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!
This past week, I had the opportunity to go to a spot on the map I had not been to before. Well, I guess it is a bit more than a spot. In fact, I actually never had a map out so I can't say that there really was a spot on it the map. Who knows, I bet on some maps there are a lot of spots. Which isn't the same as saying that a map has chicken pox. I don't really know what all the other types of chicken served in Singapore are, but they at least have chicken on a stick. I didn't see any corndogs, and well...the world needs more corn dogs, listen to Kid President - it is number 18 on his list.
The weather in Singapore is pretty much a flatline. It never changes. The quote below is from Lonely Planet.
"To paraphrase Robin Williams in Good Morning Vietnam, Singapore is ‘HOT and WET. That’s nice if you’re with a lady, but ain’t no good if you’re in the jungle…’. Practically on the equator, Singapore’s temperature never drops below 20°C, usually climbing to 30°C during the day."
What is really interesting about Singapore is that it receives pretty much the same amount of rainfall every single month of the year. A graph of the rainfall is amazingly a perfectly flat line.
None of this has anything to do with a chicken dinner, but it is a nice meal afterall. Funny, I didn't see alot of dancing while I was there. I found that I needed to export some sweet dancing. You can find evidence of that in the final video.
Coming from a place in the world where we have wildly varying seasons, I am completely facinated with a place without any real difference in climate. Wow, just how would that work? When do you go out early to beat the heat? When do you ride the trainer because it is just too cold? I guess with all that rain, cyclocross season would always be with muddy races. Kind of interesting to think about eh?
We were invited to come to Singapore to visit with Shimano in that part of the world. They have factories in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. We visited all 3. They were amazing places, building the most hi tech components and hi quality components. The people there were all amazingly friendly. The food was really interesting. The jungle was always right there, being held back with weed wackers and landscape efforts.
Wikipedia says there are more than 137 languages spoken in Malaysia. I thought that was incredible. Then I looked up Malaysia languages in Wikipedia. Brace yourself...there are 700 languages spoken in Malaysia! Holy crap! 700 languages! You would think that no one could even talk to each other. Somehow it works though.
They eat some amazing things in that part of the world. I had a curry something or other that almost sent me to the hospital. Wow, was that hot. I could not actually talk for a few minutes after downing it. Ouch.
Singapore skyline from the water.
Why does a city need that many names? Oh ya, I forgot. The city actually doesn’t have that many names. It only looks that way, because we people from other languages insist on changing a city's name into something that we think sounds better in our language. Just how presumptuous is that? And it is not only us Americans that do it…no way. The Dutch do it, the Germans do it, the French do it, the Spanish do it, etc… Geez that gets me (I feel a rant coming on, and this one has nothing to do with burrito’s – although a burrito would certainly go well right now. For that matter a burrito, an IPA and some Pearl Jam – but that would be acting all middle America). Why can’t we just say it the way the original version is said? If you told me your name was Jack, and I started calling you John - that just would not make sense. You probably would think I was daft. (Of course this is not related to someone telling you that you do not know Jack. In this case, they would be right. You wouldn't. You would know John, who was actually Jack. But it would be best to just admit you only know John as it just confuses things further if we get into the whole 'named Jack, but answering to John' thing.) But we all just live with it when it comes to names for cities and countries.
If the name of the city is Firenze in Italian, and the city is in Italy and the locals call it Firenze, then the rest of us (who are not from there, but may be named Jack or John) need to respect that and call it Firenze. Not Florence or (??).
Who started this whole thing anyway? My guess it was the English, as they do not really like the name Jack in the first place. It would probably have been done in the name of the Queen (which was made up). I hope they have pudding at lunch.
That settles it.
So after the barn burner time we had in Chatel, being all
Big Mountain Alpey and all, we decided we needed culture, Italian food, the
worlds best coffee and bad ass bike racing.
(What do they call Italian food in Italy?). On to Firenze it is. Unfortunately, there was no Pearl Jam to be
had and I did not have a good outfit for it at all. One Dopio Machiatto to go...
We arrived on Friday and headed out to a meeting with the directors of the new Trek Factory Racing effort. Luca runs a tight ship, and I just wanted to start to get acquainted with how things go. It is going to be a dynamite effort – just wait and see what we have in store… More on that later.
Saturday was walk around the city day and then we watched the women’s race from a little bar along the street in the old part of the city. The women’s race came down as I thought it would. Last lap Vos the Boss took over and brought it home. Of course there was way more to the race than that, but that pretty much summed it up. Women’s racing has arrived, though. It is much more exciting than it has ever been in the past. Congratulations Mademoiselle Vos, you are amazing.
The men’s race was nothing short of apocalyptic. Rainstorms more suited for an ark, and 270km took its toll and made it so only 61 riders even finished. Whole teams were left on the side of the roadway in tatters. It made me glad that I was not a pro bike racer (not that I ever could have that kind of ability on a bicycle). The finish was super exciting, and Rui Costa was a deserved winner.
