PEZ Holiday Greetings: 2018 is over and we head into another season of cycle race excitement. The PEZ Crew has maneuvered their way through the New Year’s Eve fairly unscathed, hang-overs apart, to give you their thoughts on the year past and the year to come. Happy New Year to all and have a great 2019.
Richard Pestes – Publisher, aka “The Pez”
In recent years I’ve left my message writing to the end – I like to see what the rest of the Crew say, and in truth I like to find inspiration in their words. The wait is always worth it too. As the challenges to make a living as a small publisher battling the likes of Google and Facebook, this year has been a full-gas, head down into the wind battle to stay out of the gutter. Working in the virtual office, even with a collection of colleagues who I count as friends (even if some of us have never met face to face) is a lonely path which too often feels like a solo ride many miles too far from the finish. Emails, posts, and even Skype just don’t offer the same connection as you get from a physical presence and the energy of people being together.
Reconnecting with my off-road roots at the Sagan Gravel Fondo in May.
But after almost 17 years, we’ve managed to create enough of a connection with readers, and each other – to have earned a place as a daily stop for so many of you loyal readers. I was amazed to see that we’ve reached over 10 million of you on our main site, and hundreds of thousand more via our social channels, including over 500,000 minutes viewed on the PEZ Youtube channel. As it becomes harder and harder to form real connections in a world addicted to finger swipes and a “what have you done in the last 5 seconds” thirst for more, reading through the Crew’s messages below reminded me of how much we all love cycling, and how much we love sharing the stories of this sport, tales of great rides, and what really matters about moving oneself across the land balanced on two rotating wheels.
Cycling is our connection, and these pages are where we make it when we’re not together. I’m grateful to have such a fine group of people who share my vision of “what’s cool in road cycling”, grateful to the clients who support us and recognize that we offer value to their own brands, and of course to you – our loyal readers. None of these three groups would be here without the other two.
So thank you very much to everyone for the continued support – I wish you the best in 2019 doing the things that matter with the people who matter to you. Thanks for reading!
Ed Hood – Reporter At Large – Font of all Cycling Knowledge
Nibali winning the Primavera in fine style; Sagan winning Roubaix to cement himself as a ‘Great’ – at last – and Pinot winning in Lombardy, nice to see a French Monument winner – my hi-lites of 2018.
A wet day in Glasgow
The European Championships in Glasgow were a treat too – just a pity about that rain. . . Young Turks Mathieu Van Der Poel and Wout Van Aert were well to the fore that day – it’ll be good to see them in the 2019 Cobbled Classics.
On the track things just keep getting quicker with Scotland’s own John Archibald recently recording the second fastest four kilometres in history. And another Scot, Mark Stewart is ‘doing the right business’ in those bunched races. I’m excited about the Track Worlds.
Paul Sherwen – Taken too young
Low points, like I said, it’s The Festive Season so let’s not get morbid but very sad to see Paul Sherwen pass so young. And I’ll not get started on ‘Zwift’ National Championships. I can still watch a bike race, listen to music and taste a good beer, so nothing for me to moan about on a personal basis.
Ed still likes a beer
Thanks to Alastair for all his help in 2018 and the PEZ Master himself for giving me a vehicle to rant about the best sport in the world. But most of all, thank you for ‘PEZZING’ – I hope you and yours have the 2019 you would wish for.
Leslie Reissner – Literary Editor
Hello, Faithful Readers!
Another year has shot by with a lot of ups and downs in the pro scene. As always one is happy to see new stars emerging, Egan Bernal of Team Sky being an outstanding example. Matej Mohorič of Slovenia is another rider who bears watching and Bob Jungels of Luxembourg has progressed to his first Monument win. Business as usual in 2018 as Quick-Step won all kinds of one day races and Team Sky stage races.
Wout van Aert in Strade Bianche
For me, high points of the season started with Strade Bianche overall, with outstanding performances by all three riders on the podium, although we all suffered in sympathy when poor Wout van Aert, surely another star in development, cramped and fell off his bike at the end in Siena. Vincenzo Nibali’s excellent Milan-San Remo win showed that there are GC riders who can still do Monuments as in the past (and he made a good fist trying for his third Giro di Lombardia win). Also the kind of thing that happened in the past was Chris Froome’s Stage 19 win with a massive solo breakaway at the Giro d’Italia. The Tour de France had plenty of surprises too, with a return to form by John Degenkolb (finally), Philippe Gilbert flying over a stone wall but finishing the stage anyway, Dylan Groenewegen showing what a sprint monster he is, and battered Peter Sagan dragging himself to Paris for Green Jersey No. 6.
