The Rise Again Ride

The local bike shop is the hub of any cycling community and this week Sussex lost theirs. For awhile anyway.

After a fire gutted a historic block of buildings in Sussex the town was left without a bike and ski shop, a lovely restaurant, a Chinese buffet, a yoga store and a soap shop. It’s a big hit to the community and whether all of those businesses return to the town or not remains to be seen.

Cyclists are generally good people. We share a spare tube when someone flats and we send rider back to pace somebody home if they have bonked. But what do we do when a friend loses a small business that is vital to the cycling scene and the town’s economy?

We ride. Really what else can you do? After the fire there was an outpouring of support for the shop’s owner and he quickly thanked those who offered kind words on his Facebook page. But those who frequented Outdoor Elements wanted to do something a bit more tangible. So yesterday one of the shop regulars suggested a Saturday morning ride to show solidarity with the shop owner. Soon enough a Facebook event was created, invites went out and in less than 24 hours a crew of about 20 showed up bright and early to go for a spin in support of the shop owner.

It was a great ride. Rides in that area always are but that’s not the point. What was important was to get out and show the guy who would true your wheels the night before a race when there are other bikes ahead f you on the bench that you appreciated what he does for the cycling community.

Good shop owners are vital to the success of a local cycling scene. They organize weekly rides, put on races and sponsor costly and time consuming events. We can show our support by of course shopping locally and sharing our love of cycling that will ultimately bring more business to local bike shops.

Today required something a little more, a gesture to say that we appreciate what you do and we’ll be back when you are.

It’s too soon to say when the shop owner expects to be up and running again so today we got to ride with him and say “John McNair, for putting on races, tuning skis at the last minute and everything you do for recreation in the area: thank you and we’ll be back when you are.”

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Concerning Lance Armstrong

So here we are.

After 7 Tour de France titles, a World Championship and a universal “crusade against cancer” Lance Armstrong has abandoned the fight to clear his name from the doping charges that have hounded him since the late 90’s and will forfeit his Yellow Jerseys, Rainbow Jersey and open himself to a barrage of lawsuits from former sponsors including the United States government.

Not to mention a lifetime ban from any sporting event.

It’s about time.

I have to admit. For a time I bought into it. Yellow wristband and all.

I was witnessing a story like I’d never seen before and suspended disbelief to buy into the myth that someone could come back from “life threatening” cancer and perform at the top level of human performance.

I bought the books, supported companies that sponsored him and praised Big Tex as a super hero who could come back from the brink of death and conquer cancer and the sport of cycling to my cycling and non-cycling friends alike.

What a great story. What a pile of shit.

Call me gullible but I wanted to believe it was true.  Especially when somebody very close to me was fighting his own futile battle against cancer. “Look at Lance, you can do it.”

Reality started to hit me when I was at a home medical supplies trade show and a triathlete who also happened to be a cancer specialist was taking me to task for my praise of Lance Armstrong. She explained that the cancer he was diagnosed with and at the stage he was diagnosed with had a success rate in the 90’s. An easily treatable cancer when caught when it was.

She also reminded me of positive B-Samples from the 1999 Tour de France that Armstrong’s powerful defense team had tossed on a technicality.

I continued to watch Armstrong win Tour after Tour in a manner that revolutionized racing Grand Tours and made it hopelessly boring at the same time: command a team of bullies to ride at the front at such a furious pace that eliminates the excitement of attacking a bike race. Effective and dull. Yet I watched the subsequent victories that would come.

Eventually my suspicions began to grow. He never had a jour sans. While he stood atop the podium, others in the top 5 had been revealed as dopers in each and every Tour he won. Was he that much better an athlete or simply better at hiding an ugly truth?

When questioned about doping his retort was the standard “I’m the most tested athlete alive and never tested positive.”

Fact is, he had. In 1999.

He had also admitted to running on hot sauce when he was diagnosed with cancer as was revealed when Team mate Frankie Andrieu testified under sworn oath.

