It’s too long since I had a rant; I’d like to thank Mario Cipollini for providing the spark for this one.

I meet my pal Ivan on a weekly basis for a 07:45 coffee at a secret location. The theme of this morning’s rant-fest was what would happen if Rik Van Looy met the Schlecks?

We reckoned that ‘The Emperor’ would just need to look at Andy before the start and the ‘Luxembourg Pro Cycling Project’ (great name for a team) rider would run off home to Luxembourg and his Teddy bear.

Then Ward Sels would appear and Frank would be offsky too.

Alberto? He’d have to ask permission to attack in the mountains, either that or develop a taste for hospital food.

Mario Cipollini
Mario reckons Andy should have attacked Bert day after day, “without giving him time to piss”.

And what about this nonsense about ‘letting the break go and then HTC keep it under control and gradually reel it in’ — eh?

As Vin Denson says; ‘it’s your job to disrupt the chase if you have a man in the break!

It’s hard to imagine HTC being allowed to smoothly chase down a break with Rik Van Looy in it, somehow.

These thoughts were sparked by us both reading Denson’s book — ‘The Full Cycle’ — and me beginning to re-read Tom Simpson’s ‘Cycling is my Life.

Mario Cipollini
Two Riks; van Steenbergen chats to World Champ van Looy.

Denson’s book contains no swear words and is written in a very simple style, not a hint of ‘post modern irony’, but reveals much about the continental peloton of the 50’s and 60’s — men were definitely men and none was more masculine than Van Looy.

Denson was Van Looy’s team mate and learned at first hand that the ‘The Emperor’s’ word was absolutely not his bond.

Denson was also a team mate of roadman sprinter Ward Sels — 93 wins including Tour de France stage wins, the Belgian pro championship and

Ward Sels.
Ward Sels.

Tours of Flanders — a real ‘death or glory’ sprinter.

However, it wasn’t Ward who would be playing the role of the deceased; it would be anyone brave or stupid enough to go between the harder than nails Belgian and the barriers.

Simpson hadn’t much time for Van Looy either, at the infamous 1963 Worlds in Ronse where Belgian domestique Benoni Beheyt pushed/pulled (you chose) Van Looy at the line to take the title from his boss; Simpson was practically brought to a halt by ‘Rik 2’ — to give him his other nickname — when he grabbed the Englishman’s jersey and took a monumental sling off him.

Simpson was quite happy about Van Looy’s defeat; ‘the biter, bitten!

‘Imagine my surprise’ when I tuned in to CyclingNews on the ‘net tonight and Super Mario was ranting about Andy and Bert being ‘chums’ and how much it sickens him.

Whilst I think our sport has should not get in to the violence that mars football and rugby, a bit of ‘needle’ never hurt.

Mario’s big sprint rival was Djamolodine Abdoujaparov – when a journalist said to Mario; ‘wouldn’t it be better if you sat down and talked, rather than trying to kill each other?

The Italian replied; ‘I never plead with a woman!

Read the Denson and Simpson books and then tell me that cycling is harder and more soulful now than it was back then.

Perhaps my favourite Denson anecdote is when cyclo-cross king Erik De Vlaeminck was giving old Vin a bit of verbal; Big Vin’s solution?

Pick the much smaller De Vlaeminck up by the lapels and hang him on a coat hook.

That’s my kind of rider!