Saturday, May 31, 2008

Sella-In-vincible! Twenty years later.

Sella attacks at the base of Apica. He'll toast everyone for his third solo stage win!
www.cyclingnews.com


Emanuele Sella(Team CSF Group Navigare) did it again by winning his third mountain stage on Saturday in Tirano. He proved his worth of wearing the maglia verde with another impressive solo victory that took him over the famed Gavia pass. As you know, it's the same pass that launched Andy Hampsten, twenty year's ago, to be the only American Giro winner. By the way, Andy was at the top of the Gavia giving out rain jackets to any needy rider. Talk about giving back!

Sella's claim to fame is not only from winning mountain stages but how powerfully he attacks ... alone. Because of this the tifosi have called him, the next Marco Pantini. A fitting tribute to cyclings' climbing hero. Just like 'the pirate', Sella enjoys the mountains and knows when to attack.
On top of the Gavia. Soggy third place finisher Joaquin Rodriguez(Caisse d'Epargne), wraps up in a rain jacket.

Stages 14 & 15 was a prelude to his greatness. He almost made it 3 in a row on stage 16, the very tough Plan De Corones, ITT. Sella scampered up that difficult dirt track and nearly took the victory only 6 seconds behind stage winner, Franco Pellizotti(Liquigas). Today he decided to attack on the final climb, Apica. Sella rode away from second place finisher, Gilberto Simoni(Serramenti PVC) for the solo win. Sella's hold on the maglia verde is virtually untouchable. And wouldn't he be something in the Alps, of a future Tour?

We can hope, as his lofty abilities looks, extremely majestic. Just like another special Italian climber!

Not bad to be compared to Il Pirata!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Bike to work.


Vancouver's bike to work week encourages commuter's with a comfortable stop of free refreshments and a place to meet. The commuter stations are placed easily to access along designated city bike routes. Which begs a question. Why can't more people ditched their cars and ride to work? Realistically, not everyone can. But, if we can use our cars less equals more. I ride everyday to work. For the fringe benefits are gratifying: enjoyment of riding my bike, getting to work in a shorter time and becoming healthier.

I've noticed a definite spike with folk's on bikes. The bicycle is a fantastic yet simple mode of transportation, and non-polluting. A great way for just about anyone to get into shape.

Now, if only some of them obeyed traffic rules.


How about a shiatsu massage?

(Top): Commuters' mingling and taking a break with a free refreshment.

(Middle): The sign which will show you the way!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Atala's two fast stripes!

The 'prison bar' stripes was a bold design and certainly stood out! Urs Freuler sprints to his 3rd stage victory in the 1985 Giro.

From: 'Tour 85'



Italian cycling jersey design of the eighties produced cool, distinct jersey's. Artisan bicycle builder, Cesare Rizzato of Padova introduced the Atala brand back in 1938. The Atala team was a formidable team and was in the professional ranks from 1982 - 1989. Great rider's were part of the team's illustrious days; Panizza, Gisiger, Bugno, Vitali, Podenzana. As the team was Italian based, the Giro was 'the' race to be part of.

One rider that stood out, with his distinctive moustache, was Swiss sprinter Urs Freuler. He won 7 world points, 2 keirin titles, and several six-day races, before collecting 15 Giro stages and winning the points classification(purple jersey). With his speed, strength and stamina from road racing and on the winter tracks Freuler was a very tough man to beat in sprints. His career was a long one, turning pro in 1980 and ending in 1997. During his last years he devoted his time riding the winter six-days.

Points jersey wins in the rain! The rapid Swiss, Freuler wins his 2nd stage of the 1984 Giro. He'll go on to take a total of 4 stages and win the points classification.
That year, Rosola(far left) rides for Bianchi, but comes in 2nd!

From: 'Tour 84'

Paolo Rosola(career from 1978-1990) was a fearless road sprinter and superb track specialist. He was 3rd in the 1979 Italian pro track sprint championships. Rosola went on to win a total of 12 Giro stages, 3 with the Atala team.

Here are some of my favorite pictures of the two great Atala sprinter's in fine Giro d'Italia fashion!


Two Atala's fastmen conferring with their team director. Rosola(left wearing the pink jersey) & Freuler(with his signature moustache) in the 1983 Giro. In the first week Freuler would also wear the pink. The 80's ushered in the shorts with side stripes. A fashion statemate? Definitely! Nice bike & jersey!

