Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Bergs, Cols, Passos, Sierras, Altos and Picos...

After our seven months Grand Tour of Europe, I find myself back in Australia. It is nice to be back and I can't wait to get back on my bike.

My last ride was in Spain, over two weeks ago and although we have been slowing down since we got to Portugal, my legs seem to be feeling the effects of non-riding and are now holding protests with massive cramps in the middle of the night. Work that one out...

Anyway, I did my last ride on the 24th, the stunning Jaizkbel, when the kilometre count went over 9,000 with more than 150,000 m of climbing. It was not a bad thing to slow things down while I am trying to work out what to do next.

To illustrate what this Tour was about, here is a list of the climbs we planned to do and some that we found on the way. But I must say, there are so many more around the place that many times during our trip we talked about changing our plans and extending our stay to be able to ride more of them... me a cycling-gourmand.

Germany Hutberg, Wiesenweg, Friedrich G. Keller, Patrovillenweg, Hainbundstrase 23, Reinhauser Landstrase 997

Belgium Le Feuille, Kapelleberg, Koppenberg, Rue Belle Vue, Rue du Frene, Mur de Huy, Col du Maquisard, Mont-Theux, Cote de La Redoute

Holland Cauberg, Schweiberg

Switzerland Oberalppass

Italy Ghisallo da Bellagio, Colma di Sormano, Via Bernardo Gaggini, Portofino Hill, Ruta da Rapallo, Via Della Cinque Terre, Pumpino, Montecatini, Campo Imperatore, Passo Lanciano, Blockhaus, Monte Grappa Da Romano, Croce d'Aune, Passo di Fedaia (Marmolada), Passo Pordoi, Passo Campolongo, Passo Sella, Passo di Gardena, Limone "Hausberg" sul Garda, Passo Campiano, Passo Stelvio, Passo Gavia, Mortirolo, Cipressa, Poggio

France Struthof, Ballon d'Alsace, Col de Bussang, Col de Hundsruck, Grand Ballon, Route Joffre, Col de La Madone, Col de Fontaille, Col du Buisson, Col du Faux, Col de Lalouvesc, Col de Juvenet, Col du Marchand, Col d'Allos, Col de Cayolle, Col des Champs, Col de La Bonette, Col d'Izoard, Alpe d'Huez, Col de La Madaleine, Col du Glandon, Col de Croix Fer, La Toussuire, Col du Mollard, Col de Chaussy, Col du Telegraphe, Col du Galibier, Col du Granier, Col de La Cruix Fry, Col des Aravis, Col de La Colombiere, Col de St Jean de Sixt, Col du Buisson, Mount Ventoux, Col de La Gineste, Col de Pailheres, Col du Chioula, Montee de Bonascre, Plateau de Beille, Port de Lers, Col de Paguere, Col de Peyresourde, Peyregudes, Col d'Aspin, Col de Val Louron-Azet, Hourquette d'Ancizan, Col du Tourmalet, Col de Labays, Col de Marie-Blanque, Col de Lie, Col de Ichere, Col du Soulour, Col du Albisque

Spain Aisa, Hoz de Jaca, Portalet, Capdella, Coll de Serra Seca, Coll de Jou, Puerto de Navacerrada, La Bola del Mundo, Pena Negra, Piedrahita, La Covatilla, Alto d'Angliru, Lagos Covadonga, Urkiola, Kampazar, Karabieta, Alto Ixua, Alto Arrate, Jaizkibel

Portugal Castelo de Trevin, Nossa Senhora da Graca

Cheers everyone and thanks Groover, you were the best!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Portugal, enfim

Wonderful riding!

Strava Link

Sunday, August 5, 2012


Port de Lers, Fr.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Hope you are well!

Well, this is a good time to say a quick Hi!.

The blogging got to a stop after the
race to Roubaix. I guess there was no training and racing after that, just riding. Bloody good riding!!!

Cycling in Europe has been a fantastic experience, and we have done so many rides and climbed so many mountain passes that they started to blend into one big journey. Add another million visual and cultural impressions and I am finding it too difficult to put it all in simple words.

Thankfully, Sandra is keeping a good track of it and has been doing a great job writing and posting some great photographs on her

So, having just climbed the amazing Mt Ventoux, we are heading to Marseille and then the Pyrenees... more mountains to climb.

A bientot,


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Heaven or hell of the North

It is cool and grey in Antwerpen. It is wet. It is an early spring Belgium day, I dare.

The planned ride under the Schelde and around the town has been put on hold. We are happy to sit in our little mobile home and do a bit of house work. But first...

The Paris-Roubaix Challenge

As I wrote before, the preparation was near perfect. OK, I wasn’t race fit and I didn’t have a special Roubaix rig, like many, but it didn’t matter. I said to myself I was there for the experience of riding the famous cobbled roads of Northern France.

But one thing changed as I got on the bike that morning, I felt like going as fast as I could on the cobbles, just like Kelly and did.

