Okay, so we couldn’t leave a whole week without a post. It’s been a year of stories often as fascinating as they are frustrating. Robot and I have picked our five most significant (if not favorite) story lines.
1) Fabian Cancellara’s Roubaix/ Flanders Double—Few riders are able to completely dominate their competition quite the way Fabian Cancellara can when he’s in top form. His astonishing attack on the Muur in the Ronde, while seated mind you, is a move I will never forget. Then his turn of speed at Roubaix, with main rival Tom Boonen momentarily asleep at the switch, was thrilling. To ride off the front of a group containing Boonen, Thor Hushovd, Juan Antonio Flecha and a select crew of Classics specialists, demonstrates a power and quality we seldom see. Those two wins made Cancellara’s April my top highlight of the 2010 season.
2) The Rise and Fall of Contador—The American press tried to make the 2010 Tour about the duel between Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong, but Armstrong never had a chance, crashing out of contention early and then fumbling along to the finish. The real match was between Contador and Andy Schleck and that story served up all the drama and controversy of the very best Tours, with Contador standing on the top step in Paris to confirm his inheritance of the Armstrong/Indurain/Hinault/Merckx/Anquetil/Coppi legacy.
Oh, but then soaring so close to the sun, waxen wings melting in the bright light, Contador tests positive for Clenbuterol. And with this positive test, confirmed with a B sample reading, and hurled into judicial purgatory for the rest of the year, we see an abrupt end to the building legend, an end that tarnishes the futures of both the rider and the race.
3) Thor Hushovd’s World Championship—Coming off a World Championship year that saw 2009 winner Cadel Evans represent the rainbow jersey with grit, bravery and aplomb, the talismanic championship seemed open to sprinters and roleurs alike. In the end, the sprintingest roleur won the race, riding a smart tactical race with a short-handed team, only flexing his considerable muscle when it mattered most. Hushovd’s win was big for a hard-working rider, but also big for the jersey itself, as we are now almost guaranteed a second consecutive year of class from the world champ.
4) The First Biological Passport Suspensions—The UCI might have taken a more expeditious path to this stage of the fight against doping, but despite their missteps and the blundering press comments of president Pat McQuaid, the biological passport program finally produced some results in 2010. It remains to be seen how its parameters and administration will evolve as tools against cheaters, but with the first suspensions, we are finally seeing an adjunct program to in-race testing that seeks to catch the dopers who slip through the first net. Love it or hate it, the Passport must have dishonest riders worried that they’re running out of options, and that is, unquestionably, a good thing.
5) The SaxoBank Exodus/Luxembourg Project—It is hard for me to fathom how so many riders (and managers) whose careers were built and fostered by Bjarne Riis would be so willing to jump off the SaxoBank ship to join a fledgling team, regardless of the pedigree of its component parts. That Riis can be prickly, stubborn and aloof is beyond argument, but the mutiny of nearly his entire team is an outcome I never foresaw. Heap on top that insult, the injury of Contador’s doping problems, and it becomes very hard to argue that the Dane will land on his race-winning feet in 2011.
1) Cancellara’s Flanders/Roubaix Double—I have to echo Robot here. Not only were Cancellara’s back-to-back victories the wins of the year for me, I have to say that Cancellara’s attack on the Muur de Grammont—seated and spinning the 25 while Boonen looked to be standing on a 21—was absolutely the attack of the year for me. Both rides had me standing up and cheering.
That anyone would accuse the four-time time trial World Champion of using an electric motor is like asking about Kobe Bryant’s rocket boots he uses to get his jump shot. We should ignore the birthers. They’ll go away faster this way. We have real problems to contend with, as evidenced by number two.
2) The Contador Doping Case—From a standpoint of rules, I don’t see how Contador will escape a suspension due to his positive test for Clenbuterol. American rider Scott Moninger went to incredible lengths to demonstrate that what he tested positive for was as a result of supplements tainted by sloppy manufacturing. He purchased stock made in the same lot as the supplements he took and submitted sealed containers for testing. His defense was rigorously scientific … and he still got a one-year suspension due to strict liability. Contador’s defense has been far less methodical, which makes me far less sympathetic. His claims have, for me, smacked of the ‘dog ate my homework’ variety.