From: 'Tour 83'


Giro 1983. Rosola wins stage 3. This is the stage that earns him the pink jersey!

From: 'Tour 83'




Sunday, May 25, 2008

What kind of bike is that? It's a Pedersen!



I'd love to ride one of these...

A few days ago, I passed by  Vancouver's science world and found myself riding beside a man with a unique but odd looking  bike. As you ride and meet another bikey, conversation is short but polite. Of course it all depends, you may only acknowledge the fellow rider by a wave or nod. Or you may just be riding right beside where  a brief conversation starts.  

I found myself doing the latter. His bicycle was  apple green complete with very cool wood fenders.  "What kind of bike is that?" I asked.  The relaxed rider, in t-shirt and shorts replied, "It's a Pedersen from Denmark. Fun to ride. Look it up on the net."  I wished him a good day and later checked out the rather cool Danish website:

www.pedersenbicycle.dk/

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Gavia 3 + Vaseline

1st


Almost twenty years ago, on stage 14, 1988 Giro a storm was brewing that would eventually make cycling history. The major obstacle was the 8600 foot Passo di Gavia. Snow was reported the night before and much more would greet the riders.

Seven-Eleven team manager, Mike Neel told his riders to slather Vaseline on. Neoprene gloves and wool hats were purchased. A good thing because the icy rain turned into a blinding blizzard. The American team packed a special mussette bag to be given to each teammate just before the summit of the Gavia. Inside were warm clothes and the gloves and hats bought earlier in the morning.

Mike Neel knew how to combat the cold.
7-11's little helper.


Francesco Moser(1984 Giro champion) summed it up by stating, "I have seen stages where it finished on a climb in conditions like this, but never with such a descent." Ominous, no doubt. Andy Hampsten knew that this would be the decisive stage for him to take the maglia rosa. The rest of the field marked him and very few could stay with him. The descent claimed it's first victims. Hampsten passed the brave Flying Dutchman, Van der Velde who was forced to stop so numb with cold, for a warm jacket, hot tea and cognac. He attacked alone and found himself frozen on the descent and lost some 47 minutes. Seven-Eleven riders ferried hot tea to Hampsten. And all along that perilous descent many riders had to stop for jackets, hot tea anything to keep warm. Some quit and climbed into their team cars for the ride down to Bormio.

2nd

The iconic image of Andy Hampsten's Gavia ride. He'll come in 2nd due to wearing the wool jersey(blue combine), Oakley glasses, neoprene gloves and a lot of Vaseline. Afterwards, the maglia rosa will be his!
www.triplecrankset.com

However, a band of riders stayed onto fight. Hampsten was one of them. But, off alone in front was Eric Bruekink(Panasonic) urged on by his director sportif, Peter Post. Bruekink would go on to win this amazing stage, just ahead of Hampsten. Another rider of merit was Pedro Delgado(Reynolds) who struggled in third. That same year, Delgado would go on to win the 1988 Tour de France.

After crossing the finishing line in Bormio, Hampsten was rushed into his team vehicle where he broke down and cried. He made history that day, becoming the first American to wear the maglia rosa. And, a few days later, becoming the first American to win the Giro. That day, 143 heroic riders finished that insane day where it was dubbed, 'the day the strong men cried.'

3rd

(Above): The classy Pedro Delgado(Reynolds) fights on to finish an amazing 3rd. With only lycra short sleeve and shorts?
www.pelindruski.wordpress.com


(Top): Eric Bruekink(Panasonic) rode an exceptional race by attacking at the last 6km before Bormio and winning the stage!
From: 'Tour 88'

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Desserts with molto amore!


Ah! Springtime at the Giro d'Italia, which can mean two things. Exciting racing and food, especially delectable baked goods(any cyclist dream)!
Food when shared equals love or friendship and in this case eat plenty of desserts because you'll need the fat and sugar, later! The Italians were creating sweets and consuming the morsels before the 2nd century BC. The Middle Ages introduced sugar and everybody's favorite, chocolate from the New World in the 16th century and gave Italian sweets a delicious combination. With the many regions in Italy so many excellent desserts can be had. And what better way, enjoying it before stage 12 or on the course ... with friends!


(Above): A take out with Bettini and Visconti. The maglia rosa is served by the world champion. With a Barloworld arm reaching in for a taste.