Michael Woods – A good one for Canada
Canada’s cycling reputation got a nice boost from Michael Woods who won a stage at the Vuelta, came second at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and took the bronze medal (aargh! more cramping!) at the Worlds in Innsbruck. Simone Bollard took bronze there as well in the Women’s Junior race. Actually, the Worlds this year was one for the ages with spectacular scenery and spectacular racing. An excellent Men’s Elite Team Time Trial (the last in this format, apparently) set the stage for other highlights: the Dutch women taking all the podium spots in the Women’s Individual Time Trial; Remco Evenepoel winning both events for Belgium in the Men’s Junior races; Rohan Dennis, finally unjinxed, riding one of the most perfectly ordered and beautiful individual time trials in memory; and a deserving Alejandro Valverde crowning his career with a dramatic win in the road race.
Roubaix for Peter Sagan
Not all was so beautiful. While Peter Sagan’s win at Paris-Robaix was superb, a low point in that race was the unfortunate death of young Michael Goolaerts due to cardiac arrest. Much-respected commentator Paul Sherwen left us too soon. German track cycling star Kristina Vogel suffered a horrific injury in June that has ended a brilliant career and left her a paraplegic. Compared to these events, the dropping of the investigation of Chris Froome’s Adverse Analytical Finding with no explanation is not very important, as annoyingly suggestive as it is of inconsistencies in WADA rule-making.
Rohan Dennis – World TT champion 2018
Turning to my own experiences, the year saw a great many new cycling books on the market and the flow shows no signs of ending. My own riding was surprisingly limited in 2018, although my kilometers ridden were well-augmented by a great deal of (shudder) indoor riding. Moving into the world of new software and with a smart trainer, I have experienced the expanded apps that have turned the Tour de Basement into much less torture. But I still want to do that 300 km one-day ride (outdoors) that was supposed to be a goal this year, so I will get more serious about it in 2019. My other resolution is to get out and ride in new places in my own province now that municipalities in Ontario are making big efforts to be more bike-friendly. Another exciting development: although it seems strange for someone who presently owns 11 bicycles, I have finally gotten a sturdy Park repair stand so I might even be able to do some fleet maintenance (or at least better cleaning). My cycling low point was discovering that I could not get my new retro shoes into my retro toe clips and straps during a ride; I later found that I had cleverly installed the retro shoe cleats backwards.
It has been another great year with the PEZ crew and I wish everyone here — editors, contributors, and readers alike — all the very best for 2019 and carefree roads ahead.
Gordan Cameron – Scottish Bureau
2019 – surely it can’t be any more chaotic in the UK than the shambolic carry-on we’ve had from most of our political class this last 12 months. There is, though, a lot to look forward to in the new year to make up for the misery we’re having inflicted on us, with a belter of a Giro in prospect, a Tour de France that features so many Sky-flavoured sub-plots, and a World Championships in Yorkshire to round the season off.
Even closer to home, we have a Women’s Tour of Scotland due in August. Here’s hoping we get a few more races like this one, arguably the best of 2018.
Wishing all PEZ readers and supporters a happy, healthy 2019.
Sam Larner – London Bureau
Happy New Year to all PEZ’s readers and their families. I hope you had a great Christmas and were able to get out on the bike if it wasn’t too cold, or too hot if you’re reading this in the summer hemisphere.
2018 has been a big year for me personally, I moved in with my girlfriend in Haywards Heath in the South of England. If you fly into Gatwick, Hawyards Heath is about 20 minutes south of there. From a purely cycling point of view this has been great because I am now just 5 minutes from barely used single lane country roads and some rolling hills. If you are British you will probably have heard of Ditchling Beacon which now lies just 20 minutes ride south, if you’re not familiar the Beacon is a 3km climb with a 6.2% gradient but if you ignore the pretty easy first 1km it’s all reds and orange stretches to the summit. After living in London for over seven years I am finally rediscovering my love of cycling, it’s so much easier to get out when you don’t need to ride through traffic for 45 minutes just to find some grass to cycle beside.
That has led to setting some targets for this year alongside my dad who, despite striding well over 55 is going, if anything, stronger on the bike than he has done before. We decided, perhaps foolishly, to ride the distance of the longest stage of the Giro in May, the longest stage of the Tour in July and the longest stage of the Vuelta in September – thank you to the Vuelta for staying under 200km. The Giro stage will easily be the furthest I’ve ever cycled and I have until May to lose some weight and make this whole process slightly less harrowing. We’re expecting to ride in Sussex in May, Yorkshire in July and somewhere between the two in September.
