We did the Première Manche - the first round - of A Travers riding across France from Dieppe to Marseille in the summer of 2009, and it was the original inspiration for this blog. The plan to put the 'band back together again' for another go in 2013 for the second installment fell on stoney ground, with life just getting in the way for too many of us, much to our disappointment. However, our enthusiasm for the bike remains undimmed, and so I'll keep posting my thoughts on the diverse and beautiful facets of the sport regardless. But there's bound to be another big 'adventure ride' coming soon - quite possibly in Italy - so potentially a name change too: Attraverso l'Italia in Bicicletta anyone?

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Bingo Wins!

Six stage wins in one Tour (including the one on the Champs) and he doesn't win the Green Jersey? Is there no justice in the World? Let's have a proper debate about what exactly the Green Jersey is for. Is it best 'pure sprinter', or is it 'most consistent daily finisher'? Should the Red 'Catch' Jersey be resurrected (or is using a chemical spray to kill flies no longer acceptable?)? I can see the merits in both, but surely Cav deserves some kind of recognition for this, or is it just because he's British and we're all excited?

When was the last time someone won so many stages in one of the Grand Tours? Answers on a postcard to me; winner bags themselves a packet of stale Peek Freans Bourbon biscuits. Second prize is Custard Creams.

Here are some clues - if not the answers - since prize distribution will be problematic: Freddy Maertens in the Tour of Spain in 1977 won a mind-boggling thirteen stages, when Duvel was considered both something for your bidon and also the best post-ride recovery drink. Answer for the Tour may be here, 8 wins shared with other greats like Merckx.

I'd love to see 'Bingo' replicate that.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Hidden Treasure

Whilst searching through the loft for some suitable old French cycling magazines to give to Phil Diprose at the Ride Journal for scanning to support my upcoming article on the collection, I stumbled across a yellowing (well, actually, its original colour was yellow, so maybe it's 'whiting', but then that's a fish) and battered (what's with the fish references?) start sheet for the Goodwood 1982 World Road Race Championships. A surprise find - but I knew I would never have thrown it out - and a wonderful souvenir of a fabulous day, when Chris Sherwood and I (both 15 years old in 1982) both managed to sneak like Oliver Twist and The Artful Dodger into the tribune at the finish and ended up standing about 3 feet away from Giuseppe in his newly-donned maglia iridata.

All the familiar names are on there (potted palmarès or witicisms in brackets), including:

#1: Philip Anderson (The Original London-born Aussie)
#10: Gary Wiggins (Bradley's dad)
#22: Freddy Martens (Shouldn't that be 'Maertens?)
#43: Laurent Fignon (1983 rookie winner at 21, 1984 Tour dominator, moral victor IMHO of the '89 Tour for attacking riding)
#45: Barnard Hindault (Yes, really. My hero, in the UK for the first time, insulted in print, and never to return as a result)
#76: Robert Millar (Ride in the 80s Worlds at Sallanches was awesome - and not reported widely enough)
#81: Sean Yates (Local hero - get well soon, Tonk!)
#82: Sean Kelly (Hard as nails, gets bronze today and in 1989 at Chambéry)
#83: Stephen Roche (1987 Worlds ... and Giro, and Tour)
#85: Moreno Argentin (1986 Worlds, Colorado, and the classiest World Champs jersey and shorts ever, on a Bianchi with Almarc leather bar covering. It doesn't get better)
#94: Francesco Moser (1977 Worlds, San Cristóbal)
#96: Giuseppe Saronni (Winner today, 05.09.1982)
#103: Gerrie Knetemann (1978 Worlds, Nürburgring)
#107: Jan Raas (1979 Worlds, Valkneburg)
#115: Joop Zoetemelk (1985 Worlds, Montello)
#128: Pedro Delgado (1988 Tour de France, would have won in '89 if he'd been wearing a watch)
#135: Mario (sic) Lejarreta (Rode all the Tours, all of the time)
#147: Urs Freuler (Atala kit was the best ever, even if the 'tache is a bit Graham Gooch)
#158: Jonathan Boyer (Lock up your children)
#162: Eric Heiden (5 Gold Medals at the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympics)
#163: Greg Lemond (Worlds in 1983 Altenrhein and 1989 Chambéry, 1986, 1989, 1990 Tour de France)

And in the amateur race:

