Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Credit where credit is due...

Cadel Evans, 2009 World Pro Road Champion, Mendrisio, CH

He may not be Italian, and has occasionally been known to be a bit of a whiner, but he shut everyone up with a stellar performance on Sunday. Cadel Evans is the new world champion (a double whammy, if you consider that he is the first Australian WC and that the WCs will take place in Oz next year!).

He did it the old fashioned way, riding away from everyone else on what was, by all accounts a tough course. Congratulations Cadel, may this finally be your consecration in the pro ranks. I honestly hope you will be able to beat the WC curse and am sure you will win important races in the coming year, all while wearing the rainbow jersey.

A few thoughts on the race... yes, apparently a rough circuit. The way most teams melted away (especially the Italian one!) leads me to believe that some underestimated the circuit. or got their tactics wrong. We Italians did what we usually do, trying to control the race from start to finish, but you win some and lose some... although I was less than impressed by Garzelli, Ballan, Pozzato and Basso. Cunego was alone in the last 10km (when the break went) but so were most others, with the exception of the three Spaniards who, in my humble opinion, threw it all away by not 'taking things in their own hands'. With three riders, they did not really attack, but kept one man (Valverde) on Cunego and another (Samuel Sanchez) on Cancellara. Why not make a move with one of the these two captains? Why leave Rodriguez out front to end up with a bronze. They definitely did not look good this time around. Meh...

The guy I do not get is Cancellara. A man that until recently was a top notch time trial specialist is now dropping people uphill. I hope we won't be getting any bad news from him in the future... but I digress. How about his fantastic attack which scared the holy heck out of everyone? To be followed by... nothing when it really counted. Hhhhmmmm... time to sit Fabian down and explain a few things about cycling tactics.

So, with the exception of the Paris-Tours and the Giro di Lombardia, we are heading for the end of the season. Time to wind things down in pro cycling and consider what happened this year and what next year holds in store. How about the Astana/Contador story for starters... LOL.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Grazie Tatiana!

Tatiana Guderzo, campione del mondo, 2009 Mendrisio (CH)

Just a short, ultra-nationalist post. Italy won its first gold medal in the Mendrisio (CH) World Road Cycling Championships, with a solo victory by Tatiana Guderzo. Completed by a bronze medal won by Noemi Cantele. Bravissime! Grazie ragazze!

Let us hope that this is a good omen for tomorrow for the elite men's race!

Both photographs from the www.corriere.it website.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Grand Tour Racing...

So, what else bothers me about the recent Vuelta? And Tour, for that matter? The team tactics, that's what.

Now cycling at the pro level has always been a team sport. You don't win a grand tour simply because you are the strongest rider. After all, these days there are at least a half dozen guys who start a grand tour with the legs to win it. The guy who has the strongest team, with the DS (direttore sportivo - coach) who reads the race best and decides what to do each km of each stage, who is 'protected' on rough or windy days wins. Fine then.


You see, the way teams are interpreting the races is slowly ruining pro cycling. It is becoming increasingly boring. Especially at the Tour (and to some degree, this also happened at the Vuelta this year) teams will put all of their eggs in one basket and risk everything on silly gambles. A case in point - a team has a decent (note, decent, not world class!) sprinter. They are up against a Cavendish or Griepel or Petacchi. There is a long flat stage where a break might have a chance to stay away.

The DS chooses to not risk having one of the strong riders attack. Along with another 1~2 desperate teams, the team hammers all day at the front to make sure no breaks stay away. And then the champion sprinter from another team wins the stage. Why not risk it and get one of your guys in the break? The end result is a race where nothing much happens for the first 150 km, followed by 50~75 km of motorcycle like speeds. And the usual winner.

I see, and am increasingly concerned, by the same kind of attitude amongst the general classification riders (translation - the guys going for the win). No one will attack the guy with the yellow jersey. Everyone is simply riding to protect their second, third or fifth place in GC. Logical? No!

