks.

The group was eclectic, featuring two former professionals in Meredith Miller and Julie Krasniak, and others who have been riding and racing for a many years, while others had only previously ridden a single century. This wide range of experience and abilities is precisely what resulted in a deep sense of camaraderie as the group wound its way north to the state capital. And that, in and of itself, introduces a component of women’s cycling with which we often struggle. Too often, female cyclists find themselves in one of two categories: beginner or elite. Either they’ve never ridden a bike and need guidance through each and every step, or they’re competitive racers with no reason to diverge from the mentality that comes with being well-seasoned elites.

In my eyes, the Rapha ride slashed the dominant dichotomy of female cyclist stereotypes. The radiation of eclecticism was ultimately the driving force that pushed us across the finish line. Having neither preconceived notions of each others’ abilities or tendencies on the bike, or the assistance of a full-fledged peloton, required a certain tenacity that surprised all of us. The mental difficulty may have surpassed the physical challenges, as there was no opportunity to tune out.

Riding for up to 10 hours a day, especially when alone, is solitary. Turning the cranks becomes mechanistic, thoughts become few, and scenery becomes free entertainment. We had the joy of climbing over canyons so desolate I wondered if anyone had traveled there before. Or why they would have. Climbing Mount Hamilton in the pouring rain, counting down the switchbacks from 18 to 17 to 16, became futile as visibility was but a distant memory. Romanticism at its finest.

This romanticism was not ever-present, however. On a ride of this nature, small talk becomes as necessary as rice cakes, water, and chamois cream. All seven of us had the opportunity to get to know each other, and what better place to do it than on the bike, but that doesn’t make it any less exhausting. Pacelining along dismally windy pastures doesn’t make for positive small talk. Keeping every rider front of mind, at all times, is tiring to say the least. Unlike a race, where a rider prioritizes herself and perhaps her team, this was an instance in which each one of us was responsible for every rider in the peloton, regardless of ability, and regardless of how we were feeling at that very second.

Trying to quantify my own exhaustion, I searched for perspective. Climbing up the exposed, painfully steep Old San Marcos Road in Santa Barbara, I turned to Meredith Miller and asked, “How does this compare to stage racing in terms of exhaustion?” Perspiration forming along her helmet and sunglasses, she answered plainly, “Totally exhausting. In different ways.”

That was one of many moments in which we were all on the same level. Abilities, experiences were no matter. If you were to ask Kim Cross, a 38-year-old freelance writer and editor from Birmingham, Alabama, where she fit in with the crew, she would deem herself “the weakest link.” But, quite the contrary, Cross, like most of us, rides her bike when she can. Not only that, but she’s more partial to the dirt, so her road miles are few and far between. The mere fact that she even thought to tackle this feat was inspiring.

Inspiration is cliché in endurance sports. We’re all looking for that boost to climb aboard the saddle when the legs ache and the weather grumbles. But a group of seven women attempting to shift the paradigm of how female cyclists are viewed based on physical capabilities — that’s inspiration. I consider myself inexplicably lucky to have joined the Rapha Ambassadors on this journey. I left Sacramento with an incredible sense of inspiration — from the professionals I secretly wanted to mimic in cyclocross races, to the working moms who rode more that week than they had all year; from the support crew, which included Rapha’s Jeremy Dunn, Tim Coghlan, David Wilcox, and Chris Distefano, who offered long-distance emotional support, to the man behind Sag Monkey, Nick Nicastro, to the creative mind behind this crazy journey, Paige Dunn.

Female, male, it doesn’t matter. Tackling 700 miles in seven days on relentless terrain is a feat. Simulating the Tour of California gave me a tangible perspective on where we rode, and furthered my belief that pro cyclists are, well, superhuman. Jumping in head first, despite not knowing anyone, or how we would work together, created a camaraderie that could not be simulated in any other capacity.

Let this experience be a driving force for every cyclist. Whether you’ve just bought your first bike to start commuting to work, or you’re thinking of riding your first century or racing your first criterium, or even those of us who have been around the block with every discipline of racing, and riding, but never made it beyond “seasoned local” … no matter what your two-wheeled goals may be, they are possible. Whether you’re male or female, there is no real difference between the beginner and the elite in the grand scheme of cycling. Whether intentionally or not, the instances in which we come together, gasping for air, and ignoring the inevitable burning in our legs, are the pinnacles of this sport.

The post Finding inspiration in an eclectic group of California-riding women appeared first on VeloNews.com.

]]>
http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/04/commentary/raphas-tour-california-ridden-six-ambassadors-one-journalist_324224/feed 0
Rebranded Gran Fondo Italia announces 2014 lineup http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/04/news/rebranded-gran-fondo-italia-announces-2014-lineup_324322 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/04/news/rebranded-gran-fondo-italia-announces-2014-lineup_324322#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 22:33:29 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=324322

The Italian gran fondo series returns to Miami-Coral Gables, Florida, for a fourth year.

Three events in the U.S and one in Brazil make up the 2014 Gran Fondo Italia schedule, with more events expected to be announced

The post Rebranded Gran Fondo Italia announces 2014 lineup appeared first on VeloNews.com.

]]>

The Italian gran fondo series returns to Miami-Coral Gables, Florida, for a fourth year.

