Vista Outdoors & Giro/Bell

MY PERSONAL OPINION

I am not a gun person. I believe in strong background checks, closing the gun show loophole, and requiring a waiting period for purchasing a gun. I think products like bump stocks, which take an otherwise legal weapon, and effectively turn it into a full-fledged automatic weapon should be banned.

However, I do not advocate banning all or even most firearms, and I am most certainly not a member of the NRA. I believe that the “well-regulated” phrase in the 2nd Amendment needs to be enforced.

As some people have discovered recently, Giro & Bell are owned by a private holding company called Vista Outdoors. The vast majority of Vista Outdoors businesses are gun-related, and Vista Outdoors is a supporter of the NRA.

In the aftermath of the recent shootings in Florida, many people have called for boycotts of Giro & Bell, because of their ownership by Vista Outdoors.

I am very torn about this.

On the one hand, I don’t particularly want any of my money going to a company that supports the NRA, and since I don’t need a helmet or shoes right now, it’s easy to say that I won’t be buying any Giro products.

On the other hand, I also know that Giro & Bell’s businesses are a drop in the bucket with regards to Vista Outdoors overall business; which means that a boycott will likely have very little effect on Vista Outdoors, but could cause a major disruption for the employees at Giro & Bell.

In other words, a boycott of Giro & Bell will likely hurt the people in Santa Cruz, who are more likely to support stronger gun control, a whole lot more than it will harm the suits at Vista Outdoors who support the NRA.

There are other companies who are in their own way just as egregious, but whose products are ubiquitous in the bicycle industry. One such example is DuPont, which has been one of the largest polluters the United States has ever seen. And yet without DuPont, there would be no Lyrca, no Imron paint, no Kevlar, no Teflon, no Coolmax, no Gore-Tex (made with Teflon), and the list goes on.

So what to do?

Give up the sport that I love because it’s almost impossible to escape the industry’s ties to companies that do some pretty nasty shit?

Or continue to support good companies in the business of making and selling cycling equipment, even though their ownership has ties to companies that make products that I don’t like, ties which are almost completely out of the control of the rank-and-file folks working for the cycling company?

And as I type it out, the answer for me becomes more clear. I will continue to support the rank-and-file employees who have no control over what the ownership of their company does.

I can’t say that I will buy Giro or Bell products in the future, but I will not rule them out for something that they cannot control.

REVIEW: The Campagnolo Cavatappi (the BIG Corkscrew)

People may ask which of Tullio Campagnolo’s inventions are the most important; the quick release allowing gears to be changed more easily in the pre-derailleur days, or the Gran Sport (and later Record & Super Record) rear derailleurs. One may even debate who has had a bigger impact on cycling, Campagnolo or Shimano … and the best way to do so, is over a fine bottle of wine.

While the Campagnolo vs. Shimano debate may never be decided, one area where Campagnolo definitely has the edge is with their Cavatappi or big corkscrew, inspired when old Tullio once again hurt his hand … this time in 1966 when opening a bottle of wine.

A self-centering telescopic bell positions the vermillion (the actual corkscrew) in the center of the cork, and the two levers draw out the cork easily and gently. No more broken corks leaving pieces floating in your wine from a poorly centered vermillion, no more wrenching the cork back and forth to get it out of the bottle. As befitting any tool created by the Italian master, the levers are affixed to the main body of the corkscrew with bolts derived from those used to attach chainrings to a Super Record crankset.

Quite simply, the Campagnolo Cavatappi is the best corkscrew ever made, and remained virtually unchanged until 2013, when it was updated; not to improve the way it works, but with new plating to ensure a top-quality, attractive, and even longer-lasting finish so that it retains its character for a lifetime.

All this, and 100% Made in Italy.

Neutral Service

“Neutral Service” is a phrase that likely had the father of the Tour de France, Henri Desgrange, turning over in his grave when the first Mavic Neutral Service car became part of the caravan behind the peloton at the 1973 Paris-Nice. In the early years of the Tour, riders were responsible for conducting their own repairs and were forbidden any outside assistance.

Founded in 1889 as Manufacture d’Articles Vélocipédiques Idoux et Chanel, by Charles Idoux and Lucien Chanel, Mavic was long known for their bicycle components and groups, but today are mostly known for their wheels and technical apparel.

So how did that first Mavic Neutral Service vehicle come to join the caravan? It all started the previous year at the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré, when one team director’s vehicle broke down, and Bruno Gormand (the then-current owner of Mavic) lent the director his own personal car.

