You Break Our Hearts.

Josh

“Damn…this sport of ciclismo sure is hard on fans.

I woke up to the most dumbfounding news this morning, that my dear Samu has been nabbed for an irregular drug test. The optimist in me still hopes that this was some mistake given the absurdity of a 39-year-old with his foot out the door into retirement, a legacy and a career well intact, couldn’t possibly be that dumb?

But, then again, Cycling will always rip your heart out.

Of course it’s dumb to think of sports figures as “heroes”… the only cyclist worthy of such a label was Bartali. But, can’t we as fans just try to enjoy the entirety of our favourite’s career without the lurking anxiety of cheating and disgrace?

I was very much looking towards this Vuelta and the swan song of two Spanish Greats – AC & Samu, riding off into the sunset with once last bromance romp – for they have moulded my personality as a cyclist, an Iberian and Euro aficionado, and a fan beyond measure.

But, then again…Cycling will always rip your heart out.

This sucks, Samuel Sanchez”

The above words are from my friend, Josh. He posted this on his social media a few hours after the news broke here in Euroland due to the time difference out to New Mexico, Josh’s home. It struck a chord. It echoed sentiments – the upset, the disbelief, the sense of utter betrayal – that I’d been mulling over in my mind for a post at some point; the way this sport continually breaks your heart.

I’ve had mine broken in the past. Athletes – people – that caught my imagination and brought joy to my life with their endeavours and elegant panache, both on and off the bike: David Millar, Marco Pantani, Ivan Basso – take a bow. I even threw the clothes out onto the lawn and swore ‘Never Again’ at one point. That only lasted a couple of years, though. I’d lost my heart to Cycling for good – for better or worse – long, long before that. I know it’s stupid. I’m sure it’s way different from the other side of the fan barriers; this sport grinds down and has no misty-eyed soul of whimsy at the hard centre of commercial reality. But you really do break our hearts…

And, just like any hopelessly smitten soul who wants to believe that their true love can and will change, we take them back. We take Cycling back. This cruel mistress. With promises of change and an end to such foolish infidelities, we so willingly give our hearts again. Place our heartless lover back upon a pedestal. Yet the sheen and endless sunny days in the park of new-found love eventually dulls and each time the heart is just a little more jaded; ready for the next time.

But you really do break our hearts.

 

 

Photo Credits: Josh’s FB Feed

 

 

 

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Travels In Flanders By Bike: Acts I – IV

Pictures courtesy of AP Sports Photo at Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde and Pieter Van Hoorebeke at Ronde Van Vlaanderen

AP Sports Bjorn Tore Hoem

Thursday – Gent by Sunlight: The late afternoon riverside teeming with the sun-kissed, newly beautiful; shoals of bicycles brushing lightly through the lumbering, hobbled cars and rattling trams. The wrinkled weariness of the working-day-ended gazes press up against their windows and out upon the elegance and sprezzatura of those who’ve already escaped into easy idleness.

Dulle Griet

Gent: A lived in and gothic splendour under the snapping canvas of proud regional flags, whipped by the breeze atop turrets and towers. We retreat from marktplein table into darkwood interior as the sun sets and plan our immersion in De Ronde.

The Three Days of De Panne-Koksijde at De Panne, Belgium.AP Sports Beach Scene

Friday –  We ditch the car at Oudenaarde’s Delhaize and follow the course of the Schelde by bike until the lonely church spire of Kwaremont beckons us from upon high to our left. Alongside that barbed wire fence, shimmying down cut-throughs to evade police road blocks that have sprung up to enable the corporate machine to spew out its VIP enclaves. Those that live and pay their taxes beside these cart-track-cum-legends hammer at their makeshift garden stadia – all pallets, nails and 2×4’s – along the roadsides.

AP Sports Wanty SwannyAP Sports Muur Phil

The party will soon follow but for now we follow our noses, losing ourselves in the Flemish Ardenne, hopping from windmill to windmill across the kasseien & slab-paving, past bored horses and the barking of hidden, courtyard-bound hounds, under warming sun and squalling showers. We have no plan and the whole playground to ourselves. Just. A. Perfect. Day.

The Three Days of De Panne-Koksijde at De Panne, Belgium.

Saturday –  Driveway brusherers and garage potterers turn and watch as we spin by. A studied gaze. Tiegemberg, Nokereberg, Doorn: All sit silently awaiting the storm that will, alas, merely pass them by for this year. De Ronde’s fury will be vented upon the white-tented villages of the corporate circuits, after a charge, once more, through the eastern outpost of Geraardsbergen, leaving this sleepy corner of Flanders to unfurl banners lamenting the race’s absence and issuing a plea for its return.

The Three Days of De Panne-Koksijde at De Panne, Belgium.

Home along the Schelde, towards the iconic cooling towers that besmirch every Paterberg landscape shot; ‘They’re coming down – blowing them up’ I am informed by a Jupiler fuelled 30-something in worn, faded stonewash jeans and last year’s ubiquitous Het Neuiwsblad publicity casquette. He’s weaving around on an immaculate Colnago Master museum piece. Borrowed from a neighbour.

PVH RVV Young Fan ObliviousPVH RVV Singing

He insists he is a Dutchman, to the snorts and giggles of his fellow bon viveurs, and wants to race me along the towpath towards Avelgem. It would be neither wise nor dignified so I let him pedal off like a spark spat from the embers of a fire. “We love our wives and families – but on Ronde weekend there are other priorities”. The party has already started. One more sleep…

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Sunday – Phil has been on the rampage for days, devouring this Classics campaign with all the swagger of a bloated monarch. Ham hock in one hand, teeth tearing at the meat on the bone, stained napkin clutched in the other to dab at his lips with; crown perched juantily on his head, shoes kicked off, feet on the table. It is imperious. A violent finesse. He flings his wine-filled goblet across the banqueting hall with 55km to go and leaves the scrambling courtiers, clowns and prat-fallers in his wake, carving through Flanders and giving the baying crowds exactly what they want, barking at his page boys. This is days-of-yore stuff. One man, alone and in command. They’ll be talking about this one for a long time to come. A hell of a long time…

PVH RVV Phil

All life and Flemish history is here in this bar with its walls full of sun-bleached race posters & signed jerseys and a battalion of little die-cast model tractors on the spirits shelf behind the bar: The octogenarian dandy, the faded songstress, the jaded old boy who has rolled his eyes at far cleverer fools than any you’ll find amongst this crowd in his time. “A Belgian victory!” toasts one of the bar-flys in my direction. “A Walloon victory” I offer, sensing the wind is not fully in his sails and taking the chance to tease him with the nuances.

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“Same time next year?”

“Same time as every year” we promise and set off  back along the N8, sweeping down the Edelareberg, brake fingers sufficiently loosened by the Ename Blonds to let the speed rush greedily over me as I tilt into fast, carefree arcs on the deserted road and head for the WorldTour soup and bacchanalia that is Oudenaarde central.

AP Sports Shop

Pinarello

Pina Mech

“What size?”

Soothing, gravelly Tuscan – though, in reality, I could discount the intonation that suggested a question mark. The mind was made up already, the eye had calculated my position and limits from the doorway as I entered the shop. It’s an ice-breaker more than a question. It’s me who will learn from the exchange, not he. The dismissive look, almost – so very almost – veiled as he turns and locates the bike I will ride.

Pina Maglia

I know that look now. Years later I’ve heard countless preposterous estimates & received wisdoms as to frame size. I look forward to it even – sometimes daring a sideways glance towards Il Maestro as he turns on his heels to locate a bike. The correct bike.

“It’s the English… always the English…”. The eyes roll.

