Thursday, January 30, 2014

Memories of Koksijde Cyclocross World Championships

© Duncan Rimmer
With the 2014 UCI Cyclocross World Championships on this weekend in Hoogerheide, the Netherlands, I thought it was time to finally write about fan Duncan Rimmer’s experience at the World Championships in Belgium, 29 January 2012. 

The frites' redolence floats gently around the Koksijde air force base and pauses to dance blithely with the sounds wafting from the beer tents. Fans shout along to a Flemish version of Sex is on Fire and boisterously inhale beer to fill the three hour wait between the women’s and men’s Cyclocross World Championships races.

Duncan Rimmer knows abstinence is futile. He enters a beer tent and swaps two food/drink tickets for a bottle of Jupiler. "Aaagh," he sips "that's more like it." Later, he will scoff two servings of frites and mayo.

© Duncan Rimmer
Duncan’s journey to watch his first cyclocross World Championships began at 4am when he cycled over to a Mordern Cycling Club mate's place for the drive to Ashford and the channel crossing. But his journey arguably began when he was a kid, with a July soundtrack of Phil and Paul supplemented by camping in France and riding any and every bike he could. He took to road racing a few years ago and soon after came his foray into cyclocross.

“I saw a cyclocross race at Herne Hill Velodrome (London),” he described. “I decided to give it a go on an old roadie with some cyclocross tyres I just about squeezed on.”

Cyclocross tightened its muddy grip on him. He was hooked.

“I bought a ‘cross bike and now race in the London and South East Cyclocross League whenever I can,” he said.  “Cyclocross as well as road means I don’t get bored with either and cyclocross practice means no traffic lights, traffic, just dogs and walkers.”

Lidl car park © Duncan Rimmer
With this passion, Duncan and his entourage arrived in Koksijde just before the women’s race. After a few laps of the Lidl car park where the national teams hung out, Duncan spotted Australian cyclocross rider Lewis Rattray. He shook his hand, the same hand that writes the cyclocross blog Duncan loves. He told Lewis he loved his story about a Belgian’s alcoholic shot hand up to him in a recent race. He wished him luck and moved with the burgeoning throng to watch the women’s race.

Helen Wyman and view across base © Duncan Rimmer
After cheering on Britain’s Nikki Harris and Helen Wyman and experiencing the joy of watching Marianne  Vos’ otherworldliness to take the win, Duncan laps up the noise from the cowbells and the drinking Belgians. With a national strike the next day a great incentive, the Belgians drink quite a bit.

Marianne Vos © Duncan Rimmer
The friendly crowd grows to 61,000 just before the men’s turn round. The drab air force base transforms into a rill of colour; the Lion of Flanders standing proud among the numerous flags waved about by fans from Germany, Japan, the UK, the Netherlands, the USA and the Czech Republic. Duncan finds two vantage points he can still manage to run between and grab photos. He cheers everyone, especially Ian Field, now the only Brit rider after the others pull out of the race due to food poisoning.  

Ian Field © Duncan Rimmer
An hour later, Duncan says, “I really enjoyed it, but it’s over far too soon.” 

"Watching the best cyclocross racers in the world was something else. Their strength, speed and skill at riding especially through the sand was something to behold," he continues. 

While amazed by the crowd as much as the races themselves, it comes as no real shock given the popularity the sport enjoys even in Duncan’s London.

“There are often over 100 riders in the races I do and there's also well supported kids' races. I raced at Alexandra Palace in the Rapha Supercross and there were lots of cowbells and cheers from the crowd."

Now, Duncan and his mates, one a good cyclocrosser back in his day, must return to England, reality and work. And while Duncan would've loved to jump on a bike and tried a lap of the course at Koksijde before his long journey, he will still enjoy the last leg home.  

“I will ride in the dark dreaming of being as good as Niels Albert.”

For now at least, his job as an asbestos surveyor can wait. 

Niels Albert in the sand © Duncan Rimmer

(Tourdecouch: You have to check out Duncan's video in the beer tent here and also check out more of his great shots from the Championships here)  

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Citizens on Protrol - 21014 Belgian Cyclocross National Championships

It's been one hot cycling summer down here what with all the crits, the New Zealand and Australian Road Racing National Championships and of course the Tour Down Under. But there's still more than warm cycling going on in the colder parts of the world. 

