Posts Tagged ‘matt seaton’

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

Issue 41

Sean Kelly: King of the Kasseien

March 28, 2013

Words: Matt Seaton Photos: Graham Watson

What makes a great rider of the pavé?
First of all, it’s a rider who is strong and powerful. You have to be pretty heavy, or the cobbles will just hop you all over the place.

And, usually, if you have the weight, you have the power – if you’re any good. You need the power because you have to ride a gear that is higher than normal. You push a bigger gear to get the power down smoothly and keep traction.

Then you have to learn to overcome the cobbles. If you’re Belgian, you grow up born and bred to ride the cobbles, certainly from when you start racing as a teenager. But if you’re a non-Belgian national, you don’t race a lot on those roads. It takes time to know how to do it.

I had ridden the Paris-Roubaix five or six or seven times before the first time I won – and not only the Paris-Roubaix and big races like the Tour of Flanders, but a lot of smaller races in Belgium. There was the Grand Prix de l’Escaut that finished with three laps of a 15km circuit that had a several bad sections of cobbles every lap.

Riding a lot of these smaller races is how you learn to ride and control the bike on the cobbles. Of course, when they’re wet, it’s a different matter…

In the Paris-Roubaix, you sometimes see riders hunting for a flat section in the gutter, while some seem to prefer to ride on the crown in the middle. What’s the best way to ride the pavé?
There’s a trade-off. When it’s dry, it’s much easier to ride on the side, not even on the cobbled surface. But the risk of punctures is much greater – you have all the grit and small stones from the fields there.

So you’re conserving energy but you’re risking having to chase back on after having to get a wheel change. That’s OK early in the race maybe, when you still have all your team around you, but later in the race fractions of seconds become critical.

And in the Paris-Roubaix the service cars are always further behind, so you can lose a lot of time.

So the safest place from punctures is to ride in the middle of the cobbles. On either side the road is cambered quite steeply, so especially in the wet you have to stay in the middle.

What changes did you make to the set-up of your bike when you were riding the Paris-Roubaix?
The main thing was you ran fatter tyres – and higher, to avoid the risk of pinch flats, which was greater because you rode them softer than you would for a normal race on asphalt. I didn’t change my position on the bike; very few riders did.

But some used to put foam padding under the bar tape to absorb the shock. I didn’t; I didn’tlike the extra thickness – it’d give me cramp in my hands trying to grasp the thicker bar.

What was your technique for climbing the muurs? You see a lot of riders who sit back in the saddle to get the power down, but sometimes you see a power rider like Boonen who seems to be able to climb the cobbles out of the saddle.
Sitting down, definitely, and keeping the weight to the rear. Most riders can’t do that like Boonen – you have to keep the momentum very smooth, which is difficult on cobbles, and it’s very hard to keep traction.

But there are always some who can do it – Eddy Planckaert was one of the few who could climb like that.

Who else did you rate?
[Eric] Vanderaerden, obviously. He had the power. Greg LeMond could have won more of the classics, but he chose to take it easy and concentrate on the Tour later in the season. Steve Bauer was good, too. He could ride the cobbles.

You were always flying in the Paris-Nice, and kept that form through the spring classics. How did you prepare so well?
The good winters in Ireland helped me a lot – all that sun. No, but I seemed to work quite well in the winter. I wasn’t afraid to go out in the weather. It didn’t bother me. I could do 4-5 hour rides in January; I didn’t get cold as easily as some riders.

Also I didn’t need a lot of training kilometres to get into shape. Some riders had to do half as much again. That’s just the luck of my physiology. I didn’t have to do as much to get good condition.

And then I always looked forward to the classics. So motivation helped. Those northern classics are a monument in Belgium: you have to have lived there to understand it. And if you can win one, you’re a hero for a long time there.

What does the Paris-Roubaix in particular mean?
I always say it was the most horrible race to ride, but the most beautiful to win.

Was it harder than any other? And which hurt most afterwards– your legs or your arms?
Well, the wrists could hurt a lot. But if you’re riding well, you don’t hurt that much.

But it does take longer to recover from the Paris-Roubaix than any other race. The body just takes more punishment than a long but straightforward race like the Milan-San Remo, or even the Liège-Bastogne-Liège which has a lot of climbing in it. Two or three days after the Paris-Roubaix and the body is still pretty weary.

And it can hurt to pee afterwards. Your prostate takes a pounding. A lot of riders complain that you get a burning sensation for a couple of days when you go to the loo.


Extract from issue 2

Troublesome Child

January 31, 2013

Ever get that feeling, having entered an event weeks in advance, that it was all a horrible mistake? That the upcoming pain will far outweigh the endorphin high?

I go through the same ridiculous process every time, even though, deep down, I’m aware that the chances of enjoying every single moment of the ride – or certainly the feeling after it’s all over – are high.

Fretting is the default position, even when there is entry on the line. There are chimps on both shoulders, arguing the toss over the merits and demerits of racing, while I sit helpless between, like being on the night bus to Peckham when it kicks off. The spat soon gets ugly, but there is no point in intervening. What will be, will be.

It’s the same deal with the magazine. We send off the finished article to the printers, then the doubts set in: what if it isn’t as good as the last issue? How do we know we have got it right having pored over the content for weeks and become blind to its charms?


The reason struck us is the strange chain of emotions running through the office as we went to press. The editor and myself had concluded issue 36 was not one of our best efforts, and had resigned ourselves to improving next time round. Let it go and move on.

Then the publisher, Bruce, and the ad man, Andy, called us to say it was one of our finest. And the early response from those who had got the issue was the same: it’s a beauty. We are happy to stand corrected.

What the editorial and design team strive for is originality, quality and balance – and it was the balance part we were unsure we had got right. Too much historical and Rouleur becomes a museum piece; all contemporary and we have left our core values behind.It’s not until we get the magazine in our hands, having watched it take shape on a computer screen over the shoulder of our designer, Rob, that we can truly say whether it has worked or not. Thankfully, we all agreed: it has worked, and then some.

And what is contained within the covers of this troublesome child, you ask? Ned Boulting opens with a fabulously written piece on the Revolution track series, with suitably wonderful images by Taz Darling. Guy Andrews, a man with a penchant for a steel frame himself, follows the development of the new Madison Genesis team, who will (whisper it) ride steel frames this season. Retro or forward thinking?

Herbie Sykes, a man who loves a good barney, sits down with Paul Kimmage, not averse to a heated debate himself – ask Lance… It is a fascinating feature on where the sport is now and where it’s heading. Our man Jordan Gibbons goes to Germany to discover one of the finest carbon wheel producers in the world making very expensive hoops from Heath Robinson machinery. And even Lance has to pay to get a set. Superb.




We have two writers new to Rouleur this issue: Olivier Nilsson-Julien talks to Dutch author Herman Chevrolet about his fascinating book on dirty deals and double-crossing in the peloton; and David Sharp spends time with time trial wunderkind Tony Martin, talking over a year of extreme highs and lows, with the always-excellent Timm Kölln recording the scars.


David Curry accompanies Rouleur regular photographer Olaf Unverzart to the Czech Republic to discuss cyclo-cross with Zdeněk Štybar as the former World Champion converts to a career on the road with Omega-Pharma –Quick Step.


Plus columnists Paul Fournel – with Jo Burt’s illustration as usual –  Matt Seaton and William Fotheringham, winners all.

Enough of the hard sell. We’re happy enough, but we’re not the readership. Let us know what you make of it.

Give Them Enough Rope

November 1, 2012

Words: Matt Seaton Photos: Paolo Ciaberta

From Rouleur issue 35, coming soon

In 1990, former Irish professional cyclist Paul Kimmage published Rough Ride, his memoir of racing in the pro peloton. In it, he gave a detailed account of a sport in which doping was endemic.

In 1991, Hein Verbruggen became president of the UCI, a post he held until stepping down in 2005. He remains its honorary president.

In late April and early May 2010, Floyd Landis admitted doping throughout his career in a series of e-mails sent to the head of USA Cycling and others. The story was broken by the Wall Street Journal. In those e-mails, Landis alleged that his former team-mate Lance Armstrong paid the UCI to hush up a positive test in 2001; Landis said that Armstrong himself had told him this. The UCI denied the story, saying that no rider had tested positive in the Tour de Suisse that year.

