We interviewed Joe Parkin recently as part of our "Racing in Belgium" series. Joe has written a great book about his experiences entitled "A Dog in a Hat", and is busy writing his second. In case we've inspired any of you to head over to "the Heartland" and give kermis racing a go, we thought we'd present Joe's startline checklist...
"Peebles for Pleasure" says the sign, and the good folk of this part of the world, one of the oldest Royal Burghs in Scotland, certainly do know how to enjoy themselves - today they warmly embraced the first ever visit to these parts by the Professional Tour of Britain, now in it's sixth year of running in it's current form.
In part four of our (irregular) series on racing as an amateur in Belgium, VeloVeritas own web manager and editor, Martin, talks about when he had some time in the mid-80's between completing a college course and starting a new job, and decided to head off to Flanders for the season...
- By Rachael Aulich - This is no feminist rant about the Tour de France for Women, nothing like that, it's about love, actually. I stood on a hot street today, a long but tight curve, in Arles, for Stage 3. My first ever live stage of the Tour. I was hoping for the penultimate 'Ventoux' but with two small kids in tow, there's a give and take, and so Arles it was.
"Hi Ed, I've finally heard from Cycling Weekly - they want 300 words, but also if you want to do "Minute With" interviews with some of the riders, that'd be good also." Jeez! Work from "The Comic" and a brief too-I'm so used to rolling up at races with a camera, pencil and notebook then just doing what I want, that I'd forgotten about that word count stuff. Maybe if I make a good job, I'll get to do Girvan again; they haven't forgiven me for last year, when I forsook 'Com one' at Girvan for a team car at Milan-San Remo.
It's tacky, it's clichéd, but we have to do it-Review of 2008. VeloVeritas didn't manage to get to every big race in Scotland in 2008, but we didn't do too badly.
It was completely surreal. It was the 26th of July last year, and we were in Lourdes, sitting in a neon-lit, scruffy, greasy-spoon café at 1:00 in the morning. Our pizzas were cooking in the oven, but we weren't really that hungry anymore. We had travelled to the summit and back down again today, both literally and metaphorically; we'd had a wonderful day working on Stage 16 of the Tour de France which took the race to the ski station, 5,600 feet high, at Gourette - Col d'Aubisque in the Pyrenees, and it had been turned completely on its head.
Lady Luck certainly wasn't on Team Liquigas' side at last Sunday's Paris-Roubaix, as things went from bad (even before the race) to worse! Still, Manuel Quinziato, Murillo Fischer, Filippo Pozzato and the guys in green gave it their all at the world's toughest race. So, here is a list of 10 things you may not have seen from Paris-Roubaix coverage elsewhere...
Michael Creed's extraordinary ride yesterday capped an impressive performance for Rock Racing at the Amgen Tour of California. Attacking from the start of the 93-mile (150 km) stage, Creed played an instrumental role in a pair of breakaways that stayed clear of the peloton on a rain-soaked, bone-chilling ride from Santa Clarita to Pasadena. Aggressive to the end, Rock Racing nearly scored its second podium finish of the race when Creed attacked inside the final mile and finished fourth in a five-up sprint in front of the Rose Bowl.
On a cold morning in the town of Javea on the East coast of Spain a bunch of cyclists look at their new bikes for the coming year. This group are a mix of Team Astana and Discovery Channel riders that next season will become the new Team Astana and the man at the helm, Johan Bruyneel, has the job of welding these two distinctly different elements into one super team and with Tour winner Alberto Contador leading the charge it should be another successful season for the man that was behind Lance.
In Part 1 of "When Scotland had a National Stage Race" we saw the domination of the East Europeans that ended with the introduction of Professionals in to the Scottish Milk Race. The first year it was the British based pro's, then the big boys in the shape of the Belgian Isjberk-Gios team arrived in 1978 and set fire to the race, so instead of an East European domination we now had a Continental Pro domination, but they had something the Czechoslovakians, Poles, East Germans or Russians didn't have: style; class; and that "Pro-appeal".
Let me first say this is firstly a review of the Graeme Obree autobiography, the book - not the film - "The Flying Scotsman", and also my version of the events at the world cycling championships in Sicily in 1994. I was the Great Britain team mechanic for those championships, but Mr. Obree didn't remember to mention this fact in his book. You could call this the bitter out-pouring of a man scorned, but rather it's just my memory of what happened.
"Fondos" they call them, in Italy; in France it's "Sportifs" and in Spain it's "Marchas". The cycling press is full of them, VeloVeritas decided to take a look at these increasingly fashionable "mass participation events." Who better to ask then, than Paul Coates - as well as hurting everyones' legs in the first half of the Scottish road season, Paul is one of the top protagonists in French Sportifs. We also speak to Adam Syme and Dave Chapman about their experiences in these events too.
