Belgian Affirmations: Kapelmuur

There isn’t a lot about a climb several kilometers long ending in a sustained 20% cobbled gradient that communicates ‘Attack’ and/or ‘Respond’. Certainly not when it comes after 240 kilometers with only 20 left to race. Nope, I’ve double-checked the calibration and used a control-case: the only reading I’m getting on the Pain Gauge is the needle dropping all the way over to and past ‘Survival’.

Here we have Roger De Vlaeminck containing a vicious attack from Freddy Maertens on the hardest bit of the climb, giving more than a little bit of insight into why we refer to these guys as Hardmen. On an unrelated note, I find it to be a crime beyond articulation that the Kapelmuur won’t feature in this year’s Ronde van Vlaanderen; but that won’t stop us from riding it during the Keepers’ Tour; we’re all about history and tradition. I want to keep seeing this scene repeat itself over and over. After all, if a joke is funny once, it should be funny a thousand times.

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138 Replies to “Belgian Affirmations: Kapelmuur”

  1. I should clarify: Given a good ride of 3-4 hours (or more!), you could be possibly burning half a day or more of your normal intake, and I don’t think most people’s bodies are built to handle that without consuming some sort of fuel for their bodies to use while riding.

  2. @Buck Rogers

    My ’80 or ’81 bike has a 53-39, so they were around at least by then. Suntour components.

    I’ve lost about 10kg since the beginning of the semester, hoping to go to like 72kg, currently 77kg.

    Is it possible to have too high of a cadence? First ride on my school’s spinning bike since they got cadence meters, and I was spinning over 120rpm just normal going. Not sure quite what, as it maxes at 120. 105rpm is like my climbing cadence I guess, feels unbearably slow.

  3. @mcsqueak

    I can only go like 2hrs at a time because I’m too broke to get any sort of energy replacement going on. Also since I am just wearing athletic shorts. Kit is first on the Christmas list.

  4. @DerHoggz

    @mcsqueak
    I can only go like 2hrs at a time because I’m too broke to get any sort of energy replacement going on. Also since I am just wearing athletic shorts. Kit is first on the Christmas list.

    Yeah man, I totally remember being broke in high school and college and TOTALLY envying those guys that could afford a powerbar for their training sessions and races. I would have an apple and a banana in my back pocket, literally, as my parents were broke as well and could in no way/shape or form help me buy stuff like that.

    Nothing wrong at all with having a PB&J sandwich stuffed in your pckeet either. Hell, I still do that if I am doing over four hours. Or those cheap frozen burritos. Microwave two of those and bring them in a plastic bag. Tons of cheap ways to fuel on the ride while on a rough budget!

  5. @DerHoggz

    How do you feel at the end of two hours? Do you feel good, or do you feel drained?

    I don’t want to say it can’t be done or not eating won’t work for some people, but I’ve done 3-4 hour rides with very little food replacement (just some energy drink in the bottles at the start, but nothing after that) and I just start to feel crappy at the end. When I fuel right it’s my legs that are tired, but I don’t have that crappy feeling from not eating. Something as simple as a clif mojo bar is usually good for a 70-80k ride for me in conjunction with throwing some energy drink in the bottles before I leave, but refilling with plain water along the way.

  6. @mcsqueak

    And that damn Brooklyn kit is so full of awesome. I must procure more than the simple cap I have now.

    That short sleeve jersey is on sale @ realcyclist for $55 right now. B&W as well as red, white, and blue. I’d go for the B&W myself.

  7. @mcsqueak

    I should clarify: Given a good ride of 3-4 hours (or more!), you could be possibly burning half a day or more of your normal intake, and I don’t think most people’s bodies are built to handle that without consuming some sort of fuel for their bodies to use while riding.

    Well, I am a Doc but know about jackshit about nutrition. At least they did not teach me anything about it in med school! But, this i know, you can burn your daily total calories on a 4-to-6 hour ride. I burn around 600 to 750 calories an hour when riding hard. Never hold back on food while riding if going over two hours, in my opinion. It will actually hurt you. starts to break down muscle in a bad way to get calories.

  8. @DerHoggz
    I’m a big fan of clif gels. About .99 cents each. Ill use 2 an hour on rides more than 2 hours. It adds up I know but some times you can get deals on it.

  9. @DerHoggz
    My standard riding food is peanut butter on whole grain or raisin bread & two bottles, the first one with water and second with energy drink and a pint of chocolate milk when I’m done riding. I may take a couple of granola bars if I’m too lazy to spread the pb on the bread.

