The 2010 winner of the Tour de France has tested positive for a banned substance. Doping authorities have revealed Alberto Contador tested positive for clenbuterol on July 21. Clenbuterol is a bronchodilator—a stimulant used to treat asthma.
The defense has already spun into high gear. Dr. Douwe de Boer, an “independent expert,” has concluded that the clenbuterol must have come from contaminated meat. The concentration level of clenbuterol found in Contador’s system was at trace levels, meaning there hadn’t been enough in his system to aid his performance the previous day. However, Contador was also tested the two days prior to the positive test, on July 19 and 20. Tests from those days show no trace of clenbuterol.
Permit me a moment of suspicion: Are we really meant to believe that clenbuterol routinely contaminates meat but of the thousands of test samples cyclists give each year only Alberto Contador consumed enough contaminated meat to result in a positive test—and it just happened to occur during the Tour de France?
Even though we’re just finding out about this in the last week of September, Contador has known of the finding since August 24 and WADA has known even longer. It’s fair to ask: Why did it take so long for the news to come out? It didn’t take this long with Landis.
We have several possibilities to consider:
1) Contador is innocent. He just got really unlucky and ate something (maybe meat) that was accidentally tainted.
2) Contador really did use clenbuterol. The lab employed by WADA did crappy work and didn’t find clenbuterol that was in his system on July 19 and 20.
3) Contador is being framed. Someone tried to sabotage Contador by spraying an asthma inhaler on his food.
Of these three options, the one that would surprise me the least is #2. Contador would hardly be the first cyclist to use asthma medication to dope. But while #2 would be the least surprising explanation, I cannot say that I think #1 or #3 are out of the realm of possibility.
I’d really like to know why it took so long for the news to come out. There’s more to this part of the story than meets the eye. Was there some sort of effort at a coverup that only proved untenable after several weeks’ consideration?
This is bad for cycling. No matter what the reason, this is precisely the attention cycling doesn’t need. And while I want the truth to come out, no explanation can remove the black eye this event will leave. The horse is out of the barn: another Tour de France champion is positive for dope. That story line will follow this year’s Tour de France for good.
G’day, mates! In case you’ve not been enduring the latest barrage of pro cyclist tweets from Down Under (Fabian Cancellara said the food at “Swiss Haus” was just like home), the World Championships are nigh. The 45.8km time trial is Thursday on a course departing from Geelong, and the men’s elite road race is Sunday in Melbourne.
In the time trial, Cancellara, aiming for his fourth TT World Championship, is clearly the man to beat. Anyone naming worthy challengers would have elicited a hearty guffaw from this writer prior to the ITT on Stage 17 of the recently completed Vuelta a España. Cancellara finished third that day, a show of mortality we’ve not seen from the Swiss chronometer in a long time. So Michael Rogers now officially has a shot. Richie Porte’s name has been bandied about. Tony Martin can’t be written off, nor, perhaps David Millar.
In the road race, all the big favorites have been very busy this week accusing each other of being the big favorites. Cadel Evans thinks Pippo Pozzato or Phil Gilbert will win it. The pundits and punters all have their eyes on Oscar Freire. Somewhere, off in a corner, Mark Cavendish is trying to summon the confidence (poor lad is always lacking for self belief) to have a tilt at it. Some say it’s a sprinter’s course. Others say the hilly part of the circuit that reaches down into Geelong makes it one for the classics men.
I love the tension that builds before a race like this, every rider playing down his chances, trying to lay low enough to be able to spring a surprise when the right moment comes.
Another distinct possibility is that Cancellara will win the TT and the road race, making everyone else look silly and giving his new Luxembourgish team the opportunity to make a combined World Champion’s jersey before they’ve even turned a pedal in anger.
You know how these Group Rides work though. We want to hear your predictions. Sticker pack to the first one who names both winners first.
