The Monday after Kuurne can be a bit of a downer, most of the bike shops are shut and you know that reality is just one sleep away…
But not this one; first up we had an interview with Rudy Pevenage – strangely, there were no scales, horns or tail on view and rather than being the devil incarnate we met a man who – like so many others – ‘did what he had to do’ in era where the UCI as much as invited you to kit up.
As Frans Assez used to say; ’49.9 eh ? then I think I ride at 49.8, eh ?’
Pevenage watches cycling on TV every day but you can tell it’s eating him up that he’s no longer part of a world he loves.
‘Good riddance !’ says you; OK, but what about Bjarne, Giuseppe, Jonathan and – dare I mention it – Sky’s own Servais ?
But this isn’t a D-word rant, it’s a look at a beautiful exhibition dedicated to two of Belgium’s finest sportsmen on the year of their 70th birthday.
Motorbike, Formula I, Endurance and Rally Raid star, Jacky Ickx; twice a runner-up in the Formula 1 World Drivers’ Championship, six times a winner at Le Mans and a champion in Paris-Dakar.
He was as famous, versatile and brilliant as the other man whose career gets a spotlight shone upon it – a certain Edouard Louis Joseph, Baron Merckx.
Any doubts you have about the production values are dispelled as soon as you cross the gangway to the entrance door where Eddy stares majestically into the middle distance with every one of his 525 wins recorded above him and round into the huge exhibition spaces.
The pictures are brilliant; many I’ve never seen before and encompassing his life from a young boy right up to his last race.
But it’s not just pictures; there’s a fabulous collection of jerseys from his early amateur days right up to his last C & A maillots.
Quotes abound, we liked this one…
The variety is enormous; in an obviously posed shot, young Ted helps Paw Merckx in the family grocers shop right next to a shot of a fresh faced Eddy beside Walter Godefroot on the podium of the 1965 Belgian pro champs.
Eddy’s face says it all; ‘I’ll soon have more jerseys than you can shake a stick at, Walt !’
And have a wee look at Walter’s eyes; I didn’t know they had Red Bull back then…
The trophy display is magnificent – don’t forget that as well as all those wins there were a huge number of podiums and classification wins.
On the ‘TV wall’ you can watch Eddy winning in two dozen places at once – road, track and time trial.
If you’ve ever watched the finale of The Primavera then you’ll be aware of the tunnel on the coast road a few K’s before the Poggio; they’ve recreated it here.
And there it is, sealed in a case as befits a precious jewel, the Hour Record bike.
This is no replica, it’s the real deal; how do we know ?
Have a look at the seat post and pedals; made as ‘one off’ specials in a magnesium alloy by Campagnolo, the passage of the years has seen the wonder material react with the air and turn black.
And check out the ‘one off’ titanium handlebar extension which carry Eddy’s favourite Cinelli 66 ‘bars.
And a younger Ernesto Colnago – Ted’s personal mechanic on the gig – stares out us with his lovely creation; the chamfering and polishing work on the cranks is sublime.
And who wouldn’t kill for his Molteni cardigan ?
One of the sponsors of the attempt was Mexican cigarette manufacturer, Windsor; and like anyone who comes up with the dosh – they get a name check.
We decided to put Dave on the test rig where you can challenge Ted’s Mexico wattage for one minute – suffice to say that no ‘plane tickets to Mexico were booked as a result…
Some of the pictures remind us that when we dinosaurs talk about; ‘men being harder back then’ we’re not just letting nostalgia get the better of us.
The above shot is from Paris-Nice.
There’s a huge media archive on display with not all of it relating to Eddy; rest in peace Monsieur Tom.
We did like the replica 60’s Flanders bar complete with race going past – courtesy a video wall – and Faema coffee machine.
No buxom barmaid though, unfortunately.
As well as the Hour Record bike, there was a bike there from all of Eddy’s trade teams – and as far as we could see they were all authentic with just about all the right bits in the right places.
You may think; ‘that goes without saying’ but it doesn’t – if you’ve ever visited the Madonna del Ghisallo cycling museum you’ll be aware of the horrible mismatch of components that can happen if things aren’t properly curated.
Our only quibble was with the brake levers on the Peugeot team bike…
And just as we all did back then, Eddy rested his derriere on a Brooks Pro; but you’ll get no starry eyed reminiscences from me – as soon as I could afford a padded Unicanitor, I bought one.
Those team Peugeots looked the biz – albeit your winter weight training was so as you could find the strength to lift the beast on to a roof rack.
Some of the top riders had frames built by top Italian builders with Peugeot spray jobs – but you had to be careful team management didn’t find out or they’d tell you to get back on a team frame.
A large part of the ‘Peugeot pitch’ was that you could buy and ride the exact same bike as Pingeon/Simpson/Merckx…
The pre-Campag brakes (they first appeared at the Paris trade show in 1968) Faema bikes were built by Milano legend, Alberto Masi beneath the bankings of the Vigorelli velodrome.
Vik and I have often mused about how Campag came up with those brake levers – they were smaller than the Universal and Mafac levers of the day and about half the size of current levers; anyway…
‘Pumpkin’ was the colour of those Molteni bikes and they were gorgeous with that Campag Record and Super Record equipment – even the boxes were cool.
His last seasons were spent on the silver Fiat/C&A team machines – built by De Rosa, if my memory is correct – and nice looking machines.
The end came on 19th March 1978 in Kemzeke where he finished 12th in the Omloop van het Waasland.
But after 525 wins, 32 Classics, four World Championships, 11 major Tours and seven Super Prestige Pernod titles (the season-long points based competition to find the best rider of the year) he had nothing left to prove.
And finally, if you do like VeloVeritas and have a big lottery win then all I’d like is Jacky Ickx’s old BMW 3.0 CSL, he doesn’t use it anymore.
If you’re in Brussels before June 21st then get yourself along to the Atomium, you’ll thank us for it.