The Saturday gig was to do a piece on the velos at the Paris – Roubaix 2007, so it was down to the start at Compiegne, and collect our accreditation. ASO didn’t let us down; “I have creds for you, but not your driver!”
We won’t bore you, but it was several hours and more of that patience-stuff later before we got the vital bits of string and plastic.
The team presentation on Saturday afternoon was colourful and loud but wasn’t providing us with anything we wanted, so once we had our creds we bolted in search of bikes.
The piece was to be on the bikes that would do well at Roubaix – I did really well and didn’t get a single one of the podium bikes, sometimes that happens. I think we got some good stuff.
The first job is to track-down the team hotels; Rabobank and Discovery were our first two ‘victims’. Rabobank had packed-up for the day, but Discovery were open for business. The team rides their elastomer-damped Treks just twice in the season; Flanders and Roubaix.
Apart from the rear damper the other ‘tweak’ is that a second front fork end is piggy-backed over the original to increase the clearance under the front fork crown. This must jack-up the front of the top tube and affect the handling, but maybe they compensate for this with the way the ‘suspended’ rear triangle is worked. There’s no pivot or hinge on the chainstays, Trek just rely on the flex of the carbon.
The Quickstep and Lotto teams were out of town, but we found them!
Lotto were wrapped-up and heading for dinner but QuickStep’s mechanics were on the case. They gave us Van Petegem’s bike to play with but Tom’s steeds were kept well to the rear of the cellar. Is it just a coincidence that Tom’s “temporary” Specialized’s are black – the most difficult colour of bike to photograph?
The next port of call yielded Lampre, AG2R Prevoyance, La Francaise des Jeux and Liquigas. Lampre had Ballan and Bennati, both favourites, so a good look was called for.
Ballan’s Wilier was cyclocross based, with the rear seat stays reversed and ‘mini’ levers on the tops of the bars.
Brakes were cheapo Campag and the chainset was brand-new Chorus, rather than Record, strangely with mixed Campag and TA rings.
Derailleurs were Record carbon though, front, back and shifters. Clearances were big, to accomodate fat Vittorias and mud.
A pop rivet secured the Ritchey seat post to the seat tube in order to stop it from slipping-down; unfortunately the saddle was sitting squint – The mechanic’s face dropped when Martin asked him if that was “normale?”
The FDJ mechanics had 1997 Roubaix winner, Frederic Guesdon’s Lapierre on the stand and were also prepping-up a neat carbon cyclo-cross job for Philippe Gilbert although there was debate about whether he would actually ride it.
Sometimes I think that a lot of the ‘trick’ bike preparation is just to get people like me snapping and writing about the brand; if it is, then it works!
We passed on AG2R’s Decathlons, there’s no-one in that outfit who will work the photo-finish cameras hard, and besides, the mechanics weren’t the friendliest.
Liquigas – those Cannondales are lovely, the lime green and black colour scheme looks great in the flesh. On Friday’s cobble recce we had met Rory Mason from Cannondale out on the course taking pics of Pozatto’s velo, but we also fancied pictures of Magnus Backtsted’s big machine.
The mechanics were cool guys and allowed us to play around with it as much as we wanted. For a big bike, it’s very light with minimal, 70’s TT bike clearances.
The Cofidis hotel was next and yielded Nick Nuyens Time: nice, very understated but with the chainstays stretched to give more clearance and compliance.
The copy was rattled out on the road again, the Campanile Hotel at Cambrai had great free wi-fi; the pictures flew into cyberdom and we found a pizza joint just five minutes from the digs. Happy boys, looking forward to the big day.