Monday, April 20, 2009

Paris-Roub- I mean Ancaster

(Hell of the North, Sector 1)
It has been awhile since this blog has seen much of anything in the way of new posts. Naturally the fives of people who read it must be profoundly disappointed. Or something.

Spring is in the air, robins are peeping around, and until today we had a nice dry spell where I got to race the 'cross bike in some long, demanding early season races before the whole roadie thing takes over everything. Yesterday was the second of two Paris-Roubaix Canadian knock-off races, both of which I completed.
Paris-Ancaster is a monster event with over 2000 participants. I was spared the routine of being sandwiched into a school bus at the finish to be bussed to the start as I am now racing for ZM Cycle and got a ride to the start in the team gas guzzler rammed full of middle-aged adventurer men in ridiculous blue and yellow Lycra.

The real deal was the week before, 100 km further up in the 'Hell off the North' which La Bicicletta ran this year (and superbly well I might add). It had 92 racers, and was much colder and longer at 89 kms of road and trail. I bonked with about 25kms to go, but I still pulled off about 30th. That was a really epic bike race.

I finally rode the Mudslide at P-A this year, or tried to anyway, doing a couple of half-crashes in slow motion inside the 250 metre long downhill muck trench filled with big rocks. It was still good fun. All twenty gears seemed to be working fine on my muck-covered bike with the final climb to go at kilometre 59.5. P-A traditionally ends with a steep dirt road climb out of a gully and can say that I was must pleased to be in my 34x27 gear whilst doing it. I even sprinted the last 25 m to nip a guy at the line, 106th of 1202 finishers thank you.
It's hard to describe the whole arc of the process from day before prep to race start and enduring it to hitting peak-working in pacelines-dropping people-final ascent-recovery-return home. A huge journey inside a controlled adventure of a few hours. Endorphins replaying the whole thing in your head hours after.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009


The solution to everyone's problems.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Icycle '09 Dufferin Grove Park Rink

Photo: Frank Theriault
Les pistards sur glace: Panama Jack vs. Pete 'Bones' Breward

The ice race played out in all its icy glory. (Jim 'Ice bear' Kuz chases Ted Ingram in the final. Eventually Kuz crashed on a flat tire in a corner and took Ingram down with him.) There were lots of 'cross machines in attendance. Good weather, fine times and a bit of a crowd too!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Tyler Hamilton, riding in the cold and sopping wet Tour of California yesterday, along with two of his boys at Rock Racing who are apparently too tough to wear gloves or rain jackets unlike everyone else. Well, they were defending the leader's jersey. And they are Rock Racing. We are deep in the depths of a not very bad winter here in southern Ontario; the sun has been shining for whole days. Temperatures have been hovering around the O degrees Celsius mark in the last days, and I have been totally uninterested in racing a bike for months now. As in, no training of any kind and disgusted at even the thought of participation in a road race.

Until Sunday. We had one of these one degree and blazing bright days that screamed for a bike ride of one kind or another - even A. felt the urge and that guy can sit in front of his computer in the dark of his bedroom under any circumstances. We rolled out as three, with our wise old Yoda of the bicycle, the one and only D. D. took one look at me with my bib knickers and race-ish white road bike, and said "That's serious, man". What did he mean?

"I've got double overbooties on" was my only reply.

Of course, D., who's been an amateur road racer, pro mechanic, bike messenger, and model train engineer in his days, was running a single speed winter bike with at least 28mm tires and full fenders, as well as foul weather cycling pants. As in pants, not tights. D. has let go of all pretenses to speed and raciness. I, on the other hand, have not. And this sub-two hour roll through the flat, straight streets of a peopleless South Etobicoke confirmed it. Not having done a group ride since early September, I kept finding myself off the front of this mellow, first of the year outing with my two non-racer companions, itching for more.

Yesterday I pulled the trainer out and put my bike in it for the first time since I was racing 'cross in the Fall. It felt good. There, I said it. I enjoyed riding on a stationary bicycle in my living room. The downpour of sweat, my heart rate monitor still not working, my old bike shorts now hideously stretched and deformed, none of it dampened my enthusiasm, not even the 8-speed wheel I had stuck into the rear of my 10-speed setup could bother me. I made a horrible racket for a solid hour and climbed off, feeling good.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Frame of Cuba.

This brand new machine I found in Cuba in the first house I stayed in. The seat stays are attached to nothing, presumably to take a bolt that would secure/be part of a cargo rack along with the frame itself. Like everything else it Cuba it managed to look old even though it was new. It takes Communist industry to pull that off (I believe).

Thursday, January 29, 2009


What can be said? It is the end of an era.

Erik Zabel's last pro bicycle race ended in triumph in Berlin on 27 January 2009. He and Robart Bartko went into the final night of the Berlin Six in the lead and stayed ahead of Bruno Risi and Franco Marvulli, the Swiss powerhouse defending champions. Was it by gentlemen's agreement? Very possibly, but who cares: a class act went out in style in his home town in front of 13 000 Berliners and other fans.

In the days of Eddie Merckx, it was common for stars to race everything, from the Spring Classics to the indoor winter Six Day track races, as they needed the money. Now that Zabel has finished up, no one will be. The last hard man has gone home. I wanted to be there, to see it happen but it was not to be.

For the record, the lovely photo (Velo News) is from this year's Bremen Six, also won by Zabel and Bartko earlier this month. Zabel was no tourist in the sixes, having won a dozen of them over the years. What were his feelings when he took that final lap of honour, I wonder?

Zabel is one of the last of a dying breed, those pro bike racers raised in the old communist East German sports system, selected as kids and primed to maximum ability (amongst others - Jens Voigt, Rolf Aldag, and one Jan Ullrich). People always associate that system with massive, organized doping for the Olympic Games, but that's not the point to me. Each of these racers brought something special to the sport. From being coerced into into it by the state, they went beyond that to become stars on their own with their own love of the sport, long after the GDR was absorbed into the West.

The trackies do this tribute thing for winners where they line up standing on either side of the straightaway, saluting with their bikes propped up on the back wheel as the victors roll past.
A fitting end for Zabel, so respected amongst the pro ranks.

Ete, werden Sie verfehlt.

(Ete, you will be missed.)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Men at Sea

Who are the humanlike figures in this photo?
Could they be Canadian national cyclo-cross team members lost in a sea of panic in their current European tour? Is it Floyd Landis and Michael Rasmussen, after having lost their final appeals in their respective doping convictions? 'We're in the same boat, you and I - why not make it a proper shipwreck in an icebox?', said one to the other, maybe.

In fact what we have here are a couple of Burmese fishermen who were found somewhere off the coast of Malaysia or some place, after twenty days shipwrecked at sea. The photo is from the rescuing helicopter. All other hands disappeared in a monsoon/typhoon but these two were smart enough to think of the icebox and use its buoyancy to sail in for weeks.

Perhaps they survived on fish they kept in their icebox while reading that Yann Martel novel about the kid and the tiger in the boat. But the point is that they danced with death in the wide ocean, and lived.