Posts Tagged ‘jack thurston’

Podcast: Issue 40

July 24, 2013


Editor Guy Andrews and Managing Editor Ian Cleverly chew over the latest issue of Rouleur with Jack Thurston. On the menu is the gravel racing at the Tour of Battenkill, behind the scenes at Milan-Sanremo, the remarkable rise of Chris Froome and a whole lot more cycle sport blather besides.

The Rouleur podcast is brought to you by Mosquito Bikes, London’s custom made bicycle specialists. Ready to ride at Mosquito Bikes are the latest Alchemy bicycles. Their fully custom carbon Arion is the winner of best carbon bike two years running at NAHBS and is available exclusively in the UK at Mosquito Bikes, 123 Essex Road, London N1 2SN or on the web at

Issue 40


June 26, 2013


Words: Jack Thurston Illustrations: Jo Burt

Mountains possess a dangerous allure – that stomach-churning sense of foreboding when you first glimpse the dark slab of rock looming above as you approach along the valley floor.

Squinting, peering up at the summit ridge, so far away, so far up, you say to yourself, “Yes, that’s where I’m going.” You then look down and think, “But these legs, can they get me there? Can they?”

Whether you are an elite racer or cyclotouriste, riding up a mountain means riding on the edge. Hit it too hard, raise your effort beyond your body’s limits and you’re certain to blow up.

Once you crack, there’s no coming back – just a new definition of pain as you struggle around every hairpin, every turn of the pedals demanding a monumental effort. Nowhere to run to, nowhere to hide.

So you try to find a rhythm, a perfect beat. You stay in the saddle and stroke the pedals. Keeping your arms wide, hands on the outside of the brake hoods, you open up those lungs and breathe deeply.

You’re desperate to take in more air. It’s getting thinner every minute. Don’t grimace, don’t frown: it will cost you energy and, what’s more, it will show the world how much you’re hurting.

Slowly, imperceptibly, as you advance onwards and upwards, your awareness draws in closer around you.

You follow the wheel ahead, or the white lines on the road, dash-dash-dash, a meaningless Morse code leading you onwards, upwards. Wisely, you don’t look up at the ridge to see how far is still to go.

Instead you look down at your sweat dripping on to the bars; you feel it saturating your eyebrows, salt stinging your eyes. Your lungs are two great bellows, filled with doubt. Why can’t I take in more oxygen, why are my legs so hungry, why is my mouth so dry?

Climbing brings a simplicity and a purity to road racing. On flatter terrain where speeds are so much greater, the laws of aerodynamics come into play, shaping the peloton into bunches and echelons, requiring riders to work together.

In the mountains, gravity is the enemy, not wind, and each rider knows that ultimately he will ride alone.

Extract from issue 17.

Podcast: Issue 39

June 6, 2013

In an edition of the podcast recorded entirely in the Welsh Borders, Jack Thurston talks to photographer Robert Wyatt about his first bike racing assigment, following Russell Downing at the 3 Days of De Panne. Ned Boulting talks about his interview with Chris Froome, hot favourite for this year’s Tour de France. Also in the mix, Speedplay pedals, Henri Desgrange and the beauty of ugly riding.

The Rouleur podcast is brought to you by Mosquito Bikes, London’s custom made bicycle specialists. The latest summer collection from french clothing company Cafe Du Cycliste is now available in the shop and online. Designed on the Cote D’Azur and manufactured from the latest Sportwool blends, Cafe Du Cycliste brings together performance and style in one package. Mosquito is at 123 Essex Road, London N1 2SN or on the web at

Issue 39

Podcast: Issue 38

April 30, 2013

At 260 pages long, issue 38 is being cursed by sore-backed posties up and down the nation. The accompanying podcast is a big ‘un too, nudging the hour mark. Joining host Jack Thurston for a feast of Italian cycle sport, the Bath Road 100, and much else besides are assistant editor Andy McGrath and writer Michael Breckon.