The former Gran Fondo Giro d’Italia series has been rebranded as simply Gran Fondo Italia, with a new lineup of events for 2014.

In 2013 the series was one of several to usher in this highly popular format of organized rides, which cater to varying skill levels. Those at the front often race to win. Those in the middle strive for personal bests. Those at the back attempt to complete the distance.

Three events in the U.S and one in Brazil make up the 2014 Gran Fondo Italia schedule, with more events expected to be announced.

The first event will be held August 10 in Aspen-Snowmass, Colorado, just eight days before the USA Pro Challenge begins in the same location.

The second event will be held October 19 in Atlanta-Roswell, Georgia, a  well known cycling area. The event will be organized in partnership with Southern Bicycle League.

On November 9, Gran Fondo Italia will return to Miami-Coral Gables, Florida, for a fourth year.

Finally, on November 16, the first edition of Gran Fondo Italia Rio de Janeiro will be held, in the future Olympic city.

The series, brings a blend of Italian atmosphere, cycling history, and Italian partnerships to host cities, was founded by Italian Matteo Gerevini in 2009.

“To give an example from our early events, we added the pasta party at the end of the event, usually involving the local Italian restaurants,” said Gerevini. “And then jerseys and technical bike products were added as part of the offerings. Our history goes back to the early days of using timed climbs to provide riders with markers for their achievements. All these details make the difference in a great experience, and we are well-positioned to provide an Italian experience that will keep our value unique and successful.”

For more information visit Gran Fondo Italia’s website.

The post Rebranded Gran Fondo Italia announces 2014 lineup appeared first on VeloNews.com.

]]>
http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/04/news/rebranded-gran-fondo-italia-announces-2014-lineup_324322/feed 0
Photo Essay: Inside the grit, pain, and party of Paris-Roubaix http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/04/gallery/photo-essay-inside-grit-pain-party-paris-roubaix_324247 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/04/gallery/photo-essay-inside-grit-pain-party-paris-roubaix_324247#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 16:25:39 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=324247

There is no race in the world like Paris-Roubaix and BrakeThrough Media takes us inside the 112th edition of "The Hell of the North"

The post Photo Essay: Inside the grit, pain, and party of Paris-Roubaix appeared first on VeloNews.com.

]]>

The post Photo Essay: Inside the grit, pain, and party of Paris-Roubaix appeared first on VeloNews.com.

]]>
http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/04/gallery/photo-essay-inside-grit-pain-party-paris-roubaix_324247/feed 0
Gallery: Inside the Ronde van Vlaanderen http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/04/gallery/brakethrough-gallery-tour-flanders_323268 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/04/gallery/brakethrough-gallery-tour-flanders_323268#comments Tue, 08 Apr 2014 16:34:40 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=323268

BrakeThrough Media captures the emotion and energy of the Tour of Flanders, from Brugge to Oudenaarde

The post Gallery: Inside the Ronde van Vlaanderen appeared first on VeloNews.com.

]]>

The post Gallery: Inside the Ronde van Vlaanderen appeared first on VeloNews.com.

]]>
http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/04/gallery/brakethrough-gallery-tour-flanders_323268/feed 0
Photo Essay: Inside Colnago’s Tuscan paint shop http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/03/gallery/gallery-inside-colnagos-tuscan-paint-shop_320874 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/03/gallery/gallery-inside-colnagos-tuscan-paint-shop_320874#comments Tue, 25 Mar 2014 14:31:02 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=320874

The paint and chrome work on Colnago's Masterlight steel frames, particularly the Mapei version, is stunning. Photo: Caley Fretz | VeloNews.com

The craftsmanship behind a Colnago frame is matched in equal measure by the attention to detail in the company's paint shop

The post Photo Essay: Inside Colnago’s Tuscan paint shop appeared first on VeloNews.com.

]]>

The paint and chrome work on Colnago's Masterlight steel frames, particularly the Mapei version, is stunning. Photo: Caley Fretz | VeloNews.com

The post Photo Essay: Inside Colnago’s Tuscan paint shop appeared first on VeloNews.com.

]]>
http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/03/gallery/gallery-inside-colnagos-tuscan-paint-shop_320874/feed 0
Photo Essay: The weathered faces of Milano-Sanremo http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/03/gallery/photo-essay-faces-milano-sanremo_321060 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/03/gallery/photo-essay-faces-milano-sanremo_321060#comments Mon, 24 Mar 2014 17:00:33 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=321060

Rain, freezing temperatures, and 294 kilometers take their toll and BrakeThrough Media captures the weathered faces of the Sanremo peloton

The post Photo Essay: The weathered faces of Milano-Sanremo appeared first on VeloNews.com.

]]>

The post Photo Essay: The weathered faces of Milano-Sanremo appeared first on VeloNews.com.

]]>
http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/03/gallery/photo-essay-faces-milano-sanremo_321060/feed 0
Feed: Simple Salvation off the Pacific Coast Highway http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/03/velolife/simple-salvation-pacific-coast-highway_319494 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/03/velolife/simple-salvation-pacific-coast-highway_319494#comments Fri, 21 Mar 2014 15:12:11 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=319494

The windy, fog covered Highway 1 waiting after the descent from Leggett. Photo: Addie Levinsky | VeloNews.com

Sometimes the most generic convenience store can provide lasting memories based on what it takes to get there, with a familiar soda to boot

The post Feed: Simple Salvation off the Pacific Coast Highway appeared first on VeloNews.com.

