Strava Eddy Merckx 1969 Challenge

I’ve always wanted to complete a Strava challenge but have never been able to finish one because of time, schedule, or training constraints. But when I heard that Strava was doing the Eddy Merckx 1969 Challenge to honor one of my all-time favorite cyclists, “The Cannibal”, I just knew I had to participate and finish it. The challenge was to ride 700km in 20 days.

45 years ago Eddy Merckx earned the first of his five Tour de France victories. It was a race he unquestionably dominated, finishing almost 18 minutes ahead of the second placed rider, Roger Pingeon of France.

Beyond the overall, Eddy won 7 stages (6 individual and 1 team time trial), the points classification, mountains classification, combination classification, team classification (with FAEMA) and the combativity award. It was an incredible feat that has never been matched, and likely never will.

I just completed the challenge today, after doing 11 rides. Nine of them were in the last ten days, with eight happening on consecutive days last September 27, 2014 to October 4, 2014. The reason why I had to do some catch up was because we were in Boracay for five days after the challenge started, so it wasn’t as easy as riding 30+km a day. I tried to find people to ride with as much as I could, but four of the rides were done solo because of one reason or another.

Here are a few things I learned while riding the challenge:

  1. The body adapts. There were some days when I was really fatigued, especially when I was doing long solo rides. I would wake up tired, feeling like I would cop out and just do a shorter ride. However, in the middle of my ride, I would feel better and would actually hit some decent splits in some of the Strava segments (considering that I was riding everyday of course). I guess it’s a glimpse of how grand tour riders doing 21-day stage races cope with the stress on their bodies.
  2. Laundry is important. I really had to keep tabs on my cycling clothes because there might not be enough time between rides to get them washed and dried. It’s also nice to be able to cycle through all my kits, especially my socks!
  3. Misery loves company. I didn’t know anyone also doing the challenge so no one could keep me company everyday. What I did was to look for people to ride with on different days and look for different group rides I could join. The extra accountability helps, since you know someone’s waiting for you and you need to wake up and get out of bed. And it’s nice to mix up riding partners and bike with people you normally don’t ride with.
  4. There’s solace in solo rides. There were times when I couldn’t find anyone to ride with, especially on the weekdays. Sometimes people also suddenly can’t make it because of one reason or another, so I was forced to go solo for some rides. But it’s also nice to just go alone, on your own pace, and just have your thoughts for company. I know I can be an extroverted person, but sometimes, I just like being alone, doing my own thing.
  5. Goals get things done. The Strava challenge really helped to get me out on the road and on my bike. Whether it’s the chance to get gear available only to challenge finishers, gunning for a personal achievement, like weight loss or distance, or training for a race (this is a good build up for my upcoming Tri United 3 bike relay), having a goal in mind helps you accomplish things.

Thanks to my friends who accompanied me throughout the challenge and entertained me with chitchat and stories: Jimmy Moreno, Jeff Mendoza, Leo de Guzman, Vince Santos, Anthony Balaguer, Gilbert Simpao, Mariela Martinez-Powell, Ani de Leon-Brown, Dan Brown, Raeanna Cranbourne, Nestor Tinio, Vince Corpus, Gabby Lichauco, Anton Lorenzo, and Hans Kristian Juan.

Special thanks goes out to my wife for letting me do this madness!

Track Supermarket

Another shop that I wanted to visit in Osaka was the Track Supermarket. It’s not the typical store I’d go to, because I would normally go to either triathlon or road racing stores. But I realized that they didn’t have many of those in the area, and my friend suggested that I go here to see a different cycling sub-culture. It was good that I was able to carve out some time to go here and look for it, and it actually wasn’t too far from the touristy areas like Shinsaibashi and Dotonbori. I actually wasn’t sure where it was and I thought I might be lost, but when I saw this, I knew I was getting near.

This is what the store looks from outside. There’s a lot of bikes–some are for sale, some are owned by customers, and some are the store owner’s.

As the name suggests, the store is primarily focused on track bikes. And there are a lot!

Here are a few selections from Bianchi, Cinelli, and Durcus One. They seem like they were specced by the shop owner himself, since the configurations don’t look stock.

This vintage Masi is owned by Rene (the store owner) and it’s just one his many bikes.

I also saw this cute (there’s no other word to describe it) Bianchi in celeste green.

Going in the store is like visiting a candy shop! There are a lot of goodies hanging on the walls and cieling, and you really have to look closely to spot some of the gems. I’ll try to point out the ones that interested me, but feel free to comment below if I missed anything!

This section has a few handlebars, rims, and tires. There’s also a nice selection of bar tape and stems.

There’s also a few nice cycling caps. I got my friend the grey Campagnolo one, and I chose the blue Shimano one.

These Cinelli caps were also nice!

A lot of the frames are local Japanese brands used for track and keirin racing.

This is one of my favorite bikes in the store, with vintage Campy disc wheels and a crazy Nitto drop basebar (and it also has a crazy price tag). The stealth black road bike in the background is also Rene’s, it’s a custom painted Cervélo R3.

There are also a few kid’s and BMX bikes for sale.

