Les forçats du pavé



La 'Doyenne' will mark its centenary edition in 2014. The late-April seductive classic in the Ardennes region of Belgium takes riders on a journey through industrial townships, rolling fields, woodland climbs and punctures back to civilisation in the Liege suburb of Ans via the unforgiving gradients of Saint-Nicholas.
The race, a 256km gruelling route, builds drama towards the latter end of the day, with the bulk of its punishing ascents being not-so kindly laid in the latter stages of the parcours. No less than 11 climbs await tired legs, with aggressive riders able to capitalise by punching out on these rises.
La Redoute offers a perfect chance to view the race up close, a tangible experience for the fan of the riders effort and pain. Contorted faces and laboured cadence almost make the professionals seem like us mere humans in their suffering, but the pelotons speed up the climb is about as un-reminiscent of the amateur attempts the day before. Simply devastating!
1999 saw the charismatic Belgian badboy Frank Vandenbroucke dart away like a startled stickleback in a summer stream on La Redoute, and managing to finally shake Boogerd on the Côte de Saint-Nicolas. It was then head down, burying himself to the finish in what was one of Liege's most stylish wins.

Phone Home

The Masqueraders

So Rasmussen drops the bombshell, the bombshell some had expected, others maybe not so much. He claimed he taught the Canadian 2012 Giro D’Italia winner Ryder Hesjedal how to dope using EPO. Hours pass after the famously black-balled Dane unveils these claims in a press conference, forcing a meek apologetic PR release from Hesjedal confirming the claims.
Ryder claims the discretion dates back to 2003, handily outside the 8 year statue of limitations. Thus the end result is the cyclist has escaped any technical violation, and therefore no sanctions will be bought against Hesjedal.

The thing that angers me about the issue of dopage within cycling, and let us be clear here, the sport is mired in controversies of the doping kind, is not the initial discretion of doping. Sure, I know its wrong per se, but that isn't the thing that riles me as a fan, as someone who dearly loves cycling. How many of us are innocent of a bad decision, of an action that galls us with shame, of doing something we knew was wrong? Id wager not many are pure and without sin. So its not this initial misdemeanor that angers and upsets me, it is in fact the lack of moral fortitude these guys have in absolving themselves of their wrongdoing. It’s the weasely cowardly way they are only uncovered as cheats by others, by forces out of their control. Hesjedal is the last on a recent line of these such characters.
The insincerity of their ‘confessions’, conveniently timed just after they bow out of the sport, or as their hand is forced, serve as a kick in the stomach to the fans. They apologise, ask for forgiveness and re-assure us of the authenticity of current performances, yet all the time they would have continued to keep their dark secrets locked away. Look at the cowardice of Michael Barry, in 2010 decrying Floyd Landis as a liar, even questioning his state of mind "Who knows what to know. He has lied and denied things. I don't where he is mentally at right now." yet fast forward almost 2 years to October 2012 and the stance of the Canadian somewhat performed a 180. “I doped. It was a decision I deeply regret. It caused me sleepless nights, took the fun out of cycling and racing, and tainted the success I achieved at the time”
Rich words after conveniently closing his career and retiring just before the statement. The same can be said of Stuart O’Grady, announcing his retirement from the sport a mere 24 hours before he was named by a French Senate report claiming he returned a suspicious EPO sample in the 1998 Tour de France, indicative of EPO usage. With the likes of O’Grady & Barry, they were outspoken in their anti-doping beliefs, both being vocal critics within the pro peloton of the rampant doping culture that blighted the sport over  the last two decades. Its this two-faced omerta viewpoint that makes me angry as a fan. The way riders like Ricco, Di Luca et al are vilified as evil-incarnate, the way their dirty performances cast asunder whilst riders like Barry, O’Grady & Hincapie ride off into the sunset, their veneer tarnished minimally and their hero status bafflingly intact.

Again I reiterate, its not so much the actual act of doping that infuriates me, I understand that the sport was engulfed in the inferno  of EPO, a dangerous arms race that most had to engage in to compete. That’s no excuse, plenty of riders did choose the right path, sadly most exiting the sport, or even worse, as we all know the case of Christophe Bassons.