To get you in the mood for the World Cyclocross Championships in Hoogerheide,Netherlands this weekend, I've posted Catherine's (or @Meowclank) quick bird's eye view from the Belgium Cyclocross National Championships held 12 January 2014 in Waragem. 

The Nationals themselves are pretty big in Belgium. About 20,000 were there in person to cheer on Sven Nys and Sanne Cant to their victories. According to Brad Sohner, 20,000 litres of beer were sold on site and the action attracted a 1.2m Flemish TV audience and audience, 

Laatste Ronde!!

The train was packed on the way to Waragem and Catherine finally made it to the start of the women's race:
(Words and photos below: Catherine @meowclank)

Thinking Sanne Cant might win this

My new friends are knocking back shots of cactus juice

Sven having a practice

One of several beer tents here

We're ready.

We got the band in wigs and heaps of mud

Silly me not bringing a shot glass to the race! (Catherine uttered, no pic)

Name the cyclist CX style 

Showing the way

He's a bit good this Sven Nys

My new friends?! Patrick and the tall bloke. Called Nys and Peeters for today. They are calling LvDH for the worlds.

Catherine is based in Belgium to live and work and chase pro wheels. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Citizens On Protrol - People's Choice Classic - Tour Down Under

The peloton crosses the river Torrens - © Anne Fedorowytsch 

The People's Choice Classic is chance for the big sprint boys - and smaller Caleb Ewan type ones - to hit out before the Tour Down Under, 25 times around a 2km course in the heart of Adelaide.

Belinda Hoare and Anne Fedorowytsch were at the race and kindly are allowing me to use their photos and words for this edition of Citizens on Protrol.

Belinda cooled off before the race with this Adelaide food truck treat:

Green roar = kiwi, ginger, red grape ©Belinda Hoare

Last minute adjustments for Arnaud Courteille ©Belinda Hoare

The Loo Queue ©Belinda Hoare

Mechanic's pit ©Belinda Hoare

Then, crash chaos ©Belinda Hoare

Hayman attacks © Anne Fedorowytsch 

Now Team is Sky driving the peloton © Anne Fedorowytsch 

Sun setting over the peloton © Anne Fedorowytsch 

Winner! © Anne Fedorowytsch 

Winner Winner!   ©Belinda Hoare

Kittel machine  ©Belinda Hoare

A packed riverbank cheers as Marcel Kittel is presented on stage © Anne Fedorowytsch 

And here's some cool vids Anne posted on Vine. Anne's man, another "Citizen on protrol" Jason Lyle have been capturing some pretty good shots lately. Are they the next Grubers

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Tour de Couch TDU Scavenger Hunt

You'd normally post a photo like this during the TDU, why not win a prize!
Photo by Julie Davies

Welcome to the inaugural Tour de Couch #TDU Scavenger Hunt!

Play at the TDU:
  1. Post pic of a pro (can be either the mens teams or women at Santos Womens Cup) with hashtags #tduhunt #tdu #lastnameofpro
  2.  Post pic of a tweet up at the TDU – with you and tweep(s) – use twitter handle of tweep(s), post with #tdu #tduhunt #tweetup
  3.  Pic of or selfie with an official Hilton hotel TDU cocktail hastag: #tduhunt #tdu #hilton
  4.  Photo/selfie of a gelato or coffee at Cibo Espresso #tdu #tduhunt and @ciboespresso
  5. Photo/selfie of any exhibitor stand in the village/expo and use their twitter handle when posting (or hashtag if you don’t know it) #tdu #tduhunt #business name
  6. Photo of Drapac stencil  - like the one below - you see around and post with #drapactrue

Play at home, anywhere in the world:
  1.  Post a quick vid of you or a mate/family member pretending to commentate #tdu #tduhunt #notsherliggett
  2. During a stage (live or highlights), post a pic of your snacks and/or beverages with your couch or chair in it #tdu #tduhunt #tdusnacks 
  3. Post a pic, image, vid or a saying that sums up cycling for you (doesn’t have to be your own original) #tdu #tduhunt #cycling
  4. Adopt a Drapac Professional Cycling rider in the race to cheer on and tell us in a tweet, on my Facebook page, why #tdu #tduhunt #drapactrue
    • The TDU team includes: Jonathan Cantwell, Thomas Palmer, Travis Meyer, William Clarke, Bernard Sulzberger, Wesley Sulzberger and Darren Lapthorne  For more info on Drapac, stay tuned their website goes live soon
Pics and vids can be posted on Twitter, Instagram, Vine or on the Tour de Couch Facebook page 

Entries close final stage of the TDU, drawn Monday, 27th January 2014. 