However, the bigger question on my mind has to do with testing for plasticizers. The detection of plasticizers in Contador’s sample suggests that officials may soon be able to prosecute riders more effectively for autologous blood transfusions. This seems to have been the preferred doping method for GC hopefuls for more than five years, but catching these riders has been less than successful. I don’t care who the rider is, if they’re transfusing, I want them caught and suspended as a result of a rigorously scientific prosecution.
3) The UCI’s Technical Criteria for Bike Approval—Bike companies have been screwed like an Ikea entertainment center by the UCI’s technical commission. Cinelli was nearly bankrupted due to the Spinacci fiasco. Their implementation of rules ahead of schedule sparked a seething rant from me that I ultimately deemed too angry to publish. I’m glad that a procedure to approve bicycles is in place. Unfortunately, the fee schedule to get a bike approved is expensive enough that some companies might think twice before submitting a design. Viewed within the larger expense of sponsoring a ProTeam team, it’s not so bad, but for companies that stretch to sponsor a Continental team, this could be a deal killer; after all, $12k is the cost of some riders. Leave it to the UCI to create a system that would scare bike companies from sponsoring a racing team. While this story will make more waves in 2011 than it did in 2010, that the criteria were decided and announced is huge. It’s an important step in the right direction.
4) The SaxoBank Exodus—Once Fabian Cancellara announced that he, too, would depart SaxoBank, I had a Sixth Sense moment. If you recall the Bruce Willis thriller, when you reach the end of the film and realize that he is the dead guy, you must reanalyze the entire picture—better yet, just watch it again. I began to wonder if all the praise riders had heaped upon Bjarne Riis was all Hollywood kiss-kiss, “Love ya, babe.” Presented with a viable option every rider worth anything jumped like passengers from the Titanic. It’s little surprise Richie Porte stayed behind; there’s nothing like watching the heirs apparent abdicate. ‘You say I’m king?! Cool!’
I can’t help but wonder what skeletons rattle in Riis’ closet.
5) The Fall of Lance Armstrong—Long before investigator Jeff Novitzky became interested in Tailwind Sports and Lance Armstrong, many cycling fans rebuked him like a banana republic reformer-cum-dictator. Allegations of doping swirled around him, proven sufficiently to some, while others simply saw the allegations as typical efforts to besmirch a hard-working athlete. Armstrong’s return to the Tour de France seems to have been more than disenfranchised Floyd Landis could bear. My read is that Landis believes he played by the same set of rules Armstrong did, won, and got a very different result. Forgetting for a moment how Landis has conducted himself (the most conclusive thing I can say is that some of his choices seem to have been based on fuzzy logic), it doesn’t seem hard to see how a man who has lost everything he worked for—wife, home, stepchild, a father-in-law, savings—decides he’ll burn the rest down. History is replete with examples of figures who refuse to go down alone, people who want others in the boat with them when the gunwales swamp.
Armstrong’s story has a lot of unfolding left to do. We knew the comeback would be a fresh chapter in the athlete’s career, but no one expected this turn. Novitzky’s reputation indicates that if he tires of his work as an investigator he could teach graduate seminars in tenacity. Armstrong is anything but convicted, but the allegations all point to a conclusion that will change the world’s opinion of him, and probably his foundation. The tragedy is that if he is convicted of charges associated with doping, most casual followers of cycling will think of Armstrong as a dirty athlete in a dirty sport and simply write off cycling as a force for good. Lost will be the story of an athlete who returned from the grave, played by the standard of the day and won the Tour de France … again and again and again and again and again and again.
And so we put the question to you: What were the biggest stories of the year in your eyes?
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International
This is a time of year when people celebrate. Whether you enjoy Christmas for religious or secular reasons, remember the eight nights of Hanukkah, party to Kwanzaa or save it all up for New Year’s Eve, some holiday very likely has you in its sights, and hopefully, it, you. It’s a time for gifts both large and small.
If there’s anything more fun than finding the perfect gift for someone I love and seeing the look on their face when they open it, I’ve yet to experience that pleasure. The other pleasure that I am familiar with, though, is getting a killer gift.
My personal belief on both getting and giving gifts is that they should speak to the recipient and their loves. The very best among them are extravagances, maybe not in price, but the object is something the recipient might not buy on their own. My wife once purchased a limited-edition CD by one of my favorite artists. The sleeve was autographed. I’d never have purchased that myself.
Getting a gift of anything cycling-related is one of those special treats. It’s an endorsement of one of our great loves and let’s us know it’s not on the chopping block of our free time for the foreseeable future.