For whatever reason, the Giro d'Italia has been less affected by this, and everyone I speak to who follows cycling agrees with me that the recent Giros have been far more exciting to watch than other grand tours. The design of the race has been good, not presenting the usual two weeks of boring flat/hilly stages before the mountains, mixing things up with short nervous days followed by decent mountain stages very early in the Giro. But also because teams are unable or unwilling to shut down the race. And there are a lot of 'suicide' attacks which keep the race interesting, maybe just to get some air time for sponsors, but it still keeps things interesting.

So how do we get back into the true spirit of grand tour races? Any thoughts?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Vuelta de Espana victory for Valverde... hhhmmm...

Alejandro Valverde won the Vuelta today, one of the three Grand Tours (along with the Giro and the Tour). He was clearly the best rider in this year's Vuelta, supported impeccably by his Caisse d' Epargne team. Impressive riding and, for the first time, Valverde never suffered from the 'off day' that he has always had in grant tours. Chapeau. I think...

This Vuelta victory bothers me for two reasons. The first is the good old doping story, Operacion Puerto (click here for the background information), and the second relates to the increasingly boring style of racing in the grand tours (which I will touch upon in another post).

The first part of the story, Operacion Puerto, is simple. A bunch of athletes, ranging from soccer players, to tennis stars and obviously to pro cyclists, were apparently (or should I say allegedly) involved in a blood doping ring run by a Spanish doctor, Eufemio Fuentes. Over the course of a long investigation that was poorly handled (rumor has to protect some of the big stars involved), a number of pro cyclists were caught and suspended, with some ending up in retirement, including 'Kaiser' Jan Ullrich, and Ivan Basso. Ullrich retired over the scandal, while Basso returned to professional racing this year following the conclusion of his two year suspension.

Why all this talk about OP (as Operacion Puerto is affectionately known)? Because there is every indication that Valverde was also involved. To the point that, in an independent investigation, the Italian Federation has suspended Valverde from racing on Italian soil for two years (hence the impossibility for Alejandro to race in this year's Tour, as it came over the border). This, to put things mildly, bothers me to no end. Here is another guy who allegedly got caught with his hands in the cookie jar walking away with no penalty because his national federation refused to investigate the case... But given that Basso is back this year and only placed fourth in the Vuelta, I could be accused of writing all this as sour grapes that my man did not win. That may be, but OP casts a shadow on Valverde's victory which will be difficult for him to every overcome.

It says something that this year's Vuelta winner was unable to race either the Giro or the Tour de France. It bothers me. I hope it bothers enough people at the UCI to do something about it...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Si è spenta la luce...

Yep, this is exactly how I felt today.

Heck of a day today. Yesterday I had the opportunity to ride, and as it was a gorgeous day, I took advantage of that opportunity... 95 km worth! I arrived home tired, but very satisfied with the ride. And then Saturday arrives. I figure I would be a bit sore, but decide to ride more or less the same route as yesterday, as it is another glorious day here in Rome. Sounds like a plan, doesn't it?

Well, apparently it was a bad plan. Riding out from home I felt that things were not quite right. No problem, just need a few kms to work the kinks out my legs, right? I could not seem to get comfortable pedaling, but on the outward bound bit of the ride, things were not too bad. I was able to keep a decent speed, pushing a 50 x 16/17 on the flats. Ergo, nothing fantastic, but riding along at a decent clip.

I would eventually understand that this was only due to a very stiff wind that was pushing me along... yes, you can all see where this is going.

As I am not really enjoying the ride (and not that dumb, or so I like to think), I decide to cut things short, and about 34 kms from home I decide to turn around and head home. That is where things went downhill very fast... in short, it sucked. I rode home at maybe 20 kph, struggling on the flats (not able to keep on the wheels of any riders who passed me) and absolutely falling apart on the very short, not very steep climbs on this particular ride. All the while riding into a taut wind which sapped what little my legs had in them. I freewheeled on any downhill (I am talking millimeters here). I was all over the road, zig-zagging on any uphill. Really, really embarrassing. I barely made it home, taking about an extra hour to finish a 68km ride.

In other words, an utter, total bonk. Or, as we say in Italian, si è spenta la luce - which translates as 'the light went out'.

