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Monthly Archives: February 2013

Ronde van Vlaanderen 2012

The 2013 Spring Classics season is almost upon us.  If the current weather conditions in northern Europe are anything to go by, the March races in Belgium may include the snow, sleet, rain and howling winds that, together with the legendary pavé, give Gent – Wevelgem, the Ronde van Vlaanderen (RvV) and Paris – Roubaix their harsh reputations.

So I was thankful that there was no snow or sleet in the lead up to the 2012 RvV cyclosportive. I tried to be better organised than I was for the 2011 edition (click here for that story.)  I looked on-line for group tours to the RvV.  I found one put together by the Gruppo Sportivo Gazzetta.  They were coming from the UK to ride the RvV.  They had block booked accommodation at the family-run Horenbecca Hotel in Horebeke.  Which was within riding distance to the start in Oudenaarde.  Most importantly there was room for up to six Not Possibles if we quickly confirmed our participation.

There were lots of Coffee Club conversations about riding the RvV, but no quick decisions.  By the time Richard and I finally decided we would do it, Gazzetta had already confirmed their numbers with the hotel.  Theresa, my Gazzetta contact, gave me the telephone number of the hotel.  I still had laughter ringing in my ears from my late attempt to book RvV accommodation the year before.  As expected, Luc Wachtelaer, the owner of the Horenbecca, told me that all his rooms were booked.  What I didn’t expect was to be offered space in the almost finished spa that he was adding to the hotel.  “As long as you don’t mind not having any windows” Luc said.

We met the eight Gazzetta members who made the trip across the Channel for dinner at the Horenbecca on Thursday evening.  Luc is an excellent chef.  We knew from the first bite of our evening meal that we would dine at the hotel as often as we could.

RVV 2012 Gazzetta 03

Luc, his wife and his mother kept the food and drink coming late into the night.  Which meant that it was a slow start for some on Friday morning.  After a top-notch breakfast we headed out for what Theresa had described as a warm-up ride.  Richard and I interpreted “warm-up ride” to mean a jaunt of perhaps 30km at a fairly gentle pace.  The reality was a little different.  We covered about 90km, including two climbs up the Kapelmuur.  “Just for fun,” as that famed climb was not part of the 2012 RvV route.

I was grateful that those two climbs were split by an excellent pasta lunch and a couple of coffees in Geraardsbergen.

We rode over a few cobbled stretches, including one bumpy descent before lunch where I lost the bolt that joins my non-drive side seat stay and chain stay.  I must say that I was very impressed with the strength of the aptly named Columbus Muscle carbon rear triangle.


Despite one seat stay and chain stay no longer being connected the rear triangle didn’t snap and collapse.  The only clue that something was amiss was the smell of hot rubber from my rear tire rubbing against the non-drive side chain stay.  There was a bit of a wobble but that was masked by the bouncing around on the cobbles.

That could have marked the demise of my weekend.  So I was doubly grateful for the help Neil provided.  He hoisted my frame, sans wheels and water bottles, onto his shoulder and rode to the nearest bike shop to look for a replacement bolt.  Forty five minutes later he was back with my repaired frame.  What a star!

Neil on the left

Neil on the left

Richard and I woke up on Saturday a bit worse for wear from the previous day’s exertions.  Nothing that a good breakfast couldn’t fix though.  We had opted for the 87km route.  Our new Gazzetta friends were all doing the 138km route.  So the only part of the ride that we shared was the 10km to the start in Oudenaarde.

It doesn’t look it from this photo but 15,345 riders from 32 countries rode the 2012 RvV.  Granted not everyone started in Oudenaarde.  3,000 hardy souls rode the full 244km course that started in Bruges.

RVV 2012 Start

Richard is an avowed BMC fan.  The morning started out well for him!

RVV 2012 Richard at BMC

It was a fairly cold morning, though thankfully without rain, sleet or snow.  So Richard and I were bundled up as we left Oudenaarde.

RVV 2012 083953_hires

It wasn’t long before we were warming up.

RVV 2012 095214_hires

A ride profile like this is guaranteed to generate some heat, but it never warmed up enough for us to take our jackets off.

RVV 2012 87km Profile

The 87km route had more than enough climbing in it.  Despite the pretty views . . .

