It seems that every year the Giro organizers come under fire for some aspect of race logistics. Last year, it was the crazy and lengthy transfers and a climb that required swapping out cassettes for something larger than a 25. This year, riders found the narrow roads with tight turns objectionable enough to protest. And then Fabian Cancellara called the stage 12 time trial a cyclotourist event and left the race for a few days rest before an appointment with the Tour de Suisse.
Some of the criticism is understandable. Following a murderous six hours in the saddle the last thing anyone needs is to be cooped up in the back of a station wagon moving through stop-and-go traffic. Dinner after 10:00 is perhaps okay if you’ve had a siesta and planned your evening (and the next morning) accordingly. Similarly, roads narrower than some minds are an understandable cause for the peloton’s concern. It’s one thing to expect guys on a group ride to single up for a tight turn, but at the Giro? For crying out loud it is a bike race—guys will ride seven abreast on a two-meter-wide strip of tarmac and just pray that they don’t crash.
Can a climb be too steep for a Grand Tour? Only if you can’t get traction to ride up it. Does every road need to be paved like a new boulevard in a subdivision? Not if you like drama. Can a time trial be too long or too hard? Isn’t this bike racing?
If this perspective seems a little extreme, consider the logical endpoint for restricting the climbing and road quality. Any criteria used to judge a climb as too steep are subjective and ever more subjective criteria can be applied. If 20 percent is too steep, then 19 percent can be too steep as well. If a poorly paved road is too rough, then a patched road can be too rough. At some point you end up rejecting everything that isn’t the Daytona tri-oval.
Stage 12’s mountainous time trial was one of the most exciting stages I’ve seen in a Grand Tour in the last five years. The course was breathtakingly gorgeous and over roads any cyclist would kill to ride on as a closed course. Shouldn’t the course of a Grand Tour take in roads that are at once challenging, thrilling and precarious? Certainly we don’t wish harm to come to the riders (e.g. Pedro Horillo), but roller races aren’t nearly as fun to watch.
Because it took the competitors out of their comfort zone—a traditional flat time trial—the outcome couldn’t be guessed. Commentators and fans were divided on DiLuca’s chances for victory and the final outcome was satisfying because it yielded a victor we know to be a contender for the overall.
The tragedy is that Cancellara’s departure deprived the tifosi of what would have been an interesting performance. Even though he was unlikely to win, he could still have turned in a great performance given his descending ability; consider that a pure climber didn’t take the day. And while Cancellara is one of our favorite riders here at BKW, leaving a Grand Tour because the time trial doesn’t suit your specific abilities isn’t exactly PRO. We love our champions more when they play their hand even when holding a pair of deuces.
The Giro organizers may need a better rider advocate to help them judge certain technical aspects such as when a road or turn is too narrow for the peloton to negotiate at full cry, but they deserve a righteous toast for taking the opportunity to make the longest time trial run in a Grand Tour in 12 years a mountainous and technically challenging trial to reveal a truly complete rider.
When a cyclist dies it tears the fabric of our world. While some drivers may erroneously think that bicyclists are inconsequential to the business of the road, we know riders in their greater context as coworkers, friends, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, fathers and mothers. Yesterday, thousands of cyclists took to the road to remember family and friends who had been injured or killed in accidents with cars while out on roads. More than 280 rides were held in 48 states and 16 countries around the world.
This spring, Southern California cyclist Eric Little was struck by a truck while on a lunch time ride. Road rash was the least of his problems. The force of the impact was so violent his helmet was crushed, and resulted in a brain injury. Several ribs were broken as well. The road rash is gone and the ribs are pretty well healed at this point. But his sense of taste has been reduced to sour and salty (no bitter or sweet tastes) and his sense of smell, doctors say, may never return. And this isn’t the first time Eric has been hit by a car.
Suffice it to say Eric got motivated. Laying in his hospital bed he thought, “What if we got an American team, heck all the American teams, to wear black armbands on May 20th, during the Giro’s 11th stage?” So after he was released from the hospital Eric contacted media relations people at Garmin-Slipstream, Columbia-Highroad and (while not an American team just yet) Astana.
If you noticed that Columbia-Highroad riders were wearing blue ribbons safety-pinned to their left shoulders yesterday, that’s why. According to Team Columbia-Highroad’s Ellen Cohune, “Team Columbia-Highroad riders were enthusiastic to support the Ride of Silence. Many of our men and women feel strongly about helping to raise awareness of safe road sharing. The blue ribbons were worn because we wanted to gain attention for the Ride of Silence cause, and some of the riders felt that the black armband was a little too morbid. The ribbons sparked interest in the peloton, as well as before and after the race. Ultimately, the Ride of Silence message finished on the top of the podium!”