The challenge wasn’t incident-free, unfortunately. First, and although I was up by 5:20 am, we didn’t make it to the 7:30 start. An error in the communication with the camping ground staff kept us locked inside until 7:50 am. We were in Peronne and the cut off time was 8 am, in St Quentin, 15 minutes away.

Luckily, Sandra came up with the great idea of driving and dropping me off somewhere along the course. And after doing a quick search with the GPS, we drove to Bertry, 4 or 5 kilometres before the first cobbled sector (No.19). We stopped at an intersection where we saw Gendarmes controlling the traffic. We also saw cyclists riding pass. Great, bike off the rack, shoes on, on the bike, I was only hoping I could find a few riders with 400 or 500 numbers pinned to their jerseys, riders from my starting group. But they had already gone pass. I could only spot 800s, 900s and 1000s.

Time to race like Kelly.

Sooner than I expected, and after overtaking dozens, or hundreds perhaps, I got to Sector 19. Again, Gendarmes pointing the way, a small crowd clapping and I was riding the cobbles. It was kind of emotional, I must say, but all I could think was “don’t crash, don’t get a puncture”. It was only a three stars sector, a 2.2 km first pave experience, 18 to go and I loved it! One problem, one drink-bottle was gone.

The bike felt good, fast, perhaps the tyres were pumped a little too high because I could feel the hard pounding on my hands. Riding on the top of the handle-bars was best but that meant no breaks and no shifting. A little scary when overtaking someone because I never knew what they were going to do. I tried to get out of the saddle a couple of times, that wasn’t a good idea. The rear wheel jumped up and down and from side to side.

I was flying in between sectors, through the villages, dreaming that I was in a break. I was catching groups and dropping them. I think most of them were just cruising. I had number 1221 (I think) on my wheel for a while, just for a while.

The next sector was very much the same, so was the next. I was still riding in the middle of the road when I could and on the cobbles for the whole sector. It was fun, I wasn’t hurting but I noticed number 1221 passing me like a pro. I also noticed that my second bottle was also gone.

Having to concentrate on the course didn’t allow me to work out how far I was to the first feed zone and I had no map of the course. Stopping at one of the bars crossed my mind. I even thought of the old days when they had a glass of wine, or two, when riding through the villages. But I had no time to stop, I had to ride faster to get to the feed quicker.

One more sector, another village, a right turn and there it was a huge set up with tents, music, tables full of food, Mavic cars, you name it, but a hundred riders as well, some as if they were having a picnic. I managed a couple of slices of orange, a coke and “non biddon” before I saw a group I overtook early going pass.

Instinct made me run and jump on the bike, the folks from the village clapping and yelling. It was like a movie, as if they knew what was going on. I felt like racing. I did catch them and worked with a guy in a yellow kit for a while, the others sat there. I enjoyed the company because I was riding by myself most of the time. I was kind of lonely.

For the next sector, I was going solo again. And again, 1221 went past, flying. Where is this guy coming from?

I also recognized a couple of other riders and we rode together for a while. No words said but it was fun. They dropped me on Sector 14, I caught them again and they dropped me again on 12. Don’t push, I thought, too many sectors to go.

So far, the temperature was good and I only felt a bit of wind and couple of drops of rain. Nice day to ride a bike. The scenery started to get a little greener but I didn’t think of a forest until I heard the whistles from the people standing by the train line crossing, and turned left into it.

The Arenberg Forest.

The forest was really beautiful and the cobbles looked like they have been worked on. There was also growth in between them. The Arenberg gave me inspiration and a desire to go harder, faster. After that, I only had to ride to the velodrome. For some reason, I didn’t find the cobbles too difficult, they just looked slippery. I am sure it would be different at 40 km/h…

However, I run out of energy after that, my average speed dropped fast. I felt dehydrated and the energy bar I had, didn’t kicking in. I needed to make it to the next feed, quick if I wanted to get to the velodrome.

For the next three sectors I avoided the cobbles when I could. Riding on the dirt seemed faster and my body was asking for a rest. That wasn’t as easy as one might think, if you are not a mountain biker, riding on a 20 cm wide single-track requires a lot of concentration. There are also loose rocks, holes, sticks and other obstacles. Fun but not fun…

I wasn’t very optimistic when I saw the 70 km to go sign. I felt cold and my body ached. Only my arrival at the second feed zone brought some hope of a ride on the velodrome. I was hitting the wall.

One cup of water, two of coke, a few nuts and a banana and in a couple of minutes I was on the bike and slowly on my way. I couldn’t wait to see the next sector number to get an idea of what laid ahead. But there was a long, windy stretch and I didn’t feel much better. I started to rest behind the groups I caught before passing them, riders who now had 400 and 500 numbers. That felt good.

The next village, named Bourghelles and the short Sector 6 brought me back to earth, I think. I was still riding on the dirt when I could but now, I felt I could make it. The sectors also seemed closer to each other, quicker pain. I even remember pushing a bit harder when the crowd near The Restaurant applauded and yelled. It felt warm. I was getting closer and Sandra was waiting for me.

