Zoldo Loop: Passo Cibiana, Forcella Staulanza, Passo Giau

Weather looked good, so we headed off for a long loop of three passes.  This ride is about 60 miles and climbs nearly 9000 feet.  The passes are not famous, but they sure are beautiful.  They carry very little traffic, so we’re in for a nice day on the road.

We head down valley from Cortina and take a sharp right on the road to Passo Cibiana.  Passo Cibiana is a narrow road which goes through a small town near the bottom (see below) and is quite steep.

Here we see Dave climbing past one of the many signs warning us of the steep grades.  Dave’s outfit matches the color scheme of the signs.

Passo Cibiana is about a 3000-foot climb.  As we near the top, we get a look at a ridge of craggy peaks to the left of us.

We finally get to the top of this brute.  We relax at the cheese tasting booth.  Ernesto is on the left.  Jessica and Rudy are on the right.

Fueled up, we head down the hill.  The descent is a zoom.  Sorry no pictures.  I was having too much fun!  The switchbacks keep zooming by.  There is one nice town there but I didn’t even realize it was worth stopping until the town was long gone.

The next pass is Forcella Staulanza.  It’s about 2500 feet of climbing.  Fortunately the grades are easy, except for a 10% stinger at the bottom.  After this, the grades are quite gentle with some long flat bits along the way.

Near the top of the Staulanza is a nice view of the Civretta, a Dolomite peak jutting high above the surrounding landscape.

After descending the Staulanza, we hit the base of the Giau.  This is the hard side of the Giau.  I found the “easy” side to be hard.  This is harder.

Passo Giau starts out following a river.  Most passes zig-zag alongside the river or cross it with bridges.  This road is simply parallel to the river.  The grade is mostly 10%, sometimes more.

Eventually, relief comes in the form of a set of switchbacks.

The south side of Passo Giau has 29 switchbacks.  Climbing 3000 feet, it’s pretty comparable to L’Alpe d’Huez.  29 switchbacks vs. 21.  3000 feet vs. 3500 feet.  It’s more difficult because the grades are more consistently steep.  L’Alpe d’Huez has a pretty long mid-pass rest section where the grades are 3-6%.  Passo Giau has no relief.

About halfway up are a few tunnels.  One of them perfectly frames the view of a peak which is to the left of the pass.

This year the Giro d’Italia races up Passo Giau.  As a result, the road is painted with the names of racers and countless other slogans and graphics.  Yep, there is that same peak.

As we approach the top, we see the pass goes way to the right of that peak.  Still, the view is beautiful.

We enjoy the view at the top and head down quickly to town.  You can see the view from the top here.  This time, we were in a rush to get back to town as we were really hungry!

In town, we went to a restaurant that specializes in prosciutto.  They have many legs of prosciutto and cut it to order.  Prosciutto and fresh mozzarella makes a great sandwich, especially when washed down with cold beer!

Left to right are Dave, Lisa, Rudy, and Jessica.

You probably want to know the ride stats.  Including the trip into town, we rode 60 miles and climbed 8600 feet.

We did the same ride last year.  You can read that account and see the pictures here.

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Passo Giau out-and-back

Today’s forecast called for rain in the afternoon, starting around 1 PM or so. The morning skies were dark and as we got ready to go riding, the sky opened and gave us a 15-minute soaking. Result was half our crew went upstairs to chang into street or hiking clothes.

Bummer!  I really wanted to go for a ride and I don’t mind riding in the rain.  Being the ride guide for today, I basically have to ride if anybody else wants to.  I was hopeful a few hardy souls would go for it.  Indeed, Dennis, Dave, and Lisa wanted to go so I got a nice ride in.

We decided to stay close in case it got wet.  When we started, the rain had ceased so we headed up Passo Giau.  Passo Giau is one of my favorite passes for its scenic beauty and lack of traffic.  Even better, it’s very near Cortina, right out of the door of our hotel.

So we headed up  The goal was to do the “easy” side of Passo Giau.  OK, it’s very scenic, but it’s also a lot tougher than I remember it.  Shortly after you turn left from the Falzarego road, grades turn to 10% or so and remain there for most of the pass.

Here’s a view of one of the many beautiful switchbacks.  You can see a ridge of Dolomite-style jagged peaks in the background.  We’ll see many more of these from the top.

We get to nearly the top and have a fabulous view from the last switchback.  The pass is just to the left of the craggy peak.