The first complete and correct entry drawn for those playing at the TDU wins $100 gift voucher to online cycling store of your choice, $50 for first complete and correct entry playing at home.If you’re not a rider yourself and you win, we can talk).

As it’s the first one, and I as usual had a last minute idea so couldn't source sponsors prizes, it’s not too long or hard. However, expect bigger and better in the years to come and will include Willunga hill and more clues around Adelaide and perhaps even an easy strava challenge or geocaching.

If you’re reading this and you do have some merchandise or other sponsorship to throw my way for this year’s hunt, contact me on or via DM on twitter @tourdecouch – we could also talk about next year’s comp. As you can see, it has a huge potential for hashtagging your business name or slogan and to create a buzz. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Rusty Crank: Dodgy Stu at the Ride Like Crazy Dinner

Are fans sick of being dumped on?

This post is not about Mick Rogers' meal in China. No it's about Stuart O'Grady's attendance at the Ride Like Crazy Dinner tomorrow night.

An "intimate discussion" about cycling is promised. Is this likely to include what O'Grady knew of alleged doping at any of his teams? He'll say it wasn't just the one time? He knows or doesn't know about any rumoured doping in cycling's other alleged systematic doping programs, closer to our shores (i.e. right on them). And is Rees Homfray, O'Grady's biographer and writer of this piece likely to grill him at the event?

If no, then is he going for any other reason than to exercise vanity and embrocate the book buying loins of the cycling boys' club? (Of course I know he is also doing it for charity).

The argument goes if he or a rider do actually know more, then a dinner like this would hardly be the appropriate forum to share this information and should be happening behind closed doors like with Hesjedal, or at the UCI style commission.

I agree. (Although he did have his chance during the Vance investigation to tell all about his one time doping rather than just before the French Senate report was released).

However, does that mean riders can publicly act like the truth is somehow different, and everything changed after cycling's magical maginot line in the sand of 2007 - or was it 2008,1998, 2004, 2009 or 2012 - and the kids are alright? Does it entitle anyone to possess a refusal for empathy with an exhausted fan base that doesn't believe it was just the once or it was just the era? Stuey's attendance not long after his admission and just before the Tour Down Under appears to do this.

These tweets sum it up well.

Perhaps he should stay home and leave it for another day.

Why? How can we move on when it appears that a rider like Stuey, on the eve of Australia's only World Tour race comes out to play in his home town, not to sell us the truth, but to sell us his image and his future biography? And at an event where he has the opportunity to say again he only did it that one time, talk about how it felt to hoist a chunk of pavé above his head in Roubaix, and then regale the audience about his freakish physiology enabling him to ride tempo like an animal, day after day, year after year in the mountains, well into his late 30s. All before the Tour Down Under - a race he made as much his own party as Lance did.

So what is the answer about the past? Perhaps it is best to leave it there. But we can't, because it just won't stay there. Michele Scarponi gets a ride with Astana following a ban for his links to Ferrari in 2010 - and then tells us he visited him just the once and it was only for two days. A manager like Johan Bruyneel was quite willing to handle the futures of young men and would've continued to do so if he had not got found out. Bjarne Riis tells us he didn't know, how could he possibly know about riders - men he was responsible for - on his past teams doping. Some managers are still out there, with a dodgy not so in the past, past, carrying on without scrutiny. And there's also the clean team's anger about the reaction to Hesjedal's past doping like we were all meant to think it was nothing.

While ever these guys are still around, many of them decision makers in regards to contracts, how can a Truth and Meh Commission hope to succeed with not just ego on display, but warranted fear from potential witnesses and participants?

I often daydream and wish we could just cut the cord and not let anyone, at least in a management, medical, administrative or DS role with previous doping convictions or admissions - or any whiff of impropriety when it comes to doping - anywhere near the sport, ever.

It also isn't the past when there are rumours of new wonder drugs allegedly talked about in the peloton like riders once did about EPO. Then there's still the unanswered questions and rumours about Sky over Leinders, Jonathan Tiernan-Locke, and the scurrying away of Yates and Rogers.

Sure, that's a lot of rumours. But rumours were all we had to go on before though right?

