Broken Bike parts – Roundabout in Brakel, Belgium – Image copyright Cristi Ruhlman
Episode 1: Adventures of a Would-Be Cyclist…..or How I Ended Up Getting a New Bike
How does a calm “fun ride” on a hot humid day turn into a meeting of steel and skin on the road?
Well, I found out yesterday when I rode in our local Fourth of July bike ride. It started off beautifully. My husband rode the first bit with me, until my 25-mile course went one way and his long course the other. We both did what we could to ride together–me trying my best to keep up, him attempting to go slowly enough for me to follow. It was fun–hilly and HOT!!!! But I did it, and was proud of myself for just getting up so early and riding.
All went well as I rode the final miles by myself, until within 500m of finish, suddenly I got crashed by a woman who decided that mid-corner was a good place to just STOP! I didn’t even have time to think WTF. As I was flying in the air, I did have that thought I’ve heard so many riders talk about on TV, the slow motion moment when you think to yourself, “Oh, @#$% This is definitely gonna hurt!”
Now you have to know that I ride a Specialized 29er. The thing is steel framed, a monster, and the wheels must weight 5 pounds each. But now it’s trashed–wheel bent, derailleurs gone. Though maybe it’s a good thing the bike is a tank–it took the worst of it. Fortunately, I came away with just a rainbow of arm bruises and an impressively bloodied knee.
But truly, I should have known better! This was not the Tour de France, no teams here–it’s each rider for themselves out there! Not that anyone was timing the darn thing! So I learned: Keep your eyes open, you never know who is going to do what, when.
Now, I know the woman-whose bike was unharmed-was sorry, she even offered to pay for my bike, which was very kind of her. She asked me later what she should have done differently to have not cause it. I had to stop……and pause the requisite 5 seconds, so I wouldn’t say the first thing that came into my head. I mean seriously, my first thought was, “Hello! Maybe next time it would be good to not stop dead in the intersection!” No, I said something nice (something not completely truthful either), but something polite.
Now rather than dissuade me from riding, it’s pumped my enthusiasm for cycling and riding my bike. Not the crash or the road-rash, of course, nor the fact that it was hard and it was hot, but the excitement of seeing riders ahead of me, of trying to catch up and to pass them. Not to beat them, but to just see if I could just get there. And with my old bike in a few pieces at the bike shop where I left it, I have a new bike in my future. I might just be able to do that catching up and passing a little bit easier now and most definitely in better cycling style.
So now with some more work and a few Kilos lost (both from me and a new lighter bike), I’m going to my set sights to ride the next “local” event. Maybe next time, I’ll even try the 44-mile ride . But my first lesson is learned: “Just like the Tour de France, it’s a jungle out there……even on the charity ride circuit!”
Have you ever dreamt about sitting down with a relaxing glass of wine and spending an evening just chatting cycling with a former World Champion? What if you could spend time with a Triple Crown winner? Well, that’s how reading the new book by Stephen Roche ‘Born to Ride’ felt to me. It gave me the distinct impression that I was having an intimate conversation with one of the all-time greats in the world of cycling.
The stories and the thoughts behind the action in the book are fascinating. Stephen’s personal views of the nature and culture of cycling in the 1980s–the teams, the Directors Sportif, the teammates and the rivals are the needed details. They fill in gaps in the urban legends and the well-documented stories that have become the lore of cycling. To be allowed into the depths of that world, just a bit, is a compelling read and well worth the price of admission.
Setting the stage with the details and drama of the World Championships of 1987, Stephen Roche narrates the tale of that fateful day, bone-numbingly wet, riding the circuit course at Villach, Austria. “During these early laps I am just staying in the wheels, sheltering from the wind behind other riders, freewheeling almost. That’s obviously an exaggeration, but that’s how easy I want it to feel, so that I can save everything I can for the end.” The winning strategy, the gear choices, the details of the day are the simple things, like putting on three rain jackets layered upon each other, that make for a build up that seems so very personal and intriguing. It also makes a fascinating read for fans of cycling and of sports psychology.
