What's Cool In Road Cycling

Seasons Greetings From The PEZ Crew!

Merry Christmas everyone – and happy holidays too.  With any luck you’re spending time with people who matter, and maybe even getting a little bonus time on the bike.  Before the PEZ-Crew settles in for a long winter’s nap, I asked the guys for a few words on the year past, and the time present.

Richard Pestes, Publisher
Every year I think that Christmas is a time to slow down, enjoy the life I have around me, and pat myself on the back for making it through another year and the daily struggles that face any of us providing for a family, earning a living, and looking for a few moments to enjoy the stuff we do just for play. For most of you reading along at home – that’s riding our bikes. And while my 2014 cycling fitness never really got of the ground, I still logged some awesome rides.

tdf14st08rp-xmassmileSoaked to the bone on stage 7 of the Tour… that really is a smile on my face.

I traded what would have been my 10th consecutive Giro for a much overdue return engagement to my first Tour de France since 2003. My roadside experiences of the past decade on the strade of Italy (and trusty driver Mino) made navigating the Tour a completely different and less stressful undertaking than my first visit, in fact I enjoyed it more than I imagined. Besides discovering beautiful and historic regions of central & eastern France, I logged my biggest week of riding with days through the Vosges mountains and two grinding slogs in the Alps – maybe not my finest hour on the bike – but an achievement just the same.

Then in October, and thanks to the encouragement of my friends and colleagues (Nicola & Alberto) at Garda Bike Hotel, I finally got to see the Race of the Falling Leaves – my beloved “Il Lombardia”, with my own eyes, and with my beloved Mrs. Pez.

Those trips easily made up the three weeks of 2014 that I’ll remember the longest. But the other 49 were pretty good too. The mighty Pez-Crew turned out another year of cycling reportage makes me proud – our 12th year in fact.

For Christmas – my parents have flown up for a visit, and we’re hosting the in-laws (20 in all) for dinner on the 25th – and yes, cocktails will be starting early that day. Speaking of which it’s 5:02pm here at PEZ HQ… and I can hear my Dad rattling the ice box – negronis, scotches, and vodka-tonics are imminent – I’d better get in there.

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Merry Christmas everyone, and thanks for again for reading.
– Richard Pestes

Chris Selden, Co-Editor – French Bureau
Another year over of juggling work, family and riding that seems to get harder and harder with the kids growing up but luckily I have a great wife – and great kids that make it all possible. I’ve even managed to take them out to a bike race or two this past year and there’s nothing quite like struggling along mid pack or worse when you hear that magical cry of ‘Go, Daddy go’ that spurred me on to my maximum.

In between some poor results I still managed to get a win or two this year but after giving it my all to take the lead in a stage race one day and getting the race leader’s jersey my daughter pipes up with – “If you win again tomorrow can I get your jersey?”

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She may only be 4 but at least she already understands the concept of a new leader’s jersey being presented everyday as well as breakaways, sprint competitions and more. Marianne Vos look out!

It hasn’t all been about racing for me this year though as my most favorite rides have just been about getting out and riding, seeing the countryside and having fun with friends. No matter what your level of riding, no matter what you ride make sure you enjoy every moment that you can on the bike in 2015 – I know I will.

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Leslie Reissner – Literary Editor
My 2014 Cycling Universe
2014 marked the final year of my assignment in Germany and when I look back over the year it is hard to imagine how much cycling-related activity I managed in seven months in addition to my day job looking after the official interests of a G8 nation in Düsseldorf.

The year began with a visit to the Rotterdam Six Day Races in January where I saw Niki Terpstra, the home nation favorite, score a big success as half of the winning team. Moving on to Berlin I had not only the chance to meet fellow Pezscribe Ed Hood at the Six Day Races there but also met up with the agreeable American Guy East, half of a team representing a nation long-absent from the Six Days. I also learned that it is almost impossible to interview anyone at a Six Day Race because of the astonishing noise at track level.

