Hi, I’m Joe V. The V is for Vadeboncoeur, but no one ever really calls me that (except my business card). That card also calls me the Global Director of Product Development, Marketing and Creative Design for Trek Bicycle. Yep, I am sometimes not really sure what all that means either. I do know that I dig bikes, oatmeal, motorcycles, burritos, the weird things I see along the way, my family and my job. I get to travel the world helping make great bikes, so it’s a pretty great gig.
Those are all things that I could have done this weekend. In fact, I was signed up for the Limestone GNCC, but because it is raining like crazy down there I did not want to shrag my motorcycle before the season really starts. It is ok for the pro's, but for me I have to rebuild it myself to race it again next weekend.
Ben Coates (road bike product manager here at Trek), along with Michael Mayer (road bike marketing manager) rode the Liege Bastogne citizen granfondo today. But, they did not wimp out and ride the half or something like that - they belied up to the full monty. 270km of leg breaking hills. Known as the hardest single day race of the year, I bet it was really tough.
To make matters more concerning, I have skipped out on a couple of other race opportunities, where I just did not want to drive across the country. Maybe I'm just getting old?
No, I shied away from all of those things and just went and rode my MTB. Because, I just cannot get enough of that thing. Damn, it is just so much fun. I loaded up and drove to Levis Mound, about 3 hours from my house. Levis is pretty technical, at least by midwestern standards, and I love that kind of riding. (And I am not talking about some Eric the half a bee either!).
Up on top of Levis Mound. You can kinda see forever from there - at least for the midwest.
When I arrived early, it was cold. There was just one other vehicle in the parking lot. I went in to the bathroom, and there was a guy in there cleaning. We chatted for a bit, and then just as he was leaving he asked if I was riding alone - so we ended up riding together. He was Dean Glaze, a local from Neilsville that rides there every day. He knew the trails like the back of his hand, and it showed.
The dirt is sand mostly, but in the sand is a ton of sandstone rock and roots. But what makes it technical, is that there is actually a lot of vertical. Up and down and on the edge of the steep hillside. Trail names like Cliffhanger and Sidewinder are just as fun as the name implies.
My guide, Dean Glaze. Levis is really pretty technical, for everything else we have around here. You could tell he was a local, because he knew the fast line through every technical area.
If you have not ridden at Levis Mound, you need to. If you like technical riding, it could be the best area in Wisconsin. No flowing berms or jumps (other than natural stuff) - just rocks, up and down and roots and lots of them.
You probably did not think we had terrain like this in Wisconsin.
Another great view of the terrain and trail.
It is a glorious time. It is glorious because it signifies getting back on to a dirt bike! I have been using the hashtag #dirtbikesrule. If you feel like I do, you should post up. Here are a few more from the spring.
Liz and I playing hookey one weekday. No one there other than us.
Sometimes the trees, are just a wee bit....
Hero dirt at this time of the year. (Maybe I need more pictures with my bike leaning against something.
This picture has nothing to do with the first few paragraphs of this post, but I wanted to put something about Frites in the title, so felt compelled to show this picture right away. I cannot say it, so I think I will just call it Snackeroo Frite Stand.
I was reminded about one of my rants in the past, this week. I really hate how languages change the spelling of other country cities or countries. In English, we call Deutschland - Germany. This does not make any sense. People from that country do not call it Germany, they call it Deutschland. We call it Holland, but they call it Nederland. The list goes on and on. It is appalling, and actually a little bit offensive.
This is not just an english phenomenon either. All languages seem to do it. The Dutch spell Paris - Parijs. The French call Deutschland - Allemagne.
Now I get it when the place you are trying to describe uses a language with different letters or symbols than your language. And I have no expectation that people in another language can pronounce everything in different languages. All of that is fine. Say it differently, I get it. But, to make up an entirely different word is just plain stupid.
Ok, I have ranted. You knew I was going to.
The quantity of frites that you can eat in a few days in Belgium is immoral.
Belgians really really like Frites. I kinda think that maybe even more than beer (although no self-respecting Belgian cycling fan would ever admit it.) I know that when I am there for a few days, I almost cannot stop myself. I just keep eating them.
This week I was in Belgium, of course because it was RVV time. (Ronde Van Vlaanderen) Quite simply, the greatest bike race of the year. Period. There is no debate to that statement. Cobbles, Frites, Beer, Bergs, wind, Frites, rain, more frites and more cobbles. Ahhh, the life.
Those are some very confused Norwegians/Kristof fans.
Biggest Bike race of the year, and that is what she will be doing. Frying frites. Look at all those in the background! ahhh....
This year was a fun race. Not quite the same as other years where we have won. But, it is still Belgium and it is still RVV. Next year, we will be back.
Surrender the Frites.
Lets go for a ride. Oudenaarde
We will be back. The Koppenberg awaits. Only 360 days till the best bike race of the year.
Chaos of a city street in Tokyo. This crossing is actually called the scramble. All pedestrian lights turn green at the same time. Hundreds of people go in all directions at the same moment. Brilliant.
Someday, you will have to come back and do something really cultural in Japan. I had heard that a few times in my travel, as I on some trips I go from work thing to work thing (I don't normally write about those trips). But, I am never one to shy away from something fun. Duh. So, I had a bunch of miles from years of air travel, and why not? Sumo it is. Liz and I loaded into a Delta bus and flew from Madison to Tokyo (that is a long way, btw... Liz let me know that. I have done it a few times, and somewhere in there it just becomes less than what it is, not really a thing any longer.)
Anyway, It's Japan. Weird foods, funny little tiny cars, driving on the left, people are smaller than in the western world, more polite, more formal, interesting countryside etc... It is one of those places, that is just a lot different than Wisconsin. Trust me - a lot.