Mixed in with the racing are touching details of Stephen’s early days trying to gather up money to make the trip over to race in France as an amateur, as well as, engaging stories of the many people who helped make it possible. Stephen openly lets us in to his personal life in a genuine and straight forward manner. It is this glimpse into the triumphs and failures of the man that make you feel closer, that make you want to read more. It also makes you realize that a Triple Crown in cycling doesn’t insulate you from being human, from being a parent, or the devastation of having a child who develops leukemia and needs a bone marrow transplant. Within these pages are the joys of winning and the sorrows of life.
One of the most intriguing takes I have from the book ‘Born to Ride’ is the strong undercurrent of confidence that comes through when Stephen Roche talks about being on the bike. He didn’t just think he could win, he knew the race was his to win, and he belonged on the top step of the podium. Interestingly, he is quite honest about the price he paid for it, within his own team and with others, cyclists and fans, who thought his tactics were not “pure” team spirit.
For me, these insights into the mindset of a champion come through between lines, chocked full of the images of iconic cyclists who are brought to life through Stephen’s reminiscences. The legends of cycling from Miguel Indurain, Laurent Fignon, Roberto Visentini, Sean Kelly to Robert Millar play prominently throughout Stephen’s career. The book runs the gamut from glimpses of the boy, who collected clippings of Sean Kelly and was told at school he “wasn’t likely to get anywhere”, to the triumphant 1987 World Champion and winner of the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France.
Like most conversations, which zig and zag and take you to unexpected, but not unwelcome places, Stephen also addresses the climate of doping in cycling that existed at the time, his opinions of the present-day UCI and its concerns about “cheating” and improving the image of the sport, and his role in each. It left me ever more hopeful for the future of cycling, that there is still a sense of direction for the sport which comes from people like Stephen Roche who have been there and lived it.
As I came to the end, finally putting the book down, there was a sense of joy and a sense of loss. The interlude with the past, like a fine wine or a lovely evening, was over all too soon, but I was left with a profound sense of place and a newfound appreciation for the real challenges and sacrifices it takes to be a cyclist. Overall, ‘Born to Ride’ is an absorbing and interesting new book, Stephen Roche’s first full autobiography, and I highly recommend spending a few enjoyable evenings savoring the conversation.
Title: Born To Ride
Author: Stephen Roche
Published by Yellow Jersey Press, The Random House Group
Available from 7th June 2012 in Hardback & eBook
GranFondo - View Of The Coast - ©Image Copyright Randy Ruhlman
Imagine a ride over the rolling hills of California, nestled between the vineyards of Sonoma County and along steep cliffs, as you ride your way towards the waves of the Pacific Ocean. On the first weekend of October, avid cyclists did just that, as over 7,500 riders descended on the town of Santa Rosa, California (just north of that mythic city of San Francisco) for the third annual Levi’s GranFondo Ride. Along with Levi Leipheimer and these thousands of cyclists, many other professional cyclists and celebrities gathered to ride and have a great time with all the proceeds going to charity.
Levi's GranFondo 2011 - Image ©Copyright Randy Ruhlman
The charity is Forget Me Not Farm, promoted by Levi’s wife, former Timex/Cannondale rider Odessa Gunn. Her involvement with animal rescue and rehabilitation has been instrumental in getting awareness and funding for the ranch & foster programs, but it is more than a shelter for abandon critters. The facility acts as a therapeutic refuge for at-risk children, pairing them with animals around the farm and charging the children with their care.
The ride itself incorporates three varied routes, a bit of “something for everyone”, each with a different profile, degree of difficulty and length. All three traverse incredibly scenic terrain, down the Russian River Valley toward the town of Jenner at the Pacific Ocean. The Kings Ridge route takes the GranFondo riders over the hills toward Ritchey Ranch (yes, that Ritchey) where the bike legend himself was reported to be serving sandwiches at the lunch stop.