The view from the top is amazingly panoramic.  The photo below is a nearly 270-degree stitch showing a big valley surrounded by craggy ridges.

We rest up a bit in the rifugio at the top and then get together for this group photo.  From the left: Dennis, Dave, Lisa, me.

Given the forecast for rain, we decide we’ve tried our luck enough and head down the fabulous descent into Cortina and enjoy a nice afternoon exploring town.

The weatherman turned out to be dead wrong.  Not one drop of water fell from the sky in the afternoon and the morning was dry except for a brief soaking at 9 AM.  The weather was fine. We got fooled by the weatherman. Oh well, at least we’ll have fresh legs for tomorrow.

Our ride turns out to be about 25 miles and a little under 4000′ including a quick jaunt into town for lunch afterwards.

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4 passes: Falzarego, Valparola, Campolongo, Falzarego

We’re heading into some of the most scenic territory in the Dolomites and riding up some of the most famous passes.

Here’s a photo of Sue leading Craig up the Campolongo.

OK, that’s a little out of order.

We started the day leaving Cortina and riding up the Passo Falzarego, which is a 3000′ climb.  The Falzarego is very scenic and also very popular, probably because it is the only road west from Cortina.

Here is our crew at the top of the Falzarego.  From left to right, we have Rudy, Jessica, Dave, and Ajax.

From the Falzarego we head north over Passo Valparola which is a tiny climb to an even higher point.  There is no descending, so we get there pretty quickly.

Here is a photo of Dave summiting the Valparola (on the left) and Ernesto sitting in the van (on the right) otherwise known as the Rifugio di Alta Quota.

There are some pretty spectacular views from up here.

Interestingly, the most interesting views are just down the pass about 1 km where the restaurant is.

Just to the left of the restaurant is a beautiful grassy ridge, where some hikers are returning from their hike.

Descending the Valparola is a breeze.  At the top there are several switchbacks.  Lower down, the road really opens up.  Driving the van today, I can barely keep up with the riders.  Here’s a photo of Rudy, who is enjoying the descent and looks up from his tuck to give me the thumbs up.

At the bottom of the Valparola, we turn left towards the ski town of Corvara and then up and over Passo Campolongo.  I already showed you a photo of Sue and Craig climbing the pass with the mountains in the background.  Here’s another view of the mountains above Corvara.

And here is Jessica leading the group over the upper slopes of the Campolongo.

After descending the Campolongo, we head back over the Falzarego.  The Falzarego is very famous because it is so close to Cortina.  Most car drivers only come up the east side, but the most scenic part is on the quieter side which we are climbing now.

Near the top are a pair of gallerias.  Gallerias are tunnels constructed over the road to protect the road from rockfall.

As you can see from the photo, the road makes it possible to get way above the riders.  Here’s a view of Dennis toiling up the mountain.

Near the top is a really cool tunnel with a switchback inside it.  Here is a view from inside the tunnel.

And finally, here is my wife Lisa exiting the tunnel.  You can see the road below the switchback to the right.

If you’d like to see more views of this ride, click here to see last year’s post.

Oh, yeah, you probably want some statistics.  Last year the ride was 54 miles and 7288′.  It probably hasn’t changed much since then.

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Dolomites 2012 — day 1 Auronzo Loop

It’s vacation time again — hurray! — and I’m back in the Dolomites with Alta Quota Adventures.  We’re doing essentially the same trip as last year, riding most if not all of the classic Dolomites climbs and staying in my favorite towns Cortina d’Ampezzo and Bormio. This year we have a bigger crew — 10 people — which should mean a lot more fun!

OK, so we have just arrived in beautiful Cortina and it’s time to go for a ride.  Our warmup ride is the Auronzo loop.  It starts with a gentle descent down valley, and then heads back up and over the Passo Tre Croci.  There is an option to add on the old road to San Stefano di Cadore and back over Passo San Antonio.  About half our group does the long route and half does the short route.

Descending down the valley is a breeze.  Our paceline makes quick work of all the towns and stops to enjoy the view of a beautiful church and take our first group photo.

From left to right, we have Craig (behind), Sue, Lisa, Dennis, Ernesto, Rudy, Jessica, and Dave.  Ajax is driving the van and I’m taking the photo.

Here is a closer view of the church with Ernesto’s big grin.

A few miles later we ride past the beautiful Lago di Pieve di Cadore.

