Archive for March, 2011

Tour of Flanders

Posted in Spring Classics on March 29, 2011 by bethleasure

Vlaanderens Mooiste              Best of Flanders 

21“Only those who are in top condition can say that the Ronde is not hard. For everyone else, it’s the Way of the Cross.” Andrea Tafi, Pro Cyclist

Belgian Beauty


The Way of the Cross, Via Dolorosa, was up the hill Golgotha, a painful walk by Jesus carrying his cross after being whipped so forcefully there was little skin left on his back or face. A Belgian Spring is something to endure in itself as a bike racer; but add the best of the hardmen and bodacious roads and it becomes something of Via Dolorosa.

In the season of Easter, Tour of Flanders is a Monument indeed to cycling’s greatest sufferers. First held in 1913, the race grew famous for its harsh weather, short but cobbled steeps – hellingnen, and heroic finishers – flahute.

Belgian dominance is six times any other nation. An American has never won it. Only Hincapie came near, first of the chasers, achtervolgers, over a minute behind two Belgian escapees. The course meanders through Flemish country. This in itself presents a challenge as many turns through many towns keep the pace crit-like. Well into it, some of the passages of Flemish Ardennes are remarkable. Dozens of connected, short steep sections with narrow entrances offer narrow windows of recovery in between. These steeps are but 300-2200 meters long whose average gradients of 4-14% belie their stiffest points. The Koppenberg is the best known of the hellingen and the race often separates here setting up winning attacks after other steeps ahead. Grimaced faces with helmets askance bear witness to poignant stretches of pain.

Cobbled classics of the north include the Ronde, Paris-Roubaix, semi-classic Gent Welegem, Omloop Het Volk and Kuurne-Brussel-Kurrne. These races are all characterized by brutal battles for the front since no winners come from behind.

Prayer for Tour of Flanders                     Ronde van Vlaanderen 

 “Drench the plowed fields…With rainfall…bring her to blossom and fruit…All through the wild meadows …Set the little hills to dancing…” 22Psalm 65:11-13

We are thankful for an ultimate display of suffering in the Way of the Cross. We confess we enter into little of this way. We ask for greater understanding of the way toward victory and ask blessing upon Ronde van Vlaanderen.

Ponder Can I race like a Belgian fighting for the front? Affirm I fight to dance up gnarled little hills. Watch how preparation for suffering makes you a conqueror.

21“Tafi still not right,” Latest News for April 2, 2003 Edited by Jeff Jones

Tour of Flanders Museum in Oudenaarde – Centre Ronde van Vlaanderen

22The Message, Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

External Iliac Artery Endofibrosis

Posted in Private Cycling on March 24, 2011 by bethleasure

Puzzling Area

58” I’m trying to get my leg figured out…Today I was great on the bike.  I feel like superman, and better every day…my left leg seems really swollen and turgid [stilted] after the Time Trial in particular when I am having the rest of these nasty sensations. If I keep the hammer down, it starts to be bad, after a while it starts to feel tight, and like it’ll take no more.” Robbie King, Cyclist, noting inconsistency in sensation and performance during a very fit period, eventually diagnosed with EIAE 

A vascular condition common to cycling


External iliac artery endofibrosis (EIAE) is an uncommon disease that affects a large number of athletes and cyclists in particular. Possible causes remain a mystery but one study shows a direct relationship with 59overdeveloped psoas, hip flexors used to propel forward motion. The usual profile for this condition is someone who began riding as an adolescent and engaged in top level competition early. This describes most of the pro and elite racing categories and a lot of top veteran riders.

The principal complaint is intermittent claudication, or ache, cramp, numbness or a tired leg at near-maximal exercise. Confusion and negligence cause the condition to go undiagnosed because mostly the rider feels fine.

60Well known riders with the condition describe balls-to-the-wall rides that come to a halt because one leg just stops, unable to pedal. Its mysterious symptoms are easy to ignore as cramps or tingling or a loss of power in one leg may occur only a few times per season. The sensations may hinder more during cooler weather or in intense events without a long warm-up. Eventually, those who need surgery experience the symptoms with more frequency.

