It was a startling realization at the end of a long day and an even longer week that we didn't have a home in Innsbruck anymore. Ashley and I had spent thirteen months calling the throbbing heart of the Alps our place of residence, but a year on, we were just visitors, tourists even, heading to a friend's house to sleep on a curiously rigged lawn chair.
When the K-Mart Classic of West Virginia stormed through the state in the mid-90s, it opened awareness as to just how great the bike riding is in this once hidden jewel. I've ridden all over the US and Europe at this point, but in my experience, some of the best riding in the world can be found in the hills and hollers near Spencer, West Virginia.
Ashley and I had visited the heart-shaped peninsula that juts into the Adriatic Sea across the water from Venice at one point: it's called Istria. We loved it as we loved all of the beautiful places we visited, but we probably would have never returned due to its relative distance from our home in Austria. Then, from nowhere, we got an email from our now close friends, Michael and Marijana...
Generally, the word stereotype conjures up negative images. Fair enough, but on the flip side, there are those happy stereotypes - like the Italian grandmother for instance (or German, American, whatever) - here, eat more, you're all skin and bones - have some more sugary deliciousness. It's the stereotype we all love to roll our eyes to, but on a hot Sunday in July, it was the stereotype that saved the day.
As with everything Ashley and Jered when it comes to traveling, this adventure started about four hours late, resulted in much fast driving, and ended with an arrival just moments ahead of the race. Our original intention had been to catch the Stage 8 start, then drive down to Sion to see the finish on Crans Montana. We compromised with just seeing the race on the final climb to Crans Montana.
It had to be. At some point, Fabian Cancellara had to win the Tour de Suisse. The only question was when. Well, of course, we have an answer. The kindly organizers gave Cancellara a Christmas present in June this year with two time trials and only a moderate voyage through the mountains of possibilities in Switzerland's Alps. Indeed, Cancellara made the most of his chance and obliterated his opposition.
I have to admit, at this point, I'm spoiled. I don't have to go anywhere to see the big races anymore, they just seem to come to me. Yesterday was no different, as Stage 5 of the Tour de Suisse finished about 60k from my doorstep in the Upper Inn Valley town of Serfaus, Austria. The climb was classic Tirolean fun, and the result - not too surprising - a small group of the strongest decided the day amongst themselves.
Roadside Report: While Richard was enjoying an amazing day with VeloClassic Tours, Ashley and Jered were on their bikes in search of as many photo locations as possible in the finale of Sunday's Ronde van Vlaanderen. They managed twelve. Let's take a photo look back at their day...
Roadside: All eyes have rightly been focused on Italy this week, but in between yesterday's fantastic race and tomorrow's Roadside report from Ale, we'll take a quick trip back to Belgium for a little photo essay of a classic midweek race in Belgium - the Nokere Koerse.
Roadside Report: We arrived in Europe the day before the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad - the first major classic of the Classics season. Two months later, we were there for one last big day out to draw the Spring Classics season to a close: Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Let's take a look back at the day that was.
Roadside Report: For the second time in three days, we were spoiled with a race in our backyard. So after a morning of work and relaxing, we got our kits on, shouldered our backpacks, and headed into the Vlaamse Ardennen to enjoy an incredible afternoon of bike racing.
When the television tells the name of the winner the silence comes into the Poggio. The tifosi are very upset. Another year without an Italian winner. And most of the people are asking who this Goss is. They cannot believe that such a great race was won by such a 'small' name. The Poggio turns to the quietness in a moment, and I feel so strange now that everything is finished. The first thought is how far this passion has led me from home. The second one is the time I will need to get back. But how did I arrive here?
Part Two: When we left off yesterday, the dust storming field had just rolled through Sector 27 in Troisvilles. 26 more sectors lay ahead of them, and we were off to get hold of as many cobbled views as we could before a winner was crowned in the velodrome on a heavenly Sunday afternoon in Hell.
Part One: The cobbled classics often get lumped together, and for the two super cobbled classics, Flanders and Roubaix, they're rarely mentioned in separate sentences. It's a shame, because the two races can't be more different. De Ronde is justifiably known as Flanders's Most Beautiful, whilst Roubaix - her nickname is just as appropriate and perfect: the Hell of the North. We were there once again on Sunday, chasing the dust to Roubaix.
Roadside Report, Part One: On a perfect day in the Ardennes, we chased our final Monument of the spring. The oldest classic of them all, La Doyenne, a figure eight from Liege to Bastogne and back, proved that picking a favorite race of the first part of the year is about as easy as buying a yacht.
Roadside Report: And so the spring has come down to this - two more chases, two more spots, two more experiences, and one rider's ascent into the history books. Join us for one more chase.
Part Two: When we left off yesterday, we had been prematurely stopped by a race passage yet again. Our quickly changing plans didn't mind - we were still catching the race with alarming frequency after all. The second part of the afternoon involves much of the same - happy changes in plans while watching a beautiful day of racing in the Limburg hills.
Roadside: When I left off in Part One, the break was in its death throes, the field was lined out following the Knokteberg, and the day's first major berg, the Oude Kwaremont, was next on the misery list with just under 90 kilometers remaining until someone's childhood dream would be fulfilled in front of thousands in Meerbeke.
Part One:I have to start this by confessing: I love the Ronde van Vlaanderen more than any other race...times a million, squared. Sunday's trip around Flanders under the direction of Andy Deschuyffeleer was straight out of my one of my wildest dreams. I'll try to use words where they're available, but I remember the day most through the pictures Ashley and I shot from Brugge to the Bosberg.
Most of the year, the PEZ crew is outside on the roadside chasing cycling's best. Every once in awhile, however, we get a day pass, and we get to go inside. Let's take a closer look at the amusing, fantastic spectacle that was the 2013 Giro Presentation.