Here is a little video taken from the Shimano support car. It gives you a feel for just how treacherous the conditions were out on the road. Wow.
What really amazed me the most was that the city of Firenze really rolled it out for the race. The streets were marked off all week, writing on the streets everywhere, signage up on all the places that they could be. And talk about a historic and scenic course. Wow. Around the Duomo, past Ponte Vecchio, through the small streets in the city, etc.
On top of that, it seemed that almost every shop seemed to have something up in its windows about the race. They were just a ton of different types of decorations for businesses that were cycling themed. Some of the displays were really professionally done and others that were just thrown up in support. Nonetheless, they were all impressive in their own way.
Here is my photo essay about the city and how one small aspect of the city embraced its race.
Cannot wait until the Worlds in Richmond. Not sure they will be able to top Florencja though.
I have woken up to strange days. I have fallen down the worm hole. I have no clapper and I may not be able to get up. Who stole the tarts, because I actually do not even care what the dormouse says?
For three great days
I had no obligations
My mind was a blur
I did not know what to do....
For three great days
I couldn't stop a smile on my face
So I dressed me up in mountain bike clothes
And took me somewhere else
(kinda School Of Fish)
I used to really not like mountain biking in the Alpes. Seriously, I was dead set against it all. I disliked even the idea of mountain bike riding in the Alpes. You see, I grew up on buff prepared American singletrack. In the USA, we quickly have moved beyond the old deer trail, to something that has been manicured and made perfect for mountain bikes. Berm turns, pump rollers, table top jumps, small step ups etc... Really, a nice little ribbon of mountain bike goodness, made all sanitary and easy so that any level of rider can ride it. (We like that in the USA, being all inclusive you know.) Plus, we hate it when people get hurt.
I used to ask my friend Lloyd Grace in Chatel, "Why does it always have to be so steep that if I screw it up I will die?" His usual response has been, cock his head sideways and look at me as if I was speaking a foreign language. (which is kinda true, as he is English after all.) He would normally snicker and say something like "I like so steep that if I screw it up I will die", with a completely dazed look on his face. At that point, we would both just walk away shaking our heads thinking - well, I kinda like him anyway.
After alot of buildup (about 3 years worth really) I took the plunge and shipped over a bike. I knew the bike would have to come down some steep crazy stuff, yet have to pedal it up long tough climbs. I imagined that I would have to push up long climbs and even carry it on my back at times. Given that, I sent over a Slash and sorted it for what I feel was the perfect set up for 3 days worth of Alpine shredding.
I have owned or ridden many bikes in my life, and a new one is always something cool to have. This one is no exception, and in fact proved itself out to be an incredible ride. I am in love with my Slash. I feel a bit wimpy that I needed such a burly fork on there, when you see what other people where riding, but that is just me.
Have I mentioned that the Alpes are steep? If you missed it, they are. If you think your riding area is steep, think again. Not much is as steep as the Alpes. That is tough for a guy from the flat-lands to get his head around, especially if that guy is me. It is steep - trust me.
Lloyd was originally going to start us out with a more pedaling focused ride for the first one. Something a little less steep to allow the flat-lander to ease into the Alpes steepness thingy. But, he had suffered a wasp sting on his foot the day before and was worried about not being able to walk and pedal too well on it. So, we went straight to the shuttling day. So much for easing into the steepness of the Alpes for me.
Until you ride in the Alpes, you really cannot imagine how steep things are. (Have I mentioned that things get steep there?) You also cannot imagine just how many people go up into the mountains to ride, to hike and to picnic. Little towns have their own cog train that take people up into the high mountains to spend the day up there in the sun and enjoying the scenery. Hikers mix with Mountain Bikers and mix with horses and mix with picnic people and mix with farmers that allow trails to cross through their fields etc... It all just works.
We took the train up from Montreaux. Montreaux is where the jazz festival is. It is a big music town on the north edge of Lac Leman. There is a big statue of Freddie Mercury in town. I always thought he was English, but I guess he had some great connection to Montreaux. Or someone in town just really likes Bohemian Rhapsody.
All in, we did 3 separate shuttles up the mountain and about an hour long descent each time. Full face helmets and pads were the order of the day. The scenery and the trail was incredible.
There is an interesting progression that happens while you are riding. You start the day or trip with one set of goals and understanding about riding a mountain bike and your home trails or the new trails and end up in a completely different place. For me, that progression goes something like this.
- This is really epic.
- This is really beautiful.
- Where are the berm turns.
- Wow that hairpin turn is really steep and tight, there is no way I can get around that. That’s just stupid.
- Wow, we are riding right through this farmers field.
- Who built these trails? Why?
- I cannot believe they let people ride their bikes on this stuff.