  10. @DerHoggz

    Is it possible to have too high of a cadence? First ride on my school’s spinning bike since they got cadence meters, and I was spinning over 120rpm just normal going. Not sure quite what, as it maxes at 120. 105rpm is like my climbing cadence I guess, feels unbearably slow.

    Yes, everyone can ride at too high a cadence – its the point at which you lose power, but that number is different for everyone depending on the Magnificence of their Stroke. Also, spinning is very much in vogue still, and it seems to work for lot of people.

    In the 80’s and 90’s I was a spinner, now I’m a gear masher. The thing is, my cadence has never changed; I ride best in the 75-85 range, and always have. In the 80’s and 90’s that was spinning. Now its not, because everyone loves riding up at 90-110.

    Just do whats right for you and whatever makes you go fastest. Try to be somewhat analytical about that, too, because what *feels* good or fast is not always actually better or faster.

  11. On rides longer than 80 kms I’ll take a couple of gels, a granola bar and one of those Oatmeal to Go bars, plus a couple of bottles. This usually keeps me going pretty well. The Oatmeal things are very comparable to clif bars but way cheaper.

  12. @frank

    @DerHoggz

    Is it possible to have too high of a cadence? First ride on my school’s spinning bike since they got cadence meters, and I was spinning over 120rpm just normal going. Not sure quite what, as it maxes at 120. 105rpm is like my climbing cadence I guess, feels unbearably slow.

    Yes, everyone can ride at too high a cadence – its the point at which you lose power, but that number is different for everyone depending on the Magnificence of their Stroke. Also, spinning is very much in vogue still, and it seems to work for lot of people.
    In the 80″²s and 90″²s I was a spinner, now I’m a gear masher. The thing is, my cadence has never changed; I ride best in the 75-85 range, and always have. In the 80″²s and 90″²s that was spinning. Now its not, because everyone loves riding up at 90-110.
    Just do whats right for you and whatever makes you go fastest. Try to be somewhat analytical about that, too, because what *feels* good or fast is not always actually better or faster.

    Yeah, this is something that could really be expanded upon in discussion. Everyone jumped on the high cadence band wagon when the COTHO started using it in his tdf victoires and suddenly everyone seemed to think that that was the magical answer for everyone.

    What kills me is that the second best stage racer of that era, and who would have won most of those tdf’s without the COTHO, was Ulrich, a man who was decidely NOT a spinner.

    Like Fronk says, the best cadence for you is what works best, not necessarily 90-100 rpm. I have always been a 75-90 rev guy myself.

  13. @Buck Rogers/Frank

    Without taking the time to search the vast knowledge of the interwebs past Frank’s article from 2009 and related physics behind this, there is a reason a high spinning (rpm) F1 engine uses to a short stroke as opposed to a long one. I’d like to see a plot of cadence (or rpm) for cyclists with respect to their height and/or inseam. I’m an average 180.3cm (5’11”) and find it extremely uncomfortable for sustained efforts over 100-110. I’d be interested in seeing who on this site is taller than I and routinely spins at or over 100-110, as I expect there are not many.

    Somewhat related: I recently took a guys trip to Tsali, NC for some beer and MTBing and as MTB is of 2nd importance to me, I bought a full rigid SS 29er months ago. Out of the 7 guys, I was passing all but 2 (I kept up with them) on every hill by ‘dancing on the pedals’ while they sat and spun. I have to say that I trained in the weeks leading up to the trip by doing Sur La Plaque 0.8km long interval training in/out of the saddle. If your guns can handle it, mashing simply gets you there faster.

  14. @Tartan1749

    I’m 186cm and as stated love me some high cadence. I can spin up to 160 or so, using a tap tempo metronome to check it.

    Maybe I should become a trackie? Sadly, no tracks around here.

  15. @Tartan1749

    The physics of the big ring article is pretty inaccurate IMO, the cranks are not levers, but, get this, cranks. There isn’t really any difference as far as I can think.

  16. @Tartan1749

    @mcsqueak

    And that damn Brooklyn kit is so full of awesome. I must procure more than the simple cap I have now.

    That short sleeve jersey is on sale @ realcyclist for $55 right now. B&W as well as red, white, and blue. I’d go for the B&W myself.

    I must respectfully disagree – I think the classic red/white/blue is the cat’s can of tuna.

  17. So, if you’re not wearing the team kit, is it just for collection/display?

    Along similar lines, I’m really tempted to wear an old school team cycling cap when not on the bike. I’ve actually never seen anyone around here with a cycling cap, not too many fixie hipsters around either.