RVV 2012 Climb 02

. . . some of the climbs were tough, . . .

RVV 2012 Koppenberg Sign 02

so we made sure we followed the correct arrows!

RvV 2012 Directions

There were lots of these on the course.

RVV 2012 3S

Some research revealed that they were for Dries Devenyns (3 S = Drie S). Dries is from the village of Kluisbergen, which is all of 13kms from the race finish in Oudenaarde.

We also saw this gentleman pushing his draisine along.  He may be Czech, but he is a true Flandrien.  He put the rest of us, including the penny-farthing rider, to shame.

RVV 2012 Draisine 01

Richard and I rolled into the finish seven hours after we started.

RVV 2012 133445_hires

Despite having eaten at every rest stop we were starving.  We passed on the offerings at the finish . . .

RVV 2012 Food Bus

. . . and rode into Oudenaarde, past the marching band . . .

RVV 2012 Band 01

. . . to where else in Belgium but . . .

RVV 2012 Frietshop

for a heaping portion of double-fried frites.  We were thusly fortified to make it up the final climb to the hotel.  A ride to Horebeke in one of these would have been appreciated though.

RVV 2012 Helicopter

The next morning we all kept an ear out for the thump-thump of helicopters.  The RvV race route would twice bring the riders near the Horenbecca Hotel.  The approaching helicopters signaled the imminent arrival of the breakaway group, the chasing peloton and everything that accompanied it.

This was a great finish to a memorable weekend.  Hopefully I can repeat the experience one of these years.

Fraser’s Hill Revisited

Fraser’s Hill was a favorite holiday destination when I was growing up.  Sometimes my family and my cousins’ family would occupy an entire stone and wood-framed bungalow.  We would spend the days going on walks, or when we were older, trying to play golf.  Evenings were spent first scoffing dinner prepared by the bungalow cook, and then playing board games or just lounging in front of the stone fireplace.

Louis James Fraser is one of a number of Scotsmen who have places in Malaysia named after them.  Cameron, Dickson and Darvel are others.  Fraser operated a tin mine high in the Titiwangsa Range in the 1890s.  He disappeared some twenty five years later.  A search party sent by the Bishop of Singapore found no trace of Fraser.  What the Bishop did find was the the perfect place for a hill station.  In the years of empire the British were fond of recreating a slice of home in highland areas where they could retreat from the heat of the lowlands.

Hence the mock Tudor-styled bungalows, and the cooks who could make the best Yorkshire pudding east of the River Tees.  My last visit to Fraser’s Hill, or Bukit Fraser as it is now properly known, was at least ten years ago.  I have fond memories of Fraser’s Hill.  I have less fond memories of the road to get there.  A winding, nausea-inducing stretch of tarmac that gets even narrower and twistier over the final 8km to the top.   A section of road that some say was created by a snake being chased uphill by a mongoose being chased by a monkey being chased by a tiger being chased by an elephant.

Fraser's Hill Route

Chon, Mark, Marvin, Shahfiq, Wan and I met at the Sungai Buloh R&R on the North-South Highway at 5am.  We were either very keen or certifiably mad!  By 5.45am we were in Kuala Kubu Bahru.  Just in time for breakfast at the 24 hour Restoran Fazlina Maju.

Fraser's Hill - Racun Breakfast at KKB

The meeting point was at the mini stadium in Kuala Kubu Bharu.  The ride was organised by Dave Ern.  Dave is very well known for organising cycling events.  The Fraser’s Hill ride was Stage 1 of the King of 9 Mountains series that Dave is organising.  Check out Dave Ern’s Facebook page at to see what other events he has and is organising for cyclists.

Dave does a great job.  He posted riding rules on his Facebook page.  As riders arrived at the start point he handed out a list of the names and mobile numbers for the lead riders, the mid-ride and rear sweepers, and the support car drivers.  He gave us a rousing pre-ride briefing, and we all had excellent support from his crew of volunteers.

Photo courtesy of Ann Daim

Photo courtesy of Ann Daim

Then we were on our way.  Our first photo stop was at the Sungai Selangor dam lookout point.  Dave Ern was already there, briefing the riders that had chosen to start their ride at the lake.