Soon, half of the group splits off to do the long loop.  The rest of us continue through Auronzo, which is a beautiful little town, and then up the valley to Passo Tre Croci.  Passo Tre Croci has a gorgeous approach up a shallow valley of meadows and trees.

The gentle grade lulls us into complacency until the 12% grade hits us in the face like a 2×4.  Here’s a photo of my wife Lisa on the steep grade.  Little does she know, this will continue a long way.  Passo Tre Croci is beautiful but it can be miserable.  The grades are steep and there are few turns.  Without switchbacks and intermediate goals, it is tough!

If you go all the way up the Tre Croci, you might as well add on a short 3-mile out-and-back to see Lago di Misurina.  Lago di Misurina is one of the most beautiful sights in the Dolomites.  You normally only see it when you go up the Tre Cime di Lavaredo.  We’re not doing Tre Cime today, but I love this view and wanted to see it.

Along the way, we see a bunch of of cows grazing on the alpine meadow.  The peaks in the background are the Tre Cime di Lavaredo, one of the most famous views in the Dolomites and a truly fearsome road to climb.  On the left is the hotel along the shores of the lake.

And finally, here is the lake view we have been anticipating.  The yellow hotel sits right on the shores of the lake.  The mountains behind the lake and the hotel are actually a few km away, across the valley.  It’s a beautiful place and Lisa is overjoyed at a successful day on the bike.

From here, we still have to climb a bit to get to the top of Passo Tre Croci, but after that it is a zoom to get back to Cortina.  The descent is quite steep and very fast.

Once in town, there is much to see, but we decide to relax with a beer at Hacker-Pschorr, an authentic German bierstube.

Cortina and the Dolomites have many sights to see and great roads to enjoy.  I’ll be blogging about the rest of the trip as time allows.  I’m already 3 days late!

If you’d like to see photos from the long ride, please click here to see my blog from last year.  The abandoned old road is pretty cool!  And you can click here to explore Cortina.

Oh yeah, those important statistics… the short loop was 60 miles and about 5000 feet of climbing including our side trip to Lago di Misurina and a few times looping back to be sociable.  The long loop is about 80 miles and 7000 feet of climbing.

Posted in bicycle touring, Dolomites, Italy, travel | 1 Comment

Cycling the Dolomites — Slideshow at Tread Bikes Saturday March 31st @ 6 PM

I’ll be giving a slideshow about cycling in the Dolomites at 6 PM on Saturday, March 31st at Tread Bikes in Campbell, California.  The address is 501 E. Campbell Avenue, Campbell, CA.

The Dolomites is the easternmost part of the Alps, an area where coral atolls have eroded into dramatic mountain peaks, and a part of northern Italy that was once Austrian so the language, food, and culture is an interesting mix of Austrian/German and Italian.  The Dolomites offer some of Europe’s best cycling with beautiful scenery, a great mix of easy and difficult rides, delicious cuisine, and some pretty famous places in the history of cycling.

I made my first trip to the Dolomites 21 years ago in 1991 and have been back 6-8 times so far.  Last August, I went on a trip to the Dolomites with Alta Quota Adventures.  All of the photos in this slideshow  are from that trip.

Hope to see you there!


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Vincent Juarez Prepares for Track World Championships

Resplendent in stars and stripes, world traveler and local track hero  Vincent Juarez is in town, training hard for the UCI Para-Cycling Track World Championships to be hosted at the Home Depot Velodrome in Los Angeles February 9-12, 2012.  Vincent’s goal is to win the kilometer, one of the most grueling and painful events in cycling.

At last year’s world championships, Vincent placed second in the “kilo” in Montichiari Italy, coming within 0.1 second of the former world record and finishing one second behind Great Britain’s Jon-Allan Butterworth who set the new world record.

This year, Vincent is coming to the event stronger and fitter with the determination to win.

Vincent’s Palmares

Vincent’s list of victories is impressive.  In addition to 2nd place in the kilo at the world championships, Vincent’s victories include:

Living the Dream

Vincent wins bike races and is traveling all over the world to compete.  At the young age of 19, he already has three national titles to his credit.  In addition to Montichiari, Italy where he finished 2nd in the kilometer, Vincent has competed in Denmark (Road Para-Cycling World Championships), Canada, Australia, and Gualdalajara, Mexico (Pan-American Games) as part of the USA Paralympic National Team.  After the UCI World Championships in Los Angeles this February, Vincent heads to London for the Paralympics.