Got home and was barely able to pick up my bike to take into the house. Fortunately a dish of fantastic pasta was waiting for me... followed by a two hour nap (no, I am not kidding). Now I am alive again and will go clean my bike, so that tomorrow's ride can, hopefully, be a bit more positive!

Fusilli with zucchini, parmesan and buttah. Fantastic.*

A few things I learned today:

1. Not even a fantastic bike like my Cervelo is able to make up for bad legs. As a bike equipment geek, I often forget this fact. Days like today exist to point out the obvious in this respect.

2. Corollary to point 1 above: as Alfredo Binda would say... «Per vincere ci vogliono due cose: la testa e i garun» - [to win a bicycle race] you need two things - to think and to have legs. And remember, this is from the only guy ever paid not to race the Giro!

3. Starting a long weekend with a long ride after an entire week of not touching your bike is not always a great idea.

4. Listen to your body and especially your legs. If they are telling you that today is going to be a very bad day, plan accordingly.

5. With reference to point 4, if it is going to be a bad day and you intend on riding anyway, check the wind direction so that you will have it pushing you on the way home. Trust me on this one.

6. My wife and family are lifesavers. I was served a wonderful dish of pasta and allowed to take a nap undisturbed. And then given a coffee with some brownies. What more do you need from life?

Please note, picture borrowed from Rachel Eats, the recipe for the pasta is here. Check it out, other great recipes... just remember to go for a ride when you are done eating!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A new adventure...

I have been neglecting the blog over the past several days, as I have just joined the moderators' team on weightweenies. No, nothing to do with weenies or weight loss, at least of the human kind... Weightweenies is arguably the most in-depth site about light bikes and components on the web.

As I have lurked there for some time and begun posting quite a bit over the last year or so, I was recently asked to join the moderator team. I jumped at the chance - moderating a bike forum is something that I knew I would enjoy. And I believe it would be a great opportunity to get to know other bike freaks, learn a bit more about forums and the web, and have more exposure to cutting edge cycling stuff.

So what can I say? I am very, very excited. Pop on over to the forum if you have a chance. Well worth it... it is actually about a lot more than lightweight parts. I have learned an enormous amount hanging out there... you might too!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

More yummy stuff...

Fresh mozzarella, pomodori, fresh basil, olive oil and some bread.
Yes, I am spoiled.

So one of the pleasures of being Italian is our food (I realise it's not fair, but it's not my fault if I am an Italian, male, only child, and a cyclist... ). One of the reasons that I ride... So I thought that, as I have not been riding much (read... at all... it's that work thing getting in the way of my free time!) I would share with you a few of the pleasures of Italian life.

Sometimes, especially in the summer, I really enjoy a dish of mozzarella with basil and olive oil with some nice bread (as you can see in the picture at the top of this post).

Other times, I need pasta. Preferably with something to make it even yummier. Like seafood...

Spaghetti with vongole... I really like this action shot...

At other times we get adventuresome and decide to make some homemade pizza. The daughters love being able to roll the dough and add the toppings...

Tried to take a picture of the whole pizza. I was not quick enough...

And while, as any good Italian, I am a wine drinker, sometimes I enjoy a beer. In this case, along with the pizza I had the opportunity to drink a wonderful Pietra, a Corsican beer which is flavoured with chestnuts.


Yes. A mindless post. Hope that you found it pleasant. Actually, makes me a wee bit hungry...

Have a great meal all, wherever you are!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Riding in Rome

Ahh... a bucolic ride in the Rome countryside.

If you recall, in a previous post or three I had mentioned that riding in Rome was challenging. And not that picturesque. To prove my point, I decided to take my handy point-and-shoot camera on my ride this morning.

I live in southern Rome, relatively (about 17 kms) close to the beach. Unfortunately, the only convenient and relatively safe road for me to get to the sea and on to better riding is a heavily trafficked two lane road called the Cristoforo Colombo (yup, the guy who discovered the Americas, although the place was then named for a guy named Amerigo but I digress). Unfortunately the Colombo is one of the major thoroughfares to Ostia, a major neighborhood of Rome.

Yes. That means lots of traffic.

She is wearing a cool helmet...

