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.
A Day Spent In The Candy Store!
Eickenberg, Paterberg, Taaienberg, Kwarmont, Koppenberg, Molenberg. OMG, riding in Belgium in April is Heaven...Heaven.
The climbs of East Flanders are tough. They can be impossibly steep and sometime with the absurdity of cobbles thrown in. You will need your smallest gear and it hurts. Your legs scream at you to stop, but do not be tempted. If you do stop, you will never get going. You also cannot stand up, as you bike tire cannot retain traction if you do. So you push a way to big gear and your speed goes down to impossibly slow. You will just not believe how much faster Fabian and Tom can do this climb.
If you have not yet been there yet, you need to go. Get a map, get a bike, get some friends and head out in Flanders. You can follow signs from one of the many races that use these roads. Ride 50 or 60 or 70 miles and you will find you are now in the galactic center of cycling. You will see hundreds of other cyclists along the way. Buckaroo Banzai would approve, because there you are.
We started our day at the restaurant on the Kwaremont, and traced along 105 kilometers of the 2013 E3 route. If ever there was a road to ride segment that the Inner Ring could write about, it is here.
On a beautiful spring day, riding in this part of Belgium is certainly the equivalent of a pilgrimage to Mecca for a cyclist. It is great fun seeing other large groups of cyclists tackling the same hills and routes that you are. All of you experiencing the same elation.
And, there is the lovely squeek of the tires over the road.
This Sunday is going to be an epic day. I have never actually seen Flanders in person. It is my absolute favorite bike race, yet I have always watched it on the internet and never in person. It is the grand daddy of all the races out there, and I will finally get to see it in person. I cannot wait.
Shazbot nanu nanu!
If you follow this blog, and you have not been on a remote island without any wee fee, then you know that Trekworld just happened. If you were here, you are probably just finishing your 72nd cup of coffee afterward and finally feeling that you are ready for the rest of your life - or at least Wednesday.
What you may not have been paying attention to, is that there are numerous versions of Trekworld spread around the world. Some are real, some are imagined (I usually imagine that I am Brook Mcdonald and do not love IPA - neither of which are true either. Although I do play Ricky Carmichael on telly.) I suspect there is a parallel universe out there where Wookies are practicing their Trekworld growls and getting their all mountain on or ripping around in lycra with shaved legs (I have always wondered what that would look like - Odd that Penguin being there...)
Regular world happens all around you, each day. Traffic, breakfast (you should have had #joetmeal, by the way. I hear that is a new fast growing religion), never enough burrito's, a good mountain bike ride, a headwind on the way home, the goofiest dog of all time, mozzies, etc... You know, regular world. Sometimes regular world is dynomite. But, all the time Trekworld is.
Just think, oodles of shinny new things on display, Great Athletes Ride Trek in attendance, Madison dreaming of being in Belgium, bike rides on new bikes, new helmets, new shoes, new, new new... Who doesn't like new? (Get rid of this old wine, let's splurge - bring some new wine. OK, maybe that one doesn't work.) Either way, here is my sort of photo's that I have seen from the shebang here in Madison.
Enjoy, it tastes great!
Booth Pictures to start.
Great Athletes Ride Trek. Every year we bring a bunch of athletes who are Trek athletes, and have them hangout with dealers and Trek employees. It is great fun, and I think they enjoy it as well.
It is not all serious. Here are some of the fun things I pulled off of twitter.
There is usually a big party at my house during #trekworld. Athletes, and trek employees and music and beer. Sometimes someone ends up in the pool.
Only 240ish days until #Trekworld comes back around to the USA.
If you have been following me, you kinda get that I am sort of a race fan. This is one of my first race posts. Having posted about. Having posted about racing before does not automatically make me a big racing fan, but trust me - I am. I like the race, I like the spectacle, I like thinking that I am as fast as a racer, I like the whole circus. Kinda dig it.
So what you are probably thinking (should be thinking). Lotsa people are race fans. One of the greatest aspects of my job (outside of traveling to weird places and having more bicycles around me than should normally be allowed - oh, and I have a portal to the future), is being involved with racing - directly. Of course in the end, I am just a hack and I am no where near the pace that real racer is. I just like to think it.
But, recently we were presented with a really cool opportunity. After having sponsored a number of pro teams, we get to try our hand at owning and running a team.
So now we start a grand adventure. It is our chance to give back to a sport that has been really important to us. It is our chance to help cycling grow and change into the future. We are all pretty psyched about it.
My friend Brian Nygaard once said to me "In racing you will loose alot more races than you will win." We are going into this with our eyes wide open. Our goals are to build a really nice team that we all can be proud of. A team that loves and respects its fan base. A team that acts like a team and is a team. A team that always looks great and always is an important part of the feature. A team that helps young riders develop into the future.
I cannot wait to get into next season and be there as a piece of the fabric of racing. I cannot wait until my favorite races next year. I cannot promise we will win, but I can promise we will be something worth following. Stay tuned for a bunch of additional announcements and information to come on the team.
This is really going to be fun.
As the first stage of the TDF is called. It is the Grand Depart!
See you at the races.
When the pages turn, they turn. Kinda like that song, you know the one that goes. Ba b aba bap. Ba b aba bap. Boop! I am pretty sure it is a Saphires song, or maybe Pearl Jam. Andy says it is a little like on the grapevine. I am pretty sure there is no bus though, at least not one with a fancy paint scheme. If your looking for something not on the menu, then head on out of here. I am not a short order cook any more than I am Yoda.
Our adventure begins about 2 weeks ago. The night was – moist. And that moisture is what lead to this tale. A tale of airplane rides, ski slopes packing loads of new snow, bike rides on roads that can only be imagined and skinny bike racers with fancy new kits. Listen closely. The tour started out with an airplane ride to the promised land, a trip to the beehive state with gravity on my mind. It had been a long time since we had been to Utah and a long time since we had toyed with the gravity setting on our space suits that much.
Here is a snapshot,we went to Utah, we saw our good friend Art, we skied 5 spectacular days at Snowbird and Alta, I reignited my love affair with Utah and specifically Alta. It was cool. But, of course that does not tell the whole story, as we had 3 days of snow pounding down on us. Not huge huge amounts, but about 12 inches per day for those 3 days. At times it was hard to see what we were doing, at others it was hard to see period, and at others still the snow was so thick that is was a bit like swimming.
But oh my, gravity is good. I had forgotten just how good Alta is. It can be steep, it can be deep and there are not many people there the 2nd week of January. It is totally worth it.
From there, I flew directly to Mallorca.
You are probably wondering if planes can actually fly directly from the land of white fluffy to the Mediteranean. I can tell you this, they do. I went to attend a super double dog secret meeting of the future. Great fun it was and no babel fish were harmed in any of it. The meeting was all about our over all plans for the Trek European business and we were visited by the future there. Once again, I will have to leave you hanging as that particular version of the future was all shinny and bright and cannot be mentioned (much like the season who cannot be named). You just cannot know, or again – you know the thumb thing.
But, while we were there we rode our bikes and sampled some of the great roads on the Island. It is a sort of mecca for winter cycling for Europe. While there you will regularly see pros from all the big teams and continental teams and shop teams all spending time on the island riding the quiet roads along the coasts and into the mountains. Good stuff. I would plan to go back for sure. If you go, be sure to stay at Reeds Hotel – they will treat you right. Tell them Joe sent you, or … maybe you shouldn’t do that. Either way, it will be good for you. I will tell you this though, Porridge and Oatmeal are not the same thing – even if a Spanish or English person tells you they are. Not.
If you are wondering, you cook the oats first – then add berries, then almonds, then yogurt. It is called Joe-tmeal.
From there, I joined up with the skinny bike racers and saw them doing some great training and working on position on the TT bike and doing that “we are going to go fast this year thing with their eyebrows”. It was in Valencia. Lots of skinny bike racer types that can go way faster than me. I think they are going to have a really good year.
I cannot wait for Belgium and France and Italy and all those other Yoda like lands with the epic bike races that will be on. Oh, and then there is Belgian beer and frites you must not forget.
Enjoy the pictures. Adios.
Yes it is true. I know it will come as a major surprise to you, but I do not. In fact I do not even think a sideburns is ever in my future. In spite of the no hair thing, I could have sideburns...if I wants to. I mean, I have to shave everyday. But, I just don't think sideburns look that good on me. I have tried. I actually have put a legitimate earnest effort into it. I slept well, I ate right, I bought new razors, I listened to a lot of Pete Townsend, I bought some pants like Tom Jones. But alas, I just didn't mesh well with it.
Aside from that difference, there really isn't much difference between Wiggins and I. We are both tall, we both are crazy skinny, we both can go really fast on a bicycle... (I admit that I am significantly better looking, I think he does as well)
Of course there is the Converse high tops. I would bet that my high top collection is better than his. I can pretty much fake the same English accent like he does. I am not even sure if he has any Converse. Shame. I also don't go in much for mod stuff. Although I did stay in a hotel in Paris recently.
I bet I can eat more burritos than he can in a year. Burrito eating is one of my core competancies, as timetrialing is one of his. I also have never seen him clear a double on a Remedy, which means I am way better than he is at that. (categorically) Can he even think about rebuilding a 4stroke motor?
Ok, he has won a little bike race in France that I have not yet won, but I am not done yet. I might decide to win it next year. I am good like that.
In all seriousness, that was a masterful performance in France this month. Chapeau.
I bet I know more words than he does to Pearl Jam songs... See, the list just keeps growing.
Jens Voigt is everyone's hero. After the race I asked him about the effort on the Champs. He said "I had a little bit of aggression to get out. I figure I saved Paris tonight. Can you imagine the damage I would have done to Paris tonight if I had not gotten that out of my system? The city would be burning tonight if I would not have. I saved Paris today!". I love that guy.
Tour de France = Annual bike race/circus around the country of France.
Liège = City in the Ardennes of Belgium. Very beautiful area, probably the prettiest side of Belgium.
I am just returning form the start of the Tour de France, in Liège Belgium. I know that makes no sense. I think France is either confused, or maybe they are being imperialistic. You know, attempting to annex some or all of Belgium, while they are not looking. After all, there is no government in Belgium. How hard can it be to take over a place with no government?
It actually appears that Belgians do not care that they do not have a government. (No they do not speak Belgish there Hanna.) In fact, they probably have it right anyway. Who really wants to have to pay attention to elections and the whole silliness of Republicans and Democrats anyway?
When you think about it, why wouldn’t France want to take over Belgium.
- Happy people
- Ronde Van Vlaanderen, best bike race of the year, would be in France then.
- Liège Batogne Liège, 2nd best bike race of the year, would be in France then.
- Frites. Then the French would not have tolerate Belgium making the best French fries in the world.
- Cyclocross – well just because it is.
- They have an Atomium there. They wouldn’t have to keep answering what happened to the Holy Grail then. They could just keep saying “We have an Atomium.”
- Trappist Ale. Having this would help to counter the embarrassment of Lourdes.
This past week, ahead of the Tour de France we introduced the rest of the Domane line (Fabian’s bike for the cobbled classics, that has turned into a fantastic bike that is nearly the perfect every day race bike), and the All New Madone. If you are reading this, you know it is a big big dealeo.
Wow, 2 new bikes introduced this year, and both in Belgium. It would seem that all roads cross in Belgium for me. This is the 3rd time in Belgium this year for me.
Madone vs. Domane... This is epic. I do not know which to use. Which weapon on the day.
July is a great time!
1. It is summer. Duh. You ride your bike with just shorts and jersey. You get tan lines. The smell of sunscreen. Belgian beer (just threw that in, as it is one of the hold overs from all the other 7.3 seasons). flip flops. Girls with less clothing...
2. The Tour de France. It is not just a bike race, it is the Tour and the biggest circus of the year.
3. New bike intro's. Madone, Domane lineup, and who knows what else will come...
(Did I mention it is summer?)
We stayed in Francorchamps near Liège. The best area of Belgim, as noted above. This is the land of Fleche Wallon and LBL. Bike racing is everywhere here. Roads are stained and painted from many races that have gone through. They show the names of riders, written over the past years on the climbs. Gilbert, Andy, Frank, anybody with Van something in their name… Truly cool and inspiring.
We intro’d the bikes. You can take a look at the photo’s and video’s below and see all of the evidence.
Because the TDF12 was starting here, I stayed for the start. Wow, what a start it was. Fabian Cancellara stormed the course and put 7 seconds on Bradley Wiggins in 2nd. Holy cow…incredible.
I know I am the luckiest person in the world, with the greatest job in the world. Yes, I got paid for this week.
Until next time.
That is 4 very fast guys. Jens Voigt, Andreas Kloden, Frank Schleck, Chris Horner. All on stage during the New Madone intro talking about the new bike.
RSNT guys out on their Speed Concept bikes the day before the prologue.
No comment really necessary.
"I get paid to make other people suffer on my wheel."
That was the view out of my hotel room for a week. The week before the TDF is unreal. And, it is in Belgium. We were just down the road from Francorchamps F1 course. The motor noise from F1 tire testing was incredible. (BTW, I am told that is Jacky Ickx house in the background.)
This statue of Eddy Merckx is at the top of Col de Stockeu. It is a famous climb that is used in Liege Bastogne Liege. It is brutal. Plus, we did the climb and the descent in the rain. The descent in the rain was sketchy.
You gotta eat.
Frank at the team presentation the Thursday before the TDF starts. That is the new Madone that he is on.
Roger (the worlds best mechanic) building the all yellow Domane for Fabian to ride after he won the TT prologue. It was a 4 hour build in the night after he had won the tour, it is that precise. There was no complaining from the mechanics though.
The man warming up before the race. He is a machine.
Maxime Monofort cooling down after his TT. Seems like harsh duty for such a nice new Madone. (Maxime said that he needed me driving behind him and Jordan talking on the radio to do a better TT - like Suisse)
He was awfully happy after his win.
I do not even know what to say about this one.
Crosswinds. They are not like hills.
The crosswind saps your energy unlike a climb does. A climb is something that presses on you, pressing you down and standing in your way. Gravity becomes stronger on a climb. It is a bit like when you are pumping a tire up, the last 10 psi are much harder to push the handle down than the first 10psi. When riding on a climb, it is like trying to lift something heavy and bigger than you to the top shelf in the garage while standing on a ladder – over and over again. It is hard, it can go horribly wrong, but if you are lucky and maintain your balance you get the heavy bag to the top of the shelf. When the task is all said and done, you are tired and your back is sore, but after you rest and recover you will be fine. After the climb, you will even be stronger.
Generally speaking, the best climbers will have a really slender build. The Schlecky’s will probably tilt at about 55kilo (less than 140lbs). Climbers are long limbed, and small muscle. If you cross-sectioned a climber, you would see no fat and lungs that go to the knees. They breath rarefied air so much, that the insides of their lungs are pink – pure. They count calories, they talk about carbon bikes and wheels. They turn really small gears at an impossible cadence. They count the grams of weight in their shoes. They do their offseason and preseason training on slopes at stupid high altitude. Some of us are like that, only just not superhuman versions.
A classics rider is not like that. They are carved into a mass of sinew, veins, sunken eyes, narrow shoulders and a huge ass and legs – typical of a survivor of the toughest game on two wheels. A classics rider is more likely to tilt at 85+ kilo (180lbs). A classics rider revels in a crosswind. A classics rider has a face that is hardened and pocked. A classics riders face probably has scars from hitting the ground while ripping apart a cobble section of parcours at 50kph. A classics rider probably is not French speaking, or if they are they speak it with a growl. A classics rider probably speaks Flemish and knows the difference between a Flanders flag with red claws and one without. Flemish is the ancient, semi illusionary dialect of a downtrodden people who revere cyclists as symbols of cultural pride. A classics rider is a Vlaamse-Man.
Belgium is the center of the universe for a classics rider. It has impossibly steep climbs, that are probably cobbled over. Not only does Belgium have cobbles, Belgium has the other consistent item that makes a classic not the same as a climber’s race. Belgium has crosswinds. Unlike a climb, a crosswind does not make you stronger. A crosswind pulls you down. A crosswind tears at your skin, biting and clawing your body back into the gutter. Down down and down, tearing and ripping. A crosswind is a pack of zombies tearing at your legs and calves and arms and shoulders. A crosswind is blood thirsty. After a day in a big Belgian crosswind, you will not feel like it made you stronger. A day in a Belgian crosswind rips you apart and leaves you for dead.
Those Dutch kids are hard as nails. That is what a crosswind is like.
I weigh a buck 55 with my cycling kit on. That is not the super light gazelle pulled rubber band of the climber, but it is a long long way from the Vlaamse-Man.
So I found myself this past weekend on my 5th cobbled ride. I found myself riding the Paris Roubaix course for the 2nd time in a week. And, of course I found myself with a bunch of 185lb guys, in the rain with a huge wind trying to get to the velodrome in Roubaix. Ugh… It hurt. I found myself arriving at the velodrome, “with no one in the photo”, but not in the good way. Not in the way that you want to have "no one in the photo". I had been left for dead on section 5 going toward Roubaix, and I was arriving much after everyone else had. It is amazing just how slow you can go when the curtain has dropped on your reserves. Black.
I had battled gallantly and made the selection down to 15, then 10 then 6. But, when in a group of 6 it is really hard to hide from the demons of the crosswind. You bounce around trying to stay out of sight of the crosswind, but eventually he finds you. And when he does, he just keeps biting and tearing. Eventually enough of your muscle is gone that when he again finds you, he hits bone. When he does, your done. You fall off the pace so hard that you can hear your ass dragging on the road. That was my tail end on the road.
I was out of food and out of water. I got lost. I found the route again. I hugged the gutter on the road, I rode the path on the side of the cobbles. I blew sky high on the little rise into the headwind near the 10k to go point. It was raining and it was windy, really windy. I was shattered, but I battled on to Roubaix and eventually found my way there. I found the velodrome, and a beer in the café.
A beer never tasted better. What the hell am I doing in Belgium? I love this place, but I am definitely not a classics rider.
Below is a short video to show you what my 2 weeks were like there. Bikes, beer, cobbles, bike racing...Ah.
Out (I cannot wait till next spring),
I heard that once. Actually, I have heard that more than once. In fact, I heard it this past week in Waterloo at the Hullabaloo. What is the Hullabaloo you ask? Well, I will tell you exactly.
The Hullabaloo is mythical. Not in the sense that it cannot be found or defined. But, in the sense that it is a little bit like that ice skating race in Holland that they only have every 25 years or so – when the ice is just right. Of course you do not need ice in significant quantities for the Hullabaloo. But, trying to get someone from Waterloo to tell you about the Hullabaloo is pretty tough. I’ve tried. Once I was in Rhinelander Wi, and they have something there called a Hodag, but the Hullabaloo doesn’t have anything to do with that. There are people in the UK that think that a group of pugilists is necessary for a Hullabaloo. Nope, you do not need flat forehead pugilists or Hans Christian Anderson or any mythical beasts… You just need a few crazy cyclists, preferably a couple of Belgians.
We held the Hullabaloo this past week. We threw some cyclists into a ring on trainers and asked them to go fast. Really fast. Axel Merckx was there, he even raced a guy that looked like a young version of his dad. Axel cleaned the floor with him. That pretty much proves it for me, Axel is faster than his dad was. I am going with that.
The Hullabaloo was an online match race on trainers. The Bontrager LS team vs. old guys in the office. Youth vs. experience. In order to even out the teams, Axel rode with the kids. (They are his kids after all). The old guys did pretty well, but in the end the final 4 were all from the U23 Bontrager LS team. And, as we got to the finish, Axel was certainly proud to note that the final was an all Belgian affaire.
Axel vs. Jesper. That is my amateur video.
We have had one weekend of the first of the classic races. Not the Classics proper, but the first of the big Belgian races, the Omloop Het Volk and KBK. In the end, the spring time is all about racing in Belgium. It is the perfect time of the year. Snotty Belgium weather, bike racing, bad roads, crazy fans…Everything is right with the world.
It is spring time in Belgium, the Galactic Center of Cycling. I know what I will be doing the next weekends.
That is the professional video.
The annual pilgrimage to Freidrichshafen Germany. Yep, that is right. The famous little town on some obscure little lake on the border of Germany and Switzerland for the biggest bike show in the world. Everyone knows Freidrichshafen and plans to go there for their next vacation, right? Not.
Who knows why it is there. It just is. We all go there every year. Plane to Detroit, to Amsterdam, to Zurich, get on a train, take the ferry, take a taxi. All in all it is about 24 hours of travel that feels more like 27.5 hours. Just kidding, but it does feel like it takes forever. (#trekworld is exactly 14.2X better than traveling to Eurobike and 7.69X better than the show is itself). Whatever Joe, right? Get over yourself.
I'm here, again. I think this is about the 93rd time that I have been to this show. It is 10+ halls of thumping techno music, wall to wall people, bad coffee, cigarettes, body painting in someone booth, free tattoo's etc... But, mixed in there is piles and piles of sweet bike stuff. You do have to wade through all the junk to get to it. But for a bike knob, it is paradise. I love it.
This year, we are carrying over our Great Athletes Ride Trek theme to Eurobike. In the past, we have just shown off bikes and accessories. But, since Andy and Frank and Jens are such good sports they allowed humored us and said they would come to the show for a day and meet some dealers. Great!
We opened up the booth for the night, and had a cocktail party while John Burke interviewed the guys and they told stories. Jens told the story of shut up legs again. Found out that Jens very first bike was a Diamant, which is a brand that Trek owns in Europe and still sells. He was pretty psyched by that.
Unfortunately, Andy did not make it because he ended up having to have mouth surgery with a tooth abscess. That was too bad, but Frank filled in nicely for him.
Jens said 2 things during the night that were absolutely hilarious.
First, when asked what wheels he likes best, his answer was the taller ones because he has to pull for 3 hours to get Frank to the bottom of the hill, where Frank goes hard for 20 minutes and then just raises his arms at the finish. (He said all that like "How hard is that?") Classic.
Second, he said he hates flying to Luxembourg because the country is so small, the front of the plane is in France, the middle in Luxembourg and the rear still in Germany. He doesn't know what paperwork to fill out.
There are plenty of places to see the stuff at Eurobike. Just do a google search on Eurobike 2011. My time there this year was not so bad, mostly because Great Athletes Ride Trek.
Hasta la vista, baby.