Vincent’s Story

Vincent serves as an inspiration for many cyclists who aspire to improve their fitness and achieve great results.  When you meet him, he is soft-spoken and humble, despite his extraordinary results.

Yet, Vincent is disabled.  At the age of 15 he suffered a stroke that left the left side of his body paralyzed.  His stroke likely occured as a result of a blood clot after jaw surgery.  After some physical therapy, he has recovered most of his function and appears to be fully functional to most of us.  He competes in C5, which is the most able category in paralympics.  He he has some lack of mobility in his left ankle and his left arm yet this doesn’t seem to slow him down on the bike.  He explains the left side of his face doesn’t move as much as it should and his speech is slurred.  He’s quite shy with new people, but his speech is very clear.

Vincent training with Daniel Farinha at Hellyer Velodrome

Prior to his stroke, Vincent played soccer.  As his condition improved, he sought to be physically active again.  He grew up playing soccer with Daniel Farhina who was also an avid cyclist, with great results both at the track and on the road.

Daniel encouraged Vincent to try cycling.  Vincent joined Team San Jose/San Jose Bicycle Club and enrolled in the Hellyer Velodrome Juniors Program.  Vincent took to it very quickly.  His achievements are testament to his talent and dedication.

Preparation for World’s

Vincent’s humility and quiet nature belies the seriousness of his purpose and his commitment to training.  In preparation for world’s, he rides on the track every Thursday with his coach Dave McCook.  His training includes long rides on the road plus interval sessions with 3 sets of 3-5 minute efforts.

Back from his world travels, Vincent is enjoying riding in San Jose with his local friends but will be training on the velodrome in Los Angeles frequently during January.  Margins of victory in the kilo are slim, so every tenth of a second counts.  Being completely familiar with the course will pay dividends in time and potentially put Vincent in the rainbow stripes in February.

Vincent is the pride of the Hellyer Velodrome community.  Vincent, we wish you great success in February!

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How to Race Cyclocross (Joachim Parbo CX Clinic)

Yesterday I attended Joachim Parbo’s Cyclocross Clinic at Baylands Park in Palo Alto.  Four-time Danish National Cyclocross Champion Joachim Parbo broke cyclocross down into three critical skills, explained and demonstrated each one, and then gave each participant hands-on personal instruction and feedback on each skill.

I’ve never raced cyclocross before.  I have photographed cyclocross many times, but not recently.  I photographed Cyclocross a  lot in Sonoma county in the early 1990s, photographed Cyclocross Nationals in Tuolumne, CA in 1993, and photographed two races in Belgium in 2009, Dottignies and SuperPrestige Gavere.

Freinds have suggested I give Cyclocross a try.  It would address all of my weaknesses as a rider and would probably be a lot of fun.  My initial thought was to go buy a cyclocross bike and enter a race.  If I did that, I’d probably get thrashed and frustrated.  Having watched Joachim Parbo conduct this clinic, I now understand what I’d have to do to prepare for a cyclocross event and would be able to enter the sport much more effectively.

Joachim covered bike setup and went over three critical skills:

  1. dismounting & remounting,
  2. cornering, and
  3. shouldering.

Bike Setup

Joachim explained that a cyclocross bike must be set up for good bike handling and the rider must be able to accelerate and decellerate quickly.  While criterium racers keep speeds relatively constant, in cyclocross, a rider must regularly accelerate from 5 to 25 mph, and the bike must be set up to facilitate this.

That said, aero bike positions are worthless.  You must be able to pound on the pedals and you must be comfortable.  For reference, here’s a photo of Joachim’s current cross rig.

It sure is clean.  It looks like he went over it with a toothbrush just yesterday!

Joachim made a point to many riders about brake hood position.  Compared to a normal road bike, Joachim recommends the brake hoods be placed higher and closer to the rider.  Otherwise, the setup isn’t too different than a normal road setup.

I noticed one other interesting detail on Joachim’s rig.  He uses hydraulic disk brakes for maximum stopping power.  Because levers for hydraulic brakes are not available in cross form, he has a cable-to-hydraulic adapter mounted under his stem.

Here’s Joachim discussing bike position with 2005 USA Road Champion Katheryn Curi-Mattis.  He’s recommending she lower her seat.  The tradeoff is a bit less leverage on the pedals and maybe a less aerodynamic position, but more comfort and flexibility for cross.

