Portrait of my grandfather : 80 and still cycling from Florent Piovesan on Vimeo.
Florent Piovesan made this lovely short documentary to mark his grandfather Benjamin Piovesan’s 80th birthday. As he enters his 8th decade, Benjamin is still passionate about cycling and the physical and mental joy it brings.
Things will be real quiet around here for the next seven days. I’m heading out with two friends on a week long, mostly dirt and gravel road bike tour. We’re hopping on the first train from Seattle to Portland Friday morning then making our way east to Bridge of the Gods. Saturday the real ride starts as we head north through Gifford Pinchot National Forest. We’ll wind our way out of the National Forest and all the way up to Snoqualmie Pass where we’ll head west down the Iron Horse Trail and back to Seattle. See you in a week!
Kat Sweet at the I5 Colonnade mountain bike park in Seattle. Photo by Meg Valliant.
Though mountain biking has been a male-dominated sport from the get go, there have always been a small contingent of women along for the ride. Jacquie Phelan, Juli Furtado, Rebecca Rusch, Marla Streb and many others all played pioneering roles in mountain biking’s development. Like them, Kat Sweet‘s mountain bike career has helped break down barriers for women and clear a path for today’s riders, especially in downhill where she was one of just a handful of women racing in those early days.
Sweet’s bike life has spanned nearly three decades of professional racing, freeride competitions, contest promotion, and coaching. These days her focus is on the latter two with her Sugar Showdown contest series for women freeriders and her Sweetlines Coaching business. Specializing in freeride coaching for women and kids, Sweet is working to foster the next generation of mountain biker rippers and grow the “sisterhood of shred.” I spoke with her about her long history in mountain biking, her unexpected foray into coaching, breaking down barriers to entry as a mentor for women riders, and much more.
Photo by Sara Clawson.
Soigneurs may very well have the most thankless job in professional cycling. They take care of the grunt-work details necessary to keep a pro team running smoothly while remaining mostly anonymous. Sara Clawson is a sports massage therapist in Greensboro, North Carolina who’s making inroads to a soigneur career. This spring, she spent two months working as a soigneur with the US elite junior team at USA Cycling’s training center in Sittard, Netherlands. Over the next month, Sara’s writing (originally posted on her blog) will shed some light on the “swanny life” as she recounts her experience traveling around Europe working with the next generation of American professional road cyclists. In the final installment, Sara works the brutal Three Days of Axel race in Zeeland, Netherlands and reflects on the fulfillment she’s finding as a professional soigneur.
Prepping for any race is difficult, but trying to fit a literal truckload of supplies into the hatchback of a Volkswagen Passat was an absurd game of soigneur Tetris. We were headed to Zeeland, the coastal westernmost province of the Netherlands for the Junioren Driedaagse Axel: Three Days of Axel. Axel is the kind of race riders treat with equal parts love and hate. The road conditions are narrow and uncompromisingly rough, the wind is constant and punishing, and the huge field of riders makes the competition fierce and dangerous.
We started five riders who would take on a 100 km road race the first day, a technical time trial the next morning followed by another 100 km road race in the afternoon, and another 100 km road race the following morning with 3 circuits featuring 6 major climbs. Axel is like hitting your toe with a hammer to quell a hurt thumb; it will make any other race seem mild in comparison.
As soon as we arrived at the race lodging in Sas van Gent, I went to work finishing up bottle prep, making race food, and dishing up the enormous pot of pasta salad I had made the night before. Having a captive audience of perpetually starving young elite athletes is a really great way to boost one’s self-esteem as a cook — there isn’t much that they won’t inhale with considerable gusto, especially when it features a high percentage of carbohydrates. The first stage was a late start in the nearby town of Sluiskil. The mechanic and I drove together while the riders made the short 7 km trip to the start by bike. I had been studying the technical guide for days and had a rough idea of where the race route would progress, although it was by far the most incomprehensible race bible I have yet to encounter (in Dutch and Flemish, with some sections helpfully translated into French … which I don’t speak). I had a suitable feed zone picked out that would permit me to feed the riders twice, after the 50 km point and again when they looped back around 68 km — well within the UCI permissible range for feeding. I found my way with the Hot Tubes Development Team race support vehicle in tow. It was wonderful to have a feed zone buddy (and she gave me the best almond cookie I have ever tasted!). We fiddled with the race radio on my car and tuned in, which was really neat to get an idea of where they were on the course in real time and every move afoot in the peloton.
Anna Brones, author of The Culinary Cyclist. (Photo by Luc Revel)
We cyclists tend to think about food a lot. What to eat before a ride, what fuel to bring with during, the perfect recovery meal. On a long ride, I often find myself plotting my exact post-ride meal with at least a quarter of the route still to go. But if I’m being honest, I’m thinking far more about the number of calories I can stuff down rather than the quality of that food.
Anna Brones, on the other hand, cares about quality above all and has written at length on the value of whole, real foods and their connections with cycling. She is an American author and cyclist living in Paris. Her book, The Culinary Cyclist, is part collection of healthy recipes and part meditation on how to live a simple, satisfying life through the intentionality of cooking and cycling. In this interview, Brones discusses her book and the thesis that food and bikes are essential factors for quality of life, her inspiration for writing it, life as a cyclist in Paris, and more.