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Sunday
Apr202008

1953 Giro d’Italia: Coppi and Koblet in an epic battle



Here is some silent black and white newsreel footage from the 1953 Giro d’Italia; featuring Italy's Fausto Coppi and Swiss rider Hugo Koblet.

When Coppi was on top form, he was unbeatable; however, Koblet was one of the few riders of that same era who could seriously challenge the Campionissimo. Filmed here is one of their many epic battles as they take on the Passo Sella in the 19th stage.

See if you can spot Hugo Koblet early on leading the peloton, as he flashes past the camera. His jersey appears white, although it is actually the “Magalia Rosa,” the race leader’s pink jersey. Fausto Coppi (5th in line.) is easier to spot in his distinctive Bianchi jersey. In addition, the camera lingers on Coppi.

There is an early solo break by Italy’s Pasquale Fornara, another great climber who took the King of the Mountains title in the 1953 Giro.

When the serious climbing starts, a three man chasing group forms. It includes Coppi and Koblet and another rider I am not able to recognize. On a brief respite from climbing, you will see the Swiss rider tighten his toe strap, a sure sign that he is about to attack.

In a classic move, as they catch Forana, Hugo Koblet immediately attacks. Again, spot him by his light jersey with no lettering; he is also not wearing a cap, whereas the other riders are. Notice Koblet’s speed, and how quickly he opens a considerable gap.

Tired from his long solo effort, Pasquale Fornara holds on briefly, but finds the pace too hot and is dropped. As they near the summit, Fausto Coppi has now left the remaining rider and is chasing alone.

There is a great shot of a motorcycle race marshal, kicking at the crowd to keep them back. You will also notice that Coppi is now wearing a “leather hairnet” helmet, in readiness for the descent. He reels in Koblet at the top of the climb.

Had he not closed the gap before the summit, he may never have caught the flying Swiss rider; Hugo Koblet was well known for his long solo break-aways. He earned the nick-name "Pédaleur de Charme" for his smooth pedaling style, and his ability to maintain a high rate of speed over a distance.

There is some great footage of the two working together as they dash towards the finish. Coppi easily out sprints Koblet to win the stage.

On later stages, Coppi would take the lead from Koblet to win the 1953 Giro d’Italia by 1 min. 29 sec. Pasquale Fornara was third, and King of the Mountains. Gino Bartali was forth that year.

Wednesday
Apr162008

Understanding other cultures


Probably one of the main causes of problems between the nations of the world is a failure to understand the difference in each other’s beliefs, customs, and general way of life.

When I wrote an article last September called “Womankind,” linking to a blog from Denmark called “Copenhagen Girls on Bikes,” I received a lot of criticism by way of comments.

In fact, the criticism is ongoing both for me and the Copenhagen blog.

Most of the critics are from America and label the site as sexist, voyeuristic, and demeaning to women. I have looked for, and not found complaints from Danish women. One would think if the women pictured on the Girls on Bikes blog found it offensive, they would at least protest by way of a comment or two.

On the other side of the coin, Mikael Colville-Andersen, one of the people responsible for Copenhagen Girls, in his effort to spread bicycle culture is often critical of American cyclists.

Known to speak out against the wearing of helmets and Lycra, he posted a comment on my recent post that highlighted a “California Cycling League Safety Video.”

This was his comment”

“That video is the work of the 'Vehics'. The Vehicular Cyclists are the Flat Earth Society of the cycling world. Strange, outdated beliefs with little science to back them up. I thought it was satire when I first saw it.”

I feel obliged to respond, and my reply is too long for a simple counter comment. Mikael, you are living in a country that has a definite bicycle culture; cyclists in America are riding their bikes, and doing the best they can, in a definite automobile culture.

This is a left turn signal in Copenhagen. (Picture left.) In the US, it is entirely possible that the cyclist is not even seen, (We are invisible.) let alone such a nonchalant hand gesture.

The cyclist must place themself in the center of the lane, forcing drivers to slow then give a clear signal and move over when it is safe to do so.

On my ride last weekend, I did this maneuver on a three-lane highway, taking one lane at a time, to get to the fourth left turn lane.

I doubt there are many such roads in Denmark, and if there are, I am sure there is special provision made for cyclists to turn safely.

I wore Lycra and my helmet. Bright colored Lycra because in the interest of my own safety, I want to be seen. A helmet because it is my choice; I view it, as a very last line of protection should all else fail. In addition, it keeps my head cool in the very hot climate here. The temperature in South Carolina where I live was 85 F. (29.4 C.) on Saturday, to ride in street clothes would not have been practical.

The picture at the top of this piece is of a woman riding at night in Copenhagen. Even though she is dressed entirely in black, she is safe and obviously feels she is safe. This would not be the case in any large American city, even on a bike equipped with good lighting.

Mikael, I admire what you are doing; spreading the word of a bicycle culture. However, I doubt your message is reaching mainstream America, and those it is reaching think your site is sexist, voyeuristic, etc. etc. (Probably in part because of mainstream America’s puritan culture.)

