Archive for the Spring Classics Category

French Cycling & Tour de France

Posted in Spring Classics on July 1, 2011 by bethleasure

La Diadème Doré   Gilded Crown

23“Why do they always finish at the top of a mountain.” Rhetoric by Ian Wright, Cyclosportif

Mont Blanc, the crown of the Alps in cycling's royal nation

 

Cyclosportif is a form of group ride particularly popular in France. It’s an organized mass participation event where riders, who start in waves, are timed, given a result, and awarded prizes like a competitive form of an ultra-century ridden as an unsanctioned race. The most prestigious of the genre, L’Etape du Tour is an annual summer event allowing recreational riders to experience a stage of the Tour de France
just prior to its arrival. One must register far in advance for admission, and starting position is at premium. Occupying the front lines of staging is a class of VIP riders. Yet like the French national creed of Liberté-Égalité-Fraternité, cyclosportif is a race for all with equal exposure to the grandest riding and greatest guest riders.

 

Invited to L’Etape when it finished on l’Alpe d’Huez, my hosts aranged accommodation worthy of a climber’s Elysian col. We stayed in a halet and dined upon the terrace at evening overlooking great mountains. Seen in the distance with its alpenglow mists was Mont Blanc in silhouette. Just as its magnificence was being noted by the  innkeeper, rays of the sunset hit the points of the great white peak transforming it – in a shimmering moment – into a golden crown. Its effulgence about us was much like the brilliance of cycling’s reign there in the French Alps.

 

France’s ancient landmarks attest: 24“With glistering spires and pinnacles adorned, Which now the rising sun gilds with his beams…” A country which promotes the sport’s most watched and benchmark event, it is the culture which brings us many of our racing terms, traditions, and concepts. Cycling’s free, egalitarian, and fraternal appeal gives all riders a chance to be royalty for a ride.

 

Prayer for French Cycling & TdF

“Remove not the ancient landmarks which your fathers have set up.” 25Proverbs 22:28

 

We are thankful for exceptional riding experiences and traditions, and the history of effort that came before us. We confess our occasional undeserved entitlement and elitism. We pray blessing upon French cycling and cycling’s greatest event, Tour de France.

 

Ponder Do I look down on others or snub someone because I think I’m better? Affirm I see strengths and weaknesses in myself and others and appraise equitably. Watch for beautiful mountaintop moments on the bike and in life.

 

23“La Luchonnaise,” Cyclosportive 18th June 2005, Ian Wright’s event report. www.pyreneesmultisport.com

24Paradise Lost, by John Milton, an epic poem in blank verse, published 1667.

25Amplified Bible, Copyright © Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation

German Cycling

Posted in Spring Classics on May 27, 2011 by bethleasure

Ab und Zu      On and Off

41“I missed cycling while I was away from it. I had to put it in right order in my priorities. I returned to cycling convinced that it was God’s plan for me.” Klaus Jesse, German Cyclist, Team Director

Doping no thanks

 

Germany has been a country of two histories. My preferred Germany is not the notorious nation in world history; it’s the land of forces central to important issues and the spirit of total resolve in a fight. Known for emotional reserve, German unrelenting passions sometimes burst spilling over into a world pressed to respond. From the 42theses atWittenberg to the Berlin Wall, we take notice. A line is drawn and meant to be crossed.

This public pendulum – its syncopated rhythm is not unlike my best German cycling memories. All my riding time there came after Colorado winters endured by long miles at one speed on the bike. A March group ride inGermanyshocks you into geardom, its on-and-off pace marked by extremes of intensity. There are many quaint German villages announced by charming town signs – all sprint lines in the minds of German cyclists. I surged more on a Saxon ride than I did all race-long in a cowboy criterium back home.

Talk about snap, witness the decisive action of a pro like Jens Voigt who 43once bragged that he’d race like three men. I can attest it takes three pairs of legs for the uninitiated to hang with the German form of attacking. That the blitz against doping is full on in Germany fits with a cultural bent to switch gears decisively. Remember at one time there were two Germany’s whose decisive action toward unity inspired walls of division to fall in its own nation and in others. German reaction and single-mindedness about clean cycling is an inspiration, doping nein danke.