Fraser's Hill - Sungai Selangor Dam

We made regular stops along the 32km from Kuala Kubu Bharu to the Gap.  It is a pretty ride with lots of photo opportunities.  And we needed regular breaks from the non-stop climbing!

Fraser's Hill - River

Fraser's Hill - Waterfall

We even had spectators.

Fraser's Hill - Spectators

The Gap used to be the point where the two-way road became a one-way road for the final 8km to Fraser’s Hill.  Traffic went up on even hours and came down on odd hours.  The drive took about twenty minutes so you weren’t allowed through the gate later than 40 minutes past the hour.  If you missed the gate time at the Gap you waited at the Gap Resthouse.  In the days when the drive from Kuala Lumpur to the Gap took the better part of three hours, a fresh orange (that’s what the kids got anyway) on the veranda at the Gap Resthouse was a treat.

Sadly the Gap Resthouse is no more.  It was closed for renovations and never reopened.

Fraser's Hill - Gap Rest House

A second road from Fraser’s Hill to the Gap was built in 2001.  So today the old road from the Gap up to Fraser’s Hill is open all the time to traffic heading up.  The new road is the one-way route down.

Fraser's Hill - 8km to go

That last 8km includes 400 meters / 1,300 feet of climbing.  Suffice to say were all pleased to get to the top.

A friend asked me if Fraser’s Hill was as I remembered it.  My answer was “yes and no.”  The police station is the same.  It will probably stand unchanged for the next hundred years.

Fraser's Hill - Police Station

Scott’s Pub and Restaurant used to be known as the Tavern.  I remember it for its dart board and billiard table.  And of course for its food and drink.

Fraser's Hill - Scott's Pub and Restaurant

The golf club across the road from Scott’s has expanded greatly.  You don’t have much of a view of the course from Scott’s anymore.  This is the course to the right of the clubhouse.

Fraser's Hill - Golf Course

What used to be the Merlin Hotel is now the Shahzan Inn.

This photo is courtesy of TripAdvisor

This photo is courtesy of TripAdvisor

The few bungalows that we saw looked to be in good shape.  This is Glen, which overlooks the golf course.

Fraser's Hill - Glen

Here is our “We made it!” shot.

Fraser's Hill - We Made It

We didn’t take a tour of Fraser’s Hill.  It was all we could do to ride up one last slope from the clock tower to get to the the food court (also new) next to the old roller skating rink for lunch.

It started to drizzle just as we finished lunch so we bolted for the road downhill.  We didn’t get caught in the rain but the road was very wet in places.  There are no descent photos.  I was too busy having some high-speed fun.

There is now talk of a ride to Cameron Highlands.  Another place named after a wandering Scotsman.  And 600 meters / 2,000 feet higher than Fraser’s Hill.  Hmmmmm.

UCI Worlds Cyclosportive 2012

The UCI Road World Championships came to Limburg in the Netherlands in September 2012.  A number of Not Possibles signed up for the Toertocht or Cyclosportive.

UCI Toertocht Graphic

Thomas and some of his riding buddies came all the way from Aberdeen to join Christine, David, Richard, Rogier and I, along with some 7,000 other enthusiasts, at the start in Landgraaf.  We were all looking forward to riding over the Worlds course . .

UCI Toertocht Route

and tackling some of the vaunted climbs like the Bemeleberg and the Cauberg.

UCI World Championship Sportive 2012 05

We rolled over the start line at about 8.20am.  We wouldn’t see Thomas and his friends again until the end of the ride.  As for myself, this shot is misleading.

UCI World Championship Sportive 2012 082352a

By the time I was 10km into the ride I was not looking so happy.  I was struggling to keep up with the others.  So much so that I began to worry that at the rate I was going, I would not make the time cutoff for the 170km route that we were attempting.  Fortunately whatever it was that was making me feel unwell passed, and I caught up to Christine and the rest of the group at the first rest stop.  No doubt the waffles there helped!

UCI World Championship Sportive 2012 03

About halfway into the ride David and I spotted a group of riders sporting the Dutch colours.  We picked up the pace and caught up with them.  We started chatting a learned that they were members of the Dutch junior team.

