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The VV View: In the Bleak Mid-Winter

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Brexit, Covid, desperate weather, it’s been a long hard winter; made even worse by the sad news that former Scottish cyclo-cross, grass track and MTB Champion Craig Hardie has lost his fight with cancer. VeloVeritas offers deepest condolences to his friends, supporters and family.

Continuing on a note of sadness, the sport recently lost one of the all-time greats, arguably the greatest amateur rider in history, Poland’s Ryszard Szurkowski, four times a winner of the Peace Race, World Road Race Champion, twice World Team Time Trial Champion and twice Olympic Team Time Trial silver medallist.

It’s always brings home one’s mortality when a hero of your youth passes; rest in peace, Champion.

And Glenda Hughes, Sir Bradley Wiggins auntie, sister of his father the late Gary Wiggins reminded us that 13 years have passed since her brother died in mysterious circumstances – still an unsolved crime.

We hope the big man has found the peace which eluded him in life.  

Another quality bike rider taken far too early was Big Bert Oosterbosch, Dutch former World Professional Pursuit Champion and chrono specialist supreme.

Mid-Winter Thoughts
Bert Oosterbosch (l) will be featured on VeloVeritas soon.

We’ll be running a tribute piece soon thanks to a collaboration with his nephew, Erwin Oosterbosch; we were flattered and thrilled to receive a copy of a limited edition book celebrating Bert’s life.

VeloVeritas‘ Belgo-file, Ivan has already been recruited for translation duties.

* * *

And whilst we’re dealing with the melancholy side of life, it’s sad to hear that we’ve probably seen big, ‘chrono machine’ Tom Dumoulin in action for the last time; and also that Scottish young gun, Joe Nally has called ‘time.’

There were many words written about Big Tam’s decision but former Italian, World and Olympic Champion, Silvio Martinello perhaps summed things up most simply and best; ‘the fire just went out.’ 

In Joe’s case he’s still a young man and a gust of wind might just find a spark again…

Bleak Mid-Winter
Joe Nally. Photo©SWPix.com

To continue in sombre vein I was disappointed to read that as a result of the crash which Dylan Groenewegen and Fabio Jakobsen – with the young Deceuninck rider incurring serious injury – both came down in at the end of a stage in the Tour of Poland last year, Groenewegen has received death threats from Jakobsen fans.

One of the things I always loved about our sport is that the fans respect all riders and there’s none of the tribalism and violence which can mar football (soccer) at times; it’s disappointing to learn that we have our ‘crazies’ too. 

VeloVeritas wishes both men a safe and successful return to the peloton.

* * *

Let’s lift the mood; what about Mathieu and Wout?

Bleak Mid-Winter
Mathieu van der Poel, Cyclocross World Championship in Ostend in 2021. Photo©Imago

If you’re an old codger like me it’s great to relive those days when top road stars like Roger De Vlaeminck and Adrie Van Der Poel – Mathieu’s dad – jumped on their ‘cross bikes at the end of the road season adding spice to the world of mud and sand.

Long may it continue.

Great to see Tom Pidcock right there with the best in the world, even if Mathieu and Wout were in a different race to the rest.

But will INEOS allow young Pidcock to continue to ‘mud-plug’ – we have our doubts on that…

The lack of fans at the big ‘crosses takes a bit of getting used to though – hopefully this coming winter the frites, burger and beer kiosks will return?

There will be no fans either at the Spring Classics with Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne organisers employing a security firm to enforce the ban – hard to bear but necessary in these crazy times.

Good to see Euro road sport back on track though with Lorenzo Manzin [Team Total Direct Energie & France] taking Valenciana and Aurelien Paret-Peintre [AG2R Citroen Team & France] taking the Marseillaise.

Bleak Mid-Winter
Aurelien Paret-Peintre (l) takes the GP La Marseillaise. Photo©L’Equipe.fr

Albeit friend of VeloVeritas Viktor maintains that these are ‘glamour races’ and ‘flim flam’ until the REAL racing kicks off with Gent-Gent (that’s Het Nieuwsblad if you’re as old as Vik and me). 

But what about Aurelien’s AG2R jersey?

Love it or hate it, everyone is talking about it, thus the designer’s job is a ‘good un.’

* * *

It wouldn’t be a proper rant if I didn’t mention equipment, I nearly said ‘kit’ but that has other meanings.

Let’s start with the SRM THM Clavicula M3 power meter system chainset, a snip at £2,915; invaluable to download that ‘clubby run’ data – how many watts did I push at those Kelty ‘30’s’?

But I must say I kinda like the Wattshop’s Omega One brake calipers at £210 each – not too crazy a price by today’s standards and very ‘Dan Dare.’

Bleak Mid-Winter

They’re reminiscent of those Modolo Kronos gems from the 80’s BUT according to the road tests I’ve read, the Omega Ones actually stop you – something the Italian manufacturers overlooked when designing and manufacturing the Kronos.

But yes, they did look fab.

Continuing on the equipment theme, Cycling Weekly informs us that as well as being ‘aero,’ a bike should be comfortable to ride – right. It’s gems like that keep me renewing my subscription.

Then there’s the ‘flat bar gravel bike’ – big fat tyres, 1 x transmission, discs and yes, flat bars.

Looks awfully like a mountain bike to me? 

And whilst tyres get fatter, handlebars get skinnier with CW advocating 34 and even 30 cm. widths – think I’ll stick to me 44’s.

* * *

Zwift, another of my soap boxes and another two ladies (should I say ‘women’?) have been diddling their data, Antonina Reznikov and Selma Trommer – the wee bissoms!

Six month suspensions?

Life bans from Turbos, I say! 

* * *

To close, that eternal argument – the best riders, ever?

Our man Ivan tells us that the latest ‘expert’ rankings from Belgium read like this, with the UK first:

  1. Chris Froome
  2. Mark Cavendish
  3. Bradley Wiggins
  4. Chris Boardman
  5. Robert Miller
  6. Tommy Simpson

Trying to classify riders like this isn’t realistic; Froome is a GC man, Cav a sprinter, Boardman a ‘chronoman’ – they’re comparing apples with oranges.

But in my humble opinion, the late, great Tom Simpson is ‘abune thum aw’ for the sheer breadth and quality of his palmarès – World Road Champion, pursuiter, stage race protagonist, cobble ‘Classicer’ and winner of three Monuments. 

On the global stage it’s hard to argue against Merckx at the top and whilst Kelly was pure quality his palmarès are nowhere near as broad as Hinault’s who won every Grand Tour, the Worlds and Monuments.

De Vlaeminck and Van Looy were Classics specialists, Anquetil perhaps the greatest TT rider who ever lived and when you take Coppi’s wonderful palmarès – Grand Tours, Monuments, the Worlds – into account, consider the years he languished, malnourished in a British prisoner of war camp.

  1. Eddy Merckx
  2. Sean Kelly 
  3. Jacques Anquetil
  4. Fausto Coppi
  5. Bernard Hinault 
  6. Roger De Vlaeminck 
  7. Rik Van Looy 
  8. Miguel Induraín

Still, it gives old saddos like me something to pontificate about in the winter. 

Until next time, keep safe.

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

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