Now, with the noose tightening and 10 of his former team mates on record including his faithful lieutenant George Hincapie it looks like Lance Armstrongs’ luck has run out. He’s run out of people to lie to and those to whom he’d included in his lies are now speaking out.

He’s got nowhere to run and has given up fighting the charges against him that will prove to be his downfall. What will follow will be a pathetic fall from grace resulting in the demise of  his public persona and his financial empire.

It’s the end of both an era and a charade.

As cyclists what can we do?

It’s simple.

Go to your local weekend race and race for baked goods and homemade medals.

Go ride a local century or get a kid, a new cyclist excited about riding a bike.

Racing bicycles for sums of money has always resulted in cheating and has built a culture of cheating in the sport but it looks like we may be at a turning point. For that, I am hopeful.

Maybe Lance Armstrong giving up the fight against him (face it, if the 10 who testified had the opportunity to speak, he’d be done) is a turning point for cycling.

The worst doper in history has folded his cards.

Maybe we can just move on now.

The Bald Biker’s Book Review:Slaying the Badger – Greg Lemond, Bernard Hinault and the Greatest Tour de France

The 1986 Tour de France was a tipping point for professional cycling on the European continent and indeed the world over. Journalist Richard Moore revisits this edition of the Tour de France, one he deems as “the greatest Tour de France” in his book Slaying the Badger available from Velo Press.

The 1986 Tour is important for a number of reasons: the first North American to wear the yellow jersey (Canada’s Alex Stieda), the first American to ultimately win the Tour de France (Lemond) and new methods of training, coaching and tactics that would ultimately change bike racing forever.

But what we remember most about that fateful edition of the Tour is the duel among teammates Greg Lemond, an upstart American cyclist and Bernard Hinault, the proud Breton patron of the peloton.

It’s a rivalry that on the surface started the year before when Greg Lemond slowed down on the climb to Luz Ardiden so Hinault, his boss would not lose too much time and eventually win the 1985 Tour de France when  Lemond himself had the opportunity to go for the overall win on that day.

Following that stage and on the podium in Paris Hinault, now a five time winner of le Tour pledged he’d be working for Lemond the following year.

Because we all know what happened at the 1986 Tour de France (instead of helping Lemond win, Hinault ultimately challenges him for it), Moore’s back story is what makes this book such a compelling read. So much of what had transpired between Lemond and Hinault needs to be brought into context.

Richard Moore takes the story back further than the 1985 Tour. In fact, he devotes almost two-thirds of the book to giving us the back story of the players like Hinault, Lemond, entrepreneur Bernard Tapie and enigmatic coach Paul Koechli who ultimately ends up stealing the story.

To go back to the 1986 Tour de France Richard Moore paints cycling as the “last bastion of feudalism”. Riders are paid next to nothing while race organisers and team owners make both the rules and the money.

Moore also helps us understand that this Tour de France is the most important Tour in the race’s history. Power is starting to slowly shift into the riders’ hands with the invention of teams like Hinault and Lemond’s powerful La Vie Claire squad. This is also the year of the invasion of the non-Europeans. 7-Eleven join the peloton as the first American based team, winning the yellow jersey (briefly)and a stage. Of course Lemond eventually wins but he’s flanked by fellow American Andy Hampsten and Canada’s Steve Bauer. the landscape is changing.

Moore paints the battle between Lemond and Hinault as a battle between cycling’s old and new guard. His interviews with Bernard Hinault give us into a glimpse of the past of professional cycling with its odd traditions, myths and rituals.

While Hinault was old world France in his approach, Lemond shows little concern for the sports’ unwritten rulebook. He eats Mexican food, has visits from wife and family and even; perish the thought, golfs on a day off.

It seems that Richard Moore’s plan for the book (which is a fast and entertaining read) is to bring us to the 1986 Tour de France knowing that this is going to be a Tour like no other. Two riders on the same team, each capable of winning. Each with different motivation: Hinault could win his (at then) record-breaking sixth Tour victory. Lemond could claim not only his first, but the first for a rider from an English-speaking nation.

As he takes us though the 1986 Tour he drags us through the tension within the La Vie Claire team which has ostensibly been divided split along the lines of a continental divide: the Europeans vs. the North Americans. Despite Hinault’s promise to assist Lemond in quest for his first of what will become 3 Tour de France titles, Hinault attacks his teammate both on the road and in the media.

What makes this book such a great read is that Moore’s interviews with Lemond, Hinault and Koechli give us three different versions of the same race. Was Lemond paranoid? Was Hinault out to break his word? Was Koechli simply “playing bike racing”? The answer is not clear but the read is fascinating.

The 1986’s Tour de France’s pivotal moment was Lemond and Hinault’s ascent of l’Alpe d’Huez. After destroying the both each other and the competition along the roads of France, the tandem climb a historic ascent of cycling’s most important climb, crossing the line arms raised in solidarity. Or so it seemed at the time.

So what really happened? Was Hinault trying to win his 6th Tour or simply making Lemond “earn it”? Was Lemond just in his paranoia? Or was Swiss coach Paul Koechli playing the strings like a masterful puppeteer while working with two uniquely talented cyclists?

Richard Moore does not give a clear answer and perhaps there are many answers to those questions but he gives us lots of fresh perspective on which we may form our own opinion. Nevertheless, the 1986 Tour de France was arguably the best ever edition of the race and Slaying the Badger is one of the best books ever to share the story of le Grand Boucle.

Slaying the Badger is available from Velo Press.

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KING OF THE COBBLES

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A day later I am still impressed by the display of physical and mental toughness that Tom Boonen treated us to at Paris-Roubaix.

Going into the race as the clear favourite we knew we’d see the Belgian make a bid for victory but never imagined the winning move would be made alone, nearly 60km from the finish.

Boonen’s form was widely recognized. Seven days earlier he won a 3-up sprint to take the Tour of Flanders and earlier in the month won the sprint to take E3 Harelbeke. A cobbled triple was forseeable but nobody knew just how perfectly Boonen has timed his form on Easter morning when the peleton rolled out of Compiegne.

Up until the start Boonen had made no secret of his confidence and even sounded like he was talking smack. Come the cobbled sector at Orchies, Tornado Tom let his legs do the talking.

Paris-Roubaix 2012 started out in typical fashion with the early “suicide break” forming at 70km. The group of twelve didn’t contain any true contenders but Canada’s David Veilleux (Europcar) was riding strong at the front so as a Canadian, I had something to keep me interested until the real racing began.

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As always the Arenberg Trench played it’s role in the race and the early break of 12 was whittled down when a particularly nasty crash sent riders to the ground and one to hospital.

A minute and a half or so after the breakaway left Arenberg, Boonen first displayed the form he’d brought to Paris-Roubaix by leading the peleton through the forest with an incredible head of steam. It was in the Arenberg that Boonen asserted himself as the strongman in the peleton and that if you were going to beat him on the day you’d better start attacking.

So they did. Soon after exiting the trench a 6 man group that included Ballan, Flecha and a very scrappy Turgot who would be attacking until the final meters on the day. Boonen’s Omega-Pharma Quikstep team chased down the break and countered with French national Champion Sylvain Chavanel taking along Turbot (again) in an ill fated attempt cursed with mechanicals and a lack of converted effort.

After the race Boonen had expressed frustration noting that nobody really wanted to work so at Orchies and with team mate Nicki Terpstra to help, Boonen decided to make his move with nearly 60km to go to the Roubaix velodrome.

Flecha and Ballan didn’t take up the chase because well, who attacks with 60km to go when there are still horrible sectors of cobbles like Carrefour de lArbre to traverse?

Boonen gave his answer as soon as he attacked. Terpstra, riding with Boonen to help him grow a gap before letting him loose couldn’t hold Tornado Tom’s wheel less than 2kms into their attack so exiting Orchies it was going to have to be all Boonen.

Following the race live in several languages and on Twitter as well I heard professional cycling commentators and weekend warrior cyclists alike cast doubt on this bold move. “Too soon” they all said and I have to admit, I thought 60km alone was a long way to go.

The next 60km was an incredible display of physical and mental stamina. Boonen chraged across each sector of cobbles with a face as hardened as the granite he rode across. Boonen’s stone faced expression did give away how suffering an escape like this causing. We knew this was a supreme effort but Boonen’s expression did not change until he rode into Roubaix knowing he’d conquered the cobbles and tied fellow Belgian Roger DeVlamminck as the only person to win Paris-Roubaix 4 times.

How strong was Boonen on the cobbles? At each sector of the stones and despite a concerted effort by Team Sky to reel him in, he would gain 5 to 10 seconds on his chasers every time he crossed the pave. At 20km to go with a gap of a minute it started to become apparent. If Tom Boonen did not meet the Man with the Hammer, this bold move was going to pay off.

The chasers never really organised and Boonen continued his march toward Roubaix and history. Finally after crossing the 2km to go banner Boonen turned to the moto camera, cracked a smile and pointed at the lens, later waving 4 fingers at the camera to acknowledge that he was about to win the Queen of the Classics for a record tieing 4th time.

His solo victory yesterday was one for the record books and one for the history of the race. It takes a hard man to win alone from so far out and Boonen left no doubt who the hard man of the day was. It was a simply awe-inspiring performance.

After the race Boonen commented that he may be perhaps the best ever on the cobbles. I’m sure some former Belgian champions may have something to say about that but he has rebounded from a nightmare 2011 season to take the cobbled triple and enter into the Paris Roubaix record books.

And guess what? I think he may have one more Paris-Roubaix victory in him before he retires.

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CHRISTMAS EVE FOR CYCLISTS

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Theo de Rooy: “It’s a bollocks this race! You’re working like an animal, you don’t have time to piss, you wet your pants. You’re riding in mud like this, you’re slipping, it’s a piece of shit…”

John Tesh: “Will you ever ride it again?”

de Rooy, not hesitating for a second: “Sure, it’s the most beautiful race in the world!”

That quote, from Dutchman Theo de Roy after abandoning the 1985 edition of Paris-Roubaix was the moment I fell in love with “the Hell of the North”.

That year’s race was a particularly tough edition. The cold, the wind, the rain and the mud took it’s toll on the field and de Rooy in particular. Seeing a physically and morally devastated Theo de Rooy at once both curse the race and profess his admiration for it hooked me.

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And so, every year since that myself and who knows how many other cyclists watch the calendar and the weather forecast with anticipation as each edition of Paris-Roubaix approaches.

This being the day before the Queen of the Classics, can be thought of as Christmas Eve for cyclists. Except we won’t wake up to see presents wrapped in shiny paper. Our presents will be wrapped in mud, dust and cobblestones.

Paris-Roubaix is a race from another time. Would a race organiser pitch the idea of a 256km race that included over 50km of sectors traversing cobblestone paths built to carry Napoleon’s army I think they’d be told that they are out of their minds.

Yet Paris-Roubaix stands to this day and invites the hardmen of the peleton to try their luck on her harsh roads. What makes Paris-Roubaix a unique spectacle is that despite the advancements in traning and technology since it’s inception in 1897 one thing has remained constant. The men will do battle over the same roads that have challenged their predecessors for over a hundred years. The riders get faster, the bikes get better and the stones have stayed the same.

It used to be said that a cyclist cannot lay claim to greatness without winning Paris-Roubaix. That was in a time when cyclists raced everything. Grand Tour winners would try their luck at Paris Roubaix. Eddy Merckx won on the cobbles as well as in le Tour. Today cyclists have branched out into specialties and you wouldn’t see a Grand Tour contender like Andy Schleck try his luck on this dastardly course. So a special breed comes to this race ready to suffer and battle.

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This year’s race is going to be an interesting one. With Fabian Cancellara out with the broken collarbone he suffered in the Tour of Flanders the race is going to be a bit more open but no less difficult.

