“Want to know why I’ll miss Alberto most of all in the ever-growing attrition list of this year’s Tour de France? Forget the doping talk for a moment and humor me; we all know that everyone at the Grand Tour level is not without suspicion. Let’s just talk about cycling, with skepticism and disbelief suspended. The guy is pure class and grace, on and off the bike. Even when Lance Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel did their best to work against his undeniable ascendancy in the 2009 Tour, he rode to victory in a manner both touching and awe-inspiring. He’s been a stylish and dogged competitor, having won all three Grand Tours at one point in his career; he’s yet to write a kiss-and-tell-all “memoir” uncomplimentary to his colleagues and the sport; he doesn’t have a strident significant other shrilly tweeting ad nauseam, just the love of his life whom he’s known since he was 17; and he doesn’t milk the sympathy card that was the brain aneurysm that nearly ended his career and his life.
Alberto Contador, your exit from the race has made La Grande Boucle that much less thrilling for me. Cumplidos en su desempeño valiente hoy.”
I was always divided about Contador. I don’t want to get too much into the past and doping offences (that’s for a much bigger post) but indeed I felt that this year’s Tour suffered a lot from the big names that withdrew so early. Of course we can always write about ‘what-ifs’, but at the end of the day I was kinda ‘meh’ towards the final stages. Seeing Contador recover so quickly to where he left off in July to perform so well at the Vuelta is good to see. Certain naysayers will chime in with the fact he’s back to form so quickly raises eyebrows and was obviously a tactical ploy by the team to double-bluff the severity of the injury. Fact is, a broken tibia is a broken tibia. So it’s one part deja-vu and one part a great shame we lose Quintana from the Vuelta. I’ll probably do a big old season recap for 2014 soon, but part of me thinks the best racing happened so early on in the season. Feels like 2014 has flown by in the blink of an eye.
Rapha’s fifth installment of Hell of the North is on April 13th. Run as an homage to the Spring classic that is Paris-Roubaix, the Hell of the North takes in 100 kilometers of rough roads to the north of London. Past editions have seen some 20 odd gravé sectors, which mean I’m reluctant to take my Bosberg out. The clearances for the tyres are pretty minimal and occasionally bits of gravel and small stones end up rubbing the brake bridges. Time to dust off the old CAADX, which saw very little use last cross season. Think I’ll shod my H Plus Sons with some 28mm Continentals.
Entry is free. Well I say is, spaces are very limited and this year’s edition was full in record time. The ride sets off at roughly 10:00AM with a midway feed stop before returning to a pub in Barnet for a screening of the real deal, Paris-Roubaix, with Belgian frites and beer to wash it down. I can’t wait.
I’m always on the lookout for a little n+1. Where n is the current number of bikes in the stable. Recently I’ve grown slightly despondent with the “latest and greatest”. Sure carbon is an awesome material and compact geometries are stiffer and more comfortable, but there’s something about a traditional top tube and the straight butted tubes that adorn older frames. The Bianchi below may not be to everyone’s cup of tea, but in my eyes I’d rock that everyday of the week (and weekend).
Okay, maybe I’d have to change a couple of things, but apart from the saddle and stem angle that almost looks like a work of art. I’ll even look the other way on the horrible Liquigas, celeste colour clashing. Something which I can’t do in the current pro-peloton with Belkin. Which kindly brings me onto my next point, I currently ride a rather lovely Ritte Bosberg, if I’m changing the material and geo why not mix-up the paint too? Or should I say the lack of paint? The Firefly tumblr is some bike-porn of the highest order. Gorgeous picture after picture of precise welds and brushed titanium. However, confession time: I’ve never ridden a titanium frame. I briefly flirted with the idea of a Litespeed 4 years ago, even going so far as to order and fit a Xicon, alas I didn’t take the plunge. A bit of a shame really as I’ve since been through 2 carbon frames from a manufacturer that will remain nameless, but that’s a story for another time.
Now late night dreaming of the n+1 and it’s ideal specifications. Hours spent deliberating over bottom bracket standards. Hollowtech II still rules the longevity and serviceability stakes, however there is a Cannondale SISL chainset gathering dust under my bed. Gruppos and finishing kits are carefully agonised over too. Do you make the jump to 11 speed? Or do those multiple cassettes still come out when you’ve got your climbing legs on? Dura-ace 9000 is an amazing piece of kit from an engineering perspective, I currently run a 9000 chainset and brakes on my Bosberg. I’ve always been a Shimano person myself, I never particularly enjoyed SRAM or Campagnolo, but hey, if I’m going to be changing so much of the bike already, what’s the gruppo in the scheme of things, right?
All these thoughts actually bring me to the irony of the situation. If I really want another bike in the house I’d have to free up space and also some cold hard cash to make the dream come true. Do I dare? I mean nobody writes about n-1…