Prayer for German Cycling

“A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.” 44James 1:8

 

We are thankful that each nation has unique strengths that can be emulated in life and sport. We confess we sometimes misuse our strengths and seek wisdom for its proper uses. We pray that German dedication to ideals bear a positive world influence and ask blessing upon our German cycling friends.

Ponder Is there any time when I speak or act inconsistently? How can I shore up unstable areas in my life? Affirm I make a decision and stick with it and if not a good one, I can switch gears. Watch well thought-out single minded resolve be a barrier to defeat.

41Conversations with Klaus Jesse, whose authentically-lived faith in God and racing abilities inspired an international movement and several new organizations to merge spiritual life with love of cycling, such as International Christian Cycling Club. This faith came with a struggle to sacrifice, if necessary, his dreams of cycling for what was best. Many are pleased about his determination to keep cycling second to his values. Klaus has worked with many athletes, clubs, and teams, including the German national team and Team Nurnberger.

42The posting of 95 Theses by Martin Luther atWittenberg catalyzed the Protestant Reformation. The tearing down by its citizens of the Berlin Wall signaled the end of The Cold War. The Iron Curtain melted by many warming trends including forces of unity between West and East Germany, gave all of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics access to one another and the west after decades of division. German contribution was significant to this occurring.

43Jens Voigt explaining his plan for that day in the 2004 Tour de France, Team CSC’s documentary directed by Tómas Gislason, “Overcoming.” Voigt’s plucky optimism and oft-successful attack style make him a favorite to watch. 

44Holy Bible, King James Version, public domain

Dutch Cycling

Posted in Spring Classics on April 15, 2011 by bethleasure

Gezwind Straat           Fleet Street

31“You must be at the front and attend, attend, attend!!!”                Harry van der Horst, Dutch Coach

Dutch women are among the fastest in the world

 

Amazing Dutch 32facts:

  • Bikes are the main means of transport in The Netherlands.
  • Cars yield to bicycles – it’s the law!
  • A first-time visiting cyclist could without any instrumentation and with precision log daily mileage. Distance signs dot every route.
  • Races start fast, stay fast, end fast.
  • Pro races can go single file into a headwind at 65kph…sustained!!
  • Possible to be dropped in the first lap in a Dutch Kriterium.
  • Probable to be dropped if not near the front when a race starts sheltered in town and heads to open country in a Dutch Klassik.
  • Everything you heard about Dutch echelon superiority in wind – true.
  • Six-hour ride likely: 4 hours heading west and 2 hours returning east.
  • Possible to be safely motorpaced by a random stranger on a scooter.
  • Training rides with upwards of 100 sprinting for signs, marshaled by coaches on bikes with whistles.
  • Training, racing over time with no elevation change except “speed bumps” (called dijks) produce speed endurance never before imagined.
  • After 6 months of Dutch racing, one’s climbing improves (ponder it.)
  • Riders corner through a <90° turn seven abreast on wet cobblestones at 50kph without crashing.
  • Laatste Ronde, translation – Final Lap- my favorite Dutch words.
  • Today’s read is like a Dutch race – quick! See ya…tot ziens!

 

Prayer for Dutch Cycling

“Hasten, O God, to save me; O LORD, come quickly to help me!” 33Psalm 70:1

 

We are thankful for excellence in the skills and types of fitness specific to bike racing; and for skilled and able examples. We confess we sometimes envy others for their strengths, especially if ours lack. We pray for perseverance necessary to do the work which brings top end speed and ask blessing upon Dutch cycling.

Ponder Is there anyone I envy and why? Affirm I find a way to emulate and attain, rather than covet. Watch for an excellent way to get to the point, achieve the bottom line.

31As a holder of a Dutch racing license, I was assigned to a coaching area in 1995. Fortunately, I resided on the Belgian border inRoosendaal,Brabant, theterritory of Harry van der Horst, who worked with Dutch National women’s teams various years. For six patient months, he tried to explain to me, as best he could, how important it was that I not miss the winning move. It took that long to get the speed, the timing, and the awareness to be in the winning break! These breaks usually went right from the gun but knowing this didn’t make it much easier.

