Posts Tagged ‘paris-roubaix’

We’ve Moved

November 27, 2013


We’ve got some very good news for you. The new Rouleur website is live and kicking.

It’s a sleek, handsome place where it is easier than ever to subscribe to the magazine, buy our products and read our features on professional cycling.

There will be new weekly content from the road racing scene, offering the very same timelessness, insight and beauty as the magazine.

A large selection of features from past issues of Rouleur is also being published in full, as well as all the blog content you from this WordPress website too.

Of course, it does mean that this venerable WordPress website will lie untended from December 2013 onwards. It’s had a fine run, receiving over 150,000 hits since launching in the summer of 2009.

We thought we’d pick a selection of the most popular blogs from the past three years for your perusal on the new website.


Last But Not Least
Second-year professional Chris Juul Jensen discusses his difficult and rewarding Classics education after finishing last in the 2013 Paris-Roubaix.

In this extract from Rouleur issue 25, photographer Paolo Ciaberta witnesses Aldo Gios re-building the legendary blue machine ridden to victory in the 1977 edition of Paris-Roubaix by Roger de Vlaeminck.

Rohan Dubash casts his expert eye over the beautiful components and tries not to drool…

The complete feature will be available on the new website.

Viva La Vuelta
Former Garmin professional Christian Vandevelde waxes lyrical on his love for Spain’s national tour.

“Jump On, Lad”
An aspiring 18-year-old cyclist making his professional debut is in trouble. The gap opens. He flicks his elbow. No response.

The uncooperative swine glued to his back wheel? None other than Tour de France winner, Bradley Wiggins, who lends a hand in this charming tale.

The Accidental Death of a Cyclist
A Marco Pantani film is scheduled to come out next year; it could well be cycling’s version of Senna.

Rouleur interviews director James Erskine to get all the details.

Battaglin 1987
Photos of Stephen Roche’s Tour de France-winning steed, coupled with choice quotes from the winner of that memorable 1987 race.

Everyone loves a freebie, and our sampler magazine from summer 2013 went down a storm.

It includes features on Chris Froome, Corsica, Julio Jimenez, Russ Downing, Speedplay pedals and the Tour de France. And you can still download it now…

Merckx: Photographs from a Family Album
Unseen, intimate photos of Eddy Merckx and the mysterious story of one-time owner Monsieur Lecouf.

The Album d’Eddy sold out of the Rouleur shop in minutes.

A Four Grand Day Out
You’re shelling out a lot of money, so you’ve got to get it right. Managing editor Ian Cleverly looks at the painstaking thought process that goes into buying a new bicycle.

On Doping: Sport, Play and the Difference Between Them
“The purity or sanctity of play is not tainted by the actions of a single rider who dopes, but rather by the machine that has systematically turned sport into big business and athletes into commodities.”

Michael Egan’s thoughtful piece on the fine line between love and duty, morality and betrayal.

Last But Not Least

April 8, 2013

roubaix blog
Words: Andy McGrath

As fans begin to filter away from Roubaix Velodrome, a shrill whistle peep from a gendarme turns heads again. A race motorcycle buzzes past and one final group begins its laps.

I return to the arena to see these dusty stragglers circle the bowl – the concrete must feel like velvet after the vicious cobbles – in the warm afternoon sunshine.

Back of the pack, last man of the 2013 Paris-Roubaix, is Danish rider Chris Juul Jensen (Saxo Tinkoff), in 118th position, some 26 minutes behind Fabian Cancellara, the results later tell us.

But results hardly mean a thing in Roubaix. After first place, finishing is enough to be feted.

The collective suffering of the many far exceeds one man’s winning relief. The foot soldier’s tale is far more relatable than that of Cancellara the conqueror.

Not many other riders have suffered like Jensen this spring either. In a bizarre coincidence, this result completes a spring set: he was also lanterne rouge at the Scheldeprijs and the GP E3-Harelbeke.

You might expect the man bringing up the rear to call the race shit, be disheartened, swear off it for life.

After he emerges from the velodrome’s faded shower rooms and we ask for his battle stories, he replies: “It certainly was battle, it was incredible.”

Jensen was dropped after the Arenberg Forest. “That section is a complete slap in the face… two hundred riders going towards one stretch straight for two kilometres. It’s like that scene from Braveheart where they just run towards each other.

“Then when you look at your clock and you still have 70 kilometres to go and you’re up shit creek without a paddle, it’s pretty demoralising.”

Keep going, just keep going. That’s what Jensen told himself. So he found a group and counted off the cobbled sections, one by one.

“I don’t think there’s any rider here who would voluntarily like to step off the bike, especially with the finish in this prestigious velodrome. It was the same for me. No matter how fucked I was and how far there was to the finish.”

He emphasises the profanity in his strong Irish accent: bear in mind, Jensen lived in County Wicklow till the age of 16.

Rouleur, climber, middle mountain man? A second-year professional, Jensen doesn’t know what suits him best yet.

So when he was named in Saxo-Tinkoff’s cobbled Classics line-ups, the young professional didn’t just turn up, race and go home. Consciously or otherwise, he began to educate himself.

After Ghent-Wevelgem, Jensen accompanied friend and team captain Matti Breschel to “some tiny village in Flanders” to visit the Dane’s fan club.

“I saw how they ate, slept and breathed the Classics – Matti was a god to them. And when they realised that I was doing Paris-Roubaix too…”

The significance of the Classics began to sink in, along with his own place in history.

The night before Paris-Roubaix, Jensen watched A Sunday in Hell, Jørgen Leth’s seminal film based on the 1976 edition of the race, again. “I’d seen it a million times, but I saw it three times last week, to get it knocked into me what it is I’m a part of,” he says.

When the going got gruelling, he felt his responsibility to a colossal one-day race and the stubborn need to make his rendezvous with history in Roubaix.

“This isn’t just small races in France or Belgium: this is the bee’s knees of one-day races. There’s nothing that compares. All this combined is what eventually gets you to the finish line,” Jensen says.

“You’ve just seen me coming out of the showers, that’s part of the whole experience. I was sat on the team bus, completely cross-eyed, I hardly knew my own name. But I’d leave here with a sense of regret if I didn’t take a wash in these historic showers.

“That was the same with the bike. You can pull out of many races where you just don’t really give a fuck. But here you’d have such an enormous sense of regret.

“These races have been so demanding, physically and psychologically. As a second-year pro, you just get knocked back down to reality really quickly and hard. I nearly pulled out of more of these Classics than I finished.”

Was it the hardest race of his life? “Yes. It was beyond… I couldn’t predict how tough and frightening it would be, physically demanding and whatnot. There’s no forgiveness really. Although it may have been the hardest race, it was also the most fascinating.”

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.

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

Podcast: Issue 37

March 11, 2013

Screen shot 2013-03-11 at 16.12.16

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


November 28, 2012

Words: Colin O’Brien Images: courtesy of Peggy Guggenheim Collection

“We would often cross the broad avenue with the martial sounding name,” reads an interesting entry in Metzinger’s diary. “The one that separated Courbevoie from Puteaux. It was in the peaceful garden of that welcoming household only a few years before the terrible year of 1914 that forms were born that, 50 years later, one would still think were new! We returned there often and soon we were spending our Sunday afternoons not merely conversing about aesthetic novelties but rather kicking a ball around or indulging in a spot of archery.

“That garden was the place where my appearance as a cyclist at the Vélodrome d’Hiver was thought up. Gleizes and Villon claimed that I wouldn’t be able to cycle 100 kilometres without putting a foot on the ground. I bet them that I could for the price of a lunch. It’s actually a pretty hard thing to do to keep going over 100 kilometres on country roads. Neither of my opponents had a car and they didn’t want to chase after me on one of those velocipedes. A journalist from our circle of friends suggested cycling in a velodrome which is actually just as tiring, especially for someone who is not used to it. But I agreed. A few days later, one morning at ten, I began my laps in the Vélodrome d’Hiver. An hour went by and then another. The spectators, Fernand Léger was among them, cheered me on with increasing enthusiasm until quite unexpectedly the sound of a gong brought me to a halt. I had won my meal by my honourable average speed.”

I’m not sure what’s harder to grasp: the fourth dimension that Metzinger & Co. were trying to paint, or the sensation of novelty that the bicycle evoked in them. It’s always the way with a great invention – they seem so obvious that surely they must have always been with us. For the cubists and the futurists, the locomotion of a cyclist was exactly what they were after. No still life, no nature morte. The competitive cyclist was vitality at its most vibrant.

One hundred years after it was painted, At the Cycle-Race Track still seems fresh. Using the frozen, visual language of cubism, Metzinger depicts the movement and speed of cycling in a way that all but the best photography fails to. The Frenchman is less known today than many of his contemporaries but few were more influential than him. He exhibited with the best and was one half of the pair that wrote the book – literally, I mean – on cubism.

Extract from issue 35, available from Friday 30th

Shake, Rattle and…

June 7, 2012

Words: Ian Cleverly Photos: Wig Worland 

There was a Charge of the Light Brigade moment entering the first cobbled sector at Troisville. The dead straight road leading to the 2.2km opening stretch of the rough stuff descends gently, giving the rider sufficient momentum to freewheel briefly and take in the unfolding carnage.

Bodies to the left, bodies to the right, bodies in front. Cycling’s equivalent of Lord Tennyson’s doomed six hundred – or a fair few of them – had fallen at the first hurdle. The bi-annual event impeccably organised by VC Roubaix takes place in the summer, with (generally) correspondingly dry and mud-free conditions, yet a veneer of moist slime on the pavé was wreaking havoc.

Some hit the deck hard within yards of leaving the tarmac. Others struggled to hold a straight line and bounced, victims of their own transfixed stares, into ditches either side of the track. Bottles littered the ground; muddied riders surveyed their machines for damage, clasping bruised hips and sporting battered egos; one chap appeared to be heading for an early bath, destined never to experience the legendary utilitarian showers at Roubaix.

The previously jocular nature shared by our group of eight on the opening road section dissipated in an instant. Silence descended as we each focussed on a route through the chaos and wondered how the hell we were going to manage the next 160km without falling to pieces.

Into the mouth of Hell

Rode the six hundred

The curious thing was we all emerged unscathed. Or maybe not so curious. Those with cobble experience had prepared the Roubaix virgins the night before. Attack the pavé sectors and recover on the road, they said. Keep the hands on the tops, nice and loose. Use the body to steer, not the bars. Ride on the central ridge and avoid the gutter, unless you can clearly see there are no hidden potholes lurking in the puddles.

And it works. We blasted through the sector and back onto tarmac, conversation returning in an excited babble as we re-grouped briefly – a big part of the enjoyment of the day, I felt: we were pretty evenly matched for speed and rarely had to wait around for long. Anyone in a big hurry could always find a faster group to latch onto but, truth be told, we were passing a lot more than being passed, especially on the cobbles. All those winters of cyclo-cross were finally paying off.

The choice of equipment was paying off, too. A ‘cross bike shorn with 28mm Conti Gator Skins, bar-top brake levers and gel inserts under the bars may sound like overkill, but worked to perfection. We pushed on, gaining confidence with every section of cobbles, passing the occasional water bottle, saddle pack or tubular, their owners presumably blissfully unaware of the loss.

The feeling of smug satisfaction with our progress was gone in a flash. The left-hand pedal, you will no doubt know, is designed not to come undone, due to its reverse thread. Well, mine did. At speed. On the cobbles. It was a hairy moment, pushing down on the crank and hitting stone with pedal, but I managed to keep it upright with an ungainly hop, skip and skid manoeuvre. The multi tool in my saddle pack had disintegrated into its constituent parts. Thankfully the rather better-equipped mechanic in our midst knew to insert the pedal from the reverse side of the crank to overcome the stripped thread situation – a tip well worth knowing – and we were back on the road. Anything not firmly attached to the bike (and even things that are) will rattle loose during Paris-Roubaix, so be warned: tighten up.

The infamous Arenberg Forest was looming large, just when we thought we had this thing licked. Jean Stablinski is the man to thank for this particularly fine (or gruesome, depending on your outlook) stretch of appallingly uneven stone. The 1962 World Champion and ’58 Vuelta winner was a former miner who had worked far below the dead straight road that starts by the pit gates, the tunnels apparently having a bearing on the subsidence of the cobbles. Quite why the great Stablinski thought it a suitable surface to run a race over is unclear. Presumably he could handle it.

I, for one, could not. The summer version we rode allows the luxury of leaving the pavé (or even skipping it altogether) for the adjacent cinder track. The ASO event in April, taking place the day before the race, will have barriers in place, leaving no alternative but to grimace and bear it. Everything you have heard about the Arenberg is true – with interest. I walked the length of it at last year’s Tour and close inspection brought home the random nature of the stones, misshapen rejects jutting out at all angles, cobbled together. Prepare to be shaken.

The consequences of cycling and taking murky substances are well catalogued. The risks are plain for all to see. A curious green energy drink supplied by the organisation looked like something Barry Manilow might sip at the Copacabana, so I plumped for the clear boissons énergétiques – and paid the price soon after. The rattling of the Arenberg speeded the evil potion through my system and I was crouched behind a hedge soon after. Sorry to be so graphic, but take your own tried-and-tested energy products or suffer the consequences.

Some determined chasing to rejoin the group and the remainder of the ride flew by, even the notorious Carrefour de l’Arbre – a totally different prospect on a dry, sunny summer’s day to a wet and windy April.

The comrades on wheels transformed to deadly enemies approaching Roubaix velodrome, attacks going on either side of the pavé, blowing the group to pieces before the famous, spine-tingling right-hander onto the banked track. Getting out of the saddle to sprint for the line and flumping straight back down again brought home the sheer exhaustion from an amazing day.

A beer or two, the ultimate in rudimentary showers and that all-important mounted cobblestone. It really does not get any better than this.


March 7, 2012

Words: Michael Barry Photo: Olaf Unverzart

Team Sky’s Michael Barry is the author of Le Métier and Inside The Postal Bus. He crashed and broke his elbow just days after completing Chute! for Rouleur 29.

To win, the strongest teams now strangle the race, force their tactics and try to control variables. The underdog has little chance. Despite increasingly challenging courses, pelotons often remain compact and massive until the final kilometres. Over the last 15 years, the differences between riders’ abilities have diminished because of better training, proper diets, a more international peloton and more aerodynamic, lighter equipment. The races have become more predictable. Often, only the injured or ill fall off the pace.

When nearly 200 riders charge down a narrow, twisting, rural road three metres wide, crashes are inevitable. Cameras can’t capture the chaos in the belly of the bunch. The peloton rarely relaxes. Within it, we ride inches apart, our elbows rubbing, our shoe buckles clipping sharp spokes, our tyres brushing up against another rider’s. There is precious little room to manoeuvre. Behind the first line of riders every inch of the road is used. To get to the front of the peloton, we’ll accelerate up the dirt shoulder, a driveway, a sidewalk or a bike path and dodge spectators, parked cars, utility poles and potted plants. In our hasty dash to the front, we jump kerbs at 50 kph. Crashes are inevitable.

The constant live feed of news from a race, which streams over the internet and television, has increased the tension. A decade ago, seasons began progressively. The early races were often slower, and riders used them to gain fitness. Now, the first race of the season has become as important as the last. Training camps are held in December to ensure we’ll be in top shape by the end of January. From the first race of the season in January until the last in October, entire pelotons of 140 to 200 riders fight for attention. Often we are considered only as good as our last race. The battle is relentless.

In the one day cobbled Classics the fight for the front is furious. Every rider knows his chance of victory could end if he is too far back in the peloton. From a four lane highway we funnel onto a dusty or mud-coated rural cobbled lane. In dry weather, the peloton kicks up a dust cloud, which blurs our vision. In the rain we slip and slide to find the best line around riders who have fallen on muddied stones. But the worst crashes often occur before the most technical bits of course, when the peloton stampedes through the countryside like frenzied cattle towards a chute. On smooth tarmac, the speeds are higher and the peloton a compact mass. One rider’s error will bring down a multitude. Not only do larger pelotons lead to more crashes, but the racing is also more controlled. Breakaways have less chance of success against multiple eight to nine man pursuing teams. Rules downsizing teams to fewer riders and shrinking the peloton would make the racing more animated and less dangerous.

The worst crashes aren’t limited to the Classics. In a Tour de France stage, where the stakes are highest and every kilometre has value, the fight for the front is relentless. In the first week of the race, every rider seems to be aiming for a chance at victory, the yellow jersey or simply a few flickering moments on television. As a result, crashes are more frequent in the first third of every Tour. As the race wears on, the effervescence yields to fatigue, every rider finds his spot in the physical hierarchy, and the race becomes safer. Changing the format of the Tour by adding a time trial or mountain stage in the first week, to create greater time gaps earlier, would reduce crashes.

Extract from Rouleur 29, on sale soon.


August 11, 2011

Photos: Paolo Ciaberta Words: Rohan Dubash

Photographer Paolo Ciaberta witnesses Aldo Gios re-building the legendary blue machine ridden to victory in the 1977 edition of Paris-Roubaix by Roger de Vlaeminck. Rohan Dubash casts his expert eye over the beautiful components and tries not to drool…

Cinelli’s 1A stem is a classic use of forged alloy, an item of pure elegance and simplicity and a world apart from today’s industrial (but far more practical) Ahead-compatible offerings. The solid construction allowed manufacturers to get creative and personalise the riders’ bikes.

No messing here: the inner chainring is the beefier Record version with additional braces. The outer, however, has not escaped the pantographer’s deft touch. The GT logo can be seen clearly, and small, subtle grooves have been milled to shave grams without reducing rigidity. The ‘over the top’ cable guide for the rear derailleur can also be seen which, despite being awkward to clean, did provide a smooth route for the inner wire.

The Record side-pull brake callipers are no match for modern dual-pivot designs, but in De Vlaeminck’s day these were the best brakes money could buy. They were made from top quality alloys and featured an effective quick release mechanism, easy-to-use brake cable adjuster and wheel guides on the brake shoes to assist in rapid wheel changes.

A solitary chrome steel bottle cage together with an original Brooklyn team water bottle can also be seen. Hydration was still something that many riders simply did not understand and a single fitting was common on most pros’ bikes. Despite the lack of importance certain riders placed on regular fluid intake, steel bottle cages were favoured by most for their durability, which was especially appropriate in races such as Paris-Roubaix.

Tubular tyres were still developing in the late 70s and the Italian artisans at Clement were probably responsible for some of the finest (and weirdest) products to grace our rims. The tyre featured here is a Clement Grinta that was developed as a special wet weather tyre – they even featured little umbrella graphics for emphasis. The tread pattern is interesting, especially when you consider tyre engineers had no CAD systems to help them during the design process.

Extract from Rouleur issue 25 

Prints of Paolo’s wonderful photographs can now be purchased here

The Pavé Buzz

April 13, 2011

Words: Ian Cleverly  Images: Kadir Guirey

I have seen my team win at Wembley – and lose, for that matter. I have witnessed the Tour de France at close quarters on many occasions: from the roadside, inside a team car, in the mountains, on the flat, at the finish.

But nothing – and I mean nothing – comes close to the experience of seeing Paris-Roubaix in the flesh. Standing amidst the crowd at the top of the banking in the velodrome, applauding each and every finisher of this true monument of a race with equal enthusiasm to that accorded winner Johan Van Summeren, brought a tear to the eye that caught me totally unawares.

It was hastily wiped away. Pull yourself together. Man up. That is no way for a Millwall supporter to behave.

The thing was, I had no intention of being in the stadium for the finish. Lazing by a sector of pavé with a picnic and a cold bottle of Duvel was the plan, but the offer of a ride with Team Europcar was too good to be missed (thank you, Richard Goodwin from Hutchinson for sorting). Having the team doctor, Hubert, at the wheel seemed like no bad thing. Being a nervy passenger no matter how many times I travel in the race convoy, the imagination runs riot when you are hurtling across the cobbles in a dust storm, just feet away from the preceding car. I figured we were in safe hands with the good doctor. Or as safe as could be reasonably expected under the circumstances.

First stop was the feed zone at Solesmes, home to Rue Jean Stablinski (as I discovered while wandering around), the former miner and World Champion whose bright idea it was to include the tortuous Arenberg Forest in the parcours. Nice one, Jean.

No major dramas at the feed and Europcar were happy enough, with their Canadian David Veilleux sitting pretty in the break, so we stormed ahead to Sector 19 at Quérénaing à Maing, held up wheels and bottles and hoped the wheels would not be needed. Any rider requiring mechanical assistance from this ham-fisted, left-handed luddite would have to be desperate.

The editor, meanwhile, had taken a more relaxed approach to the art of Paris-Roubaix watching. Guy was holed up in a well-appointed camper van with Rouleur’s good friend Kadir Guirey, enjoying the spectacle at the relatively quiet Sector 11 at Bersée. He’s done the whole chasing around from point to point thing enough times before, so decided to park up and take it all in. Good call.

The second feed zone, coming some way after Arenberg, saw a dramatically changed field of riders passing through. Most of the pre-race favourites had hauled themselves into contention. A succession of smaller groups, caked in dust and grime, reached out for musettes and pressed on, knowing they were effectively out of the race, yet determined to finish. A battered and bruised Geraint Thomas, a solitary figure in the no-man’s land of Northern France, pushed on regardless. There goes my £10 bet…

Another mad dash cross-country (with just the one near-miss exiting the motorway) and we were in the velodrome in time for the finish, Van Summeren pushing for all he was worth whilst trying to keep on the blue interior band of the track due to his flat tyre, Cancellara and co entering just half a lap adrift.

I’m still buzzing four days later. And planning next year’s trip. Now, where’s the number for that camper van hire company?