  18. @DerHoggz

    @Tartan1749
    The physics of the big ring article is pretty inaccurate IMO, the cranks are not levers, but, get this, cranks. There isn’t really any difference as far as I can think.

    The question of whether you should spin and the mechanics of the big ring are completely unrelated. One is a question of physiology, the other of mechanics. Your question was asking if its possible to spin too fast. That article talks about the mechanical advantage of riding a big gear. In your case, you’d ride that gear, but spin it. They’re separate things.

    As long as the subject is raised, I’ve been meaning to rewrite that piece, or rather, add an updated version. Some details are wrong, but in essence it is still correct. The chain is the lever, actually, not the crank, which is the mistake I made before. Crank length, as it turns out, makes no difference to power, but is instead more related to what feels comfortable based on your physiology and on what part of the stroke you have maximum power.

    What does make a difference is how much leverage you have as you work to turn your wheel. In its most basic sense, you gain leverage as you move the chain out farther from both the bottom bracket and the wheel’s axle. I’m oversimplifying this because its actually a complex scenario, but with all things being equal (which they’re not due to friction in the chain when you cross and other considerations), you have the best mechanical advantage in the big ring and the biggest sprocket in back. If you can turn the gear, climbing in the big ring is more efficient than in the little ring.

    In fact, if you look carefully at many Pro’s bikes, they’re experimenting with enormous flywheels on their derailleurs for the same reason.

  19. @DerHoggz

    I think wearing team kit for an old team that no longer exists while on the bike is cool. Current team kit? Ehhh, I’d feel a bit silly, but that’s just me personally.

  20. @frank

    My favorite scene is from the time trial, when the mechanic is prepping Ritters bike, while he’s off having a steak for breakfast. Classic!

    Yup, I think I posted this a while back. Ole’s eating lunch in a masterclass demonstration of casually deliberate as well as 100% tanquillo. He eats as his mechanic basically strips and rebuilds his bike outside. The cool 70s gear is also bellissimo!

    Ah, wtf, he’s the link boys. Always work another look: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJllJcLU6b0

  21. @Oli

    Would the chain just act as effectively making the level “longer” in a mechanical sense? Last time I took physics was high school, so again I don’t know much.

    @Tartan1749

    Thanks a lot, BTW… I just spent $54 on myself when I should have been saving that for Christmas. I shall never forgive you. But at least I’ll look stylish.

  22. @mcsqueak, @Oli
    As @DerHoggz correctly pointed out, its a crank, not a lever.

    But, yeah – you need the cranks to ride! What amazed me were the studies that showed that the length of the crank arm make no difference in power output, leading people to put shorter cranks on their TT bikes. Very counter-intuitive to me.

    @itburns

    Futterwacken

    WTF?

  23. @Oli
    All machines are based on the 6 simple machines. A crank would be a combo of a lever and a gear.

  24. Just to put in 2c on the nutrition discussion- first 2 hours is a freebie- one can provide the energy without doing anything harmful to the body. Then the body goes for glucose from the quickest places it can steal it from. To be more scientifical, glycogen stores get depleted over the 2hours. So either supplement w carbohydrated “sugared” water of choice (and hydrate of course), or other supplement stuff(food!). For sure, as you go on to subsequent hours of riding you want to provide the nutrition so you don’t cannibalize muscle like mcsqueak was mentioning. The body won’t eat body fat for nutrition during these rides- too much work for little return. The better you do at keeping up as you go the better you’ll feel.
    And don’t forget the chocolate milk to follow!

  25. @RedRanger

    @Oli
    All machines are based on the 6 simple machines. A crank would be a combo of a lever and a gear.

    My bad. I was wrong. The entire drivetrain of a bike is based on levers. Pullys and the wheel as axel.

  26. @Oli

    @frank
    According to those links a crank is both a crank and a lever, with the bottom bracket as the pivot or fulcrum.

    My original reasoning was this, with the BB being the pivot and the point where the chain is connected (i.e. the chainring) being the fulcrum. Maybe I was right originally, but the way I’ve understood it recently based on Cervelos research, was that the lever arm effectively stops at the chainring, and that the crankarm’s length doesn’t effect leverage past there, meaning that the length of the crank from the BB to the chainring is the lever. Who knows, at this point I need to pull out my books again and freshen up, because I’m not clear on this anymore.

    This will be good to ponder on my 10 hour ride tomorrow.