Some of you will be opening presents tonight, some tomorrow morning and others have had it complete for days. No matter. We’d love to hear what cycling treasures you received—or gave.
RKP will be taking a short hiatus between Christmas and New Year’s. I’m going to be working on a book and some of the first entries for a new department on peloton magazine‘s web site called “Artisans.” It starts with the new year.
Peloton has an additional treat in store for you. There will be another new department on their web site, also beginning in January, this one called “Wisdom.” It will feature excerpts from my book “No Drop Zone,” to be published by Menasha Ridge Press in May. It’s a how-to aimed at new roadies. It’s my goal that any reader will find something useful in its contents.
I hope you’ll bear with the absence while I try to get some serious base miles in my writing legs on these two fronts.
Carbon fiber bikes have changed more in the last 10 years than steel bikes have in the last 50 years. I write that as a fan of steel and an owner of two steel bikes. While it’s hard to quantify just how much stiffer carbon bikes are now than they were when George W. Bush entered office, it’s easy to quantify the drop in weight. For most manufacturers, the weight loss on their top-of-the-line bikes is half a kilo, sometimes more, and on occasion, less.
Weight is but one method of judging a bike and were it our sole criteria, it would be a bad one. We’d end up with sub-kilo steel frames that are too small for chimps.
I’ve been interested in the calculus that goes on between large companies that do all their own engineering on their carbon fiber framesets and small outfits that work with some of the same manufacturing facilities and purchase frames that are produced in the manufacturer’s own molds. These frames are called “open mold” because literally anyone can buy these frames, provided they are willing to purchase enough of them.
The practice is really just a 21st-century version of how almost all American companies purchased steel frames from Italy and, later, steel and aluminum frames from Taiwan and China. If you’ve ever purchased Trader Joe’s-brand wine, then you’ve purchased a product sourced in exactly the same manner.
The Torelli Montefalco is sourced in much the same way Torelli has always sourced products: from smaller manufacturers selected for the quality of their work. While the Montefalco is not produced by the Mondonico family, but instead a smaller composites facility in Taiwan, the effect is the same. It’s a small operation focusing on quality work that isn’t producing for any of the big names out there.
Before throwing my leg over the Montefalco, I had a lot of questions: How would it fit? How stiff was it? How light was it? How did it handle?
Let’s dispense with the easiest of these answers: Following the conclusion of my riding, I dismantled the bike, removing everything save the derailleur hanger. Bear in mind most companies list their frame weight before paint. The painted Montefalco with derailleur hanger was 1010 grams in the large size (57cm top tube). I was impressed. I’m sure that derailleur hanger weighed more than 10g, so this qualifies as a sub-kilo frame by any standard. There aren’t a lot of sub-kilo frames out there; companies are increasingly resorting to eliminating that outer weave layer and paint. I’m willing to bet that the paint on this frame weighed at least 60g (about 2 ounces).
The elimination of the outer weave layer on some top-of-the-line frames is a true double-edged sword. On one hand, the look is fresh and stylish, and to produce a frame where the outer layer of unidirectional carbon looks good enough not to cover up with paint requires the utmost in care. There’s a problem, though. That weave layer, though it doesn’t contribute to the stiffness of the frame and adds weight, it serves an important function in protecting the carbon from any sorts of strikes. I’ve been asked repeatedly how much stiffer 3k weave is than 12k weave. There’s no difference. If a bike shop employee tells you that one weave is better than another, go talk to someone else. That layer is cosmetic and exists so that if you drop your bottle or a wrench on your top tube or a rock flies off your front tire and hits your down tube it doesn’t start a cancerous crack that will kill your frame.
And for the record, the Torelli site erroneously states that the Montefalco features 3k weave. It doesn’t; it features 12k weave—but the difference is 90 percent cosmetic, so the point is moot.
I’ve seen some crazy tube shapes lately, and on occasion, seemingly reasonable shapes used in odd ways. At the head tube of the Montefalco the top and down tubes have a rather triangular cross-section. To attain maximum stiffness in torsion, the best orientation of these shapes is for the triangles’ longest sides to be perpendicular to the head tube and as close to the ends of the head tube as possible, which is how they are oriented on the Montefalco.
The frame features a tapered head tube and fork steerer. What surprised me was when I pulled the fork out of the frame, the steerer was 1 1/8-inches in diameter until just a few centimeters before the crown, then it suddenly expanded to 1 1/2 inches. Though the increase in diameter was sudden, it was enough to do the trick.