UCI World Championship Sportive 2012 120625a

We were feeling quite pleased with ourselves for keeping pace with riders from the Dutch national junior squad.  That is until they decided it was time to stop dawdling and shot off down the road.

We all made it over the 1,500 meters of climbing, including the iconic Cauberg, which would be the final climb before the finish of the mens’ and womens’ elite races.  Fortunately we didn’t have to ride up the Cauberg ten times like the elite racers would have to in their races.  When we crossed the finish line I was able to strike the pose I had at the start.

UCI World Championship Sportive 2012 163334

Rogier and I at the finish with our finisher’s certificates and medals.

UCI World Championship Sportive 2012 01

Lastly here’s the video of this ride in which some of my Not Possibles friends appear.

Bike Fit

My introduction to the concept of fitting a bike to a rider came via James Flatman.  See Jumping Into the Deep End for details.  What James did on that occasion was a static fit.  So called because all the body measurements are taken while the individual is standing still.  Using a tape measure, a plumb bob and a goniometer.

One year later things had moved on at Alchemy Bicycle Company.  Ryan Cannizzaro, James’ partner in the business at the time, had begun using a dynamic fit methodology.  So called because body measurements are taken while the individual is pedalling a stationary bicycle.  It was a testament to James’ static fit skills that his results of the previous year were identical to the results of the dynamic fit, except for a +5mm change to my saddle height.

The dynamic fit technology that Ryan used was from Retül, a four-year old company based in Boulder, Colorado.  That system uses a series of light-emitting diodes and a motion-capture camera to record measurements in three-dimensional space.  The geek in me was impressed with the technology, and with the range of data it produced.  The system seemed easy enough to use.  I wondered, somewhat abstractly, if the Retül system would catch on.

The topic of bike fitting has come up in conversation since then, but I hadn’t given it much attention.  Not until I got back to Malaysia that is.  Road cycling has become very popular here.  It is not unusual to be in the company of fifty or more cyclists on some of the routes on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.  My experience has been that it is also not unusual to see people that do not look comfortable on their bicycles.  Some people I have ridden with say they get sore backs and knees when they cycle.  Cycling-induced aches and pains are a sure indicator that the cyclist is riding a poorly-fitted bike.

I’ve been looking for things to do to keep me busy in Kuala Lumpur.  Providing Retül bike fits could be an option.  I did a bit of asking around and found that few bike shops in Kuala Lumpur offer a bike fit service.  GH SpeedBikes is a Specialized Concept Store and they offer the BG Fit.  A few others do static fits.  No one in Malaysia offers Retül fits.  The closest certified Retül fitters I can find are in Singapore.

My next step was to do some more research about what I would need to do to become a Retül fitter.  The short answer was to get certified and to buy the equipment.  The equipment isn’t cheap but it isn’t outrageously expensive either.  It made sense to me to do the certification course before deciding whether to invest in the hardware and everything else that comes with setting up a business.

The company has set up the Retül University to provide certification and other bike-fitting related courses in a variety of cities around the world.  The Transition to Dynamic Bike Fit pre-requisite and the Motion Analysis Certification courses were being offered in Brisbane, Australia in February 2013.  Of the cities where Retül offer courses, Brisbane is the closest.  So I signed up for the courses, started doing the pre-work, and booked my flights and accommodation.

Speaking of accommodation I must give airbnb a plug.  My biker chick has used airbnb to find great places to stay in a number of cities around the world. The place she found for me in Brisbane, The Last Resort, was no exception.  The home and the hosts, Paula and Thommo, were excellent.

The courses were conducted by Nick Formosa and Aaron Lean at Cadence Performance Cycling.  The class size is limited to five students.  Each of us got lots of personal attention as we worked our way through Fitting Terminology, Mechanics of Motion, and the various parts of the fit process:  the Rider Interview, the Pre-Fit Physical Assessment, the Fit, the Bike Measurement, and Report Generation.

Ryan, Nick and I discussing what the measurements mean.