]]>

The windy, fog covered Highway 1 waiting after the descent from Leggett. Photo: Addie Levinsky | VeloNews.com

Leggett Market & Deli

Location: 67660 Highway 271 Leggett, Calif.
Why: Simple, but familiar fare for bicycle tourists on the road less traveled

The tickle in my throat and pounding in my head required sustenance. Of any variety, really. We were miles upon miles from a populated town, I thought, and a deep worry began to reign over me, fantasies of a perfect cortado paired with a pastry tailored to my many food allergies became increasingly prevalent.

A few hundred feet of elevation gain later, up and away from California’s coastline on route 271, the road began to crest and there, in plain sight, was a market. Picture your typical small town American convenience store — a glorified gas station of sorts. The market was strewn with many basic essentials, even some modern Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavors, but most of what lined the shelves was generic packaged products, seemingly outdated to the typical urban dweller. Though, in the back, the produce case was filled with vibrant fruits and vegetables, grown no more than several miles away. Ah, the beauty of California.

“How did you end up here?” the cashier asked, staring in disbelief.

The selection was small but, in this moment, perfectly tailored to my needs. I grabbed a Mexican Coca Cola, a bag of chips, and a few other packaged items I would never eat elsewhere. Sitting down to eat and drink and chat with the good natured locals perched atop this road less traveled, the corner market buffet was salvation in its purest form. No soda pop has tasted the same since.

Nestled on the outskirts of Mendocino County, atop the climb that diverges its travelers from the hustle and bustle of Redwood Highway to the breathtakingly beautiful, however mysterious, Highway 1, lays this little market. Simply named Leggett Market & Deli, it is nothing spectacular. Unless, of course, you have traveled by bicycle, as I had, for a seemingly innumerable number of miles down the relentlessly bending Pacific Coast Highway. It’s only then that the Mexican Coca Cola and bag of chips reveal their true glory — more glorious they ever would be at your local convenience store, however parched, however desperate.

Riding the Pacific Coast is a classic for any bicycle tourist and the mere utterance of the word “Leggett” churns stomachs. It has been deemed “the hardest climb on the Pacific Coast,” climbing from sea level to roughly 2,000 feet in less than five miles. With loaded panniers and stale legs, it’s undoubtedly a slog.

To reach Leggett Market & Deli traveling south, continue on Highway 101, past Garberville and Humboldt Redwood State Park. Entering Leggett on the 101, take the first left up Highway 271, which runs parallel to Highway 101, and travel a few steep miles to the market.

If you find yourself touring the Pacific Coast after Highway 101 meets Leggett, take that mysterious left turn. It will hurt, arguably more than Leggett, but the reward of a simple snack and recognition from the local folk will be worth it.

Relevant ride: Coastal road

The post Feed: Simple Salvation off the Pacific Coast Highway appeared first on VeloNews.com.

]]>
http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/03/velolife/simple-salvation-pacific-coast-highway_319494/feed 0
Photo Essay: Inside Selle San Marco’s Italian factory http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/03/gallery/gallery-inside-selle-san-marco_320800 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/03/gallery/gallery-inside-selle-san-marco_320800#comments Thu, 20 Mar 2014 22:10:03 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=320800

More Vintage Concor saddles waiting for covers. Photo: Caley Fretz | VeloNews.com

Italian manufacturing is largely a shadow of its former self, but Selle San Marco's Rossano Veneto factory still cranks out handmade saddles

The post Photo Essay: Inside Selle San Marco’s Italian factory appeared first on VeloNews.com.

]]>

More Vintage Concor saddles waiting for covers. Photo: Caley Fretz | VeloNews.com

The post Photo Essay: Inside Selle San Marco’s Italian factory appeared first on VeloNews.com.

]]>
http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/03/gallery/gallery-inside-selle-san-marco_320800/feed 0
Reviewed: Fizik Aliante VSX, the accidental women’s saddle http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/03/bikes-and-tech/reviews/reviewed-fizik-aliante-vsx-accidental-womens-saddle_320606 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/03/bikes-and-tech/reviews/reviewed-fizik-aliante-vsx-accidental-womens-saddle_320606#comments Wed, 19 Mar 2014 18:54:06 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=320606

The new Aliante VSX features a 20mm-wide cutout, making it more female-friendly than the original Aliante. Photo: Addie Levinsky | VeloNews.com

Fizik's Aliante VSX wasn't supposed to be a women's saddle, but the UnitedHealthcare women's team chose it and we put it through the paces

The post Reviewed: Fizik Aliante VSX, the accidental women’s saddle appeared first on VeloNews.com.

]]>

The new Aliante VSX features a 20mm-wide cutout, making it more female-friendly than the original Aliante. Photo: Addie Levinsky | VeloNews.com

Sometimes, cycling products are designed specifically for a specific consumer, whether it be male, female, roadie, or mountain biker — but in some cases, the product transcends its intended use. So it was when Fizik introduced its Versus X line to the UnitedHealthcare women’s team.

The Italian saddle-maker sells a full line of women’s saddles, but when presented with a range of options, the UHC women raised their hands in a near unanimous vote for the Aliante VSX, which is not a womens-specific saddle design. Wholly by accident, Fizik realized it had an excellent women’s saddle on its hands.

What makes this Aliante, which uses the same basic shape as the Aliantes that came before it, different? Fizik has always combined traditional design with innovative features, but it never offered a saddle with a “relief zone.” That is, until now. The Versus X saddle line, including the Aliante VSX, was devised strictly for those who want that pressure relief, and in the search for a solid, comfortable women’s saddle, a cutout is key.

The Versus X line includes all of Fizik’s standard saddle shapes, such as the Aliante, the Arione, and the Antares.

Finding the right saddle, especially for women, whose choices are somewhat limited, is the most important component of comfort on a bike. Most modern saddles designed specifically for women have a cutout or relief zone, which allows for the pelvis to rotate forward, alleviating pressure around the soft tissue area.

The original Aliante features an ergonomic dip platform and is more padded than most other Fizik saddles. The Aliante VSX maintains the dip and padding, while adding a 20mm cutout. Using Fizik’s Spinal Concept Technology, a method of determining the best fit based on one’s flexibility, the Aliante is designed for less flexible riders (known as “Bull” in Fizik terminology) who prefer a more upright position.

After logging both short lunch rides and long base miles, the Aliante VSX is clearly good candidate for females who have a propensity towards a more upright, relaxed fit but want to maintain performance. The 20mm cutout makes all the difference in comfort. It is probably not be the best saddle for very low positions, or for women who tend to move around on the bike. This falls in line with Fizik’s Spinal Concept, which suggests that its more rounded saddles are best for slightly more upright riders who don’t move their hips about much.

The release of the VSX line has given women more variability in saddle choice; with the addition of the cutout on saddles such as the Aliante, women have the chance to try different designs, and the Aliante could very well be a great pick for a woman looking for a comfortable road saddle for endurance rides.

The Aliante VSX, featuring a nylon carbon shell and carbon braided rails, is somewhat porky at 259 grams (likely due to the above-average amount of padding) and will set you back $215.

The post Reviewed: Fizik Aliante VSX, the accidental women’s saddle appeared first on VeloNews.com.

]]>
http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/03/bikes-and-tech/reviews/reviewed-fizik-aliante-vsx-accidental-womens-saddle_320606/feed 0
Gallery: Striking paint jobs at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/03/gallery/gallery-striking-paint-jobs-at-nahbs_320647 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/03/gallery/gallery-striking-paint-jobs-at-nahbs_320647#comments Wed, 19 Mar 2014 13:02:57 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=320647

Builders at NAHBS show off the eye-catching paint jobs of their bikes, which range from bright and colorful to downright creative

The post Gallery: Striking paint jobs at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show appeared first on VeloNews.com.

]]>

The post Gallery: Striking paint jobs at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show appeared first on VeloNews.com.

]]>
http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/03/gallery/gallery-striking-paint-jobs-at-nahbs_320647/feed 0
Gallery: Velo’s best of NAHBS awards for 2014 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/03/gallery/gallery-velos-best-of-nahbs-awards-for-2014_320358 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/03/gallery/gallery-velos-best-of-nahbs-awards-for-2014_320358#comments Mon, 17 Mar 2014 09:00:52 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=320358

After spending the weekend at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show, our tech team came up with its best of list

The post Gallery: Velo’s best of NAHBS awards for 2014 appeared first on VeloNews.com.

]]>

The post Gallery: Velo’s best of NAHBS awards for 2014 appeared first on VeloNews.com.

]]>
http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/03/gallery/gallery-velos-best-of-nahbs-awards-for-2014_320358/feed 0
Feed: Ernesto Colnago’s favorite Tuscan steak http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/03/velolife/feed-ernesto-colnagos-favorite-tuscan-steak_319039 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/03/velolife/feed-ernesto-colnagos-favorite-tuscan-steak_319039#comments Fri, 07 Mar 2014 17:10:28 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=319039

Ernesto Colnago with the proprietors of Ristorante Castero. Photo: Gruber Images

Ernesto Colnago has a favorite restaurant near his Tuscan paint facility, and to dine there is an hours-long event

The post Feed: Ernesto Colnago’s favorite Tuscan steak appeared first on VeloNews.com.

]]>

Ernesto Colnago with the proprietors of Ristorante Castero. Photo: Gruber Images

Ristorante Castero, Banca della Bistecca

Location: Lari, Italy
Why: Ernesto Colnago’s favorite steak

Where is Ernesto taking us?

Even Colnago’s marketing director, a jovial tri-lingual German named Herwig, doesn’t seem to know, and it’s making him a bit nervous. He has 20 journalists in tow, stashed in one of those short charter busses that normally hold tourists in this part of the world. We’re all champing for lunch after a morning of riding, staring longingly out the tinted windows as we pass yet another perfectly adequate-looking restaurant. We wind through vineyards, slowly heading south, away from Pisa and into the region that makes Tuscany famous.

Seriously, where is Ernesto taking us?