Out on the road I’ve come to sense almost immediately the difference between a frameset with a tapered head tube and steerer and one without. I notice the difference most readily when I stand up to accelerate with my hands on the hoods. It’s a move I’ve made tens of thousands of times on different bikes and that bigger fork gives the rider the sense that the bike has an overall increase in stiffness. The days of me standing up and making the chain rub the front derailleur in the 53×19 are gone. Utterly gone and in the mid-‘90s I could make almost any steel or ti frame do that; I could even do it with most carbon bikes. Not any more.
The upshot is that judging stiffness increasingly means judging just how much you can sense twist between the handlebar and the bottom bracket. The only steel frame I ever rode that possessed this much stiffness was made from Columbus Max. There are builders out there still working with that tube set (notably Hampsten and Zanconato) and God love ‘em for doing it, but that tube set is a bit much for me. (I’m sure right now legions of Hampsten, Zanconato and Pegoretti fans are mailing me skirts.)
For my money, the Montefalco offers more than adequate stiffness while still yielding enough that I wasn’t uncomfortable on long rides. Notably, the smaller frames have some material eliminated to keep the flex pattern consistent. Think of it as today’s answer to making a 54cm frame from Columbus SL tubing while making the 58cm frame from Columbus’ heavier-gauge SP tubing.
The Montefalco comes in five sizes. The top tube lengths are 52.5, 54, 55.5, 57 and 59cm. That the sizes come in 1.5cm increments (except for the 2cm jump from the 57 to 59) means that it’s easy for most riders to find a frame that will fit. If you’re either Lilliputian or Gulliver, well, this might not be the bike for you.
Bottom bracket drop on the large is 6.75cm. My review bike was built around a 19cm head tube, parallel 73-degree head and seat tube angles and 40.8cm chainstays. Fork rake is 45mm, yielding 5.69cm of trail. The top tube, as is visible in the photo slopes slightly. Wheelbase is a fairly standard 100.8cm. It uses a 31.6mm seatpost. I’m not wild about this for two reasons: 1) it isn’t a terribly common size and 2) I like the flex that a 27.2mm seatpost gives when I hit bumps. It’s not much, but I notice the difference on these bigger seatposts.
Not much attention gets paid to handling geometry these days. Trail, bottom bracket drop (or height) and wheelbase determine a bike’s character and whether the bike reacts to you or you react to the bike.
As I’ve mentioned previously, my proving ground for a bike is a canyon road in Malibu called Decker. I made two different descents of Decker on the Montefalco. I ride this descent rather aggressively, but not to the point of risky. What I want from a bike is the ability to wait as late as possible when approaching a turn and then make a sharp turn-in. I also want it to remain calm and neutral feeling above 40 mph. I don’t get that from all bikes. The Montefalco was rock solid when I needed it to be but aggressive enough that I could dive into turns. It reminded me of the Specialized Tarmac in its handling. Butcher’s knife-sharp but with the manners of a debutante on leaving finishing school.
There are a number of little details about this bike I really like. The gear cables pass through the head tube, both guiding the housing and preventing the housing from wearing away paint, or worse, carbon (gasp). The rear brake cable is internally routed as well and its entry and exit points are really clean and attractive. The red/white/clear paint scheme looks really gorgeous in sunlight and benefits from just a few decals on the frame.
Suggested retail for the Montefalco is $1800. There are some less expensive framesets being made from carbon, but I’ve yet to ride anything with this much performance retailing for less.
Torelli is also offering a limited-edition version of this frame with a seat mast called the Perla.
The bicycle is progress. From its ability to take us places to the improvements engineers and craftsman have undertaken to improve our performance and experience, it advances us in mind and body.
Commercially speaking, that progress has come with an inflationary black eye. Ten years ago it was hard to spend more than $5000 on a bike but today almost none of the guys I ride with throw a leg over anything worth less than that.
From shifters to frame material, everything is noticeably better than the stuff we used when we were all Freds. And we were, each of us. Well, there’s one exception.
Despite the proliferation of new cycling caps made form polyester (making them easier to clean and keep new-looking), The cotton twill cap that graced the stunning crania of Eddy Merckx, Fausto Coppi and Jacques Anquetil has yet to go the way of the Dodo. It’s fair to ask why. If everyone stopped making cotton cycling caps tomorrow, would we rue the loss? We’re not talking old-growth forest or snail darter. If tomorrow every cycling cap for sale were made from polyester, we wouldn’t suffer.
