Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Gravel du Jour: Manitoba White

I call this stuff Manitoba White, a kind of pale, chalky gravel common in southern Manitoba, where I visit each summer. I’m guessing it consists of some kind of post-glacial limestone mixed with a dash of petrified Mososaur bones. (You can’t hardly stick a shovel in the ground there without hitting dinosaur detritus.) I`m adding this one to the Gravel Glossary, likely the first of a bunch of regional gravels.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Code of the Semi-Serious Cyclist: Part 9 (Strava)

The SSC doesn’t have a Strava. Doesn’t need one. Doesn’t want one.

Strava, which means “screen junkie” in Norwegian, is all the rage in serious cycling circles these days. The program, of course, works with a GPS device such as a Garmin or smartphone, to provide mapping, tracking, and statistics of a person’s rides. When passing by certain popular ride areas or “segments,” Strava users can compare their times against other Strava-ists. The best time for each segment wins the “King/Queen of the Mountain” or KOM/QOM designation. Strava users can also post comments on others’ performances.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Tour of the Anatomy

Check out my skinny cyclist arms.

Hard to believe these belong to a 46-year-old man, I know. Over the years, friends and strangers alike have observed that I’ve got the forearms of a 12-year-old girl, the wrists of a child. Finding a manly watchband that fits has always been a challenge. I admit that for several years I actually wore a lady’s Timex, its little pink button sending out unintended signals, because it was the only watch I could find —apart from kids’ watches—that fit me. Most men’s watches, with their over-sized faces, look absurd on me.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Tour Is Won on the Alpe

Like many fans of the Tour de France, I long ago circled July 18 on the calendar as a stage in this year’s race not to be missed. That’s Alpe d’Huez day, when for the first time in Tour history, riders will climb the legendary mountain twice in the same stage, with the stage finish at the summit of the second ascent. (The Alpe was featured twice in in the 1979 route, but on two different days.) This intriguing race route  factoid prompted me to pick up The Tour Is Won on the Alpe (2008) by French journalist Jean-Paul Vespini. (The book was translated by American cycling historian David Herlihy.)

As Tour de France fans know, the Alpe d’Huez is one of a handful of mountain climbs—along with Mont Ventoux and the Col de Tourmalet—that has an iconic status in the Tour de France. The punishing 21-switchback ascent first appeared on the Tour route in 1952; then not again until 1976; since then it has been included almost every year. Because it is such a difficult ascent, the Alpe has been the site of some great Tour de France drama over the years. Many champions, from Fausto Coppi to Bernard Hinault to Miguel Indurain to Lance Armstrong, have taken command of the race on the slopes of the Alpe. As Vespini puts it, “It is a climb that delivers a verdict—absolute, impartial, and final.”

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Range Roadies

We are the Range Roadies
We roll the township lines
We rule the rural grid
We pee in range road ditches.
We are the Range Roadies, and we eat gravel for breakfast.