The Giro – the Conclusion.

Contador, Scarponi & Nibali celebrating.

This year’s Giro was the first Grand Tour I’ve watched from start to finish. Early on this year I decided to give my summer to the Tour: I would do everything I could to watch it. When I was reminded by Eroica Cicli that the Giro d’Italia was coming up I immediately jumped at the chance to get my first proper taste of Grand Tour riding.

The Tour de France carries an impressive weight in the cycling world. It is THE event of the year, and everyone is, in varying degrees, familiar with the TourBut the Giro is something else, a little more mysterious and much less known. When explaining to friends and colleagues that I was watching the Giro I’d explain: “It’s like the Tour de France, but for Italy.”

What was it like watching my first Grand Tour? I was first struck by how little rest these riders get. I was expecting five to six days of riding followed by a rest day. In reality, they rode for nine days straight! And each stage isn’t a two to four hour ride, some were as long as eight hours! At the end of the Giro Contador concluded: “Hombre, it was tough. This was the hardest work and the hugest effort of my career.” And this is from the guy that breezed by other riders on more then a few occasions! It’s a tough race!

It’s easy to be disappointed when your favourite rider (in my case I decided to back Nibali – not the most exciting rider, but he had the amazing skill of just grinding up those hills in spite of breakaways and attacks) can’t quite get away from the chasing group and get on the attack. It took a while for me to realise that pushing yourself for upwards of four hours and then having anything left is a challenge in of itself. To remember that these riders had been doing it for three weeks brings a whole new perspective.

I was also surprised at how much tactics played a part. Well, maybe not surprised about how much tactics were key, but more the different ways riders used tactics. It had never occurred to me that if you pushed yourself hard one day, you might no longer have the strength to properly compete the next day. Or that riders would intentionally hold themselves back in the closing kilometres of a stage in order to try to provoke another rider to attacking early, so that they might draft behind the leader and ultimately pass them closer to the finish line. I wasn’t terribly impressed at the small ways riders try to gain an advantage. This was most clearly noticeable when riders were receiving drink-bottles from the team cars. Staff would hold out the bottle and pull the rider for a second or so as he was grabbing the drink, providing just a moment of repose. I just thought it was a shame.

It was certainly an adventure! I loved getting up early, watching these guys slog it out, experience the excitement of frantic finish morning after morning and then having the whole rest of the day to get on with the rest of life. I hope I get to watch the Tour this summer. Maybe, just maybe, like Contador I’ll get two Grand Tours under my belt this summer!

Purchase: Campagnolo Chorus Ergo Shifters/Levers – 8 Speed

Campagnolo 8-Speed Ergo Levers

I’ve been looking for ways to upgrade my Gios. The mechanic at Tacoma Bike told me all the Campy stuff I have on my bike is essentially crap. In spite being Chorus (which is typically the second highest quality in the Campy line – equivalent to Ultegra for Shimano) the brake-levers don’t do anything and the early Syncro shifters only really work in friction mode. If I want to have a real race bike I have to do something to sort this out. My solution: upgrade the system to Ergo levers. This solves the brake lever issue, gearing problems and moves the shifter-controls up to the hand, so I don’t have to keep finding the down-tube. I was shopping for anything basically: 8, 9 or 10 speed, knowing that only the 9 & 10 speed are interchangeable. For a few weeks I existed only on ebay to make other sellers more money. I just couldn’t afford to drop $200+ on a pair of levers, with a derailleur and wheel-set still needed. I found these eight-speeds for quite a bit less, committed myself and now I’m shopping some more.

Campagnolo 8-Speed Ergo Levers

Campagnolo 8-Speed Ergo Levers

Campagnolo 8-Speed Ergo Levers

Campagnolo 8-Speed Ergo Levers

Battaglin 87 World Champion on Craigslist

Battaglin '87 World Champion

This popped up last week on Craigslist in my area (I won’t bother linking to the posting, since it will be deleted soon enough). This is the 1987 World Champion bike, a model built to celebrate Stephen Roche winning the World Championship. This was also the same year Roche won the Triple Crown, only the second man to do so.

As I’m digging deeper into bikes I’m learning a little about my tastes. This is a beautiful bike, but I don’t like the powder-coating. Colour is fine, It’d look better on a 3 speed with a brown leather Brooks and handlebars. The original colours are a lot more interesting. So, first of all – original paint! Secondly, I’m starting to really dislike mixing parts from different eras and brands. That Record front brake looks horrible there! So for me, the Group is important. (I say that as I have a Battaglin with 7400 with Athena Crankarms and a Chorus equipped Gios with a Daytona Seatpost – the fluted Chorus one was waaaay too short)

Battaglin '87 World Champion

Battaglin '87 World Champion

Battaglin '87 World Champion

Battaglin '87 World Champion

Longest Ride Ever

Ride Route 5/19/11

This was my longest ride ever! I know, 30 miles isn’t that far. When I was riding back in Wisconsin I couldn’t ever seem to manage to ride longer then 27 miles. That’s just how it always ended up. Today I tried to go 40, but at 15 miles in my legs started to go. They still had strength, but I must have tweaked something in my right leg as it never quite felt right.

I took the Scott Pierson Trail along Highway 16. Not a pleasant ride. You are literally next to the Highway, it’s noisy, and there’s a fair amount of debris (glass, pebbles etc) on the path. It’s also super-underused so you have the whole trail to yourself. It can be a bit of a navigation to stay on it too. The signposts aren’t very clean. After I got over the bridge I joined the Cushman Trail (again after a bit of searching around.) I was just commenting to a couple of gents at the recent Build a Better Bike Tacoma Meet-up that I missed riding in the country. It was so easy in Madison. Ten minutes of riding and I’m in the fields. I haven’t really been able to experience that here. Cushman trail was the closest that I have found. Similar to the Scott Pierson Trail it follows HWY 16, but there is some distance between the roads. It had some really great climbing hills and the surface was really smooth.

Oh, and I almost forgot, this was one of my fastest rides too. I averaged 16.17 MPH over the 30 miles. I’ll be moving things over to kph soon, so I’ll just say that it was just over 26 kph.