A very organized ride, the mass start–all the groups at once and at the sensible hour of 8AM–was well managed and the numbers of volunteers and CHPs officers (California Highway Patrol) controlling intersections along the route was impressive. Rest stops were plentiful and well stocked, as were comfort stations. Of course, the scenery was beautiful, as if one had expected anything less. And in typical California coastal fashion, there was some fog along the ocean. Some of the vistas and hill tops were cool and obscured, and a few areas along the ride were reported to have some visibility issues, but aside from that, the ride and post ride weather was excellent.
GranFondo Post Ride Celebrations - Image ©Copyright Randy Ruhlman
Naturally, one of the rewards of a great ride is in the post-ride lunch and festival. The post-ride food offerings ran the gamut from specialities like the very popular Paella stand, to Mexican and Indian food to BBQ beef and plenty of regular post ride cuisine. And, of course, providing the much needed post ride refreshment: an assortment of New Belgium beers to quench the thirst. Along with food and a continuous array of entertainment, there were dozens of Exhibitors at the finish line festivities, including Camelbak, Chris King, HED, Nissan & SRAM, just to name a very few.
All in all, it was a great event.
The pre-ride organization was just that, organised, as was the smooth start with its 7,500 cyclists. The course was well policed and marked and the post ride entertainment and
festival was fun and entertaining.
GranFondo Exhibitors - Images ©Copyright Randy Ruhlman
So what makes a great ride–just that! Levi’s GranFondo 2011 was a ride where you could challenge yourself, have fun, and know that it is all was going to run smoothly. And it is definitely a ride we won’t hesitate to sign up for when entries open for next year’s event.
Mark Langlands - Image ©Copyright Pure Black Racing
Conversation with Mark Langlands of Pure Black Racing
National pride is a powerful motivator and now, as ‘Le Tour de France’ takes center stage, there are many-fans and athletes alike, who wonder what the future of cycling will look like. But there are also those who continue to believe in the beauty of cycling and the tremendous potential it can provide corporations and nations alike.
Enter Carl Williams and his new Pure Black Racing Team. With a personal background at the highest levels of professional sailing and embracing the legendary New Zealand competitive spirit of a country hungry to branch out and challenge the world, Williams is invoking the aura of the hugely popular ‘All Blacks’ rugby team to create a new road racing presence in cycling.
New Zealand is certainly not new to cycling with standout riders the likes of Greg Henderson, Julian Dean and Hayden Roulston who year after year garnering worldwide attention in the pro peloton. Up until recently though, the emphasis for most up and coming Kiwi cyclists has been on the track. Pure Black Racing is out to change that, with the support of the national cycling federation and a growing list of enthusiastic sponsors and young riders, hungry to compete with the best.
The team has created a lot of early season buzz with the successes of Roman Van Uden and Mike Nothey at San Dimas, and Tim Gudsell taking the overall at Sommerville. With the additional experience of NRC pro Glen Chadwick providing a strong backbone for the team, the young New Zealand Pure Black riders, racing abroad in the US many for the first time, have plenty of motivation from their mates and their management.
I was on hand at the recent Air Force Crystal Classic, where the young Pure Black Racing Team was putting up impressive performances in a very competitive field. We caught up with rider Mark Langlands and got a look inside this exciting new team, its reliance on culture and the hopes for the future…
How did you get started in cycling?
Mark Langlands: I started doing BMX when I was 5 years old, continued with that until I was 13. There was really no opportunities to represent NZ until I was 18, so started Road Cycling when I was 12, and stopped doing BMX a year later.
Do you remember your first bike and any adventures that made you love to jump on your bike and ride?
Mark: I can’t remember my first BMX bike, but I do remember building some jumps on the driveway and throwing myself over them. Living on a farm, my Dad built us a track in one of the paddocks and we’d spend hours just riding up and down, normally coming back inside when some skin was missing or something was broken. My first road bike was an Apollo, I’d just get on and ride, go exploring and finding new roads and places.
What led to you getting your first pro contract?