  27. @gaswepass

    Just to put in 2c on the nutrition discussion- first 2 hours is a freebie- one can provide the energy without doing anything harmful to the body. Then the body goes for glucose from the quickest places it can steal it from. To be more scientifical, glycogen stores get depleted over the 2hours. So either supplement w carbohydrated “sugared” water of choice (and hydrate of course), or other supplement stuff(food!). For sure, as you go on to subsequent hours of riding you want to provide the nutrition so you don’t cannibalize muscle like mcsqueak was mentioning. The body won’t eat body fat for nutrition during these rides- too much work for little return. The better you do at keeping up as you go the better you’ll feel.
    And don’t forget the chocolate milk to follow!

    Thank you – that makes sense. This always points back to the same conclusion: its really fucking hard to get rid of fat; you don’t just exercise it away. Moral of the story? Try hard not to gain it in the fist place!

  28. @frank

    This always points back to the same conclusion: its really fucking hard to get rid of fat; you don’t just exercise it away. Moral of the story? Try hard not to gain it in the fist place!

    That’s it. I’m fucked.

  29. @frank

    @Oli

    @frank
    According to those links a crank is both a crank and a lever, with the bottom bracket as the pivot or fulcrum.

    My original reasoning was this, with the BB being the pivot and the point where the chain is connected (i.e. the chainring) being the fulcrum. Maybe I was right originally, but the way I’ve understood it recently based on Cervelos research, was that the lever arm effectively stops at the chainring, and that the crankarm’s length doesn’t effect leverage past there, meaning that the length of the crank from the BB to the chainring is the lever. Who knows, at this point I need to pull out my books again and freshen up, because I’m not clear on this anymore.
    This will be good to ponder on my 10 hour ride tomorrow.

    Braggart! :)

    JiPM: We need to start earlier so that we can log ten hours before it gets dark on Sunday!!!

  30. @Netraam

    Wait… That link with Boonen and Cancellara.. they’re both on the lowest gear.

    I think you’ll find that they’re only on the smallest gear at the rear. Boonen was on the big ring and Cancellara’s approach is a little unorthodox for a front-running attack on that hill.

  31. @wiscot

    @frank
    Lucky bastard. We won’t get ten hours of daylight here in WI tomorrow. Forecast is pure shit too.

    We have 9 hours of light, but I’m planning on 30 minutes dusk on both sides…I’m riding really slowly on these steep climbs – I don’t think I’m pulling off much more than 20km per hour, so I need all the daylight I can get!

    And when you say “lucky bastard”, I’ll remind you that I won’t feel that way after 4 and I’m frozen and tired and have six more to go. Alone.

  32. @frank

    @wiscot

    @frank
    Lucky bastard. We won’t get ten hours of daylight here in WI tomorrow. Forecast is pure shit too.

    We have 9 hours of light, but I’m planning on 30 minutes dusk on both sides…I’m riding really slowly on these steep climbs – I don’t think I’m pulling off much more than 20km per hour, so I need all the daylight I can get!
    And when you say “lucky bastard”, I’ll remind you that I won’t feel that way after 4 and I’m frozen and tired and have six more to go. Alone.

    NICE! Let us know how it goes. Sounds AWESOME!

  33. Frank, while risking being burned at the stake for heresy or excommunicated from having access to this part of the Internets, I will question the benefits of a 10 hr ride now if the goal is the cobbled Classics trip. I would offer that a 4-6 hr ride would offer the same benefits at this time of year, and if supplemented with another 3-4 hrs the following day would be much more beneficial towards your goal of dropping Museuuw. If I am now banished from this Blog, I will commit to do hours of hill repeat intervals in the rain.

  34. @frank, curious what was your reference to flywheels all about? On the whole cadence/drivetrain banter when I am going really well and riding around 100 with a smooth stroke, I get the sensation that the guns are not just working over the pedals but that the momentum generated by the moving mass of the guns is contributing a flywheel effect to the pedalstroke.

    Then Jurgen Leth’s narration of Ole’s TT starts running thru my head.

  35. Also, I share the concern about the fate of the Muur. An unspeakable abomination. It is not even in the new parcours, no? The fact that the Koppenberg is now later might be a slight compensation but also aren’t they tossing in a circuit?

  36. @mblume

    Frank, while risking being burned at the stake for heresy or excommunicated from having access to this part of the Internets, I will question the benefits of a 10 hr ride now if the goal is the cobbled Classics trip. I would offer that a 4-6 hr ride would offer the same benefits at this time of year, and if supplemented with another 3-4 hrs the following day would be much more beneficial towards your goal of dropping Museuuw. If I am now banished from this Blog, I will commit to do hours of hill repeat intervals in the rain.