The landscape changed, there were more houses on the land. Then, another open field, one more sector, I was all by myself. I spotted a man using his mobile. As I got closer, he stopped his conversation, looked at me and yelled:

“You, chicken, get on the pave and ride, it is seven kilometres to Roubaix!”

Well, that was my interpretation and I tried but I couldn’t face the cobbles anymore. I felt like a broken man.

Next, I was in the suburbs of Roubaix. I saw traffic lights, I got directed through a pedestrian tunnel and suddenly I was on the main street. The people didn’t pay much attention as I rode alone, just like Stuey as he rode solo on the streets of Roubaix. Then, the sign indicating Sector One. But the cobbles were even and flat, nice to ride on and for the last time, a Gendarme signalled me to turn right, this time into the Roubaix Velodrome.

I tried not to show my tears.

Sunday, 1st April: Paris (Bertry)-Roubaix

Time: 4h 12min 25sec
Dist: 120.5 km
Elev: 350 m

Friday, April 6, 2012

Happy Easter

Lots have been happening, and many kilometres have been ridden (and driven) since I last posted here. And yes, I did the Paris-Roubaix Challenge, with a couple of incidents (of course), and finished it. But before I go into that, I will write a bit about the other rides I did. Not doing so would be terribly unfair to this great cycling experience I am having. No time to be apologetic, I will just try to remember some of the great things and the great riding we have been doing.

Sat, 24th March: Koenigstein

We did leave Senftenberg, our home town for almost four weeks, but before that we did a trial run with the motorhome by driving to Koengstein and Gohrisch. Sandra spoke a lot of this area and the climbing we were going to do but I thing I got a lot more than that… The climbing was very good, true, but she didn’t tell me how interesting the villages along the river Elbe were. And I didn’t really know (or listened) we could ride from our camping spot, down to old Koengstein, up to a medieval fortress, turn around, ride through villages along the river Elbe and cross the border to Decin, in the Czech Republic.

Time: 1 h 20 min
Dist: 46 km
Elev: 540 m

Sun, 25th March: Gohrish – Decin (CH)

Time: 3 h 40 min
Dist: 72.7 km
Elev: 716 m

Tue, 27th March: Goettingen

The motorhome passed the test. We packed it and drove off. The next stop was Goetingen. A short ride after we parked the motorhome got us through the town and to the hills. More riding and climbing, yes, but this town (a big academic and cultural centre with a huge natural reserve) had so much character I felt in love with it.

Time: 1 h 58min
Dist: 26.7 km
Elev: 336 m

Wed, 28th March: Gottingen

Time: 1 h 50 min
Dist: 28.9 km
Elev: 320 m

Thur, 29th March: Moers

This was a bit of a “just roll the legs” type of ride. Going through the small pretty village of Rheinberg was interesting though. And we were on our way to Belgium.

Time: 1 h 35 min
Dist: 30 km
Elev: 41 m

Fri, 30th March: Liege

We stopped in Blegny, a few kilometres from Liege, somewhere on the hills. The riding was beautiful, farm houses, windy and cold. This was Belgium in Spring.

Time: 1 h 50 min
Dist: 33.3 km
Elev: 417 m

Sat, 31st March: Perrone to Saint Quentin

Time: 2 h 25 min
Dist: 31.6 km
Elev: 213 m

And then, there was the Paris-Roubaix Challenge, without a doubt the hardest ride I ever done. Unfortunately, we must get going. I will put a little post soon.


Cafe Bornhem, Gent

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Big ride on the Ultimate tomorrow!

As we arrived at the
Saint Quentin's Palais des Sports, the Rapha guy yelled from the bus:

- Nice bikes you are riding!

I spoke to a couple more people at the registration villa this afternoon and the conclusion was:

The Canyon Ultimate will be fine, I can register.

Sandra and I were directed to the bike parking area where two Valet Riders waited and jokingly parked our bikes. From there, we followed the P-R Challenge signs to the Palais des Sports main building where, the friendly organising team greeted us and gave us numbers, musettes and spare tubes.

Back outside, people gathered around Canyon, Trek and Rose bikes, Mavic gear and, of course, Rapha apparel and coffee... The guys at the Mavic service vans looked busy truing wheels and talking tyre pressures for tomorrow. They told me to try 6 Bars and if I didn't feel good on the ride, stop by the yellow truck to have it changed.

As we waited for our coffees (the only Rapha thing I could afford), Alex, from the Rapha bus again, tried to advise me on using 25mm tyres. He was surprised I was already riding the 25mm Contis.

"You will be smoking then!" he said with his Norwegian accent.

We didn't have much time to spare, we still had a 28 km ride back to Peronne in typical Northern France conditions and some shopping to do.

- See you tomorrow. I am pumped. We will be smoking tomorrow! said Alex.

Anyhow, it is 10:15, time to plan my P-R ride. What to wear, what to eat, how to ride it... I hope the Ultimate can handle it.

Photos by Groover

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