Mark: I was approached by fellow Pure Black rider Mike Northey at Tour of Wellington in 2010 and asked if I wanted to join the Bici Vida Team that he was a part of at the time. Carl Williams, who was the director, got in contact with me and it sort of snowballed from there. I rode the 2010 season in New Zealand for Bici Vida, which just before Tour of Southland in November became Pure Black Racing and gained a UCI Continental Licence.
Do you think the concept of “team” on and off the course helps keep the team together. Would it be the same professional group without it?
Mark: Of course. When Carl put the team together he wanted to bring a group of guys together that got along well with each other. I think if the team was made up of riders who believed that they were constantly better than the others, then we would not have the same atmosphere within the team.
How often during the season do you race? When does your season begin & end? Do you race here [USA] and then back in NZ or is Boulder your home away from home for now?
Mark: Its kind of hard to determine when the season begins and ends for us. With our National Champs in January, its pretty important to be going well for that. So prior to that we’ve got a block of domestic racing from October through to the end of January, which incorporates the Tours of Southland and Wellington. Then with Pure Black, we race here in the United States from March until August, doing the NRC races and a few UCI tours, which is the most important part of the year for us. So our year is split between living in Boulder, and back home in NZ.
Cycling is a team sport with riders dependent on a tight knit group for support, but there seems to be something special about teams from New Zealand and Australia. Do you feel this is the case? What do you think accounts for it?
Mark: I guess being from a bottom end of the world and geographically isolated from the main cycling nations, when we do come away as a team overseas we are willing to sacrifice ourselves for each other to show that we are genuine contenders against those nations. And the satisfaction of proving that we can achieve results as a small cycling nation, makes the determination to get those results all the more greater. Even off the bike, especially here in Boulder, the Kiwis and the Aussies get on well together. I mean NZ is pretty much part of Australia according to most people over here so we should get along.
Do you have certain races right now where you are designated to score a victory or be the lead rider? Or is your job right now to ride mainly in support of others? Does that role change during a race (stage or one-day) or is it generally planned out ahead of time?
Mark: Not at this stage. At the moment, I’m content with being a support rider for the leaders of the team. If the opportunity arises to get a result however, then I won’t turn it down. I guess it can change slightly depending on whether people have good or bad days during a stage race or one-day race, and how the race unfolds on the road. We’re always able to adjust to what happens to ensure the best result possible for the team.
How would you define the term cycling “domestique” and what do you think that cyclist’s role is?
Mark: Someone who is unselfish enough to sacrifice their result to ensure the team as a whole gets a result.
Tell me a little about the mental side of riding in support of someone in a race. How do you “suffer” for someone else?
Mark: For me, first of all, I believe its a matter of respect for the person you are riding for. If you don’t have respect for that person, then you can’t suffer and hurt yourself to support them. I think once you have respect, then the mental part comes easily. If you start to doubt the other riders ability then it makes it that much harder to ride for them, so you have to back yourself to do your job but being able to push yourself that much further as a support rider is having confidence in your team mates ability as well.
Do you have a mentor on the team or are most of you guys about the same age and time in cycling?
Mark: Most of the guys are around the same age within the team, but one person who I do admire as a rider is Tim Gudsell. We both belong to the same club back in New Zealand, and he’s helped me from when I was a young rider through to being a member of Pure Black, so I have the upmost respect for him as a rider and a person. And now riding together with him in the same team, makes it pretty incredible to be riding with a person you have so much respect for.
You’ve had some serious injuries in cycling and have come back to be a great cyclist. Do you think the time away in recovery changed you in any way?
Mark: I think more than anything, the time I had in recovery made me realise how much I loved the sport of Cycling. I was just more determined to make it back, prove to myself I could make it back, and I think that mentally strengthened me to push myself harder to achieve my goals, not only as a cyclist, but also in life as well.
At the Air Force Crystal Cup race, some of you guys had a fun day out and about on rental City Bikes and saw the sights of Washington DC. On Pure Black is there a good feeling of comaraderie between all the members of the team? Tell me a bit about the team dynamic on and off the race.