Support cars were nothing new, but the ideas of having a fully professional neutral support vehicle, stocked with spare wheels, bikes, and a mechanic with enough tools to effect a wide variety of mid-race mobile repairs was good for racing. When gaps were relatively small from the breakaway to the peloton, the commissaires would call for the Mavic car to come forward to provide support for the riders in the break until the gap opened up enough to call team cars forward.

By 1977, Mavic had become the official Neutral Support partner of the Tour de France. Soon, the yellow Mavic cars became one of the most widely recognized symbols in bike racing, like the maillot jaune or maglia rosa or the red kite flown at 1 km to the finish.

So why yellow? Gormond asked one of the cameramen filming the race for French television what color would stand out best, and the response was yellow and black for contrast.

At most races there will be 2-3 Mavic Neutral Service cars along with 2 motorcycles also providing service when needed.

Each car is typically stocked with 4 bikes on the roof, 3 full sets of wheels on the rear, and 1 set of wheels in the car. The mechanic always sits in the right rear passenger seat for quickest and safest egress from the car when service is needed by a rider. Typically, the mechanic will have a full portable tool chest on the rear driver’s side, and often will have the most commonly needed tools in a pouch hanging from the back of the front passenger’s seat.

Each motorcycle is typically stocked with 2 sets of wheels mounted to a rack on the rear, while the mechanic riding in the passenger position will carry another set of wheels in his hands, ready to jump off the bike to change a wheel if a rider flats.

While the drivers are often mechanics as well, many of them are also former racers with a high familiarity of how the peloton ebbs and flows, allowing them to successfully navigate the often-chaotic caravan and peloton ballet to get to the front safely when called forward. They will most often be the first car called forward when a break is established, and the last to pull out of the gap if the break is reeled in by the peloton.

On a good day, everything is quiet in the neutral service car except for the crackling of race radio, but they are always there, always ready to jump into action when the need arises.

Since the introduction of a professional neutral service vehicle at the 1973 Paris Nice, other companies have also joined the caravan in a similar position; Vittoria is at most of the races in Italy, and both Shimano and SRAM are becoming more common sightings at races, but Mavic owns the distinction of being the first and the most widely recognized.

I had the honor of riding with Mavic Neutral Service at the 2017 Tour of Utah for a couple of days. Unfortunately for telling a story, both days were relatively quiet, but I was able to capture some photos of the crew in action, as well as of the race itself from a different perspective, at the rear.

The caravan ballet is a pretty amazing thing to be a part of, especially when it’s happening on a windy canyon road at 60mph on a descent.

Mavic’s current partnership as the official Neutral Support provider began with the 2016 edition of the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, and is expected to continue through 2018.

My thanks to Aaron Walker at Mavic USA, which is part of the Amer Sports portfolio of companies based in Ogden, Utah for helping to arrange my time in the cars, and to Nate Field and the rest of his Mavic crew at the Tour of Utah for being such gracious hosts.

Crusher in the Tushar 2017: Squire 3-peats, Holcomb takes her first

In the small town of Beaver, Utah, the second Saturday of July can only mean one thing; it’s time for another invasion of those crazy bike racers for the Beaver County Travel Council Crusher in the Tushar, presented by DNA Cycling, which has been organized by former pro cyclist Burke Swindlehurst, who grew up in the town, and discovered his talent and love of climbing in the Tushar mountain range and Fishlake National Forest towering above the town to the east.

Unlike many towns, which see bike races as nothing but an inconvenience, the towns of Beaver, in Beaver County, and the towns of Junction and Circleville in neighboring Piute County turn out in full-force, not only in town but all along the course to cheer riders on, and making sure that they are well supported for what may not be the longest, but is certainly one of the most difficult mixed-surface (or “gravel”) races in the United States.

Each year after the first in 2011, the event has sold out, and every year, the amount of time it takes to sellout has gotten shorter and shorter, happening in about 4 hours in 2017. Once again, the race attracted a varied crowd of road, cyclocross, and mountain bike racers, including former and current UCI WorldTour professional riders David Zabriskie and Ben King.