My season continued with a long drive south in April rains that took me to Cicli Tommasini in Grosseto, near Siena in Tuscany where I was fitted for a new Tecno bicycle by Irio Tommasini, the master, himself. Then after an overnight stay in a castle next to the cathedral in Parma I found myself in bright sunshine in Ascona, Switzerland photographing the prologue of the Tour de Romandie. I was to follow the race for six days, hopscotching around the country, for an article for PezCyclingNews that somehow never got finished, alas. But I did have a nice chat with Bobby Julich in Neuchatel.

Time for the Spring Classics! After riding an amateur version of the Flêche Wallonne on a Saturday, I joined a group of primarily beer-laden Belgians early the next morning for a trip to Northern France where I was able to watch Paris-Roubaix from various points, including the big finish at the velodrome. And look! There’s Niki Terpstra again, winning the thing! And my final Belgian event was the flat flat flat Rik van Steenbergen Classic on a sweltering hot day.

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In May I joined a group of oldtimers—the leader of the pack was 81!–and enjoyed a three day trip heading up the Rhine from Mainz to Bonn past many famous wine towns, an expedition that reminded me of the joys of touring and the pleasure of riding with others. Even if we were not going all that fast.

With my time running out quickly in Europe the final months became a frenzy of activity, including excellent rides in the Teutoburger Forest as well as around Bad Hersfeld, near the old East-West German frontier and a multi-day tour riding the Ruhr Bike Route, passing wonderful half-timbered buildings and old castles before reaching the famous industrial zones of Essen and Duisburg. Time also to thin the infamous Herd of Tin Donkeys and my Bauer track bike, Chesini Olimpiade and Cicli Diamant road mounts have new owners in Germany, while my Basso rests with friends awaiting my return. The new Tommasini more than makes up for the losses, I think.

My last major trip was 3000 kms with a rental BMW. First stop Dresden then followed by pauses to go cycling with friends in Franconia and in Upper Bavaria before my last big event of the year, the In Velo Veritas retroride northeast of Vienna, which I did manage to write about. A week before the movers came I dashed to Paris for the weekend and took in La Course, the new women’s race on the Champs Elysee, as well as the final stage of the Tour de France.

Adding to my experience I also had the chance to visit an excellent bicycle museum in Austria and make some new friends there. As to old friends, fellow Pezscribe Stephen Cheung stopped by Chateau Reissner in Ottawa and dropped off a copy of his most excellent book on high-tech training.

Books were a big subject for me again this year and I hope that Pez readers have enjoyed my reviews as much as I enjoyed the pleasure of going through the books…and more seem to be arriving daily!

Now that I am buried in snow in Ottawa, where daily temperatures are -11ᴼC at best and my cycling is spinning to 1980s disco music at the local fitness club, I can say that my four years in Europe were a chance to enjoy all the best of what cycling has to offer and I would encourage anyone who has not done so to visit the Promised Land. But wherever you might be I want to thank all of the loyal Pez readers for their comments and interest in my writing, which covers some of the more unusual aspects of this cycling world we all love, as well as that of the most excellent Pez gang, and I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and terrific tarmac, tailwinds and Tommasini’s for 2015!

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Stephen Cheung, Ph.D. – Sport Science and Training Editor
The literal and figurative peak of 2014 was celebrating my Dutch pal Eric’s 50th birthday with a trip down to Provence to tackle Mont Ventoux. Couple that with an invited speaker role at the World Congress of Cycling Science in Leeds prior to Le Tour, along with my first-ever podium in cyclocross, and it was a great year as always on the bike. It was also my year of breaking bikes, what with cracking both my cyclocross bike and my beloved Ritchey BreakAway travel bike along with a set of cranks. Either my training has been effective in producing more watts than ever, or else the cycling gods are big believers in the Yin and the Yang. With my biggest lab group in my academic career and juggling several major research projects simultaneously in the lab, time on the bike is ever more precious and ever more treasured as a result. Here’s hoping that the holidays find you in good balance on and off the bike, and that 2015 leads you to more adventures on two wheels.