There’s no piece of cycling gear more out of step with the rest of our kit or equipment than the cotton cap. Cotton is the anti-technical material. It is to Merino wool what artificial chocolate is to candy. A crime.
It stains. It gets wet and stays wet. It shrinks. Its dyed colors fade. Its threads go bare. And those are its more charming dimensions.
And yet, I’m glad that that we still have this vestige from an era of cycling that can only otherwise be reached through YouTube, books and eBay. I’ve been given a few of the new “technical” cycling caps, and while they share some of the same materials as mutts and skullies, they lack the romance.
There is no parity among cotton cycling caps, however. Some features play better than others. In discussing this one day with a friend who’s been racing since I was in puberty, he confirmed my beliefs about what constitutes a PRO cap.
First, it should be a four panel design with the two side panels taking the same color, while the front and back can either be the same or contrasting colors. Alternatively, it can be all one color. The brim should be short; a cycling cap is not a baseball cap wanna-be. A 2 1/4” brim is more in keeping with what was worn back in the day. A 2 1/2” brim catches in the wind and can be blown around (or off, if you’ve gone sans casque). Extra style points if top and bottom of the brim are be two different colors. And finally, no ticking.
This isn’t to say I don’t like the others; I’ve got the Campy cap in a few different colors with ticking, but those caps that most recall what was worn by the legends are all, shall we say, of a piece.
The cap shown here epitomizes for me what I both love and hate about the cotton cap. I picked it up on the road one day on a climb outside of Florence, and I’m not talking Alabama. I’d been setting what I believed was a firm tempo on the climb when suddenly these two elves rode by, chatting. They were in their early 20s, were maybe 5’ 6” and 125 lbs. They said ciao and vanished in a super-hero instant.
A kilometer later I came upon the cap that had been perched Miguel Indurain-style on one rider’s head. I scooped it up Dave Stoller-style as I rolled by and then stuck it in the big ring to try to return it.
I crested the climb only to see the two riders drop into the descent. As this was where my friends were to regroup I missed my chance. It took a second before it occurred to me to adopt the cap. Well-worn and worse for it, it’s my favorite cap, in part because it came from an actual PRO.
That a cotton cap can be anything other than a liability when wet may be a minor miracle, like a Suburban getting 50 mpg, or Dick Pound saying something reasonable. But when I’m riding in the rain I usually leave the glasses at home and just rely on the brim to keep the rain out of my eyes. And in keeping the wind out of my hair I stay warmer than I have a right to expect.
Until I see something different on Philippe Gilbert’s head, I’m sticking with this.
Editor’s Note: We ran across photographer Whit Bazemore’s work last week following the ‘cross nationals in Bend, Oregon. His work captures the drama and suffering that make cyclocross such a stunning spectacle. We hope you enjoy the work of a new voice.
There are more different bends of handlebars out there than there are makers of helmets. That is to say there are a bunch, but not so many as, say, species of fish. It’s a miracle, really, as the basic shape of the handlebar hasn’t changed as much in the last 50 years as health insurance.
I’ll admit when the original K-Wing was introduced by FSA I laughed. It’s a riser bar for road bikes. ‘What are we going to add next?’ I wondered. ‘Hydraulic brakes?’ Nevermind. Let’s not look to me for innovating new road bike parts. As I mentioned in my review of the original FSA K-Wing, the epiphany for me came when I realized that the way to set up the bar was to set the bottom of the drop equal with the drop of your current bar.
The upshot is that the top of the bar sits more than a centimeter higher than usual, allowing you to sit up more on climbs. It was the smartest use of a deep-drop concept I’d ever encountered.
So I wasn’t exactly thrilled when the bar was discontinued. It’s not exactly FSA’s fault, though. In talking with staffers, they said that when they introduced the K-Wing Compact—a bar intended for riders whose flexibility was so reduced they couldn’t manage the change in position required with the deep drop of the K-Wing—sales of the new bar so completely dominated those of the old K-Wing that orders for the original bar essentially stopped.
Let’s be honest about the original K-Wing, though. The internal cable routing of the K-Wing was comparable to the internal brake cable through a steel Merckx, Colnago or Pinarello the way Paris-Roubaix is comparable to an industrial park crit.