Dismounting & Remounting

OK, now for some skills.  Joachim started with dismounts and remounts.  In a cyclocross race, you have to do this a lot, so getting the technique down is really important.

Joachim had the riders perform a simple drill, approaching an obstacle, dismounting a few steps before and then remounting once the obstacle was cleared.  He used a pretty easy obstacle and stressed technique over exertion.  Technique was pretty simple — just dismount, grab the top tube, run a few steps, and then get back on.

Here’s Joachim demonstrating the remount at a walking pace.

Karen Brems, 1994 World Time Trial Champion and current cyclocross dominatrix, shows us how it’s done at speed.

The riders worked on this drill for nearly an hour with Joachim giving each rider individual critique and instruction.  As a photographer, I noticed big differences in the skill of the riders.  Their comfort with the skill influenced how many steps they took after the obstacle before they remounted and, therefore, where I had to be to take a good photo.

The critical tip seemed to be that the riders should push the bike forward before they jump in the air to land on it.  Joachim demonstrated this push-forward technique and also the alternative.

Here are two riders remounting side-by-side with Andrew Yee from Cyclocross Magazine in the background taking their picture.


Joachim set up a simple downhill slalom course by dropping a few waterbottles on the ground and had the riders ride down it repeatedly.  I remember doing the same drill when I learned how to ski, following the instructor’s tracks through the snow.

Joachim discussed the choice of apex — too early, too late, and just right — and demonstrated how to do it.  After watching the riders a few times, he pointed out where riders were getting in trouble.  On innocuous-looking turn 3, many riders would apex too late.  This resulted in them having to go a bit uphill to get to turn 4, slowing them down, but also causing them to set up turn 4 incorrectly.

Here’s Lee Sloan riding through corner 2.  Yeah, it looks like he’s racing.  No, this is a clinic and the speeds were slow.  Joachim’s focus is on technique, not speed or exertion.

Another important point is that, if you use sewup tires, make sure they are properly glued before you race.  Fortunately, this tire came off at low speed and nobody was hurt.


The last skill Joachim covered was shouldering.  This is the technique of picking up the bike for a long carry.

Joachim explained the process and steps involved in shouldering.  First, you grab the bike frame with your hand on the down tube right where the shifters used to be (sorry young guys, yes we geriatrics used to have shifters on the down tube in the old days).  Next, you lift the bike up and put it on your shoulder.  Finally, you  hold the handlebars.  Joachim demonstrated a few ways to hold the bars.

Here’s a photo of Joachim instructing Richard Jacinto in shouldering technique.

Putting the bike down is a simple matter of reversing the steps.  Simple, eh?

Shouldering is commonly used for “run-ups” so Joachim had the group practice a runup with the shouldering technique.

Well, that’s about it.

A big thanks to Joachim for a fascinating and instructive session.  Speaking for myself, even though I didn’t have a bike, I sure learned a lot.  These simple techniques will make it easier for me once I do get a cross bike.  I guess I’ll have to leave my camera at home.

I really appreciate people who really understand a subject and can explain it clearly.  Apart from being a four-time Danish National Champion, Joachim Parbo is one of those rare individuals who really gets it and has a gift for teaching.  Thank you Joachim for your insights!

Thanks also to Sterling Sports Group and Coach Matt McNamara for helping put on the clinic.

Oh, P. S. — I posted a full set of photos here.

Posted in bicycle racing, cyclocross | 4 Comments

Danish National Champion Joachim Parbo to Lead Cyclocross Clinic

Danish National Cyclocross Champion Joachim Parbo spoke last night at the Webcor/Alto Velo club meeting about his history, training philosophy, the US and European Cyclocross scenes, Danish investment in cycling facilities, and announced a cyclocross clinic tonight 4-6 PM at the Palo Alto Baylands Park and a talk at the Bicycle Outfitter from 7-8:30 PM.

Joachim Parbo started bicycle racing relatively late in life.  He was discovered playing in the forest and encouraged to enter mountain bike races when he was 24, far too old for pro european sports.  He won the Danish mountain bike championships in 1999 and dabbled in ski touring and adventure racing before discovering his true love — Cyclocross.  He made the national team and was offered a sponsor bike.  He entered his first cross race in Belgium.  Despite being up against the top riders from all over europe, he didn’t get lapped.  A few years later, he won the Danish National Cyclocross Championships and has now won his country’s title four times: 2006, 2007, 2009, and 2010.