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Alastair Hamilton, Co-Editor, EuroTrash – Spanish Bureau
A Christmas Message from Spain.
It’s not been a bad year for watching professional cycling, the Spring Classics were interesting with wins from the usual riders: Cancellara, Valverde and Terpstra, but the wins of Alexander Kristoff in Sanremo, Simon Gerrans in Liege and John Degenkolb in Wevelgem showed that the Classics are still the open book they always were. As to the Grand Tours: The Giro was good entertainment and even the Tour without Froome and Contador was enthralling, even if it was a one horse race for an impressive Vincenzo Nibali. As always (in my opinion) the Vuelta a España was the best three-week race of the year. The comeback of Contador and Froome from their Tour crashes was incredible and the four-pronged attack from Alberto and Chris along with Alejandro Valverde and Joaquim Rodriguez had you on the edge of your seat. But seeing the young guys; Fabio Aru, Dan Martin, Warren Barguil, Damiano Caruso and Dani Navarro up there in the overall is a great sign for the future. Talking of the future, let’s hope that Peter Sagan and Fabio Aru give us a lot to shout about.

The bad news has to be that riders are still reaching for the EPO, the light at the end of the tunnel might still be in the distance, but it does look like it’s the riders at ProConti and Conti level that have not got the message yet. Having been with the Astana team at the time of the UCI ProTour license decision, I saw how disillusioned the riders were and how they could not understand the ‘vendetta’ against them from la Gazzetta. Lets hope there will be none of this in 2015.

On a personal note, it’s been an enjoyable year with more editing responsibilities, more work but very satisfying. Christmas here in Spain is as usual nothing like the Christmases of my childhood in Scotland. No snow, but sun and blue skies with temperatures in the twenties centigrade. The PEZ office is a virtual entity spread across the globe, so the Spanish office had a Christmas night out last Friday; a table for one in an Indian restaurant. Sat there with my lamb tikka balti and garlic nan I raised a glass to all the PEZ writers and photographers and of course all our readers. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all.

And finally, I’ve been spending so much time with Russians, Estonians, Kazakhs and Ukrainians lately I’ve had to change my name to: Аластер Хэмилтон.

С Рождеством и Новым годом.

The view from the PEZ Spanish office window:
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Ed Hood – Reporter At Large
Season 2014 was a strong one for the Grand Tours and the Spring Classics so that has to be a good thing.

As is the rise of the young stars – Pinot, Quintana, Aru, Kennaugh . . .

And whilst there’s still plenty of latitude to rant – Tweets!; Ambassadors of Awesome – that one makes me feel faint; the stunning hypocrisy of the UCi – Astana are evil but it’s OK to race in countries where homosexuals are hanged?; certain sections of the Media’s determination to ring every drop from doping tales of the past; the craziness of bike prices when many a good race in Europe is won on a bike costing 1,000 Euros; the scrabble by organizers to find more, longer, higher, harder climbs; the continuing decaffeination of track racing, I’ll spare you, it’s Xmas, after all.

Thanks and Xmas good wishes to all the riders who gave of their time for interviews; Richard Pestes for allowing me do what many only dream about; Dave Chapman for his uncomplaining chauffeuring; Marlene for putting up with my frequent disappearances to Europe; Alastair Hamilton and Chris Selden for turning my squiggles into readable copy and of course, our loyal readers without whom there would be no point to it all.

And a special mention for my companion at many a Grand Tour, Martin Williamson; he and wife Gillian are now parents to lovely Holly, born just a day or two ago – congratulations, guys.

Xmas Day for me will be with family but I’ll spare a thought for those less fortunate, like the families of those poor folks killed in the Glasgow ‘rogue lorry’ tragedy, yesterday.

As they say in España; ‘Ve con Dios.’