There are a few vascular specialists in the world who readily recognize the symptoms of this condition and can treat it successfully. Testing for it is a specific procedure that requires expert analysis. This diagnostic puzzle coupled with its mystifying symptoms make it hard on motivated riders, trained to avoid pain, to address the perplexing condition without feeling wimpy or questioning themselves. But the condition is real. Blood pressure that drops in the affected leg can dangerously rise elsewhere.

Prayer re: External Iliac Arterial Endofibrosis (EIAE)

 “God threw a barricade across my path—I’m stymied; he turned out all the lights—I’m stuck in the dark.” 61Job 19:8

We confess it’s easy to blame God when things are mysterious or unsettling. We ask for right diagnoses and healing for those suffering with EIAE.

Ponder Do I know anyone who requires an extensive warm-up to clear blocked leg(s)? Affirm I steer others in the right direction by knowing about EIAE. Watch artery or nerve sensations and report them to your doctor; ask specifically about EIAE.

58Conversations with Robbie King. We were fortunate in Robbie’s case to quickly assemble a team of medical experts and cyclists who had experienced EIAE. So while we were puzzled for several months, we got a clear direction for diagnosis and treatment. Robbie had inguinal release surgery and returned to pro racing within a reasonable recovery period; however ultimately, it did affect his career. About half dozen American pro’s had EIAE surgery that season. It seemed almost contagious.

59“External iliac artery endofibrosis: a new possible predisposing factor,” Journal of Vascular Surgery, Volume 38 Issue 1 Pages 180 – 182 V. Scavèe

60“Vanthourenhout better after surgery,” 9/5/07 and “An interview with Stuart O’Grady: Like having new legs,” by Karen Forman, 2002 Interview Also for a not so fortunate incident post-surgery see, “Barloworld’s Cox dies following surgery,” Posted Aug. 1, 2007

61The Message, Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Cycling & Birthdays

Posted in Going Green on March 22, 2011 by bethleasure

Green Balloons

Canadian Cyclist posts birthdays of notable riders on its website.

One way to be celebrated!

That’s one way to let people know they’re loved! Cyclists sometimes commemorate birthdays by doing special rides or by racing especially motivated. A sweet piece of birthday cake is iced by time-on-the-podium.

In younger days, my special day fell amidst tough spring tours on opposite shores from family and close friends. I had host housing but my housemates were away and teammates were stationed elsewhere. Not that it’s going to kill anyone to be alone; it’s just that birthdays spent in isolation on the road are poignant reminders of the loneliness that sometimes characterizes a cycling lifestyle. Too tired to do much, I began to feel sorry for myself – desolate, glycogen-depleted, and depressed.

However, I was in sunny California in a house with a beautiful private courtyard. I went to the garden and prayed. I’d had many parties in the past that made me feel like queen for the day. Now I was focused on being Queen of the Mountain – and this was any other race day. While contemplating this, a green balloon on a string, evidently losing air from another’s party, floated into that garden. Green has meaning as a symbol of happiness, blessing, life, and rebirth. It was God’s gift to me, a message of blessing symbolizing greener pastures with fresh legs and more friends ahead. Someone came to the garden Who was listening. I was being celebrated!

As riders who get lonely, look for surprising symbols of life that let you know God made you special! You are celebrated even in solitude and isolation.

Prayer for a Happy Birthday

“God answered and spoke to his people, ‘Look, listen—I’m sending a gift…Be glad and celebrate!’ The fields and meadows are greening up. The trees are bearing fruit again: Teaching, like rain out of heaven, showers of words to refresh and nourish your soul.” 50Job 2:18-22


We are glad that we are each unique and made for special 51purposes, which only we can fulfill. We confess our doubts and self-pity when facing tough predicaments, especially when fatigued, in failure, or without friends. We ask blessing on the birthdays of every cyclist and that some symbol of caring be given when it’s most needed.

Ponder Have I asked God to show me that I matter? Affirm I ask God to show Me His love so I show love to others with a heart-full. Watch for your “green balloon.”