Mark: Definitely! We are all friends on and off the bike, which makes it easier to gel together when we are racing. Back here in Boulder, we’re always having a BBQ at team mates houses, which is good to have a bit of relaxing time away from the bike. When we’re away from the bike, we’re all relaxed, when its race time, we’re all there in support of one another. There’s no ego’s in the team which also produces a real good dynamic between the riders and staff, whether we’re at a race or back here in Boulder.
Team Pure Black Racing - Image ©Copyright Pure Black Racing
You’ve written some great race pieces for the Team website. Is that something you enjoy doing in the off time–writing? Do you have any off the bike hobbies?
Mark: Ha ha! I do quite enjoy writing, I’m pretty useless at having an artistic side so if I can paint a picture using words then that’s my art coming through. I was actually doing Journalism at University last year but I wasn’t able to bring through my own personal flair, I felt a bit too restricted, so now I just write for my own pleasure and let people enjoy the flair I try to get into my writing.
I also find that cooking is pretty therapeutic for me, I enjoy getting my creative streak on in the kitchen, trying new things and creating something from nothing.
I’ve also got a passion for wine, hopefully once I get back to New Zealand I’ll plant myself a couple of rows of vines out the back of my house, a combination of Malbec and Pinot Gris vines to create my own wine. I want to own my own vineyard at some point in the future.
I think its good to have interests outside of cycling, it gets one out of the monotony of just riding your bike each day.
Who is your favorite top Pro-Tour cyclist? Did you have any favorite riders as a kid, or did you have heros from other sports (or from life or history)?
Mark: I don’t so much have a favourite Pro Tour cyclist, though I do admire Edvald Boasson-Hagen. It’s kind of hard to have a favourite when you don’t know the person personally. I can only do what my own personal abilities and determination allow me to do.
Outside of road cycling, I admire my brother [Paul Langlands] as a freestyle BMX rider. To be honest, I used to think it was all a big joke, it wasn’t really a sport. But after watching the skill involved, and the risk he puts himself through, it is pretty impressive. My coach, Brendon Cameron is another person who I look up to as a person and mentor. He has been helping me since I was a skinny little baggy-shorted rider coming into the bike shop when I first started, and both him and his partner Sarah, have been there for me throughout my career.
Thanks to Avanti, Shimano, Pure Black Racing, Kenda and Peak Fuel.
This month at CyclingShorts.uk.com I’m bringing you an exclusive, we’re excited to feature a great article by my friend Fitzalan Gorman from www.usprocyclingnews.com She caught up with the riders of BMC Racing to get their thoughts on teammates and how that will play a part in their continued success on the world circuits of the UCI Pro-Tour.
American Riders on BMC Racing: Larry Warbasse, Taylor Phinney, John Murphy, George Hincapie show off 2011 team colors at Spain Press day - Image ©Copyright Fitzalan Gorman/ usprocyclingnews.com
Training camp is often the only time of the year that all riders, directeur sportifs and staff are all together in the same place. While officially it is work, these few weeks are the calm before the storm that is the long professional cycling season. At the end of January, BMC Racing held its training camp along the Spanish coastline near Denia. This area has fairly quiet roads with lots of options including flats and undulating, hilly terrain. While here, I got a chance to talk with various members of BMC Racing to find out a little more about the teammate side of cycling.
Cadel Evans and Tim Roe at Press Day in Spain 2011 - Image ©Copyright Fitzalan Gorman/ usprocyclingnews.com
So what do you think of your new teammates?
Brent Bookwalter: “These guys add a certain level of class and experience to the team. Many of the new guys have serious Grand Tour experience and are veterans at the pro tour level in both age and experience. I’m rooming with Ivan Santaromita. We are the same age, he was born in 1984, but he has been racing in the pro tour longer than I’ve been racing road bikes. Guys like that, guys who have been around the block, are very capable, classy and accomplished riders and there is a lot of depth there.”
Cadel Evans: “I’m rooming with Yannick Eijssen. He has so many questions and is so motivated. I can only hope that I am giving him good advice. Along with Tim Roe, I hope that I can help develop these young riders better. I’m also excited about having Manuel Quinziato for the Tour de France. He will probably have the biggest influence on my results.”