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Mark McGhee – Reporter At Large
2014 was my second year as a staff writer for Pez Cycling and I seem to have carved out a niche as a race reporter. I started the year with the Spring Classics, moved onto all three Grand Tours, and then finished the year with the Autumn races and the Worlds. For me the performance of the year came from Niki Terpstra in the beautiful mayhem that is Paris Roubaix. Everyone expected OPQS to take the race to Cancellara but the rider to emerge from the carnage was the big Dutchman who so often has had to play second fiddle to his more illustrious teammates. A nod also to Ian Stannard a month earlier in the season opener Het Nieuwsblad as he took the uphill finish in style ahead of Greg Van Avermaet, forcing the Belgian into second…a position that would become all to familiar for him throughout the season.

It was a year of high profile retirements with Tour winners Cadel Evans and Andy Schleck hanging up their wheels for good. The phenomenon that is Jens Voigt called it a day and we witnessed the longest goodbye tour in history as we waved David Millar away. Here in Scotland we also said cheerio to a stalwart of the domestic peloton in the shape of James McCallum. Jimmie Mach has long been a fixture of the UK scene having the ability to perform on the road, at the velodrome and taking out the occasional cx race. No sooner had Jimmie retired than he was organizing events and it looks as if he’s found the next chapter of his sporting career.

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Normally at this time of the year I’d be getting the miles in at Cadiz in southern Spain but this year we’ve decided to forego the sunny weather in favor of staying at home in Scotland and riding in the wind and rain. Oh well, it’s all character building and it means a wee dram of the real stuff at Hogmanay to see in the New Year. Then it’s the first race of the season at Scotland’s favorite cycle race, Dig In At The Dock on Jan 4th.

I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all of our readers, and all Pez fans worldwide, the very best wishes for Christmas and New Year and I hope Santa and the Kings are kind. See you in Belgium for Het Nieuwsblad 2015.

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Gordan Cameron – Scottish Bureau
Yet more Christmas greetings from Scotland. Here on the north-west coast it never gets too cold in winter, but we have one anomaly; one of Britain’s highest climbs is right on the doorstep, and it is often pretty lethal. It goes from sea-level to the summit at a little over 2,000 feet very quickly so it’s not the Alps, nor the Pyrenees, far less some of the climbs in the Rockies or in Colombia. However, it can be flat calm at the bottom and a white-out at the top. It catches out the unwary.

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It was my mountain as a kid, and when I first got myself together enough to ride it, it was a huge achievement. These shots were taken on a beautiful, but brutally cold, February Sunday this year. A couple of months later, I rode it with one of my old university friends, who appeared out of the blue one afternoon. I hadn’t seen him since 1995. He came north to ride the hill, and to look me up. The challenge, the ride and the hill brought us back in contact. I’ve not ridden it as often as I should since, but each time I do, I think about him and the uni crew. The hill has become a trigger for a lot of memories, most of them pretty good! I hope that this is what the ride brings all Pez readers in 2015 and beyond – nothing but good memories, whatever challenges you take on.

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Lee Rodgers – Lee’s Lowdown
Lee’s Xmas Message.
“If you’re a good boy this next month, maybe Santa will bring you that red banana bike you saw at the shop,” my mother said to me when I was 6 years old.

Christmas Day. There by the tree was a banana bike-shaped present.

I looked at my mum. “Was I a good boy?” I asked, feverish with excitement.

She laughed. “Not even close,” she said in reply.

Which taught me the lesson that delinquency pays, something I’ve been making a living off ever since. It also heralded the love affair between me and bananas, and, almost by default, bicycles.

