Posts Tagged ‘Mario Cipollini’

It will cost you €100 to stand on one of the best spots of the World Championships’ course

September 4, 2013

Jen and I have been planning our trip to the World Championships, which takes place at the end of the month. We figured it would probably be a right old hassle to get from our hotel in Florence to the Fiesole, the longest of two climbs on the closing circuit, so we decided to fork out €100 each for seats by the finish line. And I’m pleased that we did, because we’re going to be in row ‘A’! Woo-hoo! That’ll be a prime perving spot for Jen, especially if David Millar turns up.

As far as I know, getting into the grandstand at the finish of the Worlds usually involves opening your wallet – there was certainly a charge last year in Valkenburg, and I’m pretty sure that was also the case when Cipollini triumphed at Zolder in 2002, although I was on a press trip that year so I was too busy scoffing vol-au-vents in the VIP area to investigate. What has surprised me this time ’round is that the Italians are also charging €100 to watch the race on the Via Salviati, the finishing circuit’s short, punchy climb… and you don’t even get to park your bum on a plastic seat.

So, basically, that’s €100 to experience what most of us expect to do for free: stand by the side of a public road and watch a bike race. That sounds a bit rubbish, doesn’t it?

To be fair, the climb is only 600m long and it appears to be quite narrow, judging by footage three enthusiastic Americans have made of the circuit…

uci worlds circuit 2013 via salviati

…so ticketing is probably an effective way of limiting access to what appears to be a restricted space. And the price gives you three days’ access, which covers the men’s, women’s and juniors’ road races.

But even so, it’s £84. Access to Box Hill, the centrepiece of the 2012 Olympic road race, only cost 15 quid. Why so blimmin’ high, UCI?

Lots of different places

February 14, 2013

merlin cyrene

I found her when I wasn’t looking. “Where are you from?” I asked. “Lots of different places,” she replied. She was mimicking Christopher Lambert’s response, and indeterminately European accent, from the film Highlander. I didn’t get the joke, but I somehow managed to get her number that night.

A few months after we met, we moved in together. One evening, as we walked home from a curry house, slightly drunk, I found the perfect pair of spectacle frames – black, square and narrow – looking up at me from the pavement with its arms folded back. I had my prescription fitted and wore those glasses until the sweat of successive summers turned the plastic a whitish grey. By that time we’d moved to a nicer part of town and I’d got a better job, through which I received an invitation to visit Belgium; a place called Zolder was on the itinerary. I accepted on a whim and saw Mario Cipollini become world champion. I never asked to be skinny or fit, but that’s what happened not long after.

These incidents that have shaped and defined parts of my identity happened by accident. So by the time I decided to find a bike that would last me many years, I knew the sensible procedure of establishing performance criteria and comparing the aesthetics of various components wasn’t going to happen. To put it simply, I never chose my bike; I gave in to chance and let the bike choose me.

The first time I saw it was on a deluged club run in the spring of 2003. The owner, one of only five members who had braved the downpour, was taking the bike out for its debut ride. He disappeared up the first hill and that was the last we saw of him that day. Three years later, I bought that bike in its essence: frame (Merlin Cyrene), fork (Reynolds Ouzo Pro) and a Royce bottom bracket. I had no idea how I wanted to complete the bike. Why did I end up choosing Ksyrium SLs? Because I knew someone who had inadvertently tested their durability by crashing into a tree (the front wheel, and the rider, survived more or less intact). Chorus for the groupset, because Record felt like an extravagance. I left it to a mechanic friend to decide the rest and build up the bike for me.

If you want to know whether or not your bike is truly suited to you, then sleep with it by your bed. Go to sleep late, wake up too early, and look at it as soon as you get up. Does it make you want to ride, even if your body is telling you not to bother? Then congratulations, you have chosen a great bicycle. For years I kept the Merlin next to our bed (yes, our bed – I managed to keep the girl) alongside an aluminium Merckx and a stickerless steel Glider, and it still inspires me to ride more than its two companions. Gleaming, naked titanium, white bar tape and white Fizik Aliante saddle: it looks indomitable, enduring, immortal, even though I’m no Christopher Lambert. The chunkier and more functional Campag gets, the more elegant my 2006 cranks look. And the Ksyriums, originally chosen out of practicality, please me with the simplicity of their thick spokes; when a child draws a pair of bicycle wheels, they draw SLs or something like them.

Performance-wise, it rides smoothly with just enough bite to get me over the sharpest bits of the Monte Grappa, the Barbotto or the Bwlch. But above all, what I like most about it is its arbitrary nature: an American frame, an Italian groupset, conjured into being through serendipity and indecision, via a workshop in Surrey. A bike from lots of different places.

The rules of The Rules

November 16, 2012

Against The Rules

1. To follow The Rules, you must resolutely ignore the obvious truth: it is not your duty to follow anyone’s arbitrary rules. If it were, you would never ride a bicycle in the first place. You would be a gym slave, or a couch potato, or a golf nut.

