Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Girona Gran Fondo 2015: Fon-tastique

The pub was packed with GranFondoists on Saturday night because this thing Girona Bike Break's Dave and Saskia have so lovingly constructed has a special vibe and people wanted to continue that even after the fondo's 3 main events and other attractions were done.

The culture of an event comes from the top and the love Dave and Saskia and their team have for their event passes down to EVERYONE. They don't just host this thing from afar - they get involved even when the logistics are stressing them out and that's a rare and special thing. Serious kudos to these guys.

Especially when you get factions that try and sabotage things like the guys who invaded the Fondo on Saturday's race/brevet. I am no expert on Catalan politics, but these guys decided a Fondo organised by a Brit & a Dutch which attracted foreigners and their tourist cash to Girona for a weeklong cycling festival was not good for Catalans.

So they invaded Saturday's main fondo, disturbing the racing going on and even pulling down signs and messing with road markings to confuse riders. There will always be punks that try and subvert anything official - this happens in all walks of life - but the reasons here beyond some random anarchist act seem thin. The Fondo is open to all and many locals took part and loved it. There are loads of prizes on offer and many locals won these.

The event is backed by the Girona city - showing how forward thinking they are by allowing an Urban Downhill mountain bike event that entertained the city for a day-eve as did the La Nocturna race through the old town at night we took part in (legs still a bit sore from those 15% cobbled cathedral road pitches).

Dave and Saskia may not be Catalan by birth but they have lived here and contributed much to Girona and Catalan cycling and the Catalan economy over many years. It's not as though they are siphoning off euros to some Swiss bank account! They don't even speak Spanish, only Catalan and have always been a sensitive player in the local scene. These vigilantes should unclip for a bit and have a think about who and what they are really opposed to and go to Girona Bike Breaks to talk civilly with D&S about their concerns. They may find accord in what they perceive as an affront.

Halo Project - big data, cycling guidance and women's cycling

Mike Duff is a guy that had a stand-out week at the GGF. Not only did he ride out of his skin and into the top 10 of all 3 events - Els Angels time trial, la Nocturna and the GranFondo - but seriously got the word out about his new cycling project - Halo. Cycling's a sport where the multiple hours in-saddle in the pedalling rhythm leads many to refining thought and ideas and the odd epiphany. Not all of them are acted upon.

Mike's epiphany was triggered by potentially life-threatening brain surgery a few years back where he received partial treatment in a Girona hospital. An architect, he decided he wanted out of the CAD designs, out of the office and into the sport he truly loves - cycling; to join the business peloton so to speak.

Supported by a feminist wife, and wanting to contribute something to a sport his 3-year-old daughter may some day enter, and annoyed by doping scandals that have sucked funding out of the sport and hit women's cycling the hardest, he conceived Halo with some other like-minded partners.

Basic, but not only, idea: Train riders, measure their improvements with latest technology, and direct a portion of profits to women's cycling based on that improvement data.

Halo now has acquired a property just by the Els Angels climb near Girona where large numbers of riders can be housed and coached by qualified folks like Mike, Team Mule Bar's Natalie Creswick and others (including Catalans) as the project builds.

Mike, sensitive to being the new bod on the Girona cycling block, spent mucho time listening and learning about how things work in Girona for cycling and talking about how Halo can contribute something valuable that can help this already great cycling centre grow even more.

He's already won the support of the Team Mule Bar Girls cycling team in the UK and Girona Bike Breaks' Dave showed his broad and inclusive vision by welcoming Halo and asserting all involved in Girona and Catalan cycling (not to mention the broader Catalan economy) benefitted when its key players pulled together as the true competition was other cycling hotspots like Mallorca or Mont Ventoux in Provence, France.

Looks like Halo is set to become a major player in Girona cycling and it couldn't happen to a nicer guy as Mike Duff is a genuine 'society-based business' man and an innovator. He's also a funny guy...g'luck mate!

Fondo notes

Riders from all over the world, different levels, different reasons for coming, perhaps none as cool as Finn Anti, whose girlfriend sent him a mystery invitation to be at Helsinki airport, with nothing more than a packing list. He was stoked when the plane touched down in Girona and rode with the best all week. Too sweet.

Or Howard Katz, from Canada. A motorcycle guy (not Harleys) who has got into cycling and a 'bigger guy' I'm sure he won't mind me saying. A man who descends like a demon and vowed to return in 2016 with a few kilos shed to better kick ass going up too.

Or the Team Mule Bar girls - Natalie and Adel - from the UK team who took many podiums, terracotta gords and other prizes and great fun to hang out with. They'll be back in greater numbers next year which promises to up the anti for the women's prizes next year. Look forward to seeing that.

