What makes you Pro?

The other day I had a small exchange with Marcel Kittlel on twitter in response to his question about wearing a sleeveless jersey during Australia’s 115F+ heat wave.



This exchange lead Marcel to tweeting me this gem of a tweet.


Considering his response gained more than 30 retweets and 40+ favorties, people liked the statement. I even got some good internet ribbing of which my personal favorite was:



I have to say, I agree with Marcel Kittel, the definition of being PRO is actually being PRO. When you have that license, race the races, that makes you a Professional Cyclist. For me the most ironic part of it all is I know what being PRO is, because I was PRO for three years back in the mid-2000′s here in Belgium. I’ve lived the lifestyle, learned all the non-sensical superstitions (don’t each the middle of the bread, no sex before a race, shaving makes you slow, etc).

But what makes you Pro be you an actual professional or a weekend warrior? See, I feel there are two forms of Pro, one a noun and the other an adjective (which can be altered into a verb in the right context). My definition of Pro is:

Pro [context cycling]

Noun: 1) A cyclist holding a Professional License racing at the top level of the sport of cycling
Adjective: 1) A state of being in which you exude professionalism: attitude, how you act, dedication, respect, and style

This is where the difference comes into play, if you are talking about the noun form of Pro or the adjective form. Most everyone strives to become the noun form, but this is privilege of roughly 1,750+ riders each year.

You can be PRO – Professional Cyclist, but you might not necessarily be “Pro“. Moreover, you can be a weekend warrior and be Pro. It’s not a paper that makes you Pro but your actions. Which actions make you a Pro? Well, Velominati have a whole list of rules that they use to define you as being Pro. For me it’s simple, being Pro comes down to two things:

How You Act (Attitude, Dedication, Respect) – I’m a firm believer in how one’s actions define you. For one to be Pro it comes down to respect of yourself and your competition. Dedication to your sport, be it through training, support of local cyclists, furthering the advancement of the sport. Finally you have a positive attitude, one that helps bring positive change to those around you and helps you focus on the sport.

Style – This is a bit subjective, but there are certainly some serious no-no’s when it comes to style. The use of a long sleeve skinsuit on a group ride, not cool. See “The Rules” for guidance.

In the case of Marcel Kittel, he is both PRO and Pro. Kittel’s impressive 16 win’s, including 4 in the Tour de France, in 2013 ranked him as one of the top sprinters of the year. His approachability and engagement on Twitter has gained him large following of over 54,000 followers. Most of all, what makes him Pro is his attitude. Kittel is a rider who is even willing to undergo a lie detector test to prove he is clean and has been outspoken anti-doping rider.

Plus if you can rock a side shaved haircut a-la 1990′s Saved by the Bell and have it work, you can pull off the sleeveless jersey.

So Marcel, you can wear whatever amount of sleeve makes you happy, because you are PRO and Pro.

Our friends at Steen Wear Custom Cycling Clothing were kind enough to make this handy flow chart to help everyone  else decide if they should wear a sleeveless jersey.


The New Generation

August 15th, 2013 – A day to remember

Why is this date so important? Because it was the day US Juniors won 3 races in Belgium (with only 5 races available). I would say a better than 50% batting average against the Belgians on their home turf is something to be excited about. Even more impressive is that these wins were brought about by three different programs, all with the same aim, improve and develop young talent.

Three Americans Win Kermis races in Belgium

August 15th saw three wins by Americans

Diego Biantena, racing with the US National Team, took the top honors in Sint- Lambrechts Herk against a race of  37 riders. Noah Williams, racing with the Slipstream-Craddock Team, bested over 52 riders in Overmere. Noah’s already signed for a Belgian team for 2014 (along with ChainStay alum Jonah Tannos) and is going to be based in Belgium next year. Lastly we come to our own development program with Vertex Cycling which saw Noah Granigan win in Lauwe against 64 riders.