2. But if you want to be treated like a golfer, then you’ll fully embrace the second rule of The Rules: cycling is one big clubhouse and, as such, there must be a dress code, or chaos shall reign. Sock length, correct usage of caps and the positioning of eyewear – these things are the equivalent of designating which ties are acceptable in the bar area. And by obsessing over sartorial details, you’re attempting to obviate the most marvelous aspect of cyclists’ appearance: their inherent, proud, glorious daftness. What other pastime would allow you to routinely adopt the aesthetic of a superhero (Zabriskie), a mod (Wiggins), a human-sized sex toy (Cipo) or a tweedy fop, all without violent repercussions? Ridicule, to paraphrase a wiser man than myself, truly is nothing to be scared of in the realm of the bicycle.

3. Another man who is also much wiser than me recently opined: “Lists move in when love moves out.” And so it is with The Rules. For its adherents, the pure joy of riding has dissolved to such an extent that you need a rule to remind yourself of that long-forgotten pleasure (it’s entry number six, if you’re looking to somehow reclaim that feeling). You have become a librarian of the soul, observing an empty superstition that cultivating the correct tan lines or avoiding frame-mounted pumps will somehow make things better. It won’t. The magic is over. The romance has gone. But hey – there’s always golf, fellas!

4. If you need to go on the internet to learn the guidelines for courteous, safe cycling, then you don’t ride with a club. You are alone. Of all the rules of The Rules, this one is the most tragic.

5. Alpha males do not need to read a list telling them it is vitally important to own bicycles more expensive than their car, or that they’re a “badass” for riding in inclement weather. They do these sorts of things instinctively, because alpha males are creatures of action, biologically programmed to thump their chests. Of all the rules of The Rules, this is the most comedic: you will never be an alpha male, but you must try your absolute hardest to be a facsimile of one. Even though the real silverbacks are genetically predisposed to not give a toss about you.

6. Similarly, you may not be a sexist berk, but the rules of The Rules demand that you snigger at a story about Sean Kelly valuing his wife less than his car or his bike, even though he may not have said the words attributed to him in rule 11. Oh, and there’s beer. Apparently beer is a key component of your identity as a man. True, there is also an admirable rule advising men not to get all antsy if they are overtaken by a woman. But only two mentions of female cyclists among 91 entries? We’re back in the metaphorical clubhouse again!

7. “Hey,” the Ruleistas might say, “lighten up, dude! The Rules are funny!” A sensible response is to direct them to the photograph at the top of this post. Seriously, is anything in The Rules as funny as that guy breaking them? And if you can’t be funnier than the thing you’re mocking then, surely, you have failed.

Totally Ri.Pel-ant

November 17, 2011

Today, readers, for a short ride to Portobello Road to get a much-needed haircut, I have been “rocking” a pair of three-quarter-length trousers, legwarmers and a wooly jersey in a bucolic shade of green. I call this “look” The Urban Fop. Other “looks” I occasionally like to “rock” (i.e. particular sets of clothes I wear with an unwarranted degree of overconfidence) include The Rococo Punk (Rock Racing kit in dry-weather-only white), The Not Eddy Merckx (black and orange Molteni homage with “Kannibaal” across the chest) and One Of Those Bloody London Dynamo Persons You See Absolutely Everywhere (Dynamo gilet, Dynamo jersey, Dynamo socks and optional Dynamo girdle – an option I choose not to exercise).

Given, therefore, that I am prone to making wardrobe decisions even more varied than fashion pioneers David Zabriskie and the great Cipollini, I am not in principle against dressing up as The Homoerotic Mandroid, which appears to be the default mode that attracts purchasers of Assos garments.

Nor am I repulsed by Zegho, the Swiss manufacturer’s new foray into eyewear. How could I? It completes the “gay porn version of Terminator” style that the clothing range appears to have been striving towards. But yes, I am irked. And it is the lexicon of Assos that irks me.

Take “Ri.Pel”. Apparently this is supposed to denote a special type of lens that prevents water resting on its surface, but it looks like what a robot might plop out of its mouth instead of the human word “repel”. Similarly, an ordinary person might conceivably say “zero optical distortion”, but in the lexicon of Lugano’s boffins “zOd.Tec” somehow sounds more to the point. As for the technology that prevents the specs from slipping… well, I’m not a man of violence, but I confess my initial reaction to “clickFace” was: PunchFace.

The innovations themselves, if they work, are actually quite handy; it’s just a shame they’re obscured by such arse-clenchingly earnest pseudo-labspeak. For those aesthetes who reckon the shades look a little “90s clubber”, or a bit “sports-car-with-the-sunroof-down”, you’ve always got the option to not look at them; also, at about £400 a pop, you’re unlikely to see too many pairs on your club ride. But I like words, and once I see one, it tends to find its way into my head and stay there. I am stuck with zOd.Tec. How Ri.Pel-ant.

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