The evening started off on our arrival with a stroll to the pub across the street from the hotel to get some dinner. It was a good local place that people were eating something after work on Friday. There were couples there that look like it is their usual place after both being at work all week. Kind of the place to get caught up after a busy week. We sat up at the bar, and took a look at what the guy next to us was eating (Soup with some sort of big fish parts in it). After trying to figure something out from the pictures in the menu, we broke down and asked for an english menu. The waiter pulled it out, blew off the dust (clearly it had not been looked at in a while) and we looked through discovering that they really do eat every single part of the chicken. I did not know that you could successfully sell something that advertised itself as chicken skin...
Our Saturday morning started with a visit to the Tokyo fish market. This is the fish market to mark all other fish markets by. In Japan, if it lived in the ocean it is food. Sometimes you are not really sure if it was really alive, and it is still - food. The fish market is a huge warehouse with row upon row, hundreds upon hundreds of small fishermen spots selling their daily catch to wholesalers and restaurants from the area. The sheer magnitude of ocean life that is for sale for eating is amazing. As I said, if it was alive in the sea - in Japan that equals food.
I saw huge fish being divided into smaller pieces of fish. I saw buckets and buckets of fish and crabs and sea urchin and abalone and seaweed and shark and shellfish and barnacles... you name it, it is food. It was an amazing experience being there when that was going on.
Tokyo fish market. Fish stuff everywhere.
Minutes before, this was a huge Tuna. Just the head now.
Next up was a huge temple in the city, followed by a boat ride on the river ending in the palace grounds... wow, what a day. Of course, no visit to Tokyo is complete without seeing the basement of a good department store. The basement is where the food court is, and you can find amazing delicacies. $300 cantaloupe, perfect strawberries - 10 for $100 - and a bazillion other over priced foods. We didn't eat, we just walked around marveling at the selection and the price.
The day ended with a little local teppanyaki place, where the food comes out in courses and just never seems to stop.
Beautiful temple in Tokyo.
Day 2 started with a trip to the National Museum in Tokyo. I have to admit that I am not great with Japanese history, so the museum was quite helpful to understand all of the different times in Japan.
But, the highlight of Day 2 was definitely the Sumo. When I was originally invited, I was just not sure what it would be like. I was also not sure if it would have any appeal to Liz. Big sweaty guys smashing into each other. But, like everything seems to be in Japan, there is way more to it than just that. In fact, the whole thing is less about 2 big sweaty guys smashing into each other and more about the tradition and the ritual. It is so filled with ritual, it is almost religious.
The "sides" come out dressed in their formal traditional dress, replete with colored skirt. They parade out in order of their names and they form a circle in the ring. They first face out and follow a ritual to the crowd, then face each other and bow and salute and present to each other. Then they leave in single file. The matches happen one after another, where the referee calls out a competitor from each side with an almost opera sounding chant. The 2 wrestlers bow to each other, do the lifted leg thing balancing on one side, lifting the other leg, then touching the ground. They then pull off to the side and wipe their faces, talk to their trainer on the side and grab salt to throw into the ring - purifying the ring. They then go through the stretching and leg lifting ritual once more. Then all of a sudden, when the wrestlers decide to, they smash into each other trying to push each other out of the ring.
We read before the night that there are 3 ways to loose a sumo match. Touch the ground with something other than your feet, leave the circle or loose your diaper.
Not from our match, because everything I took was blurry. This is really what it looks like though.
The top wrestlers go through the bowing and leg lifting and leaving the ring to throw salt back in and belly slapping multiple times before the match. Sometimes the matches last just 10 seconds, sometimes a minute. Either way, there is way more ceremony than there is actual wrestling.
I am amazed that Japan loves this entertainment. Japan is a country of 130lb men and 110lb women. The top Sumo wrestlers are north of 400 lbs. These days, the wrestlers come from all over the world. But, even the Japanese wrestlers weigh 400lbs. It is truly incredible.
Try the leg lifting thing. It is harder than you think.
I never learned how the Mawashi or the wrestlers belt came to be, but it dates way back to the origins of the sport.
Until the next time.
kinda life size.
Nothing goes to waste. Not sure what kind of fish that one with the big eye is.
31,557,600 seconds 525,960 minutes 8766 hours 365.25 days (scientific year - the whole leap year thing is just dumb. I mean, what is that anyway?) 1 year
Just think about it; that is a lot of seconds. But, if you want to feel a little less significant or a little less sure of what it all means, think about this: If you equate the 32 million or so seconds into the length of how long the universe has evolved.....then mankind existing from whatever means we sprang would equate to the last 9 seconds or so of the Universe evolving! So there you have it. You can stop here if you want - go for a ride, or ski, or have a coffee, maybe a burrito.
Before we go any further, I should let you know that I kinda get carried away with this whole goal thing. I like to take the time over the Xmas holiday and write out a few goals. I mean, Santa is a fat man anyway. Just a few, say about 50. They are not all important, but they are all fun. But at this point it is a look back that comes first.
Here are some memorable things that happened to me or the people around me over the past nearly 32 million seconds or so.
- Ali and Thomas bought their first house. This is the kind of thing that, as a parent, will make you feel old. In spite of that, I am pretty proud of them for buying their first house. - Hanna graduated from University and had a 2nd successful trip to Ethiopia. The whole Ethiopia thing made me nervous, but I am really proud of her for chasing her goals.
- Liz and I did some amazing riding in the Yorkshire area. We did a couple of days of road riding there then a couple of days of MTB riding in Dales National park. We stayed at the Red Lion in Burnsell with Brian and my friend Guy from the UK.
- We acquired a cabin in northern Wisconsin. It is quickly becoming my favorite place in the world. There are 100 miles of singletrack there and tons of XC skiing. This past year we spent our first Christmas there with our whole family. My mother came up to spend time there as well.
- 2014 I did my first Enduro. It was probably the most fun I have had on a bicycle all year. I cannot wait for next year.
- I had a really successful motorcycle racing season. I won a lot of races, and ended up winning my class overall at the WIXC.