Hilltop villages dot the landscape, each a tiny stone island sitting atop a vast sea of grapevines, gardens, and orchards that stretches up to Lucca’s mountains to the north and farther than the eye can see to the south. It’s beautiful, really. But we’re hungry, and nothing’s beautiful when you’re hungry.

The bus crunches to a stop next to an abandoned stone building. It’s not an eyesore, rather the sort of crumbling stone structure that is everywhere around here, likely built before the United States became a country. But we have more important things to think about. Where’s the food?

Ernesto jumps out of his car behind the bus and leads us back down the road, left through an old iron gate, and up the drive of Ristorante Castero. Home, Herwig says, to Ernesto’s favorite steak.

In Tuscany, they say, there is no bad food; the cuisine is simple, local, fresh and utterly Italian. After a brief tour of the wine cellar, built around the time of the Coliseum, and another tour of the kitchen, thankfully built more in time with the movie “Gladiators,” we take our seats.

The second half of Castero’s name is “Banca della Bistecca.” Steak bank. The English translation just doesn’t have the same ring to it, but that’s the beauty of Italian, no? Banca della bistecca; to this famished group, the words are exquisite. The sizzling noises coming from the kitchen are doing nothing to help us forget our empty stomachs.

The first course, antipasti, does not disappoint. Prosciutto, sliced from some sort of God pig, it must be, for its perfectly salty fattiness is enough to make one’s eyes roll backwards. Soft, warm bread, too, with local and perfectly fresh olive oil. Cheese, a soft caprino rolled in herbs, and a lightly aged pecorino. Things are off to a good start.

Round 2: a pasta. Lightly flavored, so the olive oil is not lost under herbs and spices. Wonderful.

Round 3: our first meat. Round 4: a second. Both steaks, sourced locally and dry aged in-house, cooked to a perfect medium rare. You want well done? That’ll get you thrown out.

This is not the sort of restaurant you stop at mid-ride. This is an event. We rode for a bit over two hours this morning; now we eat lunch for more than three, slowly working our way through each course.

Two hours in, glass of wine in hand, Ernesto looks up from his favorite steak and smiles off into space. He’s a man of simple tastes. Good food. Good wine. Good company. Ristorante Castero, on this day, has them all.

Relevant rides:
Hills outside Viareggio >>

The post Feed: Ernesto Colnago’s favorite Tuscan steak appeared first on VeloNews.com.

]]>
http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/03/velolife/feed-ernesto-colnagos-favorite-tuscan-steak_319039/feed 0
The insider’s guide to a classics vacation in Oudenaarde, Belgium http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/02/velolife/destination-oudenaarde-belgium_318072 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/02/velolife/destination-oudenaarde-belgium_318072#comments Wed, 26 Feb 2014 20:59:50 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=318072

The Oude Kwaremont is one of the late, decisive climbs on the new Ronde van Vlaanderen route and is easily accessible from Oudenaarde. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

You love the classics, so why wouldn't you visit the motherland during spring — and bring your bike?

The post The insider’s guide to a classics vacation in Oudenaarde, Belgium appeared first on VeloNews.com.

]]>

The Oude Kwaremont is one of the late, decisive climbs on the new Ronde van Vlaanderen route and is easily accessible from Oudenaarde. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

When it comes to cycling destinations, there are two prevailing attitudes towards spending money and time visiting a city such as Oudenaarde, the town most central to the cobbled climbs of the Ronde van Vlaanderen (the Tour of Flanders), the most important race in Belgium.

One school of thought is that Belgium is relatively flat, prone to wet weather, known more for its chocolate and beer than cuisine, and wholly lacking in the Mediterranean flavor of Tuscany or the alpine mystique of Annecy or Grenoble. However, for hard-core cycling enthusiasts, a trip to the Flanders region of Belgium is nothing less than a pilgrimage to the most hallowed grounds in the sport — the roads where natives Eddy Merckx, Johan Museeuw and Tom Boonen became legends.

Close to Gent and Brugge and located along the banks of the River Scheldt, Oudenaarde (meaning “old field”) is about 75 minutes from the beaches of De Panne and the sand dunes in Koksijde, near the infamous battlefields of World War I. Once renowned for its tapestry production, for a century now Oudenaarde has been the central access point to a network of loops connecting the cobbled climbs of De Ronde. The town of 30,000 is the traditional starting point for the women’s Tour of Flanders, and is home to Centre Ronde van Vlaanderen, a two-story museum located in the main town square dedicated entirely to the race and its place in Belgian cycling history. In addition to several thousand square feet of displays of memorabilia — jerseys, bikes, tools and more — Centre Ronde van Vlaanderen also features a conference room, café and gift shop.

Unless you’re Belgian, it’s unlikely you speak Flemish, the local Dutch dialect, but that shouldn’t dissuade you; the majority of Flandrians under the age of 40 speak English fluently, and most conversations and interactions are quite easy. (For almost a decade American cyclocross expat Jonathan Page has called Oudenaarde home.)

The annual Ronde van Vlaanderen Cyclo is one of the coolest and most well attended organized cycling events in existence. Nearly 20,000 cyclists of all shapes, sizes and ages descend upon Flanders to ride the “hellingen” of De Ronde. For the 2014 event, held April 5 — the day before the classic — three routes are available: 247km, starting in Brugge and following a similar route to the one the pros will ride; 134km, which starts and ends in Oudenaarde and delivers 15 climbs; and an 75km version, which delivers nine climbs, including the Koppenberg and Kwaremont. Best of all, cost of entry is relatively low, about $40.

Learn more about the Ronde van Vlaanderen Cyclo >>

In 2012 organizers moved the finish of De Ronde from Ninove, where it had finished since 1973, to Oudenaarde. In 2014 the Oude Kwaremont will feature three times and the Paterberg will appear twice, replacing the Muur-Kapelmuur of Geraardsbergen as the most pivotal late-race climbs. There was public outrage in Belgium over the removal of the Muur, but the new course design only cements Oudenaarde’s position as the epicenter of Belgium’s biggest race.

Getting there

Air: Fly in and out of Brussels Airport, about an hour away. Flights from the U.S. are overnight, so be prepared to disembark into the hustle and bustle of Belgium’s busiest airport during morning rush hour.

Train: Use SNCB, Belgium’s national railway company. Oudenaarde can be reached by train from Brussels (45 to 50 minutes), Gent (30 minutes) and Kortrijk (20 minutes).

Auto: From Brussels there are two routes. The highway route involves taking the E40 towards Gent, merging on to the E17 toward Kortrijk, and taking the N60 to Oudenaarde. The back road route involves taking the N8 west from Brussels in the direction of Ronse; after passing through Ninove and Brakel, head north from Ronse on the N60 to Oudenaarde.

Passport/Visa requirements: A passport is required to depart on an international flight, and upon arriving in the European Union.

Travel office >>

Lodging

High-end: For a garden terrace, sauna, and view of the Scheldt River, look into Hotel-Restaurant De Rantere.

Mid-range: If swanky, modern design across from the town square appeals, see Gastenverblijf Steenhuyse.

Budget: If a communal kitchen, wrenching on your bike, great beer, and a relaxed atmosphere are more your bag, book at The ChainStay. Youth hostel-style rooms are available at Het Moerashuis (The Outsider), on a lake near the city center.

Top rides

Three color-coded Ronde van Vlaanderen routes are signposted throughout the region, and all three pass through Oudenaarde. The routes, which take in a variety of De Ronde’s climbs, are 78km, 103km, and 114km in length, and were recently updated, so have a look at one of the local cycling maps before heading out onto the road.

If these routes are too long or too hard, you can choose from 18 signposted, numbered routes ranging from 30 to 50km. Mountain bikers will love the Flemish Ardennes trail network, with over 220km of signposted mountain bike routes. Routes can be downloaded as GPX files and pre-loaded onto a GPS.

Strava ride files:
2013 Ronde van Vlaanderen Cyclo >>
Oudenaarde circuit with the major hellingen >>

Dining/Coffee/Markets

The expansive town square (“Markt”) is lined with cafés and bars. One good option is De Cridts, a café-restaurant serving standard Flemish dishes at reasonable prices, with main courses averaging $20.

Sights to see

Cycling fans will gravitate towards the Centre Ronde van Vlaanderen and its Brasserie De Flandrien, a café populated by both tourists and locals watching televised races, sipping Belgian beers and dining on daily specials such as Carbonnades Cancellara, Spaghetti Boononaise and Pasta Ballan. Admission is 7 euros, or, for 75 euros, you can enjoy a guided tour by museum patriarch Freddy Maertens, the two-time Belgian world champion who, sadly, never claimed a Ronde title for himself. Admission to the brasserie is free.

Nightlife

Oudenaarde has a rich brewing tradition with many regional breweries. Four are still active today: Roman, Liefmans, Cnudde and the newest brewery, Smisje. These can be found on tap at Hanske de Krijger, a pastel-decorated bar off the Grote Markt. A second option is De Carillon, the oldest café-restaurant in Oudenaarde, consisting of a pair of 400-year-old brick and sandstone houses and a large sidewalk terrace, all in the shadow of the Market Hall.

Bike shops

The Wheel Palace is a full-service cycling megastore located 4km from the town square.

Matthew Beaudin contributed to this guide.

The post The insider’s guide to a classics vacation in Oudenaarde, Belgium appeared first on VeloNews.com.

]]>
http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/02/velolife/destination-oudenaarde-belgium_318072/feed 0
Video: 10 training camp locales you should book http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/02/video/video-10-training-camp-locales-you-should-book_317978 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/02/video/video-10-training-camp-locales-you-should-book_317978#comments Mon, 24 Feb 2014 17:13:51 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=317978

The world's biggest teams know the right spots for training and you should follow them there

The post Video: 10 training camp locales you should book appeared first on VeloNews.com.

]]>

The post Video: 10 training camp locales you should book appeared first on VeloNews.com.

]]>
http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/02/video/video-10-training-camp-locales-you-should-book_317978/feed 0
Bucket List: 17 must-do rides and races in North America http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/02/velolife/bucket-list-17-must-do-rides-and-races-in-north-america_317212 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/02/velolife/bucket-list-17-must-do-rides-and-races-in-north-america_317212#comments Mon, 17 Feb 2014 11:30:21 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=317212

These are 17 events in North America that belong on your bucket list.

