Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Happy Birthday EROICA!

 EROICA turns 25

That's right, cycling's first true vintage event was started 25 years ago when Giancarlo Brocci and less than 100 others rode the first L'Eroica.

Harry & Leather at "L'Eroica Gaiole 2011 as "bandits"

Zio Lorenzo had read about it for years, thinking it was just up our alley when it came to cycling! We finally got there in 2011 though not officially entered. But we dressed up in (sort of) period costumes and rode (sort of) period bikes as you can see above (more about that HERE) to get out there for a taste. Needless to say we loved it!

Zio Lorenzo's home office decor

Since then we've built up a few vintage bikes and enjoyed not only bici d'epoca events in Tuscany but also in Piedmont and elsewhere. We'd likely be in Tuscany this weekend helping Brocci and Co celebrate 25 years but Heather's currently limited to riding her e-bike so maybe 2023? We also have plans to eventually ride the entire signposted EROICA route over a few days with someone else hauling the luggage.

Vintage bike ride numbers (so far)

As you can see above (and read here on the blog by searching for EROICA) we've enjoyed a lot of these vintage rides, every one of 'em infused with the spirit and passion for cycling that got both of us into it in the first place. We think everyone one of 'em owes a big debt to Brocci, we certainly do!

Buon compleano EROICA e grazie mille Brocci!!!

Sunday, September 25, 2022

World Champions 2022

 UCI Cycling Road World Champions 2022

Are you tired of looking at this image? Me too!

Congratulations and Chapeau to both Annemiek van Vleuten and Remco Evenepoel on winning rainbow jerseys this weekend. Zio Lorenzo is not a fan of either, but they both won in their own dramatic ways.

In the women's race you can't write a script like this! After breaking her elbow in a crash caused by mechanical failure just a few days before, the woman who has already won almost everything this year lines up to help her Dutch team, even pausing to wait for Marianne Vos, who one assumes was the designated leader of the team. Vos seems to indicate she doesn't have it on this day so van Vleuten is free to chase the breakaway. Too many up there are racing not-to-lose rather than win so she catches them in the final kilometers and stays away to win, broken elbow and all! Chapeau!

The men's race also had a not-to-lose scenario though it was for the silver medal as Evenepoel was long gone - typical of many of his race wins. He attacks from far out and dares anyone to come with him. If they do he usually rides them off his wheel and goes on to win. Zio's called him robotic in the past, but without race radios it's tough to make that call this time. Chapeau! 

But just like the women's race a bunch of riders ended up with nothing due to "after, after you!" as they neared the finish. Have modern racers become so radio-controlled these days that they don't have a clue about how to race without someone yelling into their earpiece? Reading some post-race quotes suggest that is exactly the case. Safety is often cited as a reason radio earpieces (introduced in the early 1990's) can't be banned, but is there any proof races with radios are more safe than those without? And if they really do make things safer, how would someone justify holding a race where these so-called "safety devices" are banned? For another view more inline with ours go HERE.

On the other hand, Zio screams "NO Chapeau" to whoever was sitting in the TV image director's chair at this event. Too often he thought he'd tuned-in to "Rick Steves' visits Australia" briefly interrupted by a bicycle race! And even when he actually showed us racing images, this director would too often miss an attack, instead showing riders going out-the-back of the group. The Italian Eurosport commentators were as annoyed as Zio was, so there's hope the message gets through to those in-charge for next time. 

The travelogue even spread to the moto camera operators! C'mon, the race is going uphill and all we see is the crowds at the roadside? I enjoy laughing at the people wearing inflatable dinosaur costumes as much as the next guy, but I tuned-in for a bike race! Is this part of the modern cycling idea - that the thing has to be turned into a spectacle that people uninterested in cycling somehow enjoy watching? Please hire a TV director with top-level bike racing experience for next time, you are the International Cycling Union for Pietro's sake!!!

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Vintage Cycling

Bici d'Epoca

Fall is coming and (thankfully) things are cooling off a bit here in Sicily though the tourists seem as plentiful as ever. Must be the post-pandemic surge combined with the weak euro?

Autumn also means vintage cycling events, though sadly we won't be enjoying any of them until next year.

This piece about heroic cycling was so well done (we met the author at a book-signing in Rome awhile back) that we had to share it with you and wish we could be there. I thought the link would go to the English version but if not, it's worth trying to get Google, etc. to translate it for you. Enjoy!


Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Thoughts on La Vuelta 2022

 Cycling's Third Grand Tour

Copied from La Vuelta's website but here's a link so don't sue us ASO, OK?

We've never seen La Vuelta live, in-person though we did follow LeTour into Spain a time or two during the BigMig era.
It’s a (young) man’s world, get used to it! The winner of the 2022 edition of this relatively young race (debuted only in 1935 so this was the 77th vs LeTour 2022’s 109th and Il Giro’s 105th edition) was 22 year old Belgian Remco Evenepoel, while this year’s Giro winner is just 26 and LeTour’s just 25, making the young riders jersey in these races kind of a joke. Perhaps they should scrap it and offer a jersey for the highest placed rider over 30? How about 35?

La Vuelta has always been sort of the redheaded stepchild of the Grand Tours whether because of its young age or being swapped around on cycling’s calendar thanks to ol’ Hein Verbruggen. 2022's was no different. There are still arguments today as to whether it was a better race in the spring rather than in its current September place on pro cycling’s calendar, but just like Verbruggen’s other great idea, the World Tour, it seems like pro cycling is stuck with it.

La Vuelta has not always compared well to its older Grand Tour sisters, having been won in the past by notable non-three week stage race specialists like Freddy Maertens (ironically the last Belgian to win before Evenepoel’s triumph this year) Ireland’s Sean Kelly or even Italy’s Marco Giovannetti. Recent editions (under the organization of France’ ASO who completed their buy-out in 2014) have been dubbed “tapas cycling” for the shorter, more intense stages compared to LeTour or Il Giro. Some like them, I don’t. They make the Vuelta seem almost like it’s being raced on a purpose-built circuit rather than the roads of Spain, especially when you watch the riders winching themselves up super-steep climbs on roads that go nowhere while using tiny gear ratios. A Zoncolan, Mortirolo or Planche des Belles Filles is fine, but in Spain they overdo it.

There’s also been some chicanery over the years like Robert Millar’s woes in 1985 - he went into the final day with a 6 minute lead over Pedro Delgago but somehow ended the day with Delgado in the leader’s jersey. Or how 'bout Cadel Evans’ 2009 problems? These make some of the goings-on at the Giro (think of 2005 with Savoldelli or Fignon vs Moser in 1984) look pretty tame in comparison.

2022’s edition was also plagued by Covid-19, perhaps more than either of the other two Grand Tours with just 134 finishers making it to Madrid out of the 184 who started in the Netherlands. Crashes took their toll as well with contenders for GC, sprints and mountains eliminated by injuries if they weren’t sent home with Covid, but there was no shortage of "best young rider" candidates.

But “the kids are alright!” as they say, with Evenepoel finally living up to the hype as the newest-latest Eddy Merckx, taking two stage wins and the overall title followed by Enric Mas at the ripe-old age of 27 and Juan Ayuso at just 19 years old! The rest of the top ten were all under 25 with the only old-guy up there Rigo Uran at 35, almost a decade older than the rest. Why not a “best old-guy” jersey? Should it be gray? Think of the sponsorship possibilities - hair coloring, laxatives, pain-relievers, pension-funds and more!

TV coverage gets my usual gripes about a director who misses the attack and has to go back to replay, then misses another attack or spends way too much time with scenery shots at the expense of racing action. I didn’t watch every stage here in Italy on Eurosport as we were traveling, but this did let me see some of the US coverage when they showed it free on the weekends. On that note, while Bob Roll and Christian Vandevelde are probably nice guys and certainly know their stuff, one of them is redundant. The broadcast needs an expert broadcaster along with a technical expert rather than two tech experts/amateur broadcasters who talk over each other far too often and sometimes forget that not all the viewers are experts like they are. I was never a fan of Liggett/Sherwen but have to admit they worked well together. The folks that sign the checks for Roll/Vandevelde should take note.

When the race arrived in Madrid I found it hard not to have a sense of “what-if” since contenders like Carapaz lost time early and defending champ Roglic crashed out, but it’s also hard not to say CHAPEAU to young Remco even if he appears somewhat robotic. The same can be said of Vingegaard but the Dane’s not laboring under that “new Merckx” label, one that’s ruined the careers of plenty of other post-Merckx Belgians. Young Remco beat everyone who showed up at the start line so even if he’s not the most exciting, he’s still a deserving winner.

