The Croydon Cycleworks Italian connection

Cycling in France or Italy is on the bucket list for most Australian cycling enthusiasts.  Croydon Cycleworks tours have been running for some years to France and now Italy. Here is a little background on my passion for the cycling culture in Italy and why it draws me back.

You may know a little about the Croydon Cycleworks/Pick-a-Part cycling team captain, Tom Leaper. Tom is now 39 years old and still racing strongly, but did you know during his professional career he raced the Giro D’Italia in 2000 and 2001 for the Italian team Panaria-Gaerne?

I asked him about his recollection of racing the Italian grand tour…

“   The 2001 Giro (my 2nd) started with a flat and straight prologue in Pescara on the central east coast of Italy.  I was lean and strong and started the prologue fast averaging 60km/hr in the tailwind, just fading in the 2nd half though to finish mid-field. Rolling back to the start house, Mario Cippollini was on the ramp ready to go, dressed in the infamous “muscle” skin suit with no helmet and a fabio hairstyle he looked like something out of a horror movie. Stage 2 took us into the rolling hills before several flat stages for the sprinters. The fans would line the roads to see the local heroes, their favourite was clearly Marco Pantani. Every stage the roars for Pantani and Cippo were deafening. The colour of the Giro and the beauty of the country were amazing. The people made it even more special and the racing was harder than I’d ever experienced. Too hard as it turned out, I ended stage 12 with pneumonia and a trip to hospital. My Mexican team mate Julio Perez later won a stage and my team Panaria-Fiordo now known as Bardiani – CSF has had much success at this race over the years. Although I didn’t finish the race that year, it is something I’ll always remember. The Giro may not be as big as the TDF but it is the most beautiful race in the world. “

Today Tom is the Croydon Cycleworks/Pick-a-Part team captain.

Today Tom is the Croydon Cycleworks/Pick-a-Part team captain.

Nowadays Tom is a committed family man, and as leader of our NRS team sets a great example for our younger riders. Tom is still a force on the bike as many local Elite riders will attest to!

While not on the same level as Tom, shop owner Mick Jamison has his own Italian connection. Selected for the 1991 national mountain bike team to race the UCI worlds which that year were held in Italy, Mick was billeted with the rest of the team to a mountain village near Lucca (in Tuscany).

Worlds team Italy 1991

Worlds team Italy 1991

 

Aussie MTB team 1991 Italy

Aussie MTB team 1991 Italy

 

Auusie MTB worlds team Italy 1991 Coreglia Antiminelli

Auusie MTB worlds team Italy 1991 Coreglia Antiminelli

 

“Racing and riding in Italy was an amazing experience. We were treated like kings in the village we stayed in (Coreglia Antiminelli) and the lead up to the worlds was very exciting, with lots of racing and hard training on the most beautiful country roads in the hills of Tuscany. The locals were very friendly and gave us lots of support and encouragement, and even tried to teach us how to play volleyball! One of the team members and my training partner back in Melbourne (Scott Steward) had  raced with the Fanini road team in Italy following being signed up after representing Australia in the road race at the Seoul Olympics, and so had plenty of local knowledge. The actual worlds didn’t go great for the team, handicapped with a starting position a long way from the front row on a course with limited passing opportunities. Even so it was amazing to be part of this event with the huge crowds lining the track making a deafening noise! Scott rode well working his way through the field to finish 20th, and with a decent starting position would easily been in the top 10. My race finished on foot with a broken rear deraileur on the last lap.  Mind you we were up against it, I remember peaking inside the Italian team motorhome the day before our race and seeing an Italian team rider hooked up to a blood bag hanging beside him. It didnt stop American mountain bike legend John Tomac taking the XC gold medal, much to the chagrin of the euro brigade. Tomac was a fantastic rider and a true gentleman. He nearly doubled up by taking a silver medal in the downhill a few days later. In those days it was still common for riders to race in both disciplines.