Noah Granigan wins the Lauwe Kermis bicycle race in Belgium

Noah Granigan wins in Lauwe

There is a new generation of riders and we are seeing the fruits of their hard work today. Even more impressive is the fact that it is no longer just the US National Team helping to foster riders, but several different programs (and I’m proud to include ours that list). What we are seeing is the ability for Americans not to just survive in Europe, but hold their own and win. And it’s not coming from just one superstar rider, but several amazingly talented riders.

It wasn’t just the three guys who did well, there were several other Americans placed high up in each race. Within our own program it’s just no Noah leading the way, but a whole host of young talent learning to improve. Each rider steadily increasing their skills, talent and knowledge towards their own personal betterment. It’s watching these successes that keeps me wanting to build up our development programs, improve our house, work toward creating a bigger, better and fully encompassing development program and infrastructure.

If today’s success has in any way inspired you I urge you to act. If you are a young rider, looking to become a professional cyclist, know that what happened today was the result of hard work. If your professional cyclist aspirations are no longer your main focus I urge you to find a way to help build on this momentum we are seeing in the sport. Volunteer with a Youth or Junior Team, donate some old gear to a kid in need, help sponsor a deserving youth to some and race in Europe; just do what you can and watch the sport flourish.

I don’t know what the future holds for American cycling, but I am sure interested to find out!

-Gregg Germer, Co-Owner, The ChainStay-

Vertex Cycling – Noah Granigan Blog Update

My trip to The ChainStay in Oudenaarde is already a trip that I will never forget, and I have only been here for a few days. After a tedious plane ride, some waiting in the Brussels airport, and a short drive to Oost Vlaanderen, I got settled into my new home for the next three weeks. With my bags unpacked and my bike built up, we went on a short ride. Lucky for us Juniors (Sawyer, Jay, Andrew, Skyler and I), two of the Nieuwelingen (Urko ‘The American Boy’ and Mateo) are still staying at the house, and since they have been here racing for a few weeks already, they have a sense of where everything is.

A Rain Ride in Belgium

Urko and Mateo took us on some back roads and bike paths, and in no time we were at the base of the Koppenberg, arguably the most famous climb of the Tour of Flanders. This is one of the many things that makes Oudenaarde a great city to live in. Several of the famous cobbled climbs are within a short ride. After the ride, which was quite cold and wet, I had to fight to keep myself awake until 9 o’clock, to keep my sleep schedule from getting messed up too bad.

Riding the Schelde Canal in Belgium

Riding the bike path canal, The Schelde, in East Flanders Belgium

After sleeping for twelve hours to make up for my minimal sleep on the plane the night before, I made some breakfast, and packed my bag for my first race of the trip, in Kooigem. It was a 96 kilometer race, consisting of twelve laps, with a short and gradual climb each lap. It started out very fast, and I stayed no farther than twenty riders back for the whole race. A few riders rolled off the front, and then a few more groups rolled away before I realized that the race was up the road. I attacked through a very technical section right after the finish line and once I started to the climb, a group of three was bridging to me. For that whole lap, we rode a pretty solid Team Time Trial until we caught the next group.

Noah Granigan pushing the pace in a Belgian bicycle race

Noah Granigan pushing the pace in his first Junior race in Belgium.

A group of six had gotten away from that group before I made contact. We attacked each other for a few laps trying to bridge to the leaders, and managed to take our group down to eight. With one lap to go our group realized that we were not going to catch the leaders, and we all just rolled through the last lap. With about 1.5 kilometers to the finish, everybody in our group put on the brakes and started looking at each other. Shortly after the cat and mouse tactics began, I attacked, and everyone looked at each other to chase, and I got a gap. I drilled it to the finish and ended up in 7th place.

Noah Granigan riding solo to 7th in a Belgian Kermesse

Noah Granigan riding solo to a 7th place in Belgium, just one day off the plane!

I was very pleased with that result, given the jet lag and the fact that I haven’t adapted to the time change yet. We drove the short distance back to Oudenaarde, and I thought I was going to sleep like a baby. I was terribly wrong; I woke up during the night and stayed awake for four hours in the middle of the night. After two more days, I think that I have finally completely adapted to living here in Belgium. I have two races coming up tomorrow and Sunday (August 3rd and 4th) in Denderwindeke and Zingem.

