Seasons Greetings From The PEZ Crew!
Dear PEZ-Fans – thank you for another year of loyal readership – and if you’re new to the site – we hope you enjoy our take on “what’s cool in road cycling” and stick around. Here’s a look back at our own personal hi-lights of 2019, and what made it a cycling season to remember.
Richard Pestes, Publisher – aka “The Pez”
18 years into a gig I almost bailed on in the first 6 months, my lens on cycling has changed for sure, both for good and bad – but that’s life right? Google and Facebook have eliminated the ad revenues that used to keep independent publishers like me in business, but reaping the benefits of years of hard work still reward with great rides in exotic locales, and the chance to make real friends on two wheels the old fashioned way – by talking to each other.
Two hi-lights for me this year came from one trip to ride the Prosecco Cycling gran fondo with a group from Garda Bike Hotel in September. It seems that no matter where the group is from, and regardless of who I know (or don’t know), I can always count on meeting one or two other riders who are either at or close enough to my level of fitness that we end up riding together and ultimately forming some kind of bond centered around the bike.
Dirk “The Belgian Bullet Train” was close enough to my own age that we shared a similar view of the world. A true Belgian hard man, Dirk grew up racing kermesses and with an ingrained love for Flanders and the Belgian Classics that only comes if you are from there.
We rode the second half of the gran fondo together, after meeting up at the prosecco & scampi stop at the 50km mark. Somewhere around 75 km in, we rolled onto a 6km flat stretch – dead straight across a valley and with a slight headwind. My legs were feeling the strain of the 3 steep climbs already conquered, so I tucked in behind Dirk’s big frame for a small respite. The road was smattered with riders we passed plodding along alone or in twos, as Dirk ground out a big ring gear towing us along around 32kph.
After a few kms, my own legs started to fade from just staying onto his wheel, and I called up to him :”Dirk… Piano, piano!” Dirk sat up and we were immediately awash in a sea of wheelsuckers who’d jumped aboard the Dirk train as we swept them up. That was a great moment of pride knowing my man coulda kept it going – no problems.
Another hi-light was meeting 1981 Vuelta-Giro double winner Giovanni Battaglin at his factory in Marostica where he and his son Alex are producing some of the nicest custom steel framed road bikes I’ve seen. I was lucky enough to be their guest for lunch at a local trattoria, where Giovanni wears his status with humble aplomb – he’s a regular guy who everyone knows scored something that will never be repeated. Even better was when he agreed to recount his controversial World’s loss from 1982 – which I recorded on video and will be posting to the PEZ Youtube channel in the coming weeks.
I’m grateful that this website keeps on surprising and rewarding me with these new experiences and new people. I’m also grateful to the mighty PEZ Crew who share my love for cycling enough to turn out new stories every single day. I thank our sponsors and clients who still see value in speaking to you – our readers. And of course – I’m grateful to you loyal fans – who’ve stuck with us in the face of every decreasing attention spans and flickable moments that seem to be the norm these days.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone –
Leslie Reissner – Literary Editor and Budding Motor Race Driver
Holiday greetings to all! Well, it was a most peculiar year for me in cycling terms. I certainly had a lot of terrific books to review in 2019—it seems that there are always new topics to cover so it is not “just another Tour de France book again” for us. I enjoyed reading about pro racing in Colombia, grass-roots competition in Belgium, how to make some great smoothies and the science (or lack thereof) behind recovery techniques. There were lots of videos too this year. And with indoor cycling now being a Big Thing, I was astonished to discovered that in fact my 7,300 kms of cycling in 2019 was actually evenly divided between my usual outdoor route (which I did over 100 times) and indoor riding with the Sufferfest and Rouvy, which helped me lose 12 kgs. Except for a ride with the Belgian Ambassador to Canada one day and taking my old-but-honourable Bianchi out to celebrate Fausto Coppi’s 100th birthday with a 100 km ride on another, there were, sadly, no memorable rides or bike trips. On the other hand, I did complete The Tour of Sufferlandria in February as well as the Sufferfest’s Giro d’Italia and Tour de France Challenges, so at least there was that!