I think Evenepoel fits into a category I call a “science project rider" (similar to Vingegaard, both in that "Kite-Man" mold that I dislike so much) which is a guy with amazing watts/kg (VO2max or whatever you want to measure) taught to ride a bicycle reasonably well, then programmed through a radio earpiece and protected by a crack team of experienced pros.

The result is not a lot of panache or passion and maybe even a bit of Frankenstein but perhaps this is modern World Tour cycling and the best we can hope for? But then there’s Pogacar (or Ayuso) so let’s see what the Vuelta champ does in a couple of weeks as part of the Belgian team at the World Championships. 

Robotic winner, whining brat or dutiful teammate helping odds-on favorite Wout VanAert? He’s young enough there’s still time to find his place and define the kind of racer he is.

Click HERE for another take on the race. And HERE for one that points out how successful the "Mow 'em down in the chrono, defend in the mountains" strategy still is.

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Pro cycling's "broken business model"

 Making Pro Cycling Better

Giro d'Italia 2022

Zio Lorenzo's getting tired of reading tirades from sites like this. These folks seem convinced that North American franchise sports league ideas will somehow make pro cycling popular in the USA and in-the-process make various people rich. Zio's not buying it.

Our friends at BikeRaceInfo published Zio's ideas on how to improve pro cycling HERE.

Grazie Carolina e Guglielmo!

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

California Dreamin'

 California Dreamin'

Or not? Did someone hand-carry these from Italy? What makes them Italian anyway, do they just throw some dried oregano in there? Mamma Mia! We couldn't afford to live in the USA these days by the looks of these prices.

We made a quick trip to the other side of the world recently and were amazed at the prices they get for things. Artichokes $5 EACH!?!?

$7 for a small bag of croutons? Really? It says on the label they're just croutons so why so much for barely 4 ounces?

We were in Santa Barbara for a family wedding (congratulations Diana and Bob) then flew to the midwest to renew driving licenses on our way back to Sicily.

Midwest landscape. US flag and fast-food signs, but at least it's easy to get a driving license!!! There's a state there that seems ready to issue one to almost anyone who shows up and pays the fees.

We visited some old friends who enjoy a nicer midwest landscape.

Then flew back home to Sicily with a stop in Taormina for a concert. Antonello Venditti and Francesco DeGregori in the ancient Greek theater.

These old guys still can rock!

We spent the night in Taormina before finally making our way back home. They have a nice view there, but we'll take ours just the same.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

REDSHIFT ShockStop stem review

 REDSHIFT ShockStop stem review*

A suspension stem you ask? Yep! This one from REDSHIFT served two purposes.

The first was replacing the 12 cm stem Zio Lorenzo stuck on this bike before he brought it down to Sicily. Too long! He stupidly failed to bring any other lengths just-in-case, so what to do?

If he was gonna buy a shorter one, why not try one of these to soften up the ride of this great Torelli Gran Sasso a bit more than the 27 mm tires (the widest that will fit on this bike) provide, especially on strada sterrata like on the old rail-trail along the sea? Zio was already running 60 psi in front and 70 psi in back but still felt more "sting" on the bumps than he liked, especially after riding his Super Gravel Monster on the same trail. Its frame is being painted at present so this Torelli is IT for unpaved roads.

Bolts right on with a shim Zio already had for the 1" steerer tube along with a shim he bought with the stem to use a 26 mm bar in the stem's 31 mm clamp. Looks pretty normal, right?

It comes with a selection of elastomers so you can get the amount of movement you prefer. Zio set his up using the recommended pair and liked it just fine. No bouncing around, just a bit more "cush" when your front wheel hits a bump. No slop or wiggle when you hop over a bigger bump though you do get a bit of movement when you land or stand up and push down hard on the bars, but nothing like that when simply standing up on the pedals to accelerate or climb. You don't notice it until you hit a bump and even then it's very subtle, but still effective.

Overall, it feels like Zio let another 10 psi out of the front tire without any of the squishiness he'd feel running that tire at just 50 psi, so he's kind of happy that he failed to bring a rigid 10 cm stem down here just-in-case!

* Zio bought this at MSRP through the REDSHIFT website.