Looking back on 2018 in professional cycling, I think it was a decent but not brilliant year. Say what you will but for me the things that stick in my memory are the Grand Tours. The Giro was very good and probably the race of the year and I really enjoy watching Tom Dumoulin race. The Tour was what the Tour has been in recent years, gripping at times but largely a procession. Finally, the Vuelta was good and I watched more of it than I normally tend to. I was really pleased to see Simon Yates pick up a Grand Tour after his Giro heartbreak and I was also extremely pleased to see Michael Woods pick up a stage win after his genuine heartbreak earlier in the year. Finally, I thought the World Championships were wonderful. In a few years I might revisit that opinion and realise that despite taking place on one of the most difficult courses of recent years it essentially came down to one step climb. But what a climb, the five or so minutes it took the riders to get up the final difficulty were arguably the best of the entire year. I would’ve loved Michael Woods to win or Tom Dumoulin to take the bands after his daredevil descent but Alejandro Valverde deserves it for just being the best rider in the race.
The 2019 World Championships are what I am most looking forward to next year, after all they take place in my Grandparent’s back garden in Harrogate in the north of England. I was there to watch the first stage of the 2014 Tour de France, on what is still my favourite race watching memory and I hope to be back there again this year.
Happy New Year and Enjoy 2019!
Matt McNamara – Toolbox Contributor
The New Year. As one rolls in, another rolls out. I can’t say I’m sad to see 2018 go. Overall a pretty darn good year, but mix in a few weeks off the bike due to injuries – neither cycling based to boot – and you can easily see the embrace of a new go round! Before the “What’s Next” a few of the better of “what’s been”….
Colle delle Finestre
Riding the Colle delle Finestre after watching the epic Giro stage where Froome laid waste to the GC. 29Km at 9% was tough, but the riding was gorgeous and spectacular. Cow bells ringing in the morning air on the upper reaches of the pass. The final switchbacks to the top. It was pretty cool, right up to the point I threw up at the summit of Sestriere having barely eaten or drank while riding myself into oblivion in the hours before. I recovered enough after a few rough days on pitches like Alp d’hues and the Forclaz, to thoroughly enjoy the last 15Km of the climb up the Col de la Croix de Fer, having entered the route from the 30+ switchbacks of the Col du Mollard, one of several approach routes to the Pass of the Iron Cross. This was followed by the fast and flowy descent of the Col du Glandon right next door. Sweet sweeping turns on great pavement in the French alps, wow! Not to be outdone, the Col d’Iseran brought nearly horizontal rain and huge wind gusts to our descent from its 9,000+ foot summit on our last day. Epic gets tossed around a lot, but that was!
Visits to Inner Mongolia and Handan provide in China with the Qiansen UCI Cyclocross race was another fun experience this year. The too numerous hours on busses between venues will probably add to the mystique once I forget them! That brings up a short list of thank you’s to those who have allowed me to enjoy yet another year of thrills and great days on bikes. Yanxing Song, the race director at Qiansen CX, has done a tremendous job of almost single handedly building a community of and for cyclocrossers in China. Every year he brings over dozens of racers and staff to race some bikes and enjoy China. From the Great Wall to an always memorable final party, he and his crew really bring it! Similarly USA Cycling’s Coaching and Education Director Kevin Dessert keeps bringing me back to work with the Talent ID Camps in Southern California. This year we had 28 kids show up focused and ready to learn some of the nuances and skills of bike racing. We hold the camp in Thousand Oaks and nearby Malibu – two areas absolutely ravaged by forrest fires in the fall. I am heartsick for those who’ve endured such calamity and sincerely hope we can return safely to the area next year to do our small part in helping the community and saying thanks. Thanks also go to my cohorts at PEZ, and most especially to Richard Pestes for keeping the band together and dropping good content day after day. We almost never see each other, but I think of this crew as friends still the same. Thanks most especially to those who read what we write, you! You’re passion shows through and I appreciate your taking the time to stop by!
I often pick a word for the year to come. Previous words have included Focus, Experience, ands Adventure. For 2019 I’m using Intent. Staying present with what I’m doing and Intent on the task at hand is a good starting point for a good year. Of course a planned return trip with Team USA to the Junior Tour of Ireland and a likely follow up trip to the French Alps in July helps keep motivation high too! As I sit here with my daughter in California – the best present of the year – I can only look back with fondness and forward with enthusiasm for what has been and what’s to come. I hope you are afforded the same luxury always, thanks for reading
Chris Selden – French Bureau – Readers’ Rigs
Another year done and dusted and although it was a quiet one for me on the riding front it was still a great year of cycling. It seems that I tend to watch more cycling now than I actually do myself but I certainly hope to change that in 2019!
One of the most memorable rides I did have though was a short 15km spin from my village down to the local beach on the Hérault river with my two kids and my father. Three generations of Seldens out on the bikes together and in full PEZ kit!