Racing, riding and living in Italy for this short time was an unforgettable experience. I cant wait to return to Italy to see the Giro in 2015. If you are interested in joining a small tour group to see the Giro and ride the famous climbs of the Dolomites, please register your interest at Croydon Cycleworks. Click here for more information on our tours. 

John Tomac en-route to gold at the XC worlds 1991

John Tomac en-route to gold at the XC worlds 1991

David versus Goliath (Croydon Cycleworks takes on Orica Green Edge!)

This could be the biggest challenge for our boys yet! Our team is taking on the elite big guns in the Stkilda Supercrit this sunday 15th December. See our boys try to match it with Simon Gerrans and his Green Edge team mates, Baden Cook in his last pro ride and many others in a truly elite field. The Croydon Cycleworks squad will include Tom Leaper, Haydn Bradbury, Lachie Holiday, Marc Wilson, Callan Douglas and Cameron Parlevliet. Come on down and give them a cheer! The Elite race starts at 1pm, but there is a whole progam of racing from 7.30am.
The rest of the team will head out from the race venue at 10am for an easy 2 hour ride why not join us? Look for the boys in the Croydon kit!
For info on the Stkilda Supercrit go here
http://lslsupercrit.com.au/#home

David versus Goliath blog

Teamb2013

Alastair Crameri and Callan Douglas wait for the start

Alastair Crameri and Callan Douglas wait for the start

Team captain Tom Leaper

A date with history for Tom Leaper

In Australian cycling folklore, the Melbourne to Warrnambool road race is king. The oldest bike race in the world is for many Australian cyclists, the pinnacle of achievement. This years event starts from the  Werribee Park National Equestrian Centre, Werribee @ 7.30am Sat 12th Oct and is being held over a shorter but tougher 256km course, making it a supreme test of strength and endurance. The course traditionally has always been fairly flat, but the open western plains and the strong winds make the race the test that it is.  For many, this race is the pinnacle of one day races in Australia, and it has a heritage to match the European classics like Paris Roubaix or Tour of Flanders. This year marks 118 years since the first, and will be the 98th edition of this race.

warnyolddays

Start line early years. Note the banner. The race frequently finished in Melbourne in the early years.

In October 1939 World War 2 had broken out and the “Warnie” that year had 284 starters, no doubt many were thinking this was their last chance before being shipped out to fight on foreign shores. Sadly many of those riders did not return. My own father Jack was one who lined up that year on his 5th attempt before heading off to war. He loved this race and told me that in the 1939 race every bike rider he knew was there, and all the greats of Australian cycling. He recalled riding the last 30 miles with the great Sir hubert Opperman and describing what a gentleman and champion he was. Luckily my dad did come back from the war but did not race the  Warnie again until 1980 at the fair age of 67 (and finished). I was inspired by him to race it lining up and finishing the 1990 version. Lucky for me that year we had a strong tail wind meaning I finished in 5 and a half hours at around a 50km/h average, while Dean Woods set the course record in 5hours 12 mins astonishing!  Most years the weather is not so favourable so you can count on being out there battling the wind for around 7 hours.

1939 Warny

1939 program. 284 starters that year.

For Croydon Cycleworks team captain Tom Leaper, this is a race that eluded him for 8 attempts. He has come close a number of times with some top 10 finishes but with these races you need everything to go right on the day. In 2011 Tom was in the lead group feeling good when a puncture 5km to robbed him of his chance that day. Having raced as a pro in Europe finishing the Giro D’Italia and Giro D’Lombardia amongst other classics and world championships, Tom knows what it takes to succeed on the big stage. This year he has the support of his team including Cameron Parlevliet, Matt Boys, and Nick Smith, with manager Marc Wilson.  I spoke to Tom a week prior to the 2013 race

Team captain Tom Leaper

Team captain Tom Leaper is always a chance at the Melbourne to Warrnambool

Tom, thanks for answering a few questions. What is the attraction of the Warrnambool?