It’s a funny thing, this sport. We don’t really choose it, rather, cycling chooses us. Writing about this a year or so ago I wrote that:

We chose the most beautiful sport. The most epic. The daftest. The most furious, the most poetic, romantic, brutal, life-affirming and soul-destroying sport of all, the sport that drives its flawed geniuses to destruction and its devotees to distraction. Itʼs the simple love affair of human with machine, human-powered machine, and itʼs the one toy from childhood we get to keep, that grown men and women still get to play with, all over the world, no matter how old, no matter what culture, race, creed or ideology. Itʼs the thing that gave you the freedom to leave your neighborhood and to explore the world around and when we race, itʼs the same barnstorming thrill you had when you sped down your block, racing home from school against Pete Barnes to see who could get to the edge of the cul-de-sac first. It’s that same rush, that same freedom, the same Breath of Sheer and Unadulterated Life.

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The sport of kings, kid. Beat that.
And I think if there’s one thing I’ve learnt this year it’s that, no matter what the scandal, no matter the fiasco that this all seems at times with the ongoing corruption and doping, whatever happens, they can’t take that away from us.

It lives in the cobbles and on the descent of the Poggi di San Remo. It lives in those rainbow hoops and in the fabric of the Maglia Rosa. It’s in the water bottles and in our back pockets, nestled alongside the crumbs of an energy bar and the goo of a gel.

It’s in the pain you get when your number pin comes lose, and it’s there when you’re sat at home watching the peloton in all it’s rambunctious glory crest a roller on some country lane in Normandy, Tuscany or Yorkshire.

Highlight of the year for me? Being there at Paris-Roubaix and Flanders with the Velo Classic Tours folk, listening to the dog-eared marching band as they entertained us before the leaders came along, watching the helicopter as it neared, heralding the gladiators’ arrival, picking up a fist-sized piece of pave that I’m looking at now, sat on my desk, and in rounding the old Roubaix Velodrome with my hands aloft, no one else in the picture.

Now that’s a damn highlight!
Merry Christmas to my tribe, may you all crank on in 2015!

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Darrell Parks – North American Photographer
Happy Holidays to all! As 2014 comes to a close, I look back and realize what a great one it’s been for my cycling coverage in North America. I was able to shoot some of the best and most exciting stage racing contested on American soil this year. In May, I captured the one and only Sir Bradley Wiggins taking the crown at the AMGEN Tour of California. I watched the new generation of USA cycling conquer the high mountains with American Tejay van Garderen ultimately victorious in Colorado. I was fortunate enough to witness Jens Voigt tell his legs to “Shut Up!” one last time in his final North American stage race. I caught young gun Kiel Reijnen winning on the Manayunk wall in Philly for the second year in a row. Throughout the season I found myself fighting off the rain and cold, often from the back of a motorcycle, to bring home the grit, the grime, and the true suffering of bike racing. And best of all I was able to share it all with you right here on PEZ!

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After some quality time with the family during Christmas, I’m looking forward to closing the year out with a trip to the warmth of sunny Florida with my wife and my bike. I can’t wait to ride in short sleeves again, be it only for a week. After that it’s some rewarding volunteer work with the Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride. Planning for next year’s race coverage is next on the agenda with a new edition to this year’s schedule taking center stage. It’s hard to believe that the 2015 World Championships are being held only two hours from my home in Virginia. I’m certain it will be one of the main highlights of 2015 for me!

Here’s wishing all the PEZ fans a great 2015 and looking forward to seeing everyone at the races. Remember to ride hard, ride strong, and most importantly, ride safe!

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Alessandro Federico – Italian Bureau
Hey, another year has passed so fast and I enjoyed all cycling stories the road has brought to me. Hope you have enjoyed them through my words. Looking forward to have another exciting year chasing races, but now I just want to relax some days with my family eating some exciting traditional dishes.

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This year, me and my wife Natalia prepared the Russian salad with local fish. A big mix of boiled vegetables, octopus, shrimps and a half kilo of lobster topped with excellent home made mayonnaise. Not exactly the food for cyclists, but there will be time to recover a decent form. Usually we take the Pez-Christmas picture with our daughter Diana and our little son Mario but this year we choose to have one with just me and Natalia. Merry Christmas and Happy 2015!

***Thanks again for reading and we all at PEZ hope you have a Merry Christmas and have a great time over the holidays.***

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