I would like to send out a major “Thank You” to my parents, the rest of my family, C.F. Racing, Peak to Peak Training Systems, Gregg Germer, Tim Redus, and everyone else who made all of this possible.

First Win of the Year!

Kermis racing in Belgium can be a hard fought competition. The level of your competitors is higher, there are different styles of racing to learn and a lack of local racer knowlege making every move a potentialy dangerous one.

This is why the coveted “W” in a kermesse is so special for a foreign racer in Belgium. It shows the ability to both race strong, but also smart. 2013 has been a good year for guys at The ChainStay, but up until just this past weekend we hadn’t seen a win. Saturday saw one of our young ‘Nieuwelingen‘ (15-16 racing age) racers, Ian McShane, with our Vertex Cycling Development Camp take the house’s first win of the year in Borchtlombeek.

Ian McShane winning a kermis race during the Vertex Cycling Belgium Development Camp

Ian McShane winning the Belgian kermesse race during our July 2013 development camp.

After placing twice in second place in the previous two weeks Ian was able to bring all the elements of mastering Belgian kermis racing together and pull off a spectacular win. Ian planned his move for the right moment, used the course to his advantage and had the backing of several strong fellow campers in the peloton to cover any dangerous moves. It’s always great to watch the different elements we talk about in evening meetings come together from an abstract concept into a physical reality. This is why we (Vertex Cycling and The ChainStay) love to help develop young talent.

Ian McShane on the podium of his first Belgian Kermis Win

Iam McShane on the podium of his first Belgian Kermis Win

Ian hasn’t been the only successful racer of our camp. This past weekend saw our youngest racer Mark Yaroshevsky race in the front group of his Aspiranten (racing age 14) after the field of 40 riders shattered. He raced more with his head and helped his group chase down a dangerous break of 3 riders, including the Belgian champion, who gained almost 40 seconds at one point. After his group caught the lead group he rode at the front and kept himself out of trouble. Only a small bobble at the end caused him to loose his position for the final sprint. A lower placing than his last race, but much better in his execution of racing.

Mark racing the Aspirante cycle race in Lokeren, Belgium

Mark on his way to a solid 7th place in his second race in Belgium.

Our Junior group has been seeing good results. Braden Sherwood’s resolve has seen him more competitive each race he does, with fewer mistakes and more time in the race. Conner Simmons has been consistently finishing his races with a steady improvement in results each race. His adaptation to the longer races and more aggressive style of racing reveals his potential to improve well over time. Robert Monahan’s results have been the strongest of the group. His consistent racing at the front of the group and savvy racing style has seen him in his fair share of breaks. His race in Dentergem was one of his best, but an unfortunate move by a fellow breakaway rider saw Robert loose his chance to compete for the win and his being crashed out of the winning break.

Junior Racers in Belgium for the Vertex Cycling Development Camp

Conner (left in black helmet) and Robert (center in bright yellow helmet) racing hard in the Dentergem Kermis.

Our other Nieuwelingen racers have road well in their races. Nick Collins best race so far has to be the criterium in Roselare (an opening race to the Post Tour professional crit) which saw Nick compete at the front and help break apart the peloton (helping Ian on his way to a 4th place). A few small adjustments to his racing style and he’s going to be a force to be dealt with in the future. Mateo Sanchez  has lead a very consistent race campaign over the last 6 races, always fighting hard in the peloton and keeping himself in the mix. He is joining us for our August camp also, so he’s got time to improve with another three weeks in Belgium. Lastly we have Urko Peñagarikano from the Basque region of Spain. Urko’s is a strong rider and has been able to race at the front of each race and be competitive. Once he figures out the style of racing here he will be doing really well in Belgium.

Mateo (in Steen Wear Jersey, front) and Nick trailing in a Belgian Cycling Crit

Mateo leads Nick during the Natour Roeselare Crit.

