Thursday, February 27, 2014

Training Day : an Interview with Jasper Stuyven

Last weekend, Liam and I headed to Tuscany to meet up with Belgian cyclist Jasper Stuyven.  Jasper is a first-year professional with the new Trek Factory Racing World Tour team.  At 21 years of age, Jasper has had a very impressive start to his cycling career.  In 2009, he won the Junior World Championships of road cycling in Moscow.  In 2010, he won the junior race of the brutal Paris-Roubaix cobbled classic.  In 2011, he was 2nd in the under 23 version of Paris-Roubaix.  Jasper won the Provincial Championships in 2012, and last year, in 2013, he had a stage victory at the Tour de Beauce and an overall win at the Tour Alentejo in Portugal.  The best way to describe Jasper’s riding so far would be steady, dedicated progression in the sport.

Jasper and Liam rolling in the Tuscan sun
 Earlier in the month we contacted Jasper through a mutual friend and, it just so happened, we would all be in Lucca, Italy at the same time in the end of February.  Our idea was to meet up and go for a ride or part of a ride (depending on what Jasper had in store for the day), and then sit down and do a video interview for the blog.  Jasper liked the concept and sent us an email suggesting that he could take us on one of his favorite “recovery” rides to the famous Il Re Del Cappuccino (Cappuccino King) in Monsummano Terme. 

 Signor Umberto Galligini (the King of Cappuccino)
It was on… What a way to begin our yearly winter training camp in Lucca!  We met up with Jasper and his childhood friend Jonas Cortoos on a beautiful late February day in Lucca.  We had a 70k spin out to Monsummano Terme through olive groves and hills in the Tuscan sun.  Liam and I had never been to the Cappuccino King, although we had heard of it – it is a legend in cycling lore.  For years great riders have been dropping into this little bar for a cup of, what is quite possibly, the best cappuccino in Italy.  The owner Signor Umberto Galligani and his family are true artists – maestros of coffee.  For 64 years they have been serving up mouth watering cappuccino at Bar Galligani.  Jasper first visited the bar last year during the world championships in Florence.  When he doesn’t have to train too hard or too long he likes to pop in for a mid-ride cup of cappuccino.  We now know why – it’s truly incredible.

Signing the Il Re Del Cappuccino guest book
 At the coffee bar, we were able to sit down and speak with Jasper about his pro debut at the Tour of Qatar, the move up to Trek Factory from the Bontrager/Livestrong developmental team, his training, his goals for the season and the future, and advice for a cyclist Liam’s age (13 years old).  We had a great talk.  It was awesome that Jasper was willing to take the time to share some of his knowledge and experience with us.

Jasper is Belgian and I don’t think that it will come as a surprise to know that his true passion is the classics.  He grew up watching these races, he has won and placed well in the Junior and U-23 versions, and his dream is to one day win the Paris-Roubaix professional race – the Queen of the Classics.  It is an awesome dream; one that both Liam and I believe Jasper has the potential to be able to achieve in the future.  We hope to be in Roubaix cheering him on the day he fulfills his dream.

The ride back fueled on cappuccino
After the cappuccino, we got on the bikes and headed out for more riding in the Tuscan sunshine on our way back to Lucca.  When we got back to town, we wished Jasper luck with his upcoming races in Sud Ardèche and Belgium and said our goodbyes to both him and Jonas.  We came away from the experience both inspired and motivated for the Tuscan training week ahead.

Jasper, Liam and Jonas back in Lucca
 Live Strong, Train Safe and Live Well!

This is Bill and Liam signing out.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Mont Faron - The Epic Finish to the Tour Méditerranéen

Mont Faron is a mountain which towers over the port city of Toulon.  This mountain is often used as the finale for the queen stage of the Tour Méditerranéen.  It is a 5k ascent with grades of 12 to 13 percent - it is a difficult climb.  The 5 stage Tour Méditerranéen is won or lost on this mountain, and more specifically on the final kilometer of the climb.  So naturally, with Toulon being only a 40 minute drive from our house, that is where Roan, Aidan and I headed on the day of the final stage of this year's Tour Med.  With cameras and GoPro in hand we hiked the mountain and watched as the race unfolded before our eyes.

Both Roan (age 9) and Aidan (age 11) took an active role with both the video and photography.  Enjoy the work!

Live Strong, Train Safe, and Live Well!