    For me, at least, at this stage in my cycling life, the epic ride in the future might be an inspiration but today’s ride always takes precedence. I still race a bit but the most important thing to me is to get on my bike and feel the ride between the bike, myself and the road. Always searching for that ever elusive La Volupte.

    Sure, I might ride a long way today b/c I have a big race/Cogal/group ride next month/year, but it is the ride today that matters most.

  37. @mblume

    I would offer that a 4-6 hr ride would offer the same benefits at this time of year, and if supplemented with another 3-4 hrs the following day would be much more beneficial towards your goal of dropping Museuuw.

    I strongly doubt it will make any difference whether he does a 10 hour ride or a two hour ride four months away from the Tour des Gardiens.

  38. Alright, so I was watching some videos on the ‘tube and realized how incredible Boonen was in 2004-2006. Damn, winning Classics, winning TdF stages, lots and lots of wins.

    Do ya’ll think he’s past his prime? Simply having a lull? Turning into another type of rider? He’s only 31 so should have some good years left in him, but I got to wondering if we’ve seen his best seasons.

    I do realize those seasons are very, very hard to replicate. And, I also realize how incredible all PROS are, much less the best of the best. So, calling him “off” or in decline isn’t really fair. I also wonder though if he could be considered a disappointment, or, if it’s just really hard to have such magical seasons more than once or twice.

    I wonder if folks think he reached his potential or maybe got very good, then didn’t continue to get better. (again, not so much criticizing him, since I think he’s awesome, but just looking for some opinions)

  39. @Ron
    What kills me is how incredibly a marked man he was after winning Flanders in ’05 and he still managed to win 3 P-R’s and another Flanders while “allowing” his teammate to win two Flanders. The dude was simply f’king amazing from ’05 through ’10. Totally marked and never bitched and still won four monuments.

    That is why I will never get on the Cancellara fanboat. The guy was a marked man for one year and all he did was whine like a little bitch. He NEVER was marked like Boonen until last year and he did not pull it off. No class. Cancellara can ride like hell but he’s not the rider Boonen was 5 years ago.

    I hope that Boonen comes back strong this year. Last year was a year coming back form knee problems. Hope to see him in the mix this spring!

  40. @mblume

    Frank, while risking being burned at the stake for heresy or excommunicated from having access to this part of the Internets, I will question the benefits of a 10 hr ride now if the goal is the cobbled Classics trip. I would offer that a 4-6 hr ride would offer the same benefits at this time of year, and if supplemented with another 3-4 hrs the following day would be much more beneficial towards your goal of dropping Museuuw. If I am now banished from this Blog, I will commit to do hours of hill repeat intervals in the rain.

    Great question, but assuming I maintain the form, I disagree that low-intensity riding now won’t benefit me in April, even if that was the goal for doing it. Could I start later and have similar results in April? Sure, but why wait? Base miles are base miles. I’ve got the opportunity to spend the entire day on the bike due to scheduling and the VMH being in Vietnam. A combination of factors that give me an opportunity I don’t want to miss.

    Plus, I’ve always enjoyed really long, low-intensity rides. Modern training theory is gravitating towards shorter, harder rides, but me not being a Pro affords me the opportunity to train the way I enjoy training. We always trained in the philosophy that in training you go much longer and get yourself much more tired than you ever do in a race, that way your body can take much more than you’ll be able to give it in the race. There is something about spending a day alone in 0 degrees riding for every hour of daylight that connects me to the sport in a way that a 2-hour hammerfest will never do.

    Also, I’ve always believed really long rides do something that normal training can’t: Get yourself so tired that you don’t know how you’ll continue. At that point, when you just keep going, your body has to figure out how to pedal more efficiently and smoother – it stops allowing you to waste energy and all effort goes into efficiency. I’m not talking about getting tired and pedaling squares. I’m talking about getting tired, pedaling squares for a few hours, and then your body breaks through to the next zone. Those benefits never leave you, you just become a better cyclist.

    When I was serious about sport, my longest training sessions were usually 6 months before the biggest events; doing 14 or 16 hour mountainbike rides in Idaho in June, July, and August, for races I was doing in February. Unorthodox, and we were the only ones doing it. But the results spoke for themselves.

    I’d have to double-check my source on this, by the way, but I think the theory of training came from Gunde Svan, the Merckx of Nordic Skiing. The man was/is a total badass.

    Anyway, fun topic to bring up; coincidentally I was thinking about these very same things while in agony yesterday, and the “why the fuck am I doing this” shit started cycling through my mind!

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