Pro/Open Men

Shortly after the roll-out from Beaver, before racing really started in earnest, Benjamin Blaugrund (Juwi Solar) went on one of his signature breaks, in the company of Menso De Jong (Clif), while Robbie Squire (Assos/Felt) got a front tire flat, leading to speculation that the Crusher still would not see a three-time winner, after Tyler Wren’s double in 2011 & 2012, Levi Leipheimer’s double in 2013 & 2014, and Squire’s own double in 2015 & 2016.

After the race, Squire joked about his first of many mishaps: “Yeah, that’s kind of my thing now, is I just don’t keep air in my tires, it’s too heavy, so I get rid of all of the air. Bad call, so I put in a tube to try and give it a go again.”

However, the Crusher is a long race and still had another 67 miles to go; as history has shown, anything can happen (and usually does).

After a hard 6-mile chase, Squire managed to reconnect to the main Pro/Open field shortly before the field turned off of UT-153 onto Kents Lake Road/FR-137 and hit dirt, causing the entire group to start to splinter as the race began in earnest.

Robert Squire and Keegan Swenson looking at something in the forest as they ascend the first climb.

Blaugrund and De Jong widened their gap on the rest of the field to about four minutes, with Blaugrund’s teammate Leroy Popowski riding in no man’s land about a minute ahead of the main chase group containing Squire, Todd Wells (Troy Lee Designs), Keegan Swenson (Cannondale-3Rox), Ben King (Dimension Data), Jamey Driscoll (DNA Cycling), and Josh Whitney (EVOL)

Shortly before the various groups reached Anderson Meadows, Ben King flatted at about mile 16, for what was apparently not the only time on the day, while Popowski and De Jong were caught and dropped by the chase group about a mile-and-a-half later.

As the lead group topped the first major climb and were about to hit the rollers leading towards the second feed zone at Betenson Flat, Squire dropped his chain and had to stop again to untangle it, before starting to chase again with Popowski through the feed zone and onto the rough, washboard descent down the dirt section of UT-153.

“Once I got my tires situated, I was trying to rider gingerly and not puncture again, but then I just kept losing my chain. At the top of the Col de Crush descent, it bucked off and wrapped itself in a little loop-de-loop. Normally, I can just reach down and put it back on, but I had to get off and do some math and calculate how to get it back on. It dropped a few more times, but I was able to get it back on without stopping those times,” said Squire.

Popowski’s less-confident descending prowess caused him to lose time on the descent, while Squire continued his chase down the Col de Crush before rejoining one of the chase groups as the road became paved once again nearing the bottom of the descent and heading south on US Highway 89 and heading into the small towns of Junction and Circleville, where it looked like the entire populace of both towns turned out to cheer the riders on and hand-up bottles to the riders.

As the race pulled out of Circleville and started heading back north towards Doc Springs Road (and the section dubbed the “Sarlacc Pit” by participants of the race’s first edition in 2011), the situation on the road was Todd Wells & Keegan Swenson, with Squire, Driscoll, Allen Krughoff, and one or two others about a minute-and-a-half back, with a second chase containing Blaugrund, De Jong, and one other rider a further two minutes behind.

If there is one truth about Doc Springs Road, it’s that you never really know what conditions are going to be like from year to year, from fairly sandy and deep the first year, muddy the second year, to relatively mild after recent rains keep the dust levels to a minimum, and that no matter what the conditions are, it’s going to be a tough section to work your way through before turning back up UT-153 to climb the Col de Crush. The “Pit” proved to be just as tough this year; while not as deep as the first year, the dirt was probably the loosest it had been since that first year, and with temperatures soaring and little vegetation to provide any respite from the sun and heat, it was bound to make an impact, with both Wells and Swenson switching from side-to-side of the road looking for a smooth line and something firm enough for their tires to grab some traction. It was in this section where the speculation started whether Wells’ “old man legs” or Swenson’s youth and climbing prowess would prove to be the other rider’s outdoing.

As the race passed the three-hour mark on the Col, Swenson’s relative inexperience with longer endurance events, and lack of firsthand knowledge of the course became apparent, as he started to get gapped by Wells around the 54-mile mark, while further behind, it looked like Squire was beginning to claw back more time on the two leaders.

With about 800 meters before the Pro-Form KOM, Squire caught and passed Swenson, before rejoining Wells in the lead about 300 meters later. With two bends in the road left before the KOM, Squire put in a little dig and opened up about a 10-meter gap back to Wells, which he held through the KOM, picking up the $250 prize for first rider across the line. Unlike most KOMs, which are usually awarded at the very top of the climb, the Pro-Form KOM is about 400 vertical feet below where the climb truly tops out before hitting the relatively flat rollers heading back towards Betenson Flat, and even more climbing to come after the turn-off to Gunsight Flat and Big Flat.