32Some of these facts can be substantiated. Others are deducted from personal suffering, and therefore are more like fun-facts according to my wonderful experiences racing in this extraordinary land. Competition was high-quality: Ingrid Haringa, called the Fastest Woman in the World at the time, and Leontien Van Moorsel to name a few. Dutch women’s technical ability at speed was impressive; many started racing as children. It IS possible to improve climbing ability on the flats – speed endurance is gained through effort to pedal against wind on flats, and not getting relief from downhills or breaks in speed caused by undulation. Top that with a block of uphill work during a mountain camp and see how well you climb with speed!

33The Bible, New International Version, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Rain Skills

Posted in Spring Classics on April 12, 2011 by bethleasure

April Showers

29“It’s a crash. That’s part of bike racing. It doesn’t make me lose morale or become upset.” Frank Schleck, Pro Cyclist, on sliding out on wet roads

Now that's aerodynamic!

 

With legs polished on the flint of the cobbles, it’s on to the other classics to power climb and position aggressively through the next phase of challenging one-days. The possibility of rain, sleet or snow may still characterize these races.

For some, rain offers showers of blessing. In the amateur ranks, often an early breakaway succeeds due to precipitation, since the pack may be unwilling to risk corners en masse. Often there’s a few who enjoy an advantage as fearless in any weather and capitalize on timidity or self-preservation of tentative competitors.

In an experienced field, there’s little difference in speed from dry days. Hesitancy seems to cause crashes more than slippery surfaces. In one wet memorable criterium championship, so many free laps were given for crashes, every rider on the podium had skipped multiple laps, and the entire peloton had gone down at one time or another. It became a game to slide into the wheel pit.

Some equipment precautions can ensure more comfortable rain riding, such as tire type and pressure, special brake pads, and fenders for commuters. Clothing choice is critical to staying warm even if soaked to the bone. A bigger challenge may be lack of visibility from rain above and splash, road debris, even grit from wheels ahead. Some prefer glasses treated with water repellant; others choose a cycling cap as the brim acts like a fender. Often it’s a matter of feel when temporarily unable to see ahead.

Successful rain riding is a mindset as well as a skill set. Textbook cornering in rain is to counter-steer on the inside with the widest line possible cutting a broad arc across the apex. In this way, no one slides you out because you take the inside line. For confidence on race day, utilize skill gained from ‘cross or slippery grass work and stay positive – turning what is just another challenging factor into a performance blessing.

Prayer for Rain Skills

“I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing.” 30Ezekiel 34:26 

We are thankful for rain that makes things grow. We confess our spiritual drought from seeking eternal blessings. In this season, we wish the blessings of the rain and knowledge about how to enjoy it on a bike.                              

Ponder Have I practiced and refined those situations that make me uncomfortable? Affirm I learn to navigate gravity with less traction but more resistance. Watch and foster good morale in rainy and wet conditions.

29“Schleck OK after Crash,” Team CSC Highlights April 8, 2008 Team CSC Blog www.csc.com/ee/teamcsc

30The Bible, New International Version, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

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 www.cyclingnews.com

Tour of Flanders Museum in Oudenaarde – Centre Ronde van Vlaanderen www.rvv.be/en/museum

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

Prayer for Belgian Cycling

Posted in Spring Classics on April 14, 2010 by bethleasure

Grand’Place    de Grote Markt   Market Square

16Holidays are over now, but they were sheer joy! A fantastic break, very relaxed, together with some friends from the peloton.Tom Boonen, one of scores of Belgian cycling sensations

One of Belgium's best loved landmarks

Belgium is at the crossroads of European life. Its capital city is headquarters to the highest councils of common market and democratic defense – Economic Union and NATO – and many multinational corporations. Nestled near the sophisticated old centre, Grand Place or Market Square, is a bronze statue of a boy urinating into a fountain: Mannekin-Pis is the city’s beloved attraction that represents the tongue-in-cheek unassuming air of Belgian culture.

