Roads to Ride: Blockhaus

Think of a mountain range used by the Giro and the Alps surely come to mind. The Apennines are the poorer cousins and all the more interesting for it. This central ridge, the spine of Italy, includes many good climbs and the Blockhaus is one of the hardest on Italy, not just in the Apennines but as challenging as anything in the Alps. The stats are comparable to Mont Ventoux, the reality is even more of a challenge.

This post was first put online in 2017 ahead of the Giro’s visit, it’s been updated for the 2022 return.

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Pierre Tosi Obituary

Pierre Tosi died on 1 April, aged 69. A modest rider, his very lack of achievement as a professional cyclist was the inspiration for the film Le Vélo de Ghislain Lambert.

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Review: Merckx-Ickx Expo

Merckx Ickx expo

An exhibition depicting the sporting careers of Eddy Merckx and Jacky Ickx, a motorsport champion. Much more than a celebration of two men with -ckx in their name, the pair are friends and approaching their 70th birthdays and this show is tribute to the two and features a lot of material from their private collections.

If you’re in Brussels you must visit, if you’re not in Brussels you should visit.

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Book Review: Merckx 69

Eddy Merckx has just turned 69 but the number has another significance for him: 1969. It was the first year of Merckx’s domination, the first feast for his cannibal appetite. This book chronicles that year via a series of rich images.

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Milan-Sanremo Preview

So much talk about the route and now it’s time to focus on the race. This is the longest event on the calendar and loaded with prestige, history and action. Fate means this Sunday’s edition reverting to a pre-2008 course with neither the new climb of Pompeiana nor Le Mànie. It would be a gift to the sprinters only paradoxically these late changes mean many of them might not be ready for it.

Here’s the race preview for Sunday with the route, scenarios, contenders separated from pretenders as well as TV times, the weather and more.

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Luis Ocaña vs. Eddy Merckx

Here’s a video documentary from last night’s Informe Robinson show in Spain about Luis Ocaña, the 1973 Tour de France winner. It’s a Spanish production but with a lot of French audio thanks to interviews with Eddy Merckx, Johny Schleck and Ocaña’s French widow. Without subtitles it’s obviously not for everyone but if you’re patient you’ll find rich archive of video, photo and more in a slick package.

It’s also the chance for a book giveaway, with a free copy of Daniel Friebe’s excellent Eddy Merckx, The Cannibal book.

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Defining Panache

Thomas Voeckler Tour de France

Cycling borrows many French words and for many maillot jaune, peloton and other terms have been absorbed into English, just like blonde or savoir-faire. But panache is an elusive word that’s harder to define. Maybe you know it when you see it?

Typically a rider with panache is said to be one who attacks, displaying courage and flair. But the surprise factor counts and a rider who wins too often can lose this label.

But where does the word come from and what does it mean?

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Book review: Eddy Merckx The Cannibal

Merckx history book biography

Eddy Merckx, The Cannibal by Daniel Friebe

During his career Eddy Merckx won roughly one third of all the races he started. For an unbroken period of seven years he finished no lower than first in every grand tour he completed.

Daniel Friebe’s biography is more than the story of Merckx, it is a history of cycling under the reign of rider known as The Cannibal as told by interviews and anecdotes from the riders who saw their hopes, ambitions and earnings swallowed up by the insatiable Merckx. Yet many now seem cheerful about the whole experience.

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Book review: Merckx, Half Man Half Bike

William Fotheringham book

Merckx: Half Man, Half Bike by William Fotheringham

525 wins. Some of these were kermesse races that aren’t recognised today but this only reminds us that Eddy Merckx didn’t got for recovery rides, he raced.

I’m learning about cycling every day but I know surprisingly little about Merckx. Various ideas come to mind. The rocking shoulders, the sideburns, winning all the jerseys in the Tour de France in the same year, the son of a shopkeeper from a Brussels suburb, the brown Molteni jersey and more. William Fotheringham’s book links all these mental images together and builds them into a fine history of the Belgian’s career.

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Eddy Merckx’s shoes

Merckx shoes

All sports have champions from the past. Some have an undisputed “best ever” champion. Boxing has Muhammad Ali, soccer has Pelé. And cycling has Eddy Merckx although the story is never so simple, you could make arguments in favour of other riders, for example Fausto Coppi. But Merckx is a living legend and his name is valuable.

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