Wishing everyone all the best for the season, great times with friends and family, and a terrific 2020 with some epic rides!
Patrick Sercu – Gone but not forgotten:
Chapeau! To Messrs. Alaphilippe, Bettiol, WVA, VdP, Bernal, Remco – the future looks safe in your hands, Monsieurs.
Still King of Sports? As Rocky might say; ‘ABSOLUTELY!’
Ed doing what he like to do best – talking to riders; this lad is Scotsman Alfie George who finished seventh in the Junior Worlds Road race – seen here before the start
Darrell Parks – North American Photographer
Merry Christmas to all the PEZ fans around the world! Hers’s a few of the things that come to mind when thinking back on 2019.
Another year gone by and yet another major North American bike race fades into history. I’ll dearly miss shooting the AMGEN Tour of California next year. It really is a beautiful bike race. Hopefully they really are just taking a year off and they can figure out a way to get it funded for 2021!
I spent some time towards the end of the year making up for the missing American road races by shooting some of the local cyclocross scene. We had some of the top US riders racing in atrocious conditions at this year’s DCCX. Most of the ‘cross races were held under similar circumstances throughout the season.
Started to take this Gravel Grinding thing more seriously this year by participating in a few gravel specific events. I’m very fortunate to have some of the most scenic gravel and dirt roads in the country within a short 30-minute drive of my home. I’ve signed up for a couple of 100 mile races next year so I may actually need to get more serious about my training!
I even went as far as buying a new gravel bike this year. Since I love my Moots mountain bike, I saw it fitting that I went to them for my gravel rig. It’s a Routt RSL loaded with SRAM AXS and Zipp Wheels. Here’s a peak at the beast soon to be featured in a Riders Rigs story right here on PEZ.
I’d like to take this time to also congratulate my daughter Vanessa on her graduation from George Mason University. It’s been a good year here in the Parks household and we’re looking forward to an even better 2021! Looking forward to working with the PEZ crew once again this year…
Happy Holidays to all and Peace on Earth.
You can order your “Darrell Parks 2020 Cycling Calendar” HERE: www.darrellparks.com
Menachem Brodie – Toolbox Contributor
Seasons greetings fellow Pezians (is that even a thing? Well it is now!)!
2019 proved to be my most productive year yet, however very little riding was actually done… My fitness may be worse than when I actually began riding a bicycle for sport back in the mid 2000’s due to circumstances beyond my control, but it’s really allowed me to really dial back in to the “beginners mindset” which has really had a massively positive impact on my coaching. I strongly encourage everyone to try to do this over the winter, as it makes riding that much more fun!
Here’s to a healthy, fast, and fitness building 2020, full of great coffee, pushing our knowledge of ourselves deeper, and to further our passion and love of riding on 2 wheels, where ever in the world we may be riding!
Menachem Brodie – NSCA CSCS, USA Cycling Expert coach. www.HumanVortexTraining.com
• Read Menachem’s ToolBox articles here.
Chuck Peña – DC Bureau and Sock Guru – Babylon on the Potomac
Wishing everyone in PEZ-land the happiest of holidays! I hope 2019 was good to you and that Santa brought you all the bike parts and kit on your wish list. This year was a “big” year in that I celebrated the big 6-0 … that’s six-zero … 60 … sixty! Another year and another decade, eh? Definitely senior citizen territory. Fortunately, the bike keeps me from feeling like one. That and riding with a lot of (from my perspective) youngsters to keep me young at heart (although I do have my “oldies but goodies” riding crew) and to occasionally prove Fausto Coppi’s adage true: “age and treachery will overcome youth and skill.” Speaking of riding, I managed to log over 5,500 miles this year (not as many miles as last year but I somehow managed more elevation gain — 275,000 versus 267,000 feet). Lots of coffee and more than a few taco rides. Plus a golf-bike vacation of sorts when we went to Hilton Head for Thanksgiving. I was humbled on the golf course by my daughter and did a few bike rides to explore the island differently.