One modest nation with two distinctive cycling regions – Belgium is both the flat to rolling of Flemish Flanders in the north and and the famous French Wallonian climbing of the Ardennes. Many Belgians embrace multilingualism to welcome all. Friends are easily found here as are knowledgeable cycling fans.

From race inscription held in a pub to the post-race party, enjoyment with others from, about, and around the peloton is the ordinary way. I never felt isolated in Belgium. Frequently at race side, I was surrounded by scores of interested supporters asking questions, offering encouragement, and curious about me.

Belgium is cycling’s shire with its modest yet grand spirit. As in the epic trilogy, Lord of the Rings, its best known citizen, Eddy Merckx captured the golden ring with 436 career wins. In fact, 17four in the top five of most cycling wins ever are Belgians! Host to international hopefuls and many great races, Belgium is trial by fire for European race entry. Whether one races into the pro ranks or not, friends guaranteed.

Prayer for Belgian Cycling
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up.” 18Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

We are thankful for hospitable people. We confess our oft complaint with unfamiliar conditions, inclement environs, and pavé. We pray modesty and adventure as sure wheels to draft and ask blessing upon Belgian cycling.

Ponder Have I noticed how cultural propensities influence racing styles? Why do specific areas have a unique approach to the sport? Affirm I learn the ways of a place. Watch how incorporating a new approach refreshes your strategic arsenal.

1611/27/07 diary of Belgian Cyclist of the Year 2007, Tom Boonen. www.tomboonen.com

17Source unknown- from scraps of information that I tuck away without a source:

Most Victories Ever:
1. Eddy Merckx BEL 436
2. Rik van Looy BEL 379
3. Francesco Moser ITA 275
4. Rik van Steenbergen BEL 273 
5. Roger de Vlaeminck BEL 256

18The Bible, New International Version, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Light Enough for the Pavé: Cobblestone Skills

Posted in Spring Classics on April 9, 2010 by bethleasure

19“I feel totally ready and I look forward to hitting the cobblestones.”   Fabian Cancellara, Classics Winner, TT World Champion, Olympic Champion

 

A Hard Man with a Light Heart

Fabian isn’t famous just for his victories in cobbled classics but for his fabulous attitude. He knows that hard conditions select the classic hardmen of Spring. Dark, sometimes cold, often wet are par for the course in Belgian racing.

The light in a Belgian Spring casts short shadows over its cobbled streets. When preparing to study abroad in Brussels, our wise professor gave us a thundering overview of the country and its features. He said that it rains there more days than not, and that we could either accept this as part of our educational experience and adapt or spend a miserable term complaining and depressed. He emphasized that light in our attitude would yield a sunny disposition on dark days. So I bought a fashionable raincoat and enjoyed European studies in Belgium as my favorite semester in college.

Later when I returned to race there, I was ready again to love the schooling the region gave in its cycling environment. Like a bike made for Roubaix, absorbing the shock of the situation separates the best from the battle-weary bunch. Perhaps this is one reason Belgians do so well in the Spring Classics. Homefield advantage is about emotional support but also about recognizing local conditions and not being fazed by them.

So how do you approach dozens of 1-2k sections of hard road? Lightly: a light attitude of determination that looks forward to the challenge; a lightweight that indicates early season form for anaerobic efforts followed by sustained high aerobic states; a laser-like focus that finds the good line at the front; a light bike especially fashioned for handling heavy resistance. The best line can be the ditch or gutter or inches of worn path on the outsides that avoids the rougher sections; or carrying speed over the dinosaur-ridge in the midst of pavé. With a justified emphasis on the right equipment for cobblestones, just as important is the lightness of mind – eager and ready!

Prayer for Cobblestone Skills

“Their road is dark and rough, but I will give light to keep them from stumbling.” 20Isaiah 42:16

We are thankful for ways to elicit a lightness of being. We ask for uncomplaining and eager minds and skills to transcend rough road.

Ponder Does my attitude hinder me more than real obstacles? Affirm I am light facing any heavy difficulty. Watch your attitude.

 

19“Team CSC Racing on Three Fronts,” News Articles posted March 24, 2006 www.csc.com

20The Bible, Contemporary English Version Copyright © 1995 by American Bible Society