Do Your Part – No Matter How Big or Small

It doesn’t seem like 37 years ago but as I look back, time has certainly flown by. I started cycling seriously as a fledgling junior by joining the masters 10 mile time trial at UBC. Soon, I was asked to join a crew of like minded riders at the China Creek outdoor velodrome in Vancouver. Little did I realize the impact of the track on my life.

There happened to be a coach at the track who knew a thing or two about racing on a banked oval. Our coach just happened to be Barry “Baz” Lycett. He was a cycling genius who could spot talent and could train them in a specific way in order to get the most out of them. He had come over from England where he had raced on grass tracks and every other type of two wheeled ‘push bike”. Whenever I went to the track to train or race, he was there, offering strategic advice for that evening’s session or for next year’s goals. I had no idea how fortunate we were to have Baz there as our guiding light, opening our eyes to the world of bike racing. Baz continues to share his knowledge out of his home base in Victoria.

2015 LAMP

I was also very fortunate to have a mentor in Ron Hayman. Ron had grown up with us in the Vancouver Lower Mainland and we saw how hard he trained each Winter as he prepared for the pro season in Europe during the late 70’s. The offer to join the 7-Eleven team came to him in 1980 and in the Fall of 1981, Ron suggested that the team take me on as a Stagiare (that’s what they call it now – coming from hockey, I thought it was just a ‘try-out’). It was an opportunity that came about again, by being in the right place and persevering through many cold, nasty races, holding onto Ron’s wheel! All of this help was provided at no charge, simply volunteers who loved the sport and wanted to help.

Freddy Day

Fast forward to 2015. Living in Edmonton has provided me with the opportunity to become involved with the Juventus Cycling Club. Juventus has built an incredible network of volunteers who work tirelessly to promote the sport and help young cycling athletes reach their goals. A structured system has been put in place starting with 8-10 year olds and introducing them to mountain bike skills and the culture of our world. Next, the LAMP program takes 11-14 year olds through a series of skill development sessions on the track, road and mountain bike much like the Nancy Greene program does for downhill skiing (we are fortunate to have an outdoor velodrome in Edmonton, a legacy from the 1978 Commonwealth Games). Next, we have coaches programming Junior racing for track, road and mountain, allowing the young adults to find their strength and focus on being their best. In 2015, 3 juniors from Juventus qualified for the Junior World Track Championships in Kazakhstan. $9,000 was privately raised by the club to assist these juniors with their expenses as the National program only covers ‘on the ground’ expenses.

In recent years, other clubs and teams have blossomed, allowing club level riders to spread their wings to the next level. U23 club team Trek Red Truck in Vancouver is a great example. They take promising juniors to the regional U23 races, only if they continue their post-secondary education. The Norco H&R Block race team grown by moving to the Continental level giving their riders the opportunity to race against the big pros in events such as Tour of Alberta. Axel Merckx, based in Kelowna has started a Youth Development Foundation which hosts youth cycling races, one of which is run by my good friend, Ron Hayman. In short, many people are doing good things for the sport and the list is growing.

I’ve been privileged to have so many people help me over the years, in so many different ways. I know that I would never have become a cyclist (and stayed a cyclist) if it had not been for this assistance, especially at crucial points when I was not sure about what was coming next. For this reason, I decided to double down on my efforts as a volunteer coach with the LAMP program at Juventus this last season. Sharing the tips and tricks that I learned from mentors like Baz and Ron has providing me with a sense of accomplishment that I’d have to say has probably been one of the most memorable periods of my cycling career. The Juventus club is full of parents giving back in any way that they can. Web sites need to be built and maintained, accounting needs to be done, money raised, kids coached, first aiders trained, bikes repaired, the list goes on. That family atmosphere has simply raised the bar and built an incredible sense of momentum that will only grow stronger over the years.

Juv Dinner

In every Canadian community, there are cycling clubs working tirelessly to build a legacy for the next generation. All it will take is for you to seek one out and lend your expertise, in one way or another. Who knows, maybe one day someone you know from your community will stand on a podium, raised by their cycling family back home.



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Adventure in Tuscany: My Day at L’Eroica

Oct 10, 2015

Alex Stieda – L’Eroica with Rapha Travel

It started last year. “Brad, I’d like to be a guest guide for your L’Eroica trip in early October, 2015! It’s always been a goal of mine and I’d love to ride it with your clients! I can resurrect my 7-Eleven jersey and ’87 Eddy Merckx bike”. And so it began…the rules for L’Eroica sounded simple. Use a steel-framed bike 1987 or older and have:

  • exposed brake cables
  • downtube shifters
  • toeclips

I had to retrofit the Merckx with correct brake levers which I found on eBay. We were sponsored by Shimano in those days and the downtube shifters had the click or friction option setting so that was fine. We had just started using clipless back then, so I sourced Super Record pedals and toeclips (including those magical Binda Extra straps) from my friend Bruce Spicer, Product Manager at Brodie… we had ridden these kinds of bikes together starting in 1977! Now for the gearing. The crankset was 39×53 which was better than the Campy 42×53 we had grown up…but the cassette was a lowly 12-21, 6 speed which wasn’t going to work as I knew that riding 209km in hilly Tuscany was going to be a big ask. Experimenting with a few wheels sets from masters riders in my home town (and a machinist!), I was able to fit a 9 spd 12-32 MTB cassette on the hyperglide cassette body. Add a long cage derailleur, slide the rear axle back in the dropouts and set the shifter to friction and voila, a full range of gears for the assault. Tubulars were a must and with some help with a few friends at Tour of Alberta, I had ‘gently used’ Vittoria Pave 25mm tires to fit. Fresh off my lessons at Cape Epic, I then added 20mm of sealant to be safe!


