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?

Monday, 20 January 2014

You Must Have Good Eyes To See Through Those

There was quite a debate over at the superb Facebook group '80's Cycling Remembered' that I'm an avid follower of, relating to this picture: who exactly is the rider in French national kit?

Clearly it's the World Championship Road Race for professionals given the national rather than trade-team kit, and a bit of detective work - the wet weather, Système U riding Gitane frames and Emanuele Bombini in an Assos Italian team jersey on a Bianchi X4 - puts it not as Chambéry in 1989 as many thought, but 1987 at Villach in Austria where Stephen Roche crowned his annus mirabilis triple of Giro-Tour-Worlds.

But who is this mystery French rider? Gérard Rue said some, Luc Leblanc said others - but no one could believe it was Laurent Fignon: for some reason he had, for this race, not donned his usual professorial spectacles, opting instead I assume for contact lenses - this is long before the advent of laser eye surgery don't forget. If it was down to his glasses being a bad idea in the wet, it's strange that he didn't go without them more often, and I'd have imagined he'd be sporting some kind of eye protection to keep the grit out of myopic eyes already smarting from the mix of filthy wheel spray and those contact lenses. Perhaps Rudy Project Performance shades, very much in vogue at the time for example, but could you imagine Fignon in his nemesis Lemond's garish, brash, oversized Oakley Factory Pilots? No, me neither. It illustrates though how much Fignon is instantly recognisable by dint of his thinning blonde hair and those gold-rimmed specs; take them away, stick him in a casquette to cover his mop, and he's incognito to most.

I've ridden a couple of times in standard sight-correcting glasses in the wet, and it's been one of the most miserable experiences I've ever had: non-grip nosepiece useless when combined with perspiration, impossible to see through lenses covered in droplets and so constantly forced to look over the top of the rims, and with poor eyesight that's not really a great idea. Not surprising then that bespectacled riders in the pro peloton are few and far beween - most opting for lenses I assume - but there are a handful. I've compiled a list here from memory; can you think of any other well-known riders I've missed? Interestingly some of the links show the riders in team-publicity shots, without glasses. Vanity, perhaps? Is there a Velominati diktat on corrective eyewear?

Gérard Rué:

Philippe Bouvatier:

Marc Gomez:

Alfredo Chinetti:

Jan Janssen:

Jacques Decrion:

Gerrie Knetemann:

Jan Raas:

Marcel Tinazzi:

Alex Zülle:

Fabio Roscioli:

Andrea Noè:

Ray Booty:

Alan Ramsbottom: