For many years now, I have watched cycling and something has caught
my attention: the beard. As we all know, it is common for a cyclist to shave.
They shave their face, their legs, their arms, well, what don’t they shave?
But let’s focus on the face for now. The peloton is not ‘clean-shaven’ anymore
at this point. A lot of riders don’t shave their beard anymore. I don’t know
which rider started it, but it is really contagious!

In order to explain why the beard is getting so popular, we have to dig deeper.
So what is a beard again? The definition of a beard is a collection of hair that grows on the upper lip, chin, cheeks and neck. Genetics determine if the beard grows fast or (very) slow. This is probably the reason why not every man grows
a beard. For some men, it takes weeks to grow a beard, and for the lucky ones
it only takes a few days.

The beard is not only trending in the cycling world. When I go to my work or just take a walk through a nice city, I see plenty of men with beards and some are more attractive than others. This wasn’t the case in my childhood.
So, what are the facts about beards? After the seventies and eighties, the beard kind of lost its popularity. But over the past few years, the beard has returned.

In 2013, The Guardian posted an article about the popularity of beards,
quoting that “beards are more popular than ever… there’s a beard culture – people like talking about their beards, feeling their beards”.
In the same article they mention that the beard could possibly be a reaction to women’s growing economic power and a way of showing one’s masculinity. Nevertheless, it also says that “the beards are here to stay. You get used to it,
it becomes part of your identity.”

Wait, when I project this on the cycling world, the conclusion should be that women’s cycling is getting more popular and that the answer of the cycling men
is growing their beards? As a reaction? It’s a thought to think about,
but I don’t believe it. I just think that riders are sensitive to trends. They are on social media, they follow the latest news and see the latest fashion.
And right now, the beard is the latest fashion.

So I collected the ‘beards’ of the peloton. In total, there are over 60 men
in the peloton with a beard. But most of them don’t get to the level beard.
Their beards are more a collection of stubbles. Only a total of twenty riders
can call themselves real ‘beardmen’. You can view the twelve best of them
in this articcle. I’m not going to pick the best beard (or the worst) out of those, because I don’t see the point of doing that. Just pick your own.
Please, take a look at the brave, beardy men:

One more tip for all the Marcel Kittels out there without a beard.
Here’s an infographic about beards. Whenever you change your mind
after reading this, it might help you. Good luck with growing that beard!

Uptown Funk

Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars – Uptown Funk
(Orica-GreenEDGE version – OGEfunk)

“I’m too hot (hot damn)
Called a police and a fireman
I’m too hot (hot damn)
Make a dragon wanna retire man

South Africa | | Training Camp 2015

Photos Ster van Zwolle 2015

Ster van Zwolle 2015 / 28 February / Zwolle

It’s back: the Topcompetitie in the Netherlands (English: Top competition). After 10 years, the national competition for the promising riders of the Netherlands has finally returned. The Ster van Zwolle is the opening race of the Dutch cycling season and also has participating teams from abroad. But more importantly, it’s the first race for the Dutch riders in the new version of the Topcompetitie.

The start and finish of the race are in Zwolle, a place in the north of the Netherlands. The riders start in the centre of the city and finish on the Ceintuurbaan, next to Zwolle’s hospital. This year, it was Elmar Reinders (CJP) who crossed the finish line first. He was the fastest rider from a small group. At the beginning of the race, the peloton fell apart into several groups.

In the end, it wasn’t Jeff Vermeulen, from the Continental Team Jo Piels, but Elmar Reinders, also from that team, who won the 55th edition. A lot of people thought Vermeulen would be the fastest rider of the group, but it was his teammate who beat him. René Hooghiemster (BBD) became the most combative rider of the race and won the Fedor den Hertog trophy and Snelle Jelle ontbijtkoek (English: Dutch spiced cake). He tweeted a photo of himself with the Dutch spiced cakes afterwards. He obviously was very happy with the prize!

It was the Belgian rider Dimitri Claeys (WIL) who became second and the Norwegian rider Håvard Blikra (COH) became third. As you can see in the photo above, the first leaders in the Topcompetitie of 2015 are Elmar Reinders (GC) and Twan Brusselman (U23). Watch the video of the race at the Topcompetitie website. The special video about Cyclingteam Jo Piels coach Han Vaanhold is also worth watching: his enthusiasm about cycling is truly inspiring.


De Omloop 70 Years Old

It’s finally here: the official start of the season.
And this year we celebrate the birthday of Omloop het Nieuwsblad.
The opening classic of the season is already 70 years old.
Last year Ian Stannard from the UK won, but the very first
race was won by the Belgian rider Jean Bogaerts.
The first edition of the Belgian race took place in 1945.
Back then, the race was called Omloop van Vlaanderen,
but this looked too similar to that other important Belgian race,
so they decided to change it to Omloop het Volk in 1947.
Het Volk was the name of the newspaper that organised the race.
But in 2008, Het Volk became Het Nieuwsblad, so the name changed again.
Many people were shocked, but right now the commotion has settled
down and people seem to have acknowledged the new name.
At the beginning, many people also used to call the race
Gent-Gent, because start and finish were in this city.
At first, 14 Belgians won the race, before an Irish lad
with the name Seamus Eliott managed to beat Fred de Bruyne.
Eliott was the first non-Belgian who won OHN in 1959.
Only in 1960, 1986 and in 2004 the race was cancelled.
Now, if we look at the very first race and its very first winner,
the times were surely a lot different than they are now.
Jean Bogaerts is still alive and has turned 90 years old in January.
Two years ago, he said in an interview that he still rides a bike.
He is still the youngest winner of the Omloop, because he was
only 20 years old when he won the classic opening of the season.
He had to travel to the race by bike, because of World War II.
He would leave the day before, travel 60 kilometres and sleep in Gent.
The next day he rode the Omloop, which was 187 kilometres.
It’s a distance Jean Bogaerts will never forget. And afterwards,
someone wanted to bring him home, but Bogaerts thought: now
I’m going home by bike as well! A real go-getter, that man.
He says he never used any doping, but he did notice that other men
were taking pills. His secret? Eggs, sugar and a bit of cognac in his bottle.
Yes, he put 20 egg yolks in each bottle with some brown sugar.
He would drink two bottles of his creation during the race and
today, he still believes that it helped him secure the victory.
At the time, there was no help from other teammates, according
to mister Bogaerts. Nowadays, you have a whole sponsored team
to back you up, but this wasn’t the case in the 1940s at all.
He thinks it’s a shame, because you can’t call it a ‘natural race’ anymore.
But thanks to Jean Bogaerts, we still have the memories.

Jean Bogaerts Then and NowCyclist Jean Bogaerts back in the days and in 2013

That’s Amore

♫ Cannondale-Garmin – That’s Amore 

“When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie
That’s amore, that’s amore
When the world seems to shine like you’ve had too much wine
That’s amore, that’s amore

#GreenArgyle | YouTube Cannondale-Garmin | Valentine’s Day 2015

Bon Voyage!

♫ Blaudzun – Bon Voyage! 

“I am the city, come right with me, bon voyage
… around around around around around …
I am the hot wheels, spinning on steep hills, bon courage”

Utrecht, The Netherlands | | Tour de France 2015

Race Of The Falling Leaves

I look outside and there’s a song in my head.
“The falling leaves drift by my window,
the falling leaves of red and gold.”
It’s a classic song, covered by many artists.
I’m also thinking of the final cycling classic.
In Italy, the leaves also start to fall again.
The cycling season is almost over, but there is still
the 5th and final Cycling Monument to look forward to.
The classic used to be called Milano-Milano at first,
then it quickly changed to Giro di Lombardia in 1907.
Since 2012, the name of the race is Il Lombardia.
This cycling classic is special; it does not only mark the end
of the season, but is also a race for riders who still
have the power to give it all at the very end of the season.
For most riders, it will be the last race of 2014.
One could argue that with their vacation in mind, they can
fully focus on Il Lombardia and excel one last time.
However, it is hard to pick a favourite rider for the win.
Which rider will still be fit enough, one week after the
World Championships and many efforts during the season?
Aren’t some already relaxing on a faraway beach in their mind?
Michal Kwiatkowski will be riding in the rainbow jersey for the
first time after he won the road race in Ponferrada last Sunday.
Many people think it will give him extra motivation and
see him as one of the biggest candidates for the victory.
The past two years, Joaquim Rodriguez won the race.
In fact, the last five editions weren’t won by Italians.
Philippe Gilbert won in 2009 and 2010 and Oliver Zaugg in 2011.
Before that, there’s a long list of Italian winners.
In total, the Italians won 67 of the 107 editions.
Fausto Coppi holds the record; he won the race five times.
When you look at the sixties and seventies,
there’s one victory that particularly stands out.
There was Dutchman Jo de Roo who won the race twice
and there were many Italian and Belgian victories,
but in 1965, the race was won by a man from Great Britain.
Tom “Tommy” Simpson was his name.
The man who died two years afterwards on the Mont Ventoux.
He was wearing the rainbow jersey when he won the race.
It is the only victory for Great Britain up until now.
On Sunday, we see the famous Madonna del Ghisallo,
we see an altered course with new climbs, and
we see Cadel Evans race for the last time in Europe.
The leaves will fall down, just like in 1965.
But will another man win in the rainbow jersey?