Joachim’s Training Philosophy

Joachim follows an unconventional training plan.  A rebel to the dictates of structured plans, Joachim goes mostly on feel.  He reports that he does own a heart rate monitor, but only uses it to “look at the clock.”  He uses pain as his training indicator.

Joachim listens to his body and adjusts his training appropriately.  When he started out, he went hard every day, but starting in 2004, he goes by feel and eases up some of the days.  By staying fresh, he can go harder on his hard days and achieves better results when he races.

Joachim makes it clear that talented bike riders must be able to endure a lot of pain, but he says you must let old ladies pass you on the bike path when they are going grocery shopping.

Joachim does a lot of low-intensity base-building during the summer.  He works as a bike path inspector for the city of Aarhus in eastern Denmark.  His work requires he cover a network of 350 miles of bike paths, which fits in very nicely with building a massive base of training.

An interesting side note: Joachim does not shave his legs.  He didn’t shave his legs when he first started out and sees no reason to change now that he is in the professional ranks.  Since he is a cyclocross rider, he doesn’t have to worry about crashing on the pavement so he can “stay furry.”

Cyclocross Scene: US vs. Europe

At the end of the summer, Joachim switches over to Cyclocross, racing for a month or two in the US before he returns to Europe for the famous races in Spain, Italy, Luxemburg, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, and of course Denmark.

Interestingly Joachim doesn’t race much in Belgium, and is strongly enthusiastic about the US Cyclocross scene.  Joachim points out that Belgian cyclocross is like US football, maybe a bit more aggro.  While the top level riders get paid 10,000 € just to show up, the fields aren’t very deep.  By contrast, US cyclocross is more grass roots and more fun.  Fields have “thickened” with some fields having more than 100 riders.  Courses have evolved from simple grass crits to really challenging “buttonhook 180” courses emulating the classics like Gavere.  American fields continue to grow and the depth of talent is increasing, making the races both challenging and exciting.

Danish Investment in Cycling Facilities

Joachim described bike paths in Denmark and cited a few numbers that made my head spin.  Denmark has a 5-year plan that earmarks $200M to be spent on cycling facilities.  Wow!  Denmark’s population is only 5 million people.  That’s $40 per person or $8 per person per year.

How much do we spend in the US?  I honestly don’t know the number, but I doubt we meet that mark even in bike-friendly meccas like Palo Alto and Boulder.  Can anybody give me figures?

Clinic and Talk Tonight

Joachim goes home Wednesday.  He’s been here for a month or so and has competed at Cross Vegas, at Greem Mountain Cyclocross in Vermont, the Gloucester Grand Prix in Providence, and in Irvine, CA.

Tonight he’s holding a cyclocross clinic in Palo Alto.  It’s your opportunity to get one-on-one instruction and tips from a world class pro and all-around nice guy.  A few seats are left and it only costs $30, so if you’re interested, show up at Baylands Park at the T intersection of Embarcadero Road and Embarcadero Way at 4 PM today.

And if you’d like to hear Joachim speak, you can see him from 7-8:30 PM at the Bicycle Outfitter in Los Altos in Loyola Corners, just off Foothill Boulevard.

Thanks to KCM

Joachim Parbo spoke last night at the Webcor/Alto Velo club meeting thanks to Katheryn Curi-Mattis, otherwise known as KCM.  KCM won the US National Road Championships in 2005, represented the USA at the cycling world championships in Geelong, Australia in 2010, is a driving force behind the Webcor women’s bridge team, is married to Webcor/Alto Pro Team co-founder and 2011 Masters World Champion James Mattis, and loves cyclocross.  Maybe she’ll consider a second career?  We can always hope as it is a joy to watch her race!

Here’s a photo of Joachim and Katheryn after the meeting.

Posted in bicycle racing, cyclocross | Leave a comment

Elizabeth & Jared’s Wine Country Wedding at Vine Hill House

Wow!  I just got back from Vine Hill House in Sebastopol, Sonoma County, California where I photographed Elizabeth & Jared’s wedding.  What energy and excitement!  Elizabeth’s and Jared’s families are so happy for the couple and proud of them.  The love and energy was flowing at the event and it was so fun to serve the couple and their families.