50The Bible, New International Version, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society 

51Purpose-Driven Life: What On Earth Am I Here For? by Rick Warren published by Zondervan, 2002

Milan San Remo

Posted in Out Like a Lion on March 18, 2011 by bethleasure

La Primavera             First of the Season 

69“It was bleak and the wind made a low moaning noise. I’d have felt scared if I hadn’t been used to bad weather in cyclo-crosses…I was sure of my victory and with only 100km to go I felt a new strength. The idea of crossing the line alone brought back all my energy.  Eugenio Christophe, 1910 frostbitten winner, hospitalized for a month after Milan San Remo

A Beautiful Beginning

The first spring monument of the classics, La Primavera is frequently caught in a battle of indecisive weather. The environment’s drama of colliding air currents is an appropriate feature of this classic’s intensely fought race to the finish.

Historically, eager early season victories have occurred both via bunch sprints and by separations. In the past, Col de Turchino frequently determined the winner. Now no longer such a factor, other added features discourage the race ending in a predictable bunch sprint.

Italians have won it most often posting fifty firsts, with Eddy Merckx the most individual wins at seven, and Team Bianchi working together for fourteen victories. Costante Girardengo also won seven times but was disqualified once for going off course; incredibly he finished in the top three every year from 1917-1926.

Many were winners of other events, including world championships. As early as 1914, riders from outside Europe came to participate, attracted to the attention of its hard conditions. The route also has steadily increased making it the longest classic. It winds along the coast but toward its end, the little constant hills of the capi spring into play, and the race comes alive on the Cipressa. Eddy Merckx believed that everything had to be saved for the end, and Laurent Fignon sat on the back for 250 kilometers waiting for his two wins.

The separating move is now made most frequently on the Poggio, but even the descent into San Remo can help decide. Best chance is had by a long-suffering sprinter or by an enduring strongman who can handle final surges. The first of the First of the Season must truly be on form and able to fight to the finish.

Prayer for Milan San Remo

“You’ve got what it takes to finish it up, so go to it…do what you can, not what you can’t…This isn’t so others can take it easy while you sweat it out. No, you’re shoulder to shoulder with them all the way…” 702 Corinthians 8:11-20

We are thankful for the first tests of the season. We confess we focus on the long unknown rather than the short certainties that come with time. We ask to do what we can and blessing upon Milan San Remo.

Ponder Do I focus more on what I lack? Affirm I must concentrate on what I can control. Watch what you can do for your unique strategy.

69“The Most Terrible Conditions,” April 3, 1910 account translated from La Gazzetta dello Sport After this victory, Christophe was hospitalized for a month for frost bite but took 2 months to return to full health.

70The Message, Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Irish Cycling

Posted in Going Green on March 15, 2011 by bethleasure

Incremental Gains       Feabhsoidh Sibh52       

53Obviously when you get results like this – and you can see an improvement, more than the result – that is really encouraging.” David O’Laughlin, Irish National Champion

Smiling Irish eyes

54Ed Beamon, DS of a pro cycling team, related a Gaelic encounter while racing in the Tour of Ireland. The day’s stage took to remote rural roads, through thatched roofed villages, passing misty moors. The peloton twisted and turned up a far-county crag, rounded a bend and was abruptly met by David O’Laughlin’s clan. Twelve enthusiastic fans each held placards with an individual letter reading, G-O  O-’-L-A-U-G-H-L-I-N. The apostrophe was held by a skinny little fellah who went floatin’ into the heavens, but what a surprise to see a dozen delighted cycling supporters standin’ by content in companionship with one another in the waitin’, determined to cheer their hero. The race descended then returned back up the same mountain, and there were David’s apostles, except a few were standing backwards so that they now read G-O  L-A-U-G-H.

Only part of this yarn is blarney of course, so it’s a wee bit true and worthy a’tellin.’ They say on the Emerald Isle, Ni he la na baisti la na bpaisti: A rainy day isn’t a day for the children. Even if it doesn’t feel like a sunny holiday, the Irish are up to the task to face hard things with determined perseverance and not a little humor. Despite all we hear of Irish issues and conflict, 55Cycling Ireland merged the two Irish federations in one governing body where riders can choose their preferred nationality, preserving political and cultural identity. This came about incrementally, with bitter conflict over many years, but through blessed unity to cooperate.