Bill, Aidan and Roan

The Port City of Toulon from Mont Faron

Mont Faron Stage winner Jean-Christophe Peraud

Tour winner Stephen Cummings followed by Stefan Denifl

Riccardo Zoidl 3rd place overall

Sylvain Chavanel in his new IAM Jersey

Bob Jungels

Columbian Jarlinson Pantano in the Mountain's Jersey

Trek Factory Riders and Brothers Danny and Boy Van Poppel

Monday, February 17, 2014

The New Season is on and the Racing has come to Town!

The Tour Méditerranéen is one of the first professional cycling races of the year in Europe. It is a multi-day stage race that takes place in the Provence region of France.  The event literally comes right by our backyard.  It is amazing to watch some of the best names in cycling laying it down on the same roads that we use for daily training.

This year the Tour Med took place with 5 stages over 4 days.  That means that on day 3 the riders, in fact, rode two stages back to back.  In the morning, the peleton competed in a 63k road stage from Lambesc to Saint Remy de Provence, and then in the afternoon there was an 18k time trial (TT) on beautiful mountainous roads starting and ending in Saint Remy.  The Time Trial was a perfect focal point for our coverage of the race.  Liam was booked with Mountain bike training and racing which conflicted with the week of the Tour, but Aidan (now 11) and Roan (now 9) were really looking forward to checking out the race and helping out with the blog.

Roan and I decided to make the hour drive up to Saint Remy de Provence and make a recon video of the TT course the day before the Tour Med started.  Roan is now of the age that he can handle the riding, and he really gets into the adventure of it all.  It was the first time to Saint Remy de Provence for both of us, so we took a little time after the ride to get to know the town.  I think for Roan the highlights were riding the course, and also a visit to the local chocolate shop owned by the famous Chocolatier Joël Durand.  They make a chocolate with the local almonds and the black olives of the area which is delicious. 

On Saturday, I headed back up to Saint Remy, but this time with Aidan.  I love going places with all three of my sons together, but it is also important to individually get in some one-on-one time.  Saturday was the day of the Tour Med double stage.  The riders had already raced 63k in the morning before taking on the afternoon TT.  In an individual Time Trial, riders start about 1 minute apart and their time of the effort counts for the overall race classification.  We arrived in Saint Remy a few hours before the 2 o'clock start. Aidan and I hit the TT course. The day was super windy and the descents were pretty technical, but Aidan handled it amazingly well. This year has marked an incredible improvement in Aidan's riding and stamina on the bike. He is riding and racing with both his club and school teams, and his progression is a pleasure to witness.  After the ride, we returned to town to watch the professional riders warming up for the "race against the clock" over the same course we had just experienced. 

The Trek Factory Racing Team Bus was our first stop when we got back into town.  This was our chance to check out the the new team in action.  While at the bus we spoke with Sports Director Luc Meersman.  Luc is from Belgium and is a former professional cyclist.  He now serves as second Sports Director for Trek Factory Racing.  Luc is also a reconnaissance expert for the team, and as such, he will play a major role in this season's classics effort.  He painstakingly notes every detail of the chaotic cobblestone courses (Harelbeke, Flanders, Paris-Roubaix).  This information will then be used on race day to successfully navigate and, hopefully, win one or more of the great classic races this spring. 

To our surprise and pleasure, Luc invited us to accompany him in the Team car as he followed Boy Van Poppel out on course. Wow, what an opportunity!  He explained to us that Boy wouldn't be going "full gas" because he was needed by the team for the next day's final stage effort.  If what we saw wasn't full gas, I can only imagine how insane a full effort would be.  Boy flew around the mountainous technical course with a 40.5k average speed.  He was comfortably rolling at 70k an hour on the flat sections.  These guys are truly amazing athletes.

When we got back to town we were able to interview Boy after the ride and then go to the finish to see Trek riders Riccardo Zoidl and Bob Jungels come across the line in 2nd and 7th place respectively for the day - great results for both athletes and the Team.  Aidan and I then got an opportunity to talk with Ricarrdo, Bob, and Matthew Busche after their rides and ask them about the upcoming Mont Faron final queen stage.  You could say that we that we had a very good day in Saint Remy de Provence.

Stay tuned for our upcoming post from Mont Faron with photography and a video from both Aidan and Roan as they worked the cameras on the epic Mountaintop finish, finale of the 2014 Tour Méditerranéen.

Livestrong, Train Safe, and Live Well!

This is Bill, Aidan and Roan signing out.