Belgium Cycling Development Team Camp July 2013

The July 2013 group for Vertex Cycling Development Camp – A great group of guys.
From L to R – Braden, Mateo, Conner, Mark, Robert, Nick, Urko, and Ian

Our July group with Vertex Cycling has been great and we are a little sad to see them leave, but with the departure of these guys we have a fresh group for our August trip to help mold, teach and develop into better bike racers. Our development camps are now filling up faster than ever, so if you are at all interested it is advisable to e-mail us with an email about your interest so we can get you on our waiting lists.



2013/14 Belgian Cyclocross Season

I can’t believe we are just 6 weeks away from the start of the UCI CX calendar!

It’s with that in mind that we wanted to remind everyone that if you haven’t already, get to booking your place at The ChainStay so you don’t miss out on the best times of the year.

The Belgian cyclocross scene is going to be jam packed this year and it all kicks off on the 15th of September with the Steenbergcross in Erpe-Mere. We have put together some periods in the year that we think would be of interest to both the cyclocross fan, your average cross racer or an international CX racer.

October Cross – 25 day period – 9 Major races

  • 10-12 - Grand Prix de la Région Wallonne  - Dottignies, Belgium
  • 10-13 - Bpost bank trofee – Ronse – Ronse, Belgium
  • 10-17 - Kermiscross – Ardooie, Belgium
  • 10-20 – UCI World Cup Valkenberg – Vlakenberg, Holland
  • 10-22 – Nacht Van Worden – Worden, Holland
  • 10-26 – UCI World Cup Tabor – Tabor, Czech Republic
  • 10-27 – Super Prestige Ruddervoorde – Belgium
  • 11-1 – Koppenberg Cross – Oudenaarde, Belgium
  • 11-3 – Superprestige Zonhoven – Zonhoven, Belgium

November Cross – 14 day period – 6 races

  • 11-10 – Super Prestige Hamme-Zogge – Belgium
  • 11-11 – Soudal Niel – Belgium
  • 11-16 – bpost GP Hasselt – Belgium
  • 11-17 – Super Prestige Gavere – Belgium
  • 11-23 – UCI World Cup Koksijde – Belgium
  • 11-24 – Super Prestige Gieten – Holland

Kerstperiod – Christmas CX Cross – 18 day period – 10 races

  • 12-15 – Vlamse Industrieprijs Bosdin – Kalmhout, Belgium
  • 12-18 – Cyclocross Van Het Wassland – Sint-Niklaas, Belgium
  • 12-21 – bpost GP Rouwmoer – Essen, Belgium
  • 12-22 – UCI World Cup Namur – Belgium
  • 12-26 – UCI World Cup Zolder – Belgium
  • 12-27 – bpost Azencross – Loenhout, Belgium
  • 12-28 – Versluys Cross – Bredene, Belgium
  • 12-29 – Super Prestige Diegem – Belgium
  • 1-1 – GP Sven Nys – Baal, Belgium
  • 1-2 – Centrum Cross van Surhuisterveen – Holland

January Cyclocross World Championships – 22 day period – 7 races

  • 1-18 – Kasteel Zonnebeke – Belgium
  • 1-19 – Soudal Cyclocross Leuven – Belgium
  • 1-26 – UCI World Cup Nommany – France
  • 2-1&2 – UCI World Cyclocross Championships - Hoogerheide, Holland
  • 2-5 – Parkcross Maldegem – Belgium
  • 2-8 – bpost Kwawatencross – Lille, Belgium
  • 2-9 – Superprestige Hoogstraten – Belgium

Masters Racing & Elite World Championships Race Experience

Enjoy a fully catered race experience in the motherland of cyclocross, Belgium! 3 Masters races and watch the UCI World Championships all in just two weeks.

  • 1-25 – Langemark, Belgium
  • 1-26 – Assende, Belgium
  • 2-1&2 – UCI Elite World CX Championships Viewing – Hoogerheide, Holland
  • 2-5 – Maldegem, Belgium

So pick your month, because there is always tons of racing happening in Belgium each month of the season!

While this list is not fully comprehensive of all the races, be sure to check the UCI Calendar or the local Wielerbond Vlaanderen website to check exactly what’s happening. Need help figuring out all the categories, check out our Guide to Racing Cyclocross in Belgium.



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