Of course, noone wants a witch hunt or a rider suicide situation when enforcing anti-doping. Nor is a drip feed of doping stories sold by newly repentant ex cyclists ideal. Of course the cord cutting can't and won't ever happen, so let's settle for riders and management not treating us like chumps.

The Rusty Crank - sometimes op-ed, sometimes rant. Feel free to contribute and submit a cycling opinion piece to me at  Publishing will be at my discretion

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Our Chute Doc: More Kit and Pre Season Silliness

Let the Chute Doc heal your wounds with a light hearted look at the world of cycling. A play on the word "chute", French for fall or crash, used a lot in cycling, and also an anagram of Tour de Couch. (This section was formerly known as That's So Couch.)

This week gave us more kit releases. Here's a few of the guys from Giant-Shimano showing off their new gear and also the guys from IAM Cycling  although at one point they were captured without the full kit

(don't show the boys from Total Rush management that one)

Trek's kit was revealed at its team presentation in Roubaix.
They literally were - Andy was being built while on stage - note in the pic above his height and nationality had not yet been decided. And here's Andy and Frank halfway through  building Fabian Cancellara.

The cycling twitterati aren't too keen on all the black in the men's pro peloton this year not because it doesn't look smart etc, but because we all know Phil Liggett now just won't even bother trying to get the names right......

We also saw Tom Boonen in a team issue grey tracksuit
Omega Pharma Quickstep will be rockin' 2014 80s Goldie Hawn Wildcats style. 

The Giro jerseys were also released. Giro kit launch organisers were so embarassed by their washed out design, they hid them

Simba was presented to the pride lands

Astana rounds off the kit and pre season silliness.
They could be channeling this poor guy. A five week erection is worthy of those puns.

I leave you with something to cross off your bucket list, and that is hearing Bjarne Riis sing. No, not to a doping authority but at his wedding. Here it is.

In case you missed them:
Actual IAM kit here and Giant-Shimano kit here
Giro 2014 jerseys here

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Citizens on Pro-trol - #roadnats

“Cadel’s Pain Face – Last Lap, What a Legend.” © @suze_harris

TDC: As an armchair and Twitter spectator following the outstanding 2014 Australian National Road Cycling Championships, this shot above from a COP* sums it up best for me.
For this could've easily been a picture of anyone out there this week. Be it Alan Iacoune, Bridie O'Donnell, Caleb Ewan, Nick Squillari, Simon Gerrans, Josh Taylor, Felicity Laidlaw, Sarah Roy, Miles Scotson, or Gracie Elvin.
Odds for, or stacked against you, riding for the green and gold bands, leaving it all out on the road.
True grit.

"Go Bridie O'Donnell" © @GoveCycles 

The Womens' race gets underway © @jason_lyle

"Maclean grabs a bidon trying to bridge to Jacobs"  © @jason_lyle

Jacobs heading up Midland Highway, working hard solo in the lead © @jason_lyle

"Defending champ Gracie Elvin opening up a gap on Jacobs" © @jason_lyle

Cadel was obviously popular among fans:
"Cadel nestled away in the peloton up the climb  © @jason_lyle

"Cadel keeping a close eye on Porte"  © @jason_lyle

"The best was seeing my favourite, Cadel!" © @Andrea Newson
"Cadel's arm!" © @mrcyclingworld

"Hey, I know him"  © @Andrea Newson
But who is this guy? © @lycra_loony
And which Macka are they talking about © @lycra_loony
Here's what the crowd sounded like when the riders went past © @lycra_loony

Only one guy could own this car - @davidOLLE © @lycra_loony

"Adam Hansen, nice ride mate!" © @Jason_Lyle
"Avanti leads the peloton up the KOM" © @Jason_Lyle
"And then came Froome's mate"  © @Andrea Newson
Eventual winner Gerro relaxing in the bunch © @lycra_loony

While these videos are never going to be up there with Cycling Central or Sky coverage, they still give you a sense of just how loud the ending and the champers opening was.

I'll leave you with some last pics of Jason's

"Mt Buninyong climb all to myself tonight! Calm before the weekend." © @Jason_Lyle
Thanks Jason Lyle, Suze Harris, Gove Cycles, Andrea Newson, Mark Beaconsfield, and Mr Cycling World for letting TDC use your pics and vids!

*COP: Citizen on Pro-trol