Issue 38

The Rouleur podcast is brought to you by Mosquito Bikes, London’s custom made bicycle specialists. New into Mosquito bikes are frames from Daniel Merenyi, Dario Pegoretti’s only apprentice. His frames ooze the knowledge Dario collated making Marco Pantani’s race bikes. Available in custom geometry made from the latest Columbus lightweight steel – Hungarian bikes with a dash of Italian flair. Mosquito is at 123 Essex Road, London N1 2SN or on the web at

L’Enfer du Nord

April 3, 2013

Words: Jack Thurston Photos: Ben Ingham

Riding in the Panasonic team car after abandoning the mudbath of the 1985 edition of the race, dazed and confused, drunk with pain, Theo de Rooy put it with typical Dutch directness:

“It’s bollocks, this race, it’s a whole pile of shit. You’re working like an animal, you don’t have the time to piss and you wet your pants. You’re riding in mud like this and you’re slipping. It’s a pile of shit – you must clean yourself otherwise you will go mad.”

Asked if he would ever ride it again, de Rooy instantly replied, “Sure, it’s the most beautiful race in the world!”

Conceived in 1896 by a pair of canny Roubaix textile mill owners, the inaugural edition was held on Easter Sunday and intended as a loosener for Bordeaux-Paris – at the time the most prestigious race of the early season.

At around 300 kilometres, it was half the length of Bordeaux-Paris, but soon gained a diabolical reputation on account of the rough unpaved roads and cobblestone tracks that criss-crossed the fields and forests of the France’s northern borderlands. These borderlands become badlands when drenched and churned by the rain and the wind that sweep down from the North Sea.

The race has always courted controversy. Local clergy denounced La Pascale, the Easter race, as a distraction from religious observance. In those days road racing was a far less popular spectacle than races on the track, but the final laps were raced on the brand new velodrome, which brought in the crowds.

There were so many spectators that one section of stands collapsed under their weight. Soon, Northerners had adopted the race as their own.

The race draws on the raw character of the Northern expanses: a dour landscape of tough lives and hard times. These are great swathes of land, featureless but for lonely water towers, gloomy gothic steeples, collieries, blast furnaces and their mountains of slag.

The dark density of man-made volcanoes can drain the very light from the sky. If it is wet, brightly-coloured team jerseys surrender to the mud and the filth until each rider wears the same grim uniform. Cement grey – how fitting for the convicts of the road!

Within a few years, a special bond had formed between the brave riders and the locals who line the route. For the farm labourers, factory workers and miners at the turn of the century, the echoes of their own daily toil were all too obvious, but so too was the dignity and the pride.

It immediately became a favourite race for local heroes to try their luck. Roubaix-born Charles Crupelandt delighted the home crowd with wins in 1912 and 1914, achieving the second while turning a colossal gear of 24×7.

This land was their land but it was soon to bear witness to a terrible conflagration of mechanised death and destruction.

From that moment onwards the land would bear the memory of a generation of young men sent to kill and be killed, to rot in the trenches of the war they said would end all wars.

In 1919, six months after the Armistice, the race’s twentieth edition followed the line of the Western Front north of Arras and passed through the towns devastated by war.

Bomb craters and grim wreckage scarred fields that entombed the fallen millions. Shell-shattered buildings and trees formed ghostly silhouettes of destruction along the course of the route.

This apocalyptic scene was described by a journalist as L’Enfer du Nord – the Hell of the North – and the name stuck.


Extract from issue 9. Jack Thurston hosts The Bike Show on 104.4 Resonance FM.

Podcast: Issue 37

March 11, 2013

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Jack Thurston travels to Ludlow, foodie capital of the Welsh Marches, to talk about the terroir and heritage of the great bike races, with William Fotheringham, veteran cycling journalist, regular Rouleur columnist and author of best-selling biographies of Tom Simpson and Eddy Merckx. They discuss the strange attraction of the Arenberg Trench, Team Sky’s strategy for winning at this year’s cobbled classics, how the UCI is unwise to tamper too much with the established race calendar, and why it ought to be doing more to promote women’s bike racing.