What do you think of your mentorship with Chris Butler?
George Hincapie: “I have a bit more mentorship role with Chris than with the other riders because I train with him all the time. He has a ton of potential. He had one of the highest watts per kilo at camp for this time of year, which I was excited about. He needs to learn how to ride in the peloton and how to ride on the flats, but when it comes to his climbing, he is definitely world class.”
George Hincapie at BMC Press Day interview in Spain - Image ©Copyright Fitzalan Gorman/ usprocyclingnews.com
As a rookie, how do you take advantage of the wealth of experience offered from your veteran teammates?
Chris Butler: “I definitely try to soak it all up. I live 2 kilometers away from George in Greenville, so I am definitely biased towards him but there are so many resources on this team. I feel like Karsten Kroon can ride a bike better than anyone else in the peloton. I just want to follow him around and learn all of that information.”
BMC Racing feels different from so many other pro tour teams: There is no other agenda here other than racing. Do you feel this way?
Brent Bookwalter: “Obviously the objective here is to win and to get results but I think we are really fortunate that our head sponsor, Andy Rihs, the head management, Jim Ochowicz, and the heads of this team are not “win at any cost” kind of guys. They place a lot of value in creating a team more than just bodies pursuing results. They are creating a real family with the hopes that true results will arise from that. I feel that we are fortunate to be in this type of environment over one that demands winning.”
John Murphy: “I feel that if you took the same group of guys, and put them first in a situation that demanded they win, and then you put them in a situation where the team provided everything they needed in terms of products and support, 9 times out 10, the supportive environment is where the riders will succeed. I think it is the best approach to anything competitive. Demanding winning isn’t the right psychology.”
Many hours are spent riding for someone else. Tell me a little bit about the mental side of riding in support of one of your teammates.
Brent Bookwalter: “Whether it is George, Karsten, Cadel or anyone else on this team, you step up. I think anytime you care about a person, on a personal level–more than just a coworker level – there is a greater incentive; there is more at stake than career success. There is personal success because you can honestly be happy about that person stepping up on the podium at the end of the race instead of yourself.”
How hard is it to put your personal agenda aside to support your teammates?
John Murphy in Spain at BMC Press Day - Image ©Copyright Fitzalan Gorman/ usprocyclingnews.com
John Murphy: “You work for the team and know that you will get your time. It has to go both ways and it is a constantly revolving circle. As much as you want to be the one winning and putting your arms up in the air, nobody does that by himself. If you are lucky enough to be that person, then you have to appreciate everything that everyone else is doing for you.”
Brent Bookwalter: “At this point, we are all professionals. You create longevity and professional success in this sport by fulfilling that role. To some extent, you can have satisfaction in it. You can think, it is not my job to win at the end of the race but it is my job to cover the pack for the first 100 km and I am going to turn myself inside out to do that. It definitely isn’t a thankless job.”
Final Impressions on Teamwork and BMC Racing:
While here in Denia for the BMC training camp and press day, I was impressed by the individual strength of each rider, but it was the overall spirit of cooperation amongst the team that left a lasting impact with me.Cadel Evans explained the uniqueness of BMC Racing perfectly when he said; “I am allowed to be myself on this team”. This team just feels different; the respect and attitude between the staff, riders and coaches can be seen in every interaction they have with one another. While everyone’s goal is for BMC to win races, it feels like they are working towards this goal collectively, much like a family.
BMC riders: Jeff Louder, Chris Butler, Brent Bookwalter, Chad Beyer, Chris Barton at Press Day 2011 - Image ©Copyright Fitzalan Gorman/ usprocyclingnews.com
Many thanks to John Murphy, Brent Bookwalter, Chris Butler, George Hincapie and Cadel Evans for taking a few moments to talk with me about the team and for giving us an inside look into how teamwork plays into the fabric of BMC Racing. Best of luck to BMC Racing with all their goals in this upcoming season!