Posts Tagged ‘russ downing’


September 30, 2013

Screen shot 2013-09-25 at 12.48.58

Our free sampler went down a storm at the Tour of Britain. For anyone who hasn’t seen the magazine before, this taster of issue 39 – the monster 260-page Tour de France special edition – is the perfect introduction to what we do.

“What about free digital copies for American fans,” Tweeted Jim Conrad. A fine idea, Jim. And you don’t have to be American to download it, in case you’re wondering.

We hope you enjoy reading about 100 Tours, Chris Froome, Corsica, Russ Downing, Julio Jiménez and Speedplay pedals.

We trust you will find the writing of Robert Millar, Ned Boulting, Carlos Arribas, Paul Fournel and Colin O’Brien engaging and illuminating.

And we are confident you will find imagery from the likes of photographers Taz Darling, Timm Kölln, Paolo Ciaberta, Robert Wyatt, Daniel Sharp, and illustrator Jo Burt, of the highest order.

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Nocturnal Pursuits

May 31, 2012

A cool little film of the IG London Nocturne, coming up on Saturday, June 9. Come on down, grab a Rouleur cowbell and shake it like the clappers.

Tro-Bro Léon

April 11, 2012

Words: Graeme Fife Photos: Gerard Brown

French cycling exchanges  pavé for ribinoù in this weekend’s Tro-Bro Léon. Endura Racing – profiled in Rouleur issue 28 – will be riding for Alexandre Blain, Rouleur’s tip for the podium. This extract from Graeme Fife’s feature on Brittany’s rough stuff is in Rouleur 27.

For jpm, ardent man of Brittany that he is, the idea of a bike race round his home region of Léon combined a method of raising money to sponsor native culture and a means of showcasing the beloved pays, the natal land, that notion so dear to the French.

There was another ingredient that made the planned race special, different: the inclusion of a number of sections of ribin (plural ribinoù). These largely unmetalled farm tracks are shortcuts across the open fields, linking roads composed of packed earth, often compacted with stones, some loose, frequently with a grassy ridge down the centre. The ideal ribin, says jpm, “shouldn’t be too broken up, not too many potholes and with grass down the middle – that makes it more rustic.” These off-road byways also serve as escape routes for people on the way back from the bar, allowing them to bypass police breathalysers.

The first TBL – organised by jpm, his brother, and a few friends – was for amateurs; 152 kilometres, four or five ribinoù. Like Henri Desgrange in 1904, however, jpm didn’t expect there to be a second edition of his race. “It was a mess. The first two riders missed the race route. We’d daubed the arrows in a crazy hurry – overturned a pot of paint in one volunteer’s car…” But of course there was another edition the year after, 170 kilometres, and “the arrows were so well-executed that the local highways authority told me to cover them up with tar.”

A shy, taciturn man with an unswerving will to get done what he wants to get done; enormously patient, capable of sitting through protracted objection to any proposal he makes and then repeating with quiet insistence what he’d asked for at the outset, jpm has another similarity with Desgrange: he seeks ever to improve, to make new demands, to extend the original vision. Opened to pros in addition to amateurs in 1999, TBL became a fully professional race the following year. From a budget of 8,000 francs for the first edition in 1984 to one of €250,000 today, the 2011 race (UCI rating 1:1) covered 206.4 kilometres with 25 ribinoù sectors totalling 34.2 kilometres. A couple of years ago a journalist from Le Monde, flourishing his intimate knowledge of pro bike racing, called the TBL “the Breton Paris-Roubaix”. However, jpm pooh-poohs the analogy. True, some parts of the race are off-road but there really is no biddable comparison between the pavé and the ribinoù.


jpm lets fall the black and white Breton flag and the 177 riders of the 28th Tro-Bro Léon ride out, among them seven of the Sigma Sport-Specialized team. I’d had a quick word with Sid Barras beforehand about his guys. Oh yes, steep learning curve, no time to recce, problems with the radio, not doing every race with them. “I’ve got other things in my life but… if I can help them… Listen, I need to get out otherwise I’ll get stuck. It’s happened before. Cheers.”

My companions know the course and so we cut some corners, scoot through small villages moored in big fieldscape, hot bright sun, cornflower blue sky, and onto the third section of ribin: 1.6 kilometres. It’s a good’un, two strips of tarmac and a verdant herbal Mohican down the middle. We’re ahead of the race, motos and cars stirring a haze of dust, horns blaring from time to time, spectators hanging back in the verges. A stretch of hedge and out into open farmland – they grow a lot of potatoes round here. We overtake a team car, move through to the end of the track and park to wait for the riders in the early break.