#3: Allan Peiper (Hard-man Aussie domestique)
#24: Eric Vanderaerden (Flanders '85, Roubaix '87)
#34: Steven Bauer 1984 Olympic Road Race runner-up, and Bronze in the Pro Road Race the same year)
#80: Vincent Barteau (Yellow jersey for far too long, 1984)
#82: Eric Caritoux (Ventoux resident, Vuelta winner 1984)
#100: Olaf Ludwig (1988 Olympic Champion, Tour de France Green Jersey 1990)
#124: Malcolm Elliott (Points jersey at the '89 Vuelta, still racing in the UK at 48)
#142: Paul Kimmage (Domestique-cum-journo, blew the lid on doping practices in the pro peleton. Not on Lance's Christmas card list. Nor Roche's, nor ... )
#203: Dag Otto Lauritzen (Peugeot / 7-Eleven / Motorola / TVM pin-up boy, 1984 Olympics Road Race Bronze)
#251: Nikki Ruttimann (Hinault's domestique-climber at La Vie Claire 1984-6, here with his Weinmann-La Suisse skinsuit on apparently back-to-front ... )
#256: Urs Zimmermann (Vegetarian Tour protagonist 1986)
#272: Chris Carmichael (Lance's coach)
#275: Alexi Grewal (Outspoken yogi, 1984 Olympic Road Race Champion)
#276: Andy Hampsten (Giro winner 1988, after that Gavia stage)
#277: Ron Kiefel (7-Eleven trailblazer)
#278: Davies (sic) Phinney (7-Eleven trailblazer #2, 1984 Olympic TTT bronze, terrible crash through team car rear window @L-B-L in 1988 requiring 150 stitches, Davis Phinney Foundation pioneer)


#26: Jeannie Longo (Been around for ever - and still racing!)
#45: Mandy Jones (Can't find a pic of Mandy riding anywhere! Winner of the Goodwood Worlds that day)
#56: Maria Canins (Two-time Tour Féminin winner in the 80s)
#98: Connie Carpenter (1984 Olympic Road Race Champ, married to Davis Phinney)
#102: Rebecca Twigg (1984 Olympic Road Race runner-up)

One point probably only ever picked up by a pedant like me: I noticed on footage of the event (@1:21 in on this YouTube clip) that the start/finish line had the traditional 'arrivée' banner (the UCI's lingua franca is French), and on the reverse (facing) side 'departe', for 'start'. A schoolboy error, surely? 'départ' is correct, and, notwithstanding any debate about the use or otherwise of accents above capital letters, this looks as if it's been lazily guessed at: 'Oooh - add an 'e' at the end; that'll look French'. Do you reckon any of the riders noticed? It, like, totally ruined the day for me.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Job Done!

Will update the blog shortly with a day-by-day account of the highlights of what was a truly amazing trip: French customs fascism, rain, more rain, crashes, vomit and squits, 200km in 42 degrees centigrade over 10km climbs, the Ventoux and one of the longest taxi rides known to man.

On-the-road posts were too hard for several reasons: WiFi access in France is patchy, expensive, or both, but more than that our full-on days prevented me actually writing anything. Up at 7, breakfast, ride, lunch, ride, hotel around 7, shower, wash kit, eat, sleep. Repeat x 7 = exhausting. Managed a few pen-and-paper notes in a journal as aides-memoires, so will use these to update the blog shortly, hopefully with some selected pics from the massive collection that Graham and Steve took.

I managed to take a few photos en route with my iPhone, but better-quality ones will follow with the promised updates. Watch this space!

Bucolic cycling-oriented sense of humour had us smiling.

View of the Observatory from the Simpson Memorial, 1.5km to go (it's said that it's only a kilometre, but I'm sure it's further).

Observatory at the summit of the Col des Tempêtes (as the summit of the Ventoux is known), decked out with TdF imagery ready for Saturday's stage.

Friday, 10 July 2009

The Bike is Ready (But I'm Not)

Many thanks to my old mate Rohan at Sigma Sport for transforming my C40 from the heap of crud I'd let it become (Boo! Shame! Stone him!) and back into the beautiful machine it was supposed to be. The poor thing has been banished to my loft for the past three years after a dismal performance on it at La Marmotte: I only managed to haul my fat arse and creaking back to the top of the Croix de Fer before despondantly turning round, descending back to Bourg d'Oisans and getting pissed in the sun over steak-frites in a (rather splendid) bar. Mmmm - not something you'd expect to read on a blog all about the love of cycling is it, eh?

I'd done the RAID Pyreneen the year before that, and was riding the best I've ever been since my early 20s. I'd trained well through the winter, done lots of flexibility work, and the ride was one that made me fall in love with the bike all over again. I felt really good about myself, as if I'd finally matched the constant unfair demands I put on myself to be that fit and to actually make use of some of the ability I believe I do have, but more often than not have wasted. I talk the talk, but walking's always been a bit of an issue.

So, it's been hidden away because I felt I somehow didn't deserve to ride such a bike. All my training rides have been on my deathly-dull burgundy Look KG176, which is more a shade of brown in a certain light, appropriately. The lack of training I did for the Marmotte back then has been duly replicated this time round too, but then at least there's the opportunity here to hopefully 'ride myself in' with the longer, flatter initial stages. That's what I'm hoping anyway.

The bike looks awesome IMHO. Blue Colnago grip tape has been swapped for crisp white Deda tape, and it really brings the whole bike up a notch - there's much unpainted carbon weave around, and the bike was much too dark, even if black is currently in vogue. Rohan cleaned it all up, and finally cut the fork steerer to length. I'd been riding around with a 1" Martello Tower atop the Deda stem despite considering myself a perfectionist on a bike, so clearly my standards have been slipping with age. Now it's 10mm of carbon spacer below, 5mm above to give us a bit of play if needed, but more importantly to give the stem a larger area of steerer to clamp onto.

Long and low position. 14cm Deda Newton stem to accommodate my Mr Tickle arms.

First-generation Record rear mech, and look at those dinner-plate sprockts: 13-29 Chorus, and I'm sure I'm gonna need it on the Ventoux. I can't believe that Jamesy and I rode up there in '89 with 53-39 rings and 7-speed Maillard screw-on blocks, probably robbed off our cyclo-cross bikes for the trip. Not that the gearing was wrong, but just so unsophisticated.

Note the gear the bike is in, as chosen on all bike adverts ever produced: 53 x 12. I don't think I've ever used it.

It's well documented that Rohan's a perfectionist. Tape installed in 10 minutes, finished not with the usual colour-coded insulation tape which invariably stretches, comes unstuck, leaves gummy adhesive everywhere, but instead painstakingly cut to shape and superglued to give the cleanest of finishes.

Ubiquitous shot of that head badge. What is it about Italian bikes? Or cars? Or scooters? Or food? Mama mia, why aren't we riding across Italy for goodness sake? Santa Patata!

One of the original Record carbon chainsets: saw it, wanted it, haemorrhaged £550 for it. Aluminium exo-skeleton, hand-wrapped in carbon fibre. Beautiful, and apparently made by Zipp... Water bottles to match the frame's NL30 paint scheme sourced from the US.

We swapped my light-blue Michelin Pro-Race for something that better fits this Italian classic. I'd hurriedly and reluctantly had to change my knackered blue CX twin treads at La Marmotte for them (further proof of a lack of preparation) as they were all I could get after the 90-minute queue in the only bike shop in Bourg where the hassled machanic really didn't appreciate my asking him to fit them. No wonder the sidewalls came back covered in black greasy fingerprints, him blowing out his cheeks to produce the classic French 'boff', in true je m'en foutiste tradition. It was just a further item on the list of excuses for packing. French tyres on an Italian bike is verging on sacrilege, and Ro had a small, until-now secret, stash of these retro-looking CX with exposed amber cotton sidewalls that just seem to fit the era of the machine perfectly. I love the way the Italian tricolour is used in the 'V' of Vittoria, and that the tyre has only a reasonable amount of pointless technical TLA/FLA guff printed on the side.

I've tried and failed here to replicate the pant-wettingly cool ads that used to appear in Winning Magazine for Ten Speed Drive Imports, if you ever remember them: always splendid 3/4 shots of the bike - Guerciotti, De Rosa, Somec, Tommasini - inevitably kitted out with the must-have gruppo and components of the time: Camapag C Record, Colbaltos, Almarc leather handlebar covering, 3T Record 84 black stem, San Marco Rolls and more pantographed kit than even a fetishist like Rohan or myself could dream of. Well, maybe not

Here's hoping the weather stays good in France, or those sidewalls are gonna quickly look like sh*te. And here's hoping even more that the long miles and reasonable pace of the ride allow my body to adapt and remember what it's actually like to ride a bike - and enjoy it.