It’s a fair old trek from Manchester to Fife after there was no race to watch, so what else was I going to do as I sat in the passenger seat but RANT!

Let’s start with the only topic in town:

Corona Virus … and me.

It wasn’t a good sign when I saw the TV camera man toting his kit out of the Manchester Velodrome at 12:50 pm.

No Race to Watch
The cabin is setup for the event, but there’s no race to watch. Photo©Ed Hood

I’d had a bad feeling all morning…

My first Six Day race was Copenhagen 2005, that’s 15 years of ‘running’ – how many pee pails is that; three or four Six Days each year, so maybe sixty races, multiplied by six days, usually two pails  – that’s a lot of the stuff.

Sleeping in the camper van, doing the washings in the wee small hours – and some of the chamois we’ve seen…

Then the email arrived; ‘we’d like you to report on the Manchester Three Day for us.’

Recognition at last.

A hotel bed, hot showers, nice breakfast, press room, good wi-fi and not a pee pail in sight.

No expense was spared in my preparation, I even purchased a new £1:00 notebook out of B & M Home Stores.

Thursday: rendezvous with Angus at 15:30; he had the two Polish riders, Daniel and Filip.

But best wait to see what PM Johnson says on the tele about the latest government COBRA meet before we head south.

We didn’t understand most of it but it seems like we’re good to go.

No Race to Watch
Photo©Ed Hood

The weather on the way down was horrible, wind, rain, sleet, snow. All of which truckers seem to be oblivious to with 18 wheelers hurtling past at crazy speeds.

We stopped at the services, £14:50 for two sandwiches, a cookie and two bottles of juice – how can they manage to do it so cheaply?

Manchester, The Park Inn – nice, slept like a baby.

Friday: breakfast was lovely, shuttle bus to the velodrome.

Pick up my credentials, have a coffee

This is the life.

But the texts begin to arrive; ‘Pep Guardiola wants the soccer cancelled.

Sure enough, that was confirmed shortly after.

GP de Denain’ is cancelled.’

Giro prologue and opening stages are cancelled.

There was supposed to be a briefing meeting at 11:00 but it’s gone noon now; good job I brought this week’s Comic and this month’s Rouleur – good interviews with Patrick Lefevere and Johan van Summeren in the latter, by the way.

It’s at 12:50 pm I spy the guy carrying the camera out.

The official announcement follows soon after. 

No Race to Watch
Jack Carlin on the training rig. Photo©Ed Hood

But we got a nice picture of Jack Carlin training and at least it’s dry for the drive home.

I never wanted to be a ViP journo anyway…

* * *

Hector: recently we lost famous Scottish rider Hector MacKenzie and ran an obituary for the man, to which Tommy Banks contributed.

After the piece ran Tommy came back to us with another recollection:

“At the end of the 1959 session, GB sent a team to Germany to compete in a series of indoor track meetings and Hector was included. 

At one of these meetings Hector won the GP sprint event, which may have been his best ever track racing result. 

I believe that Hector thought that this may have merited his inclusion in GBs plans for the 1960 season.”  

With thanks to Tommy for keeping the record straight.

* * *

We recently spotted an article by former US Professional Road Champion, John Eustice on disc brakes, which we reproduce his with his kind permission:

“The big issue with my new Pinarello, was of course the decision on whether to go to disc brakes or not. I endured a veritable chorus of disc brake fervour from my Central Park riding friends, about how, “you’ll be sorry if you don’t get them” and so forth, yet something held me back. 

“I kept thinking about Team Ineos who, with that massive budget allowing them free rein in equipment choice, combined with their deep research abilities, have stuck to rim brakes. 

I also spoke with a team director friend who, surprisingly, told me that his disc brake equipped riders begged him all year to allow them to change over to rim brakes for the Tour de France – it didn’t happen.

“I ended up with a rim brake machine and am so happy I did, especially after hanging with the mechanics down in Colombia (at the Tour Colombia 2.1) and getting the – emphatically off the record – inside views on the current equipment situation. 

“The one theme I kept hearing was that the bicycle industry is using teams for product development rather than putting them on perfected equipment. The SRAM derailleur failures last year are an example of this practice.

“Many issues still remain with disc brake systems. Besides the fact that they add 500 grams (one pound) to a bicycle and make wheel changes difficult and slow, the brake rotors are constantly warping, sometimes even after a single hard descent. That “ping-ping-ping” of the rotor hitting the sides of the brake, which seems as thin as credit card swipe, drives racers (and everyone else I’m assuming) mad and is source of drag to boot. 

“Brake pads are fast-wearing and changing them is certainly much more difficult than it is for rim systems.

I’ve never ridden a bike with discs so I’m not the one to give informed opinion on the subject but on our recent mission to, ‘The Opening Weekend’ in Flanders we chatted to one of our hugely experienced World Tour mechanic amigos, he gave us similar comments to the ones John heard.

No Race to Watch
Tom Boonen was one of the first pros on discs, and seemed pretty happy about that in marketing imagery. Photo©QuickStep

As far as the riders go opinion is divided, some love them, some don’t. But what’s not open to debate is that the Dura Ace discs aren’t up to the rigours of a Belgian Classics campaign.

Training and racing in the UK is never going to approach that level of severity so you may never experience any hassle but when big money, big prestige racing is involved they don’t cut it.

The pro mechanics replace the Dura Ace discs with the more rugged Ultegra or even MTB XTR discs but the latter aren’t up to long mountain descents, they’re prone to warping with the heat build-up.

Then there’s rotor size, I read ‘Cyclist’ magazine each month who run all manner of bike tests; the different manufacturers have their own reason for using the rotor size they do.

So there’s no standardisation – a nightmare for race service.

Then there are the arguments about wheel retention systems – some mechanics advocate power tools for thru bolt fastening and unfastening whilst some don’t.

There’s still a long way to go before the beasts are tamed.

* * *

And on the subject of tests in the aforementioned ‘Cyclist’ magazine: Lightweight Fernweg Evo wheels @ £7,319.

But it is the April edition so maybe it’s An April Fool gag?

Nope, I checked the ‘net and the trendy bike boutiques are actually asking £7,778 for a pair – madness!

* * *

Remco: he’s great to watch and unquestionably talented but as our Russian friend, Nikolai Razouvaev – former World Junior TTT Champion, who’s story we’ll be running soon – said in his blog; “Nikolai from the Russian Crank” when discussing the ‘mighty atom’:

Remco Evenepoel asked the media two years ago to stop calling him the next Eddy Merckx. Or is it the next, next Eddy Merckx?

One advantage of being old is you remember things (and then you don’t). I remember a bunch of gifted riders, some Belgian and others not so much, being labelled the next Eddy Merckx:

  • Tom Boonen
  • Peter Sagan
  • Wilco Kelderman
  • Edvald Boasson Hagen (c’mon)
  • Damiano Cunego (yes, Cunego)
  • Johan Museeuw
  • Claude Criquielion
  • Frank Vandenbroucke
  • Eric Vanderaerden
  • Freddy Maertens

[And he could have added ‘Didi’ Thurau’ and Roy Schuiten, ed.]

Remco Evenepoel starts his World Championships Time Trial in Harrogate. Photo©Martin Williamson

“Let’s recall: Eddy Merckx won everything under the sun and then some. He was the next Eddy Merckx before he became Eddy Merckx. He started with Milan-San Remo in his first year as a pro and never stopped winning.

“Remco Evenepoel? Last year, after Remco won the Clásica San Sebastián, Merckx said:

“He is ready for the big job. Can he follow in my footsteps? Maybe he will even get better? Remco has all the qualities to make it happen. He does have the qualities, no doubt. But so did Tom Boonen at about the same age.”

“What does the next Eddy Merckx mean anyway? For me, the next Eddy Merckx would have to win:

  • all of the Monuments
  • all Grand Tours plus at least one double
  • at least 5 Tours de France
  • at least one road world championship
  • more than 3 Northern Classics
  • a bunch of lesser Classics
  • cherry on the cake — the Hour Record

“This would be somewhat close, not exactly the Eddy Merckx, but good enough.

“Right now, we’re talking about a 20-year-old kid. Massively talented but a 20-year-old still. Let’s come back to it and discuss after he bags a couple of Tours, a Giro and the Ronde. How about seven Milan-San Remos? 

Or even five?

Much as I love Remco, it’s hard to argue with Nikolai…