Or Miquel, an excellent local diabetic rider who decided the Gran Fondo would be a great opportunity to try his hand at racing for the first time. He was up there all the way and podiumed in the hill TT. Bueno!

Or Dave being granted access to church power when a power board went temporarily. Ave maria!

Many more...

The story everyone has of their own rides through this cycling-rich region, adding to that history...maybe they are best told face-to-face in a cafe or bar...

Or feel free to add your story at the bottom of this blog! 

The world's and my concerns can wait awhile too...I'm going riding...

Ens veiem l'any que a Girona Gran Fons 2016!

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

GironaGranFondo Day 2: Getting back to fondo-mentals

Concerns have been piling up lately. This is the destiny of the adult. Work things, fam-friends relationshit, multiple fragmenting histories, action accountability, geopolitics,  interior design, epistemological dilemmas, impending ecosystem and climatic melt down, privilege, the Astana question, homesickness, millenials, nutritional clinical interventions, the French football league, Richie Porte's winnebago, isolationist tendencies, robotics, home ownership, wine selection, China, Japan, the Borg, Russia, Qatar, FIFA, Tony Abbott, Astana, the USA, Astana, kitedeath, the UCI, Old School publishing models, power meters, game of thrones, the buddha, the Astana question...after awhile it's just...arrrrrhhhh!!! Fuck! Arrgggh!...fuck. How to place one's molecules in all this?...

So I'm glad to be here in Girona for the 2nd #gironagranfondo. 2nd year looks about twice as big as last year and it's good to see some faces from a year back and meet some new bike folks. Like Dutch John who has a porcelain plate to prove he has ridden every Northern classic, Anne & Dave from Melbourne (paediatricians, tough bike riders & pro-probiotics in certain situations), Massachusetts Jeff an inventor and girona regular, Team Mulebar TT winner Natalie (sorry I called you Lisa), Halo Mike (awesome El Angels TT & women's cycling project dude), legendary local rider Josep, Ian Stannard who rides hard, loves massages and does NOT ride for Team RupDawg & the Skybots... and of course Dave & Saskia, owners of Gironabikebreaks and the legends that do all the hard work to make a week long event with 300 bike riders from around the world work so well. Chapeau and many other salutations to those guys.

It's one of the good things about riding, riding events like this - it demands your full attention. Concerns slip away. Can't go deep on some of the prosaic elements of life? Screw it. Go deep on the awesome roads around Girona...bury yeself if you so choose. Most do.

Els Angels time trial
After a gentle shop-organised ride yesterday that included Garmin-Cannondale pro Ted King for those on the #gironagranfondo Gold package, today was the Els Angels 10.4k uphill time trial. It is rumoured Hunter S Thompson wrote part of his bikie book Hell's Angels on this hill, although this is disputed by all but the eastern Catalan school of Thompsonologists. One to follow for all you Greensboro Review of Literature subscribers out there. Get your hands up people! We don't see any Harley Davidsons today though as it's closed roads for our event. Sweet.

An English lad named Lee Comerford won it by a way (about 30 seconds in 22:39) from Neil Martin, dad of Dan who is another Garmin-Cannondale pro who won Il Lombardia last year after an injury bashed season. Neil won last year's 125k fondo we will ride on Saturday. Former Olympian, still a demon on the bike at 50+.

Aforementioned Natalie (Creswick) came 5th overall (24:15) to win the women's and a nice TagHeuer watch, just like Lee. Kudos to Halo Mike for a fine 6th. Loads of other cool swag, as Ted King described it, was handed out to various winners at the Els Angels summit before we chowed down on some pasta washed down with some local rosé.

I went from 40-50 years winner last year to 8th in the category which I was fine with as the field had grown a lot (as has the whole event) and I had actually ridden a faster time (28:11). But I had the frustrating feeling I hadn't gone quite deep enough so it was good that after Natalisa, a Californian family & myself did the next hill over (apparently known as 'the hincapie loop'), to leave something more on the Santa Pellaia climb, gentle as it is, with the storm clouds arriving from the north.

That's what's cool about a fondo...the nice blend between formal-informal, the many different levels. But everyone's keen to ride a lot, find their fondo-level. I know I am...

When I got back to casa Lila where I am staying near the cathedral, Lila's arthritic black cat Negredo approached like it had been slurping tequila all day and crashed into my shin before rolling onto its feet and collapsing again.
'Nice one Negredo,' I mumble, moving into the kitchen to make a banana whey milk shake.
The rain was coming down now but the forecast tomorrow is hot. Might be time to get up the Rocacorba...