(Top): Giovanni Visconti(maglia rosa) at the start of stage 12 going for some delectable desserts. What a way to start the morning!


From: www.cyclingnews.com

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Grand Depart Cycling Art receives it's first recognition!


All good things take time.

It was difficult with the launch of our website. Not only was it time consuming but there was always technical glitches. Yesterday morning was no different as our server was temporary down, which added to the setbacks.  But all in all it's so much easier with good comments...

I'd like to direct your gaze at Brian Palmer's  'grand' comments titled, 'Cycling on the wall.' 
http://www.thewashingmachinepost.net/

After reading this, it makes everything worthwhile.
Thank's again, Brian!

Server is down...temporary


I just opened  my cyclingart.ca website, this morning, and found that the server is temporary down. 
What's the odds on that? We just launched the website a day before yesterday and ... now it's down. Please stay tune and check back often.


WE'RE BACK ON!!!
As I'm writing this, my website is now back and running! It was down for about 8 hours.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

With a fractured elbow but flying so good!


Astana's woes(turned down at this July's Tour) have looked increasingly upbeat for Giro success.
 
Tuesday's stage 10, 39.4km  Individual Time Trial gave one man a very good chance at the maglia rosa. Looking like  a lion waiting to pounce, Spain's Alberto Contador was the one rider that everyone seems to fear and with good reason.  He tackled the technical course with precision only to slow down as it rained. Fourth at the 9.6km check,  third at the 23.4km check, first at 32.2km, lost time due to the wet road conditions, seventh best at the last check. It was good for second place just 8 secs behind stage winner, Marzio Bruseghin(Lampre).

"I lost due to the wet roads. I was sliding around too much in the finale and it was cold," Contador said.  The 2007  tdf winner  was so good that even with his fractured elbow,  makes  him  a huge favorite  for the overall. "My elbow?  In the beginning it bother me a bit, but the further we went in the stage, the better I felt," said the Spanish climber. Astana twin, Andreas Klöden finished 3rd, twenty seconds back placing him in contention at 6th overall(7:52 back). But, Contador  is licking his chops as he moves nicely into 4th, 6:59 seconds from first.  

Soon the Dolomites beckon and with strong teammates, Klöden & Leipheimer beside, Contador looks good at the very least in  taking the maglia rosa.  Like the lion in wait, Contador's eyes widen at the thought of overall victory. 

What fracture elbow?


(Top): Cruisin' Contador. Even though he rides with a fractured elbow, it doesn't stop him from a solid 2nd place!
www.cyclingnews.com

Monday, May 19, 2008

My 100th post & new website!




I'm please to announce that this is my 100th post! Wow, it's hard to believe! What a milestone, I've already celebrated with an informal lunch at Stella's Tapas Bar. Carolle and I treated ourselves to a tasty burger with blue cheese and bacon and I topped it off with a nice Belgium 'Leffe' ale! It's incredible that I started this blog back in September, 2007. And I took 8 months to achieve 100 posts. As they say, "where does time go when you're having fun!" The enjoyment is twofold: writing about cycling and participating in the larger cycling community. And where would I be without you? I look forward to your comments and viewpoints. Or if you would like to ask a question or just chat, feel free to do so. A big hearty thanks to all!

Today also marks a very important launch of our new cyclingart website(http://cyclingart.ca). After many hours of tweaking and ironing out bugs, Carolle has it ready and is now operational. My passion for cycling comes in a pair. The blog & my artwork. Now my prints are available to purchase online.

We proudly welcome you all to it!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Up in smoke!


At one point,  smoking was an accepted norm in cycling and other sports such as professional hockey. In the seventies, Montréal Canadiens star, Guy Lafleur was famous for his scoring abilities  and was known to indulge a la cigarette in between periods. In fact a few players did because it was a way to unwind.

Cycling's early days  'endorsed'  unlikely sponsors of cigarette companies; Willem II and Boule d'Or. The great  Eddy Merckx  smoked.  "In 1968, during the Tour of Italy, the team doctor advised me to smoke a cigarette after my evening meal to help me relax," said the Cannibal.
Teammate, Roger Swerts added, "I always had cigarettes with me. Eddy himself, though, couldn't afford to be seen with a cigarette, as it would not have been good for his image. He did come to my room regularly, though, to have a smoke. He was terrified of being caught, and when he did smoke it was always behind closed doors."