Issue 37

The Rouleur podcast is brought to you by Mosquito Bikes, London’s custom made bicycle specialists. Mosquito Bikes is proud to announce that it is the UK’s first & exclusive retailer of Alchemy custom bicycles. You can see them in the flesh, along with all Mosquito’s other brands, at the Bespoked Bristol hand-built bicycle show show between the 12th-14th of April. Mosquito is at 123 Essex Road, London N1 2SN or on the web at

Sleep No More

December 1, 2011

Words: Jack Thurston  Photos: Wig Worland

By the third night, the roads are strewn with bodies. “It looks as though a serial killer has been on the loose, wantonly slaying cyclists and laying their bodies in a ritual manner at the side of the road,” says Kieron Yates, slurring into an audio recorder he carried while riding the 1,230km from Paris to the western tip of Brittany and back, in the company of the world’s toughest cyclists. “Occasionally they are covered with bin liners or a bit of matting, a silver survival blanket, as though a generous member of the public wanted to hide the bodies from the view of the other passing cyclists.”

The bodies are laid out on verges and pavements, in front gardens and parking lots, utterly exhausted cyclists who have finally given in to the overpowering urge to rest, to close their eyes and slip into unconsciousness. Yates, himself wired and fatigued, has drawn the obvious parallel: sleep and death are brothers, two takes on oblivion, each a simulacrum of the other. Sleep, the essential, quotidian negation of consciousness. Death, the final, inescapable and infinite sleep, the negation of life.

“When you start to feel that you’re actually falling asleep while riding; that’s when your tiredness is becoming dangerous,” says Pete Kelsey of the Willesden Cycling Club, tackling his first Paris-Brest-Paris. “That’s when you need to get off the bike, find some shelter – a park bench, any flat surface – and set your alarm for fifteen minutes. I wouldn’t normally find myself sprawled out at three o’clock in the morning on a garage forecourt, but you’ve entered a parallel universe and it seems normal… but it’s not normal.”

It is very far from normal. Wig Worland’s photographic account lays bare the nihilistic qualities of PBP, an almost unimaginably arduous journey through a featureless landscape of dull, rolling farmland (with over 9,000 metres of climbing, it is by no means flat) that ends where it begins. You have to ask the question: what kind of person subjects themselves to a race like this? What is going on in their exhausted, sleep-deprived minds? Motivations are hard to fathom and every rider is different, but there is something that unites them all: it is about going to the limit, and then some, but coming out alive. Which is greater, the mental challenge or the physical? After all the body can be trained to perform, but can the mind be trained to suffer?

On December 28, 1963, a 17-year-old Californian high school student by the name of Randy Gardner was the subject of a sleep deprivation experiment. He was also going for a new World Record for staying awake, setting a target of 264 hours, or eleven days. It remains unbroken as the longest documented case of staying awake. By the second day Randy was experiencing difficulty focusing his eyes. By the fourth, he had become irritable, suffered memory lapses, slurred speech and found it impossible to concentrate. He began to see things that weren’t there. Five days into his marathon of sleeplessness, he became convinced he was an NFL player and would get agitated with anyone who disputed this. By the ninth day Gardner was unable to finish his sentences, lost all facial expression and developed hand tremors and involuntary jerks in his upper arms. Keep laboratory rats awake for a fortnight and they will die. That could be why the Guinness World Records no longer accepts sleep deprivation attempts due to the health risks involved.

Sleep deprivation impairs the functioning of the frontal lobe, the part of the brain where much of our humanity resides. The frontal lobe gives us our powers of reason, memory, self-awareness, empathy, language, innovation, and critically when riding a bicycle at speed, the ability to do multiple things at the same time and to assess risks and react appropriately.

Extract from Rouleur Annual 5, on sale now