What's Cool In Road Cycling

Comment: Ed’s Festive Rant for 2020

Ed’s Opinion (rant): As the year 2020 comes to an end, Ed Hood sums up his thought on this strangest, saddest and very different year. Ed has picked just a few subjects which have caught his eye and needed the Hood comment.

Ed’s ‘wireless’

I was listening to the wireless – sorry, ‘radio’ – the other day and ‘Mighty Real’ by the late, great, Sylvester was playing. I shut my eyes, smiled and was transported; trackside at the Ballerup Super Arena, Copenhagen, the Disco King on the PA competing with the sound of bone hard Contis and Vittorias on boards and the rattle of 1/8” pitch transmissions. Not this winter, Ed. Very sad, I miss the six days so much.

Wonderful, wonderful… Copenhagen

And what about ‘cross? No fans spilling off the supporters club buses, no beer tents, no burgers, no frites, no good. . . But what about Tom Pidcock? A wonderful ride by the young Englishman to beat the ‘unbeatable’ VdP. The only trouble is that the big Dutchman will have got such a fright he’ll be training harder than ever knowing his crown as ‘King of the Mud Men’ is far from secure.

Pidcock gave the cross tree a shake

But it’s not just ‘cross and the sixes which have suffered, the Flanders Classics will be conducted sans fans. It’s hard to imagine the ‘Opening Weekend’ of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne conducted in silence? I had considered watching both on the big screen TV at Iljo Keisse’s dad’s café/bar, de Karper in Ghent. Then staying on for Le Samyn too – then going straight into detox upon my return to Scotland.

de karper
De Karper in Gent won’t be like this in the spring

However, the fact that the UK is now the black sheep of Europe and no one will have us has put paid to that notion. The ‘fanless’ Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne have both fared better than the 2021 Tour Down Under and Tour de Yorkshire though, both of which have been cancelled.

Picture by Simon Hulme - 05/05/2018 - Cycling - 2018 Tour de Yorkshire - Stage 3: Richmond to Scarborough - Fans watch the riders leaving Richmond
No scenes like this in Yorkshire in 2021

But here I am bleating about bike races lost, there are folks reading those who have lost friends and family to the plague of Covid – I extend my deepest sympathies to you and hope we can all get back to ‘normal,’ soon.

A star – Grant Thomas

Speaking of loss, we recently ran a tribute to 70’s English road and track star, Grant Thomas who passed away. When riders of one’s own generation, especially ones as a cool and talented as Grant leave us it makes someone of my age acutely aware of my own mortality. Rest in peace, Grant Thomas.

Roland della Santa
Roland della Santa frames – A work of art

Another tribute we paid was to the late Roland Della Santa, frame builder extraordinaire with his creations as ridden by the young Greg Lemond. Roland’s cousin, Linda Yaxley wrote to us some time after we ran the tribute to set us right on some of the statements made by certain individuals in the tribute. It seems that some were less than honest about their relationships and standing with Roland. We won’t name names for legal reasons, they’ll know who we mean, a very sad state of affairs.

Cav back in (Deceuninck) Quick-Step colours

On to happier matters. ‘Cav’. He’s been welcomed back to Deceuninck – Quick-Step – and much as I admire Mr. Patrick Lefevere and his team, I have difficulty with the ‘W##f P##k’ thing. Just as I have difficulty with French riders’ nicknames – ‘Nanard’‘Du Du’‘Pin Pin’ – good God!

ronan pensec yellow
Pin Pin in Tour yellow in 1990

Anyway. Everyone is happy, right? Cav gets another year in the peloton back with his old mentor Brian Holm, Patrick has already had a shed load of PR for the sponsors – which has cost him nothing – and Cav’s adoring fans get another year of ‘believing.’ Well, PEZ sage, soothsayer and pragmatist on all matters two wheeled, Viktor is NOT happy. “It devalues the sport, a man riding for nothing, it’s professional sport, a rider should be paid for his efforts, there are 100 young Belgian lads who would slice off their right arm to ride with that team for free. A sprinter’s job is to win, something Cav hasn’t done for two years – he has nothing to prove and should accept that it’s over.” Vik’s never guilty of sugar coating, but as in most of his rants there’s a large element of truth. . .

Time to stop?

Let’s move on to another of Vik’s favourite subjects, Zwift. As a training tool and for folks who, for whatever reason, can’t get out on the bike, it’s great. But to have an ‘e’ World Championship? Please. . .

dowsett zwift
Alex Dowsett going solo – On Zwift

And what about this statement made by 19 year-old Shanni Berger, ‘disgraced’ Israeli Zwift ‘star’, accused of ‘manipulating data’. “I checked the two power files and discovered a 1.44% discrepancy, which would be consistent with recording power from a turbo trainer and power meter separately.” As Doctor Leonard H. ‘Bones’ McCoy might say; “It’s bike racing Jim, but not as we know it.”

van der poel
Yes, even MvdP

However, you have to hand it to those marketing guys, every time I pick up a cycling magazine there are more ‘Zwift-specific’ items of clothing up for review, even shoes now. Who knew we needed them? But this is 2020, almost 2021 and things are done differently now. Take the men’s team pursuit for instance. The track season, as with the ‘crosses and sixes, has been massively curtailed with the European Championships in Bulgaria last month one of a very few competitive options open to national squads through the winter until the World Cup kicks off in Newport, South Wales in late April – Covid permitting, of course.

Apeldoorn - Netherlands - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - Engelenad Great Brittain GBR pictured during World Championships track - baan - bahn - piste - foto: Marc van Hecke/Cor Vos ©2018
The GB team pursuiters not at the Euro champs

One would imagine then that the top nations would be hungry to pin numbers on? Not a bit of it. According to GB team pursuit coach Iain Dyer, it was a ‘blessing’ not to ride. “I think the peaks and troughs from competition aren’t always desirable.” In fairness to Dyer, two other top team pursuit nations, Denmark – World record holders with a scarcely believable 3:44 ride in the Worlds in Berlin back in February – and France also chose not to ride, leaving Russia to defeat Italy in the final with Switzerland taking bronze.

The Euro winning Russian team pursuiters

But as Scotsman and recently crowned New Zealand Omnium Champion, Mark Stewart, who was ‘cut loose’ from the GB squad back in the spring, said of his GB tenure; “I was becoming a champion trainer but forgetting how to race. . .”

Mark Stewart – Scotsman turned New Zealander

It wouldn’t be a proper rant if I didn’t mention the cost of equipment, ‘graith’ as the old Fife coal miners used to describe it. It’s here, ‘The Ten Grander’ – I can hear you now; “nothing new there, ten K is common or garden for a bike these days, Dude.”

BMC Masterpiece

Not for a bike, dear reader, that’s 10,000 Euros for a FRAME, the BMC ‘Masterpiece’ is the beast, add a pair of Lightweight Meilenstein Obermayer wheels and we’re over 15K before we add the groupset, ‘cockpit’, saddle, pedals and power meter – the 20K build is easily achievable.

It would have to be Lightweight Meilenstein Obermayer wheels

But it’s not so long – 2008 to be exact – when big Rob Hayles took the British Elite Road race Championship on a Boardman bike, just like the ones you could buy off the peg at Halfords – the car parts, camping an bike super stores – for not much more than £1,000 Sterling. No further questions.

tdf49 stage 21
Rik Van Steenbergen wining the final stage of the 1949 Tour de France

To close we go back to a time; ‘when men were men’.
Tour de France 1949 Stage 21 (Final stage):
Sunday, July 24, Nancy – Paris, 340 kilometres [212 miles]
1: Rik Van Steenbergen: 10 hours 49min. 35sec.
2: Stan Ockers s.t.
3: Giovanni Corrieri s.t.

1949 Tour de France

Thank you for putting up with my rants for another year and wishing you and yours as good a Festive Season as is possible in these ‘Strange Days’.

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