Other memorable rides include some great rides around the local area with clients from my cycling gite and even some highly painful two man time trials at the end of the season (what was I thinking??).
Luckily they have an old man category here in races in France and I was able to squeeze into 3rd place on the far right with my partner Benoit
More riding with friends and family is definitely on the agenda for next year as at the end of the day that’s what cycling is all about for me these days; sharing good times in the saddle with those I love.
Here’s wishing all PEZ readers a happy and safe 2019 and lots of Top Rides with friends and family.
Darrell Parks – North American Photographer
Happy New Year to all the PEZ fans around the world! It’s hard to believe another year has flown by and they just seem to get shorter and shorter the older I get. Last year I had the fortune to shoot the AMGEN Tour of California and the Larry H.Miller Tour of Utah for PEZ once again. Unfortunately more and more races in the USA seem to be fading away with each passing year. I’m anxious to see how 2019 plays out on the USA Pro Cycling Calendar and what races will eventually end up in my viewfinder.
We’ve had a record year of rainfall here in the Washington DC area in 2018 so my local mountain bike trails were a mess. I love to get out into the woods on the mountain bike but riding muddy trails and causing trail damage is not an option for me. Fortunately we also have a great network of dirt and gravel roads within a 30 minute drive of here. According to my Strava heat map I’ve taken a real liking to “Gravel Grinding” throughout the historic farmlands and rolling hills of Louden and Fauquier Counties. Check out the great feature some friends of mine have done on saving these narrow and bumpy strips of history.
There are plenty of great breweries along these routes to quench your thirst after the ride as well!
Debbie and I closed out 2018 with a couple of mini vacations to California and North Carolina with lots of great hiking and biking. We’re looking to retire near Asheville, North Carolina and are having fun exploring the area in search of a specific location to call home once the kids are finished with college.
I’m really looking forward to working with the PEZ crew once again this year and hope to find the time to get in a few rides with fellow local PEZian Chuck Pena!
Happy Holidays to all and Peace on Earth.
You can order your “Darell Parks 2018 Cycling Calendar” HERE: www.darrellparks.com
Mark McGhee – Roving Reporter
Every year the PEZ regulars sum up the past twelve months and look forward to another season of classics and grand tours. It pays dividends to look at what we said last year and see how many of our predictions have come true.
As 2017 drew to a close I tipped John Archibald to move onto the world stage, having dominated the Scottish and British calendar on road, in TTs and on the track. He started the year by bringing home a silver medal in the Individual Pursuit at the Commonwealth Games in Australia and ended the year by winning the Individual Pursuit at the Grenchen UCI Track Open riding for his HUUB Wattbike team and breaking the sea-level IP record on the way, setting a time of 4:10.177.
Perhaps the race of the Games from Australia for Scottish fans was the Gold medal performance from Dundee’s Mark Stewart in the Points Race. Time and again he fought his way back to the front and gave everything he had to take a hugely popular win… you may remember we tipped Mark for glory a couple of years ago and having made his mark on the boards, he moves onto the road for 2019… riding alongside John Archibald.
Another rider who attended the Games at the start of the year was Alness’s Kyle Gordon and he has moved to a new level since coming home. He smashed the home time trial calendar taking 10 minutes off the existing record for 100 miles and taking 1 minute 48 seconds off the 50-Mile record, a 26-year old mark set by none other than Graeme Obree himself. He ended the year by winning the Elite Scratch Race at the same UCI event in Switzerland as John Archibald.
And then there is Katie Archibald… she has been at the top of the game for so long now but just keeps getting better. World Madison Champion (with Emily Nelson), Commonwealth Games gold and silver (IP And Points), four British National Track titles…to name but a few. And she’s only 24!
With so much focus on the Scottish and British scene this year, I kind of took my eye off the ball as little as far as the aforementioned Classics and Grand Tours were concerned. I think we all get a bit jaded from time to time with the elite pro’ scene for many different reasons: Team Sky and their dominance, Chris Froome’s issues at the Giro, the politics that are always present within the UCI and ASO, the number of former doped riders that are still in positions of power in the professional world…and the list goes on.
However, it was fantastic to see Simon Yates triumph in La Vuelta, especially after his spectacular fall from glory in the Giro… again, it was only a few short years ago that we watched him win the Under 23 British Road Race in Glasgow and now he’s been on the top step of a Grand Tour… more to come there and a genuinely great person to be winning bike races, and good for the sport too.
And so to the next year… along with those mentioned we’ll tip a young rider from Dunfermline called Joe Nally who rode his first Tour of Britain this year, and continues to improve and bely the fact that you have to be a self-centered person to succeed in professional sport… he’s a genuine ambassador for all those that have helped him on his way.
And just one rider more… a young man who moved outside of the national structures and forged his career in the old fashioned way. Stuart Balfour took a leap of faith and went to France to race and took the chequered flag in several races, the most notable being the Under-23 race of the GP Ouest France Plouay, one of the most highly regarded in the amateur ranks. Stuart hopes to build on his successes of 2018 and is already attracting more interest from the pro’ ranks.
In 2019, I’ll more than likely be back writing race reports from as many of my favourite races as possible… the thrill of the chase and meeting the deadlines is something I really enjoy and I love trying to paint a picture of a race for all of our PEZ fans. So, have a happy Hogmanay and a ride on the first day of the New Year is a great way to blow away the cobwebs… and the hangover!
Chuck Peña – DC Bureau
Dear readers in PEZ-land … I hope you had a wonderful Christmas (or whatever holiday you celebrate) and that you rang in the New Year with panache!
The biggest thing for me in 2018 was my daughter graduating from high school. She was an honor roll student every grading period and finished her last semester with straight A’s. She also played and lettered all 4 years on the varsity golf team, which was co-ed and she more than held her own with the boys (who were like brothers to her). And she received a Lifetime Achievement award for being the only player in school history to play every single match and post-season tournament all four years she played. Her senior year, she decided to try indoor track as a winter sport and lettered in that too. Very proud of her. Now, she’s started college and decided to major in graphic design. She also wants to teach golf and is coaching kids in The First Tee program (that she was in for 10 years).
I never get tired of watching my daughter’s golf swing
My wife and daughter are both Philadelphia Eagles fans so they were both over the moon when the Eagles won their first Super Bowl in February, in what was a Cinderella story for back-up quarterback Nick Foles. My wife’s dad passed away the previous July and he always wanted to see the Eagles win a Super Bowl. In the fall at the beginning of the season, my wife predicted the Eagles would win for her dad and, fittingly, they did. I’m sure he was watching.
As for me, 2018 was a fairly big year for me on the bike. As I write, I’ve just gone over 5,700 miles for the year. I really wasn’t motivated to try to get to 6,000 miles but my friend Jeff Trinkle challenged me to get to 9,000 kilometers, so mission accomplished. And most of those miles were relatively short rides. In fact, my average ride distance last year was a whopping 22 miles! But I did manage a couple of “epic” rides. The first was the incredibly hard Flèche Buffoon at the end of April. Peter Easton has aptly described it as “a half version Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Pure. Honest. Hard. Classic. Its 73.5 miles with 6,000 vertical feet and includes fourteen climbs.” Oh, and all of those fourteen climbs had sections of double digit gradient, the worst of which is the steep section of Uhlerstown that averages 23 percent (no, that’s not a typo)! The other was a ride at the end of October that I dubbed “Catoctin Lombardia” because it was not long after ‘The Race of the Falling Leaves’. 77 miles and 7,100 feet of climbing — including Harp Hill which was a regular fixture in the Tour Dupont. Like Flèche, most of the climbs included double digit gradient. Oh, and it was cold and windy.
Enjoying one of the few flat sections of Flèche Buffoon
Another reason I got as many miles in as I did was because I once again did Freezing Saddles, racking up 1,200 miles from January 1st through the end of winter (March 19th). Freezing Saddles is a fun and silly winter riding competition for cyclists of all ilk (although the majority of riders are commuters and I’m sort of an anomaly being a hard core roadie). I affectionately call it “riding with Freds” and they embody for me what Caroline Stewart said in Ride the Revolution: “My cycling may not be your cycling, but it’s just as valid.” I was a team captain last year and one of my team members — a late-60-something year old woman! — won the overall competition with 4,220 miles! Because I refuse to Zwift, I’m doing it again this year but not as a team captain.
I also joined the ranks of the modern peloton this year and upgraded to Irwin carbon fiber aero wheels. And I’m copying the likes of Nairo Quintana and Julian Alaphilippe and riding a mixed depth set.
Riding just like Nairo Quintana and Julian Alaphilippe … or are they just like me?
2018 was also eventful because — although the PEZ crew is a virtual bunch with us in different corners of the world — I got to meet one of my fellow partners in crime, Stephen Cheung, when he was visiting DC. Naturally, we went to Coppi’s. On my bucket list is a meet up with Darrell Parks who lives all of about 10 or so miles from me!
Wishing all my fellow PEZ contributors and their families and all you PEZ readers and your loved ones the very best in 2019 … on and off the bike! If you feel so inclined, please feel free to follow me @gofastchuck on Twitter, @espressamente_chuck on Instagram, and @Chuck Pena | Irwin Wheels on Strava. Cheers!