The Cannibal appeared in advertisements for one cigarette company, R6. "The spirit of the time was different, of course. Being a sportsman and a smoker do not go together. Anyway, I never actually incited anyone to smoke in those ads, " he said regrettably. 


And since the eighties, that image of sportsman and smoker was not the right one to display so cigarette companies were not permitted in cycling sponsorship and eventually went ...  up in smoke!


The sportsman & the smoker. The Cannibal's uneasy alliance. Le Tour Du Monde Cigars.
From the book: 'Eddy Merckx.'


The Cannibal relaxes in a healthier way, with a board game.

 
 Guy Lafleur smoked between periods. Did smoking give him the relaxation he craved before scoring so many goals?
www.sports.espn.go.com


(Top): Fausto Coppi's love for the cigar wasn't a secret! Even his rival, Gino Bartali never hid his pack a day addiction!
www.magliarosa.files.wordpress.com


(Inset photo): During the late sixties, the Emperor, Rik Van Looy, proudly rode for 'Willem II-Gazelle.' A cigarette sponsored team.
www.cyclingwebsite.net

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The heroic race for last.

This year's Giro has been quite exciting, especially the race for last.
The coveted maglia rosa  has changed hands once again, going towards the worthy young Italian, Giovanni Visconti(Quick Step).  While most fans are caught up in the race for this jersey,  I'm enjoying the coverage for the last rider. It's symbolize with a white number on a black background. The importance of this title is extremely coveted with the devoted rider remembered forever. 


The current race for the numero nero:

1.  Ermanno Capelli(Saunier Duval),  Italy.
2.  Christopher Sutton(Slipstream Chipotle),  Australia.
 3.  Raivis Belohvosciks(Saunier Duval),  Latvia.
20. Oscar Gatto(Gerolsteiner),  Italy.



And to this special classification, the challenge is really not to abandon but to finish ... honourably.


Stage 3. The numero nero meets the maglia rosa. Italians, Filippo Savini(CSF) shakes with the pink leader, Franco Pellizotti(Liquigas).


Stage 4. Hijinks from the back. Last year's winner; Oscar Gatto(Gerolsteiner) strikes his classic pose of grabbing the current numero nero's; Ermanno Capelli(Saunier Duval). Gatto will find it a challenge to defend his title. He's currently in 20th spot!

Both photos from: www.cyclingnews.com


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Body parts that go bump in the Giro.

Unavoidable mishaps plays a 'big hurt'  factor into the early days of the Giro. This race, along with the large field of riders brings with it plenty of drama and unpredictability. So it was on stage 3 of the Giro d'Italia that the drama continued...

Stage 2 winner and points leader, Riccardo Ricco('The Cobra',  Team Saunier Duval) fell with a group of twenty and limped home with a injured left finger. But, the most ominous physical trauma was directed to  two CSC riders, Bradley McGee and Stuart O'Grady. They both sustained injuries to their collarbones and are out. Certainly, a slap in team CSC's face. 

Back on stage 2, climbing sensation  Mauricio Soler(Barloworld) suffered major scrapes to his knees and elbow  but got back into the race, with the help from teammates.  Dave Zabriske(Slipstream-Chipotle) crashed heavily to the side of the road and it looked serious. The promising American, who looked so good in the team time trial, was a masked of pain as he was helped into an ambulance. Damaging a vertebrate,  he was pulled from the race and out of the Giro. 

"The early stages of Giro are always dangerous and the last few kilometers were very bad. I stayed near the front out of the trouble, but behind it must have been crazy," said stage 3 winner, Daniele Bennati. 

And it's only ... just  begun! 


Stuart O'Grady tries to get back on his bike, 
but his injured collarbone has something else to say!


Tender but riding. 
Colombian super climber, Mauricio Soler wrapped up for stage 3.


(Top): Bradley McGee feeling the pain after breaking his collarbone. He was hit by another rider who swerved into him after missing a corner! 

All photos: www.cyclingnews.com

Monday, May 12, 2008

"Quality Goes The Distance"


In September of 1981, I travelled down to the runner's mecca; Boulder, Colorado. I heard that it was 'the hotspot' for runner's, cyclist's, athletic types and just plain outdoor devotees. I wasn't disappointed.