Apparently, every day is worthy of St. Patrick’s Day mirth for an Irishman whose shamrocks grow as steady blessings! One amusing memory of Beamon was when he appeared as the largest leprechaun ever seen, wearing a glitter-green top-hat while driving the team car up Manayunk Wall during a championship race…in June.

Prayer for Irish Cycling

Adapted from a Blessing of St. Patrick

Irish cycling, may the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back, may the sun shine warm upon your face, the rain fall soft upon your fields, and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.


God will bless you people who are crying. You will laugh!” 56Luke 6:21

Ponder Where can cycling apply perseverance and humor? Affirm We can make incremental gains. Watch an Irishman, from either nation, ride proudly representing a people unified by cycling.

52Gaelic phrases, words, and slang on Feabhsoidh Sibh means, We Are Improving!

53“David O’Laughlin/Frank Campbell Interviews,” by Shane Stokes- Race Reports on March 27, 2008 as posted on

54Conversations with Ed Beamon over many years. Asked about his success with team Navigators, which went from an elite team to a regional trade team to a Continental Pro team in its decade-plus of racing, he attributed it to “incremental gains.” This is now one of my favorite expressions to describe deliberate and determined perseverance. Asked why he was wearing St. Patrick’s Day garb in June, he quipped, “Because today we raced like it was March.” His squad hadn’t made the winning break.

55The UCI also had a hand in forging this union, sometimes despite Irish blessing. See<

56Contemporary English Version Copyright © 1995 by American Bible Society

Italian Cycling

Posted in Out Like a Lion on March 11, 2011 by bethleasure

Gocce de Vita    Drops of Life

66A river is born drop after drop… you will be disappointed and saddened, but fate is a sort of hinge on which much else depends.”  “Dewdrops” theme for 2007 gran fondo ride, Maratona dles Dolomites

Pantani, poet of the mountains

I miss the lion that was Marco Pantani. I never knew him personally, but as a climbing aficionado and ex-wife of a cocaine-addict, I felt his passing most keenly. It was to manage the shock of relationship with a crack addict that I chose the intensity of bike riding initially. To treat post-traumatic stress, cycling transported me to a healing place. So Marco’s discesa pericolosa, “dangerous descent,” into hard drug use was poignant, connecting my beloved and victorious velo-world with distressing personal memories.

My relationship with Italian cycling took on new meaning after his demise. I regretted that I didn’t know Marco. Perhaps even one understanding, gracious conversation would have made some difference had I had the chance to speak to him. Camaraderie and communication do matter. We know that cause and effect are important to destiny:

67“Many a factor helped the team to stay united and keep motivations high: the pride of being part of the national squad, the eagerness for redemption in such a bad moment for Italian cycling, and the long time the ‘Squadra’ had been spending without taking the title. All these key-factors played their part in the masterpiece the boys accomplished on Sunday.”  Franco Ballerini, on directing 2002 World Champion Italian team

Think of a few past Italian contributions: language, politics, romance, design – and their effects on current influences of culture – food, wine, art, world religion. In Italian cycling, there are numerous distinctions: such as quality frame and equipment manufacturers, a steady stream of cycling coverage broadcast worldwide, and cycling passion. The appassionati gather grupo compatto to participate and watch cycling – and why not for such scenery?! Dura, dura…hang in there!

Prayer for Italian Cycling

“Let us not give up meeting together…but let us encourage one another…” 68Hebrews 10:25

We are thankful for tears to mourn our losses and feel our passions. We confess we sometimes harden our hearts when softness is demanded. We pray for passionate dialogue and ask blessing upon Italian cycling.

Ponder Is there anyone whose pain may be alleviated or course straightened if I intervene? Affirm I care enough to confront, making a difference in another life. Watch how words have impact; caring is received, though one may have to wait for this result.