The new bar weighs in at 252g (42cm). Still not the lightest on the market, not by a trailer park mile, and a bit of a surprise that it weighs a few grams more than the original. Think of this new bar as The Who jettisoning Kenny Jones for Zac Starkey. It’s still not Keith Moon, but he knows a thing or two about history and can quote him chapter and verse.
Cable routing on the K-Wing Compact is easier than changing a flat on a front wheel. Really. It’s not worth discussing.
The wing section of the K-Wing Compact is smaller than in the past. It’s still flattened and sloped, but the width of the wing is noticeably shorter. While I didn’t wrap mine, the first thought I had when I looked at it was that you could wrap bar tape around it and: A) not run out of tape, and B) not end up with something so ridiculously large that you feel like you’re gripping a car bumper.
The K-Wing Compact features a 125mm drop, which is one of the shortest drops I’ve seen, but in my measurements, that number seems a bit deceptive. I get 125mm from the center of the drop to the bottom of the clamping section; the wing section still rises a couple of centimeters above this.
I’ve been riding this bar on one of my bikes for several months. Out on the road, my perception isn’t that I’m riding a compact bar. That short compact drop is usually a bit of a shock when I’ve been on more traditional bars. Reaching for the drops feels very traditional, a feature I like. The reach, at 80mm, is more than some compact bars, but shorter than many traditional bars, and honestly, as long as some levers have gotten (7900, anyone?), that’s a good thing. Were I to run Dura-Ace on this bar, rather than Campy, I’d shorten the stem by a centimeter.
Ultimately, what makes this bar “compact” in my mind is the bend of the drop more than any other feature. That graduated radius I’ve come to appreciate in compact bars isn’t as comfortable to my hand as the old ergo bend, but my hand is positioned closer to the lever with the compact bend, so I’m not complaining.
One interesting feature of the K-Wing Compact is that the bar feature a 2-degree outward bend. That means while the ends of the drops on my bar were 42cm apart (c-c), the levers mount a full centimeter closer together. Whether this feature will work for everyone may be open to some debate, but I found I liked having the levers a bit closer together without sacrificing any width at the drop.
And for you sprinters out there: This bar is plenty stiff. Most aluminum bars I used over the years were more flexible than this bar.
The bar comes in three widths: 40, 42 and 44cm (all measured c-c). Online, it tends to sell for $241, though I’ve seen it for less on occasion.
The bar is finished with a layer of 3k weave over which a thick layer of clear gloss has been sprayed. This will provide the bar with excellent protection from the lever clamps, but more important is the protection the structural carbon will be afforded from scratches, bumps and drops. I’m as confident in the strength of this bar as I am in any aluminum bar I ever used.
I wouldn’t mind running this bar on every bike I own.
Bike shops don’t think in years. They think in seasons. And winter is out of season. I was in my local bike shop (LBS) last night, chatting with the manager, and we were discussing all the little things that shops do in the wintertime to bring people through the door and keep cash flowing.
It was a Thursday night. Shop hours were extended, and it’s Christmas time, but during the hour-and-a-half I was there (I chat a lot), one customer came in and bought some tights and a jersey for her husband. Otherwise, it was crickets chirping.
Now, this is a nice shop with good selection in a prime location, not some hole in the wall, so I was actually surprised by how quiet it was. If there is a lot of bike-related holiday shopping going on, most of it would seem to be online.
This shop does all sorts of cycling community events. They host group rides, as most shops do. They sponsor a team. They have indoor cycling after shop hours, for anyone interested. They play race videos and invite customers in to hang out. In short, they are working hard to remain a part of the community.
After brainstorming a little, and frankly I didn’t come up with too many ideas they hadn’t already considered, I thought maybe this would make a good topic for our Friday Group Ride.
The questions are: What is the best event your LBS has put on? And, what sorts of things could your shop do to bring you through their doors in the off-season?
Bike shops are an important part of our community. I don’t think anyone believes that online retailers, as good as many of them are, can completely replace the LBS, so helping them find new ways to stay connected and relevant benefits us all.
Let’s hear your ideas.
Production cycling shoes are like movies billed as “Hitchcockian thrillers.” They cause excitement, high expectations, and flashes of brilliance in preview that make you think every detail has been as expertly sculpted as the camera angles in “Psycho.” Most of them end up making as much sense as Norman Bates.
At least, that’s how it works for me.