Friday morning, October, 1st, we were picked up in Florence by the Rapha Jaguar team car…what a great way to arrive at our luxury accommodation in Radda in Chianti.


Immediately, Joe our driver and masseur made us feel welcome as we shared tales of pro cycling (me) and pro rugby (him). Upon arrival, Mattia our team mechanic took over and quickly and efficiently built up our bikes for the Friday afternoon break-in run. We spun down to the start town in Gaiole in Chianti where the festivities were in high gear. Bikes and gear from every decade were on full display as well as tables of old parts and new-parts-that-looked-old for sale. Even 2 days before our Sunday morning start, people had dressed up for the occasion in top hats and tails, espousing the vintage feel of the weekend. Registration completed by our intrepid leader, Anton, it was an evening push back up to our residence and just as the light waned, we witnessed an extraordinary sunset over the Tuscan hills. We capped off the evening with a sumptuous Italian dinner and got to know each other a bit. Magic.


Saturday morning, we awoke to a massive cloud bank enveloping the hotel. We all eagerly checked the weather on our smart phones over our breakfast and doppios. Our intrepid international group included Ricardo and Clecius from Brazil, Erik from Belgium, Marco from USA and Steve, Alexis, Kev and Bill from the UK. Fortunately, the fog looked to be burning off so the ride started as planned at 9:30AM. It was a 45km loop that would include a section of Strada Biancha (white gravel road) to give us a feel for what we’d be encountering on Sunday. Halfway round there was a mandatory coffee stop (always good in Italy) and then the push onto the gravel. The road deteriorated quickly and after a hair-raising descent which involved an ex-pro showing off (me!) rocketing past a few of the group and then at least 1 hitting the floor, we all decided to lower the air pressure to 6 bar for increased comfort and control. The weather continued to improve and the views along the ridgelines prompted many photos, smiles and conversations. We went straight to lunch at a local trattoria with traditional antipasti and pasta, a perfect way to end the warm-up spin and prep for the big one tomorrow. Big smiles all ‘round. Perfetto!


That afternoon, we car shuttled down to Gaiole to absorb a bit more of the excitement and culture that is “L’Eroica”. Of particular interest was seeing the work of artist, Miguel Soro a Spanish painter whose original acrylic multi-medium works of cycling history brought it all to life for me. Inspirational. I also met up with my good friend and teammate from Team 7-Eleven days, Andy Hampsten. Having won the Giro in ’88, he was a bit of a celeb there and he was pulled away to another interview with local press. Great to catch up with him. Back to our abode, it was time for our pre-game meal of perfect, al dente pasta and steak. Then decision time, which distance will each of us ride: 46km, 75km, 135km or 209km? After our recon rides, everyone had a good idea of where they fitted and a few of us decided to take on the whole distance, which we knew would be a big day for us.

An early start of 6AM was mandatory so we could start in time to finish in our targeted ride time of 10 hours. That meant wake-up at 4:30AM, breakfast at 5AM and a shuttle to the start at 5:30AM. Efficient as ever, the Rapha Travel crew had our bikes and gear sorted and we were on the start line in the dark getting photos taken and our passports stamped at 6:15AM.


With our lights on, we navigated through throngs of old and even older bikes including a peloton of vintage ‘30’s velocipedes, pedaled by enthusiastic zealots!


We knew that we had to keep the intensity low and not burn our matches early. The southern portion of the long route would take us through the higher hills of Montepulciano and the last 60km had a shark tooth profile. The mantra was slow and steady. The first rest stops were an orgy of Italian delicacies of proscuitto, salami and olive oil soaked panini’s not to mention the berry tarts! Calories and hydration were the order of the day so we made sure to fill our bellies and water bottles at every opportunity. Joe had also provided us with his special granola flapjacks which also helped us get through the first 50km.


At 65km, we passed the point of no return, where the 135km route turned off of the 209km route. Waving goodbye to the riders turning off for the short route, we pressed on to the South, not really sure if we’d be able to get through the long day or not. As we climbed the Tuscan ridges on the gravel surface, storm clouds gathered and through thunder and drenching rain, we persevered. These were the longest climbs of the route, a total of about 6km of climbing before we bombed down on ‘ashphalto’ to the next feed station at an architect designed winery. Sumptuous Italian delicacies awaited us (well, it was the same food but it tasted about 50% better 120km in!) and we tucked in, filling our bellies. After the descent and standing still in the feed zone, we were getting chilled so it was time to zip up the Rapha Lightweight Gilet, pull up the Merino Arm Warmers and press on to the next sector of Strada Bianca.