Pina full display

A 47cm Pinarello is placed in front of me. I take hold of the bars and suppress the accusation of a joke at my expense. The saddle is raised, the bars adjusted deftly by practised hands. I swing a leg politely over the frame: I’ll humour him for now, for a minute or two with this child’s bike, before I declare it far too small. A 47?! Pfff…

Pina Shoe Bidon

On Corso Garibaldi I realised I’d mis-spent my life on bedstead-like bikes. This was fluidity, responsiveness – darting forwards at the merest suggestion, weaving through the early evening passeggini with ease.

Pina Bidon

I fell in love with that bike that first week in Lucca, holiday romance as we took to the hills. I return every few months to re-kindle the affair, to give in to the exotic. I’d love to take her home with me. So very nearly have at times. But maybe it is on those roads that her beauty lies: Would wrenching her away risk seeing the spark die as we began a humdrum life of  post-holiday laundry and bills-to-pay on the workaday lanes back home?

Pina Giornali

Why ruin the magic? Like never-tasted-before local booze or customary dress item, maybe that Pinarello is best left where she belongs, on the effortlessly fast Camaiore road and the twisting, ribbon-like pilgrimages to the sleepy mountain top hamlets?

Pina Mig

But then again – I just know we could make it work…

Pina frontage

Images: Joyce Jason Ghijs

“Pauleke: Je Moet Uit Mijn Schuiven Blijven!” Riding In The Shimano Neutral Service Car At 3 Daagse De Panne-Koksijde

Binda

I only briefly allude to my angst regarding toilet stops in the full article here on the Always Riding website: The initial first draft contained about 3 full paragraphs devoted to the subject, such was my fear. I drank nothing all morning, save one single espresso, before getting into the car for the 5 hour schlep from Zottegem to the coast; I was still convinced I would be crying with desperation within the first 30km and the car unable to stop. I mean, render the race, charging across Flanders, without mechanical assistance at a crucial point just because I needed to pee? I couldn’t see it happening. The bottle of team-sponsor friendly mineral water I was passed as I strapped the seatbelt on remained un-opened and stashed firmly out of sight lest it bring on uncontrollable water-based urges…

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I shouldn’t have worried: We pulled over for a pee break twice en-route, during which I could barely go, so dehydrated and fearful was I!

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But that was not the most important lesson I learned that day. Oh no. What, I learned in those 5 hours of confined working conditions, you should never – NEVER – ever do is look in Paul van Hyfte’s bottom drawers…

Viviani

Click for an account of a fun, insightful day travelling in the race convoy with two great guys from Shimano’s neutral service corps at the 2016 3 Daagse De Panne-Koksijde.

Capiot

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Photo Credit: Pieter Van Hoorebeke and Ciclissimo!

Sticky Riders

cof

“Ut M’n Schuven Bluven!!!!!!”

 

Luc.

LC4

This is Luc. He’s a family friend of the Devenyns. He’d made his way to the quiet meadow lane that leads onto the Oude Kwaremont, just down the road from his home, when my friend, Pieter, came upon him on the morning of Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.

I always eye the rickety barbed wire fence that sways rustily along at the side of the single slab farm track whenever I ride past this spot; all those guys, full gas – fighting like crazy for position before the cobbles start & the lane pitches up- and that rusty barbed wire fence…

LC5

Pieter was on his way to the bar half way up the Oude Kwaremont to find some nice shots from the day: The bar is alive with character and cheer on race day. But it was only the two of them on the lane through the meadow at that time in the morning, so Pieter stopped to say good morning and share a word. Dries Devenyns would be racing through here in a couple of hours time and Luc wanted to greet him with a message of support on his way to the foot of the climb. Luc is fond of the lad, proud of him.

LC1I don’t know if Luc has ever been to Marseilles. Dries won his first race since 2009 there in February. It’s a nice race to win, the European season curtain call. Maybe Luc has been, I don’t know- perhaps he hasn’t and never will. Dries races on these roads too, pretty much outside Luc’s front door, and that’s good enough for Luc. He knows these lanes: Has seen races run through them all of his life. That’s fine for Luc. He’ll carry on with preparing the road for when Dries comes by. Same as he does each year.

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Images courtesy of Pieter Van Hoorebeke

April 2001

Servais Knaven Roubaix 2001
Servais Knaven, Winner Paris-Roubaix 2001. Pic; Paul Ward

This is the bike upon which Servais Knaven slipped under the radar, over the mud covered cobbles of northern France and away from the field to take the 2001 Paris Roubaix. The mud remains unwashed from the bike, shrouding it for ever more in the very essence and history of that fabled race and of that classic edition. It is this mud from which the true Paris Roubaix vintage is derived, for which every devotee cannot help but pray for in the days that preceed the running and which fizz with anticipation at the meerest rumour of rain..

This picture was taken by my friend on a trip to Amsterdam and posted to his timeline. That it was one of two possible bikes was immediately apparent, the clues quickly assessed and deciphered to discern for certain which one. And then came the flood of memories: of the warmth seeping back into my thighs and fingers as I settled into the sofa to watch the race, warm tea in hand, the outer layers of kit having been discarded after three hours in the Vale of Belvoir with Mapperley CC; a cafe stop at the beloved and now long gone Margaret’s Cafe, the guy with the Spinergy wheels and Peugeot frame in Festina colours. The picture of the bike brought that day back, the memories vivid – so vivid that for a moment, paused looking into the image, that mud was, for me, still yet to dry..

Alessandro Malaguti – Riguardando a mente fredda: L’Amicizia e il dolore a Forlì

pensive malaCiclissimo! Prima, come stanno i suoi compagni di squadra che non hanno finito il Giro a causa di ferite? (La squadra ha riportato alcune ferrite grave. I miei  auguri di pronta guarigione!)

Alessandro Malaguti  Siamo stati molto sfortunati in questo Giro perdendo un leader carismatico come Daniele Colli, che era anche la nostra ruota veloce (nono a Genova nella prima volata è caduto nella seconda) e Damiano Cunego che in quella tappa si sarebbe giocato la vittoria con Gilbert. Daniele essendo caduto a inizio Giro ora sta meglio, è in fase di recupero pedala già sui rulli, si allena in piscina e presto potrà tornare in bici.

Damiano Cunego invece è ancora in pieno recupero dall’operazione. Ci hanno messo una placca di 12 cm nella spalla, gli ci vorrà un po’ più di tempo per tornare, ma siamo tutti con lui. Io sono un gregario e lui il mio capitano, non appena tornerà ci avrà pronti per lui per tornare a lottare per la vittoria insieme.

C! Oltre la tappa a Forli, quali sono i suoi ricordi piu vividi dal Giro? Quali momenti o storie si mettono in rilievo? Ci sono incidenti che non ci hanno mostrato le telecamere?Mala Sign On

AM Oltre a Forlì i momenti più belli del Giro per me sono la tappa con arrivo a Castiglione della Pescaia. Anche quel giorno ero in fuga. Eravamo in cinque, e in due della NIPPO Vini Fantini (con me Eduard Grosu). è stata una bella fuga, anche se siamo stati ripresi. Poi l’arrivo in volata e il brutto ricordo della caduta di Daniele.

Altro bel momento per me è stato l’arrivo di Sestriere, l’ultima tappa di montagna prima della tappa finale. Li ho capito che ero arrivato alla fine del Giro, che devo percorso tutti quei chilometri con tanto lavoro per la squadra due fughe e un terzo posto. All’arrivo ho baciato il traguardo, il mio obiettivo era raggiunto.Mala Recd

C! La tappa a Forli: Avrebbe dovuto essere una processione per le squadra dei grandi velocisti – nessuno pensava che la fuga arriverebbe all’arrivo. Pero avete pensato diversamente! Suppongo che questa tappa era evidenziato nei vostri calendari da qualche tempo, giusto?