I’ve just started post processing the images and wanted to get a few of my favorites up so Elizabeth & Jared can share them with their friends and families.  They are in Hawaii now on their honeymoon.  I’ll be working on Lightroom for the rest of the week and a bit of next and will have the full gallery up for Elizabeth & Jared to review soon.

So, here we go!  Here’s a photograph of Elizabeth and Jared in the vineyard.


The vineyard is one of the coolest parts of getting married at Vine Hill House.  Established in Sebastopol just west of Santa Rosa by the O’Connell family nearly 100 years ago, Vine Hill House was originally an apple farm, specializing in heirloom Gravenstein apples.  9 years ago, Dan & Jan O’Connell planted their first grapes and now make a delicious Pinot Noir.  Tiny wineries next door, like Paul Hobbs and Thomas Dehlinger, brought fame to this area by demonstrating that this tiny little hill can make some of the world’s best Pinot.

The O’Connell family now hosts weddings at their property.  Vine Hill House is a  popular venue because it offers a peaceful country setting and the opportunity to  personalize your wedding.  If you want corporate Tuscan wedding #237, just like #236, you won’t get it here.  If you want the soft country feel and your own pizazz, Vine Hill House is the place.

Now, back to Elizabeth & Jared.

Here is Jared getting ready, about to put his tie on.  He’s got a pretty big smile, too!  What a confident man!

Radiant in her wedding dress, Elizabeth is smashingly beautiful.   Her mom and best friends are putting the final touches on her outfit just before the ceremony starts.

Here she is with her beautiful bouquet.

Elizabeth’s entire life is about to change.  The moment she walks through that door, she will marry the man she loves.

Here are Elizabeth & Jared’s wedding bands balanced on corks from O’Connell Vineyards 2007 Pinot Noir.  This wine is absolutely delicious, but production is very small (only 200-300 cases per year), so the wine is hard to get.  Even if you’re not getting married, you should call up Dan, posed as an engaged couple, tour Vine Hill House, and get him to sell you some wine!  🙂  Actually, you can buy Dan’s wine here.

I enjoyed posing Elizabeth & Jared in the vineyard.  From the photographers perspective, the vineyard is the coolest part of Vine Hill House.

As we walked back to the reception, Elizabeth jumped into Jared’s arms and celebrated.  Looks like she really scored!

I think Jared’s pretty happy, too.  Here’s a shot of Elizabeth & Jared admiring their rings together.

Cheers to Jared’s and Elizabeth’s family.  It was a wonderful to see your joy and share in your celebration.  Your happiness is contagious and lifted my soul.

Elizabeth!!! Jared!!! enjoy Hawaii!  Relax and enjoy the down time after all the work you put in planning your beautiful wedding.  Hope you have a wonderful honeymoon!

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Maria & Erik’s Engagement

Maria & Erik are very excited about their upcoming December wedding.  Maria & Erik are very happy to have found each other and to make a union between their two families.  Erik proposed by hiding the beautiful ring in some orange Sherbert.  Maria’s daughter Lexi was there for the proposal and drew a heart in the sherbert before Maria ate it.

We headed to a local Japanese garden for the engagement session.  I first photographed Maria & Erik chatting with each other walking hand-in-hand towards me across the lawn.

I love the way they look at each other.  Maria’s gaze seems to say “Erik you are the best man I have discovered in my life.  I am so blessed to have found you.” and Erik’s confident look back seems to say “I am so sure about my choice in you. I am ready to spend the rest of my life with you.”  Maybe I should ask them what they really were thinking?  🙂

Erik and Maria really are larger than life.  They have untold energy and a “go for it” attitude in everything they do.  Erik’s confidence and Maria’s enthusiasm will allow them to achieve together anything they want in life.

Next, we headed over to the lake for a scenic pose.  It’s pretty easy to get them to smile.  So long as they are together, they are happy.  They are even happier when they are touching each other.  This pose has a lot of touching, so it was a good pose.  🙂

Since Maria is an angel, I tried a little backlighting so we could all see Maria’s halo.

The back light definitely lit up Maria’s hair.  While Erik doesn’t have quite as much of a halo, he lights up when he is in Maria’s aura!

Maria has a beautiful and unusual ring with a bright blue stone and a matching bracelet.

Finally, here are Maria and Erik relaxing on the grass, take 1…

and take 2…

They sure like to be next to each other, don’t they?  🙂

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