From mountain bike stage races to 200-plus-mile road rides to alpine tours, these are the events and rides you need to put on your priority

The post Bucket List: 17 must-do rides and races in North America appeared first on VeloNews.com.

]]>

These are 17 events in North America that belong on your bucket list.

Blue Ridge Parkway

Where: North Carolina and Virginia
When: Late spring through fall
Why: Spawned by the New Deal more than 75 years ago as a scenic driving route, the Blue Ridge Parkway provides 469 uninterrupted miles of tarmac through some of the most beautiful national parks in the country. Although created for cars, the benefit of bypassing intersections via overpasses provides cyclists the same luxury of never having to stop for traffic. Elevation ranges from 600 to 6,000 feet.
www.blueridgeparkway.org

Going-to-the-Sun Road

Where: Glacier National Park, Montana
When: Summer
Why: Dedicated in 1933, the Going-to-the-Sun Road is a breathtaking alpine route through the heart of Glacier National Park in northwest Montana. The only road in the States to hold both National Historic and National Civil Engineering Landmark designations, the route over Logan Pass runs 50 miles and climbs to 6,646 feet. Road construction over the next decade will cause up to 30-minute delays, but a trip by Jackson Glacier with the bighorn sheep is worth it.
www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/goingtothesunroad.htm

The Snowy Range

Where: Laramie to Saratoga, Wyoming
When: Late spring through fall
Why: Highway 130 begins in Laramie, but its true beauty begins outside of Centennial. Crossing over the Snowy Range, the road kicks off with a steep grade and rises at a moderate rate for another 10 miles through beautiful pine and Aspen forests. At tree line, riders are treated to a spectacular view of the cliffs of Medicine Bow Peak as the road rises gradually to Libby Flat. If you choose to ride over the top, you can continue on to Saratoga Springs, which features natural hot springs and some restaurants. Traffic is light to moderate and the route is one of the hidden treasures of the Front Range of the Rockies.
www.byways.org

Dirty Kanza 200

Where: The Flint Hills region of Kansas
When: May 31, 2014
Why: Riding a century is certainly a doable challenge for most cyclists. Fewer tackle a double century (200 miles in one day). Even fewer attempt this epic ride over the undulating dirt and gravel roads of central Kansas. The most telling part of this event is the disclaimer issued by the promoter: “If you break down or become injured, do not call us. We will not come rescue you.” A support crew and a back-up emergency plan are recommended. Cut-off times are based on a 10mph average speed. Created by masochists for masochists, the Dirty Kanza 200 is not for newbies.
www.dirtykanza200.com

Lake Champlain Bikeways

Where: Vermont, New York, Québec
When: June through October
Why: Lake Champlain Bikeways has mapped out bike-friendly loops all around this New England gem, taking riders through rolling hills, up mountains and along the beach for over 380 miles. Also available are a number of theme loops in Vermont and New York, like the Island Rail Trail loop, which takes riders along the Vermont shore via the old Rutland Railroad Island Line.
www.champlainbikeways.org

Natchez Trace Parkway

Where: Natchez, Mississippi, to just south of Nashville, Tennessee
When: Spring or fall
Why: The bicycle-only campgrounds provide primitive camping for visitors who are biking the Natchez Trace Parkway. By using the Parkway campgrounds, bicycle-only campgrounds, and communities near the Parkway, you can plan your trip to ride between 30 and 60 miles each day. Each Parkway campground provides tent sites, picnic tables, and fire grates throughout the year. Water is available throughout the year inside Parkway restrooms; outside water sources may be unavailable during winter months.
www.nps.gov/natr

White Rim Trail

Where: Canyonlands National Park, near Moab, Utah
When: Fall, winter, spring
Why: A 103-mile loop on non-technical jeep roads, with breathtaking views that are well worth it for any level of rider. The White Rim is a hard, white, sandstone layer that forms a bench above and below softer surrounding red rock layers. The loop is a triangle bounded on two sides by the Colorado and Green Rivers and has around 6,000 feet of total elevation, much of that back up to the top of Island In The Sky mesa. It can be ridden in one to four days. Overnight camping requires a permit from the Park Service well in advance; support vehicles can carry gear in.
www.utahmountainbiking.com

LOTOJA Classic

Where: Logan, Utah, to Jackson Hole, Wyoming
When: First Saturday after Labor Day
Why: At 206 miles, Leon Bergant set an individual course record for LOTOJA (Logan to Jackson) in 2012, at just over nine hours, but not everyone is so gung-ho. More than half the field each year is out for the fun ride that starts before dawn. The scenic route climbs through southeast Idaho before hugging the Wyoming border into Jackson. Get training.
www.lotojaclassic.com

Mount Washington Hill Climb

Where: Northern New Hampshire
When: August 16, 2014
Why: The Mount Washington Auto Road is one of the most difficult paved climbs in the world. The 7.6-mile toll road climbs 4,618 feet at an average grade of 11.6 percent. That’s steeper than the Mortirolo, Zoncolan, and Agliru, and far steeper than any climb you’ll see in the Tour de France, and you don’t have to cross an ocean to get there. The hardest pitch is the last 50 yards at 22-percent gradient. Last year’s winning time was 50 minutes and 48 seconds. The race fills fast, so register early.
www.mwarbh.org