Heather Morrison (@Trudgin) – PEZ Roadside – Social Media Commentator
Merry Christmas PEZ readers, I hope you all had a great Christmas.
My cycling year has consisted of very little riding and a lot of sitting on my bum in front of the TV, I have however 3 highlights and 1 meh mediocre light that I will share with you.
3rd March 2018 – Strade Bianche
What a race, I love this race too much, I watched with hopes for Giovanni Visconti a rider I have followed and have met a few times, one of my favourites and my hopes were for a victory for him on his local roads, but he just didn’t quite make it. But still what a race, seriously… Won by Tiesj Benoot in fighting style, followed by a very determined Romain Bardet. I would say Benoot’s best victory of his career. But all of that pales into insignificance, unfortunately for Benoot and Bardet, by the performance that was 3rd.
Wout van Aert, three times World Cyclo Cross Champion, on only his 2nd race day of 2018 put everything into this day. When he cramped up on the final climb into the square we saw images across social media, recorded on fans phones, that cycling fans will be talking about for years. We all talk about leaving it all on the road, but you seldom see it quite to this level.
In other news Visco was 5th and happy for that. I’m not missing that again I will be there in 2019
17th March 2018 – St Patricks day – Milan-San Remo
Next up, for me Vincenzo Nibali’s marvellous victory in San Remo. It just made my heart soar.
Pre race Nibali was being coy, and I was ever hopeful for my wee tenner on him. When Lo Squalo shrugs off a race, like its just training…. be afraid
The inhale of breath when Cav flipped over the traffic island at the base of the Poggio, everyones heart was in their mouths. But when Krist Neilands took off on the Poggio and Lo Squalo pounced on his wheel I had faith it was all over…
As the peloton, led by Caleb Ewan chased Nibali on the Via Roma, Nibali knew he had time to celebrate. Victory 51 and 3rd Monument (I think) he was a happy man.
Nibali swoops into Sanremo
27th May – Stage 21 Giro d’Italia – Roma
This is my meh moment, I had many issues with this years Giro, my normally favourite race, but I had made the arrangements and Froome was nowhere, what to lose. I flew into Rome on Friday – heard the news and considered not leaving the airport. It was warm and humid, yucky, and a rider whom I believed and still believe who should be banned was going to win my race.
But Rome is astonishing, even though I peeled my clothes off each night due to the humidity. I had 2 days in this stunning city before the race arrived. I had dyed my hair Pink, Cyclamen & Blue for the jerseys. Just to get in the spirit and I was heading to Crete for 2 weeks on the beach on the Monday. So I got my fill of Roma and those amazing trees, everyone talks about the Colosseum, the architecture, the food, the bars but the trees, the trees blew me away.
At the start of the stage I got some great photos of my hero, Alberto Contador, as he distracted the surrounding crowd by standing in clear view of everyone with Tom Dumoulin, having a chat, while Froome was on podium – all eyes were on Berto and big Tam… My hero.
Tom and Bertie
I walked to the actual start and spotted Giovanni Visconti – my buddy – and shouted from the road, he was in the throng at the line. He shouted me over to say hello and my day was made.
I never saw much of the stage, I joined the Free Palestine protest for a wee while, until the police came (so much for my courage of my convictions) and made my way over to the finish to wait.
The stage was won by Sam Bennet and I am ashamed to say I was so sure Viviani would get it that I focused on him and almost missed Sam, but I got some of my best photos of him on the podium, winner of Stage 21 into Rome, quite a notch on his belt.
When I left Rome the next day I left the clothes I had worn, I wasn’t kidding about peeling them off, the most unpleasant weather ever, I’m Scottish give me rain. I would love to return to this city, but in February maybe.
Sam Bennett – Giro’18 stage 21 winner
13th October – Il Lombardia Bergamo and Lake Como
Last, but not in any way, least. I flew out to Bergamo on the Thursday night, picked up a car and drove into the City to find my room. I hired the car from near the airport, and I paid an extra 100 euros to cover for absolutely anything, I’ve never crashed or damaged a car in my 30 years of driving other than scratches, I thought I would take extra care as I’ve never driven in Italy, on the mainland, and would be doing a lot of driving.
My rooms were amazing, but the parking was underground and very narrow, its how they keep the cities so beautiful. I planned to head over to the Madonna del Ghisallo on the Friday, because every fan should and I wanted to see if it would be feasible to go there and catch the finish in Como.
I left early, found the motorway and prepared for my 200km… Oh tolls, I’ve never had tolls before, I was in the queue on twitter asking for advice, someone got back to me before the barrier lifted and I made it through. It was a long drive, bypassing places I’ve only read about in books or seen on TV. From the motorway I saw my first real mountains and I had tears rolling down my face. I’ve been to Como before, I went to Monza once, but I never SAW these mountains, how I’d missed them I do not know. I don’t know the names, there isn’t a useful sign saying that is Monte Legnone with an arrow. I’m just going to go with Alps (I think they were too pointy to be Dolomites). Anyway I didn’t go into Como, I went to the Madonna and again tears and emotions that just jump out from nowhere. I wished I had a photo of my dad with me, a particular one where he had just ridden from Glasgow to Ullapool to visit his sister and he is holding up his hands which were brown from the bar tape on his old bike (this was the 50’s). I’d have left that in the chapel.
So I did the museum, brought half of it home. And headed back to Bergamo.
Now Google maps man and I have a good relationship, he took me round Sicily and Sardinia, no issues, various Greek Islands, no issues. But, he wanted me to avoid the tolls, I kept telling him, its no bother, I’ve done tolls now, just take the quickest route. But I guess I selected the wrong option. 90 mins to Como, 3 hours back to Bergamo and back at one point I was on a rutted track along the side of a raging river, on a track that was so narrow I couldn’t get out of the car. That was an experience…
Top tip – Italian drivers are no different to any other driver… It was our fault for driving on the different side. Just act as though you know what you’re doing, be confidant. They don’t know that inside your screaming MAMMY DADDY MAMMY DADDY.
I finally got back to Bergamo and went to the car park… glad I got the insurance, I reversed into a low pillar, the alarms were telling me but I couldn’t see it and pushed and pushed, I finally got out and checked – oops.
Next morning – race day… Now this race I was hoping for Nibali, season had gone a bit stale since MSR, be nice to bookend the year with monuments. But really, and my money was on Thibaut Pinot. So I go down the town for the start, its a lovely day, although I am conscious that I am the only person in short sleeves with no jacket – I’m Scottish.
They start nice and clean and head off to Como, and so do I. Tolls galore, I’m now taking any chances today. I get to Como with loads of time, I part in the Wilier buses space for bikes – they can curse me later and look for the finish and a big screen. I pass a NamedSport podium on my way through the park and think this must be the final podium, very close to the buses, but maybe for riders convenience. I head to the finish.
I’m all set up. In great position for the photos and the photo nazi’s come round and demand I step in, so I head back a bit, big guys in front. I’m listening to the comms, its in Italian obviously, but I pick out Nibali and Pinot… I am very excited, standing with a stupid smile on my face… no one is sure who to expect to see first around the bend – it’s Tibo… He earns a great victory for his palmarès, his first monument, Nibali is shortly behind him, a bit dejected as he crosses the line, but I have a 1/2, so wheee hee!
Pinot takes Lombardia
Once all the riders are through, I think I’ll be smart and head off for the podium, I get about half way there after a fight through the crowds, which were solid. I realise no one is walking my way, everyone is going the other way… I ask someone where is the podium, they shrug. Eventually I see a big screen and Dylan Tuens is on the podium. Eh, wait a minute, that’s different. I realise I have made a horrendous mistake… I try to turn back against the crowd again, as they are now heading to cars. I’ve blown it, no podium shots, no Tibo and Enzo pics… I am devastated as I walk back to the buses in vain hope of catching something worthy there. Why didn’t I check, why did I get smart and run off… in the wrong direction.
As I walk back, and pass the podium, which I learn later is for tomorrows sportive, I spot the Katusha bus and Luca Paolini chatting with riders that have already returned… Ooooh I must get Il Gerva. So I run over and see him, feeling a bit better. Then I realise the Groupama-FDJ bus is just two buses from the Bahrain-Merida bus… If I play this right I might get lucky.
I wander back and forward between the 2 buses, I see the Izagirres and many others, but I’m waiting for the main event. Jeremy Roy is in his last race, and I congratulated him on his career, I’ve always had a wee crush on Roy so I’m sad to see him leave the peloton. After about 2 hours, the crowd around the bus starts to dwindle a little, there is one other photographer there, in a red bib – big shot. I was glad of that as when they arrive he will take charge, but we’re still waiting. I notice the buzz around Bahrain’s bus, damn Nibali has snuck away, now it is all on Tibo.
Eventually he turns up, very happy and excited, carrying the trophy aloft. There must be 100 fans around the bus, even after all this time. Its a real scrum for 10 mins, Tibo is hoisted onto teams shoulders, and they head into the bus, I’m waiting for another 10/15 minutes for the crowd to disperse, and most do drift away, but I notice the Wilier bus is also drifting away, so I run off to find the car, which was where I left it, luckily.
I head back round to the bus with the car, just as the team come out for photos, only about 20 fans left, more manageable for photos, Pinot is having fun with the trophy, we know Lomabardia trophy which is like a steering wheel, he is “driving” with it, poses for photos happy as a mini donkey on his farm.
Drive that trophy!
I eventually make a pain free and detour free journey back to Bergamo, for my last night. Next day I drop off the car and tell them about the damage, “that’s ok, these things happen” What? Well worth that 100 euros.
All the best for an exciting 2019!
Callum MacGregor – Roving Reporter
For me the men’s elite Worlds road race was the best race of the year, or more accurately Valverde winning the Worlds. After so many podiums and medals, not everyone’s favourite but a racer through and through from Abu Dhabi in February through to Lombardia . Most would have considered last years injury as a good reason to think about what’s next. Movistar must be delighted that he never considered calling time last winter.
The year started well, having made the annual pilgrimage to watch Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne Brussels Kuurne, returning to settle in front of the television for the rest of the Classics season, God bless Eurosport. Nibali’s win at San Remo, after his explosive attack on the Poggio will live long in the memory.
Callum was in Glasgow for the Euro champs’18
The Giro seems to turn up surprising winners with a few years ago Nibali returning from the dead to take the win and Froome emulating him this year. Quite how this happens after almost three weeks of racing, the miraculous recovery, I don’t know for sure, but it does leave you wondering. It tests your belief in the sport, or is just the age we lived in.
Personally I’ve never had a year where I spent so little time on my bike, I even put a lot of my kit away. A two year old son takes up a lot of time, next year will be different. Maybe.
Thomas Tour win – What about 2020?
Geraint at the Tour was another exercise in Team Sky’s ability to focus, plan, support, deliver. With riders looking to the post Sky era, 2020 and a contract will there be the same team focus next year or will simmering rivalries open the race up? And who would bet against young gun Egan Bernal taking the top step of the podium in Paris in years to come.
I also loved the response of Connor Dunne and Larry Warbasse finding their Aqua Blue team had folded just before the Tour of Britain, saddlebags on they set forth on a cycle touring odyssey. Cool or what?
So the year draws to a close and I wonder how many people had heard of John Archibald until very recently? The Scotsman who in December in Grenchen in Switzerland set a new sea level world record mark for 4000 meter individual pursuit gave me reason to pause. Having only really taken to the track in the last three years his progress has been phenomenal. So much quicker than Wiggins, Boardman, O’Bree ever went. How is this possible? Training techniques? Equipment? Natural talent? Event focus? Now we’re not talking about guys who were not limited by talent, ambition, commitment, resources, and yet the speed keeps climbing and these greats are relegated in part to the pages of history. Even Archibald couldn’t explain it, describing it as “outrageous” on his Twitter feed. Where does it end?
One things for sure I’ll be looking forward to the coming season with the same enthusiasm and excitement as ever.
The World champion on the streets of Glasgow
Alastair Hamilton – Editor – EuroTrash – Spanish Bureau
2018 has been a fairly up and down year, with one thing or another. Life here in Spain has followed the usual pattern for me: Pro training camps, Tour of Valencia and the Vuelta a España are always great events to visit and this year’s bonus was the Vuelta course presentation as it was local.
The racing this year was good; the Classics didn’t disappoint and the Giro d’Italia kept you watching, mostly down to Simon Yates. The Tour de France was… Well, the Tour. Apart from the Froome/Thomas – whose the boss quandary, it was fairly predictable. Maybe I’m biased, but the Vuelta was the best Grand Tour of the year again, and it came down to Simon Yates getting everything right, learning from his mistakes in the Giro and taking the honours. To top the season off; the World championships in Innsbruck had it all. I’m not a Alejandro Valverde fan, but he deserved the win as did Thibaut Pinot in Il Lombardia.
On a personal front it was great to see the European road championships in Glasgow on roads I know well and seeing the race pass places I’ve lived and worked. The biggest shock of the year was the passing of Paul Sherwen. Paul gave me my big break, employing me as mechanic for the Raleigh-Banana team in the 80s. That changed my life and I probably wouldn’t be writing this and living in Spain if it hadn’t been for Paul. Add to that all the people I have met and friends I’ve made due to Paul. Manchester Cathedral on February the 6th, 2019 will be a mix of very strong emotions as many people say their goodbyes to Paul and launch his memorial fund.
There hasn’t been enough bike riding for me in 2018, anyone who follows me on Strava… Why? Let’s look forward to 2019 and the sport we all love. Happy New Year.
Best wishes from everyone at PEZ for 2019.