- I finally was able to visit my Dad in Asheville. I love that town and it was good to spend some time at his house with him. - I still have not ridden the whole of The Whole Enchilada in Moab. This year I came close, but it was still just too early. We rode the lower half in April. - In 2014 I was able to get to three Pearl Jam concerts. Leeds in the UK during the TDF, Minneapolis in October, and the best PJ show of the whole tour (I am told) - Milwaukee in October. I cannot wait to find more to go to. - This past year I had an epiphany about my eyesite. I figured out my eyesight problems and now I can see again. It makes riding my motorcycle and my bicycles much more successful. You can read about the epiphany here.
- We took in a rescue of a great dog. Marti is a Portuguese Water Dog and is a fabulous dog. He and Stella are hilarious together.
- I was able to ride for a few days in the spring in the candy store of western Belgium. It is incredible riding. I topped it off riding the Flanders citizen ride.
- While I was there in the spring, I was able to be with Luca and the team when Fabian won Flanders. That was really exciting.
- I had a goal of winning my first cyclocross race this year, and I managed to win 3 of them.
- Liz built up a new MTB. It is perfect for her and Wisconsin trails.
- I was at the Jens Hour Record. It was the perfect hour.
- I built up a new Slash this past year. It has become my favorite MTB. To top it off, I took it to Chatel (my favorite riding area in the world) to ride with my friends Lloyd and Ben. We had an amazing 3 days riding in the Alpes this year.
- Last but not least, Liz and I met Elvis at the Ronde in Flanders this year. Who knew that he was hiding out there.
2014 was a pretty good year. There were things that happened that were not so good, both on a personal level and a professional level. But, when I look back, it was a good year. Time passes and I just think you want to make the most of it.
As great as 2014 was, I think that 2015 will be even better. A person has to have goals, and I have a few. So without any other fanfare, here are SOME of my goals for the next year. All serious of course.
1. Take Liz on a non-cycling vacation. I tend to be one track minded - 2 wheelers. She has tolerated that for a long time. 2. See Pearl Jam. Rumors of a 25th anniversary concert. 3. Ride the Strade Bianche citizen race. 4. Make a decision on our house. Keep it or sell it. 5. Ride Moab or Whistler or Fruita or something iconic 6. Do a MTB trip with Lloyd. 7. Learn to take tight switchback turns on my Slash. This was on my goals last year, and I failed. So...it remains. 8. Wave at all cyclists that I see. 9. Drink more water. I should be drinking 116oz per day. 10. Get rid of all the junk in our basement. 11. Do a road bike trip. I do like riding my road bike, and more importantly it is what Liz really really likes. 12. Master small and medium double jumps on my mountain bike. 13. Learn to wheelie on both my favorite mountain bikes and my motorcycle. I have said before that this is a genetic skill. I am going to take the year and learn to wheelie, or at least just about kill myself trying. By the end of the year, I will either wheelie or it will be a lost cause. 14. Take Liz and the girls to New York City. Liz has been all over the world, but not to NYC. 15. Change all my mountain bikes to 1X drive systems. Time to move into 2012. 16. Ride Copper Harbor. 17. Ride at least 3 MTB Enduro races. 18. Ride a race with Noah. 19. Ride a race with Russel. 20. Drink only great beer. 21. Ride the State Championship CX race in Wisconsin. 22. Read 5 personal books. 23. Read 3 professional books. 24. Get more involved with my community. Give time, get involved with a local cause directly. Find a good charity that we can align with. 25. Preseason off-road training camp in late March before South Carolina GNCC . 26. Ride the Loose Moose Enduro. 27. Finish on the podium at Ironman GNCC in my class. In 2011, I was 4th at Ironman GNCC, then 5th at the first Loretta’s and won the 2nd Loretta’s race. In 2012 I notched a 6th at Ironman and then 5th at Loretta’s. In 2013 I came 5th at Ironman. In 2014 I was again 4th at Ironman. Close, but not quite there. 28. Learn to use the rear brake while using the throttle on my 250F. I am still struggling with this skill. I think it is imperative for me to get this skill if I have any hope of winning a GNCC race. 29. Master flat corners on my 250F. 30. Get one of those really cool Bluetooth phone devices that allow you to walk along in the airport talking to yourself out loud. You look so cool while doing that. 31. Do all of my Christmas shopping from Sky Mall catalog. 32. Get a Babelfish installed. This whole multiple language thing has me baffled. 33. Put together the plan to climb Kilimanjaro with Liz. 34. Help Ali and Thomas build a garage. 35. Finish my first Birkebeiner ski race in 10 years. 36. Make 3 dance videos while traveling. 37. Make my bed every day. 38. Cut as much sugar out of my diet as I can. Sugar is the new boogieman. 39. Build a little 2-stroke for tight woods races.
40. Go to a World Cup DH race. 41. Go to a World Cup XC race. 42. Go to a WEC MTB Enduro. 43. Go to Flanders and Roubaix pro races.
The rest of my goals are work-related, and although they are really important, they are not to be published outside of appropriate circles. Trust me, there are more than 50 when you add them together.
If you have read this blog before, then you know that I am kind of a goon for racing. I kinda really like it. Racing is cool because it is unpredicatable. Racing is cool because the heroes that do it are not like you and me. Racing is cool because the people that do it are amazing athletes. Racing is cool because it reminds us that no matter how fast you are or how good you are at something, there is always someone faster or better at that same thing.
Here at Trek we race for all those reasons, but mostly we race because we are absolutely over the moon about racing and just how cool it is (I know that is a bit of a circular reference, but this is my blog not yours).
I have been really fortunate throughout my career because I have been given the opportunity to be very close to our racing efforts. I always wanted to be a racer, but was never even close to gifted enough on a bicycle to even be considered. I am a modest rider, but modest abilities will not get anybody anywhere close to being a professional. So, when I get to be part of a professional team, I feel really really privileged.
2014 was Trek's first season owning a World Tour license. That is a really big deal. We are racing at a level with the best teams in the world. We are participating in the Formula One of cycling. It makes me really proud to see the Trek Factory Racing team in a race whether we win or lose. Of course winning is really much better than not winning, but that is only a part of the story.
Let's take a look back at where we came from and what we accomplished in our first season.
1. First, launching a team is a huge effort. We purchased the license in September 2013, and had to immediately work with the UCI to get that it confirmed. We had to build a service course in Belgium to manage the team's vast equipment inventory and needs. We had to design a complete kit, car graphics, bus graphics etc... We had to build bikes and wheels and outfit the team. All the riders and staff had to be hired. And we did all of that in time to have our first team camp in November last season. It was a major undertaking, but we pulled it all together.
2. Our early season results were really phenominal. Right away, Julian Arredondo and Giacamo Nizzolo produced exciting results at the Tour of San Luis. We were on our way.
Julian looking confident early in the season.
3. Our spring classics campaign was very succesful. The team helped Fabian Cancellara get to the podium at Milan - San Remo, Flanders, and Roubaix. Flanders of course was the top step. I am super proud of that, as I said that I wanted to win Flanders all the way back at Team camp in December and the team pulled that off.
4. At Fleche and Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Julian Arredondo showed that he was a man for those races, and announced with a fantastic showing that he would be a factor in those in the future.
5. We were one of the most aggressive teams at the Giro d'Italia. Julian Arredondo took the mountain climbers jersey, Giacamo Nizzolo was present on the final of every single sprint stage. It was a hard race, and we were big players there.
6. We put Haimar Zubeldia into 8th place at the Tour de France this year. I am really proud of him - without losing so much time on the difficult stage on the cobbles, he had a real chance to be in the top 5.
Haimar putting himself into 8th on the final TT at the Tour de France!
7. Jens Voigt closed out his career with the team by taking the polka dot jersey at the Tour de France. In his trademark bold fashion, he rode to the most aggressive rider at his last two races in Utah and Colorado. Then he capped off his whole career by setting a new standard for the hour record on the track. His effort has reignited interest in the record by riders from all over the world.
Jens at speed at 42 years old. Setting a new Hour Record standard and closing out an amazing career.
All-in-all, we had an excellent first season. I am proud to be part of the team. I am proud of the organization there, and all the effort they have put in to being one of the best teams in the world.
But, we are not done and we are not satisfied with where we are. We have goals and hopes and expectations. I have hopes and expectations for sure.
We want to win more monuments. If that is Flanders and Roubaix again, good. But, we will not be stopping there. We will target all of them this year and will do our best to take a couple of them home.
We want to be one of the dominant teams in March and April. We have the horsepower, the ambition, and the drive to do that.
We want to contest for the red jersey at the Giro.
We want to be racing for the top 5 in the Tour de France.
We want to finish in the top half of the overall standings at the end of the season. That will mean that we will race a lot harder in all the other races we are participating in.
So 2015 begins.
We had some key riders retire this year.
Jens Voigt ended one of the great cycling careers of all time. Jens will remain part of the Trek family and part of the race team. Watch for more announcements on that in the press.
Danilo Hondo retired and we were proud to have him finish his career with the team.
Andy Schleck retired early due to a series of injuries that he just could not get past, and we were all sorry to see that happen. I wrote a recent blog entry about that, and I would be honored if you went back to read that here. I do not know exactly what the future holds for Andy, but I hope it can still be in the Trek family.
With those spaces, we have made some really exciting additions to the team. Bauke Mollema comes to us from Belkin. Bauke is a legitimate top 5 Tour threat. With the combination of him, Haimar Zubeldia, Frank Schleck and Julian Arredondo, we go the the Ardennes classics and the Tour de France as legitimate players.
Marco Colledan comes to us ready to help the sprint train that we will execute with Giacamo and Danny van Poppel.
Gert Steegmans was a big addition for us. Gert will further strengthen the cobbles team and then go on to be part of the sprint train we are building as well.
It is time for a new season!
The team is currently at our big preseason camp in Calpe, Spain. There is a chaos of bike fitting and clothing fitting going on. There are team planning meetings and organization going on for two weeks. The directors meet to determine race schedules and goals. The riders meet with trainers to detail their race plans and training plans. There is baseline testing going on that includes physical testing and basic performance testing. This is the first time the riders ride together on new bikes.
The team goes out for 3-5 hours of training every day. While the team is out, the staff is going full gas to make everything ready behind the scenes. Clothing that has to be sorted out. Home bikes, race bikes,multiple shoe pairs requiring custom insoles that are fit to the rider and made by hand. Pictures of all the staff have to be made. Briefings for any new staff or riders. Sponsor presentations, etc... It is really busy, to say it bluntly. But, man is it exciting.
That is me trying to be inspirational. Not sure how it worked, but in spite of that I am really excited as we go into the new season.
On Sunday night, sort of the opening night of camp. The team's General Manager, Luca Guercilena, and I made a presentation to the team. Mine was to explain how Trek and I view the team, and how we view the goals for the team. It is a pep talk and a laying out of expectations. I think it was good. But, Luca then stood up after me. He explained that each of the riders in the room was a hero. He explained that even he was in awe of what they can do on a bike. But, he told the riders that they could probably find inspiration in other sportsmen. With that, he showed a few videos from amazing sporting events over the years. His presentation really got the gang excited and showed them that they are capable of exceptional things. I know that I was inspired after hearing his speech.
January and the race season will be here soon enough. Watch out world, here we come.
Luca looking suave for his staff photo. Just getting all the photo's taken takes a couple of days.
Getting your proper fit is really important to your performance.
Lots of different performance and physical analysis of pedal stroke and flexibility.
Inspiring on the Galibier in 2011. No more words necessary.
I was running through an airport, trying to catch my flight, when my phone dinged at me. A Whatsap message from Andy - Give me a call if you can. I replied, that I was getting on a flight, could I call him later. He replied immediately. I was kinda hopeful about the conversation, but it was a bit foreboding. It turned out that foreboding was accurate. "I think it is time to hang it up." I was shocked as I really did not see it coming. I thought maybe I was going to hear the knee was coming around. I thought we were going to have a conversation about how he could work himself back into form in a year, etc... It took me a long time to digest the facts of the conversation; the knee was just not going to come around.
We are all going to miss Andy. Andy was the promise that was always there, just below the surface. Andy was the most gifted professional cyclist ever, but Andy just never could put it all together. He has the most amazing motor - maybe the biggest ever - with a perpetual young boy POV on the world. He was always the kid that could just do it and could always make things happen when he wanted to. He did not understand the world of preparation and the world of science. He was all "ride and then do it." Andy's will was enough, when combined with his absolute raw gift for cycling, to make him one of the best there ever was.
When Andy was the young newcomer, the press loved him. He was the future. He was young and good looking and funny and spoke many languages and he had a brother that was his partner in cycling. Life was good. Andy represented everything that was great about cycling. He represented what could have been. He represented the pure joy around cycling and winning that we all felt robbed of through the 90s and early 2000s.
And for many years the results came. He impressed at so many races, and won early in his career. It just seemed so natural that he would go all the way to the top. He was a champion already when he started.
Then later when the promise was a bit dusty and his focus appeared to be elsewhere, he somehow lost the following and admiration of the press. The press was hard on him. I suspect they were hard on him because, like all of us, they wanted him to grab the brass ring to somehow miraculously take that next small step and realize the destiny that we all thought was his.
Frank, Andy and Gilbert at the finish of Liege 2011
The fans never left Andy, though. As fans we all wanted him to get it all sorted and win. We wanted the tall boyish kid to climb up on that top step. We wanted to see him smile there and we wanted him to be dismayed at what all the fuss was. We wanted him to get the glory that chaingate and clenbuterol had robbed him of. We wanted him to learn to suffer against the clock, just enough to not let Cadel Evans beat him. We knew it was just there below the surface, and we thought if we just willed it to happen he would eventually find that next gear.
I first met Andy in 2009. There was talk of a Luxembourg Pro Cycling Project and it was my job to keep tabs on that for Trek. Slowly during 2010 it looked like it would become a reality. As the Luxembourg effort came together, and we put a deal together to be the technical provider for the team, I had more opportunities to spend time with Andy and Frank.
On our first outing to put them all on bikes, we met at a small hunting lodge in Luxembourg. The Schlecks were still under contract elsewhere, so we could not ride publicly. But we did a small private ride together with a few more that would become the core of the team. Andy was a complete class act during that event. He was polite and curious about the bike as he compared it to his current bike. After the ride, he was the last to leave as he wanted to get to know the guys from Trek. We told stories about racing and stories about our lives. The stories stretched out to dinner and we became quick friends.
Andy and Frank. They were mostly inseparable.
Over the years, that friendship has built and it has been shared through some interesting times. I am a lot older than Andy, but I could never have the experience that he has had with being so close to the top of a sport. He has seen tremendous success and shown tremendous promise, and he has suffered some of the most amazing streaks of bad luck and bad consequence that we have ever seen. I am proud to have been there with him through those times. I am proud of the friendship that we have built. We have been through some great times together and some tough times. But through all of those times, we have remained friends. For that I am grateful.
The world of cycling is going to miss Andy Schleck. The Contadors and Valverdes and Froomes of the world are just not the same and cannot inspire the same way. The world of cycling may be just now realizing that. Those of us close to Andy know that deep inside. Those of us that know Andy, and many of his fans, were already missing him from the moment he called us to say he had reached the end.
I know I will miss his humor on the bus. I will miss him giving it to me about the lack of hair on my head. I will miss looking forward to our time together at a race. I know I will not miss how bad I have felt for him when things have not gone well for him. But, I know that cycling is better because Andy was there.
Today is your day. You're off to Great Places! You're off and away!
You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the guy who'll decide where to go.
You'll look up and down streets. Look 'em over with care. About some you will say, "I don't choose to go there." With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet, you're too smart to go down any not-so-good street.
And you may not find any you'll want to go down. In that case, of course, you'll head straight out of town.
The celebration is ready!
It's opener there in the wide open air.
Out there things can happen and frequently do to people as brainy and footsy as you.
And when things start to happen, don't worry. Don't stew. Just go right along. You'll start happening too.
OH! THE PLACES YOU'LL GO!
You'll be on your way up! You'll be seeing great sights! You'll join the high fliers who soar to high heights.
The Waiting Place!
You won't lag behind, because you'll have the speed. You'll pass the whole gang and you'll soon take the lead. Wherever you fly, you'll be the best of the best. Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.
A big stage
Except when you don' t Because, sometimes, you won't.
I'm sorry to say so but, sadly, it's true and Hang-ups can happen to you.
You can get all hung up in a prickle-ly perch. And your gang will fly on. You'll be left in a Lurch.
You'll come down from the Lurch with an unpleasant bump. And the chances are, then, that you'll be in a Slump.
And when you're in a Slump, you're not in for much fun. Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.
Past is Past
You can get so confused that you'll start in to race down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space, headed, I fear, toward a most useless place. The Waiting Place...
...for people just waiting.
NO! That's not for you!
Somehow you'll escape all that waiting and staying. You'll find the bright places where Boom Bands are playing.
Its all a blur now.
With banner flip-flapping, once more you'll ride high! Ready for anything under the sky. Ready because you're that kind of a guy!
Except when they don't. Because, sometimes, they won't.
You'll get mixed up, of course, as you already know. You'll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go. So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that Life's a Great Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left.
98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.
And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and 3 / 4 percent guaranteed.)
KID, YOU'LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!
An embrace from Dad after the race.
Staff celebration after the race. We will miss these Jens moments.
So... be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordecai Ali Voigt or O'Shea, you're off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So...get on your way!
Yip Yip. Back in Chatel again. Mountains, good friends, Pizza, Mountain bikes, Cookie the dog - acting like I own the place.
Its great to be back in Chatel riding with my friend Lloyd. We mostly stayed dry, in spite of that sky.
On last year's trip to Chatel, when we were coming back after the last ride, I said to Lloyd, superguide extraordinaire, "I'm coming over for a whole week next year so that I can learn to handle steep switchbacks better." "Practice" said Lloyd. I did not. Unfortunately, I also could not stay for a whole week. Work just gets in the way of having fun. But, I do love Nutella.
So, I am here again, and I still suck at tight steep Alpine switchbacks. I am still really excited about a nice bit of singletrack high in the Alpine backcountry. I am still in love with Chatel. I still love being with my friends Lloyd, Louise, Ben, and Daisy here. So what if a high alpine switchbacks are kind of a wiff for me?
Lets get started.
Welcome to Chatel.
In the morning, I had to drive from Friedrickshafen (where the Eurobike show tempted me with all manner of baubles and shiny objects) to Chatel. Driving in Europe is not the same as driving in the USA. Smaller roads, speeds are not consistent (which is why Europeans are not so bothered about cup holders in their cars), and no Pearl Jam on the radio (the last part is the only really difficult part of driving there). It is about a 4 hour drive, and it took all of that (of course I just played some PJ on my phone, I am short - but I am not left handed).
You get off the big roads in Monthey Suisse to get onto a smaller road over to the French side of the mountains. That is where the adventure begins. You will see a sign announcing the Porte du Soliel and when you drop over the pass into Chatel, you will imediately understand why you made the trip. As I tooled through the town, I remembered my wife Liz' words, "make sure you bring me some Chatel dotted pottery", so I whipped around and ran into the pottery store to get that done. Six espresso cups made mine. The salt shaker is another story altogether that Louise will need to come clean with.
When I arrived at Chez Grace, Lloyd already had our bikes ready to go. I did a quick change, and after a brief stop to press my maw against the glass at the salon to startle Ben (not sure that his boss appreciated the spot I must have left on the glass), we were out on the trail for Day One. Up a chair lift, and we were into the backcountry, just like that. We dropped down into the goat village and over to Morzine and life was good. It felt really great to be out on the trail with my friend Lloyd and back into the Alpes.
Somewhere along the way, Lloyd said something to some other guys to give them some advice "Go left and it is a nice little bit of single with a road out around the steeper bits. Go right, and it is death defying steep." Of course, we were going right. When we got to that bit, I wasn't sure if it would be safer to ride or walk. It was that steep. When we got to the bottom, Lloyd said "Oh, that is not that steep - no rope was required to get down it." (Yes, it is pretty much like that)
I cannot remember exactly the trails we rode on that day, but there were many. We hid behind buildings while dodging rainstorms and snaked our way from one valley to the next. The riding there is always an adventure. There were some absurdly steep sections that even without the slippery wet stuff we were on, I do not think I could ride. Did I mention that the Alpes are steeper than other mountains? Lloyd crashed hard into a bermed turn, smashing a helmet and his hand, and we feared the worst for our first day. In the end, he was fine.
We finished up our day with a couple of runs at the bike park in Chatel, where we saw all the super large jumps and gaps - but we rode like old guys and just looked for the flowwing trails with some steep and berms.
Apparently you drive your McClaren to the bike park in Chatel. Damn, I would have driven mine there had I known.
I'm so serious!
I'm up early, I cannot sleep. Could be jetlag, could just be I'm hungry, couldn't possibly have anything to do with I am in the Alpes and I am going on an epic all day adventure on my Slash! Nah. We breakfast-ed it up with some oats.
Lloyd knows that I need oats to start my day. After all, it is a grainy goodness that does a nice job scrubbing your innards and powering you up for the intergalactic space jumps. If you have not checked it out, do it now. Dig up the recipe for #joetmeal - it rules. Or, check the post out by following here or here. (check them both - its worth it.)
After breakfast we head out directly, as it is going to be a big day. We are meeting up with a couple of guys visiting in town who are also in Europe for Eurobike. We all converged on the main lift in town, and headed up from there. At that time, I did not know that we were going to be on quite the adventure that we were about to take on. Rest assured, it was big.
Up a lift to the top at Super Chatel, across a ridge trail (big fun) and down to another lift, up, a hike a bike on a trail that was bike over the shoulder stairstepping up a bunch of rocks over a peak that got us above the clouds and had huge exposure on both sides, down to the village of Vionaz in Suisse, transport to Champery, lunch there, up the tram to the top of that area, down a kick butt series of trails to a double track climb that was long and mostly pushing for an hour or so at that altitude, to the most killer ridge trail (known to Lloyd and I as "Hanna's Trail" as my yougest daughter, Hanna, rode it before me), back down to Champery, back up the tram, down some really fun singletrack to Morgin, up over the pass back to Chatel. Holy crap.
Wow, what a day. Nine hours out on the bike. We finished at a pub in Chatel where we had a beer to celebrate, and then we had dinner at one of my favorite restaurants in the world - Le Fiacre in Chatel. (In the future, I will probably put up a whole list of great restaurants. Keep tuned, I am sure that you just cannot wait for that.)
Above the clouds.
We are heading over there.
Sometimes we had the lifts to ourselves.
Hanna's Trail. She rode this long before I did, and now finally I have as well.
I cannot wait to do another ride like this one. I have become such a huge fan of the big day out in the Alpes (I know, I am soooo Enduro.) Regardless, it is amazing fun. A few years ago, I only wanted to ride buff singletrack (that was before I was an enduro hack - so enduro you know). Now, I cannot wait to be out in the Alpes with a pack on looking for great singletrack with a huge view. I am a convert.
Artsy, but dang is that thing a machine.
For this trip, I shipped out to Lloyd's place a new carbon Slash with a custom color thrown on it. It is sexy. Equipped with XTR shifters, brakes and rear der, an XT crank, New Bontrager Line wide Enduro wheels, a 160mm Fox 36 (sweet - sweet - sweet) and a ReAktiv rear shock that is just the bomb. There is no bike that I have ever ridden like this thing.
If you have not yet checked out the Slash Carbon, you really need to. (Yes Lloyd, you need one of these not just a longer travel Remedy)
Ben is living with my bike now, and he took this picture of it yesterday. My bike is happy, I am happy for my bike, but I am not there with it any longer so I am not happy for me.
A sweet bike park.
(I know, I could pretty much just stop there)
Pila bike park outside of Aosta Italy, might just be the most glorious riding area in the world. Unlike most bike parks, it is not just jumpy jumpy trails. They have those, but it is actually filled with a ton of really cool singletrack through the woods. Kilometer after kilometer of singletrack that just keeps on going and going. If you stack the trails from the top all the way to the bottom, there is about a 20km long ribbon of trail laid out in front of you. (That is a big number, if you are having trouble with the math at home.)
In the middle of the ride, Ben's brakes went away. So, we took it to the shop at the lift. It was a cool quaint little set up. Two old Italian guys working under the lift building and repairing bikes for people to keep them on the trail. They struggled with trying to bleed Ben's brakes and spilled mineral oil all over his bike. It made it so that the brakes really didn't work for the next run. Ben flew off the trail into the weeds, I was right behind him. It might have been the most funny thing I have ever seen. Later on the lift, Ben made the famous quote "I don't want to make it an issue. It's not really an issue... It's just that I cannot stop! What a bunch of Monkeys." We never laughed so hard.
The brakes came around after he burned off all the mineral oil and washed it off so he could hold on to the bars, but it made for some good comedy along the way.
We rode as a group, and we got faster and faster by the end of the day. Maybe it was just me that got faster, as Ben and Lloyd are both much faster than me to start. But, by the end it was a freight train down the trail over and over. I hooted and and had a giggle of a time all afternoon.
I felt like I never wanted it to end. I wanted to keep riding and riding. I wish that we could have had another day there. I just do not want to stop riding my Slash in the Alpes.
Ben's favorite bike shop.
Ben was born with the Wheelie Gene. It just pisses me off that I missed that one. I pretty much blame my parents.
#Trekworld. It has come and it has seen and it has gone. Another year, another extravaganza of presentation, lights camera and action of all kinds. You see every year, we sit around and ask ourselves, "Self, should we have Trekworld this year and if we do what should we do to make it more fun than last year, and can we have pudding?" This year we did, and we do, at least if your memory serves.
It is a collage kinda thing.
This is the Apocalypse, whoa.
I want to start us off with this. It has nothing to do with the title nor anything to do with the first statement, but it is a video. I have come to feel that everything should start off with a video, even lunch.
Many people have asked me how to operate a big bike company..., well it is actually easy. You just design some bikes and socks, put together a nice trade show booth, invite some customers, go and build up a race team, then make some frites. It is all pretty simple actually, at least that is how it comes across.
But seriously, it is a really big deal to us. If you were here, you know. If not, well lets just dive into some pictures and such - things that will make you feel like you at least knew someone who was there.
I do have a family name, just that no one uses it. Even in my company.
That is the new brand book/catalog for this year. It is big, like 230 pages big. Full of everything bike. Get to a Trek dealer and get yourself a copy. Oh, that is Julien Arredondo from the Giro this year on the cover.
That is the Leatherman tool of bikes. The Carbon Remedy. It is everything from Bike Park to Enduro to Trail Ride to 24hr Race. Comes in dedicated frame platforms 29 or 27.5, oh ya and it totally rips.
To go along with your new Remedy enduro machine, you will need a new lid. The Lithos with click in super clean camera mount is going to be my rig. Comes in sweet colors that I did not photo - just imagine.
How many parts does it take to build a Lithos helmet? Lets count...
We are kinda really into CX at Trek. There was a really cool display that included Katie's first Trek CX bike and Sven's bike for next season, Belgian beer on tap... There is even a CX race on Trek's property next month, you can sign up for it here.
Katie and Fabian getting ready in the race shop to take a bunch of dealers for a bike ride. Trekworld makes for some interesting combinations. (Sorry about the blurry photo)
Your new handlebar will make your road bike so sleek.
Road bike product manager Ben Coates, me and Finance Manager Chad Brown. We didn't leave the CX area very much (free good beer) and we were hoping that Sven or Katie would come by.
If I needed a get around town city bike - Chelsea and District!
Look closely there folks. That is a bike equipped with the new XTR Di2. Yep. It is real, and it is badass.
I don't really do rigid bikes, nor do I do SS. But, if "His Purpleness" will allow, damn. Dearly beloved...
Domane Disc. Enough said.
Demo Ken, doing what he does so well. The demo is a big dealeo at Trekworld. Always was, always will be. Who doesn't want to ride a sweet new bike on primo single track? photo credit to Hansi Johnson.
So stoked, as I write this, it is only 340ish days till Trekworld 2015. Schwing! The whole thing somehow makes me think of this story.
I remember the neighbor telling me a story once about his kids when they were growing up. One of his sons was talking about the crusty things that come out of your nose. His dad told him they were called boogers, and that it was natural. The kinda thing that just happens to a body. Sort of the same thing as earwax, everyone has it.
His kid thought about that for a bit, and then looked his dad, thought about it some more looked at his Dad, looked at his hand, then looked up at his Dad and then said, "but they taste different than earwax."
Oh, by the way, I'm radioactive.
Next years Trekworld booth will be something like this.
I am really certain that the Hobbits's live in the Shire. I am not really sure if the Shire is a real place or not, but I know that Hobbits's are real. I know, trust me, I know. Of course I have not been to all of the places that Hobbits have been, but I am pretty certain that even though we all know that Mordor exists - clearly Rivendell is made up. I mean come on, isn't it unlikely that elves would live in a place that is so easily found by Hobbits?
I mean seriously, what is a hobbit? With those feet, they cannot possibly fight off Orcs. Of course, that is not really expected of them, just carrying things on chains.
But, I think I have found what is probaby the place that the Shire resides. I have not found it yet, perse - but I know it is there. The actual Shire is somewhere in Yorkshire, in the north of England. You know, the place of weird English and really good pints of ale. The place of driving on the wrong side of the road (which is of course the left side, as right is right and left is wrong. It has to do with the whole lefthanded thing.) Oh, and those pints are glorious by the way. It is all a bit Dr. Suess you know - Oh, the places you will go.
In the USA, we have free range chicken and beef. Apparently Yorkshire has it's own views. Hobbits's beware.
I mentioned the Pint, didn't I? I had my share.
Even the pubs were into it. I overheard one of the people there say, "wow you cyclists really do spend money." When it comes to beer baby...
Yorkshire is an incredible place. Beautiful, green, full of charm, historic etc... The tour was an amazing experience there. Every single village came out to see the tour. Every single village was decorated to the 9's, and manicured to look amazing. If you have not seen all the photos, take a look here.
Every village had yellow banners up, and bicycles painted yellow everywhere, and hand knit jerseys on a string draped across the road, and "Welcome Tour de France" hand painted signs, and names of roads changed to French etc... Yorkshire loves the Tour de France. It was really inspiring.
And wow did the people come out. As my friend in London says, "English people just love a day out". That may be so, but they do not come out for a bike race like this anywhere else in the world. It is estimated that about 9 million people saw the Tour de France from the side of the road in those 3 days in Yorkshire. Think about that - 9 million people! Cycling is alive and well, that's for sure.
It was exciting to be there on that first day and see the old man take the Polka dot. He really burned every match he had that day to try to get that jersey. Jens took the Polka Dot jersey in his first tour, and then again in his last tour.
Jens looks good in Polka dots. People say that mountains are afraid of Jens. It will be tough to see him retire. "Don't even talk to me about 18, Joe"
Jens got to ride with this cool dotted SRM unit also. I just wonder what kind of numbers Jens puts out while trying to take the jersey. Ha.
After the Tour de France stages left the UK, Liz and I moved on to the REAL reason we were there. On the 8th of July, we went to the Pearl Jam concert in Leeds. Oh, it was pretty good. Ha. You know if you read this occasionally, that I kinda like Pearl Jam. I mean, I guess they are pretty good. If you have not seen them live, you owe yourself that. I have made it a habit the past years of trying to see them somewhere in the world. This year, I am kinda going overboard with 3 different shows. But, that is just my view as some people say there is no such thing - you cannot see them too many times.
The band (as they are known now at my house), puts on the most amazing show you have ever seen. They never play less than 3 hours. This night they played for 3 hours and 40 minutes. I think I read somewhere afterward that they played 39 songs. Towards the end, Eddie's voice was nearly gone. At one point the band conferred and Eddie said they had been asked to stop, but they were having too much fun and "f..k it", we are going to play a few more songs. Brilliant.
The line to get a tshirt or a poster was stupid long. I would have loved to have one for history, but instead I just have a photo of the poster. Pretty cool, eh?
They played some epic versions of songs that I had not heard before. Sirens was beyond good, the version of Evenflow was incredible, Porch rocked as it always does. Stone sang don't give me no lip. Lightning Bolt was stupendous (I cannot believe I did not care for that song originally). At one point, Liz said "OMG, they are just killing it tonight." They were. But, unfortunately they did not play Yellow Ledbetter. It felt like it was going to come at the end, but instead I think that was when they broke out Alive (I am not sure, it is such a blur - 3.4hours you know). Wow.
Oh well, here is to hoping The Band sees this blog entry and plays Yellow Ledbetter at either Milwaukee or Minneapolis. I mean, come on guys it has been a couple of years since I have been able to hear it live - wtf?
Next up was 2 days of mountain biking in the Yorkshire Dales.
Riding in the Dales of Yorkshire is pretty cool. I had done it once before, about 10 years ago - it was Liz's first time. You are riding on ancient Roman roads/paths, lined by hand built stone walls that were built hundreds of years ago by who knows who. You stop in a pub along the way and have lunch (along with another handcrafted ale). You climb walls and ride across fields on bridal paths. You link up bits of singletrack along the river or up on the Moors (beware the Moors, just like American Werewolf in London). And then do it all again the next day. There is something really cool about it all.
In the USA, mountain biking is all about finding killer singletrack. Doesn't really matter what kind, scenic - technical - flowy - steep - flat. But, it is all about singletrack. The trail is what is important. In Europe, I have now found that it can be really more about the destination. There is a huge vista, or a pub or a castle or... You do need to give it a try though. Good fun.
I am not sure you are paying attention though, as they are called chips here. Chips in America are what come in a bag and are fried and crisp. Frites or Fries are what is a fried potato. In the UK, they are eaten with just about everything. They are not the same as Belgian Frites, but do not even get me started on that. Frites are just about the perfect food, afterall - (They actually cannot rival a Burrito, but you really cannot get those in Europe... Seriously).
That is some good stuff right there. Hobbits's and the Shire in the background, Orcs somewhere in area, old roman road to ride... great fun.
Feels a bit rickety, but it was cool that this was all available via bike. We just do not have this stuff in USA.
That would be the Red Lion, pub where we stayed. Upper right corner room was pretty cool.
Picnic dinner with the Kes clan. That would be the shire out in the distance there. Click the photo.
Then I moved on to the sales meeting in the UK, not much to report there so we will move on to getting back to the 1st rest day at the TDF with Luca and the TFR team. (at this point it is starting to feel like I have been there forever).
The highlight of that was that I got to go for the rest day ride with the team. Just a simple little 40k affair, that was done at a similar pace to the lunch ride at Trek. Yep, even easy days for a world tour team are harder than I sometimes want to go. It was great fun to ride with a follow car though. I told Liz that from now on I want a follow car on my rides. I think she is planning that.
This is brilliant, as this is the way it always is for me going for a ride. Bikes professionally prepared and set out ready to go, bottles filled, tires filled, follow car with a route already chosen... NOT!
We introduced a new sponsor and a new cause with the team this past week. Samsung global came on as the mobile sponsor, and that has been crazy fun. I picked up a new Galaxy S5 phone, and Gear watch. Holy cow, is it cool. I did not know what I was missing. I took all these photo's with it this week, and I can tell you the camera completely rocks, and the phone has so many features it will take me a while to figure it out. And do not even get me started on the watch because it is...wow.