I'm a former runner who joined the boom of the late 70's and early 80's. It was the perfect place to gather, train and live in. A great middle place nestled between the crowded east coast & the bustle of the west coast. Before switching to cycling, I was a long distance runner and ran my share of 10 km, 15 km, and 20km races. I was training for my very first marathon and wanted to see Boulder and it's running culture. The majestic Flatirons (foothills) provided a fantastic area for altitude training. It wasn't the only reason why I was there...

American 1972 Olympic marathon gold medalist, Frank Shorter, opened a runner's store there and I just had to see him. I remembered watching him on television and coming in second at the 1976 Montréal Olympics, and after seeing him race cemented my reason to run. Unfortunately, I didn't get to see Shorter, due to his hectic schedule of television broadcasting in Europe. So I was told. And I did what any fan would do, I bought a poster and left it for him to sign it. Later, I received it in the mail and was pleased of what he penned!

"Quality Goes The Distance" are words that still ring true for me today while I'm out enjoying my bicycle. And it's what you do with it, as in life ... is what really matters!


Nice message from the Olympic Champion!


(Above): 'Quality (INDEED) Goes The Distance'. It's still timeless after all these years!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Argyle Armada sails to victory!


American team, Slipstream-Chipotle pulled off a fantastic victory in the opening 23.6 km TTT at the Giro d'Italia today. The Argyle Armada sailed to victory in Palermo, in 23 minutes 32 seconds. Not bad, for a team without an designated captain. American, Christian Vande Velde crossed the line before his other teammates and thus enjoys the maglia rosa. Twenty years ago, another American wore the maglia rosa to overall victory ... Andy Hampsten.

"This is amazing. I don't really think about being the first American in pink in 20 years, I think more about how much of a big coup it was for myself and the team," exclaimed Vande Velde. With other strong riders to provide the much needed support and possibly stage success, I can't help but believe that this team will go far. Kudos to guys like Hesjedal, Dean, Zabriskie, and Backstedt for finishing alongside with Vande Velde for the win.

A great start for the young team!


RYDER off the front! The Argyle Armada sailing to victory!
www.cyclingweekly.co.uk/

(Top photo): Joyous celebration for the argyle boys.
www.cyclingnews.com

The Eagle of the Canavese!


In honour of  todays Giro...

I just read up on the fine book review on, "The Eagle of the Canavese." The obscure Giro winner, Franco Balmamion who won it in 62 & 63. I frankly, don't know much about him and as I read the review my interest was tweaked! 

Like most Italian riders born in the 1940's, they came from poor backgrounds. But, they also had rich influences. Balmamion's uncle rode in the 1931 Giro. The young Balmamion had his uncle's guiding hand in shaping his early cycling years. When he won his first Giri, he was only twenty two! In 1967, he finished on the podium, in 3rd. It seems he did well in the Tour finishing on the podium in 1969, 3rd overall. A fine accomplishment for a relatively unknown rider.

Do check it out at:

http://www.thewashingmachinepost.net/


Friday, May 9, 2008

Wednesday a go go!

Last Wednesday, I was invited along with Hans to the North Shore for an afternoon ride.  I enthusiastically joined the group as we rode over to the beautiful Seymour Demonstration Forest for a nice brisk ride. Bears are known to feed off to the side of the road but thankfully we didn't see any. It was fun, once again,  to get out and ride in an informal group. I was one of the only two not to have clipless pedals and I admit I found it hard at times. Hans wants to get me over to the other side of the pedaling fence. He wants to give me his old Shimano pedals. Do I step into the future or hang on to the past? Stay tuned!

Afterwards, we met for a 'de-brief' at the local Greek Restaurant for a few pops. And next Wednesday we all plan to  meet at Stanley Park!

Here's some pics taken from Hans of the merry group.


Rest Stop, thinking of beer. And I'm mugging for the camera.


A beautiful course, with plenty of majestic trees. And NO cars!


The Merry Men. We're sandwiched between Hans(far left) and Fritz(far right).

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Think Pink! & La maglia nera revisited.




Just in time for this Saturday's start of the Giro d'Italia, I was looking through last year's famous pink pages of La Gazzetta dello Sport(June 4, 2007) and wanted to share this...

It was a story concerning la maglia nera, the black jersey of the last man to finish the race. Interestingly, I determined from the article of the only two time winner of the coveted black jersey. His name was Luigi Malabrocca, a rider that won it in 1946 & 1947. The picture below is the famous bike builder Giovanni Pinarello who won the last black jersey in 1951.