Keep in mind that, while the asphalt is in pretty good shape and there is a safe emergency lane to ride in, the traffic is constant and pretty quick... in the 70~100 kph range. But hey, it's the quickest way to get to the sea road (that goes from Ostia all the way to Anzio). And once you are used to the cars zooming by (as all cyclists in Southern Rome) it can be pleasant.

Minus the cars it would be a nice ride!

Once I hit Ostia, after a ride of about 17km, I then turn South and start riding along the sea towards Anzio, which is about 40 km from Ostia. Today I was surprised to find that I had stumbled upon the Rome sprint triathlon. So I took a couple of pictures to show you that this blog is not just about road riding!

These guys were really moving... isn't riding in a swimsuit uncomfortable?

After all that excitement I rode about 20 kms down the coast, turned around and came home. Nice pleasant Sunday morning ride, got in about 75 km total by the time I got home (have yet to install the bike computer on the Cervelo yet!). The sea road (litoranea in Italian) would be fabulous if it wasn't for... the cars.

Yes. Those cars are parked along the shoulder. I ride in the middle of the road.
People are used to it (both riders and car drivers). Surprisingly few accidents.

The picture above shows what the sea road looks like after about 10AM during the weekend in the summer. The line of parked cars stretches for about 20km on this stretch. To the left, over the guardrail and the dunes, is the sea. Not more than 100 meters.

Occasionally the sea is unreachable along a stretch.
Then the road becomes, magically free of cars.

Then again, there are bits and pieces where there is no easy sea access. So people completely ignore that particular stretch of road. And the riding becomes wonderful again. Happy Pete.

This was not a very deep or insightful post, but I just thought it would be nice to show you what riding in southern Rome means. The good bit (not shown in the pictures) are the literally hundreds of riders who use these roads. So car drivers expect to come across cyclists, and that contributes to our safety. Not much, I know. But the best I can do without taking too much time away from the family on a Sunday morning.

I just liked this picture. Shows my Campagnolo ergos, Deda bars, and the fact that my bike is a...

Oh, there are wonderful roads to ride on around here. Those will come in other posts, do not despair!

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Administrative issue: youtube has taken down the video due to a copyright claim. Even if the version I posted was from Dutch TV. Dog gone it. So you will have to google it... sorry!

This video is very, very sobering. Jakob Fuglsang, a strong Saxo Bank rider, overlaps his front wheel with another rider's back wheel while hammering on the flats in a Vuelta stage. Loses control, swerves (thankfully not taking any other riders down with him) and slams into the back of a tanker truck parked on the side of the road.

And the guy walked away relatively unscathed and is attempting to continue riding the race.

So learn the lessons from this... be careful out there. And show anyone who says cyclists are wimps in lycra this video... the guy got a cut in his leg down to the bone, stitches and intends to continue riding...

Work and life...

Well, I have yet to get around to fixing the Schwalbe on the Kona. And I have not been able to ride my Cervelo all week. Following a relatively quiet August (everyone was on leave!) things have really kicked up a notch at work, with a huge meeting scheduled for tomorrow that is eating into my riding time (ergo, cancelling it).

So, for the second day in a row I have had to drive into work. I take the quickest route (about 6km) and get to steal the wife's new Fiat 500 (yup, that exact color too). so it is not bad... or rather as good as a car commute can be. Traffic has yet to reach full Rome craziness, but it has become almost 'normal' - turning a 6km commute into a harrowing 20~30 minute driving experience.

The wife notices that I become more irritable when I don't ride, and I end up sliding into bad habits - staying up late, snacking, etc. Funny how virtuous activities lead to virtuous cycles, and negative actions lead to... vicious downward spirals.

I guess this is just a quick post venting some frustration about juggling act we all have to deal with, trying to ensure that work, family and riding priorities all balance out. Of course, it never works that way. Kind of like a marriage. Ok, forget that, no need to go there now.... ;-)

I constantly tell myself that my job is not riding, I do not ride for a living. I have an office job, and the rest of my precious little time should be spent on family and a wee bit of exercise to stay in shape. But I must admit that I feel guilty about not riding enough and beat myself up about it. Not logical, I know.