In a recent article about the Tour de Trossachs I became side-tracked onto the year 1978 and mentioned, amongst other things, the Scottish Milk Race - back when Scotland had a National Stage Race, and for quite a few years before and after. Here I have a look at a few editions of the Milk Race and the Scottish Health Race, where Scotland managed to have a home win with Jamie McGahan in 1983.
I remember, in 1992, watching Clas' Tony Rominger win Lombardy, churning a huge gear along a straight, flat road to the finish for kilometre after kilometre; even Duffers was lost for words. Like that font of cycling wisdom Viktor would say; "Watchin' paint dry!" It's different now - the finale is frantic. Ghisallo, Civiglio, Battaglia... there's no room for error and no time to relax.
When Ed Hood said he and VeloVeritas editor Martin Williamson were going out to watch the Tour de Trossachs it brought back my memories of watching the race for the first time in 1978. When I started my reminiscences it was going to be all about the Trossachs, but one thing led to another and now we are looking at the early career of Robert Millar and Scottish cycling in 1978.
John Lelangue officially announced today from the Tour of Missouri that he will join the BMC Racing Team in 2008 as Directeur Sportif. The BMC program is currently applying for Professional Continental team registration with the UCI, and will be seeking invitations to numerous prominent events in Europe and America during the 2008 season.
Continental TV may be dire, but there's a good choice of radio stations; Percy Sledge is telling us about "When a man loves a woman", as we jump back into the VW after paying homage at the Karl Buyse monument in sleepy Wontergem, heading for the Under-23 Het Volk 2007. Buyse was a son of the Flanders sod who won the Tour de France in 1926. A long time ago maybe, but not forgotten here in the heartland.
Team Barloworld's Colombian climber Mauricio Soler won stage nine of the Tour de France today, taking his fourth and most important victory of his short professional career. "It was an incredible win, something I never expected to achieve. But with some great team work it all worked out fine," Soler, 24, told reporters. The Barloworld rider was awarded by the new President of French Republic, Nicolas Sarkozy, who followed the race on the Tour de France director's vehicle.
It's long been a puzzle to me - who actually works in Flanders? It's 11.30am at Beveren Waas on a Monday, two hours until the start and the Grote Prijs Gemeente Beveren 2007 race HQ is already heaving. Officials from the federation and all the participating clubs, mechanics, masseurs, mums, dads, girlfriends, sponsors and of course, riders; 196 of them. People have their priorities right here, and work isn't one of them - it comes somewhere after bike racing, family and doing what you enjoy. It's an "inter-club", the GP Gemeente Beverene, 150 K and you can't just turn up as a lone rider with an international licence, you have be a member of a Belgian club.
The Belgian championships are special: as with the Worlds, there's just such a sense of occasion and expectation. There are a lot of ladies present, all immaculately presented. This is on the principle of, 'go to the race, or sit in the hoose!' The organisers are expecting 30-40,000 fans today...the bar-owners are rubbing their hands. There's only one man going to win the right to wear that red, yellow and black jersey for the next twelve months.
Lendelede, early afternoon, and we've missed the start - but the sun is shining and our hero, Guy Smet is riding. This is a kermesse. A criterium, like Friday night's, is usually on a circuit of one to two kilometres which is generally urban in nature, and the event will last one to two hours. A kermesse course, on the other hand, will be on a circuit of six to eight kilometres, and whilst it will start and finish in the village main street, it will be largely rural, race duration will be two to three hours.
Friday night, at this time I'm usually battling to get over the Forth Bridge before the traffic goes critical mass. Not tonight though, we may be battling through the tail-backs, but it's on the motorway out of Ghent, headed for a night at the races, Oosterzele and a 70 kilometre criterium. And besides, the reverend Al Green is on the car stereo telling us that; "Love is the message!" For sure, Al. Cafe Central is where the signing-on is, and there's that great smell of coffee, beer and embrocation. Young men of all shapes and sizes hand over their eight euros in exchange for their dossard (that's number, but dossard just sounds better). They'll get their euros back when they hand the number back.
When Sci'Con set out to celebrate the victory of Danilo di Luca in the 2007 Giro d'Italia, what better way than with an all-pink Aerotech Evolution Art. 70 rigid bicycle case, produced as a single specimen colored to match the Giro d'Italia winner's jersey. As Luciano Fantin, the firm's founder and chairman, notes "it was the least we could do after this big sporting result, to show him our appreciation for all the advice he has given us during all his travels using Sci'Con products. Aerotech Evolution is an icon in the sector of rigid bicycle carry cases and can now also boast the right to being the most winning one!" he added.
