Thursday 15 April 2010

My latest book review at

For those wanting to manage their weight properly (ah, dream on!), you can find my latest book review, jointly written with Stephen Cheung, here at

London Tweed Ride

The growth of Tweed Rides ("elegance, and not exertion") continues apace as participants dust off their old Sturmey-Archer-equipped upright bikes and grandpa's hunting suit to join the festivities.  Tea is involved in this episode, which was newsworthy enough to be featured by German broadcaster Deutsche Welle.  Hip, hip!

Wednesday 14 April 2010

Excellent Summary of Sunday's Paris-Roubaix

Good stuff here.  Check out Cosmo's tongue-in-cheek view of this weekend's Swisstacular No. 3:

How The Race Was Won - Paris-Roubaix 2010 from Cosmo Catalano on Vimeo.

Sunday 11 April 2010

A Pizza of Beauty

As a cyclist, I am always looking for tasty, healthy and nutritious foods, and have in the past posted a few recipes.  The one for Bircher-muesli, Food of the Gods, was a particular success, although people liked the Bell Pepper and Chili Soup too.  I suspect that Fabian Cancellara was raised on Bircher-muesli and who are we to question the results?

Since my weekend cycling plans came to naught due to a) the cold weather on Saturday and b) the wind (up to 48 km/h) on Sunday, I turned my attention to food yet again.  Last week we picked up a Mediterranean Pizza at the local branch of a national chain of pizzerias.  It was pretty good, but there was a great deal too much cheese on it and it was also fairly expensive.

Convinced I could do better on my own, I bought a couple of pizza bases ($2.99 the pair, including some tomato sauce) and decided to see if I could match the flavour of the chain's pizza.  Here is the Mediterranean Pizza that resulted:

The first pizza was such a success that by popular demand I made a second one almost immediately after.  Even if you can't cook, this is amazingly easy to make, and here is what I used:

Prepared pizza base with tomato sauce (it is actually easy to make your own pizza dough, but I took a short cut here);
Fresh broccoli florets;
1/4 of a fresh zucchini, chopped coarsely;
Mozzarella cheese, shredded;
Feta cheese, crumbled;
Sliced black olives;
Sun-dried tomatoes;
Red onion. one thick slice chopped finely.

Put the broccoli and zucchini in boiling water for few moments to blanch them; drain them.
Put the sun-dried tomatoes in a bowl, cover them with boiling water to soften and drain after two minutes.  Chop them up.
Sprinkle the pizza base with the Mozzarella, covering evenly.  Add onion, black olives, sun-dried tomatoes, Feta pieces, zucchini and broccoli, arranging them in a pleasing manner.

Place the pizza in a pre-heated 380F oven for around 14-15 minutes, or until the pizza base has turned golden.  I prefer a thin crust but a thick crust may need longer.  Keep your eye on the pizza since nobody likes black, crisp ones.

Take the pizza out, slice it up and serve with a really nice beer or wine.

By picking up the ingredients on a regular shopping trip, I probably spent less time preparing the pizza than it would have taken me to drive to the pizzeria.  My pizza has far more generous toppings and is much fresher-tasting than the presumably-frozen one.  I also calculate that the total cost of the two large pizzas came to just over $14, with excellent ingredients, compared to the $20 (plus driving) that I paid for a single pizza (admittedly slightly larger than each of my own) at the store.

In These Troubled Economic Times (ITET), we have an obligation to make our own excellent pizzas and support deserving breweries as well.  Enjoy!

Saturday 10 April 2010

Getting Ready for Paris-Roubaix

The next installment of the Spring Classics takes place tomorrow with the running of Paris-Roubaix, nicknamed "the Hell of the North" and "the Queen of the Classics," probably depending on where you finish.  I am torn between someday riding the sportif version, which is held biannually, or just ignoring it.  The pro race is pretty dreadful, with the 50 kms of nasty nasty cobbles and the mud (or dust), and the winner often seems to be the rider who had the fewest flats, but it is nonetheless an epic ride.  And for the sportif version you get a cobblestone mounted on a plaque when you finish, just like the pros do when they win.

The Saxo Bank guys were out doing a recon ride the other day and all eyes are on Spartacus, as he attempts to do the Flanders/Roubaix Double.

Of course, the whole point of a recon ride is to prepare yourself for the race ahead.  Paris-Roubaix is famed for its crashes and it appears that Gustav Larson was getting ready for every eventuality.  He will, of course, have to deal with this photograph (like the one above by Tim de Waele and found on the Saxo Bank website here) for the rest of his cycling career:

Good luck tomorrow, and keep the muddy side down!

Monday 5 April 2010

The Ronde 2010

One of the great highlights of my cycling experience came in 2002, when I participated in the "sportif" version of the Tour of Flanders the day before the actual pro race.  You can read my account of that day here.  My attempt to watch Milan-San Remo on the Internet failed but this time, thanks to, I was able to find a live feed (a Belgian station with French commentary) and enjoyed a terrific Sunday morning.