The inevitable outcome to going to any trade show is coming home with armfuls of stuff. Mostly, it’s product literature. That’s true no matter what sort of trade show you attend and after a bit, it all tends to run together. Believe me, when you’re read the specs on one closed-circuit television camera, you’ve read them all.
What makes a trade show visit a success on a personal basis, however, are those items brought home that weren’t product literature, weren’t free for the taking and because of their limited supply were rationed out as scores to select few. The technical term, of course, is schwag.
The irony of the situation is how the attendees who most want schwag are often the ones doing the least amount of actual business. Back in the 1990s when I attended my first bike trade show in Atlantic City, each sticker and key ring I scored told me I was an actual part of the bike industry. Perhaps I overestimated my significance. Yeah, definitely.
I’ve been on the giving side of schwag very rarely, but I’ve come to appreciate the emotional calculus that goes on when trying to consider who is an appropriate recipient for a T-shirt, a trainer, a leather card case—even cycling jerseys. As recipients, we’re supposed to show not just excitement, but passion for the brand; the last thing someone wants is some kid in his booth who doesn’t care what he’s given, so long as it’s free.
In my first few visits to the show, any free sticker was a sticker I didn’t have, and as such, was something I wanted. I still dig stickers; most companies give a fair amount of thought to them and any sticker that can make me smile is worth taking home. And as I scoured the booths for stickers, I did so with the belief that I might head home with something of real value—actual bike parts. And while on a few occasions manufacturers slipped me a handlebar or saddle to take home with me, it took some years for me realize that the stuff I really wanted, the stuff I liked well enough to pay for, would never ride home with me as schwag.
The big epiphany came when I began to see things at the show that I’d never have learned about otherwise, or if I had, by the time I tried to buy one, they’d be all gone. These days, knowing I’m in the loop is the real schwag.
The grand touring category of road bikes is growing, but honestly, some of the bikes handle a cow on roller skates. Not so the Specialized Roubaix. Newly minted is the Roubaix SL3, which I rode at Outdoor Demo. The big change for the SL3 is the fact that the Zertz dampers are secured to the frame with small screws, increasing the dampers’ effectiveness. The new design cuts down on the number of bladders used (four fewer) and simplifies the molds, the upshot being a somewhat lighter frame.
I still run into Zertz non-believers. While I can accept that not everyone wants a frame that dampens vibration that much (I certainly don’t want that experience all the time), there’s no doubt in my mind that no other frameset currently on the market does more to minimize vibration than the Roubaix.
Tube shapes continue to be refined as well. If there’s a bike that better combines incredible power transfer, torsional stiffness and vibration damping, I’ve yet to ride it.
I can virtually assure you than no brand took itself less seriously and more stylishly than Ritte van Vlaanderen. It’s a curious balance, that.
The Ritte bikes are all open-mold designs sourced overseas, but they feature, well, they look authentically Belgian. What else do you need to know?
Be careful if you buy a Ritte bike. You’ll be expected to drink beer after your race is over. And that’s not a bad thing.
I tend to get more excited about the concept of city bikes than actual city bikes. This Breezer comes with dynamo-generated lighting, a rear rack, a chain guard, fenders with flaps, a nearly infinitely variable drivetrain and a built-in lock—the sort that keeps honest folks honest. Oh, and it doesn’t weigh 50 lbs.; rather, it weighs a bit less than 30. I could see myself running serious errands on this thing.
Let’s be honest, calling a set of brakes, derailleurs, bottom bracket and cranks a group is like calling a pair of speakers a stereo. For that reason, FSA’s claims that they make a road group were, until just recently, rather laughable. The crux move of a group is the integrated brake/shift lever. Without that you’ve got a clown car and no clowns. The Vision Metron shifter takes an important step in the right direction, though. Product managers can honestly spec a full set of parts from FSA and Vision now, even if they can only do it on time trial and triathlon-specific bikes. The shifter function is terrific, though one does wonder just how often triathletes will downshift when they mean to brake.