I’ve got a foot with an arch like a war memorial, an instep higher than some treetops and the width of sheetrock. At 7 1/2 EEE, they are wider than they are long. Despite their Mini Cooper length, my feet have the volume of a Who concert. Finding a production shoe that is adjustable enough to keep them from screaming—let alone happy—requires a search befitting the “Da Vinci Code.”
While custom shoes such as those by D2 are a sure-fire solution to my particular foot problems, I remain fascinated by production shoes. After all, not everyone (cough, cough) can afford to spend $700+ on footwear. I’m intrigued by the work being done by companies to bring superior function at reasonable prices to the cycling masses.
The new Giro Factor is a prime example of why production cycling footwear deserves our interest. The cycling world has come to understand that a collapsing arch is a head-butt to pedaling efficiency. Custom-moded footbeds can solve this problem but for those who want a simpler solution, there haven’t been many options.
The most obvious parallel will be drawn between Specialized and Giro. The important difference is that no matter what arch support you need—small, medium or large—they are all included with the shoes; you needn’t purchase a set of insoles in addition to your shoes.
The arch supports attach to the insoles via a Velcro-like material, giving you the opportunity to shift the location of the support slightly, allowing you to fine-tune the fit. I used the large arch support and was surprised—nay, floored—when I actually felt support beneath my foot. That was a first for a production insole.
Construction features show a thoroughness I’ve come to expect from Giro. The insole features X-Static anti-microbial fiber to reduce the chance that your cycling shoes will smell like roadkill. The sole is manufactured from Easton’s EC90 unidirectional carbon, making it an especially thin (6.5mm), light and strong sole.
The upper is cut from Teijin microfiber, which, unlike some man-made materials does actually give a bit, allowing it to better conform to the shape of your foot for improved fit and all but eliminating pressure points. And like other ratcheting buckle systems, the closure is replaceable should the need arise. The lower two closures feature Velcro straps; I can report they are longer than most straps.
Giro claims a weight of 255g. I’d say they are on the money; my pair of 42s weighed 256g.
The only shoes in my wardrobe that are worth more than $200 are special-purpose. All three pair of ski boots (downhill, skating and back country) I own cost north of that mark and all of my cycling shoes worth remembering did too. When I think about other shoes that the Factor will compete against, the $279.99 price for these strikes me as a bargain. There are, after all, shoes out there that cost more, weigh more and feature a thicker sole, just for starters.
Did I mention the look of the Factor? In the red/white color way, it’s hands-down my favorite-looking road shoe. Ever.
I’m sorry to report you can’t purchase these shoes in time for Christmas; they’ll ship in February. I’ve been wearing mine for a month and they are absolutely the best production shoes I’ve ever worn.
Thinking back on some of the shoes I’ve worn in the past, I’m amazed at what I was willing to put up with. From eyelets that pulled through to soles so fragile I had to be careful how I walked to lasts so narrow I could have confused the footwear for climbing shoes were it not for that blessed cleat, even most good shoes really weren’t terribly great products. If I had a Wayback Machine I wouldn’t use it for cycling shoes. A Masi Gran Criterium, more likely. Or maybe a date with Brigitte Bardot. I wonder what she thinks of cyclists. I bet she’d dig these shoes.
Last week Omega Pharma-Lotto director sportif Marc Sergeant squashed conjecture concerning Philippe Gilbert’s goals for the 2011 season. In an interview with Cyclingnews Sergeant refuted the idea that Gilbert might be a contender for the 2011 Tour de France.
Sergeant indicated that in his talks with the star, Gilbert indicated that he would try for the Vuelta or the Giro before attempting the Tour.
“I know that it could be too hard to try at the Tour de France where the riders there are at the highest level and he was certainly talking about the future, not 2011,” Sergeant told Cyclingnews. “Let’s say he wins Amstel again and perhaps one day the Tour of Flanders, then he can turn around and say that he’s proved he’s one of the best one-day riders and now he’s going to try and tackle something different but we have to wait and see.”
In this, Sergeant is both right and wrong. He’s right in that should Gilbert win the Amstel Gold Race again and follow with that a win in the Tour of Flanders in a subsequent season then he will have proven that he is one of the best one-day riders around. Why he would choose to go after Amstel again rather than going after Liege-Bastogne-Liege is another matter entirely. After all, there’s prestige and then there’s prestige.
As for tackling something different following successes in Amstel and Flanders is where Sergeant’s judgement comes up short. Sergeant could use a history lesson, in fact.