AM Da novembre 2014 quando il Giro d’Italia è stato presentato e ho visto l’arrivo a Forlì. Da li ci ho sempre scherzato con gli amici, ma senza illudermi davvero che una tappa perfetta per i grandi velocisti avrebbe potuto vedere arrivare una fuga all’arrivo. La fuga era pianificata, ma non pensavamo davvero potesse arrivare.128

C!  Quando hai pensato che sarebbe possibile per la fuga di arrivare all’arrivo? L’avete discusso nel gruppo?

AM  C’era molta collaborazione nella fuga, per il semplice fatto che la fuga stessa era stata pianificata da tempo. Cinque giorni prima io e Marangoni abbiamo cominciato a sentirci e pianificare l’attacco. Sulla linea di partenza eravamo già in tre sicuri di provarci e collaborare per portarla il più avanti possibile. Il mio obiettivo era essere ripreso a ridosso del traguardo per passare sulle strade di casa ancora davanti a tutti. Negli 20-30 chilometri di gara quando ho visto che il gruppo non guadagnava molto e che noi procedevamo sempre a più di 50 chilometri orari ho capito che potevamo farcela.

C! Quando il commentatore ha detto che lei è un corridore del posto, avevo solo un favorito per la vittoria. Sembrava che avevi fatto tutto giusto nei ultimi chilometri – sarebbe troppo difficile per il primo attacante di arrivare all’arrivo, e non hai perso il sangue freddo. E poi, l’attacco di Marangoni. Cos’ è successo nei prossimi momenti?

AM  Riguardando e ripensando a mente fredda in quell’arrivo ho sbagliato tutto. Ho chiuso io sul mio amico con cui avevamo pianificato la fuga, togliendo a lui la vittoria e ho sprecato l’unica cartuccia di energia che avevo anziché tenerla per l’ultimissima volata. Come mai? La stanchezza della lunga fuga, l’adrenalina di essere sulle strade di casa, il boato assordante del pubblico mentre passavo. Mi è mancata lucidità e mi resta il rimpianto non solo di non aver vinto, ma che neanche Marangoni abbia potuto vincere.

C!  L’emozione quando è arrivato al terzo posto è la ragione per cui guardo sempre il Giro – la linea sottile entro la vittoria e il dolore, il corridore che corre con il cuore. Adesso, ripensando a questo giorno , quali sono i suoi emozioni di questo giorno?

AM  Come ho detto felicità per l’impresa fatta, e al contempo per l’impresa mancata di un soffio. Nessuno credeva potessimo arrivare, invece lo abbiamo fatto, nella tappa in cui tenevo di più, ma ho mancato la vittoria di un soffio. Ripassare ora sulle strade di Forlì fa davvero effetto. In realtà alcune non le ricordo proprio da quanto ero stanco, ma gli ultimissimi chilometri, ogni volta che ripasso allenandomi mi ritorna in mente un istante diverso di quel arrivo. Non so se passerà mai questa sensazione.Mala Finished

C! Ha vinto qualche gara nella sua carriera. Qual’ è  l’emozione che le dura? Le vittorie,  o quelle che ha mancato di un soffio?

AM  La più grande emozione della mia carriera è stata due anni fa, quando ho vinto in Francia, esattamente un mese dopo che mia mamma era venuta a mancare. Era la Route Adelie de Vitrè non dimenticherò mai quella gara ripensando a mia mamma.

C! Guardando al futuro – quali sono i suoi prossimi obietivi per 2015? Possiamo aspettare altre corse aggressive e passionate, come abbiamo visto ogni giorno da lei e dalla squadra al Giro?

AM Io sono un gregario, quindi il mio obiettivo ora è aiutare il team e i compagni a vincere. Se avremo un’occasione non ce la lasceremo scappare. Siamo in un buon momento di forma dopo il Giro e abbiamo fame e voglia di vincere.Mala Rolls On

(Grazie a NIPPO Vini Fantini per le foto,  Grazie a Tessa Langley per la traduzione delle domande)

Looking Back With A Cold Mind.. Alessandro Malaguti: Friendship And Heartbreak In Forli

pensive mala

The abiding moment of the 2015 Giro D’Italia for me, the one that will live in my mind when I look back, comes not from one of the headlining Tenors or Baritones of this most operatic of Grand Tours. It comes from the one of the many unheralded voices that make up the race’s rich tapestry. In the Act in question, we are greeted by the sight of a loyal gregario, riding his heart out towards his home town in a spirited escape before the inevitable final scene must surely be played out by the kings of the sprint trains.. But wait- against all odds the escape eludes the charging fury of the pack! Maybe- just maybe- the dream of a Giro D’Italia victory for our local hero in the heart of his hometown could come true! Alas, all the greatest operas thrive on passion and, ultimately, heart wrenching tragedy. Alessandro rolled tearfully across the line in third place after a cagey then explosive finale, the emotion of the day laid bare.. Ciclissimo! published a short piece saluting Ale’s endeavour the morning after the drama of the tappa and is now delighted to be able to give this young member of the cast a chance to share his reflections and take one more bow to the gallery..

Ciclissimo! Firstly, how are your team-mates who didn’t finish the Giro due to injury? The team suffered some nasty injuries..

Alessandro Malaguti  We have been unlucky in this Giro d’Italia losing a leader like Daniele Colli, our man for the sprints and then Damiano Cunego, who, in the stage where he fell, was looking to take a victory in the stage with Gilbert. Daniele now is feeling better. He fell at the beginning of the Giro, in the first half of May, so now is already working in the swimming pool and on the static bike, he will come back riding on the road soon. Damiano Cunego is still in a rest period after the accident. It was a bad fall, he must take his time to recover, but as soon as he is with us again, we will work all for him fighting for his victory in this 2015.

C!. Aside from the stage into Forli, what are your most vivid memories from the Giro? WhatMala Sign On moments or stories are the ones that stand out for you?

AM. The most beautiful moments of my Giro d’Italia, apart from Forlì, is the day of Castiglione della Pescaia, when I was in another escape with Eduard Grosu. We were five riders, with two of us from NIPPO Vini Fantini, it was a great action. Our escape had been caught by the group and then, unfortunately, I remember well the bad fall of Daniele..

The other great moment was in Sestreiere, the 20th stage arrival. There I realized that I have been able to finish all the Giro d’Italia, with a great work for the team, two escapes and a third place. At the arrival I kissed the finish line, my goal was reached.

Mala Recd

C!. Ok- the stage into Forli! It was supposed to be a procession for the big sprinter’s teams, nobody gave a breakaway much chance of making it all the way- but you guys had other ideas! I’m guessing you had this stage marked on your calendar all along, is that correct?

AM. Si, Since november 2014 when the Giro d’Italia had been presented with the Forlì arrival. From that moment on I’ve been joking with my friends, without really believing that such a128 stage for sprinters will be the one with an escape coming until the arriva. The escape was absolutely planned. But the possibility to take the escape all the way to the finish was really near to the zero percent.

C!. When did you start to think that the escape could actually make it and hold off the chasing peloton? Was there talk between you all in the escape group?

AM. Yes, there was a lot of collaboration in the escape, only in this way was it possible to arrive. There was collaboration also because the escape was planned since many days. 5 days before, me and Marangoni, we have been speaking many times. At the start line three of us decided to make the escape together. My desire was to arrive with the escape 5-6 km before the arrival to join my home roads before all the group.  During the escape when only 20-30 km were left and the group was so far from us, riding at most of 50 km per hour, we realized that was possible.

C!. When the TV commentator told us that you were the local racer I knew I had only one favourite for the win. You seemed to play it right in the last couple of km- the person who attacked first would never make it and you made sure you held your nerve. Then- Marangoni launched his move- talk us through the seconds that followed..

AM. Looking back to the arrival now with a cold mind I made everything in the wrong way; I closed down Marangoni, my friend with whom I have been planning the escape, but I’m losing my energy and making him lose the stage. Why? I was really tired after the long escape but really excited by the public and home roads. I lose clarity of thoughts and now I have the double regret to not have won and neither did my friend Marangoni..