My advice would be, not to alienate the few fans you have in the US, namely the bicycle enthusiasts. I would love to see more people riding bikes to work than driving cars, but realistically this is not going to happen anytime soon in the US.

People ride bikes in Demark because it is the normal thing to do. The country is tiny compared to the US; distances traveled are much shorter. Riding a bicycle in America is not considered normal by the majority of the population, and the people riding bicycles in the USA are mostly enthusiasts, doing so for the love of riding a bicycle.

Let us all try to understand the differences in our separate cultures, and realize what works and is acceptable in one country, will not necessarily be the same in the other. I suspect the Danes do not view Copenhagen Girls on Bikes as sexist.

In the Scandinavian countries, there is more equality and tolerance for differences, not just between the sexes, but in all walks of life. Whereas, in the US there is a constant ongoing battle of the sexes, as well as intolerance for anyone seen as a little different and outside the mainstream.

And so Mikael, try to understand what it is like to be a bike rider in a car culture country. Vehicular cycling, far from being some weird science, is for the most part following the rules of the road. Ease up on the criticism; we are doing the best we can under very difficult conditions.

Sunday
Apr132008

Cyclists Gone Wild


Taking the lane is one thing, but taking the whole lane for no reason other than you can if there is enough of you in the group, as I see it is just plain wrong.

After complaints from motorists, police in Winter Park, Florida were out with video cameras. What they filmed made to the news on an Orlando station.

At the start of the piece, I saw cyclists three or four abreast; at least one rider completely over the double yellow line. About twenty cars backed up behind the riders.

Then I saw the entire pack blow through a stop sign, and make a right, at a very high rate of speed even though there was other traffic passing.

It looked to me that this was an unofficial race, rather than a group-training ride. Here is the link, view for yourself and be your own judge.

Actually, in a large group like this it is often safer to ride two abreast. They can do so taking up half the lane, which gives motorists a chance to see around the group to determine if it is safe to pass.

Riding single file a group is twice as long, and takes twice as long to pass.

Stronger riders can stay at the front if they wish and change off by having one line constantly moving forward, and the other dropping back. Wind direction usually decides which line moves forward. (Picture left.)

Going through stop signs and lights, the whole group stops, and then moves off as a group, as if they were one vehicle.

Friday
Apr112008

Classic Dutch Bicycle Pictures

I found these wonderful classic Dutch bicycle photos from collector Andre Koopman.

It is a mixture of photographs of this collector's bicycles, plus prints made from the old original glass plate negatives, some dating back to the late 1800s. These came from the Fongers factory, a Dutch bicycle manufacturer.

One of my favorite set of pictures is of a Gazelle bicycle; (Top picture.) it comes with a pretty amazing story that goes like this:

In 1939, a man buys a new bicycle. Soon after WWII breaks out, and with the impending invasion of Holland, man hides new bike in attic. Soon after man becomes sick and dies. Bike remains in attic for the next 64 years.

The unused bicycle was discovered in 2003 and bought by this collector.

Even the original Gazelle tires were still good. The handlebars have a celluloid covering; yes, celluloid the stuff they used to make movie film, and was a forerunner of plastic.

The bike has dynamo lighting; the wiring has rubber insulation with a woven cotton outer casing.

The bike also has a leather dress guard, and a single front brake that consists of a rubber block that pushes down on the front tire.

Pictured below is another bike that caught my interest, and is also from WWII. It is a British made, BSA folding bike that British Paratroopers carried on their back when they parachuted into Holland during the war.

There must have been a large number of these left around the Dutch countryside after the initial drop.

Another even older military bicycle is this 1898 Fongers. (Below.) Looking surprisingly like an Alex Moulton.

I am thinking that the picture got “flipped” and was printed backwards. I have never seen a bike with the chainwheel on the left side. There is no point in this as it would require a left-hand thread on the rear sprocket.

You can view the rest of the pictures here.

My thanks to Bakfiets en Meer, Netherlands who found the pictures first.

Wednesday
Apr092008

A short cycling safety video



I came across this California League Cycling Instructor's bicycle safety video via Philadelphia Bicycle News.

I had to smile at this quote:

“It's duly noted that these are very skilled, faster cyclists interacting with relatively polite Southern California motorists traveling at moderate speeds.”

I’m not sure about Southern California motorists being more polite than in any other state; they have been known to shoot at each other on the freeway on occasions. It’s been a few years since I lived in So.Cal, maybe the threat of gunfire has improved their manners.

Anyway, I digress. I think this short video is excellent and packs a lot of useful information in a few minutes. There was not much here that I didn’t already know, however, just the visual image of cyclists having some control over other road users around them made me feel good.

I realize the video has been edited to serve its purpose, but nowhere do I see the flow of traffic being hindered. The cyclists come across as polite but assertive, and viewers should note that had they just blown through red lights and stop signs, all credibility would have quickly disappeared.

There is a big difference between assertiveness and arrogance. Assertiveness is taking the lane after signaling and making your intentions clear. Arrogance is cutting in front of people, running lights and stop signs, and not only breaking the rules of the road, but breaking the rules of decent human behavior.