They emerge from the dust as if in a mirage, the carbon frames and wheels speaking the uneven surface in a percussive staccato. Heads down, the judder of the ribin going up through arms, shoulders, neck, and they’re past. We follow, into the mist of fine precipitate, earth particles and heat haze. The course regulator roars through, perched on a moto, waving her arms up and down like she’s pretending to be a seagull. She keeps blowing her whistle and glaring at us. The driver leans out of the window and says something like “What’s your game?” and, ignoring her gesticulations, we chase up and latch onto the bunch of escapees. One rider tosses a bidon to a woman standing by the roadside.

“That’s thoughtful,” remarks the driver, “and for the environment, not to make rubbish of it.”

The fourth stretch of ribin is much rougher: stones, fissures, rutted. The break surges through and you can feel the urgency in their acceleration as they swing off the path and onto smooth road. Another seven kilometres and we’re into woodland, an old village, stone buildings, some abandoned; the ribin markedly rougher; bikes dance like barefoot runners on hot pavements; and suddenly, a steep steep climb out of the dell, cruel tax on legs and lungs, loose stones cheating traction, a nasty hairpin. This is Le Vern, famous round here. Not quite a muur, more of a revetment.

We park again and wait for the main field to go by; that expected but never less than thrilling sizzle of collective power, drive and intense concentration, the potency of a bee swarm. Back in the car and another dodge across country to rejoin the route in the basse marée, an inland area of shore below the tideline which, despite being ringed by a protective dune or bank, is nevertheless frequently inundated with sea water to form a saltmarsh. A few years ago the Tro-Bro Léon had (unusually) bad weather and the ribin here was a saturated trench of sand.

Rouleur issue 27


February 16, 2012

Words: Ian Cleverly Photos: Geoff Waugh

Extract from Rouleur issue 28, out now.

And so we reach the 2012 model of Endura Racing, another dramatically different incarnation. Jack Bauer’s exploits in Utah did not go unnoticed and the raw Kiwi I first saw at Haut Var two years back – helmet askew, crashing into trees – has developed rapidly into a genuine talent worthy of a contract with Garmin-Cervélo. If there is a tinge of jealousy from Partridge, Wilkinson and Thwaites, it doesn’t show. They are genuinely pleased to see him progress. And, as [team sponsor] Jim McFarlane points out: “It wasn’t good to lose Jack but it is good to see him moving up. And it is good for Endura to be seen as a place where riders can move up.”

Brian Smith, meanwhile, appears to have signed up every available Brit of note, including Jon Tiernan-Locke, winner of the King of the Mountains jersey and 5th overall at the Tour of Britain. Smith expects to see more from the emerging stage race rider. “Jon is not going to do anything in British races. He is a European rider. He showed what he can do in the Tour of Britain. I see his potential and want to give him a chance to shine.”

Just when it seemed the 2012 line-up had been finalised, Smith threw Russell Downing – surplus to requirements at Sky – into the mix. A prolific winner on the domestic scene before spending two seasons with the ProTour team, Downing’s addition to the Endura roster appeared to be a last minute decision, but McFarlane and Smith had been in discussions with the free agent for some months.

I suggested to Smith that his squad now had a top-heavy appearance: too many chiefs, not enough workers. “Julian Winn said the same thing. I said we work on it. Nobody is special. If Russ Downing doesn’t make the break, we make sure somebody else does. We will be represented. We have to take opportunities. We don’t have the money to sign a top sprinter or a top GC contender, so we have a bunch of opportunists.

“The only problem I can see is coming towards the finish, who do we ride for? Julian needs to make that call. I have got two captains on the road I have talked to about it: Alex Blain and Iker Camaño. Alex is a strong sprinter himself, he is knowledgeable and he has the respect of the riders. Now that Russ is involved, he will need to be able to take orders. He was a selfish rider when he was based in the UK, which you need to be. With Sky he learned to do his bit. I think we are getting Russ at his best. I have told him we want him to win, but we also want him to show the other guys how to win.

“Last year we went with a European-based squad and a home, Tour Series squad. The Euros did great, but the home riders never stepped up – the only one was Scott Thwaites. Too many riders out there think they should ride for other people. I don’t want that. And I don’t want to hear the word ‘mistake’ this season.”