The history, the prestige, the fact everyone talks about the race both leading up and after it. Guys train specifically for it, long kms in the saddle in the months leading up. “It’s all for the Warny” is the popular saying. For me and most guys who only ride part time with jobs, kids, etc. finishing top 10 is as good as a win. It’s a mind game as much as a physical challenge to stay with the top guys, it’s a high class race and it’s only once a year. It’s as close to a world championship or end of season grand final as we’ll get.

How does it compare to the European one day races?

The distance is unique on the Australian calendar so it’s considered by all here the ultimate one day road race. There is often rain, there is always wind and the best teams and some international riders makes for a classic event. It’s not particularly hilly but the conditions make it a race of attrition. 200+ riders on the start line and the atmosphere is always one of nerves until after the first hour when it settles down. There is usually a break that forms early, it’s rare that it stays away. There’s always good crowds through the main towns and at the feed stations. The long slightly uphill finish straight is iconic of country cycling, the community come out in a big way to support it.

How many times have you raced the warnie and what results?

Not sure exactly, first one was in about 1996 we started in Swanston St, City and rode over the Westgate. We rode down the Princes Hwy, I recall a major sprint in Geelong for $1000 before it followed the main Hwy all the way to Warrnambool. Whilst I was professional I didn’t get the chance to ride it as I usually did Giro d’ Lombardia which was on around the same time. Since returning from retirement in 2007 I’ve raced it 5 times, so I’d say about 8 times in total, twice finishing top 10.

How have you trained for it?

Consistent training through the year. A slow build up with more intensity on the ergo and local road races in the past month or two. I haven’t done any rides over 150km, I’m looking to be strong for moments of pressure such as changes in wind direction or attacks from the bigger teams. If I had time I would have certainly done some longer rides but my lifestyle this year hasn’t enabled it so it’s about quality not quantity.

What tactics do you expect from the big teams?

Genysis and Drapac will be desperate to win. They will attack each other most of the way or place a rider or two in a break and look to use their numbers in the later stages. I expect a selection to occur after the half-way point and potentially again after the climb from Camperdown. In the final 30km there will be a lot of aggression, it often comes down to numbers, who’s looked after themselves the best and a little luck.

The course has changed this year, with a shorter but harder course. How will that affect results and how are you planning to tackle it?

There aren’t too many hills towards the end that effect the result, it’s more a question of the wind and team tactics that decide the race rather than the course itself. I’ll be looking to keep the fuel tank as full as possible, eating and drinking enough are critical. Following ‘the right’ wheels and looking for opportunities with the right riders. After such a long race, it takes a huge amount of confidence to go solo at the end, getting into a small but cohesive working group might be best.

What about equipment choice. What will you be using and why?

I’ll be on my Croydon team issue Trek Madone. Its the new aero frame which saves quite a few watts of energy, and it all helps. Also I’ll use the Bontrager Aoleus wheels, which are brilliant, again very aero and helps save energy which you need every bit of come the latter parts of the race. Depending on the forecast I’ll probably use the 50mm front and 70mm rear wheel. Also you need to be comfortable so wear clothing that is tried and proven. It’s not the day to test out a new saddle or pair of knicks thats for sure!

 

Thanks Tom I appreciate the effort you have made to train for this, and your recent good results. I think you have the form for a good race. Good luck!

Thanks Mick, I really appreciate all the support you have given me this year, you’ve made me feel like a pro rider again. It’s more than I could have ever asked for and I hope we can get Croydon Cycle Works on the podium and in all the photos.

 

Follow Tom on twitter @tom_leaper

Follow the race #m2w13

Follow the team @cc_works

 

 

 

 

Phillip Island GP 2013

Phillip Island GP on sunday. The Croydon Cycleworks team performed well, however good conditions made for a large bunch sprint, always hard to control. 2011 winner Tom Leaper earned bonus KOM points in a mid race breakaway, then on the last lap out team headed the bunch in a lead out formation. Shannon Johnson too fast for everyone though winning by a good margin in the sprint.

Phillip Island 2013 003

Alastair Crameri and Callan Douglas wait for the start

Alastair Crameri and Callan Douglas wait for the start