The latest edition of the world’s best cycling magazine is out now in the UK, featuring the very best writing and photography of professional bike racing. There’s so much good stuff in Cycle Sport July that it would be easier to list what’s not in it.
Words by Cycle Sport Staff
Wednesday May 9 2012
Our cover star this month is Tom Boonen, whose extraordinary Spring Classics campaign was one of the most impressive purple patches ever seen in cycling. Boonen started the GP E3 as one of the main favourites, but speculation about his chances was always qualified by the general feeling that his best days were some time in the past. Just a fortnight later, the cycling world was celebrating a unique quadruple victory for the Belgian: E3, Ghent-Wevelgem, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, the last of which was taken in a stunning long solo break. We wondered, is Tom Boonen the best cobbled Classics rider ever?
Well, is he? Boonen’s spring quartet made for some interesting stats. He’s now the outright or joint record-holder of wins in all four events. Boonen is the only rider to have won five E3s, one of five riders (with Eddy Merckx, Rik Van Looy, Mario Cipollini and Robert Van Eenaeme) to have won Ghent-Wevelgem three times, one of five riders (with Johan Museeuw, Eric Leman, Fiorenzo Magni and Achiel Buysse) to have won the Tour of Flanders three times, and one of only two (with De Vlaeminck) to have won Paris-Roubaix four times. He’s won 15 cobbled Classics in total, three ahead of Van Looy.
Edward Pickering looked back over the important moments of Boonen’s incredible Classics campaign, from the narrow sprint victory at E3, through the confident teamwork of Ghent-Wevelgem and the invincible tactical shutdown at the Tour of Flanders, to the crushing masterpiece of Paris-Roubaix.
ALSO IN THE MAGAZINE…
Jonathan Tiernan-Locke gives hope to overweight wasters everywhere that it’s never too late to knuckle down and make something of yourself [not sure about that, I think it’s too late for Cycle Sport’s staff – Ed]. Even after his strong showing in the Tour of Britain last year, the cycling world had Tiernan-Locke down as a strong domestic rider who’d merely timed his 2011 peak well. By the time the 27-year-old Endura Sport rider had won an incredible five European races early this spring, including the Tour du Haut Var and Tour of the Mediterranean, we realised that Great Britain had a new cycling star. Where had he been hiding all this time?
Ellis Bacon, along with photographer Simon Keitch, went to visit Tiernan-Locke at home in Devon, to find out more, and found an engaging, intelligent interviewee. Tiernan-Locke explained how illness prevented him from following up on his early promise as a racer, and recalled going to university instead, where he threw himself wholeheartedly into student life, with the attendant beer-induced weight gain. But a mid-20s comeback put him back on track. You could say his life went from Union Bar to Haut Var.
The regular column from Cycle Sport’s anonymous rider in the peloton, Our man in the bunch, looks at the common myths and misconceptions people have about professional cycling. Our writer explodes the four myths, that sprinters can’t climb, that climbers can’t ride on the flat, that the early break is an easy one to get into, and lastly, that pro riders are scientific with their training. “I’ve seen a rider come back to the hotel from a drinking session during a Grand Tour, and not only continue without a blip the next day, but also manage to run top five on the stage,” he writes.
You think that being a professional cyclist is tough? It all depends on your viewpoint, really. Sky rider Rigoberto Uran probably thinks of it as a relatively straightforward existence, compared to his upbringing in Colombia. In 2001, when Uran was 14, his father was accidentally killed during a gun battle between government paramilitaries and guerrillas, and Uran had to take over his father’s breadwinning role, at the same time as continuing with school, and training on his bike. His 14-hour-a day shift started early. “I would train from half-six to half-eight in the morning, sell lottery tickets walking the streets until one in the afternoon, go to school until seven, then sell lottery tickets again until 11 at night,” Uran tells Alasdair Fotheringham. For the rest of Uran’s incredible story, including turning professional at 19 and winning a stage of the Tour of Switzerland at just 20, read the magazine.
SPECIAL FEATURE – THE BEST GRAND TOUR RIDERS IN HISTORY
It’s Giro d’Italia time! And to celebrate, we’ve scoured the record books to find out who the best Grand Tour riders in history are. No prizes for guessing who number one is – one day we’ll work out a cycling ranking that doesn’t have Eddy Merckx at the very top, but the rest of the list makes fascinating reading.
We’ve ranked the winners and podium-placers of all three Grand Tours, counting wins first, then second places, then third places. Merckx, with 11 wins – five Tours, five Giros and a Vuelta – to his name, as well as a single second place, in the 1975 Tour, is number one. But there are some surprising names in our top 50. A certain Texan might have dominated the Tour de France, but he’s only the sixth-best Grand Tour rider in history, because he all but ignored the other two events.
The highest-ranked current rider is Alberto Contador (ahem), in 11th place with four wins (that’s after a Giro and a Tour have been taken out for his clenbuterol positive), while the great late-1980s trio of Laurent Fignon (three wins, two seconds and a third), Pedro Delgado (three wins, two seconds and three thirds) and Greg LeMond (three wins, a second and two thirds) are all between 12th and 16th place. Our history of the Grand Tour winners is a fascinating look back at the very best stage racers, with great archive photography. Will this year’s Giro see Ivan Basso move up from his current position of 34th?