Tour de Tucson

Where: Tucson, Arizona
When: November 22, 2014
Why: More than 9,000 cyclists gather the Saturday before Thanksgiving to race and ride the Tour de Tucson. The crowd ranges from kids and beginners to pro racers. Adults can choose from 38-, 57-, 81, and 107-mile routes. Tucson in November offers perfect riding weather, and the big routes take you out into the Sonoran Desert with spectacular mountain views. Beware the sandy dry riverbed crossing.
www.pbaa.com

The Trans-Sylvania Mountain Bike Epic

Where: Spring Mills, Pennsylvania, (close to State College)
When: May 25-May 31, 2014
Why: Ever really sampled East Coast singletrack? If not, try a healthy serving at the Trans-Sylvania Mountain Bike Epic, a seven-day mountain bike stage race in central Pennsylvania that can be tackled solo, duo or with a team. The race stages are located in Rothrock and Bald Eagle state forests and are punctuated with rock gardens, challenging climbs and technical descents. But don’t let that dissuade you; race organizers say that if you can ride three or four hours at a steady pace each day you’ll finish. What helps make Trans-Sylvania even more appealing is that the race uses a home-base campground so you sleep in the same bed every night. Racing is fully supported: aid stations are stocked with food and supplies and the courses are all marked.
www.outdoorexperience.org/tse/

L’Etape du California

Where: Thousand Oaks, California
When: April 6, 2014
Why: Think you can set a new Strava KOM mark on the Rock Store climb? Give it a go on the route for the final stage of the Amgen Tour of California. The route changes each year and has visited the brutal Mount Baldy climb in the past. Want to stand out? VIPs traditionally get prime parking, breakfast, kit, and bike demos.
www.letapeducalifornia.com

RAGBRAI

Where: Missouri River to the Mighty Mississippi
When: Last full week of July
Why: The self-purported “oldest, largest and longest bicycle-touring event in the world” is more than 40 years old. A rolling bicycle party, RAGBRAI makes its way through the hills of corn country each summer. From your saddle, take in the open arms of the Midwest during the day and enjoy good food, beer and company at night. Don’t want to carry panniers? Throw your bags in the 18-wheeler and grab them at the next campground.
www.ragbrai.com

Tour of Utah Ultimate Challenge

Where: Salt Lake City to Snowbird Ski Resort
When: August 9, 2014
Why: Now you can climb into the hurt box over 10,000-plus feet of climbing in the Wasatch Mountains. The new queen stage for the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah will start on the edge of Salt Lake City and finish atop the 6.5-mile climb up Little Cottonwood Canyon.
www.rideuc.com

West Yellowstone to Mammoth Hot Springs

Where: Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
When: November
Why: The world’s first national park is a magical place for a cycle tour. For a few weeks most years, the park closes to motorized traffic in the fall, but cyclists and other non-motorized visitors remain until snow covers the roads. From West Yellowstone, a detour south to Old Faithful geyser starts an inspiring trip past the Roaring Mountain geo-thermals, Obsidian Cliff and the Golden Gate.
www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/bicycling.htm

Mount Evans

Where: Idaho Springs, Colorado
When: Summer
Why: You can’t ride higher on a road bike. This 28-mile route takes you to the top of the highest paved road in North America, at 14,240 feet of elevation. The road is only open June-August in most years and costs $3 to ride on. You’ll ride through tall pine forests, past clear alpine lakes, through stunted, wind-battered high-altitude trees, and through many miles of alpine tundra above treeline. It is often snowing on top, even if it is 90 degrees in Denver and 70 degrees in Idaho Springs, at 7,586 feet. Be prepared with sufficient food, water and clothing, and don’t be surprised at how weak you feel when nearing the top — there’s only half as much oxygen compared to sea level. The effort pays off with views for hundreds of miles, mountain goats and bighorn sheep, and an enormous feeling of accomplishment. Just don’t forget extra layers for the descent.
www.mountevans.com

Leadville Trail MTB 100

Where: Leadville, Colorado
When: August 9, 2014
Why: The high-elevation Leadville Trail 100 is a must-do for anyone who’s been throwing a leg over a mountain bike for any amount of time. While the course has only a couple of technically demanding downhill sections, what makes it so difficult is the rarified air. The LT100 ranges between 9,200 feet to nearly 13,000 at the 50-mile turn-around point, and is a major factor in the attrition rate; about 65 percent of the field actually finishes within the 12-hour cutoff. The other trick to racing Leadville is actually being one of the 1,500 or so riders in the event. For the masses, entry into the perennially sold-out race is through a lottery. However, a series of LT100 qualifying races has been developed, lending a bit more order to the start list. Qualifiers for 2014 are scheduled for Texas, New York, Utah, Colorado, California, and Arizona. So, other than the accomplishment, what do you earn? Finish before the 12-hour time limit and you earn a silver belt buckle; a sub-9-hour ride earns you gold.
www.leadvilleraceseries.com

The post Bucket List: 17 must-do rides and races in North America appeared first on VeloNews.com.

]]>
http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/02/velolife/bucket-list-17-must-do-rides-and-races-in-north-america_317212/feed 0