The bottom picture is 22 year old, Oscar Gatto(Gerosteiner) who won the distinction in last years race. He's the one that's holding on to Danilo Di Luca's saddle. The black jersey was abolished ... because of it's negative connotations. What negative connotations? How can a very cool black jersey be negative? All 3 riders appear to be smiling! In it's place a white number on a black backdrop - for the rider's jersey and bike. What did the young Gatto have to say after he came in last? "To finish the Giro is always better than abandoning." Classy words!

Oscar Gatto will be lining up with his Team Gerosteiner mates at Palermo for the team time trial with perhaps a twinkle in his eyes of defending his numero nero.

Forza, Maglia Nera!


Black is beautiful! Giovanni Pinarello's big 1951 Giro win.
www.cyclingwebsite.net

The first and the last. Oscar Gatto holding on to Danilo Di Luca's pink.
Wouldn't he look better in black?
La Gazzetta dello Sport 6/04/07.


(Top photo): The front page of the famous pink newspaper. Surprisingly, the Giro article didn't start until well into the paper, on page 31. Which begs the question: Is cycling not the number 1 sport in Italy?
Sadly, no! Motocycle racing and Football holds the top 2 spots!
Courtesy: from Hans, who was there and brought me back a copy!


(Second photo): 2 time record holder of the black, Luigi Malabrocca.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Ventoux ... take(s) two!


1955 Tour de France. Stage 11, Marseille-Avignon. The Pandora’s box opens!


Louison Bobet rode patiently up a scorching hot Mount Ventoux with the thought of stealing time on his closest rivals. Namely, climbing sensation Charly Gaul and maillot jaune, Jean Brankart of Belgium. Bobet looked surprisingly good as he passed a tiring Gaul and preceded on alone to Avignon. Little did he know what was happening behind him!

The oven like conditions claimed Kübler and was stalking Frenchman, Jean Malléjac. He showed his prowess in the 1953 Tour winning a stage, wearing the yellow jersey for 5 days and capturing 2nd overall. His luck was about to change ...

With 10 kilometers from the sun drenched summit, Malléjac falls off his bike and onto the boulders. One foot was attached to a pedal while the other still pedaled on continuously. Sweat poured from his face as he fainted and hit the ground looking eerily pale as if death kissed him. It was a chaotic scene as Dr. Dumas had to pry his jaw to get him to drink. About 15 minutes later, Malléjac awoke in the ambulance screaming, wanting to jump back on his bike. He was restrained and taken to hospital. Dr. Pierre Dumas had suspicion that Malléjac fainted from dope induced overexertion. In fact, a half a dozen other riders collapse in the sickening heat. It may have been amphetamines.

Malléjac would recover and ride the Tour 4 more times retiring from cycling in 1959. And right up to his death in 2000, he denied drug use. Jean Malléjac was from the old school where outspokenness of doping was reserved to the quiet confines behind closed doors. 

Twelve years later, on the very same Mt. Ventoux,  Tom Simpson would enter into Tour history!

World champion, Bobet makes a break alone on the sun drenched bald mountain! He would go on to win the stage and the overall, without pleasure. He rode this Tour with painful saddle boils. And at the end of the year had an operation which required 150 stitches!
From: 'Tour de France/Tour de Force.'

(Top photo): Dr. Pierre Dumas treats a comatose Jean Malléjac after his mysterious collapse climbing the giant of Provence.
From: 'The Official Tour de France.'

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Giro d'Pipi



"Gaul was
a murderous climber, always the same sustained rhythm, a little machine with a slightly higher gear than the rest, turning his legs at a speed that would break your heart, tick tock, tick tock, tick tock.”

Raphael Geminiani.



The 91st Giro d’Italia goes next Saturday. As a lead up to this great race, a tribute to one of my favorite grimpeurs; Charly Gaul.

He passed away in 2005 but he will be long remembered for his climbing exploits in both Tour’s. An highly gifted climber with a edgy temperament excelled in foul cold/wet conditions but wilted in the heat. Gaul can turn the pedals so fast and so smooth that he literally flew when the mountains beckoned. "Mozart on two wheels," was how the French writer Antoine Blondin described him. Luxembourger, Charly Gaul(pronounced gowl) was also well known for a particularly 'moving' incident at the 1957 Giro d’Italia …

Four stages left, Gaul was betting on overall victory. Why not? He scored a miraculous 1956 Giro win! And now, he was leading the race followed by Italian Gastone Nencini and French triple Tour winner, Louison Bobet. By passing up the Tour, the confident Bobet wanted to become the first ever Frenchman to win the Giro.

