It’s a while since we had a rant – let’s start with a man who as well as being the most successful manager in professional cycle sport in recent years is a master of the art of the Rant, with a capital ‘R.’
Patrick Lefevere of Deceuninck QuickStep inspires admiration and criticism, perhaps in equal measure?
Some of his comments are just a tad too close to the bone for many but much of what he says – no examples will be given – only articulate what many of us think but can’t say for fear of being branded the dreaded ‘un-PC.’
I responded to some keyboard warriors who were ‘dissing’ him as a team manager by asking them to name me one rider who had gone on to greater things after they left him.
No one could.
And one thing that the ‘experts’ who slag the man can’t argue with is Lefevere’s team’s 65 victories this year…
With the pinnacle as Julian Alaphilippe’s ‘death or glory’ Worlds victory – wondrous to behold in a world of calculating bike racers.
But as our buddy, Ivan suggested, perhaps the Worlds should be in Flanders every year – what about those crowds?
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Continuing on the subject of professional racing, if you’re from my generation who grew up watching Merckx, De Vlaeminck and Maertens in the 70’s then it’s easy to wax lyrical about those days and how present day riders are cosseted and soft.
Paris-Roubaix 2021 put us old boys right on that one – CHAPEAU, Sonny and to everyone who finished on that epic day
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In our Tour of the Campsies report I displayed my ignorance regarding the names of current race teams – Bonnyrigg CC and Kirkcaldy & District CC spoke for themselves; but ‘Vanelli-Project Go?’
Mark McGhee of the Press Room put me right;
“Last year they raced as Bioracer-Moriarty Bikes but Vanelli are the new co-title sponsor.
“Vanelli is a cycle apparel company owned by Matt Ellis and Hans van Nierop, both good riders back in their day.
“The team also carries the name Project Go which is a charity related to Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a cause close to a number of riders on the team…so helping to raise their profile.
“The other sponsors are The Mortgage Hub through the generosity of Wilson Kane, Mule Bar and The Press Room.”
‘Thank you,’ Mark.
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No rant would be complete without us having a pop at the UCI; who have now latched on to gravel bikes with an ‘offical’ World Championship.
Anyone who was around the MTB scene before the UCI got their claws into it will tell you how much fun it was back then, with minimal rules, no ‘janitors’ and barbies and beers the norm.
Look forward to blazers, communiqués, obscure qualifying protocols, minimum weights, maximum tyre widths, I could go on…
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Finally; the ‘net has downsides, there’s spam, trolls, keyboard warriors, phishing attempts and smug ‘experts’ on any subject you care to name.
But on the plus-side it enables one to reach, then keep in touch with people one might not easily have been fortunate enough to contact without email and/or social media.
The late Norman Hill was such individual, I never met the man but I interviewed him about his varied and interesting career as a professional bike rider – road, kermises, Six Days, big motors and even cyclo-cross.
After the interviews we kept in touch, he always had thought provoking opinions on the sport, despite the fact that he was a ‘man of the 60’s and 70’s’ he was no ‘dinosaur’ and kept abreast of current riders abilities, results and modern equipment.
It’s ironic that just before I heard that Norman became ill we were mailing back and forward regarding an obituary for his fellow 60’s and 70’s pro, the late Jim Moore, who like Norman moved to Canada after his pro career ended.
A friend of Norman’s for 50 years, John Purser, the fellow motor-pace rider who first put me in touch with him recalls his memories of a rare Englishman who infiltrated the Machiavellian world of the big motors – the ‘stayers’ or ‘demi-fond,’ as the French say;
“Norman had a big reputation as a London track rider who was breaking into the big time on the continent when he arrived at Varese for the Track Worlds in 1971, to challenge in the Professional Stayer championships.
“I was helping out by organising the Team GB cabin for the manager, Tommy Godwin, principally to keep it secure.
“No one wanted anybody ‘borrowing’ equipment.
“Norman, immediately friendly and unassuming asked ‘can you look after my bike please and NOT let anyone get near it!.’
“It was an intro to the motor pacing world, one which sparked my own interest.
Norman seemed to be well accepted by the other stayers and pacemakers, did his rides, did not burst onto the podium (he explained why, later) and disappeared back to Holland.“
[The world of motor pacing was a murky one with pay offs, bribes and ‘double bluff swerves’ all the norm, the main reason that the UCi dropped the event from the Worlds back in the 90’s, ed.]
“We kept in touch (all pre-email) after that, following his move to Canada (where he originally managed an open-air track) and with our joint friendship with Dieter and Christian Kemper.
“Norman was full of fun and wisdom, extremely knowledgeable about all sorts of things, he always had projects on the go.
“Lift – or ‘elevators’ as they call them in North America – maintenance and testing is a fairly obscure topic, but for Norman, it was a lifework and he was a real expert.
“So sad to lose him after this miserable two years of Covid made it unable to meet up with him.
“He’ll be missed by an awful lot of people.
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The Tour de Trossachs today, two years ago already…