Posts Tagged ‘Zolder’

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.

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