C!. The emotion after you crossed the line in 3rd is what I watch the Giro for- the fine line between victory and heartbreak, the racer who races with his heart. Now you have had time to look back, what are your feelings of that day? Do you see the streets in Forli in a different light now when you walk through the town?

AM. Happiness for the great action, sadness for the missed opportunity. None believed in our arrival, but we did it, in the most important stage for me, but I missed the victory. Now when I ride in my home roads it is a strange mix of emotions. Some roads I don’t remember anything because I was really tired. But about the absolute final kilometres – each time I ride these again while training I remember a different piece of that day. I don’t know if I will ever forget or lose these sensations while riding in my home roads.

Mala FinishedC!. You have crossed the line first in races during your career- which is the most lasting emotion: the wins or the one that just slipped through your fingers?

AM. The most important emotion in my career has been two years ago when I won in France, one month after my mother died. It was the Route Adelie de Vitrè- I’ll never forget that race, winning in memory of my mother.

C!. Looking to the future- what are your next targets in 2015? Can we look forward to more of the aggressive and passionate racing we saw everyday from you and the team?

AM. I’m a supporting rider, I will work for the team using my great condition after the Giro d’Italia to help my team mates to win. If we will have a great chance we will get it. Now we are in a good condition and we want to win!

Mala Rolls On(All Photo Credits NIPPO Vini Fantini)

Volo della Vespa: The Fine Art Of Motor Pacing Team Sky’s Andy Fenn

Pacing 2Team Sky. Underpinning the gutsy Classics Puncheurs and the somewhat spiky Grand Tour Specialists is the soul-crushing engine room of the Sky Train. It needs no introduction here. Love them or loathe them, the formidable sight of the black-clad machine at full gas is one of the most evocative sights of the modern World Tour. But these merciless displays of power do not happen by accident. Before attempts at resistance are wrung out of the peloton for the greater good of the Brailsford vision, the very life is sucked up and spat out of innocent and unsuspecting two-strokes. And believe me: The chances of the Vespa ever coming out on top are the preserve of the long-odds punter when Andy Fenn is fine tuning his devastating engine room form..

Ciclissimo!- First things first, Tim- let’s have a rundown of the essential equipment: Machine and sunglasses- make and model.

Tim Lindley – For motor pacing it’s better to use a modern automatic scooter around 125cc. The automatic gearbox gives you seamless acceleration and makes the bike very easy to control. It needs to have enough power to pull away from the rider when sprinting at 70-80 kph. Seeing as we’re in Italy it’s got to be a Vespa equipped with windshield. The windshield is integral. You want to be punching a hole in the air that’s big enough for the rider to slot into, recreating the conditions of riding in a bunch at sustained speed. Two wing mirrors are essential, enabling me to keep an eye on the riders position at all times. Always check the tyre pressure before starting, it constantly fluctuates in humid places on small two wheelers.

For the sessions with Andy I’ve been using a Vespa 125L auto.  Because I’m a ponce from Yorkshire the attire also has to fit the bill. Persol Steve McQueen shades, Barbour Steve McQueen wax jacket and a vintage Bell Jet helmet with original World War Two pilots goggles.

C!. Now- the piloting: What are you needing to do and what are the golden rules?

TL. The scooter pilot needs to be alert at all times. It’s probably the most important aspect of pacing. The rider trusts you not only to control the speed but also the position on the road. You need to choose the lines early avoiding as many potholes, grates and bumps as you can. Using both mirrors maximises the view you have of the rider and plays a big part of the communication between you. Ideally the pilot is an experienced handler of motorbikes/scooters but also a cyclist who understands how speeds vary according to road surface and gradient. If you’re doing a two hour session at 50-55kph with a couple of short rises and descents you should be aware enough to ease off when you go up and speed up as you go down. All the time keeping those twelve inches between yourselves.

Generally the schedule is agreed upon before you start so you know when the intervals are coming and you know when to keep the speed constant. Maintaining an even speed is another important factor, the whole session needs to be as smooth as possible. The pilot must be able to keep the distance from wheel to wheel the same at all times. You have to trust each other as roads undulate, red lights appear and traffic remains unpredictable. If you’re approaching a red light, accelerate away and towards the side of the road rather than into the middle, give the rider space and it will also serve as a signal for what’s coming up ahead.

Most cyclists will be aware of the numerous hand signals employed when avoiding obstacles, changing position, slowing down etc..these are also used in motor pacing to the same effect.

Don’t try and race with the cyclist. Don’t change the pre arranged schedule in any way. Don’t run red lights, jump stop signs or pull wheelies. Don’t stand on the seat and bare your arse at the Italian ladies. Don’t forget the cyclist is behind you.

Pacing 3 riding

C!. How does the communication work?

TL. A nod. A wink and a flick of the wrist.

Communication is key. As I’ve mentioned above the schedule is discussed and agreed prior to starting. Before the rider is going to break with the scooter there’ll be a look in the mirror, maybe a pull alongside and a quick word  then a shout and he’s gone. Stay put until he’s away. Then ease off and stay behind the rider out of the way. They’ll let you know when you’re wanted again. This will depend on the  length of the interval. Stay alert and aware of traffic around you, a flick of the wrist will mean you’re back on. You need to ease in front of the rider so that they don’t break their rhythm and slot back into the slipstream without expending more effort. This is where handling and experience can be key. If a rider wants to sprint behind the scooter like a lead out you accelerate smoothly, not in bursts and not aggressively. He’ll pull off when he’s ready. Don’t try and stay with him, let him go.

Roundabouts, junctions and traffic lights must all be approached and conducted with care. This is where your actions do the communicating. You need to follow the rules of the road as much as any other vehicle. The rider can look after himself and will see the deviations approaching. For the pilot it’s vital to be aware of the riders position at all times and getting out of his way is your main concern at moments like this. A clear roundabout and the rider will generally stay close to the scooter unless the curves are particularly severe. Green lights are a no brainer.

C!. What are Andy’s roads of choice for motorpacing around Lucca?

TL. The route we’ve been using is the mainly flat SS439 around the base of the Monte Pisani whose peaks include Monte Serra. It’s a 90-100km route and rises and falls in places but for the most part it’s wide, flat with some long straight sections once you get away from Lucca. You have a clear view of oncoming traffic lights and junctions and not many one way systems to negotiate. Another good road is the Freddana SP1 Camaiore road. It has a constant 2-3% incline for close to 20km then kicks up at the end. It’s a different kind of session to the previous one and can be heavily affected by the wind from mountain or sea but its pretty as a picture and makes me feel like a playboy.

Pacing 1

C!. Give us a rundown of the session

TL. This afternoon after we hammered 100km in 35 degree heat. Andy has been doing two hours with 5 intervals, some sprints and a couple of solo stretches of around ten minutes. Andy will take off at around 50/60kph and hammer his solo blocks- when this happens you need to be out of his way without moving- he was sprinting in the 70’s and I couldn’t catch him at full throttle on a 50cc Vespa. Don’t forget the rider is the reason and beneficiary of what your doing and why your doing it. They dictate the session and set the numbers. The pilot simply must adhere to the program and keep the speed and the scooter where it needs to be.

However I will say this, when Andy goes..he really goes. The scooter can’t quite catch him at first. Which is why you need the 125cc. Being on a Vespa getting dropped by a cyclist does not work wonders for your street cred. Even if it is a hot young sky rider.Sky Train

C!. Do chicks dig the pilot or the corridori more out on the road?

TL. I suppose it’s the equivalent of two supermodels blazing in tandem across the Tuscan countryside……if I say that often enough I may convince myself! Andy is built like a Grecian statue and rides like the wind. Any female adoration is undoubtedly his although I do get some waves from pensioners at the zebra crossings.