The carbon fiber rear derailleur is amazingly light, as is the cassette. The other manufacturers need to keep an eye on these guys. Should they get really aggressive about OE spec, they could become very dangerous, if not dominant, as they now offer cranks, bottom brackets, headsets, wheels, derailleurs, brakes, cassettes, shifters, bars, stems, seatposts and saddles. Heck, even Shimano doesn’t do all of that.
As a postscript, every exhibitor I spoke with liked the date change to August 8-12. The only concern they expressed was for shop attendance. Surprisingly, some shops did voice support for the date change as well. The shops that did like it said it was easier for them to get away that time of year due to the fact that they had solid college student staffing that time of year, something they lack in late September. However, all but one New England-based retailer I spoke with said they wouldn’t be at the show—no question.
The new location got mixed reviews from exhibitors and attendees alike. For some, Anaheim represents an opportunity to have a bit of a family vacation. But for those who really want to cut loose and have a party, Anaheim is … a buzzkill.
Interbike reports that attendance is up 3 percent to more than 24,000, while the shop count held steady at 4000. Outdoor Demo attendance was roughly the same as last year with 3900 attending. Interbike reports there were 120 exhibitors at Outdoor Demo; figures were not reported for last year, so it’s unknown if that’s up, stead or down from last year. Figures for the number of exhibitors on the Interbike show floor were not reported for this year or last year.
Of course, the great hope is that attendee numbers will hold steady while exhibitor numbers will climb with the return of companies like Trek and Giant. We’ll have to wait a bit more than 10 months to find out.
With Worlds upon us, we are fully into the season’s wind down. Riders who peaked for the Spring Classics may have mustered one more burst, or managed their work load with an eye on some of the Fall races. The big guns of summer have been laying low thinking about the end of year stage races. It’s all about peaking at the right time, or the right times.
Meanwhile, from my saddle, the onset of Autumn looks like a brand new day. I was thinking about how the pros plan their years, the races they target, the way they ramp up and cool down, and it led me, as it usually does, to examining my own patterns.
As a year-round rider, I also have peaks, and those correspond, roughly, to the seasons. In the spring, when the first warmth creeps back into the morning, and my gloves shed their fingers, I experience this great burst of form. I am fast. I am motivated. I can climb, and I can sprint, and it all feels good. Then the rains come. What started as a sunny rebirth turns into a wet slog that leaves me praying for the first strains of summer.
Then, too, I get a lift. The hot summer air gets me down to my lightest riding kit. Being lighter makes me faster. The summer blasts away. After a month of sweat-soaked speed, I get tired of rubbing salt into my eyes. The heat takes its toll. It wears me down.
Then the fall descends on us. Cool air blows up my hill. I pull on a pair of arm warmers, and I’m on top of it again. Instead of feeling as though I’m losing my soul to the constant flow of perspiration, I hum along at near perfect temperature, dropping triathletes in my wake, like the dust off a Trans Am’s bumper.
The leaves fall. The rain returns. Wet leaves turn the roads into brown ice. My knickers are sodden with cold water. By late November, I’m ready for the snow to fall. What portends months on the couch for some, connotes daily rides bereft of joggers and hybrid-pedaling accountants for me. To ride, as those first fat flakes drift from the graying sky, is sublime. It’s like the whole road is mine again. I ride down into the city, along the river, alone.
By February, I’ve been barking against the cold for too long. My tights are grimed with salt and sand, put down to keep the cars from reenacting a carnival ride. The elastics in my winter hats are all distended. I’d sell my bottom bracket for Spring to spring up from the icy crust.
These are my seasons. At the beginning of each I peak, by the end I’m just hanging on.
Sam Abt wrote of the pros:
“Out in the countryside of France, the fields are brown and barren, their corn long harvested and the stalks chopped down for fodder. Until the stubble is plowed under when winter wheat is planted, the landscape is bleak and the air full of despair.