This race is, to me, the greatest of the Classics in that it is almost always the strongest cyclist who wins it.  It is a war of attrition as the riders' numbers get whittled down hill by hill, over 16 "hellings" until by the time the race reaches Geraardsbergen and the infamous Muur, the final selection of those who can truly contend for victory is made.  After the Muur, there is only the Bosberg and then the nicely paved final 12 kms of flat riding to the finish line.

This year, once again, the final selection was made on the Muur, when, to my amazement, Fabian Cancellara simply rode two-time winner Tom Boonen off his wheel after the two had escaped together on the Molenberg, when there were still 40 kms to ride to the end.  The Swiss rider just rolled away and the gap quickly rose.  By the time the Belgian champion was 30 seconds back, I knew the race was over as, sure enough, Fabian went into time trial mode and showed that his three wins as World Time Trial Champion weren't flukes.  Watch what happens here at 2:38:

A truly superb win for the Swiss Time Machine, who becomes only the second Swiss to win the Tour of Flanders, the first one being Heinrich "Heiri" Suter in 1923.  Suter must have been pretty good, since he won both Flanders and Paris-Roubaix in the same year, the first to do so.  Here's the big finish, and you can watch Fabian happily waving his angel good luck charm.

The excellent heading photo of today's action on the Muur was taken by Jered Gruber, a Pezcyclingnews contributor, and someone who knows how to be in the right place at the right time!

Friday 2 April 2010

2010 Good Friday Time Trial

Stopwatch test
photo by casey.marshall, Creative Commons

Today was the Ottawa Bicycle Club's traditional kick-off to the racing season: the Good Friday 15 km Time Trial.  Last year the temperature was 2C and the wind was coming out of the northwest at 17 km/h.  Today, eight days earlier in the calendar, it was 21C and the wind was out of the southeast at 15 km/h.

With weather so beautiful, it is no wonder that there was a massive turnout.  The 122 riders who registered probably represented the single biggest time trial field that the OBC has had.  There were lots of familiar faces and a whole lot of first-timers trying the Race of Truth.

Things started out well when I received my little medal for completing the 200 km brevet ride last year.  But when I set up my wind trainer I found that it made so much nice that people complained.  I suspect that after a winter of non-use, it needs lubrication, but it sounded pretty terrible.  So I just did circuits in the National Aviation Museum until it was time for me to start.  I was No. 49A, so it took a while.

I had estimated my time would be around 24 minutes and was seeded there but I noticed that some riders who were faster were sandbagging, and started quite a bit before me.  I was worried that I was being a bit optimistic since my training this winter was not optimal and my weight is a bit higher than I like but it was such a beautiful day that I didn't care too much about my time.

After a good start, I ran into a much stronger headwind than I imagined and was seeing heart rate numbers that were pretty high.  I gently backed off and concentrated on easing my way up to the cyclist who had started 30 seconds ahead.  I could see him just ahead and felt that I had settled down nicely, although I was not seeing much more than 36 km/h.  The new computer does not seem to like the disc wheel much as it would make sudden jumps up and down in speed, but the heart rate indicator and of course the elapsed time seemed accurate.

I saw my 30 second man approach the turnaround and I began to shift down.  He made the turn but when I looked behind me I was annoyed to see three cars, two together and one further back, coming up.  It was unsafe to turn and it seemed to take ages for them to get by me so I had to keep riding for some distance before I could turn.  This is only the second or third time I have ever had issues with traffic during time trials on this road.

Needless to say, this did nothing for my concentration and I lost my rhythm, as well as probably a good 20 seconds, and when I finally headed back I did not see anyone ahead of me.  Soon after I was passed by two other cyclists and then, nearing the finish, by a third one.  But riding with a tailwind I felt that I was recovering from the exertion on the way out and I was able to push my speed back up to 40-41 km/h, and crossed the finish line at 44 km/h.

I looked down and saw that I had crossed the line at 24:35, which was identical, to the second, to the time I posted last year.  This was an average speed of 36.6 km/h.  This was slower than I liked, even if I could have deducted the 20 seconds lost to traffic, but for the first ride of the year was good enough.  Now to lose some weight, pick up some power and get ready for when time trial season begins in earnest in May.  Before I do my next time trial, I must remember to kiss the hem of the Team Saxo Bank jersey I have that was personally signed by Fabian Cancellara!

The Vinyl Cafe and High-end Road Cycling

The popular weekly CBC radio program, the Vinyl Cafe, features music and tales as master storyteller Stuart McLean travels cross-country in Canada.  Each week there is a long story about Dave, the proprietor of a record shop (the Vinyl Cafe), his wife Morley and their family and neighbours.  Dave is well-meaning but has a singular talent for getting into scrapes.   It is gentle Canadian humour, and often very, very funny.

This week's story features Dave's neighbour, Ted, a cycling enthusiast, or, more accurately, a cycling evangelist.  We learn about Dave's attempt to ride a $12,000 baby-blue carbon Torelli bicycle in his own, unique style.  You will note that the audience laughs knowingly at the mention of lycra.  The broadcast can be found as a podcast here, and the story is in the last third of the program.  And here is what a carbon Torelli frame looks like: