Archive for August, 2013

Going Backwards to Move Forwards

August 30, 2013

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Words and photos: Guy Andrews

In almost two decades the Eurobike show has grown exponentially. Each year it’s got a new hall, a new car park and a new restaurant, it seems that Eurobike built the Messe at Friedrichshafen because it’s pretty certain that the bike industry’s visit is the only fair that could fill the place – and it’s immense.

The constant struggle to launch ‘new’ product has, I think it’s fair to say, ground to a halt. Okay, maybe not a complete halt, but a simmer at least. Engineers will tell you that technology can only be refined so much: after a while, change is for change’s sake and then the industry becomes all about fashion and marketing, rather than function. But brands will always tell you that they need a story. No changes to report is not a story anyone wants to hear.

Once the UCI has made up it’s mind on disc brakes things will certainly speed up again. Most seem well prepared for it and for ‘cross I suspect it will be accepted across the board for this season’s racing. For the road, though, the idea of having to buy a completely new frame and wheels to facilitate discs may not be the best news, especially if you’ve only just ordered a new one for electronic.

That is not to say that there haven’t been any improvements, but we’ve properly arrived at the thin end of a huge wedge here. Appraisals of existing designs will always be, but the next step for bicycle design isn’t going to be huge. Gone are the days of massive improvements to things – so where next?

I believe bike product ranges could definitely do with being trimmed down and my hope is that quality could then improve. That would be really good for the consumer.

It’s not to say that the bike industry isn’t in rude health, because it is. It’s just that new ideas for improving our lot are pretty thin on the ground. For example, Specialized and De Rosa had new bikes made from – guess what? – aluminium, that wonder material that was discarded like a shitty stick by most the minute carbon landed in the bike world. So just as they have discovered a way to recycle the black stuff, maybe we’re heading back towards metal again…

We usually come away from a bike show with a couple of must-haves on our shopping list and this year, De Rosa have done it again.

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De Rosa’s Sessanta. Limited edition, but for how long?

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Disc brakes – coming ready or not

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Shimano’s enormous levers, not quite as enormous as SRAM

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Aero brakes may be a flash in the pan, but Look’s are the neatest

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Non-leather saddle from Brooks, suitable for vegans and rainy countries

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Rivets and a plastic base, new for Brooks…

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 TRP and Tektro have a huge roster of disc stoppers

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Through axles won’t be very welcome for wheel changes in the pro peloton

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SRAM’s lever may be hefty but the calipers are neat

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Look Keo Blades get a rework

Biarritz

August 29, 2013

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Words: Pedro Horrillo Photos: Timm Kölln

André Darrigade was an all-terrain guy and his offensiveness was one of his greatest virtues. He didn’t settle for knowing that arriving in the pack meant you had the upper hand; he provoked the breakaway himself when necessary.

But above all he was a gentleman, an elegant rider who respected his rivals and won the respect of all of them.

You only have to see the admiration with which he speaks about his fellow riders as he turns the pages of his photo albums.

“I came to Biarritz by chance,” he tells us. “After I retired I immersed myself in the media distribution business; first for my hometown of Les Landes and then I went further afield. That’s how I ended up in Biarritz.

“Later on, as well as this business, we opened the Darrigade bookshop next to the casino beach.

“We painted it red in honour of the local rugby team’s colours. Now it’s my son that runs the business, as well as the media distribution that started it all.

“I happened to be here at the same time as the Bobet brothers Jean and Louison, Bretons by birth but Biarrots by adoption. Louison was the first to win three Tours de France and in two of those wins we were team-mates on the French team.”

Rivals at times, team-mates at other times but always friends, they would say.

“They built the Miramar Hotel, that one there [he points to the building that can be seen from the window.]

“By the way, the great Louison died there in ’83, may he rest in peace. Cycling introduced us and brought us together and life led us both to the same place. Now the Miramar belongs to a hotel chain.”

Almost unintentionally we talk about the terrible fall that André suffered during the last stage of the ’58 Tour.

On the last lap of the Parc des Princes velodrome, where that edition of the Tour was to finish, the general secretary of the park ran across the grass to stop photographers getting onto the track.

André collided with him and both were seriously injured. Constants Wouters died 11 days later while André, who suffered serious fractures to his skull and ribs, was taken to the infirmary.

Incredibly – and quite recklessly by today’s standards – he had enough strength to come out onto the track completely wrapped up in bandages to do the lap of honour and personally congratulate that year’s flamboyant Tour winner Charly Gaul.

Later he was taken to hospital where he spent the night in a coma.

As our time in Monsieur Darrigade’s house draws to a close he takes the opportunity to talk about the current state of cycling, roused by the presence of an ex-professional rider as opposed to a journalist.

“What do you make of Cavendish? Seems like a great rider but the sprints nowadays are so different… And how much faith can you put in carbon bikes?

“The fact that the bike weighed so little never gave me much confidence… And what language do they speak in the pack nowadays? The current riders have such strange nationalities compared to the old days.”

In my role as interviewer I’m as surprised as I am grateful for the good feeling André leaves me with.

“You and I were cyclists,” he tells me, “and in spite of the years that separate us, we have so many shared experiences.”

Extract from issue 28

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Podcast: Issue 41

August 28, 2013

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Columnist Matt Seaton and Managing Editor Ian Cleverly meet in cyberspace to dissect the latest issue of Rouleur with Jack Thurston. They talk about Il Piratas track team from Barcelona, continuity and change in road racing, Alchemy custom carbon bikes and Robert Millar’s debut column calling time on the stealth black look.

The Rouleur podcast is brought to you by Mosquito Bikes, London’s custom made bicycle specialists and stockists of framesets by world-renowned framebuilder Dario Pegoretti. Dario works exclusively with heat-treated Columbus Niobium Spirit tubing: music to the ears of new Rouleur columnist Robert Millar, a Pegoretti fan. Mosquito is at 123 Essex Road, London N1 2SN and on the web at mosquito-bikes.co.uk.

Issue 41

Merckx: Photographs from a Family Album

August 23, 2013

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Words: Paul Fournel

We know that this album belonged to a Monsieur Lecouf, but that is all we know. Who was this Lecouf?

He was Belgian, it seems. But was it him who took the pictures… or did he just collect them? Was he close to Eddy?

Or was he simply another race fan, one of those devoted Tour lovers who runs across fields and climbs mountains just to snatch a photo or grab a racer’s cap still damp with sweat?

And like Monsieur Lecouf, how many children, teenagers and grown-ups glued pictures of Eddy into scrapbooks like this one?

These photos seem to have been taken with a Kodak Instamatic, a very popular camera in 1971. They are shot on colour film, which is lucky because 1971 was a brightly coloured year for Eddy.

At the start of the season, he shed the red jersey of Faema for the rusty merino of Molteni, his new home.

Molteni is a family of amateur racing cyclists that found fortune and glory in the world of fine Italian meat products and who sponsored one of the finest and most successful professional cycling teams of the era.

Their jersey, made by Vittore Gianni, was simple and elegant: a rare tan colour with black stripes and cuffs.

“Molteni’s jersey was brown and black, dour and intense,” writes Kadir Guirey. “Far more representative of Merckx’s introspective and enigmatic racing nature.” And it cut through the peloton screaming.

At the end of a long journey, and through a chance buy at an auction, the album is now in the hands of cyclist and collector Guirey, who keeps it safe in London.

It is a small part of many passions: the passion for Merckx of course, but also the passion for both iconic and candid mages of Merckx, a passion for the many Merckx fanatics, the simple passion for bicycle racing and the history of the bicycle… a passion for cycling culture.

This is not just a collection of photographs, it is a collection of memories.

L’Album d’Eddy goes on sale today in the Rouleur shop. You can buy it here.

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Extract from L’Album d’Eddy; photos extracted from issue 8

Björn With It

August 15, 2013

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Words: Andy McGrath Photos: Offside

“I had these questions since I was born,” Björn Thurau says.

Axel Merckx and Nicolas Roche have had the same ones, Hervé Duclos-Lasalle too.

They are destined to labour under inflated expectations and tiring comparisons to their fathers. As if being a cycling great’s offspring should mean superiority conferred through DNA.

Dietrich Thurau was a blonde angel, a handsome Tour debutant whose star was launched sky-high when he won five stages and wore the yellow jersey for a fortnight in 1977.

Thurau won Liège-Bastogne-Liège and GP Zurich before the Seventies were out, but made mistakes and fell out of Heaven. He was caught for doping several times.

Last year, he was fined 39,900 euros for embezzlement; he was also convicted of forgery and assaulting a taxi driver in the Nineties.

None of this seemed to blight Björn’s beginnings. His first race was as a 10 year old in his home city of Frankfurt. “It was a nice thing to be doing. You had no stress, you could just ride,” he recalls.

The other kids would mark the son of the famous cyclist in the early years, not that he minded much. Dietrich was in the background, pushing him to succeed.

“I think we’re a little bit different. I’m more easygoing. He’s stressed: when he was with me in small races in juniors, all the time he had a bit of stress.”



Did Björn tell him to stop pushing? “Sometimes. But when you are a young rider, you cannot say much to your father. He’s your boss.”

Now, Dietrich is a tennis coach, helping Björn’s younger brother Urs to succeed on the ATP Tour in the future.

Björn only had eyes for the professional ranks. Dietrich tried to stop him.

It was too soon, he should learn a trade. And Dietrich knew what he would face: doping paraphernalia.

“I warned him ‘stay clear of it’,” he told Neue Westfalische last year.

Björn signed a contract with a UCI team in Switzerland in his first year as a senior.

“I go my way, whether that’s the wrong way, I can’t know, that’s my life. We spoke a little bit about it. I can do what I want, eh?” he says now.

The next few years were a struggle. A supposed contract with Footon-Servetto evaporated into thin air in the winter of 2009.

He spent two years scrapping to get back to the top tier with small German squads until Jean-René Bernaudeau offered him a contract with Europcar for 2012.

“I can make the next step, that’s important for me,” he says.

Now 25 years old, the next step is pushing on in the small stage races and Classics. Björn is of a different cut to his father: a six foot four powerhouse passionate about the spring’s cobbled one-day races.

Perhaps daddy “Didi” is a little out of touch with modern cycling too.

“He doesn’t see the new cycling is different to old cycling. He can’t understand why I rode 100 kilometres on the front for another rider.”

“I’m a team player and back then, there were very few of those. In modern cycling, you need a team.”

Björn has few results of which to speak yet. When we talk, he is sore about his recent bad luck at the Tour of Wallonia.

He made the decisive breakaway and was sat fifth overall till a crash nine kilometres from the end of the last stage skittled him down the GC. It would probably have eased contract negotiations for 2014.

Part of the dichotomy between new and old cycling, does he find the treatment from the German media fair, that the current generation suffers for the mistakes of the past?

“It makes me angry because we are a new generation. We are not the same, they made the mistake.”

“The problem of the German journalists is they focus just on cycling. It’s not fair to say cycling only has this problem with doping, it’s in all sports.”

The family name and father-son comparisons will stick, but this Thurau is happily doing it his own way, chasing his dream of victory in Paris-Roubaix.

MORCENX/BORDEAUX

Masahiko Mifune

August 6, 2013

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Words: Guy Andrews Photos: Taz Darling

Masahiko Mifune is a pioneer. In more ways than one it’s a long way from Oudenaarde to Massa’s hometown of Okayama, but Belgium is where Massa plied his trade as a professional rider for nearly ten years.

He rode for nine seasons from 1995 and competed in more than 700 races as a pro, starting out with Belgian-based British team FS Maestro, then Belgian squad Tönissteiner-Saxon (later Tönissteiner-Colnago) and finally with another Belgian team, Landbouwkrediet-Colnago, until he returned to Japan in 2003.

Victories for team riders like Massa are rare, and he knew most of the races he entered would mean sacrifice for a greater good.

It was only when he came back to his home country that he would win, landing the Japanese cyclo-cross title among many other victories.

I find it surprising that road cycling is so small here when the roads are so good.
“Until recently, cycling in Japan was only the keirin, so it only meant gambling and it is not considered a sport by many. We have keirin, speedboat racing, and of course horse racing.

If I said five years ago, ‘I’m a professional cyclist,’ they would think I was a keirin racer. Only recently have people started to recognise road racing.

When you are a kid and a really strong cyclist, your parents want you to become a keirin rider and make money. You don’t make money on the road.

I was never interested in the keirin. My dream was to become a road pro in Europe. My father thought I was crazy.”

What inspired your dream?
“It was the Tour de France in the beginning – ’83, Laurent Fignon. Then I was just riding – not in competition, just riding. After I saw the Tour, I thought, 
I will do this.”

So how did you know your talent would be enough? Were you much better than everyone else in Japan?
“I did not know. I promised my father if I got top ten in the junior category, I would go. Every day I was up at five, motor pacing behind the car with my father driving.

Three hours on the bike in the morning, then I went to high school. Then 100km after school. Every day, 200km.

At the junior Ronde van Vlaanderen, I was in the first group, but it had already split because of the wind. I lost but I learned how to ride in the wind and eventually got top-20 finishes and prize money.

My father helped me financially for the first two years, but after that I had to win to make money.”

But you say that you spent five years 
in Holland?
“Five years, and then almost ten years in Belgium. So for the first five years I was an amateur, and the next ten years I was professional, in Europe. And the first two years, I was with a British team, Maestro.

It was in ’87 that I went to Holland – I was 18 years old. When I was 14, my dream was to be a professional road cyclist. So the first year when I went to Holland, it was just the beginning of my dream. I was very excited.”

And you didn’t mind being so far away from home?
“I never got homesick, no.”

It must have been a big culture shock?
“No, not big. Just small things. I mean, maybe I was a little bit crazy – I was always thinking about only cycling, not the big differences between Japan and Europe, only bicycle things which are the same all over.”

So how difficult was it for you to break through in Europe, being Japanese?
“In the beginning? I think the big difference is for mindset for the racing. In Japan, if we get a very good result, we only get a certificate – you know, of congratulation – but in Europe, as a junior, you get prize money.

So everyone’s very hungry in Europe to get prize money: it was almost like fighting. But in Japan, never, because it was only winning paper.”

So there’s more hunger to win in Europe, you think?
“Maybe. The races in Holland are very dangerous in the beginning because everyone’s fighting. The first four or five miles, I was already a little bit afraid of crashing or something.

Actually, many times I was baulked and crashed and lost, but then later I was maybe the same as the Dutch guys, so I got more prize money and more results.”

And did they then not push you around so much?
“Sometimes maybe much more than another Dutch guy – but I had a lot 
of hunger.”

Extract from issue 23.

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Post Tour Meltdown And Other Fine Moments

August 1, 2013

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Words: Morten Okbo Photos: Jakob Kristian Sørensen

Tonight Dries is riding the criterium in Sint-Niklaas. This is only his second ever but it will also absolutely be his last, he says. Ever.

A couple of days ago in Herentals, Jurgen Van Den Broeck won, Petacchi came second and Ballan was supposed to secure third but got distracted and Devenyns overtook him on the line.

For a man with only 90 minutes of experience, Dries is exceptionally clear about what these criteriums are made of and gives a fine analysis:

“Actually, it all went wrong. McEwen was there and he was supposed to do the final but our communication got mixed up. Van Den Broeck was going to win, of course. He is Belgian and did a good Tour. The home favourite.

“Second was to be Petacchi and third Ballan. But Ballan didn’t know what place he had to take. And I was there and had more speed. I mean, he was going so slow, nobody would have believed it.

“Anyway, it’s all about number one. All the towns try to get the big names, you know, to get the big crowds. That’s the meaning of it all. You can tell by our racing numbers in what order we are supposed to finish.”

So for anybody out there who didn’t know this: the crits are a fix. A scam. They race for money and that’s all they race for.

The big names will make as much as €25-30,000 a night doing a whole string of them at the end of July and well into August. Some riders double a year’s salary in just one month.

A colleague once argued that the reason France hasn’t had a world champion in almost 20 years is because the top French riders are busy making dough in August and, in so doing, lose all the form they might have accumulated during the Tour.

This, the argument goes, makes them worthless come September and the World Championships.

Of course no one is fooled by the criteriums around here. This isn’t France, it’s Belgium. People here are willingly cheering but they all know these races are fixed.

In other places across Europe the crowd thinks it’s real. But here people take it for what it is: good clean family entertainment you can’t trust.

When asked who the winner will be tonight in Sint-Niklaas, Dries says he’ll know once he’s in the locker room. “Some local guy, of course.”

He shakes his head.

This is an extract from Rouleur 40, out now

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