Inner Hardness

Flanders character buildingYou don't have to tell a cyclist how hard the sport of cycling is.  We all know there is no short cut to top end speed, race winning power or sportive levels of endurance. 

It takes time, commitment and inner hardness, as my mate Bob say's.  That's him on the right racing me across the cobbles of Flanders.

So we ask the question "What is inner hardness?" And give you some remarkable cycling feats that I class as qualifying for consideration.

Alessandro Colo ~ Roller King
Chances are you've never heard of him.  His feat of "inner hardness" borders on lunacy!

From 28th February to 11th March 2005, Alessandro spent 264 hours inside the spinning room of the Real Sporting Golf Club in Rome, riding a set of Elite rollers.  Covering, a virtual, 5841 miles, or 8818 km in new money, without moving an inch.  For those of us that find an hour on a turbo an ordeal of mind and body suffering, this has to impress.

Colo rode the same couple of bikes he used for the Race Across America.  What makes this feat even more remarkable is the fact that he used PowerCranks in order to simulate race conditions. Bob, above, and another mate Ali Cann, are riding these cranks this year here in Jersey.  Ali, is a multi-Island Games medallist and Bob has won the vets Island Road Race Championship seven times; so they have a fair amount of inner hardness on which to draw when need be.  Their legs hurt after just an hour or two on PowerCranks, which puts the 264 hours leg stinger in to perspective!

Colo faced many muscular, physical and technical problems. But everything was worth it, as he set a new record on the rollers, covering 5000 km (3108 miles), after 162 hours, 17 minutes and 05 seconds.  Then he rode the RAAM!  A worthy inclusion I'm sure you'll agree.

Apo Lazarides
Not sure if I'm exploring inner hardness here or just plain blind, obsessive, dedication.

Legend has it that when Rene Vietto, winner of the 1947 Tour de France, succumbed to septicaemia in his little toe, he had to have it amputated to ensure he could continue in the Tour.  This indeed is worthy of inclusion in our faux-competition.

Vietto, however, thought his loyal and trustworthy domestique, Lazarides, should join him in the small collective of nine-toed cyclists.  Lazarides pointed out that there was nothing wrong with his toe.  To which Vietto replied, you need to understand the suffering and sacrifice I have to make in order to be a grand champion.  Get it off, mon ami!

Lazarides walked with a limp for the rest of his life.  He was second in the 1948 World Championships.  Maybe he could have won if he'd had ten toes!

Paul Crake
Chances are you've never heard of him.  He's a cyclist but he's more famous for his exploits off a bike.  Flamme Rouge reader, Ed Tarwinski, sent this snippet of information which is hard to leave out of our men of steel.

The Empire State Building Run-Up is a foot race from ground level to the 86th floor observation deck that has been held annually since 1978.  The race covers a vertical distance of 1,050 ft (320m) and takes in 1,576 steps. 

The record time is 9 minutes and 33 seconds, achieved by Crake in 2003, giving a climbing rate of 6,593 ft  and a VAM of 2,010 metres per hour.  Okay it's not the 8 hour 18 minutes epic of Chris Stephens, but it had to hurt at some point.  If you wish to enter this years event, click here for the low down.

Gavia Pass Giro
This nomination goes to every single rider that completed Stage 14 of the 1988 Giro D'Italia.  For those of us of a certain age it's something we'll always remember.  It was a day for hero's, the day Andy Hampsten took the Giro and the day strong men cried. 

The day started in foul weather, with snow expected at the top of the 2621 meter high Gavia.  On the 17k climb to the top a blizzard rolled in. The 26 kilometre descent in to Bormio has to be seen to be believed.  You can see it on the video link below.  The first rider you see is riding in short sleeves!

The fact that no one was killed on the descents, or died from exposure on the run in to the finish, is a testimony to true inner hardness.  Click on this You-Tube link to see a 4 minute shot of the stage.  Watch it all, especially the finish from 3 minutes onwards, and you will never, ever, ever complain when out on a bike, ever again.  It was a brutal day that just wouldn't be allowed to happen these days.

Climbing Ventoux
Ever climbed Mont Ventoux?  It's hard, relentless, strength sapping, tragic and inspirational all in one.  It's a mythical mountain for all of the above, and many more, reasons, and I believe everyone should try it at least once during their cycling career. 

The two Dave's, Le Breton and Whitt both competed in the infamous L'Etape event of 2001, when they closed the mountain in July due to a blizzard, freezing fog and ice.  Luckily, they both made it through before the cut-off.  I started the climb in 30 degree heat, during the day that turned in to a 10 degree wind blast at the summit.  Some people, mainly Johnny foreigner, climb it in the dark!

The Ventoux Masters is an event run by Velo-Concept and it's something I plan to do in 2010, when I'm 50.  That's old enough to know better, yet young enough still to manage it.  I hope to climb it five times in 24 hours.  Which falls woefully short of the record set in 2004 by Jean Pascal Roux.

Jean Pascal, a 40 year old physiotherapist who lives in Bedoin, took to the road on Friday 28th, at midnight and finished his 10th climb at 11:49 pm on Saturday 29.  The following year Dominique Briand equalled the number of climbs and knocked almost an hour and 20 minutes off the time! 

It may dull the speed and the senses somewhat, but no one rides 10 times up Ventoux without some depth of inner hardness.

Dianne ~ Redoute, Eroica, & Muur de Grammont
Finally I'd like to include my gorgeous wife Dianne.  With a body like hers you don't need brains.  Sexist, I know, but I'm northern and I can't help it.  She's more northern than me; a Geordie.  And they breed them hard up there.

In the 2005 Liege-Bastogne-Liege sportive she failed to get to the top of La Redoute by around 50 metres.  It was a heroic performance for someone who only weighs 50 kilos, was the same in years as in weight, and did the whole ride in the middle ring of a triple because she forgot she could change down!  Now you see what I mean about brains! 

In 2006 we returned to do the Fleche Wallone and she blitzed it in one hit.

Also in 2005 we rode the L'Eroica.  Early in the race her front wheel dug in to the deep gravel on the outside of a downhill corner and threw her over the bars.  Dianne showed the inner hardness of a true champion; bloodied and cut, she remounted without a grumble and carried on.  Once more we came to a massive, strade bianchi, climb that had many grown men walking and pushing their bikes at their side.

When gravity, over-gearing and excessive zig-zagging prevented further progress, Dianne turned around, rode back down the hill, to the bemusement of some of the pushers, dropped it on the small chain ring and proceeded to ride back up, to the amazement of those same pushers!  She then proceeded to win a sprint for the line after five long hours in the saddle.

The third tale of many involves the Tour of Flanders.  After crashing over many kilometres of cobbles she came to the Muur de Grammont.  With typical "get on with it" attitude she dragged herself to within 10 metres of the summit at the chapel when a rider toppled over and landed on her.  The collision sent her rear mech in to the rear wheel and she had to wait until we got to the climb to help her out.

Again, battered and bruised, we bent the mech back in to place and left her with a gear in the middle of the block.  We then competed the ride together which included climbing the cobbled Bosberg without being able to change down. 

These rides, along with the Pyreneene Sportive, her Ronde de Sable second place and her win in the 2004 RiderMan (her first year of riding a bike!) all contribute to the inner hardness factor.  Oh, and that of being a mother.  Child birth is something we men can never imagine.  So this award goes to all our mothers.  Without them we wouldn't be here,

Have a fantastic season and I hope these anecdotes and rambling stories and memories can inspire you to keep pushing when you'd rather not.  It's what makes us cyclists.