Photo courtesy of Aaron Lean at Cadence Performance Cycling

Photo courtesy of Aaron Lean at Cadence Performance Cycling

By the end of the three-day certification course Nick and Aaron had us doing bike fits for some of their paying customers.  Here Ron and Andrew are fitting eight sticky dots onto Alex Wohler of Team Budget Forklifts.  The light-emitting diodes attach to these dots.  Getting the dots in the correct place on the anatomical points is the most important thing to get right for accurate measurements.

Photo courtesy of Aaron Lean at Cadence Performance Cycling

Photo courtesy of Aaron Lean at Cadence Performance Cycling

Alex is wired up and being scanned.

Photo courtesy of Aaron Lean at Cadence Performance Cycling

Photo courtesy of Aaron Lean at Cadence Performance Cycling

We must have done well because we all qualified as Retül Certified Fitters.  Nick, me, Andrew, Ryan, Aidan, Ron and Aaron marking the moment.

Photo courtesy of Aaron Lean at Cadence Performance Cycling

Photo courtesy of Aaron Lean at Cadence Performance Cycling

The hardware has been updated since Ryan did my Retül fit in 2011.  The motion-capture equipment is now wireless.  This is the camera.

Retül Vantage

Photo courtesy of Retül

This is the wireless harness and five of the eight light-emitting diodes.

Retül Harness

Photo courtesy of Retül

There is now a wireless tool called the Zin which is used with the motion-capture camera to measure the dimensions of a bike.

Photo courtesy of Retül

Photo courtesy of Retül

The entire base system comes in a carrying case.

Photo courtesy of Retül

Photo courtesy of Retül

A nice-to-have, but definitely an expensive option, is the Müve Dynamic Fit Bike.  This is an easily adjustable fit bike that is used to fit a rider before he or she buys a bike.

Photo courtesy of Retül

Photo courtesy of Retül

I am now a Retül Certified Fitter.  Able to use their system to capture dynamic data, review the results and make adjustments to the bike to help the rider pedal more efficiently, reduce the risk of injury, and increase comfort on the bike.  I now need to decide whether I want to invest the time, effort and money to get into the bike fitting business.

Something to think about on my rides to come.

Gerrie Knetemann Classic 2012

Travel has taken up a lot of time in the past month.  So I haven’t done much riding lately.  I have made plans to do a couple of “special event” rides in April and May.  At the least I will have something to write about then.

The cycling surprise of the past few weeks was the email I received on 8th February from MySports B.V. to tell me that my High Definition race videos from the 2012 Gerrie Knetemann Classic were ready to be downloaded.  Surprising because that ride was on 9th September last year.  Let me tell you about it.

The late Gerrie Knetemann won the 1978 UCI Road World Championship by outsprinting the defending world champion, the Italian Francesco Moser.  He also won the Amstel Gold Race twice, Paris-Nice and host of other races.  Knetemann was born in Amsterdam.  The 2012 event was the eighth running of the classic in his honour.

The ride started and ended in the Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam, the site of the 1928 Olympiad.  Seven Not Possibles cyclists tackled the 120km route.  From the left:  Jonathan, David, Micke, Christine, Johan, Andrew and Graham.

Gerrie Knetemann Classic 2012 09

Gerrie Knetemann 2012 Route

The route took through the Groene Hart, a particularly scenic slice of Dutch countryside.  For some variety we also rode along a section of perimeter fence at Schiphol Airport.

Gerrie Knetemann Classic 2012 14

Photo courtesy of Jonathan K

It was a particularly hot day so the two rest stops were appreciated.

Photo courtesy of Jonathan K

Photo courtesy of Jonathan K

As were the stops forced upon us by open bridges.

Gerrie Knetemann Classic 2012 Bridge 02

Like in the Witte Kruis Classic, the organisers included a time trial well into the route.  In this case at the 112km mark.  As you will see I did not attack the time trial.  Six kilometers later we rolled into the Olympic Stadium, with some of us doing our best Wiggo impersonations.

Gerrie Knetemann Classic 2012 Aktiefoto 01

Photo courtesy of Aktiefoto

Did I tell you that it was a hot day?  Not long after this photo was taken we scrambled to find some shade to escape the heat as we destroyed some frites and cold drinks.

Gerrie Knetemann Classic 2012 08

Photo courtesy of either Andrew B or Mike R

This post started with mention of race videos.  Here is a compilation: