And, um, that’s it really. It’s good news: Rouleur, while slightly po-faced at times, is for me far and away the best source of good writing on cycling. Focused very much on road riding, and majoring on the history of road racing, it features stunning archive photography and new work from some great snappers. The picture here is by Taz Darling of Yozo Shimano. There’s an interview with him and the beginnings of a history of his company in the current issue, as well as pieces on nutrition, Team Z and a photo story of the Tour of California.
Issue 13 of Rouleur will be released at the end of this month. It will includes features and columns by Robert Millar, Herbie Sykes, Johnny Green, Rohan Dubash, William Fotheringham and Les Woodland, and photography by Timm Kölln, Rein van de Wouw, Geoff Waugh, Taz Darling, Guy Andrews and Camille J McMillan. You can read a preview of what you can expect in the new issue here.
Into the Valley | Robert Millar
“The road widens and I hit the headwind, which always blows here. Most of the way up Alpe d’Huez you don’t notice things like this, but here, with four kilometres left you do. Luckily I can see a good gaggle of cars and motorbikes just in front going slower than me so I presume it’s Arroyo and gladly accept the shelter when I get in amongst them. With the headwind, the heat off all those engines isn’t so bad, certainly not as much trouble as the wind. Squeezing between the last of the cars and the crowd I pop out beside a TV motorbike and am astonished to see it’s Hinault I’ve caught up with. What a surprise this is. He doesn’t look any different to the last time I saw him, still snarling, still fighting, but when he reaches into his pockets and takes out some food I know he’s in trouble. I could go past him and give him some shelter, some temporary relief from the misery but then I remember Laffrey and the valley and how much it hurt and then there’s my mission for the day to consider. I let him take a bit more wind. Even though I’ll lose more distance on Arroyo and the third place points I’ll have a little rest, thanks. As I glance up, I notice 200 metres ahead the crowd by the roadside seems a little thicker. That means less wind again, so I wait behind Hinault until then and when I reach the relative shelter I resume the speed I had been going before. I’m not shocked when I leave him behind instantly as he’s ran out of fuel and has now only got survival speed to rely on. He wanted to be on his own anyway.”
Mortirolo | Herbie Sykes and Timm Kölln
“The 1991 Giro, billed as a battle royale between Gianni Bugno, consummate winner the previous year, and the brilliant, charismatic climber Claudio “Il Diavolo” Chiappucci, has deviated somewhat from the script. Chiappucci, runner-up behind Miguel Indurain at the Tour de France, is the new darling of Italian cycling, and the race organisers have filled the percorso with mountains, apparently playing into his greedy little hands. But on stage two the lanky, angular Tuscan, Franco Chioccioli, assumed the maglia rosa and is stubbornly refusing to give it up. He leads the excellent Spaniard Marino Lejarreta by half a minute, the great climber Chiappucci by 90 seconds. A strangely subdued Bugno lies only fifth, over two minutes in arrears.
Today the race will reach the most spiteful of all Italy’s climbs, the merciless Passo Mortirolo, 12 kilometres at an average gradient – an average – of 10.5 per cent. For the middle six of those kilometres, the gradient will average a bruising 13 per cent, unheard-of anywhere else in the world of cycling. Here the big hitters – Chiappucci, Pedro Delgado, Greg LeMond, Bugno – will make their move, restoring the natural order of things. Today, sadly for the romantic hordes jostling for position on Mortirolo, the Heron will in all probability have his wings firmly clipped.”
All Fall Down | Johnny Green
“Beloki, like all good pros, was on tubular tyres, crucial for those vital centimetres of speed that spell win over second. Chasing Alexandre Vinokourov, he turned hard coming off Côte de la Rochette. The liquified bitumen of the road had melted. He braked, skidded and slipped in the goo, and off popped the rubber. Perhaps the glue had melted as ignominiously as the make-up on von Aschenbach’s face in Death In Venice as he sat on the baking Lido beach, transfixed by the beauty of Tadzio. Or maybe Joseba’s roadie had been a Ramones’ fan and been sniffin’ the stuff. Too much up the nose, not enough on the rim. Did that tub roll or was it pushed? Who knows?”
The Spring Classics | The Rouleur Photographers
“It’s a circus, and I don’t want to be one of the clowns.” [Chris Boardman]
Tubolari | Rohan Dubash
“Accustomed to instant gratification, our ‘click to buy’ mentality infects every facet of our lives. Everything, it seems, must happen immediately, without fuss or perseverance, yet cycling is not like this. One must train over many hours, days, months even years to see and feel improvement. A racing bicycle should be carefully assembled with attention to detail. Fans think nothing of climbing a mountain on foot and waiting an eternity in the baking heat or freezing cold for a fleeting glimpse of a hero – cycling is indeed ‘not like this’.”
Fausto Coppi | William Fotheringham
“On the Turchino, the last of the early escapees to remain with Coppi, the Frenchman Lucien Teisseire, dropped his head for a second to change gear. When he lifted his eyes, he had been left behind and Coppi was alone in the lead. The organiser, Giuseppe Ambrosini, came by in his car, waving his arms for the road to be cleared; an announcer’s dusty, grinning face hung out of the back of the vehicle, yelling the words the crowd had come to the mountain pass to hear: Arriva Coppi! The words went down to the valley, bouncing off the rocks, leaving the car far behind. “Arriva Coppi, Arriva Coppi” went the noise.
Coppi remained alone in the lead all the way to San Remo, for 147 kilometres of the 290-odd that make up the race. This was the biggest winning margin of his career in a single-day event: a gaping 14 minutes over the next man, Teisseire. Bartali was 24 minutes behind. These were massive time gaps, the more striking because there had been no racing for so long and the performance could not be put in any kind of context. It was a one-off. As publicity for Bianchi, his new boss Aldo Zambrini said, it was worth six months’ bike production in the factory. The victory was a colossal statement of intent from Coppi himself, setting the tone for the coming years. Here was a man renewed, with huge ambitions. The margin of the win and its crushing style were guaranteed to excite the nation.”
1984 | Les Woodland
“One summer between the Prague Spring and the fall of the Evil Empire, I met Robert Millar in a communist hotel in Prague. He was lying in bed, looking miserable but willing to talk. He had every reason to look miserable the day before a world championship because he’d come all that way without a hope of winning. Skinny beggars don’t win world championships. But if Britain didn’t send Millar, who was there left? The country wasn’t spoiled for choice.
That was 1981 and the race was won by Freddy Maertens, to the puzzlement of a local crowd which had largely never heard of him. He outsprinted Beppe Saronni. Outsprinted. That’s why Millar left Czechoslovakia as unknown as he had arrived. Skinny kids can’t sprint.”
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