- Wow that hairpin turn is really steep and tight, there is no way I can get around that. That’s just stupid.
- This is really kinda fun.
- I still do not like trails that are so steep I will die if I get it wrong, but just short of that is getting fun.
- Wow the scenery is impressive.
- I really did not know that I liked sausage and bread and cheese that much.
- Wow this is really cool riding.
- Who needs a berm turn.
- Flow schmo
- I cannot wait till I am back.
- Wow that hairpin turn is really steep and tight, there is no way I can get around that, but I hope some day to figure that out.
Grand St. Bernard pass into Italy, then back up into Switzerland and down to Osiere.
This was meant to be our first day, but ended up being the 2nd. A much more pedaling All Mountain day. About 1000 meters climbing and 3000 meters descending.
Louise and Liz dropped us off at the top of the St. Bernard pass. We descended down into Italy, then started a big climb up over and unnamed col. This was absolutely just a hiking trail. No bike was ever meant to ride up, as the altitude was too high and the trail was not rideable in most spots. Occasionally you would cover a section of trail that would be rideable, but because it was really high and tough to breath it was not worth pulling your bike off your shoulders to try and ride for a bit.
But, the payout was just incredible. Probably 2+ hours of descending on the most incredible little trail you can imagine. Pinch me - am I really doing this (?) kinda stuff. Towards the end of ride there was about another 45 minute climb up a gut busting, I think I am going to puke, little paved road that could not have been more than 1 car wide. Tiny gear, big bike, makes for a grunt.
All together it was the best riding day of the 3. Just truly unbelievable little bits of trail that we linked up to give us an amazing day of riding and adventuring. Wow.
The Aletsch Glacier.
"We are defo riding with a World Champion on Wed" that was the text Lloyd had sent me over the previous weekend. So on our way over into Switzerland, we stopped and picked up Tracy Mosely in Martigney. She was staying with friends there and being the guest instructor there for Bike Verbier. (How would that be to learn to do the impossibly tight Alpe's switchback turns from Tracy?) She and her friend Phil from Bike Verbier loaded into Lloyd's van and we all drove to Friesch were we hopped the Ski Tram high up into the mountain toward the Glacier.
After riding for a bit, then hopping into another lift we were exposed to the Aletsch Glacier. Words really cannot describe how tiny you feel when you first come around the turn and see the glacier. Wow. The Glacier is kilometers long and 500+ meters thick. No picture can really show how big the thing really feels when you get close to it. Loss for words kinda feeling.
We rode down towards the glacier for a long long time, over the rockiest terrain imaginable. Sometimes it was just too much for me and I had to walk over the tough and exposed parts. There were steep stair step rocks with what felt like a tumble to your death off the edge if you got it wrong. I was freaked out at times, something about the exposure of it just gets to me. No worries for Ben, Lloyd, Tracy and Phil from Bike Verbier though. Maybe when you ride this stuff all the time, you just get immune to it or something like that. When Liz worked at a climbing store in Boulder, they used to have a saying "Only 2 climbers in the world, young ones and dead ones", I kinda feel like that about riding in the Alpes. There are only 2 kinds of riders for the Alpes, those that can handle the exposure and those that cannot. Not sure about me.
We then climbed back up and over another section to a little chalet up high and then dropped back down to Friesch on the typical steep Alpine trails with 178 super tight switchbacks that I cannot make it around on my bike. (I really do need to learn that nose wheelie turning technique - yowza).
Of course all great trips come to an end. I really wish I was lying about that part, but I am not. It was a crazy fun 3 days. If you get a chance to do a trip like that, take it. Better yet, contact Lloyd at Professional Transfers and book up a trip to the Chatel area and have him guide you.
I know I will be going back, so do not book up my weekend though.
The ultimate loser move. We did not go anywhere, so therefore we did not go to Copper Harbor for the Fat Tire Festival. Ok, it is only the best riding in the upper midwest, and we had nothing to do this weekend, and there is the Fat Tire Festival there, and there was an Enduro event there that I have been dying to do. We did not go. Why...who the heck knows?
There really isn't any reason for not going, other than it is 7 hours away and I just did not have the motivation. Next year, there will be no excuse. I am going to rent up a cabin for the weekend now.
We did make the best of it with a mountain bike ride on Saturday, a good hilly road ride west of Madison on Sunday and then a trip to the Kettles for a MTB ride on Monday. In the end, those are all weak substitutes for the real thing. There is even a new DH trail there at Copper Harbor that I am dying to ride.
We did have a fun weekend.
Rides, Taste of Madison, back yard BBQ, dog walks... It just really did not compare to going to the Fat Tire Festival in Copper Harbor.
I will not fail again.
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.
I have exactly 666 followers on Twitter. Check it out! @joev3 Not just 665 or 667, exactly 666. (cue the Twilight Zone music now which sounds like do do do do, do do do do, do do do do) I am seriously jazzed by that concept. What a fantastic number to stop on. I think I will keep it right there. If you join up with me, I might just go in and delete the same number of old deadbeat followers to keep it right there. I kinda like the symmetry of the number. It is a small number that I can deal with. Feels intimate, kinda homey. A bigger number just feels like someone is going to start a fight or something. Dangerous. Sort of like drinking a beer with your neighbor in the garage, while looking at your bikes or motorcycle. No girls allowed - man stuff.
Some people think that 666 is the sign of the devil. I like to think of it as the inverse of 999. Sort of like being a bat and hanging around the shop upside down. Makes the blood rush to your head. And, completely eliminates jetlag, but it does make you feel like your head is going to explode. Maybe that is why vampires look like they are going to jump you at any time. Think about the last time you were around a vampire, and I am sure you will agree with me. See?
Saturday came and went, trainer workout, dog walk, working on the motorbike session in the garage, Oatmeal and IPA etc... you know, just stuff like normal people do. I still have not gotten to the serious garage remodel and paint freshen that I need to. Summer took it's toll on the man cave. I love the garage, and no Garrison did not build it for me. Oh, I did get to a coffee shop - that just proves I am alive though. Funny how Saturdays just seem to pile on after Friday. It is like it is part of the calendar and the way of worlds or something.
I am feeling a bit like Rod Serling. If you do not know who he was, look it up - Twilight Zone, creepy stuff. I will describe what I see as weird and crazy. Things that could catch you in an alternate reality. Like Cyclocross or racing a goofy road bike over terrain that isn't really mountain bike worthy, but isn't a road either. It is in the twilight zone of bike riding surfaces. A surface that is meant to bump and tether. A surface that is neither round nor square, straight nor crooked, left nor right - it goes through the picture as it would if it were living a parallel life. Sort of oblique.
So then the Sunday came next. Part of the Regional Championship on the course from the state championship the day before on the course of the national championship of the season prior on the course of the National Championship of the season to come, making Verona part of the nation officially. (And this has nothing to do with the Green Bay Packers.) As the forecast called for rain mixed with snow and 37, I am sure that I would want to race, but alas the vicious Kanga has eliminated that possibility. "Stay away from the cans, he hates cans". (As that has nothing to do with Kangaroo's or Drop Bears, I just thought I would throw that in.) But, mud boots and frites with the sound of cowbells is what we will all be about on the Sunday. Visions of Belgian sand run ups in my head. <Belgium is the Wisconsin of Europe after all.>
It was cold. It was slippery. If you were not from Wisconsin, and had to ride in this. Ugh. I wish I could have ridden it. Looked like huge amounts of fun, even though it is just a silly sport. Sort of like going to Camelot - a silly place.
But, there were people handing bacon out on the side of the course to the racers. Gotta love a sport that has that going on.
Be careful out there people. Drop bears are everywhere.
So here I am in Luxembourg. I am here alot, but I did not expect to walk in to the little village and have to dodge Jens Voigt throwing axes at a target and see Frank Schleck with Markel Irizar cutting a log in half with a 2 man saw.
I stopped in Luxembourg yesterday and caught the last day of the @RSNT Lumberjack team building camp. The guys were having a good time and really coming together as a team. Of course Fabian threatened to throw me in the lake, but it was pretty cold so I think he decided he might end up there to so maybe not a great idea.
Times are strange. 2 weeks ago I was dodging dangerous Kangaroo on a MTB in Australia. Last week cutting down a Christmas tree in Wisconsin. This week, Lumberjack games in Luxembourg. It's a strange interesting world.
I think I will go to the coffee shop. I hope there is pudding.
When the history of work is written, and some future generation is studying what business was like in the 2nd decade of the 2000's, the main theory discussed would be if work at that time was really just a parade of business people visiting various Starbuck's around the world.
I pretty much buy expensive plane tickets, fly somewhere, get off the plane, stop at a coffee shop, go to a meeting - fueled by coffee, go to another coffee shop, eat dinner, sleep, work out, go to a coffee shop, fly somewhere else - stopping at a coffee shop at an airport, then do the whole process over again until Friday, at which time I get on a plane and fly home (of course stopping at a few coffee shops along the way). <I am completely proud that that is the longest run on sentence I have ever written.>
Here is my list of really good coffee shops that you should consider going to.
1. Mecca espresso in Sydney Australia. Quiet possibly the best coffee shop in the world.
2. Barriques in Madison.
3. The Nazi coffee shop in San Francisco. That is not really the name, but that is how Gary Fisher defined it for me. I think it was on Mission. Just order a Cap straight up, no modifiers.
4. Just about any Peets in NorCal.
5. Italy - the country.
6. Stumptown Coffee NYC (or Portland, I guess). The one at the Ace hotel is just that, Ace.