If last week’s Tour of Flanders is any indication, there are only two riders contending for cobbled wins this season: Fabian Cancellara and Peter Sagan.
The two have traded off winning the northern classics this season. Sagan won his first spring classic by just riding away from Tom Boonen and Mark Cavendish at Ghent-Wevelgem a few weeks back. He took a sprint at the Three Days of De Panne and wheelied across the finish line. The only rider able to tame the 23-year-old Slovak champion is Spartacus.
Fabian Cancellara beat Sagan and the rest of the field at the the E3 Harelbeke two weeks ago. Many cycling writers were excited about the showdown with Spartacus, Peter the Great and Belgium’s Tom Boonen. The showdown fizzled a bit.
Last year at the Tour of Flanders, Cancellara hit a wayward water bottle and crashed in the race’s feed zone, resulting in a broken collarbone. This season, Tornado Tom crashed out, leaving Fabulous Fabian to run free. Cancellara hit the Oude Kwaremont, a climb averaging 4 percent, but kicking up to 11 percent at 17 km from the finish, and rode away from all but Sagan. Cancellara hit the gas again on the last rise, the Paterberg, leaving Sagan gasping and all others far behind, taking the race by better than a minute.
With Sagan skipping Paris-Roubaix and Boonen on the mend, Cancellara is nearly a prohibitive favorite to win his third “Hell of the North”.
The bikes used on these Cobbled Classics have become a hot commodity. The Specialized Roubaix, with its Zerts inserts and comfortable geometry has been a favorite for casual riders for nearly a decade. My bike is the 2004 version, and the newer editions are quite common on organized rides around the state.
The tag line for this bike is a comfortable bike is a fast bike, and the Roubaix is the best, though not the only, example of this. The idea of a comfortable race bike, an endurance road bike, one that is light, nimble and still able to soak up road noise, has become so popular among recreational riders with a taste for speed that several manufacturers have jumped on the band wagon.
Trek made the bike that Cancellara powered to the Ronde win on Sunday. The Trek Domane is the Waterloo, Wisconsin manufacturer’s answer to it’s California rival. The Domain 4.0 can be had for just over $2,000, comes with the relatively inexpensive Shimano Tiagra compact (50-34) gearing. Like any of the bikes at the entry level, it will weigh between 17-19 pounds.
The Giant Defy Composite 3 weighs just a whisker over 18 pounds and sports the same components as the Trek. Giant is an Asian manufacturer with the reputation of building plenty of frames with different labels. They know what they are doing with carbon frames. They make a whole lot of them, so their entry-level Defy will set you back a mere $1,700.
Swiss manufacturer BMC took a different tack, returning to the nearly-forgotten material of aluminum for their Granfondo GF02 bike. The $1,899 bike comes with Shimano 105 compact components, one step up from the Tiagra group. The frame is based on the carbon version that American Tyler Phinney is riding around the cobbles this season. It tips the scale at 19.1 pounds and shares much of the vibration-eating geometry of its much pricier carbon iterations.
The entry level carbon Specialized Roubaix, the Sport Compact, comes with Shimano 105 compact components and weighs around 18 pounds. It comes with their four-position adjustable stem and, because it is the bike that started the trend, gobbles the cobbles. It tends to be smooth and fast, though if you have the means and tend to be a weight-weenie, you may want to shell out a bit more than the $2,100 MSRP of this model.
We now sit eight weeks from the start of Ride the Rockies. The total milage for next week should come to 80 miles, 30 for the weekend ride and three more rides during the week totaling 50 miles. If you haven’t started already, it’s about time to insert some climbing, some short sprints and most definitely a group ride into your training. I will actually have a taper this week as I have a real race, the Haystack Mountain Time Trial, on April 13. I might not get all of the miles in, but I will get some intensity in.
If you find yourself short on time, there is at least one thing I can suggest . . . intervals. On a relatively short ride, after a 15-20 minute warmup, take a few hard digs, close to your maximum effort, for no more than a minute. Take a good recovery interval and repeat at least four time. The toughest and most effective interval workout I know of is the dreaded Tabata Protocol. After a good 20-25 minute warmup, set a timer for four minutes. In those four short little minutes, go as hard as you can for 20 seconds and recover for just 10. This is as hard as it gets, but yields the most benefit in a very short period. Give it a try if you feel you need to train but only have half an hour. Better get a bucket . . .
Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.
I was sitting around the office, daydreaming about our upcoming
spring break trip, reading e-mails for upcoming rides, reading about
the Cannibal showing signs of his age, he’s had a pacemaker put in,
when a friend posted a video on Facebook that changed my day. The
video was entitled “The best coin ever spent” and start in Spain with
a little girl putting a coin into the hat of what seems to be an
extremely talented and well dressed classical base player. As the
video goes on, musicians stream out of a door in what I assume is the
bank sponsoring the video, along with some well-placed and
inconspicuous choral vocalists in the crowd. The all come together to
perform Beethoven’s final movement of the 9th Symphony, or “Ode to
The tone of the music and voices brings an exuberant
smile to faces in the video and to mine. I love this piece. I
regularly soften the suffering in my indoor training class with it. I
hum it to myself while climbing. It is the musical incarnation of my
Climbing is challenging. That’s just the nature of
it. If it were easy, everyone would do it. We’d have bike lanes on
Trail Ridge Road. Climbing shows us what we can be, what we are
capable of, how hard we can push ourselves. It is a psychological
exercise as much as physical. Sometimes I have to play games in my
head to get through.
I think I’m just used to TRR by now. The
climb from either side does not seem as difficult to me as
Independence Pass. I was certainly humming for that climb. I also pick
out land marks. This is an old trick. When really tired, or really
challenged by the terrain, pick out a landmark. In your head, imagine
throwing a rope around it like a pulley, and drag yourself to it. When
you reach it, pick out another and keep going.
Once on the Elephant Rock metric century, I had to help a buddy by telling him, “Okay, just ride to that tree. Okay, now ride to that big rock. Okay now just get over the top.” Painful and obvious, but effective.
Between the humming and the mind games, I can’t help
but smile. This is good. Smiling has a measurable positive effect on
performance. Smiling, whether you mean it or not, sets up a positive
cycle in the endocrine system. The positive feeling associated with
smile sends even more endorphins into the blood stream, taking a bit
more of the edge off of the pain. Even telling yourself that you enjoy
climbing, just another mind game, will start this virtuous cycle into
Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.
This weekend marks the start of the Spring Classics season. The Ronde van Vlaanderen, or Tour of Flanders, is Sunday and should be a showdown between Swiss superman Fabian Cancellara, Belgium’s favorite son, Tom Boonen, and Slovak up-start Peter Sagan. Boonen has had a rough go so far this season. He fell behind on training after narrowly catching an infection in his elbow before it got to the bone. This could have cost him the arm. Boonen bonked horribly while trying to chase down Cancellara in last week’s E3 Harelbeke semi-classic. Spartacus attacked exactly where everyone knew he would, but no one could do anything about it.
Relative youngster Sagan won last weekend’s
Ghent-Wevelgem with such a lead that he had time to pop a wheelie
while crossing the finish line. This sets up what could be the best
race that won’t be televised in the US this year.
NBC has shown no hint that they will broadcast this Monument, forcing guys like me to find a feed online. My suggestion is a web site called steephill.tv. They will find a feed, though it may require the scaling of a paywall. I think this year, it will be worth it. At this point, we will be adding another ten miles to the weekly total heading
toward Ride the Rockies. This is added to the weekend ride, which is
beginning to resemble a real spring ride. This week, as of Saturday,
we should ride 30 miles, then distribute another 50 miles over three
days. Nine weeks left, I’m getting excited.Again, if you feel the need
to ride, say Sunday, shoot me an e-mail.
Have fun, be safe. I’m