There aren’t many pro-riders out there with a catchphrase. There are nicknames aplenty and a select few coureurs have a trademark winning celebration. There are also those whose on-the-record words have come back to haunt them in later years but if you are looking for a rider who can be totally summed up by something he once said, look no further than the man who has just retired after 16 years of no-holds-barred, never say die racing, whose inward rallying call became outward shorthand for his whole outlook on life. For most cycling fans you don’t need to say Jens Voigt. Like him you just say, “Shut Up Legs”.
We all know that looking good on the bike is something to be strived for but we shouldn’t forget about smelling good too. I overheard a good tip this weekend at my Sunday run cafe stop at the Ide Hill Community Shop for helping keeping leather cycling gloves smelling sweet.
Happy Birthday ‘Mr Paris-Roubaix’ – born 24.08.1947
Paris Roubaix winner – 1972, ’74, ’75, ’77
Milan-San Remo winner – 1973, ’78, ’79
Giro di Lombardia winner – 1974, ’76
Ronde van Vlaanderen winner – 1977
Liege-Bastogne-Liege winner – 1970
Tirreno-Adriatico winner – 1972, ’73, ’74, ’75, ’76, ’77
Resplendent in his eye-catching Brooklyn team jersey, with trademark sideburns and position, de Vlaeminck was always a magnet of attention in the peloton. The younger of of two de Vlaemincks who would dominate the Belgian cyclocross scene throughout the Seventies, Roger was also the best Classics rider of his generation. Despite being pitted against the might of Merckx for much of his career, ‘The Gypsy’ carved out a remarkable palmares, becoming one of only three riders to have won all five ‘Monuments” (de Vlaeminck’s countrymen Merckx and Rik Van Looy are the others). His unique riding style, with hands curved inwards over the low brake hoods, and elbows almost below his knees, was highly unusual for the day and his bike handling skills – honed over many winter cyclocross seasons – were exemplary. The cobbled classics of the Spring were his forte and his four wins at Paris-Roubaix will be his eternal legacy, even if Tom Boonen goes on to win one more to take the record outright. His third place in the 1976 edition, captured in Jorgen Leth’s “A Sunday in Hell” shows him in fine attacking form but (like Cancellara and Sagan in years to come) perhaps overconfident of his own powers in the final attacks.
The Vuelta a España starts this weekend. Normally relegated to a fairly distant gruppetto in terms of importance compared to the peloton of the Tour de France and the breakaway of the early season Giro d’Italia, events have conspired this year to elevate the last Grand Tour of the year to give it a much higher profile than normal.
It’s often said that one man’s loss is another man’s gain. That’s certainly been true for the Vuelta organisers and sponsors this year whose collective hands must have been worn smooth with all the gleeful rubbing that has been going on since late Spring. Nairo Quintana’s decision to target the Giro and Vuelta had already brought some joy to the race but a series of crashes and withdrawals across May and July has raised the stock enormously of the peloton who will set off on Saturday evening’s pan-flat Team Time Trial in Jerez.
Hair got me into cycling. I know it sounds ridiculous – the leap from barnet(1) to bicycle is not an easy one to imagine – but it’s true. The ponytails of firstly Robert Millar and then, and more importantly, Laurent Fignon bewitched me more than any lofty mountain pass or low-profile time trial machine. Who were these sportsmen who exhibited such flair with their hair? It is said that the aero disadvantage of Fignon’s follicle affectation cost him the 1989 Tour, which he lost to the tousled golden locks of the American Greg Lemond by just eight seconds, but (and I realise that it would have been scant consolation to the distraught Frenchman) it won my undying admiration.
Fignon and on and on.
A new appearance in the Rouleur online shop this week attracted my attention and also reminded me of something similar – and equally beautiful – that has been around around for a little while..
Two different takes of a poster of various cycling jerseys. The limited edition Rouleur version (£45.00, A2 sized), by illustrator Beach, chronologically details the jersey’s of the 101 Tour de France winners in an attractive flat graphic style whilst David Sparshott’s (£55, A2 size) pencil crayon sketches capture a wide range of vintage jerseys in his signature style. Both prints are very simple and just let the beauty of the jerseys – and the magic of a bit of repetition – do the hardwork.
It’s the night before the Grand Depárt and things are not looking too rosy in ‘God’s Own Country’. To use the local phrase, it is ‘siling down’ and the floodlights outside the Rapha HQ tent at Broughton Hall in Yorkshire are in danger of being extinguished by a deluge of fierce intensity. The rain is beating heavily on the plasticised canvas marquee, providing additional percussion to the Friday night beats being played by Rapha DJ’s Joey Hall and Festus. The throng of people inside are having a good time enjoying the tunes, the beer and the company but eyes keep flicking outside and you can feel minds wondering whether the name of the Tempest Festival will prove prophetic. I’m inside too, chatting to a couple of guys sitting at one of the long tables in the bar end of the tent. One notices my concern and leans in conspiratorially. “Don’t worry.” he says over the noise of the music. “I work as a trader in Amsterdam. I have to study the weather to make my bets. The sun will come out at eight o’clock tomorrow morning. I promise you.”