A cool cycling sculpture on the circle at Coligny in Hilton Head
My one “big” ride was the Double Peak Metric+ Gran Fondo in Winchester, VA. 71 miles and over 6,000 feet of climbing. Two big climbs. One fast and flowing descent. One fast descent on a sh*t road (pavement was very broken up with missing chunks and furrows) plus a sharp, steep hairpin turn where we had to scrub off speed from ~36 mph to ~19 mph. The second half of ride after the two big climbs was actually in some ways harder. Lots of steep/long so-called rollers. Plus a stiff wind. In other words, loads of FUN!
All smiles with my homies (Zach, Paul, Felipe, Bobke, and AJ) before the start of the Double Peak Metric+
I recently made the leap of faith to road tubeless. First on my Felt and then on my #steelisreal Hollands — both with Irwin AON TLR wheels. As the saying goes: once you go tubeless, you never go back. As far as what I have in the queue for PEZ, next up for me will be a review of the new Xpedo APX Pro smart trainer (so new it’s not even on their website yet, but supposed to be available early next year). I’ll still do Freezing Saddles again this winter, but will dip my toe into indoor virtual cycling waters. Although the Force is strong with me and I hope to be able to resist being seduced by the Dark Side a la my PEZ compatriot Alastair Hamilton. And an early Christmas present to myself was a pair of Fizik R5 Artica winter road shoes that I’ll likely write about. In the meantime, I’m currently just chilling and reading The Beast, the Emperor and the Milkman (I also have Pantani Was a God to read).
Wishing everyone a perfect 20/20 in 2020!
From my family to all of yours … Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Alastair Hamilton, Editor, EuroTrash – Spanish Bureau
It has been a year of ups and downs. We lost some great champions of the past: Felice Gimondi, Patrick Sercu and Raymond Poulidor, all big champions who wrote their names large on the sport. On the other hand there is a new group of young super-champions hitting the results. Evenepoel, Van der Poel, Pogacar, Bernal, Pidcock and the unlucky Wout Van Aert have all made a big statement this year. There are still some ‘old’ riders around, especially in the Classics. Philippe Gilbert has nearly all the Classics in his palmarès and Peter Sagan is still a winner.
Cycling seems to have turned the doping corner (again) and the young guys I’ve spoken to don’t know anything about the ‘bad old days’. The 2019 Tour de France was very good and for the first time in years it lived up to its reputation of being the best bike race in the World.
Meeting up with Ed Hood and Martin Williamson at the Vuelta was the bonus of the 2019 season
2020 looks like it will be a good season, although the Olympics always causes a disruption to the season. The Vuelta a España not coming South of Madrid is a disappointment for me as this will (probably) be the first Vuelta I won’t be an accredited journalist on since 2002. The loss of Paul Sherwen is still felt everyday, always will be missed.
Looking forward to some great cycle sport next season, anything to take our minds of the heartless, self-centred politicians that seem to be all over the Worlds these days.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Heather Morrison (@Trudgin) – Social Media Commentator – Have Camera Will Travel
This year I went to the Italian classics for the first time, Nibali and Visconti were both likely to be in most of the races and I was hoping for a victory for one or both. The closest I got was Tre Valli Varenese.
The race this year was Saronno to Varese as it has been since 2016, all I got to see of the race was the start and the finish in Varese, where unfortunately my positioning was all over the place. This was day 1 of my war for the week with the woman who will forever be known as “Umbrella Woman”. All I managed to get of the finish was Roglic crossing the line, and then Vendrame and Skujins bike throw for 3rd. I was not best pleased.
It wasn’t until the set up for the podium that I realised Visconti had been 2nd, truly hadn’t seen him cross the line. 2 meters from where I was standing.