That’s Incredible, You Know

1 October 2014

Michal Kwiatkowski.
The ‘flower power’ boy of the peloton.
Only two months ago he turned 24.
And last Sunday he won the elite men’s road title.
He said that his attack was a risky one.
It was raining, he went in the descent and no one followed him.
The group with Gerrans and Valverde chased him, but without any luck.
Kwiatkowski passed the finish line only a few seconds before Gerrans.
He will wear the rainbow jersey for the next season.
He dedicated the victory to his girlfriend, his family and to Poland.
Of course to Poland. He is the first rider from Poland to win this race.
Overall, Italy, France and Belgium have won most of the elite men’s road races.
But in the last few years other countries take over the lead.
In 2009, Cadel Evans was the first Australian rider,
in 2010 it was Thor Hushovd who made Norway proud and last year
Rui Costa from Portugal won the race as the first Portuguese rider.
All these victories remind me of another story about Tom Simpson.
In 1965, he was the first rider from Great Britain to win the world championships. He said that he couldn’t have done it
without his team, making this clear after the race.
“For one thing, we had decided that we had had enough of losing
championships and that this time we were all
working together – instead of each going out, one by one.”
They dominated the race, just like Poland dominated the race last Sunday.
Kwiatkowski also stated that he couldn’t have won the race without his teammates and that the plan was to work together as a team:
“I said right from the start that we have to lead the peloton,
because that was our best chance.”
He was right, it was their best chance.
He gambled and won, just like Tom Simpson did in 1965:
“You only get opportunities like that once in a lifetime, and I jumped at it.
I have said this to all of you in cycling – have faith in yourself
and in your ability to win, and you will get there.”
Michal Kwiatkowski had faith in himself and he got there.

The new World Champion / © Casey B. Gibson

A Sky Full Of Stars

Coldplay – A Sky Full Of Stars (Orica-GreenEDGE version)

“‘Cause you’re a sky, ’cause you’re a sky full of stars
I’m gonna give you my heart
‘Cause you’re a sky, ’cause you’re a sky full of stars
‘Cause you light up the path

Spain | | Girona 2014

Dear Michael

1 September 2014

Dear Michael,
it was great teamwork. You said it yourself. And so it was. You won the stage and took the red jersey. Michael Matthews, the leader in the Vuelta for three days. Don’t underestimate it, because wearing the leader’s jersey is something to be quite proud of. It’s just such a shame that all the attention in the cycling summary at the end of the season will go to that German sprinter, Marcel Kittel, winner of four stages in this year’s Tour de France. It’s impressive, I know. He also took the famous yellow jersey after the first stage, just like he did last year. It was a pity that he was only able to enjoy it for one day.

Impressive or not, what you’ve done this year is also pretty amazing. You are making great progress. Winning a stage in the Tour of Slovenia, becoming 2nd in the Brabantse Pijl, winning a stage in the Giro d’Italia. In fact, you wore the pink leader’s jersey for six days. Beat that, Kittel. In three weeks’ time you will turn 24. You are still so young. I dare to say that this year is your best year so far.

I honestly think that you are ready. You are ready for the Tour de France. I can’t wait to see you ride through the streets of Utrecht next year. And I can imagine that you want to sprint against Kittel. After all, he has beaten you twice in the Giro earlier this year. You must want revenge for that. The Tour de France will be the perfect opportunity to do so. On the first day, in the first sprint. You just have to cross the finish line before all the other sprinters. And Kittel, of course. And if you manage to do that, then you will not only win the first stage, you will also be the first leader. Now don’t worry, I’m sure that after pink and red, yellow will look fine on you too. Beat that, Kittel.