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If you fancy being towed around Tuscany by Tim Lindley, either via combustion engine or, more sensibly, pedal power, get in touch at iguideride@gmail.com or via the iGuideRide website http://www.iguideride.com/#!about/c1c32 . Tim runs guided rides for all abilities, be it groups or individuals, around the Lucca area. His local knowledge of people and places is second to none, ensuring you will enjoy some simply stunning days out on the bike. He might even play you a song with his Ghee-Tar..

(Andy Fenn, on the other hand, will simply break you into pieces)

Photo credits: iGuideRide & Nikki Dobson

Anatomy Of A Classic: Vignettes From The Rutland- Melton CiCLECLASSIC 2015

Photo credits to Shawn Ryan (http://photographer.shawn-ryan.co.uk) & ‘Ciclissimo!’ unless otherwise stated.RibinouThe race endlessly criss-crosses around and through the villages of Somerby and Owston, the pack crashing into view from any given direction like a crazed Chinese Dragon in what seems to be an attempt to out-manoeuvre race chasers and soigneurs. The overhanging, blossoming arbour of the previously sleepy rural scene only serves  to amplify the tumult within the narrow dirt track sectors as the race absorbs it into its wrath

Classic race shot

Joe
“The first hour was 49.6 kph according to my Garmin data. As soon as we left the neutralized zone it was ridiculous, I barely left the 53/11, even on the hills around Rutland water. Our local races can often start just as quick, but only for a few minutes, tops. This was prolonged carnage for over an hour.. it was brilliant” Joe Perkins, BRC Senior Squad (Riding the race in the East Mids Regional Team)
Josh Secteur
“I was comfortable…until we hit the off-road section Barrowberg. As soon as we hit it there were numerous punctures, crashes and bits of muck flying about everywhere. All I could think was, “I’m on a road bike, riding off road, through mud and rocks and other material that would be perfect for my cyclocross bike”. Then a rider fell off right in front of me causing me to quickly swerve out the way, therefore losing all momentum..” Josh Housley, BRC Junior Squad
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Joyce Jason Ghijs, CCT p/b Champion Systems; “..Our race tactics were to get Darijus Dzervus well placed in the front and help him if there would have been a group sprint to be amongst the main contenders. Darijus is our man in shape – he started a bit late his trainings due to heavy winter conditions in his home in Lithuania but he gets ready for the races in May.. and Ryan Wills, who was supposed to get in the break,according to the plan.. in which he succeed but that one didn’t last for a while..”

Destruction DerbyAP Sports Photography (@apsportsphoto)

Sector Bunch
“With the speed we were going at it was very difficult to move up at all. If you left a slight gap, say more than a wheel-length, then somebody would push or elbow themselves in there and in several minutes you could easily find yourself at the back. These guys were absolutely willing to risk crashing to maintain position. At the end of the second lap around Rutland Water, the top teams were fighting for position onto the first gravel segment which comes after a tight left-hander onto a narrow lane, no more than a car’s width wide..Once on the track, the peloton must have been 300m long and wheels were being lost everywhere..” Joe Perkins, Beeston RC

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Joyce Jason Ghijs, CCT p/b Champion Systems; “For Tanzou Tokuda, it’s still a matter to get used at this type of racing. Even in Belgium it’s hard for him, but we do our best and he’s learning step by step..” Photo; Ciclissimo!

The School of hard-knocks had one more lesson that day for Tanzou after the mid-point time cut had claimed him: Trying to find your way back to the team vehicles from a tiny village in the middle of fields in a country you don’t know and whose language is new to you. I tried to call Andrew, the team Soigneur, but there was no signal. Tanzou decided to set off in search of Oakham, tagging along with BRC’s Joe & Ed who’d left their car there at the start. I hear Tanzou made it back to the team eventually..Drained 3MAP Sports Photography (@apsportsphoto)

The rider’s faces were studies in intense, desperate concentration as they hurtled full gas through the sectors, necks straining and torsos contorting to gain a split second’s more knowledge of the shifting, spitting surface. The rocks and debris ricocheted around the charging pack, sounding like the crack of bullets against the deep section rims, peppering my shins and the team car side panels as last ditch chasers swarmed and fish-tailed through the destruction derby convoy. He who blinked first was lost to the race..sector exit Wills

Mad-Gen ChargeAP Sports Photography (@apsportsphoto)

Madison -Genesis were dominant throughout, Tom Stewart seemingly floating as he forced the pace on his beloved dirt packed terrain..punctures saw them thwarted towards the end, however- like many. Ah well, at least they had Tom’s body weight in Prime Sprint prize beer to cushion the blow..

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Joyce Jason Ghijs, CCT p/b Champion Systems; “..When passing through the feeding for the third time, Ryan crashed. We were worried he would have broken something, but at the end he seemed to be ok. He has a fighters’ mentality and I’m convinced he will comeback stronger..”
Ed BRC
“..It was fairly nerve-shredding to be honest because you cannot see anything ahead of you and so are totally reliant on the riders around you – whom you’ve never even met before! – to ride safely and avoid any potholes, road furniture etc.. Entering the first off-road sector where you had a 160-rider field smashing it down the A606 to pull a 90 degree left hander into a single-track road and then bodies everywhere on that section. On the laps of Rutland Water some of the ‘climbs’ which you would take steady on a training ride we hit at 50kph plus and then ‘rolled over’ in the 13 or 14..” Ed Pickard, BRC/ E. Mids Regional Team, Full Gas.

I took this right turn off the surfaced road here when I first arrived, seeing the advertising hoardings. I walked 20m further on and paused and nearly turned back, thinking I was merely heading into a race traffic parking area as they couldn’t possibly take a bike race along this scree field.. I was wrong.

Moda wheels

The soigneurs spent the day engaged in a lottery game of check-mate with punctures, Raleigh Swannyconstantly grabbing clutches of wheels and darting off through the lanes and sectors to try and outwit the rocks, pinch-flats and flints that lay gleefully in wait everytime the race dove into the chaos of the ribinou. Finding the right road-side position was needle in haystack stuff..  At the finish I overheard one swanny relaying to one of his rubble encrusted charges how much easier than expected the day had been, with not one spare wheel being required from him- through gulped breaths the rider informed him that he himself had needed four. Joyce Jason Ghijs of CCT p/b Champion Systems;“..so far we punctured only once during road races this season. As of yesterday, it rose by 7….”

Swannies

NFTO Job DonePhoto; Ciclissimo!

‘Ciclissimo!’ photographer, Shawn, and I missed the Money Shot by about 30 seconds, arriving at the finish line to find the riders slumped over bars and peeling off helmets from above filth covered, drained faces. Steele Von Hoff thought he had done likewise as he sprinted for what he believed was 5th place- until he was soon informed he had just taken the win..Leg IIPhoto; Ciclissimo!

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Pitfalls of the Neo-Pro, #463: Hotel Heists and Attractive Women.

This cautionary tale comes straight from some of the horses’ mouths- not horses that have fallen for the ruse, but even so, the names are being withheld to protect the innocent from any wrongful inference.Heist“I just Loved your 87th place in the Ronde Van Zeeland Seaports.. I should come up and see you sometime..”

You may recall over the last couple of seasons the moderately regular reports of team bikes being stolen, en masse, in the dead of night from outside the team’s hotel during stage races of varying stature. These may or may not involve mid-ranking Italian squads racing in Il Bel Paese.