So what's the point of this post? Not sure, needed to vent a bit about reality. How that work thing gets in the way of my free time!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Grrrr... hey! Check it out! Beta tools... only the best for Pete!

This evening, I am annoyed. Really annoyed. Saying lots of bad words annoyed. Grrrr.....


If you recall my review of the Kona Jake the Snake I mentioned the fact that I am now riding on Schwalbe Marathon Plus clinchers. I chose these heavy beasts after a string of flats at rather inopportune times (which raises the question whether there really are opportune times to deal with a flat?). These flats stemmed not from the quality of the clinchers (usually Vittoria) I was riding, but rather terrible Rome roads as well as the heavy load the bike was carrying... especially with the two panniers filled with work related material and clothes.

Why the Marathon Plus model? Well, everything I read indicated that these babies had the ride qualities of a tank tread, and weighed slightly more than that. BUT,
every review I saw indicated that this was the closest one could come to puncture-free nirvana. You see, as is obvious in the diagram below (straight from the Schwalbe US site), not only are these heavy clinchers with a LOT of material, but they also incorporate a special protective layer (Smartguard in Schwalbe marketing speak) which is meant to offer '...particular resistance to shards of glass and flints'.

The Marathon Plus clincher diagram. Notice the blue Smartguard protective layer.

As the Marathons are well nigh impossible to find in Italy, I ended up ordering a set (at significant expense I might add) from good 'ole Germany. To my wife's question regarding their price (well in excess of the higher performance clinchers I mount on my road bike) I responded informing her that flat would now become a thing of the past for me. Never again. Mai più. Plus jamais. Nunca más. Well... you get it.

When they arrived, I was amazed by how rigid and heavy the dang things were. I felt slower just looking at them. The Schwalbe marketing blurb assured me that they would roll as smoothly as any other clincher. They lied. They are heavy with awesome rolling resistance. No chance of dropping anyone when riding with these!

But that's not why I had purchased them! I began to commute on them every day. I declared that I was flat-free. And so it was. And it was good. Jokes aside, I was actually impressed. Nice investment, Pete. Puncture free Pete. From June till... this evening. Pete is not so happy anymore.

This evening, as I was riding home at lightening speed (as always, of course), less than 1 km from my front door, I hear the dreaded 'ppppppssssssssssssss' at each wheel rotation. I make it home with some pressure left in the front tire. Dejected and depressed. To discover this....

Can you see the shard of green glass in the tire?

Yup. A shard of glass in the tire. Looks like it sliced straight through the Smartguard. Hhhmmm. Let's pull this sucker out and see what has defeated our mighty Schwalbe-ness.

Yup, needed the pliers. Gratuitous sexy hairy leg shot. No racing this year, no shaving. Deal with it.

After a couple of minutes I am able to pry the shard out. It is quite large and very sharp - probably it has been stuck in the tire since the start of my ride, slowly working its way through the Smartguard...

There it is. Dog gone it, that is a big shard of glass...

Later this evening I will see if I can still ride this tire (I suspect so) - if the gash is not too wide.

Of course, on a 'normal' clincher this would have blown and the tire would have been a throw-away. Hopefully our Schwalbe investment has not gone down the drain. Any comments on the size of the hole? Is the tire still good? Experienced Marathon riders, what do you have to say?

Can you see the hint of blue? That is the puncture-proof Smartguard layer! ;-)

Disclaimer: I am really rather annoyed at having had a puncture. So when I wrote this post (I meant to take the night off, need to ensure that all you pastatrail readers don't get too used to regular posts!) I slagged Schwalbe, which is not fair. No clincher is 100% puncture proof. The Marathons are a great set of commuting clinchers, and the puncture protection is well worth the significant weight and comfort penalty that is part of the trade-off. I also love the reflective band on each side of the tire - I commute year-round, so I love all the reflective bits that I can get. Better dorky than dead!

So, if you commute/ride on rough glass and debris strewn roads, get 'em. They work... almost always!


Yes. Ordered yesterday. Can't wait (the black 2009 is very nice, but it really isn't that cool for summer weather riding, no matter what Fatty says).