With two third’s of the stage left, Como to Monte Bondone, some riders decided for a nature’s stop. Among them, Nencini and Bobet dismounted for a pee. Further along, race leader Gaul did the same. As Bobet rode by the relieving Gaul. The Luxembourger, who hated Bobet, made an indecent gesture with his 'member' at the Frenchman. In cycling, there is a temporary truce of not attacking during a nature’s call. Bobet was miffed by the gesture and he instructed his team to react and quickly sped away. Gaul, had never a powerful team, lost over 8 minutes and any chance of overall victory.
However, the Luxembourger's race was not entirely over ...

During the next day’s final mountain stage, Bobet seemed destined for overall victory, just having dropped Nencini. In the lead, Bobet looked to the road below and watched in shock as Gaul paced Nencini patiently up the mountain. Gaul took it to his French nemesis and put a knife into Bobet’s chance of overall victory. He sided with Nencini and helped him win the Giro by a scant 19 seconds over the luckless Bobet. Gaul's revenge was sweet and complete!


1957 Giro d'Italia. The Final GC:

1. Gastone Nencini(Italy) 104h 45' 06s
2. Louison Bobet(France) 19s
3. Ercole Baldini(Italy) 5' 59s
4. Charly Gaul(Luxembourg) 7' 31s


Charly Gaul lost that 1957 Giro due to his foolhardy stunt but nevertheless assumed two nicknames that would stick forever; “the angel of the mountains” and ... “Monsieur Pipi".

And another thing, he also discovered the art of urinating on the bike.



What a relief!



1957 Giro d'Italia Photos:
(Top): Rider of the Storm. When the weather turns nasty, Gaul's in his element.
www.gazzetta.it

(Above): The Angel of the Mountains. Gaul usually battled the mountains by himself!
www.dewielersite.net

(Middle): 1959. Smiling Enemies. Bobet(left) & Gaul(right).
From: Cycling's Golden Age.



Thursday, May 1, 2008

Ventoux ... take(s) one!

The extinct volcano, Mount Ventoux stands 1900 meters with the lung busting climb starting at sea level. With no trees or vegetation to help shade the uppermost part of the climb, a riders’ temperature surely rises with height. Due to this, it’s hotter on the way to the top where the sun’s rays reflect off the surface of the limestone landscape and onto the expose riders. A helluva place to ride for anyone.
Enter the 36 year old, Swiss great, Ferdi Kübler. Tour de France 1955, stage 11, Marseille to Avignon including the exhausting ride up the “Giant of Provence”. It had been climbed before in 1951 and 1952, but not like today’s intense heat. Kübler was nicknamed, “the cowboy” for his love for Stetson hats. And especially for his way of recklessly attacking, and with six miles left... Kübler decided to go!

French rival Raphaël Géminiani warned the Swiss, “be careful Ferdi, it’s not a climb like the others.”
“Ferdi is not like the other riders!” spat the impulsive Kübler.

He bolted like the wild cowboy he was and cracked, big time! Kübler became delirious, crazed and exhausted, zigzagging across the road and fell off several times on the descent. Foaming at the mouth he pedaled erratically. He even found a café to rest, then got back on his bike only this time in the wrong direction! Finally, two kilometers from the finish he fell again, and had to be pushed to the finish by a teammate.

He came in 42nd place, a whopping 26 minutes 19 secs down on the winner, Louison Bobet. Afterwards, he confessed, "Ferdi killed himself on the Ventoux." And with this supreme effort, Ferdi Kübler left the next day and never started another Tour.

1955: The Ventoux takes it toll. The cowboy's erratic dance with a bandaged arm along with team manager, Alex Burtin. Afterwards, he decided he was too old, and retired from the Tour. Two years later, at 38 years old, he retired from cycling and opened a florist shop. Photo by L'Equipe

Top photo: 1950 Tour Champion. The great Ferdi Kübler(now 88 years old) is the oldest living Tour de France winner! www.velomagazine.fr

Coming up: Ventoux ... take(s) two!
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