In late May 2010, at the Giro d’Italia, UCI president Pat McQuaid gave a press conference where he appeared to regret the UCI having accepted Armstrong’s donation. At that time McQuaid said there had been a single payment in 2005 of $100,000, which he denied was a bribe: “We didn’t think there’s a conflict of interest.”

At a subsequent press conference, in July, he affirmed that, in fact, the UCI had also received a personal cheque from Armstrong for $25,000 in 2002, which was used to pay for dope testing in junior races. The further sum of $100,000 came from Armstrong’s management company in 2005, at the point at which the American had announced his first retirement, and only after a reminder from the UCI. That amount was used to pay for a Sysmex blood testing machine.

McQuaid said that he did not know why it had taken Armstrong “so long to eventually pay up”. Nor did he shed light on who had contacted Armstrong to chase up the payment.

In July 2010, Landis repeated his story in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. In November 2010, Paul Kimmage interviewed Floyd Landis. Their seven hour conversation became the basis for a Sunday Times article but the full transcript was published in early 2011 by the US website nyvelocity.

In it, Landis says that Lance Armstrong forced him to apologise to then UCI president Hein Verbruggen. The reason? A statement that Landis had made to the press over a contractual dispute he’d had prior to joining US Postal. Landis alleges that part of Armstrong’s persuasion that it was necessary to cowtow to the UCI was the revelation the Texan had tested positive at the Tour de Suisse in 2001 but that the governing body had suppressed the information.

In May 2012, Tyler Hamilton told CBS’ 60 Minutes that Armstrong had shared the same story with him. In September 2012, he repeated the allegation in detail in his book The Secret Race. According to Hamilton’s co-author, Dan Coyle: “What happened next was a call was made from cycling’s body, UCI, that this test should go no further, this matter should end here. There was a meeting between Armstrong, his coach and the lab and then there was also a $125,000 donation from Armstrong to the UCI.’’ Armstrong’s lawyer Tim Herman responded by saying that Armstrong and his directeur sportif Johan Bruyneel had “no recollection” of any such meeting. The UCI has denied any cover up and any connection between Armstrong’s suspect test and the anti-doping donations.

The now famous Usada report released in October 2012 contains the same account, backed by sworn affidavits from Hamilton and Landis. Usada also has testimony from the director of the Swiss laboratory, Dr Martial Saugy, who said that the UCI had confirmed to him that one of several suspicious test results for EPO use belonged to Lance Armstrong. Saugy also confirmed that, in 2002, he did meet with Armstrong and Bruyneel to discuss the implications of the Tour de Suisse suspect samples.

The Usada report also notes that: “Pat McQuaid, the current president of UCI, has acknowledged that Lance Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel visited the UCI headquarters in Aigle in May 2002 and offered at least $100,000 to help the development of cycling.”

In a Swiss court in April 2011, the UCI launched defamation proceedings against Landis over the 2001/2002 bribe allegation. In October 2012, just days before the Usada report was released, the court found in favour of the UCI by default; Landis denied having been served the papers and did not appear to defend himself. Landis’ lawyer has said that the Swiss court’s ruling has no jurisdiction over the American.

There is precedent for the UCI’s action here: in 2008, the UCI sued the former head of Wada, Richard Pound, after critical remarks he had made about the UCI’s failure to tackle doping in cycling; the case was settled in 2009, without a retraction by Pound and with no damages paid.

In December 2011, the UCI started a defamation suit against Paul Kimmage. Kimmage said he did not receive notification of the action until January 2012 – coincidentally after he had been laid off by his employer, the Sunday Times, in a round of cost cutting measures.

Kimmage and McQuaid go back a long way. In 1985 – some 20 years before he became UCI president – Pat McQuaid was team manager for the Irish squad at the amateur road race World Championships. Kimmage finished sixth that year, behind Maurizio Fondriest. Kimmage says McQuaid has treated him as persona non grata ever since the publication of Rough Ride. But when it comes to the present lawsuit, Kimmage is in no doubt: “Verbruggen is driving this.”

As has been noted by Kimmage’s former Sunday Times colleague David Walsh, himself a longtime crusader against Lance Armstrong’s dope-cheating, the UCI is not suing any publication or media outlet that has aired the allegation – not the Wall Street Journal, nor L’Équipe, nor Bantam Press (Hamilton’s publisher), nor CBS Television, nor any website. Instead, it has chosen to go after an individual journalist who is now unemployed and has no institutional backing.

Asked about the Kimmage case in a recent interview, Dick Pound commented: “Verbruggen and Armstrong and so on have resorted to the institution of legal proceedings. Not so much to collect money, but to stifle any dissent or opposition.”

In September 2012, a legal defence fund for Paul Kimmage was set up by the nyvelocity and cyclismas websites. Within weeks, it had raised over $60,000 through individual donations from grassroots cyclists and cycling fans. Kimmage says that the fundraising effort is not about him: “For the majority of people who’ve contributed to this fund, it’s a total vote against the UCI.” Kimmage was due to appear on 12 December 2012, at Vevey in Switzerland, close to the UCI headquarters in Aigle. Usada witness and Garmin manager Jonathan Vaughters has indicated his support for Kimmage. And in a recent interview with the Guardian’s Donald Macrae, Tyler Hamilton was asked about the UCI lawsuit.

“It’s mind-boggling,” he said. “I just hope journalists keep asking the tough questions and we stick up for Paul Kimmage and others fighting for a clean sport.”

The timing of the Usada report’s release has raised the stakes enormously. What began as a petty vendetta for the sake of Verbruggen’s vanity has now put the spotlight directly on the governance of the sport and the UCI’s role in overseeing the sport’s dirty decades of systemic doping pioneered by Lance Armstrong during Verbruggen’s tenure.

On Monday 22 October, McQuaid convened a press conference at which he announced that the UCI recognised the Usada Decision on Armstrong. If you read the small print of the UCI report, you discovered how grudgingly that recognition was given. When challenged about the Kimmage case, McQuaid claimed it had nothing to do with the Armstrong revelations, was simply a private issue of defending his and his predecessor’s reputation from defamation, and would proceed as planned.

By Friday, facing a tide of criticism and protest, he’d been forced to reverse this position. The UCI announced the formation of an independent commission into the UCI’s role in the Armstrong doping history – and that the UCI’s legal action (and, necessarily, Verbruggen’s and McQuaid’s) against Kimmage was being suspended.

Even before this preliminary humiliation, McQuaid must have been bitterly regretting ever going along with Hein’s folly. And now, if Kimmage is never required to defend the action, it will probably be because the positions of the UCI president and vice-president have become untenable.

In any case, Kimmage is now mobilised – with a host of supporters and financing behind him. Regardless of the defamation case’s suspension, he has promised to “unleash hell” on his UCI persecutors. And he will not now rest until the reforms he has always argued are necessary have come.

Matt Seaton is editor of Comment is Free America for the Guardian

The Three Peaks

September 14, 2011

Words: Matt Seaton Photos: Geoff Waugh (

For some of us here at Rouleur, the Three Peaks cyclo-cross is the highlight of the year, not to be missed. For Matt Seaton, once was enough. In this extract from issue 11, Matt tackles the final climb of the day…

The only encouraging thing about Pen-y-ghent is that you can pretty much see the summit from the bottom, so you know how far you have to go and that once you’ve made the turn, it is downhill, more or less, to the finish. The opening section is deceptively easy: of all the peaks, this is the most rideable, a broad track mutating into a stony path. This makes it also the easiest descent, and it is where mere mortals are passed by the gods on their way back down. On cue, Rob Jebb comes flying by, practically airborne and looking unfeasibly fresh.

I try to stay on the bike as long as I can, but make a mistake and fall for a final time. It’s more a clumsy dismount than a tumble, but I twist an ankle as I go over. Just disentangling myself from the bike and getting back up seems to take ages.

My mind is so clouded I only dimly perceive how tired I am. In fact, I am in a state of fatigue-narcosis – and like a helpless old drunk lying in the gutter, I actually giggle as Chris Young twiddles past. He knew to use a smaller gear for this climb, and he had paced himself better than me all day; so now I can only watch him disappear up the mountain as I trudge wearily, dehydrated and running on empty.

Running back down, I have to tell myself consciously to concentrate: mistakes always come when you are tired. My thumb is throbbing, my ankle hurts, there are muscles in my legs I didn’t even know I had which are now threatening industrial action. I just want to get off that last hill. I remount and try to pick my way through the outcrops on the rough upper section of the path. Better descenders shoot past me. The temptation to relax my grip on the cross-top levers and follow them is powerful. But even if I had the skills and courage, it’s a vain thought – because that’s when I flat.

Cursing, I pull over and swap a new tube in. With a gas canister, I lose maybe three minutes, though it feels much longer with riders passing all the time. I set off again. Another minute down the slope, the rear goes soft again. So much for my Michelin Jets. This time, a spectator tells me there’s someone with spare wheels 150 metres further down. Rather than try to mend another puncture, I carry and run. Five hundred metres later, with no spare wheel in sight, I have to change strategy and start working the mini-pump. I feel as though I’ve lost half an hour with this messing about; in reality, it is perhaps another eight to ten minutes. But without high pressure in my rear, and down to my last tube, I have to complete the descent almost as slowly as I went up it.

On the road back to Helwith, I’m overhauled by a big lad in a Sigma Sport skinsuit. It’s all I can do to suck his wheel to the finish. Four falls, two minor injuries, two punctures, 54th overall in 3:44:38 – I’m just glad to get there. Even after the hardest road race, or the longest day in the saddle for a cyclosportive, you eat something, have a drink and soon feel better. This is different: I have never felt so totally spent as after the Peaks. For a week afterwards, my whole body feels as though I had climbed up Pen-y-ghent on my hands and knees and then rolled down it.

The Peaks is a humbling experience. If you think you know where your limits are, the Peaks administers some brutal re-education. I can understand the desire to go back again and again: to trim minutes with better training and race strategy, the right choice of tyres and gears, more support, careful pacing, more experience and local knowledge… that’s the desire to master the Peaks. I’m not sure I have it.


June 2, 2011

by Matt Seaton

I walk under ladders. I cross the paths of black cats. I pay no heed to Friday 13ths. I’ve broken plenty of mirrors. I have no “knock on wood” fear that speaking of ill-fortune will bring it to pass. I am not only not superstitious, but philosophically I don’t believe in superstition. I believe in reason, and superstition is a symptom of contagion by the enemy, unreason. If religion, as Marx said, is the opium of the masses, then superstition, with its inchoate, pre-deist phantasmagoria of fears and omens, is the cheapest, most adulterated form of street-corner smack.

But when I’m packing my kit to go to a bike race, do I have to have my pair of lucky socks? Of course, I do. Who doesn’t? You can’t ask a racing cyclist to ride without his lucky socks. You might as well take away his bidon and forbid him from changing gear. And are my lucky socks lucky, you ask; how do you know they’re lucky? Well, it’s true that I don’t have any scientific proof positive. But I have such a strong feeling about them that it’s simply unthinkable to test whether not wearing my lucky socks would bring me bad luck.

So I am superstitious, after all. It’s true: in this one discrete corner of my life, I am. I believe devoutly that a pair of black and white polyester Assos socks, with a slim red line of trim, and a hole in one toe, bring me luck when I race. What kind of luck I couldn’t tell you. Do they help me get results? Do they help me make a break? Or do they just keep me rubber-side down and out of trouble? Do my lucky socks have a positive or a negative capability: promotion of good fortune or protection from bad luck? Can’t say. But what I’ll do when they finally wear out, I do not know. I will probably have to find another favourite pair, keep them next to each other in the drawer and hope that the lucky power transmigrates.

I am not alone in this matter of cyclists’ superstition. In the professional peloton, it is rife. In Catholic countries, the overlap with genuine religious observance is commonplace, as riders ritually make the sign of the cross over their chests before clipping in and starting a stage. Many riders hate to wear a dossard numbered 13. If they must, it is customary to wear it upside down, to fool the evil spirits who monitor these things – a practice apparently tolerated by race commissaires. In a few cases, a rider’s aversion to 13 is more entrenched. Viatcheslav Ekimov, erstwhile super-domestique for Lance Armstrong, simply refused to wear the number, or even stay in a hotel room numbered 13. In 1993, Belgian Lotto rider Peter De Clercq would not board a plane for a transfer on Friday 13th. Such sentiments are not just allowed, but are so normal in the pro peloton and even respected that the race director gave him special dispensation to travel by car instead.

Extract from the upcoming Rouleur issue 24. Matt Seaton is Editor of the Guardian’s Comment is Free America