South African-sponsored professional cycling outfit, Team Barloworld, today received and accepted their wildcard invitation to ride the most prestigious cycle race in the world, the Tour de France, in July 2007. Entry into the Tour de France is extended by invitation only to the best of the world's professional cycling teams. Team Barloworld have had a phenomenal start to the 2007 cycling season, and are leading the 66 team UCI Professional Continental rankings.
The Giro's pink and Liquigas' green - that's the gaudy colour combination that characterises this first week of the Giro d'Italia. "The Killer", Danilo Di Luca's strong sprint took him to Giro success again in yesterday's Stage 4, finishing at Montevergine di Mercogliano.
The AIGCP (Association Internationnale des Groupes Cyclistes Professionnels), headed by Patrick Lefevere, formally complained to the Giro organisers today, regarding the hassle that pretty much everyone had in getting away from Sardinia, as Ed aluded to in his diary. The fact that today was meant to be a rest day was lost on the teams which spent most of the day travelling, with riders unable to get out on their bikes at all because the trucks (with the bikes) didn't get to the team hotels until the evening - definitely not what these guys need after several very hard days in the hills.
The Liquigas team has certainly left its mark in the first stages of the Giro d'Italia. The "Green Machine" took first place in last Saturday's team time trial that opened the 90th edition of the pink race. The first to cross the finish line in La Maddalena was the ex-Italian National Champion Enrico Gasparotto who took an unexpected pink jersey.
Danilo Di Luca rewarded his hard-working teammates in the best way yesterday (Sunday) by racing a tactically perfect Liege-Bastogne-Liege and taking the win in front a first-class field. "I've been dreaming of winning this race for nine years. This is the most beautiful and most difficult race that I have won" exclaimed Di Luca post-race.
07.00, Saturday, San Remo - a dream come true. I've been to, I can't remember how many Tours, a clutch of Vueltas and Giros, but there's something special about wakening-up here. The Via Roma is just two streets away and the Poggio is a five minute drive - all those boyhood hours spent staring at pictures of Eddy Merckx notching-up his seven wins - and here I am.
The portents for Sunday were better: we weren't hung-over; the sun was out; and we got up to the start at Kuurne without one wrong turning. The chemists were shut though, so Pozzato couldn't buy his hair gel. The start at Kuurne is always a real, "organised chaos" job, there's a riders enclosure but somehow, some riders get mixed up with the crowd and can't get back in to the start enclosure, so have to wait on the roll-out beginning, then cajole their way through the sea of people so as they can go to work.
Friday, the evening before the race, as we sat in the Viadukt, our fave local bar in Ghent, we caught sight of our pilot friend who flies Belgian Air Force C130s around the world whilst in an advanced state of enebriation. He was flying to Kabul on the morrow; but tonight in the Viadukt he couldn't bite his thumb.
Truth be told it wasn't him but his double, Paul Tabak, manager of Dutch outfit BRC Kememesland-burgundy blazer, black gingham shirt, grey flannels and shades-dapper guy! Dead ringer for Nicholas. A tad incongruous among the club jerseys, tee-shirts and fleeces at the managers' meet though. The UCI guys were really nicely turned out in blue, logo-ed shirts and body-warmers, so now you know where all that money goes.
The Hilton Edinburgh Grosvenor has announced that they will sponsor Edinburgh RC/The Bicycleworks, one of the UK's biggest cycling clubs. The sponsorship deal will see the hotel's logo appear on the club's kit, website and race support vehicle.
July 1960, the GB Tour de France team hotel somewhere in France. Britain's white hope for Tour de France glory, the late, great Tom Simpson is discussing the events of the day with team mate, Brian Robinson. Simpson had punctured during the stage and one of his GB team domestiques had brought him back up to the bunch; "I'll tell you what, Brian - that John Kennedy is strong, he was riding like ten men today when we were coming back from that puncture."
Continuing our look back at Classic, Belgian RockHardMan, Enthusiast-tastic races, to get you into the mood for the upcoming Continental Classics, we bring you the story of our trip to the 2004 edition of "De Panne", a stage race based around the province of West Flanders. Enjoy!
Forget the super fast boards of Manchester. Imagine a track meeting whose roots go back to the year 1314; where the track is only 200 metres and one of the straights is bordered by a burn (that's a stream in Queen's English)... a track meeting which goes ahead even in a torrential rain - welcome to the world of the Highland Games, and one of Scotland's greatest exponents of the form; John Hardie.
I didn't make it up to the Phil Young memorial race this year, work got in the way. I need to get my values sorted out. I should put the memory of a friend before commercial activity, but when you are under client pressure to get a job finished, it is difficult. Phil had his priorities right, though: "the bike" was number one, and everything else was organised around that.
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