Archive for September, 2012

The Dalesman

September 26, 2012

Words: Claire Read  Photos: Sam Needham

On June 21, 1960, the letters page of Cycling magazine featured a letter from WH Paul. Mr Paul – William to his friends, Bill to close ones – was founder of the Rough-Stuff Fellowship, an organisation dedicated to off-road riding but strictly opposed to racing anywhere other than on tarmac. Turned out he’d got wind of the plan to run a cyclo-cross race over Yorkshire’s three highest peaks and was not impressed. Actually he was nothing short of “dismayed” that a route he regularly rode was to be turned into “another race route, possibly 100 riders riding, running, jumping and stumbling in a mad scramble to be the first across.”

A few weeks later, the magazine published a response to Mr Paul’s letter. It was from Mr John Rawnsley of Bradford RCC, the club planning to organise the event. In reassuring tones, he argues that there is absolutely no risk of 100 racing cyclists hitting the Peaks, in part because “we very much doubt if there are 30 riders in the country who will be prepared to climb three 2,500 foot mountains in just under four hours, with a total distance of 25 miles.”

John Rawnsley is a man of many talents but I guess clairvoyance isn’t one of them. To be fair, back in 1960 it was probably unimaginable that the Three Peaks Cyclo-Cross race would continue into the next century and attract 600 riders each year. But it did and it does and Sunday 30 September, 2012 will see the 50th edition of what has always (accurately) been billed as the toughest ‘cross race on the calendar.

The concept is simple enough: traverse the peaks of Ingleborough (723 metres), Whernside (736 metres) and Pen-y-Ghent (694 metres). The execution is anything but, both for the organisers and for the competitors. Nowadays the route is 38 miles long – 17 of them on the road, 21 unsurfaced, three to five unrideable. Only ‘cross bikes with drop handlebars are permitted. WH Paul’s vision of hundreds of riders running, jumping and scrambling ultimately wasn’t far off the mark.

But for the first year at least, concerns of a mass of riders disturbing the peace of the Peaks were unfounded (though even then John had slightly underestimated – 35 competitors lined up rather than 30). One of those at the start line on Sunday 1 October, 1961, was a Martin ‘Ginger’ Garwood. A 27-year-old plumber, he hailed from Clapham in London and had made a 480 mile round trip to compete. It was the first time he had seen the Yorkshire Dales or taken part in a mountain race and it all came as a bit of a shock.

“We do a bit of riding down there you know, but this is different,” he told a journalist after the race. “It’s more of an endurance test.” Despite this and a few trips over the handlebars, Ginger finished third overall. He was asked whether he’d be back the following year. “It’ll need a bit of thinking about,” he said.

Extract from issue 34, coming soon.

Award Tour

September 20, 2012

Words: Sam Butler Photos: Chris Linaker

Ronan McLaughlin of AnPost – Sean Kelly has spent the best part of his day in a four man break. Soaked to the skin after enduring the worst weather that the North West could muster, he happily accepts the stage’s combativity award, and steps down from the podium to hand his prize to his soigneur. The swanny gives Ronan and I a withering look.

“Oh, more cheese.”

The fridge of their team bus would now be packed to the hilt with giant artisan cheeses from Norfolk and Lancashire, courtesy of the breakaway exploits of Niels Wytinck and McLaughlin. No room for isotonic drinks and energy bars. For the rest of the Tour, the boys would be fuelled purely by cheese, their food bags bulging with great lumps of the stuff… perhaps. Just as likely is that 6kg of Mrs. Kirkham’s Lancashire was deposited into a bin shaped like a happy dolphin, somewhere along the Blackpool seafront.

***

Awarding each stage’s most combative rider with a frankly impractical amount of local cheese was the brainchild of one Ian Cleverly. The staff at Rouleur Towers were rapturous in their adoration of the idea. In our enthusiasm, little thought was given to the consequences of ferrying over 30 kgs of cheese across the Great British mainland. All became clear when I arrived at The Cheeseboard, one of London’s finest cheese shops, to collect our quarry. The problem with 30kg of cheese is two-fold. Firstly, 30kg is very heavy, and secondly, this particular selection of cheeses was very, very, smelly.

Throughout the week, our cargo got lighter and lighter as we dispensed the prizes to Bobridge, Basso et al. The aroma that was developing in and around our van was another matter entirely. The Law of Sod had dictated that the main olfactory offender would stay with us until the final stage finish in Guildford.

IG Sigma-Sport’s Simon Richardson collected the Combativity Award on the final day of his pro career on Stage 8, taking home a wicker basket of weapons-grade Hampshire Tunworth. Our coolbox still contains an aggressively pungent odour, and I fear is now only fit for the incinerator. Simon, I hope your fridge does not meet with a similar fate. If it does, blame Ian.

The Tunworth: Hell in a Handbasket

As I made my way back through the team’s car park to the Rouleur van, now blissfully empty but for the lingering scent of ripe fromage, I passed Samuel Sánchez, the Combativity Award winner from Stage 7. Recognising the Rouleur logo on my t-shirt, he paused his post-race routine to thank me for the cheese. “It’s good!” he said. “We are having it on the bus now.” Glad to hear it. Should he pull on the rainbow jersey on Sunday, it’ll be all thanks to a sizable portion of Beenleigh Blue.

Vélo Readings

September 20, 2012

Courtesy of Jack Thurston, a couple of readings from Vélo by the author, Paul Fournel.

 

“Longchamp”

An inopportune meeting with a dog leads to a unique vantage point to watch the conclusion of Paris-Roubaix.

 

“Stroke of Genius” / “Miracle”

An appreciation of Pierre Michaux’s original design, and the thrill of first learning to ride.

 

Vélo is available now from the Rouleur shop.

Carbon, Carbon Everywhere…

September 7, 2012

Words: Guy Andrews and Rohan Dubash

Nothing wrong with that, really. But it wasn’t the first time at Eurobike a notable brand manager said to me that they wished the product cycle was two years and not annual – Such is the relentless push to sell more bikes. Eurobike is a huge, gargantuan beast of a show that is impossible for the average bike journalist to get around in one day. So we head over for three or four days to set up the next year of product launches, factory visits and just to meet old friends. It’s a dirty job and all that.

Walking around the show this year with regular Rouleur technical contributor Rohan Dubash was a complex but enlightening experience. Rohan’s insight and opinion is steeped in many decades of cycling knowledge – I really have no idea where he stores it all – the facts and figures of frames, builders, components and technologies. Stuff that you remember when he says it, but you’d lost somewhere along the way. ‘Fail’ is a word he uses readily. Be it bar tape wrapping, cable routing or paint finishing, the sentence “That’s a fail” was one that highlighted many stands, even in the sacred Italian Hall.

As a result our ‘bike of the show’ award wasn’t really an idea we kept with for long, it seems that most manufacturers aren’t innovating as much as previous years and tweaking colours and component specs doesn’t really amount to much ‘news’. The Cielo cross bike and Canyon’s new TT rig was as close as we got to being really excited about a bike… (If you want to see more head to road.cc they have piles of new bike pics.)

However, in between meetings, we found ourselves being attracted to the more weird and wonderful stuff that makes cycle shows such a pleasure. We had our ‘Heart on a Stick’ cocktail stick and an ice cream shovel as Rohan’s very own Rouleur awards (the heart is a good thing and the shovel a fail), we promise to take it more seriously next time.

And, anyway, you’ve probably read all about the new bikes already, no?

Some traditions at Eurobike never change. The Kelly Bikes stand was a constant source of attention as the body painting commenced. Can’t remember much, if anything about their bikes, which goes for most of the show’s visitors I suspect…I also can’t remember if we awarded a couple of girls having their boobs painted a ‘Heart on a Stick’ or ice cream shovel so I think they should get both.

We had to award Spongebob Squarepants (and his pal) the Rouleur Euro-like ‘Heart on a Stick’ seal of approval simply because we love slightly cheesy cycle accessories and who doesn’t love Spongebob?

Chris King, manufacturer of the worlds finest headsets, not to mention hubs, bottom brackets and some beautiful bikes, was one of the most worthy recipients of the Rouleur ‘Heart on a Stick’ for his determination to fix his broken coffee grinder. He persevered for over 15 minutes un-blocking the machine so that we all got a quality caffeine fix…Cheers Chris!

At last a unique idea! This simple pedal from Ali @ Moto was perfectly executed. An ex Pro BMXer, looking to make his way as a manufacturer, Ali managed to turn out this elegant, functional pedal that mixes skateboard technology with street riding. He started out with limited resources but we were very impressed and wish him well… www.motobicycles.com

Guy (Rouleur Ed) confessed his weakness for vending machines whilst walking round Friedrichshafen one evening. This exhibit on the Schwalbe stand brought a smile to his face. Given the meteoric rise of popularity of cycling in the UK how long ’til we see one of these in every town?