Victory in either the Tour of Flanders or Paris-Roubaix actually narrows a rider’s career prospects rather than broadening them. Not that a rider will earn less than he deserves or wind up on a lousy team (though that happens often enough—it’s just not the fault of the race), what it means is that the races a rider is likely to win narrows dramatically.
It’s a stunning piece of information.
Gianni Bugno was the last rider to win both the Tour of Flanders and a Grand Tour (the Giro). He won the Giro in 1990 and Flanders in ’94. The last rider to win both Flanders and the Tour in the same year was Eddy Merckx in ’69. Before that it was Louison Bobet in ’55. Merckx is the only rider to win all three (Flanders, Giro and Tour). Rudy Altig won the Vuelta in ’62 and Flanders in ’64, making him the only rider to win both the Vuelta and Flanders, other than Merckx.
It may seem like a rider as talented as Philippe Gilbert should be able to take a season and focus his efforts on a singular goal such as the Vuelta or the Giro. However, history suggests that as riders have increased their specialization in targeting specific races a curious clumping of victories has taken place.
In short, riders who win the Northern Classics, such as the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix and the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad don’t go on to Grand Tour wins.
Recent guys to win Omloop Het Nieuwsblad include Johan Museeuw, Thor Hushovd, Juan Antonio Flecha, Peter Van Petegem, and Michele Bartoli, guys who didn’t come close to winning a Grand Tour. The last guy to win both the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and a Grand Tour was the outlier of outliers: Eddy Merckx. He took both in 1973.
Since 1973 if you won the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, one thing in your career was assured: No Grand Tour victories for you. It seems entirely counterintuitive to suggest one victory could prevent another, but victory in this semi-classic includes a dead end.
Gilbert has already won the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad twice, in 2006 and 2008. He’s 28. By the time he was 28, Eddy Merckx had already won four Tours de France, four Giri d’Italia, the Vuelta a Espana, two World Championships, five Milan-San Remos, the Tour of Flanders, three Paris-Roubaix, four editions of Liege-Bastogne-Liege, and two Tours of Lombardy, plus three editions of Paris-Nice. If Gilbert was destined to rival Merckx, the world’s number three rider would have shown more by now.
It’s impossible to say that Gilbert absolutely won’t win a Grand Tour in his lifetime, but I don’t think I will come up with more conclusive evidence of a finer rider who simply doesn’t have the credentials to suggest he will win a Vuelta, Giro or Tour.
There may not be a faster rider alive unable to win a Grand Tour.
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International
Fans of ultra-tough gran fondo/cyclosportif events have just been given a dream come true. The French promoter OC ThirdPole has announced a new event called La Haute Route and is the multi-stage gran fondo. The seven-stage event will encompass 700km from Geneva to Nice.
If that concept sounds familiar to you, the event is in broad strokes very similar to the Route des Grandes Alpes trip that I did last summer with Erickson Cycle Tours. Our route was based on the historic auto route through the Alps. This route will leave out the loop rides and out-and-back rides we did that broke up our adventure. Even so, the course will encompass some 700km and Alpine climbs with famous names—not Miley Cyrus famous, but nerdy bike-geek household famous. Think Galibier.
By the time riders reach the Promenade des Anglais in Nice they will have climbed roughly 18,000 meters—some 59,000 feet.
Basics of the route include:
* 7 days in a row, from the 21st to the 27th August 2011
* 716 km over 7 stages
* 14 peaks and 18,000 meters of climbing
* 4 high altitude finishes
* Start: Geneva, Switzerland
* Finish: Nice, France
* 5 overnight host cities : Megève, Les Arcs / Bourg-St-Maurice, Serre Chevalier, Pra Loup, Auron
Registration is already open and is a seemingly reasonable 595 euro before 12/31 and 630 euro after the first of the year.
Every rider will receive:
* Official travel bag (to be used by each competitor)
* Mechanical support (in the race village and during the race)
* Food/drink supplies during the race and at the finish of each stage
* Access to a secure bike park at each stopover
* Cleaning service for the bikes at each stopover
* Massages / rest and recovery at the finish
* Pasta party organised every night
* Transfer of personal luggage from the start to the finish of each leg
* Transfer of bike bags and covers from Geneva to Nice
* Accommodation at different levels and return shuttle (Nice-Geneva) as an option
Honestly, if an entry to this accompanied with a hall pass isn’t the gift of the year, I don’t know what is.
Learn more here: www.hauteroute.org