66Preparations for the 2007 Maratona dles Dolomites,” Angelo Senza La O’s entry of January 11, 2007 on Gran fondo is the Italian version of cyclosportif. The website for this gran fondo is

67“World Road Championship – Italian Interviews Wrap-Up,” By Fabio 10/15/2002

68Holy Bible, New King James Version, Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Spring Classics

Posted in Out Like a Lion on March 8, 2011 by bethleasure

Returns the Roar

64“I think only of victory.”                 Rik van Looy, King of the Classics

RvL: Monumental winner: as a man thinks so is he.

Spring is here, the Classics commence, and the lions prepare to line up. The Classics are long-standing races of the highest professional level, the celebrated first fruits of the cycling season. To win ensures a career in blossom, to attempt it shows great courage. Spring roars the return with pleasure and power in the dominion first established by van Looy. A few facts:

*    Most prestigious one-days on the international calendar occur in Europe

*    Long, technical point-to-point epics, some circuits also

*    Often accompanied by uncooperative & uncomfortable weather and temperatures

*    Courses often feature numerous hard steep hills and tough road surfaces, such as cobblestones, frequent turns, and narrow passage

*    Best teams compete; participation determined by various methods over time

*    A few riders become classics specialists

*    These hardmen are swift, strong and confident tacticians

*    Most revered are 5 Monuments of the Classics. Only 3 men have won them all:

Rik van Looy, Roger De Vlaeminck, Eddy Merckx  – all Belgian

1         Milan San Remo             March      Italy

2         Ronde van Vlaanderen   April        Belgium  

3         Paris-Roubaix                 April        France

4         Liège-Bastogne-Liège     April        Belgium

5         Giro di Lombardia         October    Italy

*    Spring Classics

Amstel Gold Race The Netherlands                             La Flèche Wallonne Belgium 

*    Semi-Classics and other notable prestigious races of Spring, such as

Omloop Het Volk        Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne     Gent Wevelgem           Belgian Cycling Federation for comprehensive list

Finally, the classic that may cause you to claw for the start line is your local spring event that signals a new season of prowess. Celebrate with an epic ride that roars in the vigorous return of race season!

Prayer for Spring Classics

“Vaulting the mountains, leaping the hills…like a gazelle, graceful; like a young stag, virile…Get up, my dear friend…winter is over…Spring flowers are in blossom all over!” 65Song of Solomon 2:8-12


We are thankful for tradition and history in cycling. We ask blessing for the Spring Classics.

Ponder Do I have an epic early season event or goal? Affirm I get results! Watch these races and their lions as they decide who is king on the road.

64“Making of an Emperor,” TIME magazine June 1, 1962 Rik was the first cyclist to win all five of the most prestigious one-day classics. He won a lot of other races also. See 

65The Message, Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Domestique Skills

Posted in In Like A Lamb on March 4, 2011 by bethleasure

Sacrificial Lambs

5“I preferred being told what to do. It meant I could avoid the pressure and just get on with the job… My tip to domestiques today is to give 110% no matter what. That’s what you’re there to do…And if I didn’t give my all, I’d be out of a job. There was no point whining if someone forgot to say ‘good job Sean’ at the end of a stage.”  Sean Yates, Domestique Extraordinaire

Hincapie made a career out of service and reaped rewards.

When a rider comes up through the ranks in my grassroots program, they arrive with all the skills to win: to think, act, and train like a winner. I think learning how to serve a winner is dependent upon knowing how to win, and it’s often harder to teach service skills than winning skills. Upon graduation to elite development, they’ve earned the right to next learn how to serve.

An elite rider has to flip a switch from me-to-we and learn a new way to approach a race. It’s important to not send any elite rider up to the pros without first teaching them how to be a teammate. One rationale is that there are no neopro stars: no worthy team has a first year pro as the GC leader. So immediately, neopros are called upon for the duties of the domestique.

As kings of customer service, Domestiques have important jobs to perform, and some of these tasks are counter-intuitive for riders accustomed to getting results. This includes sacrificial acts, such as putting yourself in the wind to shield another; instead of finding the sweet spot, herding your captain to it; offensive and defensive moves timed to benefit someone else. Just learning how to set and maintain pace on the front can be startling; where once you sought the right tracks of a fast moving train to advantage, now you are a working part of the engine. Where your focus was once on prudent expenditure, now you are expendable.