Rouleur’s ‘Heart on a Stick’ was also awarded to  the return of SRAM’s grip shift. You’ve got to love the simplicity of the design and it always reminds me of my old Raleigh Grifter whenever I see or ride a bike with these on.

An instant winner of a ‘Heart on a Stick’… I can’t believe it took so long for someone to do this and market the idea. This imaginative fitting can be mounted to virtually any bike sporting an a-headset and immediately converts a ‘dead space’ into something rather more useful. Lots of potential we think for alternative inserts. Micro Garmin perhaps ?

We had to award our Eurobike seal of approval not just to one product but to Wheels Manufacturing who have carved something of a niche for themselves.  Supplier of many quality parts their bearing removal and press systems are things of beauty and their range of replacement dérailleur gear hangers and identification wall chart indispensable in any quality bicycle retailer’s workshop. Tea towel anyone?

Oh dear… the first (and only) recipient of Rouleur’s Euro-Fail ice cream shovel was this De Rosa Merak. Complete with typo and indifferent cable management issues not to mention the moody paint finish. Our hearts broke a little when we spotted this.

Alpine Challenge, Stage 3: Lost and Found

September 7, 2012

Words: Ian Cleverly Photos: Karin Schermbrucker 

It was always going to be a struggle hanging in with the big boys. Halfway through today’s stage I found myself in no man’s land, adrift of the front runners but ahead of the four or five guys climbing at my pace.

A kindly motorcycle marshal manned a T-junction, sensibly positioned in the shade. Wearing sunglasses and without the benefit of my prescription lenses, I could discern no noticeable direction being indicated. Right, and more grunting climbing to tackle. Left, and a swooping downhill.

It had to be left. Tucked down low and swooping to the valley below, the relief in my aching legs was bliss. Just a shame it was totally the wrong direction…

There were no other cyclists at the foot of the climb, just me. An utterly depressing retrace to the now abandoned junction, the remainder of the ascent to be tackled, then a short wait for group 2 to poll up and I was back on track.

My phone rang shortly after, one of the organisation concerned that one of their charges has been mislaid (they noticed – so soon!). I assured them I was safely ensconced with the following peloton and was not on the road to Switzerland. One more stiff climb and we hit the lunch stop.

“I hear you’ve been lost,” says one of the group leaders. No, says I. It was merely a brief diversion. All is good.

Just as we are leaving, my roomie, John, appears at the head of group three, broad grin: “So where have you been? We hear you’ve been lost.”

Again: no, I say. It was nothing. Really. News travels fast.

We get back to Annecy at a fair lick, the speed suiting my rapidly atrophying muscles rather better than the keen boys of the morning.

A woman helpfully unloads our mussettes from the van, calling out the numbers as she does so. “Number 62,” she hollers. I step forward to collect. She focuses once again on that number. “Oh, you’re the guy that was lost earlier…”

Can we settle this once and for all? At NO time was I lost. It was a simple error that anyone could have made. It just happened to be me. Let us speak no more of the matter.

Ian is the Managing Editor of Rouleur and has a notoriously poor sense of direction.

www.thealpinechallenge.com

Alpine Challenge – Le Groupement

September 6, 2012

Words: Ian Cleverly Photos: Matthew Alexander

There are 200 or so cyclists of varying abilities milling around at the foot of the Col de Leschaux outside Annecy awaiting instructions. The plan is that we will set off up the mountain in small groups to be seeded, the gently ascending 488 metres being enough to work out which of the four groups we will spend the remaining three stages in.

Looking around, I figure that group three is probably about the right level, group two at a push. There are plenty of younger, fitter-looking riders here, with tanned calves and flashy Pinarellos. I know my place.

But then that age-old problem kicks in. There is a number on my back. Any notion that it would make sense to bumble up the climb in a relaxed style and join a slower moving group for the next three days is forgotten within seconds of leaving the start.

I could blame the two Dutch guys who set off at a reasonable lick, nattering away all the while, a determined Englishman glued to their back wheels. One of them was 6’7” at a guess. Maybe taller. I drafted for all I was worth, eyes fixed on his number, showing his name and the Dutch flag alongside. Jurgen is my new favourite Dutchman. Pacer and sunshade rolled into one.

So I reach the finish in a reasonable time. We await the calling out of names. Group one comes first, so I tune out, then tune in.

“…Ian Cleverly”.

Oh bugger. Three more days of suffering with Stephen Roche and Dean Downing, then. Me and my bloody competitive nature.

www.thealpinechallenge.com