Wells was glad to have other riders for company on the climbs, first with Swenson, and then Squire, “It’s a lot nicer having someone to ride into the finish with. There were some pretty good headwinds on some of those sections up the climb, and while in the follow car you may not notice that there is a wind, when you’re on the bike you feel every little bit. It’s also nice to have some motivation of company out there. You know when you’re out there by yourself your mind kind of wanders, it’s hard to maintain focus, but when somebody else is there it’s easier to push.”

Once past the end of Big Flat, the riders reached the short, steep, and twisty descent from Timid Springs to Puffer Lake, and back to the pavement on UT-153. It was at this point that Wells launched his attack, hoping to dislodge Squire on the downhill to hold him off on the final climb to the finish by the Eagle Point Ski Resort Skyline Lodge, but all he could manage was about a 7-second gap, which Squire easily closed back down once the dirt was behind him.

It looked like it was going to come down to a two-man sprint to the finish up the final climb, which gains about 600 vertical feet in one mile. Coming around the final turn into the last 400 meters, Squire gave one last dig quickly opening a 15-second gap, which he held to the finish, and in so doing becoming the first 3-time winner of what has become one of the must-do mixed-surface events in the western United States.

Wells commented about the race, “It was good, it seemed like it was a little more mellow this year than last. By the time we got up to the top, even though it seemed like a more reasonable tempo we were a smaller group, Keegan (Swenson), Squire and I, and then Squire’s chain came off. So then it was just Keegan and I rode together until about halfway up the Col de Crush, and it all kind of happened there.

Robert Squire crossing the line, to become the Crusher's first three-time winner.

“Keegan came off a little bit, and Squire caught on right there, so we went from Keegan & I riding together not knowing where Squire was because we couldn’t see him, to the three of us together for just a few seconds, and then Squire goes off the front. I was able to keep him close and we hooked back up again and rode together to the finish. I put in a death-defying descent on the last dirt road thing (from Timid Springs) because I knew that was my only chance, but he came back to me. It was going to take a really good day for me to beat him in the sprint.”

Keegan Swenson was happy with his third-place finish, stating “A lot of my training is shorter; I haven’t been doing too many epic rides which are longer, because it still isn’t quite my wheelhouse right now. I do like the longer climbs, but it’s a long race. I think part of it was the heat as well, following Todd across the sandy false flat bits before the climb (on Doc Springs Road), I think that’s what put me in the box. I was hurting a bit before the climb; and he’s a big strong dude, he can go fast, so I was suffering even before the climb. Then when Robbie caught back on I knew it was going to go even faster and if I tried to go with them, I might explode, so I’m going to ride my own pace and maybe I can get them back if they start to play games later on. I just tried to finish in one piece.”

“I didn’t pre-ride the course, so that may have played a little into it as well, but I’m looking forward to coming back next year and seeing what I can do, now that I know what to expect.”

Pro/Open Women

Starting just a few minutes after the Elite men, the women rolled out fairly easily, and were soon caught by one of the masters men fields starting behind them, so a group of the women jumped in with the men as the pace started to lift heading onto the dirt on FR-137.

As the group neared the top of the first climb, near Anderson Meadow, the group had separated with Janel Holcomb (Mavic) and Larissa Connors (Team Twenty20/Felt) in the lead, followed by Mindy McCutcheon (DNA Cycling), and then another group containing Breanne Nalder (PLAN7 DS) & Jennifer Luebke (DNA Cycling) and one other girl.

“I’ve been sick, injured and a bit burned out for the past 6 months [after the conclusion of cyclocross season], so I haven’t been racing or training as much. I knew what to expect and not to panic and not to bury myself too early; if I just took it easy up the first climb, I knew I’d get separated from Janel and Larissa, but I also knew there was a so much road ahead, so much racing left,” said McCutcheon after the race.

As the lead women’s group rolled through Anderson Meadow, from all the bouncing around on the washboard roads, Holcomb’s saddlebag came open and nearly fell off her saddle.

“We were just climbing and climbing and climbing, all of a sudden, my saddle bag exploded, everything everywhere, and it was dangling into my wheel, so I had to stop and get off and try to grab things and stick stuff in to my pocket,” she said. “I thought ‘Uh oh, this is not good! This is not good,’ so I just had get back on and got back into my rhythm with tubes hanging out of my jersey and all this stuff.”