“For professional bicycle riders, April is not the cruelest month. Far from it. In April, hopes for a successful season are as green as the shoots just then starting to push through the fields that the riders pass in their early races. The cruelest month is really October, when the nine-month racing season ends and the riders finally know what they have failed to accomplish.”
With no trophies to hoist aloft, no podium girls to kiss, I’m left to the elements. I ride to be fast and smooth, to find myself “on top of it” as Souleur wrote this week. All winter I ride to be fast in the Spring. All Spring I ride to be fast in the Summer. All Summer I ride to be fast in the Fall. All Fall I ride to be fast in the Winter. Seasonal.
I wish the pros luck in the coming month. Some will be sprinting for victory in Australia. Others will be eying Lombardy and Tours to salvage the hopes they sprouted in Sam Abt’s Spring. I will be riding too. Trying to be fast.
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International
I’ve been to a number of trade shows in different industries. Interbike is the only trade show that I ever liked other than NAMM, the trade show for the music instrument industry. Interbike is also the most crowded trade show I have ever attended. The show floor can be a truly confusing thing to behold. On a couple of occasions I managed to get turned around enough that I got lost and those events shocked me because I think of the layout of the Sands Convention Center as enjoying a very straightforward layout. I felt like I’d gotten lost in my own neighborhood. And as a small aside, I don’t mind admitting that I used the Powerbar and Clif booths as pit stops to keep me fueled during what has traditionally been a no-lunch day. It used to be the two booths were well-placed on the with one rather to the left of the primary entrance and the other dead ahead of the main entrance, but this year they were positioned very close together. I found myself oddly irritated by the move.
It’s a noisy affair and by Friday everyone is hoarse; some of the more enthusiastic marketing types are hoarse by the end of the first day. Keeping your body in working order demands terrific walking shoes, a bag that can hold a drink bottle (I’m sorry, but walking around the show with a Camelbak is the domain of the eternally single sock-and-sandal set) and lip balm.
The new Serotta Meivici AE is the market’s first bike that combines modular monocoque construction with custom geometry. It’s rather difficult to overstate just how significant this step is. There’s not a single lug to be found in the frame, giving the frame better ride quality and vastly superior aerodynamics. Built in eight sections, the pieces are co-molded in jigs to complete the frame. The Meivici AE ushers in a stunning new era in custom frame building.
The Zipp 404 carbon clincher is probably the best all-around wheel on the market, and even if it’s not, it is very likely the most coveted wheel on the market, which it deserves to be. The more time engineers spend testing products in the wind tunnel, the more they learn just how important aerodynamics are. The upshot is that in many instances aerodynamics a highly aero wheel will make a bigger difference in performance than will a super-light wheel.
The Zipp 808 is now available in a carbon clincher as well. The big surprise here is that with the new improvements to it including the Firecrest rim shape and Zed Tech, the wheel’s center of balance is very close to the hub, making it amazingly stable in a crosswind. This wheel is no longer restricted to windless days, or necessarily paired with a front 404 in breezy conditions. The only question I have is if these things would allow me to get away from the pack rather than just drag them around for a bit. Maybe I should train more instead. No, I need these, too.
The Assos airJack 851 answers the question of what happens when you cross Assos’ world-class materials, cut and design with FIM Superbike styling. Okay, so it’s a question maybe only they asked, but if there was a better-looking jacket at the show, it was within six feet of this one. I could see myself wearing this out just to make a style statement.
The iJ.haBu5 is a new jacket from Assos, but rather than getting caught in trying to say all that, just call it the Habu. It’s designed for late fall to early winter conditions, which is to say that for those of us not fortunate enough to live in Switzerland, it will carry you through most of the winter with only a single layer beneath it. And yes, that’s an iPhone in a lightweight mesh pocket on the right arm. So what’s it doing there? Assos doesn’t encourage people to ride with earbuds; you won’t find buttonholes in pockets to run your earbud cable. However, this pocket will allow you to slip your iPhone in and select music then listen to it on the iPhone’s speakers. Alternately, you could keep your pet vole in it.
Nalini showed off an impressive new jacket with built-in balaclava for days when you have trouble getting anyone to join you on the ride. If things warm up, just push the balaclava down and keep going. Better still is what the sleeves do.
The sleeves pull away thanks to this special zipper. Pull on the tab and the zipper pulls apart and you can pull the sleeves off and—voila!—you’re wearing a vest. I suspect that in really dry desert and mountain climates this jacket would kill.
Contracts to produce Grand Tour leader jerseys are highly sought-after. Nalini took no small pride in the fact they produced all three leader’s jerseys this year.
Day one of Interbike was a flurry of missed connections, reunions with old friends and, yes, introductions to new must-have bikes and parts. Somehow the day was over before I felt I had done enough; so it goes.
One of my more interesting stops was at Ritchey. Their components have fascinated me for their simple form and function ever since I bought my first Ritchey stem in 1990. More recently, the company has begun to make a firmer style statement. This has really come through on their wet white and wet black components. Yesterday they introduced wet red and this photo doesn’t do it justice; think lipstick red. As cool as I thought the black and white were, the red was a real stunner. I’d love to see a full pro team on them; that would look PRO.
This may have been the best looking ‘cross bike I saw yesterday. The matching fork is a new graphic touch for Ritchey and really ties the bike together nicely. And though not immediately apparent, this is a Break-Away.
Ritchey worked with Reynolds on this carbon clincher rim. They say that with Reynolds blue pads stopping is much better than with some other wheels and heat dissipates better than with Swisstop pads. Weight for the set is 1410g.
I’ve been digging Twin Six stuff for a few years now and as much as like some of their jerseys, I saw some T-shirts yesterday that really caught my eye. This ‘cross design is from a watercolor one of the owner/designers did at home one night.
I don’t know how many non-Bostonians will get the Southie reference, but having spent time in Revere, this shirt may have been my favorite inside nod/joke I caught yesterday.
Larceny entered my head when I saw this $2499 as-equipped carbon fiber ‘cross bike from Bianchi. I think they are under-appreciated for their ability to deliver great-spec’d bikes for terrific value.
Hincapie showed some great new clothes and the new George Signature line caught my eye. It’s a more form-fitting Euro-style cut, meaning the jerseys and bibs don’t run so long and the seams are welded rather than sewn. If you dig the Giordana Formula Red Carbon, then you’ll love this stuff … and you’ll like the pricing as well.
Colnago introduced its new C59 frame. In it there are some surprising nods to the modern world, such as the slightly sloping top tube (not the first for them, but one gets the sense that each new bike could just as easily have been designed around a horizontal top tube). This bike is available either with cable guides or Di2 guides, but you have to order ahead.
I don’t ride Brooks saddles. I won’t criticize anyone else for doing it, but I’m just not built for them. I do, however, have great respect for their ability to work with leather. The bags I saw yesterday were the ultimate lifestyle pieces for the cyclist who wants to keep cycling clothing even when in street clothes.
Not only were these bags elegant and well-made, they were surprisingly functional. Once again, larceny was on my mind. And I don’t mind saying it.
Fi’zi:k introduced a seatpost last year to work with their saddles with carbon fiber rails. Yesterday I saw a new carbon fiber post. Being the geek that I am, what really caught my eye was that thing at the bottom.
Should you have an occasion to slip the seatpost out of the frame, say for travel, the ring serves as a much better way to remember your exact saddle height than electrical tape. I used a glider board in the back of my wagon for years and every time I headed off to a race, the seatpost came out. I took an unnatural delight in this little gizmo.
By now you’ve heard that Fi’zi:k is introducing a shoe line. The sail-cloth straps look stiff but were surprisingly flexible. What I most liked about what I saw was just how Italian the shoes look. The cut of the leather and more understated accents made them surprisingly gorgeous in person.