Tom Boonen has been looking both strong and confident in the days leading up to Paris-Roubaix. Winning last week at the Tour of Flanders he may be on form to tie fellow Belgian Roger de Vlamminck into the record books with a 4th win at Paris-Roubaix and he has a tide of Belgian support.

Boonen may be the marked man on the day and his victory isn’t guaranteed. He’s had bad luck on the cobbles in previous editions. Italy’s Phillipo Pozzato is looking particularly strong as is Spaniard Juan Antonia Flecha. I’m expecting tomorrow’s race to be one for the ages.

With showers in the forecast for northern France, the cobbles may play an even larger role than in previous dust filled years. The rain brings the mud and manure up from between the cobblestones raising the risk of the brutal crashes that have made this race so famous.

Back in the 1980’s I remember waiting for weeks for CBS sports to bring a packaged report on the race. Those early programs introduced us to Phil Liggett (yay) and John Tesh and his cheesy synthesisor music (boo) and reporting on cycling has changed vastly since then.

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Now with the rise of the internet there’s no more waiting and we can watch live from France as the race unfolds. I suggest the excellent http://www.cyclingfans.com for the latest on links to live streams in several languages. Following the conversation on Twitter allows us to share the experience with like minded cyclists across the globe (we’re not alone in our oddball passion).

Enjoy!

 

 
 
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A Big Batch of Red Sauce

If you are a cyclist you’ve no doubt at one time or another become infatuated with Italy.

While I am a huge fan of the toughness that the Belgians bring to the road you can’t discount the fact that the Italians bring a lot of panache to the game. Stories about Eddy Mercxk’s devotion to the suffering and training required to be the greatest cyclist of all time are awe inspiring. But stories of Mario Cippolini stopping a training ride to buy exquisite Italian loafers or run off into the bushes with an Italian supermodel seem so much more fun.

And if you are a cyclist you have no doubt consumed more than your fair share of pasta. I think as a cycling collective our bucket list includes eating and riding your way across Italy. That’s what lottery tickets are for.

The Bald Biker household is an autonomous collective of five and that means that a lot of Sundays include batch cooking: making large amounts of food to be frozen and put into service quickly on a busy school/work night.

I’d like to share with you a recipe for a basic red sauce (Pomodoro) that has been pressed into service in a multitude of meals. It goes great all by itself with linguine, with penne and sausage, with spaghetti and meatballs and even as a pizza sauce.

I had been given a cookbook on pasta sauces as a Christmas gift many years ago and intentionally avoided trying to make a basic red sauce. The image of a 70-some year old Nonna in the back kitchen wielding mystical powers over tomatoes and whose sauce had touched generations of a family is plenty intimidating. Eventually I mustered up the courage to try my hand at it and now this sauce has become a staple in my household’s cooking.

At first I used the recipe to a “T” from the cookbook but cooking is a lot like jazz, the recipe holds the basic song structure and the cook improvises and puts her or her own spin on it.

Here’s my take on a Pomodori sauce in big batches, I hope you like.

Ingredients

What’s great about Italian cooking is that it’s really about using just a few, good quality ingredients and letting them shine. This recipe is a prime example of that.

This recipe has started off using the standard 28oz can of plum tomatoes but I got these wonderful San Marzano tomatoes in 100 oz cans at Costco and simply quadrupled the recipe. You’ll also need olive oil, 4 onions, garlic, salt and pepper, dried basil (optional) and red wine (also optional but it’s a great excuse to open a bottle of wine).

Sweatin’ to the Onions

The first step is to chop up your onions and garlic (you’re all big boys and girls, add garlic to taste) I used about 10 cloves in this big batch. Let’s just say we don’t have a vampire problem here anymore.

Heat your olive oil and add the onions and garlic.

*Tip – sweat the onions and garlic by cooking them for a few minutes with the lid on the pot. That retains moisture and your garlic own burn and turn bitter.

Sometimes I like to add a bit of red wine at this point….I also put some in the sauce. It can add a level of depth to the flavour.

Bring in Big Red

Add your tomatoes, I crush them with a wooden spoon to release all of the tomatoey goodness. Also add your salt and pepper to taste. If you’d like to add some dried basil go right ahead, this is where I would do that.

*Tip – if you are using dried basil, rub it between your hands to break it open and release the oils and flavours.

Let the sauce cook on medium to high heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occaisionally. Monitor your heat so it doesn’t burn on the bottom of your pot. San Marzano tomatoes have a fair amount of sugar and you have to keep an eye on that.

Time to Get Smooth

After 20 minutes of cooking down, check your seasonings and adjust if needed. Now it’s time to get that big, lumpy pot of goodness into a more useable state. The original recipe I used had recommended passing the sauce through a food mill but who has time for that. I use a simple hand held immersion blender and get the sauce to a consistency that I like. You may like it smooth and silky, I prefer a bit of texture to it, I want to know I’ve got some pieces of onion and garlic in there. Your choice.

You may want to cook it down a little bit more or serve it from there. The more you cook it down, the more intense the flavour gets.

Mangia!

As I had mentioned the basic sauce is the backbone for a lot of dishes. Here I’ve added to spaghetti and some lovely meatballs I made with my daughter, I’ll share that recipe in a future post.

Storage Wars

Because a 100 oz. can of tomatoes can make enough sauce to feed an entire peleton or large, Italian family gathering we’ve found a convenient way to store it all that doesn’t take up a lot of space.

Once the sauce has cooled, we use Zip Lock (yes I am entertaining corporate sponsorship offers) freezer bags and portion out 5 personal portions per bag. The bags can be laid flat in a deep freeze and take up much less space than a Tupperware container. On a work night that we will be using the sauce, we simply take a bag out of the freezer in the morning and let it thaw on a plate on the counter. When you get home you can heat the sauce in the same amount of time it takes to cook a plate of pasta.

It’s a versatile and easy to make sauce and I hope you enjoy putting your spin on it.

Until next time, ride to eat and eat to ride!

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Ingredients

Ingredients

That’s a BIG can of tomatoes!

Spin Class

I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions. Maybe because most of what we resolve to do, we should already be doing anyway in terms of health and human decency.

What I am a fan of however, is goal setting. As we roll the odometer over to 2012 I’ve set a few personal and professional goals of my own. On the personal side I have decided to return to recreational bicycle racing, not to win races (though that would be nice) but to be competitive and enjoy the health benefits that accompany such a pursuit.

In my twenties I raced both road and mountain bikes to varying degrees of success. In terms of any type of sporting activity it was the last time I actually competed and I find myself missing that sense of purpose and drive. I’ve continued to ride my bike but that’s all I’ve been doing, just riding with no sense of purpose and no goals set.

So this year, at what will be 48 years of age by the time cycling season rolls along I want to get back in the mix and race not just to show up (save that for running a 10k) but to be competitive. I probably won’t win, but I don’t want to be dropped either.

Being a cyclist on the east coast of Canada means you have to adjust your schedule and training regime to the weather and lack of sunlight that winter brings. This means heading indoors.

Turbo trainers, mag trainers, whatever you call them provide perhaps the best approximation of cycling. Hook it up to your back wheel, throw a towel on the floor and grind away. Here’s the problem: you’re pretty much on your own and some of us find it hard to be motivated spinning away in a dark corner of the basement. You iPod and old Tour de France videos can’t mask the fact that pounding away on your own is really, really boring.

A couple of years ago Spinning Classes started to grow in popularity across North America, eventually landing in our neck of the woods. I had looked into it and immediately looked down my nose at it. It was all too cheerful for me, happy instructors clad in a mix of cycling clothing and Lulu Lemon chirping out encouragement and dopey lines like “we’re climbing that hill now, let’s race over the top together!”.

Give me a break. I’m a cyclist and you’d never catch me nor any of my cycling friends in a mirrored room with these poseurs. Cycling is about suffering, you never saw Eddy Mercxk smile when he crushed the competition. If a spin class wanted to be anything like cycling they’d pelt you with sleet and have your instructions yelled at you in Flemmish.