Apparently there is more to the modus operandi of the bicycle thieves (Vittorio De Sica reference entirely intentional) than at first it appears. And so, beware the neo-pro who finds himself subject to the attentions of attractive start village or finish-line groupies in outfits extremely appropriate for the summer temperatures. Especially when phone numbers are exchanged with views to a liaison later that night at the team hotel, which is then backed up by alluring textual interchange alluding to such an event. Pity him as he sits expectantly alone in his room (having convinced his roomy to ‘nip out for a while’) after excitedly divulging the address and room number of the temporary accommodation to the temptress. Alas, there is no light tapping on the door, the snapchat pics have all faded – and the team’s entire supply of bikes and wheels has been deftly cleared out of the trucks and into a transit van by our amorous young racer’s would-be girlfriend’s burly mates from the local ‘Family’…

I couldn’t help but let a wry smile creep across my face about a month after I was told of this caper when I read of just such a heist taking place. Yes, I pulled up the start list of the team in question for that race and scanned it to see who my money might be on.

Discovering Columbus: Inside Cinelli For Always Riding

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Cinelli, for me, represents a golden-age of cycling. My first ‘real’ racing bike was equipped with one of Cinelli’s classic, beautifully curved quill stems and their signature alloy bars. That the winged ‘C’ had leapt from the pages of the cycling magazines’ coverage of the great races and riders to adorn my bike’s cockpit was a matter of no small excitement and pride for that younger self. So getting the opportunity to travel to Milano and spend the day with Gruppo S.r.L’s (The group name for the business marriage of Cinelli & Columbus tubing) Vice-President, Fabrizio Aghito, for the Always Riding folk was a bit of a dream come true.

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The full article is right here, complete with the great camera work of the Grande-Tifoso himself, Angelo Giangregario. I’ve popped a couple of pics I took on the day, along with a few snippets of the story, here.

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“Downing our espressi, we hop on a passing yellow tram at Porta Ticinese and rattle down Via Torino towards the city’s dead-centre. Through the morning Milanese rush hour rain, the iconic old streetcar’s dinging bell gently nudges through the commuters as they themselves weave in and out of cafes and tabacs, intent on their own requisite morning espresso, always imbibed in one, stood with that easy Italian elegance of attire and poise at high counters whilst scanning the day’s headlines on pink or white broadsheet…”

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“The welcome is warm, a sign thoughtfully hung by the doorway heralds our arrival and ushers us into the office’s family atmosphere; the faceless urban hinterland is left behind at the threshold.

“Coffee?” Fabrizio offers
“Please – espresso?” I enquire
“We only have espresso…” Fabrizio smiles, humouring the out-of-towners…”

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“Cinelli always wanted to put art into the sport. That has been one of the targets of Mr Antonio Colombo, Angelo’s son who now runs the company. Also to support rider’s communities, such as messengers. To push not only the bicycle as a sport but also the grass roots usage, the culture, the everyday usage. We aim to have our bicycle culture here at Cinelli not just coming down from the top of the sport but also to come up from the communities that ride our bikes”

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Cino

From Where I Ride: 2017 ToB, Stage 4 – Mansfield – Newark-on-Trent

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There’s something really fun about seeing the pros race along your local roads. Not just the ‘within general local area’ roads, but barreling specifically down your beloved, unassuming and deserted little country lanes. The ones that you can take inch-perfect mental fly-bys through while plotting your weekend rides from the confines of the dragging, desk-bound afternoons in the office.

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The ones that may as well be on the moon for 95% of the town’s population who, despite it being a mere 20km from their front door, will never swoop down that lightening quick false flat and know the exact point to then click deftly through the gears as you corner into the short, sharp rise that lies hidden behind that 90 degree hedgerow trap like a jack-in-the-box waiting to pounce on those still in the big-ring…

Tony

Watching with an expert’s eye as World Champ stripes and flouro exotica dodge bedevilling potholes and gravel pile wash-out spots that you can avoid with your eyes closed. The chain-rattling broken surfaces that claim an uninitiated victim under the mocking glare of soaring cathedral towers on the off-camber market-town twitches.

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Shouting at the TV screen for them to take that obvious right turn down a hidden, to-die-for country-mile gem that you know they’d just love, despairing at the Race Director’s criminal ignorance of what you know would make for the perfect race moment.

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The joy as Mssr Director redeems himself – What a Masterstroke! Taking them off of the mainstream, A-road route and down past that fantastic little whistle-stop pub and into the heart of your weekend playground.

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Ah yes – these everyday landmarks will now forever be the ‘Corner in S’th’ell Where the An-Post Guy Stacked It’, the ‘Criminally Overlooked Greaves Lane’ and ‘That Great Stretch of Big-Ring Burn-Up Towards Kirklington that Mark McNally Powered Along in the Break’ during the 4th stage of the 2017 Tour of Britain

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Andrew Greenstreet got his mustard yellow Fiat 500 fired up and his race-chase mojo on and stalked the peloton as it snaked around our rolling North Notts roads. Pics and below account are used with his kind permissions.

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“September sees the Tour of Britain speeding through the length of the country and, on a gloomy looking Wednesday morning, the Nottinghamshire countryside held host to the race. Starting off in the old market town of Mansfield, the team’s echelons packed the tight confines of the market square giving the fans an up close experience you rarely get in professional sport.

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With the excited crowds bustling for a view and maybe an autograph from a Mark Cavandish, Geraint Thomas or a Tony Martin, to name but a few of the cycling stars on show, the atmosphere was electric. Honking air horns, clacker boards and bang-bang sticks rose to a crescendo, greeting the riders like gladiators as they signed on and were introduced to the crowd.

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With riders, bikes and teams ready, the expectant throng was primed for the flag to be dropped and then off we raced. The Tour was winding its way down towards Newstead Abbey then up through Worksop to Retford and down again to the final destination of today’s stage, the Historic Civil War Town of Newark-on-Trent. With best laid plans off we set, the route and timings set for where we’d meet the peloton. First stop was the village of Edingley: fully decked out with a yellow bikes at every lamp post, colourful bunting hanging off every hedge and a good gathering along the roadside.

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An early breakaway was met by local cyclists waving their pie and pints outside The Old Reindeer pub as the race dashed on towards their first watering station in Southwell. Now this is where plans and cycle races fall foul as we jumped back into car to head for the first of the intermediate sprints. It was always going to be a push to get there, cutting through the narrow lanes, but the rolling road block stopped us in our tracks. With luck, however, seemingly on our side, it turned out to be a good spot; on a slight incline as the sky’s briefly opened to remind everyone this was Britain. The chasing cycle club crowd’s spirits, now emboldened with pastry and beer, were not even slightly dampened, shouting and whooping as riders pulled on rain capes.

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Looking at the timings on the schedule and gauging the speed of the peloton the decision was made to head straight the King of the Mountain segment on Eaton Wood. The gathering of people there was amazing: all the way up the hill with cow bells and clackers – anything to make a royal racket as the race passed by. With police sirens approaching from the distance, the furore was palpable from the hundreds of assembled spectators. The four man break still had a reasonable lead going up the hill but the main peloton was hot on its heels as we headed towards the finish. This is where the luck ran out. The schedule had be blown apart by a bike race determined to beat me to the line and, despite my sprinting the last one and a half kilometres, the Tour of Britain Stage Four was over with me 100 metres short. The fat lady in my head was in full voice.

Glum Italians

With presentations done (seeing the jersey swapping hands for the next stage) we are left feeling satisfied that our county Nottinghamshire and its people have done us proud”

 

Nic Dougall: El Salvador of St Hilari!

Nic Dougall may delight in ripping the legs of the peloton to ragged sinew and flesh but, once the dossard has been cast asunder, is not a man to pass the opportunity up to pet a cute, fluffy four-legged friend. Especially if that cute, fluffy four-legged friend is in mortal danger on the flanks of a Catalunyan mountainside! And so it was that Nic ‘El Salvador’ Dougall came to the rescue of Bunny Dougall whilst out with the usual motley crew of Gironisti pedaleurs whilst training…

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“They were riding up the St Hilari climb and they saw a fluffy thing on the side of the road. They pedaled on by for a few meters and then Nic was like “Nah – I’m gonna go see what that was…” So he rides back down the road, goes over and just picks it up! It was a rabbit – it was fine, but obviously not a wild rabbit.

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He put it in his jersey (wrapped in Lotto NL Jumbo’s Alexey Vermeulen’s jersey) and rode to the top of the climb. Whence (sic, Brooke Gillot) he got to the top he was going to palm it off to somebody but was, by that time, already in love with it… So, he buys a backpack and rides 45km back to Girona with the bunny on his back!”

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Hero status is thusly truly conferred, but let us not forget the capricious whims of the hands of fate in the life of both of our protagonists: It was only a few short days ago that El Salvador was forced to relinquish his place, mid-race, on Team Dimension Data’s ill-fated Vuelta squad. A cruel blow after so much sacrifice and training for this Grand Tour appointment and the organisers soon saw viewing figures plummet.

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But all these things happen for a reason – and nobody knows this more so than our cuddly, floppy gaited new friend! One can only shudder at the thought of what may have become of him if Nic was still locked in combat at La Vuelta and it was left to Ride-Captain Chris Williams to decide poor Bunnie’s fate…

 

Pics & the inside line courtesy of Brooke Gillott, stolen from Team Novo Nordisk’s Chris Williams (who is a thoroughly nice chap in reality and would never leave a bunny in peril)

 

DS Eye’s View: Team Novo Nordisk’s Pavel Cherkasov From Behind The Team Car Wheel.

Team Novo Nordisk have been fighting their mid-season American campaign under the guidance and watchful eye of DS Pavel Cherkasov. Pavel is an ex-Road & Mountain bike pro with ten years racing under his belt and boasts a world title to his name in the TTT for Russia as a junior and signed his first pro-contract after victory in the Giro Delle Regioni (beating Laurent Roux & Oscar Camenzind in the process) back in ‘93. Ciclissimo! caught up with the world’s first all-diabetes pro-cycling team’s Russian DS at the Colorado Classic to get a view on life from the other side of the race-dossard amidst a fortnight of fast, aggressive racing through America’s Mountain States of Utah and Colorado.

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Ciclissimo! When would the race planning for an event like this start? Are we talking days or weeks in advance?
Pavel Cherkasov It’s all starts with our roster and the goals we are trying to achieve at that race. This actually starts months in advance so training plans can be designed with coaches to help prepare a rider for a race.  Then we look at profiles, competitors, weather conditions etc. We start putting together the actual race strategy usually a day before the start.  
 
C! What would that involve as far as ‘the big picture’? I mean, the riders only have to worry about training hard enough and making sure not to miss the flight to arrive at the race sign-on!
PC The first part of the logistics plan that we focus on is getting all the equipment dialed in. The support staff sits down and coordinates all the logistical needs (vehicles, transfers, etc) that need to happen during a race. The ultimate goal for everyone is for the riders to have the best support possible throughout a race so their only focus is performing. 
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We determine our roster based on their race season goals, their fitness condition and how that particular race fits into their overall goal for the season. We absolutely do route recon—recon is absolutely crucial for a successful race strategy.
 
C! On the day: What’s running through your head as far as prepping for the stage and making sure the team is ready physically and tactically?
 
PC Heading into Stage 3, my main thoughts were how to keep morale high, continue to have the guys motivated to perform after racing at altitude and climbing for 10 straight race days, ways to get the best recovery.
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C! The flag drops: Did the stage pan out as hoped? What did you encounter on the day?
 
PC There are always adjustments along the way. Sometimes it is dealing with a mechanical issue, extreme weather or simply responding to an unexpected race scenario where you have to redefine your strategy on the fly. For Stage 3, it was weather, which has been true all race. It was very hot, so we had to make sure we had enough bottles to keep the riders hydrated. Then very strong storms rolled in, so we had to ensure everyone stayed safe. Luckily it was still hot, so clothing wasn’t an issue. The final sections of today’s climb had a dirt sector so we worried about mechanical issues but the guys made it through fine—just extra dirty bikes for the mechanics!
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C! How does the car work as an ‘office’? 
 
PC The main communication happens between the team car and the riders via two-way radio and when they drop back to speak directly with the car. In the car, we typically have a director, doctor and mechanic. Along the race route, we have staff members who provide support, such as water, food and wheels. We also receive constant updates from Radio Tour (race radio), which is the race channel and they let teams know time splits, if a rider needs attention and any other important details happening within the race.  In the car, we always have spare wheels and a full tool box along with spare bikes on the roof. In the back is a cooler full of water bottles—with water and Nuun. Throughout the stage, there is always interaction between team cars; it tends to be playful. On more intense days (like Stage 3), there is less interaction and everyone is simply focused on their riders.
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C! After the finale, what sort of debrief and evening schedule do you have?
 
PC We have a team meeting every day where we debrief and talk about what worked and what didn’t work. Then we discuss strategies for the next day and go over logistics and the daily schedule.
 
C! What time is lights finally out for a DS?!
PC Sometimes very early because if the next stage starts early, the staff always needs to be awake before the riders. I aim to be as well rested as possible during a race.
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Photo Credits: @VeloImages

Lambeke

In 2016, Mansfield’s Ross Lamb was the first-season icing on a very pleasing cake for Bryan Steel’s fledgling youth development squad, the Godfrey Bikewear Race Team sponsored by Vision Express. Relatively new to cycling after coming to the sport as part of a rehab program after a footballing injury with Notts County FC, Ross stormed through the squad’s race program with a host of domestic scene wins and podiums. Ross seamlessly translated these UK performances into foreign prize money with more of the same when the team ventured across the Channel to the cycling heartlands of France and Belgium. The boy was turning heads. The result was a contract with United Cycling Team for the 2017 campaign, Dave Rayner funding and a degree of head-scratching for Mr Steel when it came to how he was going to tackle that second-season difficult second album – minus Ross.
Ciclissimo! caught up with Ross ahead of the Ronde Van Oost Vlaanderen stage race to talk about how things are panning out over in Flanders. Many have made the trip and many have seen hopes and dreams mercilessly dashed against the grey granite walls of the village churches the Flemish love to Kermesse around: Not so Ross. Whilst collating his palmares-to-date in order to get this article together he was having to send weekly updates of further placings and podiums. This has been far from a case of a Lamb to the slaughter…
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Photo Credits: Roland Pipeleers courtesy of Ross Lamb

Ciclissimo! You were the dream start to the Bryan Steel development team project – he stated from day-one that the aim was to see a rider get over to Europe and embark on a career: That rider turned out to be you in the squad’s first season!

Ross Lamb It was a great year and I pay a lot of thanks to Bryan Steel and Mick Padley who helped put it all together. Before last season had begun I’d sat down with Mick and we both basically looked at each other and said I need to get over to Belgium again because that was, and still is, the only chance I’d have really of making cycling my life. We had seen what other people of my age were doing and realised that I needed to get over there and give myself a chance. It all happened pretty rapido when I was in Belgium – from one day winning a race to the next being asked if I wanted to join the team I’m riding for now. Undoubtedly, the results I got made people ask who am I sort of thing, 1st through to 5th I think I managed, which made a couple of teams ask what I was doing contract-wise. Ingrid Sels (Soigneur for Norwegian National squad on many occasions – Ed), one of the kind ladies we met, basically sorted the ride out for me. She mentioned my name and results to Team Manager Johan Remels and it was as easy as that.

C! The team being…?

RL I’ll be riding for United Cycling Team. They’re a Topcompetition level team based out of Sint Truiden

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C! So, the deal is sorted, you’re moving from North Notts over to Flanders to race in one of, if not the, most fabled school of bike racing hard-knocks – was there a moment when you sat there and thought “Shit Just Got Real…”

RL  I wouldn’t say there was a particular moment that made me think ‘shit just got real’ but training all winter with Sam Smith made sure I never forgot of how hard it was going to be! The guy never stops talking! (laughs!) No, I mean from my previous trips to Belgium I’d only ever experienced the highs of summer and 35 degrees so I guess my first team race was a bit of an eye opener – though not unexpected. It was my first ever race in the wet, I eventually got taken out on a cobbled climb… My time in Belgium opened up my eyes to what I can see myself doing for a long time not only because of the riding but also the place where I stay too, Cafe sur Place, there’s a little community that I’d never even thought existed.