Day two of the Outdoor Demo began—for some, at least—with a ride to Lake Mead that began at 8:00. I borrowed one of Felt’s AR1s, which is the company’s aerodynamic road bike. I had hoped to spend more time on the F2, but the previous afternoon one of the two demo bikes in a 58 got slaughtered in a hot corner by a staffer … d’oh!
The ride begins downhill and I had the distinct impression that some of the riders present weren’t accustomed to such a fast descent in a pack. There were times when even moving to the front of the group remained interesting. Nonetheless, it was a fun bunch. I turned back a bit early because I promised the folks at Felt I’d have the bike back in time for 9:00 demos.
I’ve spent some time watching wind tunnel testing and I’ve noticed a few things about the very fastest bikes. First, the top tube is parallel to the ground. Also, there are no hard edges out where they can catch the wind. I haven’t seen the AR in the wind tunnel, but I have my suspicions that it is a very clean bike to the wind.
BMC has been making inroads and I wanted to find out if the bikes are really that good. The Team Machine is part of a select group of bikes I rode that had superb handling, definitely in the class of the F and Tarmac. It does more to dampen vibration than some bikes I rode.
There simply aren’t many bikes on the market that combine the degree of stiffness that the Giant TCR Advanced SL possesses with precise, balanced handling and genuine road sensitivity. Where this differs from the F and Tarmac is with a stiffer rear triangle. It’s a crit meister’s dream.
I’d never ridden a Moots before yesterday and the Vamoots was a revelation. They should all come with a boarding pass for Europe. This bike is no race machine, but that doesn’t mean it’s not high performance. It was plenty stiff and the handling crisp, but what I most wanted to do on the bike was just pedal into the sunset. The Vamoots wasn’t typical of the bikes at the Outdoor Demo, but it really was one of my favorites.
Next up was the Moots RSL. This sub-15 lb. bike is an indestructible race machine. I’m going to recommend it to a Cat. 2 friend of mine who has terrible luck with crashes. Very stiff with sharp handling. I wish I had more time to write more about it.
The Focus line has been interesting to me and I can say they are doing excellent work. The stiffness was on a par with the other top-end bikes I rode and the handling was exceptional; it reminded me of the BMC. It damps vibration more than some bikes and if you prefer a bike that really mutes vibration without making the bike feel dead, you should have a look at the Izalco.
This new glove from Giro is ultra-thin and super form fitting. It was like wearing a skinsuit for your hand. Pretty fun stuff. Just takes a bit to get it back off.
I ended the day with a ride with the folks at Cervelo. Above is Roger Hammond on the right. We rode the R3 featuring the company’s new BBRight crank and bottom bracket design. Phil White gave us a little presentation and then we took (thank God) a very leisurely spin through a nearby neighborhood. The R3 is fast becoming one of my favorite bikes.
I’ve got to give some thought to my three faves of the two days of riding. I’ll do a short post on that soon.
In the 21st Century the call of the Sirens has been replaced by the opportunity to ride almost any bike you might desire. How else can we explain what could get so many non-desert dwellers to congregate at a park where it was 104 degrees in the shade?
With so many choices, it’s tough to decide just where to start. For me, I knew I needed to check out Felt’s redesigned F-series. While the new flagship F1 was not yet available, I did ride the F2. In a 56, frame weight is reported to be about 850g, which is roughly 50g less than last year’s F1. It’s also stiffer than last year’s F1 and while they have the numbers to back that claim up, I’ve spent some time on the F1 and can tell you, the changes due to the new design and new construction methods make the improvements more than apparent.
This was my first opportunity to ride the Specialized Roubaix SL3. Many bikes achieve vibration damping through the use of lots of intermediate modulus carbon fiber. Ultimately, those bikes feel rather dead. Thanks to the Zertz dampers, long wheelbase and carbon layup, the Roubaix SL3 didn’t feel dead so much as muted. It was extraordinarily stiff, must stiffer than could be achieved were the bike built from intermediate modulus carbon fiber exclusively.
Last year, the Tarmac SL3 was my pick of the litter. I really thought it has the best combination of road feel, stiffness and handling of any bike I rode. I took a short spin on it for comparison purposes, just to make drawing a comparison to a known benchmark easier.
In 1978, long before sealed bearing headsets bearing his name became the headset of choice, Chris King was building steel frames in his Santa Barbara shop. Today, frames bearing his Cielo Cycles monicker are once again being sold to shops. Jay Sycip (yes, of the Sycip brothers fame) oversees production on the bikes and worked with Chris on the geometry.
This Cielo is a great example of why people buy steel bikes. It had terrific stiffness; it was absolutely stiffer than I thought it would be. It also featured crisp, precise handling and Jay revealed each frame features its own fork in order to keep trail constant. The upshot is that everyone gets the same riding experience, which is really special. This is one of the very best steel frames I’ve ridden in the last eight years, if not the outright best.
The head tube and seatstays featured some lovely polished stainless steel touches.
Cervelo’s R3SL is one of a handful of bikes that seemingly everyone asks about. Any time I talk to someone interested in compliance and ride quality, the R3SL is one of the first bikes they ask about. People have good reason to be curious. While my test-ride bike was a little small for me, I was impressed with the combination of stiffness and ride quality.
Trek has come a long way since the days of the OCLV series bikes. The new Madone 6.0 uses carbon fiber superior to anything the company has used before. On the road, it definitely had the best ride quality of any Trek I’d ever ridden, not to mention stiffness that can rival many bikes. But while the other bikes I rode had handling that was quick but predictable, the Madone 6.0 felt a touch nervous, as if there wasn’t enough weight on the front wheel. That said, the longer I rode the bike, the more accustomed to the handling I became, but my preference is for bikes with fewer nerves.
Overall, the big surprise of the day was the Cielo, but the most impressive bike of the bunch was the Felt F2. Its combination of rarely achieved stiffness, kid-glove sensitivity and masterful handling led me to the conclusion that most riders could easily be fooled into thinking this was Felt’s top-of-the-line bike if they never saw the decals.
Pornography gets a bad rap. Pictures meant to excite and titillate really aren’t such bad things, unless you happen to behave badly afterward.
The Spring Classics, published in English by VeloPress, is one such book that may cause readers to behave badly after a thorough reading. You could call it racing porn. It is essentially a pictorial history of one-day races. Yes, the title is a bit misleading, as it includes all of the Monuments, including the Tour of Lombardy, as well as Paris-Tours and other non-Spring races such as the Classica San Sebastian.
The inaccurate title is truly the book’s only fault, and as faults go, the inclusion of more races than the title promises is to be celebrated. Where else in our lives does anyone over-deliver?
The Spring Classics was written by Philippe Bouvet, Philippe Brunel, Pierre Callewaert, Jean-Luc Gatellier and Serge Laget, the same team behind the recent Paris-Roubaix book. Translated expertly by Sam Abt, the book’s great achievement is to bring a lifetime of photographic work to an audience that doesn’t routinely read l’Equipe and other European papers, which is to say the book isn’t yet another retrospective of Graham Watson’s archives.
The Spring Classics is more than 200 pages of images you’ve never seen. Were the writing and translation terrible, I could still recommend this book without reservation—the photos are that good. The histories detailed are truly fascinating, but the images … the images gave me chills.
By presenting the work of so many different photographers in a single volume the reader is rewarded with perspectives and compositions that aren’t the carbon copies one inevitably sees when one photographer stands next to another at the finish line. The scenics are breathtaking and the portraits of riders like Eddy Merckx (clad in the black and white of Peugeot) and Rik Van Looy (with the sinew of a lean, young rider still in his ascendancy) are better than a time machine.
After reading it, you’ll be inspired to ride from your heart, ignoring the pleas from your legs and friends alike. Just remember, though: Bad behavior is defined by those closest to you.