Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Pursuit

This year is a "big year" for both Jeff and I as we continue to enjoy and revel in all that life brings us.  This year is going to count, to really leave a mark, if you will (and no pun intended, by the way).  I called Jeff up a few months ago with the idea of getting overseas to experience, firsthand, some of the passion that floats in the air over there, especially the air that hovers above the epic "Spring Classics."

At first, we discussed our options, should we chase after the Tour or Giro, or should we maybe stick around here and hit up some of our great domestic rides?  It was when we started considering the Classics when the deal got sealed in our hearts.  Of course, Paris-Roubaix!  After all, we're only talking about some of the greatest cycling races in the history of the sport?!   For those of you who are not entirely familiar with these crazy races, no worry, I'll tell you a bit about 'em.

Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix are back-to-back tests of endurance, pain, and utter determination.  They belong to a group of one-day races called the "Spring Classics" or "The Monuments." They were given this distinction because they all first began prior to World War I.  Both just over 260 km (162 miles), they take you across Belgium and northern France during a time of unpredictable weather and over many sections of rough, old cobblestone farm roads - soldiers used these very same roads during WWI.  French and Belgian farmers still use the cobbled sections today, passing the many war memorials that still line the many sections.  It was following the War, during a scouting trip to gauge the damage, when this northern, French area was eventually given the name "Hell of the North." The square cobbles are rough - they jar the body horribly, can be very slippery, and are the cause for many a puncture.  In fact, tire pressures are kept very low to cushion the ride and help reduce the likelihood of a puncture.  Many do not finish these races - Tour of Flanders mixes in climbs called "muurs" (walls), 11 of which are 11% or more and eight of which have cobblestones!  While Paris-Roubaix may be considered the "Queen of the Classics," Flanders is considered by many Belgians to be more important than a yellow jersey in the Tour de France.

If, as a professional cyclist, you end up winning any of the Spring Classics, then consider your career set.  Your role in cycling history will have been solidified, and you'll be placed on the podium of cycling greatness.  While many professionals have pursued this greatness their entire careers, trying to win just one - greats like Eddy Merckx and Roger de Vlaeminck have both been victorious multiple times!

So, at the recommendation of my good friend, Lou Vergne and his wife, Susan, back in Arizona, we decided to join the Velominati comrades and enjoy riding substantial sections of both races as well as watch cycling history unfold before our very eyes!  The Velominati Keepers created a blog years ago as a means to express their incredible passion for the sport - they call themselves "Keepers of the Cog" and even created "The Rules," which are a long list of humorous "do's and don't's" in cycling.  Well, not so humorous to some, but to most everyone, each stubborn rule usually draws a chuckle or two.  The shed a comical light on a very serious and passionate sport that we all love so much!

Velominati has joined up with PavĂ© Cycling Classics to arrange what will easily become the time of our lives!  We'll be landing in Brussels on the 29th of this month and staying outside of Roubaix in a small community called Westouter, also near Kemmel.  From there we will begin our rides as well as watch the races.

Here's a promo video that the Pave gang put together.  Enjoy!


Please join Jeff and I on this short, yet epic journey into the heart of cycling passion itself!  I'll be posting a day-to-day journal as well as including all photos that we're able to shoot - considering the cobbles, let's just hope for the best.  See you soon and as always, Allez! Allez!