C! How was it settling in to a new country?

RL First feelings where like I’d not really left from my previous time here the season before – properly excited though, I’d been waiting since the end of last season to come back. Plus my new Ridley Fenix SL & Bioracer kit was waiting! I knew before that this was exactly where I should be and I couldn’t have found a better place to be staying. There wasn’t much time to bed in though: After arriving late in Flanders on the 18th there was a race the very next day so I was quickly into it again with no time to think. I guess I just got on with it. I attacked literally off the line ‘cos my mate Adam Lewis was like “Quick, Ross – attack as a joke!” – little did he know that he wouldn’t see the front group again, good laugh! First race, 4th; I was thinking “Yeah this ain’t too bad…” Took time after that one to get it right again though…

C! And there is the other side of settling in – what about the household chores when bicycle practice is done for the day? Can you even cook?

RL With the cooking its pretty good, there’s five of us living here from the Dave Rayner fund and we have a rota going so whoever cooks and then everyone else cleans up after. Regarding everyday cleaning it’s just a free for all – whoever is in the mood I guess!

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C! You’ve swapped the grippy old roads of Nottinghamshire for the concrete slabs and cobbles of Flanders – what are the favourite routes?

RL I’m living in a town called Veerle-Laakdaal, not too far away from Aarschot which hosts the start of Dwars Door Het Hageland, and I’ve just used most of the roads around there – mostly without knowing! Since I’ve been here I’ve not really had to train that much, it’s been more a case of filling in the gaps between races. Oh, and the odd visit to the old Albert Kanaal as and when it’s needed…

C! Albert Kanaal – I’m not sure if that’s some coarse-handed, gravely, Gauloise-voiced old Flemish Swanny or a towpath…

RL Yeah, it’s a canal path – like whenever Van Aert goes on the TT rig he’s there, you always see a few pros knocking about, Van Bilsen and the others. My favorite rides, although they will never suit me, have been the ones in the Ardennes at the beginning of the year. It reminds me so much of being at home in the Peak District. Incredibly hilly. I did the Triptyque Ardennais earlier in the year and Wow! The team only sent me looking for form because I was never going to do anything! (Laughs!) It’s on the border of Germany and Luxembourg, wicked scenery… Actually, that was probably my hardest moment so far for me, the Triptyque Ardennais. My team manager wanted to send me there to ‘finish off my form’ – add that little extra – and for sure it did but the pain during the race on some of the climbs was just… yeh something else.

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C! How about we contrast that with your best moment?

RL My best moment so far for sure has been the 3rd place at the Memorial Van Coningsloo, a UCI 1.2 Europe Tour event dedicated to the memory of a local amateur cyclist, Philippe Van Coningsloo, who suffered a heart attack and died during a cycling race back in 1992. I was agonizingly close to winning. It just felt mega being involved throughout a race like that.

C! How does the racing over in Belgium compare so far to the stuff you were doing in the UK?

RL That’s a difficult one that – because, after all, its just riding your bike as hard as you can when you need to and saving your energy when you can. But I’d say, in terms of tactics in the kermesses over here, it’s just being vigilant and waiting for the right guys otherwise it’ll never go. Back home, depending on the level, its more organised – or at least the Prems are – and teams will chase and stuff: Kermesses are just every man for themselves, teammates after each other all the time! I change gear and five others do too straight away sort of thing!

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C! That’ll probably be why that Lotto-Soudal guy in the pics here is watching you like a hawk! Have you seen him in? That one in the pics there?

RL The guy without glasses on? Gerban Thijssen – won Sint-Niklaas the other month, next Andre Greipel: You heard it here first!

Ross Lamb Palmares

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2016 – Godfrey Bikewear Race Team sponsored by Vision Express

1st Haasdonk
1st Fenland Clarion rr
1st Peterborough CC  rr
1st Bole Hill rr
2nd East Midlads Championship rr
2nd Danum Trophy rr
2nd De Klinge
3rd Zutendaal
4th Puurs
4th Coalville Wheelers rr
5th Hoeleden
6th GA Bennett
7th Darley Moor
2017 – United Cycling Team
1st Denderwindeke
2nd Zandhoven
2nd Booischot
2nd Huldenberg
2nd Linden-Lubeek
3rd Halen
3rd Memorial Philippe Van Coningsloo UCI 1.2
4th Heusden-Zolder
8th Betekom
9th Herne
10th Geel
11th Circuit de Wallonie UCI 1.2
13th GP Stad Sint-Niklaas UCI 1.2
Series/ Stage Races
7th Overall Topcompetitie
10 Overall GC Vlaams Brabant (7th St.1, 5th st.3)

Stagiaire! In The Middle Of America: Team Novo Nordisk’s Sam Brand At The Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah

Ciclissimo! is back on the road with Team Novo Nordisk, the world’s first all-diabetes pro cycling team, at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah. We’ve be following the fortunes of  their new stagiaire, 25 year old Isle of Man native, Sam Brand. Sam had been making waves – most probably in the swim leg – on the National and European triathlon circuit (ignore my flippancy, silver in the 2015 British Championships is no joke) before switching solely to cycling for 2016. Already on the TNN radar after his strong tri’ results, Sam secured himself a place on their development squad and continued to impress. A mid-season call up to a hard fought, seven-day mountainous stage race debut with the Team Novo Nordisk full pro-squad was his reward. Ciclissimo! got the inside line each day from Sam throughout his journey through the Hollywood-Western ‘big country’ vistas of America’s mountain belt.

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Stage 7: Salt Lake City, 118km

Nippo-Vini Fantini’s Marco Canola caught Caja Rural – Seguros RGA’s constantly race-animating Benito napping and slipped through the inside in a wily yet textbook move on the final corner. Canola had followed Benito’s line-hunting solo foray from the final group that had formed after a typically pacey and attack laden crit’ finale around a rollercoaster of a Salt Lake City circuit. Canola kept the power on up the rise to the line and took the stage win in the State capitol with Rob Britton of Rally Cycling running out deserved GC victor after a staunch defence of the jersey since claiming it at the mid-race TT. Sam crossed the line with the needle pretty much on empty but with a smile on his face, deservedly so also, after a successful pro-race debut in a very testing arena indeed.

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Sam’s View

Ciclissimo! You just finished your first professional stage race and an incredibly hard one at that. How does it feel?

Sam Brand It feels amazing. I’m very, very happy; that was a tough day.

C! How did the day play out?

SB You could tell early on that it wasn’t going to be easy. There was no just sitting on. It took about three or four laps to start to go easier. I knew I was in it for a whole day of suffering, so I put my head down and ground it out.

C! What was the climb like?

SB Most of the time, it wasn’t neutral, but we started easy and you could go up with the group. As the race went on, it got harder and harder. Once I had noticeably less energy than at the start, it really started to feel harder each time.

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C! What were the final few laps like?

SB I was constantly trying to fight to move up, stay in my own rhythm and not let myself get distracted by everyone else. I knew as it got towards the second to the last lap that I had to stay in the group, but I really started to struggle. I got to the start of the final lap and just held on, held on, held on. On the final lap, I started to fall back and couldn’t hold on anymore.

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C! You start the Colorado Classic on Thursday. Being able to finish this race—does it give you more confidence than when you started Utah?

SB Absolutely. I’m just on a high that I get to do this as a job. I’m over the moon that I’ve had this opportunity. I’m going into every race with a smile on my face and excited to inspire, educate and empower everyone affected by diabetes!

All Photo Credits: VeloImages