Eric was asked to speak to the crowd that assembled at the start of his local ride in Irvine. He told them, “I want to go home. I want to see my kids get a hit at their baseball game. I want to see their first pedal strokes without training wheels. I want to watch my daughter’s dance recital. I want to enjoy their smiles as they proudly show me a school report card. And I want to hear them scream “Daddy!” when I walk in the door after work. At the same time, I want to ride as I love the sport. I should not have to choose between the two because we as humans can not safely share the road.”
He later added, “Whether it was black armbands or blue ribbons, Columbia-Highroad’s efforts carried my thoughts and concerns with those of thousands of others around the globe.” In a tragic coincidence, race organizers held a minute of silence at the start of the Stage 11 to remember veteran moto driver Fabio Saccani. Known as Roberto Bettini’s ace motorcycle driver, Saccani was killed in a traffic accident on his way to the start of the Giro’s 11th stage in Cuneo and had an accident in the town of Bra. This was Saccani’s 33rd Giro.
Of Saccani’s death Bettini said, “Today I lost a friend, someone who was more than a friend, a signore on two wheels. Fabio has taken me to the summit of the high mountains and down the most dangerous descents, always with the greatest care. Perhaps that care wasn’t enough to avoid being struck by a murderous truck that in an instant took his life. Ciao, Fabio, you will always be with me.”
The cycling and multisport world got a shock today when the unexpected death of Steve Larsen was announced. The 39-year-old Bend, Oregon, athlete and real estate broker was in the middle of a running workout on the track when he collapsed. Efforts to revive him were unsuccessful.
Unlike most athletes who are remembered for a particular win, Larsen is best remembered for his incredible breadth as an athlete. Often called an endurance athlete, he competed in events both short and long. Larsen represented the U.S. at the World Championships in four events, competing as a cyclist as a cyclist on the track, the road, off-road and in cyclocross. As a pro, raced for Motorola and counted Lance Armstrong and George Hincapie as teammates.
After a career in cycling that included racing the Giro d’Italia and two national NORBA championships in mountain biking (1998 and 2000), Larsen turned to triathlon in 2001. In his first year in the sport he qualified for the Hawaiian Ironman World Championship and finished 9th. He went on to take the Xterra National Championship and win Ironman Lake Placid.
Larsen was known as a fierce and outspoken competitor, unafraid to go his own way. And no matter which discipline he raced, he was respected by teammates and competitors alike.
After retiring from full-time competition, he opened a bike shop in Davis, California , before selling it to start a boutique commercial real estate brokerage in Bend, Oregon. Even while growing his business he managed to stay competitive, even finishing 70th at Kona in 2008.
Larsen leaves behind a legacy of hard work. Dan Empfield at Slowtwitch.com quoted him saying, “I have learned that it is the work you put in over the long haul.” His example should remind us all what we can achieve with focus and dedication.
It’s easy to joke about how we want to go doing our favorite thing. But 39 is a life interrupted. Larsen leaves his wife Carrie and five children. On behalf of everyone at BKW, we extend our profound condolences for their loss.
I live in a place where I can ride most mornings. And such is my life that if I don’t get my ride in during the morning, it will get harder to fit that ride in with each progressing hour. I share with a few friends a classification of training days called the O.B.E.—Overtaken By Events. If you say, “O.B.E.” it may have been a good day, but it wasn’t a day with a ride. Your real peers get it.
That said, if I have too many of those days for any reason—flu, injury, work, a sick cat—I miss more than just the ride.
The fact is, the routine of getting ready for the ride itself is the calm before the storm. Being the first up, grabbing some food, mixing a bottle, getting dressed, picking the ride, pumping up the tires, the sound of the garage door and rolling out is as peaceful a start to the morning as I get.
The best part, though, is getting to the start of the ride, waiting for the others to arrive and then rolling out. The warmup gives friends a chance to chat, to catch up, congratulate teammates on recent placings and even goof off a bit.
These lighthearted moments that I miss most when I haven’t been able to ride. It seems odd, but the days of hard training run together so that one performance on a long straight may be indistinguishable from another; I can go weeks at a time getting to the top of a hill with the same five guys nearby. But those connections with other riders that I make when my heartrate isn’t in triple digits are an important part of what makes me a rider.
Of course, there’s another side to the routine. When I hit the door upon returning from the ride, I’ve got my actions scheduled to the minute, from warming the shower while I undress to pushing on my shoes as I run my fingers through my hair. Frankly, if I did intervals with this kind of precision I’d still be winning races.
That thought really doesn’t bother me, though. As I move through my day, knowing that I’ve had a ride and connected with other riders is enough to remind me that there’s more to my life than just a job and bills. No matter how bad a day gets, if I got a ride in, it can’t be a bad day.