During the ride it was extremely important to get our ‘passbook’ stamped as that was the only official way to show that we had completed the course. L’Eroica uses a “French Start” where you begin the ride at any time you’d like. There are no timing chips so the passbook was crucial for us. In one case, the route took us through an abbey where a priest greeted us with a big smile and a prayer. Heavenly!


Our next feed zone at 140km couldn’t come soon enough. We could feel the growing need for fuel and hydration and this time, a traditional Tuscan stew was on offer…welcoming to have the warm food on a cool, stormy day. Yummy. We asked the tech support for chain lube but within the next 10km, it was washed out again. Nothing worse than the feeling (and sound) of the drivetrain self-destructing in a slurry of gravel and mud. At 150km, a 10km paved flat section then allowed us to set a tempo for the first time but it quickly ran out and we started a series of incredibly steep gravel climbs and descents forcing many to get off and push. Fortunately, my partner and I had the correct gearing and we stood on the pedals and stomped up.


Cruising into the final food stop at 170km, we started to overlap with the shorter distance riders. The food line was crowded and many were simply resting on the steps in the sun. We knew that if we delayed too long, our legs would turn to stone, so a coffee stop for doppio’s was all we needed before we swung our legs over the saddle one more time.


The final decision point came as the route took us excruciatingly close to the finish line in Gaiole – right turn for the shorter distances, left turn for the long route! With a determined sigh, we hooked a left and made a push for the last 30km. More gravel and Tuscan climbs ensued. Erik, my ride partner asked me for food of which I had none. A bad sign. He was bonking. In desperation, Erik asked every rider that we passed (or that was passing us) for fuel…one of the great things about these kinds of rides is the camaraderie…within a few minutes, Erik’s belly was full and he had a surge of power for the last 20km. The last check stop with 10km to go was anti-climatic…simply a guy standing at the corner with the stamp and a pen. Bidons filled and stamps completed we dropped into an amazingly beautiful valley filled with the coloured leaves of Fall – we slowed and savoured the sights with bittersweet words, that the ride would soon be over. It was a serene moment, one that we will never forget.

Coming in to the final few kilometers was both chaotic and euphoric. Which way to the finish line, when do we raise our arms in triumph? Finally, we saw the banner and a photographer gestured in a sign language that anyone could decipher – we’re done! We were funneled into the finish chutes, proudly taking the “209km Long Route” line to scattering applause of those left to watch…10 hours of riding time, 5,000 meters of climbing, 2 satisfied hearts. New found friends, Erik and I have a final bonding moment over a tall Italian beer and fresh Panini. Head guide Anton suddenly shows and tells us where the Rapha Jaguar is waiting for us. I have a distinct urge to get out of my mud-soaked chamois and into civies, tantalizingly close by in my day bag. One last swig and we spun down to the car.

It’s dinner time by the time we get back to the hotel and we proudly show off our muddied legs to the rest of the team, then off to the shower and a satisfied seat at the meal table. Food never tasted so good. Bikes packed, morning transfers to the Firenze airport and it’s over as quickly as the weekend started. Back to the ‘day job’ with memories of something very special, something that your co-workers will have a hard time understanding – unless you convince them to do it with you next year.


– Alex Stieda was the first North American to win the yellow jersey at the Tour de France in 1986 riding for the 7-Eleven team. He also rides on gravel at his home in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada –


















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Cape Epic count down – 2 months

Incredibly, 1.5 months has flown by since my last post. Christmas and New Years provided a good opportunity to build some longer, quality outdoor efforts with ‘warmer’ temperatures above -10C. Had a great block of 10 hours in 3 days. Since then, we’ve had a deep freeze of -15C and colder…pretty hard to ride outdoors for more than a few hours. Had to get dressed like this to survive. You can see the battery powered gloves and shoe inserts glowing!

winter clothing

Essentially, my race partner Matt Wheatley and I, have 2 more, 3 week training blocks to push through starting this week. Temperatures have eased somewhat so we will be able to ride long on these January weekends with temperatures hovering around 0C. We’ll cap off the last 3 week block with a trip to Maui at the end of February to polish off our climbing skills on Mt Haleakalā.

Our travel dates will be March 9-11, getting into Cape Town on the morning of March 11 to start acclimatizing ourselves to the heat and time zone! It’s getting close!!

Thank you to Scott South Africa for their generous support while we will be on the ground in SA, Louis Garneau for their amazing gloves and helmets, Crank Brothers for the EggBeater pedals and super light bars, Shimano for the best out-of-box fitting shoe, Oakley for those inspired photochromic Radar lens, Cadence Nutrition for the ride fuel and Jakroo Canada for the custom jerseys!

We are generously supported by the following companies:

Scott Louis Garneau Shimano OakleyCadence NutritionCrank BrothersJakroo

We are riding Cape Epic in support of:

WBR Qhubeka BE logo chosen

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