Im just a fan of the sport, im not looking at cycling through rose-tinted glasses to believe cheating doesn't occur. It does occur, and sadly due to human nature will probably always occur. Im just so very tired of these ‘disclosures’ that serve nothing but to save face and work as a PR measure for the riders. Don’t mug us off with these insincere utterances, we deserve more than that. We are the ones cheering, supporting the industry, buying the bikes and the products that sponsor your teams.
Is truth & reconciliation the answer? I don’t know, but I sure as hell know Im sick of being lied to. I want a sport I can be proud of, something all of us can hold out head up high for investing our time and passion in.

Mamnick Hibell

Thom over at Mamnick has created the most beautiful looking leather shoes inspired by the touring legend of Ian Hibell. The shoe, named after its rugged-muse, is handmade in Derbyshire in homage to its inspiration of Hibell. 100% leather the shoes are available in both a black & brown flavour. Perfect for a spot of touring of city riding, these will look dandy both in & out the saddle. 
There's also a very nice little piece about Hibell over at the Mamnick journal.  


Spotted over at the very cool Atelier du Velo online shop. Head on over to check out some cool unique vintage bike bits.

Cycling Souvenirs

The very kind Jerry from cycling souvenirs website sent me over a natty couple of cups from his online cycling souvenir outfit to enjoy this week. I love the La Vie Claire Mondrian inspired mug, perfect to enjoy a winter post-ride hot chocolate in, and the Alpe d'Huez espresso set is a lovely little homage to the tradiotional french road marking for the climb.
The website boasts loads of really nice gift ideas for all budgets, perfect for picking up those xmas presents for the rider in your life. From cufflinks to posters to cycling miniatures  Jerry has got you covered. Its also the only place in the UK you can get your hands on the Cycling Inquisition Colombian jersey from the very excellent blog. Check them out at their website .


Huge shouts out & respect to the organisers of the Velojam at the beginning of the month. What an awesome event. I only managed to get down for an hour or so, but in that time I was blown away by the amount of ladies racing and their standard! jeeees these girls across all three categories were drilling it. So impressive to see such a high standard of racing. The atmosphere was super nice and chilled, with all different levels getting involved in some track-based shenanigans.
One to stick in the diary to maybe give a shot in 2014! Well done all.

What Are You For?

Bill Strickland, of Bicycling magazine & Kapelmuur Independent fame recently posted a question to us, the cyclist... that is, he asked "what are you for?".
With the instant online social-outlets of twitter, facebook, blogger et al of today, there is so much opined regarding the ills and negative aspects of all contained within our bubble of two wheels. So Bill asks the question, what is that is good in our world? What is it you stand (or ride) for?
I am for encouragement. I will seek to share the beauty of cycling by being a good ambassador for my sport. Riding with those a little less familiar with the sport, showing them this is just about the most enjoyable act of freedom that can be found to escape the rat race of the daily grind! By helping others achieve their targets and goals, I get to share in that enthusiasm. Frankly... its infectious.
I am for the simplicity of cycling... not being required to compartmentalise each aspect of cycling into some sort of pseudo-theory and analyse every last ounce of passion and spontaneity out of the ride. Im for just tossing a lycra'd leg over the top tube and embracing the days encounters. A blank canvas if you will.
I am most definitely for that last rider shelling himself to finish. I love that within cycling, even bottom place is celebrated as a triumph. Gutsy determinism is praised in recognition of that slog to reach the flamme rouge. Take traditional team sports... there is always a winner and a loser. Losers are not liked, and the opponents despised. In our world, we celebrate all! If that isn't worth being proud of, I don't know what is.
I am most definitely for the suffering. The spikey sting of lactic post ride, glowing legs with a matching smile after pushing the pedals hard. The sacrifice and reward is abundant, but the ratio always seems to tip in the most favourable way.
I am totally fr the adventurous little detour, the roads less ridden. Give me friends, quiet roads and laughter on a bike and il show you a perfect day! 


This Saturday  5th October sees the return of the women's track meet 'VeloJam' from those ladies over at Team Mule Bar. Saturday 5th sees Herne Hill play host to an evenings track-bike based festivities, with 15 races over 3 categories, the evening promises to cater for all levels of riders, from elite race whippets to novice first-time-racers. A unique womens only event, ladies will have the opportunity to scoop up a share of the pretty hefty £1000 prize fund, with lots of prizes on offer for individual performances. 
The velojam promises to provide a party atmosphere whilst promoting track racing at all levels. More info can be found on the schedule of individual events here plus some handy tips for kit & race prep. 

Super Acciaio Mark II

Check out some pics of the latest re-iteration of the Super Acciaio, the deft steel racing-bred machine from those guys in London. The latest version retains the tapered bottom bracket and beefy lines, but has managed to shave 200g off the frame weight and it now boasts a slightly lighter more nible fork, yielding another 50g in the savings pot (enough to offset that treacle tart at the cafe stop... ammirite?) Expect a team RC-JLT colorscheme and a natty neon red like the pics below. Framesets start at a shade under £1300 and full builds can be scored from £2.5k approx.

Fizik R3 Rosso

Planet-X have got a nutty reduction on the very euro-styled Fizik R3 shoe model in the red colourway. At a ridiculous £59.99 these shoes are a steal! scoop over at the planet-x webstore.

Chapelle Gresniac Race

Whilst visiting the stunning region of Dordogne in France this past June for the wedding of my best pal, in an amazing stroke of luck a split day criterium race passed right through the tiny village we were staying in. With a time trial in the morning and a road race in the afternoon, I snapped a few pics of the French teams competing. I haven't been able to find any info online about the race, which is a pity as im curious! 

Anonymous Bidon Ladies

This week I received a mystery package containing two fine looking sparkly bidons from the very secretive sounding "Anonymous Bidon Ladies". Their identities hidden, my only clue as to the origin of these pretty vessels was a handwritten note, simply stating the bottles were designed and had journeyed all the way from Melbourne, Australia.
The bottles are 'Purist' bottles, meaning the usual grim-taste that penetrates a plastic bottle interior after a couple of months is avoided by the clever implementation of a silicon dioxide inner coating to the bidon. The result is a fresh taste and bacterial barrier, avoiding those fusty gulps of bottles old.
The design is pretty neat, il no idea what the index finger lace signifies, but hey, its a splash of pink and it looks cool. "Dont forget, drink up" serves as a reminder when face down to keep hydrated. You can find the ladies webstore over at and im assured more bottles and products are in the pipeline for the very near future. 
Be sure to check out the instagram account (bidonsorbottles) also, and share your own weird and whacky bottles with a #bidonsarebottles hastag. 


Those dudes & dudettes down at Condor Cycles have released some natty new cap designs ready for an autumn of riding. The LDN and Houndstooth hi-vis models shown below are two of their line up. The caps are handmade in Italy, and I can vouch that the cotton is nice and stiff, ensuring maximum euro cap-luft for those seeking to adhere to the rules. Head on over to the Condor Cycles website to check out their range, all very reasonably priced as usual.

Kaptajn Seat Packs

Kaptajn are turning out a natty little seatpack for €20, available in camo or classic black. Produced in robust Cordurra1000 fabric, the packs are both water and dirt repellent  and offer a nifty neat way to schlep around those essentials such as tubes, tools and levers. Head on over to the Kaptajn webstore to check them out.


Nice reading 'bout some ridin

Two very nice articles stumbled across this week... worth a share if like me your fascinated by the professional ranks of our sports and the characters within.
Thom over at Mamnick has a nice little interview with former professional rider and now professional wordsmith Tom Southam. A nice little insight into the ex-racer. Mamnick
Second up is a nice write-up of the recent Giro Rosa from Orica-AIS rider Tiffany Cromwell. She gives us an inside view into the experience of riding the only female GT in their racing calendar. Over at The Roar