A huge selection of chains and locks in every color imaginable.

Some classic rims and hubs, perfect for an old-school steel bike.

This is another favorite of mine, the Cinelli Alter stem. I just wish it fit oversized handlebars so I can use it on my bike!

A few frames freshly delivered from the frambuilder.

One of the highlights in the store for me was seeing this 3T Sphinx track drop bar. Definitely a sexy piece of carbon.

A few random wheels from Mavic, Easton, Corima, and ENVE.

Some more bits and pieces like grips and bar tape.

There are a lot of things to make a cyclist’s mouth water in this store!

I saw what looks like a small fit bike in one corner. Interesting to say the least.

A smattering of frames from different framebuilders like Nagasawa and 3Rensho.

A customer’s bike being worked on, as well as some ENVE wheels being serviced.

This is Rene, the owner of the store. He’s married to a Japanese and has settled down in Osaka. I had a long chat with him and he was very accommodating. He even took out some rarer cycling caps for me to look at and purchase.

If you’re in Osaka, pass by Track Supermarket. It’s at 1F-1-20-20 Minami Horie, Nishi Ku, Osaka Shi, Japan. A map and directions are in their website. Have fun!

Rapha Cycle Club Osaka

When I visited Japan I made it my mission to visit the Rapha Cycle Club in Osaka. I’ve never been to a Rapha store before and I wanted to check out the stuff (even though they’re expensive!). It was walking distance from Osaka station and relatively easy to find with Google Maps.

This is what the storefront looks like from the outside, in case you’re looking for it. The map I followed actually led me to the back of the store, so that’s what I saw first. They had a nifty service area where customers can park their bikes and equipment, and it was unmistakeably Rapha as well.

The store is a veritable paradise for cycling enthusiasts. Their simple, sleek, and understated clothing is very stylish, and when you touch the materials you’ll really feel the quality.

They also had some nice goodies scattered around, like this Rapha Focus team cyclocross bike of Jeremy Powers. It’s decorated in US livery, probably to commemorate his US national championship.

At the top of the store, there’s a nice area where customers can relax. As you’ll see, there’s a lot of Rapha/Giro D’Italia pink! There’s a projector that shows various cycling races (cyclocross was on at the time), so it’s probably also used for viewing races live. I can just imagine how fun this place would be come TDF season!

The store attendants were also super courteous (very Japanese!) and were nice enough to help me out. In the end, I just went home with small stuff like socks, a cycling cap, some bidons, and a copy of Rouleur magazine.

This is definitely a must-go place for any cycling fan, if you’re in the Osaka area. You can also check out other Rapha stores in other cities all over the world.

Norseman Extreme Triathlon

The Norseman Extreme Triathlon is one of those races that should be in every triathlete’s bucket list. It’s an iron-distance (3.8km swim, 180km bike, and 42km run) triathlon, but what makes it different are the conditions it’s held in. It’s a point-to-point and unsupported race, so to do it you’ll need a back-up crew to follow you around to provide you with nutrition and support. The swim starts from a barge, and participants jump into freezing water in a fjord. The first 40km of the 180km bike route goes up to 1,200m above sea level (Trivia: I remember that 2011 winner Tim de Boom, two-time Ironman World Champion, used a tri bike with drop bars and aerobars for the race). Lastly, the final 17+km of the run is a mountain climb, where you’ll have someone in your support team hike beside you to the finish line 1,880m above sea level.

The first time I heard of Norseman and saw the video of the 2012 race (above), I was immediately captivated by the idea of such a grueling challenge. I remembered Norseman just now because one my friends, Javy Olives (a fast local age grouper and one half of Vamos) entered in a contest to join it. Please vote for him by going to this link, liking the blueseventy Facebook page, and ticking the checkbox for the picture that’s the same as the one below.

If you wanna see more Norseman action, check out the video of the 2013 edition too!

Japan 2013

I visited Japan late last year for a vacation with my family. Japan has always had a special place in my heart. I love the unique culture in the country, and my wife and I actually spent our honeymoon there.

Another thing that fascinates me about Japan is their love for bikes. When they’re into something, they’re really into it! The first night, after checking into our hotel, this scene is one of the first things that greeted me when we stepped out for dinner.

I love how their cities are so bike friendly and everyone uses them to go around. I saw different commuter bikes, from the regular beater bikes to this pretty swanky Pinarello Paris with Shimano carbon fairing wheels.

They also have a love for the classics. Here’s a Zullo that I saw in a random street corner.

The bikes there come in all sorts of shapes and sizes the most common of which are the ones that look this these. Some are pretty utilitarian, with a basket for carrying stuff like groceries. They also have a nifty bike lock for the rear wheel which is attached to the bike, and can be engaged when parked so you can’t roll the bike (at least without breaking the spokes!).

What’s also common are these bikes that are named after car brands like this one. I don’t think they’re actual collaborations with the brand, but just some random bikes–but I may be wrong.

Like I said, they use bikes for everything, even for a night out on the town!

That’s it for now. I’m gonna be doing two more posts on stores I visited while I was in Japan, so be sure to check those out when they’re up next week!