Then the podium. The local dignitaries and race organisers were a bit excited, I think, to have Visconti there and made a mess of the set up. They directed Skujins to the podium normally for 2nd, then Visconti went to the 2nd position, and playfully, pushed Skujins over to 3rd. Then Roglic in the middle, as winner. Then they presented the trophies… and they gave the winners trophy to Visconti. It took a second or 2 for Visconti to realise, he had the big trophy. He spoke to the guy handing out the trophies and they had a great laugh about it, then Visconti went to hand the trophy to Roglic, but just as Roglic laid his hands on it Visconti snatched it back, and turned to the crowd in front of the podium, “no, this is better” and he bowed in front of Roglic and presented the trophy, which Roglic graciously accepted with his own bow. It was the happiest, most relaxed podium Ive seen, lots of laughing and joking, they all seemed full of fun, it was still early in the week, by Il Lombardia, everyone was a bit bushed.
I also went to the worlds this year in September, how could I not it was only a couple of hours away, and I wouldn’t think twice about doing that journey daily if it was in Italy. So I went down on the Wednesday to catch the last few days racing, narrowly missing Rohan Dennis’ victory in the TT. This also meant I missed the torrential rain during the juniors race that gave us the amazing pictures of aquaplaning of the youngsters. I arrived hoping for better weather… hoping!
I really struggle to remember much from these WC’s as front and foremost in my mind is rain and my £90 Fly boots… However I was there for the devastating U23 mens race. It was raining, for a change and it was a hard attritional race, but the “winner”, Nils Eekhoff, had a mechanical, crashed, dislocated his shoulder, reset his own shoulder, got back to the front of the race and won… After 2 hours standing, on our designated yellow vest podium of our own, in the freezing cold rain, scores of orange clad policemen and clowns dancing in the rain. The Dutch team gathered off to the left partying, happy for their winner, we could tell something was happening. There was a large Italian presence over to the left and back of the stage. Then slowly the Dutch team slipped away. And then the biggest give away of them all, was Photo Gomez running off to the right where the exit from the podium came out. Then we saw the broken sight of Nils Eekhoff being taken away with this coach/DS. The boy was clearly in bits. We should be talking about his mythical fight back for years, instead he was DQ’d for drafting his own team car. I know the commissars didn’t expect the boy to win, but a lesson for the future, don’t wait to warn riders, tell them there and then. If you think they’re breaching the rules… let them know. Just in case, this is the day that makes his career. Instead of branding him a cheat, in front of the world at the 11th hour.
Saying that… I’m a lover of all things Italian cycling so I was happy for Battistella and as I love a conspiracy theory… Pidcock on the podium, hmmm.
The rain continued for the rest of the week, it was as consistent as the racing was great. The big finalé, the Mens Elite final did not let the fans at the side of the road or watching sensibly in their dry and warm livings rooms, or even in the pubs of Harrogate, you know, out of the rain. It was Epic, as was the fans presence at the side of the road. The eventual winner, was a surprise, don’t let anyone tell you different. When MvdP blew so spectacularly, it should have been Trentin’s race. We all thought it. But Mads Pedersen won through, he had to do a lot of the work, but to be honest, I think it was one circuit too many. It was a brutal course, I walked it, in the rain and there was minimal marshalling, so it was like an unbarrierd Mont Ventoux on some of the climbs. Especially as the riders got tired. Froome would’ve been crying in a corner running up the hill with his bouncers clearing a route.
It was a great day for Pedersen, but I have never seen such cold bodies on the podium. If you watched Namur at the weekend (Sun 22nd December) and saw MvdP get off his bike like that 105 yr old French trackie, and shiver in the warming tent, that was Trentin and Kung on the podium, we could see it clearly. Mads, at least temporarily, seemed immune.
Personally I learned a lot that week: Always, always take elastic bands and plastic bags to races. Prepare your lenses for the RAIN, and take wellies. Although they didn’t do these guys much good (see below).
Also, UMBRELLAS HAVE NO PLACE AT A CYCLE RACE. People dressed like nanuuk of the north, with coats and hoods and gloves and scarves, do not also need an umberella…
PS. Scottish Cycling if you’re listening, I’m available for any planning you are making for 2023. DO NOT HAVE THE PRESENTATIONS ON GLASGOW GREEN, IT WILL NEVER RECOVER.
My memories of the week long Worlds in Yorkshire…
Best wishes to everyone for the new year coming and hopefully some great racing in 2020.
*** All the best from everyone at PEZ! ***