Last winter, faced with no other choice and a growing post Holiday middle section I caved in and tried a spin class. You know, so I could tell my cycling buddies that it’s a joke. I mean c’mon, look around the room, how many of these people to you think actually ride bikes? And I’ll bet none of them have ever raced. Amatuers, pfft.

My first class was to be my last. I just wanted to prove to myself that spin class couldn’t possibly benefit my cycling. So I picked my bike, got the saddle position set up and spun a nice and easy 100 rpm while I waited for the the foolishness to begin.

Some kind of techno music rolled us along as we warmed up together, adding more and more load to get the muscles warmed up and ready for work. Once we were ready the instructor announced we were going for our first “race”. Get serious, a “race”? This is a joke but I’ll play along. The tempo of the music picked up, we grabbed a bit more gear and upped our RPMs into “race” cadence.

“This is so dumb.” I thought to myself. “Nothing like cycling. Cycling’s tough. This…..is…not….hard….at………………..”.

Okay, so I was huffing and puffing a little bit, that’s just because I had been off my bike for awhile. I’ll grab some active recovery between “races” and laugh this whole class off. Then came the next sets of work, there were speed intervals to drive the heart rate crazy. There were periods of hard work where thighs and glutes screamed for mercy. Maybe it wasn’t a joke.

About halfway through my first class, the varying levels of intensity started to remind me of the ebb and flow of effort during a criterium or relatively flat road race. This is turning out to be hard work.

I came back for a second class and for class after class after that eventually becoming a regular. As an experiment I brought my heart rate monitor along and was peaking out around 188 bpm. Everyone around me, no matter what their fitness level and no matter whether or not they were actually cyclists seemed to be working at their personal target level as well. That’s when I started to understand that spin class isn’t about cycling at all. It’s about boosting your cardio and giving everything you’ve got in the allotted hour and I was starting to enjoy it.

As the winter passed I left my cycle snobbery behind and made acquaintances with several of the other regulars, even sharing words of encouragement and congratulating each other after particularly hard sessions.

Eventually, the Spring returned and the ice and snow left the roads and it was time to start back on the bike and guess what? My leg speed was significantly higher. I’d always had a bad habit of pushing too large a gear and now, after over 25 years on the bike I was spinning efficiently at about 20 rpm higher than before. I’d also changed my saddle position, my cleats and foot positioning to help me spin more smoothly than ever before. With my new increase in cadence I was also climbing better and not using big muscle groups on climbs that eventually would fill my legs with lactic acid.

Don’t tell any of my cycling friends but spin class actually helped me become a better cyclist.

Now as the New Year starts us all with a clean slate, I’ve set a goal to rejoin the peleton. Along the way, I will lose weight, boost my Vo2 Max, put more wattage to the pedals and regain the spirit of competitiveness. And I’ll be using spin class to start me on that path.

But you’ll never catch me in Lulu Lemon.

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The Bald Biker’s Book Club: Team 7-Eleven

When I first took a serious interest in cycling it was still a mysterious sport immersed in strange European customs and nuance.

Things started to change in the early 80’s when a few North American pros started to make inroads into the European peleton. Jock Boyer was the first American to ride the Tour de France and Greg Lemond had signed with Cyril Guimard’s powerhouse Renault team alongside mentor and soon to be nemesis Bernard Hinault. 

In 1984 Team 7-eleven started to change things. first by dominating the North American cycling scene and eventually taking their show on the road to infiltrate the world of European pro cycling.

Recently the wonderful folks at VeloPress provided me with a review copy of “Team 7-Eleven” a book that chronicles the team’s journey from wining North American criteriums to wearing the yellow jersey at the Tour and winning the Giro d’Italia.

I also provide content for some really cool cycling blogs and this week one of the best (www.pavepavepave.com) published my book review for them and I thought I’d share it with you.

Team 7-Eleven changed pro cycling forever. Here’s my book review for the awesome Pave Blog.
http://www.pavepavepave.com/2011/12/06/holiday-gift-guide-team-7-eleven-by-geoff-drake-w-jim-ochowicz/