I've mostly written trip reports etc. about my outdoor activities. This time I look my favorite outdoor activity from different angle, i.e through professional racing. There's at least one more post coming for another discipline. These posts will only superficially describe these activities.
Thus, shall cycling be the first one. To be precise here, it's all about road cycling/racing. I do like other variants of cycling e.g. mountain biking, track cycling, BMX etc. but road cycling's been my favorite so many years.
It's fantastic to see pro races, not only on telly but on live, too. There are many type of races; one day classics, a week long races and three week long grand tours in Italy, France and Spain, to name few. In Criterium type of races cyclists circle the same loop multiple times, allowing spectators to see them several times during the race. Europe is the main scene for so many important races, though each continent has many vital races, too (e.g. Tour of California in the US and Tour Down Under in Australia).
Many of the classic one day races are ridden on Spring time in Belgium and Netherlands, e.g. Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Amstel Gold Race and Liege-Bastogne-Liege. These are hundred year old races, having long traditions, many heroes and maybe villains, too.
The first grand tour of each year is Giro d'Italia (Il Giro), a three week race in Italy with a couple of rest days. About 3500 km altogether, containing flat stages, time trials and mountain stages.
June is about time for National Championships. Winners can carry a Jersey in their National colors until the next year's Championships.
In July starts Tour de France, or just Le Tour. One could say the biggest, boldest and the most famous of all cycling races. Three weeks, similar to Giro. Thousands of people allocate their holidays for that period. Roads near the route are full of RVs. Some french people claim that summer is over after "Le Tour" is finished.
There are plenty of Criterium races after the Tour in Europe. People are keen on seeing well positioned riders and Criteriums offer good chances for it. In the USA, Criterium races are common throughout the year, too.
A few weeks after Le Tour, will be the last grand tour, Vuelta a Espana, or just La Vuelta. Yet another three week race on its highest level.
Autumn time is filled in few one day classics, e.g. Giro di Lombardia ('La Gara delle Foglie Morte') and Paris-Tours.
Every year at autumn time, there will be a World Championship races on road, Time Trials and one day road races, for juniors, women and men. Winners can carry a so called rainbow jersey for a year, very desired jersey.
To see the races on live, some of the one day classics are good starting point. Giro, Tour or Vuelta are all magnificent to see, even just a day or two. Starting of each event, the very first weekend of them (.e.g 'Grand Depart' in Le Tour), are exciting to see. Spectators can see riders practicing, talk to them etc. There's a great excitement in the air. Mountain stages can be spectacular. Everyone hopes good weather, clear blue sky, not rain. Some climbs in Europe have reached on legendary status, as they've been ascended over hundred years by cycling heroes on their bicycles.
There's another aspect on these routes, too. It's not only about seeing these races but if possible, to ride on bicycle on the very same routes. Flat stages can sometimes be boring, but once you hit on the famous mountain climb with your bike, you get extra energy from somewhere (I don't mean performance enhanced products there). Don't worry if your climbing time will be longer than Alberto's.
The following photos try to explain what one can see or experience on route, on competition as a spectator, or even trying to imagine yourself on a saddle riding these routes.
The photos are taken during the following races and places:
- Tour de France 2005 (Briancon, Fra)
- Italian Championships 2008 (Bergamo, Ita)
- Tour de France 2009 (Monte Carlo, Mc)
- Amateurs on Tremola ascend 2012 (San Gottardo, CH)
- Tour of California 2013 (Escondido, USA)
There are races and there are the races
|Campionato d'Italia. After seven hours of racing we know the winner|
Fans, Spectators and Famous Riders
|A true fan of Peter Sagan (Svk)|
|The Devil himself, Didi Senft|
|Large screens are a must for following the race|
|Sometimes there can be lots of people, usually almost always|
|Tyler Farrar (USA), one of the best Sprinters in the world|
|Bebbe Saronni (Ita), former top pro cyclist, now running Lampre team|
|Joona Laukka (Fin), former pro cyclist|
|Media plays important role, here interviewing Cadel Evans (Aus)|
|Pedro Delgado (Esp), former top pro cyclist,|
now a TV Commentator for TV Espana
Before the race
|In TdF, the 'Caravan' is something spectators wait on every stage|
|Teams present shortly themself for audience|
|For time trials (and prologue), one need to warm up|
|Jussi Veikkanen (Fin) still smiles while practicing|
On the starting line
|TdF is about to start, there's excitement in the air|
|Fabian Cancellara (CH) and Alberto Contador (Esp) down,|
while the Prince of Monaco, Albert, kicks off the race
During the race
|Climbing conditions can be harsh due to extensive heat (it was +33C)|
|In Italy, there's always people cheering cyclists. Always|
|Musette, which contains a lunch|
|Time trial on swimming pool corner in Monaco, |
a place where Formula 1 cars sometimes crash
|You are alone in the time trial/prologue, Lance Armstrong (USA)|
|Classic ascend towards the old town of Bergamo,|
used to be always on Il Lombardia race
|Col Agnel (aka Colle dell'Agnello), long ascend b/w Fra-Ita|
|Tremola ascend (CH)|
|You need to keep a rhythm on acsend|
|Cobble streets/roads are extreme|
|Typical twists on Alpine roads|
|It can be cold up on mountains|
|Eventually you reach the top|
Last Kilometer, Finishing Line and awards
|Flamme Rouge, L'Ultimo Chilometro, not much to finishing line|
|Sometimes there's a sprint, here Lieuwe Westra (NL) wins|
|All media is gathered to finishing line|
|Sprint Jersey in TdF after daily's stage, Tom Boonen (Bel),|
Assistant is 5 time TdF winner, Bernard Hinault (Fra)
|This sign reminds me why cycling is important in Italia. Castellania (Ita)|