Yet the blessings of utter sacrifice are many: pouring out for something bigger than oneself enables many to celebrate in it, adding another dimension of race awareness and value, and increased strength. And if you think only the winners are noticed, think again. Those of us who know the sport are watching who is a great service provider. As the artists of the Assist, you are the real MVP’s and to you we say, great job!

Prayer for Domestiques

“The slain Lamb is worthy! Take the power, the wealth, the wisdom, the strength! Take the honor, the glory, the blessing!”  6Revelation 5:12

We are thankful that cycling provides a picture of self-sacrifice, love’s greatest gift. We confess it’s difficult to have this love motivation when our efforts are at times seemingly unappreciated. Help us give ourselves completely. Help those who benefit express thanks.

Ponder Am I learning to lead by first serving? Affirm I rejoice at the opportunity to minimize another’s suffering. Watch every leader at first a servant.

5“Domestique Bliss,” by Matt Majendie posted July 24, 2003 on

6The Message, Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Lead-Out Skills

Posted in In Like A Lamb on March 1, 2011 by bethleasure

Like Sheep Astray

1“That’s the real secret in sprinting: being in the right place with 500 meters to go. The right place is just behind a leadout man who shepherds the sprinter…setting a fast pace while letting him save his energy by riding in the draft… usually with two or three kilometers to go, sometimes further…if you’re by yourself, you really don’t have a place…” Gord Fraser, Star Sprinter

Ron Kiefel otherwise known as Electric Chair


The good shepherd herds his lambs, wards off danger, and leads the sheep safely into the fold. Racing’s shepherds are the lead-out experts. This skill is often misinterpreted by amateur racers. In the set-up for the designated sprinter, there’s often confusion about who is supposed to benefit from the fight for positioning. Even where pecking order or team roles have been clearly established, a selfish tendency to disregard the plan seems to show up most often in a lead-out.

Lead-outs end where the sprint begins. This means the race for the last lead-out person is over with 200 meters or 2more to go. The temptation of barreling with momentum and adrenaline toward the finish in full line of sight seems too much for an inexperienced lead-out rider who forgets he’s riding for another. Those astray are conditioned to prepare for the final sprint and haven’t learned to recognize the distinctive segments preceding the last move: the subtle opportunities sensed by the experienced. A lead-out starts well before obvious finish action but may be characterized by violent and aggressive maneuvering, which makes it another hard ability for a neophyte with less skill and less extrinsic incentive for the risks.

A good lead-out man is often a team’s MVP. The lead-out knows how to negotiate the surge after surge before the sprint to win…like surfing, hanging 10 on many waves. 3Ron Kiefel had a reputation for lead-outs. Sitting on him was known as being in the electric chair – like a freight train down a steep ‘Frisco street – express delivery for the sprinter, Kiefel got the win for his man.

Prayer for Lead-Out Skills

“Appoint a man over this community to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the LORD’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd.”  4Numbers 27:16-17 


We are glad for the shepherd’s rod that protects and the staff which guides. We confess we’d rather lead than serve at times. We ask for ability to see how to ride a race in segments and for lead-out skills.

Ponder Can I give a proper lead-out? Affirm I take on wolves and the wind for the sake of my sheep. Watch the safe passage of your sprinter.

1“Sprinter Staying Cool Under Tour’s Pressure,” by Samuel Abt, published July 8, 1997, International Herald Tribune

2The distance for the end of a lead-out varies upon experience of the field, nature of the event, and type of course. Some sprinters take over in the final kilometer, using other sprinters as lead-outs. In amateur racing, most lead-outs deliver their men within sight of the finish line or prior to a final corner. In pro races, the lead-out may begin an hour from the finish line with lead-out men covering multiple moves. The point is to deliver your man among the Sprinter’s Seven and be gassed in doing so because you did your job properly!

3Ron Kiefel was great at other roles too. He was a winner in his own right both domestically and in European racing. One of the men he consistently delivered for wins was Davis Phinney.

4The Bible, New International Version, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society