We’re glad we never had to be Adam Blythe’s schoolteachers. He’s a very, very naughty boy.
Well, he’s not, these days. Andy McGrath caught up with Blythe at the Tour of Oman, and found the BMC rider willing to talk about the misdemeanours and differences in outlook which saw him part company with the British Cycling Academy. Instead of following the traditional route through the BC system, Blythe cut his own path through cycling, netting a contract with Omega Pharma, where he became one of Philippe Gilbert’s wingmen, and now BMC. Blythe is a natural cyclist – he finds his way through the bunch by instinct, and is described by Sky rider Ben Swift as a “scuttler”. The best demonstration of this was at the Tour of Qatar. When Fabian Cancellara attacked from a select lead group on the crosswind-hit stage four, only one rider was able to follow, on a strip of tarmac about two centimetres wide on the sheltered side of Cancellara: Adam Blythe.
Who is the real Peter Velits? Is it the rider who suffered poor form and came 18th in last year’s Tour? Or the rider who stormed to a spectacular third overall at the 2010 Vuelta. Andy McGrath went to find out, and discovered that paradoxically, it’s both. The Slovak is a character of contradictions – both ambitious and surprisingly laid-back about his career. Until now, he’s been a reticent interviewee. But he was open with CS about having been to see a psychologist, who helped Velits unblock the over-thinking which was, according to him, holding him back. When looking at the likely contenders for the 2012 Tour, don’t forget Velits – in that so-called disastrous 2011 event, he still came fourth on Alpe d’Huez – ahead of all the GC contenders save Contador and Sanchez. Maybe this year we’re going to see the real Peter Velits.
We sent ace photographer Richard Baybutt to Paris-Roubaix to document the story behind the race. While Tom Boonen made the headlines, a hundred more stories were being written behind him. In these stunning pictures, we’ve told some of them.
Bjarne Riis is a difficult man to like. He came from obscurity to win the 1996 Tour at a suspicious-looking canter, and lied for years about how he’d done it, in spite of the fact that he might just as well have done interviews with a big, bright neon sign, saying “Hey, everybody, I took EPO”. He built a career as a team manager on the back of his cycling success, then confessed to his sins at a time which was convenient for him. Now Riis’s autobiography, Stages of light and dark has been translated into English. While the book will probably reinforce whatever you already think of Riis, and there’s plenty that has been left out, it’s a fascinating read. The way Riis deals with the doping, both his own, and that of riders on his teams, is unsatisfactory. But his history as a cyclist is a varied one to say the least. In this exclusive extract, Riis recalls his early days as a pro on the Belgian circuit with Brian Holm.
Mark Renshaw is the best lead-out man in the world. And he could have continued being so for the next five years or more, in a comfortable niche. But the Australian came to a career crossroads midway through last year when Bob Stapleton announced that the HTC team would finish at the end of the season. Instead of following Mark Cavendish to Sky, or offering his services as a leadout man to other teams, Renshaw decided to strike out alone and develop himself as a sprinter. He told Alasdair Fotheringham about why he made that decision, and how he is thriving on the pressure and increased responsibility.
We take carbon frames for granted to such an extent these days that it’s easy to forget that the science of their construction is still in its infancy. Matt Walsh tracked down one of the real pioneers of carbon bike frame construction, Craig Calfee, who made Greg LeMond’s 1991 race bike. Calfee told Walsh his amazing story, from landing a job in 1987 at a boat-building company who were using carbon racing shells for the Olympic Games and realising that the technology could be adapted for bikes, making his own bike frame, setting up a bike-making company (“in a garage alley with a meth clinic down the street – there were heroin addicts hanging around so I got a pitbull to guard the front door”) to being contacted by Greg LeMond, who was reportedly dissatisfied with the models he had been riding previously. Along with photographs of LeMond’s original Calfee-made frame, in its classic luminous Z team colours, this is a fascinating piece of cycling archaeology.
Matt Walsh blogs at www.atwistedspoke.com
In Iconic Places we tend to focus on the mountains, but this month we’ve found one of cycling’s most famous lakes. The Lac de Vassivière, in central France, has hosted a multitude of Tour de France time trials, including one of the all-time classics in 1990, when Greg LeMond finally prised the yellow jersey from the grip of Claudio Chiappucci. Chris Sidwells has looked at the technical and challenging route of the Vassivière TT, and celebrated its rich history in cycling, which extends to as recently as a stage finish in this year’s Paris-Nice.
Plus…All our regular features – Graham Watson looks back at the Classics; Shop Window features the latest in brightly-coloured and extravagant bike kit; Broomwagon has dug out some other handwritten apologies following Denis Galimzyanov’s explanation of his EPO positive; EuroTrash; Wiggo; Q&A with Niki Terpstra (“I’m not a big wine connoisseur, I just drink what’s in the fridge.”); Classics stats overload; Fantasy team; Chris Sutton draws a marvellous self-portrait for the Write stuff; Top 10 surprising race winners; Geraint Thomas tells us all about Danny Pate; great writing, excellent photography and much, much more.
That’s 12 major features, along with all the extras, for the flagrantly reasonable and recession-busting price of just £4.35.
Cycle Sport July, featuring the very best writing and photography of professional cycling, is available now in the UK, and will be on sale in the USA shortly. It is also available electronically through Zinio.