Over the top of the climb coming into Betenson Flat, Holcomb managed to rejoin a small group with Larissa Connors, and attacked the descent.

Says Holcomb, “As we started the descent, I dropped Larissa again, and so I did the descent and loved it. Loved it! I know it was wash-boarded out, but I was just amazed at how beautiful the surroundings were. It was just gorgeous!”

When they hit the pavement on the bottom of the Col de Crush, heading in to Junction & Circleville, Holcomb was rejoined by Connors and 4 of the men they had been riding with; the group worked well together, grabbing more bottles at the aid stations.

As the group turned on to Doc Springs Road, another large group containing Mindy McCutcheon tagged on to the back of Holcomb’s group, and the riders once again settled into a rhythm.

According to Holcomb: ““It was hot, it was definitely very hot, but the conditions were pretty good; it was loose but you just had to relax and go with it and be patient. I really liked it and there were all sorts of people out there cheering which was really nice.”

Said McCutcheon, “Janel & Larissa both got away from me again through the Sarlacc Pit and the first part of the Col de Crush, and I knew I didn’t really have it in me to chase down Janel, which was fine.

As they turned back on to the pavement before starting the climb back up the infamous UT-153 Col de Crush, Holcomb had the realization, “’oh we’re going up that?’ I hadn’t really put it all together, you know. I was like ‘Are you kidding me?’ I knew it was going to be tough, it was so hot.”

McCutcheon followed, “I met Larissa again about halfway up the Col de Crush, and I could see her heart break when she saw mile after mile of climbing ahead of us, and I knew I just had to be slow and steady and I could probably hold her off.”

Coming through the QOM, Holcomb was also suffering. “I went through some rough patches there. Once in a while you get over a bit over the top of a little bit of a rise and you get a little more speed, and it was ‘okay, that feels good, that’s okay.’ It was a constant exercise of finding whatever power I could, taking in whatever food and drink I could, and then occasionally sitting up and looking around and taking it all in. No matter what happens it’s been a good day and an amazing event.”

Holcomb continued, “There was descent there [from Timid Springs down to Puffer Lake] that was just awesome, and all of a sudden, I felt like I got my mojo back. I was just killing it! When you hit the pavement, there are a few rollers, but then when you make the last turn with a mile to go, I got a few drops of rain, and I was still so hot that I was like ‘yes, bring it on!’ and then it started hailing! Going through that last mile I just kept looking up at the horizon and eventually saw the banner, and it was like ‘Yes! It was awesome.” Crossing the line was such a release, there was so much joy.”

Janel Holcomb about to cross the line to win her first Crusher.

About 8 minutes later, in the pouring rain, McCutcheon also rolled across the line, saying after the finish, ““I came in not expecting much out of myself; I knew I wasn’t coming in as strong as last year and am thrilled and shocked that I pulled off second. Last year I felt like Superwoman, and this year I questioned myself a thousand times if I should even come down, and then to be out there and it’s blazing hot. I thought about quitting with just about every other pedal stroke I made. It was a much a mental challenge as a physical challenge to even finish this year, let alone take second, so I’m pretty happy about that.”

Breanne Nalder (PLAN7 DS) caught and passed Connors on the climb up the Col de Crush, and was able to increase the gap and come in third, another 3 minutes behind McCutcheon.

“Coming up the Col de Crush, I kept using men as carrots and acted like a rabbit. I knew I was in forth because I hadn’t seen Jen (Luebke) or any of the other girls again. I came up on Larissa, and she said to me, “Why are you going this hard now?” and I said, “I’ve been going this hard the whole time!” and she kind of laughed. It motivated me to just go for it, and I was able to roll away from her.”

AMA no more

Got cleared yesterday by my orthopaedist to ride on the road; still can’t do off-road/gravel for a few more weeks until my broken elbow heals some more, but it’s a start. I can tell I’ve got a long way to get before riding a bike is comfortable again; even though the neck pain and associated radiculopathy are doing much better than they have been over the past 4 months, holding my head in riding position got really uncomfortable towards the end of my ride. Had to get off the bike a couple times to lie down in the grass and let things settle down before getting back on to get the rest of the way back home.

But that’s just fitness and core strength, and that will come back with time. It’s just good to be back on a bike.