12 October 2013

My favorite outdoor activities: Cycling

October 2013

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 

Important people

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)

Hills, mountains

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)

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